Jeff and Ron Collins—the original Cruise Brothers—first played music together as youthful teens down in the basement of their home in Louisville, Kentucky.

No grass, but a lotta grapes! (inside joke, there)

Then Jeff fiddled around with theater and improv before hightailing it out to Los Angeles to become a rock star, and Ron found his way through engineering and into the life of a high-powered icon in the science fiction field.

Or something like that.

These days you can find Jeff playing with Gabble Ratchet—the west coast's premiere Genesis tribute band—and the Alice Cooper tribute band Pretties For You.

Ron's short fiction has received a Writers of the Future prize and a CompuServe HOMer Award. His short story "The White Game" was nominated for the Short Mystery Fiction Society's 2016 Derringer Award. With his daughter, Brigid, he edited the anthology Face the Strange.

The Intergalactic Veterinarian of the Year! by Ron Collins & Jeff Collins

Take a madcap cruise through interstellar space!

James and Lyn Moore—the talented but befuddled musicians that make up the Intergalactic Band of Brilliance—play their most important show yet, a headline gig on an interstellar cruise line. Frisky, their newly adopted cat, just wants to have feline fun. When the cruise line hosts the "Intergalactic Veterinarian of the Year" tour, a rock star veterinarian demands Frisky volunteer for his groundbreaking reveal of Smart Dust.

Soon the cat and his boys become entangled in a galaxy-spanning net of intrigue, secret agents, and organized crime.

Can the boys avoid the brig long enough to make a name for themselves?

Can Frisky save the universe?

Who will operate the food dispenser if he can't?


THE INTERGALACTIC VETERINARIAN OF THE YEAR is a way-out Cruise Brothers novel filled with music, mayhem, and mystery from bestselling science fiction author Ron Collins and his brother, veteran guitarist Jeff Collins.


When Ron and Jeff Collins told me that they planned to collaborate on a book project that incorporated Jeff's music with Ron's storytelling skills, I didn't realize the book would include a cat. Or such a quirky title. Or outer space. I should have expected it though. Their imaginations combine like great harmonies. Plus, they should get the StoryBundle of the Month award for best title. This book is new and exclusive to the bundle. – Kristine Kathryn Rusch




High in the rafters where his Maltese fur helped him blend into the shadows, Frisky the cat sat on a thin pipe that ran across the stage. He had hunched down to keep his profile low and had opened his eyes wide to keenly study the lighting bots that were running back and forth on their tracks to keep spotlights on the performers.

Frisky observed cautiously as the bots flipped beams of light from purple to gold to scintillating rainbows. The brothers' song rolled along, though why anyone cared was beyond him. There were so many other things to pay attention to, after all.

Fascinating, the cat thought as the nearest bot zigged and zagged, twittering and clattering with mechanical precision.

He pondered why the bots were not pointing their lights at a cat.

This made no sense. If there was a cat in the room, it should be the center of all attention. And, given the theme of this cruise, there were most definitely cats in the room.

Several, actually.

Not that he cared for them beyond noting the normal sense of social hierarchy that was being so rudely and so typically ignored.

Of course, this was a two-way horror for his feline sensibility.

While cats deserved such attention, as a rule, they did not want it.

Not often, anyway.

Except when they did.

And except that such attention should be provided, of course. And except to note that the lack thereof required meting out proper punishments of scratching and biting.

This was the dichotomy that came with being a cat, though.

He did not mind such weighty dissonances.

Luckily, the service bots drew Frisky's attention.

Service robots were not tasty, but they were fun to play with.

If nothing else, pouncing on them helped hone his sense of timing—and it was always exciting later when he could watch the crew try to figure out what had happened to their toys as they tried to put them back together again.

One of the devices drew closer.

Frisky's claws ached for action.

His tail twitched.

Below, the boys were playing their ridiculous instruments and strutting around like they were something to pay attention to. They were okay, Frisky supposed. Loud and bothersome at times, but better than the idiot he'd been with before them. At least Lyn and James were both voice-tied to the food generator, and both knew how to work it. Since there were two of them, it was also easy to dupe them into feeding him twice. Frisky liked his meats.

And he liked playing with their instruments when they weren't around, too, except when they fell over and made that horrible clatter the brothers called music.

But mostly Frisky liked that neither was particularly diligent with the doors when they left the cabin. It meant it wasn't hard for a motivated cat to slip out whenever the mood hit.

And, if nothing else, Frisky was always a motivated cat.

The closest bot whined nearby as it flashed a twisting purple beam toward the stage. Below, the boys' sounds were just as loud and obnoxious as any other time they played.

Frisky waited while the bot dodged first one way, then the next, until ... finally … it was nearby.

He flew across the mechanical rafters, then leaped up to crash into the metallic body.

The tiny bot flipped over onto its tiny back and gave a deliciously satisfying squeal as its lifters broke from the trail it was following and its case clattered against the flat plane of the rail it had been traversing.

Rolling uncontrollably, the bot's purple light suddenly flashed in Frisky's face.


He was blind!

Seeing nothing but glowing red globs, unable to help himself, and with reflexes like the cat he was, Frisky jumped away.

His front paws hit what might have been a bot rail.

Then slipped.


He was tumbling then, yowling, and twisting, and ducking one shoulder down like he knew how to do, tucking and turning his backside around, sweeping his tail forward then back to get himself under control, but still falling through open air toward the stage below.

A twist of the head and he was at least oriented properly.

His eyesight partially returned as he extended his claws, bracing his legs for impact. Glancing down, he saw he was going to land …

right …

on …

James's …



A moment later, he brought his descent to an abrupt halt by sinking his claw into James's flesh. The landing was perfect. His claws sunk in deeply, and the sound of ripping fabric from James's outfit let everyone know he was fine.

Between song beats though, James gave a sharp scream.

Lyn kept playing as, in one motion, Frisky retracted his claws and used the momentum from his arrested tumble to roll away, landing in perfect control back on the stage.

A moment later, Lyn, too, stopped playing.

The audience sat stunned.

"Mrrroww," Frisky called as he shook his fur out, stretched, and then, standing taller and with eyes bright, sat down and gazed around at the stage.

Well, he thought, that was fun.

The audience broke out in unrestrained laughter.

"What the hell?" James said, finally focusing on the cat as he stood whimpering and cradling his shoulder, trying to staunch the blood that was just now beginning to well up.

"Meet our little kitty!" Lyn called to the audience, motioning toward Frisky as the laughter subsided. "He's a bit of a monster, but at least he's our monster!"

"Meow," Frisky called again.

More laughter.

"Now I am going to kill you!" James cried.

Finally in control of his senses again, James grabbed his guitar by the neck and swung it as if it was a hammer of the gods and he was preparing to bean the cat.

Frisky remained impassive.

Try me, he thought. Just try me.

He raised one paw with a single talon unsheathed. The talon point caught the light.

Now the laughter was deafening.

"Go on!" someone yelled encouragement to Frisky. "Bite him!"

"Claw him!"

"Scratch his eyes out!"

Frisky flicked his ear, his equivalent of rolling his eyes.

They thought it was part of an act! People are so stupid.

"Come on now, James!" Lyn said, catching his brother's swinging guitar in mid-swoop. "We can't be killing the cat here among all these veterinarians!"

"Just watch me!" James ripped the instrument from Lyn's hand as the crowd broke into unconstrained laughter. The only thing that saved Frisky this time was that James's shoulder gave out while he raised the guitar. The crowd calmed only a little.

That's one nice looking scratch, Frisky thought as he took in his earlier handiwork on James's guitar. But it needs another to get the full aesthetic.

Plans filled his head.

Lyn jumped into the moment.

"Sorry to report that killing the cat's not happening tonight, James. But you know what we can, do, right?"

"What's that?"

"We can play these good people our favorite cat song! They practically requested it!"

Lyn took a pose and let a chord ring out.

Bite me!
Scratch me!
Claw me!

The crowd laughed again.

"Veterinarians from around the universe," Lyn said. "I hope you enjoy this rendition of Frisky!"

Reluctantly, and with great care, James shouldered his instrument and took his part.

Aw Frisky, tear my eyeballs out, scratch the hell out of me, Frisky

Aw Frisky, why don't you scratch my throat, spill my blood onto my coat

I don't like the way you treat my cat

You better get out of here you dirty rat

Well I'm sorry he scratched you on the ball

But you shouldn't run naked down the hall

Frisky my kitty, hurt my buddy, Frisky

Frisky my kitty, hurt my buddy, Frisky

My cat's not nasty he's rather nice

Except maybe for a couple of mice

Ya he might have a temper and get out of line

But truth be told he's a damn fine feline

Well I don't like the way that you treat my cat

You better get out of here you dirty rat

Well I'm sorry he scratched you on the ball

But you shouldn't run naked down the hall

Frisky my kitty, hurt my buddy, Frisky

Frisky my kitty, hurt my buddy, Frisky

Unimpressed, Frisky sauntered off the stage, taking a swipe at the curtain system on the way out.

The crowd went wild.