Based off one of tumblr's wir-headcanons (number 2717), about what happens when game characters die.
Cover art is a close up image of Turbo's pixels and binary code.
No Place Like Home
The instantaneous switch from a broiling hot climate to that of a freshly cool one was so shocking that it forced Turbo to pop his eyes open. The temperature difference made him shiver, and he hugged himself as he blinked to adjust to the new environment. An unseen sun was shining brightly over a pastel blue sky, streaked with fluffy cream-like clouds that matched the ones that he was standing on. He felt so light that it was as if he were floating on air yet the sense of falling never reached his senses, as if he knew subconsciously that he was safe here. The place strangely had no smells or sounds to it, giving off an unnatural air about it.
Despite having melted away in a fountain of volcanic soda, Turbo was now perfectly intact in his original gray-toned TurboTime body, with the old red-and-white suit, helmet and shoes to go along with it. Still suffering from a case of mild shock that he was mentally conscious, he looked down and held out his four-fingered hands to inspect them and was surprised to not see any burn marks. He wiggled his toes inside his shoes and pressed his hands against his chest, checking to see if he was still a solid being and not imagining any of this.
The question remained, however: Where was he?
Before any theories and guesses could enter his mind, the clouded floor a few yards ahead of him swirled in a counter-clockwise direction, slowly rising in altitude until the deceased racer was forced to crane his neck painfully up in order to see the top of it. His hand on his helmet to keep it from falling off of him, he watched with widened eyes as the clouds began to take on a rectangular shape and a palette of predominately green, red, white, and black began to ink into its surface. Streaks of lightning flashed in random intervals, and Turbo found himself taking a few steps back and shielding his eyes with his other hand, grimacing slightly as he tried to process what was happening in front of him.
At last, the figure took on a more solid form, the colors settling down into their rightful places, and the clouds fading away slowly but surely to reveal its completed creation. Turbo recognized it immediately, his jaw slightly dropped and his hands coming down to rest beside his hips limply. His eyes scrolled along the length of what he knew was his old game cabinet, the same one that Litwak had unplugged once upon a time and wheeled out of his arcade, thinking that it had been plagued with technical difficulties. He wasn't sure how he knew that it was his original cabinet, but the tingly feeling that he had all over when he had first realized what it was seemed to tell him, "It's yours."
Turbo blinked in disbelief, numbly shuffling himself closer to the giant cabinet without even realizing he was doing it. It was so tall, it was as if a human could still walk up and play it even here in this seemingly deserted area. The racer couldn't even jump high enough to reach the top of the legs that supported the cabinet's weight. If he had to guess, he was smaller than even a mouse.
He placed a flat hand against the cool plastic that the side of cabinet was composed of, a small closed smile spreading on his face as nostalgia hit him. Sugar Rush had been a dandy game, no doubt about it, but TurboTime...TurboTime was his home. Nothing could ever compare to the best game in existence.
The scratching sound of metal-against-metal jolted Turbo from his daze, retreating backwards a few paces and darting his eyes about wildly to deduce the sound's origin. He suddenly realized that being largely without shelter made him more vulnerable than he had ever been in his life. His whole body tensed, as he heard footsteps coming from the opposite side of the cabinet than he was currently located. He ducked back to hide behind the side panel, his back pressed against it as he pondered what to do in case he had to defend himself, if he even could.
"You think he's here?" Turbo heard someone say quietly. His ears strained to pick up the rest of the conversation from his unexpected visitors.
"He's got to be," someone else said, this one talking a little louder and more sure of himself. "Otherwise we wouldn't have come here, now would we?"
They sounded so familiar; Turbo squeezed his eyes shut as he tried to place the voices with faces, searching through his internal memory bank as efficiently as he could.
"Turbo?" the first voice called out worriedly. "Turbo, you here?"
The racer popped his eyes open, recognition slamming into him harder than a speeding race car hitting a guard rail at top speeds. He inhaled sharply, his hands noticeably trembling.
"Bless my code," he muttered in a mix of shock and disbelief, forcing himself to spin around the corner and lay his eyes on two people he never dreamed he'd ever see again.
"Turbo!" the affectionate worrywart, Ted, squealed happily as he ran towards him with his arms wide open. Ted surrounded Turbo with a warm hug, tightly squeezing him. "You're finally here! We're all together again!"
Turbo's breath hitched for a moment as he let the unexpected situation sink in, his arms eventually raising up to weakly hug the blue-clad racer back. He relaxed considerably, sighing and closing his eyes. "Hi, Ted," he whispered back, feeling a hint of wetness in the corners of his eyes.
"Not gonna say 'hi' to me, Turbs?" joked the cheery rascal that was Teddy, patiently hanging back with his hands stuffed lazily into his suit's pockets.
"Teddy?" Turbo asked out loud, opening his eyes again to see Ted's twin smile at him crookedly with a quick salute with his two fingers.
"The one and only."
Ted released Turbo from his crushing hug and beamed at him like a kid on Christmas Day. "We missed you like crazy! We've been waiting for you to come back so we can all race together again, like the good ol' days!"
Turbo observed the other racer's face curiously. "Why would you want to race with me?" he found himself asking, pressing his hand to his chest to emphasize. "I got our game unplugged...you two should hate me..."
Teddy clucked and waved his hand to dismiss the statement. "Turbs, we can't hate you! You're our brother, for code's sake! Besides, it hardly matters now, doesn't it?"
Brother?, Turbo repeated mentally, his heart thumping warmly at the term. They still think of me as a brother, even after all I've done.
Blinking to keep himself from getting too emotional, he then glanced around their surroundings once more, still trying to figure out what was going on. "Where are we anyway?"
"We're in heaven!" Ted chirped, his arms stretching out wide over his head. "And now that you're back, we get to go to the Celestial Arcade and get played with by all the kids!"
"Wait, what?" Turbo backed away from them, putting his hands to his face and breathing deeply for a few moments to steady his mind. Acquiring this horde of new information all at once was making him dizzy. He slid his hands down once he felt grounded and glanced at the worried faces of his co-racers. "You guys need to start over, okay, because I am very confused here."
Teddy sighed with a smile, smoothly walking over to throw a reassuring arm around Turbo's shoulders. "Sorry, guess we got a little excited there for a sec. It was confusing for us when we showed up too. Long story short, when we got unplugged, we woke up to Purgatory. See, when you die and all the members of your game don't die with you, that's where you go to wait until they can join you."
"It's kinda crowded there," Ted mumbled quietly, wringing his hands in the slack of his suit.
"Everyone stays connected to the cabinet that they were designed with," Teddy continued, using his free hand to make gestures with. "So that way we couldn't get stick with another Turbo."
"Not that we'd want another one," the other twin added quickly, and Turbo gave him a grateful smile.
"So when I died, that meant you two got to leave this Purgatory place?" Turbo rubbed his forehead with his hand as he absorbed this. "What happens now then?"
Teddy swung around to face him, his hands clasping on top of Turbo's shoulders as he grinned widely at him. "Now that you're here, our game's finally complete and we can move on to the next level!"
"Let me guess, that's the Celestial Arcade thing?" Turbo clarified for himself, gently shrugging Teddy's hands off of him.
"It'll be so much fun to be played with again and race with you guys," Ted related with a grin of his own. "There's never a game unwanted or abandoned there!"
Turbo felt his mouth curl up into a smile at the thought of never having to fear getting abandoned again. The day Litwak had replaced him had been the most hurtful day of his existence, and knowing it could never happen again sounded too good to be true!
And then...his face fell again, his normally bright eyes dimming just a hair. "But what about other TurboTime cabinets?"
Teddy rolled his eyes in an exaggerated manner, sticking his hands back in his pockets. "Who cares?" he shrugged. "The games are all spread out from what I understand. We might not be anywhere near any other racing games."
Turbo swallowed hard, staring at his feet. A strange, heavy weight seemed to be rising itself out of him, all the dirty, rotten things that he had done in his life suddenly seeming a lot more dirty and rotten than he'd ever thought. Being here in this pure and innocent place didn't seem like it was for him. He was a big dark blot in a spotless world.
"What about RoadBlasters? They might hold a grudge..."
Ted frowned lightly, timidly walking up and bopping the front of his helmet against Turbo's affectionately, causing the once popular star to raise his eyes up. "Turbo, no one here is angry at you," Ted informed him kindly with a small smile, holding his hands and squeezing them. "This place...it kind of makes you forget about being angry and sad."
Turbo felt the weight of all his past transgressions start to slowly slip out of him, as if someone had attached a faucet to him and was draining it out of him to cleanse him. Simultaneously, tears began to leak out of his eyes, his throat welling up as he tried to keep himself from cracking to pieces.
"You don't understand," he croaked hoarsely, looking away from his brother in shame. "I've done so many horrible, unspeakable things since I've seen you last. I...I don't deserve to be here."
Ted pulled his head back and glanced over at Teddy, silently asking him to come over. Turbo kept his face turned, feeling overwhelmed at all the guilt that was surfacing to the front of his mind. What was with this place? It was almost like it was seeping all its pureness into him, forcing him to come to terms with what he'd done in the past. Perhaps this was the only way that he could be allowed into Heaven, he wasn't sure; all he knew was that it hurt. He'd murdered people, brainwashed them, abused a few just to keep himself in the spotlight. What had happened to him? When had he turned into such a monster?
"Turbo," Teddy's voice snapped him out of his thoughts, the red-and-white racer's tear-streaked face turning towards his brother's gently smiling one. "We know about all that stuff. And trust me, we wanted to go down there and ram some sense into you, but...you know." He shrugged, the answer being obvious. "But you feel bad about it now, right?"
Turbo found himself shaking his head "yes", sniffing and wiping at one of his damp cheeks.
"Well, that's all that matters then," Teddy continued, squeezing one of Turbo's arms in support."Now quit moping and let's go home, shall we?"
The fact that they were so readily forgiving him touched his heart in a way he didn't think was possible. Whatever this place was doing to him, it made him feel like a brand new person...a person that he liked.
"Home sounds nice," Turbo sighed with a smile, glancing up at their game cabinet with a pair of eager eyes.
Ted grinned boyishly and grabbed Turbo by the hand unexpectedly, dragging him around to the cabinet's side like a hyper child wanting to show something off to his parents. Turbo jerked forward when he did that, having to jog to keep from falling on his face. Teddy chuckled as he followed behind, shaking his head at the ground. Ted finally released Turbo from his grip upon reaching a small door in the back corner, just big enough for them to walk through and enter inside the machine itself.
"This is how we can get in and out," Ted explained upon seeing Turbo's puzzled face, turning to go ahead and enter inside the darkened staircase that laid just inside.
"How the heck is there any room in there for everything?" Turbo asked out loud, peering in warily.
"We shrink down to size once we reach the end of the stairs," Teddy informed him as he gently pushed at his back to make him go in. "Don't be such a scaredy-cat. Everything's in there, including your house and car."
Turbo turned his head to look behind his shoulder, a surprised look on his face. "My...my car?" He couldn't have disguised the utter shock in his voice if he'd wanted to, the slight waver in it betraying the overwhelming emotion he felt. "The one that-"
"Got damaged in RoadBlasters?" Teddy finished for him with a smirk, patting him hard once on the back. "Yep, and it looks as good as it ever did."
The thought of seeing his old red-and-white car again brought such a grin to his face, Turbo thought his cheeks might crack. "What are we waiting for then, slow poke!" he announced cheerfully, dashing inside to climb up the pitch black stairwell.
His footsteps echoed as he ascended upwards, and behind him he could hear Teddy doing the same. The door that they had entered through shut itself, and Turbo recognized that must have been the metal-on-metal scratching sound he had heard right before the twins appeared.
"You guys coming or what?"
Ted's jubilant voice had a ring of impatience to it, yet still maintained its usual friendly air. Turbo chuffed a laugh as he continued on upwards; if he had been told to climb up an unknown set of stairs in the dark like this back when he was alive, he'd have been a lot more cautious about it and even suspicious that there was a trick involved. However, he felt none of that here...it felt right to be doing this, as if this had been his destination all along and that there was nothing to fear from it.
As he climbed, he noticed a faint hue of warm yellow breaking through the darkness; he did not know what it was or what it meant, but it seemed to be calling him to it. He knew somehow that this was the way to home and that it was located at the top of those seemingly never-ending stairs.
Ted finally appeared into view, waiting with his hands bunched into fists and shaking them up and down excitedly as he bounced on his toes. "It's about time, I thought I was going to be standing here forever!"
Turbo wasn't paying attention to him though; instead, his eyes were fixated on the golden-hued swirling cloud of matter that was before them, just big enough for the three of them to pass through without much wiggle room. It's bright heavenly glow cast them all in a yellow tinted wash, their similarly colored eyes reflecting the light to make them look like a sextet of miniature suns.
"You should go in first," Turbo heard one of the twins say, a gentle push against the back of his shoulder prompting him to go forward.
Turbo twisted his head to the side so he could look behind his shoulder, his brothers looking at him with identical loving smiles. "But you two waited so long to get here."
"We'd always decided that we'd let you go first when you arrived," Ted chirped, nodding his head forward to further persuade their long-lost family member to go ahead and step through the portal. "We've been inside already, remember? Don't worry, we'll be right behind ya."
"Take advantage of us freely letting you go first, Turbs, because once we get out onto that track, we're going to make you work for all those first place trophies." Teddy gave him a closed smile with a quick friendly wink, waving his hand out in a shooing gesture. "Hurry up, speed demon, you're holding up the line."
A small crack of a smile etched itself onto Turbo's face, observing his family one last time before he turned his attention back to the swirling golden gateway that would lead to home. Inhaling deeply, he counted to three in his head before taking a few steps forward, his hands outstretched and his eyes closed as he disappeared from the twins' view.
It was like being dumped into a bottle of fizzy soda bubbles, the warm pixels tickling his code as he weightlessly travelled upwards. He felt himself being painlessly stretched out and separated, a discombobulating feeling if there ever was one. For a few moments, he had no thoughts in his head whatsoever until he began getting pieced back together pixel-by-pixel.
The simple tune that was TurboTime's theme wormed its way into his ears, a muted sound that seemed to be coming from far away but then progressively grew louder. He softly landed on something, and he gasped for air, opening his eyes for the first time since his departure from the twins.
What he had landed on was his car's seat, and he grinned as he ran his hands down his steering wheel, lightly wrapping his fingers around it and feeling a surge of nostalgic power course through his code. The non-sentient, faceless crowd of fans that occupied the stadium cheered wordlessly as the song continued to play. The gold-brown oval track that the three gray-skinned racers had spent countless hours on lay out before him now, his car parked in the pole position just behind the starting line.
"Beautiful, isn't it!" Teddy laughed from his right, and Turbo glanced over to see his outgoing racing partner smiling ear to ear from his own blue car.
"Looks just like it always did!" piped up Ted, who had materialized to Turbo's left. "And we'll never have to worry about losing it ever again!"
Turbo released a breath that he hadn't realized he'd been holding all this time, a small tear trickling down from the corner of his eye as he admired his old stomping grounds. In the distance just off to the side of the track and out of the line of sight of the players, was the large house that the three of them shared together, looking as spotless and well-manicured as always.
"Hey look, new game!"
The voice of a young boy rang through the game's interior, and the three of them simultaneously looked up and over at the large screen that separated them from the player. A small freckle-faced lad of about seven eagerly peeked in with his big blue eyes, an ethereal glow radiating about him.
"I remember playing this one with my dad!" he stated triumphantly, not seeming the least bit sad that he was not of the living anymore. "It was one of our favorites!"
The start-up music switched over to the faster beat that played during an actual level, and Turbo felt his car spring to life, the strange yet familiar feeling that an avatar gets when being in control by a player sweeping over him. It was like a dream, a dream that he never wanted to wake up from, a dream that he knew he'd be able to relive for the rest of his days.
The countdown for the start of the race ended and the car zoomed its way forward onto the track. Initially staying at the same speed as the twins, Turbo thought to himself with a smile, There really is no place like home.