At the end of a long day of work, which he couldn’t even remember anymore, Derek Whitepaws slunk home to his sophisticated apartment. He was disheveled and distracted, muttering to himself the entire way. Passersby gave him a wide berth.
He kicked in the door to the bedroom and flung himself down on the bed, then began to thrash about madly, in search of something. He didn’t find it under the pillow; it wasn’t on the nightstand or secreted away under the mattress. With a savage howl he descended, claws unsheathed, on the mattress pad, tearing it away. He bent back the springs – and there it was. His picture of her, Calico Briggs, when the two were in high school. She had posed for a photo and he had run up behind her, grinning for the camera, grabbing her up in a fierce hug just as the flashbulb lit. It had cost him a small fortune to buy that from the photographer, who knew how much he’d wanted it and held out for more money.
She looked so small and scared, and the emotion transferred itself to him. He panicked, and held the small candid close to him. He fell back on the undamaged portion of the mattress, making weak noises like those of an infant. Then, just as suddenly, his ears pricked up and he began to tense, but still prone; he moved ever so slowly, as though stalking a kill.
His pulse accelerated and his breathing quickened. Someone was there. He knew it. The shadows held monsters bent on his destruction. He recoiled, knowing that he may soon be called upon to pounce.
* * *
The owner of Ghetto Computers pushed open the doors to the stairs, allowing a sliver of incandescence to snake down the winding stairs and scatter across cobwebs. He felt like an intruder in a tomb.
“Mr. Secret? Mr. Secret…” he called.
The Secret had never been disturbed like this before. He would have cringed except his body was already shaking. Mentally he activated a switch. A thin pencil of light appeared, marking the forehead of the kat upstairs. There was a gasp, and the door shut quickly. The Secret could hear voices, which he took to be the kat and his son.
“You told me was dead!”
“I said he ought to be dead by now – I couldn’t be sure!”
“He’ll kill us now, I know he will.”
“And draw attention to himself? He’d have to be crazy.”
“He lives in filth in our basement, Kyle. He IS crazy.”
“I still don’t think -”
“You didn’t think he was alive, either, but he is, and he shined a laser sight on my head!”
“It was just a pointer, dad. *Everykat* at school has one of those.”
“Well, we’ll just see. Open the door, and let’s go down and talk to him.”
The Secret had unknowingly transferred his fear to Derek. Now, however, consciously he summoned him, one leg at a time, ‘come, come…’
They could not find him. He had to escape.
“No way, dad, you do it!”
His robots blew open the wall.
“What was that?!”
A rush of raw sewage streamed forth. The Secret’s array of equipment now lifted itself up like an agracite Baba-Yaga and stepped in, controlled by the power of the evil tom’s mind. His own chair began to walk.
“I don’t know, son, but it sounds like our tenant and I are going to have a little chat.”
* * *
The shrill noise Derek Whitepaws had experienced now resounded again. Was it irony? The Enforcer was now on his way, running rat-like through the alleys, one with the elements of splintered glass and hypodermics. He would protect his master, who saw through his eyes.
* * *
In the morning EHQ was a pulsing, teeming mass of news media kats and guards. The tumult was evident from blocks away, as traffic backed up all the way down Mane street to the beltway. Commander Feral stood on the helicopter deck, leaning over the side to survey the chaos below. Jason and Felina were with him, standing on either side, warily eyeing one another. It had not been a good evening for them.
Felina had punched Jason in the heat of the moment, and had only to regret it as the investigation was slated to continue that afternoon. Both were unwilling to communicate, which only hindered the data organization. Eventually Felina blew up at the younger kat, screaming at him for possessing the report she had not told him she was looking for. Jason told her he needed it as well; he was close to developing a theory of sorts.
“What the hell are you talking about?! Theory?! You don’t have a theory, you just are making up a bunch of crud that doesn’t make any sense to anyone but you!”
“I don’t make sense? Why don’t you look in the mirror sometime? What the crud did you have to hit me for earlier? And why can’t you at least be consistent in the way you talk to other kats, huh? One minute it’s ‘Officer Whiskers,’ the next it’s ‘you,’ the next it’s just completely impersonal attacks!”
“You have no right to talk to me that way! I’m your senior officer!”
“As if you ever respected *that.* Look at the way you talk to your uncle. He’s the COMMANDER, for cryin’ out loud, and you say you won’t take ‘no’ for an answer? That’s insubordination! Anyone else gets court- martialed!”
“What are you saying?” said Felina, suddenly quiet.
“I’m saying that if not for your blood ties, you’d not be giving me orders, you’d be taking *mine* at Burger Duchess!”
Without warning or indication, she burst into tears and fled the room.
Jason just sat and sulked, pondering over the evidence bags. True, he couldn’t really formulate a theory yet. There was no established motive. However, he had many ideas on where to start looking for potential suspects. The nerve of Felina to imply that he didn’t. He still didn’t understand why she had Feral assign her to the case. As far as he could tell, she didn’t specialize in forensic investigation.
He worked late into the night, ordering and re-ordering the data. The primitive computer he used in composing the spreadsheets made the work tedious and dull.
His mind wandered, and landed on a reason. It was too late to act on it, and too soon to know if it was true. He hit himself for being so crass to Officer Feral, and soon after, fell asleep at the desk.
* * *
Felina had fled the room in tears, but as soon as she detected (somewhat disgustedly) that she had not been followed, the waterworks were shut off. She was very angry with Jason, but it was all her own fault.
It has probably seemed to the reader of this adventure that Felina’s motives for this manipulation of the young prodigy are a bit unclear. The problem arises in that Felina’s motives are unclear even to herself.
She stood in the middle of the corridor there, after running from the room, trying to sort out her thoughts. What was she doing?
It wasn’t that she didn’t like Jason, it was just that she was surprised to say the least. She’d always thought that falling in love would be easy. She had but to set her sights on the target, take aim, and blast off into it. She never missed a shot with her bazooka; how could she miss here?
The graduation ceremony was not the first time she had seen the silver tom. She had spotted him before, when she and her uncle had gone in for an inspection/tour of the new Academy gymnasium facilities. She had gone wandering off by herself, and wound up by a view window of the Enforcer reflex room. The agility of one of the cadets – Jason – had impressed her, and she followed him as he left, intent on finding out who he was. He entered the locker room, and she waited outside of it. Just as he came out, however, and when she would have initiated conversation, a grizzled drill instructor approached her and told her that her Uncle had called for her immediately. He noted her hesitation and dragged her away. She only looked back once, and to her dismay, the handsome cadet was not watching.
She had almost forgotten about him when graduation reared its ugly head and she was called in on obligatory guard duty. Standing on the stage, before the assembled throngs, she escaped ennui by a cursory survey of the graduates. There she saw him again, and began to stare. Uncle Ulysses would surely see, and then he would not fail to introduce them.
So Felina was not, at this point, in love with anyone. She merely liked the physical aspects of the agile gold-class pilot. His actions towards her struck her to be as confused and floundering as hers, and the thought was upsetting. She was trying to see what this “love” notion was, and all the while he was making it very difficult.
It was to that end that she had spontaneously decided to go with her first impulse and make him her partner in the investigation. She had noted the detail of his specialized field. She knew she could do so because her last partner was busy. He had finished kicking the bucket and now was pushing up daisies. That was how she made herself think of it, anyway.
On top of that, her main motive in most all of her actions was also active here. This Jason fellow would serve wonderfully in baiting her uncle. Their aggressive approach to one another had existed since time eternal, and she had grown to thrive on antagonism. It invigorated her.
It was settled, then. Felina would continue in her pursuit. Besides, she was getting to like the guy, even if he did have that unfortunate habit of pointing out her inconsistencies and obvious flaws. He had some iota of intelligence, and seemed a likely candidate for other, future Feral family arguments. He was undoubtedly the best prospect. She thought back to long ago, when Uncle Ulysses told her that “if a knight in shining armor came to carry you away, I’d have to arrest him. Besides, kats like that aren’t interested in *you* anyway.” She would probably never understand exactly what he had meant, but she often thought about it. And that day, she came to the conclusion that if she wanted a fairy tale, she’d have to put on the armor herself.
And so the morning following the destruction of Ghetto Computers, and the bloody massacre there within, the two had returned to their previous ways of feeling, augmented by their wild trains of thought, but still living in the aftermath of a fight. To the untrained eye, the pair looked like archenemies. To the trained eye, the exaggerations of feigned emotions were laughably blatant. And so when Commander Feral whirled about to snap orders at them, he saw the corners of their mouths bent upward in sly smiles. And he smiled, too.
“I know the two of you are aware that the media has connected last night’s crime with that which you are investigating,” he grumbled. “Even though there was no real evidence, it seems to be popular opinion. For that reason…”
“Well, Sir, from what I heard this morning, the connection was made in that both occurred senselessly in the poorer areas, both were conducted and not discovered until the morning, the execution-style murders were carried out with the same form of gun…” Jason began, but Feral silenced him with a stare.
“For that reason,” he began again, “the two of you need to go there. I have already dispatched your technician staff.”
“Great,” said Felina.
“Thank you, Sir,” said Jason.
They turned to walk off. Felina elbowed him in the ribs.
“Suck-up! Brown-noser,” she chided.
He looked at her and saw she was laughing; she was playing with him.
“Focus,” said Jason. “We have a job to do, remember?”
“All right – I call pilot!”
Jason spat a curse at the wind as the two climbed in the helicopter.
* * *
Derek Whitepaws looked like a sack of potatoes. His shirt was rumpled and looked as though it had been slept in; his pants, the same. Yet his face looked like that of a kat who had not slept in weeks. His eyes were wild and his jaw hung slightly agape. And this was how a silver-class Enforcer reported for duty?
That was what the slender, orange-mottled dark-furred Enforcer sergeant wanted to know. She ran her paw through her thick hair and looked at him: the tall, handsome, riff-raff looking kat who had somehow taken high honors and now looked as though he were vying for the title of “king of the rehab center.” It was absolutely distasteful. For that reason she had brought him to the commander’s office, and the pair sat wordlessly in the alcove nearby. Derek fiddled with his claws nervously.
“Officer Whitepaws…” she began, feeling sympathy rise up from some unknown wellspring.
He looked up at her, and then back to his paws.
“Can you tell me what happened to you?” she asked.
He raised his head again, resting a penetrating gaze on her face. His bright eyes seemed on fire.
“Name?” was all he said.
The sergeant blushed. “Selena,” she said. “Call me Selena.”
“Selena,” he repeated, with a vestige of a grin.
The looming presence of the Commander approached them.
“I was informed of a problem,” he stated flatly.
Sergeant Selena Alvarez didn’t hear him. She was staring into Derek’s eyes.
“Sergeant!” Feral barked.
“Commander!” she said. “Sir.”
“I see,” mumbled Feral. “The next time you have a problem – summon Lieutenant Commander Sealpoint.”
He walked off.
“Selena,” Derek whispered.
She looked back at him, but the spell had been broken. She shivered, still watching him, and backed slowly away. Soon she was down the hall and far away from him. Only when she was a dot on the horizon did she think to turn tail and run.
The edge of his lip curled upward in a smile. The Secret laughed, and so did his proxy.
‘Now – to the criminal files…’
Navigate This Author's Stories
Disclaimer: SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron is copyright to Hanna-Barbera Cartoons Inc. All Rights Reserved. © 1995. All other characters and material within this page are the property of their respective creators.