Chapter 15: Death Aplenty

Phil reached the website. "G'ree! G'ree!"

The green rat stepped outside and caught Phil as he collapsed. "What are you doing out?"

"Bots! Lots of bots! Right behind me! I'm so... I'm so sorry..." Phil went limp.

"Att! Phil's hurt!" G'ree't'l carried Phil inside.

Attorukkip awoke with a start and scurried over. She felt frantically for a pulse.

"What's going on?" Marlenny yawned.

Filth Finder shook Garbage Gatherer and the nymphs awake. "We're getting out of here right now."

The GIFTR slipped out into the night.

Attorukkip stepped back and hung her head. "He's dead. There's nothing I can do."

"But what killed him?" Deathwhisker asked.

Think peered out the door, then slammed it shut. "Att! There's a bunch of bots headed this way!"

"How many?"

"I don't know. Two dozen, maybe?"

"Two dozen?" M'q'zz'x's mouth fell open.

Thud! Something slammed into the door. Squeak and G'ree't'l quickly grabbed the packs and shoved them in front of the door.

"That won't last long," Jewels said.

Thud! The door shook again.

Marlenny pulled out her bow. "It'll last long enough."

"That's right. We'll make the best of it. Melee fighters, come here so I can buff you," Attorukkip said, "Bless, shield, bless, shield..." Attorukkip waved her paw, coating Drew, Jewels, and several rats in a layer of sparkles that quickly faded.

"You can cast priest spells?" Drew asked.

"Just a few basic ones."

Thud!

"I don't see the GIFTR," Jewels said.

"Then maybe they got out in time," Salmon said.

"I hope so," Jewels said.

Thud! The door cracked. Everyone held their breath.

Crash! The door broke off its hinges and fell away.

Marlenny and Timeseight fired at the first bot to appear in the doorway. The arrows bounced off its armor harmlessly.

"I guess we're aiming for the gaps between the armor, then." Marlenny fired again. The arrow lodged in its neck and it collapsed.

The second bot dragged the first bot out of the way and started tossing the packs aside. G'ree't'l hit it with a curse ray. Timeseight's next arrow hit it right between the eyes. A third bot appeared, dragging the second bot out of the way and kicking the last pack aside. Marlenny's arrow missed it. The rest of the bots pushed their way in.

Salmon cast, wrapping the line around the lead bot. He jerked the line so that the bot fell. The two bots immediately behind it tripped and fell as well.

Deathwhisker stabbed one of the fallen bots. "My name is Lady Deathwhisker the Rabid! I was born at midnight during a terrible storm! My mother was the fiercest of wererats and was dad was pretty fierce too! I killed my first 1337 h4x0r when I was still blind and hairless! I eat bots for breakfast! Through me, you shall know death aplenty!" She swung at another bot. The sword hit its armor and broke off at the hilt. "Oh snap!"

The bot swung at her. Jewels managed to block the strike with her axe. "Marlenny probably has a spare dagger!" She chopped off the bot's sword arm, then caught the bot in a huge one-armed hug. She sent it spinning into another bot, enabling Deathwhisker to scamper to safety.

Marlenny and Timeseight fired again. Another bot went down. Marlenny handed Deathwhisker her dagger.

Attorukkip cast smite. The spell stunned a bot. Drew stabbed it.

"Yeehaw!" He fought his way over to Jewels. Squeak joined them, jabbing at bots with a rusty spear.

G'ree't'l hit a bot with a curse ray. H'uk'n'l slammed into it, sending it to the ground. Then he dug his claws into the gaps in its helmet, killing it. A second bot slashed his side. Timeseight shot it. Attorukkip healed H'uk'n'l.

M'q'zz'x joined G'ree't'l. She waited until he hit a bot with a curse ray, then bounded over to stab it with her short sword.

A bot stabbed Drew. There were too many bots around for Jewels and Squeak to drag him to safety.

"Att, help!" Squeak said.

Attorukkip was facing two bots. "I can't!" She cast smite, stunning one of the bots.

"I'm coming!" Deathwhisker charged towards Jewels and Squeak. A bot tripped her up and she stumbled. The bot quickly killed her.

Drew kicked a bot away that was sneaking up behind Jewels and dragged himself upright. "Watch your back!"

H'uk'n'l tackled one of the bots menacing Attorukkip, enabling her to cast smite directly in its face.

A bot swept the bow out of Timeseight's paws and stabbed him. Marlenny shot it and joined up with G'ree't'l and M'q'zz'x.

Drew's injury was slowing him down. Jewels and Squeak were doing their best to protect him, but eventually another bot managed to bring him down.

Salmon and Think were backed against a wall.

"We'll never get out of here alive!" Think said.

"But someone needs to get to Spiderweb. Here, I've got an idea. Hold them off."

"But..."

Salmon cast straight up. The hook buried itself in the ceiling. He used the line to climb about halfway up the wall, where there was a small ledge. He tested to make sure his footing was secure, then yanked the hook free and dangled the line by Think. "Climb up!"

Think scrambled up onto the ledge. "What are you doing?"

"Saving your miserable life. Provided this works, of course." Salmon reeled in before any of the bots could climb up, then cast again. This time, the hook buried itself right above the door. "Hang on!" Salmon jumped off the ledge and began reeling in like crazy. Think barely managed to grab onto his leg. They swung over the bots' heads and out the door, landing in a heap outside. Three bots followed them.

"Now what?" Think pulled Salmon upright.

Salmon cut the line and tied a new hook on. "Hide. I'll distract the bots. Then you get to your message boards and I'll head back to Spiderweb."

"O... okay." Think dashed off. Two of the bots started after him, but Salmon hooked one and sent it crashing into the other.

"Four out of five noobs agree that I pwn. The fifth one probably would have agreed as well, but I killed it first."

All three bots charged at Salmon. He used his fishing rod to climb onto the nearest roof. Then he cast to the next roof and swung over. "Wheeeeee! Suckers!"

The bots ran around the building Salmon stood on, looking for the easiest way up. When they found it, they started climbing.

Salmon waited until they were about halfway up and then swung over to the next building. "A few more buildings and they'll never be able to catch up to me."

---

EcksianBot was still trapped on the file cabinet in Ermarian. Suddenly, it bolted for the window. Zeviz moved from the door to the window. EcksianBot retreated. Zeviz positioned himself halfway between the window and door.

Next, EcksianBot went to the file cabinet furthest from the door and opened the bottom drawer. "Oh, look. A secret passage. I believe I shall make my escape from here."

"Braiins?" Zeviz lurched towards EcksianBot. As he knelt down to check the drawer, EcksianBot shoved a bunch of papers in his face and flew towards the window. It unlocked the window, yanked it open, and flew out.

"Free!" EcksianBot rose into the air.

"Braiins?" Zeviz carefully squeezed through the window and stood on the ledge. He was about to climb up after EcksianBot when there was a flash of lightning immediately followed by a crack of thunder. EcksianBot's body tingled and it dove towards the ground. Zeviz jumped for it, managing to catch a leg. Bot and zombie plummeted to the ground, landing heavily. There was another flash of lightning and thunder. A few drops of rain fell.

---

Salmon winced as lightning flashed almost directly overhead. Rain started to pour down. "I suppose it's safer on the ground now that the bots are far behind." He quickly descended. Then he heard EcksianBot shouting. "Please! Let me go!"

---

Ecksian heard the shouts as well. He signaled for the bots to put down what they were carrying and move forward silently.

---

Zeviz staggered upright, holding the shouting bot tightly.

"Let go of me! Argh!" EcksianBot punched and kicked furiously but it was far too weak to do any damage. "Don't you understand what he did to me? What he did to you? What he's going to do to all of Spiderweb?"

"Braiins?"

"Just let me go! You have to let me go! Please!"

"Hey! Zeviz! You're all right!" Salmon said.

Zeviz stared at Salmon blankly.

"No, he's not! He's undead, I swear it! Please, free me! I'm on your side!" EcksianBot shouted frantically.

"Uh..." Salmon approached carefully. "Zeviz? Er... how about you hand me that bot? I'll--"

"Graaahhh!" Zeviz held onto EcksianBot even tighter and tried to bite Salmon's hand.

"Okay, never mind." Salmon drew back quickly.

"He's a zombie! He's already dead! Just kill him! Please!"

A flash of lightning illuminated Ecksian and several bots creeping towards Salmon.

"Sorry. Gotta go." Salmon cast at the roof. After checking to make sure that the hook held fast, he started climbing.

Ecksian hurled the dagger. The dagger clattered off the wall just below Salmon's foot as he scrambled onto the roof.

"Well, here we go again." Salmon reeled in and cast for the next roof over.

Ecksian reached for EcksianBot. "Good work, zombie. Now let me see."

"Braiins?"

EcksianBot struggled with renewed effort, but Ecksian easily opened a compartment on its underside and flipped a switch. EcksianBot shut down.

"That's a relief. Okay, zombie, climb up to a roof three buildings down and lay low until that Spiderweb arrives. If possible, kill him. If not, stall him until the bots arrive."

"Braiins?"

"And stop saying that! Adding letters doesn't make it a different word!"

Zeviz shambled off. Salmon swung over to the next roof.

"You four fighting bots, follow the Spiderwebber along the ground. Two of you will stay on the ground so he can't get down. The other two of you can climb up after him when you think you can catch him. Kill him!" Ecksian said.

The bots ran off. Salmon swung to the next roof. He had a bit of trouble actually making it over the edge, as the rain made the building slick. He saw the bots waiting on the ground, so he hurried across the roof and cast again. He swung across and started climbing up. He was just barely over the edge when Zeviz leapt up and pushed him off. He fell.

---

Ephesos paced the Miscellaneous Forum, his breath clearly visible in the frigid air. "What's taking them so long to revive us?"

Lazarus huddled next to a dying flamefest. "They probably don't even realize we're missing yet. Oy! Lurker! See if you can wake Zephyr up and get him ranting again. This fire's going out."

Zephyr was unconscious in the corner with a lump on his head. The Lurker had been chosen to guard him. "No way. I'm not going through that again."

Lazarus sighed and opened a can of spam into the fire to keep it alive.

Drew suddenly materialized in the forum, holding his side. He caught sight of Grime Grubber sitting near a different fire with Arancaytar and Zeviz. "What's he doing here? Is the other one that died recently here too?"

"Sewage Spotter isn't here," Grime Grubber said quietly.

Lazarus shrugged. "No one is quite sure. Because Grime wants to be revived, I guess."

"Have any rats shown up?" Drew asked.

"Rats?" Tyranicus asked.

"Good. Because if Phil were here, I'd have to hurt him," Drew said.

"Who's Phil? What's happening?" Ephesos asked.

Drew quickly explained.

"I wish there were something we could do instead of just sitting here," Iffy said.

"Oh no. You've done plenty of helping already," Ephesos said.

Marlenny appeared. "Hey, everyone. Jewels should be along any moment now, but I think Salmon escaped."

---

Salmon's descent came to a sudden halt as the line pulled tight. He started climbing up again. Down below, two of the four bots started climbing too.

Salmon pulled himself onto the roof and freed the hook.

"Brayns?"

"And skill!" Salmon whirled the fishing rod, smacking Zeviz in the head.

The first bot climbed onto the roof, swinging its sword. Salmon wrapped his line around the sword and yanked it out of the bot's hand. The bot lunged for Salmon, but he kicked it over the edge.

Zeviz grabbed the fallen sword and sliced through the fishing rod.

"Hey!" Salmon yelled.

"Brayns?"

"Yes, I'm talking to you!" Salmon hit Zeviz in the shoulder with the broken pole.

The other bot reached the roof. Salmon backed away from it and Zeviz until he was at the edge of the roof. He jumped for the next roof. His fingers caught the slick edge for one moment then slipped off. Salmon fell again, but this time there was no line to catch him. He hit the ground with a sickening thud. The two bots waiting on the ground immediately moved in to make sure he was dead.

---

Salmon landed in the Miscellaneous Forum.

Marlenny looked disappointed. "Oh."

Salmon leapt up and brushed himself off. "I had the best escape plan ever, but someone had to ruin it." He glared at Zeviz.

"Don't look at me! Zombification wasn't my idea!" Zeviz said.

"But maybe we should keep it in mind as a viable strategy if Slartucker ever resumes that deathmatch," Jewels said thoughtfully.