Major Tom’s dander is up. His cub is dying of the Morient Virus, and this cat knows that the Ramses Empire’s sworn enemies (the deceitful feline Baastards!) are responsible, but bureaucats have ordered him not to go to their planet to recover the antidote. Well, it’s easier to beg forgiveness than to ask purrmission. Ready for heroism, space, spies, and lives in the balance? Read “Purr Mission.”
Purr Mission is the first story in the “Herc Tom, Champion of the Empire” series.
Targeted Age Group:: 12+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
Cats. Why did I decide to write a story about cats? I didn’t, really.
Purr Mission started with a spy being pursued by the enemy. They shoot him down over a distant planet, and although he started out human at the beginning of the writing, by the time he crash-landed and was holed up in the cave, he had taken on some feline characteristics. At that point I was thinking bipedal tigers, but that morphed into the final evolved, bipedal housecats they have become.
Major Tom (yes, I know that name evokes other thoughts) has more at stake than JUST saving the world – he has to save his cub, and I think that gave the story the pull-at-your-heart strength it needed.
Purr Mission was my seventh completed work, and my first story to receive an Honorable Mention in the Writers of the Future Contest. I’m sure that positive reception had an influence on my decision to take Purr Mission from a stand-alone story to the first in a series.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The characters grew out of the situations, or the things I heard them saying in my mind.
Shadow rolled us so the planet was overhead. I felt bolts pop and we were jettisoned away from the fuselage in the command pod. A fifteen-second countdown appeared on the left screen. Shadow kicked on the after-burners on the main section and killed the cloak. It sped away from us, then dipped into the atmosphere and started throwing off sparks. Two missiles zipped past us chasing the spark trail.
At zero on the countdown there was a bright flash, and the left side of the screen went black. I watched a scattering of embers descend toward the planet. The fighters flashed by.
Then the pod shuddered.
I hate uncontrolled reentry.
Our pod skipped across the atmosphere like a stone across hot lava, then was dragged below the surface and started shaking violently. External and internal temperature readings, altitude, velocity all scrolled in brilliant green inside my helmet. My vitals were in red; a couple of them were jumping off the charts.
Calm down, Tiger. Just because the molecular buffer skin of the pod is glowing red hot doesn’t mean you need to let your fur stand on end. Breathe. Chill out.
I released my claws from the side rails and focused back on the pod readings. Should be another three minutes of buffeting, then I’d go into a relaxing free-fall and wait for the computer to deploy the chute. Another night in paradise.
A couple of blips showed behind us. Those sorry fur-balls couldn’t leave well enough alone.
“You’ve shot me down, already!”
They’d follow me to the surface a bit slower than I was going; the Spitzes they flew weren’t built for that kind of speed in reentry. They’d take their time catching up with me, and then finish me off. Not crying in my whiskers, mind you. War is war.
The pod stopped rattling. Ahhh, free-fall.
It was a shame we’d lost the fighter, though; hell of a prototype. Even compromised by the temp-pack, four of their fighters barely handled her, and she took out two in the process. Just one more reason for their friends to be all hissy.
Command would be even more pissed if I ever got back.
I felt the pod jerk upwards as the chute deployed. Shadow projected a glide plan on the screen; she was aiming for a forested hillside, so the trees could help slow our descent. Checked those blips again; still coming. I’d have about 15 minutes before they caught up. I studied the topography and scanned the area for defensive possibilities. There was a scattering of caves in the hillside that might do.
The pod broke through a couple of trees and hit the ground. No time to lose. I popped the shell, grabbed my pack and Shadow’s housing, set the pod’s self-destruct, and started running downhill toward the nearest of the caves. I switched my flight suit to “play dead” mode as the hot blast cast shadows ahead of me in the dark. I didn’t look back, and reached the cave with my night vision intact.
I moved in as deep as I could and considered the odds. The fire raging up the hill would give me thermal cover, and between that and my suit I should be invisible to them. With any luck, they’d think the blast killed me and leave; the sooner the better. Then I could send a signal to Command and get the vaccine home.
I checked the digital readout on the pack. Temp was still holding steady; good thing, or this whole trip was for nothing.
I watched my scanner and waited. The pair of them arrived over the fire and hovered there, then they split into a search pattern. One of them drifted up over the crest of the hill, while the other slowly wove their way downhill toward me. I thought the gods might be smiling on me; they were, but it was more like a smirk. There wasn’t enough rock to hide the temp-pack’s signature. The Spitz paused over my location.
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