“Imperial Purrogative” is the FIFTH Herc Tom, Champion of the Empire tale.
It was time to revisit the Rotter Dame, and bring justice to the as yet undiscovered conspirators who had enabled the Rotters to return to Ramses in “Cat and Mouse.”
The story introduces a new, recurring character in the mysterious Lynx, as well as exposing a bit of news that could impact the imperial succession.
Here’s the Blurb
Champion of the Empire Hercules Tom is on the outs with Emperor Maxamillian and, Imperial Purrogative being what it is, has to deal with Rotter plots, traitors, assassins and other Imperial intrigues.
“Imperial Purrogative” is a speculative fiction novelette, and is the fifth of the “Herc Tom, Champion of the Empire” stories, following “Purr Mission”, “Nipped in the Butt”, “Cat and Mouse”, and “Baastards’ Revenge.”
And Here’s This Week’s Excerpt
I hopped down to the hard-packed, rocky surface, and the canopy immediately resealed – whether it was Shadow’s doing or the hack I don’t know. Her stealth was still engaged, so I couldn’t ask, and I could only tell she wasn’t part of an outcropping because I’d just stepped down from her. I left my stealth suit deactivated – otherwise they might have found Shadow while hunting for me. I walked a few yards toward the dome to put some distance between me and Shadow.
That was really all I had time for before my welcoming committee arrived. A two-meter-high slab in the rock face slid to the side, and a swarm of a dozen snarling rotters emerged with swords drawn. Riggler’s left arm was in a sling, and he had some cuts and bruises on his face that I didn’t think he received in our last encounter.
“Glad you could join the party!” he sneered, which is what passes for a smile among the vermin.
“I couldn’t resist your invite,” I said.
This was followed by a lot of raucous guffawing as most of the group rushed me and held me at sword-point. I kept my paws up so they could rifle me for weapons, but instead they stripped me down to my skivvies then and there. It would have been nice to have kept the stealth suit for warmth, but that was all it would be good for if I was going to make it out of there with the Prince. It couldn’t hide both of us.
“She wants his ship, too. Where is it?” one of the rotters asked.
“She’ll have it soon enough, but she’s getting him first,” Riggler said. “Secure him.”
They made me sit on the ground as they bound my four paws together and then hoisted me on a pole and hauled me into the hole they had come out of. They enjoyed themselves on the trip, chortling and guffawing loudly as they ran me further into the mountain, sometimes carrying me in a rush, sometimes dragging and bouncing my butt across the stone floor, until at last we arrived in her throne room.
From my vantage point hanging from the pole, it was a rather large, rough-hewn chamber, maybe fifteen meters high and fifty in diameter, all lit a sickly green by the phosphorescent mold that grew on the walls and ceiling. There were at least eighty rotters in attendance, milling around a pile of refuse in the center of the back wall. My captors ran me over to an empty space before this pile, where they unceremoniously slipped me from the pole and deposited me on the floor.
I lay awkwardly – who wouldn’t look awkward with their paws tied together? – and twisted my head so I could see the top of the pile. There, splayed on a throne of bones was the Rotter Dame, looking more putridly bloated than the last time I’d seen her.
“You’re looking well,” I said.
Riggler promptly kicked me in the back and snarled “Your Majesty.”
“That’s alright – you don’t have to call me that,” I said.
He kicked me again, but then went on.
“We have him, your Majesty,” Riggler said with a cowering sort of pride that he pulled off quite well.
“So, my dear Riggler, your plan has worked after all,” she said through rotten teeth. “Perhaps you feel we were too hasty in punishment?”
“No, your Majesty, I am always deserving of your wrath,” Riggler said.
This time he proudly thrust his recent scars toward her as if to invite more, but she would have had to ooze a great distance down the pile to reach him. Her attention returned to me.
“We meet again, Major Tom,” she said.
“Actually, it’s Colonel now,” I said.
I received another kick in the back.
“Really? Why wasn’t I invited to the ceremony?” she said.
“It was only an intimate gathering of a few thousand. Decent folk, only,” I said.
That earned me another kick.
‘My dear Riggler, it is not civilized to treat our guest in this manner. We must maintain proper etiquette. Please seat him in his place of honor beside his Prince,” she said.
The crowd parted as Riggler’s crew dragged me to the side, where they had set up a courtroom, complete with a judge’s bench, jury benches, and a prisoner box. Prince Octavio was already tied to a chair, and as naked as me; his nose was bloodied and one eye was swollen, but otherwise he looked none too worse for wear. They unwrapped my paws from their bindings, and then secured me to a second chair beside the him.
“This is much better. Thank you,” I said.
The crowd shifted their attention to their Dame as she rode down the pile on her throne, carried by twelve litter bearers (and I do mean litter.) I made use of the distraction to speak with Octavio.
“I trust you are well, my Prince,” I said.
“As well as can be expected. And you?” he asked.
“I am here to rescue you,” I said.
“Good to know,” he replied.
By now the Rotter Dame had arrived. The bearers had balanced her throne on top of the judge’s bench, two meters above the floor. She slammed her mallet several times as the litter bearers seated themselves as jury members.
“By the way, Mirabelle sends her regards,” I said.
“Oh, how is she doing?” the Prince asked.
“She seems very happy,” I said.
“We will have order in my court!” the Rotter Dame declared.
I suppose it only followed that a regent who has been reduced to the rank of prison boss must find ways to keep hold of the reins of what little power she has – any ceremony would do. This was reminiscent of our last encounter in Caracal’s Rainbow Caverns – except that time I watched the Admiral and Captain Butcher brought up on charges. Now I was the object of another of their Dame’s kangaroo courts.
“Good! I have always enjoyed farce,” I said glibly.
Riggler cuffed me.
“You will address her Majesty as Your Honor,” he said.
“I wish she would make up her mind,” I said, which earned me another cuffing.
“Thank you, Riggler,” the Dame said. “Please inform the court of our business here today.”
“We are here to witness as Your Honor decides the disposition of the prisoners,” Riggler said.
“You mean, as in whom dies, and whom maybe doesn’t?” the Dame asked.
“Precisely, Your Honor, with whom lies the ultimate authority,” Riggler said.
“Yes, it does,” the Rotter Dame said, basking in her self-importance.
The crowd began chanting “Dame! Dame! Dame! Dame!” over and over again, and she let this go on for a couple of minutes.
“Thank you, my loyal subjects,” she said, as she finally gaveled them all to silence.
“First, we will deal with the always interfering and yet entertaining Champion of the Empire, Colonel Hercules Tom. The prisoner will rise.”
I was about to note that this was not possible, being tied firmly to the chair as I was, but I found said chair was suddenly elevated two meters, and then brought closer to the Dame by a rope and pulley mechanism powered by a couple of rotters. I swung suspended so, not quite eye to eye with the Dame, but closer than I would have preferred.
“Hercules Tom, you have appeared in our court once before and obstructed our divine justice,” she said.
“If that’s what you want to call it,” I said.
“And you have chosen to make a nuisance of yourself and anger those in power. You have become too puffed up for your britches –”
“I would like to have those back if I might,” I said.
“- and so you will die,” she said, and then slammed down her gavel with finality.
“Well, that was rather quick,” I said.
“Not quick enough for my liking,” she said. “And now to the Prince,” she said.
My chair began its trek back to the prisoner box as the Prince’s was hoisted upwards in the same fashion. We were about to swing past each other when there was a chittering gasp from the crowd and the rotters stopped pulling on the ropes.
“The Prince will be coming with me.”
Behind the Rotter Dame, with his claws pressed into her bloated throat, stood the Lynx.
“He does seem to get around, doesn’t he?” I said to Prince Octavio.
“Never mind them,” Octavio said, looking up. “Swing your chair.”
I followed his gaze and saw where they had run the ropes through a metal grid-work with sharp edges that would not treat the rope well. There were already signs of fraying. We both started shifting in our seats.
“You have no authority here,” the Dame snarled.
“That would be a matter of opinion,” the Lynx said, pressing his points.
“This Hercules Tom fool will die to both of our advantages. That is the extent of our agreement,” she said.
The Prince and I were building up momentum, and I could hear the ropes dragging on the creaking metalwork.
“Precisely! The Prince was not a part of this, and my employer would not be pleased if anything were to happen to him,” the Lynx said.
“If their offspring is so precious, they can negotiate a new agreement,” the Rotter Dame said. “I have my own children to consider.”
An interesting development, but a number of things occurred that distracted me from thinking further on it. Firstly, Riggler had managed to sneak around to the side of the judge’s bench; he lunged at the Lynx, wielding a sword with his one good arm, but the Lynx was just fast enough to dodge the rotter’s thrust. That was the last I saw, because the rope holding my chair snapped as we had hoped, and the chair and I fell to the stone floor below. The chair wasn’t very sturdy, and shattered under my weight. I struggled to break it up some more, until I could stand, with parts of it still tied to my limbs and back; a convenient though clumsy sort of armor. A half-dozen sword-wielding guards converged on me; the Prince and his chair fell helpfully on the nearest pair and incapacitated them, but this softened his fall so that his chair remained intact. I grabbed up one of the fallen rotter’s swords and faced the remaining guards. I’m a decent swordsman from my days at the academy, and I had no doubt I could fend off four rotters – I’ve done it before. But once the confusion abated there would be more. One of them suddenly charged without his fellows – I was able to deflect his blade with my wood-armored forearm and dispatch him with a quick slash across his throat. This froze his companions, so I took advantage of their hesitation to give a swift hack to the ropes holding the Prince’s left arm; I hoped it would be enough to let him work himself free.
Will Prince Octavio and Herc Tom be able to hack their way out of this one? Only one way to find out, because I’m not tellin’!
“Imperial Purrogative” 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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