“…is no one going to do anything?” an indistinct voice among many in the hospital’s corridors asked.
Despite having uncomfortably slept upright in a chair, Felina felt somewhat well-rested, and pushed through the hallway with a renewed vigor. She approached a busy-looking nurse who was adjusting a stretcher-bound patient’s IV-drip administered medication.
“Excuse me, but can you help me find someone?” Felina asked.
The nurse responded impatiently over her shoulder without looking.
“We’ve got a lot going on right now, miss,” the nurse replied. “I don’t know if you noticed, but there’s a war going on out there.”
“I understand that, but…” Felina began as another nurse walked up.
“Carol, I need your help up front,” the second nurse said.
“On my way,” Carol replied, and met Felina’s eyes briefly. “Look, just return to the waiting area and someone will help you out eventually.”
The two nurses moved quickly in tandem down the hall. Felina sighed, and leaned against the wall with one outstretched hand while she ran the other through her hair, looking down at the sterile looking tiled floor.
“It’s just impossible to get help these days, isn’t it?” a familiar voice asked from behind her.
Felina blinked and then turned around.
“Jake?” Felina asked in surprise.
He was sitting in a wheelchair, leaning back slightly, still wearing the dirtied and stained clothes she’d last seen him in, though the top section was cut off, revealing a mass of bandages wrapped around his mid-section. His eyes were glazed over slightly, and his expression seemingly upbeat. An IV-drip was attached to the chair.
“Yep,” Jake replied. “And I have to say, this morphine really works wonders.”
“Shouldn’t you be in a hospital bed or something?” Felina asked.
“I guess there aren’t any left,” Jake said. “And apparently, my injuries aren’t as bad as a lot of others have gotten. Once they got me stable and pumped full of meds, they booted me out of the ER.”
“Well, it’s good to see you’re not dead,” Felina said.
“Yeah, not yet, anyway,” he replied. “Did you see that broadcast?”
“If it’s one thing that makes getting shot even better it’s waking up to find your city’s undergoing a coup, and your best friend is tied to a stake awaiting a firing squad,” Jake said with a humorless chuckle.
“I don’t suppose you have any ideas?” Felina asked.
“Nope,” Jake replied.
Felina sighed and leaned her back against the wall and slid down to the floor in a crouch, resting her forearms on her knees.
“I could’ve stopped her, Jake,” Felina said, echoing her earlier regrets.
The two were silent for several moments, the chatter on the hospital PA system echoing unintelligibly in the background.
“It’s too bad this can’t be like one of your crazy dreams,” Jake said, breaking the silence.
“It’s funny you mention that,” Felina remarked.
“Have another one?” Jake asked.
“Yeah, except this time it was with Ritz,” Felina said.
“Oh yeah?” Jake said. “He still have that stupid mustache?”
Felina smirked and nodded.
“So, he have any pearls or wisdom?” Jake asked.
“He told me I should run,” Felina said.
“That’s not a bad idea,” Jake said. “Though in my current case, it’s more like ‘roll.'”
He laughed at his statement, and Felina wondered how much morphine the doctors had given him.
“What are our options, Jake?” Felina asked. “I mean, Turmoil’s got every base covered.”
“She certainly does,” Jake said, and raised a hand to scratch his chin in thought. “With those Turbokat duplicates, she has the skies easily dominated. And then there’s that fleet of hers in the bay, and her untold amounts of ground forces. She neutralized me and Chance pretty thoroughly, too…”
“If you don’t mind me asking, just how thoroughly?” Felina asked.
“She got inside his head,” Jake said, pointing at his own temple. “Played on his emotions. He thought he could save her, or something. Truth of the matter is there’s nothing to save. Turmoil’s not someone in need of rescuing.”
“I suppose that’d be an impulse you’d need if you’re a super hero,” Felina said.
“The SWAT Kats aren’t super heroes,” Jake said. “We’re just a couple of guys upset with the way things went down, wanting to prove to the world we’re…” Jake began, his sentences becoming slower and more drawn out, and he blinked as if confused. “What was I talking about?”
“Never mind,” Felina said and stood back up, getting behind Jake to push his wheelchair forward.
Felina was starting to feel hopeless once again, as saving Jake Clawson was thus far not proving to help matters.
He’s far too injured and hopped up on pain killers to help me.
“I can push myself, you know,” Jake said.
“Just take it easy,” Felina said. “Why don’t you tell me what happened to you?”
“This?” Jake asked, gesturing at himself. “Well, after Chance disappeared on me, to chase after you I assume, I starting working on getting the E.S.S. up and running.”
“E.S.S.?” Felina asked, keeping her attention forward as she wheeled Jake past several individuals in the hallway.
“Emergency scuttling system,” Jake said. “It’s something I incorporated into the Mk. II version of the Turbokat. Believe it or not, Turmoil isn’t the first person to ever steal it.”
“That doesn’t sound very reassuring,” Felina said.
“We take great precautions to keep our weapons and technology as safe as possible,” Jake said. “Though, the first time it happened, Hard Drive was able to bypass everything using his Surge Coat to override the security systems. We eventually got it back, but it made me realize I needed to go a step further.”
Felina rounded a corner, listening to Jake speak, following the signs that mentioned the directions to the parking lot.
“The Turbokat has an unmanned aircraft system, controllable from a Glovatrix or other computer. I designed it so that it could be accessed from a range of frequencies, including radio transmissions. It’d allow the SWAT Kats to control, and even disable, the Turbokat if it were ever stolen again.”
“Then why didn’t you use it when Turmoil took it?” Felina asked.
“Well, she kinda destroyed our secret base and everything in it,” Jake said. “So that slowed me down significantly, and by the time I had managed to put something together, it wasn’t working.”
“How so?” Felina asked.
“I was transmitting on the right frequencies, but they weren’t being received,” Jake explained. “She must’ve closed off the Turbokat somehow. Maybe set the receivers to only accept certain, encrypted signals.”
Felina knew that normally most aircraft kept a range of channels open for communication purposes, and imagined that the Turbokat, with all of its super-advanced instruments, probably had a lot of active and passive systems running at the same time that interacted with any number of radio, satellite and other systems.
Come to think of it, when I was flying Turbokat One, Turmoil was the one who handled all of the communications. I never touched them…
Another thought came to mind as she pushed Jake toward the elevators, and pressed the call button.
“Why did Turmoil have to steal the Turbokat?” Felina asked. “I mean, she told me that she’d already constructed the copies after she’d examined it the first time, whatever that means.”
“Well, aside from disarming us and embarrassing us,” Jake said. “The real Turbokat also has a genuine, completely original operating system that I programmed to work with a hardware-based verification key. ”
“Meaning?” Felina asked.
“Meaning that the software that runs the jet won’t work if it’s running in an environment without the key physically plugged in to the processor,” Jake said. “She probably made her copies and discovered they weren’t functioning, and determined that a key was needed. I would not be surprised if the real Turbokat is in pieces somewhere, gutted like a fish in her search for the key, so she could make copies of it, too.”
“Judging by what I’ve seen, she succeeded,” Felina muttered as the elevator doors opened.
She wheeled Jake inside, and pressed a button labeled P for parking.
“But, that’s a good thing, or so I thought,” Jake continued. “If the Turbokat copies are operational, that means they’re running the same keys, which means that the unmanned aircraft system was copied, too. I was working on trying to modify a transmitter to break though whatever encryption Turmoil put in place, but they must’ve detected my attempts, because that special forces woman with the red beret showed up at the garage’s front door.”
“Then what happened?” Felina asked.
“This,” Jake said, pointing at his side where he’d been shot. “She was not in a talkative mood.”
“I assume she destroyed that transmitter?” Felina asked.
“Well, she thinks she did,” Jake said with a wry smile, and then reached into his pocket and took what looked to be a credit card-sized logic board with several integrated chips on it. “I saved the board.”
The elevator dinged and the doors opened, depositing them into a concrete-laden parking garage. Felina wheeled him forward, heading to where she had parked Callie Briggs’s sedan.
“So, what good is that?” Felina asked. “You said the signal it sent was refused?”
“It was,” Jake said. “But if I could transmit through an approved source, it should function. Theoretically.”
“Anyway you could crack whatever encryption she’s using before sundown?” Felina asked.
Jake’s upbeat mood seemed to deteriorate at the question, and he slumped down in the wheelchair.
“No,” Jake said. “Even using a number of super computers, it could takes days, even weeks, and that’s assuming she doesn’t regularly change the modulation. In that case, it could take forever.”
Felina sighed as they reached the sedan. Through the garage’s narrow openings along the wall, she could see the sunlight coming in brightly. Morning would be over soon. She knew that every passing second was another one closer to the executions.
No one’s going to do anything while Turmoil has all that superior fire power under her control. Even if a riot spontaneously erupted, she could just pacify everyone in an instant with an airstrike. Just call it in like she did the day before yesterday at Cymric Island when the Turbokat copies took out Dark Kat’s forcefield and ground forces.
She paused at the thought, recalling what she had seen while sitting in the Chinook helicopter, watching Turmoil give those orders.
“Jake, you said that thing would work through radio transmissions, right?” Felina asked.
He looked up at her, his expression full of questions.
“Yes, but that won’t matter because Turmoil’s Turbokats are ignoring outside signals,” Jake said.
“But what about a signal that’s already going directly to them, using the encryption?” Felina pressed.
Jake scratched his chin in thought.
“I suppose that could work,” he said. “But where do we get something like that? Turmoil’s not stupid enough to pass out radios like that to her underlings. And, I’m assuming that whatever communications control center is on that carrier is heavily guarded.”
“What if I told you Turmoil has an earpiece with an open channel to all the Turbokats?” Felina said.
“Then I’d say that’s interesting,” Jake said. “But, trying to get ahold of that is suicide. And I’d assume that even if it was stolen, she’d just send out an order to change the encryption.”
“That’s a good point,” Felina said, her earlier enthusiasm at the idea starting to evaporate.
“Unless…” Jake said.
Felina quirked an eyebrow, waiting for Jake to finish his thought.
“Unless you don’t actually steal the earpiece,” Jake said. “Just get close enough to it so that it can receive an audio signal that in turn gets transmitted to the Turbokats.”
“Would that work?” Felina asked.
“At a minimum, all the unmanned system needs to be initiated is a radio signal that contains a set of instructions with the proper pass-codes. The pass-codes are hardwired into the keys and can’t be changed easily, so they should still be intact. The signal can be emitted in a high frequency that’s above the range of our hearing, but recognizable by the receivers. Because of the nature of the connection, it’d have to be low-bandwidth, low-speed, close-range. But, in theory, it should work.”
All of the high-tech terms were making Felina’s head hurt, but she felt she was understanding the gist of it.
“How close and how long?” Felina asked.
“No farther than six feet, and for at least five, maybe ten minutes, for it to work,” Jake said.
“So, let me get this straight,” Felina said, and began to rub the ridge of her nose with her thumb and forefinger as she closed her eyes. “Someone, having that gadget you made on their person, needs to be within six feet of Turmoil for ten minutes, so that it can noiselessly send a signal, unbeknownst to Turmoil, through her earpiece, to the Turbokats?”
“Pretty much,” Jake said.
Felina groaned, and placed her hand on her forehead.
“Yeah, I’m not sure how someone would go about that,” Jake said. “Anyone who tries to get close to her is probably going to get shot. Especially you or me.”
“Trust me, I know,” Felina said.
Felina pondered the possibilities, and couldn’t help but think about what Ritz had said in her dream.
Only way out of all of this is to run. Because there’s not a single thing you can do to help. You’re no hero. You’ve only made things worse. You’re just a scared little girl who’s been playing soldier her whole life. Only allowed to play along because of her name.
Felina gritted her teeth, knowing that every muscle in her body was telling her to run. To get out of there. Take Jake, throw him in the car, and get as far away as possible. Deep down she knew that Callie, her uncle, Chance and the mayor were already dead. And if she tried to do anything she was just going to wind up a corpse alongside them.
It was insane to think there was anything she could do now to change things.
And then, Felina recalled something else. A piece of advice from an unlikely source.
“What you call insane, I call being bold,” Turmoil said. “It is boldness that gains respect. Boldness that gains attention. Boldness that can achieve things others think impossible.
And then, everything became clear. Felina opened her eyes, her posture changing.
Jake blinked at the change.
“I know how to make this work,” Felina said. “But we need to pick up a few things from my apartment first.”
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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.