Sunday, March 17, 2013


The Eternal Emperor said, "Pour us a couple of shots, Captain, while I get dinner underway."

"Scotch or Stregg, Your Majesty?" Sten asked, holding up a bottle of each for consideration.

The Emperor shrugged. "Better bring them both," he said, moving into his kitchen. "We'll start with Scotch then move onto Bhor territory by and by."

Sten followed, decanted the Scotch and filled a couple of shot glasses with the amber liquid that the Emperor had spent years duplicating, going by centuries-old memories alone.

As the Emperor started setting up, Sten glanced around the kitchen. He'd been here before - most notably for a drunken supper of Angelo Stew. But he'd never cease to marvel at the place. It was many times larger than most Prime World kitchens, where cooking was done by bots and the food never seen by a living being until it appeared on the table.

There were some modern features - hidden cabinets and environmental food storage boxes operated by finger touch. It also was kept absolutely bacteria free and featured a state of the art waste disposal system that the Emperor rarely used. Mostly he either swept what Sten would have considered waste into containers and returned them to storage, or dumped them into stock pots that simmered 24 E-hours a day, filling the area with the most tantalizing aromas.

The most imposing feature of the room was a huge chopping block made of rare hardwood called oak. In the center of the block was an old fashioned stainless steel sink. Set a little bit lower than the chopping block, it was flushed by a constant spray of water, flushing away debris as the Emperor sliced and diced.

Directly behind the Emperor was an enormous black cast iron and gleaming steel cooking range. It featured an oven whose walls were many  centimeters thick, a single cast grill, half a dozen professional chef size burners, and two open, wood-and-coal-burning grills. From the slight smell it gave off, the stove obviously operated by some kind of natural gas.

Sten also knew that there were several microwave ovens stashed in the hidden cabinets, which the Emperor used for such things as steamed vegetables - except he steamed them in light virgin olive oil, instead of water. "With just a dash or three of garlic powder," he informed Sten, "and maybe a little cayenne if it calls for it."

"If you ever want a really quick meal," he'd advised Sten on one occasion, "dump a mess of brussel sprouts (whatever they were) into a bowl, hit them with a little olive oil, garlic powder and cayenne and zap them for four minutes. Serve them over rice cooked with chicken broth." He patted his muscular belly. "Yum. A dish fit for - well, me!"

"I like to get everything laid out before I start cooking," the Emperor said, opening the fresher and ducking his head inside.

He started tossing things in a large steel bowl that he held in one hand, muttering the name of each ingredient as he did so:

"Let's see… A nice onion… there you go. Ginger, already peeled. Garlic, ditto. Lots and lots of peeled garlic. Chiles - three ought to do. No, want it extra spicy, make it four. Chicken, previously skinned, boned and cubed by yours truly."

The Emperor emerged, and dumped everything on the butcher block. Then he rustled through cupboards for the other ingredients.

"Cinnamon… cinnamon… where the clot is the cinnamon? Okay, there you are you little bugger. Now tumeric. Salt for the boiling water… sunflower oil… sunflower oil… where's the clottin' - There you go. Sunflower oil. And Bob's your uncle."

Sten wanted to ask who the clot Bob was and whose uncle he might be, but wisely kept his trap shut and poured more scotch. The Emperor had something on his mind, otherwise he wouldn't have invited Sten into his chambers for a private supper.

The Emperor looked like he was about to say something then stopped. Brow wrinkled. Then it cleared.

"Flour," he said. "Almost forgot the garam flour." As he reached into the cupboard for the item he said, "In case you're wondering, garam flour is flour made from ground chickpeas."

Sten nodded understanding, even though he didn't have the faintest idea what a chickpea was - ground, or otherwise.

"If you're wondering what's on my mind, Captain," the Eternal Emperor said, "it's as simple - and at the same time, complex - as this little meal I'm putting together for us."

As he talked he set pot of water to boil, added a dash of salt, then quickly peeled an onion and just as quickly did the same with the ginger root.

"The subject is palace security," he continued, "and the dish is chicken cutlet, Gurkha style. Got the recipe from Subedar Major Lumbar, who got it from his mom in Nepal, so you know it's gotta be authentic."

The water was steaming now and he dumped the whole onion, ginger and a dozen or more cloves of garlic into the pot. When the water started to boil, he added the cubed chicken.

"You're also probably wondering how somebody like you - a bad ass Mantis Corps kiddie - ended up head of my personal bodyguard."

Sten grimaced."I have to admit, Your Majesty," he said, "when Colonel Mahoney told me about the posting I thought he was either joking or that he'd lost his - well… it's something best not to speculate on when it's your superior officer."

The Emperor chuckled, knocked back his scotch, and set the glass before Sten for a refill.

"Ian does have a pretty peculiar sense of humor," The Emperor said, "otherwise I wouldn't keep him around. Being nuts is also part of his job description. A few thousand years ago - when I was a kid - they used to call it 'thinking outside of the box.' Whatever the hell the box was supposed to be."

He belted back another shot, then said, "Here's the thing, Captain. You may, or may not have noticed, but things are getting pretty dicey around here of late. There's the diplomatic mess with the Tahn, which could easily lead to war. Something I do not relish. And the political fallout from those tensions have brought things to a rolling boil… Speaking of which -"

The Emperor paused to chop the heat under the cooking pot, then removed the chicken with a meshed-bottom ladle. He fished out the onion, garlic and ginger and put them in a different bowl to cool.

"Anyway, I've got the Imperial Guard to keep obvious troublemakers away," the Eternal Emperor said. "But that's not real security. They're all capable enough, but a little too square-jawed for really sneaky Pete stuff."

Sten got it. "Begging your pardon, Your Highness," he said, "but from a black ops Mantis point of view palace security leaks like a sieve. It'll only stop the obvious sociopaths that the cops already keep tabs on as it is."

"Exactly my point, Captain," the Eternal Emperor said. "What I want is for you to put your tricky Mantis training to work making this place as terrorist-proof as possible."

Sten started to reply, but the Emperor held up a hand, stopping him. "Hang on. Chef's falling behind schedule."

The Emperor dumped the onion, garlic, ginger and boiled chicken into a processor. Followed by  the cinnamon, garam flour, turmeric and chopped chilies. Gave it a whirr, then another - then one more. Then he scooped the mess out onto the butcher block and quickly made them into patties.

Next, he plunked a bowl of bread crumbs on the block, followed by a bowl of whisked eggs. Each pattie was drenched into the egg mixture, rolled in bread crumbs, dusted with regular flour, then tossed into a hot, sunflower oil coated skillet.

The patties sizzled and steamed and smelled absolutely delicious.

Meanwhile, he put together a lightning fast salad of thin sliced peeled tomatoes, cucumbers with a tangy yogurt dressing. Two platters went on the counter.

He made a bed of rice pilaf and the patties went on top.

"Dig in," he instructed Sten.

Sten dug.

It was absolutely delicious!

"Incredible, Your Highness," he said.

The Emperor smiled approval, then reached over and poured them both shots of Stregg.

"About the security problem," he said. "Any ideas spring to mind."

Sten said, "First, I'll need you to tell me a deep dark secret, Your Majesty," he said.

The Emperor frowned.

Sten quickly added, "It doesn't have to be a real secret, Sir. A good lie would be even better."

The Emperor nodded. "God knows, after all these years I'm good at that."

Sten smiled, but not too broadly. He said, "Then I'll drop a black marble in Palace Admin. And we'll see where it comes out."

The Emperor laughed. "I like it." He indicated the bottle of stregg. "Pour us a couple. Good lies come easier with stregg."

Sten poured.

1. Large onion - peeled, but left whole.
2.Six cloves of garlic, peeled, but left whole
3. Large ginger root.
4. Four green chilies, chopped.
5. One half cup garam flour. (ground chickpea flour)
6. One cup seasoned bread crumbs.
7. Two eggs whisked in bowl.
8. One quarter teaspoon cinnamon
9. Half cup regular flour for dusting.
10. Pinch of salt.



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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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. 


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