Nala crept over the hill as stealthy as a cat, which was fitting as she was one. A Russian Blue to be exact. She surveyed her target, Castle Aberbran, at the bottom of the hill. For any other cat from the Agency it would be impossible, but Nala was the leader of Clouder Number Nine – the elite team of the Agency, so it was going to be merely difficult.
Down the hill, across the remains of the draw bridge, around the courtyard to the kitchen door, and then to Meow loudly until the Caretaker took pity and opened the door. That was the next phase of the plan. A double beep, not audible to humans, sounded from what looked like a collar but was really a high tech disguise for the tools of the spy cat trade – communications array, laser beams, and of course a hidden camera so that Headquarters and Lady Gwen could view the progress of the mission. The beeps meant it was time to get on with it and so Nala started off briskly down the hill.
Once at the back door, she rubbed a paw backward over her fur to muss it up and ensure she looked as scruffy as possible. The more pitiful she looked the better chance at mission success she'd have. Once she had done all she could to achieve the required look, Nala took a deep breath and started making the required caterwaul. It worked. The door opened and the Caretaker took one look at her and bent down to pet her.
“Oh, what do we have here?” the Caretaker asked. “A pretty kitty.”
Nala blinked blandly and allowed the petting.
“You look like you've escaped from somewhere,” the human continued as he picked her up. He looked at the collar but couldn't read the writing in the dying light.
Nala purred, to let the human think she was enjoying the attention. She did enjoy being petted on occasion by the human staff of the Agency, but that was on her terms. This was work and now was not the time to get distracted by the feeling of human fingers scratching her perpetually itchy parts.
“Let's get you inside before it starts to rain,” the Caretaker said as he suited actions to words and carried Nala inside the castle.
He had a fire going in the fireplace in the little sitting room of the Caretaker's apartment. He pulled a basket up to the fire and arranged a quilt in it.
“I had a cat until last month,” the Human prattled on as he made up the cat bed. “I couldn't make myself get rid of this basket and blanket. Lucky for you, eh?”
Nala purred and settled into the basket. Now was her favorite part of the mission- a wee little nap to lull the human into thinking she was a normal cat. She might be a highly trained spy and could, when required, forgo the usual four or five naps a day of other cats, but why, when at least one could be scheduled into the mission? She turned around a few more times to find a comfy position and started the next phase of the mission- her nap.
The apartment was silent and dark, perfect for the next part of the mission, when Nala woke. She looked around. She had studied the floor plan as part of the mission briefing and made her way from the Caretaker's apartment into the castle proper. It was right, down the corridor, up the north tower stairs and left, into the former Lord's study. She made her way there. The reason the Agency had been given the mission was because the castle was equipped with pressure sensitive floor tiles as a security measure; but as there had been a mouse problem, several cats lived there and the tiles were calibrated to ignore a creature the weight of a cat.
Nala reached the door to the study and stretched up on her back paws to put her front paws on the door knob. Cats shouldn't be able to open the door but the Agency's training academy had a special maneuver for it and Nala was the best the instructors had ever seen at carrying it out. The maneuver involved the cat holding on to the door knob and doing a twisting somersault in mid air. Soon enough the door was swinging open and Nala was in.
Nala crept to the center of the room. She took a long sweeping look around and located the wall she was interested in. Then she shook her head in a very precise manner and her collar opened up and the laser beam array came out. The array settled into place behind her head, perched between her ears with a slight whir noise. Humans couldn't hear it though the noise drove Nala crazy but long practice and good training had her staying still while the beam swept down the wall a couple times.
A loud rumbling purr sounded in her ear. It was Erik, back at headquarters, telling her they had the information the Agency needed and for her to move to the extraction phase of the mission. Nala acknowledged the command with a chittering sound better suited to a squirrel than a cat, though her teammate Fiona could make the noise better than she could meow.
The laser beam retracted and Nala made her way out of the room. She did the somersault maneuver in reverse to pull the door closed behind her before creeping down to the Caretaker's apartment. Then she slipped back into the basket by the fire in time for another nap scheduled into the mission. Sometimes it was very good to be a cat.
Around six in the morning the Caretaker walked into the room with a bowl of water and a plate of tuna. Nala wasn't the biggest fan of the fish but it was better than the Agency kibble that she had to take on longer missions. That stuff was vile. She stood up and stretched and prowled over to the plate. She took a few tentative bites of the tuna and let the human pet her. He thought he was being sneaky, petting her with one hand and reaching for the tag on her collar with the other, but that was what she wanted him to do. The name and number of her 'human' was showing now. Nala needed the man to call it so that she could be picked up.
“Angus MacDougal,” the Caretaker read. “That number doesn't look like it is from around here. How far have you traveled?”
“Meow,” Nala said and leaned into the petting.
“I'd better call that number.” The human left to do that, and Nala finished her meal.
“Mr. MacDougal said he'd be here in a couple hours,” the human said when he reentered the room. “So I suppose you can have another nap. Unless you want to play with this.” He produced a catnip mouse.
Nala eyed the toy. She usually was above such things, but she did need to get some exercise or that tuna would go straight to her tummy and she'd be like the late great Nekosan – resigned to walking with her back arched so the tummy fur wouldn't drag on the ground. She made a graceful leap for the toy. The human dropped it. She batted it around the room. She knew that there would be another mission to this castle so she might as well scope out the place some more under the cover of playing.
After a half hour of the combined surveillance and exercise routine, Nala decided she had enough so she left the catnip mouse in the corner she had last batted it into and walked over to the basket. She turned around three times and settled down to clean her unmentionable parts. That ought to get the human to leave her alone. Her ploy worked and she was left in peace. She settled down to another nap. The mission was going extremely well.
An hour and a half later, a knock sounded on the kitchen door. Nala perked up. She heard the rumble of the Scottish brogue of Angus MacDougal. The two humans walked into the sitting room. Nala got up and walked over to Angus and rubbed against the bare leg under his kilt, sticking her tail straight up the leg to tickle places best left alone by felines.
“Och, Nala,” said Angus. “What have I told you about your tail and my kilt?”
Nala looked up at him and purred harder. He bent down and petted her. She leapt up onto his shoulder. He wrapped one hand protectively around her body and stood. Then he turned to the Caretaker.
“Thank you for taking care of my Nala lass,” Angus said. “I best get her home before the missus gets into a further fret about the runaway cat.”
“No problem,” the Caretaker said. “She was a very good kitty.”
Angus carried Nala out to the waiting Mini and set her down in the passenger seat. Then he got in the driver's seat and drove away. Nala put her front paws up on the door frame and took one last survey of Castle Aberbran, ever the professional. One never knew which information might be needed until it was, and she knew she'd be leading the rest of the Clouder back here soon.