Zombie Nation: Part Five
Thaddeus Oldnose woke with a start.
Well, he didn’t wake as such. He hadn’t been asleep. It was just as if he started to exist again.
He was stood in the graveyard, slightly disorientated. The last thing he could remember was the demonstration, and hiding in the alley. Then there had been the sound of a banjo, and then... nothing.
As Oldnose looked around, he saw that many other Zombies were nearby. All of them seemed to be in a slightly dazed state as if they were in the same situation as the Meerca.
Oldnose glanced to his front, in the direction they had all been facing when they woke.
There was a Scorchio standing in the centre of the graveyard, perched lightly atop a headstone. He was carefully strumming a banjo in his arms.
Gradually, the Zombies in the graveyard moved towards the solitary figure. Those who were Haunted Woods natives, like Oldnose, lingered further back. They already knew who it was. The Neopia Central Zombies, on the other hand, had never had any experience with the Baron.
“I say, good fellow,” Arthur Munroe, the Chomby, asked as he neared him. “What’s going on here? How did we all come to be here? Who are you?”
“I am the Baron,” the Scorchio answered in a simple, playful voice that seemed to speak to something within the Zombies.
“What are you doing here?” Munroe asked, backing away slightly, though he still didn’t really understand who was standing before him.
“I came here from the woods because you all called out for me,” the Baron replied as he stood up. “The people of this city have taken you for granted for too long. Now they’re going to taste regret.”
“...How?” Munroe questioned.
“Oh, we’ll leave them a while.” The Scorchio smirked. “They’ll adjust to living without you, and then we’ll go back, and take what’s rightfully ours.”
“...and what is that?”
“This!” the Baron cackled. “This city! Our nation! Our Zombie Nation!”
Oldnose shuffled with unease. He noticed quite a few Zombies standing near him mirrored his action.
The morning paper was deposited on Mr. Jennings’s desk. He barely looked at it. He knew what the contents would be, panic as Neopia Central spiralled down further into chaos. Even in his office he could smell the raw sewage. The blockages were getting really bad. The water pipes were bursting. There were electricity blackouts. Sooner or later, something would break that couldn’t ever be fixed.
Instead, Jennings just smiled over his desk at Mr. Black.
“You have a plan, sir?” he enquired.
“In a way,” Jennings replied.
He hadn’t slept a wink, and while the copious amount of coffee he had consumed had kept him awake, it had also given him a slightly erratic demeanour.
The business with magic had unsettled Jennings greatly; he wasn’t thinking like he normally did. Perhaps that was how he had come up with the idea.
“Would you care for a wager, Mr. Black?” he asked wryly.
“Sir?” Black frowned.
“Which do you believe is the stronger force?” Jennings asked as he rose from his desk. “Is it the raw magic that beats through the heart of Neopia, or the rules and social constructs that are imprinted into the souls of Neopets from birth?”
Black increased the severity of his frown.
“Do you believe that, if a person believes in a set of rules so strongly, that they can overcome magical bindings?” Jennings continued. “My question, Mr. Black, is simple. Which is stronger, the magical lore, or the Neopian law? Contract or curse?”
“I would be tempted to say magic, sir,” Black confessed, not entirely sure where this was going.
“Yes, most people would,” Jennings agreed. “I however, am an optimist. Now, unfortunately we let our lawyer go last month, so I’ve had to draw this contract up using only my own limited legal knowledge. I hope it shall be enough.”
Jennings handed a sheet of paper over to Black.
The Grarrl’s eyes widened as he read it. “You think this will work, sir?”
“It is all I can suggest,” Jennings replied as he took the contract back. “We have a meeting with Judge Hog; I believe he will be at the entrance to the Old Quarter.”
Black nodded, “Of course, sir.”
“Jennings,” the Judge greeted him reluctantly.
The caped Moehog was stood by the impenetrable wall of vines, along with a dozen or so other Defenders. A small crowd of locals had gathered, and the Judge was very keen to appear as if he wasn’t talking to Jennings. He may have owned the Defenders of Neopia, but the Judge wanted to keep that as quiet as possible.
“A pleasure as always, Judge.” Jennings nodded. “Are you making progress with the wall?”
The Judge nodded. “We have enlisted the help of Kauvara. With her counter-curses, we should be able to blast the wall apart using a combination of Torchio’s abilities and Captain K’s armaments onboard his space shuttle.”
Jennings nodded approvingly, “When do you foresee completion?”
“We should have it down by late afternoon. After that, it’s just a matter of going in there and arresting the trouble makers. That is of course if that’s alright with you?”
Jennings ignored the sneer in the final sentence and smiled pleasantly.
“Good... good, keep me appraised of the situation,” he remarked as he turned to leave.
Once they were a good distance away, Jennings turned to Mr. Black.
“We need to have finished this by the time the Defenders breach that wall. If Zombies start getting arrested... things become more difficult for everyone,” he informed the Grarrl.
“How are we getting inside, sir?” Black asked.
Jennings smiled, and looked down to their feet.
“The interesting thing about walls, Mr. Black, is that people normally forget to build them down, as well as up,” he explained.
There was growing concern in the Old District.
The Baron’s words had struck something within the Zombies. He wanted to take complete control of Neopia Central... to many if not all of them, that didn’t seem right.
Oldnose at least felt very strongly about it.
He had travelled to Neopia Central with dreams of equality and fairness. He had been sold a fantasy of Zombies and living Neopets living together in perfect harmony. Of course, that dream had evaporated, but some part of it still rang true.
He had a job, and a house. Admittedly, not good ones, but he had far better prospects than a Zombie in the Haunted Woods. Yes, they had campaigned for Zombie rights like equal pay or better representation in the Defenders of Neopia... but this was taking things to the other extreme.
What the Baron was proposing wasn’t the answer to their problems; it was turning them into the very thing they had been campaigning against.
He would take over Neopia Central, and then he would be in control. They’d have the power, and everyone else, the living Neopets, would be below them. Everything would be reversed, but nothing would change.
Other Zombies shared Oldnose’s sentiments.
The Baron mostly sat atop the hill in the graveyard, playing songs as he gazed back towards the rest of the city, silently planning to himself.
Most of the Zombies meanwhile had begun to mill around the rest of the Old District. Those that had homes to go to in the area stopped by for a change of clothes, but many lived in different areas of the city and had nothing to do but wander the streets. They couldn’t risk a meeting, not under the watchful eye of the Baron. Yet, gradually, notes were passed around, and messages whispered from ear to rotting ear.
The message was clear.
The undead were restless.
All things considered, the sewers of Neopia Central smelt quite bad.
In any normal week the place got more blockages than the nose of a Neopet with sneezles, but with the effective strike of the Zombie workers, things had become a lot worse.
If the sight of raw sewage in the streets was bad, the picture below street level was horrendous.
Jennings and Black were wading knee deep through the near dark. Not too long ago they had business in the sewers, and had been able to sail up and down the channels in a small row boat. Now, however, the channels had burst their banks. It was on foot or nothing.
Jennings held his oil lamp closer to the blueprint of the sewer system that he held in his other hand.
“This way,” he told Black, pointing off down a passageway.
The roof of the passageway seemed to be leaking as they made their way down it.
“Wouldn’t it have been easier to wait until the Defenders took down the wall, and just order them not to arrest anyone?” Black asked from behind Jennings.
“In the short term, yes,” Jennings replied, checking the map and taking another turn. “I cannot be seen to interfere with the running of the Defenders. Judge Hog must keep his laws.”
“But you do interfere, sir,” Black added. “You ordered him not to throw Kanrik of the Thieves Guild in the cells only last week.”
Jennings smiled to himself. “The difference, Mr. Black, is that there was a crowd outside the Old District. No one saw Kanrik walk free last week. No one will ever know he was so close to capture. Yet, everyone will see if Judge Hog refuses to arrest the Zombies.”
Jennings paused as they reached a ladder.
“Neopia Central is a delicate machine, Mr. Black. One wrong move and it will all be for nothing,” he explained.
“You think the Zombies will listen, sir?” Black asked.
“I cannot threaten them with death,” Jennings observed. “All I can do is offer them life.”
Jennings grabbed hold of the ladder and began to climb.
To be continued...