The stairs were poorly lit, each flight casting eerie shadows onto the next lower level as the two descended. They were a mixture of concrete and steel, and their steps made little noise. Callie would have preferred some noise at this point; the silence that had thus far welcomed their presence was beginning to become unnerving.
What made it worse was the lack of doors thus far. Each flight went down twenty steps, arrived at a platform, allowed one to turn 180 degrees and walk down another flight of twenty stairs. This had repeated several dozen times so far, and Callie had lost count how many of these platforms they had made it to.
“Lieutenant, do you ever get scared?” Callie asked as they reached another switchback.
Felina was in the lead, about three steps farther than Callie, keeping the rifle pointed downward.
“Occasionally,” Felina replied, keeping her gaze focused ahead of them.
“Would right now be one of those occasions?” Callie asked, keeping a hand on the guide rail that ran with the stairs.
Felina didn’t immediately reply as they continued downward.
“Two months ago, when Dark Kat kidnapped me and had me locked in an underground stockade, I was afraid,” Felina said.
“But, I wasn’t afraid for myself,” Felina continued. “It was the helplessness that scared me. Being unable to act or to do, while my uncle’s, I mean, the Commander’s life, and the lives of others were about to be ended.”
“I know that feeling,” Callie said. “It’s how I felt a few days ago when the Metallikats attacked the City Council meeting.”
“You weren’t completely helpless,” Felina said as they rounded another switchback. “You tricked them into leaving the others alone. That was really brave.”
“It was more desperate than brave,” Callie said.
“Still, you probably saved a lot of your co-workers lives by doing that,” Felina said.
“Your advice at the self-defense class may have come into play: ‘No matter how large your enemy they have a weakness,'” Callie said. “Except Mac and Molly’s weakness was a combination of greed and gullibility, and not a glass jaw.”
“That’s good improvisation,” Felina said, and then stopped, reaching the ground floor.
The steps had ended and deposited them both at the entrance of a large underground chamber. Easily the size of a sports stadium, it was lined with rows upon rows of white cylinders, each slightly larger than a water heater. All of them had a series of tubes running in and out of them. It was dimly lit by skylights far above.
In the row closest to the two of them, one of the cylinders was open, and the interior was empty, with several tubes hanging ajar inside, as if they were once connected to something.
“I’ll bet you a hundred dollars I know what was in that,” Felina said as she walked up to it, pointing the barrel of the rifle inside it, illuminating the interior. A thin, translucent film could be seen on the inside.
Callie looked from left to the right, the row of cylinders continuing far in each direction. One out of about every 20 looked like it was open. She glanced at her communicator again, and noticed the red destination blip was close. Within less than 50 feet.
“We’re really close,” Callie said, and started walking in the direction it indicated, passing by cylinder after cylinder.
Felina followed, keeping her attention to their rear and sides. The cavernous room was dead silent.
Callie followed the tracker’s directions, walking faster now, until she came to a stop in front of one of the cylinders.
“This is it,” Callie said, the communicator reading a distance of zero. The cylinder in front of her was closed.
Felina approached it, and set her rifle down, feeling around the cylinder.
“There’s a crease, but I can’t find any kind of release,” Felina said, and then stopping as she reached something. “I think I found a handle.”
Felina pulled with both hands, and after straining for a moment, the cylinder hissed loudly with the noise of escaping gasses. Felina stepped back, grabbing up the rifle anew and pointing it in the direction of the opening cylinder.
Callie tensed. The fumes of the gasses were odorless, but the green color of them obscured the view of the inside. After a moment, the vapors dissipated. Inside, on the floor of the cylinder, was a familiar red and blue helmet.
Callie gasped, and reached down, picking it up. She turned it end over end, and found an earpiece on the inside, with a small red LED indicating it was on. On the back of the helmet, in decorative text, was a name: T-Bone.
“What does this mean?” Callie asked, almost frantically, and looked at the interior of the cylinder again, seeing nothing else within.
Felina was about to respond, but stopped, as she looked behind them, and brought the M16 up, tucking the stock into her shoulder. At the entrance of the chamber where the two had entered minutes earlier, were now several of the pale, featureless, humanoid monsters. They were shuffling along in unison, having made their way down the stairs, and were now headed down the row of cylinders in the two’s general direction.
“We need to move!” Felina hissed in a whisper, and grabbed Callie’s arm, causing her to drop the helmet on the ground. It hit the concrete floor with a dull thud.
The monster nearest to them froze in place at the noise, and made a sniffing motion with its noseless face.
“Oh no…” Callie said upon seeing that, already running with Felina.
The creature let out a screech, and started to move hastily after them. The others responded in kind.
“This way!” Felina shouted, and took a 90 degree turn. They were following a perpendicular row that was leading them to the center of the chamber, and ahead of them Callie could see what awaited them: a small sized office building. It occupied the center of the room, and all of the rows of cylinders seemed to emanate from it. What Callie also noticed was the lights were on.
“What if someone’s in there?” Callie asked, the injury she had sustained the previous day slowing her down.
“We’ll deal with that later,” Felina said, and then twisted and fell to the ground. A white , outstretched arm had grabbed at her from the side. The M16 flew from her grasp and skidded a short distance away.
It was one of the creatures. It had managed to get ahead of them. It now stood over Felina and was reaching down with open, grasping hands.
“Lieutenant!” Callie shouted, skidding to a stop.
“Keep going!” Felina shouted as she rolled to her back and unholstered her sidearm, grasping the Glock 17 and pointing it upward with both hands as she pulled the trigger several times. The gunshots echoed in the chamber, the muzzle of the barrel flashing brightly, illuminating the monster in a strobe-like effect. It collapsed to the ground.
Callie rushed over to Felina and helped her get back to her feet.
“I said to keep going,” Felina said, reaching down to snatch up to the dropped rifle. The other creatures were starting to close in behind them, leaving the illuminated office ahead of them as their only choice. They reached it quickly.
“Well, I’m not one of your subordinates, lieutenant,” Callie said as the two reached the closed, double doors. Felina jiggled the handle to find them locked.
“Maybe not, but you’re going to wind up dead if you second guess me,” Felina said, and then aimed the rifle at the door. “Stand aside!”
This time Callie followed directions, and quickly moved out of the way. Felina fired several rounds into the door, filling the area around the knob with holes. She then brought a booted foot forward and kicked the door inward, the mechanism that was holding it closed falling off.
“Inside!” Felina shouted, and turned around, ejecting the rifle’s empty magazine and putting a new one in place so quickly Callie blinked. She didn’t hesitate long, however, as she made her way inside.
Another lobby, this one with a mounted sign and directory that said WELCOME TO SITE B, welcomed her. The fluorescent lights in the ceiling flickered, many of them non-functioning. An empty, large, metal reception desk was the only object in the room.
Felina was backing into the lobby herself, firing rounds outside at the still approaching creatures, several of them piling up outside, dead, with their mouths full of triangular teeth still in a grotesque smile. Callie realized there was no way the lieutenant was going to be able to handle all of them, and an idea came to mind.
“Lieutenant!” Callie shouted, and made her way behind the desk and started pushing. It moved ever so slightly, making a loud screech as metal clashed with tile. Felina looked over her shoulder and didn’t need further explanation as she set the rifle on the ground and ran at Callie, leaping over the desk. The two now pushed in unison, the desk sliding forward until it pressed against the doors, holding them closed from the inside.
Several bumps came from the other side, but the heavy desk was keeping the doors closed for now.
“That won’t keep them out forever,” Felina said as she picked up the rifle and ejected another spent magazine, and then inserted a fresh one. “And I’m on my last mag.”
Callie turned, and collapsed on the floor, out of breath. She leaned against the wall, looking up at the browned and stained tiles that lined the ceiling. They weren’t too different from the ones in her office.
“Let’s just catch our breath,” Callie said, and then paused, hearing a noise from around the corner. It wasn’t just a noise. It was laughter, and it was familiar. The hairs on the back of Callie’s neck stood on end, and she gritted her teeth, slowly turning her head to face the direction it came from. Felina scowled and brought the rifle up, taking aim as Callie quickly got to her feet.
“What an unexsssspected visit,” said Dr. Viper in his snake-like lisp.
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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.