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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2010-01-05
  • Publisher: Del Rey

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Pilot, navigator, engineer, doctor, scientist-ship's cat? All are essential to the well-staffed space vessel. Since the early days of interstellar travel, when Tuxedo Thomas, a Maine coon cat, showed what a cat could do for a ship and its crew, the so-called Barque Cats have become highly prized crew members. Thomas's carefully bred progeny, ably assisted by humans-Cat Persons-with whom they share a deep and loving bond, now travel the galaxy, responsible for keeping spacecraft free of vermin, for alerting human crews to potential environmental hazards, and for acting as morale officers. Even among Barque Cats, Chessie is something special. Her pedigree, skills, and intelligence, as well as the close rapport she has with her human, Janina, make her the most valuable crew member aboard the Molly Daise. And the litter of kittens in her belly only adds to her value. Then the unthinkable happens. Chessie is kidnapped-er, catnapped-from Dr. Jared Vlast's vet clinic at Hood Station by a grizzled spacer named Carl Poindexter. But Chessie's newborn kittens turn out to be even more extraordinary than their mother. For while Chessie's connection to Janina is close and intuitive, the bond that the kitten Chester forms with Carl's son, Jubal, is downright telepathic. And when Chester is sent into space to learn his trade, neither he nor Jubal will rest until they're reunited. But the announcement of a widespread epidemic affecting livestock on numerous planets throws their future into doubt. Suddenly the galactic government announces a plan to impound and possibly destroy all exposed animals. Not even the Barque Cats will be spared. With the clock racing against them, Janina, Jubal, Dr. Vlast, and a handful of very special kittens will join forces with the mysterious Pshaw-Ra-an alien-looking cat with a hidden agenda-to save the Barque Cats, other animals, and quite possibly the universe as they know it from total destruction.

Author Biography

Anne McCaffrey, the Hugo Award–winning author of the bestselling Dragonriders of Pern novels, is one of science fiction's most popular authors. She lives in a house of her own design, Dragonhold-Underhill, in County Wicklow, Ireland.


Chapter One

 "How much for that pretty kittycat you got there, young lady?"  

Janina started, jarring Chessie out of her brooding nap. Chessie laid her ears back, stretched, and gazed up into the face of the man who stood smiling down at them. He was a grizzled-looking spacer in the middle of the human life span, she judged, wearing a uniform, the arms of which sported a collection of ships' patches bearing insignias she did not recognize. But then, Hood Station, where they had just docked, was a backwater facility providing the interface between the agro-based planet Sherwood and the rest of the universe. A wide variety of human types roamed the corridors. Though the man didn't seem threatening, he certainly seemed ignorant about cats, as Janina, Chessie's Cat Person, immediately informed him. Had Janina been a cat, Chessie thought, she'd have been bristling.  

"Excuse me, sir, but if you are referring to Thomas's Duchess, descendant of Tuxedo Thomas, the original Barque Cat himself, she is not for sale at any price." Janina tightened her arms protectively around Chessie's kitten-heavy body.   "Beggin' your pardon, miss, I had no idea the lady was such a celebrity. She's just such a beauty and I'm looking for a cat for my kid. Looks like she's going to litter soon. How many kittens do you reckon she's got in there?"  

"Dr. Vlast says no fewer than five and perhaps as many as eight!" Janina replied proudly. "Chessie is a good breeder and a good mother."  

"Glad to hear it. Glad to hear it. Still, that's a lot of kittens. You'll be looking for homes for them, won't you?"  

This fellow just didn't get it, did he? Chessie knew her kittens were far too valuable to be given away as pets! How could a spacer not know the history of Barque Cats? Had she been able to speak to Janina, she'd have asked, "Doesn't he know we save lives, that we patrol the tight areas of our spaceships, keeping rodents from eating the coating on cables, smelling hazardous gases and even escaping oxygen?" Chessie looked into Janina's face, which was flushing a pretty pink, and mewed her confusion.  

"Chessie's-the Duchess's-kittens were spoken for three litters ago, sir," Janina informed him politely, then added, reeling off the little speech the crew's communication's officer had prepared for her, "They are highly prized, as her progeny are not only superbly bred but have all grown into the best ships' cats in the universe. The sire of this particular litter is Space Jockey, a cat as renowned as the Duchess herself for his breeding and spirit."  

Hah! The truth was that although Jock was a handsome tom, he was a terrible brawler. That trait accounted for the rambunctiousness of these unborn babies of his. Chessie had never carried a more active litter, and that was saying something! She had borne twelve litters in fewer years, barely having time to train one kindle of kittens in the space ways before the next lot was born and the whole process began again. She couldn't actually remember many times when she had not been pregnant. It made patrolling the ventilation ducts and interior passages of her ship, the Molly Daise, a bit difficult at times, but there were always half-grown kittens to go into those few places where she could not fit her belly.  

"Is that the truth? Well, I'll be. Could I pet her? Would she mind? She's such a pretty cat." 

  "I suppose it would be all right," Janina said, with a glance down at her.  

The girl was already a bit more skittish than usual, and Chessie knew it was because she had opposed this latest pregnancy. Chessie couldn't agree more, but she graciously lifted her head to meet the man's fingers and felt Janina relax somewhat. The man had a gentle touch, and his fingers smelled pleasantly male and of a recent hearty mea

Excerpted from Catalyst: A Tale of the Barque Cats by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Anne McCaffrey
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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