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Sugar Ruse

Chapter Text

"HEY! RANCIS!" The blond racer turned to see who had yelled at him. As he did so, there was a flash of orange that was promptly obscured by a glob of taffy. It splatted against his face nicely.

He sputtered, and immediately started trying to frantically pull it off before it set. "Gloyd! You piece of licorice! How many times have I told you, NOT IN THE HAIR?!" He flailed. "Gah! IT'S STICKING TO EVERYTHING!"

Gloyd smirked evilly. "Stop being such a box of raisins. What are you, a girl? Even Taffyta doesn't primp as much as you do. It'll come off."

Rancis yanked some of the taffy off his face and threw it at Gloyd, cutting him off in mid-chortle. "I'll get you, you... you...!" He tackled Gloyd, knocking him into the chocolate swamp. Gloyd retaliated by sending a wave of chocolate at Rancis, and it quickly degenerated into a splash war.

"Um. Guys?" They froze in mid-fight, with Rancis poised to fling a double handful of brown sugar sand at Gloyd. Vanellope was standing near the edge of the swamp, trying not to laugh. It was just as well that she'd elected to not come out in her dress, because there was chocolate EVERYWHERE. "I know you're busy, but..."

Gloyd immediately dropped the the pocky reed he was considering beating Rancis with. "Sorry, Princess."

Rancis tried to act like he wasn't conscious of how awful he looked. "We just got carried away, Princess."

She giggled. "You guys might want a bath," she said. "I think there's a Frogger game somewhere in the arcade. Anyway, I just wanted to introduce you to someone." She indicated the figure standing next to her. Judging by his monochrome outfit, he was from the eight-bit era, but beyond that, his art style wasn't too different from theirs."He used to have his own racing game here, but they pulled the plug on him and he's just been hanging around ever since. He wants to see what our courses are like."

The eight-bit driver grinned. "You know, since you just got plugged in and all. Racing's in my code, and I really miss it. Princess Vanellope said it would be okay to take a spin on your tracks while the arcade was closed." He started to hold his hand out, considered all the chocolate on the two racers, and thought better of it. "I'm Turbo."

Rancis tried to look dignified despite the chocolate and taffy coating him. "Rancis. And the idiot is Gloyd."

"Hey!" Gloyd glared at Rancis, then waved at Turbo. "Always nice to meet a fellow racer." He smiled, but it wasn't heartfelt. Something about Turbo seemed... off. Gloyd didn't exactly trust him, though he couldn't entirely explain why. He just seemed... sneaky. He knew what sneaky looked like, after all. He was, of course, the king of epic practical jokes. He didn't quite get the same vibe off Turbo, but he didn't know what to make of him. He was probably just imagining things, anyway. Vanellope and Rancis didn't seem to have a problem with him.

Vanellope nodded. "Anyway, I'm showing him around. He's going to take make a few laps on Cakeway before the race."

Rancis made a strangled noise. "AUGH! We're going to miss the race!" He grabbed Gloyd by the jacket and shook him. "THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT!"

"Woah, woah, woah! Who said anything about missing the race?" Gloyd tried to pull him off. "Don't lose your filling!"

"I. REFUSE. TO. RACE. LOOKING. LIKE. THIS," Rancis said, shaking Gloyd again.

"So race tomorrow night. Get off me."

Rancis pulled him close. "I have to go off-game to get a bath. And if I'm going to miss the race, SO ARE YOU, CANDY CORN." He shook Gloyd once again for good measure.

Turbo looked confused. "Race?"

Vanellope shook her head. "The Random Roster Race," she explained. "Our game has a new lineup of racers every day, so when the arcade closes, we have the Random Roster Race. First nine across the finish line get to be in the line up for the next day." She stuck her tongue out at Rancis and Gloyd. "And maybe with you two missing the race, someone else will have a shot at it."

"Taffyta will never let me hear the end of it," Rancis said mournfully.

Vanellope giggled again. "Well, get going, and maybe you can make it back before the after-race party~" She made a shooing motion, then turned back to Turbo. "Come on, I want to introduce you to the others~!" She grabbed his hand and pulled him along.

Gloyd shook his head, then started walking in the direction of the game station. "Come on, let's go find Frogger so we can get this washed off so you'll stop crying and we can get back for the party."

"I'm not crying!"

They continued bickering all the way up the roll-up road and almost to the game station. As they approached the tunnel, another boy jumped down from a rock candy spire. "So. Let me guess. Fist fight in the swamp?"

Gloyd nodded, grinning. "Hi, Swizzle. Splash war, actually. And now Rancis is being a baby about it, so we're gonna go find a place to wash up."

"I still blame you for missing the race," Rancis grumbled.

"Cool." Swizzle grinned. "Can I come with?"

Gloyd blinked. "Sure, I guess so, but then you'll miss the race too."

Swizzle shrugged. "There'll be other races, man. I can handle not being in the lineup tomorrow. I wanna go explore! I haven't been off-game yet!" He paused. "Actually, I'm not sure anyone has." Something occurred to him, and he grinned maniacally. "SO I'M GONNA BE THE FIRST~!"

"Ah, butterscotch. Did you have to get him started, Gloyd?" Rancis said, annoyed.

"Better him than you, raisin brain!"

Swizzle had run ahead, cackling maniacally. "Come on, slow-molasses! Let's go!"

Chapter Text

"And this is Jubileena and Adorabeezle~" Vanellope said happily. Jubileena beamed at Turbo, always pleased to make a new friend.

"We're pleased to meet you, Turbo," Adorabeezle said warmly. "I hope you like our tracks~"

"I'm sure I will," Turbo said, smiling in a not altogether-innocent way. "This game seems very... popular."

"Oh, gosh, it is!" Jubileena said, bouncing slightly. "We get so many players, it's fun! And of course, even if we don't win we have all kinds of fun here~!"

He nodded, looking around. "It looks a lot of fun." He eyed the girls speculatively, though they missed the look. "Who would you say has the best stats?"

"Princess Vanellope, of course~!" Jubileena said happily, and Adorabeezle nodded.

Vanellope blushed. "Ah, stop it! You're the queen of Frosty Rally, Adorabeezle. And Taffyta and Rancis win about as much as I do."

"But you're the Princess," Adorabeezle said matter of factly. "And you do too have the best stats, I've seen your loadout screen."

She blushed even harder. "W-well, that doesn't matter. Stats aren't everything."

"Nope~!" Jubileena agreed. "It doesn't matter who wins, we all have fun~!"

"Yeah!" Vanellope nodded, then tugged on Turbo's arm. "Hey, you said you wanted to try out Cakeway. The start line's over this way."

"Oh, yeah, I do want to try it, but I don't have my cart. I wasn't able to save it when, well you know." He sighed theatrically.

"Oh, that's okay~" Jubileena said. "There's the minigame at the bakery where you can build a cart~!"

"I don't know..." Turbo sounded reluctant. "I'm not good at minigames. I'm not sure I've got the code for them. After my time, ya know?"

"Hm..." Vanellope frowned, then brightened. "I know~! You can borrow my cart~! I'll need it back for the Random Roster Race, but you can get a few laps in before that~!"

"You're too kind, Princess Vanellope." He smiled. It was always so nice when they made it easy for him.

Stupid characters, stupid concept, stupid art, stupid music, stupid game... but Turbo did have to admit there were a few pros to this sugary mess.

Like the fact that the racers were all naive children made them so much easier to fool.

Chapter Text

"Oh wow!" Swizzle looked around Game Station Central. The train ride there had been okay, but he'd never seen a place as big as this. Or so many different game characters. "Look! There's Sonic the Hedgehog!" He pointed at a nearby station gate. "I bet he's got some crazy tracks over there~! We should go get our carts and-"

"Nuh uh, Malarkey," Rancis said, folding his arms. "We'd never get the carts through the station, much less into that game. And I'm pretty sure it's against some rule somewhere. Anyway, we're just looking for a place to get cleaned up, remember?"

"Bah, you've just got no sense of adventure!"

Gloyd smirked. "Rancis's dinky little buttercup-mobile wouldn't survive the first loop, anyway."

"Why you-!" He lunged at Gloyd.

Gloyd pointed behind him. "Hey, look, isn't that Princess Peach?"

"What? Where?!" Rancis spun, automatically trying to smooth his hair, only to be reminded that he was still covered in chocolate sauce and taffy.

"Hee. Made you look~" Gloyd snickered.

"AUGH!"

"DUDE!" Swizzle interrupted what might have become another fight. "Tomb Raider's here! I've GOT to check that out! It's like the most epic place to explore ever!'

"Uh... that might be pushing it a little, Swizzle," Gloyd said skeptically. "You know that's supposed to be uber-dangerous. Even Lara Croft gets killed in that a lot. And it's her game."

"I know! That's what makes it FUN!" He started making a beeline for the gate.

"No! Grab him!" Rancis latched on to one of the blue-haired boy's arms, and Gloyd grabbed the other. "Remember what they told us when we got plugged in? If you die out of your game, you don't regenerate! That's a real game-over!"

Gloyd nodded. "For once, Rancis is right. We're racers. Not even you're programmed to handle that."

"Butterscotch. You guys spoil all my fun," he frumped.

Rancis shook his head. "Come on... Frogger's right here. We can get cleaned up and get back to racing." He hauled Swizzle towards the gate.

The train ride proved to be a short one, and they were deposited on a sidewalk next to a highway. Since it was after hours, the cars were all parked in an off-screen lot, and there seemed to be a poker game going on at the edge of the river between some fish, an alligator, and a snake.

"Tch, you call those cars?" Rancis said in an undertone. "I bet we could lap those things easy."

"Well, duh~!" Gloyd grinned. "Might be fun."

There was a ribbit near Rancis's foot. Frogger looked up at them and croaked again.

"Hey, buddy." Swizzle grinned at him. He could always respect a fellow death-defying character. "These two truffle-brains were hoping they could use the river here to take a bath."

Rancis nodded. "We'll do it off-screen."

Frogger croaked and gave them a thumbs up, then hopped over to join the poker game.

The water was cold, but apparently, it wasn't the first time someone had come to take a bath here. There was a pile of towels stacked beside the river in a nice little off-screen clearing, as well as some soap. Rancis and Gloyd started scrubbing the mess off, while Swizzle amused himself by jumping on a nearby log and seeing how long he could keep it rolling. "I kinda want to come back and see what this place is like during hours." He looked around. "I might do it tomorrow, since I won't be in the lineup."

Rancis rolled his eyes and shook his head. "Don't even."

"Ah, sourballs."

Gloyd smirked. "Come on, let's get back. I want to go to the party."

The prospect of the after-race party made Swizzle much more willing to forego exploring, and they were able to make their way through the station quickly. However, as they reached their own gate, a snippet of conversation made Gloyd slow down.

"-So, what, you think Zangief is going Turbo?" Two tall women were standing nearby, talking. After a moment, Gloyd placed them as characters from the Street Fighter console, but he couldn't remember which ones they were.

The one in blue shook her head. "No. He is not that crazy. He is just-"

Without thinking about it, Gloyd reached up and tugged on the long braid one of them had. "Excuse me, lady. What do you mean, going Turbo?" Manners weren't exactly his strongest stat.

Rancis sputtered, and tried to drag him away, but the two Street Fighters didn't seem to mind. The one with the braid just raised an eyebrow at Gloyd. "Where did you come from?"

"Sugar Rush." He pointed at their gate.

"Oh, so that's why you don't know. They only plugged your game in a few days ago, didn't they?" She shrugged. "Turbo was from this eight-bit racing game we had before they brought your console in. Long story short, he tried to take over the other racing game and got them both unplugged."

For once in his life, Gloyd was entirely serious. "Thanks lady!" Then he started running back towards the Sugar Rush gate.

Rancis fell into step beside him. "What's-"

"You heard what she said! Turbo tried to take over the last cart game!"

"You don't think-"

"Well, he said his own game got unplugged, didn't he? And he's eight-bit, and how many people have you heard of named Turbo?"

Swizzle just looked confused. "What's got your taffy in a pull?"

"That character the Street Fighter people were talking about! Princess Vanellope was showing him around! He's in OUR game!"

Chapter Text

Oh, Turbo could get used to this place. Sure, the candy theme was silly and got kind of old, but it really had some splendid track layouts, and he enjoyed the idea of powerups. And it was way more popular than his game had ever been.

He could definitely get used to this.

But, of course, he had to make a few changes first. Princess Vanellope had offered him the royal stand to watch the Random Roster Race, but he'd begged off, saying he wanted to explore. And she, sweet little thing that she was, had cheerfully told him to make himself at home. Well, he was certainly going to do that.

He looked at the peice of paper he had folded up in his pocket. Such a simple little thing, but it was as close to sorcery as anyone who wasn't from Golden Axe could get.

It was The Code.

Now all he had to do was find the data vault. It had to be somewhere in Candy Castle...

"Where are you going?" a monotone voice said behind him. A tiny green character was eyeing him listlessly. Turbo remembered Vanellope briefly introducing him as Sour Bill. "...Everyone's at the race track."

"Princess Vanellope said I could look around," he said with feigned innocence.

Sour Bill eyed him without speaking. "...This part of the castle is off limits."

"Is it now?" Turbo smirked. So close, then... but he had to get around this... thing. He could probably just punt him, but that might alert these foolish racers. So that meant he had to have a plan B. "Why aren't you at the race track too?"

Sour Bill shrugged. "...Have to mind the castle."

"They just leave you out, don't they~" Turbo purred. "They just go off and race and leave you to do the drudge work. Just because you're not as... sweet as they are." Sour Bill didn't say anything. "You know, I could make you a powerful character here. I just need a little help."

"...Keep talking."

Jackpot. Turbo smiled. "I have The Code. Just show me where the data vault is, and I'll make you an important character."

For a moment, it looked like Sour Bill wouldn't do it. But then he nodded. "...Promise you won't corrupt the game."

"Oh, I promise~" Lies and damned lies. See if he cared.

Sour Bill nodded once, and lead him to the data vault control panel. It was behind the throne room, of course. It was always behind the throne room. Turbo really should have looked there first. He put the Code in, and smirked as the data vault opened. "I'll need a rope." This wasn't the first time he'd done this... and depending on how long Sugar Rush stayed popular, it might not be the last. He'd learned a lot in his treks across the arcade.

Sour Bill shrugged, and fetched a heavy coil of red licorice rope. Turbo tied himself to it, and dove into the heart of Sugar Rush.

It didn't take long to figure out the structure of the program, and start looking for useful data. He hummed to himself. Oh, good, unused character art. He'd take that, of course. It wouldn't do for him to be seen as Turbo any more. And there was the memory structure... good, good. It wouldn't be hard to lock. Now there was just one thing left to find. Character data.

Because there was only room for one ruler here.

Princess Vanellope had to go.

Chapter Text

Vanellope felt good. She was in the zone. There was nothing she loved more than racing. It wasn't even about the winning for her. She just loved the feeling she got when she was behind the wheel. It wasn't something she could explain, not to any one who wasn't also a racer, and sometimes not even to them.

It was who she was.

She expertly slammed the clutch and shifted gears, drifting around one of the hairpin curves. Taffyta was coming up fast behind her, and Vanellope smirked. Oh, she was going to have to try harder than that~! This race didn't really matter as far as the roster went, of course. With the boys missing the race, there were only eight of them, which meant that all the girls would get a slot. The boys could race off later for the remaining slot or something. But that didn't mean they weren't going to treat this race like the real thing.

Vanellope gunned it, and shot away from Taffyta. "Eat my sprinkles~!" She laughed, and grabbed a powerup. It turned out to be the Sugar Rush boost, and she careened down the track.

It really was the best feeling in the world.

And then it all went horribly, horribly wrong.

Her hands pixelated, and slipped through the wheel. Vanellope screamed. She lost control of her cart, and swerved into the side of the mountain. Then she bounced off, spun out across the track, and hit the guardrail. Hard.

She screamed again as the guardrail splintered and her cart teetered on the edge. Behind her, she could hear tires screeching as the other racers stopped and swerved to avoid her and each other. This wasn't part of the race. No one had ever crashed that badly before. It wasn't supposed to be possible. The other racers jumped out of their carts and ran towards her.

"Princess!"

"Everyone stay calm!" Taffyta snapped. "Pull her cart back onto the road!" Snowanna, Jubileena, and Minty grabbed the rear bumper and tried to haul the cart backwards. "Oh, of all the days for the boys to- Vanellope! You need to get out!" She was moving as close as she could to the crumbling edge. "Can you grab my hand?"

Vanellope was still shaking, but she gave a tiny nod. She was afraid to move too fast; if the cart shifted too much, she'd go over. Slowly, she turned and reached for Taffyta's hand. The cart shifted under her. A chunk of graham cracker came loose and fell down the cliff.

Suddenly, one of the girls in the back lost her footing and slipped. The other two fell as well, and lost their grip. The cart went over the edge. Vanellope screamed as she fell.

Taffyta lunged, and barely caught her hand. Vanellope's slight weight was still almost enough to pull the lightest of the racers over with her, but Candlehead and Crumbelina immediately threw themselves on Taffyta. Then they and the others started pulling the other two away from the edge.

"Don't let g-" Vanellope was cut off as her whole body suddenly pixelated. Her hand slipped right through Taffyta's, and she plunged off the cliff.

Chapter Text

"Come on!" Swizzle shifted gears. The boys had left their carts at the track, and it had taken longer to get back to them than any of them really wanted. But they were back behind the wheel now, and the three carts were a blur down the track. "The Peppermint People said he was headed for the castle!"

Rancis didn't answer, just spun into a turn. Gloyd didn't even bother; his handling stat wasn't that great. He just ricocheted off the track railing and used the momentum to pinball himself around the turn. He'd been slightly ahead of Rancis, but this move put him slightly behind, and he didn't care. This wasn't a race.

Swizzle and Rancis were side by side as they came up on the Dark Chocolate Tunnel. Under normal circumstances, this was too narrow for two carts to go through together, but this wasn't normal. Swizzle revved his engine and pulled the wheel hard to the left just as the nose of his cart entered the tunnel. He went up the wall and hugged the surface. His speed and the turn meant that he did a complete 360; going across the roof of the tunnel and following the wall back down to the ground on Rancis's right side just as they exited.

They were almost to Candy Castle, they just had to get through the Candy Cane Forest and they were there...

Gloyd happened to glance up at one of the race monitors scattered across Sugar Rush, and almost lost control of his cart.

"What is wrong with you, raisin brain?!" Rancis demanded, swerving out of his way. "You're going to wreck us all!"

"Look!" He pointed at the monitor, which was currently showing video of Vanellope's crashed cart, and the girls trying to pull it away from the edge.

Rancis glanced up, then scowled. "What I wouldn't give for a Sugar Rush right now..." There weren't any powerups if it wasn't an official race, of course. "Zippers coming up, hit 'em!" They couldn't do anything for Princess Vanellope right now, they'd just have to leave that to the girls. All they could do was get to the castle.

"Follow me! There's a shortcut after the Golden Cake Bridge!" Swizzle got out in front, then made a hard turn onto a small, somewhat hidden path just after the bridge. It veered through the forest, heading towards a large ravine spanned by two enormous candy cane trees that had fallen. "Stay to the right! Left is a double stripe!" It was narrow, and Gloyd and Rancis's wider carts had trouble with it, but they stayed with Swizzle and made it across. Almost immediately, they saw a jump coming up. "Gun it!" Swizzle shouted. "It'll drop you right in the courtyard if you're at full speed!"

Rancis dropped to the back of the line; he needed a better run up than Gloyd did. They all flattened the gas pedal, and hit the jump one right after another. Gloyd was already spinning the wheel in midair, and hit the ground in mid-turn. Swizzle had just intentionally spun out and aimed for the door of the castle. The door was open; it was always open.

There were no stairs in Candy Castle, just ramps, which was intentional. It was also intentional that carts could easily fit through the front entrance. The three of them roared through the entrance hall to the throne room, where they all skidded and spun to a stop.

"Where is he?" Gloyd demanded. Because there was no one here.

"There!" Rancis pointed at a curtain that had been pulled aside behind the throne. "Come on!" The three of them charged through the curtain and into the next room, where Rancis stopped so suddenly that Swizzle and Gloyd crashed into him. "Sour Bill? What are you-"

The little green retainer seemed to be frozen in place, pixels occasionally flickering. They didn't know it, of course, but Sour Bill had had second thoughts about what he'd seen Turbo doing. "He's hung up!" Gloyd looked around, then followed the red licorice rope with his eyes. "But where's Turbo?"

Swizzle, meanwhile, had darted to the doorway that opened to the code archive. "...Oh no. Turbo!"

The other two ran up behind him. They could see Turbo, anchored to the game reality, floating around in the code archive.

"It's King Candy to you now!" Turbo cackled. His appearance pixelated and shifted, and suddenly he rendered into their own art style. He was holding something, and jerked a wire out of it. It was glowing faintly, and when the wire sparked, they could see what it said. Vanellope Von Schweetz...

"Don't you touch her!" Swizzle looked around, then grabbed another strand of red licorice. He started tying it around his waist. "Grab the other end and don't let go! I'm going after him!" Rancis did so, anchoring Swizzle. Meanwhile, Gloyd started hauling on the rope that was anchoring Turbo. They had to get him out of there, and fast. He'd have just chewed the rope in two if he didn't think that would be worse...

Swizzle dove into the code space, aiming at Turbo. Turbo, meanwhile, saw him coming and dove in another direction. "You can't get away!" Swizzle yelled.

"Oh, I'm not trying to get away~!" Turbo was heading for two specific nodes. "In fact, I'm going to be staying here a long, long time!"

Swizzle made a grab for him, but it was too late. Turbo reached the nodes he was after. Racers Memory. Citizens Memory. And a large encryption chest slammed around them, severing their connection and locking them away.

Time seemed to stop. The three boys froze.

Code flashed through everyone's eyes.

Chapter Text

"Nmeh. What happened?" Gloyd sat up, rubbing his head. Man, he felt worse than when they were in debug mode...

"Nn. Dunno." Swizzle was sitting across from him in the courtyard, also looking out of it. Here and there, he could see the other racers, all of them looking similarly bewildered.

Rancis was flopped on his back. "Ugh. What did you do now, Gloyd?"

"I didn't do anything! ...I think."

Quiet sniffling caught his attention, and he looked up. "...King... Candy?" That had to have been who the man was, he was wearing a crown and everything. The monarch was scowling at a little girl in a green hoodie and candy caught in her dark hair. She was sniffling and trying not to cry.

"And this is why you can't race, Vanellope!" King Candy pointed at all the disoriented racers. "Look at what you caused!"

"But I-"

"You're a glitch! Your very existence makes the game unstable! You almost corrupted everyone!"

The little girl was on the verge of tears. "I didn't! I... I don't know what happened but I didn't do that!"

"Oh, yes you did! I forbid you from racing ever again! You're too dangerous!"

"I am not!" Suddenly, she pixelated and teleported two spaces to the left.

"I dunno, that looks pretty glitchy to me," Taffyta said snidely. "Admit it, you're just a mistake!"

"I... I..."

"You don't even have a proper cart!" shouted King Candy, patting the damaged white cart behind him. "Maybe you were supposed to be a racer, but they obviously decided not to use you! Or even finish you!" Vanellope turned and bolted with a muffled sob. "There, there," he said, turning to the other racers. "It's okay now. I stopped her before she could do any real damage. Here, have some candy." He produced several handfuls of it, and handed it out to the racers gathering around him.

Inwardly, King Candy was gloating. He hadn't been able to completely delete Vanellope; she was a core character and hard-coded. But he could damage her code and lock away everyone's memories of her and what had happened, and it was oh so easy to take her place. Of course, if she ever crossed the finish line in a race, it would trigger a reset. But that was something he could deal with. All he had to do was keep her from racing.

And that would be a piece of cake.