The Unconquerable (3)
By: Helen MacInnes | Categories: Adventure, Serial Fiction

macinnes

HiLoBooks is pleased to serialize Helen MacInnes’s 1944 novel The Unconquerable (later reissued as While We Still Live), an espionage adventure that pits an innocent English woman against both Nazis and resistance fighters in occupied Poland. MacInnes, it’s worth noting, was married to a British intelligence agent, which may explain what one hears is the amazing accuracy of her story’s details. Under the editorship of HiLobrow’s Joshua Glenn, the Save the Adventure book club will reissue The Unconquerable as an e-book for the first time ever. Enjoy!

ALL INSTALLMENTS SO FAR

***

Chapter 3: Warsaw

The journey to Warsaw was spasmodic. Every now and again the car pulled to the side of the wide, flat road to let the columns of soldiers, with their rifles and blankets slung across their shoulders, go marching past. Long, boat-shaped carts, piled with supplies and equipment, lumbered along on their creaking wheels. The horses didn’t like the noise of the car, and the men walking at their head helped the drivers to control them. Twice a detachment of cavalry trotted past. The tilt of the men’s caps reminded Sheila of Adam Wisniewski. There were army cars, too, forcing their way westward past the moving men and rearing horses. Twenty feet away from the main road was a smaller, rougher track. Along this groups of silent men were walking with the long, easy stride of the peasant. They were going east to report for duty. Soon they too would be marching westward like the soldiers they now met. Everywhere was the taste of dust, the smell of petrol, the whinnying of horses, the jingling of harness, the roar of engines, the grinding of sudden brakes, commands, shouts, oaths, and the steady, ominous rhythm of marching boots. How often Sheila had read, “Mobilization is being completed. Troops are moving to the frontiers.” But never had she imagined this labour and sweat, the exhaustion of tempers and bodies, the ear-rending confusion of sounds intensified by the darkness.

Once she said softly to the American, “Why don’t they use the trains?”

“They are using the trains,” he replied.

And once she said to Andrew, “Surely mobilization is almost complete now.” It was an effort to cheer him up as much as an expression of her amazement at the number of men and the quantities of material which she was now seeing. Andrew shook his head sadly. “Not yet,” he answered. And Sheila, who had never pretended to know much about war, but had often agreed with loud demands for action against Nazi Germany, fell miserably silent. There was so much more about war than indignation meetings ever imagined.

After the darkness of the countryside Warsaw’s lights seemed gay and confident. Three armed policemen stopped the car for examination on the outskirts of the city. Then it became a matter of speedy driving through the south-western suburbs with their broad streets, modern blocks of flats, and well-spaced gardens; of skirting the busy centre of the town with its lighted shops and cafes and tramcars. They reached the river Vistula and turned north on the new park-road at the enormous Kierbedz Bridge.

As they neared the Citadel Andrew leaned forward to give last directions. He was standing on the running-board of the car as it slowed up at the large gateway. A bleak light above the sentry’s head glared down at them. Andrew had only time to jump off, to salute them, to say something which Sheila didn’t even manage to hear, and then he was hurrying past the rigid sentry. For the second time that night Sheila felt hot tears sting her eyes. The parting had been so quick, so brisk. She hadn’t meant to say good-bye like this. It was callous. She felt she had been totally inadequate. The American must have felt that too. He broke the long silence of their journey back into the centre of the town again only as they passed the Church of the Holy Cross and entered the little side-street which would bring them to Professor Korytowski’s flat. And then he said rather gruffly, “What’s that you have been holding in your hand all this time?”

Sheila looked down at the sheaf of papers. She had forgotten about them. She said, “Plane tickets to Bucharest,” and stuffed them into her coat pocket.

“Ill ’phone the airport while you wash your face,” Stevens said bluntly. And then he addressed the windscreen, “Although it beats me how a girl can cry so much for a man she doesn’t care two straws about!”

Sheila didn’t answer that. She had been wondering too. Perhaps it was because she liked Andrew so much that she was sorry he was in love with her. But she couldn’t tell Stevens that. He wouldn’t see the logic, only the vanity in that. It would have surprised her greatly to know what Mr Stevens actually had decided: “Well, she’s honest, at least. No false pretences.” He gave her an encouraging smile, which she hadn’t quite expected, as the car halted in Czacki Street.

The outside of the house hadn’t changed much since June, when Sheila had first arrived in Warsaw and had spent a week with Barbara here. Except that the window-panes were all covered with strips of paper now; and there was a large notice pasted up outside the porter’s house at the gateway; and inside the gateway itself there were buckets of sand and water. A round-faced, bald-headed porter was sitting under the solitary entrance light at the doorway to his flat. He lifted an eye from his newspaper to identify them. A radio voice was talking earnestly from an open window behind his head. There was a smell of cooking sausage. A woman’s voice called, “Supper, Henryk!” before her head appeared through the window. She looked at the two newcomers curiously.

Henryk had risen slowly. He limped towards them, and peered cautiously at Sheila and Stevens as if he had bad eyesight.

“Well, it’s the American gentleman,” he said. “Going to visit the professor?”

“Yes.” Russell Stevens didn’t wait for any further questioning. Sheila had turned her head towards the garden round which the block of flats was built. She had no desire for anyone to see her face, stained both with dust and tears, at this moment. The American seemed to understand, for he took her arm and led her into the garden courtyard. “Inquisitive old buzzard,” he said under his breath.

“He’s new, isn’t he? There was a younger man here in June,” Sheila said.

“The younger chap is now in me Navy. Henryk came last month. Usually I don’t mind him. But I guess my nerves need a good stiff drink to-night.”

“Do you come here often, then?” They were following the paved path round the edge of the garden to the doorway in the courtyard which led to Professor Korytowski’s staircase.

“Once a week. About. There’s always a good party on Sunday nights. Just men and a lot of talking.”

The night in the city seemed warm. It hadn’t the edge of the air at Korytów. But inside this courtyard there was the sweet perfume of flowers and leaves, strangely remote from the busy streets only a hundred yards away. Sheila stepped carefully round another pail of sand at the foot of the staircase. There was still another one on the landing outside Professor Korytowski’s door.

As they waited for the door to be opened Sheila said, “You 
know, I have rather a strange feeling…” She ignored 
Stevens’ grin. “I should either have gone home two weeks 
ago ——”

“You’re dead right there.”

“—— or,” Sheila finished, “I shouldn’t go at all. Not just now, anyway.”

“Just when, then?”

Sheila was thinking, what is it that he finds so funny about me? She said, “Oh, after some weeks, once the war has settled down. After all, people stayed in Paris during the last war and did what they could to help.”

Russell Stevens looked at her in alarm. “You are leaving to-night!” he said determinedly. “Personally, I don’t care whether you go or stay. You are old enough to take care of yourself. But Andrew Aleksander happens to be a friend of mine, and he has asked me to see you leave. So leave you do. Even if it kills me, or what is more important, even if it loses me my job.” He glanced at his watch and pressed the doorbell once more.

“You have work to do?” That might explain Mr Stevens’ impatience.

“A mere detail of broadcasting at one o’clock in the morning.” The voice was acid, and justifiably so. Sheila felt more of a nuisance than ever. She gave Professor Korytowski a very subdued greeting. The look of worry and strain on his face didn’t ease her conscience.

*

The flat had three rooms and also a very small kitchen. There was the living-room in which Uncle Edward ate and worked and received his students, there was his small bedroom, and there was the slightly larger one which Barbara used during the University term. Before Barbara Andrew had occupied it, and before Andrew Stanislaw. For Uncle Edward, foreseeing the needs of numerous relatives whom he intended to set firmly into the professions, had provided the extra bedroom as a necessary economy for the family purse. Aunt Marta alone opposed him. “Some one has got to look after the land,” she had said in protest to a family of professional men; and she had registered stony disbelief when her brother replied, “By the time the children are all grown up the State will look after that.” A more effective silencing was the way in which he transferred the Korytowski house and lands to his two widowed sisters, so that they were freed of dependence on him. For himself, he had his work. The little money which he earned was sufficient for his ideas of how a man should live. Barbara had once said, “Uncle Edward thinks that a good review of one of his articles in a University publication is more important than a bank account.” Now Sheila, standing in the bare guest-room, with its two couches, simple furniture (she smiled as she noticed that the most important article was a bookcase, filled with an excellent choice in novels and poetry), remembered the pride in Barbara’s voice. It was easy to understand Barbara and Jan Reska when you remembered that.

Sheila searched for the jug of water standing in its basin under the table. The cold water, splashed vigorously over her face, made her feel, as well as look, better. Outside, in the narrow hall, the American was ’phoning. From the living-room came the sound of men’s voices. She hurriedly combed the wind tangles out of her hair. (“I’m afraid we don’t have much time left, Miss Matthews,” Professor Korytowski had said, which was his polite paraphrase for “Hurry up. You’re late.”) She paused in the middle of combing her hair at the memory of Uncle Edward’s way of pronouncing “Matthews.” He pronounced it like every foreigner, stumbling over the impossible combination of th, and giving it more of the French sound of “Mathieu.” Only Mr Stevens had said it the exactly correct way. Only Mr Steven s— and Mr Johann Hofmeyer. Perhaps he had lived for years in England or America. Why worry about a detail like that, anyway? There was more to think about at the moment.

Nevertheless, the thought of Hofmeyer prompted her to search in her coat pocket. She studied the small bundle of clipped papers, looking curiously at the tickets which would enable her to leave for Britain. But there was something else beside the tickets and the regulations on air travel. There was a sheet of paper with elaborate printing. “Kotowitz. The Old Square, Number 31.” That was the heading. Underneath was the legend: Importer and Exporter. Under that: “Finest Table Delicacies.” Then came very small type at the foot of the announcement, which told you that Johann Hofmeyer was the present proprietor, that inquiries would receive full and prompt attention, that the telephone number was 5-7177. The whole announcement was repeated in three other languages: German, English, French. Mr Hofmeyer’s business was an expansive one. For a moment Sheila wondered. And then she jammed all the papers back in her pocket. No doubt the advertising sheet was only included to prove Mr Hofmeyer’s identity. She would present it to Uncle Matthews as a souvenir from an obliging business connexion.

In the hall Stevens was still ’phoning. He was leaning on an elbow against the wall, a pencil in one hand tapping impatiently, a long-suffering look in his eyes. Some one must have spoken at last, for he suddenly stopped lounging, and he was listening intently.

In the living-room the desk lamp with its pleated pink silk shade gave a soft light which left the bookcases, lining three walls, in darkness. In the fourth wall was the large window, at which Professor Korytowski was nailing up, with more determination than skill, a large sheet of black cloth. From a chair beside the desk, with its periodicals and reprints and papers now neatly arranged and neglected, a small, thin man with glasses, a fading hair-line, and a sardonic smile was talking steadily. At the man’s elbow was an ugly little box of a radio, muted so as not to interfere unduly with the conversation.

Professor Korytowski abandoned his labours and introduced the strange man, who had risen to his feet and was watching Sheila keenly. His name was Michal Olszak.

“We’ve been talking of the old days, which is one of the few escapes left us from the present,” Korytowski said. “Now do sit down, and we’ll wait until Mr Stevens finishes verifying the aeroplane time.”

Sheila sat quietly and tried to listen to a conversation which had now switched, for her benefit, to the most recent news. But she was wondering if Mr Olszak had seen as much danger as Edward Korytowski had in the ‘old days.’ That phrase meant the Polish fight for freedom during the last war; and then the continued fight for Polish boundaries after 1919, when the rest of the world relaxed into peace and forgot Poland; and then the establishing of a liberal regime. Edward Korytowski had been in that short-lived Government. He had ‘retired’ with Paderewski and Sikorski and the other liberals. In his disappointment he had given up politics completely. Well, if Professor Korytowski said they were talking about the old days, then he and Mr Olszak had indeed been talking about them. So much. Sheila thought, for the strange feeling she had had, as she entered the room, that they had been talking about her. What she needed, she told herself wryly, was not two months’, but two years’ submerging of her personality into a family like the Aleksanders. Then she’d be less of an egotist and happier altogether.

Her thoughts and Uncle Edward’s slow voice were interrupted by the American. He was still worried, but he was also excited. He began pacing the room, his hands plunged deeply into the pockets of his light-coloured tweed jacket.

“I ’phoned the office twice,” he was saying quickly. “First time, no dice. Second time, after I made calls to the airport and station, they told me a blackout is rumoured. Some of the districts in the city are already dimming out. They want me to get to the broadcasting station at once, just in case. As for the plane to Bucharest, all civilian reservations are cancelled for the next twelve hours. Then I tried the station. Trains are needed for the Army. Those for civilians are few and far between. I reached Bill Robertson who had been covering the station, trying to get a news story that way. Bill says it’s hopeless. Stations jam-packed.” He looked at Sheila and shrugged his shoulders. “So what?” he said.

Sheila’s dismay left her, perhaps because she felt he expected her to be dismayed. “You’d better go to the broadcasting station,” she said in a voice that was calmer than her thoughts. “I’ll go to the station and wait. That’s all that can be done, anyway.”

“I’ll go with Miss Matthews,” Professor Korytowski said. “And if there isn’t a train available Miss Matthews can have Barbara’s room until there is one. I think that would be better than a hotel in this emergency.” He looked towards Sheila for her acceptance. She gave him a thankful smile. That was one worry gone. A few days in a hotel, and there would be little money left to get her to Britain.

Russell Stevens still stood undecided. He was obviously relieved at the quickness of their decisions, but he seemed reluctant to accept them. He looked at her for a moment. He knew determination when he saw it.

“Hurry,” Sheila said. “You’ve wasted enough time on me already. And thank you very much for having wasted it.”

There was a smile in the businesslike grey eyes as he gripped her hand in his. And then his even, sure footsteps were running down the stone stairs.

“Suitcases,” Sheila called after him from the landing. “No time. Leave them with Uncle Edward.” She saw Russell Stevens’ upturned face, saw a wave from his hand that he understood and agreed, and then he had disappeared into the courtyard. Professor Korytowski smiled as he struggled into a thin coat, which never seemed to get properly on to his large, stooping shoulders.

“I have a new niece, I hear,” he said as Sheila came back into the room.

Sheila smiled too. The “Uncle Edward” had slipped out 
so easily, so unconsciously. “I’m sorry ——” she began.

“Not at all, I like it. And I’ll see that your luggage is forwarded to you later. Now, I suppose we ought to leave too. Are you sure you really want to go to the station, after Stevens’ information?”

“Frankly, I don’t want to go. But I’ve promised every one I should leave Warsaw to-night. So I suppose I have to try at least. Just to satisfy my conscience.” She fumbled in her pocket, wondering if she should explain about Mr Hofmeyer and the plane tickets. But Mr Olszak turned the volume control on the wireless-set, and said in his crisp voice, “Total blackout in fifteen minutes. That’s the latest announcement.”

He looked at Sheila, gathering up her handbag and gloves. “Perhaps you shouldn’t go,” he said. “Not to-night.”

“I’ll have to try, I’m afraid.”

Mr Olszak remained staring at the girl. “The resemblance is really very strong, in every way,” he said incredulously in Polish. Sheila looked puzzled. She didn’t quite understand. Perhaps she had misunderstood. She was tired, and Mr Olszak spoke so quickly. Perhaps she had misunderstood.

Certainly Mr Olszak was thinking of something else now. “I’ll wait for the others,” he said to Uncle Edward. “We’ll begin without you, if necessary.” He picked up a newspaper.

“If you are expecting ——” Sheila began in alarm.

“Hush, child. You worry too much. Either there will be a possible train, or there won’t be one. We needn’t wait long at the station. I’ll be back in time to see my guests.”

Mr Olszak had come over to the door, with the newspaper still in his hand, to say good-bye. “I hope we may meet again, some day, when all this trouble is over.” He looked as if he were expressing an impossible wish. “There is much we could talk about. Good-bye, and a safe journey.”

Under the row of chestnut-trees in the quiet little street Sheila was still wondering about Mr Olszak. Uncle Edward seemed to think that something Olszak had said had depressed her.

“Don’t worry,” he said reassuringly. “This trouble may not last so long as Michal thinks. He is always rather too realistic, too gloomy. That’s why his newspaper sells so badly. He will write editorials which are both true and unpleasant. He says there are two kinds of journalist. One becomes rich and powerful, and cynical of the poor. Another remains poor, and cynical of the rich and powerful.”

“I think I should like to meet Mr Olszak again, some day,” said Sheila.

“He was a great friend of your ——” Uncle Edward halted abruptly. He was suddenly businesslike. “There’s a taxi,” he said. He waved vehemently. They were standing outside the Church of the Holy Cross. Round them, in Main Street, there were tramcars and lighted restaurants and numerous cafes crowded with earnestly talking people. It seemed as if every open window concealed a wireless-set, turned fully on. In June, Sheila remembered, there had been music and laughter and smiling faces in this street. Now the lights were darkening. People were leaving the cafés. People were walking urgently.

The taxi-driver justified Professor Korytowski’s extravagance. The cab reached Central Station as the last light vanished, like the flames of candles briefly snuffed out. Uncle Edward looked up and down the darkened street, as they stood accustoming their eyes to the night. “I do believe,” he said as he stared at the buildings in their new austerity, “I do believe a blackout is an improvement.” And Sheila found herself almost smiling.

Inside the large, modern station the ghastly light from infrequent, blue-painted lamps was certainly no improvement. Masses of people stood patiently in crowded groups. Children had fallen asleep on benches against the walls; their exhausted bodies drooped pathetically. Professor Korytowski steered Sheila through the crowd of stolid faces. They were going home, these people. They belonged to the villages, and in this moment of crisis they wanted to return there, these older men and women and children. A war was threatened; the villages would have to be defended. Even years of city life had not eradicated that simple belief.

“The foreigners will be over there,” Uncle Edward said, indicating the section where express trains usually left for abroad. He mixed force with polite phrases to ease a way through the crowds.

Sheila heard them before she saw them, sitting on piles of luggage or elbowing each other round the notice-boards. Worry hadn’t improved their tempers; their smart clothes were as jaded as their nerves.

Voices of many nations were outshouting each other.

“Ridiculous… I’m going back to the hotel.” It was an English voice, too.

“And start this all over again to-morrow?”

“Ridiculous… a few extra trains, and we should all get away.”

“You’re darned right it’s ridiculous,” a third voice said. An American voice. “How do they expect to win a war if they don’t have organization?”

Sheila looked at them savagely, all the more savagely because Uncle Edward was pretending not to have heard them. How did they expect a war to be won if soldiers had to walk to the frontier so that a batch of foreigners wouldn’t have to wait for a free train? A Frenchman argued bitterly with an Italian. A Rumanian family quarrelled loudly among themselves. A woman, who evidently believed in travelling with her jewellery, complained and complained. She had lost a hat-box. A fat, dark-haired sallow-faced man was buttonholing every station employé he could see. It never seemed to dawn on him that these hurrying, harassed men had each his own job to do. “I’m a neutral,” the fat man kept saying. “I’ve a neutral’s rights. The Embassy told me there would be a train to-night. Where’s that train?” The only silent people, it seemed, were three young American chorus-girls with immaculate hair and elaborate shoes, and a tight-lipped Englishwoman whose dull clothes spelt governess. These four had drawn together. They stood beside a worried Cook’s Tour agent and listened, with amusement and disapproval respectively, to the unanswerable questions which bombarded the unfortunate man.

Professor Korytowski had managed to attract the attention of the Cook’s Tour man. In Polish he asked quickly if there was to be a train, if they should wait?

The man, his thin face thinner under the wide scoop of his official cap, nodded. “There is to be a train, specially provided.” His tone said, “But why, in God’s name, for such people?”

“Thank you. We shall wait, then,” Professor Korytowski replied.

Some one said behind them, “A Pole! Imagine that! When they should be staying at home to fight!”

Sheila turned to face the elbowing woman who carried a dog under her arm.

“Don’t worry. Your dog can have my place on the train,” she said clearly, and walked away. Professor Korytowski managed to reach her as she struggled free from the last of the crowd.

“But there is a train, Sheila. Any minute perhaps.”

Sheila, still telling herself what she could have said to the woman, still thinking of bitter, stinging phrases now that it was too late, looked up in silence at Professor Korytowski.

“With these objects?” she asked at last. The scorn in her voice, the vehemence in her eyes left Professor Korytowski no reply. He looked worriedly towards the notice-board, but Sheila was already walking out of the station.

NEXT INSTALLMENT | ALL INSTALLMENTS SO FAR

***

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.

REDISCOVERED 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 | John Buchan’s Huntingtower

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” | Charlie Mitchell’s “A Fantasy Land” | 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) | “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”

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Scottish-born novelist Helen MacInnes (1907–85) wrote 21 anti-totalitarian espionage adventures, including these titles from HiLobrow's list of 200 Greatest Adventure Novels: Above Suspicion, Assignment in Brittany, The Unconquerable, and The Venetian Affair. Fun fact: Assignment in Brittany was required reading for Allied intelligence agents who were being sent to work with the French resistance against the Nazis.