Sorry in advance, the pace of this act is a little weird but that's because the last one ran away with me. I wrote this pretty quick (about three hours), so I'm impressed with how well it turned out. But yeah, here you go, the last act.
Many thanks to obsessed01616, Bitblondetoday, can we not, and Sollux Capdick (I sent you a PM but you never answered, so I don't know what you meant!) for your reviews to the last act!
"So, basically, I need to set up a whole bunch of surveillance equipment to record Aranea being a massive bitch. Once I have enough evidence, I will present my findings to the court of my mom, and I have to expect she'll take it from there." Vriska leaned back on Jade's bed, putting her hands behind her head. "Of course, in order to get the reactions from Aranea that I need to prove that she's a massive bitch, I'll have to utilize my own brand of manipulation. I can't decide if playing it like I'm devastated by the Marquise's loss is the best way to go—which I am, don't get me wrong," she added, "but I'm not really in favor of letting her see that. Or I could pretend like I don't care and that I didn't get the implied message. I think that way would be better, because then it might egg her on to try to retaliate again."
Jade nodded slowly from her desk. "It probably would. She seems like the type who would crumble if she was ignored."
Vriska grinned. "That, she would. Hopefully it's enough to send her over the edge."
"But surveillance equipment... I don't know, Vris, that kind of sounds illegal."
"Here's the way I look at it: it's my house—I'm not setting this stuff up at someone else's place just to spy on them. Second, I'm only planning on putting it in like the kitchen and living room and common areas—no bedrooms, no bathrooms. I want privacy to be maintained. I may put an audio recorder in my room and station a camera on the door just to see who comes in, but that's in my own room for my own protection. And three, it's my idea. If anyone gets in trouble for this, I'll take the heat for it. I've never really been able to rely on anyone else for something, so I'm used to doing it on my own anyway," she added quietly.
"The only thing I really need at this point is someone else, someone who knows their way around these computers to set up the monitoring grid I want. Preferably someone Aranea's never met, so she can't try to threaten them in case she finds out about this. Plus all that data we're going to be collecting? I want to make sure it's stored away from the house so she can't get to it and try to destroy it. I need all these safeguards in place, which is kind of sad and ridiculous." Vriska's shoulders slumped and she sighed. "I still can't believe it's come to this, though. Like, we were never really close or anything, not unless you count her telling me only family is worth trusting, but she's still my sister. And she killed my tarantula."
"How often does your mom go in your room?"
Vriska gave Jade a puzzled look. "Once in a couple of days or so, but she probably wouldn't notice the recording stuff if it was small enough and well-hidden."
"That's not what I was getting at. I'm just thinking—how could you explain the absence of the Marquise? Would your mom notice she was missing?"
Vriska drew her knees up to her chest, pulling her bare feet across the covers, and thought for a few moments. "Probably," she said finally. "That would give it away, wouldn't it?"
"Yeah," Jade said, nodding. "So you should probably get a new one. I mean, I don't know how much they cost, but—"
"They're not too expensive. Ten dollars is pretty cheap, and those are wild-caught ones. You can't be sure that those are female—the ones that die a few months after you get them are definitely male. The females can live up to twenty years. I'll probably get one of the really cheap ones in case it is a male and Aranea decides to try to skewer that one, too."
"Yeah, I'm not a big fan of possibly sending another tarantula to its death, but I can't very well go home without one. My mom will wonder, and I can't really tell her I loaned her to a friend because my mom knows I wouldn't do something like that." She sighed. "She wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the tarantulas, of course, but I still have to have one."
"And then you have to get all that recording stuff... when were you planning to start watching your sister?"
"Very soon. Like 'this-weekend' soon. I have a feeling it's going to be a very expensive weekend."
"You can stay here, at least for tonight. Obviously, I want to keep you here all weekend so you don't have to go back there anytime soon, but we'll probably have to go set up sometime this weekend."
"Of course—I'm helping you. I can't very well let you do something like this alone. Your sister is evil, Vris. You shouldn't have to deal with it on your own. That's why I'm here."
Vriska tried to hide her smile, but Jade still saw it, and it looked like Vriska had been offered everything she'd ever wanted.
Several hours later, after slipping past Jade's insane, gun-toting grandfather not once but twice, they closed the bedroom door tightly and started setting up.
Vriska put her new tarantula on Jade's dresser to keep it (she refused to call it a she since it was one of the really cheap ones, but she still felt herself forming a bond with it) out of the way. Then she and Jade pulled out the tripod and the handheld video camera and attached the camera to the platform on top of the tripod. She had been right in thinking it would be an expensive weekend—she'd dropped about three hundred dollars for this whole mess, but she hoped it would be worth it.
"Alright, are you ready right now?" Jade asked, peering at the camera's fold-out screen and training the camera on where Vriska would be sitting.
Vriska rubbed her arms. She didn't feel ready. She felt raw. "Yeah, I guess so."
"Alright. We should get started. We can order pizza later," she added. "I know I'm getting pretty hungry."
Vriska half-smiled. "Yeah, me too." She plopped herself on the edge of Jade's bed, brushed her hair back with her fingers, and straightened the collar of the blue long-sleeved button-down shirt she wore. "Okay."
Jade hit the record button, waited for a moment, and said, "We can edit out the extra pieces at the beginning later. I know a bit about video editing."
"Good, 'cause I don't know shit," Vriska said, trying to laugh. "I've got way too many irons in the fire."
"All of the irons?" Jade joked, having already picked up on Vriska's mannerisms.
"All of them," Vriska confirmed, her smile turning more genuine. "Okay, here I go." She sighed, squared her shoulders, and straightened up. "My name is Vriska Serket. It's November first, 2013, at ten-fifty PM. Yesterday, I turned twenty years old. This morning, I woke up to discover that my pet tarantula had been killed. It wasn't a natural death. It was murder." She paused and leaned forward, addressing Jade now instead of the camera. "Can we, like, cut to one of the pictures I took on my phone later?"
"In editing? Yeah, no problem."
"Cool." Vriska sat back and continued. "Something like that can't be attributed to an accident. I know someone killed my tarantula, and I know who it was." Vriska's gaze turned steely. "It was Aranea, my sister, and while I can't prove that she killed my tarantula, I can prove that she has been sadistic and abusive for twelve years, and she needs treatment. My name is Vriska Serket, and this is Operation: Out of the Fire." She paused again. "Cut. How did that look?"
Jade hit the record button again to stop it. "Pretty good. Come over here and watch it. I think I caught some things we'll want to fix, but I need your input, too."
"Like what?" Vriska asked, hopping off the bed.
"Like... come watch. Look," she said as Vriska circled behind her to watch the tiny screen. "You keep folding and unfolding your hands. It's distracting on-camera. We can't really crop the view, either, since it'll mess up the proportions, and you can see the movement through your shoulders anyway. We'll have to record it again."
Vriska nodded. Jade was right—her constant movement did draw attention.
"Just, at the same time, don't try to hold completely still. If your head is the only part of your body that moves, that'll look weird, too. Try to keep your movements simple and at a minimum. And deliberate. There's a difference between fidgeting and gesturing."
"Okay, let's do it."
They had to re-record Vriska's spiel three more times. Jade hadn't wanted to do that—there was nothing quite like a passionate first delivery—but Vriska managed to keep her intensity strong every time, and the fourth time that Jade stopped recording, they had good footage.
Now all they needed to do was find one last accomplice to help them. Jade sat down at her computer and asked the only person she knew who didn't have an immediately vested interest in not helping Vriska: Dave Strider.
– –gardenGnostic began pestering turntechGodhead– –
GG: DAVE! i need your help!
TG: sure with what
GG: do you know anyone whos good with high-falutin technology
TG: how high-falutin are we talking
TG: like king henry viii high-falutin
TG: or queen elizabeth ii high-falutin
TG: or steve jobs high-falutin
GG: the last one, i guess! theres just a lot here and its a lot of high-tech stuff... i just need someone who knows their way around this kind of thing, thats all
TG: yeah i think i know a guy. his name is sollux. pesterchum handle is twinArmageddons. he might be on right now, these are his peak hours
GG: okay, thank you!
TG: hey where did all that high-falutin technology come from, anyway?
GG: just bought it. its for a project
TG: and you got it without knowing how to use it?
GG: i kind of know how to use it! i just need a bit of extra help with it, is all. but thanks for the guy's contact info, ill try to talk to him this weekend!
TG: sure, no problem. have a good weekend
– –turntechGodhead ceased pestering gardenGnostic– –
Jade turned triumphantly in her seat. "I got a name!"
"Really?" Vriska sat up in interest. "Who?"
"Dave says this guy's name is Sollux."
She didn't know what Vriska's reaction should have been, but it certainly wasn't the look of are you fucking nuts that she shot Jade right then.
"Um, I know a guy named Sollux, and based on who he's friends with, he probably wouldn't be in a position to be sympathetic."
"Who's he friends with?"
"At least two of my exes, for starters—Kanaya and Eridan."
"Oh." Jade thought it over. "Look, what do we lose by talking to him? He can really only say no, right?"
Vriska sighed and ran her fingers through her hair. "Alright, fine, I guess it won't hurt to ask."
Sollux and Eridan ended up staying in Sollux's apartment all weekend, only emerging for food before retreating back into the haven they'd made for themselves. Whenever Eridan fell asleep before Sollux (which was often), Sollux would amuse himself by playing The Sims 3. It was a great way to kill time since it didn't require a whole lot of brainpower, and besides that, it made hours pass by like minutes. He was always surprised to start playing at eight or nine and look up fifteen minutes later to discover that it was one in the morning. That was when he'd finally crawl beneath the covers and Eridan would sleepily turn over to let Sollux spoon up behind him, and then he'd be able to drift off, slowly but surely.
It sucked to emerge on Monday, but they did it anyway. Eridan reluctantly headed off to his first class and Sollux went to the cafeteria building and started playing Pokemon X on his 3DS to pass the time while Aradia tore through the last few chapters of A Dance with Dragons. Soon, he supposed, he would pass on a few details about his weekend to Aradia, but right now, the glow hadn't quite subsided, and he was content to bask in it.
At least until he saw, out of the corner of his eye, a certain spider-bitch striding right for the table he and Aradia were sitting at. They both noticed her and the girl with the long, dark hair, round glasses, and buckteeth that Sollux had seen days ago trailing behind at the same time, and Sollux immediately closed up his 3DS, tensing up. This promised to be awful.
But when Vriska opened her mouth, what she said was not what he expected. "I need your help."
Yes, Sollux actually does play The Sims 3. Deal with it.
Happy Halloween, guys! Keep your eyes peeled for "Rewriting the Terms" in February or so, or just subscribe to my author's updates!