Fiction Tuesday – A Grumpy Companion

Today’s blog continues my long-neglected satirical fantasy, In The Land of the Penny Gnomes

“Will, this is the Firewall tech assigned to our group,” said Nobody as he stepped aside to reveal a sullen dwarf. “Oscar Miner. He’s come all the way from Redmine, isn’t that interesting?”

“Sure, Professor,” Will grinned as he offered his hand to the newcomer. “How are you?”

“I’d be a lot better if the stupid wizards had applied the patches I’ve been sending them like they were supposed to be doing,” the dwarf responded.

“Oh.”

Will attempted to retrieve his hand, but physical contact seemed to give Oscar permission to speak his mind. He refused to release his grasp as he continued.

“Did you know we offered the Board a service contract? We would have handled all the patches and everything. But, no, they said there wasn’t money in the budget for it and were sure the wizards could handle it.”

Oscar finally released Will from his grasp with a scowl. “You look like a wizard.”

“I’m not, I’m…”

“Tell me. Do you know how to code in Tea 1?”

“Uhh… no.”

Oscar set his hands on hips and huffed. “And does anyone know how to write Tea in Boarsblemish?”

“Uh, I don’t know.”

“There!” Oscar thrust his hands out in exasperation as he turned his head to Nobody. “Everyone wants to blame Redmine, but if people just paid for the support contract everything would be fine. Instead, here I am risking my neck. And it’s all your fault!” Oscar concluded, thrusting a finger toward Will.

“Me?”

“Wizards!”

“But, I’m not a wizard.”

“Well… people who look like you then!”

“Hey kid,” called Bug as he wandered over. “Looks like you’ve met Oscar. Did he tell you all about the wizards?”

“He kinda is now.”

Bug grinned, and a mischievous twinkle sparkled in his eye. “Did he tell you if Redmine hadn’t made the update process so convoluted they wouldn’t need to sell support contracts?”

“Nice try, Moume, but I won’t be baited. Our process is user-friendly and and fast.”

“It’s a hundred and seventeen steps!”

“That’s a fast as it can be!”

“Well, I heard CrunchyFruity’s OS could have written it in Objective E and it would have been much more cost effective and efficient.”

“And it wouldn’t have been compatible with anything!”

Nobody flashed a nervous grin as Oscar began to turn purple. Bug’s eyes flashed with delight as the academic gnome swallowed and decided to chime in.

“Are we all saying what we think the Firewall should have been written in? How invigorating! I wanted to go with an Open Source solution.”

Will looked on as Bug’s grin split his face and Oscar began sputtering like a steam engine building up speed.

“Open Source! But… profit… cancer… capitalism… it’s daemonic!”

“Well, yes, there are daemons involved. But they’re very simple and work together splendidly. Also, if we’d gone that route I could have updated the code remotely. It really was the most elegant solution.”

Oscar stared at Nobody in Furious Disbelief as the gnome returned a kind smile. “But, it doesn’t matter now,” he continued. “Your code is failing and we get to go on secret raid behind enemy lines to repair it. This is exciting, don’t you think?” The professor didn’t bother waiting for a response, as something else caught his eye, “Oh look, a snack cart! I must go compare flavors!” He wandered off without a word as Will, Bug, and Oscar watched on in silence.

“He’s insane,” was all Oscar could mutter.

“Probably,” Bug agreed. “He spends his days using Applied Imagination to create blenders powered by smacking yourself in the face 2, and that tends to have a bit of a impact on the grey matter. The problem is, he’s usually right.”

“Not this time.”

“Yah, we’ll see. There’s a few bureaucrats over there by the coffee station. Why don’t you run along and go up-sell them a software contract or two?”

Oscar glared at Bug, but then shook his head and wandered over to the very bureaucrats the gnome had pointed out.

“They just can’t help themselves,” Bug sighed.

“Bug, maybe you shouldn’t have made him so angry.”

“Why’s that, kid?”

“Don’t we need him to fix the Firewall?”

Bug snorted. “Kid, compared to the prof that guy barely knows how to turn a computer on. He’s only coming because Redmine threatened something about this mission voiding a warranty, and the bureaucrats who are left in town are just idiotic enough to have believed them.”

“Oh.”

Bug grinned, “But he’s fun to mess with.”

Bug’s grin morphed into a hard stare as he inclined his head toward the door. Will’s eyes followed and he caught sight of Sindy entering the room, escorted by a smiling dwarf and a sullen elf. Each dressed in army fatigues. Sindy strolled over with her companions in tow and kissed her husband on the cheek.

“Hi, do you remember agents Grimby and Fineflin?”

“Hey,” offered Grimby. Fineflin’s frown deepened.

“Hey, Grimby,” Bug responded. Looking towards the dwarf’s partner he added, “So what’s wrong with you?”

“Just look at me!” the elf burst out. “None of these greens go with my hair!”

Fineflin broke into sobs and collapsed to his knees as he buried his head on Sindy’s shoulder, who stared ahead in mute exasperation. Bug leaned over to the elf’s partner and whispered, “Did you have to bring that sack along?”

Grimby smiled, “Nah, he’s fine. And he’s fun. Watch this.” The dwarf looked over at the sobbing elf and said, “Hey, Fineflin. I know this isn’t a great time to tell you this, but I just noticed your camo patterns don’t match.”

Fineflin’s head shot up, his face a countenance of horror. He then stood and ran from the room shouting as he covered his face, “Don’t look at me, I’m uncoordinated!”

Bug, Sindy, and Will joined the rest of the room staring silently at the retreating elf. Grimby, however, popped open a bag of chips from the nearby snack table.

“The best part is, we didn’t even have to get changed for this gig,” he grinned as he popped a chip into his mouth.


  1. Coffee-flavored programming language names were already taken, though Tea and an unnamed coffee-themed programming language share the same type of security history. 
  2. This is a result of the tendency for people to perform this action after the realized they neglected to secure the blender’s lid. The Professor felt getting the smack out of the way beforehand would serve as a good reminder, and used AI to shape a battery which would store that kinetic energy. 
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