“Baastard’s Revenge” is the FOURTH Herc Tom, Champion of the Empire tale.
The devious cats of Baast don’t view our hero with fondness – Herc Tom has single-handedly (well, at least he thinks so) thwarted their last two attempts to defeat the Empire (in “Purr Mission” and “Nipped in the Butt”.) “Baastard’s Revenge” was an opportunity for them to take action against Herc Tom – and time for a closer look at the nature of the Empire’s feline rivals.
Here’s the Blurb
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.
“Baastards’ Revenge” is a speculative fiction novelette, and is the fourth of the “Herc Tom, Champion of the Empire” stories, following “Purr Mission”, “Nipped in the Butt”, and “Cat and Mouse.”
And Here’s This Week’s Excerpt
We were met on the Baast side of the jump point by an escort of five Spitzes – what passed in the Baastian fleet as their top of the line fighters. Funny how, with all their biological and chemical capabilities, they still lagged behind us in electronics and pure warcraft. Of course, what would you expect of a race without a drop of honor in their blood.
A fine diplomat I would have made.
As I said.
“Now, now,” Butcher scolded. “Honesty is no longer the best policy.”
The three of us stood on The Claw’s bridge for the approach to Baast, and docked at the Ramsean orbital station that the Baastians tolerated as part of the Nipper War Treaty. Not that we expected the shifty Baastards to attempt another open invasion, but if they, did we wanted as much warning as possible.
The Claw of Friendship wasn’t built for planetary descent, so our party disembarked and transferred to the diplomatic shuttle. Our Spitz escort led us to the surface in a spiral descent, taking us around The People’s City (their clumsy name for the capital – it was called Leonedia before their ‘Glorious Revolution’ fifty-five years ago.) We were being given an aerial tour in an attempt to impress; they did have quite a few spires, but grey, utilitarian steel and glass, broken up by the ever-present, story-high banner and vidscreen depictions of Supreme Leader Pang couldn’t help but come across as dismal against the bright marble artistry of Ramses – our classically derived architecture has a soul. I’d only seen the capital this close once before, but that was at night, on a stealth mission in the woods to the northwest. At the time, I was more focused on making a rendezvous with Marpha and saving my cub’s life, so I took advantage of the Baastard’s braggadocio to study the lay of the land.
Our embassy was at Kingsmane, a walled estate fifty kilometers southwest of the capital, isolated both by distance and the guard posts the Baastards had set around the perimeter. Their mission wasn’t to protect the embassy – we had a small contingent of Ramsean Marines for that. The estate had been built by one of the Leonedis, back when Baast still had such a thing as nobility – before the assassination upon coup upon rebellion upon coup that had transferred control between the various less-than-worthy factions that passed for society on Baast. The latest installment under Comrade Pang had touted itself as the end of all oppression, but after a few years Comrade Pang became Supreme Leader Pang, and the oppression resumed.
Our escort veered away as we landed on a pad edged with gardens at the estate’s northern edge. The Baastards had presented us with this estate for our diplomatic mission, couching it in oily, obsequious insistence of what an honor it was for us to be housed in the palace of their last hereditary ruler. I do know my history – this was where the mob had executed the last of the Leonedi fifty-five years ago. The estate served as a subtle threat of what fate the Baastards intended for all aristocracy – no matter which planets they called home.
Ambassador Pompuis waddled toward us, his arms outstretched to greet us as we disembarked.
“Ahh – what an honor to have two Champions of the Empire here. Well met, again Hercules! And Admiral! Or should I call you Your Excellency, now?” Pompuis gushed.
The Admiral had always been moderately tolerant of Pompuis – they had served together in the fleet, before Pompuis had turned his career toward politics; the Admiral coped with his pretentiousness with a barely concealed annoyance. It didn’t help that Pompuis had greeted me first, and I could tell his claws were barely retracted.
Jock stepped into the breach, almost artfully.
“I believe for now it will be Admiral, until the commission officially transfers tomorrow evening,” he said.
“Hello, Jock,” said an attractive kitten, and Jock immediately looked slightly less professional.
“Vivian,” he smiled.
Vivian Pompuis – the Ambassador’s daughter – had accompanied her father to greet us, wearing the same mint green uniform of the diplomatic corps, although it had a more intriguing look on her than on my cub Josh (that’s a purely objective observation.) She’d been stationed on Baast to serve as her father’s attaché once she graduated from the Academy, and I knew full well that Jock had requested this posting to be with her before the chain of events that led to his grandfather becoming Ambassador. It was ironic that Jock had managed to arrive on Baast only days before Vivian would be leaving with her father for his new assignment on Ramses. Pompuis could be a somewhat permissive and lackadaisical master – it would be interesting to see if there would be any romantic developments allowed under the stern command of the Admiral.
Jock was obviously pleased to see Vivian, and he didn’t seem concerned about maintaining protocol. Vivian was subtler, but their interest in each other would have been obvious to anyone.
“Mister Tom,” the Admiral said. “Please oversee the transfer of our luggage.”
“Yes, Admiral,” Jock said.
“Come – I’ll show you how things lie here,” Vivian said.
Josh followed her toward the mansion with a buoyancy to his step, as though he hadn’t quite come down from space yet. I hoped it wasn’t too noticeable.
“Ah, youth!” intoned Pompuis.
“Hmmm,” the Admiral grunted.
I might need to have a talk with my cub.
Pompuis led the Admiral, Butcher and yours truly to his office. Butcher instructed the marine stationed outside not to admit anyone else, and then closed the door. Pompuis sat in the overly stuffed chair behind his desk, while the Admiral and I took our seats in front of him. Butcher sauntered to a window overlooking the grounds.
“Lovely weather you seem to be having,” he said as he looked outside.
“Yes, I do love spring here. I am so glad you get to see the grounds in such color –“ Pompuis said, before he was interrupted by Butcher jerking the curtains shut.
“Oh, don’t do that,” Pompuis objected. “I love the feel of the sun in this room.”
“Sorry, Your Excellency, it’s too bright for me,” Butcher said.
He closed the curtains on the other window, and then pulled a scanner wand from his sleeve and began waving it about the room as he continued speaking casually.
“Must be this old space eye of mine – hasn’t been able to adjust to this Baastian sunlight yet.”
“That is unnecessary,” Pompuis said as Butcher continued about the room. “I can assure you -“
The Admiral silenced Pompuis with an upraised claw.
I should mention here that Butcher’s sweep of the room had caught me off guard, as well as much of what was to follow. It is somewhat embarrassing to say that I was not in the loop initially, although the situation was made clearer as it progressed. I am a quick study, and I was sure this was why they had trusted me to be on this mission without entrusting me with some of the particulars. Well, any of the particulars, really. It seemed that it would be helpful if the conversation was drawn away from what was happening at that moment.
“Am I correct that this estate has been here for well over five-hundred years?” I asked helpfully.
“Why, yes,” Pompuis said uneasily, then got the gist of things. “It was built in the time of Paleo IV -“
“All clear,” Butcher said, and then set a jammer on the desk.
The Admiral lowered his claw, which Pompuis took as a signal to resume the conversation he had been interrupted in.
“It is bitter irony that the entire line came to an end here – ” Pompuis said.
“We don’t care about that, Pompuis. You have a leak,” the Admiral said.
“What – me?” Pompuis said
“Information has been filtering from this embassy to Baast intelligence, so yes – you,” Butcher said.
“Impossible! We have followed all the proper protocols,” Pompuis said.
“And yet our operatives have noticed that several pieces of data that were sent only to this embassy have been disseminated among the Baastards,” the Admiral said.
“Including the charade of your being promoted to Minister of Social Graces,” Butcher said.
“Charade? But I have so many ideas for that post,” Pompuis said. “An advanced society can never have enough politeness.”
The Admiral looked hard at Pompuis. I could tell that he wanted to swat the silly, puffed up fellow, but he kept his seat.
“Does this mean you will not be the new Ambassador after all?” Pompuis asked.
“Did you really believe that the Emperor would consider me good material for the Diplomatic Corps?” the Admiral asked.
“That would be almost as foolish as assigning me,” Butcher said.
“Unless they wished to return to war with the Baastards,” I said, trying to recover my relevance.
“True enough,” Pompuis said.
“And once we have cleaned things up here, all of our lives can return to normal,” the Admiral said.
“This is very disappointing,” Pompuis sighed. “I was looking forward to returning to Ramses. You don’t realize what an uncivilized place Baast is.”
“I think we all have an idea,” I said.
“Why was I not made aware of this sooner?” Pompuis simpered.
“Because you have a leak, my friend,” Butcher said.
Ahh – more espionage and betrayals. But what else should we expect when dealing with the Baastards?
“Baastard’s Revenge” is available at many online retailers, including, but not limited to:
The story is also available in the collection Cats of War II, which is again available at – and still not limited to – the following retailers:
Smashwords (at 50% off using coupon MY43S): https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/988666?ref=NoTimeToThink
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 a link for a FREE copy of “Nipped in the Butt” (the second story in the series.) Enjoy!
Honest ratings and reviews are, as always, appreciated.
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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