With a sudden zap and a flash of light, sparks began pouring forth from the sabotaged engine components. That ought to do it, thought Razor as he and the others backed up and shielded their eyes. He smiled at Zeckis. For someone who until recently had done the bidding of his and T-Bone’s greatest enemy, he had to admit the older kat was impressing him. He’d earned his trust. A glance at T-Bone told Razor his partner felt the same way.
“That does it,” he said.
“Then let’s get off of this flying slag heap before we go up with it,” said Felina urgently.
“No argument here,” said T-Bone, who turned to Zeckis and asked, “What’s the quickest way to the hangar?”
“This way!” Zeckis pointed to some winding stone steps leading out of the engine room, and they ran up them, T-Bone in the lead and Razor right behind him. Behind him came Felina and Zeckis, the technician.
As they went up, Razor reflected on their escape plan. They’d discussed it. They’d put Felina and the technician into the captured Enforcer jet and have her fly them out of there, while they’d return to the top of the ship and retrieve their jetpacks and use those. And, as for Dark Kat and his army of unholy creations, well, they’d have to find their own way.
Razor felt a slight pang of shame at how callous he was being towards their longtime enemy. Even with all he’d done, did Razor actually want Dark Kat to die? No, he supposed he didn’t. At the same time, he wasn’t prepared to go out of his way to rescue the big purple lug, either. He salved his guilty conscience with repeated private reassurances to himself in a situation such as this, pragmatism took top priority. Get Felina and the other guy out, then themselves; Dark Kat was a luxury they couldn’t afford.
Ouch. He winced inwardly. Then again, if anyone deserved to die crashing in their own ship, it was the purple-furred megalomaniac who would’ve turned Megakat City into a smouldering ruin filled with the unburied dead if it meant he got to be the most important person in it, likely sitting on a throne made from the skulls of his enemies. Razor shuddered at the idea and felt better about letting Dark Kat fend for himself and mused that he was surprised Dark Crud’s actual throne aboard this ship wasn’t actually made of skulls after all.
Suddenly, from behind and below, he heard the engines shudder ominously and belch forth sparks and gouts of flame, emitting loud droning noises. Machine-speak for “Something is terribly wrong.” The universal noise for “Uh-oh.” Sure enough, the machines continued emitting increasingly more ominous noises, the drone whining to a high pitch. And, speak of Dark Crud, there was Big D himself down below, Razor noted, glancing over his shoulder and seeing the hulking, cloaked form emerging from a hallway into the engine room. Halting, Dark Kat backed up a bit. Neither he nor the group of Stalkers with him looked up and saw the four of them making good their escape.
“No!” Dark Kat cried. “My Fear Ship’s engines…!”
Yeah, tough luck, skull-face, thought Razor with a smirk.
“Get out,” he heard Dark Kat yell, “it’s going to explode!”
For once, advice from him I can take! Razor thought and ran harder. T-Bone was pushing himself as fast as he could go, while Razor was beginning to lag. He was still moving swiftly, but the long climb was getting to him. How high was this dang ship, anyway? Behind him, Felina was sprinting up step after step without any signs of fatigue whatsoever, as if she were out for a morning jog. Unbelievable. Not for nothing that even he and T-Bone had to admit she was the best Enforcer. If they weren’t looking at a long prison sentence if they got out of here alive, Razor would’ve considered suggesting to T-Bone that they make their vigilante due a trio…
The only member of their group showing any signs of faltering was the technician, Zeckis, who was lagging behind, huffing, puffing and sweating. Razor wasn’t surprised. The poor guy was a lightweight. One of those button-pushers with no stamina. Razor began to seriously worry about him.
Below them, so small below they looked like ants, Dark Kat and the Stalkers turned and rushed back into the hallway they came out of just as the engines exploded, filling the entire room far below with fire and smoke.
The explosion rocked the stairface, knocking its wrought-iron safety railing loose. Curse you, Dark Kat, and your terrible safety standards! Razor rather ridiculously found himself thinking. Yes, of all the things to curse Dark Kat for, not attaching his staircase’s handrail better was truly his most heinous act. It would’ve been hilarious, and Razor would’ve laughed, if he hadn’t lost his balance. He teetered ominously towards the yawning abyss, before pitching over the side. He screamed. Flailing, he managed to grab on with his claws. T-Bone managed to maintain his balance, as did Felina, although T-Bone grabbed her arm anyway.
“I gotcha, Lieutenant!” he yelled.
At the back of the line, Zeckis wasn’t as fortunate. He slipped and slid back down the shuddering stairs, almost joining Razor in falling off of the side.
Razor looked down. Oh, I really hope I don’t fall, he moaned inwardly. It was a long way down, and he really didn’t want to see if he could land on his feet.
Another explosion. Felina was hurled back against the central column to which the looping staircase was attached, and T-Bone very nearly fell off down the dark shaft, but a quick-thinking Felina pushed herself off of the wall and grabbed his wrist just as he finally did fall. He swung down like a pendulum, yelling, and Felina, squeezing her eyes shut, her muscles flexing visibly underneath her uniform, managed to haul him back up in an impressive show of desperate strength. They collapsed and lay there, panting.
“If you say, ‘No, I got you,'” T-Bone warned between pants.
“It never crossed my mind,” the Lieutenant said with a smirk.
“A little help?!” cried Razor, still hanging over the edge.
They looked over.
“Razor,” yelled T-Bone, “hang on!”
“Oh, great advice!” snarled Razor.
The sound of scrabbling feet caught his attention. Zeckis picked himself up, slipped again, but managed to scramble over, and both he and T-Bone reached Razor at the same time and, between the two of them, the smaller of the two SWAT Kats was hauled up to safety. After some murmured exhausted, thank-yous, Razor realized that the entire staircase around them was beginning to crumble.
“Come on,” said T-Bone, realizing what was happening as well, “this place is crumblin’ faster than Grandma Furlong’s cheesecake!”
They turned and continued rushing up, even as the steps behind them began disintegrating, falling away in great tumbling chunks down the shaft as the four of them desperately raced ahead of the destruction. The crumbled pieces of the stairs rained down upon the engine room far, far below and destroyed everything. Cripes, thought Razor, it was like they were being chased by thin air intent on murdering them and eating away the steps at their very heels. At the top, T-Bone rushed through the doorway, which was thankfully open; if it’d been shut, they would’ve been done for. Even if it’d been unlocked, the staircase would’ve finished falling out from under their feet in the time it would’ve taken them to open it.
Razor shot through right behind his partner, followed by Felina. Again, it was Zeckis who fell behind, and he almost didn’t make it. He was right at the door when Razor saw, and Zeckis felt, the step he was standing on give way beneath him, and he would’ve dropped, but Razor lunged and grabbed him by the front of his Dark Kat uniform and hauled him safely through.
Phew, thought Razor, glad that everyone had made it. Well, almost everyone. He was reasonably sure Dark Kat was history… but he wasn’t going to bet money on it. That purple creep had survived worse. Even now, Razor had a nagging feeling the robed madman had managed to make it out of the engine room alive.
Suddenly, the floor tilted. Here we go, Razor thought. The Fear Ship was crashing. He could feel it. He wondered if they could make it to the hangar in time. There was nothing to do but try, though. Together, everyone ran down the rapidly tilting hallway towards the great hall of the ship.
The Turbokat roared towards Dark Kat’s ship. A wide-eyed Feral noticed that the vessel was leaning ominously to one side, tipping slowly and beginning a slow descent towards the earth. Feral circled, looking for any signs of his niece or the SWAT Kats. Was he too late? No, he thought, please no.
“Feral to Headquarters,” he said into the radio easily, having taken the time during his flight to familiarize himself a little more with the Turbokat’s controls. He still had a lot to learn, though, and he really hoped he didn’t have to get into an actual fight with anyone in it, since he’d only just gotten the hang of piloting the jet without wobbling horrifically.
The fact the Fear Ship appeared to be on a rapidly-approaching date with the ground meant that there was no immediate reason to destroy it anymore, so his primary concern now was getting Boggs to call off the attack. If Felina was still aboard and alive… if she could survive the ship’s inevitable crash… The last thing her uncle wanted was a bunch of Army Air Corps fighter jocks peppering the grounded vehicle with missiles and laser fire.
“Feral to Headquarters!” he repeated, a little more urgently.
In the central operations room of Enforcer Headquarters, Lieutenant Commander Steel stood boredly with his greatcoat draped over his shoulders, arms out of the sleeves. He’d come up from the fraud investigation department to which he normally found himself exiled following his betrayal of Feral during the Doomsday Device incident and where he’d remained until a few hours ago, and had assumed command. Well, as much command as there was to assume. The Army technicians were still manning the consoles while the Enforcer ones milled around uncomfortably with nothing to do except twiddle their thumbs, a constant reminder that even with Feral gone, Steel still wasn’t in charge of anything.
On the big screen, Steel saw that the traffic on the runway had finally been cleared away and the Air Corps jets from the Army were taking off.
Captain Pomeroy, an Army lieutenant and Boggs himself stood together around a console nearby – manned by an Army technician, of course – and listened to a scratchy transmission coming in.
“Feral to Headquarters!” came the voice of Commander Feral through the speaker being held by the lieutenant.
Steel had mixed feelings. While he wanted to take control of the Enforcers more than anything, he also wanted the Army gone, and the only thing keeping them stinking up Enforcer Headquarters with their continued presence was the threat of Dark Kat.
If it took Feral surviving and having good news to deliver to get rid of them, then Steel was willing to wait for his shot at command a little while longer. After all, if anyone was going to snatch control of the Enforcers out from under Commander Feral, it was going to be him, not this stiff-backed Army general who wasn’t even from Megakat city.
So it was that, unusually, Steel greeted Feral’s transmission with relief.
“Boggs, if you can hear me,” Feral continued, “it doesn’t look like Dark Kat is going to be a problem for much longer.”
Boggs looked stunned. Drawing himself up, Steel walked over as Feral continued.
“The vessel is listing heavily to one side. It appears badly damaged and unable to function properly. I think the SWAT Kats actually did it, incredibly. Over.”
“General, he says that Dark Kat’s ship appears damaged and is moments from crashing,” the lieutenant reported meekly.
“I heard him, you fool!” snapped the General. He didn’t even notice or care when Steel joined them. He grabbed the radio speaker away from the junior officer and yelled into it. “Boggs to Feral! Excellent news, but my orders are explicitly to destroy Dark Kat’s ship and whether it crashes or not, my jets are going to reduce that monstrosity of his to molten slag! Do you copy? Over.”
There was a stunned silence. “I copy,” said Feral angrily, “but my niece-!”
“You have until the fighters arrive to get her and the SWAT Kats out of there, Commander,” Boggs said, glancing up at the screen looming over them to see the last of his fighters flying off. “That’s all I can give you. Don’t waste it. Over and out.”
He clicked the radio off. Steel exchanged looks with Captain Pomeroy. The Army officer’s expression was unreadable. The lieutenant, however, was positively nervous.
“Can he really get to them in time?” he asked.
“Not a chance,” said Pomeroy with grim finality.
“It doesn’t matter, anyway,” General Boggs said indifferently. “Even if he succeeds, he’s still in big trouble, and he’ll just be bringing the SWAT Kats back to face trial anyway…”
He trailed off and looked at Steel. No, past him. Frowning, Steel turned and saw Callie Briggs and the D.A. who had just entered.
“…isn’t that so, District Attorney?” Boggs continued.
District Attorney Mills looked nervous while Callie Briggs just crossed her arms and gave him a gentle little nudge with her elbow.
“Well, not necessarily. Acting Mayor Briggs has an interesting proposal that I actually find myself agreeing with…”
Boggs frowned but shrugged. “Oh, well, whether you want to arrest those vigilante scum or not is no skin off my neck,” he snorted. “I honestly don’t care about them one way or the other. They can die, and it won’t make a difference to me.”
He turned and resumed conversing with his officers. Uninterested in their prattle, Steel turned and walked over to where the Deputy Mayor and District Attorney were. He gave a curt nod to Callie Briggs and got one in return.
“I can’t say I like him very much,” Steel said as an icebreaker, intent on extending the olive branch, so to speak. He kept his voice low so that they weren’t overheard.
“Neither do I,” replied Callie. She narrowed her eyes to slits and glared at Boggs’ back across the room with such intensity Steel expected lasers to come shooting out and bore into the General. “Come what may, as soon as Dark Kat is neutralized, I want him out of here.”
That surprised Steel.
“Ma’am?” asked Mills beside her, blinking.
“I’m acting mayor,” she replied simply. “It’s time I started acting like I run this city.” She turned and looked at Mills. “Boggs can only do whatever he wants and march all over us because he has authority from Governor Clawstone, right?”
The D.A. fidgeted, thinking, then nodded. “Uh, yes, I believe so.”
“And, once Dark Kat is dealt with, however he’s dealt with, then that authority goes away, right?”
Callie turned and prodded Steel in the chest with her finger. “Then I want you to have the Enforcers kick them out of here the second Boggs doesn’t have Clawstone’s authority anymore. Do I make myself clear, Lieutenant Commander?”
“Yes, Ms. Briggs,” Steel replied, smirking.
Callie sighed. “He may be on our side and just trying to do his job, but he’s so boorish and unpleasant he makes Commander Feral seem charming, and the quicker he’s out of here, the better.”
She turned and strutted off, high heels clicking primly on the polished floor, Mills trailing behind her like a lost little kid, hands clasped in front of him. Steel watched them go and managed a small smile, then turned back towards the Army officers obliviously working across the room. He threw his greatcoat back so he could stand with his arms folded at parade rest underneath it. Now, he thought, he’d observe things more closely.
“Hurry!” cried T-Bone.
The Fear Ship had now tilted so wildly to the side that they were no longer running along the floor of the hallway, they were running on the wall. Crud, he thought, if this thing lists any further, they were all going to be running on the freaking ceiling soon! Ahead, he saw the great hall of the ship opening before them. There were the collapsed statues and the big hole in the floor. Finally, a room he recognized!
He cursed suddenly as a realization hit him, and he felt despair wash over him. He and Razor knew where to go from here… but only to backtrack to the hatchway they’d originally entered through, not to the hangar. Their idea to get Felina and the other guy off safely using Felina’s Enforcer jet was beginning to seem less and less viable.
The ship lurched. There was a creaking noise. The statues were sliding across the tilted floor… towards them!
“Look out!” T-Bone screamed.
They all dodged. Barely. Razor nimbly leaped over one statue. T-Bone dug his claws into the wall and then grabbed Felina’s wrist and hauled with all of his might, yanking her up. Zeckis screamed and actually climbed up on top one of the statues as it slid against the wall to avoid being crushed between the two, falling down onto the floor on the other side. The second statue made a hideous grinding sound as it slid towards him. T-Bone dropped Felina onto the top of the first overturned statue’s side so she could grabbed the technician and pull him up just as the second statue slammed against the first.
The ship lurched further, and everyone scrambled again to avoid getting crushed as the statues moved again.
A zillion different ideas whirled through Razor’s brain. What to do? He gritted his teeth. Come on, Razor, he thought, think. He briefly considered questioning Zeckis about how to get to the hangar from here, but dismissed it as impractical; time spent giving directions was time wasted. Besides, the poor guy was nearly hyperventilating in terror, anyway. And, if the statues were being thrown around inside of the ship like this, Razor realized Felina’s jet was probably being given the same treatment. He imagined it being flung violently across the hangar to smash against the wall, crumpling.
He considered going ahead to the top of the ship where the jetpacks were, assuming they hadn’t fallen off. As the group inched their way along the wall that now served them as a floor, he glanced back at Felina and the technician. Maybe he and T-Bone could carry them. Zeckis didn’t look like he weighed much. Razor was sure he could lift him. And, T-Bone could hold onto the hard-bodied Lieutenant long enough to fly away from the crashing ship and get her to safety.
That was it. He thought. That was the plan. It wasn’t the best plan, Razor realized, but it was better than just sitting in here and waiting for this behemoth to hit. He looked around for the door they’d entered through, trying to map the ship’s layout in his brain, to mentally retrace their steps. No good. He was too disoriented to figure it out. But, he did recognize the big double doors leading into the control room. The front viewport! Yes! Gesturing for the others to follow him, he hurried as quickly as he could along the overturned statues, clambered up onto the hanging open left door, and entered the sideways control room.
Behind them, the collapsed statues continued to be jostled and thrown violently around. They’d gotten out of that room just in time.
In the control room, sparks flew from the smouldering computer terminals and machinery. Dead Creeplings slid and tumbled along the floor to collide with the back wall, a macabre sight. Chairs, computers and other devices were smashed to pieces as they flew past Dark Kat’s throne and into the wall or through the big open arched doorway at the back of the room, through which Razor could hear a cacophony of smashing glass. Everything not bolted down was going… and eventually things that were. Terminals wrenched free of their supports and flew into the wall.
As Razor watched, the enormous throne, thus far having resisted gravity because it was anchored to the floor by some means unknown to him, lurched and finally came loose and joined everything else in hitting the wall, then turned and fell through the arched doorway and into the alchemy laboratory, where the glass cylinders shattered into thousands of pieces. Tables overturned, spilling books, ornate glassware and other scientific and magical brick-a-brack to shatter and spill everywhere. They were leaving Dark Kat with one mega-repair bill!
Ah, Razor thought, there it was, the open viewport, with the glass already smashed out and everything! Crud! They couldn’t reach it. Anything they could’ve used to climb up to it had come loose and fallen down to where they stood on the sideways wall. And only one of them still had their Glovatrix. They would have to hurry.
“T-Bone!” he yelled over the din of the crashing. “Do you have any spare-”
“-grappling hooks!” T-Bone finished for him, already realizing what his partner had in mind. “Roger!”
He aimed his forearm up. A clawed grappling line fired up and grabbed the frame of the shattered window.
“My last one,” T-Bone said. “Let’s hope she holds.” He turned to the other two and grabbed Felina.
She shoved him away and grabbed him. “No,” she said, “I’ve got a stronger grip than him!”
Nodding, T-Bone slid his arm around Zeckis’ waist while Felina grabbed onto T-Bone’s shoulder. Razor got onto the bigger SWAT Kat’s back.
“Everybody on?” he asked. Three sets of heads nodded, and T-Bone took a deep breath, then looked at his left arm, the one where the grappling line was attached to his Glovatrix. “Ughhh,” he groaned, “hauling up three people at once… my left arm is gonna hate me tomorrow!”
He activated the Glovatrix’s winch retraction feature and growled in pain as the weight of three kats plus his own being wrenched upward so suddenly made his left arm feel as though it were about to be torn out of its socket. Up, up, up, they shot, until he finally stopped. He hung there from one arm with the other three hanging off of him, the four of them swinging gently back and forth.
Unable to grab onto anything because he was using both arms, he said, through pain-gritted teeth, “Razor, climb up and over me… Felina… somebody!”
Razor clambered up and went through the broken windshield of the ship. He could see the world rushing past, and, ahead, the rapidly approaching ground. The Fear Ship was completely sideways. That meant the jetpacks were most likely long gone, having fallen off. They had one chance. Ride out the impact on the exterior where there wasn’t anything knocking around to slam into them and hurt them. Turning, he reached in through the window, took Felina’s hand, and pulled her up. She stepped on T-Bone’s face.
“Oof!” he cried, his voice muffled. “Watch it!”
“Sorry!” she said, turning and reaching back in. “Give him here!”
With what remained of his strength, he held Zeckis up one-handed. Felina and Razor each took an arm and pulled the technician up and through the window. He was put to one side and collapsed, panting, and then the two turned and looked down. T-Bone dangled there by his left arm, right one dangling limply, a look of intense relief mixed with dull pain on the SWAT Kat’s face. Suddenly afraid, Razor thrust a hand down in towards him. Beside him, Felina also reached in and grabbed for T-Bone’s left arm, trying to pull him up.
“T-Bone, give me your other hand!” Razor yelled.
With a grunt, T-Bone flung his right arm up, and his buddy grabbed it. Razor tugged. Felina assisted him. A third figure joined them as Zeckis tried to squeeze in and reach down, trying to grope for something on the burly vigilante to grab onto. But, their strength was waning. They’d all been through so much, and T-Bone was the biggest and strongest. And, the heaviest. And, they were all so tired and had so little strength of their own left to pull up the one who’d used so much of his to carry them up to salvation. And, as much as they strained, they couldn’t seem to get him up. If anything, he was dragging them back down. Though he sweated and pulled and strained, Razor’s grip slipped, and T-Bone’s hand fell and hung numbly at his side again. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the ground rushing up to meet the descending vessel. They were seconds from hitting. No, no, no! He turned and looked back down. Beneath him, though, he found that T-Bone’s expression was not one of anger or fear. He was smirking.
“Better me than all of us,” T-Bone replied. He laughed. He sounded tired. He looked tired. He was just plain beat. He wanted to rest. “We sure had fun, didn’t we…?”
Razor realized what was happening. What T-Bone was saying. “Chance, no!” he cried suddenly, using T-Bone’s real name.
“Don’t worry about me, Jake,” T-Bone said evenly, “I’ll land on my feet. Get Dark Kat for me. Make sure he never comes back.”
The Fear Ship hit. Razor, Felina and Zeckis were all flung backwards from the impact.
“Chaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaance!” screamed Razor.
The cable of the Glovatrix’s grappling hook snapped with a harsh, whipping twang, and T-Bone felt himself falling back, the control room interior whooshing past him and up, the rectangular window where three faces had only moments before been looking in at him rushing up and away. He sighed and shut his eyes as his body fell gracefully through the arched doorway and down into the alchemy laboratory, and when he finally hit something hard and flat, forcing the air from his lungs, he gave a wheezing grunt and thought to himself, well, this is oddly comfy… and his eyes slid shut and subsequent events interested him no further.
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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.