Lately, my hoards of fans (who always show up tothreaten me with various bodily injuries unless I write more, at leastuntil I take my medication), have been pressuring me to write a storyabout the victims of Project: Avatar 2.
They want the background andthe like.
It doesn’t help me any that they are also fans of Creatureand Pretender1.
At any rate, I calmly informed them that I don’tusually take suggestions, but prefer to write stories as they come tome.
After I escaped from the small closet they locked me in (Theylocked it from the inside too.
Weird…), I informed them that Iwould take it under consideration.
I promptly forgot about it.
So,until the fist-fight ends and the medication kicks in (Hey! Guys!Elbows aren’t supposed to bend that way! Oooh.
I’ll bet thatsmarts.), I’ll be writing it since they have a representative who’sthreatening to delete the files I have on another project I’m workingon.
Ah, the things I do for my public.
*One half-hour later…*
They left all of a sudden.
Except for the guy threatening todelete the files.
For some reason, they always go away a half-hourafter I take the pills the nice doctor gave me.
Maybe they don’t likethe way it makes me act.
I may as well write the story now.That way I don’t lose the files.
On a more serious note.
I really don’t have the hoards of rabidfans I mentioned earlier.
Maybe I will some day.
Here’s hopin’.Now, what I was really going to say, was that I decided to write thebackground information on Lyle, Anastasia, Turbo, and Krakatoa.
Andno, I don’t really take medication for schizophrenia.
I was justkidding about all that stuff.
This should be fun to write.
*Cue in flashback effects.
Wavy fadeout, mist, wind, et. al.*
It was a stormy night in the June of 1982, and Agent S was smilingsmugly while Agent M brought in the subjects. Agent R was taking rollcall. Suddenly, he looked up.
“Don’t you mean Anastasia?”
“Yes William. I know her code-name is Anastasia, but she’s mydaughter. She knows that. I’ll call her either name. That’s thedeal I cut with the Triumvirate when they wanted me to try this again.That goes for any of them, remember?”
“Yes, well, I still think that we’d have gotten farther if youhadn’t decided that using the electro-shock aversion training would beagainst medical ethics. I spent a fortune on that equipment, out ofmy own pocket too. And now it’s on the scrap-heap.”
“Thank the Muses it’s so. You know as well as I do that youraversion therapy was partially responsible for Dreadnought.”
“That was what the Triumvirate wanted you-” Agent S caughthimself just before he finished, and cut himself off with a snarl.The lightning cracked across the sky while the little girl in the redjumpsuit cowered in the corner. The two older boys walked over byher, and one kneeled down and hugged her. Agent R walked out into thefield and led in another child, about a year older than the oldestboy. Agent S smiled again as his thoughts leaned towards the future.
Ten Years Later…
Agent S was smiling smugly again. Turbonator and Krakatoa wereworking out in the Training Field, him dodging her blows. The twowere laughing while the tree nearby shimmered slightly. Will Stormhad watched this same scene day after day while Max Reynard, Agent R,had been there. Always they had stopped Anastasia before she’dstruck. But now Max was off at a business meeting. Agent S wanted tosee just how well the training Max’s daughter had received would payoff. Turbonator walked by the tree carefully, wondering just whereAnastasia and Lyle were, when she struck.
Anastasia had shifted away from the tree just behind Turbonator.She caught him around the neck and twirled around to face Krakatoa.She held her paw up to Turbonator’s throat and it quickly changed intoa wickedly curved silver blade. Krakatoa cried out and Turbonatorsnapped.
“You’re goin’ down today Sheila!” He reached up and grabbed theknife-paw and twirled Anastasia over his shoulder. He dropped to hisknee and brought his paw down towards her throat. He stopped just afraction of an inch short. Then he was back to normal. He lookedaround and saw Krakatoa crying. As he had for years, he ran towardsher and started trying to comfort her. “It’s okay Melissa. I’m sorryany of this happened with you around. You’ll be okay.” He lookedover towards Agent S and stood straight. He set his jaw and rantowards him. Before the guard could reach Storm, Turbonator hadgotten across the field and grabbed the thick red fur around Storm’sneck.
“You son of a- I could have killed someone today! You could havestopped it, but no. You wanted to see what we could do. Well I’mgonna give you a first hand account. But not before I’ve pounded thatsmirk off of your stinkin’ face!” Storm’s paw flashed for his pocket,and he pulled out a small box. He pressed a button on it, andTurbonator collapsed, covering his ears with his paws and crying outin pain. Storm put the box away and kneeled.
“You can’t do a thing to me Turbonator. I installed a controlchip at the base of your neck before you woke up earlier. It didn’ttake long at all. Now. Back to training. We’ve got a lot to teachyou after today. If you’d been ready, you would have struck. Youknew that Anastasia could always have shifted. Speaking ofAnastasia…” He walked over to her as she got up.
“If you ever want to finish your training and get the rewards I’vepromised you, you’ll be more careful. You should have at least drawnblood. But you were too busy being smug. Be more careful.” Shesnarled at him and flattened her ears out along the side of her head.
“Advice you should take as well, Dr. Storm.”
“You will call me Agent S. That is my name, as far as you’reconcerned.” Anastasia smiled slyly at him.
“Just like my name is Anastasia. Quite frankly, I prefer Alexia.Just like we all prefer our real names.” She turned around on thestiletto heels she was wearing and walked off.
Three years later…
The helicopter was landing at the rainy research center. A tallkat stepped out of it and approached the building ahead of him. Heturned towards the aging Doctor Reynard, and scowled.
“You’re already twenty thousand dollars over budget Agent R.You’d better have something that’ll blow my mind if you want more.Especially with what you want it for.”
“Tritanium restraints are very costly Captain. And yes, we shouldbe blowing your mind. Come along.” He led him into the mainbuilding, and showed him the plans. “These are what we need.Tritanium restraints, Ephedril, and Substance X for Turbonator,geothermal researchers for Krakatoa, Serotonin for Lyle, and a newattitude for my daughter.” The Captain raised his eyebrows at thelast comment.
“I take it all is not well with the young Ms. Reynard?”
“She’s been learning too much from my colleague.”
“Like?” Agent S walked around the corner and smiled at hismentor.
“Like using her natural charms and talents to get the job done.Dr. Reynard has a very, attractive, daughter, and I’m afraid that hedoesn’t approve of her using those abilities in the field.” TheCaptain shook his head.
“And what about Ephedril and Substance X? Those are both veryexpensive and rare.”
“Yes, well, Mr. Storm’s experimentation got him into troubleagain. He was trying radiation aversion therapy on Turbonator. I’mafraid that he caused irreversible damage to him psychologically, aswell as genetically. Turbo, as he prefers to be called, has threedistinct personalities so far. Turbo, or Rory, his main personality,Turbonator, or Jonny, a cold and heartless personality, andVindicator, or Mik, an Aussie hitman. Fortunately Ephedril works onhim as well as it did on the Kielmann case.
“The Substance X is for his genetic damage. His powers now causehis body to feed off of his muscles at an incredibly high rate. He’dwither away and die if he didn’t get a monthly tablet. That’s why I’mcalling the condition the Withering. Nasty way to go. And he will goif we don’t get more Substance X. It is, by the way, incurable. Itwas Mr. Storm’s experiment here that caused him to be stripped of hisposition as a doctor. Violation of medical ethics and kat rights.”
“Yes, well, let’s take you to see the subjects.” The two led theCaptain into another wing. They looked into a cell with a glasswindow and no other way of looking in. They saw a teenaged katstruggling at his restraints.
“It doesn’t look like Turbo needs new restraints.”
“Watch.” As they did, the kat suddenly calmed down. He lookedstraight at the camera with a little smirk on his face.
” `Ello guvnah, thought you’d like a demonstration up there!” Hetugged at the restraints, and they snapped like paper.
“That’s titanium alloy there. He can’t get through Tritaniumthough, not yet. That’s why we need those.” The Captain nodded.
“Who’s next?” Mr. Storm paled under his red fur as the Captainasked that.
“You sound frightened William. Why?”
“Y-You’ll see sir.” They walked down the hall to the next cell,but there was thicker steel and glass around it. A young kat, aboutsixteen, was pacing back and forth. She looked out at Agent S andsmiled.
“So Agent S. You’d like to show me off for the Captain? Gladly.”She backed away from the glass even as the three observers did thesame. Suddenly, she opened her mouth and hissed loudly, like a katthat just ran into a dawg. A red liquid shot out of her mouth andspattered across the window, and the hissing continued, along with alot of steam and smoke from the window. The Captain sprung back tothe wall.
“Kats alive! What in the name of the Furies was that?!” Agent Scalmed down a bit and smiled when he heard the Captain’s obviouslyfavorable impression.
“That was her power. A super-heated silicon fluid. We’re stillworking on actual lava. That’s what we need the researchers for.It’s not quite as hot, but just as deadly as lava.”
“I see. Perhaps we could get a more peaceful demonstration?”
“Gladly sir.” Agent S’ smile grew into an evil grin. “Lyle!Come.” A timid kat, about as tall as Turbo, but shaking with terror,entered. It was obvious by his proud features that he had once beenmore than this. His long hair got in the way of his eyes, and hebrushed it away with his paw, small and weakened from a lack ofexercise. His eyes darted about constantly, as though he were lookingfor hidden enemies in the shadows. He looked nervous and thin, andthe Captain doubted that he’d weigh in at 120 if he were soaked, evenwearing clothes at least three sizes too big.
“Y-y-y-yes M-m-m-mr. S-s-storm? W-w-what is it?” His nervousstutter was one born of fear, as any could see, not a physicalcondition. He looked almost ready to collapse into hysteria.
“Come closer Lyle. Stand next to me.” Lyle obeyed like anobedient dawg, one loyal only to avoid being kicked again. “Now, I’mafraid that Krakatoa doesn’t like me much. I can’t imagine why. Atany rate, we need her to cooperate with us more than she is at themoment. Would you help me convince her?” Lyle’s eyes drew straightto Mr. Storm, and they were filled with the sort of terror thankfullyunknown by most people. Agent S reached for his pocket and pulled outa small box.
“Krakatoa! If you don’t help me more, I’m afraid that I’ll beforced to hurt Lyle. I know that neither of us wants that to happen.So please, cooperate with us.” Lyle’s eyes darted back and forth fromthe box, to Agent S, to Krakatoa, and back to the box. Agent S’ thumbmoved imperceptibly when Krakatoa did nothing, and Lyle clutched thesides of his head in pain as he fell.
“Now, Krakatoa, I’m afraid I’ll have to do that again if you won’thelp me.” He held up the box where she could see it, and moved it upten notches, to the top level. Lyle’s eyes widened as Agent S pickedhim up by the collar. He turned those maddened eyes towards Krakatoaand begged to her under his breath:
“Melissa, please.” She stood from her seat and walked away fromthe door.
“Alright Storm. I’ll show you what I can do. And I won’t aim atyou this time. Open this door so I have room.” Storm smiled and hadher led out into the rainy training field. She looked around, gaugingdistances and guessing speeds. Suddenly, she sprang into action. Herpaws, once resting at her hips, suddenly spurted out some of thedeadly fluid she produced inside her. She broke into a run for thewall, dodging the guards who charged after her. At the last moment,she leaped for the wall. She might have made it too, if she hadn’tbeen shot at by Dr. Reynard, whose tranquilizer dart brought her downin a flash.
“I’m sorry Captain. I should have known she’d break for it. Sheknows what M had to do to her father to get her in here. She has noidea who her mother is. If you’d been exposed to that sort of traumaat three years old, you’d be bitter too. She used to cry almost allthe time, but Turbo would help her. He always did have acompassionate streak. At any rate, after the radiation treatmentsdrove him insane, she grew like this. She’s still desperate for afamily, for close friends, for anything like that, on the inside, buton the outside…” Agent R sighed. “She realizes that every day ofher life will probably consist of listening to Turbo arguing with hisother selves, of training until we’re done with her, and then beingthrown into a group with people she doesn’t even know. I’d hate to beleading her life at any time… Well, shall we continue with theinspection?”
“Certainly.” They lead him back into the building, and a pair ofguards threw Krakatoa’s unconscious body into the cell. Mik washaving a high old time, laughing as though he was in a bar inAustralia, talking to his “mates”, and Lyle was cowering in thecorner. Storm smiled and beckoned for Lyle to approach him.
“Lyle, the Captain needs a demonstration of your powers. What amI feeling?”
“You’re f-f-feeling s-s-smug Mr. Storm. Y-y-y-you shouldn’t feelthis way.” William Storm laughed at that last statement.
“And how should I feel Lyle?” Lyle’s eyes slid down from thecrown of Storm’s head to meet the emerald green eyes. His tremblingform drew up straight and tall, and he spoke in a softly commandingvoice.
“You should feel afraid.” At those words, Mr. Storm took on alook much like Lyle’s earlier. He cried out and shrank back from someimagined terror.
“L-lyle! S-stop this im-immediately!” Lyle continued to stareinto his eyes, and Storm reached for his pocket. His trembling pawbrought out the box, and he tapped the button. Lyle screamed in agonyand fell to the floor as Storm returned to normal, though he wasbreathing deeply. He turned the knob back to the first level, andturned to the Captain, totally calm again.
“I’m sorry about that sir. Lyle’s an empath. He can senseemotions, mimic them, and transmit them. I’m afraid that he sometimesloses control. This was one of those times.”
“Why would he need Serotonin?” Dr. Reynard smiled.
“Because my esteemed colleague, Agent S, was unfortunate enough toerase all remnants of Lyle’s original personality in the training.The Serotonin is to treat the psychological damage and return him tonormal, hopefully while maintaining the psychic powers he possesses.His real name was Johann. He doesn’t remember a thing about that.”The Captain shook his head again.
“I’m afraid that something will have to go from the budget.Probably the Ephedril. Let me see Anastasia, and I’ll go take care ofit.” Reynard shook his head sadly and continued down the hall. Hereached the last cell, and the Captain came up behind him. When hesaw the young woman in the cell, his eyes widened and he paled underhis fur.
“Sir, this is my daughter, Anastasia. Her body is made ofsomething that seems to be living metal. We found a sample after thealien Heavy Metal escaped from our labs. She decided to undergo thetransformation into it, but also seems to have decided to blame me forthe side-effects. Like a loss of internal organs. Her body is muchlike that of a liquid statue.”
Alexia Reynard, known as Anastasia, walked up to the door of thecell and smiled. She shifted into her natural form, and then changedback into another appearance, resembling her kat-like form outwardly,but in different clothing, the tailored suit, skirt, and hat standardto most Organization employees. She laughed at the Captain, and hewalked back out towards his helicopter. William Storm followed him.
“Captain, why is it that you’re so worried all of a sudden?”
“It’s my own business.”
“Oh no it’s not. You see, Lyle gave me the photos this morning.”He snickered when the Captain whirled around, a shocked look on hisface. “Oh, don’t look so surprised. You knew Lyle and Anastasia wereworking Black Ops. I decided that they could use a little fieldtraining when your jet arrived last night. I take it you recognizedthe young lady? You do remember the penalty for becoming, involved,with another member of the Organization without the leave of the CO?Or the Triumvirate? You should, you made them yourself.”
“If those photos were to ever get out, my career would be as deadas hers.”
“Of course. Now, if I were to have a reason for keeping thesephotos in the circular file, I just might.”
“What is it you want?”
“Simple. More independence to conduct my own studies, separate ofDr. Reynard. Everything on that budget except the Serotonin approved.I need Lyle just like he is. Nobody to know we had this conversation.Oh, and, uh, one other thing. Anastasia wanted you to okay this.” Hehanded the Captain a sheet of paper.
“What is this?”
“Leave to conduct a study into the possibility of a long termprogram to develop a breed of super-kat. She’s developed an interestin Rory.” The Captain sighed and signed the sheet.
“It’s up to her to get him to sign it, of course.” Will Stormsmiled evilly.
“Of course. And I just remembered something.”
“What is it?”
“Simple. The four want a little more freedom. For one thing,permission to call each other by their real names.”
“Granted. What else?”
“Permission to work together outside of the training atmosphere.They want to get to know each other better, those sort of things. Ican’t imagine why.” The Captain sighed again.
“Also granted. Now, will you destroy those pictures?”
“Of course not! What do you take me for? I need my insurance,after all.”
“I can’t believe you’d come up with a plan like this on your own.Did Reynard help you?”
“Actually, I can’t take credit. Anastasia said that she and Roryhad come up with it, and the group’s blackmail demands. She had herown, and so did I. Rory doesn’t really know about hers, or mine.But, then, M was also instrumental in working it out.”
“I know. She introduced Ms. Reynard to me. Said she was an oldfriend. Let’s just forget about this now, shall we?”
“Of course. After our demands are met.” The Captain ran out tohis helicopter while Storm stood in the hall and chuckled to himselfuntil it was gone. He met with Anastasia, and informed her of thedecisions the Captain had made. She laughed with her trainer, andleaned back against the wall of her cell. After a time, her thoughtsturned to Rory.
Rory, all I need now is you. Then I’ll be happy. Hope you don’tput up too big a struggle. You know how I hate it when people playhard to get. She drifted off into sleep, letting her final thoughtsbe those of her father, roasting over the coals of a T-Board. Herplan was almost in place. Just a few months more…
One Year Later…
The alarms of the Organization research center were blaring out anescape signal. The subjects of Avatar 2 were missing! The guardswere moving out through the halls, looking for anyone. About fiveminutes later, they found them.
Turbo, Krakatoa, and a local vigilante named Night Strike werecornered. The Cleaners didn’t know where Anastasia was, and Lyle wascowering in his cell. The five kats raised their guns.
“You three are coming with us.” Night Strike raised his sword.
“Over my dead body.” The Cleaners shrugged.
“Have it your way then.” They aimed for Night Strike, but werecut short by the strangled cry of the rear-most one. They turnedaround to see him, his neck grabbed by a pair of silver armsprotruding from the wall. Anastasia slipped out, holding the kat likea shield, and placed her paw at his throat. As it shifted into aknife, Turbo charged forward. The kat he rammed flew into the wallacross in a blur of dark fabric and fur, while the hilt of NightStrike’s sword came down on the skull of another. Anastasia slit thethroat of the third, and they split up as others arrived.
Krakatoa was cornered minutes later. Six Cleaners against heralone. Her pulse raced through her head, pounding in her ears, andone of them raised his gun. Before she could think, her trainingkicked in. Her ears folded back and she hissed. The kat was sentscreaming down the hall, trying to scrape as much of the fluid shespit on him as he could off. The others started shooting, but theirbullets melted as a wall of lava rose in front of her, poured out ofher hands. They were calling for a person with a chisel when NightStrike arrived. Moments later, the Cleaners were unconscious, andNight Strike had cut through the wall. Krakatoa was waiting for himon the other side of the reinforced room, a hole burned through theouter walls leading to the outside world.
The two ran towards the fence, only to find themselves trappedwith Turbo, a hundred Cleaners surrounding them. They steeledthemselves for their inevitable defeat while Anastasia walked throughthe fence, shifting briefly into her liquid state. The Cleaners wereabout to fire, when a hail of shells came down from the sky. TheNightingale lowered from the sky, switching over to its hover state.The Stun Bombs she dropped knocked out most of the Cleaners, whoseconscious comrades were sensible. They ran. Night Bird loweredherself on a rope ladder.
“You three need a lift? I heard on the local government stationthat Night Strike was in trouble. Thought I’d lend a hand!” NightStrike started climbing into the jet.
“Whoever you are, I owe you my life.” Night Bird smiled.
“Just remember that next time I ask you out to dinner.” Turbo andKrakatoa climbed into the jet, and took off for nearby Megakat City.
“Where can I drop you three off?” Night Strike turned towardsNight Bird and started taking off his mask.
“You can drop me at the Amese residence.” Krakatoa turned towardsher mysterious benefactors.
“A friend of mine said he had a place I could stay if I ever gotto Megakat City. Here’s the address.” Night Strike took off hismask, revealing the face of Freedan Katsylyan.
“You’re Melissa Monroe? I thought that was our silvery friend.You never fully explained your powers though, so it’s not thatsurprising. Josie, my friend, left some things she thought you coulduse at the other house near Katsylyan Towers. Where should we dropoff your friend?” Turbo took off the mask he’d been given by theOrganization and blinked several times in the increased light.
“If Melissa wouldn’t mind, I have a cousin in town here who’d bewilling to help me into Faroe Lake. However, I’m afraid that I can’ttell you where he lives. He has several places.”
“Yes. How’d you know?”
“I met him once. He spoke of a cousin who’d disappeared.”
“Okay. Well, what I was trying to say was that, if Melissawouldn’t mind, I’d like to be dropped off somewhere around her place.”Melissa smiled.
“I wouldn’t mind if you stayed there overnight. I’m sure there’san extra room.” Night Bird smiled to herself while she took the jetout to the areas of town where her friends were going.
After they dropped off Freedan, and Rory was climbing down theladder, Night Bird grabbed Melissa’s arm.
“What is it?” Night Bird shook her head.
“I could hear the tone in your voice when you told Rory he couldstay at your place tonight. Don’t let him hurt you, okay? Oh, anddon’t tell Freedan who I am.”
“How could I? I don’t even know that!”
“You do now.” Night Bird took off her mask, revealing the face ofJosie Amese. “I’ve been in the same spot you’re in now. Promise methat you won’t let him break your heart, okay kiddo?”
“Okay. I won’t.” Josie shook her head again while Melissa gotout of the jet.
“No kid. You will. You won’t be able to help yourself. Andneither will he. Just don’t let it hit you too hard when he does.”
Three Months Later…
Max Reynard was sitting in his room, trying to figure out what waswrong. Anastasia should have been found by now, but there wasn’t anysign of any of them, besides rumors of three vigilantes, one of whichwas incredibly vicious, striking at the Faroe Lake and Megakat Cityoperations. The Captain was caught between a rock and a hard place,being forced into dropping off Substance X for Rory at the same timehe was hunting him down.
Max was about to drift off when he heard someone at his door. Heopened it up and was confronted by a dozen Cleaners. The last thinganyone heard from Max Reynard was his screaming as the T-Board workedon him…
Three Months Later…
Anastasia smiled as she looked up at the huge building she onceknew as home. Her father had been punished months ago, and it wastime to finish her plan. She knew that M would be reporting in soon,telling them the results of her typically fruitless search for Rory,Melissa, and her perpetual attempts to re-capture Underdog. Heroutfit shimmered along with her body, and she assumed the shape ofAgent M. She walked past the guards without a hitch, and straightinto the meeting the Triumvirate was holding.
She shimmered again, and the guards fired. The slugs tore throughher body, taking chunks of the silvery metal along with them. Thepieces of metal melted down and flowed back into her as she flungthree more from her body as sharp spines. Three of the guards fell,the metal spines protruding from their throats shortly beforeslithering back to her body.
“I’ve come to negotiate. They won’t die, I didn’t aim foranything vital. I believe they may be mute after this, but they’lllive. Now, I believe you need a new Research and Development person?One to replace my dear departed father?”
“Yes. What is it you want?”
“A few simple things. First, that I have his position, with allthe attendant pay and control. I’d work apart from Mr. Storm however,our projects tend to take different paths.”
“Second that I be put in charge of the detail handling the Avatar2 escapees. Namely Turbo and Krakatoa.”
“Is that all?”
“Almost. Finally, nothing happens if Turbo and Krakatoa aren’tleft alone. If they bother my projects, I’ll take care of them. Ifnot, we’ll just have to be more careful.”
“That’s ridiculous! Turbo and Krakatoa represent millions inresearch.”
“One is dying. He has about three and one half years left, atbest. Unless he’s treated, and we don’t know the treatment. Movingon. Krakatoa isn’t fully developed. It would be foolish to try andpush the issue, since I suspect Turbo would defend her. After hisdeath, then she could be taken. It’s too dangerous otherwise. That’swhy M hasn’t caught them yet.”
“Fine then. If you’ll agree to work for us in R&D, and be muchmore loyal than your father was.” She agreed, and started her newjob. Lyle, hunkering down in the air vents, listened while the littlewitch negotiated with the murderers of her father. He shook his headand went back to his office, bringing up the new internet software andletting Rory know about the current situation, as he had been doingfor the past six months.
In Faroe Lake…
Nate was looking at the laptop computer that Rory had left runningwhen he went out with that Melissa girl. A new E-Mail message wascoming up. He clicked on it and shook his head, remembering what hiscousin had said when his curiosity wound up having him discover herreal identity. And then he discovered that his new roommate wasreally Turbo, the newest vig’ in Faroe Lake. And then he’d discoveredthose secret accounts that Rory had set up, so that his money he stolefrom the Organization would keep Nate and Melissa in a comfortablelifestyle for many years to come, after he had died.
While the message was downloading, he was thinking about hisfriend. And the young she-kat that Rory was going out with. She wasa weird one, with hair the color of a deep mahogany and fur the colorof ashes. Her eyes were an emerald green, and Nate thought that sheand Rory would make a great couple if it weren’t for the Withering andthe KaTastrophes…
His thoughts drifted off to Rory, dying slowly over the nextcouple years because of what had happened to him. Tears came to hiseyes as he remembered how Rory was so calm about it. Just like Natewas always calm about the brain cancer that the doctors said theycouldn’t operate on. Maybe he should tell Rory… But no. The painwas getting to be too much. You have a plan, but everyone would tryto stop you. Even Rory, even though Rory knew how he felt. No. Natecouldn’t let the voices start telling him what to do again. He’dgotten in big trouble last time, and he’d be in bigger this time.Anyway, Rory was in danger yet.
His thoughts drifted again, this time to Melissa, who’d made amistake before that she couldn’t fix now. She’d gone and joined theKaTastrophes, one of the nastiest biker gangs this side of Moskat.She’d be the only one who was reasonable, the rest wanting to move onwith their technology and level the Ghetto of Megakat City. Nateshook his head sadly, thinking of Melissa and Rory, so sad in a fewminutes, but so happy now. When they think about how your pain isgone Nate, they’ll be happy again.
Hello Nate. We’re back to make you feel all better. His”friends” had returned. He knew that they were only in his head, butthat didn’t help any. Look at the message Nate. Rory’s safe now. Heread the message, and found that it was true. Now we’ll take the painaway from you forever. He felt his hand straying towards the handgunon the table, the one that Rory had left out in case anyone triedrobbing Nate while Rory wasn’t there. He picked it up and looked atit. Then it happened.
Without thinking about it, he slipped the gun up along his chest,about where his heart should be. He heard the revolver slide over toa loaded section. Then the earth-shattering explosion, and then apain that finally made him ignore the ache in the back of his mindwhere the cancer was. Not that it made him feel any better. He criedout in pain, and then slipped into the blessed blackness. There wassomething from outside, and a sensation of someone hitting him. Hecouldn’t make out any certain sounds. A few minutes later, he stoppedfeeling any pain, and heard voices in the distance…
It’s the Furies, coming to take you on to the next life… Afterall, the Muses wouldn’t have anything to do with you, and the Fatesdon’t want to bother with cleaning up the carpet… He felt himselfbeing lifted up, even through the blackness that was engulfing him,and he gave himself up to it entirely…
Moments before Nate blacked out…
Melissa and Rory were pulling up to the old house on hismotorcycle. She had just jumped off and was pulling her helmet loose.Rory looked her over quickly, noticing that she looked great in theleather jacket she was wearing. He was about to tell her that when asound he was all too familiar with shattered the scene. A gunshotfrom inside the house. Then Nate’s cry of pain.
“NATE!” He jumped down from the bike and took off for the closeddoor at full speed. He barrelled into it, knocking it off of thehinges, and saw a scene he hoped he’d never see again. Nate was lyingon the floor, unconscious, with blood slowly spreading from a bulletwound in his chest. The gun was lying next to his body. Rory startedtrying everything he knew about first aid on his friend.
Melissa saw what was happening and called an ambulance while Rorywas trying desperately to save the life of his best friend. The EMSteam arrived, and they lifted Nate up onto the stretcher and into theambulance while someone tried to piece together what had happened.Then they all took off for the hospital, following the ambulance. Thedoctor met them just outside the OR a few minutes later. He had somequestions, and so did the Enforcers.
The Enforcers asked questions about what had happened. They tookthe statement, and said that it looked like an attempted homicide.They flew off in a chopper to file their report, and Rory turnedtowards the doctor.
“So Doc, what’s the word?”
“That’s what I have to talk to you about. I need to know if hehas any family. I know that you two are just friends, so I’m afraidthat I can’t tell you much at the moment.”
“I understand. He has a pair of cousins in Megakat City. But healmost never sees them. I’m the closest thing he has to family. Hehas an apartment over at my place, and lives there like…”
“Like he was family. I understand. I might get canned for this,but I want you to know what his odds are. We’re going to fly in atrauma surgeon from Megakat City. Abby Clark is bringing him in bychopper. She’s the person who works as the hospital’s pilot.”
“She’s also his cousin.”
“That explains why she sounded so worried. Then I guess she’sbringing in her brother too. Anyways, Alan Roberts is the best traumasurgeon this side of the Katlantic ocean. If anyone can save yourfriend, he can.”
“It looks like he shot himself, but didn’t hit anything that wouldkill him quickly. The bullet penetrated his lung, ricocheted off ofhis ribs, and grazed his heart. That’s not the biggest problem. Itstopped right up next to his spine. If we don’t get it out, he couldbe paralyzed for life. If we try to get it out, he could still beparalyzed. Probably would be. Even if Doctor Roberts operates,there’s only a 50/50 chance. The odds aren’t good, but better than ifwe go hacking around up there.”
“Why did he do this?”
“Well, I’m not a psychologist, but I think I have an idea. Did heever tell you about the brain cancer he was diagnosed with?”
“Never. Do you think he wanted to kill himself because of that?”
“That could be part of it. He’s also schizophrenic. TakesCoradril to deal with the symptoms. The cancer affected his brain,driving him crazy. He was in near-constant pain. The voices thattalked to him probably drove him to suicide to take the pain away.”
“I see. And I can start to understand. I had no idea that he wasthat sick. I knew he was taking Coradril, but I didn’t know why. Ithought he just had a few problems. I know I do. Is there anythingwe can do to help?”
“Yes. Stop cluttering up my waiting room. We’ll have his familyup here pretty soon, once his cousins arrive. If they’re anythinglike him, we’ll want to have a clear room.”
“Trust me. They’re worse. Call me at my place, when you havenews, will you?” The doctor nodded slowly.
“Sure.” The two went back to Rory’s place in a cab. Rory sat ona couch in the main apartment, looking around at the souvenirs of hiswork for the past six months. Crooks arrested, Organization drug runsstopped. He noticed an E-Mail on his laptop, saying that theOrganization had stopped hunting him. He buried his face in his pawsand wept. Melissa sat down next to him and wrapped her arms aroundhis shoulders. A few minutes later he stopped crying and leaned backinto the cushions. Then he started to speak.
“I’ve taken down more criminals than most other vigilantes inFaroe Lake. Saved dozens of lives. And, yet, for all my power, Icouldn’t stop Nate.”
“You wouldn’t have been able to, even if you knew. He wasstubborn like that.”
“I know. But if I’d known…”
“If you’d known, he’d still be in that hospital bed. Don’t worry.I know Doctor Roberts. Nate’ll be okay in a couple weeks.” Rorysnapped his eyes open in realization when Melissa said that.
“Oh, gosh. You live in Megakat City. Maybe I should drive youback.” Melissa shook her head firmly.
“No way. I’ll stay in Cass’ room. I think you’ll be able to stayRory for a couple nights.”
“No problem then. Melissa?” She was standing up to walk up tothe room that Rory’s other personality, Jon, had set up for a”girlfriend”. She turned towards him and got a good clear look at hiseyes. If they were supposed to be pools where emotions swam, theywere in the middle of a hurricane. They were filled with grief,anger, and something she couldn’t recognize.
“What is it Rory?”
“Thanks for helping me out tonight.”
“It wasn’t a problem Rory. Nate’s my friend too.”
“Yes?” Rory sat there for a moment, like he was trying to figureout what to say. Melissa waited for him to answer her.
“About this afternoon?” Melissa blushed slightly. The two ofthem had been out riding, and she’d let three words slip out of hermouth that she’d always known were true, but thought that she’d neversay.
“What about it?” Rory licked his dry lips, trying to get up thecourage to say what Nate had finally convinced him to say. He thoughthe was ready, but was about to fall apart at the seams with everythingthat had happened.
“I- I feel the same way. Throughout everything we’ve beenthrough, you’ve been there to help me out. The only other people whocan say that are Nate and Lyle. I-.” Melissa touched her fingersgently to his lips, quieting him.
“Rory, don’t say anything that you might regret later. You’vebeen under a lot of stress tonight. And there’ll certainly be someoneelse in your life that those words apply to more than they do to me.Someone who can handle your lifestyle. Someone who isn’t a vig’ inreality. I think I’ll go up now.” And she was gone. Rory sat backdown in the couch and slapped himself in the forehead with his hand.He heard Nathaniel’s mental voice.
You idiot. You finally get a chance to tell her that you’rethinking about her almost every day, that you drive yourself todistraction wondering how she’s getting along with her store, and whenyou get the chance, you blow it. How’s that, Romeo. One of thesedays, I’ll get control of you just to tell her how you feel. At leastthen it won’t be Mik trying to sweep her off her feet. Or Jonny,convincing himself that she’s Cass come to life. A sultry youngshe-kat’s voice went off in his head.
Watch who you’re talking about Nathaniel. Jon’s right about mebeing alive you know. I’m as alive as you are. He just seems tothink I’m in that little- Rory shook his head, clearing it beforeCass could start insulting Melissa like she always did. He took anEphedril, and sat up the rest of the night planning his next strike onthe Organization…
In the morning…
The phone rang, and Rory grabbed it before the second ring.
“This is Doctor Roberts speaking. Is Rory Jonathan there?”
“Speaking. What is it Doc? Good news?”
“Yes, and no. I have Abby’s permission to talk to you about this,so don’t worry about not being related to him. The good news is thatI’ve got the bullet out of him. I’ve also got a friend here whohelped me heal him without paralyzing him. You remember Kitty, don’tyou?”
“Of course. If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t be speaking withyou right now.”
“Quite possibly. Now for the bad news.”
“What? He’s okay, isn’t he?”
“Of course. Better than he was before. Kitty and I used a newtreatment just okayed for use on kats to cure his cancer. The badnews is that he’ll have a problem with schizophrenia and occasionalmigraines from now on. He’s on a treatment plan to help with themigraines. He’ll be needing a medicine patch though. It’ll carryCoradril to him 24 hours a day. One patch will last roughly a month.But if he’s ever without it, he could quite possibly go totallyberserk. And he’ll probably be on painkillers and Coradril tabletsfor a long time too. The patch won’t always be enough.”
“I can deal with that. When can he come home?”
“In a couple days. Kitty’s patched him up to the point where theothers are just trying to find out how she did it. Get some sleep,okay? I’ll tell James how you are when I get back into town.”
“How did you know I was up all night?”
“Easy. Abby was. And you’re closer to him than she is.”
“Can I talk to him first?”
“Nope. Sorry, but I’m afraid he’s sleeping better than you are.I’ll be in town a couple more days, and then he’ll be home and so willI. Now go to sleep!” Doctor Roberts slammed the phone down, and Rorydecided to follow his advice. Melissa left a note at noon saying thatshe was flying back out to Megakat City.
Rory peeked around the corner into Jon’s apartment. He snuck inand started cleaning up the bottles lying around. He’d gone in therethe previous night, along with Alexia (who’d dropped by for a drink).He still didn’t know why she’d drink without any internal organs, butshe’d stayed the night (in Cass’ room, he made sure). He was tryingto clean up and get a cab over to take her home so that she wouldn’twake up and try anything. He wasn’t that lucky. He heard a softvoice, almost purring, over by the door.
“Rory? Why didn’t you let me sleep in the room of my choice lastnight? Don’t tell me you’re still hoping that little crybaby inMegakat City loves you.” Rory squeezed his eyes shut.
“I knew which room you’d choose. I sleep alone. And that “littlecrybaby” you’re referring to happens to be the woman I love. And shehasn’t cried about much since your colleague, Agent S, drove me toDissociative Identity Disorder and gave me the Withering. Why are youstill chasing me Alexia? I’m sure you could find plenty of morewilling people up at the Organization to build a life with.”
“I’m still chasing you because I’ve got my heart set on building alife with you, Rory. I love you. It’s as simple as that. I amworking on a cure for the Withering you know. One day the two of uscan be together forever. I could be whoever you wanted. Doesn’t thatat least intrigue you?” Rory shook his head without even looking inher direction.
“Quite the contrary. I find you as rude, vulgar, and repulsive asCass. She formed while your colleagues were hunting me down, while Iwas living on the street for a couple months. You would get along inthe only line of work she always was fit for just as well. You havethe attitude for it.”
“Why, Rory! I’d almost think you didn’t like me! And you canlook at me, I’m decent.”
“It’s probably the first time in five years that’s true then.`Cause you haven’t been decent in the head in at least that long. Imay not be a telepath, but I knew Lyle long enough to pick up a feelfor what others are feeling. I wouldn’t get involved with you if youwere the last woman on Kearth.”
“Well! I’ll just be leaving then. Good bye!” She stormed out ofthe building and slammed the door behind her. He shook his head as hethrew out the last bottle.
She used to be a good person, but just went too far. When she lether father die, she let the last good part of her die with him. She’sin it only for herself. I’d better go tell Nate she’s gone. Hewalked into the other apartment and woke up Nate.
“She stormed out. I told her what I think of her.”
“I was hoping you would. I would have, but she’d probably havekilled me. You sure that insulting her like that was a good idea?”
“No. But I’ve gotten her off my tail for awhile. Now I can go onwith my life. I’m calling Melissa.”
“Just be careful with that witch Rory. She’s less likely to leaveyou alone than she is to kill you.”
“I know Nate. She almost did once. But so did I. And that’s whyI want her to leave.” He picked up the phone and dialed. He heard itbeing picked up, and waited for Melissa to start talking. He alsoheard water in the background…
A small store in Megakat City…
Melissa Monroe stepped out of the shower and started dryingherself off. She heard the phone in the shop ring and ran down thestairs before the machine took it. She picked up the phone.
“Melissa’s Place, video and cassette rentals, hair styling, books,and herbal remedies! Normal hours today are 10 A.M. to 6 P.M. Wouldyou mind calling back in about an hour?”
“Did I catch you in the middle of something?”
“Rory! It’s you. Okay. Actually, you did. I was just gettingup.”
“Okay. Just wanted to tell you something. Alexia came and talkedto me for awhile last night.” Melissa licked her lips nervously. Hadshe only talked? Or had she finally got to Rory… “She’s got some,interesting information.”
“Nothing much. Just that she’s got a new problem on her hands.”
“Oh, really? Secret admirer up at the Organization? That’d beenough to kill anyone.” Rory laughed at her joke, but then his voicegot deadly serious.
“This isn’t really something to joke about Mel. There’s a newvig’ in the area. Taking out other super-kats and anyone connected tothe Organization. They’re calling him the `Kat In Black’.”
“And she told you this willingly?”
“I found out that she does get drunk, even without any organs tobe affected. So sue me. She told me while under the influence, justbefore I put her in Cass’ apartment. I didn’t have anything strongerthan ginger ale.”
“Okay. So, what about this KIB?”
“He’s stronger than anything they’ve seen before. Might beat Mikat arm wrestling. But it’s a slender strength. The guy seems to bein perfect physical condition. And he’s there and gone in less timethan it takes for Alexia to shift.”
“Weird. What should we do?”
“Just be careful. That’s all. I’ll let you get dressed now. Seeyou tonight!” She smiled.
And the circle closes…
Okay, I know I made one earlier, but this one’s serious (yeah,right). Once again, I left at least three cliff hangers. That’s myjob. Live with it! Sorry. What I meant to explain was my tendencyto leave cliff hangers. I like convenient means of keeping storylinesgoing. Cliff hangers provide those. People who’ve read the previousstories know what’s going on. People just starting have a good reasonto read my previous works. Sort of like the old serials that theyshow on AMC every once in awhile.
People reading this story after my others know the identity ofNight Strike and Night Bird already, so that realization isn’t much.However, the realization that it wasn’t the original plan for Avatar 2that caused Rory’s terminal illness was something not often alluded tootherwise. The brewing romance between Rory and Melissa was somethingelse new to my readers, but old to my players (in the SK RPG I run athome). As was reference to the KaTastrophe’s. However, the Kat InBlack (thanks to Strike’s Swat Kat Zone for the name) is new to bothplayers and readers. I also took the usual frame of reference(Megakat City and the Swat Kats or Enforcers) and threw it out thewindow! I decided to have most of the story occur in Faroe Lake andfrom Madame Kat’s ever-watchful gaze.
And, uh, in case you haven’t guessed by now, italics like thiswill usually indicate emphasis. However, these sort of italicsrepresent things inside the head of a character, usually the previousspeaker or whoever the alternate voice is talking too. That’s aboutit for tonight. Enjoy!
1 Not intended as an attack on the rights that the companies thatproduced those excellent shows have. Creature was written by PeterBenchley. Pretender is an excellent series which I’m currentlyhunting the air times of. If you know them, please tell me. I’mgetting slightly desperate.
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.