I don't like Ao3. The end.
Fandom: Wreck it Ralph
Characters/Pairings: Ralph, Felix, Nicelanders, Vanellope, Sergeant Calhoun
Warnings/Enticements: M/M sex, mentions of violence, erasure of data
Word Count: 10369
Summary: With the introduction of VR game goggles/helmets comes the decline of the arcade. It goes from kids playing after school to the retro junkies. Hipsters. Passers by. Nostalgics. Litwick finally has to face the facts, that no one is interested in an arcade that still features 8bit games. Within the capability for the machine to write and remember certain bits of data, it also creates shadows of the characters. Trapped within the memory of high scores and such, leaking back out and integrating into a character’s code.
In staving off memories that they don’t fully understand, Felix and Ralph search for understanding and solstice in the things they do have. Existence.
Link to Media: TBA
It wasn’t that deep down they hadn’t all known that the arcade couldn’t stay open forever. Some of the older games had seen 50, 60 years worth of play by the end. That was incredible, considering how many games had come and gone in the years the arcade had been open. Some had been in and out within months, others had been around for 10 or 15 years before an upgrade came around. Fix it Felix, Jr. was one of the lucky ones. Considered top game, and even during the ‘dry spell’ that all games had it had been played enough to warrant keeping it running. Then it became retro. 40 years old and Vanellope swore they didn’t look a day over ten. Felix had laughed, snuggled up into Calhoun’s side on the plush couch. Ralph had patted the racer on the head with a “Thanks, kid.”
But eventually Sugar Rush was replaced with a new racing game. As far as racing games went they’d been popular, but with each new cabinet brought in the least played left. There simply wasn’t enough space in the arcade for them all, and when Litwak finally pulled the plug Ralph welcomed Vanellope with open arms. He built her a little hut, she’d refused Felix’s offer to help with a crooked smile, next to his and they’d made a small track where she and the other remaining racers could drive after hours.
Sargent Tamora Jean Calhoun had long moved in with Felix. Consoles as large as hers took up the space of three uprights, and when paying two dollars per game left it collecting dust, Litwak swapped it out for newer, smaller, single space shooters that cost less. Most of the soldiers had chosen to stay with the game. Ralph thought that they were the smart ones, and that if he had a choice he’d stay with his game as well. Kohut followed Calhoun, finding a strangely close relationship with Zangeif that no one particularly wanted to explore. The two were both large, heavily muscled fighters. Always together and doing something, though whether or not the appropriate level for public was kept to no one looked at very closely. Tamora gave a slight smile at the pair, murmuring the first time that Kohut always had gone for the big ones and turning her attention back to Felix. She never mentioned it again, and Felix was polite enough to keep it in silence.
Memory was finite. Eventually there just wasn’t room for all of the character data that streamed through Game Central Station. Toward the end every nook and cranny available was filled with characters that had lost their games. The DDR dancers had claimed one of the benches at the far end of the station and kept to themselves, viciously defending their territory against anyone that came near. With each new game that was unplugged it became even more apparent how little space there was. Characters walking from one game to the next had to push their way through the mass of sprites crowded in the surge protector. More than one had been killed in an accident, simply from the literal crush of data. Felix and the Nicelanders no longer even left the game. With the buildings they’d made for Q*bert and his friends and Vanellope, they had already hit max memory. Especially since as an older game they didn’t have much to begin with.
Pacman had closed down their train. The only ones allowed through by the Protector were Pacman and the Ghosts because of cherry theft and vandalism. It had made them sad, morose. What had once been the meeting place for so many was now forbidden land. Ralph ran into Clyde at Tappers once, the ghost gorging himself on something much stronger than the usual Root Beer. He’d given Ralph a heavy look, sucked down another mouthful of whatever he was drinking and floated away. Not even bothering to talk to anyone as he made his way back to the entrance to Pacman.
Tapper himself was more than worn down. There were so many characters now that he rarely ever had a respite. Not only paying customers, but also beggars, offering to clean for a mug of root beer.
It was disheartening for everyone.
Inter-cabinet friendships dwindled between good guys and neutral characters. No longer did non combatant sprites move through Game Central Station. If you weren’t capable of some sort of hefty attack, you were eaten alive within the mass.
And then suddenly, it was over.
The arcade had been closed for a while. Long enough that even the most unsocial of characters was starting to go a little stir-crazy, cooped up and unable to leave for fear. Not fear of death, but rather the unknown.
When the call came in that Litwak was coming the characters scrambled for the best vantage points they had. Watching as he opened the door for men with dollies. Ten, fifteen of them? More maybe?
Ralph, Vanellope, Felix and no-longer-Sergeant Calhoun had stayed in Felix’s apartment. Silent. Just holding on to each other in the kind of tight embrace that knows it is the last and seeks to preserve the other person with physical feeling. They huddled within Ralph’s large hold, heads bowed together as a face peered into the game and nodded.
A second of nothing, then the alarm started.
Ringing out, warning the inhabitants.
“Warning. Warning. Game is being unplugged.”
There were no screams. Expectation had prepared them for this, knowledge had tempered it. Seeing the homeless in the Station solidified something that could be called loyalty. They would go down with their ship. They would die with each other.
Tears wet everyone’s faces and hair. Kisses were pressed from lip to lip. From lip to cheek. From lip to hair. Whatever was in reach was bathed in sloppy and sincere love. They had become a family. They were a family. Ralph held them tight. Vanellope pressed to the side of his face, their foreheads touching. Felix and Tamora clutched to his chest, pressed to each other, to him.
There were so many memories. So many things they had done with each other. Not just the first, the beginning, either. Ralph had lost count of how many games they had hopped into. Playing with the characters after hours, skimming a game over once or twice in the process. It had been exhilarating for the Wrecker to not only see other games, but to do it with people who cared about him.
“Final Warning. Game is being unplugged.”
The words started. Three words repeated over and over between the four of them as black raced across the screen and they clutched each other hard enough to hurt.
“I love you.”
Fix it Felix, Jr. onlined slowly.
The console recognized the power source and initiated it’s boot sequence to trigger. Running quickly through the very basic start programs it possessed and booting the game data directly once completed. It queried the high score board and found the memory running at minimal power. A quick redirect and overwrite cleared the data and reset the board to factory specifications, the display flashing with made up names and scores for a second.
The game initialized.
Ralph gave a yawn, curling up against his stump. He was asleep in a wink, not stirring when a tractor scooped up his home and carried it off. Only waking when instead of grass he rolled onto hard brick. Looking around to find that he was surrounded by them, that his trees were gone.
“HEY, YOU MOVED MY STUMP!”
He growled and thumped his fists down on the loose bricks, making them crack and jump with every hit. Watching, incredulous, as the tractors paid no mind. Clearing the area, cranes moving in and building a building at super speed, egg-shaped people walking through the door to the new apartments and setting up shop in a very clear and quick manner.
Ralph ran to the side of the building and looked up. Mouth open at the gall they’d shown without so much as a by your leave. They’d not even just asked him to move, they’d MOVED him. His anger bubbled up to the surface. They were going to pay. For moving him, and for wrecking his forest.
Oh they were so going to pay.
“I’’M GONNA WRECK IT!”
With a roar he rushed forward, punching windows out as he passed them. The door crumpled after one solid hit and Ralph jumped onto the side of the building, catching a fire escape and pulling himself up.
Another window gone and one of the egg people yelled. He grabbed the man and threw him, hauling his body up and smashing a huge hole in the front. Stomping and punching as more of the egg people cried out, “FIX IT, FELIX!”
Ralph saw a short man in work pants and a button up shirt jump in, grabbing a golden hammer from his tool belt and holding it high.
“I CAN FIX IT!”
He watched, incredulous, as the man tapped a broken window with his hammer. It shimmered for a second and suddenly gleamed whole and unbroken. Shining in the light created by the hammer itself!
A punch to the floor he was on yielded a cascade of bricks falling down. Felix dodged, jumping from window sill to window sill and fixing as he went. Leaving behind a trail of shiny new building as he went, his hammer tapping against jagged and coming away from smooth.
One of the Nicelanders opened a window and dropped a pie on the sill. Felix hopped over and picked it up, spinning the plate and eating the confection in three bites, his hat glowing gold. Ralph watched as he turned into a tornado of activity, whirling and striking with his hammer in a super fast succession; fixing the damage in literally the blink of an eye, pushing Ralph to the roof as he worked.
And then it was over.
The building was completely fixed. Ralph was on the edge of the roof, a sad expression on his face. This had been his home, and these people had just come in and ripped away everything it used to be. The Nicelanders filed out of the door and applauded Felix, a medal coming down from the sky to slip around his neck. Then they turned to Ralph and the looks on their faces... almost hurt him more than the loss of his home. As one they hefted him up and tossed him over the side of the building, Ralph tumbling over and over until he hit the ground with a muddy splat. A heavy feeling of sadness and despair flooding the large man as he hefted himself up and shook off the mud. He looked over at the dump, where his stump sat on a pile of bricks. Giving a sigh and shuffling forward to the-
::Reset. Game working under acceptable parameters::
There was a flash of light that passed through everything. It rolled through the building, Ralph, the Nicelanders, Felix and over to the dump, each of them pausing as information assimilated within their code.
“Character data compiled correctly. Memory input incoming...”
The characters on the building gave small noises of shock as they looked at each other. Felix dropped the pie he’d been holding to press a hand to the side of his head, eyebrows knitting together in confusion.
“We’re... we’re a game?”
Below them Ralph’s foot came down with a thump. A game?
Their eyes all flashed blue as the data integrated. A game. Fix it Felix, Jr. Where the point was for Ralph to continuously wreck the building so that a ‘player’ controlled Felix could fix it.
There was a split second when a terror so absolute came over Ralph it brought him to his knees. He was destined to lose his home, his life, and to be hated for his entire existence for the pleasure of a ‘player’. A noise ripped itself from his chest that echoed around the enclosed space, what they all now saw as an enclosed space.
Felix squeezed his eyes shut at the sound. That he knew the truth of existence did nothing to mitigate the feelings that still coursed through him as if they were reality. They were all created with backstory, such was the nature of a game, but to both know the backstory and realize it was lies while still living in the emotion was a twisted understanding. The Nicelanders didn’t seem to know what to do. They were shifting nervously on their feet, murmuring to each other and glancing at Felix. Worried looks on each face that watched the golden hammer drop to the rooftop as gloved hands pulled outward on brown hair.
And in an instant, again, it was gone. The emotions fading in a split second and settling into some sort of sense of duty and responsibility that was just... there.
Mary stepped forward and touched Felix’s arm. “Are you alright, dear?
He wasn’t sure. He had no idea if he should feel emotion toward a scripted existence they way he had, and no longer did. Both were confusing on a level that stretched his thoughts into uncomfortable shapes, manipulating the data there to serve whatever purpose was required of it.
“Demo correctly executed. To be repeated at intervals of 01010001101011 pending player input.”
They settled into routine fairly quickly. Learning when the man who owned the cabinet was up and when he was asleep. In his fifties, the man had purchased Fix it Felix, Jr, out of a bit of nostalgia. He kept the game in a room that was full of collectables. Figurines, souvenirs and the like. Fix it Felix, Jr. was the only game and the only time he came in was to show off his collection to others.
For a time, the programming made the demo compulsory. Repeated at precise intervals. Undeviated from, unchanged. Much like player control, it was absolute. Taking over the movements of the characters and playing them like marionettes on a stage. Then, gradually it ceased as the game cabinet understood the movements of the ‘player’. Relaxing into periodic demos, and then finally only initiating them when movement was sensed within range of the external framework.
A professional had come in and looked over the game. Fixing and restoring parts of the frame that had been damaged or chipped. Replacing the battery in the high score board and resoldering a connection that had come loose. Polishing and shining until no one would have been able to tell that Fix it Felix, Jr. was nearly fifty.
It was a point of pride to have a vintage game, especially one that was in such excellent condition. For a while there were parties, showings and multiple players. None of them were very good and Ralph got to experience several wins.
That alone should have made him feel better, but there was no recognition from the Nicelanders and the players would always laugh and make disparaging comments about each other’s playing.
Ralph found it hard to be happy about a win that was based on the poor skills of a player.
When Ralph first caught a vision of a little girl dressed in candy wrappers, he thought he was going crazy. She was having a conversation with him, though he could only hear her end.
His large hand reached out and clasped at nothing, phasing through her and distorting her image. Jolts of joy spiking through him until his hand was no longer touching... her. The image laughing and talking even as it faded out, leaving Ralph again alone in his shack.
Ralph felt nothing as she faded. He felt nothing when she was gone. It was only when he realized that he’d been staring at the same spot for an hour that he started shaking. Pain and despair welling up inside of him like it had after that first demo, only this time he had no idea why.
It didn’t last long, barely enough time for tears to wet his cheeks, and once again Ralph was left unfeeling with the ghost memory of emotions to remind him that nothing around him was real.
The dynamics of the game, the fact that it WAS a game even, seemed to do nothing to enamour Ralph to the Nicelanders. For reasons that were only delegated as ‘game dynamics’, they seemed to dislike him simply based on the fact that he was the ‘Bad Guy’. Ralph found their thinking obtuse, or rather, being Ralph, he found their thinking stupid. He wasn’t trying to destroy their homes during off time. Nor was he trying to rampage around and throw them from windows. No, the only thing Ralph wanted, aside from being invited to one of the many parties that seemed to happen in the Penthouse, was a friendly recognition now and then. Confirmation that he was acknowledged.
Heck, he’d settle for a “Hey,” shouted from a window. Their box, as he not-quite-lovingly referred to their cabinet as, was absolute and limited. There was no where to go. The train station, small and rustic that it was, wasn’t connected TO anything. Ralph knew, he’d followed the track to where it led to Socket Station and explored the small platform that led to nowhere. Tracks went straight into a wall of flickering light and going through it just turned you back around. It could have been comical had Ralph not been ready to deny his coding and take off. Pacing around the end of the track, pulling at his hair until it stuck out even more than usual.
Once he’d caught Felix sneaking down through the tunnel. Had followed him until he was just hidden in the shadows of the tunnel. Watching as the handyman stared at the glow of the portal, hands clenching and unclenching around nothing.
Felix hadn’t said anything, hadn’t done more than stare at the portal, but in that moment Ralph felt more connected with him than he’d felt to anyone since the game had onlined.
He’d nearly reached out, had nearly offered his hand to the handyman, only to turn and run back to the dump. A giant chicken in overalls.
Ralph broke anything and everything he could reach that night. Roaring out his anger and frustration while a tiny voice chattered away undeterred and unconcerned beside him.
There was no party in the penthouse that night.
Felix lay in his room, staring blankly up at the ceiling. Flickers of blond hair and blue eyes bursting out of a seemingly endless memory pool, one he couldn’t access on purpose. Every time he tried to reach out and connect the free-flying threads, they splintered and fled, leaving the handyman with nothing but the dark corners of his room to look at. He couldn’t stop reaching out though. With each pass of those blue eyes, his whole body burned. His hands clutched the sheets to keep them from moving. Each glimpse of blond hair made him tremble, until his body was coated with sweat. Until his clothing was soaked and he was sticky.
When blond hair and blue eyes finally stopped flashing in front of his face, Felix lay there. Listening to the echoes of Ralph’s rage outside of his window and wondering why he had tears in his eyes.
There was a certain monotony to existing without a purpose.
The parties that happened every night became a way to escape from their sub-reality. Fake cheerfulness and forced smiles gave way to lackluster waves when anyone passed by. There was no physical need for them to eat, really, and even rum and red velvet lost their allure after a while.
Gene sighed. He sipped on a martini and looked out through the penthouse. There was music playing in the background, a cursory glance at effort, but no one was even standing. Drinks sat barely touched on coffee tables, planters, wherever they’d been placed. It was a slow stagnation that they all were trapped in. With nothing to do, nowhere to go and no one new to meet.
He looked over at Felix. The handyman was standing at the window, arm braced against it, and looking out through the glass. Gene tipped back his drink and walked over. Peering out the window to see that Ralph was pacing back and forth in front of the dump. Large hands pulling at his messier than normal hair. Mouth moving in words neither of them could hear.
They stood there, watching as Ralph grew more and more incensed. The hair pulling becoming so violent that Gene was sure that he was going to rip it from his head with each pull. They could just barely hear his voice now, though not the words.
“He’s gone crazy,” Gene said, shaking his head.
Felix gave a sort of weak chuckle. “Can’t blame him. Jimminy, this place makes me a little crazy.”
With that Felix tipped the brim of his hat to Gene and walked away, quietly letting himself out of the penthouse. Gene sighed and turned back to the window. Watching as Ralph finally collapsed into a crouch and folded his hands over the back of his neck.