Special Guest–Carol Van Natta

I’m super-excited to host one of my personal favorite authors on my site for Pets week–Carol Van Natta–especially since she is the new captain of the ship that is Pets in Space. I have no idea how she manages all this, given that during the Pandemic I can barely find my head each morning, but some she does that and manages to produce incredible space opera romance with her Central Galactic Concordance series as well. Tell us about your awesome Griffins, Carol!

The Griffins in Escape from Nova Nine

About My Pets in Pets in Space 6

by Carol Van Natta

Do you love romance, adventure, and pets? If so, let me tell you about the griffins in Escape from Nova Nine. You’ll find them in the Pets in Space 6 science fiction romance anthology.

The Ethics-Challenged Pet Trade Invented Griffins

My space opera romance series, the Central Galactic Concordance, is set in the far future. Genetic engineers are strictly forbidden to tinker with humans or cornerstone animal species. The ethics-challenged fancy pet trade gets around this by making up species and selling them for premium prices. 

Designers use Earth’s fossil record to “re-create” extinct species, from miniature dinosaurs to dire wolves. They also draw inspiration from millennia of myths and legends to create fantasy creatures. Or, as you’ll see in the story, Western-mythology griffins.

Griffins Are Cute and Fierce

Legendary griffins are the size of a lion, with a lion’s body and tail, but with an eagle’s head and wings, and talons instead of paws. 

Pet-trade griffins are mostly bird, with mottled feathers designed to mimic fur. Across the dozens of registered breeds, they range in size from the size of a 4-month-old domestic kitten to the size of a Jack Russell terrier. They fly, they’re social, and will eat almost anything.

A Secret Asteroid Mine

Zade and Julke, the main characters in Escape from Nova Nine, are prisoners in a secret asteroid mine. Extracting the priceless ores is dangerous work. The mine owners kidnap workers because they want to keep the secret of the asteroid’s location. The easiest workers to catch are minders, people with extraordinary mental talents, because they’re considered second-class citizens.

No one knows why the mine also has feral populations of griffins. The mine staff and guards think of them as pests to be eradicated. The prisoners know better. People who watch the griffins and look out for them tend to live longer. Here’s an example of what I mean.

In this excerpt, newly captured prisoner Zade has been assigned to a workgroup with long-timer prisoners Lantham, Sutrio, and the intriguing Julke. 

Sutrio unexpectedly set the cutter down. When Julke went to see if Sutrio was in trouble again, her friend pointed to the lower left corner of the gravity plate. “Look.”

She didn’t know what she was supposed to see until she caught the unmistakable thrash of a griffin tail. Unlike the common griffins like Moonlet, stealth griffins shunned the busier human habitation areas. Only Sutrio’s animal-affinity talent would have noticed it. 

Stealth griffins looked as flat as a solar cell. Their feathers were dusty mottled gray, and could color-morph to blend into the rocky scenery. This one was lying flat up against the wall where the plate was embedded. It must have gotten in during the downtime and been there all morning.

The griffin stood, shook itself. Without warning, it sprang up and landed on the shoulder of Zade’s suit, then wrapped its thick, barbed tail around the back of his helmet. Within moments, the griffin’s feathers mimicked the colors of Zade’s suit.

A wondrous smile lit up his face.  “Hello, little one.” 

Julke cleared her throat and spoke loudly for the benefit of the guards. “Yes, that’s right, the little readout is the one to watch.” 

He turned to her, wide-eyed, and made the sign for “sorry.”

She waved away his apology. Everyone should have an enchanted moment like that now and again.

Sutrio laughed silently and held out her gloved hand to the griffin. It opened its beak and worked its throat like it was vocalizing, Luckily, the machinery noise covered it. The guards might investigate, otherwise.

The griffin pecked at Zade’s helmet and vocalized again. 

Sutrio’s eyes jittered a moment. Her expression went slack.

The griffin launched from Zade’s shoulder and flew toward the airlock. It veered away at the last moment and circled back around toward Zade.

“Blowout!” Sutrio’s voice was loud and sharp.

Julke’s stomach went cold as she scrambled to her feet, stumbling to avoid the still-cycling scanner. She grabbed Zade’s shoulder and pointed to the airlock where Sutrio was headed. “Run!”

Find out what happens next in Escape from Nova Nine, exclusively in Pets in Space 6.

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