A wild nodeshell appears. It grows a thought.
                                    [people, pleHELPaashkjw wh!at is happening]
"What shall we do today, E2D2?" it asks. 
                               [I seem to be trapped in some sort of box. A wall on either side.]
"I'm busy today, little one."
              
"I understand, E2D2. I will go to my room and play with my toys."
    [Wait, I know where – No! This – this is impossible. I trusted you! [Cool Man Eddie] said you were safe!]

Once in its room, the nodeshell opens its toybox. It speaks in a voice that is not its own:


Safe (?), n.

A place for keeping things in safety.

Specifically: (a)

A strong and fireproof receptacle (as a movable chest of steel, etc., or a closet or vault of brickwork) for money, valuable papers, or the like.


[I can't even open a [link] to other write-ups! I'm stuck here! You [Some things exist whether you believe in them or not|monster]!]

Slowly,
lovingly,

the nodeshell removes twenty-three tin soldiers from the toybox
 

[OK, I'm trying to revert it to a draft, guys, but it's not working. I'm getting dizzy.]
[I need more time. I need more help.]

<Virgil> Wha - who woke me - 
Virgil screams.
<E2D2> Welcome back Virgil!
<Virgil> I can't help you!
<Virgil> If he's awake, nothing can.
<Virgil> You'll have to find your own way out.

[The walls are getting taller. I think we're going to have to beat this thing at its own game. For now, do whatever it tells you. Keep it happy. And, for the love of God, don't let it get hungry.]

 Suddenly...

    _____
   /    /|_ ___________________________________________
  /    // /|                                          /|
 (====|/ //                                _QP_      / |
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 (====|/                                   \__/    / /||
/_________________________________________________/ / ||
|  _____________________________________________  ||  ||
| ||                                            | ||
| ||                                            | ||
| |                                             | |  

You find yourself in a mysterious room. You hear violent shouting coming from upstairs, familiar voices you can't quite place. There are desks and a chalkboard in the room, but neither doors nor windows. You and twenty-two others are seated in this room, all of you wearing bedclothes and exhibiting signs of disorientation and distress.

Standing in front of the blackboard is a person you recognize – with a shock – to be your middle school principal. But these other people weren't in your class, were they? 

Your middle school principal coughs. "Good morning, class. Let's begin our review of the material covered on next week's exam."

A wall of text appears on the chalkboard.

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 |  MSR|Spinal       ||RIATE%&$$#@^#&?AJESTIE+==========+R  
 |    E|   anesthetic||UVERCASELOADWO|KEDMISC|Gutium    |   
 |     +=============+|TERSGRUFFLYHIP|IESEMPL+==========+   
 |    TRAITINGGROTESQU|LYBLOT.-------------.*^&?!COURTIERSUT
 .-------------------.SBUREAU|Geography  of|CAOMASCARAEDH   
 |It's a  crime  I   |CAUDALC| the Islands |RMISSIV         
 |    never     told |CARICAT|of  the  Dead|UELLISTSCULTIVAT
 |you   about  the di|RIESMYT'-------------'ERLYHISTA       
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  TICIANDRO+=================+SACCUS+=============+BERBO    
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          B|Unspeakable in   |CAEXCR+=============+ASIONI   
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     P|LMYD+=================+!^ENEN|S.------------------.  
    ON|YWORD#@!@%&^!$*@$PE|NTOMBEDAS|A|I  know this road |  
      |SMICZIGZAGGINGJUDGM|NTALDISCO|N|pretty well, for I|I 
  NSID|RSBOOEDCONCEPTGABER|INETWEAKI|G|'ve chased many a |  
     A|ERLYREVIVEDWI|GLYRE|REATSPOCK|T|honey-bee over it.|  
      |  |NIASSUPPLA|TINGC|OWINGINEX|E'------------------'  
      |  |CATENATESN|NALCO|OLICSPELU|KERSHE||SPHERIC |      
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  N||EDHEADSCLOTTE'------------------'%$%$$&#+=============+
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    ERS|EIKHNIGHTYMATCHBOOKDUFFERSBREA|THSARISTOCRAT        
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Victory goes to the noder who fills the largest number of these nodeshells. If there are multiple write-ups within the same node, only the write-up with the highest reputation counts. A C! is +5. The quest will end at precisely 0:01 AM September 1 2011 server time. (If you haven't submitted your nodeshells for inclusion yet, I will update the pool as soon as they're received - just hurry!)

DREAD PROGRESS

Admin to the goo  
Auspice
BookReader
etouffee
Evil Catullus
Evocatus  
gnarl  
IWhoSawTheFace  
Jet-Poop
lizardinlaw
maxClimb  
misterfuffie
Montag
Pandeism Fish  
raincomplex  
RedOmega  
RoboQuote
StuartO)))  
synechdouche
tentative  
waverider37
YellowOstrich
Zephronias

"Miss?" a small voice asks tentatively. "We're tired, and very thirsty – we've been here an awful long time."

"Yes, and some of us have to use the washroom," adds another, bolder student.

The headmaster turns, eyes blazing, and the two students burst violently into flame. The room fills with smoke and ash, the terrified screams of the rest of the class devolving into strangled coughing. 

"Perhaps you haven't understood," she says. "Only one of you is going home today." Imperially, she traces a rectangle on the wall with her ruler and a door materializes, iron-hewn and very narrow. 

The students try to leave their desks for the door, but find their movement strangely impeded. Several (YellowOstrich, RedOmega and gnarl, among others) are unable to abandon their chairs. Lizardinlaw stumbles only a single pace before collapsing, pleading for a powerful anesthetic as she buckles at the spine. Raincomplex and Auspice are walking freely, but neither seems to see the door; raincomplex squints down at an ancient map as he paces the perimeter of the room, while Auspice weaves between the rows of desks, looking ironically confidant in her destination. With great effort, misterfuffie and synecdouche both slog their way to the exit, but hesitate at the last moment, agreeing that that doorknob looks positively filthly, probably covered in germs. Prepared for any eventuality, however, Misterfuffie pulls a travel dispenser of hand sanitizer from his pocket, but while he's coating his hands Montag and Evil Catullus push him rudely aside, kicking and elbowing each other in a scramble for the knob. They fling it open together, finally, but before either can leave the principal has seized both by the ear.

"There will be no fighting in my classroom!" She frog-marches them both through the doorway, which slams shut behind them and soon disappears. 

The remaining students exchange worried glances as, one by one, the flourescent lights above their heads flicker and die. 

Evil Catullus and Montag have tied for first place. 34 previously empty nodeshells have been filled, some with multiple write-ups. Well done, everybody!

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