Today’s blog continues my long-neglected satirical fantasy, In The Land of the Penny Gnomes
Agent Other escorted the group off the train and loaded them on to some military-looking vehicles parked on a nearby dirt road. They’d been instructed to remain silent until they’d been properly loaded, which Nobody seemed to forget every sixth step.
“Oh, are these the new Mark Sevens? I was so hoping to see them in service after the last debacle,” the old gnome declared. His voice rang out like a gong in the dark.
“Shhhhh!” Other hissed, for the up-teenth time 1.
They were loaded on to two separate vehicles. Nobody, Will, and Sills boarded the first. Other, Bug, and Sindy immediately behind. As they stepped up to the transports each was handed a vest of heavy material, which nearby soldiers helped them don. The tension of their transfer heightened Will’s anxiety significantly.
They were soon settled in, and two gnomes in camouflage joined them. As they got under way the gnomes nodded and Sills broke the silence.
“Well, that went well.” The agent pointed toward Will. “Are you settled in all right?”
Will tugged as the heavy vest. It fit awkwardly, but was not entirely uncomfortable. “Yah, I guess,” he replied, tugging at the vest once more. “What is this?”
“Injunction armor,” one of the soldiers replied. “If we get ambushed by some special projects you’ll be glad you had it.”
“Is that likely… lieutenant…?”
“Barker, ma’am. Sixth Gnomish Regulars. And, no, it’s not likely. Typically the train saboteurs pull back into the pristined zone after a strike, but some of our scouts have been skirmishing with a group that hung behind. We’ve pushed them back, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
Sills nodded. “I understand. What can you tell me about our detour?”
“Not much Ma’am. Word is something’s up with the satire shield and the professor here was needed to set it right.”
“Well, I’m quite excited to see the shield up close,” beamed Nobody. “But the wizards know more about it than me at this point. Can’t they code a solution?”
“I can’t say, sir. I was just told to bring you along.”
Nobody nodded and grinned at Will. “Isn’t this exciting, Will? We’re heading into a war zone!”
The lieutenant stared blankly at Nobody, clearly confused by his charge’s lack of concern. Sills merely sighed and rocked her head back and forth. Will, on the other hand, was not so resigned.
“I don’t think ‘exciting’ is the word I’d use, Professor.”
“You wouldn’t?” breathed the old gnome, his eyes opening wide in shock. “Why not?”
“I think the young wizard might be referring to the tendency folks have to be shot at in war zones, sir.”
“Hmmm. Yes lieutenant, I can see that as a down side,” Nobody said as he stroked his chin in consideration. “But the upside is I might have the chance to see my equipment at work!”
Barker blinked at the professor in shock, but was waved down with a subtle shake of Sills’ head. The soldier leaned back with a huff and spoke over his shoulder to the driver.
“How we looking, Snaps?”
“All clear so far, sir. I think we’ve pushed them out of range.”
The moment after these words were spoken, however, the opposite was shown to be the case. The transports had been traveling without headlights to better conceal themselves in the darkness, but Will suddenly saw the front of his transport lit up by an orange fireball. The caravan stopped quickly as the gnomes manning the transports turned their turrets and returned fire.
“Why aren’t we moving!?” Barker shouted to the driver.
“The road’s blocked, sir!” Snaps replied, his hand pressing his hand against his earpiece so he could hear. “They launched a C&D as Raft One crossed the bridge!”
“Blast.” Barker reached to the door opposite from the direction the gnomes were firing and threw it open. “Corporal, take our passengers two hundred yards off the road and get them under cover.” He reached up to engage his microphone. “All transports, duck and cover the cargo. Fire team form up and move!”
The other soldier jumped out of the transport and turned to wave the passengers out when his body suddenly jerked violently and fell to the ground with a cry of pain.
“You’re surrounded!” Will heard a voice shout through a loudspeaker. “All we want is Professor Cooly Nobody. Turn him over and we leave all of you behind!”
Sills and Barker glared at one another.
“How did they know Nobody was even on that train, much less who he is?” demanded the agent.
“Ma’am, I don’t know.”
“Well we can’t give them Nobody. He knows our defenses better than anyone in The Realm!”
“I realize that ma’am. I suppose we might have to off-road a bit.”
Sills nodded. “They don’t want to target the transports, in case they wound the Professor. Which way?”
“They’ve got more firepower out there than we realized.”
“You’ve got ten seconds to respond, or we move in!” The voice declared.”
“Snap, do we have word on reinforcements?”
“Yessir. They didn’t block the radio. Twenty minutes out, coming from the West.”
“All right, then we head East.”
“That’s it, times up! All units, move in!”
“You’re heading away from our reinforcements?” Sills snapped.
“They wanted to push us West of off the road, that’s where their strength is. With any luck our relief will take them from behind.” Barker reach to his microphone. “All transports, prepare to turn East and head off-road. Fire team hot deploy and provide cover. Move. Move. Move!”
The engine in Will’s transport revved, but before its wheels moved something odd happened.
Will get out and stop them.
He didn’t think, he didn’t ask why, he simply rose from his seat and jumped to the ground just as the transport began to roll away.
“Will, what are you doing!” he heard Sills cry after him. Though, for some reason, he imagined Nobody smiling at his odd behavior.
He stood up in the road, not sure what he was doing, or even how he’d ended up there, when he felt a number of dull pokes in his arms and legs. Startled, he looked down and spied a small pile of metal fragments around his feet.
“Get down on the ground now, or you will be fired upon,” the loudspeaker voice shouted. It was then Will realized what the metal fragments were. He’d been shot, but for some reason the bullets hadn’t hurt him. This didn’t make him feel any better about what had happened.
“You shot me?” he cried out. “I’m not even supposed to be here and you shot me!?”
The loudspeaker voice didn’t reply, but Will looked up and saw figures running toward him out of the darkness. They were all wearing suits and ties, which the teen found rather odd. Each did, on the other hand, carry a rather angry-looking gun. As the figures approached he saw a flash of light in the distance behind them, followed by a whistling sound. His vast combat experience, which consisted entirely of video games and the occasional war movie, told him a mortar had just been fired. Targeting the convoy, and his friends.
He didn’t know how he did it, but Will reached out and found the deadly projectile with his mind. He then told the round it would much rather land on the nasty people who’d actually launched it. Much to Will’s shock it agreed and changed directions. The whistle grew louder and louder, until a small explosion erupted out in the darkness to his front. The light silhouetted a mass of people coming forward, and Will suddenly felt very exposed, but the loudspeaker voice cried out.
“Fall back! Fall back!”
With that the besuited lawyers began to withdraw, and a skirmish line of gnome soldiers to Will’s left began to enthusiastically encourage them.
“H-help,” a voice croaked from nearby. Will looked down and spotted the corporal who’d tried to lead them to cover. The teen knelt down and saw the blood pouring from his wounds in the pale light.
Again not knowing how he did it, Will reached out and found the poison coursing through the solider’s body. He could feel it breaking down the gnome’s bond to imagination, already beginning the process of fading. And then he told it to go away. The wounded corporal suddenly exhaled, capped by a hacking cough. He tilted his head weakly toward the confused teen and breathed, “How?”
“I don’t know,” he responded with a sigh. H collapsed just as Bug and Sills reached him.
- No one is quite sure what “up-teenth” means. Personally, I think it refers to the posture of a teen’s nose when speaking to their parents. Will wasn’t frequently “up-teenth,” but he had his moments. ↩