Enjoying the benefits of a ships cat requires a certain level of compromise. There's no doubt in my mind that the long lonely flight through the dark is made immeasurably more pleasant by having a small feline companion. Not only do you gain an on board pest controller but a "friend" who, just by being there can save your sanity and ward off the denizens of the subconscious. However, that friendship is far from unconditional. Its not even, in most cases, a particularly balanced relationship.
My current feline first officer, Gemima, was unfortunately born totally blind due to her mother being exposed to radiation from a badly maintained reactor. I found her at an outpost cargo warehouse where she'd been scavenging for a living and figured the relatively small compartments of my Cobra would suit her well. I was right. In a matter of a few hours she had the place mapped out and was confidently trotting from helm to cabin to cargo hold.
So to this morning. Plonking myself at the con, obligatory cup of coffee ensconced in the arm rest, I was prepping my faithful old krait for a few hours bounty hunting out at my favourite nav beacon. As I pull away from the station, a quiet "prrup" is the only warning I get before my lap becomes the first officers flight couch.
One symptom of her blindness is completely dilated pupils which give her an expression of perpetual cuteness. In addition to which, she has an almost telepathic skill in getting her feelings across to those around her. The message of the moment, punctuated with just enough claw to pierce my flight suit was coming through loud and clear.
"If you're planning on doing any of that noisy, nasty dog-fighting, you should know that will result in: Acute pain (slight flexing of claws), a three day sulk and possible use of the ship's ventilation conduits as a toilet."
The ship's cat is at the helm and as first officer she has decided that our activities should be more sedate than those I had planned, at least until she deigns to relinquish the con.
So this morning we shall trawl the space ways for some much needed salvage. My coffee will remain unspilled and my thighs unpuctured but most important of all the balance of power and chain of command remain as the universe clearly intended.
The ship's cat is at the helm.