Saturday, March 16, 2013


Note from Allan: Matt has been a good friend and loyal Sten reader from way back. As a matter of fact, Empire Day was his idea, which he proposed last year. He suggested that it be held on The Ides Of March, everyone voted and the rest, as they say, is Imperial History. He's been threatening to commit a Kilgour joke for many months now, and he's finally come through. Read. Groan. And weep. Meanwhile, here's what my friend has to say about himself: "Matt Kaufman works in Internet Marketing in the Chicago area, and first came to Sten through his readership of Cole and Bunch's book "A Reckoning for Kings." A lifelong reader, and Sci-fi and Fantasy devotee in his youth, Matt mostly reads history and politics these days, but has found through his rereading of Sten a depth behind the action, characters and plotting that he didn't quite have the wisdom or experience to appreciate during his first reading."


By Matt Kaufman

On the Standard G world that the Laird Alex Kilgour had terraformed and dubbed “Saint Andrews,” the Laird himself faced a tougher position than he had seen in years. Sweat poured down the shaft of the club he held, as he swore at the thing he had chased for the past several hours.

“Ye clottin' cursed thing! Th’ mon back at the shop said ye’d correct me slice!”

The dimpled white golf ball, about eight meters off the fairway of the 17th hole, glistened innocently in the late morning light as Kilgour tugged his plaid stockings back to the top of bulging calf, and prepared to address the ball.

Sten, the Laird’s former comrade in arms, relaxed in the hovercart, and took a swig from his bottle of “Alex’s Honest Ale,"  straight from Kilgour’s brewery (conveniently located at the 9th hole), and contemplated before he commented.

“I told you, it’s the weight distribution. Golf balls weren’t designed to weigh two pounds. These legacy courses you like to build aren’t made for gorillas like you.”

Kilgour adjusted his grip and his knotty, heavy worlder muscles flexed with dangerous strength. “Ah wunt tah play th’ game lahk me ancestors. Same courses. Same distance. If ah played with real golf balls, ah’d play everah doomned hole with a Sand Wedge, ‘n een th’n they’d be Par 3s.”

Sten snorted. “Not with your short game.”

Kilgour swung his reinforced terasteel three iron, and it hissed in ugly arc. The ball erupted from the rough, along with a good share of the rough itself, creating a divot that Sten figured would take the greenskeepers a good hour of work to fill in.

The ball hit the green, and bounced half-heartedly toward the cup where Sten’s own ball rested placidly, six feet from the hole. After seeming to make a decision, Kilgour’s ball determinedly rolled into sandtrap on the far edge of the green.

“Drakh and Blast!” Kilgour steamed. The terasteel shaft bent dangerously in his hands as he stalked back to the hovercart.

“Needed more backspin,” Sten said as he thumbed the cart’s motivator. Kilgour sidled into the cart next to Sten, and the MacLean drive whined with anxiety as one side of the cart dropped several centimeters.

“Ah noo it needed moor backsp’n, ye clot! Tha’s wha’ I shouldn’e lissen’d to ye when ye said to go f’r distance!”

Sten bit back a smile as his friend simmered.

Alex reached bag into his bag and pulled out a battered hip flask. “Time to suttle me narves w’ s’methin’ muhdicinal.”

Sten finished his ale and pulled out another one from the carts dashcooler. “You seem to have been sick all morning.”

Kilgour eyed the hip flask with something like religious fervor. “Nah mon. This is spah-shull.”

He uncapped the flask and savored the smell that wafted out. Sten caught a whiff of it. “Smells like…Scotch? But it seems like it’s more…”

Kilgour took a breath, and drank, letting the amber goodness rest in his mouth for a few moments before letting it slide down his throat. A warm glow began to spread inside him, and he smiled beneficently.

“Aye. Real Scotch. Me family’s oown Single Malt, age-uhd f’r seex and tharty stand’rd yearrrrs. Hund’d doon f’r g’n’rayshoons ahpoon g’n’rayshoons.”

Sten stopped the hovercart and grabbed his putter. “Don’t scregg me Alex. Hell, I was the one who put the evidence forth at the symposium after the civil war was over to say that despite the Emperor’s crimes, there were some things history had to credit him with, including the reinvention of Scotch, which was lost for millenia.”

Alex capped the flask and stuck it into the pocket of his Plus Fours. He swabbed the club face of his sand wedge with a dirty towel as he stared at his ball, deep in the sand, centimeters away from the near meter high edge of the sand trap.

“Well lad, " he said, "ye might say tha’ wha’ ye call Scotch was, but we Highlanders noo buttah. Real scotch nevah twas lost. It just warn’t shared outta’ the Clans.”

Sten eyed the foursome playing behind them, now setting up for their tee shot. “Oh?” Sten stepped back out of the potential – no he thought, make that inevitable – blast area of sand that Kilgour would send forth.

“Aye. Ye see. Back on ancient Earth, the Clans w‘re fahrrced to flee the auld fields and moors for the Clan Colonies due to ahn unstoop’ble plague.”

Whack! Sand tore through the air like buckshot, followed by a flow of scorching gibberish Sten was glad he couldn’t understand. The ball remained in the trap.

“We dinna noo quaht wha’ th’ plague was, so many millennia noo gone, but we noo it’s nahm. The Oonglish. The Oonglish Coondoo D’velopahs.

Whack! More sand, no ball.

“Nah, noo Clansman nah can ken the meanin’ be-hand twose words, but me ancestors forbad to sp’k ov em in mure th’n a whispah f’r cent-trees.


Sten brushed some sand out of his hair. Kilgour had geysered it nearly straight up. “Sounds terrible”


“Aye. Innahoo, when me ancestors fled, they toook care to prahseerve oor culture. The traditions, the tartans…

“The skirts” Sten put in.

"The KILTS!”

With a mighty swing Kilgour powered the ball through the edge of the trap, and it rolled past the hole.

Kilgour sighed. “…and ah course, the drinkables. Me furbears tore down all the distilleries in Scotand tah keep ‘em from the plague of the Oonglish, and put the distillin’ equipment onto the fuhstest and best weaponed Colony ship, along with all Scotch f’r the new system. "

Sten grabbed the flag out of the hole as Alex grabbed his putter. Sten glanced backward. The party behind them was getting anxious. He decided it best not to mention it to Kilgour while he had a metal rod in his hands.

Kilgour planted his feet next to the ball and waggled his hips, eying the ball, the hole, and then the ball, and then the hole. And then the ball. And then the hole.

“Soooo, the Clans looded into theer thousands oof colony ships, and to celebrate leaving Sol, they ‘ad a final cele-nee-bree-ayshun. On the ships, the second best Scotch was drank, and the w’rst scotch was also drank. Ooonly Scotch left was the goot st’ff on the best ship. And then thah made the jump to the Clan Colonies.”

Kilgour putted, and lipped it. The centrifugal force worked like a force multiplier on the ball, sending it out even further than its original lie. Kilgour grimaced, and then took a quick shot from this hip flask. It helped. A little.

“Oond thun, disthaster stroock. Soomhoo soom soon uhva Campbell jumped the Distillery ship in too close to the soon.

“The Sun? Did it kill the crew?”

“Worset. The scotch an’ all th’ distillin’ gear went subatomic."


Kilgour eyed the ball again, took a few practice swings, and then got down on his hands and knees to eye the six feet between the ball and the hole.

“Aye. So me ancestors thoot, jest a setback. But they thoot thah could make more scotch, as they had all the distillin’ blueprints and recipes and the secrets of Scotch stored on fiche. Boot, woon thah thried to pull up the datah, thah knew thah war scregged. The Fiche was rotten.”

“Rotten Fiche?”

“Aye. The data was corrupted during th’ Jump. Soom soon of a Campbell didn’a realize back then that the microwaves poot oot bah those auld engines was bad for Fiche. You can’t microwave a Fiche. It never turns out well.”

“So, you did lose the secret of Scotch after all?”

“Soo wah thoot. And then came th’ durkest time a’ Clan history.

“The Clan Wars of Settlement?”

Kilgour tapped the ball with his putter. It rolled three feet, curved off to the right six inches and stopped. Sten could swear he heard gravel mixing somewhere near, until he realized Alex was grinding his teeth.

Kilgour exhaled slowly. “Wahl, indeed that twas happenin’ at the same time, but I’m refarrin’ tah th’ errah the Clans call the ‘Time withoot Scotch.’ Oncet the makin' of the puire speerit had b'n lost f'r what we thought was f’r goot, th' Clans tried oot other drinkables, with r's'lts th't war mixed, noo pun intended.

"Thar was this clear st'ff a foreign clan made. The Rooskies by name, en th' drink theyt brewed 's was trooly a roosk to drink. Ah pref'r mah taters frayed, n'ah 'n lickerd form."

Kilgour hit the ball again. It rolled past the hole, missing it by a centimeter, and stopped half a meter from the hole, which seemed to grin at him.

“Ahnd twas soomthin the ‘Muricans drank, called Borebon, and a bore it was. Jest imagine a bottle of Scotch. Noo add a barrel’a moody water, and sthrain the turrible mix wi’ th’ kilt of a Campbell. “

Kilgour marked the ball, picked it up and scrubbed it so ferociously that Sten thought the dimples would be eroded away.

“Th’ Clansmen tried Soju fr’m Korrrrreha, and it was so-so. Sake from Juh-pan? Rocky. German Riesling was risible. Manischevetz from Israel was unspeakable. Ouzo? Oh no.”

Kilgour put the ball back down, and eyed the vast distance of half a meter between ball and hole. He addressed the ball, and also addressed Sten, with a hushed voice.

“Weeell, th’ Clan wars raged doorrin’ all th’s time. All blam’ehd each ah th’ oth’r foor the loos of Scotch. And woon we’d almoost toorn oorsoolves to pieces, durin’ the Siege of New Glasgow, an Engineer found an old Magnetic Tape taken from Auld Earth, in the oor-kives ah th’ Edinburgh museum. "

Sten was amazed. Magnetic Tape? Kilgour might as well have said Babylonian Clay tablets.

Kilgour putted the ball, and it sunk into the hole with a satisfying thunk. He straightened, his face sheer satisfaction. ".. .an' on that reel of Magnetic Tape th’ auld Clansmen pulled in the secret of the Fiche thaht had goot awah. The Blueprints and recipes uh thah moost ooldest and rahveered brands uh Scotch.

Kilgour took the flag from Sten, who took his putting stance. A mild coughing fit seemed to grip Kilgour, until Sten looked up sharply. Kilgour cleared his throath. “Soo. A throoce was called, and 12 years later, at th’ first uncaskin’ and tastin’, the Clans declared peace throo-oott the system.”

Sten putted in the ball, and Kilgour replaced the flag. They walked away from the green, much to the relief of the foursome at the tees.

Kilgour handed Sten the flask, urging him to drink. Sten took a sip, and nearly gasped. It was incredibly good. He handed it back to Alex, with some awe.

“But Alex, this is just…” Sten looked at the flask that Kilgour held lovingly. “Why have you all kept it a secret?”

Kilgour smiled. “Well, the Clans thoot thaht the puire power of Scotch – real Scotch – to ignite war and create peace w’ah jest too dangerous for Oultanders to noo aboot.”

“So why are you telling me?”

“Two reasons, Sten me lad. Despaht ye bein’ an ooonorary B’hor, me Clan has choosen to m’k ye an oonorary Scotsman. Ye’ve demn sure earned it. Second, noo one ‘d believe ye.”

“Well, I appreciate you telling me, Alex, really."

And then, as they settled into the hovercart, Kilgour got deadly serious.

And do you understand the deepest lesson of this all, Sten? Never run out of Scotch Tape.




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!

1 comment:

Jacqueline Lichtenberg said...

Bravo! Kilgour Rides Again!