We have been working on that project to spy on the Third Planeters like you ordered, using the raw material you suggested - the cats. We were set on using dogs because most of them are bigger, and as such we wouldn’t have to miniaturize the transmitters as much, but we decided you were right. The transmitter implant worked great on our test subject, but every time it followed Planeters from room to room to track a conversation they put it outside. There was also a problem with mimicking customary behaviour when it was under our control. To give just one example, Planeters would throw objects and then stare expectantly at our spies. It turned out that they expected our spies to go get them and bring them back, but we still haven’t figured out why.
The cats are smaller, which gave our transmitter designers fits for a long time, but while they were wrestling with the problem we observed Third Planeter/cat relations and found that they are greatly to our benefit. Planeters don’t seem to expect cats to obey orders, and aren’t surprised at nearly anything one does. One of our early control units had a major breakdown and the cat we were controlling went running all over one of their domiciles, chasing nothing and yowling. Not one of the Planeters thought that was unusual.
That should have made us suspicious, but it didn’t.
Anyway, the transmitter designers finally made a breakthrough, and created an organic transmitter that was capable of controlling the animal while making use of most of its sensory data. We settled for eyes and ears. We could have added smell and touch, but the unit would have been too bulky. The unit was to be powered from the cat nervous system, and the designers managed to minimize it to a cluster of just one hundred cells, set in a spot right at the base of the brain. You read that right, one hundred. The best minds on our home planet hadn’t been able to do it with less than three hundred before this. It required a different implant location than the older models, more tricky on the surgery department, but we were sure it was worth it.
We went to put the first of the improved models in, and that’s where the bad news comes in. There was already one there, and not with a hundred cells. Fifty, that’s all it took them. Somebody else is already here and spying on the Third Planeters too. These cats act like they’re from another world because they are.
Bad news, all bad news. We took twenty of the cats to our base so the transmitter implanters could work on them, and they’re not behaving like they did down on ThirdPlanet. They’re watching every move we make, and from the way they pay attention I’m afraid they’re decoding our speech. My team members are writing notes, but I’m afraid it’s too late. They’ve seen us without our disguises.
We’re busted, boss, but we don't know by who.
This story originally appeared in Analog.