Wreck-it-Ralph fanfiction – The Experiment (KCB/AU)
Contains: spoilers for WiR, cartoon violence, mild swearing, creepy bugs and a buttload of feels.
How could it have come to this?
That is what Vanellope von Schweetz wondered as she looked at the stasis pod. Its bright green light reflected in her eyes. She knew it was not possible, but somewhere she was hoping he would wake up and look back at her, just to let her know he would be alright. But no, he simply floated there in the small cabinet. Motionless and soundless in a deep sleep. His arms and legs dangled, with bits and pieces of shredded pixels and data crackling and buzzing all around him.
Her father, King Candy, was in grave danger.
It all started as a normal day. After the arcade closed, the two of them went to Hero’s Duty. To celebrate the game’s recent plug-in, a festive opening was held and Sugar Rush’s royalty had received VIP invitations.
It was not the pilot’s fault. Malfunctions in mechanics can happen. Vanellope, being a race driver herself, understood that. During a flight show, one of the planes crashed due to a technical error and plummeted straight down on the crowd. Most of the people only suffered shock, some minor injuries. Vanellope herself managed to escape thanks to her glitching abilities but unfortunately was unable to save her father who was buried beneath the rubble.
King Candy was rushed to the medical ward, barely holding on to his life. If he was an inhabitant of Hero’s Duty, there would be no urgency as he would simply regenerate good as new. But being the king of Sugar Rush, a different game, dying in Hero’s Duty would mean he would disappear for good.
Stasis pods put patients to sleep and bring their programming to a halt to prevent any more data deterioration. It is a great way for Hero’s Duty soldiers to make a quick recovery when they did not get killed in battle. However, this is only convenient for actual in-game characters. The king once again had the disadvantage of being an outsider. The stasis pod only stopped him from getting any worse, but he did not get any better either.
Vanellope arrived at the medical ward only minutes after her father was brought in and had not left his side ever since. Putting her hand on the glass, she tried to spy for any reactions.
“You probably can’t hear me, dad. But please, get better…”
“Even if he can’t hear you, it’s good to talk to coma patients, your majesty. You may never know if they actually do catch anything you say.”
One of the scientists had joined the princess’ side. Holding a digital notepad, he was punching in some numbers while examining the king.
“Will he be alright, mister?” Vanellope asked.
The scientist adjusted his glasses. The light from the stasis pod shimmered in them.
“It’s difficult to say. Your father is not from this game. If he was, we could just patch him up with standard medical procedures. But our recovery methods do not work on incompatible data.”
He stopped for a moment, looking down at his notepad in thought.
“If he was in his own game, he could regenerate there. But we would have to remove him from the stasis pod in order to do that and the risk of him dying before we get to Sugar Rush is too great.”
Vanellope looked back at her father. Her shoulders hung. She tried to be a tough girl most of the time, but now tears stung her eyes so badly.
“So he’ll stay like this?”
“I’m sorry, your highness…”
Faint sobbing filled the quiet medical ward. No matter how sorry he felt for her, the scientist could do nothing to console her. But then he got an idea. He took his notepad and accessed another portion of its memory files.
“Perhaps there is a way after all…” he spoke cautiously.
The princess stopped crying and looked up at the man, her eyes glazed with tears.
“It is not without risk and still in its test-phase, but we have conducted enough research to make sure the basics are covered.”
“What is it?” Vanellope asked somewhat impatiently.
Ticking a few boxes on the touchscreen of his notepad, a hologram appeared above the screen. The image showed a rather fearsome looking insect creature.
“This is a Cy-bug. They are the main hostile creatures in this game. Our soldiers fight them on a daily basis, but we scientists also conduct research and experiments on them.”
With his stylus, he dragged in a few more pictures from his notepad. Graphs and statistics appeared alongside the illustration.
“It turns out that Cy-bugs are programmed differently than us human characters. It is not just their behavior that deviates from any other game monster. Their entire code is composed in a whole other way. They have amazing adaptability and we discovered that it is universally compatible with just about anything.”
Vanellope furrowed her brow a bit. Realizing that she had a bit of trouble following everything, the scientist continued.
“We have extracted the data that Cy-bugs use to adapt to their surroundings. When we introduce that data into his system, it will restore your father’s code.”
The princess’ eyes widened at hearing this.
“It could bring your father back.” He concluded. “But we need your approval before we can proceed. Please know that there can be risks.”
Vanellope looked at her lifeless father again. She felt a bit of doubt. It was usually her father who made the toughest choices. But now it was time for her to prove that she can make important decisions as a princess and it was her decision to save his life.
“You have my approval. Please save my father!”
Not far from the medical ward, Sergeant Calhoun was giving one of her men an earful.
“I don’t care that you’re shaken up, Markowski! You flew that plane and crashed it. Now we are responsible for the possible death of another game’s leader. Do you have any idea what that means?”
She was reprimanding a rather large and daft-looking man. Markowski was not the brightest member in her division. Even though she knew that this accident was not caused by a failure of his performance per se, it was still his responsibility as a Hero’s Duty soldier to step forward and admit his involvement in all of this.
“I know, Sarge, but what can I do?” Markowski answered sheepishly while scratching the back of his head.
“For starters, you can go in there and talk to the princess. That little girl watched her father get buried alive underneath the rubble and might end up being alone forever.”
The soldier fell in an awkward silence, looking down at the floor to avoid eye contact with his superior.
“For goodness sake! GROW SOME BACKBONE, SOLDIER!” Calhoun growled.
Unbeknownst to them, the medical ward had become the place where a groundbreaking experiment was about to take place. Joined by a few more colleagues, the head scientist had prepped King Candy’s stasis pod with some additional equipment necessary to carry out the procedures.
“Patient’s condition stable. The Cy-bug data is ready to be introduced” one of the other scientists reported.
“Inserting data now” the head scientist replied, adjusting his glasses and punching in a few numbers on his notepad.
Vanellope just stood by and watched. She did not understand a thing that was going on besides that these men and women were trying to save her father. Curiously, she looked at how a small packet of code was inserted into a slot on one of the machines surrounding the stasis pod. A monitor next to the machine displayed how the code was unwinding into bits of data that began to spread over and around her father’s frame. Like the pieces of a puzzle, they fit themselves perfectly into the damaged places of his body. It was not long before the effect was also noticeable on King Candy as well. Slowly but surely, his injuries began to heal.
“65% of data merging complete” one of the scientists said, following one of the monitors.
“Vital signs remain stable” another replied.
The princess held her breath as she watched the data work its magic. With every bit of her father gradually restoring, so did her hope of seeing him healthy again.
As the last bits of data merged with King Candy’s frame, Vanellope could swear she saw him move, even if it was just a little bit.
“100 %! Data merging completed.”
“Gently wake his royal highness,” the head scientist said as he wiped his forehead with a sleeve.
The green light of the stasis pod began to fade and King Candy carefully floated down until his feet touched the ground. After a few nerve-wrecking seconds, his eyelids fluttered open.
“Hrm…” he moaned. “What happened?”
Vanellope could barely contain her happiness and relief. She ran to the stasis pod and put her hands on the glass.
“Dad!” she called out, her eyes twinkling.
“Vanellope?” King Candy looked a little confused. “Cupcake, what is this? Where am I?”
Not caring that the stasis pod was in the way, the princess gave the glass a firm hug. A tear of relief trickled down her cheek.
“You had an accident, dad. You almost died, but these awesome scientists managed to fix you up.”
“Is that so? Then I believe some gratitude is in order” the king spoke in a formal tone. “Did I scare you an awful lot, sweetheart?”
Vanellope pulled back from the hug and looked at her father.
“I thought I’d lost you…” she whispered and put her hand back on the glass.
King Candy smiled and put his hand where hers was.
“You know your old man isn’t going to die that easily” he smirked.
Father and child shared a brief moment of looking at each other through the glass when they were interrupted. Gasping suddenly, King Candy folded over forward, clutching his sides with his arms.
“Ughnn!” he groaned.
“Dad? What’s the matter?” Vanellope asked concerned.
Then the glitching began. It was nothing like the glitching Vanellope was used to. Large chunks of code and pixels shifted and jittered across King Candy’s body flashing in an array of colors. The king almost sank to his knees, clearly in distress.
“M-make it stop!” he pleaded, leaning on the glass with one hand.
The jittering intensified, warping every bit of his frame. The monarch cried out in pain as it began to alter his physique. Vanellope stared at the pod and the change that took place in it. The glitching was so bad, she could barely see what was going on.
Then she saw that her father’s hands had become claws. Pixels flew across the pod to and fro and shifted into place with a crackling sound. A flash of yellow revealed the brief view of what almost looked like an insect leg. The whirling mass of pixels and data not just changed shape, it also grew in size. Too big to be contained inside the small stasis pod. Before long, the sound of cracking glass could be heard. Vanellope slowly backed away, staring with her eyes wide open.
“Your majesty, look out!” the head scientist yelled as he grabbed her and pulled her away.
Moments later, the pod shattered. The scientists all shielded their eyes from flying shards of glass. Some of the equipment also suffered damage as some machines short-circuited. The lights of the medical ward grew dim and began to flicker.
Outside, Calhoun was still trying to convince Markowski to go see Vanellope but that big galoot was as stubborn as a mule. She began to wonder why she even bothered.
“You go inside there now. That is an order!” she hissed.
The very second she said that, a loud explosion could be heard from inside the medical ward. Both Markowski and his sergeant looked in the direction of the noise.
“What in the world…”
Inside, the scientists were helping each other get up on their feet. One used a fire extinguisher to douse a small fire that was caused by the short-circuit.
“Are you alright, princess?” the head scientist asked.
“Yes, but dad…”
Everybody looked at the side of the room where the stasis pod used to stand. In the poorly lit room, all they could make out at first was a large, looming figure. It began to move as it rose up. The metallic sound of insect claws hitting the ward floor was heard as King Candy clumsily tried to get up. He turned his head to finally reveal the shocking truth to everyone present.
He was no longer human.
The medical ward was strangely silent safe for the crackling of some short-circuited machinery and the slight hissing sound of a sprung pipe leaking steam. Experience had taught the scientists that sudden movements or sounds could provoke a Cy-bug more easily than normal so they stood their ground. Vanellope was too shocked to do or say anything.
In front of her, on the other side of the room, stood her father. Or at least a creature that used to be her father. His human body had been transformed almost entirely into that of a Cy-bug, complete with four long legs, two small claws on his thorax, two tail feelers and a set of folded-in wings on top of an armored carapace. The only thing that had remained slightly human was his head, mounted on top of a long neck of candy rings. It was clear that he was many times bigger than his original size, even when he was now trying to make himself as small as possible.
“Dad?” Vanellope suddenly broke the silence.
King Candy jerked his head in the direction of the voice. Fear and confusion were clearly visible on his face as his eyes searched the room to see whoever else was present. Realizing that he was outnumbered and cornered, he backed away even more until he was pressing his back against the wall of the ward.
At the worst possible moment, the doors of the ward opened and Calhoun and Markowski came rushing in with their guns at the ready.
“What’s going on here?” Calhoun asked. “We heard an explosion and…”
She stopped talking the instant she saw King Candy.
“What in Sam hill is that?”
Markowski lost his nerve upon seeing the large creature.
“It’s a monster! A giant bug monster!”
The shouting must have displeased King Candy for he jerked his head again at the noise and his face had an all but friendly expression. It dawned to him finally that these humans were going to hurt him and it was time to stand his ground. Planting his insect legs firmly on the floor, he arched his back like an angry cat and began to growl softly.
“It’s becoming hostile! Get ready to fire!” Calhoun commanded.
King Candy gave a loud hiss.
“No! No, please wait!” Vanellope shouted.
That very next moment, the candybug reared his head up and from his throat, an earsplitting loud howl was released. It was a sound no human could ever make. His shrieking, high-pitched scream was enough to make all the humans in the ward fall to their knees with their hands covering their ears. It was unbearable.
“Ow! What’s he doing?” Vanellope screamed, her voice barely hearable above the noise.
“Calling for back-up!” Calhoun gritted her teeth, glaring at the monster.
In the pandemonium of his call, King Candy saw his chance to make a break for it. While his attackers were still stunned and trying to get back up on their feet, he began to run for the exit. Even though he knocked over some of the apparatus, it looked like he made an effort not to let one of his legs trample on anybody.
“It’s getting away! Markowski, heads up!” Calhoun bellowed.
With insect cries still ringing in his ears, it was hard for Markowski to focus. All he saw was a blur of purple, orange and yellow coming his way at breakneck speed. Screaming in a panic, he bolted to the side and gave the bug free access to the outside world.
“Dad!” Vanellope cried out and tried to follow him, but Calhoun grabbed her shoulder.
“Princess, it’s too dangerous. Stay with me and you’ll be safe!”
The princess turned her head and looked at Calhoun over her shoulder, giving her the biggest stink-eye ever. In a flash of blue, she glitched out of the sergeant’s hold and ran for the exit as well.
Calhoun tried to follow but as she approached the exit, two large Cy-bugs landed in front of her and blocked the way out. Their brethren soon followed. It was the swarm that King Candy had attracted with his howl. The sergeant wasted no time and cocked her gun.
“Great… Gotta clean this up first!”
By a stroke of luck, since it was highly unlikely that he could read or even think straight in his state, King Candy had found his way to the entrance of Game Central Station. With panic and instincts overruling discretion, he barged through the door and into the main hall. Since the arcade was closed, the main hall bustled with a crowd and it was impossible not to notice the gigantic bug monster. The moment they spotted him, everyone ran for safety. Not even the braver characters stayed to ward off the creature. Except for one.
“Name?” Surge Protector asked in a matter-of-fact way, brandishing his pen and notepad.
Startled by the arrival of the security guard, all King Candy did was hiss.
“And how would you spell that, sir?”
The Cy-bug looked up and examined the many gates leading to other games. They all looked exactly the same but one caught his attention. Maybe the faint smell of candy attracted him to this particular gate. New objective acquired.
“Where are you heading?” Surge Protector continued.
King Candy started to move again, but was surprised at how slippery the smooth floor of the main hall was. His insect legs slipped a bit and he almost lost his balance. Flailing his arms, his claws scratched the walls and floor and left deep cuts. Finally he regained his composure enough to dash for his target. Before Surge Protector could take any precautions, the bug had disappeared through the gates of Sugar Rush.
“Well, you don’t see that every day…” he muttered.
That moment, Vanellope came out the gate of Hero’s Duty. She paused for a bit to catch her breath. Then she saw Surge Protector.
“Mister, have you seen a giant bug come this way?”
“Very hard to miss it, your highness.”
Vanellope looked around at the damage her father had done to the walls and floor.
“Ouch… Where did it go?” she asked.
“To your home, I’m afraid. Went straight for it, no questions asked.”
Thanking the guard, Vanellope too set off for Sugar Rush. She had to stop her father and find a way to fix this mess. And she had to find him before those Hero’s Duty goons did.
“You did WHAT?!” Calhoun bellowed at the head scientist.
She had heard a whole lot of outrageous stories in her time but when she heard the explanation about what had happened to King Candy, she was still utterly shocked.
“Just what were you thinking?” she hissed as she grabbed the scientist by the collar. “We’re supposed to wipe these bugs out. Not use their data to create Cy-bug hybrids!”
Markowski was busy helping the other scientists clean up the ward.
“Hey, Cybrids would make a good name for them!” he remarked off the side.
“Zip it, Markowski!” Calhoun barked before turning her attention back to the scientist. “You listen to me. Not only did we let a plane crash down on civilians, now we are also responsible for a crazed Cy-bug mutate that is going berserk all over Game Central Station. And it’s not even a week since we’ve been plugged in. Do you understand the severity of the situation?”
One of the scientists shyly approached the sergeant, holding a notepad.
“I’m afraid it’s about to get worse,” he said, directing his attention to the head scientist. “Sir? It’s as you predicted. The data has become active.”
Calhoun looked at the person she was holding. He gestured to her that now was the time to let him go. After being released, he took the notepad from his colleague and read the statistics.
“Oh no…” he muttered gravely.
Markowski was done cleaning up and joined his superior to listen in on the story.
“The data we used on King Candy was extracted from a Cy-bug hatchling since hatchlings have the purest codes. But instead of the data adapting to the host, the host adapted to the data.”
“So that explains why his royal highness is now part bug. Is there any more?” Calhoun asked.
The head scientist adjusted his glasses again. His face bared a worried expression.
“The data is still developing. Although King Candy’s body is physically that of an adult Cy-bug, his programming is still in its juvenile state. According to our statistics, the development is slow but should the data come to maturity…”
He looked up from his notepad.
“…then the king will become able to reproduce.”
Markowski’s jaw dropped.
“Oh, you have got to be kidding me!” Calhoun growled. “We need to find that bug right now and nip this in the bud while we still can or else we’ll have a full-blown infestation on our hands!”
“But wait a minute, sarge!” Markowski protested. “You mean killing the king? Wasn’t the entire idea of all this that we kept him alive for the sake of the princess?”
The sergeant was about to open her mouth to reprimand the soldier when another scientist approached them.
“There might be a way to turn back the transformation process before the data is fully developed. If we can debug the king in time, we can save him.”
She handed Calhoun an ampule that closely resembled a USB drive.
“It’s an anti-virus program, specifically designed to wipe out Cy-bug data. We use it in case some of the data slips through our computer’s defenses during experiments. It won’t work on complete Cy-bugs but it may be just enough to purify the king’s code.”
Calhoun examined the ampule with a slightly skeptical look on her face.
“First you need to inject the king with this code. Make sure you strike a weak part of his armor. After it is done downloading into his system, you need to reboot him.”
“Reboot him? How do you reboot a person?” Markowski asked.
Calhoun lifted her gun.
“We kill him. If he’s inside his own game, he’ll regenerate.”
“Yes, and because the anti-virus debugged him, he will return to his original form” the scientist added.
The sergeant put her gun back and turned around to walk to the exit. Markowski followed closely behind.
“So how are we going to find that bug, sarge? Even if we can figure out in which game he is, it would take us ages to find him.”
Calhoun flashed a smirk.
“Simple. We find his daughter first.”
When Vanellope arrived back home in Sugar Rush, the immediate damage was pretty clear. The candycane forest on the eastern side from the gate had been partially toppled, probably caused by something large ramming through it. She decided to follow the trail of destruction, hoping to find her father soon.
“Note to self: make sure the game resets so no Hero Doody goons will notice and come looking here…” she mumbled to herself.
When she came to the end of the forest, the trail of fallen trees made way for a trail of holes in the slightly softer fudge ground. Vanellope figured that these holes must be where her father had tried to walk.
She continued to follow the footprints until she arrived at a cave located on the far outskirts of Sugar Rush. The chance of meeting someone in these parts is very slim as it is far away from any town. The trail of footprints led inside the cave.
“Okay… he must be here then.”
Bravely and as quiet as possible, Vanellope set foot inside the cave. It was rather dark and even though it did not appear on the outside, the cave was not so deep. So before long, the princess noticed a large figure lying in the back of the cave. She could also hear the faint sound of someone snoring softly. Her father was asleep.
Vanellope inched her way forward, one foot at a time as to not suddenly wake her father. Then one of her feet accidentally hit a small pebble. As it was shot through the cave it made a ticking noise every time it hit the ground.
With a short grunt, King Candy woke up and tried to look where the sound had come from. In the backlight of the light outside the cave, he could make out a tiny figure standing in front of him.
“Dad?” Vanellope tried. Her father was awake now anyway. Carefully, she began to take little steps towards his face.
Still feeling threatened, the king began to growl softly again. This little girl may not look as dangerous as those gun-toting buffoons from Hero’s Duty, but he was apprehensive nonetheless.
“Dad, it’s me…” The princess was very close to his face now.
King Candy hissed loudly. Not taken aback by the noise, Vanellope placed a hand on his nose.
“Please dad! It’s me, Vanellope!” she pleaded. “Can’t you remember?”
That same moment, a flash of blue travelled from the girl’s hand and into the candybug’s face. His entire head glitched and twitched in blue and white pixels.
Startled by this glitch, King Candy shut his eyes and shook his head softly. Upon opening his eyes, it would seem that his facial expression had changed. He no longer looked feral and ferocious, although he still appeared to be in shock. He and his daughter shared a brief moment of looking at each other.
“Vanellope?” King Candy groaned softly.
The princess’ eyes lit up.
“Sweetheart, what’s going on?” the king asked as his eyes scanned the surroundings. “Where are we? Is this still Hero’s Duty?”
Seeing how her father seemed to be blissfully unaware of everything, Vanellope’s courage sank in her shoes. How was she supposed to tell him that he was a giant bug?
“Say…” King Candy then said, eyeing his daughter dubiously. “Is it just me or did you become smaller?”
“Well dad, I…” the princess began, plucking her skirt a little.
Her father smiled.
“Nothing to be ashamed of, cupcake,” he spoke as he reached a hand out to stroke her face. “Everybody has their own…”
He then noticed that he had no hands, only claws and gasped loudly in shock.
“WHAT IS THIS?!”
The king reared his head up and tried to sit upright. Seeing as he was now the very opposite of being vertically challenged, it only took a few seconds before his head had reached the ceiling and rammed it. A few pieces of candy rock fell onto the cave floor.
“OW!” King Candy cried out and rubbed his head. “What’s up with this low ceiling? How can I…”
He then looked down and saw that Vanellope had become even smaller. It finally dawned to him that it was him who had become bigger. His eyes travelled from his hands to his arms and to the rest of his body.
“W-what? What is this?” he stammered in a panic, putting his claws on his carapace to feel if it was real. “VANELLOPE?!”
Vanellope did not answer. She just looked at her father, too full of guilt to speak.
“Vanellope, what happened?!” the king was almost hysterical.
“Dad, please. Try to calm down…” the princess tried.
The candybug tilted his head slightly and stared at her.
“Calm down? CALM DOWN?! LOOK AT ME! I AM A GIANT… BUG! HOW CAN YOU EXPECT ME TO CALM DOWN?!” he screamed.
His daughter fell silent and stared at the ground. Her body seemed to be shaking slightly as she tried to hold back her tears.
“It’s my fault!” she squeaked.
King Candy immediately stopped raving when he heard his daughter. He turned his full attention to her, awaiting her explanation.
“You had an accident, dad. You almost died” Vanellope continued. “So in order to fix you up, you were given Cy-bug data. But those tech-heads in Hero’s Duty didn’t mean for this to happen!”
The princess’ sobs grew louder before she gave in and fell to her knees.
“I let them do it, dad. I just couldn’t stand there and watch you die!”
Then she broke down in tears and began to bawl. King Candy’s facial expression softened as he forgot about his anger from before. Gently, he used his claws to carefully scoop his daughter up and bring her up to his level.
“Vanellope… Vanellope, listen. I am not mad at you. You only did what you thought was right.”
Vanellope looked up at him and tried to wipe her eyes. In an attempt to stop crying, she resorted to sobbing which made her hiccup a few times.
“I didn’t mean for this to happen, dad…”
King Candy smiled in a friendly way and sighed softly.
“Oh honey, of course you didn’t. I’m sorry for yelling at you.”
Because of his size, he could not hug his daughter. So he settled for giving her a very careful nudge with his nose instead.
“I’ll make it all better, dad, I promise!” Vanellope spoke determinedly as she leaned against his nose. “We need to get help somewhere, but who could we possibly go to?”
“Can’t we go back to Hero’s Duty and ask for the scientists to help?” King Candy suggested.
Now it was Vanellope’s turn to tilt her head and stare at him.
“Whaddaya nuts? Those melonheads wanted to shoot you on sight! If we go back there, they’ll kill you!”
“Then… what do you suggest?” the candybug asked as he put her back down on the ground.
Vanellope paced back and forth, thinking hard. Then she glitched slightly as she got an idea.
“I got it! There’s this game that’s about fixing, isn’t there? What’s it called again? Fix-it Fred?”
“Felix!” her father corrected.
“Yeah, Fix-it Felix! Maybe we can go there and ask him to fix you!”
King Candy scratched his chin with a claw.
“Perhaps… It seems like the best idea right now.”
“Good! We’ll go straight away! C’mon dad!” the princess said with rekindled enthusiasm.
She was already running to the exit of the cave when she heard a grinding noise.
“Oh cupcake, wait a minute…”
King Candy was having trouble getting up. With his human consciousness, navigating his gigantic insect body proved to be a lot more difficult.
“Dad, what’s the matter?”
“It’s this body!” the king groaned as he tried to turn around. “It’s got way too many legs!”
No matter what he did, it seemed that his large body did its best not to cooperate with him. Moving his legs caused them to get tangled up. He tried rolling onto his side and pushing himself up with his arms. Eventually, he ended up in an even more awkward position then what he started with.
“Uh, any time today, dad?” Vanellope spoke impatiently.
“Excuse me. You’re not the one having a Kafkan crisis right now” her father replied indignantly.
Finally he got an idea that worked. Curling his abdomen, he managed to roll over forward and sit up, using his four legs to make sure he did not topple over.
“There’s a start. Next is walking…”
Vanellope had already walked outside the cave, also to take a fresh breath of air. Finally, her father came out of the cave as well. His walking was clumsy but he was holding up.
“Okay dad, let’s go to Fix-it Felix before…”
A beep sounded in the distance.
“Oh geez, I forgot!” Vanellope groaned. “There’s the Random Roster Race and I have to host it!”
Having dealt with the Cy-bug invasion in their own game, Calhoun and Markowski could finally depart for Sugar Rush and look for the escaped mutate.
“I’ve never seen such a delicious looking world!” Markowski remarked as he gawked at the seemingly endless view of deliciousness.
“No time for snacks, soldier. We’ve got a bug to find!” Calhoun grumbled and took out her tracking device. “With a little luck, this tracker will respond to the Cy-bug data in his system.”
The tracker had other ideas however. Instead of giving a clear picture of the perimeters, it gave a blurry view with cracks, beeps and static. Calhoun smacked the side of the machine a few times.
“Stupid thing! Must be the sugar particles in the atmosphere. It’s jamming the signal.”
“Hey sarge, look!” Markowski yelled as he pointed to the candy cane forest. “Betcha that monster made those tracks. Let’s follow ‘em!”
The very next moment there was a loud whooshing noise and the entire environment lit up for a second. As it turns out, Vanellope had just won the Random Roster Race and by crossing the finish line, she reset the game. With all the damage to Sugar Rush repaired, the tracks left by King Candy also disappeared.
“You were saying, private?”
It took Vanellope some effort to leave the race track without having her friends follow her. Using the excuse that she had some princess-y business to attend to, she hurried back to the cave where she last left her father. But when she got there, he was nowhere in sight.
“Dad? Dad!” Vanellope called out, but there was no answer. “Where are you?”
She looked in the cave, but it was empty. A slight panic came over her. What if he had become a bug again? Maybe he was rampaging somewhere?
“Dad! DAD! DAD, WHERE ARE YOU?!”
Then she could hear a grinding, rumbling noise behind her. As she turned around she could see that some rocks had begun to move. Or where they even rocks at all? The rock formation rose up and uncurled, revealing that four insect legs where carrying them. King Candy practically emerged from out of the scenery.
“Hnnnnnnn!” he groaned, stretching his limbs and giving a loud yawn. “That was a good nap!”
“Dad, so there you are! I was beginning to get worried” his daughter said as she walked over to him. “What happened to you? You changed color!”
The candybug cracked his neck and shook his head in order to wake up completely.
“Weirdest thing!” he began. “While you were away, I got a little hungry so I snacked on a bit of these hard candy rocks and before I knew it, my outer shell had changed to match its color. Seeing as I now blended in with my surroundings, I figured I could take a nap out in the open.”
“That’s cool! Well, we better get over to Fix-it-Felix before… oh geez!” Vanellope groaned as she could hear the revving engine of a kart in the distance. “Someone’s coming! Hide!”
King Candy quickly curled up again and was one with his surroundings in a matter of moments. A brown kart came driving up. Rancis stepped out, not knowing he had parked his vehicle very close to where the king was hiding.
“Vanellope, hi!” he said as he approached the princess.
“Oh hi Rancis,” Vanellope tried her best to sound friendly but quite frankly, she did not really feel like having any kind of company right now.
The boy reached out his hand.
“Congrats on winning the race. You were outstandingly fast as usual.”
“Oh… yeah… thanks!”
As they shook hands, Vanellope thought of a way to get rid of Fluggerbutter without letting him get suspicious or worse, letting him see her dad like this.
“So uhm, the reason why I am here is…” Rancis began, rubbing the back of his neck. “Maybe we can hang out some time?”
The princess raised an eyebrow.
“We? You mean, you and me?”
“No… I mean yeah! I mean… Wanna go to Tapper's with me some time?”
Vanellope wondered what on earth had gotten into Rancis. She kinda had taken hints since he constantly tried to impress her during races. However, his romantic advances could not be more poorly timed right now. She had to take her dad to Fix-it-Felix and Fluggerbutter was being quite a nuisance. More of a nuisance than usual.
“Yeah sure, Rancis. Maybe some time…”
The princess tried to continue forging an excuse but she was kind of distracted by the fact that her father was moving and silently crept behind Rancis.
“Vanellope? You okay? You’re staring.”
“Hm? What?” she stammered. Then she shook her head. “Ahem, yeah. Fine, just fine. Now look Rancis, I’m a little busy right now.”
Now it was Rancis’ turn to raise an eyebrow.
“Busy with what? And here in the middle of nowhere? You’ve been acting rather secretive today.”
King Candy now hung straight over Rancis, who apparently was so fixed on his friend that he failed to notice him.
[Dad, what the heck are you doing?!]
“Just… princess stuff. Boring stuff. Stuff you don’t wanna do!”
Rancis wanted to say something but all of a sudden, he felt a tap on his shoulder as King Candy prodded him with the tip of his finger. But the moment the boy turned around, he quickly slunk back into his camouflaged form.
“Did you just… feel something?” he asked.
Now that she understood what her father was up to, Vanellope’s eyes sparkled deviously.
“Hm? Feel something? I didn’t feel anything!” she said, feigning ignorance.
“That’s weird,” Rancis muttered, rubbing his shoulder. “I could have sworn that something just…”
In a swift movement, King Candy uncurled one of his arms and finger-flicked Rancis’ hat off his head. The boy shrieked.
“WHAT WAS THAT?”
Vanellope just wiggled back and forth on her heels and toes, her hands behind her back.
“What was what? Rancis, you’re weird.”
Grabbing his hat from the floor, Rancis now looked around nervously.
“Okay, I’m getting outta here… I-I’ll see you around, Vanellope. Bye!”
Fluggerbutter got into his kart and drove off as fast as he could. When he was out of sight, King Candy uncurled again and joined his daughter.
“Boy, he sure left in a hurry!” Vanellope smirked as she folded her arms.
“Maybe something was bugging him!” her father added.
Vanellope turned her head very slowly and stared at her father after hearing what must have been the worst pun ever.
“I can’t believe you just said that!”
All King Candy did was grin widely, looking rather sheepish.
“That was horrible!”
Then both could not help themselves and they started laughing. Vanellope glitched slightly as she held her belly and folded over. Her father leaned his face into one of his claws, lost in laughter.
“Seems that you’re getting used to that giant bug body of yours, huh dad?” Vanellope said as she looked up at him.
“Apparently so,” King Candy answered plainly. “I’ve got walking down. Now I’ll try running!”
The Cybrid reared up and began to walk first, speeding up fast. But after a few seconds, his legs tangled up and he lost his balance. At this speed, he toppled over in such a way that he rolled forward. In what seemed to be an instinct, his entire body rolled into a ball and he began to spin towards the cave. Without being able to help, Vanellope just looked on with her eyes widened.
“Dad, look out!”
With a loud crash, the bug rolled straight into the cave and came to a standstill. His daughter ran to him to check if he was okay.
“You okay?” she asked.
King Candy unrolled, his body being somewhat upside down.
“Ow, that could have gone better…” he groaned, rubbing his head.
Vanellope climbed on top of his belly and looked straight at him.
“You worry me sometimes, dad.”
“Oh? Usually it’s the other way around, cupcake,” the king answered.
He let his daughter climb onto his hand so he could raise her up to his level again. She leaned in and put her cheek to his. It was the closest thing to a hug that they could manage. The king then furrowed his brow, looking sad.
“I wish I could hold you properly…” he sighed.
Vanellope pulled back from the hug a bit and looked at him.
“That’s why we’re going out now and have Fix-it-Felix fix you!”
She jumped down from his hand. But the moment she was back on the ground, she could hear the sound of a cocking gun. Calhoun and Markowski stood at the entrance of the cave.
“You ain’t going nowhere with that bug, princess!”
Vanellope looked at the two soldiers who had found their way into the cave. This was bad. Of all the things to happen, why did this happen right at this moment? There was no time for this.
“How did you find me?” she asked somewhat annoyed.
“I tried to stop you from going after your dad back in Hero’s Duty. Just to be sure I could find you, I wired you with a little transmitter,” Calhoun explained.
The princess looked at her shoulder, ran a hand over the back over her neck and indeed, there was a small transmitter attached to the inside of her hood.
“Don’t take it too personal, princess. It was for your own safety.”
“Vanellope, get behind me,” King Candy spoke in a low voice. He had gotten back up on his four legs and sounded very serious.
The moment they heard the Cybug speak, both soldiers raised their guns at him.
“Alright, your majesty,” the sergeant gritted her teeth. “We can do this the easy way or the hard way.”
“First drop your guns and then we’ll discuss things further…” the king spoke slowly and intimidating. He was worried about those guns possibly injuring his daughter.
Markowski eyed Calhoun.
“Sarge… We’re arguing with a bug!”
“I said DROP THOSE GUNS!” King Candy bellowed, slamming his claws on the ground.
Calhoun took a step backwards but Markowski, being a nervous klutz, tripped and fell backwards onto the floor. Something dropped out of his utility belt and rolled out in front of him, stopping in the middle of where the group was standing. It was a flash grenade with its pin missing. It was armed.
“HIT THE DIRT!” Calhoun shouted as she and Markowski quickly dove down.
There was barely any time for King Candy to do anything so all he did was sink down a little so his legs and body formed a barrier that protected Vanellope. That next moment, there was a painfully bright light as the flash grenade went off. The princess screamed in surprise and shielded her eyes. After the light had died down, she tried to look around and found that her eyes were still intact.
“Everyone okay?” she asked.
The soldiers got up on their feet, dusting themselves down.
“No injuries here, princess.”
“How about you, dad? Dad?”
Looking up at her father, Vanellope saw that unlike everyone else, King Candy had looked straight into the blast. He was standing as if petrified, staring blankly. His eyes flashed in bright blue hexagons like a kaleidoscope. A low droning hum could be heard.
“What’s wrong with him?” the princess demanded to know.
“He’s reacting to the light!” Calhoun answered, raising her gun again. “Heads up, everyone. There’s no telling what he might do now.”
King Candy blinked his eyes and shook his head lightly. Then he looked around, seemingly confused. He did not understand where he was. It was not home. This was not where he should be. He looked down and saw humans. Humans with guns. Never good. Wrinkling his nose, the king bared his teeth and began to growl, arching his back again.
“He’s back to being a Cybug!” Calhoun warned.
“Dad… please, it’s me!” Vanellope tried to calm her father down.
King Candy scratched his claws over the ground and hissed loudly.
Must escape. Must find hive.
Shrieking loud and angrily, the king charged at the soldiers. His large insect legs stomped past and barely missed them. On his way out of the cave, he slammed one of his feelers against Calhoun who was sent flying against the cave wall. Markowski did not hesitate a moment.
“Borrowing this for a sec, sarge!” he said as he quickly took the anti-virus program from Calhoun’s utility belt and bolted out the cave.
Vanellope helped Calhoun back up on her feet.
“What is he planning to do?”
“Something really stupid and regrettable,” Calhoun muttered. “After him, quick!”
Not too far outside the cave, two Sugar Rush racers had parked their karts so they could have a quiet moment to talk.
“So I said to Malarkey that there is no way that he’ll beat me in a race tomorrow,” Taffyta said to her friend Candlehead. “And can you guess what he said to me?”
“Giant bug…” Candlehead squeaked.
Taffyta tilted her head and raised an eyebrow.
“Are you spacing out again?”
“No!” her friend whimpered and pointed. “Giant bug!”
Muttering something along the lines of ‘what in the world are you talking about’, Taffyta turned her head just in time to see a gigantic bug monster come barging her way. She screamed and squatted down to make herself as small as possible. King Candy ran past the girls as his interest was not with them but with finding an exit. Moments later, Markowski arrived.
“I’m sorry I have to do this, princess, but this shouldn’t kill him…” the soldier muttered as he readied his gun.
After hearing a loud bang, King Candy roared in pain. One of his legs buckled and folded as Markowski’s gunshot pierced the ligament. He tried to stand on three legs and keep up speed but a second shot disabled another limb and he fell onto his side. He flailed the two remaining good legs as the other two hung motionlessly with bright pink blood dripping from them.
“Just hold still now, your highness,” Markowski spoke softly as he approached the rampaging bug. “I promise this won’t take long!”
He tried to grab the king’s abdomen in an attempt to climb up to find a weak spot for the anti-virus. The second he felt someone touch him, King Candy’s eyes widened. Looking at the human, he hissed loudly and swiped one of his claws. Markowski ducked just in time.
Calhoun and Vanellope arrived at the scene.
“Good job, Markowski! Now give him the anti-virus!” Calhoun shouted.
Hearing the other humans arrive, King Candy panicked slightly.
Must escape. Must find hive. Must find mates!
Growling angrily, the king raised his shoulders slightly. With a clicking sound, his wings unfolded and started to beat rapidly. In the blink of an eye, he was launched off the ground and up in the air with Markowski still clinging on to one of the plates of the bug’s armor.
“Oh shoot!” the sergeant groaned and readied her gun.
“Stop! You might hit your friend!” Vanellope pleaded.
Realizing that the princess was right, Calhoun put her weapon away again.
“How are we going to keep up with them now?”
Vanellope looked around and saw Taffyta’s kart. She smirked.
“Borrowing this for a bit, okay Taff?” she said as she jumped behind the wheel. “Get on, sarge!”
Calhoun stepped in behind her and sat down on top of the kart. The princess stepped on the gas and off they went at high speed since Pink Lighting was a really fast kart. Candlehead and her friend stayed behind.
“What is going on here?” Candlehead mumbled, staring at the fast disappearing vehicle.
Taffyta was stomping her feet and chanting to herself, still recovering from the shock.
“I hate bugs I hate bugs I hate bugs I hate bugs I. HATE. BUGS!”
Meanwhile up in the air, Markowski was having trouble holding on to his target. But he was not a Hero’s Duty soldier for nothing. He mustered all his strength and began to climb upwards towards the bug’s back. When he came to the part where the wings sprouted, he made sure to watch them carefully. One swat from one of those and he would be sent tumbling down for sure.
“C’mon Markowski. You’re gonna do something you’re already good at; crashing stuff!” he told himself.
With careful timing, he managed to climb past the wings. Arriving at the bug’s shoulders, the soldier noticed a spot that could very easily be a weak point; the spot where the king’s candy ringed neck joined up with the thorax.
King Candy already thought he felt something tickle his shoulders. He looked around and saw Markowski. Screeching furiously he tried to swipe his claw again. Missing the soldier he ended up giving himself a deep gash. He shrieked in pain and lost altitude for a brief moment.
“End of the line, bug. Time to go to bed!”
Markowski grabbed on tightly with one hand and with the other, he jammed the USB drive into the shoulder ligament and planted the anti-virus ampule deeply into the bug’s skin.
The candybug cried out as all his limbs went numb and jittered. The program began to run its course through his entire body, making him glitch from top to bottom. After doing its job, the USB drive keep a soft beep and turned itself off.
“Well, that was easy… What’s next?”
Markowski did not have to wait long for an answer. During his state of not being able to control his body, King Candy had flown into the direction of a cotton candy cloud. Being unable to steer clear of it, the bug flew straight through the pink mass and came back out covered in candy floss. Markowski too was covered with the sugary substance.
“Ptoei! Ugh! Blegh!” he coughed.
With the cotton candy sticking his wings together, King Candy was becoming more and more incapable of staying airborne. His claws flailed as he tried to get rid of as much of the junk as possible. They were losing altitude, but not speed. Back on the ground, Vanellope and Calhoun were following the struggle while driving.
“Look! They’re headed straight for Diet Cola Mountain!” Vanellope shouted.
“At this rate, they’ll crash into it!” Calhoun added.
Markowski was trying to free himself from the cotton candy and pulled a few pieces off the bug’s body as well.
“Calm down, bug! You’re going to make us…”
He saw the side of the mountain fast approaching.
King Candy turned his head and only saw the mountain when it was too late. He shrieked loudly before a terribly crunching sound was heard.
“DAD!” the princess cried out.
They kept the side of the mountain in sight as they drove to the place where the bug had crashed and must have dropped onto the ground. Upon arrival, they saw a few smashed rocks, bent trees and a big pile of mashed cotton candy.
“Dad! Where are you!” Vanellope shouted as she stopped the kart and got out to look.
Calhoun too got out and walked over, looking around.
“Dad!” the little girl cried as she tried to pull apart some of the cotton candy. Tears ran over her cheeks. “DAD!”
The moment Vanellope wanted to sink down to her knees and cry, the cotton candy mass moved a little. It was as if something was inside, trying to get out. Muffled sounds could also be heard. Someone was in there!
“He’s in here! Sarge, help me!” the princess shouted as she began to pull more of the candy floss aside. “Hang on, dad!”
Calhoun joined the princess and ripped chunks of the sugary mess away. After a few seconds, they found King Candy’s head. The monarch gasped for air.
“Dad! You’re alive!”
The two girls helped to free him and as more of him appeared, it became clear that the anti-virus had done its job. When enough of the candy was cleared for King Candy to move his arms, the first thing he did was embrace his daughter in a firm hug.
“Vanellope! Oh my beloved child!” he cried out.
“You’re back. You’re okay now!” his daughter answered, crying tears of joy.
Somewhat clumsily, the king stepped out of his sugary prison. He lost a shoe on the way out but he did not care.
“Oof!” he huffed. “Two legs! Just how I like it!”
Vanellope hugged him again, getting covered in sticky sugar but that was the least of her concerns.
“I guess crashing into the side of a mountain counts as a reason to regenerate,” Calhoun remarked in a matter-of-fact way.
The princess then gasped as she realized something.
“But where’s that other guy? That soldier?”
All three looked around to see if Markowski was anywhere in sight.
“Oh my, I sure hope I didn’t kill him…” King Candy spoke worriedly.
“MARKOWSKI!” Calhoun shouted, but there was no answer.
“Oh no…” Vanellope muttered.
Everyone fell silent.
“I… I will make sure his valiant efforts will be remembered…” the king said.
“Markowski may have been a clumsy oaf, but he was a soldier of Hero’s Duty and in the end he proved most worthy of that title,” Calhoun spoke solemnly and gave a salute.
All three bowed their heads to usher in a moment of silence to pay their respects.
“A little short, dontcha think, sarge?” a voice called out from the distance.
Looking in the direction that the voice came from, they finally spotted Markowski hanging upside down from a tree with his foot stuck in some taffy vines.
“Considering how awesome I was, I mean!” he grinned.
Calhoun stomped over in a fast pace, her face furious.
“Of all the stupidest, inconsiderate, careless things…” she growled.
“Hi sarge, can I get down now?” he chuckled.
“At ease, soldier!” Calhoun said as she grabbed him by the collar of his armor and yanked him down from the tree.
As the soldier grunted and rubbed his head, Vanellope and King Candy joined the company.
“How did you survive?” Vanellope asked Markowski.
“I managed to free myself from the cotton candy and jump off just seconds before the crash. It was a close call!” the soldier answered. “Good thing these taffy vines broke my fall.”
King Candy smiled calmly. Markowski looked at him.
“Look, your highness,” he began. “I’m sorry for calling you a bug… and shooting your legs and making you crash and everything…”
“No apologies needed. It was all for a good cause.”
Vanellope could not help herself and hugged her father again.
“I am so glad you’re back to normal! Or else we would have had to think about family expansion.”
Her father looked confused.
“Yeah, the sarge explained it to me as we were chasing you,” his daughter continued. “She said that if we waited just a bit longer, you would have become a real bug. And you would have started laying eggs!”
Upon hearing this news, King Candy blinked and stared blankly in front of him. He took in the facts and produced a mental image. Twitching one of his eyes, he shuddered violently.
“You think that’s bad? Think about me!” Vanellope protested. “I would have had dozens of ugly siblings!”
Calhoun could not help herself. Hearing this, she bursted out laughing. Markowski did not miss a beat and began to laugh as well. The princess could not stop herself from giggling too.
Shaking off the confusion, King Candy joined in.