Doc had Shaklin’s dossier up on the monitor. The bishop made an exotic figure with his long beaded dreadlocks, wispy chin beard and dark, hawk-like features.
“He’s the greatest unknown,” Doc said. “A True Believer. And if there was anything in this incarnation more dangerous than a True Believer they’d weaponize it.”
“What exactly do those clots believe in?” Ida asked. “And do we care?”
“As near as I can tell after skimming over this drakh,” Doc said, indicating a research fiche, “The Church Of The Universal Location is sort of like Celestial Acupuncture.
“They do elaborate calculations – accompanied by all kinds of ceremonial garbage native to their culture - to determine so-called perfect locations in the Universe.”
Sten’s eyebrows rose. “Perfect,” he said. “I’ve never heard of anything that was perfect.”
Doc made a rude noise. “No drakh,” he said. “Especially since they are human. And are few species less perfect than homo clotting sapiens.”
Kilgour started to protest, but Sten shot him a warning look. It was no time to get into a squabble with Doc.
Doc continued. “What makes them ‘perfect’,” he said, “escapes me. I’m sure there is some deity behind it all. There usually is. But so far I haven’t found a mention of the clot’s holy name. More than likely it is forbidden to say it aloud, or even write it down.”
Doc gave a weary sigh. Fished out bottle of his favorite hemo tonic – the blood of some poor critter native to home planet - Ceres III - that his kind had hunted to near extinction. The little bottle had probably cost him a small fortune. He took a long swig. Smacked his lips. Then returned to the subject at hand.
“Naturally,” he said, “there is one location more perfect than all others.” He shrugged. “Heaven, if you will.”
“I clottin’ will not,” Ida said. “If there’s a clottin’ Heaven, there’s has to be a Hell. And if there’s a Hell, I am in deep, deep drakh.” She snorted. “And here I am barely, into my third decade of so-called life and bound for Hell. So, let’s leave clottin’ heaven, and freakin’ Hell out of the discussion, if you don’t mind.”
Sten laughed. “You know, Doc,” he said, “your description of this religion sounds like a never-ending search for bumps in space. More like celestial phrenology, than acupuncture.”
Alex shook his head in mock sorrow. “Ach, to the likes of me it ‘pears that back afore the Stone Age, some puir mammy must’ve dropped her wee bairn on its head.”
Doc waved a furry little paw and Shaklin’s dossier vanished. A split screen popped up showing Zheng and Rual.
Alex grimaced. “That Zheng bugger looks like a bloody toad,” he said. “Guid fur clottin’ naethin’ but huntin’ flies.”
“Don’t let his looks fool you,” Doc said. “He’s been in and out of prison half his life. Wanted in a dozen places all over the Empire.”
“What for?” Sten asked.
“Zheng specializes in kidnapping,” Doc said. “He started with someone’s child when he was barely a child himself. Then he graduated to gravbus loads of tourists. Zheng was never above killing a few hostages to hurry things along, so he was fairly successful – until it all caught to him and he had to flee. The Maritime Service made a wonderful hiding place.”
Sten shook his head. He’d heard tales about the low standards in the Imperial merchant fleet, but he had no idea that wanted criminals could clog dance past Personnel into responsible shipboard positions.
“Well, now Zheng’s gone and kidnapped himself a whole clotting spacetrain,” Ida said. “No more small stuff.”
“What about her?” Sten said, indicating Rual. “Does she have a criminal background as well?”
Doc shrugged. “Nothing like Zheng. Her offenses were mainly for – quote… grievous bodily assault and maiming… end quote… plus an unproven murder or three. She’s got a temper hotter than a reactor core and a long, sharp knife always at the ready.
Doc chuckled. Sten had noted over time that few things gave their resident shrink greater pleasure than discussing psychopaths. The more murderous, the more blood spilled, the better. Stirred by thoughts of all that flowing hemoglobin, Doc sighed wistfully, then took another hit off his bottle of hemo.
“Apparently she is an addicted gambler,” he continued. “And a dangerously sore loser. She’ll do anything. And I stress – anything! – to feed that habit. Lie, rob, even kill. It is my educated guess that her compulsion – and inability to handle loss – made her an ideal target for the machinations of Mutineer Number Three: Sr. Zheng.”
Doc waved a paw and the three all appeared together, with Zheng in the center.
“In summary,” doc said, “Zheng’s a born leader. He’s superior organizer. A master at defusing, or creating conflict among his crew members – whichever serves his purpose. Supporting all that, he has the ability to choose a goal and then stick with it at all cost.”
He indicated Rual. “She’s a born follower. Intensely loyal. Murderously volatile, so she probably has the other mutineers urinating their under garments whenever her temper explodes.
“It’s my prog that Zheng has her on a short leash, which he’s likely to let loose if anyone crosses him. Naturally, this not only keeps the crew under his thumb – or her knife – but they’ll probably admire him more. Foolishly arousing their trust in his ability to negotiate for them.
“Even so,” Doc continued, “We must keep in mind that Zheng is under tremendous pressure. If one thing goes wrong, the crew will turn on him and even Rual won’t be able to stop them. He’s in hurry to make a deal and get as far away from the others as he can.”
“So, he’ll be wanting safe passage,” Sten said, “as well as amnesty.”
“Count on it,” Doc said.
“Which brings us back to Shaklin,” Sten said.
“Yes, Shaklin,” Doc said. “Without his navigating and pilot skills they have no bargaining power.”
Sten nodded. “Otherwise Venatora would have boarded them long ago, cut their throats and made off the with cargo.”
“Who would’t think sech a bony lass hae so much murder in her breast?” Alex mourned.
Sten thought about his last meeting with Venatora. Yes, he’d seen murder glittering in her eyes. But there was something else. Something…
He shivered and forced himself back to the present.
But Ida caught it. “Wet dreaming about your lady love, are you dear?” she purred.
With great difficulty, Sten ignored her. “I think Mahoney’s first idea still holds,” he said. “We push them. Gently. But firmly. See how they react. Make them nervous. Then we throw them an olive branch.”
“Wi’ a bester grenade attached,” Kilgour said.
Sten sighed. As usual Alex was spot on. Then he braced himself and sent word to the Captain.
It was time to bring the crew and officers of the Flame up to date. And it would take all his newly won skills at diplomacy – Mantis style – to bring it off.
NEXT: INVITATION TO A STEW POT
Ever since my British publisher put all eight novels in the Sten series in three omnibus editions, American readers have been clamoring for equal treatment.
Well, my American publisher – Wildside Books – was listening and beginning today Volume One in the three volume omnibus series is available all over America. The omnibus includes, Sten #1, Sten #2 – The Wolf Worlds, and Sten #3 – The Court Of A Thousand Suns. Isn’t this a wonderful country? And isn’t Wildside a wonderful publisher? Stay tuned for when the others will be available. Kathryn and I will start reading proof on Sten Omnibus #2 by week’s end.
Here's where you can buy it worldwide in both paperback and Kindle editions:
A True Story About A Boy,
THE TIMURA TRILOGY: When The Gods Slept, Wolves Of The Gods and The Gods Awaken. This best selling fantasy series now available as trade paperbacks, e-books (in all varieties) and as audiobooks. Visit The Timura Trilogy page for links to all the editions.
Tales Sometimes Tall, but always true, of Allan Cole's years in Hollywood with his late partner, Chris Bunch. How a naked lady almost became our first agent. How we survived La-La Land with only the loss of half our brain cells. How Bunch & Cole became the ultimate Fix-It Boys. How an alleged Mafia Don was very, very good to us. The guy who cornered the market on movie rocks. Andy Warhol's Fire Extinguisher. The Real Stars Of Hollywood. Why they don't make million dollar movies. See The Seven Pi$$ing Dwarfs. Learn: how to kill a "difficult" actor… And much, much more.
Here's where you can buy it worldwide in both paperback and Kindle editions:
A NATION AT WAR WITH ITSELF: In Book Three Of The Shannon Trilogy, young Patrick Shannon is the heir-apparent to the Shannon fortune, but murder and betrayal at a family gathering send him fleeing into the American frontier, with only the last words of a wise old woman to arm him against what would come. And when the outbreak of the Civil War comes he finds himself fighting on the opposite side of those he loves the most. In The Wars Of The Shannons we see the conflict, both on the battlefield and the homefront, through the eyes of Patrick and the members of his extended Irish-American family as they struggle to survive the conflict that ripped the new nation apart, and yet, offered a dim beacon of hope.
LUCKY IN CYPRUS:
A True Story About A Boy,
A Teacher, And Earthquake,
Some Terrorists And The CIA
LUCKY IN CYPRUS is a coming-of-age story set in the Middle East during the height of the Cold War. An American teenager – son of a CIA operative – is inspired by grand events and a Greek Cypriot teacher.
He witnesses earthquakes and riots and terrorist attacks, but in the end it is his teacher’s gentle lessons that keep him whole.
Here's where to get the paperback & Kindle editions worldwide:
Here's what readers say about Lucky In Cyprus:
- "Bravo, Allan! When I finished Lucky In Cyprus I wept." - Julie Mitchell, Hot Springs, Texas
- "Lucky In Cyprus brought back many memories... A wonderful book. So many shadows blown away!" - Freddy & Maureen Smart, Episkopi,Cyprus.
- "... (Reading) Lucky In Cyprus has been a humbling, haunting, sobering and enlightening experience..." - J.A. Locke, Bookloons.com
NEW: THE AUDIOBOOK VERSION OF
THE HATE PARALLAX
THE HATE PARALLAX: What if the Cold War never ended -- but continued for a thousand years? Best-selling authors Allan Cole (an American) and Nick Perumov (a Russian) spin a mesmerizing "what if?" tale set a thousand years in the future, as an American and a Russian super-soldier -- together with a beautiful American detective working for the United Worlds Police -- must combine forces to defeat a secret cabal ... and prevent a galactic disaster! This is the first - and only - collaboration between American and Russian novelists. Narrated by John Hough. Click the title links below for the trade paperback and kindle editions. (Also available at iTunes.)
THE SPYMASTER'S DAUGHTER:
A novel by Allan and his daughter, Susan
After laboring as a Doctors Without Borders physician in the teaming refugee camps and minefields of South Asia, Dr. Ann Donovan thought she'd seen Hell as close up as you can get. And as a fifth generation CIA brat, she thought she knew all there was to know about corruption and betrayal. But then her father - a legendary spymaster - shows up, with a ten-year-old boy in tow. A brother she never knew existed. Then in a few violent hours, her whole world is shattered, her father killed and she and her kid brother are one the run with hell hounds on their heels. They finally corner her in a clinic in Hawaii and then all the lies and treachery are revealed on one terrible, bloody storm- ravaged night.
BASED ON THE CLASSIC STEN SERIES by Allan Cole & Chris Bunch: Fresh from their mission to pacify the Wolf Worlds, Sten and his Mantis Team encounter a mysterious ship that has been lost among the stars for thousands of years. At first, everyone aboard appears to be long dead. Then a strange Being beckons, pleading for help. More disturbing: the presence of AM2, a strategically vital fuel tightly controlled by their boss - The Eternal Emperor. They are ordered to retrieve the remaining AM2 "at all costs." But once Sten and his heavy worlder sidekick, Alex Kilgour, board the ship they must dare an out of control defense system that attacks without warning as they move through dark warrens filled with unimaginable horrors. When they reach their goal they find that in the midst of all that death are the "seeds" of a lost civilization.
TALES OF THE BLUE MEANIE
NOW AN AUDIOBOOK!
Venice Boardwalk Circa 1969
In the depths of the Sixties and The Days Of Rage, a young newsman, accompanied by his pregnant wife and orphaned teenage brother, creates a Paradise of sorts in a sprawling Venice Beach community of apartments, populated by students, artists, budding scientists and engineers lifeguards, poets, bikers with a few junkies thrown in for good measure. The inhabitants come to call the place “Pepperland,” after the Beatles movie, “Yellow Submarine.” Threatening this paradise is "The Blue Meanie," a crazy giant of a man so frightening that he eventually even scares himself.