SHIPíS CAT

by

Gail Gardner

 

*Authorís note: I would like to thank my technical advisor, CD, for her kind advice on proper catís behavior. During the writing of this story, several cans of brand name cat food were consumed. The sofa was used in a demonstration of clawing power and will never be the same again. Three flies were caught and devoured by the advisor. A hair ball was coughed up with great dramatic flair on the only rug in the house. Any resemblance between the cat in this story and the technical advisor is almost coincidental. GG.

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Some furry animals look good wet. Seals look sleek. Beavers lose their ungainliness. Otters look fantastic!

But a cat is the most miserable, pathetic-looking animal in world when wet.

Chip Morton was running for his car in one of Southern Californiaís seldom but torrential rain storms when he saw the scrawny thin animal dash across the street. It was narrowly missed by a car and left for road pizza. The unfortunate creature took dubious shelter under a dumpster.

Somehow drawn to the animal, Chip hunkered down and green luminous eyes stared into blue ones.

"Mrrrooowww?" It looked at him hopefully, draggly whiskers hanging with wet.

"Here kitty..." He held a hand out to the bedraggled creature. Whether it was the tone of voice, or the bag of groceries, he had in one hand, Morton never rightly knew, but she came and butted her head up against his hand. He picked up the soaked feline, and disregarding the mess it made, tucked her into his jacket. He would just take her home, dry her off, and give her a good meal.

The Mortonís had always had dogs. How could he know that once you took a cat in and fed it, it owned you? It owned the house, the furniture, the contents of the refrigerator. If you were lucky, it owned your heart.

Chip learned a lot about cats. The first lesson was that even soaking wet cats donít take kindly to having baths. When he had finished putting Band-Aids on all of his cuts, the cat had managed to lick herself dry leaving only a modicum of muddy paw prints on his only white chair. She was, however, more appreciative of the can of tuna and bowl of milk put out for her in the kitchen. He watched her as she ate quickly and fastidiously. Even though starved, she left some food in the bowl and then spent at least an hour recleaning her fur. She was black with a white chin and belly and three white paws.

Chip was sitting in his recliner, reading the paper when the cat jumped up unexpectedly in his lap, curled up in front of the paper, and started to purr.

"Well." He said slightly startled. "Youíre welcome." He tentatively scratched the cat under the chin and the purr escalated a few decibels. Her eyes slitted and then closed in bliss. Chip Morton was a gone man.

After a week, they had settled into a certain routine and the kind of friendship where the cat did what it pleased and the human went along with it. Sleeping arrangements were decided on the first night when she refused to stay in the kitchen and somehow managed to open three doors to crawl into his bed, almost scaring him to death until she meowed. After a while, he found it rather nice to have someone purr into his ear.

Their relationship got even firmer when she brought him her first love gift. A dead mouse was dropped happily at his feet just when he was pouring out his morning coffee. The fact that the cup went flying across the room in one direction and Morton jumped ten feet in the other direction showed the cat that he appreciated her offering.

Morton, who hated all rodents, mice, rats, chinchillas, and other such creatures with a loathing, was thoughtful. Maybe if he took her aboard the Seaview... she would keep his cabin, and the boat free of the inevitable vermin that infested most seagoing vessels. Seaview was pretty free of the pestiferous creatures, but he was sure there must be some lurking somewhere, just waiting to get at him.

So, he bought a cat carrier, and on the next cruise the crewís list had one more addition: Shipís Cat.

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The cat had spent a few hours slinking on her belly through the corridors of the funny smelling place. Her first stop was the galley, where she immediately recognized Cookie as a good person to play "Kitty" with.

"Meow?" she widened her eyes and looked hopefully at him. She licked her paw and meowed again more pleadingly. Cookie tossed her a bit of ham. She ate it delicately, but with a passion that belied the whole can of catfood she had just eaten 20 minutes ago in Mortonís cabin.

"Is oo wittle pussums hungwy?" The huge chef, who scared the spit out of most of his underlings cooed to the little cat.

"Meeeooow." She said pitifully and rubbed up against a chair. She sat down and looked at him hopefully.

Some half hour later, the sated feline waddled out of the galley after having consumed enough to kill a dog, not to speak of foundering a horse. Having found the most important person on the boat other than that other fellow who she brought mice to, she strolled into the control room. Men sitting at their consoles stared as the cat, with her black tail held straight up, waltzed around exploring her new work place.

With the aplomb and disdain natural in a cat, she ignored every person in the room who would be remotely interested in petting a cat and walked over to the one cat hater in the room. Admiral Nelson was rewarded by the catís calm regard and the healthy sprinkling of black and white fur that now adorned the sharp creases of his khaki trousers as she rubbed up against him with great love.

"What the devil. ? " He barked as the animal began to wind herself around his legs and purr. When he looked down at her, she took it as an open invitation and jumped easily onto the Admiralís shoulder.

"Um, rodent control, sir." Mr. Morton hurriedly tried to pry the cat off the Admiral. The cat dug in claws that pierced the shirt and hooked into Nelsonís shoulder. With some trouble, Morton managed to unhook the claws with minimum damage to the Admiral. The cat took exception to the forced departure and despite the firm grip the Exec had on the cat she sank her needle sharp teeth in his thumb. Her back legs were trying to disembowel the arm that was holding her firmly.

Endeavoring to ignore the mauling his arm was getting, Chip Morton tried to explain."Cost efficient, sir. Save us having to do a total defumigation and a week in dry dock. Traps just donít seem to ...oww...work any more." The cat was growling now in earnest and mangling the Execís thumb. His grip loosened and the cat left him leaving running stripes up his front.

"And how much are we going to pay in medical costs?" Nelson said sourly and handed the Executive Officer a handkerchief to stem the flow of blood from his hand.

"Sheís just a little upset, takes a while getting used to being on board, sir." Chip Morton kept an eye on the cat who was sitting in the middle of the con and was carefully washing her paws as if to remove the nasty Morton taste from her mouth.

"And where did you find this paragon of rodent control?" Nelson ineffectually brushed the cat hairs clinging to his shirt.

"Under a dumpster, sir. I took her home and fed her. Sheís a good mouser..."Morton wondered which one would be booted overboard first, he or the cat.

"Weíll see." Admiral Nelson fixed his Exec with a cold hard gaze and stalked over to the computer to check read outs.

Morton stared at the cat who smiled at him. "Watch it animal or weíll both be back out under that dumpster."

"Mrrrooow?"

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"Well, thatís it Lee. We are to set up a small weather observatory on this island. It is in an ideal position to make instrument readings on most tropical storms that come through the Caribbean. The data and the first stage warnings will prove invaluable. Thereís no fresh water on the island, thatís why it has remained uninhabited and with no wildlife to speak of. It will be perfect."

"Brownís Island....?. I donít think Iíve ever seen it on a map." Lee Crane remarked looking over the list of instruments to be set up.

"Well, it is very small, but has managed to weather all the tropical storms that have come this way. It was discovered by a yachtsman, Harvard Brown, who named it after himself about two years ago. He died soon after it was found and was only rediscovered by chance two months ago. The International Weather Service has been looking for such a spot for years now."

"Especially since we donít have to man these sites anymore." Chip Morton said and patted the large box on the floor of his cabin. They were holding the briefing in his quarters so that he could show the Captain and the Admiral the latest in computer weather stations. "This baby can process and send out data at a fantastic rate, and is virtually shock-proof, water-proof, and impervious to even close lightning strikes." He stroked the box admiringly.

"Weíll need a rotation of work parties, say three or four to set up the foundations and build the shelter. Chip?" Lee looked at his exec and friend.

"All done, Lee." Morton handed the list a little smugly. They were interrupted by a strong scratching noise in the room. The cat was standing on her hind legs and was massacring a chair.

"Stand down!" Morton said sharply to the animal. It took a few more scrapes at the already worse for wear piece of furniture and then sat down to wash a paw.

"I have also arranged to have Sparks, Foulard, Patterson, and myself set up the computer and radio equipment. I figure we can get it done in about four hours barring any..."

"Meeow. Meeow" interrupted his sentence.

"...complications." Morton finished.

The three officers looked at the cat who was staring intently at the door. She looked back at them and meowed more acidly. Her tail was straight up with a question mark at the end. She pointedly looked at the men and the door again.

Chip Morton sighed silently. This was the reward of being the most junior officer in the room. He got up and opened the door for the cat. She stood in the doorway and decided to strop herself on his legs a few times before deigning to step casually over the sill and sashay down the corridor.

"I read somewhere that man has spent 10,000 years of civilization opening and closing doors for cats." Admiral Nelson said wryly. "And we are not putting cat flaps on the hatches."

"Whose idea was it to have a cat on board.? " Morton muttered sourly.

"Yours!" His superior officers said in unison.

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"Heck! That ainít an island." Patterson declared, "Itís a postage stamp!"

The island, or plot of ground, boasted a small protective crown of palm trees and some low-growing dense underbrush. It was nothing more than a precarious mound of dirt that somehow seemed to have survived years and years of harsh weather conditions and the endless mercy of the ocean just through sheer chance. At its widest, it was a bare thirty meters. It was slightly teardrop shaped showing the prevailing forces of storms. Small bugs and the occasional wandering seabird seemed to be the only inhabitants of the desolate bit of earth.

It was a hot and sweltering day. Even though they had started at the crack of dawn, work went slowly because of the heat. Having to haul in all their fresh water meant that the Zodiac rafts were almost constantly going back and forth carrying more water and refreshments to the men.

The cat watched all the activity with interest from her lofty perch on the conning tower. Cookie had made flounder poached in cream for dinner and her belly was comfortably full. However, the sight and smell of land was intriguing. She had felt the tickle in her stomach for several days now and knew that she needed to eat some grass to cough up a hair ball.

As night fell, the breeze shifted to blow a most interesting scent from the island. The cat stretched her body out and ignoring the long drop to the deck walked daintily around the edge of the conning tower. A familiar face appeared at the hatch.

"You coming in?" He asked gruffly. He turned to go and was passed on the way down by the cat who jumped off the edge of the tower and from the edge of the hatch down to the floor of the con.

Looking around so that no one would notice, Admiral Nelson bent down to pat the cat. "I donít play favorites with the crew, and that means you." He warned softly, as the cat began to purr and rub up against him.

The next morning after the cat had presented a small rather underfed looking rodent to the Exec, to his mixed delight, there was much activity around his cabin getting boxes and packages carried out and loaded. The cat prudently took shelter in a large box, only to have it closed on her. No one heard her cries of protest as it was hauled out onto the deck and loaded into a Zodiac.

By the time, the box was opened the cat was pretty angry. Chip Morton, who was getting ready to lift out the wind speed meter faced a cat blown up three times its size. Its fur was standing on end as she bowed her back and hissed at him.

"What the hell...." He didnít loose his grip on the delicate instrument and got a five stripe scratch across his cheek. The cat jumped out of the box and began stalking around swearing.

"Rrrrowwwmmm. Mrrgrrrawwmm." She muttered deep in her throat.

Rodriguez took the instrument from Morton who dabbed at the scratches with his hand. "You ok, sir?" he asked.

"Itís all right. How in he...well, letís just hope sheíll want to leave soon. This will only take a half an hour more to set up, weíll run a diagnostics, and then close her up for the day. Tomorrow weíll check the whole system again."

Intent on his work, Morton didnít pay too much attention to the cat who was now back to normal size. She raised her nose to the faint breeze and the very interesting smell that was coming from under some of the bushes. Her eyes slitted and she sat very still, looking as if she were asleep. Something moved, a leaf rustled, a mote of dust rose in the air. The cat pounced from a meter away. Something died under her paws. She smelled at it, batted it a few times and when it didnít play anymore, she sat down to eat it. Her green eyes were mere slits in the hot tropical sunlight and she kept to the shadows. Three times she caught her game and ate it with relish.

She then found a stand of tough beach grass to eat. It wasnít like the potted plants Mr.Morton used to have in his home, but for coughing up a hair ball it would do in a pinch. She did her business with some dispatch and much scraping and piling of dirt. She then did a lick and a promise wash in the noonday heat and fell asleep.

"There you are. Letís go home." Chip Morton found the cat sitting under a small bush near the concrete bunker they had built to house the weather instruments. She was happy to leave, but not too happy to be in the Zodiac. She crept under the bench where one of the men sat and yowled the whole way. She was out of the raft and down the hatch even before the rubber boat was tied to the Seaview.

"Wow, sir. She sure didnít like that trip." Patterson said and scratched at his arm. He was sure hot and sticky. A shower before dinner and then a little sacktime would be great.

Patterson and the rest of his buddies from A watch were just sitting down to a dinner of Cookieís superb meatloaf. Canaris was telling Riley about his last shore leave in gory details. Foulard as usual, being his silent self. He was a good electronics man, but would put a mime to shame. There was a running bet of when Gerry would put more than two words together. Ski was concentrating on his food. Wiley on his book, absentmindedly brushing biscuit crumbs off the text.

"Watcha reading Wiley?" Pat asked. "A real book? Someone take away your Spiderman comics?"

"Ahím improviní mah mind, somthiní which you all cannot do, since yíall ainít got no minds to improve." He shot back in his slow southern drawl.

"Aw dry up Wiley." Riley said.

"Wanna make me kid?" Wiley teased.

"Eat." Ski said calmly, but looked at the junior ratings with a stern eye.

"Jeeez, Ah was jest..." Wiley began when they heard a horrible hacking, choking noise. The men leapt to their feet looking for whoever was in distress. Cookie was berating his skivvy in the back of the galley and they were the only ones eating.

"Look itís the cat!" Riley pointed to the cat which was hunched in the middle of the room and was hacking and wheezing and convulsing all at one time. She yowled like a banshee.

"Gawd itís dying." Wiley said excitedly "We should call the Doc." He leaned towards the mike on the wall.

"Donít bother." Canaris said calmly and grabbed a piece of meatloaf off of Rileyís plate.

"Hairball." Foulard said and shrugged.

The cat choked up a mess. She sniffed at it.

"Euu yuck." Riley said and bolted out of the mess.

Foulard looked at Canaris who graciously allowed him to take Rileyís plate.

When the cat hunkered down to eat what she had thrown up. Patterson and Ski both turned pale and bolted.

"Not cat people. Now, my mother loved cats, always had them in the house. Hair balls was nothing compared to a bad case of worms. Man, there was cat shit everywhere and the smell - whoooeee. And then when they have kittens, have em right in your bed they do, the blood the yowling..."

Foulard stood up and looked at Canaris who grinned despite a mouthful of food.

"Swine." he grunted and left.

"Yessir, just not cat people." Canaris offered a bit of meatloaf to the cat, but she just stared at it and walked away. "Suit yourself. I have plenty."

Morton was reading through some of the read outs from the weather station when there was a familiar scratch at the door. He opened it and the cat walked in. He went back to his desk to read the reports and didnít pay much attention to what the cat was doing until she jumped up on the desk. She flopped down on her side on top of the papers he was reading and looked at him.

"Tough day? Hmm?" He scratched her behind her ears and she closed her eyes in bliss and purred. The cat yawned showing needle sharp teeth and a pink rough tongue. Chip stretched his back and the thought of turning in early was a very attractive one, especially with the cat looking so relaxed.

He had no sooner put his head on the pillow and turned out the light when she was walking up his front and settled in on his chest. Her paw patted his nose, without claws, and then he fell asleep with the catís purring vibrating through his chest.

Sometime in the middle of the night he woke up to the cat running around the cabin and then eating something. Despite Cookie feeding the cat human food he kept a small bowl of dry food for her to munch on in the night. It just sounded more crunchy than usual.

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"Well, Pat. It doesnít look like heat rash." Doc Jamieson was examining the speckly red rash that was on the seamanís arm. "Got it anywhere else?" He raised an eyebrow suggestively.

"No, sir. Just the one arm. Seems to have spread a bit and then stopped." he explained.

"Well, hereís some lanolin. Try that and if it spreads, gets worse come and see me again." Jamieson said calmly.

After Patterson left, Jamieson turned to Frank Lerner, the corpsman. "How many is that now, Frank?"

"Umm ten sir, all of them on the arms or legs, Foulard on the neck. But I donít see any pattern. Patterson and Foulard were on that island. Rodriguez was too, but no rash."

"Rodriguez didnít come in, how...?"

"I asked him. Thought of the island first thing. Mm, sand fleas? Hey speaking of fleas..."

"I checked her first thing. The cat is clean, overfed, but clean of fleas or any other parasites." Dr. Jamieson rubbed his chin thoughtfully. The skin irritations werenít dangerous, but he hated mysteries, especially medical mysteries.

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Cookie was almost in tears. He was the despotic monomaniac who ruled the Seaview galley. A two hundred-pound man of muscle who could cut apart a whole steer with a cleaver in ten minutes or handle the lightest souffle with a delicacy that would put a French chef to shame. He had tattoos of questionable taste all over his arms that would make a Hellís Angel biker blush. Yet, his lower lip quivered as he carefully placed his tour de force in front of the finicky eater.

He had lovingly diced up chicken livers that had been marinating in cream for 12 hours. The spices had been added with a gentle hand. The eggs beaten at room temperature with a whisk in a copper bowl to reach the right consistency. The mixture was carefully placed in the oven in a Baine Marie to cook at a low heat to assure the most creamy of textures. Deep-fried shrimps were carefully placed around the timbale with loving precision. Homemade sour cream was piped decoratively around the edges A small, often appreciated sprig of parsley on top added the finishing touch to the toothsome dish.

She stretched her neck towards the morsel, her whiskers quivering in appreciation. Cookie and three crewmen in the room held their breaths as her nose approached the plate. She looked up at the men and then nonchalantly turned away from the offering and walked casually out of the wardroom.

"Oh man, nooo" Riley moaned.

"Jeez Cookie. I thought she was going to go for it." Patterson said sympathetically.

"Hey, if she wonít eat it..." Sparks reached out an eager hand for the tidbit.

"No. I have been put to shame." Cookie grabbed the dish and scraped it viciously into the garbage. Three pairs of eyes looked after it longingly.

"Uh Cookie, you know cats can sometimes go without food for days..." Patterson tried to soothe the upset cook.

"She always had such a good appetite. Ate everything I put before her." Cookie sniffed and picked up a wicked 12 inch butcher knife and began to sharpen it with a great deal of energy. "Iíve failed."

"No, no, Cookie. We all love your cooking. " Riley was desperately trying to console someone who loomed over him with a knife sharp enough to cut through a steel bulkhead. "What are we having for dinner?" He asked innocently.

"Sloppy Joes" the cook snarled.

"Right. Of course." Sparks snagged the two crewmenís arms and started pulling them out of the galley. "Weíll leave you to your work. Right guys. Canít wait to have your Sloppy Joes. " When t he three men got into the corridor they looked at each other seriously.

"Sloppy Joes, again." Pat said quietly and shook his head, he rubbed at his shoulder and back where he suddenly had an itch.

"Third meal in a row." Sparks intoned.

"Oh man." Riley moaned. "The guys are going to bust a gasket."

"Look. The cat is eating somewhere else, we have to just find out who is feeding her and then sheíll start eating Cookies chow and we start getting something more than Sloppy Joes."Sparks suggested.

"Who would be feeding her? Or is she finding something else to eat?" Patís brow furrowed in thought.

"The Admiralís lab!" Riley burst out. The three men looked at each other horrified.

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The six men of A watch who shared a bunk area were settling down for a good nightís rest. Patterson rolled over and scratched at the rash on his leg. It wasnít bad just annoying...

"Mmmroooow." There was a faint summons from the other side of the closed hatch.

"Cat wants in..."Ski muttered sleepily from underneath his cocoon of blankets.

"Rileyís turn to let her in."Wiley said, "Stop pretending to snore. Ah know you all are awake."

"Awww sh..." Rileyís bare feet hit the deck and he opened the door for the cat who slithered in " Well, someone elseís gotta let her out." He crawled back in bed.

After a while, they heard the cat run around the small room, bounce off a few bodies that were trying to sleep. Then she was quiet except for a crunching noise.

"Wasshe eating?" Riley asked sleepily.

"Skiís socks."Patterson muttered and began to scratch at his back. The rash seemed to be spreading. He was joined in scratching at the irritation by Foulard who was tossing and muttering and rubbing at his face.

True to character, just as the men were finally getting to sleep there was an insistent summons.

"Meeowt. Nrrow?" She waited patiently. Her ears swiveled as she listened for changes in breathing or movement. Impatient to get to her favorite sleeping place with Morton, she walked over and jumped up on Pattersonís chest to give him a reminder. His breathing was shallow and labored. The cat patted his face lightly with a paw, but he didnít wake up. She then went over to Foulardís bunk. The man was more lively, tossing and moaning, but he didnít react to any of her overtures to getting the door opened. This would not do.

"RRRROOOOOWWWW! MEEERROW!" There, if that didnít get them up, nothing would.

These were men used to combat, to waking in a moment, alert to danger. Ski bounced out of his bunk and had his shoes on before he was even awake. Riley was standing in the middle of the room and looking around for any signs of water, torpedo attack, or lobstermen. Wiley had gone for the light switch, and Canaris was reaching for the intercom. Patterson and Foulard hadnít moved.

"Dammit...itís that...that..." Wiley began

"Donít say it." Ski said wearily. He felt the shakes that come after an adrenalin rush. "God that was loud enough to wake the dead." He looked around and noticed that Pat and Gerry Foulard were out like lights.

"Hey Pat." He nudged the man. "Your turn to let that animal out." Something made him look closer at his bunkmate and friend. His face was pale with rash like streaks across it. His breathing was labored and shallow. Beads of sweat were pearled on Pattersonís face. He shook him again, but got no response.

"Man, somethingís wrong with Gerry..." Riley was bending over the man whose face was like Patís, he was gasping for breath and began convulsing.

"Medical emergency in room A2. "Canaris yelled into the mike as soon as he saw the look that Ski shot him. " We have two crewmen in respiratory distress. Pat and Foulard are down."

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"The guys swear that the cat knew something was wrong and woke them up." Sharkey was reporting to the Captain and Admiral about the medical emergency that had happened only a short while ago.

"Now, come on Francis..."Nelson said doubtfully.

"I swear Admiral, there is something going on and that cat is involved. Cookie says sheís stopped eating. The men say she stares at things that ainít there. And now this, Doc says if she hadnít woke them up, Patterson and Foulard would have died. No, sir. That cat knows something."

"Oh, right. All we need to do is ask that cat what is going on hmmm?" Nelson said sarcastically. He was none too pleased to have two crewmen on the critical list for unknown reasons and have the usually phlegmatic Chief push some cat story business at him.

"Right! Exactly! Uhh..." Sharkey stopped flustered to look at the stern face of Admiral Nelson, "Aw gee sir..."

"Wait, sir." Captain Crane was pacing worriedly around the room. He rubbed at the itch on the back of his neck. "I wonít give the cat any credit for supernatural abilities, but they do have a keener eyesight and hearing than we do. Maybe she is seeing or hearing something we canít."

"Thatís it. I will not have you giving that miserable excuse for an animal any credit. Iíll be in my lab trying to find out what has caused two men of this crew to become so ill. There has to be a logical reason." Nelson growled and stalked out of the Captainís quarters.

Lee Crane shook his head. "Heís still mad, isnít he?" He looked over at Sharkey.

"Well, Skipper the cat did try to go fishing in his aquarium..." Sharkey looked carefully at the Captain. "You Ok, Skipper? You look like your getting one of those rashes that is going around. Over half the crew has got it."

"Huh? Oh this, itís nothing Chief." He rubbed at the rash that was now around his throat. "The air must be a little dry here. Look Chief, have Doc send me updates every half hour on Patterson and Foulard. Have Chip to try to keep the cat out of the Admiralís hair. No better yet, send Chip in to see me, Iíll talk to him personally."

Lee Crane sat at his desk a little more heavily that usual. A faint wave of dizziness seemed to pass over him, as Sharkey left. He pulled at his shirt collar to get a bit more air and to rub at the rash that was beginning to burn. Something on his desk moved. He blinked, it had looked like the surface of the desk had suddenly grown a lump. He put out his hand to touch it and felt a stinging sensation on the back of his hand. A red welt immediately appeared followed by a burning sensation that traveled like lightning up his arm and seemed to settle like a vice around his throat. A wave of vertigo and nausea toppled him off his chair and onto the floor. It was becoming harder to breathe and he felt cold, so cold. As everything seemed to narrow around him into a black tunnel, he thought he heard someone call his name.

"Lee! Lee!"Chip Morton knelt next to his friend and Captain. His breathing was labored and shallow, his face was flushed in spots and had areas of swelling. Morton jumped up and clicked on the intercom. "Medical emergency in the Captainís cabin..!." He then noticed that Lee was not breathing. He dropped the mike in place and grabbed his friend by the shoulders and shook him hard.

"Donít quit on me Lee." He begged and seeing no response started mouth-to-mouth on the unresponsive man. It seemed like a lifetime before Dr.Jamieson pushed him roughly to one side and he and Frank began to administer oxygen to the unconscious Crane.

"Give me a number four tube." Dr. Jamieson snapped and intubated Lee Crane. Frank began to pump oxygen into unresponsive lungs as the doctor began checking his other symptoms.

"Looks like severe anaphylactic shock, just like the others..." Jamieson deftly filled a syringe with cortisone and injected it into the Captainís arm. He looked at Frank who was monitoring the pulse at the same time he was administering oxygen.

"Stabilizing, but still thready and weak." He reported.

Dr.Jamieson had his stethoscope out and was listening to the lungs. "Thereís massive amount of fluid in the chest." He shook his head grimly. "Iíve never seen anything like this. Letís get him to sickbay STAT."

Admiral Nelson stood grimfaced next to Chip Morton as the men carefully put the Captain of the Seaview onto a stretcher and took him off to sickbay. He took the doctorís arm as he passed.

"Jamie?" There was a wealth of meaning in the one question.

"I donít know, sir. It is a violent and sudden allergic reaction to something. I would suspect a poison of some sort, but where it is coming from I have no idea. Excuse me sir, I have to get back to sickbay." Dr.Jamieson said tersely.

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The catís eyes glowed with an eerie green light in the dim room. The only sound was the dependable beep of the life support monitors that kept Captain Crane and the other two men alive. The cat had sat patiently under the instrument tray trolley in the sickbay for hours, totally unnoticed during the fuss that had followed the unexpected collapse of the Captain.

Dr. Jamieson sat at his desk deep in medical journals trying desperately to find a reason for the plague that was gripping the Seaview.

The catís ears suddenly pricked up and the eyes widened letting in all the possible ambient light. She hunched down, suddenly showing herself as a predator. Only the tip of her black tail twitched excitedly. With a speed that almost defied sight, the shipís cat ran across the room and pounced on the bed holding the unconscious Lee Crane. Her paws grabbed something and there was a faint crunch sound as her teeth bit into something hard. Something dark green flopped on the blankets for a moment under her paws and then she settled down to eat her kill with relish. Everything happened so fast that the Doctor had only time to see the cat gnawing on something. Then she dragged something unspecific off the bed and went back under a cabinet to finish her meal.

He shook his head."Blasted animal." He knew it was impossible to get the cat out from under anything until she was damn ready to come out. He rose to check on the Captain anyway and noticed a faint greenish stain on his blanket where the cat had killed something. He frowned and taking some tweezers tried to take a sample of the stained threads. Putting it under the microscope he noticed something odd, the sample seemed to fade and disappear when exposed to the light, but in the dark glowed a dark green color. Unfortunately, there wasnít enough to get any handle on and the cat wasnít going to give up any of her kill. He didnít notice as she finished her snack and went out to do some more hunting.

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Admiral Nelson pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. They seemed to be no closer to finding the cause of strange rash affecting the crew and the mysterious collapse of Captain Crane, Patterson, and Foulard. It had to be something that they had contracted on the island, but other crew members were showing the same symptoms. If it were a plague, they would never be allowed into a port. He took a drink from his mug of coffee and scratched absentmindedly at the rash that he had as well. His first suspicion was the cat, but surprisingly enough Mr.Morton, who had the most contact with her, was completely free from any rash symptoms. As he replaced the mug, he thought he saw something move on his desk. A small ripple of movement. He rubbed his eyes, he needed sleep badly, but he couldnít rest until the mystery was solved. He shuffled through the pile of papers on his desk again, hoping to find some missing clue.

"What the...!!" he yelled as the black and white cat leapt across the table knocking over the mug of coffee spilling it all over the desk. He jumped to his feet. The cat was crouched on his desk staring at something intently. Her paw darted out quickly and hit something sharply. For a moment the Admiral saw a large dark green bug not unlike a scorpion. Then it disappeared or blended into the background. The cat hissed and struck again. The bug flexed its tail at the cat and didnít fade as readily. While it was still visible Nelson quickly grabbed the coffee mug and slammed it over the bug. The cat immediately began pushing insistently at the cup trying to dig out the being trapped underneath. She growled and pushed at his arm.

"RRRrrrrooowww."

"Exactly." Nelson growled. "Good work." The cat stared at him and then pretending to ignore the whole cup and hidden animal, turned her back and began washing her tail.

Nelson hit the intercom, not daring to take his hand off the cup which was vibrating slightly from the frantic scurrying of the trapped bug inside of it.

"Doc! Come to my office immediately. I think Iíve found our culprit!"

"Sir. This is Frank. The doc is busy. Iíll be down in a minute."

The corpsman came running in. He looked more harried than usual. "I hope you found the cause of the illness, sir." He said breathlessly. "Mr.Morton was just brought in. Heís in a bad way."

"Good God! Look! It seems to be some kind of large insect. I have a live specimen under this cup. Take one of those jars off the shelf. Letís see if we can get it into there. Be careful it seems to have the ability to appear invisible or camouflage itself." Nelson explained.

The two men moved carefully, knowing that lives hung in the balance. Once entrapped, they could see a cloudy looking shape that only took its natural dark green color when the jar was agitated. A dark green fluid shot out of its tail and ran down the side of the jar.

"Thatís our poison. Letís hope Doc can make an antidote out of it." Nelson said grimly.

In sickbay, Doc Jamieson was inserting an airway into a very pale and limp Chip Morton who had stopped breathing. Before he could hook up the respirator, the Execís heart stopped beating.

"John! Paddles!" he barked to the corpsman who was hovering near. "200"

"Charging." John called out, pushing the buttons on the defibrillator."Ready."

"Clear." Jamieson said and applied the paddles to the inert man. Mortonís back arched. They watched the monitor as it flat-lined.

"300" Jamieson said tersely.

"Charging and ready." John intoned. "Címon sir." He breathed under his breath.

"Clear." The execís body arched and shook with the electrical shock. The monitor gave a beep or two and then settled into a steady heart beat.

"Ok. We got him back." Dr.Jamieson sighed and hooked up the ventilator that took over the breathing for the stricken Exec. If anything his vitals were worse than the Skipperís were. Morton always reacted badly to this sort of thing. The rash that peppered most of the crew was weepy, blotchy welts on the XOís body. Even on the ventilator his breath was raspy and dry. If he hadnít intubated the man a few moments earlier, he would be dealing with a tracheotomy or worse a dead body.

"Sir!" Frank and the Admiral came into the sickbay.

"We have the culprit." Nelson explained and held up the jar.

The relieved doctor almost snatched it out of his hands. "Venom. Ok letís see what we can do."

The Admiral and the Doctor feverishly worked for two hours isolating the venom from one of the ugly creatures that had stowed away aboard the Seaview. In the meantime, Sharkey and the rest of the crew were out with infrared goggles and lights tracking down more of the elusive creatures. Luckily, they proved to be slow and easy to catch relying more on their camouflage abilities than speed. The cat was frustrated by the fact that everyone was taking away her favorite food and not letting her play with it. To Cookies relief, and silently the rest of the crew, she retired to the galley and begged for food. Cookie started to bake goodies, for the cat and the men.

"This is it Admiral." The doctor held up a clear vial with what they hoped was an antidote. "Weíll have to try it on Morton first..." the blond officer had already gone into cardiac arrest once again and massive doses of cortisone had not helped him much. Nelson nodded grimly. Doctor Jamieson prepared a syringe and injected the man in the arm.

"When will we know?" Nelson asked looking at the other three comatose men in sickbay.

"I donít know Admiral, but Morton doesnít have a chance if this doesnít work soon and the rest...well the longer they are on life support, the worse their chances." The doctor rubbed his neck, this was the hardest part of his work, the waiting, the uncertainty. After about ten minutes, the doctor eyed his patient critically, the swelling and edema seemed to going down. A choking sound came from the Exec.

"Will..!" Admiral Nelson looked at the doctor alarmed.

"Itís all right Admiral," the Doctor said and smiled. "Heís trying to breathe on his own. Itís working! Ok Mr.Morton take another breath, thatís it." Jamieson said, encouraging the man whose skin was already losing its redness. The doctor turned off the ventilator and they were rewarded by the ragged, but steady breathing of Chip Morton. "Ok Frank, letís take the tube out of Morton. Keep an eye on his vitals. Iím going to try the antidote on the rest of the men."

Two hours later the sickbay was a different place. Hushed voices and the persistent beep of monitors and other equipment were replaced by quiet laughter and the not so quiet buzz of someone snoring.

"Well, I for one, am not going to hang around and listen to Morton rattle the bulkheads." Lee Crane said with finality sitting on the edge of his bunk. He went to absentmindedly scratch his arm, but stopped when he realized that it didnít itch.

"Me too, sir." Patterson said with feeling and looked at Foulard who nodded in wide-eyed agreement.

The sickbay door opened letting in Chief Sharkey, the cat, and the most delicious odors wafting down from the galley.

"Admiral. Aww, Skipper! Great to see you on your feet." He enthused. "We got all of the buggers...uh critters, sir. We swept the ship from stem to stern three times. "

"How did you know about the bugs, sir" Crane asked, grabbing his shirt and started buttoning it up. The enlisted men took this as a signal that escape from sickbay was allowed and began to get dressed also.

"Well, Lee. I canít take credit for finding the bugs. She did." Nelson pointed to the cat who had gone over to Mortonís bunk and had jumped on it. She walked up his front and then settled on his chest and began to purr loudly.

"You mean we owe our lives to that, that damn cat?" Lee paused in astonishment.

"ĎFraid so Lee." Nelson chuckled. " I am going to have to admit that bringing a cat on board Seaview wasnít such a bad thing after all. It seems that despite their ability to camouflage themselves, the cat could see the insects. Whatís more she apparently found them quite delicious. So she was hunting them down and eating them."

"It seems that the venom is not too powerful at first, but every time someone got stung more than once, like you Patterson and Foulard, it caused a more violent reaction." Dr.Jamieson added. "

"What about Chip?" Lee asked looking worriedly at his friend, even though the doctor had assured him that the deep sleep was natural.

"We all know how sensitive Morton is to certain drugs and irritants, I suspect that he only got stung once. Apparently the cat had managed to keep his cabin insect free most of the time.

"Well, thank God for that, but heís going to be awfully smug about that cat."

The cat smiled.

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The rest of the mission had gone very well and even the Admiral had unbent enough to pet the cat in front of the rest of the crew. He still prudently kept the door to the lab closed so the cat wouldnít go fishing again. Cookie was in a good mood and that meant that all meals were happy meals.

Then they docked at port and she disappeared. She waltzed off the ship and left. No cat. No amount of calling or hopeful plates of tidbits would bring the cat back. After about two weeks, they figured she had truly gone for good.

Lee Crane and Chip Morton were sitting in the Captainís office enjoying the quiet of the ship. They had the next week off and were looking forwards to some time shore leave.

"Damn it, Lee. Iím going to miss her. She used to come and crawl into bed with me and keep me company all night." he paused for a moment, "God listen to me." Chip pulled a wry face.

"Morton. Morton." Lee said shaking his head, "When did you last go out on a date with a woman?"

"Too long." Chip moaned and buried his head in his hands. "I need a vacation. I need company."

"Iím not taking you to Disneyland." Lee said, eyeing his friend disgustedly.

"Did I lay it on too thick?" Chip looked up at him and grinned.

"Youíre pathetic. Okay then, Vegas." Lee grinned back at him.

"Deal!" A genuinely wistful expression spread on his face. "Sure wish I knew where she is..."

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The Russian freighter Velikaja Koshka was in the port of Santa Barbara to off-load low grade timber and to take on spies. Illya Kuryakin, special agent for U.N.C.L.E, disguised as seaman walked up her gangplank. He was followed by a black and white cat.

The Captain, a truly suspicious character, looked over the well-forged documents presented by the spy. The cat drew his attention by also presenting him with a large fat rat.

"Hah. Is this animal yours?"

"Yessir." Illya looked at the cat who backed up his lie by rubbing up against him and looking at him adoringly. "She is a very good rat catcher. We have served together for many years."

"Yes. I can see that." The Captain laughed and handed back the documents without reading them further. "It is good for us to have you and your shipís cat."

"Meeooow!".........

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*Note from the TA: I think Gail has done a fine job with this story. She showed proper restraint in not adding a "drunk cat" sequence. As Gail pointed out, where would a submarine acquire catnip in the middle of the ocean? However, there was altogether too much action and not enough time for sleeping. The cat in the story was fed very well, which I find ironic as I only get canned cat food. To my colleagues: I highly recommend laying across keyboards or sitting in front of computer monitors instead the old fashioned lying across books or climbing over newspapers. We cats have to flow with the times! C.D. aka Complete Destruction

*The Man From UNCLE first appeared c. MGM-Television*