Original SWAT Kats Story

Hurricane

By Skybright Daye

  • 2 Chapters
  • 16,522 Words

(Unfinished) Jake and Chance need help at the garage, or the SWAT Kats will be grounded for quite some time. Meanwhile, an ex-Enforcer with a tragic past looks for a new job. Is this the answer to the guys’ problem?

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Author's Notes:

Title: Hurricane, Part Two

Author: Skybright Daye (skybright_daye@hotmail.com)

Rating: PG

Summary: Life at the scrapyard is good . . . but how will Maggie cope with Jake and Chance’s “other job”? Meanwhile, a strange new threat appears in the desert — and some familiar enemies are behind it . . .

Disclaimer and Author’s Note: Maggie Blackclaw, Matthew Blackclaw, and all other assorted original characters are mine. The SWAT Kats, MegaKat City, and all other assorted characters that aren’t original belong to Hanna-Barbera. They’re making money off their characters; I’m not making money off mine. Any questions?

Special Thankyou goes out to Mandy! Without your e-mail there’s no telling *when* this would’ve gotten posted — so, thank you!!

Read and review or you shall be set upon by Spot, the ruthless attack pool ball!! You have been warned!!

Chapter 2

****************************************************************** CHAPTER FOUR ******************************************************************

“I am I, Don Quixote, the looord of LaManxa . . . .” Jake’s voice echoed from the kitchen downstairs. “My des-ti-ny calls and I gooo . . .”

Maggie rolled her eyes and finished running a brush through her thick dark hair. “When I took this job,” she muttered, “Nobody told me one of my housemates had a thing for musicals.”

The bright sunlight of an August morning shone through the window, illuminating the patchwork quilt and other homey touched Maggie had added in her two months of residence. It had been an interesting two months, to say the least.

True to her prediction, Maggie really liked working at the garage. It had been too long since she’d let herself be friends with anyone. Jake and Chance were the best friends she had made since leaving the Enforcers nearly four years earlier.

Of course, adjusting to her new surroundings hadn’t all been sweetness and light. For one thing, Maggie had been living on her own for so long, she’d forgotten what it was like to have another kat around. Things like Chance’s Scaredy-Kat addiction, Jake’s fondness for musicals, and the habit they both had of leaving socks and empty milk cans on the floor, had taken a lot of getting used to. Not to mention the way they had of sometimes disappearing without a trace, only to reappear hours later, exhausted and grinning like they’d just won the Indykat-500. Or the glances that sometimes passed between the two of them, followed by an abrupt change in conversation. Or Jake’s habit of bumping his feet in the middle of the night and making enough noise to raise the dead. Or . . . .

Well, the list went on.

Among the things that had puzzled Maggie at first was “the noise”. The first time she had heard it, she’d been in the shower. Maggie had assumed that the dull, screaming roar she’d heard had something to do with the hot water pipes — plumbing wasn’t her strong point — until she had heard it again, two weeks later. She’d been in the study that time, and had glanced out the window just in time to spot what looked like a Wraith-class jet fighter soar between her and the morning sun. That had prompted her to ask Jake later that afternoon.

“Oh, that.” He had explained, sticking his head out from under a Katillac. “The, uh, Enforcers run a lot of test flights out in the Megakat desert. That’s probably what you heard. It happens a lot.”

After a while “the noise” had joined Scaredy-Kat and “The Kat of LaManxa” as one of those things she just accepted about life at the scrapyard.

Th Swat Kats had made a few appearances since her arrival — breaking up a catnip ring, taking out a big-league mobster, and knocking out a pair of crooks called the Metallikats — who, Maggie learned from a visit to the library, were experimental robots containing the personalities of Mac and Molly Mange.

That was one of Maggie’s small hobbies — visiting the library to piece together information about the vigilantes. Since, as her uncle had told her sagely, “Everyone in MKC has a theory about who they are,” Maggie couldn’t see any reason that she shouldn’t form a theory of her own.

Before she could begin to think about that, though, Jake thumped a few times on the kitchen ceiling — Maggie’s floor — with the handle of a broom (his own patented method of getting her attention).

“Hey, Maggie!” He shouted through the floor. “If you want any breakfast, you’d better get down here — you know how Chance is about omelettes!” That said, he launched into a chorus from “South Pacific.”

“There ain’t nothing like a dame . . . .”

Maggie grinned in surrender as she pulled her hair up into a ponytail. “Some days, I’d really like to get my hands on Rodgers and Hammerkat.”

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

“So,” Maggie asked as she finished washing the last of an omelette off of her plate, “What’s on the agenda for today?”

“Well,” Chance said, leaning back, “I’ve gotta go scouting for a part for that old Katswagen — the only place in town that sells ‘em charges an arm and a tail. You wanna lend a paw?”

“Sure.” Maggie agreed, drying her paws on a dishtowel. “Let’s go scrap hunting.”

Maggie straightened up, brushing rust and dirt off of her paws. “Nothing over here.”

“Or here.” Chance answered, emerging from behind a pile of rotting parts. “Guess we’ll keep looking.”

“Yeah . . .” Maggie’s voice trailed off as something caught her eye. “Hey, look at this!” She pounced on a square silver part about the size of a grapefruit and held it up, grinning.

“What is it?” Chance asked, taking it from her to examine it.

“It’s an Engine Management Processor from a Talon-class jet fighter. Takes all the commands that the pilot feeds the propulsion systems, organizes them according to priority, and sends them to the engines. It also monitors engine status and divides the workload according to how much each engine can take.”

“Whoa.” Chance said, handing the part back to her. “You sure?”

“I should be,” Maggie replied. “I designed the thing.” She held it up again. “This is probably worth a lot of money . . . hey!” She bent to retrieve another part. “This is part of the ejection system from a Talon. And that over there looks like a part of the weapons board!” She held up the two parts. “This is high-level classified stuff, Chance — or it was, four years ago.”

“Well, this *is* a military scrapyard.” Chance noted. “You should see some of the weird stuff Jake and I have found.”

“I’ll bet.” Maggie turned in a slow circle, looking around. “There’s a lot of parts from Talon-class fighters lying around here. They must have dumped the prototypes here after the first squadron went down.” Her eyes lit up. “I’ll bet you we could build an entire plane out of this stuff!”

Chance laughed. “Are you kidding? Build a jet fighter out of spare parts?”

Maggie grinned. “I guess you’re right. It is kind of farfetched.” She dropped the parts. “Come on, let’s find that part for the Katswagen.”

But an idea had started forming in her mind . . . .

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

Maggie sat at the drafting desk in the study, staring absently at the sheets of blueprint paper spread out before her. It had been a long time since she’d thought about *the planes* as anything more than the event that ruined her career, but still . . . .

Grabbing a pencil, she began to tentatively trace the outline of a Talon-class fighter. Her photographic memory slowly began to kick in, revealing the schematics for a missile here, an exhaust outtake there . . . and the more she drew the more she remembered. On to the engine, now . . . . As she drew, Maggie began to remember, not just the schematics, but the days after the Desert War had ended.

**** “Major Margaret Blackclaw?” The Enforcer MP was tall, black, and surly, towering over Maggie’s desk. She looked up at him.

“Yes?”

“You are under arrest by order of the Enforcers General Court.”

Maggie, astonished, glanced from the MP to the Sergeant she had been talking to, and back to the MP again. “On what charge?”

“The charges are Espionage, Sabotage, and Criminal Negligence. And I’d suggest,” He growled, “That you come along peacefully.”

**** “Order!” The presiding officer brought his gavel down with a crack. “This Court Martial is now in session. Margaret Blackclaw, you are charged with Espionage, Sabotage, Incorrect Design Procedure, and Criminal Negligence resulting in the untimely deaths of five Enforcers. How do you plead?”

“Innocent, sir.”

The courtroom erupted into murmurs. A reporter’s flashbulb went off, and the presiding officer brought the gavel down again. “Order! Get that camera out of here!”

Maggie closed her eyes. It was going to be a long month.

****

Actually, it had been the longest month of her life. The Enforcers had finally found a way to pass the blame for Hurricane Squadron’s destruction — by charging that it was the engines, not the weapons, that had failed in the critical moment. Most of their “evidence” for those claims was pure malarkey, but they were determined to make it stick. And the arrogant, self- righteous attitude of the prosecutor — A Colonel Feral — hadn’t made the ordeal any easier.

“Margaret Blackclaw, step forward please.” The presiding officer stood. “Major Blackclaw, after secret and unanimous ballot, this panel finds you . . . .” He held up a sheet of paper.

“Of the charge of Espionage: not guilty.

“Of the charge of Sabotage: not guilty.

“Of the charge of Incorrect Design Procedure: not guilty.

“And, Major Blackclaw, for not insisting that all elements of the Talon-class fighters be thoroughly tested before allowing your squadron to fly them in battle — of the charge of Criminal Negligence, this General Court Martial finds the accused, Margaret Blackclaw:

“Guilty, on all counts.”

The courtroom once again exploded, and yet another flashbulb went off.

“Order! Sentencing to commence as follows; that the accused be stripped of her rank and dishonorably discharged from the ranks of the Megakat Enforcers. Sentence to be carried out as soon as possible.”

****

*And carried out it was,* Maggie thought, putting the finishing touches on the engine designs. *All for following my orders.* She turned to a new sheet of blueprint paper and started in on the cockpit.

Midnight saw Maggie putting the last few touches on the blueprints. Satisfied, she leaned back to regard what she had done.

“Well, what on earth am I ever going to do with this?” She rolled up the sheets of paper and fastened them with a rubber band. “Other than building a plane in my spare time? Doubt I’d have much use for it.” She grinned. “Chalk it up to my overactive engineer’s mind.”

Glancing at the clock on the bookshelf, Maggie shook her head. “I’m never going to get to sleep when I’m this worked up.” She stood, stretching. “Maybe some warm milk will help.”

**** Maggie crept downstairs, carefully avoiding the groaning board in the second step. One foot on that would be more than enough to wake up Chance, who was a light sleeper.

She paused when she saw light streaming from the kitchen, then shook her head in gentle exasperation. “No wonder our electric bill is so high. This is what you get when you put two bachelor kats in the same house.” However, as she drew closer, she could catch the sound of voices. Puzzled — what were Jake and Chance doing up this late? — she crept up next to the door and listened in.

“I’m telling you, Jake, Maggie’s about *this* far from figuring it out.”

“Aw, Chance. It’s been two months. Why don’t you relax?”

“You didn’t hear her out there today. She wasn’t just kidding about building a plane — she *meant* it, I could tell. And the way she knew what all those parts were for . . . .” The clock in the hall chimed 12:30, wiping out a fragment of the conversation.

” . . . Enforcer?” Jake sounded incredulous. “Chance, do you really believe that?”

“Well, how do we know she *isn’t* working for Feral?” Chance’s voice challenged. “You know what’ll happen if he figures it out.”

Maggie’s eyebrows arched. Her? Working for *Feral*? About as likely as Manx growing a backbone.

She brushed her bangs out of her eyes and pushed the door open.

Jake and Chance stopped in mid-sentence, watching her uncertainly. Maggie grinned, trying to lighten the awkward moment. “You two look like the kittens who got caught with the canary.”

Jake laughed. “Well, you *did* interrupt our top-secret plans for world domination.”

“As long as it’s nothing major.” Maggie reached into the fridge and pulled out a can of milk. She could feel the glances passing between her roommates as she went through the motions of warming up the drink. Finally, she turned, a steaming mug in hand. “I have a confession to make.” She took a seat at the kitchen table, opposite Chance and Jake. “I’m not just a mechanic.”

“You’re a secret agent.” Jake quipped.

“Not quite.” Maggie glanced between the two kats. “Do either of you remember when Hurricane squadron crashed, near the end of the Desert War?”

“Vaguely.” Jake said, wrinkling his brow. “It’s kind of blurry.”

“I remember.” Chance said. “Scott Lewis was a friend of my older brother.”

“You remember later that year, in May? The trial?”

“Are you kidding?” Jake rolled his eyes. “I had finals to study for. I was in total media isolation.”

“I wasn’t.” Chance said. “Feral and the General Court tried to pin the whole thing on the squadron leader . . .” Something seemed to click. “Wait a minute! That was you!”

“That was me.” Maggie agreed, taking a drink of her milk.

“Whoa.” Jake interrupted. “Can we back up?”

Maggie laughed softly, and then began to relate the events that had taken her from leading Hurricane Squadron to seeking work as a mechanic. The milk was cold by the time she’d finished.

“Guess we’re not the only Enforcers to get a raw deal.” Chance growled.

“No kidding. “Jake shot a significant look at Chance, who nodded and cleared his throat.

“Look, Maggie . . .” He began. “Jake and I have a confession to make, too.”

Maggie leaned back in her chair and took a calm drink of milk.

“Does this have anything to do with you guys being the Swat Kats?”

Dunh-dunh- DAA (dramatic swell of music). Fade to black . . .

Voice-over:

Swat Kats is brought to you by . . .

Kat Mandu Iced Tea

When you need the refreshment of the Himalayas, reach for Kat Mandu!

Swat Kats will return after these messages.

****************************************************************** CHAPTER FIVE ****************************************************************** Jake and Chance’s eyes both widened, and they spoke simultaneously. “You KNOW?”

Maggie grinned smugly. “Come on, guys. I’m not *that* dense.”

“How . . .?” Jake’s eyebrows shot up. “What tipped you off?”

Maggie placed the mug on the table and began ticking off reasons on her fingers. “For starters, I *know* what a jet taking off sounds like. Then there’s that weird way you guys have of stopping conversations in the middle — usually conversations having to do with the Enforcers or the Swat Kats. Add to that the fact that I’ve *never* been able to find either of you when the Swat Kats are making an appearance. And the ‘forbidden hallway’ which, I’m betting, contains the entrance to your hangar. You’ve got enough Enforcers scrap lying around outside to build *three* planes, and to top it all off . . .” She laughed. “Guys, eye masks do not constitute an impenetrable disguise.”

“Hey!” Chance said defensively. “Feral’s never figured it out!”

“Feral doesn’t spend sixteen hours a day staring at your furry mugs.” Maggie replied, grinning.

“Good point.” Jake agreed. “So, how long have you known?”

“I’ve been suspicious about it for three or four weeks now — ever since you . . . well, ever since Razor and T-Bone broke up that katnip ring, and I noticed that you two resembled them. Finding all that scrap from the Talons is what clinched it.” Her tail twitched.”So.”

“So.” Chance echoed. “Now what?”

“I’ll leave it up to you guys.” Maggie said. “If it makes you nervous having me around, and you want me to leave, I’ll bow out gracefully and leave town.” She laughed. “Nobody will ever believe me if I say that the Swat Kats are really mechanics.”

“What if you stay?” Jake asked.

Maggie shrugged. “I dunno. I guess we can just go on. I can keep on living upstairs, not say anything when you guys go out. It can’t hurt to have someone else around — in case one of you gets hurt or something.”

Chance nodded. “Sounds like a plan.” Jake agreed.

“Good.” Maggie smiled slyly. “So do I get to see her?”

****

“Wow.” Maggie ran a paw along the sleek black side of the TurboKat. Then she turned to her housemates, grinning. “Chance, Jake, this is one fine lady you have here.”

“Thanks.” Jake grinned. “Wait ‘til you see her teeth.” He plopped down at a computer console and started calling up weapons schematics.

Maggie leaned over, exited. “Octopus missiles . . . buzzsaws . . . titanium nets. . . Jake, you designed all these?”

“Designed and built ‘em.” He grinned. “And you thought my specialty was replacing transmissions.”

She laughed and glanced over her shoulder at Chance. “You’re the pilot?” He nodded. “So tell me — she’s got the looks, she’s got the teeth — but does she have the legs?”

Grinning, Chance replaced Jake at the console and started showing Maggie the engines.

Maggie whistled in amazement. “Ho-ly kats.”

“Faster than anything the Enforcers have.” Chance said proudly. “You should see this baby run.”

“I’ll bet.” Maggie turned, examining the hangar. “You guys have put a lot of work into this place.”

“Yea, and it’s not very often we get bragging rights on it, either.” Chance stood up. “Come on. We’ll show you the rest of it.”

“Great!’ Maggie smiled. “Okay, guys, one thing I’m curious about; where on earth did you find flight suits?”

“Well,” Jake explained, “We’ve got this friend in San Franciskat . . .”

“He’s an Enforcers surplus dealer.” Chance added.

“And he owed me this favor . . . .”

******

It was three in the morning before Maggie finally half-fell into bed, exhausted and amazed at the same time. Her mind whirled with thoughts of heroes, jets, and villains.

It seemed she had barely fallen asleep, however, before she was awakened by someone pounding vigorously on the door to her room. She rolled out of bed, confused and still half- asleep. “Hello . . .?”

The door swung open to reveal a thin, night-black kat. <Out of bed!> He shouted impatiently in Canine. <Hurry up, you MegaKat spy!>

“Spy?” Maggie looked around, bewildered.”What . . .?” Peering across the room, she could just make out the markings of a CIA uniform. “Wait a minute! We’re not in Canis . . . .”

The kat hissed a Canine curse. <Not just a spy, but crazy too! You’ll be better off dead.> Ignoring Maggie’s vigorous protests, he grabbed her arm in a grip like iron and dragged her away.

*** The cold wind whipped across the scrapyard. Maggie, stunned into inaction, let the guard drag her in front of the line of Canine soldiers. *What’s going on?* Maggie thought, bewildered. *What are they here for?*

Cold dread filled her as she suddenly realized the answer . . .

*A firing squad.*

“Wait!” She shouted, holding her paws out. “Hold on! I’m not a spy! I swear, I’m not a spy!”

“Well, of course you’re not.”

*That voice . . . .* Maggie turned to look at the kat who had spoken. That cold, lifeless voice perfectly matched the dead-white fur and electric blue eyes she had known she’d see. That voice could belong to no other kat. It could only be . . .

“MacClawed.”

He smirked and turned to the firing squad. “Ready . . .”

“It was you all along.”

“Aim . . .”

“No, wait!”

“Fire!”

***

“MACCLAWED!”

Maggie sat bolt upright in bed, shivering with cold sweat. The room was warm and silent, silver-blue moonlight giving everything a luminous glow. There was no dark cell, no Canine firing squad.

No MacClawed.

Throwing back the blankets, Maggie took a deep breath and stood up. As safe as the room looked, the nightmare still lingered like a scent in the air. She headed for the study. ***

Maggie sank onto the couch in the study, head in paws. *The nightmares are back.* She had secretly hoped that sharing the story of the Hurricanes with Jake and Chance would banish them . . . .

“Hey.”

Maggie looked up, startled. Chance was leaning in the doorway, concern written in his features.

“You okay?”

“Did I wake you up?”

Chance shrugged. “No big deal.” He made his way to the drafting desk and sat down. “You look terrible.”

Maggie snorted. “Thanks.”

Chance was quiet for a moment, watching her. “You wanna talk about it?”

She shrugged. “It’s just . . . bad dreams. They come and go. No big deal.”

“Who’s MacClawed?”

Maggie winced. “You heard that, huh?”

“Yeah.”

She sighed. “James MacClawed is — was — the head weapons designer for the Talon project — and the only kat on the project who would have known that the weapons weren’t ready yet. *I* think he was working for the Canines, but nobody’s ever been able to prove it.” Maggie held her paws out, protesting against Chance’s worried expression. “Look, Chance, it’s just nightmares. Don’t worry about it.”

Chance shook his head. “It’s my job to worry. Honestly, between you and Jake . . .” He rolled his eyes. “You’d think the two of you *like* being sleep deprived.”

“I’m not the one wandering down the hallway to check on me at four A.M., am I?” Maggie grinned, trying to lighten the mood. “I thought Swat Kats needed their sleep.”

He smiled grudgingly back. “So do you.” He glanced at the rolled-up blueprints. “What are those?”

“Nothing special.” Picking up the roll of papers, she slid off the rubber band and unrolled the plans.

“Whoa.” Chance raised his eyebrows. “You really do know how to build a Talon.”

“Like falling off a bicycle.” Maggie grinned. “You never forget.”

“I thought that was *riding* a bicycle.”

“You didn’t see me learn, obviously.”

Chance grinned. “I see.” He leafed through the blueprints. “Man, this is a beautiful bird.”

“Thanks.”

Chance examined the engine blueprints, running his finger down the list of parts. “You know, we really *could* build this thing with the stuff we’ve got out in the yard.”

“Whoa, muchacho!” She held her paws up. “Let’s just kill that thought right now, okay? It’s not gonna happen.”

“Why not?” Chance challenged. “You said it yourself — a life without flying isn’t worth living.”

Maggie leaned back, sighing. “Chance, in case you hadn’t noticed . . . the last time I got into a Talon it got blown out from underneath me — and I was the lucky one.”

“But that’s the point!” He jabbed his finger at the plans. “You know exactly what went wrong! You could rebuild a Talon that didn’t have any of the flaws from the original. You could improve it, make it better . . . .”

“What is this, The Six Million Dollar Kat?” Maggie rolled her eyes. “Okay, so what would I *do* with this Talon, once I got it built?”

Chance stared at her. “What do you *think* you’d do with it? The same thing me and Jake did with the TurboKat!”

“Ah. Let me think about that.” Maggie tilted her head. “No.”

“Ah, for cryin’ out . . . why not?!”

“Because.” Maggie shook her head. “Jake and Chance. Razor and T-Bone. Heck, even the sign outside says ‘Jake and Chance’s Garage!’” She stood up. “A partnership like you guys have is a self-contained thing. You don’t need a third wheel — or a third Swat Kat — hanging around.”

“What if we want one?” Jake’s voice interrupted. Maggie turned to find him standing in the doorway.

“Huh?”

Jake took a seat on the couch and shrugged. “Look, the garage isn’t the only place where we could use some help once in a while.”

“No kidding.” Chance agreed. “With Feral running things, the Enforcers are about as useful as a flat spare tire.”

“When the Pastmaster or the Metallikats show up, we’re pretty much the only hope that the city has.” Jake continued. “And that can get nerve-wracking, let me tell you.”

“So what you’re saying,” Maggie raised an eyebrow, “Is you don’t just want me helping as a mechanic — you want me helping as a Swat Kat?”

“Hey, if you’re as good a pilot as you are a mechanic . . .” Chance grinned.

Maggie had to laugh. “I might have been, once. But it’s been years since I’ve been in the air.”

“No problem!” Jake grinned. “You had the tour — we’ve got all sorts of training equipment downstairs.”

Maggie looked from one housemate to another. “You’re serious.”

“Absolutely!” They both answered.

She rolled her eyes and sighed. “With faces like those — how do I resist?” She took the plans from Chance and spread them out on the desk. “Okay. The first thing we’ll need to find is this . . . .”

****************************************************************** CHAPTER SIX ****************************************************************** “YEEEEEAAAAHHH!!” Maggie Blackclaw couldn’t resist a whoop of pure joy as her jet shot out of the hangar and into the bright sky above the Megakat Desert. “Now THIS is flying!”

Pulling back on the stick so fast that acceleration shoved her back into her seat, Maggie guided the jet into a series of rolls, banks, and turns that left her grinning. Only three months into its life, and the jet was already performing like a veteran.

“Having fun?” Jake’s slightly amused voice broke into Maggie’s private airshow.

“Do you have to ask?” Although she didn’t turn to look, Maggie knew she would find the TurboKat soaring protectively at eight o’clock high. “This is more fun than a video game tournament — and I won, by the way.”

“Only because I let you.”

“That’s what they all say.” Maggie grinned. “Where’s Chance? He’s never this quiet.”

“Back in the hangar. And it’s ‘T-Bone’ and ‘Razor’ when we’re in the air, remember?”

“You got it.” She raised her eyebrows. “So you’re driving? Should I be scared?”

“Ha, ha. I died laughing.” Razor retorted dryly. “C’mon. Let’s get down to business.”

“As you wish, oh sharp-aimed one.” Leaning forward, Maggie switched the weapons display to active mode. “Come on, kitten. Let’s show him what we’re made of.”

“Releasing target drones . . . now.” Razor informed her.

“Bring it on.”

A quartet of flying drones streaked into view, each shooting in a different direction. Maggie’s eyes flicked from weapons display to drones and back again.

“Y’know, I’ll bet these things are what the UFO fanatics are really seeing.” She remarked casually. “You ever let them out to play?” Razor merely snorted in reply.

“Guess that’s a no.” Maggie eyed the information scrolling across her defense analysis screen. “Okay, let’s try . . . .” She grinned. “Robin Hood missile — away.” A missile that resembled a closely-packed bundle of arrows shot towards the drones.

As a matter of fact it *was* a closely-packed bundle of arrows — jet-propelled ones that soon broke away from each other and shot towards the targets. One by one the modified “arrows” speared the fleeing drones.

“I shot an arrow into the air; it fell to earth, and I know exactly where.” Maggie announced smugly. “C’mon, Razor, I’ve had a harder time playing ‘Duck Hunt’.”

“Misquoting Longfellow will cost you points on the final exam.” He informed her. “And don’t worry — it gets harder.”

“Suuure.” She flexed her claws. “Nothing my kitten can’t handle.”

“We’ll see. Level two drones — away!”

This time there were six drones, larger and faster than the previous ones. It took several more minutes and a great deal more maneuvering before they went down.

“Okay, not bad.” Maggie admitted. “But I’m still winning.”

“Not for long. Launching level three drone.”

“What, did you use up all the snappy names on the missiles?” Her fingers flew over the weapons controls. “Or did you figure it wasn’t worth the trouble naming something I was gonna blow out of the sky?”

“Are you sure about that last one?”

Maggie’s jaw dropped as the cement missile she had launched hit the drone dead-on — and bounced harmlessly off of its hull. She glanced at the defense analysis screen. “Triamonite armor plating? Where’d you get the cash for something like that?”

“We took it out of your paycheck.” Razor deadpanned. “Now what?”

“I’m thinking.” Maggie gnawed on her lower lip as she swung the jet into an arc outside of the drone’s range. “Triamonite . . . what will cut through triamonite?”

“Bet you wish you’d payed better attention in chemistry class, huh?”

“Ugh. Third period. Mr. Midvale.” Maggie shuddered. “*Don’t* remind me. I practically needed therapy after a year in *that* class.” She absentmindedly scrolled through her weapons array, then grinned. “All right, so it took me a minute to think. The only thing that’ll cut through triamonite is a duenimite-titanium alloy . . . .”

“Such as that used in our buzzsaw missiles.” Razor finished. “A-plus.”

“Gee, thanks. Launching buzzsaw missiles now.”

As Maggie thumbed the trigger, a sickening, tearing whine reverberated throughout the cockpit. “What the . . .?” A row of warning lights began glowing Christmas-tree red and an alarm buzzer started sounding as the jet suddenly began to lose altitude.

“Ah, CRUD!”

“What’s happening?” Razor demanded. “Talk to me.”

Maggie’s paws became a blur as she toggled switches and punched buttons. “Buzzsaws deployed too early! Tore a trench down the middle of my bird — *not* a good thing!”

“What’s your damage?”

“You name it, I got it! Hydraulics are gone, landing gear’s toast, fuel lines’re fouled up — I’m losing juice quicker than Manx’s losing his hair!” She glanced worriedly at her altimeter. “And I’m dropping like a rock.”

“You got enough fuel left for a VTOL setdown?”

“Ah . . .” Maggie scanned the displays. “Negative. I’d be lucky to start a campfire with the fuel I’ve got left.” Another glance at the altimeter. “Still dropping.”

“Jump and dump!” Razor demanded, using the Enforcer term for an emergency ejection.

“Well, funny thing about that.” She said, swatting at one of the multiple warning lights. “One of those saws toasted the ejection seat. Looks like I’m going down with the bird.” Maggie glanced up at the rapidly receding black speck above. “And the worst part of it is . . . I missed the stupid drone.”

Maggie kept her eyes focused on the sky as the altimeter ran down to zero . . . .

And the screens representing the “sky” went from white-on-blue to blank gray. Sighing, she waited until she heard the hiss-click of the canopy locks opening. Then she pushed the canopy up and stepped out of the “cockpit” — really a flight simulator — and onto the floor of the hangar.

“Well, *that* could have gone better.”

“No kidding.” Jake agreed from his position at a nearby computer console. Pulling off his v.r. helmet, he ran a paw through his tousled headfur. “I knew we should’ve put the buzzsaws closer to the front of the arsenal.”

“Design problems?” Chance asked around a mouthful of tuna sandwich. He was at another console on the other side of the hangar, eating lunch and using the console’s monitor for a purpose it hadn’t exactly been designed for — watching reruns of “Scaredy Kat”.

“Not so much design as deployment problems.” Maggie answered, leaning against the console where Jake was sitting. “Have the buzzsaws ever done that to you guys?”

“If they did, would we be sitting here?” Chance asked. Maggie rolled her eyes.

“Lemme see . . .” Jake leaned forward, calling up the programming protocols for the flight simulator. “Buzzsaw missile . . .” He punched in a string of computer commands. “Let’s look at the code version for the simulator arsenal . . . .” He continued typing, scrolling through a long list of complicated computer language.

“Well, look on the bright side.” Maggie said. “At least I wasn’t in a *real* plane.”

She glanced over her shoulder at the simulator. For three months now, they had spent much of their free time programming the designs for the Talon into the simulator’s computer, running test “flights” and making various modifications. They’d also pulled together most of the scrap necessary to actually build the Talon; with much of the testing out of the way, the jet should be in the air after only about a month of construction.

*Assuming we can get all the bugs worked out of it.* Maggie thought wryly.

“Bingo!” Jake exclaimed. “This whole line of code got fouled up.” He tapped the screen. “It’s supposed to represent the safety mechanism that *keeps* the buzzsaw from deploying inside the plane — but the way it’s typed, it *told* the missile to deploy!”

“Great.” Maggie commented dryly as Jake corrected the code. “I’m dead because of a typo.”

“Don’t feel bad.” Chance said, never looking away from the animated program. “My dad had a buddy during MidEastern Storm who had the same thing happen. Some idiot at Enforcers HQ over there accidentally marked his papers with ‘deceased’. They sent his wife a telegram and everything.” He took a giant bite of tuna and continued speaking. “Looked kinda funny when he tried to collect his paycheck . . . and he found out he wasn’t gettin’ paid because he was dead.”

“At least he got out of the war.” Jake quipped.

“Yeah, but imagine how his poor wife must have felt.” Maggie added. “Hi, honey, I’m home! Oh, and by the way, I’m not dead!”

Chance laughed — whether at her or at Scaredy-Kat, she wasn’t sure — and Jake grinned.

“Okay, the code’s all fixed now. You wanna give it another go?”

“Why not?” Maggie grinned as she headed for the simulator. “And this time, that drone is going *down*!”

At that moment, however, the relative quiet of the hangar was broken by the persistent screeching of the alarm. Chance and Jake both leapt to their feet. As Jake bolted for the lockers, Chance hit the button on the alarm’s intercom. “Yes, Miss Briggs?”

“T-Bone! There’s some sort of robot *thing* heading towards the city from the desert!”

Chance — *No, it’s T-Bone now.* Maggie corrected herself — glanced over his shoulder at Jake, who was already scrambling into his flight suit.

“Have you checked with Professor Hackle?”

“Feral just called him. It doesn’t belong to him *or* Pumadyne, and every weapon the Enforcers have thrown at it so far has just bounced off!” The deputy mayor’s voice held a note of panic. “We could sure use you guys.”

“Roger that, Miss Briggs. We’re on our way.” T-Bone closed the intercom channel and rushed to get into his own flight suit.

Razor had already called up the dimensional radar by the time T-Bone joined him in the TurboKat. “Got it on screen, buddy. It’s heading in from the West-Northwest about five miles out.”

“And whatever it is,” T-Bone growled, “It’s *big*.” He twisted around to address Maggie, shouting over the noise as the engines powered up. “Mind the store.”

“You got it, boss.” She flashed them both a thumbs-up. “Watch your tails.”

“Watch yours.” Razor responded as the hydraulic lift in the floor kicked in and the jet began to rise.

Maggie felt as much as heard it when the TurboKat’s engines roared to full life on the level above her, catapulting the pair of vigilantes into the sky above the desert. Then, after a moment, the thunderous screaming roar recede into the distance — leaving nothing but the sound of the still-playing cartoons.

Shaking her head and smiling, she walked over to Chance’s monitor and switched it off. Then she glanced over her shoulder at the bulletin board near the flight simulator, covered in schematics for the Talon.

“Don’t worry, ketsele. It’ll be your turn soon.” ******

“I don’t get it.” Razor wrinkled his forehead in confusion at the information scrolling across his defense screens. “It’s not *doing* anything.”

“It’s heading for the city.” His partner pointed out.

“Yeah, but it hasn’t changed course, fired a weapon . . . nothing. It’s acting like it’s out for a walk.”

“Or a test drive.” T-Bone studied the metallic object below them. Streamlined and apparently heavily shielded, its shape resembled one of the sand lizards that inhabited the Megakat Desert.

Only this lizard was two and a half stories high and headed for *his* city.

“Hold on.” Razor said. “Something’s happening . . . .”

T-Bone could see it, too. The robot lizard’s “mouth” had swung open with amazing swiftness as it turned its head towards a mesa. “Is it doin’ what I think it’s . . . ?”

A brilliant flash of white light interrupted him, as the mesa was reduced to rubble.

“Holy kats!” Razor hissed, paws flying across the instruments. “T-Bone, the amount of energy that thing just let off . . . .”

“Was enough to take out a city block.” T-Bone growled. “Or two. Or three.”

“Bingo.” Razor studied the defense screens once again. “It’s turning . . .” His eyebrows shot up beneath his mask. “It’s doing an . . . about-face?”

“Heading back the way it came.” T-Bone swung the jet around to follow. “I say we take it out now, before it starts aiming at buildings instead of boulders.”

“Roger that.” Razor began arming an assortment of weapons. “Let’s . . . whoa!”

Turning its head towards the TurboKat, the creature broke into a trot. Then it leapt into the air. As it did so, its “tail” folded away to reveal a jet engine. Drawing its legs close to its body, the lizard-jet gained altitude and put on a burst of sudden speed.

“No *way*.” T-Bone hissed in disbelief. “No. Way.”

“Believe it, buddy.” His partner’s paws were a blur of motion. “Not quite sure how it’s staying airborne with no wings, but it *is* — and it’s putting on speed.”

“Then so will we.” T-Bone thumbed the accelerator, and the TurboKat responded with a burst of pure speed.

“Got it on dimensional radar.” Razor announced. “It’s heading straight back the way it came . . . towards . . . ah, crud.”

“What?”

“If it stays on this heading it’s going to cross the Canine border in about five minutes.”

“And we’ll follow it.” T-Bone responded.

“Are you nuts?” Razor demanded. “We may have ambassadors and an extradition treaty, but the Canines aren’t exactly our bosom buddies. We violate their airspace and it could start another war — not to mention we’ll most likely get our tails fried.” His voice softened. “We’ve gotta back off on this one, buddy.”

T-Bone hesitated for a moment, then sighed. “Roger that.” He pulled the TurboKat into a wide turn. “Let’s go home.”

******

“Ummm . . . .” Maggie gnawed thoughtfully on a hangclaw. “G-7.”

Chance grinned triumphantly. “Miss.”

“Crud.” She lashed her tail against the floor in annoyance. “Where did you *put* these things?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know. C-9.”

“Hit.” Maggie grimaced.

“I’ll bet he’s got them all in a straight line.” Jake offered from his position in the living room’s single armchair.

“No helping, pal.” Chance warned.

“As if it matters. I’m losing pitifully.” Maggie sat cross-legged on the floor facing the couch, with “Battleship” set up on the coffee table between herself and Chance. “D-5.” Behind her, the cop show on the TV provided quiet background noise, punctuated by the occasional gunshot or siren.

“Miss. C-8.”

“Ugh. There went my battleship.” Maggie rolled her eyes. “Is it too late to forfeit?”

“Yes. I . . . oh, hang on a sec.” He scrambled for the remote and turned the volume up.

“That’s next week on M.K.E.D. Grey-and-Beige. Up next, Kat’s Eye News at five with anchorkat Tom Broclaw and your roving reporter, Ann Gora.”

Maggie glanced over her shoulder as the screen lit up with the Kat’s Eye News logo, then faded into the familiar face of Tom Broclaw.

“Good evening. This is Kat’s Eye News for Saturday, November ninth. Our top story tonight — danger in the desert. Who or what was responsible for the sudden appearance of this robotic creature earlier today?” A picture appeared onscreen. “Is this the forerunner of a possible Canine attack? And did the Swat Kats prevent what could have been a disaster? With more on that story, here’s Ann Gora.”

“Cool.” Chance commented as he hit mute. “Front-page coverage.”

“Not bad. J-3.”

“Miss. But you’re getting warmer.”

“Yee-haw.” Maggie turned to Jake. “So you think the Canines sent that thing?”

“I dunno.” He answered, lowering his magazine. “But it was top-of-the-line, whoever it belonged to. And the Canines didn’t seem to mind when it entered their airspace.”

“We’re gonna have to keep an eye out.” Chance noted. “We *don’t* want that thing running loose in downtown MKC.” He glanced down at the game. “G-9. That’s your destroyer.” He grinned smugly. “I win.”

“No kidding.” Maggie started pulling pegs out of the board. “How ‘bout best three out of five?”

******

It took a lot to make Mac Mange nervous. As leader of MKC’s most powerful crime syndicate — and, later, as one half of the supervillain team called the Metallikats — he had seen and done things that would freeze a normal kat’s blood. It took a lot to give Mac the creeps.

This kat was accomplishing it nicely.

“I trust the test run met with your expectations?” His voice alone was enough to send a shiver up Mac’s fiber-optic spine.

“Yeah, it was great.” Molly responded. She was the one doing the talking this time — a fact for which Mac was grateful.

“Excellent.” The kat purred. He stroked the cat that was sitting on his lap.

Mac didn’t like cats. Most kats disliked being around them — for good reason, Mac thought. It was just too *weird* to see such feline features in a creature that couldn’t reason — to recognize traits that reminded you of people you’d known in the face of a common pet. *No wonder they’re so rare.* He thought.

“Now, about that payment . . .” Molly said.

“Ah, yes. The agreed-upon price, I’m sure?”

“You got it. All wired to your Canine bank account.”

“Excellent.” He repeated, standing. The cat gave Mac a wide berth as it left. “A pleasure doing business with the two of you.” He extended his white-furred paw.

“Ah . . . likewise.” Molly accepted it reluctantly, and Mac even more so.

“Do come see us again if you’re ever in need.”

“Right.” Mac made a hasty exit, followed closely by Molly.

His wife blew out a relieved breath as they left the darkened office. “Was it just me,” She asked, “Or did that kat give ya the creeps?”

“No kiddin’. But at least we got what we came for.”

“Yeah.” She grinned. “Look out, Swat creeps. The Metallikats are back in town!”

****************** CONCLUDED IN PART THREE ******************

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