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MAN-KZIN WARS XI

HAL COLEBATCH

AND

MATTHEW HARRINGTON

CREATED BY

LARRY NIVEN

This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.

Three at Table copyright © 2005 by Hal Colebatch; Grossgeister Swamp by Hal Colebatch; Catspaws copyright © 2005 by Hal Colebatch; Teacher's Pet copyright © 2005 by Matthew Harrington, War and Peace copyright © 2005 by Matthew Harrington; The Hunting Park copyright © 2005 by Larry Niven.

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.

A Baen Books Original

Baen Publishing Enterprises

P.O. Box 1403

Riverdale, NY 10471

www.baen.com

ISBN-13: 978-1-4165-0906-6

ISBN-10: 1-4165-0906-2

Cover art by Stephen Hickman

First printing, October 2005

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Man-Kzin wars XI / Hal Colebatch and Matthew Harrington ; created by Larry Niven.

p. cm.

Three at table / Hal Colebatch — Grossgeister Swamp / Hal Colebatch — Catspaws / Hal Colebatch — Teacher's pet / Matthew J. Harrington — War and peace / Matthew J. Harrington — The hunting park / Larry Niven.

ISBN 1-4165-0906-2 (hc)

1. Science fiction, American. 2. Kzin (Imaginary place)—Fiction. 3. Science fiction, Australian. 4. Space warfare—Fiction. 5. War stories, Australian. 6. War stories, American. I. Title: Man-Kzin wars 11. II. Title: Man-Kzin wars eleven. III. Colebatch, Hal, 1945- IV. Harrington, Matthew J. V. Niven, Larry.

PS648.S3M3753 2005

813'.0876208—dc22

2005019121

Distributed by Simon & Schuster

1230 Avenue of the Americas

New York, NY 10020

Produced & designed by Windhaven Press, Auburn, NH (www.windhaven.com)

Printed in the United States of America

THE MAN-KZIN WARS SERIES

Created by Larry Niven

The Man-Kzin Wars

The Houses of the Kzinti

Man-Kzin Wars V

Man-Kzin Wars VI

Man-Kzin Wars VII

Choosing Names: Man-Kzin Wars VIII

Man-Kzin Wars IX

Man-Kzin Wars X: The Wunder War

Man-Kzin Wars XI

The Best of All Possible Wars

Also by Larry Niven

Fallen Angels (with Jerry Pournelle & Michael Flynn)

Three At Table

Hal Colebatch

To the memory of W. W. Jacobs

Arthur Guthlac, Wunderland, 2427 a.d.

I've been stupid, I thought. Being stupid on a strange planet is very often an effective way to be dead. Even a planet as friendly to Man as Wunderland.

Stupid to go through fifty-three years of desperate war to die on Wunderland seven years after Liberation in a bad storm, on a leave I've spent a long time looking forward to.

But maybe I won't die, I told myself then as the mud fell and slid about me. Maybe I'll look back on all this one day and laugh. I've been in far worse places and survived. Keep climbing, disregard my ankle and get above the flood-mark. Then climb higher. I didn't know then what I was climbing into.

* * *

I had set out from Gerning in an air-car for a day's lone hunting in the wilder country to the east. I hadn't brought much in the way of food or clothes or even weapons. What's the point of a hunt with modern gear that gives the game animals no chance? You might as well zap them by laser with the aid of a satellite camera. I had an antique .22 rifle and a box of bullets and a handy little device copied from the kzin trophy-drier for anything I wanted to freeze-dry and bring home.

There was a good autodoc in the air-car, of course, and a modern communication system. My headquarters could get in touch with me, and I with them, at any time. I hoped they wouldn't.

A long, long time ago, I had been a museum guard on Earth. I had worn a quaint uniform and collected banned scraps of militaria and had also dreamed of exploring distant worlds—had hoped more realistically that with some saving and luck I might one day get a budget package holiday to the Moon to remember for the rest of my life like some of my lucky fellows on the museum general staff. There had been notions of glory and heroism, too remote, too impossible even to be called dreams, barely possible to hint at even to my sister, the one human with whom I had in those days confided. Now, if I wore uniform, it was different and had a star on the collar. But, more importantly for me at that moment, I had humanity's first interstellar colony to make free with as a conqueror—well, as a Liberator, certainly—and I didn't want to waste the experience.

A pity nobody at Gerning had told me about the weather. Apparently—that is the most charitable explanation—it had never occurred to them that even a holidaying flatlander would be so ignorant or stupid as not to know what those black-and-silver clouds building up in the west meant. The ramscoop raid from Sol by the UNSN seven or eight years ago, shortly before the Liberation, had, it was said, as well as causing terrible damage, upset the patterns of the weather. Storms in the storm-belt came earlier and stronger. Something to do with the cooling and droplet-suspension effects of dust in the air. It was expected that things would return to normal eventually. As I had been preparing to depart my hosts had been more interested in laughing at a funny little thing called a Protean that had turned up in the meeting-hall, a quaint and harmless Wunderland animal which had evolved limited powers of psi projection and mimicry. That there were less harmless ones with psi powers I was to find out shortly.

Anyway, the clouds built slowly, and, like a cunning enemy, they gathered out of the west, behind me. I took off near noon and three-quarters of the sky was clear. I flew low, not at even near full speed, over the farmlands and woods, fascinated as always by what I saw below. Much of the time I left the car on auto-pilot, and enjoyed being a rubber-necking tourist. With the kzin-derived gravity-motor, so much more efficient than our old ground-effect lifts,

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