Alexander Cattus looked at the castle. The moonlight glanced off of the stone and the water in the lake that was all that remained of the ancient moat. He knew where he was going and what he was going to do, but it was still daunting. He knew he could do it. He had the training. It was just that the magnitude of the task suddenly caught up to him. His clouder, his friends, and even his country were counting on him.
“You can do it,” came Erik's Irish lilt in his ear. “Nala and I are here in the control room. We are with you.”
Alex nodded to himself and sucked in a deep breath. He released it and scampered the last of the way across the bridge where a draw bridge used to be. He could easily gain access through one of the arrow slits and make his way to the Lord's study. Nala had mapped it all out when she was here last week.
He followed the plan and reached the door. He executed a perfect door flip and rode the doorknob as the door swung inwards. There was the wall that hid the secret room.
“I'm in,” Alex purred. “Now what?”
“See that wooden molding, next to the brick wall?” said Nala over the ear piece.
“Yes,” Alex said looking at it.
“Do you see a daffodil amongst the roses?” Nala said.
Alex scanned the carving. He found the flower in question.
“Do I push it?” he asked.
“No,” said Erik. “You rotate clockwise. Then return it to its original position.”
Alex did as directed. The wall panel slid noiselessly aside. The secret room was tiny. In other times and places it would have been a priest hole. There was a table that had a map spread on it.
“Someone has been here recently,” Alex said. The shelves next to the table had dust on them but the map on the table did not. There were also foot prints in the floor.
“I had wondered about that,” Nala said. “The door opened too silently to have been unused in a hundred years.”
“Can you get your collar to get a good look at that map?” asked Erik.
“You got it,” Alex said as he leaped up on the desk. He positioned himself so the collar's camera was on the map. If anyone had seen him, it would have looked a cat trying to do yoga, specifically a sun salutation.
A string of Gaelic curses filled his ear. Angus wasn't pleased by what he saw. Alex started to turn so he could see what had dismayed the human.
“Don't move,” Erik commanded. “The camera is still taking pictures. I'm running every filter you've got in your collar on that map.”
Alex held the position. It was a good thing he was young and fit. An older cat would have had problems. Finally the word came that he could move again. He shook himself to loosen the muscles that had started to cramp and leaped off the table. He took one more look around the room.
“Uh, guys,” Alex purred.
“What?” asked Erik.
“Do you see what I see?” Alex asked.
“If you mean,” said Nala. “Do we see the foot prints that end at the back wall of your secret room? Then yes, we do. You need to find out where they go.”
Alex looked around for a way to open the door. He found another daffodil and turned it like the other one. The door into the main castle closed as the back wall of the secret room opened. It was pitch black but Alex was a cat and he could see just fine, but his camera couldn't, so he pawed the collar until the small flashlight appeared in just the right place to shed light but not destroy the camera's recording.
Alex took a deep breath and stepped into the darkened passage. It wasn't that he was afraid of the dark, he was a cat and they liked the night. He was a trained cat at that. Dark shouldn't bother him. It wasn't actually the dark but the creepy stone walled passage that smelled of age and damp. The passage beneath his paws felt slightly slimy and in the corner he could see the drips had started to form a stalagmite and a stalactite that were mere inches from becoming a column. He had a bad feeling prickling his spine and his fur started to stand on end. But Alex trotted on, trying to get out as soon as he could.
Finally he reached the end of the passage. This time the lever for the door wasn't hidden but it was up at what would be shoulder height on a human. Alex leaped at the lever but missed. It took several tries but eventually he landed on the lever. It wouldn't move. Alex wiggled up and down its length until he hit the sweet spot that his weight and momentum was enough to move it. Alex had nothing to hang on to as the lever moved so he was unceremoniously dumped on the ground five feet below. Being a cat, Alex landed on his feet and was able to run out the door the lever had opened. The door hadn't opened all the way and was closing as the lever hadn't been pushed down far enough to lock, but he was a fast kitten and got through. The tip of his tail almost got caught but he twitched it away just in time. If he'd let his tail be smashed and caught and had to have Angus come rescue him, Alex would have had to resign from MEOW as no cat would let him live it down. He'd always be the kitten you couldn't send out because his tail would get caught and he'd be stuck. Fortunately, kitten reflexes had worked and he'd been saved from the indignity.
Alex turned off his light. The moon was bright enough and the passage had come out next to the caretaker's apartment. If that passage was in use there was no way the caretaker was unaware of it. Which reminded Alex that he needed to get out of there before the caretaker came to investigate why the passage had just been used.
Alex looked around at where he was. The stairs to the where the sea used to be were in the opposite direction from the caretaker's apartment and he ran in that direction. He got down the first set to the landing and there was a barrier claiming authorized personnel only beyond that point. There were footprints that led beyond the barrier and so Alex authorized himself to follow. The tracks ended at a set of tire tracks. Alex focused his camera on the tracks so that the Tech Cats at headquarters could identify the vehicle later, if they needed to.
“Good work, wee Alex,” Angus said. “Find a place to sleep near the end of the stairs and I'll pick up up in the morning.”
“Roger that,” Alex said. He turned off all but the emergency comm systems and found a nice patch of grass under a hedge bush and curled up for his nap.