Sten fished out his com unit, flipped it to Shaklin’s mode, then spoke into it:
“Shaklin? This is Sten. If you hear me, don’t try to speak unless no one is around. Click once for ‘yes,’ twice for ‘no’” He paused, then, “Do you read me?”
After an agonizing wait there came a single click – yes.
“Are we in any immediate danger?”
There was double click – no.
“They aren’t going to fire on us again?”
Double click – no.
In background Ida started chattering. “You don’t know if we can trust him, Sten. I vote we don’t take any unnecessary changes with these clots.”
Sten waved for her to shut up. She did.
He spoke into the mike: “Venatora’s there, right?”
A bit of a wait. Shaklin was probably surprised that he knew. Then came a single click – yes.
“Okay, look, I still think we can work this out with as little bloodshed as possible. Everybody will still get their amnesty and they’ll still get the credits the Emperor promised.
“So the question now, is – are you still with me?”
Instead of one click, or two, there were a series of clicks. Clickclickclickclickclick. Then a pause.
“What th’ clot goin’ on with the wee bairn?” Kilgour said.
Sten finally got it. He said, “And Gregor, Shaklin. The same deal with Gregor. He gets court martialed to the high heavens…
“So, are you with me?”
There came an immediate single click – Yes!
“Excellent,” Sten said. “Just stand by and monitor what’s going on. Then, soon as you can get to a safe place where we talk, give me a call.
A single click – yes.
And then the connection was broken.
ABOARD THE FLAME
Gregor blinked like a mole as he was hustled out of his dimly-lit cabin into the brightly lit passageway.
His limbs were stiff from days of inactivity and he stumbled and nearly fell, only to be brought up short by the two burly crewmen who were his escorts.
“Clumsy scrote,” one of the sailors hissed. “Keep yer feet under yers while yer still got legs to walk with.”
“I hear Rual’s gonna start by breakin’ both his knees,” the other sailor said.
The first sailor laughed, then gave Gregor a clout alongside the head.
“What he needs is a good Tahn six pack,” he said. He made his hand into a pistol. “Two rounds in the ankle. Two in the knees. And two in the elbows.”
“A Tahn six-pack… I like that,” the second man said.
Gregor kept his mouth shut and hobbled along. He wasn’t worried in the least. For the first time since he was overwhelmed in his cabin when the mutiny broke out, he felt like he was finally back in charge.
Well, not exactly in charge. But well on his way to same.
He’d contacted his father with the device Sten had given him and the old man laid out his whole plan. It was frightening at first – Gregor’s life would never be the same again. But it soon became obvious that Lord Wichman not only had everything well under control, but had once again proven himself to be the King Of The Deal Makers.
“You just hang on, son,” he told Gregor, “and when this is over we’ll have so much power even the Eternal Emperor, himself, will fear us.”
Gregor kept those words close to him as his bodyguards hustled him along, and then a moment later he was shoved into Control Room with such force that he sprawled on his face in front of the assembled crew.
There were cheers and jeers and someone kicked him in the ribs. But after much rough treatment during his captivity he was prepared for it, and doubled up just as the boot connected, lessening the force of the blow.
Then he heard a woman’s imperious voice bark a command: “Let him up! We can’t talk business with his father if he finds his son face down on the deck.”
Someone pulled him roughly to his feet. Gregor looked around, fighting to keep a smile from spreading across his face.
There was Zheng, with his fat toad face. And Rual, who looked crazier than ever, with her hair standing on end and her eyes on fire. And then there was Shaklin who looked on him with such icy hatred that it froze Gregor to the marrow.
Someone helped him to his feet in a less than gentle manner and he found himself looking on the image of the most beautiful woman he had ever seen in his life.
It was Venatora – if not in the flesh, but in a live holocaust – looking every centimeter the pirate queen.
Gregor tried to speak, but her presence was such that all he could manage was stuttered, “My… my… Lady!”
The crew burst out laughing at this, and there was more jeering and several sailors made squeaky-voiced imitations of his “My… my… Lady!”
Gregor coughed, then tried again, fighting for the confidence his father had tried to instill in him.
“Yes, I have, My Lady,” he said. “My father filled in me on the details of the agreement that you and he have hammered out.”
“Excellent,” Venatora said. “I have already told the others about the plan, but they rightly demanded that I offer proof of the agreement.”
“I can help with that, My Lady,” Gregor said.
He fumbled in his pocket, but one of his guards swatted him, growling, “Here, none of that sneaky drakh Captain. What’cha got in there?”
Zheng broke in, commanding: “Leave him be, Guttdammit!”
Chastened, the guard stepped away. Gregor hastily fished out the little com unit Sten had given him and placed it on a nearby table.
The Control Center fell silent as everyone in the room stared at the little black box.
Venatora prodded Gregor into action. “GA,” she said.
And Gregor pressed down on the little box and backed away. It made a beeping sound and started to glow. Gradually, a form began to take shape.
Across the room, Shaklin huddled with his congregants, furious at what he had just heard from Venatora’s lovely lips. He and the others had been betrayed, betrayed.
And the architect of that betrayal rose up from that little box until, standing in front of them – in a live holocast straight from Prime World was Gregor’s father, Lord Wichman.
He of the huge pile of hay-colored hair. He of the round, fleshy face and cold boring eyes that had never known defiance. He of the loud, hail-fellow tones that were always on the make.
And as Shaklin looked on, that big voice boomed out, “Greetings, Lady Venatora. Good to be with you again.”
The image wavered a little as Wichman turned his big body, clad in a stylish businessman’s suit. He looked out over the awed crewmembers.
“I bring tremendous news for all of you,” he aid. “What you are about to hear from me, is huge! Huge! You think you know what rich is, well, let me tell you my friends, as a man who is richer than just about anybody in the Empire - except a few other guys, and of course that big crook, the Eternal Emperor – that you are about to be richer than you could have ever dreamed.”
He paused, flashed an enormous grin at Zheng and Rual.
“And you owe it all to Queen Venatora and your wise leaders, Zheng and Rual…”
Shaklin looked over at Gregor, who wore a smile that was the twin of his father’s.
He began to tremble. One of his people – Murgas, he thought it was – sensed his distress and touched his shoulder, whispering, “Easy, Bishop. Easy. Nothing we can do it about it now.”
Shaklin calmed himself, a little sorry that he hadn’t called down death and destruction on them all by telling Sten to strike and strike now.
Patience, he told himself. Patience.
Across the room Wichman droned on.
NOTE FROM ALLAN: My multi-talented brother, Drew Cole, has just released a marvelous new album of original songs – “The Shook Souls.” Some of the songs will make you cry, some will tickle your irony bone, and all of them will take you back to moments in your life, both painful or joyful, that will never be forgotten. The songs are free, but you can feed the kitty if you like them. Click on this link and hear for yourself.
STEN OMNIBUS TRILOGY
MAKES ITS AMERICAN DEBUT
MAKES ITS AMERICAN DEBUT
Well, my American publisher – Wildside Books – was listening and is issuing all three omnibus omnibus volumes on this side of the Atlantic. Sten Omnibus #1 was published
last month. Sten Omnibus #2 debuts this week. Stay tuned for the publication for Volume Three.
last month. Sten Omnibus #2 debuts this week. Stay tuned for the publication for Volume Three.
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.