Original SWAT Kats Story

T-Bone’s Stakes

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  • 1 Chapter
  • 16,266 Words

Thanks to Dr. Viper, Razor has been infected with a serum that’s turning him into a mindless zombie. Unfortunately for T-Bone, the only place to find the antidote is the Dark Ages. (A character study of T-Bone.)

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Author's Notes:

Okay, this happens to be the first time I’ve actually written anything of this sort, so there’s probably a lot that can be improved on. Any comments, criticisms, praises (heh, I hope …) are welcome. Oh, and sorry if this seems excessively long; it kinda got out of control after a while. :/ I wrote it kind of as a exploration of T-Bone’s character because he didn’t have an episode like “Razor’s Edge”, (which I have yet to watch …) so tell me if anything’s not quite canon. This probably takes place some time after “Bride of the Pastmaster” and before “Mutation City”.

PROLOGUE

The sounds of laughter echoed through the tunnels of MegaKat City’s sewage system. Dr. Viper laughed maniacally as the plantimal writhed and convulsed on the floor before finally laying still.

“Yessss! The sssserum workssss! Even againsssst my beautiful petssss.”

Dr. Viper had engineered his plantimals to be immune to the most extreme conditions, including all the toxins he knew of. The very fact that he had succeeded in poisoning one of them was proof of the potency of the serum he had created. Or perhaps not. The plantimal he had poisoned stood up, still trembling visibly, and began savaging the other plantimals around it in a blind rage. The ones who fell to its bite soon exhibited the symptoms of the poison as well …

Dr. Viper watched with amusement as the number of poisoned plantimals grew. He hadn’t quite anticipated this particular effect; how fortunate could one get in a day? Using his tail to swat away those foolish enough to attack him, he made his way to his workbench to protect the precious vial of serum. At long last, he had the one weapon he needed to rid himself of the SWATKats forever. Dr. Viper smiled gleefully as he held the vial, allowing himself to indulge in that thought … but his mood darkened as he proceeded to plan their demise.

All the remaining plantimals he had were dead now, killed by one another. Not only were they a wasted resource, but he now had no idea how long it would take the toxin to actually kill something on its own. His previous unfortunate encounter with the SWATKats had also left him without the immediate resources to create a “situation” with which to draw the SWATKats out into the open. No, he had to be patient, unless …

“This is Ann Gora of Katseye News reporting from downtown MegaKat City, where the Pastmaster is terrorizing the city with an army of undead creatures …” the small television set on the corner of his workbench squawked, interrupting his train of thought. Dr. Viper’s first reaction was to throw something at the offending appliance, but then something clicked in his mind.

The sounds of laughter echoed through the tunnels of MegaKat City’s sewage system. How fortunate could one get in a day?

Very.

———————————————————————-

“Whatsamatter, buddy? Not feeling *lucky* today?” T-Bone panted as he taunted his long-time friend and partner who was trying to stare him down.

“Luck’s got nothing to do with it, Chance.” Razor grinned as he bit down on the Mongo pepper he held in his hands. Three chewing-motions later, he was panting as heavily as his buddy, trying to ease the stinging sensation from his tongue and looking considerably less confident. Just one more pepper to prove his previous record was no hoax. The fact that it was didn’t particularly bother Razor, except that his friend seemed to have caught on to it.

Razor focused his attention on the pepper he was about to put in his mouth. Just one more. Razor opened his mouth and tried to bite down on the pepper. Somehow, his determination didn’t quite win out over the part of him that didn’t fancy a permanent loss of his sense of taste. Searching for a way out, he risked a sidelong glance at his friend. T-Bone might as well have pounced on him.

“HA! I knew you couldn’t take that last Mongo pepper!” T-Bone shouted triumphantly, sounding fairly relieved at the same time.

The two had made a small wager when T-Bone decided to call Razor’s bluff on his uncanny pepper tolerance: loser would take over the garage duties for a week. Right then, T-Bone was wondering how many bags of nachos and six- packs of milk he was going to need for the upcoming Scaredy Kat telethon.

T-Bone was shaken out of his reverie by the sound of the SWATKats’ klaxon. Pulling a portable communicator from his pockets, he responded with a practiced swiftness and confidence, remembering to keep an eye on his buddy this time round.

“T-Bone here, Ms. Briggs, what can we do for you? … Pastmaster? … WHAT?!” Seeing T-Bone momentarily distracted, Razor slipped the Mongo pepper into his pocket and pretended to munch on it. T-Bone, realizing his folly a bit too late, shot Razor a dubious look, causing Razor to redouble his efforts to look suitably pained. T-Bone frowned even more at that.

“We’re on our way, Ms. Briggs.” T-Bone ended the transmission and returned his attention to Razor. “Bet’s off, Razor! You’ve got to be yanking my tail! There’s no way you could have eaten that last pepper!”

“A deal’s a deal, T-Bone … hope you didn’t have any plans for the week!” Razor replied with a smug smile. He didn’t want to overindulge in the sensation, but it always felt good to beat T-Bone at something … it evened the score after all the ribbing he got from T-Bone during the sessions in the accelerator.

“Aww … C’mon! How-”

“Later. I believe Callie needs our help right now. We’ll have plenty of time afterwards … when you’re working on the 4 cars out back!” Razor smiled and ran off towards the hangar.

T-Bone sighed and wondered how he always managed to get himself into these situations before dashing after his partner.

———————————————————————-

“Woah. Deja Vu!” Razor exclaimed as he checked his sensor readings of their imminent destination.

“I hate it when you say that! What is it?” T-Bone replied, sounding mildly irritated, probably having not quite gotten over the pepper incident.

“You know how surprised you were when Callie told you the Pastmaster was raising an undead army? Well-” A thunderous roar cut Razor’s explanation short and effectively summarized the situation for T-Bone. Rising out of the MegaKat City tarpits was the skeleton of a Megasaurus Rex. T-Bone banked the TurboKat and hit the afterburners, making a beeline for the monster, which was beginning to wreck major parts of the city. Below them, the panic and chaos worsened as they approached the behemoth. The horde of Kat zombies and skeletons roamed the streets with no apparent aim except to wreak havoc, although the stampeding mobs of fleeing Kats seem to be doing a pretty good job themselves. Worst of all, Razor could see some of the Enforcers who fell in the line of duty getting right up moments later and joining the legion of undead. With some effort, he pushed aside the thoughts of how to contain the undead without endangering innocent bystanders in such a mess. There were bigger problems at hand. Namely one BIG problem.

“Careful, T-Bone. Remember whose tail got kicked the last time we tangled with that thing,” Razor cautioned to little avail.

“Don’t worry! I’m ready for a rematch any day!” T-Bone replied, turning back to flash Razor a cocky grin.

“LOOK OUT!” Razor yelled as the skeletal Megasaurus swung its tail at the TurboKat. T-Bone snapped his attention back to piloting and swung TurboKat away, narrowly evading the Megasaurus’ blow, but not the globs of tar that had been swung off its tail.

“Aww … CRUD!” T-Bone exclaimed as he tried to peer through the now mostly tar covered canopy.

“Can you take us out of here blind, T-Bone?” Razor asked as he scanned his instrumentation. “Just keep us clear of his tail. I’ve got an idea.”

“No problem! Hang on!” came the confident reply.

Razor was wondering why he had to until he felt the G-forces slam into him. T-Bone was either doing a vertical climb … or a dive.

“T-BONE?!”

“Relax, Razor, just don’t pass out on me now or you’ll miss the view!” T-Bone teased. Most of the tar had been wiped away by the air pressure as the TurboKat climbed, allowing the two SWATKats to see where they were going again. “So, what’s your plan?”

“Just point me at him,” Razor mumbled, trying to shake off the effects of the G-forces. He was succeeding too until he felt that lurch again. This time they were definitely diving. Wincing slightly, he launched a Matchhead missile at the rampaging undead dinosaur, setting tar and bone alike aflame. Moments later, it became a *flaming* rampaging undead dinosaur, more menacing then ever and showing no signs of slowing down.

“Smooth move, Razor. What do we do now? Bring out the marshmallows?”

“How about the skewers instead? Slicer missiles … deployed!”

The missiles streaked towards the monster and ripped through its desiccated bones despite its attempts to swat them back, reducing it to a blazing pile of rapidly charring rubble with a resounding crash and eliciting an even more resounding shout of “BINGO!” from Razor.

The sound of the canopy cracking apart above Razor interrupted his slightly celebratory mood. Razor instinctively drew back as he noticed the Pastmaster leering down at him from the horrific zombie dactyl which was tearing up the TurboKat. As he glanced out, he could see that the Enforcers were having similar problems with other dactyls in their choppers and silently scolded himself for letting his guard down. The sound of Pastmaster’s taunting voice brought his attention back to the problem at hand.

“Time for you meddlesome SWATKats to join my legion of the dead!” Razor barely ducked past the wickedly taloned claws reaching for him as the Pastmaster gloated on about their inevitable demise.

“RAZOR?! You okay, buddy? What’s going on back there?!” T-Bone shouted over the noise of the rushing wind while desperately trying to keep the TurboKat in the air.

“Everything’s just … FINE!” Razor punctuated his sentence by nailing the dactyl with one shot from his Glovatrix. The shot smacked squarely into the dactyl’s head, netting both it and the Pastmaster. Unable to flap its rotting membranous wings, the dactyl clawed a furrow through the hull of the TurboKat as T-Bone pulled a tight bank, futility trying to cling on before plummeting into the trees below.

“Did’ya see where he landed, Razor? We can still …”

“That’s a negative, T-Bone. We’d better set the TurboKat down for repairs. I’m beginning to lose power to some of my systems. That thing must’ve clawed through some of the power lines,” Razor replied somewhat disappointedly.

T-Bone merely nodded and hunted for a clear and relatively secluded spot to land the TurboKat. He was more than willing to risk the systems failure if it meant giving them a shot at taking down the Pastmaster for good, but he had learnt to trust Razor’s judgment on such matters over the years, even when he felt that Razor was being a tad overprotective of their jet … like now.

As if reading his mind, Razor added, “Don’t worry, T-Bone. Even Feral couldn’t miss a gift prize like the Pastmaster … and, if he did, we could always take another shot at him, right?”

———————————————————————-

A lone figure stood in the center of the chaos below the SWATKats and observed the unfolding aerial drama with anticipation, occasionally smacking away the undead Kat who wandered too close to him with the powerful green tail which protruded slightly from under his trench coat. His eyes lighted up as the dactyl fell away from the SWATKats’ infernal jet, leaving it slightly worse for wear. Quickening his footsteps, he ran after the descending jet and laughed maniacally.

Soon. Very soon.

———————————————————————-

Razor frowned as he assessed the damage done by the dactyl.

“Looks like that thing did more than rip up a few power lines. This is going to take some time, T-Bone,” Razor told T-Bone as he gathered his tools.

“Can you handle this on your own? I’m taking the Cyclotron to go after that psycho Pastmaster.” T-Bone hopped out of the cockpit and landed on the soft grass next to the TurboKat. He hoped that the Enforcers wouldn’t check for them in the more wooded areas behind MegaKat City park … then again, the Pastmaster couldn’t have landed too far away either, and that would certainly attract more than its fair share of attention.

“Sorry, T-Bone, but I can’t open the bay doors without getting some of our systems back on line first … You’re going to have to wait this one out, buddy.” Razor turned his attention back to his work.

A short while later, he abruptly stopped and scanned the clearing, intently focused on something.

“Did you hear that?” Razor hopped down from the jet and landed beside his partner, who was putting on his Glovatrix.

“No …” T-Bone frowned. Maybe he was getting paranoid, but he had a gut feeling that something wasn’t right either.

Silence. Nothing happened.

T-Bone relaxed slightly and grinned at his partner, who was still less than convinced that nothing was amiss. He was about to say something flippant when the sound of two air chambers suddenly decompressing told him that he had made a *very* big mistake.

“GET DOWN!” Razor yelled as he saw the two darts flying towards them. Instinctively, he lunged at T-Bone to knock him out of harm’s way and simultaneously fired his Glovatrix in the direction the shots came from. The dart aimed at him embedded itself harmlessly against the side of the TurboKat. The one meant for T-Bone caught Razor squarely in the chest.

“RAZOR?! Are you alright?” T-Bone frantically made his way over to his partner who laid sprawled on the ground.

“Hunnh … yeah … fine,” Razor replied, groaning slightly. He plucked the dart from his chest and pulled himself up with T-Bone’s aid, not feeling too steady.

Moments later, Dr. Viper fell into the clearing, entangled by the stiff wires from Razor’s shot, laughing madly. Enraged, T-Bone ripped the empty dart from the side of the TurboKat and waved it at Dr. Viper.

“WHAT WAS IN THIS?” T-Bone bellowed at Dr. Viper, hauling him up by the collar.

The mad doctor continued laughing smugly and spat his reply with contempt, “Merely the mosssst potent toxsssin ever created, you foolsss!”

“THEN WHERE’S THE ANTIDOTE?” T-Bone followed up, slamming Dr. Viper against into a tree.

Razor propped himself against the TurboKat and watched the interrogation with a sinking feeling in his heart; he had never seen his friend so possessed with anger before and, for some reason, it frightened him. That and the certainty that Dr. Viper wouldn’t have made an antidote for the poison meant to kill them both.

“There issssn’t one! Mwa-ha-ha-ha!” Dr. Viper gleefully exclaimed.

Razor’s heart sank. Closing his eyes, he probed the wound the dart made. He could feel the toxin beginning to burn in his veins …

“THEN HOW DO WE *MAKE* ONE?” T-Bone was practically breathing into Dr. Viper’s face through bared teeth by now.

Dr. Viper laughed even harder.  “Why, you jussst ussse the crushed exssstract of the flowerssss from the Assster Beneficssse plant, of courssssse!” Dr. Viper continued to laugh maniacally at some private joke.

“Where can we find it?!” T-Bone cooled down slightly, but the harsh edge remained in his voice. The faint glimmer of hope overpowered the part of him which practically screamed that there had to be a catch …

“Only in the Dark Agessss!” Dr. Viper shot back triumphantly, “The Assster Beneficssse has been exssstinct for csssenturiessss!” Throwing back his head, he roared with laughter.

The disappointment fueled T-Bone’s fury, and his fist connected with Dr. Viper’s jaw with an audible crack, causing the mad scientist to crumple into an unconscious heap on the ground and cutting off his insane laughter.

Razor grinned weakly and joked, “Thanks, the laughter was driving me nuts.”

T-Bone apparently didn’t find it humorous. With an uncharacteristic seriousness, he ran back to the TurboKat saying, “C’mon! We’ve got to get you to a hospital. NOW!” Razor stopped his friend as he ran past him, his face now equally serious.

“We can’t do that. Not like this.” Razor gestured to his flight suit and continued, “I go to a hospital now and the SWATKats are history.”

T-Bone stopped in his tracks, the conflict obvious on his face. He knew Razor was right, and he hated that. Lowering his head to avoid looking into his partner’s eyes, he spoke softy, more to himself than Razor, “Then there’s only one thing to do …”

Razor’s eyes widened as he caught onto T-Bone’s plan.

“You can’t be serious!” Razor protested, but the gravity with which his friend now looked at him with convinced him that T-Bone was *most* serious about it.

“C’mon, he couldn’t have gotten that far.” Turning away from Razor with an unidentifiable sense of shame, he climbed into the cockpit and checked the systems. “Our emergency systems are still up. We can still use the Ejektor seats.”

Razor hesitated for a moment before climbing into his seat with some difficulty. The weakness was beginning to set in. As the pair of SWATKats launched themselves into the air, Razor couldn’t help but wonder if his life was worth risking both of theirs for in T-Bone’s impossible gambit.

———————————————————————-

“There he is!” T-Bone exclaimed as caught a glimpse of the Pastmaster being escorted out of the park by a group of Enforcers. “Aw, crud,” he added softly when he noticed that they were led by none other than Commander Feral himself.

“Any bright ideas, Razor?” T-Bone asked out of force of habit. He shot a worried glance back at Razor when no reply came. Beside the stoic grimace Razor had on his face, T-Bone couldn’t discern anything else wrong with him. He silently prayed that that was indeed the case.

A surprised yelp from one of the Enforcers brought his attention back to the scene below. A small band of zombies had ambushed the escort and freed the Pastmaster, who fled back into the thickly wooded areas where the zombies seemed to come from.

“C’mon, Razor! We can cut him off before he reaches the graveyard!” T-Bone yelled and gave chase, followed somewhat unsteadily by Razor. As they passed over a small clearing, T-Bone dived and smashed his seat into a pair of zombies who were protecting the Pastmaster, leaping clear of it at the last moment to land in front of the Pastmaster. Razor landed a short distance behind him.

“Don’t you infernal SWATKats ever go away?!” Pastmaster cursed as he stepped back from T-Bone and stopped hesitantly as the noise made by the pursuing Enforcers drew closer.

“Sorry, but your zombies aren’t the only ones that keep coming back!” T-Bone bantered unconvincingly, an effect which wasn’t lost on the Pastmaster. Cackling wickedly, he taunted, “Perhaps you SWATKats don’t have as many lives as you think you do!” The sinister gleam in his eyes told T-Bone that something was very wrong. He inhaled sharply as he turned to face Razor, who was trembling violently on his knees.

“RAZOR?!” T-Bone yelled as he made his way to his partner who was beginning to convulse on the ground.

“Uhnnh … Be … hind … you …” Razor moaned shakily as he thrashed around, a small trickle of blood flowing from the corner of his lips.

A part of T-Bone’s mind berated him as he realized he had made another fatal mistake. Time seemed to slow to a crawl as he responded. As he raised his head, he could see Pastmaster’s zombie reinforcements coming at him, and, as he spun around, he could see Pastmaster aiming his pocket watch at him, unaware of Feral closing in behind him.

Time snapped back to normal as he broke into a roll and the Pastmaster’s ruby beam streaked past him and smashed into the ground where he used to be, flinging the now limp body of his partner into the horde of approaching undead. T-Bone howled in rage and his face contorted into a mask of unbridled anger, which shocked even the Pastmaster, who aimed his watch at T-Bone defensively. Without thought, T-Bone lashed out at the Pastmaster with a grappling hook, snatching his watch with one swift stroke and whipping it away from him.

The Pastmaster actually looked terrified until three of his zombies tackled T-Bone from behind. The blow brought T-Bone back to his senses and focused his mind on the one thing which was important.

The watch. He had it.

Under the crushing weight and blows of the zombies, T-Bone tried to figure out how the watch worked. Nothing else mattered. His mind registered nothing else. Not the pain, not the sense of loss, not the Pastmaster’s taunts.

“FOOL! You have not the strength of will to wield my magics! And, I have no need of it to crush … huh?” Pastmaster abruptly stopped flaunting the small bone wand in his hands at T-Bone as he noticed the presence behind him.

“Surrender, scum!” Feral commanded behind him, pointing his gun at him.

Pastmaster merely cackled and pointed the wand at Feral, which caused Feral to scowl even more.  “Attack, my servants!”

Immediately, the three zombies forgot about T-Bone and charged at Feral, much to his surprise.

T-Bone took advantage of the opportunity to pull himself up, groaning slightly at the additional pain the movement caused. Glancing around to assess the situation, T-Bone gasped as his eyes swept past the body of his best friend.

Razor stood up unsteadily. His eyes, bloodshot and unfocused, looked at T-Bone without any sign of recognition. His lips curled back in a twisted feral smile, revealing dripping fangs waiting to tear his throat apart.

“No …” T-Bone whispered to himself as he stood transfixed.

“He’s one of my servants now!” Pastmaster proclaimed gleefully.

“No …” T-Bone stared at the cackling Pastmaster then back at Razor who was charging at him.

Razor pounced, claws and fangs at his throat and poised to kill.

“NO!!!” T-Bone cried out as the ground dissolved from beneath him into a swirling portal …

———————————————————————-

T-Bone hit the ground with a dull thud as he emerged from the portal. Opening his eyes, T-Bone was greeted by the sight of a skeletal Kat pouncing at him, claws and fangs at his throat and poised to kill. Reacting without thought, he fired his Glovatrix at the creature, barely before it could deliver a killing blow.

Bolting upright, T-Bone tried to shake off the disorientation. Surely he couldn’t still be in his own time … could he?! No … the sounds of sword fighting which raged around him told him that much.

Scanning his surroundings, he recognized the walls of Megalith City looming above the knights as they clashed with a band of undead warriors. Wielding everything from rusted swords to their bare claws, the undead fought savagely, claiming two knights for every one of their number which went down for the count … increasing their numbers while the number of defenders dwindled.

Dispatching three more with the last shots from his Glovatrix, T-Bone grabbed a sword from one of them and joined the fray, brandishing it with brute strength rather than any amount of skill. Still, he managed to cut another two down before reinforcements arrived from the castle, precipitating the retreat of the undead horde.

Panting heavily from the exertion, T-Bone knelt on the ground, using the sword to support his weight, the pain from the wounds accumulated from his two encounters with undead Kats finally beginning to register in his mind.

“By the authority of Queen Callista, I hereby place you under arrest!” the Kat who led the reinforcements proclaimed in a deep baritone as he towered above T-Bone.

T-Bone’s eyes widened, not only in indignance, but also in surprise. That voice …

“FERAL?!” T-Bone blurted out as he raised his head to look at his would-be captor.

The Knight-General looked taken aback before he regained his composure and spat, “So, you’re a bandit AND a spy! That’s *Sir* Feral to you, lowlife! Take him away, men!”

T-Bone stood stunned, more by the similarity between *Sir* Feral and his modern counterpart than the accusations. Clean shaven and built like an iron statue, the young Knight-General could have easily passed as Commander Feral’s son in the future. If the Commander actually manages to find anyone to settle down with, T-Bone thought wryly to himself.

T-Bone’s survival instincts kicked in when two of the soldiers tried to bind his hands, tossing the one who charged at him over his shoulder at the other soldier, taking both down with one flowing motion.

“Is this how you treat a friend of the Queen?” T-Bone mocked. The way he figured it, if this Feral was anything at all like the one he knew, all he had to do was push the right buttons …

“LIAR! I’ll have your tongue for that!” Feral growled and drew his sword, which caused T-Bone to blink in surprise. Apparently, young Feral had a *much* more volatile temper. Glancing around for a way out of the mess, T-Bone saw a ring of youthful and unfamiliar faces closing in around him, some – the ones who had fought with him – more hesitantly than others. T-Bone frowned. Whatever happened to the old guard who could vouch for him?

“That will be enough, Sir Feral. Sir T-Bone speaks the truth,” a faint but nevertheless firm and regal voice commanded from the city gates.

Feral immediately sheathed his sword and genuflected at the Queen, bowing deeply.

“My Queen! You should not out here in your condition! I was merely being cautious, your highness … who else but bandits wear masks in the light of-”

“That will be enough, Sir Feral. I believe you have preparations to make before the hordes strike again,” the voice interrupted, its tone slightly firmer this time, but no louder. With Sir Feral out of his way, T-Bone could see that the voice belonged to an older and more frail Queen Callista than the one he knew.

“Hear that, Feral? That’s *Sir* Lowlife to you!” T-Bone grinned smugly at Feral and teased.

Sir Feral merely glowered at T-Bone and muttered a respectful, “Yes, my Queen,” before leading his men back into the city.

“Do not be too hard on him, Sir T-Bone. He may be headstrong and inexperienced, but he is still a loyal and capable knight,” Callista said with a wane smile on her face as she approached T-Bone, her attendant frowning heavily at her refusal to be concerned over her own health.

“Once again, you have come in our hour of need, you are indeed true heroes … Where is Sir Razor?” she asked uncertainly.

T-Bone’s heart skipped a beat, and the smile slid from his face.

“Urm … Razor … he’s …” The word “dead” formed a lump in his throat he couldn’t force out.

The Queen gazed at T-Bone appraisingly during the awkward silence which followed.

“I see,” she finally lowered her head and said softly. “We too have lost too many good knights-”

“HE’S NOT DEAD!” T-Bone spoke with a vehemence which surprised even himself. “Not if I can do anything about it,” T-Bone added softly, turning away from the Queen.

“I see,” Callista said, the disappointment obvious in her voice, “so you have only returned to this time seeking to change your future.”

T-Bone nodded slightly, then shook his head. Looking back at Callista, he couldn’t help but feel a twinge of guilt for the selfish motivations behind his trip. Pale and beginning to gray, Callista was obviously no longer the feisty young ruler she used to be, the burden of ruling apparent from the soft lines beginning to form on her face. Her eyes, once fiery with determination, now reflected a coolness and acceptance of an inevitable defeat. The years must not have been kind.

“It’s not like that … er, my Queen. I need to find a plant, the Aster …?”

“Benefice?!” Queen Callista’s attendant finished the sentence with a gasp. T-Bone nodded, looking slightly bewildered.

Callista closed her eyes and held her hands together tightly, trying to deny the wellspring of hope which threatened to break her composure. She failed. Smiling with a radiance which restored some measure of youth to her features, she whispered, “So the fates have yet to abandon us.”

T-Bone was about to ask what was going on when the Queen clutched her chest and doubled over in pain. T-Bone managed to catch her before she fell to the ground and helped her back to her feet. Her attendant rushed over to support her, and having recovered from her initial surprise, now shot a suspicious look at T-Bone whilst helping the Queen from his arms.

Callista waved her away, weakly adding, “I’ll be fine. Please, show our guest to his room and make him comfortable. I will speak with you later, Sir T-Bone.”

With that, she left T-Bone with her attendant. The attendant glared hostilely at T-Bone, most unhappy at being kept from what she obviously considered to be more important duties at the Queen’s side.

T-Bone tried smiling at her, but it didn’t seem to help much. Without so much as another glance at him, she hurried off, presumably leading the way. T-Bone sighed and spared a glance at the setting sun before following. For some reason, its brilliant orange hue reminded him of Razor.

———————————————————————-

The lone figure standing in one of ramparts cursed softly as he witnessed the events unfolding beneath him. Stroking his long white beard, the diminutive Kat plotted his next move. Silently wishing he had a spell which would have allowed him to eavesdrop, he pulled his cloak and hood more tightly around him and shuffled towards the stairs. No matter. Whoever this new player was, he would never be able to uncover his scheme in time … Still, precautions had to be taken; he didn’t like having unknown variables appearing in his plans. No. No … now was not the time to be worrying over details. Quickening his step, he focused his attention on putting the final pieces in place.

After that, it would be just a matter of time …

———————————————————————-

Time felt like it was passing far more slowly than it should for T-Bone who sat in the soldiers’ mess hall aimlessly stirring his bowl of hot pepper stew. He wasn’t really feeling hungry, but the stew’s afterburn and the noise around him helped keep his mind off … less pleasant thoughts. Forcing another spoonful of the stew into his mouth, T-Bone couldn’t help but feel an odd sense of respect for the Kat who came up with the recipe for a dish he couldn’t quite handle.

Of course, Razor never had any problems with it …

T-Bone dropped the spoon back into the bowl as the thought came unbidden to his mind. Attempting to push the thought away, T-Bone stared out at the most prominent source of noise in the room. From the isolated corner of the hall he was sitting in, he could see two Kats, no more than youths, dicing and guffawing loudly.

“Haw! Whatsamatter, friend? Not feeling lucky today?” the heavyset one asked mockingly as he raked in the coppers on the table. Pausing to take a swig of milk, he proceeded to slap his gambling partner hard on the back and said, “So, how’s about another round?”

The other Kat, smaller framed and looking totally out of place in a room full of soldiers, looked ruefully at him and rubbed his back.

“Only if I find out how you’re cheating at it …” he replied, the sour tone in his voice more likely caused by an aching purse than an aching back. He got up to leave, but a burly hand reached out and caught hold of him.

“Aww … would *I* do such a thing?” The insolent smile on his face gave away much more than he intended. “Life is a gamble, my friend! Nothing comes to those who don’t take the risks when the stakes are high!” Almost smirking, he jingled his full purse in front of his friend.

“Yeah, well … gamble too much and the dice will eventually come up Kat’s Eyes.”

“HAW! Not much to lose, is there? We’re all going to die soon enough!”

His loud and callous remark silenced the rest of the hall and attracted numerous unfriendly stares. He missed a beat and blinked in surprise at the general response to his statement.

“What? All of you cannot possibly believe that we can actually triumph over the hordes without the Queen’s magic, do you?! And, no one has returned with the herb that will cure her majesty, so none of us will be seeing her majesty up and wielding magics soon, will we?” The large Kat’s tone rose from being merely surprised to an incredulous indignance.

Silence.

T-Bone stood up from his table and strode towards the door, trying to escape the room before his feelings overwhelmed him. The stool made more noise then he had expected and he soon had the eyes of every Kat in the room on him as he made his exit. For some reason he couldn’t quite explain, the words, “Nothing comes to those who don’t take the risks when the stakes are high,” echoed through his head.

T-Bone only realized that he had spoken out loud when he noticed some of the Kats looking at him in an extremely respectful manner, as if he had said something profound. T-Bone frowned at them as he tried to sort through the torrent of emotion and hurried out of the room. He slammed into a short cloaked figure as he stepped out of the doorway, and the two glared at each other momentarily in mutual distrust before hurrying their separate ways.

In the distance, T-Bone could still hear the voice of the burly Kat saying something about the Chancellor being uncharacteristically magnanimous in not chewing his ears off for bumping into him, apparently an attempt to diffuse the tense silence.

It didn’t work.

———————————————————————-

T-Bone slumped into bed in the guest quarters without bothering to undress. Staring at the canopy of the bed, he exhaled heavily, as if trying to purge the day’s events from his memory. But, he wasn’t. Not really. On some level, he was aware that the scenes of Razor’s death and subsequent rising that kept repeating themselves in his head were there because he wanted them to be; it was strangely satisfying picking at scabs.

T-Bone’s mind drifted back to the time he thought Razor had perished trying to save the city from Dark Kat’s nuclear weapon. The only emotion he could distinctly remember feeling then was a sense of grim determination to avenge his partner. That and a faint shred of hope that Razor could have pulled it off.

Not this time.

The absolute certainty that his best friend would die in the future to save him weighed heavily on his heart. Funny. Somehow T-Bone always imagined that he’d be the first to hit the big litterbox in the sky. That or they’d both go up together in a blaze of glory. But, the idea that Razor would someday have to die for him had always seemed a remote possibility at best, something each of them knew the other was willing to do, and yet hoped would never happen.

Back when they were both Enforcers, Razor had covered his tail whenever he got into trouble with Feral, which was more times than he could remember. More often than not, it ended up with the both of them being punished for a misdemeanor only T-Bone was involved in. T-Bone smiled sadly when he considered the possibility that Razor might have been kicked out of the Enforcers with him simply by association, Feral being the kind of person he was.

Good ‘ol Razor.

T-Bone closed his eyes and summoned Razor’s image into his mind, trying to wrestle with the harrowing prospect of never seeing it again.

And, it would be all his fault.

Guilt and anger welled up inside him and escaped as a choked sob. Guilt because of the knowledge that his recklessness had caused Razor’s death; Anger because it took the death of a friend to force him to consider the stakes involved every time he put on the flight suit.

T-Bone had never liked thinking too deeply about things … that was Razor’s forte. He had learnt from a young age that if he thought about something dangerous long enough, he was apt to be too terrified to try it, so, after a while, he didn’t. T-Bone preferred to live for the moment, to savor the thrills while he could and to heck with the consequences; Razor could worry about those.

Only this time, he did more than that.

The bleak, hollow feeling in the pit of T-Bone’s stomach intensified until T-Bone finally recognized the sensation.

It was fear.

Fear of being alone.

T-Bone chuckled softly at the thought. Sure, he was afraid of lots of things which seemed ridiculous: bugs, swimming … but, being alone? T-Bone snorted at its absurdity.  ….No, no afraid of being alone was definitely not …

No, he was *terrified* of it. The certainty with which the small voice in his head spoke surprised T-Bone. There was no cocky arrogance there, nor any hint of flippant bantering.

Only the truth. And, that frightened him more than anything else.

T-Bone was fairly proud of the fact that he had never let his fear interfere with what had to be done …It was what he had been taught courage was: the ability to persevere in spite of fear. But, lying all alone in the darkness, he couldn’t help but wonder just how much of that had stemmed from his partner’s cool confidence.

Razor had always attributed much of the SWATKats’ success to the high-tech edge they had despite T-Bone’s egotistical protests, and, to some extent, T-Bone had accepted it as the truth … but with Razor dead …

A faint tapping at the door interrupted T-Bone’s introspection. Hastily mopping his face with the back of his hand, T-Bone jumped out of bed to get the door.

Queen Callista’s pale visage greeted him as he opened the door. Realizing how unpresentable he looked, T-Bone fumbled for words, “Er, … greetings, my-”

“I see have come at a bad time,” Callista interrupted, “perhaps it would be better if-”

“No! Er … that is, not at all, my Queen,” T-Bone lowered his head slightly, hoping she would not notice how embarrassed he felt.

Callista paused a moment to assess the situation, then continued, “The plant you seek is in the woods north of here, less than a day’s journey. If you seek it for medicinal purposes, you must pick the flowers in full bloom, in which all five petals have turned fully white. Any hint of blue will mean that the plant is useless.”

Pausing another moment to check if T-Bone caught all of that, she continued, “Be careful. Many fine men have been sent, but none have returned. I do not know what lurks there but it is of vital importance that-”

T-Bone raised a hand to stop her. “I know the stakes.”

Callista arched an eyebrow in relief and disbelief, appraising T-Bone in moment of uncomfortable silence. Using one hand to smooth T-Bone’s wet cheek fur, she leaned forward and kissed him gently. “Then our hero has indeed returned,” she whispered enigmatically as she pulled away, a faint smile on her face. “I should go before my aide realizes I’m gone. She worries too much.”

T-Bone blinked at her in surprise, his jaw hanging open slightly while Callista turned and left. He was still standing there gaping after the door closed behind her until he realized how foolish he looked. Walking slowly back to the bed, T-Bone considered the problem detachedly.

No Razor. No TurboKat. An empty Glovatrix. The life of his best friend and the future of a city hanging in the balance.

“Nothing comes to those who don’t take the risks when the stakes are high,” T-Bone smiled wryly and hoped Razor was wrong about the key to their success …

———————————————————————-

A pair of sunken eyes watched as the Queen left the room.

“Soon, Callista. Soon. But, first, your precious little hero …”

———————————————————————-

“Sir T-Bone! Sir T-Bone!”

“Mrrmmmph … Just a few more minutes, buddy …”

“SIR T-BONE!” The skinny Kat desperately trying to shake T-Bone awake raised his voice as much as he dared, hoping he wasn’t already attracting too much attention.

The word “Sir” clicked in the back of T-Bone’s head, and he bolted upright. Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, he mumbled, “Whatsamatter? Dawn already?!” Somehow, T-Bone didn’t recall falling asleep.

“Hurry, Sir T-Bone! The Chancellor has sent a handful of soldiers loyal to him after you …” The sound of more than a handful of footsteps outside the door emphasized worried-looking Kat’s words.

T-Bone took a moment to recognize the face – it was the Kat who had lost gambling in the mess hall. Seeing the look of puzzlement spreading across T-Bone’s face, the Kat added, “There’s no time! We must leave here at once!” Impressed by the young Kat’s sincerity and tone of urgency, T-Bone hauled himself out of bed and headed towards the window.

The door burst open, and eight burly Kats barged into the room.

T-Bone’s would-be rescuer gasped and froze in the center of the room. Grabbing him by the arm, T-Bone leapt out the window, using his free hand to grab onto the creepers outside the window. His companion let out a startled yelp as he slammed against the wall, but it was the way his eyes widened as he looked back up which warned T-Bone that they were in trouble.

The soldiers were hacking the vines.

T-Bone could feel some of the vines snapping under the force of their combined weight and correctly concluded that the resulting three story fall would be less than desirable for their continued health. Unless …

“Hang on!” T-Bone ordered as the vines gave way completely. Swinging his body away from the window and the waving swords, T-Bone let go of the creepers and fell.

“3 … 2 … 1 …” T-Bone silently counted the moments and hoped his estimation was accurate …

“CONTACT!” T-Bone yelled as his free hand caught onto the ledge of the window below his room’s, much of the volume caused by the jolt of pain which shot through his arm as a result. Lifting the thankfully smaller Kat up so he could grab the ledge, T-Bone quickly followed after. Grimacing at his nearly torn shoulder, T-Bone asked, “Where to now?”

“Um … the stables!” the young Kat replied, obviously more than a little shaken by the experience. “Down the stairs, across the courtyard and out the inner gates.”

T-Bone nodded and spun as two of the soldiers arrived in the room. T-Bone charged and knocked the wind out of one and tripped the other who tried to do the same to him.

“C’mon!” He turned back and flashed what he hoped was a reassuring grin before dashing out of the room. His medieval counterpart followed, not quite sure as to the implications of the smile.

“Er, Sir T-Bone … can you ride without a saddle? I’m afraid none of the horse have been-”

“No problem!” T-Bone cut him off.

How different could it be from riding the Cyclotron?

———————————————————————-

“The fools!” the Chancellor cursed softly as he watched the pair of Kats narrowly make it past the city walls before the portcullis came clashing down behind them. Watching from his quarters in one of towers in the palace, the Chancellor glared venomously at the masked hero who had the gall to threaten his delicately engineered plot.

“No matter!” he spat. The potential problem had been momentarily, if not, ideally, permanently removed. That would give him the time he needed to complete his plans, legendary hero or no. The Chancellor smiled at the thought, his slightly tusk like teeth protruding from the bottom of his jaw.

“I’m sorry to report, my Queen, that our guest has fled the city after pocketing some minor treasures from the castle,” the Chancellor said with an astonishingly realistic tone of humility and sincerity, mocking a bow to the table where his plans lay.

Turning away, he cackled evilly at the jest, the look in his eyes anything but humble …

———————————————————————-

The dawn marked several hours worth of uneventful galloping on the back of a rather finicky horse gaining distance from their pursuers. T-Bone wondered if his aching tailbone would ever recover from the experience before shooting a worried glance at his somber traveling companion. He had not spoken since they left the keep. Tired of the disquieting silence, T-Bone decided that any kind of conversation would be welcome as long as it kept his mind off the pain in his shoulder and tail.

“What’s your name, kid?”

The young Kat gave a startled jolt before replying, “Alexander, Sir.”

“Would you mind telling me what’s going on?”

“Sorry, Sir T-Bone,” came the reply, sounding truly apologetic. He hesitated for a moment, not quite sure where to begin.

“The Chancellor acquired his post eight years ago, shortly after the Pastmaster was banished by the legendary hero and his companion.” He paused to study T-Bone a while, but continued when he couldn’t quite put his finger on something.

T-Bone snorted disgruntledly when he heard the part about “and his companion”.

“I’m not sure how or why, but he had served Megalith City for a long time, even during the previous Queen’s reign, and that was reason enough for most Kats, I suppose… I was too young to care back then. Queen Callista trusted him with most things, and, when the wars with the neighboring cities started, she began relying more and more on him. The fact that Megalith City had many years of peace before he became Chancellor probably didn’t seem very significant back then.

“More than two years ago, after the wars ended, Queen Callista was struck by some mysterious illness. As time passed and the Queen’s condition worsened, most of the duties of ruling Megalith City fell to the Chancellor, even overseeing the soldiers. He sent the most loyal and brave knights to retrieve a flower which could supposedly cure the Queen but none returned from the woods we are heading towards, and the rest failed to find the flower elsewhere.

“The missions stopped when the undead hordes started attacking. It started out with small raids, killing off a few brave knights each time and returning the next with more zombies. Now… now they’ve got an army worth of them and one more attack like the one we just had, and I’m afraid Megalith City will fall.”

Alexander looked at T-Bone, hoping that he had given the desired explanation.

T-Bone nodded. That would explain why he didn’t see any of the knights which fought the Pastmaster, but …

“How old are you, Alexander?”

Alexander smiled, obviously expecting the question. “18 … I would have been a qualified journeyman carpenter if I had finished the last year of my six year apprenticeship. But, with the wars and now the hordes, Megalith City didn’t have many soldiers left, so …

T-Bone nodded again. So, he wasn’t a soldier. And, that would also explain how young Feral managed to land himself a command position.

The brooding seriousness returned to Alexander once more as he continued, “Most of the new ones are more loyal to the Chancellor than the Queen … I’m beginning to think he sent the best knights to die so that he could build an army for himself, but I suppose there wouldn’t be any point to that if Megalith City fell …”

“And, what about you? Why’d you warn me?”

“Because you saved my life during the attack …” the carpenter’s apprentice mumbled, obviously extremely conscious of the fact.

T-Bone blinked in surprise; he hadn’t really noticed that, caught up as he was in the battle and his anger.

Then, as if against his better judgment, he added, “That, and the fact that I think the Chancellor is a weasel!” which elicited a light chuckle from T-Bone. Alexander smiled slightly too, but without much humor.

T-Bone frowned again when he recognized the look Alexander had … it was the kind which a condemned Kat had, trying to accept an inevitable and impending death.

They continued on their way in silence once more.

———————————————————————-

Alexander gaped as the two Kats approached their destination. T-Bone managed to conceal his surprise somewhat better. Lying in what was probably a self-made clearing was the unmistakable form of a Cyclops, snoring thunderously away in a deep sleep after what must have been a rather satisfying meal. Alexander gulped and wondered what could have filled the huge belly rising above the canopy of trees.

T-Bone thought that there was something very familiar about the Cyclops; if he didn’t know any better, he’d say it was the same one he and Razor fought when they first came to this time…  What was that phrase Razor was so fond of for situations like these? Day-jar … ? Then again, he supposed all Cyclops looked the same to him.

The two slowed their horses to a trot as they approached the clearing cautiously, T-Bone with somewhat more difficulty. Alexander dismounted first and glanced nervously around.

“Aww … CRUD!” T-Bone cursed softly as he too dismounted and studied the clearing. “The flowers … they’re ALL white!” T-Bone stared in disbelief at the sea of flowers before him, all white except for the occasional smatter of bright hues, yet all subtly different.

“Uh, what are we looking for, Sir T-Bone?” Alexander asked uncertainly before casting a worried glance at the horizon. The small dust cloud following them was growing larger … there would not be much time.

“A white flower …” T-Bone racked his brains, there had to be more. “… with five petals!” T-Bone’s spirits momentarily rose as he remembered Callista’s words but sank again as he realized that the criteria wasn’t very specific and that they’d need a lot of time to pick all the flowers which matched the description. Alexander looked dismayed; the thought must have crossed his mind too. Sighing slightly, he removed his helmet and began filling it with all the white flowers with 5 petals he could find, being careful not to wake the slumbering behemoth.

———————————————————————-

Callista moaned as she laid weakly in bed, feeling powerless and hopeless. She had thought, no, wanted to believe that she was recovering from her illness. Why, she could even walk by herself yesterday! But, this morning she was nearly paralyzed, lying in bed and contemplating her foolishness for having hoped that it would be different this time. She should have known better; every time it seemed she was getting better, the disease would return with a vengeance, more crippling than before. It had happened with an almost rhythmic pattern.

But, what disturbed her the most was the news that her hero had fled the City. Something deep down inside her refused to believe it was possible, but in her state of troubled cynicism, it didn’t matter. He was gone and all hope with him.

And, after all, why would her Chancellor lie to her?

———————————————————————-

Alexander let out a startled yelp as he saw the first of the pursuers emerge into the clearing. He almost jumped out of his skin when an arrow whistled past his ear and embedded itself into the tree behind him. T-Bone, fully aware of the danger, yelled to Alexander, “I think that’s our exit cue!”

T-Bone didn’t like leaving like this, there were still too many flowers which fitted the description they hadn’t picked, but he knew a no-win situation when he saw one.

Alexander had drawn his sword and was fending off two soldiers as he backed towards his horse; at the same time desperately clutching a steel helm full of flowers under his other arm.

“Sir T-Bone?”

More of the soldiers had arrived now, pretty much trapping them in the clearing, and Alexander looked like he was waging a losing battle. T-Bone was about to reply when he heard a deep rumbling sound behind him.

The soldiers stood in stunned silence as the Cyclops stirred and stood up.

T-Bone was the first to react and capitalize on the situation. Backhanding a soldier who had tried to sneak up behind him, he grabbed the soldier’s sword and leapt away.

“I hope this crazy plan works …” T-Bone mumbled softly to himself.

Landing on the Cyclops’ foot, he plunged the sword in with as much strength as he could muster, much to the shock of everyone around him.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!” Alexander shouted, trying to compete with the howl of pain and rage which echoed forth from the Cyclops.

“Buying us a way out! Now MOVE!” T-Bone yelled, leaving the sword in the Cyclops’ foot and making a mad dash for the nearest horse.

The Cyclops proved faster than T-Bone had anticipated, however, bending over and scooping the tiny offending Kat up with one swipe. T-Bone cursed softly, but felt some recompense at the sight of the fleeing soldiers underneath him. Bringing T-Bone up to his eye level, the Cyclops roared at T-Bone furiously.

“Phew, whatta stench! Want some cinnamon gum, pal?” T-Bone teased brazenly. He stopped when he noticed the flowers that had clung to the Cyclops’ head from its little nap. Several of them looked the same, shaped like small spars with white petals slightly blue around the edges. Except for one. It was all white. T-Bone knew in his gut that it was the Aster Benefice in full bloom.

By this time, the Cyclops had raised T-Bone above its head, dangling him over its gaping maw by his tail. From that angle, T-Bone could see Alexander still on the ground beneath him, looking up at him frozen in horror and fear. T-Bone flailed his arms, trying to pivot himself so that he would be facing the Cyclops’ head again. He had almost succeeded when a small gold watch fell out of his pocket due to his struggles and landed at the base of the Cyclops’ grotesquely slick tongue. T-Bone was about to launch a grappler to retrieve it when the Cyclops let out another deafening howl of pain and dropped him.

Alexander had plunged his sword into its other foot.

T-Bone twisted himself in mid air and fired his grappling hook at the Cyclops’ horn instead, pulling himself barely out of the Cyclops’ mouth in time. T-Bone ditched his helmet full of flowers, letting it tumble into the Cyclops’ mouth while diving for that one precious white flower as he reached the top. T-Bone’s hand closed around the flower just in time to hear the crunching of metal as the Cyclops’ grit its teeth in rage.

The Cyclops vanished in a blinding flash of red.

T-Bone, not quite grasping what just occurred, plummeted. He regained his wits in time to fire his last grappler at the nearest tree, using the tension of the cord to redirect his momentum by swinging around the tree till he came to a halt, then climbed down.

Alexander stood gaping, stunned by the display. T-Bone gave him a cavalier smile and flashed the delicate flower in front of him.

“Whatcha waiting for, kid? We’ve got a City to save!” T-Bone chuckled and headed for one of the soldier’s *saddled* horses …

———————————————————————-

Things had not been going well for Megalith City. The undead had returned shortly after noon and had been slowly gaining ground since. Soon, they will be at the gates, Sir Feral thought. Burning with a sense of shame at having failed his duty, Sir Feral ran through the corridors of the castle to fulfill one last duty before returning to the battlefield to meet his fate. Finally reaching his destination, Sir Feral charged through the door and fell into a genuflect, his deep wounds beginning to take their toll on him. Callista’s aide stood by the bed, expecting the worse.

“I am sorry to report that the city is in imminent danger of falling, my Queen,” Sir Feral rasped breathlessly, head hung low in both fatigue and shame. Callista merely closed her eyes and nodded, waving a hand to dismiss him.

“My Queen … you must flee!” Sir Feral insisted with his remaining strength. With much effort, Callista shook her head gravely and spoke.

“It is all over …”

———————————————————————-

T-Bone and Alexander stopped dead in their tracks as they crested a hill approaching Megalith City. Hordes of undead were breaking through the perimeter of guards around the City walls, threatening to break through at any moment.

Alexander whispered, “We’re too late … after all we’ve been through …” in disbelief and despair before charging down the hill at full speed.

T-Bone let out a yell of, “HEY!” before giving chase, hoping that Alexander was wrong and wishing Razor were there with some brilliant plan…

———————————————————————-

The Chancellor smiled evilly as he stood on the ramparts just above the city gates.

The time had finally come. Drawing his carefully crafted ruby amulet from his robes, he pointed it skyward with a maniacal laugh. Several of the archers on the ramparts stared at him oddly but had their attentions full with keeping the hordes from scaling the walls.

A crimson bolt of light shot forth from the ruby into the sky, drawing ominous black clouds together like a swarm of flies to it, blotting out the sun completely. This time the archers were definitely alarmed, as were the soldiers fighting below. Then, without warning, a bolt of lightning crashed down from the skies and cleaved the earth with an unearthly explosion. Where a group of zombies had been terrorizing a young knight now only their scattered and disintegrated parts remained. Much of the fighting ceased. Many of the defenders turned to look in awe at their mysterious benefactor while the undead paused to assess the new deadly threat.

More bolts followed in quick succession, slicing through the hordes with an overpowering fury and turning the tide of battle effortlessly. The knights fled back into the City to avoid being fried, and the undead tried to do likewise, but the relentless and vengeful bolts spared none of them.

The Chancellor stood on the rampart, laughing contemptuously.

“Oh, sweet success!” And, he smiled a most sinister smile.

———————————————————————-

T-Bone almost leaped out of his saddle in shock when the first of the thunderbolts struck several hundred meters ahead of him. Regaining control of the horse, he looked up and wondered who could have caused that. Callista came instantly to mind … but he soon dismissed the possibility. T-Bone felt increasingly uncomfortable as he made out the gnomish figure on the ramparts.

Alexander cursed softly in front of him, more in confusion than anything else.

Why was he helping?!

The answer seemed obvious, but T-Bone had been in the business of heroing too long to take such things at face value. As the two Kats rode through the rapidly scattering crowd of soldiers and undead, T-Bone couldn’t help but keep looking up in morbid fascination. If he could only just make out who …

Bolts of lightning flashed down again.

T-Bone gasped. It was the Chancellor alright … but that wasn’t the surprise. T-Bone knew what was going on now. Spurring his horse on even faster, he galloped right through the city gates, knocking over some retreating soldiers.

Alexander, puzzled by T-Bone’s seemingly pointless rush – the fight was over after all – followed quickly after.

Silhouetted by streaks of lightning against the inky darkness of the sky, the Chancellor laughed contemptuously, not knowing that T-Bone had seen the small bone wand in his belt …

———————————————————————-

T-Bone charged into the room just as Sir Feral was leaving to check what the commotion was about. Sir Feral was less than happy at having a door burst open in his face. T-Bone couldn’t care less.

“Calli … I mean, my Queen!” T-Bone blustered as he ran into the room, pulling the slightly crumpled flower from his pocket. Callista’s initial misgivings and shock at seeing T-Bone dissolved into elation as she saw the flower, but even the rush of hope didn’t give her the strength to do more than smile. Her condition had deteriorated rapidly as the morning passed, perhaps due to her resignation to her fate, and she was on the point of slipping into an indefinite unconsciousness when her Knight-General had barged in to deliver the bad news.

Callista’s aide rushed up to T-Bone and most unceremoniously grabbed the flower from his hand, as if afraid he was incapable of fully appreciating its importance. With a slight approving nod from Callista, she dashed out the door, cupping the flower in her hands.

“WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS?!” Feral bellowed, probably less than willing to forgive T-Bone of the deeds he had been accused of. Recovering from having a door slam into him, he drew up to his full height and advanced implacably towards T-Bone, certainly not with the intention to welcome back a hero.

T-Bone locked eyes with Sir Feral, unaware of the causes of Feral’s anger, neither willing to step down from the brewing conflict. It was Alexander who stepped between the two to prevent them from coming to blows.

“Sir Feral! I can explain everything …”

“You HAD better be able to, soldier …” Feral growled in return.

“Save it. We got more important things to do now. If you want to help save the Queen, you’d better come with us,” T-Bone spoke quickly and coolly, trying to put aside his personal dislike of Feral.

The two locked eyes again, but this time the confusion was plain in Sir Feral’s eyes.

Feral blinked first.

Without waiting for an answer, he grabbed Alexander and rushed out of the room with a confident, “Don’t worry, Queen! We’ll handle everything!”

Sir Feral frowned at the pair and glowered. Glancing back to check on Callista, he chased after the pair, not feeling very reassured by the knowing smile the Queen had given him …

———————————————————————-

Emerging into the courtyard, T-Bone was greeted by the enthusiastic cheers of the soldiers who had gathered there.

But, they obviously weren’t meant for him.

The Chancellor, still on the ramparts above the City gates, turned back and bowed, and as he did so, the shadowy clouds above began parting, allowing a golden sliver of light to fall on him. He looked almost like a promised messiah.

“Thank you! As Chancellor, I felt weak and useless in the face of Megalith City’s greatest crisis, but no more! With Callista’s guidance, I have mastered the magics needed to protect our City barely in time! With them, Megalith City need never fear again in spite of anything that may befall her Queen!” the Chancellor pronounced grandiosely, ending with a flourish which brought on even more cheering from the soldiers, many rejoicing in spite of their grievous injuries.

T-Bone didn’t like the way the speech ended at all. So Callista’s “illness” wasn’t coincidental … and she looked even worse today, which meant that she wasn’t supposed to survive the day. T-Bone felt some small sense of satisfaction at having changed that much. Glancing back at his companions, T-Bone hoped to find some clue as to what he could do.

Alexander merely stood where he was with a dumbfounded expression, obviously refusing to believe his ears. Feral had an unreadable scowl, which T-Bone hoped represented suspicion. If anything, the Feral he knew was above all loyal but cynical. T-Bone found himself wishing Razor were around again, but moved quickly to quash the thought. This was *for* Razor. T-Bone wasn’t without ideas of his own … they just tended to be fairly reckless, that’s all. And, right then, that was all he had.

“Maybe you even learnt enough magic to summon an undead horde, *Chancellor* …” T-Bone yelled up to him at the top of his lungs.

The reaction was immediate. A stunned silence followed, which was quickly replaced by discontented murmuring, most of it sounding scandalized by T-Bone’s suggestion. Alexander looked like he wanted to bury himself in a hole and even Feral’s composure broke a little as the crowd threatened to get ugly.

But, T-Bone had gotten the one reaction he needed. The Chancellor stood on the rampart with his jaw hanging, obviously shocked by T-Bone’s reappearance and having no idea how to work beyond his carefully laid out plans. T-Bone knew an opportunity when he saw one and pressed on.

“Isn’t that what the little one wand in your belt is for? And, there’s no way you could have learnt all that magic just in time when it takes six years just to become a journeyman carpenter!”

The murmuring began to shift in T-Bone’s favor, and the crowd seemed split. Alexander looked at T-Bone in awe, and Feral frowned at him suspiciously.

Taking a deep breath and hoping he knew what he was doing, T-Bone continued, “Callista never taught you her magics! What you used was Dark Magic!”

That term seemed to have kind of some hold on the crowd judging from the now frightened murmuring which pervaded the gathered crowd. T-Bone wasn’t even sure that was the right term, but he was sure he recognized the clouding effect from Pastmaster’s first attempt to change MegaKat City back to a Dark Age City.

The Chancellor looked incredulously on as his plans crumbled around him. Then he snapped.

“CURSE YOU!!! YOU SHOULD HAVE PERISHED WHEN YOU HAD THE CHANCE!” he screamed hysterically and raised his amulet again.

The crowd below too screamed in response and scattered, with many trying to carry off the weak and injured. The panic worsened as crimson bolts of energy began to rain down from the Chancellor.

“DON’T YOU SEE?!” the Chancellor was almost pleading, “CALLISTA REFUSED TO EMBRACE THE MAGICS THAT WOULD HAVE MADE MEGALITH CITY ALL POWERFUL! SHE WAS WEAK!!!”

More bolts of energy crashed into the courtyard as T-Bone fought the flow of fleeing Kats to get closer to the insane Chancellor. Another bolt smashed into the stones right in front of T-Bone, sending him flying backwards.

No good, T-Bone thought. He was going to have to make the shot from a distance right *now* if he wanted to stop the little megalomaniac from hurting the bystanders. Standing his ground, T-Bone pointed his Glovatrix at his opponent and waited for a clear shot.

“Was?! I don’t like your use of the past tense, pal!”

The Chancellor only saw a standing target and spun to fire.

T-Bone let his last grappling hook fly as soon as he saw the amulet’s ruby glinting in the sunlight and just hoped that he would do Razor proud.

He did.

The grappler clasped firmly onto the amulet, and T-Bone jerked his arm back, smashing the amulet against the sides of the rampart and unbalancing the Chancellor. The Chancellor let go of the amulet when he knew he would fall off the ramparts if he held on and, cursing continuously, fled the scene.

“Aw, CRUD!” T-Bone griped as he lost sight of the Chancellor. It would be impossible to find him in the panicked crowd. He turned back to find Sir Feral ineffectively trying to placate the crowd and yelled, “Whatcha waiting for, *Sir* Feral?! We gotta find him!”

Feral glowered, obviously less than thrilled at having to take orders from some common outlaw. Nevertheless, he started getting a hold of some of his men with the help of Alexander.

T-Bone sighed and relaxed slightly. It would take Feral some time to get the mess under control and start organizing his troops. In the meantime, he might as well check on how the antidote was coming along.

———————————————————————-

The Chancellor cursed and swore at all the people who got in his way as he lost himself in the crowds. Vengeance gleamed in his eyes as he began to plot again. If that foolish hero had made it back, then he must have had the flower with him. The Chancellor violently shoved someone out of his way at the thought of that. Then he must have also defeated the Cyclops … which would make him a formidable foe indeed. He would have to flee, there was no doubt about that … but, first, he would have to make someone pay …

———————————————————————-

T-Bone stumbled around quite a bit before he remembered which was the right way to the Queen’s laboratory; he only had a vague impression of it from the last time Queen Callista showed them how she would send he and Razor back and rewarded the both of them with a kiss each. T-Bone smiled at the memory fondly and winced as he started up the stairs. Now that all the excitement was over, all the hard knocks he had taken were beginning to demand attention. His shoulder, especially, was throbbing with pain again. T-Bone messaged it tenderly, wondering if Callista had anything in her lab which might help that.

T-Bone was surprised to find that the Queen’s aide was not in the room when he opened the door. Somehow, he had envisioned her bent over a cauldron stirring continuously for hours on end. Looking around, T-Bone noticed a small steaming pot by the edge of the table, the fire beneath the tiny stove already put out.

So, the antidote was already done. T-Bone bent over to fill the empty dart he had taken from the side of the TurboKat, but was staggered by the smell.

“Ugh! This crud smells foul!” T-Bone complained. But then, most medicines he’d taken before were that way, and he saw no reason why medieval ones would be otherwise. Loading the filled dart into his Glovatrix, T-Bone turned to leave and saw Callista’s aide standing in the doorway, looking at him in a most unhappy manner.

“Uh, I was just leaving!” T-Bone explained hurriedly, not wanting to be trapped in the same room with someone who obviously thought very little of him despite his hero status.

Callista’s aide merely walked past him coldly towards the bench with the pot of antidote to check on it. T-Bone merely shrugged and decided to make the best of a good situation by leaving.

That was when he felt something heavy slam into the base of his skull, and the world fell away into darkness.

———————————————————————-

Alexander was glad that he had escaped the attention of the Knight-General for the time being; he wanted nothing better than a good katnap after all he’d been through, and, to be perfectly honest, he wanted to be as far from the Chancellor and his mad dreams as he could, not hunting them down. The *real* soldiers could handle that.

Alexander was walking back to the barracks and thinking about whether he could still finish his apprenticeship by the end of the year now that Megalith City no longer needed soldiers. That was until he caught a glimpse of T-Bone heading towards the Queen’s laboratory. Somehow, Alexander knew that the mysterious hero would not be staying long now that the battle had been won, and he felt the need to speak with his personal hero before he left. Maybe the hero was one of the Queen’s summoned creatures and with its geas complete, would be returning to the plane where it came from. That had to be why he was heading towards the laboratory …

Alexander ran to catch up with T-Bone who was, by then, out of sight. He gasped as he reached the doorway of the lab where he saw the Queen’s aide standing over T-Bone’s prone body with an iron brazier in her hands, about to stab its wicked points into T-Bone’s heart.

“What the …?!” Alexander exclaimed, attracting the aide’s attention.

Staring at him through glazed eyes, she began picking up the burning coals which had spilled from the brazier and hurled them at him with her bare hands, filling the room with the smell of burning fur and flesh.

Alexander dodged them, making his way cautiously towards her and wishing he still had his sword. By this time, the burning coals had set the door and various other pieces of furniture around the room aflame, and the aide shrank away from them. Just as Alexander was within arm’s reach of her, something seemed to change her mind, and grabbing the pot, she flew out of the room with uncanny speed.

Alexander’s eyes widened as he saw the dagger wound in her back. The Queen’s aide was a zombie. The loud snapping of burning wood reminded him that he had more immediate problems to deal with. T-Bone’s chest was heaving softly, so he had to be only unconscious despite that nasty gash on the back of his head. Alexander grunted as he tried to lift the massive SWATKat and found himself wishing that his unconscious hero had kept his helmet on back in the woods.

As he bent over, he had a whiff of some of the concoction which had spilt onto the bench in the zombie’s haste to be elsewhere. He almost retched, but it gave him an idea. Soaking some of it up with a rag, he stuffed it under T-Bone’s nose. The reaction was almost immediate. T-Bone jerked back in disgust drowsily, but it was enough.

“Unnnh … didja get the number of the tank …”

“Sir T-Bone! We have to escape!” Alexander spoke urgently as he slung T-Bone’s arm around him and headed towards the door. The smoke didn’t help T-Bone’s swimming vision, but the two managed to make it out before the beams caught fire and started collapsing. Once safely outside, T-Bone crumpled to the ground, holding the fur matted with blood behind his head. Alexander winced at the sight, but somehow still found the courage to speak.

“Sir T-Bone, we must find the Queen … her aide is one of the Chancellor’s undead, and she stole the antidote!”

T-Bone nodded painfully and pulled himself up, motioning for Alexander to follow him. The wound could wait, but if the Queen died, he would be stuck in the Dark Ages for the rest of his life.

And, Razor would die.

The thought bothered T-Bone to no end as he made his way through the maze of corridors in the castle. The Chancellor didn’t get all of the antidote – the dart in his glove held the last of it, hopefully enough to save the Queen.

But, Razor would still die.

It was a no-win situation in every way. Some part of him protested that there had to be another way back to the future, that he had to find a way for Razor’s sake … nothing else mattered. But, T-Bone had slowly begun to accept the fact that he was on a fool’s errand; Razor had died the moment he let his guard down in the face of danger. All that was left was a grave resolve to salvage what was left of the situation.

Razor would have wanted it that way.

“Why are we heading towards the Queen’s chamber, Sir T-Bone?” Alexander asked uncertainly, “Is she still in danger?”

T-Bone shook his head slowly …He was beginning to feel light-headed from the loss of blood.

“I’ve still got some of the antidote …” T-Bone mumbled, much to Alexander’s relief… but not everyone’s.

———————————————————————-

The Chancellor couldn’t believe his ears as he watched from the shadows a cautious distance behind the two. Did the fates have to oppose him at every turn?! First, the youngling shows up before his servant could finish off the cause of all his misery, now this … He spat in unbridled fury at any power which dared to oppose him. But, his fit of rage shifted into malevolent amusement as quickly as it had appeared. His wish might yet be fulfilled. The hero was on his last legs now. His death was the least the fates could grant him. Suppressing the urge to cackle, he followed quickly. Fingering the bone wand in his hand, he commanded his servant to forget about the pot. Watching Callista die quickly might be less satisfying, but he had bigger fish to fry now …

———————————————————————-

Callista had fallen into a coma by the time T-Bone reached the room. Lying deathly still and pale on her bed, Alexander worried about whether they were too late. T-Bone was merely clinging on to his consciousness.

Neither of them saw Callista’s aide creeping up behind them.

The next thing T-Bone knew, he was face down on the cold stone floor and Alexander was sprawled next to him out cold. T-Bone felt like he was moving through molasses as he responded to the threat, and he wasn’t far off. A swift, vicious kick convinced him he was in no condition to retaliate. He was going to die too.

T-Bone was felt morbidly fascinated to discover that he welcomed the idea. The pain was mostly gone now, and everything felt like it was just a dream. He wondered if he would meet Razor on the other side. But, he wouldn’t give the Chancellor the satisfaction of killing the Queen too.

Another kick almost sent him under the Queen’s bed. T-Bone looked around groggily. The Queen. To his right. T-Bone lifted his hand up slightly and fired the dart.

It struck the Queen’s shoulder. T-Bone grinned insolently at death and let his arm slump down. He could see the zombie looming above him now. With any luck, it wouldn’t have noticed that the antidote had already been delivered to the Queen and leave her alone, assuming she would die anyway.

The remains of Callista’s aide reached down, claws extended. T-Bone braced himself for the killing blow. But, it didn’t come. Forcing his eyes open slightly, he saw Sir Feral standing over him, a bloodied sword in his hand and looking grimly down at him, almost apologetic. T-Bone thought he saw Razor standing behind Feral, smiling in that vaguely sardonic way he always did. T-Bone smiled back and closed his eyes, embracing the darkness …

———————————————————————-

T-Bone opened his eyes, and they were filled by blinding light, causing him to squint. Funny. He always thought there’d be a tunnel or something first. Then he became aware of other sensations; the smell of mixed herbs, the feeling of warmth surrounding him, the soft rustling of a mild breeze …. each sensation more vivid than he had ever remembered. T-Bone wondered if that was how being dead felt.

Then the pain came back, more vividly than he remembered it too. The back of his head, his shoulder … he basically hurt all over. T-Bone sighed. No, he was most definitely alive. Groaning as he forced his eyes open, T-Bone tried to get his bearings straight.

The noise he made woke a lightly snoozing Alexander up. Alexander sprang up from the chair he had been taking a Katnap in and beamed at T-Bone.

“Stay still, Sir T-Bone! I will be right back!”

T-Bone reached out a hand to hold him back.

“The Queen …?”

“She has recovered, thanks to you! I was just leaving to fetch her. I am sure she has some words for you.” The glint in his eyes told T-Bone that he was obviously thinking of a great reward of some kind.

“And, the Chancellor?”

“He fled the City shortly after Sir Feral slew his last zombie. All he said was something about cursing the fates and that his legacy would be the gift of power. I think he won’t be bothering Megalith City again.” Alexander smiled proudly at that, obviously believing it to be true.

T-Bone managed a weak smile, but his mind was elsewhere. Nothing had changed for him.

Or Razor.

Callista glided into the room, carefully closing the door behind her so as not to wake her guest. The surprise was evident on her face when she found that it wasn’t necessary. Callista still looked slightly weary, and somewhat older after her ordeal, but her radiance and presence had returned in full force, taking T-Bone’s breath away. T-Bone found himself hoping Callie would age as gracefully.

“I see that you are feeling better now, Sir T-Bone.”

T-Bone nodded, and grimaced at the pain it caused.

Callista smiled at him, then her tone became more serious.  “Your wounds are serious. I don’t suppose I could implore you to stay until they are healed?” Callista raised an eyebrow hopefully.

T-Bone grinned back insolently.

Callista sighed.  “Very well then, before I send you back, you will probably want to take this …” Callista pulled a small dart filled with a clear, foul smelling solution and handed it to T-Bone.

T-Bone gasped.  “But … how …?!”

Callista smiled back. “Alexander told me how you vanquished the Cyclops from the northern woods.  After that, it was easy to go back for more flowers.”

T-Bone instinctively tried to put the precious gift away into his Glovatrix but found that he wasn’t wearing it. T-Bone felt slightly alarmed when he discovered he wasn’t wearing anything … not even his bandanna. His initial surge of panic subsided quickly when he remembered he really had no need for the mask in this time. In its place was a bandage, and when he checked, most of his other wounds had been dressed as well. The thought that someone had to strip him to do so made him oddly uncomfortable even though it made perfect practical sense.

Callista, sensing his unease, turned to leave.  “Get dressed, my hero; your duty calls …”

That T-Bone did hurriedly as soon as the Queen had left the room, instilled with a new sense of hope. Tearing a piece of black tablecloth, he fashioned a makeshift mask to replace the blood-caked rag his original one had become. Moments later, he was out the door, trailed by Alexander. T-Bone stopped abruptly a few strides past the door.

“Didn’t the Queen’s laboratory …?”

Alexander smiled and lead the way …

———————————————————————-

T-Bone eyes widened as he entered the kitchen …They *couldn’t* be serious about this … A cauldron had been set up in the center, and Callista had begun her preparations for the spell. Somehow, that didn’t inspire him with the confidence that he’d end up in the right time.

Callista gave him a knowing smile.  “The kitchen will do just as well, my hero. Now come, you have a friend to save.” She reached forwards and embraced him, kissing him lightly on the cheek. “And, thank you for all that you have done.”

“Goodbye, Sir T-Bone,” Alexander hurriedly added. “Maybe someday you’ll tell me why you always wear that mask.  …Too many ladies wanting your hand mayhaps?”

T-Bone chuckled and shook his head, “Someday …”

T-Bone psyched himself up for his return as Callista produced a clay miniature of him and held it over the cauldron. Just as she was about to begin the spell, an apologetic cough interrupted her preparations.

Sir Feral stood at the door, looking most uneasy.

“You have done a great favor for Megalith City, *Sir* T-Bone. May the fates be kind,” he mumbled gruffly.

T-Bone smiled cheekily at him, but decided not to push him. That was about as close to a formal apology as he was going to get.

“Just remember to tell your kids about me, Sir Feral!” T-Bone smirked at his little joke, but Feral seemed to seriously consider it payment for a debt of honor.

“Ready?” Callista asked perfunctorily.

T-Bone nodded, and, before he knew it, another portal had appeared beside him, sweeping him back into future …

———————————————————————-

T-Bone found himself kneeling beside a convulsing Razor.

“Uhnnh … T-Bone?!” Razor moaned shakily as he thrashed around, a small trickle of blood flowing from the corner of his lips. T-Bone realized that to Razor he must have appeared to have miraculously changed into his current battered state after stepping through a swirling portal.

“Keep your mouth shut, Razor, I’m trying to …” T-Bone commanded as he tried to hold his friend down so he could get a clean shot with his glove.

” … Be …. hind …” Razor moaned on as he struggled.

Then, T-Bone remembered what happened the first time round.

This time, it was a bit too late. A ruby beam of concussive force slammed squarely into T-Bone’s back, hurling him towards a tree with the force of a truck. The pain was overpowering. T-Bone lay in an almost fetal position at the base of the tree groaning, his vision a haze from the pain. T-Bone knew he was in trouble when he could feel a wetness behind his head. His head wound had opened again. Darkness threatened to sweep over him and pull him under, but he clung onto his consciousness despite the pain. He had come too far to give up now.

But, events were still unfolding around him with frightening speed despite his obliviousness to them. Feral had tried to tackle the Pastmaster and was now dealing with three zombies trying to pummel him to the ground. His backup was nowhere in sight. The Pastmaster was cackling gleefully at his unexpected luck and did so even harder when he thought he had gained a new puppet. T-Bone forced his eyes open when the Pastmaster’s laughter abruptly cut off with a startled chortle. Through his blurred vision, T-Bone could see Razor standing up unsteadily.

Too late. The thought was his, but the voice was Alexander’s, and it echoed through his head.

T-Bone didn’t have to see Razor’s face to know that it was twisted with murderous intent.  …Only this time, the Pastmaster was the first thing he saw. Was it possible that the Pastmaster didn’t have a hold over his partner? The Pastmaster certainly seemed to think so, cringing away.

Razor leaped into the air, claws and fangs poised to kill. The Pastmaster stood stunned and raised the tiny bone wand up, as if it could ward off Razor’s wrath. It couldn’t. Razor’s fangs crunched down on the wand with a loud snap. There was an almost tangible pause before the wand shattered in an explosive burst of energy, throwing Razor back several paces. Instantly, the zombies around Feral crumbled back to their inanimate states.

But, Razor was still standing. And, looking very angry at the fact that Pastmaster’s wand had managed to hurt him.

That was when T-Bone realized Razor’s aberrant behavior could be due to the toxin and not …

The Pastmaster looked mortified at the slowly advancing Razor.

Feral, who had gotten up by this time seemed unaware of the fact and proclaimed, “You’re under arrest, scum!”

Pastmaster ignored him, his attention fully occupied by the vengeful apparition before him. Feral noticing something amiss, turned and saw Razor. T-Bone would have traded anything for a camera to capture Feral’s expression for posterity under normal circumstances, but the stakes were way too high for such foolery this time.

Feral drew his pistol and pointed it at Razor, demanding “What do you think you’re DOING, SWATKat?!”

Razor froze for a moment as if assessing the significance of the gesture, then continued advancing ferally again.

The Commander removed the safety and warned, “Don’t move.” The steel in his voice more effective than any threat.

T-Bone watched in horror as he laid forgotten at the base of the tree. He had to do something … anything! Forcing himself to ignore the pain, he tried to speak, to diffuse the situation …

Razor pounced.

For that split-second, T-Bone knew he had to act or all was lost. Raising his arm with what felt like tremendous effort, he fired the dart from his Glovatrix.

Feral fired his gun.

T-Bone felt his heart skip a beat. T-Bone’s dart struck first. Razor twisted violently in mid-air to defend himself from his unseen assailant. The move caused Feral’s shot to only graze Razor’s arm instead of going through his heart. Landing spryly on all fours, Razor turned his full attention to T-Bone, an act which, thankfully, confused Feral enough to prevent him from firing more shots. Razor advanced a few steps menacingly towards T-Bone, then crumpled into an unconscious heap on the ground.

T-Bone heaved a sigh of relief and found out that the pain from the blast was beginning to subside. The Pastmaster had made the most of the situation, however, and had begun making escape. He had gotten quite far before he snapped a dry twig, which drew the attention of a most puzzled and suspicious Feral. Feral gave T-Bone a harsh and questioning glare, but decided that the Pastmaster was a more severe threat than two insane SWATKats and turned to chase him. The SWATKats could wait.

T-Bone relaxed and slumped back to the ground, glad that most of the pain inflicted by the Pastmaster was no more extreme than his old wounds now. He could handle it until he got some medical attention. T-Bone didn’t know just how long he lay there unmoving, but a soft moan from Razor brought him back to his feet immediately.

“Razor? Razor?!”

“Uunnh … T-Bone?! What happened to you; you look like …”

T-Bone didn’t catch the rest of it. He hauled Razor up and locked him in a fervent bear hug.

“You’re alive!”

“Uunnh … yeah … but … I won’t be … for long … if you … don’t stop … squeezing me …”

T-Bone relaxed his grip a little and beamed at his partner, feeling a tad sheepish.

“C’mon! Let’s fly before Feral gets back …”

———————————————————————-

By the time they got back to the TurboKat, Dr. Viper had pulled a vanishing act, leaving only a pile of broken steel cord. T-Bone was mildly disappointed, but the joy of having Razor back more than made up for it.

“You sure you’re in any condition to fly this, T-Bone?” Razor asked, his voice sounding vital again.

“As long as the hacked repair you did on her holds, Razor,” T-Bone responded with his trademark cockiness.

“You really have to tell me what happened, T-Bone …maybe over the Scaredy Kat telethon …”

T-Bone grinned back, pleasantly surprised his friend remembered that. Then he shifted uncomfortably in his seat, tailbone still aching from his little horse riding experience.

“Uh … maybe I’ll tell you when I’m lying comfortably down on a mechanic’s dolly, Razor …” T-Bone chuckled, drawing a puzzled look from Razor.

“Is everything okay, T-Bone?” Razor inquired, his voice deep with concern.

“Yeah. Everything’s just fine now,” T-Bone smirked as he said that.

The stakes wouldn’t be any lower now that Razor was back, T-Bone acknowledged that. They never would as long as he kept donning the flight suit and mask. But, that didn’t matter. He didn’t have to face them alone anymore. T-Bone fingered the makeshift mask he had on and wondered if Razor knew what he meant to him. They would have to die someday, but not *today* …

“No … everything’s just GREAT!” T-Bone exclaimed jubilantly as the TurboKat shot off for home against a brilliant sunset.

———————————————————————-

THE END

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