For Fractured Fragment Friday, since I’m currently working on my sixth AND seventh Herc Tom, Champion of the Empire stories, I’ll continue through the series. Here’s the blurb from the fourth Herc Tom tale – “Baastard’s Revenge”:
Champion of the Empire Hercules Tom thinks this is a mere diplomatic mission to Baast; little does he know what the Baastards have in store for him. But don’t worry – this cat has proven time and again that he has more than the usual nine lives. Read to find out how Herc finds his way out of this one.
And here’s the excerpt:
“Seriously, Pompuis, if I had known Chef Randall to be capable of such a masterful subterfuge of tastes, I would have been dining here every evening, not merely once per week,” Tong declared.
“I am happy to hear that you are pleased,” Pompuis said. “For a moment I thought…”
But no one heard what Pompuis thought, because at that moment Butcher returned from the kitchen with the Master Chef, whose presence was noted rather unceremoniously.
“A mouse!” one of the ladies at Pompuis’ table gasped.
The hubbub of conversation died down to a shifting undercurrent of whispers as Butcher led Bertrand – resplendent in the uniform of his station as an officer of the fleet, including a cluster of medals. He actually looked quite imposing for a mouse in a room full of felines, and his toque blanche made him seem almost as tall as Butcher.
Tong watched appraisingly as they walked the length of the table toward him.
“This is not Chef Randall, Pompuis,” Tong said, but he did not seem as surprised as his words implied.
“My apologies, Minister Tong. This is the Embassy’s new Master Chef. He arrived on Baast just yesterday with the Admiral,” Pompuis said. “Allow me to introduce…”
“Allow me to introduce Lieutenant Bertrand de Messiere,” Butcher said as he presented Bertand to Tong with a flourish.
“Lieutenant?” Tong said, abashed, and then called across to the Admiral. “You have rodents serving as officers in your fleet?”
“Only those who have served with distinction,” the Admiral said.
“It was an honor bestowed on me when I cashiered out of the Service, Servant of the People,” Bertrand said.
“An unusual occurrence, one would think,” Tong said.
“I am not that unique among my brethren,” Bertrand said.
It was obviously meant as a show of pride in his own race, but Tong chose to take it differently.
“And yet he remains humble, as a rodent should be,” he smiled maliciously.
“Forgive me, if my comportment has disturbed you, oh Servant of the People,” Bertrand said.
“Well, I had heard that there might be some issue with my dietary preferences, and now I know why,” Tong said.
“I hope that you did not find the meal unworthy, Servant of the People. I will endeavor to do better in the future,” Bertrand said solicitously.
“On the contrary, Master Chef. I had my personal chef prepare some appetizers in case there was an issue, but I am pleased to say it was totally unnecessary,” Minister Tong said, patting the thermal pack by his side.
“Thank you, Servant of the People,” Bertrand said. The mouse did an admirable job of maintaining his composure, but he had difficulty taking his eye off of the container, and Tong could see he had gained the upper paw.
“I would not fret, my little rodent. I am certain it was no one you knew,” Minister Tong said, his teeth glinting as he smiled reassuringly – as if he wanted to reassure his dinner.
“Thank you for your concern, Servant of the People. Cats such as yourself are the reason I agreed to come here,” Bertrand said and he bowed.
“Baastard’s Revenge” is available at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:
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:
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