Vanishing Act is the eighth chapter of Lissa's Game High fanfic Pixels and Polygons. It can be read below.
Vanishing Act Edit
Crazy Hand was holding Harold rather tightly, the hand’s thumb and forefinger over the boy’s throat, as though completely willing to either snap his neck or choke him. “You mean to tell me--That Ambros--Just disappeared?! Impossible! Don’t you lie to me, boy!”
Harold opened his mouth and closed it again uselessly, unable to form words.
“Sir,” Vanessa’s voice was gentle, her hands idly wringing her balaclava. “Harold, he’s taken this...This silent protagonist vow. Perhaps if you’re a bit gentler, he’ll--”
“Don’t you tell me what to do!” The hand shrieked, leaning very close to Vanessa, little bolts of red electricity racing up the hand’s fingers. Vanessa took a worried step back, looking up to Harold, the boy mouthing ‘help me’.
Of course, such a commotion was bound to attract attention. The Halloween party had skidded to a dead halt, and all eyes were on Crazy Hand, Harold, Vanessa, and Simon. Upon seeing that their friends were at the forefront of this all, Sofia, Takashi, and Honey forced themselves nearer to the screeching hand.
“Now, now…” The crowd parted momentarily to allow Master Hand to go up to his brother. “What, exactly, is going on here?”
Crazy Hand turned, Harold suddenly looking positively ill. “You see! This idiot boy here says Ambros just up and vanished in the middle of this here event! He’s lying! Spitefully causing trouble,” Evidently the hand’s thumb and forefinger pressed slightly harder on Harold’s throat, since he began coughing and gasping, “Just for attention!”
Master Hand looked skeptical. Well, as skeptical as a hand could actually look. “Drop him, Subordinate.”
With a few grumbles and mutters, Harold was dropped unceremoniously onto the floor, gasping in the air. After a long moment, Harold stood, shaking. “Now,” Master Hand said gently, “What exactly happened to Mr. Tökkentäkker, Harold?”
The boy worked his mouth in silence for a while. When he found he couldn’t force himself to say anything (especially in front of so many--What were his vows even worth!?), he walked over to Vanessa, pulling on the sleeve of her suit. She went down a bit, and he whispered in her ear. As he spoke, the spy slowly parroted it back for the rest. “...They...They were looking for, er, Pippy Schmidt, but nobody could actually find her. They figured she hadn’t shown, or maybe she left or...Something. Anyway, they went back...To the snacks. You know, for the cake? Well…” Vanessa’s voice tapered off as she looked at Harold, whispering “What!?” just under her breath. He nodded, and she sighed, starting to talk again. “...And that’s when his skin started peeling. It fell off in these clumps, and behind his skin was this…” A pause, and Harold described it again. “A sort of...Black static, with red flecks. Ambros didn’t notice, and Harold tried to tell him, but his skin began flaking and falling faster and...It scared him, you see. He couldn’t--Couldn’t move. And Ambros, he...Collapsed. And then disintegrated into nothing.” Vanessa straightened, and Harold turned to face the hands, nodding timidly.
Master Hand hummed an inquisitive note. Crazy Hand, however, was not so benign. “You--You’re lying!” The left hand swooped forward, suddenly too close to both Harold and Vanessa for comfort. “You mean to tell me--That nobody saw him collapse but you!?” A finger poked Harold in the chest, causing him to stumble a bit. “Implausible! There had to be other witnesses, unless you personally stabbed him, and made this up to cover your tracks!”
“I-If I may,” Vanessa said, her confident tone wavering, “Everyone was so wrapped up in this party, it’s completely possible nobody but Harold noticed him fall. A party is a risky place for murder, but...Since everyone’s often distracted, sometimes, it works.”
“So you’re saying he did kill him!”
“Harold couldn’t have killed Ambros, they were best friends, sir.”
“Ambros is a villain! Harold may have wanted to play the hero and rid the world of another pathetic scumbag! And good riddance, I say!”
Even despite his thick white makeup, Harold quite noticeably paled during this accusation. Vanessa put a hand on his shoulder, and his body tensed up. “Sir, I hate to tell you, but Harold is nothing if not a pacifist. He and I have Game Combat together and he refuses to handle weapons without just cause. Ask Mr. Threepwood if you--”
“Somebody! You!” The left hand whirled around, snatching up a girl dressed as Professor Juniper. “I want you to get Guybrush and verify this information! Immediately!”
“Yes, yes, sir!” The girl stammered, and she was dropped, staggering to her feet and then dashing out of the gym.
The right hand had remained quiet throughout this, and now, he pushed his brother back. Crazy Hand sputtered, offended, but Master Hand just hovered over to Harold and Vanessa, staring them down (best a hand could). “You understand that there will be serious consequences if you two are lying to us?” They both nodded. “I’m choosing to believe you. Do not let me regret this choice. Understood?” They nodded again. “Good.” The hand turned back to the crowd, who had begun muttering amongst themselves, confused and worried and some even laughing awkwardly. “...For your safety, I advise the rest of you go back to your dorm rooms. The party has concluded. I hope...I hope you had a wonderful night.” The hand’s voice is horribly, horribly flat during that final line, and then it shoos them away. The students began filing out the door, still talking and questioning and joking and…
The first person next to Harold is Takashi, who had taken off his kaleidoscope eyeglasses and was now staring at Harold sharply. “You...You said static under his skin?” Harold made a small ‘uh-huh’ sound in the back of his throat. “Well, then, you couldn’t have possibly killed him. If you’re telling the truth, it’s probably some sort of magic. A pretty interesting sort, actually! I’m interested.”
“Magic, huh?” Simon blinked, considering this possibility. “...That would be an interesting sort of magic...Should we go to Weber?”
“Word to the wise: Don’cha ask Weber ‘bout anythin’.” Honey still found it in her to smirk jokingly, going up to Simon’s side. “Last time someone did that, he handed ‘em some nitroglycerin and lemme say, they sure didn’t take the lesson on fire spells too well.” A pause, and then she shot an aside glance to Simon and muttered, “Yeah, I dunno why he ain’t fired either.” And then another pause as she glanced the fellow pirate up and down, her mouth changing into a lopsided frown. “...Hey, now thinkin’ about it, why were you up there with them? You see it or what?”
Simon shook his head. “No, no, not I. I had a light chat with The Outfeilder and then went to get Sofia. Harold came to me.”
“...Harold came to you?” Vanessa said, her tone borderline offended and certainly quite confused. She looked at him, but the medieval looking boy looked in no mood to explain himself on it.
Takashi put his arm around Harold’s shoulders, hugging him a bit, pity in his eyes. “Well, no matter what it is, the point is that it’s not your fault.” He smiled down at Harold. “Right?” The boy looked up at him, nodding slowly, wringing his hands. “...Don’t worry. We’ll get it sorted.” Gently, Takashi pulled Harold along, dissolving into the flow of the crowd and musing over just what sort of magic this stunt could be. Clearly, he had quite a list.
Vanessa walked up next to Simon, shooting him a look. He, in return, held up his hands in defence. “Perhaps he found me first. I was in the place of most commotion--The You Don’t Know Jack games? It’s--It’s nothing against you, I’m sure.”
She sighed, shaking her head, looking away. “I know.” She muttered, then walked after the other two, straightening her back so as to look sophisticated and not pitiful.
Simon paused, looking around for Honey, only to catch sight of her dashing away to talk magic with Takashi. He frowned, looking over at Sofia, who looked positively guilty. He trotted up next to her. “Hey.” She looked up, slightly startled. “Are you okay?”
“Oh? Um, si. Por supuesto.” She slid her eyepatch over to the side, freeing her eye. She beckoned, and she and Simon merged into the rest of everyone. “I mean…” A hand began idly fingering one of the yellow roses. “I’m sorry. You know, for...Que te detiene.”
“...In English, if you don’t mi--”
“For holding you back.” She spat it out quite suddenly, refusing to look him in the eye. “I was being stupid and--Maybe if you got us out, Crazy Hand wouldn’t have practically strangled Harold and--” A loud, quick sigh. “Sorry.”
The pirate frowned, crossing his arms and shaking his head. “Now, now, Sofia. Ambros would have vanished no matter if I took our leave or not. It’s not your fault.”
“I know, but...I just feel like...It is.”
“Banish the thoughts. Some things are just…” He waved a hand in the air, searching for the right word. “...Programmed to happen. A scripted event, if it were. Think of it like that.”
Sofia didn’t look too comforted, but her mouth went into a little smile as she looked over at Simon. “So...You’re okay that I was being greedy?”
He chuckled. “If anyone knows greed, it’s a pirate.”
She laughed back, her confidence regaining slowly. She walked off faster, and Simon caught up, going back to their dorms with worries banished to the back of their minds.
The girl who was sent off had a name.
Her name was Cameron Snap.
She was running down an empty set of hallways, looking around the lonely corridors. She went left, she went right, she almost tripped over her own feet three times as her breathing grew ragged and she searched for a familiar set of hands. Where were they, where were they, where were--
She ran into someone.
Cameron fell over, an object falling from her hand and skidding across the floor. She reached out with a little gasp before it went to far, grabbing it, and then looked up at who she ran into. For a long moment, her mind wouldn’t process who it was that had a disco ball for a head and some weird tacky red suit-cloak thing. Then her brain kickstarted, and she gasped once more. “I--I’m sorry--I didn’t mean to.” She stood, looking around, then back at the figure. “I mean--I’m--I had to go and--” Out of breath, she couldn’t form proper sentences. “You--You heard about the--” A pause, then she rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Of course you have, you’re…”
“Slow down. You’re confusing yourself.” The voice is very digital in quality, and Cameron looks at the figure with a start, trying to find it’s eyes but failing. There was a small flash of light, a running orangey code going across it’s body, and when it faded the disco ball and the tacky suit-cloak was replaced with a cloak of more imperial form and a three-eyed brain in a jar.
Voltar the Omniscient.
She swallowed, nodding, taking a few long moments to catch her breath and recoup her thoughts. In the meantime, Voltar took the chance to speak. “I, indeed, have heard of this...Startling event. What I have not heard of is what you could be doing here. Investigative work?”
“I--I was supposed to--” Cameron flinched, shuffling in her costume labcoat’s pockets and yanking out her personal camera, quickly inspecting it for any signs of damage from the fall. None were visible. She flicked it on and began looking through the pictures, making sure they were all there and the screen wasn’t in any way glitched up. “Supposed to find Mr. Threepwood, sir. To--To--” She waved a hand in the air.
“To validify some testimony?” Voltar offered, prompted by her hand movement.
The girl nodded, turning off the camera once more. “Since that, er, that fox-girl said that Harold couldn’t’a killed Ambros. He doesn’t...He doesn’t bother with weapons.”
“I can assure you, Miss Snap, that Harold would never pick up a sword if he didn’t know it was right. Such is the way with a dutiful hero that doesn’t need to deal with the greyness of morality.”
“Oh! That’s--That’s helpful. Thanks.” Though her voice was breathy, words and sentences were at least coming out easier. She looked around again. “But--But, ah--Here’s the thing. I go to Mr. Threepwood’s office and--He--He isn’t there. I’m looking around for him, and he’s--He’s not--I can’t find him, y’know? And now I’m all worried because, well, what if he’s gone, too? Like Ambros? That’d be real bad, and Crazy Hand, he’d…” Cameron swallowed, looking back to Voltar, as though expecting something comforting and reassuring from him. He just stared at her, three eyes blinking slowly. “Do you...Do you know if he’s--Mr. Threepwood--If he’s here?”
The brain in a jar emitted a strange sort of mechanical buzzing sound, causing Cameron to flinch. The sound played for a moment or two, and then very suddenly stopped. “Regrettably, it seems I cannot pick up any detection of him within a three-foot radius. But that doesn’t mean anything yet. I shall try once more.”
“Oh. Um. Well. I--I hope you can find him, sir.”
“I as well.” Voltar paused, eyes going to her hands. “...I presume you happened to take a few pictures of the office?”
She blinked, startled, looking at her camera. Then she realized how stupid her reaction was. “Uh, yeah. I--I always do. What a Snap does.”
“Might I be able to convince you to part with it? If it does happen to be the same perpetrator, it may provide vital evidence.”
“Yeah! ‘Course. Give it back, though.” Cameron held out the camera. Voltar made no motion to reach out and take it; instead, one of his small flying robots picked it up for him. “I shall,” He promised as the robot flew back to him once more, though his eyes fell back onto the other thing in her clasped hand. “And what of that?”
Her hands fidgeted, giving the object a slightly more defined shape. “I--I found this in his office. D-Do you think…?”
“Evidence is evidence. Would you kindly hand it over?”
She complied, and another robot took it. Voltar gave a small nod, looking back to Cameron, who now looked sort of awkward just standing there. “Well?” He said, making a gesture with his head. “Run off. I’ll run a few tests and we’ll find out just where Threepwood is. And do assure your classmates that the idea that Harold had anything to do with this should be banished.”
“I--I will.” She turned, starting to go off, but paused abruptly and turned back. “You’ll--You’ll tell--”
“Of course I’ll tell Master and Crazy Hand for you. They are understanding.”
With this reassurance, Cameron made no haste in turning tail and leaving. Voltar watched her go, then buzzed once more. Again, no sign of Guybrush that he could trace. Interesting. He began floating off, shaking his head as the dutiful robots holding the objects went ahead of him slightly. He hoped Guybrush wasn’t missing. He really, really did. His eyes glanced from the camera (he’d have to get Officer Wagon to help him look at those, or perhaps Birdland, considering his history) over to the other object, which interested him far more. He studied it, a worn sort of thing, nothing anyone would usually leave at the scene of a probable crime…
“...There are some things that I, despite my intellect, do not know.” He mused to himself, sighing lightly. “L.O.G.’s whims is one of them.”
The object that the robot was carrying before him was a gently worn monochrome baseball.
The next morning, Simon and Sofia woke up to Master Hand’s voice over the PA.
“Attention...Attention, students. Last night, while we were all distracted with the mysterious disappearance of Mr. Tökkentäkker, another face in this establishment vanished without a trace. Guybrush Threepwood cannot be found within the building. If anyone is to find him, you are to alert either me, Subordinate Hand, Officer Wagon, or Voltar the Omniscient. We wish for you to continue your classes as normal and report any further disappearances or suspicious behavior to the four previously mentioned. We have yet to get a replacement for Mr. Threepwood; so should you have Game Combat, we implore you to use your time wisely with a study hall. Thank you. Would The Outfielder please come to my office as soon as possible.”
After the announcement, there was a long, awful silence in the dorm room. It was Sofia who rose first, still in her light nightgown and red slippers, shuffling over to the room divider and peeking around it. “Simon…?” She said, only to notice the pirate (already dressed for the day, begging the question just how much earlier he woke up) set his jaw and roll out a few maps, marking them up with ink. “Simon? Th’ heck are you doin’?”
“Making a map,” He replied, curt. “Two disappearances in one night cannot be a coincidence. It’s a puzzle.” He rolled up the parchment again, clutching the paper a little too tight, his mouth falling into a frown. “A puzzle that I am quite willing to solve.”
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