Of all the brave, quirky, heroic and mischievous pets in the USA Today bestselling anthology Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2, mine may have been the most unusual. Jesse Greenfinger is a plantimal – a genetically engineered combination of plant and animal genes both from Earth and an ill-fated colony world called Planet Green. Jesse’s species is called hugworts. With genetic good reason, hugworts look like nothing so much as enchanted morning glories. They are mobile, affectionate, as curious as cats, clean, and space-hardy: perfect pets for space places. Indeed, Jesse is the mascot for the deep space station which is the setting of my story, Mascot. At one point Jesse climbs a station ladder; this hugwort has places to go and things to do (and a few secrets of its own.) This is the scene that our artist, Nyssa Juneau, illustrated for the anthology.
Here’s an excerpt from Mascot:
Jesse Greenfinger, who could tolerate a wider range of temperatures than any human being, but who had a catlike fondness for the warm proximity of its human, joined Daya in her favorite reading chair. Jesse’s warm, furry root-mass snuggled in her lap. It purred.
Two knocks, twice, came from her door. “Enter,” she said, and marked her place in her book, expecting Mattiz or possibly Annis Lee.
To her surprise, it was the auditor who entered. He took one look at her and that mobile face of his showed incredulity, with good enough reason. Jesse’s leaves and tendrils spilled onto the floor all around her chair. She probably looked like an enchanted woman out of a fairy tale, who had sat reading for a summer while vines grew up around her. She explained, “It is no ordinary plant. It’s a plantimal, genetically engineered from plant genes and cat genes. It doesn’t need soil and it can move around.”
Jesse, wary around strangers, slipped off her lap, carefully bundling its root mass in vines and leaves, retreated to a corner, and froze. There’s nothing to see here but a harmless house plant.
Mascot and the other Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2 stories are available from various e-book vendors here. There’s even a print edition – a nicely designed trade paperback that weighs about four lbs (!) and had to be priced accordingly. But this anthology is a steal in ebook form for $3.99!