The Cats of Ulthar

From the bright blue hues of the undulating hyperspace tunnel, the sight of Ulthar's verdance gave it a fey quality. You could almost see the faeries and will-'o-wisps from orbit, and you could definitely see the trees, which cast such wide boughs as to make the planet's surface look like a carpet of leaves. Away to the right, a large moon had in its orbit three small glittering satellites, perfectly distanced so as not to crash into the planet.

Some called that magic, some called it luck. Bruce didn't care either way; but he was glad they were there, without them, there would be no cats. Well... there would, but they wouldn't be The Cats of Ulthar.

In some small, clandestine circles within the Bubble, the Cats are gods or spirits, in others they are tools, and in others they are demons. To the rest - the majority of the Bubble's population - they are unheard of. But Bruce had heard of them, in fact, long ago, when he was a boy, he bonded with one. It was the first true friend he had ever had.

But the Cats are descended from a powerful race, genetically developed from the cats of Earth, who were all known from ancient times to have been touched with psionics. That race marched with humans in the old days, beating back the Yassengoro to the systems they had owned since the dawn of their empire, an area of space that psi-touched race of warmongers thought tiny and unstable.

The elders among the Yassengoro hate them for that, though, it happened so long ago that even the elders hardly know what it is they hate, since they never experienced the wars themselves. Among the younger Yassengoro generations, the tales of the Cats are twisted, reformed to fit new enemies. A younger Yassengoro probably wouldn't know a Cat, their race has moved on, and the Cats are nowhere near as powerful as they had been, when the humans grew anxious around their lords and kings and rained fire upon their whole noble race.

Now the descendants of the Cats live in backwater planets like Ulthar, mating with nonsentient feline species to maintain their line, and, growing increasingly barbaric because of it. Now the Cats are mostly gone, and the psi-cats that remain act more like the cats of old than the Cats that stood proud above battlefields strewn with dead Yassengoro. It's a sad fate, but an inevitable one.

So how do the moons of Ulthar influence these creatures, who could move about as freely as any other race in the old days? Well, on one of those moons there is some magic or technology at play that tricks folks that go there into forgetting certain things that need to be forgotten, unless those people are or have been bonded to a member of an Ultharian species. No doubt the noble race thought up this technology to save their descendants, and it has worked. The Cats are not enslaved, nor are they exploited by other races as pets to be sold and bought like regular cats, they live freely on Ulthar, watched over by a humanoid race employed by the ancient Cats to protect them. The origins of this race are unknown, as Ulthar did not support any life until it was terraformed by the Cats. This race believes that they come from Ulthar, though, and their whole religion revolves around these cats descended from The Cats; likely some generational mind-wipe done by the Cats to make sure their cats were pampered completely.

And they are pampered completely.

***

Bruce gave orders to power down and for his crew to remain with the ship while he went down, then he swept quickly out of the bridge and to the Corucopia's shuttle bay.

He had been anxious the whole ride over. He looked anxious now. Little nervous tics like clearing his throat and jittering his fingers (sometimes snapping them) echoed up and down the ship's Stygian passageways.

Down he went in another shuttle, as his favorite had been destroyed by Kreuger a couple days before. He didn't even stop to assess the damage and write out a reparation form for the engineer to read, he would have, were he not so nervous.

***

Up he came hours later, with an impressively tall woman behind him. In her hand was a crate, out of which resonated a low, humming purr.

The Cat of Ulthar, as yet unnamed, knew deep in his quarter-sentient brain that he would like it here. And that there would be much to do.

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