While Natalia was sleeping the sleep of a feline villainess, Angus and the agents of M.E.O.W.- both feline and human- were seeking intelligence about the island. The aerial drone pictures showed the anti-cat measures. Down to the last ball of yarn.
After the intel had been gathered, the several clouders of feline agents and their humans sat around the large kitchen table of the house that was there headquarters in this part of France. The computers and speakers needed for the cats to air their thoughts were set up on the counter near the table. Several piles of papers and carts were at one end and
“Well, that rules out cats,” Nala said through the computer speaker.
“Natalia does seemed to have planned for you, Nala,” Angus agreed. “Have we any good sonar views of the island's bases and any security measures in the sea?”
Lt. Brewster pulled out a couple of charts. She spread them out in the center. Lt. Smith and Angus each grabbed a corner.
“It looks like the only sea based defenses are aimed at the two docks and the single path to the sea,” Lt. Brewster reported.
“She's counting on no cat deigning to set paw in the water,” Nala said. “I'd love to prove her wrong.”
“You'll get your chance but I think I'll need to go in first,” Angus said.
“So you have a plan?” asked Fiona's computer voice. The big, fluffy black and white cat was studying the map. “I really want to catch Natalia but I'm not sure I'm up for a mile swim.”
“If the plan goes right, no cat will be swimming,” Angus pointed out.
He detailed the plan and the various cats and humans prepared for their roles. Liz and Erik would stay be hind. The doctor would ready the supplies for any treatment beyond field first aid and the feline would run the computers.
Angus and Lt. Smith took a boat out. Angus was in SCUBA gear to make the stealthy approach to the island. Lt. Brewster and a couple of the other human handlers had two boats with cats ready to infiltrate when Angus gave the all clear.
Angus rolled backwards over the gunwale of the boat into the Mediterranean Sea. He dived down and swam to the island. Just as he thought, there were no anti-human measures. He disabled the sea defenses before he climbed out on shore. Then he made his way up the shore and stashed his tank and flippers in bushes that surrounded the cat nip field. He went back down the sides of the paved path and disabled the sensors. Finally, he signaled for the others to land.
It took ten minutes for the boats to come ashore, as they had been far out to sea to avoid detection. In that time he rounded up the cardboard boxes nearest the path so there would be a wider path for the invading felines to take to the house. The invasion force landed and started carrying out the plan.
The invasion went as exactly according to plan, for once. All the human lieutenants and cats working for Natalia were rounded up. The humans were taken to the French authorities to hold until Interpol could deal with them. The cats would be taken to the French Gendarmeire Chat for interrogation and sentencing.
Angus, Lt. Brewster, Nala, Fiona, and Phoebe had Natalia surrounded on the patio of her bedroom. She had just woken up and was enjoying a moonlit repast of fresh salmon when the invasion began but she had trusted her defenses and kept eating until they had breached the room.
“Natalia,” Nala said. “You've no where else to go, so just come with us.”
“Never,” Natalia backed up from her towards the low wall around the patio.
“Angus,” Liz said over the comms. She sounded a bit anxious but still professional.
“We're just getting Natalia now,” Angus answered.
“Good,” Liz replied. “But you and Fiona need to get back here. Now.”
Angus looked around at the situation and the mentioned cat. They could wrap this up in five minutes and be back to the house in just over a half hour. Fiona looked at him. The others briefly glanced his way. Natalia took the opportunity to get up on the ledge of the wall.
“Go,” Lt. Brewster said. “The rest of us have this.”
Angus nodded and Fiona and he left. They ran to the boats. One had already pulled away to take a load of captives back to the mainland but it halted a few feet from shore. Angus picked up the black and white fluffy cat and waded out to it. He handed the cat to Lt. Smith and climbed in.
“Ifrinn,” came Brewster's voice over the comms. “Natalia just jumped for it. All teams on the beach look out for Natalia.”
“Angus,” Liz came into the comms conversation again. “You and Fiona had better be on your way back.”
“We are,” Angus answered. “We'll be there in twenty minutes.”
“We got eyes on Natalia,” Brewster replied.
“Ifrinn,” this time it was Nala's computer voice. “That evil sister of mine has a personal watercraft and has escaped again.”
“Ifrinn,” chorused all of Clouder Number Nine. (Everyone had learned that but of Gaelic cussing from Angus and used it liberally.)
“Brewster, you and the rest of Clouder Number Nine get on the next boat out and leave the others for mop up operations,” Angus ordered. “Now, Liz, I assume something has happened to Erik?”
“He had a small seizure right after you left,” Liz explained. “He seemed all right after that. Then about ten minutes ago he had another, and is still unconscious.”
“We'll be right there,” Angus said. The boat captain looked at him in question. Angus nodded his permission and the captain opened up the throttle to maximum. It cut the transit time in half. When they reached the docks, Fiona allowed Angus to pick her up and carry her. The house they were running the op from was just a few doors down, so Angus just ran with the cat under his arm.
Liz saw them coming and opened the door. Angus put the feline down. Liz lead them to the bed room where Erik was laid out on the bed. Fiona jumped up on the bed and curled around her brother. They had been through much since they had been from the same litter. She started grooming his head and though Erik didn't wake he leaned into his sister.
Twenty minutes later, the rest of the Clouder entered the house. The cats all curled around the siblings and purred. Erik's breathing got shallower and shallower.
“Can't you do anything?” Angus asked his wife.
“If we were at HQ, I might be able to but by the time we get to a vet's now, nothing can help,” Liz said. “Either he comes out of this or he won't.” She took Angus's hand. “With two seizures so close together, I'm afraid he won't recover.”
Angus gripped tight to her hand and with his free hand, he stroked Erik's head. This was the hard part. Cats didn't live nearly as long as humans and Erik was fourteen. He had lived a full life and been useful to his country.
An hour later, Erik slipped away. The other cats concentrated their concern on Fiona. Liz made the official pronouncement and Angus made arrangements to take the body back to Wales for burial.
Lt. Brewster and Fiona took Erik's body home and did the necessary preliminaries while everyone else completed the job in France. Erik would have wanted that. Fortunately that only took a day and then everyone was gathered graveside for the service. As the cat sized coffin was lowered, Angus and an honor guard, culled from the humans of various Clouders whom Erik's computer skills had saved, fired a three volley salute. Then Lady Gwen read a condolence letter from Her Royal Majesty.
The ceremony over, Clouder Number Nine retreated to their quarters. They were on stand down for the next fortnight to grieve. They would do so while pouring over the records of the villa in France. They would go back in the field with Lt. Smith at the computers until they could find a new cat to work with. But until then, they'd console each other and drink cream.