Place of Cats
Once upon a time, an ambassador came to a Place of Cats. He asked to be taken to the King of Cats to pay his respects.
Afterward, when he told the story, he said that the cats sat for some time apart from him, watching each other. Then they came up to him, gave him food and drink, and promised he would be brought to the King of Cats that evening.
That evening, dressed in his finest, he waited to be taken to court. He was brought to court in a strange car that seemed at one moment to be drawn by dogs, at another moment by mice, and at another moment to be drawn by nothing at all.
Court was held in a room both large and fine, but so cluttered with stairs, pillars, ledges and platforms as to destroy (he said) all sense of grace; and such a mass of soft coverings, tapestries, pillows, rugs and draperies was never seen outside a shop.
Cats were leaping, dancing, talking, walking, sitting, lounging, caressing, racing and fighting in all corners, yet all of this was carried on so quietly that the soft breezes could still be heard rustling the shutters, blinds and curtains on their window frames.
The King of Cats sat on an Angora cushion placed on a gilded platform, and wore a crown between his ears. The formality of introduction to the Ruler of Cats required seven minutes to complete. Then a graceful lady-cat approached and claimed the ambassador for the next dance.
Nearly half an hour later, the ambassador was fetching a cup of punch for the lady-cat when he was again taken before the throne. Now, a fine lady-cat wore the crown and sat on the cushion, and the formality of introduction to the Ruler of Cats was repeated. On returning to the dance, the ambassador saw the former King, crownless, climbing a covered pillar in a distant part of the room.
Again, while the ambassador rested upon a platform, watching the dancers, he was brought before the throne, where a pair of cats lay with crowns on their heads, and another introduction to the Ruler of Cats was performed. The first King was now holding a plate of sandwiches near the punch bowl.
The ambassador swore that he was introduced to no less than ten individuals, each supposedly the Ruler of Cats. Courtiers traded badges of honor, liveried servants changed places with the dancers, and the ambassador said that in the end, he left by a window rather than give up his own finery to a young cat with fine brown boots!
A Queen’s cat, confronted with this tale, replied that it was clear from the text that for an ambassador, the speaker was shockingly ignorant of proper social structure.
Once upon a time, a queen lived in a shining castle. The bounds of her influence spread beyond the nearby planets, to other places said to be behind the stars. Sitting and stroking her cat, she issued her commands and managed a society of astounding extent. When she died, her friends and advisors were attacked and killed. But her cat, escaping the slaughter, found and befriended a young politician. Eventually, after many adventures, this young politician became the new queen, and lived in that shining castle. The social-political grouping itself was badly fragmented, for few could reach those colonies beyond the stars. Sitting and stroking her cat, the new queen issued her commands and rebuilt the society. The bounds of her influence spread even further. It is for this reason that cats of a certain type are called “Queen’s cats”.
Etymologists contend that the story is all nonsense, contrived after the fact to explain a phrase that is a perfectly simple corruption of the word for “cat” in an ancient tongue.
In the old days, cats selected their people. Some of these people became scientists, artists, athletes, warriors, and politicians, influencing large segments of the population. The cats remained independent, disappearing for days on end, and occasionally abandoning their people. And sometimes, their people disappeared.
Now, the cats walk openly beside the people. They choose their people carefully, and some become people of power and influence. The cats remain independent and frequently disappear for days on end. Occasionally, they abandon their people. And sometimes, their people disappear.
In the social-political grouping with which the Queen’s cats are most commonly associated, a type of biped appears to be in charge. Again, a proper understanding of the X bias explains why it is that humans would “discover” (actually, recognize) this type of society. Each planet settled by this bipedal race is provided with a single central city of the same pattern as every other. In each central city, official buildings, hospitals, museums, theatres and libraries hold replicas of laws, forms, histories, newspapers, medical supplies, works of art and literature…the basis of that civilization. Should any catastrophe befall the grouping, each planet has a storehouse of material and information on which to draw to sustain its own civilization.
Outside of that central city, the mode of life may vary significantly from one planet to another. The form of government, types of industries, trades and arts, modes of architecture and language…all eventually fall into patterns that suit the natural resources of the individual planets. Despite the strong contrasts between worlds, each planet is called “Home”. Thus, interplanar travelers have fallen into a habit of calling the entire agglomeration the “Home Empire”. This method of speech lends itself nicely to the obscure comments, double-talk, and inside jokes so dear to the notoriously cliquish interplanar travelers.