Fiona O'Brian stood in front of the class of kittens. She didn't
really want to be teaching the class. But then again she didn't
really want to be anywhere now that her brother was gone. For
fourteen years, they had been together- living and fighting to save
the world side by side. When they had left Ireland and their family
together for training, at least they had each other. Now she was
supposed to carry on without him? The last four years, Erik hadn't
been in the field but he had been in her ear and at the command
center making sure that the clowder had all the tech support and back
up they needed and when they needed it. Now he was gone. That voice
in her ear would be someone else. Fiona was glad to leave that
possibility for another day, which is why she was sort of glad to be
facing a class of ten kittens and not some of Natalia's henchmen.
The kittens were
rather active, as six week old kittens in a new environment tended to
be. Fiona remembered those days. She and Erik had been- she wasn't
going to think about that now so she rang the bell on the desk and
the class quieted down. This was their third class of the day and it
looked like they had learned the first lesson well.
“I am Fiona
O'Brian, of Clowder Number Nine,” Fiona introduced herself. “I'm
here to teach you the history of M.E.O.W. Do you know why it is
important to know our history?”
A little white
kitten raised a paw.
replied the kitten.
Fiona reasked the question. “Why is it important to know our
“To know where we
came from and so we learn from our mistakes,” Bronwen replied.
said. “So I'm going to tell you how M.E.O.W. was started and why we
M.E.O.W. was started
back in time of King William IV. There was no Ministry. The idea of
cats as spies hadn't really been thought of yet. But One cat served
his king and was rewarded with the honorary title to match his human.
Thomas, the first
feline Earl of Grey had helped his human counterpart, Charles the
Second Earl of Grey, foil a plot against the then Princess Victoria.
Henry Wentworth, one of the younger sons of the Earl of Worthington,
a member of the House of Lords, was heard making injudicious remarks
about the Princess at one of the clubs. His older brother, James, had
managed to quiet him and send him home but not before the Earl of
Grey had heard about it.
Grey knew there was
no time to get a human spy in the Worthington household. The Earl was
fond of cats and would take in a stray. Grey had been working with
his own cat, Thomas, and knew if Thomas could get into the
Worthington household, then he'd know what the young lordling was on
That evening, Grey
ruffled Thomas to look like he hadn't had been taken care of in days.
Once Thomas looked scruffy enough, he ambled to the Worthington door
and made himself at home. Sure enough when the Earl of Worthington
came home, he bent down to pet Thomas.
“Aren't you a
pretty kitty,” Worthington said. “Or you would be with a little
against his legs, purring. Worthington bent further and got into the
petting. After a few minutes he picked the cat up and carried him
into the house.
“You look like you
used to belong to someone,” Worthington said. “Well you will
louder. The plan was working. He was being taken into the Earl's
townhouse. Then it was just a matter of finding young Henry and
listening and reading what the man was up to.
Thomas into the kitchens. This caused no little amount of stir. While
the Earl had been known to wander down to the kitchens for cream and
tidbits for cats, every time he did, it threw the staff into a tizzy.
The requsite cream and meaty tidbits were produced. Thomas ate them
as if he had been starving instead of having been fed a decent lunch
and tea earlier that day. This plan might have it's advantages. The
Earl of Grey took care of his cat but he didn't spoil him. The Earl
of Worthington didn't just like cats, he spoiled them. Thomas could
have sworn he smelled a salmon cooking. He hoped there would be fishy
bits for him later. This could be fun.
The snack finished,
Thomas followed Worthington back upstairs. The Earl kept up a one
sided conversation explaining what rooms were where. Thomas followed,
his tail in the air, as he absorbed the information. Sure he could
have found out what he needed by exploring but having the whole house
laid out before him made it easier. He would confirm what the Earl
said and add his observations later but for now he trotted along
behind the friendly Earl.
The Earl led him in
to his bedroom and invited Thomas to jump up on the bed and be
comfortable. Thomas didn't have to be told twice. He got up on to the
large canopied bed with dark blue silk satin coverings. He stood and
circled three times in the satin and then settled down. The Earl kept
prattling on about the people in the house while his valet helped him
change for dinner.
attention when the Earl described his sons. James, the heir, was
steady and responsible. Just like his father, except he had a
fondness for his hunting dogs instead of cats. Thomas vowed to climb
on to his lap as soon as possible. Somehow it was more satisfying to
cuddle on the lap of a dog person. Though cat people had their uses
too. Henry, the middle son, was a cat person. He was described as
taking an interest in business but no particular one. His father
wasn't one of those peers who thought business was beneath his family
so he wasn't discouraged. William, the youngest was still at Oxford
would prove useful. It was good that the subject he needed to observe
was a cat person. That would mean he could get close.
The Earl left for
dinner. Thomas followed him down stairs but instead of going into the
dining room with the Earl, he went to the library to scout out any
papers. He hopped up on the desk and started looking through the
letters and such there. There were bills to merchants in Town and for
some repairs to the country house but nothing out of the ordinary.
Thomas cast a glance at the fire burning in the grate. Clearly
someone planed to return to this room, so all Thomas had to do was
wait here. There happened to be a large stuffed ottoman in front of
the fire. Thomas declared that his spot and he hopped up there,
turned around three times, and went to sleep.
The clock struck ten
when James and Henry walked into the library. Their voices roused the
sleeping cat. He was going to be grumpy about being woken up but then
he heard what was being discussed.
“What were you
thinking?” James demanded. “Going on about how Princess Victoria
should never be Queen?”
Henry said. “She's just a female and they can't rule. You agree
“I do,” James
said. “But speaking such a thing in public could be considered
“So?” Henry said
as he went to the sideboard and poured himself a brandy.
“They put people
in the Tower for that,” James said.
“I'll remove to
America before that happens,” Henry said.
“That will break
Mother's heart,” James insisted.
“Better to break
her heart then bend a knee to girl,” Henry said. “You know Prince
Ernest Agustus should inherit Brittian as well as Hanover.”
“He should but the
law clearly gives it to the Princess,” James reasoned. “We cannot
change the law.”
“But we can change
who is around to inherit,” Henry insisted as he resumed his seat.
Thomas kept quite
still. This was why he was here and he wouldn't spoil it by moving.
He was afraid that any movement would cause the brothers to change
“Whatever do you
mean?” asked James, shocked.
“I and a few
friends,” Henry began to brag. “Have recruited a maid in the
employ of the Duchess of Kent. We can arrange for her to have an
accident and that will be that.”
“Are you sure?”
James asked amazed.
arrangements have been made for such an accident to happen Thursday
when she is out riding,” Henry continued. “Maria will make sure
“I still think it
far fetched and a bad idea,” James said. “I'm off to find better
“I think I'll go
to bed,” Henry said. “I have an appointment at nine.”
“In the morning?”
said. “That's when the business day starts.”
“What an ungodly
hour,” James said as he left the library.
Henry followed not
much latter. Thomas hurried out into the hall. He reached it just in
time to slip out of the house behind James. The information he had
needed to get back to the Earl of Grey tonight.
Hopkins, the Earl of
Grey's groom, had been set to watch the Worthington house in case the
cat should appear. Thomas made right for the prearranged meeting
place and found Hopkins. The groom picked up the cat and carried him
off to the waiting Earl.
The Earl of Grey was
waiting in his own library for the cat. He thought it might take
longer than one night but it might not. He had been writing letters
on pieces of paper so that the cat might spell out the information.
He wasn't disappointed in his optimism when Hopkins carried Thomas
Thomas wasted no
time in spelling out “Maria, Duchess’s maid. Horse riding
exclaimed Grey. “That's the day after tomorrow and tomorrow is
almost here.” The clock chimed a quarter to midnight.
Grey went to his
desk and wrote out several letters. He had Hopkins deliver them
whilst he went and got dressed in day clothes as he wasn't going to
get any sleep for the next thirty-six hours.
The Earl had been
right. The next thirty-six hours had brought many meetings but the
plot was foiled. The maid was fired and the Princess was saved. The
King was grateful. He demanded a meeting with the Earl who had saved
his heir and Grey went and extolled the virtues of Thomas the cat.
King William IV was
disbelieving that a cat could be of use, but when the human Earl
insisted could couldn't have foiled the plot without the feline's
help, the King made Thomas of equal honorary rank. The feline Earl
and his wife, Charlotte, the feline Countess, retired to Grey's
Northumberland estate of Howick to be pampered by the staff there.
Thomas and Charlotte
had a comfortable life. They roamed the estate at will, hunting when
they wanted and being fed like nobility when they didn't. They were
both gray in color and had many gray colored children but only four
showed any signs of being intelligent enough to serve as their father
did. It wasn't that the other cats were dumb or incapable of working
in intelligence, but more that they didn't show an aptitude or desire
to the work.
Together the feline
and human Earls of Grey founded a Ministry where those cats, with
aptitude for intelligence, to do their work. It was called the
Ministry of Espionage, Observation, and Whiskers. M.E.O.W. was a
secret not just to keep the agents a secret but because no one would
believe such agents could work.
of the feline Earls of Grey still work here,” Fiona finished. “I
happen to be privileged to work with Nala Grey, the daughter of the
sixteenth feline Earl of Grey.”
A distant bell rang.
“That is all for
today,” Fiona said. “You are dismissed to your luncheon.”
The kittens got up
and left the room. Fiona looked around her. The memories with Erik
were strongest here where they trained together, but teaching the
kittens would be rewarding. Seeing their eyes light up as they got
into the story and the importance resonated was lessening her grief.
She might not be out on the front lines but she was still making a
difference. That was something until Clowder Number Nine was able to