Warnings: Violence, some disturbing imagery, some profanity.
Summary: More secrets revealed as the future is revealed, the past is shaken, and the present pays the price.
Author’s Notes: Hello, Katfans. First off, let me apologize for saying this is NOT the conclusion I promised last update. Both new ideas and limited work time are forcing me to expand the series past its original three part arc. BUT, for those of you that care, I have decided to take ‘Ashes to Ashes’ and make it a series! After the initial groundwork has been laid with “Ashes to Ashes” I hope to do both short and regular length stories leading up to events foretold in this chapter! I promise
to do the best I can to make it worth the wait. Also, please tell me what you think so far. I didn’t have as much feedback from part two, and I love hearing your thoughts and questions. So please, feel free to write and let me know! ?
Standard Disclaimers: I don’t own Swat Kats. Never have. Never will. Course, if I did, I wouldn’t have stuck them in a 6:30am Sunday morning time slot, but.. I digress. And you get the picture ?
Felina blinked, looking at her uncle as if he had just grown another head and started speaking in tongues. Which — considering the bombshell he had just dropped – wasn’t too far from the realm of plausibility.
“You’re.. WHAT??” exclaimed the more than slightly upset she-Kat.
“I know this is a shock, Felina, but I exp… I need your support on this.” The older Feral sighed, sitting back down in the same chair he had occupied when a short time ago David Steele had replied in much the same manner to his earlier announcement. **And, if she’s this upset with me being Mayor, imagine how upset she’s going to be when she finds out the rest..**
Ulysses had asked Felina back to the office Thomas had loaned to the former Enforcer commander until he could finalize the threads of the rapidly unwinding tapestry that had once been Ulysses Feral’s normal existence. Now more than ever, the seclusion of the office was a grateful blessing as Felina took the news in stride.
“With all due respect, /sir/, are you out of your ever-loving mind?!” Felina glared at her beloved uncle, honestly doubting his sanity at this point. When he had knocked on Callie’s hospital door not more than half an hour ago, this.. conversation.. was the last thing she would have ever expected. Now, instead of worrying about Callie’s slim chances for recovery she had to compound that with the news that her uncle was now mayor of Megakat City.
A haunting thought crossed the threshold of her awareness, shaking her mentally to the core. **Wait.. if he’s the Mayor, then who..??** Felina looked at Ulysses, the unspoken question burning in her eyes.
Feral knew what the look meant, and steadied himself. “Steele,” was his only reply. It was all that was needed. In fact, it was more than enough to stun the young Enforcer into silence.
Feral took advantage of the momentary silence to cross the desk and take his niece’s paw and try to salvage the more civilized aspects of the conservation. “Felina.. I know this is all a great shock. It was to me as well. But, the city council elected me by a narrow margin, and if I refused, someone else would have gotten the job, and that I could not allow. This is the best way to hold our city together long enough until the Enforcers are back to full strength.” He paused, letting Felina slowly absorb what he was saying. *Not a total lie, if you look at it from a certain point of view..* mused Ulysses. He knew the real reason he didn’t fight the vote, but to draw Felina into a potential political struggle between his supporters and Steele’s would not be good for either of them nor would it help Megakat City. But, with David now in a position of importance, those supporters would have less ground to block his decisions out of spite and be forced to defend their positions with legitimate concerns instead of hiding behind political filibustering.
Felina shook her head and gazed at her uncle with a look of understanding, if not total acceptance. Still, there was one thing she /had/ to know. “But, Uncle.. why Steele? After all he’s done.. what he’s said to you. Was he the only choice..?”
Feral mentally nodded to himself, the hardest question she could have asked now hanging in the air for him to answer. “I’ll admit that he was not my first choice to lead the Enforcers. That would have been you.” Ignoring the shocked look from his niece, Feral continued. “But, you were right the other day, Felina. You are needed on the front lines. Without a doubt you would make an outstanding Commander, and I always suspected that one day it would have been you that took my place. But, all that was before Dark Kat’s attack.” Feral turned, and looked out the window into the hall as orderlies attended to their duties. Momentarily, he began again… “The Enforcers are weakened, Felina, more so than in recent memory. We lost a lot of good Kats to that attack, and those that are left are looking for reassurance that the Enforcers can.. and will.. go on. You’re the best Kat for that job, Felina.” Slowly, he turned, looking at the young woman… “The others believe in you; they have for a long time. You might not have noticed, but I have. They trust you with their lives, because they have in the past and they have survived. That is where you can do the greatest good.” Feral sat back down, studying his niece.
Felina looked at her uncle, a mix of emotions on her face. On the surface, she didn’t want to believe him. But, deep down, she knew it was true. She /had/ noticed, but never felt a need to acknowledge that trust openly. She simply was a soldier, and part of her job was to look out for her fellows. Nothing else mattered in battle. Now, she had to be there for them again, but this time as a leader. Closing her eyes, she nodded gently, understanding her role for the time being, but still unclear on one other part. “Uncle, will Steele be able to effectively repla… fill in for you?”
Felina was shocked as the word ‘replace’; almost came out as the thought of /anyone/ replacing her Uncle made her physically sick. She opened her eyes and looked up, hoping he didn’t take offense at her near slip-up.
“Believe it or not, Felina, I think deep inside Steele has what it takes to succeed. I saw his entrance test, and disregarding rumor, he passed it without help from his family, in fact..” Feral paused, a small smile on his face.. “he scored only slightly under you.”
Felina blinked, honestly shocked he scored /that/ well on his own.
Feral nodded, then continued. “When I told him of my decision, Felina, there was a… change, akin to a stuck door suddenly flung open, a fire in his eyes unlike I ever saw in him before emerged. I challenged his honor, Felina, and I think I like the results.” He paused and walked over to his niece, kneeling down and again taking her paw in his. “I think I made the best choice I could, Felina. I need you to understand that.”
After what seemed like an eternity, Felina stood and smiled at him as a look of quiet acceptance filled her eyes. “I understand, Uncle.. and I promise to do the best job I can.” Then, in an action that was certainly against every rule in the Enforcer Handbook, she hugged her Uncle with a tight embrace.
Feral blinked, and chose to not press how undignified this was between different ranks. His own arms held his niece for a long moment until an all-too familiar alarm shattered their peace.
“Trauma Team to ICU 4 STAT. Trauma to ICU 4 STAT”
Felina paled. “Oh.. Goddess.. that’s Callie’s room!” and in an instant she was out the door, nearly shoving orderlies out of the way as she careened through the antiseptic halls of Megakat Memorial. Nearly at the door, she was stopped by the same intern who had checked up on Callie a few moments before Feral had come to take Felina to their discussion. “Let me go!” she yelled, but the young intern held her close.
“Lieutenant, you can’t go in there!” Douglas said as he held Felina tightly. “Doctor Katzenberg and the trauma team are going to handle this. You’ll only be in the way!” He blinked as Felina snarled at him, but held his ground long enough for an already present Sami and the just arriving Ulysses to pull her back, trying to calm the ballistic she-Kat as best they could. Nodding to Sami, Douglas released the she-Kat into their custody and disappeared into Calico’s room.
Moments later, Thomas and his team rounded the corner and disappeared into the room, as once again a feeling of total helplessness welled up in Felina’s stomach. Tears unwelcomed began to flow down her cheek, the pit of her being somehow knowing that there would be no miracles this time.
Total, all-consuming, never ending pain.
There was no respite. Not a second. Not a moment. Nothing. It never ended. Every cell in her body screamed in agony. Tears ran down her face, spilling into the nothingness that still surrounded her. Her heart was beating like never before, blood surging through her body as if her heart was going to rupture.
Another blast. Another lighting bolt lanced through her body. She wanted to beg for it to stop. She would give anything.. body and soul.. for it to end. But, it wouldn’t. Over and over she screamed as pain slammed into her. Over and over her tears welled up. Over and over she begged the Goddess to let her change her mind, to accept the everlasting peace that she had denied. But, the Goddess refused, and Callie Briggs whimpered as her body felt as if it would explode in neverending flame.
Merklyn winced at the sound of pure anguish that escaped the lips of the body that lay in agony before him. Still, he could not falter, not for a moment. To do so could destroy him, the Orb, and Calico as well. Holding his hands high, he focused the remaining power from the Orb of Prysmos and blanketed Callie’s body with it, causing a scream of pure terror as the bluish-green light seemed to soak into every fiber of her being.
Merklyn had not wanted the transfer to be this painful, but he could not have known beforehand that the dormant genetic code that enabled Calico’s bloodline to wield magic had only recently started to rewrite her body’s DNA. The trauma of the Swat Kats’ death had started the process, but it had been too short a time, and her body had diverted too much energy to preventing the change from happening. All he could do now was overpower her defenses, and let what was needed to be occur.
**Just the totems. That is all that is left, Calico. Please.. for everyone and everything you hold dear.. hold on. Just a little while longer…** Merklyn silently beseeched the forces of light to protect their champion for just a little while longer. A final surge of power erupted from the Orb and into Calico’s body, causing another scream of torment to explode from her lips.
Images flooded Callie’s mind as her body was assaulted over and over by pain that felt like it came from the underworld itself. Images of creatures both familiar and strange filled her thoughts; an eagle taking flight, a bear protecting its cub, a proud and noble lion defending its territory. A gorilla swinging through the treetops in search of food, a horrible looking creature from prehistory terrorizing the skies on leather wings. A shark gliding along the ocean currents, closing on its next prey.
Suddenly, the images stopped. A blinding nothingness filled her body as the pain began to subside. Then.. emptiness. No pain. No agony. Only the cool calmness of nothing. Slowly, the ravaged she-Kat looked at Merklyn, her eyes awash with tears as the elder being knelt above her, a look of true and genuine concern on his ancient face. Although there was no way she could have stood, her eyes stayed fixed on her strange mentor as his words finally reached her conscious mind for processing.
“…ou okay, young one?”
Slowly, a smile filled her features as the all-consuming blackness of needed sleep began to envelope her. Finding her voice, she was able to tell Merklyn just how she felt with two simple words. They summed up her feelings more than adequately.
Merklyn blinked as she drifted off into a dreamless slumber. Then, laughter unheard for a millennium slowly filled the void eternal that surrounded this most unlikely pair. Standing once more, the ancient wizard smiled and cast one final spell, this last gift of his own design. Soft blue-pink streams of light wrapped around Callie’s unmoving body, then faded into her fur. A moment later she began to turn transparent and faded from sight as if she never existed in the first place.
The ancient being watched as his new charge left this realm of existence and returned to her own. When her body faded completely from sight, Merklyn returned to the fog, his final words drifting forever in the night.
“The die is cast and all is as it should. May the light shine forever….”.
Jake and Chance looked at Arkatta with shocked expressions as her tale concluded. Neither of the pair could find words to break the stunned silence. After a few minutes, it was the elder sorceress’ voice that finally broke the stillness. “I warned you,” was all she said.
Chance was the first to recover from the haze of confusion that enveloped him and Jake. Nodding, he looked at Arkatta. “I.. ya.. you did.” He paused, shaking his head as if to force his fears and concerns into some coherent pattern. ” I still.. I mean I just.. can’t believe we’re supposed to be..” he stopped, unable to finish the sentence.
“Dead..” was Jake’s quiet finish to the morbid comment.
Callista walked over and gently placed her hands on each shoulder of the stunned Kats. “Sir Razor.. Sir T-Bone.. we do not know for sure. All I know is what I saw momentarily in the timestorm before you arrived here. Your flying machine plunged into the water and exploded. There is no way to know if you were to be inside when it was destroyed.” She sighed, wishing silently to herself for understanding of the paradoxes unleashed that day. Instead, together they would need to piece the mystery bit by bit until a resolution was found.
“But, you said you never meant to bring us to Megalith City..” Jake began. “You only wanted to transport us from the Turbokat to a safe place in the water. ”
Callista nodded in agreement, but a soft sigh escaped her lips. “That is correct, my brave knight. But, the power surge I mentioned must have come from somewhere. And, that power is what hurled you both through the Narnstone Portal here to Megalith City, instead of a safe place in your own time.” She paused, trying to find a way to give her friends some gleam of hope. “Perhaps, by working together, it might just be possible to find that power; and if we find the source…”
“We can find a way to get back!” exclaimed Chance.
Callista nodded in agreement, but Arkatta’s voice suddenly interrupted… “The power that sent them here was great, Callista, and despite our best efforts, no answers have been forthcoming.” Slowly, she turned to face the two time-lost vigilantes… “It might be wise to accept that fact that your stay here will be for a great deal longer than your last visit. If not, so be it, but preparing for the worse might be a more prudent direction.”
Jake and Chance blinked, both wanting to dispute the words Arkatta had put forth, but neither could find a legitimate counter. Quickly, the mood in the room turned somber, but Chance’s voice broke the silence this time. “That well may be true, ma’am, but we’re the Swat Kats, and we’ve faced problems a lot harder than this. It may take us a while, but we’re not going to give up. We’ll find a way to return to Megakat City, and this time Dark Kat’s not going to stop us.” The grin on Chance’s face was infectious as Jake smiled in unison, prompting a look of unease from the ancient she-Kat.
Before another word could be spoken a soft knock filled the room.
“Enter,” commanded Callista.
A page, no more than eight at best, opened the door and warily entered. Callista recognized him as the cooks’ assistant. Noticing the young boy’s fear, she softly smiled and waved the child into the room.
“I’m s-sorry to b-bother you, ma’a.. your M.. Majesty.. b-but..” the boy began as he kneeled, upset at how everyone was staring at him. Especially the larger orange and black-striped Kat. Callista walked over and knelt down before the kitten, smiling broadly to reassure him.
“It’s okay, Tobias. Is dinner ready?” she asked gently, trying to keep the boy from panicking away into a dead faint. Attempting to be as non-threatening as possible, Callista rubbed the boy’s head, causing an ever so slight grin to cross the kitten’s face.
Nodding briskly, the silver furred and blacked-striped youngster relaxed slightly. “Yes, ma’am. There’s mutton, and fruit, and lots of bread. We even made that plum pudding that you like so much!” The boy beamed, but realized he was talking too much and quickly shut his mouth, looking at the ground. Half expecting to be yelled at for talking like that to the Queen, he was amazed when instead of disapproval a gentle laugh escaped from Callista.
“Why thank you, Tobias. That is very nice of you. Would you run along and tell everyone that we will be there soon?” Callista grinned as the boy acted as if he had been asked to go slay a mighty dragon for her.
“Yes, your Majesty!” the boy puffed up slightly, feeling on top of the world. Without another word, the youngster saluted like the guards and at top speed dashed out of the room bound for the kitchen. A small round of laughter escaped from the gathered Kats as the mood lightened noticeably.
Chance smiled. “I think he was trying to impress you, Callista.”
The young Queen nodded. “He was, but for all the wrong reasons.” Seeing a look of puzzlement on his face, she elaborated.. “Tobias is an orphan, his parents were killed several years ago in a mud slide south of the Dijor mountains. He’s been here since, and I don’t think we have a better page in the castle. But.. he tries hard.. too hard.. to prove himself to me. I think he’s trying to pay me back for taking him in, although I keep hoping he will realize he does not owe me anything. Being the best Kat he can be is reward enough.”
Chance looked at Callista with a nod, understanding both her concerns and the boy’s behavior. “He’s just trying to find a way to balance the scales, Callista. More than likely, he feels a need to repay you for your kindness since you didn’t have to take him in. Once he feels like the debt has been filled, even if it only exists in his mind, he’ll be able to put it behind him and move on. The best thing is to let him find his own path in his own time.” Not seeing the stunned look from his partner, Chance just smiled at Callista who nodded in acceptance of his logic.
Arkatta looked at Chance, a expression of deep thought on her withered face. **His compassion is deep. That may not be a good sign…** her mind’s eye commented. Realizing that this tom-Kat could be an unforeseen variable in her plans, Arkatta reluctantly accepted the fact that he would have to be told the whole truth. **Either that, or risk all we know being undone, even by the best of intentions…**.
Jake looked over at Chance and smiled. “I don’t know about you, partner, but I’m starving.” Struggling against his aching body, Jake rose halfway, but winced as that same body protested loudly and painfully. Gasps for air escaped his lips as he looked at Callista apologetically. “Sorry, your Highness, but I might have to dine in the room tonight.”
Callista regretfully nodded and prepared to called a guard to bring food for Sir Razor when Chance laughed softly. “Not a chance, buddy. If I gotta eat more pepper stew, so are you! Wait right here..” and with that the Swat Kat darted outside to the hall only returning a few moments later with a makeshift wheelchair. Arkatta and Callista looked at the contraption with interest, while Jake merely shook his head smiling. As Chance walked over to help Jake, Callista knelt over and peered at the device.
“Sir T-Bone, what is this??” she asked with small amount of awe in her voice.
“A wheelchair, ma’am. Where we come from, this helps Kats with injuries get around and have the means to do things they normally couldn’t.”
“When did you have time to put this together, Chance?”
The burly Kat looked at his partner and smirked. “Actually, I can’t take credit. The town blacksmith gets all the credit for this baby. I ran into Sir Steele on my way to bathe and told him that you might need help getting around. So, instead of having a guard carry you like a sack of kitty litter, I drew him a rough layout of a chair, and he got the smithy to cobble up this..” he commented, gesturing to the chair.
Callista nodded in approval at her knight’s foresight. “A clever idea, Sir T-Bone.”
Jake laughed, instantly regretting the action. After the pain subsided, he looked at Callista with a bit of humor in his eyes as Chance lowered him into the chair. “He gets them every now and then, your Majesty. About once every decade!”
Callista and Jake’s laughter filled the room as Chance’s only gentlemanly response (due to ladies being present) was a low growl from deep in his throat. This prompted another round of laughter, which Chance gave up on trying to defuse and started to push his tormentor (and former best friend) to the dining hall when Arkatta’s voice caught his attention.
“Sir T-Bone. I have a few questions I would like to ask you, and I must be returning to my home soon. I do not wish to make you late for dinner, but they are of some importance and a few minutes of your time would be most helpful…” the elder Kat said.
Callista looked at her mentor and cocked her head… “Is it of that importance, Arkatta? Surely it can wait until after dinner?”
“I am afraid not, my child. We shall be along shortly. Perhaps Sir Steele can escort Sir Razor?”
Callista shook her head. “I will. Both knights have saved myself and my kingdom with little regard for their own safety. This will be a small repayment of that service.” Walking over, Callista took the crude handles of the wheelchair and smiled at Jake. “I hope the change in driver is acceptable?” she asked with a hint of playfulness.
“No complaints here,” Jake chuckled as the pair slowly departed. Before rounding the corner of the door, he gave Chance a sly grin, a slight ‘thumbs up’ sign on his left paw, another point scored in their battle for Callista’s attentions.
Chance sighed and gave only a slight nod, accepting the point, but his look told Jake that the battle was far from over.
Arkatta quietly studied the exchange, her feeling of uneasiness growing as the Swat Kats’ concern for each other was bad enough; but this battle for the attentions of her pupil had far more dangerous repercussions. With a focused look, she walked over to the remaining Kat and looked up at him with a quizzical stare.
Chance met her look, a bit uneasy himself as her glance upset him for some reason. Clearing his throat, he tried to break the silence when Arkatta’s voice cut him off with the strangest of questions.
“How much do you care for him, Sir T-Bone?”
Chance blinked, the query catching him totally off guard. He looked at her with total confusion.
“It is not a hard question to answer. How much do you care for him?”
Chance swallowed hard, a ball of ice beginning to form in the pit of his stomach. “I would give my life for him, Arkatta. After what we have been through I would think that would be obvious.” He paused, looking at the figure before him. “Is he hurt that bad? Is he going to…?” Chance paused, unable to say the word Jake had filled in for him earlier.
Arkatta shook her head, a paw reaching up to rest reassuringly on his forearm. “Not here, not now. But, your compassion for him is without restraint. While that is a noble quality – rare in any time – it could prove to be terrible mistake.”
Chance looked at her, anger building in his eyes. “Please, Arkatta! No more riddles. If Jake’s in danger, I’ve got to know what…”
Again her paw patted his forearm, quieting the upset warrior. She then hobbled over to the fire, warming her old bones as Chance walked behind her as panic joined the fear forming within his gut. Biting his tongue, Chance let the she-Kat find the words herself, knowing his being upset wouldn’t help at all. After a long moment, Arkatta turned and sat down, her gaze solid on the young tom-Kat.
“I am the one responsible for you and Sir Razor being here.”
Chance blinked once.. then twice, not sure if he heard right. Clenching his fists, the Swat Kat glared at her, daring to not say anything as his anger would escape unchecked.
“I do not blame you for being upset, but before you pass judgment hear me out.” She paused, gesturing for him to sit in the chair Callista had recently occupied.
Chance sat, still upset but holding it all in with a force of will he never suspected possessing until now.
“What I am about to tell you, Sir T-Bone, is of such great importance I had to disregard all the ethical principles I hold dear. What will happen… what /must/ happen.. is that crucial to everything we both hold close in our hearts. ” Again she paused, letting her mind organize her concerns into something coherent. “Your compassion for your friend does you great credit, but there will come a time T-Bone where… if you save Razor from what appears to be a terrible fate… you will doom all that you see here, and all you love in your own time.”
Chance could only sit there, the color draining from his face.
“You will reach home again, noble knight. I do not know how, or when, but you will leave this time and once again be in your own. After your return, a great and terrible threat will emerge. Once more, the Swat Kats will take to the skies to protect their home and city from it. But, in the process, to secure victory, you will be required to sacrifice your partner. /IF/ you do not allow this.. if you save him… you will doom my world and yours… forever. ”
“There will be a great evil, more powerful than ever to be seen on this world. I do not know the cause, but the results are all too clear; to stop the threat you must leave Razor to face certain death while you deliver the final blow. By the time you return, it will be too late. Razor will be lost, seemingly forever. ”
Chance felt his heart stop.
To her credit, Arkatta felt for the young Kat, but she could not let her personal feelings get in the way of saving all she held dear. But, to leave him hanging like this was torture so she quickly resumed.
“In fact, Razor will not be dead but here in Megalith City some years in our future. After many failed attempts to return home, he will begin to carve a life for himself. And in time, that life will include his hand in marriage to Callista.”
What little breath Chance had left was savagely expelled as another deeply personal dream was wrenched from his soul. He felt numb all over, unable to speak or move as Arkatta continued.
“In time, their marriage will produce a child. A beautiful daughter that will cause the gods themselves to be envious. They will be a happy family, full of love and life that has escaped both your friend and my Queen for the longest time.” She faltered, a dark look passing over her face. “However, it will not last. A long forgotten spell will be tried in one final attempt to reach you, Sir T-Bone.”
“But.. why? If.. if he’s got Callista, why…”
Arkatta shook her head, amazed at how this Kat could be so empathic and unaware at the same time. “To give you a sense of closure and dispel the grief of your loss. As the spell is completed, a doorway will open into your world’s future where Callista and Razor will see the ruin that was once his home now engulfed by creatures of nightmare. They run rampant as their leader.. an evil being of unnatural creation.. feasts on the bodies of those who tried to stop him. Their power will grow unchecked until your entire world is theirs to do with as they please.”
There was no sound from Chance, his mind racing as he tried to understand it all.
“They will use all the powers at their disposal to see how the fall happened and where the focal point occurred. Upon that discovery, it is then that their happiness will shatter totally. They will see that the technology your world possessed was unable to stop the wave of darkness, and with no wielders of magic in your time there was no hope. Unable to send themselves and leave Megalith City to her enemies – but just as unwilling to leave your time unguarded – a painful choice will be made. Their precious baby daughter will be sent to the future, memories of her life here erased. She will grow up there, learn the ways of the modern world. And,
when the time comes, her natural control over the forces of magic will stop the cataclysm, ensuring the safety of generations to come.” Arkatta stopped, giving Chance much needed time to pull himself together.
To his own credit, Chance quickly pulled the pieces of the puzzle before him into a simple picture… “S..so. If.. if I save Razor, then he won’t travel back in time. If he doesn’t travel back in time, his daughter won’t be born. If she’s not born, then she can’t be sent to the future and if she’s not in the future…”
“Then there will be no future,” finished Arkatta.
Chance staggered to his feet, his mind a whirl of fear and terror as the insight of what was to be shattered him to the core. After forever passed, his voice returned to ask a question… “Their daughter in our time.. will she know what.. will she know the truth? How can I find her when the time comes..?”
“You do not know her true identity?” she asked, surprised etched on her weathered face.
Chance shook his head.
“Their daughter will be a warrior of words for most of her life, defending the innocent in her own way. That will be taken from her, and from the depths of her deepest despair her true self will begin to emerge. That self will be all that stands in the way of terror for a thousand generations. Yet, until that transformation, no one.. not even you and Sir Razor, will have ever suspected her true role in the future of MegaKat City.”
Chance looked at her, turning a ghastly shade of white. “Yo.. you mean we know her??”
Arkatta nodded as she reached over, gently holding the paw of the troubled tom-Kat. The male looked down and with an almost reverent voice as he begged the answer to be revealed.
“Who.. who is she??”
“The daughter of Sir Razor and Callista is well known to you, Sir T-Bone. She is the Swat Kats’ greatest ally.. and the one love you have forbade yourself from following so the Swat Kats will remain unbroken…”
Chance stopped breathing, the realization of who Arkatta was referring to hitting him like a ton of bricks. Tears ran down his eyes as his knees were no longer able to support him, the warrior sinking to the hard floor in a fit of distress. For long moments he could say nothing, but slowly, her name escaped his lips, as if the necessary conclusions would only be justified by his own voice. The word filled the room.. and his heart.. with a heavy light.
Chance Furlong clenched his fists and shook in mortal fear as deep in his heart he knew it all to be true…
What sound ends the world?
What does one hear when emptiness is all there is?
What does the archangel sing as all becomes nothing?
For a doctor, the song is never welcomed. In this case, nevermore was it so. The biomonitor was respectfully muted, the shrill, even call silenced as time itself seemed to pay its final respects.
There is no song now; at least none the living could hear. There are only words to give the life a macabre sense of closure.
Three little words to be precise.
“She’s gone, Thomas.”
The words sounded hollow, as if the life before him was over.. just like… /that/? That was all necessary to close a life of service and dedication to her fellow Kats?
Tears began to fall from Thomas Katzenberg’s eyes as he drew the sheet over the lifeless form. “Time of death?” he whispered, mostly from terrible habit.
“2:47 P.M.,” whispered Douglas Kowser, his own face wet with grief.
Thomas nodded. Little words. That is what life boiled down to at this moment. A lifetime of effort and achievement put into a neat little package.
More tears fell, spotting the sheet below him.
Little words was all that was left.
And, Calico Briggs deserved so much more.
Slowly, Thomas and his staff walked out, unable to hide the despair that infected their spirits. As the others left to file respective reports on Calico’s death, it fell to Thomas to be the bearer of the news.
Ulysses and Felina looked up at the doctor as he emerged from the room which held Callie. The elder Feral saw the look on the healer’s face and knew what had happened. He tensed, reflexively holding his niece closer, as if he could somehow protect her from the tragedy about to occur.
Felina knew as soon as she saw the look in Katzenberg’s eyes that Callie was gone. “N..no.. please Goddess.. no..” she whimpered. Clutching at her uncle’s arm, she felt her legs try to give out, only continuing to stand with the help from him and Sami.
Sami herself just stood there, stunned. Even though she personally didn’t know Calico Briggs all that well, the loss of the most respected She-Kat in Megakat City was nearly more than she could handle. The tears ran down her face, soaking her fur with sorrow.
“How..?” asked Ulysses quietly.
“Massive systems failure, Mayor.” Thomas took off his glasses, wiping his eyes with the sleeve of his smock. Looking up at the trio, he tried to continue. …”All of her major systems — nervous, lymphatic circulatory — everything just.. stopped. I’ve never seen this before. It’s as if her body just.. gave up. I know.. this doesn’t mean much now.. but I doubt she felt any pain. She went quickly, Lieutenant.”
Felina just stood there in shock, a slight nod her only reply available.
“Can we see her, Doctor. To say good-bye?”
Thomas shook his head at Sami. “I’m sorry. She’s not ..you don’t need to see her like she is. I don’t want you to remember her like that. She wouldn’t want that either.”
Sami wanted to protest, but a slight squeeze from Felina’s paw on her arm quieted her for the moment.
Feral looked at the doctor and placed a paw on the elder Kat’s shoulder. “I know you did what you could, Thomas. She also wouldn’t want you to blame yourself.”
Thomas nodded, but it was clear he did just that. “Maybe if I had caught her symptoms earlier.. put her on light duty..” he sighed, knowing that somehow he had failed beyond redemption.
“It’s not your fault sir..” began Felina. “There’s only one Kat who needs to take the blame for this..”.
Ulysses looked at his niece, and now saw not just grief, but blood-red rage in her eyes. He had seen that look only once before, but it was enough to stay etched in his mind, blissfully forgotten until now.
“Felina…” began Feral softly but with clear intent for her to not continue.
“Uncle, this is all Dark Kat’s fault, and you know it! He /HAS/ to be made to pay!”
Sami turned and looked at her friend, her face filled with so many emotions. Grief at the loss of Calico, fear at Felina’s barely held rage, worry for what the future
would be like with all that had happened. Somewhere deep in her soul, Sami knew that it would be alright.. it would /have/ to be. But, she also knew that if Felina gave into the rage now, would she be lost as well after all was said and done?
“Felina.. please. We’ll get Dark Kat. I promise you. He’ll pay for everything he’s done to you, to Callie, to our city.”
To Sami’s relief, Felina just nodded, unable to say anything lest her anger be vented upon the wrong Kat. Closing her eyes, she leaned against her Uncle, trying to find an inner calm amongst the emotional storm she found herself trapped in.
Ulysses held his niece, his gaze starting to drift towards Thomas when his radio broke the silence.
“Mayor Feral, come in. Lieutenant Commander Steele to Mayor Feral. Come in..”
Sami and Felina glanced towards each other, wondering what was going on now.
“Mayor. Code magenta, sir. Do you read me?”
The blood in the two Ferals froze as the words sank in. Sami’s eyes widened as Felina’s darkened considerably.
Thomas looked around confused. “Code Magenta.. what’s code..?” he began, but the elder Feral’s swipe for his walkie cut the doctor short.
“Steele! What the blazes is going on?!”
“We’ve got Viper at Megakat Biochem, Hard Drive and the Metallikats at Pumadyne, and an unidentified airship on route to MegaTron Labs! Best guess.. it’s Dark Kat, sir.” Steele’s voice was deceptively calm considering what he just said.
“Blast it all!” shouted Felina. “Those bastards.. they’re trying to divide us.. split forces. But.. why? I mean.. all three companies have moved their top secret stuff to other labs as a precaution until the Megakat City branches could be repaired. What could be left that…”
“Project Victory…” whispered Ulysses.
Sami looked at a very confused Dr. Katzenberg to a pensive Mayor to a shaking Felina. Needing to understand what was going on, she turned to the elder Feral..”Sir… What’s Project Victory? And, how does that relate to this code Magenta?” Sami didn’t want to overstep her bounds, but the sinking feeling in her gut had to be abated. And, that could only be accomplished with information. Information only Mayor Feral seemed to possess.
Feral looked at the young Enforcer and sighed. “Project Victory was created by MegaTron Labs and Pumadyne as the last line of defense against nuclear attack by either rogue forces with missile access or…”
“…other forces, such as Dark Kat, who would rather destroy MegaKat City rather than lose. It’s an energy shield, meant to keep the entire city safe in case of outside attack,” Felina quietly added.
“But, what could Dark Kat want with an energy shield that keeps attacks out?” Thomas asked. “Surely, even on the off chance he could take over the entire city, the President wouldn’t sanction a nuclear response…. would she?”
“No.. but think, Doctor. If a shield is designed to keep forces out, wouldn’t it stand to reason that it could be designed to…” Feral began.
“..keep people in!” finished Sami. “Goddess.. he could envelope the entire city from the rest of the world!”
“Not just that, Sami, but the entire project is powered by a reactor. And, where there’s a reactor..”
Thomas paled as Felina’s statement registered. “Oh.. my.. he could detonate the core and decimate the city!”
“It’s worse than that, Thomas,” Ulysses said as he looked at the shocked healer. ” The core isn’t nuclear …it’s antimatter based..”
Silence filled the room.
Felina looked at her uncle as all the blood froze in her lithe body. “Goddess.. Uncle.. that means.. that means..”
“If he succeeds, there will be nothing left for anyone to salvage. The entire world could well be obliterated.”
A deafening quiet filled the room once more for long moments until Steele’s voice broke through the stillness. “Mayor.. this is Steele. Come in..”
Feral looked down and grasped his radio. “Commander, you have full authority to activate project Doomsday. I repeat, you are GO for project Doomsday.”
“Understood, Mayor. Good luck sir..” Steele said quietly, the channel closing with a soft click.
“To us all…” whispered Feral.
Both Sami and Felina looked considerably paler than a few moments ago, both of them having heard rumors about project Doomsday, but neither ever expecting it to be sanctioned.
“Uncle….” began Felina, but Feral’s look stopped her flat.
“No arguments on this, Felina. I know the risks.”
“Yes, sir.. but.. please..”
“I’ll be careful, Felina. But, I don’t want you to go after Dark Kat solo.”
“But.. he has to pay for what he’s..”
“That’s an /order/, Lieutenant!” Feral stressed as his voice gave no room for argument. “I expect it to be obeyed to the fullest. Am I /clear/ on that?” His tone shocked Thomas and Sami, but both knew there was little room for interruption on Felina’s part.
“As crystal, sir,” was Felina’s only reply, her fists clenched in anger.
Feral saluted. “Good luck then,” and he saluted.
Felina responded likewise and turned to go, not allowing herself to give her Uncle a final hug good-bye.
Sami saluted as well, and turned to go when Feral’s voice got her attention.
“Watch out for her. Please.”
Sami blinked at the request, but nodded in understanding. “I will, sir. ”
Sami turned to follow Felina, but stopped short when she saw her friend staring at Callie’s door. There was a glistening of tears on the young she-Kat’s face as
Felina softly put her hand on the door to the room that held the remains of a woman she admired more than she could ever admit.
**I’ll make him pay, Callie.. if it’s the last thing I ever do. I swear it.** thought Felina as she felt Sami’s presence beside her. Looking over, she nodded only once and as she forced her grief down, a plan began to from in her mind. One that had great risks, but maybe.. just maybe.. was their only hope for success.
And, it would only cost Felina her life.
Thomas watched Sami and Felina depart, then looked over at Feral. “Mayor.. what is going on? Why is this project Doomsday so dangerous?”
Feral looked at the Doctor and shook his head. “No time, Thomas. Suffice it to say you need to prepare your staff for the worst.” With that, he began to leave, pausing only long enough to gaze at Callie’s room, a soft prayer echoing in his mind.
**Dust to dust…** echoed the thought in Feral’s mind. *Perhaps she’s with her beloved Swat Kats. At any rate, now she can rest…* With that, he went to the elevator and made for the parking deck.
A confused Thomas stared at the door to Callie’s room for a long moment. Alone and out of the loop, all he could do was his duty; ready the autopsy on Calico and prepare as best he could for the unknown results of Project Doomsday. Although Callie was beyond his help, Thomas felt compelled to give her life a proper closure. If nothing else, he could at least say good-bye. Taking a deep breath and gathering his resolve, he opened the door and walked into ICU 4.
That same resolve crumbled as the door shut behind a shocked Thomas Katzenberg as his gaze fell to the spot where less than five minutes before the body of Calico Briggs rested. Now there was nothing.
Callie was gone.
“What the hell??!!” shouted Thomas as he rushed to the empty bedside. Staring in disbelief, the healer felt panic nudging at his gut. Denying the sensation, he leapt to the first logical conclusion anyone would have in the same situation.
“This is not happening.”
The room chose not to reply.
Closing his eyes, Thomas counted to five and took another deep breath. Slowly, he opened them and gazed at the bed.
Callie was still gone.
Beginning to wonder if the grief of losing his goddaughter was effecting him mentally, Thomas shook his head to clear it. It was then something caught his eye. Something that was very out of place.
The window was open.
When he left, the window was closed.
**No! Impossible! She couldn’t have left the hospital. One, she was dead! Two, we’re over 8 stories high. And three..**
Thomas sighed. ‘Three’; was a rather moot point since number one was a pretty good argument against her leaving.
“The wind blew it open. That’s all,” Thomas said to the room, as if trying to convince himself of the futility of what his heart was reaching for.
It was then Thomas noticed one other item that had eluded his awareness until now. There, stuck in the right side of the window frame, there was a royal blue feather. Deep in hue, the feather swayed in the breeze, almost glistening in the midday sunlight.
Walking over, Thomas gently took the feather from its resting place and shut the window. He dropped his gaze, scanning the object for some clue.. some piece… that would shed light on the disappearance of Calico Briggs.
But the blue feather held its secrets tightly. For now.
(To be Continued…..)
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.