Friday, March 16, 2012


The Eternal Emperor dumped the beans into a colander and ran hot water over them.

"The secret to a really good bean soup," he told his Grand Chamberlain - Admiral Mik Lodeh - "is to use Navy beans, preferably from Michigan."

Lodeh puzzled a moment, then brightened, saying, "Ah, yes - the ancient Earth province. But I thought they were known for combustion engine vehicles, not beans."

"That's the one," The Emperor said. He shook the pot. "Mine aren't from Michigan - they were wiped out a couple thousand years ago from acid rain, probably caused by those combustion engines. But they'll do the trick."

He paused to sip some Stregg, then fished through the beans, picking out and discarding any grit he found there.

"I use two pounds of these babies," The Emperor said. "Pick out the pebbles, then wash the beans until they are the  color of old ivory."

Ledoh snorted "Pity we can't do the same with Parliament, Your Highness," he said. "There are more thieves in that chamber than in the Prime World Prison."

The Emperor dumped the beans into the pot. Flash-heated four quarts of water in his Laser-Vac, dumped that in and set the pot to boil.

"The difference between a good bean soup and those back stabbers in Parliament," he told Admiral Ledoh, "is that you want your beans clean, but your back stabbers suitably dirty. Otherwise, you can't get anything done."

Now it dawned on Ledoh exactly why he'd been called into the Royal Presence. "You've been thinking about out problem with the Spaceport Bill, Majesty."

"Exactly so," the Eternal Emperor said, adding a pound and half of smoked ham hocks to the beans.

He tapped the pot with his wooden stirring spoon. "Actually, the bean soup is for them. Well, technically, the kitchen bots in the Parliament's Cafeteria are copying the recipe as I go, but my Parliamentary Bean Soup will make its menu debut at lunch, just before the big vote."

Ledoh chuckled. "Really, Your Majesty, you're not going to poison them all, are you?" he joked.

The Emperor paused a moment in his stirring, thinking. But just as Ledoh started to get worried he sighed and shook his head.

"It's tempting, " he said. "But then I'd have to have a whole mess of elections to replace them all and we'd be deluged with political speeches and debates and campaign spam and robo calls jamming everybody's com lines. And what would we get out of it? Just another group of blowhards.

"Besides, except for a couple of malcontents, they're mostly compliant enough. Like the man said, 'The fools in town are on our side.'"

"What man would that be, Majesty?" Ledoh asked. He really didn't care, but he knew it would please The Emperor if he asked.

"A writer," The Eternal Emperor said. "Either Mark Twain or Ross Thomas. I forget which. Twain is always a safe bet for just about any quote worth its while. But Thomas had something to say on the subject as well."

He set some clarified butter to sizzle in an antique cast iron pan, then started dicing an onion.

"Got to dice 'em real small," The Emperor said. "That's the secret to a good batch of Senate Bean Soup."

"I thought you were making Parliament Bean Soup, Your Highness. Or perhaps I misheard."

"No," The Emperor said. "You heard right. This is actually the recipe for Senate Bean Soup - a favorite in the U.S. Senate's cafeteria for a couple of hundred years."

"The U.S. Senate, Sir?" Admiral Ledoh asked. "What body might they be?"

"Doesn't matter," The Emperor said. "They were pretty much like the bunch we have in Parliament. Mostly lawyers. and hypocrites, which I guess is an oxymoron. Rich. Congenital liars. Continually on the take. And willing to do anything to keep their jobs."

Admiral Ledoh couldn't help but feel a flash of irritation. "Begging your pardon, Majesty, but why are you going to treat those… those… ingrates… to one of your legendary meals? Much less name the dish after them. There are countless middle class and blue collars jobs on the line with the Spaceport Bill. And they're holding it up so they can tack on billions of credits-worth of pure, unadulterated pork. Why, to pay for their version of the bill you'd have to increase the cost of AM2, which will bankrupt countless families and small businesses everywhere."

"I know, I know," The Eternal Emperor said. "Life's a bitch, and then your die. Except for me, of course. I never die… It's just politics and the last think you should do is take politics seriously."

He examined the butter in the pan and decided to add a little more. Then he poured them both a couple of stiff scotches.

"The point of this soup," The Eternal Emperor said, "is to get the whole crew together in the cafeteria for a little face time. I make nice nice. Fill 'em full of beans and garlic bread. Let them know how appreciative I'll be if they cooperate on the Spaceport Bill. Meanwhile, you do your magic."

"My magic, Highness?" Mik Ledoh was stumped. He drank his scotch, but that didn't help. "What magic?" he repeated.

"Oh, wait up," The Emperor said. "I almost forgot to clue you in on the Ross Thomas twist."

Now Ledoh was totally out of his depth. What did this… this… writer have to with anything.

Quickly, the Emperor diced some garlic. Also some scotch bonnet. Then he dumped that, along with the onions, into the clarified butter. He hit the bubbling soup with a couple fingers of salt and pepper.

"Old Ross used Tabasco, not Scotch Bonnet," he told Ledoh apologetically. "Came from some province in Mexico and I haven't been able to duplicate it. Maybe it’s the water."

He saw Ledoh's glass was empty, finished off his drink and resupplied them both.

"Of course, Ross Thomas had a faster way of making this whole mess," he said. "He used a little vegetable grinder, but what the heck, fine slicing things always made me feel a little bit better."

"You were talking about me making magic, Sir," the Admiral reminded The Emperor.

"Oh, yeah," The Emperor said. "The two main holdouts….?"

"Right Honorable M'kane and the Right Honorable Reede, Sir," Ledoh said.

"Right. Rede and M'kane. Supposed to be bitter enemies. Always butting heads. Holding up legislation with all their arguing. Meanwhile, behind our backs, they're working together on the pork business."

"That's the pair of them," Ledoh confirmed.

"Right… Well, here's what you do. I've made out a couple of Imperial warrants. While I'm chatting up those two clowns I want you hit both their homes with a couple of search teams. Gather up the evidence and bring it all to me."

Ledo was dumbfounded. "Evidence of what, Majesty?"

The Emperor shrugged. "Illegal stuff," he said. "Contraband. Raped goats. Whatever. Bound to be something pretty damning. I told my boys to surprise me."

"You mean planted evidence, Highness?" Ledoh asked. He was only a little shocked.

"That's the kind," The Eternal Emperor said, spooning up a couple of bowls of soup. "That's the old Ross Thomas twist."


1. Soak two pounds of Michigan Navy Bean soup overnight.
2. Wash them thoroughly until the beans are white.
3. Put the beans in a pot and add four quarts of hot water.
4. Add two-and-a-half pounds of smoked ham hocks, bring to a boil and simmer for three and a half hours.
5. Brown one large chopped onion in clarified butter (or olive oil)
6. Add to soup.
7.  For The Ross Thomas Twist, also brown a handful of garlic and add that, along with a couple of heavy dashes of Tabasco.
8. Season with pepper, then serve. Add salt if needed.
Makes eight servings.

 ( NOTE FROM ALLAN: The character of Admiral Mik Ledoh - the Eternal Emperor's Grand Chancellor- was named after the late, great Mike Hodel co-creator and long time host of Hour 25 in Los Angeles. The authors spent many a happy midnight hour with Mike and his listening audience of Science Fiction fans and writers.)


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!
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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. 


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