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"

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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"

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The day was bright, so Fanaka had to press his face against the front window of Wintergreen's stationary shop to see inside. Nothing had changed from the last time he looked, except perhaps that the film of dust that covered the shelves had grown deeper. He shook his head. Fanaka had never been a particular friend of Karl Wintergreen, but his mind troubled him whenever he thought about the man's disappearance. And now Alfred said he'd seen Karl around…

It meant something. Fanaka was a scientist, and discrepancies and anomalies were to him like a pea beneath a mattress was to a princess. He grimaced at the empty shop and carried on his way to his destination – Stars in Their Eyes Optics next door.

The proprietor, Mildred Po, was with a customer, so Fanaka passed the time examining a reflecting telescope by the door. The fellow finished his business, turned for the door and saw Fanaka standing there. He hesitated for a second. Fanaka smiled politely, the man gave a brittle smile in return and hurried out, clutching his purchase a little tightly to his body. ...continue reading "Clocks and Boxes — Part 7: Help"

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On the first Thursday of every month, the Time Lost Support group met at the old Scout Hut at South Hertling Reserve. In the draughty echoing space, a ragged circle of folding chairs was set up. Everyone was seated, except for an olive skinned man in a grubby military uniform.

"Hello, I'm Ronnie," he said.

"Hello, Ronnie," chorused the group.

"I fell through a portal from Nazi Dinosaur Earth," Ronnie drawled. "It's… It's better here in some ways. Not quite so many Nazis, you know? But you're not allowed to shoot the Nazis that are here, for some reason." He paused and shook his head. "I do miss the dinosaurs, though."

"I don’t quite follow," Fanaka said. "I suppose there are dinosaurs and Nazis on Dinosaur Nazi Earth, but are the dinosaurs Nazis?"

"Some of 'em, I guess," Ronnie said. "I'm probably stereotyping here, but mostly therapods. But most of the dinosaurs are just dinosaurs, you know? They're usually kind of apolitical."

Fanaka wrote this down carefully in his notebook.  Beside Ronnie and himself, the group that night included a little white man in a tight-fitting jumpsuit and an enormous head, a blonde woman in seventeenth century buccaneer regalia, a Japanese man built like a sumo but dressed as a Roman gladiator, a Aboriginal woman who wore a 1960s spacesuit and Lena, the counselor. A smaller turnout than usual. ...continue reading "Clocks and Boxes — Part 3: Hope"

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When the police arrived, Zorbar stopped stabbing a huge man in a gimp-mask and a DIY Barn apron and scrambled up a Moreton Bay fig tree that had somehow survived the battle. From there he escaped along the line of plane trees in Hurley Road.

Other than that, most of the survivors surrendered fairly easily. Axel seemed barely aware when the police strapped him into a Lechter-gurney and strapped on a hockey mask. Fiona was weeping in relief when she was bundled into the van, her guilt finally assuaged. Laura accepted the handcuffs with the bad grace of someone who knew she could tear the chains apart with a thought. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself — Chapter 72: Pyramid Scheme"

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Laura stood out back of the burning ruins of the DIY Barn, knocking the few remaining Barnling minions about. It was unrewarding work. She didn't quite understand Vicilancers bylaws, but she was pretty sure she wasn't supposed to use her superpowers on basic thugs. Her isotopic skin meant that none of the Barnlings could hurt her, but taking them down one by one with basic judo was time consuming. She half hoped that the Barn would set a ninja or a war robot on her, but so far no joy.

At least her future self seemed to have vanished. Honestly, this didn't bother her. The woman's deliberate mysteriousness had bothered her from the start. Laura didn't even know why she was still hanging around in the present. She'd given her warning of the future. For all the good it had done. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself — Chapter 71: Laura’s Future"

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Axel --or, as he was increasingly thinking of himself 'Old Axel' -- took cover behind a burning Volvo station wagon, and looked down the front of his shirt. He was covered with bruises. Fresh bruises. That wasn't how this was supposed to go down. If young Axel was being injured, old Axel should certainly be seeing new/old scars. It was one of the surest signs of temporal chicanery. But fresh bruises... that made no sense.

He glanced over the top of the car. Mild mannered Jane Nguyen was screaming as she beat a fallen Barnling with a garden rake. A barrage of rockets aimed at Bruce were absorbed by one of Fiona's water spouts. Axel ducked his head down again.

If he'd just been there, doing what was required of him... making super weapons for the Pavilion, then the Barnlings wouldn't  have stood a chance. Instead he had ended up in prison. Somehow.

Time! Something was going wrong with time. Well, whatever it was ought to be affecting his memories, too. Axel concentrated, clearing his head of the noises of the battle raging outside and thought back to the day it had all "happened."

...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 68 – So How Did Axel and Sadie End Up in Prison? or “Chapter 50.5”"

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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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Seamus the gnome awoke under the full moon, finding himself alive and well. He felt himself up and down for cracks or chips. He felt nothing at first, but realised that the arm with which he was feeling was sore and stiff and he realised that it had been glued back on.

"Feckin' terrific," he said. "Sure and it's a hardware store here. Ye'd think there would be better glue."

"Oh, that's bloody gratitude."

Seamus looked up to see Wellsey lounging against a shelving unit full of trellises, and munching on a sandwich.

"We had a man down and a destroyed AA gun that was looking like it was going to set fire to the Pavilion," Wellsey said. "I figured you wouldn't bleed out while I found some superglue and a clamp." ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 57 — Gnome Time to Lose"

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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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