Tag Archives: war

She, Robot

“I’m different from you. This doesn’t make me love you any less. It actually makes me love even more.”

Samantha the Operating System, ‘Her’, Spike Jonze, 2013

“Boomer was a good MARCBOT. Those goddamn Mahdi Army scum took him from this world far too early.”

red_one_foxtrot commenting on Reddit, 2013

~

Mike Powell awoke blurry-eyed to a dimly lit room that was almost unbearably hot. Grunting disagreeably, he rolled over and peeled the sheet from his torso. It was heavy with sweat.

“Jesus, how fucking hot is it?” he asked hoarsely of the dark room.

“It is thirty-seven degrees Celsius. Good morning Mike.”

It was a female voice, soft yet remote. He glanced at the figure seated by his bed.

“Kate, I thought we agreed to speak in American. And you know it creeps me out when you watch me sleep.”

“You’re not asleep, Mike. You’re awake. And the United States adopted the Celsius scale in late 2017 after a…”

Mike cut her short with a flapping palm as he wiped his eyes with his other hand.

“Yeah, yeah, alright. Quit your yapping.”

After showering Mike returned to his bunk to get dressed. Most of the others were up and about, the room now buzzing with a muted chatter. As he laced his boots his eyes fell on the bed next to his, its sheets fresh and crisp, undisturbed by sleep. He had liked Murphy. Not the brightest, but a good kid. There were rumours he hadn’t come out too badly from the raid, just a nick in the shoulder. That he was discharged due to what the docs called ‘emotional distress’. That his bot had taken one in the head and that was why he charged the outpost like a lunatic. Just rumours, Powell thought to himself as he made his way to the canteen. Kate followed behind him.

“How are you feeling Mike?”

“I’m just fine Kate. I’m eating.”

There was a short pause.

“You’re not worried about today’s mission? It’s perfectly…”

He cut her off, “I’ve been on plenty of ‘em Kate, and I’m still here. Like I said, I’m fine.”

Another pause.

“Okay Mike. I’m going to go for my tune-up before we leave. I’ll be back shortly.”

He didn’t respond. Kate got up and walked towards the exit. A few other bots were heading that way too. Mike finished his meagre breakfast and left the table.

There were approximately two thousand troops in Camp Obama, the largest US navy camp in Djibouti, and one of the largest in Eastern Africa. Three hundred of these were classed as special operations servicemen. The other two hundred and ninety-nine of these had bots just like Kate. The Synthetic Humanoid Engine had been in service for three years now. It was listed in official Armed Forces literature as ‘equipment’, and in its current incarnation took the form of a female android. The men responded better to female bots. It was equipped with an array of weapons, and its AI was unlike anything that had been seen before. President Winfrey had described the SHE as ‘the greatest military breakthrough since the AK-47.’

Kate was Mike’s second. He had only had his first for a month when a roadside bomb in Kandahar had hit the jeep he was travelling in. It had taken eight hours of surgery to remove the shrapnel from his back and arms. He hadn’t named his first, but by the time he was back in service and was issued a second, the directive was to assign your bot a name. The psychs had informed the top brass that it was ‘conducive to developing a trust system’. Mike had a soft spot for Katharine Hepburn movies, and when he was greeted upon his arrival for duty at Camp Obama by his very own ‘African Queen’ protectress, he thought it was appropriate.

Mike left the camp at midday with his unit, each man flanked in the back of the truck by his bot. Some chatted idly to them: checked on the weather and the sports results back home, had e-mails and Facebook posts read out, that kind of thing. Mike sat quietly, sweating through his fatigues under the Kevlar vest. He winced as the bumps in the road jarred his lower back. The dull pain that had been with him since Kandahar was worse than usual today. He closed his eyes and blocked out the fluttering voices of the bots. His mind drifted back to a training exercise from the academy. They had been split into teams and had to disassemble a live bot. It was supposed to convey the idea to the men that the SHE was just nuts and bolts. Just a machine.

The Captain calmly recapped the orders as the truck neared its objective. There was a camp a few miles to the east. Satellites had picked up possible insurgent activity there, but this had to be confirmed by ground troops before a strike could be authorised. The plan was to head to a nearby ridge and scope out the camp from afar. All fairly routine. The truck slowed to a crawl as it climbed the hill leading to the ridge.

The Cap turned to his bot,

“Satellite pick up anything new, Lucy?”

The bot hesitated as its neural pathways shimmered behind its faceplate.

“Nothing new from HQ, Sir. We are a go for mission.”

The Captain nodded as the truck slowed to a stop.

“Alright ladies, let’s make this quick. In and out and home in time fo-”

A deafening explosion ripped through the truck before he could finish. Mike was thrown to the floor as gleaming rays of sunshine flooded in through a smoking hole where the Captain had been sitting. Wiping his face, Mike’s hand came away soaked in the Cap’s blood. Lucy’s limp, headless body lay writhing and twitching across his legs. The rocket had turned the front half of the truck into a mangled wreck of body parts and circuitry. Gunfire sprayed the panels of the truck, filling the air with miniscule cylinders of sunlight. Mike felt a flashing pain in his leg, and as he turned to crawl towards the back of the truck he felt himself being lifted off the floor. A split second later he was barrelled out of the back and thrown roughly behind a jagged rock, the dense air loaded with the sound of bullets striking metal.

Before he had time to register what had happened, a figure landed with a thud beside him, its back to the rock. He turned to see Kate’s half-melted faceplate, her eyes as still and lifeless as ever. Her body was covered with dents and small holes.

“I can’t walk. My leg…” he started to say. Kate said nothing, but stood and lifted him over her shoulder. She sprinted away from the truck, a hail of bullets shadowing her down the hill that they had rolled up just moments before. Mike, his leg bleeding freely and his head being jolted violently, just had time to look back and survey the scene of the wrecked, flaming truck and the scattered bodies of his comrades, before he lost consciousness.

When Mike woke up the first thing he was aware of was how much his leg, and his head, hurt. The second thing he realised was that he was outside, and it was dark. Clusters of brilliant white stars came slowly into view as he blinked groggily.

“Where am I?” he just about managed to whisper, his own voice barely recognisable.

A soft reply came from above his head,

“You are seventeen point three miles from Camp Obama, Mike. It is currently ten thirty-one p.m.”

He looked up to see a twisted face in the moonlight, its blinking lights now clearly visible, its body leaking fluid.

“What happened to the rest…”

“Mike, we don’t have much time. I’ve done what I can with your leg but you’ll bleed out before long. There are still insurgents looking for us, and I’m too badly damaged to carry you back.”

He glanced down at his thigh to see a blood-soaked shirt wrapped tightly around it. His head felt light and he was having difficulty focusing his eyes.

“Can you call…get a chopper…”

“My communication system has been damaged, I can’t contact the base.”

Mike laughed softly to himself, delirious with pain and fatigue.

“Well that’s that, then. We can’t be taken alive, so you know what to…”

“Mike, I’m going back alone. They’ll send a chopper.”

Mike’s vision was becoming blurry again.

“It’s too far. You’ll never…” he trailed off.

Kate crouched beside him and put her hand on his chest.

“The chopper will be here, Mike. Just stay alive.”

His breath was shallow as he looked up at her.

“I never told you about my first.”

“No, you didn’t. But I’ve read the file.”

Mike stared at the crescent moon that lit the arid landscape, his eyelids quivering.

“Docs said she saved me. Rolled herself right around me in a millisecond and took the brunt of the blast.”

“She did her job, Mike.”

He reached out and took her hand, riddled with bullet holes and covered in an oily residue.

“I blamed her” he said, and laughed again. He fixed his eyes on the flickering lights that shone from beneath her gnarled visage. His grip became limp as his eyes began to close.

“I blamed her” he whispered again, but Kate didn’t hear him. She was sprinting noiselessly across the sand, her feet kicking up mounds of gold that shimmered under the light of the waxing moon.

~

When Mike woke he couldn’t open his eyes to the white light that seemed to envelop him. He felt as if he were floating through the air. Slowly he came to his senses, as a white-coated figure approached him.

“Good afternoon, Lieutenant. Good to have you back.”

Mike looked down at his leg, relieved to find it was still there.

“Chopper got to you just in time Sir. You were pretty close.”

Mike’s throat burned as he tried to speak, his voice a harsh croak, “Kate?”

The doctor looked puzzled for a moment, then smiled.

“Ah yes, your bot. We couldn’t believe she made it to the base. Nearly twenty miles, and most of her systems had completely crashed. It’s a miracle she made it.”

Mike shifted in the bed and lifted his head, his body still lethargic and weak.

“She…she made it?” he asked breathlessly.

The doctor’s smile faltered a little.

“Well, she made it here with your co-ordinates, but the damage was…well, you know…” he trailed off.

Mike lay back on the pillow and stared at the ceiling.

“Can I…see her?”

The doctor fidgeted with his clipboard.

“Well, I’m afraid she’s been…dismantled at this stage Lieutenant.”

He offered a weak smile.

“Well, you get some rest Sir. You’ve earned it. You’ll be issued with a new bot when you’re up and about, don’t you worry.”

As the doctor floated away across the room, Mike slowly turned his head to stare out the window. The midday sun shone down remorselessly from a cloudless sky, the dunes in the distance obscured by the shimmering haze of the desert heat. As his heavy eyelids closed and he drifted into a deep sleep, Mike wondered to himself exactly how hot it was today.


New Year’s Devolutions

As another year draws to a close we are left to look back on the events of the last twelve months, and assess their impact on our lives. Unfortunately, however, due to my reliance on modern technology, I have no memory whatsoever of anything that happened before yesterday. Therefore, until we manage to invent some sort of collated, easily accessible database of news through which we can record our history as it unfolds, any attempt at such reflection is pointless.

Instead, I will attempt to predict what may lie in store for the duration of our next revolution around the sun, which conveniently gives me even more scope for absurd exaggeration and crude humour. To that end, here follows a synopsis of what we can expect in the year 2014…

To domestic affairs first, as Ireland continues its upward trajectory out of the doldrums of recession. Normality returns in increments as shoddily built apartments are bought by the thousand, helicopters are dusted off to head down to the Galway Races, and solicitors start snorting cocaine before midday again.

In politics, Enda Kenny finally gives in to pressure to reform the Seanad, and appoints David Norris to take charge of the transition. Unfortunately, Norris chooses to make no changes whatsoever to the political structures or powers of the upper house, deciding instead to use millions of euro of taxpayers’ money to build an exact replica of an Ancient Roman Senate chamber, complete with annexed bath house, and opulently furnished in marble and gold leaf. The Taoiseach defends the developments by arguing that attendance in the house is at a record high average of 11%, a vast improvement on previous years.

Unfortunately for many of our émigrés, next year will also see Australia suffer a severe economic crash akin to the one that sent them there. Thousands of young Irish people are left floundering in a sweltering, barren wasteland, with no employment and no money to get home. As the last remaining Aussies leave their shores en masse to seek bar work in London, our hapless emigrants are left to fend for themselves in the desolate wilderness. Rule of law breaks down and society devolves into a post-apocalyptic nightmare, like Mad Max with more swearing and Offaly jerseys.

In the US, troublesome Republicans once again force a shutdown of the government, which lasts for over six months. The leadership claims it is due to Obama’s wish to implement stricter gun laws, but House insiders maintain it is predominantly a backlash to the dryness of the muffins in the Congress cafeteria. The country is thrown into chaos as millions are denied access to essential services. A deal is eventually brokered after military cutbacks contribute to a worrying breach in security in an army base in Kandahar, in which an enemy missile lands inside the perimeter. After eliminating the insurgents responsible, the missile turns out to be a football that had come from a nearby playing field, but military intelligence verifies that the deceased 12-year old boys were ‘a lot more terrorist-y than they looked.’

More revelations are forthcoming in 2014 from Edward Snowden regarding NSA monitoring of internet communications. In a somewhat tragic twist, it emerges that an entire subsection of intelligence operatives, who had been tasked with examining comments on YouTube to seek potential terrorists, take their own lives in what seems like a ritual mass suicide by self-immolation. NSA chiefs announce their grief and shock over the lost lives, especially since the group had just started their first day on the project.

In Britain, police continue to crack down on abusive behaviour on social networking sites. This policy reaches its zenith when a student is imprisoned for three months for calling Harry Styles a ‘gobshite’ on Twitter. When the presiding magistrate orders everyone who retweeted the offending message to be given the same sentence, thousands of hardened criminals are released onto the streets to make room for the hordes of potty-mouthed youngsters. This results in an unprecedented crime wave sweeping across the country, which the government announces is ‘probably something to do with immigrants.’ The Daily Mail takes a different approach and blames the situation on Ed Miliband’s dad.

In international news, North Korea follows China’s example by expanding their space program. They spend months ferrying men and supplies to the moon, much to the concern of the international community. When it is revealed that Kim Jong-un has built an enormous moonbase, fears grow over what kind of terrible weapon he might unleash. This alarm is soon allayed, however, when it transpires that Kim was simply remaking the movie Moonraker, starring himself as James Bond, and featuring Dennis Rodman as Jaws.

The winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, take place in February under the shadow of a decree from President Putin that absolutely no gay behaviour will be tolerated. Secret police are stationed around the ground to enforce the law, with security particularly heavy in the figure skating arena for some reason. Putin himself projects his usual uber-macho image by appearing at the games naked, save for the pelt of a bear that he had killed that morning, which he had come upon in the wild and hadn’t been tranquilised in any way, shape or form.

However, events take an unexpected turn at the speed skating track, when Putin’s attention is turned to a young Finnish athlete named Matthias. The Russian premier feels a strange sensation stirring in him as he watches the young man glide over the ice, his golden hair radiant, his enormous quadriceps rippling with every stride. To the alarm of his aides, Putin suddenly rushes onto the track, but trips on his bear suit and falls crashing to the ice. As he rises to his knees, a strong arm appears to help him up, and he finds himself gazing upon a set of chiselled Nordic features. Matthias lifts him into his arms and embraces him, and as the strains of Up Where We Belong begin to play over the PA system, the pair exit the arena to the cacophonous cheers of the assembled masses, and disappear into the setting sun.

Technology giant Apple’s reputation takes a hit next year after it is discovered that its iPhone 6, and its iPad Extra Mini Micro, are in fact the same device. Their PR troubles continue later in the year as a 16-year old worker in one of the company’s Beijing factories hacks the official Apple Twitter account. His strongly worded criticisms of working practices and his uploaded selfie of the effects of an unfortunate smelting accident are Tweeted for the world to see. Unfortunately for him, his revelations are overshadowed by the release of the iPad Pico, a tablet roughly the same size as a postage stamp, which is later revealed to be simply an actual stamp designed to look like a tablet.

Social media continues in the new year in its quest to rid the world of unuttered thoughts, comfortable silences and the last remaining semblances of privacy. Google introduces a controversial new app in which a drone follows the user’s daily movements and updates their Facebook status and Twitter feed accordingly, with observations like ‘Sarah has just been dumped and appears inconsolable’, ‘Paul is masturbating over a fire he just started’, and ‘Sally is bleeding profusely from a head wound caused by my malfunctioning gears’.

As collective attention spans continue to plummet, the fad of six-second long Vines becomes passé. They are replaced by Stems, videos lasting just one second. The most popular of the year is of a 2-year old child from Kansas saying the word ‘jam’ in an adorable fashion, which is shared by millions. The child is later mentioned in Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, which prompts knowing laughter and warm applause from the crowd, followed by an eighteen-minute chant of ‘USA, USA’.

New varieties of the ubiquitous selfie become popular with the babbling, androgynous masses that populate the trendiest corners of the internet, where they smear digital pictograms of the tedious minutiae of their lives across social networking sites, and heap scorn on those of us born before 1994 that still use words like ‘trendiest’. These include the ‘elfie’, a festive self-portrait, the ‘farewellfie’, an inappropriate picture taken at the service of a deceased relative, and the ‘continental shelfie’, photos taken in the shallow waters of the glacially eroded coastal plains of continental land masses. Okay, that last one doesn’t really become that popular.

In Hollywood news, the most anticipated film of the year, the third instalment of The Hobbit, is delayed as director Peter Jackson falls ill during filming. The only director available to take the reins at short notice is Michael Bay, who selflessly offers his services. Upon its release, many critics question the wisdom of Bay’s changes to the original script, including casting Samuel L. Jackson as Gandalf, replacing the eagles with a fleet of Chinook helicopters, and even contriving an entirely new female elven character called Tauriel to spice up proceedings. Well actually, that was Jackson, but it was Bay who decided she should be played by Eddie Murphy in drag as the film’s comic relief.

Most of the criticism, however, centres on the movie’s antagonist, Smaug Mohammed Smaug, who is portrayed as an Islamic oligarch who uses his obscene wealth to arm a sinister band of Yemeni terrorists. The film’s denouement sees the dragon and his insurgent colleagues consumed in the hellfires of US Army drones remotely piloted by a ragtag bunch of wisecracking dwarf grunts, who are all played by Robert Downey Jr. Empire magazine gives the film five stars, their review simply consisting of the words ‘high-octane action’ repeated seven hundred times, followed by an exclamation mark.

In the world of music, Miley Cyrus continues her crusade against subtlety with her new single, Dark Room Full of Middle-Aged Men. The raunchy video becomes a viral phenomenon, and gives rise to a new dance craze among adolescent girls the world over, affectionately called ‘the Miley’. This is much like the Macarena, except with less smiling, and more penetration using household objects. Twitter is abuzz for months with trending topics like ‘doing the Miley’, ‘My tongue is a feminist too’, and ‘late night emergency room visit’.

In hip-hop news, Kanye West releases an experimental 3-hour long album featuring the sounds of his infant child’s bowel movements, set to a snappy bassline from a little-known 1970s adult movie about a Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon who falls in love with a sassy waitress named LaQuanza. It sells eighteen million copies, and is hailed by music critics as ‘the seminal post-racial artwork of this, or any, millennium’.

So ends my forecast for the year 2014. Some of these things may come to pass; some will not; some may even look tame when reflected in the reality that comes to meet us. The future is a puzzling thing; no less a man than George Orwell had a great fear of it, which manifested itself in his works. This sense of foreboding is nowhere better illustrated than in an achingly bleak line from 1984: ‘If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.’

While I don’t think I’ve quite reached the depths of Orwellian cynicism just yet, it must be said that the pain in my face seems to be increasing exponentially with each passing year. Happy New Year you shower of bastards.


Ode to Osama

In the wake of the recent Kenyan shopping centre attack, much opprobrium centred on the alleged role of a 29-year old British woman, Samantha Lewthwaite, or ‘The White Widow’, the somewhat derivative but admittedly catchy sobriquet bestowed on her. Lewthwaite was married to 7 July 2005 suicide bomber Germaine Lindsay, and is currently wanted by Interpol in relation to suspected terrorist activity.

After raiding her house in Mombasa, Kenya recently, detectives found a laptop that betrayed a long history of research into chemicals and bomb making. They also found a 34-line elegiac poem to the deceased al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, the full text of which can be found here.

This fulsome ode in honour of a murderous terrorist has, unsurprisingly, outraged Britain’s conservative media. As a response, and in order to evoke the average Briton’s take on such an unpalatable affair, the Daily Mail recently organised its own poetry compilation, accepting submissions from ordinary people around the country on the subjects of bin Laden, religious extremism, and modern, multicultural Britain.

Below is an extract from the collection of poems, with observations by the renowned Mail columnist Richard LittleEngland, an effusive, outspoken commentator known for his traditional values and moral fortitude.

~

Hello, and welcome to the inaugural Daily Mail poetry compendium. We’ve been inundated with responses from people who love their country and their way of life. Reading your entries has made me even prouder than usual to be British. Below is just a small flavour of the poems we’ve received, with brief analysis from yours truly, Richard LittleEngland.

(P.S. Don’t forget, my new book, No Thanks, We’re Full: The Real ‘Big Issue’ of Our Time is available to buy in all good bookshops from next Monday.)

~

There once was a menacing sheikh
Who had the inordinate cheek
To proclaim his disdain
With a couple of planes
But the Yanks put an end to his clique

Trevor, Middlesex

Excellent work, Trevor. He was a cheeky old sod alright, wasn’t he? I always think of limericks as the lost art form.

~

Go home ragheads,
We don’t want you here
20 quid to the airport?
I’ll get a white driver next time
But I still like curry

John, Barnsley

Well…that’s a courageous use of the free verse technique John, I’ll give you that. Moving on…

~

The fire of Islam
Hot embers slip through the grate
It’s smoky in here

Quentin, Cambridge

Nice haiku, Quentin. A bit highbrow though, don’t you think? Try not to show off so much.

~

The boy from Riyadh, a gun in his hand,
Knew no other course but that of martyr
The infidel had raped his land,
From ancient Maghreb to modern Jakarta

Armed by those he wished to destroy,
He held his hand and played their pawn
Within him burned a latent ploy,
He would enact before the dawn

And on young minds his words did prey,
His lecture holding them in thrall
Until he sent them on their way,
As New York summer turned to fall

But monsters thus are never born,
And not for nothing was his scorn

Rob, Edinburgh

Eh, I think you’ve missed the point here Rob. Don’t you love your country? Or are you a Communist? Come on people, let’s get back on message…

~

Muslims in my corner shop,
Muslims on my street
Muslims wearing silly dresses,
Muslims in bare feet
Muslims taking all our jobs,
Muslims on the social,
Muslims fucking everywhere,
Muslims by the bowlful,
Muslims.

Lee, Bradford

Great stuff Lee, that’s more like it. I especially liked the part about the Muslims.

~

Whence this veiled threat?
Kabul? Khartoum? Or simply Kaboom?

East, West, Yin or Yang?
Josiah, Sharia, Qu’ran or Kerrang?

We offend the effendi,
A jihad he had

Fat chance a fatwa
From distant Islamabad

Will Allah wither
Or whither Allah?

Sunni or Sunnah
In sunny Caliphornia?

Stephen, London

Eh…it’s a bit esoteric, isn’t it Steve? That’s not even how you spell California. You bloody public schoolboys are too clever for your own good. 

~

An angel’s smile is what you sell
You promised me Heaven, then put me through Hell
Chains of love got a hold on me
When passion’s a prison, you can’t break free

Osama, you’re a loaded gun
Osama, there’s nowhere to run
No one can save you
The damage is done

Shot through the heart
And you’re to blame
You gave Islam a bad name (bad name)
I played my part and you played your game
You gave Islam a bad name (bad name)
Yeah, you gave Islam, a bad name

Deborah, Swansea

Bravo Deborah, a tour de force. Although it seems slightly familiar to me, I hope it’s all your own work?

~

And so ends our poetic celebration of Britain. Let this stand as a testament of our resolve in the face of political correctness and multiculturalism gone mad. Join us next week in the Arts and Culture section, when we’ll be seeking submissions of paintings and sculptures that capture the failings of the NHS.


One Nation Under COD

The new Call of Duty video game Black Ops II was released this past week, and looks set to be the latest roaring success in the behemoth that is the COD franchise. The campaign section of the game is more realistic than ever, weaving a fictionalised but credible path through the military history of the late Cold War and into the drone wars of the future. The game play even includes appearances from actual historical figures such as that rascal Manuel Noriega, and contemporary protagonists of the military machine, such as the newly unemployed General David Petraeus. Since each new COD game is basically just an updated rehash of the last, what better excuse than to lazily revisit an old article and examine it in more detail. In considering the question of just how much more realism the producers can infuse the games with, I have come up with the blueprint for the next instalment in the COD universe. The following is a synopsis of the campaign mode for the upcoming Call of Duty Modern Warfare 4: Shit Just Got Real.

Prologue: Your Country Needs You

This preface to the action introduces your character, Buzz Q. America. Buzz is a normal, everyday, freedom-loving teenager from a dusty little farming town in Nebraska. Most of the objectives in this level involve driving a pick-up around town, bringing in the corn at harvest time, and beating up queers and nerds in high school. One day Buzz sees an advert for the military that tells him the terrorists want to take his job, his corn and his freedom. The next day he signs up for the Marine Corps, because Buzz will be damned if some pinko Commie raghead gonna come over here and take his corn. No sir. The rest of the level is mainly made up of filling out application forms in Buzz’s bedroom while listening to the new Kenny Chesney album.

Level 1: Basic Training

In this level Buzz goes to boot camp to become a fully fledged Marine. You will take him through various missions involving firing ranges and assault courses, as well as enjoying the more mundane tasks such as boot-polishing and keeping your porno mag hidden from your Drill Instructor.

You will also undergo a tutorial on how to correctly identify enemy combatants using factors such as robe length, skin tone and beard density. The level concludes with a bonus round called Kebab or Kaboom, in which you have to tell apart bomb-wielding Muslim extremists from harmless, jocular restaurant proprietors. Maximum points are awarded for slaughtering all of them, thus removing any element of doubt.

Level 2: A Man Needs an Aide

Before being approved for active duty you must spend some time as a General’s aide in the Pentagon performing various administrative tasks. Missions will involve updating the official Marine Corps Facebook and Twitter pages with encouraging messages for the troops, summarily shredding and deleting any correspondence between the senior staff and their mistresses, and most importantly, feeding Patton, the General’s goldfish.

In order to complete the level you must master the art of stamping forms in triplicate without getting ink on your fingers, as well as sending letters of condolence to the relatives of deceased soldiers without realising how futile their sacrifice is. As a reward for your hard work there is another bonus round called Game of Drones in which you get to pilot a drone into southern Pakistan while trying to avoid hitting schools and wedding parties.

Level 3: It’s Time for Africa

For your first mission out in the field you are sent to a base in North Africa to stem the tide of Islamic terrorism that hides cunningly amidst the famine and poverty in the region. Buzz has to decide which warlords seem the most trustworthy so he can sell them arms for their child soldiers.

You get your first taste of action here as you take part in a raid on a house in Somalia, killing nine people who were reported by your intelligence network as probable terrorists. The final objective of the level is to chant ‘USA, USA’ loudly on the return journey, keeping in perfect unison with your fellow troops.

Level 4: To Helmand and Back

Buzz’s second tour of duty brings him to Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. Here you will spend most of your time avoiding roadside bombs, getting pissed with the British troops, and wondering aloud why these damn ragheads are so ungrateful to have been given the gift of American democracy.

Another mission in this level allows you to sit in on a CIA interrogation and try your hand at waterboarding a suspect. You then use the information gathered to order an air strike, the targets of which unfortunately turn out to be some hungover British soldiers. The level ends with a morale-boosting visit to the camp by hip-hop sensation Rihanna, who entertains the troops with some of her songs. Your final objective of the level is to masturbate furiously later that night without waking your comrades, then cry yourself to sleep.

Level 5: Enemy of the States

Buzz is nearing the end of his tour of duty and is out on a routine patrol with his platoon one afternoon. You get separated from the others and decide to make your way back to the camp. Passing through some foothills on the way, you see a tray in the middle of the road with a steak sandwich, a six-pack of beer, and a copy of Sports Illustrated on it. Puzzled, you approach it only to feel a rope tighten suddenly around your ankle and pull you up towards an overhead branch. Hanging there upside down, you see a number of insurgents walk towards you.

‘Pathetic infidel. Works every time,’ says one of them, as he knocks you over the head with his shoe and everything goes black.

The rest of the level mostly comprises enduring horribly painful torture at the hands of your captors. As well as the physical abuse, the terrorists play theme tunes from TV shows like Cheers and Friends at full volume in your cell twenty-four hours a day. Eventually your sanity is all but eroded and you are reduced to a quivering wreck, rocking yourself to sleep in a bed of your own faeces as you try in vain to kill yourself by swallowing your own teeth, all the while singing along in a hushed frenzy, ‘Where everybody knows your name…’

At the end of the level you manage to escape after noticing that your cell is simply a hut made out of mud that can be broken through quite easily in a matter of hours. As you drag your broken body through the desert in a haze of pain, hunger and thirst, you think to yourself, ‘This really hasn’t been my day, my week, my month, or even my year.’ Eventually, on the cusp of a miserable and ignominious death, you arrive at base camp and collapse at the front gate.

Epilogue: War…What Is It Good For?

The last level of the game deals with Buzz’s recuperation after being flown home. The gameplay takes you through months of painful physical rehabilitation, intense psychological torment and post-traumatic stress, and the inevitable substance abuse and relationship problems that follow. Along the way you receive a letter from the military thanking you for your service and your sacrifice. You return to the cornfields of Nebraska a hero, and a husk of a human being.

Your final objective of the game takes place some months later. On a bitterly cold winter’s night, tired of the demons that allow you only fitful sleep, drunk with whiskey, and filled with an indescribable emptiness, you discharge your service weapon for the last time.

A map of Afghanistan and its mineral resources lies sprawled across the desk of a US General in the Pentagon. An aide drops a letter on his desk. The General reads the letter and sighs softly to himself. Folding it over, he places it carefully in a drawer that is overflowing with pages. He stands and gazes out the window in reflection. He looks down at his hands, then out the window once more. After a moment he sits down at his desk and goes back to studying the map.


From Arabia with Love

The much publicised anti-Muslim propaganda film The Innocence of Muslims has led to much bitterness and resentment in the Middle East in recent weeks. Amidst the violent protests and outraged condemnations seen around the Arabic world, reports suggest that a number of Middle Eastern governments have united in a project designed to avenge the offence and humiliation suffered as a result of the film.

Just a few short weeks before the release of Skyfall, the new James Bond movie, indications are that an Islamic version of the popular spy franchise has been hastily readied for release. The plot concerns a lone Muslim agent’s endeavour to stop a maniacal Western autocrat who is hell-bent on the destruction of the Middle East. A draft of the script has been intercepted ahead of the film’s release, and the following is a synopsis of said film, provisionally titled On the Ayatollah’s Secret Service.

The action begins in New York City, the decadent metropolis of the infidel. As the sun sets over the harbour the camera pans across the skyline and centres in on the giant outline of the Statue of Liberty. Clutching a sword in her raised right hand and a map of the Middle East in her left, she stands looking disdainfully eastwards across the ocean as if to say: ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, so I can foist my tyrannical regime upon them and take their shit without asking.’

The camera zooms in behind the blank stare of the immense monument, into the hollow interior of the head. A hunched figure sits behind an enormous wooden desk in a spotlit corner of the cavernous lair, scribbling furiously at a piece of paper. The man is Doctor O, an oppressive despot who has risen to become the Commander in Chief of the Western forces. He was kidnapped from his idyllic Muslim home as a child and secretly raised by Richard Nixon and his gay lover Pat. They instilled the hypocritical ideals of the West in his naive consciousness and brought him up to believe he is destined to bring the crushing yoke of democracy to bear on the savage world of Islam.

The camera zooms in once more to show the paper on Doctor O’s desk, which has the words ‘Operation Freedom’ written on it. On the sheet is a crude crayon picture of the prophet Muhammad being hit by a drone in a highly sensitive area, then repeatedly being choked out by Hulk Hogan who intermittently shouts ‘Woo!’ and ‘I am a real American!’ As a fierce thunderstorm moves in across the bay, flashes of lightning illuminate the twisted, hateful face of the Doctor, cackling dementedly to himself into the empty night, the thought of implementing his fiendish plan giving him an enormous trouser snake.

Thousands of miles away agent Jamal Bond sits slumped against the bar gazing mournfully into the bottom of his glass. ‘Another!’ he shouts at the barman, Mo, whose Halal Bar in Baghdad does a tidy trade in non-alcoholic drinks, savoury snacks and effigies of Western leaders.

‘Come on Jamal, seventy-two Virgin Martinis is enough for any man. It’s time you went home.’

‘I’ll tell you when I’ve had…’

The sound of the door creaking open interrupts the conversation as the pair look towards the entrance. A grizzled old man limps into the bar, flanked by two enormous bodyguards. A lifetime of conflict is evident from one look at the man, whose face is covered with burns and scars, his two eyepatches betraying a history of extreme violence.

‘Bond?’ croaks the harsh timbre of the old soldier’s voice.

Jamal jumps up from his seat and salutes as the elderly officer shuffles over to the bar.

‘I’m afraid your vacation is over agent Bond. You must come with me at once.’

‘Eh, he’s over there,’ responds the barman, pointing down the bar to Jamal.

Within minutes Jamal is seated in the back of a car racing through central Baghdad. The old man briefs him as they weave through the traffic, informing him that they’ve intercepted details of an operation that threatens to bring down all the governments of the Middle East.

‘Ah, you mean Twitter? I knew freedom of expression would be the end of us.’

‘No Bond, this is even more serious than that. We believe Doctor O has developed a new kind of drone that will wipe us off the map. You are the only one that can stop him.’

Jamal turns and looks solemnly out the window.

‘Then I must go to America and kill Doctor O.’

A few seconds pass, then the old man leans over and points out the far window,

‘Therefore you must go to America and kill Doctor O.’

Jamal shakes his head,

‘Seriously, how do you still have a job?’

The car pulls up outside the Iraqi Secret Service’s headquarters, cleverly disguised as an empty shopfront advertising feminist literature on sale inside. Jamal heads for the equipment division, known as Qu’Branch, to collect his kit for the mission. When he arrives agent Qu is busy testing a new piece of technology, a school uniform that is resistant to white phosphorus.

Qu brings Bond over to a table where his equipment has been laid out for him.

‘Our intelligence operatives have prepared a disguise that will allow you to fit in with the infidels. You will wear this leather jacket like their legendary Fonzie, and this do-rag with the American flag on it. We have also procured the new iPhone and set up a Facebook account for you. It is essential that you update this hourly with trivial nonsense or they will realise you are not one of them. Just make sure you don’t use the map on it whatever you do.’

Jamal takes his equipment and gets up to leave.

‘Oh and take this for the plane journey,’ says Qu, handing him a book.

‘Our intel shows that all the American men are reading it. Good luck agent Bond.’

The guard at the passport desk of JFK International Airport motions to the top of the queue, ‘Next please.’ His bored expression turns to a look of mild bemusement as the man approaches the booth. He places his passport on the desk and smiles vacantly at the guard.

‘Howdy partner.’

The guard looks him up and down. He’s wearing a glittery stars and stripes tank top with a moth-eaten leather jacket, a pair of ludicrously tight denim cut-offs, and a pair of brown leather cowboy boots. He has a do-rag on his head but it isn’t tied and keeps blowing off as he stands in front of the desk. The guard glances at his passport.

‘Your name is Chuck?’

‘Yessir.’

‘Chuck Berry?’

‘Yessiree, named after my granddaddy. Good to be back in the ol’ US of A, yessir.’

The guard glances at the book in the man’s hand, the bestselling Fifty Shades of Grey.

‘Yessir I loves this here book. Almost as good as that there Salman Rushdie. I don’t wish him a painful death at all, no sir.’

The guard takes one last look at him and waves him on. Jamal takes his passport and heads for the exit, breathing a sigh of relief that his disguise worked. As he departs he could swear that he hears the guard mutter under his breath, ‘God damn queers.’

Jamal gets into a taxi and heads for the city. All around him he recognises the stench of Western corruption and debauchery. Women walk the streets with their faces and midriffs shamelessly exposed. Jews disguised as businessmen huddle together on Wall Street, no doubt plotting the downfall of the Arabic world. Television screens flaunt America’s famous homosexuals like Ryan Seacrest, Tom Cruise and Joe Biden.

After arriving at his hotel Jamal changes into his tuxedo and heads for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Doctor O is scheduled to give a speech there this evening at the opening of an exhibit. When he arrives he wanders around and mingles with the other guests. He is mostly disgusted by these elitist Western snobs, although he does have an enlightening conversation with Paul Ryan and Rick Santorum, with whom he discovers he has a lot in common. He also notices quite a few famous paintings that he’s nearly sure he saw hanging in Saddam’s palace back in the glory days, that Saddam told him he had personally painted. These thieving Americans have no shame, he thought to himself.

Eventually Doctor O rises to make his speech. Jamal disdainfully surveys his target from the back of the room, and makes sporadic farting noises in an attempt to distract him. He feels a vibration in his pocket and his ring-tone plays loudly, a recording of Tariq Aziz doing Suspicious Minds at the Christmas party a few years ago. He checks his phone and sees a Facebook message from his superiors:

‘Operation Freedom is a go for tomorrow. Intercept and eliminate target tonight at all costs and stop drone from being fired. End transmission. Oh and have a look at the YouTube video I embedded. It’s a dog miaowing like a cat! LOL!’

After viewing the hilarious video Jamal waits until the end of the speech, then follows Doctor O and his entourage as they leave the museum.

After following the Doctor’s limousine in a cab, Jamal finds himself at the foot of the statue of Liberty. The front entrance is heavily guarded so he scales the statue in order to reach the head. Slipping in a window, he sees Doctor O standing at a control panel in the centre of the room.

‘I’ve been expecting you Mister Bond,’ says the Doctor, turning to face him.

Jamal takes out his pistol and aims it at him.

‘It’s over Doctor, step away from that panel.’

The Doctor holds his finger tantalisingly over a giant red button.

‘We’ve been dabbling in chemical warfare for a long time agent Bond, and we’ve finally perfected in drone form a weapon of unimaginable power.’

‘What are you talking about you maniac?’

‘Isn’t it obvious? What do you hate most, Jamal? What would tear the Middle East apart like no amount of explosive tonnage ever could?’

Bond’s face slowly becomes transfixed with horror.

‘You don’t mean…’

‘Oh yes,’ replies the Doctor, grinning smugly, ‘a gay bomb.’

With that remark Doctor O slams his fist on the button as Jamal fires a volley of shots in his direction. The Doctor scampers down a stairway, and with the rumbling of a missile being prepared for launch clearly audible nearby, Bond follows him down into the darkness.

Jamal finds himself in the main foyer area, a circular room lined with all the flags of the world. Suddenly Doctor O leaps up and hurls the New Zealand flag across the room, narrowly missing Bond’s head and knocking his gun across the floor out of his reach. He reaches for the Australian flag, then the British one, launching them with a venomous, consuming anger at Jamal, who ducks for cover beneath a table

‘Damn minnows can’t get the job done,’ mutters the Doctor to himself as he picks up the US flag and begins to run towards Bond. Jamal notices he is crouching beside the flag of his motherland, Iraq. With the thoughts and prayers of the millions across the Arabic world on his shoulders, and a steely determination in his eyes, he grasps his destiny with both hands and turns just as Doctor O comes flying through the air to finish him off. A piercing scream echoes around the dark chamber as the evil dictator is fatally impaled. His face contorts horribly as he takes his last breath, and collapses into a heap. The flag of his country, held aloft in his arms, along with its pride and avarice, its sins and its self-importance, its delusions of splendour and greatness, comes crashing down on top of him, and all is silent.

Jamal races back up to the control room and hits the Abort button on the panel. He runs out to the observation deck just in time to see the giant drone explode in the sky above the city. As the chemical weapon is dispersed into the air above New York, Bond begins to feel very strange. He looks up in amazement at the burning wreckage of the missile crashing into the sea like an enormous shooting star. The sparkling residue illuminates the entire skyline of the city for a brief second, then flickers and fades slowly into darkness.

‘Fabulous,’ Jamal whispers into the cool night air, ‘just fabulous.’


Curiouser and Curiouser…

When Julian Assange awoke he found himself enclosed in a tall glass cylinder in the corner of a dimly lit room. He was standing upright and his arms and legs were restrained. Through the frosted glass he could just about make out the shapes of a number of identical cylinders dotted around the room. He felt groggy and weak as he struggled to recall how he had ended up here.

“I don’t remember paying for any weird shit this time,” he thought to himself as he attempted to free his limbs from their shackles to no avail.

Suddenly a booming voice echoed throughout the room,

Arrival imminent. Commencing detainee transfer.”

Assange felt his restraints loosen as the door of the cylinder slid open slowly. He stumbled out onto a cold metal floor just as the other cylinders also began to open. There were eight other people in the room, each looking equally confused and frightened.

Assange immediately recognised the three young women beside him as the Russian pop group and political dissenters Pussy Riot. Across the room he saw another face he knew, that of a Syrian blogger and human rights campaigner who had disappeared a few weeks earlier. After a few minutes of introductions he learned that the other four comprised an Iranian nuclear scientist, a student from California who had been arrested for tweeting a joke about Obama, a technology blogger who had recently given the new iPad a negative review, and lastly and somewhat inexplicably, the English comedian and actor Russell Brand.

After they had all met they tried to figure out how this had happened. None of them remembered arriving in this room, and they recounted their last memories before waking up there.

The Iranian scientist had been invited to a seminar given by the Chemical Industries Association, which he had never heard of before, and recalled finding the situation a tad strange when he was picked up at the train station by an Israeli tank instead of the promised limousine.

Russell Brand had been in South America conducting research for a book on the drug trade. The last memory he had was of landing at Colombia International Airport, and he remembered being surprised that the entire building was made out of cardboard panels that had been rather crudely sellotaped together.

Assange himself had been eagerly awaiting a visit to the Ecuadorian embassy by the Culinary Institute of Afghanistan. He had been looking forward to a nice meal, since the Ambassador kept eating his cream crackers from the kitchen, even though he had written ‘Hands off’ with three exclamation marks on a Post-It and stuck it on them.

Try as they might, they could find no connection between their stories. As they continued to discuss the strange situation they found themselves in, a panel opened in the corner of the room. Inside were nine orange spacesuits hanging on the wall.

The voice reverberated through the room again,

Attention detainees. Put on your suits and prepare to disembark the shuttle.”

They looked at each other in puzzlement. The shuttle?

“A shuttle?” exclaimed Brand. “What wicked malfeasance has been perpetrated here? Which autocratic tyrant has enslaved us in this unsolicited bondage? What calamitous end awaits this strewn-together band of…”

“Shut up you moron!” shouted one of the Russian girls.

Brand looked shocked and hurt but did not argue.

“Sorry sweetheart,” he mumbled, reaching up and stroking her face in what everyone agreed was a highly inappropriate gesture, even given the tense situation.

Just as they had finished getting into their suits one of the walls began to open outwards, creating a giant hydraulic ramp. The room was lit up with a brilliant light as the ramp descended and landed with a thud. As their eyes adjusted to the brightness they tentatively made their way down the ramp and squinted out at the vista that greeted them.

What they saw was a vast, red expanse of nothingness. An arid, crimson desert as far as the eye could see. The only sign of life was an enormous compound enclosed by barbed wire and high walls about a kilometre away. A makeshift track led through the soil and rock to the compound entrance. As they neared, the front gates opened slowly outwards and a short, squat figure appeared. As this shadowy form came into view, Assange recognised it but could not believe his eyes. The rover rolled towards them until it was but a few feet away, then stopped. Its diminutive head panned up to meet their faces, and its lifeless eyes acknowledged their shocked expressions. A garbled, metallic voice rang out in the thin air,

“Greetings prisoners. I am Curiosity, warden of this facility. Welcome to Mars.”

They followed the rover into the facility in stunned silence, escorted by a pair of similar robot guards. Hundreds of people dressed in the same orange suits were scattered around the compound. Assange recognised many of them as political activists or dictators who had either gone missing or had been reported as dead. He could have sworn he even saw Gadafi and bin Laden sitting together rolling dice, and Pinochet playing dominoes with Lee Harvey Oswald.

Eventually they came to a small building which appeared to be an office. They entered and the door shut behind them. On the wall were pictures of famous robots: C-3PO, Johnny Number 5, Wall-E. On the desk behind which their captor now stood was a picture of him with President Obama, and a nameplate that read ‘Colonel Curiosity’. There was also a small tray of complimentary mints, which seemed slightly incongruous.

“Welcome to the galaxy’s most secret detention centre. Here the CIA and other agencies can keep dissenters,” he said, fixing his gaze on the Pussy Riot girls, “international spies,” looking directly at Assange, “or anyone so unbelievably irritating that their government pays massive sums of money to make them disappear.” Everyone looked at Russell.

Curiosity continued, “I was sent here to become warden after my predecessor, Voyager, was shanked by Idi Amin during a riot earlier this year. As you may have now figured out, NASA has been operating as a covert wing of the US military since its inception, under the pretense of space exploration. The staff here are all rovers and probes sent here to keep control of the population. We’ve also started to draft in bomb disposal robots that have been injured in the Middle East, although between you and me, the PTSD has made them very unstable. I’d steer clear of them if I were you.”

The nine prisoners stood fixed to the ground, unable to comprehend this astonishing turn of events. Eventually Russell broke the silence,

“You mean we’re forced to spend the rest of our pitiful lives in some sort of cosmic colony of miscreants, to endure this interstellar incarceration in the void of space, never again to feel the warm bosom of…”

“Silence, prisoner!” shouted the warden. He turned to the rest of them, “Jeez, does this guy ever give it a rest?”

Thousands of miles away Michelle Obama was sitting on the couch in the Oval Office, laptop on her knee, while her husband sat with his feet up on his desk, his brow furrowed in concentration as he polished his Nobel Peace prize.

“You know I swear Kissinger swapped these things when we had dinner last week, I don’t remember this scratch being here.”

His wife was distracted by the article she was reading and didn’t answer him.

“Have you seen this story in the Huffington Post about Mars, Barack? This guy thinks it’s being used as an off-world penal colony by the American government.”

He didn’t look up and continued to studiously clean his trophy.

“Honestly, I don’t know why you read that crap Michelle. There are some real nutjobs out there.”

“Yeah I guess you’re right. Well, I’d better get going. I’ve to be on Oprah this afternoon. We’re doing an intervention for some fat kid from Texas who only eats chocolate cake.”

When his wife had left the room the President picked up the phone on his desk.

“Get me the director of the CIA right away please Barbara. I’ve got a problem with a journalist that needs to be taken care of.”

Julian Assange stared out the barred window of his cell, the glowing sphere of planet Earth visible just above the dusky horizon. A solitary tear rolled down his cheek as he contemplated his future on this barren rock.

“Don’t cry Jules, it’ll be alright in the end, you’ll see.”

Assange turned from the window and lay down on his cot, turning his face to the wall as he closed his eyes tightly, praying that the nightmares wouldn’t be so bad tonight.

“Shut up Russell,” he replied, as the sun set over the red planet, and the cell was plunged into darkness.


Éamon de Valera: Zombie Hunter

Another summer has arrived in Hollywood, and with it another slew of preposterous blockbusters aiming to make millions from the slack-jawed, gormless dribblers that pass for young people these days. As everyone now knows, a shady cabal of movie producers has been secretly building a giant particle accelerator under the Hollywood hills over the past few years. Only instead of using boring things like electrons and atoms, the boffins enter variables such as historical figures, supernatural creatures, absurd plot lines, and other such elements of successful films. Nine times out of ten the machine just churns out 3D remakes of ‘80s films with less dialogue and more explosions, toplessness, and Samuel L. Jackson.

Every now and then, however, it produces an inspired, original idea, such as has happened with the upcoming Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. The alternate historical angle is always ripe for entertainment, and coincidentally, this week in Ireland has seen the discovery of a secret journal kept by former Irish President, Taoiseach and very tall citizen, Éamon de Valera. It provides a fascinating insight into a hitherto unknown series of events that took place during the War of Independence. The following are some extracts from that journal.

December 16th, 1920, New York:

I have been over here for eighteen months now, and the effort of raising funds for our revolution back home is taking its toll. I’m feeling particularly dispirited after meeting with the American Secretary of State today, who advised me that there were probably better ways to earn money than performing an Irish dancing set outside the gates of the White House. Now he tells me.

My depression was not helped when I received a letter this morning from my Minister for Finance, Michael Collins, urging me to come home at once. It appears the British have sent a formidable force of soldiers to our shores to crush our rebellion once and for all. I have decided to set sail for Ireland at once, and I must admit to being concerned and puzzled by Michael’s description of this new squad of troops as ‘a bunch of unkillable, decaying feckers. They’re pure weird Dev.’ He even took a whole three pages to recount a rather crude anecdote about one of the British force feasting on poor Arthur Griffith’s brains. I depart tomorrow at dawn, with a troubled heart, a grave fear for my beloved country, and very sore feet.

January 14th, 1921, Dublin:

I have only been home for two weeks, and the situation here grows worse by the day. The British invasion has swept across the city, and ordinary Irish people seem to be joining their ranks for some inexplicable reason. The soldiers wander the streets night and day, groaning and muttering, occasionally shouting things like ‘God save King George’, or ‘It’s so temperate here compared to Calcutta’, although mostly they seem to talk about their penchant for brains. Their eyes are a deep crimson, and have the same glazed, empty appearance that seems to come over my colleagues whenever I speak in the Dáil. The pallor of their skin and their general sluggishness suggests that they are suffering from some ailment or other, perhaps Spanish flu, or possibly Protestantism.

Only myself, Michael, and a small band of men have so far escaped their advances, and we have taken refuge in St. James’s Gate brewery. Although its high walls offer us adequate protection, I fear we may be undone by the nightly seven-hour singsongs the men indulge in after sampling the massive quantities of Guinness, which are sure to attract attention sooner or later.

One among our group is a young man by the name of John Charles, who is studying to become a priest. He says he dreams of one day becoming a bishop, and even carries a giant crosier around with him. I have become particularly close with him since he saved my life just last week. I was on patrol when a young woman, clearly afflicted with the disease, attacked me from behind, shouting something about cockles, mussels, and brains.

As if from thin air, JC appeared, and smashed the poor girl’s head to smithereens with his crosier, all the while screaming ‘God wills it!’

‘Holy first communion Dev, that was a close one.’

‘I don’t know how to thank you JC, you saved me from being transformed into one of these beasts.’

‘To be honest Dev, I didn’t even notice she was one of them, it’s just that short skirt she’s wearing is so inappropriate to be out and about in.’

We walked away arm in arm, each of us content that whatever happened in this crazy war, at least we would have each other.

February 20th, 1921, Dublin:

These past few weeks we have lost many men to the enemy forces, and now only myself and JC remain. It was just yesterday that Michael met his gruesome end. The undead horde had breached the outer walls, and we were fleeing for our lives. With the brain-hungry masses descending on us in their hundreds, Michael turned back suddenly.

‘You go on ahead lads, I’ll hold them here.’

‘No Michael, you’ll never survive.’

With his hurl in his hand and that mad glint in his eye, he ignored our pleas as he sprinted into the frenzied crowd, pucking the heads off the vicious creatures left, right and centre.

‘Holy papal bulls Dev, that’s a brave man.’

‘The bravest,’ I whispered softly, wiping a tear from my cheek as we turned and ran for our lives. Amidst the horrific shrieking of the infected as they closed in on our fearless companion, I could have sworn I heard the proud, plaintive cry, ‘Up Cork!’ I am stricken with grief at his loss, and my only hope is that history will not judge me responsible for the death of my gallant comrade.

March 13th, 1921, Dublin:

Myself and JC have taken refuge in Trinity College these past few weeks after fighting our way across the city. In the college courtyard we were attacked by a group of infected scholars, who chanted bastardised Oscar Wilde quotes as they approached.

‘To love brains is the beginning of a life-long romance,’ moaned one of them, before JC sprang into action and quickly dispatched the erudite fiends.

‘Feckin’ Proddies,’ he muttered to himself as he cleaned the blood from his enormous bishop-stick. And from his crosier.

March 17th, 1921, Dublin:

Having barricaded ourselves into a room in the college, our enemies soon surrounded us, leaving us with no option but to stay here and wait for them to breach our defences. We had become resigned to our fate, and last night as we sat by the window overlooking the infested city streets, I sang a few bars of Come Out Ye Black and Tans, a rebel song that Michael had taught me, in an attempt to lift our spirits.

To our surprise the crowd outside instantly became agitated and began to drop to their knees, holding their heads and screeching wildly. As I continued to sing, one by one the zombies’ heads began to explode.

‘Holy First Vatican Council Dev, the feckers can’t hack the rebel tunes at all at all.’

I smiled wryly to myself as I surveyed the corpses below.

‘Let’s get a good night’s sleep JC, we’ve a big day ahead of us tomorrow.’

‘Fair enough Dev. You want to be big spoon or little spoon?’

And so it came to pass that today, on the day that we celebrate Saint Patrick driving the snakes from our shores, myself and JC set out to bring an end to the British invasion once and for all. We mounted one of the college’s speaker systems on an abandoned car in the courtyard, and crashed through the front gates onto the streets. From every direction came the hordes of enemies, loping towards the car with flesh-lust in their eyes. And then I began to sing.

We drove around the whole city, singing every rebel tune, lament and ballad we could think of, to a chorus of exploding heads and horrific screams from our vanquished foes. We ran out of fuel in front of the GPO, and in the spot where five short years ago we had proclaimed our independence, we finished off the remnants of the British forces with our bare hands.

As the sun was beginning to set, we stood there on the field of battle, breathless, exhausted, but victorious. I turned to my ally and friend,

‘You know something JC, this could be the start of a beautiful republic.’

He turned to me and smiled. ‘God wills it, Dev. God wills it.’ And with that we walked, hand in hand, down the street, towards our future. Towards hope, and freedom. Towards a better tomorrow.