Today’s blog is a section from The Darned Conspiracy, the sequel to my first novel In The Land of the Penny Gnomes
“Professor, do you understand that not everyone who recognizes you wants an autograph?” Grimby asked as he and Fineflin set him on his feet inside the Apollo’s coffee.
“Yes, I’ve been told that,” the professor admitted. “But whenever I offer an autograph to someone people accept with such a look of awe I can’t help but think perhaps the sentiment is wrong.”
“They’re not in awe, Professor,” Fineflin replied. “They’re confused.”
“Oh? Hmmm.” Nobody pondered this for a moment before continuing, “But as I consider awe and confusion to be very nearly the same thing I think perhaps I’ll just keep giving autographs out before I’m asked. The look on people’s faces is its own reward.”
The two agents shared a look. They weren’t the first people to try and curb Nobody’s embrace of his sudden fame following the Copyright War, and if the Sovereign couldn’t make her father understand the limits of his celebrity in the last five years they doubted they’d be able to do it in five minutes. Nobody, for his part, wasn’t bothered by the agent’s attempts to derail his sense of celebrity. He brushed past them and approached a dwarf and a gnome who both looked as though they might attack each other at any moment.
“Oh, our combatants! How wonderful! I was near combat a few times, can you imagine that? Does either of you want an autograph?”
The two beings lowered their internal thermostats as they pondered Nobody’s apparent obliviousness to the intensity of their situation. They were each used to people walking on legos around them 1, but ignoring their rage was something new.
“Uh,” the Dwarf said.
“Do you get what’s going on here?” The gnome completed the thought. The duelists then exchanged a “well, glad that’s taken care of” glance and turned up their internal thermostats once more. Nobody, however, continued to ignore all glaring and continued as though the question he’d been asked required an answer.
“Oh, yes! I do know what’s going on here! You, Mr. Dwarf…”
“Kevin,” the dwarf interjected.
“Kevin. My that’s an interesting name for a dwarf. I would like very much to hear the story some time.” The gnome cocked his head, “But where was I? Oh yes! You, Kevin, work as this Apollo’s, while Mr. Gnome…”
“Sibil,” the gnome sighed.
“Sibil…lovely beard! You’ll have to tell me where you got it. My Cindy doesn’t go for them any more, but you never know. Right?”
Fineflin was rubbing his forehead. It was best to derail Nobody before he decided to build an whole new transportation infrastructure. “Professor… let’s stay on track.”
“Oh… yes, I do apologize. It’s just so exciting! You, Sibil, were accused of trying to pay with a real penny and you didn’t take very kindly to it.”
“She punched me in the nose!” Kevin screamed. “And all because this…gnome… says I read my penny scanner wrong!”
“Well you did! Everyone knows dwarves don’t have a nose for economics!” Sibil screamed back.
“Oh my gosh! Racist much!” Kevin snapped back.
“You take that back!” Sibil spat back.
Grimby was about to encourage Kevin to calm down 2, but before he could raise his hand to put his deescalation training into practice 3 Nobody held up the nose he’d attached to the hose and asked, “Oh, may I see the penny in question, please?”
A uniformed officer held up an evidence bag and held it out to Nobody. “This is it here, sir.”
“Oh, sir. I do like being called ‘sir!’ Thank you so much!”
“Uhh, you’re welcome,” the officer responded. But their reply was already lost in the current that was Nobody’s train of thought.
“Now, let me activate my real penny, or ‘dull penny’ as I’ve decided to declare them, detector and see what happens.” The gnome pressed a button on the box and several lights came on. He pressed a second button and within a breath a blaring siren began screaming, causing everyone to cover their ears.
“Professor!” Grimby shouted over the noise.
“Turn OFF THE ALARM!” the dwarf screamed.
“Oh, certainly!” Nobody beamed. He toggled a switch on the device and the alarm when quiet. “That is more certainly a dull penny.”
Kevin flashed a triumphant glare toward Sibil. “I told you!”
“But I just got those pennies from the PAC4! How would a real penny…”
“Dull penny,” Nobody interjected. “A real penny is a penny brought back from the shops 5. But when it enters into circulation beyond No Entry, it’s absence of charge becomes something more problematic. So ‘dull penny’ is more accurate.”
Sibil rolled her eyes, “Fine. How would a dull penny get into the PAC?”
“That is a good question,” Grimby responded. “I think you’d better show us which PAC you got these pennies from.”
“Wait!” Kevin shouted as the two agents waved Sibil toward the door. “I need to ask something!”
“What is it?” yawned Fineflin.
Kevin held out a pen toward Sibil and asked, “Could I get your phone number? I’ve been meaning to ask for weeks but this is the first time I’ve been brave enough to talk to you and, please?”
A smile grew on Sibil’s face as she accepted the pen and wrote down her phone number. “I thought you were never going to ask.”
Nobody frowned as he watched the exchange. “And no one wants my autograph?”
- The Realm’s idiom department had considered continuing to use the “egg shells” metaphor, but after seeing a video of a parent treading across a floor covered with the interlocking plastic bricks they updated the saying. With prejudice. ↩
- By whacking him over the head with a foam baton. ↩
- Grimby had slept through that particular training, he was practicing on the job training. ↩
- “Penny Access Center.” ↩
- Pretty much any house in the real world. Gnomes have some strange ideas about shopping. ↩