For the next few Fractured Fragment Fridays, we’ll visit the eleven stories in my Herc Tom, Champion of the Empire series. First up is “Purr Mission”, and an explanation of how Herc Tom came to be.
So – cats. Why did I decide to write a story about cats?
I didn’t, really. “Purr Mission” started with a spy being pursued by the enemy. They shoot him down over a distant planet, and although he started out human at the beginning of the writing, by the time he crash-landed and was holed up in the cave, he had taken on some feline characteristics. At that point I was thinking bipedal tigers, but that morphed into the final evolved, bipedal housecats they have become.
Major Tom (yes, I know that name evokes other thoughts) has more at stake than JUST saving the world from a deadly plague – he has to save his cub, and I think that gave the story the pull-at-your-heart strength it needed.
Purr-Mission was my seventh completed work, and my first story to receive an Honorable Mention in the Writers of the Future Contest; I’m sure that positive reception had an influence on my decision to take Purr-Mission from a stand-alone story to the first in a series.
Here’s the Blurb
A deadly virus, a dying cub, a world in the balance, and all that’s needed to save them is PURR MISSION.
Major Tom’s dander is up. His cub is dying of the Morient Virus, and this cat knows that the Ramses Empire’s sworn enemies are responsible (the deceitful feline Baastards!), but bureaucats have ordered him not to go to their planet to recover the antidote. Well, it’s easier to beg forgiveness than to ask purrmission. Ready for heroism, adventure, space, spies, and lives in the balance? Read “Purr Mission.”
Purr Mission is a FREE eBook, the first story in the Herc Tom, Champion of the Empire series.
And Here’s This Week’s Excerpt
I started running northeast toward Shadow.
“What’s their progress?”
“They’re still three minutes behind. Looks like they’re ignoring our contact and following you.”
“They can’t have seen me, yet. How…”
“You’re tagged, Major. I see a radio signature travelling along with you.”
I figured it was the satchel. Still running, I unzipped it, pulled out the temp-pack, then pitched the satchel to the side and kept going.
“They’re keeping pace with you, Major. There’s still a signal.”
“Tag must be in the temp-pack itself. We’re stuck with it for now.”
I reached Shadow and climbed into the cockpit, and we launched, still fully cloaked. I smiled as our pursuers entered the clearing and stared uselessly up at the sky.
“Major, they’re radioing for air support.”
“Let them,” I laughed, “they can’t see us.”
“We’re still transmitting.”
“Head for the transit point, and I’ll see if I can’t shut it off.”
I opened the temp-pack and examined it while Shadow took us out of atmosphere. I remembered enough of my electronics training from basic to distinguish some of the transmitter circuitry, but it was all integrated. Probably part of some damn asset management program. I could see no way of disabling the transmitter without also killing the temperature controls. I had to protect the vaccine.
“We have pursuers, Major.”
The scanner showed four blips rising from Baast on a direct course for the Q-B transit point. We’d be through well before they caught up, but if they had half a brain between them they’d know where we went. Nothing we could do about it.
“What’s our burst status?”
That was enough to get us to the Q-B point, and we passed through and made for Lamia to put the planet between us and their pursuit. Shadow was good, but marked as we were, we were going to need the FTL-B again to ensure our escape. We started our 67-minute countdown.
At 57 I started thinking we’d caught a break. Maybe they wouldn’t be coming through. Maybe we were wasting our time.
At 52 Shadow read the tell-tale pops of the four fighters. Must have had to wait for orders. We still needed more time.
“Take us down into the atmosphere.”
We descended and waited. If they didn’t head straight for Lamia. If they checked the Q-R point first. If they thought we’d already gone through. If wishes were fishes…
They came to Lamia.
At 36 the first fighter found our transmission. Cloaking still gave us some advantage; we were able to take him down pretty quickly, but not before he’d signaled the rest of his squadron.
Once the three of them converged on us the fur flew.
At 23 we took out one more, but not before they scored a lucky hit with a marker flare that rendered our cloaking moot. It was like being invisible while carrying a neon sign.
We rocketed out of the atmosphere, the remaining two fighters on our tail. If the FTL-B was charged we’d have had them beat, but without it we’d have to use evasive maneuvers that would slow us down at the same time we were trying to outrun them. The odds were against us making it to the Q-R point unscathed, but I’d been through worse.
I felt gears grinding in the cockpit sidewalls.
“Shadow, what are you doing?”
“Starting pod separation sequence, Major.”
The instrument screen split into two; the main fighter on the left, control pod on the right, with a 90-second countdown in progress.
“No, Shadow, we can make it.”
“Negative, Major. There is a 97% chance we will be destroyed or disabled before we clear the sector.”
We were still outrunning the fighters, maintaining a tight trajectory above the atmosphere. Fifty seconds.
“It’s worth the risk. The vaccine…”
“My prime directives are to prevent our technology from falling into enemy hands and protect the Major’s life. This is the only way.”
“Command override Charlie-Baker-five-zero-two.”
“Sorry Major, this cannot be overridden. Prepare for pod separation.”
Shadow rolled us so the planet was overhead. I felt bolts pop and we were jettisoned away from the fuselage in the command pod. A fifteen-second countdown appeared on the left screen. Shadow kicked on the after-burners on the main section and killed the cloak. It sped away from us, then dipped into the atmosphere and started throwing off sparks. Two missiles zipped past us chasing the spark trail.
At zero on the countdown there was a bright flash, and the left side of the screen went black. I watched a scattering of embers descend toward the planet. The fighters flashed by.
Then the pod shuddered.
I hate uncontrolled reentry.
That last line there about uncontrolled reentry is the first four words that popped into my head as the story first started to come into my mind. “Purr Mission” is available FOR FREE at many online retailers, including, but not limited to:
Honest ratings and reviews are, as always, appreciated.
(BTW, within the pages of “Purr Mission” is an offer for a FREE download of “Nipped in the Butt” – the second Herc Tom, Champion of the Empire tale – in exchange for signing up to my email list. That same offer is available in various places on my WordPress site. Enjoy!)
Current Book Promotions
For information on my current promotions (including the FREE Presale and reduced price preorders for Cats of War III, my participating books in the 14th Annual Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale, as well as FREE starter eBooks for my Herc Tom, Champion of the Empire series and my Detective Jimmy Delaney series), look HERE on my CURRENT BOOK PROMOTIONS page.
William Mangieri’s writing has been published on Daily Science Fiction and The Arcanist. His ninety or so short stories and related collections can be found at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:
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