Curtain Call is the sixteenth chapter of Lissa's Game High fanfic Pixels and Polygons. It can be read below.
Curtain Call Edit
“...’Ello?” The voice was faint. “This is SPY Foxglove speaking, come in. If you can hear me, make the bug move now.”
Harold wasn’t very good at working Vanessa’s spy equipment. Besides, the watch had only recently been upgraded to be able to control the bug, seeing as Voltar took the remote. He poked the wristwatch a few times, watching as different buttons and displays popped into view, only to read the labels on the buttons and tap another and begin anew. Vanessa must be very smart to remember the exact order she had to press to do everything! Another button, and then a directional keypad popped up. Unsure of what to do now, he pressed the left key.
A sharp yelp came from the wristwatch, and then a laugh. “Oh, good! Seems you’ve got the spider’s touch there.” Another giggle, but Vanessa’s voice quickly went back to business. “Is everyone else with you? Left for yes, right for no.”
Harold pressed right.
“Get them. Now. And bring that Aerospray and some powerups.”
“Heeeeeere’s your breakfast, Mr. Darkling.”
Takashi made a few flustered, embarrassed noises from behind the room divider. “Don’t call me that!” He snapped before pushing the divider aside. Honey was standing there, all dressed, holding out three bottles. “Elixirs!” A bright grin. “You’re a lifesaver.” Hurriedly Takashi uncorked the bottles, beginning to drain them one after another.
“I know,” The pirate smiled back. “I mean, y’gotta be nice to your all-powerful demon friends.”
He half-laughed, pausing to cough when that made the elixir go down the wrong tube. Once all three elixirs were drained, Takashi quickly flicked his wrists, the illusionary magic glimmering as it coated his body and made him look like the evil prince he should be. “Hah! So, so, how do I look?”
“Like Takashi,” She said, which wasn’t a lie. However, “If you were standing in the shade.”
The evil prince looked down at himself. Indeed, this claim was true; his illusionary self was strangely darker than it usually was. A shrug. “Well--Doesn’t matter. As long as they don’t know I’m the monster around here…”
The thought was interrupted by a knock on the dorm room door. Honey blinked, surprised--It was rather early--But nevertheless she walked up to the door and opened it up. Almost immediately, she was attacked by Sofia, who had practically pounced upon her. The Spaniard’s hands landed on the pirate’s shoulders, and she hopped up and down with glee Honey couldn’t believed was contained in a person. “Lo encontramos! Lo encontramos!” She gushed, her voice absolutely soaked in her natural Spanish accent. “No puedes creerlo? Realmente lo encontramos!”
The pirate blinked, dazed and confused. Behind Sofia was Harold; who had his birthday scarf wrapped thickly around his neck (to the point that it covered his mouth), the Areospray in one hand, and the spy watch in the other. He looked up with big eyes, nodding eagerly. Then, to demonstrate, he quickly wiggled his thumb between the left and right arrow buttons on the watch.
“You’re all together?” Asked a familiar voice eagerly. Harold tapped the left arrow. “Great! Okay, this is SPY Foxglove speaking, am I coming in clear? This is SPY Foxglove speaking to the Heir, Flamenco, Syrup, and--Has-no-surname Takashi, I said, am I coming in clear?”
“Vanessa?” Takashi said, rushing up to be right next to Harold. Harold nodded a few times, then set the Areospray down to tug twice on his scarf, giving a thumbs-up. Takashi chuckled. “Ah--No pr-problem. But--Vanessa!?”
Harold hit the left key once more, and her voice went on. “Alright. I was hoping I would. Now, I’m on the lookout for Centifolia, I’ll be reporting my progress. Coordinates unknown. I think this is still Game High, maybe it’s a hidden basement, dummied-out room…” She sounded like she shrugged. “I feel like the one dummied-out, if you know what I mean.” A pause, then, with a small laugh, “Maybe it’s like Binding of Isaac. Can’t spot any weird meat-men or...Anything unsanitary on the ground. Is this exile to the Parable? Checking for narrators now. Check-check-one-two?”
“Basement…” Honey breathlessly repeated. “Th’ basement ain’t that big, I know that, y’couldn’t keep a buncha’ people trapped in there for that long.”
“Then maybe it was dummied-out…” Takashi frowned to himself. “But who would know dummied-out locations around here?”
“I would suppose it would go without saying that Game High has passed the debugging period! We are a completely functional high school! And if there’s no debugging going on, then there’s no use for any sort of test room!”
Crazy Hand was completely livid. His fingers were spasming, red electricity bouncing from every fingertip. Master Hand was beside him, rubbing his thumb and forefinger together. “I’m sorry, students. But even if we had a debugging room, you would not be allowed access--”
“Pero qué pasa con Vanessa?” Sofia asked, rubbing her hands nervously.
“Vanessa?” Master Hand seemed to pause, his rubbing stopping, some of his fingers resting on Crazy Hand’s back in order to calm him.
Sofia nodded, then looked at Harold, making a prompting hand movement. He wigged the left and right buttons a bit, and Vanessa’s voice came in. “Ah! No! No narrators, just a horrible grueling silence. Waiting for the BGM to kick in. Also, I don’t have a shadow. I don’t think the lighting effects are all here yet. Someone should get on that.”
Crazy Hand suddenly went completely still. The nervous electricity stopped crackling, and if a hand could look dumbstruck, this was close to it. “WHAT!?” He roared abruptly. “Where is she!? How can she be still alive!?” Quickly (but with a surprising lack of pressure, for Crazy Hand), he pinched the watch and pulled it out of Harold’s hand; leaving the medieval male looking rather shocked as he tried to take it back from the subordinate. “This is completely--”
“She had a bug on her.” Master Hand gave a slight laugh, which startled Crazy Hand out of whatever mood he was in. “Of course she did. It does sound like she’s--But how did she get down there?”
Takashi’s shoulders fell. “Vanessa was taken last night.”
This made both hands pause, glancing at one another. “So they could be down there,” Master Hand breathed, taking the watch out of his brother’s grasp (and making the left hand sputter in shock). “It’s dangerous to go alone down there, though. Debugging areas aren’t always the safest for fully-formed characters. Their coding could start to come undone if they’re down too long. I’ll send someone--”
“For L.O.G.’s sake!” Crazy Hand quite suddenly pushed in front of his brother, slightly tensing. “I’ll escort them! You start forcing your students to start working again and stop lazing around like lumps of useless sludge! Just because some teachers mysteriously go missing doesn’t mean they can pretend there’s no class here at all!”
Harold, Honey, Sofia, and Takashi all shot each other a look. “Um,” Takashi had the courage to speak first, “That’s...Really nice of you, Subordinate Hand?”
“Flattery gets you nowhere.” The hand’s pointer finger jabbed Takashi in the chest, making him stumble. Nevertheless, Crazy Hand pushed past the four students, beckoning with his fingers to begin the little parade down the hallway. Sofia rushed up to the hand first, saying her thanks in Spanish, which only seemed to tick off the hand further. Harold turned to Master Hand, pushing the scarf down a bit in order to show his smile. Then he held out his hand, looking at Master Hand expectantly. The hand paused, dropping the watch back to Harold. He gave a thumbs-up with his free hand, then marched after his three companions, all diligently following Crazy Hand.
The notion of actually going to a debugging room was actually slightly exciting for everyone. But more important was the notion of finding Vanessa and Simon, and everyone else too. Sofia had scampered to the end of the line just to excitedly nudge Harold, thanking him again because he found the watch! They could be saved! Harold blushed, pulling up his scarf so he could obscure the redness on his face. The small parade twisted and turned through the hallways, passing by a variety of doors (and a variety of gawking students, which Crazy Hand was very quick to shoo away) until they reached one blank wall. Just slightly to their right was the big glass door that lead to the decorative courtyard, though do to the cold the door was locked.
“It’s through the wall?” Honey asked, putting a hand on her hip, then whistling low.
“Well ain’t you a regular ‘ole investigator.” Nobody could tell if Crazy Hand was being sarcastic or just bitter. His fingers reached out, brushing onto the wall. With a sudden pulse of red electricity, a patch of the wall seemed to crumble and dissolve, and an archway leading to a long white staircase was shown. “Okay, this is the debugging room, but lemme say you are not gonna find them down here, since only us Hands are allowed to access it.” The left had began floating around to the back of the four, then made a sort of shooing motion, the back of the hand hitting the back of all four students and forcing them to stumble through the archway. “But y’can go if you like! Have a good time, see you later.”
Takashi bit his lower lip, pushing past Sofia and Honey in a rush--“Wa-wait, but didn’t Master Hand tell you to escort us!?”--But another pulse of magic served the dual purpose of sealing up the archway and pushing Takashi back. The wizard crashed into Harold, who reached his hands out to stabilize him. A small ‘thank you’ came from Takashi, who rolled back onto his feet.
“...Well, he lives up to his name.” Honey gave a small laugh to diffuse the confusion and slight anxiety in the situation. She pushed past her three friends, putting her toes at the brink of the long staircase down below. Then, with a beckon, the began to slowly descend the stairs. Sofia, Takashi, and Harold were a little more hesitant to follow, but soon, they all trailed behind Honey to go down into the unknown depths below.
The lighting, as they descended, was dim. While the staircase seemed stable at first, with every footstep the stairs seemed to quake and flake, devolving to their coded state. Once, Honey took a confident step forward and one of her legs went through a section of the staircase that plain wasn’t there. She tumbled forward, landing on her face. The other three paused, then Harold reached out, grabbing onto Takashi and Sofia. He took a little hop in the air, and the scarf began glowing, and the three of them glided to the solid stair just one below Honey. Then Harold let go of them and helped Honey back to her feet, to which she huffed and grumbled that she could have helped herself. Some giggles were shared. From then on they were far more careful, toeing every stair before walking down, having to jump over a few stairs if they were too unstable. The lighting seemed to grow less dynamic; their shadows no longer floating on the wall but seeming to dip away altogether. But soon enough, the greyish floor of the debugging room was within their sights, and all four sets of feet landed upon the ground.
The debugging room was a sort of nondescript gray, very basic in design; with no shadows or lighting effects to speak of. For the most part, the floor was completely in tact. While coding was eating at the staircase and making it flake away, the room itself was fine, showing no indication of wear and tear. Nobody could be spotted so far as the four could tell. Actually, there was nothing even remotely interesting in the hidden debugging room that anyone could see.
Harold paused, fumbling with Vanessa’s watch and pressing the left and right arrows. The spy gave a loud yelp. “Oh--Oh! Okay, it’s just you, sorry. Debugging is making me feel weird. This is a debugging room, right?” Harold tapped left. “I was hoping so. Coordinates are still unknown...Wait.” There was a pause, and then a hollow sort of tapping sound. “...Invisible walls. Of course, of course. Okay, you guys stay close together, I don’t know how big this place is all around. I haven’t seen anyone…”
“...That doesn’t make sense.” Sofia finally said. She pulled one rose out of her hair and began playing with the petals. “How many have been kidnapped? Vanessa just couldn’t not find someone.”
Honey’s eyes skirted around the debugging room before they landed on Takashi. “Well, then ain’t we lucky we got us a wizard.” Takashi blinked, surprised. The pirate gave him a half-smirk. “Check for doors, dork.”
“Oh!” He blinked, then gave a few quick nods, motioning for everyone else to move out of the way. They did. Takashi’s hands began trailing a darkish smog, and tapping into both his usual powers and the gifted Darkling magic, he let out a strong enough dark pulse that it sent the other three students wobbling. The darkness slunk around certain spots, and like with the door to get to the stairwell, the illusion soon faded. Multiple doors were formed, each a pristine white. Takashi himself was left slightly winded, and upon seeing his fingertips get a little more purple quickly used a bit more illusionary magic.
There were more than four doors in the vicinity. Everyone looked at each other, and Sofia was the first to move, opening one of the doors up. Nothing but that same gray, now in a walkway format. Slowly, she walked through, scattering some rose petals behind her. The door shut, and Sofia was gone. The others looked at each other, and not knowing better, each picked a door to go through and travel the debugging room alone.
Vanessa’s voice was the last thing to go.
“Just--I would be careful, don’t go too far...You don’t hear buzzing, do ‘ya? ...Just me? Oh boy, I don’t like the sound of that! Haha...Hah.”
Honey kept crossing her arms, and then quickly uncrossing them. Her fingertips would skim lightly against the invisible wall blocking her from the vast emptiness that she could very plainly see, then they would pull away to fidget at her side. She didn’t hear the buzzing that Vanessa claimed to hear, but she did feel...Antsy? She didn’t know why.
There wasn’t even anything in here!
Sometimes she could see rose petals on the ground beside her. Sometimes there were footprints made of dark magic. Once or twice she saw an orange-colored spritz of ink. They all seemed to vanish as soon as her eyes landed on them. Never once did she see her friends. Honey began playing with her hair, trying not to let this debugging stuff get to her.
But it was getting to her. She kept almost seeing things out of the corner of her eye, more roses and ink and footprints. Sometimes, Honey could have sworn she heard footsteps.
Wait, no, she did hear footsteps.
“Hello!?” She called out loudly, rushing towards where she heard the footsteps. Had these weird hallways finally connected? Harold, Takashi, Sofia, anyone? “Look, look, it’s me! It’s Honey! Honey T. Syrup, and ‘T’ is for Treacle, one’a your classmates or students or whatever!”
“You’re not real.”
She stopped her running. Honey’s eyes landed on the speaker, the one walking. A male. His coding had begun to unravel, showing ones and zeroes and bits of static under the skin. His nails had been bitten the the nub, his hair a reck.
His bandanna was missing.
His white coat was lopsided.
He had dark rings under his eyes and trembling hands.
“...Simon?” Honey kept her voice quiet, gently approaching the fellow pirate, holding out a hand. “Simon, it’s me, I’m…”
Simon reached a pointer finger into his mouth and began biting at it again, some blood beginning to seep out. “No, no, no, you’re not real. N-none of you ever are, or were, or--I-I’m just imagining again!”
First Chapter: We Begin by Entering
Previous Chapter: Harold's Birthday
Next Chapter: Regulation