Chapter 16: Google Is Your Friend

Think hid in the shadows until he was sure all the surviving bots had left the abandoned website. Then he went inside. As he had feared, everyone was dead. Knowing that the bots would come back to finish carrying everything off, he left.

Garbage Gatherer was waiting in the street when he stepped outside. "Any survivors?"

"No," Think said bitterly.

"I am sorry."

"It's not your fault."

"So you're off to your board, then?"

"Yeah."

"Would it help to have someone with you?"

"Are you volunteering?"

"Yes."

"Well, thanks."

"Is there a safe spot to spend the day near your board, by the way?"

"Outside the board? Not really. The area gets a lot of noobs and spam bots. But we do have a forum we aren't using at the moment. You could stay there."

"Thank you. Lead the way," Garbage Gatherer said. Filth Finder and the nymphs scurried out of the shadows.

Think started down the street. "We followed the thief here but it was a lot of navigating through side streets and I'm not sure I remember the route, so we'll just take Google."

"Is Google your friend too?" Compost Coveter asked.

"What?" Think asked.

"I heard one Spiderwebber tell another one that Google was their friend once. So I was wondering whether you were also friends with Google."

"Yeah! She's right! I heard that conversation too!" Dreck Disperser said.

"Google isn't a person. It's a search engine. So it can't literally be your friend, although it can be very helpful if you know how to use it," Garbage Gatherer explained.

"What's a search engine?" Trash Talker asked.

"You'll see," Filth Finder said.

---

The mood in the General Forum was tense. Most of the Spiderwebbers waited with their weapons in hand for Slartucker, Imban, Shard of Fire, and Tyranicus to return. Drakefyre and Stareye sat at a corner table, discussing something very quietly.

Finally, Drakefyre looked around. "Niemand!"

"What?"

"We want to ask you some questions, obviously."

Niemand sat with them. "Like what?"

"You were working with Ephesos on that stat-changing script, right?" Stareye asked.

"Yeah."

"How's it coming?"

"Er... not good. Ephesos and Lazarus went out to talk to TM last night and never returned. But Ephesos' crickets did, so I think they're dead."

"How do you know the crickets returned?"

"Jewels had them. I overheard her talking about it with the newbie."

Drakefyre looked around again. "I don't see Jewels anywhere."

Niemand shrugged. "She was here earlier this afternoon."

"Thank you, Niemand." Stareye stared at Niemand pointedly.

"Oh. Um, okay." Niemand hurried away.

Stareye sighed. "So, is Jewels just off somewhere and Ephesos and Lazarus' probable death was just a one-time event, or is something else going on?"

"I don't know. We'll revive them and find out. Where are our mages?" Drakefyre looked around yet again.

"Don't you know how to cast the summon element spell?"

"Well, I did until I, um, joined the Anama. I mean, they're back in A5, so I figured, why not?"

"Okay, okay." Stareye stood up. "Has anyone seen Randomizer or Zeviz lately?"

Everyone looked around.

"Nope," Thralni said, "Not recently."

"Synergy, help me do a quick search of the forum, okay?"

"Okay."

In the kitchen, Riibu opened a cupboard. Randomizer was tucked inside.

"Hey!" He tried to shut the door.

"Stareye is asking for you. You have to go talk to him," Riibu said.

"No, I don't," Randomizer said.

"Why not?" Riibu asked.

"Because it's... well, would you go out if someone wanted you to help fight a battle?"

"Probably not. I'm no good at fighting."

"Well, at the moment, I'm no good at magic. And everyone expects me to be good at it, so it's worse. Now close the door."

Riibu shut the door. Synergy entered. Riibu immediately turned invisible.

"Anyone in here? Hello?" Synergy started opening cupboards until he found Randomizer. "I found Randomizer!"

"Good. Get out here. We need you to summon the elements for Ephesos, Lazarus, the Lurker, Iffy, and Tyranicus," Drakefyre said.

"How do you know Tyranicus is dead? They're not even back yet." Randomizer was pushed out of the kitchen by Synergy.

Imban, Shard of Fire, and Slartucker entered the forum, carrying Tyranicus with them.

Randomizer sighed. "I should have known. Anyway, I'm afraid I can't help revive anyone. For some reason, I can't do any magic."

"Well, then, have you seen Zeviz recently?" Drakefyre said.

"Yeah. He left the board this morning, to help me find a cure. But he hasn't come back for some reason."

Stareye turned to Drakefyre. "Can you at least cast return life?"

"Yes." Drakefyre motioned Dikiyoba over. "Bring me a balm of life potion."

"Dikiyoba can do that."

Imban and Slartucker joined Drakefyre, Stareye, Synergy, and Randomizer.

Shard of Fire leaned against a wall. "Step right up for a thrilling account of the monstrous demon muffin. Now with souvenirs!" Shard of Fire held out a handful of crumbs.

"So what exactly is a demon muffin?" Thralni asked.

"A nuisance," Shard of Fire said, "We walked into the forum and..."

Dikiyoba burst into the forum. "Dikiyoba can't find them!"

"Find what, exactly?" Rakshasi asked.

"Dikiyoba had three balm of life potions that Dikiyoba had just made. Now they're gone. Dikiyoba searched everywhere but couldn't find them."

Shard of Fire picked a small fragment of glass out of the crumbs. "Iffy's always going on about all the things demon muffins can do. Well, it turns out they actually are very good at eating things."

"So we have no way to revive people?" Stareye asked.

"You know, this wouldn't be happening if..."

"Don't even start, Synergy," Drakefyre said.

"I might know a way to revive Tyranicus," Slartucker said, "I've never actually tried it before, but graze dead should..."

"Do it. All other mods, a meeting in the Moderator Board will start in ten minutes. Be there," Stareye said.

"Another one?" Alorael said.

---

Ecksian stared out the window in the Endeavor Room. It was dawn. The lightning had stopped but rain continued to pour down.

He slumped into a chair. All of his bots had returned one way or the other, and the damaged ones were being repaired downstairs in the archives. The dead rats and Spiderwebbers had all been buried, with the exception of Arancaytar. Ecksian would zombify him later. And, as far as he knew, no one at Spiderweb suspected anything--yet. But it was only a matter of time.

He looked at the body of EcksianBot lying on the desk. This was the third time learning about the rats had triggered its hidden memories. Ecksian didn't have to talent to completely wipe its memories, just suppress them. The first time it had happened, EcksianBot caused so much commotion it led the rats right to his original workshop and he had barely enough time to get all his equipment away to his second workshop. The second time, just telling EcksianBot that they had to move again because the rats were tracking them down was enough to set it off. And now this. EcksianBot was unreliable. But Ecksian needed the bot. He needed someone around to keep him from overlooking a weakness or making a silly mistake. And there was no one else around to do it.

Ecksian pulled out his toolbox and carefully opened EcksianBot up.

---

Think and the GIFTR rounded a corner.

"Well, there it is," Think said.

"Wow!" Litter Locator said.

"Cool!" said Rubbish Remover.

Several sleek, torpedo-shaped vehicles sat at a small terminal. Each vehicle was covered in a different set of sponsor's logos. Behind the terminal was a vast array of tracks heading off in every direction.

Think went to the check-in booth and selected the Bots Aplenty Message Board as the destination. The door of one of the vehicles slid open.

"Get in," Think said.

The nymphs scuttled inside eagerly and settled into the seats. Filth Finder and Garbage Gatherer followed.

"Now what?" Muck Master asked.

Think boarded and slid the door shut. The vehicle began to roll towards one of the tracks.

"Here we go!" Think said.

The vehicle reached the correct track and shot off.

---

Ephesos was still pacing.

"Oh, give it a rest. Wearing a hole in the ground won't get us out of here." Lazarus dumped the last spam he had into the fire. "Someone want to go find me some more spam?"

"I'll do it!" Iffy hopped up. "Where should I look?"

"I don't know. Look for ones that got thrown out of the way or something," Lazarus said, "With any luck, Ephesos will unbury some."

Ephesos stopped pacing. "Very funny."

"There's plenty of spam in that corner over there," Grime Grubber pointed. "There's some strange mold growing near it. Very tasty when mixed together."

"Eww," Marlenny said.

"Strange mold? Show me," Ephesos said, "Here, Zeviz, give me some light."

Grime Grubber led Ephesos and Zeviz to a corner. Iffy followed and dutifully collected some spam for Lazarus' fire.

A patch of slimy gray mold grew at the edge of a puddle. A drop of water fell into the puddle from a small crack in the ceiling. Ephesos scraped some of the mold off the floor and examined it closely. "It's definitely graymold. Too bad there's nothing we can do with it."

Zeviz took the graymold from Ephesos thoughtfully. "Maybe there is. Aran, do you have any coffee?"

Arancaytar huddled near a fire. "No. And if I did, I would have drunk it already."

"So you have absolutely none?" Zeviz asked.

"Well, I did spill a bit on my jacket last week. You can have that if you want," Arancaytar said sarcastically.

"Good. Thanks." Zeviz grabbed an empty can and scooped up some water.

"You're making a scrying pool? Will that even work here?" Ephesos asked.

Zeviz shrugged. "You never know." He tore the graymold apart and dropped it into the can.

Arancaytar took off his jacket. "All right, I'll bite."

Zeviz dunked the stained section into the water. Then he magicked a few drops of acid into the can and swirled the ingredients around.

Lazarus abandoned the fire to peer over Zeviz's shoulder. "What do you see? Can you see anything?"

Iffy staggered over to the fire and dropped the spam next to it. Several unopened cans tumbled into the fire.

"Ooh. I want to see!" Jewels tried to get a look at the makeshift scrying pool too.

Zeviz stepped away from the crowd. "I need some space before I'll be able to see anything."

Lazarus turned back to the fire and saw the cans. "Iffy! Are you crazy?!" One of the cans exploded, sending sizzling blobs of spam everywhere.