Vanellope Von Schweetz tore around the outside corner of the track in a cloud of sugary dust. The finish line was less than half a mile away, and if she could make it down the home stretch without incident, she knew she'd have a lock on first place. The roar of her fellow racers' karts behind her was nothing but quiet background noise as she focused on her goal. She'd done this almost a hundred times before. Nothing to it…
And then, from out of nowhere, an all-too-familiar bright magenta racecar pulled up on Vanellope's right. From the driver's seat, Taffyta Muttonfudge shot her a disgusting self-congratulatory smirk that sent a stab of unease through Vanellope's stomach. She couldn't lose, not now, not to her rival, not when she was this close…
But Taffyta had pulled directly ahead of her, sweeping back and forth across the track to box her in. No matter which way Vanellope swerved, she couldn't pull out in front. The finish line was only a hundred yards away now. Vanellope's eyes widened with shock as she noticed Taffyta had an A La Mode power-up, and she was in primo position to use it. A huge scoop of vanilla ice cream sprang out of Taffyta's car, sailing through the air, headed straight for Vanellope's face…
Vanellope shut her eyes tight and concentrated on her destination.
The ice cream splattered on the track as Vanellope and her vehicle glitched twenty yards ahead, reappearing in front of Taffyta's kart in a burst of blue pixels. Taffyta's jaw dropped in fury as she saw Vanellope fly across the checkered finish line. A massive cheer went up from the crowd of candy denizens. The letters flashed bold and red in midair above Vanellope's car: 1st PLACE!
Taffyta pounded her dashboard in frustration as the other four racers blew by her, skidding to a stop just over the finish line. Swizzle Malarkey, Jubileena Bing-Bing, Gloyd Orangeboar, and Adorabeezle Winterpop all leapt from their cars and hoisted Vanellope aloft on their shoulders. Vanellope punched the air in triumph, laughing with glee.
Candy confetti rained from the sky as Sour Bill, still wearing his usual glum expression, walked onto the track carrying a massive peppermint-colored trophy. Vanellope lifted it over her head and cheered along with her adoring public as more words blinked overhead: 10th CONSECUTIVE WIN! YOU HAVE BEEN AWARDED THE PEPPERMINT CUP! CONGRATULATIONS!
Seething, Taffyta glared at the enormous monitor displaying the player on the opposite side of the screen, a mousy-haired girl with glasses. She was pumping her fist in the air and mouthing something that looked like "All right!" She seemed quite pleased with her victory. Just like she had been the last nine times today. Everybody who plunked down four quarters for a game of Sugar Rush loved to play as Vanellope Von Schweetz, thanks to her unique ability to teleport around the track. Nobody ever selected her prissy lollipop-sucking rival Taffyta anymore.
As the rest of the racers carried Vanellope off the track, still cheering wildly, Taffyta slumped back in the driver's seat, her hands balled into tiny bitter fists. She hadn't won a race in a month, not since Vanellope had been reconnected to the game's code and become a playable character again. Sure, Taffyta had been right there alongside her fellow racers, apologizing profusely for how they'd mistreated her while they'd been electronically brainwashed by the sinister Turbo. But now, losing every race to Vanellope was starting to take its toll, gnawing away at Taffyta's conscience like a parasite.
Why should she get all the glory? she thought in spite of herself. People only love her 'cause she can do that glitchy thing. If it wasn't for that, oh brother, I'd mop the floor with her…
- - - -
Wreck-It Ralph squinted as he stepped out into the bright lights of Game Central Station. It was always a bit of a chore for his eyes to adjust from the inky night sky of his own game to the illuminated bustle of the power strip hub. Litwak's Arcade had just closed for the night, and the atrium was abuzz with the chatter of hundreds of video game characters.
"So," Ralph asked, flexing his back (he was still a little sore from his sixteenth drop off the roof of Niceland Apartments that day), "what's on the agenda for you guys tonight?"
At Ralph's side stood his good buddy and 30-year adversary, Fix-It Felix Jr., a glistening medal draped around his neck. Bouncing slightly beside him was Q-bert, the tiny orange puffball who'd taken up residence in Fix-It Felix Jr. as a bonus character.
"Oh, big plans!" Felix beamed. "Me and Tamora are steppin' out over at Dance Dance Revolution. Golly, can you believe it's already our one-month anniversary? Boy oh boy, where does the time go?"
"I always knew you kids would make it," Ralph laughed.
Felix began to blush. "Aw, she's the ginchiest, isn't she?"
"%*&$@!" exclaimed Q-bert.
Just then, an armor-clad hand yanked Felix's hat down over his eyes. Felix lifted it up to see his wife, the hard-as-nails Sgt. Tamora Jean Calhoun, smiling down at him.
"Miss me, Sugarcakes?" she smirked.
Felix leapt up and kissed her. "Aw, all the time, Snoogumbunches! How was war today?"
Calhoun brushed the hair out of her eyes and gazed off at nothing in particular. "Never gets any easier, dear. After a long hard day of blasting the bejeepers out of those slobbering metal monsters, I sure as heck wouldn't say no to a little downtime. So who's ready to put some steel-toe to those arrow pads?"
Felix smiled, then spun around to his massive colleague. "Ralph, you wanna come along?"
Ralph ran one of his huge hands through his unkempt brown hair. "Oh gee, y'know, thanks and all, but I wouldn't want to be like a third wheel or anything…"
"None of that sissy talk, soldier!" Calhoun barked playfully. "Consider this an invitation!"
Ralph chuckled, then turned as he heard a familiar high-pitched voice behind him.
"Heya, Stinkbrain, look what I won today!"
There stood Vanellope, holding her Peppermint Cup and grinning with pride. She bounced on the balls of her feet, clearly having waited all day to share this news with her best friend.
"Wow!" Ralph said as he knelt down. "Awesome trophy, Vanellope! What's the occasion?"
"How about winning ten races in a row?" Vanellope squeaked. "First time I've ever pulled that off in one day! I was in the zone, man! I had like a Zen thing goin' on! You couldn't have stopped me even if you had some big giant stopping thing! It was so sweet!"
"Way to go, buddy!" Ralph laughed. "You rule that race track!"
"Heck yeah I do!" Vanellope concurred, bumping fists with Ralph. "Top shelf!"
Calhoun and Felix both admired Vanellope's trophy. "Congratulations, short-stuff!" Calhoun praised. "You deserve such delicious accolades for going above and beyond the call of duty."
Vanellope burst into a fit of giggles. "Doody…" she laughed.
"This calls for celebration, wouldn't you say?" Felix interjected. "Vanellope, we're all heading over to DDR tonight! Wanna come with?"
Vanellope's face practically lit up. "DDR? Wow, absolutely! I always thought you had to be on some sort of waiting list to get in there!"
"Hey," Ralph said as the four of them set off across the atrium, Q-bert bounding along beside them, "you're the president of Sugar Rush, I don't think you'll have any problem."
Vanellope bounced with anticipation, clutching her trophy tight. She was so ecstatic, she didn't notice three of her fellow racers eavesdropping on her from behind a nearby bench.
Taffyta stepped out from hiding, flanked on either side by her two cronies Rancis Fluggerbutter and Candlehead.
"So," Taffyta hissed to her accomplices as she watched Vanellope disappear into the crowd, "either of you feel like going dancing?"