Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Land of My Fathers

The Agents of M.E.O.W. moved their mobile command from Lille to Lyon when Wales advanced from the Quarterfinals to the Semifinals. The crowds got bigger and more exuberant. The cats were needed more than ever as a rise in pickpockets came with the excited crowds. Drunk excited fans were the perfect hunting grounds for the pickpockets and others who would steal from the careless so the local law enforcement needed all the help they could get. The few commanders who knew about the cats were skeptical but willing to have the help. Rhys and Myfi were excited both for their work and because their beloved Wales Football Club had advanced further than ever before. They were proud they could be there for the historic moment and help keep their countrymen safe.

Angus walked down the streets of Lyon, keeping his eye out for trouble, with Rhys at his heels. The fans bedecked in Welsh red shirts and Daffodil hats were everywhere singing, laughing and drinking. It was a party the likes of which hadn't been seen before. The singing, which could be heard coming out of every pub and bar, was a mixture of French and Welsh bar songs with an occasional song having English lyrics.

The four days between games became a party and the Agents of M.E.O.W. were the private security. They arrested several thieves, a few drunken fans who just needed to sleep it off, and a few who had let bar debates become shoving matches but no threats to the game itself had manifested. It was rapidly becoming one of the easiest test assignments ever. Just enough real world experience to count but nothing like what the class of August of 1996 had to deal with in Atlanta. That had included crowd control of a panicked crowd after explosives had gone off. That class was a M.E.O.W. legend.

At last Wednesday dawned. The Agents of M.E.O.W. moved to the stadium to make sure no one was bringing in contraband. The cats were doing the sniffing and then coughing up hairballs on the suspect's feet routine, and it had become routine. A few pickpockets, people trying to bring illicit substances but no extremists doing dastardly things. The cat patrol moved into the stadium.

The game started and the excitement grew. Rhys and Myfi, as the only Welsh cats, kept one eye on the game and one on their job. When the play drew to a close and Wales was down two points to none, they joined their fellow countrymen in signing their national anthem. Chatter on their ear pieces told them that after the end of “Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau”, they needed to get back to keeping the peace.

The celebrations on both sides continued the next day. The cats were assigned to keep the Welsh players safe. The Portuguese security could take care of their own players. Thus it was that the cats flew back to Cardiff in style, on the Welsh team plane. The players, coaches and a few family members, human M.E.O.W. agents, and the dozen cats made for an interesting flight.

Rhys was walking back from the cat carrier that held the litter box when little Alba Bale, the three year old daughter of Gareth Bale, reached out and picked him up. She settled into the seat and petted Rhys. Rhys had lived on the street long enough to be pleased when someone petted him. He settled down and purred.

“Here, Daddy,” little Alba said as she dumped the cat on her father's lap. Her mother escorted her to one of the lavatories.

Rhys looked up into the startled eyes of the Welsh football star. The footballer shrugged and petted the cat. Clearly being handed a security cat wasn't the strangest thing his daughter had handed him. The cat settled in and purred.

Ten minutes before the plane landed, Angus and the other M.E.O.W. humans rounded up the cats and placed them by twos into cat crates. Everyone on the plane knew who they were but the people in the airport and at passport control didn't. The cats only worked as spies if their existence wasn't common knowledge.

Nala and Rhys were placed in the same carrier. They talked all the way through the airport and passport control and as they were loaded on to the bus for the victory parade.

“You look dazed,” Nala started as they were loaded onto the trolley to exit the plane.

“Gareth Bale petted me,” Rhys said dreamily. “I'm never washing my fur again.”

“Really?” Nala asked. “You'd be less stealthy if your targets could smell you coming.”

“Spoil sport,” Rhys said. “I'll wash before I get that bad, I promise.”

They were silent as Angus handed over their paperwork. The passport agent was slightly surprised when he scanned the papers and it gave him instructions to let the cats through without being quarantined. The decision came from high up. On their heads be it if these cats brought some weird disease into the country.

“How would you feel if that Sam fellow from that Outlander show petted you?” Rhys asked once they were out in the airport concourses again.

“I only watch that show because it is better than the horror movies or sportsball options that are available in sick bay,” Nala said primly.

“Really?” Rhys asked. “Then why do you and Liz have a date to watch the season finale on Sunday?”

“How do you know about that?” Nala asked surprised. Rhys gave her a look that said 'Spy cat, remember?' “Right. Liz likes watching the show because that Sam guy reminds her of Angus.”

“Angus has blonder hair but I can see it,” Rhys agreed.

They were loaded on the bus to wait for everyone else and their luggage.

“So tell me why this team gets a hero's welcome when they lost,” Nala said.

“Because no Welsh team has ever made it past the quarter finals in a major international competition. This team made it to the semi finals and we're exceedingly proud,” Rhys answered. “To us they are heroes.”

“Oh,” Nala said. The bus started up for the trip to Cardiff proper. Angus released the cats from the carriers and the dozen felines took their stations to exit the bus and walk beside it in the parade. The cats would look like strays from the neighborhood and keep an eye on the crowd. Once parade duty was done they'd return to headquarters and their next adventure.

Friday, July 1, 2016

C'mon Cymru

Rhys Llewelyn sat in the barracks of the training facilities at M.E.O.W. with the other dozen cats (kittens really but Rhys was a full grown cat), waiting to hear what their final test would be. Graduation was a month away and the cats of the class needed a real world practical test. It was the last thing as a part of training before becoming full Agents. Right now they were provisional agents but if they passed the practical field exam they'd graduate and have a badge and everything (not that the cats carried their badges with them but they had them all the same).

The two kittens Rhys had had the most dealings with were running around the room and jumping from carpeted shelf to carpeted shelf in a sort of feline steeple chase. Myfi, the cute little marmalade kitten, was in the lead but the tuxedo Manx named Finn was not far behind. Finn leaped from the shelf on the right side of the door towards the one on the left when the door opened and caught him mid-flight. The kitten fell right on to the head of Angus MacDougal, chief human at M.E.O.W. The kitten was startled and reacted with claws out.

“Ouch,” Angus said as he pried the kitten from his head. “Watch your claws, ye wee beastie.”

“Reoww,” answered Finn as Angus set him down on the floor. Finn didn't much like Angus, particularly ever since the human had paid more attention to Rhys. Finn thought Rhys too old to train with the kittens and let it be known.

Rhys, ignoring his nemesis, switched his speech translator on. “Do have our mission for us?”

“I do indeed,” Angus said with a smile as he walked to the center of the room and turned on the flat screen monitor.

The other cats came and arranged themselves on the couch and floor in front of the monitor. Angus used the computer tablet in his hand to flip through the power point presentation.

“First off, the clouder who will be monitoring your mission and assisting you, if you need it will be Clouder Number Nine,” Angus said. Rhys perked up at that. “Yes, Rhys, the whole Clouder. It will be Captain Nala's first mission back after her illness.”

Finn turned on his speech translator. “I'm sure we're all glad that Captain Nala is feeling better, but what about our mission?”

“I was getting to that,” Angus said. The screen changed to the Euro216 logo and bracket graphic. “Wales has made the quarter finals against Belgium and they play on Friday.” Myfi and Rhys looked excited. They were the only cats from the principality itself and were very patriotic.

“What does footie have to do with us?” asked a gray British short hair kitten named Reginald.

“The French police and particularly those in Lille, have asked for extra help and the Minister has agreed to loan this class, Clouder Number Nine, myself, and four other human support staff for the rest of the week.”

“Why?” asked Myfi. “Not that I'm complaining being near the game but why us?”

“Besides the huge influx of footie fans, this is the 100 anniversary of the Battle of the Somme and ceremonies are planned on Friday as well,” Angus explained as he then outlined the plan and what part each cat would play in the plan.

The cats found themselves patrolling the streets of Lille that night. The atmosphere was strange. One half of the town was celebrating the footie games to be played. The other half was remembering the Great War and those that had died in it. Three days of patrolling the crowds and it was game day.

The cats were doing their job winding between the fans waiting to get into the stadium. They were sniffing for contraband and weapons (explosives and gunpowder).

Rhys found a person dressed to support Belgium and the person smelled funny. He was exactly the kind of human Rhys had been sent to find so he did what he had been told to do. He started heaving from his tail. The yorking sound came from deep with in him and seconds later a mass of partially digested fur and fluids landed on the suspicious human's foot.

“Ah man,” said the human as he noticed the hairball on his foot. He started hopping around trying to figure out how to clean it off.

“Sir, I can help you with that,” Angus said as he came over to the man. Angus was dressed as a stadium event worker. “If you just come with me, we'll get you cleaned up in no time.” The man complied and Angus lead him to a side room.

“I'm Commander MacDougal,” Angus said as he flashed his Interpol badge. (He was on special assignment for them after all.) “And I need to look in your bag.”

“I thought you were going to help me with the cat puke,” said the belligerent man.

“Certainly,” Angus said and motioned to a waiting lackey. “Lieutenant, if you'd please?”

The Lieutenant hand the man some wet paper towels.

“Now may I see inside your bag?” Angus asked.

“No,” the man answered and took a swing at Angus.

“Attempting to assault an officer,” Angus chuckled. “I might not have had more than suspicion to look in before, now I have the right and duty to.”

Angus opened the bag. On top were some bags of a white powder and on the bottom a bottle of clear liquid and a rag. Also a cigarette lighter. An disassembled Molotov cocktail. Who knew what use he'd had planed for it. Angus pulled out his handcuffs and arrested the man. That made four arrests assisted by the cats today.

Rhys came into the room and looked around. He wanted to make certain he had detected the right out of place smells. He needed to know if he needed to do anything about it if he smelled that smell again.

“You were right, Rhys,” the Lieutenant said. “He had drugs and a weapon on him. Go back out there and keep up the good work.”

Rhys preened with the praise. He started purring a tune that sounded very much like “Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau”. You could make a cat patrol the game but you couldn't keep him from cheering for his home country's team.

The game was set to start in an hour. Most of the fans would be in the stadium in the next half hour. The cats would remain in France through the weekend for the celebrations and commiserations to keep the peace.