Today’s blog is a section from The Darned Conspiracy, the sequel to my first novel In The Land of the Penny Gnomes
Obeying Sills’ inferred recommendation, Grimby decided to take surface streets on their way to the power plant. As rush hour was well under way, this meant the partners were doing more standing still than driving.
“Would you please put our lights on, already?” Fineflin groaned.
“Sills wanted Nobody to have some room to play, so we’re giving him room to play.”
“Grimby, if we wait in traffic any more Nobody will have rebuilt the power plant, forgotten the cause of the explosion, and, created fifteen new snack chip varieties by the time we get there 1. Turn on the lights.”
“All right, fine.” The dwarf reached down and toggled on the car’s lights and siren. Annoyed drivers rolled their eyes as awareness washed over them, but the assorted denizens of The Realm’s capital city heeded the warning and did their best to get out of the way.
“I can’t believe I missed my robe fitting for this. They’re pure lint, too. You can’t leave them unfixed for too long or they just fall apart.”
“I’m sure they’ll be fine, Fineflin.”
The elf grunted displeasure. “Fine? A centaur with a store-bought dye job is ‘fine.’ I have standards, Grimby, and I was planning on wearing those robes to this year’s Elevation Day party. I would have turned heads adorned in blue-grey lint 2.”
“You’re still trying to get the attention of that wizard in accounting, aren’t you?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Come on, you make any excuse at all to head down there, it’s not like it’s a secret.”
The elf harrumphed. “I am taking down my expense reports, thank you very much.”
“Sure you are. But, one thing.”
“What is it?”
“Before you head down there again, please look at yourself in a mirror. I’m serious.”
“I’ve told you, Grimby, I’m not playing, stop trying to play ‘made you look’ with me. It won’t work.”
The dwarf shrugged, “Suit yourself.”
When the partners arrived at the power plant the red lights of fire trucks could still be seen flashing. The glow from some remaining embers also threw an orange glow across the scene. There was a city officer, a wizard 3, at the gate.
“Sorry, sir, you’re going to have to clear the area, there’s been an explosion.”
Grimby flashed his badge. “I’m Grimby, this is Fineflin,” the elf offered a casual wave. “IBI, now let us in.”
“Took you long enough to get here,” replied the wizard as he lifted the arm at the gate. “Did you get caught in rush hour or something?”
Grimby nodded. “Something like that, yes. By the way, have you seen an odd looking gnome around here anyway?”
The officer’s eyes brightened, “The Professor? Yah, head up to the control building, he’s made himself right at home.”
Grimby pulled the car into an open spot near the plant’s control building. A group of firefighters were rolling up their hoses, while others were gathered around the truck’s cab.
“So the fire is out, then?” Fineflin asked as the two agents passed by, holding up his ID.
“For the most part, yet. We have a couple of hot spots we’re looking at” responded a soot-covered centaur. “It was touch and go for a while but we were able to get it under control. It’s a good thing it stayed in the one reactor, that’s for sure.”
“So it was pretty contained?” Grimby chimed in.
The centaur nodded. “Not for lack of trying, but yes.”
“You mean you don’t think it was an accident?” asked Fineflin.
The centaur clopped its front feet as he shook in affirmation. “It was deliberate, that’s for sure. We told your investigator our initial findings, but we’ll send out someone from the department to confirm things.”
Grimby coughed. “Ah, if you’re talking about the gnome he’s not really with us.”
The centaur chuckled. “You know? He said he wasn’t supposed to be there, but just marched into the scene after we got the flames out and started making observations. We didn’t have the heart to tell him to stop.”
Fineflin raised his eyebrows in amusement. “Well, that certainly sounds like Nobody. Do you know where he is?”
“The last time I saw him he was trying to convince the shift supervisor to let him view the penny injection logs.”
Grimby smiled, “By know he’ll have rewritten the computers’ operating system. Thanks for the heads up. Good work.”
“It’s the job, Agent. It’s what we’re here for.”
The agents stepped through the doors to the control building, and were greeted with raised voices.
“Sir, I must insist. You aren’t authorized to see those records. You could get me in serious trouble!”
“Oh, that’s OK. I’m officially not supposed to be here, so people won’t care a bit. I’m sure the agents will explain it when they get here, it’s all a bit confusing for me. Something about rules, or official orders, or something. I’m afraid I’ve never paid much attention. There’s so much work to do, you see.”
Fineflin cleared his throat, drawing the attention of two gnomes. One was older, with a face wizened by wrinkles. The other looked as though they were experiencing accelerated aging, this was a normal expression worn by someone who was experiencing Professor Cooly Nobody for the first time. It’s not that Nobody was exasperating. In fact, he was rather amicable. It’s just that details like tresspassing, safety rules, and who was speaking with him never seemed to matter. Nobody could wander in to a bank vault, start rearranging the pennies according to how shiny they were, and then wonder why people were getting so upset. He’d always been this way, as far as his friends remembered, but once Nobody began experimenting with Applied Imagination 4 He seemed more lost than ever. People who weren’t familiar with his personality tended to wonder if Nobody was a bit “troubled,” which had happened to many people who survived the Copyright War. In reality, Nobody was one of the most untroubled beings in The Realm. It helped when one didn’t care in what day the people with whom he conversed were residing.
“Oh ho!” Nobody beamed. “Here’s are the agents now! May I point out that I’m not here.”
Grimby shook his head. “I think you mean ‘not here in an official capacity,’ Professor.”
“I do? How strange. I am the foremost expert on Applied Imagination and Penny Mechanics in The Realm, after all. If I’m here, I’m afraid I’d be useless to you if I wasn’t acting in my official capacity.”
“I tried to stop him, sir. But he just marched in and started playing with the computers,” the younger gnome pleaded.
Grimby frowned and held up his hand to silence the younger dwarf. “I meant…never mind. Just tell me what you found out.”
“So I am here in an official capacity?”
“No! You are not here, ok? Officially. Now give us your official report.”
Nobody’s head bobbed as he tried to work out Grimby’s directive. Then, satisfied, a smile beamed from his face.
“Wonderful! I am pleased to say it appears someone figured out a way to insert a real penny into the injection feed.”
Silence loomed in the control room. Nobody continued to beam with cheerful obliviousness, while the two agents closed their eyes and sighed as they attempted to work out how to bring Nobody back down to their plane of reality. The young gnome, however, stepped back from the older gnome and raised his hand.
“Did he just say, ‘pleased?'”
- This was an exaggeration. Nobody never invented more than ten new varieties at a time. He felt more was a bit excessive. ↩
- The Darned Elves’ major industry was sock fishing, which they used as an alternative fuel source to the pennies which were utilized by the rest of The Realm. A byproduct of the socks fished in tumbler gulf was lintweed. This prized, blue-grey fiber was difficult to dye, almost impossible to work with, and made uncomfortable clothes. The elves loved it. ↩
- For the record. In The Realm wizards look like human beings. But the tendency to carry wands and shoot occasional sparklers into the air for no reason whatsoever was a dead giveaway. They also make the worst coffee in The Realm. ↩
- AI utilized the unstable imagination fields which permeated The Realm, and then wove them through random objects to form something new–often with unpredictable results. Nobody had used AI to create everything from permanent candles to a hydrogen-powered paper towel dispenser. Mostly, however, he just used AI to power the ovens in his snack chip factory. ↩