The Queen's preferred Boudoir: Interrogation Chamber 1.
Gooseman had been in worse situations – at least, that was
what he kept telling himself, despite his inability to recall one
right now – though probably not much worse.
shielded monofibers in the tight bands that secured his limbs in
addition to the hardened iridium steel cuffs across chest and
loins that held him on the bent steel plate in a decidedly
uncomfortable sprawling position posed a serious problem to his
On the other hand, the
chest band ran right across his badge. If he strained his breast
muscles enough, he should be able to activate the implant,
His eyes wandered the
room. He'd have preferred to know what was behind him, but one of
the bands was strapped across his throat and he wouldn't risk
sparing the Queen the work of cutting off his head. The same psi
dampening fields the Queen used methodically in her interrogation
chambers that kept Niko from detecting him kept also his
self-healing abilities from working properly.
how had he got himself into this?
had to get out of here. Immediately. He knew too many things
better not fed into a psychocrystal. There was only one way to
get out of the monofiber bands: becoming small enough to slip out
without tightening them.
of crossed bars that covered the only non-forcefield-shielded
opening in this room was another obstacle. If he judged the Queen
right, then it was either prepared to blow up if someone touched
it - or at least to shock freeze the room and ring the bells.
There weren't many forms beyond a snake capable of squeezing
the big dome, Zach pulled the tattered hodgepodge clothes of his
disguise closer around his face as they stomped, seemingly
looking neither left nor right, along the ramshackle row of
cowering buildings forming this side of Sorry End's main street –
actually, Sorry End's only street – which led to one of the
most frequented entrances to the vaulted inner city. His eyes
watered from the glass dust the dry wind blew into their
'You don't know what
things are worth until you lose them,' the saying said –
something Zach could only confirm. They'd cursed at the Zangwell
costumes, but now that the Crown troopers regularly shot
Zangwells on sight, they weren't an option any longer, and they
sorely missed the protection the slave hunter clothes had
provided in the harsh outer climate of Tortuna.
Niko's hand brushed across the muff of cloth that hid his arm.
narrowed his stinging eyes and glanced in the direction of the
great dome she indicated. Something was causing serious turmoil
in one of the small dirty side alleys, and it was coming
Zach decided. "The ever busy spydroids aren't likely to let
oh captain mine," the ragtag doll that hid Doc muttered.
"And there are only ten times more of them than
Niko cowered between
a stack of cracked crates as if resting against them – not
unusual for the less fortunate people on Tortuna's streets –
while Zach and Doc took serious interest in the display of the
shop just behind them, though the Captain certainly wished it
weren't one of the businesses taking care for the more... unusual
entertainment tastes of what passed as Tortuna's upper class.
He certainly feared that if he took a closer look he'd learn more
about certain body functions than he ever wanted to
Luckily, the turmoil
breaking out of the side alley saved what was left of his
innocence, though it had him blinking at least twice. And not
because of the dust.
A tall cat
chased out of the alley mouth onto the main street, skittered to
a brief halt with claws scratching over the shattered concrete,
then raced diagonally across the crowded street, straight for
The reason for
the noise followed suit: a set of yelling, firing, – and
huffing – crown troopers burst onto the main street, hot on
the cat's tail in spite of the soldiers being ill-equipped with
their heavy armor for chasing something as small and agile as the
sandy cat dodging and whizzing through the traffic.
cat on Tortuna!?
Which had just
come to another skittering halt and then wound itself around
Niko's ankles, meowing only slightly less loudly than an air raid
siren. So much for their hideout. The crown troopers didn't care
about the citizens between them and their prey. The first blaster
bolt melted the concrete next to Niko's boot behind which the
suddenly hissing and spitting cat dodged.
FIRE!" Zach bellowed, all too aware that the animal had
revealed them for whatever reason. "RETREAT!"
Goose–!" Niko screamed.
coming back to get him." Zach snapped. "He knows the
cat hissed with flattened ears, staring down the street at the
approaching crown cohort. Zachary had noticed them, too. Damn. A
lot of effort for a single cat! He gave Niko a hard shove down
the street. "No buts, Lieutenant. RUN!"
should leave her here." Doc said, eyeing the cat, who sat on
Goose's painfully vacant chair watching the controls as if she
could understand their meaning. "She's caused enough trouble
The sandy cat
turned instantly, stood front paws with claws digging into the
padding of the weaponry console chair's armrest, her tail
twitching agitatedly back and forth while she glared at the
hacker squarely out of glittering eyes.
her anxiousness about Goose, Niko thought –not for the
first time – that she was a beautiful animal, sleek muscles
rippling in perfect rhythm under smooth sand-colored fur tabbied
with a darker shade of gold on the back and giving way to creamy
white on throat and belly. Somebody obviously had taken good care
for her; aside from a fresh cut on the left front paw she'd
likely gotten on her flight from the crown troopers, she was all
brushed and glossy.
won't." Zachary, occupying the pilot's seat and hurrying
through the emergency startup routine said determinedly. "A
certain authority sent a cohort to get that animal, Doc. That
alone makes her interesting for us, if only for the question of
"But we have
no clue where she comes from or what she's doing here. What if
she's ill?" The cat's tail whipped even more furiously, her
ears flattened, green glowing eyes sparkled dangerously. "See?
She's a wild animal!" The cat spat at the hacker. Niko
scooped her off the seat and petted her, and a soft purring
"Not wild, Doc.
Can't you see?" She ran a finger under the cat's throat and
was rewarded with an increased purr. Doc hesitated and extended a
shaky finger towards the cat. The cat hissed.
The hacker protested. "She's wild."
Maybe you should stop calling him 'she', males are sensitive
about that." The cat's head bumped under her breast as she
leaned over to check the weapons console's screens. "We
better hurry, Zach. Looks as if the Queen's sending some heavy
cavalry after us."
much for this camouflage of the ship." Zach ground his
teeth. "Ready for takeoff."
shook his head as the lift off pressed him into his seat.
"Poss'll have our heads if we bring such a big rival
"Let me worry
about that," Zach sighed fatalistically, dodging the
blockade fire of Queenie's satellite belt. "We have to
contact BETA and tell them we need an emergency plan for
hours later, they were approaching Earth.
better go back and secure the cat for landing, Niko. We'll have
to bring the animal through decon at arrival, and he responds
best to you."
course, Zachary." The telepath unbuckled swiftly and went to
the rear cabin where they'd locked up the cat, cautiously
preparing to blocking the door with her body before triggering
the locking mechanism. She'd really prefer to avoid chasing the
agile creature through the whole ship!
released a deep breath as the door closed behind her. She needn't
have worried, the tall cat slept peacefully curled up in the
middle of the reg bay bank, his pink nose tucked neatly under his
tail, tall ears twitching slightly at the sound of her
head had gone up, ears pointed in her direction as she slowly
approached the bed. "Hello, you." She ran a soft hand
over the silky back and sighed. "Sorry, Purr. I'm not good
company at the moment. I'm missing my boyfriend, you
The cat meowed
again. Involuntarily, Niko smiled at the animal's 'reply'. "He's
missing back at the place where we found you," she told the
stopped, frowning. The cat wasn't looking at her, he stared,
apparently fully occupied at the blue LEDs of the wall chrono,
suddenly shivering. The fur on his back and tail stood on edge as
he retreated in the farthest edge of the reg bay.
wrong, Purr?" Niko said softly, trying to coax the cat close
again. "Does the vibration of the hyperdrives bother
The cat dug under the
reg bank, pressing himself into the darkest corner at the back
She sighed and tapped her
badge. "Sorry, Purr. I'd hoped to spare you this." A
deft telekinetic pulse transported the struggling cat into the
cargo container and closed the lid.
QBall pushed his electronic reading aid closer against his nose
and studied the data with awe. "No wonder the Queen was
interested in this cat."
did you find?"
for yourself." He switched the sensor data onto the big
holographic display above the conference table.
body of the squirming cat appeared as a wavering red frame with
orange and yellow blurring organs – their pulsating
revealed the real time nature of the data – and a glowing
bluish-white skeleton. An eerie sight.
an energy scan," QBall explained. "The brighter the
color, the more energy." He indicated the skeleton glowing
bright enough to almost light the room. "Normally, bones are
low energy components but these..." He shook his head,
wiping his forehead. "The energy stored in them is almost
beyond the scale. It's a miracle it doesn't blow up like a ton of
TNT." He hesitated as he spotted a strange feature lying
around the fragile skull bones of the animal, almost invisible in
the eerie glow, revealing its presence only because it didn't
share the flickering of the biological components. "Wait a
He zoomed in on
the cat's head and paled suddenly. "Oh my God!"
was half out of his seat. "What's wrong, QBall?"
"The cat's a
cyborg?" Zach asked, frowning deeply. "A trap
QBall said shakily, fidgeting with his hands about, and tossing
more than one look at the container that still held the squirming
cat. He swallowed. "I know that implant."
sets of eyes – three rangers and a commander – burnt
into the scientist.
what are you trying to tell us?" Zach asked, threateningly
"That you can call
the emergency plan off. You brought Gooseman
In the eerie silence that
followed, the angry cries of the caged cat filled the
It was Walsh's nerves that
snapped first: "For Heaven's sake, Q, get him out of there!"
not to cause trouble, boy!" With that the door slid shut
behind the commander who returned to QBall and the others working
on a solution for this mess. The hiss which followed indicated
unmistakably that the forcefield shield on the outside of the
door had been activated.
moment, he sat on the floor halfway between door and desk and
wondered what the heck 'not to cause trouble' meant for a cat.
Should he avoid sitting on the keys?
snorted, which ruffled his whiskers and tickled. He snorted
again, but that did little to help.
gaze swept the room for a place to rub on. Without much
consideration he turned for the desk. Any sharp edge would
Ah, that was better. Ok, now
what? He sat back on his haunches and looked up at the desk
looming above him. Maybe, he'd get a clue with a better sight of
the things at hand... err– at paw. A moment – and a
coffee cup plus saucer pushed over the edge because he'd
forgotten about the inability of claws to provide suitable
traction on ceramic surfaces – later, he sat on the
commander's desk set, his tail folded neatly around him, and
wondered briefly if that had been such a good idea.
usually familiar office looked rather strange through a cat's
eyes: stripped of the red and most of the green, it had a strange
note being all in pale blue and yellow. Bright yellow...
ears pointed, whiskers spread wide, and the tip of his tail
twitched, brushing a lightpen off the desk into the coffee puddle
on the floor caused by the cup which had been in the way of his
He'd never noticed how
tasty the goldfish in the round fish tank on the corner of
the desk looked when the afternoon sun glinted on their
A pink tongue whizzed
over cat's lips. A wet nose touched the thick glass, leaving a
The tail tip's
twitch increased. Another lightpen left the pen holder and joined
its colleague on the ground. He propped his paws on the broad,
rounded rim of the tank, now lurking above the fish scurrying for
cover at the bottom.
slashed through the water.
Missed. He shook the wet paw violently, spraying half of the desk
with water droplets. His whiskers trembled. He would get this
tiny, tasty morsel or...
do you think he can't retransform?"
sighed, scratching his bald head. "No idea. Probably because
the implant wasn't fully manifested in this form. The head's too
small for it. Or maybe the extreme energy load in the bones
prevents the emergency trigger from allowing re-transformation
when the charge gets too low. But that's nothing more than an
educated guess at the moment."
muscles in Walsh's jaw worked heavily. "Well, you had better
get an idea what to do, Q. I seriously detest the idea of giving
him a flea collar and shots against feline distemper!"
scientist turned back to his instruments, muttering under his
"What did you say?"
Walsh demanded to know.
said you might want to worry about the litter box first."
He sat in the
commander's chair in the sunshine still gleaming in from the
outside. Warm. Cozy. The old, comfortably worn black fabric of
the command officer's chair creaked.
was a loose thread.
What the heck did a cat for entertainment?
This body wasn't exactly designed for martial arts.
Maintenance with paws wouldn't work either.
He couldn't get out of here anyway.
He could write his report.
If these keyboards were designed to work with paws, that
Scratch. They weren't. He'd
tried it on the computers in Ranger-1.
What was why Zach had banned him into the reg bay.
For his attempt of communication.
Scratch. Scratch. Shit.
He laid his head to the side. He actually could look at the
Scratch. While peering
through the desk's kneehole.
Would be kind of funny.
If the commander had left the door open and only activated the
Scratch. As it was,
it was rather....
How long could
it take till they figured out they had to trigger the implant to
allow auto-retransform, eh? The cat yawned wide, tiny
needle-sharp fangs glittered in the sunlight.
Apparently an eternity.
Were these foam rubber flakes blue for human eyes,
Scratch. Stop. Foam rubber
He stared at the gaping
hole in the seat upholstery in front of his right paw.
A silky cat ear twitched.
Guess that qualifies as trouble.
Platform for the Series-5-Implants
bright glow of the recharging platform faded to a light bearable
to human eyes. The body kneeling on hands and feet in the center
of it was unmistakably human, as he got cautiously up, stretching
and examining himself as if to make sure no furry spots were
The door from the
observation lounge burst open. The commander tossed a uniform in
Goose's general direction which the ST caught effortlessly. Walsh
watched him out of narrowed, scrutinizing eyes. "You okay?"
was all he asked in the end.
pulling up his pants, nodded mutely.
have to fit you with a new badge."
nod. Goose hastily buttoned his shirt.
were more vocal in cat form," Walsh said dryly.
gained him a straight, almost shocked look.
commander sighed. "What did you find out on
more spybots than ever, but fewer slaverlords. No direct
information. They trapped me on the way to the target."
figured as much. What happened?"
ST ran a hand through his short-cropped hair, slightly
embarrassed. "Stupid accident, sir." He finally
admitted. "The often quoted 'blunt object on the head'. I
don't think it was part of the combat, guess it just fell off the
roof." He shook his head. "When I woke up, I was in one
of their interrogation chambers, strapped to a plate with
monofibers. I don't know how, but their forcefields somehow
affect the bio defenses' less invasive properties such as
self-healing." He sighed. "Only the transformation
cocoon's strong enough to block their effect. So that was my only
choice. I needed to become small enough to slip out of the fibers
and agile enough to get through the bars."
reducing your size–" Walsh shook his head. "You
took an incredible risk, boy."
really. In the transformation cocoon I'm all energy anyway. So
when I reduced the size, I altered the skeleton to work as a
capacitor for the difference. I had a lot of time on that table
to work out the details before I triggered the transformation."
Goose studied his boots closely when he added faintly: "I
couldn't know that the deformed implant would read the stored
energy in the bone as a charge and fail to delete the
transformation when the charge wore off." He swallowed. "Or
that I'd be more cat than I planned. I'm just damned glad that
now that you mention it, there's still the ruined upholstery of
my chair." He arched a brow at the discomforted young
trooper in front of him. "You also might want to go and
remove all the hair you shed in my office."
sir." Gooseman saluted, appearing like a man who desperately
wished for a paper bag to hide his face in, Walsh noticed with an
amused glitter in his dark eyes and fought to keep the malicious
smile off his face.
before I forget... I'm missing two of the goldfish in my
aquarium." The boy's face turned visibly green. "Do you
know anything about their fate?"
BMMP Apartment 219
"Goose..." Niko patted onto the cushions next to her,
offering him a seat. "What's wrong?" she asked at the
frosty look her offer had brought her.
prefer if you stop treating me like a cat. In case you didn't
notice, the transformation's gone."
sit down." She laughed out faintly. "You're
Goose grunted, following
her offer. "You would be, too, if Doc had suggested
declawing you to save the furniture."
Goose." She ran her hand slowly across the short cropped
strands of his neck hair, sending a silent thank-you to whatever
deity was responsible for STs – and cats – that he
hadn't caught Doc's comment about neutering to prevent uncounted
STJ-propelled kittens, when she finally got him to relax on the
couch with his head resting on her lap. After a moment, she
frowned slightly. "Are you sure the transformation was
He looked up at her, his head still on her lap. Lying there was
certainly more satisfying now that he was... a little less
giggling stopped his question as she intensified her
to Trivia S. Blank for scaring the mistakes out of this story,
close-fitting garment that covers the body from the neck to the
set of outer garments of the same material
2. set of clothing
for a particular activity
3. any of the four sets forming a
pack of playing-cards
4. case in a lawcourt
5. request made
to a person in authority, beg persistently
2. be convenient for or acceptable to
right or beneficial for
4. act according to one's own
5. make appropriate for, adapt to
6. convenient or