The High Wire (11)
January 11, 2015
HiLoBooks is pleased to serialize William Haggard’s 1963 novel The High Wire, the fifth title in his acclaimed Col. Charles Russell espionage adventure series — which, at the time, was considered by critics (if not the general public) superior to Ian Fleming’s Bond series. “Haggard lacked Fleming’s snooty dilettantism, and was better at creating subtle layers of political intrigue,” Christopher Fowler has written. “Haggard treats his women with more respect, too. They are investigators and heroines with lives of their own. As for exoticism, try Haggard’s character Miss Borrodaile, the elegant, black-clad, former French Resistance fighter with a steel foot.” Under the editorship of HILOBROW’s Joshua Glenn, the Save the Adventure book club will reissue The High Wire as an e-book for the first time ever. Enjoy!
Thinking it over later Robert Mortimer would have agreed with Russell that an operation of war in peacetime was something which couldn’t be stopped short of counter-measures impossible in a civilized country not at war. When its enemy was prepared to use unlimited explosives, helicopters and paramilitary personnel, the Security Executive was playing away from home. Short of a platoon of infantry, a troop of tanks, the attempt at least could hardly have been prevented. The man-snatch had been superbly planned.
The crew of the patrol car would also have agreed if they had ever had time to do so. But they did not. They were cruising quietly, not in the old Lagonda but in a nondescript grey saloon. Though Rex didn’t know it Perkins’ suitcase in the boot of the Rapier was sending out a tracker-wave, and the crew of the grey saloon knew that it was a mile and a half behind them. They were alert but they weren’t expecting to die.
The extravagandy powerful anti-tank mine blew the saloon to matchwood. Five men sprang from nowhere. They were wearing the camouflage uniform of parachutists but without badges of rank or numerals. They dragged into the ditch the worst of the wreckage and what was left of the crew of three. It wasn’t very much. Then they waited again.
A mile and a half behind George Perkins was driving the Rapier. Rudi and Rex Hadley were in the back. They heard a sharp explosion, but in the neighbourhood of Maldington explosions weren’t uncommon. Rudi had stirred to say: ‘I expect that’s Carrington. That man has a passion for noise, but unhappily it’s never the right one.’
He had settled again to sleep it off. Rudi didn’t care for formal dinners but had relieved the occasion with considerable draughts of his native Niersteiner. He didn’t normally sleep much before four in the morning, but now he was nodding. Rex was awake, reflecting that the evening had been an odd one. They had been dining with the top brass of the nuclear world, and it tickled a sharp sense of irony that if Project A succeeded many of these eminent administrators would be out of a job. Rex smiled, correcting himself. But that simply wasn’t true. They were solidly of the Establishment, and if one job fell to pieces under them they would slide into another so smoothly as to be unnoticeable. There was always a committee for a good committee man.
He felt the car brake suddenly, accelerate again.
‘What was that?’
‘I’m sorry, sir. I thought I saw something.’
George Perkins had in fact seen something. A man had been standing in the middle of the road, waving a lamp at him, and on a reflex George had braked. Then, thinking now, he had put his foot down. The man had jumped, but only just, and Perkins drove on quickly, very awake indeed. He didn’t believe that that would be the end of it. He turned on the spotlight.
Fifty yards further the beam picked them up, two barriers of steel and wire, upended at each road-side. They went down together, perfectly timed, and now George braked seriously. He knew he couldn’t crash them for he’d seen such things before. They were light enough to be manhandled but they were very well designed. They were strong enough to hold an armoured car.
George stopped with a yard to spare and two bricks broke the window. The muzzles of machine pistols followed them. There was a little knot of men, eight of them, or ten, in something which looked like uniforms. Rudi was swearing in German. Somebody said in English: ‘Out.’
They all got out.
‘Get that wire away, and fast. Maurice, you take the car.’
Two men ran to the barriers, moving them with surprising ease. A third man climbed into the Rapier, driving it along the road, then backing it away from it. He knew precisely where to back. The other two men returned.
They found George Perkins’ gun.
‘Now move. All three of you.’
They walked into a little wood at gunpoint. A hundred yards ahead was the perimeter fence — seventy yards of thinnish wood, then thirty of cleared ground, finally the wire itself. The arc lamps on their towers threw a merciless light on the clearing, but at the edge of the thicket the English-speaking voice said:, ‘Halt.’
They stopped in a huddle, out of the light and silent. The men in uniforms seemed to be listening. One of them muttered in a language which wasn’t English, and the leader said sharply: ‘They’ll come all right, don’t fear.’ He turned to his prisoners. ‘Smoke if you must but keep under cover.’
George Perkins suddenly broke for it, running towards the fence. It was quite unexpected, senseless, and for an instant nobody moved. Then there was a single shot, expert and silenced. George Perkins fell half-way across the clearing. He lay quite still.
Rudi Walther began to swear again, but not in German. He swore in a febrile rage, wholly untypical; he stamped his feet and waved his arms; he frothed and he wept. It was an exhibition, decidedly diverting in its way.
They were diverted. They gathered around him, laughing contemptuously.
George had begun to crawl towards the fence.
Somebody, above the laughter, said:
‘Should I quieten this kraut?’
‘They’re not to be hurt. That will come later.’
Somebody else said: ‘God in heaven.’ He was looking towards the fence, staring at Perkins, not believing. George had reached the wire; he was pulling himself upright by his hands, his legs hanging useless. Somehow he was almost upright now, his right arm reaching.
There was another shot and George’s body shuddered. But his arm went on, above the chain-wire, up to the four strands of barbed, one, two, the third, the last….
This time it was a burst, murderous and final. What was left of George Perkins fell.
Rudi Walther reverted to German; miraculously he was himself again. ‘Sons of abortioners. Swine.’
The man behind him clubbed him.
Overhead there was the unmistakable clatter of a helicopter, then another.
Somebody fired a green.
In the three little guardhouses buzzers were humming insistently, and men awoke from sleep, and dogs. A man with a fine moustache, buckling his holster, looked at an electric indicator. ‘Section Q, mile zero-zero-four. We’re much the nearest. Run.’
They ran into the freezing night, four men, three dogs. The men on their rubber soles were quiet, the Alsatians utterly silent. They ran to heel, head down, their elegant stems waving. The men ran hard for a minute, then they stopped. They slipped into the cover of the thicket, and the leader said softly: ‘Do you see what I see?’
‘I think I do. There’s a helicopter coming in and I’m sure I can hear another. I see a stiff against the wire. I see men in what might be uniform, and armed. They’re carrying one man and hustling another. It looks like a snatch.’
‘Can you recognize who they’ve got?’
‘I can.’ The leader thought for five seconds, then made his decision. ‘Too risky to fire till they break. When they do, shoot to kill.’ He snapped his fingers gently twice. The dogs rose from their haunches, their pink tongues lolling. The leader pointed; said a single word.
The dogs were away in silence.
The first man saw nothing. He lay on his side, his life pulsing out of him from what had been his throat. A second had time to fire but missed. He never missed again. A third drew a knife but the Alsatian knew that one. There was a shocking scream. He fell on his back, feebly defending himself. A fourth shot the bitch as she stood over him. The group hesitated; broke; ran for the thicket.
From its edge there was a lick of wicked flame. The man behind the light machine-gun had had time to get his bipod down and he was shooting quite brilliantly. He’d had orders to kill and he was killing with pleasure. He’d seen a dead bitch and he’d loved her.
It was over in four savage bursts. The gunner had wasted none of them. From somewhere in the thicket a red rocket plumed up lazily.
The helicopters sheered away.
Rex picked himself up unsteadily. A man with a large moustache was walking towards him…. Hell, he was going to salute! Rex mustn’t laugh and he wanted to laugh badly. Laughing might help him.
‘Are you all right, sir?’
‘I think so. But Doctor Walther….’
They turned Rudi Walther over, and Moustache felt him expertly. ‘Unconscious — knocked cold. But he isn’t wounded.’ He nodded towards the fence. ‘Luckier than that one. That’s your servant if I’m not mistaken, sir.’
‘It was. He knew about the alarm wire.’
‘He triggered us?’
‘And who are the other stiffs?’
‘I heard them speaking — it isn’t a guess.’
Moustache said doubtfully: ‘There’s rather a lot to explain, sir. Helicopters, foreigners trying to snatch you —’
‘There certainly is but it must wait till tomorrow. Report everything to Commander Legge. Ask him to pass it on. I’ll be back to fill in detail by midday.’
Moustache didn’t like it; he asked, more doubtful than ever: ‘And where are you going now, sir?’
‘I’m driving back to London.’
‘Then I’ll send for a driver.’
Moustache pulled it thoughtfully. ‘But are you fit to drive, sir?’
Rex Hadley shrugged.
He found his car undamaged and started for London, conscious that he wasn’t thinking clearly. He did not care. He had heard the speech of the men in uniform and the language had been de Fleury’s. De Fleury was a blackmailer but his compatriots were murderers, and de Fleury was Mary’s friend, or had been. That was enough. There wasn’t a valid reason why she should now be in danger, but this wasn’t the moment for careful logic. Rex would have admitted that he was incapable of reasoning: what drove him was instinct. George Perkins had been shot in two, there had been foreigners in a sort of uniform, machine-guns and helicopters, dogs…. Quite an evening. Rex hadn’t seen its like for eighteen years. So at least he must warn Mary. Somehow de Fleury had been part of this appalling night. Never mind how or why — he’d work it out later. There was plenty to work out later. Just for the moment there were Francis de Fleury, Mary, a connexion, danger….
Rex Hadley, severely shocked, could smell it. He looked at the speedometer, forcing himself to slow. He wouldn’t warn Mary dead.
He pulled up at the nursing home, ringing the night bell. He had to ring three times, shifting his feet, cursing in a tension which he recognized but held him helpless. Presently an elderly woman opened.
‘I want to see Miss Francom.’
The elderly nurse was outraged. She looked Rex up and down; finally she said acidly:
‘It’s three in the morning.’
‘I’m her fiancé.’
‘I don’t care who you are. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.’
It occurred to Rex that this elderly woman in the fussy dressing-gown would probably think him drunk, and in a sense she would be right. He pulled himself together with an effort which was physical. Trying to speak normally he said: ‘I’m very sorry to have knocked you up, but something urgent has happened. If I write a message for Miss Francom will you take it to her?’
The nurse looked at Rex again. She had thought him drunk but now she did not. She knew shock when she saw it, and she saw it as a nurse. Something had happened. It was probably nothing — patients excited themselves about nothing at all — but whatever it was it was life and death to the man on her front doorstep. This steady-looking man was pitiably distressed, and she wasn’t without pity. The nurse knew the symptoms and she knew the drill. It was a very simple one: shock and the counter-shock…. She told the truth.
‘Miss Francom isn’t here.’
Rex Hadley looked back at her. Astonishingly he was almost calm again, but the nurse was in no way astonished. She’d seen it all before, and this one was running to form. Rex asked politely: ‘You’re sure?’
‘I’m not trying to put you off. Why shouldn’t I take a message?’
‘Do you know where she is?’
‘Are you really her fiancé?’
‘I’ve asked her to marry me.’
‘She didn’t tell us, but I’ll tell you this. It’s all I know. A hire-car called for her at ten o’clock and we’ve none of us seen her since.’
Rex took his hat off and the nurse shut the door. Rex climbed into the car again, and thought. He swore for a moment savagely, then switched on the engine.
He started for Cheyne Walk.
The gun came up and the door bell rang imperiously. De Fleury lowered the weapon; he seemed slowly to be recognizing the solid world around him, something he had withdrawn from, lost in another. Mary had seen him like this before, waking from sleep, somewhere between two kingdoms. Then he would yawn and stretch, and finally he’d smile at her; he’d be Francis de Fleury, whole. Now he neither yawned nor stretched, but he rose with a hint of stiffness. He walked to the front door but he left the gun behind him. Mary, with a little gasp, forced herself to pocket it.
When de Fleury came back Rex Hadley was with him. He was looking at Mary Francom, very white. Mary stood motionless, silent and in misery. There was nothing to say. De Fleury was silent too, but he was watching Rex closely. He was puzzled but he was something more. At last he said, deliberately banal: ‘I think you know Miss Francom. You met her at Sestriere and again at this flat.’
‘We’ve met many times since then.’ Rex Hadley’s voice was stony.
‘I hadn’t expected to find her here.’
Mary said shakily: ‘Rex….’
He didn’t turn towards her. De Fleury was watching still, weighing a decision. Finally he took it. He waved at chairs, sat down himself. He said socially, very cool: ‘We’d better have this out.’
‘There’s nothing to discuss.’
‘I’m not quite insensitive. Tell me.’
Rex thought it over, shrugged; in the same dead voice he said: ‘I’d asked Miss Francom to marry me.’
‘That is the truth? Forgive me, but I must know.’
Astonishingly de Fleury smiled. He began to talk with a calm assurance, a man aware of obligation, decently discharging it. ‘Then since I want you to believe me I’ll disclose my own interest. I was going to propose myself.’
Rex had looked up but de Fleury didn’t wait for him. ‘I intended to propose; I do not now. Miss Francom has surprised me.’
‘We’ve that in common.’
De Fleury said firmly: ‘But you are totally mistaken. So was I. The essential is that Mary is an agent. If that surprises you it shattered me, since I’m another. I imagine she works for the Security Executive, but if she doesn’t it will be for something similar. I didn’t know that at Sestriere, I didn’t in fact discover till tonight. Naturally it was a blow to me. I nearly did something foolish and I must thank your arrival that I didn’t. I don’t ask why you came here since I’m not now concerned. But you tell me you’re engaged — you’ve a right to the truth. Which is that Mary is against me. She has been all along. She was covering me at Sestriere and she’s been covering me since. If it interests you I haven’t in fact seen her since that evening at this flat. That affair, by the way, has become a little clearer.’ De Fleury was speaking pleasantly, quite without resentment. ‘Be that as it may, she came here tonight with another specific task. You remember that tape? She came here to steal it. I assume that was on the instructions of her employers but I don’t assume too hard. I don’t think her motive matters to me now.’ For an instant de Fleury’s eyes flickered across the table by his chair. ‘I could hope you would believe my word, but I can offer a sort of proof. Frisk her and you’ll find a gun. Ordinary nurses don’t carry them. Nor common mistresses.’ He rose, not stiffly now, walking to the door and holding it. ‘Good night,’ he said. ‘Congratulations.’
Rex Hadley was silent, searching de Fleury’s face. Presently he said awkwardly: ‘You’re a very strange man.’
‘I am? Mary was saying the same. But I try to be consistent in my strangeness. And don’t forget that tape.’ He nodded at the bureau. ‘You’ll find it in there.’
‘You mean it?’
‘Why not? Apart from what’s happened this evening you’ll be au courant with developments; you’ll know it’s no use to me, so take it.’ De Fleury smiled again. ‘Take it as a wedding present.’
They went past him silently, Mary’s arm in Rex’s. He started the car and drove for perhaps a mile. At length he said: ‘I ought to hate that man — I don’t. He’d have broken me ruthlessly, but he lives by his own queer rules. You know, I rather like him.’
Mary sighed sleepily, taking his free hand. It was an occasion for a cliché and she wasn’t embarrassed by it.
‘He’s out of this world.’
But Colonel Charles Russell was not. By the end of the next evening he had spent an exceptionally busy day, and it hadn’t been wholly an unsatisfactory one. On the debit side eight thugs had died, two of them most unpleasantly, and Russell, a loyal and conscientious master, didn’t regard eight foreign mercenaries as an adequate exchange for George Perkins and the crew of the patrol car. Eight animals for four good men — it simply wasn’t good enough. But that apart, the affair had its compensations. Not the least to a senior security officer was to observe the politicians squarely stuck with a responsibility which for once they couldn’t shuffle back on the Executive. Eight men of a foreign race had died, but one had been left savaged (who might live or might not) and another had reached the wood, firing the rocket which had warned away the helicopters. Both these men had been taken and were now in custody; both were political embarrassments of the very first class, even though almost certainly they wouldn’t talk.
It was Russell’s guess that there would be no serious attempt to make them. He smiled sardonically. It was fortunate that in de Fleury’s country there was no Mister President with a fourteen handicap at golf which he’d never once played to and a misplaced sense of personal responsibility. Nobody was going to strike an attitude, nobody was going to say: ‘I authorized this myself.’ On the contrary the technique would be one which to Russell was both normal and acceptable. It would be the technique of the Great Big Lie. Charles Russell didn’t resent it, for it was part of the established rules; moreover it averted a great deal of trouble — the collapse of important conferences, even the possibility of war. When an agent was captured you automatically disowned him. Only a fool, an amateur, thought otherwise. So the authorities of de Fleury’s country would simply deny all knowledge.
And they would probably get away with it.
…Anti-tank mines, helicopters, men in a sort of uniform? Russell’s smile broadened. Once again they had all been fortunate. It was particularly fortunate that in de Fleury’s country there was something approaching two rival governments, and that naturally Her Majesty’s could recognize only one of them. Recognize and therefore hold responsible. But ‘rival government’ wasn’t too serious an exaggeration: the other might not be in a position to overthrow the tall man, or at any rate not yet, but there was an organized and well-directed movement. That was the native word — a movement. And since an influential part of the tall man’s army was overtly or secretly behind it, it wasn’t incredible that military apparatus should somehow have become available. ‘Available’ was another convenient word since it begged all the awkward questions.
Her Majesty’s government would do the same. The Press was already screaming, and when the popular Press was screaming any British government reached for a sedative. Russell was confident it would be offered one. The tall man would send one of his stiff little notes, and it would be a model of cool propriety and of the lie-within-the-rules. The Marshal wouldn’t deny the nationality of the men concerned because to do so would be stupid and he was anything but that: instead he’d express profound regret. The perpetrators of this outrage, the men who had dared to plan it, would be pursued remorselessly. He’d even offer compensation to the families of the bereaved, and it would be generous compensation too. Come to think of it there needn’t be an actual lie, only the lie by inference. The two prisoners wouldn’t talk voluntarily, and later they wouldn’t be encouraged to make statements which would be embarrassing internationally. No doubt they’d have their story and they’d be allowed to stick to it. Provided, that is, it didn’t involve the tall man or his government. Which it would not. Russell didn’t doubt that discreet instructions had already been given to the interrogators. Who weren’t his own men, thank God.
So two murderers would be tried for murder and found guilty. The Press would go to town on it, every man in the country would guess the truth, but officially there wouldn’t be a whisper. There couldn’t be. A formal breach of diplomatic relations would be a disaster to NATO, and moreover the Foreign Office could be relied on to throw its weight against it — its personal weight, since a breach of relations meant the loss of an embassy, and of the jobs which went with it. To the career diplomatists that would be final.
Charles Russell chuckled. The diplomats aside, the two countries had a mutual interest in a hush-up, so a hush-up there would be. It was essential politically, though it wouldn’t be easy. The Foreign Secretary was in for a very bad week. Russell wasn’t without sympathy for the politician who called himself modestly Her Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
He mixed himself a drink, still laughing quietly. He could afford to laugh. He had done his duty and for once that was enough. They’d push the thing under the carpet, but they couldn’t push it back on him. Mostly they tried to but this time they couldn’t. Charles Russell was pleased. He had a strong sense of justice and for once this was just.
And descending from high policy to individuals, Francis de Fleury had simply disappeared. That had been predictable. His embassy was extremely busy, the ritual dance was on, but it had found time to mention casually that its military attaché had gone on leave. Naturally it had been arranged some time ago — that had been mentioned too. Charles Russell had nodded appreciatively: de Fleury’s embassy wasn’t incompetent. He was privately certain that de Fleury had had no hand in the affair at Maldington, but he could hardly not have known of it. In any case the heat was on. De Fleury wasn’t a murderer but he had attempted blackmail, a common crime not normally covered by diplomatic immunity. Victor’s outrage at Maldington was going to be quietly smothered, or rather any official connexion with it, but if public opinion became sufficiently restive it wouldn’t be unnatural to look for a scapegoat elsewhere, in which case de Fleury would be an evident candidate. That was how de Fleury’s ambassador would have seen it, and Russell agreed with him. He’d have done the same himself. And there hadn’t been stupid slips in detail. The lease on de Fleury’s flat was running still, letters were being delivered….
But he’d never return. Sometime, after a month say, there’d be a quiet change in postings. Charles Russell nodded again approvingly. De Fleury’s His Excellency was clearly a professional, and Russell, another, respected him.
He finished his drink reflectively; he had private reasons too for a modest satisfaction. He detested unnecessary complications, and the relationship between Rex Hadley and Mary Francom had been dangerously complicated. On the one hand Russell had brought them together; he’d been next door to a matrimonial agency and, since he liked them both, he could reasonably congratulate himself. But on the other he’d been employing Mary to cover Francis de Fleury, and as events had broken that had also meant covering Rex. Russell hadn’t liked it. It was true he had told Mary Francom that she could disengage herself, but that was no guarantee that at some time in the future Rex wouldn’t discover the real position. After three or four years of marriage, when the first high gloss was wearing thin, a man wouldn’t be pleased to hear that his wife had been spying on him.
But now he already knew. And the knowledge had come to him in the most favourable of lights. Mary had been lucky…. Using her position as an agent to steal something which might damage her future husband, not having to excuse herself when he had discovered her in another man’s flat but having it all explained, why she lived with de Fleury at all, convincing and corroborated, very much better than anything she could have said herself…. Yes, Mary had been fortunate, which meant that Rex had too. De Fleury had behaved admirably.
An unusual character and an unusual day. There was one small end to tuck away, but Mortimer would deal with that. Colonel Russell sent for him.
RADIUM AGE SCIENCE FICTION: “Radium Age” is HILOBROW’s name for the 1904–33 era, which saw the discovery of radioactivity, the revelation that matter itself is constantly in movement — a fitting metaphor for the first decades of the 20th century, during which old scientific, religious, political, and social certainties were shattered. This era also saw the publication of genre-shattering writing by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Sax Rohmer, E.E. “Doc” Smith, Jack London, Arthur Conan Doyle, Aldous Huxley, Olaf Stapledon, Karel Čapek, H.P. Lovecraft, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Yevgeny Zamyatin, Philip Gordon Wylie, and other pioneers of post-Verne/Wells, pre-Golden Age “science fiction.” More info here.
READ GORGEOUS PAPERBACKS: HiLoBooks has reissued the following 10 obscure but amazing Radium Age science fiction novels in beautiful print editions: Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague, Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail (and “As Easy as A.B.C.”), Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Poison Belt, H. Rider Haggard’s When the World Shook, Edward Shanks’ The People of the Ruins, William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land, J.D. Beresford’s Goslings, E.V. Odle’s The Clockwork Man, Cicely Hamilton’s Theodore Savage, and Muriel Jaeger’s The Man with Six Senses. For more information, visit the HiLoBooks homepage.
SERIALIZED BY HILOBOOKS: Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague | Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail (and “As Easy as A.B.C.”) | Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Poison Belt | H. Rider Haggard’s When the World Shook | Edward Shanks’ The People of the Ruins | William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land | J.D. Beresford’s Goslings | E.V. Odle’s The Clockwork Man | Cicely Hamilton’s Theodore Savage | Muriel Jaeger’s The Man With Six Senses | Jack London’s “The Red One” | Philip Francis Nowlan’s Armageddon 2419 A.D. | Homer Eon Flint’s The Devolutionist | W.E.B. DuBois’s “The Comet” | Edgar Rice Burroughs’s The Moon Men | Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland | Sax Rohmer’s “The Zayat Kiss” | Eimar O’Duffy’s King Goshawk and the Birds | Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Lost Prince | Morley Roberts’s The Fugitives | Helen MacInnes’s The Unconquerable |
Geoffrey Household’s Watcher in the Shadows | William Haggard’s The High Wire | Hammond Innes’s Air Bridge | James Branch Cabell’s Jurgen | John Buchan’s “No Man’s Land” | John Russell’s “The Fourth Man” | E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops” | John Buchan’s Huntingtower | Arthur Conan Doyle’s When the World Screamed | Victor Bridges’ A Rogue By Compulsion | Jack London’s The Iron Heel | H. De Vere Stacpoole’s The Man Who Lost Himself | P.G. Wodehouse’s Leave It to Psmith | Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” | Houdini and Lovecraft’s “Imprisoned with the Pharaohs” | Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Sussex Vampire.”
ORIGINAL FICTION: HILOBROW has serialized three novels: James Parker’s The Ballad of Cocky The Fox (“a proof-of-concept that serialization can work on the Internet” — The Atlantic); Karinne Keithley Syers’s Linda Linda Linda (which includes original music); and Robert Waldron’s roman à clef The School on the Fens. We also publish original stories and comics. These include: Matthew Battles’s stories “Gita Nova“, “Makes the Man,” “Imago,” “Camera Lucida,” “A Simple Message”, “Children of the Volcano”, “The Gnomon”, “Billable Memories”, “For Provisional Description of Superficial Features”, “The Dogs in the Trees”, “The Sovereignties of Invention”, and “Survivor: The Island of Dr. Moreau”; several of these later appeared in the collection The Sovereignties of Invention | Peggy Nelson’s “Mood Indigo“, “Top Kill Fail“, and “Mercerism” | Annalee Newitz’s “The Great Oxygen Race” | Flourish Klink’s Star Trek fanfic “Conference Comms” | Charlie Mitchell’s “A Fantasy Land” | Charlie Mitchell’s “Sentinels” | Joshua Glenn’s “The Lawless One”, and the mashup story “Zarathustra vs. Swamp Thing” | Adam McGovern and Paolo Leandri’s Idoru Jones comics | John Holbo’s “Sugarplum Squeampunk” | “Another Corporate Death” (1) and “Another Corporate Death” (2) by Mike Fleisch | Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer and Frank Fiorentino’s graphic novel “The Song of Otto” (excerpt) | John Holbo’s graphic novel On Beyond Zarathustra (excerpt) | “Manoj” and “Josh” by Vijay Balakrishnan | “Verge” by Chris Rossi, and his audio novel Low Priority Hero | EPIC WINS: THE ILIAD (1.408-415) by Flourish Klink | EPIC WINS: THE KALEVALA (3.1-278) by James Parker | EPIC WINS: THE ARGONAUTICA (2.815-834) by Joshua Glenn | EPIC WINS: THE MYTH OF THE ELK by Matthew Battles | TROUBLED SUPERHUMAN CONTEST: Charles Pappas, “The Law” | CATASTROPHE CONTEST: Timothy Raymond, “Hem and the Flood” | TELEPATHY CONTEST: Rachel Ellis Adams, “Fatima, Can You Hear Me?” | OIL SPILL CONTEST: A.E. Smith, “Sound Thinking | LITTLE NEMO CAPTION CONTEST: Joe Lyons, “Necronomicon” | SPOOKY-KOOKY CONTEST: Tucker Cummings, “Well Marbled” | INVENT-A-HERO CONTEST: TG Gibbon, “The Firefly” | FANFICTION CONTEST: Lyette Mercier’s “Sex and the Single Superhero”