Today’s blog continues my long-neglected satirical fantasy, In The Land of the Penny Gnomes
It took close to four hours to reach the outskirts of the Satire Shield after the remainder of the convoy linked up with the First Guards. The Guards were holding a defensive position which had a link to the city, but skirmishes and sudden shifts in the lines meant they had to proceed with caution.
What Will most remembered of this dangerous journey was the deference Bug was shown. The remnants of the group with whom they left The Empty Throne interpreted his statements as orders, and the Guard units they encountered all treated Bug as though he was in command. He even noticed, at their last stop before entering the security of the Satire Shield, one of the Guard officers offering his friend a salute. Bug returned it without hesitation.
“OK,” he said as he approached their transport. “It looks like we’re clear from here into the city. It shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes or so.” Bug then handed his co-pilot a small map. “Sills, you and Grimby make sure the other vehicles know the route in case we get separated. We’re traveling without lights.”
“Yes, sir,” the two agents responded before exiting the vehicle.
Bug then lifted a mug of coffee to his mouth as he leaned back against the vehicle. He grimaced as he sipped the brown liquid, “Wizard Brew,” was all he said before dumping it on the ground.
Soon the two IBI agents had returned and the group completed their journey to Boarsblemish, and the safety of the Satire shield. The trip was tense, as the only lights in the darkness were the flashes of gunfire several miles to the East.
When they had at last reached the Satire Shield and dealt with it’s side effects 1 Will was shocked at the difference in the city. Boarsblemish had been strange when he’d passed through just over a week prior, but now it was empty. Their vehicles passed through dark neighborhood after dark neighborhood which seemed to be devoid of life. The only movement the teen noticed in the streets were patrols of armed soldiers.
“They’ve evacuated the outskirts of the shield,” spoke a voice from the turret. Will looked up and was surprised to see Fineflin glancing down at him, the elf had never before addressed him. “No one thinks the Horde can get through it, but people here aren’t taking chances.”
“I guess that makes sense.” Will replied, wondering if the elf would continue the conversation. But Fineflin merely sniffed and returned to gazing out from this turret. Oscar, on the other hand, decided to become talkative.
“Oh, this is not good. This is not good at all.”
“What’s not good?”
“This is Contingency Three.”
“Oscar,” grumbled Grimby from the back seat. “Dwarf to dwarf, please shut up. You’re gonna scare the kid.”
Oscar spun around with a snarl to face his fellow dwarf. “Shut up? Shut up? This is Contingency Three, being scared is the correct response!”
Sindy rolled her eyes. “We’re all scared, Oscar. Hyperventilating isn’t going to help.”
Oscar’s head shook with frustration as he tried to form enough words for a retort. Will, however, beat him to it.
“Would someone please tell me what ‘Contingency Three’ is?”
Will expected either Sindy or Grimby to answer the question, but both shrugged and shook their heads. Will turned to Oscar, but the Dwarf crossed his arms and faced forward.
“Don’t look at me. I, apparently, need to ‘shut up.’” He grumbled.
“Shut up Oscar,” Bug called back from behind the wheel. “Or I’ll tie you on the roof for the rest of the trip.”
Nobody, however, raised his hand.
“Professor,” called Sills. “Did you want something?”
“Oh, I know the answer to Will’s question!”
“So why are you raising your hand?” asked the agent.
Nobody’s brow creased, “I thought this was considered socially acceptable. I’m supposed to raise my hand until called up on. Am I doing it wrong?”
Oscar glanced over at Nobody with an incredulous gaze. Sindy sighed and shook her head. Bug chuckled.
“Kind of a weird time for a social insight, Prof.”
“I’ve been saving this one up 2.”
“I don’t care!” Will screamed. “Just tell me what ‘Contingency Three’ is!”
“Ah, yes. Well, ‘Contingency Three’ is one of the six contingency plans enacted in case the firewall collapses. All residents in the outskirts of the city are to be moved to the center, and all food stores in the city limits collected. By this time Center City Boarsblemish has likely been converted to a impenetrable fortress.”
“But you said the Horde can’t get through the Satire Shield.”
“I did, Will! You are so very perceptive. And you are right, I don’t believe the Horde will be able to penetrate the shield.”
“So why pull back?”
“Because of Contingency One,” spat out Oscar.
“Well, this,” Nobody answered cheerfully has he pulled an object from his pack.
It was the Penny Ore Detonator. Oscar looked upon it with colorless dread, but the Professor held it up with a playful wiggle.
“You see in theory the energy created via detonation of the Penny Ore will, itself, be transformed as it passes through the Satire Shield. This will leave the core of the city intact, but will leave the outskirts vulnerable to leakage.”
“Boarsblemish is a lifeboat?”
“Ah, yes!” Nobody responded in triumph. “An excellent analogy!”
“Yah, thanks,” Will deadpanned back. “So what’s Contingency Two?”
Nobody was about to answer, but Bug cut him off. “Later, Professor.” The gnome then pointed toward the spires of the University Building. “We’re here, let’s go get the code.”
Bug threw open the door and hopped down from his seat. “Sills, make sure the rest of the convoy gets some food and takes some rest. We’ll probably be here a few hours.”
“Yes sir,” she replied.
“Sindy, will you come with me and your dad? We’ve got work to do.”
Sindy nodded and made her way out of the transport, stepping on Oscar’s feet in the process. As she made her way out, Bug addressed the remainder of the crew.
“The rest of you get something to eat as well. Then get some sleep. We’ll figure out our next steps in the morning.”
As Bug wandered off with Nobody and Sindy in tow, the remaining crew also exited the vehicle and made their way into the University Campus in search of food. They found some meager rations in a field kitchen which was set up in a courtyard and then made their way back to the transport to try and get some sleep. Will didn’t know how long he’d be dozing when he was shaken awake by Bug.
“Bug? What is is? Are we ready to go?”
Bug smiled, “Nah, kid. Not yet. I wanted to have a talk with you first.”
The gnome pulled off his hat and began twisting it in his hands. “Well, you see, I feel bad I brought you here. The professor’s got the code to reboot the firewall now, and the Guards are gonna escort him to the controls. So, if you wanted, we could head back to Great Roll.”
“Kid, I’m trying to say, ‘Do you want me to take you home?’”
- Nobody had suddenly been wearing a large red button which read, “Do not press in case of emergency.” He was pondering pressing it before Sindy relieved him of the device. ↩
- This is true. Nobody had the “hand raising” insight about six month’s prior, and has been waiting for an opportunity to demonstrate it. ↩