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When I wrote Encounters: Cat Women, it was with two stories in my past that inspired me to think in this area.
The first was Chimera (2001) by Will Shetterly which was recommended to me by one of my readers who'd read my earlier Encounters stories, and which I pass on to you as equally well recommended.
The second book was The Inheritors (1972) by A. Bertram Chandler, which I read long before I started writing the stories you read here now.
While Will Shetterly resides relatively nearby, Mr. Chandler (1912-1984) resided on the opposite side of the world down in Australia. Yet each of them wrote about anthropomorphic creatures who were mostly cats down in their genes, but could pass as beautiful women in appearance. I have obviously written about such creatures myself.
Another common element of the stories mentioned is that Will Shetterly implicitly, and A. Bertram Chandler explicitly, referred to these creatures as underpeople. And as underpeople, they were not eligible for the rights granted true humans, no matter how worthy they might be otherwise. In this way, they're a lot like my fembots.
Of course, each time I write about an enjoyable topic in one of my stories, it's inevitable that I'll eventually get an e-mail referring to other similar authors and stories. Not suggesting that I've plagiarized anything, but rather that I might like some of these other works as well.
Recently I was given a pointer to a truly legendary SF story by Cordwainer Smith (1913-1966). Mr. Smith (actually Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger) wrote a number of tales of a future where true humans (hominids) firmly ruled over an interstellar collection of humans, robots, other intelligences — and underpeople! One of his most famous stories about this era is The Ballad of Lost C'mell, first published in October of 1962 in Galaxy Magazine. It has since been reprinted a number of times in collections, yet is still hard enough to find. Your best bet might well be the collected stories in We the Underpeople.
There's also a bit of Jessica Alba's Dark Angel character Max Guevera here. Max had some cat genes, and breeding needs when she went into heat every few months.
For those of you who will read my story before reading Cordwainer Smith's, a bit of an introduction is in order:
In the far future humans rule the stars, as well as their own long lifespans. The government is referred to as The Instrumentality of Man, and it is served by all it knows of. Telepathy and FTL space travel are common, as are robots and underpeople — creatures who, although composed completely of animal genes, appear nearly indistinguishable from true hominid stock. In fact, they may appear more human than human, since true humans, for reasons of alien environments, or just fashion, often freely adapted their bodies to new, perceived more efficient, forms.
C'mell — the C' stands for her Cat heritage — was a young, independent female at Earthport — a hard place with a hard profession. In a time when failure and bankruptcy could mean a quick, painless death for an underperson — and that was not the only way that they could die prematurely— her profession was not well paid, nor respected. C'mell, who looked completely human, unless you happened to catch the reflection in her eyes from the right angle, worked as a girlygirl. She met incoming travelers to Earth, welcomed them, and could serve as a guide if necessary. Her only real respect came from being her father's daughter. Her father — C'Macintosh — was well known, even among the hominids. Cat genes, and the struggle of the underpeople to survive, meant only the fittest survived.
Cat genes could also make you beautiful, and intelligent, and that described C'mell. Being a girlygirl was looked down on by every hominid, and was merely accepted as a necessary way to get along by the other underpeople who knew the struggles each one of them faced every day. It took far more than a pretty face and gorgeous figure to succeed in this post. C'mell had worked very hard just to reach this point in her young career when she attracted the attention of Lord Jestocost of the Instrumentality's ruling council.
Each of them would see in the other the means to accomplish their fondest political dream, and that would bring them together out of mutual necessity. And through this shared dream, strong feelings would also be born. Feelings never acted on in the original story, but revealed here now.
A special thanks to Mulligan, VW, and Ian for their excellent and much appreciated proofreading. All remaining mistakes are mine. And do I really need so may proofreaders? Yes! Each one catches things the other miss.
And apologies to Cordwainer Smith if he disapproves of my story. He left us too soon, and with too few a number of his own stories published for us to enjoy.
Lord Jestocost looked up as C'mell entered the work area of his football field-sized accommodations outside the Fourth Valve of the twenty-five kilometer tall building that was Earthport. Now that he had found his chosen tool to overthrow the old ideas he was so certain were holding back humanity's ultimate progress, he'd kept her close-by until the events set into motion by his planning would become inevitable. That closeness had exerted its acknowledged effect on the both of them.
Although Lord Jestocost would not come to consciously admit it for a very long time to come, deep down inside, in that spot all of us have where we don't even understand ourselves, he knew he impossibly loved C'mell. And that part of himself that even he could never directly tap for a clear answer was pretty well convinced that C'mell loved him as well. That little understood part of him knew axiomatically that you can't truly love someone else who doesn't truly love you in return.
As always her unexpected sensuality caused him to catch his breath. Only a near century and a half of experience allowed him to automatically hide his reaction. It does not behoove a Lord of the Instrumentality to ever reveal too much — especially about his feelings.
At first glance C'mell looked entirely human. She was young, in her early twenties, her female nature in the full bloom of youth. Except for a brief flash of her eyes when the light caught them just right, there was no easy outward sign of her true nature — although her necessarily subservient behavior always gave it away.
One must note that Lord Jestocost hadn't reached his position by being unobservant. A second glance, one that looked beyond superficial appearances, told so much more.
C'mell had a lithe manner of movement she worked hard to disguise. Her father, C'Macintosh, had been the first Earth species — underperson or hominid — to break fifty-meters in the broad jump under one standard Earth gravity.
But C'mell had to serve humans to make a living. With only their appearance, and not their genes, she didn't have the instinct for human behavior, meaning she had to learn.
C'mell observed humans constantly. She'd done this for as long as she could remember anything. Her mother had impressed on her the need to get along with the humans. Survival was literally at stake.
By the time she reached her maturity, meaning she could breed now if she could support her offspring, she knew the hominids better than they knew themselves. She especially knew how to be an appealing hominid woman better than the trueborn women did. They never had to work at it like C'mell did, and there were few consequences to them if they slacked off and simply ran on instinct. Because they didn't have to strive as hard as C'mell, they were less for it. Yet it was C'mell who remained the underperson.
Every movement C'mell made in the presence of a hominid was carefully choreographed. She knew exactly how to take a step before actually taking it. Her mind was always fully engaged in her actions. Survival demanded this.
And she knew more than how to walk and talk well. She knew down to the millimeter how to display herself to receive positive attention, and how to achieve the opposite. A girlygirl survived on the positive approval of others. The positive approval of hominids who viewed any underperson as only an animal to serve their immediate needs. While that couldn't include actual interbreeding due to some of the strictest rules of the Instrumentality itself, flirting to improve one's relationships wasn't an option — it was a necessity!
But things now were so much different than all of that.
If Lord Jestocost had yet to recognize his true depth of feeling for C'mell, one mustn't judge him too harshly. Feelings for an underperson were a bad idea all around. Feelings could lead to actual relations, and actual relations always led to...
"I should leave now," C'mell said unexpectedly, having waited just the right instant of time to allow her pose to be admired first.
.... There is more of this story ...