Clouder Number Nine was gathered in their quarters when the main screen blinked on. It was Alan, the chief human computer tech.
“We have something you might be interested in, Nala,” said Alan on the screen.
“What?” asked the Russian Blue cat, after she switched on her translator.
“This,” Alan said.
This turned out to be security camera footage of a cat that looked enough like Nala to be her twin. The cat was sulking around a town that was dominated by an onion domed church. She met with a human in the shadow of the building. After a brief conversation, the human bent down and put a touch screen tablet in front of the cat, who raised a paw and placed it on the screen. The human put the tablet away and extended a hand and the cat shook it with her paw. Then they left in different directions. The Nala look alike got into a limo and was driven out of the security camera range.
“That looks just like you, Nala,” commented Alexander Cattus, the youngest member of the clouder being that he was a nine month old kitten.
“I know,” said Alan. “But we know it isn't because Nala was at headquarters when this was taken.”
“When was this?” asked Nala.
“About an hour ago,” Alan said. “It just got noticed because I ran the Whisker Recognition program again.”
“An hour ago I was with Rhys in the dining hall,” Nala said.
“If that isn't you,” Erik O'Brian, the white and black short hair, said. “Then it must be...”
“Natalia,” growled out his sister, Fiona. Her long black and white fur was starting to stand on end. “It's about time we found her.”
The door opened and the military kilt clad form of Angus MacDougal strode in.
“I just heard,” Angus said, “We found Natalia.”
“We did, sir,” said Alan, who visibly straightened on the monitor at the arrival of his superior.
“Where?” Angus asked. Natalia was a sore subject for the Clouder and Angus and the sooner she was dealt with the better.
“Russia,” Alan said. “I'm running a program to analyze the skyline and figure out where exactly right now.”
“Good,” Angus replied. “Let me know where when you figure it out.”
“Sir, yes sir,” snapped Alan. The screen went blank as Alan went back to work.
Angus turned to the Clouder. They started planning the mission, even not knowing where exactly they were going. There were certain things that were always true of traveling to the former Soviet Union. Angus called Molly, the administrative assistant assigned to the Clouder, and got her working on the paperwork. The paperwork for the visas for the humans was just the start. There was also the issues of weapons Angus would be taking and for taking cats without a quarantine. It would be helpful if they could find some kind of threat that Natalia was making against Russia as well. Natalia's status as a “Cat Most Wanted” by Great Britain wouldn't carry much weight in Russia.
Sure, they could sneak across the border and carry off the mission without anyone being the wiser. But no one wanted to antagonize Russia over a cat. It was far better to have cooperation and that was what they were seeking.
The screen came back on.
“We've found the town, sir,” Alan said on the screen.
“Where?” Angus asked.
“A town in the Sverdlovsk Oblast,” Alan said.
“Where?” asked Phoebe, the gray and white long haired cat.
“Outside Yekaterinburg,” Alan explained. “In the Ural mountains. Siberia.”
“Brr, Siberia,” Erik said. “I'm glad I get to stay on the plane, where it is warm, to do computer support.”
“Actually, the weather report for the next little while is highs in the mid 20 degrees Celsius and lows in low teens. Quite comfortable,” Alan explained.
“Then I won't be packing the wool,” Angus joked.
The screen devided and Molly showed up on the screen next to Alan.
“Commander MacDougal,” Molly said. “The paperwork is finished. You're cleared to fly into Yekaterinburg.”
“But?” Angus asked. “I hear a but in your voice.”
“But the Russians want you to leave any and all weapons on the plane,” Molly said. “That's the bad news.”
“What's the good news?” inquired Nala.
“They only specified Angus and any other human needs to leave weapons on the plane,” Molly smirked. “They said nothing about the lasers in the collars.”
“Ok, we can work with that,” Angus said. “Thanks, Molly. Alan.”
The computer screen blinked off with his dismissal.
“Wheels up in a half hour,” Angus commanded. “Gather what equipment you need and meet me at the Land Rover then.”
The cats sketched a salute with their paws and turned to get what they needed. Angus went to the armory and the equipment room to pack. When that was accomplished, he stopped by the Veterinary Ward to tell his wife good bye. By the time he got to the Land Rover his two lieutenants had the cats loaded and were waiting for him. He got in and drove for the air field. Within the hour, Clouder Number Nine, cats and human support, were winging their way to Siberia.
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