Vortex (Sten No. 7)
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The Eternal Emperor had returned at last from the dead, to pick up the pieces of his crumbling Empire. But even that great leader could not halt the Empire's decline alone. And so Sten, master spy, military strategist, and assassin, found himself appointed Ambassador Plenipotentiary to the Altaic Cluster, where a brewing civil war threatened the stability of the Empire itself.
Quelling a civil war was nothing new for Sten. But as one thing after another went wrong, he began to suspect that he was up against more than a mere local disturbance. Someone -- operating in deepest cover, with the highest authority -- was working behind the scenes to manipulate events and escalate disaster. And that someone wanted nothing more than to see Sten dead . . .
ceremony wi'oot gigglin'. Ah'd e'en introduced hert' m' wee mum." "What did she think?" "She consider't, an' said thae i' Ah hadda marry, still so young an' barely beyont th' cradle as Ah am, she c'd live wi' th' lass." "I say again my last: maybe you should settle down. Start thinking about the next Laird Kilgour of Kilgour." Alex shuddered gently. "Ah dunno, lad. Thae wae a moment... but then Ah thought a' myself, years gone, brain gone i' Ah e'er had one t' begin wi', teeth gone, chewin' on
witches, or anything else. He walked over to the body and used a toe to turn it over. "Th' lad's aboot ae dead as Ah've e'er seen." "He is." "Well," Alex said as he walked up beside Sten. "Th' king's croaked, an' long live th' king an a' thae. What the clot are we goin' t' do next?" Sten thought about it. "I will be double-damned if I have even the slightest," he said honestly. CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX Thirty-seven E-hours later, thunder rolled across Rurik. Sten was carefully composing his dispatch
thought leapt: But if it works out-and I go in with some Gurkhas-the Emperor is sure going to get the flash he said he wanted. Plus, his backbrain chortled, I won't have any trouble keeping my back covered... Cind had no idea what was going on. First Sten had asked her out-socially. Then he had made that strange remark about sidearms being unobtrusive but color-coordinated. She had chanced a fast call to Kilgour, a man she felt was on "her" side. Maybe. And whatever "her" side was anyway, which
eyes moving, moving, for targets. Perhaps he had seen something. Perhaps there had been a momentary flicker of reflection from above the man, a shiny wire, or perhaps there was nothing. Kilgour hissed shock, mind snapping orders to his reflexes. Nae, nae, dinnae go doon an' flat, body. Y're i' th' death zone. Y' hae a couple seconds, lad. More'n enow time. Contact had not answered, because Contact was very dead. It was somewhat close to normal, in Kilgour and Sten's shadow world, to learn that
windows removed, Alex waited with two Bhor antimissile teams. All of Sten's assault troops were on a single command freek, which normally would produce instant com babble. But since he was using the superexperienced Gurkha and Bhor soldiery, Sten thought he could keep the gabble within reasonable limits. Their coms were also set for an instant-override section band. "All sections, all troops," he opened. "On standby, this band. Section leaders, make your com check, both freeks, and report. Sten,