Introducing the first chapter of my serialized novella. It’s about cats in space and how they came to Earth:
A comet blew their ship off course, flinging Tepunia from one side of the bridge to the other. She suspected the ship’s gyro had failed and she extended her claws toward the console to make a correction. No response. The ship rolled and yawed. She clawed the padded contours of her pilot’s plank.
Where was Shvaart? Never around when she needed him.
Just as her rear claw hooked a stabilizer bar, her lieutenant floated onto the bridge from the passageway leading up to the ObHub.
“Shvaart, grab this bar. I’m going topside.”
“Too late. The comet’s gone. The ice wind with it. Our gyro is down, but I activated the orbiter.”
“The orbiter? What do you think we’re going to orbit, a star? We’re out of control.”
“Um, no, but—”
“Quiet! Let me think.” She faced her lieutenant. “What, exactly, are we orbiting?”
“A pretty, blue planet, Captain.”
” Blue…water could be there.”
“Possible, Captain.” Shvaart yawned and licked his paw.
The rocking subsided. Tepunia floated back to the console and clicked her claws on a broad sensor pad. Nothing. No affirmation light came on. She tried again. Useless. The ship needed repairs. Only one navigation button glowed–the orbiter.
As pilot and commander of this ship, she was responsible for the lives of not only her crew but also—she counted her toes—twenty adults and juveniles. Her job—to bring them all to a safe destination far from their dry and hostile home planet. Her heart fluttered in rhythm with her whipping tail as she searched the manual embedded in her cerebral cortex for a solution to this unexpected catastrophe.
Tepunia ordered Shvaart back to the ObHub to scan the planet, then, quietly thanking the inventor of hook-and-loop fasteners, she secured the uniform covering her sleek, black-furred body onto the pilot’s plank. Tail twitching, she comforted herself with a head bath. Sneezing out some fuzz, she wiped her mouth with a paw and head-butted the communicator. Carefully choosing her words, she addressed her passengers: “Fellow Grimalks, I feel your fear. My eyes are as dark as yours and even I can’t stop twitches rolling across my back, but we have a chance to bring ZooCatron Quest to a destination compatible with our needs, namely sand, water, and rodents. Lt. Shvaart is using all functioning instruments to find that planet. Please return to your scratching posts and fluff pads until further notice.”
She scratched her ear with a hind paw, then hit the communicator again. “And easy on the rations. One lid of kibblings each wake-up, no more. Understood?”
From around the ship, she heard her passengers answer with muted growls and caterwauls, but she knew that they would follow her orders. She was, after all, Tepunia Alfacat, trusted leader in their search for a new home planet.
Shvaart resisted sniffing her tail, but Tepunia knew he was nervous. Even her familiar scent did little to calm him. He was floating non-stop around the bridge, sticking to plank pads, wrenching himself loose, then drifting onto another plank and repeating the process.
“Stop!” Tepunia yowled. “You’ll break something unless you stay in one place.” She waited until Shvaart settled down.
“Fasten yourself in place and tell me again: you found what?”
“We are orbiting a planet with sand and water. At least that’s what my scanner shows, but I don’t know how reliable the instrument is, what with the damage from the ice wind.”
“Both mobile and rooted, maybe sentient.”
“Bigger than we are?”
Stalling, Shvaart licked his paws and cleaned his whiskers before answering, “Per the scanner, some life forms are much smaller than the tip of a whisker, but it has identified a colony of beings that are…that are…” He resumed cleaning his face.
“Are what?” Tepunia batted her tail with impatience.
“Are much bigger than we are.” He panted and clicked some high notes deep in his throat, then continued, “Something like us Grimalks.”
“What, a colony of our kind? How could that be?” Tepunia longed to pace the bridge, but she couldn’t lose face in front of Shvaart. What if she crashed into something, like the console? No. Better to sit still and let her tail work it out.
Shvaart mewed, “Not exactly like us. They’re huge, with longer fangs. Enormous paws, too. No insignia, in fact, no clothes.”
No clothes? Tepunia shivered at the thought. How uncivilized; but what good was civilization when a planet’s top life form destroyed its home? How long had it taken the Grimalks to end their hissing and scratching wars? Too late to save their home planet. What if these feline giants were not even at the Grimalks’ level of development? Or, would they have surpassed it, since their planet had water?
“The scanner found water. Did it spot shelters, too?”
Shvaart released a fastener to stretch his left hind leg and bow into his forelegs. Releasing another fastener, he arched his back and floated toward the ceiling. One stern look from Tepunia brought him back to his plank. He sighed and bobbed his head. “Lots of water. The scanner does not recognize shelters, but the life forms look promising, if we can make positive contact.”
Tepunia sensed the planet’s felines probably would attack them as soon as they entered their territory. How she missed home and the zone she had claimed, known to all by her official markers. She would never return, not after ZooCatron’s ice age had sucked up all liquid water and forced the Grimalks into exile. Thousands of ships like the ZooCatron Quest were exploring the cosmos in search of a new home. Our bad luck, she thought, to bump into that comet.
She batted a paw at Shvaart, “Without shelters, they must be primitive.”
“Maybe, but may I suggest, Captain, that we have tools for training them, at minimum, to accept us?”
Her tail shot straight up and curved at the tip. “You may suggest, of course, but how? They would just as easily eat us before we could put any training into effect.”
“Ensign Prrrup and I talked about this. We volunteer to scout, contact, and prep for the ZooCatron Quest’s landing. We might have a way to infiltrate them and win them over.”
Tepunia let herself drift away from her plank. Arching her back and looking down at Shvaart, she said, “Lieutenant, take the pod module to the surface. Determine the dominant life form there. If it is the large Grimalks, make contact. Report to me at timer zero 40. I am at 20 now. You?”
“Check, at 20. Will do.”
“And, Lieutenant, don’t get creative.”
Shvaart blinked several times and left the bridge.