They travelled fast, leaving a trail of dust behind them. They had left Cynethia, as she was too injured to fight, and Adorabeezle to help her and keep an eye on the computer, so they knew where Twistella's forces were. The mood was grim - no one uttered a word. Whatever happened, they were going to save their game or go down fighting.
Jubilee entered the throne room with a triumphant smile on her face. She had captured those three pesky teens and had them thrown into the fundungeon, where her guards would force information out of them.
Her grin soon faded, however, when she beheld the broken body of the virus, lying on the floor. "Mistress!" She cried, running to its side and turning it over. The orange soulless eyes gazed up at her, and she panicked. She shook the young body until it snarled "Cease your shaking, you insufferable girl!"
The virus pulled itself up, brushing off as it stood, Jubilee hot on its heels. "What happened? Where are those racers?" She growled. Jubilee winced, thanking the special coding ears for the protection they offered her against that horrid voice.
"What racers, mistress?"
"It was a ploy, it was all a distraction! The racers at the caravans meant nothing! They have gone into the code room!" Hissed the virus, spotting the open door behind the throne. "Come, we must catch them before they ruin everything!"
They were within throwing distance of the door when suddenly the whole castle shook with an explosion that nearly sent them to their knees.
"What was that?" Exclaimed Jubilee, grabbing on to the throne. "It must be another distraction!" Cursed the virus. "Quick. You go stop the racers, and I will summon the troops. Go!"
Jubilee needed no further encouragement. She ducked round the throne and ran for the code room. Twistella let a grin spread across her face as it melted away. She transformed into a whirlpool of blood red code. A message raced out of her mind, and soon all the candy fans were marching to the castle, ready to meet the oncoming attack.
Meanwhile, Jubilee had met with some defences.
"Ah, there's the little traitor. I was wondering where you'd got to."
Ginger stood in her path bravely, her fists raised. "Come on, move aside, or I will have to do something I regret." Snarled the cherry girl.
"No!" Ginger's voice wavered. "Yeah, we're through with you!" Added Miito in his growly voice. The dark girl could sense the fear of the other girl. She let an evil smile spread across her face. Ginger gulped as Jubilee invaded her mind, eroding her self-confidence, breaking down her mental firewall. "Well, well, well, looks like you've forgotten why you helped me in the first place. I can still tell your friends all about your little secret, serpent."
"We already know, Darkheart." Came a voice from behind the girl. She spun, finding herself face to face with Kevin.
"Ah, the little ringmaster come to help his tightrope walkers. So tell me Kevin, how does it feel to know that you letting me take over your circus caused the injuries of so many of your friends, the capture of your sister, and soon to be the death of others?" She asked, glancing distastefully at Ginger.
"Guys? What's going on out there?" Came Crimson's voice. She and Gloyd emerged from the tunnel, pulling to a stop when they spotted the dark cherry girl. "Wha-When did she get here?" Gloyd demanded, a spice bomb at the ready.
"How rude, Gloyd … not to address a lady in person. I can't believe I actually liked you, all those years ago. I am not 'she', Gloyd," Jubilee stated, advancing on the boy. "I am Jubilee Darkheart nee Bing Bing, and you will address me with proper respect!" She snarled.
"Bing Bing…?" Gloyd had time to utter, thrown off balance by her wayward remark, before Jubilee grabbed his collar and with super human strength threw him against the glowing blue, growing red wires of code that lined the hall. He began to jolt uncontrollably, twitching as his dark hair began to smoke, stuck to them through the pure force of the shocks.
"Gloyd!" Cried the other three. Crimson and Ginger turned on the cherry girl, whose face was light up eerily blue in the electrical light, a manic grin on her face. "Come on then girls, show me what you've got!" She taunted as they ran at her. Kevin sprinted over to Gloyd, carefully pulling the electrocuted boy away from the wires. He collapsed to the floor in a slumped heap, unmoving.
Crimson drew her sword, the
familiar sound of the scraping scabbard filling her ears. She held it in front
of her, sinking into a defensive stance, as Jubilee raised an eyebrow cockily
and clicked a few buttons on her gloves. Two short knives shot out of the
wrists, and she grabbed them.
"Welcome, all, to the final show of Cirque de Sucre's famous swordswoman. Because after this fight, she'll have no arms left to hold her sword with!" Jubilee cried, as she swung her left blade towards Crimson's neck and her right at the girl's sword, a frontal attack. Crimson weaved out of the way, then retaliated with a stab of her own. They clashed, blades whirling, streaks of silver, as red met white.
"Did you hear that?"
Ron turned to Swizzle. "What?" The unicorn pop boy frowned, his indigo eyes clouded with fear. "It sounded like someone was screaming. It sound like … Gloyd." Ron's brow furrowed, and he looked away from the other boy, absent-mindedly spinning a code box. "Oh. Um … earlier, when I said that Gloyd was just a no-good prankster … I didn't mean it. I let my mouth run sometimes, and Gloyd is a good person … he's been great to Cherry, he's always good with people, and some of his pranks are quite funny." Admitted the cookie boy. Swizzle smiled, lips pressed tightly together. The fear didn't leave his face, but it faded a little more. Ron cleared his throat, glad the dark light hid his red face. "Ok then … let's find this reset button."
They made their way to the main code box, the name Vanellope Von Schweetz dominating it. Swizzle swam up front, and floated around in the air hesitantly before touching it with shaking fingers. It flashed once, then nothing.
"C'mon Swizzle, I thought you were supposed to be good with computers. Everyone knows you have to double tap a file for it to open." Ron smirked before pushing past the boy and opening it. Swizzle wasn't angry though - he couldn't help but notice it was the first time Ron had actually said his name.
"Ok - whoa. How are we going to find it in this mess?" The boys stared at the hundreds, thousands, millions of lines of code before them, connecting all the elements of Vanellope's personality. Swizzle turned to Ron, and froze. The boy's face was overcome with an expression of bitterness and anger. He reached a hand towards the code slowly, then stopped, drawing it back to his side.
"I … I remember something about this. Before the circus … why was I in a circus at all?" He questioned, whipping his head around to Swizzle, who gulped at the fierce expression in the boy's eyes. "Hey man, it wasn't my fault. No one knows, remember? But if you're remembering stuff about your past, maybe Jubilee's 'borrowing' is changing. Which is either really good," he turned to the jungle of code in front of him, "Or really bad. Let's get to work."
The racers pulled to a stop in front of the castle, the performers jumping off the back of the candy karts. Rancis turned to Vanellope, who felt like crying at his bashed, bruised, and beaten face. "Ok Nelly, what's our plan?" He tried to smile, wincing in pain. Vanellope's hazel eyes narrowed. "Plans haven't got us anywhere so far. All we're trying to do now is distract the virus, and save the ones who aren't here. The rest is up to the boys -- if they can't reset the game, it doesn't matter what we do."
On that sombre note the group armed themselves, throwing supplies to one another, creating a barricade around the castle doors. Soon enough it was five feet high, with all the teens on the inside, backs to the doors.
That turned out to be a fateful mistake.
Their fears were realised when the doors groaned loudly, attracting all attention. They spun to find themselves face to face with an enormous army, blank, dead-eyed fans filling the entry hall of the castle. And hovering above them was the virus in its true form, a tornado of glitching red code, destructive, unpredictable, chaotic.
"Well well racers - it would seem you led yourselves into that one!"
Ringing clangs echoed into the throne room as the two girls fought on, oblivious to the troubles of their friends, the only thing in their mind the dodging and slashing that would guarantee their survival. Beads of sweat rolled down Crimson's brow as she swung left, pulling her other arm behind her. Jubilee just didn't seem to tire at all. She laughed savagely as she swung her daggers, getting closer with every swipe. Crimson, on the other hand, was near her breaking point. All she needed was one chance to relieve the heat of Jubilee, then she could disarm her. She was easily the better swordswoman - she just wasn't sneaky enough. Jubilee had probably be studying her technique for ages. So…
Time to try something new.
"Swizzle … earlier, you said something about you and Adorabeezle. Tell me about that." Ron uttered into the darkness. Swizzle sighed. "Those aren't exactly happy memories, Ron. Why?" Ron bit his lip, scrunching up his eyebrows. "Just … I think it'll help. Just try it." Swizzle shrugged.
"There's not much to know, really." He started, floating over to a different side of the code as he searched through the web. "A couple of years after our game was plugged in, we got together - we'd always been good friends, and she was pretty. But things grew sour … we lasted about a year before - well, there was this girl from another game, and she was just so funny, and beautiful, and friendly, but I just felt trapped in my relationship. We were both looking to end it … and she was a real harpy about it, I can tell you. But, yeah, feel free to judge me now. I've had it before." He sighed, swimming away from the searched section to the far corner.
Ron frowned, holding his hands to his head. There was something … an old memory. A name. "Maria." He said, realisation dawning on his face. "Maria Robotnik. She was the other girl."
Swizzle shot a confused expression at the boy. "How did you know that?"
But Ron was too distracted to answer, his hands still pressed to his temples. "No, no, that's not right, you didn't break up, you got back together after a month or so, and you've been stronger than ever, and you're working your issues out together…" Swizzle laughed. "Look man, I don't know what fantasy world you're living in, but that didn't happen."
Ron whipped his head to stare at
the other boy, panic in his eyes. "Wait - you're … you're not supposed to
be here … where's Vanellope?" Swizzle frowned, concerned about the boy's
behaviour. He swam over to him and grabbed his shoulders. "Ron, Vanellope
is back at base with the others. It's you me, Gloyd, Crimson, Ginger and Kevin
who are on this mission. Are you alright?"
Ron's eyes widened. "Of course … but wait - who are Crimson, Ginger and Kevin?"
The teens found themselves frozen with horror as the whirlpool cast its orange lights onto each of them. "Oh, this should be interesting. Let's see how you deal with the full force of my army, racers. Except you, redneck. You, I will kill myself!" It shouted as it spun smaller and smaller until it was back in its humanoid form, a sword strapped to its back. The army charged, and the teens raised their now weak defences against them.
Jake and Twistella met, Twistella freeing her blade as she smiled evilly. "You know, I can't really kill you. But when I regain my strength, and when you've lost yours, I can absorb your energy and send you into limbo, where you will be slowly deleted. That's where I sent Crimson, you see. But that glitch escaped - I won't make the same mistake with you."
Jake could barely understand her over the horrible waves of sound coming towards him - too high to bear, too low to take, gargling, choking, laughing, singing, all at once. It was too much for his ears, too random, too disjointed, with too many pitches all speaking in perfect disharmony. He raised his rifle in defence as she swung down her sword, grabbing the end with his spare hand. Sparks flew as she attacked him again and again, all the time taunting him to keep him weak and powerless.
Minty paced the inside of her cell. She ran to the window and grabbed the bars, screaming in misery as she shook them violently. She ran into the door again, whacking her already bruised shoulder into it, wincing in pain as it stayed unmoving, stoic, cold and not even scratched. She moaned and lay on the cool stone floor, glaring at the ceiling.
She couldn't escape this one with strength. She realised that. So what could she do?
Suddenly, an image of her cousin floated in her mind. Swizzle, the brainiac, the clever charmer, the smart player, the intelligent one. What would he do about this?
It was like one of his video games. Escape the room using what you had in your inventory. Break the window bars? Not an option. Input all the different lock combinations? It was a key lock, like the one in her bathroom.
She sat up. The bathroom. Where she'd got locked out of accidently. She really had to go, so she used her bow to… She grinned as she jumped to her feet, pulling the bow off her head. She wrenched the bow itself off the hairband, then grabbed the crocodile clip that held it in place. Breaking it in two, she dropped the remains of her hair accessories and knelt by the lock.
Rattle it around a bit.
Just a little further.
A broken forest green bow lay on the floor, its owner long gone.
Swizzle laughed shakily. "C'mon, Ron, this isn't the time to joke around!" Ron shook his head. "Stupid memory... Who are they?"
"They're the other performers! The ones who are probably risking their necks for us at this very second!" Cried Swizzle. "Think!"
Ron blinked a few times. "Crimson ... Crimson and I are sword fighters. We have a circus act together. But ... I'm not a circus performer. I'm ... I'm a racer. Aren't I?"
Swizzle's frown increased. "Maybe where you used to be, before Jubilee 'borrowed' you. But right now, you're a swordsman. And your partner is out there waiting for us to fix this code, eliminate the virus. So please, no matter what's happening in there," he said, pointing at the boy's forehead, "Just look for the game setting box."
Ron nodded determinedly. "You're right. The virus must be stopped. He won't get away with this!"
As the cookie boy swam to the other side of the code, Swizzle stayed floating where he was.
Jubileena and Torvald fought together, back to back, chucking grenades, pistols in hand, their faces splattered with icing and code. "We need to get out of this siege! It's a bloodbath!" Torvald shouted to her companion. Jubileena nodded, grim-faced, and turned to the wall of chocolate, stale cake and biscuit they had piled up. She hefted another hand grenade, ready to pull the pin. But out of nowhere, a little cherry dipped kiss appeared, one of her own fans, and stabbed a short kitchen knife into her stomach. She screamed, code pouring out, as Torvald spun around and shot the fan in the head.
"Jubi! Oh my mod, Jubi!" She screamed, as she grabbed the injured girl in one arm, holding off hypnotized fans with her pistol as she climbed up the barricade uncertainly.
Jubileena couldn't see. Her vision was going blurry, the only thing she could think about the pain and the freezing candy cane embedded in her stomach, growing fainter as she lost more and more code. The code itself hit the floor and turned red, winding its way towards the virus, seeping into her.
Torvald lay Jubileena down on a reasonably steady door. "Hang on Jubi! Hang on for me!"
Jubileena was feeling tired. As
much as she tried to hold on, the pain was like riptide, pulling her away.
"Hang on Jubi!"
Her eyes closed.
Sniffling, Snowanna looked out of her door's window again. No one. Not a soul. She couldn't even hear Lucy and Minty anymore. She went back to the only corner of her cell that was lit, and sank down to the floor, back against the wall.
Her eyes grew watery.
After all this effort, she just couldn't stop herself from crying. She was tired. Tired of fighting, tired of worrying, tired of everything.
A tear spilled over the edge of her eyelid.
When would this nightmare end? When would she wake up, and find herself back in regular Sugar Rush, with all her friends, ready to race, her fans supporting her, enjoying her life without constant threat of death and imprisonment?
Another tear joined the first, racing down her cheeks.
Maybe never. Maybe they would be stuck like this forever. She didn't even know what time it was anymore. They could have been fighting for days, for all that she knew.
She sobbed, the quiet sound swelling until it filled the room.
Would she ever even see her friends again? Her family? What had happened to her family? And on all the other islands in Sugar Rush … she shuddered as she thought of her family, blank stares on their face, on the ferry, making their way to the Mainland, along with every other citizen of their game. Thousands, hundreds of thousands, against a group of about twenty teenage kids.
She got up, wiping the tear tracks off her round cheeks. She wandered over to the door again, pulling herself up to gaze through the window.
This time, a mirror face was doing the same.
"Minty?!" Snowanna gasped, stumbling backwards from surprise. "Snow!" The other girl rejoiced, before disappearing behind the door. A moment later, Snowanna heard a click, and t swung open, the green girl standing in the light of the corridor, a proud smile on her face.
"What's say we go get Luce then win this thing?"
"That sounds like a plan."
Jubilee didn't understand. When Crimson was on the verge of defeat, she'd somehow managed to change her entire style! It was nonsensical. The moves were far too reckless for her, not guarded at all, impulsive and occasionally foolish. But even so, there was something familiar about the way she flicked her wrist, the way she caught strikes on the flat of the blade, the way her eyes shone with savage pleasure as she managed a good move.
Then, it clicked.
"Oh my Crimson, your style not working out for you? Well I've got some news…" Said the dark girl, pulling her blades in closer towards her, fighting in a defence position.
"I could always predict Ron's moves!"
She locked her dagger into the chink between Crimson's blade and her hilt, then twisted. Crimson shouted in anguish as her wrist turned with it, dropping the blade from the pain. Jubilee moved in quicker than the eye could see, pushing her blade against the girl's throat lightly, the edges nearly cutting her neck. Ginger and Kevin shot to their feet, but Jubilee shouted before they could do anything: "Ah ah ah! Make a move, and she dies. And if she dies, she doesn't regenerate." She threatened. The other two backed down.
"Good. Now, pick him up, and come with me. We're going to the balcony."
Vanellope shot bullet after bullet into the crowd, standing atop of Candlehead's kart, the birthday girl next to her, her usually cheerful smile replace by a grim expression of silent horror. She threw a few cherry bombs, watching as the space she had cleared filled up again with faceless soldiers. Twistella's forces just didn't seem to die out - there were too many. They had killed and killed, the splattered code and icing and the bodies of the fans that kept mounting up proof enough. She sighed as she shot a few darts into a horde of Rancis's fans, and was reaching for a sword when Candlehead stifled a scream and shouted "Vanellope!"
She spun around, looking to where the girl was pointing. A doughnut policeman had cornered and disarmed Rancis. As the realisation dawned too late in her mind, the pastry buried its spear into the boy's side.
Vanellope let out a strangled scream as she glitched through the air, landing on the policeman's back. He had only time to feel the weight before Vanellope stabbed her sword through its head. She fell to the ground next to Rancis.
"No, no, no, no… wake up! Please wake up!" She cried, grabbing his lifeless face in her hands, watching in despair as his eyes rolled into the back of his head.
"Vanellope!" She heard a voice shout. She looked up to see Damon standing above her, deflecting a skittle grenade, which blew sugar shards off the side of the castle. "He's gone! We have to leave him and save ourselves!"
"No!" Cried the girl, grabbing the peanut butter boy's jacket. "If you won't leave, willingly, I'm just going to take you!" Damon shouted back as he grabbed the girl and wrenched her away from Rancis's dead body. She struggled and kicked and screamed, but he was just too strong for her. Eventually she gave up, hanging limply as she watched the fans trample over the blond boy's body.
Lucy refused to stay put.
That was what Jubilee had said in her dark voice as they threw her in here, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
As if Lucy could go anywhere else.
She nudged the floor with her feet. Maybe she could prised one of the tiles up, and dig her way out. Kevin and she had tried that once, in the throne room, when they were trying to… the throne room?
She felt dizzy. The memory rushed back to her. They were little trying to get out of the castle to sneak out and see their friends. Their dad had caught them … his face swam just out of her reach. All she could see was her brother, his face scrunched up with effort, a candy cane crowbar stolen from the tool shed in his hands as he strained to prise the tile of the ground, her in pyjamas, clutching her teddy as she egged him on.
She was always the one to egg him on. Which usually resulted in him making bad decisions. Decisions that she would blame him for, even though he was only trying to make her happy, to get his little sister to smile.
All this was too late, but she still felt crushed by her guilt. All Kev had ever done was look out for her, and now she couldn’t help him. For all she knew, he could be dead, before she’d ever had the chance to say she loved him.
Because she did. He was her brother. And she loved him, more than anyone else. No one could part them, come between them. No walls could separate them like this. She stood, and turned to the door, glaring with a hatred unlike any that had ever appeared on her sweet face before.
It swung open.
Lucy blinked. Did she do that?
But as her vision grew accustomed to the corridor light, she could see two figures standing on the entrance.
“Well Lucy, you want to help us save our friends?”
Jubilee dragged Crimson down a long corridor and up a flight of stairs, the other two following behind with Gloyd draped between them. The reached a large door, with “Vanellope’s room” engraved on it. The dark girl pushed the door open, and hurried past the large plush bed, messy dresser, and the over piled desk, until she reached the double glass doors that led out onto the balcony. Ginger and Kevin slowed, and the blond boy gazed out of the far window. She could see in the distance, in flames and disrepair, their beautiful big top, slowly disappearing into the night. The sky was dark – the green and red clouds still hung menacingly in the air, and not a single star was visible. He sighed. Then, Ginger poked him in the ribs.
“Do you have a plan?” She whispered. “No.” He breathed back. Because how could he give her false hope? No matter how fast they were, Jubilee was faster, and she hadn’t let go of Crimson for the entire journey. The only way they could escape would be to let Crimson die.
“Hurry up!” Hissed the dark girl, and they obeyed silently. As they entered the cool air of outdoors, they could hear shouts and screams. They ran to the edge, Gloyd trailing the floor, and looked over the edge to see their friends locked in a hopeless battle.
“Where’s – where’s Luce?” Gasped the blond boy. His sister was nowhere to be seen, but he could easily see Torvald defending Jubileena’s already dead body, evidently not realising her friend had slipped away, and Rancis’s flattened figure lying soaked in the code of the candy fans around him, a spear shaft jutting from his side. Finally, he could see Twistella taunting Jake, forcing him back against the barricade as he tried to defend himself with his rifle, his hat lying abandoned, dripping with blooded code. He heard Ginger wince next to him, and glanced over to her. “I can hear her…” she said, moving her free hand to one of her ears. “And to think, I helped cause this. I am a monster.”
“You’re not the monster, Gin. The
virus is.” Kevin replied, straining to hear Twistella’s voice as easily as
Ginger could. The girl sniffed and opened her mouth, but before she could
speak, she gasped as the dagger came in contact with her neck. A fraction of a
second later, Kevin felt a cool blade lie on his throat as well.
“Alright, we’re going to do this nicely. Meaning: you guys dump the pumpkin boy, they back away, and I don’t kill you.” Jubilee murmured into their ears. They did as they were instructed, their survival instincts taking over. As the placed him on the ground, Jubilee moved quicker than the eye could see, holding Gloyd up by the collar with some unnatural force, and pressing the dagger against his neck.
“Now you three go inside.”
They left the balcony, and she waved her hand, smirking in satisfaction as the lock clicked shut. This time, she was going to win.
She turned away, the pumpkin boy aloft in her hand, hanging unconsciously with blood spilling from his blackened face, a gruesome trophy. Then, she reached the edge of the balcony. As the three inside watched in horror, she swung him over the railings.
The sound echoed down to Cherry. She glanced up at the source of the noise, allowing herself a second, and screamed. Her boyfriend dangled from Jubilee’s death grasp, his hair sticking up, his eyes lolling in their sockets, his clothes burnt and torn. In her momentary distraction, a fan tried to attack her, but suddenly, it froze.
All the fans froze. The teens had the chance to look around for a second. There were cries and sobs filling the air as heads spun wildly, but one teen was only looking at one thing.
Jake was staring at Twistella. The girl who had just tried to kill him, who had the voice of a demon, who wasn’t even a girl, but a virus – she was so beautiful in the dark light, her eyes lit up with delight.
He slowly turned to see what all the others were looking at. Jubilee, a cold, calculating smile on her face as she thrust Gloyd forwards.
“What do you care about more, racers? Saving your game or saving your friend?”
Kevin, Crimson, Miito and Ginger were panicking. Miito kept trying to head butt the glass, Crimson was talking to herself frantically, Kevin was pacing the room, glancing out of the doors every now and then, and Ginger had taken the sanest option: throwing herself to the floor and shaking with tears.
Then, the door creaked open. All four heads turned towards the noise. “Anyone home?” Came a voice.
“Minty!” They cried, as the green girl came into the room, closely followed by her two sidekicks. “Luce!” Cried Kevin, running to hug his sister as she did the same. Tears rolled down Lucy’s cheeks as she buried her face into her older brother’s shoulder, inhaling the comforting scent. “I love you, Kev.” She mumbled. “Love you too Luce.” He replied, squeezing her tightly.
“Hey guys, I hate to break up the sibling love, but my sisters are currently fighting for their life, so could we actually do something?” Minty said, carefully breaking them apart. “They’re not fighting anymore, Mintz.” Snowanna said, a quiver in her voice as she pointed out of the doors. Minty glanced, took in what was outside, and cursed.
“Alright – I’ve got an idea, but we’re only going to get one shot at it. But it could help fix our whole problem. So, we’ll have to be smart.” She declared. Crimson coughed. “Since when have you liked to do things smartly, Minty?”
Minty turned her fiery gaze on the girl. “Since I was locked in a cell. Now come on, we’ve got work to do.”
“Where is it?! Where is it?!” Swizzle cried, ready to break down into tears. “I don’t know!” Ron shouted back, frustration painted across his face. Swizzle wailed as he let himself float onto his back. They had searched Vanellope’s entire code, inside and out. But they hadn’t seen the slightest trace of a game settings folder.
Suddenly, a glimmer of light above caught his attention.
A box. Still glowing blue, bright against the dark ominous red that was creeping in on every side.
“What did Vanellope say? Exactly?”
“She said, go to the main code box, and inside it, there’s a game setting folder, and inside that, there’s a piece of code that will reset the game.”
“Did she ever say that the main code box was her code box?”
Ron frowned. “No. She didn’t. Why?” He looked up at the boy. Wordlessly, Swizzle pointed at the box above him, shining with the words “DEFAULT GAME SETTINGS” stamped on the side.
A grin spread over the cookie boy’s face. “Swizzle, I could kiss you!” He shouted, as they swam up to the box together. The unicorn boy returned the smile and double tapped the box.
Their breath caught in their throats as it flashed twice.
Then, it opened. Ron scrolled through the options.
“Language … Time … Firewall system, that’s not been useful … Reset! Here it is!” He exclaimed. Swizzle moved his hand in next to the boy’s and tapped on it. A holographic notice floated in front of them, complete with keyboard.
“Password? What password?” Swizzle questioned. Ron’s eyes widened as an influx of memories flashed before his eyes. “Oh mod…” He started hyperventilating, clutching at his forehead.
“Ron? Ron! Talk to me!”
The last thing he saw was Swizzle’s face as he sank into unconsciousness.
After Minty had thoroughly explained her plan, they sprang into action. Kevin, Lucy, and Snowanna lined the walls next to the doors, heavy or pointed objects from around the room gathered in their hands. Minty, Crimson and Ginger stood by the door itself, contemplating it.
“It’s too thick. No blade will cut through that. All for the defence of the princess, I suppose.” Minty groaned, rapping it with her knuckles. Ginger listened very carefully to the ring very carefully, its sound and duration. Then, she grinned.
“No blade, you say? Well, what about acid?”
Minty turned to her. “I guess
that would work…” She said uncertainly. “But where are we going to get acid
Ginger took a deep breath. She let her mind fill with all the moments she’d ever felt alone, victimized, bullied, upset, angry, unwanted, unloved. She felt the familiar bitter taste in the back of her mouth as her raw emotions overwhelmed her – fear, rage, sadness. Then, she spat at the glass.
It sizzled as the acid landed on it, burning through the glass and casting off putrid fumes. Ginger wiped her mouth as she heard Minty say: “Do I – do I even want to know how you can do that?”
Ginger laughed slightly. It was the first time her fangs had ever actually come in useful. “I reckon explanations can come later. Let’s go save our friends.”
Minty grinned as she pushed her hand through the hole, crocodile clip in hand as she tuck it in the lock. After a few twists and turns, they were out.
“Here goes nothing.”
“So, racers, what will your choice be? I mean, let’s face it, you’re already doomed – what can you do, really, that’ll save you now?”
Jubilee taunted on and on, pushing down the racers’ will, making them doubt themselves, crush their moral. Although they didn’t realise it, the virus invaded their minds, subtly dragging their self-esteem even lower.
Sticky looked around her as she watched the other teens faces fall. She looked up again at the body hanging limply from Jubilee’s hand.
Something just didn’t seem right.
She looked again at the boy’s face.
She realised what was missing.
Gloyd always had a smile. And Gloyd always tried to put a smile on everyone else’s face. Sticky frowned. If they were going to die, it really didn’t seem fair for the cheerful prankster to go down without his mischievous grin. To be so expressionless in his last moments.
Then she realised something.
If Gloyd wasn’t smiling, he wasn’t living. And as much as it pained her, if he wasn’t living, there was no point in him being alive.
She stood up straighter.
Jubilee had no hold on them. She was toying with them with an idle threat – or was it simply that she didn’t know?
A fierce expression morphed on Sticky’s face.
“You’re exceptionally evil, did you know?” She shouted up at the virus. All of the others looked to her, and she felt her crushing shyness come over her. But she couldn’t. She had to help somehow. “You’re not just bargaining with our friend as bait, you’re taunting us with his dead body!” She screamed, hot tears rushing into her eyes.
Jubilee seemed taken aback and alarmed. She looked to the boy in her hands. “He’s de-”
She never got a chance to finish her sentence.
Like a ghost, Minty surfaced suddenly behind her, her face red in the light of the code of the slaughtered, her eyes wide, mouth snarled into a silent scream as she propelled the other girl off the edge of the balcony.
Jubilee screamed as she fell, her robotic hand still clinging on to the dead pumpkin boy.
“RON! Calm down!” Swizzle shouted as the other boy clutched his arm in a death grip. “You, Adorabeezle … not right … Vanellope … Crumbelina – oh mod, he’s got Crumbelina! Password … password … password …” The boy babbled, his breathing shallow and quick. Swizzle panicked.
“Ron, please, just … just … argh!” Cried the unicorn boy, Ron’s frantic feverish actions affecting him. He slapped the other boy sharply across the face, and before he could react, grabbed his face and brought it directly in front of his, until their foreheads touched.
“I don’t know what’s happening to you man, but there are people out their risking their lives, fighting against that virus, and only we can stop it. So focus!”
Ron’s breathing steadied a little, but Swizz could still feel him shaking. “Swizzle … I think my memories are back … but nothing is right ... everything is the wrong way round …”
Swizzle sighed. “Ok Ron, and I promise we will fix that! But first, we need to – are you listening to me?” He asked, as the cookie boy’s eyes drifted to the code box above us. Swizzle turned, and a strangled gasp escaped his lips. Travelling down the cord that connected the code box to the main hub was a dark red colour, inching its way towards them.
“Quick! Ron, do you know the password?” He cried, turning to the boy.
“Vanellope said the password was a riddle!” The other boy answered. “No!” Swizzle sobbed, turning back to the notice. “A riddle, a riddle … maybe we have to rearrange the letters? Or is password a code word for a different language? If we inputted the first letter of every word, but backwards, and…”
Ron let out a groan of frustration. “Stop being so smart and start thinking! The password is ‘a riddle’!” He pushed the other boy aside, and typed the phrase into the notice keyboard. A new screen popped up.
Reset game to default mode?
Ron’s finger planted itself onto the yes button.
Then, everything went dark.
Back at the front of the castle, everyone alive suddenly felt overcome by an enormous sense of weariness. Before their heads had hit the floor they were asleep.
So no one could hear the terrible scream that echoed through out the sugar coated land, a gargled choking tone with an enormous range of pitches.
And no one was around to see the virus blink out of existence.