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What If: Cult of the Mechanical

Matthew Rossi

You guys remember the What If game, right, where Anne Stickney and I go back and forth on concocting a scenario for an expansion built around specific lore figures? Last time, Anne gave us Garona Halforcen, and ended up lobbing me Gelbin Mekkatorque. On the surface, Gelbin Mekkatorque is perhaps the most absurd choice for an expansion-defining villain yet. People like Velen, Shandris Feathermoon, or Alexstrasza may be unlikely, but they're at least active. Gelbin hasn't taken any significant action since the abortive reclamation of Gnomeregan. It's easy to forget just how astonishingly brilliant Gelbin actually is. This is the mind that invented the mechanostrider, that designed the Deeprun Tram, that built the first prototype of the now-infamous Dwarven Siege Engine.

Yet, despite his intelligence and the love the gnomes bear him (for his is an elected position, and the fact that Gelbin has held it despite his people's exile from their home city is evidence of their regard for him) Gelbin suffers greatly from his failures. His failure to protect Gnomeregan from the troggs, his failure to understand what his friend Sicco Thermaplugg was really up to and thus prevent the loss of his people's great city, and his failure to reclaim the city from Thermaplug over the past years since the Third War have all weighed heavily upon him.

Let us look now upon the slow transformation of gnomish society and consider that it might be too slow for the gnome who invented the fastest tram in the world.

During the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, new facts came to light about the origins of the gnomish people, a people who have generally been disinterested in their own history when there was a future out there always waiting for them to make it happen. The gnomes of the Alliance Expedition found in the Borean Tundra the disassembled remains of Gearmaster Mechazod, and with him, the true origins of their people. Being gnomes, they ended up refusing Gearmaster Mechazod's offer to return them to a state of mechanical immortality, but the Gearmaster survived disassembly once and he could do so again. So what happened to his remains after the players stop him? Are they left on the tundra, or perhaps, shipped back to the gnomes of New Tinkertown?

Now, imagine High Tinker Gelbin Mekkatorque, after two years of waiting outside Gnomeregan to reclaim his people's home. In the time since Sicco Thermaplugg turned on him he's watched his people begin to change. The young are taking up arms, taking up the staff and spell, and leaving home to adventure in the wider world. Some have even started turning away from the tried and true gnomish path of personal ingenuity and the perfectability of the world and learned to use divine magic, trusting in a power that can't be studied or understood, measured or confined. The introduction of priests into gnome society is the first step towards an acceptance of their origin as creations of a higher power. Mekkatorque is brilliant. He's beloved by his people, and he loves them as well, loves the gnomes and all the potential he sees in them. But this long exile from their home is changing them, and he can't stop it from outside Gnomeregan. And all his genius and all of his inventive skill hasn't fixed the problem yet.

But Gearmaster Mechazod presents Mekkatorque with an opportunity. To him, the Titans aren't distant, unknowable gods. They're creators, architects, inventors and all of Azeroth is the grandest of all possible experiments. This, Mekkatorque can understand. This is a way to the divine he can grapple with, a world with a schematic. Mekkatorque is good with schematics. So he reassembles Mechazod, in order to access the Gearmaster's memory. Soon, the gnomes are wielding unheralded technology of a scope unseen on Azeroth, and using it to purge Gnomeregan of both the troggs and of the toxic radiation unleashed by Thermaplugg. Sicco is captured, and at long last, the gnomes return to their ancient home. All seems well.

But then gnomish society begins to darken. Mekkatorque declares himself Gearmaster of Gnomeregan, and bans all divine magic of any kind from the city. Those who refuse to comply are exiled, and speaking of them is forbidden. Slowly, gnomes who have settled outside Gnomeregan notice a strange coldness of manner from their relatives inside the reclaimed city. Mysterious gnome expeditions begin making forays into known Titan sites and facilities around the world, seeking out information caches... and mercilessly slaughtering any, be they Horde or Alliance, who get in their way. In time, Mekkatorque isolates Gnomeregan itself behind an enormous series of high-tech fortifications and cuts off all ties with the outside world, even his former allies and those gnomes who have either been exiled or were yet to settle in Gnomeregan. Slowly, through investigative work, a few members of the Gearmaster's Special Ops force are captured and revealed to have undergone a strange process that has rendered them partially mechanical, and totally subservient to Mekkatorque's will.

Then the raids come - Mekkatorque raids arcane sanctums throughout Azeroth. Dalaran and Silvermoon are both hit by Special Ops, secrets of their arcane golems the targets, while both Undercity and Ironforge are attacked from below. Mekkatorque didn't destroy the troggs at all - he's apparently implanted them with devices that render them totally mindless and uses them as shock troops to soften up these cities while his loyal servants raid Undercity for samples of the plague and Ironforge for the Explorer's League library. But worse is to come - it soon becomes apparent that Belloc Brightblade and Brann Bronzebeard have been seized from Silvermoon and Ironforge as well. But why?
Horde and Alliance forces raid New Gnomeregan, fighting legions of vastly improved robot minions and altered gnomes as well as enslaved mecha-troggs. After rescuing Brightblade or Bronzebeard, they learn that a horror awaits them. At the center, they find not Mekkatorque, but Gearmaster Mechazod - his mind implanted in the body of a tormented Sicco Thermaplugg, who has undergone a complete mechanization process. Now the two minds battle for control of the body, and the intruders show Thermaplugg a kind of mercy by destroying him before Mechazod completes his download. But New Gnomeregan has been mostly evacuated, and the reasons why are terrifying. Driven mad by his exposure to the incomplete store of Titan knowledge in Mechazod's mind, Gearmaster Mechatorque (as he now calls himself) has combined his own knowledge with that of the data trove and the secrets plundered from his raids to create the ultimate weapon - a repatterning virus that will, if released in the right place, spread throughout the world and transform all flesh into machinery. No more war, hate, betrayal - all cleansed by becoming titan machines, perfect in the eyes of the new Gearmaster. All he needs to succeed is the proper interfacing technology, a solid operating system, and the means to disperse it.

The first he has already located and plundered. Heroes pursue him to Mimiron's library, but the mechagnomes there have been co-opted and the Discs of Norgannon stolen. A chase into the heart of Ulduar, fighting Titan technology redesigned by Mechatorque, leads to a battle at the Spark of Imagination. Mimiron himself has aided Mechatorque in his creation of an interface device, not understanding what the newly mechanical gnome seeks to use it for - the ancient Keeper was merely glad to see one of his long-lost children return with such a fascinating technical problem for him to help solve. Mechatorque escapes, and the heroes find themselves forced to explain to Mimiron that Mechatorque seeks to impose order on the world. While not truly understanding the issue, out of a desire to aid his people Mimiron leaves Ulduar and speaks to the assembled gnomes outside, and finding them lost and confused with the recent change in their beloved leader. Saddened, the great inventor tells the heroes of the only place Mechatorque could use the device he helped construct, namely the Halls of Origination.

The final battle sees Mechatorque turn the defenses of all of Uldum against armies seeking to prevent his plan. A small force penetrates below the Halls, finding the vast miles long complex of corridors and chambers meant to serve as the Re-Origination Device itself, and after battling their way through enslaved Qiraji horrors, Titan constructs, mecha-gnome loyalists and even a super-trogg, confront Mechatorque in the very heart of the Engine that will remake the world. While trying to make the former kindly Gelbin Mekkatorque see reason or remember even a small portion of the gnome who just wanted to save his people, they are joined by Mimiron and several of his new gnomish followers. Through Mimiron's sacrifice, Gelbin remembers who he is, but it takes the strength of mortal heroes to destroy the essence of Mechazod that has now moved from Mekkatorque's body and into the Engine itself, animating it to strike them down. With the Engine destroyed, Mekkatorque is once again flesh and blood... and Mimiron, too, has been changed forever into a being both mechanical and mortal.

Thus the world is saved, and Mimiron now bridges the worlds between gnome and mechagnome, bringing his mechanical followers to dwell with the gnomes inside New Gnomeregan, and help make a future, rather than impose one.

Next up, Anne builds a tale of an expansion based around Grand Admiral Jes-Tereth.

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