In the aftermath of the Creepling infiltration of Enforcer Headquarters, security was doubled throughout the entire building to root out any more possible infiltrators. Nothing had been found, but still the security detail was kept tight. Jablonsky would live. So would Lyman, and despite himself, Chance was glad. He wished a lot of things upon Lyman, but death wasn’t one of them.
An examination of the gear and weapons used by the three highly unusual Creeplings had yielded quite a bit of information. Despite some initial grousing from Commander Feral and District Attorney Mills, Callie, after placing a call to Mayor Manx, had ensured a temporary offputting of the impending trial so that Chance and Jake – Jake, mostly – could help examine the Creeplings’ equipment.
Her argument was simple. Jake Clawson was a certified mechanical genius. His original aptitude test for Enforcer enrollment some years prior had been a testament to this. In fact, the only reason he hadn’t gone on to become one of the Enforcers’ finest scientific minds instead of ending up first a beat cop and then gunner was due to his dislike of the laboratory setting. Jake Clawson loved more than anything to tinker and to invent, but he wasn’t suited to being cooped up in a workshop at all hours. He’d wanted excitement.
Commander Ashland, Feral’s predecessor, had expressed severe discontent at this. Even though the traitorous scum, who later turned out to be a pawn of Dark Kat’s in a far larger scheme, could never even get Jake’s name right, even Ashland had recognized the young trainee’s potential and done everything he could to goad him into joining the science division. Jake, as politely as possible of course, had said no and ended up joining the patrol squadron, which was where he’d first met the risk-taking, short-tempered Chance Furlong. His best friend forever more.
Even now with their freedom hanging in the balance and the possibility of more assassins being sent to kill them even within Enforcer Headquarters, even after all of this, Jake never regretted his decision to become a cop instead of a scientist. And then to follow Chance Furlong into the air division and ultimately right out of the Enforcers and down the harrowing path that had led to this very situation. As difficult as Chance could be, and even despite Jake’s own complaints about Chance’s actions during their attempted earlier escape, in truth, he regretted nothing.
After all, if it was excitement he wanted, he was getting it even as he examined the goggles worn by the very Creeplings sent to kill them in their prison cell. It was the excitement of scientific discovery, a joy he felt despite never having actually become a scientist.
After some grumbling, Feral had agreed to let Jake look at the objects. Chance was just sort of allowed to tag along. That was fine with him. Even if he had nothing of importance to add, it was better than sitting alone in his cell.
“These goggles are pretty standard tactical gear,” said Jake. “Scoped infra-red lenses with night vision. And, this little lens here in the center is a camera that records everything the Creepling sees onto microfilm.”
“Dark Kat sure is getting serious if he’s outfitting his Creeplings with this high grade stuff,” Chance said, picking up one of the straps the little creatures had worn across their chests. “What’s this little thing here in the middle?”
“I’m not sure,” Jake admitted, setting the goggles aside.
He took the strap and had a close look at the device in the center, which was fitted with an LED. Getting a pair of tweezers, he gently pried it off, revealing a miniature microchip of some kind underneath. Grinning suddenly, he snapped his fingers.
“It’s a homing beacon!” he said. “I guess whenever the Creeplings finish their mission or Dark Kat wants to call them back to his hideout, this think emits a blinking light from the LED and lets the Creeplings know it’s time to vamoose.”
“But, how does that help us find Dark Kat?” asked Callie, who, along with Commander Feral, stood by the door nearby.
“Easy,” said Jake. “To activate the beacon, Dark Kat needs to send a signal. If I can reverse the signal, we can trace it back to its origin and find his base!”
“As easy as that?” Feral asked, one eyebrow raised.
“As easy as that!” Jake said with a grin.
Chance frowned and then picked up one of the goggle pairs and examined it. “Buddy, you said that these things record everything the Creeplings see and hear?”
“Right,” Jake said. “Why?”
“I was thinking… wouldn’t Dark Kat already know they screwed up? Y’know, and send s’more to do the job right this time? ‘Cause I got an idea to cover our tails and prevent ‘im from doing that. It probably won’t work, but it’s worth a try.”
Jake shifted a bit and eyed his friend. Chance wasn’t the world’s best master planner, but after their tussle with the Creeplings that had guns and night vision goggles, the brown-furred cat was willing to hear any crackpot ideas to stave off the next attack. So, he listened, and smiled, and mentally smacked himself for not thinking of it himself. After agreeing to the plan and getting even Feral to agree to it, if only to keep them alive long enough to stand trial, Jake whirled around and set to work on the first step: reversing the microchip’s signal. For the second step, he and Chance returned to the cell block. Callie, Feral and a thoroughly confused-looking District Attorney Mills followed, each carrying a pair of the goggles…
The Dark Kat stood within his alchemical laboratory on board the Fear Ship. It looked similar to the one from Darkhaven Manor, and with good reason: it was exact same lab. Ripped right from the house itself, the room had been brought piece by piece, stone by stone and rebuilt, and the Fear Ship built around it, so Dark Kat could begin work on his grand scheme to seize Megakat City.
The main difference between this room and the one at its original location at Darkhaven was that in place of the alchemical conjuring pit was a giant glass cylinder that rose from floor to ceiling. Similar cylinders lined the walls. Inside each grew the seed of Megakat City’s ultimate destruction. Everything Dark Kat had experimented with over the years in his efforts to combine magic and science, from the Creeplings to his own deformed but effective immortality, had been mere experiments compared to this.
He was quite proud, and, as he stared within the cylinder, he smiled with his lipless, jack-o-lantern-like maw and with one giant hand gave the glass a gentle, paternal pat, unable to pet the actual contents of the thing.
“Soon, my young one,” he cooed in his deep, rich menacing voice. “Soon, you and your brothers will be born unto a brave new world and you will lead my Creeplings, your cousins, to victory against the Enforcers, just as soon as the SWAT Kats are taken care of.”
“Lord Dark Kat!” a voice from behind interrupted his beaming paternal pride. He turned. At the top of the stone steps stood Marlow, or “Two” as Dark Kat called him. “We have a situation! The Enforcers are tracking the Fear Ship!”
“What? Impossible!” Dark Kat growled and came up the steps at him. “They cannot track what they don’t even know exists!”
“Maybe they can’t, but they are anyway!” Marlow said.
Dark Kat sighed. He eagerly awaited the birth of his new creations so he could be done with Marlow. His three eager followers had been recruited to help him design and build the Fear Ship so he could focus on his experiments in combining magic and science, but now that the Fear Ship was complete, the trio had proved woefully inept at anything beyond the merely technical. Marlow most of all. Zeckis, at least, understood his own limitations, but Marlow wasn’t taking his new role as project leader very seriously.
Entering the control room with Marlow hurrying after Dark Kat found Zeckis working at a console feverishly. He shoved the smaller cat aside and examined the instruments himself. It appeared the Enforcers detected the signal channel intended for the Creeplings’ homing beacons and were piggybacking on it to try and determine the Fear Ship’s location. Quite clever. But, easily stopped. So easily even Marlow understood what to do.
“Bounce it back and increase the signal,” Marlow said to Zeckis. “Intensify it. Destroy the homing beacons. And, do the same for the goggles.”
“But, that will kill the Creeplings,” said Zeckis.
“Just do as I command!” snapped Marlow.
“Not yet,” said Dark Kat, annoyed. “First, let us see if they completed their mission.”
Marlow gulped, clearly having not thought of that. He and Zeckis immediately typed up the transmitting code for the goggles’ built-in cameras to begin sending the images of what the Creeplings saw. The big viewscreen flickered to life, sending to Dark Kat a red-tinted image of what he only saw in his fondest dreams. T-Bone and Razor, unmasked, and laying immobile on the floor of their prison cell.
He clenched his fists in evil glee, then froze a bit. Something seemed off. Closer examination, however, revealed that the goggles’ lenses were only a couple of feet off the ground. Clearly, the Creeplings were still wearing them, but he had a nagging feeling nonetheless.
Still, with the Fear Ship finally powered up and ready for its assault, and his new army ready for birth in mere hours, even if this was somehow faked, it didn’t matter. Of course, if it turned out the Creeplings failed, Marlow was in for a very unpleasant comeuppance, but for the moment the hulking purple cat believed what he saw and nodded to Zeckis to resume intensifying the signal.
“Destroy the beacons quickly,” said Dark Kat, “and the goggles, as well, before the Enforcers think to piggyback on this signal as well.”
A moment later, the screen fizzled and went blank. The goggles had self-destructed, killing their wearers no doubt. Not that it mattered. A few Creeplings, here and there, were affordable to lose. That was what they were for. He was about to return to the alchemical laboratory when an alarm sounded. He whirled and stared at the radar which showed three blips fast approaching their position. Pressing a button, he brought up a remote image of the impending intruders, a trio of Enforcer jets.
“It seems I did not act quickly enough,” Zeckis said, looking suddenly afraid. “I, uh, I am sorry, Lord Dark Kat…”
“No,” Dark Kat reassured him. “If these were sent to attack, there’d be more than just three. This is just a scouting party. Sent out earlier to investigate what they think is just an ordinary volcanic disturbance.”
“I’ll activate the targetting program,” said Marlow, but Dark Kat stopped him as something caught his keen eye.
“Wait!” he ordered. “Magnify the image on the jet in front!”
A moment later the cockpit of the lead jet filled the screen, and Dark Kat beheld the unmistakable visage of Lieutenant Felina Feral. This was too perfect. He smirked and folded his arms behind his back, standing up a little straighter. First, the SWAT Kats had been successfully killed, at long last, and now Commander Feral’s niece was on her way to him with a piddly two wingmen to back her up.
“Make yourselves presentable, you two,” Dark Kat said smoothly. “We are soon to have guests. I think it’s time we finally moved the Fear Ship away from the island and did away with this smoke and mirror nonsense. Move us forward. And then… activate the tractor beam.”
“How long do we have to keep doing this…?” asked District Attorney Mills.
“As long as we have to,” replied Callie.
Feral, Mills and Callie were standing stooped over holding the red-lensed goggles they’d taken off of the dead Creeplings, holding the eyepieces close to the ground. At “eye level” for a Creepling, or so Jake had concluded. They had been instructed to “wiggle” the goggles around to simulate the excited jitteriness of the little pink creatures. Jake and Chance, meanwhile, were lying sprawled on the floor of their cell, trying not to move, although Chance has having a difficult time of it.
“My nose itches!” he whispered. His face was turned away from the prying goggles, so it was a safe bet Dark Kat, wherever he was, hadn’t seen him speak. Nevertheless he spoke very softly and slowly, moving his mouth as little as possible.
“Just keep still,” Jake said out of the corner of his mouth. Everything depended on them fooling Dark Kat. Who, unfortunately, wasn’t all that easy to fool.
Suddenly, the goggles in Mills’ hands began vibrating wildly. “Uh-oh,” he said, “I think something’s wrong with mine!”
Instinctively, the District Attorney flung it aside. Callie was about to chastise him for it, for ruining the illusion, but the goggles exploded in midair before they even hit the ground. Quickly realizing what was happening, she threw hers down as well. Commander Feral followed suit. Their goggles blew up just as Mills’ had. The three explosions were miniscule. But, enough that they would’ve almost certainly killed the Creeplings, had they still been alive and wearing them. Or, more importantly, blown off the three cats’ hands had Mills not thrown his down when he had.
With the coast clear, Chance and Jake sat up. The first thing Chance did was furiously scratch his nose and sigh in relief. “Whew, well, that’s a relief!” he said. “Do you think Dark Crud bought it?”
“Only time will tell,” Jake said, standing. “For now, we just have to hope he thinks his little assassins succeeded. Luckily for us, he opted to eliminate his own Creeplings. Would’ve sucked big time if they’d reported back to him that we were still alive.”
District Attorney Mills stepped forward now. “I still don’t understand what that was supposed to have accomplished. If you two think you’re lulling Dark Kat into a false sense of security so you can attempt some kind of sneak against him, wherever he is, you’re sorely mistaken. The charges against you are still pending.”
Jake sighed. “We realize that!” he grumbled. “This was just to prevent him from sending any more of those lousy little things to kill us. We’d prefer to sit out our trial peacefully, without constant assassination attempts.”
“Oh,” said Mills, looking embarrassed.
Feral took charge of the situation. “Now all we have to do is find Dark Kat, and–”
At this moment, Sergeant Talon came charging in, arms and legs all over the place. “Commander Feral!” he cried. “That gigantic cloud over Mt. Anakata is on the move! It is approaching Megakat City from across the bay!”
“What?!” cried Feral, and then realization set in. “Felina! Felina is on her way there!”
As the three Enforcer jets flew towards the volcano, Lieutenant Felina Feral, in the lead, frowned and squinted through her visor at the dark plume rising from the crater of Mt. Anakata. This was definitely unnatural. You didn’t need to be a geologist to figure that out. The plume wasn’t smoke; it was a cloud of some sort. And, it masked something. Whatever that something was, it was dangerous, as it had already shot down three of the aircraft that had attempted to approach it.
Felina had no intention of entering the cloud as the Geological Society helicopter had. Instead, her jet was outfitted with advanced analysis equipment in the nose, recently installed. It was thermal imaging equipment. She wasn’t interested in what the cloud was composed of, but rather what was inside of it. As her jet approached, her two wingmen, Gavin and O’Herlihy, hung back as instructed.
“All right, let’s get this over with,” Felina said over her headset mic.
“Roger that, Lieutenant,” said Gavin over the radio. “We’re right here if you need us.”
Felina nodded. She flipped a gauge on her control panel, and the thermal analysis equipment scanned the cloud. A glance down at the little screen on the control panel revealed something absolutely gigantic within the cloud! She gasped. It was a vague shape she couldn’t quite make out. But, a few seconds later, she no longer needed the equipment. Over the radio, she heard O’Herlihy’s surprised cry.
“Holy Kats!” he yelped. “Look at that!”
Felina glanced up. While she’d been glancing down at the screen, the cloud had actually begun moving forward of its own volition, headed away from the volcano.
“It’s moving!” said Gavin needlessly.
Suddenly, the cloud parted and began dissipating, revealing to the three shocked Enforcers an absolutely massive airship made entirely of gleaming metal of various shades of gray. It bristled with battle rigs and other weaponry. At the front, like a mouth, was a huge hangar. Above this was a large building-like structure with mirrored windows. Obviously the bridge. It was powered by four engines; two at the back and two on the sides, attached to downwardly curving winglike appendages.
Immediately, Felina knew who was behind this. She knew because the ship had silver triangles bolted to the sides of the hull and just below the bridge windows. Triangles emblazoned with a blood-red “D.”
“Evasive action!” she yelled and began to bank away.
Before she could, however, a sparkling greenish beam fired forth from the front of the ship and struck her jet. For an instance, Felina thought she was dead, that it was some kind of death beam. Instead, her jet was merely jostled, and suddenly frozen in place. Then, with a surprising swiftness, the craft was pulled towards the ship. A tractor beam.
“Mayday, mayday!” Felina yelled, uselessly tugging on her stick. It was no use. The beam had her frozen in place. She wasn’t going anywhere except into the ship.
“Lieutenant!” she heard Gavin’s voice over the radio. His jet was making a beeline for the airship, apparently intending to take out the tractor beam. “Hang on, we’ll–”
He never finished. From one of the battle rigs flew a single red bolt of energy that flew harmlessly past Felina’s captive jet and struck Gavin’s. Felina heard a startled scream over the radio, and then static as Gavin died. His jet exploded in midair. The rig swiveled around and fired again. Felina jerked her head around to watch as her remaining wingman banked away in an attempt to escape, and closed her eyes. She heard the explosion and O’Herlihy’s final cry over her headset.
When she opened them again she could see the debris from O’Herlihy’s jet plummeting down through the sky to splash into the ocean. She gritted her teeth. Dark Kat was going to pay for this. She relished being taken aboard his vessel now. It was a chance to finally plug the big purple bastard once and for all.
In the Fear Ship’s control room, Marlow was smugly leaning back in his chair at the firing controls. Next to him, Zeckis was wide-eyed with amazement. Dark Kat stood behind them, arms folded indignantly.
“Got ’em,” said Marlow.
“That seemed… a bit excessive,” said Zeckis.
Marlow only chuckled. Dark Kat shook his head. Then, turning, he left the room to go and greet his “guest,” signaling several of the Creeplings wearing tactical goggles and armed with laser rifles to follow him. As they arrived in the hangar, the tractor beam deposited Lieutenant Feral’s jet neatly onto the floor. With a simple wave of his hand, Dark Kat had his Creeplings surround the craft and aim their little guns up at it, ready to fire if his prisoner attempted to try anything.
The canopy flew open, and Felina unbuckled herself and stood up, hand going to the blaster holstered at her side. She glowered down at Dark Kat, who stood there, completely unafraid of the Lieutenant and her puny gun.
“Lieutenant Feral,” he said smoothly, “I do apologize for your companions, although you must understand I could not allow anyone to return to Megakat City and spoil the big surprise coming their way.”
“You murdering–” Felina growled and began drawing the blaster.
Dark Kat held up his hand. “In case you haven’t noticed, you’re quite surrounded. You can shoot me, but then you yourself would be killed just as quickly. My Creeplings may not be the best marksmen in the world, but with so many of them aiming their weapons at you, one of them is bound to get lucky, wouldn’t you say…?”
Felina hesitated, looking down at the assembled Creeplings, around ten or eleven in all. Dark Kat was right. The jittery little creatures looked quite trigger-happy as well, and she began to doubt she’d even live long enough to get the blaster fully out of its holster.
“All right,” she said.
“Good decision,” Dark Kat said. “Now, throw your weapon out.”
Felina unholstered the blaster and tossed it out. It clattered noisily at Dark Kat’s big purple feet. He raised one huge foot and brought it down upon the weapon, crunching it noisily into several pieces. In the jet, Felina removed her helmet revealing her eyes, previously hidden behind the tinted visor, were burning with hatred. This pleased Dark Kat immensely.
“Now, please,” he crooned. “come down from there and accept my hospitality. I don’t offer it to just anyone.”
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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.