“Nipped in the Butt” (I do like double entendre) gave me a chance to expand a little more on the conflict between Ramses and the Baastians (I don’t care how many times you think you have a peace deal with your enemies – it is ALWAYS necessary to remain vigilant; you are in “trust, but verify” territory), and increase the scale. It also allowed me to introduce more characters, and linked into the first story through inclusion of that “familiar hallucinogen” – catnip.
Tom is a dichotomy like many of us – a “cat” of action in some settings, and yet not above being rolled over in his home life. We all have weaknesses, and Tom’s family is his.
Here’s the Blurb
What are the Baastards up to this time?
More intrigue as a familiar hallucinogen finds its way into Ramses society. Are their long-time adversaries behind it? Time for Major Tom to save the Empire again…
“Nipped in the Butt” is the 2nd story in the “Herc Tom, Champion of the Empire” series.
And Here’s This Week’s Excerpt
“Nicely done, Shadow.”
“Thank you, Major,” the fighter’s computer purred.
I climbed down out of her cockpit and onto the landing pad on my estate. I admired the sleek lines of Shadow, the way the stars seemed to shimmer on her surfaces, almost as though they still floated in the void. She was one of a kind; the powers that be didn’t see the need to go into production mode, what with peace breaking out between Ramses and Baast.
Really, how many personal perks did those bureaucrats need?
They wouldn’t have gone to the expense of rebuilding Shadow if I wasn’t Champion of the Empire, nor would I have been able to afford this estate without my Imperial stipend; the Emperor’s historians had unearthed some rather elaborate proof of my very distant relation to the Imperial line.
As I walked along the garden path from the pad to the house, the quiet of the evening gave way to a steadily growing cacophony – evidence of my thriving pride. I considered my good fortune. Fourteen cubs and three mates would have been quite a lot of mouths to feed in my past life, but it was all just business as usual for the Champion of the Empire.
I paused in the shadows of the garden and considered my ‘business as usual.’ I’d just finished a two-month tour of our sentry post in the Quartz sector, making sure that the Baastards were holding to their end of the treaty. The pride wasn’t expecting me back for a couple of days, yet; I’d thought I’d surprise them by coming home early, maybe do some reconnecting with Kat, and then with Baathsheba, but the commotion brought the other side of my new reality to me. I would be hard pressed to get time alone with any of my mates in this circus, plus there was still some friction to deal with over the addition of…
The assailant pounced on me from behind, and I was knocked to my belly on the ground. I should have approached the house with my stealth-suit active, at least been more aware of my surroundings, but this life was making me soft. She had me pinned.
“Hello, Tiger,” vibrated a deep purr from above, and she gave the side of my head a long, slow lick. “We have to stop meeting like this.”
We did meet like this, although the circumstances were far more serious, what with being on a covert mission to Baast, with the lives of my cub, not to mention our planet hanging in the balance. There hadn’t been time to play around like this then, but now that Marpha had joined the pride as my third, we had time. The fact that she was younger than me, and still had that playful, kittenish drive made her a bit much to handle at times, not that I minded handling her. I had planned to start with Kat, but circumstances being what they were, we’d just have to catch as cat can.
“Well, look what the cat drug in,” said another voice, and I saw Kat’s claws tapping the walk a meter or so ahead. “Let him up, Marpha.”
“But I just caught him,” Marpha protested. Still, she rolled off my back and into a subservient crouch beside me. She knew her rank well enough not to push too hard. I stood up and brushed myself off.
“Thank you for bringing our mate to ground, but we don’t have time for this now,” Kat said. “Go make sure the cubs have things presentable inside.”
Marpha sauntered obediently toward the house, but paused and gave me a long, smoldering look once she had passed Kat.
“Now, Marpha,” Kat said without taking her eyes off me, and Marpha gave me a last, simmering pout and continued on her way.
Kat wasn’t overbearing, but she did take her position as pride prima seriously. She knew her place, and made sure Baathsheba and Marpha knew theirs. Besides, Kat was really the one I’d wanted to see first. I walked up to her and put my arms around her.
“Did you miss me?” I said, softly.
“As always,” she said, as she gave me what felt like a not totally committed nuzzle.
“Oh, so much tension; let me help you with that,” I said.
I kneaded her back as I held her, and felt her start to relax into me, her breath warm on my neck. This was going to be everything I’d imagined.
“We can’t,” she sighed, “there’s too much to do.”
“Did I come at a bad time?” I teased, still kneading, “I could go back to Quartz, if you’d prefer.”
“It’s just that Daddy’s due for dinner any minute.”
Now it was my turn to be tense. Daddy – Admiral Jock Planck – had never liked me. Knowing the legend he was from the Rotter Wars was intimidating enough, even for an irreverent, cocky fly-boy like me. But when I dared to ask his permission to mate with Kat – with his precious Katrina, it was: “Who in the name of the gods did I think I was?” and “What was Katrina thinking, hanging around with a pretty-boy slacker?”
It was a good thing Kat had him wrapped around her little claw just enough, good thing we named our first-born after him. It didn’t make me the cat’s meow as far as he was concerned, but at least he kept his claws in when he came to visit.
You’d think being Champion of the Empire would make things better between us, but if anything it reminded him of just how lucky I was, and he didn’t believe in luck. Right now, neither did I.
“Maybe I should go back.”
“Don’t you dare!” she said, and the way she tightened her grip on me was promising. “I need you here for this. It’s not just Daddy – some of his comrades are coming, too, sort of a pre-retirement get-together. I really need your help with them.”
“That’s all you need me for?” I teased.
“No,” she said, snuggling deeper. “Later I’ll need…”
“I need someone to talk to Jock!” Marpha yowled.
Kat sighed and separated from me.
“What’s he done now?”
Marpha was standing with her paws on her hips.
“He hasn’t done anything. As usual, he and his friends are ignoring me.”
“I don’t have time for this,” Kat said, then ran a claw down the front of my chest. “Have a talk with your son.”
“I’ll go with him,” Marpha said, hopefully.
“No, the Admiral will be here soon; you’ll come with me.”
The two she-cats headed for the center of the house, tails flailing away. This is what I came home for – tense, unavailable mates. I shrugged and turned down the path toward the south wing and Jock’s room.
It was likely that Jock wasn’t giving Marpha her due. He was in that wonderful phase between cub and adult where he thought he had as much right as anyone to make decisions. Marpha wasn’t that much older than he was, and, as far as he was concerned, hadn’t been in the pride long enough to be giving orders. He was still under the dangerous illusion that being male gave him stature around here. We needed to get that straightened out before he learned the hard way.
I went up to Jock’s room, expecting to find him still dilly-dallying with his friends, but the room was empty. Good – maybe he was starting to get some smarts on his own, and decided he’d better listen to Marpha before Kat came down on him.
As I turned to go, a glint on the floor beside his bed caught my eye. I reached down and picked up the glass vial laying there and held it up to examine the cloudy white fluid inside it.
Well I’ll be, I thought, Jock’s gotten himself some scent – must be wanting to impress the ladies. I’ll need to have a talk with him about this.
I opened the vial and took a sniff; it had a vaguely familiar mint scent. I closed my eyes, and felt my muscles relax as I lay down. All that tension that I’d come back home to relieve, it all melted away. I took another sniff. I imagined what I had hoped it would be like, pictured Kat, as playful as she’d always been before life had gotten so busy. I remembered her face floating above mine, our whiskers tangled together, and there she was.
“Are you all right, Tom?”
I put my paws around her back and pulled her closer on top of me, kneading my claws along her back.
“Stop, Tom! This isn’t the time or the place…”
“Where is my favorite grandson?” said Admiral Planck as he entered the room.
This was not how my fantasies normally ran; why did he have to be here now? He stood there, mouth open, staring at me as disapprovingly as ever.
“Get out of here, you old crank,” I said.
“What did you call me,” he growled, his ears flattening.
“Go away, you useless sourpuss,” I purred as I tried to pull Kat closer, “We don’t need you here.”
“Tom! What is wrong with you?”
Kat pushed away from me; it was obvious she was having none of it, and neither was I. Probably just as well, I suddenly had one hell of a headache.
The Admiral was holding the glass vial up to the light, then tossed it on the floor in disgust.
“I’ve always said that lolly-gagger wasn’t good enough for you, but I thought he had more sense than to be a nipper,” the Admiral scowled, and he turned his back, his tail flailing as he went through the doorway. “I’m leaving.”
“No, Daddy, wait!” Kat said. She glared at me just long enough for the resemblance between her and Daddy to sear into my memory, and then she was gone. “Wait, Daddy!”
I lay there, trying to recapture the fantasy, but all I got for my trouble was a more intense migraine. I buried my head in the coolness of Jock’s pillows. Jock’s pillows? Why would Jock’s pillows be in my dream? This was supposed to be from before Jock, before the rest of the pride.
I sat up and tried to get my bearings, but my head swam, and I found myself looking down at the almost empty vial spilled out on the floor. I inhaled, and the floor became grass and earth interspersed with little white flowers, and then the flowers turned into little stars as I blacked out.
Will Herc ever live this humiliation down?
“Nipped in the Butt” is available for FREE for anyone who’d like to be added to my email list at this link: http://eepurl.com/haihVv
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AND – “Nipped in the Butt” is also available in the collection Cats of War I, which is again available at – and still not limited to – the following retailers:
(As a reminder, “Purr Mission” (the first Herc Tom story) is available for FREE everywhere – you can find links on my Current Book Promotion page. Within the pages of “Purr Mission” lurks yet another of the links for a FREE copy of “Nipped in the Butt” as I mentioned above. Enjoy!)
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Current Book Promotions
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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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