Marlon was the first to be called. He was alone at home. He should have been in bed, he knew, but the empty bed was cold and uninviting. He sat on the couch watching old war movies. He'd bought a bottle each of rum and Coke to drink while he watched, but he'd grown bored of drinking before finishing the first glass.

His heart leapt when he heard his phone ring, then fell when he saw the caller ID. Not a friend or a lover calling to chat. It was Ms Shan. He answered, knowing what the message would be.

"Marlon here."

"The battle's on," Ms Shan said. "Tomorrow. Dawn." ...continue reading "Do It Yourself — Chapter 59: The Call"

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1

Night was falling as Laura Cho arrived for night duty at the Handy Pavilion. A sad paper sign on the main door assured customers that the Pavilion was still open in spite of the damage. So sad was it, it almost brought a tear to Laura's eye. It had been a terrible day, Valentine's Day. The Pavilion had been dealt its greatest blow, and without the DIY Barn even making a move.

Laura had been away on the day of that the mushroom men had gone wild. She'd been visiting Karl Wintergreen and poor dear Carlos in the hospital. She'd hoped that Carlos would have noticed her decision to visit on Valentine's day, but he was still… not cold, perhaps. But distant. Very distant.

She'd had to come clean to him about her secret identity as the superhero Voyager. What had happened to Carlos made no sense otherwise, and it was not fair to leave him in ignorance. The simple fact was, he'd tried to save her by shoving her out of harm's way, and succeeded only in breaking a total of eight bones against her invulnerable body.

She'd had to explain this to him. Of course she had.And he'd been distant ever since. Perhaps he was still processing it. Then again, perhaps he felt threatened. Aquatic Woman had warned her that this could happen. It was hard to say yet what the deal was. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 56 — Tall Tales Part 1"

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It was Valentines Day. This is probably a big day if you work in a florist's, a jewellery shop or a high-end restaurant, but for most sections of the Handy Pavilion it was just another day.

There were exceptions, of course. The garden centre was busier than it had been in months, while Nalda in arts and crafts was struggling to keep papier-mâché hearts and red paint on the shelves.

"Excuse me, miss, where's the pink glitter?"

"Ofer dere, and next year buy champagne." ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 53 — A Very DIY Valentines Day"

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Seamus the Gnome no longer made his life a secret. He couldn't really. When the full moon rose and brought him to life, he found that there were too many people in his garden section, and he couldn't be bothered to hide himself from them. Besides, one of the late-night gardeners already knew him. Was that his name? Wellsey? Something like that

The old feller wore a plastic safety hat which some keen artist had painted in camouflage colours. He stood in the gap between the impatiens and the camellias, right next to a huge thing of cast iron and bamboo that looked somewhere between an ugly garden ornament and a surprisingly attractive anti-aircraft gun.

Beside Wellsey was a young woman, also in a hardhat, scanning the skies with a pair of binoculars. A young man was clearly also supposed to be watching the skies, but his work here was hindered by frequent breaks to look at the young woman.

"Saints preserve us, and what's going on here?" Seamus said. "Oh, it's you, Seamus," Wellsey said. "Laura, Carlos, this is Seamus." ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 51 – Incoming!"

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Claudia Lebeau sat across the desk from Ms Shan. Ms Shan sat behind the MDF desk in her little office, her fingers steepled in front of her. The office was small and while it had some very pleasant associations for Mrs Lebrau, right then it seemed oppressive. It was airless and the only decoration was a small brass statute, a dying peace lily and a one of those posters that is meant to inspire but somehow only serve to bring the spirit a little closer to breaking.

"Officially, I can take no action," Claudia Lebeau said.

"I understand," Jasu Shan replied, and it was the worst thing she could possibly have said.

If Jasu had argued, Claudia had arguments. If she'd shouted, Claudia could have stalked off in a huff. If she'd threatened, well, Claudia could have reminded her that she was in no position to make more enemies.

Instead,  she'd simply agreed. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 50 — Third Wheels and Fifth Columns"

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Fanaka was beginning feel an attraction to Nalda. This bothered him. He wasn't a stupid man, after all. He was a physicist with advanced training in transtempero-dimensional topography, which is about as far from being stupid as you can get. And not being stupid, he knew perfectly well that Nalda was an emotionless, murderous cyborg. He knew that she wanted every human being dead. It was only her perspective as a time traveler that prevented a murderous rampage. From her point of view all humans were dead, she was just waiting for the world to catch up with her memories.

Even if he hadn't known that about her, sleeping on the sofa in her spare room had shown him quite a lot of warning signs. The impossibly neat piles of Soldier of Fortune magazine. The fact that no DVD in her collection didn't have a gun prominently displayed on the cover. The way her kitchen contained two dozen razor sharp knives but no food. None of these suggested a person with a lovable nature.

Still, when the light struck her face in a certain way, it made her thin lips and square chin… ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 47 — Hearts and Skulls"

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It was Buck Dusty who took the glass skull. Definitely. The security camera footage had been useless, so Christian didn't know how he knew. But he knew. There had always been something fishy about the guy. Seriously, who wears cowboy hats to work?

Well, cowboys, obviously. Oh, and country singers. And truckers. And corrupt Texan mayors, but also Texas rangers. And that one guy in the commando unit who isn't the hero, but survives for pretty fair while.

Okay, lots of people wear cowboy hats. But even so, Christian didn't trust Buck an inch. There was just something uncanny about the man. Something eerie had slowly overcome the man. When Christian had first joined the Pavilion, Buck had seemed like a friendly, happy sort of cowboy, like in the old movies his Christian's grandfather had loved. Someone like Audie Murphy or Hoot Gibson. Now, though… Now he didn't seem so much fun. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 45 — The Barn Door is Open"

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Norman was late to arrive at the party in Garden Furniture. Adam had spread drop-sheets over all of his beloved display tables and chairs and though he seemed happy, there was a sub-strata of worry every time someone put a drink down.

Only a month earlier, Norman thought, Ms Shan would have balked at the idea of using the Handy Pavilion as the base for Zorbar's buck's night. Now, she not only gave her blessing, but invited herself. Wellsey – who, like many old rebels was a traditionalist at heart – objected to a woman attending a buck's night. But Fiona and Belinda also ended up on the invitation list, and then Zorbar's fiancee Carol announced she was coming. With that, any chance that the evening would involve strippers vanished in a puff of smoke, so Wellsey had had to grin and bear it. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 44 — The Party"

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Bruce was parked in his usual spot in the Handy Pavilion lot. He had a good spot, not far from the main entrance. His life had become more sociable since he'd merged with the killer robot, and that was a mixed blessing.

Carol still came around to visit, and try to get him to tell her something mystical. Zorbar was still scared of him, but he came with his fiancé anyway, grateful to Bruce for saving both of their lives. On nights of the full moon, Seamus the gnome came by. And most evenings Marlon would discuss the ongoing struggle against the DIY Barn.

And then there was Karl Wintergreen. Bruce wasn't certain about Karl. He was the only one outside of the Handy Pavilion family who knew about him. He hadn't told anyone yet. Maybe he should…

"As a ghost, you can walk around invisible and unseen, right?" Karl was saying. "You could go anywhere. You could walk into Cabinet meetings… Boardrooms of huge corporations… The Vigilancer's Justi-Building… Anywhere!" ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 41- The Night Talker"

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