Episode 6: Spiderweb Rebirth

Episode 6: Spiderweb Rebirth Dikiyoba Tue, 05/26/2009 - 03:55
The bot army finally attacks Spiderweb. Which side will emerge as the winner and what will be the price of victory?

Disclaimer: All characters on the Appearances page are from the Spiderweb Software Message Boards. Any resemblance to fictional characters is completely coincidental. However, the events in this script are fictional and should not be taken as history or prophecy. They are here for entertainment purposes only.

Summary of Episodes 4 and 5

Summary of Episodes 4 and 5 Dikiyoba Tue, 05/26/2009 - 04:52
Summary of Episode 4:

A stranger who calls himself Ecksian arrives in the neighborhood of Spiderweb. He wants to destroy Spiderweb as revenge for being banned a very long time ago. With him is a bot he calls EcksianBot and several attack bots. He finds a place to hide out and begins creating more attack bots.

At Spiderweb, Zeviz and Randomizer foil Zephyr Tempest's latest attempt to summon monsters. In the process, Randomizer loses his ability to cast spells. Afterwards, the moderators put Ephesos, Lazarus, and Niemand in charge of creating a Blades of Avernum script that will remove Zephyr Tempest's ability to cast summoning spells. Unfortunately, Dintiradan and the Lurker find out about the script and plan to create a similar one of their own. Ephesos and Lazarus leave Spiderweb to ask Terror's Martyr for help with the script.

Zephyr Tempest's summons also kill a Giant Intelligent Friendly Talking Roach nymph named Sewage Spotter. Filth Finder, Garbage Gatherer, and the surviving nymphs leave Spiderweb to search for a safer place to live. They encounter Ecksian in their search but escape safely. A nymph named Grime Grubber convinces Filth Finder that the two of them should return to Spiderweb to warn everyone about Ecksian. They run into Ephesos and Lazarus. Ecksian's bots find them and kill everyone but Filth Finder and Ephesos' crickets. Filth Finder rejoins the rest of his family.

The crickets return to Spiderweb and find Jewels. Unfortunately, there is no way to revive Ephesos because Zeviz left Spiderweb to search for a cure to Randomizer's inability to cast magic. She puts a group together to look for him. Meanwhile, Ecksian kills Zeviz.

Ecksian and EcksianBot break into Ermarian next and steal information on Spiderweb and its members. They kill PiperBot, EndeavorBot, and Arancaytar in the process.

Jewels' group encounters a group of giant rats. Their leader is named Attorukkip. They are searching for Ecksian. They explain that after their defeat at Spiderweb, they reformed and started a message board of their own. They called it Bots Aplenty and worked on creating a model of bot that could defend message boards from attack. Ecksian broke into Bots Aplenty, killed one of their researchers, and stole the plans for the bots. The rats also encounter the GIFTR and the three groups temporarily join together.

EcksianBot encounters one of the rats and freaks out. Ecksian shuts him down and sends his bots after the three groups. The GIFTR and a rat named Think escape to Bots Aplenty. Everyone else is killed.

Slartucker revives Tyranicus but transforms him into a bull that can't talk in the process. Andraste manages to get a hold of some copper and has Zorro revive Ephesos. Ephesos alerts everyone to Ecksian. A much larger group sets out to stop Ecksian. Ecksian escapes through Google. The Spiderwebbers head back to Spiderweb to prepare for his return. Arancaytar disappears from the Miscellaneous Forum and cannot be revived. The other Spiderwebbers, the rats, and Grime Grubber are resurrected. Emperor Tullegolar arrives and begins plotting.

---

Summary of Episode 5:

Ecksian repairs PiperBot and finds sanctuary at the message board of the flamers. Their leader, Eternal Flame, agrees to attack Bots Aplenty and then help Ecksian attack Spiderweb. PiperBot freaks out upon learning that the flamers have pyroroamers and has to be repaired again. Ecksian and Eternal Flame convince PiperBot that the rats are evil and must be destroyed. He agrees to help attack Bots Aplenty.

Student of Trinity and Nikki leave Spiderweb to search for Ecksian. They go to Bots Aplenty with Grime Grubber and Attorukkip's group. Along the way, they are attacked by 1337 h4x0rs. Some of the 1337 h4x0rs escape.

The administrator of Bots Aplenty, *****, discovers evidence that implicates the moderator Garzad as a traitor who helped Ecksian break in and steal the plans. Garzad is arrested and Danielle is appointed moderator in his place. Grime Grubber is reunited with the rest of his family. Garbage Gatherer leaves to check on a message board called Bugtopia.

Back at Spiderweb, Niemand's script is finished and used on Zephyr Tempest so he no longer knows any summoning spells. Randomizer discovers that an odd reaction to Zeviz's antimagic spell gave him an innate antimagic ability and that is why he can no longer cast normal spells. Ephesos attempts to transform Tyranicus back into a human with the divine restoration spell. Tyranicus regains the ability to talk but remains a bull. Ephesos is left severely weakened. A Giant Intelligent Friendly Talking Chitrach named Chatter arrives. Drew, Iffy, and several other Spiderwebbers head to the Kingdom of Loathing. Their goal is to bring back barbed-wire fencing from Crystal Mountain.

When the flamers attack Bots Aplenty, the rats and GIFTR family evacuate. Most of the rats head for Spiderweb. Garzad is freed and goes with them. The GIFTR go to Bugtopia. Student of Trinity and Nikki rescue PiperBot. They learn that Ecksian performed some sort of necromancy that transferred Arancaytar's soul to PiperBot. The flamers return to their message board. The 1337 h4x0rs that attacked Student of Trinity's group earlier return with some yetis. They capture the few surviving rats left in the area.

The rats arrive at Spiderweb and decide they will stay and help defend it against Ecksian's attack. Student of Trinity and a few rats go out to search for Ecksian again. Emperor Tullegolar gets the Mystic banned. Attorukkip, Ephesos, and Dikiyoba leave Spiderweb to resurrect the rats who were killed by the flamers. They are captured and taken to a mine on Crystal Mountain.

The mine is run by a mage named Duwithia and a ninja named Coleridge. They capture people to work as slaves and use anti-magic spells to keep them under control. Toby-Linn and the Ratt are slaves there as well. Iffy gets separated from the Kingdom of Loathing group and frees the slaves. Duwithia and Coleridge escape. The Kingdom of Loathing group returns to Spiderweb with barbed-wire while the slaves head to the Mage Guild to remove the anti-magic spell.

Meanwhile, Bugtopia is caught in a civil war. Garbage Gatherer is captured. Filth Finder leaves the nymphs at a satellite forum. He sneaks into Bugtopia and rescues Garbage Gatherer. He is helped by Chrrcht and several other bugs who plan to ask Jeff for help in settling the dispute. Garbage Gatherer, Filth Finder, and the nymphs settle at the satellite forum. Chrrcht's group heads to Spiderweb.

Chatter and the crickets leave Spiderweb to look for Ephesos. Spiderwebbers create traps and barriers all around Spiderweb. Dintiradan finishes his script and gets Danielle on his side. Drakefyre meets with Chrrcht's group and leaves Spiderweb permanently for Bugtopia. Student of Trinity finds Ecksian making the final preparations for the attack on Spiderweb.

Appearances

Appearances Dikiyoba Thu, 05/28/2009 - 19:24
Currently updated to Chapter 19

Administrators
Stareye

Moderators
Alorael
Arancaytar
Ephesos
Niemand
Randomizer
Saunders
Schrodinger
Slartucker
Student of Trinity
Synergy
Tyranicus

Members
Ackrovan
Actaeon
Almighty Doer of Stuff
Andraste
Archmage Alex
Ash Lael
Azuma
Delicious Vlish
Dikiyoba
Dintiradan
Drew
Duck
Emperor Tullegolar
Excalibur
Feo Takahari
Goldenking
Iffy
Jeran Korak
Jewels
Lazarus
Lord Grimm
Lurker
Marlenny
Mystic
Nalyd
Nemesis
Neossokrass
Nicothodes
Nikki
Nioca
Ratt
Riibu
Salmon
Shard of Fire
Silent Assassin
Smoo
Thralni
Thuryl
Toby-Linn
Zephyr Tempest
Zeviz
Zorro

Characters

Characters Dikiyoba Wed, 07/22/2009 - 06:49
Currently updated to Chapter 19

Ecksian
Ecksian was apparently a member of Spiderweb a long time ago before he was banned for unknown reasons. No one remembers who he used to be. He stole plans from Bots Aplenty and built a bot army to get revenge on Spiderweb. He is currently alive and located at Wikipedia.

EcksianBot
EcksianBot was once a rat that Ecksian killed while in the process of stealing the bot plans. Ecksian then transferred the rat's soul to the bot and completely altered EcksianBot's memory. Now he is free and has recovered some of his memories. He is currently alive and located at the Waystation.

Eternal Flame:
Eternal Flame was the leader of the flamers. The flamers lost much of their status when their best troops were killed in the Ur-Noob's failed conquest of Spiderweb. Eternal Flame and the flamers helped Ecksian attack Spiderweb and the rats in order to regain some of their former glory. The rats responded by taking over the flamer headquarters and killing all the flamers. Eternal Flame is dead.

---

Chatter:
Chatter is a young Giant Intelligent Friendly Talking Chitrach who recently joined Spiderweb. He is in the process of being altered by Dintiradan's scripts. He is currently alive and located at the Waystation.

---

*****
***** was the administrator at Bots Aplenty and then a moderator at Spiderweb and then the Waystation to help ensure that the rats and Spiderwebbers get along. He was altered by Dintiradan's scripts. He is currently alive and located at the flamer headquarters.

Attorukkip
Attorukkip can cast mid-level priest spells. She takes her role as healer very seriously. She is in the process of being altered by Dintiradan's scripts. She is currently alive and located at the Waystation.

Danielle:
At Bots Aplenty, Danielle framed Garzad so she could take his spot as mod. At Spiderweb, she joined Dintiradan's Legions of Terror. Now she is a moderator at the Waystation. She was altered by Dintiradan's scripts. She is currently alive and located at the Waystation.

Fatalclaw
Lady Fatalclaw is a wererat. She was a moderator at Bots Aplenty. She was altered by Dintiradan's scripts. She is currently alive and located at the flamer headquarters.

Garzad
Archmage Garzad can cast low-level mage spells. He used to be a moderator at Bots Aplenty, but then some evidence surfaced that suggested he was a traitor. It turns out he was framed by Danielle. He has not been altered. He is alive and located at Wikipedia.

R'd'p'a and A'p'd'r
R'd'p'a and A'p'd'r are brothers. The rat Ecksian killed and turned into EcksianBot was their friend. Their goal was to rescue EcksianBot. They have not been altered. They are currently alive and located at the Waystation.

Chapter 1: Caught Up In It All

Chapter 1: Caught Up In It All Dikiyoba Thu, 05/28/2009 - 19:35
It was only mid-morning and already it was hot out. Heat waves shimmered in the streets like magical barriers. Nothing could be heard but the occasional tick or hiss from the mines that lined the route between the Spiderweb Software Message Board and the nearest Google station. The entire neighborhood looked abandoned unless one was watching a certain third-story window very closely.

Alorael set his sniper rifle down and reached into a nearby cooler for a bottle of skribbane. He chugged the entire bottle in one go.

A Google vehicle pulled up at the station. Alorael tossed the empty bottle aside and aimed the sniper rifle. The door to the vehicle opened. Alorael put his finger on the trigger.

Student of Trinity, R'd'p'a, and A'p'd'r stepped out.

Alorael sighed in frustration and set the sniper rifle aside again. "Hey you three down there, got any news?"

"Yes. Ecksian and the bots should be here in just a few hours," Student of Trinity called up.

"Hooray! It's been incredibly boring out here these last few days. Nothing but spambots and a few newbies."

Student of Trinity looked at the destroyed spambots that littered the station. "I'm surprised you didn't snipe the newbies too."

"I thought about it. But I figured we can always use more people against the bots. Plus, one of them was a drayk, and that'll tick ET off." Alorael giggled.

"So, how do we get by all these traps?"

"Well, I sent the newbies over that wall over there and told them to find a back way to Spiderweb. You could do the same. Or you could wait for Shard of Fire and Slarty to get here and they can lead you through the traps safely."

"How long before they get here?" R'd'p'a asked.

Alorael's stomach growled. "I don't know. They were supposed to be here with my breakfast hours ago."

---

Slartucker facepalmed. "Please tell me you're joking, Randomizer."

"I really wish I was." Randomizer rubbed his left wrist. The cast had come off yesterday, but it was still sore.

Slartucker and Randomizer stood in the Announcements Forum. Slartucker looked at the closed Moderator Board. "Do you think the two of us could deal with the situation without involving Stareye? At least for now?"

Randomizer shrugged. "He won't like it, but I think we could. Why? How late was he up last night?"

"Just after breakfast."

"Oh. Well, you go get started on containing the situation. I'll go get Nioca. We're definitely going to need him."

Slartucker hurried to the Geneforge 4 Forum and looked around. Delicious Vlish floated in the middle of the forum. There was a dead noob crumpled on the ground beside him. A few feet away, Neossokrass stood protectively in front of Ackrovan. Ackrovan had a large red welt across his face and looked rather ill.

"Ahhhhhh! Ahhhhhh!" Duck ran past Slartucker, screaming in terror.

"This is an official warning. Get away from him," Delicious Vlish said.

"Sss. No," Neossokrass said.

"Step away now, or I will be forced to jam a tentacle up your snout and scramble your little peabrain but good."

"DV, please let me deal with it," Slartucker said.

Delicious Vlish pointed a tentacle at Ackrovan. "Do you know what he said? Do you?! Well, I do. And I've had enough! I can't take it anymore! The incessant stupidity! The mindless drivel! The... the..."

"Still, please calm down. We can get to the bottom of this without--hey!" Slartucker staggered backwards from Delicious Vlish's submission ray.

Randomizer and Nioca entered as Duck completed another lap around the forum. "Ahhhhhh! Ahhhhhh!"

"You get the newbies to safety. I have to help Slarty," Randomizer said.

Delicious Vlish's next submission ray knocked Slartucker to the ground.

"Neossokrass! Get Ackrovan to the Announcements Forum and stay there!" Nioca ran towards Duck. "Unshackle mind!"

"Ahhhhhh! Ahh--" Duck halted and looked around. "Hey, what just happened? Who are you?"

"Never mind that. Just come with me to the Announcements Forum for now," Nioca said.

Slartucker was halfway to his feet when the third submission ray hit him. "Oh, come on!"

Nioca and the three newcomers escaped safely. Randomizer cast an antimagic spell at Delicious Vlish.

Delicious Vlish hit Randomizer with his submission ray. "Idiot! Did you really expect that would have an effect on me?"

Slartucker stood up. "CATTLE RAGE!!!" He bull rushed Delicious Vlish.

Delicious Vlish was caught off guard. His head slammed into a tree and he blacked out.

"Sorry, DV," Slartucker said.

"Yeah, well, let's get him to the Mod Board for now and then find out exactly what happened from the newbies."

"Hold on." Slartucker examined the dead noob briefly. "Good. That was just a regular noob DV killed."

---

Shard of Fire threaded her way through the final traps and halted below Alorael's window. "Hello up there! Sorry I'm late!"

"Where's Slarty?" Alorael asked.

"He's busy. There was some spamming incident earlier. I don't know the details. But don't worry, I've got your steaks right here!" She held up a plastic bag.

"Ha! Like they're still going to be raw in this weather."

Student of Trinity looked at his watch. "I hate to interrupt, but we really should be going as soon as we possibly can."

Shard of Fire looked at the three of them. "No bot, huh? I guess that means Ecksian is coming. Hang on." She ran the steaks up to Alorael. When she came down, she said, "Follow me in single file and step exactly where I step. There's only one safe route through. If you get off of it, boom!"

---

Randomizer and Slartucker carried Delicious Vlish into the Moderator Board.

Stareye was already awake. He had dark circles under his eyes and a cup of Arancaytar's coffee in his hand. He sat at the table, looking over a diagram of the entire board. He watched Slartucker and Randomizer chain Delicious Vlish to the wall. "What happened?"

"DV snapped and attacked someone," Randomizer said.

"What?" Stareye stood up. "Who? And why?"

"We're not exactly sure yet." Slartucker stepped out into the Announcements Forum. Stareye followed. Randomizer remained behind to guard Delicious Vlish.

"Tell us what happened between you and DV," Stareye said.

"Well, me and Neossokrass were checking to see whether Avernum 5 was out yet and--"

Neossokrass looked surprised. "Really? I thought you sssaid we were here to sssee whether Geneforge 5 wasss out."

"No, I said Avernum."

"Moving along," Slartucker said.

"Right. So we got to the Geneforge 4 Forum and saw that Delicious Vlish had killed someone."

"Sss. And then Ackrovan sssaid to me, 'Wow, he mussst of done sssomething really bad to dessserve that.' Then the vlish just ssslapped Ackrovan across the face!"

"It really hurt too."

"What about you, Duck?" Stareye asked.

"I was just there looking around when Delicious Vlish cast a terror spell on me. I didn't do anything wrong, I swear!"

Stareye thought for a moment. "All right, that's all I need. You may go."

---

Chatter stared. The Mage Guild's tower looked very imposing. Plus, there were guards. "Are you sure Ephesos is here?"

"Chrrrk?"

"I suppose. Should I ask a guard for information?"

"Chrrk!"

"Oh. That's a good idea." Chatter avoided the guards as he made his way to the delivery entrance. He tried the door. It was locked.

"Chrrrk."

Chatter hid in a bush and waited. Before long, several crates materialized just outside the door. A few minutes later, the door opened. Three guards and a mage stepped out. They began searching the crates. Chatter scurried from the bush into the tower.

He sighed in relief. "Okay, now what?"

"Chrrk."

"Where would that be?"

"Chrrk?"

Chatter walked down the hallway, wishing his footsteps weren't so loud. Occasionally, one of the crickets would chirrup quietly. He rounded a corner and found himself face-to-face with a patrolling guard.

"Whoops! Sorry, I didn't mean to bump into you like that. Say, do you happen to know where the guest quarters are? I'm looking for--"

The guard drew her sword. "Help! We've got some sort of weird experiment loose here!"

Chatter heard people come running. "No, wait! I'm friendly! Really! I don't want to hurt anyone! I'm looking for someone named Ephesos! And I'm not an experiment!" He knocked aside the guard and ran.

"Chrrrk! Chrrrk! Chrrrk!"

---

Delicious Vlish regained consciousness. "Ow. My poor head."

Startled, Randomizer put his needlework away. "Er, it looks like he's waking up now."

Stareye was still looking over the diagram. "What happened to set you off like that?"

"What do you mean?" Delicious Vlish asked.

"You attacked several newbies and then you attacked a pair of moderators. So, what set you off?"

"Sorry about attacking you and Slarty, Randomizer. I got carried away. But you don't understand what happened with those newbies. I was watching the four of them closely, to make sure they didn't need any help. One of them walked right up to me and said, 'genfroge wood b teh best gam eva iff thegraphic wernt suxx0rz'. It was only then that I realized I'd been watching a noob this whole time and never noticed! He'd gotten past everyone in the General Forum too!"

"All right, so you dealt with him. Then what?"

"One of the other newbies came over and said, "Wow, he must of done something really bad to deserve that.' Must of! Don't you see it?!"

"See what?"

"The noob got in because the newbies act like one half the time. We can barely tell them apart now! It wasn't always like this. You know that. If the thing attacked here again, do you really think we could fend it off?"

"That justifies hitting someone?"

"Well, no, not really. Look, I got a bit carried away. But my point still stands. It doesn't matter how well we defend Spiderweb from outside forces if we let it decay from the inside."

"What about Duck?"

"Oh, uh... I don't know, he just seemed really suspicious. I didn't want him to sneak up on me or anything."

Stareye nodded. "Yes, there is something odd about him, isn't there?"

"So, what happens now?" Delicious Vlish asked.

Stareye unchained him. "Well, I think we can put this mess behind us after you apologize to Ackrovan, Neossokrass, and Duck."

"What? I apologize and Ackrovan does nothing?"

"Bad grammar isn't against the rules."

"Well, it should be. And other things should be too. We've been lax and now we're paying for it with all the nutjobs running around the joint. Jeff's games deserve a better audience than whoever started the little spamfest this morning."

"We are not running an exclusive club here."

"I'm not talking about being elitist, I'm talking about keeping all the lunatics out. Why is it too much to ask for people to talk in a way that doesn't make them sound like total morons?"

"So you aren't going to apologize?"

"Not under the current circumstances."

"You understand you can no longer be a moderator if that is your decision?"

"I do. Look, I'm sorry, Stareye. I really am. I'm just trying to do what's best for the board, same as you."

"Very well. Hand Randomizer your sash." Stareye went over to the admin panel and made the adjustments to Delicious Vlish's account.

Delicious Vlish pulled off his moderator sash and dropped it into Randomizer's hands.

Student of Trinity hammered on the door. "Stareye, Arancaytar told me you were in here. It's very important!"

Stareye opened the door. "Come in."

Randomizer quickly hid the sash behind his back.

Student of Trinity didn't notice. "I've already told everyone else. Ecksian will be here in less than an hour!"

Chapter 2: The Attack Begins

Chapter 2: The Attack Begins Dikiyoba Sat, 06/20/2009 - 22:51
The General Forum had been a frenzy of activity ever since Student of Trinity, R'd'p'a, A'p'd'r, and Shard of Fire arrived with the news that Ecksian's bots would arrive shortly. All the Spiderwebbers and rats with ranged attacks prepared to head to the Google station. Archmage Alex had already led a small group out. Now Lord Grimm and the Silent Assassin waited by the front door. Lord Grimm nodded at everyone who joined them at the door. The Silent Assassin sorted through several mysterious pouches on his belt.

"What do you even have in there?" Thralni asked.

The Silent Assassin grabbed Thralni's shoulder and spun him around a few times.

"He says the answer will be revealed when the time is right," Lord Grimm said.

Salmon joined the group. "Hey, Andraste, it's a shame you're going to miss out on all the fun!"

Andraste leaned on one of her clubs. "Don't worry. Someone has to stay behind to double-fistedly destroy all the bots once they get past you."

Stareye found Slartucker. "It'll be you, Synergy, Alorael, and ***** in charge down there. Use your best judgement. Retreat before you get overwhelmed. Good luck."

Slartucker nodded. "Right."

Stareye talked to Randomizer and Tyranicus next. "Since you two will be staying here, keep an eye on Dintiradan, the Lurker, and ET's little group. If they're going to try anything, I suspect they'll do it now." Stareye thought for a moment. "And watch Duck too, I suppose."

"What will you be doing?" Tyranicus asked.

"Arancaytar has a project he asked me to help with. I'll be out to help after that."

***** and Cheese got all the noncombatant rats together.

"Stareye told you about the secret exit, right?" ***** asked.

"Yes."

"Good. Get them out of here and lie low somewhere for a few days. With any luck, Spiderweb will still be standing. If not, someone will need to learn how to use these quickly." ***** handed Cheese a copy of Galactic Core and the Periodic Table.

"I understand." Cheese shooed a young rat back towards his father. "Everyone, to the Avernum Trilogy Forum."

Cheese and the noncombatant rats left.

***** joined the group by the door. Lord Grimm looked around. "All right, we're leaving too. Shard of Fire, bring down whoever's left. Follow us, people!"

---

In the wrecked lab in the Mage Guild, the ex-slaves of Crystal Mountain were hard at work. Toby-Linn scrubbed away at the vat. The Ratt sprayed the entire place down with a hose he would periodically lose control of. Ru'vay and several wanderers had their hands full dumping buckets of goopy water and replacing them with clean ones. The other three rats and Dikiyoba were up on ladders so they could clean the ceiling. Ephesos slept in a relatively dry corner. The other wanderers just attacked whatever surface they could reach with soap and sponges.

"Could you aim the hose over here, Ratt?" the wanderer named Faylander asked.

"Sure thing!" The Ratt turned, spraying several wanderers in the process. One of them tried to step out of the way but ended up bumping into Dikiyoba's ladder instead.

"Hey!" The ladder tipped over and landed directly on the Ratt. Dikiyoba bounced off the vat, knocking it over with a loud clang. The noise woke Ephesos up. He frowned and listened intently to something.

Toby-Linn helped Dikiyoba up. "Are you okay?"

"Dikiyoba thinks so."

"Ouch." The Ratt crawled out from underneath the ladder. "Someone else can use the hose now."

Attorukkip sighed and rubbed the antimagic rune on her forehead. "We'll never get the lab clean at this rate."

"Everyone, be quiet for a minute." Ephesos had his ear against a wall. Then he bolted for the door. "Hang on crickets, I'm coming!"

---

Down at the Google station, the Spiderwebbers and rats waited impatiently on various rooftops.

Slartucker waited at TrueSite. Shard of Fire, Actaeon, Zeviz, and several rats were with him. Zeviz had the scrying pool and a pile of energy potions with him.

"See anything?" Slartucker asked.

Zeviz shook his head. "Not yet."

Synergy, Nemesis, Lord Grimm, Delicious Vlish, Marlenny, Salmon, Rof'l'mao, and a giant rat named Tegburi were on the roof across from Alorael's building. The Silent Assassin, Thralni, and several others waited on the third floor with Alorael. He was not happy about it.

Nemesis wiped sweat off his face with his sleeve. "Gah. This sucks."

"Oh, hush," Delicious Vlish said, "Wait. I hear a vehicle coming."

"Only one?" Synergy asked.

Delicious Vlish shrugged.

A moment later, a single vehicle pulled into the station.

"No one shoot until we know who it is!" Marlenny yelled.

The door to the vehicle opened. Ash Lael stepped out. A moment later, someone else followed.

"What are you doing here?" Synergy called down.

"I received a message that said Spiderweb needed help," Ash Lael said.

"Me too. Well, it was actually addressed to Kel, but I haven't seen him in ages, so I figured it would be okay if I came over to see what all the fuss was about. I'm Feo Takahari, by the way."

"Okay. Lord Grimm, since neither one seems to have ranged weapons, would you guide them through the traps back to Spiderweb?" Synergy said.

Delicious Vlish shook his head. "There's no time for that. There's definitely a lot more than one vehicle approaching now."

"Then we just need to get them off of the street for now," Synergy said.

Salmon lowered Lord Grimm to the ground with his fishing rod. Lord Grimm threaded his way through the mines. "Come on, follow me. Carefully now." He led Ash Lael and Feo Takahari back to the building. Salmon hauled them up one at a time.

About half a dozen vehicles stopped at the station. Bots charged out of each one.

"All right, everyone, this is it. This is the moment where we test our determination, our courage, our mettle. This is where we stare unwaveringly into the bewildering depths of man's inhumanity and remain cool and collected and calm. This is where we--"

Delicious Vlish shook his head. "Forget it. Everyone, fire!"

Arrows, javelins, and spells rained down on the bots. Most of the projectiles bounced harmlessly off the bots' armor.

Delicious Vlish hit a bot squarely in the face with a charm ray. It charged on.

Delicious Vlish sighed. "I was afraid of that. They're constructs. Mental spells won't work on them."

The bots hit the first traps. The resulting explosion made everyone pause for a moment.

"Um. Wow. I was definitely not expecting a combination of pool noodles and coriander to be so volatile," Lord Grimm said.

More vehicles arrived and more bots jumped out. One of the bots staggered along in armor that seemed to big for it. It stopped and launched a fireball at one of the buildings.

"A flamer! Leave them to me!" Delicious Vlish said.

"Okay then," Synergy launched a fireball at a bot instead.

The flamer captain exploded as Alorael sniped him. The armor kept the explosion contained enough that none of the bots nearby were damaged.

"Hey! No kill stealing!" Delicious Vlish yelled.

"There will be more!" Alorael's next shot bounced off a bot's armor.

Several more bots reached the traps, resulting in another huge explosion.

Lord Grimm winced. "I knew that rake trap was overdoing it."

Other bots, however, worked on clearing away the nearest barriers.

Alorael downed another bottle of skribbane. "Synergy! Have Ash and Feo go to Spiderweb now! Make sure they warn Stareye about the flamers! Thralni, fly over to TrueSite and make sure Zeviz gets the barriers up in time." He fired at another bot.

One of the bots picked up the twisted remains of the armor the flamer had worn and threw it into the traps. There was another huge explosion.

The Silent Assassin stood up and gestured at the bot.

"Language!" Lord Grimm yelled.

---

Stareye and Arancaytar were in the Moderator Board.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" Stareye asked.

Arancaytar nodded. Several cables ran from the Admin Panel to his head. "Positive. It worked perfect for EndeavorBot and PiperBot isn't built too differently, so I should be fine."

Stareye pushed a button on the Admin Panel. Arancaytar twitched as information flowed into his mind.

When the transfer had finished, Stareye unplugged the cables. "Are you okay? Is everything working properly?"

"I... I think so."

"Is anyone dead yet?"

"No."

"Can you get anything on Ephesos or Dikiyoba?"

"I'm afraid not. It's odd, though. I've got a reading for Ash Lael and someone new."

"Hmm. Well, are you ready to head back to General now?"

"Actually, I think I'll just stay by the summoning machine. I'll know when anyone dies, so it'll be easiest for me to resurrect people."

"Yes, that would make more sense." Stareye left the Moderator Board. Arancaytar followed.

---

Meanwhile, at the Mage Guild, Chatter parried a guard's attack and dashed down another hallway. "Hey! What did I ever do to you?"

"Chrrrk!"

"Huh? Where?" Chatter stopped and looked around.

Ephesos dashed around the corner and collided with a guard. "Wait! Don't hurt him!" He stopped to catch his breath.

"Yes! Listen to him! He knows what he's talking about!" Chatter said.

The guards hesitated. "How do you know?" one asked.

"Because he has my crickets." Ephesos held out a hand. The crickets all leapt into it.

"But--" the guard began.

The crickets all glared at him.

The guards decided it wasn't worth the hassle to interfere directly and moved down the hallway a bit.

"Um. Thanks," Ephesos said.

"Oh, no problem. What are you doing here anyway?"

Ephesos sighed and rubbed the rune on his forehead. "I'll explain later. For now, you can help us clean."

The guards followed Chatter and Ephesos back to the lab.

Chapter 3: Red Duck

Chapter 3: Red Duck Dikiyoba Mon, 06/22/2009 - 05:23
Tyranicus stood between the Tech Support Forum and the General Forum. He looked around. He knew that Schrodinger was outside setting up more electric pylons and that Saunders and the Almighty Doer of Stuff were down in the fluffy turtle pit. Most of the other Spiderwebbers and rats, including Azuma and Nalyd, were boarding up the windows and dragging tables over by the door so it could be barricaded easily. Jeran Korak leaned against the wall moodily. Dintiradan and the Lurker waited by the Deth Ray. Duck wandered around the forum aimlessly. Randomizer followed him with a complete lack of stealth. But where was Emperor Tullegolar?

"Randomizer!" Tyranicus waved him over.

"What?"

"Where's ET?"

"Er... good question."

"Great. Just great. I think the other newbies are missing too."

"What should we do?"

"Well... I'll stay here and watch Duck. You go find ET."

Randomizer hurried off.

---

Thralni landed at TrueSite. "Alorael wants to know whether the magical barriers will be up in time."

Zeviz stared into the scrying pool. The bots were busy tearing down several barricades. Zeviz focused on the runes behind a damaged barricade. The runes glowed and slowly a magical barrier took shape. He repeated the process until there was a magical barrier behind every barricade in the area.

"Great. How long will they last?" Thralni asked.

Zeviz reached for an energy potion. "Long enough, I hope."

Thralni flew back to his original building just as a vehicle full of flamer captains arrived.

"Duck!" Alorael yelled.

Everyone but Nioca dropped to the floor. Nioca just looked confused. "Huh? He isn't out here, is he? Ahhh!" Nioca was killed by a fireball.

Alorael sniped one of the flamer captains. Another slammed into a nearby bot and exploded after being hit by a charm ray from Delicious Vlish. The third one was killed by Tegburi.

Alorael looked around. The magical barriers were holding, but the bots had cleared the traps almost to their building. "Hey, Salmon!"

"Yeah?!"

"Can the bots climb?!"

"Yeah! At least they can't jump between buildings! Er, I don't think so, anyway!"

"Synergy! Send some people a few buildings down! Have Lord Grimm guide the rest back to Spiderweb!" Alorael ducked as another flamer captain threw a fireball at the building.

---

Emperor Tullegolar, Ackrovan, and Neossokrass talked in the guard tower.

"...and you want to know that the admins did next?" Emperor Tullegolar said bitterly.

"Sss. What?"

"They banned me. For two and a half weeks!"

"What! But you practically defeated the perfected rat by yourself!" Ackrovan said.

"I know. But they're jealous. Stareye and the mods are has-beens and they know it. Why do you think Drakefyre ran off? No, they won't be in charge much longer."

"You think Ecksssian'sss going to win, then?"

"What? No."

"Then who?" Ackrovan asked.

"Me, of course." Emperor Tullegolar thought for a moment. "And anyone who helps me too, I guess. What are you going to do with all that oil, anyway?"

Ackrovan was filling water balloons with boat oil. "Throw it down on the bots. Then Neossokrass will breathe fire on them. They'll all go up in flame."

"You don't see a problem with that?"

"No. Why?"

"They're bots, that's why. They're not going to stop because they're on fire."

"They'll burn up eventually."

"Right. But until then, they'll be running around setting everything else on fire too."

"Oh. Um. I guess I never thought about that."

Emperor Tullegolar shook his head. Then he caught sight of a faint glow radiating in from underneath the door. He held a finger to his lips. "Anyway, like I mentioned earlier, this here is one of my magical experiments that will enable me to take over the forums. Only an antimagic spell could stop us now and what are the odds of that?" Emperor Tullegolar kicked Neossokrass. "Ooh and ahh," he whispered.

"Ooh."

"Ahh."

Randomizer threw open the door and ran in. "ET! I'll--"

Emperor Tullegolar knocked Randomizer unconscious with his slith spear.

"Er..."

"Are you sure you should have done that?"

"Yes. Neossokrass, since you're too big to fit through the window, you'll have to wait here. Don't worry, we won't be gone too long. Ackrovan, I need your help."

"You... you aren't going to kill him, are you?"

"Of course not. He'd be resurrected too quickly." Emperor Tullegolar looked out the window. Schrodinger was working some distance away. Emperor Tullegolar dropped Randomizer out the window and jumped out.

Ackrovan hesitated for a moment before following. "Then what are we going to do with him?"

"Tie him up and leave him somewhere for now. Later we'll-- wait. Get underwater." Emperor Tullegolar grabbed Randomizer and dived into the moat. Ackrovan followed.

A minute later, Ash Lael and Feo Takahari crossed over the bridge and entered Spiderweb.

Emperor Tullegolar poked his head out of the water to make sure Schrodinger wasn't looking their way. He swam to the far side of the moat and climbed out, dragging Randomizer with him. Ackrovan climbed out a moment later.

They carried Randomizer to the nearest abandoned building.

"So, I have a question," Emperor Tullegolar said.

"Yeah?"

"How long have you known Neossokrass?"

"Why?"

Emperor Tullegolar shrugged. "It's just that most creations I've known went rogue eventually. And I wasn't surprised that DV snapped."

"Neossokrass would never go rogue. Never."

"Okay, okay, I meant no offense."

Emperor Tullegolar and Ackrovan tied Randomizer up and left him in the building. They hurried back to Spiderweb and made it back just before Lord Grimm and the others arrived.

Emperor Tullegolar wrung water out of his hair. "Quick, Neossokrass, breathe hot air on us to dry us off."

---

The bots had cleared a path halfway to TrueSite now. Alorael reached the roof Fatalclaw was on and climbed up. Several barriers appeared across the route he had taken. "How is it going?"

"Well enough, I suppose." Fatalclaw threw another javelin. It missed.

Lith shot another bot. "There's too many of them. We won't be able to stay here much longer. I'm also running low on arrows."

Alorael drank another bottle of skribbane. "Oh well."

Not far away, Student of Trinity launched another rock at the bots. It smashed through a bot's helmet.

"They're getting awfully close to us," Goldenking said.

"Right. We'll head down a bit more."

Student of Trinity and Goldenking started to climb down. They were halfway there when three armored figures stepped out from behind a dumpster.

"How could those bots possibly get there?" Goldenking asked, "Wait. They're actually 1337 h4x0rs."

Student of Trinity winced as a throwing ax bounced off his armor. "So I noticed. Keep climbing down." He reached for his sling.

Another ax flew at him. He tried to lean out of the way but lost his footing and fell. The 1337 h4x0rs killed him before he could get up. Then they ran off.

Goldenking reached the ground. "Hey! Get back here, you cowards!"

Another trap went off. Goldenking picked up Student of Trinity's sling and ran for TrueSite.

Slartucker watched as Archmage Alex passed by with the second group to retreat. *****, Drew, and Goldenking climbed up a moment later.

The pile of energy potions by Zeviz was noticeably smaller now, though there were still plenty left. "Student of Trinity just got killed and it looks like a building is on fire, but other than that we're-- uh-oh."

"What?" Slartucker asked.

"Some of the bots that just arrived at the Google station are starting to repair the damaged ones."

"How quickly?"

"I don't know yet, but they've got plenty of tools and supplies."

"Could a group of us get down there and stop them?"

"I could drop some barriers to get a group there, but surviving long enough to do anything would be almost impossible."

"Still, we should try. Thralni, would you fly down and bring back a set of armor off one of the bots?"

---

"Thank you. Get some rest now." Stareye nodded after he heard Ash Lael and Feo Takahari's message. "Tyranicus, where is ET?"

"I don't know! I'm sorry. I've been trying to keep track of everyone else and ET slipped away somehow. Ackrovan and Neossokrass are gone too. I was right here this whole time, so I know they have to be in General somewhere. Randomizer is looking for them, but I haven't seen him in a while either."

Stareye sighed. "You're sure they didn't get past you?"

"Positive."

"Well, at least there aren't many places to look." Stareye went to the door. "Schrodinger, are you almost done? I need you in here. You too, Saunders. Find ET and Randomizer. Hurry."

Schrodinger was the first one to check the guard tower. "They're up here, Stareye."

"I'm sorry, is there a problem here?" Emperor Tullegolar asked.

Stareye hurried up the stairs. "What are you doing up here?"

"Ackrovan and Neossokrass came up here because they thought they had a good idea. I came up here to tell them it wasn't." Emperor Tullegolar prodded one of the oil-filled balloons with the butt of his spear.

"Where is Randomizer?"

Emperor Tullegolar shrugged. "I don't know. I haven't seen him in a while."

Stareye heard Lord Grimm's group arrive. "Fine. The three of you, get down there and stay in my sight at all times." He followed them down the stairs. "Lord Grimm, is anyone hurt?"

"No."

"Good. Rest for now. We'll need you all soon enough."

---

Drew helped get the armor onto Slartucker.

"Well?" Slartucker asked.

"It doesn't quite fit, but they'll probably think you're just a flamer and keep their distance."

"Okay. *****, you're in charge now. Do not wait up for me."

Chapter 4: Retreat

Chapter 4: Retreat Dikiyoba Mon, 07/06/2009 - 20:51
The bots moved steadily closer to the building Alorael was on.

"I'm out of arrows," Lith said.

"Me too," said another rat.

"Okay. It looks like we'll need to retreat soon anyway," Alorael said.

A minute later, Lith was forced to duck as Salmon cast towards their building. The hook caught firmly in a cracked brick. Salmon swung over and reeled himself up. Lith helped him step onto the roof.

"The Silent Assassin wants to leave with the third group soon. Er, that's what we think he's saying, anyway," Salmon said.

"Fatalclaw and I will head to TrueSite. Everyone else should... should..." Alorael stared at a plume of smoke rising from a few blocks away.

"Alorael?" Salmon asked.

"Polaris... quick, we must save it! Water, someone find... no." Alorael shook his head to clear it. "What am I saying? Fatalclaw, you head to TrueSite. The rest of us will go back to Spiderweb."

"I'll let the Silent Assassin know you're coming." Salmon swung off.

Alorael stopped to snipe one more bot before he climbed down the building with the others. Another bot grabbed the fallen one and carried it back to the repair bots working near the Google station.

Slartucker also approached the Google station. Now there was only one magic barrier left before he reached the makeshift workshop. Unfortunately, several bots stood on the opposite side of it, occasionally testing it to see if they could walk through or destroy it.

Slartucker took a deep breath. "Hey y--er, u, don't u know there's a barrier you can walk thro just down the block? Retards, lol."

The bots looked at him closely. Then one of them raised an alarm. Bots started running over.

Slartucker facepalmed. "Zeviz, drop the barrier anyway! CATTLE RAGE!!! UDDER DESTRUCTION!!!" He sent the spell arcing over the magic barrier. One of the bots was hit hard enough to fall.

The magic barrier slowly disappeared. Slartucker charged. "UDDER DESTRUCTION!!! UDDER DESTRUCTION!!!"

A sword bounced off Slartucker's helmet. He dodged another attack. In the confusion, a bot attacked one of its own by mistake, giving Slartucker a brief opening.

"BOVINE THUD!!!"

A giant cave cow fell from the sky and bounced off the ground. Everyone was knocked to the ground.

Slartucker looked around quickly. He sighed. As he feared, he hadn't quite been close enough. Only about half of the supplies had been destroyed and most of the repair bots had survived. He scrambled up and pointed at a repair bot. "UDDER--ahhh!" A bot stabbed him in the side. He collapsed. "The Nine-Headed Cave Cow... does not... smile upon..." He died.

Meanwhile, back at TrueSite, Zeviz looked away from the scrying pool just before the giant cave cow hit. The impact caused the water to slosh against the sides of the bucket.

Goldenking lost his balance and nearly fell off the roof. Drew pulled him to safety.

"I take it that Slartucker succeeded?" ***** asked.

Zeviz waited until the last ripples died down before looking back into the scrying pool. He replaced the magic barrier before examining the scene. "He got part of it, anyway."

Unfortunately, while Zeviz had been distracted, several other magic barriers had faded away. Once the bots realized this, they tore down a barbed-wire fence and swarmed down the back roads.

---

Arancaytar waited impatiently in the Tech Support Forum. The summoning machine was ready to go and he had the new version of the Periodic Table taped to it. But neither Zephyr Tempest nor Zorro were nearby.

Stareye entered. "Is Randomizer dead?"

Arancaytar looked surprised. "No. Why?"

"He's missing." Stareye looked thoughtful. "I suppose it's possible he decided to run away, but... never mind. Thank you." Stareye left.

Zephyr Tempest entered a few minutes later. He held up his copy of Galactic Core. "I'm in charge of resurrecting everyone now."

"You're also late." Arancaytar handed Zephyr Tempest the elements for Student of Trinity, Nioca, and a rat named Set'nir.

Alorael entered the forum. "I have bad news."

"What is it?" Arancaytar asked.

"Polaris was just destroyed."

"What! But that's... that's the end of it, then. There aren't enough people who still visit it to be able to afford to rebuild it."

"I'm afraid so."

"I can't believe it's finally gone, after surviving for so long. Remember when... oops, hang on." Arancaytar summoned some aluminum and handed it to Zephyr Tempest so he could revive Slartucker. "Ecksian has a lot to answer for, that's for sure."

---

Nemesis sat on a roof with Synergy and Thralni. The bots were still too far away for them to shoot at. Synergy paced the roof impatiently.

"Do you hear something?" Thralni asked.

Synergy stopped pacing. "Like what?"

"I think I hear it too." Nemesis stood up and looked around. "Yeah, um, the bots got past the barriers somehow and now they're headed straight for us."

Synergy looked. Then he shook his head. "They're too close for us to escape. Thralni, get to TrueSite. Now."

Thralni nodded and flew off.

Synergy and Nemesis aimed carefully. Nemesis' crossbow bolt bounced off armor, but Synergy's fireball hit a bot in the face. The bot fell.

Most of the bots ignored them and continued marching, but several began to scale the building. Nemesis managed to shoot one down, but the others reached the roof safely.

Nemesis was promptly killed. Synergy launched several fireballs as he dodged attacks. He brought down another two bots before he was killed. Nemesis' crossbow shot the bot that picked it up. Another bot quickly hacked it apart.

Thralni reached TrueSite. "There are barriers down. Bots are coming this way quickly.

Zeviz had only a handful of energy potions left. "What?" He stared into the scrying pool. "*****, you'd better call the retreat now. Synergy and Nemesis just died. Is anyone else still out there?"

"I think Deathwhisker is," one of the rats said.

"Of course she is." Fatalclaw sighed.

"Thralni, do a quick search for Deathwhisker and anyone else. Tell them to get back here. Don't put yourself in danger, though. If you can't reach them in time, well, you can't reach them. Zeviz, do whatever you can do to get magic barriers up in the next twenty minutes. Fatalclaw, you'll stay here with him too. Shard of Fire, lead the rest of us through the traps. Once we're through, I'll take everyone else back to Spiderweb. You come back here for whoever's left. Does everyone understand?" ***** said.

Several people nodded.

"Good. Then let's put the plan into action."

Meanwhile, the vehicle carrying Ecksian, Eternal Flame, and EcksianBot arrived.

Eternal Flame just had his flameproof suit on, but Ecksian wore a specially-made set of armor. EcksianBot and the bot wearing Ephesos' clover boots followed him closely.

Ecksian took off his helmet.

"That makes you too vulnerable. They have a sniper, you know!" EcksianBot said.

"Oh, shut up. I'm more likely to get heatstroke." Ecksian looked around carefully. "What the heck happened here?"

"I told you they'd be ready," Eternal Flame said.

Ecksian put his helmet back on. "Bots, give me a report on how the attack is progressing."

Several bots stepped forward. Another looked like it was about to but didn't.

Thralni returned to TrueSite with Deathwhisker.

"Good. Are you finished?" Fatalclaw asked.

Zeviz tipped over the scrying pool. "Yes."

They climbed down carefully and waited for Shard of Fire as far away from the traps as they could. The bots had detonated the traps almost to TrueSite now.

Fatalclaw shook her head. "Shard of Fire had better get here soon."

She arrived a minute later. "You know the drill. Follow me and hurry!"

A nearby explosion sent thorns everywhere. One narrowly missed Thralni's ear.

---

Stareye was speaking with Slartucker when ***** and his group arrived.

***** joined them. "There are still a few more people out there, but first bots will arrive very soon."

"So I understand. Slarty, get Arancaytar and meet us in the Mod Board."

"Okay." Slartucker left.

"Attention, everyone! If you were in the first group to return, I want you to head to the guard tower now. Shoot any bots that arrive. No, Alorael, I need you and the other mods to go to the Mod Board for a moment." Stareye looked around carefully. "Student of Trinity and Niemand, I'd like to see you in there too."

Niemand looked surprised. "Okay."

Alorael sighed. "I'm going to miss out on all the fun again, aren't I?"

Nikki snorted. "You think you're missing out on all the fun."

"It will only take a minute," Stareye said.

When the mods had all gone, Dintiradan caught Danielle's eye and nodded. She casually made her way over. "Well? Is it time?"

"Yes. Lurker, please hand me your copy of Homeland."

"But..." The Lurker hesitated to hand the game over.

"I'm sorry, but you need to stay by the Deth Ray and cover for me if anyone notices I'm gone. Don't worry, you'll get an opportunity to use the script soon."

"Who's going to test the script for us?" Danielle asked.

"I'm sure Zephyr Tempest will want his summoning spells back, don't you?"

---

Randomizer regained consciousness slowly. The building was an ancient message board, so old even the spambots had given up targeting it. Illegible old threads and spam littered the floor, half-hidden by a thick layer of dust.

Randomizer tested the ropes that bound his wrists and ankles to see if he could get free. "No such luck. Of course. Hello? Can anyone hear me?!"

Despite calling out for several minutes, there was no response. Randomizer realized he was alone. "Hmmph. Figures."

Chapter 5: Ascension

Chapter 5: Ascension Dikiyoba Wed, 07/22/2009 - 06:52
Dintiradan, Danielle, and Zephyr Tempest stood in the Blades of Avernum Forum. Niemand and a few others had spent several days creating scripted defenses there but Dintiradan's chair had remained hidden. Now he pulled it out of its hiding spot.

Zephyr Tempest shuddered when he saw the runes on it. "I... I wasn't thinking clearly when I said I wanted to help. It's okay, though, she can still help you, right?" Zephyr Tempest pointed to Danielle.

Dintiradan put a hand on Zephyr Tempest's shoulder before he could run away. "What seems to be the problem here?"

"I just remembered how much it hurt the last time and I don't really want to--"

"Nonsense. This won't hurt a bit. Actually, you might have a headache afterwards, but that's nothing a curing potion can't fix." Dintiradan carefully picked up a rock as he spoke. Suddenly, he slammed it against Zephyr Tempest's head. Zephyr Tempest lost consciousness instantly.

Dintiradan set Zephyr Tempest in the chair and positioned him carefully. "Fetch me two sleeping potions and a curing potion, would you? See if you can find any unshackling crystals and a wand of forcecage as well."

Danielle left.

Dintiradan made a few final adjustments to the script and pressed it against a rune on the back of the chair. Soon, the runes glowed blue. Dintiradan removed the script and stepped back as they began to spark. After a minute, the sparks died down and the color faded from the runes.

Danielle returned. "I have the potions and the wand, but there was only one unshackling crystal."

"That will work. Give me the crystal and curing potion, please. Be ready with that wand, too."

Danielle handed them over. Dintiradan used the crystal on Zephyr Tempest. He woke up slowly. "Ow. My head."

"You probably want this." Dintiradan handed him the curing potion. Danielle kept the wand out.

Dintiradan waited a minute for Zephyr Tempest to recover. "How do you feel?"

"Okay, actually. All my summoning spells are back! Can... can I go now?"

Dintiradan thought for a moment. Zephyr Tempest didn't seem to be any crazier than usual. "Sure. But don't tell anyone else about this or use any of your summoning spells yet. You'll be able to use them again soon, but for now we have to work in secret."

"Okay!" Zephyr Tempest left.

Danielle gave the wand of forcecage to Dintiradan and climbed into the chair. Dintiradan began altering the script for her.

---

Stareye let Student of Trinity and Niemand into the Moderator Board.

Niemand looked around nervously. "What do you need us for?"

Stareye sighed. "I know this isn't exactly the happiest time to join us, but with DV demodded and Randomizer suddenly missing, well..." Stareye held out two moderator sashes. "I'll make a formal announcement and sort out forum responsibilities once this mess is behind us."

"Don't forget the krazy kwilting!" Saunders said.

"Of course not. Welcome!" Alorael said.

"Er. Wow. Thanks!" Niemand said.

Student of Trinity took a sash wordlessly, looking doubtful.

---

Garzad had spent as much time in the Avernum Trilogy as he could since he had arrived at Spiderweb. For now, it was easier to avoid confrontations with the rats who still thought he was a traitor.

When Cheese arrived with all the rats who couldn't fight, he hid until they had all left through the secret exit. Then he started towards the General Forum.

When he entered the Blades of Avernum Forum, he froze. Danielle was there, and she was glowing slightly. "Hahahahaha!"

Dintiradan reached for the wand, but Danielle snatched it out of his hand.

"Fools! You were fools! Don't you see? I was always one of your best candidates for moderatorship. I defended the board against noobs and answered stupid questions from potential customers. Always. Remember when Ik'phm'thy retired? Remember? My name came up as a replacement. She told me I was likely to be selected. And then what did you do, *****? You chose Cheese. An idiot like him for mod? What were you possibly thinking? And then G'ree't'l grew up to be so unbearably responsible and you welcomed in Attorukkip and somehow she became immensely popular and I realized I had lost my chance. After all, when was the last time you asked me to lead an expedition away from the board? Ages ago!"

Dintiradan thought about using Homeland but decided against it. Instead, he tried to cut her off. She ignored him.

"But then... then I heard the news that Attorukkip and G'ree't'l were both dead and I realized... my old dream... I had a chance again. So when I happened to be walking by and saw Fatalclaw come out of the Mod Board, too distracted to notice me and in too much of a hurry to make sure the door had closed completely, well, I slipped in. I read the note she left. Her constant babbling about a traitor had given me an idea. Garzad was easy enough to frame. I felt bad, but it was worth a shot, right? And it worked! I was finally a mod!"

Garzad had heard enough. He ducked out of the forum before Dintiradan or Danielle noticed him and ran back to the Avernum Trilogy Forum and the secret exit.

Meanwhile, Danielle continued. "Temporarily, supposedly, but I was going to work hard enough to make a permanent position for myself. Only then the flamers attacked and all the mods lost their positions when we came here. But now... well, now it's a guaranteed position, don't you think? Hahahahaha!" Danielle stopped laughing suddenly. "I'm... I'm sorry. I don't know what came over me."

Dintiradan looked around anxiously. "A rant like that is just asking for some hero to show up to try and stop us. Have you ever done anything like that before?"

Danielle shook her head. "No. Normally, I'm very good at keeping this sort of thing to myself but this time... well, I just felt like I had to, I guess."

"I see. Well, it's probably just some latent Evil Overlord urge emerging due to the sudden power, then. It happens to the best of us. I'll give you a copy of the Evil Overlord List later. For now, welcome to my Legion of Terror. When I have control of this board, your position as mod is most certainly assured." Dintiradan began altering the script once more. Then he sat in the chair and uncorked the sleeping potion. "Just stick it to the rune back there."

"Like this?"

"Yes. Now step away." Dintiradan drank the potion and fell asleep just as the runes began to glow.

---

***** tapped his claws on the table. "Look, as much as I'm glad for Niemand and Student of Trinity, did you really need to bring us all in here for this?"

"No. But I do need you for something else," Stareye said, "Since the last time we were attacked, Drakefyre and I created certain defenses. I am certain they will work. However, deploying them would probably cause extreme board instability, so they should only be used in a dire emergency."

"Because even if we won, the board would just collapse on our head ten minutes later? I get what you're saying," Synergy said.

"Possibly. Still, I think it's time I show you what it'll do and how to activate it. Obviously, word of this must not leave this room."

Everyone nodded in agreement.

---

When Dintiradan awoke, he was amazed at how different he was. His thoughts were clearer, more organized. He stood up and walked around a bit. He was definitely much quicker and stronger. Plus he glowed, much more than Danielle did. It was an unfortunate side effect that he hadn't known how to counteract before. Now that he had been changed, though, he thought he could see a way. No one would know he had been changed until it was too late to stop him.

"Are you okay?" Danielle stared at his hands.

"Yes." Dintiradan realized a few wisps of magic were flying off them. He had been right, then, to only give himself only a few important spells and to avoid giving Danielle any. He concentrated for a minute and the flow of magic stopped.

"Why did you get spells and I didn't?" Danielle asked.

Dintiradan was expecting rage. Minions could be so provoking at times. Instead, he felt perfectly calm. Studying the Evil Overlord List had obviously taught him to recognize and control his anger, to redirect it towards useful ends. The next challenge was to answer the question without being arrogant or condescending.

"I wasn't exactly sure how this would turn out and the spells were the part I was most uncertain about. I only give myself a handful of spells, in fact."

"Will I get some spells too?"

"Yes, of course, but not at this moment. Instead, I need you to fetch the Lurker and bring him here. If anyone tries to stop you, make an excuse. You have high leadership now, so they'll believe you."

"Right." Danielle left.

Dintiradan sat down and looked over the script. Now that he had been changed, it looked crude and unwieldy. He made the adjustments necessary for the Lurker and pulled out a clean sheet of paper. It would be easier to create a whole new script to hide the glow. He had just finished it and was checking it for errors when Danielle returned with the Lurker.

"Wow. Dintiradan, you sure look... different. Can I have Homeland back now?"

"I know. Please, sit down. I'll return it after you're finished."

The Lurker sat in the chair. Dintiradan cast sleep on him. He ran both scripts. Then he cast unshackle mind to wake the Lurker up.

"How do you feel?" Dintiradan asked.

"Fine, I guess. Why aren't I glowing?"

Dintiradan handed Homeland back and held up the second script. "Because of this. Danielle, take his place. I'm pretty sure it won't hurt this time. Do you want to be awake or asleep?"

Danielle shrugged. "Awake, I guess." She winced several times while the script ran but said nothing.

Then it was Dintiradan's turn. He gritted his teeth while the script ran. When it was over, it took both scripts and set them on the chair. Then he cast a fireball at it. The chair and script went up in flames.

"What are you doing?!" Danielle looked shocked.

"Making sure no one else can get their hands on it. Don't worry, it'll be easy enough to recreate later."

"The three of us are nowhere near powerful enough to stop all of the bots, though. Or take over the board."

"Yes, I know. I'm afraid it can't be helped. It takes time to adjust to all this new power. But I'm sure something will turn up soon enough. Now we have to get back, or someone will notice we've gone missing and get suspicious."

---

Shard of Fire looked over her shoulder. The bots were gaining on them. She tripped and fell.

Fatalclaw turned back and helped her up. "Keep going!" she yelled when she saw Thralni hesitating.

"Fire!" one of the rats in the guardtower yelled.

The hail of arrows and javelins slowed the bots down long enough for Thralni, Deathwhisker, Zeviz, Shard of Fire, and Fatalclaw to cross the bridge and make it inside.

Lazarus slammed the door behind them. "Someone had better tell the mods to collapse the bridge and turn on those pylons."

The door shook as several bots hurled themselves at it.

---

Garzad peered around the corner. The bots were too close now for him to escape or return to Spiderweb. Instead, he scurried into the nearest building and shut the door. Hopefully, they would pass him by.

"Finally!" Randomizer said.

Chapter 6: Welcome To Spiderweb

Chapter 6: Welcome To Spiderweb Dikiyoba Thu, 07/30/2009 - 01:16
Garzad untied Randomizer and helped him up. "What are you doing here?"

"ET," Randomizer said.

"Do you think we can slip past the bots somehow?"

Randomizer looked out the window. "Hah! Not likely."

Garzad started to pace. "That's not good. I need to get back somehow, to warn everyone that... well, remember when I said I was set up to look like a traitor?"

"Yeah."

"It turns out Danielle was behind it and now she's working with someone... Dintiradan, I think."

"Dintiradan? That's not good. What are they doing, do you know?"

"I don't. But they were in the BoA Forum, so it was some sort of scripting. And I swear Danielle was glowing slightly."

"They must be doing some sort of stat scripting then. Or else they discovered how to make canisters in BoA." Randomizer thought for a minute. "Hmm. I wonder if they could figure out a way to get my spells back."

---

Ecksian, Eternal Flame, and EcksianBot moved so they could watch what was happening at Spiderweb directly. Several bots were battering the front door. Occasionally, one would fall from a missile, but it was quickly carried away to be repaired and replaced. The door already had a few cracks in it.

"This doesn't look like it will take long at all," Ecksian said.

The electric pylons by the door suddenly flared to life and discharged. Every bot standing nearby was blasted. A moment later, the door opened. Niemand, Jewels, Iffy, and Lazarus hurried out. Jewels and Niemand waited at the bridge with their weapons out while the other two carried in the bots that were still mostly in one piece.

More bots rushed in. The bridge sank into the moat when they were halfway across it. Niemand and Jewels hacked at the first bot to make it across. When it fell, they dragged it inside. The door slammed behind them.

"Spite, Tinder, see if you can fireball those pylons," Eternal Flame said.

Ecksian pointed to a group of bots. "You. Protect those two flamers."

The bots Ecksian had pointed to nodded and formed a wall in front of the two flamer captains. Several bots stepped aside long enough for Tinder and Spite to lob a fireball at the closest electric pylon. Alorael tried to snipe them, but the bots had already stepped in front of them again. The bullet bounced off of armor.

The other group of bots had made it across the moat by now and resumed their attempts to smash down the door. The electric pylons went off again. Niemand, Nicothodes, and Iffy carried in the fallen bots.

Inside Spiderweb, Spiderwebbers and rats waited nervously. A few people had fallen asleep. A few others were posting half-heartedly. Andraste clubbed the stolen bots to bits. The Almighty Doer of Stuff and the Silent Assassin set up traps that would cover the bots with sanity. But most just waited with their favorite weapons close to hand.

An hour passed before the flamers finally managed to explode one of the electric pylons. Ecksian and Eternal Flame sat in the shade now.

"Finally!" Ecksian said.

When the remaining electic pylon went off, most of the bots were able to dive out of the way in time.

Dintiradan and the Lurker sat by the Deth Ray. Stareye joined them. "Is this thing ready?"

"Of course," Dintiradan said.

There was a crack from the front door as the bots hit it again.

Stareye looked around. "Schrodinger, SoT, carry the summoning machine into the Geneforge 4 Forum. Andraste, will you and... no, not you, Iffy. You've done plenty already and you look like you could use a rest. You're Feo, right?"

"Yes," Feo Takahari said.

"You and Andraste will do the same with the supplies. Niemand, get some of the traps from the BoA Forum and set them up in Tech Support. Alorael, you can stay up there, but have everyone else come down."

A minute later, the door finally tore off its hinges and fell inward. Bots charged inside.

"Everyone else, stand back! Dintiradan, fire," Stareye said.

The Deth Ray vaporized all the bots in its path. Several Spiderwebbers and rats stepped forward to make a barricade out of the door and lots of furniture.

Spite and Tinder blew up the second electric pylon.

"All right, that's it for now. Go find something to entertain yourselves." Eternal Flame said.

Tinder and Spite left. The bots that had been guarding them crossed the moat and launched themselves at the barricade.

The barricade lasted only a few minutes before being smashed apart. Dintiradan fired the Deth Ray again, but the bots were prepared for it. Some of them managed to get out of the way in time. When they saw that it wasn't going to fire again immediately, they charged inside.

---

Garzad and Randomizer continued to wait in the abandoned message board. They could hear bots running up and down the street.

"Do you smell smoke?" Randomizer asked.

Garzad sniffed. "Maybe?"

Something hit the message board, sending a load of dust down onto Garzad and Randomizer.

"Hey!" A flamer yelled, "It was my turn--"

"Ha! You don't get a turn until you learn how to aim!"

Garzad sneezed.

"Why you--what was that?"

"I don't know. Let's go look."

Tinder and Spite opened the door and stepped inside.

"Fireball them. Hurry!" Randomizer said.

Garzad hit the flamers with a bolt of fire. "Now what?"

"Well, I don't know about you, but I'd rather not return to Spiderweb by dying. So, I suggest that we run as far away as we can before the bots notice us."

"Right." Garzad cast haste on himself.

"No, don't try to cast any spells on me!" Randomizer said.

"Do your best to keep up, then!" Garzad grabbed Randomizer by the arm and sprinted out of the building. He cast slow on the bots that came after them. Randomizer concentrated on trying to keep up but was half-dragged along regardless.

---

The bots set off several traps as they charged. Finely chopped pieces of sanity went everywhere, including between the gaps in the bots' armor. The Almighty Doer of Stuff opened the trapdoor to the fluffy turtle pit. "All right, everything is ready for you. Just be careful!"

Inspector Walnut waited until all the other fluffy turtles were out of the pit before climbing up and joining the feast himself. Scraps of metal and bits of wire flew everywhere.

Dintiradan waited until the feeding frenzy has mostly died down, checked to make sure the Deth Ray would go over the fluffy turtles' heads, and fired. The last bots were vaporized.

Saunders and the Almighty Doer of Stuff hurried forward to herd the fluffy turtles back into their pit. Several had been killed. Many more had been injured. The Almighty Doer of Stuff did his best to coax the injured ones into drinking a healing potion.

"Positions, everyone!" Stareye yelled.

The ranged attackers grouped together around the Deth Ray while the melee attackers lined up across the forum. Several of them had scavenged shields or armor off of the stolen bots. Nioca, Zeviz, and the magic-using rats ran back and forth, casting protective spells. Slartucker walked around too, calculating everyone's encumbrance.

"Bless, shield, bless, shield... where's Drakefyre with his divine warrior when you really need him?" Nioca asked.

"Haste. Yes, I know. Haste," Zeviz said.

"You're encumbered. Get rid of those greaves. They aren't very good anyway," Slartucker said.

The next wave of bots entered the forum as quickly as they could. They advanced cautiously now, checking for more traps.

Iffy wiped sweat out of his eyes. A purple rat went by, casting war blessing on him. The rat standing to his left trembled slightly. To his right, Excalibur looked impatient. Suddenly caught up in it all, Iffy jabbed his new metal spork into the air and yelled, "For Spiderweb!"

---

Arancaytar and Zephyr Tempest waited by the summoning machine in the Geneforge 4: Rebellion Forum. No one had died in a while.

Schrodinger and Student of Trinity helped Andraste and Feo Takahari carry supplies. All of them heard Iffy's yell.

"For Spiderweb!" Delicious Vlish's voice echoed.

"That's our cue, then," Schrodinger said.

Andraste, Student of Trinity, Schrodinger, and Feo Takahari ran up to the General Forum. Niemand remained in the Tech Support Forum, checking the trap SDFs one last time.

Iffy's yell had become a chant. "Spiderweb! Spiderweb! Spiderweb!"

"Nethergate!" Tyranicus bellowed.

"Spiderweb! Spiderweb!"

Emperor Tullegolar stood in silence. Around him, Jeran Korak, Azuma, Nalyd, Ackrovan, and Neossokrass had a chant of their own. "For the Emperor! E! T! E! T!"

Stareye sighed when he heard them.

"Spiderweb! Spiderweb! Spiderweb!"

"DV, Nemesis, and everyone in between, get down!" Dintiradan waited a moment and then fired the Deth Ray again.

"Missile users, fire!" Stareye said, "Everyone else, charge! For Spiderweb!"

Chapter 7: Nobody Stands Alone

Chapter 7: Nobody Stands Alone Dikiyoba Fri, 07/31/2009 - 05:29
The battle soon became utter chaos. Nikki could only catch glimpses of what other people were doing as he fought. Smoo and ***** fighting back-to-back... Iffy getting stabbed... Nalyd laughing madly... a rat helping Jewels over to Nioca...

Now two bots attacked Nikki at once. He held them off, wielding a pen in each hand. A third bot approached from behind.

Riibu had been lurking invisibly nearby. Now she tackled the bot. The bot managed to kick her in the head. She let go. The bot stood up.

"No cookies for you!" Nicothodes darted forward and stabbed the bot. Then she joined Nikki.

Nikki sighed so quietly she didn't hear him. "Why oh why couldn't you be Aran?"

Only half-conscious, Riibu tried to crawl for safety. She was kicked or stepped on several more times. Eventually, she blacked out.

Iffy ran back into the General Forum and threw himself at the nearest group of bots. "For Spiderweb!" He managed to kill one bot before dying again.

Tyranicus caught a bot on his horns and flung it across the room. Another bot hacked at his side. He kicked it away and fought his way over to Nioca. "Heal me please."

Several bots reached the ranged attackers.

"Look out! Arghhh!" Thralni died.

Actaeon and Marlenny both shot one. The third killed Synergy. Stareye drew his sword, kicked the bot flat, and stabbed it.

Alorael staggered out of the guard tower and collapsed. "Stareye! More visitors coming!" He threw his bag of skribbane potions and sniper rifle down. They landed at Stareye's feet. "If anyone touches those, then I'll make sure that horrible things happen to... urk--" Alorael, who probably wouldn't have very long to come up with the horrible things he would do since Arancaytar was the one in charge of revivals, died. Several bots stepped out of the guard tower and ran down the stairs.

Dintiradan aimed the Deth Ray at them and fired. He could already hear more bots climbing through the guard tower window, though.

"Zeviz, how long can the bots keep this up?" Stareye asked.

Zeviz cast haste on Goldenking. Then he hurried over to the scrying pool. After a minute of scrying, he said, "Er... you probably don't want to know."

"Dintiradan, can you adjust the settings on the Deth Ray so that it collapses the guard tower instead of blowing a hole in our roof? Soon?" Stareye asked.

"Adjust the settings? What settings? It's a Deth Ray! You're not supposed to toast marshmallows with it!"

More bots raced down the stairs, but the Deth Ray wasn't charged up yet.

"Bots coming your way, Excalibur!" Stareye yelled.

Excalibur, the Lurker, and several rats found themselves trapped between two groups of bots. They were quickly killed. One of the bots picked up Excalibur's sword and attempted to stab the Lurker's copy of Homeland. The sword shattered. The bot kicked Homeland into a corner and threw the broken sword on top of it.

Iffy arrived and charged at a group of bots. He was killed for a third time.

Spells were wearing off now. Smoo, Jeran Korak, and several rats were all killed within just a few minutes. ***** fought his way out of the bots and joined Stareye. "We're being overwhelmed."

"I know," Stareye said.

"Are we going to retreat?" ***** asked.

"Soon. Very soon. Would you make sure Niemand is ready for it?"

"Should I initiate the self-destruct countdown on the Deth Ray?" Dintiradan asked.

"How long would that give us?" Stareye asked.

"Ten minutes."

"How long would it give us really?"

"Er... somewhere between eight and nine minutes."

"Okay. Start it. Zeviz, take the scrying pool to the Announcements Forum. I'll be there shortly."

Alorael entered. He picked up his sniper rifle and bag of skribbane potions.

"Retreat! Everyone retreat to the Tech Support Forum! Niemand and ***** are in charge there. The next few people to die should carry the summoning machine and supplies into the Geneforge Series Forum. Retreat!" Stareye yelled.

Everyone ran for the Tech Support Forum. Tegburi and Nicothodes were killed in the process. Nikki was seriously wounded. He collapsed. Student of Trinity and Slartucker had to drag the Almighty Doer of Stuff away.

"No! Inspector Walnut! I can't just leave them!"

When the three of them entered the Tech Support Forum, Niemand was the only one in it. He was unarmed, wore nothing metal, and carried a large wooden shield. "Trust me, it's better if I'm the only one in here when the traps start to go off."

The bots halted abruptly when they saw the traps. A few cautiously stepped into the forum. Another bot had looted a bow. It fired an arrow at Niemand. He deflected it with his shield easily. Then he took one step to the right so that he was standing on a small rune. The traps all flashed once. Apart from a small circle around Niemand, the entire floor was now emitting sparks. The bots crossing the forum were zapped until they short-circuited. Niemand grinned. His hair stood on end. "Let's see you get past me."

---

In the Announcements Forum, ***** held onto the Jade Halberd for Niemand. He watched as people started staggering into the forum. "If all you need is a short break, you can stay here. If you need a longer rest, head to the Geneforge 4 Forum. There's food and water there."

"What do you want me to do with the scrying pool?" Zeviz asked.

"Can you set it so that anyone can look into it and get a good view of the Avernum Trilogy Forum?" Stareye asked.

"Yes. It'll take a few minutes, though."

Stareye listened to the continuous zapping. "I think Niemand can give you that."

---

Riibu regained consciousness, still invisible. Bots hurried everywhere. Some were searching for loot. Others were taking damaged bots out to be repaired. Most were heading towards the Tech Support Forum.

Riibu made her way over to Nikki. The bots had taken his pens and then kicked him aside, obviously not realizing that he was still barely alive. She slowly and carefully dragged him over to the door. The bots didn't notice.

She took a deep breath and extended her invisibility to cover Nikki. Then she picked him up and ducked out the door. Since swimming across the moat would give her away, she walked along the edge of the message board instead until she finally collapsed. Nikki became visible again. Fortunately, there were no bots around. She resumed visibility as well and pulled out a healing pod.

Unfortunately, the three 1337 h4x0rs were in the area. They noticed the sudden appearances and approached carefully.

Nikki sat up. "Huh? What am I doing out here?"

Riibu shrugged. "It was the only way I could figure out how to heal you."

"Yes, but I should be inside fighting bots, not stuck out here!"

"You can go in a moment, just... just... let me tell you something first."

"Oh? What?" Nikki asked.

Across the moat, the three 1337 h4x0rs hid behind a pile of rubble.

"12 7|-|47 4(7|_|411`/ h1|\/|?"

"`/32!!1"

"7|-|3|\| 1372 637 |-|1|\/|!!1"

"It's, er, well, it's... um," Riibu stammered.

"Come on, I don't have all day."

"Er. Well, it's just that I... that I li--"

Three throwing axes hit Nikki simultaneously. He died instantly.

"--ke you. Oh."

In the General Forum, the Deth Ray exploded with one minute 47 seconds left on the display, taking half the room with it.

---

For once, Arancaytar was glad he was currently a bot. If he had been human, he would have had a massive headache by now. "Look, I know you're only trying to help, but it's a hassle reviving you so often. If you're not more careful, you're going to overtake Tyranicus in your first battle."

Iffy sighed.

"Why don't you help Tegburi and Nicothodes carry supplies to the Geneforge Forum? I bet they could use the help."

"I want to do something important. I don't want to be stuck back here."

"Carrying supplies is pretty important, when you think about it. How long do you think we'd last if the bots got ahold of all our weapons? Zephyr, Nikki just died. Besides, you were helping carry in bots earlier."

"I wasn't allowed to do anything else then." Iffy sighed again. "I guess I'll help." He picked up a box and carried it away.

"It would help if we weren't using such a massively stupid inventory system. We should be resurrected with our weapons," Jeran Korak said.

"For the hundredth time, I don't care that a bot got ahold of your sword. In fact, I bet it's using it more wisely than you ever did, which admittedly doesn't mean much. Grab a weapon--any weapon--out of that box over there and go away."

---

Niemand winced as an arrow buried itself in his leg.

"It's okay, it goes with your hair," Salmon said from the Announcements Forum.

"I'm trying to concentrate here!" Niemand caught the next arrow in his shield. "Stareye, they've given up trying to cross. They're just shooting at me now. How much more time do you need?"

Stareye had the scrying pool in his hand when he approached Alorael. "It works. Someone has to stay behind. That someone should probably be me."

Alorael set his skribbane down. "Hmm. I agree. How will you keep the bots from breaking in, though?"

"Sealing off one forum shouldn't cause too much instability."

"No, you're right, it wouldn't. Someone else should stay with you though, just in case."

Stareye shook his head. "We can't afford it. There aren't enough mods as it is and I can't risk letting anyone else know. I'll be fine."

"Okay then. Hey, Niemand! We're good to go!" Alorael went back to his skribbane.

Stareye placed his hand on the identification scanner. Then he looked around. Emperor Tullegolar was up by the Tech Support Forum. Dintiradan and the Lurker were nearby, but they were arguing with each other.

"What do you mean you don't have your copy of Homeland anymore? Now what are we supposed to do?" Dintiradan asked.

"The bots must have taken it. And it's your job to think of something. That's what you've always told me, anyway," the Lurker said.

Stareye opened the door, stepped inside, and shut it firmly.

Niemand ducked as another arrow went by. Then he limped backwards towards the Announcements Forum as quickly as he could. The moment he stepped off the rune, the traps flashed again. The sparks died away. The bots charged.

Lazarus grabbed Niemand and pulled him to safety. The bots crashed into a line of Spiderwebbers and rats at the doorway.

Neossokrass winced as a sword tore through a wing. "Sssomeone should make sssure we have elementsss before we die."

Jewels swung her axe at the nearest bot. "The next time I die, I'll take care of it. Don't you worry."

Nioca healed Niemand. ***** tossed him the Jade Halberd. He flattened his hair as best he could and joined the battle. But bit by bit, one fallen defender at a time, the bots gained ground.

Chapter 8: Loyalty

Chapter 8: Loyalty Dikiyoba Sat, 08/01/2009 - 01:36
Randomizer and Garzad ran until they were completely exhausted. Randomizer gradually slowed to a walk, holding his side. "Did... we... lose... them?"

Garzad was so out of breath he could only nod. After a minute he said, "It's a good thing, too. I'm almost out of spell energy. Where are we anyway?"

Randomizer shrugged. "I have no idea."

Someone jumped out of the dumpster. "Why, you're right here, of course! Where else would you be?"

Randomizer took a step back in surprise. Then he recognized the figure. "Mystic!"

"See, I told you they know me!"

Garzad looked around. "Er, who are you talking too?"

The Mystic pointed to his shoulder.

"Um, right. So, er, you wouldn't happen to know of a good spot we can spend a few days at, would you?" Randomizer asked.

The Mystic shook his head. "No. Out here, you always have to be on the move, or the lolcats will find you. We learned that the hard way, didn't we?"

"Uh..." Garzad said.

"But don't worry. You can join us and we'll show you what to look out for. Four pairs of eyes are better than two, after all."

Garzad gave up trying to figure it out and looked to Randomizer.

"Lead on," Randomizer said.

---

The bots had taken control of half of the Announcements Forum now.

Something was bothering Alorael, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it. "Yul'fib'f, would you make sure DV and Schrodinger have the defenses ready to go in the Geneforge 4 Forum?"

"Right away." The red rat dashed off. He returned a minute later. "They are."

"That was fast. Oh no. Mods! I need help!" Alorael ran over to the Moderator Board door, smashing several bots out of his way with the butt of his sniper rifle along the way.

"I'm coming!" Synergy broke clear of the fighting.

There was a click as the Moderator Board door unlocked. Alorael barged inside. Behind him, the open doorway began to shimmer.

"Sleep," Dintiradan said.

Alorael missed his next step and fell. "Sta--mmph!"

The Lurker tackled him and put a hand over his mouth.

The doorway became a solid wall. Synergy slammed into the other side of it. "Stareye! Alorael! Is everything all right?!"

Stareye turned from the Admin Panel. In one glance, he saw Danielle, Alorael and the Lurker fighting, and Dintiradan preparing to cast another spell.

"Sleep," Dintiradan said again.

"Well..." Stareye yawned. "...played." He swayed for a moment before keeling over.

"Are you okay?!" Synergy called again.

"Er..." Dintiradan tried to mimic Stareye's voice. "Yes. There was a small hitch, but everything is under control now. Right, Alo?"

The Lurker winced as Alorael bit his hand.

Dintiradan switched over to a voice that sort of resembled Alorael's. "Yes. We're good."

Synergy scratched his head in confusion. "Are you sure?"

"Yes. Now, isn't there a battle you should be concerned about?"

"Er, well, okay then. I'll just--urk!"

Dintiradan cast sleep on Alorael again. Alorael's eyes closed and he went limp.

The Lurker stood up and rubbed his hand. "Ow. That really hurt."

Dintiradan handed him a healing potion and stepped over to the Admin Panel. "Now, how does this thing work?"

---

In the Geneforge Forum, Arancaytar was very busy reviving people now, so Slartucker had taken over trying to keep Jeran Korak and several others under control. Synergy waited until he had a temporary break.

"Stareye is acting oddly."

"Well, there's not a whole lot we can do about that at the moment," Slartucker said.

"No, but--"

"Do not tell anyone else. It'll only start a panic. Oy! Rof'l'mao! What do you think you are doing?!" Slartucker pulled a lock out of his inventory. "I mean it, Synergy." He ran off.

---

"Aha! I think I've got it figured out," Dintiradan said.

"You know how to seal forums off?" Danielle asked.

"No. I'm still working on that particular detail. I'm getting very close, though. But I think I can take care of the summoning machine now."

"The summoning machine? Why?"

"We can't win here," Dintiradan said, "There are too many bots. But we can win elsewhere, if we do things right."

The Lurker sat on the couch, still rubbing his hand. "I feel kind of funny."

"So you're just going to let everyone else die?" Danielle asked.

Dintiradan looked annoyed. "Of course not. I can think of a few people off the top of my head who I can manipulate easily. They can stay alive. And we'll revive the rest again as soon as we get settled in."

"I guess," Danielle said.

"Good. Can you put together a list of rats we should try to keep alive?"

Danielle nodded.

"Thanks. And done." Dintiradan pushed a button.

---

The Geneforge Forum was dusty, mostly barren, and somehow hotter than everywhere else. A few scraggly trees grew here and there, still heavily damaged by Iffy's escaped demon muffin. At one point, Stareye and Drakefyre had installed a sprinkler system in an attempt to improve the forum. When it failed to produce any results beyond mud, they shut it off and forgot about it. Now the ancient pipes creaked and gurgled as they came back into operation.

"What the?" Slartucker looked up when he was hit by a load of rust flakes. He beckoned Synergy over. "It just became important. How odd was Stareye acting?"

"Er... not this odd, I didn't think. He did say there had been a small hitch, though."

It started to rain.

"Aran!" Slartucker said.

"Don't worry, I can get wet."

"What about the summoning machine?"

"Knowing Dintiradan, it can get wet too."

Deathwhisker had just been revived. She looked up. "Is this supposed to be happening?"

"No. Not at all," Slartucker said.

A bolt of lightning struck a tree.

Arancaytar landed on the ground. "The summoning machine probably can't survive getting hit by lightning, though."

"Well, get it out of this forum, then. Deathwhisker! Drew! Get the summoning machine out of here!" Slartucker dove to the ground as lightning struck a box of weapons. "Synergy, head to G4! See if they know what is happening!"

Lightning hit another tree.

---

Danielle handed her list to Dintiradan.

"Thanks. I've figured out what Stareye meant to do. It won't work for our purposes. Fortunately, I was able to make changes." Dintiradan read over Danielle's list and made a few adjustments on the Admin Panel.

The Lurker watched over Dintiradan's shoulder, sipping a bottle of skribbane. "Are we ready?"

Dintiradan took a deep breath and looked everything over one last time. "Yes. Do you want to do the honors?"

The Lurker stepped forward. His hand shook slightly as he pressed the button.

Chapter 9: Run!

Chapter 9: Run! Dikiyoba Thu, 08/13/2009 - 00:51
Several large, fat spawners had been grown in the Geneforge 4: Rebellion Forum over the previous week. Now Schrodinger and Delicious Vlish gave them the order to produce various creations. The creations stood around, looking confused, until the first bots entered the forum. Then the creations charged.

The Almighty Doer of Stuff stayed well away from the fighting. He looked slightly ill. "Isn't this unnecessarily cruel?"

"Nah. They're basically mindless. All they know is that they want to fight intruders. See?" Delicious Vlish grabbed a passing roamer. The roamer kept trying to run towards the bots. He let it go. The roamer ran to the nearest bot, bit into its leg, and dragged it off its feet. A nearby battle alpha finished the bot off. "Besides, you don't seem to mind using the fluffy turtles as an attack force."

"I do mind! I just get overruled!" the Almighty Doer of Stuff said.

Nalyd poked Azuma. "Shouldn't we tell the skeletons to attack now?"

"Er, I don't think so. We only have a few, so I don't think it will, um, make much of a difference. Besides, ET hasn't given me the order to. Er, and I also think it would upset the rats."

Nalyd sighed. "You're no fun."

Suddenly, Schrodinger gasped. He was staring at the entrance to the Geneforge 4: Rebellion Forum.

"What is it?" Iffy asked.

"We're cut off from behind, too!" Zeviz said.

"What's hap--oh, I see." The Almighty Doer of Stuff watched as both entrances to the forum shimmered and became walls.

"I still don't see anything odd," Delicious Vlish said.

Schrodinger ran to the wall that had once been the entrance to the Avernum 4 Forum. He touched it carefully. It was solid. He put his shoulder against the wall and shoved. By now, most of the Spiderwebbers and rats were watching him struggle against what was apparently empty air. "We're trapped!"

"Whatever it is, the bots can still get through," the Almighty Doer of Stuff said.

The Silent Assassin walked past Schrodinger into the Avernum 4 Forum. He shrugged.

Delicious Vlish looked horrified as he saw the walls appear. "What are you all still standing around for? Retreat! Get out of here!"

"Abandon a Geneforge forum without a fight? You must be joking! No one cares about all the nonsense in General, but just think of all the valuable information in here!" Emperor Tullegolar said.

"Nalyd thinks it's best that we just go."

"Oh, all right," Emperor Tullegolar said.

Soon, everyone who could had made it out. Schrodinger, Archmage Alex, Delicious Vlish, Zeviz, and the Almighty Doer of Stuff grouped together around a spawner that created wingbolts and prepared to hold out as long as they could.

---

Synergy had just exited the Geneforge Series Forum when Slartucker noticed something odd. He wiped the rain out of his eyes. The exit was definitely shimmering. Suddenly, it became a wall. "Synergy!"

Synergy reentered the forum, apparently walking right through the wall. "What?"

"Can you..." More thunder and lightning cut Slartucker off. "Does anyone else see a wall where the entrances should be?"

"I don't see anything unusual," Arancaytar said.

"So, no one else can see the walls?"

"Nope," Jewels said.

Deathwhisker and Drew paused.

"What do you want us to do?" Drew asked.

"Just continue for now." Slartucker tested the wall. It was solid.

"Um, what are you doing?" Duck asked.

Another bolt of lightning struck the summoning machine. Deathwhisker was electrocuted. Drew was thrown backwards.

Arancaytar hurried over and tried a few buttons. None of them had any effect. "Uh-oh."

"This is insane," Slartucker said, "Synergy, are you still willing to try and get a message to the others?"

"Sure."

"Good. Then everyone else will retreat. Get to the secret exit in the Avernum Trilogy Forum. I'll stay here and... deal with the remains of the summoning machine, I guess. I really don't want Ecksian to get his hands on it."

---

Spiderwebbers and rats sprinted blindly through the Avernum 4 Forum. Most were able to escape into the Nethergate and Nethergate Resurrection Forum. A few discovered a wall where the exit had been.

"Perhaps we took a wrong turn?" Andraste asked.

"No. The others managed to get through here. We're in the right spot," Zorro said.

"Then I suppose we're stuck here, unless anyone has any ideas," Student of Trinity said.

"You're the mod. Do you know what's going on? Why did Alorael freak out?" Andraste asked.

Student of Trinity shook his head. "I'm afraid I don't know. I'm also worried that this is happening in all the other forums too."

Several blue rats finally caught up with them. They hesitated.

"I take it you can't get through?" RatX521 asked.

"Yes. You go ahead and go through," Andraste said.

"So, what should we do?" Zorro asked.

"I think we should head into the side tunnels. We can stay hidden and harass the bots better th..." Student of Trinity trailed off as the ground under them began to shake.

The shaking knocked the Spiderwebbers off their feet.

"What's happening?" Andraste asked.

"Board instability," Student of Trinity muttered.

"What?" Andraste asked.

The shaking continued for several minutes. Large cracks appeared in the cave walls and chunks of rock fell from the ceiling. One boulder narrowly missed Zorro. Finally, the entire forum completely collapsed. Andraste, Zorro, and Student of Trinity were crushed by tons of falling rock.

---

More Spiderwebbers were trapped in the Nethergate Forum. Niemand watched as Nalyd slammed into the wall while Emperor Tullegolar, and Ackrovan, and Neossokrass escaped.

Azuma paused. "Shouldn't we try to help him?"

Emperor Tullegolar didn't even slow down. "No!"

"Of course! We're being cut off by member number!" Niemand said.

Synergy shook his head. "And at this rate, no one is going to make it out. Hey, Nioca, Tyranicus! You probably don't want to be trapped in the Geneforge Series Forum."

"I don't want to be trapped in the Nethergate Forum either." Nioca exited.

Tyranicus halted. "How bad is it?"

Another tree was split down the middle by lightning. Most of the red rats had already crossed the Geneforge Series Forum when the rest of the rats and remaining Spiderwebbers entered. Slartucker had managed to destroy the summoning machine beyond repair before being killed by lightning.

Nemesis stopped when he saw the walls appear. "Aw, man."

Emperor Tullegolar kept going. He shoved the wall. "Come on!"

Ackrovan, Neossokrass, and Azuma passed right by him.

"Cowards! Come back here and help your Emperor!"

"No," Azuma said.

"Fine! I didn't need you anyway! I'll win in the end, you'll see!"

Meanwhile, the first bots entered the Nethergate Forum. Lazarus was killed twice in a row. A blue rat who had decided not to continue died a minute later.

Tyranicus kept staring at what was now the route to the Geneforge 4: Rebellion Forum. "What number do you suppose it's at now?"

Synergy shrugged. "It's been a while since I could get out, so who knows?"

"That's odd. There's still nothing unusual across the entrances for me."

"Give it another minute. If you can still escape, you should. We don't know whether anyone else will make it."

---

Ecksian and EcksianBot winced when they saw the Avernum 4 Forum collapse.

"How many bots did I just lose?" Ecksian muttered, "Bots, report!"

Over the next several minutes, various bots informed Ecksian, Eternal Flame, and EcksianBot that no bots had been lost when the Avernum 4 Forum collapsed, that the Spiderwebbers and rats were in disarray, and that they were about to take control of the Nethergate and Nethergate: Resurrection Forum.

"Suddenly we're doing really well?" Eternal Flame asked.

"It's probably a trap," EcksianBot said.

"Right. No more bots should go inside. If Spiderweb's defenses really have fallen apart, the bots already inside should be able to handle it. If it's some sort of trap, though, at least we won't lose too many of them," Ecksian said.

"You should send more bots over to the secret exit. They might be trying to escape," EcksianBot said.

"Of course." Ecksian gave the orders.

---

Arancaytar, Zephyr Tempest, Jeran Korak, Duck, and most of the red rats waited in the Avernum Trilogy Forum.

"Do you think anyone else will make it?" Arancaytar asked.

A red rat shook his head. "I don't think so."

"We should wait a few more minutes, just in case," Zephyr Tempest said.

Arancaytar spent the next few minutes looking around nervously. "Right. That's long enough." He flew over to the cave tree and pushed the correct knothole. The trapdoor opened.

"Wait!" Tyranicus galloped into the forum and collapsed. "Everyone else... stuck. Bots already... to BoA Forum. Can we... still... get out?"

"I hope so," Arancaytar said.

Several red rats helped Tyranicus up. Everyone walked down the secret tunnel. There were no problems until the last person stepped outside. Then a huge mob of bots charged out of their hiding places.

Duck winced as the rat next to him was killed. "There's too many of them! What will we do?"

Arancaytar flew straight up into the air. "Run!"

"No. I have a better idea," Zephyr Tempest said, "ARCANE SUMMON!!! ARCANE SUMMON!!!"

Several shamblers and hydras appeared.

"Wait. You aren't supposed to be able to do that. Arghhh!" A bot stabbed Tyranicus.

---

The Lurker and Danielle watched the survivors leave the Avernum Trilogy Forum through the scying pool. Dintiradan guarded Alorael and Stareye. Both of them were still deeply asleep.

"I think everyone is out now," the Lurker said.

"Good. I don't understand why Arancaytar or Tyranicus weren't trapped, but we can deal with it," Dintiradan said.

"How are we getting out?" Danielle asked.

Dintiradan produced three haste potions and three invulnerability potions. "I'll carry Stareye. Lurker, you take Alorael. I'm going to reopen the Moderator Board. After that, we run like mad."

Chapter 10: Collapse

Chapter 10: Collapse Dikiyoba Sun, 09/20/2009 - 07:03
"ARCANE SUMMON!!!" Zephyr Tempest yelled again.

Duck dodged under a bot and out of the battle. He ran down side streets until he was thoroughly lost and the bots were well behind him. Still, he kept running.

Meanwhile, Jeran Korak charged empty-handed at a bot. It stepped aside and he cannoned straight into the bot about to stab Tyranicus again. Tyranicus ran off as quickly as he could. The bot that had stepped aside chased after him.

A while later, Danielle found Duck. "Hey! You can stop running now. It's safe."

Duck halted. "Okay then. Now what?"

"Dintiradan told me there is a Google station nearby." Danielle gave him directions. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go look for any other survivors." She dashed off.

After several minutes of wandering, Duck managed to find the Google station. Zephyr Tempest was watching for bots. He nodded towards Duck. Riibu slumped on the ground. A few red rats and a green rat waited nervously. Arancaytar flew back and forth, muttering to himself. Dintiradan and the Lurker tended to Stareye and Alorael well away from the others.

A minute later, Tyranicus staggered into the area and collapsed. A bottle fell out of his mouth and rolled across the ground. Arancaytar hurried over and picked it up. It was a healing potion. Arancaytar pulled the cork off and helped Tyranicus drink it.

"Where did that come from?" Zephyr Tempest asked.

"Found it. Couldn't get it open. No hands." Tyranicus tried to stand up, winced, and remained where he was.

"I'm surprised you got away from that bot that was chasing you," Arancaytar said, "Good thing you did."

"Yeah. Lost him--it--somehow."

Arancaytar looked thoughtful. "You know, I'm really surprised so many red rats got killed by the bots. You'd think they'd be better able to escape than the rest of us. It's... strange."

Danielle returned with Phil.

"I found Conikru. He's dead. Anyone else?" she asked.

Arancaytar thought for a moment. "Randomizer and Garzad went out of range a while back, so the only person left is Thuryl." He frowned. "Although I guess I haven't seen him all day. Has anyone seen him?"

Several of the rats shook their heads.

"Nope," Zephyr Tempest said.

"He's probably doing better than us, wherever he is. We, however, need to get out of here," Tyranicus said.

"We can't just leave," Riibu said, "What about everyone else?"

"They're dead. Nothing we can do about that. Unless..." Tyranicus looked at Zephyr Tempest. "I don't know why you can use summoning spells again but apparently you can. Do you still have Galactic Core with you? Can you summon elements?"

"Yes. And..." Zephyr Tempest caught sight of Dintiradan shaking his head frantically. "...not yet. I need more time to practice first."

"Right. So. We need to get out of here," Tyranicus said.

"But Ecksian knows necromancy. What if others end up... end up like Arancaytar?" Riibu asked.

"There's nothing we can do to prevent that. Look, Ecksian is going to figure out we're not dead soon and then the bots won't stop looking for us until we are. What good will we be then? We have to get out of here," Tyranicus said.

"Well, where should we go?" Danielle asked.

There was an awkward silence, broken only when the Lurker looked to Dintiradan. "Hey, don't you...?"

"Shut up!" Dintiradan hissed.

"What is it?" Arancaytar asked.

"Nothing," Dintiradan said quickly.

"No, really. What?"

Dintiradan sighed. "I have a... a message board of my own. Very secret. Well, it was secret until someone opened his big mouth, anyway. I suppose it would be a safe place to go."

"Wait. You're telling me you had somewhere Cheese and the other rats could have hid safely in and you never said anything?" M'lew, the green rat, asked.

"What part of 'secret' don't you understand?"

Arancaytar sighed. "Does it have supplies?"

"Oh yes. I bet I could have Alorael and Stareye back on their feet in no time, in fact," Dintiradan said.

"What happened to them, anyway?" Arancaytar sounded suspicious.

"I don't know for sure. The Lurker and I got cut off in the Announcements Forum when everyone else retreated. Suddenly, the Mod Board opened back up. Alorael stumbled out, carrying Stareye. Then he collapsed too. This distracted the bots long enough for us to fight our way over. We picked them up and ran for the General Forum. I don't know how we managed to evade the bots, but we did. We were also lucky enough to bump into Danielle. She volunteered to search for all of you." Dintiradan still stood apart from the others. "I think it looks like radiation sickness. I don't know what they were trying to do. I guess it went horribly wrong, though."

Arancaytar stared at Dintiradan suspiciously. Dintiradan stared back. Finally, Arancaytar looked away.

"Well, that's it, I guess. We should go to Dintiradan's message board now. Then we'll figure out how to get a message to Cheese and revive everyone," he said.

---

Ecksian, Eternal Flame, and EcksianBot watched the Spiderweb Software Message Board from a safe distance. The Blades of Exile Forum had collapsed and the entire ceiling was starting to sag inwards. Only a few bots were inside of it now, searching for any survivors or the last bits of loot. Ecksian had already added several good daggers to the collection he had on him.

Some distance away, several bots were burning the bodies of the Spiderwebbers and rats. Ecksian wanted to cut off as many means of resurrection as possible. He also didn't want EcksianBot to stumble across any rat corpses and start remembering things.

A bot carried the body of Conikru over to the fire and threw it on. Strangely enough, it appeared that he had been killed by being knifed from behind rather than by a bot's sword. Then the bot started to walk off.

EcksianBot was the first to hear the rumbling. "Look!"

The General Forum started shaking. Then the forumquake became a boardquake. A few bots managed to stagger out of the message board. Then everyone was knocked off their feet. Large cracks began appearing in the message board and water sloshed out of the moat.

Eternal Flame felt queasy and looked away. Was it just him, or was the collapse happening in more than three dimensions?

Ecksian kept watching. So did the bot.

Finally, all of Spiderweb collapsed with an echoing boom. Only a pile of rubble was left.

There was silence.

Then there was a faint scratching noise. Inspector Walnut hauled himself out from underneath the rubble. His shell was cracked and most of his fluff had been torn off. He growled weakly.

A bot rushed forward to kill him.

Krakoom! A sudden burst of lightning from the rubble killed them both.

There was silence again. Then Ecksian started to laugh. "Finally!"

The bot finally looked away from the fallen message board. Of course, that practically counts as a board upgrade around here, he thought.

Chapter 11: How To Become An Evil Overlord

Chapter 11: How To Become An Evil Overlord Dikiyoba Fri, 10/02/2009 - 01:06
Dintiradan's radiation sickness story allowed him to get a vehicle for himself, the Lurker, Stareye, and Alorael over Tyranicus and Arancaytar's objections.

Dintiradan recast the sleep spell on Alorael and Stareye. Then he turned to the Lurker. "What am I going to do with them? I can't let them wake up, or they'll alert Arancaytar and Tyranicus. I can't kill them, or they'll be able to alert everyone in Miscellaneous. And I can't keep them asleep forever."

The Lurker pulled out another bottle of skribbane. "I'm sure you'll be able to think of something."

"You're going through that awfully fast," Dintiradan warned, "You'll run out before too long."

The Lurker shrugged. "Then I guess I'll just have to go look for more."

"Yes, after we settle in, you should do that. Hmm. I suppose Alorael will start experiencing skribbane withdrawal soon. He probably won't be much of a danger to us after that. But... maybe I'm going about this the wrong way. After all, it doesn't matter what Alorael or Stareye say to Arancaytar and Tyranicus if they're already on my side." Dintiradan pulled out a new sheet of paper and began to write a new script.

"See, I knew you'd think of something." The Lurker tipped the bottle so that the last few drops fell onto his tongue.

---

Arancaytar and Tyranicus had the second vehicle.

"You don't believe a word of Dintiradan's story, do you?" Arancaytar asked.

"I believe the part about things going horribly wrong," Tyranicus muttered.

"Yes, but please tell me you don't believe it was because of a mistake on Stareye's part."

"I want to. I really want to. Because if it turns out that Dintiradan orchestrated all this, then..."

"We're doomed," Arancaytar said.

"Yeah. That."

---

Danielle, M'lew, Phil, and the three other surviving rats also had a vehicle to themselves.

"Do you think we can trust Dintiradan and the Lurker?" M'lew asked.

"I don't see why not," Danielle said.

"Yeah, they seem reasonable," Phil said.

"It just seems... oh, I don't know. You're probably right. I'm probably worried about nothing," M'lew said.

---

Zephyr Tempest, Duck, and Riibu were in a fourth vehicle. Riibu huddled in her chair and ignored the other two. Zephyr Tempest amused himself by summoning little creatures.

"How are you doing that?" Duck asked.

"Can you keep a secret?" Zephyr Tempest whispered.

"Sure!"

"Shh! Then talk to Dintiradan. He'll help you."

"Really?" Duck asked.

"Yes." Riibu lifted her head to stare at them.

"Dintiradan offered to help you?" Zephyr Tempest looked confused. "What'd you ask for?"

Riibu sank back down in her seat and said nothing.

"Wait, you mean he can teach me more than summoning spells?" Duck asked.

Zephyr Tempest nodded.

"Yes!" Duck rubbed his hands together in glee.

---

Eternal Flame and EcksianBot stayed a safe distance away from Ecksian. They could hear him shouting at the surviving bots that had been responsible for guarding Spiderweb's secret exit.

"What should we do now?" EcksianBot asked.

"I don't know about you, but I'm going to take my flamers and my reward and go. Spiderweb was destroyed. What do I care about a few cowards who decided to escape?" Eternal Flame asked.

"Because the survivors might resurrect everyone and rebuild the place!"

"Well, tough luck for Ecksian then, huh?"

---

Dintiradan led the survivors to his message board. He had Alorael slung over his shoulder. The Lurker carried Stareye. They rounded a corner.

"Well, this is it," Dintiradan said.

Everyone else stared. It was gigantic and entirely lemon yellow. It did have an unusual number of spikes, though, and in a few places the yellow paint had peeled off to reveal black metal.

"The Bucolic and Completely Harmless Waystation?" Arancaytar asked.

"Yes," Dintiradan said.

"It's huge! How can you afford to maintain this? And it looks abandoned. How come it hasn't been completely swarmed by spambots?"

Dintiradan shrugged. "I find it's best not to ask these sorts of questions."

Duck had lagged behind a bit. Now he caught up and saw the message board for the first time. "Ooooooh." He fainted.

"What? Too bright and cheery?" Dintiradan asked.

"Yes," Tyranicus said.

"Oh, all right. Would someone pick up Duck please? The Lurker and I will leave Stareye and Alorael in the infirmary for now and then we'll give you a quick tour of the place."

Tyranicus looked to Arancaytar and nodded.

"I will stay in the infirmary with them. The radiation shouldn't effect me," Arancaytar said.

Dintiradan hesitated. "Well..."

"It isn't up for discussion," Arancaytar said.

Dintiradan shrugged. "All right, fine. If that's what you want to do, do it."

After the tour, Tyranicus joined Arancaytar in the infirmary. "How's it going?"

Arancaytar watched Alorael for a minute. He was very pale and breathing irregularly. "Stareye looks the same, but Alorael looks worse. I think skribbane withdrawal may be setting in."

"Will he be okay?"

"If we can find some skribbane, yes. If not, well, it's probably a good thing that he's unconscious."

"The Lurker has Alorael's bag of skribbane. I'll go find him." Tyranicus hoofed it out of the infirmary and to the Lurker's room. It was empty. Next, he tried Dintiradan's room.

Dintiradan sat at his desk, working on one of his scripts. He looked up. "Yes? What do you want?"

"Where's the Lurker?"

"He just left. He went to look for more skribbane. There are only a few bottles left. Is that what you were going to ask about next?" Dintiradan reached into one of the desk drawers and pulled out two bottles of skribbane. As he did so, he knocked the script onto the floor. It landed at Tyranicus' front hooves.

"Yes, I... how did you... what is this?" Tyranicus stared at the script.

"It's hard to explain, but basically it's a script that reverts the user's stats, statuses, and abilities to an earlier form. I'm not sure what sort of damage radiation sickness causes, so I'm preparing for the worst. Reverting their stats to right before the accident shouldn't cause any problems whatsoever."

Tyranicus read the script carefully. Then he read it again. "How in the heck did you come up with this?"

Dintiradan shrugged.

"And..." Tyranicus hesitated.

"Yes?"

"...can you use it to turn me human again?"

"Of course."

"Woo hoo!" Tyranicus charged out of Dintiradan's room. "I get to be human again! Aran! Dintiradan's going to change me back!"

Dintiradan smiled as he picked up the script and resumed working on it.

---

The next morning, Dintiradan gathered everyone together. He sat at the edge of a large, raised platform while he waited for everyone to quiet down. Tyranicus and Zephyr Tempest stood behind him. Arancaytar hovered well away from the others, glaring at Tyranicus.

"Is anyone else here tired of being attacked and killed all the time?" Dintiradan asked.

There were several hesitant nods.

"Well, I think I found the answer," Dintiradan said. He held up a script. "For years, Niemand and the other scripters have been telling us that scripting can enable us to do just about anything. They were right. Zephyr Tempest and I spent all night looking for a way to help Alorael and Stareye. In the process, we discovered that scripting can do that and a lot more besides. It can even do things that magic cannot. Tyranicus has graciously agreed to demonstrate what it can do. Stand back, everyone."

Riibu, Duck, and the rats all backed away from the platform. Zephyr Tempest and Dintiradan jumped off of it.

"Are you ready, Tyranicus?" Dintiradan asked.

Tyranicus nodded.

"Okay then." Dintiradan set the script on a large rune carved into the platform. It glowed bright blue. Several other runes in the platform glowed blue as well. The light grew so intense that everyone closed their eyes and looked away. When the light faded enough that they could look again, Tyranicus was human again.

"Yes!" He examined himself carefully. "As good as new!" He tripped as he climbed off the platform and somehow managed to land in such a way that he snapped his neck.

"Well, that's encouraging!" Phil said.

"It is, actually. You see, before Tyranicus became a bull, he used to die like that all the time. It's a good indication that he really is entirely back to normal. Give me a little more time and we can begin reviving everyone and giving them protective powers, rather than just reversing negative effects," Dintiradan said.

Duck raised his hand. "Don't you go crazy when you mess with your stats, though?"

"If you use canisters, then yes. Scripts are perfectly safe, however. They don't touch your DNA, only your stats. I've used it myself and as you can see, I'm still perfectly sane."

Duck nodded. That seemed to make sense.

"Now what do you think, Arancaytar?" Dintiradan looked around. "Aran? Hey, where'd he go?"

---

Arancaytar flew back into the infirmary. He managed to roll Stareye out of bed. "Come on, wake up!" he screamed, "Dintiradan's taking over! What hope will Spiderweb have then?! Wake up! Wake up!"

Stareye didn't react.

Arancaytar turned to Alorael. He looked even worse now. "Fine, then. You wake up. Wake up and... go crazy with your sniper rifle... or something like that..." Arancaytar trailed off. It was obviously hopeless. He yanked the infirmary window open and flew away.

---

Everyone in the Miscellaneous Forum crowded around when Tyranicus appeared. He told them what he knew about Spiderweb's collapse and Dintiradan's scripting abilities.

Student of Trinity looked to Slartucker. "Well, this is worrisome, don't you think?"

Slartucker sighed. "Not worrisome, just disappointing. I guess Tyranicus wasn't cut for being a bovingelical."

"I'm referring to Dintiradan."

"Oh. Well, I suppose. On the other hand, this may be our chance to finally figure out what some of the trickier stats actually do. I've always wanted to know what luck actually does or whether moochanics has any effect beyond an increased ability to craft puns."

Chapter 12: Back In Action

Chapter 12: Back In Action Dikiyoba Mon, 10/05/2009 - 06:13
Five days after Spiderweb's collapse, three vehicles pulled into its closest Google station. Ephesos, Dikiyoba, Toby-Linn, the Ratt, Chatter, Attorukkip, Eieeoia, ScurfFiend, and Ru'vay climbed out of two of them. Terry stepped out of the third.

"What are you doing here?" Terry asked.

"We've been... away. It's a long story," Attorukkip said.

"Do you think Spiderweb defeated the bots yet?" ScurfFiend asked.

Two dozen bots emerged from hiding places and charged towards them. Several of the bots called for additional help.

"Dikiyoba guesses that would be a no."

"DIVINE RETRIBUTION!!!" Ephesos yelled. Two bots were killed. The rest kept charging.

"We're not going to be able to fight them off. We should retreat," Eieeoia said.

"Good idea. Take care of that, would you? DIVINE RETRIBUTION!!!"

"SMITE!!!" Attorukkip yelled.

As Eieeoia ran over to the ticket machine, a cloud of smoke rose out of the ground and formed an insubstantial humanoid.

"Gah!" Eieeoia jumped away from the shade.

"REPEL SPIRIT!!!" Ephesos yelled.

A protective barrier formed around the shade and the spell bounced off, leaving the shade unharmed. The shade lunged toward Ephesos. Chatter stepped into the shade's path and tried to claw it, but the shade darted to the side, sank its claws into him, and kept going. Chatter collapsed, completely paralyzed.

Ephesos faced the shade. "DIVINE RETR--" The shade scratched his face. "--IHUON!" He fell over. "Hi ih ih ah-ay ee?"

"Do not attack again unless you want me to assume that you are an enemy who should be killed. If you are here looking for the Spiderweb Software Message Board, it has been destroyed by forces outside of Spiderweb Software's control. The temporary replacement board is the Bucolic and Completely Harmless Waystation. The release of Avernum 5 has not been affected in any way and you may get help about it or any other Spiderweb game at the Waystation. The Waystation is also the place to go if you wish to help get the Spiderweb Software Message Board up and running again. Please note that the Waystation is unofficial and not endorsed by Spiderweb Software in any way. However, rest assured that the Waystation strives to be as friendly and helpful as Spiderweb Software Message Board was. Thank you for your patience and understanding during these unfortunate circumstances. If you wish to go to the Waystation, the address has automatically been entered into the ticket machine."

"Hu hihy'h hay," Ephesos said.

Eieeoia looked to Dikiyoba. "Now what?"

"Just get us out of here!" Dikiyoba ducked an attack from a bot. Another bot whacked Attorukkip in the head with the flat of its blade, knocking her unconscious. The bot picked her up and started to carry her off. Dikiyoba drank an invulnerability potion and a haste potion. Then Dikiyoba ran after the bot.

Toby-Linn and the Ratt picked up Ephesos and Chatter. They ran for a vehicle. ScurfFiend shepherded Ru'vay into the vehicle as well. It took off.

Terry lost an ear to a bot's sword as he ran for a second vehicle. "We're not going to make it!"

Another bot attacked the shade. The shade shrieked and lunged at it. Shards of metal and bits of wire flew everywhere as the shade's claws tore into it. Then it launched itself at another bot. ScurfFiend, Eieeoia, and Terry made it to the second vehicle.

Dikiyoba halted suddenly. At least thirty more bots were running towards the commotion. Dikiyoba turned around and sprinted towards the second vehicle. The moment Dikiyoba stepped inside, ScurfFiend slammed the door shut. The vehicle took off.

"What will happen to Att now?" Terry asked.

"I have no idea," ScurfFiend said.

After about half an hour of traveling, the vehicles halted. Everyone stepped out. Toby-Linn and the Ratt still carried Ephesos and Chatter. A second shade materialized in front of them.

"Welcome. If you are here looking for the Bucolic and Completely Harmless Waystation, simply walk two blocks in that direction, then take a left. It's straight from there. You can't miss it," the shade said.

"Er, we met another shade just like you who paralyzed two of our friends. Is there any way you can unparalyze them?" Toby-Linn asked.

"One moment." The shade closed its eyes.

The Ratt looked around nervously. He felt like he was being watched. He shuffled a foot and nearly squished a large spider that was scurrying by him.

After a minute, the shade opened its eyes. "Yes, I have been instructed to do that." It stepped forward and touched the claw marks on Ephesos and Chatter. The scratches healed up. Ephesos and Chatter stood up. Ephesos healed Terry's ear.

"Yay! Thank you!" Chatter said.

"Okay, who is in charge of this Waystation place? It had better not be Drakefyre or Stareye," Ephesos said.

"Dintiradan is the current administrator of the Waystation. He will answer all of your questions. At the time of my last update, Stareye is at the Waystation. I do not recognize the other name," the shade said.

"What? How could you not recognize Drakefyre's name?" Ephesos asked.

"One moment." The shade closed its eyes again. After a minute, it opened them again and continued. "I have informed Dintiradan of your arrival. He says he will answer your questions personally at the Waystation." Slowly, the shade faded away.

"Fine. Let's go get to the bottom of this nonsense." Ephesos walked down the street the shade had pointed to before. Everyone else followed him.

When they reached the Waystation, they stared. The message board was now painted goldenrod. Goldenking and Zephyr Tempest stood guard outside of it. They both glowed slightly. Their eyes, however, glowed brightly; Goldenking's gold and Zephyr Tempest's icy blue.

"Yikes!" the Ratt said.

"So you finally decided to join us, huh?" Goldenking asked.

"What happened?" Dikiyoba asked.

"Oh, Dintiradan will explain everything." Goldenking held the door open for them, "Just go through the first door to your right."

Once they stepped inside, the Ratt got the feeling they were being watched again. He nudged Toby-Linn. "Does something feel off to you? Like we're being watched or something?"

"Well, I did just see something scuttle across the floor," Toby-Linn said.

Ephesos pushed open the first door on the right. Inside was a small waiting room. Chairs lined the walls. Dintiradan sat in one of them, letting a large spider run along his arm. He also glowed slightly.

Chatter rushed inside and held out a claw. "Ooh, that's a pretty spider. Is it friendly? Can it talk?"

Dintiradan tipped the spider onto Chatter's arm. "It can't talk, but it's friendly. Just be gentle with it." He stood up and bowed as the others entered. "Welcome to the Waystation. I don't think I know some of you, so introductions seem to be in order. I am Dintiradan."

Toby-Linn, the Ratt, ScurfFiend, Eieeoia, and Terry introduced themselves. Ru'vay cowered behind Eieeoia and eventually ScurfFiend just said his name for him.

Dintiradan nodded. "But I believe Attorukkip was supposed to be with you. Where is she?"

"We were attacked by bots. She got carried off," Terry said quietly.

"I see. Give me a sec." Dintiradan closed his eyes. "Yes, I was afraid of that." He opened his eyes. "The shade I stationed at Spiderweb was destroyed. I'll have to gather information in a different way. Chatter, I need the spider back, please."

"Aw, okay." Chatter gave the spider back to Dintiradan.

Dintiradan set the spider on the ceiling. "Find ADoS and bring him here."

The spider crawled off.

"Now, I know you have questions, but I'm curious about what happened to you over the past week."

Dikiyoba shrugged. "Not much. We had to do a bunch of work for the Mage Guild and then we had to sit around while they came up with the right spell."

"And then we tried to go to Spiderweb only to have Attorukkip get captured by the bots because your freakin' shade paralyzed me," Ephesos muttered.

"Well, if you hadn't attacked it... anyway, you all have your ability to use magic back again, I take it?" Dintiradan said.

"Yes," Dikiyoba said.

"Good, good. No adverse effects?"

"Not that we're aware of," Ephesos said, "Now, seriously, what did we miss?"

"Ecksian's bots destroyed Spiderweb, as you are well aware. That was five days ago. A few others and I were able to escape in time. This was a message board I had for my own use but it was the only place we could think of to go. One of the other survivors was Zephyr Tempest. We came up with a script that gave him his summoning spells back." Dintiradan caught Ephesos' glare. "Oh, don't look at me like that. How else were we supposed to revive everyone? Anyway, after we revived everyone and got the place fairly well organized, we sent word to Jeff. We explained what happened to Spiderweb but that the Waystation was ready whenever he decided to release A5. He did."

"How did you contact Jeff?" Dikiyoba asked.

"Zorro took me there. He's been there several times, so he knows the route and the best way to approach Jeff with news like..." Dintiradan's voice began to shake. He took a deep breath. "Anyway, moving along. Besides dealing with all the newbies, we've been experimenting with scripting. We've discovered all sorts of useful stuff so far."

Toby-Linn heard Ephesos swear under his breath. She shuddered. She wasn't following most of what Dintiradan said, but there was something unnerving about him. Judging by the way Ru'vay clung to Eieeoia's tail, she wasn't the only one who thought that.

The spider crawled back into the room. The Almighty Doer of Stuff entered right behind it with a parrot on his shoulder. "What do you need me for, Dintiradan?" Like Goldenking and Zephyr Tempest, the Almighty Doer of Stuff glowed gently all over but had strongly glowing eyes. In his case, they glowed gray-green.

"Remember the patrol I had you send your fliers on two days ago?"

"Around Spiderweb? Yes."

"Could you convince them to do that patrol again? Attorukkip has been captured by the bots. We need to find out what happened to her."

"Who?" the Almighty Doer of Stuff asked.

"One of the rats. Remember?" Dintiradan waved his hand towards the others in the room.

The Almighty Doer of Stuff finally saw them. "Oh! Hi, Diki, Eph, and... uh, anyway, hello. This is Mr. Stickybuns, by the way. Say hello, Mr. Stickybuns."

"Awk! Welcome to Spiderweb!" the parrot said.

Dintiradan cleared his throat. "The patrol, ADoS?"

"Oh, I suppose I can do that. When do you want it sent out?"

"As soon as you can."

"Now? But..."

"Yes, now. I want them to find Attorukkip. If they somehow end up with a chance to rescue her, they should do so. If not, they should come back with a report on her condition and where she is being held. Obviously, they shouldn't put themselves in any more danger than necessary."

"What if they can't find her, though?"

"If they can't discover what happened to her after an exhaustive search, they should return. But only after they've put a lot of effort into the search. They can't just fly overhead once and call it good."

"All right. Do you need me for anything else?"

"No. You can go now," Dintiradan said.

The Almighty Doer of Stuff hurried out of the room.

Dintiradan looked to the rats. "I'm sorry about that. He gets wrapped up in one of his experiments and forgets about other people sometimes. Shall we take a tour of this place?"

"No. I want to speak with Stareye," Ephesos said, "And I want to know why the shade said it didn't know who Drakefyre was."

"Oh right, you weren't there for it. Drakefyre left Spiderweb before the attack. We don't know why or where he went."

"He left?" Dikiyoba asked.

Dintiradan nodded sadly. "Yes. You can ask anyone about it."

"Fine. I still want to see Stareye," Ephesos said.

"All right. But I'm warning you, you won't like what you see. And I can only take a few of you to see him. I'm afraid all of you would scare him. General is along the way. It should be lunch time soon, so I can drop the rest of you off there for a short time to get something to eat and to talk with everyone else. We can do the tour of the place after lunch. Come on." Dintiradan left the waiting room and approached a set of large doors at the end of the entryway. He pushed them open and stepped inside. The others followed.

The General Forum was in the middle of lunch preparation. Several rats set up tables and chairs. Others carried trays of food out.

The Ratt examined one of the dishes. "Hey, you forgot to put the guacamole on this."

The rat stared at him. "It's fruit salad."

"Exactly! Fruit salad isn't complete without some guacamole mixed in."

A green rat set down the table she was carrying. She rushed over to ScurfFiend. "You're alive!"

"Yep. We made it, somehow."

A giant rat came over. "Haha, Terry, how are the Attorists doing? Still as crazy as ever?"

Soon, all work in the General Forum had stopped as the rats all rushed over. The Ratt snuck into the kitchen to look for guacamole.

Chatter followed him. "Are you sure that's a good idea?"

The Ratt opened a cupboard. "Yes. Now help me look."

Dintiradan looked at Ephesos, Dikiyoba, and Toby-Linn. "Well, that worked out nicely. Follow me."

Dintiradan took them down another hallway to the infirmary. He knocked on the door.

Nioca stepped out. He had glowing purple eyes. "Yes, what do you--oh, hello you two. Where have you been this whole time? And who are you?"

"Toby-Linn."

"Pleased to meet you. I'm Nioca."

"They're here to see Stareye. Would you please tell them what to expect?" Dintiradan asked.

"Ah. Yes. Well. You see, when Spiderweb collapsed, Stareye was hit with enough radiation to give him a bad case of radiation sickness. At the time, I didn't know a spell to cure him and neither did anyone else, so we had to resort to a script. What happened next was completely unexpected. You see, most of us have altered ourselves with scripts three or four times now and never had any problems. We used the exact same script on Tyranicus and Alorael and they both were perfectly fine. But Stareye, he... he developed a severe case of amnesia. We can't figure it out. I've tried potions and spells but nothing seems to work. I even tried divine restoration."

"You tried what? And... and what do you mean 'didn't know a spell'. You know one now?" Ephesos said.

"Divine restoration. It didn't help at all, unfortunately. And my curing spell is all theoretical, of course, but it should work," Nioca said.

"Ah..." Ephesos stared at Nioca.

"How bad is Stareye's memory loss?" Toby-Linn asked.

"He forgot everything. He doesn't even recognize his own name or remember which boot goes on which foot." Nioca opened the door. "Stareye, you have visitors."

Stareye was kneeling at the window and staring outside. He didn't react until Nioca gently turned him around. Then he sat on the ground and stared at them all blankly.

"He looks awful!" Toby-Linn said.

"When will he get better?" Ephesos asked.

"Well, it's only been a few days, and I'm sure there are lots of spells I haven't yet tried and..." Nioca faltered. "...I don't know."

"Right," Ephesos said, "Dintiradan, tell me exactly how this scripting stuff works. We'll see what I can do."

Chapter 13: Trapped

Chapter 13: Trapped Dikiyoba Mon, 10/19/2009 - 02:25
Dintiradan, Dikiyoba, and Toby-Linn left Ephesos in the infirmary and returned to the General Forum. People were showing up to eat now. Most had been altered, but there were a few holdouts.

Student of Trinity was one of the holdouts. He sat at a table with Slartucker and Niemand, trying to understand their most recent experiment.

"Okay, so you think spatial-temporal anomalies in the Avernum universe causes differential NPC aging. I understand that. What did you do to test it?" Student of Trinity said.

"Well, first we wanted to create a model that shows where the areas of greatest distortion are located so we would know where to test. Here are the equations we used to create the model." Niemand pushed a piece of paper over.

Student of Trinity read over the piece of paper. Then he pointed to a number. "This is the time that has passed between games, correct?"

"Yes," Slartucker said.

"Hmm. Okay. What do these equations over here mean?"

"Well, over here, we estimated the age of each character who makes multiple appearances or who we know died of old age. Then we calculated how much they aged between appearances and where they lived during this time. Those equations you're pointing to are our equations to determine how much people who moved between locations--Tor, for instance--aged in each location," Niemand said.

Student of Trinity flipped the paper over. "It keeps going! Er, I'll have to look at it later, I guess. How did the model turn out?"

"We, er, ran into a bit of a snag. Every time we ran the script that would create the model, it came out like this." Niemand passed Student of Trinity another piece of paper.

Student of Trinity flipped it over a few times. It was solid blue on both sides. "Did it fall into some woad or something?"

"No. We spent the rest of the morning making sure the equations and coding were correct and checking for sources of contamination. We couldn't find any problems. Previously, we had a crafting experiment that just turned a pair of pants yellow and you'll recall the time when Nalyd ended up with a magenta pile of bones, so we want to do some more testing on that. All going well, we'll figure out what the problem is and have the model ready by dinner," Niemand said, "What did you do this morning?"

"I watched Synergy and Randomizer test the new spell they were working on."

"Ooh, the one they called Overkill, you mean? I wanted to be there for that. Did it work?" Slartucker said.

"Well, yes and no. It definitely obliterated the dummy they aimed at, but the lightning aura effect mistargeted and hit the three of us as well. Even with all the protective gear and spells I had on, it killed me in two rounds. By the time I was revived, Danielle was yelling at them for destroying most of the floor."

"Did they fix the problem yet?" Slartucker asked.

"I don't think so."

"Hmm. I could--"

"No. I've been trying to get you here for this experiment for two days. It'll take me forever to get it done by myself because I don't know the series half as well as you do, so you're not going to leave before it's finished," Niemand said.

Slartucker sighed. "You're right."

A few tables over, Lazarus prodded the food on his plate suspiciously. "What the heck is this stuff?" He glared at the Silent Assassin. "Have you been messing with our food again?"

The Silent Assassin frowned and shrugged.

"He says he had nothing to do with this." Lord Grimm leaned over and examined Lazarus' food. "It appears to be guacamole."

"What sort of imbecile puts guacamole on fruit salad?"

"Oh, that would be me," the Ratt said, "Don't you like it?"

Lazarus and Lord Grimm stared. The Silent Assassin golf clapped.

Dikiyoba looked around the forum. "Have there been many problems?"

"Well, that depends. Do you count ET flipping out and getting himself banned a problem or a relief? I tend to see it as the latter." Dintiradan grinned, "I mean, obviously Stareye losing his memory was a big problem and we had a few people decide to leave, but other than that, it's been pretty smooth."

"Who left?" Dikiyoba asked.

"Arancaytar and a rat named Garzad. I didn't know Garzad very well, but I was pretty surprised by Aran's departure. It's quite a shame."

"What about the Lurker? Dikiyoba doesn't see him around."

"Oh, he's just out picking up a few things for me at the moment."

---

The Lurker crept down a street, listening carefully. He could hear an argument happening somewhere ahead, but he couldn't tell who it was yet. He moved towards it.

Arancaytar and the innkeeper were gathered outside a small inn. A crowd of people had gathered around them.

"Get out of here!" the innkeeper said.

"Look, I've been running around for days. I need a place to rest for a bit. Please," Arancaytar said.

"There will be no spambots in my inn," the innkeeper said.

"I'm not a spambot! I want a room so I can sleep. I'm not about to sell you anything!"

"Excuse me." The Lurker pushed his way through the crowd. "That bot has caused difficulties at other inns as well. I need to retrieve it so it doesn't cause any more problems."

The innkeeper took one look at the Lurker's glowing skin and orange eyes. "Go right ahead."

Arancaytar shot up into the sky. "Traitor!"

The Lurker pulled out an empty skribbane bottle and threw it. It smashed against Arancaytar's head. He blacked out and fell from the sky. The Lurker walked over and caught him before he hit the ground. The Lurker tucked Arancaytar under his arm, nodded at the innkeeper, and walked off.

---

Ephesos entered the General Forum and sat down between Dintiradan and Toby-Linn in a huff.

"What happened?" Toby-Linn asked.

"I can't believe I just got shown up by Nioca. He's a complete... a complete... well, never mind. Dintiradan, when can I use one of your scripts?"

"After you finish eating, I'll finish the tour. Then anyone who wants to be altered can," Dintiradan said.

---

Arancaytar woke up in a small cell. There were no windows, so the only light came from torches in the hallway beyond his cell. The walls, floor, and ceiling were all solid stone. He searched them carefully for secret doors or switches but found nothing. The only object in the room was a thin mattress. The door was made of thick, closely-spaced bars. Arancaytar flew up to the door and examined the lock. It was sturdy, complicated, and well out of his reach.

Arancaytar flattened himself against the door to look out into the hallway. All he could see was a blank wall with torches. "Hello? Is anyone else here?"

"Shh! We get in trouble if we talk. I'm Garzad. Emperor Tullegolar is somewhere to your left."

"In trouble? From who?" Arancaytar whispered.

The echo of a door opening and closing came from the left of Arancaytar. Footsteps approached. "Lunchtime!" Jewels said cheerily.

Emperor Tullegolar rattled the bars of his cell. "This filth again. I'm an emperor and I demand better treatment!"

"You are delusional and disrespectful. You will stay here and eat what I bring you until you learn how to behave." Jewels walked past Arancaytar's cell with a bowl of food and a dirty plate on a tray. She glowed and had red eyes. "Do you have anything you want to say?"

"No, thank you," Garzad said.

"Are you ready to apologize to Dintiradan yet?"

"Absolutely not."

Jewels sniffed. "Be like that, then. Enjoy your meal." She came over to Arancaytar. "You don't eat, right?"

Arancaytar shook his head.

"I suppose you're wondering why you're here."

"I'm here because the Lurker knocked me unconscious and dragged me here."

Jewels shook her head. "No, no. You're here because at the moment you're a dangerous rogue. A threat to the orderly society we're trying to set up."

Arancaytar's jaw dropped. "A threat? I can't even find a place to spend the night!"

"But what would you be doing if that wasn't an issue?"

"I would be telling everyone who seemed interested in Avernum 5 to get the game directly from Jeff and to stay the heck away from here because you have all gone mad!"

"Exactly! That's why you'll stay here until you learn how to be civilized."

Arancaytar realized his mouth was open again and closed it.

"Any questions?" Jewels asked.

"N... not yet," Arancaytar said.

"Okay. I'll be back for dinner. I'll speak with you some more then." Jewels walked off. A short time later, the door opened and shut.

"Does she come here all the time?" Arancaytar asked.

"Three times a day every day," Garzad said.

"She's absolutely insane," Emperor Tullegolar said.

"Have either of you tried apologizing to Dintiradan?" Arancaytar asked.

"Hah! As if!" Emperor Tullegolar said.

"Once. He asks lots of questions and can usually tell if you're lying," Garzad said.

"Has anyone made it out of here?"

"Not that I'm aware of. Now, we have to stop talking. Remember what I said about it getting us in trouble?"

Arancaytar sighed and settled down on the mattress. He was well and truly stuck.

---

Iffy walked down a hallway aimlessly. He chewed on a fingernail. It seemed wrong for Spiderwebbers to be led by someone who called himself an Evil Overlord. Admittedly, he hadn't seen Dintiradan do anything really evil yet. If anything, he kept people from getting away with some of the nastiness that frequently happened at Spiderweb. So Iffy was confused. He declined every time Dintiradan offered a script for him to use and spent his days wandering around the Waystation.

Iffy accidentally tore off a large chunk of fingernail. He winced and stopped to shake his hand out. "Ow!"

"Oh, did you hurt your hand? Let me look at it," Jewels said.

Iffy jumped. "Er, er, hi Jewels. No, I'm fine. Where did you come from?"

Jewels pointed to the pair of dirty plates on her tray. "I'm just checking around the area to make sure it's clean. I found these dishes just lying around. Can you believe that?"

"Funny, I didn't see any dishes lying around when I walked past... but I guess I wasn't paying much attention," Iffy muttered.

"Did you have lunch?"

"Uh, not yet. I'm not really hungry."

"Well, lunchtime is almost over, so you'd better hurry if you want anything." Jewels walked past him towards the General Forum.

Iffy thought for a moment. Then he began inspecting the hallway carefully. After several minutes of searching, he found a dark stone that didn't look quite right. He pressed it. A section of wall slid away behind him, revealing a door. He tried to open the door. It was locked. He tried to pick it for several minutes. Eventually, he had to give up. It was far beyond his ability.

He pressed the stone again and the wall slid back into place. He chewed a fingernail again. Had that been where Jewels came from so suddenly? What was down there? How could he get in to find out?

---

An hour later, Dintiradan stood on the platform in the middle of a scripting laboratory. "Ephesos, I'm sure you are familiar with this?"

Ephesos nodded. He watched Dintiradan from the wall with the other eight people who had just arrived.

"Would you like to be first, then?"

"Alright." Ephesos stepped onto the platform.

Dintiradan stepped off the platform and put the script on the large rune. All the runes on the platform began to glow. "Don't worry, this won't hurt."

When the light died away, Ephesos looked at himself. "I'm not glowing."

"No, it takes a few alterations to get that. Try your divine restoration spell. Let's see if that works."

Ephesos took a deep breath. "Okay. Let's see then... RESTORATION!!!"

"How do you feel?" Chatter asked.

"Just fine."

"Can I go next?" the Ratt asked.

"You may. Does anyone not want to be altered?"

Toby-Linn bit her lip. "I'm not sure yet. Can I have some time to think about it some more?"

"Of course. You can either stay here and watch or go do something else, whichever you wish."

"I'll stay for now."

"Ru'vay shouldn't be altered. He's too young," Eieeoia said. ScurfFiend nodded.

"What do you think?" Dintiradan asked Ru'vay.

"I... I want to be more powerful. I don't want to be captured ever again."

"I think he's old enough to decide for himself. Don't you?" Dintiradan asked.

"Yes!" Ru'vay said.

"Well, I suppose..." ScurfFiend said, "I mean, there don't seem to be any problems with the scripts.

Iffy stepped into the room. "Er, er, Dintiradan, can I be altered with them too? I've changed my mind about it."

Chapter 14: Losing Control

Chapter 14: Losing Control Dikiyoba Thu, 11/26/2009 - 16:13
The Almighty Do-er of Stuff watched Mr. Stickybuns and his other birds fly off until they were mere specks in the sky. Someone knocked timidly on the door. The Almighty Do-er of Stuff didn't move. "Come in, Azuma."

Azuma opened the door and stepped inside. He was shaking. "Are... are you really sure you want to do this, ADoS? It's just that... that I've never done anything like this before and... and no one else has either, so... so it could be dangerous." He blinked at the Almighty Do-er of Stuff hopefully.

"Of course I'm sure! I don't care if it's dangerous; I have to bring Inspector Walnut and the other fluffy turtles back."

"Dintiradan won't like it. If... if he finds out, then... then he'll probably take away all our powers."

The Almighty Do-er of Stuff watched a goldfish swim around and around in its bowl. "Oh, he wouldn't do that. Would he, Lampost?"

Lampost didn't respond.

"But... but..." Azuma sputtered.

Nalyd slunk inside. "Are we almost ready? Nalyd has other things he could be doing instead, you know."

"Almost. You two should start getting things ready."

Azuma looked helplessly at Nalyd. Nalyd shrugged and swept a section of the Almighty Do-er of Stuff's floor clean of hair and feathers. Then he drew a large pentagram in chalk and placed a candle at each point. "You brought the skulls, right?"

"S... skulls? We don't need skulls for this ritual."

"Bah! Of course we do! We need skulls for every ritual! Nalyd will be right back." He slunk out of the room.

A moment later, someone knocked on the door. "ADoS? It's me, Nioca. What did you need me for?"

The Almighty Do-er of Stuff let him in. Nioca took one look at the pentagram and turned to leave. "Oh no. I'm not getting tangled up in this."

The Almighty Do-er of Stuff held him back. "Why not?"

"All magical experiments must be done in one of the laboratories with Dintiradan's permission. You know that!"

"This is more important than that!"

"Oh, really? How so?" Nioca folded his arms across his chest.

"I'm going to bring the fluffy turtles back."

"Not with my help." Nioca pulled free of the Almighty Do-er of Stuff.

"Fine. I'll go get Ephesos to help me."

Nioca laughed. "Ephesos? You honestly think you have a chance of convincing Ephesos to help you create a bunch of undead fluffy turtles?"

"They're not going to come back as undead. We're bringing them back to life!"

"Excuse me." Nalyd entered with an armful of skulls. He began setting them up in various places in the room. The Almighty Do-er of Stuff's pets all moved away from him any time he came near.

"You're what? ADos, the fluffy turtles have been dead for days, and they don't hang around in the Miscellaneous Forum or anything like that. They're too far gone to be brought back to life now."

"Just because no one's done it before doesn't mean it's not possible. We're a lot more powerful now than we used to be."

"You're crazy." Nioca turned to go again.

"I guess I'll have to go get Ephesos, then," the Almighty Do-er of Stuff said.

"Come on, Nioca. You're not going to let Ephesos show you up, are you? Don't you want to prove that you're better than him?" Nalyd asked.

"I'm doing just fine, thank you very much. Why should I care one bit about Ephesos? We're healers, not rivals." Nioca's ears went red and he avoided looking at Nalyd as he answered.

"Ha," Nalyd said quietly.

"I... I'm going to go back to the infirmary now." But Nioca stayed where he was. "No, on second thought I'll go straight to Dintiradan and tell him what you're up to if you don't stop this experiment at once."

"Snitch," Nalyd muttered.

"Please, Nioca. You don't have to do much. We might need you to help the turtles, or to provide extra energy in case Nalyd or Azuma get too tired."

Nioca looked around the room at all the skulls leering at him. Then he exchanged glances with Azuma. If he backed out now, Nayld would never let him hear the end of it. "All right, I guess I'll do it." He took up position beside the pentagram.

"Finally!" Nalyd lit the candles and stood beside Nioca. Azuma and the Almighty Do-er of Stuff joined them. Nalyd and Azuma started chanting. A dark portal appeared in the center of the pentagram. The Almighty Do-er of Stuff took a deep breath and stepped through it.

---

Student of Trinity met Niemand in one of the laboratories. Niemand shuffled a stack of papers dispiritedly.

"Well? How did your experiments go? Did you get any interesting results?" Student of Trinity asked.

"I couldn't finish them. Andraste mentioned something about discovering called the Infinite Cheeseball Glitch and Slarty decided to go see if he could help recreate it." Niemand sighed.

"Oh. Well, is there any way I could help?"

"I doubt it. Well, I'll get Slarty back to finish it sooner or later."

The resulting pause in the conversation was interrupted by Student of Trinity's watch alarm going off. He sighed. "Time for another mod meeting."

"Why don't you quit? I know my life's been much less stressful ever since I did. It's not like you're even needed, really. Dintiradan seems to know everything by himself."

Student of Trinity shrugged and walked over to the Moderator Board. The other mods were already inside, though Dintiradan was missing. ***** tapped his claws on the table. Alorael glared at the Lurker, who was sipping a bottle of skribbane. Randomizer and Delicious Vlish held a whispered conversation together. Zephyr Tempest played with several little creations while Saunders watched him closely to make sure he didn't summon anything too large. Danielle looked bored.

Tyranicus moved his chair so that Student of Trinity had room to sit down. "How is it going?"

Student of Trinity shrugged. "The usual, I guess."

Dintiradan entered with Ephesos. "Good afternoon, everyone. Ephesos has returned and decided to resume moderation duties."

"Glad to have you back," Delicious Vlish said.

"As you can see, I've tried to keep things as close as possible to the way they were run at Spiderweb. However, several mods resigned in order to spend more time on their projects. In addition, I promoted the Lurker, Zephyr Tempest, and Danielle due to their invaluable help in getting everything organized and running smoothly again after Spiderweb's collapse."

Ephesos sat down between Delicious Vlish and Tyranicus. "Fair enough, I guess. What's this meeting about? What happened?"

"Oh, nothing happened. We meet every day at this time to make sure everything is going smoothly." Dintiradan sat down and looked at several papers in front of him. "First up..."

---

The Almighty Do-er of Stuff looked around. So this was the afterlife. It was very dark and featureless. There were numerous figures in the distance, but they looked like they would keep away. He took a few steps forward. The place made him very uneasy. "Inspector Walnut! Turtles! Where are you?!"

His calls echoed back at him, but that was the only response. The Almighty Do-er of Stuff walked on.

---

Nioca was furious. "You sent him into the afterlife? I thought you were going to try to summon the turtles out!"

Azuma and Nalyd were too busy chanting to pay any attention to him.

Nioca looked around. There was still time for him to act. He could go get Dintiradan and stop the experiment. He took a step away from the pentagram. The animals sitting on perches and ledges around the room shrieked at him. "Okay! Okay! I'll stay!" He checked to make sure that he had several Balms of Life in his inventory.

---

Iffy returned to the spot where he had discovered the secret passage and opened it up again. He used his new skills to pick the lock on the door. It took a long time, but eventually he managed it. He opened the door and crept inside. Behind him, the section of wall slid shut.

Arancaytar heard Iffy's footsteps. "Huh. It's too early for dinner, isn't it?"

"Shh!" Garzad said.

"Oh, quit being ridiculous. It's only Iffy. Iffy! I demand that you let us loose at once!" Emperor Tullegolar said.

Iffy stared at the three prisoners blankly. It was one thing to suspect that Dintiradan was hiding something, but to find out that his suspicions were right... "Dintiradan said you all left."

"Well, obviously, he lied," Garzad said.

"I did leave, actually. The Lurker captured me and brought me back," Arancaytar said.

"Well, what am I supposed to do now?" Iffy asked.

"Get us out of here!" Emperor Tullegolar said.

"I can't! Dintiradan will find out! We'll never even get outside before you get recaptured, and I'll get captured too."

"Besides, even if we do get free, the Lurker will just track us down again," Arancaytar said.

"Well then, give me one good reason why I shouldn't raise the alarm right now. If I turn Iffy in, I'll get to go free, at least," Emperor Tullegolar said.

"Please don't do that," Iffy said. He bit another fingernail.

Suddenly, there was a muffled yell from the labs and an alarm went off.

"This might be the best chance we ever get," Arancaytar said, "I never thought I'd say it, but ET's right. Get us out of here."

---

"Inspector Walnut! Turtles! It's me, ADoS! I'm here to save you!" The Almighty Do-er of Stuff had gone very far into the afterlife now. Every once in a while, he looked behind him. The portal followed him so that it was never more than several steps away.

The Almighty Do-er of Stuff spotted a familiar group of creatures in the distance. He ran towards them. "Turtles!"

The fluffy turtles saw him and crawled towards him as well. He noticed they had a washed-out look to them. As they clustered around him, begging for sanity, he pushed them towards the portal. "Come on, you know how this works. Through the portal and you'll be alive and just fine again."

As the turtles scurried towards it, occasional sparks would fly from the ground towards them. They all disappeared through the portal without mishap. Inspector Walnut was the last one through. He pointed his head into the distance.

The Almighty Do-er of Stuff looked carefully but spotted nothing interesting. "What is it?"

Inspector Walnut just kept pointing.

"Do you want me to keep going? Is that it?"

Inspector Walnut nodded.

"What's out there?"

Inspector Walnut nuzzled the Almighty Do-er of Stuff's knee and then pushed him in the direction that he had pointed. Then he stepped through the portal.

"I... see." The Almighty Do-er of Stuff stared in the direction that Inspector Walnut had pointed. He glanced back to make sure that the portal was still holding together well. Then he walked on.

---

Nioca looked around the Almighty Do-er of Stuff's room nervously. The fluffy turtles had all made it out of the portal fine. Now they circled around the three Spiderwebbers and the pentagram and watched the portal patiently. Azuma and Nalyd were still chanting. Nioca realized they were concentrating so hard they probably hadn't even noticed the turtles arrive. He looked over the turtles. They looked slightly insubstantial but otherwise fine. Nioca sighed in relief. The Almighty Do-er of Stuff would return through the portal soon and this mess would be behind him.

There was a yell from the labs and an alarm went off. Nioca jumped at the noise. Several of the Almighty Do-er of Stuff's pets shifted uneasily on their perches. However, the two necromancers and the fluffy turtles all failed to react in any way.

Nioca wrung his hands together. "Come on, ADoS, come on. Get back here."

Chapter 15: Wishes

Chapter 15: Wishes Dikiyoba Sat, 12/26/2009 - 23:24
The door to one of the laboratories slammed shut and the alarm started going off. Andraste and Slartucker were trapped inside with a summoning machine that was producing Cheeseballs at an alarming rate.

"Do you want me to smash it? I can smash it," Andraste said.

Slartucker had ripped open the control panel and was trying to disable it that way. "Not yet."

After several minutes, it became clear that the glitch had completely overridden the normal functioning of the summoning machine. Cats completely covered the floor now. Several of them had started fighting.

"Okay, smash it. Ow!" Slartucker flicked away a cat that had jumped onto his back.

Andraste clubbed the summoning machine to pieces. Unfortunately, Cheeseballs continued to appear in the center of the room. One of them tried to sharpen its claws on Slartucker's leg.

"Ow! Would you quit doing that? Sleep!"

The cats all curled up in a deep sleep. Andraste and Slartucker waded over to a desk beside the door. They pushed a few cats off of it and sat down to wait for the door to open. Every few minutes, Slartucker cast another sleep spell on the Cheeseballs. There were now so many of them that they were piled halfway up the desk.

---

Arancaytar hovered near the ceiling anxiously as Iffy struggled to unlock Garzad's cell. The alarm was still going off, but he knew they didn't have a lot of time to get away.

Emperor Tullegolar was thinking the same thing. "Come on, how much longer can you possibly draw this out for?"

Iffy gritted his teeth. "It's a really tough lock, okay? It's going to take me a long time to figure it out. Aha!" The lock popped open.

Garzad pushed the door open and stepped out. "What's the best way to get out of here?"

"I think your best bet is to just head straight for the main entrance. Hopefully, whatever is happening above us will have distracted the guards," Iffy said.

"That's your plan? To try and slip by a bunch of guards who are way more powerful than us?" Garzad snapped.

"Well, I think all the other exits will have traps. I could probably disable them, but it would take a long time. Especially since there's something I need to do before I can escape."

Garzad sighed. "Oh, fine. We'll just go get recaptured immediately, then. Let's go."

Iffy and the three escaped prisoners walked cautiously out of the dungeon. The hallway was empty. Arancaytar guessed that most people were in the labs right now. Iffy went one way while the other three went the other.

Arancaytar, Garzad, and Emperor Tullegolar hadn't gone very far before Arancaytar got the feeling they were being watched. He looked up in time to see a large spider scuttle across the ceiling. He yelled and shot ahead of the other two.

Since Zephyr Tempest had been needed for the mod meeting, Nikki had replaced him on guard duty. He turned to Goldenking. "Do you hear screaming?"

Goldenking peered inside. "Yes, I d--"

Arancaytar cannoned straight into Goldenking's head. "Ahhh! Spider! Oops, sorry." Arancaytar caught sight of Nikki. "Nikki! Ahhh!" He shot up into the sky.

"One of these days, I'm going to take offense at your uncalled-for statements," Nikki called up. He hit Goldenking on the head with the flat of his pencil. Goldenking blacked out. "I'm always on your side. You know that. What are you doing here, anyway?"

Arancaytar flew back down, though he was careful to remain some distance away from Nikki. "Dintiradan had us imprisoned. Now we're escaping."

Arancaytar tried very hard not to hear Nikki's resulting rant against Dintiradan, or at least the parts of it that involved the phrase "my crazy kitten".

"...I'm coming with you," Nikki finished.

"Er..." Arancaytar said.

"Let's just go," Garzad said, "Hopefully, Iffy will catch up with us."

"But..." Arancaytar said, "Oh, fine."

The four of them ran off.

---

As the Almighty Do-er of Stuff walked further into the afterlife, the sparks from the ground became more frequent. Occasionally, a spark would fly down from the ceiling and hit him. The first time it happened, he reached up. There was a ceiling only a few feet above his head. When his hand touched the ceiling, several sparks hit it. He pulled his hand away quickly.

There were still a few figures around. They were so insubstantial that the Almighty Do-er of Stuff could barely see them. They ignored him. Up ahead, however, about a dozen figures were watching him. They were faded and slightly transparent, but still fairly solid.

Suddenly, a bolt of lightning struck one of the figures. The figure evaporated. The Almighty Do-er of Stuff jumped in fright and slammed into the ceiling. It was only an inch above his head now. Several more sparks hit him. The Almighty Do-er of Stuff suddenly realized he was exhausted. Whatever Inspector Walnut wanted him to do, it wasn't safe for him to be here any longer. He would have to try again later. He turned around.

Lightning hit the portal. The Almighty Do-er of Stuff was blown backwards. He smashed his head against the ceiling again. Colored dots danced in front of his eyes. Despite them, he could see that the portal was flickering wildly. He crawled towards it.

Now that his back was turned, the figures charged. A small, fluffy figure raced ahead of the others.

---

Nioca tapped his foot. "What in the world is taking ADoS so long?"

Azuma and Nalyd were too busy focusing on the portal to answer.

"Er... you don't think he's hurt or anything, do you?" Nioca asked.

Azuma shrieked and collapsed. The portal began to flicker wildly.

Nalyd winced. "Nioca! Help Nalyd stabilize it!"

Nioca focused on the portal. It was losing energy rapidly. He used his magic to repair the leak. The portal returned to normal. Nalyd sighed in relief. Nioca hurried over to Azuma and examined him. He was alive but unconscious. Nioca cast unshackle mind on him. He didn't stir.

"Er... make that very unconscious," Nioca muttered. He looked up in time to see several indistinct figures run out of the portal. A moment later, something else came through the portal. It hurtled through the air and latched onto Nalyd's face.

"Niomm! Mmm mormal! Mw! Mm mmmm!"

The fluffy turtles rushed forward to attack the figures that had come through the portal. For some reason, they stayed well away from the thing attacking Nalyd. Nioca quickly focused on the portal again. He poured all the energy he could spare into it. The portal stabilized once more. Several more figures ran out.

---

"The last thing for today is..." Dintiradan stopped when he heard the laboratory alarm go off.

Delicious Vlish sighed. "Oh, not again."

A moment later, a large spider scuttled under the door and across the floor. It climbed into Dintiradan's hand. The crickets poked their heads out of Ephesos' pocket.

"Can you hear the message?" Ephesos whispered.

A cricket shook its head.

A moment later, another spider crawled across the floor and into Dintiradan's other hand. The crickets listened closely, but were unable to hear the message. Dintiradan nodded thoughtfully.

"Zephyr, you are needed at the front door. Randomizer and Delicious Vlish, it seems that Andraste and--" Dintiradan stopped speaking again. A third spider had entered the room. This one was hissing and clicking frantically.

"Chrrk chrrk chrrrk!"

"What?!" Dintiradan and Ephesos said at the same time. Ephesos jumped up and ran out the door. Dintiradan gritted his teeth. "Zephyr, front door. SoT, laboratory. Everyone else, follow Ephesos. I will be there shortly."

Everyone but Student of Trinity and Dintiradan hurried out.

"Nothing dangerous at the labs, then?" Student of Trinity asked.

"No. I should be able to deal with the worst of it from here. Just use your common sense." Dintiradan was at the admin panel now, pushing buttons frantically.

"Okay." Student of Trinity went to the lab that was setting off the alarm. Niemand was already there.

"Who is in there?" Student of Trinity asked, "Andraste and Slartucker?"

Niemand nodded. "Yes. And about six feet of sleeping Cheeseballs."

"Closer to seven feet now," Slartucker yelled, "Sleep!"

"What have you tried?" Student of Trinity asked.

"We completely destroyed the summoning machine, but it didn't help," Andraste said, "Wha--?"

The noise on the other side of the door sounded like one hundred children let loose on the world's biggest sheet of bubblewrap. PoppopPOPpoppoppopPOPpopPOP!

"What did you just do?" Slartucker asked.

"Nothing. Dintiradan probably did something, though," Student of Trinity said.

The popping faded away.

"Well, there's still two left, but I think that's it. Let us out, please," Andraste said.

Student of Trinity turned off the alarm. The door slid open. Slartucker and Andraste walked out. Andraste had a cat on each shoulder.

Niemand folded his arms across his chest and glared at Slartucker. "Why don't you come finish my project before you get yourself in any more trouble?"

---

Nioca was down on his knees from the effort of holding the portal open. "ADoS! ADoS!"

"REPEL SPIRIT!!!" Ephesos' spell blasted most of the figures apart. His next spell got all but the thing attacking Nalyd. Several fluffy turtles had stepped in front of it and blocked the spell. ***** pulled the thing off of Nalyd and healed him. Randomizer and Tyranicus stabilized the portal moments before Nioca passed out. The Lurker leapt into the portal. He came out a minute later with the Almighty Do-er of Stuff in his arms. The Almighty Do-er of Stuff was extremely pale and muttered incoherently. Tyranicus and Randomizer let the portal close.

"What do we do with this... creature?" ***** held it up.

"Why, that's Inspector Peanut," Saunders said.

Inspector Peanut tried to snap and claw at *****. He still resembled a fluffy turtle, but the fluff was so matted and his claws were so long that it was hard to tell. He growled.

"He doesn't seem to recognize us," Tyranicus said.

"No. Not after such a long time. He never should have been brought back," Ephesos said.

"We should put it out of its misery," Saunders said.

"Good idea," Randomizer said.

"No!" the Almighty Do-er of Stuff said.

"Well, I guess we'd better lock Inspector Peanut up for now and take ADoS and the others to the infirmary," the Lurker said.

Ephesos cast unshackle mind on Azuma and Nioca. Neither of them woke up. He sighed. "It looks like Nalyd is the only one who can tell us what they were doing."

"This was totally ADoS' idea. Nalyd had nothing to do with it. Nothing at all."

---

Arancaytar, Nikki, Garzad, and Emperor Tullegolar waited for a few minutes to see whether Iffy would catch up. He did. Stareye was with him.

"What'd you bring him for?" Emperor Tullegolar asked.

"Yeah. I know you want to play hero, but we're trying to escape. We can't exactly afford to bring along a lot of people who are going to slow us down," Nikki said, "You are in poor enough shape as it is."

"It wouldn't have been right to leave him," Iffy said.

Garzad sighed. "It's too late for arguing. Let's just keep moving."

"Yes, let's," Nikki said. He winked at Arancaytar. "Don't worry, we'll ditch these losers as soon as we possibly can, all right?"

Arancaytar sighed. "I wonder whether it's too late to go back to my cell."

---

When the Lurker and the other moderators reached the infirmary, the door was unlocked and Stareye was gone.

"Great. Just great," Tyranicus said, "Did he just decide to wander out or something?"

"I was under the impression that the door was kept locked," Alorael said.

"Maybe Nioca forgot to lock it?" Randomizer asked.

"Shut up!" The Lurker set the Almighty Do-er of Stuff on a bed and then examined the room carefully. "Of course, Iffy. How could we have been so stupid? No wonder he was suddenly willing to be improved."

"But why would Iffy free Stareye? What's the point?"

Dintiradan and Zephyr Tempest entered.

"It seems that ET, Garzad, and Arancaytar secretly stayed in the area. You all know how untrustworthy Garzad and ET are. It seems that they've put aside their differences enough to work with each other. Arancaytar and Iffy are working with them too. Arancaytar has been a bit confused ever since he was kidnapped by Ecksian and, well, ET can be persuasive, so I guess it's not a huge surprise."

Zephyr Tempest shook his head sadly. "Don't forget that Nikki was helping them too. That's how they were able to get in and out."

"Oh, good grief. ET again?" Ephesos said.

Tyranicus sighed. "I'm really beginning to miss Ed."

Chapter 16: News From Spiderweb

Chapter 16: News From Spiderweb Dikiyoba Fri, 01/01/2010 - 06:07
Mr. Stickybuns and the other birds circled around the Spiderweb neighborhood. Bots patrolled everywhere. The remains of the Spiderweb Software Message Board had been cleared completely away and the bots were laying the foundation for a new and larger message board. EcksianBot was overseeing them. Neither Attorukkip nor Ecksian were anywhere to be seen. One bot watched the birds fly over and land on a roof.

R'd'p'a and A'p'd'r were hiding out on the roof. The birds landed around them.

"Awk! Attorukkip has been captured. Have you seen her? Awk!" Mr. Stickybuns asked.

"Yes. We saw the bots take her inside Ermarian." R'd'p'a shook his head. "There are just too many bots for us to make any sort of progress. Do you know when--?"

R'd'p'a was cut off when the birds suddenly flew away, screeching and squawking. A'p'd'r and R'd'p'a threw themselves flat.

"What was that all about?" A'p'd'r asked.

"I don't know. I'm more concerned about whether the bots noticed them," R'd'p'a said.

A'p'd'r peered over the edge. Several dozen bots were racing towards the building. He sighed. "Of course they did."

Meanwhile, the bot that had first seen the birds entered Ermarian and found Ecksian. He was working on plans to seek out the surviving Spiderwebbers.

"What is it?" Ecksian snapped.

"I think the Spiderwebbers have sent spies."

"Where? Show me!" Ecksian stood up. The bot pointed to the building. Bots were beginning to climb up it now, while R'd'p'a and A'p'd'r fired arrows down on them. Ecksian ran for the building. The bot followed him for a short time, but when it was certain Ecksian wouldn't notice that it was missing, it slipped off and found EcksianBot.

"EcksianBot!"

"Yes? What is it?"

"We have a situation with the prisoner."

"Prisoner? What prisoner?" EcksianBot asked blankly.

"I'll show you. Ecksian's orders."

EcksianBot followed the bot into Ermarian. They went to the stairs leading to the archives. Two bots blocked it.

"Ecksian hasn't given you permission to pass," one said.

EcksianBot looked between the guards on the stairs and the bot he had been following. "What's going on?"

"Keep going! The door to the left! Trust me!" The first bot threw EcksianBot past the guards on the stairs. Then it drew its sword and attacked them.

"Traitor! Attack! Attack!" the guard bots yelled. All the other bots in the building came running at the noise.

EcksianBot hovered at the entrance to the archives.

"Go!" the first bot yelled. He ran one of the guards through.

EcksianBot flew through the archives until he found the door in question. It had once been PiperBot's office. Now someone had quickly installed a lock on it. The area around the lock was heavily splintered. Something slammed into the door, making it splinter a bit more. EcksianBot backed off. Whatever was behind the door might be dangerous.

Something slammed into the door again. This time, the lock broke and the door slowly swung open. Attorukkip staggered out. Her front paws were tied behind her back and her shoulders were covered in splinters.

Ecksian blinked several times. "Um... who are you?"

"Attorukkip."

"Oh. And, um, who am I?"

Meanwhile, the bot that had helped EcksianBot killed the second guard and blocked the stairway. It killed several more bots and held the rest off for several minutes before a bot managed to stab it in the shoulder. Another bot attacked, and its sword would have buried itself in the first bot's neck had the first bot not suddenly vanished. Its sword and empty armor clattered onto the stairs. The other bots halted momentarily as they tried to process what had just happened.

---

R'd'p'a shot the first bot to reach the roof, but several others were right behind it. A'p'd'r was tying sections of rope to arrows.

"Are you done yet?" R'd'p'a asked.

"Almost."

R'd'p'a dropped his bow and drew his sword just in time to parry a bot's attack. "Well, hurry."

A'p'd'r aimed for the nearest roof and fired. The arrow buried itself in a crack. He tugged on the attached rope to make sure it was secure. "Okay, we're set."

A'p'd'r and R'd'p'a swung over to the next roof. R'd'p'a retrieved the first arrow while A'p'd'r shot a second arrow into another roof.

Ecksian gritted his teeth and yelled up at the bots that were on the roof. "Climb down and follow me! We're going after them, no matter how far they get or how long it takes!"

---

"So there's a rogue bot helping us?" Attorukkip asked.

EcksianBot finished untying the rope around her wrists. "Yes."

"Do you think it can get us out of here?"

"I don't think so. It was having a hard enough time holding back the other bots as it was. But..." EcksianBot looked around the archives carefully. "...there is a secret way out of here. It'll be guarded, but I might be able to talk our way through." He sighed. "Maybe."

The sounds of battle on the stairs suddenly ended. An empty helmet bounced down the stairs and landed at the bottom.

"Well, it's either the bots in the secret passage or the bots on the stairs. Do you remember where the secret passage even is?"

"I think it's here." EcksianBot flew over to a bookshelf and pushed it. It turned sideways to reveal a trapdoor. Attorukkip opened the trapdoor. Several bots stood guard in the hallway below them. They looked up at her and EcksianBot uncertainly, trying to decide whether to raise the alarm or not.

"Er, um, don't mind us. New zombie. I'm just showing her, er, it, around so it knows where everything is. Including the escape route, because Ecksian wanted me to be very thorough. Right, zombie?"

"Er... brains?" Attorukkip said.

---

A'p'd'r looked around. He sighed. "Well, the Google station is right there, but the bots are still following us. If we try to climb down now, they'll catch us for sure."

"I guess we keep going. They'll have to turn back eventually, right?" R'd'p'a said.

---

Attorukkip and EcksianBot reached the end of the secret tunnel and convinced the bots standing guard there to let them by. They climbed up a ladder, pushed open the trapdoor, and emerged in the ruins of Polaris. Most of the patrolling bots had run off to deal with R'd'p'a and A'p'd'r, so EcksianBot and Attorukkip only had to rely on the zombie routine to get by once before they reached the Google station.

Attorukkip approached the ticket machine. Nothing happened.

"Well?" EcksianBot asked.

"There was a shade here earlier with directions. It's gone now, I guess. It gave the name of a place, though. I don't remember what it was exactly. Something and something Waystation. It shouldn't be that hard to find." Attorukkip tried searches on the ticket machine until the address to the Bucolic and Completely Harmless Waystation appeared.

As Attorukkip and EcksianBot climbed into a vehicle, EcksianBot said, "I wonder what happened to that rogue bot."

---

Tyranicus opened the door to his room and froze. Thuryl was sitting at his desk, toying with an empty healing potion.

"What are you... how did you get in here?" Tyranicus asked.

Thuryl shrugged. "I have important news from Spiderweb. But first, explain what has been happening here."

Chapter 17: Wiki Run

Chapter 17: Wiki Run Dikiyoba Mon, 01/04/2010 - 04:05
In the infirmary, Nioca regained consciousness. He sat up slowly. "Ow. What happened?"

Ephesos handed him an energy potion. "You drained all of your energy holding open a portal to the freaking afterlife. Have you gone completely insane?"

"I'm beginning to suspect that's the case. How is everyone else?" Nioca looked around. Azuma was still unconscious. The Almighty Doer of Stuff was completely blocked from view by a crowd of fluffy turtles and birds.

"Azuma should wake up soon. Nalyd is fine. He's just locked up for now so no one has to listen to him complain. ADOS is..." Ephesos turned to look at him. "...not good. He's conscious, but I can't get a reaction out of him. He was muttering for a while, but since then he's been completely silent. It kind of creeps me out, honestly. What in the world possessed him to go into the afterlife?"

Nioca shrugged. "He wanted the fluffy turtles back."

"He got his wish, at least. With the exception of Inspector Peanut, they all seem to be fine."

"Where is Inspector Peanut?"

"It's locked up as well. Almost everyone wanted to kill it, but Dintiradan said it might be the only way to get the Almighty Doer of Stuff back, so I guess we have to deal with it somehow."

"I don't suppose it got locked up with Nalyd."

"Hah. Unfortunately not."

Nioca looked around again. Something was bothering him. "Hey, where is Stareye?"

"He's... missing."

---

The escaped prisoners avoided the nearest Google station and headed towards a different one. It was a tense and silent journey. Emperor Tullegolar led the way. Iffy and Stareye traveled at the back. Stareye had a tendency to slow to walk or wander off in a different direction, so Iffy had to constantly coax him along. Arancaytar maintained a safe distance between himself and Nikki, which was difficult since he couldn't fly too high in case it gave them away and Nikki would frequently stop suddenly to look around.

Nikki stopped so suddenly Arancaytar nearly collided with his head.

"Gah. Quit doing that," Arancaytar whispered.

"I'm sorry. I just think I can hear something," Nikki said quietly.

Finally, the group arrived at the station.

"Where should we go to hide from the Lurker or whoever comes after us?" Garzad whispered.

"I don't know. I didn't exactly do a great job of hiding from him before, remember?" Arancaytar said.

"You won't be by yourself this time, though. That should help," Iffy said.

Arancaytar looked around at the rest of the group. "Not likely."

"Shh!" Nikki halted once more. This time, everyone heard the footsteps. "We need to go. Now."

"But where are we going?" Iffy asked.

"Well..." Nikki walked over to the ticket machine. "We should go to Wikipedia. It's so big that none of Dintiradan's cronies will be able to find us." He spoke loudly and winked obviously at the group. "Everyone get aboard."

"But you just..."

Garzad jabbed Iffy in the ribs.

"Oh. Good idea!"

When everyone was safely in the vehicle and it had taken off, Arancaytar said, "Where are we really going?"

"Oh, Wikipedia," Nikki said.

"Wait, what?" Garzad said.

"See, I made it really obvious to whoever was following us that we wanted to go to Wikipedia. It was so obvious that they'll think it was a trick and that we definitely won't be going to Wikipedia, so they won't bother to search there. But we are actually going there and so they will never find us. It's the perfect plan."

"Er... right," Arancaytar said.

Eventually, the vehicle arrived at the Google station inside Wikipedia. Nikki and the others got out. It was immediately boarded by several newbies.

Jewels pushed her way through the crowd. She had her axe in her hand. "Surrender please and come back to the Waystation with me."

"Aw, you're kidding me. It was a brilliant plan," Nikki said.

Jewels shrugged. "It was, but there are enough of us looking for you that we could afford to have someone wait here just in case. Will you surrender or not?"

Nikki pulled out his pen. "Sorry."

"Run!" Iffy yelled.

"I'm sorry too," Jewels said, "But it has to be done. Daze!"

Everyone but Nikki halted and stood with blank looks on their faces. Nikki hasted himself and charged at Jewels. Jewels parried and riposted. Nikki parried as well, but the attack still knocked him back several steps. Suddenly, Jewels collapsed. Nikki kicked the axe out of her hands and examined her. Someone had killed her by stabbing her in the back.

Riibu resumed visibility. "Hello. I figured you could use the help."

"Yeah. Thanks for that. How did you find us, though?"

"I've been following you for several days now."

"You mean hours, right? Because we've only been on the run for a few hours at the most."

"No. I've been following you for several days now."

"Really? And I never noticed? Wow. You've gotten really good at it, then." Nikki thought for a minute. "Also, that's kind of creepy. But we've wasted enough time. Help me undaze everyone, will you?"

Several Wikipedia editors pushed their way through the crowd. One pointed at Nikki. "That's him. That's the wiki vandal!"

"Er..." Nikki ran.

Riibu turned invisible again and ran after him. The editors ran after him as well. One of them accidentally bumped into Stareye as she tried to get through the crowd. Stareye was knocked to the ground. He stood back up and stared at everything around him.

---

Tyranicus told Thuryl what had happened over the past week. When he got to the part about the sudden reappearance of Arancaytar, Garzad, and Emperor Tullegolar, Thuryl stared at him. "That's the excuse Dintiradan gave? Hoo boy."

"Well, it made more sense when Dintiradan said it. Er," Tyranicus said.

A spider crawled under the door into his room. Thuryl quickly scooped it up and dumped it into the empty potion bottle.

"Be careful. I'm pretty sure that thing can understand everything we say," Tyranicus said.

Thuryl shrugged. "I'm not planning to stick around, so it doesn't matter to me."

"Yeah, but I am." Tyranicus saw the look Thuryl was giving him. "Oh, come on. The only reason you disapprove of me working with Dintiradan is because no one else has a problem with it. If everyone else were rebelling against him, you'd be here telling me to support him."

"Probably." Thuryl quickly explained what had happened at Spiderweb since the survivors had left.

"So what do you want me to do?"

"Just pass the news along to Dintiradan."

"That's it?"

"That's it."

"Well, okay. That shouldn't be a problem," Tyranicus said.

Thuryl vanished. Tyranicus stared at the spider struggling to climb up the glass sides of the bottle. He sighed. After a few minutes, another spider crawled into the room. Tyranicus quickly scooped it up and dumped it in the potion bottle as well.

---

Iffy was the first person to regain his senses. He looked around and then quickly shook Arancaytar and Garzad out of their stupor. "Where's Nikki? Where's Stareye? What happened to Jewels?"

"How should I know?" Arancaytar asked.

Someone in a cloak with the hood pulled low over their face made their way over to the group. "It's me, Nikki." He briefly pulled back his hood.

"What are you wearing that for?" Iffy asked.

"I don't want to be recognized. The editors here hate me for some reason."

"Right. What happened to Jewels?"

"Dead, for the moment."

"And Stareye?"

"Huh?" Nikki looked around. "He was here when I... see, Riibu, this is why I told you to stay with them. I didn't need the help, but clearly they did."

"How would you have gotten yourself out of the dead end you ran down if I hadn't been around to distract the editors, then?"

Iffy watched the arriving vehicles suspiciously. "Jewels will be revived eventually. Can we not talk in such an exposed place? Please?"

"Good point," Garzad said, "Now, do we take ET with us or not?"

"With," Arancaytar said, "That way we'll know when he decides to try something."

---

Tyranicus found Dintiradan in the Moderator Board.

Dintiradan was in a bad mood. Too many things were happening all at once. He was losing control. "What do you want?"

Tyranicus dumped the spiders out on the table. "Thuryl stopped by."

"What? Where is he?"

Tyranicus shrugged. "I don't know. He left again, and didn't tell me where he was going."

Dintiradan sighed. "Fine. Where has he been this whole time?"

"At Spiderweb. He says that Attorukkip and EcksianBot will be here soon."

Dintiradan closed his eyes. After a moment, he said, "Yes, they just arrived at the Google station. Anything else?"

"A'p'd'r and R'd'p'a are probably dead by now."

"Okay, anything else?"

Tyranicus hesitated.

"Look, I have lots to do, so please just tell me."

"Well, I was just thinking that it's time to reclaim Spiderweb. We're all really powerful now, and it would keep Randomizer and Slarty and the others occupied. If we wait too much longer, Ecksian will have the new message board built and the extra defenses will make it harder to retake. Plus, now that EcksianBot is gone, Ecksian will be shorthanded and the bots will be disorganized."

"But it will mean leaving this place less well defended. Well, I'll think about it. Is that everything?"

Tyranicus nodded.

"Then you may go." Dintiradan waited until Tyranicus had left before picking up the spiders. "Now, what isn't he telling me? And don't whine about getting captured. I just got done talking to Nalyd; I'm sick of complaints."

---

Stareye wandered aimlessly around the ground floor of Wikipedia. People constantly bumped into him and pushed him out of their way as they went about their business. Eventually, he stumbled into a room with a portal in it. There were a few people waiting in line to use the portal, but they ignored him. A sign on the door said "Random Article Portal".

Stareye stared at the portal. It reminded him of something. Something very important, but he couldn't remember what it was.

A few minutes later, a slith entered Wikipedia and headed for the Random Article Portal. Along the way, he was joined by a vlish.

"Hey, Orssshsss."

"Hi, Auspicious. Come to waste more time here like me? You start off by reading about snails and then suddenly it's three hours later and you're reading through the individual pages for each episode of an obscure children's show. I love it."

"I usually end up reading about anatomy and physiology myself. Hey, what's this?"

Auspicious Vlish and Orssshsss reached the portal room. Stareye was still staring at the portal while standing in the middle of the doorway.

"Hey, are you going to use the portal or not?" Orssshsss asked.

Stareye didn't respond.

"You're blocking the doorway. Move," Auspicious Vlish said.

A human joined Auspicious Vlish and Orssshsss. "What's the hold up?

"This stupid noob is in the way. Move!" Auspicious Vlish shoved Stareye inside. Stareye tripped and fell. Orssshsss and Auspicious Vlish stepped over him and entered the portal.

Stareye stood up slowly. He was shaking, but he couldn't look away from the portal. It was something important, but what was it?

"Are you okay?" the human asked.

Stareye nodded. Then he ran forward and threw himself in.

Chapter 18: To Spiderweb!

Chapter 18: To Spiderweb! Dikiyoba Sun, 01/24/2010 - 23:36
Jewels approached the Kingdom of Loathing gates. The Lurker stepped out of the shadows. "Well? Did you find them?"

"Yes, they're at Wikipedia. Unfortunately, Riibu is with them. I didn't know about her until too late, so they know I was there."

"Did they escape?"

"I don't know."

"Get the others and go to Wikipedia. If they're still there, I'll track them down."

"Actually, Dintiradan wants to see you back at the Waystation."

"What? Why?"

"I don't know. He said it was important, though."

"Fine. I still want you to get the others and go to Wikipedia. Kill the escapers!" The Lurker ran off.

---

Stareye materialized in a room full of bookshelves. He opened several books. The articles inside were too difficult for him to understand. Then he looked up at the ceiling. There was nothing unusual about it. This wasn't right. This wasn't where the portal was supposed to take him.

Stareye left the room and continued wandering.

---

Ephesos shooed fluffy turtles out of the way so that he could bring the Almighty Doer of Stuff a meal. The Almighty Doer of Stuff accepted the food wordlessly.

Nioca entered the room.

"So, how'd it go?" Ephesos asked.

"Not bad, actually. Azuma and Nalyd lost their necromancy skills for a week. I ended up with a warning." Nioca went over to a cupboard and started pulling out first aid supplies."

"What are you doing?"

"Well, you heard that Attorukkip and EcksianBot arrived, right?"

"Yeah. So?"

"So Dintiradan decided it's time to retake Spiderweb. He's left the Lurker in charge of the Waystation while he's gone."

"What? When do we leave? Why haven't I heard about any of this?"

"Well... not everyone can go, obviously. Some people need to stay behind to guard the Waystation. And, well, you haven't been improved much, which means you won't be much use in a fight, so it makes sense that you... and, well, someone has to keep an eye on ADoS and... and..." Nioca gave up when he saw the look Ephesos was giving him. "Sorry." He dumped all the supplies he could fit into his inventory and ran off.

---

Student of Trinity found Slartucker and Niemand sitting in one of the laboratories. There was a huge pile of enchanted armor and weapons in the center of the room. Off to one side were a few unenhanced items in primary colors.

"I see you've been busy. Have you figured anything out?"

"Yeah. It's odd. Very, very rarely an item just changed colors instead of taking an enchantment. Dunno what that's about yet," Slartucker said.

"Ah. Are you both going to Spiderweb with Dintiradan?"

"I am," Slartucker said.

"No," Niemand said. A shield slid off the top of the pile and landed next to him. He kicked it away. "Please tell everyone to come up here and take whatever they want. It's the only way we're going to be rid of this all."

---

R'd'p'a and A'p'd'r were getting tired. The bots and Ecksian were still following them.

"Do you know where we are anymore?" R'd'p'a tried to pull the arrow out of the crack it had wedged in. The arrow broke. R'd'p'a untied the rope and coiled it up. He handed it to A'p'd'r.

A'p'd'r tied the rope to a new arrow and fired it at the next roof. "No. I take it you don't either?"

R'd'p'a shook his head.

The rats swung over to the next building. It was exceptionally tall. When they reached the top, they could see the glare of light off of Wikipedia's numerous windows in the distance.

"Do you think we can make it?" A'p'd'r asked.

This time, R'd'p'a was able to retrieve the arrow without problems. "We'd better."

---

Jewels, Lazarus, Ackrovan, and Neossokrass arrived at the Wikipedia Google station.

"This is an awfully big place. Do we want to split up so we can cover more ground?" Lazarus asked.

"No. We will be safer if we stick together," Jewels said.

Neossokrass bared his fangs. "Sssafer? We've been altered. There'sss nothing to be ssscared of."

Jewels sighed. "Nikki and Riibu have been altered as much as we have, you know."

---

At the Waystation, the rats and Spiderwebbers were gathering in opposite corners of the General Forum. ***** gave his group a final check and then made his way over to Dintiradan.

"My rats are ready to go. Are you sure you don't need our help?"

"No. We'll be fine."

"Alright. Then we're leaving now. There are a few rats remaining behind. We'll pick them up once we've found a good home."

Dintiradan nodded. "Do you have some place in mind?"

***** grinned. "I know just the spot, actually." He rejoined the rest of the rats. "All right, everyone. We're moving out."

Dintiradan watched the rats depart. Once word got out that there was magical equipment in the labs, they had armed themselves to the teeth. As someone crashed to the floor behind him, Dintiradan wished that several Spiderwebbers had shown the same restraint. "Jeran! You can have one shield. Not three!"

---

Nikki, Riibu, Iffy, Emperor Tullegolar, Arancaytar, and Garzad stopped for a break in a room full of hydrology articles. They had been searching for Stareye with no success.

"How are we supposed to find him? This place is huge, and who knows what he'd find interesting in the state that he's in," Nikki asked.

"Do you think he knows that he's lost his memory? Because if he does, I bet he's looking for a cure," Arancaytar said.

Iffy was standing guard at the door. "Shh! There's some sort of commotion going on down the hallway."

Everyone listened carefully. A moment later, they heard Jewels shout, "That's Stareye! Stop him!"

"Okay. So, now we know where Stareye is. And now we know where Jewels is, and that she's got others with her. What do we do?" Garzad asked.

"We could get out of here while they're distracted. They wouldn't hurt Stareye." Nikki hesitated. "Would they?"

Emperor Tullegolar snorted. "Who cares?"

Riibu bit her lip. "Actually, I think I know a way we can rescue him."

"There's no way you'll be able to sneak up on them. Jewels will be expecting that," Arancaytar said.

"I know. But they won't be expecting a sanctuary spell."

---

Dintiradan and the other Spiderwebbers were still waiting in the General Forum. An hour had passed since the rats had left. Finally, Alorael entered the General Forum. He had a bag full of freshly made skribbane potions slung across his back.

"It's about time," Dintiradan said.

"Sorry." Alorael shrugged.

"Right. We're leaving," Dintiradan said.

The Spiderwebbers finally set off.

Chapter 19: For Spiderweb!

Chapter 19: For Spiderweb! Dikiyoba Tue, 01/26/2010 - 06:48
Stareye was getting frustrated. He had entered three random article portals now. They never took him where he was expecting. But what was he expecting?

Someone yelled, "That's Stareye! Stop him!"

A moment later, someone else tackled him and pinned him to the ground. He tried to fight back, but whoever held him down was far stronger than him.

"Jeez, hold still. We're not going to hurt you," the second person said.

"Well, let him up. Just don't let him run away," the first person said, "Stareye, listen to me. You're safe now. You should come with us."

The second person helped Stareye up. Stareye looked around. There were three humans and a drayk surrounding him. They were vaguely familiar, and yet... and yet...

Stareye shook his head.

"Why not?" the first person asked.

Stareye opened his mouth, but the words wouldn't come. He shrugged.

"Now!" Riibu yelled.

A moment later, something invisible knocked Lazarus to the floor. The invisibility spell broke, revealing that it was Nikki. Garzad reappeared after hitting Ackrovan with a web spell. Iffy darted forward to stab Ackrovan, but the invisibility spell vanished a bit too soon. Ackrovan was able to parry the attack and break free of most of the webbing. Garzad tried again, but Ackrovan ducked.

Meanwhile, Riibu was dueling Jewels. She was still invisible. Emperor Tullegolar leapt at Neossokrass. He landed on the drayk's back and sliced a hole in Neossokrass' wing in the process. Neossokrass reached back and flung Emperor Tullegolar against the wall as hard as he could. There was a loud crack as Emperor Tullegolar's head slammed against the wall and he didn't stir once he landed on the floor. Neossokrass stomped on Emperor Tullegolar's head again just to be sure and turned to help Ackrovan.

He was too late. Garzad hit Ackrovan with another web spell and this time he wasn't able to dodge out of the way of Iffy's attack. Iffy and Garzad faced Neossokrass.

"Hsss! You'll pay for that, foolsss!" Neossokrass lunged forward.

The commotion was too much for Stareye to take. He scrambled away.

Lazarus and Nikki broke apart for a moment. Lazarus grinned evilly. "I'm surprised you're still standing. Judging by your scenarios, you apparently suck at combat."

Nikki healed a gash on his arm. "Oh yeah, Slack? At least I don't completely rig the system and then pretend I'm good at it." He attacked again.

Lazarus parried. The pencil flew out of Nikki's hand. Lazarus attacked. Nikki barely dodged it. There was a clang as something hit Lazarus in the head. Arancaytar appeared, looking dazed. He dove at Lazarus again. Lazarus ducked and swung one of his swords. Arancaytar went flying into the nearest wall with a dent in his side. Nikki yelled and pulled out another mechanical pencil. He stabbed Lazarus several times.

By now, Neossokrass had bitten down on Iffy's free arm. Iffy responded by stabbing at Neossokrass' snout. Neossokrass let him go. Nikki healed Iffy and Iffy dove for Neossokrass' throat. Garzad aimed another web spell. It hit, tangling up Neossokrass' hind legs.

"Run, Jewelsss!" Neossokrass fled.

Jewels swung her axe wildly, causing Riibu to take a step back. Jewels ran off as well.

Arancaytar rose unsteadily. "Well, how did we do?"

Lazarus twitched. Nikki stabbed him again. "Depends. How are you?"

Arancaytar felt the dent. "I'll be fine. He didn't hit anything vital."

"Then I think we did pretty well. We killed two of them, and losing ET in the process is practically a bonus."

Iffy looked around. "We lost Stareye again, though."

Several Wikipedia editors darted in, slapping handcuffs on Nikki and Riibu before they could react. They froze solid.

"And... ah..." Iffy saw the editors come for him but couldn't dodge out of the way in time. The world went black.

---

With almost everyone else gone, Niemand had been left in charge of the stat scripts. He sat in the scripting laboratory and double-checked the scripts Dintiradan had left him. Ephesos hovered over his shoulder.

"Wait, Diki gets magic?" Ephesos asked.

"Yes, everyone learns a few spells at a time."

"What do I get?"

Niemand sorted through the scripts and handed one to Ephesos.

"Aw, I get three mage spells. No improvement to any priest spells?"

"Not this time."

"Why not?"

"I don't know Dintiradan's exact reasoning. I just know that spells can only be learned gradually. It minimizes the risk of anyone going mad and losing control." Niemand sighed. "Look, are you really sure you want to be altered again?"

"Of course! Why wouldn't I? I mean, you were altered."

"I know... it's just... Dintiradan says there are no side effects, but I think there are. Something happened to Stareye. And Slartucker is so easily distracted now."

"He was always a bit distractible."

"Yes, but now it's worse. And everyone seems a bit..." Niemand shook his head. "I don't know."

Ephesos thought for a moment. "Maybe. How much longer before you are finished?"

---

***** led the rats still under his command through the flamers' neighborhood. Feral pyroroamers were quickly shot.

In a very short time, the rats were at the flamer headquarters. Several flamer guards emerged.

"What brings you here? Decided you hadn't been defeated soundly enough the first time?"

***** nodded to his archers. One of the guards realized what was about to happen and ran inside. The other guards were completely wiped out. The surviving guard managed to get the heavy stone door closed. "Attack! Attack!"

***** stepped forward and examined the door. It was warded against explosions, but hundreds of explosions over the years had left their mark. ***** chose three rats to help him.

"MOVE MOUNTAINS!!!"

Several cracks formed in the door. The four rats cast the spell again. This time, the door exploded into tiny fragments. Several flamers ran outside. The archers fired again, killing them all. ***** waved for everyone to follow him inside.

Eternal Flame heard the explosions and hurried out of his office. He grabbed a fleeing flamer. "What's going on?"

"The rats!" The flamer broke free and ran off around the corner. A moment later, he came running back. Lith and Deathwhisker followed. Lith shot him.

Eternal Flame ducked back into his office and locked the door. He looked around for a weapon that would be strong enough to hold the rats off. Deathwhisker slammed against the door. The door tore off its hinges and fell inward. Deathwhisker fell inside too, but she quickly got back up.

Eternal Flame threw a fire extinguisher at her and scrambled under his desk. Deathwhisker deflected it with her spear and kicked the desk over.

Eternal Flame saw that Lith was completely blocking the doorway with an arrow nocked on his bow. "I surrender. Mercy, please n--"

***** stood in the largest room and waved smoke away from his head. "Have we lost anyone?"

"Not that I'm aware of," a purple rat said.

"Have any flamers escaped?"

"The entrance is well guarded," a blue rat said.

Lith and Deathwhisker entered the room. "Eternal Flame is dead!"

***** nodded. "Good work."

A few minutes later, Fatalclaw led a group of rats into the room. "I think we've cleared all the flamers out. We haven't run across any in a while."

Cheese entered with another group shortly afterwards. "The place looks pretty clear to me."

***** grinned. "Then let's get this place cleaned up and install a new front door. We have a home again, everyone."

---

The Lurker revived Lazarus and Ackrovan. He snorted. "Pathetic. They got two of you and you only got one of them?"

"Well, it's kind of hard to fight someone you can't see. And fighting two people you can't see is even worse," Ackrovan said. Lazarus elbowed him hard.

"Is there any chance of getting more help?" Lazarus asked.

"Not in the current circumstances. So you'd better get going," the Lurker said.

Ackrovan and Lazarus left quickly. Once they were gone, the Lurker revived Emperor Tullegolar.

"Release me," Emperor Tullegolar said.

"No." The Lurker dragged Emperor Tullegolar back to the hidden cells and threw him into one. All the locks had been replaced by much sturdier ones.

Meanwhile, Dikiyoba joined Niemand and Ephesos. "Are you done yet?"

Niemand sighed. "Not yet. Although I should point out that you might want to rethink this."

"Why?" Dikiyoba asked.

While Niemand and Dikiyoba argued, Ephesos set his crickets down. They hopped over to the scripts and carried off the script meant for Ephesos without Niemand noticing. Ephesos quickly changed a few numbers and then had the crickets carry the script back.

---

Dintiradan's group arrived at the Spiderweb Google station. Several bots spotted them immediately and ran to raise the alarm.

"Nioca, you're in charge of healing anyone too injured to heal themselves. Zephyr, you're in charge of reviving anyone who gets killed. Now, keep your eyes open. Ecksian will probably come up with some sort of trick."

Over one hundred bots charged straight at the group.

Dintiradan sighed. "Of course, I could be wrong. Attack as you see fit."

"Yaaaaaaaaah!" Jeran Korak charged heedlessly toward the bots. He managed to stab two before he was cut down.

"Don't worry, Zephyr, you don't have to revive him," Dintiradan said.

Now the bots were close enough for missiles and spells. Alorael sniped the first bot. When it fell, several bots dragged it away and began to repair it. Other bots had bows and fired back at the Spiderwebbers. However, it was clear that the bots were outmatched. Over half of them fell before they even got into melee range, mainly from the barrage of ridiculously overpowered spells from Slartucker, Synergy, and Randomizer. The bots grabbed as many of the damaged bots as they could and retreated.

"For Spiderweb!" Lord Grimm yelled.

Most of the Spiderwebbers charged after the bots. Dintiradan looked around. Zephyr Tempest revived Goldenking. Nioca had no one to heal and so charged with the others. Alorael set his sniper rifle down and drank a skribbane potion. He was careful to avoid looking directly at the running Spiderwebbers.

"Is that everyone, Zephyr?" Dintiradan asked.

"For the moment."

"Then we'll check the buildings as we go. We don't want any bots to surprise us."

---

Stareye stepped into another random article portal. This time, it took him to a maintenance room. A complicated piece of machinery in the center of the room clanked and hummed constantly. Stareye hurried out of the room, nearly bumping into a Wikipedia editor in the process.

"Where did you come from?" the editor asked.

Stareye ignored him. He was too busy looking around. He was in an enormous underground cavern. Editors and bots hurried everywhere, checking machinery and carrying supplies. Could this be it?

Stareye looked up. Several pipes crisscrossed the bare rock of the ceiling.

"No. No glowing lichen," Stareye whispered.

"Excuse me?" the editor asked.

"No glowing lichen," Stareye repeated, "The ceiling is wrong."

"Um, okay. What are you doing here?"

"Portal."

The editor nodded. "I see. I thought we'd fixed that already, but I guess not. Follow me. I'll take you back to the main level."

---

R'd'p'a and A'p'd'r were finally forced to stop. Wikipedia was only a short distance away, but to get to it or to the connecting Google station, they would have to climb down and cross the courtyard. Unfortunately, Ecksian and the bots were waiting for them below.

"Do we try to find another way around?" R'd'p'a asked.

A'p'd'r grimaced. "We can try." He fired an arrow back to the building they had just come from. By this time, he was completely exhausted. The arrow fell short. "Do you have another one?"

"No. Umm..." R'd'p'a looked down. A bot picked up the arrow and snapped it. Then it carried away the rope.

"Well, I guess there's nothing left to do but kill as many as we can," A'p'd'r said.

"Ha! They're trapped." Ecksian pointed to several bots. "Start climbing."

Meanwhile, Lazarus and Ackrovan arrived at Wikipedia again. Lazarus happened to look up and see the rats. He stopped short.

"What is it?" Ackrovan asked.

Soon, Lazarus spotted Ecksian and the bots as well. "Quick, go find Jewels and Neossokrass. I'll rescue the rats."

"Are you sure you don't want help?"

"No, I'm good." Lazarus ran off.

Ecksian was lucky enough to see Lazarus coming. He grinned. "Of course! This must be where they're hiding out at." Once Lazarus was in range, Ecksian threw a dagger at him. Lazarus dodged it easily. Ecksian tried again. This time, Lazarus caught it and threw it back.

The closest bot stepped in front of Ecksian. There was a clang as the dagger bounced off its armor.

"Wha...?" Ecksian was stunned.

A bot attacked Lazarus. He decapitated it with a single blow.

Ecksian looked around wildly. Something had gone very wrong. He needed to get back to Spiderweb immediately. But if he tried to run directly back, this superpowered Spiderwebber would be able to follow and pick off his bots easily. "Bots, inside!" Ecksian ran for Wikipedia.

Lazarus managed to destroy three more bots before they could get away. A'p'd'r and R'd'pa climbed down. They were close to collapse.

"Thank you. What are you doing here?" R'd'p'a asked.

"A few Spiderwebbers turned traitor. I'm trying to hunt them down. What are you doing here?"

"Ecksian chased us here all the way from Spiderweb." A'p'd'r sat down.

"Ha. I bet that'll be an interesting surprise for Dintiradan. As soon as you're up to it, go back to the Waystation and tell the Lurker that Ecksian is trapped here."

R'd'p'a nodded and helped A'p'd'r up. They walked over to the Google station. Once he saw that they were in line, Lazarus ran across the courtyard and into Wikipedia.

---

Dintiradan, Goldenking, Alorael, and Zephyr Tempest cautiously moved toward Spiderweb, checking buildings as they went. They didn't find a single functioning bot. However, destroyed bots and bot pieces littered the ground like spam in a derailed thread.

Zephyr Tempest stopped to revive Actaeon.

"How is it going?" Dintiradan asked.

"We picked off most of the retreating bots. There were a bunch of bots doing construction work, but we took them by surprise and destroyed them all. There are still some bots in Ermarian, though. I think Marlenny took some people to the remains of Polaris to make sure none of them escape through the secret tunnel. There's no sign of Ecksian, though."

A few minutes later, Randomizer hurried out of Ermarian with the blueprints for the new message board Ecksian had been planning. Dintiradan looked them over. Then he gathered everyone around the recently-completed foundation that stood were Spiderweb once had.

"I don't know where Ecksian went. And there are a few Spiderwebbers who decided to work against us, so we haven't quite achieved victory yet. But the bot army is completely gone now, and I assure you that we will hunt down Ecksian and track down the traitors! We also have blueprints so that we can rebuild the Spiderweb Software Message Board bigger and better than it was before! For Spiderweb!"

"Yeah! Go Spiderweb!" Nioca yelled.

"And this time it won't be a thread-eating, soul-destroying UBB board," Dintiradan muttered.

Chapter 20: Sanctuary

Chapter 20: Sanctuary Dikiyoba Thu, 02/18/2010 - 16:57
Toby-Linn paced in the General Forum. No one else was present. A'p'd'r and R'd'p'a had gone to get some rest. The Lurker had left the Waystation a few minutes after they had showed up. The Almighty Do-er of Stuff was still in the infirmary. And everyone else was in the scripting lab.

Suddenly, there were shouts from the direction of the lab, followed by an explosion. Toby-Linn ran towards the noise. She nearly collided with the Ratt, who was running the opposite way.

"Quick, outside!" The Ratt risked a glance over his shoulder. The hallway was still clear.

"But what about the others?"

"Outside!" The Ratt pushed Toby-Linn towards the exit. Behind him, there was another huge explosion.

Meanwhile, Niemand and Ephesos were the only ones left in the scripting lab. Niemand hid behind a pile of rubble that had fallen from the ceiling. If the next round of uncontrolled spellcasting didn't bring down the whole room, he probably had time to reach the emergency repair script and undo whatever had happened to Ephesos. "Eph? How are you doing now?"

Ephesos had collapsed in the center of the lab. There was enough energy radiating off him that the temperature in the room was beginning to rise. He had to keep control of it, but it was so hard to think clearly. It was like trying to concentrate while a thousand different fireworks were going off. He sat up. He had to... he had to...

"Chrrk!"

"Yeah, control it. Thanks." He blinked several times. It was hard to focus when... when... "Gah!" One of his hands was touching the floor. Now the floor beneath it cracked as several thistles grew at an incredible rate. Ephesos quickly moved his hand.

Niemand sprinted for the repair script. Ephesos saw movement and instinctively launched a spell. Niemand dodged it and smashed the glass protecting the script. The spell hit the wall behind him instead, which collapsed. Niemand grabbed the script and cast daze on Ephesos. Then he dragged Ephesos back into the chair. He began setting up the script. About half of the crickets pounced on Niemand and tried to bite him. "Hey!" Niemand tried to brush them off.

The remaining crickets chirped at and kicked at Ephesos until he was undazed. This time, the last remaining shreds of Ephesos' self-control lost out.

"DIVINE RETRIBUTION!!!"

---

The Wikipedia editor led Stareye out of the maintenance tunnels and back to the ground floor. When the editor had left, Stareye tried to open the door he had just come through. It was locked. Still, now that he knew where he wanted to go, he was sure it wouldn't be too difficult to find another way in.

---

When the Lurker arrived at Wikipedia, Neossokrass was waiting for him. "Sss. The othersss are sssearching, but ssso far they haven't found Ecksian. Or the traitorsss. Jewelsss sssaid they would in check in..." Neossokrass checked the station's clock. "...in three minutesss."

---

Dikiyoba ran for the infirmary to get the Almighty Do-er of Stuff out before Ephesos accidentally blew the whole message board up. Another explosion knocked Dikiyoba off Dikiyoba's feet. A moment later, an oak tree burst through the floor and continued growing rapidly. Soon, the branches had blocked off the entire hallway. Dikiyoba tried to push past them but quickly gave up. The leaves and twigs were too spiny. Dikiyoba ran for the exit instead.

Toby-Linn, the Ratt, and Chatter were waiting just outside the Waystation.

"Where did the others go?" the Ratt asked.

"Dikiyoba thinks Att went to wake up A'p'd'r and R'd'p'a. Dikiyoba doesn't know where the others went."

There was another explosion.

"Out of the way!" Niemand came hurtling out of the building and collapsed. He was badly singed.

"Are you okay?" Toby-Linn asked.

Niemand sat up. Dikiyoba tried to offer him a healing potion, but he ignored it. He had something cupped in his hands. He passed whatever it was to Chatter. "I'm fine. He only managed to hit me once. But trust me, we're going to want to get away from here. Ephesos is far, far too dangerous and unpredictable to be around right now."

"Chrrk." The five surviving crickets nodded weakly as they huddled together for support in Chatter's claws.

---

Iffy regained consciousness. It was too dark to see more than a few feet away, but he could tell he was lying on pavement. He crawled towards a shape at the edge of his vision. It was Garzad. Iffy shook him awake.

Garzad cast a light spell. The two of them looked around. Nikki and Riibu were nearby. Both of them were beginning to stir. Arancaytar was nowhere in sight. The area they were in was completely lifeless. Trash littered the street. Collapsed fences ran around buildings that looked like they would meet the same fate during the next a strong breeze. Iffy looked up. It wasn't night. The darkness here was something unnatural. He shuddered.

"Where's Aran?" Nikki asked.

They searched without success. Eventually, they stumbled out of the blackness and into an alley behind Wikipedia. Riibu shrugged. "Well, I guess he must still be inside."

"Then we need to be back inside too," Nikki said.

Iffy's left wrist was beginning to itch. He scratched it and discovered a metal band. The word BANNED was engraved on it. He held his wrist up. "How? It looks like we were kicked out. I bet this will prevent us from getting back inside."

Nikki looked at the band around his wrist. Then he brought his pencil down on it. The pencil snapped in half.

---

Several Wikipedia editors were after Arancaytar. So far, being able to fly had kept him out of their reach, but he was getting tired and knew he couldn't keep it up for much longer. He sped around a corner and ducked into a random room.

Naturally, the room was dedicated to information about arachnids. Arancaytar took one look at the display of spiders and panicked. The editors were able to easily track his screams and get a set of handcuffs designed specifically for bots on him. Arancaytar blacked out. The editors dumped him in a nearby trash bin.

---

Niemand, Toby-Linn, the Ratt, Dikiyoba, and Chatter retreated to a building that was a few blocks away and had a good view of the Waystation. No one else had made it out, and judging by the changes that the Waystation was currently undergoing, no one else was going to. A dense thicket of brambles had sprung up all the way around the message board. Now they were six feet tall and had thorns over an inch long. A few vines were beginning to climb out of windows and the center of the roof was bulging out.

As they watched, a giant sequoia finally broke through the roof and kept growing. Almighty Do-er of Stuff's birds escaped through this new hole and flew away. Several of them were carrying other animals in their claws.

"This is awful," Toby-Linn said.

Dikiyoba stared at the Waystation with a funny look in Dikiyoba's eyes. "No, this is awesome. Niemand, do you know what happened? Dikiyoba would give up the rest of Dikiyoba's sanity to be able to shape a massive horde of dinosaurs."

---

The Lurker carefully pulled out another bottle of skribbane. He was hidden inside Wikipedia near the door that led to the Google station. Jewels and Ackrovan were guarding the other main entrance, while Neossokrass and Lazarus guarded the back entrance. Ecksian would not be able to get out. The others might be able to if they were invisible and completely silent, but unfortunately that couldn't be helped.

One of Ecksian's bots poked its head around the corner. It looked around carefully and then stepped out into the open. The rest of the bots followed, clustered around Ecksian to protect him. It would be tricky to catch him before he could escape back into the crowds.

The Lurker waited until the bots were almost at the door before rushing out of the shadows. He smashed two with Homeland and tried to tackle Ecksian. His leap fell short. He was able to grab Ecksian's leg, but Ecksian pulled free and ran deeper into Wikipedia. The Lurker scrambled up and followed. A bot tried to hold him off. He destroyed it easily.

Ecksian nearly bumped into an editor trying to wheel a full trash bin into a maintenance tunnel. One of the bots tossed him aside. Ecksian and the bots ducked into the tunnel and slammed the door behind them.

The editor picked himself up just as the Lurker rounded the corner. The Lurker stared at him. "Ecksian went in there, didn't he?" He pointed to the door.

Something about the Lurker completely unnerved the editor. He nodded.

"Then I need your keys."

The editor quickly handed them over. The Lurker went in. When the editor was sure that the Lurker was long gone, he slammed the door and fled. Someone else would have to deal with the situation.

---

Nikki had finally managed to get three of the bands off. Now only Iffy's band was left. Nikki hacked at it with the broken pencil until a weak point developed. Then he slowly pulled on it until it snapped. The pieces fell to the ground.

Riibu cast sanctuary on everyone. "I'll lead. Remember, hold onto the person in front of you and be absolutely quiet. We're not leaving until we've found Stareye and Arancaytar."

"Right," Nikki said.

Iffy nodded in agreement, forgetting that no one could see him.

---

The spiders at the Waystation made themselves at home in the vines that covered every wall. They hid whenever Ephesos was around.

Ephesos had already altered himself two more times. He had figured out how to stop himself from radiating heat, but his skin was developing an odd greenish tint and his eyes glowed brightly. He paced down a hallway. He had killed all the rats, but there were still other intruders.

As Ephesos approached, the oak tree in the hallway bent its branches aside far enough for him to get through. He reached the infirmary. It was empty. The Almighty Doer of Stuff and the fluffy turtles were gone.

Frustrated, Ephesos went to the General Forum and started scaling the giant sequoia. When he finally reached the top, he could see for over a mile. Niemand and the others were still hiding out a few blocks away. He sneered. They wouldn't be any problem.

But where were the fluffy turtles?

---

Stareye was following a different Wikipedia editor who was emptying the trash. She was too bored to be paying much attention, and so he was able to duck in right behind her as she pushed a garbage bin into one of the maintenance tunnels. He waited in a corner until she was gone. Then he walked deeper into the tunnel. Somewhere down here was a cave with farmed mushrooms and glowing fungi on the ceiling. There had to be.

---

Garzad nudged Iffy. "Wasn't that Stareye?"

"Where?" Iffy whispered.

"He just disappeared into that maintenance tunnel."

Riibu heard them whispered and halted. "Are you sure?"

"Pretty sure."

They waited until the editor came back out with the empty trash bin. As she turned to close the door, Nikki darted forward and stuck his foot in its path. The door hit it and bounced back open. Garzad and Riibu ducked inside. The editor examined the area around the door. When she didn't see anything, she tried closing the door again. It bounced off Nikki's foot once more. Iffy and Nikki hurried inside.

The third time, the editor tried to close the door slowly. The door latched into place without a problem. She blinked a few times before shrugging and moving on.

Inside the tunnel, Riibu, Nikki, Iffy, and Garzad found each other again and kept going. Eventually, they came to a fork in the tunnel.

"Which way do you think Stareye went?" Iffy asked.

Chapter 21: Victory

Chapter 21: Victory Dikiyoba Fri, 02/19/2010 - 23:25
Nikki said, "I don't know. I guess we'll just have to pick one."

"Left," Riibu suggested.

Iffy, Riibu, Garzad, and Nikki went down the left passage. Before long, they came to a long flight of stairs. They started climbing.

Stareye sat on the top step, looking tired.

"Turn the sanctuary spell off," Iffy whispered.

Stareye jumped up when he saw them. There was another flight of stairs ahead, as well as a passage to the right. Stareye ran right.

"Stareye, wait! We aren't going to hurt you!" Iffy ran after him. "Come on, you three!"

There was a crash from above as half of one of Ecksian's bots rolled down the stairs. Ecksian and two other bots ran down behind it. Riibu and Nikki stepped out of the way. Ecksian collided with Garzad.

"Out of the way!" Ecksian drew a dagger and tried to stab Garzad. Riibu stepped forward and caught Ecksian's arm mid-swing. Then she knocked him unconscious.

Nikki stabbed one of the bots. "Why didn't you just kill him?"

The Lurker bounded down the stairs and killed Nikki and the final bot with two swings of Homeland. Riibu and Garzad tried to run. The Lurker killed them as well. Then he scooped up Ecksian and ran down the right tunnel.

Meanwhile, Iffy and Stareye emerged onto a platform. Below them was a huge furnace. Outdated articles and other trash were carried on conveyor belts onto the room and dumped into the furnace.

Iffy heard the commotion behind them. He climbed over the railing. "Come on, Stareye. We can hide under the platform."

Stareye took one look down and then backed away from the railing. "I can't. I'd fall."

By now, Iffy was completely out of sight. "But it's not safe to stay up there, either."

The Lurker set Ecksian down and stepped onto the platform carefully. He pulled out a bottle of skribbane. "Come with me, Stareye. I can take you back to Spiderweb. Don't you want to return to Spiderweb?"

"Don't listen to him! He killed the others!" Iffy yelled.

Stareye was mesmerized by the skribbane the Lurker was drinking. "Spiderweb?"

"Yeah. Spiderweb."

"Don't trust him! He's lying!"

Stareye nodded and stepped forward.

Iffy heard Stareye move and slammed his fist against the platform in frustration. "No!"

Stareye followed the Lurker off the platform. They both ran back when Iffy shouted again.

"Arancaytar is down there! I can't reach him in time!" Iffy swung over to one of the support beams and began climbing down as fast as he could.

The Lurker looked down. Arancaytar was visible on one of the conveyor belts and was already halfway to the furnace. Then he looked at Stareye. Stareye was staring back at him expectantly.

"What do you want me to do? I can't climb down in time either." The Lurker looked down again. This time, he spotted the emergency stop button near the furnace. He hurled his empty bottle at it. The bottle shattered on the button and the conveyor halted. The Lurker climbed over the edge of the platform, reached the support beam, and began climbing down.

Iffy reached the ground. He grabbed Arancaytar and ran. The Lurker was only halfway down. He pulled out another empty bottle. He couldn't kill Iffy with Stareye watching. "Look, you know I can knock you unconscious from here. Hauling you and Arancaytar back up would be annoying, though. It would be easier on both of us if you just surrendered."

Iffy looked up at Stareye, then down at Arancaytar. Then he ran.

The Lurker sighed and threw the bottle.

---

"This is dumb. Why are we waiting here? Why don't we go join everyone else at Spiderweb?" the Ratt asked.

Niemand watched the figure standing in the tree. "Because Ephesos is still watching us. I don't want him to know which way we went." Niemand waited until the Ratt was gone before turning to Toby-Linn. "I noticed that you haven't been altered. Do you not trust it?"

"After this accident? No?"

Niemand looked thoughtful. "Oh, I doubt it was entirely accidental. But do you think we could convince the others not to trust it?"

---

The new Spiderweb Software message board was going up quickly. Enough support beams were already in place for the shape of the board to be visible. It was a squat skyscraper, somewhat larger than its previous incarnation, and decidedly Euclidian. As the largest forum, General was the ground floor. The other floors above it each contained two forums.

At the very top, Salmon and Tyranicus fearlessly levered another beam into place. Alorael kept an eye out for pedestrians. A few floors below, other Spiderwebbers were putting up smaller beams. On the ground floor, the first siding was going into place.

Dintiradan sat at the edge of the construction site with a copy of the blueprints. He constantly checked it to make sure everything was according to plan. There was a portable summoning machine nearby. Zephyr Tempest waited for Lord Grimm and the Silent Assassin to summon more supplies and carry them off before approaching Dintiradan.

"What is it?" Dintiradan asked.

"The rats at the Waystation died. There must be some sort of problem. Do you want me to revive them now?"

"Not here. Follow me." Dintiradan led Zephyr Tempest into his office in Ermarian. Zephyr Tempest revived Attorukkip and the other rats who had been at the Waystation.

"What happened?" Dintiradan asked.

"Something went wrong with the stat script. Ephesos, well, went off the deep end."

Dintiradan sighed. "Do you know what the Lurker was doing to get him under control?"

"He wasn't there when it happened," Eieeoia said.

"What!?" Dintiradan said, "Where is he?"

"He went after Ecksian," R'd'p'a said.

"How? When? Why didn't he report to me first?"

A'p'd'r and R'd'p'a explained. Dintiradan stared at the ceiling and sighed again. Zephyr Tempest suddenly looked as if he had something to say.

"Well, you can stay at Spiderweb for now until I can come up with a solution. You may go," Dintiradan said.

When the rats were gone, Zephyr Tempest said, "Nikki, Riibu, and Garzad just died."

"Then go get Danielle and Randomizer. Quickly."

Zephyr Tempest left. He returned a few minutes later with the two other mods. Dintiradan now had several shackles in his hands.

"What do you need us for?" Randomizer asked.

"Some of the traitors died. We're reviving them. Randomizer, I want you to cast an antimagic spell on them. Danielle, you'll disarm them. I'll handcuff them. If we do it right, they won't have time to cause trouble."

Danielle nodded. "Right."

Zephyr Tempest revived Nikki first. Both he and Riibu were handcuffed and shoved into a corner without problems. However, when Garzad was revived, he managed to squeak out "Traitor!" and lunge at Danielle before Dintiradan grabbed him.

"Now what do we do with them?" Zephyr Tempest asked.

"You and Randomizer should go. I'll talk to them. Danielle, you keep watch just in case one of them gets loose somehow."

Randomizer and Zephyr Tempest left. Zephyr Tempest remained nearby. It was more convenient should anyone else die and he might overhear something interesting.

An hour later, Jewels hurried past him and knocked on the office door. "Dintiradan, it's me. The Lurker wants to see you."

Dintiradan stepped out. "Where is he?"

"At the Google station." Jewels remembered that Zephyr Tempest was nearby and whispered the rest of her answer.

Dintiradan nodded thoughtfully. "Let's go."

It was dusk when Jewels and Dintiradan arrived at the Google station. Iffy, Arancaytar, and Ecksian were still unconscious. Stareye looked uneasy when the Lurker stepped forward to talk to Dintiradan, but said nothing.

Twenty minutes later, Dintiradan called all the mods together for an emergency meeting. Stareye was interviewed briefly and then left in the care of Nioca.

"How does it feel to be back?" Nioca examined Stareye for any signs of injury.

Stareye shrugged.

"That's it?"

"It's hazy. I can't... it's not... there are only... pieces." Stareye sat down. "But this... I know this... is not the same."

Nioca sat down beside him. "Yeah. It's not."

Three hours later, Dintiradan gathered everyone together in front of Spiderweb. It was getting dark, but enough people had cast light spells that it was still easy to see. The mods and Stareye stood on one side of Dintiradan. Nikki, Riibu, and Arancaytar stood on the other. "Let's start with the best news, shall we? You'll note that Stareye is back with us again, and is showing significant improvement."

Stareye realized just how many people were staring at him. He quickly hid behind the mods.

"You call that an improvement?" Nayld muttered.

"Yes," Nioca said.

"Also, Jewels and several others brought back the traitors. I have spoken with Arancaytar, Nikki, and Riibu. I do not expect further problems from them. Hopefully, the others will soon see reason too." Dintiradan nodded at the three Spiderwebbers. They joined the crowd.

"If I was in charge, I would have banned them," Nalyd said, "A week at least. Maybe two."

"Then it's a good thing you aren't in charge." Nioca absently played with a small hole on one of his sleeves.

"Next, Ecksian is dead. The war is well and truly over."

"Wait, he's dead? How did he die?" Nioca asked, "Stareye told me that--"

"Bah. Who cares how? Let's see the body!" Nalyd yelled.

"I assure you that Ecksian is well and truly dead. I would not consider him dead if he merely fell off a cliff or something survivable like that. And no, I will not permit you to raise the body as a zombie," Dintiradan said.

"Spoilsport!"

Dintiradan ignored him. "And now for the bad news. There was an incident at the Waystation. Ephesos was corrupted by some sort of script malfunction. Tomorrow, the Lurker will take a group over to deal with the situation. If you're interested in going, talk to him."

"Oh, that's awful," Nioca said, "I wonder what happened?"

Nalyd laughed. "Well, it's about time. Blasted druid had it coming. Come on, let's go talk to the Lurker."

Chapter 22: Burn, Jungle, Burn!

Chapter 22: Burn, Jungle, Burn! Dikiyoba Fri, 02/26/2010 - 02:22
When dawn arrived the next morning, Ephesos climbed back up into the giant sequoia. He was somewhat surprised to see that Niemand and the others were still in the area, but they hardly mattered. He had more important things to think about. He found a good patch of light and settled down. Sooner or later, a less cowardly group would come to challenge him. He had to make sure his defenses would hold.

---

Nalyd and Nioca met up with the others who were going to the Waystation. In total, there were ten people. The Lurker wasn't there.

"Is this everyone?" Delicious Vlish asked.

"Everyone but the Lurker," Synergy said.

"Well, where is he?"

Ten minutes passed. Alorael arrived.

"What are you doing here?" Delicious Vlish asked.

"There was a change of plans. The Lurker isn't coming. The three of us are in charge."

"Why?" Synergy asked.

Alorael shrugged. "I don't know."

"Whatever. Can we go now?" Ackrovan asked.

It was not a long trip to the Waystation. They could see the giant sequoia rising above all the other buildings in the area from several blocks away.

"Whoa. That's pretty impressive," Nioca said.

"Hey!" Niemand, Toby-Linn, Dikiyoba, Chatter, and the Ratt hurried towards the group.

"Weapons ready!" Delicious Vlish said. "How did you know we were here?"

Niemand and the others stopped short as swords and arrows were pointed at them. "Ephesos seemed to be watching something from the sequoia. I figured it might have been you."

Delicious Vlish stared up at the sequoia. If he squinted, he could barely make out a green figure standing in the tree. "Why didn't you return to Spiderweb?"

Niemand hesitated. "A few of us decided to use the repair script once everything is back under control."

"Did a script malfunction for anyone else, then? Who?" Synergy asked.

"No. It's voluntary."

"Can we examine you to make sure no one is corrupted in any way?" Synergy asked.

"Go ahead."

Nioca and Synergy examined the five of them closely.

"I don't see any problems," Nioca said.

"No, neither do I."

Delicious Vlish looked affronted. "You're planning to give up all your power? For no reason? Hmmph. I thought you were smarter than that."

Alorael watched Ephesos and tapped his foot impatiently. "We're wasting time here."

The group moved on. As they approached the Waystation, Ephesos suddenly started climbing down the tree. Alorael sprinted to the building directly across the street from the Waystation and climbed up to a good window, but he was too slow. Ephesos climbed below the roofline. Alorael leaned out the window.

"I'm going to stay here. I can hit Ephesos if he tries to climb up the tree again."

"All right," Synergy said, "How do we want to proceed?"

Delicious Vlish pointed at Dikiyoba, Toby-Linn, the Ratt, and Chatter. "You four have to stay out here. Ephesos can kill you too easily."

Excalibur cut a few brambles. It was hard work, and they quickly grew back. "How are we going to get inside? It will take ages."

Synergy cast bolt of fire at a section of brambles. They didn't catch.

"Well, that makes sense, Dikiyoba supposes. Ephesos wouldn't leave his plants vulnerable to one of his favorite spells."

"Hmm." Nioca cast smite on some of the brambles. They withered. "Now try setting them on fire."

Synergy cast bolt of fire again. This time, the dead brambles burned. After about ten minutes of effort, the group had finally cleared away a big enough section for them to enter the Waystation. Dikiyoba, Chatter, Toby-Linn, and the Ratt were left outside.

"This sucks," the Ratt said.

The brambles quickly repaired themselves. "Maybe it's a good thing we're out here," Chatter said, "Who knows what they'll run into, and they won't be able to escape easily."

"Oh, come on." The Ratt snorted. "It's Ephesos and a bunch of plants. What's scary about a bunch of plants?"

---

In the entryway of the Waystation, large ferns sprouted out of the walls. Nioca stopped to examine one. The moment he touched it, a cloud of spores erupted into the air. Nioca inhaled some and yawned.

Lazarus shook him back to alertness. "Come on, stop fooling around."

With Delicious Vlish in the lead, everyone stepped into the General Forum. Besides the giant sequoia, many other trees had sprung up. They intercepted almost all the light, leaving the forum in greenish gloom. More ferns grew on the ground. Duck accidentally stumbled into a patch of them. He yawned several times and sat down.

Synergy skirted a patch of ferns and stepped on something softer than the floor. Before he could step back, the jaws of a gigantic Venus flytrap snapped shut, trapping Synergy inside.

Lazarus stepped forward and slashed at the plant. It was damaged, but not badly. Excalibur tried to attack the flytrap, but he brushed against some ferns and stumbled.

Nioca cast smite on the flytrap. Only part of it was effected. He cast the spell again. Inside the plant, Synergy had recovered enough to cast fireblast. Together, the two spells were strong enough to blast off one side of the flytrap. Synergy stepped out.

"Well done." Ephesos was watching them from the doorway with a twisted smile on his face.

"Surrender!" Delicious Vlish said.

"DIVINE RETRIBUTION!!!"

Everyone threw themselves to the ground. Several people brushed ferns and spores scattered everywhere. Ephesos' spell hit a tree trunk, which smoldered briefly before going out. When the smoke cleared and the yawning stopped, Ephesos was gone.

"He's toying with us," Delicious Vlish grumbled.

Synergy shrugged. "There's not a lot we can to about that, unfortunately. Let's move on."

"Wait. Where's Duck?" Nioca looked around. "Duck! Duck, can you hear us?"

After a few minutes of searching, Nalyd found Duck's body among the ferns. He had been strangled by some vines. "Now that's just sad."

The group left General Forum and entered a vine-covered hallway. Thankfully, there were no more soporific ferns. Actaeon was traveling at the rear of the group. Suddenly, he halted. "Wait, hold up."

"What is it?" Nioca asked.

"I think I heard something."

"Hello?" Lazarus asked, "Is someone there?"

Something knocked on the wall in response. Once they tracked the knocking to its source, Synergy froze the vines. Excalibur and Nalyd chopped them away. Eventually, they revealed a door. Synergy opened it very carefully. Several fluffy turtles stared up at him. The rest were scattered around the room. Most were asleep. The Almighty Doer of Stuff slept against Inspector Peanut's shell.

Delicious Vlish floated into the room. The fluffy turtles that were awake watched him closely but made no move. Delicious Vlish woke the Almighty Doer of Stuff up.

"What's going on?" The Almighty Doer of Stuff sat up. "Oh, good. Rescue."

Nioca was surprised. "Wow. You seem to be doing much better."

The Almighty Doer of Stuff shrugged. "I guess so."

"What are you doing in here?" Excalibur asked.

"The turtles sensed the change in Ephesos and wanted to escape, but we couldn't leave without Inspector Peanut. By the time we got here, though, vines were springing up everywhere. We knew we wouldn't be able to get out, so we locked ourselves in here instead. Some vines came under the door, but the turtles chewed them off. After that, well, I guess Ephesos forgot we were here."

"Um, guys, I think you'd better get out of there," Nioca said.

The moment the door had been opened, the vines had started growing into the room. Now they were halfway around the walls.

The Almighty Doer of Stuff, Delicious Vlish, and the fluffy turtles hurried out of the room.

"So, where is everyone else?" the Almighty Doer of Stuff asked.

"Back at Spiderweb," Nalyd said.

"Oh, good. Can the turtles and I leave? I'd like to get them back to Spiderweb."

"Yes. Salmon, make sure they get out safely," Delicious Vlish said.

Ephesos stepped out into the open and cleared his throat.

"Not again!" Nioca said.

"DIVINE RETRIBUTION!!!"

The Almighty Doer of Stuff tackled a fluffy turtle, knocking it out of harm's way. Lazarus charged Ephesos. Ephesos waved a hand. Stinging nettles sprang up around Lazarus.

"Ouch! Ow! Fight fair, Ephesos!" Lazarus finally made his way through the nettles. Ephesos ran off. Lazarus started after him, but a vine from around the wall wrapped around his arm and flung him back into the nettles.

"Ouch!"

Salmon fished Lazarus out and Nioca healed him.

"Well, that was fun," Salmon said, "Let's go, ADoS."

Salmon, the Almighty Doer of Stuff, and the fluffy turtles headed back towards the exit while the rest of the group debated how to best get rid of the stinging nettles. They were now six feet high.

Dikiyoba was the first one to hear Salmon calling from inside the Waystation. Dikiyoba ran over. "What is it?"

"Bring the others over here and start cutting through the brambles on this end, would you?"

"Sure thing." Dikiyoba ran off.

---

One of the reasons Dintiradan had sent Alorael instead of the Lurker with the group was because the Lurker was running low on skribbane. He hurried to the skribbane patch, occasionally pausing to make sure he wasn't being followed.

When he arrived, he stopped dead. The skribbane patch had been completely destroyed. Everything of harvestable size had been picked. The plants that had been too small or too old had been uprooted. Their wilted remains were scattered everywhere. There was a brief message painted on the wall that ran along one side of the patch.

—Alorael, who isn't sorry.

The Lurker drank one of his remaining potions slowly as he tried to control his anger and decide what to do next.

---

Ephesos decided that it was time for the intruders to face another test. He waved his hand. New plants sprouted up from the ground. They bloomed, wilted, and developed a large, dried-out seedpod. Ephesos waited patiently for the intruders to come.

A few minutes later, Synergy rounded the corner. He immediately leapt back out of sight. "Ephesos is right there and he's got some sort of new plant around him. Buff up."

Everyone blessed, hasted, and shielded themselves before charging around the corner. Actaeon fired an arrow. It struck Ephesos in the shoulder. Ephesos pulled it out before casting divine retribution. Then he ran. The seedpods exploded. Razor-sharp seeds shot everywhere.

"Argh!" Nalyd threw up his arms to shield his face. When the projectiles finally died down, he lowered his arms. Ackrovan was dead. Delicious Vlish and Excalibur were both badly injured. Nioca healed Excalibur.

Delicious Vlish healed himself. "Well, walking around randomly isn't getting us anywhere. Does anyone have any better ideas?"

---

"Alorael!" The Lurker stood at the base of the building directly across from the Waystation. Alorael stuck his head out the window. The Lurker glared up at him. "What did you do with all the skribbane?"

"I destroyed most of it. The rest of it is right here!" Alorael held up his bag of skribbane.

"You what?!"

Toby-Linn and Chatter stopped cutting back brambles to watch the scene. Salmon jabbed his fishing rod through the brambles at them. "Forget them. We're losing progress here."

Chatter and Toby-Linn saw that the brambles were already growing back and resumed work.

Alorael pulled out a bottle and drank it with exaggerated intent before answering. "I destroyed it."

"You... you're lying!"

Alorael shrugged. "You don't have to believe me. You're such a good tracker that if I'm lying, I'm sure you'll find the stash before too long."

The Lurker checked. He had two potions left. Two. That wouldn't be enough time to discover whether Alorael was bluffing or not. "Give me half of your skribbane right now!"

Alorael grinned. "Certainly. In fact, you can have it all."

The Lurker realized he had made a mistake, but it was too late. Alorael upended the bag out the window. Dozens of bottles rolled out. The Lurker saw his world plummeting through the air and smashing on the pavement. Tink! Smash! Chunk! Smash!

The Lurker knelt down beside the puddle of orange liquid and broken glass. He dipped a finger into the puddle and tasted it. Skribbane.

"What the heck were you thinking?!" The Lurker paused. Salmon and the Almighty Doer of Stuff squeezed out of the Waystation. The fluffy turtles followed them. The Lurker brightened up. "Ha! I can just summon more, you know!"

"You can't, actually. Remember how we agreed that skribbane would be a disallowed item? Otherwise, anyone might have decided they wanted to try some."

"So? I can have Dintiradan remove that limitation." The Lurker sounded a lot less confident than usual.

"I'm sure he can, but how long do you think it will take you to get back to Spiderweb, find him, and wait for him to tinker around with the summoning machine? Do you think you can hold out that long?"

"Why did you do this to me?"

"I never share my skribbane."

The Lurker turned and walked away quickly. Suddenly, he turned and charged into the building after Alorael, yelling incoherently.

This time, everyone stopped to stare at the building. Alorael jumped out the window. He landed safely and bumped into the Almighty Doer of Stuff in his hurry to get into the Waystation. The brambles grew back behind him.

The Lurker leaned out the window. "Fine! Be like that!" He came back out of the building and stormed off towards the Google station.

"Are you still in a hurry to get back to Spiderweb?" Salmon nudged the Almighty Doer of Stuff.

"No, I guess we'd better stay here for now."

---

Delicious Vlish poked his head into the scripting lab. "It's clear."

Nioca said, "Okay, if Ephesos can keep track of us through his plants, then any moment now--"

Brambles even denser and thornier than the brambles outside sprang up in the doorway, completely blocking access to the lab. A moment later, the flowers with the exploding seedpods sprang up all around them.

"Arcane shield!" Nioca threw himself to the ground as the flowers wilted and the seedpods swelled. The seedpods exploded. Seeds ricocheted off the walls and occasionally hit a target.

"Ow! Ow! Hey!" Actaeon was slow to get out of the way.

To his horror, Nioca realized vines were springing up now too. Several wrapped around his legs. "Smite!" The vines wilted, but more vines wrapped around his arms.

The other Spiderwebbers were in similar trouble. Synergy was still free, but he was the only one. A vine wrapped itself firmly around Nalyd's neck.

Ephesos walked around the corner. He watched the group struggle against the vines for a moment. "You have tested my defenses and found them acceptable. Now it is time for you--" Ephesos paused, looking puzzled.

An insubstantial vine started to strangle Niemand. Suddenly, it faded away. Synergy launched a fireball at Ephesos.

Ephesos dodged the spell. "DIVINE RETRIBUTION!!!"

Synergy ducked, but the spell wasn't aimed at him. It smashed through the roof. Sunlight streamed in. Ephesos pulled the hood on his robe back so that more light could hit his face.

"That's it! He needs sunlight to get enough energy to shape things! Synergy, get--gack!" Vines wrapped around Niemand's neck, cutting him off.

Outside the Waystation, everyone jumped up when they saw the divine retribution spell blow through the roof. Salmon quickly scrambled up onto the roof and peered through the hole. "Do you need help?"

Synergy rushed at Ephesos and knocked him out of the light. "Yes, Salmon! Find some way to cover up the hole. Block the light!"

Lazarus managed to roll over to one of his swords and slice up the vines around one hand. He picked up the sword and hacked at the rest of the vines going after him.

Ephesos got an arm free and waved his hand. A new plant, one with dagger-sized spines, sprang up. He snapped one off and plunged it into Synergy's chest. He pushed the body away and moved back into the sun.

Salmon ran to the edge of the roof. "Quick, we need to repair the roof. Do we have anything helpful down there?"

Toby-Linn looked around. "I don't see anything."

"I have a jacket," the Almighty Doer of Stuff said.

"Ooh, I do too," added the Ratt.

Salmon shook his head. "Those won't help. Get up here, will you?"

Once everyone had climbed up, Salmon had them break limbs off the giant sequoia.

Meanwhile, Lazarus managed to cut Nalyd free. Nalyd sat up, gasping for air.

"Cut the others loose, or we're all dead." Lazarus carefully approached Ephesos. He ducked as another divine retribution spell came his way.

Nalyd hacked Nioca free, occasionally stopping to chop away the vines that were wrapping around his legs. "Help Lazarus!" He started to free Excalibur.

Salmon and the others dragged all the snapped-off branches across the roof and threw them across the hole. After several layers of branches, only a few shafts of sunlight could get through the needles. The Almighty Doer of Stuff and the Ratt threw their jackets on top of the branches.

Ephesos looked up when the light vanished. "DIVINE RET--" Ephesos stumbled forward as a bullet hit him, but stayed standing. Alorael ducked back out of sight.

Ephesos quickly healed himself. "DIVI--" He fell as Alorael's second bullet struck him.

Nalyd finished cutting Excalibur free and then pushed past Lazarus. "Out of my way!"

Ephesos got back up. Alorael fired again. Ephesos collapsed again. He coughed and tried to heal himself.

"Hah!" Nalyd kicked Ephesos in the head. Ephesos blacked out. Nioca hurried over and healed him.

"What was that for?" Nalyd asked.

"We can use the emergency repair script when he's unconscious. Not so much when he's dead," Lazarus said, "Good timing, Alorael."

Alorael stood up. "Nioca, could I get a curing spell, please? I'm getting a headache."

Excalibur cut Delicious Vlish, Actaeon, and Niemand loose.

"Is it safe?" Salmon called down.

"We're good!" Lazarus yelled.

The branches shifted and Salmon looked down. Dikiyoba and Chatter joined him.

"Will Ephesos be okay, do you think?" Chatter asked.

Dikiyoba and Salmon shrugged.

Excalibur swung at the brambles blocking the doorway. With Ephesos unconscious, they were easily chopped away. Lazarus and Niemand carried Ephesos into the scripting lab and set him in the chair. Niemand pulled out the repair script and activated it. There was a flash of blue light. The green faded from Ephesos' skin.

"Did it work?" Lazarus asked.

Niemand examined Ephesos closely. "I think so. His stats are back to normal, at least."

Nioca entered the room and wandered around, looking at the floor. Occasionally, he spotted something and picked it up.

Salmon lowered Dikiyoba and Chatter into the hallway. They entered the scripting lab.

Niemand gently set Ephesos aside. "Ready?"

"Dikiyoba thinks so."

The Almighty Doer of Stuff sat at the edge of the roof. He squinted down. "You know, I'm sure those vines are bigger now than they just were."

"Really?" Toby-Linn joined him. After a few minutes of watching, she hurried to the hole in the roof. When she looked down, she saw that the vines inside had grown a lot too. "Um, guys? I think we have a problem."

---

Several hours passed before Ephesos regained consciousness. He groaned. "Am I dead?"

"Nope."

Ephesos turned his head and caught sight of Nioca's cheery expression. He closed his eyes. "Why not?"

"How do you feel?"

"Like the leftover scraps from a wight feeding frenzy. After they've been left in the back of the refrigerator for several months. And then taken out to be shot three times. And then kicked in the head." Ephesos opened his eyes and looked around the room. He was lying on a bed of sequoia branches in a bare room. Judging by the dirt and dust on the floor, the building he was in had been abandoned for some time now. There was a small window along one wall, but someone had hung a jacket over it. Ephesos was oddly grateful that he couldn't see the sky. "...but better, I guess." He winced as memories came back to him. "Wait, no. Actually, I don't feel better at all. Is it too late for you to kill me?"

"I'm afraid so." Nioca was still smiling slightly.

Ephesos stared at Nioca. Something about him was different. Ephesos couldn't quite figure out what it was. "What happened while I was unconscious?"

"Well, we removed all your alterations, obviously. And then many of us removed ours as well. And then--"

"That's what's different about you! What made you give it up?"

"Oh, you know." Nioca shrugged. "I decided it was safer to stick with what I learned the hard way. Although, well, I found I couldn't give up return life, somehow." Nioca reached into his pocket. When he pulled it out, every single one of Ephesos' crickets were sitting on it.

Ephesos stared at them. "Nioca, that's awesome." Ephesos hesitated, and then held out his hand. "I'm really, really sorry."

The crickets jumped onto Ephesos's hand. "Chrrk."

"Yeah, but I did the worst of it. Still, there wasn't any lasting damage done, right?"

Nioca hesitated. "Actually..."

"Oh no. What is it?"

"Those vines you made started growing out of control. We had to burn down the Waystation to keep them from spreading."

"You what? But... my trees!" Ephesos jumped up and ran out of building. A block away, smoke was billowing up all around the giant sequoia. Ephesos ran towards it.

"Wait, Eph!" Nioca hurried after him. As he ran, he felt a drop of rain. He looked up. Dark clouds were rolling in quickly. Another drop of rain hit Nioca in the eye.

Ephesos arrived at the Waystation in time to see the roof collapse in a shower of ash and sparks. The charred remains of the largest oak tree stood for a moment longer and then fell as well. Vines reached halfway up the trunk of the giant sequoia and flames were quickly climbing up the tree along them. The other Spiderwebbers had strips of cloth tied across their mouths and noses to keep out the smoke and constantly circled the building to make sure no sparks or vines escaped.

Nioca and the rain arrived a moment later. There was a rumble of thunder in the distance and the building steamed as rain hit it.

Ephesos watched as the giant sequoia continued to burn. "Please, please, please..."

Boom! A bolt of lightning struck the tree, blowing off the top twenty feet. The Ratt and Dikiyoba had to scramble out of the way as it landed in the middle of the street.

"Oh, come on!" Ephesos yelled.

The rain came down harder. Salmon looked up. "Hey, who turned on the faucet? Ow! Water in my eye!"

"Cheer up, Salmon. At least it's not rats," Dikiyoba said.

"Yeah, or fish," Excalibur added.

A few feet away, something went splat. Excalibur looked up and promptly took a large perch to the face.

"Run for cover!" Actaeon yelled.

Everyone ran for the building across the street. Once they were safely inside, Salmon found a good window and cast out. It didn't take long for a fish to flop over onto the hook. Salmon reeled it in. An inch long minnow stared at him. Salmon freed it and tossed it out the window. Then he cast again. "Anyone got preferences for dinner?"

Alorael leaned against the wall and closed his eyes. His headache was back, and the room and everyone in it were beginning to spin. The lack of skribbane was definitely getting to him now. "Could I get a curing spell, please?" His legs gave out and he slid down to the floor.

Ephesos and Nioca looked at one another. "Do you...?"

"No, you..."

Dikiyoba hurried over and helped Alorael drink a curing potion. He managed to straighten up long enough to say, "I think I'll try to sleep now." He curled up on the floor, clutching his sniper rifle tightly.

Meanwhile, Salmon reeled in furiously. "Come on, come on... aha!" He pulled the fish through the window and examined it closely. "Check it out, everyone. It's a coelacanth! I've never caught one of those before." As Salmon pulled the hook free, the fish leapt out of his hands across the room. There was a splat as it hit Dikiyoba in the face.

"Ouch."

"Oops. Sorry, Diki."

After a sushi dinner, the rest of the night passed uneventfully. In the morning, Ephesos was the first one awake. He hurried outside, wading knee-deep through dead fish. The giant sequoia was still upright and alive. "Yes!"

Several large spiders had survived the fire and rain of fish by hiding among the sequoia's needles. Now they cautiously descended towards Ephesos. He saw them and sighed. "All right, I suppose I can take you. But no harming my crickets, and no growing up to be GIFTS."

Chapter 23: Withdrawal

Chapter 23: Withdrawal Dikiyoba Mon, 03/01/2010 - 18:54
The Lurker staggered into Dintiradan's office and collapsed in the nearest chair.

"What happened?" Dintiradan asked.

"Need... skribbane..."

"But you just went to get more."

"Destroyed... Alorael... need you... to change summoning..." The Lurker tried to straighten up in his chair. "...machine."

"You want me to halt construction on Spiderweb just so I can reprogram the summoning machine for you? Do you know how much work that takes?"

The Lurker muttered something incoherent. Dintiradan stared at him. He should have seen this coming. Alorael had always been upset whenever someone messed with his skribbane. For now, the Lurker had to remain out of sight and under control. Where to put him? The Lurker had enough strength to break just about any chain or lock. He was stronger than any guard Dintiradan could place too. If the Lurker became violent during withdrawal, there would be trouble. How long did withdrawal last?

The Lurker blinked fuzzily. "Why... are you... looking at me... for?"

Dintiradan sighed. There was only one thing he could do. "I'm sorry, Lurker. SLEEP!!!"

The Lurker slumped sideways and fell off the chair. Dintiradan cast the spell a second time to be sure. Then he found Zephyr Tempest. "Do you mind helping me with a problem?"

"Ooh. What sort of problem?"

Dintiradan explained. Zephyr Tempest agreed to help. Dintiradan left him and the Lurker locked in his office. It was poor security, but it was the best he could do in the circumstances and at least no one could get in by accident.

Afterwards, he checked on Garzad and Iffy. Jewels remained alert as he unlocked the door to the makeshift cell. She wouldn't let anyone escape under her watch again.

Iffy glared at Dintiradan as he entered. "What do you want?"

"Same offer. You apologize and promise not to cause any more problems and I let you go free without any sort of demands or conditions."

Iffy spit at Dintiradan's feet.

"You?" Dintiradan turned to Garzad. Garzad shook his head. "Very well." Dintiradan left.

---

Tyranicus and Student of Trinity took their lunch break at the edge of the construction site. Other people were still at work. Andraste and Drew hauled beams up to the roof.

"Do you know where Dinitradan is?" Tyranicus asked.

Student of Trinity peeled an orange. "Well, that's a suspicious question."

"What? No, it's not." Tyranicus looked around nervously.

"It is the way you say it." Student of Trinity sighed. "Well, you've obviously got something you want to say. Spit it out."

"It's just... well, Thuryl got me thinking. Have you noticed how things make more sense when Dintiradan says them than they do later on?"

Student of Trinity looked thoughtful. "I can't say I have. Want some?" He offered a quarter of the orange.

"No thanks. You're lucky. Dintiradan doesn't seem to effect you."

"What do you mean?"

"You disagreed with the rest of us in that mod meeting yesterday. How did you do it?"

Student of Trinity shrugged. "I thought it seemed like a bad idea to execute Ecksian. The rest of you saw it differently."

"No. There's something... Dintiradan can... I don't know. When he wants people to agree with him, they do. He's supercharismatic or something. But you still disagree at time."

"Hmm. I honestly haven't noticed anything unusual, but I'll keep my eye out for it." Student of Trinity finished his orange and stood up. "I've got to get back to work."

Tyranicus watched him leave and then kicked a nearby rock angrily. He wasn't sure what he wanted more: to get to the bottom of this or to go back to believing that absolutely nothing was wrong.

---

Stareye had spent all morning acquainting-well, reacquainting--himself with everyone. Now he retreated to the Pied-Piper archives to read through old threads. Arancaytar dropped by occasionally to make sure he was doing all right.

Several hours passed. Stareye worked his way through dozens of threads. Some of them made no sense whatsoever, so he quickly set those aside. Whenever he came to one of his posts, he read it carefully. It was frustrating. They might as well have been written by a complete stranger.

It began to rain. Occasionally, a fish splattered on the ground.

---

Dintiradan checked in on Zephyr Tempest and the Lurker. He cast another sleep spell on the Lurker. "Any problems?"

"Not here. Duck, Ackrovan, and Synergy died, though."

"Thank you. I'll revive them soon." Dintiradan went outside and started walking. He was starting to lose people. Some of the mods were unhappy that Ecksian had been executed. With Stareye back and showing improvement, some people would want him to take charge again. Thuryl was out there somewhere doing who knew what. If enough people got together or the wrong information leaked out, there could easily be a revolt.

Still, if he could keep everyone happy for a few more days, the new message board would be complete. Once he was admin, it would be hard for a revolt to remove him. After a few months of being in charge, everyone would be so used to him they would forget it had ever been different. All he had to do was keep things under control for a little while longer.

Dintiradan sighed. Keeping control was easier said than done. No wonder so many Evil Overlords decided to rule by fear. It was a lot simpler.

---

When night fell, most Spiderwebbers went to bed. Zephyr Tempest and Dintiradan stayed awake to guard the Lurker and adjust the summoning machine respectively. Stareye continued to read over old posts. Drew took over guard duty for Jewels. Tyranicus and a few others slipped into Shadow Vale for a secret meeting.

"What did you want to talk about?" Andraste asked.

Tyranicus hesitated. "Well, it's about Dintiradan. Have you noticed how things always seem a bit... different when he's around?"

"No," Nemesis said.

The Silent Assassin gestured.

"Yes. We both have," Lord Grimm said.

"Good. I'm glad I'm not the only one," Tyranicus said.

"So what do you want us to do about it?" Andraste asked.

"For now, absolutely nothing. Just keep your eyes and ears open when you're around him. I think you'll start noticing the difference."

The small meeting broke up.

---

The next morning, Arancaytar shook Stareye awake. He had fallen asleep on a stack of threads. The top one stuck to Stareye's face when he sat up. He pulled it off.

"Did you find what you were looking for?" Arancaytar asked.

"Not yet."

"Well, you'd better go get breakfast before it's all taken. You can come back after that."

Stareye nodded and left.

---

It was midmorning when Ephesos and the others arrived at Spiderweb. Alorael's withdrawal symptoms were so bad he had to be carried. It was also obvious that almost everyone had used the repair script to return to a mostly unaltered state.

Dintiradan pulled Delicious Vlish aside. "What happened?"

Delicious Vlish explained.

"They don't want to be altered anymore? But... but why?"

Delicious Vlish shrugged. "That's what I don't get."

Dintiradan talked to Niemand next.

"I just think there are negative side effects we haven't really recognized yet. I don't think those consequences are worth the power gained."

"Side effects are very rare, especially when all safety precautions are being taken. We've done hundreds of alterations and only had one mishap. Ephesos doesn't count, since he intentionally messed with the script."

"One that we know of. I don't know, Dintiradan. It gets in your head, somehow. I can't really explain it. But I talked it over with Dikiyoba and a few others and they agreed with me, so I know I'm not just crazy."

Dintiradan sighed. It was too much to deal with at the moment, not with everything else going on. "You aren't planning on convincing everyone to go back, are you?"

Niemand shook his head. "Not now."

"Then that's fine. You may leave. Send the Lurker in, would you?"

---

Someone forced something into Alorael's hands. He tried to focus on it. It was... it was... a bottle... with something in it! Skribbane! He drank it. Everything came back into focus.

The Lurker handed Alorael another bottle. "I hope you're happy. We're both stuck with summoned skribbane until one of us can find a new patch of it, and the summoned stuff tastes awful. Dintiradan probably won't let us go looking for a while, either. He said he needs us." The look the Lurker gave Alorael would have curdled milk.

Alorael felt much better after chugging the second bottle. "You made it back, I see. Pity."

Now the Lurker's look would have Blighted mushrooms. "And the same to you."

Alorael looked away. "Why are you helping me? Dintiradan's orders?"

"Yes. And only Dintiradan's orders, so don't do anything that would make me forget them." The Lurker stormed off.

---

Dintiradan checked his watch. It was almost time for the daily mod meeting to begin.

Saunders entered and sat silently in a seat. Ephesos entered a minute later. Student of Trinity was next.

Dintiradan examined the blueprints for Spiderweb yet again. The exterior was just about complete, so work on the inside could begin tomorrow. If all went according to plan, the admin panel could be installed tomorrow night.

Tyranicus entered and sat down beside Ephesos. Danielle and Zephyr Tempest were next, followed by Delicious Vlish.

Dintiradan put the blueprints away. He had a plan for making sure no one could disrupt the installation of the admin panel. For starters, it was locked up and the key was in Dintiradan's pocket. In addition, one piece of the panel had been removed and hidden elsewhere. Dintiradan was so close. No one was going to mess his plans up now.

Randomizer and Synergy arrived. The Lurker and Alorael entered last, pointedly making sure they moved their chairs so that they wouldn't be anywhere near each other.

---

Tyranicus, Andraste, Nemesis, Lord Grimm, and the Silent Assassin held another meeting that night. Tyranicus paced the length of Shadow Vale. "Look, I know I told you I only wanted us to watch and listen, but we're running out of time. If we want to act, we have to act very soon. At the mod meeting this afternoon, Dintiradan told us he planned to install the admin panel tomorrow evening. Once he's root admin, there's no way we'll be able to get him to step down. Dintiradan will rule Spiderweb forever."

"We don't have any real proof he's done anything wrong, though. All we have is a feeling. Besides, who would take over after Dintiradan?" Andraste asked.

"Alorael?" Nemesis asked.

"He's a bit too sociopathic," Tyranicus said.

"Saunders, then?" Lord Grimm suggested.

"No, she's been very quiet at mod meetings lately. I don't think she'll stick around much longer," Tyranicus said.

The Silent Assassin tilted his head towards Tyranicus.

"What'd he say?" Tyranicus asked.

"He suggested you."

Tyranicus was baffled. "What, me?" He thought for a minute. "Well, okay. I guess I can do it until Stareye recovers. But that was the easy part. Now we need to come up with a plan."

"Did Dintiradan say anything else about the admin panel?" Andraste asked.

"Yes. He's hidden it somewhere. I don't know where, but it's locked up. However, he took one piece out of it. Before anyone can activate the admin panel and get root admin status, they have to install that device. Again, though, it's locked up and I have no idea where it is."

Nemesis looked thoughtful. "Well, if we can't steal that device before Dintiradan retrieves it, there are enough of us we could probably steal it from him directly."

"Good. Then let's figure out exactly how we can do that." Lord Grimm rubbed his hands together.

Chapter 24: It's Good To Be Admin

Chapter 24: It's Good To Be Admin Dikiyoba Mon, 03/01/2010 - 19:13
Spiderweb was almost complete. Those who had completed their tasks already were celebrating. Spam flew thick and fast. The Ratt had taken it upon himself to provide food for the party. Dintiradan stopped by the buffet table.

"What's this?" He stared at a pitcher of green liquid.

"Oh, that's avocado punch."

"Avocado punch. The tortilla chips and guacamole is excellent. The avocado casserole is fine. The avocado cake is really pushing it. But avocado punch? Don't you have anything that isn't made out of avocados?"

"Nope." The Ratt shook his head.

"Well, after tonight I want you to summon a few crates of kumquats and figure out how to make something out of those instead."

The Ratt sighed. "If you insist."

Dintiradan found the Lurker. "Let's go install the panel now."

Nioca jumped as someone appeared beside him. "What are you doing here, Thuryl?"

"Lilith," she said.

"Oh. What are you doing here, Lilith?"

"Well, let's face it. If I was ever going to leave, I would have left a long time ago."

Student of Trinity and Schrodinger were just finishing the wiring of the General Forum when Dintiradan and the Lurker walked in with the admin panel. The elevator wasn't functional yet, so the two of them carried it up the stairs to the top floor. They installed it in the Moderator Board.

Lord Grimm saw Dintiradan and the Lurker go inside. He found the others. "It's time."

Tyranicus took a deep breath. "Okay, let's go."

Tyranicus, Andraste, Nemesis, and the Silent Assassin crept into Ermarian. Lord Grimm remained by Spiderweb so he could watch for Dintiradan and the Lurker coming out.

While the others remained out of sight, Tyranicus approached the room that had Iffy and Garzad in it. "Hey, Jewels."

Jewels moved so that she was directly in front of the door and watched him suspiciously. "What are you doing here?"

"I've come to relieve you so you can join the party."

"Nice try. Go away before I report you to Dintiradan."

Tyranicus lunged at Jewels. A moment later, two powerful shades rose up out of the ground and attacked. They quickly paralyzed Tyranicus.

Jewels chained him up. "Now why did you go and do that for?"

"...ak," Tyranicus managed.

Jewels unlocked the door and hauled Tyranicus inside. The shades remained on guard outside. However, their paralysis attack was useless against Nemesis' dainslaifs. His sword and two crossbows managed to whittle the shades down. Andraste stormed around the corner and finished them off easily.

Jewels stepped out of the room. "You too?" She swung her axe at Andraste. Andraste parried.

Now the Silent Assassin and Nemesis joined the fight. The three of them knocked Jewels unconscious, carried her inside, and chained her up.

Nemesis cast unshackle mind on Tyranicus and undid the chains while the Silent Assassin freed Garzad and Iffy.

"We're taking Dintiradan down tonight. What evidence do you have against him?" Andraste asked.

"Do you need anything more than the fact that he locks people up and then lies about it?" Iffy asked.

"Well, it's a good start, but I was hoping for something a bit more unchallengeable. Dintiradan can probably talk his way out of that."

The Silent Assassin pointed to his watch.

"You're right. We'll try it and see how it goes," Tyranicus said.

Tyranicus, Nemesis, Andraste, the Silent Assassin, Garzad, and Iffy ran outside. The party was in full swing, so no one paid much attention to them. Lord Grimm found them quickly, however. "Dintiradan and the Lurker just left. They should be back soon."

When Dintiradan and the Lurker arrived with the final piece for the admin panel, the seven Spiderwebbers blocked their path.

"What is the meaning of this?" Dintiradan demanded.

"We're here to stop you. You aren't fit to be our leader," Tyranicus said, "Give me that piece of the admin panel you have."

"I refuse to dignify that baseless accusation with a response. Please step aside," Dintiradan said.

"Baseless? You lied to everyone! You told us that Arancaytar, ET, and Garzad betrayed us when you actually had them locked up in a secret dungeon! You're evil!" Iffy said.

Dintiradan stared at Iffy for a moment. Then he sighed. "Look, I know you're only trying to help, but you've been taken in by lies and now you're spreading them to other people. I most certainly did not lock up Aran or ET or Garzad in a secret dungeon. It was part of their ploy to kidnap Stareye so that they could try to take control."

For one second, Iffy believed him. Had he really been tricked? Then he pulled himself together. "No! I'm telling the truth! I may be a bit spammy and annoying, but you're an Evil Overlord! You can't be trusted!"

"Evil Overlords never lie! Tell us what you had planned this time? Everyone knows Stareye can't take over now. Who did you want to be in charge instead?"

Tyranicus looked around and saw how close the crowd was getting to his group. A few people looked doubtful, but most looked angry. He swallowed hard.

Lilith approached Nioca and punched him in the face.

"Huh? What's going on?" Nioca snapped out of his trance.

"Cover your ears! Don't listen to Dintiradan!"

"Ty-ow!"

Tyranicus quickly stomped on Iffy's foot. "Anyone could do a better job than you, Dintiradan. Now hand it over."

"No." Dintiradan kept both hands on the device.

"Ahahaha! Anyone? No, we all know there's only one person who could do the job properly." Emperor Tullegolar pushed his way through the crowd. He was badly burned and his robe was closer to ash than cloth. "Me! After all, unlike some of you, I would never leave someone trapped in a building to burn. Ahahaha!" He leaned on Nicothodes. "Now would I?"

"Get away from me!" Nicothodes pushed him away.

Lilith punched Thralni next. "Cover your ears! You won't like what's going to happen next."

"Anyone, you say?" Shard of Fire asked, "And all we have to do in order to be root admin is stick that device into the admin panel?"

"No," Dintiradan said.

"Yes," Tyranicus said.

"Give it to me!" Delicious Vlish sprang at Dintiradan. The Lurker hit him with Homeland. He crumpled.

Salmon took out his fishing rod and cast for the device. The hook snagged it firmly and Salmon yanked it out of Dintiradan's hands. He reeled in quickly. "It's coming your way, Tyranicus!"

Lilith pulled Duck aside and kicked him. "Get a hold of yourself!"

Duck rubbed his shin. "Huh? What?"

Nalyd jumped on the device and pulled it off the hook. "Haha, take that, fishhead!" He ran for Spiderweb. Shard of Fire tripped him. The device bounced out of Nalyd's hands and onto the ground. The Silent Assassin dove on it and wrapped himself around it as a mob formed around him.

Nioca had closed his eyes as well as clamped his hands firmly over his ears. "Lalala, not listening!"

"Ha! Mine!" Slartucker straightened up with the device held over his head.

"No fair!" Randomizer jumped for it and missed.

Iffy pushed Stareye towards the building. "Get upstairs! I'll get it to you, I promise!"

Stareye shook his head. "I can't! I don't remember!"

"You'll figure it out!"

"You do it, then!"

"They won't listen to me! But some of them will listen to you. Please. For Spiderweb."

Stareye bowed his head. "Okay." He sneaked inside.

Mr. Stickybuns swooped out of nowhere and snatched the device out of Slartucker's hands. Actaeon pulled out his bow. Mr. Stickybuns fell with an arrow through a wing. The Almighty Doer of Stuff rushed over and scooped up Mr. Stickybuns before someone could step on him. Goldenking picked up the device.

Iffy stole the device. He made it several feet before anyone realized what had happened. Several people gave chase. Student of Trinity stepped into Iffy's path and reached out as if taking the device. Instead, he clutched a rock that was about the same size under his lab coat. "I'll hold them off." He pushed Iffy down and ran for Spiderweb. The mob caught up to him and knocked him down to the ground. Iffy slipped inside. Dintiradan saw him enter and followed.

Iffy sprinted all the way up the stairs and was so out of breath by the time he reached the Moderator Board that he was about ready to collapse. He handed the device to Stareye. "Here... take it..." He leaned over and clutched his side to ease a cramp.

Stareye approached the admin panel and tried to figure out where the device went. He had already touched the admin panel by the time he noticed that it was already active. And trapped. The trap blasted Stareye all the way into the far wall. He didn't get back up.

"Stareye!" Iffy yelled.

Stareye coughed weakly.

"Heh." Dintiradan stepped into the room. "You didn't seriously think I'd leave myself so vulnerable, did you? I knew someone would want to stop me." He took the device out of Stareye's hands. "This is the last piece to the admin panel, true, but all it does is control custom titles. No, I set myself up as the root admin when I installed the panel." He examined the device as he talked. "Unfortunately, it looks like this piece was damaged in the explosion. Oh well. I'll fix it after I restore order."

Iffy's legs gave out. He slid to the floor.

Dintiradan looked out the window. Student of Trinity had been killed before anyone had figured out all he had was a rock. Confused and horrified, the mob was breaking up. Lilith pulled Nioca's hands away from his ears. "You can stop singing now. It's over."

"Who won?" Nioca stared up at the window and saw Dintiradan looking down. "Oh. Oh no."

Stareye coughed again, weaker this time. "I... I remember... now..." His voice trailed off.

Dintiradan smiled calmly. "It doesn't matter now."