Series: Cat Ship #2
Published by: Meankitty Publishing
Release Date: November 2019
Buy the Book: Books2Read; Amazon; Kobo; Apple; Barnes & Noble; Scribd Audio; Audible; Paperback at Amazon
Genre: Adventure, Romance, Science Fiction, Space Opera
ABOUT THE BOOK
Lincoln doesn’t want trouble. Briar is trouble personified.
Lincoln Caster owes everything he has to the Trash Planet recycling plant that hired him, allowing him to lead an uneventful life for a change. When he’s asked to plan a heist from a less than savory rival factory, he wonders if his checkered past is the only reason he got the job. That is, until he realizes the priceless item he’s been asked to steal will save a top-secret generation ship full of cryopreserved humans…and freakishly intelligent cats.
But first Lincoln has to seduce—or at least fool—the rival factory’s sales agent, cool, competent Briar Pandora, who may or may not be leading a double life as a corporate mole. He’ll have to trust her with the truth…unless her own agenda results in them becoming targets of a vicious intergalactic corporation that will stop at nothing in its quest to hijack generation ships and sell off their parts—and their passengers, be they human or feline.
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Please enjoy this excerpt from CATAPULT!
Mighty Mighty, pink nose to the view screen, watched in horror as the stellarship carcass he and Lincoln intended to scavenge was towed out of the throng of dead vessels in orbit around Trash Planet. The one part they needed to replace in order to reboot their own cryosleep system was being dragged out of range by some dog-damned, pesky humans in a fleet of short-range cruisers.
“Lincoln!” Mighty yowled at the top of his lungs, hurled himself off the control panel, and raced to the last place Lincoln had been refurbishing the many ancient components on the Catamaran. Boson Higgs, their long-haired tabby pilot, stared at Mighty in shock when he raced past. He reached the nearest waste room in the flick of a tail. “They’re stealing our ship, they’re stealing our ship!”
“What?” Lincoln bolted upright, thonked his head on the underside of the specialized disposal unit, and glared at Mighty. “Nobody in this part of the galaxy can pierce this camouflage. They can’t possibly be stealing the ship.”
It was true. The Catamaran, a very unusual ancient generation ship that had set sail into the stars over three thousand years ago, was protected by a reflective force field that prevented most of today’s sensors from detecting its worth. Or its occupants. Standard scans read it as one of the junkiest hunks in the sky pile.
“That’s not the ship I’m talking about. Obviously. It’s the one with the cryopods like ours.” Mighty placed an insistent paw on Lincoln’s leg, a gesture that rarely failed to motivate humans in the desired fashion. “You know these trash people. I insist you go stop them at once.”
“For the last time,” Lincoln said, “I don’t know most of the people on Trash Planet. I’ve only worked here for a couple of months.” The human’s scalp, devoid of hair, showed a faint red mark where he’d smacked into the cat toilet. Lincoln rubbed it, smearing a bit of grease on his brown skin.
“Then call your boss,” Mighty said, undeterred by mere facts and a sluggish human. “She will stop them. Hurry. They’re getting away!”
A couple of months ago, the Catamaran’s fundraiser, Pumpkin, and his human assistant, Wil Tango, had landed in a spot of trouble on Trash Planet and had been rescued by Sulari Abfall, the owner of a box recycling factory. Granted, Pumpkin had saved the day in the end—as cats do—but Su had proven to be a clean and honorable human, worthy of knowing the secret.
“You’re already pushing it with Su,” Lincoln reminded Mighty. He stroked his big hand down Mighty’s sleek black fur a few times. Some of the humans asked permission before they touched a cat, but some seemed to sense when the time was right for a pet. Lincoln was one of the latter. “She hired me to work on the mech and tech, not your ship, but I’m up here more than I’m down there.”
“Our cause is more crucial, and Su knows that,” Mighty said with a sniff. Lincoln had been selected for the trust circle, but he wasn’t as easy to push as a cat might have wished. He was stubborn of head and slow of body but reliable enough, as humans went. “If you won’t do it, I will skip down and talk to Su myself. She is a woman of science and will listen to reason.”
“She can’t stop whoever’s taking that gen ship framework. We always knew it was a possibility.” With a sigh, Lincoln started packing his tools. While he did, Catpernicus, one of Queen Bea’s kittens, skidded into the room, bounced off the wall, and jumped onto the waste disposal unit.
Lincoln stretched an arm toward the small black kitten. “Catto, hold on, I haven’t switched—”
But Catpernicus was already doing his business. The acrid odor of urine filled the room. Catpernicus squeaked as it doused his paws instead of being absorbed by the disposal unit like it was supposed to be.
“I haven’t switched it back on.” Lincoln hit the button and the unit gave a quiet, reassuring hum. The kitten scratched around, sniffed, and flew out of the room without so much as a thank you.
“Kittens today,” Mighty said. “They don’t know how good they have it. Why, when we cats first woke into the new dawn, we had to use human toilets. Can you imagine? The balancing was insanely precarious. And I don’t even want to talk about the food.” Mighty Mighty had been one of the Originals—the first felines to pop out of their cryopods and realize they were changed, with enhanced intelligence and other satisfying abilities. It had been days before he and the others had managed to wake a human, dear, dear Barbara Ann Collins, to perform the tasks that required thumbs.
Unfortunately, Barbara was the only human they’d been able to release from the thousands of cryopods in two years. They also hadn’t been able to wake all the cats. They’d spent that time combining their efforts to repair the ancient ship, rouse their colleagues, and figure out what had happened to the galaxy during their long sleep.
Now they had some new people—humans on a cold, dingy little rock called Trash Planet—who were proving to be very useful. Lincoln was useful, if slow. But you had to appreciate a human who always thought before he spoke, always watched his feet, and never accidentally stepped on a sleeping cat’s tail.
Lincoln finished packing his tools and joined Mighty at the view station on the bridge. The disappearing gen ship and its escorts were a blip on the screen, heading toward the planet’s surface.
“I believe they’re headed to the Market District of the planet, based on their trajectory,” Boson Higgs relayed as he monitored the status screens. With one paw, he increased the magnification so they could watch the gen ship burn through the planet’s atmosphere. All the controls had been altered to suit his specifications. “Who in that part of the world would have the ability to harvest a ship?”
The toilets weren’t the only parts of the Catamaran that had been altered to suit the cats in the past two years. Dear Barbara had proven capable as long as a cat was there to give her proper instructions, but it didn’t compare to a real mechanic like Lincoln who didn’t need pictures and blueprints fed painstakingly into his brain.
“I imagine there’s more than one factory that tears ships apart,” Lincoln said. “Just don’t know the names yet.”
Trash Planet was run by unions instead of governments or corporations. Not that there was much about Trash Planet to run—the barely habitable equatorial band was where the humans built their stenchy, loud factories to recycle the galaxy’s garbage, suffering bad weather and constant hail storms and long, dark seasons that could drive a cat mad.
Boson Higgs flicked through a bunch of data on the wide touchscreen, which whizzed past faster than Mighty could read it. “There are facilities in Hazer Union, Endeavor Union, Builder Union, and a few independent operators. Endeavor Union owns most of the ships in the sky pile and does a lot of trade in parts, so that’s the most likely culprit.”
A handy union to cultivate when you and all your friends dwelled on a stellarship. Granted, they had to keep their ship a secret. This galaxy wasn’t ready for the awesomeness that was sentient cats, and humanity’s tendency to destroy what it feared meant secrecy was paramount. That and the threat to their sleeping humans if pirates and slavers were to discover their gen ship.
Humans had not improved in three thousand years. They had arguably devolved while cats had done the exact opposite. It was a disappointment, to say the least.
“How much money do we have left?” Mighty asked. Their funding had been cut off after Pumpkin and Wil Tango got fingered in some ratty casino—probably because of something the human did—and wound up on Trash Planet.
“We would have to confirm with Jacobus, but enough that we could make an offer for the part we need,” Boson Higgs said, tail curling. “All we need to do is send Dear Barbara down to buy it.”
“Can’t do that,” Lincoln said, shaking his head.
Mighty looked up at the big man. “Why not? It’s worked for two years.”
Dear Barbara, in addition to maintenance, had been their agent in all the purchases and interactions with the sadly devolved humans around the Obsidian Rim. It wasn’t as if the cats could go haggle themselves. They had learned cats were so rare in the galaxy after the foolish Obsidian War—which was what happened when you left humans to their own devices—that the mere sight of a cat turned humans into avaricious lunatics.
The approved areas on Trash Planet were the lone exception.
“Anybody who knows you want just the Mozim power converter will know you’ve got a gen ship on your hands,” Lincoln said. “And if they figure out you’ve got this kind of gen ship, full of sleepers…”
“They will try to take it,” Mighty finished with a growl. Human greed and evil were constant annoyances, and the cats did not appreciate the threat to their people. “Why has humanity not found your better selves, Lincoln? Why are you like this?”
Lincoln, his dark face impassive and his lips firm, shrugged his shoulders. “Everyone has to learn their own lesson.”