The bag was torn off my head some time later, and it took me a while to adjust to the light. It was gloomy, dank, and there was a faint smell of despair around the place. I was definitely in the Maths building.
“Hey, you ok?”
I turned my head as far as I could and saw Sam tied up next to me. He was badly beaten, and someone had carved ‘No to NUS’ into his arm.
“I’m ok,” I replied. “What happened back there?”
“A raid on Yes headquarters by a No battalion. Lots of casualties on both sides. Yes lost Shane and Josh Cox, but they managed to capture Luke O’Brien.”
“Quiet, prisoners!” A voice rang out of the gloom. Jack Hodgson stepped forward, the rest of the No team with him. Now my eyes were adjusting, I could see the room was full of people.
“The loss of Luke was regrettable, yes,” said Hodgson. “We’re doing everything in our power to get him back. In the meantime, Alice North’s working on a replacement.”
“I couldn’t lose my Luke,” laughed Alice maniacally from a corner. “So I’m making Luke O’Brien mark two! All I had to do was sew Luke Goodger and Katy O’Brien together!”
She pointed to a hideous hybrid person next to her. “And they’re loving the chance to get to know each other! Aren’t you guys?”
“That’s the spirit!”
I looked away from the abomination that was now Luke O’Brien and asked Hodgson why they’d taken us prisoner.
“We heard tales of The Iceman, and wished to use you as a bargaining chip. Many believe that you will bring an end to this referendum, so we figured we can swap you for Luke. Your associate however…is expendable.”
Sam grimaced. “I knew you’d catch up to me sooner or later.”
“Mr Everard is wanted for the murder of several of our high-ranking members when we attempted to capture him in the Education Building four months ago. He is to be executed as a war criminal. Plus, a few of the Tab writers are still alive and they went on a Wessex Scene purge early on, so he’s been on their most wanted for a long time. They’ve been keeping a live blog going for the whole four year period, actually.”
Four people on laptops waved to me from a table. “It’s been going fine, mostly,” said Ella Dove. “Except for that time a Yes faction member came in and stole the laptops for a while.” She turned one of the screens towards me:
’22:14 – Peewee.
22:16 – Peeweeeee.
22:19 – Peewee?
22:20 – Peewee!’
“…You get the idea.”
Hodgson stepped in to interrupt. “You will be spared, Iceman. But Sam will suffer.”
“What are you going to do to him?” I asked.
“He will be taken to the Cube and face death by unfolding cinema chairs. But first he must wear…THE BEARD OF BEES!”
“Ahh!” I screamed. I wasn’t really sure why, but it felt apt. “That sounds…stingy.”
“Oh, you’re mistaken. We saved Alex Bees’ beard and keep it in a jar, it’s the only part of his body that wasn’t hideously mutilated when we found him.”
I was dragged away from the room and down to a cell on a lower level, leaving an embarrassed-looking Sam surrounded by sobbing members of the No faction with a dead man’s facial hair strapped to his face. I was thrown into a cold, bare classroom and handed a small plate of curly fries. I thought I was alone in there, but after a few minutes I heard a soft shuffling in the corner.
“Hello?” I said softly.
“Is…is there someone there? I don’t really care either way.”
“…Yes. Who are you?”
The figure moved out of the shadows. “My name’s Lucy. Lucy Upshall. I helped found the Meh to NUS movement. The people here tell me I’m the last of my kind.” She coughed wretchedly. “The Last…of the Mehicans.”
I looked at the pitiful creature for a while, and then asked her what the movement was about.
“We encouraged people not to care about the referendum. But, you know, only when we could be bothered. I didn’t really care if people didn’t care.”
“But why encourage apathy?” I asked. “Who does that help?”
She thought for a while, and finally responded “Meh.”
Guess I should’ve seen that coming.
“Anyway,” she said, “I’ve been stabbed or something. I couldn’t be bothered to check, but you know. So I might be dying or something. Who knows. Wanna put me out of my misery? I’ve been saving this knife for an escape, but you could use it on me first. I don’t know. Maybe. I’m not fussed.”
I was starting to see why the Mehs had been hunted to extinction. Regardless, I decided to help her in her passing. I took the knife from her and plunged it down, unable to look.
“That was my foot, arsehole.”
I tried again, and this time pushed it straight into her heart. She died with a half-hearted shrug.
I stood outside the Maths building, clothes torn and covered in blood. The No team members I had encountered in my escape hadn’t gone down easy. Andrea Sipka even managed to bite two of my fingers off, but I got some valuable information from her before she died. Two No to NUS members, Joe Hart and Marcus Burton, had gone rogue and reformed Union Council in the bowels of the Union. Sam and Luke O’Brien were being taken there now for judgement and execution, and that’s where I was headed. I killed on the way: lord knows how many times. Yes, No, ‘impartial’ staff members. None were safe. News spread to the Union quickly, and all were whispering that the Iceman cometh.
SUSU reception was dark and steamy, and full of tropical plants for some reason. I pushed my way to through the undergrowth to the front desk. It was lit with burning torches and covered in skulls, and only one receptionist remained, her nametag telling me she was called Amy. On closer inspection, I realised she had been beheaded and stuffed. I walked away and made my way down the stairs in the darkness. I became aware that I was being watched, and as my eyes adjusted to the darkness I saw the staircase was lined on either side by hundreds of people, all dressed in tribal clothes. It was probably the busiest the Cube had been in a while.
I made it to Union Films, blood-covered knife in hand and surrounded by crude spears made from unsold poster-sale posters and old Edge magazines. Next to the Union Films office sat the two rogue colonels, Marcus and Joe. In Marcus’ hand was a leash, with a small excitable man tied at the other end by a collar around his neck. The man woofed happily at me.
“Down, Barker!” said Marcus. “Don’t mind Jamie, he just doesn’t get many new visitors these days. Why do you come before Union Council?”
“I’m looking to rescue my friend Sam. He’s been brought here by the No faction.”
Joe laughed, the sound of it filling the whole of SUSU. Marcus tittered. “I’m afraid that won’t be possible,” said Joe. “We have an agreement. There is a ceasefire today for the executions of No member Luke O’Brien and war criminal Sam Everard. You are permitted to watch, but you will be guarded. You are the man to end this war, they say.”
“Not if we can help it,” Marcus butted in. “Being on a ridiculous number of committees and far too many viewings of Apocalypse Now have given us an inflated sense of importance, and Joe and I know we’ll be the ones to break the stalemate. Not some frozen nameless tit.”
I was walked out to the balcony, flanked by the two warlords. The Cube was filled with both Yes and No factions, all jeering and calling at the prisoners. Sam Ling was lazing in a hastily prepared chariot, and Jack Hodgson had managed to tame and saddle Luke O’Brien Mark Two for the occasion. I could see the two prisoners, shackled and on their knees, in the very centre. As more people became aware of my presence, the room began to grow silent, until all that was left was the sound of Jamie Barker licking himself and grunting.
“Esteemed members of Yes and No,” said Joe. “We are to witness the execution of one Luke O’Brien and one Sam Everard, in accordance with both of your wishes. The mighty Hart and Burton must be appeased. Bring out…the device!”
The room erupted in cheers, and two of the colonel’s lackeys wheeled a large metal object onto the balcony on a cart.
“Shit Sam, it’s a bomb!” I shouted down into the throng.
“How do you know?”
“It’s helpfully labelled, and it’s ticking.”
“We kidnapped a group of computer scientists and engineers years ago and made them construct this in secret,” explained Marcus. “It’s the only way to cleanse campus, but only when the time is right.”
“You’re insane!” I shouted above the din, but the sound barely carried above the screams below. The execution had started. Sam and Luke were being slowly crushed to death by the wall of chairs unfolding from the wall of the Cube. I turned around, unable to look, and saw the familiar figure of Peewee next to the bomb. He had snuck his way to the balcony unnoticed, and was eyeing up the cart vacantly.
“No Peewee! Don’t!”
Peewee launched his body at the device, drool covering his chin and farting with wild abandon, and the world flashed an incredible white.
His words were the last any of us heard before we were obliterated, the referendum rendered obsolete and campus destroyed.