Sten paced the Control Room, while Ida fussed with her com board, flicking this switch and that, tapping keys, palming buttons, but still the com screen connection to the Flame remained maddeningly blank.
Across the room, Alex and Doc were hunched over a tall vidunit, playing Schrodinger's Chess – in 4-D, of course – with pieces winking in and out of existence when the gamers made their moves.
Ida slammed a fat fist down on her desk, nearly toppling over a nasty-looking cup of caffe with a half-used ‘bac stick bobbing on the surface.
“I hate this scrote,” she shouted. “Hate him, hate him, hate him.”
“What scrote?” Sten asked.
Ida indicated the blank monitor screen. “Why, the nasty little piece of drakh who’s keeping our nose out of the Flame’s business,” she said.
“Do you actually know who he is?” Sten asked.
“Too clottin’ right, I know him,” Ida said. “Got his puddy paws all over the program. I’d recognize his work anywhere. Except this nasty piece of business has something special. Something so special that it would normally be out of his means to produce it.”
“Go on,” Sten urged.
Ida shrugged. “Don’t know his actual name, but he’s a legendary cyber crook. Bragged that there wasn’t a wall he couldn’t breech, a code he couldn’t break. Worked on teal sneaky, corporate underworld drakh. Usually for the highest bidder.”
Sten frowned. “Any idea who that highest bidder might be in this case?” he wanted to know.
“Sure, I do,” I said. “Except, he isn’t doing it for money. He’s doing it because he has to.”
“Explain, please,” Sten said.
“Word is that he ran afoul of the Tahn. Got caught with his hand in one of their top secret cookie jars. So they snatched him up and put him to work in one of their labs building drakh to mess with our boss, the Emp.”
“Wait, wait, wait,” Sten said. “Do you realize what you are saying?”
Ida looked up at him, puzzled. She’d been so focused on the narrow tech picture that she hadn’t twigged on what was really going on.
Sten said, “We know for a fact that Venatora is using that program to block us, right?”
Ida nodded. “Right?” Then her face cleared. “Aw, drakh,” she said. Then, half-admiringly: “You clever little bitch, you. Went and made yourself a deal with the Tahn.”
Her hand went to the cup of caff, saw what was floating inside, and gave it up.
“Well, drakh and fall back in it,” she said.
Across the way, Doc and Alex had broken off their game when they caught the Venatora/Tahn reference.
Doc slid off his seat. “We’d better fill Mahoney in about the Tahn,” he said.
Sten nodded. “Yeah, we’d better,” he said. “This could change everything.”
He looked up at the big overhead monitor, where he could see the Flame hovering protectively over the circled spacetrain.
And noted the charred black streak on the tail section where the explosion meant for Sten and Alex had backblasted and scarred the ship.
The only thing left of the Flame’s name was the letter “F.”
Sten tucked that little bit of detail away, not knowing what use he could make of it, but being careful to file it just the same. In his short, but white hot, Mantis career he’d noticed that little things like that had a way of growing in importance down the line.
“I just wish I knew what was going on,” he said. “Even the com unit we gave Gregor to talk to his father is out of order.”
“Never fear, young Sten,” Kilgour said. “Have faith in our wee bishop. He’ll be reporting in any second now.”
Sten shook his head. “You only met the guy once, Alex,” he said. “Where did all this ‘Faith’ nonsense come from?”
Soon as the words were out of his mouth, Sten wanted to take them back. But no, Alex grabbed the story opportunity ball and ran with it.
“Ah, told ye’, young Sten,” he said. “There nothing we Kilgours don’t know about faith. Was I not just telling you the tale of th’ three holy men – all proud members of the Kilgour clan – took to converting bears?”
Sten started to protest, but Ida, bored and frustrated, broke in. “Yeah, you were telling us about that priest…”
“Aye, Father Kilgour,” Alex said.
“Yeah, Father Kilgour. And then there was the minister and the rabbi. What happened to them?”
“Weel,” said Alex, “it was loch thes. Efter Father Kilgour tauld his tale, th’ Reverend Billy Bob Kilgour wisnae to be ootdain. He was sitting in a wheelchair… hud one puir arm an’ both legs in a cast, wi’ an IV drip runnin’ inae his veins.
“An’ in his best fire an’ brimstone oratory he shooted, ‘Weel, brothers, we Baptists don’t sprinkle. We gang whole hog.
“‘I went out an’ foiund me a bear an’ Ah began to reid God’s Holy Wuid tae heem. But he didn’t want nothin’ fur tae do wit’ me. An’ sa I grabbed heem by th’ neck and we began to wrestle somethin’ fierce-loch.
“‘Weel, me an th’ bear rolled doon a big body bare, ‘en anither, ‘en feel intae a lake. An’ Ah quick-loch grabbed his heed an’ dunked heem under th’ water an’ Baptized his hairy soul.
“‘An’ ‘en, when Ah let heem, it was jist loch ye said, Father Kilgour… he was gentle as a wee lamb.’”
Alex paused for dramatic effect. Then opened his mouth to continue the story, now featuring Rabbi Kilgour, when Ida’s monitor suddenly bloomed into life.
And there was Shaklin, his dark features drawn and haggard and he was saying, Captain Sten? Are you there? … Captain Sten?”
Ida did her magic and suddenly they were in two-way communication.
“I’m here, Bishop Shaklin,” Sten said. “What’s going on?”
“It’s all gone to hell, is what is going on,” Shaklin said.
He paused, then – his voice quivering with emotion - he said: “Gregor’s getting away with everything.”
NEXT: BAIT AND SWITCH
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
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.
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.