Original SWAT Kats Story

A Mega-Hotfoot

By Cat Matson

(Unfinished) In the midst of a slew of supervillain attacks, T-Bone meets a very unusual girl and takes a very unusual shine to her. But, with secrets, secret identities, and a tangle of villainous schemes, romance is a bit complicated.

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Author's Notes:

Archivist’s Note: This story was originally posted as separate chapters, and the over-arching storyline was never given a name.  Thus, the Archive is using the title of the first chapter.

Author’s note: Greetings, friends & neighbors & fellow SK addicts… two things before you read this.

Point One: This is a ROMANTIC COMEDY. If you are looking for angst, depression, misery or tawdry situations, you will not find them here. If you don’t like romantic comedies, don’t read this. This is a love story, and while it has some good action scenes and some funny gags, it is A LOVE STORY.

Point Two: In keeping with responsible use of this site, I have decided to err on the side of caution and slap a flat ‘R’ rating on this book for: ‘strong language, sexual situations and violence’. While the majority of these chapters could get away with a G, PG or PG-13 rating, I don’t want anyone skipping selected chapters because of the two or three ‘R’ rated ones. While I think the few sexual situations are tastefully done and the violence and colorful dialogue isn’t gratuitous, please let me know if you agree/disagree. I can be reached at emphelli@earthlink.net. Sorry for the extended soliloquy, skip it in the later chapters despite it being prominently displayed in front of each one. (Thank you, Kris & Barb) Anyway, enjoy… Cat M.

 

Chapter 1

A Mega-Hotfoot

“This is Ann Gora, Katseye News, with Mayor Manx and Deputy Mayor Briggs at Megakat Beach. Megakat City is in the grip of the worst heat wave in seventy years. Today’s temperature breaks the record set yesterday as the thermometer continues to climb with no end in sight. The unseasonably warm weather has Megakat City paralyzed as overheating cars clog the streets and buildings are unlivable as air conditioning units all over the city fail from the overloading. The hospitals are reporting the number of heatstroke victims in the hundreds. Mayor Manx, what are City Hall’s plans to cope with this emergency?”

Perspiring heavily, Mayor Manx swiped at his damp face with a sweat-soaked handkerchief before replying.

“City Hall is going to take care of the situation, Ann, but I’ll let Deputy Mayor Briggs and Commander Feral give you the details. I’m suffering from a case of heatstroke myself from my tireless efforts on the city’s behalf.” Manx drawled, faking a quaver in his voice as he dived back into the air-conditioned limo.

“Heat stroke, my tail!” Callie thought impatiently, “the only stroke he’s having is over the fact he can’t golf in this weather!” She straightened her loosened tie before stepping around Feral to address Ann. “Deputy-Mayor Briggs, can you explain?” Ann asked, shoving the microphone in front of Callie’s face.

“A state of emergency has been declared, Ann. Commander Feral of the Enforcers is going to blockade off the main roads into the city and anyone traveling without a valid reason will be turned back. The Megakat Power station is going to have to reduce the electrical output to some of the city’s minor systems to cope with the overload draw on the city’s air conditioning units. Citizens are advised to travel as little as possible and only emergency vehicles will be permitted access to the main roads. If you’ll excuse me I have to get to City Hall to coordinate the city’s rescue efforts. Commander Feral…”

Feral stepped up to the mike and began growling off the roads to be closed first as Callie walked over to her car and got in. Impatiently, she pulled off her tie and bound her thick blonde hair into a ponytail with it. Keeping a wary eye on the temperature gauge, she decided to stop by the garage to get her radiator topped off. Having her car overheat and strand her was NOT part of today’s agenda. She had enough problems as it was.

At the salvage yard, Chance and Jake were returning from yet another emergency call to aid a stranded motorist, and the tow truck reached the garage a few minutes before Callie. Both kats were shirtless, with bandanas bound around their foreheads to keep the perspiration from their eyes, and soaked in sweat. The bigger, burlier Chance was suffering worse from the heat than Jake, and he collapsed on the couch as they padded wearily into the garage.

“Jeez, Jake, I don’t know how much longer I can keep going in this heat,” puffed Chance. “I feel like I’ve eaten too many Mungo peppers…”

Jake looked sympathetically at his friend, and although he too was weary and overheated, he padded over to the refrigerator and removed two cans of milk, tossing one to Chance.

“Drink that, it’ll cool you down some, anyway; and then we’ll go down to the hanger where it’s not so bloody hot.” Jake said, plopping down on the couch beside his friend. “At least with the roads in and out of the city closed there won’t be anymore emergency calls until this heat wave calls it quits.” Chance commented, draining half the can in a single gulp. “That’s a break….” Jake trailed off as Callie’s car pulled up in front of the garage. As she shut off the engine a gout of steam hissed from the radiator, telling her she’d made it to the garage barely in time. Callie leaned her head wearily against the wheel, too tired for the moment even to get out of her car.

Jake walked over to her car and opened the door to peer uncertainly into the interior. “Ms. Briggs? Are you okay?”

Callie lifted her head and smiled wearily at him, the exhaustion in her face making Jake’s heart twist with pity.

“I’m all right, Jake, but this crate needs some water in a bad way.”

“You’ll have to wait for the engine to cool down some before we can fill it up, if we try to do it now, the engine block’ll crack from the temperature differential.” Jake replied, eyeing her worriedly, forgetting his customary shyness in his concern for Callie. “You look like you could use a few minutes’ rest too. Why don’t you come in and have some milk while you wait for the engine to cool?”

Realizing she couldn’t go anywhere until her car was fixed, Callie accepted Jake’s helping hand as she stepped from the car, but as she began to walk toward the garage the world began to tilt crazily and spin and she caught at Jake’s arm as she fainted.

“Callie!” Jake shouted in horror, catching her limp body as it slumped forward. Gathering her up into his arms, he ran for the garage shouting for Chance.

“What’s the fuss… Callie!” Chance cried, leaping to his feet as Jake laid Callie carefully on the couch.

“Get a cold cloth to put on her forehead and some more cold milk for her to drink, she’s collapsed from the heat,” Jake said, pulling off her shoes and loosening the sleeves of her suit. Chance sprang to the sink and tossed Jake the damp, cool cloth as he grabbed more cans of milk from the fridge. Jake began patting her face gently with the cloth, and Chance caught up another cloth and began doing the same to her wrists. After a few agonizingly long moments, Callie’s eyes opened and she gazed confusedly up at Chance and Jake.

“What happ….” her voice trailed off as the room spun again.

“You fainted, but rest now, you’ll be ok,” Chance said, holding her hand gently.

“Everything’ll be fine,” Jake assured her, placing another cool cloth on her forehead. “Well, maybe I should rest for a minute…” Callie said weakly, closing her eyes again. When she reopened them cautiously a few minutes later, the room had ceased spinning and she felt better, if not entirely back to normal. She tried to sit up, but found herself gently restrained by Jake.

“Not so fast, Ms. Briggs, sip some of this before you try to sit up.” Jake said, as he held the can of milk to her lips. Indeed after a few sips Callie felt her head clear the rest of the way and she smiled up at the pair.

“Can I sit up?” she asked.

“Okay, but lean on Jake and me,” Chance replied, as he and Jake assisted her to sit up.

“I’m sorry to be such a nuisance.” Callie apologized. “I’ll be out of your fur in a minute.”

Chance and Jake exchanged glances and Jake ventured, “Your car’ll have to cool for at least fifteen more minutes or so, it’s hotter than blazes out there. Why don’t you stay here while we check on it, you don’t want to conk out again and be an even bigger nuisance, do you?” Callie blushed faintly and nodded. The two kats left her resting on the couch with one of Chance’s Scaredy Kat comics and another drink of milk, this one in a glass Jake had hastily dug out of the cupboard.

“Fast thinking, buddy,” Chance complimented, “she’d probably have tried to get up and split if you hadn’t fibbed about her car.”

Jake poked puzzledly under Callie’s car hood and replied, “I wasn’t kidding, Chance, this engine’s hotter than one of Chop Shop’s ripoffs.”

“Still?” Chance leaned over and peered more closely at what Razor seemed so engrossed by.

“Yeah, it’s like the engine overheated from the bottom up, and not the way an engine normally overheats.” Jake looked up with a worried expression. “Chance, there’s something funny about this.”

“So how come I’m not laughing?” Chance replied wryly.

Jake shook his head. “Let’s get Callie back safe to her office and go see Professor Hackle… I have a bad feeling about this.”

“Whatever you say, buddy, at least the Turbokat has air conditioning.”

***

Half an hour later the Turbokat hovered above City Hall.

“Callie’s pulled into the City Hall parking lot… let’s move, T-Bone.” Razor said.

T-Bone swung the jet around, and kicking in the afterburners, arrowed away towards Professor Hackle’s beachfront laboratory complex.

“Will the Professor mind us dropping in without an invitation?”

“We’re not… I called him and told him we were coming while you were telling Callie how Scaredy Kat was a pinnacle of sophisticated comedic social satire. Where’d you get a line like that anyway?”

“There was this girl at Pop Perkins’ newsstand buying a Kat Kommandos comic, she was talking to Pops about Scaredy Kat. I overheard her say it.”

Jake snorted. “A girl… I shoulda known.”

Chance shook his head. “There was something strange about her. She had these real long braids, and I had the weird feeling I knew her from somewhere but I couldn’t remember…”

“Never mind the girl OR Scaredy Kat. There’s the Professor’s lab. Land us, will you? I want to talk to the Professor right away.”

“You’re the brains on this team. Going down.”

As the jet came to rest on the tarmac of the Professor’s driveway, the old Professor came hobbling out of the garage dressed in sandals, khaki shorts and an obnoxiously loud Hawaiian shirt under his lab coat.

“Swat Kats! I’m so glad you came. I was on the verge of calling you myself when you contacted me.”

“There’s something funny about this heat wave, isn’t there, Professor?” Razor said, as the two kats strode toward the old scientist.

“It’s much worse than that, Razor my boy, come into my lab and look at what I’ve discovered.”

The Professor led the way into the building and T-Bone and Razor breathed an involuntary sigh of relief as the torrid heat cut off abruptly. The Professor led them down the corridor away from the main lab and into a smaller room littered with rock samples, geological equipment, and dominated by a map covering one entire wall, showing a cross section of the bedrock under Megakat City.

“This is my geology lab.” Hackle gestured to the map. “As you can see Megakat City rests on what was once a very seismically active area. The bedrock under the city is only a hundred feet or so deep, and under that is a very complex series of interconnected tunnels stretching for an area of several dozen square miles. I had been testing my new sonic scanner by mapping the tunnels under Megakat City. If the scanner could map tunnels so far underground accurately, it would be of great benefit in mining operations and underground exploration.”

“That’s great, Professor, but what does this have to do with the heat wave?” T-Bone interrupted.

“I was getting to that part, my boy.” Hackle hit a switch on the computer console and half of the tunnels, the lower ones, turned a dull red.

“What are those tunnels marked in red, Professor?” Razor asked, walking over and tracing the lines with a claw.

“Those are tunnels that are filling with magma. Someone has broken into the underground reservoir of magma under the old, dormant volcano south of the city and is flooding the tunnels under the city with liquid magma. If they succeed in flooding the entire cave system, the city will burn from the ground up!”

Razor and T-Bone stared at the Professor in horror.

“That’s why Callie’s engine overheated the way it did… The heat is coming from under the ground!” Jake exclaimed.

“Exactly, Swat Kats.” the Professor said.

“How can we stop that?” T-Bone looked baffled. “We can’t fight a river of lava.”

“No, but I have a way for you to both stop the tunnel flooding and ensure that whoever is doing this horrible thing will not be able to succeed or try again.”

“How, Professor?” Razor asked.

“You must take your Turbo-mole craft into the caldera lake of the dormant volcano and bore down into the tunnel system. When the cold water hits the magma it will instantly cool, solidifying into a solid mass and sealing the already-filled tunnels.”

“Sounds dangerous.” T-Bone mused, staring thoughtfully at the map. “Won’t the magma and water react when they come together?”

“Oh yes! You must not be in the tunnels when they flood. You would never survive the reaction. It will be like a small earthquake when they hit. I imagine the whole city will feel the tremor and probably for a hundred miles in any direction.”

“If we can’t be there when the water and magma come together how will we get out once we’ve broken through to the tunnels?” T-Bone asked.

“That’s easy enough,” Razor answered absently, carefully tracing out the tunnels leading to the old volcano. “We’ll drill almost all the way through in several strategic locations and plant explosive charges on the walls of the tunnels. We’ll head back up the flooded tunnel and detonate them all simultaneously once we’re out of the danger zone.”

“Exactly,” the Professor said, beaming at Razor like a star pupil. “But you will need to plant the bombs in exactly the right spots in the upper caverns to cause the entire tunnel system to flood all at once, only if all the tunnels flood together can the city be saved.”

“We’ll need a heck of an explosion to blow a big enough hole, Professor, and the Turbo-Mole doesn’t carry a real heavy weapons complement, after designing the propulsion and guidance systems there wasn’t much room left for heavy artillery.”

“Don’t worry about that,” the Professor assured him, walking over to a table piled high with equipment and picking up one of half a dozen perfectly seamless cases, each roughly the size of a large shoebox. “I designed these for you to take with you.”

“What is it?” T-Bone said suspiciously, eyeing the box as he would some noxious, not-quite-dead critter that might bite.

“It’s a bomb, of course,” Hackle said sadly. “In my years working for Pumadyne I designed many instruments of destruction, and I still remember how.” The old kat’s shoulders sagged wearily and he looked away from T-Bone and Razor, terrible shame and self-disgust showing clearly on the aged features. Pity welled up in T-Bone’s heart, but letting none of it show on his face, he walked over to Hackle and thumped him on the shoulder.

“Not this time, Professor, this time you’re saving a lot of kats’ lives. A whole city-full.”

“That’s true, isn’t it?” Hackle said, brightening slightly. “At least one of my horrible inventions will be used to help katkind, not hurt it.”

“You said it, Professor.” Razor answered. “Do you have a copy of this map we could take with us?”

“Of course, and you’ll need the remote control for the detonators, as well.” Hackle gathered up a small control wand and a computer disk. “Here’s the detonator, it’s only got a range of half a mile so you must remain within the volcano bowl itself to set off the charge.”

Handing Razor the detonator, he held up the disk.

“These are the complete results of the underground scan. The disk will interface with your on-board computer and tell you exactly where you are in the tunnels at all times. The best route to take to the optimum points for detonation is already programmed in.”

“We’re on it, Professor!” T-Bone and Razor said. Grinning at the inadvertent chorus, they raced out of the lab together. Hackle shook his head, looking fondly after the two.

“Good boys, to help an old kat who has so much to make up for.” Sighing, he picked up the scanner and began tinkering with it.

“Perhaps if I could increase the sensitivity of the scanner I could find out who is doing this…” The identity of the culprit behind the plot was a problem nagging at Razor as he prepped the Turbo-mole for underwater running. The sheer cliffs of the volcano bowl rose around him, hemming in the sparkling lake filling the center of the volcano. Razor saw T-Bone come trotting back along the shoreline, pausing to rinse his paws at the water’s edge.

“I’ve got the Turbokat stashed out of sight in that gully and piled branches around and over it. It’ll be safe enough until we get back.” T-Bone informed him, wiping his paws dry on his flight suit.

“The Turbo-mole’s about ready to go.” Razor replied, sealing the last of the seams around the engine compartment. “T-Bone, who do ya think’s behind this?”

“I dunno… only a few of the scuzzballs we tangle with have the smarts for this kind of complicated plan.” T-Bone scratched his chin thoughtfully. “It’s kind of Dr. Viper’s style… he’s always wanted to turn Megakat City into a tropical swamp.”

“No, I don’t think so.” Razor’s face went hard. “Remember Dr. Viper was a biologist before he went wacko and turned himself into an overgrown salamander. He doesn’t have the kind of specialized geological knowledge that this setup took.”

“Then the only one with the kind of smarts, knowledge and resources to pull this off would be… oh hairballs…” T-Bone’s face went as hard and angry as Razor’s.

“Exactly,” Razor affirmed. “DarkKat.”

“I’ve wanted a shot at that creep for a long time.” T-Bone growled. “I owe him and he’s gonna get what’s coming to him!”

“With interest.” Razor webbed his toolkit securely under the control console and looked up at his partner and best friend. “Ready?”

“For a shot at DarkKat? You bet.”

The Turbo-mole’s powerful treads spun and the little craft headed down into the lake. As the water closed over their heads T-Bone could not suppress an involuntary shudder.

“Whattsa matter, buddy?” Razor jibed, “It’s not like you can’t swim.”

“Just because I turned into a giant mutant frog doesn’t mean I hafta live like one. Fish swim. I fly!” T-Bone replied emphatically.

“Just kiddin’, buddy.” Razor said, leaning over and slapping a hand on T-Bone’s shoulder. “All right, the course is programmed in and we’ve got a fix on where to start drilling. Head due west for half a mile, then start drilling.”

Gazing out at the water around them was a study in horror. Lush green underwater plants were cooked brown by the hot water around them, and corpses of parboiled fish floated lifelessly toward the surface.

“The exterior water temperature is 115 degrees and rising, we must be getting closer to the old magma reservoir. Prepare to start drilling, there….” Razor pointed through the front windshield at a crack in the congealed magma floor beneath them. The Turbo-mole shuddered and rocked as it began to bore through the surface, but once in its own tunnel it settled down to a steady vibration, noisy but tolerable.

“How far down do we need to drill, Razor?” T-Bone asked, concentrating on holding the Turbo-mole to its course.

“Not much farther… The Professor picked the place where the tunnels come closest to the lake bottom. We should be through soon.” Razor’s forehead furrowed in concentration.

“Bingo!” True to his word, the Turbo-mole shuddered, then dropped thirty feet to land with a bone-jarring crash on the floor of an immense cavern. Water began to pour through the hole they’d created; but with the size of the cavern, it would take a while even for the respectable waterfall they’d created to fill the cavern and start flooding the tunnel mouths pockmarking the cavern walls a good ten or fifteen feet above their heads.

T-Bone shook his head as if to assure himself it was still attached to his shoulders.

“Watch that last step, it’s a doozy!” he mumbled to himself. Throwing the Turbo-mole into gear, he steered it up the crumbling slope of the cavern wall toward the nearest cave mouth.

“Hey, T-Bone, there’s something funny about this cavern… switch off the Turbo-mole’s lights for a minute.”

Puzzled but willing, T-Bone pulled the craft to a halt and killed the headlights. For a moment the cave was black, but their eyes adjusted and they saw what the headlights had prevented them from seeing before. A faint but perceptible light shone from one of the tunnel mouths off to the left.

“Well, isn’t that interesting.” Razor practically purred.

“Very interesting.” T-Bone agreed. They exchanged a vicious grin.

“Shall we pay a visit to our host?” T-Bone asked, with as innocent an expression as he could manage.

“It would be rude not to, I suppose.” Razor agreed. “But we should plant the Professor’s little toys first.” He grinned suddenly. “I’d love to see Darkcrud’s expression when his plan blows up in his face.”

“Just not up close and personal.” T-Bone replied. “I’d sorta like to be alive to appreciate the moment.”

“Maneuver down that tunnel there, hotshot, and we’ll drop the bombs off. Then we’ll pay DarkKat a little visit.” ***

Less than a quarter of a mile away, in a damp, brooding cavern much smaller than the massive first one, with a floor spiked with stalagmites and a ceiling hidden in shadows, a dozen scurrying reddish forms hurried to dismantle and load a pile of partially disassembled equipment into DarkKat’s squat, ugly airship.

“Hurry, curse you!” DarkKat’s angry bellow rose above the Creeplings’ squabbling and spurred the loading faster. “There’s not much time left to get out of here before the magma fills the last of these tunnels and Megakat City begins to burn!” A panicked squall from a Creepling working on removing the surveillance system brought DarkKat to the one still-intact console. The monitor showed T-Bone and Razor sneaking up the tunnel towards the cavern.

“I might have known those blasted SwatKats would stick their meddling whiskers into my plan. But there is nothing they can do to stop it! Their precious Turbokat cannot save Megakat City. It will burn to a cinder while they watch.” As he watched the monitor, a gruesome smile oozed across DarkKat’s repellent features.

“But perhaps it would be more fitting to let them die here… the first victims of my magnificent scheme. Oh, that would be much more satisfying. The citizens of Megakat City crying for their precious SwatKats to save them, but they will never come!” DarkKat’s maniacal laughter rang through the cavern, echoing back and forth until the cavern seemed filled with the demonic sound. Even the Creeplings huddled together, terrified, until the last echoes had died away.

“Creeplings! Prepare a proper welcome for our unexpected guests!”

As T-Bone and Razor crept up the tunnel, Razor whispered, “Do you think he’s seen us yet?”

“I hope so. We’ve been skulking around in front of those video cameras for twenty minutes. If he hasn’t seen us, we’ve been overestimating him all along. Trust a mad genius to screw up the simplest things…”

But T-Bone got his wish as two steel blast doors, disguised behind rock outcroppings, slammed shut behind them. “Here we go…” he chuckled, bracing himself against the wall as a heavy steel mesh net dropped over them and a wave of Creeplings swarmed around the corner. The little beasts quickly divested them of both glovatrixes and the last shiny box, scuttling up the tunnel with Razor and T-Bone swathed in the steel fibers. DarkKat stood by the ramp leading up into his ship, the cave stripped of all remaining equipment and the Creeplings hovering near their master. He chuckled gruesomely as the defiant SwatKats glared at him.

“So SwatKats, you think you can stop my plan? You will live just long enough to see its final conclusion, and then you will die as I triumph! Bind them!”

Creeplings ran chains around them and secured the pair to a heavy stalagmite, scurrying towards the ship as they finished.

“A second-rate crook like you? Ha!” Razor’s taunt appeared to anger DarkKat, and T-Bone joined in. “Even the Metallikats aren’t so stupid to do something this dumb. I can’t believe you’re making those metal-brains look good. You’re really slipping, DarkCrud.”

“I am the one who will have the last laugh, SwatKats,” the big kat snarled, leaning on his cane. “You will die as your precious city burns, and I will laugh as the pathetic worms there cry out for you and die. Creeplings! Get into the ship, and bring their weapons! They’ll have no chance to escape!”

The tiny forms scuttled into the ship, carrying the glovatrixes and the last box.

DarkKat smiled repellently again, and rumbled, “Farewell, SwatKats. The better kat won, after all…” As his ship lifted off and headed up towards the surface, Razor, chained facing away from the tunnel entrance, asked, “Is he gone?”

“He’s gone,” T-Bone replied. “I never thought it could be this easy.”

Razor snorted. “It’s not over yet, buddy. Let’s get out of here.” Twisting a paw, a tiny laser dropped out of his sleeve, sprang to life and began burning the steel strands through. The laser had burned through nearly a third of the strands before T-Bone and Razor could wiggle loose, but once free they streaked straight for the Turbo-mole. As they pelted up the tunnel, T-Bone and Razor skidded to a halt in dumbfounded amazement as the cavern they had left the Turbo-mole revealed itself to be a shimmering lake.

“Crud, now what?” T-Bone groaned.

“We swim, and you knew it all along. Move!” Razor waded into the water, took a deep breath and dove for the bottom, T-Bone grimacing in distaste as he followed. The water was still fairly clear, and the Turbo-mole was right where they had left it in the exit tunnel. Popping the hatch, the two kats pulled themselves into the compartment and Razor hit several switches on the control panel, sealing the hatch as the water began to drain away, pressurized air hissing into the compartment. Both kats gulped grateful breaths of air as the water level dropped rapidly, leaving them dripping wet and every surface covered with a residue of greenish lake water.

“What a mess, we’ll be cleaning this for weeks!” Razor moaned. Dropping into his console chair, he gestured for T-Bone to get them out of here. “We’ve gotta set the charges off soon. The lava’s almost reached the halfway point, that’s when we have to blow the tunnels open.”

“This place is really gonna shake, rattle and roll then.” T-Bone hit the ignition and the treads rumbled to life, and the tunnels walls began to fall away rapidly.

“Yeah, and I don’t feel like hanging around that long.” Razor studied the console on front of him and tapped the screen with a claw. “As soon as we get to the caldera lake we can set off the charges. The lake water will partially cushion us from the shock.”

“If you say so, Sureshot.” The Turbo-mole rumbled up the tunnel, and Razor kept a nervous eye on the exterior temperature gauge.

“Why do we always have to cut these things so damn close…” he muttered, staring out the viewscreen as the monitor schematic on the console in front of him showed the lower tunnel structure filling with lava, as the upper tunnels flooded and the water worked its way down. As the tunnel entrance came into view, Razor picked up the Professor’s detonator and flipped the safety catch off. “Ok, T-Bone, here we go…”

As they emerged into the scalding lake, Razor pressed the switch, and both kats felt the ground below them tremble and heave.

“That wasn’t so bad,” T-Bone commented.

“That was just our charges blowing. When the lake water hits that lava…” The lake bottom heaved wildly beneath them and everywhere around them sections of the lakebed shifted, ruptured, and spouted gouts of superheated steam. The heavy craft was flung towards the shore like a toy, and T-Bone fought to right it and get the treads back on something that resembled firm ground. The lake surface below roiled and churned, resembling a cheap horror movie more than anything else. The ground beneath them was bubbling like a boiling pot, boulders tossed about like pebbles, and Razor grabbed for his chair’s armrests, grateful for the heavy harness strapping him in as T-Bone held the wheel in a death grip.

Finally breaking the surface, the Turbo-mole ground to a halt, and T-Bone and Razor stared through the viewscreen as the lake boiled and billowed skyward in clouds of white steam.

“What a mess…” T-Bone said involuntarily, leaning back in his seat and flexing his fingers, cramped from fighting the wheel so hard.

“Yeah, but look at that.” Razor crowed, pointing to the sky back toward the city. A small dark dot was barely visible through the gouts of steam, listing badly in the air and trailing a cloud of oily black smoke. “Looks like DarkCrud was still in range of the detonator when we blew the charges!”

T-Bone grinned at his friend with the daredevil expression that said there was no stopping them now. “Let’s get to the Turbokat and get that creep once and for all!”

“You said it, buddy.” Snarling in anticipation, T-Bone guided the Turbo-mole back to the gully where they had hidden the Turbokat and the predator’s expression was wiped from his face as he caught sight of it, to be replaced by one of appalled pain. “The Turbokat!” they wailed together, too horror-stricken to be amused by the inadvertent chorus this time. The gully where they had hidden the jet had partially collapsed during the violent upheaval, and the Turbokat lay half-buried in boulders and dirt. Razor could see the mangled state of the wing and tail assembly even from inside the Turbo-mole. It would take hours to dig out, and at least preliminary repairs would have to be done before it could even limp home to the underground hanger for an overhaul. Razor could see at least a month’s work of heavy repairs on the body alone, and he shuddered to think what the jet’s electronics would look like after a pounding like that.

“Looks like we don’t get DarkKat today after all. Hairballs!” T-Bone slammed his fist down on the control panel in angry frustration.

“You said it, buddy. We’re screwed!”

***

Back in Megakat City Enforcer Headquarters, Deputy-Mayor Briggs stared in confusion at the communications screen in front of her. One minute DarkKat was threatening to burn the city from the ground up, the next minute the ground itself had heaved in a darned impressive earthquake. On the monitor she’d seen a control panel behind the dark figure explode, and DarkKat had half-turned and snarled, “Those accursed SwatKats!” before the picture vanished in a flood of static. His ship, hovering over the city, and clearly visible from the windows of Enforcer HQ, had listed sideways on the air as an upper bulkhead blew out, and the ship had turned and limped away, trailing black oily smoke.

Snarling, Feral had howled for chopper backup only to be told the airfield had been hit hard and there wasn’t so much as one helicopter airworthy.

“Looks like we call it a draw today, Feral, thanks to the SwatKats.”

“Those vigilantes! They weren’t even here! We didn’t see so much as one contrail from that damned jet.” Feral growled.

Callie Briggs folded her arms and slapped Feral with a look that would have peeled paint from a wall. “Believe what you like, Commander. I don’t have time to argue with you. I have a city to take care of.” Tossing her curly mop out of her face, she co-opted half a dozen Enforcers and headed for City Hall. Cursing under his breath, Feral headed for his office to coordinate a city-wide patrol for damages and casualties. Some days you just couldn’t win. He’d have been surprised to know the SwatKats were grumbling the same thing as they dug.

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