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Do It Yourself — Chapter 70: Bruce’s Back

Bruce's bad back was starting to get to him. It didn't seem fair, somehow – dying, being reincarnated in a giant robot body and still having a bad back. He hoped the giant lizard that he was fighting would go down soon, because he didn't know how long he could keep going anyway. Technically, he shouldn't be up at all. The sun was above the horizon, and as a ghost he wasn't active of a daytime. Somehow though, he was still fighting on, and he didn't know how.

He put the thought from his mind, just as he put from his mind the image of all the people dying in the street below. Concentrate. Concentrate on the lizard, the huge scaly lizard.

The thing was as big as him, and tough with it. Its bones seemed weirdly flexible, which was perhaps why the thing was able to absorb blows that should have crushed its skull.  Bruce had been a big guy in life and he was a big guy in death, and like a lot of big guys he'd never found it necessary to learn how to fight. All he knew how to do was trade punch for punch with the lizard and hope that the creature would go down before Bruce's back went out and he had to lie down.

The creature hissed at Bruce, and bit at his head. The fact that the thing hissed rather than roared disappointed Bruce. Of course it was probably more realistic, just… disappointing.

And then, in a moment, everything changed. The lizard lost its footing. Just for a second, but it was long enough. Bruce had both his massive metal hands around the creature's neck. The lizard was now drawn too close to use its claws, but it lashed Bruce with its tail. Bruce ignored it. If he held on, he'd won.

"Time to strangle the lizard," he said. This had sounded pretty tough in his head, but when spoken out loud it seemed more like a euphemism for something.

Sudden movement caught his eye. Without letting go, he turned his head and saw a semi driving out of the Barn carpark, bright red in front of the blackened building. It ploughed into the battle, running down and scattering Barnlings and Pavilionites alike.

There was a brief lull in the fighting as the bloodied combatants took in this new development. Then a door opened in the side of the trailer and out poured a half a dozen duster-clad cowboys mounted on horseback. The whooped and hollered as they fired into the crowd.

Perhaps because the truck had come from the Barn side of the road, the Pavilionites reacted first. But when the cowboys began gunning down Barnlings as well, both sides went into a panic. Some fought back against the newcomers but most combatants ran and hid.

One of the cowboys went down almost immediately. Zorbar -- who had been halfway up a lamp-post for some reason -- leapt down on one of them knocking him from his horse. Zorbar was covered in bruises and his long hair was matted with blood, but still he grinned as he pummeled the fallen gunslinger.

The other cowboys met less resistance. Though the battle had been bloody, the actual death count had been low. Had been. Now, bodies tumbled in the street. Survivors fled in all directions. The air was filled with the sounds of gunshots and the screams of the dying.

Bruce watched helpless, all of his servos concentrating on throttling the reptile, which still didn't sound right. A second cowboy was lost when he shot a Barnling at point blank, setting off the super-weapon she was holding. Half the cowboy and his horse evaporated in a second, the other half collapsing in the street.

At last the lizard started to go limp in Bruce's hands (seriously!). Bruce squeezed harder and twisted until the creature stopped moving. He let the it slide to the ground and turned to deal with the marauding cowboys. He aimed a kick at a horse. The horse was well trained and avoided the blow without throwing its rider. But the act did distract the rider enough for Axel to smash him with a two-by-four. The rider dropped his gun, but didn't lose his saddle.

Bruce staggered. He looked down, and saw that a cowboy had lassoed one of his legs, and was riding around him to wrap his legs together. He reached down a mighty hand to stop the rider.

Too fast! He bent down too fast. Pain – unimaginable pain – shot up from his lower back, filling his mind and crushing his will. It was so terrible that he didn’t even feel himself fall, whimpering, to the ground.

When the spots of lights stopped flashing in his eyes, he saw that Axel had been surrounded by three of the cowboys. Reluctantly, the villain put his hands in the air. Laughing, one of the cowboys shot him in the head.

Bruce gasped -- but Axel didn't fall. Tentatively, the little fellow reached up to his head, touching his skull gingerly. The cowboy shot him again. And again. Still Axel stood, clearly just as baffled as the cowboys that were shooting him.

Concentrating all his willpower, Bruce reached out an arm. His back tried to murder him for the affront, but he caught in his metal fist the cowboy who'd shot Axel.

Bruce was a soft-hearted soul, so he closed his eyes before squeezing.

When he reopened them, he saw the other two cowboys galloping away. Axel was throwing something at their retreating backs. Bruce's hand was… still shut firm. He wanted to see what was in his palm, in the same way that a very sick man wants to know -- yet dreads seeing -- what he's just coughed into his tissue.

"I should be dead," Axel said. Bruce wasn't sure that Axel was addressing him, but he listened anyway as a distraction from the pain. "Those bullets… I felt them… I should be dead."

Two of the cowboys came thundering back, their hooves clattering across the bitumen. At first, Bruce thought that they were attacking again, but then he saw the last of the six horses behind them, with no rider but with boots dangling from its stirrups. Someone had counterattacked, hard! The cowboys leapt their horses back into the semi. It was actually impressive to watch. The hatch on the semi slid closed, and with a belch of exhaust smoke and a grinding of gears, the truck started to pull away.

"Shit, I almost had the fuckers!"

Unwilling to risk moving his neck, Bruce swivelled his eyes to see Norman running after the cowboys. Except Normy seemed different. He carried a bronze-tipped spear and wore nothing but a sort of red toga arrangement that really didn't leave much to the imagination.

"Dare I ask?" Bruce said.

"Don't even start, mate," Norman said. "Don't even. Come on, you got to get me after those guys."

"No go, Normy, me back's buggered."

"Do trucks have backs, then?"

Oh, Bruce thought. Yeah. Fair enough. In a matter of moments, he had transformed his body into its cement truck form. Norman hopped into the cab. "After 'em!"

"Okay, but there's only so far I can get from my mortal remains before—"

"Then you bloody better get going!"

Good point. So with that, Bruce put himself into first, sounded his horn that played 'Underneath the Radar," and drove off after the truck.

Previously - Chapter 69: Red Mist

Next - Chapter 71: Lauras Future

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