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Purr Mission

I stroked Kat’s fur and pressed my forehead against the observation window, so the tips of my ears just touched the surface; as though that would bring me closer to Jock.

Our cub had been on the other side of the glass now for three days. I looked at the tubes cutting into his arms. Was there any point putting him through all this? The base doctors were doing their best for him, but the fact was no one had a clue where the damn Morient virus had come from, let alone how to cure it. From the way it normally ran its course, he might have a week left.

Why couldn’t I fix this?

I growled and slashed my claws across the sill, my tail waving back and forth in frustration. Kat pulled herself tighter into my side.

“He’ll be okay, Tom.”

She was my first, and he was our first. I thought of Baathsheba and the rest of the pride, at home and safe. At least none of them had it. Yet.

My whiskers tingled. I heard boots pad into the room and stop three meters behind me. My tail twitched.

“Excuse me, Major.”

“What is it?” I sighed. I didn’t bother turning to face the trooper.

“General Machiavelli needs your presence in Communications.”

“Now?”

“Yes, sir.”

I tore my eyes from my son and gently pulled away from Kat. She was a base nurse, so they’d let her stay. As though they could make her leave…

I followed the trooper out.

Two sentries stopped me at the entrance when I arrived, so I stood and watched. General Mack glanced toward me, then returned his attention to the main screen. The serene, turbaned image of Minister Jazz was speaking.

“The Baastian government has conveyed their deepest condolences for our predicament with regards to the Morient virus,” she intoned, licking her paws. “They have also assured us that they have no involvement whatsoever with its origins.”

“No involvement?” Mack snarled, his tail waving rapidly, brandishing the report in his paw. “Minister, not only are they involved, but this was a deliberate act, and we know where they’re keeping the cure.”

My heart beat faster. There’s a cure!

“Our intelligence…”

“Is sketchy at best, General,” Jazz said with a look of growing impatience. “We will not allow the truce that we worked so hard to negotiate to be imperiled by these… rumors.”

“Even when we could save countless lives?” Mack asked.

Jazz bared her teeth. “There will be no incursion into Baastian space. Permission denied.” The screen went blank.

General Mack slammed the report down on the table, then looked at me.

“Damned Diplomatic Corps,” he muttered, glancing at the report, then again at me. He indicated a chair at the table. “Wait here,” he said, and then strode out of the room.

I sat down. Jock doesn’t have to die! The report folder was just centimeters from my paws. Curiosity got the better of me; I dragged it towards me and flipped it open with my claw.

It was all there. Genetic markers that indicated the Baastian military had developed the Morient virus. Analysis showing a correlation between Baastian diplomatic missions and the contamination pattern. The Baastards. There was also a complicated conjoining of intel from one of our agents, intercepted coded transmissions, and the interrogation of a Baastian pilot captured before the truce. The conclusion of this section was a 92% probability of where the Morient vaccine was being kept.

The last section of the folder was the plan for the rejected mission. One of our moles would retrieve the vaccine, which would be passed to a stealth pilot. The timeline indicated that the mole had already been activated. The handoff would be tonight.

General Mack stalked back into the room.

“Interesting reading?” he hissed.

I closed the folder. “Sorry sir, I…”

“Don’t apologize,” he said, waving a paw in the air. He prowled around the room.

“I’ve already put everything in motion. Didn’t expect her to be so cowardly,” he said, looking at the blank screen. “That mission would have been yours. Hell, take it with you.”

“Sir?”

“You’re taking Shadow up for another test. That’ll give you something to read while they finish prepping her.”

*****

I was right. The way everything was laid out, I’d need to leave for Baast tonight to meet up with the mole. The plan even required a stealth ship sufficiently advanced to bypass their defenses. The only thing we had that could fit the bill was Shadow.

She sat there patiently on the tarmac as the crew went over her, a sleek single-seater, with advanced cloaking and an FTL-Burst drive. It wasn’t true FTL, just as near as anyone on either side was going to get; an exotic, quick-burst turbo with a limiting 67-minute recharge cycle. We were just finishing up her second set of test flights, and she hadn’t been deemed mission worthy yet, but I knew she would be tonight.

I slipped the mission packet inside my flight suit and zipped up. The suit was designed to interface with Shadow, and had its own stealth capabilities. It could mask life signs and thermal signatures, and the carbon-black skin could also shift colors to match backgrounds. Chameleon-like.

The deck officer’s voice came over the suit’s com link. “She’s set, sir.”

That meant they’d already fed her the test mission parameters; a mock combat against six of our fighters. Not my mission, though. I walked across the tarmac and climbed in.

“Welcome aboard, Major. Good to have you back,” she purred.

“Good to be back, Shadow,” I said as I strapped in. “Everything in order?”

“Systems checked, fueled up, and ops loaded.”

“We have a change of plan,” I said as I inserted the Morient mission cartridge.

We proceeded to the war-game theater and waited until the blips of the opposition squadron popped up on Shadow’s scanner.

“Target spotted and confirmed,” crackled through my headset from the squadron leader.

“Shadow begin operations,” replied Command.

We went stealth and immediately altered course to throw off the squadron. The lead fighter shot chaff in our direction to try to reveal our position, but he was off target. We’d disappeared from their instruments.

Command could still see us, though. There was a homing beacon onboard so they could observe the test. I went through some standard combat maneuvers, inching us further from Ramses while Shadow brought the FTL-B on line.

“Shadow,” said Command, “we’ve detected your FTL-B powering up. Is there a problem?”

“Negative,” she replied, “all systems performing within mission parameters.”

We rolled into a dive.

“FTL-B is not needed for this mission,” Command continued. “Disengage.”

“Negative. FTL-B ready. Coordinates locked, Major.”

“Thank you.”

“Major!” General Mack growled in my headset, “This mission is not authorized.”

“You don’t say.”

Shadow broke out of the dive and went into a steep climb.

“We are relaying your position to the squadron. Abort or be shot down.”

The squadron changed course, turning to intercept us.

“No can do, sir. Someone’s expecting me.”

I shut down the beacon.

“Take him down!”

The squadron launched a spread of missiles.

“Punch it, Shadow.”

Ship-to-ship missiles aren’t that fast, and they didn’t have the range to follow us. I disabled the beacon before we reached the transit point to the Quartz sector; even if Command had alerted the sentry station, we passed them fully cloaked and they were none the wiser. No one followed us through.

There was no direct hyperspace route between our home world of Ramses and Baast; the fastest way was through the Quartz sector. We stayed cloaked on our way to the Quartz-Baast transit point, passing by Lamia, the one habitable planet in the sector. Lamia was a blue world, with everything you could wish for to make a self-sustaining colony. It was a shame the treaty made it off-limits to both sides.

We didn’t need the FTL-B for the rest of the trip, so we didn’t have to wait the 67-minutes for a recharge. The cloak was enough to get us by the Baastian station on the far side of the sector.

We reached Baast at 2:17am local. We were to meet our contact in a park on the outskirts of the capital. Shadow scanned the area and found no life signs in the vicinity, then landed in a hilltop clearing a short distance from the rendezvous point.

“Stay cloaked. Continue scanning.”

“Yes, Major.”

I made my way through the pine woods for five minutes until I arrived at the rendezvous point, then leaned against a tree and settled in for the wait. If all went to plan, we would meet up in ten minutes.

Twenty-five minutes later I was still waiting.

Has something gone wrong? Has the mole been caught? No, I can’t think that way; Jock needs that medicine.

What if Command contacted our mole and cancelled? What if this trip is pointless and…

“Female approaching quickly from your south-east. Accelerated pulse. Should reach you in… three minutes.”

I stayed by the tree.

“One minute.”

She was wearing a Baastian lieutenant’s uniform and carrying a small satchel. When she was within five meters she stopped, checked her watch and cursed. This had to be the contact. She glanced around, even looked right at me, but the suit was too good.

Then she set down the pack and got down on all fours, and I didn’t need Shadow to tell me that she was slowing her breathing and heightening her senses. She arched her back and inhaled deeply, then rose and stretched in a very pleasing way.

I caught a scent. She was in heat, dammit.

“Major, is something wrong?” Shadow asked through the link. “Your heart rate is elevated.”

The lieutenant looked right at me.

“Control yourself, Tiger,” she purred. Then without warning she pounced, knocked me to the ground, and was on top of me with a knife point at my jugular.

“Nice suit,” she said. Then she licked my cheek long and slow and sighed, “So. What brings you out on a night like this?”

“I was curious about the birds.”

“Proper response.”

She rubbed her cheek along mine, then climbed off me. I got up and brushed off the dirt and pine needles while she unzipped the satchel. She got up real close and held it open for me to see. There was a digital read-out glowing blue.

“Thirty vials of vaccine locked in their own temp-pack. Don’t let it get above fifty-degrees, or it may not remain viable.”

She zipped the sachel shut and pressed it into my belly.

“Don’t suppose you have some time for…”

Shadow broke in. “We have a party of eight in formation to your southeast, heading directly for your position. Estimate five minutes.”

I backed away. At least I tried to; she seemed to be attached to me. I placed my hands firmly on her shoulders, meaning to push her away, but she relaxed even snugger into me and purred. Her claws were kneading my back.

“As tempting as the offer is,” I said, trying to gently push her away, “I need to be going now. We have company.”

“I don’t see anyone else,” she said, her eyes boring into mine. She pressed my back against a tree. Her scent was filling me. Oh, this was hard.

“Four minutes, Major. Warming engines.”

“They’re on my ship’s scanner,” I said, finally pushing her away. “A squad coming from the same direction you did.”

“Can’t have been,” she hissed, her ears flattening. “How could they have followed me?”

“Don’t know, but they’ll be here in three minutes.”

“Damn.”

She shook herself vigorously, then walked up to me. “Would have been fun,” she sighed, then gave me one last lick. “Go save our world, Tiger.” She ran off to the northwest.

I started running northeast toward Shadow.

“What’s their progress?”

“They’re still three minutes behind. Looks like they’re ignoring our contact and following you.”

“They can’t have seen me, yet. How…”

“You’re tagged, Major. I see a radio signature travelling along with you.”

I figured it was the satchel. Still running, I unzipped it, pulled out the temp-pack, then pitched the satchel to the side and kept going.

“They’re keeping pace with you, Major. There’s still a signal.”

“Tag must be in the temp-pack itself. We’re stuck with it for now.”

I reached Shadow and climbed into the cockpit, and we launched, still fully cloaked. I smiled as our pursuers entered the clearing and stared uselessly up at the sky.

“Major, they’re radioing for air support.”

“Let them,” I laughed, “they can’t see us.”

“We’re still transmitting.”

“Head for the transit point, and I’ll see if I can’t shut it off.”

I opened the temp-pack and examined it while Shadow took us out of atmosphere. I remembered enough of my electronics training from basic to distinguish some of the transmitter circuitry, but it was all integrated. Probably part of some damn asset management program. I could see no way of disabling the transmitter without also killing the temperature controls. I had to protect the vaccine.

“We have pursuers, Major.”

The scanner showed four blips rising from Baast on a direct course for the Q-B transit point. We’d be through well before they caught up, but if they had half a brain between them they’d know where we went. Nothing we could do about it.

“What’s our burst status?”

“FTL-B primed.”

“Punch it.”

That was enough to get us to the Q-B point, and we passed through and made for Lamia to put the planet between us and their pursuit. Shadow was good, but marked as we were, we were going to need the FTL-B again to ensure our escape. We started our 67-minute countdown.

At 57 I started thinking we’d caught a break. Maybe they wouldn’t be coming through. Maybe we were wasting our time.

At 52 Shadow read the tell-tale pops of the four fighters. Must have had to wait for orders. We still needed more time.

“Take us down into the atmosphere.”

We descended and waited. If they didn’t head straight for Lamia. If they checked the Q-R point first. If they thought we’d already gone through. If wishes were fishes…

They came to Lamia.

At 36 the first fighter found our transmission. Cloaking still gave us some advantage; we were able to take him down pretty quickly, but not before he’d signaled the rest of his squadron.

Once the three of them converged on us the fur flew.

At 23 we took out one more, but not before they scored a lucky hit with a marker flare that rendered our cloaking moot. It was like being invisible while carrying a neon sign.

We rocketed out of the atmosphere, the remaining two fighters on our tail. If the FTL-B was charged we’d have had them beat, but without it we’d have to use evasive maneuvers that would slow us down at the same time we were trying to outrun them. The odds were against us making it to the Q-R point unscathed, but I’d been through worse.

I felt gears grinding in the cockpit sidewalls.

“Shadow, what are you doing?”

“Starting pod separation sequence, Major.”

The instrument screen split into two; the main fighter on the left, control pod on the right, with a 90-second countdown in progress.

“No, Shadow, we can make it.”

“Negative, Major. There is a 97% chance we will be destroyed or disabled before we clear the sector.”

We were still outrunning the fighters, maintaining a tight trajectory above the atmosphere. Fifty seconds.

“It’s worth the risk. The vaccine…”

“My prime directives are to prevent our technology from falling into enemy hands and protect the Major’s life. This is the only way.”

Nineteen seconds.

“Command override Charlie-Baker-five-zero-two.”

“Sorry Major, this cannot be overridden. Prepare for pod separation.”

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.

Again.

And again.

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, then broke out of the pattern and flew off. They weren’t leaving. The terrain was too rough to land near me, so the two of them set down on a less wooded hilltop three kilometers to the east.

*****

This nine lives nonsense gives you the feeling that you have all the time in the world.

I checked the scanner. He was still out there, lounging over the cave. He’d kept his position since they’d first arrived from their landing site. Pretty good concentration. I had him pegged as a first-lifer; I guess I was wrong.

“How are things out there?” I shouted.

“Come out and see for yourself.”

“No, thanks. Just making sure you’re not getting bored.”

His partner had gone back to their fighters to rig something they could throw into the cave without collapsing it. Lucky for me ground combat weaponry isn’t standard Spitz issue, otherwise I might’ve been dealing with a nerve agent or tear gas. He’d have to put together some sort of stunning charge from standard ship ammo. That would take time, but not much.

“You could just save all of us some trouble and toss out what you stole. Give it over and we’ll leave.”

That could’ve been true. If they recovered the vaccine and kept me from getting back home with it, their bosses would be pleased. They couldn’t afford for us to have a cure, not after they’d worked so hard to infect us.

But surrendering the vaccine wasn’t going to save my cub. And even if I gave it back, they couldn’t be sure I hadn’t kept part of it. Their handlers would still want me finished off.

“As much as I’d like to make this easy for everyone, I’m afraid I’ll have to decline.”

“Suit yourself.”

His friend had made it back to their ships an hour ago. My time was running out. I set my mouser on wide angle stun.

Another problem with our kind: thinking you’ll always land on your feet breeds sloppiness. No need to plan, or train. He hadn’t bothered to shift his location.

Why did the gods give such lightning fast reflexes to a creature with so little sense of urgency? Lucky for me I’d already had eight near-deaths. There’s a drive that takes hold when you don’t think you get a do-over.

I leapt out of the cave and immediately rolled to the side. His shot missed me, but hit a rock, and fragments scatter-slammed painfully into my right leg as I fired a flash over the entrance. His pounce turned into a dead fall, and he hit the ground in a heap. He’d be out for a couple of hours.

I struggled to my feet and tried putting some weight on my right leg. Sore, but manageable. I hobbled over, trussed him up, and dragged him into the cave. I checked my scanner. The other one wasn’t coming back this way yet, which meant he didn’t know about his friend. I needed to take one of the Spitz if I was going to get off this planet. I took the cat’s ID-keytags, picked up my gear and the pack, and set out for their landing site.

I decided to take a more round-about approach in the hopes of avoiding the other pilot. Still, it wouldn’t take him long to cover the distance, so I kept my eye on the scanner as I hobbled around in a curved route toward their landing site.

When I was a kilometer out I stopped and sniffed. Where was that mint scent coming from, those little white flowers? I drew in a deeper breath, relaxed and closed my eyes, something I hadn’t allowed myself to do since I’d started the mission. I felt all the tension in my back melt. I stretched out in the grass, purring. I rolled around until I lay on my back in the middle of the flowers, looking up. My first mate’s face hovered over mine, rubbed against my whiskers. Oh, Katrina!

She vanished and I sat up with a start, my head clearing. What the hell was I doing? I stood, moved away from the flowers and checked the scanner. He’d made it back to the cave, and was tracking toward me; actually, my suit wouldn’t allow that; he was tracking the temp-pack. I looked at it lying among the flowers, then dragged myself up a tree and waited.

He came into the clearing with tail lowered and weapon drawn. He spotted the pack, took one last look at his scanner and holstered it (thank the gods for my suit.) He approached the pack cautiously until he was about five meters away, then crouched down and started crawling and stretching toward it. He was almost there when he rolled over on his back, spastically pawing the air and rubbing his back on the ground.

I slid down from the tree and watched him. Had I really looked that silly? His head lolled in my direction so I was looking right into his eyes. He was blissfully unaware of me, but I wasn’t sure how long the flowers’ effects would last, so I stunned him. I picked up the pack and was on my way.

When I reached their landing site, I tried to open the canopies on both fighters, but only one of them responded to the tag I’d stolen. I stowed my things in that one, then used my mouser to disable the other fighter so they couldn’t follow me again. I climbed in and sealed the cockpit, powered up and launched.

Once I’d left atmosphere I poured over their system until I figured out how to get back home. I set the coordinates, then turned on Shadow’s homing beacon. I wondered if that would be enough for the home guard to identify me as friendly before I engaged the FTL.

It was enough. At least the five-fighter escort didn’t blow me out of the sky on my approach.

“Welcome back, Major,” came the voice over my suit’s com-link. “You will kindly accompany us back to base.”

I didn’t want any trouble now; my cub needed that vaccine. I let them herd me in.

There was a full squad of MPs on the tarmac when I landed. I slipped the temp-pack into my flight bag, popped the canopy and stiff-legged it over to them.

“Here,” I said, tossing the ID-keytag to the sergeant, “Intel will want to have a look over that Spitz.”

He pocketed the tag and said, “Your weapon, sir.”

I handed over my mouser. Then he reached his paw toward my flight bag.

“I can carry my own bag,” I hissed.

“General’s orders, sir,” he said, tensing.

Some of the squad’s claws extended slightly. I wasn’t going to keep the vaccine without a fight, a fight I couldn’t win. I set the bag down in front of me. The sergeant squatted down and unzipped the bag. His eyes went immediately to the digital readout on the temp-pack. He pulled it out of the bag and rolled it over in his hands.

“I’d be careful with that, son,” I said. “The general won’t be very happy if something happens to the Morient cure.”

He slipped the pack carefully back into my flight bag.

They took me to the infirmary first, and Doc checked me over. He cleaned up my knee, put a digital tempression wrap on it to bring down the swelling, and pronounced me fit.

Two guards took me to Mack’s office. The temp-pack was on the desk in front of him. He held one of the ampules and was looking through it as it sparkled.

I stood at attention and saluted.

He glanced at my guards, who were also standing at attention. “Take this pack to medical; they’re expecting it.”

They saluted, took the pack and left the room.

“Sit down, Major.”

I sat. He set the ampule down between us, then stood and walked over to the window, his claws tapping on the sill as he looked out over the airstrip.

“You took our most advanced fighter. And then you lost it. R&D is not very happy with you.”

“I preserved Shadow and the combat logs, sir, and…”

“You disobeyed my direct orders and refused to return to base. I’m not very happy with you.”

“Sorry, sir.”

“I should have you court-martialed,” he said, turning toward me, “and maybe I would, though I understand why you did it.” He looked pointedly at the ampule on his desk.

“Yes, sir,” I said, keeping my head bowed.

“But then there’s the matter of the commendation.”

He returned to the desk and stood looking down at me.

“Sir?”

“Once you were on your way and no one could stop you, I informed Emperor Maxamillian that our mission had begun.”

“Our mission?”

“The Emperor has decided that you’re a hero. You’ll be receiving a medal for this – in a couple of months. Once they’ve determined that the vaccine is legit.”

“Months, sir? My cub will…”

“Be dead by then. I know,” he growled, walking back to the window. “Damn bureaucrats. You provide them with twenty-nine ampules…”

“There were thirty, sir.”

He glared at me, then turned back to the window again.

“Twenty-nine ampules of vaccine, and they have to analyze it all according to their protocols. You know how many of our people will die waiting for their approval?”

He remained standing with his back to me. I took the hint. I slipped the ampule into the cooling unit on my knee and reset the temp to sixty-degrees.

“Now,” he said, still staring out the window, “You’ll be wanting to see your family. Dismissed.”

“Yes sir!”

*****

Katrina was sleeping in her scrubs on a cot outside Jock’s window. I pulled on an isolation suit, then slipped her ID badge off its chain. She stirred slightly, but didn’t wake. I swiped the badge over the ICU lock and entered.

He was asleep, his breathing shallow. He’d lost more weight while I was gone. I pulled out the ampule and studied it.

What if the vaccine was just a Baastian ruse? What if the bureaucrats were right; what if it killed him?

I shook my head. He didn’t have the time or luxury of my doubts. Protocol be damned! If he didn’t get help soon he’d be dead anyway.

I inserted the ampule into the dispenser and watched the vaccine drain into his IV line. Then I pocketed the empty ampule.

I turned to leave and saw Kat watching through the window. She met me at the door and nuzzled me, then she caught the lieutenant’s scent. It’s amazing how long that stuff hangs around. She pulled away suddenly, eyes flashing.

“Don’t get all puffed up,” I said, “I can explain…”

*****

I was furious with Mack for setting me up to use Jock as a test subject. The next day he alerted the Imperial Medical Agency of my breach of protocol. Their team of disease specialists pushed Kat and me completely out of ICU to prevent any further infractions while they observed Jock’s progress.

He got better. Took a couple of weeks, but his life signs gradually strengthened and he was through it.

*****

Emperor Maxamillian and I stood facing each other on the dais, with cameras flashing and vids streaming the ceremony across Ramses.

“Major Tom, your valor in this matter is unmatched. Not only did you risk your own life procuring the vaccine, but your willingness to imperil your own cub to test it allowed us to fast-track production of the vaccine and saved countless others.

“It is with great pride that I present you with our highest honor, Champion of the Empire.”

He hung the medal around my neck. I bowed to him, then turned to face the assembly’s applause.

General Mack stood smirking in the front row, wearing his newly awarded Exceptional Service to the Empire Cross. The manipulative, self-serving Baastard. My tail flicked for a moment, but it was hard to stay angry. My cub was cured, all of my pride were safe, and the world was in my grasp. Why get hissy at a time like that?

*****

The Herc Tom, Champion of the Empire tales are available at your favorite online retailer, and are (in order):

“Purr Mission”

“Nipped in the Butt”

“Cat and Mouse”

“Baastard’s Revenge”

“Imperial Purrogative”

“Cats Out of the Bag”

“Reining Cats and Dogs”

“Imperial Imperilment”

“A Tail of Two Species”

“The Cat’s Paw”

“Copy Cat”

Here’s your opportunity to get the second Herc Tom, Champion of the Empire story (“Nipped in the Butt”) FOR FREESignup now by clicking http://eepurl.com/haihVv 

*****

You can connect with William Mangieri, see the full list of his works, his writing blog, and links to his current promotions on his WordPress writing page at https://williammangieri.wordpress.com/    

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in Adventure, Fantasy, Sci Fi

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