Zombie Nation: Part Six
The Baron frowned in the direction of the Marketplace.
From his vantage point on the graveyard hill he could see over the wall he had erected and into the city beyond. There were a lot of people gathered on the other side, and the Baron didn’t like the look of them.
They were planning on breaking the wall, he could tell. By all accounts, they might succeed if they tried hard enough.
The Baron shook his head.
“If this is how they want it... very well,” he muttered to himself, his slightly playful tone disappearing for a moment.
The Baron strummed his banjo gently, and waited for the result.
It wasn’t long before Zombies emerged from all corners of the Old District, and slowly shuffled their way towards the graveyard.
Once more they gathered around the Baron until he stopped playing abruptly. The Zombies seemed to come to, and looked around in the same disorientated manner they had earlier that day.
“They are planning on breaking the wall,” the Baron announced.
Many of the Zombies glanced back towards the vines that blocked the road. The look of hope on many of their faces was barely disguised.
“We will stop them when they enter,” the Baron continued. “We will take this city and they will learn.”
There were disconcerted mumblings from the gathered Zombies.
Arthur Munroe stepped forward.
“Now look here, my good man, we don’t want to fight these people,” he explained.
“Why not?” the Baron asked. “You called me here in your minds, fear and the desire of revenge for what they have done to you. I agree, the living have taken so much from us... too much. Let’s show them! Let’s fight!”
“You can’t make us!” a voice from the crowd shouted.
The Baron leaned back against a tomb, and took the banjo in his hands.
“Oh yes, I can,” he told them simply.
One chord was all it took, and the Zombies all stiffened, staring straight ahead and swaying to the music.
“They are going to pay,” the Baron growled, turning towards the wall of vines.
“If I could just interrupt for one moment?” a voice called from the back of the graveyard.
The Baron wheeled round. None of the Zombies should have been capable of talking... and there shouldn’t have been anyone else in the Old Quarter.
Or was there?
Two solitary figures were weaving their way between the swaying Zombies, a Krawk and a Grarrl, both in suits that looked incredibly dirty.
The smell they were producing reached the Baron long before they did, and almost choked him.
“Who are you?” the Baron asked, lowering the banjo.
Around him, the Zombies returned to their senses.
“My name is Mr. Jennings,” the Krawk replied pleasantly. “I am a local businessman, and of course, a concerned citizen.”
“You came through the sewers?” the Baron asked.
“Shrewd reasoning,” Jennings admitted as he moved closer. “I am here to put an end to this, before it gets any further out of hand.”
He turned his back on the Baron momentarily.
“Zombies of Neopia Central,” he addressed the gathered crowd. “I’m sure you had good intentions in summoning this Baron here, but I’m also sure you are aware that the Defenders of Neopia are waiting just over that wall.”
“He’s going to make us fight them!” a voice called out.
“Quite so,” Jennings considered. “May I speak to a representative?”
“I represent them!” the Baron shouted.
Jennings ignored him. Arthur Munroe stepped forward.
“Ah, Mr. Munroe, a pleasure,” Jennings said quickly. “We do not have much time; if you would read this over and sign on the dotted line I would be much obliged.”
Jennings handed over the roll of paper. Munroe opened it and began to read. Almost immediately, the old Chomby began to laugh.
“What are you doing!?” the Baron demanded.
“Baron Friday-Lunchtime,” Jennings continued, turning back to the Scorchio. “Lord of all the Zombies. You were created by the first witch, and it is your search for her that keeps you here, is it not?”
The Baron stepped back slightly.
“Each Zombie needs one,” Jennings explained. “A raison d’etre. Yet it has been how many centuries since you last saw her? Still, you persist, scouring graveyards in the Haunted Woods for any sign of her. But this begs the question, why are you here, now?”
“I was called,” the Baron replied defensively.
“By harm done to Zombies?” Jennings laughed. “They have been in Neopia Central longer than anyone can remember. No, Baron, why are you here now? Could it be that you have sensed something, a change in the world perhaps? Something that you cannot put into words? Could it be that you have come here for revenge, as one final act against the living, those who took your precious Esmeralda from you?”
Jennings advanced on the Baron, who almost seemed to buckle in fear.
“She is gone, Baron,” he whispered.
The Scorchio contorted with rage and jumped upwards, snarling.
“How? When?” he demanded.
“She was destroyed last year, completely. You cannot raise her,” Jennings answered.
The Baron snarled at Jennings, and then leaned heavily on the tomb behind him.
“You are a fool,” the Baron laughed. “If I go, they will all go with me!”
He reached inside his shirt and produced a small amulet on a chain that hung around his neck. It glowed a rather unimpressive grey colour.
“I regret to inform you that you may be incorrect,” Jennings said casually. “Mr. Munroe, as an elected representative of the Zombies of Neopia, has just signed a contract.”
The Chomby appeared behind Jennings, grinning from ear to ear, and passed the paper to the Baron.
“This contract, as you can see, is terms of employment,” Jennings continued. “The Zombies gathered before you are henceforth contractually bound to stay here in this city and work for... let me see, what was the time scale? Ah yes, forever.”
“This is ridiculous!” the Baron shouted. “You can’t overpower magic with... with words!”
“We shall see,” Jennings replied, taking the contract back. “Regardless, Baron Friday-Lunchtime, you are done here.”
The Scorchio’s eyes widened with fear as the effect of Jennings’s words took hold. His skin became paler in colour, and crumbled as it dried. The Zombie King fell forward, melting into the ground as he did so, until only a small patch of dust remained.
Jennings smiled lightly and turned around. To his relief, hundreds of Zombie eyes stared back at him.
“You no longer work for the Baron,” Jennings announced. “The terms of the contract state that you are all official employees of the city. You will of course be entitled to minimum wage and full benefits as part and parcel of that, I should imagine.”
Cheers rose up from the Zombies.
Jennings grinned pleasantly to himself.
Of course, what he hadn’t said, and what the fine print essentially meant, was that the Zombies now worked for him.
A blast from the direction of the Marketplace silenced them all temporarily as the Defenders of Neopia succeeded in breaching the wall of vines.
It wasn’t long before Judge Hog was rushing through the graveyard to the source of the commotion, a string of onlookers and newspaper reporters in his wake.
His face fell as he reached the hill.
“Jennings,” he muttered.
“A pleasure as always, my dear Judge.” The Krawk grinned. “You have caught us in the middle of employment negotiations.”
“Emp... what? Where’s the Scorchio?” the Judge demanded.
“Alas, he has been the victim of a hostile takeover,” Jennings chuckled. “Will there be anything else?”
The Judge looked around, floundering slightly.
“Yes!” he said at last. “We shall need to arrest all these Zombies; they have been obstructing public byways for the past two days now!”
Jennings coughed, and handed the Judge the contract.
“These Zombies are employees of the city, and have closed the roads in the Old Quarter for the past two days in order to carry out vital repair work upon the city’s aging sewer system. I’m sure you’ve seen the backlogs in Wide Street?”
“Repair work...?” the Judge questioned.
“Yes, almost completed, in fact,” Jennings answered, putting his hand on the Judge’s shoulder and leading him away. “Neopia Central should be back to normal in no time.”
Jennings sat back in his chair as Mr. Black passed him the morning paper.
There was still the odd smell about them, the sewers would take weeks to wash out, but that was of minor importance.
‘ANTI-ZOMBIE MOVEMENT GOES DOWN THE DRAIN’
There was a picture of Jennings shaking hands with Thaddeus Oldnose, the Zombie that had unplugged the final blockage in the sewers and returned things to normal.
He had been quite an interesting Meerca. Jennings made a note to keep an eye on him.
‘Normality returned to Neopia Central this morning as the out of control sewer system was finally brought back to acceptable standards. After the Zombie workers went on an apparent strike last week, the sewers had overflowed in several key points around the city, and life was almost brought to a standstill.
Last minute negotiations by businessman, Mr. Jennings, saw the Zombies agree to return to work for a significantly increased wage. Jennings was quoted as saying “This is a brave new age for Zombie kind”. There have been rumours that a number of living impaired citizens will also be joining a new venture set up by Mr. Jennings, a construction firm in the Docklands.
Mr. Seth Vargo, local businessman who has for a long time held a monopoly in the Docklands industry, this morning said, “This is stupid. These Zombies should stay out of jobs that a living person is capable of doing”. Despite criticism from those such as Mr. Vargo, this move has been almost universally praised by the community.’
Jennings smiled at the last line.
“We have annoyed Mr. Vargo,” he commented.
“It was a success then,” Black replied.
“I think it is time for us to begin annoying him with more vigour,” Jennings added. “I think... yes, it is time we did something about him.”
He took a small piece of paper from his desk. There were four names on it, the first of which had been crossed out.
1. Mr. Jonathan Entwhistle.
2. Mr. Seth Vargo.
3. Mr. Alfonso Might.
4. Lady Floretta Cambridge.
Jennings tapped the second name with a pencil thoughtfully.
It wouldn’t be long.