Random Topics for a Morning's Coffee

Cat and Spy Game

short-story science fiction

The lawn and garden glowed faintly in the crescent moon night. Long shadows of trees standing watch spread across lawn and wall. This was Herman's favorite time. Now and then small scurrying things would run through the ground cover trying to remain inconspicuous. The scents of neighborhood and garden drifted on the breeze. He could observe and move quietly in this, his private forest. As he walked forward, the wall appeared in front of him and he jumped, landing firmly, silently at the top. From here, he could see other houses, the street, and the fenced park beyond.

In a dark car this side of the street, a man sat, looking quietly at the wall through an open window, displaying no movement or sound. Herman turned his attention back to the house and grounds. Suddenly, a thwit sound came from the car and a sharp pain pushed on his right leg. He turned quickly and looked. Something thin, like a thistle, was stuck to him. He jumped from the wall and the thing that struck him came out. Herman sat, turned to lick the spot, and the momentary pain went away. He stood up and moved on, more wary, and less delighted about one particular part of the top of the wall. On the other side, a car could be heard starting up and moving slowly away.

Virus infected cells and abnormal growth began. Silently, delicately, thin tendrils grew along muscle, bone, eye and brain. After two months, a complete radio transmitter, receiver and onboard computer were formed. The bioengineered, remotely controlled agent was ready for action.

Herman dozed often during the day, awakening periodically to change location and rotate to another spot. Some of these dozes became more like sleepwalking, unconsciously doing things without really trying. At one point, he found himself on the desk in front of the computer. Pushing the on-button was awkward, but it worked. The screen lit up and startup procedures ensued until finally an image appeared and noises stopped.

Herman poked delicately at the keyboard, trying not to hit two keys at once. The screen responded and lists came up. Selecting files carefully, he perused their contents, not really caring what he was looking at. Many files were opened, many closed. After all files on several lists were searched, he finally turned off the computer. All that work made him thirsty and he went quickly to the kitchen for a drink.

– § –

Rob arrived home after six in the evening. With his wife visiting relatives in another time zone, the only company was the cat. He opened the fridge to grab a frozen Chinese dinner and pop it in the microwave. The cat was rubbing against his leg, begging for food. He obliged with the usual can of feline favorite and refilled the water bowl.

Opening a bottle of beer, he checked phone and email messages. The home surveillance light was flashing. Working for a surveillance technology company, Rob had installed his own home surveillance system just for the fun of it. Usually he would ignore alert signals because it only showed their prowling cat.

But this time, just to be thorough, he turned on the security display and selected the last nine hours. The display showed video recordings from hidden cameras throughout his house. Turned on by motion, the office camera recorded his cat's entrance. Rob watched in amazement as their cat jumped onto his office desk and turned on the computer. He saw the cat scroll through files on his computer, as though he was reading, and looking for something in particular. To his further amazement, it eventually turned off the computer before jumping down from the desk.

Rob turned and looked at his cat. Now finished eating, it was staring back at him as though he was the only entertainment in the house.

At work, Rob was a biological engineer who created surveillance animals. Rob's unit did not strap cameras onto an animal; they grew surveillance electronics inside animals using viruses to insert specialty DNA into selected cells. The animal then grew its own internal electronics and could communicate with a remote command post using encrypted WiFi.

He now knew his cat was now a surveillance animal and wondered who was controlling it. Fortunately, he had no work files on his home computer. Saying "Sorry, kitty" he picked up the cat, placed it in the laundry room and locked the door. The cat would not be playing with his computer tonight.

The next day Rob lured his somewhat angry cat into a carrier. He also took the precaution of wrapping the carrier with a special wire mesh, blocking any signals. His drive to work was a bit noisier than usual, with yowling from the carrier in the back seat.

At work, a thoroughly annoyed feline was placed in a secure room with blank walls while scanners searched for radio signals. A particular frequency was found emanating from its tail. Computers went to work decoding messages sent and received. The cat was using WiFi and the messages were standard Internet packets with specific IP addresses. Checking the addresses, Rob and his team identified a cryptic company name as the source of the messages controlling the cat.

The cat's puppet master was probably a rival company. With that information, the cat was sedated, blood was drawn for virus testing, and the animal was placed in an MRI. The MRI provided a rough schematic of the cat's new internals, including the high definition feed from one eye that allowed it to transmit pictures. Too bad Herman would have to be sacrificed to learn more.

It was easy for Rob to get authorization for the new mission. The cat was the only excuse corporate execs needed. The first step was to modify the standard virus. This took months to prepare and test. Each animal species needed its own special viral DNA. In this case, two sets of DNA were required, one piggybacking onto the other. That was the specialty of Rob's team.

Several new cats were monitored for weeks while their artificial circuits and apparatus grew. When they were ready, special training exercises and testing prepared them for the mission. After months of training, several targets were selected.

Various scientists at two rival companies' animal control research centers had been identified. It helped to have corporate spies in the rival companies, even if the spies did not have access to scientific data. Discreet stake outs provided a profile of off-duty habits of several scientists and helped select targeted locations.

– § –

Chloe was grateful to get outside. The car was full of stale air and the fresh outside breeze was invigorating. She took pleasure in walking off the pavement and onto soft, yielding grass. It was nearly evening, and long shadows foretold the approach of night. She saw Dave get out of his car. Before he could close the door she ran up to him and gave him a hug. Almost reflexively, she pressed a claw hard into his skin through his sock. He let out a curse and jumped back. Chloe ran off. Her job was done.

Virus infected cells and abnormal growth began. Silently, delicately, thin tendrils grew along muscle, bone, eye and brain. After two months, a complete radio transmitter, receiver and onboard computer were formed. The bioengineered, remotely controlled agent, unapproved by any ethical committee, was ready for action.

– § –

They found they could monitor his work without raising suspicion. Gradually, they learned the extent of his company's research and its latest projects. One was especially interesting. They had him email the entire report. Corporate security would not learn of the email until much later, and by that time, it would be too late. Their new product line would be bettered by that of a rival company. Some corporate espionage should not be trusted to house pets.

© 2017 by Dennis Evans