Meanwhile, for readers who prefer to stick with
The weekly blog episodes, we will continues
To post chapters until the story is done.
And, now, here is this week's episode!
AND THEN THE KNIVES CAME OUT
As they approached No Being’s Land, Shaklin kept an eye peeled at what was going on behind the Flame.
It made a tableaux worthy of a billion credit star-packed livee. Missiles streaking. Rockets exploding. Laser guns so hot they warped space.
“If just one leetle missile gets through,” Zheng said, “maybe real lucky ve get and kill that bastard Sten.”
Rual grimaced. “It’s Kilgour I want,” she said. “And not a missile, but a knife to the throat.”
Zheng snorted. Took a swig from his ever present flask, his flushed toad face turning a deeper shade of red.
“Never mind this Sten,” he said. “By the bokos we got him. And soon very rich we will be.”
Just about then the holomap brightened and Shaklin saw that they were approaching the very edge of Venatora’s realm.
On the map, they were coming upon a thin yellow line, that stretched between two red points.
The navigator slowed his approach.
“Vhat doing you?” Zheng demanded.
Shaklin pointed at the yellow line and the two red dots.
“If we cross that line without permission,” he said. “We’re dead.”
Rual cursed Zheng under her breath for being so stupid.
Zheng flared at Shaklin as if it were all his fault.
“Vell, the signal you send then,” he say. “Vy are you waiting?”
He sent the signal.
AT VENATORA’S FORTRESS
Venatora smiled as she saw the Flame approach her border.
“I knew he’d come,” she said to Marta. “It’s just the kind of trick Sten would play.”
She thought back about their first encounter at the Xypaca fights. He’d tricked her twice. She knew this now for certain. It made her angry, on one level, but on another she admired his cunning. And his willingness to bet it all on a single outcome, trusting that he could outthink any opponent in mid fight.
And here he was again. With the Flame. The ore train stretched behind it.
Sure, it was. She snorted.
Venatora didn’t bother to ask Marta to sweep the ship or the train. She knew what was real and what wasn’t.
Now Sten would have his toady, Zheng, pretend that it had all been a big misunderstanding. Some trick the nasty Imperials had pulled. Zheng would talk, talk, talk, in that backwards language he used, driving her crazy.
Marta broke in. “They’re signaling us.”
Venatora settled back. Waiting for the verbal river of excuses that Sten—via his mouthpiece, Zheng—would pour upon her.
Marta signaled the Flame to stand by, then turned to Venatora.
“They’re requesting permission to proceed, Ma’am,” she said.
Venatora bolted up. “What? That’s it? Permission to proceed? Nothing more?”
Marta was taken aback by her heat. Hesitantly, she said, “No, Ma’am. I mean, yes, Ma’am. That’s all there was. ‘Permission to proceed.’”
Venatora glared at the board. Wanting to reach right through it and grab Zheng by the throat. Or, better, yet. Sten. Oh, she’d love to lay hands on him.
“Ma’am?” Marta said. “How should I reply, Ma’am?”
Venatora looked at Marta. Forced calm. Then smiled.
“Tell them,” she began. “Tell them… Permission granted.”
And then Venatora sent the prearranged signal to her forces:
Get ready to open fire.
ABOARD THE FLAME
Shaklin’s com board lit up. Venatora’s replay was clear: “Permission granted. You may proceed.”
As he reached for the controls, Zheng was shouting, “Vhat are you waiting for, you, you stupid? Go!”
Shaklin bit back an angry retort—what the clot did Zheng think he was doing? Instead, he calmly worked the controls, sending the Flame smoothly forward.
He glanced over at Viktor and Newton. They nodded at him. All was in readiness.
A moment later, the red points turned green and the Flame was moving over the yellow line, through the deadly maze of mines and missile batteries.
His heart hammered a staccato beat. Icy prickles ran up and down his spine. Any second now and Venatora would attack. He was sure of it. He practically felt her anger radiating from the gray fortress. Thoughts of vengeance coming to a boil. Pent up wrath waiting to be unleashed.
She’d pour down so much molten metal and bombs and nuke-tipped missiles that it would be impossible for them to escape.
He heard Zheng chortling. “Soon rich we be,” he was telling Rual.
Greeted by gleeful laughter from Rual, so high-pitched she sounded like a mad woman.
Shaklin caught Newton’s eye. Mouthed the words, “Get ready.” Newton smiled, but he was so frightened it looked more like a rictus grin than anything else.
He could see beads of sweat running down Viktor’s face. The other congregants were as equally intense. Lips trembling. Upturned faces pale with fear.
Any minute now… Any minute…
AT VENATORA’S FORTRESS
“Kill them!” Venatora shouted, slamming her hand down on the com board. “Kill them all!”
And in less than a heartbeat, the entire bank of overhead monitors blazed with missile fire.
ABOARD THE FLAME
Shaklin was almost too late. He saw the flame of the first missile and his hand went for the “jump” button, but he was so frightened his hand felt paralyzed.
He reached. But it was slow. So slow.
And Zheng was shouting: “Betrayal!”
And Rual was screaming: “Venatora, you thieving bitch!”
The first missile exploded just short of the Flame’s shield! The ship rocked.
Monitors burst and loose material scattered across the Control Center.
And there! Over there! He could see other missiles on their way.
Coming… Coming… Coming…
Shaklin punched the “Jump” button. There was a sudden feeling of emptiness.
And he was falling. Falling.
Then, with a jolt and a shudder, the Flame came to a halt.
Dizzily, Shaklin looked around. Zheng had hit his head and he was bleeding. Rual was picking herself off the deck. Crew members cursed. Some were weeping. Others were asking the unanswerable—what do they do now?
Shaklin came to his senses. A great calmness descended.
Newton said, “Here they come.”
And he looked up at the holomap and saw half-a-dozen points of lights moving on the Flame.
“Imperials,” Viktor confirmed. “A whole clotting fleet.”
And all could see that they were led by the Jo’l Cash.
Shaklin turned to Zheng, who was trembling with fear. Numbly, he upended his flask. Drained it. Threw it aside.
“I guess we’re not going to be rich after all,” Shaklin said dryly—addressing Newton and the others, but loud enough for all to hear.
“And as for amnesty—” He shook his head. No more needed to be said. That deal was long gone, thanks to the betrayal of Zheng and Rual.
He gave Newton the signal, reached under the rim of his board, and flipped a switch. There was a jolt. The ore train had all but been cut loose. One more step and it would be separated from the Flame.
But, jolt or not, no one noticed. For sudden fury had enveloped the crew.
They turned on Zheng and Rual, shouting. “We had a deal! Money! Amnesty! Gone! All gone!”
Zheng tried to grab Shaklin by his tunic. “Jump,” he screamed. “Jump! We must escape!”
Shaklin shook his head. “There’s no escaping the Eternal Emperor,” he said. “His people will follow us to the ends of Uttermost Space and back again.”
He turned to the angry crew. Pointing an accusing finger at Zheng and Rual. “It’s their fault,” he said. “Their doing. They bet your lives that they could out-think the Emperor, and they lost.”
Which was a lie. The rest of the crew had all been blinded by greed and by Zheng and Rual’s double dealing. They had out-voted Shaklin and his congregants, who were in favor of taking up Sten’s offer.
But none of that mattered now. Blame needed to be placed. And when that happens, blame cannot be denied.
“We can still escape,” Rual was saying. “We can still jump. Hide out and make a deal later on. Can’t we Zheng?”
But Zheng wasn’t answering. He was too busy spewing his guts on the deck.
Rual started toward Shaklin. Drawing her knife.
“Jump, damn you!” she demanded. “Jump!”
But Shaklin just turned to his board, grasped the jump switch. Twisted this way and that. And then ripped it right off the board.
He threw it into Rual’s face.
“You jump,” he said.
He turned and started away. Rual screamed and came after him. Shaklin didn’t bother ducking or dodging. It wasn’t necessary.
The crew exploded in fury. Some grabbed Zheng, who went down under a pile of punching, tearing bodies. Others went for Rual. Shaklin didn’t doubt that she put a good fight. He heard her cries of defiance behind him as he and his congregants exited the Control Room.
Rual’s final shout echoed in his ears: “I’ll kill you all! Cut your mother humping throats from ear to ear—”
And then there were whispers of sharp steel all around the Control Room as the crew drew knives and advanced on her.
As the door slid shut, he heard her scream, long and loud and full of terrible agony.
At that moment Shaklin learned something new about himself. He quite enjoyed her scream.
NEXT: THE TASTE OF VENGEANCE
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
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.