Explosion rocks Megacenter

By Harmony Sunshine, owner/manager EarthLife Health Store

Greetings! Unfortunately, Karl Wintergreen who usually makes the newsletter is still in hospital. I hope we are all sending our best thoughts and healing energy to him to help in his recovery. Hopefully, now that he is away from the hateful meat fumes from the kebab shop, he will be able to gather the necessary positivity he needs to actualise his own inner health, projecting it on his broken body. Until he gets back, I'm sharing newsletter duties with Barry from the other health supplement store, the one with all of the big jars of whey powder and what have you. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself — Chapter 49: Newsletter 3"

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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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Taking a week off, coming back after New Year. But I leave you with this short story. Enjoy!

***

Light stabs my eyes as the hood come off. My hands are bound, so I cannot shield my face. A figure is silhouetted in the bright light. No, not silhouetted. Some of the light seems to come through the figure, as if it isn't all there. I am already bound, helpless and terrified, yet the sight of this translucent form makes my guts feel like ice.

They have me. Them.

"Name?" the figure says.

"Please," I say. "What have I done?"

"The sooner you answer, the sooner you will be processed. Name?"

"I am Oswick Bozzbaddle."

It raises a clipboard, opaque against the light, and makes a tick. The sound of the pen on paper is hard; precise.  "Do you like Christmas, Bozzbaddle?" ...continue reading "Yuletide 101"

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The skirmishing was over and war had come at last to the Handy Pavilion. Employees that had once arrived by bus or on foot were now in mandatory car pools. Safety in numbers. Every effort had been made to conceal from the public all of the preparations for battle. Still, an observant customer might have noticed how the theft-prevention people on the door now focused their attention on the outside rather than inside; how the skylights all suddenly sported heavy iron grilles; how the woodwork demonstrations now seemed to produce nothing but baseball bats.

Axel Platzoff sat alone in the cramped little breakroom, building a matchstick model of the Riechstag and wondering about the role he would play in the coming conflict. He'd been involved in wars before. He was a veteran of wars of secrets, wars of infinities, invasions, civil wars and a seeming endless array of world crises. They were always hard. Hard on survivors, harder on the dead. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 46 — Farewell"

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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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It was almost a week before Christian saw Pennington again. This wasn't good news. Christian was holding onto his job by a thread, and he was terrified that he'd be fired before he could speak to the alchemist.

A whole dozen people had been fired. Low performers, chronic latecomers, suspected pilferers. To be fair to Ms Shan, she didn't play favourites – though to be unfair, that might just be because she never remembered anyone's name. Only a couple of weeks before, Christian would have thought himself invulnerable to anything less than a complete shutdown of the Handy Pavilion, but his indicators were all down since the Phantasm's disappearance. He might have escaped the last round of layoffs, but the next round would take him out.

He needed Pennington's help before that could happen. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 43 – Never Pay Retail"

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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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