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Dateline: Canberra, Christmas 2035 (Part 07)

Guest Contributor 30 December 2015


Continuing on from part six, this is Dateline by Craig Cormick

Ned Kelly watched his comrades being rounded up by men with electric cattle prods as he manoeuvred himself into position. The first guard to see him was taken quite by surprise and spun around to see a tall helmeted figure advancing into the fringes of the spotlights.

“You can’t hurt me! I’m made of iron!” a deep voice said, and the security guard sneered.

“We’ll see about that,” said the security guard and reached out with his cattle prod.

He stabbed the figure in the chest but nothing happened. “Eh?” he said, and brought the active end of the cattle prod up closer to his face to check that it was on.

A hand reached out of the darkness and pushed it into his face. A sharp crackle, a scream, the smell of burned flesh and the guard fell to the ground.

The guards closest heard the scream, turned their lights and saw the tall helmeted figure standing there, challenging them. A pair of them walked over carefully, one on each side. One reached out with his cattle prod and stabbed the figure in the chest. Nothing! The other – clearly a little dimmer – tried for the helmet.

There was a god-almighty hail of crackling sparks. But still the figure didn’t fall. Two more security guards came over and attempted to subdue the figure, and by the time they had figured out they were trying to restrain a wooden carousel horse with a metal garbage bin on its head – and looked back to their captives – all they saw were four security guards prone on the ground and the knowledge there would be big trouble trying to explain this.

It didn’t take the four escapees long to reach the safety of City Hill safely and stop to rest amongst the overgrown trees there. Santa in particular was clearly not used to running for his life. Captain Cook paused for breath and said, “That was done with military precision. Most excellent.”

“I’ve had a long time to think how I would have done the last stand at Glenrowan differently,” Ned said. “Walking out of the mist and attacking all those troopers face-on was a mug’s game. I should have distracted them and then snuck amongst them, picking them all off one by one.”

“Which you’ve now done,” said Cook. “Recreating history anew.”

“Back pats later,” said Angie. “We have to keep moving.”

They made their way to the top of City Hill and paused to look around. The trees had been planted in lines, allowing for views of the city in most directions. They could see the flicker of flame pots back behind them in the badlands of Civic. They could see the check points on Commonwealth Avenue Bridge, ensuring the south-side capitalists kept to their side of the lake and the north-side socialists kept to theirs. They could see the candle-lit windows of Ainslie and Campbell and the Candelabra-lit windows of Yarralumla and heights of Red Hill. They could see the remains of the legal side of town that had long ago relocated to the cheaper rents and actual client parking spaces of Tuggeranong, and they could see where the ANU had once been, before progressive spending cuts had turned it into a TAFE, and dwindling enrolments had in turn led to it becoming low-cost accommodation for migrant workers from Gungahlin.

Rumour had it that the libraries still had actual books in them. Though Angie had never ventured in to one to verify that. There were also stories of crazy old professors living in the stacks, trying to memorise all the books that had been destroyed or burnt, like in Fahrenheit 451.

And they could also see the dark still surface of Lake Burley Griffin ahead of them.

“Come on,” said Angie. “Before they figure out where we’re headed.”

Craig Cormick is an award-winning Canberra author who has published over twenty book of fiction, non-fiction and short-fiction. His awards include the ACT Book of the Year, a Queensland Premier’s Literary Award and a Victorian Community History Award. His most recent book Uncle Adolf won a 2015 ACT Publishing Award. For more information on Craig and his work check out his website at

Part eight will be published on the site tomorrow.

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