Jake Clawson strode into the recruiting office of the Enforcers, Megakat city’s elite paramilitary police force. He scanned the room he was in. It was large, filled with kats lining up to apply. On the far wall were mug shots of wanted felons. He noticed a couple as being from the group of thieves that had recently dominated daily news. Among others were older felons, those who had been at large for years.
He squeezed his way through a trio who were just leaving and made his way to a line which had somehow formed amidst the coming and going kats in the room. He silently queued and awaited his turn.
He began reading the pamphlet he had clutched in his hand. It was a brochure with commander Feral pointing straight at the reader and under him were the words “I want you on the Enforcers!” printed in bright red letters. Inside were reasons why a citizen of Megakat city would want to be an Enforcer. “Give something back to the city”, it said. “Be a service to your fellow Kats.” Sure, Jake thought. All well and good, but that wasn’t why he was joining. And it wasn’t the money either, although he heard the pay was well above minimum wage. Not surprising since, next to golf courses and education, the Enforcers had the biggest share of the city’s budget. No, he was in it for the adventure of it all.
A harsh shove and an even harsher voice shook him from his reading. “Move it, pal.” A tall, lean kat behind him said, and Jake calmly complied Eventually Jake reached the counter and took his papers. The Kat manning the counter gave him his forms emotionlessly then motioned him to some tables which had been set aside for them to fill out the forms on. Jake took a seat on one of them and began answering his. Another kat, noticeably older since his fur was of a dull sheen and unruly, sat down beside him.
“You got a spare pen?” He asked.
“Sure.” Jake replied, pulling another one out of his shirt pocket. He handed it to the kat.
“What are you in for?”
Jake grinned at the implication that they were going to do some hard time. “The thrill of it.” He said. “You?”
“Gotta make a living somehow. Name’s Ralph. Ralph Myers.”
“Jake Clawson.” Just then a large broad-shouldered kat sat down at their table. Jake looked at him, but the kat just glanced their way and filled out his forms. A few minutes later they all turned in their papers to the counter.
“Make sure to be back here in three days time, when the bus leaves for the training facility. Seven P.M. sharp.” The kat who took their files told them. “Everyone today will be in one training batch.”
Ralph thanked the kat and then Jake, saying something about using the time to be with his wife and kittens.
“Yeah. And you only get three days till they ship you up the river.” Jake said, watching Ralph as he snickered. Neither of them knew exactly why being an Enforcer was likened to being in jail all the time. Probably since it was a hard, long trip. “Who knows? Maybe in three days we’ll all be hung out to dry?” They both burst out with laughter at that one.
“Where are you headed?” Jake asked Ralph after they regained control of themselves.
“Home, downtown. I have to see my kids and wife before they throw the book at me.” He laughed at his own joke, and Jake did too. “How about you Jake? We don’t have much but I’m sure Cora would love to have you over for dinner or something.”
“No.” Jake declined, “Maybe some other time. I’ve got to call my folks and get my stuff ready. But thanks anyway.”
“Ok. See you in three days, Jake.” Ralph crossed the street and left Jake at the corner. Jake waved, then turned right and continued walking on.
Sure enough three days later everyone who signed up was there, all lined up waiting for the bus that would take them to the base. When it came they filed in and found their seats. Jake ended up beside the large kat at the table three days earlier and Ralph was seated behind them. “So, ready for Alkatraz?” he addressed the stocky kat sitting beside Jake.
“Yeah, I guess.” He answered.
“Name’s Ralph Myers. This here’s Jake Clawson.” He pointed at Jake with is thumb.
“So, you ready?” Ralph asked Jake.
“As ready as I’ll ever be. You? Cora and the kids Ok?”
“Yeah, they’ll be fine. I need this job more badly than ever. Kris, my youngest is sick, so it’s best that they’ll have one less mouth to feed for a few months. ”
“Pipe down!” came a loud voice over the bus’ internal PA system, just as the bus began to pull out. Jake and the rest leaned out to the isle to get a look at the guy talking. He was very well built, and tall, well above six feet. “Now listen up kats! My name is Drill Sergeant Benitez, and I’ll be breaking you kittens in. There are a number of rules that are strictly enforced on the base. One, there will be no smoking, drinking or unauthorized narcotics while on the Base. Two, No one is allowed off the base except for predetermined hours assigned to you. Three…”
He gave them a run down of the rules, and kept talking well into the trip. After going through the regulations he began giving them a very exhaustive history of the Enforcers. Hardly anyone listened to him. Not that he noticed.
Once on the base they divided. The She-kats were guided to their barracks as the male kats were led to theirs. The male kats filled the room and found their beds. The once quiet living quarters was suddenly full of noise, and the atmosphere was more that of a cub scouts arriving at camp.
“This isn’t so bad.” Jake said as he placed his stuff on his bunk
“So far, anyway.” Chance told him. His was the bunk directly underneath Jake. “I had a friend who joined the Enforcers once. Told me it was the hardest thing he ever did.”
“Well, if he did it so can we.” Ralph enthusiastically said, removing his shirt. His bed was beside Chance and Jake’s. On the top bunk was kat in silver fur. He was obviously younger than all of them, around seventeen maybe. He let down his paw to shake Ralph’s.
“Paul Nichols.” He introduced himself. Ralph reacted in kind, and introduced Jake and Chance. “What are you guys doing here?” Paul continued.
“Money.” Ralph said.
“Adventure.” Jake answered.
“Trying to be a good guy.” Chance responded. “What about you, kid? You don’t seem to be in this cause you want to meet she-kats.” He unzipped his bag and removed his shirts.
“No, Of course not.” Paul hopped down from his bunk. “It’s just that my dad was an enforcer, and so was my grandpa. Everyone expected me to follow in the family trade so here I am.”
“Must be tough.” Jake commented. “Having all that pressure.”
“It is at times.” The young one confessed. Just then the door opened and in came none other than good old Drill Sergeant Benitez, followed by a kat anyone would recognize. Behind Benitez came Enforcer Commander Feral.
“Here it comes…” He whispered jokingly.
“Attention, everyone!” Benitez called out. “This is Commander Ulysees Feral. Now look alive!”
“That’s enough, Seargent.” Feral spoke. He had that hard, perpetually serious look about his face. His stance was that of one who had authority ang knew what to do with it. “I’ll take it from here. Now listen up! You are all here tonight because you made a choice. You chose to be a service to Magakat City. To be the best that you can be.
“You are all under me now. You…” Feral stopped in mid sentence when he heard a faint giggle from the back of the room. Low life hotshot, he told himself. No respect. There are always some in every class. He saw three kats shift uneasily and return to attention. They’ll learn respect. “Is anything funny back there?”
“Nothing, sir.” Chance said, surpressing another giggle. It became harder as Feral came closer. The commander stood in front of them, looked the three of them over.
“What are your names?” Feral pointed at them with his cane. They replied one by one, all except Paul who was trying very hard to maintain a straight face. “Sargeant Benitez, I think I’ve found you three new latrine orderlies. Make sure they begin right away.” With that he walked back to the door.
“Remember.” He said threateningly. “There’s no room for hotshots on the Enforcers. I *hate* hotshots.” Then he left.
“You three,report to me at first light tomorrow. Lights out in ten minutes.” Benitez declared, then followed Commander Feral.
“Thanks a lot, Chance.” Ralph clutched his stomach with laughter.
“Yeah” Jake could barely breath, let alone speak. “Now we..Ha, HA!..Now we have to..he, he.. Clean lartrines…ha! ha!ha!”
The next day was orientation day. Sargeant Benitez woke everybody up at six and hauled them out to the hanger where he began to break them in. “These are you schedules.” He handed out sheets of paper to them. “The Enforcers are what you might call a co-ed operation. The she-kats will train along side of you.” That woke up the still sleepy cadets. They took the papers and glanced at them.
“What gives? We hardly have any free time.” Jake whispered. But that was enough for Seargent Benitez.
“You’ll have free time, don’t worry.” He told Jake. “You are free to use the facilities provided you acquire the proper authorization. And as for you hotshots, you can spend your time at the latrine.”
Just then they were joined by the she-kats, led by their own drill sergeant. Their commander stepped in front and Benitez stood down. “Good morning kats.” She said. I’m Seargent Nila Lowerski. I’ll be your flight instructor for the duration of the training program.”
Some kats paid attention, but Paul had more important matters at hand. He had made eye contact with a pretty she-kat from Lowerski’s group. She was petite, and her fur a light gold. Her posture said she was a bit on the shy side, and she seemed to be Paul’s age. Paul gave a slight wave and got one in return.
By the time he knew it they were getting up. “What’s going on?” he asked. Ralph pointed to a line on their schedule that said: “Daily–two mile jog.” Paul sighed and followed everyone to the field.
The run wasn’t as difficult as everyone thought it would be since the sun wasn’t really up yet. Paul tried to jog as closely to the She-kat he had connected with without breaking formation. Unintentionally, he stepped on a kats foot and the following instant he found himself face down on the ground.
“And stay outta my way.” The kat said.
Jake and Ralph stopped to help Paul up but Chance was already beside the kat who shoved Paul down. Jake recognized him as the one behind him in line four days ago.
“Is there a problem here?” Benitez demanded when he saw the three of them. “No? Then get back to your unit.” Jake, Paul and Ralph rushed to catch-up. They saw Chance try to confront the attacker but what he had in mind couldn’t be done with Benitez present.
At breakfast they all sat at the same table, the shoving kat several tables away. After breakfast they were allowed an hour worth of down time. Jake, Chance and Ralph were sent to the latrine.
“Who was that guy?” Jake inquired as he scrubbed the floor. “And what’s his problem?”
“He’s gonna have a lot of problems when I find out who he is.” Chance said. He may not have known these guys for long, but he felt that Paul and the rest were all right. Whats more, that kat was out of line with his shove. Paul was just a kid for crying out loud.
“I overheard someone talking a while ago.” Ralph reported. “They were talking about what happened during the run. I didn’t get the name, but I gathered this guy is a rich kid. Daddy’s only child.” He continued to wipe the mirrors.
Next they were brought to the shooting range. Jake and his companions were delayed because of their latrine duties, so when they arrived Benitez was already discussing the blaster which was to be comissioned to them. After explaining and demonstrating how to properly weild the gun, he asked for volunteers.
“How about you, Tailor?” Benitez addressed the kat who shoved Paul. He got up and took the weapon. The target was thirty feet away. Tailor took aim and fired. His first shot went wild, and so did his second. His third hit the outer boundary of the target.
“He couldn’t hit a target if came up to him saying ‘shoot me, please.’” Jake told Ralph and the rest.
“You think you can do better, Clawson?” The Sergeant eyed Jake. “Lets see what you’ve got.”
Jake got up and took the weapon. The target was the same, thirty feet away. He took aim carefully, sighting the target. He let off a shot that almost hit the bulls eye. He adjusted his position ever so slightly and fired off two more shots, both hitting the bullseye. Cheers came from the other kats, except Tailor.
“Well done, Clawson. Well done.” Sarge commended Jake.
Next was Martial Arts class with Lt. Tarakametsudolo, but everyone just called him Lt. Tar, or just plain Lt. He was a third dan black belt in kat-won-do, and first dan in about three more martial arts. He was probably the deadliest kats on base, but since he was only a tad older, also the coolest instructor of the whole program.
“All right, boys and girls, gather round. Let old uncle Tar give you a few instructions.” He called to his students. He rubbed his paws together as if he were about to start on a hearty salmon steak. “It’s a habit of mine to pair off the budding young kat-wan-do masters under my care to see just what i have to work with.”
“Obviously not very much…” A small voice came from the rear of the crowd.
“Today, since there are too many of you we’ll only do about half. Knock down ends the match, so you can either knock ’em off their feet, sweep them off their feet, throw thwm off their feet. Your choice. Now, I’ve selected your sparring partners, so come up as your called.”
Pair after pair faced off, some fights short, some long. It was pretty obvius who excelled. Ralph was one of them. He felled his opponent effortlessly.
Paul was getting jittery, and Ralph noticed.
“Something wrong, Paul?” Ralph inquired, returning.
“I’m no good at this.” Paul confessed. “I mean, I’m not coordinated, not…”
Chance too noticed that Paul was disturbed by something. He glanced his way as his name was called. To his surprise his sparring partner was Tailor.
“You again!?” Tailor yelled as they got on the mat.
“Is their a problem, Tailor?” Tar asked.
“No problem, sir.” He said, then whispered, “But there soon will be for someone I know.”
Chance heard it and responded, “Just try it, pal.”
They circled, each waiting for the other to make the first move. Tailor had his arms in close guarding his front. Chance on the other hand had his arms slightly outsreched, prepared to clutch Tailor on a moments notice.
Seconds of circiling passed before Tailor decided to attack. He performed a low roundhouse which Chance sidstepped and answered with a front kick which connected. He tried to follow it up but Tailor had stepped back and assumed the defensive stance.
Tar watched as they sized each other up again. He didn’t know the specifics but he knew there was something personal here, especially with Tailor. He decided to just let them get it out on the mat.
Chance’s opponent again attacked, this time with punches, some of which connected. Chance though was the larger of the two and packed the most whallop. He planted his elbow in Tailor’s rib cage and Tailor fell flat on his back, the air knocked clean out of him.
“Well done, Mr. Furlong.” Lt. cmplimented him.
“Thank you, sir.” Chance said to his instructor.
Next was Paul’s turn. To add to his anxiety, he had to go toe-to-toe with Mark Maglor, a kat twice his size. Ralph was right next to him, coaching him. “I’ve sparred against him before. His lower legs are almost always open, so he’s suseptible to sweeps and trips. He has a mean uppercut nd watch out for his right. Go get ’em!”
Up on the mat The combatants eyed each other and bagan. Mark wasted no time and took the fight directly to Paul. The smaller kat had to parry and block for a good twenty seconds before an oppotunity prsented itself. Paul kicked Mark in the shins then, once the pain registered with Mark, tripped him down. Paul felt as if ten thousand fans were cheering him on.
The day progressed slowly, moving from one location to another, meeting one instructor after another, exerting themselves physically every so often and two more trips to the latrine for Jake, Chance and Ralph. At the end of the day the entire batch was dead tired. Their beds, though thin and used seemed as inviting as anything the Megakat Ritz would have.
As Paul lay on his bunk, half asleep, Chance peeped to talk to him. “Hey,” Chacne said, “You know that Tailor guy? The one who shoved you into the dirt today?”
“Yeah, what about that creep?”
“Well, he’s gonna get it.”
“What do you mean? What do you mean, by ‘he’s gonna get it?’ You already broke him in half this afternon.”
“Just wait.” And almost as if it were planned, Tailor began screaming at the top of his lungs. Paul looked to see what was the matter. Tailor was holding up several dirty shirts.
“My shirts!” Tailor yelled. “What happened to my shirts! Their filthy! Who did this!? Who did this!?”
Paul gave Chance a perplexed, I-Can’t-Believe-It-Look. “You…?”
“Hey.” Chance shrugged. “We needed more rags for the floors. Good night, Paul.”
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