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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The battle was swift and the battle was merciless. Norman ran directly at a silver-clad Barnling, a length of two-by-four his only weapon. The Barnling raised his gun, but Norman's stout plank cracked this opponent square in the wrist, and the weapon went skittering over the bitumen of Wellington Road, landing under a car. The Barnling turned to face Norman, but too late. Another blow of the two-bee sent him sprawling to the ground with a shattered shoulder.

Norman almost laughed out loud. After the dread of the last few weeks, the actual battle seemed almost easy. Then something hit him in the head. Hard. He never saw it coming -- never knew if it was an enemy strike or a mis-aimed blow from a friend. Either way, he fell to one knee, clutching his injury. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself — Chapter 64: Apotheosis Now"

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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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Christian sat in the staff room, a blanket around his shoulders and the nicest meal he'd had in weeks in front of him. The Phantasm was toasted him sandwich after sandwich and plying him with sugary tea. Most of his workmates were marshaling outside, but a few stood and listened as he spoke breathlessly of his ordeal:

"…And there was nothing to eat but luncheon meat and cabbage, and we had to watch Barn employees confess to their crimes on black and white TVs, then we had to spend five minutes hating Emanuel Goldstein – I think he's Jeff Goldblum's brother or something – and there was nothing to read but Jackboot Enthusiast Quarterly and they tried to torture me with a slowly descending pendulum, but it squeaked and the torturer got annoyed but anyway, I know where the weak spot is on the Barn." ...continue reading "Do It Yourself — Chapter 62: The Breakroom of War"

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Belinda was kind of a pain in the arse. That was no great secret. If asked, she would have admitted without hesitation to being 'kind of a pain in the arse' and then she would have laughed really annoyingly, just so that there was no mistaking she meant it.

Belinda wasn't a terrible person, by any means. Just one of those people who have no particularly desire to be good, but lack the ambition to be especially bad. She was a second-rate employee of the Handy Pavilion. She was an indifferent stock filler, with mediocre product knowledge and her tendency to see customers as unwitting spectators to her hackneyed impromptu comedy bits.

But… Of course there's a but. No one is completely useless, and there were two things that Belinda was very, very good at. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself — Chapter 61: On the Practical Applications of Cosplay"

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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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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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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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1

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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Donna cast an eye over the morning deliveries of lightbulbs and sighed. She had never realised just how much work Sadie had accomplished until Sadie hadn't been there. Now, even though business was poor and customers were thin on the ground, Donna could barely keep up with doing the work of her supervisor as well as her own. Marlon had given her extra hours to try to deal with the workload, and Donna's studies were suffering. Still she endured.

She endured because that was what Sadie would have wanted. Sadie never quit or gave in. Sadie's job had been shedding light on her customers, and that is what she had done. She had never wavered, never faltered. Not until the end. Not until she had fallen into darkness. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 54 — Deliver Us Not"

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