The Adventures of Arabella Henderson – Episode 5: A Brand New Era
It was a typical Monday morning at the University of New England.
When you last saw Arabella Henderson, UNE Time Detective, she was unzipping her back-pack full of mystery solving equipment, in order to end a riot at the Dixson Library in 1977. Then, to everyone’s shock and outrage, a mighty rift in the space time continuum caused the April Episode of our serial to be mysteriously transported to May.
“That’s a relief,” said Nucleus Editor Jessie, from her Helsinki Chalet. “I thought perhaps the author was distracted by an assignment, but it’s just a Space Time Continuum Mistake, as always. We should have known.”
Having been given an extended piece of dialogue to make up for not getting an appearance in the previous episode, Jessie moved the scene back to the library, complete with punks, hippies and hep cats.
Arabella, having promised through exposition to kick arse and take names, took a notepad, pen and megaphone from her backpack. Seeing a young man with a wicked porn star moustache and a blue crushed velvet suit, she did exactly that. First she ferociously hammered her Doc Martin into his gluteal muscles, and then she asked for his name.
‘Whoa, babycakes!’ He said, with great incredulity. ‘I’m not part of this scene, you dig! I’m just here to learn.’
‘If you give me your name right now, I’ll overlook you calling me babycakes,’ said Arabella.
‘You’re one of those Women’s Lib Chicks?’ he asked. ‘I can dig that. The name’s Joey Joey Jimmy Joe Joe.’ He extended one hand, and Arabella held it as briefly as she could. Vice Chancellor Obama shook the hand firmly, with an appraising stare.
‘You seem like a popular guy,’ said Obama.
Joey Joey Jimmy Joe Joe shrugged. ‘Quintuple J does okay.’
Arabella picked up the megaphone and gave it to the young man with the long name. ‘Do me a favour and take this megaphone. Ask everyone to calm down and stop smashing things.’
With a boost from the VC, Joey Joey Jimmy Joe Joe was able to get up onto the loans desk. When he began to speak through the megaphone, all heads turned towards him.
‘Alright, let’s have some quiet. Groovy, kids, groovy. You there, in the tweed, get your hands off that guy’s throat. You all know me: Joey Joey Jimmy Joe Joe, man about campus. This chick with the boots and the cat in the suit want your attention.’
Now the library had returned to customary quiet, Arabella joined her new acquaintance up on the loans desk.
‘Joey Joey Jimmy Joe Joe!’ called a flowerchild, ‘They’re saying we can’t borrow books without photo ID! UNE is becoming a Police State.’
‘Help us, Quintuple J!’ shouted her friend.
More voices rose out of the crowd, until there was a distinct rumbling again. The shouts turned from cries for help to accusations and threats. Joey Joey Jimmy Joe Joe picked up the megaphone again.
‘Hey hey! Cool it, everyone. Cool it!’
Having regained the crowd’s attention, he handed the megaphone to Arabella. ‘Greetings students of 1977,’ she said. ‘My name is Arabella Henderson, and I am UNE’s foremost Time Travelling Detective.’
‘Gosh!’ cried a librarian. ‘That’s an ominous greeting.’
‘I came here on my time bicycle, but my mission must wait, for I see you are in need of advice from the future.’ With her free hand, she pulled the card from the Official UNE Branded Lanyard around her neck. ‘Behold! My photo ID card!’
She passed the card to Joey Joey Jimmy Joe Joe. He turned it over, checking out the back and rubbing his thumb across the photograph. ‘It’s just got her name, her picture and a number,’ he said. ‘And UNE written all over it.’
‘But how do you stop them from stealing your identity and using your photograph to track your movements?’ asked a young man with a safety pin through his nose.
‘Nobody does that in my time,’ Arabella said. ‘The University isn’t interested in using my personal information to oppress me.’
‘But that’s the purpose of organised power structures,’ said the punk. ‘To oppress the common man.’
Arabella shook her head. ‘It soon won’t be. The corporate 80s are coming. Reaganomics is almost upon you. The purpose of an organised power structure is to grow its own brand.’
‘What’s growing a brand?’ asked Joey Joey Jimmy Joe Joe.
Arabella took off her lanyard and gave it to him. ‘It’s about name recognition and education as a commodity. In thirty years, your degree will be a product, and UNE the brand that sells it. Look!’
Reaching into her Official UNE Branded Backpack, she took out her Official UNE Branded Drink Bottle, her Official UNE Branded Pencil Case, her Official UNE Branded Magnifying Glass and her Official UNE Branded Tactical Cruise Missile.
‘The era of fearing your Government is ending,’ Arabella said. ‘I envy you, suspicious yet innocent souls in a world untouched by rampant privatisation and the commoditisation of the abstract.’
Joey Joey Jimmy Joe Joe was looking closely at the pencil case. ‘But… how do you know they’re not conducting covert surveillance through all these UNE Products in your home?’
Lifting her Official UNE Branded Megaphone back to her lips, Arabella sighed. ‘Joey Joey Jimmy Joe Joe! You’re a man about campus. Wake up and smell the corporatism. The Government, the university, the military… they don’t want your identity. They want your money.’
‘That does explain all the library fines…’ said the youth with the safety pin nose ring.
‘No, those are because you keep the books longer than your allocated borrowing period, which is inconsiderate of others,’ said Arabella. ‘It has nothing to do with branding. Branding is about a company, or a University, or even the Government building an image of itself to encourage you to buy a product. Sometimes that product is a simple hamburger, but other times it can be as complex as degree or even a Government.’
‘So what you’re saying is we should not worry about the ID cards?’ asked the flower child.
‘But refuse to pay our library fines!’ agreed her friend. ‘Smash the Capitalists and their making books into commodities!’
‘Books are commodities,’ Arabella sighed, but the students had all stopped listening. They were confabulating amongst themselves as they lined up to have their photos taken for their new ID Cards.
The Vice Chancellor helped Arabella and Joey Joey Jimmy Joe Joe down from the loans desk. Perhaps the assembled students hadn’t quite understood the point, but they had stopped rioting, and that was good enough.
‘Thank you for ending the riot,’ said Joey Joey Jimmy Joe Joe. ‘It was making it hard to study.’
‘I don’t really approve of your methods,’ said Vice Chancellor Obama. ‘There’s nothing wrong with branding.’ But he was a magnanimous man and though he lead the corporate system against which Arabella had railed, he recognised her strengths as a detective and as a leader and restrained himself from remonstrating with her.
‘You mentioned a mission,’ said their velvet-suited companion. ‘What brought you to 1977?’
Arabella had forgotten all about that. ‘We need to dig up a field and see if there’s a skeleton there.’
‘Perhaps I can help,’ said Joey Joey Jimmy Joe Joe.
The Vice Chancellor nodded with approval as they left the library. ‘Thankyou Young Man. Why, I even have a spare Official UNE Branded Shovel. To the empty field!’
And so, Arabella, Vice Chancellor Obama and a young man with a porn moustache came together in a spirit of peace and harmony to look for a corpse.
To be continued . . .
By Kate Wood