Sunday, March 18, 2012



Sten watched Alex get himself ready for what they hoped was his last session with the Bhor pirate, known as Madea. The renegade and his mates were holding the Crown Prince of  Al-Hidij for ransom, threatening to cut off his head in front of an Empire-wide livee audience if the Eternal Emperor didn't cough up an exorbitant sum.

The Prince was a spoiled little scrote nobody liked. He was the son of one of the Emperor's key allies, so his death would be embarrassing. But giving in to pirates would be an even greater humiliation.

Solution: Sten's Mantis team must break the Bhor pirate's will and force him to reveal the whereabouts of the Crown Prince.

Today was the deadline. If they failed the Crown Prince would have nowhere to rest his crown upon.

Alex was spraying his throat with a mixture of stregg and honey - getting his vocal chords well tuned. Nearby, two guards waited with a small table and chair, along with a tray bearing two large jugs - one filled with Narcobeer, the other Stregg. The spirits were for Alex, not the prisoner.

"It might have been simpler and more humane if we had just removed his fingernails, one by one," Sten obsegravsleded.

The Heavyworlder shook his great shaggy head. "He's a clottin' toogh laddy, 'at Bhor," he said. "Rykur warned us he coods nae be broken wi' th' usual techniques."

Kilgour cracked his knuckles. "No, laddie. A body mair wee session tellin' abit Jack an' Nate th' Snake an' th' lever 'at nae a body daur move ur a' fowk in th' warld weel die."

"What if he still refuses?" Sten asked. "What do you plan to do then?"

Alex chuckled. "Ah hae anither trick up mah sleeve, laddie… A Wee Kilgour Twist."

Then he opened the door and he entered, the guards bearing their burdens behind him.

Sten heard the prison groan aloud at the sight of Alex, and he had to repress a shudder."

In the Interrogation room, Kilgour noted the prisoner's pale features, blood shot eyes and trembling lips. He smiled kindly, poured Narcobeer in one mug, stregg into a double shot glass, drank them both off, then settled back.

He began, "Ah was tellin' ye abit hoo Nate hud granted Jack th' gift ay a lang life an' wisdom an' Jack hud assumed responsibility fur aw humankin'. If someday he shoods despair an' move 'at lever, a' fowk oan th' planit woods die. Aye, an' 'at woods happen e'en if th' lever was moved by accident. If he feel oan it, ur bumped intae it. A body shake ay 'at lever, an' everythin' woods end."

The big Bhor stifled a groan. "Go ahead, you scrote," he said. "I won't talk no matter what you do."

And so Alex began….


… Jack  visited Nate fairly regularly - at leest ance ur twice a year. After th' first year, Jack quit his job. Fur some reason, wi' th' wisdom he 'd bin given, an' th' knowledge 'at he coods bide fur ower 150 years, workin' in a nine tae fife job fur someain else didne seem 'at worthwhile any mair.

Jack went back tae skale. Eventually, Jack started writin'. Aiblins coz ay th' wisdom, ur aiblins because ay his new perspectife, he wrote weel. Fowk liked whit he wrote, ain he becam weel knoon fur it. Efter a time, Jack booght a new gravsled an' started travelin' aroond th' coontry fur book signings an' readings. 

But, he still remembered tae drap by an' visit Nate occasionally. On a body ay th' visits Nate seemed quieter than usual. Nae 'at Nate hud bin a foontain ay joy lately. Jack's best guess was 'at Nate was still missing Samuel, an' thocht Jack hud tried, he still hadnae bin able tae replace Samuel in Nate's een.

Nate hud bin gettin' quieter each visit. But oan thes visit Nate didne e'en spick when Jack walked up tae th' lever. He nodded at Jack, an' 'en went back tae starin' intae th' desert.

Jack, respectin' Nate's silence, sat doon an' waited. after puckle minutes, Nate spoke. "Jack, Ah hae someain tae introduce ye tae."

Jack looked surprised. "Someain tae introduce me tae?"

Jack looked aroond, an' 'en looked canny back at Nate. "This somethin' tae dae wi' th' big bloke?"

"No, nae," replied Nate. "This is mair personal. Ah want ye tae meit mah son."

Nate looked ower at th' nearest sain dune. "Sammy!"

Jack watched as a fower fit lang desert rattlesnake crawled frae behin' th' dune an' up tae th' staine base ay th' lever.

"Yo, Jack," said th' new, much smaller snake.

"Yo, Sammy" replied Jack.

Jack looked at Nate. "Named efter Samuel, Ah assume?"

Nate nodded. "Jack, Ah've got a favur tae ask ye. Coods ye shaw Sammy aroond fur me?"

Nate unwrapped himself frae th' lever an' slithered ower tae th' edge ay th' staine an' looked athwart th' sands.

"When Samuel first tauld me abit th' warld, an' brooght me books an' picters, Ah wished 'at Ah coods gang see it. Ah wanted tae see th' stoatin forests, th' canyons, th' cities, e'en th' other deserts, tae see if they felt an' smelled th' sam. Ah want mah son tae hae 'at chance - tae see th' warld. Afair he becomes boond haur loch Ah hae bin.

"He's seen it in picters, ower th' computer 'at ye brooght me. But Ah hear 'at it's nae th' sam. 'At bein' thaur is different. Ah want heem tae hae that. Think ye can dae 'at fur me, Jack?"

Jack nodded. Thes was obvioosly huir uv a important tae Nate, sae Jack didne e'en joke abit takin' a talkin' rattlesnake it tae see th' warld.

"Yeah, Ah can do 'at fur ye, Nate. Is 'at aw ye need?"

Jack coods sense 'at was somethin' mair. Nate looked at Sammy. Sammy looked back at Nate fur a second an' 'en said, "Oh, yeah. Ummm, Ah've gotta gang pack. Back in a wee bit Jack. Braw tae meet ya!"

Sammy slithered back ower th' dune an' it ay secht. Nate watched Sammy disappear an' 'en looked back at Jack.

"Jack, thes is mah first son. Mah first offsprin' ben aw th' years. Ye dornt e'en want tae knaw whit it took fur me tae fin' a mucker." Nate grinned tae himself. "But anyway, Ah hud a son fur a reason. Ah'm wabbit. Ah'm ready fur it tae be ower. Ah needed a replacement."

Jack considered thes fur a minute. "So, yoo're ready tae come see th' warld, ain ye wanted heem tae watch th' lever while ye waur gain?"

Nate shook his heed. "No, Jack - yoo're a better guesser than 'at. Yoo've already figured it - Ah'm boond haur - there's only a body way fur me tae lave haur. An' Ah'm ready. It's mah time tae die."

Jack looked mair closely at Nate. He coods teel Nate hud thooght aboot this - probably fur quite a while. Jack hud trooble imaginin' whit it woold be loch tae be as auld as Nate, but Jack coods awreddy teel 'at in anither hundred ur tois hunder years, he micht be gettin' wabbit ay life himself. Jack coods kin Samuel's decision, an' noo Nate's.

Sae, aw Jack said was, "what dae ye want me tae dae?"

Nate nodded. "Thanks, Jack. Ah only want tois things. A body - shaw Sammy aroond the warld - lit heem gie his fill ay it, until he's ready tae come back here ain tak' ower. Tois - gezz th' foorth request.

"Ah cannae jist decide tae die, nae onie mair than ye can. Ah willnae e'en die ay auld age loch ye eventually will, e'en thocht it'll be a lang time frae noo. Ah need tae be killed. Once Sammy is back haur, ready tae tak' ower, Ah'll be able tae die. an' Ah need ye tae kill me.

"Ah''ve e'en thooght abit hoo. Poisons an' other drugs willnae wark oan me. An' Ah've seen picters ay snakes 'at waur shot - some ay them bide fur days, sae that's it tay. Sae, Ah want ye tae brin' back a sword.

Nate turned awa' tae swatch back tae th' dune 'at Sammy hud gain behin'. "Ah'd say an axe, but that's somewhat undignified - puttin' mah heed oan th' grun ur a choppin' block loch 'at. Nae, Ah loch a sword. A time-honored way ay goin' it.

"A dignified way tae die. An', most importantly, it shoods wark, even oan me.

"Yoo willin' tae dae 'at fur me, Jack?"

Nate turned back tae swatch at Jack. "Yeah, Nate," replied Jack solemnly, "Ah hink Ah can handle 'at."

Nate nodded. "guid!"

He turned back toward th' dune an' shooted, "Sammy! Jack's abit ready tae lae!"

'En quietly: "Thanks, Jack."

Jack didne hae anythin' tae say tae 'at, sae he waited fur Sammy tae make it back tae th' lever, nodded tae heem, nodded a final time tae Nate, an' 'en headed intae th' desert wi' Sammy followin'.

Owre th' next several years Sammy an' Jack kept in tooch wi' Nate ben e-mail as they went abit their adventures. They gart a goal ay visiting every coontry in th' warld, an' did a respectable job ay it.

Sammy hud a natural gift fur languages, as Jack expected he woods, an' e'en ended up actin' as a translatur fur Jack in puckle ay th' coontries. Jack managed tae keep th' talkin' rattlesnake hidden, e'en sae, an' by th' time they were nearin' th' end ay their toor ay coontries, Sammy hud only bin spotted a few times.

While thaur waur several fowk 'at hud seen enaw tae startle them greatly, nobody hud enaw evidence tae prove anythin', an' while puckle wild rumors an' storied followed Jack an' Sammy aroond, naethin' ever burst th' newspapers ur th' public in general.

When they finished th' toor ay coontries, Jack suggested 'at they try some undersea divin'. They did. An' spelunkin'. They did 'at tay.

Sammy finally drew th' line at visitin' Antarctica. He'd come tae realize 'at Jack was stallin'. Efter talkin' tae his dad abit it ower e-mail, he figured it 'at Jack probably didne want tae hae tae kill Nate.

Nate tauld Sammy 'at humans coods be squeamish abit killin' friends an' acquaintances. So, Sammy eventually pit his tail doon (as he didne hae a foot) an' told Jack 'at it was time - he was ready tae gang back an' tak' up his duties frae his dad.

Jack, delayed it a wee mair by insistin' 'at they gang back tae japan an' buy an appropriate sword. He e'en stretched it a wee mair by gettin' lessons in hoo tae use th' sword. But, eventually, he'd learned as much as he was likely tae withit dedicatin' his life tae it, an' was definitely competent enaw tae tak' th' heed aff ay a snake.

It was time tae heid back an' see Nate. When they got back tae th' us, Jack got th' auld gravsled it ay storage whaur he ain Sammy hud left it efter their toor ay th' continent, he loaded up Sammy an' th' sword, an' they headed fur th' desert.

When they got tae th' wee toon 'at Jack hud bin tryin' tae fin' those years ago when he'd mit Nate, Jack was in a funk. He didne pure feel loch walkin' aw ay th' way it thaur. Nae only 'at, but he'd forgotten tae figure th' travel time correctly, an' it was late efternuin. They'd either hae tae spend th' nicht in toon an' donner it tha' moorns nicht, ur donner in th' mirk.

As Jack was afraid 'at if he waited a body mair nicht he micht lose his resolve, he decided 'at he'd gang aheid an' drife th' gravsled it thaur. It was only gonnae be thes ance, an' Jack woods gang back an' cowre th' tracks afterward.

They ooght tae be able tae make it it thaur by nightfaa if they drove, an' 'en they coods gie it ower tonecht. Jack tauld Sammy tae e-mail Nate 'at they waur comin' as he drove it ay secht ay th' toon oan th' road. They 'en pulled aff th' road an' headed oot intae th' desert. Everythin' went weel, until they got tae th' sain dunes.

Jack hud bin nursin' th' gravcar alang th' whole time, ower th' rocks, ben th' creek beds, revvin' th' engine th' few times they almost got stuck. When they cam tae the dunes, Jack didne pure hink abit it, he jist give't more power an' headed up th' first a body.

By th' third dune, Jack started tae regrit 'at he'd decided tae try drivin' oan th' sain. Th' gravseld was fishtaillin' an' leakin' power, bump'it th' ground.

Jack was havin' tae wark it up each dune slowly an' was tryin' tae keep frae losin' control each time they cam ower th' top an' slid doon th' other side. Sammy hud come up tae sit in th' passenger seat, coiled up an' laughin' at Jack's drivin'.

Aas they cam ower th' top ay th' foorth dune, th' biggest a body yit, Jack saw that thes was th' final dune - th' staine, th' lever, an' somewhaur Nate, waited belaw.

Jack pit oan th' brakes, but he'd gain a wee tay far. Th' gravsled started slippin' doon th' other side. Jack tried turnin' th' wheel, but he didne hae enaw traction.

He pumped the brakes - nae response.

They started slidin' doon th' brae, faster an' faster.

Jack felt a shock gang ben heem as he suddenly realized 'at they were headin' fur th' lever!

He looked doon - th' gravsled was directly oan coorse fur it. If Jack didne dae somethin', th' gravsled woods burst the lever. He was in th' wey o end humanity.

Jack steered mair frantically, tryin' tae gie traction. But th' gravsled fishtailed ever' which way.

It still wasn't workin'. Th' dune was tay steep, an' th' sain tay loose. In a split second, Jack realized 'at his only chance woods be ance he burst th' staine aroond th' lever - he shoods hae traction oan th' staine fur jist a second afair he burst the lever - he wooldnae hae time tae gonnae-no, but he shoods be able tae steer away.

Jack took a better grip oan th' steerin' wheel an' tried tae turn th' gravsled a little bit - every wee bit woods help. He'd hae tae time his turn jist recht.

The gravsled got tae th' bottom ay th' dune, slidin' at an amazin' speed in th' sain. Jist afair they reached th' staine Jack looked athwart it tae check 'at they waur still headin' fur th' lever. they waur.

But Jack noticed something else 'at he hadnae seen frae th' top ay th' dune.

Nate wasnae wrapped aroond th' lever.

He was aff tae th' side ay th' lever, but still oan th' stain, waitin' fur them.

Th' problem was, he was waitin' oan th' sam side ay the lever 'at Jack hud picked tae steer towards tae avoid th' lever.

Th' gravsled was awreddy startin' tae drift 'at way a wee in its radge rush athwart th' sain an' thaur was nae way 'at Jack was gonnae be able tae gang aroond th' lever tae th' other side.

Jack hud an instant ay realization.

He was either gonnae hae tae burst th' lever, ur rin ower Nate.

He glanced ower at Sammy an' saw 'at Sammy realized th' sam hin'.

Jack took a firmer grip oan th' steerin' wheel as th' gravsled ran up oan th' staine.

Shootin' tae Sammy as he pulled th' steerin' wheel and say'it - "Better Nate than lever."

And he ran ower th' snake.

As Alex said the last lines he burst out laughing. "Better Nate than lever! Better Nate than lever!"

He swatted the table. ""Did ye ever bend yer lugs tae sic' a brammer tale?"

Kilgour started to say more, but then realized that Madea was weeping. Rivers of tears ran down his cheeks into his beard. Snot bubbled from his hairy nostrils. And he was making awful, moaning sounds.

"You scrote! You pimple on a Joygirl's arse! That's it? You have kept me here for four days runnin' your gob like a bleedin' water fowl with the runs. And then you have the clottin' nerve to end the story like that? By my father's frozen buttocks, and the frozen buttocks by his father before him… and so on… and so clottin' forth… until the first Streggan slew the first Bhor and made him a hairy supper.

"Better Nate than Lever! Drakh, I say to you. Drakh!"

Alex grinned at the renegade Bhor. "So, you'll be talking to me now, lad," he said. "You'll be telling me where your mates are keeping the poor wee prince."

The Bhor gathered all the strength that remained. Steeled his resolve.

And said in a shaky voice, "Clot you!"

Kilgour shrugged. Poured himself some Narcobeer and stregg. Took healthy swallows. Wiped his lips and then grinned at Madea.

"Sae, in 'at case, mah laddie, Ah'm duty boond tae teel ye th' spotted snake story. Surely ye hae heard ay it? Th' spotted snakes?"

"No! No!" screamed the big Bhor. "Not that! Not the Spotted Snakes. I'll talk. I'll talk!"

In the outer room Sten heard the Bhor bleat the coordinates for the hideout. He passed the information on to the standby Mantis team. Within a few hours the Crown Prince would be rescued, his captors killed.

And the whole clotting mess would be over.

Well, not quite over. He knew Kilgour couldn't resist an audience for his favorite tale. Especially an audience chained to a chair and had no choice but to listen.

Over the open-com he heard Kilgour begin…

"…An' so Ah call th' sarn't major in, an Ah asks, 'Sarn't Major, whae's thae worst problem?

"An' he say't, 'Spotted snakes!'

"An Ah says, 'Spotted snakes?'

"An' he says, 'Spotted snakes, sah.!"

Sten switched off the sound just before the screams began….


The entire 8-novel landmark science fiction series is now being presented in three three giant omnibus editions from Orbit Books.  The First - BATTLECRY - features the first three books in the series: Sten #1; Sten #2 -The Wolf Worlds; and Sten #3, The Court Of A Thousand Suns. Next: JUGGERNAUT, which features Sten #4, Fleet Of The Damned; Sten #5, Revenge Of The Damned; and Sten #6, The Return Of The Emperor. Finally, there's DEATHMATCH, which contains Sten #6, Vortex; and Sten #7, End Of Empire. Click on the highlighted titles to buy the books. Plus, if you are a resident of The United Kingdom, you can download Kindle versions of the Omnibus editions. Which is one clot of a deal!
Here's the Kindle link for BATTLECRY
Here's the Kindle link for JUGGERNAUT
Here's the Kindle link for DEATHMATCH



Two new companion editions to the international best-selling Sten series. In the first, learn the Emperor's most closely held  cooking secrets. In the other, Sten unleashes his shaggy-dog joke cracking sidekick, Alex Kilgour. Both available as trade paperbacks or in all major e-book flavors. Click here to tickle your funny bone or sizzle your palate.  



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. Here's where to buy the book. 


Diaspar Magazine - the best SF magazine in South America - is publishing the first novel in the Sten series in four 
episodes. Part One and Part Two appeared in back-to-back issues. And now Part Three has hit the virtual book stands.  Stay tuned, for the grand conclusion. Meanwhile, here are the links to the first three parts. Remember, it's free!

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