Chapter 19: For Spiderweb!

Stareye was getting frustrated. He had entered three random article portals now. They never took him where he was expecting. But what was he expecting?

Someone yelled, "That's Stareye! Stop him!"

A moment later, someone else tackled him and pinned him to the ground. He tried to fight back, but whoever held him down was far stronger than him.

"Jeez, hold still. We're not going to hurt you," the second person said.

"Well, let him up. Just don't let him run away," the first person said, "Stareye, listen to me. You're safe now. You should come with us."

The second person helped Stareye up. Stareye looked around. There were three humans and a drayk surrounding him. They were vaguely familiar, and yet... and yet...

Stareye shook his head.

"Why not?" the first person asked.

Stareye opened his mouth, but the words wouldn't come. He shrugged.

"Now!" Riibu yelled.

A moment later, something invisible knocked Lazarus to the floor. The invisibility spell broke, revealing that it was Nikki. Garzad reappeared after hitting Ackrovan with a web spell. Iffy darted forward to stab Ackrovan, but the invisibility spell vanished a bit too soon. Ackrovan was able to parry the attack and break free of most of the webbing. Garzad tried again, but Ackrovan ducked.

Meanwhile, Riibu was dueling Jewels. She was still invisible. Emperor Tullegolar leapt at Neossokrass. He landed on the drayk's back and sliced a hole in Neossokrass' wing in the process. Neossokrass reached back and flung Emperor Tullegolar against the wall as hard as he could. There was a loud crack as Emperor Tullegolar's head slammed against the wall and he didn't stir once he landed on the floor. Neossokrass stomped on Emperor Tullegolar's head again just to be sure and turned to help Ackrovan.

He was too late. Garzad hit Ackrovan with another web spell and this time he wasn't able to dodge out of the way of Iffy's attack. Iffy and Garzad faced Neossokrass.

"Hsss! You'll pay for that, foolsss!" Neossokrass lunged forward.

The commotion was too much for Stareye to take. He scrambled away.

Lazarus and Nikki broke apart for a moment. Lazarus grinned evilly. "I'm surprised you're still standing. Judging by your scenarios, you apparently suck at combat."

Nikki healed a gash on his arm. "Oh yeah, Slack? At least I don't completely rig the system and then pretend I'm good at it." He attacked again.

Lazarus parried. The pencil flew out of Nikki's hand. Lazarus attacked. Nikki barely dodged it. There was a clang as something hit Lazarus in the head. Arancaytar appeared, looking dazed. He dove at Lazarus again. Lazarus ducked and swung one of his swords. Arancaytar went flying into the nearest wall with a dent in his side. Nikki yelled and pulled out another mechanical pencil. He stabbed Lazarus several times.

By now, Neossokrass had bitten down on Iffy's free arm. Iffy responded by stabbing at Neossokrass' snout. Neossokrass let him go. Nikki healed Iffy and Iffy dove for Neossokrass' throat. Garzad aimed another web spell. It hit, tangling up Neossokrass' hind legs.

"Run, Jewelsss!" Neossokrass fled.

Jewels swung her axe wildly, causing Riibu to take a step back. Jewels ran off as well.

Arancaytar rose unsteadily. "Well, how did we do?"

Lazarus twitched. Nikki stabbed him again. "Depends. How are you?"

Arancaytar felt the dent. "I'll be fine. He didn't hit anything vital."

"Then I think we did pretty well. We killed two of them, and losing ET in the process is practically a bonus."

Iffy looked around. "We lost Stareye again, though."

Several Wikipedia editors darted in, slapping handcuffs on Nikki and Riibu before they could react. They froze solid.

"And... ah..." Iffy saw the editors come for him but couldn't dodge out of the way in time. The world went black.

---

With almost everyone else gone, Niemand had been left in charge of the stat scripts. He sat in the scripting laboratory and double-checked the scripts Dintiradan had left him. Ephesos hovered over his shoulder.

"Wait, Diki gets magic?" Ephesos asked.

"Yes, everyone learns a few spells at a time."

"What do I get?"

Niemand sorted through the scripts and handed one to Ephesos.

"Aw, I get three mage spells. No improvement to any priest spells?"

"Not this time."

"Why not?"

"I don't know Dintiradan's exact reasoning. I just know that spells can only be learned gradually. It minimizes the risk of anyone going mad and losing control." Niemand sighed. "Look, are you really sure you want to be altered again?"

"Of course! Why wouldn't I? I mean, you were altered."

"I know... it's just... Dintiradan says there are no side effects, but I think there are. Something happened to Stareye. And Slartucker is so easily distracted now."

"He was always a bit distractible."

"Yes, but now it's worse. And everyone seems a bit..." Niemand shook his head. "I don't know."

Ephesos thought for a moment. "Maybe. How much longer before you are finished?"

---

***** led the rats still under his command through the flamers' neighborhood. Feral pyroroamers were quickly shot.

In a very short time, the rats were at the flamer headquarters. Several flamer guards emerged.

"What brings you here? Decided you hadn't been defeated soundly enough the first time?"

***** nodded to his archers. One of the guards realized what was about to happen and ran inside. The other guards were completely wiped out. The surviving guard managed to get the heavy stone door closed. "Attack! Attack!"

***** stepped forward and examined the door. It was warded against explosions, but hundreds of explosions over the years had left their mark. ***** chose three rats to help him.

"MOVE MOUNTAINS!!!"

Several cracks formed in the door. The four rats cast the spell again. This time, the door exploded into tiny fragments. Several flamers ran outside. The archers fired again, killing them all. ***** waved for everyone to follow him inside.

Eternal Flame heard the explosions and hurried out of his office. He grabbed a fleeing flamer. "What's going on?"

"The rats!" The flamer broke free and ran off around the corner. A moment later, he came running back. Lith and Deathwhisker followed. Lith shot him.

Eternal Flame ducked back into his office and locked the door. He looked around for a weapon that would be strong enough to hold the rats off. Deathwhisker slammed against the door. The door tore off its hinges and fell inward. Deathwhisker fell inside too, but she quickly got back up.

Eternal Flame threw a fire extinguisher at her and scrambled under his desk. Deathwhisker deflected it with her spear and kicked the desk over.

Eternal Flame saw that Lith was completely blocking the doorway with an arrow nocked on his bow. "I surrender. Mercy, please n--"

***** stood in the largest room and waved smoke away from his head. "Have we lost anyone?"

"Not that I'm aware of," a purple rat said.

"Have any flamers escaped?"

"The entrance is well guarded," a blue rat said.

Lith and Deathwhisker entered the room. "Eternal Flame is dead!"

***** nodded. "Good work."

A few minutes later, Fatalclaw led a group of rats into the room. "I think we've cleared all the flamers out. We haven't run across any in a while."

Cheese entered with another group shortly afterwards. "The place looks pretty clear to me."

***** grinned. "Then let's get this place cleaned up and install a new front door. We have a home again, everyone."

---

The Lurker revived Lazarus and Ackrovan. He snorted. "Pathetic. They got two of you and you only got one of them?"

"Well, it's kind of hard to fight someone you can't see. And fighting two people you can't see is even worse," Ackrovan said. Lazarus elbowed him hard.

"Is there any chance of getting more help?" Lazarus asked.

"Not in the current circumstances. So you'd better get going," the Lurker said.

Ackrovan and Lazarus left quickly. Once they were gone, the Lurker revived Emperor Tullegolar.

"Release me," Emperor Tullegolar said.

"No." The Lurker dragged Emperor Tullegolar back to the hidden cells and threw him into one. All the locks had been replaced by much sturdier ones.

Meanwhile, Dikiyoba joined Niemand and Ephesos. "Are you done yet?"

Niemand sighed. "Not yet. Although I should point out that you might want to rethink this."

"Why?" Dikiyoba asked.

While Niemand and Dikiyoba argued, Ephesos set his crickets down. They hopped over to the scripts and carried off the script meant for Ephesos without Niemand noticing. Ephesos quickly changed a few numbers and then had the crickets carry the script back.

---

Dintiradan's group arrived at the Spiderweb Google station. Several bots spotted them immediately and ran to raise the alarm.

"Nioca, you're in charge of healing anyone too injured to heal themselves. Zephyr, you're in charge of reviving anyone who gets killed. Now, keep your eyes open. Ecksian will probably come up with some sort of trick."

Over one hundred bots charged straight at the group.

Dintiradan sighed. "Of course, I could be wrong. Attack as you see fit."

"Yaaaaaaaaah!" Jeran Korak charged heedlessly toward the bots. He managed to stab two before he was cut down.

"Don't worry, Zephyr, you don't have to revive him," Dintiradan said.

Now the bots were close enough for missiles and spells. Alorael sniped the first bot. When it fell, several bots dragged it away and began to repair it. Other bots had bows and fired back at the Spiderwebbers. However, it was clear that the bots were outmatched. Over half of them fell before they even got into melee range, mainly from the barrage of ridiculously overpowered spells from Slartucker, Synergy, and Randomizer. The bots grabbed as many of the damaged bots as they could and retreated.

"For Spiderweb!" Lord Grimm yelled.

Most of the Spiderwebbers charged after the bots. Dintiradan looked around. Zephyr Tempest revived Goldenking. Nioca had no one to heal and so charged with the others. Alorael set his sniper rifle down and drank a skribbane potion. He was careful to avoid looking directly at the running Spiderwebbers.

"Is that everyone, Zephyr?" Dintiradan asked.

"For the moment."

"Then we'll check the buildings as we go. We don't want any bots to surprise us."

---

Stareye stepped into another random article portal. This time, it took him to a maintenance room. A complicated piece of machinery in the center of the room clanked and hummed constantly. Stareye hurried out of the room, nearly bumping into a Wikipedia editor in the process.

"Where did you come from?" the editor asked.

Stareye ignored him. He was too busy looking around. He was in an enormous underground cavern. Editors and bots hurried everywhere, checking machinery and carrying supplies. Could this be it?

Stareye looked up. Several pipes crisscrossed the bare rock of the ceiling.

"No. No glowing lichen," Stareye whispered.

"Excuse me?" the editor asked.

"No glowing lichen," Stareye repeated, "The ceiling is wrong."

"Um, okay. What are you doing here?"

"Portal."

The editor nodded. "I see. I thought we'd fixed that already, but I guess not. Follow me. I'll take you back to the main level."

---

R'd'p'a and A'p'd'r were finally forced to stop. Wikipedia was only a short distance away, but to get to it or to the connecting Google station, they would have to climb down and cross the courtyard. Unfortunately, Ecksian and the bots were waiting for them below.

"Do we try to find another way around?" R'd'p'a asked.

A'p'd'r grimaced. "We can try." He fired an arrow back to the building they had just come from. By this time, he was completely exhausted. The arrow fell short. "Do you have another one?"

"No. Umm..." R'd'p'a looked down. A bot picked up the arrow and snapped it. Then it carried away the rope.

"Well, I guess there's nothing left to do but kill as many as we can," A'p'd'r said.

"Ha! They're trapped." Ecksian pointed to several bots. "Start climbing."

Meanwhile, Lazarus and Ackrovan arrived at Wikipedia again. Lazarus happened to look up and see the rats. He stopped short.

"What is it?" Ackrovan asked.

Soon, Lazarus spotted Ecksian and the bots as well. "Quick, go find Jewels and Neossokrass. I'll rescue the rats."

"Are you sure you don't want help?"

"No, I'm good." Lazarus ran off.

Ecksian was lucky enough to see Lazarus coming. He grinned. "Of course! This must be where they're hiding out at." Once Lazarus was in range, Ecksian threw a dagger at him. Lazarus dodged it easily. Ecksian tried again. This time, Lazarus caught it and threw it back.

The closest bot stepped in front of Ecksian. There was a clang as the dagger bounced off its armor.

"Wha...?" Ecksian was stunned.

A bot attacked Lazarus. He decapitated it with a single blow.

Ecksian looked around wildly. Something had gone very wrong. He needed to get back to Spiderweb immediately. But if he tried to run directly back, this superpowered Spiderwebber would be able to follow and pick off his bots easily. "Bots, inside!" Ecksian ran for Wikipedia.

Lazarus managed to destroy three more bots before they could get away. A'p'd'r and R'd'pa climbed down. They were close to collapse.

"Thank you. What are you doing here?" R'd'p'a asked.

"A few Spiderwebbers turned traitor. I'm trying to hunt them down. What are you doing here?"

"Ecksian chased us here all the way from Spiderweb." A'p'd'r sat down.

"Ha. I bet that'll be an interesting surprise for Dintiradan. As soon as you're up to it, go back to the Waystation and tell the Lurker that Ecksian is trapped here."

R'd'p'a nodded and helped A'p'd'r up. They walked over to the Google station. Once he saw that they were in line, Lazarus ran across the courtyard and into Wikipedia.

---

Dintiradan, Goldenking, Alorael, and Zephyr Tempest cautiously moved toward Spiderweb, checking buildings as they went. They didn't find a single functioning bot. However, destroyed bots and bot pieces littered the ground like spam in a derailed thread.

Zephyr Tempest stopped to revive Actaeon.

"How is it going?" Dintiradan asked.

"We picked off most of the retreating bots. There were a bunch of bots doing construction work, but we took them by surprise and destroyed them all. There are still some bots in Ermarian, though. I think Marlenny took some people to the remains of Polaris to make sure none of them escape through the secret tunnel. There's no sign of Ecksian, though."

A few minutes later, Randomizer hurried out of Ermarian with the blueprints for the new message board Ecksian had been planning. Dintiradan looked them over. Then he gathered everyone around the recently-completed foundation that stood were Spiderweb once had.

"I don't know where Ecksian went. And there are a few Spiderwebbers who decided to work against us, so we haven't quite achieved victory yet. But the bot army is completely gone now, and I assure you that we will hunt down Ecksian and track down the traitors! We also have blueprints so that we can rebuild the Spiderweb Software Message Board bigger and better than it was before! For Spiderweb!"

"Yeah! Go Spiderweb!" Nioca yelled.

"And this time it won't be a thread-eating, soul-destroying UBB board," Dintiradan muttered.