Catalyst

The cover of Catalyst by Jody WallaceTitle: Catalyst
Series: Cat Ship #1
Published by: Meankitty Publishing
Release Date: August 2019
Pages: 236
ISBN13: 9781393683964
ASIN: B07VH7NLP4
Buy the Book: Books2Read; Amazon; Kobo; Apple; Barnes & Noble; Scribd Audio
Genre: , , ,

 

ABOUT THE BOOK

Dance teacher Wil Tango, adopted by a cat who needs to make use of his opposable thumbs, knows all too well the primary rule of their arrangement: never reveal the cat is a genius. Their clever scheme to win all the jackpots on Gizem Station works until a bigwig gets suspicious, and he finds himself stuffed in a stasis box and shipped to Garbage Planet. At least he’s got the cat for company.

Sulari Abfall, scrapyard picker extraordinaire, thinks she’s scored when she earns access to the latest offload from Gizem Station. Their trash is her treasure, and the profits from her recycling program should provide more than enough to upgrade her clunky garbage scow into a clunky tow ship, a huge step up in trash hierarchy. When she’s drawn to a hazardous waste container, she finds more than she ever bargained for. A naked man. And a sentient cat.

But unsealing the stasis pod sends an interspace signal back to Gizem Station—and the vengeful VIP who thought Wil was dead. It will take all the wits of a lovely garbage scow captain, a down on his luck dance instructor, and a brave orange feline to defeat a gang intent on mayhem, murder, and a galactic catnapping that could change the course of the future for the entire Obsidian Rim.

 


Also in this series:

Audiobook: Read an article about the series by the author! 

https://romancingthegenres.blogspot.com/2020/10/light-paranormal-try-cats-by-author.html

What readers are saying...

Rann: When I first saw this book, I knew I had to read it. A cat. Scifi. Romance. Jody Wallace. One click.

CW: Five paws up.

NSUM: Great characters, a suspenseful story and intriguing and creative world building.

Bea: "Catalyst" was fast, fun, and engaging. Once I got into it, I whipped through it, reading right till the end. I've already started bugging Ms. Wallace about book two. 😀

Lola: This review wouldn't be complete with more mention of Pumpkin. He was such a typical cat and at the same time so much more with his enhanced intelligence and special skills. I liked that mix of how smart and capable he was, but then reverted to typical cat behavior as well.

Karen F: What a fun read! Pumpkin was beyond words. His attitude mixed with his catitudes left me chuckling. The world building was first class. The ending was a shocker leaving me wanting more. Highly enjoyable book!

a grey cat looking all crazy eyed at the ceiling

Try a little taste of CATALYST!

CHAPTER ONE

The low, flat mech-dolly let out a suspicious clank as it followed Sulari Abfall up the ramp that led into the unplumbed depths of the waste management stellarship from Gizem Station. The stench of oils, metals, and organic rubbish bloomed out of the cavernous bay doors. With great restraint, Su did not break into an excited jig at being first to enter, with the fifteen minute head start she’d won at last night’s pikka game.

Such behavior would be in poor taste. Even for a garbage picker.

The cold, ever-present wind in this district of Trash Planet whipped several strands of her hair free of the band of the protective goggles. As she shoved up her hood, she caught the glares of the other pickers, arms crossed, carts, dollies and assorted equipment idling behind them.

Fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes to bag and tag the best loot with no interference, no wheeling and dealing, and no fistfights. You had to go in alone—but it was always, always worth it.

“Halt for inspection.” The Pish Incorporated goons flanking the cargo bay waved her to a stop. She directed the dolly to idle while they sent drones underneath, tiny beeping robotics that looked like they may have been the work of a refurber here on Trash Planet themselves.

Hells, that probably meant they worked better than new.

“Arms,” directed the larger of the two goons. Su raised her hands out to her sides while he wanded up and down her body in search of weapons. He had the kind of scanner that penetrated the protective fabric of her coveralls. The drone exited the undercarriage of the dolly and shot up to scan the flattened crunch crates lashed to the top.

Guns weren’t allowed in waste ships or scrap piles after that explosion at Hazard Port. The pickers of Trash Planet didn’t agree on much, but none of them wanted to die in a chem fire that blazed for eighteen days and nights, untouched by the storms. Hadn’t been a Pish ship, but inspections on the way in and out were now routine with all the big companies.

“You’re not a very big one,” the goon commented. “How you gonna pick up any scrap?”

Su lifted her goggles to her forehead and enjoyed his flinch the moment he noticed her scar. “Stronger than I look,” she said. Which was true. Her job included heavy lifting. “Meaner, too. Tell him, Bart.”

“She’s plenty mean,” said the other guy, a Pish guard she’d gotten to know over the years. The big goon’s wand beeped at her knee, and he frowned, adjusting the knob.

“It’s metal,” she said. “You don’t wanna see those scars, too, do you?”

“Musta hurt,” he grunted, starting up her other leg. The rest of her was all flesh and bone and a damn bunch of hair, and he wouldn’t find anything illegal.

At least not that he would recognize as illegal.

“Any other implants I should know about?” The wand reached her head, and again his gaze fixated on the scar bisecting her cheek. “You mighta needed more mending after that, and I don’t want to false positive you.”

The second drone whizzed out from under her dolly, green lights flashing.

“I’m clean. So’s my dolly. And you’re wasting my fifteen,” she complained, though her head start hadn’t officially begun yet. “I got dumpsters to dive.”

“She’s safe,” Bart encouraged. “It’s a big deal, when they get to go first. Sorry, Abfall, he’s new here.”

Come find treasure, whispered a voice in her head, the embodiment of her own excitement, no doubt.

The new goon shrugged. “I’m done. Good hunting.”

Yeah, he’d better wish her good hunting. If the trash wasn’t quality, their union, Bristler, wouldn’t contract with Pish, and he’d be out of a job. Not all garbage ended up on Trash Planet. They had their standards.

She thumbed her chin in a rather insolent thanks and turned her attention to the other pickers. Hundreds of them, slavering for junk, and all watching her. Garza, the union president, lifted his wrist and tapped his chrono, his giant beard bristling with annoyance.

She could take a hint. She gave them the traditional one finger salute, and the countdown clock started.

“Goat, increase speed by three.” The mech-dolly responded to her voice with another ominous clank and zoomed up the ramp, into the loading bay. She hopped on the top of her crate stack, grabbed a corner pole, and abstained from spinning around it like a dancer hoping for big bills.

No jigs, no spins, no rubbing it in. She was all about being classy in her victory.

Because today’s treasure trove should bring her mega money. First shot always did. She’d likely earn all the credits she needed to upgrade the Moll, her small intraplanetery scow, into a stellarship capable of towing. Then she could scavenge trash on other planets and space stations on her own and not have to share.

The waste management company for today’s delivery, Pish Incorporated, along with others, contracted with various picker unions on Trash Planet to deliver the waste and scraps from other parts of the Obsidian Rim here. Not just as a dump site. The hardy entrepreneurial spirit that had enabled humanity’s survival during the deadly Oblivion War up until present day, over 1600 years later, also enabled them to create treasure from trash. Recycling, converting, refabricating, scraphacking, rewiring, composting, you name it, someone on Trash Planet did it, with what the rest of the galaxy considered garbage.

In the end, everyone profited. Recycling required specialized machinery, time, and training, and for some it was cheaper to send it off. According to the contracts the waste management companies signed, they had to allow pickers to comb their ships before they added their mess to one of the massive scrap heaps in less habitable areas of the planet. The sorta-livable equatorial band was divided in districts, and everything outside that was a frigid wasteland.

Now that Su was inside the ship, she really picked up the pace. Fourteen minutes left. Ish. She and her employees had a rep for snagging super gloss items, bartering for what she wanted from other pickers for a minimum of digital intergalactic credits, and nobody had been happy that she’d won first look.

Since Pish employed guards, they’d probably give her the full fifteen. Today she’d focus on rarer barterables because they were easier to snatch. She’d scoop up her specialty items during the later phases when she could bring helps. Some of the things she refurbished were pretty big.

Su hung tight to the corner pole as the mech-dolly sped along the immense cargo bay to the lifts in the midsection. Ship rats ran squeaking out of her path. Since they were alive, they’d either broken in during the night or life support had been maintained in the bays during the trip to Trash Planet.

Interesting. Since when did rubbish need life support?

Overhead lights cast enough of a glow that she didn’t need her lamp. Su activated her goggles to detect any radiation and hazardous waste. She wasn’t equipped for hazmat, though sometimes she refurbished the containers. Those had significant resale value to Hazer Union and other places.

She also resisted the lure of the huge plastene bins stacked along the bottom bay walls. Someone else could hit those. Probably organics, from the smell of it. Hence the rats, which could have been loaded along with the organics back on Gizem.

Nope, what Su wanted was the high-end shit. The household waste. Yeah. Pish didn’t collect peon litter. They ran jobs for royals and high rollers and all of those jazz hands. People who threw out perfectly good stuff.

Finally she reached the elevators. “Goat. Slow.”

Pish cargo ships were long and bulky and rarely had side corridors. But they did have multiple floors.

And Su went straight for the next to top floor. Always the best. Always. Most said top, but too many other pickers would go for the top, and she’d have to fight or, worse, pay her way out.

And she had a feeling about today. A feeling that she was about to hit the legendary Gizem Station jackpot.

Catapult

catapult by jody wallace is a man in coveralls with a black cat on his shoulder and a space backgroundTitle: Catapult
Series: Cat Ship #2
Published by: Meankitty Publishing
Release Date: November 2019
Pages: 313
ISBN13: 9781393645511
ASIN: B07ZWMXNF9
Buy the Book: Books2Read; Amazon; Kobo; Apple; Barnes & Noble; Scribd Audio
Genre: , , ,

 

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.


Also in this series:

Audiobook: Read an article about the series by the author! 

https://romancingthegenres.blogspot.com/2020/10/light-paranormal-try-cats-by-author.html

Please enjoy this excerpt from CATAPULT!

PROLOGUE

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.”

Catagenesis

Cover of Catagenesis by Jody Wallace is a blond Caucasian lady in black clothes and a no nonsense attitude and a siamese cat, both on a a space shipTitle: Catagenesis
Series: Cat Ship #3
Published by: Meankitty Publishing
Release Date: 2021
Contributors: Jody Wallace
Genre: , , , , ,

 

ABOUT THE BOOK

Two humans, a bunch of cats, a space ship...and a murder. Probably.

Han-Ja Gee has made his very fine living on Trash Planet trading information and secrets with those who are willing to pay, either in money or in more secrets. He thought he knew everything...until a cat that he was pretty damn sure was NOT a robot interrupted a business meeting in an event that took place in book 2 of the Cat Ship series, Catapult. (obvs this is not the official blurb). Han-Ja is determined to find out more about these cats and sell that information to the highest bidder, becoming as rich as any noble ever dreamed.

Farah Shine Collins, daughter of Dear, Dear Barbara, is the last human to come awake on the ancient and damaged Cat Ship. Her adjustment to this new world of sentient cats and literal garbage and the opposite of the paradise the colonists on the ship were promised is not smooth going, especially not when some shit happens that involves interfering cats, allergies, Han-Ja, murder, hijinks, and everyone suspecting everyone else.

NOTE: This novel is going to be freakin' awesome. It's being written this summer and fall. You will note it now has a kick-ass cover!


Also in this series:

Farah Shine Collins sat up with a strangled gasp, certain that the weight on her chest was about to crush her. Needles of pain stabbed the skin near her collarbone before the weight vanished.

She inhaled, gasping some more. Adrenaline surged through her veins. Intense whiteness blinded her, and a roar of sound that rose and rose until her ears hurt did not help her adjustment to wakefulness.

Or whatever was happening.

Warm hands on her arms. Someone sobbing, a person. A tickle of sensation in her nose right before…

Farah sneezed so hard that she almost peed. Dang.

“The final sleeper has awoken!” a magnified voice announced, and she realized the roar of sound was cheers. A multitude of people applauded, whistled, and whooped, their excitement echoing off a distant ceiling.

Farah turned her head and squinted toward the location of whoever was sobbing. She presumed it was the person who’d placed warm hands on her arm. A familiar outline swam into view, a rounded female figure with her head distorted by wild, upswept hair.

“Mom?” she croaked, surprised how dry and rough her throat was. When the colonists on the Catamaran had settled into cryosleep, the techs hadn’t mentioned that they’d feel like death warmed over when they woke. Perhaps they’d assumed it was common knowledge. “Did we reach the homestead planet?”

“Baby, you’re awake. Oh, honey, I’ve missed you so much.”

How had Mom missed her when they were scheduled to be woken at the same time? Farah sat up slowly, puzzled by the dizziness. This wasn’t right. “I feel pretty rough.”

“It’ll be better soon.” Her mother stroked her arm, patting her as if she couldn’t believe Farah was real.

Well, of course she was real. Real uncomfortable in the barely cushioned casket of the cryopod. Not to mention, the pinpricks on her chest stung like fire, and there was something else. Something ticklish.

She sneezed again, which sent jabs of pain throughout her body. Her mother choked out a laugh. “Still got those allergies, I see. No, no, don’t try to get up yet. Take a minute. Javier’s on the way. He ran late because of a problem at the factory.”

“Cryosleep wasn’t going to cure a cat allergy. Who’s Javier? What factory? I don’t remember anyone named Javier.” Slowly the room in which Farah had awoken—one of the huge cryopod bays—swam into focus. Hundreds of colonists dressed in an assortment of clothing milled around, cheering and hugging. None were in their cryopod suits, which was strange. Neither was Mom, for that matter.

Someone raced past her pod, blowing on a party horn and throwing confetti. It sprinkled all over the cryopod and Mom’s hair.

“Congratulations, sleepyhead!” the person shouted, tossing more flakes.

It wasn’t the only confetti. Ugh, Farah knew who’d be stuck cleaning that up. Her. They couldn’t confirm they’d need her skills as a civilian advocate on the new planet, so she was being shipped in as labor.

Many cats bounded this way and that, winding around legs, perched all over the stacks of pods. Her vision continued to sharpen, and she realized the other cryopods were inactive. Off. Covered in cats, but off.

She was…the last? The final sleeper. Why? Newhome, the company in charge of their gen ship, had her scheduled for the second round. They needed her awake before disembarkment on Tiongos do things like clean up confetti.

“I know you’re confused,” her mother said, “but there have been some changes.”

Farah stretched her face as if yawning, trying to relieve the stiffness she felt everywhere. “Okay?”

“You were not easy to bring back to us,” said a high-pitched voice in front of her.

Farah turned her head and spotted a white and black feline sitting on the foot of the pod. Mom’s cat Xerxes. His comfortably plump black and white body had always reminded her of a Holstein cow. Xerxes stared straight into her eyes in that way he had, as if challenging her for her mom’s attention.

Stupid cat.

Beside him were a couple of other cats, but they were less interested in Farah and leapt off the pod moments later.

“I see Xerxes made it,” Farah observed, twisting her spine. It crackled all the way down. The advice for recovering from cryosleep ran through her head—find food and drink to stimulate your system before getting some real sleep. Some would want to bathe and hydrate their skin, and some might have a minor headache.

“Absolutely he made it. My fur baby.” Her mom took Farah’s hand and kissed the back of it. While her mother had always been affectionate, she was really indulging in this “you’re awake” bit. “You’re one of the ones who…who…”

Farah stared at her mother in alarm. Her questions were cut off by the person on the microphone.

“Now everyone, let’s give the final sleeper and Dear Barbara some time to adjust. Cats rule!”

More cheering, and the colonists dispersed, a few that she’d gotten to know during prep classes waving at her before they filed out of the cryopod bay. Farah’s pod had been positioned in the waking carousel, per protocol, but she was the only one left.

“Mom.” Her mother was waving back at the colonists. Well, she was probably waving at their cats. “I’m the one who did what?”

“You almost didn’t come out of the long sleep,” said that high voice again. “You’re one of the ones who’s just not very hardy.” It seemed to be coming from the foot of the cryopod. Where the cat was.

“What is that supposed to mean?” Farah asked, but there weren’t any people around besides her mother. It wasn’t as if waking from cryo, a science perfected millennia ago, was a big deal. Even if some snafu meant she was last. “Mom, seriously, what’s going on?”

Her mom burst into full-on tears. Why wasn’t she happy that they would reach the colony in a week? Green grass, blue water, clear skies, and healthy plants. No pollution, tons of animal species, and a lot less corruption and conflict. A lot less need for a civilian advocate, too. So far. Earth had grown too expensive, crowded, and polluted for peons like Farah and Barbara, so they had shipped out to a planet named Tiongos, and now all Mom could do was cry?

Farah grasped her mother’s hand and inspected the older woman. She…wasn’t the same as the last time Farah had seen her. Her hair was much, much longer and zanier. Her body seemed older, yet less soft. There were more lines on her face. The techs had insisted that the stasis would eliminate bodily functions such as hair growth and ageing, so the changes in Mom’s appearance didn’t make sense.

Farah put her hands on the sides of the pod, prepared to lift herself out. She wanted to get food and reach the bed in her quarters before she crashed. Because of her allergies, she was one of the few who had a room to herself. The others shared with cats and fellow colonists.

“Wait, honey. Wait. There have been…there have been…” her mother tried to say.

“We aren’t at the colony,” said the high voice. It was definitely coming from the cat. Farah stared at him, and the little shit’s mouth moved along with the words. “While we were sleeping, the humans had a ridiculous war with quantum tech and it pretty much destroyed the galaxy. Now it’s three thousand years later, we’re orbiting a very different planet, not everyone made it, and yes, I can talk and am much, much smarter than you.”

Farah rubbed her watery eyes and sneezed. She would need her allergy shot soon or she was definitely going to pee her pants. Not that the silvery leggings one wore in cryosleep were very good pants, but still. Her real clothes were in her room.

“Mom, is this a reality holovid?” she asked. “I’m not in the mood. I just want to…”

“It’s all true,” Barbara wailed. “Baby, I’ve been awake for several years. For years, I was the only person with the kitties. Something about the radiation, Javier says, evolved them right in their little pods. Xerxes is talking to you, and it’s rude to pretend he’s just an animal.”

Farah lay back down in the pod and closed her eyes. “This is a dream.”

“You don’t have dreams in cryosleep,” said the voice that absolutely wasn’t a cat. “And you’re welcome for saving your life. Who do you think brought you out of it? Me. Right up in your face. Doing my magic. You were too far gone.”

Barbara sniveled. Farah opened one eye and looked at her. “Can we not?”

“Xerxes is telling the truth,” said a new voice, a human one. “They both are.” A wrinkled old man with dark skin strolled up to the cryopod. His long jacket was white, which could be a lab coat and could be a fashion statement. “My name is Javier. I am a medic and I’d like to check your vitals, if that would be all right?”

“Uh, I don’t know you.” Farah sat back up. “You weren’t on the ship.” Few men or trans men had been on the ship. As the sixth (maybe) gen ship that set forth to Tiongos, theirs had been populated by adult labor and service. Less vital colonists. Specialized in one way since they almost all had cats and were a majority female-presenting, but mostly important as job fillers.

“Nevertheless,” Javier said dryly, “I am a medic, your mother is telling the truth, as is Xerxes, and I would like to check your vitals.”

He sounded like a doctor. Acted like one, too. Farah had seen enough of them in her time for allergy treatments. Medical science had cured a lot of things, but not most allergies. “And I’m just supposed to believe…this nonsense?”

“It isn’t nonsense. You’re nonsense,” the voice that was not a cat insisted. “Watch.”

She watched, and Xerxes blinked out of existence with a spark of xxx. Then he blinked back into existence in her lap. His claws poked into her skin in a familiar way.

“We can do all sorts of stuff now,” Xerxes bragged with a catty smirk.

“Shit!” Farah lurched reflexively, bucking and sending the cat flying through the air. He landed on all fours on the ground, tail fuzzed out and eyes narrow.

Farah’s newest claw marks stung as much as the ones on her collarbone. That was what the weight had been when she’d first woken, and the pain. It had been the damn cat.

“You must be made to understand,” the cat growled. The cat. It was the cat. The cat was talking. Xerxes was talking. Farah lifted a trembling hand to her mouth. “I am so dogging glad you’re the last one. We are sick of you disbelieving humans and your inflated sense of superiority. I’m going to find Boson Higgs. He’ll straighten you out.”

Farah lay back down again and closed her eyes. “This is a dream.” Then she sneezed, sneezed again, sneezed a third time, sneezed until tears ran down her cheeks. “My head is going to explode.”

“You did not mention her allergies were that extensive,” she heard Javier murmur to her mother. “Or perhaps it’s because we almost lost her. I’ll ask someone to carry her to the shuttle so we can transport her to my clinic at the box factory. I can care for her better where there are fewer cats.”

Unwilling to consider, unwilling to listen, Farah welcomed the onset of sleep. The sounds of the cryobay faded, but a million voices in her head, tiny, catty voices, followed her into her dreams.

(c) 2022 Jody Wallace