Belinda was kind of a pain in the arse. That was no great secret. If asked, she would have admitted without hesitation to being 'kind of a pain in the arse' and then she would have laughed really annoyingly, just so that there was no mistaking she meant it.
Belinda wasn't a terrible person, by any means. Just one of those people who have no particularly desire to be good, but lack the ambition to be especially bad. She was a second-rate employee of the Handy Pavilion. She was an indifferent stock filler, with mediocre product knowledge and her tendency to see customers as unwitting spectators to her hackneyed impromptu comedy bits.
But… Of course there's a but. No one is completely useless, and there were two things that Belinda was very, very good at. One of these things was cosplay. Though she didn't know it, this skill was the only reason that she was still employed at the Pavilion. After her fifth poor staff evaluation in a row, Marlon had interceded with Ms Shan to let her keep her job, on the grounds that Belinda provided the Santa costume that came out every Christmas. Not only that, she was the source of the Easter Bunny costume for Easter, a Leprechaun costume for St Patrick's day and not a January 26th ever went by without Australia Day Davo making an appearance.
So when inspiration had struck earlier that day, it had taken her a matter of hours to turn a thermal blanket into a close imitation of the silver uniform of the DIY Barn soldiers. When night fell, she simply marched up to the doors of the Barn, intent on rescuing Christian.
The guard on the door wore a costume similar to hers, though she had better goggles. He – or was it she? The uniforms revealed little – looked at her expectantly. Belinda had no idea what was expected of her, but this lead nicely into her second talent. She was a past master at never letting her own cluelessness get in her way. She guessed, and guessed hard.
"Hail Smith!" she said, thumping her chest with her right hand.
"We doing that again?" the guard said. Probably a guy? He had one of those voices that made it hard to tell. "I thought the 'hail Smith' thing died from lack of interest."
"Yeah, ha, I was being retro."
"Ugh," the guard said. "Whatevs. Just go on in."
Belinda walked in. The interior of the Barn looked… Well, honestly, it looked much like the interior of the Pavilion. Oh, the aisles were arranged a little differently. Paint directly faced the doorway, and lumber was on the left instead of the right. But basically, it was the same.
"Savages," Belinda muttered. "Blue pricetags? What's up with that?"
"What's that?" the guard said.
"Uh…" Belinda needed to find Christian. But how? "Uh… Where's the prisoner?"
"Dungeon. Trapdoor's in aisle twelve, next to garden rakes."
"Wait a second."
Belinda stood stock still. The silver material made her sweat, but she'd had the foresight to stitch a terry toweling band into her headpiece.
"Look at that," the guard said. He pointed past the Place O' Pets to the small segment of the Pavilion that was visible from here. Bright lights flashed laser red in the windows. "Those idiots will destroy themselves before we even get to them."
Belinda had often thought the same thing, but didn't like to hear it from a Barnling. "Your fly's open," she said, as she marched off to aisle twelve.
No one gave her a second glance. There were dozens of silver-clad Barn Troopers around. They slouched against shelving units and stood in little circles chatting and scratching their backsides. An officious looking little fellow with a comb-over and a badge that read 'manager' came bustling by, and for a moment the Troopers stood rigidly to attention and moved with a stiff-legged march. Once he was gone, they went back to their lounging.
Belinda found the trapdoor in aisle twelve easily enough. It was painted black and yellow, and labelled 'WARNING: TRAP DOOR'. Even the forces of pure evil couldn't pull one over on OH&S, Belinda guessed. She lifted the door, and climbed down the ladder.
The dungeon was small, bland and surprisingly well lit. In it was a camp bed, a camping potty and a folding table and a director's chair. On the wall was a brightly coloured poster depicting a dead frog being eaten by ants, with the catchy slogan "YOU CAN'T SPELL 'CRUSHING DESPAIR' WITHOUT A 'U' AND AN 'I'". Christian – unshaven, but seemingly unhurt – sat on the camp bed. A chain ran from his ankle to a ring in the floor. A silver clad guard stood at attention, revolver in hand, in a spot giving him a clear view of both prisoner and ladder.
"Hail," the guard said, waving vaguely.
"Yeah, hail and shit. I'm here to move the prisoner."
"Oh, yeah? Who sent you?"
"Uh… You know, what's his name. That guy? With the glasses? The mirror shades, you know?"
The guard didn't move.
"With the wooden leg and the duelling scar down one cheek?" Belinda added. "What's his name?"
"Left cheek or right cheek?"
"Yeah, him. I'm here to move the prisoner on orders of Mr Morrison? Yeah?"
"Why was I not informed of this?"
"Because… Look, seriously, this is a small concrete room. You really gonna fire a gun? You've got as much chance of killing yourself as anyone else."
The guard looked at his gun. "You think?"
"Yes," Belinda said, bashing him over the head with the folding chair.
"Ow!" the guard said, dropping the gun and doubling over.
Belinda hit him again.
Belinda was seeing red now. She wasn't a fighter, and as such she had no idea when to stop fighting. It wasn't until the guard literally yelled 'uncle!' that she put the chair down.
"Was that called for?" the guard said. His silver hood had been torn in half a dozen places, and thick brown hair was poking out the rips. "Was that really bloody called for?"
"Well Morrison said to do that, too," Belinda said. "Where's the key?"
The guard handed Belinda the key. She unlocked Christian's cuff.
"So what does Morrison want with me?" Christian said.
"It's me, you tosser," Belinda said, lifting her goggles. "Come on, I'm here to rescue you."
"Sweet," Christian said, standing.
Belinda clapped the cuff on the prostrate, sulking guard, and lead Christian to the ladder. As he climbed, he turned to his former captor: "We're still on for karaoke, right Bazza?"
"Yeah, if I can find a sitter," the guard sighed.
"Oi! Stop stealing the drama from my rescue," Belinda said. "Remember, if anyone asks, I'm taking you to another location on Morrison's orders."
"What if we run into Morrison?"
"Knee him in the balls and run," Belinda said. "Do I have to think of everything?"