Not yet autumn

Aug. 23rd, 2017 08:03 am
jhetley: (Default)
[personal profile] jhetley

Air temperature 70 F, dew point 67, overcast, wind south about 8 mph for the newspaper walk. "Cooler" and "drier" have not yet arrived. Nor has the apocalypse.

Your Personal Bodycam

Aug. 23rd, 2017 11:41 am
[syndicated profile] bruce_schneier_feed

Posted by Bruce Schneier

Shonin is a personal bodycam up on Kickstarter.

There are a lot of complicated issues surrounding bodycams -- for example, it's obvious that police bodycams reduce violence -- but the one thing everyone is certain about is that they will proliferate. I'm not sure society is fully ready for the ramifications of this level of recording.


Aug. 23rd, 2017 12:14 pm
nineweaving: (Default)
[personal profile] nineweaving
From my journal, May 1994:

"Did you see the annular eclipse? It was a perfect day for it here: high- clouded blue, the trees leafed out or leafing, still pale green, a trifle rumpled with unpacking. Light breezes in the dappled grass. Clean rainwashed air. By one, the flawless clarity of light began to dim. A queer dark, neither dusk nor overcast. Underexposed. The moon worked strange equations of light and space and time: as if the world were bright but somehow distant, or later on but here, or nowhere, now. Sharp shadows, and a cooler spectrum, a flattening and heightening of space- time, like a scene in a camera obscura. Like a view of Delft. (Vermeer composed his pictures through a camera obscura, casting its image on the canvas, painting light not line. It gives a dreamlike surreality.) A few birds clamored in the trees, confused or settling.

"Then the air was tranced. The trees were underwater, underhill. Elsewhere. Dark-dazzled, like a world enstoned in crystal: dark within, but lightedged, and refracting light.. Glimpsed sidelong through film, the sun was crescent, heavy, like a raindrop streaming; but of fire. Ablaze but coldly: vermeil, silver-gilt. The oddest thing I’d not expected, and
it stopped me with a shock of wonder. (I must have read of it, long since; but I’d forgotten.) Through the screen of new leaves, at the fringes of the shadows, the sun cast thousands of light crescents, imaging itself. It spelled itself on earth.

"This evening clear, the sky almost colorless, faint gold; then the deepest endless blue and Venus riding air." 

legionseagle: (Default)
[personal profile] legionseagle
I'm in general pretty sceptical about the Honours system, but over recent days I've become a believer. The Honours system justifies itself by continuing not to give a knighthood to Geoffrey Boycott and by very properly giving them instead to the likes of Viv Richards, Curtly Ambrose, Wes Hall and Gary Sobers (and why the hell has Clive Lloyd not appeared on that list?), something that has recently prompted the mouthy Yorkshire rhubarb obsessive to observe that the honour was handed out "like confetti" to Windies players and that "Mine’s been turned down twice. I’d better black me face.”

Honestly, it's like a variation on Lewis's law*: Boycs' explanation for why he hasn't been knighted shows why he mustn't be knighted.

However, speaking of white knights, a whole bunch of Boycott supporters have crawled out of the woodwork on twitter, claiming that the only reason their hero hasn't had the respect he deserves is because of that pesky domestic violence conviction from 1998, and after all, that was in France so it barely counts and anyway, she was probably lying.

And since most of them are talking about "new evidence" I thought it was my public duty to do a little gentle fact checking, as a resource for others who may have to deal with these pests.

Read more... )

Anyway, as [personal profile] kalypso and I have known since the early 80s, the block to his knighthood lies not in his domestic violence conviction, his racism, his ban from Test cricket as a result of touring apartheid-era South Africa, his running out of Randall or his all-round painful personality. It lies in the deep dark reason everyone in the know knows, but no-one can talk about.

*"The comments below any article on feminism justify feminism".

Femslashex 2017 Letter.

Aug. 23rd, 2017 03:57 pm
sapphire2309: (Default)
[personal profile] sapphire2309
Kendall. Rude air page.

[otherwise known as - this is a placeholder and should be filled in by tonight!]

Happy Birthday to me

Aug. 23rd, 2017 11:12 am
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
[personal profile] beccaelizabeth
I know I am only one day older than yesterday, but I am also one year older
and that makes me a nice round number
and I can reasonably expect to live as long again as I have already
which maybe might be true next birthday too
depending which graph you believe.

That's pretty much the definition of middle age then.

And I have silver in my hair and a nice relaxed shape
and basically am winning at time.


I have a birthday card from my brother, the one who writes in square shapes so it has my address on the envelope twice because it got translated. It's a nice card.

And mum phone already, to see if I was awake, which is logical in mum world and I am therefore awake now.

It's a nice shiny day and I'm scheduled to go out this evening
and many things remain possible.

Happy birthday to me.

The Blood is the Life for 23-08-2017

Aug. 23rd, 2017 11:00 am
miss_s_b: (Default)
[personal profile] miss_s_b

Wednesday is looking autumnal again

Aug. 23rd, 2017 10:00 am
oursin: Photograph of small impressionistic metal figurine seated reading a book (Reader)
[personal profile] oursin

What I read

Finished The Private Patient, which was readable enough, I suppose, but felt not exactly as if PDJ was phoning it in, just proceeding along well-worn ruts. Found it hard to believe in the characters. Also, while PDJ does have a sense that there is Modern Life, and makes a nod to it in Miskin, she still feels in a bit of a time-warp (unlike Rendell/Vine)

Read Ginger Frost's Illegitimacy in English Law and Society, 1860-1930 (2016), which was a freebie for reading a book proposal and I have been trying to get to for months, because Frost's work is always good and going into areas very under-explored. This one looks at illegitimacy from the angle of the illegitimate children (rather than the fallen mother) and is densely researched. Also more than a little depressing - illegitimate children had a very high mortality rate, if they weren't the victims of infanticide by desperate mothers they were subject to neglect or the general problems of poverty. Also the cruelty of the laws took so very long to change. But Frost does get the ambivalances: courts and local officials being sympathetic to the plight of unwed mothers and thus giving merciful judgments in infanticide cases, giving mothers out-relief rather than obliging them to go into the workhouse, demonstrating a certain flexibility; while thinking actually changing the rules would lead to the downfall of morality.

Also finished one of two books I have for a joint review, which also deal with a rather depressing topic.

On the go

Tanith Lee, Nightshades: Thirteen Journeys into Shadow (1993, and collecting some much earlier material). Some of these have been in other collections of hers I've read recently. Very good, if creepy.

Also, have started second book for the joint review.

Up next

If it ever arrives, the new Barbara Hambly Benjamin January mystery.

online book rec

Aug. 23rd, 2017 01:54 am
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
[personal profile] alatefeline
Wandered across and found some excellent novellas and short stories, if you like fantasy of varying sorts centering queer characters.

Sci-Fi Satire Roundup

Aug. 23rd, 2017 08:05 am
[syndicated profile] file770_feed

Posted by Mike Glyer

Curated by Carl Slaughter: (1) A Game of Thrones fan with character insight, writing talent, and a sense of humor gives us a preview of the season 7 finale. (2) Sneak peek at opening episode of Game of Thrones season … Continue reading

Folly from a Loon

Aug. 23rd, 2017 08:00 am
[syndicated profile] file770_feed

Posted by Mike Glyer

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1260)  Nineteen books after The Fall of the Dutch Republic (1913), The Rise of the Dutch Kingdom (1915), and The Golden Book of the Dutch Navigators (1916), which incidentally had three different publishers, he … Continue reading

(no subject)

Aug. 23rd, 2017 09:20 am
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] natlyn!

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

Aug. 23rd, 2017 07:00 am
[syndicated profile] strangehorizons_feed

Posted by Aishwarya Subramanian

Matters of Britain

Perhaps the central fact of the Arthur mythos is that the once and future king will rise again to save Britain in her hour of need. Less explicitly acknowledged (or too obvious to bother acknowledging?) is the fact that the myth itself performs a similar function; as with all national myths, it morphs to meet the needs of the particular Britain of its moment. During the heyday of Empire we got stories of knights spreading civilisation outward from Camelot; the late Victorian Arthur is in Tennyson’s poems of loss and death and ending; T.H. White’s Arthur story is fascism and doom and yearning; Welsh Arthurs in the twentieth century are sleepers under the hill, ready to rise again; in a postimperial Britain his realistic-sounding Roman roots are centred. Arthur is king of England or of Britain as the situation requires him to be. Merlin is Scottish; Arthur shows up in the Mabinogion; those connections are emphasised at particular moments for particular reasons. There’s a reason this body of myth is referred to as the Matter of Britain—its purpose is, in part, to define what Britain is.

What this means is that an Arthur film, in a year that has included both Brexit and a rather startling British election, is bound to mean something. Yet Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, released earlier this summer, has not generated its own miniature thinkpiece industry. This is a relief, in a way, but surely this incredibly topical film has something to say about the country for which it’s providing an origin story?

Perhaps not.

We open at the end of a war. Mordred, here a rogue mage, is attacking the city of Camelot with giant demonic war elephants, Hannibal crossing the South Downs. Uther Pendragon, king and bearer of the magic sword Excalibur, defeats him and wins the war—but is soon betrayed by his brother, Vortigern. The infant Arthur witnesses the killing of his parents before being set adrift in a boat that carries him down the Thames to Londinium. There he is found and raised by a group of women who work in a brothel, and all seems to be going well until the water levels around Camelot drop drastically, revealing Excalibur embedded in a stone. Rumours of the existence of a “born king” start to fly; to quell a growing resistance movement Vortigern orders that all men of about the right age attempt to draw the sword. Meanwhile, Arthur, now an adult (we get a montage of the years in between) has gathered around him a band of comrades, with fine names like Wet Stick and Backlack. Tom Wu has a minor role as “George” (referred to at one point as “Kung Fu George”[1]), the mentor who taught Arthur how to fight. Forced to undergo the sword test, Arthur is immediately captured by Vortigern, but rescued by a band of upper-class rebels led by Sir Bedivere and “The Mage” (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey). Vortigern must be defeated before he completes the tower that will give him magical strength, and Arthur must reconcile himself to his fate and organise his two sets of allies before claiming his birthright.

“I’m trying to tell a story here …”

In discussing a retelling it’s always tempting to start by trying to map out what is and isn’t included—perhaps it’s useful to know that that there’s no illegitimate son here, no Guinevere, no Grail; that Merlin is mentioned in passing, but has no active role to play. But then, as John Clute has elsewhere said (in an essay on Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising sequence in Pardon This Intrusion [2011]), the Matter of Britain is “almost intractably complex, not only because of the incoherence and mutual incompatibilities that muddy the inner tale, if there is indeed a single inner tale that can be told, but also because the Matter has been traversed in poem and story by many tellers over many centuries.” Modern retellings are more usually reaching into a vast mass of story and symbol and attempting to draw out coherent threads rather than attempting to encompass the whole—and as readers and viewers of the myth we’re used to receiving it in mutually incompatible fragments. And because this is a story that has been told and retold over and over, with everything but the barest essentials (and I’m not even sure what those might be) altered, we recognise it primarily as one that is told, full of tropes and shapes that we understand to be fundamental to how narrative works.

Legend’s status as story also unmoors it from time. In this film we are in the odd, atemporal space of myth-history. Actual history is gestured at rather than reconstructed—Londinium is full of Roman architecture, most of it in familiar-looking ruins. The costume design (by Annie Symons), too, is genuinely clever at straddling the divide between plausible Olden Days clothing (here too the film is not restricted by any sort of accuracy) and things that feel modern when the characters wear them. Vortigern’s kingly outfits feel particularly business casual. We’re never asked to look upon this world as accurate in any material sense—it’s purely representative, and this is one of its strengths.

Indeed, it turns out that Arthur, too, is a storyteller—it’s through his narration that we’re quickly walked through past events and alternate presents. (“Tell me a story,” demands a member of Vortigern’s police force, “about a girl called Lucy, a Viking called Greybeard, and some rebel graffiti.”) But Arthur’s stories are not the only way in which we’re reminded of the workings of narrative. This quirk is very Guy Ritchie (ifyoulikethatsortofthing), but it’s also very well suited to the subject matter. Large swathes of plot are handed over to montages (we and the film both know how it's going to go, so going through the motions is unnecessary), and we are able to slip comfortably between real and mythic space, lived and narrated events, and past and present because, again, we recognise these as inherent to the mythos and how it is received. In the face of most reviews of the film, then, I'd suggest that it's actually the most over-worked, over-stylised scenes (Arthur's comic turns as storyteller, those breathless montages) that work best here. Legend of the Sword is at its weirdest and cleverest when it’s working with our understanding of story—usually to draw us into a sort of collusion with it, but occasionally (as with Arthur’s journey to “the Dark Lands”) to wrongfoot us over our expectations of what is important[2].

This subheading really should have been a dick joke

At one level, a movie about magic swords is always going to be a bit phallic; this is neither interesting nor an original reading. Legend of the Sword, however, really wants you, the audience, to know that it knows that it is basically about dicks. The film opens with a suggestive explosion at the top of a tower, and makes full use of every opportunity to pit its various towers (two), swords (several, one magic), and snakes (miscellaneous, one of them giant) against one another. We’re invited to focus on the pommel of Arthur’s saddle as it rocks back and forth, or on a guttering candle being lovingly caressed by Vortigern. David Beckham (I know), in a cameo role as the Vortigern employee who oversees attempts to draw sword from stone, advises Arthur to put “ten digits round the blunt bit, give it a tug.”

In a film so silly and so blatant about its symbols, it’s hard to tell how much those symbols are worth thinking about. Legend can get away with being lazy, given that its source material is so oversaturated with meaning; it can give us signifiers without ensuring that they signify anything. What, for example, are we supposed to do with a scene involving an eagle carrying a snake flying into the sunset? Is this a callback to the Roman Empire? The flag of Mexico? Who knows.

Having said all of which, I risk making myself look silly when I describe one of the moments in the film where I think symbol is used to genuinely good effect. At some point we notice that the symbol of the “born king”, graffitied on walls across the city, is a circle with a cross on top of it (♁)—an upside down version of the female gender symbol and the planetary symbol of Venus that feels like a sly joke in a film so heavily and knowingly dependent on phallic imagery. It’s also, however, the symbol for Earth. Intentionally or not (probably not) Legend of the Sword here has touched on something real. The matter of Britain is also the physical matter of Britain—the rock and earth that make up the island. There’s an echo of this in the most basic version of the myth—the sword being pulled out of the stone, out of the stuff of the landscape itself. Ritchie’s version takes the metaphor even further. As Vortigern stabs Uther in the back with his own sword, the dying king is transmuted into a rock, so that Arthur, now literally a son of the land, is pulling the sword out of his father’s body. Later, the Lady of the Lake will physically pull him into marshland.

And speaking of the Lady of the Lake:

Strange Women Lying in Ponds

Before we'd even reached the opening credits, much less the sword-tugging, two women had died. (A lot of men presumably also died at the same time, during the war with which the film opens, but in the manner of background cannon fodder.) Vortigern, it turns out, has been enhancing his magical powers by serially sacrificing the women in his family and throwing them to mysterious creatures that live in an underground lake. Igraine, his sister-in-law, is killed, and her body falls into the river. Later, Arthur witnesses the murder of the woman who raised him.

It’s not surprising that so many of these deaths seem to involve bodies of water—underwater seems to be one of the few places in the film’s world where women (not the dead ones, presumably) can thrive. The Lady of the Lake seems powerful, though all she actually does is telepathically give Arthur a vision of a possible apocalyptic future (more demonic elephants). The creatures with which Vortigern makes his terrible pact appear as a writhing mass of tentacles and women’s torsos, so that it’s tempting to do a plausible reading of the film as Little Mermaid fanfiction.

Its women characters are also the point at which the film’s creativity in naming seems to have dried up. The men are “Wet Stick,” “Goosefat Bill,” “Flatnose Mike,” “Mischief John”; and there’s palpable joy in the sounds of these words, and the playfulness that they allow. Meanwhile, a couple of the women get dull first names, while “The Mage” and “The Lady of the Lake” are synonymous with their jobs. IMDB informs me that Vortigern’s underwater allies are named “Syren 1,” “Syren 2,” and “Syren 3.”  (Try “Ursula,” “Flotsam,” and “Jetsam.”)

And yet it does occasionally look like the film is making an effort. The decision to jettison Merlin for a female Mage might well have been a good one, had Legend been able to decide whether she was supposed to be terrifying and otherworldly or merely a Girl whose pigtails Arthur can pull. [3] And as much as they’re barely present and/or murdered to move the plot along, it’s clearly important to Legend’s conception of itself that multiple women (domestic and sex workers among them) are present and play a role at Arthur’s eventual coronation. If only it could sustain its attention long enough to have them do something.

Britain means Britain

That coronation scene is important, of course, because this is the restoration of order the film has been leading up to. We know (because the myth demands it) that Arthur is a good king—so what the film means by good is going to be encompassed in the values of his court. Soon after his ascension to the throne Arthur has begun work on the construction of his Round Table. We’re invited to notice that Arthur’s friends and allies are ordinary people, and that many of them are women. We’re invited to view this Roman Britain as a relatively racially diverse space, even if the only named Asian character is a martial arts teacher.

We’re also, hilariously, invited to view Arthur’s trade negotiations, when the Vikings whom he’d annoyed earlier in the film press him to honour Vortigern’s promise to sell them English children as slaves. Arthur’s refusal is only to be expected; his dramatic declaration that “You are addressing England,”[4] on the other hand, is impossible to read outside the context of the current political climate; a European trade deal in which all the English have to do is repeat their demands very slowly and clearly. At the beginning of this review I asked whether Legend of the Sword has anything to say about the country in the present, and it would obviously be easy to try and map Arthur’s policies onto contemporary Britain’s political divides. But I suspect it’s the other way around—that the myth itself, and Ritchie’s use of it, are so vague, and the discourse over British nationhood currently so panicked, that it’s actually the latter that maps on to the former. I wrote this review during the week that all (some of) (online) Britain went to war over the question of race in Roman Britain, and whether, or how many of, its citizens should be depicted as black. Had Legend of the Sword appeared more earnest in its approach to history (and had anyone watched it), this film, rather than some innocent BBC schools video, might have been at the centre of that storm.

Had Legend been more earnest, in fact, many things might have been different. I say above that the Arthur myth provides the raw material for whatever national story is currently required; this sort of thing can easily slip into bad allegory. Yet Ritchie’s film goes to the other extreme in some ways, repeatedly resisting meaning (even as it bombards you with symbol). It would be foolish to complain that this film lacks a consistent political vision because of course it does, but where other retellings of Arthur tend to organise the mass of the myth into something, Legend just offers you a sort of lucky dip of tropes. That the result feels so true to Britain’s current flailings seems more by (happy?) accident than design, but ultimately Legend’s vision of an unthreateningly multicultural, small, beleaguered island that still inexplicably wields international power is both completely incoherent and very familiar.


[1] Before the film’s release a promotional poster suggested that this was the character’s “official” epithet. The poster was deleted, and George is only referred to in this way once in the film, so presumably in the event wiser counsel prevailed. ( [return]

[2] Which is not to suggest that this is always well done. Take an extended sequence, late in the film (I think, but at points this film felt unending) in which the death of a particular character is aggressively signalled to the audience. He survives one perilous moment, then another, the viewers’ expectation of his death being used to string us along; by the time Ritchie kills him off it has merely become annoying and we’re glad to be rid of him. [return]

[3] To be fair to the film, Arthur also seems to enjoy harassing Bedivere. [return]

[4] It’s not clear what’s going on in the other countries that make up the British Isles. [return]

(no subject)

Aug. 22nd, 2017 11:07 pm
jhameia: ME! (Default)
[personal profile] jhameia
After a week of radio silence, I sent my adviser an email, with a new email thread, asking about a new timeline and feedback on my diss and whether I can submit my diss for format review.

She got back to me and said she really liked my fourth chapter, that I basically delivered more than expected, and the dissertation's finally ready to be sent to the rest of my committee. So of course this meant I stayed up until 4am, checking footnotes and making sure everything looked okay so I could save it as a PDF for submission.

Today I went to campus specifically to shut down the office computer and send my diss along, asking if they could let me know whether there was feedback I'd need more than a month to address. Either way, I FINALLY submitted my diss for format review. ProQuest was an arcane thing which made me feel like I was being hoodwinked somehow. I could pay nothing and just let my diss be searchable on engine, or I could pay $95 and have my diss be distributed on more media and this latter option is called "Open Access"??? That's fucked up. And the whole thing about CC licenses, gah, IDK, in the end I went with no licenses, and no copyright purchase, because I just couldn't deal. I'm hoping I don't regret it and get to go back and change some things.

Anyway, format review!! It's one of the very latter stages of dissertating so.... I'm kind of shaken up about it.

I also meant to turn in my office key (and other keys) but Vonnie wasn't around, and I would rather give them to her directly and thank her for being so cool about letting me keep the office way past my time.

I saw Aviya in her office and chatted with her a while, and Soonyoung was doing her third written exam so I walked with her afterwards. Then I came across JJ and walked home with her too. I went to Starbucks to write some fanfic (delayed Strange Magic Week prompts) and spin some Pokestops.

After dinner, I armed myself with shoes and my Pokemon Go Plus, and did my evening thing. Every time there was a long stretch, I'd break into a short jog. At first, I did it up to a count of 20, then I was doing 30s, and 40. I can't really tell what a full second looks like, and didn't want to overdo it by running a full five minutes when I don't even know what that looks like.

It was good! I think I definitely pushed myself a little without burning myself to exhaustion. I stopped to check the pokegyms, but otherwise did not stop at all. Gosh it's so nice to be able to keep going with minimal stopping?? And STILL catch pokemon? I am digging it.

Gonna *try* to sleep earlier tonight.

the day the spider ate the sun

Aug. 22nd, 2017 11:19 pm
solarbird: (tracer)
[personal profile] solarbird

I was in Oregon, in the totality zone, for the eclipse; this is more or less my trip report, written as fiction in the Fear of Spiders/Overwatch universe. The eclipse really was indescribable - you have to be there - but this is my best attempt to relate what I saw and how I felt.

All the locations are real world locations, accurately described, and specifically relate how I got down to Shiniko, Oregon for the totality, and back, after crossing the Oregon border from the north. All of Venom's and Widowmaker's lines are basically my commentary while being the one driving... inappropriately quickly... with my road trip crew down a surprisingly empty Highway 216.

[AO3 link]

"I loved it," said the Widowmaker, her voice fluid, "when the spider ate the sun. Slowly dimming light, then sunset all around, in all directions, and then - gone, but for the corona. Exquisite."

"That was wizard!" agreed Venom, speeding along Highway 216 west from Highway 97 to Highway 197 in the Oregon high desert. "The sky went violet! Blue, dark, rich, with extra violet, somehow. The pictures always made it look black, but it wasn't! So intense!"

"I think that was partly ultraviolet, from the corona," suggested the elder assassin, as the old-style automobile - a Spider, appropriately enough - barrelled down the road into the canyon, chasing the water. The speed limit sign said 55kph. She hit it at 120. "The light had such intoxicating depth."

"Felt like time just stopped! And I know from time." She giggled at little at herself, and shook her head. "Pictures just can't tell the story, can they?" said Lena.

"Not at all. One cannot even describe it, one must experience it. The changes in the air, the blue and violet glow, the heat vanishing with the sun..."

"And then, and then, the last bit of the sun goes out, and you look past the glasses, and - wow! The sun is, like, whole different star! And the sky is a different sky! It was like - it was like bein' in space, like being on a whole 'nother world!"

"The black hole sun, the streaming flares of fusing hydrogen writhing in the sky, the glowing colours - I never imagined the colours would be so intense." She sighed, wistfully. "I do not think my cameras captured the violet, only the blue."

The tires screeched at the first downhill hairpin turn. The road carried with it no forgiveness, no margin - cliff wall to one side, sheer drop to the other. A few guardrails buffered against the worst of the turns, or, at least, the first couple, and then not the next, and not the one after that. The Spider held the road, if barely, as the Talon assassins drifted in their vehicle, across the road, into the opposite-direction lane.

"I remind you," said Amélie, "despite having applied to the Commonwealth, this country is still right-hand driving."

"Yeh, yeh. Curve speed signs are for wankers."

Widowmaker smirked. "That one, if anything, seemed overly permissive."

The junior assassin slowed the vehicle, but not much, and sped it back up at every opportunity. "Nobody's usin' the other lane, I might as well."

It was true. Even with the tens of thousands of tourists flooding back from the zone of totality, Highway 216 sat empty of traffic, out in the high grassy desert, barreling down towards the Deschutes River, splashing and rushing at the very bottom.

"Even so," said the spider, "this road does not seem very forgiving."

Venom chuckled, and hit the accelerator again. "Feeling nervous, love?"

"Feeling impressed that the Cascadians do not seem to care about guard rails, perhaps." The car's right mirror - still just within its lane - came within a few centimetres of the cliff wall. "Or margins for error." She looked out over the cliff the road hugged. "This countryside - it is almost painfully beautiful."

Off to the left, a series of canyons, or one long, split canyon, almost cartoonish in perfection, stepped down towards the water, a mix of steep rocky slopes and bare basalt column cliffs, volcanic, spotted with the occasional first-coloniser plants, mostly gold, some auburn, some ash, and, almost inexplicably, splashes of dark, vivid green, the green becoming dominant the further down towards the river, but really, anywhere water might run or pool or even be slowed down, even a bit, for the thirsty plants to grab it up.

"Whole bleedin' country's a bunch of picture postcards, innit?"


"Glad they had the sense not to muss up the view with fences." Venom floored the antique Sypder into the next hairpin curve, not quite fishtailing, not quite sliding away and to oblivion. "I can't believe we're the only ones on this road. Look at what they're missing!"

"It's not the eclipse, but it is fascinating. Perhaps the tourists are afraid of the heights," said the spider.

"You mean, it's just us 'cause they're too scared?"

"And therefore, do not deserve to see this."

"Fair cop," said the younger assassin. "Woah!" she said, surprised by the severity of yet another hairpin. "That was a tight one!"

"Be careful, we cannot crash this vehicle here - we might start a fire."

"Blimey, that'd be a right cock-up," the junior assassin replied in all sincerity. "They have fires all summer already, don't they?"

"It seems so," the senior assassin said, gesturing back towards a burnt out patch they'd driven by, some 30km before.

"Well, good thing we've got that car park all lined up."

"Indeed. Just be sure not to hit the river. Fish and gasoline do not mix."

"Easy peasy. Reach 'round, pull the body forward, will ya?"


She pulled the middle-aged man forward, from the - well, it wasn't really the boot, not one worthy of the name, not in an F430 - and propped him up against the centre console, between their individual seats.

The Ferrari flew over the first river bridge, as Venom let the engine really open up. "May as well go out in a blaze of glory, y'big ugly monster," she said, made the final turn at a desperately dangerous 220kph. "Good handling, I'll give you that. Right! Whenever you're ready, love..."

"Grab hold, cherie, and ready your grapple," the Widowmaker said, grabbing her lover and launching the two of them out of the automobile. Venom kicked the wheel hard to the right, and the Spider flipped over, briefly flying, then bouncing down the road, hitting once, twice, a third time, and skidding into a gravel parking lot before bursting into flame. Widowmaker's chain retracted, pulling the two Talon agents high into the air, and just short of apogee, Venom launched her chain, and up they went again, a second arc, and again, at apogee, Widowmaker's grapple made the top of the butte, where their ship sat, concealed, and waiting.

From atop their high vantage point, they could see the local wardens rushing forward with emergency fire suppression, the wreckage of the convertible already burning itself out, the body of Roger Müller - well-known multi-millionaire playboy and less-well-known deep financier of ultra-nationalist media and neofascist politicians - already well-crisped. His remains would show a blood alcohol content well above 0.17, over twice the legal limit, but entirely in character.

"And that's why y'don't drive pissed." Venom said to her partner, cheerfully.

"That was magnificent."

"Such a shame when people overindulge, innit, love?"

Widowmaker spun on her lover, pulling her abruptly, roughly, against her own body, eyes wide and open. "Yes. Let's balance it by overindulging ourselves."

Venom shuddered with quick arousal. "Fast cars and fast kills? I like the way you think, sweet. But let's move the..."


"So now I'm the sensible unf " - she said, as Widowmaker bit into her neck - "...we can't stay here, love. Somewhere else. The way we went south. Nobody's on that road, either."

"Fine. Bakeoven, then. How quickly can you fly us back?"

"You just saw how quick I got us here in an antique, didn't ya?"

"Point made. Go."

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