Dr. Elizabeth “Liz” Ann Jones MacDougal, Chief Veterinarian of MEOW, and her vet techs, Molly and Steve, were waiting at the side entrance to Headquarters with a trolley to rush Nala into the emergency care ward. She was prepared for anything from minor scrapes to bleeding gashes. There was a neat stack of gauze pads at the foot of the trolley ready to staunch the flow of blood. Bleeding wounds didn't worry her. What worried her was that Angus, her dear sweet husband, who was normally so calm, cool, and collected, had injected, and it sounded like accidentally at that, one of his own cats with a sedative. He hadn't said which one so she brought the equipment to deal with the three medications in an emergency go bag. One would knock a cat out for an hour or so. If it had been that one, then Nala should regain consciousness soon after getting here. If that was the case then they'd need the extra straps to keep the cat in place and not aggravate the wounds further. There was another that would send a cat to sleep and keep them there for a few hours. That one was nothing to worry about. Just make the cat comfortable and attend to the wounds and let them sleep. It was the third one that was most worrisome. That one could paralyze a cat if not administered correctly. Not just limbs but internal functions like breathing. Angus knew how to administer it but he sounded panicked so he might not have been that careful. Fortunately that sedative took some time to get to paralyzing internal functions so there might be time to hook the cat up to the ventilator if that one had been the sedative.
The Land Rover scratched to a haul in front of Liz. Steve had the back door open before Angus was able to get out of the driver's seat. Molly unfastened Nala and picked her up and lay her on the trolley. Steve started checking Nala's vital signs.
While the humans were occupied, Phoebe showed Rhys how to get out of the seat restraints. They hopped out of the vehicle just as Molly shut the door. They watched the humans with concern for their fellow feline.
“Respiration good,” Steve reported. “Slow but steady and pulse within normal perameters.”
“Which sedative did you give her?” Liz asked Angus.
“Number 3,” Angus replied. “ Half a dose. About forty-five minutes ago.”
Liz swore under her breath. It was the worst. She grabbed the respirator mask and fitted it over the feline's snout. Forty-five minutes would mean that they had fifteen minutes to get her stabilized. Number 3 was only included to use on extremely dangerous cats in the half a dose and on cats with painful and life threatening injuries in a full dose. It could be reversed to leave the cat in a coma for a couple days if attended in the first six hours but after that it eased a cat into the after life. It wasn't to be toyed with.
“Why on Earth would you use Number 3 on a cat with a few bleeding scratches and bites?” Liz asked as her techs pushed the trolley into the hospital wing of headquarters. Phoebe and Rhys hurried to keep up. They both wanted to know if Nala would be all right.
“I wasn't intending to inject Nala,” Angus said.
“How did you accidentally inject your favorite cat?” Liz asked.
“I don't have a favorite cat,” Angus said defensively. “I like and respect all my agents equally.”
“Sure, honey,” Liz said.
“Anyway, Nala and Natalia were fighting,” Angus started to explain.
“Ifrinn! Natalia,” Liz swore.
“Exactly,” Angus agreed. “That was why Number 3. But you know how much they look alike and they were rolling around and just as I was about to stick Natalia they rolled so I got Nala instead.”
“Understandable,” Liz said as she patted her husband's arm. “Go write your report and when you're done I should have an update on Nala's condition.”
“Meow?” Phoebe asked. She and Rhys looked up at the Vet with concern in their eyes.
“She'll be alright. We got to her in time,” Liz addressed the felines. Noting the strange cat she made eye contact with her husband. A short silent conversation later, it was concluded that the new cat would be explained in the reports and could be examined after Nala was treated.
An hour later, Nala was resting comfortably and in no danger. They had been able to counteract the sedative and clean and treat her wounds. She wouldn't be able to go out in the field for a week or so but other than that, she'd recover.
Liz left the cat in the care of her techs and went to find Angus. No matter what he said, Nala was a favorite. It was true that the humans weren't supposed to have favorites but it happened. Liz liked the cat but her personal favorite was Erik. She wasn't sure how she was going to handle the day when his conditioned worsened and his quality of life went down and she'd have to put him to sleep. But at least Erik was a headquarters cat. She knew it was even harder when your favorite was a field cat.
Liz found Angus, in Clouder Number Nine's control room, arguing with Phoebe, while the strange cat looked on. He was shaking a computer tablet at the feline agent. Liz shook her head at the sight and stifled her laughter. Her six foot something, two hundred pound, all muscle, husband arguing with a seven pound cat didn't happen often but always brought a smile if not laughter to her, no matter the circumstances.
“I didna 'cwtch'* Nala,” Angus said shaking the tablet with the report on it at Phoebe.
Phoebe, who hadn't bothered to switch on the speech mechanism on her collar, tilted her head and stared at the Scot.
This made keeping silent even harder for Liz. She was used to hearing Angus swear and use terms of endearment in Gaelic but the Welsh was always odd coming out of his mouth with a Scottish accent. Headquarters was in a Welsh village and everyone at MEOW, human and feline alike, learned a few words in the native language. The cats of course typed in it but it was always translated for the humans to read.
“I didna,” Angus insisted.
Phoebe meowed at him.
“There is a way to settle this,” Liz said coming into the room. “Look at the video tape.”
Erik queued up the video in question and played it on all the monitors simultaneously. The room was absorbed in the video. Erik, his two feline assistants, Phoebe, and Rhys all chittered in agreement. Angus had indeed 'cwtch'ed Nala.
“I do believe Phoebe is right,” Liz said. “That is definitely 'cwtch'ing there.”
“Fine,” Angus pouted. “Leave it in the report.”
Phoebe looked smug and hit send on the tablet to officially file her report. Angus glared at the cat and sent his report as well.
“So how's the patient?” Angus asked.
“She's going to be fine,” Liz answered. “A day or so to rest in the ward and then desk duty for a week maybe nine days and then back to normal.”
“That's a relief,” Angus said. The felines in the room all chittered their agreement. Erik sent a message to the two cats still in the field updating them on their leader's condition. He had sent one when Angus and company had arrived at headquarters since Alex and Fiona had heard the alarms and now he sent one to reassure them so they could carry on their missions with their minds relieved.
“That means we will be a cat short for the rest of the mission,” Angus said.
“Not you, my wee man,” Angus said kindly. “This is work for a trained cat.”
Rhys looked deflated.
“But if you'd like to be trained,” Angus offered. “That could be arranged.”
“But first you need to come with me,” Liz said. “I need to examine you to determine your overall health.”
Rhys looked panicked. This nice woman was a vet and he'd not had good experiences with her kind. In fact the last time he'd been to a Vet, he'd woken up in pain and with a cone of shame on for a couple weeks and he hadn't been the same cat since. Still this one had taken care of his friend Nala. So he followed the vet down the hall.
* Cwtch- Welsh for a cuddle or hug that conveys a sense of belonging and home