Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Phoebe's Mission

The remaining members of Clouder Number Nine ambled down the high street of Aberbran, away from the train station and the team member they had just left to take up her post. They passed the tea rooms near the train station and the little shops and found the office of the Royal Mail. There Phoebe peeled off from the little group. Nala and Alex watched as she made herself comfortable on the sidewalk in front of the building.

Phoebe was not at all sure about how effective her placement would be. On one hand all the post came through this office so it was central to the town's business. On the other the post was all sealed. But still it was on the town green so it was central to keep watch on the rest of the town.

She settled in the weak morning sunlight beside the door. It was still an hour until the office opened to the public but the workers were already there sorting the post. They were busy gossiping already and Phoebe could barely hear but her collar's microphone would be able to pick it up. Then the workers moved to the back of the office and out of range of even the microphone.

Phoebe busied herself looking around her assigned area. She was supposed to keep an eye on the sidewalk a block in all directions as well as the village square across the street. She took a quick patrol of the area- up the sidewalk and down around the corner. Still nothing happening, so she crossed the street and took a run around the square. She thought she saw something in the rafters of the gazebo so she launched herself up on to one of the support poles and crawled out on the beam. It turned out to be a bird's nest so she ran down the beam and made a series of jumps – to the top of the tree next to the building then to the railing and finally to the ground. If she hadn't been a trained Agent of MEOW, she would have been one of those unfortunate felines, that the humans liked to laugh at, the kind that got curious, stuck and had to meow until a human rescued them. But as she was a trained agent, if she could get up to a place she could get herself down again with no help. Phoebe completed her circuit and returned to the sunlit sidewalk for her morning nap slash covert 
She was just settling in for her morning nap when a familiar silhouette approached her. What was Nala doing back here already? Nala was supposed to drop the new kitten at the pub and make a survey of the whole village before returning to the square. That was supposed to take an hour and it had only been forty- five minutes, so Phoebe looked again as the cat approached. It wasn't Nala but another Russian Blue. She knew this cat. Well not exactly. She'd seen pictures and heard stories. This cat had been trained and served a few months at MEOW and gone rogue. If the stories were true then this cat was Nala's twin sister, Natalia.

The other cat came up to Phoebe and looked her over and walked on. Phoebe got a good look at her and it was indeed Natalia. That wasn't good. She shook her head in the manner that made the camera in her collar focus on the Russian Blue so that Headquarters would take notice.

Phoebe wanted to follow the cat but just then she heard a muttering of what she'd been listening for – Gaelic and not the local Welsh. She had to stay here to record that conversation. So she settled for watching Natalia as best as she could while still recording the conversation.

Soon the two men who were conversing in Irish Gaelic came around the corner. Phoebe picked herself up and walked over to them and twined between their legs to get a better recording. One of the men bent down and petted her while still carrying on the conversation. Inwardly, Phoebe gritted her teeth. She had a low tolerance for petting on the best days and this man was petting against the fur grain and then smoothing down the fur. She only tolerated that behavior from Angus and Liz, but this was a mission so she couldn't turn around and bite the hand that petted her in such an undignified manner.

Finally the man got tired of petting the cat or his companion had urged him on about his business, either way he straightened up and the two walked away. Phoebe followed to the end of the block, which was as far as she was supposed to stray from her assigned look out post. While it would be helpful to hear what the men discussed, right now the mission was just to identify who the players were.

She stayed until the men were out of sight and then went back to the patch of sun in front of the Royal Mail office. The sun had shifted a bit and now the patch was directly in front of the door. Phoebe thought about staying just to the side of the door but the siren call of the warm sunlight was too strong not to heed. She curled up in the sun and settled in for her nap. So what if humans tripped over her, she'd be sure to record any interesting conversations and people entering to send or retrieve their post which was her assignment after all.

The nap was interrupted when a boot made contact with the curled cat. Phoebe woke instantly and hissed. Then she reacted on pure instinct, the claws came out and she wrapped herself around the human who had tripped on her. The human yelped and tried to pry the cat off of his leg but Phoebe dug the claws in deeper.

Once she felt the human had suffered enough for interrupting her nap, Phoebe let go. The human limped into the mail building. Phoebe settled down to clean her fur but then she saw what the human had been backing away from- a cat fight. The local feral cat pack was roaming around a mass of writhing gray fur. Phoebe would have ignored this as not her problem but her collar buzzed in the clouder emergency signal.

The signal coming so close together with the cat fight made her think that one of her clouder was probably involved. As the fighters both seemed to be gray, it was probably Nala and that other Russian Blue, Natalia. Phoebe sighed and ambled over to the perimeter of cats. Sure enough, that was a MEOW collar on one of the combatants. Phoebe tried to get closer to the fight but one of the pack stopped her.

Phoebe raised a paw and pressed the emergency button on her collar. If she couldn't stop the fight, then at least she could call back up. Fiona might have better luck worming her way through. Alex might be able to play the clueless kitten and break it up. If both of them failed then the human back up would arrive soon after and that would be that.

She watched the fight continue. There was blood in both cats' fur now and the yowling was attracting notice but the ring of cats was menacing enough to keep the average human away. The other cats should get here soon. Sure enough, Fiona's black and white bulk was seen coming from the train station. She had no luck either in getting into break up the fight. Phoebe saw her touch the emergency button on her collar as well. That would bring the humans. One cat could be helped by another but two more pushing the distress call always brought the humans. Not that the cats weren't highly trained but they were cats and if they acknowledged they were in over their heads the humans came. Phoebe was a proud cat but even she acknowledged that they needed Angus and the others now. She ambled over to the corner of the square to wait and lead him to the fight. The GPS on the collars was good but not that good. He'd get within a block and then see Phoebe and follow her to where he was needed.

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