TISA r5. Torin and the PLOT
As the crowd of unlikely concerned citizens processed behind her, Elie glanced up at the night sky, wondering how the heck she was going to lead a small dysfunctional army into Sheezyville’s highly protected tower. Of course, she procured no answer from the strands of code that stretched like veins across the sky. Their faint red glow sent her stomach into flip flops, reminding her of how little time she had to act.
Everything was so desolate. Everyone seemed to have packed up and left, leaving just the batch delusional enough to believe they had something to change the game. The once flourishing markets and businesses were vacant, boarded up, and decaying. In the back of her mind, she pictured what it would be like should her mission succeed - everything back up and running again. The image comforted her… more so than the pistol that felt like a thousand pounds in her pocket.
Roughly, she was jerked out of her thoughts by a calamity of scuffling, which raised her hopes a bit as she glanced around, wondering if a new user was in her midst. Lord, she could use all the help she could find. However, disappointment reigned supreme when she realized the noise came from her own brigade.
“Well, my nest is there,” she heard the wax crow sputter when he began outwardly squabbling with the robotic panda, “of course, that is not the utmost important reason as to why I desire to save this city. You, panda, are a rapscallion and I take extreme offense of your accusations. Save the tower just so no nasties befall my nest, how rude.” Without another word, he crossed his feathered arms and let out a strident huff.
The panda stared at the crow’s head before rolling her luminescent eyes. “We have no time for your jibber-jabber, cracker,” she growled in a deep mechanized tone. She continued mounting insults beneath her breath, baiting the crow to lunge at her. To be honest, she craved a reason to test out her brand new titanium claws on his squishy head. She crossed her paws and glanced up at her partner, who seemed a bit too reluctant to jump into the fray.
Oh for the love of crepes, couldn’t people forget their allegiences for one minute? Everyone was on edge enough and catalysts certainly weren’t welcome. “Enough,” Elie barked and pointed to the tower, “Once we save this place, you two can argue to your hearts’ content. But for now, STFU and listen.” When the crowd regarded her with grim silence, she exhaled as she resumed meandering toward the center. “What we need is a plan. Candle, since you can fly, you can scout ahead and alert us if there’s any dangers.” She mentally added “and take your attitude with you.”
The crow saluted as he bowed and cawed, “Madame, I am at your service. Now if you excuse me,” he cast a sideways and deliberate glance at the panda, “I am going to make myself useful, unlike some hooligan over here.”
The panda raised a claw and pounced, her claws inches falling short of the crow that lunged into the air and cackled jovially. Raising her paws, she thundered, “Motherfu- get your ass back down here Imma be kicking it so hard, I’ll-” she trailed off when her partner gently touched her shoulder and mouthed an urgent ‘not now.’
“Someone… you know… bad might hear us,” she finally muttered and wrapped her arms over her chest. She sensed that they were being watched, but prayed it was just her paranoia tricking her. It always seemed that there was always a bad guy waiting around the corner or some misshapen creature going thump in the night. Nervously, she wondered to herself about what actually remained in the city now that all the good guys retreated. Those thoughts were unwelcome and she shook her head, banishing them to pester her at another time.
While Elie observed the group and attempted to assemble some sort of plan, Shira adjusted her glasses and stared at the man with the oar and then the large android. Who knew she’d team up with the Alliance… willingly? But it would take an optimistic Mary Sue to think this group would function for long. Had someone told her a few days ago that the only way to save the damn city was to rub elbows with the enemy she would have bludgeoned their face with coded bullets.
“Elie,” she began, “Do you think we’d be better off splitting into teams… you know, Alliance and Rebels?” It was unwise that two rival teams would pair up… bias and miscommunication would eventually wear out the cooperative streak. She already saw teams forming as the once mingled group now divided into its respective divisions.
Elie shot her ally a droll look and deadpanned, “And revive the competitive spirit? No. We’re in this together and if we’re all mature enough, we’ll abstain from making ourselves look like flaming idiots.” Her gaze trickled down to the panda grinding her teeth in frustration. “I don’t care who started it first. Any arguments from here on out will hurt us. We need to get to the tower ASAP because,” she pointed to the sky that flickered an eerie crimson, “I’ve never seen the sky do that and it’s obvious this is not a good omen.”
“If I may,” the chipper man chuckled as he calmly lowered his oar, “I think we maaaaay need to skedaddle.” He slicked back his mousy brown hair and indicated over his shoulder.
Elie shot him a glare until she saw a figure looming in the background. Her eyes widened in panic as she heard the Alliance soldier cheerfully reveal, “We have company.”
The group spun to meet the visage of a dirty, wounded, and hulk-like figure. His insane grin occupied the majority of his face, nearly detracting from the ghastly sight of his missing eyeball and the caked blood that covered his cheeks. Every breath sounded like a sputtering gurgle, like a death rattle, as he paraded forward like the shambling dead.
Storm grasped Steve-O calmly, coming across an army of users completely ill equipped to fend off his deadly code. “Ah,” he marveled and slammed the hammer down, “offerings to the God? Well, I am enjoying this place more an’ more!” He spat the cigarette from his mouth as his eyes focused on a girl with clear mafia connections. She inclined her head instead of shying from his menacing glower, completely fearless of who stood before her. Guts, he liked that in a woman.
She said nothing, but raised her gun and fired three shots into the air. Ah, she was trying to scare him, how quaint.
Grinning, he stomped forward and twirled the hammer as he spouted, “Split up, run away, try to get to the tower. I’ll find you all the same.” He extended his free hand and a crackling black streak extended from the palm. A worm. It fell to the ground and writhed, but soon it would detonate, covering the area with his virus. To be honest, letting it destroy the group was far kinder than what he had planned for them. “Who’s first?”
A shriek ricochet off the darkened buildings, startling all but the mafia member who glared ahead, “PERHAPS I CAN INTEREST YOU IN PLUMERIA?!” Candle continued his crooning, causing Storm to jerk his head up and meet the sight of blazing blue eyes and a body of wax. He opened his mouth, but the being struck a clawed foot against his cheek before any words could fly from his mouth.
“Not into flowers? How about fruits?!” Candle roared as his wings and feet buffeted the worm. Ha, Candle laughed to himself, the early bird certainly did get the worm… or at least startle it back into its hole.
Raymond withdrew two guns from her pinstripe jacket and fired two shots into Storm’s chest as she cried out, “The rest of yas, take off and get to the tower. I need t’ remind this wise guy of what happens when I’m sexually harassed.” Obviously, guns weren’t going to do squat against a worm, but she could at least incapacitate its infested body. She fired again, her bullets cracking into his kneecaps. She grinned as he stumbled, fumbling to remain upright.
Yet he remained undeterred of the agony screaming over his body. Why worry over an organic form that wasn’t even his? Shrugging off the crippling pain, he stepped forward and smugly enlightened, “Barely felt that. Anything else you got?”
“Gabe,” Pan roared as sent her companion into the crowd, “Take your crazy genius mind and go.” Her protective instincts kicked into high drive as she jumped before the crowd and extended her arms, hoping she had what it took to dent her enemy. She opened her mouth and released an energy beam, sending both Storm and Candle into a tizzy. “Oops,” she grinned now that she managed to relight the wick on top of the crow’s head, “totally didn’t see you there.”
Candle shot her a look that promised revenge, but he was quickly reminded that he was fighting for his life. As Ray continued firing rounds, he began pecking fastidiously at the worm that continued to expand and tremble. “Someone set us up the bomb,” he cried before collecting it in his beak and taking off, hoping to be far away from his allies by the time it exploded. He felt his jaws being forced open as the creature writhed and plumped up, but he was determined to deliver everyone from this particular fate. He was wax, he could survive this.
A girl with long blond hair snatched Gabe by the wrist and began dragging her along with the rest of the crowd. She silently shook her head and cast a grim look at the Rebel. “They will only slow him down. We… we have to keep going.” She gulped, betraying that she was not happy with her options in the slightest, but she had no choice. No one did. It was either become the next batch of zombies for the Storm worm, or reach the only thing that could stop him.
She didn’t like the idea of Ray becoming a mindless follower, but she had a hunch that the mobster wouldn’t cave so easily. For the crow and the panda, they may be configured differently and be spared from infection.
“Pan,” Gabe whimpered and resigned herself to be dragged along as she wiped tears from her eyes. She didn’t want to leave her friend, but she knew Pan wouldn’t function nearly as well if she kept worrying about her getting wormed. She wasn’t even meant for hand-to-hand combat… but she was making that risk for her. And Pan was right… she did have a genius mind and the group would need a hacker.
Everything she knew about worms caused her to place one foot before the other. If you became infected, it was over. Light’s out and your only salvation was death… when and if you were released from its control.
Suddenly, her senses roared when a can rumbled across their path, temporarily spooking the group.
“Guys, over here!” An unfamiliar voice called in the distance as a gloved hand beckoned them to the right. The arm was connected to a girl with wavy pigtails. “Hi, hello there fellow Rebels, I was guarding a loop code!” She grinned excitedly and babbled, “We were hiding from the very thing you’re running from, so hurry! He’s really hard to shake off, believe me.”
Elie slowed to a trot and looked over her shoulder at the group that fought the Stormworm, looking as though they were about to lose any second. She grit her teeth, not wanting any harm to come to them… but they signed up for this when they left for the tower, didn’t they? Besides, what choice did she have? Oh, she really disliked being the leader now.
“My name is Beth…. F-for the rebellion?” She offered as the crowd streaked passed her. Her eyes caught sight of the huge blue android and squeaked, completely thrown off track when she noted Alliance members peppering the group. “Uh… uh. I mean I… don’t arrest me.” She shook her head and pointed to the wavering blue code. She had no clue where it would take them, but anywhere other than the current position was preferable.
Darken clamped a hand on the shoulder and went, “Right now, consider our efforts a truce.” He squeezed it lightly before picking up a few trashcans and placing them in the alley’s entrance. It wouldn’t stop the worm, but it would block the loop from direct view if the worm would search for it. How he wished he could fall back and try his hand at incapacitating the villain, but some innate instinct told him to guard the remainder of the group at all costs. It was probably the same feeling that inspired Beth to wait around for others. Ha, there were forces afoot here, he knew it. The thought ignited a small flame of hope.
The girl in pigtails lowered her head, ashamed that she was all brave and mysterious for one second, then timid and skittish the next. She was glad, however, that she wasn’t roaming the streets alone. But there was no time to do expectations versus reality.
Quickly, she placed her index finger and thumb into her mouth and let off a strident whistle. Everyone jerked and clasped their hands over their ears, wondering what the heck the strange girl was doin. A figure shouted in the distance before clambering over some rooftops before jumping into the clearing besides the loop.
“Eyy, chica, más personas!” He lauded gleefully and rubbed his hands together before sizing up the women of the group.
“I ran into this… guy as I was running. H-he kinda found the portal first. He was scouting to see if anyone else was in the area to… you know…” said Beth in a sheepish manner. She was like him, searching for survivors and find a way to get the heck to safety.
Elie looked back at the man, noted his glowing green chains and his smarmy expression, and rolled her eyes in disgust. This group was becoming more interesting by the second. “Is there anyone else with you?”
The Spainyard sauntered up to Elie and wrapped a muscular arm around her neck, softly whispering, “Guapa, I’d be muy contento if it was just you and me.” He yanked her clenched fist from her side and kissed it, saying to her breasts, “Besos. My name is Sebastian and I am at your service.”
“And we don’t have time for your erectile dysfunction,” Shira barked as she swatted the rebel back. Quickly, She thrust out her arm to prevent the advancing Elie from giving the charmer some of her own affection. Time was blistering by and there was no time to create any more OTPs. The two exchanged a long look before she regarded Beth and snapped, “Where does the portal lead?”
Beth laughed nervously and rubbed her arms as she offered, “I don’t know where it’ll lead. I’m just glad I heard you guys before I jumped in. It looks like it has one last go before it goes entirely offline.”
Solar sniffed the weakening code and barked over his shoulder, “It will take us to the forums.” His nose had detected the faint stench of drama and role playing. Where else could it lead? The popular journals section? His eyes traveled up to Lynette, who was clutching her Alliance star in fear. He recalled how badly she had been injured and wondered if code would be too rough on her wounds. “You think you can make the journey?”
Before the disabled Alliance soldier could spout off a defensive argument, Elie wrapped an arm around the ginger’s waist and grunted, “No one’s getting left behind, okay?” Even though she wished one in particular would fall off a cliff. She felt Lynette slump with resignation and lean against Elie, betraying how exhausted she truly was. Quietly, her eyes darted to the area behind as she urged, “Okay, everyone in. This thing looks like it’s about to break apart.”
A noise blasted from behind, prompting Shira to shove the crowd into the code in a momentary lapse of judgment as she slammed her glasses over her eyes. There was hardly enough room in the loop to begin with, she reasoned with herself. As the code wrapped around the remaining team, she snapped, “I’ll lead him away from here. I’ll buy you more time.” Her grin wavered as uncertainty of survival kicked in the pit of her stomach. She wanted to save Sheezyville so much, but guilt rammed into her. Uri died because she failed to protect him… now she was going to rectify that mistake.
Elie extended a hand, trying to snatch the Rebel back, but gasped as her hand exploded in data. The code blossomed, decoded the group for transfer, and disappeared.
Shira sighed and wiped a tear from her eye, “Uri, you proud of me? Please, watch over them if you’re there…. They need all the help they can get.” She cocked her gun, launched over the trashcans, and plowed forward. How she wanted to assist the crowd already holding down the threat, but it would only be a matter of time before he overwhelmed them. She had to be ready to lead him far from the loop as possible. If he even detected the data, he could probably catch up with them in a matter of seconds.
She heard Ray roar in frustration and fire off more bullets. Some more shrieks, then a distant explosion, and silence. Quaking, she held the gun close and exhaled in a weak attempt to quell her nerves. Over and over again, she kept mentally repeating her mantra: Sheezyville was worth it.
[PULSE AND WEBS]
PULSE glared up at the Alliance HQ and, with a flick of her wrist, whipped the steel gates from their hinges. She glided past the security wires and released a ridiculous shudder of energy, completely blowing the assault rifles from their mounts. “I was hoping for a welcoming party,” She moaned as she sent another bolt across the hallway, disabling the backup generator and killed the power of the fortress. If anyone happened to be still inside the area, they would have to go through her to make it to the only exit.
Webs strutted behind and peeked into the various rooms that aligned the corridor. No one remained for him to feast upon, a thought that made him grind his teeth with resentment. Everyone probably already vacated the plant and dispersed toward the tower. He was wasting time, he knew it. But, PULSE seemed like they were trailing the beginnings of a grand adventure. He hated to disappoint her and prayed her boredom would equate his soon.
“Here,” she breathed as she caressed a gigantic titanium door. Its glossy exterior was marred by a heinous sign that blared, “Restricted Area: Authorized Personnel Only.” Paying the sign no heed, a strange grin snaked across her face as a wave of familiar energy trickled across her palm.
Her fingernails burrowed into the surface, creating a high whine that was guaranteed to blow eardrums. “So you are back.” With that, she jammed her fingers between the door’s crevices and yanked them apart, ripping the door from its foundations. With a simple motion, she tossed them into the hallway, which caused Webs to scramble out of their careening path.
When the dust subsided, he peeled himself from the wall and glanced around like he was inspecting the cleanliness of the organization. Plucking a few shards of residue from his armor, Webs sniffed, “Like a retarded bloodhound, you are.” She certainly lacked finesse, but then again he was in no state to judge. The messier, the better happened to be his motto. He just didn’t like stumbling across disasters not directly affiliated with his meddling.
He sucked in a deep breath and glided behind his unofficial tracking dog, who was fastidiously scanning the area for something particular. The way her eyes glows and the frantic anxiety that caused her facial muscles to spaz only told him so much. Was it something that he could hold even more power over her, or was it something that should concern him as well? Shrugging, he pretended to make himself useful, but found himself pocketing items he lusted to carve bodies with.
He heard PULSE faintly murmuring and singing to herself as she rocked back and forth. Turning, he began to wonder if her defect was graver than he anticipated. Installing emotions into the bot caused her to think childishly, everything revolved around her, and led her to eagerly ingesting the Corrupt virus. Did her exposure exacerbate the problem or did it just mean more fun for the party?
Her fist scraped against the computers that popped and sparked at her touch. “Nothing but shadows. Glimmers of your former selves. You have no power over me,” She spat as images of the two motionless bots bombarded her brain. They weren’t the real Rojo and Verde. But she sensed their aura. But they weren’t the same.
Her mind continued to push out abbreviated and frantic sentences as her body began to tremble with nervous energy. “I will find you. Run if you can.” She screeched as she hurled the slabs across the room and into a large plasma screen. An explosion followed as she roared, “And when I do…. When I do…” her tirade broke off into a fit of psychotic laughter as she began hurling more objects against the wall.
Webs watched her with disgust as he attempted to make his way over to Sheezyville’s princess. A temper tantrum, how quaint and infinitely counter productive. When he came upon her, he wrapped his claws around her neck and yanked back, hissing, “You realize the longer you spend throwing your fit of hysterics, the more likely they are to escape.” He yanked her head until she faced the scene before her, a disaster of ruin. Webs glowered, “Control yourself, had I been the enemy, I could have snapped your lovely neck.” He quickly placed his lips on her forehead to sever any chances of his pep talk backfiring on him.
Her emotions ebbed away at the slightest touch of affection and she leaned against her master, mumbling, “You don’t understand. They can end me. I am finally alive and I don’t want this miracle cut so short.” Her arms wrapped around Webs as she breathed, “They will either reboot or kill me… they may have the power.”
Webs lowered her arms as he purred, “Tell me, love, who are they? I cannot help you if you keep these secrets from me.” The schematics of his mind continued to click, ecstatic that another element was added into the game. To him, the obstacle was welcome. As much as he would enjoy ending Sheezy with just a flick of his wrist, he’d rather spend his last moments doing what he loved best.
Eying him wearily, she wrapped her arms around her chest and blubbered, “The original creators of Sheezyville, Rojo and Verde, created me.” She withheld speaking about Azul and prayed that her pestering wisdom wasn’t even a part of the terrifying picture. Rojo and Verde were harsher and less compassionate. Especially Rojo, who would spend days plotting the perfect punishment for all offenders. She shuddered, thinking what horrors would befall her should those leaders be resurrected.
Webs touched her gently and nodded, pretending he was somewhat interested in her life story. “When they grew old… they created me to keep the tower functioning. But, I knew that they wouldn’t depart so easily. So… they each left a code with their memories and knowledge and instructed that should Sheezy begin to fall, resurrect them. I-I tried to destroy the code, wanting them to stay dead. It looks like they foresaw that.” She hung her head, wondering how she could have been so short sighted. It was probably Azul’s idea to create copies.
Continuing to have her hair stroked, the terrified being continued, “Rojo and the rest didn’t want to be revived into any ordinary body and left blueprints and schematics of robots that suited their needs. Those bots were built, of course, and I know who they are now that I saw them.” She glanced up at Webs and hissed, “Hollystika was Rojo all this time but functioned under the corrupt virus. She was cleaned out and… she needs to be killed first. There’s another bot, Null. I…” She held her head and let out a wail, “I felt their pull when I saw their faces on my monitors, but I didn’t think and now this could all be over.”
Webs ceased comforting the bot and he sighed, “I know the legend.” When he met PULSE’S eyes, he grinned, “Because I was there.”
He snatched her by the shoulders and growled, “So tell me, do you happen to know where Azul may be?”
Mikael continued to monitor the cameras while Prismind and Sno ferociously worked to build up enough power to create the final start up jump that would awaken the bots. Problem was, a serious amount of energy was required that exceeded the limits of their generators.
“Frost, slush, blizzard,” Sno swore and clutched his head as another failed jumpstart left the bots motionless. “You two icicles snap out of your hibernation now!” His voice peaked at a high when Mikael updated the whereabouts of Webs and PULSE.
They had less than a minute to make things worse.
Prismind wiped a bead of sweat from his forehead as he hissed, “Dammit, we come this close. Don’t let this be the end.” He fired up the chargers and pressed them to the maximum energy flow. The light bulbs overhead popped and rained glass over the tireless workers as the jump start procured a faint green and red glow. “Okay, that’s progress.”
“But not enough,” Catleen crooned from overhead from her designated plasma screen, “Seriously Pris, think of something outside the box… or in our case, the HQ.” How desperately she wanted to tell everyone what to do, but she couldn’t bestow any more pearls of wisdom. She had become a ghost program just to warn the last sliver of hope not to blow it. Should she press harder, whatever security remain would probably hone in and eradicate her. She couldn’t risk it… yet. However…
Her eyes located a discarded messenger bot and her eyes flashed dubiously. That’s a bingo.
Mikael scratched behind his ear and pondered, “Wait… Catleen…” He furrowed his brows before he finally understood what she meant. Look outside the HQ’s sources! There was a whole buffet of energy running rampant around Sheezyville. Oh, he could kiss her if that wasn’t as creepy as it sounded.
He spun to Prismind and shouted, “30 seconds, but Pris… the TOWER!”
The two standing over the bots snapped up their heads and looked at each other, before repeating the elf’s words. Sno immediately bounded from his chair and confiscated the computers, rerouting the source of energy flow. His arms shook with urgency and he felt pressured under the foreboding thought that this was the only recoding that he couldn’t botch.
“12 seconds,” Mikael whispered, wondering where the hell they were going to hide.
PULSE glared up at the camera and smiled coolly, as though she knew what they were doing.
“LAUNCH!” Sno cried out and slammed his branched hand upon the button, which immediately caused the sockets surrounding the bots to fizzle and whine. The remainder lights and functioning screens dimmed as more and more power drained from the tower.
Mikael and Pris turned to watch the bots twitch in response of the energy feed. One’s fingers crumpled, another smiled with a welcome gleam, and both opened their eyes with defiant fury. Their programs booted, running ROJO.exe and VERDE.exe respectfully. Finally, with a final smash, the generators blew.
Hollystika was first to rise from her slab and she regarded the Alliance members with a cold reluctance. “And what are we doing here?” She dropped her head as an onslaught of memories of her past program bombarded her mind. She became a Corrupt, led an army to overtake the tower…
No. That wasn’t it at all. Now that the virus wasn't there to mar her mind.... Oh god, what had she done? She covered her mouth as she began piecing together more drama for the puzzle.
Null was second to rise and she removed her visor, cursing, “Null demands a debriefing.” Memories of her prior functioning as a girl wanting only to locate her master temporarily piloted her personality, but her data was overwhelmed by the burden of the VERDE.exe program.
“Unfortunately, we have no time,” Mikael rushed and ducked as the sound of screeching metal buffeted his ears. Oh god, they were here.
Hollystika observed the door and blinked, her memories still realigning themselves in chronological order. “Have you an exit strategy, human?”
A small bot on even tinier wheels zipped by their feet as Catleen’s voice boomed from its speakers, “Follow me if you wish to live,” She cackled and did a few wheelies in her new form, enjoying the freedom of a 4-speed.
Everyone shared a long look with one another before following after the mini messenger bot as it zig-zagged toward a wall, shot a mini defense missile into a hidden code pad, and rolled through the invisible door that blinked into view. “Oh yeah!” She shouted happily, “Push it, push it, push it!”
When Sno was the last to skate through the door, Catleen aimed her second-to-last defense missile and disabled the door and engulfed the team in darkness. “We’re rolling, rolling, rolling… rawhide,” she sang as she paid the no mind to the noises erupting from behind. To be honest, the bot’s limited speech capacities relegated her to only convey popular song titles and memes, and she was quickly becoming annoyed with herself. Now if there was a song that could convey that, she’d have been all over it. Also, if she could also find a way to say “This passage leads to the tower,” she’d be set.
Prismind lifted his shades that made it damn near impossible to see in the dark as he hissed, “Catleen, what has gotten into you?” He looked around for a clue, wondering if she was leading them into a trap. Another bang from behind caused him to jump, crashing against Hollystika who glared at him menacingly.
“Well, now that we’re all here, fill me in, human.” She said the last word with venom, keeping the old mentality that humans were outdated and machines were the future. “Do not brush over details, I require to know everything about the situation so we can remedy it.”
Null proceeded to walk with a deliberate drag on her heels. “Null wishes to know why we have been brought back, too.” Her instincts whined, telling her to give into Verde already, but she couldn’t bear to. Her master was still out there. Her urgency to find him intensified with every step she took.
Mikael eyed her curiously, wondering why she was still referring to herself as Null, the Rebel. Did that mean Hollystika was still Hollystika? If so, they were screwed.
Prismind immediately shrugged and enlightened, “PULSE left the tower and willingly allowed herself to become corrupted.” His words seemed to strike Hollystika more than Null, and she shrank back a little and betrayed a modicum of guilt. “Sheezyville is entering its last hour… so we called upon your programs to save it.”
“And Azul, is she here?” Hollystika snapped and folded her arms, incredulous that the Alliance leader thought they could revive the city with a broken triad.
All 3 Alliance members rubbed the back of their necks, unsure with how to proceed. It was Catleen who chirped, “Voltorb used self destruct. It’s super effective.”
When the entire group eyed her blankly, she shifted her wheels and let out a whoop that sounded too much like the lobster from Futurama.
Finally, Null murmured, “Limited speech, can only say lines from memes.” When Catleen jumped up and down with glee, she extracted one of her cables and whispered, “If Null connects, she can relay your messages.” The possessed messenger bot nearly jumped into the scantily clad woman’s arms and purred, “Would you like to make a contract?”
Hollystika rolled her eyes at the acrimony of it all. They were chasing their tails, spouting the obvious, and most importantly, wasting precious time. Finally, she barked, “We move as you talk, understood?”
The green bot nodded and connected her USB with Catleen and almost stumbled back by how eager she was to relay her messages. Quickly, she relayed in the commander’s voice, “This tunnel leads to the tower. We must go there…”
Hollystika turned and snapped, “And Azul, where in high hell is she?”
Blankly, Null returned, “Smashed to pieces.” Before anyone could swear, she rushed, “But she’s alive… she was somehow released and is currently chilling in the tower. So, now you know why I want you all to get a move on?”
Prismind bit his lip, knowing what a smashed Azul meant. Eerste was dead… which meant. “And Torin-?” He couldn’t finish and looked away,too upset to pursue the subject.
Null blinked and continued to relay, “Oh, long story. She’s all good. But you know that skinny woman you nearly shot about thirty minutes ago? Yeah. That’s her. Like I said, long story and it isn’t worth mentioning. What I would like to hear is what Hollystika has to explain about the corrupt virus!”
Everyone turned to the bot who held up her arms in defeat and hissed, “Must you approach the topic so urgently?”
Null retorted in Catleen’s voice, “Hey, we’re in for a nice leisurely stroll in the dark. I think we deserve to know what caused this drama. After all, this war is kinda your fault.”
Now everyone was riveted and turned to stare open-mouthed at the red bot. She flushed and crossed her arms, promising nothing but pain and torment when she got her hands on the tiny bot. However, pride was the source of her fall and she wasn’t in the mood to restart the vicious cycle.
She motioned the group to continue walking as she grumbled with resignation, “I created the corrupt virus. I was built by Rojo’s progeny, exactly the way he wished. So when I noticed PULSE coming into her own mind, I wanted to create a program to subjugate her.”
Null broke from Catleen’s possession and droned, “Null does not understand why such an intelligent being would make such a heinous blunder.” Her voice was pragmatic and emotionless, as though she was merely making an observation and wasn’t attempting to inflect hostility upon Hollystika.
The red bots shoulders arched as she spat, “I did it to nip the problem in the bud. But someone tampered with it.” She continued to hiss, “I have my hunches but, that aside, the program infected me. It was then doled out to the masses, which created the Corrupt army. As you see, my virus was successful… it was merely abused.” She brushed off the revelation with minimum remorse, as though she fully believed her words.
“So, you became a puppet?” Mikael offered as the team rounded a corner. The lights continued to grow brighter, signaling an end to the tunnel.
Hollystika shrugged to the elf, “As to whom I was a puppet for, I am sure you know him well.” Their eyes met and something clicked, causing the fae creature to swear. “You didn’t think humans lived that long, did you? Presumptuous little prick. That inflection equates you in responsibility.”
Everyone now turned to Mikael, who began shuddering with rage.
“Null desires to know why the one with the pointed ears is at fault,” She awkwardly touched his shoulder, recalling the move as a way of consolation between mortals. “From what Null has heard, all the blame is cast on Hollystika.”
Hollystika eyes danced with malice as she grinned, “Well, since the elf is a bit too gunshy to explain himself, I guess I will be the one to say, he goes way back with a certain someone we all love to hate.” She lowered her head, her dark hair sweeping over her face as she grinned, “You failed to recognize Webs and you failed to notify your superiors.”
Null tightened her hand on Mikael’s shoulder as she demanded, “Is this true?” Fire danced in her eyes and the part of her that was reserved for Verde began to reactivate. Millions of missing information sprang to the front of her mind, filling her questions. She gasped and released the elf, who began sputtering incoherent drivel.
Her mind formulated a picture of her master and his name began to type itself below the image. As Hollystika was created by Rojo, she was created by Verde. And they were merely their capsules and guardians of their souls. All this time, she was chasing a memory. She lowered her head, finding herself responsible for some of the war as well.
Mikael’s words drew her from her shame as he revealed, “Webs started the Fish vs. Swords war eons ago. But… it’s impossible. You mean he started this war as well?”
Hollystika’s eyes narrowed as she smiled, “Little elf, he is War. And he will never die until this wretched world ends… or,” she trailed off, giving him a deliberate look.
Prismind and Sno remained silent, feeling as though they were relegated from main characters to mere supporting roles. It was an uncomfortable thought, but they played their parts well and restrained themselves from adding to the noise.
Finally, Mikael snarled with newfound rage, “He can die because he ISN’T war. He only pretends he is.” He came across the entrance to the tower and pushed the door, hissing, “The same being that put me in a stasis…” He wracked his mind, wondering how he could have missed so much. He saw the familiar grin and tuft of orange hair. The familiar glint of chaos and destruction in her eyes.
He roared, “I KNOW YOU CAN HEAR ME. SHOW YOURSELF!”
He circled around, his fingers popping by the strain they were now placed under as he continued grinding them into his palm.
Null looked at Hollystika, who looked to Sno and then to Prismind for answers. Then they all turned to the messenger bot, who let off an R2-D2 whistle of confusion.
Mikael spun on his heels and roared, “MERCHANT. SHOW YOURSELF NOW!”