Title: The Doctors of Doom
Author: Bill Hiers
E-mail address: email@example.com
Rating: PG / K+
Warnings: Usual amount of violence for the show.
Disclaimer: The SWAT Kats and all related characters are copyright Hanna-Barbera.
Thunk! The moss-covered rock hit the chain once more. Murdoch, sweating, grunted and raised it over his head again. He was a big kat, muscles bulging through the prison-issue white shirt and plain brown pants he was wearing.
He and four other convicts had just gotten done escaping from an Enforcer substation located on the outskirts of the city, where they’d been awaiting transport and fled into the depths of Megakat Swamp. Thunk! The rock came down, destroying the last of the chains linking him and his four cohorts together. Satisfied, he tossed the rock aside with a splash.
“Boys, we’re a chain gang no longer,” he said. “Now we’re just a plain old gang. And, I’m the leader. Any objections?”
There were none. His nickname during his frequent prison sentences was “Murderin’ Murdoch.” Nobody knew if he ever actually had killed anyone, but he looked tough enough that nobody really ever questioned him.
“Good, now come on!”
The five of them turned and trudged through the swamp. Although Murdoch was confident they were home free, his fellow prisoners were of the nervous, jumpy sort.
“Hey, Murd, how come we’re in Megakat Swamp again?” asked one of the other cons.
“‘Cause, genius, the Enforcers will never think to look for us in this place!” Murdoch replied.
As they went on, the water they were wading through gradually got deeper and slimier. Something slithered down from a tree. It was a large snake with three glowing eyes. It opened its mouth and hissed at the convicts. Startled, one of them grabbed the three-eyed reptile by the neck and flung it away. Landing in the water with a splash, it swam off.
“This place ain’t natural!” he said.
“Yeah, well, it’s our ticket outta spendin’ the rest of our nine lives in jail,” Murdoch snapped. “So, shut up and keep movin’!”
The further they proceeded the less leaves there were on the trees, and the larger, more deformed, gnarled and twisted they became. The escaped prisoners had found their way into the heart of the swamp, known to those who lived on its edges as “the Dead Forest.” It was a polluted, sludgy, nearly lifeless area with huge trees rising up out of the fetid water like skyscrapers. They looked unhealthy, sick, dead yet somehow still living.
From the largest tree of all, one of the convicts saw what appeared to be a light shining through a kind of window. “Look! I see a light ahead!”
Murdoch squinted in the darkness. He saw it, too. “Someone’s crazy enough to live here…?”
“What if it’s, y’know… him?” asked another con, terrified.
The one who’d first spotted the light seemed scared, too. “Y-Yeah, Murd? What if it’s D-D-Dr. Viper…?”
Murdoch became angry. “It ain’t Dr. Viper! Everyone knows that freak lives in the sewers. Now come on.”
He trudged on. As they passed by some of the smaller trees, each con broke off a large, thick branch to use as a cudgel. They finally arrived at the base of the tree, which Murdoch estimated to be at least twelve stories tall. Alongside it was a crude dock of sorts, onto which the five cons climbed.
“I don’t see any entrance…” said the third convict.
Neither did Murdoch at first. Turning, he noticed a ladder hanging down and looked up. It went up to a large knot in the side of the tree serving as a natural balcony of sorts. He smirked.
“I think we found our mysterious swamp hermit host’s front door, boys,” Murdoch said.
“Now what?” asked the third con.
“Up, dummy,” replied Murdoch, gesturing to the ladder with his cudgel.
He went up first. Lead by example, he liked to say. He was followed by three of the other four convicts, but the second convict, the one who’d been so creeped out by the three-eyed snake, lingered on the dock.
“Are you guys sure this is such a good idea?” he asked.
“If you’re such a scaredy-kat, stay down there!” Murdoch called down.
He and the other three continued climbing.
The second con, sighing, scratched his head, growing more worried by the minute. “Be careful!” he called after them. “W-Watch out for possums and stuff!”
The knot had a knothole. A deep one. It served as a kind of tunnel into the rotted, hollowed-out interior of the tree, which was honeycombed with different rooms and chambers, most of which, it turned out, were empty. Brandishing their tree branch cudgels, Murdoch and his three companions proceeded deeper into the interior, following the source of the faint light they’d seen coming through the window.
As they passed the walls, enormous, thickly-veined eyes opened, turning to watch them go. But, each time a one of them sensed they were being watched and turned, the eyes closed in time… only to reopen and continue staring at them as they headed off.
The group entered the main hollow of the tree, which seemed to serve as a living area. There was a ratty couch, two armchairs, and a crooked, ramshackle coffee table. Aside from this, the room was entirely given over to lab equipment of all things, with a huge worktable covered with flasks, beakers and retorts. Murdoch was baffled. His companions were becoming angry, impatient and scared.
“What is this place?” asked the third con.
“I dunno,” Murdoch admitted, “but we’ll steal whatever we can, then leave.”
He heard the sound of movement. The four kats turned to see a figure lying on a cot across the room, its back to them. A blanket was pulled up over it. Murdoch smirked, his confidence returning. The owner, he thought.
“Must be the owner,” he told his cohorts. “I’ll go wake ‘im up and ask if he’s got anything worth takin’.”
Another con grabbed his sleeve. Murdoch looked down at the hand grabbing him, then up at its owner’s face, which was deeply entrenched on the right cheek by a knife scar. He was annoyed at this challenge to his authority.
“Forget it!” whispered the scarred convict with hoarse fear. “I don’t like this! Why bother? This guy ain’t got nothin’ we need! Let’s just get outta here!”
“Relax,” said Murdoch, jerking his arm free. He smacked his cudgel into the open palm of his hand. “This old swamp hermit ain’t gonna give us any trouble.”
Nearby, the other two convicts were examining the chemistry apparatus on the table, watching as the chemicals heated and bubbled over bunsen burners and flowed through spiralling glass tubes. It was beginning to dawn on them just where they were. Murdoch was wrong. Dr. Viper didn’t live in the sewers…
“M-Murd,” said the second con, “hey, listen…”
But, Murdoch was already at the cot. He gave the sleeping figure a poke with his cudgel. It shifted a little. There was a buzzing noise.
“Wake up, you old weirdo!” he growled.
Upon getting no response, he reached down to grab him even as the con with the scar, wary, rushed forward in an effort to stop him, but it was too late; Murdoch grabbed the sleeping figure’s shoulder and shook him. He started to demand to know whether he had any valuables or tools, when suddenly the kat in the cot rolled over to reveal a hideous sight. Murdoch gasped aloud and backed up as the figure rose from the cot.
He had brown fur and bulging compound green eyes like a fly. Two twitching antennae sprouted from his forehead. There were deep scars radiating out from the center of his face. He was clad in only the ragged remains of clothing, including a filthy lab coat with the sleeves ripped off, a threadbare dress shirt open to the waist and loose pants that looked far too large on his sticklike legs. Huge membranous wings buzzed and flapped behind him.
The creature that had once been MASA’s Dr. Harley Street was most displeased at having his rest so rudely disturbed. So stunned was Murdoch by the half kat, half Ci-Kat-A’s appearance that he just stood there as Street grabbed his arm and bit into it using his thick mandibles. Yelping, Murdoch dropped his makeshift cudgel and collapsed to the floor, writing in pain as a fire shot through him and burned its way into his mind. He squeezed his eyes shut.
The scarred convict lunged forward, swinging his tree branch like a baseball bat, but Street grabbed it, yanking it from the startled con’s grasp. He snapped it in half, then grabbed its owner and bit him. Crying out as he too experienced the agonizing pain, he fell down to writhe painfully alongside Murdoch. Slowly, their twitching and thrashing stopped as they understood. They’d been chosen to serve a higher power. Opening their eyes to reveal they had become green and insectoid like Street’s, they rose slowly from the floor almost robotically.
From across the room, the remaining cons dropped their branches and turned to run. Just then, a green, striped kat with spiky black hair and a loosefitting lab coat entered, carrying a kerosene lantern. A thick, snakelike tail lashed angrily behind him.
“What’sss all this ruckusss?” demanded an annoyed Dr. Viper.
At the sight of the intruders, he became enraged. His tail whipped around, hitting one of them. He was sent flying into the wall. Hitting it, he slid down into a dazed heap. The remaining convict whimpered in fear as the tail now slowly encircled him and squeezed him, lifting him up off of his feet.
“Intrudersss, eh…?” mused Viper, calmer now that he’d dispensed punishment and had the remaining would-be thief in his coils. “I know jussst what to do with the likes of you!”
Dr. Street walked over to the unconscious convict over by the wall, bending over him. He bit his shoulder.
What was going on? wondered the con in Viper’s grip. This was like some horrible nightmare. “Wh-What’s happening?!”
“Nothing that need concern you,” Dr. Viper said, hissing soothingly, like a lover. “In a moment, I assure you, you won’t care one little bit.”
Using his tail, he held the squirming convict out towards Street. Rising from his task, Street turned menacingly towards the last remaining normal kat as his bitten victim rose, bug-eyed, stiff, like a zombie behind him.
“You’re going to be jussst like your friendesss!” Viper hissed. “Isssn’t that nice?” Turning to Dr. Street, he said, “Doctor, if you pleassse?”
“With pleasure, Doctor,” replied the bug-eyed former MASA scientist with a slight “buzz” to his voice.
He advanced towards the held-out convict, who loosed a terrified scream.
Still waiting outside for his friends, the convict on the dock heard the scream and jumped. He turned to look up the ladder he’d last seen his companions ascend.
“Guys?” he called. “You okay up there?”
He heard a bubbling sound behind him and turned. There was a stirring amidst the murky swamp water. An enormous mushroom cap topped with feline ears broke the scummy surface and started towards the dock like a shark fin. There was a sudden eruption of water and a hideous roar, and the convict, holding his useless branch “weapon,” had a brief impression of glowing red eyes and an enormous mouth rushing towards him before everything went black. He felt himself slurped up and his scream was abruptly cut off. There was a rumble around him as a thick, wet belch issued forth from Dr. Viper’s mushroom monster.
Burke and Murray Schlepper sat on the hood of a beat up old station wagon, which was parked facing a sort of thrown together obstacle course. The normally rugged dirt ground of the salvage yard had been smoothed into a path that snaked its way around various junk piles. At various points on this makeshift track there were enormous, age-pitted, weather-beaten concrete dividers and piles of dirt, some with ramps made from plywood boards, some without, and tunnels made using whatever happened to be at hand.
Burke reached into a cooler sitting next to him that contained more water than ice and grabbed a bottle of new grape-flavored Kitty Kola. Popping the cap using a fridge magnet bottle opener, he handed it to his brother. Murray took it and sipped it. Both brothers were wearing sleeveless tank tops and shorts due to the summer heat, which seemed to beat down on the salvage yard the hardest. Murray belched. Burke grabbed himself a bottle of soda from the cooler as Chance Furlong zoomed into view on rollerblades, followed by Jake Clawson right on his heels. The duo came literally flying into view, sailing through the air, having ramped off one of the plywood boards.
Chance slalomed around some strategically-placed obstacles consisting of random junk, giving a big yell. Behind him, Jake just as expertly navigated the obstacles. Both of them were stripped to the waist in the hot afternoon sun, and aside from sticker-covered rollerblading helmets, elbow and knee pads, the two were in naught but small shorts.
As they skated past them, Burke and Murray cheered them on, holding up their soda bottles. The mechanics’ usual nemeses were observing their little race for lack of anything better to do on such a hot day, and after working alongside one another for so long, tensions between the four of them had cooled somewhat, in sharp contrast to the summer heat.
Murray was betting Chance would win. “Woo! Yeah! Chaaaaance!”
His brother had other ideas. “Go Jake! Go Jake!” yelled Burke.
Although sincere, their cheering was a little halfhearted. They were growing a little weary of the spectacle. The four of them had made plans to go to the park later that day, and the park had trees. And, trees meant shade. The Schleppers were eager for their charges to hurry up and finish the race so they could get going. But, Chance and Jake pushed ahead, as usual forcing themselves to their personal limits in an attempt to outdo one another.
“These new Turbo Rollerblades are radical, buddy!” said Chance, panting but still bristling with stamina, sweat pouring down his naked torso.
“Yeah,” said Jake, also panting and sweating, but showing no signs of tiring, either, “they’re gonna give me one more way to beat your tail!”
Chance glanced behind himself for a moment in disbelief. Did he hear correctly? He saw the shirtless Jake smirking as he gained on him, closing the distance. Unconcerned, he turned his head back around: gotta keep my eyes on where I’m going, he reminded himself.
“Dream on, buddy!”
They came up on a concrete divider laying across the track. He hunkered down. Behind him, so did Jake. He zoomed around some empty, rusty oil drums and, as he reached the divider, his leg muscles strained and he launched himself through the air, sailing over the obstacle, graceful despite his bulk in comparison to Jake, who after swinging ’round the metal drums didn’t need to squat so low to gain the height necessary to clear the divider; his leg muscles tensed and he shot into the air like a coiled spring. Still airborne, he flew towards Chance.
Watching from nearby, Murray took a gulp of his soda and elbowed Burke in the ribs, pointing. Burke was struggling to uncap his soda bottle using the bottle opener, but paused to look up, gasping. It seemed for an instant that Jake was going to hit Chance, but instead, the smaller, thinner kat grabbed Chance’s shoulders and swung his legs up, effectively using his own momentum plus pushing down on Chance’s shoulders to clear his opponent entirely, landing a few feet in front of him, now in the lead.
He grinned and gave a thumbs-up back to a surprised Chance. “I like this dream!”
Burke and Murray cheered. Burke pumped his arms, not realizing he was shaking his unopened soda bottle.
Chance and Jake came up to a tunnel made from a hollowed out 747 engine. Arms behind his back, graceful as a figure skater, Jake navigated the tunnel with his eyes closed, zooming around the cylinder, from the bottom, to the sides, over the ceiling, then down the other side without even trying.
Seeing this made Chance angry. He zoomed through the engine without any fancy stunts, too mad to show off. Besides, they were out of sight of Burke and Murray, so there was nobody to show off to.
“Crud,” he grumbled to himself, “let’s see what these things can really do!”
Each of the two had a small remote control device in their hand, and he pressed the button on his. Miniature rocket boosters popped out of the sides of his rollerblades. They ignited, and with a burst of sudden speed, Chance rocketed forwards. He would’ve lost his helmet if it hadn’t been strapped firmly to his head. Not that it didn’t make a valiant attempt to free itself at the sudden, shocking speed at which its wearer was suddenly now traveling, the chinstrap stretching, helmet being tugged along behind. He shot past a startled Jake in a blue, trailing dust from his rollerblades… and smoke, Jake noticed with some alarm.
The rollerblades’ wheels were spinning rapidly. Too rapidly. They were overheating and the friction, even against the dirt, was chiseling them down to little nubs. Chance’s triumph turned to sudden worry as he wobbled uncontrollably.
“Chance, slow down!” Jake yelled after him.
“I caaaaaaaaaaaaaan’t!” Chance screamed.
He rounded the corner of an obstacle, having gone the entire circuit, and actually sailed wildly out of control off of the track, trailing fire. He headed, flailing, towards the old station wagon where Burke and Murray were sitting. Murray yelped and jumped off. Burke had returned to struggling with the bottle opener and didn’t notice the incoming Chance, despite the screaming. His battle with the soda bottle had completely consumed him.
Reaching up, Murray grabbed his brother and yanked him off the hood, right as Chance was about to hit the front fender. However, he leaped up in an effort to clear the car, but didn’t quite make it; his butt bounced off the hood, jostling the cooler. Propelled up by the impact, he sailed over the cooler – and the startled heads of the crouching Burke and Murray – and somersaulted through the air to land feet first on the rough dirt, smashing both the wheels of his rollerblades and the little rocket thrusters.
No longer propelled by anything except his own momentum, Chance promptly fell to his knees and skidded along – kneepads preventing any injuries – before coming to something resembling a gentle stop banging against the closed passenger door of Burke and Murray’s dump truck.
“Ow…” he moaned weakly.
Burke and Murray got to their feet, mouths agape.
Jake skated up and stopped beside them. “Chance!”
He skated over to his buddy as Chance slowly leaned over backward to lie on his back, knees bent, legs folded under him. Murray snickered as a wincing Burke, shaking his head, finally popped the cap on the soda bottle, and got blasted in the face by the shaken up carbonated beverage. Murray laughed at him, so Burke turned the deluge towards his shorter sibling, drenching him. Murray coughed and spluttered.
Ignoring them, Jake tended to Chance. “Chance, are you-”
He was cut off as, suddenly, Chance was up on his feet, the friction having completely annihilated the rollerblades – and his socks! – leaving him barefoot. And, his soles were blazing red and smoking. “Yeeeooooooooowwwww!”
Hopping up and down like a man walking on hot coals, he struggled with the ruined remains of the rollerblades and finally got them off, then ran over towards the station wagon, each step an agony.
“Hot, hot, hot…!” he said, pained. He saw Burke’s soda. “Cold, cold, cold…!”
Burke turned and aimed the last of the spritzing, fizzy cold drink at Chance’s feet, but it quickly ran out, so Chance clambered onto the station wagon’s hood and dunked both feet into the cooler – to much consternation from its owners. Ignoring Burke and Murray yelling at him, his eyes rolled back into his head in pure ecstasy and relief as smoke and steam rose up from inside the cooler.
“Hey, that’s ours!” complained Murray.
“Pipe down, I’ll get you guys some more soda,” Jake the great mediator placated him.
Grumbling and dripping in soda, the Schleppers turned and plodded off. They discussed the race. They seemed especially delighted at the way Chance crashed at the end.
Ignoring them, Chance turned and grinned at a scowling, disappointed-looking Jake, trying to save his dignity. “You gotta reinforce the wheels, buddy. I’m too fast for ’em.”
Jake was agitated. “No, you’re not. You just took another unnecessary risk. As usual. I told you before we started this race that the turbo boosters hadn’t been properly tested. You could’ve gotten yourself really hurt.”
“Aw, jeez, you’re just sore that I won!”
Jake fumed. “By cheating!”
“Says the guy who swore up and down he really did eat that last mongo pepper.”
“Then let’s do another race later on at the park,” growled Jake.
“But, this time we’re not using the rocket function on the new Turbo Rollerblades,” Jake said, lifting a finger. Before Chance could protest, he quickly added, “I’m not letting you ruin another experimental pair of my Turbo Rollerblades and make a fool of yourself in public. This time it’s gonna be a real race, without either of us having an unfair advantage!”
Murky daylight flooded through the filthy glass of the windows, weakly illuminating the laboratory interior. Flanked by his mushroom monster, Dr. Viper stood mixing up some ingredients in an enormous cauldron-like hollow stump whose contents were heated to a bubbling froth.
Street paced impatiently behind him. The four converted convicts stood off in a corner. They still resembled normal kats except for their eyes. The mushroom monster kept eying them suspiciously, wriggling his tentacles in agitation; he didn’t like them, or Street. Street, for his part, ignored the big mutant.
“How much longer, Doctor?”
Viper didn’t reply at first. He just poured chemicals into the bubbling brew. Finally, he seemed satisfied. “There. It’sss ready, my good Dr. Ssstreet.”
Street came over and looked in, making as much of a disgusted face as an almost fully transformed Ci-Kat-A was capable of, and then turned and nodded to his his accomplice, antennae twitching.
“Now then,” said Viper, “I’ve done my part. Now it’sss up to you to go and get-”
“Super-Katalyst 566,” Street interrupted, having heard all this before. “I know.”
Viper turned toward the mushroom monster. “I want to sssend-”
Street interrupted him again, arrogantly. “He won’t be necessary.”
Viper whirled around. Both his and his mushroom monster’s eyes glowed with mutual fury, yellow and red in the semi-darkness. “He knowsss the way-”
“And, so will I once I bite someone who works there and gain their… ‘cooperation,'” Street assured him.
Viper twisted his mouth into a scowl. He didn’t like this rebelliousness from his “partner.”
“Nor do I need him for protection. Or assistance.” Street looked at Murdoch and the other converted prisoners from the night before. “I have all that I need right here.”
“But…” Viper began, trying to argue.
Street held up a hand. “Relax, my dear Dr. Viper. My Ci-Kat-A brothers and I have everything under control. You’ll soon have your precious katalyst. And, soon, I will have what I want as well.”
He walked down the steps leading out of the lair interior.
“My brothers, to me!” he called.
The other four converted kats followed him. Once they were gone, Viper went and opened the window. With the mushroom monster looming over his shoulder, Viper watched Street flying off over the desolate, swampy landscape of the Dead Forest. The four converted prisoners trudged through the water in the same direction.
“Jussst don’t screw thisss up, you brainless bugsss,” he hissed under his breath. “Dr. Viper doesssn’t look kindly on failure.”
He shut the window, and he and the monster moved away, receding into the darkness of the lab interior.
An Enforcer chopper flew along high above Megakat City. Inside, Lieutenant Felina Feral was flying. Another Enforcer named King was sitting beside her in the co-pilot’s seat. He’d been one of her uncle’s top pilots for years, although this was the first time he and Felina had flown together. Riding in back was Gray Taylor, a fresh graduate from the Enforcer Academy. Young and eager, he was dressed in the uniform of an Enforcer commando, the helmet visor up, and could barely contain his excitement.
“Oh, boy, my first mission!”
“Calm down, rookie,” said an amused Felina, keeping her attention on her flying, even though Gray’s enthusiasm was infectious, making her feel like a rookie again herself, “nothing exciting happening yet.”
“Sorry, ma’am, I mean, sir, I mean…” Gray trailed off uncertainly. “How do you address a female Enforcer officer?
“You say ‘Lieutenant,'” King informed him from the co-pilot’s seat.
Gray blushed. “Sorry, sir.” Then to Felina, “Sorry, Lieutenant…”
Felina shook her head and exchanged smirks with her co-pilot.
“Not even a week out of the academy and he’s already itchin’ for action, huh, Lieutenant?” said King, already building an easy working relationship with Commander Feral’s niece.
“Don’t I know it,” said Felina. Over her shoulder, she said, “Don’t worry, Corporal Taylor.”
The chopper continued to zoom through the city.
“This is Megakat City,” she added, a little darkly. “Trust me, you won’t lack for excitement here…”
The elevator doors dinged and slid open as Dr. Belljar stepped out. He was young and slim with short blonde hair. Carrying a notebook, he walked down the hall towards an enormous, steel-reinforced door marked “Top Secret – No Admittance.” He sighed. Beyond that door was an old secret, mostly forgotten by all but a few in Megakat City. He did not relish these weekly visits, or the progress reports he had to give Deputy Mayor Briggs and the Enforcers.
Posted out front was Steven. He was a big, burly kat wearing the uniform of a security guard. Gone was elderly, inattentive Emil. Megakat Biochemical Labs took its security very seriously these days. Steven rose and walked to the door, which had no visible handle. To one side behind the guard’s desk was a big keypad. A little light above it was currently red.
“Come to see the freak show again, Doc?” asked Steven with a smirk.
“Just open the door,” grumbled the scientist.
Shrugging, Steven entered a security code. There was a beep and the light turned green, the enormous armored door sliding open into the wall. The two went inside. This room amounted to little more than a long hallway. On either side were three, huge holding cells. Like the entrance, they were only openable by a keypad each, but instead of a thick metal door, each cell had a sliding clear glass door allowing observers to see inside.
Inside five of the six cells were the surviving converted guards from the MASA incident. The sixth cell was empty. These five individuals were all that remained of the MASA personnel bitten and turned by the Ci-Kat-A queen and her drones… now progressed so far into their transformations they were essentially fully-fledged drones themselves, but unlike ordinary Ci-Kat-A, they were not purple, as they’d retained their original fur color, and their compound eyes were green instead of red. They had no clothing. One was distinct from the others; he had a bushy mustache from under which his insectoid mandibles poked. This, Belljar remembered, had been MASA’s nuclear reactor guard and the first one turned after Dr. Street.
The five had been kept here since the incident, where Megakat Biochemical experimented on them endlessly in an effort to find a cure for the Ci-Kat-A bite, not just in the hopes of saving them, but also to develop a means of fighting the aliens if they should ever return.
Belljar turned and looked at the sixth, empty cell, wishing the missing Street occupied it. His whereabouts were unknown, and as long as he remained loose, the danger of a resurgent Ci-Kat-A “plague” was ever present… putting more pressure on Belljar and his colleagues to develop a cure.
Consulting his notes, Belljar walked down the line of cells on one side, examining the occupants to see what, if any, effect the latest experimental antidote they’d given them the previous evening had had. They stood motionlessly in the middle of their cells, and but for the twitching of their antenna, there was no sign that they were alive. The cells were soundproof, so Belljar and Steven couldn’t hear any noises the creatures were making.
As the scientist and the guard walked down the line of cells, the Ci-Kat-A’s behavior changed. They rushed the glass doors and smacked into them, clawing uselessly at the clear barrier between them and their intended victims. Neither Belljar nor Steven flinched, used to these fruitless attacks.
“Ever wonder what goes through their heads?” asked Steven conversationally, pointing at the Ci-Kat-A.
“How much they’d like to get out of these cells and bite us,” replied Belljar without looking up from his notebook. “So be vigilant.”
With a sigh, Belljar made some notes. No improvements. He examined the two occupied cells on the other side of the room. Stopping at one, he activated an intercom, through which he and Steven could hear the occupant’s ceaseless buzzing. Belljar turned the intercom off and then sighed again, making more notes.
“The latest treatments are still having no effect. Well, we’ll just have to try something else. We can’t give up on them.”
“If you say so, Doc,” replied Steven skeptically.
They left. Steven entered another code, shutting the door. Gradually, the agitated Ci-Kat-A stopped trying to break through the glass and resumed their original positions, standing motionlessly in the middle of their individual cells. They were as still as department store mannequins.
Belljar walked off down the hall toward the elevator. “I’m going back upstairs. Deputy Mayor Briggs ought to be arriving soon. I’ll be back shortly.”
“Sure thing, Doc.”
Belljar got on the elevator and left.
Back in the restricted area, another change came over the five captured Ci-Kat-A. Their antennae twitched and they started becoming restless, even though no one was in the room, as though they sensed something.
Steven sighed tiredly, using one finger to spin his articulated desk lamp around in an effort to entertain himself, when suddenly the duct cover of an air vent flew off and landed on the floor. Suddenly very attentive, the guard got up.
The converted Murdoch slithered out of the air vent. He was still mostly kat-like except his compound eyes. The other three converted former convicts followed suit. As Steven went for his gun, the four hurriedly overwhelmed and subdued him. One covered his mouth. Another prevented him from drawing his laser pistol. Emerging from the vent last of all was Dr. Street. He glided down to the floor using his wings and landed in front of the group.
He studied the door, eying the keypad. Turning, he grabbed the front of Steven’s uniform, jerking him out of the cons’ grasp. Before the guard could yell for help, Street’s mandibles sank into his throat. Releasing Steven, he stepped back as the guard collapsed, writhing. The Ci-Kat-A hive mind began to worm its way into his brain. After a moment, he stopped, rose, eyes green and insectoid. He walked to the keypad, where he entered his security code. The light turned green, and the door opened. The converted prisoners entered one by one, Steven following.
Murdoch lingered with Street. “What about Super-Katalyst-”
“What that small-minded fool Viper wants can wait,” Street cut him off angrily. “This is more important. Come.”
Murdoch didn’t the press the issue any further, and the two went inside.
Callie Briggs’ dark green sedan pulled into the parking lot of Megakat Biochemical and parked. Opening the gull wing door, the Deputy Mayor got out. She was dressed in her usual attire, but had her jacket off, slung over her shoulder, tie slightly loosened, the top button of her dress shirt undone; concessions to the heat. She was here for her weekly visit to check up on the captured Ci-Kat-A, to see if Dr. Belljar had made any progress. She saw him through a window and waved, then went inside.
A stone-faced security guard was at the front desk in the lobby. A little desk fan blew over him nonstop. He glanced over disinterestedly as Callie came in. Dr. Belljar got off the elevator to greet her.
“Ms. Briggs, thank you so much for coming.”
They shook hands. Although she put her blazer back on, Callie had elected not to button it, or her shirt, and left her tie loosened.
She fanned herself. “It sure is a scorcher out there today, isn’t it, Dr. Belljar?”
“Yes, it is, isn’t it? Thank goodness for the miracle of air conditioning!”
They turn and headed towards the elevators.
“The AC in my car is busted. It was like riding in an oven all the way over here. I don’t suppose you can make this presentation a long one, can you, Doctor?” she asked half-jokingly.
The two got on the elevator. “I’ll do my best to ensure you remain to enjoy our facility’s air conditioning for as long as you require, Deputy Mayor.”
The doors shut. A few minutes later, the two were in the main lab of the building while Dr. Belljar retrieved the necessary files. Big windows from floor to ceiling let bright sunshine in. There were rows and rows of shelves containing neatly arranged and carefully labelled bubbling flasks and canisters of orange-colored katalysts and gently humming electronic machinery, computers and the like. There were a few workstations and desks. On one, there was a ten gallon tank containing a large black desert scorpion. After a moment, Dr. Belljar approached holding a manila file folder containing the data on Megakat Biochemical’s efforts to cure the afflicted guards.
“I hope you have some progress to show me,” Callie said. “There’s five anxious families awaiting answers. They’re calling my office night and day. I need to give them something, Doctor.”
The scientist squirmed uncomfortably. “I just got done checking the latest results, and they aren’t encouraging…” He trailed off.
Callie sternly adjusted her purse’s shoulder strap. “I want to have a look for myself anyway.”
Belljar sighed, setting the file folder aside. “Fine,” he said, “follow me.”
The two left the lab and started off down the hallway.
“Sam Konway down at Enforcer Headquarters has a few interesting ideas. He’s a little more open-minded than I am, which is probably why Feral head-hunted him to head their biotech division. I can show you what I’ve managed to get done so far, and then what Konway has in-”
He stopped short as they rounded the corner. They saw the ventilation grate on the floor – and the top secret room’s door wide open, various figures filling the doorframe.
“What in the world?”
They walked closer, more cautiously, and ducked down behind Steven’s desk, peering over the top into the room. Dr. Harley Street looked around angrily at the imprisoned Ci-Kat-A, spreading his arms like a preacher giving a sermon.
“My brothers! In a moment you shall be free! And, together we shall have our new queen and conquer not only Megakat City, but the world!”
The five converted MASA guards in their glass-encased cells were jumping up and down excitedly. The bug-eyed Steven went to each one in turn and entered the security code to open it. The glass doors slid open, and the former MASA personnel stepped free to mingle with their new “brothers,” making particularly grateful buzzing noises to Dr. Street, who offered soothing pets and strokes.
Callie and Belljar continued peering over the desk.
“This is bad!” whispered Belljar.
“It’s… it’s Dr. Street!” Callie whispered back. “I thought he was dead!”
“And now, my brothers, we must complete our secondary mission for our ‘friend and benefactor’ Dr. Viper,” Street continued.
More excited buzzing from the assembled converted kats. Murdoch glanced towards the open door. The two ducked down behind Steven’s desk. But, it seemed Murdoch had seen them. Or at least he thought he saw something. Enough to go and investigate. Two of the converted convicts accompanied him.
“We’d better alert someone…!” Dr. Belljar was whispering fearfully.
“A good idea!” Callie agreed, slipping her hand into her purse, trying to locate the communicator. Suddenly-
Gasping, they turned. Murdoch was standing on the desk, pointing at them as though in accusation. He was flanked on either side by the other two converted prisoners who’d accompanied him. Behind them, through the open door, Street and the others stopped what they were doing and turned, antennae twitching in agitation.
“Spies!” cried Murdoch.
He hopped down from the desk and ran towards them, salivating, arms outstretched like a zombie. Callie swung her purse to hit him, knocking him slightly off balance. A second convict rushed forwards. Having seen Callie in action, he grabbed her purse and ripped it from her grasp, throwing it aside. It smacked into the wall, spilling out its contents, including the communicator.
Jumping up, Callie resorted to fisticuffs, punching the converted prisoner in the face, sending him staggering backward. He fell onto his back and lay spread-eagle on the carpet. She then kicked Murdoch in the diaphragm with the tip of her high-heeled shoe, making him double over in agony, ripping her skirt all the way up past her mid-thigh in the process.
As Murdoch collapsed and the third convict advanced, Callie grabbed a potted plant and threw it at him. It smashed across his face, and he fell to his knees, clutching his head.
Dr. Street emerged from the top secret lab, growling, and with one great sweep of his arm, knocked everything off of Steven’s desk, and then, with superhuman strength, he grabbed the desk and lifted the entire thing over his head.
“All those who oppose the rule of the Ci-Kat-A… MUST DIE!”
With a grunt, he hurled the desk towards Callie and Dr. Belljar.
“Duck!” cried Callie.
The two hit the floor, and the desk smashed into the wall, splintering into pieces!
“Get them!” ordered Street.
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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.