Location: Abandoned Region 3211-S ( Formerly ‘Scotland’)
The elevator finally stopped moving. The sound of the mechanisms fading for a few moments in the claustrophobic darkness. How far down had we come? What would we find when that door opened?
Just when I began to think whatever engines had brought us here had finally given up the ghost, the panel in front of us began to rise outward. A yellow glow emanated from the increasing gap between the floor and rising panel. Light crept in steadily until the scene of a basement storage room unfolded before us. JoLa, standing closest to the doorway and still clutching her staff, beckoned my team and I forward into this remarkably unremarkable hideout. We moved into the centre of the room, the elevator’s operator joining us after closing the panel. I surveyed the surroundings; an ornate chandelier light up a room full of cardboard boxes filled with leaflets, piles of clothes, various bric-a-brac and two well-used couches. There were grey, metal doors at either end which no doubt lead to rooms of a similar level of awe. Across the walls slogans were written in blue paint – ‘In McDougall we trust!’ and ‘Resistance: Stay Positive!’ – which were accompanied by posters of a male Broadway actor in tartan trousers and Kermit the frog.
‘Welcome to the Resistance Headquarters!’, JoLa announced as she waved at us to take seats on the couches. ‘We’re well protected from those Nats down here! Plenty of room! This is just the entrance to the entire complex. A bit shabby but Taylor’s money was running low after we’d installed the pool room, bowling alley, cinema, jacuzzi and everything else in the bunker under the E.I.C.C.’ She shimmied over with her staff and pulled over a wooden chair from the back wall. She sat down with the groan of the elderly. The elevator operator had now drawn his hood back, revealing a elderly skinny man with short, snow-white hair and round spectacles. The wild black eyebrows were even more prominent contrasted against his hair. He had turned to regard one of the posters – the word ‘Barrowman’ could now be made out at the bottom – and stared at it, unmoving.
‘We need answers JoLa,’ I asked, turning my attention back to the small, angry woman. ‘ What exactly is this place? Who is ‘The Resistance’ and who are you two? My team and I have been dropped into a nightmare worse than anything we thought possible! We need to get out of this place and report back to Lord Robertson!’
‘Lord Robertson, eh?’. She smiled. A crooked smile that didn’t quite sit right on her face. I felt even more uneasy. ‘We work for Lord Robertson too you know!’, she continued. ‘Should’ve known he’d be the one behind your incursion. He’s a good man is oor Lord Robertson.’
‘The best!’, cried the elevator operator with crazy eyebrows. He was still in the exact same spot he had been when staring at the posters but had turned one hundred and eighty degrees to face all of them. He stood perfectly still…blinking rapidly.
‘This is Darling’, said JoLa, brandishing her staff in his direction. ‘He is our most trusted servant. A true representative of Better Together and The Resistance. An’ I can tell you folks we need aw the help we can get these days.’ She settled back into her chair, her face taking on a melancholy look.
‘Tell them Johann,’ Darling said, still blinking.’They need to hear everything.’
‘Awright Darling,’ she replied, ushering us all to skooch up a bit as if she was a village elder about to entertain the children by the fireside. ‘It began with Lord Robertson. He’s such a gifted wee man. He saw aw this trouble before it started, ye know. Many years ago he prophesied the rise of the Forces of Darkness in this land. He knew that if the citizens of what once was ‘Scotland’ voted YES to separation it would cover all the lands in a second darkness.’ She stopped to cough and spit at the side of the chair.
In the background Darling’s face had began to twitch. It was a worrying sight combined with his excessive blinking. A few coughed words later – ‘Salmond!’ and ‘Nationalists!’ – and he seemed to calm down. JoLa continued.
‘Lord Robertson knew naebody would take his warnings seriously so , when the separatists put forth their wee pretendy referendum, he called the most powerful agents in the land to form the first line of defence against the Forces of Darkness: Better Together. We were a hearty band of proud Scots who tried with reasoned argument, honest debate and an endless supply of positivity, to stop the separatist vote from increasing. We kent Salmond was in league with the Dark Forces and was using the YES vote for his personal gain but naebody wanted to listen. In the end we failed.’ JoLa drew out a dirty handkerchief from her cloak and began dabbing at her eyes. ‘Oh help me boab but we gave it the best we could!’
‘Separatists!’, cried Darling, physically shuddering as he did so. The next moment he was as still as a statue, except for his eyes, which were blinking, rapidly.
‘We were too late to make it oot when the cataclysm happened,’ continued JoLa. ‘The lowest YES voters turned almost instantly into the vile zombie creatures ye encountered. Factions emerged from the higher echelons of the YES movement, Some joined with the creatures of the night, others carving out their own territories to rule over with their fearmongering. That cyber-bastard returned calling himself the ‘Reverend King’ and laid claim to Bathgate, with his ‘Winged Legions’. Macintyre-Kemp and Mckee hold the gateway to the highlands taxing onybody stupid enough to wander into their realm.’
‘What happened to those that didn’t vote YES?’ I asked, intrigued to find out if there was a substantial force which might be able to aid us in our journey home.
‘There were loadsy us! The YES vote won by a baw-hair! We’re still convinced it was rigged cause naebody in Scotland liked Salmond onyway. When the evil rose out the earth and descended fae the sky, our brave Better Together campaigners were hunted doun like dugs. We banded together though and managed to form a resistance! Some tried to make it oot but ye’ll know yersel how perilous the borders are now.’
‘We are everywhere. We are legion. Better Together reps round every corner. You’ll never see them but they’re there. Watching.’ It was Darling again, staring off into space, still blinking.
‘He does that sometimes,’ explained JoLa. ‘Find it best to ignore him till it passes. Got knocked on the head a bit before the referendum. Was never quite the same. Still a brilliant guy but.’
As Darling continued to mumble – ‘Cybernats!’, ‘Sssalmond!’ – I took stock of our situation. Three special operative agents – christ had I even asked their names before I began this mission? FAFD Agents 27 and 45 were all I knew – a hobbling angry, old woman and a strangely mystic old man with extraordinary eyebrows and an increasingly worrying case of nationalist tourette’s. We needed more firepower if we stood any chance of even attempting to get out of this place and report back to Lord Robertson and H.M.F.A.F.D.
As silence descended on the room, Darling having taken to admiring the Barrowman poster again, there came a crackling sound like that of a signal being received on a walkie-talkie. JoLa burst from her chair and made her way to a desk at the left side of the room. As she unlocked a drawer, a voice could be heard:
‘Come in! Come in HQ! This is Ruth! Code red! Code Red! I repeat Code – ‘
The signal stopped. JoLa’s left hand, which was now holding the walkie-talkie, began to shake furiously. Darling, now turned back to face the group, had began a strange keening sound. ‘Eeeeeeeeee.’
‘JoLa,’ I began as I made my way over to the angry-teacher, ‘what’s a ‘Code Red’?’
She said nothing for a few tense moments. Then she turned, utter terror in her eyes and muttered five barely audible, words.
‘The National Collective are coming!’