I'm glad so far that people are enjoying the story. A few of the reviews, however, seem to have the wrong impression about what I have in mind. Let me clear the confusion up. There will not be a "human character getting transferred to the video game world" involved. Nor will the Surge Protector be getting a girlfriend. And Turbo isn't showing up in this story. But even if I have no intentions of including those elements, I think you will enjoy the story anyway.
After thirty years of doing the same thing, being treated like the garbage he spent his nights with, and dealing with the terrified and hostile Nicelanders and the pushover hero of the game, Ralph knew he wouldn't survive another few decades without something in his life changing. Of course, he never imagined that all he really needed to improve things was an energetic, formerly-outcast little girl with candy stuck in her black hair. He'd never imagined it when they first met, but he was so happy she stole that medal. All he'd wanted was a friend, a little respect, and for someone to simply recognize he was more than just the big guy who smashes the building. Vanellope did all three and she would have been enough even if Felix hadn't talked the Nicelanders into being more accepting of their co-worker.
Not that he wasn't thankful for Calhoun's influence on her husband and the repairman's new understanding of the difficulties of being considered bad. Watching Felix stand up for his "brother" rather than bend to the crowd's will was rather impressive. And entertaining since there were a few dropped jaws that would have made Pac-man envious when the hero demonstrated his new backbone.
But Vanellope made everything worth it. She saw him as her personal hero, regardless of his role in the game. She was always excited to see him, tossed insults at him in an affectionate game, and refused to reclaim her rightful royal kart in order to drive the one they built. She climbed on his shoulders in defiance of all the characters that ran away when he approached. She smiled and followed him to Bad-Anon meetings, not even flinching when confronted with all the villains. Her acceptance of bad guys as not necessarily being bad won her over some fans from the meetings and he honestly hoped she never told them about how she was treated as a glitch. Otherwise Taffyta and her friends might find themselves facing the other members of Bad-Anon in a protective mood. Vanellope was also helping Ralph win over some support. Even those rare characters that remained ignorant of Turbo's defeat in Sugar Rush were changing their opinion since it was hard to fear someone with an adorable winner perched on their shoulder.
So while Felix spent his evenings with his tough-as-nails, slightly scary wife, Ralph would seek his best friend and president of Sugar Rush. Sometimes he was content to watch her compete in the Random Roster Race and to cheer for the girl as she glitched past the other racers. Other times they tried to figure out something fun together in their games or in other consoles. It was a good thing that serving as leader of her game rarely required direct interference on her part; apparently her threat of execution and the fear of what their former bullying-victim might do if they annoyed her ensured they only asked for her ruling on emergency-level issues. As long as she could spend time with him, Ralph didn't mind. Seeing her happy always made his day.
Riding in the small train carts towards the Game Central Station, he listened to her eagerly discuss both her races and the possible things they could do while visiting the other consoles. She never seemed to slow down as she spoke, acting exactly like a child on a sugar rush. Which, considering her native game, was absolutely appropriate. By the time they reached the outlet, Vanellope was suggesting they add Frogger to their list of consoles to visit.
Ralph was too distracted listening to her eager suggestions to realize the three of them was about to step through the outlet until the familiar alarm sounded the Surge Protector materialized.
"Really?" he groaned, throwing his huge hands into the air in frustration.
Without looking up from his clipboard, the blue figure asked, "Name?"
"We represent the Lollipop Guild," chirped Vanellope.
"Name?" he repeated.
"Come on, Blue-boy," she whined. "We just went through this. Give it a rest for one night. You're worse than getting stuck in the taffy swamp."
"Fix-it Felix Jr. from Fix-it Felix Jr., sir," the repairman reported, instantly trying to cooperate with the Surge Protector. "I'm traveling with my brother, Wreck-it Ralph, and Vanellope Von Schweetz, sir. They're going to Tetris while I'm headed for Hero's Duty. None of us have anything to declare, sir."
"You're spoiling my fun, Felix," muttered the girl as the blue figure nodded to himself. "I could have kept this up for at least five more minutes."
"Well, just think about how much more time you'll have to enjoy yourselves in other games," he pointed out. "Being stubbornly unhelpful takes longer for everyone than to just go along with authorities."
"Good point," she responded. "Even though president out-ranks the static-powered hall monitor."
"Not outside your game, President Von Schweetz," the Surge Protector stated before vanishing to somewhere else in the Game Central Station.
"There you go," smiled Felix. "We can go on our way unhindered. Isn't it easier to just follow the rules without acting like a rude hooligan?"
Vanellope glanced up at Ralph and remarked in a deadpan voice, "Bet you three pieces of licorice that he'll pop back up next to the Tetris entrance."
"Definitely," he nodded, shifting the girl back up to his shoulders.
"You're awfully young to be such a sourpuss," remarked Felix, shaking his head at the child.
"I spent my life being chased off by donut cops and my fellow racers because one froot-loop of a character took over my game and kicked me out of the castle," Vanellope stated in a surprisingly cheerful voice. "That's what we call a 'learning experience.' That kind of makes it hard to be surprised by a little thing like the border guard checking on us way too often."
"He's just trying to do his job," defended the repairman as they began to move through the crowds.
"By picking on Ralph?" she asked, gesturing at him while easily balancing in place. "And me? What reason would he have to constantly question a poor, innocent child?"
Ralph resisted the urge to snort and instead suggested, "Maybe it has something to do with you driving your kart into the Game Central Station."
"Once," she said. "I did it once."
"Only because Ralph asked you to stop," Felix stated, taking a moment to dodge Sonic as he spoke to Ryu.
"I wouldn't have even done it in the first place if he wasn't always treating Ralph like a criminal," complained Vanellope.
"Calm down, Kid," the wrecker ordered. "I've told you before. He's more of an annoyance than anything. I'll survive without you going after the guy every time you see him."
"And that settles that," Felix declared, glancing at the entrance to Hero's Duty. "Now if you'll excuse me, I'll be on my way."
Ralph and Vanellope watched him bounce away towards his goal, his signature sound effect following each jump. To neither of their surprise, there was no alarm and the Surge Protector didn't materialize as he went through. Felix was very rarely stopped unless he was accompanying his friends. It occasionally happened, but not nearly at the frequency it occurred to the wrecker or Sugar Rush president.
"Which way now, Stinkbrain?" the girl asked, leaning forward from her position on his shoulder.
"So you're illiterate now?" he smirked, glancing up at her. "I would have thought a president would at least be able to read enough to make sure she doesn't sign something stupid. But what do I know about democracy?"
She responded by sticking her tongue out at him before starting to crane her neck in order to read the signs with the console names scrolling across them. Ralph resisted the urge to chuckle as he moved across the Game Central Station once more and she started muttering about how easy it would be to put peanut butter in his hair next time he visited. He didn't take her threat any more seriously than she did his comment about illiteracy. He could already see a grin starting to tug at her lips.
"There's Tetris," she pointed before turning her attention back to her friend. "So what's their game about?"
"Blocks," answered Ralph simply. "Different shaped blocks. The player is supposed to turn them and move them around as they slowly fall and when they completely cover a whole row, a layer vanishes. But if one section stacks up to the top, you lose. It's some kind of puzzle type thing. You have to be careful not to make a mistake that will keep the blocks from reaching the empty spots at the bottom."
Vanellope moaned, "That sounds boring."
"Hey, it might not be a candy-based racing game or anything, but it is a classic. Not to mention that it still draws plenty of quarters. The thing is addictive apparently," he countered. "There was supposed to be different versions of the game and some of them aren't in arcades, but people still come here to play it. Plus, the blocks start falling faster the longer you play. So if you're determined to have some speed involved, there's that."
"Fine," she shrugged. "We'll try it. But if it turns out to be boring, I'll blame you. Just because your game has blocks and is pretty cool doesn't mean all block-based games are."
"Hey, you had fun at that kart-building mini-game thing in your console," he pointed out. "Just keep an open mind, Kid."
She smiled slightly at him before her grin adopted a more mischievous look. He was very familiar with that particular expression when it showed up on her face. It usually led to her attempting a particularly insane, and impressive, stunt.
"Ralph, want to try something fun?"
Not knowing whether or not to be concerned about what she had on her mind, he asked hesitantly, "What?"
"I'll bet that we could get through the entrance and into the game before Officer Sparky can stop us," she smirked. "He doesn't show up until we try to go through, so we should be able to hurry through quick enough to keep him from annoying us."
For a moment, he opened his mouth to scold her slightly for her continued efforts to antagonize the Surge Protector. He knew he should set a good example for the girl. On the other hand, it would be so nice to go into a game without having to deal with the same annoying questions. Besides, he should already know where Ralph and Vanellope were headed since they told him almost literally five minutes ago.
"All right, but don't take this as permission to start tormenting the guy on a regular basis again," stated the wrecker finally.
"Yes," she shouted excitedly, throwing up a fist as Ralph barreled forward and didn't even slow down as the familiar alarm buzzed and the blue figure tried to materialize.
He knew he should be irritated by the lack of respect they displayed by simply charging ahead rather than stopping. There was a reason that the noise sounded and he appeared, after all. Video game characters were supposed to halt and answer the questions clearly and concisely. The Surge Protector couldn't exactly stop them very easily since he spent most of his time intangible or simply immaterial. They could pass right through his humanoid form unless he added enough power to become solid. And even when he could actually physically touch something, the size of his projected self was only large enough to manhandle the smaller characters. Someone the size of Wreck-it Ralph that decided to ignore protocol and to simply go straight into a game rather than deal with the Surge Protector was beyond his ability to halt.
Unless he channeled enough power to the outlet in question and used a large amount of pure electricity to stop someone in their tracks. But not only would that be going against his primary function as protection against such power surges, but it could easily do serious harm to the character in question. And it would do possibly damage or destroy the Game Central Station itself. It could destroy himself. No, the Surge Protector wouldn't hit someone with that amount of electricity to make them stop. Especially when it was over something as minor as two characters getting tired of routine security checks. So, while annoyed by their behavior, he let it go without making a fuss and turned his attention back to other matters.
The arcade was barely closed and the Surge Protector already detected fifty-six characters leaving their own games and twenty-six were already in other consoles. His records indicated the numbers were below average for that time of night and day of the week. A curious anomaly, but nothing immediately concerning. Different factors could influence characters' decisions to wander outside their console. Everything from the traffic in the arcade during the day to the time of the year to the weather as seen through the game screen. And some of those factors were beyond what he could determine on his own.
It wasn't possible for the Surge Protector to actually see the outside world beyond a thin glimpse through the empty outlets that showed mostly a little light and maybe the floor. He tended to keep empty outlet sockets sealed though so wandering characters didn't slip through by mistake and vanish when they lost access to electricity. From his perusal of the internet when he could gleam information across his vague access to it, he'd determined that the players needed their atmosphere of air to survive and would quickly die without that readily available resource. Video game characters and electricity possessed a similar relationship and the only place they could survive without that power was inside their own games. That was why it was important for him to keep the characters aware of possible blackouts and power surges. That was why it was so important that Q*bert and his companions were added to the programming of Fix-it Felix Jr. when they created the bonus level, ensuring they were recognized as "native" to the game and relieving a concern of the Surge Protector's he'd possessed since their original game was unplugged. That was why it was so important that he know where every character was during an emergency, even though some games possessed large numbers of background characters that players rarely notice and only exist to serve as a cheering crowd or as defenseless bystanders awaiting a hero to stop the villain. No one ever said that the job was easy, but he performed it to the best of his ability and attempted to take as many precautions as possible to ensure their safety.
And, upon a momentary reflection of the last twenty-four to forty-eight hours, he recalled he'd been unable to connect to the internet to check the weather report. It wasn't unusual though. His ability to connect was sporadic at best, but the lack of the usual traffic made his wonder what he might have missed. If there was even just a thunderstorm, characters would be more hesitant to travel.
Though no one observing the blue figure would notice, the Surge Protector felt mildly concerned by the lack of substantial traffic. He could ask one of the character with a console with a proper view, but considering the difficulties in gaining clear answers from most of the population and the fact that two of them just demonstrated a short time ago a complete lack of respect for his questions, he decided to make a second attempt at accessing the internet.
Since trying to make that fragile connection took so much concentration, he dissolved his humanoid form back into pure electricity and turned his attention briefly away from his larger self that held so many characters. A distant part of his mind still monitored and recorded their movements, but the rest of him was focused on stretching out his awareness beyond the plastic housing and everything it contained. He couldn't leave the Game Central Station, not really, but he could reach out to that tentative connection to Mr. Litwak's computer and hope to find what he needed before he lost his figurative grip. Even if he didn't have a physical body in this form (beyond the surge protector itself), trying to do this particular stunt always made him feel stretched thin and uncomfortable.
He knew that if his attachment to the computer system slipped, his awareness would be flung back into his plastic housing. What he didn't know was what would happen to him if he lost his connection to the Game Central Station instead. Would he simply be autonomous from his larger form, able to explore the games in the same manner the characters could visit other locations? Or would his identity, personality, and memories cease to exist and all that would be left over was a simple surge protector, a piece of basic technology with no higher function? Or was it impossible for him to lose his connection to the Game Central Station because he and it were one and the same, so worrying about such things was a waste of time? He didn't know, but he did know that trying to reach outside the surge protector so far produced a rather uncomfortable sensation.
Ignoring the odd feeling, he strove for the connection to the internet and the familiar website that reported the local weather. It was like searching for needle in a haystack that was currently being carried by a tornado, but he knew what it felt like. He knew how it felt even if his technique at searching the internet was ineffective by nature. There was a familiarity to it after locating it so many times without the aid of tools like a computer mouse or keys. It was just like he could recognize the dozens of practically identical background characters as soon as they stepped into the Game Central Station.
As he read the located weather report, the news caused him enough concern to break that fragile grip and he fell back the rest of the way into the plastic housing of the surge protector. He didn't mind the quick return, though. Three words he found on the webpage were enough to force him into action.
Severe Thunderstorm Warning.
Not just rain, but a severe thunderstorm. No wonder the characters with the best view of the outside weren't traveling much. While there was a chance that nothing would happen or that any electrical surges that might occur would be small enough that the characters wouldn't even be aware they happened, those weather conditions could result in blackouts and such that couldn't be dealt with. On the one hand, panic would almost immediately sprout up once he sent out warnings to return to their games and the illogical behavior that such emotions produced would hinder the attempts to evacuate the Game Central Station. On the other, time was of the essence and the longer he waited, the more characters would leave their games and spread out. Decision made, he switched all the public service announcement signs to the bright red and blaring warning message that everyone should return to their native consoles immediately. As predicted, shouts of alarm erupted and they began running around almost at random.
Reforming his physical form in the middle of the chaos, the Surge Protector started directing the frantic characters and trying to restore some order.
Ralph smiled as Vanellope prepared to turn the next L-shaped block on its side. The girl's initial disinterest in the game vanished quickly upon starting. She was glitching onto the falling blocks so she could either flip them or shove them through the air into the right position. Anything that fell too far or landed in the wrong spot, the wrecker would smash it. Sometimes they even took advantage of the fact they could see more depth than could be viewed by normal players. If things get too complicated, they could always get rid of a particular piece by tossing it behind the row. Perhaps not the correct method to play Tetris, but it worked for them.
"Come on, straight piece," the girl muttered, landing on the taller pile of blocks and staring towards the dark sky where they formed. "Come on, straight piece."
"No luck," shrugged Ralph as a T-shaped block appeared and began to gradually decend.
"I can work with that," she laughed, glitching upwards again to reach the piece.
"Try to shove it that way," he suggested, pointing to the left end of the screen.
The pieces of the game were thicker than they appeared through the screen, making it easier for them to stand on and manipulate. If they were truly two dimensional, he and Vanellope would have probably cut themselves in half trying to play the game.
"Hey, we should try building a house or something out of these," the girl said abruptly. "It would be awesome. And then we could knock it down."
"If we wanted to do that, we could have stayed in my game," pointed out Ralph.
"But the bricks don't vanish like that when you line them up right," she responded, bouncing off a Z-shaped block.
Chuckling slightly, he dodged the falling piece as Vanellope appeared back on his shoulder in a burst of blue pixilation. She wore a huge grin across her face and was leaning back in an attempt to read the level listed above them.
"I wonder if I can beat the high scores on this thing," she muttered.
"Just remember it speeds up as you play," he commented before she glitched her way back to turn the materializing L-block.
As Ralph watched the girl bounce on the next falling piece, something caught his attention. After thirty years in the arcade, he was used to the flashing patterns of lights that made came from the different games. Even from a different vantage point, he recognized sort of the sequences and colors enough that he no longer even noticed them. It was the same way with background music that played on the different consoles. He might hear it for the first couple of minutes upon entering a game, but then it quickly was shoved to the back of his mind and ignored. It was only when there was something different added to the normal background sights and sounds that he would notice it.
A flash of light pulled his attention to the screen and the arcade outside it. There was no immediate source for the unexpected light, so Ralph almost decided to ignore it until a faint rumbling that was almost drowned out by the Tetris background music followed. That noise, paired with the brief flash of light from before, was one of the more concerning sounds that could be heard in the arcade. Thunder was not a good thing for someone who depended on electricity for their existence.
Several thoughts occurred almost simultaneously. First, Ralph knew they needed to get out of there. Even if the arcade hadn't experienced a true loss of power to the consoles in years, the danger still existed and it was insane to run the risk merely to continue the game. Being trapped in another arcade game when the electricity went off was just as deadly as being killed in another game. Second, he knew that Vanellope wouldn't be at all aware of that risk. She'd never possessed the ability to leave her console until recently. There was no reason for her to know about the dangers of thunderstorms since she was always safe in her own arcade. If he took the time to explain to her what was going on and why they needed to leave now, there was a strong possibility that she would either not take the threat seriously enough or it would take too long to explain it well enough for her to accept the danger. And third, even if she managed to understand why they needed to escape back to their own games, she would insist on staying with her slower companion. Ralph might not be the slowest character in the arcade, but he was certainly slower than Vanellope when she started glitching. There was no telling if or when a problem might erupt from the weather, but he refused to let her be in danger even a second longer than necessary simply because she wouldn't leave him behind.
He knew she would never leave to save herself. Vanellope already demonstrated that once when she saved him a Mentos-and-soda-powered volcano. So he needed her to escape quickly without telling her about the danger. Even if the danger was merely a possibility rather than a certainty.
"Hey, Kid," he called out. "Ready to head for the next game? I'll race you."
She glitched down to where he was standing, a brief expression of confusion on her face. Apparently she didn't expect to leave quite yet or as abruptly as this. But Ralph kept a calm expression on his face and Vanellope sprang on the challenge just as he knew she would. The dark-haired girl could never resist a race. It was simply part of who she was.
"All right, Stinkbrain," she grinned mischievously. "If you want a race, you've got it. But I won't go easy on you."
He nodded quickly, "Perfect. First one to the Game Central Station wins." When another flash of lightning flickered from outside the console and thunder rumbled over the native sounds of the arcade, Ralph swiftly added, "Ready, set, go!"
Without any further prompting, she vanished in a flash of pixels and began glitching across the block-covered landscape of Tetris. Ralph followed as quickly as the larger and slower character could, dodging and smashing through the still-following obstacles. He knew he would keep moving, keep heading for safety. Once they reached the Game Central Station, it would be easy enough to shove her into Sugar Rush with a warning to stay there until the storm passed. He could explain better when it was safer. But she would be fine. She'd be safe soon. She'd definitely be safe sooner than he would.
Sorry about the wait. I am not always the fastest at updating anymore. Especially with too many projects competing for my attention. But I still try my best. Thanks again to those who review. I deeply appreciate it. I hope you're enjoying the story so far.