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Hot autumn was turning to freezing winter when Wellsey returned to the Pavilion. He stopped just before the automatic doors. He knew exactly where the invisible line was, that opened the doors if crossed. He drew a deep breath, held it for the count of ten, let it out slowly, and stepped forward.

Inside, he spotted Axel, helping an elderly customer find a cardboard box of an appropriate size for the old girl's gardening supplies. Wellsey felt his eyes narrow.

"Axel," he said in the most neutral tone he could manage.

"Morning, Wellsey," Axel said. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 22: No Way Out"

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Here's the draft of my newsletter, Claudia. Once again I must formally protest the fact that this has to be passed by the Commissar for approval before publication – Karl Wintergreen.

Objection noted. Here is the amended draft. Change any of my edits I'll shut down your newsletter so fast you won't know what hit you – Claudia Lebeaux.

South Hertling Super Centre Newsletter, 1 June 2016.

Mysterious Accidents Plague Handy Pavilion

By Karl Wintergreen

Mere weeks after the accident out the back of the Handy Pavilion, allegedly caused by the actions of rogue superhero Captain Stellar, but in reality probably caused by a ley-line shift orchestrated by the Trilateral Commission, HP staff and customers have reported a number of serious accidents. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 21 Newsletter 2"

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The Handy Pavilion was packed to the gills with customers. This was always the way on a Saturday. But on this Saturday things were even more hectic thanks to the public appearance of Sydney's newest superhero, Voyager, just out the front, downwind of the Rotary Club sausage sizzle.

The scent of sausages and onions made Voyager's mouth water. She couldn't buy a sausage sandwich, though. Her stupid costume didn't have any pockets. Her utility belt was full of crime-fighting gear, but the designer had neglected to include a change pouch. She decided that she should get rid of one of the micro-torches. She could melt steel with her eye beams, what did she need it for anyway?

Voyager took photo after photo with her new fans. "The public loves its newest hero best," Aquaticwoman had told her with a touch of bitterness. Voyager didn't quite know yet whether she liked the attention, as she had her picture taken with customer after customer. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 20 The Return"

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It was Laura Cho's first day at the Handy Pavilion, 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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"Are you sure about this?" Wellsey asked.

"Could you be any more clichéd?" Belinda said. "'Are you sure about this?'" she added in a high-pitched mockery of Wellsey's voice. "Gahd."

The Handy Pavilion was spooky in the dark. No, Wellsey thought, not spooky. Terrifying. The huge shelves towered up into the darkness, dark and ghostly pale in the dim moonlight. The air hung still and hot, undisturbed by the vast ceiling fans that hung idle beneath the ghostly ceiling. The building seemed at the same time too large and too small, dwarfing Wellsey and yet leaving him all too aware of the many places some terrible thing might hide. Wellsey stood in the middle of aisle eight, his growing dread focused on the folding table, covered with black candles and surrounded by director chairs.

"Fuck you," he said. "I don't mean, 'are you sure we should be doing this?', I mean, 'are you sure this will work?'" ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 18: From Across the Veil"

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Gwen watched as Ms Shan dropped a pencil near the information counter, and Norman rushed 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! To have given so much up, only for nothing.

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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Jasu Shan closed the door to the office, mixed a cocktail of Paracetamol and Quickeze into her coffee, then swilled the whole thing down. Just hold on, Jasu. Darelson promised a position at head office, just as soon as Vickers retired... Old Vickers, who was barely getting by, these days. Just hold on and soon you'll be out of this dump.

Trouble had started almost as soon as she'd arrived that morning. Jane Nguyen from the Equipment Hire counter was one of that section of the staff that Ms Shen thought of as 'the normal people'. She had been showing off her new smart phone, and somehow managed to trigger the self-destruct system on Nalda Teheintausand's internal fission reactor. Axel Platzoff had tried to jerry-rig a carbon-rod dampening system out of charcoal briquettes, but Donna from lighting hacked Nalda's system and initiated shutdown mode before Axel had made much progress. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 16: Management Conference"

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There were two coffee shops at the South Hertling Super Centre. One, in Captain Stellar's opinion, was quite a nice one. It was located just in between the Barbecue Imperium and Arthur C. Clock's Timepiece World. The barista there was a slightly annoying but basically quite nice hipster woman named Carol, who sold organic coffee and gluten free wraps.

The other was in a dingy little corner of the Handy Pavilion, just by outdoor furniture. It sold second-rate coffee at first-rate coffee prices to those too tired or lazy to walk all the way across the vast car park to Carol's.

Captain Stellar would have liked to go to Carol's, but without his coffee he didn't have the energy. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 15: Light and Dark"

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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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"Have you noticed Ms Shan's hair?"

Axel looked up from the cans of grout he was stacking at Norman, who leaned wistfully against the mighty shelves.

"I have not noticed Ms Shan's hair, particularly," Axel said. "What is it about her hair that I ought to have noticed?"

"It's very black," Norman said.

"Well, she is Indian," Axel said. "Black hair rather comes with the territory."

"So black," Norman shighed. "Like a really black car. But not one of those matte black ones, though. Her hair is shiny."

"I quite like those matte black cars," Axel said. "I'm thinking of buying one, as soon as the International Court of Justice lifts my driving ban." ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 13: Axel’s Day"

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