Author's Note: Alrighty, it's time for the final chapter! I always get a big sense of satisfaction from finishing a fic, so hooray! *breaks out the party poppers*
Onto the reviews!
nessier15: I bet you got it :D Read on and find out! Thanks so much for your lovely review, and I am so glad you are enjoying it. I hope you like this final chapter!
I fix it felix: Thank you, I certainly have kept going and I hope you like this final part :) Thanks for reading all of it so far!
hannahweasley12: Nice work, you figured it out ;) A little earlier than Calhoun did that's for sure!
Guest: Same for you, shame you couldn't pop into the story and explain it to Calhoun earlier!
purpledragon6: YOU are awesome :D Thanks so much for sticking with it and for reviewing all three chapters and I hope you enjoy this one!
Myra the Sark: Your wish is my command, here is another chapter for you and thank you for your review!
ShaunaChe: Thank you, that's a real compliment! :) I don't think anyone has said that about my stories before. Hope you like chapter four and I would really like to know what you thought of the ending - a little less dark I hope!
And now, without further ado, the final part! If you would like to see me write more WIR fanfiction let me know - and as always your reviews and words mean a lot to me.
"I need you to wreck something for me."
Ralph gave her an odd look. "Why?"
"Because," she said sternly, "I think I've figured out a way to make this old thing work." Calhoun tapped the cold, grey hammer that hung from her belt. "Here. Break apart this candy cane." She motioned to one of Sugar Rush's enormous trees. It was at least five times her height and littered with delicious, sickeningly-sweet branches which protruded out like pine needles.
Ralph looked at his paw-like hand, then at the sturdy trunk. With a large, perfectly-judged motion he slammed his fist into the tree, causing it to topple. As it hit the ground it shattered into pieces, revealing the strawberry growth rings inside. She had never noticed it before, but there was an odd precision to wrecking things.
"Good job, Wreck-It," she said, impressed.
"Thanks – that means a lot."
Ralph watched as she unhooked the hammer and grasped it firmly in her hand. Trembling, she knelt down over a shard of the demolished candy cane and held the hammer aloft. She didn't know whether she needed to say those four short words, but somehow it felt right.
"I can fix it!"
As the hammer struck its target she felt a surge of energy ripple through her body like a shockwave, the force of it so great that she fell back onto her hands.
"Look out!" Ralph threw his arms around her and pulled her away. In an instant, thousands of broken, jagged splinters lifted themselves off the ground and danced in the air as if pulled together by some mystical force. The broken remnant of the trunk righted itself, and in the space of a few seconds the candy cane was whole again, pristine and good as new. Calhoun broke out of Ralph's grip and went to touch it.
"What just happened?" Ralph sat wide-eyed, staring at the newly-formed tree.
"It's the magic," she replied. Her voice was different, as if she were half in another place, talking to somebody else entirely. "I'm a Fix-It. When Felix and I were married, somehow the magic passed onto me. I don't know how I didn't see it sooner." It was true. The hammer she held in her hand had turned from a dull, toneless grey to a brilliant shade of gold.
Ralph burst into a joyous laugh. Where once the notion of fixing things had made his life a misery, now it seemed like the most wonderful thing in the world. "So what are you going to do?"
She looked down for a moment. "I'm going to hunt down that monster," she said, her expression pulling into a tightened frown, "and I'm going to end this once and for all."
Ralph got to his feet and looked her in the eyes with the same steadfast determination that made the man-mountain so unmoveable. "I'm coming with you."
The cy-bug's thoughts rarely took on words. When they did, they were blunt feelings: Kill, Feed, Destroy. But Felix could often tell the creature's mood, and that night the creature was furious. Starved of its meal, it speared its long pointed claw into a wriggling egg. The larva inside writhed helplessly, impaled on the steel, and the cy-bug quickly shovelled it into its mouth.
As the insect watched its reflection in a puddle on the cavern floor it saw the twisted face of its human host looking back with a distorted scowl. How this weak, pathetic creature had managed to take control had astounded the cy-bug, and as it gorged on the maggot it sent another burning jolt of pain toward its secondary, parasitic mind.
It seemed to have worked. It hadn't heard a peep out of him for the last twenty-four hours.
Ralph squeezed into an ill-fitting combat suit. "It's a little snug," he wheezed, his heavy-set body almost bulging out of the armour.
"A marine has to be in shape, Wreck-It." Calhoun had tried her hardest to convince Ralph to stay in the relative safety of Sugar Rush. The wrecker, however, had insisted on coming along. Whether it was out of misplaced guilt she didn't know, but after much persuading she had reluctantly agreed. She turned to her troops in her familiar hard-edged manner. "Alright, now shut your chew-holes and listen up. Everything you've done up to now was basic training. The hatchery is like nothing you've ever seen before; mile upon mile of cy-bug scum, with no way out and no escape." She paused for effect. "Any of you ladies want to back out?"
The men stood in silence, sharing a few nervous glances.
"Good. Now let's move; we've got a cybrid to find."
The burrow into which the creature had retreated was now rain-slick and fast crumbling in on itself. On the sergeant's orders Ralph heaved a few huge handfuls of sodden, sticky mud from the ground, clearing a hole wide enough for the marines to slip through. One by one they entered the narrow passageway, each causing more debris to fall in behind them. By the time they were all inside the entrance had become little more than a shaft of light, and only a few feet into the tunnel they were plunged into near-darkness.
Calhoun lit a flare and wiped the dirt from her visor. The ground was barely more than a swamp; she waded rather than walked, her suit caked up to the waist in mud.
"Markowski, take the back. Kohut, Wreck-It - you're with me."
The only audible noise was a faint trickle as the groundwater permeated through the roof of the tunnel and ran to the ground. The relative silence grew rather unnerving, and as the passage winded ever downwards there was no way to tell how deep underground they were or in which direction they were headed. They had been walking for ten long minutes when Kohut raised his voice.
"Sarge," he said softly, "if this doesn't work, you know what we have to do."
"I know." She didn't look up. True to his code, Kohut always followed protocol, and protocol dictated to kill all cy-bugs. Ralph said nothing, but could tell by the sound of the sergeant's voice that she didn't quite have it in her.
Calhoun shook her head. "We have a cavern up ahead. It's not the big one, but be careful."
The tunnel opened out into a large oval chamber, the light from the flare flickering wildly against the cracks and crevasses of the walls. Ralph's boots gave out a terrible squelch as they tugged against the puddles of thick, unforgiving mud; the suction effect was so intense that his legs felt like stone pillars cemented into the ground.
"Wait," Calhoun held him back. "There's something nearby."
Kohut's eyes grew wide. "Get down!"
In the space of seconds a huge, monstrous drone burst through the cavern wall and pinned a lone marine against the floor. Before the group could react, the insect pierced the man's steel-plated armour and sliced viciously through his body. The screaming marine flickered and glitched as the drone succumbed to a barrage of laser fire, and thick streams of dislodged dust rained down from the ceiling.
The entire incident lasted less than half a minute.
Calhoun shouted to the troops, her gun still poised to fire. "Who was hit?"
"Kosnick," came a pained voice from the rear of the patrol.
"Damn it," spat Kohut. "If we have any more surprises like that there'll be none of us left by the time we reach the hatchery."
Calhoun glanced at Ralph, whose face had turned a pale shade of green. She reloaded her weapon and set it back in its holster. "Settle your stomach, Wreck-It. Happens every day. Though unlike you, he'll regenerate - so I suggest you watch yourself." She made her way to the hole the drone had left behind. "We'll go this way," she said. "That drone had to come from somewhere."
Beyond this point the passages grew narrower and started to branch at every turn. The effect was disorienting, as if the tunnels diverged out endlessly into a perpetual, unsolvable maze. At times the marines could barely fit through the narrow holes, especially in their bulky armour, and Ralph had to stop on more than a few occasions to widen the entranceways. All the while, the air was filled with a strange, pungent scent that was sweet but somehow unpleasant.
"What is that?" Ralph asked, his voice almost a whisper.
"The smell? Royal Jelly. We're getting closer." Calhoun eyed him sternly. "Be on your guard." After a few hundred metres the passage started to widen, and the scale of the place became apparent. The enormous cavern positively reeked of the sweet, repugnant smell, and the air hummed with a twitching, crawling sound that seemed to get under the skin. Ralph shivered. The floor was littered with eggs - the same kind he had seen in the medal chamber all those months ago on his first trip to Hero's Duty. He watched his step.
"It's close," said Calhoun, studying her radar. "We'll head up to the nesting grounds. Follow me."
Tentatively the band of soldiers made their way along the wall. These walls differed from the cold, wet dirt of the passageways; they were coated in some sort of slime and were sticky to the touch. All around them the eggs quivered and shook as if registering their presence, somehow watching them as they passed through the room. The nests sat on a high platform carved into the mud, and as the troops moved further upward the eggs could be seen for what seemed like miles. The dim green glow was a strangely beautiful sight, and Ralph was reminded of the fireflies that used to dance outside the Niceland Apartments.
The cybrid stirred from its sleep and found a familiar scent in the air. It raised its head. There beside the wall the red glow of the marines' uniforms moved slowly closer, casting arched shadows across the cavern roof.
They are back.
The creature smiled to itself, salivating in devilish glee. It lowered its head to the ground and closed its eyes. It would make them think it was vulnerable - and then it would strike.
"Stop," Calhoun ordered. She motioned to Kohut, "Keep Wreck-It out of trouble. I don't want another Nicelander dead today."
The lone marine crept toward the nest, her bootsteps measured and quiet. The cybrid was curled up in a near-foetal position, its head tucked between its claws, its carapace moving gently up and down with each deep breath. As she came within a few feet of the creature, she reached for the golden hammer with a trembling hand and prayed to some gameless entity that it would work, her breath catching on itself and a stubborn lump lodged in her throat.
Then suddenly, she paused. Something's not right.
Shooting her glance upward she immediately noticed the huge, mace-like tail raised over her head. She scrambled to her feet and dived forward. The tail slammed into the ground with shattering force, leaving only a crater where she had stood moments before.
Calhoun turned around to find the twisted face of the cybrid staring straight at her. He's not in control this time, she realised, eye to eye with the empty, soulless expression. She shook it off. "This thing's awake," she yelled. "Don't let it get away!" The creature lunged at her with its claws, leaving a large scrape on her legplate as she crawled underneath its belly. Surrounded by its six metal legs she fumbled for the hammer but could not reach it. She cursed to herself and rolled out sideways, narrowly avoiding its limbs which were now churning like pistons as it span around to face the approaching marines. Spotting an opportunity, she grabbed hold of the hammer and launched herself onto the cybrid's back with a few swift steps.
"This ends now!"
She thrust the hammer into its hardened shell.
In the next moment she landed violently against the mud-covered ground. The air echoed with laser fire for a few long seconds before the room grew silent again. She groaned as she shifted to her hands and knees, her vision spinning with the impact.
"Sarge," said Kohut, placing his hand on her shoulder. "Are you okay?"
She opened her visor and steadied her forehead. "I'll be fine. Just – tell me what happened."
"Well," Kohut laughed, "let's just say I owe you a few at Tapper's."
Calhoun looked up. There was Ralph, standing and cradling something in his arms. She couldn't quite tell, but she was sure there were tears in the bad guy's eyes. She shakily got to her feet.
"Tamora…" He trailed off, and Calhoun could see now that held in his embrace was the small, limp body of Fix-It Felix, Jr. His bright blue uniform was spattered with mud, but everything was just as she remembered it: his big blue cap, his sturdy work boots, even the rosy glow of his cheeks. His eyes flickered open.
Ralph wiped his eyes with his gloved hand. "Hey, brother."
"We thought you were gone for good, Fix-It," said Kohut with a smile. "I think there's someone you should know was very persistent."
Felix turned his head.
And boy oh boy, there came those honey glows.
"I love you, Tammy."
Felix's head rested on her chest as she ran her hand through his brown mop of hair. It had taken a while to choose another game from which they could see the stars, but it had been worth it. Eventually they found themselves in Galaga, an early-eighties space romp with the same 8-bit charm as Fix-It Felix, Jr.; it wasn't perhaps quite as nice as, well, Niceland, but it would certainly do.
"Felix," she said quietly, "do you remember what it was like?"
Felix lifted his head and looked at her with a concerned expression. She knew then that something had changed within him; it was a face she had never seen before, tinged with a deep, heavy sadness. He'd had trouble sleeping - that much was evident - but she had simply put it down to the unfamiliar setting of Sugar Rush. Ever since that day in the hatchery he had apologised profusely for what had happened, and although the Nicelanders were wary at first they had started to warm up to him once more. Still, the loss of his game had been a devastating blow, one for which he felt entirely responsible.
He took her hand. "Yes. But it doesn't matter anymore - because I've got you."
She smiled and gave him a gentle peck on the cheek. "It's funny, isn't it - the things love makes you do."
"It sure is. It's like it just bubbles up inside of me and makes my head go all topsy-turvy."
She held the handyman close and felt his warmth as he pressed against her body.
"Oh! Tammy!" he exclaimed, pointing excitedly up at the stars and wriggling his legs. "That's Ursa Major - my pop told me all about that one!"
Calhoun couldn't help but laugh.
Through all the trials and tribulations, all the pain and anguish, she finally had her Felix back.
A/N: Thank you if you read all the way to the end! ;) I hope you enjoyed it and I would love to know what you thought!