THE TINY BACTERIA – Part One
C. L. Furlong
July 17, 2002
January 17, 2003
January 17, 2003
R (violence and gore)
Enhanced by genetic engineering, a pestilence with no parallel throughout katkind history is unleashed by one kat, and all will perish unless a cure is found… quickly!
SWAT Kats and anything related to the series is the property of Hanna-Barbera. No infringement is intended and no profit is gained with this fiction.
The continuation of my “Final Resistance” series and the kind of story I’ve wanted to write for a long time now… However, I’m pretty much sure many people won’t share my enthusiasm over this fiction. Well, if you’re patient enough to read through the prologue, I think you’re patient enough to withstand the massiveness of this story. Either way, I truly hope you SWAT Kats fans out there enjoy it… Cheers to you all!
“I’m letting you help me… as a living test tube for my new bacteria strain!”
Dr. Viper in “The Giant Bacteria”
The groove on the enzymatic protein attached to the specific promoter binding site, disrupting the hydrogen bonds and spreading apart the two carbon-phosphate backbone strands just enough for the enzyme to run along the large macromolecule.
A small molecule, constituted by two rings of atoms, one mainly nitrogenous and the other mainly carbonous, and a small group of phosphoric acid wandered towards the enzyme. The protein catalyzed the bonding of that small molecule to the other in its active site and moved on. More binding reactions were made until two new DNA molecules emerged from the former molecule.
The enzyme then moved on to initiate the same process on another DNA molecule. Along with that enzyme there were thousands of others just like that one, all of them busy with the very same task: replicating DNA.
The process was so powerful and so exact that from one DNA molecule, two would arise, and from those two, four would be made, and then eight, sixteen, thirty-two… Each one of them bearing exactly the same information as the primordial molecules deposited in that nearly fervent container, molecules that once were circular before being digested with specific restriction enzymes.
Such was the power of PCR…
That would have been a normal laboratory procedure that could have been made in any Genetics lab, be it on Megakat Biochemical Laboratories or the Enforcers’ labs.
It would be a simple and widespread procedure, indeed… weren’t it for the small foreign DNA fragment enzymatically attached to the original molecule that was being replicated along with the rest of the primordial double helix…
The shots were well aimed. He had hit them at the right time, when they were more vulnerable and willing to accept the genes he provided them. But he knew that not all of them would accept the genes. Many would repel them shortly. But others would accept and keep the foreign ring of DNA. He’d have to grow them in order to know which living beings had accepted the genes.
Living beings… To call them that is almost an absurdity. They were so different from a kat. So small. So simple. And yet, they were alive. They were alive and had adapted in order to colonize *every* ecological niche on the planet: land, water, air, heat, salinity, acidity, pressure, dryness, other living organisms… They were ubiquitous…
For genetic studies and experiments, there were no better organisms. With only one small chromosome and short life cycles, some of them lasting just a few minutes, they were indeed perfect for genetic experiments. The only thing negative was to never be sure which took up the genes of interest since they were so small. But a simple process of cultivating them in a specific medium would show which of them were the specimens of interest.
He sterilized an inoculation loop and scrubbed it on them. Millions of them were entangled in the loop. He then rubbed the reddish solid medium inside a Petri dish with it. He repeated the procedure with two more dishes and then placed them in the stove, regulating the temperature to 37ºC. After twenty-four hours, he retrieved the Petri dishes from the stove and examined them in the hotte.
He smiled when he saw colonies growing on translucent spots on the previously red medium. Those organisms had fed on the blood in the medium, leaving translucent aureoles behind.
Those were the bacteria that interested him…
THE TINY BACTERIA – Part One
The wind caressed the fur on his cheeks as he soared in the skies above the marshlands. The feeling was breathtaking, thrilling, to be able to fly so high without the aid of machines. Without a word he commandeered his vessel to drop altitude fast and it obeyed, recoiling its wings behind its back and dropping headfirst like a stone. He was lying flat on the back of the creature, tightly pinned to its hide. He saw the swampy marshes below drawing nearer every second. Aiming for a clearing, he ordered the creature to stabilize the fall and dart forward. It once more obeyed and spread out its wings only when it was a few tens of meters above the still swamp water surface, creating a pillow of air underneath its body and wings. Large concentric waves flew away from the center of the clearing and broke against the trunks and foliage of the vegetation as it controlled the free fall it had engaged only a few seconds before.
In one swift motion, its large wings spread to the sides and suddenly shot back, boosting it through the narrow corridor of mangrove trees. It locked its wings behind his back like it had done during the fall in order not to bump against any of the tree trunks and boughs, some of them nearly scraping its wings. For him, the vegetal corridor was nothing more than a blur of green and brown. He suddenly spotted a bright golden light just a few yards ahead of him, the end of the corridor.
Both navigator and creature reached the end of the marshes with astonishing speed. He had to blink twice before he got used to the sudden change of luminosity, after what he ordered his vessel to head up. It obeyed with a harder flap of its wings, so smooth, however, that it was barely noticeable. In a few seconds he suddenly felt the air change, with the humidity level raising to 100% as he penetrated the bright orange bank of clouds in his ascent. Small pearls of water condensed around his furs as the misty atmosphere turn denser around him. He gave another command and his vessel shot upward like an arrow, punching through the fluffy clouds in front of him.
For someone contemplating the sunset above the cloud rooftop of a mountain peak, the dark silhouette that suddenly shot out through the clouds would have seemed like a black serpent snaking its way up, trying to flee from the irresistible pull of gravity, weren’t it for the wings on each side of its apparently slender but actually powerful body.
He smiled, pointy sharp teeth glistening in the fading red twilight of the sunset. Overjoyed, he let out a guttural roar of contentment, immediately followed by an even louder and deeper roar, this time, proceeding from his creature.
An aerial view of Megakat Beach would show not a golden sandy crescent but rather a dark swarm of tanned bodies lying in the sand, profiting from the hot and sunny summer days. Near the waterfront, kittens played and built their sandcastles with the moist sediment while some others played in the calid waters that bathed the overbuilt coastline of Megakat City. In the backshore, just before the orange sandstone cliff, two teams disputed an animated beach volleyball game. In that hot Sunday morning, it seemed that every kat in town decided to go to the beach and, paradoxically, try to relax a little from the bustling urban life.
Away from the coastal aestival frenzy, Chance was lying on the lawn chair on top of the garage’s roof soaking up the sun when a sound that was loud enough to be heard at the farthest corner of the Salvage Yard reverberated from inside the house. A sound incredibly odd for those summer days: a sneeze.
“Bless you!” – Chance screamed as he took off his sunglasses and looked inside.
“Thanks…” – the slender form in the bed responded, after what he reached for a tissue to blow his nose. Chance got off from the chair and entered the room.
“How can this be possible? How can you catch a cold in the middle of the summer?” – he taunted Jake, who just gave him a dull glance.
“Doesn’t spraying me with water in that chilling night ring any bells to you?” – Jake asked back in a nasal tone as he finished cleaning his nostrils.
“C’mon, don’t give me that! In order for you to catch a flu, you must already have the virus inside your system!” – Chance stated.
“Well, with virus or not, I’ve been like so since that night…” – Jake looked around – “Aren’t there anymore vitamin C tablets?”
“No. I’ll go buy some more at the chemist.” – Chance said as he put on a shirt – “I’ve got to do some shopping, anyway. I’m off now! You’ll be all right on your own?” – the tabby asked from the room’s door.
“I’ll survive… I think… I feel half-way dead already…” – Jake complained.
“You know, it’s amazing… You’ve fought against the greatest evil creatures ever to set foot on Gaia and defeated them and still, you go down just because of a little flu…”
“You know darn well how I feel when I’ve got a cold… It’s a wiping out disease for me…” – Jake explained – “This is worse than Dark Kat himself…”
“So you’ve told me… Somehow, I still can’t believe it… You know, this really proves that deep down inside you, you’re really just a wuss…”
“Why, you… Just wait till I’m better! I’ll make you bite my dust in that arena!” – Jake snarled.
“In your weirdest dreams, pal…” – Chance mocked and turned around to go, closing the room’s door.
The twenty minutes were nearly over and the new cell wall was practically finished between the newly formed cells, just another two in the middle of millions of genetically identical cells. In one particular cell, the DNA was beginning to self-replicate, only one of the initial steps of the formation of a new living being. The constant 37ºC temperature and the nutrients provided by the growth medium allowed the cells to divide at a constant rate for the past 24 hours, building up small golden colonies on the surface of the purple medium. All of a sudden, the temperature inside the stove was disturbed when someone opened the door and retrieved the five plastic Petri dishes where the bacteria were growing, which were stacked on top of each other and fixed with some adhesive tape.
Golden pupil-less eyes tried to look through the beads of water that had condensed on the inner surface of the Petri dishes. There was little that they could discern, though. The kat brought them to the hotte and there, amid the outward flowing air, he securely opened one of the small rounded plastic boxes. His lips curved upwards in a smile when he beheld the small golden colonies, simple aureate blots on the surface of the solid medium.
“Ssso beautiful… A shame I mussst ssscramble you, my tiny bacteria…”
Viper opened the remaining four Petri dishes and was presented with more golden colonies of bacteria. There were enough bacteria to build up a nice concentration in a liquid growth medium.
“Hmmm… A consssentration of about 4,9 x 109 cells per liter…” – he said after making some calculations – “About the same consssentration found in a sssewer… That’s more than enough for my purposessssssss.”
The reptilian scientist closed the Petri dishes and went to a built-in case in the wall to his left. He opened and rummaged for what he needed.
“Ahhh, here…” – he retrieved a half-empty large glass flask with a translucent liquid inside, slightly thicker than water – “Darn! I need to go out for peptone… Thisss isn’t enough! Now that I’m at it, I’d better get some agar as well… I’m running short of both… Now, let’sss see… Yesss… I’m sure the Microbiology MedLabs have quite a stock of both… That’ll be my next ssstop tonight…” – Viper said as he closed the case and headed out of his laboratory. He went to the balcony of his tree house and watched due West, to the setting sun.
“Sssoon I’ll ssstrike… And thisss time, it shall be fatal for you, Megakat Cssity… Sssince I can’t make you like myself, then there will be *no* Megakat Cssity for anyone! Or should I sssay, there will be *no one* for Megakat Cssity?”
And with that, he let out a dry laugh that cut through the sounds of the swamps.
“I’m back!” – Chance announced as he crossed the living room towards the kitchen – “Are you still alive?” – he mocked as he tossed the car keys to the cupboard and deposited the paper bags with the groceries on the table. The tabby searched inside one of them and retrieved a small packet.
“Got some candy for you!” – he said as he made the tablets inside the small cardboard box rattle, heading upstairs. He went to their room and opened the door without a sound. Jake’s heavy breathing was the only sound hearable. The slim kat was peacefully asleep.
Chance took off the shoes and entered the room, taking care not to wake Jake up. He put the packet with the vitamin C tablets on Jake’s nightstand. The tabby softly placed a paw on Jake’s forehead.
“He’s a bit hot…” – he thought – “It’s a good sign. It means his system is fighting back the infection… He’s not well but he’s not that bad either… He’ll get over this. He’s a tough fighter. He won’t let a simple cold get him down.”
Chance sat down on his bed and watched the sleeping visage of his friend – “I remember… I remember a time when I fell sick when kitten… Those had been the worst fevers I’ve ever had in my life… If it weren’t for Pop Perkins, I could very well have passed out… Permanently… But this won’t pass with you, buddy… ‘Cause I won’t let it…”
The tabby got off from his bed and walked out of the room. He headed to the hangar in order to have a little practice. He took off his clothes and put on his SWAT Kat outfit, marching on to the reflex room. If he had stayed a bit more in the hangar, he would have heard an Enforcer dispatch being communicated via emergency band, reporting that a silent alarm had been set off from the Microbiology MedLabs, in sector twelve.
The following day was a warm and bright one again. Megakat Beach was crowded, as though the kats had remained there overnight. However, Megakat City was again a roaring and bustling burg, with kats working and living their busy lives. An aerial view of Megakat City while in its workday’s first hours could only be described as endowed with a chaotic beauty. If one looked from high enough, the city would look like a gigantic organism crisscrossed by thousands of lines filled with activity, the very arteries of such a colossal organism.
What was to happen if, in one of those arteries, perhaps one of the main avenues, occurred… an accident?
Rushing to their jobs, a set of three cars crashed in the middle of one of the main crossroads. The other cars approached and stopped, growing the traffic jam caused by the accident. From above, the growing of the traffic jam would quickly start to look like… a tumor… starting to spread through the organism and depriving it from its primal functions…
With the diligent efforts of the Enforcers, the situation returned to normal in just a couple of hours. The organism had been cured and it was functioning perfectly once more.
Ironically, something very similar was about to abate over the oblivious citizens of Megakat City… The only difference was that a cure wouldn’t be so readily available…
The slim kat slowly opened his eyes. It was a hard task since they were burning from the morning light that entered the room. He put a paw on his forehead in order to protect his eyes.
Jake was feeling a bit better but he knew that blessed feeling would soon fade away and give room to another day of excruciating discomfort. He shook his head in a negative, in despondency. He soon regretted having done so for a stinging pain shot through his temples as the continuous rushes of blood inflated the arteries running across both sides of his forehead and forced the fine neural mesh surrounding them, inducing the pain.
He sighed and dared to look outside, to the bright and shiny morning. It was just as odd as it was sad to catch a cold in the middle of the summer, he thought. Jake’s cheeks turned a bit redder underneath his fur. He was ashamed for being so weak when it came to flues. It had always been the same since his kittenhood. A cold was as devastating as a stroke of Ebola for Jake. It was almost a paradox that someone so full of energy as he was would be brought to the ground by a simple cold.
“Unlike him… He only seldom got sick and he never stopped because of that… How we could have turned out to be so different is beyond me…” – Jake thought. He rolled on the bed to grab the glass of water on his nightstand. He felt his mouth dry like a desert.
He slowly sat on the bed. The discomfort had started, as he predicted, just as soon as he began to move. He felt like he’d been beaten half to death, with his muscles sore and hurt. The slightest movement would send waves of pain through his body. Though it wasn’t a sharp or a throbbing pain, it was very uncomfortable, nonetheless.
Despite having eaten only a bowl of soup for supper last night, he still wasn’t hungry. Colds had that effect on him too. They also made him a tad grouchy. He’d grumble at just about everything. So it was a grumbling Jake that forced himself to get out of the bed and head downstairs in order to have his breakfast.
However, before heading to the kitchen, he went to the bathroom to wash his face. Maybe the cold water would ease up his general discomfort a little. He half-walked, half-tottered towards the sink, where he placed his paws for support. He looked at his reflection in the mirror and nearly jumped startled. His eyes were bloodshot and dull, his nostrils were swollen and his facial fur was a doughy mess. He washed his face dilatorily, enjoying the refreshing contact with the cold fluid.
He looked once again to his reflection in the mirror. His looks were even worse now that his facial fur was moist and hanging from his skull. At least he was feeling a bit better but he knew that the feeling wouldn’t last long. He left the bathroom and headed for the kitchen to take that so undesirable breakfast.
Chance was in the garage. All that could be seen of the tabby were his legs and his tail lashing the air as he was buried under the hood of a car. His hears flicked when he heard the weight of a body making the steps of the stairs crack a bit.
“‘Morning, bud!” – the tabby greeted his friend from where he stood. Jake greeted Chance back. Chance got off the car and swept the sweat on his forehead with his sleeve as he headed for the kitchen. He watched as Jake poured some orange juice in a tall glass.
“Now that’s what I call a complete breakfast…” – Chance teased, though there was some truth and concern in his words.
“Back off, Chance…” – Jake answered in a dull tone.
“C’mon, Jake! You gotta think positive about this whole thing!” – said the tabby, placing an arm over Jake’s shoulders.
“Hum, don’t…” – Jake said as he dodged Chance’s embrace – “You should stay away from me or you’ll catch my cold…” – the slim kat said with a worried look on his face. Chance smiled. Even ill, Jake was still worried about his health condition. What a friend…
“You’re probably right…” – Chance acquiesced – “You sure you’re not hungry?”
“I am, Chance, thanks… This juice is everything I’m gonna need…”
“Okay, then…” – the tabby sighed and headed for the garage after patting Jake twice on the back.
The nutrients dispersed at different rates in the liquid. Carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur… Everything a body needs to grow well. That combined with an optimal temperature would accelerate the growth rate to its peak. Indeed, the microorganisms amid the viscous fluid inside the two five-liter Erlenmeyers were actively busy doing what they do best… Multiplying… And multiplying until every resource is exhausted and nothing more than the excretion products are all that’s left.
But Viper wouldn’t allow the excretion products to rise until they reached a toxic level for the microorganisms. No. He was doing a continuous culture, so the bacteria were constantly being extracted as new fresh medium was continuously added to the two Erlenmeyers. That way, the cells’ division rate was constantly at its peak, granting the production of maximum quantities of bacteria.
“Yesss…” – the reptilian scientist said, with a pleasant grin on his snout – “Keep growing, my tiny bacteria… Sssoon I’ll have jussst enough to commence the nexssst step of my grand massster plan… Megakat Cssity will fall to itsss knees before me…”
The mutated kat let out a dry roar of laughter and headed out of the growth room. He went to his lab bench and peered at the plastic box on top of it, beside a stereomicroscope. Inside the box was a living swarm of insects. He opened the box and rapidly collected one of the tiny bugs with the help of a pair of tweezers. He placed it under the light of the stereomicroscope and regulated the apparatus. Against the black side of the stage he saw the magnified tip of the tweezers and the insect they were grappling. He smiled as he saw the small animal furiously arch its abdomen under its body and spray some tiny jets of a superheated translucent fluid.
“A very interesssting ssspecimen of the genus Formica, if I may sssay ssso… Now, to isolate the genes that cause sssuch an interesssting trait…” – he sibilated as he placed the distressed ant back inside the box.
Heading for a medium-sized machine connected to the Cray-XMP supercomputer, he tore the sheet of translucent paper that had spurted off the machine. He looked at it holding it high against a white-lit screen. The paper had a few small dark horizontal bars. The paper alone didn’t tell him much. The cultures he had made with fragments of the ants’ chromosomes obtained from electrophoretic splicing would indeed tell him which chromosome and which part of the DNA produced the superheated formic acid the ants sprayed whenever they were attacked. Viper suspected that such a process of overheating would require enzymes to be done, and, being proteins, the enzymes had to be encoded into the DNA of a gene in one of the ants’ chromosomes. The process was so elegant and elaborate that instead of a single gene, the reptilian scientist expected to find an operon, a set of genes located in neighbor segments of DNA that had a particular function and acted as a whole.
Viper looked at the stove where the Petri dishes with the cultures were. It was too soon to know for sure, but as soon as he found out where the particular operon was located, it was just a matter of cloning the gene and inserting it into the target organism’s genome. However, that was still to happen. Meanwhile, he had to make another pick-up for his studies. He needed a special member of the Trachelidae family, the blistering-fly, also known by the scientific name of Cantharida sp. …
Much for his surprise, Jake managed to be hungry enough to eat lunch and roam around the garage in the afternoon. He was indeed starting to feel better.
“Whaddyaknow…” – he thought – “Looks like this cold was only a minor one… Even my general discomfort is attenuated… I wonder to what do I owe this fast recovery… To all the vitamin C I took?”
The slim kat looked towards the kitchen. He saw Chance inside, busy with pots and pans. Jake was resting in the sofa and watching the news. Despite having felt better the afternoon, he decided he shouldn’t try to work so soon, so he just roamed around the garage and the Salvage Yard. Again, a wave of embarrassment subdued him.
“C’mon, it’s just a silly cold!” – he thought to himself – “Damn it, why can’t I take a simple cold? I can take pain, more than most kats can, I can control my emotions perfectly, I’m in perfect control of myself at the most extreme situations… and yet, I fall before a simple cold! Imagine if I had a *real* disease! I’d probably die the moment it was diagnosed!”
Again, Jake stared at his brawny partner in the kitchen and closed his eyes, releasing a short sigh.
“Some times I envy your strength, Chance… You wouldn’t be so abated because of a simple cold… I wish I had your strength when it comes to face illness…”
“Dinner’s ready!” – Chance stated, shattering Jake’s thoughts. The slim kat looked at Chance and couldn’t help but smile. Chance was wearing that ridiculous ‘Kiss the Cook’ apron… – “You’re hungry enough to eat dinner, I hope! I made cheeseburgers…”
“I don’t think my stomach can take another attack of your cooking… But I’ll give it a try anyway…” – Jake taunted as he got off the couch. In doing so a light dizziness took over him and forced him to stop for a second.
“This is a sign that I’m not completely out of the bushes yet…” – the slim kat thought.
However the dizziness soon faded away. The dinner went well and Jake ate everything that was in the dish in front of him. Chance took that as a positive sign that his friend’s illness was finally going away. The tabby took the plates to the kitchen sink after they both have finished.
“Want any help with that?” – Jake asked. Chance said it would be better for Jake not to abuse of his condition, since it was obvious he wasn’t cured yet: during dinner, Jake had sneezed twice. The slim kat acknowledged with a nod of his head and then went for the living room to watch some sit-com. Chance joined him a quarter of an hour later.
Dave Weiss yawned indolently as he sat back on his chair inside the guard cabinet situated in a room near the entrance of the Manx Zoological Research Center. Night watching was so *boring*! Nothing ever happened. He was already sorry for having had quit the job he had at the city’s Oceanarium. Though he was underpaid there, at least he could do what he liked. He was charged of feeding the dolphins and he really liked the animals very much. Truth was that both the animals and he liked each other.
But he needed more money. Now that he’d made his wife pregnant and she couldn’t carry on her job as a dancer, he’d have to earn more money to pay for the pregnancy expenses and to nurture the incoming baby. So he quit his job and came to work as a night guard for the Zoological Research Center. Under other circumstances he wouldn’t have applied for this kind of job but, as he needed the money desperately, he accepted. The only good thing was the salary: it was the double of what he earned at the Oceanarium.
But it was so darn *boring*! In the Oceanarium he had a lot more to do but at least he *liked* what he was doing. He liked the animals and the animals liked him. Besides, he always managed to get a perfect year-round tan whereas other kats were only tanned in the summer. He smiled at his last thought. The light brown-furred tom yawned and stretched, closing his eyes for just a moment. When he opened them he thought he saw an evanescent shadow by the wall across the entrance. He squinted through the glassed walls of his cabinet but didn’t see it anymore.
Pressed on by his duty’s rules and, most of all, eager for some action, he grabbed the flashlight and opened the door of the cabinet to get out. Turning on the flashlight, he scooped the large room in front of him. He saw nothing. He pondered about the possibilities of some burglar getting inside the building. They were very low. Besides, what would a burglar want with the Center? He didn’t really know what the scientists at the Center did but it didn’t take a rocket scientist to understand they should study more than just zoological behavior. That’s why they paid so well to have a night guard.
He looked at the visitors’ hall, the room where the visitors of the Center entered. The room was dominated by an eerie bluish light coming from the aquariums where some tropical fish swam, ready to greet the visitors. The beam of light swooped from side to side but there was nothing at sight. Dave considered his chances on a mano a mano. He was a well-constituted tom. He had to be in order to work with the dolphins at the Oceanarium. Though the animals were docile, they were much bigger and heavier than him and some procedures required him to raise the animals recurring to bare arm strength. The water helped a bit but, nonetheless, the animals weighted a few hundred kilos… He thought he wouldn’t have much trouble in a fight.
Dave returned to his cabinet, convinced that it was just a trick sleep was playing on him. In fact, he still found extremely hard to stay awake all night long. He was pretty sure this was all the work of a mind fogged by sleepiness.
Suddenly, too suddenly to make any sense, Dave felt that he couldn’t breathe properly. He soaked up a large quantity of air, hoping that it would fill his lungs. Surprise and shock filled his face when it didn’t. He finally understood what was happening to him. Quickly, he threw his paws to his neck and found something scaly wrapped around it, tightening its grip around his neck. Dave fought against his aggressor for a long time but, in the end, the lack of air had its consequences. His arms fell limply, almost immediately followed by his body, hanging limply from the death trap snuggled around his neck.
Tightly pinned to the wall beside the cabinet’s door with his large claws, Dr. Viper loosened the grip of his tail around the young guard’s neck. The nerve endings in his tail told him he was dead. The carotids had stopped pulsating, which indicated he’d held the guard long enough for his heart to stop. He jumped off the wall and confidently crossed the visitors’ hall, penetrating into a corridor with several doors that gave passage to different exhibition rooms. Viper headed for the laboratories, following the corridor to his left.
He reached a closed wooden door marked with a stenciled sign saying “Authorized Personnel Only”. He tried the doorknob. Locked. Giving out a small sigh of irritation, Viper fully unsheathed right paw claws and forced them through a small crack on the doorknob side. When his claws were inside, he gave out a roar and pulled the paw down to his left, shattering the wood and throwing the door off its hinges. The reptilian scientist panted for a moment and then entered the room.
The laboratories occupied the entire west wing of the Zoological Research Center. In fact, there were a series of laboratories where the most various experiments were done, since Behavioral Zoology and Ecological Studies to Applied Genetics and Biochemistry. At the beginning, Viper felt a bit lost. He had planned to rob the Research Center but now that he was there, he had to admit that he didn’t know the place as well as he knew the Biochemical Labs. He shrugged. With the guard knocked out he’d have plenty of time to roam around all the laboratories.
He tried to remember the article he read from one of the recent editions of the “Megakat Journal of Science” he stole during his last visit to the Biochemical Labs. There it was said that blistering-flies were being used to find a drug that, combined with others, would have significant results in the treatment of certain forms of tumors. He couldn’t be less interested in such a research. Using cantharidine, the active principle of the Cantharida’s venomous hemolymph, as a medicine was the stupidest thing he ever heard.
“Tumorssss are genetic aberrationssss caused when a cell losessss control over itssss replication cycle… The cantharidine mussst be extracted from the insectsss rather than produced in vitro… That narrows my search down to the laboratories of Applied Geneticssss and Biochemisssstry…” – the green kat thought. He headed first for the Biochemistry laboratory, which was situated near the end of the long corridor. Here too the door was closed but when he tried it, he found it unlocked.
“To think about all the lecturesss we received whenever we left a lab door unlocked at the Biolabssss…” – Viper thought. He entered the room and immediately was greeted with the familiar sight of a modern and well-equipped laboratory, with white walls, black floor and white lab benches. On top of the benches were a panoply of lab material, from microscopes to supports filled with test tubes. Some of the benches had a plastic bag half-filled with Falcon tubes, plastic test tubes used whenever glass wasn’t allowed to be used in the experiments. Near the walls there were centrifuges, spectrophotometers, stoves, freezers and reagent lockers. He rummaged through the benches until he found a plastic box with some black-colored insects inside. As soon as he touched the box, the insects started spraying a yellowish liquid through an opening at the end of their abdomen. Viper smiled. Blistering-flies. Tucking the box under his left arm, he prepared to leave the Research Center.
Minutes after having fallen to the ground limply, Dave Weiss slowly opened his eyes. His mind was numb and he momentarily couldn’t remember what was he doing on the floor. It took him several minutes to recollect his memories and sort them out. He’d been attacked. He thanked for his apnea lessons. They probably just saved his life. Fighting off the panic of being strangled, he tried to control himself and started to concentrate as when he did apnea diving with the dolphins at the Oceanarium. With his concentration technique, he was able to reduce his heartbeat to a minimum of one pulse per minute. Anyone who would measure his pulse would probably think he’d be dead.
Still with a foggy mind, he headed for the console and pressed the silent alarm. He knew the Enforcers would be there in just a few minutes. He pondered whether he should try to stop the thief or just wait for the authorities to arrive. He decided he’d have his revenge.
“No one brings ‘Big’ Dave down without a rematch!” – he thought as he walked out of his cabinet.
When Sergeant Owen was assigned to the early night shift aboard chopper eight, he hoped for a calm and uninteresting night. And, he was having a calm shift. It was almost midnight and all he could think about was on his bed, waiting for him. Everything he *didn’t* need was that call sending him check a silent alarm in sector five, at the Manx Zoological Research Center. What kind of weirdo would break into a research center in the middle of the night and nearly in the end of his shift? Owen almost felt tempted to wait ten more minutes until the end of his shift but he then thought about what would happen in case Commander Feral found out about it. He decided to go check up on the Research Center, changing course to sector five and heading there very slowly…
“Don’t you think it’s time for you to go to sleep already?” – Chance asked Jake – “It’s almost midnight.”
Jake and Chance were watching the Litterbin show, or better, Jake was watching the show while Chance was getting bored to death. Jake didn’t feel sleepy until Chance had mentioned the time. He yawned.
“I guess you’re right…” – Jake responded. It wasn’t convenient for him to force his system too much while it was recovering from the flu. He was about to get off the couch when they heard the Enforcer dispatch stating the silent alarm on the Manx Zoological Research Center.
“A zoological research center? What kind of a nutcracker would rob a zoological research center?” – Chance asked to himself. Words weren’t spoken and he already had the answer for his question.
“Viper.” – both toms said simultaneously.
They jumped out of the couch and headed for the hangar. Chance reached their lockers first. He’d already started putting on his G-suit when Jake finally reached his locker.
“Hey, buddy. You sure you wanna come?”
“I’m not sitting this one out, if that’s what you mean. Flu or no flu, Viper’s dangerous. You need backup.” – the slim kat said as he pulled the G-suit’s trousers up.
“Actually, I was thinking *you* could need backup on this one…”
“Don’t worry about me. It’s not this cold that’s gonna keep me away from my SWAT Kat duties!” – Jake exclaimed with a determinate look on his face. Chance was surprised. He knew how colds knocked his friend down. So it was a surprise to see him so determinate.
“I just hope everything goes right…” – the tabby thought, tying his bandanna behind his head and reaching for his helmet after having done so. Before heading to the jet, Razor sneezed. They finally settled on their respective places inside the jet fighter and darted down the underground runway.
“Impertinent fool!” – Viper hissed as he released the blood-covered body of the Research Center guard. The stupid tom had tried to attack him in the Biochemistry lab. For a moment, the guard managed to overpower him, throwing him against one of the reagents’ lockers. The locker wasn’t well closed and the knock of his body against it opened one of the doors and made a flask of nitric acid spill over his shoulder, burning the lab coat and his skin. He’d gotten so furious with the rush of pain he’d wrapped his tail around the guard’s neck and lunged to him with his claws fully unsheathed.
The strike hit the young tom in the left side of his gut and penetrated deeply inside. He saw the young tom’s eyes widening as his arm wormed deeply inside the guard’s bowels. With a roar, he pulled his arm out of the night guard while tugging at his transverse colon, eviscerating the young tom, who gave out a loud cry of pain.
Now the guard was down on his knees, unbelievingly touching the warm and humid mass lying in the ground in front of him. Hyperventilating and whimpering, he didn’t want to believe that what appeared to be a large viscous snake was in fact his intestine.
Viper took the plastic box with the insects and tucked it inside his lab coat, under the blood-covered red right arm. Before he went out of the lab, however, there was something else he had to do. He knew the guard wouldn’t go anywhere in that condition but he didn’t have any doubts that he could scream once the shock passed. Even though he was deep inside the Research Center, someone could hear his screams when the agony of death took over him. He decided to put the guard out of his misery. Just before the young tom gave voice to another scream, a light cracking sound coming from his neck ended everything…
Having wrapped up all loose ends, Viper finally prepared to leave the Manx Zoological Research Center. He was fuming. Things had gotten the wrong way ever since the beginning when he had had to knock out the guard. Now he had been forced to kill the young tom, leaving a gruesome scene behind and certainly an Enforcer investigation. Viper wanted to make sure he didn’t leave any clue behind for the Enforcers to follow but the simple squishing sound that his feet made on the linoleum of the floor told him he was leaving a trail of red footprints behind. Besides that, the young tom’s blood on his right arm was surely dripping and leaving a trail as well. To top it all off, it was quite dark, so he had to concentrate his full attention on his escape. There wasn’t enough light to confirm his suspicions about the red trails he was leaving behind and he surely wouldn’t turn on the lights of the complex. Viper was about to enter the visitors hall when he heard something that made him freeze dead on his tracks.
The reptilian scientist pricked his years and tried to listen but he didn’t hear anything else. Instead, he looked to the linoleum directly ahead of him, illuminated by the bluish light of the aquariums. He saw two shadows coming in with furtive movements. He saw that one shadow was burlier than the other was and that they had split up in the meantime. He saw the shadows had an arm out, as if they had some sort of weapon on his paws.
That was all he needed right now… Those *meddling* SWAT Kats…
“Wretched guard! He mussst have ssset off the alarm!” – Viper thought, jerking his head from one side to the other, nearly in panic – “I can’t be caught now! Not now! It’sss too early!”
He pondered his chances. They weren’t much. He thought about running into the visitors’ hall and then fleeing through the same place he’d gotten in but he put that idea apart just as he had it. Chances were high that the SWAT Kats used the same entrance. Besides, could he be fast enough to run by them? He looked to the glass-fitted doors in front of him. The doors were like those found at the entrance of a supermarket, opening automatically when someone tripped the detection beam. There were four doors spaced twenty meters from one another. There was only one door at his left. The remaining three were on the other side of the entrance. He thought the doors wouldn’t obviously open out of the service hours. The doors were all electronically locked and the glass was a strong one, he was sure of that. Even so, he decided that that was his best escape route.
T-Bone moved cautiously now that Razor had sneezed. His heart almost dropped to his feet when his friend had his nasal outburst. Glovatrix ready in his right arm, he headed for the entrance. He could vaguely distinguish the form of a glass gliding door at the other side of the arch that separated the hall where he stood now and the rest of the complex. He was about to signal something to Razor when he heard an immense racket of broken glass. Whoever broke into the Research Center, was now on the run.
Both him and Razor precipitated to the arch. They saw that, to their left, a door some twenty meters away from the entrance was shattered to pieces. The big tabby ran to the broken entrance, immediately followed by his slim partner, who stationed at the opposite side of the shattered door. T-Bone looked to the shards of glass on the floor and sighed.
“Why the heck do we have to do this bare-footed?” – he mentally questioned himself in a rhetorical fashion. Razor made a face, acknowledging the same feeling. Nodding to each other, both SWAT Kats jumped inside the large dark room, trying to avoid stepping onto the glass shards, intent that only partially was managed. They winced when a few shards cut the soles of their feet.
The room was warm and completely in the arms of darkness. They couldn’t see a palm up their snouts. As if mentally connected, both vigilantes turned on their helmets’ lights almost simultaneously. The beams of light cut through the blackness and revealed a long room, with at least twice the size of its width. In the middle there was a central corridor some ten meters wide. Along the corridor there were some glassed pillars separated five meters from each other. Inside the pillars could be seen green vegetation. From time to time, there were large windows on the sides of the room. Between the windows stood stuffed animals and other artifacts.
Razor turned his beam towards one of the windows and peered inside. Just like inside the pillars, there was a dense vegetation beyond the windowpane. Then he saw it, on a fallen tree trunk. A yellow piton moved lazily across the dark trunk, obviously disturbed by the helmet’s light. Razor realized that those weren’t just simple windows but, in fact, cages.
On the other side, T-Bone looked through one of the cages situated on the side opposite to that where Razor was. He also saw the same vegetation as in the pillars but, unlike those, this cage had a sort of a small pool. He lurked inside, getting so close to the glass his breath was fogging it. Suddenly, a gray-bluish head, as large as his own, emerged from the water and tried to bite him. The tabby stepped back, startled, and almost fell over his tail. He looked into the expressionless gray eyes of the snake. It was an anaconda, and an adult, judging by its size. T-Bone shivered. If it weren’t for the glass, he’d be wrapped around the anaconda’s powerful embrace, suffocating to death. He remembered his last experience with MadKat, not yet a month ago.
“This must be the reptiles’ exhibit…” – T-Bone whispered – “What a perfect place for a scum snake to hide out.”
“Roger that…” – Razor acknowledged in a whisper as he returned to the corridor. A few moments later, T-Bone was also in it. – “I suggest a methodic search. You check the right and I’ll check the left.”
“Understood.” – was T-Bone’s only reply. They separated again and, with their lights, they searched the room.
The large tabby had walked half the length of the room when he suddenly heard a low hissing and something that seemed like a rattle. – “Huh? Viper?” – he thought, turning immediately his light towards the origin of the sound. The beam of light fell on a cage with a large rattlesnake inside. It was the reptile that was making the noise. T-Bone’s shoulders dropped in relief. – “No… Just one of his cousins…” – he thought before continuing his search.
His eyes weren’t yet accustomed to the stronger obscurity and he already knew he was inside the reptiles’ exhibit room. The odor was very weak due to the animals being enclosed inside glass cages but he would recognize the smell of other reptiles a mile away. He felt tempted to let them loose, so that they’d hunt down the SWAT Kats. He was still cogitating on this when he saw a shadow cross the shattered door. The SWAT Kats were there already! There wasn’t much time to find a good hideout! Desperately, the reptilian kat flexed his legs and jumped high against the wall to his right and climbed it up.
From his advantageous standpoint, he saw the two SWAT Kats penetrating the room and turning on their helmets’ lights. He remained in silence as the two toms below him spread out from the central corridor. The burlier one was right underneath him. He thought that he could snipe him and even destroy him. But he’d lose the box with the insects if he did so. He considered his options. The insects were too precious to be wasted away…
He crawled towards the door, taking advantage of the darkness and of the fact that the SWAT Kat seemed to be interested in whatever reptile was enclosed in the cage underneath him. He moved cautiously, pondering each move. He suddenly couldn’t get a good grip with his claws on the wall and had to shift his position. In doing so, the box with the insects dropped from his lab coat. Out of sheer desperation, he threw his tail towards the box, wrapping the plastic receptacle with it. If he were alone, he would have released an audible sigh of relief. The box was save… for now…
He shifted his position again and this time he managed to get a stable grip. He looked down and saw the burly SWAT Kat staggering back, as if something had startled him. He waited until the two toms penetrated further into the long room before he risked moving again. He went to the entrance and started climbing down the wall over it. In a few more seconds of crawling down, he reached the opening and crawled outside the reptiles’ exhibit hall.
Finally, he was in the corridor and quickly ran towards the visitors’ hall, still illuminated by the soft bluish light radiating from the aquariums. At the soft light he peered at his right arm, touching it. He feared that he could be dripping blood over the SWAT Kat, thus giving away his position. He saw that his worries were baseless. His scales were dry and his arm was black at the bluish light. The blood had already clotted. Satisfied for finally getting out of that place, he once more tucked the plastic box with the blistering-flies inside his lab coat and exited via the same way he got in. Once in the street, he lurked from one side to the other. He smiled, satisfied that there wasn’t anyone in the street. The reptilian scientist headed for a kathole, opened it and dived inside, closing the lid just in time to hear the noise of a chopper approaching.
Razor inspected carefully every possible niche where a kat could hide. There weren’t much hideouts in the exhibit room, though it was a long division. He rapidly reached the end of the room and released a frustrated soft sigh. He expected that whoever broke into the Research Center would be here. Now it was obvious that they’d been led away from the intruder.
“Of course… It’s so obvious now… Viper must be miles away from here now.” – he thought. The light beam swept the walls and ceiling in one last vain attempt of search. He saw his burly partner coming to him, shaking his head slightly in a negative. He knew instantly he hadn’t found anything as well.
“Whoever forced his way inside…” – T-Bone said in a whisper when he got to Razor – “… must be far away by now. We’ve been led, buddy…”
“So I’ve noticed…” – Razor said with a short sigh. Suddenly, his ears pricked. He saw T-Bone’s hears moving too.
“That’s our cue outta here! The cavalry’s arriving!” – T-Bone said and they ran out of the reptiles’ exhibit, jumping over the shattered door and heading out the same way Viper had.
Once outside the Zoological Research Center, they ran to the nearest alley. Fortunately, the chopper’s pilot was too busy landing to notice the couple of vigilantes scurrying away from the facade of the Research Center. Making their way up to the neighboring dwelling edification resorting to their glovatrixes’ grappling hooks, they covered the distance that separated them from the TurboKat, which they’d landed on the flat rooftop of an apartment building a block away from the Research Center.
The morning came soon enough the next day. Chance woke up with the rays of sun hitting him square on the face. He yawned, cursing under his breath for being forced to get up so soon. In fact, it wasn’t even eight o’clock. He sat on the bed and stretched, making the bones of his arms and back pop while he indolently let out another silent yawn. He got up and looked at the bed beside his.
Jake was still buried under the sheets, despite the sunlight hitting the bed. He went to him, intending to wake the slim kat up. When he reached his slimmer friend, he perceived the beads of perspiration on Jake’s forehead. Immediately taken by a protective instinct, the tabby placed his paw on Jake’s forehead. The slim kat was feverish.
Chance cursed himself for having let Jake follow him last night. It was obvious that Jake wasn’t still cured of his cold and he so *damn* knew how that disease always made Jake hit the bottom of the pit. A cold wasn’t a serious matter but it could become one if the illness wasn’t properly cured. Recidives were always a bad thing. He decided to let Jake sleep for a while longer.
Heading for the window that allowed the sunlight to frame his friend’s covered body, he closed the green curtains. A sickly greenish tone lay down on Jake’s bed. At that light, Jake seemed even more ill than he actually was and Chance had the impression his friend was about to die. He tried to get that thought away from his mind with a shake of his head, in a negative. Instead, he decided to do something productive, like taking a bath, having breakfast and opening the garage.
His mind didn’t want to let him rest. Not now that he was so close. The insects were there, ready to have their genome analyzed, ready to have the gene for their poisonous hemolymph retrieved. Success was just a step away! There wasn’t a minute to spare thinking of rest!
However, his body had other ideas. The insects were there and they were secure. No one would take them away. He could dive into the fastidious task of analyzing their genome a few hours later, after some well deserved rest. In effect, Viper had been working nearly non-stop for the last three months. Even him needed rest. However, it wasn’t just the physical fatigue that took its toll on the reptilian scientist. Most of all, last night’s events were psychologically destructive.
Everything had gone the wrong way. He had wanted a clean operation. Just get in, get the bugs and get out. No struggling, no force, no blood. But *no*! That *stupid* night guard just *had* to make himself useful. Viper took off the lab coat and inspected his shoulder. There was still a wound there, where the nitric acid had hit him. Weren’t it for his healing abilities, he’d been scarred for life. He looked at his dark red right arm and shook his head in a negative. It would take *heck* to clean the blood from his scales… *Damn* night guard… Though… He couldn’t deny it felt *so* great to disembowel that stupid little bastard… There was a primitive bestial feeling of victory, a kind of exhilaration that tasted so good whenever he did those things… Like when he ate that accursed creepling that so much pain had brought upon him… He was pretty sure his primitive bestial side had overrun him during those moments.
The problem was that whenever the bestial side of his personality surfaced up, it always left a mess behind him. He could well imagine the commotion on the Research Center when they find the disemboweled body. Well, the wrong was done. There was nothing else to do. Nothing else but sleep for a few hours…
Jake woke up soaked in sweat. The morning had advanced and the heat inside the room, under the sheets, had become unbearable. He threw the sheet away from him and immediately a shiver ran through all his body, making him sneeze a few moments later. He covered himself with the sheet again and placed the back of his paw against his forehead. The fever burned in his paw. The slim kat shook his head, disappointed at himself.
“I should have known better… The night was chilly and I wasn’t cured yet… I know just how devilish these microbes can get when they infect me… I should have heeded Chance’s warning and stayed in bed… After all, we came home empty-handed… I just got worse for nothing…” – A sneeze cut off the slim kat’s thoughts for a few moments – “Ooooh, my head… I really should have stayed in bed yesterday…”
And, with these thoughts, Jake leaned back and sank in his bed, covering himself over with the sheet until his chest.
The solar orb was already high on the sky when the reptilian scientist woke up. He stretched and slowly crept outside the vine-made cot. He headed out to his balcony to soak up some sun before he returned to work. He didn’t really need to warm up at the sun like his reptilian cousins had but he liked it, anyway. Maybe it was just his reptilian side claiming over his rational mind again but, fact is, it felt great!
After a few minutes he decided to return to his lab and eat something. That done, he finally decided to get some work done. He first peered rapidly at the plastic box with the blistering-flies. He saw the insects were still disturbed due to all the action of last night. They were spraying their venomous hemolymph over each other. Viper didn’t attribute much importance to the matter. He needed the bugs, which didn’t mean that he needed them in perfect physical conditions. He just would have to extract some cells and digest the nucleic material retrieved from those cells with some restriction enzymes before running an electrophoresis to separate the pieces, which would be, then, cultivated in special mediums, like he did with the genomic fragments of the ants.
He left the bugs alone and went for the stove where the fragments of ant DNA were left. He retrieved the Petri dishes from the stove and put them inside the hotte, leaving them there to cool down a bit. That done, he went for the other room where he left the bacteria growing. Just as he opened the door, he felt the drastic change in the temperature, with a gust of a 37ºC-warm air hitting his features. He quickly entered the room and closed the door behind him, so as to disturb the bacteria the least possible. He headed for the apparatus that was slowly purifying the genetically modified bacteria and peered at the recipient recollecting the newly formed prokaryotes. He smiled, thrilled with what he was seeing.
“Judging by the turbidity of the sssolution, they are really growing *very* well!” – he sibilated – “More rapidly than I sssuposed… At this rate, I essstimate that it will take me no more than three daysss to have the amount I require!”
Satisfied with such a good result, Viper adjusted the flasks dispensing fresh medium filling them up aseptically and left the room, opening the door, getting out and closing it as fast as he could, again to disturb the bacteria the least possible.
He went for the hotte, intending to work on the fragments of ant DNA he’d cultivated. He still had to run a battery of tests to find out the fragments of interest. He sibilated.
“Let’sss get down to businesssssss…”
The days passed, warm, idle and without history. After spending three days suffering from a somewhat severe relapse of his illness, Jake was starting to feel better. At least he could accompany Chance in the arena again. Though he was still a bit weak, he managed to hit Chance a number of times, powerfully, proving that the slim kat’s will power was indeed great.
Chance was almost overjoyed to see his friend get up from the mat and jumping upon him, hitting the tabby square on his gut. Not even the pain he felt took off that smile from his snout, as if he had a masochist pleasure in being hit. But it wasn’t it. It was just that he had seen Jake very ill not much time ago, a vision he disliked *very* much, and now, he was seeing his friend getting himself up and leaving the disease behind him. It gave him real pleasure feeling his friend’s hits hurting him, for it was a true sign that he was recovering fast.
In his living laboratory, in Megakat Swamps, Doctor Viper decided to go check on his bacteria. He entered the warm room and headed for the continuous culture apparatus he installed in there. He examined the large Erlenmeyer in which the purified bacteria were being recollected and smiled. Sure that a few millions of bacteria had, in the meantime, died and that the flask was overpopulated with bacteria, which contributed to increase the death rate, but the turbidity of the liquid inside the Erlenmeyer told him that billions more were still alive and metabolically active. He disconnected the apparatus and took the Erlenmeyer with him when he went out of the room. He took the vial to his laboratory’s bench and stared at the turbid yellowish liquid inside.
He shivered, if of exhilaration or fear for what was inside the vial he couldn’t tell. Maybe, in his scientific mind, he was afraid of what the content of that vial could do. With the modifications he made to those bacteria’s genome, he knew *exactly* what kind of mortal horror he was about to unleash upon the unaware citizens of Megakat City. He imagined the consequences of it. The images that occurred to his mind weren’t at all pleasant and he shivered again.
“All the better to manage my intentsss… With the terror I’m about to set loose on this town, no one, not the Enforcersss, not even the SWAT Katsss can do *anything* to ssstop me… You…” – he caressed the glass wall of the Erlenmeyer – “You, my little bacteria, will be the instrumentsss of my wrath… You are a masssterpiece of genetic engineering! Widessspread, highly infectiousss and resissstant to *any* antibioticsss, you will be a plague like none other seen in Hissstory… The only way to contain the spread of the infection will be by quarantining the entire city…” – he chuckled dryly – “Which is almossst an impossssibility…” – his chuckle gave way to a roar of laughter, which ended in a loud hiss.
Steve Harding was sitting at the desk of the night watcher cabinet of the Megakat Water Company’s reservoir located in a hill hanging over the fanciest district of Megakat City, where the majority of the city’s VIP’s lived, along with a few important businesskats and the burg’s mayor. He turned the page of the “Playtom” magazine and unfolded the central pages, getting the magazine a bit away from his eyes so as to better admire that month’s playkitty, which, accordingly, was posing against a paradisiacal tropical beach with white sands and the lightest blue waters Steve had ever seen in his life. He sighed. What he wouldn’t give to be alone with that monument in that beach.
Peering rapidly at his watch, he saw that his partner sure was taking his time getting those doughnuts. His partner, Christopher Travis was a slim tom about the same height of Steve. What Chris lacked in muscle mass, Steve lacked in agility. In fact, Steve was proud of the inverted triangle shape of his torso, which had taken him many, many hours at the gym. Despite being physically not as developed as Steve, Chris was quite an energetic tom. Both toms were friends since their first year in high school. Whereas Steve was the football star of the team, Chris was the basketball equivalent.
During their senior year, they vowed an oath that they wouldn’t leave each other ever. And so it had been for the past year. Chris had informed about the night watch job at the reservoir and asked if Steve would be interested, since they required a pair of guards. Reluctant to give up his party nights, Steve agreed. Soon enough he understood the responsibility that came with his post. Even more surprisingly, he started enjoying that job.
But right now he had other things to worry about. Like, where the heck was Chris? Closing the “Playtom” magazine, he got off from the chair and stretched, flexing his back muscles and making his vertebrae pop. He didn’t want to admit it but he was getting worried.
“Now, now, Stevie…” – he thought to himself – “Let’s not be hasty… After all, he’s only away for… twenty minutes. It’s a bit of a stretch from here to the nearest store, even taking the jeep…”
Suddenly, his thoughts were interrupted by a noise coming from the entrance. He couldn’t well discern what it actually was but it seemed like the door closing. Steve thought that Chris had let the door slam. He stepped out of the cabinet and called for his friend. No answer came to his ears. He thought that was odd. Chris should have hit him back. He walked back inside the cabinet and went for the flashlight. Before he could reach it, he heard a low hissing behind him, as though a large snake were behind his back. He turned rapidly, reaching for the blaster on his holster but everything he saw was something colored in green rush to him and strike him square on his face, sending him flying through the air.
In his flight, Steve felt many things hitting his back. He realized he was making a lot of noise but even louder was the shattering sound he heard. Out of nowhere, as if in slow motion, he saw a shower of twinkling pieces abating over his chest. Suddenly, a big transparent piece hit him square in the chest and he saw a red spurt coming out from the place where the shard hit him. The next thing he saw was a red liquid pouring over his eyes, turning his vision red for a few seconds before the burning feeling stroke him, forcing him to close his eyes. He opened them again but the red filter was still in his eyes. The next color he saw, however, was black when his head was hit by a big shard of glass that surpassed the bone barrier and riveted deeply in his brain’s frontal lobe.
Getting in was easier than he thought. He just couldn’t know was that the door would escape his paw and slam. Viper cursed himself. That wasn’t supposed to happen. Neither it was supposed that the night guard would get out of his cabinet. He had to put an end to that right away, before the disaster that happened at the Zoological Research Center would repeat. So he went after the night guard and sneaked his way inside the cabinet. However, with the exhilaration of the hunt, his breath came out in somewhat audible hisses. When the guard unexpectedly turned around, he was caught by surprise and merely reacted instead of thinking. He’d slammed his tail against the guard with such a force that the poor tom was sent flying against the desk, knocking against it and turning it over. The hit was so strong that the tom still had enough momentum to hit the glass protection that separated the cabinet from the entrance, shattering it to a thousand pieces. Two huge shards of glass had riveted in the young tom’s body, one in his chest and the other in his forehead, killing him immediately, Viper assumed. Still, he had to be sure this time. He went to the guard’s limp body and checked his pulse. There still was a very weak pulse but the young tom was most certainly dead. At least he wouldn’t go anywhere in those conditions.
He left the cabinet and headed towards the flights of stairs that led to the top of the water reservoir. He noticed that the huge motorized pumps in the base of the building were quiet, which meant that the reservoir was full of water. That didn’t sooth him well, since it meant that his bacteria would be diluted amid millions of liters of water. While he climbed up the flights of stairs, he realized that it didn’t really matter if the reservoir was full. Of course that there was a better chance of infection if the water level was low but even with the reservoir full, the bacteria were there and even if just a single prokaryote entered a victim’s system, that would be enough to seal that kat’s fate. Again he felt a shiver. Once more, he couldn’t say why, but he thought to be of exhilaration.
Viper hadn’t climbed up thirty steps yet and a jeep came to a halt in the small parking lot at the side of the reservoir. Chris opened the door and stretched to get the bag of doughnuts, kicking the door shut when he got out of the vehicle. Eating one of the rounded sweets, he used his foot again to open the front door of the reservoir, which he had left unlocked.
The image that greeted him was the last he ever expected to see. He just lay there, frozen, his mouth hanging open while he dropped the paper bag with the sweets. Only seconds later did he recover enough to scream for his friend’s name and run to his lifeless body. He looked at Steve’s blood-covered body in shock. Chris was so disturbed that tears didn’t even come to his eyes.
His mind raced as he inspected the shattered cabinet. The desk was turned over, as were both chairs. In the floor he saw the flashlight and a magazine. Finally, the glass protection was shattered and Steve was the cause for its shattering, no doubt about that. He quickly figured that someone else had done this to Steve. Suddenly, something snapped in his mind. *Someone else* had done that, which meant that there was an *intruder* inside the reservoir. That *shouldn’t* happen! Forgetting his friend for a few moments, he picked up the phone’s receiver and dialed to Enforcer Headquarters.
Sergeant Owen was almost falling asleep when the frantic ring of the phone woke him up from his stupor. Grumbling, the somnolent enforcer tried to reach the receiver.
“Enforcer Headquarters. What’s the situation?” – he responded. The voice from the other end flowed in a flood, as if suddenly someone had opened a tap. – “Sir, calm down, please. Yes, I know it’s urgent but if you don’t explain the nature of your emergency I can’t…”
“Just *shut up* and *listen*!” – Chris cried out – “There’s an intruder inside Megakat Water Company’s reservoir number 5 at the VIP’s district. The intruder has killed my partner and is loose inside the reservoir. You *have* to send a chopper patrol *on the double*! I’ll try to stop him.”
Sergeant Owen suddenly found himself listening to the continued dialing tone. It could be just a crank call but it seemed to be serious. After last Wednesday’s rebuke, given by Comdr. Feral himself, he wasn’t willing to take any chances. He quickly retransmitted the message to the nearest chopper, putting on the message a tinge of emergency.
Settling back in the chair, Sergeant Owen sighed. He did what he had to do in time now. There was nothing Comdr. Feral would have to say about his behavior this time.
Razor and T-Bone were out for the hunt that night. Again, Razor had insisted with T-Bone to come along, to what T-Bone only *very* reluctantly agreed. But everything was going smoothly. Despite a sneeze just after they left the Salvage Yard, Razor was doing fine. T-Bone was beginning to relax when Razor called him.
“T-Bone, I’m picking up a transmission on the emergency band. It looks serious. I think we oughtta take a look.”
“Just point the way, bud.”
“Water reservoir number five, near Manx’s house.”
“We’re there.” – the tabby announced as he maxed the TurboKat up, setting course to the reservoir tower.
It was a panting and very tired Doctor Viper that the top of the reservoir tower greeted. Climbing up hundreds of steps with a ten-liter barrel at his back wasn’t an easy task. Even so, the work wasn’t done. In fact, it just began. The reptilian scientist approached the border of the reservoir and quickly located the hatch that accessed the reservoir itself. Unsurprisingly, it had a lock. Viper sighed. Putting down the metallic barrel with his bacteria, he reached for the lock. Inserting one claw into it, he started revolving it inside until he unlocked the hatch. From that point on, it only took him a few moments to open the hatch and get inside.
Inside the reservoir there was a metallic ladder that ran down the wall from the hatch. Two meters below the ceiling there was a metallic catwalk connecting the ladder and the central column, which bore in its interior the staircase that lead to the top of the reservoir. Viper leapt to the catwalk, landing with a metallic thud. He looked around and grinned, despite the recent worry that had taken over him. The smell that stung his nostrils when he opened the hatch made him remember something he hadn’t considered: chlorine. He didn’t know if his bacteria would survive the bactericide. He’d made sure they were antibiotic-resistant but chlorine wasn’t an antibiotic but rather a simple poisonous element. There was no defense he could have inserted in his bacteria against chlorine. He just hoped the concentration wasn’t too high, since chlorine was poisonous for kats as well.
He put the metallic barrel on the catwalk and prepared to take off the lid when he heard a metallic thud behind him. Turning around, he saw a tom coming towards him with a blaster trained on his person. Viper narrowed his eyes. It appeared that the late night watcher had a friend.
“Well, well, Doctor Viper…” – Chris stated out as he stopped just a few feet away from Viper. He grabbed the blaster with both paws. – “It’s really a pity I just called the Enforcers… I could’ve taken you right here, right now!”
“Enough talk, insssolent little mammal!” – Viper said as he rammed his tail against Chris’s head, throwing the guard over the catwalk. The next second a strong splashing sound filled the reservoir, echoing for a few seconds inside the cavernous space. The unconscious body of the young guard rouse up to the surface. The blaster rapidly sank to the bottom. – “Impertinent mammalsss…”
Viper returned his attention to the barrel. He crouched and uncapped it. His paws were slightly trembling of the thrill. He carried the barrel to the catwalk’s banister and prepared to drop its pestilent load into the water.
“Finally! Victory is within my grasssp! Nothing can ssstop me now!”
Just before the first drop of the bacterial soup would drip into the water, a well-aimed projectile headed towards the barrel, yanking it off Viper’s paws and making it fly towards the central column. Viper looked to the central column not really understanding what had happened. In there stood a large blot of some sticky black substance that looked like tar, which had enveloped the barrel completely, sealing it and gluing it to the wall of the column.
Still not completely grasping what had happened, Viper turned his head in the direction of the hatch. He saw a slim blue-clad form at the beginning of the catwalk, with a smoldering glove-like apparatus. Only then he realized what’d happened.
When T-Bone and Razor reached the reservoir tower, Razor visually scanned the top of the building and promptly found the hatch that granted access to the inside of the reservoir open. He became worried. Whatever was happening, was already under course and they could have arrived too late. Without waiting for T-Bone to land the jet, the slim SWAT Kat had popped open the canopy and had rapidly strapped out of his seat, jumping to the ceiling of the tower. Once he steadied his landing, he had darted for the hatch while T-Bone tried to find a suitable landing site, unwilling to leave Razor alone for long.
Razor had peered inside the reservoir through the hatch for less than a second. From his standpoint, he didn’t see anyone. He’d climbed down the stairs as rapidly and silently as he could and finally, when his feet reached the cold metal of the catwalk, he saw the reptilian scientist ready to pour the content of a metallic barrel into the water.
Razor had acted almost by reflex, taking a careful aim at the barrel and firing two mini tar-pedoes. With that, he’d managed not only to rip the barrel off Viper’s paws but also seal it, confining whatever was inside the container to it’s interior. Now all that was left to do was to arrest Doctor Viper.
That, however, wouldn’t be an easy task. Viper had wakened up from his original stupor, clenching his teeth into a wild sneer of displease. From surprise he quickly passed the bridge to rage.
“Wretched SSSWAT Kat!” – he hissed – “You won’t get out of here alive!”
Viper growled and lowered his torso into attack position. His eyes were coruscating with a golden flare and he roared before he pounced over Razor. Pressed by the lack of space, the SWAT Kat rolled over to the front, passing underneath the pouncing reptilian kat. When he came to his feet on the other side, he quickly turned around but everything he saw was a green blur coming right at him, hitting him with a tremendous force on his gut, making him fly over the waters across the reservoir and knocking against the far-out wall. Another splash filled the cavernous space for a few seconds. Razor’s head came quickly to the surface, gasping for air. When he looked towards the catwalk, Viper was already climbing up the stairs and getting out of the reservoir.
“Monthsss of planning *ruined* by that accursssed SSSWAT Kat!” – Viper hissed as he climbed up the stairs – “I can’t believe all my plansss went down the drain like ssso much…”
The reptilian scientist didn’t have time to finish his sentence. He was still halfway inside the reservoir when he felt himself being flung into the air with a powerful initial jolt.
“Well, well… Look what the kat dragged in…” – a gruff voice echoed in his ears. Viper looked up surprised and then he saw T-Bone’s face with that characteristic smile that always seemed to be present in that vigilante’s mien. Viper recovered faster from his surprise than he had down in the reservoir. He fumed. Being surprised twice in the same night was too much. He balled his fist and rammed it against T-Bone’s stomach, catching the tabby by surprise and making the SWAT Kat double over, releasing the scientist from the iron grip of his paws. Profiting from the edge he’d won, Viper snapped his tail like a whip against T-Bone’s left flank, which managed to rip another grunt of pain from the burly tom.
Making a run for it, Viper tried to reach the door to the helicoidal staircase. He was just about to reach it when he felt something grabbing his tail and pulling him with it. He went down on all fours, fully unsheathing and riveting his claws on the roof, trying to stop the pull. But the strength of his attacker was too much for him. His claws scratched the roof, leaving long claw marks as the SWAT Kat pulled the scientist towards him. He roared, his eyes acquiring a bright golden glow. In an outburst of anger, he found enough strength to raise his tail and unbalance the SWAT Kat, making him fall to the roof. Unfortunately for him, the SWAT Kat didn’t let go of his tail, giving it an even stronger pull that made Viper come flying towards T-Bone, knocking against him and throwing both over the edge of the tower.
“LET GO OF MY TAIL, YOU FILTHY MAMMAL!” – Viper roared as he gripped the banister that filled the perimeter of the tower with tooth and nail, feeling the weight of the burly SWAT Kat stretching his spine almost beyond the unbearable point.
“FILTHY? IT SURE ISN’T ME WHO STINKS!” – T-Bone retorted. He grabbed Viper’s tail with both paws, his feet dangling at the wind some fifty meters above the ground down below.
“YOU’RE GOING TO GET USSS BOTH KILLED, WRETCHED SSSWAT KAT!” – Viper screamed as his eyes acquired a brightly intense golden glow. The banister was giving in to their combined weight. In a few seconds, vigilante and scientist would fall into the dark chasms of the night. Out of desperation, the reptilian scientist’s mind thought of something that would help him get out of such a situation. He looked down, trying to locate T-Bone. Due to his position, he couldn’t get a clear sight of the brawny SWAT Kat. He started moving his tail in each time larger arcs.
He finally had a good sight of the SWAT Kat. He tried to open his mouth but the position made that act difficult. Nevertheless, in the next tail arc, he launched a gob of acidic saliva towards the paws of the SWAT Kat. He missed. He tried again and this time hit five inches above the target. He looked up, hissing and clenching his teeth, feeling the burn of the acid in his tail. He roared and tried again when the SWAT Kat came into his field of vision again. This time, his aim was perfect.
T-Bone’s paws were covered in a sticky and slimy dark green substance. Even with his leather gloves on, he could feel the acid slowly perforating them and contacting the fur and skin beneath the leather. He started to feel his paws burn when another gob of that crud hit him in the same spot. This time he felt a surge of pain rushing to his brain. He was forced to let go of the tail and fall into the darkness.
Viper suddenly felt himself very light. He realized his plan had worked and quickly pulled himself up onto the tower’s roof. He hadn’t yet fully regained his composure when he saw a paw coming out from the hatch that granted access to the interior of the reservoir. The other SWAT Kat was coming out. He had to be gone, fast! He ran to the hatch and shut it close, throwing Razor down to the catwalk inside. He then sprinted towards the door in order to get out of the tower. He was getting inside when he heard a gruff voice from behind him.
“Leaving so soon, Doc?”
Viper looked behind but only saw a dark mass rushing towards him from the sky. The mass collided with the scientist and both bodies went rolling down the flights of stairs. Viper knew now what had it him. It was the burly SWAT Kat. How he’d managed to get back on top of the tower, he had no way to know. Even so, he tried to make sure that it was the SWAT Kat that received the majority of the impacts against the stairs. The helicoidal staircase went down continuously with a dip of ten degrees, without any landings. They took about three minutes falling, entwined on each other. When they reached the end of the stairs, it was T-Bone that absorbed the final impact.
Viper tried to get to his feet as quickly as he could. He gave a couple of steps but had to stop for a few seconds, since his head was spinning. He turned around and saw the brawny SWAT Kat getting up and taking off something from his back that fell on the ground with a loud metallic thud. He saw the powerful form advancing towards him. A rapid check to the vigilante’s eyes told Viper immediately he wasn’t pleased at all. For someone who had received the majority of the bumps of the fall, he surely seemed quite refreshed.
The snake-kat took a step back, trying to keep a safe distance from the enraged SWAT Kat. He then noticed the limping. The vigilante wasn’t so well after all. Viper tried a tail lash to the SWAT Kat’s face but T-Bone grabbed the tail tightly in his injured paws, making them burn even more. He pulled the scientist close to him and grabbed his lab coat’s collar with one paw, while the other, balled in a fist, crashed on Viper’s face, sending the good doctor to the ground.
Viper was shivering with terror. T-Bone had such a fierce look on his face that his eyes were nearly glowing. The tabby was coming towards him again and Viper realized that the chances of getting out of there alive were very thin. Again, fear turned into desperation, which, in turn, changed into rage. He lunged to the vigilante, tackling him at the waist. Both kats lost their stands and fell over each other, entwining into a fight.
After a hard blow to his head, Viper was groggy and T-Bone pushed him away only to lunge at the snake-kat again. He tried to pin the reptilian scientist down but before he could do that, he felt a strong odor of disinfectant invading his nostrils. Temporarily distracted, Viper saw in it his last mean of escape. Gathering all the strength he still had, he gave a powerful kick to the tabby’s gut, which made the tom double over. Quickly getting to his feet, Viper lashed T-Bone’s head with his tail, sending him flying over to the motorized pumps. While T-Bone tried to regain his stand, Viper escaped through the front door. When T-Bone came to the door, there was absolutely no sign of Doctor Viper…
Razor ran down the stairs as fast as he could but slowly enough so as not to slip and roll down the stairs just like T-Bone and Viper had done minutes ago. With his soaking wet outfit, his paws made splashing sounds as he ran down the helicoidal staircase. Razor had just barely opened a gap of the hatch when he saw T-Bone, boosted by his jetpack, head down towards the door to the staircase. The next second, both him and Viper were gone. He’d quickly figured out what had happened. He just hoped T-Bone was alright after the fall.
When the slim kat reached the ground level, he saw T-Bone leaning against the door and staring at the dark night outside. He noticed the jetpack discarded in the middle of the hall. More slowly now, Razor walked to his partner, touching him slightly in the shoulder when he reached him.
“You okay, buddy?” – Razor asked softly. T-Bone’s shoulders heaved up and dropped in a sigh.
“I let him escape…” – the brawny kat whispered in a disappointed tone.
“C’mon, you’ve done all you could…” – Razor soothed – “Don’t be so harsh on yourself!”
T-Bone closed his eyes and dropped his head to his chest. – “I suppose… But I had him in my paws and I just let him get away…”
“Calm down, buddy! We’ll catch him next time, you’ll see” – Razor cheered his partner up – “Now let’s get back top side before we encounter resistance, if you get my meaning.”
“Let’s go. We have nothing left to do here, anyway.” – T-Bone acquiesced, limping up the stairs and releasing a painful sigh as he climbed up the first step. Razor picked up the discarded jetpack and examined it briefly. It was broken beyond any repair. Still, he put it on.
Once they reached the roof, Razor asked T-Bone to go down with him to the reservoir and take the tar-sealed barrel with them. Only with a great amount of physical energy did the duo manage to rip the sealed container off the central column. They hadn’t yet embarked in the TurboKat when the beam of the front flashlight of an Enforcer chopper hit them. The enforcer still tried to stop them but their machine was too fast for a simple Enforcer helicopter. No doubt that, in other times, Feral would try to pin the disturbance caused in the water reservoir on them. It was a good thing that they had Feral on their side now: there would be no way to prove that they didn’t kill Steve Harding, one of the night guards of Megakat Water Company’s reservoir number 5.
The Turbokat’s engines came to a halt when the slick dark jet reached the end of the tarmac of their underground hangar. As the hydraulic lifter raised the platform with the TurboKat on top to the upper level, both SWAT Kats strapped out of their seats. As the platform ended it’s 180º revolution, T-Bone popped open the canopy and both toms removed their helmets, getting up from their seats. After having jumped to the ground, both vigilantes headed for the lockers.
T-Bone’s limping had gotten worse and his grimace of pain whenever he used his left foot to support the weight of his body was proof enough to that. The tabby took off his mask and Razor could see the tired features of his partner. They started undressing their uniforms. When Chance took off his shirt Jake could see his torso riveted with bruises. The jetpack had protected the tabby to some extent but the stony steps were merciless. His legs were even worse than his torso – they had taken the entire brutality of the fall.
“Chance, you need some attention, you know?” – Jake said, concerned with the tabby’s condition – “You took quite a few blows from those steps! Look at all those bruises!”
“It’s nothing… I’m fine…” – Chance said as he dressed up his overalls.
“You always say you’re fine, Chance! Why don’t you just admit you’re hurt? Remember what you promised me a year and a half ago? That you’d tell me whenever you were hurt?”
“C’mon, Jake! It’s just a few bruises! Nothing serious!” – the tabby stated as he clipped his belt. Jake noticed he was dragging the words as if he was extremely tired. He was amid these contemplations when a strange feeling inside his nostrils made him sneeze. – “Besides, it’s not me who needs attention…” – Chance stated out, grinning just a bit.
“I suppose that forced bath will make me get worse again. Guy, the water was freezing! And what a smell to chlorine! I guess I’m lucky if my uniform doesn’t get bleached!” – the slim kat said as he finished dressing up. Only then, he noticed Chance hadn’t taken out his gloves yet. He pointed that to Chance.
“Duh! Stupid me!” – he said as he tried to pull the gloves out. As he did it, a burning feeling shot through his brain, making him flinch and groan in pain. The leather was glued to his skin thanks to the acid. The attempt to take off the gloves had ripped a piece of skin and the wound was bleeding a bit now.
“How did that happen?” – Jake asked, concerned, when he heard the groan and saw the blood.
“Viper spit some acid over my paws back there…” – the tabby explained.
“Hold on. Let’s get you up there and see what we can do with that. Maybe we can cut off the gloves and remove the pieces slowly.” – Jake proposed as he headed for the stairs that led to the garage. Chance hadn’t staggered three steps when he let out a low grunt and started falling to the floor, as in slow motion. Jake noticed that and got back in time to prevent Chance from collapsing to the ground. He held the tabby’s dead weight over his shoulder as he called the brawny kat’s name, trying to wake him up. But Chance had fainted and was completely unconscious already.
Jake positioned his friend’s bulk over his back and tried to climb up the stairs with Chance on his back. A few difficult and tiring minutes later, they were in the living room. Jake took the tabby to their room and left the tabby on his own bed. Then he went to the bathroom for their first-aid kit. Grabbing the pair of small scissors and some gauze, he tried to remove the partially dissolved gloves from the tabby’s paws.
“Look at this mess!” – Jake thought to himself – “I had no idea Viper’s saliva could be so acid! The gloves dissolved and merged with his skin… I have to take care not to cut him too much…” – he sighed – “And, he wouldn’t let me know about his paws, I’m sure! That’s why he didn’t take off the gloves down at the hangar. Damn, it Chance! You promised me! You promised you would tell me whenever you got hurt! And now you were willing to break that promise! Why do you always have to put up this show, this tough guy attitude towards me? I know you better than that, I know you’re just a big softy…”
With lots of patience, Jake managed to free Chance’s paws from the leather gloves, though the gloves would have to be thrown to the garbage now. He then disinfected Chance’s paws and wrapped them in bandages, leaving his fingers out. In a way it was a good thing that Chance had blacked out, otherwise, Jake wouldn’t have managed to take care of the tabby because of the pain he would feel. Remembering the tabby’s bruises, he took the opportunity to do something about them as well.
He removed Chance’s clothes until the tabby was merely with his shorts on. Jake removed a small pot of balm from the first-aid kit and rubbed some of it on the bruises. He started with the tabby’s legs, which were nearly all purple. The front of his torso didn’t have many bruises since it was protected with Viper’s body. That was a good thing, since the front of the torso was the most sensitive area of a kat and the chance of getting internal injuries was higher in that area than in the back.
The slim kat turned Chance so the tabby was lying on his stomach. The brawny kat’s back were more bruised than his front, the result of both the stony steps and the metallic jetpack. If the front of a kat was a good place to get inner injuries, the back was the perfect place to get a kat paraplegic. Luckily, that hadn’t happened to his friend, Jake thought. When he was done with the tabby’s back, he checked his arms for bruises. There were a few there too. He rubbed the emollient balm in them as well.
Jake turned the tabby around again. There was still one thing to do: Chance’s left foot. He touched the tabby’s foot, trying to see if something was broken. Not being experienced in that kind of thing, Jake wasn’t much sure of what he was doing but he thought Chance hadn’t broken his foot. It must have been a luxation or a simple twist. He wrapped the tabby’s foot tightly with some bandage.
*Finally* the tabby was done. Jake pulled the sheet over to Chance’s chest. He examined his friend’s features. He still seemed exhausted. – “Well, I’ve done everything I could…” – Jake thought. He was about to pack everything back into the kit when he saw a rounded reddish mark on the tabby’s outer forearm he hadn’t noticed before. – “Well, well… What do we have here? Another bruise? It doesn’t look like… Maybe a drop of acid spilt to his forearm and he didn’t notice it…” – the slim kat muttered to himself. He grabbed some cotton soaked in disinfectant and rubbed the place. Then, just to make sure, he rubbed some of the balm over it, in case it was some sort of atypical bruise.
That done, he prepared to get some sleep himself. Taking off his clothes, he looked himself in the mirror. It was then that he saw the huge bruise he had across his abdomen, in the exact place where Viper had hit him with his tail. He sighed. Taking off the pot of balm from the first-aid kit he rubbed some on his own bruises. That done, he put the kit back into the bathroom’s case and went to his bed for some well-deserved sleep and rest.
It was nearly dawn when a very tired and battered Doctor Viper reached his laboratory. The chilling swamp water woke him up a bit, making the green kat focus on his final task – to climb up the mutated giant tree. After minutes of straining effort, Viper managed to drag his body inside the lab. He headed for a vine-made stretcher and lay down in there. His brain was a maelstrom of feelings: tiredness, frustration, anger… One feeling in particular, however, was nagging the reptilian scientist more than the others: that he’d just been plainly naive…
“How could have I been so *sssssstupid*?” – he angrily thought to himself – “How could have I though that it would be so *sssssimple* to infect the whole city?”
He smacked his closed fist on the stretcher, making a few shreds of wood fly to the floor. Waving his head in a negative, he mentally cursed his stupidity.
“My plan was perfect… Or ssso I thought… Fact is, I haven’t anticipated that sssomething could happen to the container *before* I poured the bacteria into the water… I should have had a backup plan…” – he hissed out aloud to himself before turning to the other side – “And, even if I had poured my bacteria into the water, my plan was doomed to fail anyway… The first sssetback I encountered was the chlorine… I’m almossst sure my bacteria wouldn’t sssurvive the disinfectant… Then, I remembered sssomething elssse on my way back here… The reservoir has bacteriological filters inssstalled exactly to prevent thisss kind of actionsss. The bacteria I used are giants among the prokaryotes and would get easily caught in the filters…”
Viper got up, unable to stop for a while. The failure of his most beloved plan made him restless. He went to the east balcony. From there, he watched as the sun rouse up in the skies. The first warm rays of light hit him in the face and he closed his eyes, savoring the morning’s first warmth.
“My bacteria *are* perfect… They’re the mossst perfect killersss ever to ssset foot on thisss planet. The *vector* was the inadequate thing in my plan. I should have never planned to pour them into the reservoir’s water… That would *never* work… In order for that to work, I’d have to use marine bacteria, which are much sssmaller than the giants I usssed… But that wouldn’t work either, sssince marine bacteria are very sssensitive and they’d die just as they were dropped into that chlorinated water… I could have usssed virusessssss… But they’re ssso hard to cultivate in vitro… And the ones I’d like to use aren’t accessssible to me…”
The reptilian scientist raised his arms over his head and stretched his stiff muscles, yawning. He once more stared at the rising red orb.
“No… The bacteria are the perfect biological warfare… Especially these mutated bacteria, not sssome Bacillus anthracis or Clostridium botulinum…” – he sighed and smiled, savoring the irony – “Though the genes I inserted in my bacteria’sss genome are from a rather widessspread ssstrain of clostridia…” – his smile vanished – “Yesss, my bacteria are perfect… Maybe a tad too large, if at all… I jussst have to find a sssuitable vector for them…”
Viper put his paws inside the pockets of his lab coat. Suddenly, he felt a cold object inside the right pocket. He took it out and took a few moments to understand what it was and what was it doing in his pocket. Then he remembered. It was the vaccination pistol he’d filled with his bacteria. He intended to use it in case of an attack against his person. He never got the chance to use it, he thought to himself. His features expressed surprise when he looked to the glass container of the pistol. It was empty, with just a few yellowish drops of the pestilent soup inside.
“That’sss odd…” – Viper said, stroking his chin – “I don’t remember usssing the pissstol… Maybe it just leaked… But that’s imposssible…” – the green kat yawned – “Oh, well… I’ll sssolve this puzzle later… Right now, I think I deserve sssome sssleep…”
He returned to his lab and placed the empty vaccination pistol on top of the lab bench. Out of habit, he looked towards the stove. He remembered the Petri dishes he left inside.
“Besidessssss… I have bigger fish to fry…” – he yawned again, showing the rows of razor-sharp teeth – “When I wake up…”
TO BE CONCLUDED…
Navigate This Author's Stories
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.