Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Cat Down

Angus MacDougal stood beside Erik in Clouder Number Nine's mission control room. He hated it when the mission involved his cats out in the world without him. He knew they were highly trained and could go places he couldn't but he preferred being on scene with them. As it was, he was over an hour away and a lot could happen in an hour.

Erik looked up at the human. He knew Angus was worried. He always was. Erik was too. So he offered the human the only comfort he could, he waddled over to the man, nudged him and purred. The man reached down and scritched the cat behind the ears.

“I know,” Angus said. “They can take care of themselves.”

Erik nodded and waddled back to the bank of monitors and computer keyboards. He typed in the Welsh commands to change the rotation of the video between the cats. There was Nala making the rounds to each of her cats. Wait a second. That wasn't Nala. Erik let out a howl to get the human's attention.

“What is it?” asked Angus. Erik pointed. “Nala's just making her rounds.”

Eric flipped the switch that let his speech be translated for the human. “That's not Nala.”

“If it isn't Nala,” Angus said. “Then that cat looks enough like her to be her...”

“Sister,” agreed Erik.

“Ifrinn!”, said Angus.

“Exactly,” agreed Erik.

“I'm heading for Aberbran now,” Angus said.

“But our orders...” started Erik.

“Didn't take Natalia into account,” Angus said. He grabbed his go bag of emergency supplies. If Natalia was back then the mission had gone pear shaped and he wasn't taking any bets on the amount and kinds of casualties.

“Right,” agreed Erik. “I'll let Lady Gwen know that the mission is about to go sideways.”

“Do that,” Angus agreed. “And let Liz know.”

“I'll tell her to prep an emergency ward, shall I?” asked Erik's Irish computer voice.

“And let me know the progress over the car radio channel,” Angus ordered as he left the room without waiting for Erik's reply.

“Aye, Aye, sir,” Erik said as he saluted the closing door. He sent a couple emergency texts to alert those who needed alerting before he flipped the speech toggle to off and concentrated on the screens in front of him.

Angus rushed to his Land Rover and loaded the bag of supplies. He got in and rushed out of the car park and was halfway to Aberbran before he was able to think straight. Natalia was bad news. She not only knew half the cats in MEOW but had trained as one of them. She knew their methods, protocols, and the limits of their operational directives. She had no respect for rules and orders and she knew the MEOW agents would have to follow them. All of which meant Natalia was a dangerous cat because she wouldn't follow any of it and use the rules and regulations against any cat who came her way.

From the previous run ins, of which there had been only two, Angus knew two things - Natalia hated her sister, Nala, with a passion that few expected cats to be capable of, and that she blamed him, Angus, for her being kicked out of MEOW, though she usually said she left over a difference in philosophy.

Those thoughts had been what had spurred him into action but now that he was getting close to the village, it was time to think of a plan. He reviewed where each of the cats of Clouder Number Nine had been stationed along with their probable level of interest to Natalia.

Fiona at the train station would probably be all right. For some reason, Natalia liked the big black and white fluffy cat. They had been friends and Fiona had even been a kind of mentor to Natalia when she had been a kitten. Fiona was the one cat that still had Natalia's respect. That might be useful.

Phoebe at the Royal Mail office was probably safe as well. She hadn't been around when Natalia was at MEOW, having been on a two year exchange program with the Americans at the time. As long as Phoebe didn't get in the way, she was safe.

Alexander, the kitten, would probably be on the list, the very short list, of cats in danger. Natalia usually left the older agents alone but for some reason the new members of MEOW were her favorite targets. Angus reasoned that he should head for the pub. The kitten would be humiliated at having to have human back up at his first surveillance mission but better humiliated then injured or worse. Alex would have to learn that lessen sooner or latter.

“Angus,” said the computerized Irish man's voice that was Erik over the radio. “We have an update on Natalia. She appears to be at the pub.”

Angus tapped the button to return the communication. “I'm ten minutes out. I'll head straight for the pub.”

“Will update you when we know more,” Erik said before the radio went dead.

Ten minutes later, Angus was just parking the Land Rover when the emergency alarm went of on his phone. He looked at the GPS display. It was Nala and she was on the other side of the village. He grabbed the emergency bag and headed off that direction. He was a couple of blocks away from the pub when Phoebe's alarm went off as well and in the same place. He started to run as fast as he could. This was getting bad.

Angus rounded the corner to the park and the sound of yowls and hisses met him. There on the corner was Phoebe. She ran over to him and rubbed his leg, in the signal to follow her so Angus did. They sprinted into the park.

It was both as bad as he had feared and better. Bad because Natalia was indeed trying to take the fur off of one of his agents. But good because it was only one agent. Bad because it was Nala in the fight but good because if there was a cat who knew Natalia's dirty tricks it was Nala.
The cat fight was ringed by the feral cats of the village. All appeared to be trying to keep the fight going except one small tom cat who was pacing around the edge trying to get in. Clearly Nala's gift of winning friends and influencing cats was working. She'd been in the village a morning and already had an admirer.

Angus made a mental note to seek that cat out later for possible recruitment but he turned his attention to the blur of snarling, yowling gray fur in front of him. The fight seemed to be slowing, both cats tiring. Now was the time when he could reach in and pull the cats apart without ending up at the Accidents and Emergency ward himself. He knew the only way to take Natalia in would be to sedate her so he got a small syringe of a sedative out and reached for the gray cat on top of the writhing mass and plunged the syringe into the fur. It was the wrong cat. While he was laying an unconscious Nala out on the grass, Natalia glared at the other cats to make a path for her and slinked away to lick her wounds.

Angus hit the emergency call button on his phone as he picked up Nala. He cradled the cat to his chest as he made his way back to the Land Rover. Phoebe followed him at a full run. She would be needed to fill in the details of the fight and the mission so far. Neither the human nor the feline noticed another cat keeping up with them. Rhys had seen the man take Nala and cuddle her so he was sure this human wouldn't endanger his new friend but he wasn't taking any chances. He would go along just as far as they let him.

“MEOW veterinary,” came Liz's voice over the speaker on the phone.

“Liz, I have an injured cat,” Angus said. “Nala has been in a fight. Lacerations, contusions and bites plenty.”

“Is she conscious?” Liz asked.

“She would be if I hadn't injected her with the sedative,” Angus snapped.

“Why did you do that?” asked Liz.

“I'll explain when I get back,” Angus said. “Can you...”

“Activate the emergency protocol and alert the local constabulary to ignore a speeding Land Rover,” Liz completed. “Already done.”

“Thanks love,” Angus said as he opened the door to the auto and fastened Nala onto the stretcher in the back.

Phoebe hoped up in to the vehicle and pawed at the safety belt and it snapped into place. Before Angus could shut the door, the feline tag-a-long hopped into the other seat and mimicked the movement Phoebe had made.

“Well, all right then,” Angus muttered as he closed the door and took his place behind the driver's seat. “You can come too.” He started the Land Rover and tore out of the car park towards Headquarters.

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