Chapter 11: A Risky Endeavor

EcksianBot was nearly frantic by the time Ecksian returned to the abandoned message board. "Well, it's about time!" it snapped.

"Relax, everything's playing out according to plan. The Spiderwebbers don't suspect a thing. And I even managed to dispatch another magic user. You." Ecksian pointed to a bot who wasn't doing anything. "The body's right outside. Bring him in and tie him up, just in case."

"I don't know if continuing to kill people before you're ready to attack is such a good idea. Eventually, they'll notice that people are disappearing and come investigate. Plus, at least one of them has the ability to regenerate. Look!" EcksianBot pointed to Lazarus, tightly bound and gagged in the corner and watched over by two bots. "What are we going to with him?"

"Nothing yet."

"But..."

"How many fighter bots do we have that need activating?"

"Er... 17."

"That many? Good. I'll start right away. But first, I have a job for you."

"A... a job? What kind of job?"

"The Spiderwebbers mentioned that they can revive each other. I need you to go to the archives and find out exactly what that entails. I got a few details, but not enough, so find out everything you can. They also mentioned a thing, so..."

"A thing? What thing?"

"The thing."

"What is the thing?"

"I don't know. I need you to look it up so I know what I'm talking about if it comes up again."

"Okay, I understand. I think."

"Get in, get the information I need, and come back without alerting anyone to your presence. Got it?"

"Got it." EcksianBot checked to make sure no one was on the streets then darted out the window.

---

Randomizer sat at the table in the Moderator Board with every book on magery he could find spread out around him.

Tyranicus joined him. "Have you run across anything on artifact crafting?"

"Not yet," Randomizer said.

"Well, I suppose I can help you. What are you looking for?"

"Anything on antimagic. Or, um, anything else that might prevent mages from casting spells."

Synergy sat down at the table too. "So."

Drakefyre and Stareye entered. "Jeff just sent in the blueprints for the new Avernum 5 forum." Drakefyre held up a thick letter.

Randomizer, Tyranicus, and Synergy crowded around him.

"Well, let's see it," Tyranicus said.

Stareye took the letter, ripped it open, and unfolded the blueprints.

"Well, looks like we have light this time," Randomizer said.

"And elevations are back!" Synergy said.

"Wait. There's a special note here," Drakefyre asked.

"What's it say? Oh, he can't be serious!" Tyranicus said.

"Oh no!" Randomizer exclaimed.

"Slartucker is going to have a cow when he hears about this," Synergy said.

---

EcksianBot flew into Ermarian and down into the archives. It checked to make sure that PiperBot was occupied at the far end of the archives then darted toward the nearest bookshelf, grabbed a few promising threads, and hurried away. It settled into a corner and started to read over the topics. After several minutes, EcksianBot became aware that someone was watching it. It looked around until it spotted EndeavorBot.

"Er..." EcksianBot said.

EndeavorBot was grimy and only half-alert. "What are... you doing... here?"

"I'm just looking for information."

"Information? Information! I have lots of information! Do you want to see it?" EndeavorBot suddenly become more animated, almost manic.

"Um, well sure." EcksianBot said.

EndeavorBot showed EcksianBot to a small, dusty room. There were several locked file cabinets along the walls and stacks of paper all over the desk. EndeavorBot scooped up a stack and shoved it at EcksianBot. "Information! See? It's useful! See! See!"

"Er... yes. Give me a few moments to look over all this... information." EcksianBot flipped through a few papers. Post counts, member profiles... EndeavorBot was clearly mad, but it was right about its information being useful. "What's in the cabinets?"

"More information! But I can't get it. No, my Master has the key."

"Well, that's okay, I guess. Why are you showing me all this?"

"Because it's my job! I collect all this information, I tally it, I organize it, and I should... I should show it off! That's what I'm supposed to do! That's what I want to do! But... but my Master no longer lets me. He says he... no longer... needs me... to do that. So instead I have to stay here. And it's... it's lonely in here."

"Uh... well, this is useful information, so I'll be here for a while. And maybe I'll be back later."

"Good! Good! Good!" EndeavorBot hovered around while EcksianBot read. It was so absorbed that it read far into the night.

---

In the General Forum, almost everyone was settling down for the night. Some people were unrolling bedrolls. Others were preparing to leave.

Schrodinger grabbed his jacket. "It's too bad we still don't know what's wrong with the summoning machine, but hopefully we'll have better luck tomorrow."

"I hope so." Arancaytar yawned widely.

Jewels and Randomizer sat at a table, both checking their watches every few minutes. The crickets were clustered on the table, occasionally chirruping quietly to one another.

"Shouldn't Zeviz be back by now?" Jewels asked.

"I thought he would, okay?" Randomizer said grumpily.

"So why won't you revive Ephesos?"

Randomizer checked to make sure no one could overhear him and said quietly, "Because I can't. I... I can't do magic at the moment."

"Ooh. Why?"

"I have no idea. You know what, I'm going to bed. Don't tell anyone about this." Randomizer shuffled off.

"Okay. Um. Now what?"

One of the crickets pointed to the door.

"Oh no. I'm not going to go look for him. It's late, it's dark, it's cold, and there's only way it could possibly end: badly."

The crickets all looked at her pleadingly.

"If Zeviz isn't back in the morning, then I'll tell the moderators and we'll organize a search party to go look for him. And Ephesos."

But the crickets continued to stare.

---

Meanwhile, Dintiradan and the Lurker were in the Blades of Avernum Editor Forum.

The Lurker looked at Dintiradan's notes in bewilderment. "Are you sure this will work?"

"Every scenario I've ever made has been an epic masterpiece. I know exactly what I'm doing," Dintiradan said, "Now go find me a chair. That's the first step."

---

"All right! I'll do it! Just stop staring at me!" Jewels scooped the crickets onto her shoulder and looked around for anyone left awake. Salmon, Drew, and Marlenny all sat at a table together. She quietly joined them.

"...must have been this long." Salmon spread his arms as wide as they would go.

"Salmon, you liar. The last time you told this story, the shark was only two feet long," Marlenny said.

"You must have misheard me. Seriously," Salmon replied.

"Hey, I have a request. See, Zeviz is the only one who can revive Ephesos at the moment. And the crickets really want Ephesos revived--you should see their sad puppy dog look, it's incredible--so I agreed to go out and look for Zeviz. Would any of you like to come along?" Jewels asked.

"Sure." Drew said.

"Why not?" Marlenny asked.

"One moment. I need to go get my fishing pole," Salmon said.

---

EcksianBot threw a stack of papers aside in disgust. "So many spambots. I'm looking for info on Spiderwebbers, not for lower mortgage rates!"

"Here." EndeavorBot pushed a new stack of papers toward EcksianBot helpfully.

"Yes, thanks." EcksianBot glanced out the window. "Wait, is it that late already? Sorry, I have to go. With any luck, I'll be back tomorrow. Oh, and don't tell your Master about me, okay?"

"Oh. Sure. Bye," EndeavorBot said dully.

As EcksianBot passed by one of the file cabinets on its way out, it was stuck by a sudden idea. "Wait a minute. What sort of information is in the file cabinets? Is there anyway to access it?"

"You're staying longer? Good. The cabinets have more information! Information people don't want public, backup blueprints for the forums in case UBB screws everything up, the secret lists that show who posts the most each month. Lots of stuff. Very useful. But I can't do anything with it. Only my Master has the key."

"So, he's the only one who can get into them. Okay. But how do people tell him which information they want hidden or public?"

"With these!" EndeavorBot produced a stack of request forms.

"So I could fill out a--"

"No, no. Only the person the information belongs to can fill out the form."

"Ah. Well, my Master just joined Spiderweb and might want to know about this, so perhaps you could explain further so I can tell him about it."

"No. I can only tell people who have information they want added or removed from the cabinets how the system works."

"Then I guess there's no reason for me to stick around any longer." EcksianBot flew towards the door.

EndeavorBot twitched. "Wait. Your Master belongs to Spiderweb?"

"Yes."

"Then I guess I can tell you. First, he fills out this form. Then he gives the form to me. And he has to bring it in, not you. My Master was very clear on that. Afterwards, I give it to my Master. He reviews it. Then, if he decides it's a reasonable request, he comes in to make the changes."

"Thank you so, so much. You've been very helpful. I can't believe your Master is keeping you in here when you have so much to offer." EcksianBot said.

EndeavorBot looked flattered. "I could show you more information if you would like."

"Not tonight. I'm afraid I must be going. I'll just take a request form before I leave."

"Here. Take two, in case your Master messes up on one of them."

"Yes. Thank you."

EcksianBot darted out the window and stopped short. Jewels, Salmon, Drew, and Marlenny were passing by. When they were gone, it flew back to the abandoned forum.

---

In the Geneforge Series Forum, Iffy sat in front of a crudely drawn pentagram. Blueberry muffins were placed at each point. The sixth one was half-eaten in his hand and the empty package and the Balms of Life were off to one side.

Iffy finished the muffin and brushed away the crumbs. "And now to summon the demon muffin so the demon muffin can revive Ephesos."

---

"Took you long enough," Ecksian said when EcksianBot returned, "Did you get the information I need?"

"Er, no. But I got something better."

"Like what?"

"Personal information on all the current Spiderwebbers. Now you don't have to go back."

"It's a little late for that. They'll probably be expecting me now."

"Oh. Well, it's still useful. For instance, I can tell you why Lazarus is still alive."

"Who?"

EcksianBot pointed to Lazarus in the corner. "Him. I'm not exactly where he got the ability, but he can be killed and automatically return to life once a day."

"Nonsense. We've killed him twice."

"On two separate days, I think."

"So I could kill him now and he wouldn't come back to life?"

"Yes. The others will not be returning to life either."

"Good." Ecksian turned to the two bots that were guarding him. "Kill him."

"Yes, Master." Both bots immediately drew their swords and ran Lazarus through.

"So, where is all this information? I don't see any notes."

"Up here." EcksianBot pointed to its disproportionate head.

"Well, that's not very useful to me."

EcksianBot narrowed its eyes. "Look, you may design good bots. And you may be a brilliant fighter. But I'm the tactician here. And now I know how many Spiderwebbers there are, what weapons they like to use, and so on. I will be the one directing the assault. Master."

Ecksian and EcksianBot stared at each other. Ecksian turned away first. "Fine. But I still need that information on reviving people and the thing. On paper this time."

"Of course," EcksianBot said, "And I think I can deliver you more."

"More information?"

"Yes. Blueprints of the forums, for instance."

Ecksian grinned. "We'll know what all their defenses are beforehand."

"Exactly. It's a bit risky, but I think it'll be worth it."

"We'll do it. What's the plan?"

EcksianBot handed the request forms to Ecksian. "With one of these. And one of the Spiderwebbers brought back as a zombie."

"Does all this information you have 'up there' tell you who I should bring back?"

"Well, I can tell you Ephe--er, the one wearing all green--really, really, really hates undead."

"Perfect!" Ecksian grinned even wider.