Cats of War Excerpt #3
I love the idea of pets in space. Humans are hardwired for pets. I’ll bet you a small moon that when we humans finally make it to the stars, we’re taking our pets with us. And if we find other alien lifeforms that don’t eat us, we’ll try to make pets of them, too.
My story in 2018’s USA TODAY bestseller, Embrace the Passion: Pets in Space 3, was CATS OF WAR, for which I blame my cats. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before: They insist all space opera is vastly improved by the inclusion of cats in the stories. They’re put out that Spark Transform, the next novel in the big damn story arc of my Central Galactic Concordance series, doesn’t involve cats at all, so they prevailed on me to make it up to them with the creatures in this story.
Cats of War Are Special
The genetic engineers who created the “cats of war” took features from several species, but mostly felines. The designers took advantage of feline strengths of stealth, silence, and patience to create creatures who could be spies and thieves. In the story's “restitution facility”—a.k.a. prison—the guard dogs include hellhounds. These are genetically altered dogs designed to track and retrieve human targets.
Pet Trade, another space opera romance novella, explores the shady pet trade industry that developed the genetic alteration techniques. In the CGC, it’s illegal to experiment on humans, but animals aren’t so lucky.
Cats of War, Excerpt #3
The excerpt below introduces Ferra Barray, the human heroine of the story, to the cats. She’s been plagued by dreams of creatures in trouble and wanting her help. Determined to prove to herself she’s just stressed, she sends a small orange-striped robot outside to investigate.
The standing white-legged boxes for the container gardens looked bigger than she remembered them from her first-day tour. She skirted around to the left, under the hanging tree branches. Slower, fatter raindrops drummed on her hood.
The closer she got to the corner of the fence, the more she became convinced she had visitors in her mind. Not telepaths, because they used words, and not empaths, because they were all about feelings. The two thought patterns were lost, and cold, and hurt. They’d called and called, and finally found someone to hear them.
Great, now she was dreaming while awake in the middle of a rainstorm.
She aimed the torch for the dark hulk that had to be the repair bot. Sure enough, there were Oran Mòr’s orange stripes.
It turned its head, opened its eyes, and meowed softly.
Ferra nearly stumbled to her knees. The torch dropped to the ground and winked out.
A creature rose to its feet and shook water everywhere.
A picture blossomed in her mind of another dark catlike creature, waiting in the dark beyond the fence, unable to fly over it because of a broken wing.
She lit one of the small hand lights on her wrist. The creature in front of her stood knee-high at the shoulders and had the hint of an orange-striped bat-type wing folded flat along its side.
“You’re real.” It was all she could think to say.
The creature switched its long tail in annoyance.
Yes. Help us. Help him.
Once again, the image of the injured creature flashed in her mind.
She’d never imagined sentient animals, not in her wildest dreams. It was too cold and damp to be a dream. And too cold and dangerous for an injured creature to be stuck outside.
She eyed the midnight-black creature. “If I raise the perimeter fence, can he crawl under?” She visualized the memory of lifting the fence to push the yellow crate outside.
Edging closer to the inner fence, she considered her options. Somehow, she needed to get her multitool to the bottom of the fence line. Any human on the walkway would make the overhead lights come on. However, the motion sensors were trained to ignore animals, or the lights would be blinking on and off all night.
I can do it.
She looked down to see the creature sitting at her feet, looking up. The gold eyes mesmerized her for a moment. She got the impression the creature was female and anxious, and wanted comfort. Just like Ferra.
She gave herself a mental shake. Solve the problem. Deal with the mysteries later.
She fumbled under the rain slicker to find the vest pocket. She wrestled out the tool, selected the correct setting, and turned it on, then offered it to the creature.
We are not creatures. We are cats. Unmistakable pride accompanied the declaration.
“Of course you are,” she whispered. “Everyone knows cats are telepaths and have wings.”
The cat took the multitool in her mouth. We are superior cats.
Read the rest in CATS OF WAR
About Cats of War
NOTE TO READERS: Cats of War debuted in the limited-edition Embrace the Passion: Pets in Space 3 anthology. It has been edited for clarity, but is substantially unchanged from the original. If you already have the anthology, you don't need to buy this story again (unless you like your books standalone). For fans of the Central Galactic Concordance series, the events in Cats of War take place after Jumper’s Hope, but are not part of the ongoing big damn story arc.