Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Job Well Done

Another day dawned over the Revolutionary City, as the promotional material called Colonial Williamsburg. Beru, Phoebe, and the other cats had been there, along with the human support staff, for about a week. It had been mostly boring but they had gotten the rhythm of the place down and could now tell when something was out of place, like now.

Phoebe and Beru sat outside the Raleigh Tavern Bakery, where the crumbs, scraps, and news were plentiful. They were people watching. There were three basic types of people who went into the bakery for sandwiches, cookies fresh from the wood fueled oven, and fountain drinks in the refillable cups with Tri-corn hat lids: costumed workers on their breaks; tourists with their clip on ticket badges; and college students from William and Mary getting the free refill on soda before class. The tourists covered all walks of life from farmers to big city folk but they all had a ticket of some type clipped somewhere visible so that the costumed guides at the restricted buildings would know who to let in.

A farmer, without a ticket, was looking around the little courtyard beside the building and not moving to get in line for the nummy smelling baked goods. He had a backpack and was constantly checking his watch. Finally he walked out of the courtyard.

Beru and Phoebe nodded at each other and followed him out. The sidewalk was crowded. The morning's little play about the dissolution of the House of Burgesses was in progress. The crowd was surging towards that building and the cats had to keep out of the way of all those feet. Phoebe took the right side of the crowd and Beru took the left. The scene of the Governor proclaiming the dissolution was over and the crowd dispersed around the building. Some went to other parts of the city and some lined up for the guided tours. Others just milled around looking at the building. The suspicious farmer did that. He circled around to the back where almost no one was and bent down as if to tie his shoe and let his back pack slide off. He nudged it next to the building and straightened up. Then he looked around saw the coast was clear, except for a couple of cats and wandered back around front.

Phoebe and Beru looked at each other and again silently communicated. Beru would follow the man while Phoebe would look into the back pack. One might think that a cat, a creature without opposable thumbs, might not be able to open the zipper on a back pack, but one would be wrong. Phoebe was a
M.E.O.W. trained agent and could open doors with doorknobs and undo zippers. She dug her claws into the fabric on the side near the zipper pull and hooked a fang in the large hole on the tab of the zipper. She shook her head to one side while pulling with her claws to the other. The zipper opened about six inches, which was enough to see what was inside. It was a bundle of Semtex and a digital clock counting down. Six and a half hours to go. Phoebe unhooked her claws and pushed the button on her collar and excitedly chattered away. Anyone listening would just think the cat had seen a bird in the tree and was calling to it, when she was relaying the information about the backpack and its contents.

Twenty minutes later the bomb was defused and Beru had chased down and subdued the farmer. Everyone thought they were in the clear. That is until Jed spoke up.

Jed's call came from over by the courthouse. He, too, had followed an unticketed farmer with a back pack. The pack had been set down at the base of the pillory, as if someone had taken it off to take a picture in the pillory and forgot about it. The bomb squad moved over there. They had it defused and were breathing easier when Dale's voice came on the line.

Dale had followed a third farmer and found another backpack next to the Governor's Palace. Its clock also set to go off at 5pm like all the others. The bomb techs moved over there and defused that one too. By this time it was getting to be late after noon.
“Guys, there is something you all ought to know,” spoke up Bobby, one of the bomb techs, over the radio. “None of the Semtex recovered from the bombs today was actually Semtex.”

“What do you mean?” asked Tucker. This was weird. Either the group wasn't as serious as they were reported to be or they were testing security.”

“It's blocks of modeling clay,” Bobby explained.

“Thanks, Bobby,” Tucker said. “Remember just because these bombs were as phony as my Grandmammy's Rolex doesn't mean that the next one won't be the real deal.”

“You expect another?” asked Phoebe's computer voice.

“Sure as shootin',” Tucker said. “So far we've found one every two hours since this place opened for business today and there are still four hours to go. I expect to find at least two more. So keep your eyes peeled.”

The cats redoubled their efforts. It would be easier if any of the three suspects arrested would talk but so far all they'd say was their name, they knew their rights, and the name and contact info of their lawyer. The fact that all three had the same lawyer out of West Virginia did seem to connect them to the plot they were sent down here to foil. Which was good news. Only one group of radicals to deal with.

Three o'clock came and Marley found another suspicious farmer with a back pack hanging around the gunsmith's shop. It was dealt with like the others and was determined to be modeling clay as well. The cats got more and more nervous with each dummy bomb found. Were they a test or a distraction? Either way the next could be real.

At half past four, Phoebe rounded the armory and found an abandoned back pack. No human in sight so she called it in. The bomb guys came and she left, to get out of the range of fire should it go up. It was policy that only those needed to deal with the bomb stayed in range. So she quickly went to join the other cats in the end of the day march to the Revolution. Costumed workers playing the part of the Virginia Army recruiting militia members were teaching tourist volunteers to march in formation. Then with the fife and drum corps leading the way lead the volunteers to the parade grounds before Governor's palace. In the week the cats had been there, they had taken to forming a line behind the volunteers and before the Army. Everyone thought it cute that the local cats got in on the parade so they kept doing it.

The parade reached the green and the volunteers were dismissed behind the ropes and the cats left with them. The marching and musket firing drills proceeded as normal. Then they got to the canon drill. The canon fired, but with a louder BOOM than normal.

“That one was real,” Bobby's voice came over the radio again. “The noise was the detonater being exploded in place.”

“So we can see if we can see who set it,” Beru surmised.

“Exactly,” said Tucker over the radio. “Anyone react different then the others?”

“I think I see a guy who keeps looking over at the armory,” Phoebe said. “Everyone else is cheering the end of the demo.”

“Go get that guy,” commanded Tucker.

The cats circled the guy. He was still looking at the armory and not paying attention to the cats. The five felines circled him and at the same time pounced. The combined weight of two Maine Coons, a Norwegian Forest Cat and two others toppled the man. Each cat took a different area on his body and dug their claws in. Dale radioed it in. Tucker arrived in minutes and arrested the man.

The cats' job being done, the retired to the outdoor seating area of the Raleigh Tavern for supper. The management of the Foundation had been informed who the cats were and what they had done to save the place so the cats were fed like the heroes they were. Big bowls of fresh from the cow cream, huge plates of meat, and finally cat mint custard for desert were laid out before the felines and they dined know their job had been done and done well.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A Day in the Life of Angus MacDougal

The alarm buzzed. Angus snaked an arm out of the covers and hit the snooze button. He curled up closer to his wife and the cat that had been disturbed by his movement settled on his shoulder with her head at his ear and purred. Loudly. Directly into his ear.

“Och, cat,” Angus said as he removed his arm from around his wife and batted at the cat. Nala, the cat, moved but only to his pillow and Meowed right in his ear.

“Ok. I'm getting up,” Angus told the cat as he sat up.

“Five more minutes,” Liz murmured next to him.

“Aye,” Angus whispered as he bent to kiss his wife's cheek. “Ye can have five more minutes, lass.”x

He swung his legs out of bed and picked up Nala, being careful not to jostle her feeding tube. The cat was improving and eating wet food but not enough so they were still feeding her through the tube. Liz was optimistic that Nala would have the tube removed at the end of the week. It wouldn't be soon enough.

Angus carried the Russian Blue cat into the bathroom and deposited her on the cushioned bed they had installed in there for Nala's comfort. Nala curled up in the center of the cushion and Angus covered her lightly with a small quilt. The cat normally wouldn't need the covering but between the area on her neck that was shaved for the feeding tube and tape and the area on her tummy that had been shaved for the ultrasound the cat was missing a good third of her fur and got cold easily. Nala napped as Angus went about his morning rituals.

While his parritch was reheating, Angus made up the cat's feed. He fed her. Nala had finally quit shaking her head and covering him with cat food flung from her feeding tube. Liz snuck in the bathroom to see her husband stroke the cat into purring after feeding her. She smiled. Angus may claim he cares for all the cats at M.E.O.W. equally but she knew the truth. Nala was his favorite.

Parritch eaten and dressed in his military uniform and utility kilt, Angus set off for his daily commute, with the cat strapped into the seat beside him in the Range Rover. Liz was driving her Mini right behind them. It was silly to take two vehicles when both he and Liz worked at the same place but with their jobs, it was rare that they left both the house and headquarters at the same time. It wouldn't do to strand one or the other of them at home.

Once at headquarters, Angus delivered Nala to the hospital wing, where Liz and the vet techs would take care of her during the day. Then he headed to his office to catch up on the paperwork generated by Clouder Number Nine. The Clouder hadn't been on active duty with Nala, their leader, on the sick and injured list, but still the paperwork piled up. There was the forms for the loan of Fiona to the Duke of Glasex and the reports for the completion of that job. Then there was the papers for the exchange of Phoebe with D.E.R.P. He also got the progress reports of that mission. He read through that and found that the cats were staking out an American historical tourist attraction. Who really thought targeting a place called Colonial Williamsburg would do anything? But if the threat was true, Beruthiel and Phoebe could stop it even without other cats as back up. Beru might have not seemed competent with her Southern drawl but she had proved to be a smart cat when she had been at M.E.O.W.

Angus finished the papers on his desk just in time for lunch. He went to the cafeteria and grabbed both his and Liz's lunches before joining her in her office. That was the good thing about hanging around headquarters, he could have lunch with his favorite person. Some weeks, their lunch dates were all they saw of each other so Angus and Liz made every effort to be available at that time.

The hour passed quickly, as usual, and soon Angus was making his way back to his office to check his schedule. It was, indeed, Kitten Evaluation Day. He grabbed the tablet with the files on the dozen six week old kittens. They were the offspring of the best agents of Clouder Number Six and Clouder Number Three. The two mothers had been on maternity leave and would get back to active status once the kittens were evaluated. The kittens not making the cut would be placed in the cat shelter M.E.O.W. runs as a cover for the local area.

Lewis, of Clouder Number Two, and Thomasina, of Clouder Number Six, had had six kittens. A one was all white, and another was white with black markings, like Lewis himself. Two more were all black like Thomasina. The last two were tuxedo kittens. The kittens would get names later today if accepted in for training. If not they'd get temporary names until adopted through the shelter.

Colonel Mustard, who ironically held a Captain's commission in Clouder Number Six, had had five kittens with Sushi of Clouder Number Three. Two of them were marmalade toms like their sire and two were Tortoise Shell females. The last kitten was a calico female with the attitude of a runt.

Angus shook his head. It was going to be an interesting afternoon. Lady Gwen would be helping with the evaluations and the parents would be around to keep an eye on the kittens and speak for them. The kittens were too young for collars just yet (give them a week to get use to normal collars and then they'd start getting the ones with basic translation and listening devices) so the other cats were need to tell Angus what the kittens said.

The testing went well and eight out of the eleven were accepted for training. The two tuxedo cats, now named James and Movaise, the calico named Laura, the all white cat named Pearl, one of the black cats named Fedsie, one of the marmalade toms named Creole, the white with black marking kitten now found himself named Clark, and one of the Tortoise Shell kittens found herself named Jane. They'd be moved to the barracks. The parent cats shooed them on a head and would help settle them in for training starting tomorrow.

Angus took the other three kittens, one on each shoulder and one in his arms, to the shelter. He eased them down and played with them and the other dozen kittens of various ages for a few minutes. These cats weren't cut out for field work but would still receive some training that if they overheard something that M.E.O.W. aught to know, they'd report it. The kittens would be adopted in to loving homes but were still apart of the M.E.O.W. family. If they ever needed a home, the shelter at headquarters would provide it. If the kittens chose to receive support personnel training instead of adoption that was also available. They just wouldn't be field agents.

Angus said good bye to the cats and went back to his office to file his reports. Two hours latter he left the office and picked up Nala for their evening commute. Dinner and more paperwork done at home and then finally to bed. He hoped that Clouder Number Nine would get a new field mission soon. He was tired of the tiny claw marks that the needle like claws of kittens left in his shoulder. For some reason, all kittens wanted to play Pirate Kitten and ride his shoulder. He needed an actual assignment or he might go stir crazy doing office work. His last thought was of the trouble a couple o the new kitten recruits could cause. The same qualities that made good agents caused kittens to behave in mischievous manners. It would be interesting to watch though. From a distance as he came in and out of HQ between assignments. Hopefully.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A Journey to the Revolutionary City

Phoebe and Marley made their way to their assigned patrol. It was several miles out of town and dark by the time they arrived. It was milking time so the followed the farmer in and settled behind some hay bales.

The farmer, John Adams (named by patriotic parents after the two dead Presidents), finished milking his two cows by hand and put the pails away for the family's use latter. He bedded the cows down for the night and started arranging hay bales in the empty area before the big double doors. He came towards where Phoebe and Marley were hiding. The cats quickly run and find other shelter before farmer John can see them. They found a shelf of buckets to hide under.

Twenty minutes later, people started streaming in. They found seats on the hay bales until there were no more seats left and then they leaned against the barn walls. All in all about thirty people from a variety of walks of life, there were town shopkeepers, other farmers, a local politician or two, and some state workers from both Virginias. They talked for a bit before Farmer John called the meeting to order.

“Let's get started with today's meeting of the Virginia Assembly of True American Patriots,” Farmer John started.

Over the next hour they planned and schemed. They arrived at a course of action that would let the world know how dissatisfied they were with the current state of affairs in the United States of America. They hatched a crazy plan to reignite the American Revolution and start the country over. They were going to blow up the place where the Revolution started.

The more they planned, the more worried Phoebe and Marley got. Marley told Phoebe, in a low rumbling purr, to get closer because she was smaller and gray and white so she could blend into the shadows. She did so in order to get a better reception for her collar so that DERP could record the conversation.

The meeting broke up an hour later. There was a plan but no start date. They agreed that it would go in effect in the next month but not until all the supplies could be gathered.

Phoebe and Marley worked their way out of the barn as the meeting broke up. They had to get back to headquarters as soon as possible. They had an explosion to prevent.

They arrived at the DERP farm just before midnight. Tucker had been listening and knew they were coming and had prepared a small midnight snack of cream and catfish for them. He had signaled the other cats to come back and there would be a planing session as soon as everyone was back. Phoebe and Marley enjoyed their small repast and went for a nap. There was no use waiting around when they could take a nap. Phoebe was pleased to see the Americans had a similar sensibility when it came to napping on missions. Why wait around when you could nap.

In the morning a meeting was held. Dale had relayed the information back to National Headquarters in D.C. and received orders back. Since they knew who was plotting and what they were planing, the West Virginia DERP could continue with the mission even though D.C. was closer to the target.

The five cats were soon in a beat up old jeep with Tucker heading down the road. They reached the target city, Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, just as the daily activities were winding down. They watched the parade down to the green space before the Governor’s palace for the canon demonstration. The cats jumped at the sound of the blast. It wasn't that they weren't expecting it, it was just that that would make a good cover for someone to detonate a bomb around here. They looked around and saw that everything was just the way it had been before. They calmed down and waited for the tourists to go home or at least file into the taverns and hotels for dinner.

The cats spread out and Tucker made his way to check in to the hotel and get the keys to the Colonial Guesthouse that DERP had reserved for him to use as local head quarters. Dale went to check out the Capitol. Marley went to inspect the Governor's Palace and gardens. Beru and Jeb went to watch the taverns. Which left Phoebe to look through the trades buildings.

She went trough the milliner's, the tailor's, the silversmith's buildings without incident. Then she got to the carpenter's building. There was apparently a demand for rocking chairs since the workshop was full of them. Phoebe, being a Norwegian Forest cat, even if she was a runt, was worried. She had nice long fluffy fur and a long tail. Rocking chairs were the stuff of nightmares. She tried to pick her way through but managed to nudge one and it set a dozen off rocking, as they were packed in so tight. It took all her skill to wind her way through. She was almost to the exit when she miss judged the timing and got her tail caught beneath a chair and she suppressed a yowl. She didn't want the yowl on the record and DERP was listening to her collar.

The cats patrolled and investigated all night and found nothing. It was still early in the time frame for the attack. They would be here awhile longer. The cats joined Tucker at the guesthouse just as the morning tourists were arriving. They'd need back up to keep up a twenty-four hour patrol and the additional cats would arrive that afternoon. Now it was time for a bit of food and sleep. The patrol would resume again in the afternoon.