The Starcat

Violet coughed, her hand covering her mouth as she walked up to the front door of her flat. The deep tickle in her throat was maddening and she was looking forward to a cup of hot tea. As she swiped her key card in the lock, she mused to herself that if humanity could go to the stars, then why in the world couldn’t they finally eradicate the common cold? She sniffled for what seemed like the thousandth time, then went inside.

Dropping her bag near the door and kicking off her shoes, Violet sighed and suppressed another cough. She was glad to be home where she could rest. She looked around the flat, seeking her roommate. He was a little odd, generally quiet, and might be almost anywhere. The living room was comfortably furnished with a well padded couch in a medium blue color, two matching chairs, a low coffee table, a desk over in the corner, and a large, elaborate, carpeted cat tree. The art on the walls was a bit uninspired, but Violet had no one to blame but herself – she had picked them, and there was something restful about the various nature scenes. Right now the coffee table was a bit cluttered but she was too weary to want to do anything about it.

A sharp “ding” snapped Violet’s head around, then she groaned at the intensified headache. So, he is here after all. “Juan, are you cooking something?” she called.

“Yes. Tea, for you.” The voice was a bit gravelly and was coming out of the back bedroom. “I heard you barking this morning before you went to work, figured you could use it. Honey’s on the counter for you.”

“Thanks,” said Violet, going into the kitchen and opening the microwave. “Sorry if I woke you. ” A steaming hot cup of tea, made in her favorite mug, sat inside. She took it out, added honey, breathed in the steam, then carefully sipped. She coughed twice more, deep coughs that tore at her lungs, and sipped again. She went to the couch and sat down, adjusting her pistol comfortably as she did so. The tea felt great on her throat.

Soft footsteps came out of the back bedroom, and Violet heard Juan hop up onto the back of the couch. Small paw-hands began digging and kneading at her shoulders, easing the tensions of the day.

“That’s really nice,” said Violet, relaxing.

“I’ll expect reciprocation later,” said Juan, still working away. “Today, I think I’m in the mood for ear skritches from those lovely blunt hominid fingers of yours.”

“Deal,” said Violet, and sneezed again.

“By the way,” said Juan, “I was paid today so I took care of the internet bill and the electricity bill. Gas will come due soon and that’s one of yours. I’ll hand you ten for the water before I forget.”

“My pay comes on Friday,” said Violet. “I’ll pay it then. It’s not late yet. Thanks for the neck rub, you’re a good friend.”

Violet paused for a moment, remembering the time nearly a year ago when she’d been looking for a room mate.  After several rather unsatisfactory human applicants, until she’d gotten one that piqued her curiosity and made her want to meet with him.  Originally she hadn’t wanted to live with a male, but this one’s emails had indicated a similarity in tastes and a compatible schedule.  Best of all, he was gainfully employed.  She recalled her surprised at her first look at his furry face, and she’d been so surprised that she’d given him a chance.

It had been interesting, negotiating with Juan regarding utilities. He’d happily agreed to pay half the rent, electricity and gas, but staunchly maintained that he only really owed about one tenth of the water bill, since he didn’t take showers. Violet had reminded him about the sewer use, and he’d agreed to pay one fourth. He’d said it wasn’t the money, it was the principle of the thing. Juan made a good living at the security company he worked for, and he was never late.

“So, how was your night?” asked Violet.

Juan had finished his massage and was now sitting up on the arm of the couch. He was a handsome black Starcat with golden yellow eyes. Well clothed by sleek fur, he disdained anything other than a simple utility belt. He was about half again the size of a standard house cat, with a skull that had a pronounced dome to it, and dexterous paw-hands. His ability to speak was the only other outward sign that he was a Starcat, and a citizen in his own right, not just a common feline.

“It wasn’t bad,” said Juan. “I reported a couple of would be burglars. They thought I wouldn’t see them. Ha!”

“Yeah, that’s a laugh,” said Violet, coughing again and sipping more tea. “Quiet night otherwise, though?”

“Thankfully. I still haven’t heard back from the short haul freighter I applied to.”
“Come again?”

“Sorry, I thought I had told you,” said Juan. “There’s a little freighter that just does runs between here, Luna, Mars, and some of the asteroid colonies. Only a few days per run and I’d get plenty of time back home between trips. Anyway, they’re looking for a good cat. Apparently their last one just retired. I applied.”

“I know you’ve been wanting something more interesting than plain security work,” said Violet. “No matter how good you are at it.”

“I’ve always wanted to go to space,” said Juan. “It’s in my blood, after all.”

“Yeah, I can understand that,” said Violet. “I’d love to go to space. Working at the hospital really gets old.”

“Maybe if I get on with them, I could put in a good word for you. They probably need a good nurse.”

“On a freighter?”

“Well, sure. Cheaper to hire than a doctor, and it’s not like we have a 21B droid or anything yet.”

Violet nodded. Anything would be better than dealing with thousands of cold and flu cases every winter, and coming home with half of them. “What about your queen? Wasn’t she saying she wanted you around?”

“Maria dumped me for a handsome tabby down the street,” said Juan, his voice unsuccessfully concealing his sadness with bravado.

Violet reached over and rubbed Juan’s neck and shoulders. He was a fairly tactile person and she knew he’d take comfort from it. “Sorry, buddy. That’s rough.”

Juan nodded, his whiskers twitching. “Yeah. It is. Oh well, he’s going to learn about her soon enough. See, I wouldn’t have minded sharing, I’m that type of guy, but she started sneaking around behind my back. I tell you, she has the manners of a human.”

“Hey!” exclaimed Violet.

“Sorry, present company excepted. Sometimes I forget.”

Violet was stunned. For a moment, she forgot her coughing, scratchy throat, sneezing, and headache. “Wait – you mean sometimes you forget I’m not a Starcat?”

“Yes, you’re quite civilized,” said Juan.

“I’m… touched. Really. I take it as a compliment.” Her stomach rumbled for the first time that day. “Hey, I’ve got an idea. How about if I cook up a big chicken breast and make chicken noodle soup? I can chop up some of the breast before I salt it, and you can put that with your dinner. What do you think?”

“Like I said, civilized,” said Juan. “Maybe a movie after?”

“Holovid, or old style flat?”

“Holovid. There’s a great one about the Serengeti that I want to watch again.”
The two friends chatted comfortably, there on the couch. Violet realized that Juan was far and away the best roommate she’d ever had.