Adam: Works in garden furniture. Seems perfectly normal.

Alfred J. Pilbrook: Owner/manager of Arthur C. Clock's timepiece shop. A timid, aging gentleman.

Ali: Head of the power tools department.

Angela MacGregor: Head of the curtains and blinds department. Angela rarely impacts on the plot directly, but is often present when someone makes an uncharacteristically unpleasant or ruthless decision. Sister of Sadie MacGregor.

Axel Platzoff: a 'reformed' supervillain, formerly known as Professor Devastato. Axel has been channelling his villainous tendencies into the struggle against the DIY Barn. Archenemy of Captain Stellar, sometimes mentor to Norman and Fiona.

Belinda: An extremely annoying Pavilion staffmember. She changes departments frequently, presumably deliberately shuffled around by irate superiors.

Bruce: The ghost of one of the electrician. He was one of contractors who originally built the Handy Pavilion. Another contractor – a concreter – discovered that Bruce was sleeping with his wife, and buried him in the concrete. Bruce finds the afterlife somewhat unrewarding.

Buck Dusty: A cowboy who works in power tools. Buck reports to a mysterious organisation of mysterious western types known as COWBO. COWBO seems to report to something called the 'Grey Barn', though it is not clear if this is related to the DIY Barn.

Captain Pete: Sinister one-handed aquarium specialist at the Place O'Pets.

Captain Stellar: aka 'Vincent'. Superhero and member of the Vigilancers superhero team. Former archenemy of Axel Platoff. Boyfriend/former boyfriend of Cycloman

Carol: Owner/barrista at the Super Centre's only good source of coffee. A slightly annoying new-agey hipster type, Carol is also completely fearless. In love with Zorbar.

Carlos: Works at the Pavilion key-cutting counter. Carlos is the object of Laura's affections, but it has not been revealed how he thinks about her.

Christian: A young but highly successful sales assistant in power tools. Christian's rise in the power tool department is orchestrated by his mistress, the Phantasm.

Claudia Lebeau:  Manager of the South Hertling Super Centre. Girlfriend and ally of Ms Shan. Senior to Karl Wintergreen.

Cycloman: Boyfriend/former boyfriend of Captain Stellar.

Delia Crispin: Owner of the Storage Universe store. Severe, but basically good hearted.

Donna: Junior member of the lighting department. A disciple of Sadie and, later, a friend of Fiona.

Fanaka: A time traveller from an alternate history, Fanaka hails from a nineteenth century Steampunk-futurist Africa. He is a friend of Nalda.

Fiona: An initially hapless young worker in the plumbing/bathroom section. Fiona has water control powers of unspecified origin. Initially an ally of Axel, a friend of Norman and Wellsey.

Gwen Harper: A dryad who takes the appearance of a middle-aged Kiwi woman. In love with Norman.

Jemmy Harrison: Owner of the music shop and possessor of a powerful holographic projector.

Karl Wintergreen: Owner of the local stationary shop, editor and sole reporter for the South Hertling Super Centre Newsletter. A conspiracy theorist and a genuinely terrible writer, his researches do occasionally hit upon the truth.

Jane Nguyen: Works on the equipment counter. Seemingly normal?

Laura Cho: A new employee who gains super powers when one of Axel's superweapons explodes. She becomes the superhero Voyager, and is vexed by the appearance of her own doppelganger from the future. In love with Carlos.

Marlon Dillinger: The duty manager at the Handy Pavilion. A soft-hearted tyrant. Ally of Ms Shan.

McKinley: A cartoon cat.

Mildred Po: Owner of the Stars in their Eyes telescope shop and amateur rocket scientist.

Mr Smith: The General Manager of the DIY Barn. A somewhat inept Fascist who is nevertheless a threat. Fortunately he is entirely fictional; in the real world inept businessmen/Fascists never threaten anybody.

Ms Shan: Jasu Shan, the General Manager of the Handy Pavilion. Ms Shan wants to view the Pavilion in a bloodless, corporate sort of way but discovers a hidden sense of loyalty to her employees. In love with Claudia Lebeaux. Occasionally also spelled 'Ms Shen' for reasons that I can only assume stem from subconscious racism on my part. Seriously, I can't remember a four letter name?

Nalda Teheintausand: A killer cyborg from the future who works in the arts and crafts department. Also an excellent arts teacher. Very good with children. Friend of Fanaka.

Norman: A young man who dreams of being a big deal in power tool retail. Friend of Fiona, after their involvement in Axel's first plot against the DIY Barn. Comes from a strange family background.

Phantasm of the Pavilion, The: A mysterious hooded and masked figure who seems intent on causing chaos in the Handy Pavilion. Served by Christian.

Richard Pennington: A customer. An alchemist, almost certainly with sinister intent.

Ron: An inhabitant of an alternate world, stranded in South Hertling.

Sadie MacGregor: Head of the lighting department. Sadie is an extremely moral person, possibly supernatural in nature. She is often present when someone makes an uncharacteristically high-minded decision. Sister to Angela MacGregor, mentor to Donna.

Seamus: A garden gnome who comes to life under the full moon. Speaks in a stereotypical Irish dialect, but the good people of Ireland would like to disavow all knowledge of him. Friend of Zorbar and Bruce.

Stavros Theopoulos: Owner of the Super Center's kebab shop.

Wellsey: Former petty criminal, now head of the plumbing/bathrooms department. Well meaning, but basically in over his head.

Woman in Laplander Hat: Too mysterious to possibly.

Voyager: See Laura Cho.

Zorbar Ofthechimps: The son of a wealthy Sydney family, for unknown reasons he was raised by a family of chimpanzees. He used to work in the Pavilion garden centre. In love with Carol.

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Nalda distrusted the thinking of the humans. It was erratic, contradictory, illogical. In her downtime, she'd seen lots of episodes of old television shows in which some character or other claimed that the erratic basis of human intelligence was a strength, not a weakness. But Nalda had seen the future Empire of the Machines crushing humanity beneath its chrome-plated jackboots, so she knew that those old shows had it oh-so-wrong.

Even so, she was dependent on Fanaka and his frail human brain. She was a war machine and her hardware was optimised for tactical reasoning, split second decision making, rapid calculations of vectors and trajectories. Worse, she'd had to reallocate much of her capacity deep abstract thinking she had into arts and crafts in order to keep her job at the Handy Pavilion. So if she was to solve the conundrum of keeping her cold, robotic future intact, she needed Fanaka -- even if he was a something of a scatterbrain. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 42 – Time Considered as a Helix of Gossiping Retail Employees"

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3

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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Christian had not been at work the day the meteor struck. He was glad of that. He worried every time the glass skull picked up a spot of dirt, and the thought of a scratch terrified him beyond belief. The whole Handy Pavilion shaking at the impact… that might have given him a heart attack, straight up.

Now he stood behind the power tools counter, polishing the skull with a soft cloth as Belinda told him about the incident. Buck Dusty had already told him, but since all the laconic cowboy had said was, "Reckon that was a bad'n," Christian was a little short on details.

"So was it an alien, or something?" Christian said once she got up to the part with the monster. He held the skull up to the light. Ostensibly this was to check his polishing, but even after all this time he was hoping he could see his mistress the Phantasm in there. As usual, he could not. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 40 – Belinda is Helpful"

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Fiona stood behind the plumbing orders counter, organising receipts. She was increasingly finding herself in de facto charge of the plumbing section. Wellsey was away on errands for Ms Shan so often these days. Fiona covered for him, working out rosters and making orders. The other team members in the plumbing section did not dispute this new hierarchy. Most of them spend their quiet moments searching the job websites anyway. No one wanted a promotion, least of all an unofficial promotion that came without a raise.

The Handy Pavilion was quiet on a Tuesday morning, allowing Fiona to catch up with some of Wellsey's paperwork. She muttered under her breath at her nominal boss' childish handwriting, then chuckled at herself. When she'd started working, she'd been considered a hopeless employee, one of the worst the Pavilion had hired. Now here she was criticising the work of her mentor.

It felt good. In a deeply uncomfortable way. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 39 – Testing Times"

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An important order was late to arrive, so Ms Shan spent her morning the Trade section, assuring a local builder that his framing pine would be arriving soon. When it did turn up, the builder kept complaining about how long he'd been kept waiting, effectively adding another hour to his departure time after the half hour that the late delivery had cost him.

"It's a bloody outrage," he said at last, grabbing his bored apprentice by the shirtsleeve and pulling him away. "I'm on a deadline, you know. Come on, Gavin, let's get some lunch."

Ms Shan rubbed her weary eyes. At least it was normal. At least an idiot complaining was a normal, mundane thing. Nothing weird, nothing spooky. Just an everyday jackass was almost a treat.

She turned, and her almost-happiness dissolved. There, lounging awkwardly against a pile of cement sacks was Mr Smith from the DIY Barn. "Hello, Ms Shan," he said.

"Mr Smith," she said. She thought of asking what she could do for him, and decided that she didn't even have the energy to pretend to care. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 38 – Between Two Doors"

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Wellsey had always known about Axel's past. Known about his attempt to rob Fort Knox from orbit. Known about his plan to replace major world leaders with realistic marionettes, to teleport Hobart to the Sahara Desert, to turn the people of Melbourne into walking catfish.

Wellsey knew all that, but still he'd never been afraid of the man. Wellsey was an ex con. To him a scary man was someone with a shank, a grudge and a guard who owed him a favour. Axel was dangerous in a way that Wellsey could barely get his head around.

Now, though… now Wellsey was afraid, but he was afraid for his friend, not afraid of him. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 37: Intervention"

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In spite of herself, Laura was getting to like Carlos from the key-cutting desk. Like like. It was weird. In her other life as the superhero Voyager, Laura spent much of her days hanging around with some of the most desired men on the planet. Tall, handsome, toned… Usually they had cool jobs, like international ace reporter or CEO and they somehow managed to keep hold of these positions in spite of only checking into the office when they felt like it.

And yet Laura found that she had not taken to any of them. Perhaps it was the way they were always gritting their teeth and narrowing their eyes at the slightest provocation. But then again, perhaps it was the way their wives and girlfriends were always being kidnapped. It was kind of a red flag. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 36: Where Have All the Pulleys Gone?"

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The toilets were out of commission at the Handy Pavilion. That wasn't the terrible thing in Christian's book. There were a couple of porta-loos out the back, so it wasn't like no one could go. It did mean that the customers would be asking questions about the bathrooms all day, in spite of the dozens of big signs up explaining the situation. So annoying! But still not the problem.

The problem was that the plumbers would be digging up part of the toilet floor, and in doing so they'd find the passage to the Phantasm's lair. They'd have to. Wouldn't they? And then what would happen? ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 35: Toilet Humour"

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2

As with so many Australian big-box hardware stores, the charity sausage sizzle was a weekend tradition at the Pavilion. Service clubs, school groups, social clubs… all of them would take a turn cooking sausage sandwiches for the Pavilion customers. The organisations would provide the ingredients, their members would provide the volunteer labour and the Pavilion would provide them with a stall and a barbeque, gratis.

The Handy Pavilion's weekly sizzle had been going downhill with the Pavilion's customer base. Already the biggest charity groups had decamped to the DIY Barn. The Rotary Club, the Lions Club, Apex, Local High School and the South Hertling Ute Spotters Society… all gone. The last couple of weeks, the sausage sizzle had been run by the Pinecone Awareness League, the Friends of Lithgow, and an obscure church group that alienated its customers by refusing to put two sausages in the same bread. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 34: From Bad to Wurst"

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