Fridays were the worst days, Laura decided. No, wait. Saturdays were the worst. Not counting Thursdays, obviously. She sighed, and looked at her watch. Only three hours to go. Then she could take off, change into her Voyager costume and go fight some crime.
She grimaced at the thought. She had never really wanted to be a superhero, but the job had grown on her. Yeah, a lot of it was kind of stupid. That whole alien gorilla thing she’d dealt with the week before… seriously, what had that been about? But sometimes–not always, but sometimes–the people she had to put in prison were very bad people indeed. It made the whole thing seem a little less pointless.
“‘Scuse me,” a customer said. He was a lumpy looking guy in a singlet that left little to the imagination. “Where’s pulleys?”
“Two aisles over,” Laura said.
“I looked there,” the man complained.
“They’re right down the end.”
“I looked right down the end.”
“Right down the far end.”
The man grunted, narrowed his eyes and lumbered off. Seriously, what did he think? That she was hiding the pulleys? Hoarding them for some reason?
Laura went back to taking recalled air pumps off the shelf. Two hours and fifty five minutes. Laura had heard that the Crime Cats were on the loose again. Was it too much to hope that maybe they’d rob a bank or two? They’d been the number one crime gang for years, and now they were laying low. What were they, pussies?
Well, of course they were, but…
Laura put her head down and looked busy as Marlon and Ms Shen came walking through. They both looked pretty grim. Laura had heard that the DIY Barn management had been challenging some development plans at the local council. Ostensibly, these were the plans of the Super Centre, but they indirectly affected the Handy Pavilion pretty bad and oh God, Laura could barely stay awake just thinking about it. She wished she was punching someone. Maybe the Human Sandbag, he was pretty easy on the knuckles.
“I looked,” said the lumpy customer.
Laura sighed. “I’ll show you…”
“No need, you can just tell me.”
“Okay. Two aisles down?”
“Left hand side, facing the back of the store?”
The lumpy customer seemed to think about this for a moment. “Left side. You sure they’re there?”
“Okay,” the customer said, those two syllables both dripping distrust. He stumped off again.
She had hardly put her head down, when she heard a noise behind her.
“Look, you go past the collapsible trolleys, and… Oh, my God!” she gasped. Looking up, she did not see the lumpy customer. Instead, she saw a woman who was her exact duplicate–which was kind of a freakout, quite frankly.
“Evil twin?” Laura said. “Other dimensional duplicate?”
“I’m you, from the future,” Other Laura said.
“Ah,” Laura said. On a closer look, she could see that her other self did was beginning to go grey, and had a few extra lines on her face. “You’re gonna be annoying and refuse to tell me anything interesting or useful because time streams, blah blah blah, aren’t you?”
“Got it in one,” Older Laura said.
Laura examined the dress Older Laura was wearing. It was knee length, made of stiff green plastic, and had a high, square collar.
“Is that what we’re wearing in twenty years time?”
“Ten years,” Older Laura said, touching her face. “You really need to stay out of the sun more. And would it hurt you to moisturise?”
“God, you sound like my Mum,” Laura said. A moment later, the implications of this hit home. “Awwww!”
“There, there,” Older Laura said. “Hey, want to see my Nobel Peace Prize?”
“Then work harder on promoting peace,” Older Laura laughed. “Hang on, I’ve got to hide.”
To Laura’s surprised, her older doppelganger slid sideways between a couple of enormous, wheeled toolboxes, hiding herself in the tiny space between the box and the back of the shelving unit. Laura was impressed. At least she hadn’t put on weight.
A second later, she saw who Older Laura was hiding from. The lumpy customer reappeared. Laura sighed. “Are you sure you don’t want me to just lead you…”
“No,” the man said. “I’m not stupid. Just tell me.”
Laura repeated the instructions, this time adding that the pulleys were on the two middle shelves. Again, the man squinted at her in deep suspicion, and walked off. Older Laura reappeared.
“Please tell me I get a better job,” Laura said.
“That’s down to you,” Older Laura said. “You do the job you have now, to the absolute bare minimum that’s required. You think you’re going to get a better job that way, go nuts.”
“Do you need contacts for that hindsight?” Laura said. “No? It’s 20/20, you say? How nice for you. So what did you come backwards in time for, anyway?”
“There’s something you do need to know,” Older Laura said. “Something important. Something critical. The entire future of the world depends on what happens, right here, right now. I’m breaking a fundamental law of the universe to tell you this, but you must know or then entire world may be doomed.”
Laura’s annoyance faded. There was something so earnest about her older self’s tone, something so urgent. She scanned Older Laura’s face, which she knew almost as well as her own. Yes, she meant it.
“Okay,” Laura said. “What do I have to know?”
“Firstly: the DIY Barn,” Older Laura said. “You think that they’re just a rival hardware store. It’s not. It’s a force of sheer, unadulterated evil. It must be stopped.”
The DIY Barn? Laura knew that Ms Shen and Marlon and that pain-in-the-ass Axel all had bees in their bonnets about the place. They had kidnapped Zorbar, after all. But a threat to the entire world? How did that even work?
“What should I do?” Laura said.
“You must thwart the DIY Barn, any chance you get,” Older Laura said. Her eyes narrowed. “Any chance, anyway, any time.”
“And the other thing?” Laura said. “You said ‘firstly?'”
“The second thing is, if anything, even more important than the first,” Older Laura said. “If you falter in the struggle against the Barn, the world will suffer. If you fail in this second mission, the whole universe will be shaken to its very foundations.”
Older Laura pointed to the end of the aisle, where the lumpy customer stood, scratching his head.
“You must never let that man find the pulleys!”