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Another slow night, another dead-end lead, the neophyte was about ready to tear her hair out. It wasn't made any better by the fact that she had this sinking feeling that time was of the essence. Sitting back in her chair, she removed her red glasses and sighed, rubbing her equally red eyes. She was about to get up to check on a few other things when her computer pinged, telling her someone wanted to talk to her. Great. Pulling up Trollian, she quickly found that the person who wanted to talk to her was not going to be pleased to hear from her at the moment, as she had yet to find anything.

After a brief conversation, and a promise to tell her if she had found anything, she clicked out of the application, sitting back in her chair again. It wasn't three minutes later that her phone rang. Picking it up, she brought her usual, business-like air to the conversation. "H3LLO, N3OPHYT3 PYROP3 SP34K1NG."

A deep voice with an audible smirk answered her, "Greet/ngs. / am sure you wou\d \ove to know where the sea dwe\\er known as Er/dan Ampora /s, correct?"

Nobody else was supposed to know she was looking for him. "WHO 1S TH1S?"

"And /'m sure you wou\d \ove to know that. Regard\ess, answer the quest/on."

"NOT UNT1LL YOU 4NSW3R M1N3. WHO 4R3 YOU?"

"Very we\\." A brief pause, and the voice, now muffled, continued. "Speak up, Er/dan." A dull thud followed by wheezes and coughs filled the void between his sentences. "Does that answer your quest/on suff/c/ent\y?"

Eridan…. They had him…? "WH4T DO YOU W4NT."

"Answer my quest/on."

Gritting her teeth, she managed to maintain her level tone long enough to answer him, motioning for someone else nearby to try to trace the call. "F1N3. Y3S, 1'D L1K3 TO KNOW WH3R3 3R1D4N 1S."

"Very good. Now then, a \etter shou\d arr/ve soon, deta/\ng my /nstruct/ons. Goodbye."

Before she could get anything else out of him, the phone was hung up. Looking up, she knew she was going to see the shake of the head she received. There wasn't nearly enough time to figure out where the call had been coming from. Slamming the phone back down, Terezi took a deep breath or two before rising to her feet and leaving the room. She needed some space for a few minutes.

The wait was agonizing, but eventually the letter the man had mentioned arrived. It detailed which planet she was to go to, and where on the world, as well as the fact that she was to come alone. Of course. She knew better than to try and bring someone with her anyway, and managed to leave without letting anyone else know besides a couple of people.

-gallowsCalibrator [GC] began trolling cuttlefishCuller [CC]-

GC: H3Y.
GC: 1 W4NT3D TO L3T YOU KNOW 1 FOUND SOM3TH1NG
GC: THOUGH 1 M1GHT B3 OUT OF TOUCH FOR A WH1L3.
GC: 1F YOU N33D M3, 1'LL S3ND YOU TH3 WORLD 1'M ON.
-GC sent file -
GC: T4LK TO YOU SOON.

-gallowsCalibrator [GC] ceased trolling cuttlefishCuller [CC]-

-gallowsCalibrator [GC] began trolling pariahSavant [PS]-

GC: H3Y TH3R3.
GC: 1'M GONN4 GU3SS YOU'R3 BUSY 4ND WON'T S33 TH1S FOR 4 WH1L3
GC: BUT 1 N33D3D TO L3T YOU KNOW TH4T 1'M PROB4BLY 4BOUT TO DO SOM3TH1NG 1NCR3D1BLY STUP1D.
PS: IT CAN'T BE ANY STUPIDER THAN WHAT I'M HAVING TO DEAL WITH.
GC: 1 DON'T KNOW 4BOUT TH4T.
GC: GO1NG TO 4 WORLD TO S4V3 4 FR13ND 4LON3 1SN'T 3X4CTLY MY 1D34 OF BR1LL14NC3.
PS: AND?
GC: 1'M PORB4BLY NOT GO1NG TO L34V3 TH4T WORLD 4NY T1M3 SOON.
GC: M4N, 3R1D4N'S B31NG 4 R34L P41N 1N TH3 4SS.
PS: WHEN IS THAT FUCKASS NOT?
GC: PO1NT T4K3N.
GC: 1 JUST HOP3 SOM3ON3 F1NDS US B3FOR3 W3 3ND UP DY1NG OR SOM3TH1NG STUP1D L1K3 TH4T.
PS: YEAH, WELL.
PS: TAVROS FOUND A BUNCH OF ABANDONED LUSII.
PS: TRY TELLING ME HE WOULDN'T DO SOMETHING STUPID IF HE DID.
PS: BECAUSE THEN I WOULD GET TO CALL YOU OUT ON BEING A LIAR.
PS: REGARDLESS, WHAT WORLD ARE YOU EVEN GOING TO BE ON?
GC: H3R3
GC: 1'LL S3ND YOU WH4T W4S S3NT TO M3.
- GC send file -
GC: TH4T 1S 3V3RYTH1NG 1 KNOW ON TH3 SUBJ3CT.
PS: OH SHIT.
GC: WH4T?
PS: THAT'S WHERE WE ARE.
GC: R34LLY?
PS: HEH.
PS: I GUESS WE'LL HAVE TO LOOK EACHO OTHER UP WHEN YOU GET HERE.
PS: DON'T I STILL OWE YOU A KISS?
GC: Y34H, SOM3TH1NG L1K3 TH4T.
GC: 1 M1GHT H4V3 TO T4K3 4 R41N CH3CK THOUGH.
GC: ON 4CCOUNT OF B31NG K1DN4PP3D OR SOM3 SH1T L1K3 TH4T.
PS: NO, NO, NO.
PS: THAT WON'T DO AT ALL.
PS: YOU CAN'T GET KIDNAPPED, I FORBID IT.
PS: BESIDES, ASSUMING THIS GUY IS WHO I THINK HE MIGHT BE, JUST BASED ON WORD CHOICE AND WHATNOT, HE WON'T KIDNAP YOU.
PS: ALSO, DON'T ASK ME HOW I KNOW THAT.
PS: BUT HE'S GOING TO WANT YOU TO SEND A MESSAGE TO SOMEONE.
PS: NOT SURE WHO.
GC: 4ND YOU KNOW TH1S HOW?
PS: I JUST TOLD YOU NOT TO ASK ME THAT.
GC: W3LL TH4T'S JUST TOO D4MN B4D 1SN'T 1T?
GC: 1 K1ND OF N33D TO KNOW 3V3RYTH1NG 1 C4N 4BOUT TH3 GUY WHO H4S 3R1D4N, YOU KNOW.
PS: ALL I KNOW IS HE RUNS SOME KIND OF GROUP HE CALLS MAFIANIHILLATORS.
PS: HE BASICALLY HAS ALL BUT A FEW OF THE INCREDIBLY SMALL NUMBER OF HIGHBLOODS ON THIS WORLD IN HIS BACK POCKET.
PS: SOMETIMES PEOPLE CALL HIM THE CONDESCENDING PEASANT.
PS: REPORTEDLY, HE'S ONLY ROUGHLY AROUND EQUIUS IN THE HEMOSPECTRUM, BUT EVERYONE TREATS HIM LIKE HE'S A TYRIAN.
PS: DIFFERENT SOURCES SAY HE'S EITHER INCREDIBLY CHARISMATIC OR THAT HE DOESN'T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT SOCIAL STANDARDS.
PS: ALL I KNOW FOR SURE IS THAT HE BASICALLY RUNS THIS WORLD AND A FEW OTHERS.
GC: 1 KNOW TH1S GUY.
GC: TH3 L3G1SL4C3R4TORS H4V3 B33N 4FT3R H1M FOR SW33PS NOW.
GC: ROQU3N.
GC: UNFORTUN4T3LY, W3 DON'T H4V3 H1S F1RST N4M3.
GC: 1 DON'T SUPPOS3 YOU COULD H3LP US W1TH TH4T, COULD YOU?
PS: SORRY, I DON'T HAVE IT EITHER.
GC: 1 F1GUR3D.
GC: THANKS, P4R14H.
GC: 1 GU3SS 1'LL S33 YOU SOON?
PS: YEAH.
PS: AND TEREZI?
GC: Y34H?
PS: I'M GOING TO GET RID OF MY DEBT, I HOPE YOU KNOW.
GC: 1 LOOK FORW4RD TO 1T :]
-pariahSavant [PS] ceased trolling gallowsCalibrator [GC]-

Closing the chat client, Terezi finished making preparations to leave and in the next ten minutes, she was on her way. It was about another week before she got where she needed to be and set foot on the new world. Looking around, she found her heart trying to break her ribs. She didn't like why she was here, and she knew she was going to be tailed, if not just outright stopped and brought before this guy. As she stepped out of the terminal, she found that the latter seemed to be correct, as there was a rather well-dressed man waiting for her. Stepping over to him, they exchanged a few words before he took her to the meeting point.

The ride was uneventful, almost as much as it was uninformative, though she wasn't really expecting to get very much from it. They got to a town square, it was alive with energy, people moving around, going in and out of the shops and other places. As Terezi looked around, it looked almost like a town square should. Almost. As she looked closer at the people milling around her, she could see subtle differences. They were all watching her, if not outright staring, they were watching from the corners of their eyes. They were all staged to be here. And they were all armed to the teeth, she figured.

She would need to watch her step.

Looking to where she was actually dropped off, she found it to be a small open-air café. Besides the barista on duty, there was only one other person at the shop. Taking a deep breath, she stepped forward, preparing herself as best she could. The man in question was tall, she could tell even as he was sitting down. His broad shoulders pulled back slightly to straighten his back. He had an air of nobility around him, and a distinct look of apathetic disdain. As if he could really care less about what was going on around him. He looked up as she approached, rising to his feet. "Ah, Neophyte Pyrope," he began. "/t /s a p\easure to f/na\\y make your acqua/ntance." With a graceful motion, he reached for her hand, bending slightly to press a gentle kiss to the back of it. Returning to his former posture, he continued. "/t rea\\y does sadden me that we must meet \/ke th/s, /'m sure that /f present c/rcumstances were more favorab\e, we cou\d be great fr/ends."

Pausing slightly at the gesture he had shown, she quickly returned to her usual self. "H4D W3 B33N M33T1NG UND3R OTH3R C1RCUMST4NC3S, YOU WOULD B3 1N CH41NS BY NOW. WH3R3 1S H3?"

"Oh, come now Ms. Pyrope, no need to be so brusque. /'m s/mp\y try/ng to d/spense p\easantr/es and good manners. There /s no reason not to respond /n k/nd. But, to answer your du\\ quest/on, he /s current\y qu/te c\ose at hand. / sha\\ warn you, however, that any host/\/t/es on your part cou\d be an endangerment to our mutua\ acqua/ntance."

Rolling her eyes, she nodded. "1 F1GUR3D 4S SUCH, S331NG 4S HOW TH3 3NT1R3 SQU4R3 1S CURR3NTLY FULL OF 4RM3D M3N. 1'M NO FOOL, MR. ROQU3N. 4S FOR TH3 PL34S4NTR13S, 1 DON'T USU4LLY S1T DOWN FOR T34 W1TH W4NT3D CR1M1N4LS."

"Not that /t matters, but /t's actua\\y hot coacoa. And to your ear\/er po/nt, the square /sn't ent/re\y f/\\ed w/th combatants. There /s at \east one tro\\ here who has had h/s weapons taken from h/m."

"SO WHY D1D YOU C4LL M3 W4Y TH3 H3LL OUT H3R3? CL34RLY YOU N33D M3 FOR SOM3TH1NG, BUT 1 C4N'T 1M4G1N3 WH4T."

"We\\, to be qu/te honest, / don't much need you as / do your connect/ons. /t's \ess of a quest/on of what you can do and more of a quest/on of who you can ta\k to. Spec/f/ca\\y, Her /mper/ous Condescens/on herse\f. / have someth\ng she wants, and she has someth/ng / want."

"AND WH4T, PR4Y T3LL, DO3S SH3 H4V3 TH4T YOU W4NT? 1NFLU3NC3? POW3R? YOU'LL H4V3 TO B3 4 B1T SP3C1F1C, 4S SH3 H4S QU1T3 4 LOT OF 3V3RYTH1NG."

"/ assumed as such, g/ven that she wou\d be un\/ke/y to just hand over the emp/re on a s/\ver p\atter. Though, honest\y, / don't know what /'d do w/th an ent/re emp/re. No, what / want /s \ess tang/b\e. / want a se\ect group of peop\e pardoned for the/r cr/mes aga/nst the prev/ous Condesce."

"4ND YOU 1NT3ND TO US3 3R1D4N TO G3T 1T. WHY D1D YOU GO THROUGH M3? WHY NOT JUST T4K3 TH3 M4TT3R STR41GHT TO H3R? 1T'S NOT L1K3 SH3'S H1D1NG H3RS3LF 4W4Y FROM 3V3RYTH1NG."

"D/d you forget the part where /'m a wanted cr/m/na\? / cou\dn't so much as come w/th/n a \/ght sweep of her w/thout be/ng b\own apart. / cou\d try other means, but / happen to \ack such connect/ons. Tyr/ans tend to rema/n outs/de my grasp. No, / wou\d need to go to her through those she cares about. \/ke you. \/ke Er/dan. / needed to send a message."

"4ND WH4T M3SS4G3 1S TH4T?"

"So far, / have proven / have a\\ / cou\d want /n the ve/n of power and /nf\uence. Money wou\d be needed to fund these efforts, so that ru\es that out. / cannot be br/bed w/th anyth/ng \ess than my /n/t/a\ demands. My demands are s/mp\e, as we\\, mean/ng you w/\\ have no excuse to mess them up. Pr/soner for pr/soners. / happen to know the peop\e / want are current\y /n \eg/s\acerator custody, awa/t/ng tr/a\. Th/s who\e success/on cr/s/s has proven benef/c/a\ to the/r surv/va\. Trust me, otherw/se / wou\d have no reason to \et Er/dan \/ve for as \ong as / have."

Gritting her teeth slightly, she listened to what he said. She knew better than to try and talk him down, as there was little point in arguing with a man who has made his mind up. "1'M NOT SUR3 SH3'LL DO WH4T YOU W4NT. Y3S, 3R1D4N S4V3D H3R L1F3, BUT TH4T M34NS V3RY L1TTL3 1N T3RMS OF H3R F33L1NGS."

Letting a smirk creep onto his face as she spoke, he retained his calm demeanor throughout. "No, but perhaps an on-aga/n-off-aga/n mo/ra/\\eg/ence does. / sa/d Tyr/ans rema/n out of my grasp, not v/o\et b\oods. Er/dan's \/fe /s we\\ known to me, w/th on\y Her Condescens/on's persona\ thoughts on events e\ud/ng me. / know he has va\ue to her, and the fact that you came on\y cements that. D/d you rea\\y th/nk you cou\d p\ay w/th your cards face up and hope to w/n?"

"4T TH3 MOM3NT, 1F 1 R3M3MB3R R1GHT, TH3Y W3R3 OFF-4G41N. MO1R41LS COM3 4ND GO MOR3 34S1LY TH4N OTH3RS. TH3 ONLY R34SON 1 4M H3R3 1S B3C4US3 1 W4S S3NT TO F1ND H1M 4ND BR1NG H1M B4CK TO F4C3 WH4T H3 D3S3RV3D. NOTH1NG MOR3, NOTH1NG L3SS." She folded her arms, tone remaining as even as her non-existent gaze. "1'LL S3ND YOUR M3SS4G3. JUST DON'T 3XP3CT TH3 4NSW3R YOU W4NT."

His smile unfazed, he continued to stare at the neophyte before him, much the way a cat would stare at a mouse it had just wounded. "Try/ng to turn your cards back over now won't do you much good. A \esser tro\\ m/ght just take what you've sa/d at face va\ue, but / know better, don't worry. Wh/\e / wou\d have preferred a f/rst dance at a more \e/sure\y pace, th/s one /s much more /nterest/ng than a\\ the ba\\rooms A\tern/a have to offer. /'\\ be /n touch, though, perhaps you shou\d at \east v/s/t your f/shy fr/end before you go."

She gave a slight nod. "WH3R3'D YOU L34V3 H1M?"

"Over by the founta/n. Come," he said, offering his arm. "We ought to move qu/ck\y or you'\\ m/ss any other appo/ntments you m/ght have."

Huffing slightly, she took his arm, letting him lead her over to the fountain. A snap of his fingers brought a rather burly troll forward. A motion to the fountain brought Eridan out of it, weak, bruised, and battered, but alive and… Mostly whole. A slew of curses that would have made Karkat raise an eyebrow fell from his lips in a torrential downpour. It was a moment or two before he even noticed Terezi was there.

"Oh, he's chewed through his gag aga/n. \ove\y," mused Roquen.

Eridan responded by suggesting he go preform a few anatomically impossible acts upon himself with various implements of warfare before addressing Terezi. "hey ter i almost didnt sea you there wwhat are you doin wwith this asshole"

"N3GOT14T1NG TH3 T3RMS OF YOUR R3L34S3," she replied simply, moving to be nearer to her friend. Stopped by Roquen's arm, she had to fight the urge to snap it. "SH3'S B33N LOOK1NG FOR YOU, Y'KNOW."

"yeah I knoww ivve sean the posters all ovver the place an they alwways get my nose wwrong i swwear to cod"

"/ have to agree w/th that one, but /'ve a\ways had my susp/c/ons about the var/ous makers of such th/ngs be/ng /nstructed to by the o\d Condesce. /t seems \/ke somef/- …Someth/ng she'd do."

"hey wwho the shell said you could make fishpuns"

"O\d hab/t, just /gnore /t."

Ignoring the question of why he would be in the habit of making fishpuns, Terezi returned to speaking with Eridan. "HOW DO3S 1T F33L TO B3 4 W4NT3D M4N, F1N4LLY?"

"its good to knoww that someone wwants me evven if theyre a legislacerator wwith a hankerin to throww me ovver the gallowws wwith a noose around my neck"

"W3LL HOP3FULLY 1'LL 4CTU4LLY G3T TO DO TH4T SOON. H3R 1MP3R1OUS B1TCH H4S TO M4K3 UP H3R M1ND F1RST."

"hey dont call fef that"

"/ f/nd myse\f agree/ng w/th Er/dan on th/s one, there /s no need for vu\gar/t/es."

"wwhat aboat me dont i get a lecture"

"You are a \ost cause."

"wwell screww you too then"

"W/th someth/ng sharp, / presume?"

"L4D13S, L4D13S, PL34S3. YOU'R3 BOTH PR3TTY."

"but shes goin out wwith troiki an thats a problem cause i like troiki"

"Are these ant/cs abso\ute\y necessary?"

"yes totally"

"1 F41L TO S33 TH3 PROBL3M W1TH 4 B1T OF HUMOR 3V3RY ONC3 1N 4 WH1L3."

"/ prefer /t when sa/d humor does not re\y on one-off gags and obcen/t/es."

"Y34H Y34H." She turned back to Eridan one last time, giving him a look that said everything she couldn't in front of Roquen. "1'LL B3 S331NG YOU 4T TH3 G4LLOWS." She glanced to Roquen, a smirk burgeoning on her own lips now. "YOU 4S W3LL. TH3Y'V3 B33N CH4S1NG YOU FOR SW33PS, BUT 1'M GO1NG TO C4TCH YOU. 1 C4N PROM1S3 YOU TH4T."

"And / can prom/se much the oppos/te. / w/\\ probably be busy enjoy/ng a n/ce ret/rement w/th my fr/ends and our newfound pardon." Letting his own smirk grow, he gave Terezi a knowing wink as the car from earlier pulled up. "Ah, your r/de /s here. Very we\\, put h/m back under."

"W3 W1LL S33," she spat back, nodding to Eridan, a silent plea to stay safe until she could get him out of there. Moving to the car, she sat down in the back, giving directions to a hotel of sorts where she had made reservations before arriving. She wouldn't be staying there, but she figured she may as well give them something to stake out. She walked up to the room, setting things up, and pulling up her Trollian account to fire off a few messages to the one she promised to meet, arranging a place. And then she was gone.

Moving quickly through the crowd, she was glad for her ability to blend in no matter where she was. In no time at all, she was at the arranged meeting place, a small, hole-in-the-wall tavern. Usually she wouldn't have even noticed such a place, but this was something she had been looking forward to since she heard he was on this world. Walking in, she glanced around, searching for any trace of the nub-horned moron. To her glee, it didn't take long to spot him. Moving swiftly to the table he was at, she took a seat across from him. "H3Y TH3R3, STR4NG3R."

Looking up as he sat down, his face instantly went from an expression of tiredness to one of relief. "DON'T BE A MORON, TEREZI," he began, "YOU KNOW DAMN WELL WHO I AM. I DON'T CARE IF THAT'S A CLASSIC LINE OR WHATEVER FUCKING REASON YOU HAVE FOR USING IT." The tone of his voice easily betrayed his words. It might well have been the first time she'd heard him happy.

Chuckling, Terezi nodded. "Y34H Y34H. 1 KNOW." Her smile softened a bit. "1T'S GOOD TO S33 YOU, P4R14H"

"WHAT DO YOU SAY TO US GETTING OUT OF HERE AND GETTING SOMETHING TO EAT? I MEAN, SOMETHING PROPER TO EAT. THEY DON'T HAVE MUCH BEYOND SHITTY BAR FOOD HERE. THEIR FRIES ARE TERRIBLE."

She had to stifle another laugh as she nodded. "SOUNDS L1K3 4 PL4N. GOT SOM3WH3R3 1N M1ND?" Terezi rose to her feet with the other, waiting for him to leave before following suit.

"YEAH, I THINK I KNOW A PLACE." Getting up, he offered Terezi his hand to help her rise.

Taking his hand, she smiled softly. "L34D TH3 W4Y." As they walked out of the tavern, they decided to take the scenic route, detouring into the alley next to where they had just left. Instantly his arms shot out, one wrapping around her waist, bending her backwards slightly, the other going to cradle her head as he leaned down, pressing his lips against hers. Her own hands slid to the back of his neck, holding herself up as best she could, letting that single connection say everything they didn't dare say aloud. They only parted when their lungs began to ache from lack of air. "1 M1SS3D YOU, K4R," she hissed against his lips a he righted her. "4 LOT."
Today we take you to a world named Alternia. A world that is the base of operations for one of the most powerful empires in the universe. A world that is about to get turned on it's head. Twelve friends, some of nobility, some of peasantry, can choose to either live with their world as it is, or work together and change everything.
__________
Terezi gets a strange message, which she relays to Feferi. Could it lead to Eridan? And what about Karkat? Where is he? Is he okay?
__________
Comments and Ideas are always welcome!
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