Xalfrea: Hello there and thanks again! :) I hope the conclusion is just as good as the rest of this was!
The Path Not Taken
The train ride to Fix-It Felix, Jr. had been a quiet one. Neither of the men knew what to say after having witnessed what took place in TurboTime. The idea that Rocky had gone so far off the deep end that he had attempted murder was beyond their understanding. Seeing the three racers bonding afterwards was so heartwarming to Felix that it got him thinking more about how his own co-workers received each other. If only everyone in his own game would come together like that in a time of need, receiving each other despite not getting along all the time...or even at all.
Upon arriving, the Nicelanders swarmed up to them to ask Felix how he was doing and other typical brainless small talk. Ralph hung out in the back, feeling awkward again, and he moved to head for the privacy of his stump.
The wrecker stopped and twisted his neck to look at his protagonist in puzzlement. The Nicelanders had hushed themselves and were busy darting their eyes back and forth between the two. Felix sighed but he held a determined frame of mind and began to speak to everyone.
"I have something to say and I want all of you to hear it," he explained briefly. "I don't want any interruptions whatsoever."
He cleared his throat and started over. "Now Ralph and I have seen a lot of things today, most of it too shocking for words. Terrible things even. However, even though these things happened, I also saw a lovely demonstration of family bonding and love. It got me to thinking that we don't have that here."
Everyone gasped at this accusation and they all began to speak at once but Felix held his hand up to silence them. "Now, we're all a family, you know that. But we haven't been very accepting of one particular member, have we?"
Ralph startled at the notion of being considered a family member. He had been ostracized from them the entire five years they'd been plugged in and it was quite intriguing and terrifying at the same time be thought of in that way. Apparently, so did everyone else as they unanimously turned their heads to the side to stare at Ralph in bafflement. Felix coughed to get their attention back towards him.
"Ralph here is a good person, fellas, he helped someone out today that probably would've died. If that doesn't make him a "good guy" then I don't know what does." He paused before adding, "So as the game leader, I say he's a welcome member of our family that's entitled to the same benefits that we have. That includes coming to social functions and being involved with the various goings-on around here."
The wrecker felt his heart warm at hearing the announcement, or rather demand that he be treated better amongst the Nicelanders. However, he worried that perhaps they would be bitter at being forced to be nice to someone that they obviously did not care for and thus make his situation worse. After a moment of awkward silence and the others taking turns looking at each other, Mary stepped forward. She was glancing nervously at both hero and villain alike, looking like she wanted to say something but almost too afraid to.
"Y-you're right, Felix," she finally said, tilting her head down in shame. "We are a family, all of us."
She turned toward Ralph, who was now more shocked than he was earlier. "I apologize for making you feel less than the person you are, Ralph. I just assumed that since you were the "bad guy", that you were just..." -she shrugged helplessly-"well, a bad guy. If that makes sense."
Ralph felt his cheeks flush, not expecting anything like that to be said by...well, by any of them. Roy looked antsy but he issued an apology as well. Before long, they all had with the sole exception of Gene. He stood in the back, arms crossed and glaring heavily at his shoes. Deanna nudged him and he shot a glare at her, knowing that everyone was staring at him. He huffed to himself as he craned his neck up in order to look Ralph in the face.
"So, you helped perform a heroic act, eh?"
Everyone turned their attention to Ralph, who certainly did not like being put on the spot, and he rubbed his neck nervously. "Uh...yeah, I...I did."
Gene hmph'd and uncrossed his arms, patting his flat palms against his sides in a nervous fashion. "Well," he sighed, "I guess if that's good enough for Felix, then it's good enough for me."
The rest of the Niceland population couldn't believe what they just heard. Ralph coughed in his hand and shifted his weight.
"Uh, thanks, Gene."
"BUT-" the blocky mustachioed mayor interjected, pointing a stern finger at the wrecker, "-this doesn't mean we're gonna be buddies anytime soon."
At this, Ralph gave a lop-sided smile. "Of course not, Gene, wouldn't want to expect too much out of you."
Word that Rocky had been killed in TurboTime spread quicker than a rampant virus. Everyone muttered about what would happen to RoadBlasters now, though it was surely a fact that it would be unplugged since its avatar could no longer come to work. Seeing as how the man's psychotic break had been witnessed in public, thanks to shooting down the little cheerleader earlier, no one really was upset about his death. Justice had been served and, in everyone's eyes, it had been in self-defense.
The remaining members of RoadBlasters were understandably riled about their star being murdered but they became so looked down upon in the community that it didn't take much for them to agree to just stay inside their game. The next morning, after the arcade opened, the first kid to put his quarters into RoadBlasters called Mr. Litwak over, who frowned upon seeing that the playable avatar with his red car had not appeared. He sighed and gave the kid a refund, telling him to play TurboTime instead, before heading back to his office to grab one of his "Out Of Order" signs.
"Darn these new games," he muttered as he slapped the sign on the game's screen. "Figures I'd get one that had a bug in it."
He turned his attention behind him and saw TurboTime still sitting there as faithful as ever as the kid maneuvered the little yellow-eyed driver around in his circle. Litwak cracked a smile and went to pat the top of the cabinet gently as if it were one of the children. In a way, one could say the games were his children, and ol' Turbo had definitely stood the test of time so far. At least he still had the crowd-pleaser to fall back on and he knew his business would be just fine long as he had the simple racing game around for its many fans. When he saw Turbo give the player his trademark thumbs-up, it was almost like he was telling Litwak that everything would be "turbo-tastic" and not sweat it.
The owner couldn't help but grin back at the admittedly odd-looking racer and resisted the urge to give a thumbs-up in return. Couldn't have the kids thinking he was cuckoo...like his nana. Humming a nonsense tune, Litwak strolled into his office to call up his local repairman to see if he could come by later that day and unplug RoadBlasters.
Turbo stole out of the game soon after closing time; the twins were busy fighting in their own house over who got the shower first and the avatar decided to make a break for it while he was able to. Ted was faring better since the "incident" so long as he was staying distracted by either Turbo or Teddy. Hopefully, with time, he'd fully recuperate from the ordeal.
The star racer drove along the tunnel, his mind filled with the events of the last several days. He thought about the stark difference between this life and his old one. Who knew that by changing minute details, that the structure of his world would become almost unrecognizable. His backstory may have changed but he still withheld the memories of his old one. He wondered what else would be different about his life now that TurboTime was secure in its position as the most popular game and that he had begun working on re-bonding with the twins in a way that he hadn't before.
He came to a stop when he heard faint alarm sound when he crossed his entrance and the Surge Protector popped up unexpectedly.
"Name?" he asked him dryly without so much as looking up from his clipboard.
Turbo sighed, feeling that the little hologram was going to be doing this a lot in the future, then flashed him his signature grin. "Turbo from TurboTime, the best racing game ever."
Surge muttered something about that under his breath before asking, "Where you headed?"
The racer shrugged his shoulders. "I just wanted to come out in the GCS for a minute, if that's cool. I'm going right back in." He hesitated before adding, "You know, you're going to tire yourself out if you try to checkpoint everyone. Not to mention, you might make a few enemies."
The blue-tinted man picked his head up to face him for the first time since the conversation began. "I am aware of that. After a week or so, I plan to ease down to stopping people at random instead of everyone, but right now I need to get a feel for what people's usual hangout spots are so I can be on the lookout for the more suspicious visits."
He adjusted his glasses and nodded at the racer before blipping himself into the floor to disappear for the time being. Turbo took that to mean that he was allowed into the Station so he parked in place and then walked the rest of the way out. His eyes fell to the spot where the cheerleader had died and he sighed heavily, the guilt in playing a role in her death still weighing heavily on his mind. There were two other girls there, also cheerleaders wearing a similar outfit of pastel pink and yellow, only one was a blonde and the other a raven-haired girl. Both were wiping tears away and hugging each other and they both jumped a bit when they saw Turbo quietly approach, not sure what the popular racer wanted with them.
"I just wanted to say...sorry about your friend," he told them both quietly, folding his hands together in front of his waist.
The blonde wiped her eyes. "Thanks. She was a good person, always wanting to put a smile on people's faces."
Turbo thought to ask what her name had been then quickly decided against it. Having a name attached to her would only make him feel worse. He needed to make this short and sweet so he wouldn't be burdened with this for the rest of his life.
The dark-haired girl rubbed the blonde's shoulder in comfort. "Yeah and what really blows is that since she was an NPC, none of the gamers even noticed her missing today during our cut-scenes." She dabbed at her eyes with a tissue. "It's like she didn't matter or something."
The two girls stood up together with their arms laced together and headed back towards their game, a basketball game called Slam Dunk! that was positioned close to where RoadBlasters had been located. Turbo sighed, feeling a wincing pain at the thought that they would have to continue going to work without their friend, since apparently her NPC status didn't make her "worthy" enough of getting the game unplugged when she went missing.
He stood there close to the spot where the girls had been and closed his eyes for a moment before taking his helmet off out of respect.
"Thanks again, kid." He felt awkward talking to a blank space on the floor but given the circumstances he didn't have much choice. "You didn't have to do what you did, but you did. You didn't even know me." He sighed again, trying to come up with something else to say. "I doubt I would've done the same for a total stranger, but you seemed to have a good heart in you. I'm sorry you're not going to live a happy life like you deserve. Just know that you definitely made a difference in history."
Turbo figured that was good enough, feeling a little better since he'd said something, and placed his helmet back on his head. He walked over to one of the large trashcans that the GCS had scattered every few yards to remind people not to litter and he dug around in his pocket before pulling out the napkin. The scrawling handwritten combination that could unlock all the powers of the arcade's universe stared back at him, as if waiting for him to use it for his own selfish intentions once more. It had been nothing but trouble since the day Turbo had realized what all he could be used for. If he had never found it, he never would have been able to take over Sugar Rush for his own and continue feed his mad lust for power and glory. So many had been hurt and killed over this simple little piece of paper, lives ruined and forever changed because of it.
He looked up at his entrance where the words "TurboTime" in red pixelated letters scrolled across the overhanging electronic sign. Deep down in his code, he knew that was where he belonged and now that it was secure in its spot for the time being, he could no longer think of abandoning it. Why would he need to? There wasn't anything better to pass it up for. Besides, he had family there...people that counted on him daily to be there for them.
People that he counted on as well.
Within seconds of viewing it for the last time, Turbo held the napkin over the trashcan and began ripping it into tiny pieces, the bits floating down into the barrel like snow, too small for anyone to be able to piece them back together again. He exhaled raggedly and swiped his palms together as if to wipe them clean.
"There. Now no one can use it."
TurboTime lasted until 1996 when one of the players accidentally jammed the steering wheel controller due to extra rough handling. It was a sad day at Litwak's for, even though the game was dated, it still proved to be a nostalgic landmark for the regulars who still dropped in. Felix and Ralph, who had over the years become great friends with the three racers, offered them to come and live at their home. Ralph had his own house, sized appropriately for his giant frame, and together he and Felix built a good-sized townhouse for the three newcomers to share together. The twins still like to pester and annoy their fellow racer but Turbo always figured out a way to get back at them in good nature.
Surge Protector continued to do a fine job keeping another "going Rocky" incident from occurring, though more than one person would claim that he always performed a "random" check on them more than he did on others. Also, thanks to Felix and Ralph having become good friends, other hero/villains duos followed their example. Mario and Bowser could be constantly found betting on Street Fighter II matches; Pac-Man and his ghosts frequented Tapper's together; Rogan and Agent G from The House of the Dead had taken up teaching the zombies how to function like normal people, often with humorous results.
The very next year, 1997, a new racing game was plugged in: Sugar Rush. Everyone was excited about the adorable little chibi racers in their extravagant candy world, as no one had ever seen anything like it. The twins were dying to go inside and take a look, as the princess had granted formal invitations to everyone in the arcade to come visit. Turbo had initially refused, pretending to not want anything to do with it, but secretly he was dying of curiosity himself. He had this nagging feeling that Vanellope would remember him, though he knew it'd be fairly impossible since in this life she had just been plugged in.
The racers plus Ralph and Felix made plans to tour the location, four of the five oohing and aahing over every little thing. Turbo felt a rush of nostalgia and deja vu being here again, once more laying eyes on the candy cane trees, the taffy swamps, the Oreo guards, the many different racetracks. He and the twins had of course left their own game with their cars and Turbo wondered if perhaps the princess would grant them visitation rights to race here. Actually, now that he thought about it, that's what he should have done in the first time instead of ruining all the inhabitants' lives with a memory erasure and code tampering.
Upon reaching the castle, they were greeted by the ever-bored royal assistant, Sour Bill. Turbo resisted the urge to call him by his name as he knew the little candy creature would not remember him. It made him a little sad inside but his thoughts went elsewhere when they were greeted by a little girl in a pink princess dress.
"Hello, visitors, welcome to Sugar Rush!" the candy-haired child greeted them courteously with a slight curtsey. "I'm Princess Vanellope von Schweetz!"
Turbo was rather surprised to see her acting so royally; after he had dummied her out of the game, she had adopted a "wild child" personality full of sharp witty sarcasm. But now she was in her original, untampered state and she was acting the way that a young princess should be acting. As soon as he thought this, she dropped the act for a moment and gave Ralph a curious yet playful look.
"Wow, why are your hands so freakishly big?"
The twins snickered behind their hands and Ralph's face fell. "Gee, kinda rude aren't you, Princess Puffiness?"
"Ralph!" Felix hissed at him, trying to maintain a large friendly smile.
Instead of getting angry, Vanellope only laughed. "I like you, Ham-Hands." She then glanced over at Turbo and the twins, giving their outfits a good look. "Lemme guess, you guys are racers, too?"
Turbo crossed his arms and pretended to be annoyed, though honestly he was a tad uncomfortable being in her presence. "Wow, what a detective you are. How do you drive with that poofy dress on anyway?"
Much to everyone's shock, she teleported herself out of the dress and into her racing gear, a white tracksuit with teal and orange stripes for accents, her helmet bearing a small yellow crown on each side. Turbo was the only one that was unimpressed, as he already knew all this information. When he had turned her into a glitch, it had altered her special ability and caused her to randomly blip about without control. Had he not time-jumped, he could only assume that she regained control of her ability upon resetting her game.
"Aww, I hate that thing," she commented casually, signalling to Sour Bill to go put her dress back in her royal chambers.
Ted stared at her in awe. "How'd you do that?"
"Huh? Oh! Teleporting's kinda my special ability," Vanellope replied to him almost dismissively, as if it wasn't a big deal. "I can do it whenever I want, but when we're in the middle of a race, I can only do it if I hit a special power-up box." She yawned as if bored with the subject. "Hey, you guys still have your cars? I bet it'd be fun racing against you guys, since you've been around longer."
She teleported herself again behind the group and forced the door open. "Come on, slowpokes! Let's go meet all my friends and I'll give ya a grand tour!"
Ted grabbed his brother by the arm to pull at him. "Hey, I like this place! She seems nice!"
Everyone left the castle but Turbo stayed behind the group for a short while. He let out a deep sigh being back here again and looked around his old stomping grounds. Knowing that things were now the way they were supposed to be gave him a strange sense of peace however. Perhaps being here was the last piece of closure he needed to fully get over his old life. Smiling, he picked up the pace and skipped up ahead with the rest of his family, squeezing in between the both of them and throwing his arms around them.
"Bet I can beat you two in a race blindfolded in a sappy girl's game like this."
Teddy snorted a bit of laughter and slapped Turbo on the back of his helmet. "Ha, yeah right, you'll be getting in just as many wrecks as we do because these tracks looks like it has a ton of twists, turns, and jumps. We're only accustomed to driving around in a simple circle, you know."
Turbo grinned like he had a secret but he wasn't going to tell it. All he said was, "Anything is possible for the greatest racer ever."
Thank you to everyone that reviewed, fave'd, followed, etc. this story! I never thought it would ever be this popular, since I started it on a whim without much thought going into it and it turned out pretty darn good if I say so myself. Now that this one's over, I can get back to fully concentrating on my other fic! Again big huge thanks to everyone, as always you are all turbo-tastic! :D
PS yes, Felix will still marry Calhoun, I just didn't include that because this is first and foremost Turbo's story and didn't want to bog the story down by writing in a pointless 2012 scene.