by Chris Herron
Nikkhi had never particularly liked Bilgewater Harbor. Sure, the smell of smoke and caustic fumes reminded her of home, and they even made the explosives with just the right amount of course blasting powder, the way ma’ used to do. But she was the kind of goblin who got seasick just looking at a boat, and the salty water always made Carl rust up a little bit.
She had tried to convince her mechanical squirrel to make the journey inside an oilskin bag to keep out the moisture, but he had insisted on chasing seagulls and harassing the ships parrot instead. Now he payed the price as he creaked slightly with each step as he clambered up the stairs beside.
As they approached command center at the zenith of the tiny island town, Nikkhi could see a small metropolis of smokestacks, traffic signs and millions of tiny, colored lights strung across the buildings sprawled out below them. A fine example of goblin civilization.
“Yo! You must be the help Eitrigg was sendin’ my way.” Captain Krazz shooed away whatever peon he was talking to and ushered Nikkhi forward. “Nice of ya to finally join us.” Krazz was the type of goblin who’s hair seemed to be attempting to escape from his inflated ego by taking refuge on his jowls instead. He wore a leather jerkin which may have fit him at one point, and large shoulder guards that were intended to make him more impressive, but only succeeded in making his head look too tiny for his body.
Nikkhi snapped a salute. “Reportin’ for duty! Whats the word on the street?” Carl scampered onto her shoulder and mimicked the gesture.
Krazz raised an unimpressed eyebrow. “Look, I ain’t getting’ paid to chat. We need you here for your, shall we say, particular skill set?” He nodded meaningfully at the large riffle strapped across her back. “You see, I gave Warchief Hellscreem my personal guarantee that I’d have his airfleet ready this week. But our flagship – the spear of Durotar – still doesn’t have its primary engines installed.”
Krazz turned to the side and gave an earsplitting whistle, waving a young goblin over to join them. “This is Fleep, one of our lead engineers. She promised me a shiny new engine last week, but apparently she decided to outsource it.”
If looks could kill, Fleep was making a thorough job of it with Krazz. Her green skin threatened to match her flaming red hair as she waved a wrench threateningly at her Captain. “This is your fault! You insisted your engine use an induction samophlange.” Fleep turned to Nikkhi, holding her head in exasperation and leaving a grease smear across her cheek in the process. “Those things hadn’t even been invented yet! I tasked Smoot with creating one based on some stolen Venture Co. Schematics, and to be fair, he did build a working model.”
Krazz scoffed. “Except now that he’s got the samophlange, he’s drunk with power. He’s running all over town with it like a goblin possessed!” Krazz sidled up to Nikkhi conspiratorially, placing an arm over her shoulder “Do me a favor will ya? Smack Smoot, and snag my samphlange.”
Carl bit down on Krazz’s hand, causing him to jump back with a yelp. Nikkhi nudged Carl with the side of her head in a silent rebuke. “Don’t even worry about it. They don’t call me Crashin’ Thrashin’ Nikkhi for nothin!”
It wasn’t as hard to find Smoot as Nikkhi would have guessed. They hadn’t been exaggerating about his current mental state, and she found him by accident more than anything. As she stepped out onto Gearspring road, a goblin with giant black leather work gloves bowled her over as he ran past, screaming “BEHOLD! THE SAMOPHLANGE!” which Nikkhi could only assume was in reference to the large, metal whirligig he was swinging above his head.
Nikkhi rolled into a kneeling position, reaching into a pouch at her side and retrieving a glowing blue crystal shard, which she slid along the ground where it collided with Smoot’s scurrying feet.
With a smug grin, Nikkhi rose, dusted herself off and casually swaggared toward the mad engineer caught in her frost trap. Giant shards of ice had shot up from the disk on impact, encasing Smoot’s legs and arms. She squared herself in front of him and slung the riffle from her shoulder menacingly. “I need that samophlange, Smoot. And you got what I need!”
Smoot’s eye’s rolled wildly around in his head as he laughed maniacally, “And upon the dawn of the first day the Samophange beheld what it had wrought, and lo, it was good!”
Almost too late, Nikkhi saw the red metal bomb on the ground at her feet, it’s painted smiley face grinning up at her. She dove to the side, scooping Carl up in one arm and covering her face with the other. The big daddy bomb exploded in a ball of flaming death, taking out a piece of the road, a nearby wall, two light poles, a single pink flamingo, and of course, the ice trap.
As Nikkhi coughed out lungfuls of black powder smoke, Smoot took off in the opposite direction.
“I love you samophlange!”
Nikkhi nodded at Carl, “Go get em!”
Carl belted down the road, his tiny metal feet tearing up cobblestones as he flew into the air to tackle the crazed tinker. But the madman was ready, tossing a small wooden box behind him. As the box hit the ground it unfolded into a wooden cutout of poorly drawn, wide eyed human, swaying back and forth on a large spring. The advanced target dummy worked, and a confused Carl tore into with unbridled ferocity.
Smoot cackled, looking over his shoulder with glee. “One samophange to rule them all!” he made a rude gesture in her direction, and ignited the Nitro Boost he had hidden in his shoes. Flames erupted from his feet and the green menace accelerated dangerously, leaving a smoke trail in his wake.
Nikkhi sighed. Engineers always think they’re the only ones with toys. Well, two could play at that game, she had a bit of experience with a wrench herself. Reaching back into her pouch, she pulled out a wormhole generator, something she had tinkered up one brewfest in an alcohol fueled delirium. She set the destination for the end of the street and hit the button. A swirling vortex split open in front of her and she stepped through, exiting the other end right in front of Smoot. As the engineer’s eyes went wide as diner plates, Nikkhi stiff-armed him as he rocketed past.
The samophlange dropped to the ground as the clothesline maneuver redirected Smoot’s momentum in a more vertical direction. As the poor, mentally broken tinker spiraled skyward on rocket propelled shoes, Nikkhi could make out the dwindling words, “Oh samophange… I have failed you!”
As Nikkhi bent down to retrieve the coveted device, Carl scampered up next to her, a piece of wooden cutout still clamped in his metal jaws. She gave him an affectionate pat, and hoisted the samophlange over her shoulder. “Common’ Carl, lets go get paid. After all, Time is money!”