The Ministry of Espionage Observation and Whisker's headquarters were beginning to look like the outside forest was migrating inside. Every office door had a wreath hanging on it. The entrance had a large tree. Both entrances actually. Both the M.E.O.W. entrance and the entrance to the cat shelter that was the Ministry's cover. The columns and railing had garlands. The tops of the file cabinets in the records room had a painted plaster village nestled between boughs of evergreen It was as if the calendar turned to December and a Christmas bomb exploded everywhere. Threaded through everything were fairy lights.
In the kittens training area, there was a tree wrapped in lights but decorated with soft cloth ornaments. The kittens were still being trained so the urge to climb the tree hadn't been curbed yet. The human janitorial staff had to right that tree a couple times a day. Lady Gwen would probably be by to take a turn after the office Christmas party next week. (A ride to the floor from the top of a Christmas tree was a kind of fun and stress relief that came one once a year and she would never leave all the fun to the kittens. The tree was decorated to be knocked over and so she would.)
The one area of headquarters that had missed the festive shrapnel was the veterinary ward. There was a small ceramic tree with lights on top of the file cabinets. A green and red quilt was draped on one of the chairs in the waiting area. The rest of the ward was its usual efficient self. That was because Dr. Liz MacDougal didn't want the holiday to interfere with the business of saving lives. She liked the holiday as much as the next person or cat, but she refused to have pine needles drop into open wounds and sap get everywhere.
Colonel Angus MacDougal walked into the ward with his tablet. He breathed in and sighed. This was the one place he could get work done. His assistant had decorated her desk in his office with green needley bits and it was beginning to drive him nuts. It would be alright when the scent wasn't so fresh and he got used to the smell as he always did but the first week of December always seemed like Christmas overload. He prayed for a mission, as he always did this time of year.
“I heard you had come to seek refuge here,” Liz said to her husband as she walked in. “Christmas get too much for you?”
“Yes,” Angus said as he kissed her cheek. “Can I stay awhile?”
“You know you're always welcome, darling,” Liz said. “As long as there are no emergencies for you to get in the way of.”
Angus settled into a chair in an unobtrusive corner. He scrolled through the end of the year reports. Some department heads got right on those once the calendar hit December. The clowder reports wouldn't come in until the last week of the year as some still had on going missions, but any report that he could deal with now meant more time he actually got to take off at Christmas and New Year's.
He had just finished with the budget request of the Research and Development team ( they wanted an extra hundred thousand Pounds Sterling to make the feline laser smaller and more powerful), when his email dinged. That wasn't unusual. He'd been getting emails all afternoon. No, this was the ding that said the email came from the Deputy Minister that was in charge of M.E.O.W. at Whitehall. Normally, an email dinged the same tone no matter the sender, but the late Erik O'Brian was a genius cat who had managed to set up Angus's email so that emails with that one address in the sender line dinged a special ding. Angus always checked those emails as soon as they came in.
Sure enough, the Deputy Minister had a mission for Clowder Number Nine. Not just any mission. No this one wasn't dangerous. At least not physically. It would be more dangerous politically. The Duke of Glasex was hosting a Christmas Eve party for have the people in Debrett's. Strictly the upper half. The people who would have been called the “Ton” a century or two ago. As His Grace's guests were wealthy, important, noble, and in some cases royal, security would need to be tight. But as His Grace's guests were wealthy, important, noble, and in some cases royal, they wouldn't like too much visible security. So His Grace thought that the elite clowder of cats would be the perfect solution.
Angus replied that the Clowder would be pleased to provide security. Then he took the information attached to the email and created a briefing. He called the Clowder together and they started a plan. It was a good mission to send the Clowder on. They had been stood down long enough. It was time to get back in the game.