Original SWAT Kats Story

Memoirs of Kana Clawson

By Dana Uehara

  • 1 Chapter
  • 15,325 Words

(Unfinished) Kana reminisces about his early life and his relationship with his cousin Jake.

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Preface

I never considered myself a writer, much less a good one.  Yet I had a lot of good (and bad!) memories that I often wanted to put down in writing.  Getting started, however, was always the hard part, because I never knew just how to write what I wanted.  I had the idea, all right, but never the words.

When I was young, we often had journal assignments; but often I was told what to write, and I never felt like I had any freedom to write things on my own.  Yet I’d have these other stories I’d tell my friends, and one of them finally suggested, “Why don’t you write them all down?  They can become your memoirs or something.”

I took that as a not-so-subtle hint that I was boring my friends with my stories.  However, my cousin Jake once pointed out that I should write down everything so that I could have a record of my own life.  I thought you don’t write memoirs until you’re well past retirement age, but as Jake noted, once you get older, your memory starts to fail, and all the good stories you once had would disappear.

Here, then, is the result of a few all-nighters to collect my thoughts and put them down into what I hope is a coherent story. This story isn’t finished, either.  I doubt it ever will be, as I’ll keep adding to it as things happen.  I hope you enjoy my efforts so far.

— Kana Clawson

Chapter 1

I grew up not in Megakat City, but on the laid-back Kanakata Island, a relatively small island just north of Anakata Island. Kanakata, as I later found out, was the basis for my name.

Life on Kanakata was much different than that in Megakat City, although I didn’t become aware of this until well after I moved to Megakat City.  For one thing, everyone on Kanakata was laid-back.  In fact, we even had a standard the locals called “Kanakata time,” which was regular time plus an hour or two.  Among many of the local jokes was that if you wanted to order food, either from a restaurant or a caterer, you had to do so at least an hour before you planned to eat, two to three hours if the place was busy.  I learned very quickly never to let myself go hungry if I wanted take-out.  Most of the time, of course, I ate at home.

Kanakata also had friendlier kats than Megakat City.  It was a very rare day that you could take a stroll around the island and not have anyone greet you with a smile and a “good morning,” “good afternoon” or “good evening,” depending on the time of day.  I think the laid-back atmosphere of Kanakata, plus its isolation (I mean, where could you run away to, on an island?) forced everyone to be friendly.

Being in a tropical environment, Kanakata had its cooling tradewinds, warm summers and mild winters.  Temperatures usually ranged from roughly 70-80 degrees F (around 24 to 30 degrees C), sometimes getting warmer.  Being a longhair kat, I naturally preferred the cooler days.  Occasionally days would be warm and humid, especially during the summer if the natural trades weren’t around.  This would wreak havoc on my fur, causing it to clump together and also giving me frequent shedding episodes.  This would be particularly annoying in the shower, because my fur would almost always clog the drain and I’d have to get the plunger to remove it. Sometimes the fur would wedge itself in a part of the pipe I couldn’t reach, and we’d have to call the plumber to use a snake to clear the pipes.

Once I got so upset with my constant shedding that I borrowed my dad’s shaving razor and shaved all the fur off my body.  I endured the ribbing from everyone in the family about it until the fur grew completely back a week later, but for once I actually enjoyed not having to clean out the shower after using it.  I also seemed to have an easier time scrubbing myself, as well as toweling myself dry.  I made the mistake, however, of doing this the Sunday just before a school week, so I faced humiliation in front of my friends and teachers for the week.  Needless to say, I never tried that again, especially since I completely ruined my dad’s razor in the process.

My friends, neighbors and relatives would frequently tell me all about Megakat City, but it was never more than just an abstract place “out there” to me.  I also learned that I had an older cousin, Jake, who lived there with his family; and it intrigued me.  My parents, however, saw it differently.

“Why do you want to go to Megakat City?” my dad asked one evening while reading the paper.

“I’ve always heard of it, but I’ve never been there,” I said.

“You wouldn’t like it,” my mom said.  “I lived up there for a few years, and everyone was in a rush…  crime was really bad…”

“And there nobody’s friendly,” my dad added.  “In fact, in some places you have to watch your back, or someone will come and stab you in it.”

“Still,” I said, “I’ve never been there.  I’d like to know what it’s like.”

“Well, we can’t afford to go,” my dad said finally, ending the conversation.  “Besides, you’re still young.  You’ve got the rest of your life to decide if you want to go there.”  Chapter 2

I first met my older cousin Jake when I was eleven. He was visiting, with his family, from Megakat City, and had offered to take me on a camping trip.  Not having “roughed it” before, I didn’t know what to expect, and was both excited and a bit apprehensive, but my parents didn’t seem to mind…  and neither did his parents.

We hiked deep into a forest on the north side of Kanakata.  Using a compass, Jake navigated us to a clearing, set up camp, and then did something that completely surprised me.  He grabbed a rock and smashed the compass to bits.

“Why’d you do that for?  Now we’ll never find our way out!”

“Relax,” he said.  “I’ve been working on a compass of my own, and I want to test it.”

“But why’d you destroy the other one?”

“Because it’ll interfere with the one I have.”

Since Jake was older than me, I assumed he was right, and I trusted him.  As it turned out, I probably shouldn’t have.  We were in for a fierce rainstorm that night, and the wind and rain whipped through the trees, soaking the tent and Jake and myself until we could have easily wrung a quart of water from our tails alone.  I shivered slightly from the cold, but I could see Jake was in much worse shape since he was a shorthair kat and thus didn’t have the extra fur to keep him warm.

“Why don’t we go back?”  I suggested.

“Aw, come on!  It’s survival training, Kana.  You have to learn to endure.”

I looked Jake directly in the eyes.  Even though he was shivering and his teeth were chattering,  he looked every bit confident in that he knew what he was doing.  I shrugged, then asked Jake, “Do you want me to lie down on top of you?  You know, to keep warm?”

Jake looked a bit hesitant at my suggestion, but finally agreed.

After dawn, Jake wanted to try his compass.  It looked very makeshift, and I suspected the storm from the previous night damaged it to where it wouldn’t work any more.  Jake didn’t think so, however; he navigated us through a part of the forest I thought was denser than where we’d set up camp.

“Don’t sweat it,” Jake reassured me.  “Right after we get through this part, it’ll get lighter.  You’ll see.”

Get lighter it did, but only briefly.  When we wandered into another clearing, I suggested we stop and set up camp.  I was tired and hungry, and wanted a break, but Jake insisted we continue.

“Come on, Kana… are you a kat or a kitten?”

“Jake, I’m only eleven!”

“No excuses…”

I finally convinced Jake to set up camp not far from the clearing, and just outside a dense wooded area.  Somehow I felt it wasn’t safe to go any further, and as it turned out my hunch was right.  We later found out that had we gone a few steps more, we both would have fallen off a steep cliff hidden by the vegetation.

That afternoon I heard a warning siren.  A Kanakata Civil Defense warning siren.  Looking around for Jake, I couldn’t find him.  I strained to see through the brush as best I could, but I didn’t want to leave the safety of the camp and get lost.  I could only call Jake as loudly as I could, hoping to get his attention.

“Jake?  Jake?  Where are you?”

No answer.

“Jake?”

A rustling in the brush just behind me and to my right startled me.  I whirled around, and Jake plunged through, just as another wail of the siren pierced the air.

“Huh?  Wha…?  Hey, what’s going on?”

“That’s what I’d like to know!”

The entire island was under a hurricane warning.  The winds hadn’t died down from the previous day, and were still gusting quite a bit.  Jake had found some tubers and berries he claimed were safe to eat.  Too hungry and tired to argue, I ate ravenously.   As dusk fell, the sky grew darker and the wail of the sirens ceased. I knew something was going to happen, but I didn’t know what.  To keep warm, Jake and I huddled together as the wind whipped through the trees, branches and leaves rustling all around us.  Rain gushed down in waves, and I thought I could see occasional flashes of lightning in the sky.

This is it, I thought.  We’re both dead.

I have no idea what went through Jake’s mind, but he must have been at least as scared as I was.  I didn’t want to look into his face now.  If that look of confidence he once had was gone, I knew I’d lose it, too.

How I fell asleep, I have no idea.  I only remember waking the next morning to someone gently shaking me.  Looking up, I saw an Enforcer standing over me, while another seemed to be in the clearing we had just left, writing notes on a clipboard.

“Are you all right?”

I nodded weakly, and felt no strength to even get up.  The other Enforcer went to Jake, woke him up and helped him to his feet.

“Commander Feral,” one of them radioed, “we’ve found the two kittens.  We’re taking them back home.”

“Roger that,” came the reply.

I glanced over at Jake’s face.  It was covered with cuts and scars, yet he still managed to give me a smile and a claws-up.  I managed a claws-up back, but try as I could, I simply could not smile back.  Yet Jake nodded to me, as if he knew.

After we got back, I braced myself for the inevitable fireworks and lecturing the two of us would get.  Yet nothing happened when I got back and headed upstairs to shower and change clothes.

I had just turned on the shower when I thought I heard yelling coming from the living room.  I couldn’t make out any words, however, but after I finished showering, I could hear the words clearly through the door.

“Jake, I don’t believe you!  How could you be so irresponsible, so foolhardy?”

“I knew what I was doing!”

“No, you didn’t!  You’re only fifteen, for crying out loud!  What makes you think you can survive out there, especially in the middle of a hurricane?”

“Well, how was I supposed to know a hurricane was coming?”

“Where are your brains, Jake?  Didn’t you think to take a battery-powered radio, in case something happened?”

“Since when do you take a radio if you’re roughing it?”

“Jake, use common sense!  What good would roughing it do if you come back dead?”

“You worry too much!” “And what about your cousin?  What if Kana had become seriously ill? Or died?  What then, huh?  Huh?  Answer me, Jake!”

Nothing but silence.  Getting dressed, I slipped out the door and quickly made my way down the hall to my room, hoping Jake wouldn’t see me.  Fortunately, he didn’t, as I was in no mood to talk to him either.

I lay on my bed, staring at the ceiling for what must have been an hour when I heard a knock on my door and a voice saying, “Kana, are you there?  It’s me, Jake.”

“Go away!”  I found myself saying.  “I don’t want to talk right now.”

“Kana, I just wanted to tell you I’m sorry…”

“Jake, please, just leave me alone…”

I heard Jake sigh, and his footsteps down the hallway.  I was almost tempted to run out and try to catch him, but I didn’t.

I never saw Jake again on Kanakata.  After finishing high school, he enrolled in the Enforcer Academy.  I couldn’t wait to finish school so I could join the Enforcers, too, and see Jake again.  Chapter 3

Becoming an Enforcer was high on my career list.  After the night I spent on Kanakata and having been rescued by an Enforcer, plus hearing that Jake had become one, I was pumped.  I pored over whatever literature I could get about the history and workings of the Enforcers, and even wrote a paper on the Enforcers for history class.

Then I heard the news about Jake and his partner, Chance Furlong, being kicked out of the Enforcers.  I stumbled around in a daze after hearing the news, and my grades suffered.  I managed to finish high school with barely a C average, effectively nixing any chances of my getting into the Enforcer Academy.  It didn’t matter, now, anyway.

Since I was little, I had dreamt about going to college in Megakat City.  My parents were supportive, but very apprehensive about sending me there for school.  My mom wondered if I would come back alive.  My dad wondered if I had what it took to do well in school up there.  I reassured them both that I would be fine, and four years later got a baccalaureate degree in mechanical engineering.

I next set my sights on getting a master’s degree, and was accepted into Megakat University.  There I became interested in Professor Hackle’s research on new technology development, and signed on with him as a research assistant.

About half a year after I started working under Hackle, he called me into his office.

“My boy, I have something to tell you,” he said.

“Yes?”

“I’ll be leaving Megakat University to work full-time for Pumadyne Labs.  I’ll still continue my research there, but I’d like you to continue working here.  Leiter Greenbox is my top student here, and he’s close to getting his doctorate.  He’ll stay on at the university.”

Reluctantly, I agreed to stay on, not knowing that Hackle had been coerced into retiring from Megakat University and into working for Pumadyne so he could develop new weapons for them.  Working with Greenbox was a chore, however; he was bright and a genius, but there was also a darker, rather possessive side to him.  On some days he seemed really moody and temperamental.  I remember what happened one afternoon when I became sidetracked while getting some lab equipment for him.

“There you are!  What took you?”

“Huh?  I was only a few minutes late…”

“A few minutes?  Look, this stuff is really time-sensitive! Every minute counts!”

“Hey, can I help it if I had to use the litterbox?  If you wanted it so badly, you could have always gotten it yourself, you know.”

“No, I couldn’t.  I had to keep the experiment going.”

“Look, Leiter, give me a break, okay?”

Greenbox scowled at me, and I saw something deep in his eyes, something I couldn’t describe, but it frightened me.  He worked like a kat possessed, almost like a madkat.

I thought nothing more of the incident.  Greenbox eventually graduated and left for Pumadyne.  While I was relieved that Greenbox wouldn’t get on my case anymore, I was also worried because he took the funding with him when he left.  I had no way of supporting myself, and finally I found myself faced with a difficult decision.

A week later I left Megakat University, called Hackle and told him the news.  Hackle was silent for a few minutes.  Finally, he said, “If I could offer you a job at Pumadyne, I would.  But I’m afraid I can’t.”

“W-why not?”

“I resigned from Pumadyne last year.”

I now fell silent.  I didn’t know what to say, or what to feel.

“Kana?  Kana, are you there, my boy?”

Wordlessly, I hung up. I thought about returning home, but knew that to do so would be futile; and worse, I’d probably get an endless string of “I told you so” lectures.  Unsure of what else to do, or what else I could do, I decided to go out for a walk.  The late afternoon sun seemed to hover over the horizon.  I found myself mesmerized by its beauty, occasionally pausing to look at it as it made its way toward the ocean.  By the time it had completely set, I found myself in the salvage yard.

Ordinarily I would have turned and headed home quickly, before it got dark.  But this time nothing seemed to matter.  Everything I had done until now seemed meaningless.  It was almost as though I had wasted five years in school, when I could have been productive and made something of my life.  I thought about some of the salvage I saw, how at one time this piece of metal had been a part of an Enforcer chopper, or how that piece part of an Enforcer tank.  Then suddenly, the chopper or tank had been hit, by a missile or laser, and the piece was all by itself – sometimes the piece was all that remained.  There was a clear parallel between the salvage and my life until then.

As I prodded through the salvage, I thought about something else. The salvage was here because it could be re-used, maybe recycled into something different.  In much the same way I could pick up what remained of my life and start over.  The only question was how.

Just then the door to the garage opened, and someone came out, carrying a garbage bag.  I couldn’t tell who it was, but it didn’t look like Jake.  It was someone a bit taller and more muscular, and his fur was a light yellow color.  He didn’t seem to notice me as he threw the trash bag into a nearby dumpster.  On his way back, however, he stopped, turned toward me and took a few steps in my direction.

“Yes?  May I help you?”

“Uh, just looking, thanks.”

The kat sized me up briefly.  “We’re closed,” he said matter-of-factly.

An awkward silence followed.  What could I say?  I was obviously trespassing, but I wasn’t in the mood for being either interrogated or lectured.

“Hey, Chance, are you coming in or not?”  That was unmistakably Jake’s voice, and it came from inside a lighted room above the garage.

“Yeah, I’m coming in, in a bit,” Chance called back. “I just need to take care of…”

I used the momentary distraction to slip behind one of the piles of salvage.  Dusk had blanketed the yard with shadows, making it easy for me to find a place to hide.  I heard Chance call back, “Never mind, I’m coming in now,” before I heard his footsteps die down slightly and a door close.

Cautiously I made my way out from behind the pile.  I could see the garage a few yards away and hear a TV coming from the room above the garage.  For a few minutes I wasn’t sure what to do.  Should I knock on the door?  Did I really want to talk to Jake and Chance?  Or should I just go home and pretend nothing ever happened?

Looking around, I saw the metal shell of what must have been an Enforcer patrol car.  The gull-wing doors had been removed, although the hinges still remained, and the seats at least were intact.  I climbed in and lay down on the front seat, my head on the passenger’s side, my feet near the steering wheel.  A small cloud of dust rose, making me sneeze a couple of times.  Nobody upstairs seemed to notice.

I’ll spend the night here, I told myself.  In the morning I’ll be gone, and nobody will have ever known I was here.   Chapter 4

“Somebody’s been sleeping in my bed!”

The words stirred me from a fitful sleep.  I slept in a bed the way some kats sleep in a car, and I slept even more lightly in a car, especially one with flow-through ventilation.

I blinked a couple of times, my vision blurry.  It took me a few minutes to realize just where I was, and a little longer to discover that someone had placed a blanket over me, leaving my head uncovered.

“Huh?  Wha…?”  Looking across, I saw Chance outside.  At least it sounded like Chance.  The sun had already cleared the horizon, but was still low enough to shine directly in my eyes.  I shielded my eyes with one hand and squinted.

“So how’s our transient kat, hmm?”  Jake came over and was standing either next to Chance, or maybe leaning on the car.  I couldn’t tell which, however, since I quickly pulled the blanket over my eyes.  I definitely didn’t want Jake seeing me like this.

“Apparently very shy,” Chance said as he tugged on the blanket, trying to get a look at my face.

“Hey, leave him alone.  It’s not like he did anything, anyway. Besides, isn’t Scaredy Kat on now?”

The next thing I heard was the sound of running footsteps, followed by Jake calling, “Chance!  Wait!  I need to ask you something!”

I figured if I was going to leave, it had to be now.  I slipped out the passenger side of the car, got onto the dirt road leading to the salvage yard and started hiking back toward the city.  However, I hadn’t realized how tired, hungry and weak I was.  I barely made it to a paved road when my legs buckled and I went down.  I managed to get to my feet and staggered a bit before I heard a loud, insistent horn to my left.  I tried to lean right, but it wasn’t far enough.

I felt a very brief pain at my left hip, at the point of impact which quickly subsided.  Lying on the street, I tried to pick myself up a few times but couldn’t.  I waited for the driver to stop and see if I was okay, but I heard the vehicle make a right turn and keep going.

I heard a few cars pass by in front of me, then something like a large car, or pickup truck, coming up from behind me.  It pulled up to my left and stopped.  I heard a door open, and felt someone turning me over.

“Crud!  It’s Kana!”

“Your cousin?”

“Yeah…  Looks like he’s hurt bad.  We’d better call an ambulance!”

When I opened my eyes again, I was sitting in a hospital bed, a bandage around my head.  Jake was sitting next to me, and the worried expression on his face gradually broke into a smile when he saw me looking at him.

Instinctively I rubbed the back of my head.  “Where am I…?”

Jake smiled.  “In Megakat Hospital, Kana, and I’m glad you’re back.”

I later learned that I had been unconscious for a day or so.  The night I spent in the salvage yard seemed like a bad dream now.  I knew it wasn’t a dream, however, when I took a closer look at Jake. He was wearing what looked like a mechanic’s uniform.

Jake apparently must have known what I was thinking, because he said, “Kana, we need to talk.” I nodded.  “Go on.” “I never told you what happened after we got booted out of the Enforcers, or how it happened in the first place.  You see, we were chasing this one villain — Dark Kat — when Commander Feral told us to fall back, and that he’d take over.” I nodded. “But we already had our missiles locked, and we repeated this to Feral at least twice on the radio.” “And he didn’t back off?” Jake shook his head.  “No.  In fact, he still tried to cut us off, forcing us to eject.  Our jet crashed into the new Enforcer building, distracting Feral enough for Dark Kat to get away.” “So that’s why Feral kicked you out?” “Yeah.  He said he’d have gotten Dark Kat if it weren’t for us.  But it was our tag to begin with!  If he hadn’t interfered, Dark Kat could have been a dead kat!”

“Why didn’t you appeal Feral’s decision?  I don’t think he’s got a case against you, you know.”

Jake shook his head and smiled wistfully.  “No, Kana.  It’s better this way, trust me.”

“But Jake…”

Jake silenced me with a finger to his lips.  Sighing, I lay back on the pillow.

“So, Kana, tell me…  what were you doing in the salvage yard?”

I blinked.  “You…  you knew I was there?”

“Who do you think put the blanket on you while you were sleeping? It’s a good thing I got Chance to tell me what really happened out there.”

“I…  I really don’t know what I was doing there.  Just thinking, I guess.”

“About what?”

“Stuff…”

“What kind of stuff?”

I sighed.  “Well, you were honest with me, Jake, so I should be honest with you.  I’m not at Megakat University anymore.”

“You dropped out?”

“I had no choice.  Professor Hackle left, and I couldn’t get any financial support.  And now I can’t get a job anywhere.”

Jake smirked.  “There’s always the Enforcers, you know.”

“I can’t.  I bombed my senior year in high school.”

“No, not the academy.  You could always enlist.”

I shook my head.  “Uh, no thanks.”

Jake thought a bit.  “How would you feel about helping us out in the salvage yard then?  At least, until something better comes along.”

“Uh, I don’t know, Jake.  I’m not sure if working in the salvage yard is something I want to do.”

“No problem, take your time.  But the offer’s there if you want it.  Anyway, I gotta run for now.   I’ll be back tomorrow, to see how you’re doing.”

I nodded and collapsed back on the pillow as Jake left, turning out the room light.  Chapter 5

I had two choices, it seemed.  Either I could join the Enforcers, which wasn’t what I really wanted, or I could work at the salvage yard, which I didn’t want either.  I decided to try for the Enforcers first, since getting dirty and smelly day after day appealed to me much less than getting a crewcut and being yelled at.  At least I’d be clean.

When I applied, however, I was in for a shock.  My interviewer, Lieutenant Felina Feral, looked over my application and my credentials, then leaned forward.

“Why do you want to join the Enforcers?” she asked.  It was a question I had expected her to ask, but I wasn’t sure what kind of answer to give.  I figured I had nothing to lose by being honest, so honest I was.

“I graduated from Megakat University with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.  But nobody seems to be hiring right now.”

Lieutenant Feral nodded.  “We’d probably be the only ones that are actively hiring, but right now all we have is regular enlistment.”  She leaned forward a bit over her desk and added, “But I’ve worked out a proposal to recruit recent college graduates into an officer training program.  It looks like we may have it in place in a year or two, and I think you’d be a good candidate.”

“A year?  It’ll take that long?”

“Unfortunately, yes.  Our funding is really limited.  We can’t implement the program any sooner.”

I sighed.  “So what do you suggest?”

Looking at my record, the lieutenant said, “Unless you really want to go through basic training, I’d suggest waiting until the program’s in place.  There’s also a very good chance you might be placed in a combat position, if you go through regular training.”

Since I was barely in my twenties, I wasn’t very thrilled with using up my nine lives in just a few months.  Reluctantly I agreed to wait, and the next day found myself at the salvage yard.

Jake listened to my story, then nodded.  “I don’t blame you for wanting to wait,” he said.  “Basic training is rough if you’re not ready, and I mean really ready for it.”

“Was it that bad for you?”

“Worse,” came a voice from the kitchen.  It was Chance. “Especially if Commander Feral’s in charge of your unit.”

Jake nodded.  “Yeah.  Actually, I think maybe Feral had it in for us long before that incident with Dark Kat.”

Chance sat down with a few sardines and a can of milk.  “And that’s because he had to do everything by the book.  And if we did that, we’d be dead really fast, because in combat there’s no time to think.  Just act.”

“But I thought the Enforcer directives were one of the best military directives ever written.”

“They are,” said Jake.  “Trouble is, though, there’s too many of them, and it’s really easy to get bogged down in details.”

“And that’s what Feral was always doing.  Besides, he wasn’t going by the book when he kicked us out.”

“You guys really have a personal vendetta against Feral, don’t you?”

Jake went to the fridge and grabbed two cans of milk.  Tossing one to me, he punched two holes in the other one with his clawtips and took a sip.  “Well, it’s not so much a personal vendetta as it is that he doesn’t do his job properly.”

“Why don’t you guys get him to reinstate you?  After all, it wasn’t your fault.”

Chance took a deep sip of milk and wiped his muzzle on his arm. “Like we’d have a case?”

“You can at least try, can’t you?”

Jake shook his head.  “We don’t have any proof, except each others’ word.”

“But the commander doesn’t have any proof either, does he?”

“He doesn’t,” said Jake.  “But it’d be our word against his.”

“Think about it,” added Chance.  “Who’d believe a couple of cadets against a combat veteran?  I might as well convince Mayor Manx to give up golf!”

I went home afterward and turned on the news.  Reporter Ann Gora stood in front of what looked like a stone sabretooth kat, attached to the side of the building.  According to Ann, one of the exhibits at the Megakat Natural History Museum had somehow become alive and threatened the museum’s curator, Dr. Sinian, and Deputy Mayor Callie Briggs.  Both were saved, however, by the SWAT Kats, a pair of vigilant kats who seemed to take it upon themselves to save the city with a souped-up jet, incredible flying and a vast array of technological gadgets.

My reaction to the report was a combination of awe and indignance.  The SWAT Kats frequently were able to do what the Enforcers could not, which impressed me.  Yet they never seemed to have any rules – they worked on a “no holds barred” approach, which frequently meant damaging other buildings, or cutting off utilities like electricity or water.  To me, that meant the SWAT Kats cared enough to save the city, but didn’t believe in following anyone’s rules except their own.

The next morning I reported to the salvage yard.  I had wanted to ask Jake and Chance about the SWAT Kats, but as soon as I got in Jake asked me to run an errand at an electronics store in downtown Megakat City for him.  I did so, figuring I’d ask the two about the SWAT Kats later.

I had just left the store when I heard what sounded like a thunderstorm above me and to my left.  Looking up, I saw what looked like a black hole surrounded by clouds.  Was this a natural phenomenon?  Somehow I didn’t think so, but I had no idea what created it.

Then a megasaurus rex appeared from the hole.  I thought this was some kind of special effect since the megasaurus rex had died out several eons ago, but it didn’t take me long to realize that this was the real thing and not just some movie monster.  Riding atop the megasaurus rex was a small red figure, who seemed to be made up of bone.  He wore a purplish-grey cloak and carried some kind of hardbound book.

Kats ran everywhere in the street as the megasaurus rex made its way through.  In my haste to get away, I tripped over a kathole cover and fell on my face, directly in the path of the megasaurus rex. Then I heard the roar of jet engines, and a missile with a rope attached to its tail headed toward me.  Just before it got to me, the missile’s head split, a net came out and sprawled over and around me, and I was yanked upward toward the jet.

I had been just been rescued by the SWAT Kats.

The jet flew a few blocks, and I was let down to the street.  I gave the two kats in the jet a claws-up, and they responded in kind before heading off.  A short while later, several Enforcer cars arrived, along with Ann Gora from Kat’s-Eye News.   Chapter 6

I returned to the salvage yard late that afternoon.  Jake and Chance would be visibly upset because I was so late, but I had a good reason.

“Sorry I’m late, guys.”

“What happened?”

“Trouble in downtown Megakat City.”

“The place was attacked by a megasaurus rex?”

“How – how’d you know?”

“It’s on the news.”  Jake pointed to the TV, where Ann Gora was once again interviewing Dr. Sinian.

“Were the SWAT Kats there?” asked Chance.

“Yeah, they were…  how’d you know?”

“Lucky guess…  they always seem to be where the action is.  I wonder why?”

I shrugged and plopped myself down on the sofa.  The events of that morning must have worn me out, because the next thing I knew, night had fallen, Jake and Chance were gone – probably out to dinner, I assumed – the TV was off, and there was a note on the fridge door.

“Gone to get some katfood,” read the note.  “Don’t wait up for us.  If you need to borrow the truck to get home, the keys are downstairs in the garage.  – Jake”

Since I didn’t know when Jake and Chance had left, I waited for about an hour to see if they would come back.  After nobody came, I scribbled a note of my own and left it on the fridge door.

“I’ve taken the truck,” I wrote.  “I’ll bring it back in the morning.”

I had just gotten down to the garage when I heard what sounded like a jet plane landing just outside.  My natural curiosity got the best of me, and I opened the garage door to take a look outside.  I walked around the entire perimeter of the garage, but found nothing unusual.  As I went back inside, I heard activity in the living room. Chance was relaxing on the sofa.

“Oh, hi,” Chance said.  “Scaredy Kat’s on…  wanna watch?”

“Actually, I was just about to leave,” I said.  “Did you get my note?”

“Note?”

“Yeah, I left it on the fridge door.”

“Uh, no…  we just got back.”

“We went out with a couple of friends,” Jake said, entering from the hallway.  “You know who Burke and Murray are?”

“I’d hardly call them ‘friends’, though,” added Chance.  “But yeah, we got something to eat with them.”

“They gave you guys a ride?  How come I didn’t hear their truck?”

“Well, uh…  we happened to get a ride back with the SWAT Kats,” said Jake.

I raised an eyebrow.

“They dropped us off,” said Chance.  “They couldn’t stay.”

I knew Chance was lying, and I think he knew I knew.  The sound I had heard outside was definitely that of a plane landing, and I didn’t hear it power up its engines again for takeoff.  That meant the SWAT Kats had to be using the garage, maybe as an underground hangar.  And Jake and Chance were covering for them.

One other possibility nagged at me, and I kept trying to put it out of my mind.  The other possibility was that Jake and Chance might actually be the SWAT Kats.  I had been working with heroes all this time, but heroes who chose to follow their own set of rules.  The thought was both thrilling and unnerving, yet logically it made a lot of sense.

Next morning, as I came to the salvage yard, I heard a jet power up and take off.  I watched it cruise into the distance and was convinced that it was the SWAT Kats’ jet.  If neither Jake nor Chance were around, as I didn’t expect them to be, then they had to be the SWAT Kats. There was no other explanation. To my surprise, however, both kats were working on what seemed to be Callie Briggs’ car in the garage.

“Morning, guys,” I said, trying to contain my surprise.  If both kats were here, then who was in the jet?

“Morning, Kana,” said Chance from under the hood.

“Morning,” said Jake.  “You want some milk?”

“Uh, no thanks…  did you guys hear a jet taking off from around here?”

Jake looked genuinely surprised at my question.  “Uh, no…  you sure you didn’t hear us trying to start Miz Briggs’ car?  It kinda sounds like a jet, you know.”

“But I could have sworn I saw something take off from the garage!”

“I think you’re still dreaming,” Jake said.  “Can you get me a fan belt from the wall there?”

The pair were still working on the car when I heard the jet land next to the garage.  I ran out to take a look, but once again saw nothing.  Maybe I was wrong.  Jake and Chance weren’t the SWAT Kats. Maybe the SWAT Kats didn’t even use the garage at all…  maybe they used something next to the garage.

I thought no more of the incident, although I frequently noticed that the jet would be flying out when I was running an errand.  Yet when I returned, the jet would be gone, and both kats would be around somewhere.  Several times I asked Jake and Chance if they heard or noticed anything unusual, but they didn’t.

Then, a few days later, I overheard a conversation that made my fur stand on end, and also confirmed what I had suspected since I met the two.

Too tired to go home one evening, I spent the night in an empty bedroom which also apparently doubled as a storage closet.  The room was full of spare parts, but I managed to curl up in a corner, leaving the door partly open.  I didn’t tell Jake or Chance that I was spending the night, though.  I figured I wouldn’t be in the way, and I didn’t want to inconvenience them by taking the truck or by asking either of them to give me a ride.

Next morning, the TV woke me up, and I heard voices.  Jake and Chance, evidently. The news was also on, and Ann Gora was reporting on a warehouse that had been damaged.

“There you have it, viewers, our Kat’s-Eye News exclusive report. Again, two innocent civilians have been seriously injured, apparently the result of the misguided missiles from the SWAT Kats’ jet.”

Civilian casualties?  I couldn’t believe the SWAT Kats would willingly or knowingly hurt someone.  Someone must have framed them, I thought.

“Give it a rest, Jake,” Chance said.

“I still can’t believe I hurt those people…”

“Hey, I feel bad too…  but what are we supposed to do?  We were in pursuit of a dangerous criminal!”

“But I’m the one who fired!”

At least two things immediately ran through my head.  One was that Jake and Chance were definitely the SWAT Kats.  Ordinarily that revelation would have overwhelmed me, even though I had long suspected it.   What caught my attention more, however, was the tone in Jake’s voice.  It sounded so unlike the confident Jake I had known when we had camped on Kanakata Island, and that scared me quite badly.

“But it was an accident!” said Chance.

“I guess you’re right, but I can’t help thinking I should have done something…  different!  Hey, what’s that?”

Kat’s-Eye News was reporting another attack on a warehouse in the city.

“Looks like we’re gonna get another shot at this guy!  Let’s roll!” said Chance.

“Let’s just hope I don’t miss again,” said Jake.

A few minutes later I heard the jet power up and take off.  I couldn’t help but worry about Jake, though.  Yet I couldn’t blame him, either.  I knew I’d have probably reacted the same way he did, and likely even worse.

I spent the next half hour thinking, and worrying, about Jake.  I hope he doesn’t get himself killed, I told myself.  I don’t know if I could have even had the courage to go out again if I were in his shoes.  I might have worried longer had I not heard the jet return. I ran out into the living room, wanting to talk to Jake as soon as he came up, but I never got the opportunity.  Shortly after the jet powered its engines down, I heard what sounded like a souped-up motorcycle power up, rev a few times and shoot out from the garage.

Chance came up shortly afterward.  He must have thought nobody was around, because he was still in his SWAT Kat flightsuit, minus the bandanna.  He did a triple take when he saw me on the sofa. “What are you doing here?” he demanded.

“I, uh, spent the night,” I said, fully expecting Chance to blow his top.

Chance put a hand to his face, growled, then sighed.  “Well, you know our secret now…  but you gotta promise not to tell anyone, okay?  If Feral found out, he’d have our heads for sure!”

“I promise,” I said.  “Besides, I’m more worried about Jake right now.  What happened?”

“He left.  Said he needed some time to be alone, and that he was just putting me and innocent civilians in danger.”

“Why didn’t you stop him?”

“I couldn’t!  He left too quickly!”

Burying my face in my hands, I sighed deeply.  “Great…  so now what do we do?”

“We don’t do anything,” said Chance.  “You stay here and let me know if Jake comes back, okay?  I’ll leave you a comm-link so we can keep in touch.  Meantime, I’ve got some investigating to do.”

“Why don’t I come with you?  I mean, I could…”

“No!” snarled Chance.  Then his face softened.  “Look, Kana, I know you want to help Jake as much as you can, but trust me, you’ll help him a lot better if you just stay put.”

Reluctantly I agreed, watching Chance fly toward the city in the jet.   Chapter 7

I never got to use the comm-link.  In a few hours both Jake and Chance had returned, both in their mechanics’ uniforms.  The pair were obviously reunited, but Jake shot me a look that unnerved me slightly.  He looked tired, disappointed, and visibly upset.

When I reported to the salvage yard the next morning, both Chance and Jake were working on Miz Briggs’ car in the garage.  Chance greeted me and threw me a can of milk.  Jake, however, said nothing. I told Jake I’d wait upstairs for him, but he didn’t respond.

Trying to relax, and get my mind off the recent incidents that had happened, I turned on the TV and flipped through the channels. One station was broadcasting the news, and I immediately changed the station, knowing the news would be the last thing I’d want to see. There would certainly be something about the SWAT Kats and their latest adversary, and that was the very thing I wanted to forget. Another station was showing Scaredy Kat, and while I knew Chance loved that show, I just wasn’t in the mood for cartoons.  Finally I left the TV on an old rerun of David Litterbin.  Litterbin usually had an evening show, but one of the stations showed old reruns during the day.

I heard footsteps in the hallway as Jake came in, went to the fridge, got some milk and sat down on the opposite end of the sofa from me.  We both watched the show in silence, but neither of us laughed at anything.  Finally a commercial came on, and Jake went to use the litterbox.  After he came back, I went, and we continued to watch the rest of the show, occasionally glancing at each other, but neither of us saying a word.

Finally, I decided to start some conversation.  “Jake?”

No answer.

“Jake, look, I’m sorry…  I didn’t know…”

Still no answer.  I sighed and left Jake in front of the TV while I headed downstairs.  Chance had just returned from taking Miz Briggs’ car out for a test drive, and the car’s engine was still running.  He waved at me and switched off the motor.

“Hah!” he said.  “Jake said I’d blow the engine again, but it runs fine!  Never let it be said I don’t learn anything.”

I smiled wanly, but said nothing.

“What’s the matter, Kana?  Kat got your tongue?”

I sighed.  “It’s Jake.”

“Why?  What’d he tell you?”

“Nothing.  And that’s the problem.”

Chance slammed the hood and tugged on it to make sure it was secure.  “Hey, maybe ol’ Doc Furlong can help…”

I shook my head.  “No, Chance, I don’t think you’d better. Jake’s not ready to talk to me, and I’m not sure if I should even stick around.”

“Are you sure, Kana?  I mean, I can talk to Jake for you, if you want.”

I shook my head again.  “I dunno.  I don’t want the situation to get any worse, and maybe I should just go out on my own for a while.”

Chance looked me square in the face and put both his hands on my shoulders.  “I can’t stop you,” he said, removing his hands.  “But I can’t just let you do this to yourself, either.”

“If you’re worried about me spreading your secret…”

“That’s not it,” said Chance.  “Well, that’s part of it, but not most of it.  I just want to see you and Jake get back together, as buddies, pals, compadres.”

I sighed.  “Look, talking about it won’t make it any easier, and it certainly won’t speed up our getting back together.  I promise I won’t tell anyone else about your secret, but I just need time to be by myself, okay?”

Just then Jake came downstairs, took a peek into the garage and headed toward the hangar.  I assumed he was going to work on some gadget, but from the expression on his face it was more than clear that he wasn’t ready to talk to me at all.

Chance offered me a ride back home, which I accepted.  As he headed back to the salvage yard, I wondered what I would do now.  I still had at least half a year before I could even try for the new Enforcer officer course, and I was living off my parents’ money.  I needed to find some kind of job so I could stay in Megakat City, since I still wasn’t too eager to return home.  After all, as my mom noted, I had much better prospects of finding employment in Megakat City.

I signed up with a temporary agency and soon found myself doing some clerical work.  It was there that I met another temp by the name of Tiger Perkins.  Tiger was in his undergraduate junior year, working toward a degree in physics.  He was a couple of years younger than me, and aspired to eventually get a doctorate.

“How come you’re doing temp work?” I asked him.

“I need the money, and I could use the experience,” he said. “You?”

I told him what happened at Megakat University, and of a possible career with the Enforcers.

Tiger nodded.  “Sounds cool.  Not the university part, but the Enforcers.  I hear you get a really nice pension and stuff.”

Smirking, I added, “And probably a lot of good hazard pay, too.”

As I talked to Tiger, I realized he reminded me a lot of Jake, as well as of myself.  We were both interested in science, we both studied at Megakat University, and we had a lot of similar interests, including our tastes in music.  I discovered we had even more in common when I told Tiger that I wondered how Jake and Chance were doing.  His ears perked up at the mention of Chance’s name.

“Chance?  You mean Chance Furlong?”

“Yeah…  you know him?”

Tiger nodded.  “Yeah. We grew up in the same neighborhood.  My dad – everyone calls him ‘Pop’ – runs a newsstand there.”  He smirked.  “In fact, Pop used to complain that Chance always read the comics for free.”

I chuckled.  “No kidding?  I’m Jake’s cousin, myself.”

“You know, I wondered about your last name.”

“Yeah, but I haven’t talked to Jake in a while.  Not since…”

“Since…?”

Remembering my promise to Chance,  I said, “Uh, since he got upset at me over something.”

“Care to tell me about it?”

I sighed.  “I dunno.  Something happened to Jake, which he won’t tell me about, and I haven’t spoken to him since.”

“How long ago was this?”

“I’d say about half a year, now.”

Tiger whistled.  “That’s not good.  Maybe you should talk to him.”

“But what would I say?”

“That’s for you to figure out.  But I can call Chance for you, if you want.  Maybe we can meet and go out to a movie or something.”

The Friday of that week was my last day of my temp assignment. Tiger would stay another few weeks, but I was needed elsewhere.  I gave Tiger my phone number, and the following week he told me he was going to see a movie with Chance.

“Is Jake coming?”  I asked.

“Don’t know.”

I paused.  “Okay, sure, why not?”

When only Chance met us, I was slightly disappointed.  I tried to enjoy the movie, but I couldn’t help but think about Jake.  I was hoping I’d get to talk to him soon, but I didn’t know if or when that’d happen.  Chance listened to my concerns, then finally said, “I think you need to give it a rest, Kana.  Jake will let you know when he’s ready to talk to you.”

“I know, but I’m still worried about him.”

“Look, I’ll talk to Jake for you, okay?  I promise you I’ll have him call you when he’s ready.”

“Okay, Chance,” I said.  “Thanks for coming, by the way.”

Chance smiled and gave me a high-four.  “I can’t let my buddy Tiger down now, can I?”

Tiger smirked and gave Chance a few slaps on the back.

We ate at a restaurant that both Chance and Tiger recommended. Although pricey, the food was reasonable, and I enjoyed the restaurant’s ambience.  We finally broke up around midnight, and I collapsed on my bed at home, tired but happy.  Chapter 8

Four months passed, and Jake never called.  Or if he did, he never left any messages.  I would sometimes hear the phone ring while I was in the litterbox, and the caller never left any message.  I wondered if that might have been Jake, but I had no way of knowing for certain.

I considered calling the salvage yard a few times, and actually did so once.  Nobody was in, however, so I left a message for Jake to give me a call.  I waited a few days, but nobody returned my call, so I called again.  This time I left another message, telling Jake I was sorry and would he please call me back?  Again, no response.

Since Tiger was my only link to the two kats now, I was in constant contact with him.  Yet at times even he seemed aloof, making me wonder if I was now bothering him in my zealousness to get in touch with Jake.  I even asked him a few times if I bothered him, but I never received a direct response.

In between temp assignments, I spent most of my mornings sleeping in and the afternoons staying close to home, often within walking distance.  Not long after I’d left the salvage yard, I had bought a car so I could get around Megakat City on my own, and sometimes I’d take the car out during the day to run a few errands.  For the most part, though, I’d rely on either foot power or the public transportation system.  It wasn’t the greatest, but it got me around.

During one of these jaunts I ran into an old acquaintance, Scooter Talon, who had also grown up on Kanakata and gone to my old high school.  A few years younger than me, Scooter had moved to Megakat City, where I assumed he had gone to the university.  This time my assumption was correct; he had received a bachelor’s and then a master’s in biochemistry and was working at Megakat Biochemical. He was also studying part-time for his doctorate, after which he’d sign on as a full scientist at the labs.

I decided to take Scooter and Tiger to the salvage yard  one weekend to see if we could find anything interesting, and perhaps useful.  Tiger and I did more tinkering with gadgets than Scooter did, but he agreed to come along on the condition that he’d wait in the car until we finished.  After all, he said, he still had some studying to do.

Chance greeted Tiger and me with a couple cans of milk.  He let us take a look around the salvage yard, and after we had found a few pieces of electronic equipment he let us clean them up.  He was working, it seemed, on Miz Briggs’ car yet again.  Tiger went to use the litterbox while I stayed outside.

“What I don’t understand, is why Miz Briggs doesn’t get a new car,” I said.

“Hey, this car runs perfectly fine,” Chance said.  “It just needed a tune-up, is all.  And besides, I want to try these new turbo-supercharged spark plugs in the engine.”

I shook my head and smirked.  “You really want to blow the engine, don’t you?”

Chance snickered.  “Hey, I learned my lesson that one time.  I know what an engine can take.  Really.”

“I wonder if Jake would agree with you…  which reminds me, where is he?”

“Not here today,” said Chance.  “He left early this morning… said he had to talk to Burke and Murray about getting some more salvage.”

“Did he know we were coming?”

“Yeah.  I told him last night.”

I wondered if Jake was deliberately trying to avoid me and was just about to ask Chance what he thought when the phone rang.

“Hello, Jake and Chance’s Garage…  oh, it’s you, Jake.  Huh? Oh, okay, I’ll get right on it.  Oh, by the way, your cousin’s here…  you want to talk to him?  Oh…  okay, I’ll see you when you get home.”

Something about the way Chance said “Oh…” really struck a nerve with me.  I wondered if Jake still held a grudge against me for knowing that I knew his and Chance’s real identities.

“Scuse me a minute,” said Chance.  “I need to go check up on something.”  He disappeared into a back room.  A few minutes later Tiger came out of the litterbox.

“Did you see Chance?”  I asked him.  “He went inside for something.”

Tiger shook his head.  “Nope, he must have gone into a storage room or something.”

I shrugged.  “You think we should leave the money for the salvage out here?”

Just then Chance came out with Scooter, who had apparently decided to some exploring.  Chance had a disapproving look on his face.

“Kana, this guy says he was with you.  Was he?”

“He was, but…”  I turned to Scooter.  “You said you wanted to stay in the car and study!”

“Hey, can I help it if it got too hot in there?  Besides, I needed a break.”

Chance scowled at me, and I could tell something definitely wasn’t right.  But instinctively I felt that asking Chance would have made things worse, not better.  Tiger and I paid Chance for the salvage and left.  I drove, Scooter rode shotgun and Tiger took the back seat.  Since I was driving, I paid very little attention to the small talk that Tiger and Scooter had in the car.  I decided to drop Scooter off first, then Tiger and then head back to the salvage yard to apologize to Chance and find out what Scooter had done.

Scooter quickly answered that question when we stopped at a drawbridge and waited for a barge to pass.  That’s when he said, “Did either of you guys know that Jake and Chance are really the SWAT Kats?”

My blood froze, and I tried not to show any expression on my face except one of being nonchalant.  Tiger leaned forward, and obviously interested in Scooter’s question, said, “Really?”

Scooter nodded.  “Yeah, can you believe it, Jake?  Your cousin’s a hero in Megakat City!”

I swore under my breath.  Now how could I face either Chance or Jake?  Luckily, Tiger was there to keep the conversation going.  I pretended to concentrate completely on my driving, which wasn’t much of a stretch considering I had to use quite a bit of willpower to keep from driving off the bridge right then and there.  At least if we all perished, the SWAT Kats’ secret would be safe.

“How do you know?”  I asked, tersely.

“In the salvage yard,” came the reply.  “I did some exploring, and I came across the hangar underground.  Man, I think you guys would love to see the gadgetry there.”

I didn’t respond.  The barge had finally cleared the drawbridge, it was being lowered into position, and the barrier was about to be raised.  Scooter lived only a few minutes from the drawbridge, but the trip seemed to take over an hour.  As I pulled over to let him out, I noted, “How do you know it’s Jake and Chance, and nobody else?”

“Oh, come on, Kana, you don’t need a Ph.D. to figure that out… they’re the only ones that live out that far, and besides, Chance told me himself.”

I didn’t know whether or not to believe Scooter, but I said nothing more and waved goodbye to him as I continued on.  An awkward silence filled the car as I tried to figure out what to tell Tiger. He seemed unsure of what to tell me, too.  After all, it’s not every day that you find out one of your good friends is a hero, and he must have thought I was in shock even more considering it was one of my own relatives.

Then, as I pulled up outside Tiger’s home, he told me, “Kana, I ought to tell you something.  I’ve known about Jake and Chance being the SWAT Kats for some time now.”

If I had been drinking anything, the spit take I would have done would have completely covered the windshield.  But I just leaned forward on the steering wheel and banged my forehead against its top a few times.

“You knew, and you didn’t let on?”

“Chance let it slip some time ago, when he was at my place.  At least nobody else was there at the time, but when he told me he made me promise to keep it a secret.  After all, if Commander Feral found out, we’d be in really deep trouble.”

I sighed.  “But how do we know Scooter’ll keep it a secret, too?”

Tiger shrugged.  “He may not, but fortunately he doesn’t have any proof.  And I suspect Jake and Chance will see to it that he doesn’t get any.”

“I admire your confidence, Tiger.  I only wish I could share it.”

“Look, Kana, don’t worry about it, okay?  There was no way you could have known Scooter would do what he did.”

“But now I really wish he hadn’t.”

“Kana, what’s done is done.  There’s no use changing it.”

I sighed.  “I wish I could believe you.”

Tiger smiled.  “Hey, don’t worry about it.  Tell you what… tomorrow we’ll go catch a movie or something, and we’ll just forget the whole thing, okay?”

“Okay…”

In somewhat of a daze, I’m not even sure how I managed to get home without getting lost or into any accidents, but somehow I did. I saw the answering machine’s light blinking, and when I played back the messages, I was surprised to hear Jake’s voice on the first message.

“Kana, if you’re home, don’t pick up, just listen.  I heard what happened at the salvage yard today, and I’m not happy.  You see, when you and Tiger learned who we were, we were upset, but we figured we could trust you since we know you.  But now someone who we don’t know has learned our secret, and that’s very risky for all of us.”   A pause, and then a sigh.  “What I’m trying to say is, until this thing blows over, I don’t want you around the salvage yard.  I promise you I’ll let you know when it’s okay to come by again.”

A click, a long beep, and then the second message.  “Hey, Kana, Scooter here.  I’ve got this great plan to get into the SWAT Kats’ hangar and find out who they are, but I’m gonna need your help, and Tiger’s, too.  Give me a call, willya?  Thanks.  Bye.”

Picking up the phone, I was very much tempted to call Scooter and tell him off about what he had done, but I put the receiver back on the cradle.  It was late, I was tired, and I decided I’d get some rest before I said something I’d regret later on.  Chapter 9

My sleep that night was an assortment of nightmares.  I first dreamt I had left the TV on, and a David Litterbin rerun was interrupted by a Kat’s-Eye News Special Report.  In it, several news vans had gathered around the salvage yard, and there was some footage of Jake and Chance being led out in handcuffs.  Commander Feral followed, carrying a couple of black bandannas in his hands and a couple of red and blue flightsuits on one of his arms.

“Ann Gora, here at Megakat City Salvage Yard, where the Enforcers have learned just who the SWAT Kats really are.  Commander Feral, what do you intend to do?”

“What I should have done years ago, Ann.  I’m going to lock these two up for the rest of their nine lives, for willful malice, deception and destruction of the city.”  He growled at the duo. “I’ve got a long list of charges against you two, and I’m going to see that you pay for it in prison, where you won’t be able to hurt anyone.”

I woke up, gasping and panting.  My bed was soaked with sweat, the TV was off, and the clock read 1:42 A.M.  I yanked the covers off, pulled myself out of bed, and stumbled to the bathroom where I splashed some warm water on my face.  Pulling a towel off the rack, I turned off the bathroom light, made my way back to bed, threw the towel on the damp covers and plopped myself on the towel.

Then I heard the roar of a jet outside, followed by the sound of choppers.  Running to the window, I shielded my eyes from the glare of the afternoon sun as I saw the Turbokat streak by, with Commander Feral in pursuit.  I heard the commander’s voice as he called to the jet through a loudspeaker, “Surrender now, Jake and Chance, alias the SWAT Kats!”

I grabbed the remote for the TV and switched it on.  Kat’s-Eye News was on the scene once again, and this time Ann Gora was reporting on a midair chase that began in the Megakat City Salvage Yard.

Opening my eyes with a start, I glanced at the clock.  2:12 A.M. I buried my face in my pillow.

A knock on the door caused me to sit bolt upright.  The clock read 12:10 P.M. and I wondered if I had slept all morning.  I made my way to the door, surprised at how much energy I had.  The sleep must have somehow rejuvenated me.

When I opened the door, I was surprised to see Chance standing there.  His mechanic’s outfit was tattered and slightly scorched, and he looked exhausted.

“What happened?!”

“Enforcers…  salvage yard…”  gasped Chance.  I helped him to the sofa and was about to pick up the phone when he asked, “Who… are you… calling…?”

“An ambulance,” I said.

“No!…”  Chance motioned for me to come over, and he grabbed at my shirt for support.  “Feral finds out…  I’m a goner!…  Jake…”

“Jake?  What about him?”

“He’s…  dead.”

“What?!  How?!”

“Tried to stop…  the Enforcers…  from getting into…  the hangar…”

My whole body went limp, and I collapsed on the floor.

When I next opened my eyes, I was back in bed and the clock read 3:10 A.M.  Sighing, I wondered if I’d get any uninterrupted sleep.  I turned on the bedside lamp, blinking as my eyes adjusted to the light, and picked up a novel I had been reading.  I’d planned on reading a chapter a night just before bedtime, but I always fell asleep before I finished the chapter, so I had been reading the first chapter over and over.  This time I got to the end of the chapter before I started feeling sleepy again, and I put the book down, turned off the light and quickly glanced at the clock before I closed my eyes.  It was 3:25 A.M.

The phone rang.  I growled slightly at the interruption, looked at the clock, which now read 5:12 A.M. and picked up the bedside phone.

“Hello?”  I said, my voice sounding rather irritated.

“Hello, Kana, it’s Jake…”

“Jake?”  I rubbed my eyes.  “Is this another dream?”

“Why, what’s the matter, buddy?”

I sighed.  “I’ve been having nightmares all night, Jake…”

“What about?”

“I dreamt that Commander Feral found out that you and Chance were the SWAT Kats.”

Jake laughed.  “Oh, come on!  How could we be the SWAT Kats if we’re still in the Enforcers?”

“Still in the Enforcers…?”

Jake laughed again.  “Aw, come on.  Don’t tell me you don’t know that we’re getting commissioned as lieutenants next week!”

“Commissioned?”

“You’re really out of it, aren’t you?”

“Well, I just got up…”

“That explains it…  look, I can’t stay on the phone too long, but my parents will give you a call, okay?  I’ll talk to you later.”

I hung up the phone and collapsed back into bed.

The clock read 2 P.M. when I next woke up.  I pinched myself a couple of times to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.  I was sleeping on the towel I had pulled from the bathroom earlier, the covers were off and nearly dry, and when I finally managed to pull myself out of bed and check the living room, it was empty except for the furniture. I plopped down on the sofa and switched the TV on.  Ann Gora was interviewing Commander Feral after the SWAT Kats had once again saved the city.

“I swear to bring those SWAT Kats to justice,” Feral said.  “When I find out who they really are, I’m gonna string them up by their tails!”

“Deputy Mayor Briggs,” said Ann, “do you have any comment?”

“With all due respect, I don’t believe Commander Feral has a shred of evidence to support his attack on the SWAT Kats!”

I switched off the TV and rubbed the back of my neck.  The news report about the Enforcers raiding the salvage yard…  the high-speed aerial pursuit…  Chance stumbling in and collapsing in my apartment…  those were all dreams.  The only part I wasn’t sure about was the phone call, because it seemed real enough.  But even that was suspicious, because it indicated an event I knew to be untrue – that Jake and Chance were still in the Enforcers.

The phone!  I wondered if the phone messages I’d heard last night were part of the dream I had, too.  If I remembered correctly, I had actually saved the messages so I could replay them in the morning. That is, if I hadn’t dreamt that part, too.

Both messages were still there. I sighed and sat on the sofa, staring blankly at the TV.  Glancing at the phone, I debated about whether or not to call Scooter.  My resolve about calling him had diminished sharply since last night, and I now wondered if my calling him to lecture him would only spur his desire to get proof about the SWAT Kats.  I picked up the receiver, but instead of dialing Scooter, I dialed Tiger.

Tiger sounded exhausted when he answered the phone.  “Hello?”

“Hi…  did I wake you up?”

“Uh, well, I had to get up to answer the phone anyway…  what’s up?”

I sighed.  “Sorry…  I just wanted to know if you were up to seeing a movie.  And I’d like to talk, too.”

Over the phone I heard Tiger yawn.  “Sure, just lemme get ready.”

“Do you need a ride?”

“That’s okay, I need the exercise, and besides, the walk ought to wake me up.”

“Are you sure?  I mean, it’d only take a few minutes.”

“Thanks, but I’ll manage.  See ya in a couple hours.”

I hung up and used the time to jump in the shower and get ready.

When Tiger arrived, I told him about the nightmares I’d had the night before.

“You too?” he said.  “I couldn’t get any sleep either.”

“Funny thing, though…  Scooter wasn’t in any of my dreams, even though he was ultimately responsible for the whole thing.”

“He wasn’t in mine, either.”

Just then the phone rang.

“Hello?  Oh, hi Lieutenant…  oh, really?  Cool…  okay, I’ll be there tomorrow.  Thanks.”

“Was that Lieutenant Feral?”

“Yeah.  She wants me down at Enforcer Headquarters tomorrow.”

“How come?  You did something illegal?”

“Heh, no…  remember what I was telling you about signing up with the Enforcers?”

Tiger nodded.

“Yeah, well, they’re gonna implement the program in a few months, and the Lieutenant wants me to come down tomorrow for a pre-screening interview.”

Tiger smiled.  “Cool.  I hope you get in.”

“So do I,” I said.  “This could be my last chance at a successful career.”  I grabbed a pad of paper next to the phone, jotted down “Enforcer HQ, May 24, 11:30 am” and put the pad next to the phone. “Oh, that reminds me…” I played back the answering machine’s messages for Tiger.

“What do you think?” I asked.

“Well, if Jake thinks you shouldn’t go to the salvage yard, then you probably shouldn’t.”

“I know, but what should I do about Scooter’s message?”

Tiger shrugged.  “That’s your call, Kana.”

I sighed.  “That’s not exactly what I wanted to hear, you know.”

“I know, but since he called you and not me, it’s your decision.”

“You mean he didn’t call you?”

“Nope.”

“Great…  well, do you want to help him?”

“Given Jake’s message, no.  And if I were you, I probably wouldn’t, either.”

“Yeah, I know.  But how do I tell him without getting him upset at me?”

“That’s up to you, Kana.”

I finally decided not to call Scooter, and Tiger and I went out to a movie.  I invited Tiger over to my place for a bit, and found another message on the answering machine.

“Kana, it’s Scooter.  Why didn’t you call?  I really want to hear from you.”

Sighing, I pulled out a tape recorder, transferred Jake’s message to a blank tape, and erased the ones on the answering machine.  At least this way I would have a record of Jake’s message.  Tiger watched me in mild amusement.

“I know, it looks crazy, doesn’t it?”

“Looks, yes.  Is, no.”

“How do you figure?”

“If that’s the last time you expect to hear from Jake for a while, I’d say it isn’t crazy.  Anyway, I need to get home.  Got some studying to do.”

“Okay, hang on, I’ll give you a lift.”

Next morning, just before I left to go to Enforcer Headquarters, the phone rang.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Kana, it’s Scooter…”

“Uh, Scooter, I can’t talk right now…  can you call me back later?”

“Why can’t you talk now?”

“I’m busy!  I mean, I have an appointment, and I’m late…”

“I’ll join you…”

“Uh, no thanks…  I have to get going, now.”  Without waiting for a response, I hung up and headed for Enforcer Headquarters. Parking was a bit of a hassle, but I finally managed to find a spot, and a few minutes later I sat across Lieutenant, now Captain, Felina Feral.

“Captain Feral,” I mused.  “That’ll take a bit of getting used to.”

The newly promoted captain smiled.  “I’m getting used to it myself.  In any case, though, I’ve looked over your credentials and your resume, and everything works out fine.”

“Even my background check?”  I asked, not really knowing why I said that.

Captain Feral nodded.  “That’s fine… I see you’re a relative of Jake Clawson?”

“Yeah…”

Felina smiled.  “He was a very good Enforcer…  I was in charge of his unit until shortly before…”

“He was kicked out?”

Felina nodded.

I sighed.  “So does that work for, or against, me?”

“That shouldn’t hurt you at all.  I don’t want to say that it won’t, because it all depends on who reviews your application. Unfortunately it won’t be me, but I can’t guarantee that it won’t be my uncle.”

“If he reviews my file, I definitely won’t get in.”

“Don’t be pessimistic,” Felina said.  “I’m sure you’ll be fine, and plus, at least four commanders review every application.  Also, everything in your file is considered, not just your background. Which brings me to my next point…  I need you to do a few things to complete your application.”

“Such as?”

“I’ll need a more detailed resume, for one…  a few letters of recommendation, no less than four, no more than six…  a brief statement on why you want to join the Enforcers…  and you’ll also need to take a qualifying test.”

“Qualifying test?”

“Yes.  It’s a standardized test that every applicant has to take, and if you do well, you’ll be in good shape to apply.  The test will be given next Thursday, 10 am sharp.  Do you have any problems taking the test then?”

I shook my head.

“Do you have any questions for me?”

“Not at this time, Lieut…  I mean, Captain.  Thanks for your time.”

As I left the office, the prospect of becoming an actual officer in the Enforcers filled me with a sense of hope and excitement that I hadn’t had since I graduated from Megakat University several years ago.  I might actually be able to make something of my life.

When I got home, the answering machine’s light was blinking.

“Kana, it’s Scooter again.  Look, do you want to be my friend, or not?”

I immediately called Tiger but got his answering machine.  I left a brief message about what Scooter had said, and sat down to watch the news.  A few minutes later the phone rang.

“Hello?”

“There you are…”

“Who’s this…  Tiger?”

“No, it’s Scooter.  Look, what’s the deal, huh?”

“Scooter, I don’t have time -”

“You always don’t have time!  That’s the whole problem with you!”

“Hey, why are you so edgy all of a sudden?”

“Don’t play games with me!  I know you don’t want to talk to me because of the incident at the salvage yard, right?”

“Look, I don’t like what you did there, okay?”

“So now you’re going to stop being my friend?  That’s really callous of you, Kana!”

“What are you talking about?  Did I say I didn’t want to be your friend?”

“Well, do you?”

“Do I what?”

“Do you want to be my friend or don’t you?”

I hung up without another word.  The phone rang again, and this time I let the answering machine handle the call.

“Kana, it’s Tiger…”

“Hello, Tiger?”

“Oh, you’re there?  I thought you might have gone out or something…”

“No, Scooter just called.”

“I see…  how are things between the two of you?”

“Not good at all.  I really wish he’d stop bothering me.”

“Why don’t you tell him?”

“How can I?  He keeps demanding to know if I’m his friend!”

“Well, are you?”

“I don’t know…  I mean, I want to, but he makes it hard by wanting me to prove my friendship to him by saying so.”

Silence.

“Tiger…?”

A click, and then a dial tone.  I hung up the receiver, and a few minutes later the phone rang again.  Taking a chance, I answered, “Hello?”

“Sorry about that, I got cut off…”

“Did you get what I said about Scooter wanting to prove his friendship to me?”

Silence again, and then another click.  Frustrated, I hung up and called Tiger.  The line rang a few times, and then I got a recording: “We’re sorry, all circuits are busy at this time.  Please try your call again later.”

When the phone rang again, I was in the kitchen, so I decided to let the phone ring.  No message.  I tried calling Tiger a few more times that evening, but always got the same recording:  “We’re sorry, all circuits are busy at this time.  Please try your call again later.”

I tried to call Tiger the next few days, but to no avail. Meanwhile, Scooter kept calling and leaving messages, which started to really annoy me.  Tiger meanwhile was still unreachable, and once when I decided to drop by his place, he had gone out on an errand.  I left a message for Tiger and went back home to find the answering machine’s light blinking again.  Scooter had left a few more messages, but one that wasn’t his caught my attention.

“Hi Kana, it’s Felina Feral.  Just wanted to remind you about the Enforcer qualifying test this Thursday, 10 A.M. at Enforcer Heaadquarters.”

I scribbled down the captain’s message on a notepad and spent the rest of that afternoon watching TV and reading the novel I had been stuck on for some time.  The phone never rang, which was good because it meant Scooter had given up trying to call me, at least for now. It was also bad because it meant Tiger either couldn’t, or didn’t want to, reach me.  Not wanting to do what Scooter did and jump to conclusions, I figured Tiger couldn’t reach me.  If he didn’t want to, he’d say so.

Next morning I got up early and headed over to Enforcer Headquarters.  Along the way, I happened to see Scooter exiting a hardware store, and I pretended not to notice him, hoping he wouldn’t notice me either.  He glanced briefly in my direction, but probably didn’t see me because we passed each other without saying anything.

The qualifying test seemed easy, but even after I finished my hands were cold, clammy and ached slightly.  I was told I’d learn the results in a couple of weeks, which added to my already growing stress over both Tiger and Scooter.

A couple of days later I finally caught up with Tiger.

“Sorry I never got back to you,” he said.  “Phone lines in my area got cut…  the Enforcers were chasing Hard Drive, and a couple of their missiles hit one of the telephone poles.  They haven’t restored full service yet.”

“I wish I could be as lucky,” I said.  “Scooter’s been leaving messages for me every day again, and I’m really starting to get sick of it.”

“Have you told him?”

I shook my head.  “Uh-uh.  I don’t want to give him any more fodder for claiming I don’t want to be his friend.”

Tiger shrugged.  “Oh, by the way, I’ve got some news for you. One’s a rumor, but another is very much true, and they’re both on the bad side.”

I sighed.  “What’s the news?”

“The rumor – or perhaps it might be true since I heard it from Chance – is that Scooter was caught snooping around the salvage yard. He had some kind of makeshift gadget to try to find the hangar, but he never found it.”

“Lovely.  Did Chance or Jake say anything?”

“Not much they could do, except ask him to leave, but leave the gadget behind.”

“And he didn’t comply, did he?”

“Surprisingly, he did, according to Chance.  And from what I heard, Jake said that Scooter’s gadget never stood a chance against the radar jammer that Jake had installed in the hangar.”

I sighed again.  “What’s the other news?”

“In a couple months I’ll be shipping out.  I have to serve full-time in a deployment unit in the Enforcers for a scholarship I received a few years back.”

“How long will you be gone?”

“Don’t know.  I’ve been told I’ll have some limited e-mail access… you do have that at least, don’t you?”

“I do, but I haven’t been using it.  Where are you going to?”

“I don’t know yet.  Unfortunately it isn’t Kanakata, or Anakata, though.  I know that much.”

“What about your studies?”

“I graduate next month.  But I can’t defer my service any longer than that.”

“Great,” I said.  “You’re leaving, which means I’m gonna get all the flak from Scooter over what just happened.”

Tiger patted my back gently.  “Hey, don’t sweat it, Kana.  I promise I’ll keep in touch as best I can.”

To Be Continued…

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