Original SWAT Kats Story

Choices

By Pen

  • 3 Chapters
  • 45,735 Words

(Unfinished) T-Bone and Razor fight Dark Kat, unaware that he has lain a trap to get rid of them forever.

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Author's Notes:

Hey guys, Pen here.  I know, I know, it took a really long time for this to finally get written, but I had some technical difficulties with an annoying computer and a disk crash.  A couple of notes:

As I have said before, I had originally planned this to be the last part in the Choices Series.  Well, it didn’t work out like that (surprise surprise).  There will at least be a Part IV, but after that I can’t say, really.    I want to thank everyone who emailed me about the other two pieces in the Choices Series puzzle, but a couple special thanks go out:  First and foremost, to Worthy Sizemore, who heckled me at every possible opportunity to finish this part.  Thanks, Worthy, keep up the good work.  ?

And also to Kristen Sharpe.  If you guys haven’t seen some of her art, you are missing out on something.  Wow.  I was honored when I saw the closing scene from Part II of Choices on her archive.  Thanks Kristen, I really appreciate it.  Her site is located at:  http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/Studios/5092

Finally, any comments/questions/concerns/reactions/flames are welcome.  Just email to Penguinchk@aol.com.  Enough jabbering, on with the story.

Chapter 3

The Effects and Repercussions

“Leeona?  Leeona!  Wake up!”  a fuzzy voice infiltrated the relaxing darkness.  Dr.  Leeona Pryde moaned and rolled over on the emergency room gurney, mumbling something partially coherent about “just a couple more minutes,” and rolled back over again.  The nurse placed her paws on her hips, sighing.  She grabbed a hold of the leg lock at the bottom of the gurney.  Smiling, she flipped the lock, causing the entire bed to fall to the ground.  Leeona snapped up to a sitting position as she felt the bed hit the floor.  She rolled off quickly and looked up angrily at the nurse.  “Jesus, Melinda,” she lamented, rubbing her now-sore tail joints, “you could have done that with a little more tact.”  Her tail swished behind her in half-anger.

“I tried, Lee, but I have also tried to wake you too many times.  That’s the best way I know how.  Anywho, you asked me to wake you up at midnight, and I did.  Your train leaves in 15 minutes.”

“Thanks, Mel.  Things aren’t too busy?”

“Naw, not tonight.  It is pretty slow.”

Leeona yawned deeply one last time, and looked groggily at the glowing digital clock on the bland green-tiled wall.  Rubbing her eyes and blinking several times, she cleared her throat and wearily walked out into the bright fluorescent lights of the ER.  Waving semiconscious good-byes to those still there, she shouldered open the heavy swinging doors and walked into the cool midnight of the summer.

A deafening roar cleared what little grogginess was left in her system as she saw the bright blue afterburn of the Turbokat in air above her.  She gave no heed to it, nor to the bumping she heard on the roof of the building, nor to the small “kcshoo” sound of a SWAT Kat glovatrix firing.  She only gave passing thoughts to the whizzing she had heard, and the soft thumps of feet and clicks of bare toe claws before a cloth was clamped over her mouth.  She struggled, but only briefly as she gasped the tainted air and fell into unconsciousness.

****************************************************************************

When Dr. Leeona Pryde awoke, she found herself blindfolded, but untied.  As her senses faded back into focus, she felt herself sitting in a chair.  Her startled eyes widened as she smelled noxious fumes and jerked her head away, recognizing the stench of smelling salts.  “Easy,” a deep hekat’s voice soothed.  “I’m not going to hurt you.  I need your help.”  Leeona jerked her head around wildly, futility trying to see through the blindfold.  Her tail swished madly behind her in confused circles.  Her paws flew to her face, feeling the mask on her eyes.  She felt large, warm paws on her arm and she stilled her own, afraid what the other might do if she fought back.

“W-why me?”  She found her voice sounded hollow as it bounced off concrete walls in a wide open area.  For the first time, she was aware of a cool breeze wafting from her right, bringing the scent of oil and machinery.  She turned her blind face towards it.  It lightly brushed her hair out of her face.

“Because, you are a doctor, Dr. Pryde, and my friend needs a doctor.  He’s … he’s hurt really bad, more than I can patch up.”

Leeona heard the hurt in his thin voice, the softening when he talked about his friend.  She could almost feel the dull ache in his chest as he looked over at his friend.  “Dumb sentimental fool,” she berated herself silently.

Her voice acquired a soft confidence as her tail stopped swishing, and her ears, previously flattened back on her head, regained their usual rounded composure.  “I can’t do anything with a blindfold on my eyes, can I?  And how do you know my name?”

T-Bone rolled his eyes as he thought back to when she had brought in the station wagon for a bad steering column.  That thing had been a pain in the tail.  Was it just the other day he and Jake were fixing those two cars?  Just the other day when they were both alive and healthy, just the other day …

“Excuse me?” Her voice interrupted his thoughts.  “Can I get this blindfold off of me?”  She said it more of a command than a request, and he complied.

She momentarily shielded her eyes from the bright fluorescent lights overhead.  As her eyes came back into focus, they fell upon a huge room, a hall, more like.  The ceiling towered over them.  Various machines were scattered along the walls, as well as tables with futuristic weapons and missiles in all stages of repair and disrepair.  Right behind her, as she stood up, amazed at the size of the room, she found a sleek jet, black as night with crimson, azure, and bright yellow stripes and streaks decorating it.  Her jaw dropped as she slowly turned on her heels to see who was holding her blindfold.  A massive hekat stood in front of her.  His dark blue flight suit zipped up only to his chest, and allowed the blood-soaked t-shirt to show through.  Though he masked his face, he couldn’t hide the concern in his eyes or the blood on his hands and brown stripes on his arms.  He gestured towards a table behind him and to his right.  She saw the other SWAT Kat there, his chest almost imperceptibly rising and falling.  An oxygen masked was hooked onto his muzzle, and his arms, legs, stomach, and one paw were bandaged messily.  Both eyes were shut tight, a mute testimony to the pain.  The caramel-colored fur was matted and wet. Reacting on instinct and training, she rolled up her sleeves.  She strode over to the table, the coppery smell of blood wafting to her nostrils.

“Let’s get to work,” she said, reaching Razor’s side.  She carefully examined the large gash on his head through his mask.  She found a bottle of ethyl alcohol on the table, and realizing that was her best bet, started to pour it over her hands, disinfecting them.  “What kind of supplies you have?”

“A couple of Enforcer emergency kits.”

“Crud,” she said, carefully examining Razor’s wounds, “that might not be enough.”  She turned her attention to his right paw.  She unwrapped the bandages skillfully, and then winced as she saw the purple swollen paw.  “This is bad.”  Examining the paw, she saw many tendons that had been damaged, and a lot of whitish-yellow puss that needed to be cleared away.  Glancing down the length of his body, she saw the partially crushed leg.  She shook her head and sighed.  “This definitely won’t be enough.”

T-Bone watched her intently, trying to look like he knew what she was doing.  He did not fully trust this shekat, and had only known her from their brief meeting when she had brought her car into the garage.  He didn’t know where else to turn.  His chest ached, and all he had known was that his best friend needed medical attention … quick.  His eyes begged to close, his body screamed for release, for rest.  His joints ached.  His muscles complained.  His mind fought for sleep.  But too many cups of coffee had betrayed him, and he was reserved to nervous pacing.  She had done nothing, that he could tell from his brief Enforcer medical training, to hurt Razor.  She seemed genuinely concerned for his welfare. She glanced over her shoulder, annoyed, as he paced around for the 42nd time in two minutes.  She produced a soft growl in the back of her throat and swung her ears and attention back to the patient.  Her tail swished busily behind her as she concentrated on her examination.

“Look, T-Bone, or whatever the heck your name is,”  she sighed.  “Your friend here needs more help that I can give him with these measly supplies.  He needs to go to the hospital, quick.”

T-Bone had stopped pacing and looked at her, exhaustion slowing his reflex skills and his brain processes.  He shook his head decisively, “No way.”

“Stubborn one, isn’t he?” she thought.  “Look,” she continued out loud, “I don’t want to hurt your partner, I want to help him.  I can’t do that without the proper supplies, and those are at the hospital.”

“I will get them for you.”

Leeona leaned her head to either side, feeling her vertebrae pop.  Convincing this kat would take some work, but she was stubborn, too.  “It’s not like I need more bandages or stitches, I need x-rays and MRIs.  If your friend does not get immediate proper medical attention, he *will* die from his wounds.”  She watched the wince go through T-Bone’s body, and the failure appear in his masked eyes.  As much as she hated to manipulate him, it was for Razor’s own good.  “You did a good job of stopping the bleeding, a darn good job.  The fact remains, though, he did lose a lot of blood.  On top of that, he probably has a skull fracture, and one pretty bruised brain.  If he heals from that, which there still is a good chance he will as far as I can see without an MRI, there are still other complications.” Seeing how her words stung the strong kat in front of her, she brushed back a loose hair and continued counting off on her fingers.  She was going to convince him if it was the last thing she did.  “His paw is a mess, with tons of tendon and possibly nerve damage.  We don’t get him in there now, he might lose control of his paw, or even worse, lose it all together.  He leg is basically smashed with complex fractures of both his tibia and fibula.  Luckily, his knee was spared, but he might not walk without a cane or a limp again.  He needs to be in a hospital.  I know you want to help your friend, so why won’t you let me take him to the hospital?”

T-Bone sighed.  He remembered the pact they had made as they started being SWAT Kats.  They had stood in front of their newly christened lockers, the ink on the “R” and “TB” still drying.  They had looked around them and saw two years of work; a sleek black jet, the height of technology thanks to Jake’s ingenuity, brand new flight suits, complete with utility pouches and oxygen masks, and a huge cavernous hangar that had been transformed from a crumbling, cramped bomb shelter used during the Great Nuclear War.  As Jake slipped on his mask for the first time as Razor, a smile brightened his face.  His tail flew in wild circles behind him.  “Chance, this is amazing!”  His voice had echoed and bounced around the hangar as his paws gestured wildly around him.  “I mean, this is *really* amazing!”  Chance had laughed at his partner’s excitability, but he himself had felt what Jake was feeling.  A new dawn for them both.  A time where their work would pay off and they would make the difference they had always wanted to.  A wide smile appeared across his own face, his eyes dancing with new possibilities.  The day had finally come; they were the SWAT Kats now.  The full gravity of the situation hit Chance suddenly, and dazed, he walked over to the Turbokat and ran his palm over the finish.  Behind him, Razor’s smile lowered, but did not disappear.  “She’s a beauty, Chance.  You are going to have a lot of fun flying her.”  Chance had nodded silently, his tail swishing contemplatively behind him.  Razor cocked his head to the side and came up behind Chance.  “C’mon, Hotshot.  Let’s get going.  We have to let the city know they have someone watching out for them.”  Razor ran a couple steps beyond Chance, and jumped on the wing, offering his gloved paw to help Chance up.  Chance looked at him, and cocking an eyebrow, laughed at the extended paw.  He slipped on his own mask and felt a surge of adrenaline as he became T-Bone.

“Oh, c’mon, Razor,” he let the moniker fall lightly off his tongue, “I think I can get into this baby on my own, don’t you?”

As the hydraulics opened the cockpit, Razor chuckled.  “Yeah, T-Bone, I guess you can.”  As T-Bone joined him on the wing, Razor surveyed the landscape of the concrete hangar.  He felt his dream of the SWAT Kats solidify into reality.  “Hey, T-Bone, let’s not let this end, okay?”  T-Bone nodded, and looked at his partner as his tone grew serious.  “I mean, not for anything.”

“What do you mean, Sureshot?”

“I know we’ve talked about this before, but we aren’t doing this for ourselves, right?  It’s for the city.”

T-Bone nearly snorted “Well, yeah, so what are you getting at?”

“And the best way to protect the city is to keep our identities secret, right?”

“Yeah.  We’ve been through this.”

“Even if one of use gets hurt, or God forbid … ”

T-Bone shifted his weight carefully from foot to foot.  “Razor, we put our lives on the line everyday with the Enforces.  This isn’t that much different, except we don’t have to take orders from anybody but us.”

“Exactly.  Our first and foremost responsibility is to the city, not to each other.  So if we get hurt, the masks stay on.  We take care of each other, and not expose our identities to anyone, just because the other’s life is in danger.  Deal?”  Razor held his paw out as T-Bone smiled and accepted it.  They shook gloved paws, and then gripped one another’s thumb.  They pulled one another into a quick, backslapping hug.  They grinned as they leapt into their respective seats, slipping on their helmets and braced themselves for the pinning pressure of takeoff g-forces.  Razor’s paws rested on his control panel as he gazed at the beautiful sky around him.  The weather was clear, showing off a gorgeous yellow sky.  In the far distance, Megakat City sat waiting to welcome it’s heroes.

Back in the hangar, a suddenly concerned Leeona Pryde stepped forward to lay a paw on the broad shoulder of T-Bone.  His face had suddenly grown very distant, his eyes focusing alternatively on the lockers, and then the wing of the Turbokat.  As her paw neared his shoulder, he staggered back as if shot.  “I can’t …” he stammered.  “A long time ago, we agreed that …”

Leeona sighed in frustration.  She reset her jaw, and a light-brown eyebrow cocked to meet her light-brown bangs.  Her tail whipped behind her, the full tip making oblong shapes behind her.  Her small mouth turned up on one side.  She tried one more thing.  If this didn’t work, she didn’t know what else to do.  Her voice steady and level, she spat out her opinion matter-of-factly.  “Your friend is dying.  He will be dead soon if you do not get him proper medical attention.  I have gone over with you what will happen if he does, by some miracle, survive this way.  And you will hang your partner’s life on one agreement,” she spat disgustedly, “you two made years ago, I am assuming, to protect your identities.  How will you explain it to his family, whatever family he has, if he dies.  Would it be *just an accident* that he was so beat up?  And why didn’t you take him to the hospital, if he suffered it was?  You will have to tell them then, won’t you?  You will not only be out of a friend, but also the entire world will know your secret anyway.”  Her voice suddenly changed.  It was no longer hard and demeaning, but switched poles and went to soft and comforting.  “But if we get him to the hospital,” she soothed, T-Bone lifting his head, “I have a lot of influence, and a whole bunch of favors to cash in.  I would be the only one to attend to him without his mask, and the best nurse I have to know that he is there.  Please.  We can help him there.”

T-Bone hesitated.  This wasn’t supposed to happen, not to either one of them.  They were supposed to go together, in the cliché blaze of glory.  They never even realized how hard it would be for either one of them.  “What if he needs surgery?” he asked shakily.

She sighed.  Why didn’t he want to help his friend?  “I’m an ER surgeon, trained extensively in both areas.  I will be the only doctor attending to him.”  She stood proudly, her full 5’8″ height facing T-Bone.  Her green eyes were confident, but did not hide the spark of worry behind them.  Her mouth set in a serious frown.  She raised her eyebrows expectantly.

A barely perceptible movement came from T-Bone, and she smiled, satisfied.  “Start up the jet, I’ll load him onto the plane.”

******************************************************************************

This was going to be hard to pull off, and Leeona knew it.  Attending physician and surgeon in the ER came with some prestige, and some power, but it wasn’t much.  Keeping this as quiet as it needed to be was going to be near impossible.  With any luck, the call she had made to Melinda in the ER had started some of the necessary paperwork moving, and also gave the reason both Melinda and she would be gone from the ER indefinitely.  Leeona had just received word that her mother was dying, and she was needed, being an only child, to look after her as she died.  Melinda was going for “moral support.”  Or so the story went.  Melinda was the only other kat who knew what was going on.    If all went as planned, this case would be treated just like a “celebrity” case … complete with assumed names and minimal fuss and red tape.  But this, this scoped something much larger, and demanded much more secrecy.    Lee knew that should anyone hear about this, it would be a media frenzy; the hospital would be inundated.  Reporters would search up and down for the “story” of the SWAT Kat.  They would peek in windows, snap photos from rooftops.  They wouldn’t care about the repercussions of such activity, the care of patients, the identity of the SWAT Kats, just as long as they got the story.  If Mel did what she was supposed to, they would have Razor admitted, with all the necessary tests completed by the time anyone had any idea what was going on.  Eventually, someone would know.  They would question what Lee and Melinda, ER staff, were doing as the only kats attending to someone in a private room nowhere near the ER.

A deep sigh echoed off the curved steel walls of the belly of the Turbokat.  She stood, her legs spread wide to maintain her balance, as she splinted Razor’s left leg.  He was laying on a platform much like a gurney, secured to the floor of the Turbokat.  His shin was nearly nonexistent, and bone stuck out of his calf muscle.  She could almost imagine the bone chips floating just underneath the surface.  She shook her head ruefully.  She would be very surprised if this kat ever walked the same way again.  If he lived through this.

She looked over her patient again, with a doctor’s detached nature.  She concentrated strictly on anatomy and physiology.  Without the tests, it was very difficult to know the severity of his wounds.  His leg could heal.  The numerous cuts and welts on his legs would take stitching, and would result in scars, but those would heal.  The slashes and bruises across his swollen abdomen worried her.  The cuts might have gone through the protective layer of greater momentum and nicked intestine.  The bruises could be a sign of internal injuries and bleeding.  He might need a transplant.  How the heck would she explain *that* one?  She sighed again.  Upon inspecting his chest, she was pleased and rather surprised to find minimal damage.  Not even a broken rib.  Hmm.  Most people would have gone right for the most vital organs.

She shrugged and continued with her examination.    She shivered as she reached his paw.  It disgusted her.  His partner had cleaned out the wound as best he could, but as she unwrapped the bandages, white-yellow puss peeled back with the wrapping.  She had not seen an infection this bad since a gangrenous microscope slide in med school.  She relaxed a little when she found no evidence of gangrene, but he still might lose the paw.  She had to know how far the infection went, and how much nerve damage there was.

His head concerned her the most.  The rest of the damage could heal, mostly.  Next to his abdomen, his head was what would probably kill him.  She had peeled the battered black mask off, and had paused when she realized she knew the kat.  His eye was swollen tight shut, a jagged cut running from the bottom of his right ear all the way down above his right eye.  His cheekbone on the right side had been crushed, and numerous nicks and scrapes covered his face.  Still, despite the injuries, she had recognized the distinct sideburns and large ears.  Her brow furrowed  “The mechanics … ?” she whispered.

She heard a tinny gasp, and then a cough through a speaker above the wall and to her left.  She knew T-Bone had been listening to what she just said, and briefly considered the effects. She snapped out of her reverie, her hazel-green eyes flashing.  She had a patient to attend to.  She unconsciously brought out her doctor persona, relaying her observations out loud into a small tape recorder.  It was quicker than writing them down, and, she found, more useful, too.

“Lacerations around chin, mouth, and cheekbone area on left side.  Left ear nicked on top, but otherwise undamaged.”  She paused as she inspected his cheekbone on the other side.  “Crud,” she whispered into the recorder, “the zygomatic arch appears to have collapsed, possible further fractures around the eyes and forehead.  Double check.”  She paused the recorder and sighed.  She hoped the frontal bone, the bone that made up the forehead, had suffered minimal damage, and therefore the brain would be relatively undamaged.  But she felt her gut ache as she realized the kat could, in all possibilities, have serious brain damage.  Crud! She needed those tests!  His main head wound was a large gash along the suture of the temporal and parietal bone.  As she tried to inspect it, she saw bone showing through.  She was liable to guess that this kat had a severe concussion at the very least. He would not regain consciousness for a while.  At the very worst, this kat had massive head trauma with cranial hemorrhaging that, depending on the area, could kill him at any time, paralyze him partly or wholly, leave him mentally handicapped, or brain dead, never to regain consciousness, never to be taken off machines. She heard the engines of the Turbokat ease into a VTOL position as they landed on the roof of the hospital.  She covered his face with the mask once again, and cocked an eyebrow.  The only thing she could think of to help this kat heal was to patch him up and hope he woke up.  She would have to let his body heal for himself.  She frequently admitted in the ER that sometimes her preliminary diagnosis, before tests, was a bit pessimistic.  She would be the first one to say that sometimes she ordered uncommon tests, just to be safe.  Sometimes they were needed, sometimes they weren’t.  But this case, she knew in the back of her mind, couldn’t be the poster child for Murphy’s Law.  Everything that could go wrong, couldn’t.  If it did, this kat would have died long before she even got to him.  It was still serious.  He needed blood, fast.  He needed tests, MRI’s, bone scans, X-rays, cerebrospinal fluid taps, anything she could think of to rule out any damage.  No matter how lucky this kat could be, if he didn’t die, it would be impossible to escape without some kind of permanent damage.  She could only hope for the best.

******************************************************************************

Chance was first aware of the huge crick in his neck.  Then the screaming television added its blaring into the fray.  His head, lolling off to the side, straightened itself out with two loud pops.  Bleary eyes opened, painfully disagreeing with the morning light that sheared through the gritty windows of the living room.  “Whass goin’ … ” he slurred, staring blindly at the television.  He looked around wearily and saw the familiar surroundings of the greasy garage and dirty kitchen.  He was back home.  “How’d I get here?” he asked himself as he stood up.  He wavered suddenly, and braced himself on the arm of the couch.  His green eyes focused outside the window at a large pile of salvage.  He lifted his arms above his head and interlocked his fingers.  He felt rather than heard the vertebrae in his back pop in succession.  He rubbed his eyes tiredly.  He turned his head, yawning, and found himself staring through the glass partition separating the garage and the living room.  He was staring straight at the red Ford escort still sitting there.  Chance’s mouth dropped into a frown as he hastily winged his way around the partition, his eyebrows lowered and eyes widened into a worried gaze.  He took hurried steps onto the concrete floor, but froze as he heard something splatter underneath his mechanic’s boot.  He lifted up his foot gently, ears swiveling towards the sound.  His eyes closed as his jaw quivered.  Dripping from his boot was a thick sanguine liquid, nearly congealed.  He reflexively gagged, and backed up against the glass partition, leaving scarlet footprints.  “No … ” he whispered.  There was blood on his shoe.  Jake’s blood.  Razor’s blood.  He was leaving bloody footprints.  “No … ” he repeated, frantically sliding along the partition towards the living room.  His wide and frenzied eyes never left the pool of blood on the concrete floor.  He nearly fell when he reached the end, but straightened and caught himself.  He looked again at his boot.  It had been a matter of days.  Just days since he and Jake had been working on those cars.  Their owners must be pissed.  A couple of days, since Jake was okay, since they got that call from Callie.  Days since Jake had seen the garage.  Days since Razor had seen the hangar.  Only a couple of days.  What had happened.  Why was he here, and not at the hospital?  How was Razor?  Why did he leave his side?  The memories of the previous night washed over him.

The flight to the hospital with Razor in the belly of the jet was a blur; only one moment stuck in his head.  That moment had been  in the form of a simple question, comprised of two single words.  The implication and meaning to those words went far beyond that.  Pryde knew who they were.  She knew what they looked like underneath the masks, their names, where they lived.  She knew everything and he left her alone with Razor.  What had he been thinking?

He had stood lamely by Razor’s bedside as she worked on him, stabilizing everything that needed to be stabilized, testing everything that need to be tested.  He stood there as they performed CPR and defibrillated him when his heart stopped.  He stood there, and watched.  He couldn’t do anything to help.  They didn’t let him.  He was yelled at to get out of the way.  He was pushed off to the side.  As the nurse bandaged more wounds, Leeona had turned to T-Bone.  “Go home.”

His dark eyes jumped up to meet hers.  “What?” he choked.

“Go home, I said.  You can’t help him here.”

He had laughed at her.  He couldn’t have helped it.  It was just a short burst of air slipping past his vocal cords.  “You can’t be serious.”  His tone was flat, his eyes piercing.  She sighed and glared at him.

“I most certainly am.  Go home.  Get sleep, or you are only going to worsen the situation.”

That spurned a full-fledged snort.  “How d’ya figure?”

God, he was difficult.  She reset her jaw, and lifted her head so that she was looking down her red/blond furred nose.  Her tail began to swish behind her, despite her fatigue.  She snapped her arm from it’s position on her hip, and began counting off her fingers.  “One: You are only in the way here, and making our job more difficult.  Two:  That jet of yours on the roof is only going to attract unwanted attention.  Three:  You being here in your costume, or uniform, or whatever it is,” she gestured to his flight suit, “is enough to gather inquisitive eyes every time we open the door.  Four:  You are a mess, you need a shower, and you are covered in your partner’s blood!”  Her stomach dropped as she saw a shudder wrack his body.  His knees buckled suddenly, but he caught himself on the metal railing on the bed., remaining in that vulnerable position for a couple seconds before forcefully straightening himself up.  Her mouth had been open to list the next reason, but it shut quickly with an audible click.  “I-I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean that,” she stammered.  He looked up at her, scowling.  His eyes swirled with anger.

“I’m not leaving.  Period.”

“T-Bone, please.”  The voice behind T-Bone made him whirl around.  He turned to see Melinda standing there.

“How’d she get behind me without me knowing?  Am I that out of it?” he asked himself.

“If you don’t go, you might end up laying in a bed right next to him,” Leeona said, making him whirl around again.  Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Melinda silently open the cabinet next to her, and pick up a syringe and a small bottle of clear liquid.  Leeona couldn’t read the label, but she knew what she had in mind.  She suppressed a thankful smile.

His eyes narrowed suspiciously, and flattened on the back of his helmet.  His thigh muscles tensed for action, and whether or not he realized it, his claws poked through their sheaths in his paws.  “What do you mean?” he hissed.

Leeona held her paws up in a defensive maneuver.  “I don’t mean anything, except that you are exhausted.  Judging by your reaction just now, you are prone to harsh decisions.  I just don’t want you to collapse on me, got that?  I’m having trouble enough with one SWAT Kat,” she gestured with a thumb over her shoulder, “I don’t need two.”  One paw dropped to her side as the other rubbed at her forehead.  She surreptitiously glanced at the cabinet of medical supplies at her side.

“Please, T-Bone, just leave.”  The voice behind him made him spin around again, and he saw Melinda standing there, filled syringe in paw.  Her paw shook slightly as she held it.  “Please?” she pleaded.

His ears swiveled to the back of his head, and he heard Leeona filling another syringe.  “She’s right T-Bone.  Just leave.  Please.  These syringes have nothing but a little sedative in ’em.  They’ll make you sleep, for your own good, and the good of your partner.  We really don’t want to use them.”  T-Bone heard her chuckle softly.  “We *really* don’t.  So you have two choices: go home now, sleep, come back when you wake up, everything hunky-dory, or, get a syringe full of sedative, sleep here, and increase the chances of your being found out.  Please, T-Bone, just go home.  It’s the best way.”

His fighting stance relaxed and he stood up straight.  He trudged to the window and opened it, firing a grappling hook to the roof.  Once the grappling had engaged, he hung for a moment outside the window.  “I *will* be back.”

She nodded.  “I know you will.”  He looked at her, sizing her up one last time.  She placed the syringe down on the cabinet next to her.  As his line started to recoil, she turned back around, and braced herself against the railing of the bed.

“Uh, Lee?”

“Yeah?”

“I filled my syringe with purified water.”

She chuckled, and smiled out of the corner of her mouth.

“You know what, Mel?”

“Hm?”

“Me too.  Let’s get back to work.”

******************************************************************************

As the memory cleared from his mind’s eye, Chance spun on his heel and tromped to the hidden entrance of the hangar.  It was time to go back to the hospital.

The floor shook as he stomped past the living room, then suddenly stopped as he heard the SWAT Kats’ names mentioned on the television.

“And our top story today comes from Enforcer headquarters.  Let’s go to Ann Gora of Kat’s Eye news, who is covering it live.  Ann?”

“Thanks, Kristen.”  The screen was suddenly filled with Ann Gora’s face in the middle of a mob of kats.  “As you can see, it is pandemonium here in front of Enforcer Headquarters … ” Ann gestured around her, and the camera followed and revealed a mass of kats, chanting, holding signs, and straining against Enforcer barriers and officer crowd control.  The camera returned to Ann’s face as she was jostled from behind by a member of the crowd.  She screamed to picked up on the microphone, and pressed her ear piece farther into her ear.  “This group of kats has been here since roughly 11:15 last night, right after the super villain Dark Kat made a threatening broadcast, demanding control of the city in exchange for the life of the SWAT Kat known as Razor.  Since that time, there has been no word of what has happened, although the city still is in the control of Mayor Manx.  Very shortly, we will receive answers to all the questions swirling around as Commander Feral has announced a press conference on the steps of Enforcer Headquarters.  We are waiting for it to begin right now.  Rumors have been swirling that Commander Feral, a long time detractor of the SWAT Kats, did not attempt to negotiate with Dark Kat and has resulted in Razor’s death.  Other words have it …”  suddenly the crowd in the background hushed, and she glanced over her shoulder quickly.  “Okay, Johnny, here it comes.  It seems that the press conference is about to begin.  Let’s listen.”

The camera swiveled to see Feral march out of the glass doors, his boots pounding against the cold marble steps.  His long gray trench coat flapped in the breeze rhythmically at his calves.  His tail stood rigidly in the Enforcer style, straight up with a perfect 180 degree curve at the top.  His dark eyes surveyed down at the gathered crowd, with the signs now held still in the air.  He cocked a militaristic eyebrow at the wording of the signs.  “Kill Dark Kat!” some read, “Give Him What He Deserves.”  He ignored them.  His shoulders were pushed back, his prominent chin tilted upward regally.  A crowd member attempted to yell something, but was quickly silenced by his compatriots.

Three steps behind him on his left waddled Mayor Manx.  The crowd visibly relaxed as they saw him, his blue eyes shining, his expensive Italian leather shoes scuffing on the steps.  His tail was still, but barely drifting above the stone.  His lips parted into a big, toothy grin as he saw the size of the crowd.

The click of high heels sounded to the left of Mayor Manx as Callie Briggs strode purposefully behind him.  Her hair was done expertly to hide the bald patch where she had needed stitching.  The breeze brushed her blond hair off her shoulder and across her neck.  Her pink business suit was expertly pressed and brought out her emerald green eyes.  She repositioned her glasses on the bridge of her petite nose, and folded her paws neatly in front of her abdomen.

On the right of Feral strode Lieutenant Felina Feral, her tail in the same militaristic style as her uncle’s, only with a slight twitch at the end.  Her boots driving against the marble, she remained exactly three paces behind her uncle, marching in perfect step.  As her uncle approached the podium, she stood at a perfect Enforcer at-ease, her paws in fists in the small of her back, her feet shoulder width apart.  Her steel eyes narrowed over the crowd, looking for possible threats.  She was surprised to find that the small band of public figures had captured the attention of every single kat.  She began looking at the bleary-eyed faces, and realized that they must have been there all night, awaiting word.  It looked like she wasn’t the only one who didn’t get any sleep the night before.

Her uncle clearing his throat shook her out of her reverie.

“As most of you know,” he boomed, standing at near attention at the podium, “at exactly 11:05 last night, a transmission signal, produced by the wanted felon and criminal known as Dark Kat, was broadcast on Channel 42.  He threatened to kill the SWAT Kat known as Razor if the city was not turned over to his control.  An Enforcer officer, Lieutenant Felina Feral,” he thundered, acknowledging Felina in a quick paw motion, “in tandem with the SWAT Kat known only as T-Bone, infiltrated Dark Kat’s broadcasting station at approximately 11:30.  By approximately 11:45, Dark Kat had been captured and restrained.”  He paused momentarily as he allowed random cheers to fly up from the crowd.  The signs once again started bouncing in earnest.  “At exactly 12 midnight this morning,” he continued, “Lieutenant Feral and Dark Kat were dropped off at Enforcer Headquarters.  Dark Kat has been charged with the following offenses:  Terroristic threats with intent, threatening a public official, kat napping, assault and battery, and either attempted first degree murder, or first degree murder.”  Feral watched as the life seemed to fade from the crowd as he had mentioned the murder charge.  He glanced down at the prepared statement, and then scrutinized the crowd.  “As of 12 midnight this morning, the SWAT Kat known as Razor was still alive, but in desperate need of medical attention.  The last charge will hinge on the final medical status of the SWAT Kat.  That is all.  I apologize, but as this case is still under investigation, no questions can be answered at this time.  Thank you.”

The camera followed the small entourage back up the steps briefly before swinging back to the face of Ann Gora.  “Well, there you have it folks, Commander Fer-r-r … ”  Ann Gora’s words faded away as her appearance disappeared from the television screen.  The sound of boots echoed off the thin walls as the whine of jet engines filled the air.

**********************************************************************

Leeona had gotten used to the sound of the Turbokat buzzing the hospital.  If she listened carefully enough, she could just about hear the exact moment the wheels touched down and the glovatrix was fired.  Just about.

But each time, the burly blond kat floating outside the window scared the crap out of her.  She opened the window quickly and closed it once he had climbed inside.

T-Bone walked stiffly to the side of his partner’s bed and rested his gloved paws on the bars.  “Well?” he asked expectantly, his back turned to Leeona.

Leeona sighed, and leaned her head from side to side, allowing her neck to pop.  “Sit down T-Bone.”  Her voice was even and unwavering.

His voice cracked ever so slightly when he answered her.  “No.”

She sighed again.  She looked at Melinda, curled up on the couch of the spacious private suite.  Despite her offer to take first shift, Melinda had basically forced her to sleep for a couple hours.  That couple hours hadn’t done anything to increase Leeona’s patience.  She sighed and dug at her eyes tiredly.  “Look, I’m going to give you an update on your partner’s condition and prognosis, and some of it might upset you.  I would highly suggest …”

“Spit it out, Doc,” he growled.

She snapped her jaw shut at his interruption and raised her eyebrows in surprise.  “Fine.  Be that way.”  She pulled his chart off the foot of the bed, and flipped pages until she found the one she wanted.  “His lower leg was mostly shattered, and we had to attach a metal plate in order for it to heal.  He will need physical therapy to build up that calf again, but his leg should recover completely, given enough time.”  Without looking up from the chart, she continued.  “Other injuries on the legs include cuts that have been stitched, and bruises that will heal.  His abdomen did show some internal bleeding, but luckily the damage was minimal.  Part of his liver had to be removed.  Bile secretions for digestion shouldn’t be affected, but he will have to watch the alcohol intake very carefully.”  She glanced up speculatively.  To her surprise, T-Bone grinned and shrugged a shoulder lightly.

“He never drank much anyway,” he beamed.  “So, the way you’re talking, he’s gonna be okay, right?”

She steadied her gaze back on her clipboard.  “Let me finish, T-Bone.  His paw was a mess, and there was tendon damage, and some nerve damage.  That will also take some time to heal, aided by some physical therapy.  He may lose some, but not much, dexterity in that paw.  But the possibility is minimal.  And again, cuts that have been stitched, etc.”    T-Bone again interrupted her.  “But he is going to wake up, right?  He’ll be fine, right?”

She sighed again, she had been doing a lot of that lately, and ignored him.  “That brings us to the head.  His x-rays showed no fracture on his frontal bone, the bone that supports the forehead.  His zygomatic arch,” she gestured briefly to her cheekbone, “was depressed, and we had to stick in a pin to stabilize that.  We did the best we could, but his cheekbones might be a little uneven.”

It was then that her mouth suddenly went dry.  She swallowed to try to alleviate the sensation, but it didn’t work.  Sometimes Leeona hated her job with a passion, wondered why she even decided to become a doctor.  She could help patients heal physically, but no matter what she did, she could not stop the pain of the friends and family.  She preferred things simple and scientific.  There was a reason for everything, and, although the solutions weren’t as easily found, they were there too.  One only had to work hard enough, be stubborn enough, or just be persistent enough to find the answer.

It was the friends that complicated things.  They wanted the answers from you, and all you could do was give it them as straight as possible.  Their pain you couldn’t heal; it was unreachable.

She looked at the back of the head of the hekat.  His toe claws clicked on the linoleum floor as he shifted his weight from foot to foot.  The blue of his flight suit contrasted starkly against the muted sterile white of the room.  The crimson stood out almost painfully.  His tail swung in tight circles.  His paws clutched the bars on the sides of the bed tightly as he stared down at his prone partner.  As T-Bone realized the silence, his shoulders slumped.  “Doc?” he muttered.

“The temporal bone contained multiple fractures,” she said flatly.  “His brain on his left side has some hemorrhaging.  That area of the brain is the auditory control center.  It depends on the  severity of the damage, but if worse comes to worse,” she paused.  “T-Bone, if worse comes to worse, he will lose his hearing all together.”  She watched as he visibly bristled.

“So he’ll be deaf the rest of his life, is that what you’re telling me?” he hissed through clenched teeth.

Unconsciously, she backed away from the hekat, bringing her paws up in a defensive stance.  “Keep in mind, that is a worse case scenario.  He will probably have some form of hearing loss, but it may be very minimal, and possibly in only one ear.”

“You’re not sure.”  It was a statement, not a question.    Leeona answered honestly.  “No, I’m not.  Brain injuries are very difficult to prognosis, period, no matter what is affected.”

“But he will wake up, won’t he?”

Leeona had been expecting that question. She had been dodging it for a while.  “I don’t know.”  T-Bone turned away from the bed and looked at her.  “He has a decent chance.  He is in peak physical condition.  If he wasn’t, he wouldn’t have lasted half this long.  His vitals are strong.  He shows some signs of improvement even from last night, but he does have multiple concussions on top of the hemorrhaging.  I wish I could tell you.”  She paused for a second as he internalized what she had just said.  “T-Bone, if he does wake up, he will probably have some sort of amnesia.  It’s very common in coma patients, especially in head injuries.”

T-Bone nodded slowly.  He didn’t say a word as he turned sharply on his heel and climbed back out the window.  His jaw was clenched as he re-engaged his glovatrix grappling hook, taking him to the roof.  Leeona smiled sadly as she shut the window.  She paused only slightly as she drew the drapes.  She closed her eyes and shook her head as she felt the pit open in her stomach.  “Why do they have to complicate things?” she whispered to no one.

******************************************************************************

Felina’s steel eyes flashed to a frightening black.  “HE DID WHAT?!” she screamed, causing the officer standing in front of her desk to jump back two feet.

The young officer shifted his weight precariously. His tail twitched nervously.  His eyes never left the brim of the hat he had been wringing in his paws.  When he had joined the Enforces, he had been ready to take on anything.

Anything, except a livid Feral.

Felina had been sitting when the corporal had inched into the room.  He had been intent at looking at anything and everything but her.  She had been rather comfortable: her booted feet were lounged on the top of her desk, and she was reading a file folder of material as she munched on some pretzels.

The corporal had woven his way through the rows of desks, seemingly aimless.  She had only looked up briefly from some paperwork when he placed himself, weak-kneed, at least six and a half feet away from the front of her desk.

Her tone had been civil, and, as always, professional.  The annoyance was barely veiled, but her ears were swung in his direction, indicating he had her attention.

“Corporal Herdacure, what can I help you with?”

He cleared his throat speculatively.

“Uh-uhm, well, ma’am, uh, that is, your uncle sent me.”

Felina hadn’t looked up from her report.  “Are you going to spit it out anytime this month, Herdacure, or are we going to play 20 questions?”  The annoyance was no longer veiled.  The corners of her mouth turned up in a bothered smirk.  “And my uncle will be referred to as Commander Feral *at* *all* *times*, understood?”

“Uh .. yes ma’am, of course.  I apologize, ma’am.”

“So spit it out.”

“Ma’am?”

Felina sighed, and glared up through her dark bangs at the quivering hekat in front of her.  “Whatever you came here to tell me, Corporal, please do so.  I can’t read minds.”

“Oh, uh yes ma’am.  Of course ma’am.”

“So?”

Herdacure visibly shuddered.  He took off the uniform hat he had been wearing and began turning it around in his paws.  He opened his mouth, intent on saying something, but his jaw snapped shut.  He looked down at his hat.

Felina rolled her eyes and reset her jaw.  “Herdacure!  Now!”

Herdacure was intent on his hat as the words spilled out of his mouth as one.  “darkascaped.”

“Okay, try that one again, in English this time.”

He never met her eyes.

“Dark Kat’s escaped.”

If Felina had been totally aware of what happened the few seconds after Herdacure’s announcement, she may have been pretty impressed with herself.  In one fluid motion, she launched herself out of the chair, kicked her feet off the desk, slammed the case file down, and threw her Coke across the room, splattering it against the side wall.  She stood, her claws flat against her desk, elbows locked.  She leaned over the desk and glared at the corporal, now a good ten feet away from her desk, and looking as if he was going to bolt any second.

“Corporal, REPORT!” she snarled, baring her incisors.

He straightened slightly, grateful to fall into the rhetoric of report lingo.  “At approximately 1:07 this afternoon, an explosion went off in Dark Kat’s cell.  When help arrived at the scene, they found the two guards assigned to that cell knocked cold, and also injured in the explosion.  Ballistics found that it was detonated from the inside the cell.  Perimeter cameras showed Dark Kat’s craft suddenly appear outside the window of his cell right before the explosion.  Creeplings were also seen outside the cell approximately twenty minutes before the explosion.”

Felina ran her paw through her hair, and then scrubbed at her eyes.  “I don’t believe this is happening,” she breathed.  She looked up at the officer in front of her.  Her jaw clenched, she hissed,  “is that all, Corporal?”

“Uh, yes ma’am.”

She scowled into thin air, and stifled a sound emitted from deep within her throat.  “Thank you, Corporal.  Dismissed.”

If Felina had been in a joking mood, she would have cracked some comment about Herdacure and the invisible flame that had caught his tail on fire.  Or maybe something about the brand new land speed record.

But Felina was *not* in the mood.

*****************************************************************************

The thump of fur hitting canvas echoed off the concrete walls in the makeshift gym.  A blond fist, wrapped tightly in gauze, slammed against a punching bag repeatedly.  Beads of sweat became streams as Chance jabbed, again and again, over and over, at the giant sand bag.  The bag strained against the chains that attached it to the ceiling.  Rapid combinations made the bag creak and buckle.

His arms ached for release.  Every punch sent a spike of pain through his muscles.  First, his forearms screamed; his hand had been in a fist too long.  Then, his biceps.  They pleaded for less movement.  His triceps wanted the opportunity to clear impurities from its system.  His chest and back yearned for some different movement.  His deltoids just wanted some rest.  His tank top and sweat pants were both soaked through.  His heartbeat was speeding, and his breathing was laboriously quick.  Yet, he continued his abuse of the bag.

He had found that the only way to sleep at night was to wear himself out to the point of collapse.  The few precious moments between awake and asleep were the playground of thoughts, and what Chance had been thinking about kept him awake at night.

Had he been a scholar, he might have appreciated the irony.

Battles with words and humor with quick wit was not his strong point, though.  Physical humor was.  Give him Scardy Kat any day.  He’d be happy.  As such, he never released stress with words.  He released it by pummeling the stuffing out of something.  It had always seemed to work, until now.  With every punch, the pit of his stomach mocked him.  It was hollow, a giant empty space that nothing could fill.  His tail intently swished behind him.  His ears laid down on the back of his head.  Sweat dripped down his furrowed eyebrows, stinging and blurring his deep green eyes.  He glanced at the digital clock near the bench press, but reading the numbers was impossible.  It didn’t matter anyway.  He could feel his body let up.  Every blow he landed on the bag brought him a step closer to needed sleep.

He couldn’t just go to bed like any other kat, he thought to himself.  No.  He couldn’t do that.  Then he would remember everything that went on the past few days.  The helmet, the glove, the blood on the wall.  His partner dangling from wires, beaten, starved, a bloody mess.  T-Bone trying to patch up the damage the best he could.  He could still feel himself pinning down Dark Kat, the blade of his glovatrix resting just outside the casing.  Just a couple centimeters more, and Dark Kat would have been out of commission for good.  But, they caught him this time.  That was all that mattered.  He was locked up in Enforcer Headquarters in a maximum security cell.

Chance had lied unwaveringly to Jake’s sister over the phone.   Jake wasn’t there, he told her, because he was out on a date.  Jake,  although still in a coma, was improving.  There was a slightly better  than even chance that he would wake up.  They wouldn’t know about his  hearing, memory, or paw for a while, but at least there was a better  chance he would wake up.

Then why the heck did if feel like something wasn’t finished?  His thoughts broke off as a bolt of pain knifed through his upper arm. He clenched his jaw and grunted through the pain, but did not lose his rhythm on the bag.  The muscle spasm would pass, but not before it was good and ready to.

A slight beeping noise perked up his ears and directed his attention to the pager sitting on a nearby table.  His end of the “Kat Pager,” as Felina had so ingeniously named it, sat screaming for attention.  Chance, for the first time in over two hours, dropped his paws to his side.  Sweat dripped off of them onto the floor.  He stood still for a moment, panting, and staring at the pager as if it held the secrets to the world.  His eyes narrowed.  “The heck … ?” he huffed.  He staggered slightly as he took his first steps, exhaustion working on him.  He picked up the pager and spoke into the speaker.  “T-Bone here.”

“T-Bone?  It’s Lieutenant Felina Feral.  Are you okay?  You don’t sound so good.”

Chance’s breathing had slowed, but he still found himself nearly panting.  “Yeah, just, uh, working out.  Can I help you with something, Lieutenant?”

“No, not really T-Bone.  I have something to tell you, and you are *not* going to like it.  Are you sitting down?”

Chance bristled.  It was a deeply ingrained habit whenever someone told him to sit down.  “No, and I don’t want to,” he spat defensively.

Felina was neither surprised nor put out by his response.  She had been expecting it.  “Then do you have something nearby to hit that won’t break your paw?”

“Yes, Lieutenant.”  Every syllable was carefully pronounced through clenched teeth.  He was not in the mood to play games.  “Now, would you kindly *spit* *it* *out*?”

“Dark Kat escaped.”

The ensuing scream rocked the foundations of the small house.  The startled rats in the salvage piles scurried over and around each other.  Birds took flight from the roof.  And the punching bag, confined underneath dozens of yards of earth, flew across the room, the victim of a single roundhouse kick.    Felina explained the situation to him in as few words as possible.  She knew he wasn’t listening anyway.  “T-Bone,” she stated after she was finished with the brief.  “Hey, T-Bone!”

She finally got his attention.  He grunted in recognition.

“I’ve already talked to the deputy mayor.  An hour and a half, her office in City Hall.  Got it?”

She only heard a grunt before the connection was terminated.

Felina placed the pager in her gym bag before placing her bag in her locker in the shekats locker room.  She had found it was one of the few places in Enforcer Headquarters that wasn’t on camera surveillance.  She changed into her sports bra and gi before making her way out to the martial arts dojo in the gym.  She was ready for the workout of her life.

******************************************************************************

Callie and Felina had been looking speculatively at one another for ten minutes.  Their claws had been drumming a similar rhythm into the deep mahogany of the conference table in Callie’s office.  Their tails followed similar patterns through the air as they waited, uncertain when and if the burly hekat would walk through to door.  Their faces showed the same mask of worry, embedded deep in their light eyes.

“GOD DAMMIT!” Felina’s frustration sliced through the silence as she pounded her fist loudly against the table.  Callie jumped at the sudden sound.  Felina shook her head and ran her paw through her hair.  “How the heck could they let him go?”

Callie pulled her glasses off her face and let her emerald gaze fight against the brightness of the mid-afternoon sun.  She squinted as pain shot through her head, her paw unconsciously going to the stitches in her head.  Her blond hair usually covered the bald spot, but she felt no need to hide it today.  She had not spent the usual time fixing her hair this morning; only fifteen minutes with a hair dryer and a ponytail holder had done it.  There wouldn’t be any cameras today; it was Saturday.  She stared into the sun for a few seconds longer, almost to prove she couldn’t be beaten, before she turned her eyes back to Felina as the Enforcer paced quickly around the room.  Callie sighed and placed her glasses back on her nose.  “It boils down to this, Lieutenant.  Stuff happens.  No amount of preparation or planning can stop it.  Stuff just happens.”  She shook her head as she spoke.  She didn’t want to admit that Dark Kat had escaped.   She watched as the sunlight illuminated the off-white carpet.  The color had been “soothing,” according to the decorator.  Imperceptibly, she saw the sunlight lengthen as the afternoon got later.

Both shekat’s ears swiveled to the door when they heard a soft, but forceful knock.  Without waiting for an acknowledgment, T-Bone opened the door and strode inside.  He chose one of the black leather chairs like the one Callie had been sitting in, and sat down.  He looked over both shekats before cocking an eyebrow.  “Well?”

Callie was the first to speak.  “You heard?”

T-Bone reset his jaw.  “Yeah.”

“So what are we going to do about it?” Felina asked.

T-Bone leaned back into his chair, crossing his arms over his chest.  He stayed silent and glared at the two shekats.

Felina sighed.  “Look, T-Bone, we need you to help, not to be difficult,” she spat.

Callie winced outwardly at Felina’s tone.  She could see an argument brewing.

T-Bone sat up slowly in his chair and scowled at Felina.  “Look, Lieutenant, you are the ones who let him go, I don’t need …”

” … to start an argument right now.”  Callie’s voice was clear and commanding.  “T-Bone, sit back.  Lieutenant Feral, sit down.  Arguing over petty things will not get anything done.  I think the most important thing we have to address here is not how Dark Kat escaped, but rather, how do we find him and get him back.”  Her gaze switched between the two.  “Well?  I’m open to suggestions.”

“No, Deputy Mayor, I think you are wrong there,” Felina stated flatly.  “I think the most important thing right now is if it is applicable to get Razor some protection.”  She glanced over at T-Bone out of the corner of her eye to see his reaction.  “Dark Kat is a vengeful brute, and if he hears that Razor is still alive, he will tear this city apart to find him.”

T-Bone’s voice cut Felina off.  “The first place he will look will be hospitals,” he said, taking off his helmet and scratching the top of his masked head.  He folded his paws in his lap and looked up.  “That could cause a lot of unneeded deaths.  Dark Kat would cut off life support systems if it would help him find Razor.”

“Bingo,” Callie said, unconsciously mimicking Razor, not noticing the wince that appeared briefly on T-Bone’s face.  “So what do we do?  Move Razor out of whatever hospital he is in right now?”

Felina shook her head sadly.  “Still doesn’t solve the problem.  Dark Kat would just keep looking.”

“So we keep moving him,” Callie continued.

T-Bone cut in, shaking his head.  “Won’t work.  I’ve talked to the doctor about this.  It is not a good idea to move him.  He’s still in a coma and very weak.  Moving him would only make him worse.”

“So what do we do?  We won’t be able to hide his presence in that hospital forever.  Someone is bound to find him.”

There was silence around the large table as the three kats each left one another to his or her thoughts.  Callie rubbed at a small scar near her hairline and glared at the “soothing” carpet as the sun cast longer shadows into the room from the windows behind her.  The Deputy Mayor’s thoughts were logical, and simple.  “If we could move him,” she thought to herself, “that would solve all of our problems.”

The windows were on Felina’s left, and she turned her head to stare into the setting sun.  The Enforcer’s thoughts were calculating and devising, killing two birds with one stone.  “Maybe bait?  Getting Dark Kat out in the open by using Razor?  While keeping him safe from harm, of course.”

It wasn’t long before she spoke those thoughts.  “Maybe,” she began, “we could let leak a bogus location for Razor, and then set a trap for Dark Kat there.”

Callie looked up from her contemplation, and pointed her index finger at Felina.  “That could work.”

T-Bone rubbed at the joint of his jaw, the clenching of the last few days starting to bother the muscles and tendons.  He shook his head.  “He might not go for it, or he might catch on.  There would be a danger to Razor and others.”

“So that brings us back to the original question.  What the heck do we do?” Callie said.

Minutes passed in silence before the shekats saw the huge toothy grin spread across T-Bone’s face.  “T-Bone?” Callie asked.

“What do we do, Miss Briggs?”  It was stated as a curiosity rather than a serious question.  Callie raised an eyebrow to his tone.

“That’s the million dollar question, T-Bone.”

“We kill Razor.”

Callie looked incredulous as Felina leaned back and chuckled.  T-Bone looked utterly satisfied.

“WHAT?!” Callie blurted.

“GENIUS!” Felina laughed, and then turned to Callie, who was fuming in confusion.  “What he means, Deputy Mayor, is that we report to the media and everyone that Razor has died.  If Dark Kat believes Razor is no more, he won’t go after him.  He’ll be safe.”

“And then, we use me as bait,” T-Bone’s voice was casual before it lowered to a hissing growl, “and bag the scum-sucking piece of gutter trash.”

Callie smiled genuinely for the first time in days.  “That just might work.  It’s crazy, but it just might work.”

******************************************************************************

As T-Bone entered the familiar surroundings of the sterile white hospital room, he raised his paw in a lame attempt in greeting.  Melinda smiled warmly, but saw it fell short as T-Bone lumbered into the chair set at the head of the bed.  Her forehead crinkled in empathy as he adjusted his position, taking off his helmet and placing it on the floor.  He rested his head on the back of the high-backed wooden chair, eyes staring vacantly up to the styrofoam-tiled ceilings.  Melinda continued the injection into Razor’s IV, never taking her eyes off the deflated hekat in the chair.  His paw was slung over one arm, and in his slumped position, it just grazed the top of the blue-tinted linoleum tile.  The ever-present circles underneath his eyes were deeper than before, as if he had been on the verge of sleep, but had been interrupted.  His other paw lay across the other arm of the chair, holding his motionless tail.

Her eyes darted to the monitors of the medical machinery as her breath caught in her throat.  There was something she wanted to say to the SWAT Kat, but she couldn’t find the right words.  They still didn’t know if Razor would wake up, and how much memory or hearing he would have if he did.  She hadn’t talked much to T-Bone, just a little idle chat.  He usually came and went pretty quickly, and she was busy with the day-to-day care of his partner.  She had no clue how she could relate.

“Lee is right,” she thought bluntly.  “Friends always do complicate matters.”  She suddenly wanted Lee here to deal with this kat.  She shook her head as she realize that Lee was at the library, doing some research on neurology.  No hope of rescue.

Her forehead furrowed as she recognized the rather apropos irony of her words.  No hope of rescue.  She glanced at her patient, his face a mess of bruises and swelling.  Patches of fur had had to be shaved off for the surgery.  She wondered what this kat had been through, and was going through currently.  Not for the first time, she wondered if it was worth it, or even if he thought it was worth it..

But it wasn’t her place to pass judgment on the lives of her patients.  Her job was to take care of their bodies, and hoped they helped her out.  She let a sad smile play at the corners of her lips as she realized that would be the ultimate test for this kat.  If he made it through, she guessed he thought it was worth it.  If he didn’t, then that was one question that never needed answered.  She wondered what T-Bone would do if Razor decided it wasn’t worth it.  Would he become a recluse?  Would he continue to fight in that jet without his partner?  Would he get a new partner?

“Y’know …” she started hesitantly, afraid to interrupt the steady beat of the heart monitor, “sometimes it helps to talk to them.”

T-Bone’s head slowly lowered to face her, and she suddenly felt distinctly insignificant in his gaze.  “Huh?” he snorted.

Melinda cleared her throat as her tail began to wave nervously behind her.  “Well, I’ve been an Rn for a while,” he fingers curled hesitantly around each other, “and I’ve seen some freaky stuff.  Sometimes, if you talk to them, the ones in the coma, they can hear you.  It can help,” she said, her voice raising slightly as she finished.

Across the bed from her, T-Bone didn’t move a muscle until an eyebrow crept its way up his forehead.  Melinda squirmed in his gaze, then put away the syringe and left the room quietly.

T-Bone watched the nurse leave the room, her head down, her ears laid low.  He couldn’t tell if she was mad or embarrassed, or what.  Truth be told, he really didn’t care at that moment.   He let his tail drop out of his left paw as he stood wearily.  He leaned his weight on the creaking railings on the side of Razor’s bed.   He looked at his partner’s barely-recognizable face, half-shaven and swollen to the point of unnatural distortion.  His troubled eyes gazed at the back of the door almost unconsciously, then turned back to his partner.  His leg was in a cast and sling, lifted above the rest of his body.  His right paw was bandaged cleanly, and tightly, the infection and swelling already disappearing.  His abdomen was a mass of white bandages.  T-Bone sighed deeply, his jaw clenched stubbornly.

“Theresa called the other day,” his voice was clear and soft as he spoke, but his eyes stared intently at his paws.  “I told her you couldn’t come to the phone.  Told her you were out on a date.”  His paw reflexively ran through his mussed blond hair, pulling his mask off.  “She didn’t buy it.  I knew she wouldn’t.  She’s too darn smart,” he chuckled softly, but his green eyes never lifted from his gloved paws that were fiddling with the removed mask.  “You didn’t get all the Clawson smarts, partner.  Your sister got a lot of ’em, too.”  His words echoed uncomfortably on the bare walls.  “We talked for a while.  Y’know how me and Trese are.  Anyway, she said that Meredith got a full tuition scholarship to Megakat U for next year.  Apparently, her audition went fantastic.  She nailed everything.  I mean, I knew the kid could play the trumpet, but a full ride.  Wow.  Plus, she can commute, so that saves on the housing costs.  She’ll graduate in four or five years for basically the cost of books.

“Michael is getting over the bronchitis he caught at school.  Good lord, how old is he now? 14?  Kid’s growing up fast.  Trese says he’s got a girlfriend.”  He looked up suddenly, but only saw the pale, still form of his partner.  His eyes returned to his paws.  He cleared his throat and continued.  “She says he’s devastated by the news of what is going on … y’know what I mean.  Of Razor’s ‘predicament.’  Yeah, that’s exactly how she phrased it.  ‘predicament.’  I just about choked at that point, Sureshot.  I gagged, then coughed.  I couldn’t help it.  She asked if I was okay.” Chance shook his head.  “I told her I just caught something in my throat.  Yeah, right.

“I think Michael is going to have a hard time getting over what Callie and Felina are going to release to the press,”  Chance slid his paw over his face, smoothing out errant fur.  His ears drooped as he stared at Jake.  “I’m sorry, Buddy, I don’t want to give you any ideas, but we had to do it.  We couldn’t figure out anything else; none of it would have worked.  Dark Kat escaped.  I know, I know, it’s stupid.  It’s ridiculous, but he did.  Dumb Enforcers, right out from underneath their tails.  Blew the cell wide open, then took off in his jet.  So, we devised a plan.  We are going to report that you … uh, that you,” he stopped, brows furrowing as he sputtered, ” … that you didn’t make it out of the old airport.  Like I said, don’t get any ideas.  None whatsoever.  I’m sure Meredith will want her big brother around for her freshman recital.”  He paused as started pacing back and forth across the length of the bed.  “Felina named your little pager thing.  It’s the Kat Pager now.  You’ll name it something better when you get the chance.”  He shrugged as he cracked a smile.  “How can you blame her?  She’s a Feral; she has no sense of creativity.”  He chuckled lamely at his own joke.  He heard the echoes bounce off the silent white walls, only to gradually fade into the quiet beeping of the heart monitor.  He stopped in his tracks as he listened.  He turned to his partner.  Jake lay still.  He hadn’t moved an inch.  Not anything.  His chest rose and fell with the same rhythm as it had.  The heart monitor remained unchanged.  His eyes were still clenched shut, his mouth a thin line.

Chance’s face compressed.  His brows drew closer together, his deep-set eyes suddenly nearly hidden.  His mouth formed a tight frown as his jaw clenched shut.  He reached blindly for his mask, finding it laying on the chair.  He pulled it over his head, then quickly put on his helmet.  As he adjusted his glovatrix on his paw, he started to back away.  “Uh, look, I gotta get going.  Lieutenant Feral and Deputy Mayor Briggs wanted me to be there for the announcement.  I’ve spent too much time here already.”  A few long strides later, he had reached the window.  He hesitated only a second as he climbed out the window, one leg dangling 42 stories above the street.  He looked back at the bed.  Jake’s chest rose and fell in the same steady rhythm.  Over the rush of air, T-Bone heard the monotonous beeping of the heart monitor.  He activated his glovatrix and was carried to the roof.

The door cracked open fifteen minutes later.  Melinda cautiously listened to find out if T-Bone was still in there or not.  She found the room empty, and she walked in carrying a clipboard with the list of notations she had to make.  As she checked the brain wave monitor, her heart fluttered for a second.  She blinked, and then double checked.  She picked up her cellular phone, dialed Lee’s cellular number from memory, and impatiently waited for her to pick up.

******************************************************************************

Leeona had forgotten just how much wearing glasses annoyed her.  The hard wooden chair cut off circulation to most of her lower extremities, and she shifted uncomfortably at the numbness.  Her tail waved lamely in response to the sudden movement.  She pulled her glasses off her face and rubbed the bridge of her nose tiredly.  Her green eyes tried to focus on the multitude of neatly placed books on the distant mahogany shelves, but the titles were blurred just outside of focus.    She let out the biggest sigh the quiet hour would allow.  The past couple of days, the medical library at Megakat University had been her home.  While Melinda dealt with the day to day care of the SWAT Kat, she buffed up on her neurology.  There was nothing wrong with knowing too much.  And knowing too much was probably not possible for Razor’s situation.

She stopped herself in mid thought, her jaw hanging open in an interrupted yawn.  She tilted her head to the side as her rounded ears stood up straighter.  For some reason, she found it odd that she had referred to him as Razor.  Her sense of formality she usually held with her patients had somehow eroded away with this one.  She tried to remember the last time she had referred to him as anything other than “he” or “the SWAT Kat” to Melinda, but couldn’t pick out one particular incident.  Sure, she always referred to him as Razor to T-Bone, but …    Again, she stopped herself in mid thought.  And again, she wondered when the other SWAT Kat had become T-Bone to her.  It represented to her a breakdown of the typical doctor-patient relationship.  It represented personal involvement.  She didn’t like that idea.  It wasn’t a good idea to become friends with your patients, especially if they were masked “heroes” or “vigilantes,” depending on who you asked.

She cocked an eyebrow at her next thought.  It wasn’t necessarily a bad idea, either.  It certainly afforded you some protection.    A giggling snort split the silence of the old venerated building, and she received more than a few angry, reproachful looks from studious med students.  She told herself to evaluate what she was doing.  Masked vigilantes.  VTOL jets.  Supervillians.  It was all so unreal!  She wondered how she got involved in all this.  She was just an ER doc.  That’s it.  But one day her car broke down, and she took it in to get it fixed.  Unwittingly, she went down the line in the yellow pages and picked the first garage that would tow it for free and had a decent rep.  It took her into the “Cs” and Chance and Jake’s garage.    Leaning against the side of her station wagon, Leeona had been relieved when she saw a unstable-looking tow truck come bouncing down the road.  Though the road she was on was perfectly paved, the truck was covered in a layer of thick dust.  She adjusted her reflective sunglasses so that she could see the pair in the cab of the truck a little better.  The driver, a stocky-looking blond kat, was grinning like a cheshire, leaning over the steering as if he was driving an expensive sports car.  His companion, a lanky reddish-orange kat with large ears and long sideburns, was admonishing the driver for something, gesturing to the dirt that was spread over the windshield.  As they pulled up next to Leeona and her steaming car, the final bits of their conversations echoed against the wall of the small building next to the car.  “I’m telling ya, Chance,” the slimmer kat’s voice rang against the concrete, “*you* get the truck dirty with *your* ‘shortcuts,’ so *you* haveta clean it!”

“Yeah, okay Jake, whatever,” he pacified as climbed out of the truck and rolled his eyes at Leeona.  She smiled in return. He offered his paw in introduction.  “The name’s Chance, this is my partner Jake.  What seems to be the problem Miss …”  He let his voice travel off, indicating that she was supposed to fill in the blank.    “Pryde,” she said, accepting his paw, and then the paw of his partner.  “Dr. Pryde, actually,” she said politely.    He nodded and attempted to open the hood, only to find it too hot.  He looked over his shoulder briefly.  “Hey, Buddy, how about …” before he could finish his sentence, a pair of thick gloves were unceremoniously dumped in his paws.  “Some gloves,” he finished noncommittally.

Leeona noticed the small exchange and raised an eyebrow.  “You two seem to work well as a team,” she observed.

Chance got a couple chuckles out of that response.  Leeona looked up to see Jake smiling broadly as he answered her.  “You have no idea, Dr. Pryde.”

She furrowed her brows at his cryptic response.  “What seems to be the problem?” Chance said, turning her attention back to the car.

“I’m not real sure, to be frank.  It just sort of up and died in the middle of the road, with all sorts of steam coming out of the hood.”  She watched as Chance deftly opened the hood while simultaneously stepping back to avoid being burned by steam.

Chance gazed at the engine as he carefully loosened the radiator cap.  “With stuff like this, usually it’s the radiator.  Nothing real big, just let the engine cool and get some water into it, it should be fine.  We have some water in the back of the truck.  Once the engine cools, we’ll fill ya up, and you’ll be on your way.”

Leeona nodded.  “How much will I owe you?”

Chance waved his paw in the air.  “Don’t worry about it,” he grinned.  “Water’s free.”

Her face reflected her shock.  She couldn’t stop herself before she squeaked out, “Really?”

Chance laughed again, as Jake answered her with an amused smile.  “Yes, ma’am.  Y’see, our company is just me and Chance here.  We don’t like being taken advantage of, and we don’t like taking advantage of our customers.  Simply because we like to think we know more about the subject doesn’t mean we have a right to have everything our way.”  He shrugged casually.  “It’s just one of our policies.”

She looked at the hekat, tilting her head to the side.  “You sound as if you have been taken advantage of before,” she probed.  These kats weren’t like other mechanics.  Behind their eyes, she saw intelligence, and integrity.  “By someone of a ‘higher’ standing than you?” she continued.    Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Chance tense beside her, his jaw snapping shut.

Jake never lost a beat.  “Yeah, you might say that.”  Dr. Pryde cocked her eyebrow at another cryptic response, but decided that the kat just didn’t want to share his history with a complete stranger.  She stopped her probing with a nod.

After the radiator had been taken care of, Chance slammed the hood shut and wiped his paws off on his overalls.  “Is there anything else we can help you with, ma’am?”

“I don’t believe so, no.  I do have a quick question for you, though.  This car is an old one, but I have driven it for years.  I was wondering, sometimes, when I turn to the left, there is a spot where the wheel almost feels like it gets hung up on something, then jerks the rest of the way over.”  She held out her paws in a futile gesture.  “Does that make any sense?”

Chance scratched his chin.  “Yeah, it sure does, actually.  There is probably something wrong with your steering column.  You could follow us back to the garage, and we could take a look at it there, if that’s all right?”

She shrugged.  “Yeah, sounds okay to me.”  She gestured out from herself.  “Just lead the way.”

Lee remembered following the two kats back to the salvage yard and then having Chance drive her home after leaving her car there.

They had passed the drive in amicable conversation.  When he had dropped her off in front of her apartment building, he let the engine idle as she unlocked the door.  “So, you’ll call me when it’s done?”

Chance nodded.  “Yeah.  It shouldn’t take more than three days or so.  We’ll give you a call.”

She smiled.  “Okay.  Thanks then.  See ya later.”

Leeona relaxed back into the wooden chair at the library.  The conversation she had had with Chance had not seemed strange or unusual to her in anyway — and yet it stuck in her head.  She ran her paw through her brunette hair, and closed the book she had been studying with a thud.  The echo bounced off the antique furniture of the library, and, Leeona noticed drowsily, mixed with a pulsing, high-pitched sound.  After the third ring, she recognized it as a cellular phone, and briefly wondered who the idiot was who brought a cell phone into a library … and of all things, left it on.

After the sixth ring, she realized it was hers.  She sheepishly crept out of the library underneath the glares from the med students.  When she reached the main lobby, she flipped open the receiver.  “Dr. Leeona Pryde,” she answered.

“Lee, it’s Melinda.  I think you should come back to the hospital *now*.”

Leeona’s brow furrowed as she quickened her pace outside to Melinda’s car.  She felt a pit open in her stomach, but suppressed it.  “Has his situation changed?”

“Yeah, Lee.  You might say that.”

Leeona sighed.  “Crud.  It’s his liver again, isn’t it?”

“No, it …”

“Okay,” Lee interrupted for the second time, “I’ll be there in a couple minutes.  See you then.”

On the other end of the line standing in the middle of a hospital room Melinda sighed, exasperated and frustrated with her friend’s impatience and inability to let her finish what she had to say.  She terminated her end of the call and looked at the pale, still kat on the bed.  She studied the beeping machines one more time, still not believing the readouts.  She crossed her arms over her chest and rolled her neck, loosening the weary muscles.  Out of habit, she glanced at the machines again.  The SWAT Kat had made his decision about whether it was worth it or not.  She briefly wondered what T-Bone’s reaction would be.

******************************************************************************

The crowd had surrounded the battered stone steps of Megakat City Hall.  Despite the size of the gathered throng, an impermeable blanket of stunned silence had engulfed it.  For nearly a minute after Callie’s announcement, there was soundlessness.

Callie stood at the podium, her paws vising the edge.  Only Felina noticed Callie’s knuckles were turning white from her grip. Callie held her head proudly as tears streamed down her face.  Her jaw remained shut tightly, afraid of the sob that might escape should she open it.  Her grief was not fake.  She was a talker, a politician.  She was not an actress.  This was just a part of what she had pent up inside to deal with later. Callie allowed herself a quick glance to her side.  Felina’s head was respectfully bowed, eyes studying the minute cracks in the drab stairs.  The rest of her body was at complete attention.  Her ears were forward listening intently, searching the silence for a sound.  Any sound.  Callie wondered what her secret was, how she remained so composed.

The Enforcer looked up momentarily and met Callie’s blurry green eyes.  She stared with complete empathy at the shekat, her steel eyes softened to a deep charcoal.  Callie watched as her eyes narrowed for a moment, as if remembering something, then widened suddenly.  Her eyes grew troubled and they darted back down to scrutinize the cracks.

Callie sighed inwardly.  Her part of the plan was done.  She had lied.  She had told the city that Razor was dead, and the crowd had believed every word of it.  The silence was suffocating.

Felina had been contemplating the look she had seen in Callie’s eyes.  The angle of the sun and how it had glinted off her irises had been reminiscent of something she hadn’t necessarily wanted to remember.  Callie had looked at her, her eyes full of remorse.  It wasn’t sadness for herself, but for another, that had been so disturbing to Felina.  She had briefly seen, superimposed over Callie’s green eyes, a pair of chestnut eyes, shielded by a thin layer of mesh and a black mask.  For a moment, Felina was not standing on the front steps of City Hall.  She was inside the building again, standing on landing of the fifteenth floor.  Details about the fight that she had not noticed before came back to her.  The glovatrix Razor had been wearing didn’t fit right. Had he hurt his paw in the fight?  He had literally tossed Callie to her.  Felina’s brow furrowed, and her eyes began to tear.  In that move, he realized he had probably sentenced himself to death.  It was mirrored in his eyes; they had been full of remorse as well.  Yet, it wasn’t for himself that he was sorry.  For the first time in her life, she asked herself a question she thought she would never have asked.  Why did Razor have to stay?  Why couldn’t it have been her …   A small sound from the crowd interrupted her thoughts.

It had escaped from the throat of a lean, middle-aged hekat near the front of the crowd.  Most eyes had turned to see who had interrupted the silence.  He leaned abruptly against one of the granite pillars of City Hall to help support his weight.  His yellow eyes danced over the features of the Deputy Mayor, searching, pleading, that what she had said was not the truth.  His jaw hung open, showing one chipped canine tooth.  A charcoal paw ran through his mussed hair as he loosened his tie.  His brow furrowed, and his face clenched before he grabbed at his temples with his thumb and forefinger.  The paw was shaking as it worked its way down his face to massage the bridge of his nose.  His jaw quivered emotionally.  He tried to say something, but it only resulted in an inarticulate grunt.  He leaned his back against the pillar and slid into a sitting position, burying his face in his paws.

Heads turned as another sound was heard.  The body of an old shekat quivered as she wrapped her ragged clothing around her, hugging herself in a futile gesture.  Her white hair was unkempt and dirt was encrusted in the multitude of furry wrinkles in her withered face.  Her long, paper-thin skirt did little to cover her sole-less sandals.  She teetered, and a teenager helped her into a seated position.

Another sound was heard across the crowd; then another, and another.  Felina’s ears moved toward each sound until was impossible to distinguish individuals.  A collective sobbing had settled over the group.

A deeper emptiness overwhelmed Callie at the sight of the effect the “death” of a SWAT Kat had on the crowd.  She covered her mouth with her paw and stepped away from the mic.  Felina stepped into her place and finished the announcement.

Felina knew she could not afford anything less than a simple, to the point, and direct statement.  She had carefully avoided watching the scene before her, afraid of her own emotions that were hidden behind her stone features.  “A vigil will be held tonight at dusk in front of City Hall,” she stated, her voice strong and purposeful.  She began to walk away before hesitating and turning back to the podium, she said, “Please pass the word.”

Felina turned on her heels and followed Callie back up the stairs.  She felt more than heard her boots echoing loudly off the granite as she disappeared behind the doors into the empty foyer of City Hall.  Once safely inside the doors, she allowed herself a haphazard grin.  “Part one is done, at least,” she sighed, running a paw through her bangs. “To the general public, Razor is dead.”

Callie’s paw searched through her hairline to find the small scar on her forehead. She began rubbing at it.  “Yeah, to the general public, he is.  So why don’t I feel any better about this?”

“Perhaps because you just intentionally misled all your constituents?”  The booming voice echoed painfully off the granite floor and hardwood walls.  Both shekats spun on their heels to see a huge form hidden in the shadows of a second-floor overhang.  In one move, Felina drew her gun and aimed it at the shadow while simultaneously pushing Callie to the ground behind her.  “Stay down, Deputy Mayor!”  Callie stayed perfectly still, yet Felina pushed at her again, throwing her arm down against Callie.

“The heck …” Callie let escape before she found the odd-looking pager Felina had thrust into her paw.

The targeting laser on Felina’s weapon only served to annoy the figure as he moved out of the shadows.  His laughter filled the tall ceilings of the foyer.  Felina set her jaw and followed the motions of the large kat as he traveled down the stairs.  Felina’s eyes widened in rage as her lips curled back to reveal her canine teeth.  Her gray eyes grew hard and glaring as she tightened the grip on the trigger.  “Dark Kat,” she spat forcefully, tension controlling every muscle in her body.

At the sound of Dark Kat’s name, Callie rolled on her side, her back to him.  Dark Kat’s eyes sparkled at the sight of what he saw as a futile defensive gesture.  Callie pulled the pager to herself and activated it.

“You must be pretty darn stupid to try something so soon,” Felina hissed.

“It seems to be working, doesn’t it Lieutenant?  It really is the perfect time, you weren’t expecting it.”  Dark Kat’s voice was calm and collected, but his eyes vaguely covered the workings of a sick mind. “I would put that toy away right now if you know what is good for you.”  He gestured to Felina’s weapon and then to the balcony of the overhang.  Felina spared a glance at the balcony to find Creeplings lined up on the railing.

Felina returned her scowl to Dark Kat and mentally calculated the odds.  “Okay, 42 lined up on the railing, Dark Kat in front of you.  Half a clip in the sidearm, plus full clips in the pistols hidden in each boot.”  She didn’t allow the smile to creep to her face as she mentally thanked herself for stealing the idea of an ankle holster from “The X-Files”.  “43 to one isn’t exactly fair odds, Dark Kat,” she raised her voice to be heard over the sudden din of the crowd outside the doors.  A part of her mind wondered why the crowd had suddenly grown so animated.  Behind her, the doors of City Hall were made of one-way mirrors, and they certainly could not see what was happening inside.

“When have you ever known me to be fair, Lieutenant?  Then again, I really should thank you for saving my life back at the airport.”  A toothy grin oozed across his face.  “I wouldn’t be here right now if it wasn’t for you.”

Felina’s body tensed.  Her feet were a little more than shoulder-length apart in a steady stance.  Both of her paws gripped her weapon as she felt her concealed pistols heavy against the side of her calves.  Even with her three guns, that many creeplings would turn her into pulp.  The adrenaline rushed through her system as she traded half-witted barbs with Dark Kat.  Anything to keep him talking while she tried to figure a way out of this mess with her head and most of her fur intact.  The crowd suddenly grew quiet again behind her and allowed her ears to keen in on the slightest sound: the creeplings’ quiet chirping, Dark Kat’s deep breathing,  and the elevator dinging as it reached the first floor.    Wait a second, the elevator?

Dark Kat’s head turned as the elevator doors opened, giving Felina the distraction she needed.    In less than a second, both her sidearm and one of her concealed weapons were in each paw, the other in Callie’s.  “GET OUT OF HERE, DEPUTY MAYOR!” she screamed over the sound of laser discharge.

Felina had seven of the Creeplings down before Dark Kat realized what was going on.

“NO!” he screeched, his face contorted.  “CREEPLINGS!  GET HER!”

She watched as the 35 remaining creeplings and Dark Kat raced towards her.  She set her jaw and continued firing, intent on getting as many as she could before they reached her.  She was a Feral, and she was going to go down fighting.  She backed up, only to step on and nearly trip over Callie, who had yet to move.  Callie’s smile lit up her face as she gazed at where the creeplings used to be.

Felina had not seen T-Bone enter the fray, she was just subtly aware that Dark Kat had suddenly been eliminated.  Then more Creeplings disappeared from the air around her, leaving only five for her to fend off.  These were dispatched easily as she shot one, side kicked one into another, knocked another unconscious with a back fist, and just booted the other one across the lobby, hearing it hit the wall with a satisfying squish.

She looked up just in time to see T-Bone standing over Dark Kat.  His jaw was clenched, scowling eyes blazed with a scarcely contained fury.  His knuckles were a glaring white as his clenched fist pounded repeatedly into Dark Kat’s face.  Felina cocked her head casually as she watched the blood pour from the healing broken nose of Dark Kat.  Dark Kat’s body was limp as T-Bone pinned his weight on one knee in the center of his chest.  The SWAT Kat’s face was drawn into a scowl as he landed his final punch, gashing the purple cheek. He stood purposefully, and stepped back.  Aiming his Glovatrix, he shot a bola missile to tie the prisoner, then another, and another.  He grunted when he finished.  “He’s not going anywhere this time.”  He looked up at Felina holding two smoking laser guns in her paws, and Callie, holding hers awkwardly in one paw, the Kat Pager in the other.  He smirked at the two shekats.  “I figured you wouldn’t mind the assist,” he said as he wiped Dark Kat’s blood off his paw and adjusted his mask over his eyes.

A smile spread across Felina’s face.  “Nope, sure didn’t.”    “Miss Briggs set off the Kat Pager.  I heard just about the whole thing on my way over here,” he added.

Felina nodded and holstered her weapons.  Simultaneously, she grabbed her communicator from a small pocket on her belt.  “I’ll call HQ and let them know we have this butthead,” she said, gesturing to the unconscious Dark Kat.  “We still have a lot of work to do before the …” she barely paused in the middle of her sentence and let her eyes glance over at T-Bone, “event tonight.”    T-Bone nodded, his eyes suddenly concentrating on the granite underneath his feet.  “I’ll be there when I’m supposed to be, don’t worry.  I have some preparations yet to make, so if you ladies will excuse me, I have a jet to refuel.”  T-Bone acknowledged them politely with a bow of his masked head, and slipped into the elevator to the roof.

Felina watched his broad retreating back with a slight furrowing of her brows.

“Lieutenant?”

Felina turned to face Callie, her paws on her hips, her eyes still concentrating on where T-Bone had receded into the darkness of the elevator.  “Yes, Deputy Mayor?”

The voice that answered Felina was quiet and thoughtful.  “Did you see his eyes?”

Felina ran a paw through her short hair, then returned it to her hip.  She broke her gaze on the shadows and met Callie’s glinting emerald eyes and concerned furrowed brow.  “Yeah, I did,” she sighed, hanging her head.

“I just had a troubling thought.”

“I think I had the same one.”

“Felina, if Razor doesn’t wake up …”

“I know, Callie, I know.  I don’t know what T-Bone’s going to do, either.”

******************************************************************************

Okay, Ladies and Gents, that’s it for this installment.  I hope you enjoyed it, and, as always, questions/comments/concerns/reactions/flames to Penguinchk@aol.com

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