Wednesday, June 22, 2016

CHAPTER EIGHT - EPISODE 28




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*****
     BOARDING THE FLAME 

A young crewman met them in the locker and escorted Sten and Alex to the bridge. From his looks and the demeanor of the others, discipline was at rock bottom.

Their uniforms were shabby and unwashed and they all smelled like they hadn’t seen the inside of a fresher for weeks.

When Sten and Alex strode into the room, Zheng came forward to greet them – a glowering Rual at his side. In the background Sten spotted Shaklin and his congregants gathered around the Holoimager with its dazzling display of the Possnet Sector.

Sten immediately spotted areas where his navigators aboard the Flame had surmised that Venatora and her pirate forces were arrayed. In one corner he saw a blinking yellow light he surmised was the Jo’l Cash. He’d never seen such detail in a holoimager and he had to drag his attention away to deal with the mutineers.

Zheng came stumping up to them on his bow legs saying, “Captain Sten. Too late almost you were. Handsome new offer we have from Queen Venatora.”

Rual made a nasty noise Sten could only assume was laughter.

“Handsome is right,” she said. “Enough to make us all clottin’ millionaires. We were about to vote on it when you showed up.”

Next to him, Alex seemingly caught his toe on the edge of a gravchair and stumbled. He recovered, muttering a curse at his own clumsiness.

Sten had to suppress a smile. Kilgour had just planted the first of many bugs he planned to scatter about the ship during their visit. They were the latest from the Mantis Section’s snooping arsenal and were virtually undetectable.

Rual smirked. “A little nervous?” she said.

Kilgour just shrugged, using the gesture to scatter a few more bugs.

Turning to Zheng, Rual added, “Probably had a couple of pops to work up his courage.”

This drew a laugh from Zheng. But before he could make a mocking observation of his own, Sten stepped past them, as if they weren’t there.

“What about it, shipmates?” he said to the assembled crew. “Were you really going to vote before you heard what your Commander In Chief had to say about the deplorable conditions aboard this ship?”

He reached into his breast pocket and slowly, very deliberately, drew out an official looking document and held it up before the crew.

“What I have here,” he said, “is the official announcement of-“

Rual jumped in front of him and tried to snatch he document away. Kilgour easily blocked him.

“Here, now,” he said. “Captain Sten has the floor. “Every swingin’ scrote of ye will gie yer turn when the time’s proper.”

Rual fumbled for her knife, but Kilgour clamped his big hand around her wrist and gave it a squeeze. Rual gasped and the knife clattered to the floor.

Zheng was so furious he was practically spitting his words. “Gutt damn! How dare you!” He slapped his chest. “Here… On the Flame… I command.”

He waved a hand, taking in the entire bridge. “I command all. One word…” He held up a single finger, which shook with rage. “One word. One word only. And we space you.”

Sten chuckled. “Lieutenant Kilgour,” he said. “The man’s an even bigger fool than Personnel made him out to be.”

Alex shook his head, looking mournful. “Sich a pity,” he said. “It’s his poor mither, I feel sorry for.”

As he spoke, he slipped another bug into a likely spot.

Sten turned back to Zheng. “Did you really think we came aboard without any support or backup?”

Zheng frowned. “Vhatt do you mean? Vhatt support. Vhatt backup? I see nothing.”

Sten chuckled.“You know that lighter that’s tied up to your ship? That nice little rig nobody bothered to check out before we came aboard?”

Zheng shot Rual a questioning look. She grimaced. “Gutt damn!” Zheng muttered. “Gutt damn!”

Sten laughed. “You guessed it,” he said. “One wrong move, and…” He threw his hands apart in a mock explosion.”

“Big clottin’ deal,” Rual said. “You’ll die too.” She turned to the crew. “He’s bluffing,” she said. “That’s all it is. A big clottin’ bluff.”

Instead of replying, Sten turned back to the crew. “What about it, shipmates?” he said. “Do you want to hear me out? Or lay hands on us and see if we’re bluffing?”

A murmur swept the group. Finally, Shaklin came forward.

“We’ll hear you out, Captain,” he said. “But you’d better make it good. Zheng wasn’t lying when he said Venatora made us a handsome offer.”

“Obviously, the Emperor can beat any monetary offer she made,” Sten said. “I’m authorized to top any amount by twenty percent.”

Another murmur swept the group. There were smiles at first. But then cold reality sank in.

“What about amnesty?” Shaklin said. “For some of us, that’s more important than the money.”

“Don’t you be saying what’s more important, Holy Man,” Rual broke in.

Shaklin turned to the others. “What about it? Am I right? Isn’t amnesty the most important thing?”

Everyone quickly agreed that it was.

“In that case,” Sten said, “take a look at this.”

He held up the document. “You’re Bishop Shaklin, right?”

Shaklin nodded, took the document and opened it. As he scanned it several of his congregants and a couple of the crewmembers came forward to peer over his shoulder.

Then they all looked up Sten, gaping in surprise.

“Why, this… this… this is a Court Martial filing,” Shaklin said.

“Vhatt’s that?” Zheng cried. “Court martial? I vill not be court martialed!”

Sten laughed. “Among your many problems, Zheng,” he said, “is that you suffer from delusions of reference. Big time.”

Zheng sputtered. “Delusions? Delusions? Vhatt’s this delusions?”

“He means that this is for Gregor, Zheng,” Shaklin said, “not you.”

Zheng and Rual looked at Shaklin, then Sten and Alex. Flabbergasted.

Sten said, “One of my jobs today is to open proceedings for the court martial of Captain Gregor Wichman.”

The mutineers gaped at Sten. Of all things, no one ever dreamed Gregor would face a court martial board.

Shaklin was the first to recover. “Open proceedings?” he said. “What does that mean exactly?”

“It means that Lt. Kilgour and I are to take statements from you and others members of the crew.

“We have already gathered extensive evidence of Captain Gregor’s illegal dealings at Port Chinen and other areas on the Flame’s shipping route. Which is the main reason for our delay in getting to you.”

Sten let his gaze sweep across the group, then added, “When we’re done here I will immediately return to my ship and report my findings directly to the Eternal Emperor himself.”

Zheng shook his head. “Nonsense, this is,” he said. “No, not nonsense but a trick. You will tie us up here with the gutt damned red tape and then-“

Shaklin interrupted. “What about that, Captain?” he said. “Zheng makes a good point. We all know about Imperial red tape. We’ve all been victims of it one time or another.”

There were mutters of agreement from the other members of the crew. Rual started to interrupt, but Zheng gave him the elbow.

“Yes, Captain?” he said. “Vhatt do you have to say about that?”

“I’m dealing directly with the Eternal Emperor,” Sten said. “So there will be no red tape. I’ll have a decision for you within 24 E-hours.”

“And if you don’t?” Shaklin pressed.

Sten shrugged. “Then, obviously, you’ll take Venatora’s offer and the Emperor will be out of luck.”

“We’ll want guarantees,” Shaklin said.

“And you’ll have them,” Sten said.

“I don’t like it,” Zheng said.

“You got that right,” Rual chimed in.

“What do you have to lose?” Sten said. “Either I deliver, or I don’t.”

There was great deal of back and forth argument, with Zheng and Rual pushing for refusal.

But Sten had undercut their authority so much that in the end, it was agreed. Sten and Alex could move through the ship and interview the crew, gathering evidence again Gregor.

While they argued, Shaklin took them aside. “You’ll have to move fast,” he said. “Two hours at the most. Otherwise they’ll be at your throats.”

“Two hours it is, then,” Sten said. “But to speed things up, I want to talk to Gregor first.”

“He’ll just lie,” Shaklin said.

“That just makes it better for your cause, Bishop,” Sten said. “Because he’ll be lying under oath. That’s perjury. And in this case…”

He paused… giving Shaklin a look of great empathy. “I understand there was more than one death involved in Gregor’s activities,” he said.

Tears welled in Shaklin’s eyes. He nodded. “Yes…” his voice almost broke. He steeled himself. “At least one,” he said.

“Her name?” Sten asked.

“You obviously know about it,” Shaklin said.

Sten nodded. “Pegatha, right?” he said. “You’re… friend.”

“Yes. She was  my… friend,” Shaklin said. “Her death was listed as an accident. But Gregor might as well have killed her himself.”

“If that’s the case,” Sten said, “he may very well face a firing squad.”

Shaklin knuckled an eye. “Come on,” he said. “I’ll take you to him.”

As the navigator led them down the passageway it gave Sten no joy to think what an accomplished liar he had become.

NEXT: GREGOR’S DILEMMA



*****

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.


*****


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. 

NEWLY REVISED KINDLE EDITIONS OF THE TIMURA TRILOGY NOW AVAILABLE. (1) When The Gods Slept;(2) Wolves Of The Gods; (3) The Gods Awaken.

*****


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:

U.S. .............................................France
United Kingdom ...........................Spain
Canada ........................................ Italy
Germany ..................................... Japan
Brazil .......................................... India

*****






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.








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