Chapter 15: Wishes

The door to one of the laboratories slammed shut and the alarm started going off. Andraste and Slartucker were trapped inside with a summoning machine that was producing Cheeseballs at an alarming rate.

"Do you want me to smash it? I can smash it," Andraste said.

Slartucker had ripped open the control panel and was trying to disable it that way. "Not yet."

After several minutes, it became clear that the glitch had completely overridden the normal functioning of the summoning machine. Cats completely covered the floor now. Several of them had started fighting.

"Okay, smash it. Ow!" Slartucker flicked away a cat that had jumped onto his back.

Andraste clubbed the summoning machine to pieces. Unfortunately, Cheeseballs continued to appear in the center of the room. One of them tried to sharpen its claws on Slartucker's leg.

"Ow! Would you quit doing that? Sleep!"

The cats all curled up in a deep sleep. Andraste and Slartucker waded over to a desk beside the door. They pushed a few cats off of it and sat down to wait for the door to open. Every few minutes, Slartucker cast another sleep spell on the Cheeseballs. There were now so many of them that they were piled halfway up the desk.

---

Arancaytar hovered near the ceiling anxiously as Iffy struggled to unlock Garzad's cell. The alarm was still going off, but he knew they didn't have a lot of time to get away.

Emperor Tullegolar was thinking the same thing. "Come on, how much longer can you possibly draw this out for?"

Iffy gritted his teeth. "It's a really tough lock, okay? It's going to take me a long time to figure it out. Aha!" The lock popped open.

Garzad pushed the door open and stepped out. "What's the best way to get out of here?"

"I think your best bet is to just head straight for the main entrance. Hopefully, whatever is happening above us will have distracted the guards," Iffy said.

"That's your plan? To try and slip by a bunch of guards who are way more powerful than us?" Garzad snapped.

"Well, I think all the other exits will have traps. I could probably disable them, but it would take a long time. Especially since there's something I need to do before I can escape."

Garzad sighed. "Oh, fine. We'll just go get recaptured immediately, then. Let's go."

Iffy and the three escaped prisoners walked cautiously out of the dungeon. The hallway was empty. Arancaytar guessed that most people were in the labs right now. Iffy went one way while the other three went the other.

Arancaytar, Garzad, and Emperor Tullegolar hadn't gone very far before Arancaytar got the feeling they were being watched. He looked up in time to see a large spider scuttle across the ceiling. He yelled and shot ahead of the other two.

Since Zephyr Tempest had been needed for the mod meeting, Nikki had replaced him on guard duty. He turned to Goldenking. "Do you hear screaming?"

Goldenking peered inside. "Yes, I d--"

Arancaytar cannoned straight into Goldenking's head. "Ahhh! Spider! Oops, sorry." Arancaytar caught sight of Nikki. "Nikki! Ahhh!" He shot up into the sky.

"One of these days, I'm going to take offense at your uncalled-for statements," Nikki called up. He hit Goldenking on the head with the flat of his pencil. Goldenking blacked out. "I'm always on your side. You know that. What are you doing here, anyway?"

Arancaytar flew back down, though he was careful to remain some distance away from Nikki. "Dintiradan had us imprisoned. Now we're escaping."

Arancaytar tried very hard not to hear Nikki's resulting rant against Dintiradan, or at least the parts of it that involved the phrase "my crazy kitten".

"...I'm coming with you," Nikki finished.

"Er..." Arancaytar said.

"Let's just go," Garzad said, "Hopefully, Iffy will catch up with us."

"But..." Arancaytar said, "Oh, fine."

The four of them ran off.

---

As the Almighty Do-er of Stuff walked further into the afterlife, the sparks from the ground became more frequent. Occasionally, a spark would fly down from the ceiling and hit him. The first time it happened, he reached up. There was a ceiling only a few feet above his head. When his hand touched the ceiling, several sparks hit it. He pulled his hand away quickly.

There were still a few figures around. They were so insubstantial that the Almighty Do-er of Stuff could barely see them. They ignored him. Up ahead, however, about a dozen figures were watching him. They were faded and slightly transparent, but still fairly solid.

Suddenly, a bolt of lightning struck one of the figures. The figure evaporated. The Almighty Do-er of Stuff jumped in fright and slammed into the ceiling. It was only an inch above his head now. Several more sparks hit him. The Almighty Do-er of Stuff suddenly realized he was exhausted. Whatever Inspector Walnut wanted him to do, it wasn't safe for him to be here any longer. He would have to try again later. He turned around.

Lightning hit the portal. The Almighty Do-er of Stuff was blown backwards. He smashed his head against the ceiling again. Colored dots danced in front of his eyes. Despite them, he could see that the portal was flickering wildly. He crawled towards it.

Now that his back was turned, the figures charged. A small, fluffy figure raced ahead of the others.

---

Nioca tapped his foot. "What in the world is taking ADoS so long?"

Azuma and Nalyd were too busy focusing on the portal to answer.

"Er... you don't think he's hurt or anything, do you?" Nioca asked.

Azuma shrieked and collapsed. The portal began to flicker wildly.

Nalyd winced. "Nioca! Help Nalyd stabilize it!"

Nioca focused on the portal. It was losing energy rapidly. He used his magic to repair the leak. The portal returned to normal. Nalyd sighed in relief. Nioca hurried over to Azuma and examined him. He was alive but unconscious. Nioca cast unshackle mind on him. He didn't stir.

"Er... make that very unconscious," Nioca muttered. He looked up in time to see several indistinct figures run out of the portal. A moment later, something else came through the portal. It hurtled through the air and latched onto Nalyd's face.

"Niomm! Mmm mormal! Mw! Mm mmmm!"

The fluffy turtles rushed forward to attack the figures that had come through the portal. For some reason, they stayed well away from the thing attacking Nalyd. Nioca quickly focused on the portal again. He poured all the energy he could spare into it. The portal stabilized once more. Several more figures ran out.

---

"The last thing for today is..." Dintiradan stopped when he heard the laboratory alarm go off.

Delicious Vlish sighed. "Oh, not again."

A moment later, a large spider scuttled under the door and across the floor. It climbed into Dintiradan's hand. The crickets poked their heads out of Ephesos' pocket.

"Can you hear the message?" Ephesos whispered.

A cricket shook its head.

A moment later, another spider crawled across the floor and into Dintiradan's other hand. The crickets listened closely, but were unable to hear the message. Dintiradan nodded thoughtfully.

"Zephyr, you are needed at the front door. Randomizer and Delicious Vlish, it seems that Andraste and--" Dintiradan stopped speaking again. A third spider had entered the room. This one was hissing and clicking frantically.

"Chrrk chrrk chrrrk!"

"What?!" Dintiradan and Ephesos said at the same time. Ephesos jumped up and ran out the door. Dintiradan gritted his teeth. "Zephyr, front door. SoT, laboratory. Everyone else, follow Ephesos. I will be there shortly."

Everyone but Student of Trinity and Dintiradan hurried out.

"Nothing dangerous at the labs, then?" Student of Trinity asked.

"No. I should be able to deal with the worst of it from here. Just use your common sense." Dintiradan was at the admin panel now, pushing buttons frantically.

"Okay." Student of Trinity went to the lab that was setting off the alarm. Niemand was already there.

"Who is in there?" Student of Trinity asked, "Andraste and Slartucker?"

Niemand nodded. "Yes. And about six feet of sleeping Cheeseballs."

"Closer to seven feet now," Slartucker yelled, "Sleep!"

"What have you tried?" Student of Trinity asked.

"We completely destroyed the summoning machine, but it didn't help," Andraste said, "Wha--?"

The noise on the other side of the door sounded like one hundred children let loose on the world's biggest sheet of bubblewrap. PoppopPOPpoppoppopPOPpopPOP!

"What did you just do?" Slartucker asked.

"Nothing. Dintiradan probably did something, though," Student of Trinity said.

The popping faded away.

"Well, there's still two left, but I think that's it. Let us out, please," Andraste said.

Student of Trinity turned off the alarm. The door slid open. Slartucker and Andraste walked out. Andraste had a cat on each shoulder.

Niemand folded his arms across his chest and glared at Slartucker. "Why don't you come finish my project before you get yourself in any more trouble?"

---

Nioca was down on his knees from the effort of holding the portal open. "ADoS! ADoS!"

"REPEL SPIRIT!!!" Ephesos' spell blasted most of the figures apart. His next spell got all but the thing attacking Nalyd. Several fluffy turtles had stepped in front of it and blocked the spell. ***** pulled the thing off of Nalyd and healed him. Randomizer and Tyranicus stabilized the portal moments before Nioca passed out. The Lurker leapt into the portal. He came out a minute later with the Almighty Do-er of Stuff in his arms. The Almighty Do-er of Stuff was extremely pale and muttered incoherently. Tyranicus and Randomizer let the portal close.

"What do we do with this... creature?" ***** held it up.

"Why, that's Inspector Peanut," Saunders said.

Inspector Peanut tried to snap and claw at *****. He still resembled a fluffy turtle, but the fluff was so matted and his claws were so long that it was hard to tell. He growled.

"He doesn't seem to recognize us," Tyranicus said.

"No. Not after such a long time. He never should have been brought back," Ephesos said.

"We should put it out of its misery," Saunders said.

"Good idea," Randomizer said.

"No!" the Almighty Do-er of Stuff said.

"Well, I guess we'd better lock Inspector Peanut up for now and take ADoS and the others to the infirmary," the Lurker said.

Ephesos cast unshackle mind on Azuma and Nioca. Neither of them woke up. He sighed. "It looks like Nalyd is the only one who can tell us what they were doing."

"This was totally ADoS' idea. Nalyd had nothing to do with it. Nothing at all."

---

Arancaytar, Nikki, Garzad, and Emperor Tullegolar waited for a few minutes to see whether Iffy would catch up. He did. Stareye was with him.

"What'd you bring him for?" Emperor Tullegolar asked.

"Yeah. I know you want to play hero, but we're trying to escape. We can't exactly afford to bring along a lot of people who are going to slow us down," Nikki said, "You are in poor enough shape as it is."

"It wouldn't have been right to leave him," Iffy said.

Garzad sighed. "It's too late for arguing. Let's just keep moving."

"Yes, let's," Nikki said. He winked at Arancaytar. "Don't worry, we'll ditch these losers as soon as we possibly can, all right?"

Arancaytar sighed. "I wonder whether it's too late to go back to my cell."

---

When the Lurker and the other moderators reached the infirmary, the door was unlocked and Stareye was gone.

"Great. Just great," Tyranicus said, "Did he just decide to wander out or something?"

"I was under the impression that the door was kept locked," Alorael said.

"Maybe Nioca forgot to lock it?" Randomizer asked.

"Shut up!" The Lurker set the Almighty Do-er of Stuff on a bed and then examined the room carefully. "Of course, Iffy. How could we have been so stupid? No wonder he was suddenly willing to be improved."

"But why would Iffy free Stareye? What's the point?"

Dintiradan and Zephyr Tempest entered.

"It seems that ET, Garzad, and Arancaytar secretly stayed in the area. You all know how untrustworthy Garzad and ET are. It seems that they've put aside their differences enough to work with each other. Arancaytar and Iffy are working with them too. Arancaytar has been a bit confused ever since he was kidnapped by Ecksian and, well, ET can be persuasive, so I guess it's not a huge surprise."

Zephyr Tempest shook his head sadly. "Don't forget that Nikki was helping them too. That's how they were able to get in and out."

"Oh, good grief. ET again?" Ephesos said.

Tyranicus sighed. "I'm really beginning to miss Ed."