Chapter 19: With Great Power...

Down in the Exile Forum, Randomizer opened his eyes and stood up. "Spray acid!" He pointed to a nearby rock. Nothing happened.

Randomizer slumped back down. "No, no, this isn't working at all. And since it could be a while before I get the opportunity to research the problem and I'm probably going to need to cast a few spells between now and then, it's time to take more drastic action." He took a deep breath. "Okay, Randomizer, you've done this before. You can do it again. You know exactly what you're doing. No false starts, just go for it... okay, now. Um... just go! Er..." Randomizer sat in silence for a few minutes, fidgeting nervously. "Right. Okay, um... oh, come on. No one is going to interrupt you, so just... just... er, shoot."

Randomizer closed his eyes. His hands balled up into fists as he practically forced the words out. "If... if I... if I... if... if I repeat this statement forty-seven thousand eight hundred fifty-one times, I will absorb great power!" Randomizer relaxed and continued more calmly. "If I repeat this statement forty-seven thousand eight hundred fifty-one times, I will absorb great power. If I repeat this statement..."

---

In the Tech Support Forum, Ephesos took three Balms of Life from Dikiyoba. "You've only got three?"

"Well, it's not like Dikiyoba wasn't planning to make more..."

"Right, sorry. I'm just not sure how much time I have to revive the rats. They're certainly not in the Miscellaneous Forum."

"You're reviving the rats first?" Student of Trinity stepped away from the summoning machine to get a better look. All the rats were laid out in beds.

"Yes." Ephesos poured the first potion on Attorukkip. "Restore life!"

Attorukkip gasped and sat halfway up. "What... what's going on? Who are you?"

"Relax. I'm Ephesos. You're at the Spiderweb Software Message Board. Rest for a bit. I'll revive the others in your group as quickly as I can."

"You can bring people back to life? I would very much like to learn that spell."

"Certainly, once you've recovered." Ephesos dumped the second potion on G'ree't'l. "Restore life!"

Student of Trinity resumed work on the summoning machine while Ephesos calmed G'ree't'l. "We tried kicking it once, but have we tried kicking it a second time yet? I'm pretty sure that would help."

Schrodinger replaced a fuse. "How?"

"Well, it would make me feel a lot better. I mean, we've fixed most of the damage from it malfunctioning, sure, but we still don't know why it malfunctioned in the first place. And... maybe it'll knock a loose wire back into place?" Student of Trinity said.

"All right. I don't have any better ideas." Schrodinger stepped back.

Ephesos revived H'uk'n'l. Dikiyoba ground dried mandrake into a powder. They both jumped as Student of Trinity yelled and kicked the summoning machine as hard as he could.

A secret compartment in the bottom of the summoning machine fell open. Two potions fell out and shattered, followed by a thorn baton, three rubies, a quiver of arrows, and a scarf.

"Huh. How'd we miss that?" Student of Trinity asked.

Schrodinger crawled under the summoning machine, carefully avoiding the broken potions. "Well, this looks like the problem. There's a whole mess of ruined paper and some broken glass in here. Hand me a pair of gloves, will you?"

"Tinker's or regular?"

"Regular."

Student of Trinity handed him a pair and then sorted through the recovered objects. "This looks like Arancaytar's scarf. Ugh. It smells terrible."

"Yeah. It looks like there was another potion in here that broke somehow. Sure made a mess of this book." Schrodinger tossed a big chunk of it out from under the machine.

Dikiyoba took the scarf. "Dikiyoba believes this is the smell of heroic brew."

"Does it taste that bad too?"

"No. It tastes worse."

Student of Trinity tossed the arrows and thorn baton into the nearest box of supplies. "So it's called heroic brew because it takes a heroic effort to drink it?"

Dikiyoba shrugged and returned to potion-making.

Student of Trinity looked at the remains of the book. "Looks like the Evil Overlord Guide."

"Yeah. It was originally a much smaller compartment, but a panel got knocked aside after too much stuff got shoved inside and a few things got up into the wiring." Schrodinger tossed more of the book and the remains of a living tool aside. "That should be it. Hand me the Tinker's Gloves and a screwdriver, would you?"

Student of Trinity did so. "So Dintiradan had the secret compartment build in, then someone found it and crammed it full of stuff. While it was boxed up, no less. Who?"

"That's fairly obvious. Go find Mystic and tell him to get in here right now," Schrodinger said.

---

Nikki stepped into Ermarian with his pencil drawn. "Hello? Ecksian? I know you're in here somewhere--come out and fight!"

---

"This is just great," Drew said, "Why haven't we been revived yet? Although we haven't found anything, so it's not really a loss in that department."

"Well, at least we've learned where Ecksian isn't." The Lurker moved closer so he could hear better.

"Nikki just walked in," Grime Grubber said.

"Alone?" Arancaytar asked.

"Yes."

Arancaytar sighed.

"Follow him. Maybe he'll have better luck," Zeviz said.

---

Nikki searched the main floor of Ermarian thoroughly. He opened drawers, knocked over bins, threw books off of shelves, and occasionally yelled dramatic challenges.

"Ecksian, you coward, come out and face me!"

---

Ecksian listened to all the noise overhead and forced himself to be calm. "Don't worry. They're not going to find us as long as we're quiet."

---

Arancaytar sat with his hands over his ears so he wouldn't have to listen to Grime Grubber's commentary.

"...and he's yelling something again. He sure looks angry. Now he's heading into the archives."

Over in the corner, Zephyr Tempest woke up. He stood up slowly, making sure no one was watching him.

"He's prowling through the bookshelves now and throwing everything off of them. Wow, what a mess," Grime Grubber said.

"Icy rain!" Zephyr Tempest yelled.

Zeviz threw himself out of the way just in time. The shards of ice killed the Lurker and bounced painfully off of Grime Grubber's exoskeleton.

Drew tackled Zephyr Tempest. Several sharp icicles flew from Zephyr Tempest's hands, narrowly missing his head. "Uh, a little help here?"

Jewels pinned one arm to Zephyr Tempest's side in a massive hug. Drew picked up a rock and knocked Zephyr Tempest out with it.

The Lurker stood back up. "Ouch. Sorry about that."

"Here, Iffy, you can guard Zephyr, since the Lurker doesn't seem to want to anymore," Jewels said.

"Sure!" Iffy said.

Drew shook his head in disgust. "Ecksian is crazy, Nikki is crazy, Zephyr is absofrigginlutely nuts. Can it get any worse?"

---

"...great power. If I repeat this statement forty-seven thousand eight hundred fifty-one times, I will absorb great power. If I..."

---

Emperor Tullegolar stopped as a drop of rain hit his face.

The necromancer holding the umbrella over him continued a few more steps, then hurried back into position once he realized his mistake. "What's wrong?"

"I'm getting wet, Azuma. How can I trust you to restore Rentar-Ihrno when you can't even hold an umbrella properly?"

The necromancer gulped. "Sorry. I'll try harder."

"See that you do. Let's keep moving."

"But where's Jeran?" Azuma asked.

A figure with a massive greatsword across his back stepped out of the alley just behind them. "Hey, come check this out!"

Emperor Tullegolar and Azuma stepped into the alley. Emperor Tullegolar kicked Zephyr Tempest's body. "So weak."

"So we should loot any valuables and leave him here?" Jeran Korak asked.

"Nonsense. If he's dead, I can't kill him myself. Pick him up; we'll take him back to Spiderweb," Emperor Tullegolar said.

"If you'd like, I could revive him as a zombie and..." Azuma said.

Emperor Tullegolar shook his head. "Nah, too easy."

---

Nikki continued tossing threads off the bookshelves and pulling chairs away from the table. "Come on, Ecksian. Fight me one-on-one or with all your bots, I don't care. Either way, I'll teach you not to even think about harming Aran ever again."

As Nikki climbed up one bookcase to reach the top shelf, it turned sideways. He looked down and saw the trapdoor. "Sweet!"

Nikki climbed down and pulled on the trapdoor. It didn't budge. After a bit of pulling and stomping didn't work, he slid the pencil into the crack, found the lock, and jammed the pencil into it. The lock snapped. He opened the trapdoor and jumped inside. "Hey, Ecksian! Guess who's here to see you?"

"In... intru..." The zombie stumbled over the word before giving up. "Brains?" He launched himself at Nikki.

Ecksian was in the process of activating a bot when he heard the yells. "Intruders! All of you, get them!"

The bots thundered into the tunnel. Ecksian drew his dagger and swallowed hard.

Nikki stabbed Zeviz in the arm and scrambled halfway up the ladder. He pulled out a second mechanical pencil and leapt directly into the bots. He knocked two of them down as he landed. He stabbed one of them quickly, then rose to parry a blow. The bots had trouble fighting in such a confined space and Nikki managed to take out two more bots before getting hit. He collapsed.

One of the bots reported to Ecksian. "There was only one intruder and he is dead, Master."

Ecksian sheathed his dagger and walked over to Nikki. He searched him and came up with three mechanical pencils. "Unusual weapons, but clearly deadly in the right hands." He tucked them into his pocket. "Now, let's..." He cringed at a sound overhead. "More intruders. Zombie, distract them. Do whatever it takes to lead them away from here. You three bots, stay guard in this tunnel. Everyone else, back into the room. Make absolutely no noise." Ecksian closed the trapdoor and set the bookcase back into place after Zeviz was away.

---

"Found anything yet?" Drew asked.

"He revived the rats before us. The rats were nice and all, but them over us?" Jewels muttered.

"Not y--hey! There's a bookshelf moved in the archives," Grime Grubber said.

"Oh no, he found it," Arancaytar said.

"Found what?" the Lurker asked.

Arancaytar sighed. "I lied. There is another shielded place. I have a--well, had a--secret room under the archives. I really wish he hadn't found it."

"Who, Ecksian or Nikki?" Marlenny asked.

"Both," Arancaytar said.

"Nikki must be alive down there, but Zeviz's zombie just came out of that secret room," Grime Grubber said, "He's going upstairs. And there's a bunch of Spiderwebbers there!"

"Woo hoo!" Marlenny said.

"Does this mean that Ecksian is finally trapped?" Drew asked.

"Well... hopefully," Arancaytar said.

---

The Mystic dragged his overloaded pack into the Tech Support Forum. "Yeah?"

Schrodinger held up Arancaytar's ruined scarf. "Do you recognize this?"

"I might."

"Did you steal it?"

"Did anyone see me steal it?"

"No, but..."

"Then it couldn't have been me."

"Very well." Schrodinger upended the Mystic's pack, scattering stuff everywhere. "Where did all of this come from?"

"I found it."

Schrodinger picked the sanity jar out of the pile. "You found--no! Do not take anything that isn't specifically yours or an occasional item from the group supplies that you actually need. You've been warned about this numerous times before. Now you're on your last chance. This is an official warning. Just because no one sees you take something does not make it acceptable."

"Fine." The Mystic took his now-empty pack and marched off.

Chrrk!

"Wow is right," Ephesos said quietly.

Schrodinger made eye contact with Attorukkip and quickly looked away. "Let's get back to work, shall we?"

---

Randomizer stared into space, his eyes unfocused. "...statement forty-seven thousand... eight hundred... fifty-one times I will absorb great power... if I repeat this statement forty-seven thousand... eight hundred... fifty-one times I will absorb great power... if I repeat..."