Truth Among Conveyancer

Tears streamed down Maphira’s face as Vai dragged her away. Rylee knew? How could she possibly have known? For years, Maphira had wanted to tell her the truth, that’s she’d seen Cole die, that she even considered herself partly responsible for it, but instead she’d simply claimed he had gone missing, too afraid to reveal the truth.

She’d been on a special assignment, years ago now. It had been the biggest case of her career, investigating a crime syndicate that had appeared in Melbourne. Cole hadn’t been a cop, but he’d begged her to bring him along. After all, the Syndicate’s latest victim was none other than Cole’s best friend.

Against her better judgement, she’d brought him along. It wasn’t supposed to get dangerous, but the Syndicate had caught the scent of their investigation and ambushed Maphira and Cole. She’d escaped with her life; he hadn’t. And the fact that she’d brought him with her was something she’d never had the courage to reveal.

The fact that Rylee knew and had somehow already forgiven her only made Maphira feel worse, as Vai dragged her through the haunted conveyancing firm. Distantly, she heard Vai’s voice, musing about whether this place was haunted by the spirits of past conveyancing solicitors. Maphira was too distracted by her own memories to give it any thought.

They entered a new section of the conveyancing museum, where things seemed to be a little less chaotic. Maphira wiped tears from her eyes and heaved for breath. She looked back, down the corridor, through the section dedicated to the many conveyancing firms in Sandringham.

“You better make it out of there alive,” Maphira said, thinking of her sister. They had their differences and their issues, but at the end of the day, nothing could break the bond between them.

“She’ll be fine, Mai,” said Vai. “She’d gotten out of worse situations, I’m sure. And besides, she worked as a real estate agent/buyer’s agent/conveyancer for a while. If anyone can get out of a haunted conveyancing museum, it’s her.”


Lost Among Renovators

Memories flashed through Maphira’s head as she walked through the offices of a renovation business. Moments throughout her life that should have been obvious signs, completely missed. 

How once, her first girlfriend had wanted to get to know her better, while Maphira simply wanted to keep playing video games with her. That time someone had been apparently flirting with her all night, then when she said she wasn’t interested in them, they stormed off, claiming she had been leading them on. How when she’d got to high school she’d assessed all the students and decided that none of them was her type, so she’d just be single until she became an adult, and that was totally okay with her.

It makes so much sense. I don’t want a relationship, I just want someone to hang out with and be my best friend.

“Excuse me, miss? Can I help you?”

Maphira found herself standing in front of a man, having almost walked into him. For a moment, she thought he’d seen through her disguise, before remembering that they’d changed out of those disguises before heading to the renovation business.

“Uh, I was just looking into disabled bathroom design. It’s for my brother, you see. We need a major bathroom renovation. He fell out of a tree six months ago and has been recovering ever since. He’s finally ready to come home, but we need to make things more accessible. Wheelchair, you know.”

The man put his hands together. “You’ve come to the right place. We offer some of the best bathroom and laundry renovations Melbourne has around, both for people with disabilities and otherwise. Come with me – I’ll help you get sorted.”

As he turned away, Maphira looked around. Somehow, she’d lost Rylee and Vai. 

She really had to get her head in the game before it was too late. The conveyancing firm was coming up soon, and after that: Bender. It was time to finish this, once and for all. Her identity crisis would have to wait.


Truth and Glass

To pass the time, Vai decided it would be a good idea to snoop through a few boxes of files. She flicked through page after page, tossing anything she found uninteresting to the floor and making a mess. Maphira didn’t bother trying to clean up after her. They were about to cut a big hole in a window, after all. It wasn’t like they were trying to cover their tracks.

Maphira simply sat watching her ex-partner, remembering the good times of them looking through case files together. That was so far behind them now, but seeing Vai go through paper like this brought the memories back fresh.

“Why did you really do it?” she suddenly said, the question not even going through her mind before it left her lips.

“Do what?” Vai asked without looking up. They must have been some interesting reports. Maphira wondered if any of them were about office glass tinting. It seemed unlikely, but it’d be an interesting coincidence given that’s what they were there to complete, supposedly.

“You know, join the Conclave. Betray me and the force. I know it wasn’t about the money.”

Vai shrugged. “I don’t know, I just needed a fresh start, I guess. I wasn’t feeling it anymore, you know. So when I told Captain Hold I was thinking about leaving, he mentioned that he had an opportunity for me elsewhere, but I would have to stay in the force a while longer.”

“But you loved detective work. I find it hard to believe that got stale.”

Vai looked up now. She considered the window across from them. It was a nice one, which clearly some other business for decorative window glass close to Melbourne had gotten to first. “I didn’t leave because the work got stale.”

“Why then? Why did you need a fresh start?”

Now Vai gazed at Maphira, her eyes deep with emotion. “I left because I couldn’t be your partner anymore. I left because I was in love with you, Mai.”


Mechanic Archer

Saul stood atop the wall of New Hobart, holding his arrow firm, ready to fire upon the word of his commander. Below them stood two tiny figures, completely covered in their cloaks. The Little Men were here, and they were about to witness the full power of the Ivory Skull.

What hope did they have against hundreds? They were but two, and sure, they had taken out many of the Ivory Skull’s forces before, but those had been in small skirmishes. The Little Men fought dirty, using guerilla warfare. In a true battle like this, they didn’t stand a chance.

One of the Little Men took a step forward and looked up. “This is your last chance,” the creature shouted, surprisingly loud for its size. “Lay down your weapons and leave New Hobart for good, and you shall be spared. Fight us and you will not live to see the sunrise.”

Given that sunrise was only an hour away, the creature’s claim seemed extremely unlikely. Saul laughed, and many of the others on the wall joined him.

“Very well, then,” said the Little Man. “Your blood is on your own hands.”

“Should we fire, commander?” Saul asked. “That’s the closest thing we’ll ever get to an official declaration of war.”

The commander shook her head. “No, wait for them to make the first move. You were once the best diesel mechanic Hobart had to offer, right? You should know that patience is essential, sometimes.”

It was true; that was a lesson he’d learned throughout his years owning a Hobart workshop offering auto repairs and other services for diesel vehicles. To get the service right, sometimes you had to wait for the perfect moment to make your move.

They kept watch of the Little Men, and it wasn’t until they sprinted forward that the commander gave the order to fire. A barrage of arrows rained down on the beasts, but they were too nimble, easily dodging out of the way. 

One of the Little Men went for the gate, while the other began to scale the wall like a spider. The battle was on, and Saul had a feeling it wouldn’t last long at all. All they needed was a couple of good shots.


Hardware Store Hunt

Maphira made sure that Vai entered the hardware store first, intending to never take her eyes off the woman. They hadn’t said a word on the drive over, although Vai had certainly tried, only to be cut off by Maphira after a single syllable got out. She simply wasn’t ready to listen to the lies of the snake that had slithered its way into the Resistance.

“We’re here – can I talk now?” Vai said once they were through the doors. “You dragged me with you on this little adventure for timber supplies sold in Cheltenham, or whatever it is you’re getting.”

“Would you just shut up and help me find the electrical supplies? I’m not in much of a mood to chat with the woman who stabbed me in the back and doomed humanity to this robot dystopia.”

Vai shrugged. “Fair enough. Just know it wasn’t personal. I was only doing it for the money. I convinced myself that the world was better off for being ruled by the Mechanists, but truthfully I was just blinding myself to the injustice going on so I could live comfortably. I’m not proud of it, especially now that my life hangs in the balance.”

Maphira rubbed her temples. “Would you please just be quiet? I don’t want your excuses or reasoning.”

“Fine,” Vai said. “Let’s just get this over with, then.”

And so Maphira dragged a once friend, turned enemy, turned – well, she wasn’t really sure what Vai was now – through a hardware store located close to Cheltenham, but not necessarily in the suburb of Cheltenham itself. 

As they searched for the electrical supplies, the lights of the store suddenly went out, leaving them in pitch black. Maphira pulled out her phone and turned on the torch, although the device was only on 15% battery. Stupid planned obsolescence. 

“Congratulations to our lucky shopper of the day,” said a voice over the loudspeaker. “Vai, you’ve just won yourself a great prize. Would you come to the front desk to collect it?”

“Uh oh,” Vai said. “Turn the light off. That’s the Great Mechanist. He’s here to finish me off for good.”


Energy in Danger

Maphira returned to a Resistance base that had been completely obliterated. Walls crumbled, broken under the stress of constant projectiles slammed into it. The Conclave had brought troops armed with energy blasters that had torn the place to shreds. Everywhere she looked, scorch marks were to be found on every inch of every surface. She found a few people here and there, lying lifeless on the cold, shattered ground.

Still, there weren’t enough bodies to suggest the Conclave had achieved its goals of destroying the Resistance. Perhaps her message had gotten through… Certainly, she noticed that there was around a 50/50 split between the two sides.

As she wandered through the destroyed base, she wondered at what the rogue Bender Bot was up to. Perhaps it was seeking a 500KW solar system to recharge its power. That whole test had been a complete mess, and Bender was probably running low on energy. Still, Maphira couldn’t help but be extremely amused about the fact that the whole thing had been Vai’s fault. It was about time the karma bus hit her as payment for her betrayal all those years ago.

There was no telling what Bender would do now that it was beyond the Conclave’s control. Would the robot take energy from commercial solar panels and use it to destroy the city? What kind of monster had the Conclave created?

Maphira had been lucky to get out of that auto shop alive. Thankfully, Bender seemed to have other priorities, aside from making Maphira’s lights go out forever. Now it was time she took her chance at freedom and used it to get the Resistance back on its feet. With the chaos caused by Bender, perhaps this was the perfect time to strike.

So long as they still had the numbers to do so, that was. She’d find out as soon as she got to the secret bathroom bunker.


The Glasses Hunt

‘I swear, I can see without them,’ Timmy groaned as his exasperated mother dragged him along the beach.

         ‘Well, the doctor said you can’t,’ she grumbled, stopping at the spot in the sand where they’d been camped out only a few minutes before.

         At least… she thought it was where they’d been camped out?

         ‘Does this look right to you?’ she asked Timmy.

         ‘Uh,’ he squinted. ‘Yes?’

         ‘Why did I bother,’ she rolled her eyes, dropping down to her knees and examining the sand closely. ‘You didn’t lose them in the ocean, did you?’

         ‘No, I took them off before then.’

         ‘Good,’ she sighed, with the relief of a woman who’d lost glasses in the water before.

         ‘Seriously, mum, it doesn’t matter, I’ll just—’

         ‘If you finish that sentence with “get new ones”, I’m gonna make you walk home.’

         Timmy grinned, as innocently as his boyish face could muster. His mother narrowed her eyes at him, then turned back to the search.

         ‘How expensive can a decent children’s optometrist even be,’ Timmy muttered to himself, kicking at a dune. ‘It’s less work than a regular optometrist!’

         ‘Working with children isn’t less work, that’s for sure,’ his mum muttered to herself.

         Her head snapped around as she saw something glint in the sand. Eyes locked, she leant forward and brushed the grit away, revealing a pair of bright-orange glasses with flowers along the stems.

         ‘Found them!’

         ‘Great,’ Timmy sighed.

         ‘You’ve dodged a trip to a Bayside optometry clinic thanks to me,’ his mum said with a grin, tossing him the glasses.

         ‘Thanks, mum,’ he said with a strained grin. ‘I appreciate it.’

         ‘They were buried pretty deep there, kiddo,’ she said, still on her knees in front of him. ‘Almost like it wasn’t an accident?’

         He didn’t meet her eyes. She let out a deep sigh and leaned in close.

         ‘Is it the flowers?’ she whispered.

         ‘Obviously, it’s the flowers,’ he said, grumpily.

         ‘Fair enough… maybe we need to take a trip to that optometrist after all.’


The Ute Chase

We flew over the sands like they were molten beneath our feet, running as hard as we could as the Great Ute behind us snarled and spun, sand kicking into the air behind its rapidly-spinning tyres.

         ‘I think your god is angry, sir!’ Gollo panted breathlessly beside me. I briefly considered that he must be slowing himself down to keep pace with me ­– there was no reason this man of the sands shouldn’t be a glint on the horizon to me now.

         ‘We woke it up Gollo,’ I pressed my hand to my hat, keeping it on my head as we ran. ‘We woke it up and it wasn’t ready! We need to find some way of—’

         My voice choked in my throat as – with a great roar – the ute leapt over a dune to our right, twisting through the air to land on its heavy tyres, facing us.

         I skidded to a stop, slamming an arm out to stop Gollo too.

         ‘No sudden movements,’ I hissed at him. He nodded sharply, then caught himself and nodded more slowly.

         ‘O, noble ute,’ I cried, falling to my knees in a show of fealty. ‘Ye who has the shiniest of affordable ute toolboxes near Melbourne! I come to you as a humble—’

         The ute growled again, and my mouth went dry.

         ‘Sir,’ Gollo whispered to me, until I silenced him with a quick glare. I turned back to the ute with a smile.

         ‘Most gorgeous of utility vehicles,’ I intoned, rising to my feet, hands still held in the air. ‘We are but gnats, caught in the clasps of your 4×4 aluminium canopies. For sale, I offer you these precious rubies, plucked from a Maharanian mountaintop and worthy only of a god such as yourself.’

         I fished the gemstones from my jacket pocket, scattering them on the sand in front of me.

         The ute didn’t move.

         Sir,’ Gollo insisted.

         ‘What?’ I growled, spinning around to glare at him properly.

         ‘The ute,’ he whispered. ‘Its sound has changed.’


The Balustrade Incident

‘Well, Timmy,’ my father sighed from the foot of the stairs. ‘I hope you’ve learned a valuable lesson.’

         ‘That’s it?’ my mother frowned at him. ‘I literally don’t know how we’re going to get to our bedroom tonight and that’s all you’ll say to him? That you hope he’s learned a valuable lesson?!’

         ‘It’ll do him no good to get angry,’ my father sighed, exasperated. He went to lean on the balustrade like he always did when he was arguing with my mother in the hallway, but had to quickly readjust to it not being there anymore.

         My skateboard – flying away from me after I rode it through the upstairs hallway – had seen to that pretty spectacularly. Shattered glass covered the stairs in a glittering powder, which I suspected was the only reason my mother hadn’t raced up them to give me a hiding.

         I honestly wasn’t certain she still wouldn’t.

         ‘I hope you know that you’ll be paying for this glass replacement, young man,’ she called up to me, hands on her hips.

         ‘We can’t expect that,’ my father frowned.

         ‘Oh, we both know that it’s surprisingly affordable, Harold.’

         ‘I’m sorry,’ I squeaked down to them. ‘It was an accident.’

         My father beamed up at me from below the wreckage. ‘It’s alright, son. Accidents happen.’         

         Alright?!’ my mother screeched. ‘We had these glass balustrades installed by a Melbourne company! They’re the best in the world!’

         ‘I mean, they’re fine,’ my father frowned again. ‘It’s just glass.’

         ‘Just glass?!’ My mother looked like she was about to crack a rib. ‘Who are you?’

         ‘I’m just saying, it’s more important that everybody is okay and that nobody got hurt. Besides, I’m sure this won’t happen again, will it Tim?’

         I’ve never shaken my head “no” so vigorously in my life.

         ‘There we go,’ my father went back to beaming. My mother stormed off towards the back door.

         ‘Where are you going?’ he called after her.

         ‘I just realised I can climb the trellis!’ she snarled.

         All of the blood drained out of my face.