Ms Shan turned and wiped blood from her eye just in time to see the DIY Barn explode into flames. The fighting slowed to a halt for a moment, as the footsoldiers of both sides stopped to watch the flames rise towards the heavens. In the sudden stillness, Ms Shan could hear the approaching sound of sirens. Moments later, small pieces of burning roofing material began gently snowing down on South Hertling.

That should have been victory. That should have been the end of the fight. Barn gone. War over. It seemed obvious to her, but it was Ms Shan's blessing and curse always to be seeing what others could not.

A Barnling – just a retail person, not a silver guard – threw a punch at a distracted Pavilionite. And Belinda -- who had somehow gotten hold of one of Fanaka's superweapons – turned the Barnling into a pink mist with a push of a button. Then the giant lizard punched Bruce, and a silver guard punched Adam in the face and Fiona tried to drown what looked like some sort of war ogre, and before Ms Shan could demand the Barn's surrender the battle was on again. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 69: Red Mist"

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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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Dawn found both sides of Wellington Road full of people in polo shirts and aprons. The occasional car drove by, and an observer in one might have noticed that the people on the northern side of the road wore their uniforms more neatly ironed than those on the south, that their work boots were more highly polished, that they stood in neat lines while those on the south side tended to favour rough circles.

This observer might have wondered what was going on. Probably some sort of charity event? Yes, that would be the most likely explanation. At first. Then this observer might have noticed just how many of the people on both sides carried crowbars, hammers, Stanley knives. At this point, the observer's attention would have snapped back in the direction of the traffic lights as they frantically waited for them to change to green. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself — Chapter 63: Twilight at Dawn"

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Marlon was the first to be called. He was alone at home. He should have been in bed, he knew, but the empty bed was cold and uninviting. He sat on the couch watching old war movies. He'd bought a bottle each of rum and Coke to drink while he watched, but he'd grown bored of drinking before finishing the first glass.

His heart leapt when he heard his phone ring, then fell when he saw the caller ID. Not a friend or a lover calling to chat. It was Ms Shan. He answered, knowing what the message would be.

"Marlon here."

"The battle's on," Ms Shan said. "Tomorrow. Dawn." ...continue reading "Do It Yourself — Chapter 59: The Call"

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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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Wellsey leant against one of the pillars that held up the lofty roof of the Handy Pavilion and sighed deeply. It really was just one of those days. Marlon, leaning on the other side of the pillar, sighed even more deeply. From his jeans pocket he took a hip flask, took a swallow, and handed the bottle to Wellsey. Wellsey shook his head. Marlon shrugged, and slipped the flask away.

"You and Joyce got Valentine's Day plans?" Marlon said.

Something came hurtling over the nearest shelving unit. Part of a toilet? Something porcelain anyway. Both men ducked as it hit a nearby shelf, smashing a pile of paint cans, sending blue acrylic dripping to the floor.

"Nothing fancy," Wellsey said There's a Valentine's special at our local restaurant. Free bottle of champagne. And we don't get out as much as we used to. How about you?" ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 55 — Principles of Retail Management"

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Claudia Lebeau sat across the desk from Ms Shan. Ms Shan sat behind the MDF desk in her little office, her fingers steepled in front of her. The office was small and while it had some very pleasant associations for Mrs Lebrau, right then it seemed oppressive. It was airless and the only decoration was a small brass statute, a dying peace lily and a one of those posters that is meant to inspire but somehow only serve to bring the spirit a little closer to breaking.

"Officially, I can take no action," Claudia Lebeau said.

"I understand," Jasu Shan replied, and it was the worst thing she could possibly have said.

If Jasu had argued, Claudia had arguments. If she'd shouted, Claudia could have stalked off in a huff. If she'd threatened, well, Claudia could have reminded her that she was in no position to make more enemies.

Instead,  she'd simply agreed. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 50 — Third Wheels and Fifth Columns"

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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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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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"Hi, what can I get you?" Norman said. He was under the counter, taking stock when the customer came in. Why did the Handy Pavilion coffee shop have three times as many small cup lids as it had small cups? It just didn't make any sense.

"Can you do me a Greek coffee?"

"Don’t have the settup for Turkish coffee."

"I didn't ask for a Turkish coffee, I asked for a Greek coffee."

"It's all the same sh… Oh, it's you, Dad." Norman rose, dusting his hands with a paper towel. "Basically we're just set up for espresso. I can get you a short black, if you like."

Norman's father was a handsome, broad faced man with thick salt-and-pepper hair and a neatly trimmed grey beard. He was a couple of inches taller than Norma and looked like he worked out. The sleeves of his fawn windcheater bulged with muscle.

"Just a cup of tea will be fine," he said, "if I can't get a proper coffee."

...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 33: Family Business"

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