Chapter 28: Drakefyre's Departure

The next day, Stareye had practically everyone outside to put up the barbed-wire and other obstacles. Schrodinger and Dintiradan remained in the Tech Support Forum to work on the summoning machine and create potions respectively. Drakefyre and the newly arrived bugs talked in General.

"is tcht here question mark" Goo Eater asked.

"Who?"

"Tcht," Chrrcht rubbed his forearms together to produce the name.

Drakefyre shrugged. "I don't know. The name isn't familiar, but we did have a GIFTC here briefly. He's gone now, apparently."

"Did he say where he was going?"

"Not that I know of."

"Then it's very important we speak to Jeff right away."

"What? Why?"

"We have problems with our message board. Jeff might be able to help us."

"Um. Why do you think that?"

"Well, he already pays for the upkeep of our board, so we thought he might--"

"What?!"

"Er... that's what I heard, anyway."

"Alright. I will see if I can contact Jeff for you. What is your board called?"

"bugtopia"

"Okay. Wait here." Drakefyre hurried to the Mod Board.

Dintiradan watched him pass. "Huh. I wonder what's gotten into him."

Drakefyre picked up the communication crystal. "Hello? Jeff, are you there?"

After a moment, Jeff responded.

"Not yet, I'm afraid," Drakefyre answered, "Listen, I've got some giant intelligent friendly talking insects here who claim they're from a place called Bugtopia. Do you know of it? You do? Then you're in charge of it as well? Oh, that makes more sense. But why? Oh, it was in Spider's will? That makes sense. What was the other reason?"

Drakefyre nearly dropped the crystal when he heard Jeff's response. "It... it actually will have existed? This is... I never thought... but... but..." Drakefyre leaned against the table for support. Suddenly, he grinned. "Oh, this is great. Never mind. I think I can handle the situation. Thank you for the information. Sorry to intrude on your time." He put the crystal down and returned to the bugs.

"Well? What did Jeff say?" Chrrcht asked.

"He's sending me. We can leave as soon as you're ready."

---

Schrodinger screwed the control panel back into place and turned the summoning machine on.

"You've got it fixed?" Dintiradan asked.

"I hope so."

A display came up. Insert periodic table.

Schrodinger dropped a copy of the Periodic Table of Spiderweb into the machine.

Select an element to summon.

Schrodinger typed in his own.

Processing... please wait. Processing... please wait.

A little vial of argon slid out of the machine. Schrodinger picked it up. "So, uh, I need to go talk to Stareye for a minute. Don't misbehave."

"Oh, I won't," Dintiradan poured a completed batch of energy potions into bottles and corked them.

---

Nioca was hopelessly tangled by a piece of barbed-wire. He tried to tear his robe free. "Get off, you stupid piece of--ow! Now it's caught in my hair!"

"Hold still. I swear, you humans are so ridiculous sometimes." Delicious Vlish carefully untangled Nioca's hair. "There. We'll get you out in no time."

A strong breeze blew a piece of fencing Nioca had put up earlier over onto Delicious Vlish. He sighed. "So humiliating."

Randomizer hurried over. "Don't worry, I'll help you. Ouch!"

Thralni and several others were constructing a wall to block off an alleyway. Thralni tripped over a brick. He flung his trowel at Rof'l'mao. "I told you before, stop leaving the bricks lying around everywhere. This is the third time I've tripped over them already."

"Calm down, Thralni," Fatalclaw said.

"Oh, sure, take his side. It's not like I've got bruised feet now or anything."

"You nearly hit me in the head!"

Fatalclaw sighed. "Could I get some help over here?"

Stareye abandoned the electric pylon he was setting up and came over. "Yes? What is it?"

"Hey! Stareye!" Drakefyre said.

"Er, just do the best you can for now, Fatalclaw," Stareye said, "What is it, Drakefyre?"

"Um... okay. Seriously, you two--" Fatalclaw began.

"--I mean, the pile of bricks is like ten feet away from here--" Thralni said.

"I've got some bad news. Something urgent just came up. I have to leave immediately," Drakefyre said.

"What?" Stareye stared at him.

"--if you'd just watch where you're walking--"

"Yeah. It's an emergency," Drakefyre said.

"What happened?"

"--if you weren't so darn lazy--"

"I'd rather not say."

"But what should I tell everyone?"

"--hey, can't you fly? So why is where I put the bricks on the ground a problem, exactly? Just fly over them, you--"

"Tell them whatever you want. I don't care. I won't be back for a very long time, if I ever come back at all. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to be off." Drakefyre hurried away.

"--is an official warning to both of you. Shut up now," Fatalclaw said.

"You're not even a mod," Thralni said.

"Then consider it an official warning from me instead," Stareye said, "Thralni, please find somewhere else to work."

Chrrcht and his friends were waiting for Drakefyre at the Google station. "To Bugtopia?"

"To Bugtopia!" Drakefyre said.

Meanwhile, Schrodinger joined Stareye. "Good news. I've got the summoning machine working again." He handed the argon to Stareye for inspection. "I haven't installed Galactic Core yet, but between Zephyr Tempest and Zorro we should be okay."

"Thank you. Are you done inside?"

"Yes."

"Good. Then help me finish up with these electric pylons. Let me just run inside to check on--"

"Stareye!" Lenar yelled, "The Silent Assassin says some of our traps just went off!"

Stareye looked around. "You there. Sorry, I forget your name. Weren't you a mod at Bots Aplenty?"

Danielle looked surprised. "Yes. Why?"

"Would you please head to the Tech Support Forum and check on Dintiradan for me? He's supposed to be making energy potions and absolutely nothing else."

"Of course. Be right back!" Danielle ran off.

In the Tech Support Forum, Dintiradan had his script out and was working on it while the next batch of potions simmered. Danielle crept up on him and read it over his shoulder has best she could.

Dintiradan set down his pencil. "Wow. I think that's finally it. All that's left to do is check it for bugs. Probably a few dozen times, to be on the safe side."

"So. What exactly are you up to?" Danielle asked.

"Ahhh!" Dintiradan drew his dagger and whirled around. "How did you manage to sneak up on me?"

Danielle shrugged. "Really, what are you working on? I was supposed to return to Stareye as soon as I saw you were working on the script, but I didn't so you might as well humor me."

Dintiradan sheathed his dagger. "All right, fine. It's just a BoA scenario I'm working on. Kill Prize, Win Ogre 2, if you must know."

"It must be a very interesting scenario to give the player at least thirty to every stat. You probably shouldn't have put that in the comments."

"Er, don't be silly. It's an ordinary scenario. All Spiderweb games are full of poor and misleading documentation like that."

"Uh-huh. Well, I guess I'd better report that to Stareye now."

"Wait!"

"Yes?"

"All right, so this really is a script that'll raise people's stats to ridiculous levels. When it's ready to go, I'll let you use it. I won't even make you be the one to test it to make sure it's safe. How does that sound?"

"I'll think about it. Don't worry, your secret is safe." Danielle scurried off.

Dintiradan hid the finished script and pulled the potion off the burner.

Danielle found Stareye dealing with the group of spambots that had set off about half a dozen traps. "Don't worry, he's doing what he's supposed to."

"All right, thank you. Alorael, could we get you over here to make sure nothing else sets off any more of the traps?"

Alorael hurried over with an inventory full of skribbane potions and extra ammo. "Don't worry, I'm on it." He disappeared into a nearby building.

"Are you two good to go here?" Stareye asked.

The Silent Assassin gave Stareye a thumbs-up before sitting down to repair a trap.

"The Silent Assassin says yes," Lenar said.

---

Garbage Gatherer and Filth Finder had made it safely back to the underground message board and reunited with their nymphs.

"Never, ever, ever leave us like that again. It was scary!" Litter Locator had said, "Good thing they were nice to us." She pointed to Plague Dispenser and his friends.

Plague Dispenser grinned mischievously. "Yep."

"Raaargh!" Spider said.

Plague Dispenser hit him over the head. "Stop that."

Suddenly, Spider rushed in with bad news. The entire message board fell silent to listen.

"A rebel spy in Bugtopia reports that the latest batch of recall crystals didn't come in. There was a note instead. Apparently, the mine that produces them has shut down. There will be no more shipments. Bugtopia is in chaos now, unsurprisingly. The General Forum went up in flames already. The rebels don't know how to respond. It's... well, it's weird, I'll just say that."

He came back a few hours later with an update. "Trash Seeker has promised to return all the recall crystals the rebels have if they are allowed back on the board and if Chief Spider and Slime Lover both step down. Half of Bugtopia thinks it's a horrible idea and the other half are okay with it. Absolutely no one knows who will be the new administrators if Chief Spider and Slime Lover do step down."

He didn't show up again until late the next morning. "Sorry. It's been hectic. Bugtopia lost a few more forums to flamefests. But I think it's all over now."

"What!"

"Really?"

"Yes. Chrrcht and Goo Eater came back. They had a human with them. He's a great wizard and a great priest, apparently, and he can really fight with the pair of waveblades he owns, too, despite the fact that he's only seven or something like that. I don't know exactly what he did, but Chief Spider and Slime Lover both gave up their positions. He's unbanned everyone and is working on getting the burnt forums rebuilt. We could probably return safely, if we wanted to."

Spider shook his head. "I was thoroughly sick of Bugtopia when I left and I'm not about to return until I'm absolutely certain the place has changed. Everyone is welcome to return to Bugtopia if they want, but rest assured that I'll be running this place for a good long while yet."

Garbage Gatherer nudged Filth Finder. "Surely they couldn't have brought back Jeff, could they?"

"No. That can only be Drakefyre."

"But how would they have gotten him to come?"

Filth Finder sighed. "I have no idea."