Fiction Tuesday – Conference Call (The Darned Conspiracy, Scene 15)

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

Grimby and Fineflin had boarded the first express train leaving The Throne for No Entry that afternoon, which departed just as Sills arrived at the Governor’s building. That was almost two hours ago. The train had passed through The Throne’s suburbs and accelerated to it’s top cruising speed, causing the train to rock on the rails as it sped across the plain surrounding Lake Narrative.

“Why is it swaying?,” Fineflin blurted out. His face was pale and he was clenching the seat as the car rocked back and forth.

Grimby smiled, “You’re afraid of a little rocking? Don’t you run across tight ropes for fun?”

“The tightrope isn’t going almost two hundred miles an hour!” The car rocked with particular violence and the elf stifled a wimper. “Should it be doing that?”

“Yes, it should be rocking like that. My cousin was an engineer on the project and he explained it to me. The rocking is what keeps the cars on the track. I think.”

Fineflin’s face drained what was left of it’s color, “That is not making me feel any better. I thought Nobody was supposed to be working on hover trains.”

Grimby shrugged. “He is, and Bug did tell me he’d actually gotten a train to hover.”

“Then why aren’t we in one of those trains?”

“Because it hovered straight up into the air and never came down, that’s why,” Grimby replied. “Hovering is easy. Bug says controlling it is hard.”

“So we’re stuck with wheels. Great.”

“Nobody is still tracking the train, too. He photographs it when it flies overhead at night. Bug said it’s giving him ideas.”

“Like what?”

Grimby threw out his hands. “He wouldn’t say 1.”

At that moment, Fineflin’s bag buzzed. The elf pulled out a tablet and checked the notification, “It’s the Director. I guess she wants to give us an update about her testimony.”

He unlocked the device and propped it up on the small table between the benches the two agents were sitting on. Sills’ face appeared on the tablet, she appeared to be sitting in the back seat of her car.

“You two took an express? Do you have any idea what that costs?”

Grimby grinned. “Yup, and we’ve even got the receipts to give you when we get back.”

Fineflin thought he saw a puff of steam escape Sills’ ear. “You know I would never have approved that!”

The elf cocked his head, “Well, you were busy. And you did say we needed to get to Great Roll as fast as possible. The express train was the best way to do that. Though I am having second thoughts, if it makes you feel any better.”

Despite herself, Sills grinned. “First time zipping, Fineflin?”

He nodded and took a cleansing breath. “We are not supposed to be moving quite this fast. I’m sure of it!”

“Well, if it makes you think twice about spending The Throne’s money on luxury travel in the future I’ll take that as a win. As it is, it’s probably best you hopped on that express.”

Grimby’s brow wrinkled. “Something happen when you were testifying.”

Sills shook her head, and then said, “Go secure.” With that, a button appeared on the screen which read, “No peeking.” Grimby tapped it and Sills’ face returned.

“Yes, several things happened. First, there’s a mole in our office. At least one, that is.”

Fineflin whistled, “That’s quite a charge. Are you sure?”

“Yes. Sintelis had information we have neither made public nor shared with the Governors. He had to get it from our office. Somehow.”

Fineflin drew himself up. “Well, I hope you don’t put the elves in the office under undue scrutiny.”

Sills shook her head. “Agent, I’d put myself under undue scrutiny right now if it would help me find the leak. Everyone’s a suspect, including elves. But nothing will be investigated in the open. I’m hoping we can find the leaker by letting them get lazy.”

Fineflin cocked his head. “I suppose I understand. But there’s already enough suspicion about elves in the IBI right now and I’d hate to see it become worse.”

“Not if I have anything to say about it, Fineflin. I promise.”

“Boss,” Grimby cut in. “You said several things happened?”

“Yes, we had suspicions about the Darning delegation working with elements of the Classics. The way Sintelis and Firetrodder were playing off one another I’d say that suspicion was confirmed.”

Grimby snorted. “Great, a pompous orange blowhard and a conniving diva on the same team. That’ll end well.” The dwarf looked over at his partner. “Sorry.”

“Don’t worry about me. Sintelis is a bit much even for most elves.”

“Yes, well, that’s not the worst of it,” crackled Sills’ voice from the table as the signal was disrupted.

“OK, boss, give us the worst news.”

“When Sintelis was questioning me he let it slip that he was interested in what I knew about another attack on the penny supply.”

Grimby and Fineflin exchanged a glance before Fineflin replied, “You think there’s another attack on the penny supply planned?”

“That’s what Sintelis’ fishing expedition seems to indicate. Don’t you think?”

“I can’t say I disagree, Director. It’s just that, this seems a bit… extreme for Sintelis. He is a diva, as Grimby said, but he’s never been a radical. He’s more of a credit-seeker.”

“I agree, Fineflin. And that’s what’s got me worried. We don’t know what this group’s end game really is. Socks are just an excuse, there’s more going on here. I’m certain of it.”

“OK, boss. We’ll see what we can find in Great Roll. If we can get in, that is.”

Sills’ eyes narrowed. “The border’s been open since after the war, why wouldn’t two IBI agents be allowed to go to Great Roll.”

“Well,” Grimby paused. “I’m sure the gnomes don’t think much of elves at the moment. The whole push to switch to the Sock Standard can’t be making the border guards feel all that hospitable.”

“Hmmm, that’s true. The border’s still tight, even if it’s passable. If you get a particularly angry gnome at the gate I’m sure Fineflin’s experience would be… unpleasant.”

“Seeing as I’d like to avoid that, Director, I do hope you have some ideas?”

Sills smiled. “I do at that, Agent. I do at that.”


  1. Nobody had submitted plans to Cindy for The Realmian Space Station, or RSS. He reasoned that experiments in Applied Imagination could be accelerated with minimal impact on the general population. Sindy was intrigued, until Nobody pointed out that if he burned off the atmosphere by accident it would grow back in a day or so. It wasn’t his most insightful moment.