QSFer Cynthia Ward has a new queer alt historical sci-fi paranormal book out: The Adventure of the Golden Woman.
The Adventure of the Golden Woman is the concluding novella of the author’s Blood-Thirsty Agent series.
Lesbian vampire spies at the cabaret!
It’s 1931, and conquest of the earth isn’t enough for the British Empire. But the demi-mondaine of occupied Berlin harbors a resistance movement, and the double agents Lucy Harker—Dracula’s daughter—and her lover, the vampire Carmilla, steal England’s spaceship plans. Then the handoff to American agent Adolph Hitler is foiled by an impossibly advanced mechanical woman, and the lovers are imprisoned on a lunar spaceship scheduled for imminent launch. Now Lucy and Carmilla’s only hope of saving the solar system is to overcome the ship’s robot crew and outthink England’s greatest espionage agent: Sherlock Holmes.
As I make my way up Motzstrasse towards the Nollendorfplatz, I realise I’m being followed. Smiling at the irony, I turn into the darkness of a narrow alley, which a law-abiding soul in Berlin would avoid as a reeking obstacle course of prostitutes and punters, dope fiends, muggers, rapists, murderers, and lust-murderers.
The man follows me. He’s too tall to be Hiedler, or anyone else from my tiny new circle of Berlin acquaintances. It appears my cover is blown.
So quickly! How?
Is Hiedler’s cover blown, as well?
Is Christopher Isherwood’s?
Or has one of them betrayed me?
Bypassing a couple copulating against a grimy wall, I approach the busy Kleiststrasse. I can lose my tail in the popular Kleist Casino, or slip into the Verona-Lounge. The Lesbian bar won’t admit an unaccompanied male.
The uncertain starlight in the narrow byway is more than sufficient for my inhuman eyes, and a backward glance catches my tail rounding a bend in the alley. He’s a tall, bony, elderly German with a bright potato nose and a Father Christmas beard. He uses an Alpenstock as a walking-stick but has a spry gait. He’s too far away for me to catch his scent.
If the old man works for the German puppet government, we’re essentially both agents of SIS. However, I can’t assume he does. Occupied territories and independent nations alike resent the acquisitiveness and alien technology of my homeland, which has conquered much of the world and contends with China and the United States for the rest. Many of these powers play in Berlin.
As I gain the neon-bright Kleiststrasse, I discover the Bohemian boulevard is being monitored by a tripod, its underside enameled blue, red, and white.
The British Empire’s three-legged battle-machines are taller than a three-story house and built with technology reverse-engineered from the failed “Martian” invasion of ’02. The tripods tend to discourage approach, especially when the agile tentacles are lowered, as they are in this case.
I turn towards the tripod, and the man drops back, but he remains on my tail with the tenacity of a tick. I’ll mention him to the woman at the door of the Verona-Lounge. She knows me, and she will make his life much too interesting to worry about me.
The fighting-machine’s three legs remain as motionless as tree-trunks while I pass, but one of the tentacles which dangle like clustered vines gives a twitch. Then it strikes with a serpentine speed no mortal could avoid. On the busy street, I must allow it to wrap around my torso and raise me into the air.
It carries me through the open hatch into the cockpit, where a fair-haired young lieutenant of the Royal Tripod Corps sits at the controls. His eyes are slate and his shave is so close his pores should be bleeding. He smiles at me in no friendly fashion.
“What ho, Fraulein! Sprechen Sie Englisch?” The pilot speaks in a toffee-nosed accent. “You’re pale enough for a Boche,” he continues in our native language, with a laugh like tearing burlap. “But you jolly well look like a Gipsy.”
“I’m English!” I assure him, shaking in every limb.
“I’ve a ripping advantage up here, Fraulein. I saw you leaving that pervert club only moments before a known agitator,” he says. “I’ve had quite enough of you rummy sorts selling British secrets to German subversives.”
“You’ve made a mistake, sir.” My voice quavers with the terror of an innocent woman. My arms aren’t bound by the metal “rope” in a way which prevents me opening my portfolio, so I withdraw the government-issued identification papers of my alias. “I don’t know any subversives,” I assure the pilot. “I’m a British citizen, loyal to king and country.”
“What utter rot.” He laughs. “I’m sure you were meeting with that Hiedler blighter. Don’t try to deny it, I know what he looks like. Can’t stop talking the Empire down, that one. I ought to take you to my superiors.”
Hiedler is a British intelligence agent. His overt talk against “English oppressors” makes him a valuable operative for the Empire, which has no idea he’s a double agent. But there’s no use blowing his cover by telling the tripod pilot that. Especially when the pilot’s nothing more than a bloody fool acting on his own initiative. Britain has many secret agents in the tripod corps, but a Secret Intelligence Service operative would never be so stupid as to sweep up a suspected spy with a tripod—especially on one of the busiest streets in Berlin.
“Sir,” I say, voice rising, “I don’t know anyone named Adler. Is he German? I don’t even speak German!”
“You don’t, eh?” The pilot strokes the point of his chin, as if considering. “Well, I might be able to let you go. If you demonstrate your loyalty.”
I’ve heard of this sort of thing, though I’ve never witnessed it, or personally known anyone who’s admitted to experiencing it. It’s rumoured to happen to Irish girls, Kikuyu girls, Maori girls, red Indian girls, black Indian girls, German girls—everyone except English girls.
My looks bring me many sorts of attention which many other Englishwomen fail to receive.
“How can I prove my loyalty to England, sir?” I ask, trembling in voice and limbs.
“Why, I’ll show you.” The pilot smiles like a wolf spotting a fallen lamb. “I’ll show you precisely what you need to do.”
Starting towards me, he reaches for the buttons of his trousers.
“You daft monster.” Now there’s not a bit of panic in my voice. Only ice. “You’ve taken your last victim.”
Cynthia Ward has published stories in Analog, Asimov’s, Black Cat Mystery, Nightmare, Weird Tales, and elsewhere. She edited Lost Trails: Forgotten Tales of the Weird West Volumes 1-2 (WolfSinger Publications). With Nisi Shawl, Cynthia cocreated the Writing the Other fiction workshop and coauthored Writing the Other: A Practical Approach (Aqueduct Press), which were honored with a Locus Award. The first book of her Bloody-Thirsty Agent series, The Adventure of the Incognita Countess (Aqueduct), was a finalist for the Gaylactic Spectrum Award for Best Novel.