Date Started: 3/1/16
Date Finished: 3/13/16
“Why?! Why does the Commander keep you around?! You’re insane!”
“Insanity is just one of my many better qualities. Now, do kindly stop screaming and keep running.”
“We were warned! Warned a million times…!”
“It wasn’t enough!”
“The parts were necessary.”
“Not at the expense of our necks!”
“Our necks are still attached, thank you. And, we’re almost behind the forcefield.”
“I am never letting the Commander volunteer me again!”
“Ah, but think of all the memories we’ll have. And, look. We’re finally back.”
“I hate you.”
“And, I appreciate your company, Sergeant. Now we have all the parts we need to get the Altaica back in the skies.”
– Kat Kommandos – Issue 50 –
“So, can I address the elephant in the room?”
Jake perked his ears and looked at Greenbox quizzically. “What’s that, Doc?”
“This hangar.” Greenbox paused momentarily to wipe at his brow. “I really doubt you managed to carve a place this big out in less than six months.”
The orange tom chuckled. “Naw. I did some research. It’s actually an old Megawar bunker.”
/Second Megawar,\\ added Zed. /It was also used to secretly transport weapons to the allies and as a safe haven for refugees.\\ The computer pulled up numerous pictures showing off the hangar interior, various shots including one of war generals going over battle strategy and of bi-planes being secretly built.
“Obviously, you know what I had to do with this much space.”
Greenbox nodded. “Obviously.”
“My turn. How did you even come up with Zed? All the information he has, everything he’s stored, all the data he’s received and continues to receive…”
Greenbox glanced at the computer fondly. “By chance. I do have to give some of the credit to my graduate students. He was a prototype we all came up with during a class discussion, and we mapped out the specs in a two hour study session – what it could be used for, the benefits it would have towards katkind, and they insisted on the programming being completely feline so it could adapt to its environment. But, keep in mind, Mr. Clawson, that Zed is still learning.”
Jake considered this. “So, he’s still a child.”
“Correct. Maybe, in a few years, he could achieve complete sentience. But, he’s on the right track.”
The thought of that intrigued Jake. But, before he could comment, the alarm going off on the computer caught his attention.
/I’m sorry to interrupt, but you’re receiving a transmission from Lt. Feral.\\
Jake frowned. “Feral? I didn’t think she’d be using that frequency so soon. Um… bring her on screen?”
And, the voice of Lieutenant Feral echoed hastily through the hangar as she came into view on their private communications channel.
“Clawson! I could use a second opinion!”
She wasn’t going to hear the end of it. Her uncle had specifically given the order to disengage, but the lieutenant wasn’t going to let that jet go. Not this time. Her squadron had taken a beating, losing four of the six jets she had under her command.
“It’s too fast, Lieutenant Feral!” came a plea through her own jet’s radio. “It’s basically taking us for a joy ride!”
“With all due respect, Ma’am,” called another pilot, “we need to break off!”
“That jet has a weak spot!” she barked back. “It’s only a matter of finding it! It’s coming at us again! Be ready to fire on my signal!”
The jet on her right banked sharply, narrowly avoiding a laser shot. “It’s turning too fast! I can’t get a lock on! It’s -!”
Felina winced, hissing a curse and turning in time to see the same jet with one of its wings ablaze.
“Crud! I’m hit!”
This wasn’t working. “Sulfur, Korat, disengage. I’m taking care of this myself.”
As the remainder of her squadron left its formation, she narrowed her eyes at the sight of black jet suddenly behind her. “A lot faster than I thought. It’s almost like he wants it down to just us. Alright…,” she accelerated and headed out of the city, “let’s see what you can really do.”
And, she reached for the private channel she’d installed into her jet earlier that week.
“You’re alone?” Jake rubbed at his headfur, almost afraid to ask the next question. “Were there any casualties?”
“None I know of,” retorted Felina. “All my men reported back the minute I called.”
Jake quietly let out a sigh of relief. “Alright. Zed, access the city channels and show me where they are.”
/Yes, Mr. Clawson.\\
“What has he hit so far, Feral?”
“Surprisingly, nothing except Enforcer jets. Uncle had everybody retreat before there was any more damage.”
Jake’s eyes narrowed. “He’s trying to keep you guys grounded. Less of a mess to deal with afterwards.”
“Well, he hasn’t knocked me out yet. I’m heading over the bay.”
Zed projected the jets flying over the Megakat Bay as Jake watched in some thought. The tom leaned back some, remembering, trying to picture himself in the WSO’s seat of that black jet. He opened his eyes again. “He’s going to fly in circles just to throw you off.”
“So, follow his course?”
“And, try to keep out of sight. You want to make him think he’s got you. But, don’t let your guard down. Use those clouds as cover.”
As they watched the screen, Greenbox turned to Jake curiously. “Was your partner always predictable, Mr. Clawson?”
“Not always, which is what worries me. Chance would make you think he was about to do something and then do the exact opposite. There were times when even I was thrown off.”
Greenbox gave him an unreadable look. “That’s not very helpful, Mr. Clawson.”
“What he said, Clawson,” Felina dryly quipped from her cover in the clouds after hearing that exchange. “Also, I can’t keep this up if he’s going to change course at any time!”
/If I may, Lt. Feral.\\ Zed abruptly brought up a trajectory on her screen. /You wish to keep that jet in front of you in order to bring it down. I would suggest increasing your altitude and getting behind it along this path.\\
Felina stared at the diagram in front of her. At any other given point in time, she would have told the computer to mind its own business, but by this point, she was desperate.
Increase her altitude…
“Zed, are you able to track it? It’s got a stealth technology that we can’t track on our jets.”
/Affirmative. The coordinates will be sent to you.\\
That jet wasn’t too far off, she mused as she eyed the new information in front of her. Calculating, she abruptly yanked back the yoke and started climbing.
“Five seconds,” she whispered through clenched teeth, maneuvering as she felt a cold pit in her stomach while her jet rolled through the clouds. She forced her eyes open to see nothing but the vast blue of the bay, catching the black jet in time as it sped beneath her. “Four seconds… Three seconds…” Her thumb found the firing control. “Two seconds…”
Her target was in front of her.
The missile flew as she momentarily held her breath, willing it to hit something, anything.
Her minor victory was short-lived as the jet banked to a side, the missile mildly scraping the tail. Growling, she lined up another shot, only to find the jet now doing the maneuver Clawson had told her about earlier. It flew in circles several times, not a single shot fired at her, much to her surprise.
Then, it disappeared into the clouds.
“You okay?” Jake asked once the lieutenant came into view.
“I’ll live,” Felina returned with a frustrated huff. “I almost had him.”
“Yeah, you did.” Jake frowned in thought. ‘Just what is he doing?’
/Unfortunately, your target is no longer on the radar.\\
“Of course he isn’t. Clawson, I’m heading back to headquarters. We can compare notes after I’ve been read the riot act.”
As the communication was cut off, Jake turned to Greenbox. “As good as Feral is, she still couldn’t bring him down.”
“Well, as intriguing as that was, we just can’t waste any more time, Mr. Clawson.” Greenbox walked back to the center of the hanger. “The pieces are all set. It’s time to put them together.”
Jake nodded assent. “Zed?”
/Yes, Mr. Clawson.\\ A series of blueprints merged onscreen. /Turbokat completion: Now entering phase one.\\
To Be Continued…
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