Though the battle around her was bloody and cruel, Sadie MacGregor fought fair. That went without saying, perhaps -- that even in the middle of a bloody battle she fought Marquis of Queensbury style. It made no difference to her. She wasn't supposed to be involved at all. Not this way.

A Barnling ran shrieking at her with a weapon made from a broom handle and two garden forks, and she simply felled him with a well-placed sock to the chin. That was how your do it. The Barnling was unconscious, but would recover. Sadie checked the sleeping man's conscience and noted that he'd been padding his hours for weeks. That was morally wrong, and yet Sadie felt a brief flicker of sympathetic triumph on the man's behalf for ripping off the DIY Barn.

This mission. It had… It had weakened her. Watered down her resolve. Done something to her, anyway. The only consolation was that it had done the same thing to her sister. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 67: Gaslight"

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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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In the darkening car park in front of the Handy Pavilion, Laura listened patiently to Buck Dusty's long expository story of magic, conspiracy and the eternal peril approaching all dimensions. She listened in silence as he explained the origins of the Grey Barn and how the fate of all dimensions is intertwined, all along the vast wheel of fate.

Once he had finished, she turned to Bruce. "You buying this?"

"Yeah, yeah, secret war, fate of civilisation," Bruce said. "Think I read this story I was a kid. Reckon it had the Silver Surfer in it. Hey, you're a super hero. Do you know the Silver Surfer? What's he like?" ...continue reading "Do It Yourself — Chapter 58 Tall Tales Part 2"

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It was Laura Cho's first day at the Handy Pavillion, and her trainee badge was pinned to a neatly ironed apron over her polo shirt. Her excitement on starting her new job was rapidly dwindling, since Adam had parked her close to the entrance and told her to wait for her supervisor.

That had been half an hour ago. Not only was she bored, customers kept coming up to her and asking questions that she couldn't possibly answer, then getting annoyed when she didn't know.

She wished she could go hide in the break-room, but she didn't know where it was.

"Excuse me?" came a voice.

"Yeah, no, I'm new here, so…" she turned and nearly jumped to see a little man in a Handy Pavilion uniform. He had slate grey hair and a deeply lined face, and stank of tobacco. "Oh, sorry, I thought you were a customer."

...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 19 Origin Story"

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Gwen saw Ms Shan dropped a pencil near the information counter, and Norman rush to pick it up. He smiled winningly as he handed it to her. She acknowledged his action with a gesture and moved on, leaving Norman staring, sighing at her back. Gwen bit her hand. What a fool. What a fool she had been!

All around her were the Handy Pavilion staff, going about their business as if it were just another day. It was a quiet day. Fiona lugged a box of taps. Adam laughed uncomfortably at one of Belinda's jokes. Axel Platzoff, rubbing his eyes, was being lectured by Sadie MacGregor. Marlon and Wellsey were deep in conversation. Customers were few, but present. An elderly man in a tweed jacket staggered under too many cans of paint. A carpenter's apprentice eyed expensive hammers with a wistful sigh. A short woman and her tall husband pushed a trolley full of plants.

No one looked at Gwen. If the world ends with aliens or fire and brimstone or zombies, then everyone is in on the fight. When the world ends in heartbreak, there you are, alone. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 17: A Bad Deal All Round"

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Marlon had never liked Jasu Shan, but he was happy beyond words to see her. Ms Shan was abrasive and talked over him and would change the topic of conversation right in the middle of one of his sentences, and there wasn't a damned thing he could do about it because she was the General Manager and he was just the Duty Manager.

When Ms Shan taken ill, Marlon had been quietly pleased. He'd expected corporate to put someone else in charge for a while, preferably some quiet little pen-pusher who would take care of the big picture stuff and leave Marlon to the rest. In fact, head office had made Marlon acting manager. He'd been doing double duty as General Manager and Duty Manager in exchange for a nominal--and temporary—raise in salary.

Even that he might have coped with, had sales not started tanking when the Handy Pavilion opened. That had put him in the awkward position of being both the good-guy boss he liked to believe himself to be--champion of his staff against the penny-pinchers at head office--while simultaneously acting as a penny-pincher from head office. It was vexing. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 12: Tea and Scandal"

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A man was looking at melamine boards. He checked their lengths for defects, then raised them it to eye height and held it straight ahead to see if it was straight. He was doing a terrible job of it, taking too long about it and picking a bunch of boards that even from five metres away, Gwen could see were sub-par.

The customer had probably never had to check boards before. He'd probably learned the technique out of a book or a YouTube video. Men who were just starting in on woodwork tended to be like that. There seemed to be a weird belief amongst men that woodworking is in the blood, and so asking for help was admitting something was wrong with them.

They seemed perfectly okay with asking about paint, though. Colours. Women's stuff. A bloke could be forgiven for not knowing. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 9: The Phial"

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Gwen sipped her coffee in the breakroom that smelled of smoke. She didn't light up herself. She smoked, but she did not care for tobacco. For all his laxness on OHS, Marlon did not appreciate it when anything else was smoked in the workplace.

She drummed her fingers on the plastic table. There was much on her mind. She lived a simple life, and seldom found herself with great moral choices to make. What Pennington offered… It can’t have been the right thing to do. And yet, how could she say no? Legally, Pennington’s plan was probably legal. No law against it – or if there was, it were part of some old law against witchcraft, something that remained on the books even though no one had cared since the dark ages. No, there was no law against it exactly. But there were similar things, modern things that were pretty damn illegal. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 4: Coffee Break"

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The wood sang its sweet song to Gwendolyn Harper, but for once she could not listen. Most days, she could hear little else. Her ears filled with a thousand tunes and she was happy. Now there was no room in her broken heart for the joy of wood.

Sunday morning and the crowds were yet to arrive. Gwen worked in the timber section of Handy Pavilion, amongst the vast shelves of potential. Rough long baulks of framing pine, neat thin strips of hardwood decking, huge pallets overloaded with sheets of plywood and MDF. This was her kingdom and these were her people, and yet she would give it all away from one sweet kiss from the man she loved from afar.

Norman, his name was. Norman. Nor-man. New hire. Worked in power tools. He was a young man of perhaps twenty, perhaps less. He had a tufty little beard which didn’t suit him, and yet which could not obscure his beauty. There were tattoos up and down his arms. She wondered how far they extended beneath his shirt, beneath his apron. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself — Chapter 2: A Wooden Chorus"

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