Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Taking Your Work Home With You

One of the joys of being responsible for Clouder Number Nine and being married to the Chief Vet at MEOW, was that when one of the cats, in this case Nala, was sick or injured and needed around the clock care they came to the MacDougal home to be nursed. Nala had been in the emergency ward, too sick to be moved for a week, but now that she was on the mend, she could commute with Angus so that Liz or one of her assistants didn't need to sleep at headquarters to care for her.. There was a more technical name for what Nala had but as far as Angus was concerned it just meant she had to be fed through a feeding tube every three hours and that was all he needed to know. If anyone wanted further details, they could go talk to Liz.

Angus didn't really mind. All that much. Nala was a very affectionate cat, most of the time, when she was off duty. After the first attempt or two to take revenge on him for treating her like a cat and not the highly trained operative she was. For example, when Angus finally had a chance to sit down and catch up on the rugby matches, Nala was content to sit on his lap and sleep and purr. It was rather relaxing listening to the purr and watch Scotland win a match and so Angus dozed for a bit. Then his watch alarm went off and startled both him and the feline on his lap. Unfortunately for him, Nala was trained to react to startling with claws out and as she was on his lap, so he was subjected to the indignity of scratches where scratches should not be. He let out a shout which brought Liz into the parlor from the kitchen.

“What is it?” she asked.

“The cat,” Angus growled as he picked her up by the middle and held her out to Liz. “Take the cat.”

Liz came over and took the cat from her husband. She cradled the cat to her and petted her into purring, murmuring sweet nothings to the feline.

“It's time for you to be fed,” Liz said as she carried Nala into the bathroom.

Liz sat on the edge of the bath tub and arranged the syringes of warm water and warm liquid food. She then arranged the cat in a towel to keep the claws from scratching her. Angus slipped in and closed the door behind him. Nala might understand what was going on but she was still cat enough not to want the humans to do to her what they needed to. She would bolt if she got the chance and they weren't going to let her have a chance.

Liz removed the feeding tube's cap and started giving the cat some of the water. Nala sat and allowed the indignity while plotting revenge. Projectile vomit, she hadn't tried that one in a while. Right as the humans are about to sleep. That would convey the right amount of contempt for this indignity.

Angus lifted his kilt to inspect the damage that cat claws had done. He drew in a breath. That cat had it in for him.

“That bad?” Liz asked as she swapped the water for food and continued feeding Nala.

“Och, no,” Angus said. “It's not bad just the placement. A couple more inches and I'd be singing like a lass for a few days.”

Liz giggled. Angus took out the disinfectant and cleaned the shallow cuts. Cats could get all sorts of nasty germs on their claws and it was best to clean the cuts as soon as possible.

Just then, Liz's phone rang. She stood up and handed the cat and the syringe of food to Angus.

“I have to get that,” Liz said. “That's the emergency tone. You'll have to feed her.”

She slipped out of the bathroom, leaving Nala to Angus. He looked down at the towel wrapped cat and tried to get a better grip on the feline but she wiggled out of his grasp. He chased her around the bathroom for a minute before finally throwing the towel on her. He whipped the towel around Nala and got a firm grip on her and carried her back to the bathtub. He sat on the edge of the tub and picked up the syringe and placed it in the feeding tube. He carefully pushed a few cubic centimeters of food into the feeding tube. That went well, so he pushed a few more CC’s. He petted the cat. She looked up at him and he swore he saw a mischievous grin on the cat's face. He ignored the implications and pushed a few more C’s of food into the tube.

Nala eased her head out of Angus's grip and smiled at him. She let him get a bit more food into her. She was rather hungry and the few stray bits of kibble she'd managed to eat earlier weren't going to give her enough energy to take her revenge. She bided her time. The food syringe was empty. Now was the time before he could get the water to flush the feeding tube. Nala shook her head and neck spraying the nasty smelling liquid food everywhere.

“Cat!!” Angus sputtered. Dang it. Some of the vile cat food ended up in his mouth.

Nala wriggled out of the towel again and ran away. She wormed her way into her favorite hiding spot – the small space behind the commode by the wall in the corner. Angus could reach her but it would be tricky to get a good grip. She knew that the feeding tube was good for her and that she needed the food, but it still hurt her catly pride to be fed in such a manner. What she couldn't forgive Angus for was that he forgot she was intelligent and treated her like she had no idea what was going on. Liz remembered it, most of the time, but Angus treated her like a … cat.

“Och, you wee beastie,” Angus sputtered and he rinsed out his mouth. If he was alone he'd let Nala sulk, but Liz had pressed upon him the importance of not letting the feeding tube get plugged with dried food, so he had to chase her down and use the water to flush it. He knew where she'd go to hide and sure enough there was a gray fur ball curled in the corner of the bathroom behind the commode.

Liz walked in to see her husband sitting on the floor trying to reach for the cat and getting his fingers snapped at for his trouble.

“Let me guess,” she said as she closed the door behind her. “You treated her like a cat and not an intelligent, rational being.”

“She is a cat,” he insisted.

“Aye, she is,” Liz agreed. “But she's also a highly trained spy. You know that. In the field you trust her with the security of this nation and your life, so why do you insist on forgetting that once back at headquarters or here?”

Angus looked a bit ashamed at that but before he could reply Liz continued speaking.

“Anyway, I've got to go back to HQ, Clouder 2 came back with injuries and I'm needed for surgery.” Liz walked over and pecked him on the lips. “I don't know when I'll be back. If it's too late, I'll sleep at the office.” With that, she left him to deal with Nala.

Angus looked at the feline and thought about what his wife had told him. He knew Nala was intelligent. He'd worked with her for the last couple years and they had saved each others' lives a couple times. But some how in their off hours he had focused more on the Cat part of her than the Spy part.

“Lassie,” Angus began. “I'm verra sorry. I forget that you know what's going on and that I should trust you to be reasonable.” He reached a hand out to her and she uncurled a bit. “I may forget sometimes, but I promise to try to remember that you are intelligent and not treat you like a dumb animal.” Her head peaked up. “Will ye forgive me?” Nala nodded. She stuck out a paw and he shook it. “Now will ye let me flush your feeding tube so it doesna clog up and cause problems?”

Nala stood and walked back towards the tub. Angus sat down on the edge, holding the syringe. The cat jumped up on his lap and looked up at him. He put the syringe in the tube and pushed a bit of water. Nala sat down on his lap and let him do what needed to be done. When the water was gone, Angus removed the syringe and replaced the cap.

He cleaned up the supplies and put them away, ready for the next feeding, which would be in a couple hours.

“All right, Nala,” he addressed the cat. “Shall we go finish watching that match?”

Nala looked up at him and purred. He opened the door and followed the cat out to the parlor. They made themselves comfortable and watched the match. Then when it was time to feed Nala again, things went much better with Angus treating her like any other colleague he'd nurse. Then both human and cat got ready for bed. As Liz wasn't home yet, Angus didn't mind when Nala burrowed under the covers next to him.

It was just after midnight, when Liz slipped into the bedroom. Angus woke and watched her as she got ready for bed. She lifted the covers to slide in next to him but he stopped her.

“Careful,” he said. “You donna want to squish the wee lassie.”

“Where is she?” Liz asked.

“Under the covers next to my knee on your side of the bed,” Angus answered.

Nala, as if sensing they were talking about her, shifted in her sleep. This brought her whiskers into contact with the backside of his bare knee. The touch was light and tickled him. Angus let out an unmanly giggle at being tickled.

“I'll move her,” Liz said as she reached under the covers and drug the cat out. With practiced ease, Liz slid into bed, still holding the cat with one hand. She settled for sleep, placing the feline on her chest.

Nala was still half asleep. She didn't know what was going on besides she had been suddenly removed from her safe, warm spot, so she burrowed back under the covers. She worked her way between the humans, tail flicking back and forth to tickle them both.

Angus, wide awake now, leaned over to kiss his wife. What with one thing and another it had been a couple weeks since they had both been in bed and awake, so the kiss grew a bit passionate. Angus rolled over to get closer to Liz, but he was half way there when a strangled MEOW sounded from under the covers. He reached down to move the cat so he wouldn't squish her, but she didn't stay where he put her. Within seconds, Nala was back between the humans. Angus tried a couple more times, with the same results.

“I guess we'll just have to sleep,” Liz laughed.

“I guess so,” Angus agreed. He kissed Liz lightly and lay on his back. “Good night.”

“Good night, dear,” Liz said as she lay back down. She was so tired that she was drifting off to sleep at once. Just before she fell completely asleep she heard Angus muttering something that sounded like “I canna believe I've been cockblocked by a cat.” She smiled and slid into peaceful sleep.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Attack at the Castle

After a full Scottish breakfast for the humans and a plate of tasty salmon pate for Fiona, the Duke and Duchess of Glasex, their daughter, Lady Anne, and the aforementioned feline, Fiona, exited the Royal Scotsman train for a day of sightseeing. Up first was a trip to see Eilean Donan Castle. It wasn't that the Duke and his family had never seen a castle, they lived in one after all, but this castle had more romance and history about it then theirs. Their castle was a small one that had been in the family without dispute for over four hundred years. This castle had been abandoned after the Jacobite rebellion and recently made safe enough for tours. Lady Anne had been studying about the Jacobites in school and that was the reason they were on this vacation.

The motor coach that took the passengers from the train to the castle was every bit as luxurious as the train. Fiona even had her own seat next to Lady Anne. She was again on the leash but at least her tactical collar had been returned to its rightful place. The leash was for appearances only, as she and the Duke knew, Fiona was only pretending to be leash trained. She was going along with the plan until she was needed and then she'd use the break away feature of the leash to protect her charge.

Fiona had a funny feeling about this excursion. If she were trying to kidnap Lady Anne, this would be where she'd do it. It was five days into an eight day trip- long enough to lull them in to thinking nothing was going to happen and with enough time left to try again if unsuccessful. The castle also provided good cover and opportunities to separate Lady Anne from her parents. Fiona hoped that they'd see Lady Anne with nothing but a cat to defend her and try something. She enjoyed showing just what damage a fifteen pound cat with teeth and claws can do.

The coach pulled up to entrance and everyone disembarked. Sure enough, anxious to explore, Lady Anne separated from her parents. She wondered to the far side of the island while the Duke was still caught up in reading the names on the World War I memorial. The Duchess was busy looking inside the castle with the other women.

Lady Anne and Fiona wondered down to the water where the three Lochs met. The girl saw something in the water and wasn't paying attention to her surroundings. The cat divided her attention between their surroundings and making sure that if Lady Anne fell in she wouldn't take the cat with her. Fiona didn't mind the water so much and had in fact been trained to swim and complete missions that involved getting wet, she just wasn't crazy about being drug into water for no reason other than a human dragged her in.

Fiona was looking at Anne, who was just about to tip over in the water, when a crunching sound on the gravel sounded. Fiona pulled back on her leash to pull Lady Anne away from the water as a pair of hands came around the girl. The cat instantly broke the leash and launched herself at the attacker. She had her claws out and attached herself around the attacker's face. He tried to remove the angry cat and let go of Lady Anne. The girl ran a few paces away and saw that her cat wasn't coming too so she ran back and kick at the man.

Fiona let go with one paw to be able to press a button on the side of her collar. She reattached the paw with it's claws into the attacker's neck. She let out a yowl right into the man's ear. Between them, Fiona and Lady Anne managed to topple the man. Fiona parked herself right over his sternum with her claws dug into his fleshy sides.

Elsewhere on the castle grounds, the Duke of Glasex's phone buzzed with an incoming text alert. He dug out his phone and checked who the text was from.

“I'll be...” the Duke said.

“What?” asked his Duchess.

“I got a text from the cat,” he said as he opened the text. He read it and shoved the phone into her hands. “Go get the security guards and come around the back of the castle.”

The Duke didn't wait for her to react, he ran around the castle, just in time to see the cat and his daughter topple the man. If he hadn't seen the cat in action he wouldn't have believed it. He ran the rest of the way to them.

Fiona looked up at the Duke and opened her mouth to tell him something. “Meow?” was all he heard.

He came over and put a foot on the mans chest while reaching down to pet the cat.

“Meow?” Fiona repeated. The Duke just looked at her. She pick up a paw and tapped her ear. The Duke remembered the ear piece and pulled it out of his pocket and put it in his ear.

“Back up coming?” Fiona's computerized Irish voice asked.

“My wife should be bringing security at any moment,” he answered.

The Duchess and a couple security guards came around the corner. Security to custody of the attacker and hauled him off. The Duke made arrangements to press charges later but took his wife, daughter, and the cat back to the train.

“I didn't believe it when they told me that a cat would be a good bodyguard,” the Duke said as they gathered in the lounge car for soothing drinks – whiskey for the Duke and Duchess, hot chocolate for Lady Anne, and cream for Fiona. “But after seeing you in action, I'll admit it was brilliant.”

His Grace sat next to Fiona and scritched her behind her ear. “When you have time off, you'll be more than welcome to Glasex Castle.”

“We'll treat you like the most pampered pet ever,” added Lady Anne.

Fiona leaned into the petting and purred loudly. She would take them up on the offer for her next vacation but for now she was going to enjoy the rest of this train trip. Her job was done and she could relax.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Listening at Keyholes.

Beruthiel Beauregard lazed in a patch of sunlight on the porch of DERP's West Virginia's head quarters. It was good to be home. The smells smelled right. The heat and humidity was perfect not the cold of Wales. She may be a long haired cat but she'd lived her life in the South and was happy to be home. Three days and she'd adjusted to the rhythms of home like she never left. She enjoyed traveling and working other places, seeing the world, and experiencing other cultures, but she loved her home. Even if her younger, by a couple minutes, brother was in charge.

Speaking of Dale, he came out of the house at that moment and leaped to his perch on the porch railing. He turned around three times and sat down. He didn't curl into a ball to sleep but settled into a position where he could see the whole porch. Tucker came out and sat on the porch swing. Immediately he was swarmed by a dozen kittens, all too young to train. They covered his lap and shoulders and went to sleep. Phoebe wondered out and took a seat next to Tucker and the kittens. A couple other cats came out of the house and sat on the braided rug in the sunshine next to Beru. Dale surveyed the scene and nodded to himself.

“Now that we're all here,” he started. “I mission I'm assigning you. I guess, Miss Phoebe, you'll get a chance to see how we do things in the field as well as how we run headquarters.”

“I'm looking forward to actually doing something,” Phoebe agreed.

“You'll get your chance,” Dale agreed. “I've gotten word from Homeland Security that one or more of the militia groups in our area have been a lot more talkative on the radio lately. There is something going on but every time they try to get a man in, they shut up. So it is up to us to go in either unnoticed or to be barn cats. No one ever notices barn cats, provided they do their job and hunt the rodents.” He looked at Phoebe. “You do know how to hunt in a barn?”

“We do have barns, though we call then stables in Britain,” she assured him.

“Good,” Dale said. “You and Marley will go out Highway 60 and check out the group out that way.”

“Sure thing, Captain,” said a huge Marmalade cat as he lumbered up from his spot next to Beru. “I'll see you later, sweetheart.” he said to the Maine Coon next to him.

“You can count on it,” Beru said as she rubbed her head on one of his front paws before he lumbered away.

That must be Marley, thought Phoebe. He looked like he could handle himself in a fight and had on a number of occasions by the number of scars on his ear and face were anything to go by. It was interesting the way Beru acted with him. She'd never mentioned a significant other before but she hadn't mentioned not having one either.

“Beru, you've got the patrol of downtown around the museum, Old Stone Church, and the Lewisburg Cemetery,” Dale said. “If these nuts are patriotic and as history minded as the DHS says, then there'll be activity there.”

“Got it,” Beru said as she stood and stretched in the sunlight.

“Jed and I will go out and survail the group out Seneca Trail way,” Dale said looking at the other cat, a tiger stripe.

“I'll be here with my ears on, if'n y'all need anything,” Tucker said. “Just give a holler, and the cavalry will come runnin'.”

The cats geared up, as much as they could, which meant they took the collar best suited for their environment. Phoebe, Marley, Dale, and Jed had to trade in their tactical collars with all the bells and whistles for ones that were frayed and seemed old, as if they were house cats that been left to run free for some time. The only thing these were equipped with was the two radio. The little bell on the end could be detached and used as an ear piece but other wise it had a microphone and a transmitter so the overheard conversations could be recorded. The cat could be located by tracking the signal but it wasn't as precise as the GPS on the tactical collar. Beru had a similar collar but looked a lot newer. She was going in as a cat that was taken care of at night but was free to roam during the day.

After the collars had been tested to make sure they were working as expected, the cats went their separate ways. Phoebe and Marley headed out a bit further West while the other three headed into town.

Once they reached town, Beru took of to the Greenbriar County Library to start her patrol, while Dale and Jed headed South. Beru was to make it look like she belonged so she couldn't beg. The others would hunt but Tucker would come in every day to use the library, visit the museum, do some business at the shops around the center of town, or something and leave her food in an inconspicuous place. She might seem to have the easiest job as her patrol was in town and relatively short but she would be the one that would be more noticeable. She had to evade the well meaning humans who might realize she was a stray and turn her in to Animal Control. She also had the best vantage to hear more people talking.

Beru completed a slow circuit of the town. She learned that the school needed their computers updated so that many came to the library to do their work. She learned who was running for local elections and more shockingly who wasn't and why. She learned many things but not a thing about a plot but it was still just the first day. The sun sack below the hills around the town and she needed to look for a place that no human would notice her. The only building she could find open was the special shed that housed the Conestoga wagon that belonged to the historical society. She curled up beneath the wagon and went to sleep. She was sure she'd find out something in the morning. The town was humming with gossip, it was just what she had heard so far wasn't the right gossip.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Physical Fitness

Rhys Llewelyn, provisional Agent of MEOW, was beginning to question his life choices. A couple weeks ago he'd been a lazy, if homeless, cat. Free to go where he wanted and eat all the food he could find. Today, he looked at his morning kibble allotment. He wasn't sure it'd be enough to get through the morning but if what his friend Alex had told him about the physical fitness testing, was true, maybe Rhys didn't want to eat too much. The only advice the kitten could give Rhys was, “Don't spew!” . Rhys planned to heed that advice.

Rhys went outside with the rest of the trainees. He was the only full-grown cat in the class. The rest were ten-week-old kittens. They'd been training for four weeks and Rhys had only been here a week. The kittens were in awe of him, though, because he had some field experience, and with Clouder Number Nine at that. Well all the kittens except one, a tuxedo Manx by the name of Finn. Finn had been the star pupil in class until Rhys came and he was jealous of all the attention so he made life difficult for Rhys.

The dozen trainees filed out of the mess hall and onto the exercise yard for the physical fitness testing. Rhys was surprised to see several humans among the felines. Then a voice sounded in his ear. It was the Yorkshire accent of Finn.

“They have to keep in shape too,” Finn smirked. “I, for one, wouldn't want to be in the field with a human I don't know was capable of keeping up.”

Rhys nodded. It made sense. He tried to get in his position in the line up but Finn bit his tail. Rhys yowled. The door opened again and this time Lady Gwen walked out. She had seen what Finn had done to Rhys but couldn't single him out, though she would keep an on on the two. Rhys made as if to greet her but she shook her head ever so slightly and he stepped back into his place.

Lady Gwen got the field started with some stretches. The feline agents did have a bit of an unfair advantage when it came to doing the Cat/Cow stretch but everyone was equal in the Downward Dog. They had been at it five minutes when the door opened again and Angus MacDougal came out.

“You're late,” Lady Gwen said.

“Yes, my lady,” Angus agreed.

“You know what that means?” Lady Gwen asked.

“Yes, my lady,” Angus said. “I'll stay after and do the extra Burpees.”

The white feline in charge nodded. Angus took his place at the side of the line in which Rhys stood. The humans and felines worked their way through push-ups, Burpees, squats (which the cats did on their hind legs), and running an obstacle course. Angus was the fastest human. No one was surprised at this. While the other humans had been military, Angus had been Special Forces so it was expected. But the surprise was that Rhys was faster than the kittens though Finn was right behind him.

The cats were dismissed to their lunches when they completed the course. The humans went about their business, except Angus. He stayed behind and did his punishment for being late. Rhys stayed to watch because he wanted a chance to ask the human about how Nala was doing and if he could go see her.

“How did you do that?” asked Myfi, a cute little Welsh accented marmalade kitten, as she came up to stand beside Rhys.

“After being chased through a town by an angry dog and a few other feral cats,” Rhys explained. “That small obstacle course is nothing.”

“That would do it, I suppose,” agreed Myfi. “You coming in?”

“Not right now,” Rhys said. “I want to speak to Angus, I mean Commander MacDougal.”

“You can call me Angus,” said the human as he walked up to Rhys. “Just not in the class room.”

Myfi looked at the tall Scot as he crouched down to talk to them. She was a little in awe. They said he had disarmed a bomb with seconds to spare a week ago, and it wasn't the first time. The other stories that floated around the Agency were equally hard to believe and heroic. That Rhys would call him by name and be able to speak to the human without being mission related just increased her awe of the older cat. She stammered something about seeing Rhys around and fled back to the mess hall.

“What was it ye wanted?” asked Angus, after the kitten had fled.

“How's Nala doing?” Rhys asked. “And can I go see her?”

“She's responding to the medication,” Angus answered. “And I believe she'd welcome a visit from you.”

“I'll have to see her tonight but that's after visiting hours,” Rhys said.

“Not if I take you,” Angus said. “I know the head vet and can get you in.” He smiled. Liz, his wife, would let the other cat visit when he could even if it wasn't exactly visiting hours since she knew about the training schedule.

“Would you really?” Rhys asked. He wasn't used to people, or cats for that matter, doing things for him.

“I'll meet you in the mess right after dinner,” Angus said. “But you'd better go eat your lunch. You earned it.”

Rhys nodded and ran back to the mess.

“That's why you were late,” Lady Gwen observed as she came up next to Angus. “Wasn't it?”

“I hadn't had a chance to check on Nala this morning,” Angus agreed. “Too many meetings that went their full allotted time.”

“You could have said,” Lady Gwen said. “I'd not assigned punishment for checking up on your charges.”

“It would have set a bad example of justifying one's actions instead of owning up to the consequences,” Angus said as he stood. “Besides, I've been slacking off on the exercise and need a kick in the arse.”

Lady Gwen chuckled.
“You may go about your business,” she dismissed him.

“Thank you, my lady,” he said with a salute and walked into the building.

After dinner that night, Angus met Rhys, as agreed, and escorted him to the Veterinary hospital wing of the headquarters.

“You may have fifteen minutes but after that Nala needs her rest,” Liz said to Rhys as she led him back to the area where Nala was curled up on a cat bed.

Rhys thought she had her laser beam out but then looked again. It was a strange tube that entered Nala's throat. He came over and talked to her in Cat.

“I have some paperwork to do so I'll be in my office,” said Liz. Rhys nodded his acknowledgment.

Liz went into her office and Angus joined her.

“How is she doing?” Angus answered.

“Really well,” Liz said. “She should be able to come home with us at the start of next week. She'll need some care but should be back to herself in about a month.”

“Good,” Angus said.

Liz sat down at her desk and started on her paperwork. Angus took the visitor's seat, pulled out his phone and started working on his reports as well. When the time was up he stood, kissed his wife and went to find the cat.

Angus escorted Rhys back to his quarters for the night. Trainees weren't supposed to be wondering around, after lights out unescorted. The cat was full of how much better Nala was looking and that they had had a nice conversation. Angus smiled to himself. He'd need to remind Nala of the fraternization rules but there was time for that later.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Trains - The Only Way to Travel

The Duke and Duchess of Glasex, their daughter, Lady Anne, and Fiona the cat stood on the platform of the Glasgow train station. They watched their luggage being loaded onto the elegant Royal Scotsman train. Its wooden sides gleamed in the sunshine, relic of a more civilized by-gone era, when train travel was more than just a fast way to get from place to place.

Lady Anne was dead chuffed to finally have the cat she always wanted. Fiona, a black and white Norwegian Forest cat with long and soft fur, stood patiently on the end of the leash the girl was holding. Anne had always wanted a cat to walk and show off and now she had one.

Fiona, on the other end of the leash, was thinking thoughts about how much money she was being paid to be this girl's bodyguard so she would put up with the indignity of being walked like a dog. Fiona was on constant alert watching all the comings and goings around them. She was secure in the knowledge that the leash was MEOW issued and had a special release mechanism if she needed to get away to do her job. Lady Anne only thought she was in charge.

Soon enough the call for “All Aboard” came and the Glasex family embarked on to the train. The Duke and Duchess were shown to on of the double cabins while Lady Anne and Fiona were settled into one of the twin cabins next door. Fiona claimed the bed opposite the door to the train corridor. No one was getting into this cabin without going by her. Lady Anne was left with the bed at the far wall, but as that was the bed she would have chosen herself, she was quite contented. Once the steward left, Fiona hopped off the bed and inspected the attached bathroom, pleased to see that beside the commode was an enclosed litter box. She sniffed it and found it full of her favorite litter. She decided now was as good of time to try it, so she did.

A knock on the door sounded then. Lady Anne opened the door to see her mother standing there. The train had left the station and it was time for tea. Anne picked up Fiona and carried her to the dining car. On any other train, a cat in the fine dining car would be looked askance at but everyone on this train knew who Anne was and allowed that Royals, even minor ones - in both status and age, were a bit different from the rest of us and made allowances for her.

The staff had prepared a special place at the Ducal table for Fiona. They had brought over one of the side tables from the observation car and put a cushion on it. Anne set her cat down on it. When the tea was laid out before them, a saucer of the finest cream from the finest Highland coos was placed before the feline. When the sandwiches were served, another saucer was placed before Fiona. This one contained tidbits of smoked salmon of sufficient quantity to keep the Agent of MEOW quite contented for several hours.

Fiona was licking the last of the salmon from her whiskers when the humans were finished with their tea. Anne picked her up and carried her back to their cabin. Fiona wasn't upset with being cat handled. If she was going to be fed in that manner at every meal, four meals a day for eight days, then she would be more than happy to be carried a bit right after the meal.

Lady Anne set Fiona down on her bed and retreated to her own. She pulled out a tablet and proceeded to talk to her friends. She may be on a train in the wilds of Scotland but that wouldn't keep her from gossiping about who like Phillip this week.

A chime sounded an hour later and Lady Anne put down the tablet. She opened her wardrobe and found her clothes already hung up for her. Fiona watched from her perch on the bed as Anne pulled out a formal satin gown. Clearly one dressed for dinner on this train. Fiona wondered if that included her.
Anne finished dressing and turned to her dressing table and opened her small jewelry box and fastened a necklace around her neck.

“I have a little something for you,” Anne said as she came over and sat on the bed next to Fiona. “Let's get that ugly collar off of you.” She reached around and unfastened it and tossed the tactical collar on the bed.

“Daddy got me this one for you,” Anne said as she placed a diamond crusted black velvet collar around Fiona's throat. For a moment Fiona panicked. What if some thing went wrong and she couldn't alert anyone. Then she felt the familiar vibration of a MEOW collar. This was one of the few formal tactical collars. It didn't have the laser beams and things of her regular one but it could communicate both directions between her and headquarters and that was enough. Fiona doubted that if anyone was after Lady Anne that a laser beam would help. What she needed was the communications and this had it.

Lady Anne clipped a matching black velvet leash to Fiona's collar and lead the way back to the dining car. So far the trip was turning out to be the vacation Fiona needed, but that didn't mean there weren't dangers. Fiona would be on alert when they went on excursions away from the train but while on the train she'd enjoy the cream, salmon and whatever other delicacies came her way.