Newton Zyme was so completely out of breath by the time he finally made it down to the ground level of the building that, after charging through the stairwell door, he literally fell forwards onto the floor of the lobby, gasping for breath. He lay there unmoving for a while, trying to catch his breath. Suddenly, there was a muffled explosion, and the entire building shook as though a bomb had gone off somewhere. Jolted, Zyme looked up and then saw, through the front doors of the lobby, flaming debris landing out front.
What had happened? Glancing over, he noticed one of the guards, named Deemer, lying over by the wall. His compassion for another cat superseding his exhaustion, Zyme rose to his feet and walked over, kneeling down beside the body. He checked his pulse. Deemer was alive, just unconscious. He had a nasty-looking bump on his head and his hair was matted with blood. The dent in the wall told Zyme the guard had been flung into it.
Grabbing the unconscious Deemer, he began struggling to drag the larger cat to the front entrance. He wasn’t overweight or anything, but very muscular, and therefore heavy. However, using all of his strength, Zyme managed to do it. But, when he reached the door, he found it blocked by the fiery debris. Setting the guard down, he tried the door. It opened a few inches before banging into a chunk of concrete. Trapped! They would just have to wait until rescue came.
Hearing Deemer moan, Zyme turned and noticed he was starting to awaken but was still groggy. Suddenly, the stairwell door opened. Zyme saw Dr. Viper emerge, a few containers of Katalyst 99 in his arms. His hair was smoking, his fur blackened with soot, and his lab coat was singed. He looked really pissed. Zyme reflexively yelped, which got Viper’s attention, making him look over.
His eyes narrowed at the sight of Zyme, who he realized had managed to escape from the bacteria. He himself had just barely managed to escape from the burning lab before the flames reached the stores of chemicals, causing an explosion that, Viper thought, took out the entire fourteenth floor. He’d been forced to sacrifice two canisters of Katalyst 99 in order to ensure that this would happen, by shaking them up and throwing them, which started the fire. It had spread quicker than he thought it would, and he’d only managed to get out with six jars of the stuff. Six was better than nothing, he figured.
Now, he eyed Zyme. That guard he’d knocked aside earlier was at his feet. How cute. Zyme was trying to help him. But, with the door blocked by debris from the destroyed fourteenth floor, neither of them was going anywhere. And, since it would take a while for any rescue attempts to get through all that, Viper could take his time. Composing himself, doing his best to look intimidating even though he was just as exhausted and haggard as Zyme was, Viper walked slowly over to them.
“Hello, Newton,” he said. “Did you missss me?” He sneered.
Zyme gulped. Nothing had changed since their last encounter. Zyme still got weak in the knees and shook with terror in Viper’s presence. Viper chuckled darkly. He enjoyed putting fear into Zyme. And now, he was in a position to ensure that he’d be able to do this anytime he wanted. He decided, on the spot, that he would take Zyme with him as his prisoner, back to the swamp, and keep him there. He’d force him to be his assistant, just as Purvis had been Zyme’s assistant all those years, and make his life a living hell.
“Get away from me!” Zyme said, circling around, moving away from Viper, who continued on his previous path, stopping at the feet of the unconscious security guard.
“Aw, why don’t you want to ssspend more time with me?” Viper said, turning around to face Zyme. “There’sss nowhere to run, Zyme. And, thisss time, there’s no SWAT Katssss to come and sssave you from me. Now, you’re all mine!”
His tail whipped out and seized Zyme, dragging him over as the older biochemist shrieked and struggled. Yup. He was putting up more of a fight than Callie had, definitely.
“No!” he yelled. “Put me down this instant, Purvis! I demand that you put me down, you-you-you…you vile murderer!”
Viper chuckled. “Awww, but Doctor,” he said, eyes narrowing. “we have sssso much to catch up on!”
Zyme wiggled fiercely, shaking his head, clearly terrified but determined to resist. He was not going to surrender to Viper! “I won’t go anywhere with you, Purvis!”
Viper scowled. Not at Zyme calling him by his old name. He’d long given up on persuading Zyme to refer to him by his new moniker of Dr. Viper. No, he was annoyed at the idea of Zyme resisting. All the way through the sewer, and then all the way through the swamp to his tree. He was getting a headache just thinking about it. He had no doubts he could make Zyme see his point of view once they were completely alone out in the swamp, with not another soul around for miles, but after everything he’d been through this morning, he was not in the mood to put up with Zyme’s bitching. Suddenly, he got an idea. Grinning wickedly, he lowered Zyme and set him back down on the floor and his coils released him.
Zyme looked confused, but then Viper’s tail slithered over and wrapped around Deemer’s barely conscious form, lifting the dazed guard up into the air. Zyme watched in horror. “What are you doing?” he demanded to know.
Viper sneered. “Either you come willingly with me or he diesss.” The coils tightened a bit around Deemer, and he groaned in pain.
Zyme blanched, covering his mouth, unsure of what to do. If he didn’t do as Viper said, then an innocent guard was going to die! He remembered how guilty he had felt about causing Purvis’ death, even though it was purely accidental, and he didn’t want to have another life on his hands. He had only one choice. He sighed and lowered his head, clenching his fists. “Do you promise not to kill him if I go with you?” he asked.
Viper knew instantly that he had won. It was smooth sailing from here on, provided his second captive didn’t go ballistic if he woke up on the way home. “Yesss,” he answered, pausing to remove the gun from the guard’s hip holster with his free hand. It might come in handy, and it was best not left in Deemer’s possession, obviously. “I sssswear I will not kill him, if you will cooperate and return to my home with me.”
Zyme nodded and then looked up, tears welling in his eyes. He was filled with intense dread. His next words sealed his fate. “All right, then. I, uh, I’ll go with you.”
“Grand!” Viper said.
Hoisting Deemer a bit more for easier carrying, Viper started across the lobby to a door that led to the basement. “Come on, we can’t go out the front. We’ll use the sssewer entrance down in the basement.”
He nudged the door open with his elbow, and turned, looking at Zyme expectantly. “Well?” he said. Giving a great, heaving sigh, Zyme walked over and, at Viper’s insistence, went down the short flight of steps first.
Viper followed, leaving the door hanging open. There was the manhole cover, right where Viper remembered it was. It led into the building’s cistern and that led to the sewers. “You open it, I don’t have any handsss free,” he ordered Zyme.
Zyme nodded and stooped down next to the manhole and, with some effort, grunted and lifted the cover off. A foul stench assaulted his nose. He’d never been down in a sewer before in his life. The smell reminded me of the way Viper had smelled when he’d originally come back from the dead. Once again, Viper made Zyme go down first, and Zyme carefully made his way down a ladder. He could hear running water and the squeaking of rats, but beyond the beam of light streaming through the opened manhole, everything was absolutely pitch dark.
Zyme waited at the bottom for Viper, who simply jumped down, as climbing down while carrying a gun, six canisters of Katalyst 99, and an unconscious security guard would’ve been a real hassle. Luckily, Viper was graceful enough that he landed gingerly, without shaking up the canisters. Unlike Zyme, Viper could see in the dark perfectly.
He smiled, inhaling the sweet, sweet smell of sewage and grime. This was where he was at home. Up on the surface, inside modern buildings and on city streets, he was not at home, and for more reasons than simply disliking being stared at. His transformation was more than simply physical. It had changed him mentally and psychologically as well. Not only had the relatively mediocre and uninspired scientist Purvis been instantly transformed into a super-genius, but he had also developed certain new instincts and tastes. Among these, was an inexplicable preference for places that were dark, warm and dank. Next to the swamp and his hideout there, the sewer was the next best place.
“All right,” he said, “let’sss go. We’ve got a long walk ahead of usss.”
It was a long walk. Long enough for Deemer to have awakened. His head injury made struggling difficult, so Viper did not have to put up with a lot of kicking and squirming. Here was where the gun came in handy. After explaining things to the guard, Viper told him and Zyme to walk in front of him the rest of the way, following his vocal directions while he kept the pistol pointed at their backs.
In this fashion the three journeyed through the sewer and, finally, emerged in Megakat Swamp through a giant corrugated drain pipe that emptied raw sewage into the marshlands. Zyme, walking in front, shielded his eyes from the sudden bright sunshine after spending so much time in the darkness of the tunnels.
Behind him, he heard Viper say, “Quit ssstalling, Zyme.”
He climbed down from the pipe and walked forwards, stopping near the shore of the vast lake of shallow water and mud that comprised the swamps. Immediately, his feet sank into the soft mud to the ankles. “Ugh,” he said and pulled one foot free, only to discover that the shoe had come off and was still in the mud. Working more carefully with his other foot, he managed to extract it without the shoe coming off and went over and helped Deemer climb down.
“Yuck,” Deemer said, looking at the swamp.
Viper emerged from the pipe last of all and gave a deep, long sigh, puffing his chest out and adopting a regal pose as if he were a king returning his kingdom after years of absence. Finally! He was back in his swamp at long last. He hated leaving it. Even though the sewers were dark and dank to his liking, they couldn’t compare to the beauty of his beloved swamp. Here, the light was dim and foggy, like perpetual twilight. There were eerie howls and cries in the distance. It was like another dimension, and Viper loved it. It was one of several reasons why he wished more than anything to expand his swamp into Megakat City.
Looking down, he noticed Zyme and the guard looking up at him, worriedly but expectantly. Back to business. Getting down, he stood before them, smirking, then motioned with the gun. “My houssse is a few milesss from here. We can make it before sssundown if we hurry. Which meansss no dawdling!”
Deemer nodded fearfully, while Zyme went and began trying to dig his shoe out of the mud where his foot had sunk in, but was unsuccessful. To his puzzlement and annoyance, he couldn’t find it. All it got him was muddy hands. He grimaced and shook them, flinging most of the mud off, and wiping the rest off on his pants. Viper chuckled, watching him, thoroughly enjoying how obviously uncomfortable Zyme was with his new surroundings. Now, the tables were turned, he thought. Now, Zyme was the one who was the freak and stuck out like a sore thumb in his neatly pressed pants and pristine white lab coat.
After a few more moments of standing there, they moved on. Again with Zyme in the front and Viper bringing up the rear, they waded into the marsh. Depending on where they were, the water could be either ankle-deep, knee-deep, or even chest-deep, as poor Deemer found out when he fell into a small but deep hole in the marsh bed.
“Help! Help!” he yelled, flailing, “I can’t swim!” Zyme came to his rescue, pulling the struggling guard back into the shallow part of the swamp.
Viper chuckled, then motioned with the gun, and they moved on. In the distance was Viper’s home. It was an enormous, twisted dead tree, one of several dotting the swamp and, in fact, the largest. Midway, Zyme lost his other shoe, and they stopped as Deemer took his off too. In their socks, they continued until they finally arrived at the base of the tree, which was at least twelve stories tall. Alongside it, Viper had build a crude dock of sorts onto which they climbed.
Zyme frowned. He knew, obviously, that Viper lived inside the tree, but couldn’t see any entrance. Then he noticed a rope ladder hanging down and looked up. The ladder went up to a large knot in the side of the tree, which served as a natural balcony of sorts. The front door to Viper’s home was there, high above the swamp floor.
“Now what?” said Deemer.
“Up,” Viper said, pointing with the gun.
Zyme went up first. It was difficult for him, being so out of shape, to hoist himself up. Halfway up, he stopped, panting, but Deemer, behind him, pushed up and helped him climb the rest of the way. Viper stood below for a moment, watching them climb. Looking at the gun, he decided he no longer needed it. Now that they were at their destination, escape was impossible. There was no way either Zyme or the guard could make it through the swamp on their own without him. He tossed the gun aside, and it landed with a splash in the water. A huge alligator immediately appeared, ate it, and then disappeared back beneath the murky surface.
Using both feet and his one free hand, Viper climbed up the ladder. He made it up effortlessly. Back when he first found the tree, he’d of course had to stock it with equipment to make a lab, and that involved, of course, carrying armloads of things up the rope ladder. Thusly, he made it to the top without much effort to find both Zyme and Deemer sitting down, panting from the climb.
Now, Viper led the way, his tail tip deliberately brushing across Zyme’s cheek fur as he walked past him. After catching his breath, Zyme got up and followed him glumly. Deemer stood, looked out over the vastness of the swamp, gulped nervously, then turned and hurried after the other two.
The knot had a knothole, a deep one, which 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 were empty, as Viper lived alone and had no need to furnish every single room. At the end of the tunnel was a small flight of stairs, which Viper had made himself, and the trio climbed up it and into the main hollow of the tree, the biggest one of them all, which served as both Viper’s living room and laboratory. There was a ratty couch, two even worse-looking chairs, a crooked, ramshackle coffee table; aside from lab equipment that was about it for the room, surprising given its vastness.
Everything else in the room was devoted entirely to Viper’s twisted scientific pursuits. There were several tables, each one crammed to overflowing with beakers, test tubes, and retorts, many heating over bunsen burners, causing the room to be filled with an audible bubbly sound as the insidious concoctions cooked. Viper went over to one of these and unceremoniously swept all of the beakers and flasks right off of it and sent them crashing to the floor, making Zyme and Deemer jump. He then carefully set down all six containers of Katalyst 99, one by one, on the tabletop. Mission accomplished.
Stretching and popping his joints, Viper sighed and adjusted his lab coat, then turned to his two “guests.” He was only interested in Zyme. The guard could’ve drowned out in the swamp, for all Viper cared, and, for now at least, the snake-cat scientist ignored him completely and focused entirely on Zyme.
“Welcome to my humble home,” he said, spreading his arms wide, his voice reverberating off the walls. Lowering his arms, he said, “You’ll be ssstaying here for quite sssome time.”
Zyme, in the meantime, was feeling as hollow as the tree they were in. He was stuck, just as surely as both his lost shoes were stuck out in the swamp. He wondered if anyone would ever wonder what had happened to him? Deputy Mayor Briggs was the only one who had seen him last and had seen that he’d escaped being eaten by the bacteria monster, but even she must have simply assumed he’d been killed in the explosion that had consumed the entire fourteenth floor.
It would take them months for rescue teams to sort through the burned-out wreck to discover no sign of a body, and only then would they realize he was missing and not simply dead, but by then it would be too late. He coughed. The air was damp and hot, and made his fur all sticky. His clothes were drying out now, at least. He looked over at Viper, who stood, crossing his arms and smirking, his big tail lashing behind him.
Finally, Zyme said, “What do you plan to do with us?”
“Whatever I want,” Viper said.
Viper went up to Zyme and stood before him as the other scientist trembled. He couldn’t have been happier. His old boss was now, at last, his prisoner, and would remain so for as long as he deemed fit. There were so many deliciously evil things Viper wanted to do to him, he didn’t know where to start! No, he thought. That would only make Zyme hate him. And, although normally he didn’t care what anyone thought of him, if Zyme hated him it would mean more resistance, and Viper knew he’d tire of it pretty soon and begin to desire obedience from his prisoner. He had to make Zyme like him, but also fear him at the same time. It was a difficult balance that he would have to work to maintain in order to, so to speak, heat Zyme to his desired temperature and keep him there, but it was a challenge he was going to enjoy undertaking.
The easiest course of action would be to appeal to the older biochemist’s scientific mind and entice him to assist him in his work. He had a rather delicious plan coming up involving the new Megakat Tower being built, and it was this he had stolen the Katalyst 99 for. Although he didn’t actually need an assistant for the work, one would certainly make things easier. But, he realized he couldn’t come off as being incapable of following through on threats and needed to show Zyme he meant business.
Viper moved away from Zyme and stood in the middle of the room for a moment. Zyme wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but what about that guard? Deemer still stood where he had been a few minutes ago, shaking, completely weirded out by what he had just witnessed. Viper noted how muscular and fit he was. When it came to other cats, Viper preferred to use athletic ones in good health for his monsters because of their solid build.
Up until now he hadn’t given it much thought, but as he watched the big guard quivering, he finally decided to mutate him. Once that decision was made, he grinned evilly and walked over to one of his worktables. He perused the apparatus there and finally found a stoppered Florence flask filled with a sickly green liquid. Pulling off the stopper, he then rolled up his sleeve and picked up a scalpel and cut himself on the back of his forearm, wincing. His green blood dripped down into the flask and mixed with the chemical inside it. The blood wasn’t absolutely necessary, but he found it allowed him better control over his creations, and after the way the bacteria monster misbehaved today, he wasn’t going to mutate another living thing without adding his blood into the mix.
That accomplished, he watched as the cut healed slowly, a benefit of having regenerative mutagen in him. Then, he picked up the flask and walked over to Deemer as Zyme slowly stood, watching, puzzled. Viper’s tail suddenly whipped out and wrapped around Deemer’s throat, hauling the guard to his knees, gagging.
Zyme, horrified, cried, “No, wait! You promised you wouldn’t kill him!”
“Who said I was going to kill him?” Viper said with a smirk, then upended the flask over Deemer and poured the contents onto his head, then released him.
As soon as the chemicals hit Deemer’s head, they fizzled and bubbled, and, immediately, the guard began to undergo a horrifying transformation. Horrifying for Zyme anyway. Viper enjoyed every second of it.
Deemer stood, gagging. “What’s happening to-Aahhhhh!”
Suddenly, his arms transformed into thick green tentacles, which split apart his shirt sleeves. His hands ceased to exist. Then he squeezed his eyes shut, and, when he opened them, Zyme gasped as they glowed blood-red. Soon, all of his fur turned green.
There were loud cracking and snapping sounds, and Deemer’s legs suddenly split apart three ways each, shredding his pants, the split legs forming into six tentacles, as big as the ones that used to be his arms. This forced Deemer to become shorter, but then his chest swelled, bursting through his uniform shirt, buttons flying everywhere. One hit Zyme in the nose as he watched, shocked. His mouth became larger, with sharp teeth, widening and stretching to take up almost the entire front half of his body. Last of all, his head expanded into an oversized mushroom cap with cat ears on top.
Zyme felt like throwing up. Viper had just turned an innocent guard into a mushroom! He backed away, covering his mouth, completely horrified at having witnessed, firsthand, such a hideous transformation. Taking his hands away from his mouth, he squealed, “No! No, no, noooo! How could you?” Tears flowed from his eyes as he wept for Deemer’s horrible fate, watching the awkward-looking mushroom monster he had become trying to move, wriggling its tentacles.
Viper’s tail slithered around Zyme’s waist, and he pulled Zyme over to himself. “He was of no ussse to me otherwissse,” he said, sneering. “He’ll make a wonderful helper, I think. Don’t you agree? He guarded your lab, and now he can guard mine.” He chuckled.
Zyme gagged, sickened, and felt faint. He struggled wildly, and Viper indulged him by releasing his hold on him, allowing him to break away. Zyme ran a few feet, stopped, then bent over and vomited. Not much, considering his stomach was empty, but he dry-heaved awfully. Viper came over and patted him on the back, acting as if he were a father teaching his son the facts of life, and all throughout behaving as though what had just happened to the unfortunate guard was completely normal.
“What you’ve jussst seen is what I’ll eventually do to everyone in Megakat City, so hisss fate isn’t unusual,” Viper said, putting his hand on Zyme’s shoulder. “And, you’re going to help me. You’ll be my assistant and help my in my experiments, jussst as Purvisss helped you with yoursss.” Zyme looked up at him, wiping his mouth. “Together, we’ll change the world! Isssn’t that what you’ve alwaysss wanted to do?”
Zyme glared angrily up at him. “Change it for the better, not for the worse! I wanted to help catkind not, not… turn them into some kind of hideous freaks of nature!” He pointed at the mushroom-cat, who was slowly getting the hang of moving around using tentacles instead of legs, but was still pretty clumsy.
Viper grabbed Zyme by the collar of his lab coat and hauled him to his feet. “Don’t missstake my earlier affections for a genuine liking of you, Zyme,” he said. “I’ll just as sssson make your share his fate if you disobey me! I’ll turn you into nothing but a mindless eating machine to be usssed by me until you’re killed by the SWAT Katsss!”
“No!” Zyme cried, horrified at the thought. “No, please! I’ll do anything you want, just, please, don’t turn me into… a monster.”
Viper grinned. “As long as you obey me, Newton, you have nothing to fear from me.” With that, he slid his arm around Zyme’s waist and ushered him from the main chamber.
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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.