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Chapter 4: Retreat

Chapter 4: Retreat

The bots moved steadily closer to the building Alorael was on.

"I'm out of arrows," Lith said.

"Me too," said another rat.

"Okay. It looks like we'll need to retreat soon anyway," Alorael said.

A minute later, Lith was forced to duck as Salmon cast towards their building. The hook caught firmly in a cracked brick. Salmon swung over and reeled himself up. Lith helped him step onto the roof.

"The Silent Assassin wants to leave with the third group soon. Er, that's what we think he's saying, anyway," Salmon said.

"Fatalclaw and I will head to TrueSite. Everyone else should... should..." Alorael stared at a plume of smoke rising from a few blocks away.

"Alorael?" Salmon asked.

"Polaris... quick, we must save it! Water, someone find... no." Alorael shook his head to clear it. "What am I saying? Fatalclaw, you head to TrueSite. The rest of us will go back to Spiderweb."

"I'll let the Silent Assassin know you're coming." Salmon swung off.

Alorael stopped to snipe one more bot before he climbed down the building with the others. Another bot grabbed the fallen one and carried it back to the repair bots working near the Google station.

Slartucker also approached the Google station. Now there was only one magic barrier left before he reached the makeshift workshop. Unfortunately, several bots stood on the opposite side of it, occasionally testing it to see if they could walk through or destroy it.

Slartucker took a deep breath. "Hey y--er, u, don't u know there's a barrier you can walk thro just down the block? Retards, lol."

The bots looked at him closely. Then one of them raised an alarm. Bots started running over.

Slartucker facepalmed. "Zeviz, drop the barrier anyway! CATTLE RAGE!!! UDDER DESTRUCTION!!!" He sent the spell arcing over the magic barrier. One of the bots was hit hard enough to fall.

The magic barrier slowly disappeared. Slartucker charged. "UDDER DESTRUCTION!!! UDDER DESTRUCTION!!!"

A sword bounced off Slartucker's helmet. He dodged another attack. In the confusion, a bot attacked one of its own by mistake, giving Slartucker a brief opening.


A giant cave cow fell from the sky and bounced off the ground. Everyone was knocked to the ground.

Slartucker looked around quickly. He sighed. As he feared, he hadn't quite been close enough. Only about half of the supplies had been destroyed and most of the repair bots had survived. He scrambled up and pointed at a repair bot. "UDDER--ahhh!" A bot stabbed him in the side. He collapsed. "The Nine-Headed Cave Cow... does not... smile upon..." He died.

Meanwhile, back at TrueSite, Zeviz looked away from the scrying pool just before the giant cave cow hit. The impact caused the water to slosh against the sides of the bucket.

Goldenking lost his balance and nearly fell off the roof. Drew pulled him to safety.

"I take it that Slartucker succeeded?" ***** asked.

Zeviz waited until the last ripples died down before looking back into the scrying pool. He replaced the magic barrier before examining the scene. "He got part of it, anyway."

Unfortunately, while Zeviz had been distracted, several other magic barriers had faded away. Once the bots realized this, they tore down a barbed-wire fence and swarmed down the back roads.


Arancaytar waited impatiently in the Tech Support Forum. The summoning machine was ready to go and he had the new version of the Periodic Table taped to it. But neither Zephyr Tempest nor Zorro were nearby.

Stareye entered. "Is Randomizer dead?"

Arancaytar looked surprised. "No. Why?"

"He's missing." Stareye looked thoughtful. "I suppose it's possible he decided to run away, but... never mind. Thank you." Stareye left.

Zephyr Tempest entered a few minutes later. He held up his copy of Galactic Core. "I'm in charge of resurrecting everyone now."

"You're also late." Arancaytar handed Zephyr Tempest the elements for Student of Trinity, Nioca, and a rat named Set'nir.

Alorael entered the forum. "I have bad news."

"What is it?" Arancaytar asked.

"Polaris was just destroyed."

"What! But that's... that's the end of it, then. There aren't enough people who still visit it to be able to afford to rebuild it."

"I'm afraid so."

"I can't believe it's finally gone, after surviving for so long. Remember when... oops, hang on." Arancaytar summoned some aluminum and handed it to Zephyr Tempest so he could revive Slartucker. "Ecksian has a lot to answer for, that's for sure."


Nemesis sat on a roof with Synergy and Thralni. The bots were still too far away for them to shoot at. Synergy paced the roof impatiently.

"Do you hear something?" Thralni asked.

Synergy stopped pacing. "Like what?"

"I think I hear it too." Nemesis stood up and looked around. "Yeah, um, the bots got past the barriers somehow and now they're headed straight for us."

Synergy looked. Then he shook his head. "They're too close for us to escape. Thralni, get to TrueSite. Now."

Thralni nodded and flew off.

Synergy and Nemesis aimed carefully. Nemesis' crossbow bolt bounced off armor, but Synergy's fireball hit a bot in the face. The bot fell.

Most of the bots ignored them and continued marching, but several began to scale the building. Nemesis managed to shoot one down, but the others reached the roof safely.

Nemesis was promptly killed. Synergy launched several fireballs as he dodged attacks. He brought down another two bots before he was killed. Nemesis' crossbow shot the bot that picked it up. Another bot quickly hacked it apart.

Thralni reached TrueSite. "There are barriers down. Bots are coming this way quickly.

Zeviz had only a handful of energy potions left. "What?" He stared into the scrying pool. "*****, you'd better call the retreat now. Synergy and Nemesis just died. Is anyone else still out there?"

"I think Deathwhisker is," one of the rats said.

"Of course she is." Fatalclaw sighed.

"Thralni, do a quick search for Deathwhisker and anyone else. Tell them to get back here. Don't put yourself in danger, though. If you can't reach them in time, well, you can't reach them. Zeviz, do whatever you can do to get magic barriers up in the next twenty minutes. Fatalclaw, you'll stay here with him too. Shard of Fire, lead the rest of us through the traps. Once we're through, I'll take everyone else back to Spiderweb. You come back here for whoever's left. Does everyone understand?" ***** said.

Several people nodded.

"Good. Then let's put the plan into action."

Meanwhile, the vehicle carrying Ecksian, Eternal Flame, and EcksianBot arrived.

Eternal Flame just had his flameproof suit on, but Ecksian wore a specially-made set of armor. EcksianBot and the bot wearing Ephesos' clover boots followed him closely.

Ecksian took off his helmet.

"That makes you too vulnerable. They have a sniper, you know!" EcksianBot said.

"Oh, shut up. I'm more likely to get heatstroke." Ecksian looked around carefully. "What the heck happened here?"

"I told you they'd be ready," Eternal Flame said.

Ecksian put his helmet back on. "Bots, give me a report on how the attack is progressing."

Several bots stepped forward. Another looked like it was about to but didn't.

Thralni returned to TrueSite with Deathwhisker.

"Good. Are you finished?" Fatalclaw asked.

Zeviz tipped over the scrying pool. "Yes."

They climbed down carefully and waited for Shard of Fire as far away from the traps as they could. The bots had detonated the traps almost to TrueSite now.

Fatalclaw shook her head. "Shard of Fire had better get here soon."

She arrived a minute later. "You know the drill. Follow me and hurry!"

A nearby explosion sent thorns everywhere. One narrowly missed Thralni's ear.


Stareye was speaking with Slartucker when ***** and his group arrived.

***** joined them. "There are still a few more people out there, but first bots will arrive very soon."

"So I understand. Slarty, get Arancaytar and meet us in the Mod Board."

"Okay." Slartucker left.

"Attention, everyone! If you were in the first group to return, I want you to head to the guard tower now. Shoot any bots that arrive. No, Alorael, I need you and the other mods to go to the Mod Board for a moment." Stareye looked around carefully. "Student of Trinity and Niemand, I'd like to see you in there too."

Niemand looked surprised. "Okay."

Alorael sighed. "I'm going to miss out on all the fun again, aren't I?"

Nikki snorted. "You think you're missing out on all the fun."

"It will only take a minute," Stareye said.

When the mods had all gone, Dintiradan caught Danielle's eye and nodded. She casually made her way over. "Well? Is it time?"

"Yes. Lurker, please hand me your copy of Homeland."

"But..." The Lurker hesitated to hand the game over.

"I'm sorry, but you need to stay by the Deth Ray and cover for me if anyone notices I'm gone. Don't worry, you'll get an opportunity to use the script soon."

"Who's going to test the script for us?" Danielle asked.

"I'm sure Zephyr Tempest will want his summoning spells back, don't you?"


Randomizer regained consciousness slowly. The building was an ancient message board, so old even the spambots had given up targeting it. Illegible old threads and spam littered the floor, half-hidden by a thick layer of dust.

Randomizer tested the ropes that bound his wrists and ankles to see if he could get free. "No such luck. Of course. Hello? Can anyone hear me?!"

Despite calling out for several minutes, there was no response. Randomizer realized he was alone. "Hmmph. Figures."