A Day At The Races, Part V. WOW Fan-Fiction
When I arrived, the site was sheer pandemonium. The entire town had come to gawk. Only the fearsome reputation of Thrall’s Angels parted the milling throng. The Mock 4 was in cinders, an ash-flecked crater and blue-green scorch marks.
I paced around the crater. Any clues were destroyed by the crowd, except for a pair of shoes sitting alone—so small they might’ve belonged to a child.
Shouts were coming from a misshapen lump a few hundred yards north. Teams Goblin and Gnome were ready to kill one another. By the beginnings of a shiner on Pozzic and Rizzle Brassbolt’s bleeding nose, they’d already tried. I had Fobeed and Zuzubee to thank for stopping it. Fobeed held all three goblin tinkers tight against his chest, Zuzubee doing the same with the three Brassbolts.
And the fourth Brassbolt, Sizzle—how terribly appropriate a name—was dead in a miniature blast crater of his own, bare feet sticking from the sand like a sundial surrounded by bits of smoking debris.
“You killed our brother!” Wizzle Brassbolt was screaming, tears filling his goggles.
“Did not!” Razzeric shouted back.
“You did! Just to win the race!”
“Did not! The Red Thunder ran out of fuel before it crossed the finish line. No point in killing Sizzle!”
“But you couldn’t have known that until after the race!”
I nodded at the ogre twins. They squeezed their charges a little tighter, who shut up with a chorus of breathless squeaks.
“Okay,” I said, trying to keep calm. “Did anyone actually see what happened before the explosion?”
A chorus of negatives was the reply.
“Fobeed,” I said. “Did the Eye-Pod system catch anything?”
“No, Race Master. It’s still expensive magic, so only key turns of the track are covered. The Red Thunder was gaining when the Mock 4 must’ve stopped suddenly. The Red Thunder made it to the next Eye-Pod totem, but the Mock 4 didn’t.”
I looked over the body. The charred remnants of a wooden board lay under one hand, iron bars not far from the other. I took the shoes from my belt, eyeing Sizzle’s bare feet. They fit perfectly. Blown clean out of them. Poor bastard. I knew the feeling.
“Fizzle,” I said, who seemed the least stricken of the Brassbolts. “Did you engineer any wooden parts on the Mock 4?”
“No. Only adamantite or better.”
“And the bars. Anything with metal bars?”
I held one up for his inspection.
“Hmm. Looks like part of a messenger chicken cage.”
“A messenger chicken?” I said. “Like the kind Magus Tirth sells?”
“No,” Fizzle said. “Mechanical. Much faster than live chickens.”
“Stig,” I said. “Find Quentin for me.”
Stig’s overhanging brow furrowed. “Who’s Quentin?”
“The only night elf on Azeroth with dreadlocks.”
I stroked the scorched ends of my beard, caught between thinking it over and wondering how much of a mess I looked. Sizzle had cargo aboard the Mock 4 nobody else had known about. Explosives clearly. But he abandoned the Mock 4 before they went off, explaining why the blast fired him north of the track instead of blowing him apart. He might’ve survived the fall, except the box he’d been carrying detonated on impact. And the messenger chicken was presumably legging it beyond the Shimmering Flats by now.
Sizzle placed the crates there himself, otherwise they would’ve been found during pre-race checks. But, if he was fleeing the Mock 4, why would he have taken a crate of explosives with him?
I put the questions aside when Stig and his boys muscled up, frog-marching Quentin ahead of them.
“This is oppression, man!” he was shouting, struggling in vain against his captors. “I have rights! You can’t do this!”
“And yet we did,” I replied.
He opened his mouth to shout again. I cut him off with a raised finger. “We both know you’ve been trying to sabotage the Steamwheedle oil derrick for months,” I said, “so let’s put away any thoughts of protest until I decide if there’s enough evidence to hand you to the MRIOC, alright?”
His mouth shut with a decisive click. Compared to Thrall’s Angels—war veterans all—he was twig thin, and the look on his face said he’d just realized just how deep the water was. I love these “oh, shit” moments.
“Now,” I said. “We both know you haven’t the sort of gold to tempt a gnome driver into throwing a race just so he could get explosives out of town for you to retrieve without being seen. So, another attempt on the oil derrick is unlikely.”
“But charges of gnomeslaughter are still possible.”
“Whether or not that happens depends on your answer: Why did you try to hit up Team Goblin for explosives instead of your normal supplier?”
“He-he said he was out of stock.”
“Uh-huh,” I said. “And what’s his name?”
Quentin started struggling again. “He’ll kill me if he found out!”
Stig yanked a wicked skinning knife from a boot sheath and looked at me, an attack dog waiting for the word.
“None of that!” I said, and tried to smile gently at Quentin. “How about this: I’ll describe him. If you should happen to nod, it would be purely coincidental.”
Silence. Every eye was on me.
“He’s my height, my build, darker hair, paler and oilier?”
A cautious nod.
“Let him go,” I told Stig, then turned to face the ogre twins. “Them, too.”
Gnomes and goblins blinked at me from the sand, massaging life back into their limbs.
“Gentlegnomes,” I said, “Team Goblin is innocent. The explosives used were crates packed with dwarven fire gel. It’s normal gunpowder mixed with phlogiston to increase its power and pitch as a binding agent.
“At room temperature it sweats a liquid that’s both unstable and highly reactant to heat, like what an engine might radiate. It also burns a telltale blue-green, as seen on the scorch marks. And there’s only one person in the Mirage Raceway with the facilities needed to safely keep it in cold storage.”
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