Air Bridge (3)
February 18, 2015
HiLoBooks is pleased to serialize Hammond Innes’s 1951 espionage thriller/Robinsonade Air Bridge. Set in England during the Berlin blockade and airlift of 1948–49 (during which time the British RAF and other aircrews frustrated the Soviet Union’s attempt to gain practical control of that city), the novel’s protagonist is a mercenary pilot… but is he a traitor? Hammond Innes wrote over 30 adventures, many of them set in hostile natural environments. Enjoy!
As I worked at the lathe and the day wore on, it slowly dawned on me what an incredible stroke of luck I had had. It was as though I had been given another chance. And this was legal. I might not have taken Saeton’s word for it, but the presence of Tubby Carter proved there was nothing wrong with the set-up. He was so unquestionably honest. With him working beside me the whole thing became ordinary, matter-of-fact.
Saeton was different. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust the man. But he was a human dynamo, full of nervous, violent energy. The mercurial emotionalism of the Celt seemed mixed with a Saxon stolidity and singleness of purpose and I felt he was capable of anything. He was a born leader with that vital spark that can kindle enthusiasm in others, the type that can whip the dull heart of the mob into thundering passion. His strength was that he didn’t need the support of others. It was all there inside him. He showed that when he switched off the thundering din of that one engine and turned with a grim concentration to the job of winding the armature of a starter motor. The structure of his life was crumbling about him. His partner was selling him up. But he didn’t discuss it. He threw himself into the work that littered the bench with the silent preoccupation of a man who can see the finished article in his mind’s eye.
Something of his drive and purpose seemed to enter into the two of us as we worked beside him. And the fascination of seeing a part of a complicated machine take shape under my hands so engrossed me that I lost all sense of time. I didn’t notice Carter’s wife bring in our lunch. Saeton pushed a mug of tea and some sandwiches along the bench to me and I ate while I worked. He and Carter did the same.
The only interruption was just after we’d switched on the light plant, shortly after four. There was a banging on the door. Saeton shouted to know who it was and a voice answered, “The police.” I looked up at him from the lathe, my heart suddenly in my mouth. I had so completely lost myself in the work that the reminder that the authorities were searching for me came as a shock.
Saeton tossed me a flash-mask. “Put that on,” he ordered crisply. “The oxy-acetylene equipment is at the end of the bench there.” I saw Carter looking at me curiously. Then I had the mask on and was hurrying across to the oxygen cylinders.
By the time Saeton came back with a police inspector and a sergeant I had the flame going and was cutting across a piece of scrap metal. “Just routine,” the Inspector said as he asked for our identity cards. He glanced at them idly, talking to Saeton all the time. “Thought we’d take a look round Membury before we packed it in. But he’ll be out of the district by now. Probably out of the country in some private plane. Still, we’ll just take a look round — in case. Quite a handy place, an old airdrome, for a man to lie up.” He handed back our cards. “No fear of his pinching your plane, anyway, sir. Can’t fly a plane with two of its engines missing, can you?”
“No,” Saeton answered and he didn’t join in the Inspector’s good-humored laughter.
They left then and I put the flash-mask aside and got back to my lathe with a feeling that the last hurdle had been overcome. I was safe now. So long as I remained at Membury I was safe.
But as we worked on in the evening I was conscious of Carter watching me periodically from the other end of the bench. We knocked off at about eight. I was pretty tired by then and I might have felt depressed, but Saeton clapped his hand on my shoulder. “You’re a better acquisition than I’d dared to hope,” he said, and that word of praise lifted me above physical tiredness. “It’s a pity though,” he added.
“What’s a pity?” Carter asked.
“That Dick Randall doesn’t know anything about engineering,” he answered. “If he could understand just how much we’ve achieved in one single day with the three of us working without interruption for meal-getting, then he’d realize how close we are to success.”
It was cold outside the hangar and the biting north wind made the cut on my forehead ache as though the bone had been smashed. Back at the quarters there was a smell of roasting chicken. We cleaned ourselves up and then gathered in the front room. The trestle table had been covered. It was only an old curtain, but it gave it a more friendly air. The table was laid for four. Saeton crossed to a cupboard and brought out glasses and a bottle of whisky. “I thought you were broke,” Carter said.
Saeton laughed. “Only bankrupts can afford to be spendthrifts.” But though he laughed, there was no laughter in his eyes. “No point in hoarding when Randall may sell us out tomorrow.”
The click of high-heeled shoes sounded on the concrete of the passage outside and Saeton sprang to open the door.
Diana Carter was such a contrast to her husband that she produced in me a sense almost of shock. She was a product of the war, a hard, experienced-looking woman with a wide, over-thick mouth and hennaed hair. There was nothing homely about her. She swept in, a flash of red dirndl skirt and tawny hair with eyes that matched the green of her jersey and a motion of the body that was quite uninhibited. Her glance went straight to Saeton and then fell to the bottle. “What are we celebrating, Bill?” Her voice was deep and throaty with just the trace of an American accent.
“The fact that we’re broke,” Saeton answered, handing her a glass. “Randall’s selling us up tomorrow. Then you and Tubby can go and raise a family in peace.”
She made a face at him and raised her glass. “You’ll talk him out of it,” she said. “But I’ll need some curtains, tablecloths, bed-linen and china. I’m not going to live in a pig-sty. And we’re short of beds.” Her gaze had fastened on me. It was a curiously personal stare and her green eyes were a little too narrow, a little too close.
Saeton introduced us. Her eyes strayed to the adhesive tape across my forehead. But all she said was, “Where is he going to sleep?”
“I’ll fix him up,” Saeton answered.
She nodded, her gaze concentrated on him. “Two months, you said, didn’t you, Bill?” There was a sort of breathlessness about her that contrasted pleasantly with the essentially masculine atmosphere of the hangar. And the gleam of excitement in her eyes made me think she found it more interesting keeping house for three men on this lonely airfield than sharing a flat in London with a girlfriend. “Who’s the girl that comes with the milk and eggs in the morning?” she asked.
“Oh, she works at the farm,” Saeton answered carelessly. “Her name is Else.”
“She behaved more like a camp-follower than a land-girl.” She was looking at her husband as she said this, but then she switched her gaze back to Saeton. “Yours?”
“Really, Diana!” Saeton picked up the bottle and refilled her glass. “Have you managed to make the room opposite habitable?”
“After nearly a day’s work — yes. Was she cook here before I came?”
“She came in and did things for us in the evening sometimes,” Saeton admitted. “By arrangement with the farm.”
“I thought she looked at me like a cat that sees the cream whipped away from under her nose.” It wasn’t said banteringly. Her tone was hard and her eyes searched her husband’s face. “I guess I dug in my heels just in time.” There was a bitter clutching in her voice. She was the sort of woman who would always be wanting the thing that had just been put out of her reach. Slowly she turned and faced Saeton again. “Is she foreign? She has a queer way of talking.”
Saeton nodded. “Yes, she’s German. A D.P. Her name is Else Langen.” He seemed reluctant to talk about her, “Suppose we have some food now, Diana?”
She nodded and finished her drink. As she turned to go, she paused. “So long as I’m here tell her to confine her activities to outside help.”
Saeton laughed. “I’ll tell her.” And he went on chuckling quietly to himself after Diana had left the room, as though at some private joke.
To my surprise Diana proved to be a good cook. The meal was excellent, but before it was over the warmth of the oil stove and the whisky had made me drowsy. I’d had a long day and not much sleep the night before and as they were planning to start work again at seven, I decided to go straight to bed. Saeton fixed me up with a camp bed in one of the back rooms. But for a long time I lay awake, hearing the murmur of their voices. It wasn’t so much the cold that seeped up through the canvas of the bed that kept me awake as the fact that so much had happened since I had arrived at Membury. My mind was chock-full of half-digested impressions, all of them slightly fantastic, like a dream.
But the thing that stood out in my mind was that this was the beginning of a new life for me. I was safe up here at Membury. Whatever the future of Saeton’s outfit, it served my purpose. I’d stay here for a time and then, when the hunt had died down, I’d leave and get a job. I wouldn’t bother about flying. I’d go back to engineering. My day’s work had taught me that I was still an engineer, and there was no shortage of jobs for engineers.
The only thing that worried me as I drifted off to sleep was that Saeton’s company would pack up before it was safe for me to venture again into the outside world. All that seemed to stand between it and failure was the personality of the man. And yet, somehow, that seemed sufficient.
We breakfasted next morning at six-thirty. Diana got the meal for us, an old blue dressing-gown over her nightdress, her face freshly made-up. We ate in silence by the light of an oil lamp, the threat of foreclosure hanging bleakly over the table, like the reluctant daylight. Diana’s eyes kept straying to Saeton’s face as though searching for something there that she needed. He didn’t once look up. He ate with the fierce concentration of a man to whom the act of feeding is a necessary interruption to the day’s work. Tubby Carter, on the other hand, ate with a leisurely enjoyment.
As I went down the passage after breakfast to get my overalls, I passed an open door and paused at the sight of a bed made up on the floor in the far corner. Hanging on the wall was the jacket Saeton had worn the previous night. The man had given me his own camp bed. I don’t know whether this had any direct bearing on my actions later, but I know that at the time it made me feel part of a team and that from that moment I wanted Saeton to win out and get his plane on to the airlift.
There was no hesitation when we reached the hangar, no discussion. We went straight on with the jobs we had left the night before. But as we worked I was conscious of a mounting tension. Several times Saeton paused and glanced impatiently at his watch. A nerve twitched at the skin of his temple. But he worked steadily, unhurriedly, as though the day stretched ahead with absolute security.
Diana brought coffee shortly after eleven. She tossed the morning paper to me with a little secret smile and then turned to Saeton. “Well, he’s here.”
“Then why the devil didn’t you bring him up here with you?”
“I told him to wait. He’s talking to that girl from the farm. I thought you’d like to know he’s got someone with him.”
“Someone with him?” He jerked round towards her. “A man?”
“What sort of a man?”
“Short, slightly bald, with glasses and —”
“I don’t want to know what he looks like. What’s his business?”
“I haven’t asked him.” She seemed to enjoy baiting him with the mystery.
“Well, what’s he look as though he does?” he asked angrily.
“He’s dressed in a dark suit and a Homburg. I guess he might be something in the City — a lawyer maybe.”
“A lawyer! My God! Don’t say he’s brought his solicitor with him! Go and tell them to wait. I’ll be down right away. And get rid of that girl.” He was scrambling out of his overalls, cursing softly to himself, as her heels click-clacked across to the door of the hangar. When he had his jacket on, he picked up a mug of coffee and drank it slowly as though steadying himself, controlling the violence that seemed on the verge of erupting from him. At length he turned to Carter. “We’ve got to convince him, Tubby,” he said in a tight, controlled voice.
The other nodded. “But don’t lose your temper, Bill, like you did last time. It only makes him stutter. If he was an engineer—”
“Well, he’s not an engineer,” Saeton snapped. “He’s just a jerk that’s been left fifty thousand by an adoring aunt.” He thrust his hands into his pockets. “All right. I won’t lose my temper—provided he shows some sense.” He turned then and walked quickly out of the hangar as though he were going to something unpleasant and wanted to get it over.
Carter watched him go and then shrugged his shoulders. “Trouble is, every time he meets Randall he acts as though he’s a steam hammer driving sense into a block of pig iron.”
“What’s Randall like?” I asked. I wasn’t really interested. This was none of my business. I had picked up the paper and was searching through it for a follow-up to the “Callahan” story of the previous day.
“Oh, he’s not a bad fellow, really. Got more money than sense, that’s all.”
I had found what I wanted now, a paragraph on an inside page stating that the police believed “Callahan” had left the country. I folded the paper and laid it on the bench. There was nothing for me to worry about. I looked across at Carter. “Why does Randall want to sell up?” I asked.
Carter shrugged. “Bored, I suppose. He’s not really interested in aircraft. Horse racing is what he lives for. Besides, three years is a long time.”
I glanced at the plane and then back again to Carter. There was something here I didn’t understand. It had been at the back of my mind and now that I didn’t have to worry about myself any more it came to the fore. “It doesn’t take three years to get a plane into the air,” I said.
Carter looked up at me guardedly. “Hasn’t Saeton told you anything about these engines? I thought you were an old friend of his?”
I didn’t pursue the matter, but turned back to the lathe.
It must have been about half an hour later that Saeton came in, his face dark with anger. With him was a tall, erect-looking man with a brushed-up ginger mustache and rather prominent eyes. He wore tweed trousers and a cloth cap and the open neck of his sheepskin jacket was filled with a brilliant blue and gold silk scarf. Behind them trotted a soft, plump little man with a brief-case.
Saeton went straight over to Carter. “You can pack up work on that induction coil, Tubby. We’re through.” His voice was hard and vicious.
Carter sat back on his stool, still holding the coil in his hands as though he didn’t want to let it go, and stared at Randall unbelievingly. “Doesn’t he understand we only need two more months?” he asked Saeton. “With Fraser here —”
“I’ve told him all that,” Saeton cut in. “But we’re not dealing with Randall. We’re dealing with Mr. Reinbaum here.” He nodded to the plump little man whose white fingers were fidgeting with the lock of his brief-case. “He holds the mortgages.”
“I don’t understand,” Carter said slowly. “Those mortgages were given to Dick as security for money he advanced to the company. How does this fellow Reinbaum come into it?”
Randall cleared his throat awkwardly. “I borrowed money on the mortgages,” he said.
“Well, surely if you repay the money —”
“We’ve been over all this,” Saeton cut in impatiently. “Randall has lost heavily — betting.” The word came out with an explosive violence. “Reinbaum has received an offer for the plane and all our tools and equipment and Randall has agreed to close.”
“It is out of the question that we should receive a better offer,” Reinbaum said. He had a soft, slightly foreign voice.
“The offer,” Saeton said harshly, “is twenty-five thousand for the whole box of tricks. That’s just two thousand more than the mortgages.”
“But that means winding up the company,” Carter said. “Randall can’t do that unless one of us agrees. Together we out-vote him. Under the articles of the company —”
“Please, Mr. Carter,” Reinbaum interrupted. “It is not a question of voluntary liquidation.”
“You mean you’re going to force us into liquidation?” Carter asked and there was an obstinate note in his voice that made me suddenly respect him.
“The damnable part of it is,” Saeton said angrily, “that when Randall advanced us that last five thousand his solicitor insisted that since it was for material for building the engines, the engines themselves must be included in the mortgage.” He swung round on Randall. “By God!” he said. “If it wasn’t that I’d swing for it, I’d —” He turned quickly and started to pace up and down, his hands clenched as he fought down the fury that mottled his features. He stopped as he came face to face with the completed engine. Then he reached up to the wall and pressed the starter switch. The engine turned, coughed twice and roared into life. The hangar shook to the thundering din of it. He turned to Randall. “Come here, Dick,” he shouted. “Look at it! Feel the power of it! That engine is ready for installation.” He waved his thick hand at the bench. “The second is already taking shape. In a month it will be finished. In six weeks we’ll be on test. And on the 25th January, well be on the airlift. In two months you’ll be director of a company owning the most talked-of plane in the world. Think of it! Saeton Aircraft freighter slashes fuel costs! My God, man, haven’t you any ambition? We’ll make a fortune, and all I’m asking you for is two months. You’ve carried the company for nearly three years. Another two months isn’t much to ask.”
So that was it! Saeton had something new in engine design, something that would reduce fuel consumption. His wasn’t the first company that had come to grief trying to pursue this particular mirage, and yet the vibrance in his voice, the sheer gripping enthusiasm of the man carried conviction. I stared at Randall. Surely he would give Saeton those two months? I wanted to see those engines finished now. I wanted to see them in the air, to see them tested. If Saeton succeeded….
But Randall was shaking his head. “I’m s-sorry, Bill.” He was stuttering now in his embarrassment. “I’m p-pretty well cleaned out, you know.”
“You mean you’ve lost so heavily you can’t buy those mortgages back?” Saeton was staring at him hard.
“But what about your horses, your car, that house down at Hatfield?”
The other stared at him. “But dash it,” he exclaimed. “I can’t sell the house. It’s been in the family for generations. And I won’t sell my horses.” His face was flushed and there was an obstinate look in his eyes. “I’m sorry, Bill,” he said again. “But you’ve had all the money you’re going to get out of me. My solicitor warned me against —”
“Oh, damn your solicitor!” Saeton shouted. “Can’t you understand that in two months’ time —” He didn’t finish. He had seen the obstinate look in Randall’s eyes and he turned away in disgust. His hand reached out and switched off the engine. The din gradually died away. Saeton’s hand tightened on the boss where the propellor would be fitted as he turned slowly and faced Reinbaum. “So it comes to this — we’re dealing direct with you Mr. Reinbaum. Is that correct?” His voice was quiet and controlled.
Reinbaum beamed and bowed slightly.
“What are your terms for allowing us to continue with the fitting out of the plane?”
Reinbaum shook his head. “I’m sorry, Mr. Saeton. I do not speculate.”
“I’ve given you some idea of what we’re doing here,” Saeton said. “Surely we can come to some arrangement?”
“The offer I have for your plane and the equipment here is conditional on acceptance within forty-eight hours.” Reinbaum spread his hands in a little apologetic gesture. “Unless you can pay what is due on the mortgages I must foreclose.”
“You know damn well we can’t pay. In two months —”
“I want the money now, Mr. Saeton.” The softness was leaving Reinbaum’s voice.
“But if you wait two months…” Saeton’s voice was desperate. “Two months isn’t long. In two months’ time I’ll have all the backing —”
“I repeat, if you cannot pay what is due, then —” Reinbaum shrugged his shoulders.
Saeton turned away and in the light from the high windows I caught a glint of tears in his eyes. He went slowly over to the bench and stood there, fiddling with the armature he’d spent so many laborious hours winding, his back towards us.
“Well, I think that is settled then,” Reinbaum said, glancing up at Randall, whose face was stiff and wooden. “We had better go now, Major.”
In a flash I saw my refuge up here on this airdrome disappearing. But it wasn’t only that. I believed in Saeton. I wanted to see these engines in the air. The money I had made ferrying planes and on currency deals wasn’t honest money. I didn’t care what happened to it. Probably it would be better if I threw it away and I might as well throw it away on this. “Just a moment,” I said as Reinbaum and Randall were turning away. “Is it one of the mortgages that has fallen due?”
Randall shook his head. “No. It’s the interest on them.”
“The interest on them?” I exclaimed. “How much?”
“Eleven hundred and fifty,” Randall murmured.
I turned to Saeton. “Can’t you raise that?” I said. “You could sell something.”
He shook his head. “There’s nothing here that isn’t essential,” he said dully. “If we sold any part of the equipment we couldn’t go on. Besides, it’s all mortgaged. Everything in this hangar is mortgaged.”
“But surely you’ve got some money of your own?” I persisted.
“Blast you!” he shouted, swinging round on me. “You don’t have to hammer the truth of this home to me. I don’t possess any money at all. For the past month we’ve lived on credit. My bank account is overdrawn to the tune of more than a hundred pounds. Carter is in the same boat. And don’t for God’s sake start asking me if I haven’t any friends. I haven’t any friends to the tune of eleven hundred quid.” He turned to Randall and Reinbaum. “Now get the hell out of here, the pair of you. Take what action you like.”
They turned to go.
“Just a minute,” I called to them. “The amount is eleven hundred and fifty?”
It was Reinbaum who answered. “The exact amount is eleven hundred and fifty-two pounds four shillings and seven-pence.”
“Then perhaps you would make me out a receipt,” I said. I had got my wallet out and was extracting my check book.
* “Yes, she’s German. A D.P. Her name is Else Langen.” — Displaced Person.
* “But we’re not dealing with Randall. We’re dealing with Mr. Reinbaum here.” He nodded to the plump little man whose white fingers were fidgeting with the lock of his brief-case. “He holds the mortgages.” — Anti-Semitism, by the date of this novel’s publication, has become the prejudice that dare not speak its name.
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.
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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”