It’s Thursday, September 12. You know what that means? I means that Archers: The Berlin Incident is now available for purchase in the Amazon Kindle Store! Huzzah! Let the cupcake cannons be fired! Let the ritual hunting and eating of the critics begin!
When the British Secret Service loses vital intelligence to a mysterious operative known as Rasputin, it’s up to Christopher Hatch (AKA Longbow) and his crack team of British archer heroes to get it back. But what starts as a routine retrieval mission quickly escalates into a fight for survival as Hatch and his team find themselves pitted against the enigmatic Red Mantis and his Mantis Clan, and uncover a violent plot to tip the delicate scales of détente in Europe.
Set against the backdrop of Cold War Europe, and spinning directly out of the pages of Archer: Book One of The Long Game, Archers: The Berlin Incident combines the grim intrigue of spy fiction with finely-tuned pulp sensibilities to bring you deadly plots, witty conversations, nonstop action, and ninjas!
Chief Hack: Richard Rohlin
Court Jester: Benjamin Feehan
Editors Extraordinaire: Melody Preuninger and Michelle DiBaggio
Wonderful Wizard of Cover Art: Aaron Wood
Tell your friends! Write your grandma! Get your copy today! Or, keep reading for a sneak preview:
It was an unusually warm London summer, and Griffin was shifting uncomfortably in the long coat he wore out of habit rather than necessity. Neither thin nor wide nor tall nor short, Griffin was an unremarkably average-looking man in every respect. A few thin gray hairs ringed his head, cropped close against his scalp as though he might have given up on the idea of hair entirely. His face had that unique combination of placid resignation and bulldog tenacity peculiar to the English bureaucratic class.
He tossed the butt of a cigarette irreverently onto the granite flagstones of the silent church courtyard and reached inside his coat for a fresh pack. Griffin had never liked churches. They made him uncomfortable. So did standing in the dark surrounded by a dozen ideal sniper perches while waiting to meet a man renowned for his ability to kill at range. Then again, that was probably why his special friend with the auxiliaries always insisted on these unorthodox meeting places. “Longbow. You’re late.”
A dark figure stepped out from behind a large stone pillar. He was tall and angular, his face masked and his features shrouded in shadow. He wore a costume like those typically favored by masked vigilantes—dark green, reinforced with leather and metal plates and some straps and buckles Griffin didn’t understand. A short bow and a quiver of arrows hung from his back. Longbow’s mouth curled into a thin smile. “Punctuality is predictable.”
Griffin coughed and lit another cigarette. “Not if you’re always late.”
“What do you want, Griffin?”
Griffin shrugged and took a long drag, the tip of the cheroot glowing orange in the dusky light. “My pension. Maybe a quiet room and a sandwich.”
Longbow chuckled and took a step forward, apparently satisfied that Griffin was alone. “So, how bad is it?” he asked.
“Pretty bloody bad. I’m assuming you’re aware of the Belgrade Incident.”
“Let’s pretend I’m not.” It was a trick of Longbow’s to never let on how much he knew about anything. Griffin expected it was meant to be clever, but he found it smug and annoying. There were enough variables in this line of work without everybody pretending to be enigmatic and mysterious.
“Last month,” he began a little wearily, “the Other Side kicked the legs out from under our Balkans operation. Assets. Agents. Networks. The whole bit. We’re down to a skeleton crew now. Going to take us bloody years to recover.”
“That’s not why you called me, Griffin.”
“It’s not. One of our agents—Greensleeves?”
Longbow nodded, his acquiescence confirming Griffin’s suspicion. Or did it? Bloody head games.
“He managed to get out with the station’s burn box and rather a lot of valuable intelligence,” Griffin continued. “Gets himself on a train to Budapest.”
“Why do I have the feeling he doesn’t make it to Budapest?”
“Because he doesn’t make it to Budapest. Body found on the tracks twenty miles out of Novi Sad.”
Longbow was quiet for a moment. Then he asked, “The Other Side?”
“Nothing so clean, I’m afraid. There’s a free agent. One of yours,” by which Griffin meant a meta-human. Call them post-humans or metas or freaks or miracles or mankind’s best hope for the future, it was an unspoken rule in the Service that super-humans weren’t college, old boy. The handling of such curiosities was best left to the likes of Longbow—costumed amateurs just crazy enough to deal with them on their own terms. In a way, Whitehall’s approach to the question of meta-humans mirrored their approach to espionage in general only half a century earlier. “Maybe you’ve heard of him. Goes by Rasputin.”
“The White Russian.” Longbow nodded. “He gets around.”
“Well,” Griffin continued, “he got around to our man, killed him, and made off with the burn box.”
“What was in it?”
“If it was only classified you wouldn’t have asked to meet.”
Griffin eyed the archer in silence. Everything so far had been common knowledge—at least within the rarified circles in which Griffin and his costumed counterpart ran. But Griffin was rapidly approaching the point of no return, and more than his pension might hang on what he was about to say. “It was a list of agents, Longbow. A list of agents for every bloody network in the bloody Balkans.”
“I thought they gutted your network in the bloody Balkans,” Longbow retorted. “You’re wasting my time.”
“I didn’t say it was a list of our networks. I said it was a list for every network. Ours. The Soviets. The Americans. There’s a lot of names in there we aren’t supposed to know. Not officially.”
The archer cocked his head as a smile played across his lips. “So… you’re spying on the Americans.”
Griffin spat. “Don’t be smug. Of course we’re spying on the Americans, and I’m pretty bloomin’ sure the Americans are spying on us. That’s the game. That’s how it’s played. But the game has rules, Hatch. One of those rules is that you don’t get caught. If the list gets out, this thing turns into an incident. It means years of work just thrown away. It means a lot of people—some of them good people—a lot of people are going to die.” It was an unfortunate slip. One of the other rules of the game was that Griffin wasn’t supposed to know names, for everybody’s sake. But he was angry now, angry that he had to ask for help and angry that Christopher Hatch, of all people, was holding him accountable.
Longbow seemed to ignore the infraction. “And the Americans stop being so generous with the checks they write,” he intoned dryly.
“You’re a blasted cynic.”
Griffin exhaled, sucking on his teeth and grinding another cigarette butt into the ground. “Will you help?”
The archer ran a gloved hand over his grizzled chin. “What’s Rasputin intend to do with the list?”
“Auction it off to the highest bidder,” Griffin said. “There’s a charity auction at the Austrian Embassy in Berlin next week. I’ve taken the liberty of getting you an invite. Or invites. I hear you’re running with a younger pack these days.” Now it was Griffin’s turn to be enigmatic. Let the archer wonder just how much Griffin knew about his little band of merry men.
Longbow shrugged nonchalantly. “Yes, well, not as young as we used to be, are we, Griffin?”
“The auction,” Griffin continued, “is ostensibly being held to benefit war orphans—”
“A bit fuzzy on that one, I’m afraid. All anybody seems to care about is the fact that a number of Europe’s greatest artistic treasures will be for sale—many of them believed lost since Hitler came to power. Among them, there are three hitherto undiscovered Faberge eggs commissioned by Czar Nicholas the Second.”
Longbow set his jaw. “Rasputin.”
Griffin nodded. “Precisely. The art is just a cover for the real merchandise. The list was in three sheets of microfiche. The first details our own operations in the Balkans. As you mentioned, it’s essentially worthless. The second sheet is a list of Soviet operations. As you might suppose, it’s rather extensive. The third…” his voice trailed off. The third list had the details of every Agency network in the Balkans. It was the only one that really mattered. “We think Rasputin’s hidden each sheet inside a different egg. Three eggs, three sheets. Word about the list has been out through all of the usual channels. He’s selling it to the highest bidder.”
“And it’s on the level?”
“It is. Moscow and Langley have both had samples.”
“So,” the masked man said, folding his arms. “Tell me about the part where this becomes the Cathedral’s problem.”
Griffin lit another cigarette, taking a thoughtful puff before replying. Named for the supposed secret headquarters of London’s own legacy of costumed adventurers, the Cathedral was a handy rubric for Longbow, his team of masked archers, and their various and colorful associates. “Rasputin is one of these bloody post-humans, or whatever they’re called. That makes him your bailiwick. There’s also the delicate nature of what’s involved…”
Longbow’s eyes narrowed beneath his mask. “The Americans. We’re your plausible deniability, in case the whole thing heads south.”
Griffin smiled. “We’d owe you, old man.”
“You already owe me.”
“My advice is that you take the carrot, Longbow,” Griffin coughed, shoving his hands into his pockets and turning toward the high Gothic arch at the far end of the courtyard, indicating that the interview was at an end. “You wouldn’t like the stick. Let’s not forget that it’s largely by the Service’s good graces that you and your band of merry men are still roaming free. You’re more help than you are trouble, so we give you a long leash. But if that were to change…”
Griffin’s back was turned, but he could feel the masked man bristling. “Don’t threaten me with the nuclear option, Griffin,” Longbow growled. “That works both ways.”
Griffin stopped and looked back over his shoulder. “So then. It’s detente, is it?”
The irony of this seemed to strike Longbow as amusing. His mouth curled into a thin, wry smile. “You’ll owe me?” he said, more a statement than a question.
There was a long silence as Longbow seemed to consider this. “Well then,” he nodded. “I hear Berlin is lovely this time of year.”
 General slang for the opposing intelligence communities of the Soviet bloc, and specifically that of the USSR.
For more information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_Union
 A truncated form of “Secret Intelligence Service”, or MI6, Britain’s primary foreign intelligence service. You know, the “Bond, James Bond” people.
For more information: https://www.sis.gov.uk/
 A general term for the administrative branch of the British government. The original Palace of Whitehall was destroyed in a fire in 1698, but the geographic identification remained. Downing Street is also to be found in this area.
For more information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whitehall
 This term refers to Russians who opposed the Bolshevik revolution. Deeply nationalistic, and highly traditional, their ranks included noblemen, military officers, and citizens who opposed communism in favor of the old imperial aristocracy.
For more information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_movement