Chapter 12: Evacuation

In the Business Forum, H'uk'n'l was rounding up all the supplies he could. There were plenty of arrows and javelins, but not much else.

Several pyroroamers got past the archers on the roof. They reached the entrance and began scratching at the door. H'uk'n'l grabbed a nearby table and set it upright against the door.

Yul'fib'f arrived a minute later. "Open the door! The bots have to get out!"

"Only if you can think of a way to get those creatures away from the door first."

MadScientist arrived with the bots. "What's the hold up?"

"We can't send the bots out without letting the creatures in," H'uk'n'l said, "We could kill them easily enough, but if they start a fire..."

"Hmm. MadScientist, make all the bots get a bucket of water. H'uk'n'l, get ready to move the table."

MadScientist and H'uk'n'l did what he said. When the bots returned, he handed a javelin to H'uk'n'l. "When I open the door, throw it. Don't worry, I'll get out of the way in time. MadScientist, have your bots leave the water here and get them out the door as soon as it's clear."

MadScientist gave directions to the bots.

"Ready?" Yul'fib'f asked.

"Ready," the other two said.

Yul'fib'f opened the door and dove out of the way. H'uk'n'l's javelin hit the first pyroroamer to poke its head inside. The bots charged outside. MadScientist followed closely to make sure they got into position.

Then Yul'fib'f grabbed a bucket of water. "Come on, we have to make sure nothing catches fire!"

He and H'uk'n'l scurried back and forth with the water until the door and the area around it was soaking wet.

Once MadScientist was satisfied with where the bots were standing, he said, "Stay here. For the rest of the day, kill anything that's not a rat that tries to get past you unless a rat tells you to let them pass or to not kill them. These are your orders until any rat gives you new ones." He stepped back as the next group of pyroroamers came around the corner.

---

Phil, Attorukkip, and Garzad joined ***** on the roof.

"Yes?" Attorukkip asked.

"Garzad, do you have anything to do with this attack?"

Garzad shook his head. "No!"

"Then I believe you. Make yourself useful." ***** looked around. "Terry, take charge. We need someone to keep bringing up arrows and javelins. I also want a dozen archers downstairs protecting the front door. Get water up here too. Oh, and send MadScientist up here when he gets back inside." He paused to watch Terry scurry off before continuing. "Att, I'll be blunt. If there are as many attackers as I think there are, we're not going to hold out against this attack, at least not without the sudden arrival of allies and a monsoon. But when I order the evacuation, I'd really like to know that we have somewhere to go. So refresh my memory. What are the Attorists offering?"

"It's been a year, but I doubt things have changed much. No magic, no technology, no weapons, no contact with non-rats. In short, no 'corrupting' human influences. They will take in any rat who genuinely agrees to those rules. Aside from that, it's a decent life. Food, water, shelter, not too many enemies, and not a whole lot else. A fair amount of disease, though, with no real way to cure it."

"Right. Now, given that you can't go back, is there anyone else who could find the Attorists?"

"Squeak might. He was there for a while to learn Scritch--you know, the ancient rat language--from a few of them. I don't know whether he'd want to lead anyone or not, though."

"Good. I'll talk to him. What about Spiderweb? Would they take us in temporarily?"

"Yes, I think so. But we know they're going to be under attack very soon, so it's not exactly a safe place to be."

"I know, but it's certainly safer for now."

---

Cinder sneaked around the corner, not far behind the group of pyroroamers. Between the archers and the bots, they were easily destroyed. Cinder found a good hiding spot.

MadScientist was pleased. "Good. We should be able to hold the flamers off for quite a while."

"Oh yeah?!" Cinder burst out of the hiding spot and launched a massive firebolt at MadScientist. He died instantly.

H'uk'n'l dropped the final bucket of water. "Get inside now!"

Yul'fib'f looked at MadScientist's charred body, then scurried inside after H'uk'n'l. Cinder was preparing to cast another firebolt at them when he was hit by several arrows.

---

Eternal Flame cursed when he saw Cinder explode. "Okay, Pyromania and Smokey, you two are captains now. Smokey, take Cinder's spot. And, obviously enough--at least if you have more than two working brain cells--don't leave the hiding spot. Pyromania, try to sneak around back. Remember, you're trying to hit the building. Don't bother with the bots or the archers, just burn the whole thing down."

"Why would you want to make Smokey a captain? That idiot couldn't--" Pyromania began.

"I don't want to hear it! Go, or I'll pull out my plans for the catapult!"

The captains hurried off.

---

***** stopped Attorukkip as she headed for the ladder. "Yul and H'uk made it inside just fine and there's nothing you can do for MadScientist."

"If I can retrieve the body, I can revive him eventually."

"No. Right now, I need you to focus on the living. We have to get out of here, and I need you and Squeak to back me up in the Miscellaneous Forum. Terry, you're doing good work, so keep it up. Dani, I need you."

Danielle approached. "Yes?"

"MadScientist is dead, so tell G'ree't'l to gather up all the notes and blueprints for the bots. Tell him to save a copy that someone can take to Spiderweb and to destroy everything else," ***** said quietly.

Just then, Smokey's first firebolt hit the side of the building.

"Get down!" Terry yelled.

"No," ***** said, "That was aimed at the building, not at us. They want to burn the place down. More water! Hurry! We need the water now more than we need archers!"

"They can't be after the bot plans, then," Danielle said.

"No. But then, what are they after?" ***** asked.

Cheese coughed. "Lemmings."

"Let's see..." ***** said, "Three years ago, the flamers suffered a massive defeat at Spiderweb and basically disappeared as an organization. This could be their comeback. We were advertising those bots, so they could have easily heard about us that way. But..."

Smokey's second attack hit the building.

"...I suppose it doesn't matter. Dani, deliver the message anyway. Att, Squeak, hurry." ***** climbed down the ladder.

Terry peered over the edge of the roof as Smokey's third fireball hit. "Water! Hurry, it's starting to smoke!"

---

Filth Finder huddled in the corner with the nymphs. Think was on the roof and the rats ignored them, too busy whispering among each other.

"Do you think we'll win?"

"We haven't lost yet!"

"How did they know we were here? Is there a traitor among us?"

"There must be!"

"Garzad?"

"No, he's up on the roof with everyone else."

Danielle scurried through the forum. A moment later, *****, Attorukkip, and Squeak entered. Everyone stopped talking.

"Unfortunately, we have to evacuate," ***** said.

There were several gasps.

"You must be joking!"

"I'm afraid not. There are far too many flamers out there for us to fight. Now, we have three options. The first is to become wanderers again. The second is to join Spiderweb. Attorukkip here will take you there, if you choose to go. The third option is to join the Attorists. Sque--"

"Okay, now you're joking. Right? You can't seriously suggest joining... joining them."

"Hey, my sister is an Attorist. Watch your mouth!"

"Then your sister is a freaking moron!"

"Silence!" ***** yelled, "We have far more than enough flaming outside. We don't need any more in here. As I was saying, Squeak will lead anyone who wants to join the Attorists. Now, you are probably wondering why I'm splitting the group up. It's because there are no good options. I'm sure you all remember how tough wandering can be. And Spiderweb is also likely to experience an attack soon, though it's a far more defensible spot. And, finally, the Attorists do not allow any technology or magic. So figure out where you want to go, because the evacuation will start shortly."

"Is it true that the flamers are after our bots?" a green rat asked.

"I don't think so," ***** said.

"Then why are they here?"

"I do not know the answer to that."

"Was it... was it all the advertising we did for the bots?"

"That is a distinct possibility, but as I said, I do not know."

"Forget those stupid bots, then. I'm going with the Attorists. I'll lose the traitor too."

"Hey, yeah. Anonymous would still be alive if not for the bots."

"What, a little bit of bad luck and you're going to run away? Coward!"

***** shook his head. "This is not how we should part. And yet, I can't come up with a better solution."

---

Inside a Google vehicle headed from Wikipedia to Bots Aplenty, Fatalclaw fidgeted with a rip in fabric of the seat next to her. "We're not going to make it in time."

"Calm down, Mom, we can't go any faster," Deathwhisker said.

Nikki was similarly nervous. "Do you think whatever is going on there is related to Ecksian somehow?"

Student of Trinity shrugged. "I don't know."

---

Smokey was still firebolting the front of the message board, too well hidden to be hit by the archers. Pyromania was now helping from the back, standing just out of arrow range. The rats had given up shooting at them to save the remaining arrows. Bots Aplenty was beginning to smoke in both places and the water supply was almost gone. Occasionally, Pyromania lobbed a firebolt at the archers on the roof and several had been killed, including Think and #11.

On the ground, half of the bots had been destroyed. Eternal Flame had run out of pyroroamers and was now sending in the trainers. None had made it inside yet, but a few had been close.

***** spoke to the mods, Squeak, Attorukkip, G'ree't'l, and a mung rat named Lith. "We'll evacuate in four groups. Those planning to join the Attorists will leave first, lead by Squeak and Terry. Then we'll have the wanderers and first group of those headed to Spiderweb, lead by Cheese and G'ree. Att and Dani will lead the next group to Spiderweb. Then Garzad and I will lead whoever is still left. G'ree, do you have the notes?"

"Yes."

"If for some reason you can't get them to Spiderweb, destroy them. And now that we're split up, I will do my best to keep the Wikipedia page on giant rats updated so we can find each other again if we want to. If for some reason I don't make it, I want someone from the Spiderweb group to do it. Everyone understand?"

Everyone nodded.

"No one has any complaints?"

Everyone nodded again.

"All right. Let's go. Lith, if you would."

Lith was almost as large as a blue rat and had a very good bow. He picked out the best looking arrow he could find and took careful aim. Pyromania had gradually crept forward now that no one was shooting at him. Lith fired and the arrow buried itself in his torso.

***** nodded. "Good work. Hurry, before they send in a replacement."

Terry and Squeak were already heading down the ladder.

---

PiperBot rested on a nearby roof. From here, it could scan the entire area. It saw Terry's head poke out of a secret entrance. A moment later, a steady stream of rats stepped out. It immediately flew back to tell Eternal Flame.