“Sir?” Lieutenant George popped his head round the flap of Captain Blackadder’s tent. It was a tribute to his staunch optimism that he never failed to think such an action would be welcome to the occupant of said tent. “I say, Sir?”
There was an ill-tempered grunt from the darkened recesses of the tent. “Given that it is an hour so wee that a team of crack scientists would be hard put to locate it with the latest microscope, I would prefer that you stumble past the opening pleasantries---or unpleasantries, as the case certainly is---and get on with your point, Lieutenant. Assuming, of course, that you have one, which requires rather more faith than you’re going to find anywhere in my vicinity.”
“Well, Sir. It’s just that it’s the men,” George paused there and cleared his throat. “The dead men, you see, Sir. They’re making a bit of a row.”
“Ah.” A long-suffering sigh issued from the dark, and Captain Blackadder sat up to light a lamp. “I can’t say I’m not impressed with your initiative, Lieutenant. I didn’t believe you had it in you. But I think you might just as well have settled for some pencils in your nose, underpants on your head, and saying “wibble”.”
“Pardon, Sir?” George’s brow not only furrowed in confusion, but planted as well. Then a spot of commotion rose behind him, and he glanced over his shoulder nervously. “Er. Sir, one doesn’t like to be disrespectful…I mean, when a fellow’s given up his life for king and country, well, he’s earned a bit of consideration, hasn’t he? ‘Sweet and proper it is’, and all that.”
Blackadder pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger, but it didn’t help. “What are you blithering on about, George?”
“Well, Sir, it’s just that eating people’s brains seems a step too far, if you see what I mean. If they were just eating the Gerry’s brains, well, I’d say hurrah! But this eating our own men’s, it just seems jolly unpatriotic.”
“Lieutenant,” Blackadder began, with all the patience he could muster, which was currently somewhat less than that of a whippet on heroin. “Please locate your remaining brain cell and patch it through to your mouth. What is all this nonsense about eating people?”
Suddenly, a scream shrilled from outside, then cut off sharply. Blackadder stared at George.
“It’s zombies, Sir. The men appear to have turned into them, quite against orders. I’ve threatened them with courts-martial, but they don’t seem to think I have the authority. Damn cheeky buggers, if you ask me.”
“Zombies,” Captain Blackadder repeated, just because.
“Yes, Sir,” George nodded.
“Eating our brains,” Captain Blackadder added.
“Yes, Sir. Just so.”
“And you’re sure they’re not simply taking a natural, one might even say understandable, alternative to Private Baldric’s cooking?”
More screaming split the night outside. George glanced over his shoulder out of the tent flap.
“On the whole, I’d say no, Sir.”
“Right.” Blackadder levered himself off of his hard cot and reached for his gun. “I should have guessed it would come to this. No doubt this is the result of another of General Haig’s brilliant schemes to get us five bloody inches closer to Berlin. I expect he thought it was dashed clever of him to find a way to beat that niggling little problem of getting all his men killed in the first thirty seconds of each push. When I get my hands on---“
He was quite suddenly rudely interrupted mid-tirade by a loud explosion that shook the tent, following which the flap was suddenly flung back to allow a tall blond man in RAF uniform to push past George.
“Captain Flashheart!” George gasped.
“And the evidence for the lack of justice in the world continues to mount faster than hummingbirds in mating season,” Blackadder muttered under his breath.
“That’s me, Captain Flashheart! Flash by name, flash by nature!” Captain Flashheart whipped off his cap and struck a dramatic pose so hard it ought to have sued for battery. “Heard you boys have been having a spot of bother with the undead, eh? I’ll soon have those filthy deadies back in the dirt where they belong!” Without looking, he quick-drew one of his guns and whirled to fire through the tent flap. Something yelped outside.
“I don’t think that one was actually dead, Captain,” Blackadder told him. “Well, not so much as he is now, at any rate.”
“Details!” boomed Flashheart, spinning his gun showily before holstering it again and turning back to face the men inside the tent. “Details, Bladders! A caper like this calls for action! Are you behind me?”
“Given that you’re less likely to shoot me by accident if I stand there, yes, I should think so,” snorted Blackadder.
“Excellent!” Flashheart drew a gun in each hand and lunged for the tent flap, shooting off a few rounds from each. “Between the two of us, we’ll be done in time to start the morning with a celebratory round of French lickers.”
“I think you mean liquors,” Blackadder corrected.
“I don’t care how the Froggies say it, as long as they remember to cover their teeth!” Flashheart declared, and dashed off amid a cacophony of gunshots and yelling.
George watched him go with a smile so idiotic it might have offered Baldric serious competition in the annual Regimental Idiot contest. “Phew! What a relief, eh, Sir? Good old Captain Flashheart will see us through in no time.”
“You know, Lieutenant, there are legions of philosophers throughout the ages who have tried in vain to picture the scope of infinity. If any of them had ever had to talk to you for five minutes, they could easily have imagined the endless drag of eternal time.”
George frowned. “Pardon, Sir?”
Blackadder rolled his eyes and waved a hand airily, but as he was still lacing on his boots another visitor crowded into the tent behind George. A chorus of moans could be heard rising higher outside, still punctuated by the occasional booming laugh and gunshot.
“Captain Blackadder, Sir!” gasped Private Baldric. “I have a cunning plan to save us all from the undead!”
“Ah, Private Baldric,” Blackadder acknowledged. “I see you’re still on the side of the living.”
“They don’t seem to take much interest in me, Sir. It’s this amulet my old gran made me, see. Keeps away the creatures what work the night.” Baldric pulled a dubious-looking pouch on a leather cord from beneath his grubby uniform.
“Walk the night, Baldric, walk the night,” Blackadder corrected him. “Unless she actually made you a charm to ward off prostitutes, which frankly seems quite unnecessary in your case. And I think you’ll find that for creatures who suffer from a burning desire to consume brains, you are rather less than the equivalent of an after dinner mint.”
“Oh, now, Sir,” George protested. “That’s quite unfair. Private Baldric is at least a helping of baked beans.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant, Sir.” Baldric beamed at him, or at least the grime of his face seemed to part in a curvy sort of fashion. “I appreciate your saying so, Sir.”
“And I ask this with all due sense of futility,” Blackadder continued, ignoring them, “but what exactly is this cunning plan of yours, Baldric?”
“Well, it is quite cunning, Sir!” Baldric chuckled a little at himself. “See, it’s only the brains they’re after, so we just duck our heads under our collars so they think we haven’t got any, and then they’ll give up and go away.”
“Oh! That’s deuced cunning!” George exclaimed appreciatively. “That’s so cunning it has a doctorate in cunning from cunning university!” He turned to Blackadder. “Isn’t that a cunning plan, Sir?”
Blackadder looked from one of them to the other. “Right,” he declared finally. “That’s it. A man can only take so much. I’m off!”
“But, Sir! Where are you going?” Private Baldric squinted at him in confusion, which is to say that he looked very much as he always did.
“Defecting to the other side, lads, that’s where,” Blackadder answered briskly, putting on his cap.
“Oh, Sir! Surely you aren’t going over to the vile Hun!” George exclaimed in wide-eyed horror.
“No, indeed, George. I’m off to join the only side in this war that’s offered me a chance to one day tear General Haig into pieces so small he could be mistaken for an entrée at a French restaurant. The only side, in fact, that’s offered full meals and relatively intelligent conversation.”
“Er?” asked George.
“I rest my case,” Blackadder said, and he strode confidently out of the tent and into the waiting melee of zombies beyond.