AN: Hi! This is my third Wreck-It Ralph fanfiction, and it's inspired by the fact that, when you thinking about it, all the characters are from video games. This means that, in reality, there are hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of the exact same character running around in the cyber world. And, although all of them were programed the same, the movie shows that the characters can break free from their coding and become different people. So, based on these facts, I now bring you ten different fates that have befallen Calhoun. I hope you like it!
Disclaimer: I do not own Wreck-It Ralph. Disney does.
In the first, she was dead.
It was a well-known fact at Barry's Barn that, if a game did not pay for itself within the first few months of being installed, it was done. Barry, the owner of said establishment, long since learned that a game either became a success or flopped, and in the little town that his arcade occupied, there was little room between. Either his newest additions drew in new faces or old ones more frequently, or he was done with them. Unplugged, shipped back to the company with a complaint of a bug before the warranty was up, and recycled for the parts that were still perfectly good, it was a fate that many a game had met at Barry's hands.
Hero's Duty had just been another one of those casualties.
The game's three month tour had looked promising when it had first been plugged in, a line of teenagers excitedly waiting for their turn to blast the scum that were the cy-bugs. Led through the levels by their fearless leader, Sergeant Calhoun, dozens of times a day, for a week straight theirs was the most popular game to cross the red and white painted threshold.
And then, for some reason, it all just stopped.
As if someone had given a silent command that had gone unnoticed by the others, the players had moved on, returning to tried and true favorites that had occupied the game floor since before many of them had even been born. The few who had continued to visit their corner of the arcade after the initial wave were ones who had failed to beat it, and even their determination to see the game through was worn down by loss of quarter after quarter and no medal to make it worth it. Soon enough, even they turned away, frustration that weeks of play had turned out nothing but dozens of 'game over' signs poisoning their opinions of the heroes.
'Too hard' was the greatest complaint, and it was these two words that had been their downfall.
For thirty-six hours, they had known that they were going to be shipped back, just two weeks before their warranty expired and they were worthless as a return. For thirty-six hours, time that had once been spent destroying everything that moved and wanted to eat them had been spent packing the bags that they were being allowed to take with them, preparing for the moment none of them had ever seen coming. For thirty-six hours, they had had to force themselves to accept the fact that they were now useless, homeless, and unwanted.
They, the men that had fought through that game thousands of times in their heads, had done exactly that.
She, however, had refused.
"I ain't leavin', Markowski, and that's that," Sergeant Calhoun had growled up at him when he had finally found her sitting on the building steps, cleaning her gun as if it was just another pause between quarters. "If a captain goes down with his ship, then I reckon that it's only right a Sergeant goes down with her game." For his part, he had said nothing, instead choosing to just sit next to her for last few minutes that they would have. Slowly, one by one, the others had come to join them, accepting her choice to stay behind, until every man that had ever served under Sergeant Tamora Jean Calhoun filled those steps, calmly waiting for their next order. Thirty-six hours turned into minutes, and still no one moved.
Silently, with their eyes and their actions, they each told her the exact same thing that, eventually, one of them had to voice to make sure she understood: "You've led us for this long, Sarge, and we'll follow you until the very end."
Her head bowed so that none of her boys could see her tears, together, the characters of Hero's Duty had just sat there as Barry, owner of Barry's Barn, pulled the plug, and they were gone.
In the second, she was homeless.
If someone had told her seven months ago that, one day, Sergeant Calhoun would be longing for the cy-bug infested landscape of Hero's Duty, she would have shot them in the knee right then and there and have left them to be eaten by said pests for, seven months ago, anything was better than that.
Now, however, seven months after their plug had been pulled and she had been too much of a coward to see it through, Calhoun knew better than anyone that the power grid was no place for a video game character, even one as badass as her.
It did not help that most of her men, the ones that had stuck by her side day and night since the moment they had fled, were dead.
"Sergeant," one of her men called from behind her, his voice soft to avoid it carrying along the power lines that were now their homes. Turning away from the flow of energy that lay before her, close enough to touch if she would just reach out her hand, it was with a small smile of reassurance that she nodded to the man, calming the fears that she could see within his remaining eye. Taking a few steps back, away from the edge of the platform that was their base, closer to the relative safety that was the plastic coated edge of the cord, it was with a sigh that she continued to watch the glowing stream of white, the heat that rolled from it nowhere near enough to drive away the chill that coated them. It was a dangerous place, their new home, and most of the causalities she had received over the time they had been living there had been from soldiers throwing themselves into that light, their data particles incinerated within seconds of coming into contact with the flow.
Sometimes, she envied those that had taken the jump, for they at least were free.
"Sarge," a voice called out once again, this time fully drawing her away the enchanting light that seemed to call for her. Shaking her head to clear it of the last bits of fuzz and dust that had seemed to gather between her ears over the past few minutes, she turned her back on the memorizing sight, instead fixing her gaze on what was really important: what was left of her squad.
"I'm fine, Green," Calhoun said reassuringly, forcing her voice to be as calm as her outer demeanor seemed to be. "Just looking, nothin' else, soldier. At ease. Have the patrols returned?" Watching as some of the tension leaked from his muscles, it was with a small frown that she realized just how tired he, all of them, in fact, were. It had been a couple of weeks since they had found their platform, a couple of weeks since a raid or a surge, yet they were all still just waiting for the next moment that would end up killing them all. Sleep had become a rarity, and even if they had been able to become comfortable on the hard rubber, it never would have come.
They were running on nothing more than adrenaline and a fear to close their eyes, and soon enough, it would be their downfall.
"Not yet, Ma'am," Green said in a twisted voice, his words becoming mangled as he fought against a yawn that was long in coming, "but our lookouts will warn us when they do."
"Good," Calhoun said softly, her voice trailing off as silence enveloped them. For a long while, neither of them said anything, both just waiting for the moment that the dams that they both knew were there would break, an event that had been in the making ever since their plug had been pulled. Finally, it was her that broke the quiet, her words wavering slightly as she addressed the issue that had been gnawing at the back of her mind for a long time.
"When we first left our game, how many of us were there?"
"Fifty-seven, ma'am," he replied without hesitation, the answer already engraved into his coding. Technically, there should have been more, hundreds of men and women that had once been stationed on that forsaken hunk of space rock, guards against any who might have wanted to use the experiment against the human race, most of which had been wiped out in the chaos of the cy-bugs escaping their bonds. Only fifty-seven soldiers had remained to fight the cretins that they had had a hand in making, and so that had been the number programed into the game. The number that had followed her out of the game just moments before it had been unplugged and into the power grid that serviced the three game arcade that had been too cheap to buy a surge protector.
"And Green? How many of us are there left?"
"Seventeen, Ma'am. Only seventeen."
Even though Calhoun knew the number, hearing it from one of her subordinates hit her like a ton of bricks, forcing her eyes shut as she tried to force away the faces and names of the ones that she had lost, so many in such a short amount of time that it was overwhelming. Unnecessary risks that would have been reasonable had they been in their own game had claimed most of them, the fact that they would not just respawn after dying taking a few deaths to drill itself into their minds. Others had just wandered away in the middle of the night, leaving like wounded animals crawling away to die alone and in peace, away from the things that caused them pain, away from the people and places that had broken their spirits and left nothing behind.
And then there were the jumpers.
Nothing more was said between the Sergeant and Private as the time dragged on, the latter eventually excusing himself in a vain attempt to find a place where he could sleep, somewhere where the nightmares of the last few months would be unable to find him. For Calhoun, it would be another sleepless night as she stared into the pulsing, flowing beam of light that raced past them, her own mind far away from the sights and sounds that were her new reality. For the rest of the night, and until one of her men once again awoke her mind to their situation, it would be focused on one, single thought that, if any of the others found out about it, would scare them more than anything they had been forced to face to date.
Most nights, when she was just standing there, staring into the light, Sergeant Tamora Jean Calhoun could not help but envy the jumpers.
In the third, she was a leader.
"Shoot those eggs before they hatch," Sergeant Calhoun ordered harshly, her voice tense as she waited for the first-person shooter to obey her command. Nodding in a satisfied way as the child, a young boy who had just turned old enough to properly handle the plastic gun that was his link to her world, completed his task, it was with roaming eyes that she picked out the actions of her men. From what she could see, things were running perfectly, her men fighting and dying just as the program dictated. Pulling the trigger to shoot at a cy-bug that had been trying to sneak up on their rear, it was with a shout that she surged forward, staying as close as she could to the robot without interfering with its progress.
Her voice low enough so that it could not be heard by the player, it was only with a mind half on the game that she rattled out her instructions.
"Baldwick, Markowski, Kohut, do you read me," she asked quietly into her com. system, her words sharp as she tried to make them heard over the sounds of battle around her.
"Crystal clear, Sarge," Kohut replied first, the ping of his gun audible in the background as he shot down bug after cy-bug. "What's our plan of action this time? A ten-forty-seven, or perhaps a seven-sixty?"
"Just stick to the plan, Kohut," Calhoun murmured lowly as she pushed up the visor on her helmet, clearing her face enough that she could interact with the player as they neared the next level. "But, if you just so happen to add in some twelve-thirty-six's to liven up the place, I wouldn't necessarily mind."
"Heh. Someone's going soft."
"Watch it, Baldwick," Calhoun snarled as shot at a particularly close cy-bug, silently cursing her momentary lapse in attention, "or I'll have you cleaning up bug guts for a week. With your tongue."
"Sorry Sarge," the man replied meekly just as an explosion sent the floor rolling under her, Kohut's special grenades sending the entire tower shivering as they wiped over every bug below level seven.
"Nice going, Kohut," Markowski chuckled as fired off a round into the air, his lucky hits bringing down one of the larger cy-bugs that had been pursuing them for the last few minutes. "Scum had no clue that it was coming."
"They never do, brother," the other man responded with a huff as he raced to catch back up with the group that had made its way into the tower, his desire to have his back covered and his programed part in the adventure that was coming up soon quickening his already fast steps so that, within moments, he was once again one of them. "Those creepy-crawling viruses never do."
"Quiet," Calhoun hushed as she stepped forward, her eyes fixed upon the door before them as she began talking to the first-person shooter, her recorded and pre-rehearsed words still harsh to their ears. "Beyond here is the center of the nest, as nasty of a place as it's going to be without getting too close to the queen. Remember, shoot the eggs before they hatch, and if they do, kill 'em quick. Otherwise, it's lights out, rookie. Now get going." Dodging to the side as the robot raced ahead of her, its gun twitching as the player nervously shook in the real world, it was with a shake of her head that she turned to look at Kohut, her smile grim as she pointed towards the nervous wreck that was their 'hero.'
"Got enough to get us out of here alive?"
"Yes, Ma'am," Kohut replied with a matching smile, his deft fingers quickly pulling out a handful of small grenades from the confines of his belt. "You know I always do."
"Good," she answered as she shot at one of the eggs that the player had missed, keeping the inevitable hoard at bay for as long as she could. "Get those placed before Hartman here misses an egg and finishes starting the Armageddon. Markowski, Baldwick, retreat twenty meters so you're out of the blast zone and keep our exit open. I'll grab the robot and meet you there."
"Yes, Sergeant," the three men responded in sync, their voices lacking in any type of hesitation as they hurried to do her bidding. How, exactly, she had known that the player would miss the egg that would lead to the end, and how she had known that the explosions would work in clearing the air just long enough to keep them safe until after the beacon activated, none of them knew. However, none of them really cared enough to ask.
Because if experience and a long programed backstory was anything to go by, to the men that served under her, Sergeant Tamora Jean Calhoun was the kind of leader you just followed without question because, in the end, it would all turn out fine.
In the fourth, she was a monster.
It was never meant to be like this.
Biting her lip in an attempt to keep herself under control, the brief moment of pain cutting through the haze that was trying to lull to her sleep, it was only with the greatest amount of willpower that Calhoun was able to turn away from the beam in the distance and instead crawl farther into the darkness that was her home. The damp walls of the cavern scraped against her skin as she moved, the narrowing passage forcing her to duck to avoid the hanging pillars of rock that were just barely keeping the cave open and usable. Squinting as the light from her armor reflected off of the small pools of water that had formed under her feet, it was with a sigh of relief that she felt the urge to join her brethren in their deaths fade, once again leaving her alone.
Next time, she was not sure that she would be able to control the cy-bug within her, and so knew that, soon, she would have to begin or lose everything.
Wincing as the sound of her claws clacking against the stone finally reached her diminished hearing, it was with an echoing growl that she wiggled her way through the small, almost unnoticeable gap in the wall, the hall opening into a room larger than any she could have created herself. Had she still been human, she would have had the place destroyed long ago, in an attempt to protect herself and her men from the creatures that could have lurked here. It was an unknown variable in a world where the slightest detail meant the difference between life and death, and so, had she still be human, it would have been declared a danger long ago.
Had she still been human, Calhoun would have ended it herself long ago, for if she had been anything, she had not been a coward. The cy-bug that had gotten a jump on her, however, had been, and although she could do a great many things, flying into that beam of light that would finally free her was not one of them.
This, however, was.
"Soon," Calhoun crooned softly to herself as her claws reached out to caress one of the eggs that laid before her, the lightest of touches sending a ripple of light through it that illuminated the creature within. Bending over so that she could gain a better look at her twisted offspring, it was with a smile that the beast inside the shell twitched, signaling that soon, very, very soon, things would being as she had planned.
For a single moment, her claws tightened around the casing, a crack appearing as the amount of pressure she applied to it increased. It would be so easy to destroy it, a fact that she knew well, and it was only with the greatest surge of self-control that she avoided any further harm, her fingers falling to her side as she turned away to examine the rest of her brood. Soon, very soon, they would begin to hatch, their cries for food ringing in her ears as they waited for her to feed them. Failing that, it would only be a few hours before her children were ready to hunt, their appetites more than enough to finish what she could not.
Soon, very soon, she would be free, for the moment her offspring were ready to hatch, they would devour anything they could reach, including Calhoun herself. And if that did not work, the game would be unplugged soon enough.
Had Calhoun still been human, she would have finally given in and cried. But she had stopped being human the moment the cy-bug's teeth had found their way past her gun, and so instead she just waited for the end to come.
In the fifth, she was a friend.
"Good job, Markowski," Sergeant Calhoun said with a wide smile as she clasped her comrade on the back, sending him stumbling forward from the force of the hit. Putting a hand on his arm to help steady him, her look as apologetic as it was going to get, it was with a raised voice that she turned to address all of her men, the last player of the day a mere shape in the background as he made his way to the exit of the arcade. "All of you, great job today. Diner Dash on me in twenty."
"Thanks for the offer, Sarge," one of her men said with a smile as he came forward, his hand outstretched to shake hers, "but I already made plans with a little lady from another game."
"Are you rejecting my so kindly offered invitation, soldier," Calhoun said softly, her voice almost dangerous as she turned a deadly glare on the man before her, her grasp on his hand tightening ever so slightly. The glint in her eyes hardening them into ice as she watched the man visibly shrink before her, it was with the slightest of frowns that she continued, the expression feeling almost foreign on her face. "Because, if I'm not mistaken, that's exactly what I heard. And do you know what I have to say to that, Private?" Watching as the man tried to fumble out the words that might, if he was lucky, save him from a month's worth of land patrol, it was with the slightest of smirks that she answered her very own question.
"Have fun, and you owe me a rain check."
"Really," the soldier asked after a moment, his eyes wide as he watched Calhoun chuckled at the distress she had just put him through. Shaking her head as she wrapped an arm around his shoulders, it was with a bump of her hip that she sent him stumbling towards the door, the rest of her men laughing around her at the flustered look on his face.
"Really," she replied, nodding as she spoke. "Just make sure to behave yourself, Private, and remember that you're representing the members of Hero's Duty. Act up, and I'll shoot you myself. Now, go have a good time, and make sure you say hello to Papri for me."
"Thanks Sarge, and I will," the man called over his shoulder as he rushed from the station, determined to escape the torment that he knew would be coming his way the moment he returned from his date with the older game character.
"Now," Sergeant Calhoun called out to the rest of her men, her hands planted on her hips as she proudly looked over the soldiers that had served by her side for the past five years, the ones that had helped her to see past her coding to the fact that she was alive, badass, and could be happy if she wanted to, "is anyone else thinking about jumping ship, or are we all sinking together?" Grinning as she was met with a mixed roar of approval and denial, it was with a flick of her head to clear her bangs from her vision that she began to make her way towards the tram, her men falling in step behind her to follow her into the station.
They would have followed her anywhere, for as far as they were concerned, she was the only leader they would ever need.
In the sixth, she was an enemy.
"All right ladies! The kitten-whispers and tickle fights stop now," Calhoun barked out, her voice a loud but deadly growl as she recited her pre-programed speech, the words the exact same as they had been for the past hundred games, and that would remain the same for the next hundred to come. Every day it was exactly the same, and it was the similarity that she clung to, making sure that nothing ever decided to change.
It was in the pattern that they lived, and it was only if things changed that they would meet with failure.
It was without thought that she ran before the first-person shooter screen, her words falling from her lips without conscious consent from her mind. Her gun pointed and fired itself as it followed the formula that she had realized controlled the game, allowing her to take out every cy-bug that thought it could find her within moments of its hatching. It almost did not matter what the player did and did not do, for by now she knew everything there was to know about her game.
It helps to have seen your very own code and have been able to understand what it means.
Within twenty minutes of the quarter alert, the player was nearing the floor, the child's face drawn and pinched from fear and excitement at having gotten this far. One last level, and it would all be over, for all of them. The player would walk away with the image of a medal hanging from their neck clear within their mind, whatever cy-bugs remained would be destroyed by the beacon, and, seeing as how it was the last game of the day, she and her men would be due for a nice, long, well deserved rest.
Stepping to the side to allow the first person shooter screen to roll ahead, it was with a devilish smile that Calhoun drew her gun and fired.
The machine before her fell.
It was a move that they should have seen coming, she would often tell herself after a long day of running brats up and down the tower, only to watch as everything fell apart just moments before they obtain their reward. Every story needed its villain, and no matter how good the cy-bugs were, they just could not cut it. The hacker that had allowed her to mess with her coding had chosen that road, and, for her, that was all she could have asked for. The hacker had given her the moment she had needed to change her path, and for that she would be grateful, though no one would ever know. As far as her men knew, seeing as how none of them made it past level twenty-seven, she was just the person they needed to save the day and free humanity from the rule of the cy-bugs.
All of them, all of those pathetic little souls that were under her command, believed that, if they could just reach the top of the tower, it would all stop. The cy-bugs would be destroyed, the war would be won, and the battles would finally be over. None of them knew that it would never end, and so they all looked to her, their fearless leader, to be the one to help save the day.
None of them knew that, at the top of the tower, there was no medal, for it was safely tucked into the pocket of her armor. Just like none of them knew who she really was, or that it was her who had released the bugs in the first place.
In the seventh, she was always part of a crowd.
Outside of her game, if one tried to find Calhoun, they would have to fight their way through a crowd a friends and fans and hope that she saw them.
From the moment Hero's Duty had been plugged in, the characters had been the center of attention. It was rare for new games to join the small collection that had been gathered in the collector's basement, and even rarer for them to be so new, since for the past forty years the man that had rescued them from being thrown into the junkyard had been picky in selecting only the oldest of the olds, the games that he himself had played when he was young. The newer games he held no love for, for, in his mind, the violence and gore that had infested what had once been an innocent pastime had destroyed the industry, and so, it was of his own opinion that anything that had come out after the late seventies was unworthy of a space in his basement.
Unfortunately for him, his only granddaughter had quickly fallen in love with the violence and devastation that Hero's Duty ran off of, so, when that was the only thing she had requested of him for her birthday, how could he have said no?
Which was how Calhoun and her men found themselves as the most recent and technologically advanced piece of equipment in the entire house. And much to her initial annoyance and eventual acceptance, this just happened to make her game the place to be, despite its many dangers.
"Duck," was all she said as she lazily pulled her gun from its holster, the barrel turning so that it faced the forehead of one of the many characters that had come to visit, their eyes wide and hands trembling as they braved a cy-bug attack for a single chance to meet the woman before them. Seeing the weapon trained on him, the small character dropped to the ground just as Calhoun pulled the trigger, her bullet burying itself into the head of the creature that had slowly been sneaking up on them for the past few minutes. Pushing herself up so that she was standing, towering over all but the tallest of characters, it was with a shrug that she put a few more rounds into the bug's head, her small grin growing as those that watched winced as each bullet made another small hole in the bug's armor. Twirling her gun around her finger, a stupid move she normally would have yelled at her men for doing but that she just could not resist, before returning it its holster, it was with a wave of her hand that Calhoun tried to turn their awed gazes towards something else. "Don't any of you have better things to do then getting eaten or shot?"
"Nope," one of them said cheekily, her already wide smile widening as she inched closer, her curious gaze locked upon the weapon that hung from her hip. "We just reckon that, even though you've been here almost a year, you're still the most interestin' game to be added to the basement, Miss Calhoun. So, pardon us if you find us annoyin', but we're just havin' fun."
"Yah, yah," Calhoun growled affectionately as she slapped at the girl's hand, the slight punishment making her withdraw the fingers that had been heading towards the gun. "Just remember that it's your own fault if you die, and don't touch my gun, kid."
"Yes, ma'am," another one of the child-like characters called out with a giggle as she started bouncing around, her image sparking for a moment before it reappeared closer towards the center of the group that had surrounded her. Seeing that she was not going to kick them out, question after question were fired her way, forcing a sigh to pass through her lips before she began trying to sort who had asked what and how she would answer it.
For the past year this had been her life, and although she did enjoy the attention, Calhoun could not help but think that, maybe, it might be a bit nice to not always be part of a crowd.
In the eighth, she was alone.
Gritting her teeth as the creatures raced after her, the hum of their wings drowning out even the sound of her pounding heart, it was with a half strangled yell that Calhoun leapt for the small crack in the wall that had caught her eye, a momentary darkness that promised a few seconds of safety. Biting her tongue to keep back the groan that threatened to force its way from her throat, the ever persistent throb in her ankle a constant reminder that she needed to rest before her injuries and exhaustion forced her to, a few minutes later the silence that fell around her was met with a sigh of relief, her body instantly relaxing as it attempted to begin healing the wounds that she knew never would.
The cy-bugs had escaped from Hero's Duty, had destroyed every other game in the arcade in under a day, and it was all her fault.
She had gotten cocky. Over ten years of constant game play without a single incident had lowered her walls, her expectations of the viruses that had been in place within her own game dropping by the hour as nothing happened. Patrols, although constant, had become slack, her men living and laughing instead of keeping a constant eye out for the enemy. Training had become rarer and rarer, the soldiers under her command relying on their coding to tell them when to shoot, run, and die. They had become complacent, and over the ten years that they had been plugged in, they had come to all but worship the beacon. At the end of each game, it had kept them safe from harm, promising a few hours free from the scourge that they had to fight.
None of them had ever taken into account the fact that the beacon could one day break, leaving them to fend for themselves in a world where surviving only meant prolonging your inevitable end.
Waiting until the tell-tale screech of the cy-bugs had faded into the distance, Calhoun slowly poked her head out through the crack that she had escaped into, just enough that she could take in the devastation that had been wrought around her. She was in what remained of an old eight-bit game, the pixilated scenery blocky and primitive to her eye. It was also dangerous, she could not help but notice, the sharp angles and sparse details leaving few places that she could hide in. She had been lucky to find this crack, the apartment building that the ruins had once been now nothing more than a pile of rubble. Had the pack of cy-bugs not been on her heels, she never would have entered the game, but that was something she could not change now.
Checking the number of magazines that hung from her belt, it was with a soft swear that she realized that, if she wanted to continue fighting, she would have to return to her own game soon, the most dangerous place in her little hellhole for her to go. Had this just been another day of work, another game with a child firing a plastic gun for a chance to get a fake medal, she never would have hesitated. With her men by her side, all the ammo she could have wanted, and no reason to fear death, the mission would have been a piece of cake.
But the reality was that the arcade had been closed for the week, and would not open again for four more days. Attempting to eradicate the cy-bugs that had been able to make their way into other games, her men had been killed off one by one, far from home and without the promise of a respawn when they were done. Her ability to kill had been limited by the number of weapons that she could personally carry, and that number had quickly dropped as she had tried to hunt down the bugs and kill them one by one. She was without backup, her weapons would soon be useless, and, for the first time in her life, a real, true death was just waiting around the corner.
Pulling back into the safety of the darkness, Calhoun allowed herself to relax, just enough to take the sharpest edge off of the worse of her wounds, though she could feel her muscles beginning to stiffen as her adrenaline high finally started to fall. It would be difficult to force herself to move when it came time for her to leave, to make her way back into the hornet's nest that she had personally kicked, but that would not be for another few hours. Wiggling around so that she was lying on the floor, one hand still on her gun, Calhoun stretched out and prepared herself for a quick nap, the only way she still had to forget the horrors around her.
Her heart froze as her hand brushed against something smooth, cold, hard, and that glinted in the small amount of light that followed the bullet out of the muzzle of her gun.
Her arms shaking slightly as she realized that the thing she had just shot was not, in fact, a cy-bug egg, Calhoun let out a shaky laugh as she reached for the item, pulling it closer towards her so that she could examine it in the small amount of light that had managed to follow her into the darkness. It was a hammer, that much she could see, though her bullet had put a hole through the handle, unbalancing the weapon so much that she quickly deemed it useless. Strangely enough, it seemed to have a golden tint to it, a fact that was confirmed when she pushed it closer to the entrance of her tunnel. Frowning as she turned the ruined tool between her fingers, it struck her that, most likely, whoever had once owned the item would probably be dead by now. Devoured by cy-bugs, all of them would be dead.
Never before in her life had Sergeant Tamora Jean Calhoun ever felt so alone.
In the ninth, she was nothing more than a glitch.
Although she had been expecting it, had braced herself for the moment that the quarter would hit, once again the flurry of activity had taken her breath away, leaving her stranded at the entrance that was her only window into the world when the game was in play. Her eyes wide with wonder as she watched the men that had been training for this every day of their lives go into action, it was with a bit lip that, maybe, maybe, today would be her day.
Maybe today would finally be the day that Sergeant Markowski let her fight.
"Tamora, get back from there! You know the Sarge's orders: stay back until the bugs are dead, and then we can go." Glancing over her shoulder to glare at the man that had stayed behind to protect her, it was with a slight snarl that she spoke, her words hard as her hands tightened into fists.
"I don't need a babysitter, Johnson," Calhoun growled, "and I sure as hell shouldn't be standing here while the others are risking their lives to kill those damn cy-bugs." Spinning on her heel so that she was fully facing him, it was with a stare broken by the small line of blue running across her face that she held out her hand for her gun, uncaring of the fact that her hand could hardly hold still enough to handle it. "Just hand over a gun and I'll show you just how many of those monsters I can take down myself."
"Not gonna happen, kid," he said with a slight grin as he reached out to ruffle her hair, only stopping after the moment of prolonged contact sent her coding haywire, her pixels jumping about as she tried to regain her form. "If you can't even say together here, where your temper is the most dangerous thing we'll face, there's no way in hell that I'm letting you out there. So just pipe down and wait like a good little soldier, and once this game is over, we'll head on home."
"You know," Calhoun said after a moment, her eyes cool and calculating as she spoke, "the programing says that I'm supposed to be the Sergeant, not Markowski. So, in reality, I don't have to listen to him, or anyone else, for that matter. I could just take a gun and go fight myself."
"You could," Johnson said with a shrug, though his fingers tightened ever so slightly around his weapon, "or rather, you could have if the programming hadn't screwed you over. Sorry, Tammy, but there's no way any of us are going to let a fifteen-year-old civilian that's thirteen years too young for the game she was made for and who has no memories of her training onto a battlefield. The programmers screwed up, bad, and it's unfair, but that's just how it is. Here, in this game, you're a kid that we're trying to keep alive, and until something drastically changes, that's how it's going to be."
Watching as she crossed her arms, her lips pushing themselves out into a slight pout as she angrily accepted her lot, at least for the moment, Johnson could not help but sigh as he watched the woman he had so many memories of give up so quickly. Although her avatar and programing had been ruined by a bad download of the game, none of the others had been affected, their minds still filling with images of a terrifying woman of almost thirty when her name was spoken. Her wrath was still legendary between the men, their voices becoming hushed whenever they spoke of the past they had been programmed with, the fear that she would appear out of nowhere to whip them back into their places just as strong as the day they had first been plugged in.
These, however, no matter how much they wished otherwise, were nothing more than memories and fears, for watching as the teenage girl that so closely resembled the fearless leader she should have been, the legendary Sergeant Tamora Jean Calhoun, flinch as a cy-bug flew too close to their hideout, it was clear that that woman, the one who had saved each and every one of their hides more times than they could count, was long since gone.
In her place was nothing more than a teenage glitch that they had to protect, the only thing they could do to honor her future memory.
And in the tenth, she was in love.
Burying her face farther into her pillow, Sergeant Calhoun smirked as she pretended not to hear her husband's call, the lull of the bed and promise for extra sleep more than enough motive to ignore the man besides her. Besides, if she remembered correctly, it was Monday, the one day of the week that the arcade closed, allowing Litwak, and more importantly, the characters, time to rest.
No way was she giving that up so early in the morning.
"Tammy, are you awake?"
"Nope," Calhoun growled softly as she reached out to pull the blanket farther over her, covering her head with the sheet in an attempt to further block out both the light that came in from the window and the sound of her husband's persistent calls. "I'm still sleeping. Go away, soldier. That's an order."
"No can do, Ma'am," Felix said with a soft chuckle as he lifted the sheet away from her face, revealing to her the fact that he was groomed, dressed, and far too awake for her liking this early in the morning. "We agreed to spend the day over in Sugar Rush and help Vanellope redecorate the castle, remember? Ralph's already headed on over, and we need to get a move on if we're not going to be late. Breakfast is already on the table, so once you're ready we can go." Seeing that she had no intention of moving from her spot, Felix quickly pulled the sheet away, causing Calhoun to curl herself into a ball as a cool gust of wind hit her. Although Niceland was wonderful, she could not help but decide as she lifted her head just high enough to glare at her grinning husband, Hero's Duty did have the advantage of always being warm, almost uncomfortably so when in their standard issue armor.
Even with its pest problem, at least one never woke up to a cold midnight morning that seemed to be the norm in Fix-It Felix.
"Do we have to," Calhoun asked sleepily as she watched Felix wander around their room, pulling out clothes for her to wear when she finally decided to get up and laying them on the foot of the bed. "We could be a little bit late," she said as she rested her head on her pillow once more, absolutely refusing to give in and move. "Wreck-It and Princess will still be there in another two or three hours."
"Tammy," Felix said fondly as he finished picking out her shirt, finally deciding on the black tee that was her standard. Putting it with the rest of her clothes at the end of the bed, it was with a slight 'sproing' that he jumped across the room, landing so that he was facing his tired wife. Reaching out to touch her arm, it was with a slight sigh that he began to speak once again. "Tamora, we're going to be la-"
"Got yah," Calhoun said with a smirk as she shot upright, her arms snaking out to wrap around Felix so that she could pull him onto the bed, her body wrapping around his own as she laid back down, head now pillowed on his chest as she cuddled close to his warmth. Slightly tightening her grip so that struggling was futile, not that he even really tried that hard, it was only moments later that Calhoun felt the resistance seep from his body, prompting her to loosen her hold so that he could wiggle into a more comfortable position. Sighing as Felix slowly ran one of his hands through her hair, his practiced fingers removing the tangles that had appeared over the night as the other wrapped around her shoulders, the sound of his breathing quickly lulled her back towards sleep, her eyes becoming heavier and heavier as each moment passed.
"Tammy, we're going to be late," Felix protested again as he watched his wife slip closer and closer back toward slumber as they laid there, though the urgency that had been in his voice before was now gone.
"Just a few more minutes, Fix-It, just a few," Calhoun said sleepily as she shifted her head so that she could hear his heart, it's rhythmic pounding even more soothing then the sound of his breathing. "Just a few more, and then we'll go, I promise."
"Alright," Felix finally agreed, his own words showing a slight hint of exhaustion as the warmth and soft cushioning called to him. "Just a few."
"Hey Felix," Calhoun said after a few minutes, her unexpected words waking them both up just long enough to hear what she had to say.
"I love you." For a single moment, the fingers that had been playing the with tips of her hair stilled, causing her a slight second of worry that, perhaps, for the first time since she had met the eight-bit character, an expression of her feelings had been the wrong thing to do. However, when, a moment later, a pair of familiar lips pressed a kiss to the top of her head, that worry was quickly replaced with a feeling safety and joy.
"I love you too, Tamora. Always have, and always will."
With that, the couple quickly fell asleep, wrapped in each other's arms as they avoided the day.
(When they finally did make it to Sugar Rush, they were almost five hours late and, of course, no one believed that they had just been sleeping.)