Wednesday, March 30, 2016

They Came from the Sky

Angus MacDougal, the field agents of Clouder Number Nine, and the provisional agent Rhys screeched into headquarters a half hour after they had left Aberbran. They were getting out of the Land Rover when Lady Gwen herself came out of the building.
“Don't bother getting out,” commanded the white fluffy cat. “I'm coming with you.”
Angus held the door as Lady Gwen jumped in next to Phoebe. He helped buckle her in, while hiding his surprise. Sure he'd heard stories of Lady Gwen as a field agent but in the last decade she'd not left the command center. It must be as bad as he thought if she was joining them. He got back into the driver's side.

“The air field if you please, Angus,” commanded Lady Gwen.

“Yes, my Lady,” he said as he headed to the small airfield a couple of miles away.

There was a small military plane on the field when Angus drove up. He parked next to it and hopped out to help the cats out. In the rush nothing had been done about Rhys so he came along too. Into the plane went Phoebe, Fiona, Beru, Alex, Rhys, Lady Gwen and Angus. The pilot conferred with Lady Gwen as another crew member helped the cats into their parachute harnesses. Angus went to a little hidden area between the cockpit and the cargo area and changed into a flightsuit. No one, particularly Angus himself, wanted him to parachute in a kilt. The harness chaffing was only one of the reasons. Only after all the cats were ready, did Angus get into his own harness. It wasn't the first time he'd parachuted with cats but never so many at once. If it had only been a cat or two, they would have been harnessed to him but there was no place for six cats in his harness, though Rhys would be coming with Angus since he hadn't had parachute training yet.

Lady Gwen came back to the cargo area as the engines revved up. The crew member helped her into her harness. They all strapped in for take off.

“Here's the situation,” Lady Gwen said as the plane was climbing in altitude. “The Gaelic League is planning on bombing Westminster and doing so today. The map young Alex found is of the tunnels beneath the district from a century ago.”
“Are we sure they're still there?” asked Beru.
“Aye, just mostly sealed off,” Angus said. That much had been discussed before he went retrieving the Clouder.
“Yes, like Angus said, the tunnels are there,” Lady Gwen continued. “They have mostly been sealed off except for the entrance in the Thames. That one has a grate in front of it. People can't get through but a cat can. Sorry, Angus.”

“Ah, do not fash,” Angus said. “I'll get through, just not as fast as the rest of you.”
“That is the plan,” Lady Gwen continued. “We cats will scamper through the tunnels as fast as we can to try to find the League and stop them. Angus will deal with the equipment and getting the gate open so he and MI5 can provide back-up.”

“Do we know where they'll be?” asked Beru.

“No,” Lady Gwen said. “The map we saw had five locations marked on it. They were in five different tunnels, which is why I've come with you.”

Rhys looked like he was going to say something but Angus shook his head at the cat. He sat back and listened.

“The provisional agent will stay with Angus,” Lady Gwen continued. Rhys nodded in acknowledgment. He hadn't been looking forward to jumping out of the aircraft by himself. He supposed that someday he might have to, but that day was not today.

“Five minutes til drop zone,” the captain said over the comms.

Lady Gwen and the rest of the team got in final position for the drop. Angus picked up Rhys and clipped their harness together. The tail of the aircraft opened and Lady Gwen got in position. The light above the tail ramp turned green and Lady Gwen jumped. The rest followed her down.

The comms were full of cats purring to try to self-soothe on the way down. Angus was tempted to take out the ear piece but he had no where to put it nor would he have time to replace it before he needed to communicate. He tried to mentally block the sound so that he wouldn't fall asleep to the sound.

Lady Gwen's tail touched water and her purr turned to a quick yowl before she mastered herself and cut the parachute loose and swam for shore. The rest of the Clouder followed suit and Angus was wondering if he'd become deaf from the yowling but before that could become a problem, the cats mastered themselves and swam for shore.

Angus didn't have time to worry about the other cats because his feet touched the water. Seconds later the cat in the forward harness touched the water as well. Unfortunately, Rhys wasn't as trained as the others and he started thrashing about, yowling, with claws out. Fortunately for Angus, the cat was strapped in such away that the claws couldn't reach him. They plunged under the water and Angus kicked for the surface and disengaged the parachute. Someone from MI5 would gather up the parachutes, he had other things to do. Angus switched the cat from a forward harness to a back harness so the cat wouldn't drown before he swam for the bank with a yowling cat on his back. It was a good thing that anyone they'd try to surprise was far from the river, with all that noise.

Angus reached the bank and saw the tunnel entrance. It was barred just as the briefing had said. The other cats had managed to squeeze through. He unlatched Rhys and set the feline at his feet. Rhys promptly sat down and groomed the river out of his fur as Angus picked the lock. The lock was old and rusty and it took a while. Rhys was halfway done with his cleaning when Angus finally got the gate open.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

One Look Around Town

Beruthiel Beauregard looked around the village of Aberbran. It was small and quaint. It resembled the small Appalachian town she'd been born in and was her traditional territory, in that a cat could make several circuits in a day. The people were much the same, living in each others' pockets and knowing everything that went on. They also had a mistrust of outsiders who tried to become one of them. They had no problems with tourists, after all much of the business depended on them, but people who moved in and tried too hard to become one of the locals instead of letting the process take the years needed. The major difference was the language. In Beru's hometown, a few people spoke Gaelic, the ancient language of their forebears but in Aberbran the language was similar but different enough to remind Beru she wasn't at home. The Welsh was about as common as the Gaelic at home, meaning it wasn't out of place but not everyone spoke it.

Beru wandered around. She had a fair idea of where she was going and what she was looking for thanks to the intelligence from both the members of Clouder Number Nine and their new friend Rhys. She made a circuit of the town and started another one. No sign of Natalia.

Beru saw some of the village cats but none would come near her. She checked in with Phoebe and Fiona. No joy there either. None of the cats were talking.

Beru found a secluded spot and called into headquarters. She needed a cat who could get the village cats to talk. That meant Rhys, even if he didn't have any training. Angus said he would bring the cat so Beru and the others went back to their stations and waited.

A couple hours later Rhys found Beru. She was waiting in the alley by the teashop with that day's salmon crusts laid out before her. Salmon wasn't Beru's fish of choice, her being more of a fried catfish kind of cat, but fish was fish and tasty.

“So what's the news?” Beru asked once Rhys was in conversing distance.

“Natalia's gone,” Rhys said as he picked up a crust.

“Gone where?” she asked. That could be good or bad.

“All the other cats would say,” he answered wolfing down the meal. “was that after the fight, Natalia slunk off to the gazebo and then a while later a giant Russian man came and picked her up and drove off with her in a limousine.”

“Sounds like my sister,” Nala said over the comm system. “She's gone home. I think the man was Boris, her butler.”

“Focus on the immediate threat of the Gaelic League,” came the dulcet sounds of Lady Gwen over the comms. “Natalia will be a mission, later.”

“Yes, My Lady,” Nala answered.

“Ma'am, yes, ma'am,” answered Beru. She heard the sniggers of the other cats over the comms but she was an American. She didn't “My Lady” anybody. She “Ma'am”ed like the free cat she was.

Beru turned to Rhys and studied him. He'd had a couple days of training but was no where near ready for a mission but then again this was his home turf.

“I'm supposed to send you back to HQ,” Beru said.

“Let me help,” Rhys pleaded. “I can be of use and you know it.”

“I do know it,” Beru said. “That's why I said 'supposed to'. I'm not going to do it. But you have to stick to my side and follow my orders.”

“I can do that,” Rhys agreed.

“I rather thought you could,” Beru agreed. She outlined her plan and Rhys contributed a few refinements. They set off to patrol the village.

Early the next morning, Fiona, Phoebe, Beru, and Rhys gathered in the park. They discussed their various findings. Something was happening. It was big and the Gaelic League was moving out of Aberbran for the next phase of their plan. Whatever they were after in the castle, they'd found it. Hopefully Alex had found out what it was and MEOW would be able to stop it.

“Phoebe, will you take a look around the pub?” Beru asked. She could have made it an order but she was an outsider to this Clouder so she'd frame the orders as questions until some cat made an issue of it.

“Sure,” Phoebe answered. “I'll look in the conference room and the guest rooms that Alex identified in his reports. There might be some rubbish with useful information.” Phoebe dashed off to the pub, to try to get there before the maids could clean the rooms in question.

“Fiona, you said they took trains,” Beru said. “Do you know where to?”

“Aye,” Fiona answered. “Manchester and Cardiff. But it sounded like they had connections but different ones and would rendezvous elsewhere. They were trying to be careful about not all traveling together but there are only so many trains out of Aberbran.”

“Manchester and Cardiff,” Beru said. “Hmmm.”

“We're mobilizing the local clouders,” Erik said over the comms. “As soon as Phoebe returns from the Pub, Angus will pick you up and bring you back to headquarters.”

“Roger and out,” replied Beru. She, Fiona, and Rhys found cozy spots under the gazebo for a wee nap. They had time now and who knew when they'd get another chance to sleep as things seemed to be heating up.

Their naps were interrupted an hour later as Phoebe reported in. Beru woke instantly at the sound from her collar and she activated the comm unit.

“What have you got?” asked Beru.

“I know where they're going,” Phoebe said a little breathless.

“Where?” demanded Beru.

“London,” Phoebe said. “I hope Angus is about to town because I saw a time line and we've got to go.”

“I'll be at the park in five,” Angus said over the comm.

“So will I,” said Phoebe.

Beru roused the other cats. They were waiting when Angus pulled the Land Rover up beside the gazebo. They had just gotten settled when a flying blur of gray and white fur hopped in the open door.

“Go,” Phoebe panted. “I'll strap in as you get out of town.”

Angus didn't need to be told twice that the situation was urgent. He had seen the pictures from the castle and had an idea of the target. It was the time line he was unsure of but if Phoebe was running and willing to ride unsecured for any length of time it was urgent. He stepped on the accelerator and was speeding down the road towards headquarters.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Castle's Secret

Alexander Cattus looked at the castle. The moonlight glanced off of the stone and the water in the lake that was all that remained of the ancient moat. He knew where he was going and what he was going to do, but it was still daunting. He knew he could do it. He had the training. It was just that the magnitude of the task suddenly caught up to him. His clouder, his friends, and even his country were counting on him.

“You can do it,” came Erik's Irish lilt in his ear. “Nala and I are here in the control room. We are with you.”

Alex nodded to himself and sucked in a deep breath. He released it and scampered the last of the way across the bridge where a draw bridge used to be. He could easily gain access through one of the arrow slits and make his way to the Lord's study. Nala had mapped it all out when she was here last week.

He followed the plan and reached the door. He executed a perfect door flip and rode the doorknob as the door swung inwards. There was the wall that hid the secret room.

“I'm in,” Alex purred. “Now what?”

“See that wooden molding, next to the brick wall?” said Nala over the ear piece.

“Yes,” Alex said looking at it.

“Do you see a daffodil amongst the roses?” Nala said.

Alex scanned the carving. He found the flower in question.

“Do I push it?” he asked.

“No,” said Erik. “You rotate clockwise. Then return it to its original position.”

Alex did as directed. The wall panel slid noiselessly aside. The secret room was tiny. In other times and places it would have been a priest hole. There was a table that had a map spread on it.

“Someone has been here recently,” Alex said. The shelves next to the table had dust on them but the map on the table did not. There were also foot prints in the floor.

“I had wondered about that,” Nala said. “The door opened too silently to have been unused in a hundred years.”

“Can you get your collar to get a good look at that map?” asked Erik.

“You got it,” Alex said as he leaped up on the desk. He positioned himself so the collar's camera was on the map. If anyone had seen him, it would have looked a cat trying to do yoga, specifically a sun salutation.

A string of Gaelic curses filled his ear. Angus wasn't pleased by what he saw. Alex started to turn so he could see what had dismayed the human.

“Don't move,” Erik commanded. “The camera is still taking pictures. I'm running every filter you've got in your collar on that map.”

Alex held the position. It was a good thing he was young and fit. An older cat would have had problems. Finally the word came that he could move again. He shook himself to loosen the muscles that had started to cramp and leaped off the table. He took one more look around the room.

“Uh, guys,” Alex purred.

“What?” asked Erik.

“Do you see what I see?” Alex asked.

“If you mean,” said Nala. “Do we see the foot prints that end at the back wall of your secret room? Then yes, we do. You need to find out where they go.”

Alex looked around for a way to open the door. He found another daffodil and turned it like the other one. The door into the main castle closed as the back wall of the secret room opened. It was pitch black but Alex was a cat and he could see just fine, but his camera couldn't, so he pawed the collar until the small flashlight appeared in just the right place to shed light but not destroy the camera's recording.

Alex took a deep breath and stepped into the darkened passage. It wasn't that he was afraid of the dark, he was a cat and they liked the night. He was a trained cat at that. Dark shouldn't bother him. It wasn't actually the dark but the creepy stone walled passage that smelled of age and damp. The passage beneath his paws felt slightly slimy and in the corner he could see the drips had started to form a stalagmite and a stalactite that were mere inches from becoming a column. He had a bad feeling prickling his spine and his fur started to stand on end. But Alex trotted on, trying to get out as soon as he could.

Finally he reached the end of the passage. This time the lever for the door wasn't hidden but it was up at what would be shoulder height on a human. Alex leaped at the lever but missed. It took several tries but eventually he landed on the lever. It wouldn't move. Alex wiggled up and down its length until he hit the sweet spot that his weight and momentum was enough to move it. Alex had nothing to hang on to as the lever moved so he was unceremoniously dumped on the ground five feet below. Being a cat, Alex landed on his feet and was able to run out the door the lever had opened. The door hadn't opened all the way and was closing as the lever hadn't been pushed down far enough to lock, but he was a fast kitten and got through. The tip of his tail almost got caught but he twitched it away just in time. If he'd let his tail be smashed and caught and had to have Angus come rescue him, Alex would have had to resign from MEOW as no cat would let him live it down. He'd always be the kitten you couldn't send out because his tail would get caught and he'd be stuck. Fortunately, kitten reflexes had worked and he'd been saved from the indignity.

Alex turned off his light. The moon was bright enough and the passage had come out next to the caretaker's apartment. If that passage was in use there was no way the caretaker was unaware of it. Which reminded Alex that he needed to get out of there before the caretaker came to investigate why the passage had just been used.

Alex looked around at where he was. The stairs to the where the sea used to be were in the opposite direction from the caretaker's apartment and he ran in that direction. He got down the first set to the landing and there was a barrier claiming authorized personnel only beyond that point. There were footprints that led beyond the barrier and so Alex authorized himself to follow. The tracks ended at a set of tire tracks. Alex focused his camera on the tracks so that the Tech Cats at headquarters could identify the vehicle later, if they needed to.

“Good work, wee Alex,” Angus said. “Find a place to sleep near the end of the stairs and I'll pick up up in the morning.”

“Roger that,” Alex said. He turned off all but the emergency comm systems and found a nice patch of grass under a hedge bush and curled up for his nap.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A New Cat In Charge

Angus MacDougal, Erik, and Phoebe were in Clouder Number Nine's control room. Their attention was on the monitors in front of them showing the live feed from the collars of the two agents still out in the field. They didn't turn at the sound of the door opening. It was probably Dr. Liz MacDougal and the new cat.

“Howdy, y'all,” came the unexpected American Southern drawl over the computer speakers.

They turned as one. It was indeed a new cat. Just not the new cat they were expecting. This was a twenty four inch, before you measured the tail, thirty pound ball of fur of the type know as a Maine Coon. The accent said this was one of the Yanks on loan to MEOW.

“Howdy, yourself,” Angus said. “Can I help you?”

“If'n you're Angus MacDougal, you sure can,” the cat said.

“I'm Angus,” he agreed. “What can I do for ye?”

“I'm Beruthiel Beauregard,” said the walking ball of fur. “But you can call me Beru.”

“Well, then, Beru,” Angus said. “what can I do for ye?”

“I've been sent to lead this here Clouder until such time as Nala is field worthy again,” Beru said.

“Oh ye have, have ye?” Angus said. “I've seen no such orders.”

“Well, that is a might bit odd since that white cloud of fur that answers to the name of Lady Gwen said she was sending the orders right over,” Beru observed.

“Weel, I havena gotten them,” Angus said staring down the massive cat.

“Angus,” Erik's Irish computer voice interrupted the staring contest.

“What?” Angus asked as he turned back to the bank of monitors.

“This just came in,” Erik said as he pointed a paw at the orders on one of the screens.

Angus read the new orders. Yes, indeed the Clouder had been sent a replacement cat to lead them while Nala was recovering. As there were no qualified British cats available, Beruthiel Beauregard, the cat on loan from the Americans would be leading the Clouder. Beruthiel was the leader of the American version of Clouder Number Nine and was on loan because the other members of that clouder were either on private assignment or on Maternity leave.

Angus looked over Beruthiel's CV and was impressed. The successful missions were numerous, some of them even famous in spy circles. The training was good. The number of commendations equaled what Nala herself had. Maybe the redneck speech protocols had made him draw the wrong conclusion.

“Weel, it looks like she's right,” Angus said.

“Right,” Beru said. “Where are the other members of the Clouder?”
“Still surveilling the town,” Erik's computer voice answered.

“When are they due back?” Beru asked.

“I'll pick them up at 0900 tomorrow,” Angus answered. “Unless you want them back sooner.”

“No, 0900 is fine,” Beru agreed. “I always find more information, the better.”

“We'll have plenty for ye,” Angus agreed.

“The jet lag is hitting,” Beru said as she yawned. “Where do I hit the hay?”

“Ye mean sleep?” Angus asked.

“Yep,” Beru said.

“Follow me,” Angus lead Beru through a door at the side of the room and they entered the Clouder's living quarters.

Beru noted the couch and the cat towers. It was only missing the empty multiple level shelves around near the ceiling to be like the quarters back home. Angus moved over to a small alcove with a carpeted platform near a window. The platform had a soft-looking fleece covered cat bed with two quilts draped over the edge.

“This is the one unclaimed bed in the quarters,” Angus explained. “If it isn't what you're used to we might be able to figure out something.”

“Oh, no,” Beru said around another yawn. “It looks right cozy. I'm sure I'll be happy as a hog in mud here.”

“Then if there is nothing else,” Angus said.

“Actually where might I get a bit of victuals and a scratch at the sand?” Beru asked.

“Victuals?” Angus puzzled.

“A bite to eat?” Beru said. “I'm sure my tummy is empty to my spine.”

“Oh, right,” Angus said. “Food and water are just here.” He pointed to the wall below her platform.

“And the litter box?” Beru asked. “I can't sleep if I don't know where the outhouse is in case I have to get up in the middle of the night.”

“You see that wee little room?” Angus pointed to what would be a closet in a human house.

“Ayup,” Beru agreed.

“The door is pressure operated so just stand on the doormat until it opens and ye'll have your choice of cat boxes,” he explained.
“Thank you,” Beru said around another yawn.

“Have a good nap,” Angus said as he left.

“Never had a bad one,” Beru said as she burrowed under the quilts and twisted and turned to make a comfortable nest in the padded cat bed.

Angus shook his head and left her to her sleep. He'd worked with other Yankee cats but never had he had so much trouble understanding one.

He's a strange one, Beru thought. Talks a might funny, but sure is nice to look at. The voice is nice and calming, for a human. It could be worse. She could have been stuck with some pinkies-up, society English snob. This handsome Scot would do.

Beru started to think about the other cats she had seen but before she could even figure out who she might be working with the jet lag caught up with her and she was sound asleep. She dreamed of salmon sandwiches served by faceless humans with strong Scottish accents.

She was just taking a bite of succulent pink fishy flesh when an annoying buzzing penetrated her dreams. She startled, fully awake, and jumped straight up in bed. Her fur puffed out making her seem to be some sort of behemoth cat monster. Her landing was just a little off so she fell off the platform and onto the floor. Seeing as how she was a cat and a highly trained one at that she landed on all four feet and managed to walk away with her feline dignity fully intact. It was a good thing she didn't know that Angus had been watching over closed-circuit television or he would have been speaking like a lassie for a week.

Beru shook off the abrupt waking and sauntered over to the nearest monitor. She pressed her paw to the identity scanner and the screen came to life. It wasn't anything serious just that Angus had returned with the other members of the clouder from their surveillance mission. There was a briefing as soon as she could be in the command center. She figured she had time for a visit to the litter box and a light snack so she walked to the closet where the first was kept.

Ten minutes later, Beruthiel walked into the control room. Her fur was back to normal and she seemed in control once more. It really was amazing what a snack and a little wash could accomplish to pull a cat together. She looked around the room and took in the other four cats and Angus. He was wearing that skirt thing again. A kilt, she remembered it being called. Hmm. If the human gets out of line, it offers many possibilities. She walked over to the empty chair with a small pillow on it next to the others. She made herself comfortable and flipped the talk switch on her computer station.

“As my Papaw would've said,” Beru drawled, “Let's get this show on the road.”

Phoebe and Alex spent the next hour laying out their observations of the town and pub. The Gaelic League was planning something big and soon. They had been rather cagey about it but the plans did hinge on some information hidden up at the castle.

“Ok, let me see if I understand the situation,” Beru said in the most business like manner, most of the traces of her Southern drawl fading in favor of getting down to brass tacks and being understood. She could talk as proper as the rest of them but enjoyed being underestimated and being thought dumb by the stuffy Brits. She found it worked in her favor as they usually did what she suggested out of surprise that she had thought of something intelligent.

“A group of domestic terrorists from Ireland, Scotland, and Wales have formed a group to do something dastardly and you don't know exactly what or when? All you know is there is some information hiding a hidden room up at the castle but you haven't yet figured out how to get into the room?” Beru summed up.

“Don't forget Natalia,” Erik said.

“Right,” Beru said. “Your leader's twin sister, who once trained and worked for MEOW, is apparently working for the terrorists.” She let out a long low whistle. “Y'all got yourselves in some kettle of fish, haven't you?”

“Aye, we're in a right swivet,” Angus agreed. “But getting out of these things is what we do.”

“Never doubted it,” Beru said. “I just like to understand the scope of just how impossible things are before I get out of them. It makes me feel like a miracle worker when it is all over.”

“So do you have a plan?” asked the impatient Phoebe.

“First of all, I'm not nearly acrobatic enough for the castle mission,” Beru said looking down at her ample proportions and fur. “Way too much mass to be capering about like a kitten.” She turned her gaze on the kitten in the room. “He could probably do it.”

“You bet I could,” agreed and enthusiastic Alex.

“Aye, you're agile enough,” Angus agreed. “But we don't know if you could carry whatever it is they're after out of the castle.”

“We wouldn't need to remove it necessarily,” Beru said. “We just need to know what it is. And I've found that kittens are the best at ferreting out information from tight locations.”

Alex beamed. He was being sent out on an actual mission not just eavesdropping in the local pub. He could put his training to use.

“I suppose that Natalia knows what y'all look like,” Beru said.

“You's suppose right,” answered Fiona.

“Then I'll keep tabs on her,” Beru said. “But we still need a few more pairs of eyes in the village, so you Fiona and Phoebe need to take up your posts and keep out of Natalia's way.”

“Aye, aye,” said the Fifis.

Beru looked at the clouder. It wasn't her usual group but she had every confidence that it would get the job done.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Liz to the Rescue

Dr. Elizabeth “Liz” Ann Jones MacDougal, Chief Veterinarian of MEOW, and her vet techs, Molly and Steve, were waiting at the side entrance to Headquarters with a trolley to rush Nala into the emergency care ward. She was prepared for anything from minor scrapes to bleeding gashes. There was a neat stack of gauze pads at the foot of the trolley ready to staunch the flow of blood. Bleeding wounds didn't worry her. What worried her was that Angus, her dear sweet husband, who was normally so calm, cool, and collected, had injected, and it sounded like accidentally at that, one of his own cats with a sedative. He hadn't said which one so she brought the equipment to deal with the three medications in an emergency go bag. One would knock a cat out for an hour or so. If it had been that one, then Nala should regain consciousness soon after getting here. If that was the case then they'd need the extra straps to keep the cat in place and not aggravate the wounds further. There was another that would send a cat to sleep and keep them there for a few hours. That one was nothing to worry about. Just make the cat comfortable and attend to the wounds and let them sleep. It was the third one that was most worrisome. That one could paralyze a cat if not administered correctly. Not just limbs but internal functions like breathing. Angus knew how to administer it but he sounded panicked so he might not have been that careful. Fortunately that sedative took some time to get to paralyzing internal functions so there might be time to hook the cat up to the ventilator if that one had been the sedative.

The Land Rover scratched to a haul in front of Liz. Steve had the back door open before Angus was able to get out of the driver's seat. Molly unfastened Nala and picked her up and lay her on the trolley. Steve started checking Nala's vital signs.

While the humans were occupied, Phoebe showed Rhys how to get out of the seat restraints. They hopped out of the vehicle just as Molly shut the door. They watched the humans with concern for their fellow feline.

“Respiration good,” Steve reported. “Slow but steady and pulse within normal perameters.”

“Which sedative did you give her?” Liz asked Angus.

“Number 3,” Angus replied. “ Half a dose. About forty-five minutes ago.”

Liz swore under her breath. It was the worst. She grabbed the respirator mask and fitted it over the feline's snout. Forty-five minutes would mean that they had fifteen minutes to get her stabilized. Number 3 was only included to use on extremely dangerous cats in the half a dose and on cats with painful and life threatening injuries in a full dose. It could be reversed to leave the cat in a coma for a couple days if attended in the first six hours but after that it eased a cat into the after life. It wasn't to be toyed with.

“Why on Earth would you use Number 3 on a cat with a few bleeding scratches and bites?” Liz asked as her techs pushed the trolley into the hospital wing of headquarters. Phoebe and Rhys hurried to keep up. They both wanted to know if Nala would be all right.

“I wasn't intending to inject Nala,” Angus said.

“How did you accidentally inject your favorite cat?” Liz asked.

“I don't have a favorite cat,” Angus said defensively. “I like and respect all my agents equally.”

“Sure, honey,” Liz said.
“Anyway, Nala and Natalia were fighting,” Angus started to explain.

“Ifrinn! Natalia,” Liz swore.

“Exactly,” Angus agreed. “That was why Number 3. But you know how much they look alike and they were rolling around and just as I was about to stick Natalia they rolled so I got Nala instead.”

“Understandable,” Liz said as she patted her husband's arm. “Go write your report and when you're done I should have an update on Nala's condition.”

“Meow?” Phoebe asked. She and Rhys looked up at the Vet with concern in their eyes.

“She'll be alright. We got to her in time,” Liz addressed the felines. Noting the strange cat she made eye contact with her husband. A short silent conversation later, it was concluded that the new cat would be explained in the reports and could be examined after Nala was treated.

An hour later, Nala was resting comfortably and in no danger. They had been able to counteract the sedative and clean and treat her wounds. She wouldn't be able to go out in the field for a week or so but other than that, she'd recover.

Liz left the cat in the care of her techs and went to find Angus. No matter what he said, Nala was a favorite. It was true that the humans weren't supposed to have favorites but it happened. Liz liked the cat but her personal favorite was Erik. She wasn't sure how she was going to handle the day when his conditioned worsened and his quality of life went down and she'd have to put him to sleep. But at least Erik was a headquarters cat. She knew it was even harder when your favorite was a field cat.

Liz found Angus, in Clouder Number Nine's control room, arguing with Phoebe, while the strange cat looked on. He was shaking a computer tablet at the feline agent. Liz shook her head at the sight and stifled her laughter. Her six foot something, two hundred pound, all muscle, husband arguing with a seven pound cat didn't happen often but always brought a smile if not laughter to her, no matter the circumstances.

“I didna 'cwtch'* Nala,” Angus said shaking the tablet with the report on it at Phoebe.

Phoebe, who hadn't bothered to switch on the speech mechanism on her collar, tilted her head and stared at the Scot.

This made keeping silent even harder for Liz. She was used to hearing Angus swear and use terms of endearment in Gaelic but the Welsh was always odd coming out of his mouth with a Scottish accent. Headquarters was in a Welsh village and everyone at MEOW, human and feline alike, learned a few words in the native language. The cats of course typed in it but it was always translated for the humans to read.

“I didna,” Angus insisted.

Phoebe meowed at him.

“There is a way to settle this,” Liz said coming into the room. “Look at the video tape.”

Erik queued up the video in question and played it on all the monitors simultaneously. The room was absorbed in the video. Erik, his two feline assistants, Phoebe, and Rhys all chittered in agreement. Angus had indeed 'cwtch'ed Nala.

“I do believe Phoebe is right,” Liz said. “That is definitely 'cwtch'ing there.”

“Fine,” Angus pouted. “Leave it in the report.”

Phoebe looked smug and hit send on the tablet to officially file her report. Angus glared at the cat and sent his report as well.

“So how's the patient?” Angus asked.

“She's going to be fine,” Liz answered. “A day or so to rest in the ward and then desk duty for a week maybe nine days and then back to normal.”

“That's a relief,” Angus said. The felines in the room all chittered their agreement. Erik sent a message to the two cats still in the field updating them on their leader's condition. He had sent one when Angus and company had arrived at headquarters since Alex and Fiona had heard the alarms and now he sent one to reassure them so they could carry on their missions with their minds relieved.

“That means we will be a cat short for the rest of the mission,” Angus said.

Rhys meowed.

“Not you, my wee man,” Angus said kindly. “This is work for a trained cat.”

Rhys looked deflated.

“But if you'd like to be trained,” Angus offered. “That could be arranged.”

Rhys nodded.

“But first you need to come with me,” Liz said. “I need to examine you to determine your overall health.”

Rhys looked panicked. This nice woman was a vet and he'd not had good experiences with her kind. In fact the last time he'd been to a Vet, he'd woken up in pain and with a cone of shame on for a couple weeks and he hadn't been the same cat since. Still this one had taken care of his friend Nala. So he followed the vet down the hall.

* Cwtch- Welsh for a cuddle or hug that conveys a sense of belonging and home