Prologue: THIS MEANS WAR
An Excerpt from Corin Reyburn’s The Rise of Saint Fox and the Independence
Janus Jeeves was ready to detonate, and had been waiting to do so for three-and-a-half lifetimes.
In this lifetime, at the tail end of the bleak and prepackaged 2030s, he built himself a network. The network was called the Arcane Society, its members the Arcana: a quotient of lost geniuses — misfit students, professors, musicians, astronomers, arsonists — those who could never quite find a proper place to hide in the transparent world in which they found themselves. Jeeves and the Society designed a set of laws on how best to conduct themselves in this thoroughly trussed-up civilization. And the Eight Laws of the Arcana were these:
1. Thou shalt never purchase anything using credit.
2. Thou shalt have no outstanding debt to any institution or to thy neighbour.
3. Thou shalt not purchase a replacement item when the original item can be repaired.
4. Thou shalt disregard any and all current trends — they are temporal, and impossible to keep up with. Build thy identity outside the moment.
5. Thou shalt boycott processed foods to the fullest extent thy pocketbook can handle.
6. Thou shalt not obtain a license for marriage. Love is not a business contract. Let your yes be yes and your no be no.
7. Thou shalt not be a member of any guild, union, club, or organization other than the Arcane Society.
8. Thou shalt evade thy income tax.
First born at the turn of the Industrial Revolution, Jeeves crawled out from beneath dusty streets into a putrid cloud of factory smoke. There he toiled night and day, working on newfangled metal contraptions for a few pence to buy bread and clothes to keep his modest family — a sweet-faced wife and two pale-faced children — warm and fed. Jeeves died suddenly at the age of twenty-nine when the sleeve of his workman’s shirt got caught in a bread-slicing machine.
He resurrected a full-grown man in America in the year 1920, shortly after their Eighteenth Amendment prohibited the sale of alcohol. He immediately offed himself using a corkscrew he found in a rubbish bin.
The third incarnation of Jeeves appeared in Scotland and was coddled as a child, thereby never learning discipline and acting up at school, from which he was frequently sent home. His parents then allowed him to homeschool himself through colour television and gramophone records, making sure to ignore him most of the time, focused as they were on not going bankrupt.
The telly and tunes made young Jeeves very silly at first. A skirt chaser, a celebrity in his own right, with dreams of being both a film star and an entrepreneur.
When Jeeves turned sixteen, he realised it had all been a distraction technique, a tall tale designed to make him want something which wasn’t that great anyway and that he wouldn’t be able to get his hands on without selling his old soul. He didn’t want to be like his parents, working all day to earn a dollar only to die prematurely from butter and cigarettes.
Jeeves grew angry through the rest of his adolescence and into young adulthood. He smashed a lot of shop windows. He went out and drank too much at pubs, wandering the streets yelling insults at posh buggers. He got arrested frequently. He developed and overcame heroin addiction five times.
The sixth time, he overdosed.
The spirit of Janus Jeeves then floated for several years before being born again in London, into a body made of spare and surplus parts — wires, feathers, and nicotine stains. He arrived at some point during the 1980s, right before everything really started going to hell but no one knew it yet.
In this life he became a professor, so he could spend all day talking about the things he loved. His favourite class to teach was a course called Neurotic Poetry: 17th–20th Century, and focused on the works of some of his former mates and heroes — Wilde, Plath, Poe. Coleridge, Shelley, Dylan Thomas.
And then, Janus Jeeves was sacked.
The university needed to cut expenses, and the first place they started was the Arts and Humanities department. He and his kind were replaced by a small army of bright-eyed, cost-effective graduates, and his courses replaced with ones more current and digestible such as Suprasocial Media and Contemporary Vlog Critique. Classes that could easily be self-taught, something Jeeves himself had done. He liked to keep up to date with the pulse of the nation, what the youth were into these days.
Now, he bided the free time he found on his hands. He lived on adrenaline, on the abstinence of his vices, on the injustices that had been done to him throughout the centuries, on books and classical music. Jeeves had read books stoned, sober, sauced, sweating, and sleeping, had absorbed them all in their entirety, and now he knew the truth.
The children were our future.
Jeeves would rally them to his side to make the future into something new.
And so, in this lifetime, the Arcane Society was born, straight in the middle of London — the pancreas of the so-called developed world. Jeeves watched as the Ministers and CEOs of Great Britain drove around in one of several luxury vehicles they owned, while the rest drove beat-up cars with no hubcaps, fenders smashed, broken LED indicators, parts slapped on at random, make and model irrelevant. The Ministers and CEOs lived in estates worth millions, owned vacation homes and islands, while for everyone else the housing market was in tatters, and homes were systematically foreclosed upon to become the property of yes, the government, who were in league with the banks, who had written the bad loans in the first place. The Ministers and CEOs drank single malt scotch equal to the price of a month’s rent, and the rest drank the cheapest bitter they could find to forget that the rent was due.
Did they know, the children, of the disparity they took for granted as status quo?
They must, surely, for it was staring them straight in the face.
And if they did not, Janus Jeeves would make it known. The Arcane Society would grow.
It would grow enough to save the nation.