When the police arrived, Zorbar stopped stabbing a huge man in a gimp-mask and a DIY Barn apron and scrambled up a Moreton Bay fig tree that had somehow survived the battle. From there he escaped along the line of plane trees in Hurley Road.
Other than that, most of the survivors surrendered fairly easily. Axel seemed barely aware when the police strapped him into a Lechter-gurney and strapped on a hockey mask. Fiona was weeping in relief when she was bundled into the van, her guilt finally assuaged. Laura accepted the handcuffs with the bad grace of someone who knew she could tear the chains apart with a thought.
Sarah and Donna were bundled into ambulances.
Marlon was zipped into a bag.
Belinda was perfectly fine, of course. She even managed to talk her way out of being arrested.
Where the Barn – where the Megacentre – had once stood, a stark white marble pyramid rose, looking down on the streets of South Hertling from a sapphire eye within its golden capstone. Reached almost to the pavement of Wellington Road, and it effectively screened off whatever had been behind it.
That included the Phantasm, Christian, Nalda and Fanaka. When the Pyramid had risen, they had been forced to flee across the shaking concrete apron of the Mega Centre, Nalda almost carrying Fanaka as he explained how the wave motion effect showed that it was no natural earthquake. Now they stood in the little laneway between Hurley Road and Local High School.
"It vas close," Nalda said. "I could feel it."
"Feel what, my love?" Fanaka said.
"Oh…" Nalda said remembering the cold robotic future that had been so close to condensing into reality, "nothing."
The little group started, almost panicking as something large dropped from a nearby tree. They relaxed when they saw it was Zorbar – battered and bloodied, but alive. And naked.
"I didn't need to see that," Christian said.
"Speak for yourself,' muttered the Phantasm.
"Fight over," Zorbar said. "Cops come. They total buzzkill."
"Who won?" Fanaka asked.
"My people have saying," Zorbar said. "You alive? You won."
They looked at each other and considered this. One after the other, they decided that it was probably the most positive thought on offer.
"Come on," Christian said. "My aunt and uncle are out of town and their place is just around the corner. We can lay low there for a while."
Then again, maybe that was the most positive thought.
"Hey, what happened to Axel… Young Axel… Devistato's body?" the Phantasm said.
Fanaka shrugged. "It's vanished. All my theories about time have just gone out the window," he said. "It's quite exciting, really."
Perhaps the others sighed when he said this. Or perhaps it was just the wind.
On the other side of the former Barn, the edge of the Pyramid had risen almost to a retaining wall, creating a little angled valley bounded on one side by marble and on the other three by concrete. From the ditch, Wellsey rose, groaning. Bracing himself against the wall, he reached a hand down and helped Ms Shan to her feet.
"You've got blood on your face," she groaned, handing him a handkerchief.
"There's a lot of blood on that hanky already, boss," he said.
A groan from further along the valley told them that Ali was alive, too. They helped him out from under to silver-clad corpses and to his feet.
"What happened?" he said.
Ms Shan looked up the side of the Pyramid and saw the great Eye looking down at her.
"I'm not one to admit when I don't know something," she said, immediately falling silent.
Ali took a tentative step up the side of the Pyramid, and had to be kept from falling as his feet slid from under him. Unperturbed, he tried to scale the retaining wall, but found it too sheer.
"Huh," he said. "Well. Looks kind of like we're fucked, eh? Ow!"
The 'ow' came when the end of heavy rope smacked him in the head. As he rubbed his head, he looked up and saw a familiar face.
"Hey, chief! It's your… associate."
"I think we can knock that off, Ali," Ms Shan said, a huge smile on her face as she looked up at Claudia Lebeaux. She tested the rope her lover had thrown and climbed up. As she crested the retaining wall, she saw that Claudia was not alone. Behind her was a whole crowd. Ms Shan was not the best with names, but she recognised a host of people from the South Hertling Super Centre – people who sold barbeques, health foods, sporting equipment, electronics, homewares, musical instruments, motor accessories and above all, carpets.
As the others made the climb, Ms Shan looked in wonder, uncertain what to make of this.
"The war is lost," Ms Lebeaux said. "The Barn is destroyed, but still the war is lost. It is down to us to be the partisans of the resistance. Ms Shan… Jasu… Will you be our leader?"
Bruce and Norman hooned after the truck full of cowboys.
"Who are those people?" Bruce said.
"Dad explained it, but it didn't make a lot of sense," Norman said. "They're like… Agents of some weird shit, but the balance of weird shit is all fucked up, so now we have to deal with their weird shit instead of the DIY Barn's weird shit."
"Oh, yeah, like with the Three Barns. Buck Dusty tried to explain it. It sounded pretty stupid."
"Stupid isn't the same as 'not dangerous'," Norman said, adjusting his bronze helmet. "We've got to stop them."
The truck ahead of them slammed on breaks, and went squealing around a roundabout. Norman and Bruce could see why – a column of police vehicles approaching from the other side.
"Quick, Bruce! Handbreak turn!"
"That's not me bloody handbreak!"
Norman withdrew his hand quickly as Bruce spun around to follow the cowboy truck. Before them was the Pyramid of Wellington Road.
Bruce sighed. "Sure. Why not? Hang on!"
Whoever it was that drove the cowboys' truck was clearly very talented. He weaved the huge vehicle between the vehicles in Wellington Road almost perfectly. It only hit a single police van, setting it wobbling worryingly.
"Now might be a good time to tell you, I'm not that great of a driver," Bruce said.
"Seriously? You're a bloody truck!"
Bruce he turned off his optical sensors. In later days, he justified this by telling himself that he was using the Force, but actually it was the robotic equivalent of squeezing his eyes shut. He turned this way and that, his horn blaring "Underneath the Radar". There was no sensation of crunching into another vehicle or squishing a human, which was good.
Then there was a thump. Not a bad one, but palpable. He skidded to a halt and opened turned on his sensors.
He was close to mounting the Wellington Road pavement. The Pyramid was directly ahead. A square section of marble had cantilevered up, leaving a square entrance visible into the darkness of the interior. The cowboy truck was driving in. He paused.
"Hop out," he said.
"Nah, it's pronounced hoplite," Norman said.
"I mean it. I'd follow them, but I'm dead. Don't risk your neck."
"I died too, mate. I'm in this, all the way."
Bruce had never felt close to Norman. Still, dead blokes have to stick together.
"Let's go get the bastards!"
Fiona started as the van rocked hard, then went tumbling as the van rocked again. Stumbling to her feet, she saw that the van was on its side and the rear door had popped open. She staggered out into the street, just in time to see Norman driving Bruce into the Pyramid. The entrance began to close.
To one side were the police – justice, final redemption for her crime.
To the other, Norman – who she loved like a brother – was racing into peril.
Her head jerked one way, then the other. One way, then the other as she tried to make up her mind.
THE END OF "DO IT YOURSELF."
CONTINUED IN PART 2 OF THE SOUTH HERTLING CHRONICLES