Original SWAT Kats Story

Tabby’s Journal

By Abby Woodward

  • 1 Chapter
  • 10,862 Words

Not just a story of how enforcer pilot Tabitha Graham rose to the top guns and fell by the alleyway. The tale of a she-kat who picked herself up and dusted her fur out.

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Author's Notes:

(This is just the first story in a series I am working on called “Power to the She-Kat”. It will feature tales from some of the strongest she-kats in the SWAT Kats universe. And because I created Tabby with my own sweat and brain oil, I thought I would dedicate this first fanfic to her. If you don’t like that, deal with it. Hope this goes well…..Comments, praise (hah!), editorials, please send to jwoodwar@atl.mindspring.com. Thanx!)

Preface: You are walking by that corner again. late one night, when any sane kat should be safe in bed at home. As usual you see the worn golf-bag from the MegaKat Springs course laying in the back of the alleyway. This time, though, it is empty. You have always wondered about the homeless she-kat you see here time and time again. Always pacing and patrolling, like she was guarding the gutters or some such nonsense. She has never given you more than a smile and a word of greeting, but you have felt her concerned eyes follow your back as you continue down the street. Quite a puzzle, that one. Probably a bit crazy. Sleeping near a sewer will do that to you. You falter in your calm strolling pace as you try and mentally draw a picture of the missing oddity. She looks about 5’7″, this grey and white striped tabby, and is always curled up inside that fairly intact tan golfbag, using it as a sleeping bag. Her pillow, as far as you have seen, is usually a rolled up peach jacket, probably also put to use on colder nights. Her fur is very short and doesn’t show signs of long-term wear and tear, like her worn white T-shirt and blue jeans, except that her fur has more tangles of small metal than of anything natural.

What could cause that? You wonder curiously if she digs through the garbage often…that could account for the metal. You have always noticed that she’s a young one. Young as in not even 20 yet, but with an air of maturity giving you some hint of the trouble she’s probably seen. Another sign of that “trouble” is a thin line of scar tissue stretching for an inch vertically up her forehead. She has a long shock of white hair that you have never seen out of the frayed braid that runs down to her mid-back. All in all, she looks better than most homeless people you see around here. Especially when it is obvious she works hard to keep in shape. Your eyes have often wandered to the worn out leather satchel with the emblazoned symbol of the Enforcers that apparently she values it highly, holding the handle tight in her right paw, even in her sleep while her left paw is constantly thrust into her pocket. You have seen her on some nights when she doesn’t seem to be sleeping well as her tear-stained face and groaning brings her to the attention of strolling kats like you.

As you realize that this may be one of your rare moments to quench your curiosity, it gets the better of you as you creep forward and look inside. Inside the golf bag you see a worn blanket and a tattered red notebook, obviously well written in, and you realize a moment after you are done that you have picked up the notebook to study it further. The inside of the front cover reads, “The personal property of Junior Enforcer Trooper Tabitha Graham. No snoops!” Written in ink of a different color beneath this are the quickly scrawled words, “I mean it, Alan!” A quick flip shows you that it has been written all the way to the very last page. Your curiosity claws at you, burning more and more, until finally, after stretching your head around a nearby corner to check down the street, you sit down on the golf bag and begin to read….

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* As the christening entry for this new journal, I am proud to affirm that Alan Devries is the hottest kat in this Academy. I would certainly not mind getting the chance to ruffle his fur. Just so I can entertain myself with this image for years to come, I will endeavor to capture the heat of this trooper in ink. He stands at about 5’8″ and has quite a physique from his 3 years at ground patrol. Those Enforcers grays do him more justice than I can put into words. His fur is a dark rich brown and he is always trying to sneak it a little longer than regulation. I once got a good look at those eyes and probably won’t see another green like that for a long time. His hair is always well styled and, with the exception of sassing back to our trainers, he is a good student. Forget laser cannon targeting systems, I could spend all class period studying this mystery kat. Unless Lieutenant Russo is heading where I think he’s heading….

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* I still don’t believe what just happened. I better start from the beginning for this journal entry. I was cleaning up my test fighter, minding my own business in the hanger, when suddenly the Alley Kat sneaks up behind me. That’s what Alan’s flight name is and he certainly lives up to it. Not in the looks department, certainly, but in his personality and mannerisms. He is always ready for a fight, in the air or grounded, even to the point of picking one. But, more importantly, he can move and sneak without being heard. It’s really disconcerting to be surprised by his dark form. He is also such a reckless hotshot that I doubt he’ll stick around much longer, as the Commander has made it perfectly clear what he does with hotshots. Shame. He has alot of potential to be the best weapons kat the Enforcers have ever seen. I was examining the underside for damage when I heard a gruff cough from a few feet away from me. I peered out to see him watching me, a leather jacket drawn over his uniform. I smiled and pulled myself out to a standing position, but he never said a word

the whole time. He just watched me with a slight smile on his face and examined the plane I had been checking. I crossed my arms across my chest and stared him straight in the eye, trying to ignore the fact that I *loved* to be looking in his eyes. His smile slowly broadened and then he shook his head, laughing. My grim mask melted as the hanger filled with some real laughter. It’s pretty difficult to stay angry with someone your heart beats faster for.

“I swear Tabby, you are getting very good at that Feral impression…” Water trickled slightly off the corners of his eyes and I had to smirk at the humor he was getting out of this. He knows I’m not trying to imitate the Commander. I just seem to start doing it when he gets me irritated. I do love that exhaust-for-common sense, but I love the Enforcers a bit more. No, I correct that. I love flying more. Having enough of his antics for one day, I whacked the side of his head with a glancing blow and turned to walk towards the far wall.

“Drop the jacket and get your helmet, Alley Kat. We’ve got to practice.” Even if I couldn’t hear him, I knew that he had nodded and was heading for the lockers. He always did. It was a weird miracle that the instructor had paired us up as a practice group, with so many people I could have been partnered with. But God must have known what he was doing, because Alan and I compliment each other almost perfectly. I am, if I do say so myself, fast becoming one of the best pilots in the Academy. Of course, surprise, surprise, Alan knows his weapons systems inside and out. Plus, even though we argue like nothing else, we trust each other enough to make a great pair. I have asked him for awhile who he’ll choose as his partner upon graduation, but he’s staying quiet. I shouldn’t have doubts, but I always do….I can never trust Alan at face value, no matter how well I think I know him. I kid myself when I say I know him. He’s an onion, layer upon layer. He can build almost anything and his mind is probably the greatest weapon at his disposal. Some times his creations and technobabble just go right over my head. I shook myself out of my thoughts long enough to punch the call button on the intercom I had reached.

“Control, here. Position, name, report.” I heard the crisp voice of the patrolman on duty in the control room and felt sorry for anyone wound up that tight. I held down the button and tried to sound as professional as possible.

“Hanger 6, Trainee Tabitha Graham, Requesting permission to fly the challenge course with partner Alan Devries. Respond.” I listened carefully to the silent mesh on the wall as the patrolman radioed to our trainer with the request. Alan waved at me from the lockers.

“So, can we get out already?” He called this out with even less patience than he usually has and I was very worried that patrolman had heard this casual comment.

“Shhhhh….” I motioned quickly for him to shut his trap. As partners, I take it as my job to help keep him in line, as anything he is charged with is my heat to take as well. I don’t mind taking the heat to help him out, but I do mind when he just casually flirts with danger for the heck of it. The stakes are so much higher in life than I think he’ll ever realize. But, then again, if I help keep him in line, he helps me loosen up and have fun. We both compliment the skills of the other. My stern attention to the regulations with his need to truly live every moment no matter what the rules say makes for some fun adventures between us. Suddenly, the wall panel crackled to life.

“Permission granted Tabitha. Your instructor relays that you will take the course low to ground and try for a seven minute wipeout.” I gulped slightly at that. A wipeout meant that all the armed challenges on the course had to be eliminated within seven minutes from course entry. Our best time was eight. Still, I punched the button with a positive reply.

“Received, sir. Trainee Tabitha Graham out.” I sighed and started back across the room towards the lockers where Alan was watching me again. He handed me the cream helmet with “TG 3” painted in dark grey. Most kats don’t really understand the symbolism, but I’m always willing to explain it to the ones who ask. TG 1=Tabitha Graham. TG 2=Thrusters Growling. TG 3=Tight Glider. I will never know who came up with that, as I only heard of it after it had spent weeks on the trainee grapevine. That’s how most of us get our code names, through the agreed with ideas of some unknown peers. But I do like it. I slipped the helmet onto my head as Alan did the same, his “Alley Kat” showing in bright red paint on his cream helmet.

“What’s wrong, Tabby? You look like we’re about to go in pursuit of DarkKat himself.” I raised an eyebrow and frowned harshly to my weapons specialist.

“Not even funny, hotshot. If the Commander was willing to toss out two of his best, Furlong and Clawson, in favor of the rules, then you know he wouldn’t give a flip about dismissing two reckless trainees.” Then I returned to what he had asked before the DarkKat comment.

“Am I really that transparent, Alan?” He smiled and tossed open the canopy. As I waited for him to climb in, he suddenly made a sweeping motion towards the front with his arms. “Beautiful she-kats first into the jet. You know that….” I had to give him credit for that one. He was good….

“Really Alan, I need to hear the answer to this one. Am I transparent about stuff on my mind?” He shrugged and grinned mischievously.

“No need to worry, Tabby. You’re a real rock, and every high-up Enforcer knows it, too. Just my keen skills of observation at work.” I laughed at the self-compliment he had added to mine as he climbed in and I lowered the canopy.

“Yeah, right. You just keep thinking that. You’ll need those skills for our wipeout in seven….” I heard him breath in sharply, his sign for being quickly surprised, and then heard him begin to tinker with his toys in the back seat. The time for fun and games was over. This practice would be viewed by our trainers as a serious exercise. We had to get it right.

“Total wipeout?”

“Not a thing left active.” I muttered this over my shoulder as I secured my straps and checked the instruments. Thruster burn was a tad low, but it would survive this run.

“Okay. So my test is the wipeout. What have you got to do?” He gripped from the back. I turned to face him with a grim expression on my face.

“Alan, I have to fly the entire course low to ground in seven minutes without a scratch. I wouldn’t say either of us came out better than the other.” With my frustration vented I turned around in my seat to carefully get my jet out of the cramped hanger. Finally out on the runway, I was counting down the final checklist when I felt two furry paws on my shoulders that began to rub out a few of my tensions. I covered the left paw with my own and smiled, glad to have a partner who cared.

“Thanx. That helped.” I could almost hear him smiling.

“Knew it would. Now let’s go kick some tail!” This last exclamation had a fervor and excitement to it that surprised even me. But it was certainly infectious. Feeling my blood boil at the thrill of soaring high I raced into the air and towards the Enforcer challenge course, set aside in the MegaKat Mountains. I saw the starting point about a mile in front of us and sent back a warning to the Alley Kat. My reply was the satisfying beeping of an armed weapon.

“Ready…..” I breathed, drawing out the “y” as far I could as the start got even closer still…

“Steady…..” Alan called back, repeating my funny “y” sound. But no time to think about that..

“GO!” I called as I instantly dove for the rocky ground below, pulling out in time to travel safely as close to ground as possible. I could hear Alan playing with his targeting system and a quick glance out the window told me his prey were everywhere. Some armed, some not, but certainly everywhere. I heard him cursing every once in awhile as I focused all my attention on the tough turns, twists, overhanging cliffs, and even a squeeze maneuver through a mountain pass. To add to the problems of the minute, flying low combined with Alan’s tenancy towards destruction meant that I had some seriously close calls with falling rocks. But, I didn’t have time to focus of Alan or the timer. Just me. Me and the ground and the rocks. I saw a huge peak front of me and began to climb next to it. Slipping through the tunnel near the top I realized it was almost over. Just had to land and we’d have won. I heard Alan fire the laser cannon every once in a while and wasted a few precious seconds wondering what he was firing at. No targets in here. I emerged and stopped the fighter on the runway even smoother than I expected to. Throwing open the canopy, I checked my timer.

“Six minutes and fifty seconds!” I screamed. But before I had even finished speaking, I saw him rapidly stand, point his drawn blaster to a small trainer’s camera on the cannon wall, and destroy it. He then replaced his weapon in his belt and grinned at me.

“Time? Adding in the camera.” Still a little in shock I glanced that the timer again.

“Six minutes and fifty-three seconds. Why did you do that? We’re going to have to pay them back for that camera, you know? What possessed you?” He gave me a look of mock innocence.

“I thought you said that’s what they wanted. *Total* wipeout in under

seven.” I stared at him, then burst out laughing. He was right! He had only been following directions by destroying everything in sight. Laughing weakly, I checked my instruments and waited for the final word from our instructors. I turned around to face his cocky grin.

“You mean to tell me you took out every camera in the course?” His only reply was a grinning nod and I chuckled as I turned back to the front.

“You are some mess, Alley Kat.”

“Why thank you Tabby. I happen to believe that the rules are good as long as they are needed. If they aren’t needed. They aren’t worth it. That’s one lesson you still have to learn, Tabby. *The rules are made for those who can’t make them for themselves.*” I gave him a disapproving and skeptical look. I was a rules she-kat, myself.

“More to learn, eh? And who’s going to teach me, Alley Kat? You?” I could see him warming up his charm as his awaited opening came into view. He charged.

“Well, now that you mention it I happen to have this new trick I learned with…” He suddenly got quiet as Lieutenant Boland’s voice came blaring proudly through the speaker.

“Excellent run you two. Miss Graham, please return your fighter to the hanger and go clean up. Mr. Devries, upon landing, please report to the galley for your potato peeler. Boland out.” I grinned and started for home with Alan bemoaning his fate behind me. As we replaced our helmets in our lockers and Alan retrieved his jacket he turned to catch my arm before I left.

“Hey, Tabby. I got a question for you. We did real good out there and I was…” I interrupted.

“That’s not a question. That’s a stated fact.” He gave me the smile of one who is in a hurry and continued.

“…wondering, would you mind if I put in the request that we partner after graduation?” I was surprised for a moment before the sheer joy hit me. But even then, I had to keep casual. Couldn’t give Alan the satisfaction of seeing me

squeal for joy. So I put on my largest grin and shrugged.

“Naw….go right ahead.” I gave him a quick peck on the cheek then stepped out, calling behind me to him.

“See you back in the room Mr. Potato Head!” The sound of the helmet hitting the door and our laughter echoed all the way up the hall….

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* Got to sort this nightmare out or I’ll keep having it ’til kingdom comes. Might as well write it down. Not much is different from the actually event, sorry to say, or I might be able to ignore it as another dream. But it was a dream. The first time I had it, it was real. And it has changed me forever.

Pacing back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, feeling my legs move in a rhythm all their own, without even asking my head for a pattern. My mind idled from one idea to the next; the fact that the jet needed some patch repairs; the soft feel of the swish, swish friction between my fur and the fabric of my pants; the reminder that dinner was half an hour early due to the room inspections. I grimaced at the knowledge that I had

shoved everything into my locker, again.

“Lord,” I muttered to myself, running a hand through my , “I must be slipping. I remember a time when that locker and room would have been sanitized enough for surgery.” Suddenly, I heard a very light, almost imperceptible chuckle from behind me, and tensed, gripping my hand blaster quickly. With a speed that even surprised myself, I drew my weapon and whirled around towards where I had heard the noise. I relaxed almost at once as I saw Alan grinning at me, his hands up in the air in a pose of surrender.

“Little hair-trigger are we, partner?” I blushed furiously and replaced my blaster in its holster and laughed quietly.

“Don’t sneak up on my like that, Alan. One day I’m going to blow that smirk of your clean off and never mean to…” He walked up next to me and laughed, but I noticed that his eyes didn’t share his smile. I know these things….

“Why so caught up? It’s just guard duty, Tabs. Piloting pays better.” I nodded slowly, but gave him a reprimanding glare.

“When you’re not paying for room and board, why try and hoard money? Besides, kats like the Commander notice it when hotshot pilots like me “lower myself” to such a level as guard.” I felt Alan’s claws come down to lightly scratch the back of my neck and I closed my eyes happily as he joked.

“Oh…so you are now classified as a hotshot now?” I opened my eyes to him and chuckled.

“It’s just your bad influence, Alan. I’m getting sloppier too. Sooner or later, we’ll both be on kitchen duty for that locker stunt. But, yes, I am a hotshot, and I admit it. I get a wild rush from flying…” His eyes flashed for a moment.

“So I’ve noticed…Have you ever heard from me that you are absolutely gorgeous when you’re flying. Like some sort of demon set your soul on fire.” He noticed that I didn’t respond, more than a little lost in having my neck scratched and pulled his hand back to look at me seriously. He jerked his head towards the hanger door I had stopped in front of.

“You ever think of flying that beauty?” I nodded and rubbed the final kinks out of my neck.

“All the time. I have heard the Blacktail had one of the best burn rates around, besides that Turbokat design anyway.” The corners of Alan’s mouth twitched and finally curled up as he smiled at me.

“Yeah right. Like we’ll ever touch that goddess of aviation. Not even in my dreams do I get that close. Even worse, this wonderful little lady is the personal prototype toy of our *dear* Commander.” I ignored the disrespect towards our commanding officer and gave him a curious glance as something registered in my mind.

“Hey, Alley Kat, why do you always talk about your planes as a she? Is it just a quirk or what?” He smiled as he realized what I had just pointed out to him.

“Just something I do. I think it’s because I view all flyers as things of great beauty, and all the great beauties I have know have been she-kats. One example being my fair partner.” A familiar light flickered in his eyes as the playfulness reared its head. I grinned in return, but sighed as I realized I had let my concentration slip too much. I shrugged sadly to Alan as I turned back to my pacing.

“No rest for the weary. See you later, partner.” He almost seemed to grimace as I said that and I almost turned back around to confront him about the worried look on his face. But, before I could reach the point of my pacing about-face, I felt a sudden, painful slam of metal against the back of my head. Then, I blacked out.

“Upsy Daisy, Tabby. Time to go play hero.” I felt myself being roughly shoved up to a standing position and opened my eyes to see the Lieutenant Felina Feral propelling me up gruffly. Her features were a stone block, but her eyes told me a very different story. They smiled back at me with a soft understanding that seemed to say, “I know it hurts, but we need you 3.” And I wasn’t one to turn down my squadron leader. Lieutenant Feral usually flew the choppers, but was being given some “extra training” in case she was ever needed at the last minute to lead a pack of loose jets. Not that she flew the jets, she worked down from a ground vehicle and radioed to us. After realizing that I had all my wits back on me, she nodded to the rest of my squadron and raced away down the hall. Swaying slightly, head pounding, I raced down the hall after her, cursing in my heart that I had let the Blacktail get away.

We were airborne within minutes, as the Lieutenant had already radioed ahead for clearance. I saw her running towards her “dirt sucker,” as we pilots called it, I studied her quickly. She was almost a model for what I wanted as an Enforcer. She looked imposing with her shielding armor and that flash of white in her thick black hair reminded me of angry lightning. Yes, this was one she-kat not to mess with. Quite a tough model to live up to….

“3, you’re up!” My radio screeched at me with the loud alto of who I guessed was the Genie. Genna Cugef was quite a singular wonder with jet repair and had earned her nickname from the time that she had restructured her damaged fuel lines in mid-flight by slicing through the floor to get at the wiring. That hadn’t made any of the older Enforcers happy, but we trainees had cheered her on loudly during the entire test. And her best motivation to fix things miraculously was the fact that she wasn’t patient enough to land or do it twice. That particular lack of patience was evident through my radio as I left Enforcer headquarters back in the burn trail.

“YOU LET IT GET OUT OF THE BUILDING!?!?” The voice over the radio roared angrily and I knew then that the Commander had found out about his jet. I gulped nervously and listened as Felina tried in vain to reroute her Uncle’s anger to other annoyances. Instead, he called for his chopper and let out a full broadcast over the Enforcer authorized channel that he wanted the Blacktail back to him in as few pieces as possible and that, in short, Alan was going to fry. I turned down my radio personally as to avoid any more ear-shattering roars from Commander Feral and focused inward, centering myself for the fight. My heart ached at the silence from the back seat. It was noticeably empty to me, as Alan is always clicking and clattering back there, even when he doesn’t speak.

“3, you okay?” This message came over my radio by a gentler, more tired voice than I had expected from Felina. I answered in the only way I could, as an Enforcer. Crisply, and to the point.

“Just fine ma’am. Have the Blacktail in sight and am preparing to try and take out two of the thrusters and force him into a controlled dive.” I winced as I

realized that I sounded just like that poor wound-up stiff in Control….Scary.

“Sounds good, Tabby. Any idea why Alan did it?” I blinked hard quickly, to banish the rising tears at his name.

“Not a clue. Best guesses are money, which means he’s the delivery boy, and to speak honestly I can’t imagine Alan lowering himself to delivery boy status, *or*, he’s joyriding. Always did love playing with fire. He wants this blaze of glory….” My eyes unfocused as I realized what I had just said but I was interrupted by a general scream from Felina.

“Tabby, he’s let loose a missile! Defend damn you!” On reflex, I slammed my stick to the left and watched in a sickening slow motion as it was too little, too late. The projectile clipped itself to my right wingtip and my controls suddenly lit up like a Christmas tree, then died. I slammed my head against the dead panel and groaned. Scrambler…..Alan…..no…nightmare….

Yes, this is just a nightmare you’re describing, Tabs…it isn’t real anymore. It can’t hurt you to agonize over it now. So get to your own point, coward. Live it again….

The cockpit was suddenly ten degrees hotter than any kat should deal with, letting me know right away that my coolant is out. On a summer day, at these speeds, my Enforcer jet would go up like so many fireworks. I checked my panel again just to be sure about my situation. Almost complete life support failure. In fact, my air input was so scrambled that it was actually removing air from the cockpit. I felt my ears react to the pressure and switched to complete, though limited oxygen flow. No real air, no system cooling, nothing. Even manual ejection had failed as the lack of air had created a vacuum strong enough to hold the cockpit lid on tight. All I had was a locked set of thrusters, a radio, and every weapon I ever wanted to push the button for. And I was positive that would give my squadron a great show. Well, I thought, good to go out with a bang. A wry smile showed from beneath my oxygen mask as Feral’s pet aircraft moved into my sights. That traitor. He had been in my patrol. I trusted him to guard the jet. And my life. Now I had to pay for it. He was the one who had jammed my system. He and his Scrambler missiles. It stinks to be stabbed by your own weapons specialist. Even more so by your friend. Your partner. Your comrade. But I was pretty sure I could have fun before I kicked the helmet, as it were. I must be pretty flammable up here with all these wonderful weapons systems. Might as well unload them…into ol’ Partner’s hide. With that I picked up my radio and grimly punched down the toggle switch.

“Lieutenant Feral! Clear everybody out. I’m gonna cause damage to whatever’s near my 12 o’clock range in less than 20 seconds.”

She replied in a manner her uncle would have been proud of.

“Negative 3! You will continue in formation with your squadron until further orders are given! Is that understood?”

“Sorry ma’am, but I’m about to turn this jet into so much melted slag. And not on purpose. I would like to go as cleanly as possible and try and take that toy with me. To shorten this communication, I report that my craft has been disabled by the prototype Scrambler missiles and that I am unable to land, eject, and my air will run our within minutes. Good luck with the attack, ma’am.”

I knew I had just hurt her, and I was sorry about it. But I didn’t want anyone else to get caught in this blast. I had left her with no choice, really. She knew she was either going to have to lose one pilot or six. I heard her quickly give the order for the other fighters to back off. The moment she had finished speaking, I came back on. This time, though, my tone was cheerful, with a rather sardonic ring to it, I think.

“Thank you kindly. Enjoy the show, Felina! I….”

I…I felt really depressed that my last goodbyes would never be heard because of a dead radio. As I threw the dead piece of plastic to the floor I began to form my plans. He was still there, taunting me as he stayed perfectly in my range. He probably thought that his Scrambler had killed my weapons. What a surprise he would get! I was preparing for the attack when I suddenly heard a familiar and painful voice behind me.

“What kinda trouble we got up there Tabby? Talk to me here….” I swallowed and felt tears wet the corners of my eyes. He was the best dang friend I ever had….But I decided to entertain my ghost passenger. Hopefully, it would help me forget that I was gunning for a pilot I knew by heart.

“Jet stealing slime dead ahead in 12! What do you suggest from the menu of mayhem tonight, Alley Cat?” Alan’s voice came back over the I heard the familiar clicking that told me he was playing with his controls again. Suddenly there was a sharp intake of breath.

“Why didn’t you tell me we were going down? I’m reading almost full wipeout of oxygen tanks here.” I sighed and rolled my eyes up into my head. Just like Alan, always expecting me to tell him everything…I didn’t have time for this. Even with a ghost.

“Just get me some firepower back there. Yes, Alan, we’re going down. I would have thought you’d have noticed being hit by a scrambler missile, but forgive me for that assumption.” At that moment I could have almost believed that the comforting paw I felt on my shoulder actually belonged to him. Almost.

“Then here it comes. Arm everything. If we’re going down, we’re going down with the guns blazing. That’s a proper ending for two ‘reckless hotshots’, eh?” I laughed and agreed with the ghost gunner that now would be a good time to prove to the Commander all the fire we’d been holding back for his sake. Just Alan and me.

“Hey, *static* Need a hand? *static* word about *static* runaway..” I smashed my foot down on the radio, just to get that cheerful voice out of my cockpit. Stupid SWAT Kat, T-Bone I think, can’t even understand how serious this garbage is…. I watched as that beautiful Turbokat pulled away from me, probably being warned by Felina. Good thing.

As the last of my friends pulled away from the blast range, I did what any sternly taught Enforcer trooper is taught never to do. And what I had always wanted to do. My gloved fist slammed down on the weapons activation panel and, as the sights locked red, I fired every weapon at my disposal at once. I had been right that the light show had been spectacular, and from my front row seat, I could only wince. I had just killed my partner. Because he had killed me first. I had paid him back for surely getting me tossed out of the Enforcers on my butt for negligence during duty. But why?! Why had he done it!? Why did Alan die? Not knowing made me hurt worse. Much worse. My life was over as of now. And so was his. But he did get me back, in a way. The backlash of the explosion rocked me in my seat, smashing my head into a side panel and nearly cracking my helmet in two. I had held onto the controls as hard as I could, but I felt a searing horrible pain shoot through my left paw as they were wrenched out of my grasp. Through my painful, blood-dimmed vision, I saw the Commander’s specialized jet going down, with my partner in it. It smashed right onto the 6th green of Mayor Manx’s favorite golf course, but I hardly felt sorry about that. That’s all he deserves, for running this city from that golf course. Tee time will be delayed today sir, I thought as a broken warning light flashed feebly that my oxygen had now run out. Even better, I thought. If I’m on fire I don’t want oxygen to feed it. Strapping myself in as hard as I dared, I allowed the plane to take its dive. The upcoming ground grew fuzzy before my eyes and my ears rang with the roar of the engines and a mysterious reverberating sound. Like a huge clanging gong or metal crashing against metal, almost. I noticed heavy amounts of blood on my straps and realized where my new wound was. My paw is bleeding….With that last thought, I collapsed on my controls, as the world spun away into blackness.

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* I woke up in a hospital bed that smelled a little worse than I thought it should have. Suddenly, I realized that the lower half of my body was noticeably wet. More than a little embarrassed, I realized what I had just done while unconscious and tried to sit up only to be dragged back down by one *really* tight IV band. I sat and assessed my situation for a minute. IV drip in arm. Bandage over head. Bandage over paw. General pains and repair to body systems. I realized that I hurt but that was a good sign for me. It meant I was alive. I gave the nurse’s button near my head a good wham with the stump that was my left

paw and wondered why they put something I was supposed to hit behind my head. But, instead of the unfamiliar face of a hospital staff member, I have to see my squadron commander walk forcefully into the room. What a morning. She had shed her hard shielding and was now only in her grey uniform. Her slightly tangled hair and fur and the bags under her eyes told me about the rough night shed just had.

“Good morning, Lieutenant. ” I took it as a bad sign that she wasn’t smiling. She may be a hard task-mistress, but she is a good she-kat. Her face was tense as she sat down. She sniffed the air for a moment and then cracked a small smile. “You can hold your bladder while plummeting disabled from the sky, but the minute you hit a soft bed you lose it?” I laughed and nodded.

“I guess so ma’am. Anyway, I could just wet my suit in the jet. What would that say to the other troopers about having respect for your vehicles?” I saw her smile with those tired eyes and then her face grew solemn again.

“Listen for a minute, Tabby. I’ve got the good news and the bad news.” She sounded like she had just stepped out of a bad movie and I couldn’t help but chuckle…I rolled my eyes at her and wiggled the claws of my right paw back and forth in an “OOO…I’m scared…”.

“Just tell me Felina. I’m sure it can’t be that bad. The Commander want me to pay for the Blacktail? No problem. I can work civilian for a while. If you don’t mind, that is, ma’am?” I realized that I was joking around too much for a stern situation, but I just couldn’t think about the wreck. That would make me think about Alan. And that could break me. She shifted in her chair again and finally spoke.

“It’s not that, Tabby. You did take down the Blacktail before Junior Trooper Devries got away with it. You helped us stop another menace to the city. Therefore, it’s been decided that you receive an award for your skills.” I almost objected, as I would hate to get an award for killing a friend. Then my feelings of betrayal reared their ugly heads. Taking down a jet thief, though, is different, the whispered. And awards from above are rare when destruction is involved. The voices were right, but I still couldn’t stop that painfully cold feeling in my stomach. I wanted to tell her so much, but I kept quiet. Her facial expression told me that this news couldn’t be the end of the conversation. That’s right, I thought, she said good and bad… Felina was still looking at me funny. I wondered from the bed what that look could mean. Then it hit me. That look was pity. Pure pity. My stomach grew a little colder still as I waited in fear. Then my dread found its source.

“Tell me Felina…..”

“Tabby..I’m sorry, but I have been sent to instruct you to gather your possessions from your locker and room and turn in your blaster and uniform.” I shot up in like I had just had my tail pulled hard. I think I pulled the IV out with that motion but I could only form one dry word on my lips.

“Dismissed!” I gasped it out and then felt my mind reel away in pain and astonishment. They give me an award and then dismiss me?!! I gave everything with meaning in my life to them. My drive, my determination, my life, my time, my soul…my partner. I heard Felina yelling for someone but I couldn’t really give a rip who. My only friend was dead and so was the purpose of my existence.

“Noooo….” I moaned as a kat rushed into the room with a syringe and gave me a one way trip out of hell.

I woke up later, but I really don’t know how much later. I felt slow and groggy and was pretty sure Felina had requested a tranquilizer addition to my IV drip. As my eyes focused on the darker room, I saw her sitting in a chair in the corner, watching me watching her. Then I saw the doctor in the corner and knew they had both been waiting. My attention turned back to Felina. I still had a few questions….

“Why I am still alive?” I asked with a torn raspy voice. She looked at me for minute and then licked her lips thoughtfully.

“If that questions spiritual, then I can’t give you an answer. But if you want to know how you came out of the wreck in one piece, thank the SWAT Kats. That grappling hook really did the trick.” She looked at me to signal that this was all the answer she could give. I slowly nodded and spoke again.

“What will happen to me?” The answer to that question came a little faster, but I had the feeling it was a script she had been preparing for awhile now.

“You’ll be presented with your award and dismissed with the all the honors we can give you. The city will foot the hospital bill, thanks to some haggling by our favorite Deputy Major. Then, you will receive an amount of reward monies to be determined by the city and you’re free to go wherever you want to. You could travel Tabby….” I sighed and moved on to my next question. I’d had enough fighting for one day. I wasn’t about to start some more with my boss.

“What will be the recorded reason for dismissal?” The Lieutenant lowered her head for a moment and it appeared that she was wiping something from the corner of her eyes. In the dark I couldn’t really be sure though. She motioned to the doctor, who turned out to be a handsome young kat with longer black fur. I held still as he began cutting off the bandage from around my left paw. From my close up position, I could see that they had padded the inside completely. I closed my eyes and waited as tiny amounts of cool air slowly drifted over my paw again. That’s when I realized something was wrong. There were places that I knew I should have felt flesh, but were only empty space. Opening my eyes, I received the answer to my question. On my left paw, completely immobilized by plaster, were three claws. I had lost my middle claw and my ring claw. I finally understood why I had felt so much pain when I lost the controls, and why there was so much blood. As the doctor stepped back into the shadows, blending in perfectly, I heard Felina speaking to me.

“You are the one of the best pilots I’ve ever seen, Tabby. But by regulation, you may not fly an Enforcer craft without at least four claws on each paw. I’m sorry. You will be dismissed under the reason ‘Unable to Perform Duty’.” I nodded weakly and began crying, knowing for a fact that my days of flying were over. All I had ever really loved in life was flying and now I had to live without it. As I closed me eyes to them both, I heard the chair scrape back and two pairs of footsteps as they left the room. I remember crying myself to sleep. Crying and crying and crying….

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* I woke up crying again, I could just tell. The way my breathing was shaky and the coolness around my eyes told me the nightmare had struck again. I groaned in my half-asleep state as the aches and pains of sleeping in a golf bag came back to me. But something was different. I could feel it. And then I could feel it. Warm claws wrapped around my limp right paw and a petting motion I found oddly soothing. I slowly opened my eyes to see a pair of curious and worried eyes in front of my own. I jumped out of the bag in surprise and stared as the mysterious kat backed away from me. He held up his empty paws to me as a show of peace. As he slowly sat down across the alley from me I began to examine him more closely. The fur that was in view was a beautiful full color strawberry blond with touches of a dark grey around his hairline and beard. Those eyes I had found myself staring into hard been hazel, I was sure of it. While all this was interesting, though, the one thing that really drew out my curiosity was his clothing. He was dressed in a set of dark brown robes with a pendant around his neck.

“Have no fear of me, child. I am only here to see if you need my help. You seem to be very upset.” I eyed him carefully, wiping my eyes and straightening my very wrinkled clothing.

“It’s a long story. Who are you, anyway?” He chuckled and leaned back against a grimy wall.

“I am the Reverend Myers of the Holy Church of Highland Court. And what may I call you?” I pondered this frail stranger for a moment and then sat down on my golf bag. He was probably telling the truth. Highland Court wasn’t far from here and it was the small type of church to be headed by such a quiet man.

“Name’s Tabby. And I don’t need help. But thanx for offering.” He nodded slowly and then looked around him at the alley and me.

“Are you so sure of that? My church is not far from here. I was only out on a night walk, as you can see. I would love to have you as my guest until you have eaten and cleaned up.” I sat surprised until I regained my composure and stubborn dignity.

“I already said that I don’t need any help. In response to your offer I must reply honestly that I’m not hungry.” Suddenly my stomach roared and rumbled loudly in protest to my deliberately avoiding food. He laughed a hearty laugh from his side and stood up, offering me his paw.

“Yes, let’s reply honestly now. I tell you honestly that I mean you no harm and only wish to see you find some comfort tonight. Now, honestly, would you like to join me for some food and fellowship?” His kind eyes watched me expectantly and I had to admit that I wanted to be honest. And honesty said to get up and get some help. Honesty vs. pride. My stomach and aches won out as I stood and took Reverend’s paw. I picked up my satchel and followed the kat as he vanished into the night. We walked down the street for awhile in silence as the cool night air swept around us in circles.

“I have been hurt too, you know?” His voice sounded very far away as he mused over some long past events.

“Have you ever lost everything? At once? Where you’re left so torn apart by life that you just want to stop being normal?” My voice almost sounded desperate and I think I was almost begging him to be able to speak to me as an equal of pain and loss. We stepped up to a small building set aside from the hustle and bustle of the street and he began to dig into his pocket for keys.

“The back door.” He said this very casually as we walked in and he reset the locks. Though I was still slightly suspicious, it did feel better to be in a warm building. I walked through the tiny corridors of the building, listening to him walking behind me, until I came to a small door. As I opened it, I was met with the shock of a much larger room than I had expected. There were probably twenty-four pews and a carved alter that looked as though they had been pawmade. The decorations were all carved as well. On top of the alter were candles of many different sizes, shapes, and colors, some still lit and others having died out. Cut flowers stood in bottles at various areas around the room and it all looked as though it had been specially set up for a late night guest. A set of double doors stood at the end of the room and it was easy to see that, though simple, this sanctuary had a beauty all its own.

“To answer your previous question Tabby, yes, I have lost all in my time. But also, I have found all. Here.” He gestured around the room, his pride and joy at its gentle loveliness dispelling the last of my fears. He really had wanted to bring me here for some real peace. I just hoped, for my sake and his, that I could give it to him. I turned around to say something, anything, to him, but instead found only his back half as he rummaged through a side closet. He stepped out and closed the door, holding a bottle of soap and a towel out to me. As I took them he smiled and gestured to the back of the room, further behind the alter than I could see.

“We keep a ceremonial pool here that you are welcome to use for your bath. If you want, you could leave your clothes by the door and I will be happy to collect them for cleaning without disturbing, or observing your activities. If you are willing to take a longer bath, I will deposit your clothes back inside the sanctuary door. Is this a deal?” Willing to be pampered for once, I could only nod as he smiled the smile of a wise old grandfather and stepped out of the door.

“You must be paying some attention….” I muttered this to the kind deity of this peaceful church and then I simply waited, savoring the silence. My eyes wandered to the alter and I began to slide out of my plastered-on shirt and jeans. For the first time in what felt like ages, I pulled my wounded left paw from my pocket and flexed for a moment in the candlelight. I left my clothes by the door and, fearing cold water, moved slowly into a circular pool about the size of a small table and with a depth I could easily sit in. To my delight, the water was very warm and comfortable and I began to wonder how many visitor the old Reverend brought in at night. I scrubbed the soap into my fur and hair, loving the wonderful feeling of being clean, and generally having one of the sweeter nights of my life. When I noticed my claws, and my stumps, were getting particularly wrinkly, I stepped out of the pool and fluffed out my fur with the donated towel. I felt as though I could have dreamed the whole nightmare of the past months, but common sense told me not to set myself up for a disappointment. As I stepped back towards the door, constantly wary that I was being watched, I saw my clothes, folded neatly by the door. I chuckled and put my clothes back on, enjoying the feel of clean warm cotton as much as the bath I had just had.

After I had dressed, I sat in front of the alter and thought about everything that had happened in my life that had brought me here. Mom’s heart attack, Dad’s car wreck, Alan’s betrayal, my left paw, my injured Enforcer pride….Feeling like it was time to go speak to my host, I stood and left the sanctuary, with a nod of respect to its keeper as I left. I wandered down the narrow hallways again until I found Reverend Myles sitting in what I would guess to be a kitchen, reading. On the table in front of him was a loaf of bread, a cup of water, and various pieces of fruit. He looked up and smiled.

“Ah, you are faster in your baths that I had expected. Here, some food for the healing of the body. And maybe some conversation for the healing of the spirit?” I sat down and shrugged, gratefully digging into the simple fare. He was a good man and refused to pry. Instead he began to tell me of his life. How he had lost his wife and children to a faulty set of car brakes, how he too had been homeless for years, wanting nothing to do with society. How he had wanted an answer, and to have the chance to even ask the questions that pained his soul. He had wanted to find his purpose, and he had. In this church. He had helped the congregation rebuild it himself and continued to preach there whenever called to. He let me see his pains and so I returned the favor. I told him my story in all its gory details. I told him about the pain and shock I still felt over the memory of Alan bashing me on the head with his blaster and stealing the Blacktail from my guard shift. I told him about my confusion as he kissed my forehead before leaving, whispering for me to please forgive him. I

told him I wanted to know what had been going on in Alan’s head up until the last moment, when he had realized that I was the writer of his death warrant. Or did he even know it was me? Did he think he had disabled another jet instead of mine? Reverend Myers didn’t flinch, or even look concerned when I displayed my three-digited left paw. I emptied my soul to a total stranger, knowing that if I did so, my journey for my answers would begin.

“The only thing that still burns inside me is the question of why he did it? Why he stole the stinking jet in the first place…. ” The Reverend looked up calmly and our eyes locked for a long moment of silence. As he returned to his glass of water he seems to have reached some sort of decision within himself. Still, his words shocked me.

“You know very well why he did it. Fear.” I looked up in surprise and stared at the kat incredulously.

“How the hell would you know? You didn’t even know him…so how are you saying every thing I’m thinking? Yeah, damn it, he did it because he was scared.” I swallowed hard and wiped my eyes, the conclusion of months of pain and thought and memory to my favorite Alley Kat coming into the exact words I needed them to.

“Scared of dying quietly, in his bed. Or patrolling some dirty street. Or old and wise. He wanted to die while he still looked like a god and had a chance of becoming a legend. He was so stinking scared of not being remembered, that he decided that if he couldn’t die easily, guns blazing, as a hero, he’d do it as a villain.” I shook my head painfully, my eyes filling with tears.

“And I helped him.” From that moment on, there was silence. Utter and empty silence. And in the silence I mourned, here in a holy church, with a man of G-d himself, I mourned the loss of Alan Devries, a brilliant shooting star in the lives of a few and the paper records of hundreds of “disappointed” Enforcers. My poor, beautiful Alan. I would live for him, maybe. If I could. Prove to his burning spirit that there was a way to produce a long, steady flame and cast just as much light around you as he had when he had gone out like a supernova. I would teach him, just as I always had. Not a bad way to live. Proving to myself and Alan that I could and would live by all his “rules” and still survive to have dance on the graves of every other familiar soul.

I shook myself out of my dark reverie, a strange hope lighting my heart. And, I think the Reverend took notice. But the silence continued. It was a time of silence….

Soon the table was empty, my belly was full, and my tongue was tired. But I did feel a bit better. A bit more free.

“You have given alot to your healing tonight, Tabby. Now you have to go back to your bed, as much as it is, and think about it. You are welcome back to this place as often as you want to come. Just knock loudly. I tend to sleep fairly heavy.” I smiled and nodded as we both stood and headed for the door. The dawn would be here within the hour and the air had warmed a little from its previous chill. I felt better than I had in ages, even daring to carry my satchel with my injured paw instead of hiding it in my pocket. I walked ahead of the Reverend, knowing the directions better, when I heard a slight gasp and his footsteps stopped. Curious, I turned to where I had heard the noise and saw a figure only a few feet from my savior. He twirled a knife in his paws with a wicked grin upon his face. He had taken only one step towards the older kat when I tossed my satchel open and drew my blaster out.

“The Lieutenant would have a fit right now if she knew I had never turned this back in to Control, but I think it’s found a good reason to be here.” It felt good to be in control again. To be doing good. The punk got very nervous to be staring at the business end of an Enforcer personal weapon and looked back at his exit for a minute. An idea must have struck him right then as his chest puffed out and he started to sound self-importantly.

“If you take me down to the Enforcers I’ll have you slaughtered across the rule book for possession of Enforcer property by a katizen. So lets just make a deal here. I take the old kat, you put the blaster down, and we both get away without trouble.” The nerve of this trash! My training came crashing back to mind as I prepared to pounce for the kill. When I spoke my voice had a definite sarcastic edge to it.

“Just one thing wrong with that logic, lowlife. I don’t follow the rules. I make them.” With that I fired a wide shot to the left of his head, leaving him to scurry like a frightened rat back into his slimy hole. Without a word, I replaced the blaster into the satchel and Rev. Myles and I returned to my golf bag. As I lay down, he smiled and nodded and walked away.

“Why do I feel like I just answered all my questions at once?” I muttered this to myself as the sun began to come up over MegaKat City. The I realized why my words to the punk had sounded so familiar. They had once been spoken by a good friend of mine. Alan’s voice repeated to me his own words.

“*The rules are made for those who can’t make them for themselves.*” I nodded in agreement and smiled. You were right all along, Alley Kat. It’s time I start making some rules. This city has the Enforcers by air and land, but only for the big criminals.

“I may not be an Enforcer anymore, but I will still protect you with everything I have, MegaKat City! I’m an Alley Kat, now. Here I’ll stay and here, on these streets, kats will not come to harm. I promise.” I called this to the lightening alleyway and smiled as it echoed back to me. As sleep slowly closed my eyes I knew that I had found a new calling. I had turned into another “reckless hotshot vigilante.” But this time I promised that I would make a difference, guns blazing in Alan’s memory, before I stopping helping people again. Maybe this time, the ending would change for the story of the kat afraid of dying. I swore to the night I would live. And I swore to the day that I would protect. That’s enough for me. I swore….

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-Epilogue-

You are shaken out of your reading by a gruff cough. You turn to see Tabby staring at you with a grim look on her face from down the alley. She looks startled, then gives you a disapproving glance when she notices your reading material.

“If you don’t mind, I really don’t appreciate this invasion of my possessions.” Her voice grows cold.

Your eyes lock with hers and you notice that they soften slowly as she sees the understanding and good luck sent through your own gaze. A slight smile lights her face, but she still looks at you in disappointment, perhaps at being found out, even in her enforced loneliness….

“Leave. Please.” Properly embarrassed, you stand replace the journal inside the golf bag. Walking as quickly as you dare, you move on your way home, mind swimming with new information, but not daring to look back into her sad, hopeful, angry…concerned eyes….

(That’s it. Glad you made it all the way through. Until later, catch ya’ on the flip side!)

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