Chapter 7 (1/2): Defacing

"Tara I'm just saying-" she masterfully slashed through the shimmering cyan brush- "I don't think that makes it legal."

The midnight-clad maiden sauntered out the forest with her nose turned to the sky. She and Bibi had been wandering through the trees with nothing to do. They expected a dynamic battle with drones of clones floating down from the sky and crawling below but alas, The Virus had allowed them relatively easy passage. Though with how dense this foliage was, without the help of RETRO they might have been stuck for hours.

Bibi labored her point, "It just seems… wrong? Even by my standards."

Bull spoke up within her earpiece, "And what standards are those?"

"The same standards that stop me stealing from family friends."

Tara raised a disagreeing finger, "Mhmm mmhm hmhhm mmmhmmhmm?"

Bibi rolled her eyes before pushing aside her pigtail-covered ear, "Sandy, I need a translation." The sovereign savior of sleep stepped up to the mic per request. Tara had her face practically smushed against Bibi's ear so she could repeat the message.

With a little yawn he informed her, "Tara wants to know what about strangers?"

Bibi scoffed, "Oh yeah they're fair game."

A bit of shuffling over the mic clued her into the change in speaker. Rico's robotic drawl chimed in, "I hate to ruin the fun but you should look ahead." The girls refocused on the expanse of land ahead. When Tara's eyes met this new location she almost shed a tear.

Laid out before them was a digital replication of her home. The Bazaar. From the grand gate and guards manning their posts to her pristine chapel glistening in the distance. An array of shops and adobe homes lined the dusty strip. The Virus had retraced it down to the last particle of sand.

Which was concerning as Rico soon elaborated, "This is improbable. How could he recreate The Bazaar when even 8-Bit has never been there?"

They didn't have to ponder this question for long. A stiff breeze flew over them as The Virus's voice rang through the air. "Do-Do you like-like-like-enjoy my work?" At this point the group had already made their way into the familiar space. Tara marveled at how well made the buildings were. She swore he even got the blemishes on the stone walls. "Yes, that's right. The assimilation of your conscious has gone well. I have access to your memories and oh what ju-ju-juicy memories indeed."

To the side, Tara saw two shops that caught her eye. Gene's Lamporium and Sandy's Sanctuary. Oh, how she couldn't wait to return to her allies' arms once more. The Virus was keeping an eye on them from his hidden perch. With poison on his tongue he pushed, "Yes, Tara. They are well made, no? Go ahead, tou-uch them."

Bibi recoiled at his words but Tara saw no reason not to oblige. She reached a hand toward the jade curtains of Sandy's shop. She could see people walking about within the shop's window. But alas she wouldn't be able to join in the merriment. For as soon as her fingers grazed the green surface they instantly shot back from a jolt of electricity.

While Tara rubbed away the pain The Virus cackled from above. "What an idiot. You truly believed you may rest? There is no res-res-relaxation for you." Bibi approached her friend with a comforting shoulder pat. RETRO also joined in comforting her while The Virus continued his monologue. "Why rest when you have a party to attend?"

With that he screeched away with the wind, leaving Bibi in a rapidly souring mood. "Nails on a chalkboard doesn't begin to describe that thing." Once Tara had recovered from the emotional shock The Virus's words truly registered in her mind. "Wait… what party?"

They looked around for any strange buildings but Bibi's eyes came up short. Even RETRO saw no obscurities. This replication used green and pink as the template, so every building had a neon glow to it. How were they supposed to spot the party when this world looked like a dance floor? Bibi cursed to herself at the thought of checking every door and getting stung until they found the one.

That's when she came up with an idea. "Why waste our time playing his game?" She pointed up above. The aurora was stretching into the distance. "Let's just go around The Bazaar." RETRO and Tara agreed with her logic. They didn't need to play The Virus's game. So they did an about-face and marched back the way they came. Directly into a massive wall that reached up into the night sky. The trio couldn't see an end on either horizon. The gate that once granted them entry had been entrance had disappeared.

Bibi hissed, "Let's just find this stupid party…" They trudged about the land with gloomy frowns. Bibi's fingers were going numb from the constant shock therapy. She figured they would end up amputees before they found their party.

That is until Tara broke from the group. She stared down the street like she had seen a ghost. A powerful finger pointed at the top floor of her chapel. There were blue and white floodlights spewing out of every window. They could now see the streamers that dangled off the domed roofs. And most importantly, there was a line ten cars long at the entrance.

Bibi saw the anger both in Tara and her medallion's eyes. "That must be where the party is."

RETRO and Bibi followed behind an infuriated Tara as she trudged down the empty street. She didn't pay any attention to the line as she rushed for the main door. And though the chagrin sneers of the faceless amalgamations couldn't halt her the bouncers did. They were two towers of opposing form. One had skin as fair as snow, the other's body was black as the void.

It was the void that dangerously put a hand in her path. He spoke as if he gargled nails for brunch, "Sorry ma'am. You can't cut the line." He had no eyes or mouth. It was as if he had been wearing a black morph suit around his chiseled body.

Tara didn't let his strange appearance bother her. She let her outraged mumbles roar over the crowd. This caught the attention of the snow-white bouncer. He spoke with a much softer tone. It was as if a mother was singing her baby to sleep, "Don't be silly, Snow. That's Tara, remember? We have express orders to let her in." Even without lips she could see how he smiled while he spoke.

This monstrous black pit (with a terribly incompatible name) gawked at his coworker. "Oh, I'm sorry madam Tara. Please go right ahead." He repositioned himself post-haste and watched as Tara stormed past him. "Nice catch, Void."

Void was busy pushing back a rowdy fan but projected a dazzling smile, "Don't mention it."

Bibi, finally getting over the initial shock of the interaction, went to let herself in. But once more Snow took the point. Bibi rolled her eyes, "Relax, Snow Black, I'm with Tara."

He grunted, "Yeah, that's what they all say."

Bibi scoffed, "Who's they?" On cue, the line behind started to flood with people claiming to know Tara as well. Bibi was pressed for options, she called ahead for Tara's attention but the street ninja had vanished behind the chapel walls. Bibi gave Snow a crooked grin, "Come on big black. We're cool, right?"

Snow snorted as a response. Bibi turned to Void who pleasantly stated, "Don't even try it, sister." They both pointed a powerful finger backward making sure she got the point.

She had certainly gotten the point. Words wouldn't get her moving. She unclipped her sword and sported a smirk. With her base locked she swung like a murderer at Snow's stomach. Which vanished with her swipe like smoke against a stick's swing. His body reformed as if he hadn't even been touched.

Bibi looked up and was met with the firm grip of Snow's palm. That certainly wasn't made of air. He shoved her back with the force of a grizzly bear. "Back of the line!" he called before repositioning himself at the entrance head.

Bibi sat up with snarling teeth. "Imma kill him!"

Luckily RETRO soon arrived with Bull at the helm. "Cool it, B. This ain't something you can swing your way through." RETRO scanned between her and the entrance. "We got an idea. We'll fly in and get Tara to come back and grab ya."

Bibi dusted off the glowing particles of simulated sand. "Okay… and what am I supposed to do while you're gone? Sit in line." Bull went silent. "Oh, you've got to be kidding me."

"You got a better plan?" Bull's tone was painfully smarmy, but he was right. She threw off her brown beanie in a defiant huff. Only for the cap to spawn on her scalp once more. With nothing left in her ever-emptying tank of frustration, she regretfully strolled to the back. "Good. We'll be right back." With that, RETRO puttered off into the sky and disappeared inside a glowing window.

As she continued to walk she noticed that this trip back was taking far longer than she remembered. She looked back and saw the chapel hundreds of feet behind her. When had the line grown so long? Again, she spiked her cap and kept walking until she reached the back. Snow and Void were black and white spots in the distance to her.

"Why me?" she grumbled. She had to sit there for what felt like five minutes before four or five pixelated masses made their eventual exit. Unfortunately, that barely moved the line forward a car length before progression was halted once again.

Bibi was at her wit's ends. This was not what she wanted to do after wandering through the forest for an hour. She got some entertainment when a green mass of pixels suddenly engaged in a brawl with another red body. She watched as the red mass absolutely clobbered green. So much so that green was hurled out of line and into the street.

When it tried to reenter in its place Void suddenly appeared before it. He gripped the blob by its head and tossed it to the back of the line. Right behind Bibi. She looked ahead and noticed how Void didn't even bother to acknowledge the winner of the little skirmish.

That's when she got an idea. The fatty blue mass ahead would be a good test. She readied her sword and slammed the blue blob off to the side. It rolled about like a boulder and quickly halted a few feet away from them. Bibi took a step forward just before it got up.

She heard it spew some discourse in its robotic language but was soon silenced. Void again appeared before this out-of-place person and, like the dazzling white knight he was, chucked it to the back of the line. He looked at Bibi and didn't even turn his nose up at her actions. He just teleported back to his position at the front of the final gate.

Bibi grew a mischievous grin between her indigo locks. "Oh, this is gonna be fun."

Tara trudged through her chapel in a multi-colored blur. She was being elbowed by blurred partyers, jostled by rabid dancers, and smothered by the constant screams over the vibrating music. The halls were lined with neon streamers. She saw graffiti defacing the prized statues she had created a year ago of her allies. And worse of all, the level of mayhem only grew greater as she approached the throne room.

Tara, the self-proclaimed mystic ruler of the sand, had spent countless hours training for the right to hold her superficial throne. It was an honor she did not take lightly. She took pride in her ability to not only run her fortune shop but also manage The Bazaar's inhabitants with a gentle fist.

And The Virus had taken mere hours to deface everything she worked for. It might have all been a digital illusion. But for Tara, this was sand in her singular functioning eye.

When she entered the throne room her rage turned to horror. Unlike the world outside that used greens and blues as its dominant hues her throne was a perfect recreation of the real deal. Down to the glistening wood flooring and beige walls. But what he had done to it made it almost unrecognizable.

The walls that were once lined with flame-baked sandstone sculptures were now covered in childish party hats and streamers. Each of the sword-bearing sculptures had multi-colored hoops wrapped around their blades and fuzzy necklaces on their shoulders.

The red-carpet procession she had installed kept its red color but now was sprinkled with rainbow confetti. She again had to shove her way through the sea of amorphous blobs until she made it to her throne. Or where her throne was supposed to be. She expected to see a small set of marble stairs leading to a glistening golden throne. Instead, her throne had been uprooted to make room for a large black and blue turntable.

Manning this musical machine was a young African American male with a lime green sweatsuit covering up the navy-blue undershirt below. His colors perfectly reflected off the neon lights swarming the scene. A hot pink belt with a burgundy buckle, a navy-blue hat to match his undershirt, and a sharp set of burgundy shades with a crack along the right lens.

Tara grumbled out a frustrated hum. The DJ was the perfect replica of 8-Bit's best friend, Brock. The Retropolis mechanic by day, breakdancing hooligan by night. But an ally, nonetheless. Maybe he could help bring this to a halt.

She managed to make her way to the table and look up at the headbanging host. She tried her best to yell over the speakers just a few feet away from her. When it showed no sign of reaching the lively host she instead started pulling on his flamboyant clothing.

That got his attention. He peered over his visor at the scarf-wrapped wonder. She noticed how his eyes were completely black save for blinding yellow pupils. "Well well well, your looking swell, swell, awe hell. Who am I kidding you mysterious maiden, even with your face covered up my heart's still shakin." Tara did a double-take at his strange words. Was this speech pattern a part of The Virus's twisted game?

She couldn't be bothered to care, "Mmhmm mmhm mmhm mmhmhm mhmmh!" When Brock didn't move she mentally cursed herself. She had forgotten that without Sandy, nobody could understand her. She looked behind herself and saw that she had left Bibi in her blind rush. There was no hope for a translator.

She sighed and again tried to articulate her issue. This time Brock's yellow pupils bugged out, "Woah woah woah, you can't stop the show. If we cut the music, where the people gonna go?"

He might be talking in strange rhymes but somehow he understood her. Again she explained that she didn't care where they went as long as it was out of her chapel. "No way, sorry to disappoin' Tara of the sand. But your whacked-out idea is against the plan. I been told by the boss to play music till they drop, so sit back an' relax just enjoy a bop."

With that Brock raised the volume until Tara's yells were drowned out. In turn, the party doubled in size blocking her exit. She could feel her organs vibrating from the bass. Brock pulled on a mounted microphone, "Wassup you Bazaar Bastards?!" They cheered for his derogatory name-calling. "We got a special guest yeah she's from the west. Put your hands up for Tara she's the numba one best!"

He pointed down at the last location he saw her at. But Tara had somehow made her way through the dense forest of limbs. Tara could feel a headache forming from the annoying sound of thumping bass. And while she hated to see her home desecrated it was just a petty replica. She had bigger problems than a fake party in a fabricated reality.

Brock took offense to that. He pressed a button on his console which made all the lights focus on the giant double doors. From her position halfway through the mob Tara saw a pillar slam against the exit. The crowd parted created a path to the exit so she could hopelessly push against the massive obelisks.

When she felt no give she turned back around. Through the glaring lights that now bared down on her another light shifted to the DJ table. Brock had a toxic grin, "I'm sorry I never knew you didn't like my rhymes, well now you're in my world, take a seat in my mind. I see you tryna run do your best to hide, but its time to dance Tara, get ready to die!"

The ground began to rumble just like it did in the mountain range before. Tara could feel the hundreds of eyes all staring at her now. Would she be forced to fight this swarm of enemies alone? And what about Brock? Would he join in the slaughter?

Luckily her answer rapidly arrived when all the glitched blobs began to burst into floating pixels. And each little poof came with more confetti to litter the floors with. When the explosions finally ended the ground was covered in multi-colored ribbons and only two bodies remained. Tara in her indigo garb. And Brock with his new neon-green sweatsuit.

And also a third woman who was just as confused as them. Bibi had somehow made her way into the throne room without Tara's assistance. Mr. Sword had multi-colored stains across its glowing blade. Bibi ran up to her with an exasperated frown, "There you are? I needed your help at the entrance where were you?" Tara pointed an angry finger forward. When Bibi saw the DJ she only had one question, "Who's the twink?"

He jumped over his booth and landed with a bounce. Brock threw up his hands like a rap artist. "Yeah. So you got a little friend now? Feel a little better now? But soon you'll be meeting ya end, how? It's cause ya messing with the DB, some call me the mean green, but in sec all ya gonna do is scream." The crowd adlibbed for him from some world out of their view. He continued his verse while doing a little dance.

"Oh its DB that's Brock with a dub to my step (better rep)
I been clean since 8-Bit was part of my set (better rep)
And I was sent, to take you girls down
Two-on-one? Where the circus I just found two clowns (honk, honk)

I got a rocket, its gonna bring the boom (no box)
See it flying, that's a one-way path to your doom (let it rock)
When ya stepping to the Brock hope ya ready for stitches
I hate to be that dude but you're a duo of b-gah!"

Brock stopped his processions and rubbed his mouth. He looked at them with a somber frown. "I bit my tongue."

The two girls stood on the red carpet with their eyes wide open. Bibi leaned into Tara's ear, "Seriously, what did I walk in on?" Brock walked back to his DJ booth and grabbed his massive boombox.

He pressed a button on the side causing it to transform with four holes in the front. The girls knew this was his custom rocket launcher. Though what confused them was how it glowed when he aimed it to the sky. He cackled out, "Move those feet to the boombox beat!"

A storm of rockets flew into the air above. Tara suspected they would collide with the ceiling but they instead began to plummet down below. The girls ran around helplessly trying to avoid the rocket rain. As it collided with the ground they saw it destroy the pristine flooring and morph their surroundings. All to the beat of Brock's insistent laughter.

When the rain finally ended they regrouped against the far sidewall. Tara was out of breath from barely dodging the onslaught while Bibi just scratched her head. "Seriously, what the heck did I miss?"

The sputtering entrance of RETRO was sure to provide the answer. Rico's voice chimed in on her mic, "I see you've met Dubstep Brock."

She reached a hand to her ear, "What?"

"Dubstep Brock. At least that's what the people called him. It seems The Virus has created more clones."

Bibi watched as DB did a little dance in the middle of the floor. "This clone is different."

"Affirmative." Dubstep Brock gave them a taunting glare.

"I wish I may, yeah I wish I might
Have a really gnarly brawl tonight
So I changed the stage and I picked a fight
Bout to rip your arms off like my name was Black Knight

We oughta call this fight Doom, I'm a demon on Mars
Hope you ready for the end, cause the map is Shooting STAR!"

Bibi smacked the ground with Mr. Sword, "Would you shut up!" Tara calmed her down and directed her attention elsewhere.

They were no longer in the throne room. Somehow during all the smoke and fire they were either transported or the world changed around them. Instead of the glistening tile flooring from before, their feet rested on compacted sand. They could feel the grits between their soles.

Besides two water fixtures on either side of Brock, there was nothing around them. There were stone walls on the edges of the clearing which could act as cover but it was wide open. This land felt familiar to Tara like she had been here before.

Brock twirled his boombox over his shoulders. He launched up some rockets which exploded into a shower of fireworks. "Yeah, yeah. Now that the processions are done the show can begin. I hope you're here to win."

Bibi got herself under control. She pointed her blade at DB, "Hey, twinkle toes. Quit the jokes and let us out of here."

Brock gawked at her demands, "OH NO! OH DANG!

You want to make your great escape
but I can't let ya see the light a day.
I was told to give yall a test
So in order to leave ya better beat me at my best."

Against her will Bibi had to listen on as DB continued his atrocious rhymes,

"Oh yeah.

A battle to the end that's the rule
But in order to beat me gotta keep ya cool
Cause I'm the toughest dude in 8-Bit's pool"

Bibi rolled her eyes. "Whatever I guess we gotta kick his butt now. Tara, you ready to get this over with?" She let out a confirming hum and ready a set of cards.

"Woah Woah Woah, don't lose your cool.
I aight the dumb one I aint no fool.
A two on one? Now that doesn't seem fair
But I'm not the kind of guy to worry bout split hairs.

You want to make it out of this trap
Well in order to do that you're gonna need my map.
And if you want that it takes a battle to the end
So let me call a buddy, Yeah I got a new friend!"

The girls silently stared as a section of the wall behind DB opened up. Just as it opened the walls around them rose high above their heads and filled with faceless glitches. This new crowd cheered like the fans of a coliseum waiting for the lion to enter.

Then came the bellowing roar of a beast from the dark entrance. They could hear chains clamoring along as something dragged its way out of captivity. This alarming new threat put Bibi on edge as she brought her sword up to her chest. Tara had a trio of cards in each hand just in case. But while they managed their paranoia, Brock practiced his two-step as he awaited his ally's entrance.

Then came the reveal. A strange humanoid mass of inky black goop slunk its way out of the darkness. They could see green wires holding onto its body like tethers on a docked boat. And it moaned as if it were undead. Bibi could see its mouth crying out in agony while it tore itself away from the sludge-like restraints.

Then one of the person's hands ripped through the goop. It clawed out for something to grab but quickly returned to itself and ripped away more of the tar. There they saw its skin was the same void black as the oil it had just escaped. Their arms weren't muscular like a heavyweight boxer but they were certainly tone like a bantamweight fighter.

This toned arm shredded the tar around its stomach which revealed the equally chiseled abs it was hiding. This development made the fans cheer with a few flirtatious calls being heard in the audience. Their legs finally escaped the black tarp and presented the bystanders with a view of the violet sweatpants they sported.

Tara saw how during their escape the green wires they had just broken free of latched on once more. This time instead of restricting the body they melted into the person's skin. The wires emitted a light-green hum as if representing the veins of blood vessels coursing through this black-skinned body.

But the cherry on top came when the chest burst out of the seems. Bibi and Tara felt a light flush seeing it. A navy-clad bosom tightly packed into a crop top. Now the flirtatious squeals made more sense. That and the object connected to her belt's hip made more sense. It looked like a double-barrel laser gun. But that couldn't be the case.

Because the face attached to this withered body had glowing purple hair. Her roots bordered on white as they presented a glorious gradient of color. Her eyes hummed with a purple hue matching her hair's tips. The massive set of dreadlocks was the last thing to rip out of the grip of the sludge and they repelled gravity by standing straight behind her skull. She crumbled to the floor as if escaping the tar took all the strength she had.

Bibi could only manage one word, "Shelly?"

Their Hispanic companion couldn't hear them. If she could she was too preoccupied to respond. She was currently smashing the ground with a cracked fist. Her teeth ground like a grindstone while a grumbling cry slipped from her lips. When she managed to sit up they were forced to watch her heave at the sky. She tore at her face like she was trying to remove the goop. But the wires quickly pieced her flesh back together.

Bibi couldn't stomach it. She shook her head while backing away, "What the hell? What the actual…" This was unbearable to watch. Weren't these clones supposed to bend to his will? Why was this one being tortured?

"Oh, no. Yo bro." Brock continued dancing about. His terrible lines showed no signs of ceasing. "Let me break it down, for ya. The sound for ya. That's the girl Shelly, she's the star of the show. Yeah, she's friends with the 8-Bit, but you already know. But he couldn't take her, couldn't get a grip. She's really loves fighting back and that's wack."

DB's rhyme scheme began to suffer upon Shelly's arrival. "Why are all the files for girls so tough? Honestly, I don't get but it makes them buff. Why the guys getting nerfed? That ain't for me. Maybe it's got something to do with you, Bi-Bi~" He pointed to her with a smarmy smirk.

The crowd booed them when her name was dropped. In the middle of the sandy terrain, there was nowhere to hide even if she wanted to. But she couldn't hear their contempt. She was more focused on the former friend ahead.

Shelly managed to make it to her feet. She wobbled towards them like a drunken sailor. Her eyes were partially closed and her jaw sagged open. But once she made it beside Brock her motions went still. She could have been mistaken for a statue. The wires snaking across her skin were the only sign of life on her.

Tara saw the dreary eyes of Bibi and pinched her jacketed arm. This wasn't the time to space out. They had another roadblock in their way. But this time it didn't seem like the same weaklings from before. Brock showed higher thought and if his words were to be believed, this broken shell called Shelly was far worse than those robots from before.

Bibi finally joined her comrade with a shaky stance. If this was happening, it meant she would have to cleave more of her allies. And one she admittedly felt a deep connection with.

Meanwhile, there was the bumbling idiot between them. He shimmied in front of Shelly so his dance could be on full display. A display that the crowd couldn't get enough of. Though Bibi and Tara had grown tired of his frustrating song and dance.

"Ooooooohhhh YO! Now that the gang is here the fun can begin. You came here for clues but now I'm gonna win. With the power of friendship and possessed super freaks. I summon Shelly to beat you geeks!" Brock pointed to the sky and screamed, "GOOOOOOOOO! TECHNO SHELLY!"

With the shouting of her name Shelly's mind snapped. The pain and anguish returned with a heated ire. She shouted like a banshee ridiculing the gods. The force of her screams made the arena shake once again. A faint hue of lime-green spewed off her disgusting wires just before she retrieved the shotgun at her hip.

She charged them like a wildebeest. Brock snickered as he sent a rocket flying behind her. Bibi and Tara quickly jumped apart so the explosion could collide between them.

The battle had begun.