Chapter 2: The Attack Begins

The General Forum had been a frenzy of activity ever since Student of Trinity, R'd'p'a, A'p'd'r, and Shard of Fire arrived with the news that Ecksian's bots would arrive shortly. All the Spiderwebbers and rats with ranged attacks prepared to head to the Google station. Archmage Alex had already led a small group out. Now Lord Grimm and the Silent Assassin waited by the front door. Lord Grimm nodded at everyone who joined them at the door. The Silent Assassin sorted through several mysterious pouches on his belt.

"What do you even have in there?" Thralni asked.

The Silent Assassin grabbed Thralni's shoulder and spun him around a few times.

"He says the answer will be revealed when the time is right," Lord Grimm said.

Salmon joined the group. "Hey, Andraste, it's a shame you're going to miss out on all the fun!"

Andraste leaned on one of her clubs. "Don't worry. Someone has to stay behind to double-fistedly destroy all the bots once they get past you."

Stareye found Slartucker. "It'll be you, Synergy, Alorael, and ***** in charge down there. Use your best judgement. Retreat before you get overwhelmed. Good luck."

Slartucker nodded. "Right."

Stareye talked to Randomizer and Tyranicus next. "Since you two will be staying here, keep an eye on Dintiradan, the Lurker, and ET's little group. If they're going to try anything, I suspect they'll do it now." Stareye thought for a moment. "And watch Duck too, I suppose."

"What will you be doing?" Tyranicus asked.

"Arancaytar has a project he asked me to help with. I'll be out to help after that."

***** and Cheese got all the noncombatant rats together.

"Stareye told you about the secret exit, right?" ***** asked.

"Yes."

"Good. Get them out of here and lie low somewhere for a few days. With any luck, Spiderweb will still be standing. If not, someone will need to learn how to use these quickly." ***** handed Cheese a copy of Galactic Core and the Periodic Table.

"I understand." Cheese shooed a young rat back towards his father. "Everyone, to the Avernum Trilogy Forum."

Cheese and the noncombatant rats left.

***** joined the group by the door. Lord Grimm looked around. "All right, we're leaving too. Shard of Fire, bring down whoever's left. Follow us, people!"

---

In the wrecked lab in the Mage Guild, the ex-slaves of Crystal Mountain were hard at work. Toby-Linn scrubbed away at the vat. The Ratt sprayed the entire place down with a hose he would periodically lose control of. Ru'vay and several wanderers had their hands full dumping buckets of goopy water and replacing them with clean ones. The other three rats and Dikiyoba were up on ladders so they could clean the ceiling. Ephesos slept in a relatively dry corner. The other wanderers just attacked whatever surface they could reach with soap and sponges.

"Could you aim the hose over here, Ratt?" the wanderer named Faylander asked.

"Sure thing!" The Ratt turned, spraying several wanderers in the process. One of them tried to step out of the way but ended up bumping into Dikiyoba's ladder instead.

"Hey!" The ladder tipped over and landed directly on the Ratt. Dikiyoba bounced off the vat, knocking it over with a loud clang. The noise woke Ephesos up. He frowned and listened intently to something.

Toby-Linn helped Dikiyoba up. "Are you okay?"

"Dikiyoba thinks so."

"Ouch." The Ratt crawled out from underneath the ladder. "Someone else can use the hose now."

Attorukkip sighed and rubbed the antimagic rune on her forehead. "We'll never get the lab clean at this rate."

"Everyone, be quiet for a minute." Ephesos had his ear against a wall. Then he bolted for the door. "Hang on crickets, I'm coming!"

---

Down at the Google station, the Spiderwebbers and rats waited impatiently on various rooftops.

Slartucker waited at TrueSite. Shard of Fire, Actaeon, Zeviz, and several rats were with him. Zeviz had the scrying pool and a pile of energy potions with him.

"See anything?" Slartucker asked.

Zeviz shook his head. "Not yet."

Synergy, Nemesis, Lord Grimm, Delicious Vlish, Marlenny, Salmon, Rof'l'mao, and a giant rat named Tegburi were on the roof across from Alorael's building. The Silent Assassin, Thralni, and several others waited on the third floor with Alorael. He was not happy about it.

Nemesis wiped sweat off his face with his sleeve. "Gah. This sucks."

"Oh, hush," Delicious Vlish said, "Wait. I hear a vehicle coming."

"Only one?" Synergy asked.

Delicious Vlish shrugged.

A moment later, a single vehicle pulled into the station.

"No one shoot until we know who it is!" Marlenny yelled.

The door to the vehicle opened. Ash Lael stepped out. A moment later, someone else followed.

"What are you doing here?" Synergy called down.

"I received a message that said Spiderweb needed help," Ash Lael said.

"Me too. Well, it was actually addressed to Kel, but I haven't seen him in ages, so I figured it would be okay if I came over to see what all the fuss was about. I'm Feo Takahari, by the way."

"Okay. Lord Grimm, since neither one seems to have ranged weapons, would you guide them through the traps back to Spiderweb?" Synergy said.

Delicious Vlish shook his head. "There's no time for that. There's definitely a lot more than one vehicle approaching now."

"Then we just need to get them off of the street for now," Synergy said.

Salmon lowered Lord Grimm to the ground with his fishing rod. Lord Grimm threaded his way through the mines. "Come on, follow me. Carefully now." He led Ash Lael and Feo Takahari back to the building. Salmon hauled them up one at a time.

About half a dozen vehicles stopped at the station. Bots charged out of each one.

"All right, everyone, this is it. This is the moment where we test our determination, our courage, our mettle. This is where we stare unwaveringly into the bewildering depths of man's inhumanity and remain cool and collected and calm. This is where we--"

Delicious Vlish shook his head. "Forget it. Everyone, fire!"

Arrows, javelins, and spells rained down on the bots. Most of the projectiles bounced harmlessly off the bots' armor.

Delicious Vlish hit a bot squarely in the face with a charm ray. It charged on.

Delicious Vlish sighed. "I was afraid of that. They're constructs. Mental spells won't work on them."

The bots hit the first traps. The resulting explosion made everyone pause for a moment.

"Um. Wow. I was definitely not expecting a combination of pool noodles and coriander to be so volatile," Lord Grimm said.

More vehicles arrived and more bots jumped out. One of the bots staggered along in armor that seemed to big for it. It stopped and launched a fireball at one of the buildings.

"A flamer! Leave them to me!" Delicious Vlish said.

"Okay then," Synergy launched a fireball at a bot instead.

The flamer captain exploded as Alorael sniped him. The armor kept the explosion contained enough that none of the bots nearby were damaged.

"Hey! No kill stealing!" Delicious Vlish yelled.

"There will be more!" Alorael's next shot bounced off a bot's armor.

Several more bots reached the traps, resulting in another huge explosion.

Lord Grimm winced. "I knew that rake trap was overdoing it."

Other bots, however, worked on clearing away the nearest barriers.

Alorael downed another bottle of skribbane. "Synergy! Have Ash and Feo go to Spiderweb now! Make sure they warn Stareye about the flamers! Thralni, fly over to TrueSite and make sure Zeviz gets the barriers up in time." He fired at another bot.

One of the bots picked up the twisted remains of the armor the flamer had worn and threw it into the traps. There was another huge explosion.

The Silent Assassin stood up and gestured at the bot.

"Language!" Lord Grimm yelled.

---

Stareye and Arancaytar were in the Moderator Board.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" Stareye asked.

Arancaytar nodded. Several cables ran from the Admin Panel to his head. "Positive. It worked perfect for EndeavorBot and PiperBot isn't built too differently, so I should be fine."

Stareye pushed a button on the Admin Panel. Arancaytar twitched as information flowed into his mind.

When the transfer had finished, Stareye unplugged the cables. "Are you okay? Is everything working properly?"

"I... I think so."

"Is anyone dead yet?"

"No."

"Can you get anything on Ephesos or Dikiyoba?"

"I'm afraid not. It's odd, though. I've got a reading for Ash Lael and someone new."

"Hmm. Well, are you ready to head back to General now?"

"Actually, I think I'll just stay by the summoning machine. I'll know when anyone dies, so it'll be easiest for me to resurrect people."

"Yes, that would make more sense." Stareye left the Moderator Board. Arancaytar followed.

---

Meanwhile, at the Mage Guild, Chatter parried a guard's attack and dashed down another hallway. "Hey! What did I ever do to you?"

"Chrrrk!"

"Huh? Where?" Chatter stopped and looked around.

Ephesos dashed around the corner and collided with a guard. "Wait! Don't hurt him!" He stopped to catch his breath.

"Yes! Listen to him! He knows what he's talking about!" Chatter said.

The guards hesitated. "How do you know?" one asked.

"Because he has my crickets." Ephesos held out a hand. The crickets all leapt into it.

"But--" the guard began.

The crickets all glared at him.

The guards decided it wasn't worth the hassle to interfere directly and moved down the hallway a bit.

"Um. Thanks," Ephesos said.

"Oh, no problem. What are you doing here anyway?"

Ephesos sighed and rubbed the rune on his forehead. "I'll explain later. For now, you can help us clean."

The guards followed Chatter and Ephesos back to the lab.