Today’s blog continues my long-neglected satirical fantasy, In The Land of the Penny Gnomes
Will joined with the others in his party as they awaited Bug’s order to move out. Their vehicles were to be left behind, as their engines had too much potential to attract attention, so everything the group would need was carried in packs. Will, himself, carried enough food to feed three people for two weeks. The weight of the meals, added to his sleeping bag and extra clothes, was already causing his back to protest. Nobody, on the other hand, carried only his special bag which seemed to have endless carrying capacity with next to no weight.
“I do wish I’d had enough time to make several more of these,” he heard the professor opine.
“Well here’s and idea, Dad,” Sindy groused back. “Why don’t you let us put our packs in there with your stuff? It’ll make the trip easier.”
“Oh, I agree entirely,” the gnome beamed. “But the major overruled Bug’s order to do just that. Something about ‘soldiery character’ or something. I stopped listening when he said no.”
“Well,” replied Sindy with a bright smile. “Seeing as Will and I aren’t part of any sort of military, why don’t we just put our stuff in there then?”
Will grinned and began to unstrap his pack before Bug barked out, “Don’t even think about it, kid. We’re all in this together, and if the Red Boots have to carry their packs, so do you two.”
Will sighed and reconnected his pack while Sindy stood still, seething in her husband’s direction. Bug, in an unusual twist in their relationship, took no notice of his wife’s silent fury. Instead, he put his hat on his head, adjusted it to his satisfaction, and called out, “OK, listen up! I have received a communiqué which impacts all of us, but will be of particular interest to the gnomes among us.
“It appears the Mayor of Great Roll has declared the Fifty Peaks Mountains officially seceded from The Realm and it’s legal government. As such, he is ordering all gnomish units currently serving in units under Realmian command to return to Great Roll while he works out a separate peace with the Horde.”
The assembled soldiers grumbled with menace and shifted with restless frustration. Will noted the few gnomes who were present grumbled the loudest. It was Sills, however, who voiced the unspoken words of the unit.
“What is that idiot thinking?”
Bug face deadpanned as he continued, “Oh, it get’s better.” He turned to Nobody and continued, “Professor, the Mayor has also singled you out for several special commands.”
“Oh,” the gnome cocked his head and smiled. “How interesting.”
“Yes, it seems the Mayor has declared any work you have done for The Realm’s government is now the exclusive property of the Gnomish Governance. This includes a certain detonator, which you are to disconnect immediately, or otherwise render it useless.”
“Oh, well. I’m afraid to say that will be quite impossible.”
Bug shook his head. “Yah, Prof, it is. Considering without the detonator we’ve got no deterrent to keep the Horde from running us over.”
“Oh,” Nobody’s face dawned with understanding. “I hadn’t even consider that! Well, done. I can see why you’re in charge, my boy!”
Bug’s lips tightened in frustration, “Thanks Professor. But… if you don’t mind me asking, what did you mean?”
“Ah!” cried the academic. “Well, I thought the idea of an actual detonator to be quite crude. A button which would unleash destruction which anyone could press? What if someone antisocial managed to steal it from my pack?”
Bug nodded, impressed. “OK, makes sense so far.”
“That’s why I tied the detonator to my life signs!”
“You what?” cried Bug, Sindy, and Sills in unison.
“Well, yes. That way, if anything happens to me the ore will detonate and the Horde will be finished! I can still detonate the ore by an act of will, of course. But, don’t worry, I’m not antisocial.” The gnome then clapped his hands with delight, pleased with his new design for his weapon of mass destruction.
“Professor… that’s great. But there’s one problem I can see.”
“Oh? I can’t see what that might be.”
It was Sindy who voiced what the others were thinking. “We’re about to head into a war zone you absolute lunatic!”
Bug thrust a finger toward his wife, “Yup, that’s it!”
“And what if you accidentally fall off a cliff, dad? We’re walking through the mountains after all!”
Bug repeated his finger thrust. “And that too!”
Nobody lowered his hands and frowned with embarrassment. “Ah, yes. I seem to have left those bits out of my description.”
“You could say that, Professor,” Sills chimed in.
“Yes, well. As it turns out I had thought of those things. In fact, I created an Autonomous Narrative Awareness Engine for just such occasions.”
Bug’s mouth dropped opened, “A what-now?”
“An Autonomous Narrative Awareness Engine. In case of my capture, or accidental death, the ANAE will only trigger a detonation of the Penny Ore if our story is, indeed, over. If there is a chance for The Realm to be saved, it will transfer itself down through a list of names I’ve designated as essential for The Realm’s survival.”
Sindy cocked her head. “I have to admit, Dad. That’s smart.”
Nobody smiled wide. “Oh, thank you, my dear. I was was quite impressed with it myself!”
“Yah. Great idea, Prof, only who’s the next schmo who’s going to have that responsibility on their head if you go down?”
“Well… you, of course.”
The Red Boots, who had up to this point remained at attention while Bug argued with his father-in-law began murmuring with excitement at Nobody’s pronouncement.
Sills, however, blurted out, “You put Bug on the list?”
Will thought his friend might be upset by the IBI agent’s incredulity, but instead the gnome nodded in agreement. “Yah, you put me in your list of people most essential to The Realm’s survival?”
“Well, as Will’s guide and protector I thought it only prudent. The fate of The Realm, after all, is going to fall wherever he happens to be.”
Bug sighed, “So whatever happens to Will…”
“…is how this chapter of The Realm’s story will conclude. Yes.”
All eyes shifted to the teenager, who’s face had drained of color. Nobody’s pronouncement was not a responsibility he wanted, nor did he think it one he was able to shoulder. Less than two weeks earlier he’d been most concerned about his upcoming science test, and now he was in the midst of a war which might determine the fate of two worlds.
He was shaking with terror when a now familiar voice echoed in his head.
You didn’t think I talked to you because you were a great conversationalist, did you?