Fiction Tuesday – Testimony (The Darned Conspiracy, scene 13)

Today’s blog is a section from The Darned Conspiracy, the sequel to my first novel In The Land of the Penny Gnomes

Agent Wadson rode over to the Governor’s Building with Sills after settling her team into a secure lab at IBI Headquarters. She was fidgeting.

“Calm down, Bills, it’ll be fine,” Sills soothed the wizard.

“But I was supposed to be there almost an hour ago, Director. What if I get cited for Contempt of the Governors?”

Sills held up a sheet of paper, affixed with the Sovereign’s seal. “You won’t, the Sovereign has affirmed that your tardiness was due to royal commands and couldn’t be helped. You’re fine. So am I, for that matter. I was supposed to be testifying by now, too.”

Bills seemed to calm a little, but was still shaking her knees as the car pulled into a parking spot.

“We’re here, Director,” Vicegrip cried as he leaped out of the car and managed to open Sills’ door just as she was reaching the handle. The gnome grunted at him as she exited the car and then turned to wave Bills out.

“You did promise, Director,” the driver grinned.

“I never want to get used to that, Vicegrip. You understand that, right?”

“I do, Director. But it’s my job, so you remember that as well. Do you want me to stick around?”

Sills nodded. “Yes. This shouldn’t take too long. The committee just wants to make themselves feel important.”

Vicegrip grunted. “Seems to me that’s when things take a long time.”

Sills shrugged. “You aren’t wrong. OK, get yourself something to eat, but stay on the grounds. Just in case something comes up.”

“You got it, Director.”

With that Sills started toward the security entrance, expecting Bills to follow. Two security officers, a dwarf and a goblin, examined the agent’s ID’s and then waved them in.

“You’re late,” croaked the goblin. “I’m supposed to call ahead and let them know you’re here.”

Sills eyed the Goblin 1 “You do that, then. Thanks.”

The agents rushed down the hall and then took an elevator to the third sub-level. The halls were near empty, the power shortage had kept all but essential workers home for the day.

After exiting the elevator the pair turned left and headed to a set of double doors marked “Committee Room C.”

As they entered Sills saw the committee members had taken the opportunity to put their first witness through an extended ringer.

“Be that as it may, Dr. Rinsed,” an Elf was speaking as the door shut behind Sills. “I don’t see how your point on morphic tolerance has anything to do with a currency change. We’ll still require pennies to power The Realm. At least until Clean Sock™ can generate enough power to replace them.”

“Enough power without creating a pollution explosion, Governor Sintelis.”

“Really, I do wish the Honorable Governor from University City would wait his turn to speak.”

“And I believe many of those on this committee would wish the Honorable Governor from Darning not be so quick to understate the pollution sock power creates!”

A gavel rang out through the chamber and a wizened Centaur called out, “Order! Order! Governor Relish, you are not recognized to speak at this time. Please keep your comments to yourself or I shall be forced to remove you.”

The wizard nodded. “My apologies, chairbeing. I will keep my thoughts to myself.”

The Centaur grunted acceptance, and turned toward the seething elf who’d been questioning the witness. “And, Governor Sintelis, please do not grandstand your frustration. It lowers the esteem of our branch of government.” The Centaur gestured to the empty gallery, “And besides, there’s no one here to appreciate your theatrics today.”

This got a stifled chuckle from many in the room, but Governor Sintelis only nodded and replied, “Yes, Chairbeing.”

The Centaur nodded and waved his hands toward the witness. “I do believe you have a question you’d like answered?”

The elf cleared his throat and spoke, “Thank you, Chairbeing. As I was saying, Dr. Rinsed, isn’t your whole point on morphic tolerance just a ploy to keep us from exploring other financial standards? It doesn’t seem to me that changing the standard our currency is based upon should provoke the type of negative impact you are describing.”

The wizard at the witness table took a sip of water and shook his head. “I believe the governor is incorrect in this. The morphic tolerance of The Realm exists because pennies are both power source and currency. If we upset that balance we risk undoing the imaginative nature of The Realm itself. At the very least it will alter the output of our economy. Once we break morphic tolerance the power output from both Pennies and socks will go down. This much we’ve proved in experiments.”

The elf gave a smug nod and replied, “Thank you, Doctor. I yield the remainder of my time to the esteemed Governor from the Forest of Classics.”

“Very well. The chair recognizes Governor Firetodder.”

A orange-haired centaur tapped his front hooves on the floor and bowed, “Thank you, illustrious Chairbeing.” He then turned toward Dr. Rinsed and said, “So… experiments have shown this phenomenon of morphic tolerance to be reality. Am I correct?”

The wizard nodded. “That is correct, yes.”

“But I find that fascinating, because a real world application of sock power has been happening for well over forty years, and the Darned Elves seem to be suffering no ill effects. Their economy is thriving, the have the power they need, and the by-product of their power source has created a multi-billion dollar 2 garment industry. So what is the problem?”

Agent Wadson leaned over to Sills and whispered, “So the Classics and the Darned Elves are working together, after all.”

“Shh,” hissed Sills. “Not now, but put a bookmark in it for later.”

Sindy’s attention had been diverted so she only caught the end of Dr. Rinsed’s answer. “…so, even though the Darned Elves do get power from the socks they fish out of the Bay of Rinsed, they’ve never been able to get them to release all their imaginative energy for power. In fact, last year alone fully a third of their power was imported from penny-based sources. But the multi-billion penny lint garment industry is thriving, yes.”

“So, even though the Darned Elves supplement their power needs with Pennies, they are still not upsetting morphic tolerance. So it seems to me we have real world experience that morphic tolerance, if there is such a thing, is more malleable than you Wizards seem to think. Why couldn’t it bind itself to a new power source once it was established?”

Rinsed shuffled a bit in his seat. “There is… some… evidence that is a possibility. Yes. But the ‘bending,’ as you say, isn’t without peril. From what our models show, the pollution around Darning would only be the start. The longer it goes on…”

Firetodder grinned, “Ah, so there you have it! Let’s disabuse ourselves of this ‘transition period’ and just rip the bandage off. The longer the shift goes on the worse the effects will be. We should put forward a proposal to shift The Realm to socks for both currency and power. Now.”

“That’s not what I said, Governor.”

“Thank you, Doctor. No further questions.”

“but I didn’t say…”

No further questions.”

“But…” the wizard stammered.

The gavel banged. “Thank you, the witness is dismissed.” The Chairbeing growled. Looking ofter toward Sills and Wadson the centaur continued, “And seeing as our next two witnesses have decided to grace us with their presence I’d like to call our next witness. Agent Bills Wadson to the stand, please.” The Centaur indicated that Wadson should take the seat just vacated by Dr. Rinsed, but added, “And Director, had you not just held up that signed writ from The Sovereign I would hold you in contempt. Do you understand?”

“I do, Chairbeing. Were I not under orders from The Sovereign to complete a task, I would not have been late. I am grateful for your indulgence.”

A question sprang out from Sill’s right. “And will we be hearing about what was so important the Sovereign had you keep an important committee meeting waiting?” It was Governor Sintelis who spoke. The chairbeing didn’t appear pleased to see the elf speaking out of turn, but his own frustration with the delay also didn’t incline him to quiet the Governor down.

Sills took the hint and answered. “If I’m at liberty to say, Governor, I will provide you with all the information I can.”

“Well,” the Chairbeing croaked. “This should be fun, but for now you have to wait. Agent Wadson, please rise your right hand and repeat after me.”


  1. Which she could do because gnomes and goblins are about the same height. 
  2. Most people The Realm would say “Multi-Penny,” but Governor Firetodder believes in alternative facts.