CAT'S EYE -- SHIPíS CAT II

By

GAIL GARDNER



Authorís note: As it is now spring in Finland, my Technical Advisor has been spending a lot of time outside catting around, so I didnít have too much help from her. I would like to thank my other TA, the computer expert and hockey fan, my son Esko. This story follows "Shipís Cat", but can stand on itís own. There are also references to "Nuts Over You" my first Man from U.N.C.L.E./Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea crossover.

 

 

Somewhere off the coast of South America...

The Russian freighter, Velikkaja Koshka, plowed through the waters of the Pacific Ocean. Ostentatiously, it was carrying crude oil and cargo for the port of Guayaquil in Ecuador. If the crew was undermanned and overworked, it was taken for granted. They had been foolish enough to sign on to the Russian ship. Along with the Captain and First Mate, only eight men kept the Velikkaja Koshka afloat. The ship also carried a spy and his partner.

Illya Kuryakin was an agent of the prestigious organization known as U.N.C.L.E, the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. He was the number two agent for enforcement. He spoke 17 languages fluently and a couple of dozen more with facility. He had a Doctorate in Quantum Physics from the Sorbonne University in France. He was a crack marksman, a skilled martial arts expert and credible locksmith and escape artist. He was a master at his trade.

He was puking his guts up into a bucket, sick as a dog.

His partner watched him impassively. Her green eyes held no sympathy, only steady-gazed interest in his plight. She considered comforting him, but with a wrinkle of her sensitive nose decided to wait until he was done being sick. Chance had made them companions. When the spy had presented his forged documents to the Captain, she had presented the suspicious man with one of her victims, killed with no mercy. Impressed by the pair, he had let them become part of the crew. The spy and the Shipís Cat.

"Bozhe moi..." Kuryakin groaned as his stomach spasmed viciously. He knew there was a reason he had faced this assignment with foreboding. It wasnít because the freedom of the free world was at stake. It wasnít that he would be alone on a ship in the middle of the ocean surrounded by enemies. It wasnít because he had an almost impossible task to do. These were things he did for a living. The problem was one of the super agentís few weaknesses - seasickness. The surefire seasick pills given to him by UNCLEís medical department had not taken into account seasickness, and the shipís cook.

He remembered a few hours earlier looking at the swill that the cook of the shabby freighter apparently considered food.

"What is this?" he asked dipping his spoon in the greasy brown mass.

"Your dinner," the cook grunted and put a small bowl of the stuff down for the black and white shipís cat. She took one sniff at it and then turned her back on it and began scratching at the deck as if burying...something. She preferred her rodents raw.

"I agree padruga," Illya said to the cat who looked hopefully at him. "At least you can eat the rats and mice..." Well, he had eaten nastier looking stuff, especially in the Arab countries and Lapland. The rest of the crew were stolidly eating. It brought back memories of his days in the Soviet Navy, serving on submarines. A man could get killed, if not seriously hurt over a piece of kolbasa sausage or a small piece of candy. He had a feeling that it would be like that on this ship as well, if not worse.

It had been worse. His stomach, having emptied its contents in less time than it took to fill it, then steadied down into minor quivers and small sighs. Illya poured himself gingerly into his bunk. Despite his illness, he had a job to do, and it had to be done soon. He lay curled on his side, arms clasped over his tortured gut. The black and white cat who had attached herself to him when boarding the ship jumped up to join him. As if sensing his fragile state she curled herself up against him and started purring softly. The gentle warmth of the cat and her peaceful purring seemed to steady the turbulence in his gut. They both enjoyed a catnap, before going out under the cover of night to do their work. Both were professionals when it came to vermin.

 

 

Somewhere in the South Pacific about 200 miles Northwest of the Galapagos...

"Hold her steady," Captain Crane said into the mike in the conning tower. He didnít need to hear the reply from the control room below. He knew the men would keep the Seaview as steady as possible. The helicopter pilot had the hard job, dropping a man onto the deck of the Seaview. The wash from the rotors along with the normally mild two-meter swells made putting a man down more than tricky.

The object of concern was twisting in the air, now only about three meters from the deck. He had to be desperate to do this. Either that or his mission was desperate.

They had been cruising off the South American coast. Seaview was investigating some ocean bed seismic disturbances. The Admiral had received an "Eyeís Only" flash message and had disappeared into his cabin. Five minutes later he came to the con and ordered a radical course change.

"Whatís up Admiral?" Crane asked. The Admiral looked angry, no, he looked pissed.

"Someone has called in a favor. We are to drop everything. Go to these coordinates and pick up a package. We are asked to cooperate."

"Ordered or asked?" the Captain asked, noting the stress the Admiral put on the word asked.

"Oh, asked, Lee, not very politely, and with a sharp reminder of what we owed them," Nelson growled. "Dammit Lee, itís bad enough with ONI, now the U.N.C.L.E. thinks that the Seaview is at their disposal."

"The United Network Command for Law and Enforcement? The spies? The ones who told us about the bomb?" Crane ran his fingers through his hair. "What do they want with the Seaview?"

"We will apparently know in about an hour when we pick up the Ďpackageí."

The Ďpackageí was now dangling at the end of a steel hawser, being lowered with some difficulty to the pitching deck of the Seaview.

Crane winced as the man swung lower and curved out over open water. The chopper pilot compensated. The men on deck were able to catch the guide cord and started to bring the man down onto the aft deck of the Seaview. Crane felt sorry for the man, after such a nasty ride he was going to have to face the wrath of Admiral Nelson. A dump in the drink might be preferable.

The chopper took off after the man was unhooked. Crane clicked on the mike,"Ok. Package retrieved, prepare to dive." Crane ducked down the hatch. He arrived at the con just as the visitor was shucking off a heavy flight suit. Underneath the orange suit he had on a dinner jacket with spotless white shirt and slim black tie. He was smoothing his crisp brown hair into place and turned with an engaging smile across his handsome face.

"Ah Captain Crane. Permission to come aboard?" The salute was casual in the extreme and almost insolent.

"Mr. Napoleon Solo," Crane eyed the brash agent narrowly. "What brings you to the Seaview?"

Solo shot his cuffs and smiled. "Well, Captain, I will be happy to tell you and your charming Admiral Nelson in your cabin. Perhaps you could provide a cup of coffee and piece of your superb cookís pie?"

"Chip. Drop by the galley and have Cookie send us some coffee and pie. Then join us in my cabin. OíBrien you have the con."

"Aye sir," Bobby OíBrien brightened up. Even if it was for only a short time he loved handling the con.

Crane let the agent lead the way. Solo seemed to stumble slightly at a hatchway. Craneís eyes narrowed. If he didnít miss his guess the man was exhausted.

 

"I am sorry for the short notice and the rather radical means to achieve your cooperation, sir." Solo was managing to smooth some of Admiral Nelsonís ruffled feathers. Crane had to hand it to the agent; he was a clever talker. "Unfortunately, time is of the essence. The Seaview is the only transport that can get us fast enough there, and has the firepower to back me up."

"Wait a moment...transport is one thing," Captain Crane leaned forwards threateningly at the agent. "If by firepower you are referring to our missiles or men, there better be a damn good reason."

"Captain Crane is right! The Seaview is not just a weapon you point and shoot," Nelson growled.

"Twelve hours ago I was in the South of France..."Solo suddenly had a grim look on his face. "I lost a good agent to get this information. I have another agent who has been in deep cover for over a month now. Have you gentlemen heard of the Kisumisu virus?"

"A plague? Some kind of chemical warfare?" Nelson looked indignant.

"It is said to be one of the most pernicious, evil, computer viruses ever invented," Mr. Morton spoke up for the first time.

Solo nodded. "If released, the consequences would be disastrous." He looked at the Executive Officer. "Perhaps if you tell your colleagues what we are dealing with?"

"It enters the computer from a network, completely unnoticed. Then it imprints its information in the ROM of the computer," Morton looked grim. "Then, it runs itself, first by transferring copies of itself over any network, that the computer is connected to, then, basically, it kills anything on the computer by raising the voltage of the internal hardware by one volt, which in turn fries anything you connected to the system. Just think of the world banking system alone, everything would crash within 12 hours. The virus multiplies itself exponentially."

"The virus is due to be activated within eight hours. It will be triggered by a satellite-linked signal. This signal will be sent from a Russian freighter, the Velikkaja Koshka, which should be lurking in these waters. We have an agent in deep cover on board, but he hasnít reported in, in over 24 hours. I have had to assume...at any rate gentlemen, my job, our job is stop that signal with any means possible."

"So, we stop the signal. What is to stop the programmer from sending it from some other source?" Morton asked.

"The programmer was a genius. He was also rather paranoid about his work and made only one copy of the virus disk. The original has been destroyed. The programmer himself has been...eliminated." Solo frowned heavily and rubbed his forehead.

"Your man on this freighter...?" Nelson asked.

"His job was to find the satellite link up and disable it. The disk was especially important to be found and destroyed. He reported in every twelve hours. In his last report he had managed to incapacitate the satellite, but had not found the disk, yet. He had some good ideas though. After that last message, we havenít heard from him."

"Does he have any idea of what he is looking for?" Morton asked.

"Illya Kuryakin is very competent with computers. He was the perfect agent to send to a Russian freighter," Solo said a little coldly. "Here are the coordinates of the last sighting we had of the freighter." Solo passed a scrap of paper to the Captain. "We have been keeping a very discreet eye on the ship from high altitude reconnaissance aircraft. Kuryakin may be able to set off his emergency locator beacon. Iíll give the frequency to your radioman. It should lead us straight to the freighter. We would like to have the disk in our hands, but if that is not possible..."he spread his hands expressively.

"We blow them out of the water," Nelson said wryly. He frowned at Captain Crane whose expression mirrored his own.

"Admiral Nelson, contrary to popular belief, our policy is not to Ďblow things upí or shoot and ask questions later. I and my partner, Mr. Kuryakin, only need you to give us the backup we need." Solo said patiently. He took a sip of coffee. He hadnít slept in about 28 hours. His last meal was only a fond memory. Coupled with the gravity of the situation, he was exhausted. Yet, he had confidence in the Seaview and her crew as back up. He would rather have heard from his partner, Illya, and done this without involving them, but he had to assume the worst had happened to him.

Captain Crane looked at the coordinates given by the UNCLE agent. "This could take us a few hours to get into position. Would you like to get some rest? You can use my cabin."

"How kind, yes, a catnap would be a good idea..."
 
 

 

The cat had a successful hunt that morning. Three rodents had been handily dispatched. Their size and ferocity had been admired and praised by the man to bring catch to. Like most cats, her relationship with people was based on what the person did for her. Dogs, the ridiculous creatures, lent themselves slavishly to a person, and worshipped them even if they didn't feed them, share a bed, or give praiise where praise was due. The blond man seemed less squeamish than before. The only problem was the man to beg food from seemed to have become an enemy. The galley was no longer a warm and loving environment for the self-respecting cat. Whenever the  paths of the ship's cook and the cat  crossed they hissed at each other. She had taken to doing her business in a dark corner of the pantry that apparently was noisome to begin with, in cat-like retaliation. After all, no self-respecting cat did her business where one ate.

She retired to the manís bunk and spent an important hour carefully cleaning her fur and paws. Then she looked around for a little entertainment. The three men sharing the cramped quarters had already learned to put any breakables, like aftershave and watches into bags. She liked to tap things off shelves and watch them crash and splinter on the deck. She chased a dust bunny for a while until it disintegrated underneath one of the bunks. She found an interesting little pouch tucked up in the mattress and worried at it until she got it open. Out tumbled a bright shiny object that clattered nicely on the deck, but didnít break on impact.

The cat pounced on the bright silver pen-shaped object. It skittered nicely across the metal deck. She gave it a good whack with her paw and then with the skill of a Finnish hockey player began to skate with the object around the room.

*(Imagine if you will that your teenage son has just changed the channel on the TV from Sci-Fi to Eurosport....and hockeyÖ..

The cat has the puck, oh here come the leg of a chair...what a shot! One paw sent it around the leg the other captured and sent it towards the backboard! (Cheers from the crowd)Look at that! The cat went halfway up the wall of the backboard and with a two paw shot sent the puck across the length of the room. Uh oh. Trouble! A tangle of bed covers on the floor. The crowd grows wild as the cat with a four-paw skid and swipe completely rips the blanket off the bunk. The pillow is down! Itíll be the penalty box for sure. Nope, the ref didnít see a thing! (The crowd starts singing Olé olé olé olé). She is making for the goal! Nothing can stop this cat! Kurri, Gretsky, you have met your match! What a great weave around furniture and then the final shot! Itís a goal! (The crowd bounces to their feet.) Thatís it folks. What a game. Cat 1 - Important Communication Device 0! )

The silver communicator pen found a resting-place under the bunk. It was nicely wedged behind the leg that was bolted to the floor. It beeped faintly where the button was jammed down and started to send out the emergency homing signal.

 

 

Seaman Kowalski shook the agentís shoulder. "Mr. So..." He was gripped by an iron hand around his throat and there was a nasty looking gun pressed to his head. Ski had the presence of mind to stay very still. Solo let go of him with a long hiss between his teeth.

"Didnít your mother teach you to knock?" Napoleon said shoving the UNCLE special back into the shoulder holster he had tucked under his pillow.

"I did. You didnít hear me. Sparks has picked up Mr. Kuryakinís emergency signal. Do you want to join the Skipper in the con?" Kowalski said calmly.

"Of course," Napoleon said smoothly. "Iíll be there shortly."

Once in the corridor, Ski leaned against the wall closed his eyes for moment and took a deep shuddering breath.

Once the crewman left, Solo closed his eyes and took a deep shuddering breath.

 

 

Illya Kuryakin didnít mind making a dangerous climb. What he did hate was doing it for nothing. He had climbed up onto the radio mast to rescue the cat. She had been up there for half a day occasionally yowling and complaining. No amount of verbal coaxing seemed to have any effect. The cook even grudgingly sacrificed a fish head as bait to retrieve the animal from her perch. It didnít work. So Illya climbed up the precarious perch. The cat retreated higher at first, immune to his coaxing and eventual cursing. Then, as if she had enough entertainment, she came sliding down the mast. She took a break on Illyaís head leaving 20 claw marks indelibly imprinted in his head and then with grace jumped to the deck. She grabbed the fish head and ran, leaving Illya to make his way back down. Kuryakin was still mad at the animal when she came to sleep in his bunk with him that night. He turned over when she came and butted her head against his arm.

"Go away, you smell of fish..."he grunted to her.

"Mrrrooow? Mmmm?" she sweet-talked him and began to lick his face.

"Just like that and I am to forgive you? I saved you, now you have to do the same for me. Find out where the Captain is hiding that disk and you will have as many fish heads you can eat." Illya scratched the cat behind her ears. She closed her eyes and began to purr.

"And moe padruga if you could find my communicator pen, I will give you a bowl of smetana. Sounds good, eh?" He fell into an uneasy sleep still scratching the catís ears. In a few hours he had some catting around to do - under the cover of night.

 

Dressed in black, Illya Kuryakin, became a part of the shadows on the deck. He was making his way up to the Officerís quarters. He had searched both the Captainís and First Mateís rooms once before, without any success, but something told him that the computer disk had to hidden in either of the manís cabins.

What he didnít realize as he stealthily moved that he was being not only watched, but followed.

 

 

Captain Lee Crane peered through the periscope at the freighter wallowing its way through the waves. "Thatís it Mr. Solo, the Velikkaja Koshka. Riley, put the periscope through the foíard camera feed."

The large screen lit up into dark shadows and greys. The ship was an indistinguishable mass in the dark of the night.

"Switch on the infrared filters," Crane ordered. The picture immediately changed into a surrealistic view of the boat in yellows, blues, and some spots of bright orange and red.

"The orange and reds are Ďhotí spots, " Crane pointed out towards the stern of the ship. "Engines" He then pointed out the few bright spots that were crew on the bridge. They were little bright lights in the darkness of the colder parts of the ship.

"We canít detect how many of the crew are below, but at least we can see how many are on deck at any one time. Looks to be three on the bridge, one moving on the deck towards the starboard, hmmm, lost him behind the bulkhead." A very small hot red dot followed the larger orange blob and disappeared from sight as well.

 

Kuryakin slid carefully around the edge of the bulkhead towards the officerís quarters. Even though he opened the door to the Captainís cabin only wide enough to get his slim body in, it was wide enough for the cat to dart between his legs and slither into the room.

"Chort..."The agent hissed under his breath, but he knew catching the cat and ousting her from the cabin would take more time than he had. He had to hope that she wouldnít start dumping things off the tables and making noise. He was carefully searching through the surprisingly neat desk when he heard the cat scratching at something furiously. He looked over to see the cat working at the cushion of an overstuffed saggy spring chair set in the corner of the room. She eventually got her body under the cushion and was scratching at something under it. A faint frown marked Illyaís brow, what was wrong? He then realized that the sound he heard was the catís claws on something metal. He lifted the cushion off the cat to find her nose stuck firmly on a metal box that had been sunk into the frame of the chair.

Illya pushed the cat off the chair to examine the box and the lock closer, the cat slipped in between his arms and continued to claw and sniff at the box. He pulled a clever set of lockpick tools out of his pocket and soon had the box open. With lightning speed the cat grabbed a small piece of sausage that was loosely wrapped up in a piece of greasy paper. The box contained a good collection of delicacies and goodies that would keep the Captain alive and happy. Illya felt no compunction in devouring a rather ripe but good slice of Kostroma cheese as he rifled the box. His fingers then found buried under a pile of gaudily wrapped chocolates a thin folder wrapped carefully between two layers of heavy card. He grinned. This is what he had been sent to find, the Kisumisu virus disk. He tucked it carefully in his waistband and closed up the box. He was returning the cushion when he heard a noise in the corridor, before he could do more than push the cushion back in place when the door burst open. The Captain and the cook came into the cabin.

"Kuryakin!! Vat are you doink here?" the freighter captain said suspiciously. His head turned instinctively to the chair in the corner. The cat sat on it, one leg raised up as she licked it clean.

"My cat, she came in here..."

"Ah yes, the great rat catcher, that one." The captain reached down and petted the cat like a person would pet a dog. The cat looked at him coldly, resenting the pat and the interruption of the grooming process. She hopped off the chair and began to lick at the paper that the sausage bit had been wrapped in.

The captain narrowed his eyes and picked up the paper taking it away from the cat and further offending the feline. "Sausage." He said sniffing at the evidence. "My sausage, eh Kuryakin?"

The Russian captain backhanded the agent viciously across the face. Kuryakinís head rocked back with the blow.

"What...are...you...doing...in...my...cabin?" Each word was punctuated by a blow to the face.

The cook, wanting to get in on the fun, grabbed and twisted Illyaís arms painfully behind his back. While Illya was confident enough to defeat both men in unarmed combat, he would try bluffing first. Getting off this ship in mid-ocean wasnít something he really wanted to risk.

"I was looking for some food. I know you donít eat in the mess..." Kuryakin didnít need to keep the pain out of his voice. "The food has been very bad the last two days, I have been sick..." He continued truthfully and added a little whine for effect.

"Sick...Iíll make you sick!" The Captain swung his fist at the manís stomach. Instead the solidly, sick thump that a blow to the gut usually produced, there was a sharp crack. Illya grimaced, that was the disk that just broke in two.

The Captain pulled up the manís sweater to find the broken halves of the disk. He howled in rage. "You cretin! You pig! The disk! You broke the disk!"

"No Captain, it seems you did. I donít think your boss will like that..."Illya couldnít resist the retort. It earned him several vicious, swift, blows to the ribs and head. The cook let go of Kuryakin as some of the wild blows also bounced off of him. This was the only edge that Illya needed. He slipped under the Captains guard and laid a few good punches himself. The Captain, staggered back. He scrabbled in the drawer of his desk and pulled out a rather large and effective looking gun. The cook, who was leaning against the wall clutching his ample gut, tried to sidle out of the line of fire. His feet failed to find a firm foothold. He slipped on the greasy piece of paper that the cat had left there, from the piece of sausage she'd eaten earlier.

The Captain  pointed the gun at Illyaís head. "Say good-bye spy." He raised the gun and stepped back - right on the catís tail.

"WEEERRROOOW!" she protested and dashed between his legs causing him to lose his balance and fall forwards towards the agent.

That was all the additional advantage Illya needed to grab at the gun. The captainís finger tightened instinctively on the trigger and the gun exploded. The cook stood staring astounded at the growing red stain on the his front. It snaked around the grease stains and looked brilliant against the dirty gray of his filthy apron. He slid down the wall. His last living vision was of the cat hissing at him from under the safety of the desk.

Illya easily disarmed the captain and knocked him out with a karate blow to the neck. A wave of nausea and dizziness brought him staggering to lean against the wall. The dark spots in front of his eyes finally coalesced into the cat sitting under the desk. She looked at him accusingly as if he had stepped on her.

"Donít look like that, I am in worse shape than you." He muttered to her as he gingerly tried moving upright. If he didnít straighten up completely he could almost ignore the pain in his gut and ribs.

"Mrrrrrrrr ssssssss." she hissed, and fluffed herself up and spat.

"Wha...?"

He was turning to see what the cat was hissing at when he was hit across his ribs with a chair. Unlike in the movies or TV westerns the chair didnít break. His ribs did. The air in his lungs left in an explosive gasp. He managed a half turn and whipped the pistol across the jaw of his attacker, the First Mate. The mate reeled, but retaliated with fist to the side where Kuryakinís ribs were broken.

Illya crumbled towards the deck onto his hands and knees. His last memory was of the catís green eyes staring at him, then a boot hit his face.

 

 

It was about an hour before dawn, the Velikkaja Koshka was stilled shrouded in shadows.

"Thereís been no change in the signal...?" Solo asked Sparks again.

"No, sir. It has been steady for the last eight hours. No change," The radioman said.

"Sir we have movement on the deck," Riley called out. The ship had been relatively quiet during the night hours.

Captain Crane studied the monitor. Napoleon Solo came to stand next to him. "Captain, I have to assume that Illya has failed..."

"Wait...look." Crane interrupted. Two orange blobs were moving with a faint pink blob between them. The pink blob was then thrown overboard.

"Is that what I think it is?" Solo said quietly. His hands balled into fists was the only sign of stress he showed.

Captain Crane grabbed the mike. "Dive master, get a dive party out on the double, we have a body in the water...bearing 074." He glanced at Mr.OíBrian.

"Mark 2, sir." The junior officer supplied.

"Aye,sir,"was the immediate reply over the com.

"Wait.." Solo put a hand on the Captainís arm. "He is probably dead, or will be before you get to him. I have to consider the mission. I have to get on that ship."

"Thereís always a chance..." Lee Crane looked at the UNCLE agent sharply.

"Illya knew the danger." Solo said flatly. "Cancel the diving party. Give me a wetsuit and get me as close to the ship as you can. Iíll take care of the rest. Youíve done your share."

"The diving party still stands, Mr.Solo. I donít leave men out here to drown or to remain lost at sea." Captain Crane was tightly furious. "Iíll remind you Mr.Solo, that this is my boat, I am Captain here. After we recover your colleague, we will lend you the assistance you will need to take down the people who killed him. Is that clear mister?"

"Perfectly, Captain," Solo stalked out of con to stand at the large bow windows.

The sun had risen and faint sunlight was filtering through the water when Chip Morton carefully tapped the agent on the shoulder.

"Mr.Solo? I brought you a cup of coffee."

"Thank you." He took the hot cup of brew thankfully. Like most good Navy coffee, it was strong enough to float a stove.

"The diving party is coming back with the body..." Morton said cautiously. "Iím sorry about your partner."

"He wasnít just my partner. He was my best friend," Solo said quietly and followed the officer to the missile room.

The light on the air lock turned to green and was being opened when the two men arrived. Captain Crane was already there.

The three divers had a hard time muscling in the bulky waterlogged body.

Solo gave a relieved sigh. "Thank God, thatís not Illya." He rubbed the back of his neck, and felt the muscles in his neck and shoulder ease fractionally.

"That means he may still be alive." Captain Crane said, noting the obvious relief that Solo was displaying. The man had a tight control over his emotions, but the agent did have feelings, something Crane hadnít been too sure about.

"Yeah, that damn slippery Russian. Wouldnít put it past him." Solo grinned infectiously. "Now, to take the Velikkaja Koshka..." He rubbed his hands together.

"Ah, yes. I have an idea or two..."Lee Crane found himself responding to the charm of the UNCLE agent.

 

 

"Go below and kill the spy!" The freighter captain spat out. The force of men swarming up the sides of his boat was formidable. He would have to make his escape in the confusion, but it would be nice to know that the object of their rescue would be dead before they got to him.

The First Mate grinned viciously; he had a score to settle with the blond man. He touched the tender place on his jaw where the man had pistol-whipped him yesterday. Too bad he wouldnít have time to make his death slow.

The cat was waiting patiently for someone to open the hatch down to the cargo hold where the good hunting was. The blond man who really appreciated her was there, too.  A cat gave loyalty and love to those who deserved it - those who petted them, praised them, and gave them plenty of room to do what the cat pleased.

The First Mate opened the hatch and started to go down the steep stairway. The cat bolted down the steps and waited impatiently at the bottom for the man to open more doors. She did a hop and rub against the leg to hurry him along. He ignored her.

The last hatch was opened and the cat opted for the weave between the ankles. It was a mistake. Beyond the hatch was a flight of steep steps. The man tripped over the cat, sending her flying into the hold. The cat twisted in mid-air and landed on her feet. The thug didnít. He went windmilling and bouncing down the stairs to land in a twisted heap at the bottom of the steps. His neck was at an unnatural angle.

The cat sat quietly for a moment, getting over the indignity of being booted. She then cautiously went over to smell at the man. Her nose wrinkled slightly. She then went to the last closed hatch and meowed to be let in. She could hear movement and smell rats. She paced back and forth in front of the hatch, jumping at the handle to see if she could get it to open. Her meows began to be more acidic and demanding.

 

Napoleon Solo held his gun next to the ear of the captured crewman. "Where is Kuryakin?" He grated pushing the muzzle deeper into the manís ear.

"The foíard cargo hold...I don know nothing. I just sailor." The man babbled. The manic glare in the dark manís eyes had more terror for him than the gun pressed to his head.

"I just saw a man go down there not a minute ago..." Lee Crane said. Without a word both men sprinted for the bow of the ship. They both had their guns drawn as they smoothly but quickly moved across the embattled ship. They expertly covered each other at each corner and hatch. The last hold was dark and ill lit. That didnít stop the men from going at top speed down the stairs. Solo tripped over a body, but did a roll and tuck coming up on his feet with his gun trained down on the body.

"Is it Kuryakin?" Crane had seen the stumble and had nimbly jumped over the obstacle.

"Noo...but the man is dead. He must have been coming here to kill him though." Napoleon kicked at the gun that was still gripped in the dead manís hands.

"He must have fallen down the stairs...strange," Crane mused. The stairs werenít that steep...

"Meeeooow!" the cat waited impatiently for the two men to open the hatch.

Both men whirled their guns trained on the indignant cat. It was a measure of their fine reflexes that kept the cat from being smeared across the bulkhead by a rain of bullets.

Napoleon raised his hand at Lee. Lee nodded in return. Crane carefully, but swiftly opened the hatch and both men darted into the room fanning to the sides of the door guns moving side to side looking for possible targets. The cat pranced in between them into the room and went over to rub a greeting against Illya Kuryakin who was dangling by chains, half-conscious.

"Prrrooowww?" she  rubbed herself back and forth on his dangling leg.

"Illya?!" Solo hurried over to his partner. He raised Illyaís chin carefully. He was rewarded by a moan and a curse in Russian. His one open eye focused on Solo and the dark man standing by him.

"Youíre late Napoleon..."he mumbled through dry and split lips.

"I had to borrow a submarine on the way. You know how hard it is to hitch a ride in one of those things?" Solo quipped easing an arm around the man.

Crane was opening the metal cuffs that held the man upright. Kuryakin stood for a moment and then looked down at the cat who was weaving around his ankles.

"The cat...take the cat..." His legs then buckled and he was hefted onto Napoleonís shoulders in a firemanís carry.

"The souvenirs you pick up Illya..."Solo grumbled good-naturedly. "Do you mind Captain?"

"Lord no, what is one more hitch hiker." Crane grabbed the cat and zipped her up in his jacket. It was a move his ribs and flayed skin would regret later as she protested the incarceration. "Funny, we had a cat just like her on the Seaview about a month ago."

 

The Captain of the Velikkaja Koshka was making his get away in the little well equipped lifeboat. He could hear the noise and gunshots of the takeover-taking place on his ship. He hoped that he could make his escape while attention was elsewhere. All of a sudden the water boiled in front of his little craft. A large yellow saucer type object bobbed to the surface. His craft half crashed half ran up onto the flying sub.

"Hands up!" A diver was climbing up the stern of his boat and there were several more in the water with vicious-looking spear guns aimed at him. The game was up. He made as if to surrender and then pulled a gun from his waistband. He got one shot off before he became a porcupine stuck with four titanium-tipped shark shafts. He was dead before his body knew it.

"You okay sir?" Kowalski called from the water to where the Exec was standing over the body.

Morton had a hand on his side. "Fine, Ski, just a scratch." Letís get this scum of the sea and his boat back to the Seaview." The dark neoprene diving suit hid the spreading patch of blood staining his side. It also kept the wound tightly sealed, for the moment.

The crew of the Seaview had the rest of the crew herded nicely in the stern of the boat. The Velikkaja Koshka was theirs.

"Put me down, Napoleon." Illya snarled. "I can walk."

"Alright." Solo said and put him down none too gently. The blond agent looked like hell in the dark of the hold. In the light of day he looked like a walking corpse. Bruises and welts covered his torso. He listed to one side, obviously favoring damaged ribs. Dried blood matted his hair and one side of his face barely covering the dark bruise that kept one eye closed.

"My God, we rescued the Hunchback of Notre Dame," Crane said.

Kuryakin stared at the Captain of the Seaview. "Napoleon, you commandeered the Seaview?" He raised his one remaining mobile eyebrow at his partner. Even that hurt.

"Illya, you know I like to travel first class..." He kept an eye on his partner who was beginning to weave in interesting patterns. It was just a matter of moments before his obstinate friend passed out.

Seaman Kowalski came trotting up with a report for the boarding party. "Sir, we caught a guy trying to escape. He tried to make a fight of it..." Ski made a cutting sign at his throat signaling the escapeeís demise.

"Anyone hurt?" Crane asked.

"The XO got winged sir, he says itís just a scratch." Kowalski nodded towards the Exec who was barking orders to the men escorting the prisoners down to the Seaviewís brig.

"Mr.Morton!" Crane yelled at the blond officer. The cat had found her way into his sleeve and was trying to escape that way. Crane opened his jacket and passed the fighting feline over to Kowalski. "See that this animal gets on board."

"Yessir." If the skipper pulled a cat out of his jacket and told him to take it to the Seaview then that is what he would do. He had obeyed stranger orders. He did a double take at the cat. "Hey, isnít this..." He then broke off as the Exec was bearing down on them looking ...peeved. Ski made tracks, Morton wouldnít thank him for telling the Captain that he was wounded.

"We got them all, sir." Morton came up to the three men; one hand was seemingly casually pressed to his left side. "I sent the men to do a thorough sweep of the boat. The Captain didnít get very far." He nodded to Illya. "See you found Mr.Kuryakin." Morton felt the deck begin to move sideways. Funny it seemed like he and Kuryakin were the only ones affected by the list. Only Kuryakin was going one way and he was going the other.

"Damn stubborn..."Crane said as he caught his friend before he hit the deck.

"Fool" Solo finished, catching his friend before he hit the deck.

 

 

Doctor Jamieson looked grim when the two unconscious men were brought into sickbay.

"Get out the restraining straps, John." He said automatically "Weíve got Mr.Morton."

"Aw, hell," John muttered under his breath. He liked the XO, but as a patient, he was a real handful.

"You better make that for two," Solo said helping the doctor settle his friend to a gurney. "Illya hates being in a hospital bed.

"You put me in restraining straps, Napoleon..."Kuryakin whispered, "and Iíll...Iíll..." his voice tailed off as an injudicious movement sent him back to unconsciousness.

"Ok you two, out. I have work to do." Jamieson snapped at the Captain and the UNCLE agent.

"ĎM fine...just a scratch..." Chip Morton was complaining weakly.

"No exit wound, Doc. I think it missed all the vital parts. Chewed up a lot of muscle." John the corpsman announced from his quick but thorough examination of the XO.

"Okay, John." Dr.Jamieson was finding multiple injuries, but none of them life threatening in the UNCLE agent. "Prep him for surgery. By the time the anesthetic sets in weíll have Mr. Kuryakin cleaned up.

John prepared a long wicked looking needle. Morton tried to stare him down.

"Sorry sir, not going to work." The corpsman said with a gentle smile.

"You are enjoying this..." Morton winced as the needle went home. A warm lassitude began to spread over him. His last memory was of John grinning at him.

"Yessir! I sure am," the corpsman admitted.

"Theyíre both fine." Dr. Jamieson came out of the sickbay about an hour later to face the two worried men. He answered their unspoken question. "Mr.Kuryakin has two broken ribs, a couple more are bruised, numerous contusions and scrapes, and a very nasty concussion. He is sleeping now. Heíll be uncomfortable for a while, but will be up and around long before Iíd like him to be." The doctor held up a hand when Captain Crane opened his mouth. "And Mr.Morton is fine. The bullet just took out a layer of muscle, he is suffering more from blood loss, the pig-headed..."Doc took a breath and stopped himself. No use complaining to another pig-headed person. "He is sleeping off the anesthetic. I expect both of them will wake up in about two or three hours. You can go have a look at them."

The two men went to look at their friends. Even knowing that they were getting the best of medical care, it was reassuring to see that someone was still breathing, still there.

Lee Crane looked at Solo cautiously. "They seem just fine."

"Good medical staff you have," Solo said looking around for an extra chair.

"The best." Lee pulled out a chair and sat down next to Mortonís bed.

"Probably keep an eye on these two real well..." Napoleon took another chair and sat down next to Illya.

"Trained to do it. " Lee said non-commitedly and pulled the blanket on the sleeping man a little higher.

"Oh, yes, professionals." Napoleon said and brushed the hair away from the ugly bruise on his partnerís face.

The two men were silent for a moment.

"You...ah...going to sit with him?" Solo asked cautiously, as Lee Crane seemed to settle into the chair.

"Are you?" Lee watched as the agent unbuttoned his shirt and pulled off his tie.

"Well...it is a nasty habit. He hates it when I do," Napoleon confessed.

"Chip is like that too. Ungrateful." Lee grinned wryly "But heís done it for me."

"Tell me Lee, have you ever noticed that if you arenít there when they wake up thereís no living with them," Solo said keeping an eye on his friend.

"Yeah, wake up fussy. Give the medical staff a hard time." The two men were silent for a moment. "Guess weíll just have to be here when they wake up, save Dr.Jamieson from using the restraints," Lee continued.

"Great minds think alike, Lee,"Napoleon Solo said. The two men sat in companionable silence and waited for their friends to wake up.

 

 

It was unanimously decided that the cat brought back by Kowalski was none other than their long-lost ship's cat. The cat basked in all the attention, petting, and offering of tidbits. She went directly to the galley for a decent meal.

"Pussums! Our wittle pussums is back!" The incongruous sound of Cookieís gravelly voice talking baby talk to the cat grated on the nerves. But it also awakened hope. Cookie always cooked superbly well, but when it came to the cat, he became inspired. More than one man licked his chops thinking of the culinary delights that were surely to be forthcoming.

Admiral Nelsonís welcome was louder, but not as enthusiastic as Cookie' s.

"FRANCIS SHARKEY!" The enraged bellow of the Admiral echoed out his lab and down half of the boat. It was followed by the cat running swiftly down the corridor with a very rare qatii spotu piscus clenched firmly in her jaws. The victim was still flopping feebly. She easily avoided capture. She then went to ground to eat her prey. A neat pile of fishbones was later found deposited in the corner of Mortonís cabin.

"Who let a cat back on board!" Nelson was yelling at the hapless COB. "Is it that animal again..."

"Looks like it." Sharkey admitted. "She looks the same. She knew where the galley is and uh...your lab sir. Itís spooky, but I think it is our Shipís Cat."

 

 

Napoleon, Illya, Lee, and Chip were standing in the bow of the Seaview in front of the spectacular view of the bow windows. Morton and Kuryakin had been released, or escaped, from sickbay a few hours before and were heartily enjoying their freedom.

The object of their conversation was sitting in front of the computer and watching the colored light displays flash. Every now and then she would reach out a paw and bat at a flashing light.

"So, the cat saved not only your life, but that of three others? Uncanny." Solo said wonderingly and picked another cat hair delicately off his shirt.

"Seems she took down the bad guy on the boat, saving Kuryakinís life. A killer cat. Iíd let UNCLE recruit her, but my crew is strangely attached to her," Crane said regarding the scratch marks on his hands from "playing" with the cat.

The two blond men looked at each other.

"Makes you think, doesnít it?" Morton said wryly.

"Chief Enforcement Officer for UNCLE...the mind boggles,"Kuryakin shook his head

"Captain of the Seaview." Morton shook his head in agreement. "Giving a cat superhuman powers. Just about as ridiculous as a chinchilla defusing a bomb."

"Or being rescued by dolphins..." Kuryakin raised an eyebrow at the executive officer.

The two blond men crossed their arms and gave their superiors looks that should have caused another ice age.

"You notice something about those two...?" Solo nudged Crane with his elbow.

"Looks like someone in need of extra duty...like all my paperwork." Crane said.

"Hmm, or writing a very thorough report on this operation," Solo mused. "Aw, hell. They would probably enjoy it."

"Yeah. Unnatural, both of them. Napoleon, you donít suppose...you know twins separated at birth," Lee said in a low confidential voice.

"Get real Lee. Aliens, the first wave of an invasion force. Worm their way into our confidence, offer us friendship..." Napoleon continued in the same vein.

"Then go around acting vastly superior, undermining our authority..." Crane gave the blond men a quelling stare.

"Not to speak of stepping on our egos," Solo interrupted, adding his own frown.

"Getting constantly into trouble, and needing rescuing," Crane finished.

The two dark men glared at their second-in-commands with a look that should have started a fire by spontaneous combustion.

Admiral Nelson shuddered. Luckily they were racing towards a rendezvous with a British Navy frigate. In a few hours his ship would be freed from his obligation to UNCLE. Unfortunately, it seemed that his two senior officers had found kindred spirits in the agents. He had a hunch that this wasnít the last they would see of that dynamic duo.

 

One week later:

"I see you got a package from Solo," Nelson said sourly. He suspected the UNCLE agents of trying to recruit his Captain and Executive Officer.

"Thatís right sir," Lee Crane smiled. Nothing would get him off the Seaview; those UNCLE guys were nice, but crazy. "It is actually not for me. Itís for the cat. Chip is putting it on her now."

The bright red collar with the latest micro-homing device imbedded in it, courtesy of UNCLE, looked great around the neck of the Shipís Cat. She sat with her tail wrapped around her feet, head raised and whiskers bristling.

"She likes it!" Morton said proudly. "Now we wonít lose her again." He sucked absentmindedly at the deep scratches on his hand. She hadnít taken well to having the collar put on, initially.

Outside of being laughed at, this was the ultimate indignity. Collars were for dogs. The cat was just waiting for the opportunity to get rid of the embarrassing collar. If they were going to insult her, then she would just leave.

 

 

*Note from the TA: I hate to be negative, but this story was not as good as the first one. The cat part was cut to almost nothing. Instead she wrote about those men. Are they furry? Can they purr? Are they cuter than cats? Would you let them sleep in your bed? Iíll let you judge. Remember we cats stick together. Your cat will agree with me! CD a.k.a. Complete Destruction.