Old Axel was out the front of the Barn, fighting for his life, but that was something he'd done before. More importantly, he was fighting for the Handy Pavilion. He'd figured it out, in the end. Figured out about the shirts and what they meant and why he cared if Pavilion staff lived or died.

He cared. He'd never cared before. True, he cared about a weird, arbitrary grouping that his stupid parole officer had put him into, but that didn't matter. When your back is to the wall, what does it matter which wall?

Battle flowed on around him. The air was full of sounds of shouting, gunshots, whirring engines. The scent of smoke filled Axel's nose. The tarmac beneath his feet was growing slick with blood.

The fighting hurt, now. That had always been his advantage back in the days when he'd been trying to conquer the world. He didn't really care whether or not he won. World domination was just the challenge he'd set for himself. Axel was as apolitical as you could get. He had no idea what he'd do with the world if ever he had it. Fighting had never been about victory. Not really.

Axel had started the fight armed with a propane flamethrower, but he'd had to abandon it when a valve had cracked. Now he had nothing but a shiv made out of a chisel and a red mist in front of his eyes. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself — Chapter 65: Scars"

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The battle was swift and the battle was merciless. Norman ran directly at a silver-clad Barnling, a length of two-by-four his only weapon. The Barnling raised his gun, but Norman's stout plank cracked this opponent square in the wrist, and the weapon went skittering over the bitumen of Wellington Road, landing under a car. The Barnling turned to face Norman, but too late. Another blow of the two-bee sent him sprawling to the ground with a shattered shoulder.

Norman almost laughed out loud. After the dread of the last few weeks, the actual battle seemed almost easy. Then something hit him in the head. Hard. He never saw it coming -- never knew if it was an enemy strike or a mis-aimed blow from a friend. Either way, he fell to one knee, clutching his injury. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself — Chapter 64: Apotheosis Now"

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Christian sat in the staff room, a blanket around his shoulders and the nicest meal he'd had in weeks in front of him. The Phantasm was toasted him sandwich after sandwich and plying him with sugary tea. Most of his workmates were marshaling outside, but a few stood and listened as he spoke breathlessly of his ordeal:

"…And there was nothing to eat but luncheon meat and cabbage, and we had to watch Barn employees confess to their crimes on black and white TVs, then we had to spend five minutes hating Emanuel Goldstein – I think he's Jeff Goldblum's brother or something – and there was nothing to read but Jackboot Enthusiast Quarterly and they tried to torture me with a slowly descending pendulum, but it squeaked and the torturer got annoyed but anyway, I know where the weak spot is on the Barn." ...continue reading "Do It Yourself — Chapter 62: The Breakroom of War"

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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. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself — Chapter 61: On the Practical Applications of Cosplay"

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Professor Devistato hid behind some big bags of cement powder and pondered his next move. The cyborg he'd been fighting through this building seemed to know him, because she'd called him Axel. That was worrying. Then that other woman had attacked, the one in the black hat and cloak.

Black hat and cloak. That meant 'supervillain'. Old school supervillain. Retro. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself — Chapter 60: Cat and Mouse (and Vole)"

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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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