Hey all you space jockeys and interplanetary folks, and particularly cat lovers today, you’ve just landed on Lisa Burton Radio, the only show out there that brings you the characters from the books you love. I’m your host, Lisa the robot girl, and my special guest today is Darma. She’s a nineteen your old scientist who crash landed on an unexplored planet. “Welcome to the show, Darma.”
“It seems like you guys are doing okay, and making the best of this new planet. My bio says you made friends with someone called the Bete. What can you tell us about your new friends?”
“They’re pretty damn capable, y’know. Decisive, practical. They respect intelligence. Sure, they’ve got some extra abilities. Each of them can do useful stuff like finding and telepathy, firestarting. Truthsense. Teleporting. And K’Ti is incredible at healing. She fixed my shattered hand like that. It’s totally true, Lisa. And, then, there’s the Prime, those that can also change into usually a badass animal. But really, what could be sexier than hanging out with someone who could, at any moment, turn into a gorgeous black panther. I mean, what a thrill. And they are bad to the bone. Xander’s the strongest, as the dragon, but I’ve got a soft spot for the panther.”
“It seems odd to form friendships with people who are so different. I’m guessing they aren’t all that different, are they?”
“Really, I don’t get what the big deal is, Lisa. Most of the time, they’re just like anyone else and the folks that seem to be weirded out are just overreacting. Sometimes they’re stupid kids, like Laren, pig-headed and quick to fight. Sometimes they’re insufferable bores like Cil. They’ve got dark sides and flaws just like you and me. And the way they’re treated by some of the humans, it’s no wonder so many of them we’re keeping at arms’ length until, y’know, I started walking through walls and then I, well, turned into a Kula tiger. Even Laren’s impressed when I do both at the same time. Anyway, Lisa, they had grown to accept me even before all that, but I think it helps I’m in the same boat with the rest of them.”
“That sounds pretty cool to me. How did you acquire your abilities?”
“K’Ti’s the one that spotted it. K’Ti knew it as a magic enhancer from the old planet, even out in the wild, but the rest of the Bete were clueless. Then the explorers said it was a known mutagen that caused enhanced talents and shapeshifting abilities if you eat enough of it. Well, it grows like mad upstream of the river so it’s in fish and game, the water. Only a matter of time before some of the humans were going to find out they weren’t so human. Couple already have and I’m one of ’em. Though, so far, I’m the only Prime, y’know, a shapeshifter.”
“How do the rest of the survivors feel about the Bete?”
“It depends and a lot of it depends on where you came from on the world we grew up on. People like the Captain and my teacher, Corrina Pensa, they’re more fascinated and impressed, maybe grateful the Bete have been willing to fight on our side. And me. They’re actively supporting the Bete, helping to protect them.
“Then, Lisa, there are a whole bunch of kids who grew up in the cities back home and never even heard of the Bete or magic like K’Ti’s. I don’t know that they have an opinion, yet. Just depends on who makes the compelling story.
“But there are some that are freaking fanatics. Folks that grew up in the fringes within range of the Bete camp, people who might have a stray mutant show up in their own village. If they found one, they’d kill them out of hand, first chance. Laren, I mentioned him early, the panther? He was one of those but his mother, when she found out, instead of turning him in, tried to keep it a secret. When her village found out, they chained him up to die outside the village where the dire wolves and wild Kula tigers roam, while they tortured his mother to death. Just for hiding his nature. While he listened, Lisa. He was eight years old. These people are wild-eyed fanatics and what they lack in numbers, they make up for in zeal. I mean, these folks are scary.
“When the rumor went around after we crashed that K’Ti was healing people—healing people—some of them came to attack and would have raped her and who knows what if the Bete hadn’t stopped them.”
“I’ll never understand why everyone can’t just get along. Your abilities could be a real benefit to the whole community if everyone would just embrace that.”
“K’Ti—she’s only sixteen but she’s wise beyond her years—says that someday we’ll all be Bete we’ll just end up hating ourselves, but what it really is, Lisa, is just dumb. It’s like being human, to some Bete, or being Bete, to some humans, would tell you all you need to know, but that’s not it. Everybody’s a person, an individual. Kert is a doofus and so is Laren, but they’re both good people. In the end, who you are is a lot more important than what you are.”
“I know, right. Believe me, I’ve been the outsider, and people don’t react too well to a robot girl sometimes. Maybe a new planet is a better place to live the way you want.”
“Well, it wasn’t that easy. Crash landing on an unknown planet, we weren’t really ready for it, you know. Carnivorous plants—K’Ti helped identify those—packs of attacking wolves and the bugs. You think you’ve seen it all until you’re face to face with an ant as tall as you are riding a freaking dragonfly as big as a small dragon when all you’ve got to defend yourself is a dull machete. That was the Klixit, Lisa. Wouldn’t want to do that again. I mean, we worked something out, but for a while there, it looked pretty hopeless. Then we had to deal with other bugs. Smaller, but deadly with disease.”
“That figures. You couldn’t just crash into the Planet of Eden.”
“Well, no, but, so far the climate’s been terrific and Laren found some native fauna that worship cats like gods. And we’ve got the shipcats. You ever heard of shipcats, Lisa? They are so cool. Specially bred for space travel, they pick people and can communicate with them. And those little buggers are damn fine fighters including a neurotoxin in their venom. That’s right, venom. Don’t get on their bad sides. Since Laren and I are both cats in our other forms, we can talk to any of them.”
“Wow, cat lovers are going to dig these books. I mean shipcats, tigers, and a panther. It’s almost like a shipcat could be a familiar, since they can tell you what they see and hear. Of course, they’re cats, and aren’t prone to following directions.”
“Yeah, they help though, but only as much or in the way they want to. Rather like regular cats. Only with venom. With the ship crashed and no fuel, we’re not getting off this rock so we’re going to have to make it work here and there are still a few unanswered questions like the 10 m high flood lines and the binary pair to our planet that, I swear, is getting closer, though I haven’t verified that with readings. And there are the wolf packs that attack but smell like man—except not any of the men that came with us. Could be a whole heaping helping of trouble still to come.”
“Cats and dogs are natural enemies. Maybe not a problem for the others, but you and Laren should be careful. Any closing comments for our listeners today?”
“In the meantime, I’ve got my hands full keeping Laren out of trouble, helping us develop useful inventions for our nascent colony and flouting Bete and human traditions in turn. Gonna be a heckuva ride, I’m betting. Wouldn’t miss it.”
“If you’d like to learn more about Darma and the Bete, pick up copies of The Beast Within and Nine Lives, by Stephanie Barr.
“Don’t forget to help me pay the bills around here, by using those sharing buttons today. Darma and Stephanie would do the same for you when your character appears on the next Lisa Burton Radio.”
There should never have been a space battle, certainly not one that sent my ship full of fleeing children across the whole damn universe. Nor was I prepared to land on a planet I knew nothing about and would never be able to escape. But of all the things I wasn’t prepared for, it was to find myself dependent on a tiny group of shapeshifting magic users among the refugees, shapeshifters hated by my own fellow humans and yet the only chance any of us had to survive.
I have now seen the shapeshifters, called the Bete, organize and build when we were still chaos inside my ship, even though we had adults and they didn’t. I have seen them repulse the horrific foes that wander this new world. change into fantastic beasts for our protection, and even heal our wounds.
I’m told they are demons and monsters that cannot be trusted, and yet, I have found that our fate relies not only on this group but the leadership and judgment of a boy half my age and many times my power. How am I to hate him? Who is really the beast in this?
The “demon” that saves us or the hatred that divides us?
The “demon” that saves us or the hatred that divides us?
I clearly did not bring enough whisky.
Some language and violence.
Of all the ridiculous turn of events, that hot-headed interloper, Laren, took charge when a flurry of crises descended. Our leader was downed by some unknown disease, our healer mauled in our leader’s delirium, and the humans, as I always suspected, were gearing for war to take us out.
But Laren has discarded his only redeeming quality, his overwhelming distrust and hatred for humanity. That engineer human, is undoubtedly the cause, seducing that cat with her reason. Who would have expected that Laren, known for his short temper, would react with logic and caution as we tried to prevent the disease from taking out our most powerful Bete, save our leader and the healer, both in critical condition, and deal with the human camp, now under the power of those who consider us demons?
I’m not saying Laren wanted to be leader, but he stood firm when older and wiser heads, like mine, argued to leave the humans to their own self-destruction. And Bete and humans alike backed him, including his girlfriend who is now a Bete like us. What will happen now that he plans to attack the humans head-on, rescuing those that are friendly and putting a stop to the faction that wants to take us down? What is with all these new powers the Bete and even some humans are developing? What does this mean for our future?
Surely that stupid cat is not fit to lead us. So, why is he doing so damn well?
Sequel to Beast Within. Contains some language and violence.
Although Stephanie Barr is a slave to three children and a slew of cats, she actually leads a double life as a part time novelist and full time rocket scientist. People everywhere have learned to watch out for fear of becoming part of her stories. Beware! You might be next!
Take a fun quiz to find out which of Stephanie’s protagonist’s you’re most like here.
Take this fun quiz to find out which of Stephanie’s books best suits you.