Phoebe looked over at her traveling companion, Beruthiel Beauregard, who was practically vibrating with excitement, which in a huge fluffy cat was a sight to behold. The closer the Maine Coon got to her own headquarters, the more excited and thicker the computer generated accent got. It had started when the airplane touched down in Virginia and continued through their trip through customs and their stop at the national headquarters of the Department of Espionage, Reconnaissance, and Paws (DERP). They transferred to a small plane and headed into the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia and Beru started purring more than explaining her team. Then they landed at Greenbrier Valley Airport and got into the waiting car and she started chittering.
The car drove through the tiny town of Lewisburg and past the Confederate Cemetery. Beru stopped chittering and saluted as they drove past the road to it. Then they turned on a long drive that lead to what appeared to be a run of the mill farm, except the number of cats lounging on the porch would seem high to anyone not in the know. This was the West Virginia headquarters of DERP.
The car stopped and the driver got out. He was a middle aged man in farmer overalls, tee shirt, and trucker cap. Beru introduced him as Tucker, no first name just Tucker. He was this base's Angus and Phoebe should rely on him like she did on Angus. Phoebe wasn't so sure but she was willing to see.
Phoebe and Beru walked up to the porch. They nodded to the cats that nodded to them but went straight to another Maine Coon that looked a lot like Beru. He was lounging on a braided rag rug and spat into a spittoon as they approached. He lazily stood and stretched.
“Who's this?” the other Maine Coon drawled. (Tucker heard it as speech since he had his ear piece in to hear the computer voices of the cats but any other human would have just heard meows and other cats sounds.)
“Phoebe, from MEOW,” Beru answered. “She's on loan to us for a couple weeks while her team leader recuperates.”
The other cat nodded. He had seen the paperwork on the international feline exchange and approved it but he wasn't going to let Beru get away with just bringing in a new cat without some formalities even if she was his sister.
“Phoebe,” he said. “Welcome to DERP – West Virginia. I'm Dale Beauregard and I lead thisn here collection of cats.”
Phoebe started at the name Beauregard and looked to Beru.
“My brother,” Beru whispered.
Phoebe looked back and forth between the two Maine Coons and nodded. The family resemblance was there once you looked for it. Hopefully they worked together better than Nala and Natalia. Siblings in the spy business was a tricky thing.
“Beru, why don't you get Phoebe here settled and then we can reconvene here on the porch in about an hour?” Dale suggested in such a manner that it was actually a command.
Tucker opened the front door of the house for Beru and Phoebe. Beru lead the way up the stairs to what had been the master suite when humans had occupied the house but now held an array of sleeping platforms with curtains to be pulled for privacy and empty shelves wound around the room up to inches below the ceiling. It was a bit homier than back at MEOW but very similar to Clouder Number Nine's quarters. Though there were more bunks than in the Clouder's room.
“Dale and the headquarters’s staff as well as my team sleep here. The other rooms each house two teams,” Beru said. “All told we have about fifty cats living here but about half are deployed at any time.”
“And the humans?” Phoebe asked.
“Tucker and his wife Bobbi Ann live in an apartment just off the kitchen. She oversees the physical needs like cleaning the house, stocking the food and litter and keeping the machines in repair,” Beru replied. “There are another seven humans that help, one for each team.”
“You mean Clouder,” Phoebe said.
“We call them teams. Clouder is way too fancy a word for us,” Beru teased. “We're not as posh as you Brits iffin you haven't noticed.”
“I've noticed,” Phoebe agreed.
“Anyway, this is your spot,” Beru pointed out an empty sleeping platform with two nice log cabin quilts on it. “That one's mine” she pointed to the platform next to it with two pinwheels quilts on it. Beru hopped up and turned around a couple times in the quilts. “Oh it's good to be home.”
“We do have time for a wee nap, don't we?” asked Phoebe.
“We do,” Beru agreed as she settled herself more deeply in the quilts. She reached out a paw to a computer panel next to her and set an alarm for a half hour.
Phoebe jumped up onto the platform assigned to her and wriggled around until she was comfortable. The quilts were surprisingly warm even though they looked thin. She would have to ask about them. Later. After her nap. She yawned and went to sleep dreaming of the fried catfish Beru had chittered about on the trip from the airport to the farm. Catfish. Phoebe hoped they weren't related. Some cats liked to swim and her dreams the tasty treat took the form of felines with mermaid tails swimming and playing in the rivers.