Swizzle watched in despair as the wheel fell towards the medical team. But suddenly, there was a flash of movement, and it froze.
In fact, everything froze.
He found he couldn't move. He was stuck mid scream, jaw wide as he watched the others around him freeze as well. Then, he felt something horrible – a glitch running under his skin, illuminating his body in a pulsating, sinister red light. Something about it just felt fundamentally wrong, like it was trying to alter the very lifeblood of the game.
Then, he crumpled to the floor, along with the other racers and performers. “What… What's happening?” Asked Nougetsia, watching the last of the light fade from her hand. Swizzle ran over to Cynethia, turning her over so she was facing upwards. Her hands were cold, her face listless and still. He felt Damon kneel next to him. “Do you… Do you think she'll be ok? Cynth’s like a sister to me! I can't lose her!”
Swizzle was surprised. He'd never imagined the quieter, more closed Damon being so emotional. “Well… She'll regenerate, won't she?”
Kevin turned to him. “We hope. Do NPCs regenerate?”
This was obviously only making it worse for Damon, who grew paler and grabbed Cynethia’s hand.
“Um, guys? How bout we talk about, you know, the freak wind storm and hurricane?” Said Rancis, sounding very stressed. “And why we're the only ones who unfroze?”
Suddenly, the realisation came of just how quiet it was. They looked around and realise how frozen all the fans still were – a gruesome picture of despair and terror.
“I think I can answer that.” Came a voice from above the entrance to the backstage area.
There stood Jubilee, red and yellow mask masking her features, but still recognisable through the tattered, burnt dress and robotic gloves she had. She took of the mask, revealing her malicious grin.
“You! You did this!” Yelled Jake, pointing up at her. Jubilee wagged her finger at him. “I appreciate the thought, but I'm afraid I'm not exactly powerful enough to pull off a masterpiece like this. So, may I present to you, my mistress.” She bowed towards the gaggle below her. Everyone began to look at each other, until they heard it.
The giggles started off small, silvery, sweet.
Then they twisted, gargled gasps replacing the previous laughter.
The girl doubled up as all the others turned to her, looks of horror on their faces. She finally stopped the horrific mirth and wiped her eyes.
“Do forgive me, for my laughter,
but it's not every day you pull of a disaster!”
Said Jester Twistella, as she began to rise off the floor, glowing with red light. Her suit was melting away, alone with her face, except those beautiful slanted orange eyes. She became a swirling mass of blood red code, eyes floating in the whirlpool.
“Also I apologise,
for only ever speaking in rhyme,
but you would have discovered me far too soon,
had I sung to my normal tune!”
Another round of gulping hiccups that could only just be mistaken for laughter came out of the virus – because that's what it was. They realised it now, feeling the fundamental wrongness of the glitch from earlier. But their knowledge had come too late. Candy people started collapsing around them, as their life blood was drawn out of them, healthy blue glitching into mutated red as it entered the storm that was once Twistella.
“But as it is tiring to speak in rhyme,
I will now pass you over to my partner in crime!”
A long strip of code broke free from the main pool, and lashed towards Jubilee. Unlike the others, it only seemed to make her stronger – she inhaled it with vigour, her eyes gleaming brighter, her gloves lighting up, her body lifting off the floor to float to Twistella’s right hand side.
“Ah, thank you.” Said the girl, her grin growing ever more demonic. “I love this power. Now, let’s see… ah yes.” She clicked her fingers, and the teens below her felt themselves slowly glitch. They were moved to a position in front of the monstrous pair in front of them, and froze in position. Jubilee wrinkled her nose. “Tricky things, the codes of racers – too complex to control completely, to delete, but easy enough to alter. I learnt that quickly.” She grinned that same, evil grin.
“Now, I suppose you’ll be wondering who I am. Well, it will shock you to learn that it was you pesky racers that turned me into this. For I was once one of you – I raced alongside you, I was your best friend.” She spat at them. “And you were mine.”
“I was the sweetest, bubbliest, kindest, and most naïve of you all. I never hesitated to help anyone in need. But what did I get in return? Nothing! You tossed me out like garbage because of one botched mission.”
Little that she said was making sense to the racers, and she could read it on their faces. “Oh, you don’t know yet, but you will soon. At least, you would have.” She laughed darkly. “But as it happens, that’s the reason I’m here.”
“You see, when my mistress found me, I was not in a very good state. A horrid, glitching, mess of code, appearing at random times and disappearing at others. Any chance I had I would use to attack you. But then, one day, I opened my eyes before I glitched back into existence. And I saw where we truly go when our code had been deleted. None of you would have lasted a second.”
“But then, I met mistress. She informed me that she had been feeding of deleted code in order to acquaint herself with the game and become stronger, but she needed an insider. So when I appeared, thirsty for revenge and full to the brim of bloodlust, she saw it as a perfect opportunity. So we worked together. I still only comprehend parts of it – it’s far too complicated for even the most brilliant of minds to understand. Except, that is, if you’re mind does not have to be occupied with other trivial tasks such as keeping your body alive.”
“Mistress fed off my knowledge of the game, and my connection to it, and I in return gained some of her strength, enough to stabilise myself. I could flit between our prison of darkness and the sugar coated hive outside, and collect what we needed. Eventually, we’d made a fully programmed body for mistress. I consider it possibly my greatest achievement. There was just one flaw – she could only speak in rhyme. So that’s where we got the idea. We programmed an entire circus – albeit a few borrowed characters.” She smirked at the performers below her. “And then, one night, I crept into the castle and snuck into the code room. A few minutes later, we blinked into existence, and all you fools accepted it as nothing.”
She smirked once more. “Now, we’re going to watch you die slowly,” she glared at them demonically, “At the hands of your own fans.”
Another round of those horrible gasping choking sounds came from the storm, which was ever growing, it’s orange eyes simply bright lights now. Then, the racers felt themselves released. They fell to the ground and looked around them with fear as their fans also came to life – each one with the same dead black eyes.
“Oh no, this is not good.” Said Vanellope, as the terrified teens formed a defensive circle. “We need to get out of here. And we need to bring the performers with us.”
Jubilee laughed darkly. “Run wherever you want racers. But you can’t outrun us – or the army.” Candy fan after candy fan were slowly picking themselves up, turning to stare with those blank, expressionless eyes at the racers. “And besides – you’re forgetting about my… insurance.”
“What?” Said Citrusella, taking a moment to glance up at the figures hovering above her. In the dark light of the glitching red code, she was suddenly reminded of how much Jubilee looked like her sister – then her blood ran cold. “No…”
Another laugh came, from both the whirlpool of code and its henchwoman. Within a second, the light, silvery voice that was once so pleasant filled the tent with its venom again.
“Yes Citrusella, don’t you see?
Your precious sister belongs to me!”