Sunday, October 31, 2010

After the Fall

The hum of the elevator shaft, and the clanking of the machinery were the only sounds as Thogrum and Billy descended into the darkness. Their guide was a grim faced young gnome, a captain,by the look of his armor. He had not spoken since meeting them at the airfield, now far above.Thogrum glanced up at Billy, his  companion and fellow soldier. Billy appeared lost in thought.

Thogrum could hardly blame him. The fighting had been vicious in recent weeks, as the demons had become more desperate as they had lost ground. Thogrum and Billy had been in the middle of coordinating the next series of assaults when orders had arrived from the Alliance High Command, recalling them to the military command center in Ironforge for 'Urgent Reassignment'. Thogrum recalled not being pleased to be pulled off of the lines as the final campaign was being planned, but this order was extremely unusual and the High Command very seldom pulled it's field commanders unless there was a very good reason. Thogrum again glanced at the set of orders in his hand.

Recipients: Field Commander Thogrum of Ironforge
Field Commander BillyWallace of Stormwind
Subject: Change of Duty Status/Reassignment
Current Personell Assignment:
Lieutenant Colonel Thogrum of Ironforge:Field Command Staff,
Fourth Combined Alliance Army (Infantry)

Colonel BillyWallace of Stormwind: Field Command Staff,
Fourth Combined Alliance Army (Aerial Cavalry)

Reassignment: Alliance High Command Special Military Attache,
Ironforge Military Assistance Command
Effective: Immediately

Situation: As you know,Gnomish Military involvement in the war with the Scourge has been limited to a few pilots and aircraft under preexisting agreements. Their choice not to send their troops and infiltrator units was surprising, but we did not have time to investigate this unusual change in Gnomish foreign policy. All this has now changed. Three weeks ago, all communication with the Gnomish Capitol City of Gnomeragon was lost.All trade has stopped and the gnomish troops on all the border checkpoints have now disappeared. Reconnaissance overflights of Gnomish lands show no activity on the surface near the city, near the primary airfield or the city entrance.
Orders: Effective immediately, You will proceed to the Gnomish Capitol City of Gnomeragan. Evaluate the security situation, and offer all available Alliance tactical and strategic resources to King Mekkatorque and his people.
Details will be provided prior to mobilization. Proceed with extreme caution.

The elevator screeched to a halt. The grim faced gnome swung open the door, and stepped out into the dark corridor. Billy and Thog followed, their armored boots clanking loudly on the metal floorplates. Thogrum stopped, and rested a hand on the wall. The familiar hum of the walls from the machinery, normally so prominent, was almost nonexistent.The dim red emergency lights flickered intermittently. Thog glanced at Billy, who nodded ever so slightly. The tall human was very familiar with the Gnomish city, having spent much time there before the war. He also knew, felt,something was terribly wrong. "This way, Gentlemen". The gnome spoke for the first time. His voice sounded tired, and there was not a trace of the famed gnomish good cheer in it. In the dim light, he looked very old, and very tired. He turned and moved down the corridor at a steady clip.
Billy and Thogrum followed, through a series of tight corridors. After about ten minutes of walking they came to a sturdy looking hatch. The gnomish script on the door read simply " Auxiliary Power Control Station 3". The gnome rapped on the hatch,and after a pause, the bolts clanked, and the door swung inwards. The gnome moved through, and Billy and Thogrum followed.
Inside, the dimly lit room was lined with screens that each showed different scenes, with panels of flashing lights and switches underneath. A gnome was sitting in front of each screen, twisted around looking at the door, with hands on their weapons. They stared for a moment, and then relaxed, turning back to their screens. A serious faced gnomish woman crouched behind a console, pointing an enormous firearm at them stared for a moment and then lowered it, glaring at them before returning to her console.
A deep voice called out. Thogrum looked around the dim room, and saw an armored gnome striding out of the darkness.
"Well, I'll be. Billy and Thogrum! I knew the Alliance would send experienced warriors, but I didn't know it would be you two!!You young pups!"
The gnome grew closer, and became visible. He was old, with a white beard, and a scar running down the right side of his face.The insignia of an infantry general was just visible on his shoulder plates.His battered plate armor made him look even larger than normal, for a gnome. He too, was heavily armed with two swords crossed over his back, and a dagger at his hip.
"I haven't seen you lads since we all taught at the Infantry School in Ironforge."
Thogrum smiled, and stepped forward and clasped the gnomes armored hand.
"General Sprungsprocket. We came as fast as we could."
"And not a moment too soon, Lads. Thank you for coming. We held as long as we could."
Billywallace spoke suddenly, a rarity for the silent human.
"Held as long as you could against what, General?"
"Follow me, boys."
The old gnome turned to the young gnome who had guided them in, and spoke rapidly in gnomish. The gnome saluted, and rapidly moved off into the gloom. General Sprungsproket watched him go.
"He's a good lad, that one. A fine soldier, and a hell of an officer. I fear I have asked too much of him as late,but we have had little choice recently."
He turned and began to walk into the dark. Billy and Thogrum followed. As he walked, Billy and Thogrum followed, watching the screens. The screens showed scenes of destruction. A glimpse of an abandoned common area, with debris strewn about. Some of the screens showed drifting clouds of green gas, obscuring what lay underneath. A third showed a barricade, manned by grim faced gnomes in a collection of City Guard uniforms, infantry and civilian clothing. A scene of the aircraft hangars, with mysterious shadows wandering aimlessly around.
"They came up from deep underneath, while our construction crews were expanding our water collection systems.At first, they were merely annoying, and our City Guards handled them easily."
The General paused in front of a now dark monitor screen. The label at the bottom read 'Nursery 3'.
" The first attack in force came in  through Nursery 3. They tunneled through the floor, somehow avoiding our seismic sensors. We managed to beat them back, but not before they had gotten through all three of our nurseries."
He turned and continued walking slowly.
"The second attack came right on the heels of the first, while our Guards were reorganizing from the first attack. It came through the third level robotics workshop. It was simultaneous with another breakthrough in the Lower City Quad. They were too numerous. They tore through the lower city. Casualties were in the thousands."
The stout little gnome's eyes had a far away look as he spoke.
"We sealed off the Lower City, after getting as many people out as we could. The High Tinker and his council made it out, barely. After a hasty conference, the recall order was sent to our troops in the field. The High Tinker knew that we could not hold without all our forces. I still recall his words. He spoke of our peoples commitment to the Alliance, and the special bond between our peoples. He spoke of sacrifice, and commitment to the greater good. He told us we must hold. The Alliance could not spare troops to assist without risking loosing the war."
The gnomish general turned and faced Billywallace and Thogrum.
"We still hold the water station, Power Station 2 and parts of Power Station 3. We hold the Upper City common area, and parts of the schoolhouse. The rest is either irradiated, or overrun. The casualties are uncountable. Perhaps in the the thousands, if not tens of thousands. We have held as long as we can."
His face hardened.
"We will never give up our city. Our race may have suffered, and indeed may be near extinct, but we will never give up our beloved city."
Thogrum spoke: "We are here as official military representatives of the Alliance. We offer the full aid of the Ironforge and Stormwind Armies. Where do we start?"
The gnome laughed grimly.
"Provide a safe place for my king, and our people. That is all we require."
Billywallace then spoke again.
"What about you and your troops?"
General Sprungsprokt smiled grimly.
      "Lad, I am pushing two hundred and fifty years old. I have survived two wars against the Horde, multiple battles with the demons, and many a battle with the forest trolls. I lost three generations of my family when the Troggs hit us. My son, three grandsons, and five grandchildren. All gone. I had a family, and a clan full of life. Now, I have nothing left but my duty to my race, my fallen city, and my King. My troops feel the same. The young captain that brought you in had a brand new baby daughter in the nursery. The gnome there at the door had her infant son snatched from her arms as she fled. No, my friend. We will stay. There is nowhere else for us to go."
He turned to stare at a nearby screen, which showed the enormous central hall, once bustling with life, now dark and silent.
The dwarf, the human, and the gnome soldiers stood together, staring at the screen.Thogrum rested his hand on the old gnomish generals shoulder.
The gnome spoke again.
"Someday, sometime, we will retake our city. Maybe not today, or next week. Maybe not even next year, but we will retake our city."
The city on the screens laid, waiting, and silent.

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