The setting for CATS OF WAR, my latest space opera romance book, is a swamp. More specifically, an important factory that’s situated in a swamp on a colonized continent on an unprepossessing world. It’s one of the 500 terraformed planets in the galaxy, all members of the Central Galactic Concordance. Plants are flowering, animals are breeding, and the insects are just starting to get annoying. It’s spring in the swamp.
And why, you may ask, is the factory in a swamp? On this particular part of the planet, the mountains have rare metals that are needed for making faster-than-light stardrives. The rivers and spring runoff from the mountains pick up the metals, which concentrate in the swamp area. It’s much cheaper to filter them out of the water than dig them out of the inhospitable mountains.
However, as you might imagine, it’s not so easy to attract employees to work in a swamp. Therefore, the company partnered with the galactic government’s Criminal Restitution Indenture and Obligation (CRIO) system. For lesser crimes that involve theft and property destruction, convicts must pay back the monetary damage, or be sentenced to the CRIO system to work off their obligation.
In theory, this is a win-win situation for the government, the company, and society. Reality is more complicated.
The hero of CATS OF WAR, Subcaptain Kedron Tauceti, is the military liaison for indenturees who are veterans. He had no more choice in his assignment than did the heroine, indenturee Ferra Barray, who is doing restitution time for property damage.
But it’s spring for them, too. Kedron has finally been given a new post, and he’s counting the days until he leaves. His reputation was tarnished by a scandal, despite the fact that he’d been the whistleblower, not one of the brazen thieves. Ferra only has to keep her head down and keep her secrets safe for another month, then figure out what to do with her life.
Ordinarily, they’d have no reason to interact, but they are brought together by the unlikely arrival of two mysterious creatures who need their help—or might be the help that both Kedron and Ferra need when trouble comes to call.
Here’s a little excerpt from CATS OF WAR:
While Kedron wouldn’t miss the Argint d’Apa facility, he would miss the swamp. He’d disliked it at first, the same way most staffers still did, but it had grown on him. He’d spent time studying its ecology and gone with the biodiversity scientists on a few sample-collection expeditions. Living so close to untamed nature made it easier to understand how everything, from the majestic giant trees to annoying clouds of gnats, had a place. Maybe he did, too, even if he couldn’t see it.
He put away his uniform and decided to walk laps on the campus’s wide perimeter walkway, rather than spend another evening alone in the gym. Regulations restricted it to military personnel, and he’d never seen the CPS representative use it.
As much as possible, he kept his interactions with her in virtual space. As a mid-level telepath, she could read thoughts, and as a low-level sifter, she could affect brain chemicals, detect lies, and sense the use of active minder talents. Military personnel caught with minder talents earned an immediate, permanent transfer to the CPS’s Minder Corps.
Kedron’s minder talent wasn’t much, just an ability to use seemingly unrelated information to find things of interest, but he’d rather direct traffic for a city of half a billion or be an indenturee than work for the Minder Corps. Too many private family stories warned of how badly the Minder Corps treated its personnel. He’d learned to hide his talent well enough to beat the CPS Testing Center for mandatory age twelve and seventeen tests, and random ones since, but some sifters were better than the testing equipment. Fortunately, minder talents in the patterner class were hard for even high-level sifters to detect.
He pulled on pants and a specially treated long-sleeved top to ward off biting insects. Last, he stepped into one of his few indulgences—custom-tailored, waterproof, adaptive boots. Even with myriad modern transportation options, Ground Div gunnin, from the lowest ranker to High Command commodores, spent a lot of time walking, running, and marching. Good boots made all the difference.
He looked out the north-facing window of his quarters to check the weather and the path. Non-essential indenturees were on lockdown, and half the staff was busy, so he wasn’t surprised to see it deserted. The tall perimeter fence’s horizontal power lines beyond the road-glass pathway glowed faintly as reminders of their presence. The overhead and glass path lights blinked on and off erratically, then stayed off. Twilight and mold sometimes messed with the sensors.
Shadowed movement caught his eye. Someone carrying a shallow, rectangular crate stepped off the path toward the exterior powered fence. The figure knelt right in front of the fence and set the crate down. After furtive looks left and right, the hunched figure slid something under the fence.
Instead of zapping the person into insensibility or setting off the alarm, the visible bottom three fence lines between the two posts raised like a curtain, leaving a torso-height gap. The figure quickly extended a pole to push the crate outside the fence as far as possible, until it butted up against the big rock outcropping. He or she retracted the pole and picked up the device from the dirt. The fence line sank and straightened to its usual position.
The lights flickered on briefly. The figure pulled on a hood and hunched forward, but he’d already recognized the face. Ferra Barray.
She stepped onto the path and headed west. The lights came on and stayed bright. He watched until she vanished.
Protocol said to report anything unusual to the security chief, but Kedron had repeatedly been told, politely but sternly, to stick to his own star lane.
He wished he could come up with a more probable theory than suspecting that Barray was dealing contraband. A non-indenturee confederate would likely pick up the goods. Chems, pilfered equipment or tech, and stolen raw metals were all likely candidates.
He wouldn’t have tagged her for a thief. She’d been convicted of crashing a friend’s air-racing yacht into a Central Galactic Concordance government launch hangar that housed military orbiters. When she couldn’t pay the court-ordered restitution, the CGC arbiter remanded her to the CRIO system. The record implied she’d been chemmed to the gills.
That didn’t sync with her comment earlier that day about avoiding drugs of any sort, but everyone did stupid things now and again.
He wanted Barray to be the person he thought she was, but his experience with the theft ring situation taught him not to be swayed by what he wished to be true, and to look at the actual facts. He needed to know what was in the crate.
Read the rest in CATS OF WAR:
Apple Books ~ https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/cats-of-war/id1455752671?mt=11
B&N ~ https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1130863996?ean=2940161479490
Kobo ~ https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/cats-of-war
Google Play ~ https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Carol_Van_Natta_Cats_of_War?id=8lSMDwAAQBAJ
Cats of War
A tarnished military Subcaptain, a repair technician hiding from her past, and two genetically engineered cats join must forces to save an important factory.
Military Subcaptain Kedron Tauceti counts the days until he can leave the rare metals factory and his current duty station as the liaison to the galactic government’s Criminal Restitution and Indenture Obligation system. The post was protection—and punishment—for exposing a theft ring during his previous assignment. He's more than ready to get his career back on track on a new base halfway across the galaxy, even if it means leaving behind the one person who makes him want to stay. Not that he's told her, because technically, he's her warden.
Former financial specialist and current indenturee Ferra Barray, hiding from her past, only has three months to go on her restitution sentence. She's lucked into a tech repair job. If she keeps her head down, she'll soon be free to figure out her future. Unfortunately, the local shark behind every illegal scheme in the facility wants her to steal for him, and she's running out of excuses. And now the heroically handsome Tauceti, who she hoped could help, is transferring out.
Everything changes when Ferra discovers two genetically modified cats. Saving them takes incredible risks. She doesn't know what she'll do if she can't convince Tauceti to rescue the cats and keep them until she's free to come for them.
But when trouble erupts at the factory, it might just be the cats who save them.
Find out what happens in this exciting standalone novella from Carol Van Natta's award-winning Central Galactic Concordance space opera series.
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NOTE TO READERS: Cats of War debuted in the limited edition Embrace the Passion: Pets in Space 3 anthology. It has been edited for clarity, but is substantially unchanged from the original. If you already have the anthology, you don't need to buy this story again (unless you like your books standalone). For fans of the Central Galactic Concordance series, the events in Cats of War take place after Jumper’s Hope, but are not part of the ongoing big damn story arc.
Carol Van Natta is a USA TODAY bestselling and award-winning science fiction and fantasy author. Series include the Central Galactic Concordance space opera series that starts with Overload Flux and Minder Rising, and the Ice Age Shifters paranormal romance series that starts with Shifter Mate Magic and Shift of Destiny. She shares her Fort Collins, CO home with a resident mad scientist and just the right number of mad cats.
Chat with her on Facebook at https://facebook.com/CarolVanNattaAuthor, or visit her on the web at http://author.carolvannatta.com. Be the first to find out about new releases by signing up for her newsletter at http://bit.ly/CVN-news.