Warnings: Violence, some disturbing imagery, some profanity.
Summary: After the horrific attack by Dark Kat, several players are challenged by Fate and Destiny.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Swat Kats. If I did, do you really think they wouldn’t be on the air right now???
“Damn it, Scott! Keep it /steady/, son! I’m trying to run a breather here!”
Jerking at the wheel of the EMS transport, the young Kat simply nodded as the vehicle swerved around another batch of debris in the road; this time the apparent remains of a charred Enforcer cruiser.
“Love to oblige there, Dad, but, considering these roads are tougher to navigate than the Amazon at flood stage, I’ll do the best I can…!”
Matt Katter nodded as his chocolate-brown fur slowly settled back down from its upright position as green eyes glanced up apologetically at his golden-furred son.
“Listen, Scott….,” began the elder paramedic, but was stopped by a cheerful smile in the rearview mirror.
“It’s okay, pop. I understand…,” reassured the owner of those blue eyes Matt knew so well. “But, let me worry about the road; you just keep that kid breathing. I don’t know about you, but I’m in no mood to lose another good Kat because of this madness..,” Scott intoned as his voice darkened noticeably from its normal upbeat sound.
Matt didn’t reply; there wasn’t a need for one anyway. Turning back to one of his patients, the father let his focus drift from his son to the young tom-Kat before him. Easing the tube into place, Matt sighed in relief as the Enforcer began to breath a little easier.
**It’s not possible that he should be able /to/ breath, yet he is actually able to do it on his own! Another few more paw-pounds of pressure and that Metallikat would have crushed the windpipe. But unless… until… he wakes up, there is no way to determine any brain damage or not…. .**
“Uuhh.. Did anyone… get the number.. of the freight train that ran me over…?” came the groggy query from the back corner of the ambulance as Jace Milkner slowly rejoined the land of the conscious.
Casting a quick glance over to his other patient, Matt couldn’t help but smile that the young tom’s sense of humor was at least in one piece.
Which was a damn sight better than the rest of his body. Jagged cuts, scars and abrasions covered the young Kat as a few bandages and iodine were the best Scott could offer in-between helping the young Enforcer who hovered along deaths’ door.
“Don’t push yourself, kid…,” advised Matt. “Sometimes a hit like that will joggle your short-term memory. Don’t fight it and let your brain straighten itself out. What’s the last thing you remember?”
Jace sat there for a long moment before fragments of memory rushed through his still awakening mental processes. “Mac… Mange.. I think? I don’t… uuuh…. it’s all so fuzzy….,” groaned Jace as he tried to force focus on recent events, but was met by a doozy of a headache. After the world decided to stop spinning so badly, he tried to stand but found his legs were not much better than jelly.
“What part of ‘Don’t push yourself’ was unclear, kid?” sighed Matt as he reached over and offered a paw for support until Jace could again find a comfortable sitting position.
A quick nod of ‘thanks’ was tossed Matt’s way, and he replied in kind as best he could. A short silence filled the back of the transport until Jace finally noticed Tobias lying on the stretcher beside the paramedic.
“Woah.. Tobias!” yelped the Enforcer as he forced himself to his knees, this time the pain of his body buried by the desire to make sure his oldest friend was okay. “What’s wrong with him??” he exclaimed, leaning forward to rest his paws on the cot in-between Tobias’s paws.
Not wanting to upset the young Enforcer any more, Matt ‘conveniently omitted’ several facts that would have made Jace more upset than he needed to worry about. “He’s sleeping, and I’ve run a breathing tube to help ease the strain on his respiratory system. All he really needs is rest… .”
“Doc, don’t scam me. Please.. up front…,” said Jace, looking his elder right in the eyes. “Is Tobias going to die?”
Matt pondered how to answer. He could easily give some complicated answer, born of medical facts and theories that would confuse the young Kat enough to buy his friend time to get better on his own, but he had been asked a straight answer and to reply otherwise would be a coward’s way out.
“I wish I could tell, kid, I really do.”
“Why not? Why can’t you….?” began Jace, but was cut off by a reassuring paw upon his shoulder.
“The problem is that even though physically he’s in bad shape; the damage to his windpipe and general upper respiratory distress, these level injuries aren’t fatal on their own. It’s… just….”
” ‘Just What…’ Doc?”
“It’s like he’s lost the will to live. I /know/ that’s not very scientific, but that’s the best way to say it. He’s just not fighting to get better.”
A quiver of worry ran down Jace’s spine as the words sank in. Fighting against the tilting floor of the ambulance and his own aches and pains, the young Enforcer made his way over to Tobias’s side and clutched his paw around the right paw of his friend.
“Come on, Tobias. You’ve got to fight, okay? Doc says you shouldn’t bail out on living now, and I know you’re not a quitter. You’ve never gave up on anything in your life, Tobias, and I /won’t/ let you start now!’ challenged the young Kat through tear-filled eyes.
Even though he had seen such acts of friendship over the years, Matt knew that the possibility of Tobias hearing his friend –and responding — was marginal at best. Still, the strength of their friendship was all-too apparent in that shared grasp, and he knew that if ever such compassion and friendship was needed, it was /now/.
Staggering through the desolate field, Tobias tried to grab onto a charred tree branch to support himself, but to no avail. Snapping under his weight, both limb and Kat fell to the ground.
Wincing as the sharp rocks cut into his fur, the young Enforcer forced himself upright with fists tightly clenched. Denying the urge to scream in pain, he forced himself forward along the nightmarish landscape until he stumbled into a dense fog bank. Pausing, he tried to get directions when echoes of voices caught his attention.
“You failed me, Tobias..”
“I trained you to be the best, Tobias, and /this/ is the result? Pathetic…”
“You promised to be her protector, Tobias. Your failure has doomed us all…”
“NO! Please.. no. I… I haven’t failed. Please, don’t say these things, I beg of you!” shouted the tormented tom-Kat into the mists that surrounded him.
“Your failure began when you caused our deaths, son; now your chance for redemption has failed as well.”
Spinning around, Tobias felt his stomach turn inside out as two shadowy figures emerged from the soupy fog. Seconds later, they were followed by several other forms, but it was the first two that terrified him the most.
There was no face on their skeletons, but deep in his heart Tobias knew these two figures could only be…
“Mother.. Father.. please.. don’t say that..” he begged softly. “I.. every day I pray that you would somehow forgive me…”
“There can be no forgiveness, my son…” mused the form that used to be his dear mother. “You killed us with your selfishness. Now you have failed the Princess you swore to protect with your own life. Such a poor son..”
“A disgrace to the family..” added the spectral father.
“I trusted you with the future, Tobias. I see now that was a grave mistake on my part..”
Turning to his left, Tobias paled as Arkatta stood there, a soulless glint in her lifeless eyes. “No, ma’am! I… I swore to be her protector and… I still will complete my vow! I just need a little more time… that’s all… just a little more time!”
“There can be no more time, Tobias. You have failed me, and you have doomed the future. What makes you think you deserve another chance?”
Spinning to his right, the young Enforcer felt a sharp stab of pain shoot through his spirit as Callista, ravaged by time, stood there with empty eyes narrowed in boundless anger at the young Knight she had foolishly put so much trust in.
“M… My Queen. Please.. you don’t understand. I know my duty was to protect your daughter. I /swear/ I will do that! But.. finding her… it is no small task! All I need…”
“You deserve no more time or chances, Squire,” intoned the grizzly decayed body of Sir Nathaniel Steele as the dead Kat fixated his bare sockets upon his former pupil.
“No… why won’t you understand?! Why can’t you understand what I…”
“What is it that we do not understand, Tobias?” asked a soft voice, this one still shrouded in the mists.
With silver fur paling to sheer white, Tobias hesitantly took a step forward. “Princess.. I have not failed you! Please understand that I am still looking for you… to fulfill my vow!”
Even though he had only seen the princess but as a baby, somehow deep in his soul Tobias knew that beyond a shadow of a doubt it was her who addressed him from the mists. “My Princess… please.. let me see you. Then I shall find you and keep my promise!”
“You wish to see me, young Knight? Very well…”
It was then the mists slowly parted, and from within came a most hideous figure. The charred remains of the once beautiful princess filled Tobias’s gaze as her former golden fur was now blackened and scorched. The eyes were empty, barren of any compassion that a child of Callista would possess in great quantity.
As the scream of terror died in his throat, gnarled and withered hands clasped at his shoulders and base of his neck, dragging Tobias down into the dead earth beneath his paws. Soon the ghostly image of the Princess joined in, her boney paw cold against his face.
The voices chanted over and over, filling his ears with hateful bile. The earth slowly reached his mouth, blocking his every attempt to breath.
The monitors firmly mounted in the bouncing ambulance squealed as Tobias suddenly went flat line! Matt blinked once, then with a burst of adrenaline-enhanced speed, shoved Jace out of the way and began CPR.
“Come on, kid. Fight! Fight to keep going! Don’t let the bastard win!”
The voices were muffled more now as the earth slowly rose over his nose. Each attempt to draw a breath met with more dirt down his throat. A single paw still struggled to reach the fading sky he saw just out of reach. Pawtips stretched to the maximum, the time-lost Knight searched for one ray of light…. a single strand of hope…. to latch onto.
He had not failed; that much he knew. But, a sign to reaffirm that belief; for all he gave up, was such a request so unwarranted?
The ambulance suddenly skidded to a wayward stop as Scott slammed on the brakes, unable to do more than just stare in awe at the sight before him
“Scott… Scott what he hell is going on up there!!” yelled Matt as he struggled to get his young patient to take just one life sustaining breath.
When there was no answer, Jace tore to the front through the small archway that separated cab from bay and was about to let loose with a flurry of profanity for stopping at such a crucial moment when he, too, simply paused to stare with a mixture of emotions at the sky in front of them.
Matt finally risked a glance, his sure paws never stopping the motions on Tobias’s chest. But, even the elder Katter, who despite all he experienced as a solider in the Mobile Armor Strike Kommands, was not immune to the image of a crystal blue whirlwind as it raced across their path, only to disappear into the sea of buildings as it turned a corner.
Unseen by the startled trio, a small flutter on the monitor rose into existence.
It was then Tobias saw a light appear behind the spectral images of those he once called friends and family. Growing brighter with each passing moment, the blue flame seemed to burn away the mists from inside out, leaving only those horrific images of his attackers.
Soon, they too were burning. As if being drowned in hellfire, the phantoms faded into the nothingness they were born from, leaving only a beaten Tobias upon the cold ground. With his outstretched paw, the young man reached for the light, knowing the universe had at last heard his plea.
As his paw closed around the center of the light, a wash of realization flooded through him. The blue aura filled his being, creating within him a sense of purpose he had thought nearly lost forever.
“Hold on, my Princess! I shall stand by your side and fulfill my promise to your mother, my Queen. You will /not/ face this battle alone! I, as a Knight of the Round, swear it upon my father’s name!”
As if to lend strength to his pledge, images of times long past filled the young Enforcer’s mind. Times of laughter and tears, of deep sorrows and soaring joys. But, most of all, it was the memory of his orange-and-black striped adoptive father that gave Tobias the strength to pull himself back up into the light.
/That/ Kat he would never let down.
“What the hell was that!?” exclaimed Jace as he looked at the driver, who looked very pale.
“I… I don’t know…” stammered Scott as he attempted to rationalize what had just happened.
“We… we can’t worry about that now, Scott!” exclaimed the elder of the trio. “We’ve got to get your friend to….” and with that last word Scott’s voice trailed off into silence as he turned to stare at the empty cot where Tobias had been moments before.
Matt and Jace followed Scott’s gaze and nearly collapsed in pure shock.
“Tobias!” yelled Jace as the two medics sat there, frozen in place .He darted out the now-opened rear door and stumbled onto the battered and charred city street.
But, of Tobias Jakeson there was no sign.
“With all due respect, Sir T-Bone…” coolly worded the burly cook…”the mistakes of this waif are mine to deal with. Rest assured that he will be well punished for causing such a mess in the Queen’s own kitchens.”
With that, the cook slid his arm from Chance’s grasp and advanced upon the kitten, now huddled in a corner as the frightened youth tried to hold back the fear of the beating that was now upon him.
Chance was shocked beyond words. The ‘such a mess’ – the supposed reason for the strike – was nothing more than a few bowls of pepper stew sloshed over /maybe/ two square feet of the kitchen floor. But, even more stunning was that the others in the room; both teen-aged servants and their adult counterparts, simply walked by not, even giving a second glance at was about to happen.
A flurry of movement brought Chance’s attention back towards the cook as the figure snarled rather deeply and with his left paw grabbed the kitten by the scruff of the neck and jerked him out from the dubious safety of his corner.
A look of pain lanced through the kitten’s eyes as the motion caused a stab of agony to race down his spine. But, even more painful was the hateful glare that met his tear-filled eyes as the cook shook him without remorse.
“Worthless little urchin!” spat the Kat at his helpless captive. “I take you in, give you bed and food for your miserable hide, and you can not even pay that back by doing the simplest of chores!? You should have died in that landslide along with your parents, brat! We all would have been better off….” and with that the meaty paw of his right arm began to fall.
The burly cook never saw it coming…
In the quiet of the hanger, the loud ‘ping’ of a search engine result was as startling as a shout to a deaf man suddenly able to hear.
Half-dressed in the garments provided by Jake and Chance, the two she-Kats looked at one another, then towards the console Felina had been using several minutes ago. Knowing that the answer on the flickering screen could lead them to victory or defeat, the pair slowly zipped up the flight suits and quietly walked over.
It wasn’t until they both exhaled deeply that the pair realized they had stopped breathing. Now, with the means to stopping Dark Kat’s rampage all-too-clear, the pair of Enforcers had to make a final, immutable decision.
To fully embrace the gift… the legacy… left to them by Razor and T-Bone or to walk away, and fight as they always had done so before but this time to a bittersweet end.
“Sami… I.. it’s not too late for you to go back….” began Felina, trying one last time to give her best friend a way out of what would surely be an inglorious end to her Enforcer career… and quite possibly her life… but the look upon Sami’s face spoke volumes.
“And, leave you to face him alone, Felina? I don’t think so. What kind of friend… what kind of Enforcer… would I be to abandon one of my own in the face of their greatest fight?” replied the young she-Kat, meeting Felina’s thoughtful gaze with one of her own.
“But, that’s just it, Sami! We do this and we /can’t/ be Enforcers anymore. There’s no way to be full-time Enforcers and part-time Swat Kats. How many excuses will we be able to come up with to get away; and how long before someone puts two and two together?”
“And, if we don’t do it, Felina, the Swat Kat legacy died with Razor and T-Bone,” said Sami softly, but with honest observation. “Everything they ever did; every risk they took to safeguard Megakat City will have been for nothing because in the end, there wasn’t anyone to carry on in their place,” Sami countered, watching the look on Felina’s face switch from one of hopeful persuasion to disturbing realization.
After an eternity, Felina looked at her friend and nodded with regretful acceptance.”Either way, someone loses, Sami. It’s a simple decision then; to choose if the losers are us… or them.”
A gentle paw of reassurance rested upon Felina’s shoulder as Sami’s eyes clearly showed the choice she had already made the moment they found their flight lockers – and the mission left for them to finish.
Felina’s own mental battle was not so easily won. Her lifetime of achievements as an Enforcer fought against her desires to embrace the mantle left by Jake and Chance. It was then another unwelcome thought entered her already fractured thoughts.
Her uncle would /never/ forgive her.
He would never understand… or accept… the ‘why’s of such a decision. Never believe that this path was the one she needed to tread. Never realize that /here/ is where she could do the most good.
But, as much as she loved her Uncle, a lifetime of strong personal ethics and her Enforcer training left one thing crystal clear; the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few. It’s why one Enforcer would willingly give his or her life for a total stranger. It is what defined her to the universe. To be a measure of light against the dark was a noble calling, but it could always demand the ultimate price.
Now it was the life she had, those accomplishments she treasured along with the love and respect of her Uncle against the potential lives of a million Kats out there in the city hiding in fear of the Dark One.
Then, quite simply, the decision became as clear as a summer day. It was no less painful, but to deny this calling would carry too high a price.
With a gentle smile, Felina’s hand went to rest on Sami’s opposite shoulder as she nodded in decision.
Smiling, the younger she-Kat looked at her friend in reply.
“Let’s do it.”
With a final nod, Sami pulled away and gently slipped the final bit of her new outfit… her mask… over her face as her long flowing hair was pulled into a single ponytail, draping smoothly over her shoulder. With a final tug, she clenched her left fist, making sure the Glovatrix was secure.
Moments later, Felina did the same, making sure her identify was well-concealed behind the fabric mask and her Glovatrix was locked into place.
Thus ready and now clad in their new identifies, both looked at the large red button dead center of the console. With a slight nod towards her friend, Moonshot gently stepped back and gave Sunspot this moment all to herself.
With a knowing and grateful smile, the she-Kat raised her right fist up and, with only after a second’s pause for a quick prayer, slammed the paw down upon the button.
All hell had broken loose as the alarm klaxon sounded out, filling the hanger with its shrill call. A puff of steam from deep in the complex swirled and dispersed as a long unused secondary lift slowly churned into life.
A massive ‘clank’ of changing gears shook the floor, startling the two she-Kats. It was then the lift, normally bearing the TurboKat, came into view. But, instead of the sleek jet all of Megakat City knew, another powerful aircraft waited to become airborne at the hands of her new crew.
As the lift dial rotated into final position, Sunspot and Moonshot ran towards the sleek black form, their boot-clad paws slamming against the hard surface of the metallic floor.
It was then Sunspot noticed a grin on the face of her partner and called over. “What?”
With a shake of her head, Moonshot grinned a little wider. “You know… someone needs to say it.”
“It..?” Felina blinked, unaware of what Sami was talking about until the most obvious answer dawned on her. “Oh..” she murmured, feeling a bit sheepish she didn’t think of that before her friend. A moment later, Felina grinned back. “I think it has to be both of us… together… for it to sound right.”
With a nod of agreement, Sami reached out to grab the imbedded paw-hold on the side of the cockpit. With an agile tug, both she-Kats began an upwards arc so as to land in the padded seats of their new jet. Reaching the apex of their jump, Moonshot’s and Sunspot’s bold voices suddenly cried out to the heavens, as if trying to reach Jake and Chance no matter where they might be watching from on high.
As if to let them know the choice /had/ been made.
The words had been said before. Individually they were unremarkable, even common. But, said together with such passion they would signify a change in two honorable she-Kats and notify the universe that a new era was about dawn.
As the canopy closed and the engines erupted into raw thrust, the words echoed throughout the hanger long after the jet had lanced forward and up into the boundless sky above Megakat City.
Words that summed up their feelings all too perfectly.
“LET’S KICK SOME TAIL!!!”
(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.