Shortly before Storage Universe closed for the evening, Ms Lebeaux the Centre Manager stopped by. Delia was away at a trade show so she chatted to Donna for a while before going home, leaving a spice-scented plastic bag on the counter. Curiously, Donna didn't follow her to give it back, but she took it in into the back room of Storage World. There she opened the trapdoor to the oubliette and brought the evening meal down to Ms Shan.

The oubliette was about the size that Ms Shan's office had been, back at the Handy Pavilion. It was sparsely furnished with a camp bed and a single chair. Ms Shan sat on the bed in her combat fatigues, talking to Vincent Pizano the lawyer. ...continue reading "Clocks and Boxes – Part 9: Laws"

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Past

"Is Fanaka here?"

Alfred looked up from his laptop where he was balancing his shop's books. Before him was a thirty-ish white man in a camouflage jacket over a t-shirt, who spoke in an accent Alfred couldn't place. "Today's Fanaka's day off," he said. "If you need a watch repaired, you can leave it with me and I'll give it to him tomorrow."

The man scratched his head. This gesture caused his jacket to fall open, so Alfred could see his t-shirt more clearly. It showed what looked like a feathered velociraptor in a pickelhaube helmet, one tiny arm held up in a Roman salute. This image was framed by a circle, and featured a line through the middle. ...continue reading "Clocks and Boxes – Part 8: Ghosts"

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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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As she did every Tuesday, Delia stopped by the Place O'Pets to pick up supplies. She bustled in, studiously avoiding Captain Pete, the one handed aquarium specialist. She made her way past displays full of flea collars, chew toys and lizard dentures, to the food section. There she filled her trolley and took it directly to the counter.

At the till stood the imposing figure of Zorbar, husband of Carol from the coffee shop and semi-domesticated ape-man.  He scratched at his lime green Place O'Pets polo shirt as if he wanted to tear it apart.

"Zorbar have question Miss Crispin," he said. "You buy dog food. Zorbar smell dog. You buy cat food. Zorbar no smell cat. Why that?" ...continue reading "Clocks and Boxes — Part 6: Friends"

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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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3

Delia loved untidiness. That would have surprised most people that met her. She wore immaculately tailored suits an kept her hair back in the tightest bun you could imagine. The jewellery she wore was restrained and tasteful. Her car was ten years old, but as clean and shiny as the day she bought it. Her staff at Storage World in the South Hertling Super Centre all looked at her with a mix of utmost respect and abject terror. She looked like the sort of person who said the phrase "a place for everything and everything in its place" more often than she said "good morning."

But she loved untidiness, sure enough. Mess, unruliness, chaos. She loved it like a valued enemy, a worthy foe. She loved it like a hunter might love a wily jaguar, like a chivalric knight might love his opposite number in the enemy lines, like a master detective might love a criminal mastermind. Oh, she'd fight her foe. Destroy it if she could. But that didn't for one moment make her love it any less.

The day she found the Measure, she arrived at work as she did every morning -- an hour before opening. She fed her guest in the cellar, then cleaned her little shop from top to bottom. She had already cleaned it before leaving the night before, but that made no difference. When her staff arrived, she would make them clean it again, for chaos is a tricky foe. ...continue reading "Clocks and Boxes — Part 2: Space"

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(Note for non-Australians: a 'ute' (pronounced 'yoot') is a type of light truck with the tray integrated into the body.)

"Zorbar?"

In a second, Zorbar of the Chimps went from sleeping lightly to wide awake. He had his knife pressed against the flesh of the intruder's throat before… Oh, wait, it was only Norman. Zorbar sheathed his blade.

"Jesus, Zorbar," Norman said, rubbing his neck.

"Zorbar sorry, Norman."

"You nearly cut me head off, Zorb. I think you need a little more than a sorry."

"Please not call Zorbar 'Zorb.'"

"I mean, I was just doing you a favour, waking you up before Adam gets in. You know how pissed off he was last time he caught you sleeping in the treehouse."

"Adam jerk," Zorbar said, pulling on a pair of pants in the tiny space. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself — Chapter 14: Zorbar and the Ute"

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Marlon had never liked Jasu Shan, but now 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 DIY Barn had 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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Seamus awoke to the full moon shining down on the Handy Pavilion garden centre. He yawned and stretched, though even at full extension his arms didn't go very far. He smacked his lips and put his pipe in between his teeth, though he did not, could not light it.

Standing, he began his inspection. All the neat rows of plants, all the trees and seedlings, all the ferns and that little corner full of bonsais. Walking slowly on his little legs, he began his methodical rounds, examining the leaves, testing the dampness of the soil, squinting in the moonlight for any sign of aphids or thrips.

He had one night to do it. He had to make it count. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 11: Silver Men in Moonlight"

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2

From the South Hertling Super Centre Newsletter February 29th , 2016:

Robbery Nearly Strikes Super Centre

By Karl Wintergreen

Last week, an armoured car was robbed on Wellington Rd, mere moments away from the South Hertling Supercentre. Had it been a mere fifty metres south, the car would have been within the precincts of our beloved Supercentre. This, apparently, would have justified the expense of an additional issue of this newsletter, to write about the exciting crime. But, since it took place a whole fifty metres away, I was unable to write about it until now. Also, I am not allowed to devote the entire issue to the crime, since I still have to make space for that piece about how Place 'O Pets teamed up with the local high school to raise money for Guide Dogs.

Some of you are probably interested in that crap. Sheeple. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 8: The Newsletter"

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