Chapter 16: News From Spiderweb

Mr. Stickybuns and the other birds circled around the Spiderweb neighborhood. Bots patrolled everywhere. The remains of the Spiderweb Software Message Board had been cleared completely away and the bots were laying the foundation for a new and larger message board. EcksianBot was overseeing them. Neither Attorukkip nor Ecksian were anywhere to be seen. One bot watched the birds fly over and land on a roof.

R'd'p'a and A'p'd'r were hiding out on the roof. The birds landed around them.

"Awk! Attorukkip has been captured. Have you seen her? Awk!" Mr. Stickybuns asked.

"Yes. We saw the bots take her inside Ermarian." R'd'p'a shook his head. "There are just too many bots for us to make any sort of progress. Do you know when--?"

R'd'p'a was cut off when the birds suddenly flew away, screeching and squawking. A'p'd'r and R'd'p'a threw themselves flat.

"What was that all about?" A'p'd'r asked.

"I don't know. I'm more concerned about whether the bots noticed them," R'd'p'a said.

A'p'd'r peered over the edge. Several dozen bots were racing towards the building. He sighed. "Of course they did."

Meanwhile, the bot that had first seen the birds entered Ermarian and found Ecksian. He was working on plans to seek out the surviving Spiderwebbers.

"What is it?" Ecksian snapped.

"I think the Spiderwebbers have sent spies."

"Where? Show me!" Ecksian stood up. The bot pointed to the building. Bots were beginning to climb up it now, while R'd'p'a and A'p'd'r fired arrows down on them. Ecksian ran for the building. The bot followed him for a short time, but when it was certain Ecksian wouldn't notice that it was missing, it slipped off and found EcksianBot.

"EcksianBot!"

"Yes? What is it?"

"We have a situation with the prisoner."

"Prisoner? What prisoner?" EcksianBot asked blankly.

"I'll show you. Ecksian's orders."

EcksianBot followed the bot into Ermarian. They went to the stairs leading to the archives. Two bots blocked it.

"Ecksian hasn't given you permission to pass," one said.

EcksianBot looked between the guards on the stairs and the bot he had been following. "What's going on?"

"Keep going! The door to the left! Trust me!" The first bot threw EcksianBot past the guards on the stairs. Then it drew its sword and attacked them.

"Traitor! Attack! Attack!" the guard bots yelled. All the other bots in the building came running at the noise.

EcksianBot hovered at the entrance to the archives.

"Go!" the first bot yelled. He ran one of the guards through.

EcksianBot flew through the archives until he found the door in question. It had once been PiperBot's office. Now someone had quickly installed a lock on it. The area around the lock was heavily splintered. Something slammed into the door, making it splinter a bit more. EcksianBot backed off. Whatever was behind the door might be dangerous.

Something slammed into the door again. This time, the lock broke and the door slowly swung open. Attorukkip staggered out. Her front paws were tied behind her back and her shoulders were covered in splinters.

Ecksian blinked several times. "Um... who are you?"

"Attorukkip."

"Oh. And, um, who am I?"

Meanwhile, the bot that had helped EcksianBot killed the second guard and blocked the stairway. It killed several more bots and held the rest off for several minutes before a bot managed to stab it in the shoulder. Another bot attacked, and its sword would have buried itself in the first bot's neck had the first bot not suddenly vanished. Its sword and empty armor clattered onto the stairs. The other bots halted momentarily as they tried to process what had just happened.

---

R'd'p'a shot the first bot to reach the roof, but several others were right behind it. A'p'd'r was tying sections of rope to arrows.

"Are you done yet?" R'd'p'a asked.

"Almost."

R'd'p'a dropped his bow and drew his sword just in time to parry a bot's attack. "Well, hurry."

A'p'd'r aimed for the nearest roof and fired. The arrow buried itself in a crack. He tugged on the attached rope to make sure it was secure. "Okay, we're set."

A'p'd'r and R'd'p'a swung over to the next roof. R'd'p'a retrieved the first arrow while A'p'd'r shot a second arrow into another roof.

Ecksian gritted his teeth and yelled up at the bots that were on the roof. "Climb down and follow me! We're going after them, no matter how far they get or how long it takes!"

---

"So there's a rogue bot helping us?" Attorukkip asked.

EcksianBot finished untying the rope around her wrists. "Yes."

"Do you think it can get us out of here?"

"I don't think so. It was having a hard enough time holding back the other bots as it was. But..." EcksianBot looked around the archives carefully. "...there is a secret way out of here. It'll be guarded, but I might be able to talk our way through." He sighed. "Maybe."

The sounds of battle on the stairs suddenly ended. An empty helmet bounced down the stairs and landed at the bottom.

"Well, it's either the bots in the secret passage or the bots on the stairs. Do you remember where the secret passage even is?"

"I think it's here." EcksianBot flew over to a bookshelf and pushed it. It turned sideways to reveal a trapdoor. Attorukkip opened the trapdoor. Several bots stood guard in the hallway below them. They looked up at her and EcksianBot uncertainly, trying to decide whether to raise the alarm or not.

"Er, um, don't mind us. New zombie. I'm just showing her, er, it, around so it knows where everything is. Including the escape route, because Ecksian wanted me to be very thorough. Right, zombie?"

"Er... brains?" Attorukkip said.

---

A'p'd'r looked around. He sighed. "Well, the Google station is right there, but the bots are still following us. If we try to climb down now, they'll catch us for sure."

"I guess we keep going. They'll have to turn back eventually, right?" R'd'p'a said.

---

Attorukkip and EcksianBot reached the end of the secret tunnel and convinced the bots standing guard there to let them by. They climbed up a ladder, pushed open the trapdoor, and emerged in the ruins of Polaris. Most of the patrolling bots had run off to deal with R'd'p'a and A'p'd'r, so EcksianBot and Attorukkip only had to rely on the zombie routine to get by once before they reached the Google station.

Attorukkip approached the ticket machine. Nothing happened.

"Well?" EcksianBot asked.

"There was a shade here earlier with directions. It's gone now, I guess. It gave the name of a place, though. I don't remember what it was exactly. Something and something Waystation. It shouldn't be that hard to find." Attorukkip tried searches on the ticket machine until the address to the Bucolic and Completely Harmless Waystation appeared.

As Attorukkip and EcksianBot climbed into a vehicle, EcksianBot said, "I wonder what happened to that rogue bot."

---

Tyranicus opened the door to his room and froze. Thuryl was sitting at his desk, toying with an empty healing potion.

"What are you... how did you get in here?" Tyranicus asked.

Thuryl shrugged. "I have important news from Spiderweb. But first, explain what has been happening here."