Friday, March 15, 2013


Note from Allan: Over the years, many readers have urged me to continue the Sten series. I've been tempted, but so far have been satisfied with the ending Chris and I envisioned. However, if the series were to continue, how might it start? The Eternal Emperor is no more, slain by his once loyal servant. On his death, Sten was offered the keys to the kingdom. After all, he had the secret to AM2 and the stature to take the throne himself. Instead, Sten makes a grand gesture. Like a futuristic Prometheus he makes a gift of AM2 for all Beingkind. No strings attached. And he rejects the offer of ultimate power, in hopes that true democratic rule will take form. So, what would happen afterwards? How would the citizens of the Empire respond?

Well, here's one way it might work out. It certainly would be right in line with the Emperor's cynical view of things.


By Allan Cole

Based On The Novel Series 
By Allan Cole & Chris Bunch


 …Then he heard it.

It sounded like a voice.

Sten dressed quickly, then moved silently toward the source of that voice.

It was the Eternal Emperor.

He stood in the center of a large, empty compartment. Just in front of him was a shallow pool, now dry.

There was a bare stand beside it.

The far wall was a monster screen, sensesmashing with the colors/not colors of N-space.

His back was to Sten. His arms hung, hands empty.

Who had he been talking to? Himself? The ship?

Sten lifted his pistol, then hesitated. It was not any misguided sense of fair play— in his long career he’d shot many an enemy from behind without warning.


“In my end,” the Emperor said, “is my beginning.”

Sten jolted. The Emperor laughed, but did not turn.

“Of course, would there even be another beginning is the question?” the Emperor said, in a near monotone. “Or would the next refute Beelzy, and return to that long line of milksops it took to breed me?

“And even if the ship bred true again, what would the path be? Would he… would my… perhaps you might call him my son… find his way, alone, back? Would he be able to cut out the telltale inside as I did, without it detonating?

“But,” and the Emperor’s voice slowed, “it’s a question that’ll never be answered, will it?

“Either way” — and as he spoke, he whirled, dropping into a gunfighter’s crouch, Sten realizing here was the trap, the Emperor’s right hand flashing for his belt, gun coming up, reflexpoint aim…

Sten fired, and the projection flickered, holograph flashing off, and then the real Emperor came around the corner, close, too close, real pistol about to fire, Sten’s foot up leg blocking, the Emperor’s arm thudding against the bulkhead, painshout and somehow his own pistol was gone, knife coming out of armsheath, into hand, and it was very slow:

Sten’s right foot slid forward, just clear of the ground. It found a firm stance, half a meter in front of his left, as that foot precisely turned toe outward, and slid backward on its instep.

His knife-hand came up and forward, just as Sten’s left hand caught his right, just at the wrist, clamped for a brace, as his hips swiveled, shock-impact and he full-stretch lunged, needlepoint attack lancing out, going home.

His knife buried itself in the Eternal Emperor’s throat. Mouthgape. Bloodgush.

Sten recovered as the Emperor stumbled backward, backward, then fell, fell through all time and space, and his body struck the deck with the limp thud of a corpse.

Sten took two steps forward.

The Emperor’s face held a look of vast bewilderment.

It softened, toward blankness.

And then the mouth that had ordered too many deaths twisted. Deathrictus—but Sten thought it to be a smile. The eyes that had seen too many years and too much evil saw nothing, looking straight up at the chamber’s overhead.

Or perhaps they saw everything.

Time ran free again, and Sten was moving, diving for his pistol, and in a crouch. He was firing, firing like a madman. Into that empty pool, into that wallscreen, and, in now-realized carefully spaced shots, around the room.

An end…

… There would never be another beginning for the Emperor.

Fire gouted from the walls, and multicolored smokes whirled.

The ship screamed.

Emergency alarms… distorted metal… self-destructing cybernetics and electronics…


But the ship screamed.

And Sten ran for the control room.

Sten swung the targeting indicators across the bulk of the ship. One here… two here… three here… four here… five here… six here… seven targeted here.

One reserve.

Fire when…

… The first charge blew, the screen told him, the demo pack in the control room that Sten had set for a fifteen-E-minute delay as he fled toward the meteor hole and his ship.

One blast, and the robot mining ships brainlessly processing AM2 somewhere in the distance would be stopping. But they could be reprogrammed and recontrolled, if anyone wished. 


Sten slammed fingers down onto firing keys, a dissonant chord of hellfire.

Seven nuclear-headed Goblin XII missiles spat from the tacship’s launch tubes, and, ignoring the jumble of N-space input their sensors shouted to them, homed as ordered on the Emperor’s birth/death ship.

Sten’s ship was too close when they impacted.

All his screens blanked, went to secondary, blanked again, and then, probably because they were jury-rigged to give computer enhancements of N-space, stayed dead for long seconds.

Finally, one imaging radar came to life, and adjusted its input to the enhancement program.

Colors/not colors.

Nothing else.

It was as if the great decahedron had never existed.

The Eternal Emperor was gone.

Sten stared for a long, long time at that emptiness, perhaps wishing many things had never been, perhaps making sure the void would not take form.

Finally, he turned to his controls.

He fed in his return course, and went at full drive for the discontinuity.

And home.

It was over...


No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

The voice was silky smooth.

“By the grace of the Imperial High Commission,” said the voice – soft but somehow rising over the chaos that was the courtroom - “I now call this Special Tribunal to order.”

The fabulous woman judge who owned the voice – known as the Lady Souflia’ - brought the gavel down, not with a hard judicial crash, but only a gentle tap. The effect was the same – instant silence descended upon a vaulted room so crowded with beings from all over the Empire that the fresher units groaned under the effort to recycle odiferous mist that rose above the crowd  like steam rising from the Great Sarbonian swamp of antiquity.

Every being in the courtroom – which normally served as spaceport warehouse – was of high rank. There were political leaders, presidents, prime ministers, kings and queens, princes and princes, lords and ladies and religious leaders of every persuasion.

They had gone to much trouble and expense to gather here for a single purpose: to see that justice was done. Or at least, justice as they viewed it.

Meanwhile, vidbots roamed about, capturing the scene in images that were broadcast across the farthest reaches of the Galaxy to an audience whose numbers were unequaled in viewing history. Vidcasters spoke softly, providing a running commentary on events.

Lady Souflia’ – the judge presiding over the courtroom – had the face and form of an angel. She was seated upon a dais carved out of a single block of black steel that was lofted on grav-units many meters above the proceedings, where she could observe every nuance exhibited by the crowd.

She was clad in a swirling blood-red robe, that did more to show off her lush form than hide it. Her skin was the color of fresh cream, her lips full and red, her eyes were large and green and they glittered like rare stones. Her face was small and almond-shaped and was framed by a fiery red mane that spilled across her shoulders to come rest on her high breasts.

The Lady Souflia’ leaned forward, lips parted in anticipation. “Bailiff,” she said, “bring in the accused.”

There was long sigh from the crowd as the black-uniformed bailiff rushed to do her bidding. He hurried to a wide steel door, palmed a switch, then stepped back.

A square object, about two meters to a side, floated out on grav units. Draped entirely in black, it was pushed along by two muscular guardsmen, who wore stun rods and willyguns belted about their waists.

Lady Souflia’ palmed a switch and her dais floated downward until it was a few meters above and to the side of the strange object. She stared at it a few moments, and the crowd noise started to build again.

Then she stabbed the red-tipped finger at the object, saying, “Reveal the prisoner.”

The black cloth was swept away and the crowd gasped as they saw a man standing inside a steel cage. He wasn’t a particularly imposing figure. – a little less than average in height, his build muscular, like a gymnast’s, his features dark, as was his hair, except for streaks of silver at the temples. His cheeks were hollow, as if he had been on short rations, and his eyes were bleak pools of exhaustion.

Somehow he managed a sort of dignity in his ragged gray prison uniform, and he stood straight despite the weight of the thick metal bands capturing his wrists, which were in turn linked to a heavy metal belt that encircled his waist. Ankle chains confined his legs and they were similarly connected to the belt with locks of imposing size.

The Lady Souflia’ studied the man, taking his measure. “You appear to be without counsel,” she finally said.

The man grinned through bloody teeth. “There were those who tried,” he said. “But they were all either arrested, killed, or run off.”

“So you claim in your writ,” the judge said, scrolling through the legal summary on her desktop with her red-tipped nails. “But I don’t see any evidence to support your charge – or witnesses, for that matter. ”

The man replied “I regret to say that the witnesses suffered similar fates.” He sighed, “For a long time it hasn’t been healthy to be listed among my friends.”

“You also claim,” the judge said, ignoring the last, “that you were tortured during your incarceration.” She frowned, a slight crease marring her perfect forehead. “This is a serious charge. As all know, torture is forbidden. It violates not only our laws, but calls into question all that we hold holy in our civilization.”

The man turned his head slightly, coughing. His features momentarily twisted in pain and he spat blood onto the floor of his cage.

When the pain diminished, he said, “It must have been my imagination.”

“Indeed,” said the Lady Souflia’. Her lips wrinkling in displeasure at the sight of the bloody spittle.

Then she stiffened, drawing herself up. “Citizen Sten,” she said, “you have been charged with the crime of Regicide. Of cruelly stealing the life of the Eternal Emperor - lawful ruler of billions of fellow citizens.”

After a pause, she asked, “How do you plead?”

Sten gave her a long look, a twisted grin on his face. “Not guilty.”

The Lady Souflia’s eyes widened. “You have the audacity to claim that you did not kill him?”

“Of course I killed him,” Sten said. “But he tried to kill me first.” He shrugged. “I call that self defense.”

The crowd roared its displeasure at this. The sound was so great it rattled the thick walls of the aerodrome. There were shouts of, “Monster!” And, “Assassin!” And, “Murderer!”

The hatred was so intense that Sten nearly let his head drop, as all those emotions struck at him like fists. But he fought it off, pulling himself upright again with a rattle of heavy chains.

The Lady Souflia’ rapped at the dais with a little more force. Eventually the crowd noises died. But even then there were wild cries here and there. She ignored them.

She graced Sten with a rueful smile. “You just witnessed yourself what the dignitaries gathered here in the courtroom have to say about your claim of innocence.”

Sten made no reply. He merely turned his head – and this time, without a cough – spit a bloody stream of contempt on the floor of the cage.

The Lady Souflia pretended not to notice. She studied a welter of numbers scrolling across her desk.

Finally, she looked up. “It seems that your fellow citizens all across the Empire are of the same mind as the beings assembly here.

“In short, they find you guilty as charged.”

She tapped a final number on the vid-screen. “The vote is as close as to one hundred percent that anyone can get, when so many billions are weighing in.”

Sten barked harsh laughter. “What? Not even a show trial? No evidence presented? No cross-examination?”

The beautiful judge sighed. “That would be quite useless,” she said. “It is a well-known fact that you killed the Eternal Emperor. Why go to all that expense when the outcome will be the same.”

She paused, as a black-cloaked aide approached. Tall, and pale as a corpse, he leaned close to whisper in her ear. The judge nodded at his words, murmuring, “Yes, Fr'nk. Thank you for reminding me.”

The aide backed away and the judge looked long at Sten. Then she said, “Mercy might be within your grasp. Just tell us where the others are – your wife, Cind. And your fellow conspirator, Alex Kilgour. There are others, of course. A handful of misguided followers. Only tell us and I promise to spare you a little pain.”

Sten stood firm. “Never,” he said.

The Lady Sophia nodded – she’d expected no less. But the aide had reminded her of the necessity of the question. The denial must be public so that all would know that rules had been followed.

She reached into an alcove beneath the desktop. “I have one final duty to perform.” The Lady Souflia’ drew out a cap of ebony black and placed it upon her helm of red curls.

With a rap of her gavel, she said, “The penalty for your crime against beingkind can only be - death.”

The crowdroar was even more deafening than before.

And with a dainty wave at the vid-bots she palmed a switch and she and the dais swept up and away and out of sight.

The moment the judge vanished, the crowd broke. Spurred on by amphetamine and adrenaline gases pumped into the courtroom by the freshers, dignitaries and aristocrats alike became a hate-filled mob and they charged Sten's cage.

Guards boiled in, pushing at them ineffectually with plas shields, deliberately missing targets with their stun rods. The vidbots went mad, dashing here and there on the ground and through the air, as excited news commentators spoke heatedly and favorably about the “righteous display of passions.”

Weighted with chains, Sten dragged himself to the middle of the small cage, but there was no way he could escape objects that were thrown at him, much less the foul rain of spittle.

The bars of the cage were twisted. A few came loose, and there was an even greater shout. Blood-curdling cries of triumph as hands reached through the gaps, trying to get at him.

Then, when it seemed that all was lost, and the crowd would break through to tear him to pieces, a strong surge of electricity powered through the cage.

Although it wasn’t enough of a charge to harm anyone, the crowd was temporarily thrown back. Then the grav units whirred beneath the cage and it shot upward, carrying Sten out of reach. An unseen driver guided the cage with remote controls, sending it toward a gaping bay about ten meters above the crowd.

He swept through into darkness and then he was breathing lung-burning gasses, choking and clawing, wondering if he was to be executed so soon.

And then he was plunged into a pit so deep he wondered if would never reach the end of it.

But just before he blacked out he thought, "Clottin' fools. They didn't find the knife."

(To Be Continued. Maybe. Possibly. Who The Clot Knows?)


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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