The setup was thus: a semicircle, backed on the MegaKat Towers construction site. The edges of the semicircle were landed helicopters with heavily armed Enforcer guards standing by them, facing outward. There was one opening to let katizens in and out; most were not allowed in and many needed to be taken out.
Those who were permitted in were those who had passed the metal detector test and the frisking who had come early; the media; the mayor and Callie; and various Enforcers assigned to guard duty. They looked anxious, as the mayor’s limousine had not yet shown, and as the Cole family, having just got wind of the murder, were screaming in protest on the outside of the circle. Jason, of course, was doubly anxious. He was stationed next to the commander but could say nothing to him. Derek was his “bookend”: he had the same position, opposite side.
Felina came up behind him from inside the construction site. Jason heard her whisper and looked to see that Feral was still staring straight ahead. He turned and she pulled him behind a metal post.
“You seen the headlines?” she asked.
“Felina, I don’t have time for this…”
“I did some checking into our lead.”
“But we’re off that case.”
“Like I care.”
Jason grinned. “I forgot about that.”
“Anyway I checked the records for yesterday, about what kats might have been in the building covered with crud.”
“I think I know who our mole is, and if he did this one -” she began, but Jason cut her off.
“Felina, I KNOW who it is, but I’m powerless to do anything,” he said.
“What? WHY?!” She moved as though to approach her uncle. Jason grabbed her and held her back.
“Something big is going to happen here,” he whispered. “And when it does I’m going to need your help.”
“My help?” she said, narrowing her eyes. “Is that all I’m good for?”
Jason was taken aback. “Of course not-”
“I know. Let’s take this guy out,” she said.
“When he makes his move-”
“-we’ve got him in our sights.”
Felina suddenly looked away, biting her lip. Jason leaned in to see what was the matter.
“Oh, what the hell,” she mumbled, and whirled around.
And kissed him.
Jason melted – for about .40 seconds, as there was a paw on his shoulder: Derek’s.
“They’re here,” was all the tall kat said.
Jason looked at him strangely, then turned back for Felina, but she was gone, having returned to her place on the perimeter. He flipped down the eye screens on his helmet.
Callie always would remember it starting like this.
She sat nervously in the mayor’s limousine, tugging at the hem of her dress and tucking imaginary errant strands of hair back into place. Then the limo pulled up in front of the chosen site, and she tried to remember why it had been selected – oh, yes, because city hall was too difficult to barricade and would back up traffic.
Then the door opened, and she was helped to her feet by – the Commander? Then all around her the Enforcer guards fell in, and she walked up the steps to the platform inside a feline bubble. If only that had kept out sound as well – somekat in the crowd screamed “murderer!” and all of the pictures in her mind came rushing back.
Then she was on the platform, and seated, and the mayor came up to make the announcement. He stood in front of the microphone and when the katizen mob finally quieted to a tolerable volume, he began to read the speech that, ironically, she had written. Finally, he read off the words “MegaKat Cit-tay’s new Deputy Mayor, Calico Briggs,” and there was a moderate amount of applause, and she stood to walk to the podium.
Commander Feral extended his paw for her to shake, and she reached for it, only to take hold of air.
Because the mole had gotten to her.
The OTHER one.
The Secret was trying to sleep. It had been a hard night for him, as his quarry’s wild, uncontrollable, outrageous thoughts swept over him, and he was subjected to a night of partying, Whitepaws-style. Then Derek ingested the alcohol, and things went from bad to worse. The emotions were so strong that he himself had been weakened and confused by them, and for a while had joined Derek in a state of drunken stupor.
But now, he was awake again, and he wished not to be.
For a minute.
He could hear everything Derek was thinking, and knew that the tom could hear everything he thought, too.
‘Make me,’ Derek thought back.
And Derek’s jaw locked.
‘Like that will work. You can’t stop me from doing what I want.’
“I’m tired. Leave me alone.”
‘Well, this was your idea.’
And then, the limousine arrived, and Callie stepped out.
“That’s disgusting!” the Secret barked.
“I don’t want to hear your nasty fantasies.”
It didn’t matter.
The Secret comtemplated unplugging himself as Derek thought on. He hadn’t anticipated any sort of recovery, or such an intrusion.
‘Hm, she’s the deputy mayor now?’ thought Derek as Callie stood up.
“She’s what?!!!” The Secret roared, nearly asleep. “Kill her!”
He certainly hadn’t anticipated this. The two were at war, with Derek’s body their battlefield.
Then Callie reached for Feral’s hand, and a new gameplan was needed, as Sergeant Andrew Gohickey lunged for and grabbed the new deputy, carrying her into the construction site!
“What the HELL?!!” Jason roared.
“HOLD YOUR FIRE!!!” commanded the commander.
Jason ran for his chopper, and to his surprise, Derek ran for it, too. Jase leapt into the pilot’s seat and Derek took the gunner controls. Then he took off. The choppers moved in and orbited the partially-completed building. Such was the problem, and it had a name: ARC.
ARC = Automated Robot Construction ™, incorporated.
The construction site was oblivious to feline activity, and so no kat dared follow Sergeant Gohickey into it.
“Can’t somebody shut that off?” – Feral’s voice crackled over the radio.
Jason looked down. The off switch was clearly visible in the front of the building, clearly and visibly destroyed. This was a setup! The whole thing reeked of treachery.
“Negative,” said Scotty, “the switch is-”
“I can see that, Officer,” Feral snapped.
Sergeant Gohickey had an arm around Callie’s neck and a knife in his paw held menacingly next to her skin. He was standing on a crossbeam which was being raised automatically by a robot-operated crane, threatening all with his laser rifle.
“What does he want?” Jason mumbled.
The crowd had mostly been dispersed, the cowering mayor fleeing to the safety of his vehicle. Jason brought his chopper up and over the top of the demi-skyscraper.
Now Gohickey had made it to the very top of the structure, and was standing on a central crossbeam. He whipped out a megaphone, squeezing the deputy mayor even more tightly.
Jason looked over at Derek, who had a pained expression on his face. Was he or wasn’t he?
“Now here this!” Gohickey roared, launching into a political speech, demanding an end to backwardness, etc., etc., etc., and the invariable ten million dollars to finance his radical terrorist movement.
As soon as Jason heard this, he knew the answer to his question. But before he could make his move, Derek was on the radio.
“I’m going to jump down there,” he announced. “I have a degree in criminal psych and a black belt. If I can’t talk him down, I’ll kick his tail in so hard he’ll fart furballs.”
“What? No!” yelped Jason, but Derek wrested the controls from him and sent the chopper in a dive past, and leapt out onto the crossbeam.
Jason recovered the stick.
“WHISKERS! WHAT is the meaning of this?!” demanded Feral.
“Sir,” Jason answered breathlessly, “- that’s our kat!”
Commander Feral turned to the pilot.
“Felina,” he said, “bring us in closer – but don’t do ANYTHING suspicious.”
“Roger that,” she said, sunlight glinting off her eye screens in a way that caused her to appear almost heroic.
Sergeant Gohickey wasn’t surprised that they tried this. He was just surprised that they tried it so soon. He backed away from the other kat slowly, cautiously as the beam was only about eighteen inches wide.
“Come now, I’ve only come to talk,” said Derek. “Look – I’m unarmed.”
He tossed his gun over the side, and both toms listened for the crash as it landed, 500 feet down. Derek took a step forward, and Gohickey took one back, but very quickly. He whipped out his gun and trained it on Derek. Now Callie’s feet were in the air, suspended over the side. She looked down, but couldn’t see the ground.
That was a bad thing, she decided, and did her best to stay still.
Derek took another, very small step towards the two, still holding his palms in front of him.
Jason lowered the chopper by the edge of the skeleton, and set it in hover mode.
On the opposite side of the building, Felina did the same.
“I’ve come to talk to you,” said Derek, trying to remember his training – a difficult task for someone with severe brain damage.
“I’m listening,” said Gohickey. “But I want my ten million, or she dies.”
“So kill her, the mayor seems to have plenty of extras,” grumbled the Secret.
“So kill her, the mayor seems to have plenty of extras,” said Derek.
Sergeant Gohickey stared at him, surprised.
“What is this? Is THIS how the academy trains you creeps now?”
Callie was surprised, too. She strained her eyes to the side, cursing the fact that glasses allowed for very poor peripheral vision. But she recognized that voice.
Commander Feral seemed to like letting the new blood in on the important jobs, didn’t he.
Gohickey adopted a more defensive stance as Derek acquired one of attack.
“Sergeant, is it?” Derek grumbled. “You’re one hell of a cruddy sergeant, you know that? Going after innocent she-kats and holding them at knifepoint – and for what? You might as well use the knife on yourself – your career is over, and you’ll never get the cash.”
Now Gohickey took a step in. His grip on Callie was beginning to slip, and she had to hold on to his arm with both paws for fear of becoming a permanent decoration in the floor of MegaKat towers.
“She ain’t innocent. She’s a killer herself, ain’t ya, doll.”
Callie scowled and made a noise, but she had slipped far enough that she was beginning to choke.
Derek took a step in.
“No she isn’t,” he said.
The real Derek was fighting for control. Seeing her, here – every part of HIM cried out to help her. The Secret, it seemed, was letting him, but kept moving him forward against his instinctive judgment. The Secret’s plan hit him – he was going to fight the guy whether he liked it or not.
And if he fought him, he’d kill Callie.
Derek felt that if he could say the right things, perhaps he could make it so that the kat would not allow him to fight, but his brain was scrambled and he couldn’t think.
‘Get out of my head,’ he growled mentally.
The Secret laughed, and Derek took a step in. Sergeant Gohickey pointed the laser rifle at the dark tom’s toe and blasted the metal right in front of it. Derek jumped back with slightly unsure footing, and he wobbled a little, trying to regain his balance.
So that was his game, was it? Damage his equilibrium, recenter his gravity – screw with his jumps? The Secret fought dirty. Derek growled. If only he could think straight, if only he could understand what was going on – if only he could remember how to react, or what it was to reason. To get from point A to point C through B and not through G for guess.
“Move one step closer and I’ll slit her throat.”
“Oh, he will not!” snapped the Secret. “And give up his hostage?”
Derek took a step closer, and Gohickey took another step back.
Felina readied herself at the chopper jump point, gauging the distance to the metal, and the width of it. This was a precision leap.
“Felina, hold back! This is not your fight!”
Feral was serious. Gohickey was now looking from side to side like a madman, waving the rifle again.
“Any of your friends gonna jump me now?” he roared. “A bunch of idiots, that’s what they are. All afraid I’ll kill her. Ought to just give me the money.”
Derek leered at him.
‘You can control my face now?’ he thought.
Gohickey looked to Felina’s chopper.
Felina saw him, and he saw her.
“He’s going to shoot! JUMP, Uncle!!!” she screamed, and kicked him out the chopper’s other hatch, then jumped herself as a snake of anti-aircraft laser fire struck the propellor blades, and the metal bird fell out of the sky.
Commander Feral pulled the rip cord of his parachute, and floated down to the rooftop of a nearby building. The helicopter landed only a few yards away from him, and he crawled out from under the ‘chute to look for Felina. He grabbed his binoculars from his pocket, and sighted her.
She hadn’t quite made the precision leap – she’d missed the ledge by inches in her haste, and instead had fallen down to catch the ledge for the floor beneath. She struggled to pull herself up onto it, hoping that the renegade sergeant didn’t see her and decide to finish what he’d started.
He didn’t, because as he was firing, Derek had lashed out and stole the gun from the kat’s paw.
In response, Gohickey had leapt onto a crossbeam on a crane. He tightened his grip on Callie, but loosed his grip on the knife, which was now pointing away from her neck. Derek looked over the edge of his platform to see Gohickey sneering at him from below.
“So long, sucker!” he yelled.
Jason used the distraction to his own advantage and he, too, leapt from his chopper and onto the metal crossbeam. But he landed too hard and the sound made Derek turn around, gun in paw.
And Jason scurried to the other end of the beam with a volley of rapid laser fire at his heels.
“Did you see that?!!” Scotty screamed over the intercom.
“I DID!” another pilot yelped back.
“Then we have no choice! Hornet maneuvers, everyone!”
The choppers became like the buzzing insects, flying in random-seeming paths around the players in the central ring. The idea was that one chopper would be nearby in case someone needed help.
“Hornet maneuvers?” Jason whispered, hiding behind a metal post. “For they’re sake, they’d better stay away from Derek and me!”
He looked down and saw how high up he was, and suddenly understood how Jimmy Stewart got vertigo in the Hitchcock film of the name.
“Crud,” he muttered, and turned to face the post. Then he wrapped his arms and legs around the metal beam and shimmied down a level.
Derek was not about to let Gohickey get away that easily, and once Jason had disappeared behind a metal shield, he turned back to watch for another crane.
“Thank your lucky stars I’m a genius,” the Secret told him, and Derek jumped, falling five stories and landing perfectly on the crane.
‘Like hell,’ Derek retorted, his legs aching from the somewhat bone- jarring impact.
Gohickey looked over and saw Derek Whitepaws rising up to meet him.
Then Derek raised the gun, reached out, grabbed Callie’s arm, and fired a round directly into the sergeant’s face. Gohickey’s body went limp, and he fell forwards, the remnants of his head colliding with Derek’s beam, before he fell the rest of the way down to the ground.
Callie screamed as her shoulder was wrenched from its socket. Derek pulled her up and next to him, then wrapped his arm around her in the same manner as Gohickey.
“Lovely day, isn’t it,” he purred in her ear.
Jason and Felina both watched in horror as Derek blew Gohickey away, then turned around to take Callie hostage himself.
A nondescript Enforcer pilot took Feral into his chopper and now Feral himself was a witness to the harrowing scene.
“Give me that megaphone!” he demanded.
“Yes, Sir,” said the also nondescript gunner, handing it to him.
Commander Feral leaned out the chopper’s starboard side. Derek was hopping from platform to platform in a downward direction. Jason and Felina both were following him, but more slowly as they had to climb down the posts. Feral scowled deeply. The back of his neck was drenched in sweat.
“This is Feral!” he announced. “Officer! Return Miss Briggs and proceed to the ground!”
“Ooooh, I don’t think so,” chirped the Secret, and Derek jumped to grab a chain with a hook on the end that was rising.
He wrapped his arm with gun around it and proceeded to fire on the chopper. It dove to port, out of the way, but Feral’s elbow was singed.
Now Feral was angry.
Jason could see that he had made it to Derek’s level, as Derek had moved from the swinging beams to another 18 incher. However, as he was on a lower floor, there were more of them – here they were two yards apart.
Derek had moved down to this level, aware that the lower he went, the less able the choppers were to follow him.
Of course, it was the Secret, not Derek, that knew this. What he didn’t know was that Jason had come down this far, or that Enforcer tanks had surrounded the area.
“Officer Whitepaws!” Feral bellowed. “You are aware that what you are doing will result in a court-martial!”
‘Is that all,’ thought Callie dryly.
“Actually,” Derek sang, hopping to another beam and brandishing his laser rifle menacingly, “I’m not aware of anything at all!”
“You’re crazy!” Callie shouted.
“Now where have I heard *that* before,” Derek laughed, and turned to look at her, and brush the hair from her face. “You really are pretty, you know.”
“That’s SICK!” the Secret snapped.
“Oh, you stay out of this,” Derek grumbled, still playing with Callie’s hair.
“Who? Who are you talking to?”
“Why, my dear!” he crowed, and put a finger to her lips. “It’s a *secret*!”
He laughed maniacally and sent another volley of laser fire after Feral’s chopper.
“That’s it, stay there…” said Jason under his breath as he crept around the building perimeter, hoping to overtake his ex-best friend from behind.
From a level up, Officer Felina Feral watched her friend and erstwhile partner creep along, and she realized his plan. He was getting closer –
– and she could see that Derek’s gun was still nearly fully charged.
She couldn’t let this one fail, or else she knew she’d have nightmares of the Headless Jason chasing her down on a skyscraper with a pumpkin under his arm for weeks, if not months.
A distraction was necessary.
“Hey, LOSER!” she roared at the top of her lungs. “Shoot me if you can, SILVER-BOY!”
Derek looked up, angered, and fired three rounds, one of which grazed Felina in the shoulder, and she lost her balance and fell.
“FELINA!” Jason shouted, and lunged for Derek with a felicidal gleam in his eye.
Derek swung around, and saw Jason’s paws on a collision course with his neck. Fear took over and for a brief second, the Secret lost control. The large tom’s grip on Callie became as strong as his grip on sanity.
And she fell, too.
And Jason’s paws hit their mark, and the pair flew backwards, Jason landing on top of Derek, and Derek landing on the steel on his back.
* * *
Felina felt a sudden jerk, and practically the second she’d begun to fall, the fall itself was done, and she was in the arms of Scotty Angora’s gunner.
“You guys crazy?” she screamed at them. “You could have cut me up in the propellor blades!”
“Could ha’, but dinna,” said Scotty, who, like the mayor, experienced a thickening of accent in stressful siuations. He turned the chopper in for a pass over the heads of the sparring officers.
Callie landed with a thud three stories down. Fortunately, the shoulder pads in her pink suit-dress absorbed most of the impact.
At that moment she thought to herself that maybe she ought to wear it more often.
“Holy Kats!” she exclaimed, as soon as she got some of the wind back in her.
Then she looked down.
She was nowhere near as high up as she had been, and, in fact, she appeared to be descending – which meant she might actually be getting away!
Then she looked up.
As soon as he landed, Derek used the momentum to send Jason flying over his head and further down the narrow crossbeam. Jason skidded chin-first along the metal surface until he came to a stop. He went to lift himself up, but no sooner had he gotten his chest up than Derek came smashing down on his back, driving him back into the agracite beam.
Derek now grabbed him by the hair.
‘Oh, no,’ thought Jason, and he pushed himself up enough to jab an elbow into Derek’s solarplexis.
Derek staggered back a few steps, and tried to gather his breath.
“You useless bastard!” the Secret roared. “KILL HIM!”
Derek was gagging.
Jason saw his chance to get away, and he jumped for it.
Unfortunately, the beam swung around before moving upward, and Derek had recovered enough to jump up to the other end of it.
That was where Callie looked up.
And that was where Felina looked down.
“Somebody should save the lassie,” said Scotty.
“It’s too dangerous to drop a ladder,” Felina informed him.
The radio buzzed to life.
“Felina!” – it was the commander. “Are you all right!”
“She’s fine,” replied Scotty.
Felina rubbed her wounded elbow and felt something sticky and warm.
“Completely,” she added.
“Then – attention Officer Angora – return to ground immediately.”
“Oh, no you don’t,” Felina grumbled.
Scotty looked at her. Her jaw was set. She was determined.
“I’ll fly us in for a pass. Take the hand cannon,” he whispered, and pulled the chopper in to the side of the building; low, about two levels above Callie’s position.
Felina grinned the grin of a warrior, grabbed the aptly-named “hand cannon”, slung it over her shoulder, and leapt out the starboard hatch.
Jason knew he had to act quickly, and when Derek flew at him, he jumped off the moving beam and grabbed the chain of another, swinging his feet out and kicking the gun from the larger officer’s paw. Derek skidded to a halt at the end of the beam with arms in a bearhug of the air. He whirled around, only to see his gun lying on a beam two levels beneath, and his friend cum-nemesis attempting to climb up a descending chain.
Callie’s beam descended lower. She heard a sound, and looked up at its origin to see Officer Feral with a massive gun.
“Officer Feral!” she called, waving.
Felina looked down and leapt onto a swinging beam. It was on an intercept course with Callie’s.
Callie had been thinking. It seemed to her that if the thing would just stay still, like a building should, then it would be a lot easier to get the choppers inside and the Enforcers could catch this guy.
Such was her logic.
Felina jumped down onto Callie’s beam.
“Ms. Briggs,” she greeted. “Are you hurt?”
“No – but you are,” said Callie. “You shouldn’t be down here.”
Felina laughed dryly.
Callie wasn’t listening. She was looking up – where the drama had escalated.
Derek reached out and grabbed Officer Whiskers from the chain.
“Not fast enough,” laughed the Secret.
“Not fast enough,” said Derek.
Jason struggled in the deathgrip and Derek brought him about, holding him over the abyss.
“You wouldn’t!” Jason gasped.
The beam moved all the way over to the edge of the building. Derek stepped off onto what would be a wall. An automatic riveter was smashing nails into two sections of metal so to join them.
“You’re right, I wouldn’t,” the Secret laughed.
“You’re right, I wouldn’t,” said Derek.
He held Jason up to the edge, where the riveter was about to descend.
“I’m so much more creative!”
The Secret’s words were Derek’s words, but no matter the origin, they terrified Jason.
He struggled, hearing the dreaded “punch – punch – punch” growing closer and closer.
And he got a grip of Derek’s cuff.
His other paw caught the lapel.
“HA!” he roared, and suddenly the roles were reversed.
Jason pulled Derek away with the rivet in his shoulder, pushing him down onto the metal.
“Useless!” the Secret roared. “Useless! Emotional! WEAK!”
Derek wiped the blood from the corner of his mouth, then pressed his paw to his shoulder.
Jason gestured for a nearby chopper to pick them up.
“I am NOT weak!” Derek growled.
He looked down.
There, beneath him, and just a few paces across a beam to the left, was the gun.
He turned to see the chopper approach.
Derek landed on the beam, took two steps out, and grabbed the gun, turning and firing on the chopper. Jason dived down out of the way and the bolts whizzed over his head.
Flawless logic, Felina conceded. The problem was they couldn’t shut the machinery off – the switch was destroyed.
“Well, isn’t there a backup somewhere?” Callie wanted to know.
“Beats me,” Felina admitted.
Callie dropped to her knees. The beam was almost down to the first floor now, and she looked around to see what there was to see. Felina copied the effort.
On the first floor, things were looking a bit hazardous. Only half the floor was in; the central area was completely open on the basements. Callie could see the decapitated body of her first attacker in among the rubble that had fallen from above. She felt ill.
“This entire thing, created by robots…” Felina marvelled.
“All of it?” asked Callie. “What about the detail work?”
“And what about laying the floor, pouring and smoothing the concrete in the basement?”
Felina shrugged again. “What’s your point?” she asked.
“Don’t you think that when a floor is finished by the robots, that the workers might then come in?”
“If that was true…”
“Then there would be-”
“A switch on the outside to shut it off, then one on the inside so robot AND kat could work!”
“And the one on the inside-”
“In the lowest basement!” Callie exclaimed.
Felina looked up at Derek and Jason.
“If we can get to it, then we can stop the moving platforms, but if Jason falls, then he doesn’t have a chance in hell,” said Felina.
Callie looked over to where another beam was on its way to being picked up and brought god knows how far up.
“Unless you were there to help him,” she offered.
Felina whirled on her.
“*I* have to cut the power!” she snapped.
“And I *don’t* take ‘no’ for an answer!”
Callie glared at her.
“I can do it,” she said. “I’m not stupid. And they need you up there.”
“I’m going to cut the power.”
Callie stood her ground.
“Look, if we’re going to BOTH be around then we’re going to have to accept that we’re BOTH the strong type and live with it,” she said.
There was the sound of gunfire from above and the she-kats heard the distinctive sound of a crashing helicopter.
“Cut the power,” Felina ordered. “I’m going to blow the nuts off this cretin.”
She could see why her uncle didn’t like this one.
She jumped onto the beam as it rose, and didn’t look back.
Jason only hid behind the beam for a moment. He slapped his pockets all in turn, wishing he hadn’t left his gun in the chopper.
He put that blunder at number two on his list of idiot things he’d done, the dubious honor of number one still held by not figuring out that it was Derek BEFORE the guy turned and tried to kill him.
Talk about coming up and biting you.
All Jason had was his bootknife, and a tranq dart. A laser blast made the air around him sizzle.
Again he wrapped himself around the post to slide down.
Some of the other choppers, now that Jason and Callie both were out of the way, had begun to fire on Derek, and now he was running for his life from the even rows of bullet holes that marked his trail and threatened to catch up to him. As soon as the bullets stopped coming, he turned and fired.
Another chopper now swooped in, firing on Derek. It collided with a swinging beam and exploded.
And Derek ran – smack into Jason.
“Didja miss me?” Jason purred, punching the black kat right between the eyes.
Feral saw the chopper explode, and growled. He had ordered his appropriated chopper to land on the rooftop onto which he had parachuted earlier. But Feral was mainly angry at Scotty Angora.
“Officer! How dare you allow my niece to leap from your chopper against my orders?!” he demanded.
“Sir, it wasna my fault!” Scotty protested. “And besides, she knows what she’s doing.”
“Don’t you think I *know* that,” grumbled Feral. “Unfortunately, what she’s doing isn’t something that ever works!”
“Give her a chance,” Scotty pleaded, knowing he was bordering on insubordination.
“I’ll give her fifty,” Feral admitted. “But she’d better come out of this alive.”
‘Or you’ll never forgive yourself,’ thought Scotty, but he didn’t say a word.
Callie jumped off the beam and landed in a patch of nearly-dried cement. She ran over to the edge of the floor, her pink pumps sticking to it, so she abandoned them somewhat disgustedly.
It was as she and Felina had suspected. There was a ladder which led down into a nearly-completed basement. However, the place was huge, and she didn’t know where to look.
She had to try. No matter the events of the days before, this was a day of its own with its own battle to be fought, and she would be able to fight it. And she needed to do her part.
She flipped a switch on the wall and some strips of florescent lighting flickered on; enough to guide her to the staircases down. She set off for them in a run.
Felina wished the blasted post would hoist itself up faster.
Derek was seeing stars, stumbling backwards from the force of Jason’s blow. Jason then followed it up by a right to the gut and a left to the jaw.
“USELESS!!” the Secret screamed again. “USELESS!”
And Derek, through the pain, had his own thought.
‘I don’t want to fight my friend,’ he thought.
The Secret was hysterical. He didn’t know what to do.
“Fight! Fight, you fool!”
Derek swung a hard right, colliding with Jason’s jaw. Now he was the one retreating.
Derek hit Jason again, harder. He’d dropped the gun again. Jason howled in pain. Derek swung a left. Jason ducked, and jumped onto a beam.
Felina’s beam had gone as high as it was going to go.
She leapt off it, hoping that that she-kat would cut the power soon, as she could now see Jason and Derek up two levels higher, fighting tooth and claw on a beam which was, so far as she could tell, completely isolated. They were relatively close by – within shooting distance.
She bit her lip, steadied the hand cannon, and waited.
Jason swung a left, and Derek grabbed his paw. He moved as though to try to twist Jason’s wrist, and Jason merely pulled his paw from the glove. He unsheathed his claws and slashed at Derek’s face.
“I don’t want to fight you,” Derek said.
“WHAT?!!! SHUT UP!!!” the Secret roared, and Derek punched Jason in the jaw.
Jason was confused. He ducked the next blow, then darted down and through the legs of his attacker.
“You’re my friend,” said Derek.
“You’re a murderer!” Jason roared, and knocked Derek’s helmet off.
And he saw it.
Sticking out of the side of Derek Whitepaws’s head.
“You’re dead!” Derek roared, and pushed him to the metal surface, pinning his arms behind him.
But the Secret hadn’t done that, or thought that, or said that.
Abandonment of the cause!
The Secret was of two minds, and it had made him stark raving mad.
How he wished he could shut himself off.
Break the link.
But he couldn’t.
He couldn’t destroy HIS implant…
But he could destroy the other.
He readied an agracite metal arm over the “destruct” button, which he had conveniently thought to include.
This is what death feels like, Jason realized, and it’s about to happen to me.
Derek was ranting at him.
“And you thought you could trust me? There’s no one in the WORLD to trust! They’ll find you – he’ll find you!”
‘He?’ thought Jason.
Derek increased the pressure.
“You think you know everything. You think you know what happened to me. You think *I* killed. You think you think. You’re next. He knows you now. I kept quiet, hid my thoughts – hid you! To keep you safe! He’ll kill you next!”
“Derek, Derek…” Jason mutter/moaned. “I don’t understand… what happened…”
“Why aren’t you fighting?!” Derek demanded. “Don’t you KNOW an Enforcer never relents?”
And the pressure lightened.
“Fight, blast you!” the Secret roared.
And then, there was a tremendous creaking sound, and the beam stopped moving up, and began to sway gently in the breeze.
Jason took advantage of the moment to slip out of the pin.
“Whaddaya know,” Felina mumbled.
She studied the setup.
Jason’s beam was alone, except for one two levels beneath it, which hung perpendicular. There was nothing at all between Felina and that beam. Nothing. Nothing she could use to get to him.
She needed a chopper.
Callie had done it. She’d thrown the switch.
And that was it?
All she had to do?
This saving the day thing was strange.
Still, she relished the opportunity.
Maybe now the media might forgive her.
Lieutenant Bolden had the warring pair in her sights, but she could do nothing. Then she spied Felina. Then everything stopped moving.
“Perfect!” she said, swooping in and dropping her rope ladder.
She detested Felina.
And now she would rescue the kid.
Jason dived at Derek, but Derek didn’t fight back. He had a deranged look in his eyes. Then he put his paws to his head, and Jason heard the small explosion.
But it didn’t kill him.
Derek’s last thought was from the Secret.
“You must WIN!”
With a wild expression, he flung himself at Jason, stealing his bootknife and slashing at him.
Jason screeched as Derek sliced his thigh.
And then he saw the rope ladder.
He grabbed for it.
He caught it.
Derek raised the knife.
He pulled himself up.
The knife came down, missing him by inches.
Felina held her breath.
With a mad cry, Derek drew back, readying the knife.
Lieutenant Bolden, who hated Felina, decided to pull the chopper out that way, over her head with the rope ladder.
But Derek, madman, had other ideas.
He threw the knife.
It sliced through the ladder.
And Jason fell.
Fell and caught the ledge at Felina’s feet.
The expression on his face was one of fear.
The expression on hers hard and angry.
She was looking up, where the late morning sun made the body of the lunatic appear… as a shadow.
And it was to that shadow she looked.
And Derek looked back.
And he let out a hiss.
Just a hiss.
And Felina fired.
And hit the chain.
And severed it.
And Derek fell.
Fell all the way to a puddle of wet cement on the first floor.
Felina set down the gun and helped the battered Jason up. She looked at him with an expression no kat had ever seen before.
Lieutenant Bolden brought the chopper around for them, but they paid no attention.
Felina put her arms around Jason’s shoulders, and he put his exhausted arms around her waist.
“Now,” she said, “where were we?”
And everything was beautiful.
And somehow, Derek survived the fall.
But everything else could wait.
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Disclaimer: SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron is copyright to Hanna-Barbera Cartoons Inc. All Rights Reserved. © 1995. All other characters and material within this page are the property of their respective creators.