Original SWAT Kats Story

Swat Kats Unmasked

By Andy Hill

  • 1 Chapter
  • 8,986 Words

Lt. Steele’s so annoyed with the SWAT Kats, how far will he go to discover their identities? Further than Feral!

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Author's Notes:

This is written as though it takes place between eps, rather than an episode in its own right. I’ve used Lt. Steel from the first season because I was interested in his backstory, and wanted to extend his character/situation as set up in “Wrath of Dark Kat”, which this would take place shortly after. There is likely going to be four parts, of which this is the first. If you’re not a big fanfiction addict – e-me and I’ll try drop you out of the loop.

The sounds of hammering, drilling and welding emanated from the hangar beneath the garage. T-Bone turned up the televison to drown it out. As much as he liked leading the life of a “hero”, T-Bone had always felt that a SwatKat needed his down-time, and on this particular evening “down-time” took the form of a “Scaredy Kat” marathon on MBS, a bag or three of nachos, and both feet on the coffee table. T-Bone turned the TV up another notch, in a vain attempt to keep pace with Razor’s hammering in the hangar below. Six hours of “Scaredy Kat” had passed in no time, and Razor’s “never-miss” program was up next in the form of “David Litterbin”.

“RAZOR! LITTERBIN’S ON….YOU COMIN?” shouted T-Bone, attempting to outdo both the television and the noise of Razor’s tools.

“RAZOR?…” T-Bone walked over to the ladder that descended into the hangar and leaned down, cupping his hands in front of his face in a futile effort to be heard over the din below.

“RAZOR…YOU’RE GONNA MISS THE MONOLOGUE!”

He climbed down the ladder into the hangar, and soon had to put his fingers in his ears to block out the noise of the welder. Underneath the TurboKat, a pair of feet and a shower of sparks was all that could be seen of Razor. T-Bone walked over to the power receptacle and yanked out the welder’s power cord, unable to stand the noise any further.

“Aww…CRUD, must’ve blown a fuse” came a voice muffled by layers of protective apparatus from beneath the TurboKat. T-Bone grabbed Razor’s feet, pulling him and the mechanic’s dolly he was on clear of the TurboKat’s fuselage.

“Hey Chance! What’s the big idea? I was in the middle of….”

“You know what they say buddy…” started T-Bone, dangling the end of the welder’s cord in front of Razor’s nose, “…all work and no play makes Razor a dull cat. Litterbin’s on.”

Razor removed his mask and goggles, stepping back to admire his

afternoon’s work. The TurboKat looked no different to T-Bone, certainly not different enough to account for an entire afternoon better spent watching “Scaredy Kat” and wolfing nachos.

“Watcha been doin’ for six hours – the TurboKat looks exactly the same as always…”

Razor was both proud and disgusted at the same time, though he realized that what he’d been working on wouldn’t be evident to someone casually examining the jet’s exterior.

“I modified the engines; we should get 30 percent more thrust for the same burn ratio. I’m also working on a wireless throttle control system for the TurboKat’s engines, so the next time we get shot full of holes by the likes of Dark Crud we won’t have to worry about cut wiring…”

“Razor…you know how I feel about unnecessary mods, there wasn’t anything wrong with the engines just the way they were. Just like my old man used to say, ‘If it ain’t broke….”

“…’don’t fix it’, yeah, yeah.” Razor produced a small box with a single red button in the middle, took a last look around the hangar and pressed it. The engines on the TurboKat roared to life, producing a tornado of dust and debris throughout the hangar. The plane lurched and swayed against its restraints, then fell silent as Razor pressed the button yet again. Razor looked at T-Bone with the ear-to-ear grin of a kid with a good report card. T-Bone gave a cautious “thumbs up”, then took the control box away from Razor and expertly tossed it into the TurboKat’s cockpit – putting both hands on Razor’s shoulders and marching him towards the ladder.

“C’mon buddy, you can finish up tomorrow – maybe if we’re lucky Litterbin will drop Feral from the ten-storey building tonight..”

Though the two had markedly different personalities, they complemented each other like left and right halves of the same whole; much like a pair of shoes – each different in some respects, yet an obvious pair nevertheless. “David Litterbin” had not yet started, for the face of Ann Gora filled the screen covering preparations for the MegaKat City “Founder’s Day” celebrations which would begin the following morning.

“…in addition to the events from last year, there will be a free circus performance, including the largest collection of jungle animals MegaKat City has ever seen. The event will take place in the City Square, immediately after the opening address by Mayor Manx…”, screamed the television, still at the audio level T-Bone had left it.

“Yeah,” said Razor,”..if anyone’s still awake.” T-Bone grabbed the remote, and lowered the audio to a reasonable level, reflecting on how choked the narrow streets of the downtown core would be with festival-goers. Mayor Manx attracted crowds like fur attracted fleas, and neither he nor Razor enjoyed the claustrophobic atmoshpere of such

events.

“Let’s avoid it, shall we?”, said T-Bone, with Razor nodding acknowledgement through a mouthful of nachos.

“Callie says that Steel is going to be doing crowd control, Feral’s out of town”, mumbled Razor, chip fragments flying towards the TV.

“That outta be good…Steel couldn’t organize night after day. What’s left to do on the TurboKat?”

Razor thought for a moment, swallowed the remaining chips, and suddenly remembered that the cable for the grappling hook was looking a little the worse for wear.

“Um…better get me up early buddy, I should do something with that cable before we need to use it again, it’s in rough shape.”

They never got to see whether or not Litterbin did indeed drop Feral from the ten-storey building, both fell asleep where they sat.

PART TWO

“BRRRRRR……BRRRRRR……BRRRRRRRR…..”

Noise and red flashing light filled the darkened garage as Callie Briggs had something on her hands that only the SWATKATS could handle. The “hot-line” which set off the klaxon and the strobe-light was never intended as a wakeup call, but was effective nonetheless. T-Bone stirred first, grabbing the nearest handy object and flinging it toward his alarm clock, in the mistaken belief that it was the source of the disturbance. Razor fell off the couch as a direct result of T-Bone’s sudden movement, landing on the half-empty dish of nachos in the process.

“Huh…wha? T-Bone! Wake up! Callie’s callin’ ”

Razor had always given T-Bone every opportunity to answer the phone first, as he tended to be more insecure talking to women than the outwardly self-assured T-Bone, but this time he’d be the first one to the call box, and no getting out of it.

“What can we do for you Miss Briggs?”, Razor asked in a confident voice that surprised even himself.

“Razor, the circus animals are stampeding downtown – the crowd’s in a panic, and the Enforcers are just making things worse!”

Callie’s voice, though out of breath, still managed to convey the fact she was indeed the best looking politician MegaKat City had to offer.

“We’ll be there as fast as we can, Miss Briggs…not to worry!”

“Up and at ’em Chance – Callie needs us!”

Razor shook T-Bone awake, who’d been dreaming of frayed cables, ten-storey buildings, “Scaredy Kat” and nachos – and was barely able to understand the concept of morning without breakfast, let alone rampaging circus animals. Fireman style, they dropped down the ladder into the hangar, cleared away the mechanic’s debris, and flew off into the morning sky high above MegaKat City.

The scene at the City Square was far worse than even Razor imagined. Somehow, the tigers, lions, bears and elephants of the circus had broken loose and were chasing the throngs of terrified onlookers through the narrow streets of MegaKat City’s business district. The Enforcers had blocked off all of the side streets leading onto the main strip in preparation for the parade, leaving the terrified crowd no means of escape save the open end of Main Street. Razor turned on the VHF radio and keyed in the channel of Enforcer Operations. The panicky voices of the Enforcers told Razor and T-Bone all they needed to know, the situation had gotten out of hand, and people were going to get hurt. The voice of Lt. Steel, distorted by the sounds of the commotion taking place below and the radio link, filled the cockpit.

“This is Steel. We have to stop this from spreading any further through the city – block off the street now!”

The Enforcer channel was silent for a couple of seconds, then the replies from various crowd control officers began.

“Lt. Steel…we can’t follow your orders sir, you’ll be blocking off the only means the crowd has to escape – and I won’t have that on MY conscience…”

All the officers under Steel’s command voiced similar objections, and T-Bone was the first to notice that Steel’s car was now changing postion.

“Aww, CRUD! Steel’s blocking the street with Feral’s car himself!”

“Looks like Steel had an extra helping of Stupid with breakfast this morning…” added Razor, who was watching the events on the street via the Weapons panel. T-Bone could barely hear Razor above the sound of his stomach growling, and muttered only half audibly;

“…at least he GOT breakfast this morning…”

Callie Briggs was watching the whole spectacle from her vantage point atop City Hall, and also had noticed that a tragedy was about to take place. The position of Steel’s car would leave people nowhere to run, and they’d soon be trampled under by the herd. She was close enough to the action to see Lt. Steel walk some distance toward the approaching crowd, bullhorn in hand.

“This is Lieutenant Steel. Do not panic. The Enforcers have everything under control.”

It was apparent that Callie and Lt. Steel had a much different definition of “control”, as the mob of citizens and circus animals was approaching Steel and his bullhorn with frightening speed. Callie heard the TurboKat a full minute before she caught a glimpse of it, and rummaged around in her purse for the radio the SwatKats had given her. She had a plan.

T-Bone and Razor were circling the scene just below them, attempting to come up with a plan of attack. Missiles couldn’t be used effectively in such a situation without injuring the people they were designed to protect. T-Bone banked the TurboKat to afford a better look just as the klaxon in the cockpit sounded.

“Yes Miss Briggs?” answered Razor, achieving a new personal best of twice in the same day.

“Guys…”, began Callie, more composed than before, “…I’ve got an idea how we can regain some control here – without anyone getting hurt…”

Callie relayed her idea, the first part of which involved removing Feral’s car from the position Steel had left it, blocking the only means of escape for the crowd. Steel had by now realized his error, coming face to face with a large circus lion which regarded anything in uniform as “lunch”. All pretensions of control long since abandoned, Steel dropped his bullhorn and ran faster than he’d thought possible – eventually finding refuge on the second flight of a fire escape, a perfect spot from which to watch the disaster he’d created unfold before him. T-Bone brought the TurboKat into a steep climb as Razor readied the grappling hook, a nagging feeling that he’d forgotten something dogging him through the checklist. T-Bone flew the TurboKat in low along Main Street above the heads of the mob, changing to Vertical operation directly above Feral’s car as Razor lowered the grappling hook. The car was picked up easily by the TurboKat, just as the crowd reached the intersection.

“Bingo!”

The fleeing citizenry was now well clear of the animals, allowing the Enforcer units, under the command of Callie Briggs, to control the herd with gas grenades and cannon-launched nets. The street had soon returned to normal, save for an odd looking menagerie of disoriented animals being marched by the Enforcers back towards captivity.

“Razor, now that we have Feral’s car, whaddya want to do with it – turn it into a planter?”

“Um…tempting T-Bone, but just fly us over to Enforcer headquarters and we’ll set it down in the parking lot – we don’t want to get stuck with another bill…”

“Razor, anyone ever tell you you’re no fun anymore…”

T-Bone caught a glimpse of Steel, still perched atop the fire escape, and decided that a kind of aviator’s “up-yours” was in order. Flying close enough to see the expression of pure hatred on his face, T-Bone moved the stick back and forth in the traditional “wing waggle” of fighter pilots, with Feral’s car swinging to and fro beneath the TurboKat like some kind of giant yo-yo. Below his seat, Razor heard a noise like a rubber band snapping. He tilted his head to one side, perking up the closest ear in an attempt to discover the source of the noise above the roar of the TurboKat’s thrusters. The second sound was louder, like a guitar string breaking – and he suddenly realized he’d forgotten something…

“Aw, T-Bone…you really shouldn’t outta have done that…”

The cable holding the car parted with an almighty “SNAP!”, dropping the vehicle and the remains of the frayed cable some 300 feet to the street below – directly in front of Lt. Steel, who was now shaking his fist and shouting something unintelligible above the noise of the TurboKat. The car landed roof first, smashing completely flat, leaving only the tires mute testimony as to what the crumpled mass of metal had originally been. T-Bone circled the TurboKat over the wreckage, determined to admire his handiwork, then broke out in a silly grin as he reached for the microphone to the TurboKat’s Public Address system. T-Bone’s sense of humour often ran towards the darkly sarcastic, and no opportunity was to be missed. His voice soon boomed throughout the block:

“Look on the bright side Steel, at least you didn’t get a parking ticket!”

As T-Bone’s laughter drowned out even the TurboKat, Razor put his head in his hands, closed his eyes, and wondered just how funny this would be when Feral got wind of it. They headed for the salvage yard, leaving Lt. Steel planning revenge, and a good excuse to give Commander Feral.

PART THREE

Feral had always loved just two things in his life, his job, and his car. He was the fifth generation of Feral to hold the highest Enforcer post in the city, and had gotten there through a combination of discipline, integrity and courage – three things sadly lacking in the person of Lt. Steel, now cowering before him.

“Steel, what happened to my car…”

While Steel fought for the words, Feral recalled that the car had been the first one ever issued to him as Commander-in-Chief of the Enforcers. He kept the vehicle long after it was supposed to be turned in, and modified it as needed to keep pace with the technological advances standard on the newer machines. He would’ve even taken it with him while he was out of town, if it weren’t for the need to drive the vehicle he was demonstrating to the press. He’d miss that car.

“Steel…what happened to my car?”

He’d been met at the outskirts of town by Mayor Manx and Callie Briggs, who’d informed him as to the circumstances regarding the vehicle’s loss, and Steel’s astonishing incompetence during the stampede. He now wanted to hear the explanation from Steel himself. Feral appreciated honesty, and was prepared to help Steel deal with his errors, providing he admitted them.

“Steel…I’m waiting…”

Feral’s habit of drumming his fingers on the desk didn’t help Steel’s thought process any, and his answer reflected his growing anxiety.

“Um, well…you see sir, it was all the SWATKATS fault – they um…

deliberately dropped your car, sir – and they, er…something has to be done about those vigilantes, sir!”

Steel felt that the best defense was a good offense, but Feral wasn’t having any of it. Steel nevertheless seized the opportunity, and continued the attack.

“I’ve come up with a plan, sir!..” his voice becoming squeaky, “…you see, we attach a homing transmitter to their plane sir, and we track them back to wherev….”

“THAT’S ENOUGH, STEEL! Mister, you’re incompetence nearly cost the lives of the very same citizens you swore to protect, the SWATKATS are the least of your worries. Maybe a little refresher course at Enforcer Academy will give you a better perspective; two weeks – without pay.”

Steel had never openly acknowledged making a mistake to anyone, he wasn’t about to now.

“But sir, what about my plan? We could get the SWATKATS out of the picture for good…”

“Lieutenant – you, and your plan, had better be out of my office by the count of three. If you so much as mention it in my presence again, you’ll be reading Parking Meters for the rest of your career.. now get…OUT!”

Feral couldn’t help but wonder what would’ve happened had the TurboKat not shown up when it did. Undisciplined vigilantes had no place among the ranks of the Enforcers, but Feral was beginning to realize that they did indeed have a place somewhere in the scheme of things.

_________________________________________________________________________

“Hey Razor…” began T-Bone, still giggling from the episode with Feral’s car, “…didja see the look on Steel’s face when the cable snapped?!”

“Yeah. I saw it alright, and you can bet that Feral will be wearing a similar one when he finds out who dropped it.”

“Aw, Razor – ya gotta learn to lighten up a little – it was an accident! A hilarious accident…but it’s not like we planned it that way, though I doubt we could have done any better if we had…you need a hand?”

T-Bone’s “wing-waggle” not only percipitated the loss of Feral’s car, but also managed to jam the remains of the cable in the door of the weapons bay, which Razor was now struggling to free. Though Razor was perfectly able of solving most problems dumped in his lap, T-Bone had the strength advantage and managed to free the cable with a single effortless tug. Razor had never been jealous of T-Bone in this regard, their partnership had always taken into account the strengths and weaknesses of each. Their only bouts of rivalry occurred in the company of Callie Briggs, though even this never amounted to more than good-natured ribbing.

“Thanks T-Bone. You gonna hang around and help me fix the damage, or go further ruin your mind with ‘Scaredy Kat’ ?”

T-Bone tossed the rag he was using square onto the bridge of Razor’s nose, and beamed at the accuracy of his aim.

“Looks like you’re not the only sure-shot, Sure-Shot! Lemme grab a couple cans of milk first…”

Given the choice between an evening with “Scaredy” and an evening with Razor, T-Bone would always pick Razor – if for no other reason than Jake was usually more laughs, and had less repeats.

“While you’re up there, see if we made the news – just don’t trash the TV again if you see Feral; you break ’em faster than Katsui can make ’em…”

Razor often wondered where they’d have been now had they not ended up together at the Salvage Yard after being drummed out of the Enforcers by Feral. He could’ve gone on to do countless different things, but he couldn’t imagine any other occupation where T-Bone would “fit”. Jake appreciated Chance’s sense of humour and loyalty, but knew full well that such attributes had little market value in the Corporate World. People like T-Bone always stuck out like a sore thumb, but Jake couldn’t think of anyone he’d rather have watching his back, in or out of the TurboKat. T-Bone soon reappeared at the bottom of the ladder, signalling that the TV had indeed survived the newscast. He lobbed a can of milk toward Razor, who deftly opened it with a single claw movement.

“What’d the news have to say?” asked Razor, between gulps of milk.

“Aw, the usual stuff…they had a cool shot of Feral’s car turning into a metal pancake…”

Razor couldn’t help but giggle, causing the mouthful of milk to run down the side of his face, giving him the appearance of a half-drowned rat. He wiped the milk away with his arm, then shook his head to rid himself of the remainder.

“No comment from Feral…that’s odd.”

“Well, we still have a TV don’t we? No, Feral was on alright, but even when Ann played back the footage with the TurboKat, all he could say was ‘No Comment’…I thought Feral had a comment on everything!”

“What about Steel? Hear anything out of him, or was he too busy trying to glue Feral’s car back together…”

It was T-Bone’s turn to laugh, and he managed to spray Razor with milk from the astonishing distance of several feet.

“Nah. Feral just said he’d been ‘temporarily reassigned’, probably means a trip back to the academy…”

“Gee, I don’t know who I feel more sorry for, Steel or the Academy… c’mon, lets get started. Once we replace the cable, we can get going on the wireless throttle upgrade and try it out in the Canyon tomorrow…I’ve hidden some new targets.”

“Right..” said T-Bone, “…as long as there’s somethin’ for me to do besides drive the bus, I hate sightseein’…”

“Hah! The way you fly? You’ll be lucky if you get through the run without parachute practice…”

“Hey…” humphed T-Bone, in mock indignation, “…what’s wrong with the way I fly?”

“Dunno. Why don’t you go ask Feral’s car?”

Razor quickly ducked the empty can of milk that came hurtling in his direction, which bounced harmlessly off the TurboKat and into the garbage can. T-Bone was indeed glad he’d elected to stay and help Razor, though he did manage to ensure “Scaredy” was a rerun while waiting for the news! _____________________________________________________________________________

Lt. Steel had many friends at the Enforcer Academy, in fact, he had many friends practically everywhere. What loyalty couldn’t achieve, money could buy – and Lt. Steel’s family had more than enough to go around. Steel had never actually had to work for anything, his rapid progress through the ranks of the Enforcers had far more to do with being the son of Manx’s sister than it did with his own particular talent for law-enforcement. His friends at the Academy would help him carry out his plan to expose the SwatKats, and perhaps even get him Feral’s job in the process.

The plan was actually painfully simple, and Steel wondered why Feral hadn’t thought of something similar much earlier. The SwatKats always used the same practice run on the outskirts of MegaKat City, and always practiced after carrying out any kind of repairs – such as would be necessary after the unfortunate incident in town. Steel had the “where” part of his plan, he even had the “how”, now all he needed was the…

“What?”

“You heard me, I need a tracking device, and one that’s powerful enough to let me track the SwatKats jet to wherever they hide it. I’m going to need some way of attaching it to the plane in flight, and it’s going to have to stay put regardless of how fast they fly…”

“Feral green-light this?”, asked Dr. Alley, in charge of Academy Weapons R&D, “you’re asking me to come up with some pretty expensive gear here…”

“Ah, let’s just say I’m ‘exercising my initiative’ and leave it at that..” said Steel, exposing a thick wad of money from his inside uniform pocket.

“Fine by me, just so long as you’re signing all the paperwork and paying the bills, you can ‘exercise’ all you want. What you need here is a version of what we use to track the movement of our own Enforcer jumpers, just far more powerful. The only drawback to such a device is that the increased output may disrupt any fly-by-wire and radio systems on the target vehicle, and…”

Steel was hoping the good doctor would give him the short version…

“…so they can’t listen to their favourite station. My heart bleeds. Could we hurry this up…”

Steel had little grasp of things electronic, as every modern convenience money could buy was still helplessly flashing “12:00” throughout his house. He was, however, a crack shot, and would have no trouble hitting the TurboKat with the delivery system Dr. Alley was in the midst of demonstrating.

“Just follow the approach of the jet in the viewfinder, when the launcher gets the range information you’ll see ‘Lock’ in the top left corner. Simply pull the trigger, and voila – the device will launch, attach itself to the plane, and self-activate shortly after impact.”

“Okay…then what?” asked Steel, who could already taste the cigars that came with Feral’s office, “..what do I do after that?”

Dr. Alley presented Steel with a device that resembled one of those cheap LCD kids games he’d always given nephews at Christmas – the only difference being that this device had compass directions labelled on it in place of the familiar poorly drawn cartoon characters. Dr. Alley activated the tracking device, and the screen in Steel’s hands came to life, showing a blip near the cross-hairs in the center. He explained that as Steel approached the source of the blip, it would move closer to the center – enabling him to trace the whereabouts of the SwatKats, or at least their jet.

Steel’s plan was beginning to take form, as he practised looking through the launcher in the midst of the Weapons lab. Dr. Alley would be well rewarded for his efforts, just as the SwatKats would also get exactly what they deserved. Tomorrow would be a big day.

PART FOUR

Last part will be Sunday, if nothing stops me filling in the outline later tomorrow. News, first. I’ve been trying to get some questions answered at Hanna-Barbera, but I keep playing telephone tag with Victoria McCollum – three answering machine exchanges in both directions last count. I’ll post the answers if I can.

_________________________________________________________________________

T-Bone awoke to the sound of the alarm clock, which showed the battle scars of many a previous encounter with a solid object. Though a pilot first and foremost, his aim was something to fear, and the alarm clock was immediately silenced by an empty milk glass. The intermittent scream of the TurboKat in the hangar signalled that Razor was already up and preparing for the morning test-run in the Canyon. T-Bone grabbed a handful of stale nachos, two cans of milk, and headed for the ladder.

Razor was a perfectionist, and had been up before even the birds to ensure that nothing unexpected would occur during the work-up run. The new wireless throttle control performed flawlessly, though T-Bone would take awhile to get used to the new calibration. The engines registered an output some 36 percent above average, translating into a groundspeed increase of nearly 120 mph – better than his highest hopes. He didn’t notice the approach of T-Bone, as he leaned into the cockpit to tighten the last remaining screws.

“BOO!”

Razor banged his head on the canopy and dropped the screwdriver, turning to face T-Bone from the ladder.

“Thanks a lump…you just used up about three of my lives!” Razor rubbed the back of his head, and reached out to accept the can of milk offered by T-Bone.

“Sorry pal, I just couldn’t resist. Why didn’t you get me up?”

“Well, I know how you feel about ‘unnecessary modifications’… I just wanted to make sure we weren’t going to have any problems before you got a chance to say ‘I told ya so’. The new stuff’s pretty cool… you get to go even faster!”

Razor knew the weakness of all fighter pilots; the only thing better than “fast” was “faster”. Going 36 percent faster would certainly take T-Bone’s mind off of any concerns regarding “unnecessary modifications”.

T-Bone gave the jet a brief examination, checking the control surfaces and the engine intakes, slamming his empty milk can onto the wing as though it were a show of approval.

“Great! What are we waitin’ for?”

“We were waiting for someone to get up…let’s grab our stuff.”

T-Bone finished off his mouthfull of nachos, “faster” would certainly be a substitute for breakfast today, besides – there was always lunch. They rode the platform up to the runway level, discarding their coveralls in favour of flightsuits on the way.

“Okay buddy…” began Razor, jettisoning the last of his tool belt as he climbed into the second seat, “…keep it slow for the first few clicks…”

“Naturally, Sleeping Beauty – you can’t see how well your stuff works if you’re unconscious…”

“Hah, hah, very funny…just don’t do any high-g climbs until you get used to the new throttle ratio..”

Razor had a fairly low tolerance for g-forces, which had caused him considerable ridicule during flight training at Enforcer Academy. He’d been mercilessly picked on by his fellow trainees, emerging from the centrifuge sessions unconscious more often than not. Nobody had wanted a partner that was liable to pass out in a heavy-g situation, and he’d been ready to call it quits until T-Bone – the most promising pilot candidate – requested him specifically as his Weapons Officer. Razor had never forgotten that, and wasn’t about to get the opportunity; T-Bone called him “Sleeping Beauty” at least once a week!

T-Bone didn’t do any high speed climbing, but pushed the throttle to its limits anyway – easily outpacing the MegaKat Shuttle on its approach to the airport. T-Bone gave the “wing-waggle” salute, which was given in turn by the commercial flight. Everyone loved the SwatKats.

___________________________________________________________________________

Lt. Steel did not love the SwatKats, nor did he love getting up at 4 a.m. to get to the Canyon without being observed from the air. The “Canyon” was once a training are for pilots during MegaWar II, and was renamed “Manx Canyon” shortly after the war’s end. Most locals still referred to it simply as “The Canyon”, and the training area had lain in disuse for over 20 years. At the end of the site was an airstrip left over from the war, and it was here that Steel was heading to lie in wait for the SwatKats. The road leading to the strip was a “road” in name only, and the Enforcer cruiser was taking quite a beating, as was Lt. Steel trying to navigate the machine without the benefit of headlights. Steel turned the car through the remains of the gate, and headed towards what was left of the Hangar, choking through a thick cloud of dust. He drove inside, and once satisfied the vehicle couldn’t be seen from the air, looked around for a building of suitable height – eventually settling on the shell of the Control Tower, some distance across the tarmac. Steel ignored the barely-legible “Keep Out” sign, pushed aside the remnants of the door, and climbed the steel staircase to the platform above. The rusting hulk of the Radar antenna served as a windbreak, and Steel propped himself against it’s base, scanning the canyon walls for the likely approach route of the TurboKat. Dawn broke, the dust devils subsided, and Steel waited for his target.

_________________________________________________________________________

“Gotta hand it to ya, Razor – the TurboKat purrs like a kitten..”

“See…hate to say ‘I told ya so’ but…”

Razor was thrown into his seat as T-Bone yanked back the stick, cued the afterburners, and pushed the throttle to its stop. The resulting sonic boom panicked the herd of cattle below, sending them scattering in every direction.

“Sorry Razor, were you sayin’ somethin’ ?

“I get the message…Head’s up! Approaching first target…”

The “missile lock” warning flashed on the display in both positions. T-Bone banked sharply left in an attempt to break the missile lock, but to no avail. Razor brought up the missile inventory on the Weapons display, and made his choice. The “missile proximity” alarm sounded just as Razor announced:

“Slicer Missile – deployed!”

The Slicer made contact with the control fins of the approaching missile, sending it spinning out of control into the canyon wall – resulting in a spectacular explosion.

“BINGO!!!”

“Um…Razor? Please tell me that was the only explosive one…”

“Hey, you said you didn’t want to ‘sightsee’…next one’s all yours buddy!”

Razor folded his arms across his chest, making it clear that T-Bone would have to deal with the next encounter unassisted. The “missile lock” alarm sounded a full second before T-Bone caught the telltale flash of a missile launching from the canyon wall. He headed directly for a natural land bridge spanning the canyon, and didn’t appear to be altering course quickly enough to suit Razor, who’s worried expression he caught in the mirror.

“Ah, T-Bone…”

Razor was quite obviously distraught, but was determined not to give T-Bone the satisfaction, and kept his arms folded. The “missile proximity” alarm made a curious note coupled with that of the “Terrain Collision” warning, and the land-bridge filled the view ahead. Razor closed his eyes, the signal T-Bone had been waiting for, and the pitch of the TurboKat’s engines changed to a scream as he pulled back the stick and maxed the throttle, causing the TurboKat to climb out of harm’s way, and the missile to slam into the land bridge. Razor’s arms were still crossed, and his eyes tightly shut…causing T-Bone no end of amusement.

“Whatsamatter buddy? No appreciation for the majestic beauty of land formations?”

“No…more like no appreciation for ‘scratch and sniff’ terrain encounters…I thought I said to hold off on the high-g stuff..”

Razor checked the status panel, which showed the wireless throttle link to be performing perfectly.

“Razor, you worry too much…you said yourself that you’d checked everything thoroughly – c’mon, lets have some fun!”

T-Bone brought the jet low into the canyon itself, weaving in and out of the natural obstacles completely by instinct, until the canyon widened out on the approaches to the old airstrip. The “missile lock” warning sounded yet again.

_________________________________________________________________________

Steel had dozed off, and was awakened by the sound of the land-bridge exploding and crashing into the canyon below. He could hear the TurboKat approaching, and scanned the horizon through the launcher’s viewfinder – eventually catching sight of the TurboKat as it cleared the narrow part of the canyon. “Lock” appeared in the top-left corner just as Dr. Alley said it would, and Steel pulled the trigger as the TurboKat drew even with him in a steep bank preparing for another run at the canyon. He followed the track of the projectile through the viewer, watching it impact on the underside of the aircraft just in front of the landing gear as the TurboKat disappeared back up the canyon. He dropped the launcher and rummaged around in his knapsack for the tracking device, wondering how long “shortly after impact” actually meant. He turned on the tracker, and waited for the appearance of the blip. Everything was set, he’d promised certain officers a promotion for helping him bring the SwatKats to justice, even managing to convince them it was Feral’s idea. Once the blip stopped moving, he’d track it to its source, call in the troops, and arrest the SwatKats just in time for the six o’clock news. Feral wasn’t scheduled back from his press event for hours, and once he found out about it – it’d be too late – and everyone in MegaKat City would know that _Commander_ Steel had succeeded where Feral had always failed.

_________________________________________________________________________

“..’Missile Lock’? I didn’t put anything this far out…must be some kind of glitch.”

Razor tapped the “Lock” indicator, hoping the lamp would extinguish.

“Negative buddy, it’s on my panel too…”

Both heads frantically scanned the sky as the “Missile Proximity” alarm screamed that impact was imminent. T-Bone did all the SAM avoidance manuevers he knew how, but nothing was showing up on the Weapons panel, and no missile could be seen. The proximity alarm went to a fever pitch.

“T-BONE!…WE GOTTA PUNCH OUT!!!!!”

Both their hands went automatically to the “eject” levers as T-Bone prepared to blow the canopy, then…nothing. The cockpit fell silent.

“Wha…what happened?!”

“You’re complaining?!! Razor, you must’ve messed somethin’ up

when you were playin’ with the throttle controls…we almost ditched for nothin’ !”

“I..I don’t get it. Those two systems don’t talk…it’s impossible..”

Razor checked the status panel, which showed nothing but green lights, and no indication of a missile event.

“Yeah, well…’impossible’ or not, I’m not flying a plane I don’t trust, and right now I don’t trust the TurboKat…we’re headin’ home…”

T-Bone had a clear mental picture of his father saying the familiar “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, as he set course for the Salvage Yard, watching the reflection of Razor in the mirror still frantically trying to determine the cause of the malfunction. T-Bone pushed the throttles up just as Steel’s transmitter device actuated, causing the interference Dr. Alley had predicted. The cockpit alarm sounded.

“THROTTLE LINK FAIL?!!!…aw, CRUD!!!”

T-Bone fought with the throttle control, as the TurboKat’s engines alternately surged and slowed. The airspeed was dropping, and he knew he’d have to gain as much altitude as possible before the engines quit completely – it would be the only chance for any kind of controlled landing.

“Razor…anything else you’d like to ‘improve’…before we CRASH!!”

“..it doesn’t make any sense, it all checked out…I don’t

understand…”

“Understand later. We’re going to lose the hydraulics when the engines quit, I’m going to have to land it in the Salvage Yard rather than attempt the hangar. I want you to punch out just before we get there…”

“NEGATIVE, T-Bone! We BOTH ride it in, or we BOTH bail out…besides, you’ll need my help with the chutes.”

Neither of them had attempted a dead-stick landing in the TurboKat, but T-Bone would need both hands for the stick, and he knew it. He switched the wing setting to the subsonic mode, and made the last turn before final approach. Steel’s device had managed to knock out every instrument landing system on the jet, and the engines had finally quit altogether. It would be a bumpy ride.

“Fine. Have it your way, Razor. Get your harness as tight as you can stand it, dump your missiles, and gimme the checklist..”

The TurboKat descended evenly, the Salvage Yard and Garage looming ever larger through the perspex of the windshield. Razor began the checklist.

“Fuel Shutoff?” “CHECK…”

“Weapons Systems Off-Line?” “CHECK…”

“Gear Down and Locked?” “CHECK…”

T-Bone knew he’d have to touch down in the uneven area just short of the Salvage Yard, they had only the drag-chutes to slow them down and needed all the runway they could get. The TurboKat would have to end up as close to the Garage as he could judge it, they had to get it out of sight as quickly as possible after landing. T-Bone tightened his harness until he had trouble breathing, as Razor got to the final item on the list.

“Jettison canopy…NOW!”

Wind and dust whipped through the cockpit as T-Bone fought to see through the windshield, it took every ounce of strength just to hold the jet steady without the help of the hydraulics.

“RAZOR…COUNT DOWN WITH ME…FIVE…FOUR…” T-Bone screamed at the top of his lungs, Razor counting in unison.

“…THREE…TWO…”

The ground rushed up and the TurboKat hit heavy. Razor waited for all wheels to touch and deployed the drag-chutes. The Garage was coming up fast, and the chutes appeared to be doing little to slow their approach. The TurboKat shook violently as it encountered potholes and debris on the makeshift runway, and T-Bone waited until the last possible second for the surface to improve before jamming the brake lever full on. Tires screaming in protest, the front landing gear collapsed – plowing the nose hard into the dust and dirt of the yard. T-Bone’s harness ripped away from its mount and threw him into the console, cracking his helmet with the force of the impact. The TurboKat had landed. _________________________________________________________________________

PART FIVE

The dust settled, and T-Bone extricated himself from his position both half on and half under the instrument panel. He wiped away the blood trickling into his eyes from the sizeable gash in his forehead, and sniffed the air for any trace of aviation fuel. He had a pounding headache, and the matted fur beneath his ears told him he’d received a concussion serious enough to warrant attention. After a few attempts, he managed to stand upright and turned to glare at Razor, who sat motionless in his seat, eyes fixed on the floor. Razor looked up to meet T-Bone’s stare, but quickly turned away to escape the judgement it represented.

T-Bone half-fell out of the cockpit, and surveyed the damage – realizing that the TurboKat had little chance of being moved to the hangar without hours of work. They’d certainly be discovered long before that, and he sat down on a pile of debris, fumbling with his helmet strap. Razor rid himself of the harness, climbed out of the cockpit, and sat down next to T-Bone, without even once looking up. T-Bone finally freed the strap and pulled off his helmet, widening the cut above his eye in the process. Razor was alarmed at the amount of blood, and reached out toward him.

“Hey, that looks pretty bad – better let me have a look at it..”

Razor tried moving the fur aside to expose the cut, but T-Bone stood up and knocked his arm away.

“DON’T YOU THINK WE’VE SEEN ENOUGH OF WHAT YOUR ‘HELP’ CAN DO FOR ONE DAY! You should have left well-enough alone, but no, Razor has to screw around, nearly costing us the TurboKat, AND OUR LIVES IN THE PROCESS!!!”

T-Bone threw his helmet against the steel of the garage door, and Razor stared at the ground, shuddering at the sound of the impact.

“I’m sorry, T-Bone…”

But he was talking to himself, and T-Bone walked into the garage, leaving Razor sitting there, kicking in the dust.

_________________________________________________________________________

Feral had enough of the dog-and-pony show that passed for the unveiling of the latest Enforcer vehicle. He’d spent two days of the long weekend at the Proving Ground site, and had no wish to hang around for another one of Manx’s interminable speeches. There was real Enforcer work to be done, and the TV crew would just have to find someone else to misquote that afternoon. He sneaked behind the caravan of Television trucks, and made it to the parking lot unobserved, started his car, and turned on the two-way to see if anything interesting was happening anywhere on such a day. He was just in time to here the voice of Lt. Steel ordering an Enforcer contingent to the MegaKat City Salvage Yard…to arrest the SwatKats. Feral stepped on the gas and ran through the checkpoint without stopping; Steel had overplayed his hand once too often.

_________________________________________________________________________

Side by side, without speaking a word, Razor and T-Bone cleaned themselves up as much as possible, and changed into their coveralls – emerging from the garage just in time to see Lt. Steel leaning nonchalantly against his car, tracker in hand. Steel moved the device toward the TurboKat, and the beeping changed to a steady scream.

“Hi…’SWATKATS’…”

He nodded toward the Enforcers flanking him, who moved towards T-Bone and Razor, handcuffs ready. T-Bone backed away from the approching Enforcers, looking for a defensible position.

“Hey Steel, your momma know you’re out this late?”

Two Enforcers jumped on him, driving his head into the dirt. Razor tripped the Enforcer attempting to handcuff him, and ran towards the others.

“Hey creep, can’t you see he’s got a head injury…”

Razor tackled T-Bone’s assailant, but was himself thrown face-first into the ground, right next to T-Bone. Steel walked towards them.

“Touching. Engaged, or just dating…”

Razor looked up from beneath the knee of his captor.

“Why, Steel….you jealous?”

The remark earned Razor a knee in the shoulderblades, and an extra notch on the handcuffs. Steel headed toward the TurboKat.

“Tsk, Tsk…you should really work on those landings, ‘SwatRats’ – no wonder you got thrown off the force…”

T-Bone growled, his vision blurring with the blood streaming into his eyes. The Enforcers dragged them to their feet, and cuffed them to each other across the telephone pole in the yard. Steel walked back to his car, and leaned up against the fender.

“You know, they’re going to pin a medal on me for capturing you two, I might even get a parade in my honour…”

T-Bone and Razor looked at each other, then despondently at the ground.

“…I can see the headline now…’Steel Captures Vigilante Pilots’, …has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? Search this dump…”

He motioned to the nearest Enforcers, who started toward the garage.

“…and after that, a promotion will be in order…” Steel gestured to an imaginary billboard in the sky, “…how does ‘Commander’ Steel sound?…”

“….PREMATURE.”

No one had noticed Feral’s arrival, and he now stood behind Steel, arms folded.

“Mister…you’ve got a lot of explaining to do…”

Steel was surprised at Feral’s unscheduled appearance, but he held all the cards, and wasn’t the least bit intimidated.

“Explaining? To who…you? I’ve done in two days what you couldn’t in two years…” he said, gesturing toward his prisoners, “..I’ve captured the famous ‘SwatKats’ !”

Feral looked at Steel, then at the SwatKats – meeting T-Bone’s gaze in a mutual display of unbridled hatred. Feral had a decision to make, and could feel that the eyes of every Enforcer were on him. There was much to consider, but certain rules couldn’t be broken by anybody – even himself – and Steel had broken them all.

“These…” Feral said, indicating T-Bone and Razor,”…are the SwatKats? Don’t make me laugh. These two are nothing more than a pair of washed-up cowards; they didn’t have what it takes to be Enforcers, and they certainly don’t have what it takes to be anything more than they are – a couple of pathetic grease-monkeys…”

T-Bone was shaking with rage, but was kicked by Razor before he could utter a single syllable.

“But…what about all the evidence…?”

Steel spread his arms in exasperation, indicating the TurboKat and its surroundings.

“..what evidence? Look around you Steel…where’s the runway, where’s the hangar, where’s any shred of evidence to link these two with the SwatKats?”

Feral’s speech had the desired effect, and the Enforcers around Steel looked around the yard, and began to wonder if they hadn’t been a bit hasty to follow Steel this far. T-Bone and Razor stared at each other in complete bewilderment, Feral’s behaviour was inexplicable.

Steel picked up the tracker, and walked over to the TurboKat, the

beep becoming a continuous screech.

“We..we have the plane, sir…I tracked it all the way from the Canyon to…”

Feral yanked the tracker from Steel’s hand, and tossed it to the ground beside the TurboKat.

“Mister…all you have is an overactive imagination, too much ambition, and a couple of third-rate mechanics caught red-handed stripping a junked jet in their own salvage yard….”

Feral drew a circle in the air with his hand, and the Enforcers returned to their cars. Steel backed away until he bumped into his own car door.

“..y..you’re letting them go…you can’t do that!”

Feral reached past Steel through the open window of the Enforcer cruiser and pulled a metal booklet off the dashboard, slamming it against Steel’s chest, and walking towards the shackled prisoners.

“I..I don’t understand sir,” said Steel, looking at the metal booklet labelled ‘Parking Tickets’, “..what does this mean?”

“You’re a smart guy Steel, work it out.”

Feral threw the handcuff keys at the feet of Razor and T-Bone, then went back towards Steel, opening the car door for him. Steel threw the ticket book inside, slammed the door, and sped off in a cloud of dust. Feral and the SwatKats stared at each other through the dust cloud for what seemed minutes, then he returned to his car and drove off.

Freed from the cuffs, T-Bone picked up a length of pipe and walked over to the tracking device, still screaming in the dirt where Feral had thrown it. He saw the transmitter under the wing almost immediately, and covered his eyes as he smashed the device out of existence, silencing the tracker. The effects of the concussion were beginning to take their toll, and T-Bone collapsed on the ground next to the plane, just managing to sit up. Razor threw the cuffs into the dumpster, dusted himself off, and sat down beside T-Bone.

“Razor..I’m sorry for what I said, none of this had anything to do with you…what can I say?”

Razor looked over the yard, then up at T-Bone who was too ashamed at his behaviour to take his eyes off the ground.

“Well…” Razor paused, lifting up T-Bone’s chin, “…you can say you’ll let me have a look at that cut…”

_________________________________________________________________________

Steel signed his mane, as he did almost a hundred times a day, and placed the ticket under the windshield wiper of MegaKat City’s worst parking violator. He caught the reflection of the TurboKat in the windshield passing above him, as it did often during the course of his new job. He’d have another opportunity some day, even if he had to make it.

THE END

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