Ratchet Troubles

- by Shame


“We’ve heard from Vazario, he escaped,” Nixx Sprocketspring sipped his glass of port, frowning.

“That’s good. Isn’t it?” Shame leaned forward, her own glass clasped untouched between her hands. The zeppelin moved through the night sky in near total silence, hardly more than a bulbous shadow against the stars.

“Yes. But it makes things complicated.” The Master engineer sighed, age creeping into his expression, “He’s lost his nerve. Says he’s going back to Undermine - is urging the rest of the guild to do likewise. His lab assistant was killed you know, shot for speaking up against the soldiers. The two of them were like family.”

The girl frowned, setting her glass aside and staring out a nearby window at the lights of Gadgetzan below. They looked, for the first time, lost in the surrounding darkness of the Tanaris desert. “Isn’t he angry?”

“We’re hoping he will be, once the shock wears off.” When Shame looked back to the old goblin he was grinning, teeth glinting in the cabin’s electric light. “Until then, we’ve put him to work.”

Shame arched an eyebrow, lips twitching to echo the goblin’s expression, “Oh?”

Sprocketspring gestured to his troll bodyguard, who brought forward a large wooden box and placed it gently on the table between master and student. The goblin nodded to the girl, “Open it.”

Shame slid off the mahogany lid. Inside, displayed with all the care of a set of crown jewels, was an array of goblin-made explosives - each marked either with a flowing intertwined “VL” or an architecturally precise “NS”. Her eyes widen slightly.

“You see my girl, the guild has no intention of withdrawing to Undermine. And even less of giving up Ratchet.”

Shame picked up one of the bombs gingerly, fingers running over it, marveling at the craftsmanship, “I see that Master Sprocketspring.”

The goblin reclined back in his chair, a predatory, catlike expression crossing his face, “I understand you’ve been having some dealings with the Gray Tiger company child.”

She tilted her head to one side, “I have. But if its good will you’re hoping for I’m afraid I’ve spent most of mine already.”

“Not good will. Just a delivery. And as you can imagine we’re keeping most of our personnel close at hand - where they’ll be safe,” the goblin’s voice took on a harsh edge at this last, expression as jagged as his voice. He hadn’t said - but Shame knew he was taking the attack on Ratchet very hard indeed.

“So you want me to deliver this,” she asked, waving her hand over what had to be several thousand gold worth of explosives.

The goblin’s smile widen, “No no. You’ll be delivering a much larger crate. I can’t imagine the Tiger’s are taking this well, can you?”

“I’m sure they’ll put them to good use.” Shame stood, sensing the interview was over, but the old goblin motioned her back into her seat. She cocked her head to one side, waiting.

“You haven’t considered, coming back, have you child?” Sprocketspring asked, rotating his glass in his hands.

“You know I have a job now Master Sprocketspring. Besides, I’m a citizen of Ironforge, I’m not in danger from this East Tanaris Trading Company.”

The goblin snorted, gesturing widely, “A job with Byron Langley, that misanthrope!”

Shame rolled her eyes, “You know as well as I do that I can’t come back. Certainly not now. If I did, who’d make your deliveries for you?”

“Stubborn girl,” the goblin said, shaking his head. “Very well. I’ll let you be for now. In any case - where were you headed initially my dear? I’ll have the zeppelin deliver you there.”

Shame downed the remainder of her port, setting the glass on the table beside Sprocketspring’s. “I’m going to see Corvino.”

The goblin blanched, “What?! Why would you want to see Don Gorbachio?” He clutched the arms of his chair - though it was hard to say if he was white-knuckled with anger, or some other emotion.

“I have something for him. I got it on my recent expedition to the Qiraji ruins.” She held up her pack, the outline of the stone slab barely visible within.

“Shame,” the goblin said, voice suddenly as old as his face had been at the memory of the slaughter at Ratchet, “There is a reason Corvino Gorbachio is not welcome in Gadgetzan, or other goblin settlements.”

Shame chuckled, “Well it can’t be due to lack of money, and that’s all I’m interested in.”

The goblin sighed, relaxing back into his chair again, one talon-tipped finger tapping the armrest, “You’re lying.”

“You ought to be used to it. Now, will you land this thing?”

“Of course. But you’re getting dropped off in the city. I’ll be damned if I go out of my way to deliver you into the wolf’s den.”

Master and student regarded each other across the table, and as usual the student relented first. “Fine,” Shame said, laughing and leaning back against her chair, “I’ll walk.”

“Of course you will. Of course.”

The zeppelin spiraled silently over Gadgetzan, dipping lower and lower like a rotund buzzard. When it hovered within a few feet of the ground a mechanical ladder was disgorged from its side. A small figure, aided by a lanky troll form, climbed down the steps and watched, motionless, as the zeppelin ascended back into the sky. Then Shame turned away, disappearing herself into the desert night.

A Legal SuitEdit

Somewhere in the background there were explosions. But the old goblins gathered around the large circular table, mahogany of course, did not flinch. They were used to them. Their faces were grim, save one or two which were plastered with manic smiles - akin to a suicide bomber about to push the button. Every gleaming golden eye, the same color as the gold coins with which nervous fingers toyed, the same color as gleaming trim which shone on collars and sleeves, every eye was turned to a piece of parchment in the center of table.

Finally one asked, “This is the complete list?”

The assembled heads of the Goblin Experimental Engineering Korporation nodded, eyes and collars and coins all flashing. Nixx Sprocketspring nodded with them, if his expression was grimmer than most it was difficult to tell. He knew the contents of the list too well - had spent the last week digging through old files, painstakingly assembling his portion of the list of names.

Vazario Linkgrease, who’d worn a manic smile ever since he’d returned to Undermine from Ratchet, was the first to speak, “How many of them have been ... retrieved?”

The oldest goblin, green skin fine and wrinkled, cuffs stiff and heavy with gold embroidery, picked up the list between twisted talons and consulted it, “Over half. Of the rest the majority did not work on projects with military applications. In fact -” he paused to slip on a pair of heavy glasses, the lenses glowed in the dim light, there was a low-pitched whine as the magnifiers in the frames adjusted, “There are only three left whose return to Undermine I would consider essential.” He said the names and the other goblins were completely silent as he spoke, even the far off explosions seemed to pause for him. “Now, Esmer Mockup is absent from this meeting - she’s gone with a company of guards to retrieve her former apprentice from his current home in,” his eyes, hugely magnified by the glasses, consulted the list again, “Un’goro Crater. That leaves us with two.” He repeated the names. Then he looked up, frowning, “Sprocketspring...”

Master Goblin Engineer Nixx Sprocketspring tensed, this was the moment he had tried to avoid, “Yes?”

“I was given to understand you had already brought back your former apprentice. Yet here I see her name. Would you care to explain to the committee?”

“We needed her to deliver our ... our care package to the Tong.”

“Very well, but that necessity is passed. I’ll send some guild guards to her address in ... Ironforge I believe?” He smiled, the expression almost lost beneath the oversized glasses.

Nixx Sprocketspring leaned forward onto the table, “What you’re advocating is no better than abduction. Ironforge is not Un’goro Crater.”

“Do you have an alternate plan?”

Sprocketspring grinned like a cat about to pounce, “I do. I’m sure we are all aware that she currently works for one Byron M. Langley....” as he began to explain a few other smiles appeared in the room, they were amused, they were glad to see that Sprocketspring was with them, not against them.

Shame read the letter again. It contained a lot of long words, lawyer words, some words she was fairly certain that had been made out of whole cloth. But, on the second time through, certain words began to stand out. Words like, “misuse and unlawful sale of G.E.E.K. proprietary intellectual properties,” and, “hearing scheduled this 12th of January in the G.E.E.K. central offices, Undermine, Island of Kezan.”

She was being sued. She set the letter down on her kitchen table, between her half-empty mug of tea and the fruit bowl. Sued. They wanted her to go to Undermine for her hearing. She began to reevaluate the predatory gleam in Master Sprocketspring’s eyes as he had set her down from his zeppelin that night in Tanaris, the tone of his cautious, “I hope to see you again soon child.”

She picked the letter back up, checking the time absently as she stood and walked to the door. Byron ought to still be awake. She walked the short distance to he and June’s house, hardly noticing the heat of the forge, they must have a good company lawyer, right?

He was home.

She fidgeted, waiting as Byron read the letter, then reread it. When he looked up his face was grave, and she felt a sudden need to finish the whiskey in the glass he had offered her mere moments ago. She tossed it back, the burn crawling up into her chest - doing little to dispel the ice that seemed to have formed there. “Well?” she asked.

“Well, the first thing I’m going to do,” Byron Langley said, taking a sip of his whiskey, “Is fire you.”

Shame blanched, blood draining from her face so quickly she felt dizzy.

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