An hour later, just as Alexander was turning in circles and making a comfortable hollow in the beanbag bed and quilts he'd been assigned, the screen in Clouder Number Nine's quarters beeped and blinked on.
Alex sprang from the nest he'd been making and landed on all four paws with his tail all puffed up in surprise.
“Calm down, wee Alex,” Angus said. “That just means a briefing is about to begin.”
Sure enough the rest of the clouder walked into the room and found perches on the various cat towers and couches. Angus took a seat in the middle of the couch and Nala sat on his lap. Alex looked around for a spot and Angus patted the couch next to him. Alex looked gratefully up to the human before leaping to the spot.
The screen cleared and the picture showed Lady Gwen on her cushion with a half dozen other cats running equipment in the back ground. There was a human visible, Liz MacDougal, Angus's wife. She was the Chief of Veterinary Medicine for MEOW.
“Is the whole clouder there, Angus?” asked Liz over the screen.
“Aye,” Angus replied.
“Then we'll get on with it,” Liz continued.
It took Lady Gwen, Liz and their feline assistants an hour to outline the broader strokes of the current mission and a further hour to give out specifics. It boiled down to the information that Nala had gathered two days ago proved that the enemy had infiltrated the town around the Aberbran Castle.
The town of Aberbran had always had a large percentage of the small town that spoke Welsh, but in recent weeks an influx of visitors speaking Irish and Gaelic began to be noticed. Tourists weren't that common at Aberbran. Not in the numbers seen recently. Particularly not from Ireland and Scotland that had their own castles. Castle Aberbran was in relatively good repair but it wasn't significant – either historically or architecturally, so unless a tourist wanted a good but not great castle off the beaten path, the majority of visitors were locals. The other odd thing about this influx of tourists was that they'd greet each other with “Fe godwn ni eto”, the motto of the defunct Free Wales Army. The last owner of the castle had been heavily, but secretly, involved in the movement for an independent Wales as had his ancestors back to at least the 1700's
The plan was for Clouder Number Nine to infiltrate the town to learn what the visitors were up to. Fiona would infiltrate the train station. Phoebe would take the Royal Mail office. Alex would make himself comfortable in the local pub. Liz would monitor his vitals to see how he did in real world situations. It was a nice and easy first assignment. Nala would infiltrate the local feral feline population and learn what they knew and keep an eye on everyone else. Angus would be ready to swoop in and rescue any cat that got in trouble, otherwise he and a couple other humans would try to figure out how to gain access to the secret room in the Castle Nala had discovered. They need to do so in a way that no one would notice and not damage the Castle.
“Good luck,” Liz wished the Clouder before the video winked out.
Alex jumped down off of his perch and vibrated with excitement.
“When do we go?” asked the computer voice that represented him.
“Not until you've been to the disguise room, lad,” Angus answered.
“We get disguises?” Alex exclaimed.
“Not full disguises,” said the Russian computer accented voice that was Nala. “But you and I look too much like purebreds to pass as street cats and the Fifis look too well cared for.”
“So we'll be ruffled and messed up a bit,” said the Irish computer accented voice that was Fiona.
“I'm glad I get to stay and run the computers,” said the male Irish computer voice that was Erik. “I couldn't stand for my fur to be ruffled like that.”
“So you keep telling yourself,” teased Fiona, his sister.
“That's enough,” Angus said. “We need to get started.”
He went to the door and opened it. He led the way, with Nala at his side, down the halls to the disguise room. In less than an hour the Clouder was ready and Angus was driving his Land Rover with the cats to a field some ways away from the town.
Angus stopped the vehicle and let the cats out. He and Erik wished them luck. Nala raised a paw in farewell and led her compatriots across the field.
“Dinna worry, man,” Angus addressed the feline at his side. “They can do this mission in their sleep.”
Erik rubbed against Angus's leg and purred. He picked up the cat and turned back to the vehicle. He placed Erik in the front passenger seat and buckled him in with a special MEOW invented cat seatbelt.
“I hope,” Angus said under his breath as he got in the driver's seat and started back for Headquarters.