Catspaw

Catspaw

by Joan D. Vinge

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Overview

CAT: Street Punk, Psion, Telepath, Survivor. . .

Kidnapped by an interstellar corporation and dragged to Earth, Cat is forced to use his skills to protect those he most hates, those who most hate him . . . .

The taMings. A cyber-augmented, DNA-incestuous clan of such wealth and power that their family arguments change the destiny of worlds. Now one taMing is a killer's target. But which? And who would dare?

Seeking answers, Cat finds lies and savagery, passion and atrocity--trails that lead from crystal valleys to clubs for silver-skinned beauties. From the homicidal enclaves of drug kings to a fanatic's pulpit. From the halls of the Assembly to a cyberspace hell. Seeking assassins, Cat discovers a mystery that could cost him his future. His sanity. His life.

Because Cat is no longer a bodyguard . . .

He's bait.



At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781466829770
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 11/23/2002
Series: Cat , #2
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 555,625
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Joan D. Vinge has won two Hugo Awards, one for her novel The Snow Queen. Author of ten novels and a number of film adaptations, her books have been bestsellers here and abroad. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.


Joan D. Vinge wrote the Hugo Award bestseller The Snow Queen, sequels including the Hugo finalist The Summer Queen and the Nebula finalist World's End, and the Cat series. She's written more than a dozen movie adaptations, including the #1 bestseller The Return of The Jedi Storybook. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

Read an Excerpt

Catspaw


By Joan D. Vinge

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 1988 Joan D. Vinge
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-2977-0


CHAPTER 1

I came to on board a ship, but it was no ship I'd ever seen before. I was lying on a foam-padded, fold-down bunk, in a room that I couldn't mistake for my cabin or any other place on the Darwin if I'd been blindfolded. The last thing I remembered was a flash of combine colors on a Corporate Security uniform jacket; the gray green garbage-can walls around me now, the stripped imitation asceticism of the single desk and chair, the storage nets, the bed, all screamed military.

I'd been bodysnatched by some combine's Security arm ... which made no sense at all, except that here I was. I tried to sit up, and was more surprised than not when I found out I could. No binders on me, no straps. My knife was missing. I felt along my neck and stripped off the patch I found there. I'd been drugged, all right, but my head seemed clear enough now.

The door of the cabin was shut. Just then it slid open, as if they'd been waiting for me to wake up. Two men entered, probably the ones who'd done it to me. One dark-skinned, one pale. They wore interchangeable faces and interchangeable silver-on-gray duty fatigues. They stopped inside the doorway, waiting, tense. I wondered if the combines made their Corpses get face jobs so they'd match. Then my eyes found the insignia on a jacket front, and I froze. Data flowed across the ID patch below the sunblaze logo of Centauri Transport. A giddy flash of double-sight hit me. I didn't know what this was about, but I knew now it wasn't a mistake. And it wasn't good. Cold anger, or maybe cold fear, slammed though my brain. I stood up, and said, "Wha's goin' on —?"

And sat down again with my stomach up in the back of my throat. "Shid." Now I knew why there were no binders. No need. Whatever they'd drugged me with left a hell of a hangover.

The twins looked at each other and grinned, but it was more like relief than like they thought it was funny. They came across the room, as if they'd been afraid to get too close to me before. "Okay, freak," one of them said, "the Chief wants to see you." They hauled me up again, and half-dragged me out the door. I wished I'd eaten more dinner, because I wanted to see it all over them when I puked.

We were on board some kind of small scoutship; at least they didn't have to drag me far. They pushed me through the doorway into another cabin, and down onto a wall couch.

I was wrong; I wasn't on some scoutship. This was some combine vip's private cruiser. It might have been on a different world from the room I'd come to in.

"Here he is, sir. He's safe," one of the guards said beside me. I realized they didn't mean safe and sound. They meant crippled.

I'd been wrong ... and right. "The Chief" was Centauri's Chief of Corporate Security. He was sitting in a tapestry-covered recliner behind a perfect black semisphere of desk, staring at me from across the room. He had a face like the blade of a knife, thin, sharp, and cold ... no beard, except high up on his cheekbones in a feathery line, as if his eyebrows grew around to circle his eyes. His eyes were so dark they looked black. He was wearing a full-dress uniform — a gunmetal-gray helmet with Centauri's logo and his insignia dancing on it, a conservative business suit in silver tweed, a drape crawling with shining crap that made my eyes swim. I'd never seen so much flash on one body before. The fact that he was wearing it said either he wasn't worried, or he wanted to impress me. I didn't know what that meant, either way.

I looked away from him, because he was staring at me without blinking. We seemed to be inside a bubble, hanging out over the black heart of space. The Monolith's sun hung just above his left shoulder, like a floating lamp. I couldn't see the world itself. I looked down at my feet, glad that at least there was a rug. Sapphire blue, it had the Centauri logo shot through it in gold. Subtle. I pressed deeper against the back of the couch, waiting until my stomach caught up with the rest of my body again. Then, as carefully as I could, I said, "Wha'. Do. You. Wan'?"

"Your name is Cat. My name is Braedee." The black eyes were still fixed on me like cameras. "I'm Chief of Security Systems for Centauri Transport. Do you understand what that means?"

It meant there was probably nobody higher in the combine's power structure except the controlling board members. It meant that he was probably the most trusted man in that entire structure. Also the worst enemy anybody who crossed them would ever have. The ruling board itself must have sent him after me. Did they really know who I was? My paranoia started doing the multiplication tables. I shook my head to answer him. It was cold in his office; the sweat crawling down my ribs made me shiver.

"It means that I don't see just anybody. It means," a muscle in his face jumped, "that we need ..." twitch, "a telepath." Twitch. "Now I'm going to explain why."

Surprise caught in my chest, then relief, and confusion, and anger. I sucked in a breath. "No." I touched my head, meeting the telephoto eyes. "Nah. Till. Fix. Dis."

"The drug blunts your psionic ability. The speech is an unfortunate side effect. Your comprehension is completely unaffected. There's no reason for you to say anything until I've finished."

"Fu' you." I stood up, turning toward the doorway. The two matching Corpses filled it up. I turned back again to face Braedee. "Fix. It!" If they knew what I was, they should know I was no more danger to them than any deadhead they picked off the street. Less — I wouldn't kill them. But from the way his face worked, I knew he was as piss-assed scared as anybody else. Maybe more, considering what he did for a living. The more someone had to hide, the more they usually hated psions.

Braedee shook his head. He said, "Gentleman Charon taMing heads the Centauri board. He ordered me to keep you drugged."

TaMing. I jerked as I heard the name. "Fu' him too," I said, trying to cover my surprise.

Braedee glared at me for a long minute, considering the alternatives, probably feeling the invisible fist of Centauri ready to come down on us both. There was something wrong with his eyes, more than just the way he looked at me; but I didn't know what it was. At last he said, "I'll give you the antidote if you'll submit to a scan." Calling my bluff.

My hands tightened, went loose again. I nodded finally and sat back down. One of the Corpses came and dropped the veil of silvery mesh over my head. I flinched and shut my eyes as it molded to my flesh, tingling like a thousand insects crawling on my face. The urge to rip it off was almost more than I could stand; the first time one had been used on me they'd had to use binders, too. At least by now I knew what was coming. I'd been through so much testing, so much therapy since the killing that I'd learned to live with it. I clenched my jaw, trying not to resist — resisting anyway, not able to stop blind instinct as the sensation began. Worms ate my brains for dinner, while somewhere the scan sequence vomited a useless data simulation of my mangled psi.

It was over in less than a minute — subjective time of about fifty years. The mesh dropped into my lap. I brushed it off and kicked it away, wanting to spit.

Braedee was staring into the air, at me, but through me. I looked over my shoulder but there was only the single wall that backed me up. "She was right," he murmured. "The shape of your profile is ... well, see for yourself." He really was looking at me now.

I didn't see him move, but suddenly the sun disappeared behind him, and instead my scan profile flashed across space in pure light lines of red, blue, and green. Data into symbol — making it comprehensible for humans, who had to input everything the hard way. I stared at the dead end that had turned me into a deadhead, the wall I'd built myself and couldn't tear down again. "Seen. It."

The image disappeared. I blinked at the sudden reappearance of the sun. "All right. Give him the patch," Braedee said.

One of the guards stepped forward again, and stuck another patch over the vein in my neck. "Leave it there for twelve hours, or you'll regress," he said.

I nodded, and waited a minute longer before I tried to speak again. "Okay, deadhead." My voice was raw and shaky, but I heard what I expected to. "I'm ready for the reason. It better be good."

His mouth lifted, just a little, like I amused him. Then the thin, pale lips stretched over his teeth again; he pressed his fingertips into a steepie on the lifeless surface of his desk. "You were once briefly ... involved ... with Lady Jule taMing, who is a member of the founding family of Centauri Transport."

"A friend," I said. "I was her friend. I'm still her friend."

He frowned, at the interruption, or the implication. My own face appeared suddenly in the air behind him: a little younger, a lot thinner, hair curly and white-blond, skin brown, eyes green and slit-pupiled. The story of my life was summed up in about half a dozen depressing lines underneath it. No living relatives ... criminal record ... psionic dysfunction ...

"We know all about your ... relationship with the Lady and Dr. Siebeling, her husband," he went on, still frowning. "About their Center for Psionic Research, about the ... service you performed for the Federation Transport Authority." He seemed to be having a hard time getting the words out, coughing slightly every time the taste got too acid for him.

"I'll bet. I'll bet the FTA would be amazed at how much you know about that." I leaned back, putting one boot up on the couch. One of the guards moved forward and slapped it down.

"That patch on your neck comes off just as easily as it went on." Braedee stared at me, not blinking. I realized he never seemed to blink. I wondered if he was really alive. I couldn't tell.

I swore under my breath, suddenly feeling stupid for saying anything. Stupid and scared again. Nobody sane crossed a combine the size of Centauri and opened their mouth about it. Just seeing a uniform was still enough to make my stomach knot. I'd had a lot of run-ins with Corpses in my life, enough to know that if they had you they always made you pay. The only people who knew where I was right now were all Centauri Corpses, and all in this room with me. And there were worse things than a speech impediment.

"All right," I mumbled, not meeting his eyes. "What do you want?"

"We need a telepath. As I said before." He leaned back in his seat, easing off. His drape flashed and shimmered as he took a deep breath. "Lady Jule recommended you. She said that even though you were young, you were ... extremely intelligent, and ... loyal." He shifted again. He looked like he trusted her judgment about as much as he trusted me right now. But I was here, and that meant either he did believe her, or he was desperate. Maybe both.

I thought about Jule, let her face form in my mind, the details getting a little hazy when I tried to focus on them now. The surprise was back in place, hot as coals: that Jule would tell her family anything about me; that they'd ever want anything to do with a psion. Jule was a psion, like I was. Her freak-hating family had made her life a living hell because of it, until she'd finally tried to cut all her ties with them. But blood was still thicker than water, and the taMings were a family with a long reach. They didn't like to lose something that belonged to them, even if it was flawed. They kept in touch.

"Why'd you snatch me, then?"

"Would you have come, if we'd simply asked you?"

I thought about it. "No."

He raised his eyebrows, as if that was all the explanation it needed.

"That heart sign on the museum wall ... you think of that?"

He shook his head. "Lady Jule suggested we do something ... unusual to attract your attention."

My mouth twitched. I jerked my head at the image in the air behind him. "You don't want me. I'm brain-damaged." The way they'd brought me here told me enough about what I could expect if I hired on as a corporate telepath. And I couldn't imagine anything they'd want that I'd ever want to do for them.

"That blockage is self-inflicted." He half frowned, as if he couldn't imagine why having somebody die inside your mind might make some part of you want to dig a hole and never come out of it again. He was right. He couldn't imagine. "It isn't irreversible. Lady Jule suggested that you might even find working for us to be a therapeutic experience."

I shook my head. "I don't believe that."

His face hardened. He was allowed to believe that I'd lie to him, but I didn't have the same right. "I have a communication from the Lady," he said. "She realized that you might be skeptical."

I leaned forward on the couch. "Let me see it."

"When I'm ready." My picture on the invisible screen behind him ate itself. The sun was back over his shoulder again. "First you hear me out. This is no ordinary security position we're offering. I'm not stupid enough to think that would interest someone like you. And you hardly fit our profile." I smiled; he didn't. "This is a matter that concerns the taMing family personally. One of them, Lady Elnear, has had attempts made on her life. So far we have successfully blocked the attacks. But we have been unable to discover why the attempts are being made."

"You mean she's such a wonderful human being she doesn't have any enemies?" I said sourly.

The frown came back. "On the contrary. There are any number of competing interests that could be considered Centauri's enemies ... her enemies. Lady Elnear's holdings have united Centauri and ChemEnGen," as if that was supposed to mean something to me. "She is the widow of Gentleman Kelwin, and fills his seat on our board, as well as being the lynchpin stockholder of our merger lease with ChemEnGen. She also votes for our interests in the Federation Assembly."

"Oh." She was either one hell of a woman, or a complete pawn. I thought I could guess which. "And you want me to find out which one wants her dead?" If all their best snoopware couldn't track it, I could hardly believe they thought I'd have better luck.

But he nodded. "You would function as her aide, accompanying her at all times. Lady Jule suggested that using your ... abilities to protect another person might help your condition."

I sat up straight. "The person would have to matter. Lady Elnear doesn't mean shit to me, and neither do the interests of Centauri Transport." I shook my head, starting to get my nerve back. "Anyway, I've been through enough therapy to change the lives of everyone on a planet, but I still can't keep control of my psi. I used to be good enough — maybe — to do what you want me to do, but not any more. If you really want Lady Elnear safe, find somebody else."

He didn't answer me at first. But then he said, "There are drugs that can make it possible. That can block the kind of pain that's crippling you. We can get them for you."

I looked down. "I know," I said, finally. I looked up at him again. "There are drugs that will let you walk around for days on a couple of broken legs, too."

His fingers began to move one by one, tapping a silent code on his black desktop; spelling out his impatience. He looked at me, his mouth thinning. "Centauri will make it worth your while."

I shook my head again. "Sorry. I've already got something to do. You interrupted it. Take me back to the Darwin." I got to my feet.

"If you wish." Braedee leaned back in his seat and cracked his knuckles. "But your credit is down to three meaningful digits, and your tuition will be due again at the end of this term. What are you going to do then?" It wasn't just curiosity; the words were a knife blade pricking my ribs. "Yes," he said, smiling, "we really do know all about you."

I felt the helpless anger try to choke me again. I hadn't even had a rating or a databand until three years ago; hadn't even existed to the galactic Net that monitored the lives and fortunes of everybody worth noticing, from the day they were born to the day they died. Then I'd been paid off for my "service" to the Federation with a rating that made me dizzy, and the freedom of a galaxy to spend it in. I hadn't been stupid enough to think it would last forever. But I'd lived my entire life in the bottom of a sewer. I had a lot to learn, and a lot to forget, and I'd wanted to see what I'd been missing all my life. So I'd signed up for the Floating University, which cost a lot.

"No smart answer?" Braedee asked, pressing a little harder. "Did you really think that repository for the spoiled offspring of privilege was going to prepare you to live in a high-level technological society?" I felt my mouth tighten; so did he. The smile started to come out on his face again. "I understand that until about three years ago you were completely illiterate. ... Of course, given enough time and training, you'd be marginally employable, although your lack of social skills would probably keep you in a low-level position. But you aren't just ignorant — you're also a psion. You look very Hydran. I don't have to tell you what that means."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Catspaw by Joan D. Vinge. Copyright © 1988 Joan D. Vinge. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Catspaw (Cat Series #2) 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
hrissliss on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Cat, the main character of Vinge's previous book "Psion", is summoned by the taMing dynasy to protect one of its members from murder. While there, he discovers that plots are thicker than water.Another old favorite, which I decided to reread. Again, growth of experience has taught that these are not the best of all authors, but Vinge is still pretty good at turning a story. She manages to keep the character dark and angsty without falling into incessant whining. Again, the mystery is one which is revealed as you go along, rather than having all the clues explained at the very end. It's interesting seeing a sort of sci-fi adaptation of "The Great Gatsby", though with more of a tech-murder-conspiracy angle. (So, really, the only way it relates to Gatsby is the fascination with the ultra-rich. My apologies.) I'd include it in the genre of cyberpunk, or at least a precursor. It has most of the elements - rampant technology, worlds which function largely without laws, the delicious seamy underside, the anti-hero. Quick, fun read, especially for those who prefer sci-fi (of course) and darker themes. 7/10
selfmanic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great I love the entire series by Vinge. Catspaw is my favorite however. A wonderful look at a future time and place with such amazing characters.
zette on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Cat is half Psion and half human, an outcast who used to have telepathic powers until he lost them in a battle to the death. Now he's been dragged into a dangerous game of high level corporate intrigue when he is kidnapped by the powerful taMing clan, given drugs that bring back his ability, and set as a bodyguard against assassins.Cat doesn't want the job, but he is asked to help by a friend. Before long, he's pulled deep into the web of lies, love and deceit that reaches beyond the corporate control into the highest levels of government. He's never been trained for this kind of work. He doesn't understand the culture, and the people he is protecting don't trust him. It's a combination that is bound to lead to disaster.This is a fascinating, and fast-paced, science fiction tale that weaves an unlikely character into a believable future. Catspaw is the middle book of a trilogy -- Psion, Catspaw, Dreamfall . It is also something that is very rare, the best of all three. Usually a middle book suffers from being neither the start nor the end of a story. However, because so many years fell between the writing of Psion and Catspaw, Joan D. Vinge's storytelling abilities had matured, and the book has an incredible depth of character development and cultural worldbuilding. Cat is the kind of character a reader can understand -- the outsider who finds his courage and his morals challenged, and shows himself better than many of the people he is now forced to work for.Filled with thrills, this book gets my highest recommendation for straight out excitement and fun. This is a truly timeless science fiction tale that can be read with as much pleasure today as it was when first published.
laranth on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The politics of the mega-companies called combines are cutthroat, and the combine security branches are not beyond assasination of rival board members. So when Cat is manipulated into serving as bodyguard for a combine board member, he tries to hope for the best... as if he wanted anything to do with these creeps in the first place! And to make matters worse, the combine wants him to use his psi--against the law, but more importantly, in defiance of the dance of back-stabbing manners of the combine elite politics.
melannen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The second of Vinge's books about Cat, and probably my favorite. This draws more heavily on the psiberpunk elements than either of the others, though the plot (revolving around a democratic election) gives it a slightly less jaded tone. Cat's abilities give the reader a chance to see a wonderful cast of new characters shine; Cat himself, thrown into a snake pit with only his wits to rely on, comes into his own. There's a fair bit of sex and sexual violence here, but I found it extremely well done, relevant, damaging, and also hot.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've read this book over and over through the years and I always find it refreshing and familiar to read again. I've given this book away so many times that I had re-buy it to put back on my shelf...for myself. If you've read this book, or not, get the other two books. But by itself, it's like a big, juicy meal that hits the spot every time. The biggest appeal of Joan D. Vinge, to me, is that her books are always character driven. The Sci-fi is almost like an afterthought when dealing with complex issues of loyalty, betrayal, friendship, idealism and trust...Once you meet Cat, he awakens the fearless part of your youth that needs tempering, yet recognizes the fear of loss....Buy it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this story years ago, when I was about thirteen, and it's completely stuck with me. Though admittedly there are some odd parts to it that not everyone may like, I still look back very fondly at it, and recall how much I adored the protagonist.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's a great science-fiction, great storyline. altogether a great book!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I LOVED THIS BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!it was the best in the series i think there should be fourth a book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Theres a problem i have only read the great CatsPaw but i couldnt put it down.This is truly the best book I have ever read> im goin to read the others now.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Though an orphan street punk, Cat used his psionic abilities to save the galaxy from a peer (see PSION), but his reputation formed that has traveled light years to earth. When someone tries to kill Lady taMing, head of the wealthy and powerful family that runs Centaur Transport, her supporters abduct Cat to provide psionic protection to her. His kidnappers drug Cat, so that the half-breed cannot use psychic powers against them, but provide an antidote so that he can protect Assembly member Lady taMing. However, while doing his new job keeping his client safe, Cat uncovers secrets about powerful individuals including taMing family members who will kill him to keep their skeletons in the closet. CATSPAW is a powerful science fiction that describes an astonishing New York City in a few centuries. The well-designed plot provides a complex multiple helix of a political and social futurology that will stun readers on its realistic but different outlook. However, in building her lush realm, Joan D. Vinge pays a price as the massive particulars that serve as the theme¿s center with its future¿s profundity also keeping the story line from attaining light speed. Still, this sequel will please the author¿s fans and anyone who relishes galaxy building as a key ingredient of a novel set several hundred years into the future. Harriet Klausner
Guest More than 1 year ago
one of the greatest novels written by joan d. vinge!!! i would hope she would give us the pleasure of writing another book to follow the three i have already read and re-read numerouse times. the best of the three about Cat with relatable characters and changing storyline. a must read for all good sf story lovers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. Cat is such a great character. I have read the books in this series a few times over. I wish she would write more books about this wonderful character.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the CATSPAW so much i couldn't put it down!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've read this book more than 5 times and still want to read it more. I'm reading it now for the 6th time and I love it! The detail that the author gives is just so explicit and seethrough that I can't even remember all that was written and I have to read the book again and again . I also read the 1st book 'Psion' and that was absolutly magnificent!!! This book and Catspaw are simply the masterpieces of a truelly amazing talent.