Today’s blog continues my long-neglected satirical fantasy, In The Land of the Penny Gnomes
It took the better part of an hour to convince Fineflin he’d found matching camouflage patterns for his fatigues. The group was then herded to a waiting line of military vehicles, where they were greeted by a frowning gnome.
The gnome marched up to Sills, tapping his wrist. “What took you so long? We were supposed to be on the road a half-hour ago!”
“We had a problem with agent Fineflin which need to be resolved.”
“The elf?” the gnome scoffed. “You should have left him behind!”
Fineflin sniffed in indignation, but Sills waved him to silence 1.
“Can’t do that, we need him.”
“Fine. There’s your transport.” The gnome shoved a finger toward Bug and declared, “You’re driving.”
The gnome spat on the ground before glaring at Bug. “Look, you and your wife want to come along on this little jaunt. That’s great, but you’re not necessary to the mission. So if you’re coming, you’re working. Sills says you’re good in a pinch and your wife’s quick on her feet. I’ve got soldiers managing the security, you just hold on to the wheel and do what we tell you.”
“All right, then,” Bug snapped. “I guess I’ll drive.” Sindy’s ears were whistling steam.
“You do that. Now let’s go.”
With that the gnome jogged toward the front of the convoy, leaving Will and his friends startled into immobility. Finally, Sills clapped her hands and got everyone moving.
“OK, let’s go. Bug, you’re driving. Professor…”
“Oh! Can I sit in the front seat!”
Sills shook her head. “No, Professor. That’s not as secure and we don’t want you to be out in the open. You’re in the middle row with Will and Oscar.”
Nobody pouted at these instructions, but didn’t protest. Sills continued giving seating assignments. “Fineflin, I want you behind the driver, ready to control the turret. Grimby and Sindy, you’re in the back row.”
“Where will you be?” Sindy asked, a hint of accusation in her tone.
“I’m riding shotgun, someone who knows military protocol needs to monitor the radio, and Grimby’s banned from military radio traffic.”
“You pull one prank on a general and they punish you for life,” grumbled Grimby.
When no one moved, Sills clapped her hands. “The transport’s there, folks, move.”
Spurred on by Sill’s prodding, the group mounted the transport and buckled in for the journey. Once everyone was settled Sills reached for the radio and keyed in.
“Breadbasket is loaded and ready for transport.”
“Nice of you to join us Breadbasket. All vehicles, this is Roundabout, roll out.”
With that a roar of engines reverberated through the staging area as the convoy began to move. What little traffice remained in the city had been moved off the roads, and the transports made good time as they headed South and out of the city. As they turned North to round The Empty Throne Jeremy began to spy people lining the highway. Some were standing near loaded vehicles, staring as the convoy passed. Most simply wore backpacks or pulled wagons loaded with belongings. Everyone was moving South.
“Who are they?” Will said to no one in particular.
Grimby answered from behind, causing Will to turn in his seat. “They’re refugees. People have been flooding South from the plains all week. With the exception of military traffic, every lane has become southbound. Reports are the crowd around No Entry has gotten so big the trains have had to stop running.”
“But I thought the gnomes won’t let anyone in.”
The dwarf shrugged. “Doesn’t stop anyone from trying. Same thing’s gonna happen when they get outside Dryer or in front of the Little Firewall. No one’s got room for all these,” Grimby waved in the direction of the refugee wave. “And folks are starting to take care of their own.”
“Wait. What’s the Little Firewall?”
“It’s what the Dwarves from Red Mine set up to govern the flow of traffic into their mountains.”
“And we’ve kept our patches up-to-date, so it’s not going to fail.” Oscar huffed as he joined the conversation.
“Oh ho! I wouldn’t count on that.” Nobody warned with a smile. “I my most recent security audit I found close to 75 vulnerabilities in the Little Firewall code base.” His eyes twinkled as he continued, “There’s five really nasty ones which can bring it down from anywhere in The Realm!”
“When did you do a security audit of the Little Firewall,” spat Oscar.
“Oh, when were waiting for Will to wake up,” beamed Nobody. “I submitted patches and everything. It even inspired a new chip flavor, ‘Barbecued Holey Cheese!’”
Grimby licked his lips. “That actually sounds good.”
“Who cares about the chips?” Oscar squeaked. “Are you sure you submitted the patches?”
“Oh yes, quite. I even got a nice reply saying they’d be applied in the next security update…”
“Well, that’s good,” declared Will.
“… in six months,” Nobody continued.
“But…” Will began.
“We’ll all be doomed by then, yes.” Nobody continued to smile as reached into his pack and pulled out several bags of “Snack Like Nobody’s Business” chips. “Who wants to try BBQ Holey Cheese?”
“Yo!” cried Grimby as he held up his hands. Encouraged by Grimby’s eagerness the other passengers also accepted bags of Nobody’s chips. Even Oscar, who had lost all color in his face, reached out to accept a bag. Bug also requested some, but Sills intercepted the package Nobody tossed to him.
“Hands on the wheel, Moume.”
Bug spent the next hour scowling as his companions munched on their snacks.
Soon Southbound traffic along the road vanished and the transports spread out and travelled through an increasingly empty landscape. Houses and businesses were boarded up, and what few vehicles Will spotted appeared to be packed down for an extended journey. The teen couldn’t believe he’d passed through the region only a few days before, it had so transformed.
The radio suddenly crackled to life, halting Will’s contemplations. “Roundabout to all rollers, be advised. Communications with Boarsblemish have been interrupted. Keep alert for Horde activity.”
Will’s eyes opened. “Does that mean Boarsblemish is under attack?”
“Not necessarily, Will. Radio waves don’t travel well though the Satire Shield, so their broadcast towers have to be outside it’s effect. Raiding parties will sometimes cut the lines to the towers and disrupted communication. It could be nothing more than that.”
“Oh,” Will breathed as he settle back into his seat. “OK.”
Even as he settled in, however, he noticed Fineflin’s head snap to the right.
“Stop the convoy!” the Elf cried.
“What?” asked, Bug, even as he eased up on the accelerator.
“Stop the convoy!” Fineflin repeated.
Bug hit the breaks, causing the trailing vehicle to swerve and pass by on their left, the driver flashing an scowl as he zoomed past. Several more transports also came to a a halt as Sills grabbed the radio.
“Roundabout. Breakbasket. Halt all rollers. I repeat, halt all rollers!”
“Too late,” Fineflin moaned.
Looking out the windshield, Will saw an explosion rising to the sky several hundred yards ahead of their position. Transports swerved and fanned out even as their turrets came to life.
The Horde was attacking.
- Which offended him more. Elves are touchy beings. ↩