Dave felt the tiny trickle of air bubbles race down his chest and up away into the fathoms above him, joining those of his three companions. He had begrudgingly accepted the re-breather, knowing that the two other trolls might not understand the intimacy Dave felt in the experience. Nor did he fancy having an audience. As they descended into the darkness, the familiar shape of the giant dummy came into view. Ptervo, the third troll who had accompanied them visibly slowed and began to route until Feferi extended a hand to him. The troll recoiled from the touch but nodded to her and rejoined the group.
As the small band found the cave, Dave smirked as the rocks began to glow a range of purples and pinks from the bioluminescence that the trolls emitted in the darkness. As the cave opened to the brooding caverns, the four tentatively raised themselves out of the water. When they were positive the coast was clear, they made their way to the shore. Eridan produced Ahab's Crosshairs and a small communication device from his sylladex which crackled to life as the Aquarius spoke into it.
"Wwe're in, Sol," he whispered into the device.
"Commencing dithtraction prothedureth," Sollux's voice crackled back, then the device went silent again and Eridan slipped it into the waistband on his pants.
Meanwhile Dave put away his re-breather and withdrew his sword as Ptervo armed himself with a polearm and Feferi produced her own weapon, as well as a small jar of jade liquid. Dave wrinkled his nose at the putrid smell the wafted the area once the jar was open, though the trolls didn't seem to mind.
A soft chirping sound made an involuntary smirk spread across the blonde's face. As Feferi began to spread some of the foul liquid over her own skin, Dave took a few steps to the overlook and peered down at the mass of eggs and wigglers.
"Could we adopt one?" Dave whispered when Eridan joined him.
"Wwhat? Like some human wwriggler?" Eridan scoffed, "Be its lusus or somefin?"
"Sure," Dave chuckled, "Why not?"
"If wwe live through this," Eridan trailed off with a nervous chuckle, "Come on, time to get movvin'."
Dave wrinkled his nose as he dipped his hands into the goopy green liquid to spread on his arms and bare chest as well as the parts of his legs the swim trunks didn't cover. Once all four were covered with the foul smelling liquid, they carefully made their way down the tunnels, Eridan leading the way. A skittering sound and a signal from Eridan made them all stop. Suddenly a band of six white drones came racing down the corridor. Eridan raised his weapon, but Feferi put a hand on his shoulder and stepped in front of him. As the lead drone came upon them it reared back and let out a horrible shriek, the others pulling up sharp behind it. Its milky eyes wandered blindly side to side, white from lack of use in the caves, as its nostrils flared, taking in the pungent smell of the jade blood smeared on their skin. After a moment, the creature let out another screech and brushed past the small group, the others following suit quickly.
Eridan's shoulders visibly relaxed and he again took the lead. Dave chanced a quick glance back, but the drones where already gone into the gloom. The small group continued down the roughly hewn caves, taking Eridan's lead when the paths forked and branched off into the murky depths. Suddenly, after a particularly sharp turn, a bright glow illuminated the cave, and the rock gave way to finely carved stairs that led upward. And there at the bottom was a massive drone.
Unlike the creatures they had encountered earlier, this one's eyes were pure black, and the lids narrowed as the four rounded the corner, a terrible screech pouring from its mouth. They had been spotted. Feferi was the first to act. Like an acrobat she leapt and dug her double ended trident into the cave walls, using the temporary bar to swing and land a fierce kick directly to the creatures head. Once her legs arched towards the ceiling, Eridan took the opening to fire a shot as the creature stumbled backward. With a flash step, enhanced by his understanding of Time, Dave appeared beside the creature as its head tiled fully backwards in its fall, exposing the main arteries. Without hesitation, Dave struck downward and lobbed the drone's head completely off, milky white blood oozing from the stump.
The four quickly hurdled the body and raced up the stairs and more screeches echoed in the cave behind them. Just as they were almost to the top, Dave, who was in the lead, hit something invisible and hard sending him sprawling back into the others. Eridan caught him before he could send them tumbling back down the steep staircase.
"Thanks," Dave groaned, "What the fuck did I hit?"
"Psionic barrier," Feferi took her fist and pounded on the air in front of her, the air shimmering where her hand connected with the invisible barrier.
Eridan withdrew the communicator from his waistband, "Sol. Wwe can't get through, there's a Psionic block or somefin."
"Working on it," The Gemini's voice crackled through as a delightedly bloodthirsty laugh from Vriska resounded in the background along with the sounds of fierce battling.
"Head up," The third troll, Ptervo, shouted and they all turned to look in horror at the pack of drones now ascending the stairs straight towards them.
"Duck!" Eridan warned as he angled Ahab's Crosshairs.
The trolls and Dave crouched out of his way as the Purple blooded troll let loose a blast of energy. The stairs were narrow and steep and when the drones took the blast it sent them stumbling back down. Dave looked around frantically, but they were trapped, they'd have to fight two abreast at most and that would be a very tight squeeze, allowing for little maneuvering in the cramped space. As the drones regrouped and raced back up the stairs towards them, Eridan shouted into the com link.
Just as the drones came within range, the walls around them cracked and vines shot out, crisscrossing the hallway forming a thin wall. Feferi slumped against the wall, her hand pressed firm against the stone and her breathing heavy.
"Holy carp," she laughed darkly, "That was harder than it should've fin."
"Fef," Eridan knelt and helped her up, even as a white claw cut through the wall of vines.
Ptervo jammed his polearm through the opening, a resounding screech informing of his hit. Another slash appeared and Dave quickly cut off the protruding limb. With the reprieve, Dave and Ptervo positioned themselves in front for battle as Eridan lined up his weapon for the first open shot. Dave turned a small, sad smile to his lover and braced for combat. Suddenly, Eridan's radio crackled to life.
"ED, GO!" Sollux's voice came over the clamor of battle.
Quickly grabbing Feferi, Eridan went bounding up the stairs, shouting, "Let's go!"
Dave turned and began to dash away but stopped when Ptervo didn't follow, "Come on, dude."
The troll jabbed at the newest opening before turning a weak smile towards the blonde, "Go. I'll keep them at bay."
Dave grit his teeth and nodded before bounding up after the other two. When he reached the top landing, Feferi questioned him about Ptervo, but the blonde just shook his head, keeping quiet. War was a nasty business and the sooner they got Feferi on the throne, the sooner it would be over. As they tore off down the hallway, another drone appeared from an offshoot room. Before it had time to react, Feferi sent her trident through its chest, the trines sticking out through its back as it collapsed. Planting her foot on its chest, she wrenched her weapon out and spit on the corpse, taking Dave back. He had never seen such hatred on her features.
A sound further down the hall made the three stop and take up defensive stances. Dave gripped his sword and Eridan nearly pulled the trigger as a group of individuals rounded the corner. Relief spread across All their faces as they recognized the trolls in front of them.
"Sollux!" Feferi breathed as she raced to the yellow blooded troll and embraced him, plating his face with kisses.
The reunion was cut short however as a skittering sounded behind them and a group of drones scampered out of the stairwell behind them. Eridan leveled his rifle and loosed a shot, followed by a powerful bolt of Psionic energy from Sollux and a dark steel arrow from one of the trolls with Sollux's group.
"Movve!" Eridan shouted as he fired another shot, "Get her to the throne room!"
Dave took up a stance next to Eridan, along with several other trolls. As the group of drones approached them, dread filled the blonde as he realized they were exceedingly outnumbered, the group bearing down on them much bigger than what had initially confronted them on the stairs. Daring a glance back, Dave saw Sollux and Feferi racing down the hall and disappearing into a doorway. As the drones met them, a fierce war cry bellowed out of the gathered trolls and Dave couldn't help but be caught up in their bloodlust. As he parried one blow and jammed his sword into one of the creatures, he caught a glance of Eridan, jamming the butt of his gun into the face of his nearest opponent before spinning the gun and blasting its arm off.
The drones surged and the group relented a bit, coming to the opening where Sollux and the others had emerged from. Dave glanced and saw another, smaller band of trolls led by Vriska, battling another group of drones. A familiar bolt of dark energy pointed to Rose's presence in the group, making the blonde smile. A troll next to Dave fell to the ground, a giant gash in his chest. The human recognized him as the Irish accented troll who had been in the War room and a sudden burst of anger rush through him. Time suddenly stopped around him. Dave could feel the energy draining from him and knew he had only a brief chance to slow the mass. Seeing one of the wiry strings of time dangling from the drone in front of him, Dave grabbed the white strand and quickly wound it around the wounded troll's gash. Grabbing another strand which he found protruding from the wall, Dave quickly wove a web of time in front of the group of drones. Just before he released the thread he shouted, knowing the information would plant itself in her subconscious.
"ROSE! BLAST 'EM!"
Suddenly several things happened at once. First, the drone in front of Dave withered into a dry husk as the gash in the green blooded troll next to him sewed itself shut. A wall of red ethereal clocks appeared between the drones and the trolls as the blocks around it aged and crumbled, shaking the walls. And a blast of white light off to his right signaled to Dave his plan had worked. As the flow on energy ebbed from the human, Dave started tumbling to the floor. A soft, strong, warm set of arms caught him before he hit the floor. He turned a weak smile to Eridan.
"Hey," he whispered with a weak smile, "Let's get outta here before this place collapses."
Eridan stood with Dave's arm slung over his should, bearing his weight as he ordered everyone to the throne room. The green blooded troll, Dave thought his name was Gnavis, stood and swooped under Dave's other arm and helped Eridan whisk him away with the rest of the fleeing trolls. The ducked into a nearby archway which opened into a large room where they found Feferi and Sollux joined in battle with even fiercer looking drones. Beside them, John, Jade, Karkat, and the rest who had helped with the frontal assault were desperately fighting towards the throne which was surrounded by a tight ring of white guardians, several who were airborne much like the first one Dave had encountered at Eridan's ship.
"Barricade that door," Eridan barked to a few nearby trolls, "Or else wwe'll havve 'em at our back!"
Eridan and Gnavis led Dave to the nearest wall where he braced his back against the cold stone and gripped his sword, giving the trolls a sturdy nod. Now the numbers were about even, the trolls and humans fighting fiercely. But the drones fought just as hard, and they ignored even the most grievous wounds that would take out any of their opponents. Dave watched the struggle intently, knowing he had little energy to do anything else. As a drone broke away and made for him, thinking him an easy target, it failed to take into account Eridan who was kneeling on the floor in front of him lining up shots from a steadier position. The creature took a blast to the chest before Dave decapitated it as it fell towards him. Dave's brain was racing when suddenly an idea struck him and he pulled himself to kneel next to Eridan.
"Get to Karkat," Dave whispered hurriedly, "Have him and Equius barrel their way to the left of the drones around the dais. Send John over here."
Eridan looked ready to refuse to leave his side, but nodded, knowing that if they didn't do something quickly, they would have to retreat or die. As Eridan jumped and ran off, the door they had barricaded boomed with a heavy thud of drones on the other side attempting to break through the weak barricade. Dave gripped his sword as another drone made for him. He parried one swipe, dodged another, but was quickly winded and fell prone. Just as the drone seemed poised to strike at his exposed back, a blue hammer came crashing down on its head, squashing it like a white grape. John stood smirking and rolling his eyes.
"Geeze, Dave," John laughed, "Some knight you are."
"Fuck you," Dave smiled and took the hand that was extended to him before taking back to the wall.
"You wanted me?" John smiled as he blew a nearby drone away with a concentrated blast of air.
"Yeah," Dave smirked before quickly informing John of the plan he had concocted.
"Got it," The blue eyed boy smirked mischievously.
"Well get to it, Egderp," Dave bumped fists with John quickly before the boy made off towards Sollux and Feferi.
"God I hope this works," Dave breathed to himself as he staggered back into a fighting stance, some energy returning to him.
Just then a loud war cry rang out as Karkat led a charge towards the throne. The drones reacted exactly as Dave thought they would, bunching up to fend off the advancing horde. Dave cut down a nearby enemy that was distracted fighting with Terezi, her cane whipping around and slashing at its carapace. She smiled wickedly at him before they joined in fighting another enemy. As the pair cut down another drone, Dave heard Sollux yell out.
A loud sound, like a tornado whipped through the air around them and two figures ascended towards the throne at an immense pace as a blast of red and blue energy cut a path through the thinned ring of drones and causing the aerial ones to scatter defensively. As John and Feferi landed on the throne, for it had been they who had shot off into the air, John turned and concentrated whipping the air around the throne into a frenzied pace, buffeting any who tried to approach and knocking them off balance or blowing them away entirely. Feferi quickly ran her trident across the palm of her left hand, her pinkish purple blood gushing from the open wound. She quickly sat in the throne and suddenly everything changed.
The room began to glow and buzz and whirr as the dais and the throne channeled the blood through hidden tubes and canals and sent it racing through intricate patterns which Dave recognized as the Alternian language, though he'd be damned if he could read it. Feferi, Dave observed, had her eyes closed but the orbs underneath were moving very fast as if reading her eyelids very quickly. Suddenly they snapped open, the yellow completely gone from the sclera, now only her magenta flooding though. She spoke, and her voice boomed across the chamber.
And everything stopped. The drones stopped fighting. The trolls stopped fighting. Everyone turned to look at Feferi seated on the throne. John ceased the wind that was whipping around and stumbled a step or two before catching himself and quickly exiting the platform. Suddenly every drone present stood straight and at attention, their former combatants forgotten as they beheld their new queen. The room was silent before Karkat's voice rang out over all.
"Behold the new queen!"
The roaring cheer was deafening. Feferi quickly dismissed the drones as the wounded trolls were cared for and the dead were quietly removed. Dave found his wall once more and slid down it, a smile painted across his features. Eridan soon joined him and sat on the floor next to him.
"We did it," Dave smirked and wound his hand into Eridan's.
"Yes wwe did," The troll smiled.
Dave looked down at the pendant around his neck and smirked, turning it over in his hand to examine the vials of Jade and Magenta blood encased in it. Once the fighting had ceased, a lot had to be done. The dead were taken out and burned with full funerary honors, regarded as heroes, their names recorded on a tablet that now sat in the throne room, including Ptervo who had made their escape from the caves possible by giving his life. As news of their success spread across the galaxy, thanks to Sollux and the psionics he had released from their prisons, reports came back almost immediately of rebellions on other worlds, led in Feferi's name. Several weeks after Alternia fell to them, most of the Empire was under her control, the Condesce having fled into hiding when her fleet turned against her. She would be a problem they would have to face eventually, as well as the planets that still held loyalty to her. There were a lot of governmental things that needed to be done, but it would take years to sort it out.
With the immediate threats under control, Dave and the other humans had returned to Earth, only to quickly return. Dave allowed John to fly him home long enough to say goodbye to his brother and stuff everything he owned into his sylladex before flying him back. He found the nearest kid that looked to be about 16 and tossed him the keys to his janky car, telling him to keep it. The parting had been much more tearful for John and Rose but they promised their parents that they would come back to visit often. Eridan gave Dave a room all to himself, redesigning his hive so they could live together but still have their own spaces. It was then that Dave asked Eridan to keep his promise and the troll rolled his eyes but agreed. Feferi had put the pendant on Dave's neck herself and then the blonde stood off to the side while he waited for her to finish talking politics with Eridan. Dave could wait. He had all the time in the world. And now he had someone to enjoy it with.
"Ready?" The sea dweller's voice sighed as Feferi and her entourage retreated down the hall.
Dave smirked as Eridan fiddle with his matching pendant and kissed him quickly, "Yeah."
The steps were steeper than he remembered and the drone at the bottom looked none too pleased to see them, but Eridan flashed his medallion and the creature moved reluctantly aside. Dave grew more anxious as they went through familiar caves until a soft chirping made him break into a broad smile. The noise got louder as they entered the glow of the egg chamber and descended the short rim to where the hatchlings were milling about. A jade blooded troll who was tending to some of the larger grubs looked up and bowed her head to them before retreating. Dave approached the clutch he and Eridan had first visited a few weeks prior.
Of the original seven wigglers that had been there, only five remained in the same clutch. Eridan explained that sometimes they wandered into other clutches or that some just died which made Dave frown in disappointment. It only took a second for him to spot the vibrant purple of the little sea dweller troll he had caught as it fell from its egg. Dave's smile widened as he reached down to scoop up the grub, now only slightly bigger than when it had hatched. At first it cried in alarm till it realized the hands under it were warm, then it chipped happily and nuzzled into them.
"This is him!" Dave breathed contently, "How'd you like to be a Strider, little dude?"
The grub trilled and chirped up at him happily and Eridan rolled his eyes, "Oh cod."
A sudden, sharp chirping made both boys look down. A smaller, red blooded grub was crying in alarm and trying to climb the side of the clutch. The wiggler in Dave's hands called back and squirmed. Eridan frowned.
"I think these twwo are friends or somefin."
"Oh?" Dave turned and looked down at the little grub who was desperately trying to get to the purple one Dave still held, "Well maybe we shouldn't separate them."
There was a pervading silence before Eridan sighed, "Oh for the lovve of cod! Fine. Wwe'll take 'em both."
Dave laughed as he scooped up the little red grub and cradled them, the wigglers immediately snuggling together and then into the crook of Dave's arm. Eridan rolled his eyes but leaned in to kiss Dave none the less. As they walked out of the caves, the troll grabbed Dave's free hand and interlaced their fingers.
"So," Eridan mused, "Is this some more a your irony shit?"
"This is so ironic," Dave laughed, "In fact, this might be the most glubbin' ironic thing ever."