October has a smell all its own…
Bromley awoke to find Henry Dench slapping at his face concernedly. This concern was slightly underminded by the fact that the man was chuckling as he did so.
“Alright, alright, I’m up, I’m up-” Dench gave him an extra thwack for luck “-Gah… Thanks D. Remind me to return the favour some day soon”. Dench beamed, showing off a gold tooth amidst his not-so-pearly whites. “Now… Where the fuck am I and where’s my Rebreathable?” Dench shrugged, his transparent AirFilt™ mask mocking Bromley’s unguarded face. Bromley found that he was resting against a tree in Jersey Gardens – a tree, in Jersey Gardens of all places!
Bromley tried to laugh but spluttered on the noxious air, suddenly remembering Keeler’s seemingly trivial information about present-day air content.
“Quick, get me inside, you renegade.”
As Dench helped him to his feet, Bromley felt the pain hit him. He couldn’t work out if his head pounded because of a battering or because of the amount of air he’d had to breath in the last however-many hours. He rubbed the back of his neck and found the fresh scars left by his assailants – a triangular pattern of three circles, the tell-tale mark left by a Disabler®. This, as Bromley could now attest to, incapacitated its victim by utilising a combination of neurotoxin and electric schock. The effect was an instant coma which, depending on the setting, could last minutes, hours, or days.
He suinted upwards, and saw the translucent canopy of the Dais in the distance. It was night, but the solar flexipanels glittered and gave off an almost-eerie reddish glow. These were what powered everything inside, incorporating something akin to a stretchable form of plexiglass that could be shaped and added to at will. The covering kept the Dais permanently at a temperature of between 20 and 35 degrees celsius, with zero wind – although the permeable nature of the material meant that it did rain regularly on the City. Bromley grinned – some things never change.
Dench grinned back at Bromley and continued to drag the stricken figure through the concrete-and-plastic hell of Jersey Gardens. His family had lived in this part of Hounslow for centuries, and he was now the curator of this park, a park which moved many who saw it to describe as a ‘Giant Ashtray’. Still, he loved it. He took a simple pleasure in tending to what was left of its foliage, and evidently felt a strong attachment to the place. Bromley couldn’t for the life of him imagine why.
As they made their way, Bromley continued to stare at the immense semi-transparent shell. The power created by its panels meant that there were no vehicles in the Dais save for electrically-powered rail services. The cleaner environment inside complemented the plush estates, luxurious ultra-modern apartments and leafy suburbs which were a feature of life for those who resided within. Bromley couldn’t see them from here, but he knew that the two colossal filtration centres either side of the dome were even now working overtime to ensure that, inside the Dais, the river was sparkling blue and clean enough to drink.
Mind you, Bromley pondered, all this required millions of workers from outside. Millions of commuters travelling into and out of the Dais through heavy-duty security checkpoints every day. Millions of people whose labours were necessary in order to keep the Dais functioning. Waiters, plumbers, teachers, nurses, electricians… They still ran everything.
They just didn’t know it.
Finally, they were out of Jersey Gardens, and after a few more minutes of half-walking, half-stumbling, they reached a cracked, unkempt doorway. Dench unceremoniously dumped the now-delerious Bromley in a corner before rummaging in his pocket for something… A key! Bromley hadn’t seen one of those – a real, solid metal one at any rate – since being brought to the City Historical Archive as a boy. Dench noticed his gaping expression and smiled. ‘Yes’, his look seemed to say, ‘Some of us still use these antiques for their original purpose’.
After some fiddling with the lock, Dench pulled Bromley into the hallway. It was cramped, poorly-lit, and the odour of rising damp entered Bromley’s nostrils immediately. He didn’t care – it was a blessed relief to be inside, away from the poisonous atmosphere. He slouched against the wall, gratefully sucking in the relatively fresh air. As if his life depended on it.
Henry Dench ambled through the hallway, down some steps and into a narrow passageway before disappearing from view. He could still be heard though, his AirFilt™ clanking as it hit kitchen tiles, and before long the unmistakable clinking of glasses issued forth. Thank fuck – Bromley was dying for a glass of water. This was a fairly standard side effect of being zapped by a Disabler. Mind you, as side effects went, it was still preferable to death.
Bromley began checking his pockets, and was surprised; not only had all his belongings remained untouched, but a crumpled up leaflet had been deposited in the left pocket of his combats. He gingerly removed the item – any number of terrifying bio-chemical substances might have been smeared on it – before giving an exasperated sigh and unfurling the hemp paper. As he read, a wan smile came to his lips.
This lot were fucking crackers.
Solidarity, brothers & sisters…Ⓐ