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A Draining Plan

“Okay, let me get this straight, detectives,” said Captain Hold. “This document outlines the Conclave of Mechanists’ entire plans for world domination, where they will create a supposed utopia in which everything is run by machines. They are going to create this world through the electricity generated by solar power. So you’re suggesting that we head down to the sewers and siege this solar power station, sabotaging their entire operation before it can even truly begin?”

“That’s correct,” Maphira said, not sure she liked the look on the Captain’s face. He thought this was a stupid plan.

Captain Hold shook his head and pursed his lips. “That, detectives, is the most brilliant plan I have ever heard. You’ll lead a team down with the excuse of going to fix some blocked drains in the Melbourne CBD, then head toward the energy facility. Let’s get these suckers and bring them in for questioning. We might even be able to bring down the entire Mechanist plot with this. Great job, Maphira and Vai.”

It was strange to get such praise from the Captain. She examined the man’s eyes, the lines of his face, seeking to know if his words were genuine. As far as she could tell, they were. He really thought their plan was a good one? She’d expected him to tell her it was a bad idea to claim they were going to solve an issue with a blocked sewer. Melbourne residents would never believe that. And yet, Captain Hold thought it was the perfect plan.

With the meeting over, some of the other officers came around and clapped Maphira on the shoulder, congratulating her on a job well done. It was hard to believe that in less than 24 hours, she would be leading a team on the precinct’s biggest-ever operation, beneath the sewers of Melbourne. 

She just hoped she wouldn’t find a way to stuff this up. Somehow, the Captain’s confidence had her feeling even more worried about the whole thing. Now there was an expectation on her. But she’d find a way. She had to.

Mechanics in Adelaide

Another day, another auto shop approached by the Conclave of Mechanists, looking for new recruits. This one, not quite the same as the others, though. The Captain had Detectives Maphira and Vai sent straight on a plane to Adelaide. Technically, this case wasn’t under their jurisdiction, but he’d gotten special permission to have them investigate since it was the first time the Mechanists had shown up in South Australia.

Things were moving quickly. Far too quickly for Maphira’s liking. She had a bad feeling that the Mechanists would make a big move soon. What better time to make it than when the two detectives hunting you down are interstate?

They arrived at the mechanic based in Lockleys just before noon. Maphira ignored the grumbling in her stomach – having only eaten a blueberry muffin on the flight over – and shifted her focus to the task ahead. As pointless a task it is, she thought, unable to hold the bitterness back. So many hoops to jump through. If only she could have cut some corners. She could get to the bottom of this so much quicker that way. No. You’re not going to do that. You’ll do this the right way. You’re better than her.

“You okay?” Vai asked, leaning against the rental car. “You seem a bit out of it.”

Maphira swallowed. Head in the game, girl. “I’m fine. What’s the report, say again?”

Vai sighed, clearly annoyed that she had to read it for the third time. “This auto electrical shop was approached by two Mechanists this morning. They suggested that the automobile servicing industry was booming in Melbourne, attempting to coerce the owner to move his business interstate, with help from the Conclave.”

“They’re trying to recruit people from Adelaide now? Man, they must be desperate. Don’t they know that people from Adelaide kind of hate Melbourne? Why on Earth would they want to move their business there?”

Via smiled, recognising that Maphira’s wits were coming back to her. “Good to have you back. Let’s do this.”

A Mechanical Scene

Detective Maphira knelt down on the asphalt of the underwater tunnel connecting Victoria and Tasmania. She placed two fingers on the ground, collecting the trail of oil with her gloved fingers. Judging the scent, she put the clue in the back of her mind for further examination later.

The scene was a mess, with a broken motorcycle and a ruined limousine blocking the road and thousands of scattered metal pieces strewn across the road. As Detective Vai set up the police tape, Maphira pictured what might have happened here.

Explosive used, obviously. What kind of rookie detonates something like that while being close enough on their bike to get hit by the blast, though? 

“Detective, are you there?” came the Sergeant’s voice from her radio.

“Here, boss,” Maphira replied, tapping the radio’s button without bothering to lift it to her mouth. “What’s up?”

“An auto electrician near Milperra just reported that some strange men came and tried to recruit them to their cause. We suspect Conclave activity.”

Maphira clenched a fist, sure she knew exactly where this was going. “And you can’t send any of the others to investigate? You need me and Vai to make our way back to Melbourne on the double because everybody else is tied up? Right?”

“That is correct,” said the Sergeant.

Groaning out her frustration, Maphira stood straight and called over to Detective Vai. “Looks like we’re on our way to a mechanic. Near me, everybody!” After everyone gave their attention, she continued. “Detective Vai and I have to get out of here. Another important case to check out. Get this mess cleaned up and make sure I get a full report of any evidence by tomorrow.”

It wasn’t like the Conclave to be so bold with their recruitment strategies. Usually, they pulled people in with more subtle tactics. Telling people they were chosen by fate to pave the way for their robot, mechanical utopia, for instance. No, if they had openly approached somebody to join them, it was just a diversion.

The Mechanic Location

Rylee stormed toward the crashed limousine with extreme rage, ready to make her absolute best intimidation roll. Natural twenty coming right up, baby. Dirk Bradshaw would be so scared that he’d tell her everything about the Conclave of Mechanists and then some.

As she approached the wreckage, she couldn’t help but laugh. Thank goodness the vehicle hadn’t had any ADAS. Those dang advanced driver assistance systems always made it hard to sneak up on a vehicle, informing the driver that she was getting too close. Car cameras and sensors had become the bane of her existence lately.

She reached the limo and grasped the handle of the upside-down door, yanking it away. The door came right off, smashing into the ground beside her. Beyond the open doorway, Rylee saw two people: Dirk and some young man. Both were unconscious. 

Rylee reached in and grabbed Dirk by the shoulders, hauling him out of the wreckage. As he stirred, she shoved him into the glass wall of the Bass Strunnel. His eyes widened as he realised the predicament he’d found himself in.

“Where is that kobold going?” she asked, resisting the urge to slam her fist into his chest. “Tell me!”

Dirk gave a dark, toothy grin. He coughed, and for a moment Rylee was sure he would say nothing. “Cambridge. It’s a workshop for auto repairs around Cambridge. Is that what you want to hear? It doesn’t matter – you’ll never get there in time.”

He was lying. She was sure of it. There was no way he’d give up that information so easily. And yet, in doing so, she’d found out exactly what she needed to know. The Hobart workshop was unlikely. The Conclave would want a suburb they could use that would not attract attention to themselves.

“Brighton it is. Thanks, Dirk.”

His eyes widened, panic there before he managed to conceal it. Rylee dropped Dirk to the asphalt – he struck it with a thud, grunting.

“I’ll be taking him with me,” she said with a grin. “See you around, Tyrone.”

Conveyancing Far Away

I want to live in the forest. Ever since I was a teenager, my dream has been to live in a super secluded spot where it’s just me and nature. I would love to just ride my bike through the lush forests and enjoy being at peace with the world. Living in an apartment near Melbourne is about as far away from that dream as you can get. Don’t get me wrong, I do like city life, especially as a uni student, but am I living my ideal way? No, not at all. My parents think I should be saving up to buy a house nearby, but all I want is to buy a cabin in the woods. I don’t care if they have access to the best conveyancing firm Highett has to offer—I want to live as far away from here as possible.

When I imagine where I want to be in ten years, it isn’t working at some Melbourne real estate business. It isn’t in conveyancing, helping with the legal side of buying a house. It isn’t working in law. I don’t want to follow in the footsteps of my parents. I imagine myself out on a sunny day, rowing down the nearest river with the sun beaming on my face as I read the latest epic novels that have been released. I wonder if I can find someone who owns a conveyancing firm to help me with the conveyancing and settlement of a cottage in the woods. I’m all for it. Somehow, though, I doubt that will be the case. Perhaps I am doomed to live a lie, cursed to be stuck in the city forever. I hope that isn’t the case, but honestly, the chances of me finding a cabin in the woods that I can live in are pretty low. I’m starting to think that the best thing for me to do may be to get a high-paying job, save up and then go off the grid. We’ll see what happens, I guess.

 

Arthur Weasel’s Bathroom

I can’t believe we have finally made it here. Welcome to the final profile for That Renovation Rules, featuring the pretty regular magical wizard, Arthur Weasel. He’s certainly no Harold Scarface, but he is the father of Harold Scarface’s best friend, Ronaldo. Arthur is putting together one mighty fine bathroom renovation. Who knew he was one of the best bathroom designers Melbourne had to offer? I certainly didn’t! Arthur, why don’t you tell us a little bit about this bathroom you’re designing?

No worries, Matthew. I’ve always been really interested in regular human bathrooms since they are completely different to wizard bathrooms. See, there’s this rumour going around that wizards don’t actually need bathrooms because we can just magic all the dirt and grime away. This is a huge misconception. However, wizard bathrooms are very different from regular ones. I can’t tell you why, because I would be breaching the wizard’s first rule. I’m a regular human enthusiast. I’m super fascinated by all of the technological developments you non-magic people have come up with to get around not having any spells to cast. One of the most interesting, to me at least, is this modern-style bathroom with a bath, shower and sink. So, I thought I’d take it upon myself to find a business for bathroom renovations close to Melbourne and learn everything I could from them. Because of that little expedition, I think I’m ready to design a regular human bathroom myself. We’ll see how it goes!

I’m sure it is going to be a great bathroom. In fact, I’m sure it will be just magical. I can’t wait to see what it’s like when finished. Aren’t you excited, reader?

Well, we certainly have some great renovations being done right now, by five awesome contestants. Tune in next time to find out who looks likely to take home the chocolates! Personally, I’ve got my money on Remington Rat! 

El-Rod’s Laundry

What kind of renovation does the Lord of the Elves do? A laundry renovation, of course! Now, I have no idea when I structured that like a joke when there is nothing funny about it and it makes no sense. But anyway, today we’ll be introducing our fans to El-Rod, Lord of the Rivertown elves. For some reason, he has decided that being a lord is boring, so he wanted to join a renovation competition. Even though it makes little sense, we welcome him here with open arms. The world could certainly use more professional laundry designers of the elven kind! So, El-Rod, why have you decided to renovate a laundry? I’d expected you to do a kitchen since elves are always looking for ways to make their vegetarian meals more interesting!

Thanks for having me as a participant in this competition, Matthew. While it is true that elves make interesting vegetarian meals, and we are always looking for awesome new kitchens to cook in, good laundries are arguably even more important to the lives of my elven people. See, we elves like to stay nice and clean. Being dirty is the way of the dwarves, and we hate dwarves. They’re short and ugly and they don’t smell very nice. Elves, on the other hand, take showers every day and use the nicest smelling shampoo. Sorry, that’s a bit beside the point. Back on track, I was looking for a business offering laundry renovations in the Melbourne CBD, when I realised that I could just enter this competition and build one myself. When I’m done, I’ll have the cleanest clothing of all the elves I know.

Wow, it sounds like you have really thought this through. From what I can tell, you don’t have any professional (or even amateur) experience with this sort of thing, but that’s okay since none of our contestants do. I’m sure you’re going to do great. In fact, you might even win the whole thing! Good luck!

Disgusting Feet

For as long as I can remember, my mum has told me I have ugly feet. She made it my defining feature and when it was her responsibility to dress me, she made sure to only ever buy me closed shoes. Even in summer, I wasn’t allowed to wear thongs or sandals, let alone go barefoot in the ocean. I think I was the only kid at the beach who was wearing water shoes, and it embarrassed me enough that I still remember it to this day.

At some point during my teenage years, I developed a nail fungus condition. Cheltenham is a really beachy southeast suburb and I decided to disobey my mum one night and swim in the ocean without shoes on. Something went wrong and I picked up some sort of fungus on my toenails. I couldn’t tell my mum because I had a feeling she’d either cut my feet off, kick me out or ridicule me forever, so I had to visit a podiatrist in secret by myself. 

I felt ashamed of my feet at that point more than ever, and it devastated me that my already ugly feet had just become even more repulsive.  

Being a teenager at the time, I didn’t have my license and had to get a two-hour bus to visit a bulk billing podiatrist. I also couldn’t afford to pay for it with the money I made at my after school job, so it was just an all-around very stressful experience. Fortunately for me, the podiatrist was really nice and helped me realise that I had one of the most common foot conditions. In the Cheltenham area, I don’t think anyone else would have been that nice, and I remember feeling grateful that I had made the effort to go and see the podiatrist even though she was so far away. 

I spent the next couple of months fixing my fungal infection in secret. It was tough without support. 

Mechanics and Gorillas

I just saw the strangest thing… I’m not quite ready to talk about it, so let me tell you a little bit about my day up to the moment my life changed forever. As most people do, when I woke up I thought this would be a perfectly normal day. I thought nothing weird would happen at all. After getting ready for my normal day, I took my car around to an auto electrician in the Seaford area, seeking a fix up for my vehicle. Once that was done, I drove to work and did a regular day of things that I usually do at my job. Nothing out of the ordinary. After my work had been completed, I got in my car and decided to drive through the woods on my way home. That was where it happened. That was where my life changed. I will never forget what I saw there. What did I see? I saw a gorilla holding a bunch of coloured balloons.

What’s so weird about that? Well, that was just the beginning. I continued driving, deeper into the woods. After about ten minutes, I saw a strange tree, its branches all warped and spiralling upwards. I’d never seen anything like it. And you know what was on top of this tree? That same gorilla. That was when I started to think I was just imagining things. How could that gorilla be moving around the forest so quickly? Was there something in my car’s air conditioning that made me hallucinate? But I’d only bought it recently, and the guy I got it from said he’d been to the best mechanic for a roadworthy certificate Frankston had to offer. So, surely it couldn’t be that. Not to mention I’d just taken the vehicle to a mechanic that day. No, I wasn’t hallucinating. This gorilla was real.

So yeah, if you drive out to the woods, keep an eye out for a creepy gorilla with a bunch of balloons. He’s not dangerous or anything, but your life will never be the same once you’ve seen him.

CAR-PG Woes

I thought this Cars Go Vroom game was so amazing a few months ago, but it has really lost me now. I’m not sure if I’m getting bored with the game itself or this specific group and storyline. We finished our first car adventure a while ago and it was overall pretty good, but I think the Game Master may have run out of ideas now. Cars that are going on a spy thriller quest? That seems like a bit of a stretch. Not very realistic. And I know how funny that sounds, from somebody role-playing as a sentient car and all, but it has just gotten ridiculous. I think the worst part is that Motor is actually getting even more attention in this new adventure we’re on. He’s easily the worst character in the group, so why is the story revolving around him? Nobody asked for that.

I think I need to find a new group. I found this one at a mechanic in Hawthorn, so perhaps I should go to a workshop for car repairs in Glen Iris next time and see if anybody there plays Cars Go Vroom. If they do, I’ll definitely ask to join their group. I don’t think I can take much more of Motor in my role-playing games. Sometimes I just want to role-play punching him in the face. Instead, I spend most of the sessions on my phone. When the Game Master asks what I want to do, I tell him that I continue racing in my world tour. That usually buys me about an hour before I get asked again. 

I was talking to a guy online recently who said that there are lots of Cars Go Vroom players around my area, so I think my plan involving a mechanic close to Glen Iris is my best bet. If all else fails, maybe I’ll try Goblins and Grottos instead. I’ll whip up a homebrew race called the car folk and continue playing Lightning, my awesome character who says things like “wow” and “ka chow”. He’s super cool, so I wouldn’t want to role-play as any other kind of character.