The morning sun was shining over the Super Centre carpark. The earliest retail workers were arriving as best they could with the entire Easter parking area occupied by the massive form of the great metal bird. Mostly, they avoided looking at it. The people of South Hertling were becoming adept at not seeing things.
Fanaka yawned wide as he kicked the bird’s landing gear. “It’s an ornithopter,” he said.
“Yes,” he added.
“Is that all you can say?” Donna asked.
“But you’re an engineer from planet Steampunk, right?” Donna said. “This should be right up your alley.”
Fanaka scratched his head, kicked the landing gear and made a ‘maybe-maybe’ sort of gesture. “Well,” he said. “There are giant steampunk ornithopters, and then there are giant steampunk ornithopters, if you follow me.”
...continue reading "Clocks and Boxes — Part 34: Ornithopter"
During his absence, Fanaka had stopped shaving his face and head. The hair on chin had sprouted and begun to go grey. Over the years, these grey hairs had spread across his jaw and up his sideburns, almost reaching his hairline. The shirt and slacks that he had worn when he left Earth had long since worn away, and he wore some undergarments that he'd stolen from a Zalgon starcruiser under a worn camelhair dressing gown that he'd been given by an old friend.
He walked down the steps of the saucer shaped craft that had brought him home and tested the ground with his foot. Yes. Earth. He had a satchel full of equipment that he could use to test this hypothesis. There was no need. Every fibre of his body said 'Earth'. More to the point, he could see a little shack with a sign that read 'South Hertling Cub Scouts'. The shack shook slightly and a deeply unpleasant music issued from within. Highland Dance group. That made it the second Wednesday of the month.
Fanaka turned back. "We made it," he said. "Earth." ...continue reading "Clocks and Boxes — Part 31: Homecoming"
Welcome back! Sorry for the delay. When last we left off, Donna was instigating the rescue of the Handy Pavilion staff currently in prison, in order to raise a force to fight the resurgent DIY Barn. The issues of what's up with the Brownie, the weird cult in the kebab shop, and the missing Ms Shan are still up in the air. And surely that subplot about the cartoon cats will start to make sense at some point? Meanwhile, Alfred, Delia and Fanaka have all been arrested and Delia tried to deal with the situation by combining the power of the Watch and the Measure. We open on Fanaka dealing with some of the consequences of that action.
Fanaka stood on the roof of the police car and scanned in every direction, and in every direction he saw nothing. Nothing. Not a white void, nor a grey void, nor even a black void. Nothing at all. It hurt his eyes to look at it, and the fact that he could see at all without any ambient light hurt his brain.
"Well," he said in his own language, "there's a thing." ...continue reading "Clocks and Boxes — Part 27: Occupants"
Delia had never been in the back of a police car before, but nonetheless she made herself at home. She shared her seat with Alfred and Fanaka, who were the only others who had been arrested. Gwen had avoided arrest by knocking a policeman to the ground and fleeing with the protesting Christian thrown over one shoulder.
"Wait, I haven't committed a crime, yet," the young man had cried as his lover dragged him away.
Karl had disappeared in the confusion with Ron in hot pursuit. Once again law enforcement had proved meaningless to anybody who wasn't already law abiding.
Well, mostly law abiding. To Delia's exasperation, Alfred seemed to have had some sort of extremely quick identity crisis, and reinvented himself from 'aging shopkeeper' to 'teenage hooligan.
"Did you see that? Did you see Gwen take down that copper?" he laughed.
One of the constables in the front of the car turned around with a look that was meant to say 'imposing authority' but which Delia read as 'hurt feelings.' ...continue reading "Clocks and Boxes — Part 26: Drive"
Apologies, my tens of readers for for late posting; extra busy at the moment.
Fanaka was not a stupid man. He was a genius, in fact. And this, unfortunately was the problem – namely, that as a genius he knew a thousand more ways to be stupid; more paths to foolishness than the average person could even imagine.
Another aspect of not being stupid was that he deeply aware of the possibility that he was being foolish as he set up his anti-aircraft battery in Wellington Road, just outside the South Hertling Super Centre and across the street from the giant evil Pyramid that had risen from the ruins of what was once the South Bannerman Mega Centre.
But smart or stupid, genius or fool, once a man has begun building a steam-powered anti-aircraft gun in a public road, there's no easy way to walk back from it.
Fanaka stood back a little to admire his handiwork. He nodded and smiled – not a happy smile, but a satisfied one. It would work. It would work perfectly. Once Ron fired his rocket, the AA gun would automatically spring into action and shoot it down. Additional AA emplacements around the Pyramid ensured three hundred and sixty degree protection. Carefully prepared labels on each of the guns misidentified them as art installations. Since most of the citizens of South Hertling would happily have walked a mile to avoid an art installation, Fanaka judged them safe from tampering. ...continue reading "Clocks and Boxes — Part 23: Downstage"
Hoonworld Auto was having a sale. The Super Centre carpark was unusually noisy, both from the unusual number of cars for a weekday and the extreme volume of their engines. But on a little bench in a quiet corner, Fanaka sat next to the Brownie. Only a few Super Centre customers walked past, most studiously avoiding the man in the dashiki, a circlet of bronze gears around his head and his companion, a metre-high man with pointed ears, dressed in a black corduroy suit and silk waistcoat embroidered with skulls.
"So, I was wondering if perhaps you have seen him," Fanaka said.
"Look," the Brownie replied. "Thanks for voting to acquit me and all but I don't think I owe you any favours." ...continue reading "Clocks and Boxes — Part 19: Genius"
"Are you sure you haven't seen Ronnie anywhere?" Fanaka said.
"Nay, faith sir, I've not," replied the armoured knight behind the icecream counter.
The ice cream shop was relatively new, it's one staff member on duty was not. He was dressed head to toe in medieval armour, save for the steel gauntlets which had been removed to better facilitating the handling of gelato.
Fanaka sighed an angry sigh. Sir Kay was the last. He had now made contact with everyone from the Time Lost Support Group and no one seemed to know just where Ronnie had hidden himself – and, presumably, Mildred's prototype rocket. ...continue reading "Clocks and Boxes – Part 15: Frustration"
Down the road from the South Hertling Supercentre was a little packet of parkland called South Hertling Reserve. It contained a concrete picnic table, a tiny swing set, and old Scout hut. It also contained the water feature called Hertling Creek, though it was really more of an open stormwater drain than a creek. A footbridge stretched over it, leading to South Hertling railway station.
It was raining gently that night, so Karl prepared to sleep under the footbridge, on a dryish patch of ground. From where he lay, he couldn't see the massive shape of the Pyramid, but it was never far from his mind, its great eye burning into his mind. It just was like that movie where there was a terrible burning eye – what was it called?
Oh, yeah. The Fantastic Four. The Eye was like the sinister gaze of Johnny Storm himself.
"I fear, Karl, that you have gone quite mad," said a cat. ...continue reading "Clocks and Boxes — Interlude: Cats"
Fanaka's step always lifted a little when he walked into the Disposal store. This wasn't so much because of the merchandise. The camping gear and army jackets reminded him unpleasantly of his short stint the Air Force back home. He'd served as a Meteorologist's Mate on a stealth airship, running recon missions over Madagascar. He'd been so happy when his deferment had come through, giving him the chance to get to Nairobi and PAISAW. Then, of course, the accident had happened stranding him in this odd, non-Steampunk, non-Afrocentric world…
But there was one consolation. He'd found another lost soul to love… If soul was indeed the right word.
Nalda Teheintausand was restocking some camping pots when Fanaka entered, and his heart lifted at the sight of her. Nalda. The time travelling killer cyborg that had won his heart. Her hard, thin lips twisted upward when she saw him. Her smile was barely perceptible. But it was enough. He grinned broadly in return. ...continue reading "Clocks and Boxes — Part 11: Clues"