Today’s blog is a section from The Darned Conspiracy, the sequel to my first novel In The Land of the Penny Gnomes
After the group acquired their morning beverages, they made their way to Great Roll’s IBI field office. It was only several blocks from the station, but the number of stares Fineflin suffered made him which they’d driven instead. The current animosity towards elves was near full boil.
As they approached the office Bug smiled, “Wow, I haven’t been here since the war.”
“That’s right,” Grimby replied. “You were here working with Sills, right?”
“Yup. Getting the Prof everything he needed to fulfill his contract for the military.”
Fineflin smirked. “Well. Not everything.”
Bug shrugged, “All water under the bridge, now. Or so Sindy tells me.” The trio worked their way up the stairs and Bug pulled open the front door. “Why don’t you two let me handle the introductions? That way things can go a bit more smooth.”
Grimby huffed his amusement. “Bug, when you get involved nothing ever goes smooth.”
“Har, har. Ha, ha. Just… go inside before that gnome over there decides to throw his bagel at Fineflin.” Fineflin turned and, indeed, there was a gnome at the bottom of the steps holding a bagel in “launch” position. Bug glowered at him and shouted, “Move along, buddy. We don’t have time for morons today!”
The gnome backed away a bit before turning and running down the street 1.
“Yah,” Grimby sighed. “Smooth.”
The two agents entered the building first, causing the security guard on duty to look up with interest. Then Bug entered the foyer and the guard stood up and pressed a nearby button. A buzzer sounded, the doors locked behind the trio, and the guard shouted.
“Bug Moume, you are under arrest. Put your hands behind your head a turn around!” Several IBI agents could be seen behind the guard, sprinting through the hall.
Fineflin grinned as Bug raise his arms and turned around. “Oh yah. Smooth.”
“Very smooth,” Grimby agreed.
“Would you two shut up and give me a hand? This is all a misunderstanding.”
Fineflin was having a difficult time swallowing his laughter. Grimby wasn’t even trying. “But, Bug, we’re just agents who outrank everyone in this field office. You’re smooth.”
In between laughs, Grimby managed to speak. “Why they arresting you, anyway?” The dwarf looked at the guard, who was inching toward Bug as though he were an unexploded bomb. “They’re acting like you’re going to melt everyone you look at.”
“After my last… incident… going outside the authority of the IBI and the Board of War Sills said she was putting my name on the ‘Most Wanted’ list for Great Roll. I didn’t think she’d actually do it!”
“Agents,” the Guard said as he inched his way forward some more, cuffs at the ready. “Please step away from the suspect, he could be dangerous.”
“Only to his own ego,” Fineflin said as he stepped away from the surrendered gnome. “And maybe to fashion sense. Really, Bug, if you’re going to wear the floppy hat the least you could do is find an outfit that goes with it.”
At this point Grimby gave up any semblance of calm and keeled forward, howling with laughter.
“Glad you think this is funny,” accused Bug.
“Agents, really. This is no laughing matter…”
“Stand down. I repeat, stand down,” A voice called out over the loudspeaker. “The training exercise is over. Well done, evaluations will be sent out by the end of the day.”
The guard cocked his head, confused, but holstered his weapon.
“Sorry about that, I didn’t know it was a training exercise.”
“You weren’t supposed to,” a new voice replied from an open doorway. A gnome in standard IBI uniform emerged and stood in the portal. “Director Sills set that up four years ago, as a bit of payback for some particularly bad offenses.”
“Eugene.” Bug growled recognition as he spun around. “That was not funny.”
“It wasn’t meant to be,” the new gnome smiled. “Sills wanted to remind you that it was probably not in your best interest to run around behind her back again, so when you left Great Roll after the incident she instructed me to set up this training exercise. She did warn you about it.”
“I thought it was a joke!”
Eugene flashed an inquisitive eyebrow. “Really? Well, that’s was your second mistake.” The gnome turned toward Bug’s companions and shook their hands in turn.
“Eugene Seled, I’m the field office director here in Great Roll.” He waved a hand toward the door from which he’s emerged and added, “Why don’t you three come into my office? I believe the director wants to speak with you.”
The trio followed Eugene into his office, Fineflin had to duck low in the gnomish architecture. He then offered seats to his guests, one of which was over sized. Fineflin plopped down on that one.
A voice crackled from the loudspeaker. “So how’d you like the exercise, Bug?”
“That wasn’t funny, Sills. They could have shot me?”
“Relax, ever since an incident involving a rubber chicken twenty five years ago the guards at the security checkpoint have only been armed with paintballs.”
“It still wasn’t funny,” Bug groused.
“It wasn’t supposed to be. Don’t go behind my back again. Now, what do you all have to report?”
“Well, a lot of gnomes around here are pretty racist. I’ve never been treated so poorly, and I was a prisoner of the Horde 2!” Fineflin blurted out. He then looked down at Eugene and said, “Sorry, Assistant Director.”
“Dont’ be,” he replied. “It’s true, and you’re here at a particularly bad time for Elves. A couple who was here on their honeymoon were surrounded by an angry mob a couple of nights ago. I had to send in IBI agents to extract them from the situation.”
“And, aside from the racism,” Grimby interjected. “We were contacted by someone on the train who claims to know something about the real pennies.”
“I’m assuming you have him in protective custody,” Sills voice replied.
“No, Boss. The thing is, he thought he was being anonymous and clever so I didn’t want to spook him. Or, for that matter, stoke the previously mentioned racism we’re seeing around here..”
“And he wasn’t being clever or anonymous?” Sills inquired.
“Nope. He used his own sleeper car to pass on the message. Shouldn’t be too hard to track him down.”
“Good, give what yo know to Seled and let the local agents bring the informant into protective custody. Now, what did he tell you?”
“Well, Boss, he said he was one of a few couriers who was hired to move some pennies around Great Roll. It was just a side hustle he had, getting a little bit of reality to families here in The Realm without red-tape. But the last six months or so, the volume has increased, along with the number of his suppliers.”
“How much of an increase?” Sills followed up.
“He was picking up from no less than 400 different suppliers, but was delivering them all to the same location.”
“Let me guess. Good Ore Penny Delivery Services?”
“Close, boss. He actually dropped them off at Silverhome Penny Mine, which is owned by Good Ore.”
“So, are the pennies getting into the supply from the source?”
Fineflin cleared his throat. “We don’t know, Director, but we hope to find out.”
“You do that, as quick as you can. What volume was he talking about?”
“Our informant said he’s delivered upwards of 21,000 pennies. And he also asserts he wasn’t the only courier.” Grimby replied.
There was pause before Sills responded. “Agents, get on this. If there’s that many real pennies out there the entire Realm has got to be a target!”
- Bug didn’t have to worry. The gnome in question was a member of the Nobody Fan Club and was trying to figure out a way to have Bug get the Professor to sign his bagel. You never can tell with some people. ↩
- So was every other being in the conversation, save Seled, so this wasn’t a shocking revelation. Sills yawned. ↩