Today’s blog continues my long-neglected satirical fantasy, In The Land of the Penny Gnomes
The bookshelf was moved far enough by the Professor’s pushes to reveal a stone passage leading down a set of stairs. Nobody bounded into the passage and called back over his shoulder, “Come on everyone, and watch your step!”
Bug followed first, after which Sindy motioned for Will to follow. He stepped into the dimly lit passage and caught a strong scent of parmesan cheese. Sindy must have noticed Will’s look of confusion because she spoke as they continued down the steps. “Don’t worry, Will, Bug says the Professor likes to age his own cheese. The crazy gnome doesn’t even put sauce on his noodles, just heaps of cheese.” Will nodded and continued down the steps.
Bug was out of view, but the teen could still hear the clopping of his shoes on the stone steps in front of him. Finally, when they had descended well below what Will would have thought normal for basement, he emerged into the most unusual room he had seen on his trip to that point. Lined on the walls were shelves upon shelves of weapons. He could make our what looked like guns in one corner, and swore he could see a missile stood up against the back wall, looming in the shadows. Against the wall directly to his left was a rack of swords and spears. To his right Will was stunned to see an artillery piece. The center of the room was covered with no less than two dozen wheels of parmesan cheese.
“What on Earth?”
“Ah! An interesting statement, Will, considering you are not actually on Earth. I suppose you could say were are on the idea of Earth, but even then…oh!” Just as the Professor was about to jump into his lecture, Sindy had moved to his side and tapped him on the shoulder. Derailed from his train of thought, all he could say was, “Oh. Yes, dear?”
“I don’t think Will was intending to make a statement about where he is. He was uttering his shock at what he’s seeing in this room.”
“In this room?”
“THE WEAPONS YOU LUNATIC GNOME!” Will jumped at Sandy’s roar. But, to Will’s great astonishment, the professor was able to stare into the shriek without so much as a mild flinch. Bug, on the other hand, was already twisting his floppy hat in his hands. This turned out to be preparative measure. Certain Nobody wouldn’t respond to her satisfaction, she rounded upon her husband. “And you, you foolish gnome. This…” Sindy spread her arms out indicating the expanse of the arsenal, “…is what you’ve been working on all this time? What were you thinking?”
While Sindy’s outbursts continued to frighten Will, he had to admit she had a point. He hadn’t known the professor long, but he wasn’t sure he’d trust him to make a turkey sandwich, much less create a stockpile of weapons. He had to admit the weapons were more neatly stacked than the chaotic shelves the Professor’s living area. But he’d been introduced to the power of “applied imagination” and couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if, for example, a sword, gun, missile, and a wheel of cheese managed to combine. He didn’t even want to think about it.1 Bug smiled pathetically, twisting his floppy hat into a rope. “Well, dear, the Prof has a contract with the council to develop some items for the war effort and he needed a helper to go through the R and D phase with him.”
“You have lost you mind. You are using applied imagination to run a weapons factory in the middle of the city? Do you have any idea what could have happened if he got a volatile combination? Just when I think you can’t get any more thoughtless you two keep proving me wrong!” Will surprised himself by nodding along with Sindy. He regretted it immediately, however, when Bug noticed his bobbing head and shot him a wounded glance.
“Well, my dear, I have to say I had considered what could have gone wrong. I am socially maladjusted, not uncaring. There is a reality shield around the vault which prevents the effects of applied imagination from seeping out to the city. Even if I had a encountered a volatile combination such as you described nothing would have been able to reach the streets. The hot peppers were a bit intense, however, I admit.”
For the first time since Will had met Sindy, he saw her at a loss for words. She seemed utterly shocked at Nobody’s thoughtful implementation of safeguards. “And as for the weapons themselves, I assure you they are imagination-locked with a combination only I and Bug know. And Bug only knows the combination in case he gets hungry around meal times.”
Will didn’t understand why Nobody kept confusing weapons with foodstuffs, but he managed not to get sucked in by his curiosity. Instead he turned his back on his companions and took in the full scope of the weapons gathered in the room. “But Professor, what on Earth do you need all these weapons for?”
It was Bug who answered, shooting the professor a warning not to begin anew his lecture on Will’s use of idiom. “Like we said upstairs, kid, we’re at War.” The people on the council hired the prof to help design the weapons we need to defend ourselves.”
“Yes, yes, that is absolutely correct.” Nobody began to walk through the room, gesturing for the others to follow him. As he walked passed shelves and racks, he described what was to be found on them. “Over there on the corner we have fair-use grenades, which are very handy when pinned down by injunction fire. The rifles up on the fourth shelf fire special CAD piercing ammunition.”
The professor didn’t pause his tour. “Cease and Desist. The pistols are creatively common, and the swords and spears you saw when we entered are ideal for close-quarters combat. We needed something which would do well cutting through red tape.”
By this point Will was completely lost. Yet he kept on plowing through anyway. “And what does that artillery piece fire?”
The professor’s eyes widened with pride as he turned toward Will and grinned, “That, Will, fires unenforceable requirement rounds. Good for stopping massed charges, you know.”
“No, Professor, I really don’t know. What’s with all the strange ammunition? Why can’t you just use regular bullets or swords, or whatever?”
“We can, kid. In fact, we are using them. But they don’t do a very good job against this army we’re fighting. Right now we have a bit of breather ever since we were able to break the siege of Boarsblemish and engage the large firewall. So the council used the break to develop some more effective defenses.”
“But I still don’t get it. Why ‘fair use’ ammunition and stuff like that? Why is this stuff going to be better than ordinary weapons?”
Will was surprised once more when Sindy spoke up in response to Will’s question. “Because Will, we’re fighting the Hoard of the Copyright Lawyers.”
- In case you’re wondering yourself, the result would be a Philadelphia Cheesesteak made with provolone cheese and no onions. The professor had tried just such an experiment and when he discovered the results he managed to combine the weapons into all sorts of variations. The Artillery piece was separated from the other items, for example, because the Professor had a profound dislike of “whiz.” ↩