"You never really understood, did you? It is our loyalty to our friends that provides our truest, greatest strength. This is what separates us from the ogres and troggs—and even the goblins. This is why the dwarves helped us back from near extinction, even surrendering a portion of their hallowed halls for us to call home. And this is why there are dwarves, humans, draenei, and night elves dying alongside us in the surrounding tunnels to reclaim a city that was never theirs. They are here because they are our friends, Sicco. My friends. It is a power that numbers cannot match."
The mekgineer hissed—this time Gelbin was positive the sound had come from the gnome's puckered mouth—and marched forward. "Why don't you just close your eyes and let me end this embarrassment?"
Stopping just in front of the high tinker, Sicco shook his head, raised his hand, and waved goodbye. The hand made a ratcheting sound, rotated in a complete circle, and then disappeared into the steel wrist of the battle suit's armor. Thermaplugg chuckled and brought the arm forward. With another burst of steam, a vicious blade emerged from the cuff—a blade that began to glow red with mechanical heat. Gelbin stumbled backward into the axle, feeling the tensely wound spring against his spine. He still had the wrench in his belt, and he lifted it to parry Sicco's blade. This elicited another chuckle.
"Oh, dear. You look so precious down there. Is this how the dwarves taught you to fight?"
"No," said Gelbin, twirling the wrench in his fingers. "This is how a gnome fights. Watch your head."
He turned and tapped the wrench against the catch holding the spring in place—a catch that had been supported by the framework below. Now it swung down with a clank, releasing the spring to whip free of the axle, a sharp steel blur whistling through the room as a massive store of pent-up energy was discharged in seconds. Gelbin felt a tremendous whoosh of motion slashing over his head, and then... stillness.
He pivoted and looked back. The troggs still stood there, drooling. Sicco let out another giggle.
Three lonely hairs that had been previously growing on the crown of Gelbin's head slowly fell down in front of his eyes.
Followed by the head of every trogg in the room.
And finally, by the bisected torso of Sicco Thermaplugg's battle suit. With a hot gush of steam, the top half slid free and crashed to the ground just in front of Gelbin, rolling to a stop face up against his leg. The occupant swallowed once and blinked repeatedly.
Sicco was surprised.
Sicco was... confused.
"M-my legs are in that half," Sicco said, pointing at the still-standing portion of the suit.
High Tinker Gelbin Mekkatorque nodded and leaned down to pat him on his mechanized shoulder.
"Indeed they are, my friend. And with a razor-quick spring cut and steam cauterization from your ruptured engine, the bleeding is probably minimal. I'd wait around to see if the rats find you before your trogg minions do, but I've seen enough of the latter for one day."
"You're just... just going to leave me here?"
"You don't deserve a quick death, Sicco. You deserve a long, miserable existence in a dark hole, surrounded by filthy monsters."
Gelbin took a step back with a sad smile. He spread his arms to encompass all of fallen Gnomeregan around them. "In fact, you have created your very own prison right here. Better than any I could have built for you. You definitely outdid me on this one. Congratulations."
Sicco Thermaplugg blinked. He stammered. Gelbin relished the rare opportunity to look down on his enemy. He could hear the sound of more troggs approaching through the opening, and knew it was time to go.
"Besides, if you do survive, I can't think of anybody I'd rather have leading these beasts than one of their own." He bent forward and sniffed the top of Sicco's head, wrinkling his nose with distaste.
"Enjoy your remaining time in jail, my friend. Your sentence is almost over."
And with that, Gelbin left his study to head back toward New Tinkertown, leaving Sicco alone, helpless, and thoroughly bisected in the dark.
The trogg infestation was still going to take time and effort to cleanse. A comprehensive squeege job on these stinking hallways had just been bumped up in priority, and the high tinker was already envisioning plans for a more open, airy layout. This "dark hole" was due for a remodeling the likes of which even the titans had never seen, not just for a return to its former glory, but for something far better. Far brighter. Far more fitting for the gnomes of Azeroth. Gelbin removed his new glasses and sighed, running his fingers down the bridge of his nose. A few upgrades, a few improvements—he could get used to these after all.