Society as we know it came to an end the day cats spontaneously developed warp drive capacity. Faster than light travel, effective teleportation at short distances, meant no bacon was safe, no indoor cat confined. With unlimited food supplies and totally unrestricted movement, the cat population skyrocketed. cats are very territorial creatures, so once earth’s cat density reached a certain point, they turned their attention away from our fridges and into the stars. In space, mass becomes decoupled from weight, so each cat could carry months’ supplies of kibble on its journey through the galaxy. We could have just stopped making kibble, of course. What can I say? We were afraid. The cats were everywhere. our spay-and-neuter drones couldn’t keep up with them. It was only a matter of time, if we didn’t feed them, before they turned on us. So we tried to turn the cat space odyssey to our advantage. Cat cams suddenly became immensely more complex. The more chilled-out moggies were harnessed to airtight capsules – we still didn’t understand how the cats breathed in space – and experimental mice were placed within. The cats ate them, obviously. We tried dogs, but the cats flipped out and refused to cooperate. It had to be people. We hadn’t domesticated cats, after all – they’d domesticated us.
This was how I came to be the first cat-powered astronaut. Not an astrophysicist or a pilot, but an orphaned veterinary science major who’d proven mentally resilient to solitary confinement during my time in prison for stealing and selling horse tranquilizers. (What can I say? College is expensive.) Nobody would miss me if I never came back, and nobody would employ me if I stayed on Earth. I was the perfect candidate. My space-capsule was pulled by four patient tabbies called Bubbles, Kafka, Gretel and Megatron. They were sisters, which was the only way we’d found so far to combine catpower effectively. The course was set by a sort of rough and ready cat democracy – the direction we ended up moving in was the average midpoint between the individual cats’ attempted trajectories.
Our first destination – the moon.
The moon was boring. The cats spent a little time playing in the low gravity, leaping on each other and batting dust bunnies around at great speed. I took measurements and sneezed a lot. My space suit was cumbersome and had somehow gotten cat hair in it. I passed some time trying to flip off every individual I’d ever hated back on earth as accurately as possible. I was just about to call it a day and bribe the cats back into harness with tuna when a crackle came through from mission control.
“Khkhkhontrol to Freyja One, do you read me?”
“I read you, Control. What’s up?”
“We’re getting some strange astronomical readings. Are you seeing anything unusual in the direction of Orion?”
I looked towards Orion. It wasn’t there. Neither was anything else.
“Uh, Control?” I said. “We’ve got some sort of… massive… visual anomaly blocking that sightline.”
“Khkhk abort khkhkhkh,” said Control.
I have never waved tuna so frantically. I’d just reharnessed the cats and sealed myself into the capsule when the anomaly ate the moon.
The first thing I saw when all my sensors stopped delivering nonsense and error messages was a large drill operated by someone in an oddly shaped space suit.
“Um,” I broadcast on all frequencies. “Hello?”
The figure in the space suit jumped, looked around, and appeared to notice my ship.
“Oh shit,” said my comms. “Natives!”
A bit of messing around with tractor beams later, I was standing in the control room of n alien spaceship. I couldn’t help but notice it did not seem to be towed by cats.
“Very quaint,” said a tall purple humanoid in a jaunty hat, when I asked about this. “Mammals aren’t very efficient, of course. Our engine room contains state of the art dandelion technology.”
“I… see,” I said. “And, more pressingly… why have you stolen our moon?”
“Can a moon really belong to anyone?” said the alien.
“Yes,” I said firmly. “This one is ours. We need it for tides, or something.”
“Bollocks,” said the alien. “Research assured us nobody had been there for generations, we figured you’d checked it out and not particularly wanted it.”
I had no idea if we wanted it or not, but I had a strong intuition that we shouldn’t let aliens mess with it.
“Put it back, please,” I said.