The tall, lean she-kat crouched behind a dumpster of the grimy alley of Megakat City, waiting for the right moment. The barbecue aroma that floated across from the hot dog stand was nearly intoxicating, but she bided her time. If there was one thing she’d learned from all her years of experience, it was that one could never be too eager, even in minor affairs like breakfast. As always, she sensed when the timing was perfect.
Picking an aluminum pie plate out of the dumpster, she hurled it a sleek, gray car parked at the curb. She could throw as straight as any tomcat. Alarms rang out as the pie plate bounced off the door of the Lexus. The pudgy hot dog vender rushed over to help along with several other concerned citizens. The she-kat sauntered across the street. This was where so many amateur thieves flubbed up. If she were to dash across the street to pilfer a hot dog, then kats would have noticed her, thus defeating the purpose of her diversion. Like everything else she did, she was completely cool, casually selecting a dog from the counter and applying a thin stream of mustard to it before nonchalantly strolling up the sidewalk. The she-kat smiled to herself as she heard the hot-dog vendor arguing loudly with the owner of the Lexus. “Let this be a lesson to them,” she thought. “Nobody comes between Andy and her breakfast.”
“Chance, hand me that crescent wrench, will you?” Jake Clawson asked his friend. A grubby brown paw reached out from under the Firebird. Grumbling, Chance Furlong slapped the wrench across Jake’s palm.
“I hate this, I hate this, I hate this.” He looked mournfully at his left arm, encased in plaster up to his shoulder.
“Sorry, buddy,” Jake said, his voice slightly muffled as he twisted a screw into place. “but until that cast comes off in six weeks, I’m afraid you’re reduced to being my assistant.” Jake rolled out from under the car and tossed the wrench aside. “That takes care of the carburetor, but I think this crate’s gonna need a new transmission, too.”
“Not that I can take it for a test drive or anything.” Chance continued to complain. “I still can’t believe I did that. I mean, here I am, a SWAT Kat. I’m an expert pilot. I’ve travelled through time, foiled drug smugglers, and beaten up bad guys on numerous occasions. But did I go down in a blaze of glory? Nooooo. I have to break my wrist falling down the stairs because I tripped over my shoelace!” Suddenly, a new thought occurred to Chance. “Hey Jake. You haven’t, uh…told anyone exactly *how* it happened…have you?” he asked anxiously.
Jake looked at his partner with amusement. “No, buddy, don’t sweat it. I wouldn’t do that to you. Unless of course…you were to, say, really drive me crazy by moaning about how miserable you are. Then a certain deputy mayor is going to know the whole story, along with the rest of the city.”
“That’s blackmail!” Chance shouted. Jake shrugged. “Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. Now, it’s getting kind of warm in here. Would you mind terribly bringing me a nice, cold glass of lemonade? I’d like it fresh squeezed, with one of those little blue umbrellas.”
Chance stomped inside, muttering under his breath. “It’s gonna be a long six weeks.”
Jake grinned as he popped the hood of the Firebird. He had no real intention of embarrassing Chance by telling Callie what a klutz he was, but he saw no reason why he couldn’t take advantage of the situation. It would be nice having Chance wait on him paw and foot for a while.
The next morning, Jake was sitting at the table reading the newspaper when Chance came down for breakfast. “How’s the arm, buddy?” Jake asked.
“I am trying to forget about it,” Chance growled as he selected a jelly donut. “I hardly got any sleep last night.” He shoved Jake’s feet off his chair and sat down. “I have to keep my arm propped up all the time or it swells up. I still can’t believe I did that. The worst part is I invented so many stories about how it happened I keep getting them all mixed up. I mean, I told Callie I was bungee jumping and the cord snapped, I told Felina that I injured it lifting a car off a five month old kitten….or maybe that’s the one I told Ann Gora…no, wait, I definitely remember telling Ann I was hit by a car trying to push a little old lady out of the way. Then what did I tell Callie?”
Jake finally interrupted him. “Hey, buddy, listen to this!” He cleared his throat and began to read from one of the front page articles. “Valuable Artifacts Unearthed Near Megakat City.” According to this, that crazy idea the mayor’s office had last year to finance the archaeological dig outside the city actually paid off. Three days ago, they found the remains of an ancient Claudanian civilization. And those remains are worth an estimated six-point-seven million bucks.”
Chance forgot about his arm with a quickness that made Jake suspect it wasn’t hurting him as much as he let on. “All that dough for some old junk that’s been underground for the past three hundred years?”
“It’s a bit more than just junk, Chance. This is proof that historians have been waiting for. It shows that a Claudanian tribe really did exist near here.” Jake explained. “Anyhow, the artifacts will be on display at the museum for the rest if this week at the museum. Wanna go down and take a look at it later?”
“Why not?” Chance said glumly. “I’ve got nothing better to do.”
Andy leaned against a stop sign, flipping through a paper she’d just swiped. Only occasionally did news hold any interest for her, but she still thought it was important to stay informed. “Let’s see…that fat mayor is having some kind of big deal gaa premiere dinner party…They’re passing a bill to raise the speed limit…My horoscope says I will reassure a troubled friend…They’re calling for rain tomorrow…Some old guy just sold his model train collection…Hello. Valuable artifacts. This sounds promising. Could be time for old Andy to do a little digging.”
In a dark, sinister, foreboding corner of Megakat City, someone dark, sinister, and foreboding was hard at work. The hulking form stood over a tray of test tubes. “If I can just get the formula right.” he muttered to himself. “My plan will be complete. And then all of Megakat City shall be under my power!!!! It’s so good to be bad!!!”
That afternoon, Jake and Chance stood outside the room housing the artifacts, speaking with Abi Sinian, museum curator.
“My goodness, Chance, what happened to your arm?” she asked with concern. “Uh…uh,” Chance stammered, looking to Jake for help. Jake just grinned. “Well, see,” Chance began. “There was this, uh, bull! Yeah! This stampeding bull. He was charging toward me. I knew my time had come. I leapt forward bravely. But then, his horn got me right in the arm!”
“You should have seen him, Abi.” Jake said. “So agile. No one could call him a *klutz* or anything.”
“Getting back to those artifacts,” Chance changed the subject rather quickly. “Can we see them now?” Abi nodded. “Right in that room. Just *please*, be careful. Don’t even breathe on anything.” The room was guarded by a rope fastened across the doorway. Abi unlatched it to let Jake and Chance through.
“Are your shoelaces tied?” Jake whispered.
“Shutup!” Chance growled.
But both of them shut up fairly quickly when they entered the room. Nothing the article said could have prepared them for such a sight. The room was huge and cluttered floor to ceiling with some of the most beautiful pieces of work Jake and Chance had ever seen.
“I thought artifacts were supposed to be crumbly and grimy.” Chance said in awe. “This stuff looks more like treasure.”
Indeed, the display looked like the treasure house of an Egyptian pharaoh. Detailed statues of gold and bronze stood guard by the door. Rich tapestries ans paintings adorned the walls. Glass cases housed jeweled knives and cookware. Shields, clubs, and swords hung on a wooden rack. Enormous diamonds, rubies, opals, carbuncles, amethysts, and other precious gems were heaped on the floor as if they were potatoes.
Chance was admiring one of the paintings. “This is a marvelous likeness.” he observed. He actually had no clue what it was a likeness of, but he knew it was good.
Just then, Jake noticed a small door adjoining the room. “Hey, Abi,” he called. “What’s in there?”
Abi practically flew over to block the door. “I’m sorry, Jake. You can’t go in there.”
Now, Jake was dying of curiosity, He decided to turn on the old Clawson charm. “Aw, come on, Ab.” he coaxed. “Just a little peek? I thought we were friends.”
Abi looked torn. “Jake, that room is top secret. I don’t even know what’s in there, The archaeologists brought that load in late at night, giving strict instructions not to let *anyone* in there.”
Jake finally relented. But he could not quell his curiosity, “There must be something pretty special in there.” He’d give anything to find out what it was, but he couldn’t betray Abi’s trust, Still, there had to be some way…
Callie Briggs walked out of the mayor’s office into the bright afternoon sunshine. It had been a day filled with paper work, and Callie hated paper work. She couldn’t wait to get home, take a hot shower, and curl up for the night with a good romance novel. As she turned into the alley where her car was parked, Callie felt something cold and sharp press against her side. She froze. An icy hand grabbed her arm. “Help!” Callie attempted to scream, but the hand clamped over her mouth. Frantically, she tried to bite down on the hand. It didn’t work. She felt herself being dragged away. And there was no one around to help her.
Chance stretched out on the couch. It looked like it was going to be another one of those boring evenings. He picked up the remote and flipped on the T.V. Then he flipped it off again. He couldn’t wait for Jake to get back from the store. At least he’d have someone halfway intelligent to talk to. Close enough, anyway. Chance was just about to raid the refrigerator when he heard an unmistakable *BEEP*. He grabbed for his communicator. “Yeah?” he said into it. “T-Bone?” came a wobbly voice. It was Callie, and she sounded real scared. “T-Bone I need help/” she managed to say. “I think, uh, there’s someone following me. I’m b-by myself and-and I’m frightened. Could you come here? Now? Please? I really need you.”
“Whoa, Callie, slow down!” Chance felt a trace of confusion. It wasn’t like Callie to call him for something trivial. She must really be freaked out. “Of course I’ll come, but where are you?”
“In an alley of Valerie Street.” Callie answered.
“I’ll be right there.” Chance promised. “Just stay calm.”
“Thanks, T-Bone. You have no idea how much this means to me.” she said, sounding relieved. “Oh, and, T-Bone?”
“Come alone.” There was a click as Callie hung up. Chance frowned, pondering the ominousness of her last words. If he didn’t know better, he’d swear this was a trap. But Callie would never help one of the SWAT Kats enemies get them…right?
When T-Bone pulled onto Valerie Street fifteen minutes later in a car no one would recognize (he realized flying the Turbokat was not necessary in this situation, and it would be next to impossible with a broken arm) he was feeling a lot more confident. “Callie probably isn’t even really all that scared.” he said to himself, getting out of the Volkswagen and heading towards the alley way. “She just wanted a chance to see me. And why not? After all, I’m smart, handsome brave-” That was as far as he got. T-Bone felt a hard piece of iron collide with his skull, and he felt himself falling. Then his head snapped back and hit the ground, and everything went black.
Jake walked into the kitchen and set the grocery bags on the counter.
“Chance?” he called. No answer. That was funny. Jake had expected to find him sacked out on the couch, watching Scaredy Kat reruns, but the living room was empty. Then he saw the note taped to the coffee table. “He leaves messages in the strangest places.” Jake said to himself. The memo said,
“Had to leeve. Callie in truble.” (He could never spell) Jake sighed. How many times had he told Chance not to go out as T-Bone while his arm was in a cast? All anyone would have to do is see Chance with a broken arm, and put two and two together. They would come up with a SWAT Kat. “It’s probably no big deal.” Jake told himself. “He would’ve contacted me if there was a real problem, right? He’ll be back soon.” But as Jake glanced up at the clock and the hands slowly moved to five-thirty, he felt an uncanny sense of foreboding.
End of Part 1
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