Alfred's usual lunch was a roast beef sandwich with horseradish. Most of his life, he'd eaten that on white bread with the crusts cut off, but his doctor had all but twisted his arm over his diet and so now he ate it on multigrain with crusts and alfalfa sprouts.

Today, though, today he was doing a thing that he rarely did, and that was eat out. He did this perhaps once a year and never happily. The great comfort of a regular lunch is never having to decide what to eat, but he had left his sandwich at home in the fridge, so it was eat out or go hungry. And eating out meant making a decision.

Alfred leaned on the counter of his shop and chewed his lip. There was a food court in the South Hertlng Mall, but that was far enough away that he felt justified in ruling it out. And both of the food outlets at the Mega Centre had been destroyed at the coming of the Pyramid. That left just two choices, Carol's or the kebab shop. ...continue reading "Clocks and Boxes — Part 4: Food"

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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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4

It was nearing midday. Alfred could tell because shadow of tip of the Pyramid pointed directly at the door of his shop. Alfred looked up into the burning eye of the vast structure and shook his head. Like most of the locals, he found that the best way to deal with the Pyramid was to not think about it too hard.

From his doorway, Alfred looked around the South Hertling Super Centre. It had been weeks since the Battle of Wellington Road. When the Great Pyramid had arisen from the ruins of the Mega Centre it had initially been bad for business. But other people had joined Alfred in not thinking about it too hard, and gradually the customers had returned.

A clock rang – the only clock in Alfred's shop that was set to the correct time and which had the ringer turned on. Twelve o'clock. Delia Crispin left Storage World to go to Carol's Café. The same time ever day, precisely.

"Morning, Alfred," she said, her grey bun bobbing as she nodded at him. ...continue reading "Clocks and Boxes – Part 1: Time"

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Bruce's bad back was starting to get to him. It didn't seem fair, somehow – being reincarnated in a giant robot body and still having a bad back. He hoped the giant lizard that he was fighting would go down soon, because he didn't know how long he could keep going anyway. Technically, he shouldn't be up at all. The sun was above the horizon, and as a ghost he wasn't active of a daytime. Somehow though, he was still fighting on, and he didn't know how.

He put the thought from his mind, just as he put from his mind the image of all the people dying in the street below. Concentrate. Concentrate on the lizard, the huge scaly lizard.

The thing was as big as him, and tough with it. Its bones seemed weirdly flexible, which was perhaps why the thing was able to absorb blows that should have crushed its skull.  Bruce had been a big guy in life and he was a big guy in death, and like a lot of big guys he'd never found it necessary to learn how to fight. All he knew how to do was trade punch for punch with the lizard and hope that the creature would go down before Bruce's back went out and he had to lie down. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself — Chapter 70: Bruce’s Back"

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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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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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Karl Wintergreen used an old fashioned pre-digital camera and developed the negatives himself in a little darkroom he'd set up in the back of his stationary shop. Partly this was because he preferred the warm tones that you only get with film photography but, yeah, mostly it was so that the Illuminati couldn't hack his pictures.

"The only way to keep your information safe is keep it offline," he'd written on his blog, in at least a dozen posts.

To ensure the safety of his images, Karl's camera was a 1970s model, completely free of electronic components. The lack of a flash made night time photography problematic, but right then his subjects were beautifully illuminated by the rays of the rising sun, which suffused a golden glow over the field of carnage before him. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself — Chapter 66: War Correspondent"

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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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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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