The Tea War

"Even in a world as fucked up as ours, not all wars are fought with guns and bloodshed. Some are still fought with a well-thought speech instead of a well-placed blow, and an expertly strategized debate as opposed to an expertly strategized ambush. Sadly, we leave all the sensible people to die on the battlefield, so all we have left to do the talking in our battles with words is the idiots.
Needless to say, the battles without weapons usually end up looking more gruesome than the battles without weapons."

120 Hours before Relocation
"Damn it, Strate, the Physics Engine isn't for making tea."
Without looking up from the screen of the computer, he replied, "Well then, what do you suggest we use it for?" "Actual testing. You've been blocking every requested theorem without giving 'em a second look." "Well it would be awfully difficult to brew tea in it with people haphazardly tearing holes in the fabric of space and time, releasing interdimensional beings right into the kettle. Before you put me in charge of moderating the equations, anybody with the clearance to get into the holding cell could just go in and mash keys. I still don’t believe Incident 938211 was caused by an actual researcher."

Doctor Caduceus took a moment to wipe the sweat off his brow- a sweat only Doctor Strate could cause to any reasonable person. In fact, most of the stress of interacting with Strate only occurred in reasonable people. Most of Strate’s co-workers theorized that only reasonable people were affected by it because Strate’s responses to conversation by abnormal or unreasonable people were equally abnormal or unreasonable, making the abnormal or unreasonable person in question feel right at home with Strate’s responses, with normal, reasonable people feeling alienated and lost, and in some cases even baffled, and unable to respond.

Despite this social anomaly, multiple attempts to have Strate filed as a Chaos Insurgency Object failed spectacularly, despite, oddly enough, immense support on behalf of Strate for the documentation to be accepted.

"You and I both know that 938211 started off as an actual test. Not every test gets logged, you know, luckily enough for item documenters like yourself. Otherwise, few personnel would be able to put up with the slew of paperwork." "And what does that mean for me?" "It means that you don’t have to let every proposed test go through, and you won’t have to document all the ones you do let through."

Strate pressed the enter key, heating up his tea kettle instantaneously, and turned to face Caduceus. "Well then, would it make you feel better if I submitted it as an experiment every morning before I heat up my tea, and document it once a week?" "Strate, would you like me to give you a cut in pay?" "You know full well that that threat never works."

That, of course, was the entirety of Caduceus’s defense against Strate's argument. This happened every day at 5:30 in the morning exactly, and neither side did anything differently every day. This argument persisted in their minds, just as the two of them persisted in their ways.

At least up until one fateful morning in April, when Doctor Strate arrived one minute late for his daily tea. Caduceus was already in the room, having been waiting for Strate for the past thirty seconds. This was different, and both men noticed it. Strate didn’t wish to speak about it, as he took great pride in his air-tight daily schedule, but Caduceus took interest in this detail.

"Do you not plan on having tea today, or are you just late?" Caduceus said with a smirk. He had finally found leverage. He could work with this. For a brief moment, Caduceus could taste victory. At least until Strate's reply came, which unsettled Caduceus greatly.

"You'd best leave me to my morning tea. You're standing in front of the keyboard."

A bead of sweat trickled down Caduceus's brow, taken aback not just by the reply itself, but Strate's tone, the sudden air of pure and utter hatred Strate emitted. Caduceus could almost smell the complete loathing, not just toward himself, but toward everything around him. The sort of pure contempt an exterminator held for an ant, or a roach. Despite the fear and smallness Caduceus felt in the presence of this man that had before been a friend to him, Caduceus pushed to maintain his composition. He stood up tall, cleared his throat, and, in a demanding, yet still somewhat wavering voice, he declared "I'm putting a stop to your continued misuse of the Physics Engine. You are now officially assigned to Facility Eternity 68, where you will complete the documentation of the object 'Everything' and perform tests to determine its potential uses. Good day."

Strate's commanding hold on Caduceus's psyche released; Strate could do nothing but stare at the man, shocked. "You've started a war, Cad. A fucking war." Strate left the room after that remark.

96 Hours before Relocation
"Wait, you want me to do what?" Hockenberry shouted, surprised.
"Why do you seem so surprised? You work here. My request can't be that strange, especially compared to some of the things you've told test subjects." "Yeah, but the things I tell my test subjects are much more sane, and, well… Authorized. This could get you fired, or even executed, and it's likely that whatever punishment Caduceus gives you for it is going to happen to me too. I don't want to be part of your little argument over the tea. Just take your punishment like a man." "I won't have to. You were there when we had to have Team 13 come in to get Cad off of Creed just because Creed touched his Jackfruit costume, Cad loves that thing." "That's not very reassuring." "Well it should be." "Why does it always have to be me to help you in your shenanigans? Can't you get Lander to help you? He loves this kind of shit!" "You know I can't do that. He's shown no sign of forgiveness for me since I poked a hole in his Haz-Mat suit with a thumb tack and he went bald." "Well then, go get creed to do it, or you may as well pack up your things and head over to Facility 68."

Strate leaned back in the chair in front of Hockenberry's big, luxurious mahogany desk and sighed. "Fine, fine. You know what, fine." Strate spat out the words like they pained him. "If you do this for me, I won't have you involved with any more of my courageous endeavors for a year."

Hockenberry looked unsure. "Well…" "Fine, forever. I'll never involve you in another one of my escapades." Without a so much as a femtosecond of hesitation, Hockenberry replied, "Deal. When do we do it?" "We need to start planning a way to get it out today if we want to get it done by tomorrow."

Hockenberry rested his head against his unnecessarily large, leather, gold-studded chair that dwarfed the man. "Well, we better get started then."

Four hours, three Family Size bags of Doritos, two rolls of extra large graphing paper and the entirety of both men's cell phone minutes later, they had their plan.

90 Hours before Relocation
Strate slowly wheeled the cart, tarp covering the Spatial Displacement Device. The faked "Accepted Test Form" had gotten past the guards at the containment chamber doors, proving it was well worth the hour he had spent forging it. Hockenberry was busy disabling the security around Caduceus's office, having already tampered with the schedule so Strate would have a clear, guard-free path to the back of the Research Wing of Base Four. On the way, Strate's job was to nab Cad's berry mints from the cafeteria while Caduceus was in the kitchen for god knows what reason. Probably beating the cooks for making the same thing twice in a row. On the way, Strate would drop the berry mints off in the Physics Engine to fry them. Afterward, Strate would just have to wait at the back for Hockenberry.

Of course, everything went as planned, making the plan well worth the effort, up until one little thing that they hadn't planned around: Strate wasn't permitted into the physics engine chamber. Hockenberry and Strate hadn't seen the need to clear the guards out, so Strate was in an awkward situation.

"Identification, please." "Ah, right. Here it is." The guard took a moment to look over his Alpha Clearance card. "Access denied." "Okay." Strate took a moment to realize what the guard just said. "Wait, what?!" "Access denied." "I'm assigned to the damned thing, and now you're telling me I can't get into the containment chamber?" "Not anymore you're not. Caduceus came by and told us of you being reassigned. As of yesterday you're not allowed into any item containment chambers." Strate took a moment to think over the situation.

And then instantly regretted his choice of action. The guard that had denied him fell to the ground, mask cracked, bleeding from his nose, writhing and screaming not so much from pain, but from the surprise of it. The other guard was frozen in shock at what he witnessed.

A wicked punch to the face.

Strate took the opportunity to take the guard's gun and beat the standing guard over the head with it until he stopped screaming. Strate took the clearance card from one of the guards and opened the door with it. He proceeded to vaporize the berry mints, typing with one hand, gun in the other.

After reducing the berry mints to dust, Strate ran back into the hallway to find one of the guards, conscious, and crawling down the hallway, trying to yell for help. Strate took a moment to stomp him on the head before grabbing the cart and running to the back exit.

"Are you sure you want do do this, Strate? Absolutely positive you want to go through with… This?" Hockenberry made an arm gesture toward the Spatial Displacement Device. "Yes and yes. C'mon, just press the button and fling me through the goddamned window already." Hockenberry took a moment to sigh before proceeding toward the big, glowing red "Initiate" button. "Alright. Here goes nothing. Throwing you in through a third story window… God, what has this job become…" "Shut the fuck up and stop stalling before I throw you through that window without pressing the button first!"

A thoroughly startled Hockenberry pressed the button. To Strate, he simply vanished, but having worked with the Spatial Displacement Device before, he knew what had happened. "Alright, now, hurl me through the win-"

Before Strate could finish his sentence, he was flung up into the air and through the window, shattering the glass as easily as tearing paper. That looked like it hurt, Hockenberry thought. Kind of want to do that again.

After a full four minutes of lying on the ground in an attempt to stay conscious, a cut-riddled, bleeding Strate that, were he not seriously concussed, would be regretting his plan, as opposed to vomiting all over Caduceus's belongings. Luckily for him, he only hit Cad's collection of priceless books and not his Jackfruit costume, or the small, blood-stained burlap sack next to it. Strate was relieved about not having hit both of those, as he needed the Jackfruit costume and he felt strongly that his vomit was too good not just for the acts committed with the bag, but for the very bag itself. That bag coming in contact with any bodily fluids is something no one would wish upon even the worst of their enemies. Strate locked the door to the office and proceeded to bundle the Jackfruit costume under one arm, after which he ran to the window and waved in Hockenberry's general direction. "Alright, I got it! Get me down!"

As Strate's slow and somewhat steady descent began, Caduceus burst through the door of his office. Strate, having heard the door being bashed down and the subsequent roar of fury, turned to see Cad rushing toward the shattered window, getting ready to leap toward his thief. "Oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit!" Strate proclaimed, giving a panicked look toward Hockenberry's spot of disappearance. Right as Caduceus leapt, Strate screamed toward Hockenberry, "Keep him off me!" Strate looked back just in time to see a man paralleling his own hatred, a fire burning in his eyes, a lust for blood, revenge, and his Jackfruit costume, being slowly lifted back toward his office. Caduceus retrieved a dart gun and a set of incendiary darts from a display case on his wall, and opened fire at Strate, which made little difference because before Cad had time to get his dart gun, Strate had already caught on fire due to the effects of the Spatial Displacement Device.

This didn't help Cad's mood.

"Fucking Hockenberry, I was going to set him on fire! You better hope you don't re-materialize because I'll-" Cad's sentence was cut short by an explosion, caused by a stray fire dart hitting a gas tank, powering the backup generator. Not only did this explosion destroy the emergency power grid, it managed to overload the main facility power. The facility went dark, and the three men involved could already hear the result of their actions.

By the time Strate hits the ground, Hockenberry having lost complete control, he was already entirely put out. In fact, he was close to hypothermia from the effects of the Spatial Displacement device, but it would wear off soon enough. Or at least it should. Strate scrambled for his gun, half-crawl, half-dragging himself along the ground. By the time he had gotten to it, Caduceus had already climbed his way down, dart gun in hand. Strate held his gun toward the Jackfruit costume. "You take one step closer and I'll shoot your costume full of holes." "Bastard. I'll fucking kill you. Hand over the Jackfruit costume." Caduceus's expression went deadly. "Now."

"Alright, I'll give the costume back. On one condition," Strate said, triumph in his voice. Caduceus cocked an eyebrow. "And what condition is that?" "That you don't reassign me."

"Oh, and that you don't have me executed for what I've done today. And it'd probably be best if you gave those two guards stationed outside the Physics Engine's containment chamber a raise. So… three things, I guess." the fierce look in Strate's eyes returned once again. "Those three things. Do it, or I'll shoot!" "But wait, wouldn't it be four things? Because there's two guards?" "Well no, because… Look, who's making the demands here? Just go! Go back to your office and tear up the paperwork and give me access back to the facility." "Now it's five demands. Make up your mind already!" "Look, shut up! Shut the fuck up! Hockenberry, this isn't working set him on fire or something to get the point across." "What? No, I'm leaving, I'll go file the paperwork for you. Damn." Caduceus opened up the back door of the Research Wing, and stood in the doorway for a moment.

"I'll get you back for this, Strate. Nobody messes with my Jackfruit costume."

Now for the matter that all three men had almost forgotten about- the containment breach. Numerous helicopters were flying overhead, dropping glowing red balls onto some buildings and shooting missiles at others. Needless to say, shit was going down. Strate began running toward the garage, until it exploded, after which point he saw the need for a different plan. He began running back toward the spatial displacement device. "Hockenberry! I need you to pull one of those helicopters down long enough for me to jump on.

Half a second later, a helicopter exploded. Strate assumed that was Hockenberry's attempt at pulling it down. "Okay, don't do that. How about you-" Strate's sentence was cut short by the Creation of Darwin being thrown through a window, the shattered glass raining down upon Strate. Strate had barely managed to pull his lab coat over his head by the time the Creation of Darwin, covered in a thick, rock-solid outer shell, struck him on the back of the head. At around the same time, Cad was also laying unconscious in his office, having been hit smack-on the nose by a piece of debris from an explosion, that piece of debris being the door to his office.

For the next three days, Strate, Caduceus and Hockenberry were held in Test Subject Holding Cells without food or water, bound and blindfolded the entire time. Of course, the three men did not know this, all they knew was the cold, the loneliness, the complete isolation and cruelty that the Chaos Insurgency treated their Test Subjects with when they weren't being used like mice. After the events of this story, Caduceus and Hockenberry became much more merciful toward their test subjects. Of course, Strate became more cruel, believing that they had become accustomed to the inhospitable nature of the Insurgency.

Relocation Day
Strate was the first to wake, no stranger to serious concussions. He then climbed up onto his hands and knees and proceeded to heave at the hot desert sand, nothing left to vomit after the past three days of imprisonment. After a full ten minutes, he rolled over onto his back, exhausted.

A parcel to his left caught his eye, along with two other motionless figures in tattered lab coats matching his. Hockenberry and Caduceus, Strate assumed. After yet another ten minutes of doing nothing useful whatsoever, Strate mustered the strength to roll over toward the parcel and open it.

Within the parcel was a collection of Chaos Insurgency documents, pertaining to the relocation of Strate, Caduceus and Hockenberry, along with their official discharge from the Chaos Insurgency. Papers removing their alpha status, their clearance level, their holding cell permissions, the whole nine yards. "Well what a load of fucking bullshit!" Strate yelled, waking Caduceus. He began slashing his pen through the air like a knife, startled. "Huh? What? What's going on!" Strate thrust the stack of papers toward him. "What… What is this?" "Read it."

Date: █/█/20██
Current Location: Base Four, ███ █████ █████████
Destination: The ███████ Desert
Reason: Direct causation of a containment breach and continued disobedience of standard apparel protocols
Notes: N/A

Caduceus took a moment to read over the document on top of the stack, and look around at his surroundings, after which his eyes fell upon Strate, then Strate's throat. Strate new what Caduceus was thinking, and took off in the other direction. "Fucking bastard, I'll kill you! Look what you've done to me, you've gotten me stranded in this goddamned desert!" Caduceus shouted, chasing after Strate. This continued for quite some time, a steady stream of profanity from Caduceus's mouth, from Strate's an unceasing flow of futile attempts to reason with the enraged beast of a man, along with the occasional plea for mercy or death threat. Nothing Strate said calmed Caduceus as the two sprinted over dunes, around cacti, and around more dunes. "Wait! Stop!" "Shut the fuck up and let me kill you already! Get over here!" "Don't you want to see your Jackfruit costume again?!"

These words brought Caduceus to a screeching halt, leaning backwards to negate the force of his dash, kicking up a rather large cloud of sand in the process. Strate just flopped over onto the ground, exhausted. "What… What did you say?" Strate took a few seconds to lie on the ground, gasping for air frantically before answering. "The… CI… Still… Has… Your Jackfruit costume."

Caduceus took a moment to think about this. "Well, shit." "If you keep… Me alive… We can get out of this desert… And find it." Strate's wheezing slowed a bit, as he was no longer afraid of being strangled with his own spine. "Well, Strate, as much as I want to kill you, you may be a nice snack if we can't find food any time soon." Strate chuckled, rolling over to see the almost maniacal grin on Caduceus's face. "How endearing." Caduceus helped Strate to his feet, at which point they set out to find Hockenberry, whom they had lost during their chase.

About five hours later, the cold night set in, and they still hadn't found Hockenberry.

"Are you sure we're going the right way? I swear I bumped into that cactus before. It felt familiar," Strate said. "All cacti feel exactly the same. It's just needles," Caduceus replied. That was the most interesting part of their conversation so far, and held it's title for some time.

Up until Strate felt a slight rumble.

"Wait, slow down, I think I heard something." "That's just dehydration kicking in. You'll get used to the voices." After a worried glance in Caduceus's direction and a halt to his movement, Strate replied, "No, I really heard it. I felt it. It was like a tremor." "A tremor?" "Yeah. Sounded just like the ones from the movie tremors. You know, the one with the giant worms." "Never heard of it." "It's great. One of my favorites. Almost as good as Sharknado." After a noticeable pause, a surprised Caduceus replied to Strate. "Wait, you like Sharknado?"

Strate didn't have time to answer before a third voice joined the conversation. "Hey! Over here!" The two men looked toward the voice just in time to see Hockenberry atop a sand dune, waving his arms at them. The two men, both overjoyed at having found Hockenberry, began shouting and rushing toward him. "Hockenberry! Hey, it's us!" By the time the two men were about ten feet away from Hockenberry, another, much more violent tremor shook the ground, throwing all three men off their feet and, in the case of Caduceus and Strate, rolling downhill. Shortly after the tremor, a massive worm, sporting an array of razor-sharp teeth in a mouth somewhat resembling the Sarlacc pit and a pair of grotesque, fleshy wings sprung out of the ground and devoured Hockenberry whole. Strate and Caduceus struggled to regain their footing as the massive beast, having taken flight, began diving toward them. "Holy shit, what the fuck is that?" "Goddammit Cad, it's a giant fucking worm with wings! What do you think it is?!" After that short exchange the two men picked up speed, sprinting downhill away from the worm, up until a second worm emerged. "Fuck, fuck, fuck, FUCK!" Strate yelled, Caduceus replying "Another one? Where the fuck did these things come from?" "Underground, you dumbass!" "Not helping!"

The two men continued their futile dash across the desert, the two gargantuan winged beasts alternating diving underground and soaring into the air. "Strate, you watched Tremors! How did they kill these things?!" "They were a lot smaller in Tremors! And they didn't have giant fucking wings! I'm pretty sure their methods will be ineffective!" "Well, you've got to think of something!" Victor swung his head back to get a good look at his pursuers.

And then he had an idea.

"Holy fuck, this just might work. Follow me, Cad!" Victor began dashing toward the worms. "What? Are you fucking crazy? That's suicide!" "Nope, it's just a really stupid idea!" Caduceus paused and stared at Strate. "Fine, fine, fine, FINE!" Caduceus ran after Strate. The two men began weaving their way around the worms, running circles around their bodies as they emerged from the sandy earth, and teasing them at their spot of landing as they went down. This pattern continued for quite some time, until they had gotten the worms so close together that their routine wouldn't work. "They're too close! What do we do now?" Caduceus yelled, beginning to lose what little faith he had in Strate's plan. "Now we stand here. Don't move until I say to, okay?" "Really? That's your plan? We're going to die!" "Just trust me on this one!" "That's a little difficult to do!"

Both men paused as the ground began to shake. "MOVE!" "What?" "I said MOVE!" By the time Caduceus got it, Strate had already gotten a running start, after which he tackled Caduceus out of the way of one of the worms emerging from the ground. From their position on the ground Caduceus and Strate had a good view of one worm, having made it half way through it's dive bomb attempt at the two men, crashing directly into the other, having emerged from the ground without enough time to get out of the way of its counterpart. What resulted was an appalling mess of a steaming teal slimy substance, dotted with red and blue throughout, with numerous scattered piles of intestines and indescribable organs. Needless to say, it wasn't pleasant to look at. Caduceus and Strate would have vomited, had they had anything in their stomachs at the time. The two men sat there, wicked grins on their faces, too triumphant to feel their own exhaustion. For the first time in a while, both men were happy. Not just as people, but with each other. Caduceus, for the first time in years, didn't want to tear out Strate's spine and strangle him to death with it. Both men sat and looked at each other in silence, with new-found respect for each other.

Up until they heard groaning coming from the worm remains. "What was that?" "Sounded like a guy." "Some poor bastard survived that? Damn." Caduceus and Strate scanned the piles of entrails until the two spotted Hockenberry, slowly standing up. Tattered cloth, burn marks, red skin, scrapes and bruises dotted the man, like the cacti and dunes of the desert he stood in. "How the fuck did you two kill the worms?" a startled Hockenberry yelled, apparently aware of Caduceus and Strate's presence. "Well, me and Strate crashed one worm into the other, and they sort of… Well, exploded," Caduceus said. Hockenberry took a moment to respond. "Wait, what?" "We crashed the worms together. They died. You're alive," Strate clarified.

Hockenberry took a while to think about this. "Oh." Hockenberry looked at Strate, then at Caduceus. "Whose idea was it?" "It was Strate's idea," Caduceus said. By the look on Hockenberry's face it seemed to be the most surprising thing to have happened to him that day. "Strate, if we ever get out of this alive, I need to buy you a chair like mine."

"Hey, guys, have you seen my berry mints?"

The next four hours was spent explaining to Caduceus what happened and comforting him from what he obviously perceived as a tragedy.

28 Hours after Relocation

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