Disclaimer: Daria and associated characters are owned by MTV. This is fan fiction written for entertainment only. No money or other negotiable currency or goods have been exchanged. Original characters and plot copyright Richard J. Lobinske. 2009. Familiarity with Falling Into College is helpful, along with the associated story, I Meant To Do That.
Watching the running motions of her slumbering cat as she lay on the floor of the living room, Daria Morgendorffer said, "I wonder what Bump's dreaming about."
"I bet she's thinking about hunting big game," her fiancé Michael Fulton replied gazing over at the cat. "Maybe she imagines herself as a jaguar, or a black leopard."
"I swear that sometimes, she reads over my shoulder while I'm writing. Who knows what she's imagining?"
Just like an ordinary delivery driver on a busy street in Rome, Grigori got into the panel van and closed the door. Feeling a slight pinch when he sat down, he brushed the back of his leg and came up with a small, shed claw. "Damn alley cats," he grumbled in Italian before flipping it out the window and turning the ignition key. Before he could, the fast-acting toxin reached his heart and paralyzed it. Gasping, he opened the door and collapsed onto the street when he tried to get out.
After watching the gathering crowd from a nearby rooftop, a black cat with a white nose and forepaws slinked back into the shadows and padded silently away. Invisible and unnoticed, Meowlody Powers made her exit and back toward her hotel. She hoped there was time for a nap before HQ called.
Meowlody crept in through the barely open window and dropped to the carpeted floor without a sound. She stepped out from behind the curtain as if she'd been there all afternoon. "Meow."
The Chosen One spun around and said, "There you are. Where have you been hiding?"
"Mewor." "Sorry, that's classified."
The auburn-haired woman picked up the cat and glanced behind the curtain. "I could've sworn that I'd looked there." Noticing the window, she closed it and said, "How did that get open?"
"Mrraror." "If I told you, I'd have to kill you."
Sitting down on the bed, the Chosen One released Meowlody and said, "It's time for dinner. I know it sounds weird, but in the middle of Rome, I found a sushi place that delivers and picked up a menu."
"Reow mrr waow." "I made sure HQ chose a hotel with decent dining options."
The woman placed the open menu on the bed, smiled and said, "Go ahead, pick what you want."
Meowlody tapped her paw on the menu and looked up at her human. "Meow." "This one."
"Yellowtail tuna, abalone and shrimp combo. Good thing I'm on an expense account," The Chosen One said.
"Weorw eowor," Meowlody said. "HQ takes care of its agents."
Her appetite satisfied, Meowlody curled up on one of the overstuffed pillows and let herself drift off to sleep. But like any good feline, she was still aware of her surroundings and couldn't miss the ultrasonic signal from HQ. Unhappy about the disruption of her nap, Meowlody rose, yawned and arched her back in a stretch.
Sitting on the bed with her notebook computer on her lap, The Chosen One said, "Enjoy your nap?"
Meowlody decided that no answer was the best answer. She climbed onto the woman's lap and lazily across the computer keyboard, tapping the secret key sequence to acknowledge receipt of the signal.
"I don't need your help," The Chosen One said as a string of gibberish characters spread across her word processor document.
"Morar." "I'll only take a moment." Meowlody read the coded message using the week's memorized key.
Congratulations on your successful mission. Report to New York for your next assignment. Airline tickets have been e-mailed to your assistant and reservations made for you at your preferred hotel. You will be briefed upon arrival.
A tone sounded on the computer and The Chosen One switched to an e-mail program. After reading the message, she said, "We're going to New York tomorrow. How do you like that?"
"Aor, mrow, wrao maor mrr." "I was hoping to spend a day sightseeing, but hey, it's a living."
"Glad you're excited. Myself, I was hoping for another day in Rome, but when you're on a book tour, you're on a book tour. I just wish my agent would set these things up with a little more advanced notice."
"Mrow," Meowlody said. "Me, too."
The airline steward threaded the seat belt through the built-in anchors on the pet carrier and buckled it. "You must love your cat very much to take her with you like this."
The Chosen One had just finished buckling herself into the window seat and said, "She's grown on me. Being able to take her along on my trips is a nice perk. She enjoys seeing new places."
"She's so well behaved," the steward said.
Sometimes, it's so tempting to blow my cover, Meowlody thought, watching the steward stick one finger through the cage door to rub her nose. "Mmm…he knows how to hit the right spot. I'll let it go, this time."
The takeoff and climb to altitude were uneventful, so Meowlody enjoyed a bit of catnip and then made herself comfortable on the pillow set in the back of the carrier. Finally, time for a decent nap. I hope there's no turbulence along the way, she thought as she fell asleep.
The thump of the airliner's landing gear lowering and locking into place awoke Meowlody, sending her into an automatic defensive stance before she determined the cause. "Reowr meor meow," she sleepily said. "The good naps always end too soon."
The Chosen One's face appeared in front of the carrier and she said, "Hello, there. Sleep well?"
"Meaow." "As always."
"My publisher will have a driver waiting for us at the terminal. Depending on traffic, it shouldn't take us that long to reach the hotel."
"Wrow owar." "I hope so. I need some time to stretch before I get to work."
Meowlody walked across the open suitcase and rested her paw on the leash resting to the side. "Meow Eow." "It's time for your walk."
The Chosen One stopped putting clothes into a dresser and said, "Okay, since you insist."
I'm so glad she's leash-trained.
The woman walked over, picked up the leash and buckled a collar around Meowlody's neck. "Ready?"
Meowlody jumped off the bed and led The Chosen One to the door. "Yrow prrr." "Let's go."
Outside of the hotel, Meowlody used the short walk to Central Park to get an idea of how the city felt that day. A crisp, cool reminder of winter made the spring day particularly pleasant. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary above the normal tension of the busy city. Satisfied with that, she noted the subway and bus stops near the hotel for later use.
Once at the park, Meowlody walked along the path edge, relishing the feel of soft grass and soil beneath her paws.
Responding to the fast pace, The Chosen One said, "Are you trying to tell me I need a workout?"
"Rerow." "It's good for you."
Down a wooded path, Meowlody saw her contact and stopped. "Droaw." "Salmon."
The tan and white striped longhair cat replied, "Rorow." "Fresh, not frozen."
The sign and countersign given, her contact briefed Meowlody while The Chosen One watched in amusement. "Sometimes, I swear that you're like my sister with how easy you find friends."
Friend? Meowlody thought. You never make friends in this business.
The briefing complete, Meowlody's contact sniffed the air and then leapt away to disappear into the bushes. She contemplated what he'd told her. Zhreow Ling, my old "friend." I look forward to meeting you for the last time.
An hour after The Chosen One had left for her book signing engagement, Meowlody patiently waited by the hotel room door until she heard the sound of a key card in the lock slot. Meowlody swiftly and silently darted past the maid when she opened the door and was down the hall in seconds. Out of sight behind the waste bin next to the elevators, she waited. When another maid called for the elevator, Meowlody slipped underneath her cart. From there, she rode the elevator down to the ground floor and snuck out into the lobby. From there, she hitched a ride on a bellhop's cart to get outside of the building.
Going unnoticed through the streets and subway of New York was almost effortless for Meowlody. Intent on their own business, the people in the crowds paid no attention to a single cat moving through their midst. In short order, she was at her destination, a large and well-known department store.
Instinctively curling her long tail close to her body, Meowlody snuck through the revolving doors and was free to roam the store, looking for her target. Anti-assassination duty was always messy business, especially when Meowlody was told that she didn't need to know the identity of the target.
That detail bothered her greatly since she has some of the highest security clearances available to a field agent. That meant something very controversial and compartmentalized was happening, or that HQ specifically didn't want her to know for personal reasons.
Ignoring the overpowering scents of the perfume section while she searched, Meowlody tried to think of any personal reason why HQ wouldn't want her to know the target. Despite its prominence, Meowlody really didn't have a personal connection to anyone in New York. Therefore, this must be some highly compartmentalized operation that is using a public place as a cover. Everyone's options were limited under such conditions and not just to protect civilians. Haphazard, sometimes illogical, and often unprofessional placement of store surveillance cameras could lead to one being overlooked and that was all it took to ruin an operation.
I could use a vacation, she thought. A beachside cottage along the Gulf of Mexico with fresh off the hook fish.
The tiniest glimpse of white out of the corner of her eye caught Meowlody's attention. Zhreow Ling. Most agents would've missed her, but Meowlody knew her opponent all too well. Taking utmost care, Meowlody started to stalk her target through the large store.
Dogs make good soldiers, but it takes a cat to make a good agent. Meowlody thought of her old mentor as she allowed millions of years of feline evolution to give her the edge in stalking that no canine could ever accomplish. Humans were absolutely out of the question. Only a cat could successfully track another cat under these conditions and only an agent like Meowlody could stalk someone like Zhreow.
The sleek, white Siamese cat crouched on a display table white pillows and froze, blending in so that only the most experienced observer would notice. From her position on a gallery, she could gaze down to the lower floor and her target.
Hidden behind a black pedestal, Meowlody looked down and immediately saw the target. A familiar, auburn-haired woman sat at a table, signing books. Above her was a banner that read, "Daria Morgendorffer – The Woman Behind Melody Powers."
"Reaow!" she muttered. "Dammit"!
The hair on her back rose along with her anger as Meowlody reappraised the situation. No wonder HQ didn't want me to know, they're using her as bait and I wouldn't have played along. Thinking through the situation, Meowlody controlled her anger. Zhreow must be the only one who knows about my human's identity or HQ wouldn't have let this operation continue. When I take Zhreow out, hers, and my, identity will be safe.
Meowlody eyed Zhreow one more time. And then I'll deal with HQ.
"I travel with my cat all the time," Meowlody heard The Chosen One say to one of her fans. That moment's distraction was all that was needed for her nemesis to vanish.
Meowlody froze and thought, Cat and cat. The most dangerous game, as she sought for any sign of Zhreow by sight, hearing or smell.
Zhreow had spotted her and in a single move had again become the hunter. Meowlody knew she was in trouble. Who will you go for first? Take me out first to clear the way to your primary target, or go for her to so that you can twist the claw in my back?
Numerous decorative banners crossed from one gallery level to the opposite. Not hesitating after making her decision, Meowlody raced along one of the banners toward The Chosen One. When she was near the book-signing banner, Meowlody leapt over to it and then down to the floor to take up a position under a book display about ten feet away from her human.
"What?" The Chosen One said, twisting around to look in Meowlody's direction. "Must be my imagination," she muttered, before going back to signing books. "Next."
The busy crowd and layout of store displays made Meowlody's job difficult as she patrolled the area. Zhreow would come in close, because, like Meowlody, she believed in the personal touch. That would be Meowlody's only chance to stop the assassination, even at the risk of being detected and forever losing her ability to be an agent.
Hearing a child say, "Kitty!" Meowlody slunk backwards and behind a structural column.
The mother said, "There's no kitties inside the store, sweetheart."
The child insisted and said, "Kitty!" while pointing at a tiny spot of white near a stack boxes next to a batch of decorative book-ends.
Now I'm the hunter, again. Meowlody estimated the path between Zhreow and The Chosen One and swiftly ran behind the mother to reach the best intercept point.
Zhreow faintly growled and sprinted around the other side of the display.
"Annie," the mother said.
The girl ran around the display and firmly said, "There, kitty."
Meowlody thought, Dammit, as the child chased Zhreow from his hiding space and behind another display, ruining Meowlody's plan to intercept her target.
The mother followed the girl, calling, "Annie! Get back here."
Meowlody moved as swiftly as her prey to keep her in sight and strategically let Zhreow see her. That glimpse told Zhreow that she'd been made again and was meant to unsettle her.
The girl's charge forced Zhreow out into the open to avoid being grabbed. Customers turned and watched as the girl chased the white cat down the store aisle, with the girl's mother also in pursuit.
Even better, Meowlody thought as she watched. I can use this. With the crowd focused on the girl chasing Zhreow, Meowlody had no problem running to an unattended cashier's station and jumping up onto the counter in front of the computer. One secret code later, Meowlody had bypassed the computer's security and had accessed HQ's private network. She tapped out her message and with a flick of her tail as she leapt off the counter, reset the computer to its normal standby mode.
Meowlody ran back though the store to keep Zhreow under surveillance as she evaded the running girl, who by this time had been joined by several store employees trying to catch what they thought was a stray cat loose in the store. Meowlody playfully contributed to the mayhem by staying ahead of Zhreow and cutting off her escape routes.
A trim man wearing a tan coverall appeared carrying a sturdy net over one shoulder. "Animal Control. Everybody, let's calm down so the cat isn't so panicky."
"Eorow." Meowlody said. "Excellent." Silently, she coordinated her efforts with the technician to keep Zhreow from escaping and within five minutes, the white cat was netted.
Firmly holding the cat in gloved hands, he said, "Everything's cool. Go about your business," while walking back to his truck.
Meowlody followed them outside and watched as Zhreow was placed in one of the secure cages in the back. Just as the door was closed, she waved.
Zhreow glared back and growled, "Yroeow." "I'll be back."
Meowlody shook her head and then trotted down the sidewalk in the other direction. HQ is already waiting. You'll never see the inside of the Animal Shelter.
The opening door woke Meowlody from her well-earned nap. The Chosen One said, "Too bad you missed the excitement today. A cat was loose in the store. I'm sure you would've had fun joining the chase."
Meowlody sauntered to The Chosen One and twined around her feet, purring. The Chosen One picked her up and scratched behind both ears. "I'm glad you stay safe and sound while I'm away. I've grown rather attached to you.
I'm glad you're back safe and sound. I've grown rather attached to you, too. Thinking of unfinished business, Meowlody thought, I'll deal with HQ, tomorrow.
Bump yawned and stretched, feeling refreshed after her nap.
"Hungry?" Daria asked.
"I figured as much." Daria went to the kitchen and poured some dry food into Bump's bowl. "Don't worry, tomorrow's Sunday and you'll get the good stuff. It's a good thing I like you."
"Rroaw merow." "That's okay, I like you, too. Bump rubbed Daria's ankles and twined herself between the woman's legs. "Meerow arow." "But, you need an expense account."
Thanks to Louise Lobinske and Brother Grimace for beta reading.