Chapter 23: Isotopes

Dintiradan was one of the first Spiderwebbers awake. He worked on the stat script.

Chatter sat next to him. "What are you working on?"

"A BoA scenario. Now, please go away. You're wrecking my concentration."

"Well, it's just that the crickets are getting worried. They say Ephesos should have been back by now."

"The crickets?" Dintiradan quickly stuffed the script into his pocket. "You're here to steal my brilliant scenario ideas, aren't you?"

One of the crickets gave an exasperated chirrup.

"See! They admitted it!"

"No. They said... well, it wasn't very nice, to be honest. I don't think they like your scenario much."

"Chrrrk."

"And now they tell me I shouldn't have asked you. But how was I to know?" Chatter said.

"Look, if the crickets are getting worried, maybe they should go out and look for him. I think he went to Bots Aplenty to revive the rats who died there. Now, leave me alone, would you?" Dintiradan moved to a different table.

Chatter and the crickets had a brief conversation. Chatter ran upstairs to make sure Alorael was still asleep and then walked out the door.

Nikki and Nicothodes were also awake. They sat at a table together, discussing their plan for Riibu.

"Okay, it's decided then. When she gets back, I'll ask her why she took your pencil, just in case she had a good reason. Meanwhile, you'll sneak up behind her. If she didn't have a good reason, you'll stab her," Nikki said.

"But what if she did have a good reason?"

"I don't know. Maybe you could give her a cookie if that's the case?"

"Good idea. Should we practice on someone else first, so we know the plan will work right when Riibu comes back?" Nicothodes asked.

Student of Trinity and Arancaytar entered the General Forum.

"Arancaytar! You're okay!" Nikki scrambled across the room and scooped him up in a big hug.

"Well, I was okay. Then you showed up." Arancaytar broke free of the hug and hovered near the ceiling.

A'p'd'r and R'd'p'a had been waiting for Student of Trinity to show up. Now they approached him.

"So, SoT, do you want to go after Ecksian again?" R'd'p'a asked.

"Yes. I have one thing to do first." Student of Trinity woke Zeviz up.

"Huh? What do you want?"

"Sorry to bother you, but you're the only one who knows the summon element spell now." Student of Trinity pulled out a mass spectrometer. "Do you think you can control what isotopes you summon?"

"Why?"

"We're running out of normal elements and the anti-elements are harder for us to make. But we're going to need a lot more if the rats decide to stick around and I think they will. So, I wondered whether we could start dividing things up by isotopes."

"Well, I'll try. Do you have something particular in mind?"

"Summon an element the regular way first, so I can test what you're actually summoning. Let's see... let's just go with hydrogen. That's simple enough."

"All right. Summon hydrogen!"

Student of Trinity caught the hydrogen in the mass spectrometer. "Hmm. It looks like it's a mixture of all naturally occurring isotopes. So, go on, try to--"

"Summon hydrogen-3!"

Student of Trinity frowned. "Am I really that predictable?" He checked the display on the mass spectrometer. "Well, what do you know? It actually worked. Now all we need to do is test it on someone. Unfortunately, no one seems to be dead at the moment, so we'll have to wait on that. Do you mind taking responsibility for the test? I can't wait around and Jewels doesn't seem to be here."

Zeviz shrugged. "It's not a problem."

"Thank you."

Slartucker, Tyranicus, and several rats entered the General Forum.

"Can we go now?" A'p'd'r asked.

"Pick an element first, just in case we get killed," Student of Trinity said.

"Does it matter which one?" R'd'p'a asked.

"No. Just as long as it's not already taken."

"Okay, then I'll take--"

"Wait," Zeviz said, "I think Tyranicus is about to become our test subject."

"So, for Project Spiderweb, would you rather be a Celt or a bull?" Nikki asked.

"A Celt, of course," Tyranicus said.

Arancaytar saw Nicothodes sneaking up on him. "Tyranicus, watch out!"

"Don't worry, I'll take care of it!" Phil dashed in front of Nicothodes. She tripped over him. Tyranicus, Slartucker, and the other rats dove out of the way. Nikki wasn't so lucky.

"Sorry!" Nicothodes got up and held out a hand to help Nikki up.

Nikki sat halfway up. "That's okay. But I think... we're going to need..." Nikki pulled the mechanical pencil out of his chest. "...urgh... more practice." He died.

"Well, we got a test subject, anyway." Student of Trinity went over to the Periodic Table and altered Nikki's element.

Zephyr Tempest hurried over. "I've got it, Zorro! I'll revive him!"

"I gave him nickel-78, but try something else first, like nickel-58," Student of Trinity said.

"What's going on?" Zephyr Tempest asked.

"We're testing out a theory. Summon nickel-58!" Zeviz handed the nickel to Zephyr Tempest.

Zephyr Tempest made a few adjustments to Galactic Core. Nothing happened. "I'm sure I did it right." He tried again. Still nothing.

"So far, so good," Student of Trinity said.

Zeviz summoned some nickel-78. This time, Zephyr Tempest was able to revive Nikki.

"It worked! Now you can pick any elements you want," Student of Trinity said.

R'd'p'a and A'p'd'r stared at the Periodic Table as they tried to decide.

Tyranicus glared at Nikki and Nicothodes. "What was that all about?"

"Sorry. It was nothing personal," Nicothodes said, "We were just practicing."

Tyranicus sighed. "Well, do not attempt to murder me ever again, okay?"

"Don't worry about that," Nikki muttered.

A'p'd'r said, "I'll take iodine."

"And I want astatine," R'd'p'a said.

Student of Trinity made the changes to the Periodic Table. "Okay. Now we can go." He hurried to the Tech Support Forum and picked up his bag. R'd'p'a and A'p'd'r retrieved their packs from a hiding spot near the door. The three of them left quietly.

---

Chrrtrrr entered the Literature Forum. "I tried to get the admins to speak with you, Garbage, but they were too busy. Chief Spider said probably tomorrow."

Garbage Gatherer sighed. "But I need to get out of here today. Isn't there any other way I could leave?"

Chrrtrrr shrugged. "Not really. I mean, you could try the portal, but you'd probably get caught and end up back in a cell."

"also even if you succeeded who knows where you d end up question mark"

---

Spider woke Filth Finder up. "Come on, I'll take you to Trash Seeker now."

"All right. Nymphs, be good. That means you, Grime. I'll be back in a few hours."

Spider and Filth Finder used a recall crystal to transport to the Bugtopia Google station.

Trrrch was there. He had his arms crossed. "I don't like this. You're a spy. And he's not one of us."

"I'm not particularly happy about this either, so hush," Spider said.

Spider, Trrrch, and Filth Finder traveled to a small building. Two chitrachs stood guard by the door.

"Who is this?" one asked.

"Filth Finder. Don't worry, Trash Seeker knows he's coming," Spider said.

"Hmmph," Trrrch said.

"Your name sounds familiar. Hey, are you the bug who posted the thread about... what was it again? Oh yes, LotR being a shameless rip-off of practically every other fantasy novel?" the other chitrach asked.

Filth Finder sighed. "That was years ago, when I was still a nymph. You probably weren't even born then."

"No, but Junk Keeper and Spider talked about it a couple of times."

"Really? Junk Keeper is here?"

"Yeah." The guard stuck his head inside the building. "Hey, Junk Keeper! Remember Filth Finder?"

Junk Keeper scurried outside. "Filth! It's been ages! What have you been up to? Where's Garbage?"

"We've been... wandering. Garbage came back to see how things were here and got captured. I'm here to see if there's any way to rescue her."

"Well, don't worry. If anyone can help, it's Trash Seeker. I bet he's already got a plan."

---

Chatter and the crickets got off at the Bots Aplenty Google station. They looked around quickly.

"What happened here?" Chatter used his voice instead of his forearms to be as quiet as possible.

"Chrrk!"

"Shh! Don't be so loud. You might attract unwanted attention."

"Chrrk!"

Chatter and the crickets searched the area more carefully. There was no sign of what happened to Ephesos, Attorukkip, and Dikiyoba.

"I guess we have to go back to Spiderweb, then."

"Chrrrk!"

"What? No way. They could be anywhere."

"Chrrrk!"

"All right, fine." Chatter pushed a few buttons on the ticket machine at random. "Maybe we'll get lucky sooner rather than later."