"Wait wait wait," Ralph started, rather dismissively, while waving his hand around, "wait wait wait wait wait... Wait. Wait. W-"
"We are waiting," Jotaro said, all the while giving him a rather intense glare. Good grief.
Ralph looked at him and sighed. "Right..." He then returned his attention to Polnareff, who had been far more helpful throughout their ordeal thus far, and continued, "So what you're saying is, you want us to risk dying by attempting to become 'Stand users' like you guys..."
"Y-Well, not necessarily, no," Polnareff answered, "True, not everyone stricken by the arrows becomes a Stand user.. And those who don't, have a tendency of contracting severe fevers and later dying," he grimaced, "but there is a way to know beforehand whether you would succeed or not. It's all on the up and up."
"Huh," Vanellope mused.
"Hoh? I like your enthusiasm, but make no mistake. We don't give these out like candy," Polnareff continued, "You will have to work for the Speedwagon Foundation for the foreseeable future." He rolled the die again; 18 this time. "Yosh."
"Well that wouldn't stop me," Vanellope scoffed, "Superpowers? Are you kidding? Hit me up." Who wouldn't jump at this?
"Hm, hm," Polnareff said through a growing smirk while nodding to himself in approval. This one would definitely make it.
Ralph could almost feel the very gears of fate sharply grind to a halt in confusion. He felt as if the entirety of his future were being rewritten in that very moment. It wasn't going to be like this, he was certain. He couldn't even begin to imagine the bizarre adventure they were about to dive head-first into, but he wasn't about to let Vanellope go it alone–especially if there was a high risk of danger involved. He shrugged in defeat. This is just how it's going to be from now on, I guess. "Count me in."
Calhoun wasn't sold on it so easily. Getting superpowers of their own seemed more than a little too good to be true, even with a lifelong catch. There was still so much they didn't know–so much they didn't know they didn't know. Jotaro's growing impatience worried her more than any of that, however. He was silently tapping his foot on the floor, and she had the impression he was clenching his teeth. What he said earlier echoed in her mind. We don't have time for this. "What aren't you telling us, Jotaro?"
Jotaro stopped tapping his foot and turned his attention to her. His gaze was cold as stone, bordering on menacing, despite any signs of malice.
"You've been quieter than a mouse pissing on cotton, but you to seem to have an awful lot you want to say."
"Now, now," Polnareff said in a thoroughly amused, yet apologetic tone, waving his hands all the while. "Jotaro just doesn't like staying still for too long."
"Enough, Polnareff," Jotaro interrupted. He let out a heavy, downward sigh. "You want to know what I have to say. Fine. This is taking too long. If you're going to join us, hurry up and do it."
Polnareff laughed nervously. "O-oi, Jotaro..."
"What I wanna know is why you're all but sweating bullets over there."
"J-Just how likely are we to be attacked right here and now while we hammer out the details, exactly?" Felix asked, hoping to, in some small way, ease the sharply growing tension in the room.
"In my experience?" Jotaro started, now purely composed and rigid as a rock, "Could be any second. Perhaps in a few hours. Maybe tomorrow. What will not change is that she, and by extension you three, are targets."
Polnareff sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. "I was hoping to make this more your idea, but he's not wrong. There's really not much of a choice here. Not for you. Not for us."
"I-I'll do it," Felix insisted. He clenched his fists tight at his sides. He'd never actually gotten into a fight in his entire life. The thought honestly terrified him. But if the world was in danger, and he could do something about it, then by golly he was going to do whatever he could.
"Same. But wouldn't you think it a bit risky to offer people these 'Stands' a few minutes after meeting them?" Calhoun rightfully asked. She couldn't help but wonder just how incredibly desperate they must be.
"It's a risk we're willing to take at this point," Swizzle said, "Beggars can't be choosers."
"Finally ready to go?" Jotaro asked.
"To the Speedwagon Foundation? I guess?" Felix guessed, "Is it safe there?"
"For the time being, yes," Polnareff answered.
"Before we go, can I ask just one thing?" Vanellope asked, raising her hand, pointer finger extended to the ceiling.
Polnareff smirked. "Sure. I'll even throw in a bonus question."
"Good thing we came in a limo," Polnareff joked as he peeked through the small window separating the front and back seats. "Everybody comfy?"
"Fine, thanks," Taffyta answered, partially squished between Rancis and Vanellope, and not at all happy. "You so owe me, Vannie."
Vanellope choked up a laugh. "Me? Girl, this is gonna be so awesome. Don't complain. Besides, I couldn't possibly leave my sister behind."
"Yeah, well just don't get me killed." I swear to God this has to be some kind of joke.
It wasn't long before Felix received a call from none other than Gene, who was concerned over the sound of gunfire he and the other tenants of Niceland had heard earlier. It was a simple matter for Felix to cobble together an excuse that was plausible enough on its face. "Tammy just dropped her gun, but don't worry, I fixed the hole."
Gene seemed to buy it, but scolded him, saying, "You should have called to explain that right away. Nearly gave us a heart attack up here." He was already in a bad enough mood about the whole business between Vanellope and his wife, even with the charges having been dropped.
"Yeah... Sorry, Gene," Felix answered, before being roped into an irrelevant conversation.
"Like I'd ever drop my gun," Calhoun muttered to herself, almost inaudibly.
The rest of the trip to the Speedwagon Foundation, which took just under 3 hours, was uneventful–though Jotaro never once let his guard down as he rode perched on the roof of the heavily armored black limousine.
"What, this is it?" Vanellope asked as they slowly pulled into the driveway of a three bedroom house in a well-off neighborhood.
"Not quite," Polnareff answered after getting off the phone from confirming the address.
The door slowly raised to reveal another person waiting on the other side.
He stepped aside as Jotaro hopped off the limo and walked in behind it.
"What do you mean 'not quite'?" Vanellope asked incredulously, "We just drove in."
They all left the limo, following Polnareff and Swizzle's lead.
"Care to explain, Gloyd?" Polnareff asked.
"Oh, I'd be delighted," he said excitedly, leading the way–walking backwards–to the door at the far side of the exceedingly large garage they were in. Throughout the room were dozens of sports cars, mostly either in shades of black, blue, or red, as well as a few limousines nearly identical to the one they'd just arrived in. "You see, my Stand, in short, connects two points in space. A sort of wormhole, you could say, but without the tunnel."
"Are you kidding? That's the coolest shit," Vanellope beamed at 100%.
"Thank you!" Gloyd grinned, "Not everybody appreciates just how useful it is, so it's nice to meet someone who gets it."
"So it's basically like Monsters Inc." Taffyta said, nodding in understanding.
"Oh, there we go. That's it. That's it exactly," Gloyd said.
"Take us down to the lowest level," Jotaro said as they reached the door.
"Lowest level, coming up," Gloyd said as he opened the door, "Shall I keep it open?"
"That won't be necessary."
"Okie dokie. It was nice meeting you guys. Good luck... I named mine 「The Doors」, by the way!"
The door closed, turning back into what it was previously, an elevator door.
"The lowest level is just a big empty room?" Ralph asked as he looked around for any signs of... anything. It easily dwarfed the garage they were in previously, but inside it was nothing besides them and the fluorescent lights lining the high ceiling, which was supported by thick stone pillars.
"It seems a bit more explaining is in order," Jotaro said as he turned to face the group of six newcomers, plus Polnareff and Swizzle. From under his grey shirt, he pulled out a golden pendant closely resembling a beetle.
"You had an arrow with you this entire time?" Calhoun asked. What was the point of all this then?
"They don't need to know that," Jotaro answered.
"It's the only one we've got," Polnareff added.
Jotaro flipped the pendant open like a pocket watch, revealing a broken, seemingly golden arrowhead. In the blink of an eye, he brought out his Stand, which proceeded to feed the pendant's chain through a hole in the shard and place it back into his hand. "Who wants to go first?" he asked, letting the shard dangle.
"It's similar to a dowsing rod," Polnareff explained, "If it likes you, you get the prize."
"Me me me," Vanellope said eagerly as she stepped up to the plate. She wasn't entirely sure how it worked, so she extended her hand, palm upward, as if the arrowhead shard was going to swing itself to her and rest itself in her hand. She could hardly wait. Never again, she promised herself, would she ever feel as helpless as she did that day. "This is gonna be so freaking coo-Ow! It cut me." My poor middle finger. She quickly pulled her hand back.
"That was actually a lot faster than expected," Swizzle joked.
"Oh, yeah. That'sth very funny," Vanellope spat as she sucked on her middle finger at him. "Stho did I win? That's a good thing, right?"
"Correct," Jotaro answered. "Next."
The others, technically against all odds–but admittedly quite predictably–all passed as well.
"So what do I do, how do it?" Vanellope asked excitedly.
"Stands are a manifestation of the user's fighting spirit," Jotaro answered as he brought out his Stand, "This is 「Star Platinum」."
Before them stood (the upper half of) a muscular, purple humanoid man with long flowing black hair. On his forehead was a metallic headband with a gem in its center. It was lightly armored, with golden shoulder pads and gloves. Its chest was bare, save for a red scarf hanging loosely around its neck, and it was lightly covered down below by a simple white loincloth.
"So that's what caught my bullet," Calhoun said, having a moment of clarity.
"You know, this kinda reminds me of a video game," Ralph said offhandedly. "They call them Avatars though." He was tempted. Ever so deeply tempted to quote the game, but he refrained.
Vanellope clenched her teeth. She was ready to bring out her Stand and get things started already. Not that she knew exactly how to go about it. She was sure that they were getting to that lesson, but she wanted to skip to the back of the book and get some real world experience on the matter. Okay, come on out, my Stand. She tried her best to visualize a being splitting off from herself, like Jotaro's, which was still standing beside him albeit with its lower half still nowhere to be seen. She could feel the mysterious energy building inside of her, she just wasn't sure how to unlock it and let it loose.
"Hoh?" Polnareff smirked at her, sensing what was to come. He was really starting to like Vanellope.
They're gonna be so fucking sorry for what they did to me. She couldn't help but remember how vulnerable she was that day. Tears stung at her eyes, threatening to come out unless she could bring out her Stand soon. If I could just bring out my Stand, I could fight. So come out!
Jotaro took a few steps toward her, slowly, stopping three feet in front of her. His Stand reeled its arm back, slowly.
Vanellope breathed, "You're really gonna do it, huh?"
"Yeah," Jotaro answered. "Do your best."
"He's not really gonna do it, is he?" Ralph whispered to Polnareff, now standing beside him.
"Oh, he's gonna do it," Polnareff answered confidently, with his arms loosely crossed. "No two ways about it."
"Are you ready?" Jotaro asked.
"Ready as I'll ever be," she answered, as far from ready as was possible.
Star Platinum let it rip, though at a fraction of the speed it was capable of. About the speed of a regular punch.
Vanellope was not ready. Not ready at all... At least, not ready to be punched in the gut.
As Star Platinum's fist was about to make contact, Vanellope had a sudden, instinctual urge to go home. Her eyes were shut tight, waiting for the inevitable punch that never came. She wondered if Jotaro was just taking the piss with her. That he wasn't really going to hit her from the beginning. That is, until she dared to open her eyes.
She was home.
She looked around her living room. It felt like forever since she'd been there, but everything was more or less exactly the way she left it. Her refrigerator door was an exception, however. It was thankfully now closed.
"Crap. Now how do I get back?" Not getting a punch to the gut was a godsend, but being away from the others was a problem.
"Say the word, girly," called out a voice directly behind her.
Vanellope's heart jolted. She spun around faster than she thought possible, feeling perhaps a bit more on edge in her own home than she'd have liked. What she saw, however was cause for nothing but excitement.
Unlike Star Platinum, her stand was more machine than man, and more woman than mere machine. She was taller than Vanellope by a few inches, and likewise bigger around on all sides. In place of hair, were thin fiber optic cables in a style similar to Taffyta's hair. On top of that was a tall, skinny golden crown with tiny satellite dishes on its points. Her eyes were a singular green visor, and she had no visible mouth. Her shoulders extended out a few inches into points, though they, and the rest of her torso were covered in a black outfit that draped into a sort of dress-like cape in the back.
"I know what I'm gonna call you," Vanellope blurted out after taking it all in. "「Lady Gogo」."