Chapter 8: Something Fishy

Think pushed his way to the front of the crowd of rats. "You're still alive!"

M'q'zz'x grinned. "Yep."

"But what about Deathwhisker? Is she--"

"She went with Fatalclaw."

"Oh." Think caught sight of Grime Grubber. "Is he with the other roaches?"

"They're here?" Grime Grubber asked.

"Well, yeah. I mean, at least I think so."

"Where are they?"

"Down in the cemetery. I'll take you to--"

Grime Grubber dashed past Think all the way down to the cemetery. "Dad! Mom! Litter! Muck! Plague! I'm back!"

Filth Finder awoke instantly and rushed over to make sure Grime was okay. Garbage Gatherer and the nymphs were only a few steps behind.

"How did you escape?" Filth Finder asked.

"Dad said you were dead!" Compost Coveter said.

"I was, but..."

"Cool! What's it like to be dead? How did you come back?" Dreck Disperser asked.

"Well, uh..."

"Were you a ghost? Did you have to moan and wear rattling chains?" Trash Taker asked.

"Hold on, hold on. Let him tell his story before you start asking questions," Garbage Gatherer said.

Back upstairs, Attorukkip and the other rats were telling their story as well.

***** waited until someone asked a question he didn't particularly care about before whispering to Terry and Cheese, "You didn't mention anything to Danielle, did you?"

The mods shook their heads.

"Good. Because if Att and G'ree aren't dead, then our choice is no longer so obvious."

---

Jewels and the others climbed up a large hill. At the top stood the gates to the Kingdom of Loathing. Two inebriated stick figures stood guard at the entrance. Jewels stepped forward.

"Halt!" One pointed his sword unsteadily at her. "What ish the pashword?"

"Swordfish!"

"Correct!" The guards let her pass.

Drew was next.

"Halt! What ish the meanin of life, the univershe, and everythin?"

"Swordfish."

"Correct!"

Niemand stepped forward.

"Halt! A train bound for Sht. Louish leavesh New York City at 8:04 AM, travelin at an average shpeed of 35 milesh per hour. A shecond train bound for Shan Diego leavesh Tokyo at 10:43 AM, travelin at an average shpeed of 20 milesh per hour for the firsht 50 shecondsh and 87 milesh per hour after that. An earthquake of five magnitude on the Richter Shcale will hit jusht five minutesh after they intershect. The epicenter ish two milesh below the home of a man named Bob livin in the outshkirtsh of Boulder, Colorado. Ushin the information previoushly given, determine the shoe shize of hish left foot. Show all work. Hic!"

"Swordfish!"

"Correct!"

Niemand passed through.

"So I just have to say swordfish?" Iffy asked

"Yeah, the answer is always swordfish. And thank goodness for that." Goldenking stepped forward.

"Halt! How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?"

"Swordfish!"

"Correct!"

Iffy stepped forward.

"Halt! Which came firsht, the chicken or the egg? Hic!"

"Er... swordfish?"

"Correct!"

Iffy stepped through with a sigh of relief. Riibu stepped forward.

"Halt! Have you shtopped beatin your wife?"

Riibu turned invisible and walked through.

"Hey! Where'd she go?"

"Swordfish." Andraste stepped inside.

"That'sh againsht the rulesh! Hic! You could get in trouble, you know that?"

"Swordfish!" Marlenny entered.

"Quit that! Okay, you. What ish the air-shpeed velocity of an unladen shwallow?"

"Aw, crap. I hate getting this one," Salmon said.

"That ish incorrect. Pleashe wait fifteen minutesh and try again. Hic!" One of the guards grabbed Salmon and threw him down the hill.

---

Eternal Flame, PiperBot, and the pyroroamer unit arrived at Google.

PiperBot looked at the directions. "Hmm." It tried a few searches on the ticket machine. "Yes, this will be much faster." It wrote the new directions down and handed them to the trainer with no pyroroamer. "When the others arrive, tell them to take exactly this route."

"I know how to use Google. Unlike you, I'm not--"

"No more than three pyroroamers per vehicle," Eternal Flame growled, "And keep the stupid things under control. If one of them explodes, everyone in that vehicle goes with it, remember that."

Eternal Flame and PiperBot took a vehicle for themselves.

"Now, let's see that map." PiperBot pulled it out. "Why in the world are they still using EZ-Board? It almost makes me want to upgrade it for them."

"Don't."

"I know, I know. Now, if we can catch them by surprise and send the pyroroamers in through the front entrance in waves, then..."

---

Azuma guided the reanimated rat skeleton around the forum. "Lesser undead are often considered slow and clumsy, but it all depends on the skill of the necromancer. A skeleton, ghoul, or zombie can be just as graceful and skilled as a living person, or even better, if the necromancer has enough power and clarity."

"Oooooh." Nalyd sighed as the rat scampered by him.

Jeran Korak snorted. "Show me."

"All right. Attack!"

The rat turned and sprinted towards Jeran Korak, teeth bared. Jeran Korak swung his sword and beheaded it. The skeleton continued to stagger around until Azuma waved his hand. The bones collapsed in a puff of black smoke.

"Some challenge," Jeran Korak muttered.

"Make it again! Make it again!" Nalyd said.

---

Schrodinger had one of Ecksian's bots on the Mod Board table and was carefully dissecting it, taking detailed notes on everything.

---

The vehicle carrying Nikki, Student of Trinity, and the rats pulled into the Google station just outside of Wikipedia. There was a line at the ticket machine, and Nikki was pushed out of the vehicle by a group of anime cosplayers. Deathwhisker, A'p'd'r, and R'd'p'a all stared at Wikipedia in awe. It was a massive glass skyscraper, under construction in at least three places. Despite the fact that it was late evening, the lights were all on and people were still hard at work.

"Should have come here first to see whether the FFA existed," A'p'd'r muttered, "Would have saved a lot of walking."

"Well, let's go on in." Student of Trinity had only taken a few steps before being accosted by a filthy cat.

"i can has spare change 4 cheezburgerz?"

Student of Trinity shook his head. "Sorry. I don't have any."

"Nope," Fatalclaw said.

The lolcat stumbled towards some other group. "hai! i can has spare change?"

The lobby was as crowded as the station. Nikki thought he saw a troll as they made their way to the elevator, but he couldn't be sure.

"Where do we want to look first?" Fatalclaw asked.

"Well, we won't find any info on Ecksian by name, otherwise Google would have turned it up. So Nikki and I will search bot-related articles. You four can start looking at information related to hackers," Student of Trinity said.

They stepped into an elevator. "Sounds fair." Fatalclaw pushed a few buttons. "Brace yourselves."

"Um, why? Oof!" R'd'p'a was thrown into the door as the elevator shot off backwards.

---

"...Hagnk's, because an expedition to the Distant Mountains will cost a lot of meat," Marlenny said.

"Gotcha." Drew hurried off.

"Goldenking, you and Iffy head over to the Hermit's place and haul all the wood you can back here. Riibu, you steal a set of dinghy plans."

"Steal a...?"

"Yes. It's quicker that way. And since you can turn invisible, you'll be in no danger at all."

"But... but..."

"Don't worry, we'll bail you out of jail if you get caught." Salmon joined the group.

"Where have you been?" Andraste asked.

"Oh, I messed up the password again. Had to wait until the guards went for another drink before I could slip in."