Part-title: Jake – Once a Hero
Author: KS Claw
Summary: Jake recalls painful memories as he and the others seek a new place to hide.
Disclaimer: “SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron,” its characters and concepts are copyright to Hanna-Barbera Cartoons, Inc. and are used without permission.
A/N: Next part of the AU, from Jake’s POV.
[Recalled events, some quoted from episode, others fictional]
The sun is warming my face as I listen to the water splashing at the edges of the raft. My eyes are closed as my hands are folded under my neck, as I am slowly drifting between the space of being awake and asleep. I feel so tired…but not as tired as Callie is….
I pity her.
I knew how much she was in love with T-bone…Chance…I could see it deep in her eyes whenever she came to the garage to get her car fixed…sure, she’d say hello to me in a way that would leave my cheeks crimson for minutes, making Chance tease me like a big kitten. But, I know it was all a disguise. They both loved each other…but neither of them managed to tell the truth to one another, before it was all too late.
A sigh escapes my lips as I remember that horrible night 5 years ago…I remember Konway’s words….
[“Get the anti-mutagen at the MegaKat Biochemical laboraties…they are the only thing that can reverse this whole nightmare into one simple bad dream…”]
Simple he said.
“Jake, get up. It’s your turn to paddle,” a young voice sounds, small paws shaking me. A grunt escapes me, and I jerk up in a sitting position, squinting against the sunlight above us. Callie is asleep next to me, curled up in a fetal position. Kathy is standing in a paused position, the long oar held in her hands, and the calm and strategic look on her face, making me think of how an amazon holds a spear as she plans her moves before attacking in a battle. These years have changed her. In more ways than one.
“Jake,” the voice sounds again, slightly impatient. I shake my head and slowly stand up, grabbing the long oar that David hands to me. He’s grown much, that kid, despite how difficult it can be to find food. He is scrawny for his age, but tough and stubborn as well, a trait I dare think he has from both sides of his parents…
David sits down with crossed legs as I take my position by the raft’s side, waiting for Kathy’s decision. We have come to a sort of four-crossed space between the remains of what used to be 4 sky-scrapers. Darkly, I note on how she is pondering which way is the safest…somehow, she is better at this than I am. For Kathy, figuring out a safe path to steer the raft at must be the same as it was for T-bone to fly the Turbokat. I sigh at the thought. He was the master-pilot of us. The pilot…the stubborn…the impatient…and the best friend, partner and weapons-ally you could wish for….
He was like the older brother I never had…
I look at Callie once more, a pain searing in my heart as I once again recall that night 5 years ago…
I told T-bone to follow as soon as I had gotten the anti-mutagen tanks down from the wall. That way, he could help me when it came to getting those things back to Konway…
[As I stalk through the water over to the door leading into the main laboratory, T-bone complains over how itchy the bite from that leech is. He stands scratching himself as I tell him to ease down, that all of this will soon be over. Trying the door handle, I find it locked.
“Locked..,” I mutter before I, with a low cry, give the door a hard *kick* and it springs open.
“Unlocked!” I then grin before proceeding inside. T-bone follows on the water-sled, still scratching at his back…
“I think we’re in luck, T-Bone. The anti-mutagens are still here..,” I say as I wade through the water towards the large tanks. They’re huge, but nothing that can’t be handled easily with care. “Give me a hand…”
A growling is heard behind me, and I spin around. With a gasp, I can only stare horrified into the face of a creature that was once T-bone. Part of him still looks kat, while the rest is more like a plant and a frog. With a snarl, he pounces towards me, and I kick him off me before I fire a mini-octopus missile at him. He is instantly nailed to the wall where he furiously struggles.
“I hate to do this, buddy, but you’re just not yourself…,” I mutter darkly before I start to work on getting the tanks off the walls…..]
I close my eyes and sigh before opening them again, looking at Kathy who is still planning the route.
“That way,” she says, pointing down at what used to be an alley. I note the many shadows down that way and frown.
“Why not a way where there’s more light? Daylight is fading fast…” I follow her finger as she points at the way which I find the lightest…and I fall silent as my sight catches the gold-like glints from a yellowish puddle that lays spread across what was once a street.
I know instantly what it is. I’ve seen it many times in the past few years. Being a strange mixture of acid and mutagen (commonly known among any survivor who hasn’t been mutated or eaten as Mutaxin) it can burn through any surface and mutate any living organism. I’ve seen what it can do to kats…
The first year of this nightmare, we somehow ended up dragging Steele with us. We had saved him from a bunch of plantimals, and, even though he claimed he had fought bravely against them, both Callie and I knew it was just to get on the good side of the former deputy mayor. In the beginning she had been so strong, but then…
[“Save your breath, Steele! I am not deputy mayor anymore. What good is *any* kind of authority in this place!?”]
I shake my head as I slowly start to paddle along with Kathy, down the more shadowed alley ahead of us. Kathy slowly clears the water ahead of us, brushing away plants with her oar to make sure no plantimal or Mutant is gonna be there, lurking on us. But only a few fish dash off swiftly into the darkness of the waters before the raft passes.
I take a brief look back at the Mutaxin before concentrating once again on my paddling, struggling to keep myself from remembering…
[…his screams as he’s caught in the yellowish slime…part of his fur has already been dissolved by the acid and his eyes are wide, begging us silently to help him as his body is slowly sinking into the water, slowly mutating before our very eyes…we can only stand helpless and watch as he disappears in a mass of bubbles and foam, his screams silenced as his head goes under…]
David’s cry makes me snap out of it, and I gratefully follow his eagerly pointing finger, looking into the water and seeing a familiar form.
“Is that what I think it is!?” Kathy exclaims, for the first time in a long time having a surprised expression upon her face. David nods eagerly, his tail dashing. I note my own tail is dashing too, but I don’t know if it is unhappiness or anxiousness.
“It’s her alright. It’s the Turbokat..,” I hear myself say, shifting my weight slightly to get a better look. I can see that the time has been as rough on the jet as much as it has on everything else. Through the water I can see how the canopy is missing, plants and mosses growing everywhere, from seats and control-panels to the engines and rusted wings and snout.
*T-bone would have had a flip seeing his baby like this…* I mentally chuckle. He would have in the old days before his mutation…before any of this…
“Come on now. Daylight is fading, so we can’t spend it all on gawking at this.” Kathy’s rough tone breaks into my train of thought. A moment, I look at her, opening my mouth to argue for some reason…but I close it again as another thought strikes me cruelly.
*There are no SWAT Kats. Not anymore, you idiot. So, why bother staying with the leftovers of the Turbokat? It’s not like I can repair it in a few hours with a piece of chewing gum and a paperclip…*
I sigh as I return to paddling as we move on.
Razor the wiseguy. The weapons-manager of the SWAT Kats.
Reduced to nothing but a shaking tomkat named Jake Clawson, struggling each day for survival in a city we could have saved…
*No. Quit it, Jake. Nothing of this will help you or the others. Just concentrate on your current task and paddle on….*
The sun has started to go downwards, the sky glowing in bright red and orange colors as we find a seemingly suitable place to stay for the night. I stay behind with Callie who is now slowly waking up, watching as Kathy smoothly climbs up some vines on the side of a building. She has a blaster ready, just in case there are plantimals in this place. David is along with her, carrying a hunting knife between his teeth as he climbs, his hands and feet carefully and expertly finding a safe place to hang onto vines or the rough surface on the side of the building.
He watches as Kathy climbs in through a window. When she signals, he swings a little on the vine he’s holding onto before leaping in through the window. I flicker my ear a moment as I, along with Callie, watch and wait…and wait….then Kathy appears and waves to us, signalling that all is clear and that the place is safe. Along with Callie, I gather our things and we both climb up the vines to the window, one at a time with our sleeping bags and our supplies. I am about to climb down again, when Kathy puts her hand on my arm and shakes her head.
“No, Jake. Go inside and rest. I’ll take care of the raft.”
I feel too tired to argue, so I can only nod and I slowly climb inside before Kathy leaps out, grabbing the vine like Jane in the jungle and sliding downwards swiftly to the raft. I look around in the apartment, and a single thought comes to my mind as I see it.
The simple furniture, the tapestry on the walls with the flowers and the old black-white and color-photos on the walls of kittens, groups of kats gathered at a celebration of some kind, and finally an old wedding-photo….oh yeah. Definitely retirement apartment.
Callie is standing, tiredly looking around, and I can hear David shuffle around in the kitchen, probably having been told to look for something that is still edible. A few minutes later he emerges with a triumphant grin, showing what he has found.
“Look! Pineapple and peaches!”
Callie looks at me, and I return the look, both of us smiling. As Kathy joins us a few minutes later, after having gotten the raft well-hidden under a blanket of mosses and various other plants close to the wall, we settle down to eat….
[…We can only stand, horrified by what has just happened, the goldish glow of the Mutaxin gleaming evilly against us. Then without a warning, the surface bursts into more bubbles, a deformed and claw-like hand shooting out of the bubbles, grabbing Callie by her ankle.
She shrieks as the face of who used to be Steele appears out of the myriad of bubbles, eyes ghastly white with no pupils, the deep-orange fur now dark-green plant-like skin. The creature opens its mouth and lets out a horrifying sound, like a tortured soul from the deepest pit of Hades. Desperately, I lunge out and grab Callie by her arm and try to pull her out of the creature’s grip. Then suddenly….
A loud gasp bursts out from my mouth as I sit up straight and for a moment I sit, breathing heavily as I stare blankly out into the dark. Then, with an exhausted muffled sound, I fall back with closed eyes again, still panting.
“You OK?” a voice sounds. I open my eyes again and turn my head, seeing Callie. She looks drowsy which means she has been sleeping. Good.
“I’m OK..” I sigh, rubbing my face with one hand. “Nightmare…’bout Steele…” I don’t need to open my eyes to see the shudder going through Callie. She remembers it as well. All too well.
“Three years by now..you’d think I’d be over it…,” she sighs, briefly touching her ankle. I know that beneath the fabric of her pants, there’s scars…scars from the acidic touch of the creature that was once Steele..who is now dead and has probably rotted away…the mere thought of this image causes a shiver to rustle up and down my spine.
“Do you….do you think..this will ever come to an end…at all?” I look up at her, knowing I have a soft, sad expression upon my face. Then, I slowly shake my head from side to side.
“Not by chance…or by miracle…”
She says nothing. I can somehow tell that all she wants to do now is cry. But, somehow, the tears are stuck inside of her, making her heart break slowly apart. An awkward silence emerges between us, neither of us knowing how to go on. Then…
“Where’s Kathy?” I ask.
“Out looking for food, I think…David’s on watch…” she responds.
“Do I what, Jake?”
“Do you…,” a small chuckling sound escapes me. “Do you remember our first night with Kathy and David? After we had told Kathy..about your nightmares..? How David was to be on watch..and I insisted on being with him…?”
A smile emerges on Callie’s face and she nods.
“Yeah..because you didn’t think he was capable of handling himself. Being only seven years old and all…”
This makes us both chuckle.
“Let’s get back to sleep,” I say softly, and Callie nods before laying down again, curling up in her sleeping-bag. I watch her as she falls asleep, feeling how sleep is slowly crawling back into my own mind, and along with the dreams.. the nightmares…the memories…
Callie looks so vulnerable as she lays there now fast asleep…she looks like a child, a little girl having just been tucked in after being comforted from a nightmare…I turn over, facing the wall I’m laying next to, and I hear myself sigh before closing my eyes.
I find myself wishing that I had been the one mutated instead of him… instead of my best friend…. my brother…. Callie would feel safer I’ll bet…and she would be with the kat she truly loves… She loved us both in a way…but the one she had her heart set on was Chance and T-bone… both of them…
Navigate This Author's Stories
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.