Title: A Chance to Live
Warnings: There are some descriptions of medical situations that may be somewhat gruesome to the sensitive, so I gave it a T rating. There is no sex or foul language, however, except maybe for ‘crud’ ?
Disclaimer: SWAT Kats the Radical Squadron belongs to Hannah-Barbara and is used without permission purely for entertainment and not for any personal gain. There are some named and unnamed OCs that belong to me.
Author’s Comments/Notes: Please feel free to review and critique.
Nothing could have prepared Razor for the agony of his own burning flesh.
The first impact knocks them out of the sky; a katastrophic, glass shattering, smoking cacophony. The Turbo Kat is nearly set down next to the tank ship Dark Kat had stolen from Pumadyne. The missile was unexpected, and there was no way to have avoided it. It tore into the nose portion of the Turbo Kat. By comparison, the short drop to the ground is little more than a bad jolt, but Razor’s head cracks forwards to shatter the radar panel with his helmet, and he feels pain blooming low in his hips.
But, by that time, he’s burning. Screams tear from the tomkat’s throat, though distantly he realizes he can’t hear them. He hears only a droning dull buzz. He can’t hear the flames crackling and crawling up his leg and across his torso despite the protective flight suit. He doesn’t hear the glass shattering as the Enforcer standing on the wing knocks away the remaining canopy with the butt of her rifle, or the hiss of the fire extinguisher her partner is sweeping across Razor’s legs. Nor the clicks and scratching of his own claws fighting the buckles and straps trapping him in this inferno.
Razor is still screaming when he is grabbed under the pits and drug out of the Turbo Kat. Still screaming as frantic Enforcers beat out flames with blankets and their own hands and paramedics slosh water over his hands, his abdomen and leg. He’s still trying to scramble away from the pain, even as arms grab his limbs and he’s hauled farther from the burning jet. His fist lashes out and connects against someone’s chin as he’s laid back on the ground. Someone’s upper body splays across his, their forearm pinning his shoulders. His screams are interrupted by great hacking coughs, an oxygen mask is slipped over his face, and a patch of fur is shaved on his forearm. Steady paws grip his arm, and a paramedic slips a needle through his skin.
The IV is held aloft and some sort of sweet, blessed relief begins creeping through his veins. Distantly, he realizes that Feral is crouched next to him on the ground, one hand on his helmet. The Commander is talking to him earnestly with an expression that might possibly be concern on his craggy face. Razor stares at Feral with bemusement, finally shaking his head.
“Can’t hear you, Commander,” he rasps between coughs.
Well, he thinks he said it, in any case.
But, Feral’s eyes meet his and he nods, the stern expression returning. He stands and walks towards the smoke plume.
Scissors are shredding his flight suit, with new and liberal lacings of pain along his legs as the fabric is unwilling to separate from burnt flesh. He tries to pull away, staring distractedly at the blue, puffy clouds above that are being smeared with smoke. Hands hold him down, pouring more water, squeezing a blood pressure cuff on his arm, fingers pulling his eyelids back and shining a flashlight in his eyes. A paramedic in a green ball cap leans over him and shouts at him soundlessly, but Razor just stares at him with faint puzzlement.
Then a thought hits his fuddled mind. One that should never have been so difficult to recover.
“T-Bone?” Razor whispers, glancing up at the paramedic with the stethoscope in ears listening to his chest. “Hey. Hey! Where’s my partner?” he rasps.
The paramedic glances at him for a moment then looks back to his work, avoiding Razor’s eyes.
Cold, icy terror floods Razor’s chest, and he cranes his neck, starting to scream again, but for T-Bone this time. Hands grip below his jaw to immobilize his neck, and an Enforcer is in his face, shouting. Razor ignores him and struggles with the medics, eyes roving.
The Turbo Kat is burning steadily despite the fire kats pumping flame retardant over and around. The cockpit is spilling over with it, though the nose on back up to the weapons panel is missing. Including the pilot seat. The tank ship that hit it is smoldering, and Enforcers with long weapons are clambering on top and through the hatch. A dead and still sizzling Kreepling is tossed out. Whatever missile Dark Kat had hit them with packed a lot of punch, and, in his distraction, Razor stops wriggling and wonders if there’s an undetonated one he can get a look at. Beside, that hurt. Why’d so much hurt? Puzzled, he watches as something clear and yellowish is injected into his IV line.
Callie’s face fills his vision. Her hand reaches to touch Razor’s cheek, and he suddenly remembers what was bothering him so much before.
“Ms. Briggs! T-Bone? Where’s T-Bone?” he shouts at her, starting to cough.
Concerned, she looks over her shoulder and chokes back a sob, tears welling. As they roll down her cheeks, he can read her lips.
He’s hurt bad.
Glancing where she’d looked, he sees a crowd of paramedics, Enforcers, and a couple of civilians. And Feral, with an inscrutable expression. Then he spots a familiar hand encased in a digit less black glove, sticking out among the tangle of Enforcers and medics. And, a stream of blood. More than a stream. More like an ocean.
And, Razor is screaming again. Screaming his friend’s name and struggling against the staff holding him down.
Feral glances his way, starting to pick his way through the crowd.
Two civilians are holding IV bags and squeezing them to force the fluids in faster. A medic jumps up, running towards an ambulance, and Razor gets a clear glimpse before the people shift again. An Enforcer with blood soaked fur past her wrists is leaning heavily on T-Bone’s thigh, wads of red soaked cotton under her hands. Her cheeks are speckled red with bright arterial blood. A second Kat is holding a mask over T-Bone’s face and a third pumping the bag attached to force air into lifeless lungs. And, another is doing frantic chest compressions.
That’s the last Razor sees of T-Bone for a few minutes as a cervical collar is fitted and hands turn him onto his side. A backboard is slipped underneath and straps pin him uncomfortably straight. Even his forehead is strapped down with a strip of Velcro. He does see Callie, trying to shout at him. Watches the helicopter landing. A gurney with attendants all around being moved in, same Kat still doing CPR, same Enforcer trying to stop the blood welling between her fingers. And, he watches the helicopter taking off with his friend.
Then the sight of the helicopter is lost as he’s lifted and carried into an ambulance.
By the expressions of the staff, Razor can tell they’re worried but about him, not about T-Bone. But, T-Bone is the one who’s really hurt, dying. Maybe dead already.
The rig begins to move, and Razor begins to sob brokenheartedly. “Hold on, T-Bone.. . You got to hold on. Please, buddy…” he whispers raspily. “Chance. Please don’t die,” he whispers, beginning to cough again.
Some sort of misty crud that makes him feel jittery and tastes odd is added into the oxygen setup, and Razor tries to concentrate on breathing. They’re trying to help him, he can at least cooperate.
Then he sees him, leaning back into the corner at the head of the gurney, out of the paramedics’ way, shoulders hunched and paws resting on the pommel of his cane. Commander Feral. His expression is unreadable, but burning eyes lock onto Razor, and he feels his throat constrict. How much was he thinking and how much had he said?
“T-Bone can’t die,” he rasps, staring into Feral’s face. Begging. If begging will save Chance, he’ll crawl on his knees.
Feral’s expression softens almost imperceptibly, and Razor wonders if he maybe didn’t imagine it. Then the Commander reaches to awkwardly squeeze Razor’s shoulder, an attempt to comfort anyway. And, goes back to his silent vigil.
The rest of the ambulance ride is uneventful. Razor stares at the ceiling dully and shivers despite the blankets covering him by the time they enter Megakat Memorial ER. Another blanket fresh out of the warmer is draped over him. It feels like heaven. The ER doctor quickly gets frustrated at shouting at a deafened and rather sedated SWAT Kat whose burnt hands are useless for holding a pen. The doc finally starts writing notes and a nurse digs up an alphabet sign and another stupid board with faces for “yes,” and “no,” and pictures of things like “phone” “toilet” and “snack.” Between Razor’s rusty sounding voice, the doctor’s scribbling and the nurse’s stupid board, he finally gets the story.
Yes, T-Bone is alive. In surgery. They’re doing all they can for him, I assure you. Focus on yourself right now. Do you have any allergies? Any past surgeries, joint replacements, metal implants…
Between assessments, Kat scans, x-rays, more doses of medication and the mind numbing picture board for the tiniest communication, Razor finds Feral is constantly nearby. Watching. Asking questions Razor can’t hear. Badgering the nurses. Even once disappearing and returning with a cup of ice chips when he spotted Razor swallowing painfully. Though he has trouble hiding a smirk when Razor can’t quite manage the spoon with his hands bandaged into mittens.
They’re in the ER for hours. He’s cleared for cervical injuries and released from the neck brace and back board. The remains of his suit are exchanged for a stupid backless dress thing that is uncomfortably breezy. He learns that something is broken in his pelvis, which explains the pain in his, well, pelvis. His eyes are washed out, his ears examined, then given more medicine to breathe that makes him cough. And, stings his eyes all over again. His burns are unwrapped, prodded, wrapped up again. They don’t touch his mask.
The pelvis fracture will heal with time and therapy. You’ve got burns to more than 25% of your body. 7% of that is full thickness, your leg. The rest is mostly second degree. Your fur may not grow back where you’ve been burnt. You are at risk of an infection. But, more pressing is the risk of dehydrating through fluid loss out of the burns. So, you’ve got a long recovery ahead. We’re waiting for surgery to be ready to take you to have those burns debrided. You’ll wake up in the burn unit.
I don’t have more information about T-Bone. I know he’s survived surgery and is in the ICU.
When they move him into preop, there is another wait. Forms to sign and the same questions asked again in new ways. But, before they actually take him in, Razor’s hand shoots out towards Feral’s wrist. The Commander’s eyebrow shoots up towards his hairline.
“Feral…?” he pauses, unsure how to continue.
The Commander’s mouth presses into a thin line, and he steps away slightly, beetling dark brows. Then a faint nod and he says, speaking carefully, “I will stay with T-Bone.”
Inexplicably, a sense of peace floods through Razor, and he smiles dreamily, unfocused. Feral gets an uncomfortable expression and turns to leave. ‘Strange that Feral stalking T-Bone is reassuring,’ he ponders, then notes the nurse removing a syringe from his IV. ‘Oh. Well, guess I haven’t lost my mind.’ He relaxes and lets the medication lull him as the overhead lights brighten.
He vaguely remembers post op and again Feral is there, angrily pointing into the face of a scowling Kat in green scrubs. He watches with mild interest, wondering if the doc is going to win this argument. Mid argument, Feral realizes he is being watched.
“You’re not headed for the burn unit. I’ll see to it you see your friend first,” he states in his stiff authoritative manner.
Razor hears him this time, though his ears are still buzzing. Feral is looking out for him. Why so protective all of a sudden? He tries asking, but his voice rasps worse than before, throat hurting. And, Feral leaves abruptly. The cart moves, and Razor drifts off again while staring up at the ceiling lights.
When he comes to, he decides quickly that he’s woke up at his own funeral or some weird macabre birthday party. Balloons and ribbons dance on the ceiling. There is a riot of flowers and Get Well cards in the corner and conquering the windowsill. Turning his head, he listens to soft beeping from a cardiac monitor. The buzzing in his ears has faded to a faint annoying ring.
He yelps as he twists his neck back, and a hand rests on his shoulder.
“Easy, Razor. You probably hurt all over, huh?”
Lt. Felina Feral is settled in a chair next to his bed. She’s wearing a yellow and white dotted dress, and Razor stares at her a second.
“Lieutenant? A dress?” he rasps, voice harsh and cracking.
“Hey, sometimes I wear dresses. I’m off duty,” she says rather defensively.
She picks up a cup and straw and brings it to his lips. He takes a long thirsty swallow of ice cold milk, thinking that was probably the best tasting thing he’d ever had.
“T-Bone’s still in the ICU,” she says as he drinks. “But, you’re relatively lucky. You’re going to be fine, after probably a couple weeks in here.”
“Both of us. Both of us are going to be okay,” he replies, firmly. “Right? Lieutenant. How’s my buddy T-Bone? How long is he gonna be in here?”
Felina hesitates just a moment too long, taking the hesitation to set the cup back down. One breath, and she shakes her head. “The doctors don’t know yet.”
He stares at her with confusion. “What’s that mean?”
Both look up as the door opens, and the Deputy Mayor steps inside, briefcase in hand. Her expression brightens as she sees Razor awake.
“Razor, thank goodness! We’ve all been so worried. Are you in much pain?”
“Cal– I mean, uh, Ms. Briggs. T-Bone’s alright, isn’t he? I mean he’s going to be?”
The two she-kats exchange a glance, and Callie pulls up a chair, sitting next to Felina. Her voice is soft as she speaks. “He’s really badly hurt, Razor. That missile hit right below the pilot’s seat and blew the whole nose section of the Turbo Kat away. You were mostly protected by the weapons console. But, T-Bone…”
She hesitates, and Felina speaks.
“He took the brunt of the blast. He was thrown out of the cockpit still strapped into the seat. I’m told it could have been worse. He didn’t get burned like you did. But, there was a lot of shrapnel. A big artery opened up. He bled a lot, and he has a head injury. His face kissed the pavement.”
“And, he’s got a lot of broken ribs, and he’s just really banged up,” Callie takes up the tale. “He didn’t break his neck or back, thank goodness.”
“Well… how bad is this head injury?” Razor asks. “I mean, he’s awake by now, right? It’s been hours.”
Felina speaks gently. “No, he’s not awake. Razor, they’re still waiting to know a lot. He lost so much blood…. His body was starving for oxygen. The doctors said he had a kind of heart attack because of it. And, the head injury… there’s swelling inside his brain. A lot of it. The doctors are trying to relieve the pressure. He might need more surgery.”
Razor looks between the two of them angrily, leaning up on his elbows, which sends shards of pain through his hip, and the monitors beep fretfully at his heart rate. “What happens if they can’t relieve the pressure?”
“Well… they’re gong to know a lot more in the next couple of days. Dr. Bengal said he was pretty confident the treatment they’re trying will work. But…”
Callie hesitates again, and Felina takes up the tale.
“T-Bone may not… If he wakes up, he’s going to take a lot of time to get better. He’s…. it’s really bad, Razor,” she says bluntly.
Razor thrusts the covers off and tries swinging his legs out, paling with pain. “I’ve got to see him. Right now,” he says angrily.
“Razor, fine. Right now, alright? Just relax a moment,” Callie replies as Felina heads back to the door.
Razor sinks back, fur sheened with sweat.
Hesitantly, Callie touches his hand a moment. “I’m sorry. We tried to explain it gently.”
He shakes his head, grabbing the bed rail and hauling himself up. “It’s… Not your fault, Ms. Briggs.”
The cardiac monitor is making a high pitched squealing, and Felina, dainty thing that she is, punches it as she returns. It makes a ‘hweeep’ and returns to calmer beeping.
There’s a flurry of activity as a couple nurses enter, bringing a wheelchair. An Enforcer guard with a long weapon is stationed just inside the door as they fuss. The heart monitor is disconnected, oxygen is hung from the back of the chair, IV’s are strung on the stand. It seems to take an eternity to get Razor comfortably settled into the chair, tucked in like an infant with pillows and a blanket.
“I’ll be your nurse in the burn unit today. I’m going to take you up there after you visit T-Bone. Normally, you’d be in the unit by now,” one of the nurses says, introducing herself as Jamue, “but Commander Feral insisted your doctor allow you to see your partner first.”
“Feral did that?” Baffled, Razor winces as he tries to adjust enough to sit comfortably.
“Hey, Uncle can be very persuasive,” Felina says wryly.
When he’s finally settled, with all the oxygen tubing untangled from where he’d sat on it, IV pump no longer beeping shrilly, and feet up on the pedals, Jamue pushes his chair into the hall. Two more Enforcer guards are stationed outside the door. They fall into step behind Razor’s little entourage, and he stares at them a moment and finds himself subconsciously tugging at his mask.
“You’re still masked, vigilante. Nobody was going to rip it off you as you slept,” the Lieutenant says, perhaps a bit acidly.
Razor, Jamue the nurse, Felina and Callie, and the two Enforcers go from hall to elevator, to another hall, then another elevator and down another hall, this one actually a tunnel between buildings. He sees very few others and belatedly realises that Enforcer staff have cleared the route. Before he can question why they took the trouble, they turn into ICU and he catches his breath. Feral is standing at a doorway at the end of the hall between two more Enforcer guards, a mug of coffee in hand, and he glances over as they approach.
“Good to see you looking better, SWAT Kat. Your friend is getting good care here,” he adds rather uncomfortably and clears his throat. A large tabby steps forward and Feral speaks to him. “Ah, Doctor Bengal. Perhaps you can explain the situation to him.”
Razor’s barely registering Feral’s presence by this time because, through the window in the wall separating the nurse’s desk from the tiny patient room, he can see IV’s hanging. And, he’s counted them.
There’s a heavy step as Feral moves closer, repeating himself, and Razor glances up distractedly. “Yeah, Commander?”
“I said, I want to assure you your injuries will not go unpunished. Dark Kat got away, but he won’t get away for long. You have my word.” And, he stalks away.
Moments later, Razor is sitting next to T-Bone’s bed, staring at a confusing tangled collection of tubes and wires. Soft beeping comes from monitors, stacked four high at the head of the bed, underscored by the quiet purring of IV pumps. Three of them, double sided, all running. Two with smaller IV piggyback bags plugged into the ports, flowing more meds into the lines. T-Bone’s head is elevated a bit, and Razor realizes he’s maskless. But, it doesn’t make any difference. Nobody will recognise this Kat.
Chance’s face is one swollen, black bruise, with fur shaved close to the skin. Bloody gauze is wrapped around his head and a tube is extending out from under the cotton. Another tube disappears down Chance’s nose, held in place with a half roll or more of tape. The other end is attached to something on the wall, with a canister beneath. Drips of red tinged greenish… something is in the tube and being pulled into the canister. Feeling slightly nauseated, he realises it’s draining out of Chance’s throat, or his lung or stomach. It’s being sucked out of somewhere. Scabs and patchy fur dot his face, stitches here and there.
The doctor who’d introduced himself as Dr. Bengal is speaking. Talking about intracranial pressure, coma, aspiration pneumonia, atelectasis, internal bleeding. But, Jake is barely understanding him. Instead, he’s staring at the thick tube disappearing into a mass of gauze on Chance’s chest, draining a thin bloody froth into a container of bubbling water on the floor. At the lines disappearing into the skin of his upper arm, under his collar bone, even one tunneling into his throat. Each is hooked into IV lines or monitors with wiggling symbols and graph lines on meaningless displays.
He realises then that the monitor labeled ‘intracranial pressure’ is hooked into the tube disappearing into the bandage on Chance’s head and that it must actually extend inside his skull. There’s soft beeping and pinging and the quiet “whssssh” noise of the bellows in a ventilator, Chance’s chest rising in time. From it, another tube snakes down Chance’s throat, taped and fixed in place by some strap contraption out of a bad Halloween costume. There are even more tubes hanging out of this with clips and ‘warning’ labels hanging. For testing something, maybe? He doesn’t know.
Then he notices the worst part. The cuffs. Soft, foam friendly looking things fastened to Chance’s wrists, with straps tied to convenient hooks in the bed frame.
A sob escapes his throat as he fumbles for Chance’s hand. He can’t even hold it, he thinks bitterly, as again the bandages get in his way. Still, he fumbles to take Chance’s fingers between his wrapped hands.
“Hey, buddy,” he says softly. “I hope you can hear me. I know they’re taking real good care of you here, but, uh, you look like crud, T-Bone. And, I don’t know how much they’re saying in front of you, but ignore them. Just focus on getting better, alright? You have always been a fighter. Well, you got to fight now, T-Bone. I know you can come back from this… Hey. Dark Kat is still out there, you know that, right? Feral isn’t going to be able to take him down without us. And, I’m really going to need your help with the Turbo Kat. Thing’s a mess. The Enforcers filled the cockpit with that flame retardant junk. It’s gonna be forever getting it out.”
Softly, he talks to him, still holding his limp, cold hand. The doctor slips out. Nurses creep in and out again to attend to alarms and the multiple IV lines. To shift the inert body a little in the bed. To listen to his lungs and suction the breathing tube in his throat when it starts to clog with thick, sticky saliva. Recording the data they seem to understand off the mystery monitors. A nurse and Dr. Bengal return, staring at the print outs. Bengal steps out, starting to make a call on his cell phone.
Two hours have passed. And nothing. Not a twitch of an ear tip or a whisker flick. Heels click against the flooring, and Callie’s hand gently rests on his shoulder.
“Razor. They’re going to move him back to surgery. The pressure inside his head is worse. I don’t understand, but we need to go.”
“T-Bone, listen to me, buddy,” Razor says, ignoring Callie and trying to clutch T-Bone’s hand in his own useless, clubby fat fingers. “They’re gonna take good care of you. I don’t want to leave, but they’re taking you for more surgery. I’m gonna watch out for you, alright. Oh, and guess what, Feral’s got the place crawling with Enforcers. Heh, maybe he thinks we’re gonna run off before he can arrest us?”
And, maybe he imagined it. But, T-Bone’s fingers just barely curl.
Callie and Razor pause as Felina enters.
“….T-Bone? Can you hear me, hot shot?” he asks.
But, there’s nothing, no more movement, no fluttering of eyelids. Callie exhales and steps out of the room. And, Felina leans in and places her hand gently on his shoulder.
“Jake,” she whispers softly into his ear.
His mouth turns to cotton, and he turns to stare at her. “What… what’d you just call me?”
Her hand slides from his shoulder down to his forearm, gently squeezing. “Come on, SWAT Kat. You’re headed for the burn unit. Besides,” she murmurs, leaning in to his ear once more. “Chance is going to pull through. He has to, right? With a name like that.”
Disclaimer: SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron is copyright to Hanna-Barbera Cartoons Inc. All Rights Reserved. © 1995. All other characters and material within this page are the property of their respective creators.