Callie moaned as she slowly became conscious; her head throbbing nauseously as feeling painfully returned to her body. She managed to pull her eyelids apart from the substance that had sealed them shut, which revealed a darkened room that was glowing with innumerable flickering candles. A huge mirror of rich mahogany stood on carved legs in the center of the room, its reflective surface a flawless hoary pool that made you believe that it would erupt into small ripples if you touched it. A huge pot sat over fiery coals farther across the room, its contents bubbling delightfully.
Clarity was slow in coming as Callie closed her eyes, trying to stifle the shattered thoughts that were scattered and racing across her mind.
‘I have a concussion,’ she managed to tell herself as she leaned back against the stone wall behind her. ‘I can’t fall asleep.’Her arms were chained up above her head in biting irons, so she found it difficult to get comfortable. She licked her dry lips, and a bitter iron taste filled her mouth. That’s why her face felt so strange. It was encrusted with dried blood.
The room before her turned slowly in circles with tiny dots of white and black dancing in front of her eyes teasingly. She fought a sudden wave of nausea and exhaustion with her remaining strength, but failed as the black dots grew in size and slowly enveloped the room around her. Her chin slowly fell to her chest as her eyes flickered shut; her body gratefully welcomed the numbing cold that was brought with the darkness.
4:00 a.m the roof of MegaKat Museum of History.
“I insist that you take me with you!” Abi demanded to Feral as she stormed up onto the roof after them.
“I do not want to put a civilian in harm’s way, Dr. Sinian,” Feral growled stubbornly, turning to face Abi.
“You guys don’t even know where to look! And, which one of you can read a dead language, not to mention prehistoric hieroglyphics,” she argued, placing her paws on her hips.
“She has a point, Commander,” Razor reasoned, looking from Abi to an irritated Feral.
Feral growled as he got into his chopper. “Fine, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
Abi grabbed the messenger bag that lay at her feet excitedly and swung it onto her shoulder. “You won’t hear a word!”
T-Bone and Razor jumped into the TurboKat and followed Feral’s chopper.
“ I think I can handle only one more visit to Enforcer Headquarters,” T-Bone groaned as the enforcer’s landing strip came into sight.
“I hear ya,” Razor mumbled as they touched down on the strip.
As the two Swat Kats followed Feral and Felina through the doors and into the busy building, the enforcers around them backed away and stared as they walked down the hallway.
“Now I’ve seen everything,” a young private whispered to his partner as everyone watched the group led by Feral and his niece disappear down the hall.
Feral threw open his office doors and walked over to his desk. “So, what should our next move be? Should we wait for them to contact us or should we seek them out?” he asked as he grabbed all of the maps of the city and the surrounding mountains and woods.
“I would think Pastie and his little padawan would come after us since we have the amulet,” T-Bone commented, nodding over at Abi’s messenger bag that held the amulet and several old books. “But, then again, that would leave Callie in harm’s way.”
Felina shook her head. “They would have to keep her alive in order for their whole plan to work.”
“But, that wouldn’t stop that sorcerer from hurting her. She’s out there somewhere… and she’s hurt…. bad,” Razor countered.
“They have a point, Felina,” Feral growled, knowing he had just agreed with his sworn rivals. “There is no place safe enough to guard that amulet from them; if it stayed with us, we might have a better chance of having this whole situation turn in our favor.”
“So, we’re going to seek them out,” T-Bone commented, stating the unanimous decision.
“Yes, but where? We’ve searched this whole city and the surrounding areas,” Felina queried.
“If I know the Pastmaster, he’d find an old place that would be hard to find or to get to… a place that hasn’t been seen or touched for many years,” Razor mused as he scanned the map.
Felina’s eyes grew wide. “Uncle, do you remember those teenagers that went missing a week back in the Katmai’s?”
Feral’s eyebrows raised in surprise. “Yes, why?”
“What were the results of Phillips’ research on the residences in that area?”
Feral shrugged. “There weren’t many; there were only a couple of old abandoned trading posts and cabins, and this one supposedly haunted cathedral that was abandoned in the late 1700’s….” he stopped himself abruptly, realizing the potential lead he had just said.
“I can look up that cathedral on the museum’s database online,” Abi volunteered as she gave the messenger bag to Razor.
Feral pulled out his chair from his desk. “By all means, Dr. Sinian.”
Abi sat down in the chair and turned on Feral’s desktop and logged on to the museum’s database. “What was the name of the cathedral?” she asked.
“It’s St. Michael’s Cathedral,” Felina informed her, looking over Phillips’ report that her uncle had given her.
Abi typed it in and pushed enter. “Here we are. It was built in 1613 by traveling monks, who were sent to settle the wilderness. After its completion, it says here that many unfortunate incidents occurred. It was thought that the cathedral was built on an ancient burial site, and the spirits were angered by the monks’ intrusion. After the fire of 1798 that burst out during evening mass, killing over 100 kats, it was deserted. It is said that it is haunted by the souls of those who perished and of those who are still buried underneath the cathedral. ”
“Crrrreeeeiiiipy,” T-Bone whistled, as he looked at the old engraving of the cathedral that was posted on the website.
“Fits the Pastmaster to a T,” Abi added.
Razor looked out of the window to see the blushing dawn paint the horizon. “As much as I hate to say this, we should wait till tonight to head on over there. We’d have a better chance of surprising them in the dark rather than in the light of day.”
“Not to mention that we all should get a couple hours of sleep to sharpen our wits. The affects of two days without sleep wouldn’t help us any.” Felina yawned
Everyone nodded in agreement.
“Let’s meet back here on the strip at 11:00,” Feral suggested. “Then we’ll be on our way.”
Abi got up and took her bag from Razor, then hesitated. Looking up at Razor and T-Bone, she smiled weakly. “Actually, I think it might be better if you guys took the amulet with you…. since you guys ‘residence’ isn’t exactly known.”
T-Bone chuckled. “You sure about that?”
Abi handed Razor the amulet in its hard leather casing. “Yes, I am.”
30 minutes later… the hanger…..
Jake didn’t even bother to fold his flight suit in his locker. Rather, he laid it on his work bench with his bandana, helmet, and glovatrix resting on it.
“You can go ahead and head on up to bed; I’ll post on the garage door that we’re closed because of a ‘family emergency’,” Chance yawned as he set his stuff beside Jake’s.
“Alright, I’ll wake you up an hour before we have to meet Feral,” Jake called over his shoulder as he climbed up the hanger’s ladder into their living room. He walked over and turned off their TV.
He headed on up the stairs just as Chance walked out into the garage and went up into his bedroom. He sat on his bed and set his alarm for 10:00 p.m. With his alarm clock ready, he pulled back his covers and climbed in, sighing as his head hit the pillow.
Despite the overwhelming exhaustion he felt, he couldn’t seem to fall asleep. He heard Chance walk up the stairs and into his bedroom, his door clicking softly behind him. Jake opened his eyes and looked out his bedroom window into the vibrant dawn, completely occupied by disturbing thoughts of Callie’s welfare. This was unlike any other situation they had been in; there were so many other things that made decisions so much harder to reach.
The whole situation had this uneasy, supernatural atmosphere that wasn’t easy to dismiss, and he had one of those gut feelings that nothing was going to come about to their advantage easily. He stared up at his whitewashed ceiling, trying to ease his tense body and fatigued consciousness into sleep. But as always… sleep was difficult in coming, not only for him, but for everyone else also.
Time: Unknown……… the Cathedral…….
Callie drifted in and out of consciousness…. Hours drifted by slow and blurry like the sickening smell of thick perfumed air that drifted about her from the melting candles and burning sticks of spicy incense. The matter of time was incomprehensible to her delicate state of being as she fought to open her eyes. The stained glass windows above her were lit by the radiant rays of the rising sun, sending a warm shower of brilliant color on her shivering body. Her head seemed to explode in sharp shards of pain that stabbed at her already throbbing temples. She squeezed her eyes shut to calm her aching head and felt a cold shadow fall upon her. Slowly, she reopened her eyes to see her cloaked captor standing over her, his red eyes glowing in malevolent satisfaction.
“It’s nice that you’ve decided to join us, my dear.” His tone was sickeningly sweet.
“You’re going to pay for this, Paul,” she managed to croak, her dry throat unable to hide her obvious abhorrence towards him.
He chuckled as he lifted her chin with a pale finger. “My name is Pagane, and I’m afraid your friends have no idea as to where you are.”
“Don’t flatter yourself,” she seethed, jerking her face from his grasp despite her body’s protest to the sudden move.
“Has the queen awoken?” she heard an all too familiar voice query as the entrance doors swung open.
“She has, my master,” Pagane replied soothingly as he turned and bowed to the Pastmaster.
“Ahhh, my queen. It’s a shame we weren’t able to meet again under more desirable circumstances.”
“I’m too repulsed by your stench to say otherwise,” Callie growled, jerking on her chains.
The Pastmaster laughed as he turned his back to her and walked over to mirror. “Oh, how I love your fearless defiance, my queen. It truly is a shame that everything between us must soon come to an end. Do you care for me to explain the end of which I speak?”
“I don’t think I can say anything that would persuade you from doing so,” Callie spat as she glared at the gloating sorcerers before her.
“You see, my dear, I have learned from my past failures and have devised a plan that will prove to be inevitable, even for your beloved Swat Kats.”
“There is nothing they can’t handle,” Callie spat venomously. “Taking care of you and your childish schemes won’t even make them break a sweat.”
“Your trust in them shall be your downfall, my dear. I find it safe to say that to dispose of them shall be like ridding my cloak of some specks of dust. And, the matter regarding your cooperation is no longer an irksome predicament for me.”
Pagane and the Pastmaster cackled in delight.
“Oh, my dear, as much as I would love to have you as my bride, you’ll serve a much higher purpose in my plan. You see, the royal blood you’ve inherited from your ancestor, Queen Callista, has proven to be an important asset to the spell I shall cast. You, my dear, are the key that shall open the gateway that borders the ethereal realm of the gods, and I shall be bestowed with their unsurpassable power when the spell is complete.”
“I won’t let you use me,” Callie hissed.
The Pastmaster chuckled as Pagane outstretched his paw, sending forth blue ribbons of static magic that made Callie cry out as an unbearable pain devoured her.
Callie felt the cold darkness envelop her as she heard the Pastmaster’s gloating reply. “You see, I’ve already thought of a solution. It’ll be impossible for you to resist me if you’re unconsciousness.”
11:05 p.m. Enforcer Headquarters air strip.
“Is everything taken care of, Sergeant?” Feral demanded, yelling over the noise of his running chopper.
“Yes, Commander.” The sergeant saluted.
Feral nodded, his face firmly set in a grim expression. He squinted as he looked up at the Swat Kats’ jet that was hovering a couple yards from his choppers. He looked back sharply at the waiting sergeant. “I want squadrons organized and ready to respond to my signal if I need backup. You’re in charge, Sergeant.”
And, without another word, he stepped into his chopper and sat down in the seat beside his niece. “Let’s get going,” he ordered as he put on his headset and adjusted the mouth piece.
With a gentle gesture with her right wrist, Felina guided the chopper into the air, with the other choppers in formation behind them following in pursuit.
T-Bone guided the TurboKat up front beside Feral’s chopper. Not a word was spoken on the frequencies as they flew along in silence. Before them, clouds of fine hoary thread parted and the intense beams of moonlight shown down on them like a heatless sun. It grew darker as the city passed below them, leaving the golden blaze of its lights behind in a glowing sphere of artificial light.
“I wonder if he’s expecting us,” T-Bone mused as the dark sloping shape of the Katmai’s slowly appeared in front of them, looming forebodingly from the low clouds and silver strips of mist that covered its treetops in a thick damp blanket.
“Yeah, probably,” Razor replied, looking down at dark valleys and silver pools of water that reflected their passing shadow creeping across the moon’s mirrored surface.
“Our rendezvous is at an empty campground that is 1 mile south of the cathedral,” Felina informed them over the radio, somehow reading both of their minds.
“Roger that,” T-Bone replied. He slowly descended to a lower altitude in pursuit of Felina and Feral’s chopper. As the conifer treetops thinned out, their destination was revealed in a dark earthen circle amidst the dense forest. T-Bone set the TurboKat in hover mode as he waited for the enforcers to land their choppers. In a short amount of time, the TurboKat came to rest alongside the Feral’s chopper.
Feral’s small, yet capable, unit of enforcers was gathered in a spread out circle with Feral in the middle. T-Bone and Razor jumped out of the cockpit and slowly walked up to the group, stepping in beside Felina and another young lieutenant. Feral acknowledged their presence by casting a quick glance over in their direction.
“Extreme caution must be exercised during this mission. Don’t underestimate the Pastmaster because of his size.” Feral looked into the eyes of every one of his officers. “One act of carelessness could ruin any chance we might get to get Miss Briggs to safety and ensure any future detriment to MegaKat City. But, I don’t need to lecture you on such matters since you’re all aware of the seriousness of this situation.”
Feral looked over at his two silent adversaries again, this time with a tiny smirk playing at his lips. “We’re all a team here… and we have a very good chance that everything will fall into our favor.”
Everyone nodded in agreement.
T-Bone’s trademark grin spread across his muzzle, lighting up the night around him. “I say we should go bury Pastie…. permanently.”
Every enforcer smiled, murmuring and nodding in agreement.
Felina swung her bazooka up onto her shoulder and zipped her uniform jacket a little lower, revealing a good half of her white t-shirt underneath. She looked over at the Swat Kats, who couldn’t help but smile.
“Let’s do this,” she growled.
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