The sun was just beginning to rise over the city the following morning, giving the skies a blood red hue that boded ill. As the old saying went, “red sky at morning, sailor take warning.”
Callie Briggs, feeling more than a little tired from having stayed up late to hold Mayor Manx’s hand and walk him through writing his speech, her engine making an annoying clonking noise, drove along the two-lane blacktop leading to the Megakat City Salvage Yard, turning in and pulling up to the garage owned by Chance and Jake. The green sedan’s front end looked more than a little beaten up: scorched, missing its bumper, one headlight broken and the hood slightly crumpled. Damage sustained during the explosion the other evening, and the reason for her visit to her friends.
She slowed and honked her horn, prompting Chance to come outside, looking a little groggy, but his expression brightened visibly when he saw who their early morning customer was, although his enthusiasm was dampened somewhat when he saw the state of the car. Cutting the motor off, Callie got out.
“Hi, Chance,” she said conversationally.
“Hi…” Chance replied, staring at the mess that was the front end of the green car. He looked up at her. “What happened to your car?!” he cried, doing his best to sound shocked. He already knew, or at least he had a pretty good idea, but he had to maintain the illusion that he didn’t.
“Oh, I was over at the Megakat Refinery when it exploded. A piece of debris hit it.”
That’d been what Chance was afraid of, and felt instantly guilty, but then regained his composure, offering a flirtatious smile. “What were you doing way out there, Callie?” he asked.
The Deputy Mayor smiled. “Didn’t you guys hear?” she gushed. “The SWAT Kats defeated Morbulus! You know, the one who was bombing all the refineries?”
“Ah…” Chance said in mock surprise, busying himself with stooping down to inspect the car.
“Yeah, we heard,” said a voice from inside. “When we had a TV.”
Callie turned and noticed Jake was inside the garage with a television taken apart and spread out before him on the workbench where he’d pulled an all-nighter attempting, without success, to repair the TV set from the ravages of Chance’s wrath. The television itself, an empty shell, sat amidst all the items as he attempted to repair the damaged inner bits. Jake shot a reproachful look at Chance, who merely waved his hand at him to get him to hush and stood up, turning back to Callie.
“Anyway, I wanted you guys take a look at the engine and maybe fix it up for me,” Callie said. “I don’t care about how it looks so much as whether it drives, and the engine started making this funny kind of pinging noise all the way back from Megakat Bay. And, this morning, the ‘ping’ turned into a ‘clonk,’ and, well, I wanna nip this in the bud so I’m not caught on the side of the road somewhere having to call you guys to come tow me.”
“Sure thing,” said Chance as Callie handed him her keys. “We’ll probably have it ready in just a couple of days.” He smirked as an idea crossed his mind. “Want me to give you a ride back into town in the tow truck?”
So saying, he gave the tow truck’s fender an affectionate pat. No sooner were those words out of his mouth than they heard a horn honking. The long white limousine belonging to Mayor Manx pulled in and slid to a halt, the uniformed chauffeur getting out to open the door for Callie. Manx wasn’t in it. Callie smiled apologetically at Chance, touched by his offer, but unable to say no to the creature comforts of a stretched luxury limo.
“No need,” she said. “I AM the Deputy Mayor, after all. But, thanks anyway, Chance.”
Doing his best not to look disappointed and giving something that resembled a smile, Chance watched her turn and walk towards the limo. He sauntered back into the garage where Jake was, chest all puffed up. As far as he was concerned, the Deputy Mayor had all but asked him out on a date. Jake stood up from his work on the TV.
“Heh,” chuckled Chance, “she’s crazy about me.”
Callie heard that. She grinned, stopping and turning to glance back at the two. That Chance! she thought. She liked him enough, but he could be a little too overconfident at times, and in an effort to deflate his ego a little, she gave a sultry wave, not to him, but Jake, and said, “Bye, Jaaaaake,” all sexy-like before continuing on to the limo.
Chance stood there as she got into the limo and drove off, eyes wide and mouth agape in shock at that. “Bye Jake?” What the heck?!
Jake, for his part, just smiled.
The bigger kat turned and glowered at him as the limo drove off, balling up a fist as if to playfully punch Jake’s shoulder, but he held back. Not intent on picking a fight over something so trivial, he inquired after the dismantled television. After all, it took him a minute to get over himself, but it was obvious to Chance that Callie just said goodbye to Jake like that to make him jealous and poke a hole in the slightly overinflated balloon that was his ego. He needed that sometimes. It kept his feet firmly rooted on the ground, which he supposed even a pilot needed someones. Metaphorically, anyway.
“So, how ’bout the TV…?” he asked hopefully. He had no illusions about catching that Scaredy-Kat marathon now, but he wanted to at least be able to watch TV sometime during the next century.
“Nada,” was Jake’s reply after picking up and examining some random, broken bit of the appliance’s innards. So saying, he threw it aside with a flick of his wrist to clatter noisily among the other TV parts. “The thing’s history.”
“What?!” cried Chance.
“Yeah,” said Jake, “it’s amazing how much damage one unopened can of milk can do!” He meant it too. He wasn’t just trying to needle his pal for breaking the thing. He really was surprised that the damage Chance and his milk can had done had really spelled total and complete doom for the faithful old TV.
“Crud,” the other kat said, and repressed an urge to shove the gutted television over. Temper, Chance, he reminded himself. Calming, he said, “Well, we’ll just have to get a new one!”
“With what money…?” asked Jake.
“Well-” Chance began.
“Hey, looooooovebirds!” a raspy, high-pitched and frankly whiny voice broke in.
Chance cringed. Oh no, he thought. Murray. He hated that voice. Both he and Jake turned and looked over at Murray and his brother standing there laughing at them.
“What do you guys want?” Chance asked. He usually did the talking whenever he and Jake dealt with these two. Jake preferred not to lower himself intellectually to acknowledge them most of the time. “We’re busy.”
“Yeah,” sneered Burke, Murray’s younger but much, much larger brother, “we saw ya. Flirtin’ with da Deputy Mayor!” He clasped his gloved hands together and pretended to swoon, affecting a feminine high pitch to his voice. “‘Oooooh, Chaaaance!'” he mocked, doing a very poor imitation of Callie Briggs indeed. “‘You’re so big and manly, marry me now and give me a tongue-bath, baby!'”
Murray joined in, making kissing sounds and hugging Burke’s considerable belly as his annoyed brother broke character and attempted to shove him off of himself. “‘Mwah-mwah-mwah-mwah!'” he intoned. “‘Yeah, baby, give the Chance-inator a big ol’ smooch, babycakes!'” All things considered, he was doing a better imitation of Chance than Burke was of Callie.
Burke grumbled, “Get off! Stop it!” and shoved Murray off, where the smaller kat rolled around in the dirt laughing and squealing like a dying hyena.
Jake rolled his eyes. He never understood why these two thought themselves SO funny.
Chance almost walked over and decked them. Instead, since the phrase for today was “even-tempered,” lest he repeat the Great TV Incident, only this time with Murray’s face, Chance merely demanded, “I said, what do you guys want? Don’t you have some house to go haunt?”
After they finally stopped laughing, Murray picked himself up and dusted himself off. “We just wanted to let you two sweethearts know we was headin’ off to get some scrap and we was gonna be in town. We might grab a pizza.”
“A pizza for breakfast?” asked Chance.
“Donuts, then!” Murray said, throwing his hands up. “Look, that’s not the point! Ya want anythin’? Besides a scrap heap sandwich, I mean?”
Burke snorted with laughter. For all their jackassery, the brothers occasionally attempted to be genuinely friendly with the two mechanics, but they couldn’t do it without also injecting their usual cruelty and meanness into it. It was as though they just couldn’t be completely nice to anyone, even each other. Jake politely declined the offer, as he always did. Not that he didn’t appreciate the rare times when Burke and Murray were friendly. He was just concerned that the temptation to spit in their food would be too great for them to resist.
“No thanks,” he said.
“Yeah, but you guys get whatever, y’know…” added Chance.
“Eh, fine!” Murray said. “Just a waste of good donuts anyway. C’mon, Burke.”
The two waved goodbye and trudged off to their truck.
“Those two…” said Jake, “I just don’t get them.”
“Me neither,” said his friend. “So…” He walked over to Callie’s car and popped the hood. “Whaddaya say we give this baby a looksee?” After examining the engine for a moment, he seemed satisfied it wasn’t anything he couldn’t repair, and possibly even improve!
Jake noticed that look in his friend’s eyes. “Chance, remember, she just wants the engine runnin’ smooth again…” he gently warned him.
“Yeah, but who said it couldn’t run twice as good as before?” asked Chance, shutting the hood.
“What did you have in mind?” Jake asked, already a little exasperated, knowing there was no way of averting disaster now.
“Help me get this baby into the garage and I’ll show ya!”
Tom, a tall farmer, was in a field on the far side of his barn, tossing hay into the back of his pickup truck with his pitchfork, which he’d been doing since sunup.
His farm was one of the smaller ones, and abutted the marshlands which signaled the beginning of Megakat Swamp. Unlike a few of his more superstitious neighbors, Tom liked the swamp, having had an affinity for alligators, snakes and toads ever since he was a boy. Everyone else dreaded it and avoided it. He knew why and thought it was a load of nonsense.
Dr. Viper, indeed! He was supposed to be some kind of half kat, half snake undead ghoul or something. Tom the farmer had never heard such ridiculous gobbledygook in all his life! He was content to consign the ghoulish doctor to the urban legend pile and go about his business, unafraid of the swamp.
“Whew!” he said, taking a breather, “this jobs bigger’n I thought!”
In front of the barn, out of Tom’s line of sight, Clementine the cow was grazing peacefully. Suddenly, a shadow fell over her. She looked up and let out a moo of fear.
Tom was about to resume work when he heard the sounds of a frantic struggle and weird, disgusting slimy sounds. Despite his growing unease, he decided he had to go investigate, especially when the mooing ceased abruptly and the schlurking noises got louder. Pitchfork in hand, he came around the side of the barn.
“What’s goin’ over here?!” he demanded.
He stopped, gasping as he could now see the front of the barn, and with it, the weirdest-looking creature he’d ever seen. The thing was twelve feet tall, a hulking purple mass vaguely shaped like a kat with thick legs and big, flat feet and arms terminating in hands with thick, gooey fingers.
It had what could charitably be called a head, with four blazing yellow eyes in front, all lined up in a row. Underneath that and something that passed for a nose, a great, wide, gaping black maw opened, with thick strands of purple goo connecting its upper and lower “lips.” The hideous mouth was curled into the widest, evilest smile Tom had ever seen.
Clementine’s tail hung from that big, grinning maw, and Tom backed away as the creature slurped the cow’s tail up like a noodle. He raised his pitchfork threateningly. The thing stepped toward him anyway. He jabbed at the creature with his pitchfork to no effect.
“Stay back!” he said. “G-Get away!”
“I’ll teach you not to meddle with my creation!” a voice hissed, and then Tom felt a a sudden crushing constriction around his waist. He felt himself get lifted up as if he weighed nothing whatsoever.
As he lurched and swayed in midair, he looked down to see a striped green snake tail encircling his middle. Looking over his shoulder, he gasped aloud as he beheld a green-furred kat wearing a white coat. Dr. Viper! It was true! All the stories were true!
Viper beckoned with a finger towards the purple bacteria monster that had once been Morbulus. Using his tail, he held the struggling farmer up to it.
“Nooo…!” Tom wailed, realizing his fate.
With an indifferent flick of his tail, Dr. Viper tossed Tom, screaming, into the hideous, grinning maw which closed over him and ate him in one gulp, pitchfork and all. Viper watched his creation eat. He loved the look of extreme satisfaction on its face. But, playtime was over. He had a timetable to adhere to and there was no room for screwups. He just hoped the thing could follow directions more complicated than “go here” and “eat this.”
“Now that you’ve had your breakfassst, it’s time we went into Megakat City!” he said. The monster stared down at him, apparently without comprehending, prompting him to elaborate, “Follow me! There’ll be lotsss more for you to eat there!”
Gesturing for the creature to follow, he turned and walked toward a sewage drain pipe just across the road from the farm, their ticket to getting into Megakat City unseen. The bacteria monster hesitated for a moment as if unsure or unwilling to follow, as though some of Morbulus’ mind remained, enough that it didn’t find obeying its master all too appealing, but the promise of more food got it moving, and it finally lumbered after him.
Jake stood, holding what appeared to be a slightly modified sparkplug up to the light, one of about a dozen he and Chance had just gotten done installing into the engine of Callie Briggs’ banged up car, following some more ordinary repairs and refinements. The car sat with its hood lifted up in the garage, and Chance had finished putting the last of the “turboplugs” into the engine.
“I’m not sure this is a good idea,” Jake said. Not that he was confident he could persuade Chance of this. He was merely noting his objection for the record.
The turboplugs were new inventions of his, so new they were more or less untested. The idea behind them was that they’d grant extra power and longevity to any engine they were installed in. He’d been planning to install them in the Turbokat, but Chance had insisted they use them on Callie’s car instead. Jake had reluctantly agreed, despite continuing to voice a token protest here and there. His reasoning? With the thing already busted from the other day, there wasn’t much else they could do to the poor thing when Chance’s idea inevitably failed.
“Relax!” Chance said, walking around and opening the door. He slid into the driver’s seat, but left the door open so he could talk to Jake. “Callie should have extra horsepower, y’know, in case of an emergency.”
Jake didn’t disagree. “But, these things are designed to go in jet engines!” he protested. “Who knows what they’ll do to an ordinary car engine like this!”
“Jaaaaake,” Chance said in that smooth way of his, leaning back in the seat with one hand carressing the steering wheel, like he was about to go cruising. “I’m a professional. I know what an engine can handle.”
“I’m tellin’ ya, you’re gonna blow it…” Jake said, pocketing the spare plug he’d been examining, wondering why Chance couldn’t get it into his head that car engines were different from jet engines.
Chance inserted the key in the ignition and fired it up. The vehicle roared to life deafeningly. “See?” Chance pointed out, feeling vindicated. “Purrs like a kitten!” He stepped on the accelerator, revving the engine powerfully. “Growls like a tiger!” he added.
But, something about the noise the engine was making didn’t sound quite right to Jake. He could already tell the turboplugs were overloading Callie’s engine even as Chance boasted about purring and growling, and, frantic to avert utter disaster, Jake grabbed the toolbox and got underneath the hood in an ultimately doomed effort to remove some of the plugs before-
Smoke poured in thick, noxious waves from the now completely blown out engine. Chance bit his lower lip sheepishly, and, after a second, turned the ignition off. Getting out, he walked to Jake, who slid out from under the hood, his face blackened and his fur slightly singed. The one turboplug he’d managed to remove he held smoking in his hand. It was partially melted.
“Great idea, Chance,” he said with a sigh. He threw the now useless plug away. “NOW what’ll we tell Callie? ‘Sorry, Ms. Briggs, we know you brought your car in to get fixed, but we broke it even more?'”
Waving the smoke away and coughing a bit, Chance said, “Eh, I dunno, I’ll thinking of somethin’…”
Just then, they heard the blaring honk of a truck horn, followed by the “beep-beep-beep” of heavy machinery backing up. Just what they needed. Burke and Murray were back. Wiping his face off, Jake joined Chance, and they went out to meet their least favorite kats in the world. Burke and Murray’s filthy, noisy dump truck sat idling with its back end pointed at the garage, filled to overflowing with the junk and garbage the two had collected that morning.
Murray leaned out the driver’s side door, a half-eaten donut in his hand. “Got a special delivery for ya! Hit it, Burke!”
The tipper portion of the truck then tilted back and uncermoniously dumped the gigantic pile of scrap all over the ground in front of the garage. Burke and Murray laughed as Chance and Jake walked up to stand beside the vehicle, awaiting the inevitable delivery notice. After the brothers had gotten done making fun of them again, of course.
“Man, this makes my day!” Murray said and crammed the rest of his donut into his mouth.
“Yeah,” agreed Burke, visible over his brother’s shoulder. It was amazing he was able to cram himself into the cab. “They come a long way from bein’ pilots!”
The same old schtick. Here it came…
“A loooong way…” Murray said with his mouth full, then pointed down at the ground, “down!”
Didn’t they have any original material? wondered Chance.
He laughed, then suddenly choked on the mouthful of donut, gagging, and lurched back and forth in the seat, eyes bulging. Despite hating his freaking guts, a wide-eyed Chance, on pure instinct, was about to throw open the door, drag the little jerk out and give him the Heimlich when Burke came to the rescue, thwacking Murray on the back violently with his palm, causing the shorter kat to wharf up the throat-clogging mass of chewed up donut. It splattered on the dashboard. Ick, thought Chance, and stood back, his hatred of Murray renewed now that he was okay.
“Thanks, Burke,” Murray wheezed and indifferently waved Chance and Jake away. “I’m fine, I”m fine…” He coughed a few more time,s and then his moment of vulnerability passed and he was back to laughing. He leaned out, handing Chance a clipboard with the delivery form on it and a pencil that could’ve used sharpening it looked like. “Sign here, sucker.”
Chance did so, handing the clipboard back, but emphatically snapping the pencil in two with his thumb and forefinger. Murray frowned at that but didn’t rise to the bait, instead just holding up a tin cup filled with identical pencils and jangling it mockingly. A few moments later, he threw a piece of paper out to them. Their copy of the delivery form. Chance didn’t catch it and let it flutter to the ground at his feet.
“Well, boys, it’s been a blast, but we gotta be gettin’ back out on the road,” Murray said. “Gotta report in to Commander Feral about his favorite Enforcer washouts!”
“We’ll tell him you sent your loooove!” Burke sneered.
“Adios, amigos!” Murray jeered and floored it, the truck speeding off, kicking up a huge cloud of dust, leaving behind a seething Chance and Jake.
As the dust cleared, Chance and Jake were left standing there amid the pile of junk their “friends” had left for them. Chance shook his head. If Burke and Murray knew he and Jake used the very same stuff they dumped on what amounted to their front lawn all the time to modify an old fighter jet into the sleek, beautiful and deadly Turbokat, they’d have coughed up a hairball.
Standing with his hands on his hips, he narrowed his eyes at the departing truck. “‘This makes my daaaaaaay,'” he said, making Jake laugh by doing a surprisingly good imitation of Murray. “Those two dipsticks! That donut almost did us a favor!”
Jake smiled and gave one of his friend’s brawny biceps a good-natured punch. “Riiiiight,” he said, “like you would’ve let ‘him choke to death. I saw you going for the door.” He winked.
Chance just shook his head. He supposed Jake was right and not even Murray deserved such a humiliating death as choking on a donut. Besides, if he’d died, they’d have had to deal with a grieving Burke. And, that thought didn’t exactly fill Chance with joy. Turning towards the junk, he hitched up his belt over his stomach and kicked a bent piece of metal, sending it whizzing through the air to clang off of an automobile engine.
He walked over and stooped down, examining the engine. To his eye, it looked perfectly good. Not new, but otherwise in working order. “Hey, Jake,” he said, grabbing it and grunting with the effort of lifting it from among the junk where it lay nestled, his biceps bulging through his shirt sleeves as though they’d spring the seams. He set it down at Jake’s feet. “Take a look at this,” he said. “We could put this baby under Callie’s hood.”
“Yeah, to replace the one you just exploded.”
Chance’s smile turned into a frown.
“But, you’re right,” said Jake, getting down on his hands and knees to examine the engine more closely. “It looks like it’s in pretty good shape.”
“Why do you think someone threw it out…?” asked Chance.
“Dunno,” Jake said, rising to one knee. “Probably just got replaced with a newer model.”
“And, they just pitched it?” the larger feline said, affecting astonishment. “What a waste!” He kneeled down beside his friend and gave the engine an affectionate pat. “Don’t worry, we got a good hood to put you under.”
“Without any modifications beyond basic repair,” Jake warned, glowering.
Chance just grinned sheepishly, then Jake rose and returned to the junk pile. Here, he found what looked to him like a perfectly good TV set. An older model than the one Chance had busted the other day, but otherwise in decent condition. The longer he worked in a junkyard, the more Jake became amazed and dismayed at what people threw out. Picking it up, with much less effort than Chance had with the engine, thank goodness, he turned and lifted it above his head like the one foretold in the old legends of Megalith City holding the Dragon Sword aloft in triumph after removing it from the rock.
Chance glanced up from where he was kneeling and blinked as the rising sun shined brilliantly behind the appliance his friend was holding up, and blinked.
“I found our new TV!” Jake said triumphantly.
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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.