Session Nine: A Stitch in Time

1/16/10 – 2/10/10
pages 1154 – 1357

If there was anything to fall for when it comes to Homestuck’s first long intermission, I fell for it. I thought to myself “Oh, we’re going to take a break from all that dramatic story stuff and laugh at these guys for awhile.” That sounded good to me. Of course it was early in the morning then, as it is now. Fitting since this probably the anniversary of the day I started reading.

Meet Spades Slick

Slick and his subordinates, Clubs Deuce, Diamond Droog, and Hearts Boxcar are breaking into Lord English’s manor in revenge for his gang, The Felt, knocking over their favorite casino. The Felt have a thing for clocks, and a corresponding assortment of temporal powers as we will soon learn.

Clocks Destroyed: 4/1000

The clock counter is the first of many, many callbacks to Problem Sleuth. Another prominent feature is the items that are constantly changing shape and name without the characters ever noticing. This sets the tone for the whole intermission. I could not have done a recap of Problem Sleuth. I quickly gave up taking notes and kept the MS Paint Adventures wiki tabbed open at all times.

The only point of this that I can fathom is to establish that Slick has never seen a human.

The first of these shape shifting items we encounter is Slick’s deck of cards, which he plainly refers to in the caption as his deck of cards until ordered to play 52 Card Pick-Up, at which point he says he would need a deck of cards to do so and deploys his war chest. I believe all this is a joke relating back to glitches in old adventure games, or at least it was originally. Now it’s a joke relating back to Problem Sleuth. I have to say, reading this makes me feel old and slow. This sort of thing is way harder to keep up with than it used to be.

After we go through all the items in Jack’s Slick’s war chest and establish that mspaintadventures.com exists even in this timeline, Slick picks up his spade key, which of course turns into a card with the rules for Black Jack (ha!) on one side and a bar code on the other. We then get a closer look at his itinerary.

I’d totally forgotten Slick called dibs on Lord English. Somebody tell Vriska to back the fuck off.

I may be slowing down, but I only had to go to the wiki to figure out the name of one of these guys (it was Cans, apparently that’s a reference to the number 15 in French). Did Hussie spend a long time figuring these names out or does his mind simply work that way? Perhaps I am a strange person but I find the thematic names and powers to be incredibly satisfying. If I did have a chance to ask the Huss a question though, I think I’d go with “Was Lord English always going to be a big deal?” Not that it matters in the slightest, but I am curious.

We also establish that Slick keeps Snowman’s picture separate from the others and isn’t planning to kill that individual.

Judging by that twitching eye, it isn’t for sentimental reasons. Though perhaps that depends on your definition of “sentiment”.

We take a look at his incredibly convoluted heist map and radio his cohorts. All of Slick’s gear goes into the war chest, the spades key goes into the deck of cards, and that goes into the item slot of his inventory, everybody following this?

The first inkling we get of how these time shenanigans are going to work is a bunch of destroyed clocks and blood in the next room. I don’t have much faith in the accuracy of that clock counter, not that I’m keeping strenuous track, this comic would drive a certain kind of person insane. We also get another taste of how screwy this intermission is going to be when the command “Be Hearts Boxcar” nets us Clubs Deuce, who has Doze (the number 2 Felt) tied up.

CD proceeds to administer a terrible shin drubbing to Doze but to no avail, the crafty Felt is using his power to slow down his own personal time so that nothing effects him. This is probably one of the easiest time powers to understand and keep track of, which is why it’s the first we get to play around with. We get some characterization for CD. Unlike Slick, he loves clocks. He also keeps his things in a battledrobe, because calling it a wardrobe was apparently too obvious.  CD attempts to psychologically torture Doze by switching hats when the next Felt shows up. Itchy, the number 1 Felt, is the opposite of Doze, he’s super fast. He decides to switch everyone’s hat for some reason.

This is revenge, I guess?

We head back to Slick in time to see Itchy switch out his hat. I’m already struggling a bit just keeping track of the headgear. Slick knows what’s up and sticks out his leg, soon enough Itchy runs smack into it and goes down.

This image is here in case all the Problem Sleuth callback jokes were making us too comfortable.
4/15 Green Torsos Dead

Slick gets his backup hat out of his war chest, fortunately his licorice candy dogs are fine after that little dust up.

We see our third Felt and things begin to get interesting. This is Die, the 6 Felt, and he simply pops into being in front of Slick holding a voodoo doll.

Probably, when it comes down to it, not the best time power in the world.

Trying to be Diamond Droog brings us back to Clubs Deuce again, we just can’t stay away. He’s sorting through all the bombs in his battledrobe looking for his backup hat and something else to tie up Doze with. CD can’t remember which of the cards on the ground is which item, the caption criticizes his terrible memory but I don’t blame him. Anyway, this is how he ends up packing a bunch of C-4 under his hat.

Doze’s time power also has its downsides.

We get to be Diamond Droog at last. His backup hat is kept inside a brawlsoleum along with a number of very fine suits and an armory of guns. His candy of choice is Swedish Fish and he’s found a blood trail. Before he can do anything about that, he gets punched in the face by someone we can’t see. We’re about to introduce another Felt and another time power. This is Trace, he can follow past trails and mess with people from the future.

DD sends instructions to CD to track down Trace in the future and then follows the blood trail up the stairs. Meanwhile, CD has tied up Doze with a Stretch Armstrong doll he didn’t know he had. He shoves Doze into his battledrobe and then flips out over his bull penis cane which he has just learned the name of, somehow. This once again raises question about how these game abstractions work and their relationship to the characters, but I can’t fathom it so let’s move on.

We switch to Itchy and Die somewhere playing cards. We know it can’t be where we just were since we’ve already seen Itchy eat it. This question is resolved soon enough when Itchy cheats at cards and Die decides to use his time power to go to a timeline where Itchy is dead. I find this both the most interesting of the time powers and the most impractical. The comic says Die uses it to settle grudges, but it doesn’t even work for that since the iteration of the person he was angry at goes on existing in the original timeline anyway and all he’s done is teleport himself into danger, as the command “SS: Make friends with Die” demonstrates.

I hate to say “I told you so” but…

Die decides to get out of this awkward mess by using the Spades Slick pin he’s been saving, only to discover just how much Slick means it when he said he “made this town.”

Not much of an improvement.

We stop not being Hearts Boxcar and head down to take a look at the vaunted vault the Midnight Crew is breaking in to. Apparently HB’s usual method is to rip the safe from the wall and that’s not going to work this time. He figures out that the safe requires time manipulation powers to open and opts for blowing up the door instead. This would be a great plan if it didn’t rely on CD. HB uses a wrathtub (augh) and likes Wax Lips. His illicit reading is Red Cheeks magazine.

I don’t know how I feel about any aspect of the wrathtub.

HB’s call is interrupted by ticking. It’s another Felt and another… time power? This is Biscuits, he hides inside an oven that moves forward in time at the rate of one second per one second, like everything else. Unfortunately, he’s teamed up with Eggs and his timer, which creates time loops.

They’re like mini bosses, not difficult but super annoying.

CD is following the path DD told him too, and Trace is following CD in the future, keeping up? Meanwhile, if that word still means anything, DD has found the end of the blood trail. There’s more mysteriously destroyed clocks and a tooth on the floor. He puts together the clues, all forensic like, to figure out what Fin is up to. Fin is Trace’s counterpart, he follows peoples’ future trails. This time though, DD’s got the drop on him. Turns out this is where the blood trails originated from.

I’m a little dubious about most of these time powers actually.

Die decides spending the rest of his life living in the ruins of a forgotten civilization isn’t for him and he pulls the pin back out of his doll. Slick helps him live up to his name.

5/15 Green Torsos Dead

Slick takes the doll. He’s heard a rumor that Lord English (I think his name is a reference to Lord British) can only be killed by exploiting glitches in spacetime. The doll might help him with his plans.

Through a couple of steps we end up back with CD who has a nefarious scheme to implement. He does, apparently, and is then promptly distracted by the blood trail and off he goes. Trace catches up and finds Doze, but not quite quick enough.

7/15 Green Torsos Dead

The heavily wounded Fin runs across CD’s future trail and decides to follow him. Anyone else remember that one Winnie the Pooh story? Anyway, Fin can’t shoot CD because he’s got a bomb under his hat.

HB is having trouble sorting out Eggs and Biscuits. Another Felt appears over the safe to spectate. He would tell HB how to get into the safe with Crowbar’s crowbar if HB weren’t too busy to listen, so he tells the audience instead.

We’re independently introduced to another Felt next, Stitch, the gang’s tailor. He’s busy making sure the fabric of spacetime is in good repair. I can now forgive wrathtub since this is such a brilliantly employed pun.

Lord English is so bad ass he used the fabric of space and time to make his coats.

HB calls Slick for help. I like how the captions deal with dialog between characters. It’s quicker than having some stand in for a pesterlog and yet still conveys a sense of character. The captions are a really underestimated part of this comic. This reread is hammering home for me just how much they contribute to my enjoyment.

We also test the limits of how these artifacts affect the story. Droog tells Slick over the radio that he shot Fin so Slick can go ahead and cross him off the list. We, however, know that Fin is still alive and has just reached Stitch who can fix him up using his effigy so long as he doesn’t bleed to death first, then Slick inserts Fin’s pin.

8/15 Green Torsos Dead. Anyone else remembering the destruction of a certain valuable timepiece?

CD bursts in but Stitch is familiar with C-4 and knows it’s a stable explosive that won’t go off from gunfire. Fortunately, I guess, DD is there to back him up. He shoves Stitch in his brawlsoleum and tells him not to bleed on the suits (title drop).

Now downstairs (I think it’s downstairs), Spades Slick has figured out he needs to remove Crowbar’s pin and go to a timeline where’s alive and get his crowbar. Okay, so I’m not keeping to tight a track of the time loops here, but this really bugs me. Clover told the audience that the Midnight Crew could use Crowbar’s crowbar. I get that Slick knows what the crowbar does but how does he know they need it to get into the safe? HB didn’t tell him, he was way too busy dealing with Eggs and Biscuits for that.

But who cares, there’s a gun fight going on.

Or at least there is, until the number 8 Felt walks into the room. This is Snowman, her power is that her death would bring about the end of the universe and she can talk on screen.

Homestuck Snowman
Seriously, I don’t think anyone else can pull that off. That’s incredible.

I could point out that this is an instance of a woman who was in a position of authority reduced to servitude, her significance reduced to her passive world ending power, but I’m too distracted by the way she just put out Slick’s eye with a cigarette holder for pure shits and giggles.

Anyway, Slick uses Snowman’s lance to spear Sawbuck which sends them all skipping through time. This is the number 10 Felt’s power.

Brace yourself folks, there’s a storm of fat jokes approaching off the port side bow.

Slick is pissed so he gratuitously kills this alternate timeline version of Stitch. Have I mentioned all of Slick’s weapons? He’s got a Sabre Rattle, Occam’s Razor and a Double Edged Sword. Occam’s Razor is also the King of Spades and it too ends up implanted in Sawbuck, taking them to yet another timeline.

This is the Scurrilous Straggler.

Everything about this image is meant to bring WV to mind. On my first read through this really confused me, to the point where I dismissed it from my mind. Now I appreciate it as more clever foreshadowing. We see this before we’ve even confirmed what WV, PM and AR are. This image does a double job, it connects SS to WV and thus to a session of players, and it also connects WV back to Jack Noir and the palace of the Dark Kingdom we saw. There are so many pieces of information we haven’t been directly given yet, that the citizens of the kingdoms of light and darkness mentioned by Nannasprite are exiled to the players’ planet after the end of their struggle in order to guide the players during their game, that Skaia has a direct connection to the destruction of said planet, that there are multiple sessions going on across reality, that the trolls are Sburb (Sgrub) players as well. Yet when we learn these things we feel as though we’ve always known them, because we’ve absorbed that information in drips and drabs along the way. When this becomes really interesting is when Hussie starts using this technique to mislead us.

Anyway, Slick knocks out Crowbar and takes his crowbar, then shoves him into the war chest. He then beats on Sawbuck (he also has a Bait and Switchblade) until he ends up at the right time. He commandeers that timeline’s wrathtub (ugh) and returns to the timeline we were originally following, which now has two versions of Sawbuck in it for those of you playing the home game. Slick deflects some bullets into the Sawbuck he just freed from the wrathtub and that zaps them into the past, where they encounter this timeline’s Sawbuck, how expedient. Slick dodges Crowbar’s next round, which hits Sawbuck, and the two of them go off through the timeline destroying all those clocks we saw when we entered.

With all the puzzles we’ve been uncovering, I’m glad we at least solved that one.

Time travel can really be a double edged sword; I don’t think that’s such an awful one-liner but Slick isn’t having it. He goes to consult his past self about it. They don’t get anywhere so Slick goes back to beating on Sawbuck and we go back to being Spades Slick in the past. Apparently all of this happened right before Slick pulled Crowbar’s pin. Apparently. Smooth comic, real smooth. This Slick goes off to do a whole bunch of stuff we already saw. 

Future Slick ends up finding Sawbuck and Crowbar’s decapitated bodies. He takes special care to notice that a clock that wasn’t destroyed before now is. (This kind of reminds me of Terezi and her coin tosses, though I can’t entirely say why. Maybe it’s the use of physical props as an aid to exploiting time travel.) Pulling the cigarette holder out of alternate timeline Sawbuck sends them back in time again so Slick decides to suffocate him, which doesn’t seem to trigger his time power. He notices the now intact clock against the wall ticking down to the moment when it will be destroyed and frantically tries to come up with a one-liner.

The results are mixed.

He slays them all with his Rapier Wit (still better than wrathtub).

Killing alternate timeline versions of your enemies really lets you game your counters.

Slick’s had altogether enough and I’m beginning to wear out myself. It’s time for a Diamond Droog break, he’s so sensible. He fills Slick in and they decide to get Stitch to fix Slick’s eye with his effigies.

Which turns out to be trickier than it sounds.

They get that figured out and Slick takes a moment to horse around with his horse hitcher and Snowman’s lance. Until she catches him at it. Meanwhile, DD and CD have gone to bail out HB.

This is going to take awhile.

Stitch tries to get proactive by burning Slick’s effigy, but he’s no match for a well-timed Problem Sleuth reference (with a little SB&HJ thrown in there to spice things up).

This image is here in case all the blood letting was making you too uncomfortable.

This all turns out to have been coincident with the explosion that took out Doze and Trace.

10/15 Green Torsos getting Deader by the minute.

Slick takes out Eggs’s timer, which ends the madness, to some extent. HB eats him.

I feel like I’ve been skipping HB too much. I want to point out that he’s a chess person. He filed his teeth in order to be able to do this sort of thing.

Biscuits retreats into his oven. The crowbar barely dents it because it’s just a stupid oven, so CD tosses a bomb inside and they wheel it off to a quiet corner. I am struck by how much each member of the Midnight Crew contributes to this joint effort. They really are a true ensemble. That’s what makes what’s going to happen after they open this safe a bit sad.

Clover jumps down to warn them about what they’re doing. I’m pretty sure this guy is the whole reason the Felt ended up being canon leprechauns. He tells riddles and does a jig until DD starts whacking him with a copy of Monochrome Beauties, which only ends up in embarrassing poor DD. Clover’s power is that he’s extremely lucky. This is where we begin establishing luck as some nigh unbeatable super power.

The final Felt member, Cans, makes the scene. He promptly punches DD into next week.

This is what you get in Homestuck for inconveniencing someone with luck powers.

HB tries using another Problem Sleuth reference but Slick already exhausted that avenue and he gets punched right into another calendar.

I actually feel a little bad for him, though I do laugh as well.

Slick decides he’s had enough and goes for the safe. This brings him to a timeline where everyone but him and Snowman are dead. Slick finds this frustrating but at least he’s making progress. I’m sort of with him. He’s a cold blooded killer, true, but he’s got plenty of ways back to timelines where his crew is intact and only this opportunity to open Lord English’s vault.

He tries to use the Spade Key to open the vault when you know who shows up.

Everyone loves this image.

She rips off Slick’s arm with her Black Inches.

There is something strangely familiar about this.

Fortunately, this is early enough on in Homestuck that the comic remembers all its game references and Jack can just flip his sprite and use the bar code on his wrist. Or is it fortunate? At the time I dismissed Snowman’s attack as simple blood lust, but it looks like she was trying to prevent him from entering the vault. Why? Well.. What’s inside?

Retcon spotted, I’m pretty sure.

Why, it’s the seed of the Black Queen’s downfall, and so much other suffering yet to be revealed.

Since it is the anniversary of when I started reading, I’m going be busy haying for the next few days (if the weather holds, please let it hold). But that’s never really stopped me from reading Homestuck before so I don’t predict too much of a slow down.

Next time, we begin Act 4 and learn more about the weird looking kid we just saw.

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