The young gnoll hummed as he worked. He slid across his workspace, smooth and efficient, even though everything was a size too big for him. Welding goggles bobbed on his forehead as he nodded in time with the beat. Grabbing a Ritch-Ratchet off the shelf, he gave an experimental strum.
“ZA-nuna nuna-nuna-nuna-nuna do-waah!”
One of his rolledup sleeves came undone during that wicked shred. He absentmindedly slid it back up and prepared for the next chord, but before he could break into his air guitar solo, the door screeched open.
“Making PROGRESS, Locke?” A towering metal figure stooped slightly as it made its way inside. It moved with precision and grace, even though its parts were clearly scrounged and pieced back together.
“C.A.G.E.!” Locke bounded over and gave the robot’s leg a hug. “You’re back!”
“And I’ve brought FRESH SUPPLIES.” C.A.G.E.’s voice buzzed with both static and amusement as he slid an unconscious orc onto the work bench. A banded-metal claw wrapped around the orc’s throat. Instead of letting go, C.A.G.E. pulled his own arm out of its socket and used its cabling to lash the orc down tight.
“I think I’ve figured out why the Jack-Hat’s power couldn’t meet capacity,” Locke said, puffing up his furry chest. “The sparker wasn’t catching properly. I just needed a Clickety-Clack and three Knobs of Indeterminate Looseness and it fired right up!”
“That is a GOOD THING.” C.A.G.E. gave a thumbs up with his remaining hand, servos whirring slightly. “We remain on track, WELL DONE.”
Locke gave a happy yip at C.A.G.E.’s praise and bounced over to the workbench. “Hey, you know what? I had a dream last night.”
C.A.G.E.’s giant hand came down gently on Locke’s slender shoulder. “What did you DREAM?”
“I think I know where we can get the firepower we need. There’s this place—”
The orc stirred slightly, clawing weakly at the robotic hand around his throat. Locke scratched an ear, annoyed at being interrupted. “He’ll need to be out before we can plug him in,” he muttered, gesturing to a curved metal dome with dangerous looking wires inside. Bolts shot out from all angles, and two red tinted lenses gleamed like eyes. “Give him a tap for me?”
C.A.G.E. flicked the struggling orc in the temple. The orc collapsed, sagging in his bindings.
“Oh! Not too hard. We don’t want to damage anything.” Locke pulled out another arm from a backpack on the floor and hopped onto a stool to begin bolting it to C.A.G.E.’s frame. “Remember, cruelty for cruelty’s sake is—” his muzzle wrinkled with distaste “—boring.”
C.A.G.E.’s eyes flashed an apologetic blue as he flexed his new addition. “Sorry, Locke. We do only WHAT WE MUST.”
Locke hugged the robot once more, breathing in the scent of iron and oil.
“Dross… father… didn’t have anyone to look out for him. But I will.” He wiped an arm quickly across his eyes. “There’s strength in numbers, and I’m going to be pack leader to the world one day.” A hulking, muscle-bound gnoll opened the door slightly and inclined its head.
“Feralfuel production is at 110%, boss.”
“Excellent!” Locke rubbed his paws together gleefully. “It’s time to expand.” He glanced out the window towards the mountains before turning back to his captive. “And I know just the place to start…”