‘YER A LANG TIME DEED/by David James Farquhar
Another day rolled up. Alan snapped off the alarm. Got out of bed slowly, still half asleep. He staggered to the bathroom as the Tee-Vee kicked in. Firing out it’s rolling forever news, nithin’deein’ barked the headline as Sean batty garbled his usual on the sofa. That guy was ancient, at least two hundred- still looked nae a day over 25. All teeth and wildly flailing elbows. The weather would be grey, it always was.
He’d overdone it last night, bleary memories surfaced in his mind of the events, snapshots- a brief summary missing any sort of chronology : a few pints after work had escalated into an impromptu drinking binge with Aleck and Mikey-Mike. Thank fuck Dave had gone home early, Dave was a dick normally, all stupid jokes and cringe worthy pseudo matey back-slapping pish- but after a few beers he was totally unmanageable. Aye, bit of a rapey beer monster that ‘een. Good job there were no livestock in the compound really, Dave would go for that option nine times out of ten if he couldn’t get in aboot some woman. He liked to think he disliked Dave for these basic reasons- but he was from the Glaswegian colonies: this made things worse- the guy was lucky he could walk on his hind legs, those folk were stone age.
Well, he couldn’t really get a grip on how he got home, last thing he could remember was getting into that fancy new zero gravity bar on the main strip, getting a bit of a buzz when he saw that Mike had been mistaken for a local fitba’ player and had blagged them into the thankfully full gravity upper mezzanine VIP enclosure. Mental, being hammered with no gravity was fun for a while but jesus, you paid for it in the morning.
Alan tore through his usual routine pre-work. Shower, shit and shave. Some folk brushed their teeth with dog dirt, which was a passing trend he thought. Fuck that. Standard paste for him. He tanned a coffee and a sneaky fag. All the time watching the flickering screen- nae news at all.
The internal mail flickered, firing out the jobs for the day. Two, which was strange. That meant overtime- if the temp staff dinae get in first. The fucking agency staff were a pain in the arse, over eager go-getters, always up for overtime the money hungry cunts. They had turned the fiddling of time sheets into an art form. Nae training though, they were supposed to just assist but they would fire on in there and cock things up as sure as shit. Then when the investigation kicked in a few days later it would be the same old story- the language barrier man- an excuse for a multitude of sins.
He finished his coffee, and unpacked the greasy plastic suit- zipping it up quickly. Christ, this was the best part of the day. He stepped out of the French doors from his living room, it locked automatically behind him. Nae Bother he mused, he had fuck all worth stealing anyhow. Everybody had the same stuff.
The queue at the wee pinger was all the usual. He groaned internally on seeing his upstairs nieghbour Alastair bringing up the rear. His steaming mug of pish spotting the laminate of the Foyer. Alastair, without fail would want the following- a discussion on the weather, comparing the sky to his official Sean Batty weather card. He could never ever conclude what exact shade of grey the sky was, somewhere between grey 00.12 and grey 00.14 was the usual verdict. Stage two was a discussion of seagull activity over the preceding 24 hours- fuelled by rumours and the occasional eye witness account. Alastair worked a mile a way, his pinger flight was in the region of thirty seconds- so chances were that he would escape unscathed, it never worked out that way though. He would splashdown outside his work his pinger suit splashed with Gull shit. Those birds hated him.
Alastair was up and away, his suit glistening as best it could in the murky light of the morning. He arced into the distance and darted sharply downwards, disappearing behind the huge two mile high head quarters of the Aberdeen City council building. Alan punched in for his ticket, the pinger bay opened. He hooked the strap into the loop on his leg as the safety video garbled on. He waited for the green light. Red, Amber, Green.
The wee pinger pinged, and Alan was up and away. He never wore the goggles and face mask- liked to feel the wind on his face as he flew high and mighty. He loved the morning commute. His was a long trip by most standards, three miles till he hit the balls. He sailed over the buildings, the wind howling in his ears, below him a weird mish-mash of structures lurked, like his nieghbour he soared over the monolithic council building- catching a glimpse of the luxurious roof complex, the infamous “hingin’gairdens” that only the highest ranking officials had access to, casually he flicked a two fingered salute to a sexless managerial type that swaggered by the pool, useless overpaid pricks he thought. He passed over the barracks of the new Roamin’ Army corps. , it never failed to amuse him how the accommodation blocks had been arranged to form the most feared symbol in the known universe- the gallus phallus ( also known as the Jizzy cock)- you could see that from space: and it put the shitters up everyone. Forming the jap’s eye of the huge symbol was the great Aberdonian Giant Pinger, capable of hurling 80,000 tonnes into orbit. His line of fire began to arc downwards now, the last leg, he flew low over the banks of the Don as it spewed it’s sickly contents into the grey north sea, he could make out the rough shanty town encampments of the Minkz, it was early but a few of them were out and about- moving at incredible speed, shirtless and pure roastin’ in the morning light, plumes of Lambert & Butler twirling from their constantly present smoke tubes.
He prepared for the ball breaking, the sparkling spirals and towers of the W.O.U.L.D group beckoned, a ridiculously baroque folly of granite and glass, self concious and crude in it’s over the top architecture. For a moment he hung above the pit, the catcher field crackling with static energy- involuntarily he took a sharp intake of breath, before he dropped the last hundred feet directly down into the ball pit. To be honest, the ball pits were an unnecessary bit of fun- the huge pits- a standard one was roughly the size of a swimming pool, and just as deep at the deep end, were filled with garishly coloured foam balls, granted they did cushion the impact of a pinger flight- but there was something faintly ridiculous about the situation. He once asked one of the senior designers of the ball-pits for the reasoning behind them at a party, the engineer eyed him slyly, his diamond encrusted monocle glinting in the candle light, finally after a difficult minute or two’s thought he leaned conspiratorially to Alan’s ear and whispered-
“ Rahmboolund…read yer’ history laddie”1
The engineer followed this with a good two minutes jam packed with tapping his nose, winking and some over enthusiastic jabs to Alan’s ribs. He never did get round to following up the man’s explanation, probably because it was an avalanche of shite.
He spent an age thrashing about in the ball pit, eventually getting to the ladder and ascending. He unzipped his pinger suit and stowed it safely in his vacuum packed bag. The long since exterminated American’s had called the bag a “fanny pack”, which as it happens is one of the reasons they were put too the sword, there were precious few breeding pairs of Americans left in captivity and some said that nature should be allowed to take it’s course, fit ye ganna dae we the last American?
For all the scientific terminology surrounding his job it really wasnae that complicated. The entire process had been perfected about a hundred years before- and even before that the actual cold storage of people had been roughly developed to a functional level. Sometimes some of the older sleepers didn’t respond, or worst case scenario were revived with serious brain damage and physical impairments. That was what the W.O.U.L.D group paid it’s insurers for though, and nowadays he rarely saw a duff wakey-wakey. He checked in at the front desk, giving the security guard a good old fashioned Aberdonian thousand yard stare. That boy was askin’ for it really, fit with his Lamination fetish.
Aleck and Mikey-Mike were already in the chamber, he waved at them through the giant circular window. Dave had phoned in sick, which was a bonus: his target was fucked for this week anyhow- two bad days already, nae chance of pulling that back from the brink. They had already started the jobs, even through the reinforced door he could hear the grating low end thrum and drang of the wakey-wakey gear warming up. He grabbed the print outs for the jobs and his clip-board- the stat’s looked okay- both subjects had gone nighty-night within days of each other, and both had responded well to all the pre-revivification tests, so maybe they would both do fine.
Last year had been a bad run for the lads, first that stand up comedian from Elgin, he was out of it- turns out his blood alcohol had been off the scale, probably the daftie had been slightly nervous about going to sleep, which was understandable. Maybe he’d drunk a wee bit too deep from the cup of Dutch courage. As to how the piss-head had blagged the breathalyser test before induction that was anybodies guess. Still, he was in a hell of a state, brain-box totally screwed. Being drunk for two hundred years tended to have fairly serious physical and mental side effects. The strange thing was that it didn’t seem to put a dent in the guys earning power, he was getting more bookings than he could handle- and none of the audience realised he was a blind drunk lunatic, everybody raved about his wild and deeply authentic 20th century comedy act. Ach well. After that they had some serious botch ups with various academics. None of them were chemical problems though, more a case of the inability to comprehend what had happened to them. Professional lingo categorised this as “ temporal orientation clusterfuck syndrome”.
The company had totally hushed up the fiasco of the stark naked Cultural Theologian that had managed to escape the compound, he had (according to rumours) managed to set up a self sufficient life for himself on an ancient burial roundabout near the beach Boulevard. He’d build a Yurt out of corrugated iron and defended it to the hilt. This year had been cool so far, they had all been pretty much nailing the targets for the last six months or so, fine big wads of bonus cash in the bank for that. Damn straight.
He could barely make sense of the job sheets, the dates were readable- but the names and further classifications were either illegible or bordering on the cryptic. The consensus was that today’s candidates for the big wakey-wakey were a certain Mr. Lame Gatherer, and a Mr. Een’ Broon. Neither man’s profession was decipherable: the scans were to degraded to make anything in those areas out. They must have been big-shots though, two hundred years ago only those who could be described as stinking rich could afford the process- and the first of the candidates was seemingly still pretty affluent as he was being picked up by a very expensive motor with a chauffeur after a successful wakey-wakey. He was also instructed (in rather overbearing block caps) to absolutely not look the aforementioned Mr. Gatherer directly in the eyes.
He stepped through the first door, fiddling with his protective glasses, they made his left ear itch chronic. The door closed behind him and he fidgeted from foot to foot, diddling drum beats in his head. Shona, the enclosure PC rambled incoherently through the speaker up in the corner of the tiny ante room, she was state of the art, but christ she didnae half blether some shite.
“so aye Alan, eeeeeehhhhhhm, hang fire a minute..I’ve totally lost ma thread…fit wis a sayin’? Eeeeeeeeeeeehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhm,eh?”
He didn’t even bother to try and talk to Shona most days, it was boredom that was driving her mad . All that brain power reduced to monitoring about six valves and measuring out dosages of wreckage. Hardly enough to occupy a Junkies Military issue Nokia, let alone Shona. Life was passing her by and all she could do was watch the scenery and crawl the walls.
The air seal clicked open, and Shona continued her droning background monologue. Alan stepped through the inner door, Mikey-Mike and Aleck acknowledged him with cursory waves.
He dumped the stack of paperwork by the control desk, pausing a moment to tidy all the pens and highlighters on the desk. Clutter was cancer, and Alan was the cure. Mikey-Mike caught his eye and yelled over the slow building drone of the wakey-wakey pre-amps:
‘Hoy Alan, they’re both hooked up and fizzin’ like buggery, jist need you to pilot us through min’ said Mikey-Mike, his voice slightly out of sync with his mouthings. That would be a side effect of the wakey-wakey machine warming up.
‘nae bother lads, I’ll jist draw doon the notes onto Shona and we’ll get them a decent dollop of wreckage each’ said Alan, sitting down in front of Shona’s main terminal. He pulled the ZIPPY files from the archive and dragged them into Shona’s inbox, in seconds she had calculated the correct dosage for both subjects- and loaded the solutions.
‘right lads, that’s everything loaded- stand clear’ said Alan, quickly bashing his secure code into the system. The gear kicked in, the drone edged up a gear. Everybody had a different way of coping with the side effects. Mikey-Mike liked to chew Blu-Tack, it’s chalky taste taking his mind off the temporal distortion. Aleck just hummed to himself, usually the theme tune to his favourite show “ Martina Cole- Crime Typer”, that seemed to do the trick right enough.
Alan just concentrated hard on the graphs, level meters and bell-end graphs that flickered across Shona’s screen. Waiting for the tell tale warnings; his fingers poised over the nighty-night switch. Heaven forbid that would ever have to hit the “get to fuck” button, it had never happened yet- but you could never tell what lay up around the bend.
The two subjects were warming up nicely, the huge sign above the vaults blinked in giant letters-
“STAND CLEAR FOR WRECKAGE”
This was the most crucial moment in the whole process: the real moment of truth. Then-
“WRECKAGE IS FIZZIN’”
Everybody in the chamber held their breath.
“WRECKAGE FIRED OOT”
Time stood still, seconds became minutes- and so on. Then finally-
“RIGHT, THAT’S IT”
The wakey-wakey drone started to abate incrementally, slowly dropping from a lug dirling holocaust, to a boisterous thrum and drang, to a barely audible hiss.
Both subjects , on the view screens anyway looked fine and dandy: both had healthy vital signs and showed strong signs of coming back from the wall of sleep. The wakey-wakey tubes descended from the ceiling silently and efficiently; ready to release their precious cargo.
The coughin’ tubes hit the floor and the lads started opening the valves and unlocking the bolts. Safety first in this game, wreckage essentially screwed people up, it revived but also revved you. So results were unpredictable. The crews job was basic- to make cursory and basic tests- count limbs, yell a few Hiya’s and fit’ likes- carefully noting any responses. Mikey-Mike and Aleck got to work cracking open Een Broon’s coughin’, Alan began to open Lame Gatherer’s tube. Foul vapours spiralled from the cylinders- ancient and mouldy as a funeral shroud.
And there they stood. The two sleepers awoken. As the smoke cleared Alan experienced a mortal chill, somebody walking across his grave. Een Broon was skeletal thin, hollowed deep cheekbones and piercing black eyes, eerily he began to march on the spot- his hands moving rhythmically all the time gathering pace. Lame gatherer stood hunched, eyes sweeping the chamber, finally fixating on Alan- holding his gaze fiercely. Alan swallowed- his throat was dry, something was wrong. Lame shifted his weight, pulling his head up towards the roof, and roared-
‘Shit’, muttered Alan and moved towards the “get to fuck” button-
barked Lame, Aleck vomited- the frequency’s pummelling his body, Alan was hit by a wave of sound knocking him off his feet. Shona’s display flashed a myriad of warnings, alerts flashed everywhere- sirens howled, the shutters came down hard over the reinforced glass. The chamber automatically sealed.
‘INNNNNMIIIIIIYEEEEIMMMMMAGINASHEEEEEEOOOOOON’ continued Lame, bursting Aleck’s eardrums as he hit the floor gibbering. The screen above them flashed in huge crabby letters- “ WARNING! MANCUNIANS DETECTED! ALL FLOORS ON LOCKDOWN! CONTAINMENT POLICY ACTIVATED!”
Alan couldn’t think straight, his vision blurred, waves of nausea hit him- but he remembered his history, this was the legend- they were going to establish the long lost kingdom- and they would kill every living soul in new Aberdeen…..Shona’s screen blinked in terror, –
“UNAUTHORISED WAKEY-WAKEY INITIATED: SUBJECT 2999/C”
“SUBJECT IDENTIFIED: EEN MUCKULLOCH”
Een Broon had worked his pace up to a galloping shuffle, his arms flapping dead at his side, he opened his mouth and released a gloriously atonal barrage- killing Mikey-Mike where he stood, Aleck’s blood boiled, the pressure popping his eyeballs out of their sockets and bursting his puddens like bubblewrap. As Alan’s last few precious seconds of life drained from him he heard Een Broon’s low and unearthly voice announce to Lame Gatherer:
‘right Liam, lets get the lad fae Echo and the Bunnymen out and we’ll sort these Jocks out’
1If Alan had bothered his uncultured arse to any extent, he would have found a wealth of information on this. Rahmboolund was probably the most infamous campaign waged in the first fifty years of the new Roamin’ Galactic Empire- comparable to the early Christian Crusading phenomenon. Rahmboolund was in fact a sickly green moon that orbited an entirely dull and inconsequential planet that happened to be saddled with the unlikely name of Kahdonaz. Both planet and attendant moon were slated to be colonized, rich with black gold and huge quantities of granite they would provide the empire with a handy HQ for further expansion. No life forms were detected on Kahdonaz, which was a bit of a let down as the fifth legion under the bloodthirsty and well motivated general Borkin Gliss were fair itching for a scrap, or at least a toy fight just to let off some steam. Happily enough, Rahmboolund despite its small size was hoaching with chirpy spherical lifeforms. These creatures were a peaceful and entirely non violent, they spent their days bouncing around playing a giant planet wide game of snooker, albeit without cues or pockets. The legions ships piled down onto the moon, and within two hours battle formations began. The happy ball-lifeforms continued their game as the ominous drone of Northsound one blasted from fifty foot wide speakers. Things did not go well for the Rahmboolundians, Borkin Gliss took no prisoners, and gave no quarter- and he had no time for diplomacy. The first Junkie battalion fae Northfield led the charge- moving at breakneck speed, trainers tearing up a vicious swirling cloud of dust, sovereign rings glistening, shirtless and pale. A fearsome sight. They launched themselves upon the sphere people- the sky rained gob, the junkies hochling up huge minging greeners into the air, an avalanche of phlegm rained down splattering the sphere people with everything from HIV to ringworm. Nasty. And then after the softening up the junkies fired straight on in there, trying to borrow money for the phone, looking for shops to steal stuff, and the threats- bellowed, whined and screamed- “you’re fuckin’ deed!”, “hi minspecky, did ye read a dictionary or summin?”, “smell ma finger’ baw manny? Thats yer ma!”, this brutal warfare continued until Borkin sent in the night buses and the Junkies swarmed onto them, as the buses returned to the camp the rabid junkies tore up the seats, abused the drivers and played happy hardcore on their military isuued Nokias. In just under three hours Borkin’s crack Junkie regiment had exterminated all life on Rahmboolund, over 200,000 sphere people were slaughtered, and Borkin keen to keep morale high ordered the digging of giant pits to dispose of the dead. And many a happy hour was spent by his men leaping into the pits and flailing about laughing fuelled by Tennants lager and cheap speed. So the engineer was right, as a tribute to a great victory every pinger trip in Aberdeen ended with a metaphorical nod to the murderous power of the new Roamin’ Empire. Nae that anybody gave a shit like.