Warnings: Violence, some disturbing imagery, some profanity.
Summary: The end fast approaches when MegaKat City comes under attack by all her enemies at once! Ulysses Feral risks his very life in a last ditch effort to stop Dark Kat as Commander David Steele faces off against Viper himself. And, three young Cadets find themselves in the firefight for MegaKat city risking all to help. The fate of Calico Briggs is revealed as one hero is born and a glorious rebirth awaits two others… if they can reach the Salvage Yard in time..
Author’s Notes: And, I guess the typical ‘before the story starts stuff’: Greetings, all! First off, let me apologize to those who I promised that this would be the final part of the story. It’s not. Due to work constraints and me just not being able to give the story the time it deserves I’ve decided to break it down once again into five parts. Next time WILL be the final section, but I want to give myself time to do it right.
Disclaimer: Okay. Standard disclaimers. I don’t own Swat Kats and I’m not making a dime off this. The character of Sami Higgins is owned by Jade Callan and used with permission. The characters of Jace Milkner, Tobias Jakeson and Kassie Kaylar are mine (however, Jace and Kassie are also based on archive hosts Jason and Kristen so check with them and me before using). The character Merklyn and all related properties are owned by Kenner/Hasbro and used w/o permission for no profit.
Special Note: Yes, this does somewhat bring in other universes that are not SK proper, but have been ‘katified’. These characters original designs are properties of their owners and no infringement is intended.
Special thanks: Jason Miller, Kristen Sharpe and Don Redmond for proofreading and commentary. My friend Isoner (http://home.sprintmail.com/~isoner) for final proofreading and many discussions over pizza at Pizza Inn. Special thanks to Jade for letting me use Sami!! There are also thanks for one person who is not a member of the SK universe but his writing has inspired me beyond count in the past year. If you like furry fanfic, or just great writing in general please go to www.geocities.com/TelevisionCity/Studio/7847/kcfanfic.html. (Archive Host’s Note 7/21/08: This link is no longer functional.) This is the Kit Cloudkicker Home Page which is based on the Disney show Talespin. The entire site is really nice, and the fanfic page contains many great writers, but Dan Green is without a doubt one of the best writers of ‘fic that I have ever read. Please check out his stuff as it is incredible. Some of it has left me shaking after reading. It’s THAT good And, finally to those who wrote back, thank you. I haven’t got as much email on Ashes to Ashes as I wanted, but everyone has been very positive, and I thank you. Please feel free to send any comments or questions to me and I will answer them ASAP. At any rate, that’s it. Please enjoy the show. ?
Elsewhen in the Nexus of Time, the point at where all realities converge, Merklyn watched in quiet contemplation as events unfolded faster than expected. Having seen his young champion awaken from her slumber, the wizard felt assured that the next few hours would be the most crucial to the success or failure of his plan. Knowing he could not be there in person to guide Calico Briggs, he would at least be there in spirit at her final acceptance of the destiny awaiting her embrace.
The eagle soared high over Megakat City, lost in the mix of animal instinct and a feeling of freedom that only flying could give so completely. Gliding on the warm air currents, the crystal blue avian looked down below on the city that used to be her cage; it seemed so small now. Trapped. That was the best way to describe it. Before, there had been no escape from the confinement the city possessed. To go back was nearly unthinkable. Here she could stay forever, surrounded by the glorious sky.
“No! Stay away from my daughter!” echoed the fear-laced plea, carried to the sky and to the bird’s ears. Casting a glance downward, her expanded vision locked onto the source of the sound and if she still had the physical ability to do so, a mask of anger would now fill her expression. Even here, in the vastness of sky, evil gave her no peace. Catching a down draft, the eagle dipped lower, her desire to be lost in the clouds drowned by a small voice echoing from deep within her spirit; a voice that could not be silent when such injustice tried to go unpunished.
“Your choice, lady. Hand over the purse now.”
“But.. but I can’t! We won’t have the money to sleep anywhere!” the deep brown she-Kat pleaded. Dressed in a deep purple sweater and blue trousers, the woman backed up as her attacker stepped closer.
As her cries fell upon deaf ears, Katjack took another step towards the mother and daughter he had waylaid in the twilight the tall buildings gave so easily in this part of the city. Even as he approached, the mother clutched her golden-furred daughter close as the youngster kept her stuffed bear wrapped within her own arms.
“You leave my mommy alone!” the girl directed, breaking from her mom’s grasp as her pink dress blurred, her foot connecting with Katjack’s shin. Her pointed shoes dug deep into the punk’s leg.
“Ouch! You miserable little rugrat!” he cursed, a red furred-arm lanced out and connected with the kitten’s mouth, causing her mother’s eyes to narrow in pure anger as her daughter staggered and fell backwards into her arms. A trickle of blood began to form in the corner of the child’s mouth. Rebecca shook in moral rage, vowing that her daughter would not die in this cold gray city if she had any say in the matter. She may not make it back to Cape Suzette, but her daughter would make it home somehow.
Suddenly, a shrill cry filled the air as with blinding speed, razor sharp talons raked across Katjack’s face. Blood began to seep through his fur and he screamed in pain.
Not knowing what had happened, the teen-aged punk lashed out blindly, trying to fend off whatever had assaulted him. Although unable to connect on his first two attempts, the solid ‘whump’ of contact on his forearm told he had hit something. A crashing sound filling the air seconds later to his left. Unable to see as the blood covered his eyes, Katjack missed the swift kick to his groin Rebecca Cunningham planted with her foot. Doubling over in agony, the tom-Kat was assaulted with several punishing blows to his stomach as a mothers’ rage was set free. No longer willing to settle for the purse, Katjack lashed out again and used his feet to shove the she-Kat into a group of trash cans. Eyes wide as saucers, Mollie Cunningham raced over to her mother as the tom staggered to his feet, a small boot knife making its way into his paw.
“That’s gonna cost you, bit…” he began, but was cut off by a terrible roar composed of boundless fury. Turning, he looked for the sound which had came from the same area as the impact crash moments ago. Using the back of his paw to wipe what blood he could away, Katjack froze in mortal terror as an image of death personified raised out of the trash pile to fix him with a terrible gaze.
Like a phoenix from the ashes, the crystal blue bear rose up to her full height of over 8 ft, the sheer size of her body nothing compared to the anger that bellowed for release. With a fearsome charge the bear surged forth, a massive swipe of her paw digging deep into Katjack’s weapon arm, causing the terrified Kat to scream in pain. Dropping the knife he staggered back, mind and body nearly paralyzed by complete and total fear.
Using her prey’s paralysis to full advantage, the massive bear hurled the Kat to the far end of the alley where Katjack rolled on the ground like a bowling ball, finally striking a lamppost. The beaten punk, in a fit of self-preservation, staggered to his feet and ran faster than he thought possible from the nightmare the alley had become.
Rebecca clutched her daughter close, wondering what would happen next in this crazy city. She watched the massive creature turn around and glare back at her, midnight black eyes fixated upon her. Closing her own eyes, she prayed for deliverance.
“Mommy.. mommy, look!”
Eyes snapping open, Rebecca focused on the immense figure of the bear that had.. for a reason she could not fathom… saved her and her daughters’ life. Finally seeing what Mollie noticed, Rebecca gasped as a glow seemed to shimmer around the bear. Like sunlight through stained glass, a flickering sheen washed over the bear in a symphony of color. As if drenching the mammoth totem in liquid light, the glow permeated every fiber of her being as magically-enhanced DNA gave way to normal genetic code. As the bear began to fade out, another form began to fade in, any specific features momentarily lost in the cacophony of light and shadow. Seconds passed until the light faded and a dazed and exhausted looking she-Kat lay nude upon the cold ground.
Rebecca looked at the prone figure as a state of shock threatened to surround her. Clutching her daughter close, she started to inch away from the figure.
“Come on, sweetie, let’s go..” she said very softly.
“But, mommy.. we can’t go.. she’s hurt!” and with that the young kitten ran over, eliciting a look of terror from her mother’s face.
“Mollie!” she whispered urgently, but the gesture was failed from the beginning as her daughter stood beside the figure and looked wide-eyed.
“Uhm… are you okay?” the kitten’s voice asked tentatively.
A soft moan of pain was the only answer as Rebecca pulled up behind her daughter. Watching intently, Rebecca watched as the figure started to move slightly as Calico Briggs regained some semblance of consciousness.
“Are you okay?” whispered the kitten as the pretty she-Kat looked awake enough to hear her this time.
Ignoring the pain she felt in every fiber of her being, Callie looked at the kitten, then her mom, through half-closed eyes. Sitting up fully, she shivered as the chilly air ran across her bare form. Then, the soft caress of a purple sweater draped over her shoulders, providing some measure of decency as Rebecca ignored the chill in favor of helping the dazed looking woman who had rescued them. Now clad in her white undershirt and blue pants, Rebecca spoke softly.
“My name is Rebecca. Are you .. can you understand me?”
Callie looked at the slightly older woman and nodded, trying hard to focus through the rush of emotions she was feeling. Glancing up, she tried to smile.. “Are.. are.. y..you.. o..oka…?” she managed to get out.
Rebecca nodded slightly.
“Thanks to you, Miss…?”
Mollie looked up and frowned.
“Mom!” she whispered urgently. Glancing down, Rebecca was taken back by the look of disbelief on her daughter’s face. “You can’t ask her real name. She’s a super hero, and we’re not supposed to know!” Mollie informed her, wishing – not for the first time – that adults didn’t make everything so complicated. /EVERYONE/ knows you don’t ask a super hero their real name. It’s against the rules.
Rebecca glanced at the youngster, then at the sweater-covered she-Kat. With a soft nod she respected her daughter’s wishes and decided that now was not the time to complicate matters further.
Callie looked at this pair of strangers and tried to focus on their well being instead of the massive confusion she herself felt. A mix of jumbled images.. the hospital, Merklyn, her and Felina at each others’ throats, the realization of how much she truly lost the day the Swat Kats died. All this tried to overwhelm her and – for a brief moment – it had succeeded. In those few seconds while in her bear form Calico had lost everything to the sheer rush of instinct her totem released. Nothing mattered but destroying the enemy. Looking at her own paws, Callie swore she could still see the blood on her hands from her attack on the punk. Or was it blood from her own part in the death of Jake and Chance?
Standing with a great deal of effort, Callie reached her feet but staggered as her body protested. Grabbing the corner of a garbage dumpster, she steadied herself. Images still swirled through her mind, hauntingly reminding her of what had been, and what was yet to come but with an effort she pulled the sweater fully over her body as the oversized garment ended sufficiently below her waist to preserve some measure of modesty.
“Look, miss, you shouldn’t be out here like this..” Rebecca noted. “We were on our way to a shelter when that son of a..” Mollie fixed her mom with a quizzical look. “..pink flamingo waylaid us,” Rebecca finished, only just catching herself.
Mollie giggled because calling someone the kid of a pink flamingo was really funny. She’d have to call Kit that next time her brown-furred brother acted all big in his britches.
“Why.. a.. shelter?” Callie asked with a bit of effort.
“You don’t know?”
“Know.. what?” Callie’s voice became an even whisper.
“They said on the radio that a bunch of villains are attacking places all around the city. The.. Enforcers..?” she paused, not sure if that was the correct name. Callie nodded. “..the Enforcers are handling someone called Wiper at some research facility and Gigabyte and the Metali-something at another research facility..”
Callie slammed her fist against the side of the dumpster, the metal not giving, but the effort making her feel marginally better.
“I should have known; without the Swat Kats here, the city’s wide open for those scumbags!” She took a few seconds to compose herself and looked at Rebecca. “You’re right to get to a shelter.”
“Then that’s why they called a city wide emergency? I thought it was that Dark Kat person they mentioned that was..” Rebecca paused as a terrible chill ran down her spine as the woman before her did a total 180 emotionally, her body going taut and eyes burning with a deep anger.
“Dark Kat? You.. you said Dark Kat?” the voice hard as diamond.
Rebecca nodded softly, a sick feeling growing in her stomach. “Is this Dark Kat..?” she started to ask, but was cut off by Calico’s firm nod.
“He’s the reason for the evacuation, and all the damage you’ve seen. He was responsible for it all.”
Rebecca paled and pulled Mollie back to her out of reflex.
“My.. Goddess… One Kat did all that?”
Callie nodded again, trying to find a calm center which to hold onto as she attempted to survive the maelstrom of anger she felt building inside. Looking over at Rebecca, she sighed.
“He’s not just one Kat. He’s.. evil personified, Rebecca. So many good Kats have been lost to his designs. And.. he.. he’s the reason I was given my powers; to stop him no matter the cost.”
Mollie looked wide-eyed at the woman and sniffled.
“But.. you can’t.You ain’t feeling good, and if he’s such a bad man, then he might hurt you!” and the young kitten broke from her mom’s grasp and wrapped her arms around her new friend, wanting to keep her safe from the bad person who had upset her and made her Mommy worry.
Callie gently kneeled down, brushing the hair from Mollie’s tear filled eyes.
“Shush, honey.. I’ll be okay. I can’t let him hurt other people. There are other kids who need their moms and I have to make sure they all stay safe. I promise to be careful. Okay..?”
Mollie sniffled again but nodded bravely. “Promise?”
Callie nodded. “Promise.”
Rebecca looked at the she-Kat before her.
“I can never repay you for helping us. You saved both me and my daughter from something too horrible to contemplate. I just want to say.. ‘thank you’ ” and with that she offered her paw.
Callie shook it warmly.
“Thank you, Rebecca. You have a very brave daughter there. I can see where it comes from.”
Rebecca smiled, tinting slightly red at the compliment.
Callie smiled and began to turn when a sudden stabbing pain lanced through her gut like a hot poker. Wincing, she cried out as her stomach twisted in agony.
“Goddess.. he’s.. he’s here!” she cried out, looking at the sky as a shadow fell over the city as Dark Kat’s airship passed overhead, its final approach to MegaTron Labs.. and victory.. under way. Callie shook in anger and agony as she watched the vessel soar away, the metal skin seemingly radiating darkness as it moved along.
Rebecca wanted to help, but this was so far beyond her. She came to MegaKat City for a simple transportation conference; a way to be more competitive and maybe make a few business contacts. But.. this; Kats with super powers, megalomaniac villains and the rest was so far out of her ordinary experiences she simply didn’t understand it all. Planes, cargo.. the fastest way from ‘A’ to ‘B’, running Higher for Hire back home in Cape Suzette; these were things that made sense. Not this insanity of existence she and her daughter found themselves entrenched within. But.. despite the confusion, she knew, by maternal instincts or female insight, that this pain-filled woman before her was part of something bigger than all of this. She /knew/ this to be true; how or why she knew this was irrelevant. Turning to her new friend, Rebecca took her shoulders gently.
“It’s all coming to an end, isn’t it? It’s all leading up to.. something.. incredible. Am I right?” Callie could only nod, the pain only slightly receding as the airship moved further on. “Then you’ve got to fight the pain. Fight the fear. I’ve seen you.. you’re strong. You can do this,” Rebecca spoke softly, realizing that perhaps this could be the only way to repay the debt she felt to the stranger that saved her and Mollie’s life.
Callie nodded, wanting so desperately to believe her. But, the images.. her failure costing the Swat Kats their lives.. her fear of what cost these new powers had. All this and more gnawed at her, keeping her courage pinned down. She hated herself like this; indecisive, unsure. She had faltered when Merklyn’s choice came due, and now was doing the same all over again. She knew Dark Kat had to be defeated, but as the burden of her calling clarified she found herself doubting once more.
“I believe in you,” Rebecca simply stated. “I /know/ you can do this. You said you had to keep all the children and their mothers safe. Then /do/ it.. or this Dark Kat’s won without firing a shot. You could be the only hope this city has.” Rebecca had no clue as to where these words came from; they seemed to have life unto their own. Yet, more than anything, they /felt/ right.
Callie blinked, and accepted the logic placed before her. Merklyn had trusted her with his legacy; she would be worthy of that trust or die trying. Standing, she forced the fear deep down and tapping into the same strength she found at the Swat Kats’ funeral, she stood in defiance of Dark Kat and all that he represented. She /knew/ now that this was indeed her destiny; her light against his darkness; her hope against his despair. To defeat Dark Kat, she would be his opposite. Looking at distant shape of Dark Kat’s hover ship, the agony in her gut was replaced by a fire lit by Merklyn’s belief in her to succeed, the memory of her best friends, and the faith a stranger had in her spirit.
**Jake and Chance gave their lives to save this city.. their home.. and I’ll be DAMNED if Dark Kat is going to take that from us ever again!**
Merklyn closed his eyes and began to speak, knowing beyond a shadow of doubt that it was now or never. Council of Time or not, he had to act now or everything could be forfeit. Transcending all between him and his champion, his voice rang out clear and firm.
“Calico Briggs. Now.. for all you hold dear May the light…”
“….shine forever!” finished Callie as Merklyn’s voice faded from her mind.
The ancient wizard had done his part in trusting her with his legacy; now it was all up her to see that legacy put to good use. A wondrous glow enveloped Callie’s body as Merklyn’s final gift was revealed. As if erupting from within her soul, a blue and pink stream of light surrounded the former deputy mayor. Starting at her feet, the light swirled around her counterclockwise, placing a crystal blue togs on her legs as matching knee-high boots materialized upon her feet. Moving upwards, the light fashioned a blue tunic to replace the borrowed sweater Callie had been wearing. Around her waist, a soft pink belt appeared, the buckle showing a bright yellow sunburst in the middle. The long sleeve tunic ended with a slight cuff, as half-gloves in matching blue materialized on her paws. Swirling higher, the final touches began to form as Callie felt her golden hair flowing backwards into a single ponytail as a mask of cobalt blue (much like the ones Jake and Chance wore) appeared on her face to protect her identity from those that would exploit such knowledge. At the end, as the light faded, a long cloak appeared around her shoulders, crystal blue with a pink trim down the right side and bottom. Mollie and Rebecca stared in awe as the light before them faded, and the she-Kat that had saved their lives stood before them transformed.
Mollie looked at the lady with a great deal of wonderment and a bit of pride that she had been the first to see a brand new super hero born! Rebecca took a hesitant step forward as the final gleams of light faded from the transformation. Finally finding her voice, she asked..
“Are you okay? W.. what happened?”
Callie turned and looked at these two who had helped her so much in so short a time. With a soft smile she replied..
“Change, Rebecca. Who I was.. didn’t have the power to do what had to be done, so ..for now.. this is who I need to be.”
“And.. who. .is that?” Rebecca asked carefully.
A smile crossed Callie’s lips as she answered.
Rebecca stood there, amazed at how different the she-Kat before her appeared. Her daughter, on the other hand, was squirming with excitement.
“Oh wow! You look so neat!” giggled the excitable 6 year old kitten.
Lighthope bent over and ruffled Mollie’s hair before the young kitten gave her a ferocious hug. After a few moments, they separated as the heroine stood.
“I have to go now. There’s not a lot of time.”
Mollie nodded, understanding a lot more than someone her age was ‘supposed’ to. But, despite all of that happened; all that she understood, she was scared for her new friend.
“You promise to be careful, right??” she asked hopefully.
“I promise,” said Lighthope, only then turning to look at Rebecca. “Rebecca.. I..” she began, but was cut off by a soft look.
“I know. Just.. be careful?”
Lighthope nodded, and with a gentle step forward embraced the she-Kat tightly. Before long, both were on the edge of tearing up and each pulled away. Mollie wrapped her arms around her mom’s leg as Lighthope turned towards the entryway of the alley.
Now fully transformed, Callie finally understood the totality of Merklyn’s gifts. Not just the animal totems, but so much more. All the spell-poems of the long forgotten world of Prysmos were her’s to employ; strength, speed, knowledge, and wisdom. But, as the wizard had warned, the universal balance between good and evil affected her new powers as well. Decay.. destruction… fear.. and invulnerability. The dark side of her powers were there to command, but caution had to be paramount in their use. Knowing time was growing ever shorter, Lighthope reached into her mind and pulled the spell that would get her to Dark Kat the fastest. Letting the words form silently at first, she then spoke them out loud with grace and respect.
“Sheathe these paws in the driving gale, make swift these legs ore’ land I sail!”
Heading the spoken summons, a spectral presence erupted from within Lighthope. Shaped as a she-Kat, the avatar of speed was ‘dressed’ as an ancient messenger; her body of transparent blue was covered by a darker blue tunic as her hips and legs were covered in a matching pair of breeches. Swirling around her new mistress, the avatar blurred until Lighthope could not be seen amidst the winding whirlwind that had been created. Then, without warning, the funnel of air whisked towards the direction Dark Kat’s ship had headed, leaving no sign of Lighthope at all.
Mollie looked up and sniffled.
Rebecca kneeled down looking at her daughter softly… “What is it, sweetie?”
“Let’s not tell daddy about this.. okay?”
Rebecca looked at her daughter in shock.
“Mollie.. that would be fibbing. And, you never fibbed to Baloo before he became your daddy. ” Rebecca sighed, the thought of her new husband finding out about the attack by the punk, let alone the remaining parts, was not something she felt ready to deal with. Overprotective was a fitting word for the gray and white tom-Kat she had so recently pledged to spend the rest of her life beside. He loved her and she him, although it took many years for each to finally realized what they had been denying. Now, Rebecca couldn’t imagine not being next to him forever.
“I know, mommy! It’s just.. if we tell him, then he’ll be all mad that he wasn’t here to protect us, and I don’t want him to feel bad cause there’s ain’t nothing he coulda done anyway, right?”
Rebecca nodded, not for the first time shocked by the insight her young daughter possessed. Unable to decide what to do, Rebecca took a parents’ refuge in the last means of escape..
“We’ll talk about it later sweetie, okay?”
Picking up her daughter, Rebecca and Mollie Cunningham looked one final time at the sky and sent their thoughts and prayers to the one lone she-Kat that was willing to risk all in the name of justice. After a few moments, they resumed their way towards the nearest shelter, oblivious to the fact that a unseen pair of eyes watched them depart the alley, having observed the entire transformation of Calico Briggs.
As silence again claimed the alley, Dr. Abi Sinian leaned against the heavy delivery door as it closed, her mind working at a feverish place as it sought to catalog what she had just witnessed.
“Move it, people! Move.. Move!” Steele shouted as his Enforcer Unit took up flanking positions around MegaKat Biochemical.
Sirens wailed as about ten cars finally completed their maneuvers and soon had the building surrounded. All around him a mix of Enforcers pulled their sidearms and unhooked the safeties as each scanned the building for any sign of their prey.
“I want this place secured 200 percent, people! Nash, Bridges.. clear all the adjacent buildings.”
“Yes, sir!” came the stiff replies as the Enforcers ran to a pair of apartment buildings and began evacuation.
Steele pointed at two Enforcers and jerked his fingers toward his squad car and the two officers ran over and knelt down, listening intently while keeping one eye each on the building. Lowering his voice, Steele pointed to two buildings on the opposite side of the street from MegaKat Biochem.
“Walker, Ranger, take up sniper positions. But, don’t fire until we see how many Kats he has in there. Use the new anti-mutagen darts unless you hear otherwise from me.”
The pair of sharpshooters nodded and using the available cover made their way to their respective buildings and disappeared inside.
Waiting until they were out of sight, Steele motioned to a she-Kat who had just been handed a megaphone to come over. Looking a bit confused, the young Enforcer ducked between cars and made her way to her superior officer.
“Sir?” she asked quietly.
“I think I need this a bit more than you,” he suggested as he took the megaphone from her paw.
A slight blush rose in her cheeks. “Erm.. yes, Sir.”
Giving her a slight grin, Steele glanced over at the officers awaiting his next command. Each was tense, ready to spring to action. Steele closed his eyes and for a moment Feral’s words echoed in his mind.
**Good Kats are going to be out there risking their lives to protect MegaKat City. Every decision you make could lead to victory or defeat.**
“No defeat.. not now.. not ever.”
“Sir..?” asked the startled young Kat beside him.
“Nothing,” he said as he gave her a small smile of reassurance. Glancing around, he nodded at the other cars close to him, and they refocused their aim, causing a wave of realignment as each Enforcer steadied themselves as their leader made his demands to Viper. Standing slowly, David Steele said a quick prayer and raised the megaphone.
“This is Commander David Steele of the Enforcers. Dr. Viper, you are surrounded. Come out with your paws up and you will not be harmed!”
The words echoed as startled eyes looked at Steele with confusion as his recent promotion was unknown by most all of the Enforcers. Steele could almost feel the shock that seemed to fill the very air around him, but paid it no heed. There was a job to do, and he had been elected to do it.
Viper’s answer came not in words, but rather as a deluge of toxic acid from several Venus flytrap-like plant mammals that had been lurking in the foliage around the entryway. The acid rained down on the Enforcers like liquid death, sizzling against the metal of the cars that only just shielded them from the deluge. Steele ducked back down behind his car as a wave of poison washed over his vehicle.
‘GET DOWN!’ he shouted to the young Enforcer beside him and threw himself on top of her, the bottom part of the attack grazing his trench coat but doing little damage to his fur underneath. The acid splashed to the ground behind him between several cars and quietly ate through the pavement as several Enforcers stood in awe of the powerful fluid.
Steele took a moment to make sure the Kats around him were uninjured. Unfortunately, several were clutching their paws and arms as droplets of acid had hit. MedTech’s were already using their skills to stop any damage before it got too severe, but several of his officers were out of the fight; that much he could tell from his location. Paws bandaged with surgical gauze were not to be ignored. He could only hope and pray the other units were having better luck with the Metallikats and Hard Drive.
**I hate this! We know Dark is slowly moving to MegaTron Labs, but we can’t divert any troops with these losers breathing down our backs!**
Resisting the frustration to punch his fist into the car door, Steele started to run through what little options he had when a voice broke into his planning.
“Erm.. sir ? I hate to sound ungrateful..but could you get off me? You’re crushing my spleen.”
Steele blinked, then looked down at the young Enforcer whom he had protected. Her helmet had come loose as for the first time David could see the flame red shoulder length hair she possessed. Sparkling green eyes peered up from a very beautiful face as those same eyes contrasted with her soft tan fur. Almost immediately, he moved his weight off, and the she-Kat breathed a sigh of relief. It was then he noticed her rank, or rather lack of it. Feeling a sinking feeling in his gut, he looked intently at the young woman before him.
“What are you /doing/ here, Cadet…?” he paused, her name tag having been lost in the attack.
“Kaylar, sir. Kassie Kaylar, sir, and Goddess only knows why I’m here.”
Casting a wary look at MegaKat Biochem, David rested against his car and took a moment to focus his thoughts on this new information. He glanced over at Kassie. “Explain yourself, Cadet,” he said very softly but with a tone of urgency.
Kassie ‘K.K.’ Kaylar blinked at the tone of voice, but her Enforcer training didn’t allow her to be too outwardly scared.
“We were taking a tour of Enforcer Headquarters, sir, when they sounded Code Magenta. All I know is a sergeant ran from the armory, handed us three energy rifles and told us to move towards the transports outside.” She paused, nodding towards the armored personal carrier on a nearby side street. David nodded, letting her continue. “I had just got off, sir, when someone else handed me the megaphone. That when you saw me sir and ..well, you know the rest. ”
Steele sighed, wondering who gave a third year cadet an energy rifle. It was then he caught on to her use of ‘us’ in her explanation. That feeling in his gut got worse.
“Who is ‘us’, cadet?”
“My friends, Sir. Cadet Jace Milkner and Cadet Tobias Jakeson. They were with me when the alarm sounded. It was only supposed to be a three hour tour so we didn’t bring our own gear since we didn’t think we would need it.. ”
“You mean I’ve got three third-year cadets in the middle of what could be the biggest fire fight MegaKat City has ever seen?” he asked the Goddess above, but she chose to forgo answering.
Kassie frowned and looked at Steele.
“With all due respect, sir, I /am/ an Enforcer and since I’m here, let me help,” she said with a certain firmness.
Blinking at her forwardness, David nodded slightly.
“I didn’t mean to imply otherwise, Cadet, but we are at a major tactical disadvantage here, and I would rather not lose any more Enforcers to this madman if I can help it.”
Kassie nodded only slightly, but the look in her eyes spoke volumes.
“I know that, sir, and I understand. But, I’m here and ready to help. Besides..” her voice softened and a small smile tugged at the corner of her mouth..”that bastard ruined my day off and my uniform. I want his tail in a ringer!”
A few of the close by Enforcers heard that and laughed, as did Steele.
**There’s fire in this one, no doubt.** he mused. Nodding to himself, he glanced back at Kassie. “Very well, cadet. Here..” he said, offering his backup weapon to her. “You ever use a level 5 blaster?”
Kassie blinked and shook her head..
“Erm.. no, sir. Level 2 is the highest I’ve been trained on.”
“Suffice it to say this has more kick than a level 2.”
The younger Enforcer nodded and slipped the weapon into her uniform’s belt. For a moment Steele could see a look of.. disgust.. on her face as she studied the weapon before storing it. He made a mental note to ask her about that later. A dark thought crossed unbidden through his mind.
**If we have a later…** he mused, casting a glance at the creatures pacing the perimeter of Megakat Biochemical.
With a minimum of movement, Kassie reached into her tunic and pulled out a pair of metal objects, too small to be seen by anyone but their owner. Quietly, she slipped them into a concealed wrist launcher and then joined the stakeout of MegaKat Biochem, looking for an opening in which to topple the unnatural creation that lay in wait inside.
“The is the /last/ time I let you talk me into going to Enforcer HQ on my day off, Tobias!” Jace Milkner ducked as another blast of electricity barely missed turning him into crispy fried Kat.
Holding his reply until his blaster fire lanced out, Tobias’ blast struck the armored villain known as Mac Mange squarely in the chest and did.. as usual of late.. zero damage. A series of energy bolts forced the silver and black striped tom-Kat behind the protective barrier the charred ruins of their APC provided. Looking at his gray and white-striped friend, he nodded barely.
“Had I known this was to occur, Jace, I would have suggested another way to spend our off-duty time!” he yelled over to his friend, eliciting a look of regret from the first Kat.
**Oh crud. He’s in one of his moods again. Bad enough he’s blaming himself for us getting separated from K.K., now he’s going to take the blame for the entire situation.**
Again, Jace raised up and aimed at Mac, and once again the blaster fire bounced off the armored body and into a wall, causing a nice sized hole but little else.
“Geeze.. give it up you two! I’m getting bored!” Mange taunted from his own cover. Although his robotic form could handle much more firepower than these two could muster there was no reason to subject his body to it when the automated defensives of Pumadyne would tax both him and his wife Mollie to their limit. Still, he gave these wet-nosed kids credit for trying.
**They got stones where it counts, that’s fer sure.**
Casting a glance at the sonic shield that surrounded Pumadyne, Mac nodded in satisfaction as it held against the strongest weapons the Enforcers had available. It was only by sheer luck that these too hotshots were able to slip under the force field before it formed less than 4 minutes ago as Molly had succeeded in activating it before the security system kicked in and locked them out. Glancing at his partner, he shouted over the din of the fire fight.
“Come on, Mollie ..this is worse than dinner at yer Mom’s! Will you hurry it up? These Enforcers wanna-be’s are starting ta bug me!”
A derisive snort was given in reply.
“You never did like my mom, Mac! Besides, /you/ try getting around this insulated control panel while getting shot at!” Molly sneered as the tech heads at Pumadyne had apparently gotten smarter and added a top of the line lockout program as well as insulated shielding that prevented Hard Drive from getting into the computer systems.
“Will you two shut the hell up and crash the damn program!” came a third voice from behind the Metallikat Express.
Mac looked over at Hard Drive and sneered as best his face plate would let him.
“I told ya once that no one talks to Mol like that but me, ya computer nerd! And, what’s the matter, Hard Drive? Too chicken to fight back?!”
“I’m NOT blaster proof, you idiot! If you think I’m getting my tail shot off, your warranty’s expired! I can’t do anything until you get that blasted insulating shield down!”
Another twin volley of fire caused Mollie duck deeper behind cover as the Enforcers’ aim was improving. Mac turned to the two young Enforcers and snarled.
“Okay kids.. party time is over!” and with that he leapt up and, setting his blaster to maximum, leveled an energy beam at the charred APC they hid behind. The remaining fuel in the tanks ignited and exploded, sending the fleeing tom-Kats cart wheeling head over heels.
Jace tumbled into a brick wall and went limp on impact, the blow stunning him to the core as his borrowed weapon fell from numb fingers. Tobias slammed against the side of the shattered guard house and went to his knees, dazed. For both Kats, the world spun out of control as the smell of charred rubber and burning gasoline filled the air.
Dimly, Tobias was aware of heavy footsteps approaching him, crunching rubble with every step. Fighting the urge to black out, Tobias felt the soft topsoil of the flower circle that used to surround the guard house mold into his hand.
**But, how did you defeat such metal giants, Sir T-Bone?!** asked the page in awe, his eyes wide with a mix of enchantment and a small bit of fear.
**Actually, it was Sir Razor, Tobias. He dumped a bucket of sand on Mac, and it gummed him up good! Went up like fireworks on the fourth of July!”** T-Bone laughed, music to the child’s ears. Although he didn’t understand the meaning of the reference, Tobias understood that it must have been a sight indeed. He giggled softly.
**It sounds as if your MegaKat city is full of wonders, Sir T-Bone! To have such excitement must make it a fun place to live.** Tobias paused, sensing a sudden change in the larger Kat’s mood. Almost immediately, the youngster realized his mistake. Looking at the ground, he couldn’t meet the larger Kat’s look. **I am sorry, Sir T-Bone. I did not mean to …*
A gentle caress of the kitten’s cheek began to chase away the guilt that started to eat away at the young Kat. Tenderly, T-Bone’s paw lifted the boy’s chin until their gazes met.
**It’s okay, Tobias. Me and Sir Razor will make it home. Besides, I like talking about MegaKat City with you. It’s not like you’re ever going to see it, so this way you can at least hear what it’s like** Quietly, T-Bone smiled at the kitten, glad to see a soft smile on the youngster’s face. Still, he shivered internally at the sight of the black right eye the boy carried. A welt of anger began to form in his stomach and with a fierce shove he crammed the feeling into his gut and locked it away. /That/ situation was resolved; no need to relieve it now.
Tobias looked at the orange and black-striped Knight and hugged him, feeling a need to have the Knight hold him for just a moment. He smiled happily as T-Bone’s arms surrounded him as the two stayed that way for a long time.
“Good try, kids, but not good enough,” Mac said as his blaster ended up inches from Tobias’s face. Incredulously, a smile began to form at the corners of his mouth. The fact was not lost on the villain. “What’s so funny, punk?”
His vision finally solidifying, Tobias cocked his head up further at his opponent.
“You!” he shouted and with a firm toss a double handful of dirt and soil flew into Mac’s face, the fine dirt grains getting into his eyepieces and the topsoil/mulch stuck to the outer coverings, causing his tracking systems to momentarily glitch.
“Arrrruugh.. you miserable little…!” shouted Mac, his hands trying to claw the debris away from his eyes, the power surges in his optics looking quite painful.
Using his remaining strength, Tobias flung himself against the distracted android, and the pair fell into the muck that had been created by the battle. The breath knocked out of him, Tobias was slower to recover than Mac, who had been lucky enough to land on his back and was able to finally clear his vision. With a death-like grip, he hoisted Tobias by his neck. The cadet’s air rapidity began to run out as a sick choking sound emerged from his lips.
“Yer gonna pay for that you sorry excuse for an Enforcer…” Mac growled as he squeezed harder.. and harder.. and harder.
“But, Sir T-Bone, it is the only way to assure..”
“I said ‘NO’!” came the firm reply.
Arkatta looked at T-Bone, her elderly face a mix of anger and confusion. Surely he understood why she had to wipe his memory now?
“Sir T-Bone, you must! I told you what you had to hear, and with the proper spell I can wipe your memory until the time you need to recall this conversat…”
Chance turned and glared at the older she-Kat, trying to keep his anger in check.
“I said no. I am not going to be turned into some mental zombie just to protect your secrets. I will keep what you have told me to myself, but I won’t let you or anyone use any of that magic mumbo-jumbo on my head!”
Arkatta cast a wary eye at T-Bone.
“You can assure me that you will never.. /never/ speak of this to Sir Razor, no matter how dire the situation?” she asked dubiously.
“Can you assure me that this wacky spell of yours will turn off when it’s supposed to so I can remember all this, and do what I’m supposed ta do??” Chance countered. Even with his limited experience with magic, he’d seen enough of the Pastmaster’s spells go crazy for no apparent reason to realize that when it came to magic, there ain’t no science to it. Least none he could see anyway.
The elder sorceresses stood there, honestly amazed at the validity of his counter-argument. With a reluctant nod, she looked at the warrior before her.
“I concede your point, Sir T-Bone. I only meant to offer a way to ease the burden you now carry. As you know, I never wanted to tell you, but your friendship with Sir Razor was a threat against the future progressing as it should.”
Chance sighed and sat down wearily.
“I understand, Arkatta, but now that I know what’s got to happen I can’t trust in anyone.. or anything.. but myself to make sure that everything goes like it’s supposed to. You can understand that, right?”
“I may not agree with your decision, but I do understand it. However, I do again caution against the strain you are putting on yourself. The struggle will be enormous, Sir T-Bone. If you should change your mind…”
“I won’t, ma’am. But, if it means a damn thing, I see what you’re trying to do, but it’s just not going to work. Everything is on the line now. Not just me and Razor getting back to Megakat city, but /everything/. Razor’s future, Callista’s happiness. Their.. daughter; Callie’s future. It’s all resting on my shoulders now. I can’t.. and I won’t.. let anything go wrong. I can only trust myself from now on to make sure this doesn’t blow up in our faces.’
Despite the slight feeling of unease at the totality of the knight’s devotion to his friends, Arkatta decided.. for now.. to accept Sir T-Bone’s choice. She, of course, possessed the power to /make/ him forget, but to do so would violate the few remaining ethical codes she had not broken already. With a slight smile she decided to close the matter to further pondering and looked at the door.
“Perhaps it’s time to put aside such weighty matters and let you enjoy the feast. Besides, your friend and the Queen might perhaps be wondering if you are okay at this point.”
Chance blinked, and realized after glancing at the shadows on the wall how long they had been talking.
“That’s not a bad idea, Arkatta. But, you won’t join us?”
“No, as I said, Sir T-Bone I need to depart for my home as there is much to do. Please, enjoy the feast and the company of your fellows. Even the Gods themselves know you have earned a short respite at least. Clear skies, Sir T-Bone. We shall meet again,” and with that, Arkatta’s cloak folded in upon itself and with only the slightest hint of air displacement she was gone, leaving the small parcel she had brought with her to MegaKat City.
Walking over, Chance picked it up, wincing slightly as his ribs still protested with great vigor. Surprised at the weight for such a small bag, Chance carefully looked inside only to see three stones, each half the size of his fist. One was red, the other blue and the last yellow. Shrugging slightly to himself, the Swat Kat resealed the bag and wrapped the string around his fingers, making a mental note to give it to Callista later on.
Chance stared at the empty spot for a long moment, letting his memory file all new knowledge in a safe haven as he focused on finding a calm point amidst his inner turmoil. Closing his eyes, the mechanic and warrior took a deep breath and very slowly released it; his nerves beginning to settle as his heartbeat slowed to normal. As the moments passed, T-Bone reflected on all that had occurred of late. The loss to Dark Kat. Being pulled back to the past. Revelations of the future no Kat should know. Callie being Razor and Callista’s daughter. So many of his hard-held truths were shattered like glass upon the floor. And, beside those shattered truths were his broken dreams of a home and family with Calico Briggs. Even if he and Razor returned to the future, what might have been with Callie could no longer happen; what he knew now made that all to clear. She was.. would be.. his best friend’s daughter. A relationship beyond being friends was something he could never feel comfortable with. The best option now was be the guardian of their futures and make sure that.. at the very least.. his loved ones could have the happiness that was now denied him. But, for that happiness to be assured, no price would be too high.
A deep rumbling from his gut pulled Chance from the tides of memory back to the present, and the feast that lie in wait for him. Putting on his best face, the tom-Kat departed the room and strode towards the great dining hall as a mirthful tune filled the passageways of Megalith Castle with an upbeat spirit.
Big. That was the only word to describe the beautiful room Chance found himself in. At least 75ft tall and who-knows-how-long the hall boasted colorful streamers and flags from every class in the city. Jugglers displayed their talents as jesters mimed and joked with the assorted knights and ladies as they each performed a routine specially prepared for this event. The tom had to catch himself at one point; a jester’s costume looking remarkably like MadKat’s almost sent him for his nonexistent Glovatrix. With a nod, the knight smiled at the jester and the latter continued on through the throng of people.
Unlike other cites in the Dark Ages, Megalith City prided itself on the fact that internal strife between the classes was almost nonexistent. Oh, there were a few nobles that tried on occasion to over-tax the peasants, but a few choice words from Callista provoked a rapid change in policy. The Knights of the Round protected all, be they simple folk or nobles and were paid well. The lower class of the city was taxed the least (as what Callista called a ‘fair and just’ ruling) and were better off than some of their counterparts in other cities. There was free market in the courtyards of the castle, with there being a tax on weapons, but necessities such as food and clothing were not taxed unless they were of a more extravagant nature. A peasant could even move up in class if they so chose. There were several stories of simple folk finding buried treasures long forgotten and suddenly becoming nobles overnight. In reverse, several knights had retired either through age or injury and were treated with respect in their final years as they farmed or became servants in the better houses.
All in all, Megalith was a just city with a fair and beloved ruler. Unfortunately, where the brightest lights shine, the deepest shadows can sometimes be found. As Chance Furlong would soon discover.
Dodging abandoned cars and other debris, Felina swerved through the mostly deserted streets of MegaKat City, trying to get to Enforcer Headquarters. With practiced ease, she took curves at over 60 mph as not even the most stubborn obstruction was going to stop her. Sami just held on for dear life.
“F..Felina.. I.. I know we’re in a hurry, but next time please don’t jump an open drawbridge!” the young officer half begged/demanded as the squad car screeched in protest at another tight turn.
“Sorry, Sami, but every second counts! We’ve been delayed too long as it is. We’ve /got/ to get in the air to stop Dark Kat, cause if we don’t… DAMN! Hold on, Sami!”
Sami jerked her head from Felina to the windshield and froze in horror as a telephone pole collapsed to the ground not 250 ft in front of them, the power wires sparkling on the ground like discarded fireworks, but thousands of times more deadly. Jerking the emergency brake up and praying to the Goddess, Felina held the wheel with all her strength as the car turned sideways and skidded as such until it finally came to rest not 15 ft before the roadblock. However, the wires were still thrashing around, and the distance between them and the car was diminishing rapidly.
“I see it, Sami! Hold on!” and with that Felina jerked the brake down and gunned the engine. Nothing happened. Felina tried again, but the engine had been too abused in the past several minutes and promptly took a well deserved rest. Good for it, bad for the two she-Kats.
“Run for it, Sami!” and Felina threw open her door and bailed out with Sami in tow.
Scant seconds later, a power line connected with the frame of the car, causing the vehicle to spark and as the electricity mixed with the gas in the tank the final result was.. explosive.. to say the least. The car ignited into a fireball of epic proportions as the two she-Kats took refuge behind a dumpster as debris rained down on the street, joining the rest of the battered and broken landscape. Although losing a great deal of charge, the lines still danced as if alive, blocking most of the road and creating a barricade that would be near suicidal to cross. Grungy from their dive for safety, the two she-Kats looked up at the remains of their car and sighed, slumping against the dumpster.
“Just freaking wonderful,” murmured Felina. “Even if we could hot wire one of these cars,” Felina glanced around at the abandoned cars, “we can’t get to Enforcer HQ without going a good ten blocks down! But maybe…” Felina looked at Sami, blinking hard as a possible upside to this dilemma exploded in her head. She couldn’t get to the hanger with Sami beside her; this was /her/ call and if all went sour, Sami wasn’t going to be dragged down as well. **If she could just get separated from her…** “Sami.. we’ll need to split up. One of us has got to get to HQ. Maybe between the two of us, we’ll be able to get in the game!” and with that Felina stood, not wanting to lie to her best friend, but knew that there was no other way. Time was short, and the clock wasn’t going any slower.
Sami studied Felina and although nodding automatically, she knew beyond a shadow of doubt what her friend was attempting. The most direct way to Enforcer HQ was blocked, but it might be possible to get to the salvage yard in a matter of minutes. The younger Enforcer studied Felina and could feel that this was tearing her former roommate apart.
**She’s trying to take all the risks herself, and leave me out of the loop.. I just /know/ it!** Sami sighed and looked at Felina, realizing that there only one option that could work at this point. If it didn’t, she would wind up either denying the truth and possibly lose Felina in battle, or admit the truth and lose Felina’s trust and friendship forever. **No real choice, is there, Sami?**
“You don’t have to try to shield me from the truth, Felina. I know what you’re trying to do.”
Felina blinked as Sami’s statement sent chills down her spine.
“I.. I’m trying to get us to..” but Felina saw the look in her friend’s eyes and fell silent, realizing on some level that her ruse had just been blown to shreds.
“I know what you’re trying, Felina; get me to safety and yourself to the salvage yard so you can use the Swat Kats’ technology against Dark Kat, even if it costs your life to stop him.”
There has been very few times that Felina Feral was too stunned to say anything. Needless to say, this event was quickly added to that relatively short list.
“Sami.. how.. did you..?” she managed to get out after a few moments of shock.
Denying her knowledge would only worsen the situation.
“I didn’t mean to listen.. at first. But.. after I heard you tell Calico you lied to your uncle….” her voice trailed off, twinged with guilt.
“You.. listened.. to me talking to Callie?” countered Felina. Surprise at being found out quickly gave way to shock that Sami would do something like /that/.
“I only went by the room to check on you, Felina. You seemed so upset at Callie’s condition..”
“Anyone would at a time like that!” countered Felina.
“I.. I know. But, you seemed like you had a personal interest, almost as if you were blaming yourself for the attack. But.. it was more than that, wasn’t it?” Sami didn’t wait for a response; both knew the answer. “Until I heard you talking, I couldn’t piece why you were so concerned. The attack never happened. It was you and Callie that fought and discovered who the Swat Kats really were. And, the fact that I remember you mentioning with some contempt about the two hotshots that were thrown off the force, yet you were there at their place when the attack happened. The pieces didn’t make sense, Felina, and I was scared that you.. might.. be in some sort of trouble that I just didn’t see. I couldn’t turn away, Felina; no one could when their best friend in all the world was hurting like you were.”
Felina felt the rage at being spied upon lessen as she realized that, if the roles were reversed, would she have been able to turn away so easily upon hearing such a confession? If Sami was thought to be in trouble, wouldn’t it be worth denying a few ethics to help her resolve the situation?
“You have every right to be angry with me, Felina. I interfered where I wasn’t asked to help, and I learned things I had no right to be a part of. But.. I couldn’t stand by then and watch you get torn apart, and I won’t stand by now as you try to take on Dark Kat yourself just to protect me. Afterwards, if you tell me to stay out of your life, I will, Felina. But, at least you’ll have a life to lead. Please.. don’t shut me out on this. Let me help one more time. I.. I love you.. like a sister.. and I don’t want to lose you. But, I will not be treated like a child, Felina. I knew the risks when I signed up to be an Enforcer, and I’ll be damned if anyone other than myself will say what is or is not safe for me to do. Enforcer or vigilantes, it makes no difference; Megakat City is our home, she’s under attack, and it’s up to us to kick Dark Kat’s ass all the way back to the pit he crawled from.. together.”
Felina Feral just stood there, transfixed by the display of passion in her friend’s demeanor. Rarely had Sami been so vocal in her convictions. Sure.. there were times in the past they had been on opposing sides, and Felina had learned early on not to judge Sami by just outward appearances. But this.. fire.. was something new to Felina, and she honestly didn’t know how to deal with it.
**Doesn’t really make a difference, does it, Felina? She’s your friend, and she knows about Jake and Chance. Besides, which is worse; her to live and hate me until her final days, or have her beside me facing what could be our final fight?**
Silence passed through the street as the two she-Kats looked at each other, both praying that the other would understand how important this was. Then, after a few more eternal moments, Felina held out her paw, smiling.
“Let’s kick some tail.”
With lighting speed Felina and Sami searched the surrounding cars, finally finding an old truck that was in good enough shape to use for transportation. Jumping in, Felina quickly hot-wired the system and the two were off in a mad rush to reach the salvage yard in time.
“Oh Goddess..” murmured Sami.
“I just thought.. if the Turbokat’s at the bottom of Megakat Bay, then how…?”
“Don’t worry about that, Sami. If my hunch checks out, we’ll beat Dark Kat yet.”
Sami just nodded, not liking the intensity of hatred that still crept into Felina’s voice from moment to moment. But, there was nothing she could do; they both were committed to this plan, no matter the cost. With all the speed the old truck could muster the two she-Kats sped towards the salvage yard, and their destiny.
“Hold it, Shaun.. look over there!” shouted Kirk.
Shaun O’Kattery glanced towards the direction indicated by his new junior partner Kirk Connery. Blinking hard, he slammed on the brakes as the Enforcer cruiser came to a halt.
“Shaun.. please tell me that’s not..” began the young black tom-Kat, his breathing becoming ragged as he saw the charred remains of what looked like..
“Aye, son, ’tis an Enforcer patrol car. Let’s go see if any o’ the lads need help..” the elder tom slowly got out, drawing his weapon as Kirk mirrored his partner’s motions perfectly. Although he would never admit it, the gray tom-Kat watched his younger partner with pride. Although only having known him for three hours at best, the younger Enforcer moved with a fluidity that Shaun found promising. Although dubious at first at being reactivated by Code Magenta, the elder Enforcer was glad to be back in action so long after his retirement.
**’Tis a dark day when they reactivate such Kats as I.** thought Shaun when he was called originally to Enforcer HQ upon receiving the summons. Sure, he had many years left, but he was beyond fooling himself into thinking he had the reflexes of his youth. Still, Code Magenta was not just about pulling old Kats out of retirement, but to tap into the experiences they all possessed in a time of crisis. The chaos at Pumadyne and MegaKat Biochem were textbook examples of why Magenta had been created; with all active Enforcers occupied, the city was left vulnerable to other criminals. Pairing retired Enforcers with the newest from the academy blended experience and reflex into one working unit to protect Megakat City until the crisis had passed.
“Shaun..? You with me, pops?” Kirk teased his gray-furred elder.
“Aye, lad, I am. And, you’d be not calling me ‘pops’ again unless you want this old gent ta take you down crying for yer mommy..” teased Shaun back. “Come on, son.. let’s see what’s what here.”
Taking a few cautious steps forward, the pair sidestepped the debris until they could go no closer to the wreckage due to the power lines. Stopping, Kirk bent over and sifted through a pile of debris as Shaun covered him.
“What did you find, lad?” he asked when Kirk pulled out a field kit.
“Oh man.. this is…” sputtered the young Kat.
“Goddess,” murmured Shaun as he peered at the scorched bag. Not much was left as the explosion had claimed most of the contents of the car. However, the nameplate stitched into the fabric was scorched but still readable. “Come on, lad.. keep it together okay? Now.. can ye read the nameplate? Me eyes can’t from here..” Shaun said as calm as possible to reassure the young Enforcer.
“It’s hard.. to make out.. but it looks.like.. someone named..Finnis? No… wait.” Using a bit of spit, the Enforcer cleaned up the nameplate a little and tried again. “No.. it’s F…. F.r..a…l,” he said, looking up at Shaun, whose eyes had just widened in shock.
“Saints of Life preserve us,” murmured the elder tom. Leaning over, he snatched the bag from his partner and peered at the nameplate himself. Paling, Shaun walked over to their cruiser and snatched up the radio. “This is Enforcer Cruiser 54 calling in. Dispatch, for t’love above, can ye hear me?” pleaded Shaun.
“Irish??” came the shocked reply. Mabel Jones was another Enforcer retiree called back into service, though the last voice she ever expected to hear was that of Shaun ‘Irish’ O’Kattery coming from her microphone. With most of the new dispatchers serving in field communications units, Mabel and other former dispatchers were handling calls at Enforcer Headquarters.
“Mabel.. for the love of .. ’tis you!” came the shocked reply.
“You better believe it, Irish. If you think I’m going to sit home while you and the others get back into action, yer kilt’s on too tight!”
“Ah.. same old Mabel. Listen, love, please connect me to Commander Feral. ‘Tis of the utmost importance!”
“Can’t do that, Irish. Turns out that Steele’s now Enforcer Commander. And, from what I’ve been hearing, Commander Feral is at MegaTron Labs and isn’t supposed to be reached by anyone other than him. ”
“Steele!?” exclaimed Shaun. Shaking his head, he put that info on back burner to deal with later as he clutched the mike again. “Mabel, ye got to connect me to Feral. Me and Kirk found a charred Enforcer cruiser and we think it was Lt. Felina’s!”
Silence filled the channel for a moment as Mabel sat there in shock. Although still dazed by the news and its possible meaning, she began to switch frequencies to connect the former Commander’s radio to Shaun’s frequency.
“You don’t think.?” began Mabel.
“I wish I knew. But, I gotta tell the Commander. He’s got t’know.”
“Anything I can do, Irish?”
“Just connect me, Mabel, and say a prayer for the lass.”
Nodding, Mabel did just that, finishing up the link and with a deep breath she closed her eyes and began to pray.
“Comma…. Mayor Feral!” came a voice over the din of the weapons bay as the sound of defenses being readied echoed throughout the compound. Jerking his neck around, Ulysses found the source of the call and glared at the approaching technician.
“I gave strict instructions that I wasn’t to be disturbed..!”
Pulling up short, the young tom-Kat nervously nodded..”I..I k..know, sir, but there’s an emergency call for you. It’s on an Enforcer frequency, but we had to reroute it through our systems since the signal couldn’t penetrate the bunker. It’s from a Sergeant O’Kattery.”
Blinking, Feral climbed out of the Exo-Suit in mid-prep, much to the concern of the techs assembling the armored form. Striding over to a wall-mounted comm unit, Feral slammed his fist onto the small white button engaging the link as the small white ‘circuit open’ light popped on.
“Feral here,” he growled.
“Commander Feral,” came the reply ..”Sorry ta be bothering you, sir, but we found something you need t’be aware of.”
“Go ahead, O’Kattery,” replied Feral, smiling slightly. As a cadet, Ulysses Feral had been paired with then Ensign O’Kattery as a tagalong for his first few weeks of field training. Admittedly, Feral’s total no-nonsense approach to being an Enforcer was a stark contrast to Shaun’s more relaxed approach. Both were highly dedicated, but arriving at the same goal from totally different perspectives. Over time, the two had learned to accept the others’ viewpoint and became a solid team that to this day held the highest arrest percentages of any cadet/sponsor grouping. Although Shaun had retired not long after Ulysses had become a Lieutenant, they saw each other at a few Enforcer events and the rare meeting at the shooting range out in Megakat Springs.
“I hate t’be the bearer of t’news, sir, but we found Lt. Feral’s car out here close to Highway 29, close to the corner of Noble and Barns. She’s pretty charred up, sir. Not much left ta look at.”
Feral froze as Shaun’s words began to sink in. Reining in his motions, Ulysses waited for more information before he would start to worry.
“What happened? Is there any sign of Felina?” he asked, trying to keep the worry from slipping into his voice.
“Nae, sir. No sign of the lass. Looks like some power lines came inta contact with the car and ignited the gas tank. We found her emergency kit, but there’s no sign of the Lieutenant herself.” Shaun paused, letting the commander have a few precious moments to steady himself. He had known Feral too long, seen too much with him to doubt his ability to keep focused on the emergency that MegaKat City found itself engulfed within. Still, to give the man a few seconds of quiet could do no harm.
“Sergeant, I want you to do a G2 alpha pattern to find Felina. Duration of 15 minutes maximum.”
Static filled the air as Shaun looked at Kirk with a shocked look.
“Begging your pardon, Sir, but could ye repeat that last order? I dinna think I heard it correctly.”
Feral knew all too well that Shaun had heard him, but admitted the order was a major surprise to the elder Enforcer.
*I know how you feel, Shaun, but with those scum out there, we can’t afford to look for one Enforcer too long, no matter who that Enforcer might be.*
Pausing only momentarily, Feral sighed softly and repeated. “You heard me, Sergeant. I want a 15 minute duration search. G2 alpha pattern.”
You could almost hear the protest in Shaun’s voice, but both Kats knew that Feral was right. If they spent too much time looking for Felina, there’s no telling what damage could be done by the criminal element running amuck in the city now.
“Aye, sir, order understood. O’Kattery ou…..”
“Shaun..?” Feral interrupted softly, as if to keep anyone other than his old partner from hearing.
“Sir?” came the slightly confused reply.
“When you find her, tell her I love her and I always will.”
Shaun shivered, as if someone just walked over his grave. He didn’t like the tone of that request, not at all. But, even if he was a retired Enforcer, as of right now he was on active duty, and Feral was still his commander.
Without another word, Feral closed the link and closed his eyes for but a moment, pushing all the mixed feelings down into his gut. There would be time for mourning later, if it was necessary. For now, there were tens of thousands of Kats depending on him and what he did in the hour ahead. Walking back towards the center of the weapons bay deep under MegaTron Labs, Feral’s bare feet fairly much ignored the cold, smooth tile underneath. As he walked back towards the frustrated technicians, he paused, looking again with a bit of wonderment at the weapon before him.
Standing nearly 8ft tall, the EXO-Kat, or Exoskeletal Kombat Assisted Transport was the most powerful weapon in the Enforcer arsenal. It was also the most dangerous, and with good reason. Originally designed as a mining tool, the EXO-Kat was modified to be an anti-personal armor to be worn by Enforcers in emergency situations. However, it was proven that the reaction time of an Enforcer had to be greater than that of a miner, so the suit was unable to respond fast enough to be of any practical purpose other than perhaps crowd control.
It wasn’t until nearly a year later that a two scientists, one at Pumadyne and one at MegaTron, discovered they both were working on organic/mechanical interface theory. Instead of falling into the traditional industrial war to reach market first with their idea, the two scientists worked together. MegaTron Labs had a working prototype of the interface assembly, but not the resources to fund a high grade weapons platform to update the suit. Pumadyne conversely had the money and expertise for the upgrade, but their own interface systems were months away from being test ready. Pooling their resources, the two industrial giants created the gleaming titanium frame Ulysses Feral found himself standing before.
“Mayor..?” Jerking out of his reprieve, Feral looked over at the technician.
“Yes… yes, I know..” he grumbled and climbed back into the suit as the two Kats began to reassemble the modular frame. The EXO-Kat had no real ‘face’ other than a clear thermoplastic shield that allowed the operator to see outside with a high degree of safety. There was a marginal neck that provided a degree of peripheral vision, but it was the on board sensor suite and HUD that provided the most detailed information to the Kat inside. The arms were armor plated, each ending in a mechanical paw that included a repulsor blaster in each palm as well as machine guns in the forearms and magnesium flare launchers birthed within shoulder-mounted housings. The torso was the same flat steel gray color with the only exception being the Enforcer insignia emblazoned in the center. Behind the insignia was a force shield emitter that allowed a 5 second burst of an electromagnetic bubble that repelled most artillery or energy based weapons. Unfortunately, the shield used a great deal of power and repeated use would drain the solar cells faster than they could recharge as the built-in capacitors weren’t strong enough to power it and the life support systems simultaneously The upper part of the legs located above the knee were open, allowing the operator to activate the leg-based functions, such as the built-in jet boosters and the Durajump compressed air landing system. The feet had Magneto-Lock control systems, providing stability on most ferrous surfaces.
But, despite the power the EXO-Kat possessed, its designation of Project Doomsday was by no means a misnomer. The interlink (now called the Marsh/Marsalla BioLink in honor of its creators) represented a double-edged sword; by patching into the nervous system of the Kat inside, the reaction time of the suit was increased by an incredible amount. This gave the Enforcer reaction times necessary to use the armor effectively in battle, but the cost of the increased reaction time could well be the life of the pilot. Working both ways, the link converted damage received on the suit into pain impulses to the nervous system of the Enforcer inside. Too much damage and the Kat’s nervous system could very well collapse, leaving the pilot a living mind trapped within a useless shell. Truly, it would have to be Doomsday for such a risky venture to be seen as a solution.
Ulysses Feral wished he could speed up the assembly process, but each piece had to be properly assembled or the systems would not work in unison, if at all. But, despite the danger being assembled around him, more pressing.. and personal.. thoughts began to invade his mind.
**Where are you, Felina? What happened to put you so far out of the way back to Enforcer Headquarters? A call for help? Roadblock? Some punk with a blaster? Are you alive? Dead?** Resisting the urge to slam his fist into a nearby control panel, Feral sought to control the worry he felt building in his gut. **That won’t do any good. Felina’s tough and resourceful. And, that’s just by herself. Higgins promised she’d look out for Felina, and I know she’s as good as her word. Wherever they are, they’re together.**
“Commander Feral!” echoed a new voice in the weapons bay. The voice sounded as if it belonged to an older Kat, but the authority the voice carried was beyond reproach.
Turning around, Ulysses blinked as Professor Hackle walked across the room, slow in speed but urgent in meaning.
**Oh, Krud..** the former Enforcer thought, knowing full well what was coming.
“Again, Commander, I must protest the use of the EXO-Kat! It is much to dangerous for you or /anyone/ to use.” For emphasis, the former Pumadyne inventor poked the insignia with the tip of his cane. “Pumadyne may have used my original schematics to reinvent the systems, but they are fools to think that the suit is perfect! The risk is..”
“Totally acceptable, Professor,” interrupted Feral. “Our best guess is that Dark Kat’s ship will be here in less than 30 minutes. My… The Enforcers are occupied with a pitched battle with some of the worse scum this city has ever had the misfortune to know. The only viable option is to use the EXO-Kat to stop Dark Kat once and for all.”
Hackle looked up and saw that look of determination he knew so well from his prior experiences with the Enforcer Commander. Sighing, he looked down at the two technicians and gasped in shocked realization.
“You .. you.. go.. just go!”
Blinking, the two that had been assembling the suit looked up as if the elder Kat had just started speaking in some foreign language. But, the business end of his cane conveyed the message a lot more effectively as the inventor slowly knelt down and started to pull wires out at a feverish pace, an action not lost on Feral.
“Kats alive, what are you doing??”
“If you persist in this foolhardy endeavor, Commander, then perhaps you would be more inclined to /not/ blow up upon activating the suits’ systems? Those fools.. they have no grasp of the obvious..!” and with that the professor began to drift off into his own little world of advanced algorithms and fragmented particle decay as he worked to undo the damage that had almost been done.
Feral watched with a bit of surprise on his face as at the lightning pace at which Hackle had totally rewired the main input/relay console that had taken the former technicians nearly three times as long to setup. Looking over at the two techs that Hackle had shoved aside, Feral glared at them.
“You and you.. help the professor get this thing ready.” Seeing them ready to protest, the large Kat narrowed his eyes and simply said.. “Now.”.
The look in Feral’s eyes was more than enough to motivate them as the two technicians knelt down and began to finish assembling the EXO-Kat under Hackle’s direction. Glancing at the clock, Ulysses saw that they had less than 25 minutes to assemble the suit and get airborne. It would be close. Very close.
“So close, my Creeplings.. so close to the total destruction of the Enforcers, my so-called ‘allies’ and the total subjugation of MegaKat City!”
Chattering in agreement with their dark lord, the Creeplings worked feverishly to keep the great airship stable. Constantly rerouting power from secondary systems was difficult at best, but a necessary task as Dark Kat loomed over their shoulders watching every move.
Dark Kat knew this was a risky gambit, but he had to play the cards fate had dealt him. His sources had reported that Feral had been named mayor and that the coward known as Steele had been put in charge of the Enforcers. Despite the fact that his airship was by no means battle ready, the opportunity was too great to pass up. With a green commander, the Enforcers would be disorganized and easy picking for his ‘allies’ to defeat. Besides, with the Swat Kats gone, there were no wild cards left in the deck for Feral to play. Dark Kat actually smiled slightly as he congratulated himself on fooling his ‘allies’ into thinking he was after the antimatter just to power a mere bomb.
**Their stupidity has served me well. And, when I have drained MegaKat City of all its resources, my one true plan can finally begin!* *
Turning to address his servants, the Dark Lord bellowed… “Soon, the antimatter generator will be mine, and with it and the force shield emitter, I will enclose MegaKat City in a bubble and then, my Creeplings, I, Dark Kat, will reign unchallenged! I will rebuild MegaKat City into a fortress of evil and soon, the world shall be my mine to do with as I please! All available speed to MegaTron Labs! Victory awaits my grasp!”
Accelerating slightly, the great airship turned to port as Dark Kat’s laughter filled the sky.
“Put him down, Mange, now, or so help me I’ll…”
Turning around, Mac blinked as somehow the other Enforcer had regained enough of his senses to actually stand up again. Even more surprising was the kid had the balls be aiming at him with his recovered blaster. Still squeezing Tobias’s neck, Mac laughed.
“Or you’ll do what, punk? Shoot me? Oh, that’d be just too bad cause if you do, I pop your buddy’s neck like a pimple! There’s nothing you can do, kid! You’ve lost.” And, for good measure, he squeezed Tobias’s neck again, causing Tobias to black out completely. Falling limp in Mac’s arms, the Enforcer silently awaited the end.
“Hurry up, Mac, and quit goofing off! I’m almost through here and yer dragging tail like usual!” barked Mollie from the entryway of Pumadyne’s main entrance.
“Shut up, Mollie! I don’t tell you how ta have your fun!” sneered Mac back.
**That’s it!** thought Jace. Laughing on the outside, Jace tried to keep as calm as possible as Tobias’s limp figure swayed in Mac’s grasp. Steadying himself, he sneered at Mac.
“Oh man.. you are so whipped!”
Mac blinked, caught off guard by the comment. “I mean.. I’ve seen some poor excuses for a tom, but you’re the worst example I’ve ever come across. Does she tell you when to go to bed too??”
Growling, Mac fumed.
“Shut up, kid, or you’ll be laughing out your tail!”
“By the likes of you?? Don’t make me laugh, Mange. You’re so whipped you don’t have the stones to come over here and fight me like a Kat. You gotta hide behind that huge blaster and hey …maybe your compensating for something by using that thing. Ever considered that?”
Enraged, Mac tossed Tobias to the ground, the latter winding face up in a puddle of mud. Tossing his blaster to the side, Mange slammed a metal fist into the opposite paw.
“Okay, kid.. that’s it! You’re roadkill!”
**All right, Tobias is outta the way.. now what?!** Jace asked himself as even though his friend was safe for the moment, his own future looked very /very/ short.
“I hope you’ve said your peace, kid, cause I’m the last living thing you’re ever going ta see!”
Jace blinked, not at the danger of the situation, but at the idea that exploded into his mind.
**It’s got to work.. there’s no other way..**
Advancing on Jace, Mac’s eyes began to glow a deep red as he drew closer with each passing moment.
“You can’t run, kid.. and there’s nowhere to hide. You’re mine!”
“You’re all talk, Mange. You’re a whipped piece of techno-junk who is as competent as a blender. No.. wait… that’s an insult to blenders everywhere. You’re a low grade, high maintenance piece of crap whose as smart as a rock! You’re yesterday’s model, Mange, ready for the salvage yard.”
Mac screamed as he lunged for the Enforcer, enraged. Cold metallic hands grasped for Jace’s neck, but the Enforcer dodged a split second before the killing blow could be inflicted and rolled off to one side. Ending up several feet away from the momentarily confused villain, Jace used the much-needed time to bring his blaster into a firing position, maxing out the power level as the laser sight landed dead center on Mac’s forehead.
“At this range, even a low powered shot will put a real crimp in your day, Mange, and I just went to full power. Put your hands up.. you and Mollie are under arrest.” There was no wavering of voice, no hint of nervousness in Jace’s tone; just a simple desire to end this without anyone else dying.
Mac looked at the Enforcer with a bemused expression, then frowned as best his face plate would allow.
“The way I see it, kid, you got it all wrong. You can’t hurt me. You can’t stop me. I’ve stood up to the Swat Kats’ best shots and I’m still here and they’re pushing up daisies. And, in a few bits Mol’s gonna be in the security system and then we’re gonna rule this town, and not you or all the Enforcers combined are gonna stand up to the Metallikats!” And, with that Mac swung hard, attempting to catch Jace off guard with a devastating right cross.
Jace may have been a green Enforcer, but he wasn’t stupid. Feinting backwards, the young Enforcer felt the breeze of the swing tickle his whiskers. Shifting his aim right by inches Jace fired, praying to the Goddess that he would be forgiven for what he had to do. The discharge lanced out, striking dead center in Mac’s left eye, shattering the optic as it passed through several layers of scanners and image inducers until microseconds later the blast exited in back of the villain’s head, a sickening ‘boom’ filling the air.
At first, Mollie thought that the Enforcers had cracked the force shield surrounding the complex. Jerking her neck around, the villainess found something much worse than she could have even imagined. She gasped in horror as Mac fell, smoke pouring out from the gaping hole in the back of her husband’s head. Then.. nothing.
“Maaaac!!” screamed Mollie as she raised her blaster and fired, the blast striking Jace dead center of his Katvar vest and watched as he impacted against the remains of a tree. As Jace fell, Mollie leaped over the Metallikat Express and darted towards to her fallen love.
“Mac.. Mac! Come on, you good.. this ain’t.. ain’t no time to be lying down on the job…” Mollie begged as she pulled up beside her husband. Kneeling down, she gently raised what was left of his head in her arms. “Come on Mac.. talk to me you bucket of …”
“Mac! You’re alive!”
“Not.. f..or… l..ng, Mol. Systems.. cras..ing.”
“Don’t die on me, Mac!”
“Lik.. I c..can.. help it.. Mol,” wheezed the dying Mac, the barest hint of amusement in his voice.
“Com.. come on, Mac. I need you. For better or worse, remember!”
“I.. I’v.. h..d.. worse, Mol. You.. your.. me..loaf.. sucks,” he tried to laugh, but only a sickening cough came out.
Mollie tried to smile, but she couldn’t .This couldn’t be happening. In all their fights.all the battles.. they didn’t die. They /couldn’t/ die. Even when Dark Kat had destroyed that warehouse with them and Viper inside, they survived. They survived Hackle’s reprogramming attempts, and even the Swat Kats’ precious secret identities had been learned by them. But.. the Swat Kats never died before; now they were gone.
**If the heroes can kick the bucket, what chance do the villains have??** she asked herself.
“M..Mol…?” Yanked from her thoughts, Mollie looked at her husband and took his hand in hers. “I.. k..ow that.. I.. ne..er said this.. e..ough.. but.. I.. l..love… y..y..oooou……” Mac tried to say even as his final backup failed and his last few ergs of energy drained away. Slowly, his optics faded until they were black and still.
“Oh..Mac..” whispered Mollie and she clutched her husband to her chest tightly as if she could bond his soul to his metal body by sheer force of will. But, be they metal or fur, all Kats must succumb to the forces of life and death. And, Mac Mange, scourge of the Underworld and perhaps one of the most dangerous forces ever to face the Swat Kats, quietly left this mortal coil and his beloved wife behind to face his final judgment.
Hard Drive looked on in shock as Mollie clutched Mac’s now-lifeless body. Even though he despised the thug, he never wanted the guy to die. Maybe get banged up by the Enforcers some in payment for his threatening remarks at the mountain H.Q. But.. nothing like this. Blinking, Hard Drive watched shocked as Mollie set her husband’s body down and stood. With each step deliberate and planned, Mollie walked over to Jace’s unconscious form and without a shred of gentleness, she one-handed picked up the tom and shoved his body against the tree so hard the young Kat’s helmet fully came off, revealing Jace’s face.
At first, Hard Drive would not believe his eyes. What he saw.. it was not possible. A lifetime of sacrifice and regret made what he saw null and void. But.. deep in the villain, he knew that his greatest fear was now upon him.
**Dammit.. they promised. They swore they would never…!!** he raged silently until a glint of sunlight off metal caught his attention. His blood froze as he saw Mollie’s sickle weapon-arm rise to the sky. Knowing what she was planning, Hard Drive dashed over the hood of the MetalliKat express and pushed himself physically to the limit to reach her in time before….
“You miserable bastard!” she spat at Jace with all the venom she could muster even as tears of oil streamed down her face. “I hope you rot in Hell, you son of a bitch!” and with that, Mollie pulled her weapon back to decapitate the young Enforcer.
Just before the blow could land, Hard Drive pulled the sickle back from its fatal trajectory.
“Mollie.. we don’t have time for this!” he yelled, looking over at a sizable contingent of Enforcers who were pooling their weapons and apparently setting them on overload to blow a hole in the shield. “Those Enforcers could be through any second! If we don’t get out of here now, we’re all going to be de…!”
Looking over, Mollie’s eyes glowed as if fueled by the Devil himself, stunning Hard Drive with their intensity.
“You miserable coward! How /dare/ you tell me what to do! If you hadn’t been so concerned with protecting your balls and not covering Mac, then maybe he’d still be alive now!” she screamed, her voice full of rage and pain.
“:Listen Mollie.. please! I never wanted Mac to die, but I had no weapons and those two Enforcers were getting a hell of a lot closer on their aim. I’m sorry Mac’s dead.. I know how much you and he meant to each other, but this isn’t the way to get revenge!” Hard Drive paused, not seeing any other way to get out of this with his secret intact. He didn’t like where he had to go, but there was no other way. “You kill that kid now, you’ll have every Enforcer in the city after you for cold blooded murder. Do you think you can take on the entire Enforcer garrison stationed here in Megakat City? Bide your time, wait for the best moment to get your revenge; hell, if nothing else let him wait for it and suffer! But please.. for both our sakes.. don’t /do/ this.”
Mollie’s rage started to ebb as Hard Drive’s words started to make sense. She wanted the punk so dead; crushed into a lifeless ball in a trash compactor or even thrown into a burning incinerator. But.. there was no time.. not now. She couldn’t get her revenge if she was off-line. Slowly, her sickle arm lowered and she kneeled over the still unconscious Enforcer.
“You just got lucky, kid. You get to live one more day. But, when you least expect, kiss your miserable life good-bye!” and with that she backhanded Jace, letting the red whelp form as she stood and walked off to take her husband home.
For tense seconds Hard Drive looked at Mollie as she loaded Mac’s body into the back of the Metallikat Express. Then, a bittersweet sigh of relief escaped his lips as the immediate danger to Jace passed. Glancing over, he saw the Enforcers outside the shield begin to run for cover. Knowing he only had seconds left to say his peace, Hard Drive returned his full attention to the young man before him.
“I’m sorry, kiddo. I never wanted to get you involved in this mess. I… I don’t know why Leo and Florida broke their promise to me, but I’m damn sure gonna find out…!” he growled softly, still more than upset that the agreement he gave an entire life up for was now shattered beyond re-creation. Gently brushing some stray fur from Jace’s eyes, Jacob Kittery smiled softly, and in a moment of paternal concern, kissed his son tenderly on the forehead.
BOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMM! The shattered force shield collapsed, unable to withstand the combined might of 20 heavy blaster rifles overloading at a single focal point. As the backlash of energy forced the emitter to explode, fragments filled the air as Hard Drive shielded his unconscious son from the worse of the debris. When he was able to lift his head once more, Hard Drive could see the faint outlines of the Enforcers pouring onto the grounds. Within seconds he was surrounded.
“Hard Drive.. you’re under arrest. Put your paws in the air now!” shouted one apparently high ranking Enforcer.
Glancing over, Hard Drive noticed that several of the Enforcers had surrounded the Metallikat Express, apparently demanding Mollie surrender as well. Shaking his head, the villain began to laugh.
“Oh, come on, guys! You’ve got to be kidding me!” he smirked, and within seconds his surge suit activated, converting his body to electronic impulses and with less time than it takes to blink, Hard Drive was in the Metallikat Express glaring at Mollie from a dashboard monitor.
“Let’s get outta here!” he shouted.
“That’s the first smart thing you’ve said all day, ya nerd!” sneered Mollie and as her metallic paw slammed into the gas pedal. The armored cruiser rushed forward, knocking two Enforcers out of the way with glancing blows. Pummeling over debris, the nightmare car showed no signs of stopping as it ran a corner, crushing a fire hydrant and disappeared into the deserted alleys surrounding the lab. Those Enforcers who still had weapons fired, but the energy bounced off the armored form with no effect.
“What were you doing make there, Hard Drive? You almost got us caught!”
“Just making sure that little slap of your’s didn’t kill the punk, Mange!” Hard Drive snarled, putting on his best poker face as he emerged from the electrical systems and regained his normal form beside Mollie on the passenger’s side. “We were lucky the kid still had a pulse, or we’d might not have gotten out of there otherwise!”
“Yea, whatever. Just remember, that punk kid’s tail is mine! I’m the one whose gonna ventilate him six ways from Sunday! Don’t even think about trying to take the kill, Hard Drive!”
Jacob looked quietly out the windows as Pumadyne labs – and the son he had to once again leave behind – faded into the distance. With a tone Mollie didn’t quite expect, Hard Drive simply murmured.
“No danger of that, Mollie.. none at all..”
“Get down, Sir!” shouted Kassie as a stream of deadly needles impacted in the wall behind the spot David Steele had occupied scants seconds beforehand. Venom leaked down the stairwell wall, the sickly green on white looking like some deranged artist at work. Recovering from the nearly fatal career change from Enforcer Commander to pin cushion, Steele raised his blaster and fired. The energy bolts sliced their way through the mutant cactus’ torso as the twisted plant fell to the floor unmoving.
“Great. One floor down and way too many to go..” murmured Kassie as she eased around the embedded spikes and the plant to join her commander at the door leading to the hallway.
“I would agree with you on that, Cadet, but since we’re the only two who made it unaffected by Viper’s mutant poison ivy, it’s up to us to shut that maniac down. Permanently if need be.”
Kassie nodded, silently hoping that her fellow Enforcers would recover from the horrible rot that had covered those caught in the surprise deluge of venom from Viper’s genetically engineered poison ivy; ivy that now encircled the first several stories of MegaKat Biochem.
Glancing over, Steele blinked as he noticed that his companion still had not drawn her weapon. Risking a glance out the window, David saw the hallway appeared to be clear. Thus, he turned to face the cadet beside him.
“This might be a bit easier if you arm yourself, Cadet..” Steele commented evenly.
Blinking, Kassie looked down at her sidearm as if seeing it was there for the first time. Sighing silently to herself, the young she-Kat drew the weapon. Steele watched as that same look of.. uncertainty.. crossed the Cadet’s face.
**Something’s not right here..** he mused. Risking a quick glance out the door, Steele saw the hallway was.. for the moment at least.. clear. Turning back to face Kassie, he reached a decision.
“Cadet.. we need to talk.”
Jerking up, Kassie looked at Steele with an outwardly confused look, although on the inside she had a gut feeling what he was going to bring up.
“Yes, Sir.. I guess we should…”
“If you have a problem using your sidearm, Cadet, I need to know why. You’re my only backup, and I need to have someone I can count on to see this through to the end. Can I depend on you for that, or do I go this alone?” Steele paused, his voice even but with a sharp edge that gave no room for argument.
“It’s just that.. I made a promise a long time ago, Sir to.. never take a life if I became an Enforcer. I’ve got to keep that promise, or I’ll never see the man I love again..” Kassie leaned against the wall, her gaze falling to the floor.
David blinked, caught off-guard by the admission from the young she-Kat before him. Casting another quick glance into the hallway, he then went over to Kassie.
“That’s a hard promise to keep, Cadet, considering that every Enforcer may be asked to take a life for the greater good. The man who asked that of you.. he means that much?”
“He meant that much to me, Sir.” Past tense.
Steele didn’t like that at all. Kassie saw the look on Steele’s face and elaborated.
“His name was Donald, and that was his dying wish.”
Stunned, David walked over the young she-Kat and leaned beside her, trying to reduce the unease she felt telling something so apparently personal to her commanding officer. Maybe.. he reasoned …she needed to tell a friend instead. Of their own accord, words detailing the darkest point of Kassie’s young life spilled forth.
“We were at the museum when Hard Drive appeared, just.. materializing.. out of a wall outlet. Donald tried to protect me, but Hard Drive hit him with a blast of static electricity. It knocked him backwards over the bench we had been sitting at and in.. into a glass display case.” Kassie shuddered as the mental image of her fiance‚ lay dying in her arms, her body drenched in his blood. “He didn’t.. want me to be an Enforcer, Sir. He was scared that I would get hurt. But.. he realized that is what I wanted to do, so we met at the museum to try to work everything out. Donald believed in something beyond.. our lives here, so he begged me to never take a life because he was scared that if I did, we would be forever apart when I.. I joined him on the other side.”
“And, you agreed?”
“It was his.. final wish, sir.. and I love.. loved him. I had to.”
“Cadet. .Kassie. .Listen.. please.” For a moment David paused, his right paw reaching up to gently hold Kassie’s left shoulder..”You can’t risk your life here and now for what may or may not happen later on. I know you loved him, but you’ve got to think of yourself first and him second. I /need/ you believe in what we have to do, Cadet. I know this sounds cruel and uncaring, but as much as you loved him, you /have/ to put your own safety first..”
Kassie looked up at Steele, wanting to argue his logic; to defy how right he was. But, she couldn’t .She knew he was right; that Viper had to be stopped. Not just for their sakes, or for the Enforcers outside, but for every tom, she-Kat, and kitten outside these walls counting on the Enforcers to keep them safe.
Parts of David regretted pushing Kassie like this; he had seen a fire in her outside that he found inspiring for some reason. Now his very actions threatened to extinguish that fire. But, just as Feral pushed him into admitting hard truths about himself, Kassie now had to face the same dilemma.
A few tense moments passed until Kassie found her voice.
“I.. I believe, Sir. And I promise to.. to do.. whatever it takes to save MegaKat City,” she murmured, finally meeting Steele’s gaze firmly. Brushing the tears from the corners of her eyes, the young Cadet unhooked the safety and nodded she was ready.
Steele just nodded and reassumed his position by the door. Taking point, the Enforcer commander made his way down the hallway, intently bound for the 5th floor containment labs that Walker and Ranger had spotted Viper going towards right before the ivy surrounded the building.
“It’s not like Viper to be this overconfident,” Steele said as he and Kassie approached their objective. Despite numerous encounters with mutated plant life, neither David or Kassie had encountered any lethal threats that posed a serious problem.
Glancing through the door, Steele finally saw why resistance was limited in the building; every other plantamammal was in the lab, surrounding Viper with a sea of mutated creatures.
“That’s new. He kept most of his forces in the lab instead of sending them out into the building so that way if anyone did get this far they’d be forced to take on all those creatures and Viper himself. But.. what is he after?”
As if answering Steele’s question, Viper held up the flask of Katalyst 69. Blinking, Steele parted the swinging doors ever so slightly as he crouched down to listen.
“Thoossse foolssss! Thinking that Katalyst 69 was nothing more than an additive to keep cropssss sssafe from temperature extremesssss! But, in my clawsss, I shall make it into something much more! That fool Dark Kat believed it was jusst a chemical to keep those blasted Enforcers from freezing my creations. I shall recreate it into a virus so deadly, it will destroy all plant life on the planet, leaving my mutations to rule the wastelands left. To think I was once content with conquering MegaKat City. With the Ssswat Katsss gone, the world itsself ssshall be mine!”
**Not on my watch, you creep!** fumed Steele as he motioned to Kassie to stay down. Jerking his head towards the lab, David raised his blaster and steadied himself.
Kassie, upon realizing what her Commander was planning, readied her weapon as she tried to ignore the sick feeling building in her gut. Forcing herself to be calm, she nodded and raised her own weapon.
“On three..” whispered Steele. “You blast the container, I’ll take Viper down.” Kassie nodded. “One.. two.. three.. Now!”
With a hard shove against the polished metal doors, Steele and Kaylar tumbled through the entryway, coming up locked onto their respective targets. Almost simultaneously, the twin energy bursts raced forward, dead centered on their goals. Suddenly, at the last second, the blasts ricocheted off an invisible shield and into the far back corners as Viper’s creations surrounded them with unimaginable speed. Their weapons tossed casually aside, both Enforcers were soon bound by strands of steel-like vines as Viper himself began to laugh.
“You pitiful foolssss! Do you really think to catch Dr. Viper unawaresss?? From the moment you entered this building, you were mine to dessstroy at my pleasssure!” Walking over, Viper /smacked/ Steele across the face as the villain cackled. “So, Dark Kat’s source was true; Feral is no longer in charge of the Enforcers. And, I have the pleasure of exterminating the weakling who attempted to fill hiissss ssshoes!”
“The only one around here full of anything is you, Viper, and you’re full of sh..”
Another hard smack rattled Steele as Viper’s toothy grin filled the tom-Kat’s vision.
“I would ssssuggesst you watch your mouth, or my petsss sshall sshow you what I do to thossse who defy me…”
Kassie struggled in vain as the vines proved as unbreakable as they felt. Glaring over at the red whelp forming on Steele’s left cheek, the young she-Kat tried to draw Viper’s attention away from her Commander.
“I don’t get it, Viper. You hate technology, but that belt is definitely not your style,” the young Enforcer commented, noticing the gaudy fashion accessory Viper had strapped around his waist.
Grinning, Viper slithered over to Kassie.
“How very true, my dear, but it would be a foolsss misstake to not learn from my past encountersss with the Enforcerssss and not prepare a defenssse against their wretched weaponsss if they ssshould try to interfere. Thiss reflective energy belt was a gift from Dark Kat; perhaps he’s not asss inssane as we thought…” And, with that, Viper’s tail glided down Kassie’s right cheek, the look in his eyes a mix of emotions the young Enforcer didn’t want to even think about. “Sso very pretty, my dear. Perhapss I will ssspare your missserable life if you.. assssk.. me nicely?”
“Leave her alone, you scumbag!” shouted Steele, struggling valiantly but getting nowhere. He fixed the villain with a glare that could melt Turbonium.
Laughing at Steele’s futile attempt at chivalry, Viper walked over and picked up the flask of Katalyst 69.
“I hold in my handsss the key to Megassswamp City, Enforcerss! After I refine thisss beautiful Mutagen, my creationsss ssshall never be burned or frozen again. Then I.. not Dark Kat.. shall rule MegaKat City! And, when I further mutate this Katalyst, I will rule the world itself!”
With that, Viper turned to his creations as the creatures gurgled and snarled in agreement with their creator.
“Sure, like Dark Kat is going to just up and /let/ you run things. Come on, Viper, we both know that’s not even a remote possibility!” Steele pointed out, trying to buy time to work his way to his watch where a small explosive pellet laid hidden. It wouldn’t be much, but if he could just get loose and reach his discarded blaster, a point blank shot might be enough.
Viper turned and smiled, his toothy grin sending chills down both Enforcers’ spines.
“Don’t take me for a fool, Enforcer! I am well aware of Dark Kat’sss powersss and have taken steps accordingly. It’sss a pity that you won’t live to sssee my gloriousss reign!!” Turning to the assorted mutates, Viper pointed at the two captives. “Now, my petss.. dessstroy them!!”
“Not.. today.. Viper!” strained Steele as he reached his watch, a single claw flicking open the secret compartment as the explosive pellet fell into his palm. Aiming as best he could, David tossed the weapon into the center of the approaching mass of mutates and prayed.
Caught off-guard by the explosion, Viper and his army were tossed against the far wall as if slammed by an invisible hand. Steele and Kassie grunted at the shock wave, although mostly absorbed by the creatures in front of them, were still affected by the weapon as the vines that held them gave way and the two Enforcers dropped to the floor, momentarily stunned. The vial of Katalyst 69, freed from Viper’s grasp, shattered against the wall, ruined.
“No.. NO!” Viper growled as he shook off the effects of the blast and launched himself at Steele, claws dripping venom as the Enforcer Commander forced his disorientation down.
Scooping up his weapon, Steele readied to fire. However, Viper was faster, and his claws screeched over the metal weapon, causing the shot to go wide and blow a sizable hole in the vines blocking the window. Sunlight poured through as hero and villain became locked in mortal combat with the future of MegaKat City going to the victor.
Kassie leaned against a wall, still trying to steady her vision as the multiple images of Viper and Steele began to coalesce after a few seconds. Gasping in horror, she watched as Viper’s mutagen enhanced agility finally overpowered Steele’s Enforcer trained reflexes, the villain’s tail coiling around Steele’s neck as the Enforcer Commander began to make a sick gasping sound.
Slowly, the young cadet picked up the blaster at her feet and took aim, her hand trembling slightly as her mind became torn between saving her Commander and the thought of never seeing Donald again.
**Dammit, Girl.. do something.. now!** Kassie yelled at herself as David’s chest began to fall for what could be the last time. Blinking, Kassie fired, the energy blast bouncing off the energy field as expected, causing the ricochet to explode a section of ceiling. Plaster and metal rained down, crushing several more mutates out of existence.
“Wha..??” yelled Viper as, in his haste to destroy the Enforcer in his grasp, he had forgotten about the one behind him. Every so slightly his grip on David’s windpipe loosened, buying David precious seconds of life and time that Kassie needed to win.
Tossing the blaster down, the she-Kat took two steps and used the nearest mutant to get the extra few feet of height she needed. From the depths of reflex, long-honed gymnast skills surged forth as Kassie executed a forward flip towards Viper. At the apex of her move, her left paw reached her right wrist and three ancient shurikens emerged from their hidden sheath.
Viper’s peripheral vision caught site of movement behind him. Spinning, he tried to shield himself from the impending attack but was too late and the silver stars imbedded painfully in his body; two in his chest and one in his tail. A scream of pain erupted from the villain as he realized what had happened. In all past experiences with the Enforcers, they had always carried energy-based rifles. A primitive weapon like the shuriken was ignored by the reflective belt he currently wore.
“You impudent…” Viper began to swear, but was cut short by a firm kick to his gut by the landing Kassie. Reeling over, he dropped Steele unceremoniously to the floor as he felt rather than saw Kassie’s presence. Turning to face his attacker, Viper was simply punched in the face rather hard, the action not really needing any translation to describe how Kassie was feeling at the moment.
“You make me sick, Viper!” she yelled as a roundhouse kick emphasized her words perfectly. “Hundreds.. thousands would have been killed in your mad scheme, yet you care nothing for those kittens you would have murdered for your goals?! You.. you.. son of a bitch!” she screamed, a powerful right cross lanced across Viper’s face.
Staggered, Viper stumbled backwards towards the gaping hole in the wall the errant blaster fire had created minutes earlier.
“Back Woman! Viper ssshall not be defeated by an Enforcer, and a mere ssshe-Kat at that!” Snarling, he swirled around to use his tail to swat aside the advancing Enforcer.
At the last second, Kassie noticed the tail, but it was too late as the appendage impacted against her, sending her into David’s grasp. Sunlight illuminated the ruined lab as the pair of Enforcers struggled to their feet. A long, dark shadow passed over them as Viper superimposed himself between them and the hole in the wall.
“Now we ssshall end thissss game.. permanently!” Viper commented, his claws flexing for the kill.
Without warning, two muffled impact shots broke the silence of the lab as Viper froze. Slowly, his eyes widened as he began to tremble harshly. Clutching his stomach, he fell to his knees in agony. “Wh… what.. haaave.. you… /done/??” he snarled at the now standing Enforcer Commander as the latter came to understand what must have just happened.
“Anti-Mutagen darts. Broad-based formula with enough adaptability to stop even your immune system from destroying the carrier cells. Little present, compliments of the Enforcers. You’re under arrest, Viper.”
“Never… NEVER!” screamed the villain as he lunged to his feet to rip the Enforcer to shreds. But, Steele was prepared for that and pulled back and let go with a savage uppercut that could have taken a normal Kat’s head off. Dazed, Viper fell backwards towards the hole, oblivious to his nearness to falling out.
“Viper.. NO!” screamed Kassie as she saw him at the edge. Even though she despised this twisted mockery of Katkind with all her strength, for him to die like that was too easy a way to go. He deserved to rot in the deepest hole Alkatraze Island had to offer for the rest of his unnatural life, not twisted and broken upon the pavement.
Rushing forward, Kassie tried to subdue Viper in an arm lock. But, blinded by the inferno raging in his mutagen filled blood, Viper started to lash out, but the forces of momentum and gravity overwhelmed his anger and his aborted attack on Kassie caused the slightest bit of motion needed to push him fully out the hole. Kassie just stared as it all passed by so quickly. One second, she nearly had the tail of his lab coat in her paws, then… nothing. Looking down, she took but a second to see Viper’s contorted body lying on the soft ground of MegaKat Biochemical as the few remaining Enforcers unaffected by the mutated poison ivy surrounded the fallen Kat.
Turning away from the gruesome sight, Kassie stared blankly at the rubble strewn room and the assorted mutates that slowly died on the spot. Steadying herself, Kassie leaned against a still standing table and closed her eyes, composing herself. David sighed softly to himself as he gave the she-Kat a few minutes. Upon seeing her looking slightly less green, he pulled up next to the Cadet.
“Not your fault, Kassie. If he hadn’t tried to attack you…” Steele began.
“I.. I know, sir. I just.. never wanted him to.. not like…” she admitted softly.
“I wish I could say it was the only time you’ll ever run into this, but we both know I’d be lying. All I can say is that I’ll do whatever I can to help. However, the final decision on if this is something you want do.. well..” he sighed softly. “I can’t help you there. That decision is going to have to be yours alone.”
Looking at her Commander, Kassie nodded. She knew an Enforcer could be called on to face such horrors each day. Could she face this every day of her life on top of the risk of never seeing Donald again?
“I.. thank you, Sir. It seems I’ve got a lot to think about.”
“Commander Steele, are you okay!?”
Turning around, Steele stood and walked over to Lt. Nash as the latter entered the room, weapons drawn.
“We’re both fine, Nash. I take it Viper’s..” he paused, not wishing to presume anything.
“As a doornail, sir. The coroner just loaded the body. Nice to know these darts worked when they needed to.”
“For all our sakes, Lieutenant. Now, what’s the..” Steele began to ask, but was cut off by a communications officer dashing into the lab.
“Sir !We’ve lost contact with the unit at MegaTron Labs. Some kind of frequency-wide jamming is making both vocal communications and electronic tracking useless within a 3 mile range of the area.” Steele frowned as he knew all too well what that meant.
“Status of Dark Kat’s ship?”
“We had it on radar, sir, up until about 3 minutes ago.”
“It disappeared when the jamming kicked in, right?”
“What about our forces at Pumadyne?”
“Under control, sir. Reports are a bit scratchy, but only one confirmed fatality. Two Enforcers are in critical but stable condition en route to MegaKat Memorial now.”
Kassie gasped softly, fearing the worse.
Quietly, Steele looked at Nash, then back to the communications officer.
“Cadets Jace Milkner and Tobias Jakeson, sir. They somehow got under Pumadyne’s defense shield and took on the Metallikats and Hard Drive.”
Steele blinked, not sure if to applaud their bravery or condemn their foolishness.
“Who was the fatality?”
“Mac Mange, sir.”
Kassie and Steele looked at each other in shock. Slowly, they turned to face Nash.
“Mac Mange.. dead..?”
“Yes, Sir. Seems Cadet Milkner tried to arrest him and was forced to fire. The kid either got real lucky or is a crack shot because from reports the blast hit Mange’s eye and exited out the back of his head. A one-in-a-million shot, sir.”
“Is the body at the morgue?”
“No, Sir. Mollie and Hard Drive escaped with it.”
Steele inwardly shuddered as he could feel Kassie’s mood shift at the mention of Hard Drive’s name.
“We’re trying to track them down, but..”
“Belay that search, Nash. As much as anyone I want to bring those two in, but we’ve got bigger things to worry about.” Motioning for a radio, Steele took the offered transmitter and flicked it to ‘on’, setting the frequency to the wide-range codes. “All units, this is Commander Steele. All primary units, converge on MegaTron Labs. I repeat, /ALL/ primary units converge on MegaTron Labs and assist any friendly units engaged in conflict with Dark Kat’s airship. Secondary units, continue to correlate patrol patterns through Enforcer HQ.”
Setting the radio on ‘standby’, Steele addressed the Enforcers before him.
“Okay, folks, this is it. Dark Kat’s playing his trump card and it’s up to us to make him fold. Move out!”
As everyone moved from the lab back downstairs to their vehicles, Steele noticed Kassie staring out the window, as if looking for a sign that all was going to be okay. Quietly, the Enforcer Commander walked over and gently placed his paw on her left shoulder. Kassie jumped slightly as the touch shook her from thought.
“Sorry, sir.. I was..” she started to explain, but trailed off as even she could not explain what she was looking for.
“I need you for round two, Cadet,” Steele asked gently. “You with us on this?”
Kassie stared at her Commander, knowing in her heart what he was asking. Even if his words didn’t say as such, it was time for her to decide if this life was right for her. Casting a long, longing look at the heavens, she turned and gently nodded. Deep inside, she hoped and prayed that Donald would understand and forgive her when the time came.
“I am an Enforcer, Commander. There’s scum that’s begging to be stopped. I guess we’re elected.”
Smiling, David nodded and patted Kassie’s shoulder for a moment in understanding before he turned and ran out with Kassie following close.
“Attention all personnel… attention all personnel. This is a stage one alert. Dark Kat’s airship has arrived. All support personnel are advised to leave the labs immediately. All combat personnel man your stations. This is not a drill.. I repeat this is NOT a drill.”
The deceptively calm voice echoed from the intercoms throughout MegaTron Labs as across the complex Kats ran for cover in the dubious safety of the underground shelters, or out through emergency evac tubes leading to the forests behind the main grounds. Atop the four guard towers that designated the perimeter of the labs, hidden laser cannons appeared, targeting the massive V-shaped flying wing that began to hover overhead. Amidst the organized chaos, the few Enforcer troops that had been available to back up the in-house security force ran for cover, their weapons aimed at the sky ready to fire.
Deep below ground level, the final touches were being added to the Exo-Kat as Mayor Ulysses Feral fumed.
“Krud, he’s here, Hackle! How much longer??”
The elder Kat looked up from the panel he was working on and sighed.
“You can not rush such things, Mayor. It’s takes time to….”
“With all due respect, Professor, time is one luxury we just ran out of! Is the suit ready for combat?”
Hackle sighed, nodding as he closed the final cover.
“As ready as it shall ever be; but again, the danger..”
Feral flipped the main power switch on slowly as the HUD came on-line. A green targeting scope appeared dead center of the display as to the lower left, each of the suits’ main offensive and defensive systems began to light bright yellow, indicating a ‘ready’ status. As the main power gauge began to fill, Ulysses looked over at the elder Kat.
“The biggest danger is sitting on our heads, Professor. We /have/ no other choice.”
Nodding in reluctant agreement, Hackle stepped back as he watched the former Enforcer Commander risk his very life for the city they all loved.
“Sir.. Dark Kat’s broadcasting a message!” shouted one security guard from his post at the radio.
Snapping his head around, Feral blinked.
“Let me hear it!”
Nodding, the guard piped the ultimatum to both the main speakers in the weapons bay and the Exo-Kat’s radio array.
“…Kat .Your defensives are useless. Surrender the Anti-Matter to me or forfeit your lives. You have five minutes to comply, or be destroyed!”
Blinking, Feral turned inward for a moment of much needed introspection. **Wait just a minute.. when did Dark Kat ever start issuing time limits? Why would he suddenly start giving us time to decide, instead of just barging in and taking what he wanted. Unless he needs the time to… that’s it! He’s buying time for himself.. But, why??**
Flipping the final safety off, the neural link slowly moved from its holding behind the headrest of the command chair towards Feral’s head. With precise movements, the small plug connected to a well-hidden interface point buried just under the surface of Feral’s fur along the back of his neck. Jacking into place, the link began to sense impulses from Feral’s nervous system, moving in accordance with his wishes.
Ulysses himself shivered as the link activated, the cold interface made even worse by the momentary overload of his senses as the line between Kat and machine blurred and two started to become one. The operation to install the interface link had been a long, tedious effort, ending only after hours of painfully slow neurological surgery. The implant still gave him headaches from time to time, but as he was the Enforcer that fit the necessary psychological and physical profile, he was the best candidate to pilot this weapon of last resort.
Turning to address his troops, Feral dimly admitted the fact that it was a ragtag lot at best. Sure, every Kat here knew the risks and was willing to lay down their life in the hopes of stopping Dark Kat, but MegaTron’s security force was only marginally armed and the Enforcer’s present were not in much better shape. Despite having some of their strongest portable artillery present, each Enforcer knew that Dark Kat’s technology was vastly superior to what they had available. It would be a fight for every inch of ground.
“I won’t mince words here. Dark Kat’s outside, and he’s here to steal the antimatter contained in the bunker directly below us. It appears that the other villains have joined him in a move to separate our forces and weaken our defenses. As it is right now, we are all that stands between Dark Kat and the possible destruction of MegaKat City. The other Enforcers at Pumadyne and MegaKat Biochemical will join us as soon as possible, but we can /not/ wait for them. I need each and every one of you to believe in yourselves and what he must accomplish.”
“With all due respect, Sir,” came a voice from the crowd, an Enforcer sergeant. “We knew the risks when we signed up. Dark Kat’s taken a lot from everyone of late. We’re drawing the line here and now, sir. He will not pass.”
A chorus of agreement erupted throughout the room as a small smile tugged at the corners of Feral’s mouth.
“Then let’s show that villain what it means to take on the Enforcers!”
An eruption of pride filled the room as both the Enforcers present and MegaTron’s security force pulled their respective weapons and waited for their commander’s signal.
“Mayor.. incoming message. From Dark Kat!”
Within seconds, Dark Kat’s voice filled the weapons bay once more.
“Your time is up. Surrender the antimatter or else be destroyed!”
**That’s what you think, you bastard!** growled Feral to himself as he turned the Exo-Kat back into launch position.
“Let’s give him our answer. To your stations!”
With a organized rush of purpose, the assembled Kats ran to a series of elevators along a wall and in groups of 10 were lifted to ground level and started to deploy along the pattern Feral had designated in an earlier briefing. Feral closed his eyes and took just a second to scan the standard Enforcer radio channels, hoping.. no, praying.. that Shaun had found Felina. But, the fates above were not being that kind this day, and the miserable sound of radio jamming static filled his ears. Pushing his worry for Felina down deep, Ulysses silently gave a quick prayer to the Goddess to keep his niece safe until she could be found. Switching off the speakers, Feral resisted cussing Dark Kat’s name to seven kinds of hell and simply turned to one of the few technicians left in the bay.
“You.. open the launch bay doors!”
Nodding, the young she-Kat flipped a series of switches, unlocking the secret bay door that lead to the emergency escape tunnel the Exo-Kat was going to launch from. The poly-titanium door split down the middle, retracting into the sides of the wall to reveal a simple concrete corridor leading to the surface.
“All troops.. advance!”
With a roar of jet thrusters, the Exo-Kat lifted off the ground, then streaked up the corridor to emerge from a hillside. Seconds later the remaining security and Enforcer troops poured out the tunnel, taking up their positions and began to fire at Dark Kat’s ship from the relative safety of the woods.
“Those fools! I give them a chance to surrender to save their pathetic lives, and they still resist my will?” growled Dark Kat in disbelief.
Off to one side, several Creeplings scurried over a series of controls, using the time Dark Kat’s ultimatum had bought to stabilize the secondary systems and partially energize the electrostatic shield over the most vital areas of the ship’s hull.
“They shall learn the error of their ways. All ballistic weapons, open fire. Obliterate them!” Dark Kat bellowed, knowing full well that with his energy grid so unstable his maser cannons were useless.
**Even my secondary weapon systems will be more than enough to finish those.. what….????** Turning at a radar alert warning, Dark Kat blinked as a fast moving object approached on an attack vector.
“What is this??” he mused, knowing full well that all the remaining Enforcer helicopters were supporting their ground troops at Pumadyne and MegaKat Biochemical.
The answer to the villains’ question came not in words, but the full powered impact of dual repulsor cannons impacting against the shield that covered the bridge. Dark Kat blinked as his ship shuddered, and he struggled to remain standing.
“Visual!” he ordered to a Creepling. As the image solidified on a view screen, Dark Kat’s eyes widened as one of his most hated enemies appeared on the screen. “Feral! And, in the Exo-Kat?? Well well, it seems I may have perhaps underestimated the resourcefulness of the Enforcers. But, no matter; that battle-suit shall serve quite adequately as Feral’s coffin! Destroy him!”
Chatting quickly, several Creeplings complied with their master’s orders and abruptly shifted several anti-aircraft batteries towards Feral and fired.
“Holy Kats!” yelled Feral as the barrage barely missed, impacting behind the suit with enough force to toss the Enforcer head over heels for several moments before the internal gyrocompass kicked in and righted the former Enforcer commander.
“Good try, Dark Kat, but I’m not that easy to shake up!” sneered Feral as another volley of repulsor fire lanced out, impacting against the shields as the battle for the antimatter, and MegaKat City itself, rose in intensity. Yet.. despite all the danger.. all that was riding on this one fight, deep in Feral’s mind his only thought was that of his lost niece, and his prayers to the Goddess that she be returned to him safe and sound.
“Computer, recognize voice command!” shouted Felina as she ran down the hidden steps leading to the hanger below the salvage yard.
|| Voice verified. Lieutenant Felina Feral. Voice match: 100%. Awaiting commands. ||
“Bring all systems on-line and open Swat Kat weapons inventory list.” Felina ordered, deep down hoping that the system still remained open for access. If the system had performed a full shutdown, it would take both her and Callie’s voice command to reactivate the system and with Callie gone..
|| Weapons inventory ready. ||
Sami stood back and watched in awe as the lights brightened considerably as the computerized systems in the hangar came off standby and went to full active status. As the darkened corners of the hanger drifted away, the vastness of the Swat Kat’s operation became much clearer to the young Enforcer.
“Felina.. this is.. wow. I mean.. all this time.. right here,” her soft voice was filled with amazement and more than a hint of respect.
Typing as fast as possible, Felina nodded in agreement as she herself knew all too well how her friend felt.
“Same here, Sami. I mean.. we never thought about looking here. A junkyard. Two of the greatest heroes in MegaKat City history were two Ex-Enforcers whose entire crime fighting operation was created out of junk and debris.” Glancing over her shoulder, Felina smiled softly. “Boggles the mind, don’t it?”
Nodding, Sami walked over slowly to the computer area Felina was working in when a scrolling screen caught her attention. Glancing over, she leaned over the edge of the console and watched as Felina pulled up an inventory listing.
**Thank the Goddess they had the foresight to make this thing like an Enforcer mainframe, or I’d /never/ figure these command structures out..** she mused, wondering just how much Jake and Chance had planned in advance.
“What are you looking for?”
“I’m playing that hunch I mentioned, Sami. Just like when you were trying to figure out what was going on with me and Callie, I’ve got a puzzle in my head that I’m missing way too many pieces to.”
Pausing, Felina glanced up from the screen, a thoughtful look on her face.
“Part of me accepts the fact that Jake and Chance would want to give the Enforcers what was left of their equipment..”
“But.. I just can’t accept the fact that they didn’t have a back-up plan to go into battle. Surely those two would have realized that someday they would lose the TurboKat, and I doubt they would have expected my Uncle to loan them a jet to finish whatever fight they were in. I also find it very hard to believe that an Enforcer jet would readily support their.. unique.. missile configurations.”
“So, what you’re looking for is plan ‘B’, right?”
“Bingo. I’m willing to bet that somewhere in storage is another jet that they were going to use if they lost the TurboKat in battle. It’s the only solution that makes sense to me. What I can’t figure out now is why they didn’t include that information in their final request that Callie and I triggered when we fell down the steps.” Sighing, Felina went back to the computer terminal and continued to surf through the various weapons files, searching for a clue to the accuracy of her hunch.
“Maybe they didn’t, Felina, because they knew that w.. you and Callie.. would do something just like this and they didn’t want you to risk your lives,” Sami pointed out softly.
This time Felina just sighed, unable to meet her friend’s gaze.
“Maybe..” she stared, her own tone low and soft.. “maybe they didn’t know us as well as they thought..”
Feeling the need to give Felina a bit of privacy, Sami walked towards an interesting looking corner of the hanger. ‘Cluttered’ would have been a much too kind description of the place; old cans of oil and paint stood like sentinels against the far wall, their labels peeling and faded. The floor was covered in dust as if this section of the hanger saw little use other than storage. Cobwebs lay in the upper corners of the wall, long abandoned by their 8-legged creators. But, the strangest thing of all.. at least to Sami.. was this is where the Jake and Chance kept their lockers for their G-suits. Lockers that looked much newer than the surrounding junk.
“That’s weird..” muttered Sami to herself.
“Humm?” asked Felina, still engrossed in her research.
“Just kind of odd they’d keep their lockers over here so far away from the launch area,” noted Sami, casting a quick glance at the circular launch pad several dozen feet from her.
Blinking, Felina looked up and over at her friend.
“What do you mean ‘so far away’, Sami? Their lockers are right over..” and her voice trailed off as she noticed an identical pair of lockers to both her left /and/ right. “Woah..”
Walking briskly over, Felina studied the lockers, visually comparing them to the other pair against the opposite wall.
“I guess they’re older lockers that got replaced..”
“I don’t think so, Felina. They’re dusty, but far from useless.” Blinking, Sami reached a paw over and wiped the dust away from the nameplates welded on the front of the left locker. “What the..?” she murmured.
Seeing what Sami had discovered, Felina quickly displaced the dust covering the nameplate on the locker on her side. As the dust settled, both she-Kats stared in shock at the pair of names etched into each of the steel tags.
“Sami.. you don’t think that…?”
“That they knew you and Callie better than you thought? Maybe.. but there’s only one sure way to find out..” Nodding in agreement, Felina carefully began to open the door with her name on it, the hinges protesting at the activity.
Seconds later, Sami did the same with the locker labeled for Calico Briggs as both doors opened slowly, finally revealing a crucial part to Felina’s mental puzzle. Inside each locker were mylar garment bags with neatly folded flight suits hanging on a small clothes rod. On a shelf above the bag were helmets, both colored identical to the ones worn by Razor and T-Bone. Beside the helmet was what could only be a Glovatrix, a bit smaller than any Glovatrix either had seen before, but otherwise identical down to the Swat Kat insignia on the top of each weapon. On the bottom shelf were matching pairs of steel-toed boots, each with the Swat Kat insignia on the side. Blinking hard, the pair of she-Kats slowly closed their respective doors and once again studied the nameplates on each. Moments later, each turned towards the other as a soft smile tugged at the corners of Sami’s mouth. “Does this mean.. what I think this means.. Sunspot?”
“I think it does.. Moonshot.. I think it does indeed,” confirmed a smiling Felina as both she-Kats stood there, poised on the brink of destiny.
(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.