Comments: This was the chapter that refused to go anywhere, which is why it took this long to write… and why it ended up being a lot longer than expected. Hopefully it was worth the wait? On the plus side, Felina is just too much fun to write. 😉
“We are not going out saving the galaxy in those get-ups.”
“But, Commander! The bright colors will certainly count for something!”
“Aside the possibility of leaving everybody wheezing in laughter, the answer is still ‘no’, Captain.”
“Not to mention that they make us walking targets!”
“Yes, Sergeant, I was getting to that.”
“You two are no fun. What if I threw in capes?”
“No capes. The last time we attempted that, the Sergeant was screaming his head off.”
“Because it got caught in a fence and nearly strangled me to death!”
“The cape is what traumatized you? Not that the fact that we were forced to wear our underwear on the outside of our uniforms?”
“That was a close second! Neon… why did it have to be neon…?”
“Commander, he’s got that faraway look in his eyes again.”
“Case in point. No capes, no bright colors and certainly NO OUTER UNDERWEAR.”
– Kat Kommandos – Issue 3 –
Callie couldn’t remember the last time she blinked. She continued staring, the box in her hands slowly falling to the floor. “It’s…”
Jake was smiling. It was probably the first time in months she’d seen her friend smile without making it look like he was being forced to. He stood next to the project he had been painstakingly working on with Greenbox and Zed for the last two months, rubbing off the oil on his hands.
“…beautiful.” Callie finally made her way to take a closer look at the new jet in the center of the hangar, its black and red coat shining against the overhead lights. “When you said it was a big deal, I never imagined…”
Jake chuckled. “I can finally say she’s finished. Say ‘hi’ to the Turbokat.”
“Is this an older model? I can’t recall the Enforcers ever flying one of these.”
“You’re looking at what’s close to a Birman F-14 Tomkat, with a few modifications, of course.” Jake patted the side of the jet fondly. “The military retired them years ago, so there were plenty of parts to spare in the junkyard.”
He watched as she slowly walked around the jet, examining every single feature as though she’d miss something if she didn’t check it thoroughly. After a few minutes, he cleared his throat. “So, were you able to bring what I asked you?”
“Huh? Oh, right.” Snapping out of her daze, Callie reached for the box she dropped earlier. “I went to that friend I mentioned, and he managed to put something together with your size and specifications, and I brought some extra material with the colors you asked for.”
Checking the box contents, Jake grinned. “Perfect. Because I’m gonna be testing the Turbokat tonight. The sooner I can get her into the sky, the better.”
Callie blinked. “Tonight? And, you’re going to be piloting?”
The tom smirked. “What’s with the face? Don’t you have any confidence in my flying?”
“It’s not that. Didn’t you always say that you and Chance had agreed you were better off in the gunner’s seat?”
“That was a one time deal,” Jake muttered, his attention diverted back to the box of fabrics.
“Are you sure?” Callie took a seat on a nearby chair. “Because Chance always went into full detail whenever he described your daily flights, especially when you two first started.”
Jake almost didn’t catch her grin. “I’ll have you know he did his fair share of screaming, too. And, seriously? That was the topic of your date nights?”
“That, and your obsession with B-Movies.” Her voice lowered itself to a perfect baritone. “‘He dragged me to see ‘Megamoth and Hardshell Take on Katskill’, Callie. Then he argued with me over who won that fight. Oh, for the record, it was Megamoth… even if my eyes were closed the entire time.'”
As Jake buried his face into a hand to suppress his laughter, Greenbox emerged from his personal workshop, carrying a metal sphere. “It’s too dangerous to go alone,” he turned to Jake and held it out, “Take this.”
Ignoring the reference, Jake’s eyes widened. “Is that…?”
Greenbox motioned to the Turbokat. “I’m sure you remember that hub we built into the jet’s bay?”
With that, the sphere floated gently out of his hands and into the very hub he’d mentioned. The unmistakable sound of machinery clicking and activating was soon followed by a quick series of beeps. /Analyzing.\\ And, one by one, the lights inside the Turbokat came to life, a faint blue glow surrounding the jet before disappearing again. /Analysis complete. Turbokat ready for flight.\\
“Mr. Clawson,” Greenbox turned to an astonished Jake, “meet your pilot.”
The hangar was quiet for a few minutes, until Callie broke the silence with a loud sigh of relief. “Well, that’s one worry off my mind.” The blonde patted Jake on the shoulder. “Go get ’em, Sureshot.”
“It was one time! Once!” Jake picked up the box of fabrics once again and made his way to one of the drafting tables. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve gotta be fitted for a test flight.” He finished his statement with a loud raspberry.
“Amazing,” Greenbox muttered to a laughing Callie. “I finally found someone less mature than my students.”
“Survived another chewout, huh?”
Felina gave her fellow pilot a dry glare. “Don’t ask. How’s the arm?”
The pilot held it up with a slight wince. “Another four weeks and I’ll be able to arm wrestle again.”
“Good. That keeps me from placing any bets on you.”
“I knew ya’ cared.”
Grinning, she walked with him. “Anyway, are the others in the hangar?”
“Ready to go. There’s still chatter of how ya’ managed to hit that jet a few weeks back. Yer giving the rest of us a run for our money.”
“Am I detecting a hint of sucking up, Sulfur?”
Sulfur grinned, holding up his uninjured hand, fingers about an inch apart. “A wee bit. At any rate, I’ll be down here cheering ya’ on. At least until I can fly again.”
Felina clapped him on the shoulder. “Thanks.” With that, she made her way into the hangar to regroup with some of her squadron. “What’s tonight’s headache?”
“You’re just in time, Ma’am.” One of her squadron members was already climbing into her jet. “Guess who was just spotted in the warehouse district?”
Felina let out an exasperated sigh. “Any damage?”
“None so far, so we might as well intercept it while we still can,” returned another pilot.
“I want a clean flight this time.” The lieutenant made her way into her own jet. “Nothing reckless.” She had to smirk at the loud snorts emitting from the others. “Since this is a last minute mission, we’ll have to plan as we go.” Felina fired the thrusters. “Squadron, move out.”
The adrenaline rush was incredible. The minute the Turbokat sped up the runway and shot into the night sky, he couldn’t help but let out a whoop of excitement. The g-suit felt foreign, but his seat in the jet was all too familiar.
“It’s like I never left.”
Jake ran his fingers over the console in front of him for the fifth time that evening. It had finally hit him that this was really happening. He was flying again.
This was it. This was what he’d spent eight months of sleepless nights on. And, it was going to be worth it. He could finally focus on his mission.
/You seem a lot quieter than before, Mr. Clawson. Your adrenaline levels have even dropped about forty-three percent. Is everything alright?\\
“‘Razor’ when we’re up here, Zed,” Jake reminded the A.I. gently, absentmindedly tugging at the mask around his eyes. “And, I’m okay. It just feels surreal is all.”
/Understood. And, the uniform fits to your specifications?\\
“For now. I think there’s more we can add to it. We still need to concentrate on getting that jetpack working.”
/Not to mention your specs for space travel.\\
Razor grinned. “One day at a time, Zed.”
/If you insist. At any rate, we are nearing the warehouse district. This was the last place the jet was seen.\\
The weapons officer leaned back in his seat, the adrenaline slowly returning. “Then, we’ll have to be ready.”
“Well, this is interesting.”
Felina perked her ears to the frequency in her jet. “You got something, Korat?”
“Radar just picked up a pretty large target about thirty miles west of here. Might be our guy.”
“You sure?” queried the pilot trailing behind them. “Last I checked, we couldn’t pick him up on radar. Crazy stealth tech, remember?”
“That’s what makes it interesting.” Korat was undoubtedly smirking, her eyes fixated on the screen in front of her. “Maybe something’s not working right on their end.”
“That’ll hopefully be in our favor.” Felina maneuvered her jet in the direction indicated, the other two in her squadron following closely behind.
“So, this is where he was last seen?” Razor eyed the warehouse district in thought, wondering what could have been so important to warrant that jet in the area.
/Sensors are picking up faint contrails leading west, at least an hour prior to our arrival.\\
Razor narrowed his eyes. “West, huh? That leads to Megakat Canyon. We’re gonna have to do a short trip after -”
/I am sorry to interrupt, Razor.\\ Zed barely finished his sentence when a burst of fire power flew past them. /We appear to have company.\\
“Please don’t tell me you missed on purpose.”
Korat rolled her eyes skyward. “Warning shot, Kougar. I’d like to think we want this fight away from the city?”
“Oh, is that what you call it every time you shoot me down in the simulator? Could’ve fooled me.”
“Save it for later, kits.” Felina watched the jet in front of them start to ascend higher above the city. “We got his attention. Don’t let him out of your sights.”
“Get us out of here, Zed.” Razor double-checked his instruments. “He’s obviously not here, and I don’t want a fight this soon, especially not with the Enforcers.”
/Affirmative. Do you wish to return to the hangar?\\
“Can’t risk them following us back.” The weapons officer considered his options. Then, he allowed himself a small smirk. “On second thought, let’s see what she can handle.”
/You do wish to engage the Enforcers?\\ The emoticon of a confused face with a red question mark appeared onscreen.
“I just wanna see how much faster she is compared to the average Enforcer jet.”
/You are aware that I am capable of calculating the speeds of both types of jets?\\
“That’d be taking the easy way out, Zed.”
The Turbokat now dodged two direct hits.
/You consider math calculations to be “the easy way out”?\\
“Sometimes,” returned Razor, looking behind him as the Enforcer jets started to close in.
/Perhaps you should consider lecturing Professor Greenbox’ students. They do not seem to think so.\\
“What’re your orders, Boss Kat?”
Felina considered her options. “Both of you, opposite directions. I’ll follow him from behind. Let’s see if we can’t take out those wings.”
/They appear to be coming from different directions. And, they’re accelerating. Once again, I can calculate what it would take to outfly them.\\
“And, again, I wanna see what the Turbokat is capable of. Now, what missiles do we have in our arsenal?”
“He’s heading towards Sector Eight. I’m going in!”
The silver jet streaked around the buildings leading towards the center of downtown. This wasn’t the ideal area for a dogfight, which meant she had to play her cards right and strike at the right time.
‘No stalling, Katrina. Just fire as soon as you’ve got him on target. Steady… steady…’ There! “He’s locked! Firing now!”
The missiles flew, parting the clouds across the night sky as they went after their target, and then twisting in opposite directions as the black jet evaded them.
“Well, that didn’t work.” She detonated the projectiles before they hit any of the buildings. “Ma’am, stealth tech or not, he’s still faster than any of our missiles.” She frowned at her radar. “Speaking of stealth, I think he turned it back on.”
“Turned it on, nothing!” Kougar suddenly barked over the radio. “He’s right behind you! Evade!”
Korat gasped, unable to dodge the missile, then cringed as she felt a sharp jolt that shook the interior. Evasion no longer an option, she found herself being forced to land her jet as her systems screamed over damage taken to her left wing.
“That’s one down.” Razor checked the inventory. “But, they’re still fast enough to catch up with us.”
/I still insist all of this could have been avoided. But, my research does indicate that felines have the need to show off and one-up each other. Is this something that is hardwired from the day you are born, or is this due to your environmental upbringing?\\
/Your annoyed and dry tone of voice has been noted, Razor.\\
Korat leapt out of her cockpit to see the damage done to her wing, then frowned upon closer inspection that not only was the damage minimal, but also that her gloved fingers were covered in a sticky black substance.
“Tar? That’s new.”
“Korat, come in. You okay?”
She looked up at the skies as she returned the call through her helmet. “Still alive, Boss Kat, and it looks like I can still fly, but I’m out of this fight. You’re gonna have to kick his tail for me. And, Kougar? Don’t gloat if you do manage to land a hit. It’s impolite to do so towards a lady.”
“All the more reason to gloat,” returned Kougar. “Stay safe down there.”
Felina felt uneasy. So far, this fight was a far cry from any of the other encounters they’d had with that black jet. Their adversary usually came at them without warning, no mercy, and hits designed to kill. It was only a miracle he hadn’t taken any lives.
“What is he doing?”
“Leading us into a false sense of security is my guess, Ma’am,” returned Kougar. “With all due respect, I don’t know if there’s much the two of us can do.” He stalled, clearly picturing the glare she was giving her jet console, a glare so potent he could practically feel the lasers coming out of her eyes. “Not that you couldn’t take him on yourself. I mean, you can, but…”
Felina rolled her eyes, then abruptly felt like she was being watched. The jet was on her radar, but not in any direction she could see except…
She tilted her head upwards to see a masked kat grinning down at her, a hand waving in a friendly and rather familiar gesture. Safely strapped into the cockpit of a jet that hadn’t seen the light of day in years.
“Kougar, that’s not our guy.”
“Contact Korat and head back to headquarters. I’ll catch up.”
By the time Felina had gotten Clawson’s coordinates, her mood had de-escalated to that of someone willing to hear a certain tomkat out before murdering him with her bare hands.
She landed in a remote area of the desert near Megakat Canyon, finding Clawson leaning against… Well, she had to admit that the older jet model was magnificent. Alright, maybe she could maim him a little instead.
“First of all!” she started, marching across the cold sand and pointing towards the jet. “That is awesome! Second of all!” She was suddenly in his face. “Are you out of your mind?!”
Jake held his arms up and backed up a tad, reaching to remove the mask around his face. “Not exactly. I didn’t intend to find myself in a dog fight with one of the Enforcers’ top squadrons. So, I wanted stop it before it got out of control. Hence the tar missile.”
“A little heads up would’ve been appreciated, Clawson!”
/Technically, your head was tilted upwards when we announced our presence, Lieutenant Feral.\\
“Like I said, I didn’t expect to run into an Enforcer patrol,” Jake interjected, catching Felina’s murderous look towards the Turbokat. “This was supposed to be a test flight.” He rubbed the back of his head. “Heh, it became more than that. Sorry.”
“You’re lucky my squadron’s learned to take fights like this in stride.” Felina sharply exhaled, her anger dying down. Taking in everything she’d seen and heard tonight, she directed her gaze back to the jet. “Tar missile? So you’re not using the usual armament?”
“I may have a couple old school missiles, but the idea is to keep the targets grounded without causing a lot of damage.” Jake crossed his arms. “Most of the designs are mine, though. I’m gonna play Dark Kat at his own game.”
The lieutenant rubbed at her forehead. “And, the computer Greenbox created is piloting?”
“Zed’s studied just about every move that jet’s made from day one, mostly through the city’s media channels and anything we catch on the news. And, I flew with my partner long enough to know what kind of maneuvers he’s going to make.”
Felina sighed. “I guess it’s better than the alternative. From what I heard, the simulator had seen better days when you tried piloting.”
Jake threw his hands up. “ONE. TIME.”
“So, what are you gonna go do now?”
The tom retied the mask around his face. “We found traces of a contrail leading out of the city and into the canyon. I’m gonna check it out.”
“For the time being, I’m gonna see where exactly it stops. That might be our first lead.”
“You sure you don’t need back-up?”
“I think I’ll manage. That, and I don’t want to draw too much attention.” Jake leapt back into the cockpit. “I need you to tell the Enforcers that they’ve got an ally now. I’m going to stop this. I promise.”
“Pff. Don’t try and carry the whole world on your shoulders, Clawson.”
Felina smirked. “Right. Razor.” She stepped back and shielded her eyes as the jet ascended. “You come back alive, you got that?! We gotta talk strategy!”
A grin, a thumbs up and the now masked Razor flew off into the starry night sky, searching for a lead that would hopefully bring an end to the destruction and bring his friend home once and for all.
TO BE CONTINUED
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