For Fractured Fragment Friday, since I’m currently working on my sixth AND seventh Herc Tom, Champion of the Empire stories, here’s the blurb from the third tale in the series. From “Cat and Mouse”:
Major Tom has plans for his leave time: this cat is finally going to get some much-needed R&R with his mates. But recent additions to the household (including his Admiral father-in-law and an uppity mouse chef), as well as an unexpected visit from yet another enemy puts his whiskers in a twist. Ready for a comical adventure with some unlikely characters? Read “Cat and Mouse.”
And here’s the excerpt:
A shift in the shadows beyond the cottage caught my attention, as someone slid down the perimeter wall and disappeared into the shadows of the trees below. Another shape went quickly over as I watched.
“Jock Tom,” I sighed. “That’s my boy.”
If he was still sneaking off and on the estate with his friends – being what they were – it needed to be dealt with. His straightest path home from where I’d seen him go over the wall should take him past the Admiral’s cottage, so I headed downhill for an intercept. Even without my cammo suit I’m pretty good, if I do say so myself, and I’d have the element of surprise since he wouldn’t be expecting to run into me.
And since I wasn’t expecting to run into him before I reached the cottage, we were all surprised when along the way I found my cub with a girlfriend on a bench under a tree.
“I don’t know,” the girlfriend said. “Are you sure no one will see us out here?”
“Of course not,” Jock said.
“Ahem,” I added to the conversation, confident that I now knew what Kat had wanted me to talk to Jock about.
I almost felt bad for Jock; he leapt up so quickly, I thought I would have to pull him from the overhanging branches. He didn’t quite make it that far.
“Dad!” he shouted.
I was impressed with how quickly he managed to retract his claws – not quite as fast as his old man, but then who is?
“Are you going to introduce us?” I asked.
My cub’s pretty little girlfriend recovered faster than he did.
“Hello Major Tom, I’m Vivien,” she said as she rose from the bench. “It’s really an honor to make your acquaintance.”
When you’re Champion of the Empire, everyone is honored to make your acquaintance. But she wasn’t acting as star-struck as most young females did in my presence. There was also something familiar about her and her poise, and then I realized what it was.
“You’re Ambassador Pompuis’ daughter,” I said. “You didn’t go to Baast with your parents?”
“No sir, I’m staying with my aunt until I graduate The Academy,” Vivien said. “And she’ll be expecting me home soon, so I’d best be going. Goodbye, Jock.”
“Bye, Viv,” Jock said.
It was obvious he wanted to give her a lick before she left, but she was too classy for that, and it wasn’t happening with me there, anyway. Instead he just waved and mooned after her as she headed up toward the house. I was young a few times; I almost hated breaking him out of his reverie.
“Looks like you and I need to have a talk,” I said.
“Oh, come on, Dad, I already know all that stuff,” he said, giving me the brush-off like the cat-of-the-world he thought he was. “Besides, we weren’t doing anything.”
“It sounded like she was the one who decided that. Smart girl,” I said. “Of course, I’d have thought she was smarter than to sneak over the wall with you.”
“I don’t do that cub stuff anymore,” Jock said.
“Don’t give me that. I saw the two of you coming back over the wall.”
He still had some growing up to do if he thought he could lie to his old man like that.
“Of course not; we just finished dinner and came out here,” he said. “You can ask Mom.”
That’s when I smelled it. At first I thought I was catching a whiff from Bertrand or his family – we weren’t too far from their quarters – but mice are painstakingly diligent about their grooming; they’re practically feline that way. No this was somehow dirtier. Swarthier. Why, if I hadn’t known better…
“I’m almost glad you found us out here,” Jock said. “Vivien really did want to meet you.”
“Shhh,” I said, one claw raised to my whiskers.
I’d heard something – several somethings – scurrying through the brush around us. And then two of them emerged in the half-light, with swords and knives drawn two-handed. I almost didn’t believe it myself, but there they were, the stinking, squinty-eyed, sneering, treacherous vermin.
“What are they?” Jock gasped, wrinkling his nose.
Of course, he would have never seen any in the flesh – they were exiled from Ramses when I was his age. Even without personal experience, Jock carried our species-wide disgust of the vermin – possibly from all the nursery horror tales he’d heard as a kitten. He backed slowly away with me as two more appeared from the sides of the clearing. I glanced over my shoulder and saw a fifth blocking our path to the house; there would be no escape without a fight.
“Rats! There are rotters on the grounds!” I shouted. It was unlikely that any of our household would hear, but you never know.
I instinctively reached for my mouser, and immediately regretted that I’d left it locked in my ship when I landed last night. Well, no use crying over spilt milk. I pulled up two metal plant stakes and mimicked the rotters’ crouch.
“Cat and Mouse” is itself available at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:
Or you can find “Nipped in the Butt” in the collection Cats of War I
Time to start catching up on Herc Tom, so you’ll be ready for “Cats Out of the Bag.” Just saying…
William Mangieri’s writing – including his many collections, such as The First Three ‘Things I Could Get Out of My Mind’ – can be found in many places, including:
• Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/NoTimeToThink
• His Amazon Author page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B008O8CBDY
• Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/william-mangieri?store=book&keyword=william+mangieri
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