This story, entitled “Safe Haven,” is currently (at the time it was written) fourth in the “Children of the Stone” series, all of which are a spoof of the DA show “Gargoyles.” The preceding are, in order, “Children of the Stone,” “Awakenings,” and “X-File #10-1115.” (an “X-Files” crossover). If you haven’t read the others, this is really the wrong time to try and pick things up from the middle. I’m not going to review what was said in the other stories, because there simply isn’t time with all the complications in this story for anyone to try and catch up.
The story takes place over two timelines (aside from the prologue, which is a flashback). The first introduced is a series events over a period of a month in 2000. The other storyline is to explain all the events that happened between early 1997 (where “X-File #10-1115” left off) and where the one in 2000 began. I will use a ——– line to separate timelines, but not chapters and parts.
HISTORICAL NOTES : For this story, I am going to assume a lot of events and places of the kat planet are similar to ours, but some are different. 1. The oceans on the kat planet are *much* shorter, so it was easier for the medievals to cross the Atlantic at a much earlier date than 1492 and North America was able to have a medieval society (this is also an explanation for that “Bride of the Pastmaster” episode).
2. In the *real* Scotland, there is no University of Oban. Oban is a commercial and there are almost no colleges (to my knowledge) in the Highlands of Scotland. I created the university to forward the story.
3. In the *real* Scotland, the Argun does not exist, or any version of such a Scottish nationalist movement (that I know of).
This story is dedicated to Jade Callan for helping me with the factual items, and putting up with me explaining every new plot twist I come up with over the phone.
WARNING : I’d guess I would give this a light ‘R’ rating, for minor and not heavily detailed sex and some not-so-sweet language.
Megakat City, 1984 CE
A quiet passerby mght have noticed a dawg stumble out of the apartment complex around ten o’clock, looking rather weary as he lurched along with his trenchoat dragging at his feet. One did, actually, and took a moment to glance at his pedestrian neighbor.
The dawg looked up, with bloodshot eyes, and somewhat drunkenly uttered, in a very Scottish accent, “Ya bloody fool! Do ya nae know ‘s rude ta stare?”
The kat shuddered back, appalled by his outward bellowing, with dropplets of split coming form his mouth as he talked, and continued on as quickly as possible, frowning down at him with a, “How rude!”
Nonetheless, the dawg seemed uneffected as he continued on his path, though certainly not in what one would consider a straight line. He didn’t seem to care about anything until he heard the church bells sound for the hour.
‘Ten o’clock! Bloody hell!’ he began to straighten himself out, the early effects of the alocohol previously now for the moment over. ‘I dinnae wait tis long ta be late!’
Chance Furlong thought it wierd when Suzy had proposed the parking lot behind the auditorium as opposed to their normal meeting place, but had dropped the notion until he arrived. It was around the same time as usual, though a bit colder that night–last cold fronts coming through before spring, he imagined.
Not seeing her there when he arrived, he prompt himself up on the front of the dodge, deciding to wait it out a little while before turning in. All this was against Jake’s advisory, of course, with the physics test the next day.
“Screw physics!” he’d remarked snidely. “I ain’t goin’ to college!” That was pretty much the attitude he had carried throughout senior year, when his eyes had been set and locked on going to Enforcer Academy — thanks partially to his lack of credits and that D in chemisty. He had applied himself through much of his high school years, and nothing had come from it; he was now content to sit back and relax through the last few terms.
Smiling to himself, he tried to warm himself by thinking considerably more pleasant thoughts–mainly concerning the events that might follow for most of the evening if Suzy managed to show up again. He’d been thrilled, too, when she first started responding to his hints, thanks to his steady stream of efforts since freshman year and her recent violent breakup with Mr. Quarterback — otherwise known as Mark Guido. There was rarely a shot that a bully like Chance good ever get a score like her, especially with Jake around him to do the opposite of boost his popularity.
He glanced at his watch. Five to ten. ‘Where is she?’ he glanced around again, now noticing a car pulling into the parking lot. He smirked to himself as he recognized the green color. ‘That’s *gotta* be her.’
He began a slow careen over to the car as it pulled up beside him. When he looked in, however, he realized the form was certainly *not* female.
Chance’s smile faded when he recognized the owner of the teasing tone. Before he could respond, however–a movement which would have been to slam his fist through the open window and bunch the guy’s lights out–he heard the sound of other people, now coming from the parked car he had his back turned to. Something slammed into his head, and he crumpled to the ground with the chiming sound of the church bells to aid his headache.
The dawg continued his quest, which apparently involved stopping several times to take a sip from the flask in his coat pocket. Despite his state of intoxication, he could see quiet clearly, and his meaning of the late night stroll was never sharper in his mind. That was his full concentration now, except maybe the lamp post he was now imagining as a beautiful she-dawg. He made a gesture as if to tip the hat that was not there to ‘her.’
“G’day. Aye’d love to have a drink, but aye gotta job ta do.” Smiling to himself, he took another sip of the whiskey. “Maybe another time, though. Gotta date wi’ destiny.”
He started off again, now picking up speed as he approached a sign that said “Drug Free School Zone.”
“Get up, you fucker!”
Chance had problems trying to scramble to his feet, gripping the back of his head and source of his disorientaiton. Guido, now out of the car, was twirling a baseball bat.
“Ughhh . . . wha — ?” Chance whirled about questioningly, trying to straighten things out and take a count of the people around him. He was up against at least six tom-kats now, all he recognized vagely as members of the local gang. Guido wasn’t usually the leader, of course, but Chance imagined he had enough pull to get backup if he ever wanted to.
“I said *get up*!” Guido slammed him with the bat, this time in the stomach. Chance lurched backwards, into the car door behind him. He felt something begin to travel up his throat and surface in his mouth, and it was too sweet to be vomit.
“What the hell do you want?” Now prompt up against the car, he was beginning to regain himself much more quickly this time. Normally, he would have gone straight into the brawl, but circumstances were obviously different. He had a reputation for being one of the toughest kids in the grade and intentions on keeping it, but he doubted he could take on more than three at a time — at least not without a weapon or some kind of advantage.
“Payback,” Guido sneered. “For screwing with my property.”
Chance growled, hurling himself on him, “She’s not yours anymore!”
“Wanna bet?” his opponent laughed, until he met a a paw full of knuckles. With his overconfidence after a good bat swing, he’d forgetten just how tough Chance could be when he wanted to. Guido stumbled back, up against his car and seething, “Get him!”
Chance didn’t have time for a good windup before he was forced to throw another punch, this time to someone at his side. It was futile, however, with six mainly-armed kats on top of him. He was only able to deliver three or four shots and two throws before he hit the ground.
Jake slowed the car as he hit a speed bump. He was trying to keep the car in as good condition as possible. This was the first time he’d borrowed his dad’s car without asking, but he someone had found it hard to come up with an explanation as to why he was going over to the school in the middle of the night.
He was worried, even though he wondered if he seriously should have been. When Chance mentioned the odd circumstances around his now-weekly excuse for skipping a study session, it had made them both nervous. Guido had been throwing some pretty cold looks at Chance lately, and Jake hadn’t been one to let them fly over his head. He was seriously wondering when the football star was going to try something, and tonight’s strange meeting got his suspicions aroused. Suzy was, after all, still considered by Guido as ‘his property.’ Jake had detested his best friend going out with her for that purpose in the first place; now he was worried it might get them both into real trouble.
‘There’s nothing wrong with just checking to see if things are okay,’ he reminded himself. ‘What’s to lose?’
The dawg continued to pull himself together as the school came into view. He took one last sip of his flask, than decidingly put it away from what was likely to be the evening. He felt *great,* but that was all alocohol-induced anyway.
His mind reeled with excitment as he heard the sounds of the brawl, and knew it was the right time. Briefly he wondered why he’d been sent on this mission, but he had never questioned orders before and had no intention to begin a new habit.
“‘scuse me,” he belched out as the scene became clearer. For the first time, the gang looked up from the punishment they were apparently delivering and noticed him.
“What the hell do *you* want?” Guido spat, a little surprised to see a dawg in that area, much less at the school.
The dawg ignored him, coming closer. Some of the gang members backed away as if he carried some strange disease, partially because he was dawg after all and partially because of his sway in step and expression made it obvious he had something in his body that wasn’t supposed to be there. The dawg bent beside Chance, who was now curled up and covering his paws over his head as moot protection. There were a few areas bleeding, from what the dawg could tell, mainly in the face.
“Hey, mister– this is our business!”
“Really? Well, then ‘scuse me fer intruding — but now ’tis mine — ”
Guido was pretty sure he had this guy covered, ready with a baseball bat swinging towards his three foot opponent’s head, but it was met by a fire axe the dawg someone pulled from it’s hiding place beneath the heavy trenchcoat.
“Holy *shit*–!” Guido backed away, but not in time. The dawg removed the sliced bat from his own weapon and swung out loosely yet with surprising vigor with the wooden side of the axe. It slammed the kat’s knees, bringing him instantly to the ground.
Though a little unsure of themselves, the leftover bullies threw themselves on him. He lept wildly, taking out a guy on his right and screaming at the top of his lungs. He fought incredibly well for a dawg, being he did have a height disadvantage, enough to handle most of them.
Chance dared to look out from his paw shields, seeing for the first time his intoxicated savior. The dawg was laughing and shouting something in another language, probably Gaelic from his accent, as he brawled. He seemed to be *enjoying* himself, as if it was no more than a fist fight between friends in the locker room.
For a moment the attacker stopped, waiting for the group to regain themselves, and was silent except for heaving breaths. Sweat soaked his brow fur from obvious excitement. He suddenly glanced down at Chance, who covered his face again to avoid eye contact, ‘Please don’t hurt me . . .’
From the silence came a roar of drunken laughter, from the dawg again, as be began the fight anew with some gang members foolish enough to get up.
Chance didn’t dare to unblock his eyes again for a while, praying for the end and trying to deal with the metallic taste of blood in his mouth. He did finally dare to reopen his paws, now looking upon a new savior of the different sort.
“Chance? You okay?” Jake was kneeling close to him, trying to coax him up. “Come on–that guy’s gone.” He looked around, keeping a careful eye on the former bullies, who now lay helpless and defeated on the ground.
It took a little while for Jake to finally hoist Chance up enough to allow his body to slither into the car seat beside him. He started the car and began to head for home.
“Do you need to go to the hospital?” his voice was not without deep concern as he noted the condition of his friend. Chance was prompt up against the car door, resting his head against the window.
“I’ll be fine . . . I’ve just been better, that’s all,” he smacked his lips, still wet from blood, and tried to purge himself of the night’s memories for a few minutes.
Luckily, they were able to slip into Jake’s house and up the staires to his room rather easily. It only took him fifteen minutes or so to clean up the car so the blood wouldn’t stain the seats overnight, than help Chance steady himself enough to make it up the stairs. Inside, he had a first aid kit ready in no time–being partially accosted to helping his friend clean up after fights, but never really to any kind of severity before this.
“The blood stopped and the wounds aren’t too deep, so I think you won’t have to go to the hospital,” he diagnosed as he finished wrapping up Chance’s head wound. “I’d just talk to the coach tomorrow or something about a fracture. You might need X-rays.”
Chance groaned, now somewhat comfortable in Jake’s chair. Still partially disoriented and exhausted, he was still trying to piece together the evening’s events.
“I’ll go ask dad if you can stay the night,” Jake said. “I think he’s still awake.”
“Mom wasn’t expecting me home ’till late anyway,” Chance put in as his friend disappeared down the hall, then reappeared minutes later.
“He says it’s fine.” Jake opened the closet, and began pulling out the extra mattress. “You take the bed — just don’t get blood on the sheets, okay?”
“No promises,” Chance managed to pull himself to his feet long enough to make it a meter to the bed, where he collapsed entirely.
“So — what the heck were you doing there?”
Chance chuckled, “You know, you’re just like my mom.”
“First you pamper me, then you chew me out. Yeah, I knew I should’ve listened to you–so you go ahead and say ‘I told you so’ and get it over with, okay?”
“Yeah, well, if that wierd dawg hadn’t saved you, you might be in the hospital with a skull fracture right now–that or worse. You knew what Guido was capable of.”
He pointed out defensively, “If it had just been Guido, I would’ve been *fine.* Christ, he had five guys jump me!”
“You really think he would’ve gone against the Chance Furlong who ate the last quarterback for lunch last year *alone*? Think for a second next time, okay?” Jake settled onto the mattress, pulling a spare blanket over himself and reaching for the lights, “By the way, who was that guy? I mean, he looked *really* drunk.”
“How the hell should I know? The only dawgs I’ve ever known all lived in my old district, but that was seven years ago and I never really had a relationship with any of ’em. They never go out into the suburbs or someone’ll call the enforcers out of shock.”
“Wierd,” Jake shut off the light. “Goodnight.”
Jake settled on his side, and was obviously asleep within a few minutes. Chance, on the other paw, lay awake a little while despite the rest his injuries cried for, still trying to recognize the strange dawg, now only a rather clear picture in his head.
“If you stare too long into the abyss, the abyss looks back at you.”
– Batman, “Batman : The Animated Series”
Part 1 Chapter 1
Scotland, late 1999 CE
The bells of the miniature grandfather clock on the wall chimed for attention, signalling for the new hour. A plump, wrinkled she-kat of early fifties and mainly grey hair tied in a loose bun wandered around the hallway outside the main office, apparently waiting for something.
‘Eight o’clock already?’ she wondered to herself. ‘Where does th’ time go?”
She glanced up as she heard the front door squeal its way open, and a thirty-ish kat entered. Under his arm and slung over his shoulder was a backpack containing several books — he was obviously a student, though well over age for that type of thing. Despite his jeans and flannel, he was seperated from his fellow students in appearance even further by the stubble of a beard that was slowly outgrowing the length of his chin fur.
“Mr. MacIsaac!” she smiled as he stumbled in, apparently exhausted from his daily travels. “I was a wonderin’ if ye’d ever git in!”
“Yeah, well . . . study session ran late,” his voice contained not a hint of the heavy accent she had. He returned the gesture of warmth, heading for the mailboxes on the side of the wall and began to search for the key to his personal box. Within a moment or so he retrieved it, and began unloading the mail.
“I’ve been worryin’ about ya,” she mentioned good-naturedly. “What, ya been busy wi’ classes an’ yer wife — how is she?”
“Fine, fine,” he followed her into the office, using the silent invitation to get a chance to flip through the mail a little before going upstairs. “We’re looking into a getting a house — as soon as she can get enough paychecks to convince the bank to give us a loan.”
She nodded, “Ye should. I know I’m yer lan’lord, but ye should really get some more space. I bet ya’ll be haven’ little young ‘uns runnin’ around in no time — I’m surprised they havin’ appeared yet.”
He chuckled, “Thanks, Mrs. Kincaid, but it might be a while. I’m not sure we can even afford it yet.” As much as he shared her joy at the concept, he still didn’t dare tell her they only planned on having one — it would break the old she-kat’s heart.
“In me day, children weren’ *planned,* they *happened.* We dinna worry ’bout affording them,” she added skeptically.
‘In your day, kats were still walking around in kilts,’ he thought slyly, but kept it to himself. She was a nice she-kat, and a good a landlord at that — he had no right no complain. He continued to glance over the letters, grumbling mildly at the stack of what appeared to be mainly bills. His eyes widened, however, when he reached one and read its address line.
“Mr. MacIsaac?” Kincaid had apparently seen him tense as he raised one envelope to get a better look at the front. She stepped up behind him, looking over his shoulder and adjusting the biofocals on the edge of her nose so she could see the envelope. “Hmm. Must be a wrong address. Fer a ‘Mr. Clawson.” You wan’ me ta take it to th’ post office for ya?”
“No,” oddily nervously, he slipped the envelope into his back pocket. “That’s okay — I’ll take care of it.” He quickly began to collect his things, and hurried out of the office. “Good night, Mrs. Kincaid.”
“G’night, Mr. MacIsaac,” she waved as he slipped out, wondering what had disturbed it so.
Jake waited until he had turned a safe bend before opening the letter. If it was anyone still over at Megakat City, he’d kill them.
But silently he prayed it was just someone playing a joke, maybe Felina or Brian, as he used his claw to tear open the envelope. There was a clipping from a newspaper inside, where the headline read “Dark Kat Found Dead” and under it a a subtitle concerning the SWAT Kats — along with a profile of himself and Chance in their flight suits.
He closed his eyes and leaned against the wall for support. He, of course, had always suspected this moment would come — when all he had worked so hard to put behind him would come up from behind his back to haunt him. There was no return address or signiature. Just a simplenews clipping could destroy all he had spent three years working for.
Not feeling in the mood to delay the enidible — such as breaking it to Abi or Chance — he began to shakily climb the stairs up to his apartment. As his knees felt as though they would give out from beneath him, his mind began to wonder to when the journey to bring him to his shattered paradise of a life had begun . . .
Megakat City, 1997 C.E.
The solo voice rang out in midly chilly mid-March air, with an obvious strain in the vocal to have the same steel of the owner’s superiors — specifically, Commander Feral. The somewhat-scrawny kat, dressed in an enforcer’s uniform, sighed with what little breath he had left from the chase as he crashed through a bush.
The subject of his interest hadn’t flinched or hesitated at the sound of his voice — damnit, he just wasn’t good at that octave! Every time he raised this voice another noch, the quality of the one went in the opposite direction.
‘I suppose you pick it up along the way on the job,’ he mused, and picked up his ears to the sound of splashing. The burglar, it seemed had jumped into one of the small brooks that ran throughout Megakat Park in an attempt to cross it.
He spotted the brook soon enough — lucky for him, too. He was about to lose the scumbag in the thick foilage, but the path past the stream was clear enough; especially with the buglar’s wet footprints on the sidewalk.
Still, it seemed like his luck had run out. He wasn’t anywhere near gaining, and was short of breath. He’d called for backup by the factory, but it hadn’t arrived in time to join him on his chase.
And it seemed like the criminal was about to escape his paws when . . . he heard a distinct *growl,* as two kats — things, rather–lept from the trees above and landed directly in the first kat’s path. His first instinct was not to stop but zip beside them — which he was in the process of doing when one leasurely lent out a huge, clawed arm and grabbed him by his jacket. He effortlessly lifted the kat off his feet, leaving him hovering several feet off the ground. The pack he’d been carrying feel to the ground as the burglar began to whimper in fear.
“ENFORCERS!” the enforcer shouted, though he didn’t think it was necessary, as he pulled out his flashlight. “Stay right where you are — ”
His light hit the two, and his jaw dropped. Sure, he’d *heard* the stories about the gargoyles, and even been formally told his Lt. Commander was half-gargoyle herself, but he’d never seen one with his own eyes. He would’ve seen Felina, but this was his first night since he’d been switched to the night shift and she was on her day off.
He supposed he hadn’t expected them to be so *huge*. The second, now curiously going through the contents of the burglar’s pack, was easily identifiable as T-Bone — the half gargoyle, half SWAT Kat. The only real difference from the few times the enforcer had seen him at night was his flight suit was less baggy under his new form — that and the fact he had wings, talons, huge feet that stood on the top to balance from the weight on his back, and a long, viper-like tail. His eyes, hard to see the pupils anyway because of the mask, were glowing with interest as he began to shift through the various items the burglar had been trying to escape with. The enforcer vaguely remembered that a senior squad member had explained that glow meant they were either angry, or they were activating a sort of night vision — or both.
The second he didn’t know, but it was wasn’t Felina (he also knew Razor was not a gargoyle). It was a male of a lighter build, and light brown fur with a blue-ish tint to it. The most notible difference was nearly half of its body looked like metal had been meshed in with the skin — like an andriod, or half of one anway. One side oft chest had an alloy armor covering it, and the arm opposite looked like robotic. The claws of the arm — the ones holding the burglar — were steel talons, and a lazer was raised from a compartment in the claw, like a built-in govatrix. One foot was also entirely metal, and the wings looked like sheets of alloy. A jet pack was hooked up around the back — obviously to supplement for the lack of gliding the gargoyle was able to do with his ‘wings.’ One eye was in place and moving, but the other was nothing but a red light.
The odd-looking gargoyle noticed the enforcer now, or at least *bothered* to notice him, “Excuse me.” He held out the whimpering criminal. “Is this yours?”
“Y-yes — thank you,” the enforcer lowered his flashlight a bit, having gotten enough of a look. “You can put him down now, I guess.”
The gargoyle shot him a glance, but T-Bone cut in and nodded to his friend, “‘s okay, Sevian. Let ‘im go.”
Sevian shrugged, and dropped the kat. The burgaler gave a small shriek and ran to the enforcer’s side, for protection. He didn’t argue when he was cuffed and held firmly by the enforcer.
“Umm, excuse me . . . Mr. T-Bone, but I’m going to need that,” he indicated the pack.
T-Bone looked up, and the enforcer quivered in fear, expecting him to lash out like some sort of wild animal when you took away their toy. Instead the SWAT Kat’s expression softened, more dignified than a monster’s, and he recognized the look of fear.
“Hey, kid . . . you’re new on the force, aren’t you?” There was no tone of disgust, just a simple question being asked.
“Ah . . . yes, si–” he was about to say ‘sir’ but hesitated. He wasn’t oblivious to the fact they were his seniors in skill and strength, but they weren’t on the force, either.
T-Bone nodded, “What’s your name, kid?”
“Officer Riker, sir.”
“Relax, Riker. I’m just looking through this stuff,” T-Bone picked up an object from the pack and glanced at it, holding it in the beam of the enforcer’s flashlight. He recognized it instantly. “This is an explosive activator — a good one, too. Where’d you catch him stealing this from?”
“Uh . . . a military supply wharehouse. The one on Hampstead Drive.”
He nodded again, “They’ve got some pretty heavy security there.” He looked at the burglar, intently. “How’d *you* get in?” The kat had a mangy look to him, with torn jeans and long, unkept hair. He didn’t look like much more than a common thief. “You don’t look like a professional.”
The kat struggled a bit under Riker’s grasp, but nervously.
“I’ll say it again,” T-Bone stepped forward and grabbed the guy by his shirt, lifting him off the floor. “Who hired you?”
Riker stepped in, “We’re going to question him in — ”
“Headquarters. I know. Like *that* does anything,” he turned back to the kat. “Want me to ask again?”
The kat hesitated again, then finally spit out, “It was Dark Kat! There . . . you satisfied, you freak?”
The kat’s newfound courage faded when T-Bone growled, and his eyes lit. However, instead of tearing to the pieces he deserved to be in, he dropped him back on the ground. “Book ‘im.” Riker cluelessly took hold of the burglar again as T-Bone went back to the pack.
A moment later he found something of interest — a metal box, to be exact, with various buttons and dials on it. “What’s this?”
“If you give it back, forensics can — ”
The SWAT Kat ignored him, pressing a spot behind his ear on his helmet that apparently activated some kind of communication link, “Razor? Can you come check this out?”
There was a response, from the signifigantly higher tone of Razor, but it wasn’t audible enough to be understood. T-Bone turned to Sevian, “You follow Riker back to Enforcer HQ. I’m gonna show this to Razor and then drop it off later.”
Sevian nodded, and motioned for the helplessly submissive Riker to start the way back to his squad car.
Scotland, late 1999 C.E.
It was a long, shaky walk, but Jake eventually reached the door that had long-since become the entrance to what he called home. He hoped it wouldn’t be much longer, either — thought it was a rather nice apartment, they were beginning to outgrow it, and the process would speed exponentially when their child came.
Thoran at first had warned that vilthurils were not supposed to have children, in fear that some of the ‘abilities’ would carry over to a ‘non-chosen’ being, but that rule had been easily overrided by the fact that children of Ecuador were *definitely* supposed to continue the line. Not like either of them gave a damn, but it at least got Sauraman and the more traditional gargoyles off their backs.
He resisted the humorous tempation to shout “hi honey, I’m home” as he slipped in the door, “Abi?”
“Just a minute,” came a voice from around the corner of their cramped apartment. All they had was a main living/dining room, a tiny kitchen, a bathroom, and of course a bedroom. Everything was on the small side, but half of Abi’s paychecks, along with most of his, were still paying for his graduate school tuition. Plus he only worked odd hours to match his schedule of classes, so everything was limited.
She finally appeared, “Hi, Jake. Where’ve you been?” She kissed him on the cheek.
“Study session . . . you know the professor,” he shrugged. “What’s for dinner?”
“I don’t know . . . it’s your turn to make it.”
He smiled, and pulled her in closer, kissing this time more on target and passionately. When they came up for air, he replied, “All right . . . as long as there’s something quick in the fridge.”
It took him a moment to force himself to pull away from her, enabling him to get to the kitchen. He set the mail down on the counter, and was sorting through the fridge when she bothered to follow him in.
“I guess I’m in luck . . . still some pizza slices from last night,” he shot her a glance. “Up for cold pizza?”
“I’m glad my husband’s such a chef,” she remarked slyly, though she had to give him credit — he could cook, better that most tom-kats she knew, he just often didn’t feel like it. “It’ll be fine. Just heat it.”
“Coming right up,” he threw the slices into the oven. “How was your day?”
“I had an annoying meeting with the board of trustees for the museum.”
“Oh. Doesn’t sound good.”
“Nope,” she collapsed in one of the kitchen table chairs. “It’s getting harder and harder to hide all those expenses for the gargoyles. At least in Megakat, funding was from Callie and I didn’t have to deal with a bunch of multimillionares who want to know where every donated dollar is going.”
He began to set the table as he waited for the pizza, “So what’re you going to do?”
“Well . . . it’s going to have to come from somewhere. The problem’s really just feeding them, but you should see how much they eat when they get hungry.”
“I lived with Chance, remember?”
“Feed him before sundown and he’s fine in comparison. Plus their furniture’s always wearing down and other fun things. The whole situation’s just a mess,” she sighed. “Luckily, Liam might contribute.”
“Who much money does that guy have, anyway?”
“Enough — for someone who’s lived to his age. He said he might put in an endowment and they could live off the interest, as long as he got it back in so many odd years.”
“Sounds good,” Jake heard the sound of the oven timer going off with a soft ‘ping,’ and went for the pizza.
“How was your day?”
He shrugged, “Tiring, I guess. Manchester set a test for tomorrow — 24 hour’s notice. That’s why I stayed for the study session.”
“What’s it on?”
“Quantam Physics, chapter six. Guy’s insane — half the professors are. I seriously think they like watching students who don’t know the answer cringe.”
“They do the same thing in Megakat City, Jake. I had a prehistory teacher who drove me crazy,” Abi began to start on her pizza. “I don’t understand why you escaped it.”
“Yeah, I really don’t know why they were lighter on me in that night school, but I wasn’t complaining when I was there,” he stopped, suddenly remembering the mail. “I forgot — I think there’s something you need to see in the mail.”
She glanced at him curiously as he reached over and handed her the mysterious envelope She pulled out her reading glasses and studied it carefully for several minutes before responding, now very seriously.
“This is a threat, Jake.”
“Of course it’s a threat — that or he’s just playing with my head.”
“So you know who he is?”
He shook his head, “I didn’t say that — just most of the kats from Megakat City who would be most likely to be gunning for my head are male. Molly was disassembled, and Turmoil would mail a letter to Chance, not me.”
“Did you ask Chance if he got one?”
“Not yet — I just got the mail. I think he’s out for the night with Brian, so I’ll have to tell him about it tomorrow morning.”
“What are you going to do about it?”
“What am I supposed to do?” he locked eyes quizzically. “We can’t go to the enforcers or we’d have to explain it — and even if we *could* explain it without having them call the national guard to deport us, there still wouldn’t be enough to go on from one letter. It’s typed with no return address. The enforcers are too lazy to scan it for pawprints; not without real reason. We’ll just have to wait until he make his next move.”
Abi still looked uneasy, but after a tense moment she pushed it away, “Listen, why don’t you forget about it for the evening? There’s no sense in worrying about something that might be a prank from one of the gargoyles to spook you.”
“Yeah,” he shoved the letter away, sticking under a stack of bills for the moment. “I just gotta get my mind of it.”
Abi, who had already discarded both their paper plates and was up from the table, leaned over and kissed him, “I can think of a way.”
“I’ll agree to that.”
“I thought you said you were tired,” she pointed out slyly.
“Not *that* tired,” he pulled her in. For the rest of the evening, the unnerving letter was forgotten.
Megkat City, 1997
“Hey, Razor!” T-Bone waved his huge claw at his partner, who had finally arrived on a cyclotron. “About time!”
“What is it?” Razor came in close enough to see, under the light of the streetlamp, the metal item T-Bone was holding.
He handed it to him, “Some kinda explosive device, I think. I pulled it from a pack this guy was carrying. Kat had just robbed a military supply shop and claimed Dark Kat hired him.”
The SWAT Kat in kat form studied it curiously, “Anything else in the pack?”
“Yeah. An explosive activator, and a few sticks of dynamite,” he shrugged. “Dark Kat seems to like explosions.”
“I noticed,” Razor muttered. “This looks like some new form of generator–but it needs a converter if Dark Kat wants to hook it to any explosives.
His partner shrugged, “I didn’t see a converter in the sack.”
“That’s probably because it’s so new. I saw something about this on Ann Gora’s ‘Spotlight on Science’ yesterday,” he held it into the lamplight. “The converter’s just been shipped in overseas and arrived at one of Pumadyne’s more minor supply houses this morning.”
“You think that’s where Dark Kat’ll strike next?”
He nodded, “It’s worth a shot, isn’t it?”
Fortunately for them, the wharehouse was only guarded from the outside, and gargoyles could be as silent as they wanted when they wished to be. With a breezy sound not loud enough to disturb the guard, T-Bone glided down to a barred windowsill on the side of the building, and dug his claws into the brick there. Secured to the wall, he tossed out one end of a rope back to his partner, nodding to Razor on the roof of the neighboring building — giving him the go-ahead to tie the rope up to a pipe and use it to slide down to T-Bone. Joining him, the two began to work at silently prying open the window and climbing in.
The factory was pitch black inside. For safety, T-Bone used his wings to slow the ascent, with Razor latched onto him.
“It shouldn’t be this dark,” Razor whispered, activating the powerful lightbeam on his glovatrix. “There should at least be some auxiliary lights on for a watchkat.”
T-Bone did the same with his, and shrugged, “So whatta we do now?”
“Look for the converter. Make sure it’s still here.”
“You think Dark Kat nabbed it already?”
“ON THE CONTRARY . . .”
The lights flashed on, and the two shocked SWAT Kats looked up to see Dark Kat a few feet away, holding a small, metal box in his paw. Creeplings swarmed around him.
” . . . you’re both right!” he smiled.
They immediately shifted into a defensive position, bringing their glovatrixes up to him as T-Bone spoke, “And you’re going to Al-Kat-Traz, Dark Crud!”
Confidently, he set down the converter and picked up a slightly-familar-looking device, aiming it at the SWAT Kats, “I believe not!” He pressed down on a switch, and the device fired a beam that hit both their glovatrixes. In response they attempted to fire, but found nothing seemed to come out.
“Having trouble, SWAT Kats?” Dark Kat laughed. “This device I borrowed from Hard Drive comes in handy.”
“Crud,” T-Bone pulled off his useless glovatrix, and curled his claw into a ball. “Looks like we’re gonna hafta settle this one-on-one, Dark Creep!” Growling, he launched himself at his opponent, fist ready. He made it a few inches away when Razor watched Dark Kat pull some kind of rod out and hit him on the shoulder with it. There was a loud sizzling sound as a burst of sparks covered the gargoyle’s body, and after a few moments he slumped to the ground unconscious.
“What the–,” Razor gasped as Dark Kat held up the rod, still glowing slightly with electrical energy.
“My own little dezign — made to take care of pests like you without a killing blow. There’s obviously enough voltage in here to take down even a gargoyle. But for you . . .” he fiddled with some switch on the handle. “I suppose I have to turn it down . . . you won’t serve much of a purpose dead *yet* . . .”
Razor backed further away, ready to jump, but Dark Kat did not advance, “Get him, my creeplings!” There was no time for reaction. A creepling came down from its roost above him on a support beam, power rod ready. There was only a minor tingling sensation before he was out like a light.
Felina Feral was more than slightly aggrevated at her fellow changling, seething as she paced around her tiny kitchen. T-Bone hadn’t come in with Sevian to turn in the burglar, and left no note as to where he went. As much as she respected his privacy and realized he — as a vigilante as well as a gargoyles — was not bound down to reports and patrols like she was, he promised to stop by after he finished the run with Sevian and Razor.
Sighing impatiently, she glanced at the clock once more. Only an hour until sunrise, until she could crawl into bed and get some decent sleep before her afternoon shift. Felina would give him that long, and then decided to turn in.
Razor moaned softly, as consciousness returned. He tried to lift his paws to rub his pounding head, but found them restrained. Opening his eyes, he noticed the shackles that held them down, along with the rest of his body, only a foot or so from the floor. His glovatrix, not surprisingly, was gone.
He positioned himself so he could see around him as opposed to remaining flat on the ground, sitting indian style as to not yang the chains. Turning to his left, he noticed his partner was awake as well.
“You up, buddy?” T-Bone’s voice didn’t mask the concern. He had obviously been up at least several minutes earlier. His own shackles were much heavier, to hold down successfully his powerful form.
“Yeah. You all right?”
He shrugged, “Been better. How ’bout you?”
“The same,” Razor tugged again, then gave up helplessly. “Where are we?”
T-Bone gestured with his head towards the room in front of them, “Dark Kat’s ship, I think. I haven’t seen him yet, though.”
Razor nodded as he looked around. They were towards the back of the room. At the front were panels of flashing lights and large monitors. A few creeplings were fooling with the controls. One of them, curious, wandered over to T-Bone and began to claw at the captive’s face. The gargoyle growled, and suddenly whipped his long, lizard-like tail out from behind, knocking the vexating creature back with a squeek.
“How long until sunrise?”
“Soon,” T-Bone muttered with a certain sense of sureness. Razor, in all his experiences, had noticed that gargoyles had some kind of biological clock inside to tell them when they should get ready to roost, without the aid of a watch — though he’d never confronted any of them with the concept. They just seemed to *know.*
His musing were broken as a metal door behind them swung open, and Dark Kat entered, a few scattered creeplings flying by or playing with his robe, “Good morning, SWAT Kats.”
T-Bone, on instinct, hissed and lurched upward, but was quickly halted in his launch by the chains. Frustrated, settled back down again, seething.
“Easy, SWAT Kat — but those chains are meant to withstand even a gargoyle’s strength. Of course, that won’t matter in a few minutes, will it . . .?”
His partner continuing to growl, Razor jumped in the conversation, “What do you want from us, Dark Kat?”
“Patience, patience,” cockily, Dark Kat strutted over to the controls and began to activate some of them. “You’ll find out soon enough.”
Felina was awoken abruptly by the not-so-gentle sounds of low shouts coming from her kitchen. Silly her — she’d left her radio on to the enforcer band. Frowning, she climbed out of bed and slipped back into the kitchen, switching off the radio. Had it been another time in the day and had she had a few more hours of sleep, Felina might’ve listened in on the emergancy to see what the matter was — but she supposed they could do with one less enforcer, and she doubted she could even make it down to her car without falling asleep in the elevator. After allowing herself to mildly ponder the situation for a few more moments, she slide back into bed without giving it another thought.
Commander Feral’s mind was far from sleep as he stepped out of his squad car, only to be met on the sidewalk by an oncoming crowd of frighten kats apparently fleeing from the building in front of him — Megakat Towers.
‘This place *is* cursed,’ he mused to himself, grabbing the nearest officer in charge — Carlson, specifically — by the collar, “What’s going on, Lt.?”
Carlson shuddered and pointed up to the sky, “Patrols spotted that ship about half and hour ago hovering around the area.” Feral directed his attention to the ship just above the tower. “No radio response. We though was Dark Kat’s form the dezign. So about ten minutes ago, Dark Kat made this announcement over the speakers in the building and the enforcer radio band. He has the place rigged with bombs — and he’s given everyone ten minutes to get out of the building before he activates them.”
“Any reason? Demands?”
Feral rubbed his chin, contemplating, “Anyone else still in the building?” The crowds of kats flowing from the front doors were now simmering down as they huddled on the sidewalk.
“I could have the administrators do head counts on their exployees, sir.”
He nodded, “Do it — and set up blockages. I don’t want anyone within twenty-five feet of the building.”
With Carlson busy issuing orders to the lower ranks, Feral slowly approached the front glass doors. Prepping his gun, he carefully put out a paw No sooner had he touched a claw to the door handle did he hear a minor beeping noise, and he quickly backed away.
“Nice try, Commander Feral,” Dark Kat’s voice boomed over the speakers. “But this is a private party — between me and the SWAT Kats. Step away or you’ll be vaporized.”
It was then that Feral noticed the small set of explosives pasted to the inside of the glass near the door, and through the front he could see many others taped to various places in the front hall. Grunting, he stepped back further, behind the new enforcer line of yellow tape Steele was hastily setting up. Carlson appeared beside him again.
“Sir . . . there’s around five kats unaccounted for. Might be a miscount, might not . . . ” he shrugged. “Do you think he’s taking hostages?”
“I don’t know, Lt. — all I know is we can’t do anything until he makes a move. The party’s inside, and we don’t seem to be invited.”
As Dark Kat turned away from the comm-panel, he noticed T-Bone and Razor staring at him angrily.
“What is this about, Dark Kat?!” T-Bone demanded, steadily growing more impatient.
“You’ll see soon enough, SWAT Kat,” the huge villian threw a lever, and the ship floated down and landed on the tower’s roof. The hatch opened beside them, allowing exit. Two of the creeplings flew over to T-Bone and Razor and unlocked their shackles.
“Now what?” Razor rubbed his wrists curiously.
“A test, SWAT Kat — to see how good you *really* are,” Dark Kat pointed towards the door leading to the staircase of the building. “There’s an elevator stopped on the thirteenth floor, filled with business kats. In twenty minutes a bomb strapped to the car’s roof will explode, releasing a lethal, poisonous gas.. That’s how long you have to get down there, without your glovatrixes, without tripping any bombs on the way down. All the other elevators have been shut down. Attempt to leave the building or radio for outside help and I’ll activate the bomb. Attempt to attack me or anyof my creeplings and I’ll activate the bomb.” He smiled cooly, “Understand?”
T-Bone growled, though this time considerably more kat-like, but Razor grabbed his paw, “C’mon, T-Bone — we don’t have much time.” Not allowing another complaint, he pulled his partner towards the door.
“Dark Kat’s a real sicko,” T-Bone grumbled, running up beside Razor in the hallway. “So what are we gonna do?”
His partner glanced up as they reached the elevator room, “Oh great — we’re on the hundredth floor. There’s no way we’re gonna get down if we take the stairs.” He shrugged, “We could try sliding down the elevator cables.”
“Right,” T-Bone immediately proceeded to grab onto the elevator door, attempting to pry it open. “This would be easier if I was gargoyle.”
“I don’t think we have the luxury of waiting around until sunset, buddy,” Razor stepped back as T-Bone grunted, and at last forced the doors open. He peered into the dark shaft. “Uh oh.”
“Crud!” the bigger SWAT kat groaned, noticing the small, blinking devices on the walls. “The shaft is riddled with bombs! What do you think, Razor — are they gas or do they explode? We could use our oxygen masks.”
“They look explosive, T-Bone,” he took a careful look. “Even if not, that’s not a chance I want to take. We’ll have to go down slow.” He lept out, grabbing onto the cable. After waiting for it to steady so he wouldn’t accidentally swing and hit a bomb, he started to slide down and nodded for T-Bone to follow.
They were going along fine, though picking up a bit of speed, when they both heard an audible ‘snap’ from above as the cable went loose.
“HE CUT THE CABLE!” acting purely on instincts, Razor tightened his fist to activate his glovatrix, then remembered it didn’t have it. Quickly he managed to leap to the side of t he shaft and grab hold on the wall, digging his claws as much as he could into the plaster. T-Bone followed in suit, somehow managing to avoid touching a bomb as he slammed into the wall.
“Double crud!” T-Bone shouted angrily, looking down at the elevator car several floors down. There was some device applied to the sides that held it steady on its floor level.
“Looks like we’re gonna have to climb down this way,” Razor slowly began to descend. “How long do we have?”
T-Bone glanced at his watch, “Seven minutes.”
“Great,” Razor said sarcastically. “Watch for the bombs.”
“Don’t remind me,” his partner was not far behind, desperately trying to keep himself close to the wall.
The elevator car slowly began to focus in view beneath them. Faintly, they could hear the sounds of frightened murmurs coming from the kats in the car.
“Hang on in there!” Razor shouted assuringly, almost to the elevator. “The SWAT Kats are here!” When his only response was more frightened noises, he checked his watch, “Two minutes. We might make it, T-Bone!”
His partner said nothing, concentrating more on the wall.
Razor at last felt his feet touch the car beneath him, “We’re on the roof! Hold on!” Steadying himself on the car, he knelt down as T-Bone joined him and began pulling up the roof boards, looking for the bomb.
His jaw dropped as he exposed a small compartment, revealing a tape recorder, set on ‘play’ — releasing the sounds of kat voices whimpering. “What a minute . . .” Furiously, he and T-Bone began to pull up the metal casing. When they finally hit an opening, a green gas began pouring out.
“Poison gas!” Razor reached for his oxygen mask, watching his partner do the same, and checked his watch. “B-But . . . we have a minute and a half left!”
The smoke began to clear, revealing the occupants of the elevator car — rather, the motionless occupants. Three kats and two she-kats in business suits were strewn across the floor, not breathing by all appearances.
Razor lept down first, unbelieving, “Maybe they’re still–” He felt for a few pulses, and found none. The gas was clear now, but that didn’t make it any better. Some of them were piled near the car door, like they had been trying to pry it open when the gas had been released. There was one thing for certain — they were long dead.
He closed his eyes, dizzy and nauseated by the frighten looks on their lifeless faces, and the smell of the gas he had inhaled before applying his mask, “No . . .” He spun around, confused. Dark Kat had lied — their task was impossible. They had failed, somehow, and now the faces seemed to be staring at him coldly through their closed eyelids. He felt T-Bone behind him, grabbing onto his shoulders to steady him, but there was no comfort there . . .
Scotland, late 1999 C.E.
“No . . .”
He did not shout as he awoke from his fevered sleep; he hadn’t shouted in the actual event, or any of the reoccuring dreams. He did mumble loudly, sitting almost straight up.
His eyes opened, finally free of the horrible vision he had been tortured by for so long. He found himself up in bed, breathing heavily, with sweat across his face. Unlike the actual memory that the dream claimed its origins from, he was able to reassure himself it wasn’t happening. He was still in Scotland, in Stronmilchan. He was still safe in his bed, with his wife beside him. Yet it all didn’t seem comforting enough.
“Jake? Honey?” Abi looked up at him, sleep still in her eyes, but alarmed. She had apparently fallen asleep with her head resting on his chest, and his violent moments had disturbed her sleep. “What is it?”
“I-It’s nothing,” he climbed out of bed, dressed, and stumbled over to the adjacent bathroom. “Just a bad dream.” He spashed some cold water on his face, but that only made his face wetter than it originally was. “I’m just gonna get something to drink, okay?” He leaned over the bed, and kissed her on the forehead, “Go back to sleep.”
He wandered into the kitchen, fetching some iced tea, and settled down at the table nervously. The images from the dream still played in his head, no matter how hard he tried to shake them off. He was still sipping his tea when Abi appeared in her bathrobe.
“It’s the letter, isn’t it?” she said softly, sitting down beside him under the pale sole light over the table. “It disturbed you, didn’t it?” She took his paw in her own, noticing it was shaking.
“Maybe — I dunno. The dream wasn’t about the letter.”
“I *know* what it was about,” she tightened her grip. After all, she *was* married to him, and she knew for a fact there was only one reoccuring nightmare Jake still had — even after three years. “But the letter got you thinking.”
“Not consciously, but yeah — I guess so,” he admitted. “Look — I’ll talk to Chance in the morning.”
“When are you going back to sleep?”
“Soon, soon — I just need to sort some things out,” he smiled, freeing his paw. “Go back to bed. I’ll join you in a few minutes.”
Abi looked only partially reassured, but gave in, “Okay. Goodnight, honey.” She tightened the wrap of her robe in the evening chill and headed back into the bedroom.
“G’night,” he called, rubbing his face miserably. His paws had for the most part stopped shaking, but he still couldn’t clear his head. He’d been lucky, too — the full dream didn’t stop there. He had just woken early, and missed the worst part . . .
Megakat City, 1997 C.E.
It took them a while to pry the door open and make it into the hallway. Once clear of the elevator, they tore of their oxgyen masks and inhaled deeply. Razor leaned up against the wall, not feeling steady.
“Where the hell is Dark Kat?!” T-Bone demaned, furious. “I’m gonna kill that big creep!”
“He probably followed us down,” Razor mumbled, when he could pull himself together enough to speak. “He’ll show himself when he wants to be seen.”
“Not good enough for me, buddy — I’ll take the left hallway, you take the right,” he turned towards in his direction, then noticed Razor hadn’t made a move, “Hey, buddy — you all right?” His partner didn’t *have* to answer, and T-Bone shook him softly. “Pull yourself together. We’re gonna get that creep and make him pay for playin’ with our heads!”
Razor finally made a gesture in agreeance, and T-Bone took off down his own hallway. The smaller SWAT Kat turned down the opposite one, more slowly, tyring to contemplate the situation.
Had their watches been off a few minutes? No, that was unlikely. Even so, they would’ve heard the gas being released. That also wouldn’t explain the tape player. So they *couldn’t* have made it in time. He attempted to reassure himself that it wasn’t his fault, that the game was rigged. So what was Dark Kat doing? Playing with their heads? Most likely — he’d done it before, or at least done something that wound up playing out that way.
The anger in Razor’s blood rose. Innocent people had died so Dark Kat could play games! He was beginning to understand why T-Bone had been so successful in suppressing his scared feelings with hate, and a fire inside Razor’s body ignited. Now if only he could get his paws on —
“Dark Kat!” he shouted, seeing the villian at the other end of the hallway, getting ready to board his ship that was hovered outside the balcony.
“Did you like my surprise, SWAT Kat?” Dark Kat taunted, moving closer to the glass door leading to the balcony but not leaving quite yet.
“You *are* a sicko, you son of a –”
“Temper, temper,” he waved his huge paw, then gestured to some nearby creeplings, “Take care of him, my creeplings! He’s begining to annoy me!”
Razor nearly growled as he rushed forward to meet their attack, keeping his eye on the main target. Pumped with adrenaline and slashing out wildly in his fury, he was able to fend them off for once, grabbing hold of an electrical power rod off of one of them. Knocking them away, he rans towards his focus.
“DARK KAT!” He called, and the villian spun around to see what the matter was. Razor, clearly pushed beyond his limits in hatred, struck him with the power rod, now fired up.
His strike to the shoulder brought Dark Kat to his knees with a horrible cry of agony. ‘After all, didn’t he say it could take the weight of a gargoyle?’ Razor reminded himself. His instincts told him to cuff Dark Kat to something and wait for the authorities, now that he clearly wasn’t getting away — but his brain was no longer thinking straight. He struck out again, with the rod, this time jabbing it into the chest — directly into the heart.
There was a spray of sparks as Dark Kat screamed again, but not only from the rod. As Razor’s paw went in, he felt wires beneath the flesh — Dark Kat was a andriod? No that couldn’t be right, after he felt something soft and goey that could only be blood and flesh as he drove deeper in.
Madly he tore the rod out, and Dark Kat collapsed backwards, a shocked look on his face — not unlike those found in the elevator car. Blood seeped across his clothing, but the wires were still sparking.
It was then that Razor heard the sound of T-Bone’s voice, calling to him as he ran into the room, and the smaller SWAT Kat was brought back to reality. The truth was his paw and arm were dripping with blood — Dark Kat’s blood — and the rod was in his paw. He felt his knees buckle as he recited in his head,
‘I killed Dark Kat.’
The words were foreign and seemed like something he could have never imagined himself saying. This was not one weapons manager firing missiles at an unknown target within an attack ship. This wasn’t even self-defense — Dark Kat would have let him live if he managed to keep of the creeplings — he always did.
This was murder.
Razor dropped to his knees, curling over and clasping his bloodied paw. He sensed T-Bone beside him, muttering, “Oh *G-d* . . .” and placing both paws on his back. “C’mon, buddy . . . let’s get out of here . . .”
He obeyed, though finding it hard at first to stand. His legs didn’t quite work, and it was only with T-Bone’s support and encouragement did he make it out. They slipped out the back, knowing it wouldn’t be long before the enforcers would figure out something happened and deactivate the bombs — and the SWAT Kats didn’t exactly want to be around when they found the body. Using even more precaution, they snuck down into a sewers through a manhole to avoid the crowds surrounding the buildings and slowly made their way back to the wharehouse for the cyclotron.
Neither said a word the whole way back.
Scotland, late 1999 C.E.
For some reason, it was a while before Jake pulled himself out of his state of musings. Work through it, he’d been told. Suppressing it would only make it come back to haunt him later. Work through it, and put it behind you. ‘That part of your life is over now, Clawson . . . remember that.’
Sighing, he stood, and looked around him in the dim light. What was he so worried about? He had a new home in a new place, a new wife, and — hopefully soon — a new family. Razor and Dark Kat weren’t gone, but the mist that surrounded him and clouded his past memories was making them fade further and further every day. Not that he objected. Sometimes he still wished he could forget . . .
End of Part 1
“Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow . . .”
Shakespeare’s MacBeth (5.5.22)
Part 2 Chapter 1
Megakat City, 1997
Chance contemplated catching a few hours of sleep before setting out for work. After all, he had a late night patrol and Dark Kat had kept them long after sunrise. It sounded reasonable enough, since the garage was mainly empty, and he went to look for Jake.
He found him, not surprisingly, in the bathroom, still trying to scrub the blood out of his fur. The g-suit hanging from the shower bar looked as though it had already recieved enough cleansing punishment.
“You gonna take all day or what?” Chance joked, watching him continously wash and re-soap for what seemed like a lengthy amount of time. “If you still feel dirty, take a shower.”
Jake only grunted, not looking up or stopping.
Chance bent over to take a better look, “Jake, you don’t look so hot.”
“How am I supposed to look?” There was no anger in response beyond simple vexation, but his voice was low and weak. “I just killed someone.”
“You’ve killed before — ”
“But it wasn’t like *this*,” frustrated, Jake dried his paws and pushed his way out of the bathroom. Chance pursued, following him into his bedroom. Jake plopped down on the bed, “When I killed Beldar . . . it was in self defense — ”
“What do you think this was?” Chance settled down backwards on the desk chair, resting his arms on the back of the chair. “Dark Kat tried to kill you!”
“I know, but . . .,” Jake broke off, his mouth hanging open as he searched for the words. “But . . . damnit, Chance . . . it *felt* different . . .” His voice was an octave higher and starting to crack. He tightened his paws into fists, struggling for speech, “I-I just . . . fuck, I did it myself. No one asked me to.”
Chance was confused, “I’d call it heoric.”
“No . . . no no no,” Jake shook his head violently. “I’d call it murder.”
“Jake . . .,” Chance rebuked, getting up now and sitting down beside him. “Whatever you wanna call it, you did the right thing. He killed people. He deserved to die.”
Jake was silent, closing his eyes for several moments before reopening them, “I don’t think it was necessarily the right thing. I mean . . . we turned him in dozens of times. Deciding whether he gets the dealth penalty or not it a jury’s decision, not mine.”
His partner shook his head, “But the system doesn’t even work anymore, Jake. If there were any justice, he would’ve gone straight to the chair the first time he went in, or gotten a life sentence. Now he either breaks out, gets out on parole, or finds some judicial loophole to set him free.” He explained, “Isn’t that the reason we became SWAT Kats? To get back at Dark Kat and Feral? And do what the real system has become incapable of doing?”
“I didn’t become a SWAT Kat to become a killer,” Jake corrected, standing up and throwing down the towel he was previously using on his paws onto the bed. “I didn’t even join the enforcers to become a killer, and isn’t that what we’re supposed to be? Enforcers with fancy g-suits and masks, not a damn death squad.”
“We did what we had to, Jake — *you* did what you had to.”
“I don’t think so,” Jake loitered at his door. “I think I crossed the line.” He turned away, “I don’t want to talk about it anymore, okay? I’ll be on the roof if you need me.”
Chance opened his mouth in protest, then shut it quickly. Jake almost never went on the roof, except when he really needed some privacy — and that was almost the only place in the whole building that offered it. He made a mental note to call Abi as soon as she got off from work, and went back down into the garage. ‘No reason to dwell on it . . .’ he thought, his mind never leaving Jake as he worked that morning.
Abi arrived, thankfully, shortly around six o’clock. Chance was really getting worried, being Jake had been rather unresponsive the entire day, spending most of it on the roof and working alone in his room on some odd project. He refused breakfast and lunch, was abnormally quiet, and didn’t talk to customers.
“He’s been like this since this morning?” Abi questioned, following him in. “Not that I blame him for all he’s been through — ”
“But he’s dwelling on it, and I think it’s hurting him,” Chance brought her upstairs, and showed her the ladder leading to the roof. “Just do whatever you did after Beldar. It seemed to reach him then.”
Abi nodded and climbed the squeaky ladder, reminding herself that if it could hold Chance’s weight, it could hold hers. Reaching the roof, she spotted Jake slumped in a lawnchair near the edge. He didn’t seem to have respond to the considerable amount of sound her entrance caused.
He still did not stir at the sound of her voice. She reached the chair, and bent down to gently kiss him on the cheek. She noticed instantly his body go rigid at her touch, as he actually pulled away to avoid it, and she didn’t press it. Instead, Abi quietly said down on the rim, facing him.
He looked awful. Lines of confusion and worry crossed his features. Dark circles had formed under his eyes — after all, Chance said they were out late the night before, and from the looks of things he hadn’t been able to fall asleep after returning home. His composture was stiff and shaky.
“Jake,” she began softly. “I came to see how you were doing.”
He didn’t respond, taking a sip from his can of milk.
“I know I’m probably not going to be able to convince you that what you did this morning was right,” she said, flat out, “but I can at least try to help you put it behind you.” She reached her paw out to take his into it, but he drew his own back. He was never so withdrawn, especially around her . . . “You did it with Beldar — ”
“Beldar was different,” he corrected, his voice strangely cold.
“Not by that much.”
He took another sip.
After a period of silence, she asked gently, “What are you afraid of? Feral and the enforcers?”
“No,” he whispered quietly. “I’m . . . ” He hesitated, unsure of himself — even in front of someone dear to him, and it scared Abi. She drew as close as she dared to go without causing him to retract again, now sitting on the end of the lawnchair, by his feet. “I’m afraid of myself — of what I’ve become,” he finally spit out shakily, gulping down the milk.
He contemplated for a moment, looking for words, “Because . . . I’ve been a vigilante for a while now . . . and I’ve never really felt that kind of . . . I dunno . . . anger before. I didn’t think — I just did it.” He sighed, “Three years ago, I would have thought it through.”
“So you got a little frustrated dealing with the same villian over and over again,” she assessed.
“More than a little, Abi . . .”
“Why can’t you let it go?”
“Because . . .,” he sounded for a moment like he had a reason, then shook his head, “I can’t explain — but I can’t just *forget.*” He stood, obviously disturbed by her probing presense.
“Jake — ”
He turned away, towards the hatch with the ladder, “It’s over, Abi. I crossed a line and I can’t go back. I let things go on too long, and they went overboard . . .”
“Listen to me — ” She ran up and took his paws into hers, leaning close to him.
“And if I can do it once, I can do it again . . .” He pushed her away. “Abi . . . I love you,” he kissed her lightly, but obviously with a certain amount of tension in his movements, “and I just think it’s safer if you stay away from me for a little while.”
She had little time for response as he disappeared down the hatch.
After getting as far from Abi as possible, making it clear he wanted to be alone, Jake finally settled down in the bathroom, kneeling beside the bathtub as he opened the water spout.
It hit him suddenly, like a shot of vodka injected an hour or so previously that finally made it’s presence felt. He felt like a jerk — he really did. As the bathtub began to fill, he paced his tiny sanctuary. Damnit, he shouldn’t have spoken that way. Why the hell was he acting so distant? Jake frowned at his own actions, wishing he go take them back, but he had already noticed Abi’s car pull away from the yard. Still . . . it was like he hadn’t been able to connect with her. That warmth that had grown between them and had become an important force in his life was softer and distance. He felt her reaching out to him, but his instincts told him to retreat . . . and to think he’d thought to have overcome that shyness a year ago! He was always so comfortable around Abi, and now his own antisocialness scared him.
‘I’ll make it up to her . . .,’ he assured to himself. ‘Maybe I could buy her some flowers or something . . .’ He was instantly reminded that he had little or no pocket change — the last few months hadn’t been good for the yard, and she was still buying most of their dinners, as awkward as he felt with the idea.
Glancing at the sink, he noticed a beer bottle on the poursline shelf. Chance probably left it earlier, after the bathroom conversation had drifted to the bedroom. He had a drink once in a while, after an especially tough day — after all, once couldn’t live on drinking liquid cow hormones.
Jake, despite the fact he rarely touched the stuff, grabbed the bottle and took a sip. Despite his lack of experience in the subject, the beer tasted flat, but oddly drinkable. The bottle was around three-fourths full. ‘How drunk can one get on a beer, anyway?’ He thought to himself, lifting the bottle over his head and chugging it down.
It took a moment for the effects to kick in, but they managed to nearly knock him off his feet. The alcohol, combined with the heat in the room caused by bathwater steam, was making him nauseous. Steadying himself, he leaned with both paws on the sink, staring into the bathroom mirror.
He looked like a mess. The dark circles under his eyes were a dead-giveaway. His hair was miscontrued, some strands which he had allowed to grow out falling on his face. He was soaked with sweat, and didn’t attempt to guess whether to guess from the heat or drink. ‘No, wait — it has to be the heat. It’s a freakin’ steam room in here.’ Staring straight into his own image, what hit him harder than anything previously was a flood of his own, doubtful self-images. He saw in him the jerk he was to Abi, the she-kat he loved and wanted to marry — no, he could marry her. Damnit, he was a washed-up, discharged enforcer that half the force didn’t give an ounce of respect. He was mechanic, a blue-collar workkat, and likely to be that for the rest of his life. How could he even dare to think he had any right to ask a beautiful, succesful historian to marry *him*?
‘Don’t listen to yourself, Jake — it’s the bottle talking,’ he thought, but found it hard to believe he managed to get smashed off three quarters of a bottle. ‘She loves you and you know it — ‘
‘No,’ he shook his head, as if he was fighting with a voice in his head. ‘No, it’s this G-d damn son of Ecuador thing — that and the g-suit. Even if she did love me, could I support her, and our family? I’ve barely got pocket change as it is. And everyone wants us to have kinds. Carry on the line and all that crap. Even my dad’s been bothering me about it — hell, he’s been bothering me since twenty-five . . .’
‘Get in the bathtub, Jake,’ the opposing voice begs. ‘Just sit their and soak, you idiot. You give yourself a few days to sort things out and you’ll be fine . . .’
“No!” He cried out softly, fighting to muffle out the voice of apparent sanity. He was a murder, a curropted vigilante and a mechanic until his tail would start dragging behind him in age. Jake spun, feeling dizzy, and knocked against the wall across from the mirror — leaning on it for support. His breathing was heavier now, and the floor beneath him felt unstable and in motion. His attention drifted to the g-suit hangining on the shower bar to hold up the curtain, its sleeves still stained with blood. Somehow he hadn’t been able to get those spots off . . . The thought made him even more nauseous and he was tempted to release it, but something held things down. That blood — the blood of Dark Kat, his archnemesis — and his executionee. He glanced back at the mirror, seeing now the face of a grief-striken kat, and a murderer . . .
“NO — !” His shout was louder, and more as a furious outburst as he struck out against the phantom image of his own face. The seems of the fabric that held his tortured soul together were long gone, and the world — his world — seemed to collapse around him as his fist connected with the mirror glass.
Chance heard the second cry, and was upstairs in record speed. He found Jake in the bathroom, surrounded by steam and broken glass. His partner was curled up on the floor, against the wall, clutching his bloodied paw. He was muttering incoherently, with his unfocused eyes staring out into space. The water was still running for the bath, nearly overflowing the tub now. The mirror was smashed, and an empty beer can was lying on the ground beside him.
“Jesus, Jake,” he immediately bent beside him, leaning over to stop the flow of new bathwater so it didn’t overflow further. Jake seemed to be totally unaware of his presence, continuing the mumbling and the bloodshot stare into the opposing wall. “What happened?” he partner asked, not truely expecting the answer he didn’t get. “Christ, let me look at your paw.” He took the limp limb, inspecting it. There was a fair amount of blood, but glass was imbedded in the flesh and the cuts, making bandaging it a problem.
“It’s gonna be okay, Jake,” he assured, looking into his eyes but unable to make contanct. “It’s gonna be all right,” he muttered and ran for the phone.
He returned a seconds later with the cordless, dialing the number while sitting down next to Jake, “Hello? Yeah, this is Chance Furlong at Jake and Chance’s Body Shop . . . yeah, it’s in the salvage yard — 4627 North Broadway — I got a partner here who’s injured. Smashed a mirror with his fist. Acting funny,” he glanced at the beer bottle. “Maybe intoxicated.” Subconsciously, he prayed that was the reason Jake was acting so funny. “Yeah . . . okay.”
He shut off the phone, setting it beside him and using his free paw to draw closer to Jake. He placed both paws on his friend’s shoulders, shaking him gently, “Jake? Can you hear me? C’mon — you know I’m here.”
Jake has yet to respond, and tears were beginning to form under his eyes, but he was just as oblivious to them, ” . . . Dark Crud . . . gimme . . . soap — damnit . . doesn’t . . . work . . .”
Chance stayed with him until the ambulance arrived, save the time he used to toss the g-suit into the hanger. Jake’s condition had not changed, and things were beginning to look bleak — it clearly wasn’t the alchohol anymore.
“He was really okay before this,” he explained nervously to the paramedic, who was busy lifting Jake up into a stretcher. “I mean — he saw something this morning that hurt him, but be was at least . . . understandable . . . before — someone just had a conversation with him about fifteen minutes ago — ” He followed them into the ambulance, locking up the garage quickly before climbing in. “I mean, this might just be momentary — ”
“He’s in good paws, mister,” the paramedic explained, driving a needle into Jake’s arm to set up the IV as Chance settled down beside him as the ambulance began to pull away. The paramedic began looking over the injured paw, and Chance decided to stop bothering him, and turned his focus to his partner, sliding down to be closer to his head. The orange kat remained in his earlier state, still unaware of the paramedics around him. There wasn’t even a flinch as the the IV was slid in.
Chance patted his shoulder, speaking with an as soothing voice as possible, “It’s gonna be all right, Jake . . . they’re gonna fix up your paw and your head if you need it.” ‘Damnit, Jake, respond,’ he silently pleaded. He continued muttering in his nervous tone, “It’s gonna be okay — everything’s gonna be okay . . ”
Chance rose in his chair, both surprised and angered. He was seated across from the doctor’s desk in her office, in one of those uncomfortable chairs that don’t do much aside from matching the other apholstery. Hackle looked surprised, too, but he had a more passive reaction and remained seated.
The doctor, one of whom neither had met before but was supposively the head of the phsyciatric ward at Megakat Memorial, kept the atmosphere of authority in the room with a reply of gentle firmess, “I was merely suggesting what might be the proper method of treatment — ”
Chance had his mouth open, but Hackle beat him to a much calmer punch, “But isn’t an insitution a little extreme? He’s only acted like this for a day . . .”
“Yeah,” Chance continued to counter. “You’re not sending my buddy to a nut house because he smashed a mirror — ”
“If you’d just calm down, Mr. Furlong, I’d explain,” she said even more firmly, and Chance sat. “It’s just one of many options, and even though no clear conclusion can be made at this point, it *is* something you should be aware of . . . based on his current condition . . .”
“Which is?” Hackle interjected, his voice shaky. Maybe Abi should have come to this meeting. That wonderful she-kat, staying up with him all night in the hospital. If it hadn’t been for the sedative, Hackle doubted Jake would’ve slept. He spent his first waking hours oblivious to his surroundings, tossing and turning in a fitful semi-consciousness. It was only a few hours after dawn when he seemed aware again, but still not responding. He would just stare at them or whatever they were doing with moderate interest, but something was holding him in his withdrawn state.
“As I said, it’s too early to really tell, but he’s beginning to show signs of mental breakdown, and maybe minor shock to reinforce it.”
“And this was caused by…?” Chance had yet to tell anyone about the deal with Dart Kat, though the enforcers probably knew one of the SWAT Kats did it by now.
She shrugged, “Mental collapse is usually caused in his age group by severe stress or pressure — usually from being overworked. Did he exhibit signs recently? Maybe of unusual timidness or antisocial behavior?”
“Not really,” he shook his head. “I mean, he’s always working and we are kinda busy in the yard, but he was always okay with it.”
“Is he having problems with relationships?”
“He had a fight with uh . . . his girlfriend last afternoon.”
“He fought with Abi!?” Hackle nearly jumped from his seat, if the old kat was capable. It was obvious Hackle liked her very much, and was desperately hoping to see the relationship move along.
“Yeah — I think so.”
Hackle opened his mouth for another question, but the doctor jumped in, “Has he experiences any sort of trauma or something that might cause mental stress in the past twenty-four or fourty-eight hours?”
Chance shifted uncomfotably, “Actually . . . yes.” He knew the question was coming, but wasn’t sure exactly how truthfully to answer. Keeping their identities secret was one thing, but Jake’s health was another — and he was torn between taking the risk to save his friend or playing it safe and hoping for a recovery anyway.
“And what was that . . . exactly?”
Chance’s mouth hung open as he fumbled with the words as the doctor stared intently, but Hackle saved him, “It isn’t something he wants to talk about yet. How is that going to help Yaakov?”
“Look, Mr. Furlong — I understand the need for confidentiality here, but we can’t centralize the cause of the problem unless you tell us what happened.”
He gripped the armrest of the uncomfortable chair, almost digging his claws into the wood, “Are you required to report stuff — I mean if I told you he did something he . . . regretted?”
There was a tense moment of hesitation.
The ultimate result was Chance’s dislike of the doctor, and him turning down her opinions as valid ones. Something about her made him uncomfortable, and prevented him from telling her about Dark Kat. Instead, he demanded a second opinion, and she — with a minor sneer — recommended an associate in Faroe Lake. It took one half-pleading one call from Chance to have her drive down for her own diagnosis.
The new doctor, Dr. Milo — if they had caught her name right — gave her own evaluation, “This is definitely mental breakdown.” She was pacing the room, carrying her clipboard and speaking in a much more sympathetic and warm tone. Chance leaned up against the wall, obviously mentally exhausted himself from a day of running between the hospital and the garage, and listening to everyone tell him “it’s too early to tell” or some other answer. Abi was sitting on the bed, gently stroking Jake’s hair. He was curled up on his side, not looking at anything in particular but very much awake. Jake had spoken rather little throughout the examination, but his condition was looking better than the previous day. She continued, “But I doubt this ‘incident’ was the only cause.”
“You mean this was going to happen anyway?”
“Possibly. A lot of it was probably just a built up of stress or anger. You said he used to go to a phsyciatrist?” She turned to Chance, who nodded. “And why did he stop?”
“Well, he was busy with the Turbokat and stuff around the yard,” he was still hesitant about openly talking about their identities, but it was apparently necessary. “When we got back in the air, everything seemed to straighten out. I thought he was going to be okay — he really acted normal for the first time since we were kicked out of the enforcers.”
Dr. Milo replied, “It probably looked that way — to both of you. But you thought it solved *all* his problems, while some were just building up. It was all subconscious. But with Dark Kat . . . it doesn’t fit the puzzle.”
“He was always a little sensitive about getting the job done right,” he explained. “His missile missed once, and he thought he hit some civilians — it really shook him up bad. He had to kill another guy a few months ago — but that wasn’t in the jet, and it was in self defense — and it took him about a day to recover.”
She made a note on her clipboard, “So he’s unstable.”
Chance visibly quivered, “Yeah, I guess so. He’s always been sensitive, but I didn’t think . . . ” He shook his head, then looked at her with fear in his eyes. “He’s gonna get better, right?”
“Yes,” Milo replied softly. “But it’s going to take a long time. This isn’t a 24-hour recovery period. Maybe months instead.” She shifted through the forms in her clipboard. “His medical insurance should cover him — so the enforcers will have to keep paying his salary, no matter how long he’s out of work — ”
“Are you going to send him to an institution?” Abi finally pressed out what Chance was so afraid of.
Her gestures were negative, for which they were all grateful, “Some of the other doctors in the area’s methods tend to be a little . . . extreme. Personally, I don’t think it would be any more positive, as, say, recieving treatment at home. Do you share an apartment?” She pointed to Chance.
“No — we live above the yard. the whole building’s about the size of a house.”
She frowned, “I wouldn’t suggest that. He needs to be away from his work. Is there somewhere else he can go?”
“I have a beach house,” Hackle cut in, “between Faroe Lake and Megakat. There’s a labaratory there, and some of his stuff . . .”
Milo smiled, “That should work just fine . . .”
“What is this?” Hackle put his paws up above his head. “I make you chicken soup and you don’t eat it! Why don’t you tell me your not going to eat it — then I’m not going to make it for you!”
Jake shrugged stiffly. He was not feeling very hungry — he hadn’t felt very hungry for a few days now. Dr. Milo told him it was important, no matter what he felt like, to have three meals a day — but sometimes, he just didn’t feel like it. His life was a mess. Everything he had been flipped upside down by his actions in Megakat Tower, and all the comforting he got from Chance and the gargoyles seemed so . . . distant. Even Abi — he couldn’t feel her anymore. It was like all of his senses went kind of . . . bland.
“A father makes chicken soup on Shabbos — an old kat, like me! — and the boy doesn’t even eat it! Feh! What is this world coming to?”
Inwardly, Jake grinned. Hackle’s almost stereotypical manner was often amusing. The complaining lost it’s force after twenty-seven years of hearing it. He smiled assuringly, “Dad, it’s okay. I’m just not hungry.”
“You have to eat!” Hackle said more calmly, but there was obviously more seriousness in his words. “Dr. Milo told you. You’re going to get sick and go back to the hospital — ”
“Okay, okay,” Jake said defensively, and began to spoon the soup. “Look, Dad — I’m eating, okay?”
“You’re eating because I tell you to eat,” his father shook his head. “Why do you starve yourself like that? You’re never hungry! You haven’t been hungry for three days.”
“I know, I know,” he assured. “I just — I have a lot on my mind.”
Hackle’s tone was considerably softer, “What is it that bothers you so much about doing what you do? It took you years to convince me it was what you wanted to do, and now you turn around and it hurts you.”
Jake swallowed his soup nervously — he and his father never quite had any sort of understanding concerning his becoming Razor, “Dad, you can’t understand — ”
” — why you were doing it in the first place, yes. Getting in that plane in some fancy-shmancy flight suit for no good reason. I gave up trying to understand that.” He sighed, heavily, “So tell me why you let what obviously made you so . . . satisfied . . . made you . . . like this?” He gestured at Jake, obviously meaning his condition overall. There were bags under his eyes from sleepless nights, shaky limbs, and a low and occasionally-hesitant voice.
Jake glanced at his father curiously, but seeing he was serious, explained, “When I started . . . you know, being Razor . . . I was just doing a job I used to do in the enforcers. T-Bone and Razor were just Lts. Furlong and Clawson with some masks and a cool jet. Maybe we were better. But . . . when I went after Dark Kat . . . it was different. I wasn’t looking to turn him into the enforcers. I just had this . . . rage — I’ve never felt it before. I killed him . . . *volunterily*.”
“And you’re afraid you’ve become a killer? Because of this?”
Hackle was silent for a few minutes, pondering something. There seemed to be something on his mind that he was hesitating to explain, but Jake couldn’t quite read his expression enough to tell what it was.
Finally, with a softer voice than had come out of his mouth in a long time and not a hint of the stereotypical Jewish nagging of before, he spoke, “You know, Ya’akov, where I was during the war — ”
“Auschwitz, yeah,” Jake responded, surprised. He had little memory of either of his parents ever discussing Megawar II.
“Yes, anyway . . . Auschwitz, mabye 1943 or 1944 — I forget now — I was in a block of tinmakers. We were working in a factory that was closing down. So what does a Nazi do when he has a group of Jews and nothing to do with them? So the commander — I don’t even remember his name, it was so long ago — stood us outside in rows, like normal for roll. Then he pulled out his gun and fired on a guy in the first row — Art Weiss, I think his name was. And then he shot someone in the third row, right behind me. And he keeps doing that — all around me, everybody’s going down. Until everybody’s dead — except me. He just let every one drop until I was standing there, all alone, knowing I was going to die now, too. But he didn’t shoot me. He made me pick up all the bodies and dig a grave for them, and then bury them. I think I was supposed to go in the grave, too, but there wouldn’t have been anyone to cover it up. So he had me sent to another block, because he saw I could still work. He killed every one! Now I am the only one to tell that story. Everyone who saw is dead.”
His tone was grave as he stared into his son’s eyes, “You know why that commander was a murderer, Ya’akov? Not because he killed — he killed without reason. We were not a threat to him. Had we been guilty of anything the Nazis made him think we were — trying to take over the world! Feh! — it might have been okay. And he *enjoyed* it. I know — I stood there and watched his face the whole time. He *enjoyed* blowing heads off. There is a mentality I will never understand. Now . . . how could you possibly compare yourself . . . with him?”
Two weeks had passed since the beginning of Jake’s stay when Sevian stopped in. He was having problems with his mechanical limbs, specifically his arm. Hackle knew he could fix it in a few minutes, but he let his son take care of it more slowly and carefully instead. Jake was always such a hard worker, and while he was not fit to return to the yard or do anything related to that, he had to have *something* to occupy his mind.
It wasn’t like he didn’t have anything to do. There was always some project around the lab that Hackle let him help him on, or fiddle with by himself. He was restricted from working on anything car-related or dezigning anything new for the Turbokat. Both of those didn’t matter much to him, but it did leave him with a search for other odd jobs. Abi was there almost every day after work, and Chance almost every other day. Jake felt guilty that all the yard work had been left to his partner in his absense, but he wasn’t healthy enough to face going back yet. The gargoyles were in and out, partially on some nudging from Chance and Thoran, and after all — they *were* the protectors of the sons of Ecuadors, who were now and somewhat convienantly under one roof. Aside from his friends, the only other thing in his life that *didn’t* change was his lessons with Sensei MacAugh, which he kept up. His passion for becoming skilled with his sword did not waver — in fact, it was probably strengthened. Thoran took some note of this, but kept his musing to himself for the moment.
Dr. Milo — now referred to as Cindy by Jake — made her daily visits as well, watching his progress and keeping everthing in check. After two weeks, however, the estimate was still shaky, “Another few months, maybe. We’re over the murderer complex, but he’s still in a very feeble state. Sending him back to work could just stir things up again.”
Chance nodded, almost sadly. He trusted her judgement, though the long night hours were beginning to take their toll on him. He was even beginning to look into hiring an assistant for the yard — that or send the customers somewhere else. Luckily for him, the city had been quite and the SWAT Kats weren’t called — the media (and the villians, he suspected) were still getting over the shock of knowning one of the SWAT Kats had killed Dark Kat. Dr. Viper and the rest of the crew seemed to be lying low. Felina was a greater support than he had ever imagined, but she still had a job to do as well.
It was not long after Dr. Milo’s latest report that Thoran decided to spill what was on his mind. He arrived that night at the lab, a small book and some notes in his claws.
Jake was lying on the couch, dressed in a T-shirt and jeans. Abi sat at the end of the couch, allowing him to rest his head in her lap while she stroked his hair. Abi herself was rather interested as to why Thoran seemed to involved in something lately, and watched him curiously as he settled into an armchair opposite them.
“C’mon, Thoran,” Abi smiled. “You’re leaving us in suspense here.”
“All right, all right,” Thoran handed Jake the book, who glanced at it in the lamplight, and his features twisted.
“This is in Lopine,” he announced. His Lopine was still *extremely* broken, and he handed it to Abi, who’s was signifigantly better, “You try.”
“No no no,” Thoran growled good-naturedly, and took the book from her paws. “It’s for children of Ecuador only.”
“Then why did you give it to him? He can’t read it.”
The old gargoyle smiled, “That is why I delayed it’s presence for so long — it gave me time to translate some of it.” He gestured to his pages of notes. “This book was written by Fergus of Megallith, Maric’s grandfather — for all future descendants. I found it in Sauraman’s library.”
“What does it say?” Jake was slightly curious.
“Fergus,” he explained, “was not native to his continent. He came over from his home in the kingdom of Dalriada — now the highlands of Scotland — somewhere before the turn of the tenth century. The date is more exact in the book. Anyway, he wanted future descendants to be able to — if necessary — trace their heritage back to its starting point. Ecuador himself landed in an area of the highlands now known as Arygll around the early nineth century, right before the kingdom was formed by Kenneth MacAlpin.”
“This book,” he held it up, “describes in both landmark and name where his village was, and were Ecuador was himself in his mortal lifetime. I wasn’t able to exactly center in on the spot without being there myself, but I’ve estimated it’s somewhere near Loch Awe, which is a lake in Argyll near Glasgow.”
“That’s great,” Jake responded. “What does it have to do with me?”
“Ecuador was sent to live his mortal life in Scotland because Father Time liked the area better than anywhere else on his planet, apparently — the book discusses that, too — the blessed it before he sent one of his only sons there. The legendary home of Ecuador is supposed to be a sort of healing place for his descendants — that and the gargoyles, I suppose.”
“The gargoyles?” Abi looked up. “What do you have to with this?”
He explained, “We are actually descended from a pict tribe made gargoyle by Frith to protect his granchildren in the future. We came over — fully transformed — several hundred years before Fergus himself.” Thoran smiled, “We are all from the same origins.”
“So this place in Scotland . . . has some kind of magical element to it?” Abi lowered her voice. “You think it could heal Jake?”
“Now, wait a minute –,” Jake sat up. “It’s not like I can pick up and take a vacation in Europe just because some 1100-year-old guy said so — ”
“It is a suggestion, Jacob . . . if that is where you might find peace, I think you should go.”
He shook his head, “C’mon — let’s be realistic . . . I don’t exactly have the kind of money — ”
“If Chance went with you,” Thoran interjected, “we could bill the expenses to the museum — since they would be, technically, *gargoyle* expenses — for which there is a budget.”
“Not exactly a budget to abuse,” Abi reminded, then frowned at herself. It was an expensive venture, but what was cost if it work better than have him spend the next months hanging around his father’s lab? Chance probably needed the vacation, too, “Then again . . .”
Chance was still working in the yard when Felina arrived, despite the late hours. Still, that wasn’t unusual since Jake’s move out. Sometimes the gargoyles showed up to help in any way they could, but there was mainly little they could do without a vast expertise in cars.
She landed in front of the yard, of course in gargoyle form but wearing jeans and a shirt instead of her uniform. Chance was hunched over the desk in the office, working on the checkbook. He didn’t look up as she came in.
“Hi,” she stepped inside, with the bells on the door clinking behind her.
Chance finally looked up, “Oh, hi.” There was a slight smile on his lips, but nothing much. “Just finishing up some book work.”
And ‘finishing up’ would refer to how long . . .?”
He shrugged, “Jake used to do this stuff. I guess he got it done a lot faster, because he knew what the hell he was doin’. Might be a few more hours.”
Felina frowned. Chance didn’t exactly look well. There were dark circles under his eyes — indicating lack of sleep, though the empty styrofoam cups that smelled of coffee piling up in his trash were also a hint. Even for a gargoyle, a creature that always looked strong and alert, he was tired. “Chance, I think you should stop for the night.”
“No, no . . .,” he sorted through the sea of papers on his desk. “I gotta finish this for tomorrow.”
“It can wait — ”
“No, it can’t,” Chance was stubborn as he stood. “I just need some more coffee — ” His gargoyle legs, however — strong as they were — could no longer support his tired and aching body. He slipped, and probably would have fallen entirely had Felina not been there to catch him.
“Easy, big guy,” she helped him to the kitchen, setting him down in one of the chairs before opening the refrigerator. “I’m gonna get you some milk.”
“Okay, maybe I am a little tired,” Chance admitted at last. “I’ve just been busy. I didn’t realize how much Jake did until he wasn’t there to do them anymore . . .”
“Is the yard coming along, or should I send the gargoyles again?”
He waved it off, “No — I’m just sending people elsewhere. There’s just a ton of paperwork to get done all the time and everybody keeps calling to ask about Jake. And then I gotta drive down to Hackle’s every other day — I know it’s my choice, but it’s still hard. And Jesus, Jake’s still pretty sick. Dr. Milo said he needs more time — maybe *months*.” He looked strained, “I thought this was like an overnight thing. Now I’ve got some doctor telling me he can’t work for months — ”
“Relax,” Felina began to massage his neck, which was obviously stiff. “Jake’ll get through it. Especially if this ‘Scottish-therapy’ thing Thoran has in mind works –”
“I know, I know — even if it is a little crazy,” Chance took a gulp of his milk. “Oh — that’s the spot. Actually, I think it’s insane. But if it works . . .”
“What about *you*?” Felina stopped rubbing, and sat down next to him in another chair. “C’mon, I know what happened in that tower probably hurt you, too.”
“Yeah, well, I didn’t kill anyone — ”
“Doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt. Really, Chance — I read the report of what happened to those people in the elevator. I mean — if you had found Dark Kat first instead of Jake — ”
” — would I have done the same thing?” Chance pondered. “Maybe. I probably would have tried to kick his tail, first, though — and since he usually beats me up when I try, I wouldn’t have had a chance for the killing blow.” He shrugged, “Did I have that kind of anger? Did I want to do it? I dunno — I wasn’t thinking too straight at the time.” He took another sip, “I can’t think about it.”
“But it still bothers you, doesn’t it?”
Chance turned to her, looking into her eyes with his own tired, blood-shot ones, “Yeah. I mean — if that’s what happened to Jake –the careful, calmer one — what about me? What’s gonna happen to me?” His voice wavered, “Dr. Milo never really discussed the possiblity of us going back to being SWAT Kats — though it would probably not happen for longer than Jake coming back to work, I imagine — but looking at it, the answer’s probably no.”
“You’re worried about Jake having another breakdown?”
“That . . . and I guess it might happen to me. I’ve never killed anyone, either. I’m overworked. And if it happens, I won’t have anywhere to go — at least Jake has Hackle, but both of mine are dead, and . . . ” Rather abruptly, Felina got up from her seat and embraced him, letting him rest his chin on her shoulder. “Christ, Felina — I just want things to go back to the way they were — maybe just in a while — but everyone’s telling me it can’t happen — ”
“I know. Shhh,” she spoke soothingly. “It’s going to be all right.”
“I just want — ”
He was halted as her lips met his, and he found the moment rather . . . enjoyable. Comforting, maybe. When he released, he spoke.
” — someone.”
He shrugged, now in a slightly better mood, and responded with a kiss.
Jake lay in bed, awake. His state had given him many horrid nights that were either dreamless or nightmarish — rarely anything in between. But tonight was different. Finally, he had what could be considered a normal dream — at least, he was pretty sure it was a dream. Abi was the one with the visions, anyway.
It began with Dark Kat. Always Dark Kat! Couldn’t he ever dream of anything else?! That phantom figure he thought would never go away, who seemed to be living in his closet or something and managed to invade his head almost nightly.
He himself, lying on a bed, surrounded by people — friends. He could hear their voices, and they were obviously trying to comfort them, but for some reason they couldn’t touch him and most of their voices were garbled.
He remained in that position under a figure approached as the others moved back to let her through. In a voice recognizable as Dr. Milo’s — Cindy’s — she announced he was okay now, and they all started cheering. But he still felt the same — in pain, with nothing clear and everything distant. He didn’t feel better, and honestly couldn’t understand why she would announce otherwise. Couldn’t she see it still hurt?
Jake was back in the garage, working on a car. Everything was normal, except for himself. No one seemed to notice his pain, and he couldn’t communicate that to them. Callie was in the garage, complaining about a mad muffler. Chance was watching a Scardey Kat rerun. And still it hurt.
At last he was overwhelmed. He couldn’t take the pain, and he saw Dark Kat again, in the corner of the garage. He screamed, because he thought Dark Kat was coming to get him. Callie laughed at him, “Don’t you know, Jake? You’re cured!” But it didn’t make things any easier. Things grew hazier, and he was on the ground again. All he could hear was voices now, faint ones, soothing — but they couldn’t penetrate the darkness now. It had gone unchecked and grown too strong. The field that kept him from them was too thick. He felt suffocated by it, like he was going to die without air —
That was where the dream ended — if it was a dream. He woke wheezing, but there was no darkness — save the one in his room he crushed by flipping on a lamp and causing it to retreat into the deeper corners. Still, he felt shaken badly. Maybe he would tell Cindy tomorrow.
And, somehow, that idea of the trip to Scotland started to sound *very* appealing.
“So what do you think of this idea? I mean — going to Scotland, finding out about my ancestory, taking snapshots of the scenery — that kind of thing,” Jake asked as he ducked Sensei MacAugh’s swing. His block failed, though, and there was the sound of their blades meeting with a “clank.” They were practicing on the beach, outside the lab.
“Sounds interesting,” MacAugh commented. “I thought you were Jewish.”
“I am — it’s complicated, but I’m partially Scottish, too.”
“Really? What clan?”
Jake parried again, this time successfully, “Like I said . . . it’s complicated.” Historically, Ecuador and Fergus both lived long before any kind of formation of clans, or it would be written in the book Jake was now looking through seriously.
“I think it would be a good experience for you,” MacAugh noted. “I’ll be in Ireland soon, if you need me. I might move in with my brother.”
“Oh, really?” Jake had only met Uri MacAugh once, in passing. Uri was absolutely the hairiest kat he had ever met, with a huge beard and long hair. Even his fur was scruffy. “Has he shaved yet?”
MacAugh laughed, “You don’t understand by brother. He thinks he’s a lion.”
“If I had that kind of hair, I probably would be — no offense, though.”
“None taken,” MacAugh swung out again, and Jake retaliated. A strange, knowing smile lit his face, but he kept whatever was on his mind to himself.
The old enforcer looked up as some new kid — Riker, wasn’t it? — appeared at his desk.
“What do you need?” he asked, turning his radio down.
“Just some radio ban recordings on the SWAT Kats — Feral’s having me do a report,” he shrugged. “Don’t ask me why. They’ve been missing for over two weeks now!”
“Hold on,” Smitty retrieved his keys, and entered the locked area. ‘Now those tapes must be here somewhere . . . ‘ A smile lit his face as he noticed a box of them, which he quickly brought out and placed on his desk. “Look, I think the labels aren’t too clear, so you’re gonna hafta sort them yourself . . .”
“Okay. Thanks!” Riker smiled, and carried the box out.
Officer Riker rubbed his eyes — two hours in the recording booth was enough to wear down anyone’s patience. There wasn’t a ton to be learned from the tapes, after all — maybe just their different missiles, as apparent from most of Razor’s dialogue. He suspected Feral was looking for some kind of secret information about either their technology or identities that managed to slip out in their conversations, but they seemed pretty careful about it.
His major problem was the horrible labeling job — now he knew *exactly* what Smitty was talking about. Many were clear, but the actual words made no sense. Some were unreadable or even blank. Most of the time he didn’t know who’s voice would come out of the speakers until he popped the tape in the machine.
Exhausted, he grabbed one labeled, “Dark Kat B.” ‘Oh great — lots of description here,’ he thought sarcastically, and placed the tape in. ‘Better give it a shot . . .’
Immediately, a low voice came from the speakers, penetrating the radio static, “Crud! This guy is hard to follow, buddy! Where’s my backup? I can’t follow this guy forever!”
Riker sat back and sighed. ‘Thank G-d — finally another SWAT Kats tape!’ The voice was more than obviously T-Bone, thanks to this previous and ample amount of time studying that tone.
The reply was also apparently Razor’s, “Right behind you! Just keep it steady! I can’t get much of a missile lock if this jet keeps turning out of the target zone. . .”
“C’mon, Jake — I can’t give you all day!”
Riker nearly jumped from his chair. Jake? Who was ‘Jake’? Eagerly, he waited for Razor’s response.
“Chance, didn’t I just tell you to keep the jet in line or what? See, you moved it again! Keep your paws steady!”
Okay, he had two names now — Jake and Chance. Something clicked in his mind, but he wasn’t quite sure what it was jet. The third voice to enter the conversation shocked him more.
Commander Feral’s steel pitch interrupted them, “Furlong, Clawson — cut it out! No unnecessary chatter during pursuit!”
Riker shut off the tape as that something surfaced. He remembered briefly being lectured in training on Lts. Jake Clawson and Chance Furlong, two pilots who got kicked off the force for recklessness involving Dark Kat. Where were they now? A junk yard?
So why did he mistake their voices for T-Bone and Razor’s?
Acting on more than a hunch, he popped another tape — one he was sure was of the SWAT Kats — in the machine and played them both, at the same time. He then set the equipment up to pick up all four tones and run them on a chart.
His jaw dropped in disbelief. Chance’s and T-Bone’s matched up with 98% accuracy, and Jake and Razor’s with 95%. Riker’s paws began to shake as his mind slowly did something every other katizen — including Commander Feral — had failed to do in over seven years.
Put two and two together.
Jack Carlson cursed his luck repeatedly for behind the wheel of his squad car.
The discover of the century — the secret identities of the SWAT Kats — and *he* gets stuck with it. Not that it wouldn’t look good on his record, but there were other things on his mind. All this wouldn’t have been a problem if it had been anyone *else,* *other than* Jake Clawson and Chance Furlong.
Four years of Enforcer Academy together. His old squadron buddies, until the day they were finally switched to flight missions. Jesus, he had had too many beers at the bar with Chance and too many all-nighters for enforcer exams with Jake as his tutor for him to arrest them now. It stung in his gut. At least the media wasn’t aware, yet — Feral ordered everything to be done nice and quietly, which may yet turn out to be a helping paw for his son-to-be-convicted friends.
Carlson stepped out of the car, unsure of exactly what he was planning to do. He couldn’t get away with much, considering his back-up, which he glanced at.
“I’m going in first to see if they’ll go quietly. Wait for my signal,” he instructed the rookies. They looked ready to draw their guns and spring at a second’s notice, but he tried to remain calm as he entered the garage.
Chance was sitting at the desk in the office. ‘He’s out of view of my back-up,’ he noticed. The enforcers watching by their squad cars in front of the garage couldn’t see the office in the angle it was in in the interior. ‘That may simplify this.’ Swallowing, Carlson braced himself for whatever was coming and pushed open the glass door to the office.
Chance looked up, and smiled, “Hey, Jack — how’s it going?”
He scrambled for a response, “I-It’s . . . okay.”
The burly mechanic glanced at him oddly, “Something wrong?”
“Yes, actually,” Carlson abruptly pulled his gun from his trencoat, and aimed it at Chance. “You’re under arrest.”
Shock slipped over Chance’s features as he rose from his chair with his paws up, “For what?!”
“There’s a list of offenses — most of them for property damage,” he swallowed again. “We know who you are, Chance. Damnit, this rookie matched up your voice on some computer with T-Bone’s. There was nothing I could do — it went straight to Feral.”
Chance stood, his face unreadable, “So what are you going to do?”
“I have orders to take you and Jake down to headquarters.”
“But that’s not what you want to do, is it?” Chance advanced on him, in a calm and friendly matter. “I don’t think you really want to do this to your friends. C’mon — Jake’s sick. He couldn’t take this right now.”
“Where is he?”
“He’s at . . . a relative’s. Look, you remember the incident with Dark Kat two weeks ago?”
Carlson shifted, his eyes wide, “*Jake* did it — ?! I mean, I assumed it was — ”
” — me? Nah, it was Jake. And it shook him up bad. Had a mental breakdown. Check the forms in headquarters, Jack. He’s been out sick since then. They were going to put him in an institution, be we talked the doctors out of it,” he looked him in the eyes. “This would really screw him up.”
Carlson thought for a moment, then lowered his gun, “So what are we going to do? I have four enforcers out there waiting for signal to jump you like a bunch of commandos.”
“There’s a back door. I just need five minutes to get my stuff together, and I’m outta here.”
He nodded, “But that still leaves me standing here — ”
“Taken care of,” Chance swung out, knocking Carlson out in the back of the head. The last thing the enforcer heard was, “Sorry for headache this is gonna cause” before the blackness.
Madly Chance swerved on the street corner, nearly slamming into a lamp post. He was using a car someone had left at the garage with a bad muffler, which they had fixed and moved out back — allowing him to sneak out through a back entrance of the yard without too much trouble. Packed in a backpack on the seat beside him were a few essentials he didn’t want to leave behind, though he hoped Felina would be able to come back to the garage when all the commotion died down and pick up whatever he’d left. Most of Jake’s more treasured items — at least, the things he used regularly — were at Hackle’s place.
“Crud!” he nearly shouted, remembering Jake was actually not at his father’s. Had he been there, things would have been a lot more simpler for them to get out of the city, being they could probably beat the roadblocks that were undoubtably going to be set up. Hackle lived close to the border to Faroe Lake. But Jake was in synagogue, for morning services and a study group — something he didn’t have time to do when he was working, and he needed the spiritual guidance anyway.
Chance pulled up at Synagogue Agudath Israel , then decided to sneak the car in a lot across the straight. Warily, he crossed the street as quickly as possible and climbed the front steps of the large, Gothic building — Jake mentioned once it used to be a church. The only incentive that it had ever changed was the lack of outside cross fixtures and stars of David in the stainglass instead of Jesus.
Jake was not in the immediate front room — the large sanctuary. Instead, he was in a smaller chapel, studying with a group of Jews. Among them was of vourse Rabbi Warner, Cantor Warner, and Rabbi Davis.
“Chance?” Jake instantly stood as his friend ran into the room. “What’s wrong?”
“So what are we gonna do?” Jake sighed, nervously — the news *did* shake him up a bit. “We can’t stay here.”
He was seated on one end of a table in one of the smaller rooms reserved for Hebrew School, to avoid the regular people who came to pray. He had his feet up against the table legs, and used his lower strength to keep his chair on its back legs. His arms were crossed against his chest, and his manner was uneasy.
“Yes, you can,” Rabbi Warner supported him, sitting beside him one the longer end of the table. He had been informed of Jake’s condition previously. “Until this dies down — ”
“It isn’t going to die down,” Chance put in, at the opposide end. “Not anytime soon. They’re just gonna keep looking.” He had called Felina immediately after telling Jake the situation, only to discover that roadblocks were up at all the major highways and he shouldn’t attempt to go anywhere.
“Then you stay longer,” Warner continued. “They will not look for your here. Maybe you can at least take a minute to try and figure out how we are going to get you out of here.”
“‘Here’ would probably refer to the state, Rabbi,” he warned. “Maybe the country. Depends how desperate Feral gets. One of us is guilty of murder — if he doesn’t think it was both of us — and the other is an accomplice. This is beyond property damage.”
Rabbi Warner frowned. His face was nearly unreadable, as usual when he was thinking. The Rabbi was quite a character — he was a rabbit, for starters. Rabbits were *extremely* rare, more than dawgs — who themselves only amounted to around 10% of the planet’s population. Warner himself was with grey fur, though that might have been just because of his great age. A long, white beard graced his attire — entirely black. He had been a member of a very prominent ultra-Orthodox community — black hats and all — until he was kicked out for his personal views concerning some subjects he dared not to repeat, and now ran the conservative shul. Of his few supporters was Cantor Warner — a coincidence, as they were not related. The Cantor was a black-feathered duck, also rare, of slightly younger age. Rabbi Davis was the only kat of the Rabbinical trio, but a midget at three feet, with yellowish-orange fur and black tiger stripes. He also had a beard, but it was cut closer to his face.
Rabbi Davis stroked that beard now, “There is a Talmudic law that states we must obey the civil laws of the government we live under . . . but I believe this would be an acception.”
“So what do we do?” Jake asked. “Unless you can get us out of the country — ”
” — And smuggle us to Scotland,” Chance put in, a slight grin on his face, but surprisingly, Rabbi Warner had on a serious expression.
“Scotland? Ya’akov — didn’t you say something about going?” he looked intrigued, maybe thoughtful.
“Yeah,” Jake shrugged. “But it was just for like a vacation or something — to get away from things — ”
“We have a sister congregation in Scotland,” the Cantor cut in. “Run by Rabbi Hoek. Just recently set up outside of Glasgow — a conservative shul, just like this one, with an orthodox rabbi.”
“We have the passports,” Rabbi Warner explained,” of the other rabbinical students attending this shul.” He was referring to the other black-hat, ultra-orthodox students, these just above college age, who had followed him in the switch but still practiced the more strict level of Judiasm. “Or we could obtain them.” Smiling curiously, the Rabbi removed his black hat, his head then only covered by his kipah, and placed it on Jake’s head. “Now, with a black coat and a false beard . . . I think we can get you two to Scotland.”
Abi arrived somewhere around three or four AM, with Hackle and the last of the items Jake requested from Hackle’s place. The salvage yard was impossible to sneak into or out of — enforcers had the place taped up and under heavy guard. Even Felina was under suspicion, being it was a likely assumption that she knew who the SWAT Kats were since she shared a common shapeshit-spell with one of them, but her uncle gave her a bit more mobility that putting her in an interrogation room — maybe out of respect, or just out of kindness. So of course, despite her clearance, any movement towards the garage would be dangerous. Chance seemed satisfied with what he had grabbed earlier, or was willing to wait until things died down for someone to retrieve anything he missed.
Jake she found curled up on a bench outside the Rabbi’s office, wrapped in a spare blanket and comforted from cushions borrowed from the pew seats. Abi ruffled him awake, as promised — knowing the flight was just after sunrise, when Chance would be kat again.
“Who — ?” as he bumbled back into consciousness, Abi kissed him on the forehead. “Hi, Abi. Isn’t it a little early — ” More attentive, he suddenly remembered where he was, and why he was there. “What . . . morning already?”
“Soon enough,” she helped him sit up. “We brought the rest of your things . . . and I brought this . . .” Abi unwrapped the sword of Ecuador from it’s blanket covering.
“The sword? Abi — are you insane? I’ll never get through customs with that, as much as I want to take it — ”
“I wrote you a note,” she explained, handing him a slip of paper, “on my job stationary, explaining your delivering it as a personal service to a museum in Edinburgh.”
He opened his mouth in protest, then decided to close it — after all, he *was* rather attached to the sword. Abi stepped back, allowing Hackle to come forward to face his son, who stood. Hackle looked stern for a moment, slightly in disapprove yet in understanding of his actions, but his look eventually softened and he embraced his son.
“I’m going be fine, dad,” Jake whispered in his ear assuringly. “I think this trip is going to help me a lot.”
Almost sadly, “You do what you have to do.” In a lower tone, he whispered, “And don’t you forget about Abi. You’re still going to marry her! She’s such a nice girl . . . ”
He had to smile, “Of course, dad. You just get her to Scotland, and I’ll do the rest.”
“Whatever you say, Ya’akov . . . now,” he released him, “you give her a nice good-bye. I’m going to to find the rabbi.”
Jake nodded, and Hackle them alone. Jake immediately took Abi into his arms, holding her tightly.
“It’s going to be okay,” he nearly repeated, and his voice this time wavered. “I’m going to go back to work and get a job, and then we can work something out — ”
“Only if you can, Jake,” she comforted, laying her head on his shoulder and stroking his chin. “Don’t strain yourself if you think it’s going to get me to move to Scotland faster. Remember Dr. Milo said at least a few months . . .”
“I know, I know,” he kissed her, on the cheek. “Let’s just hope that crazy book Thoran gave me is right. I’ll write you, okay? And I’ll call when the plane gets in . . .”
“I know you will,” she smiled, confidently, not wanted to release from her comfortable position in his arms quite yet. She had a deep feeling it would be a long time before that feeling soothed her again — as her vilthuril senses had long-since hinted.
“Where’s Chance?” Jake looked around.
“He and Felina . . . have ther own good-byes.”
“You look good . . . very good,” Warner muttered, looking over Jake and Chance one last time in the airport bathroom. Dressed in long black coats and hats, they would still need a lot of luck to pass themselves off as the orange and blond kats in the photgraphs on the passports. “Watch that beard, though,” the rabbi pressed down on the fur on Jake’s chin. “The glue can lose its hold easily.”
“I want to thank you, rabbi — for doing all of this for us,” Jake said gratefully as Chance squirmed in the uncomfortable outfit. “You know how dangerous this is going to be . . .”
“Ya’akov, this is not my doing . . . this is a higher power’s,” the rabbi smiled strangely, then handed them the plane tickets. “British Airways, flight 186. Non-stop to Abbotsinch Airport, near Glasgow — Rabbi Hoek will meet you there. A dawg in orthodox clothing shouldn’t be hard to miss.” Rabbi Warner suddenly pulled Jake in for a hug from himself, “Goodwilling, you have a safe flight, and them I’m going to see you under the chupah with Abi, no?”
“Sure, Rabbi — you can do the blessing if you want.” The pair waved good-bye to the rabbinical trio. “Thanks again!”
“What’s a chupah?” Chance asked as they headed to the gate.
Jake smiled, “A wedding canopy.”
Surprisingly, customs was not a problem on both ends of the trip. The average kats behind the glass windows were obviously not used to seeing bearded, Amish-like kats on flights to Scotland, and therefore did not feel the need to look too closely at the passport photos.
“Here ya go,” the receiving custom’s employee nonchalantly handed back their passports. “Welcome ta Scotland. Enjoy yer stay.”
“Great,” Chance muttered in a low tone as the exited the gate. “I think I’m allergic to this glue. It’s been itching like hell.” He scratched his chin.
“Easy, Chance,” Jake glanced at the small hairs appearing in his friend’s paw. “We’re not there yet.”
“What did the rabbi say this guy looks like? And what was his name — Hoek?” he tried desperately to stop scratching. “Wierd name.”
“Yugoslavian, I think. He’s from America, but he came here a few years ago to start a shul based off of Rabbi Warner’s influence.”
“Oh. So where — ”
He was cut off by the frantic waving of a black-coated dawg, standing on a seat to be more clearly seen. After all, he was only around three and half feet all or so.
“Rabbi — ?” Jake was about to introduce himself when the rabbinical dawg lept off his seat and hugged him, as if they were old friends.
“Welcome, Ya’akov ben Yitzhak!” he said almost wildly, then turned to Chance. “And this is your partner Chance?”
“Yeah . . . umm, nice to meet you,” Chance shook his paw.
Rabbi Hoek had to be the strangest rabbi he’d ever seen, and that was counting the rabbinical trio of Agudath Israel. Not only was he a dawg, but a chiwawa, meaning he had no beard or pais. His long, black coat extended down to nearly his ankles for some odd reason, and he flopped around like he was going to trip over it as he walked.
“Come!” Hoek was obvious enthusiastic about their arrival. “We’ll get your luggage, and get you to the shul in time for dinner. And then you get to see your new home, right?”
About two weeks later, Abi recieved her first letter — and learned a similar copy was sent to Felina.
‘Hi! How’s Megakat City? Has it fallen apart without us? I would imagine that they’ll stop searching for us soon enough, so maybe Felina can get some peace. Tell her that I feel sorry for all the trouble her associations with us has probably caused. How’s the yard? Is it stiff swamped with enforcers? Tell me when it’s left alone because we might need some things from it. Things are okay. Rabbi Hoek’s a nut, so I guess it’s not a whole lot different from having Warner around. The congregation is putting us up, and we’re staying at the rabbi’s house. I think it’s very nice, though I do have to put up with them calling me a ‘goy’ about three times a day. So not a lot has changed. They gave us momentary jobs working around the synagogue, and whatever odd jobs people around the town come up with, we do. We still don’t know what we’re going to do about IDs and citizenship. It’s not like an orthodox rabbi has a lot of access to black market items, like the IDs we need. And we’re working on the names. When Jake learned “Mac” means “son of” he decided he would be MacIsaac, which is actually a Scottish name. So I guess he gets his Hebrew name in English — Jacob son of Isaac, or whatever. And it worked out pretty convienently, because the name “MacIsaac” is one of the surnames or something for the clan Campbell, which is like a major clan in this area. I don’t know what the hell I’m going to do, though. There’s no “MacMichael” in the name index we found, so I guess I’ll have to be “MacFarlane” because it’s the closest I found to “Furlong” with a “Mac.” Jake is not doing so well. I think the trip was really a strain on him, and there hasn’t been any time to go off searching for his “Ecuadorian roots” or whatever because we’re working to get some kind of savings going. Please have Doc Hackle send down as much money as he can get from Jake’s account, because we need it. Jake went back to work, because he complained he couldn’t just lie around while I worked my tail off to try and built something here for us. Scotland’s really pretty and everything, but a lot of the stuff Dr. Milo helped him with his starting to come back. He keeps closing off — to even me. He’s gotten pretty quiet in the last week or so. I really wish you were here, Abi, because I think he really needs you. Please call if you think you can bare the long-distance bills at 01631/562381. I tried to get him to write a letter but he can’t seem to be able to get the words out of his mouth straight, much less put them on paper. I know he misses you a lot, though. I’ll keep trying. Tell the clan we miss them, and Felina if she didn’t get my letter for some reason. I’ll keep writing, and maybe you’ll see something from Jake soon.’
“Hand me that box, will you bud?”
Chance gestured over to the sealed box, which Jake finished removing from the back of the truck and heavied over in his partner’s direction. They were in the back of a pub, doing some work with unloading for some spare change.
Jake spoke little, but Chance began to realize maybe it was better now that he was back at work — it took his mind off things, since there was much more being required of both of them if they were going to stay where they were.
‘Damnit, it all happened so *fast,*’ Chance mused. A little over two weeks ago, he had been going on his semi-normal life as a mechanic and somewhat-ex-vigilante in Megakat City, which the only abnormality being the mental breakdown of his partner and the sudden and amazing spark of a relationship between him and Felina. Now here he was, not far from Glasgow in Scotland, trying to set up a new life with the help and burden of his still-mentally-unsteady partner. Everything that made their lives normal, everything routine — that was all suddenly gone, and both their worlds had been turned upside down. No wonder it was such a strain on Jake — he clearly wasn’t ready for it. Planning a week’s vacation to go on some ancestorial-search/journey was one thing, and within twenty-four hour’s time deciding to live there was another.
Chance had his back turned to the alley, kneeling over the box, when Jake finally spoke, “Chance . . . I-I think you’d better — ”
“What is it, Jake?” he looked up, and suddenly noticed the approach of several kats in the alley. Instantly, he stood, putting himself between Jake and the crowd — he saw only four, but there could easily be others hiding at the end of the alley, around the corner.
“Can I help you with something?” he said normally to the thug-like looking kats, now obviously in their late teens or early twenties. He was certainly not interested in a fight, and wasn’t sure exactly what Jake’s own reaction to the situation would be.
“Yeah — that, actually,” with his bat, the first one pointed to the box Chance had been unpacking, filled with alcohol for the pub’s use.
“Sorry — our boss’s property,” Chance said cooly. “You’ll have to speak with the owner. I believe he’s right upstairs, if you make a left from — ”
He was cut off in mid-sentence from having a bat shoved into his stomach. Gasping for air, it took him a moment to register how fast this kid was. The moment passed, however, and he tore the bat out of the kid’s hpaws.
“I *said*, you’ll have to speak with the manager — ”
But the other thugs were already advancing on them. He moved into a more defensive position confidently, and glanced back at Jake — who seemed to be doing the same, though he look more uneasy.
They both allowed the thugs to attack first, staying strictly on the defense. Chance acted normally, though he noticed Jake seemed to be holding back a little. He didn’t start getting nervous until he noticed the numbers steadily increasing and the odds against them along with that.
Chance himself was up against a wall, in a choak-hold given to him by the head thug, when there was a small cry and something went *smack* against the back of the thug’s head. When he collapsed to the ground, Chance was able to see a dawg standing there — a tan-fured beagle in a trenchcoat, wielding the bat the thug held earlier. The dawg smiled almost sadistically — and an old memory began to creep into Chance’s conscious mind, but before he could recognize it or the strangely familiar dawg, Chance’s savior suddenly laughed insanely.
“Why is it aye’m always gettin’ ya outta trouble?” he said, before jumping back in to began beating down the thugs trying to take advantage of Jake’s hesistative fighting skills.
Chance stopped only a bit more for a few deep breaths himself. Together with Jake and the dawg — who fought with a certain, warrior-like mentality he had never seen before — they were finally able to fight the last of the thugs off.
It wasn’t until they had time to stop and calm down, breathing heavily in the cold alley, when Chance finally had a second to recall that strange memory and turned to the dawg, “Hey, you — who are you?”
Though the question was posed rather tactlessly, the dawg seemed to ignore it, “Ye’re thinkin’ o’ 1984, no? Just outside Megakat City, school parkin’ lot? Ya got yerself in a lotta shit then.”
Chance’s jaw dropped, “Who the *hell* are you, anyway? And how did you — ”
“Know ta come?” the dawg did a mild bow. “Liam MacLeod of the clan MacLeod, laddie — warrior of Ecuador.”
It was Jake’s turn to drop his jaw.
Liam agreed to tell more — but only with a few drinks to help him “settle down”, of course. So Jake and Chance more than gladly paid for his several shots of whiskey before he was tipsy enough to talk.
“What were you saying about Ecaudor?” Jake inquired, now extremely curious. Maybe that book was true after all.
“Ah, Ecuador. He’s me pal, doncha know? He sent me ta watch over ya when you arrive. Been waitin’ four centuries for ya ta do it, too!”
“Woah! Back up,” Chance said. “When did you meet Ecuador?”
“Musta been ’round 1543 o’ so, aye believe. Yeah — battle between the MacLeods an’ the Frasers,” he glanced around. “Aye was just a normal dawg then, and it was me first battle. Too bad aye dinna see much o’ it before aye died.”
“And Ecuador brought you back to life?” Jake was starting to get it, if this dawg wasn’t completely crazy. “Why?”
“Aye just said it! Ta train ya!” Liam pushed his shoulder roughly. “How the bloody hell do ya think aye was there — both times — ta save both yer arses?”
“Wait a minute,” Chance questioned. “So you’re saying Ecuador showed up in the battefield 450 years ago, brought you back to life, and told you exactly when we were going to need help so you could be there at the right time?”
“Tha’s about the size o’ it.”
“So why didn’t he just get someone from the last century? Why pick you and make you wait 450 years just to meet us?” Jake asked.
“Aye dinna know then, an’ he’s ne’er really told me. Aye think it’s ’cause aye think like a bloody medieval,” he tapped his head. “Aye think he likes that. These bloody modern Scots jus’ act like Americans most o’ the time.”
Liam was handier than they could have ever imagined. He had everything set up for them, having known about their arrival for longer than their own lifetimes combined. Chance was hesitant at first to believe his wild story, but Jake was convinced, as Liam was able to tell him much about the Ecuadorian legacy that was in Fergus’s book, of which only Jake had a copy. He *had* to be who he said he was.
They agreed to come home with him to his apartment in Stronmilchan, a small village off the side of Loch Awe, about an hour’s ride from Glasgow, and half an hour from the synagogue. Sadly, they packed up their few belongings and said good-bye to Rabbi Hoek, to follow some crazy, Scottish dawg and his odd rantings about destiny and Ecuadorian prophecies.
Chance spent a good amount of the ride to Central Argyll staring out the window, noticing the beautiful highland scenery. ‘At least it’s more scenic than the yard,’ he thought. It still bugged him that he was riding on the left side of the car instead of *driving* on the left side of the car, but that was the way the Brits liked it, apparently.
Jake was silent from the back seat. Chance was seriously worried about him, though his friend had stirred up a bit since they met Liam. Still, he spoke few, necessary words, and his eating was sparse. the main was concern was the inability to get him to a doctor in their new home. Liam had promised to forge all the documents they needed, along with their new identities, to apply for medical aid — though, if done professionally, that would take time.
For a while Chance believed Jake was asleep, and stopped periodic checks over his shoulder. But when he bothered to look back again, he noticed his friend to be wide awake and staring out the window.
“Stop the car,” Jake nearly commanded, speaking in one of the most steady and complete phrases he’d used since the first conversation with Liam.
“What?” Liam glanced over his shoulder.
“What is it?” Chance was concerned.
“Just stop the car!” was the response, more forcefully, and the small car screeched to a halt. Before either of the frontseat passangers could do anything, Jake swung open the door and hopped outside.
Liam glanced at Chance, “Wa’ th’ blood hell –?” Chance made no immediate response, and the dawg knocked his shoulder. “Wha’re ya waitin’ fer? He’s yer friend.”
By the time Chance made it would the car door, Jake had crossed a small field, and was standing near the start of a decline that led to a valley, in which a large lake was visible. On one of the banks was a castle ruin. Jake was staring out onto the beautiful lake intently.
“What is it, Jake?” his burly friend ran up beside him, also in awe of the breathtaking landscape, but not in the apparent trance the other was in.
“I-I dunno,” came the response. I just feel like I’ve been here before. I just sort of . . . sensed it.”
Chance spun around as he saw Liam catching up to them, “Hello, what’s — oh yes.” He recognized, and pointed to the castle. “Castle Kilchurn. Over Loch Awe.”
“You’ve seen it before?”
“Seen it? Lad, aye was alive when they were still usin’ it,” he glanced at the ruin.
Chance turned back to Jake, who had pulled the book Chance remembered as being written by the son of Ecuador named Fergus or something, and was muttering as he skimmed the pages of Thoran’s notes.
“What is it, for Chrissakes?” his friend was growing impatient.
“The lake, the placement of the valley . . . Chance, it all adds up,” Jake only looked up from his reading to gaze back at the valley. “This has to be it . . . Ecuador’s home. I think this is where his tribe lived . . . 1200 ears ago.”
Despite Chance’s better judgement, they eventually agreed to allow Jake to stay and look around, armed with Fergus’s book and the sword of Ecuador on his back. Liam’s apartment in Stronmilchan was only a few miles away, and it wouldn’t be hard to swing back for a pickup later.
Jake wandered the valley for several hours — he wasn’t counting. The place was somehow enchanting. He would explore a new area, and suddenly recall some memory — like a vision he couldn’t remember from his own lifetime. Could it be possible that he had instilled in him these memories of countless generations, leading right back to Ecuador himself? Had he not felt it so often, Jake would have doubted — but in the spare moments of that familiararity, all his confusion and anger from his collapsed mental state seemed to melt away.
He was also amazed by how quickly a rainstorm could start up. He hadn’t even been paying attention to the clouds when he could feel a sprinkling on his head, followed almost immediately by a complete downpoar. Deep in the valley, the nearest shelter was the castle ruins. Frantically, he rushed over to the stone structure and ducked into one of the areas in which the roof still held.
Yet again Jake was shocked by the severity of the downpoar, and how fast it could also grow dark. Cold in his wet clothes, alone, and still rather unbalanced mentally, it was easy for panic to set in. He shivered in a corner, listening to the swaying of the once-sturdy stone walls under the powerful wind.
‘Looks like Scotland’s just full of surprises,’ he thought, as the ceiling stones that had held up for 500 years gave out and collapsed on top of him.
The cool, comforting voice was the first thing to invit him back from the darkness. However, upon noticing it was not Chance’s or Liams, he tensed. Still, it was soothing regardless, as though to lend a verbal helping paw as he eased back into consciousness.
He was still in the castle, now laid out in one of the larger rooms on a soft blanket that was spread out on the floor. There were heavy paws on his shoulders, but he couldn’t yet move his aching head enough to see who was kneeling there. His shot of the room only included the bare walls, and the sword of Ecuador, which was still in its case and leaned up against the wall. His first question was how it got there without hurting the carrier, and his first instinct to reach for it. No, he was much too far.
“Easy,” returned the voice. “You will have it in good time.”
Jake was finally able to crane his neck to see the kat staring right back down at him — a huge, white kat with a beard that seemed to sparkle and familiar-looking sideburns, seen only recently on his father and himself.
The kat smiled, “I doubt you are in the shape to wield my sword now.”
It took a moment for the pieces to fall together, but as they did, Jake’s eyes widened, “You’re — ”
” — dead,” Jake attempted to sit up, but found it painful. “You died 1200 years ago — ”
He nodded, “Mortally, I did.”
“Then why are you still here?”
“Because, Jacob . . . you are. I’ve waited a thousand years for my children to return to their land.”
Jake hesitated, “So you’re . . . a G-d now?”
“Could you do something about this? Cast a spell on it or something?” he pointed to the large cut across his head, extending down near his eyes. “It’s killing me.”
Sadly, there was a negative response, “My ability to affect material things — such as your body — varies with a few factoes. One is your degree of consciousness. The other is whether I am in a mortal body or not — which is no. the third, if the second is no, is my closeness to being in material form, which is far. Right now I am little more than an image.”
“But you touched my shoulders — I felt — ”
“I know. It took a tremendous amount of energy, but I wanted to comfort you somehow. When you were out, things were easier . . .”
Jake tried to be as understanding as possible, “Can you get help?”
“Right now, I am only permitted to appear before one of my children. there willl be a time when I am as real to all as any living kat, but it is yet to come.” Ecuador paused, then continued, “I *can* help you with something else that pains you. You came to Scotland to find peace, no?”
“Yeah, but — ”
He was cut off by a shockingly powerful flow of energy into his shoulders.
Jake had no idea exactly when he had lost consciousness again. He just remembered that comforting sensation, and Ecuador’s gentle voice — one that still rang in his ears. But he flinched as the new sensations to return this time were different — the pain in his head, and a soft washcloth against the inflicted area.
“Easy,” the voice was not harsh, but the tone was entirely different. Jake immediately tried to sit up upon opening his eyes, surprised by the hairy, beared face he met, but was pushed back down. “Take it easy, Jake.”
He was still nervous, but a more familiar voice came from a care around five feet away from the bed, “It’s just Uri, Jake — remember, my brother? He’s not going to hurt you.” It was Sensei MacAugh, amused by the scene — as evident by his usual Chesher-cat smile.
Jake calmed considerably, noticing they were also in a hotel room, “I thought you were in Ireland.”
“We were going — until Abi told me you were in Scotland. It’s only a boat trip away. She told me about the synagogue, and the rabbi sent me to Liam MacLeod’s — and he send me to Kilchurn. I guessed it wouldn’t be safe to bring you to a hospital yet, so here we are. And that reminds me,” MacAugh reached for the phone. “I’d better call and tell them you’re all right. Chance was really getting worried.”
“So you guys just came here?” Jake stared at Uri, bewildered. “And just happened to find me in time? Maybe my luck is finally improving.”
“I might call it luck,” Uri put in, then in a softer and deeper tone Jake found strangely familiar, “or divine destiny.”
‘Yes, I am finally writing for myself now! Chance is probably going to mention it in his own letter, but I am doing much better now. It’s very hard to explain, but most of the pain and confusion I felt before has all melted away. Yes, Ecuador had something to with it — I found that valley Fergus was talking about, and it’s only a mile or so from where I live now. You can see it, too, if you look up pictures of Castle Kilchurn in whatever Scottish books you happen to have — it’s in that valley. I hear it’s very well photographed. As for Ecuador, that’s another story for another time. We are both doing better — financially, I mean. Liam put us up for a few days, until we were able to get an apartment here in Stronmilchan. Liam’s really been great to us. By the way, did Chance mention in an earlier letter that he’s a 450-year-old immortal sent by Ecuador to train me and my descendants? Well, he probably left out he’s also like chapter president and regional vice president of this political/military party in Scotland, called the Argun. He says he really created the Argun, too, after the Jacobite Rebellion failed in 1746 (but he still calls it the forty-five — don’t ask *me*). Don’t tell the Argun members that, though, because he was using a different name 200 years ago so they don’t know that. Anyway, he’s trying to get us to join for some reason, and a lot of local chapter members have been helping us get on our feet. Angus Wallace, this really huge guy with a red beard, has a shipping and loading company we’re working for. There’s another guy named Duncan MacGregor, who’s friends with the guy in charge of scholarships over at the University of Oban — about twenty minutes from here. He says he might be able to get me a scholarship, so I can go back to school and get my master’s. All I have to do is prove I have that I have my bachelor’s that I got from Megakat University from all those night courses (I knew they’d come in handy!). I’m thinking about teaching — what do you think? Like I said, I’m really okay now — except I miss you. I know it’s a lot to ask to pick up and move across the ocean for some whiny boyfriend, so you tell me what you want to do. I wish there was more time to work things out before I left, but that’s the way things go, I guess. I’m just still very confused about things now. I guess I’ve never known what it’s like to be in love before. Please say hi to the gargoyles for me, Felina, and my father. I’m writing him, too, but he needs the attention. Please write soon!’
‘P.S. — I am sorry I am not very good at that romantic “I love you more than whatever . . .” stuff. I’ll try harder to be cheezy next time.’
Abi sighed, and looked at her notes again. This new translation just didn’t seem to be coming out right, and she was afraid she was going to have to call someone for help. There was always hesitation in that motion. Many of the most available kats for help were bachelors, and, to specify — desperate bachelors. So it made a large different that she was one of the few unmarried, female kats in the area in her profession. She really wasn’t in the mood for one of them hounding her for dinner — not with the pain she was dealing with right now. For three long, lonely months Jake had been gone, and their relationship was still up in the air — on the surface, anyway. Secretly, she knew it was going to go on, else every G-ddamn vision she had wouldn’t be concerning him.
‘But about these translations,’ she shook her head, trying to get herself back on track and not lose herself in visions. It was happening all too often, and she was beginning to worry it was effecting her work output. ‘Stay in gear, Abi!’
“Dr. Sinian?” it was Debbie, at the door of her office. Four years she had worked in the museum now, nearly done with her graduate work, and she still couldn’t call her her superior by her first name. “Dr. Ross is here about the translations?” She seemed hesitant, “He was the only one in the area on such short notice — ”
Abi smiled, relieved, “Yes, Deborah — send him in.” Robert wasn’t so bad. Aside from the obvious fact that he was madly in love with her, he seemed to be an all-around nice guy, and aware of the fact she wasn’t interested in him (something some of the others just couldn’t seem to understand).
“Abi?” a curious kat stepped in as Debbie left. Dr. Ross was a middle-aged kat, just a bit older than her, with thick black hair, brown fur, and a medium build.
“Hi, Robert,” she smiled, and allowed him to hug her as a welcoming gesture — a rarity among the bachelors. “Thanks for coming over on such short notice.”
“Well, I was just in the area and was going to stop by –,” when they released, he stopped to notice her general appearance. “Abi, is something wrong? I mean, you don’t look so hot.”
She frowned. He had probably noticed the dark circles under her eyes, and the more slacking posture, “I’ve just had a lot on my mind lately. Really — it’s okay.”
“Seriously?” he didn’t look convinced.
“A lot is going on in my life right now, that’s all,” she retorted.
“Are you still seeing that, umm — ”
” — mechanic?” Abi put in. Robert was one of the few she actually told about Jake, a while back, when she went to check out a dig he was on for a few weeks and they had time to talk. “Jake had to . . . move recently and we haven’t quite figured out what we’re going to do about it yet.”
He only pursued because he had a feeling she trusted him enough to know he was sincere, “Move as in where?”
She breathed, “Scotland.”
“Scotland?” he nearly choaked. “He just had to move — ?”
“Yes, he did,” Abi said firmly.
Robert stared into her eyes, “And are you seriously considering following him there? I mean, you have so much here.”
“I know, I know,” she sounded sad. “The point is everything’s up in the air right now, except our relationship, and this is all not a great dicussion topic. Could we move on?”
“Ah, yes — the translation,” Robert moved over her shoulder as she handed him some of the papers from her desk. Wisely, he decided to keep this new gossip to himself.
“So was he a good translator?” Thoran asked, not looking up from his book. He was seated in his armchair, as usual, with a glass of tea on the stand beside him and the desk lamp used to illuminate the immediate area for reading.
“Oh, yes — fine,” Abi was across from him, collapsed in her desk’s wheeled chair. “Robert’s really the nicer of the bunch.” She paused, “But he brought up a subject I’ve really been trying to ignore.”
“What? About Jacob?” it wasn’t really a guess, but he made it sound like it was. “These decisions take time, Abi. You do not have to rush into — your are not *supposed* to rush into these things.
“Yes, but I know — ”
“What *are* you sure of?”
” — I know I can’t break the relationship off. I love him, and he loves me, and we’re going to be married. I *know* it. I would probably *still* know it if I wasn’t a G-d damn vilthuril.”
“So?” he shrugged.
“*So* . . . I feel first like I’m being lazy by not jumping on a plane tomorrow, like I’m just avoiding fate and wasting time. Then I realize how silly the whole thing is, with visions aside, and that I must be crazy to suddenly run off across the ocean because of a boyfriend, dropping everything I have to start new in some convienently-located museum in the highlands. So I *can’t* run off, but then come my feelings again, reminding me that I *want* to.”
He shook his heavy head, “It wouldn’t just be you, Abi. It would be all of us.”
“What? Move the clan? To Scotland?” she was shocked.
“Why not? It is our homeland as much as Jacob’s, if only it has been a few more centuries since our ancestors moved across the ocean. The clan needs to stay together, and we have one gargoyle there already. And who will take care of us when you leave? Deborah?”
“What about . . . what about Felina? She can’t pick up and leave,” Abi was referring to Felina’s current, overworked status in the enforcers. The city, without the SWAT Kats, was a mess — but Dark Kat being gone helped, because many of the other villians remained in shock for quite a while. She was up to her tail in paperwork and emergency calls. “She’ll be commander soon — you know that. If Commander Feral becomes admiral to try and widen his influence to search for Jake and Chance, she’ll be left to keep things in order. She’s practically the only one on the force qualified to prevent anarchy for a month. Felina can’t pick up and leave, and even if she did — wouldn’t they get suspicious as to her motives?”
Thoran frowned, and began to rub his white beard thoughtfully, “She could stay, if she felt it was her duty. As a gargoyle, the clan is supposed to come first, but I could never convince her of that.”
“And what about Felina’s — ”
“When it comes? To Chance, I suppose. It is his responsibility, and she can’t hide it from the enforcers forever.”
‘I just recieved the letter about the museum in Oban. I’m so happy that you’ve decided to hold on to our relationship and make that kind of commitment. I understand that it will probably take a very long time for you to move, and I’ll wait as long as I have to. You take your time — you should only come over when you feel you’re ready, okay? I can’t say things haven’t been exciting without the clan. Liam and Angus took us to the highland games in Oban. I can’t believe it’s September already — six long months. Anyway, the we discovered the highland games are a bunch of huge guys in kilts hurling logs and stones around — literally. That’s how they pick out the tourists. They’re not wearing kilts. Liam was going to make us wear them, but he decided (thankfully) to give us another year. Chance tried that log-throwing event (I forget the name) and almost threw his back out. I got a picture, and ask Felina about it because we sent the doubles in her letter. Liam won the bagpiping contest, and Angus got really smashed and started hurling Duncan around. I’m pretty glad he didn’t pick me up — he said I was so slim my bones must be brittle and if he were to pick me up I would crumble or something (I have lost some weight, by the way, since I’ve been here, thanks to the absence of kosher meat here. They have some Glasgow but I’m too lazy to drive down). So he said he’s gonna fatten me up for next year. I also met this Fraser named Dougal, who called Chance and I she-kats for not wearing kilts. I’ve decided that the Scots are generally psycho. I told Chance that and he said, “Well, that’s good. Then we should fit in here.” Great news! I am enrolled in graduate classes in the fall at the University of Oban. I’m going to finally get my master’s! Now I just need to figure out how I’m going to manage to still do my job at Angus’s and keep up with classes. I guess I’ll figure it out along the way. As always, say hi the clan for me. And again, you take your time, but I’m incredibly happy that we’re both looking in the same direction for the future.’
1 1/2 years later Abbotsinch Airport
Abi looked up as she pulled her baggage off the carosel, disbelieving in the voice she recognized call her name. Running towards her was a tall, brown-fured kat of similar hue to hers –except for the shade of grey gracing it.
“Dad — ?” she was still shocked as he wildly embraced her, a gesture which she returned, and kissed her on her cheek. “What are you doing — ”
After releasing her, he took a good look at his daughter, “I just got back from the excavation in Cairo — the thing was a blood mess, but fun while it lasted, at lesat for an old bugger like me. I was going to call you can come ot America to see you, but then I heard you were coming to Scotland, so I drove up — figured I’d save you a cab fare.”
“You *drove*?” Driving from his home near the lower tip of the English coastline up to the upper lowlands of Scotland was quite a feat. “If you called, I could have come down — ”
“Nonesense. I just told you I’m saving you the cab fairs. They’ve blood skyrocketed in the past few years, at least in Britian,” he automatically picked up one of her bags. “C’mon — before the car gets stolen. I saw some punks hanging around by it when I parked.”
Finally, she overcame her surprise, “Thanks, dad.”
“Anytime — at least while I’m in the area,” Professor Sinian was quite a traveler. He lived in America for some twenty-five years while raising Abi and still living with his now-ex-wife, instead of his native England. Abi still remembered the summers he spent, when not curating the museum in Megakat, off in some exotic location for another excavation. When she took over the curation, he had moved home to England, and the divorce freed up his time for more trips and classes to teach. “So I hear you are looking at some possible job sites in Argyll.”
“Yes,” she waited for him to unlock the car, then climbed in the passenger’s side. “There’s a few smaller museums, and a large one in Oban. But that job depends on how long the assistent curator lasts — I believe he’s approaching ninety — and then I’ll have his job.”
“So you’re giving up Megakat? Not to that graduate student — the one who shakes when you speak too loud.”
“I’ll probably get some other applicants, but until then it goes to Deborah. She *has* gotten better, now that she has her master’s, dad.”
After a moment’s hesitation, “Is this about that boyfriend of yours? What was his name — ”
“Jake. Yes, this about Jake.”
“And you’re sure you want to give up everything in Megakat — ”
“Yes, dad — I’m sure,” she said rather coldly, annoyed because he wasn’t the first to ask about it. “I love him.”
“Well . . . I suppose I’m not the best person to ask about a successful marriage,” he chuckled, “but if you’re sure . . .” Sinian shrugged. “But I want to meet him, you realize.”
“So *that*’s why you came up here!” her eyes widened, and she growled in a nice way.
“It was a factor, I’ll admit,” he pulled out a map. “So which way to this Stronmilchan place?”
Standing in front of an apartment complex with a familiar address — one she’s put on an envelope many times — Abi wondered briefly if she should have *told* Jake about this visit. The main question was whether he was exactly — well, prepared to meet her father in his current condition. For her he might not clean his apartment, though he was a neat person anyway — but for his future father-in-law, he might want advanced notice. ‘At least dad’ll get an honest view of Jake,’ she thought, though she doubted her boyfriend would ever “dress up” to impress someone.
“I’ll go up first,” she announced. Watching her father lean against the car and shrug, she opened the front door and began to climb the steps. The complex left something to be desired, with it’s worn-down carpets and dim lighting on rather grungey walls, but it wasn’t like Jake and Chance could afford to live in a Ritz.
Passing the group of mail boxes on the wall by the office, she noted there were no envelops or postcars hanging out and/or stuffed into the one corresponding with their apartment number, and guessed it was a good sigh — someone had been home to pick up the mai. Theoretically, Jake *should* be home, since it was in the time between when his classes at the university ended and regular dinner in Scotland.
Somewhat nervously, she reached the third floor. Their apartment door was easy to find, aside from being numbered. It was the only one in the hallway, probably in the complex, with a mezuzah on the doorpost. Swallowing, she knocked on the door.
The first response was of sounds of movement inside, and a muffled, “Hang on.” She breathed; for some wierd reason she was worried she’d forgotten Jake’s voice over the past two years, or it had changed; it hadn’t. There was a bit of shuffling around, followed by the sound of someone working with the locks on the other side of the door.
The door swung open, and Jake emerged — and his expression dropped to the point where Abi found it rather amusing to watch his glass slip from his paw and fall on the floor. He hadn’t changed that much. He was dressed in jeans and polo shirt. His hair had grown out quite a bit, and there was a bit of hair that had overgrown the length of his cheek fur and gave the appearance that someone hadn’t had a change to clip anything down recently.
“Abi — ?” he choaked out, somewhat literally. Disbelief or no, he proceeded to wildy embrace her.
“I thought I’d stopped by,” she smiled, kissed his cheek, and then rested hers on his shoulder. “I’m being interviewed by that museum in Oban tomorrow.”
“And you didn’t tell me — ?” his voice was going up an octave or so, like he was at the point of tears, making no more to release her.
“Surprise,” she kissed him again. “Do you have one of those old, peeping landlords?”
“Then I think we’d better go inside,” she pulled away from him at last, somewhat reluctantly, and moved in from the doorway.
“Oh, yeah,” still rather disoriented — like he had just been lifted to a higher place and set abruptly back down again, he knelt down and began clumsily picking up the shards of broken glass so he could close the door without tearing the carpet. “C’mon in — sorry if the place doesn’t look like much, but well . . . that’s the way we are.”
“Where’s Chance?” she glanced around, noticing it looked just a bit neater than the average bachelor pad, but aside from that not a whole lot different.
He finished picking up the glass and put them in a special bag, “Oh, he’s still working. I do the early hours, he does the late ones. He should be home soon.” Grabbing a sponge, he proceeded to start trying to get the liquid out of the carpet before it stained. “Did Felina come?”
“She would if she could,” Abi noticed the sword of Ecuador hanging on the wall, on two nails that supported the handle guard. “She sends her love.”
“Tell Chance that — he’s been cranky lately,” Jake washed out the sponge. “And the gargoyles? How are they?”
“Same old thing. Chani’s kid is doing fine, and there might be more eggs along soon.”
“Sevian’s the father, right?” he recalled the letter. “Is that the first hatchling born since the stone spell was removed?”
“Yes,” she lied. It wasn’t important at the moment. “They’ve been working overtime to help Felina — now that you guys aren’t there.”
“What about Feral? Still looking for us?”
She nodded, “He’s Admiral now. Felina just became Commander. He wants a more international search, but I don’t think he’s going to get a whole lot of support from the other enforcer companies.”
“If he does, I doubt he could trace us here,” Jake said assuredly. “Even if he could, the Argun would probably be able to protect us.”
“They would do that? You’re new, American members — and I didn’t think they were that powerful.”
“They protect their own,” he affirmed. “And you wouldn’t believe what they could do if they wanted to — they just don’t excersive their poer too often.” He muttered thoughtfully, “If the current president dies, Liam will probably take his place. I don’t know anyone better for the job, and Liam’s a Lopinenean fanatic — I think he’d probably do anything to protect me.”
“You said he’s been alive for four hundred and fifty years?”
“Roughly,” he sat down next to her, at the tiny table. “You might meet him tonight. I have an Argun meeting. I was gonna skip it when you showed up, but if you want to go . . . they can get rather interesting.” He sipped from his new glass, “So . . . any other surprises?”
“Oh yes . . . my father is waiting downstairs.”
Jake spit out his coffee.
“He’s not anything like your mother, right?”
“Jake!” she said, in a mock-scolding way. “No, he’s rather down-to-earth — a lot like me, profession-wise.”
“Grand,” he replied.
Abi looked at him strangely — as if he’d been in Britian *way* too long.
“Just joking,” he smiled, and followed her downstairs.
“Are you sure this is the place?”
Abi looked around, at the wide valley field. To her left was Loch Awe, and the legendary Castle Kilchurn. But they were there for much more ancient studies that the 1440’s. Jake was determined to show her, on her second day — after a rather successful interview — the spots he was now certain where important to Ecuadorian history. After all, it was practically the only field in history that interested him as much as her.
“Yeah, it’s right around here,” Jake was not working with a map, or Fergus’s book — though it was stuffed in his pocket. They were in a rather secluded area of the valley, more up to the side of one of the cliffs, in a small grove. “One of these threes . . .”
His smile widened as he pulled back some branches and other debris to reveal something made of stone. A willow tree had maraculously grown directly around and on top of it, so its roots rapped tightly the sacred, shaped rock and made it easy to miss if one was just passing by.
Abi knelt beside him, inspecting carefully as he brushed away the remaining dirt to reveal carvings on the rock as Jake explained, “This is Ecuador’s tombstone.” She now noticed he was situated so he was more to the side instead of directly in front of it, so he wouldn’t be sitting directly on top of the grave. “He was burned at the stake — they thought he was a demon when he accidently used some of his magic to help them win a battle against some rebellious picts. See this writing? This is Lopine — but my translation’s still sketchy.”
Still finding it amazing that *Jake* was actually mesmorized by something historical, she crawled in closer and put on her reading glasses, brushing her paw against the stone gently, “There’s two texts here — ”
“I think the one on the bottom is some kind of Gaelic — but it’s so old, even Liam couldn’t understand it. The top’s Lopine.”
“Yes — but this isn’t the inscription that we put on Maric’s grave, or I would recognize some of the words. It would make sense — Ecuador was Frith’s son, not just some distant descendant or common kat. Does Fergus say anything about it?”
He shook his head, “Not about the translation. He just said where the grave way. Said the other immediate descendants were somewhere around here, but I haven’t found them,” he looked pale. “Can we go? This place always makes me uncomfortable.”
“Sure,” she stood, dusted off her jeans, and helped him up. “So what’s next?”
He smiled again, as soon as they were out of the grove, “Something else — follow me.”
Jake brought her closer to Lock Awe, pulling back the branches now to reveal another grove — one much more surrounded by life than death. A stream flowed in from the mountains, as a tributary to Loch Awe, and passed through this small area to form a minor waterfall.
“It’s beautiful, Jake,” she said.
“C’mere,” he made a small leap across into the middle of the stream in front of the waterfall, where there was a large rock to stand on. He held out his paw for her.
Curiously, Abi grasped his paw with her own and hopped across. The rock was slipperly, and he pulled her close for support.
“So what happened here? Was this a favorite spot or something?”
“This is where Ecuador proposed to his wife.”
Abi’s jaw nearly dropped — not like she didn’t expect something eventually, but now that it was happening . . .
“Sorry if there’s not a lot of room to kneel here without getting into the water, but the stream’s kind of cold this time of year,” he responded before she could, looking her in the eyes. “Abi Sinian . . . will you marry me?”
“Jake — you realize how long it’s going to be until I can move — ”
“I’m trying to be practical here. It could be a long time — ”
“Don’t be so practical, then,” he held her paws tighter. “I know how long it might be — but I have to *know*. It’s not like we have to get married the day after get engaged.”
Abi hesitated, resting her head on his shoulder, “In that case . . . yes.”
It took him a moment to pull things together, until he grinned and kissed her passionately, “Thank you so much . . . ”
“I just want to know something,” she said, pulling away to look him back in the eyes. “before I do this. I know how everyone wants us to get married. I mean, it’s kind of cute the way Rabbi Warner and the rest of them have been trying to set you up with a “nice girl” for years, and the clan wants you to continue your line, and Thoran thinks it’s a prophecy from Frith . . . I want to know that you’re marrying me for *yourself,* and not for *them.*”
His eyes shined with pure innocence, “No, Abi . . . it’s nice to have their praise, but it’s not what’s important to me — you are.”
“In that case . . . I’m all yours.”
He pulled her against himself again, feeling amazingly relieved, “I hope you won’t be upset that I didn’t get a ring, but there was a rather short notice about this — I promise I’ll send it — ”
“You do what you have to sustain yourself now, and we’ll worry about that later,” she replied, feeling safe and comfortable pressed against his chest.
1 Year Later
“So when’re they arrivin’?” Liam asked curiously, taking the next box from Chance as he loaded them off the truck.
“Plane gets in at four. They we have to get the clan unloaded — they’ll be in oversized cargo — and back here before sundown. Could you take this box?”
The dawg complied, “An’ yer girlfriend’s comin’?”
“Felina? Yeah,” he smiled. “I wish she could stay like the rest, too — but she’s still got responsibilities im Megakat. The enforcers aren’t exactly ready for her to quit yet.”
“‘s a shame,” Liam muttered.
“She’ll be back up for the wedding, and that’s only a few months away,” Chance reminded. “I think Jake’s already nervous.”
“‘s natural. Aye been married.”
“Really?” Chance glanced at him. “How was it?”
“No — married life.”
“Ay s’ppose it was different fer me, ’cause aye dinna have children,” he grinned, “but it was wonderful.”
“Abi!” Jake literally ran across the terminal, almost temped to jump over a row of seats to get to his finance a little sooner. He grabbed her estatically, almost lifting her off the ground and spinning her around.
“Good to see you, too,” Abi responded with a kiss, as passionate as a public airport would allow.
Felina was just behind her, “Hey, don’t I — ” She was cut off — along with most of her lung’s supply of exygen — by his feverent hug. “Nice to see you. Where’s — ”
“Coming!” Chance walked down the ramp to the gate, a little less energetic, and embraced Felina. “Sorry if I didn’t jump over a bench to see you.”
“It’s okay,” she was just happy, after all this time, to be back in his arms. It had taken her a long time to calm herself down for what was coming, as well. “Let’s get our stuff — I don’t want think the clan’ll appreciate it if they wake up in storage containers.”
Thanfully, they were mildly successful getting the clan loaded into the truck, along with all the luggage, in time to get home before sundown.
“Scotland really is beautiful,” Felina affirmed as she stared at the window.
“Felina . . . is something wrong?” Chance said at last — he had been noticing an edge in her voice since she got off the plane, and now they were alone in the driver and passenger seats of the truck as Jake and Abi followed in the car.
“No . . . just something we have to discuss when we get the clan unpacked,” she smiled, but it didn’t assure him.
It would look odd carrying so many huge statues up the stairs of Jake and Chance’s apartment complex, so they brought the statues to Angus’s shop, where he lived above in a spacious apartment and dojo-like series of rooms.
With dusk nearly upon them, Felina pulled Chance into a different room, along with one of the smaller boxes. Using a crowbar, she carefully opened it to reveal a much smaller gargoyle statue.
“Who’s — ” he was broken off by a sudden wave of pain as the sun sank finally into the Scottish horizon. He was well used to it by now, but that didn’t make it much easier. Felina dropped to her knees as her cry began, once more, a growl.
The tiny statue broke free of its encasing with a growl-like cry, revealing a childlike, grey gargoyle — like Felina’s shade of grey that she took on with her transformation. Dressed in the traditionally belt and jerkin of the clan but also wearing a slightly-oversized enforcer T-shirt, he promptly looked up at Felina and exclaimed, “Ma-ma!” like she had been gone for a month.
“Hey, honey,” as he ran to her, she let him hug her leg with a motherly protective sense, stroking his black tiger-striped back.
“Who’s this?” Chance said, almost stupidly.
“This is Brian,” she looked down lovingly at her offspring. “Brian, say hello to your father.”
Chance was far from being able to form any sort of word-like sound when Brian looked at him curiously, “Da-da?”
“Who — w-wha — ?” absolutely dumbfounded and unable to take his eyes off the little tike to see Felina’s own expression, he allowed the child to release his mother and run to him. “How did — ?”
“Tell me you never took sex education,” Felina said sarcastically.
“B-But when — ?” he picked Brian up, holding him out with both arms. “When did this . . .”
Felina rolled her eyes, “You should know. You were *there.*”
It took him another moment of more, “Oh my G-d . . .”‘s before his open mouth finally formed a smile, “You mean he’s — ”
“Yours, yes. Now he is. I can’t take care of him any longer, Chance,” her tone was almost sad. “Not without the gargoyles helping the enforcers — crime’s gonna be a mess, and I won’t have the clan to sit for him anymore.”
His smile growning, he pulled Brian in and held him against his massive chest as he felt his son giggle and squirm, “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“How could I? I was afraid you might actually try to come down and see him, and I’d rather have you wait a few years than rot in jail for trying to see him immediately and screwing up along the way to make my uncle catch you. I had to keep him from you — or the last three years would have just been more painful.”
“Who knows? The clan — ”
” — and Abi. When I was pregnant with the egg, I was very sick while in kat form during the day, and she had to visit my apartment every few hours to make sure I was all right. I was lucky, in a way — gargoyles are only pregnant for three months because theyre not giving birth to something already live and independent — an egg instead. So the first month and a half or so I was able to make it by during the day wearing looser clothing, and resting at night, and after that . . . I told my family I had a ‘gargoyle disease.’” She smiled, “Chani was pregnant, too, so I wasn’t alone on this. When Brian hatched, he was much more developed and mature because he lived in an egg, and he automatically slept for twelve hours each day, so he was easier to handle than a kitten.”
“He’s fully gargoyle?”
She nodded, “It really was a life-saver. He physically ages that way, too — half the speed of a kat — but luckily, his maturity moves at a faster pace.”
“I can’t believe this,” Chance let Brian tug on one of his huge claws. “I really can’t believe this . . . so I take him now?”
“He’s all yours.”
“What about you? How do you feel about this?” he looked at her, concerned about the obvious sadness in her eyes. “Can you handle this . . . I mean giving him up? You can stay here if you want — we can get married if that’s the way — ”
She shook her head, “Megakat needs me, if only — and hopefully — for a few more years. I’m training Carlson for my position. And he’s illegitamite either way — rushing into marriage isn’t going to help it, and the gargoyles don’t care about that kind of thing.” Felina sighed, “I’ll come up as soon as I can . . . you know that.”
Giving up, he nodded, listening to Brian’s cooing.
“Rabbi!” Jake opened his arms to welcome the feverent hug of a familiar rabbit. “I was worried your plane wasn’t going to get in before Shabbos.”
“G-d would always get us here in time for Shabbos, Ya’akov,” Warner let him go so Cantor Warner and Rabbi Davis could say their hellos. “How do you feel . . . with the wedding on Sunday night — only two more days!”
“I know,” he grinned rather nervously. “My aufruf* is tomorrow. I wish she could be there.” He was referring to the law that barred couples from seeing each other the week before the wedding. “Sit down — I’ve got a few extra chairs here, hold on.” Jake looked around the mess that was still his apartment — with all the preperations, plus the packing for the move he would soon be making into a new apartment with Abi, things were in a disorder. “Here we go,” he spotted some folding chairs, and brought them out for the rabbinical trio.
“And how has Ren been treating you?” he was referring to Rabbi Hoek of the Scottish synagogue.
“Very well, thank you — but I’m glad you guys could make it up. You can’t understand how much this means to me — ”
“I understand,” the rabbi smiled warmly.
Rabbi Davis asked, “And how is Abi? Is she all settled in?”
“Yeah, well — she’s had a few months to take care of things. She has a job at a museum in Oban — not far from here. And with any luck I’ll get my masters and’ll be teaching in another two years or so, so . . .”
“Well,” Cantor Warner huffed, “I guess we can’t bother you about find a nice Jewish girl getting married any more . . .”
“So when are you going to have children?” Rabbi Warner cut in, and Jake immediately laughed.
*auftruf — groom’s aliyah (blessing upon being called to the Torah for a reading in his honor) on the Shabbos before the wedding
“Ah! Ya’akov, you like wonderful!” Hackle smiled brightly, rubbing his white beard as he stepped back to admire his handiwork.
“Really?” Jake readjusted the cloth of his kittle* nervously. “What do I look like? I mean, Abi’s gonna look nice — she looks nice, right? Did you see her dress — ?”
“Yes, yes. It’s wonderful. But you didn’t give the poor girl much choice. No lace? Oy — have you ever been in a gown shop?”
He shrugged nervously, “We agreed on it — it wasn’t like — ”
“I know, I know — I’m just playing with you. It looks very nice, and she likes it. So don’t you worry about it, okay?” Hackle patted him on the shoulder. “I was so upset when the plane got cancelled, or I would have been up here more than a few days before — ”
“Dad, I was fine. Everyone’s been very supportive.”
“You had your bachelor party, right? It miust have happened before I arrived. How did it — ?”
Chance cut in, “He doesn’t remember anything after the first shot of whiskey.” He was wearing a tux, a kipah, and a chesire cat smile — the first two extremely odd for Chance.
“I remember bits and pieces,” Jake’s face twisted.
“Don’t think to hard about it, Jake,” Chance laughed, “or you might remember more.”
A sharp rap on the door quieted Jake from saying more, and Rabbi Davis peaked his wide, orange head into the dressing room, “What — are you going to miss the wedding in here? We need the groom!”
“C’mon, Jake,” Chance pushed him out. “It’s now or never.”
“You promise to catch me if I fall?”
“Why? Your knees shaking?”
Jake smiled nervously, “Something like that.”
The second odd sensation Jake felt, now on that final walk up to the front of the room where the Rabbi was waiting, was that of a sea of endless faces staring at him. It was a rather small wedding, with his father, Abi’s parents, Chance, Felina, the rest of the clan, the three rabbis and Cantor Warner, Dan and Uri MacAugh, and a few Argun members like Liam and Angus. But in the twenty feet or so across the room, it seemed like the crowds were endless.
Suddenly, there was a body in the crowd — a taller, white kat who seemed almost *glowing*. Staring at him curiously, almost transfixed, he realized it was Ecuador himself, in his white Lopinenean robe, smiling at him.
“Chance,” Jake whispered, keeping his on him while trying to look forward.
“What is it, buddy?”
“Is Ecuador in the fourth row, on the aisle?” he kept his voice low, somewhat muffled by the Hebrew chant in the background. “Big guy, kinda heavenly presence.”
“What?” his friend looked at him strangely. “No, that’s Dan MacAugh. Take it easy, bud.”
“Just checking,” Jake pulled his eyes away, and reached the bema.* Stepping up under the chupah, he breathed a sigh of relief and smiled warmly at Rabbi Warner, who was nearly glowing himself in anticipation.
Jake did not turn around, but he could nearly *feel* Abi coming up beside him. She circled him seven times, for the seven days of creation, but he could not see her face through the thick veil. G-d, her dress — white silk — was really beautiful. He felt lightheaded for some reason, but was unable to concentrate on anything else.
The Rabbi said a blessing over the first cup of wine, then began to read the ketubah** out loud, now signed and official. It was only then, while the Rabbi was listing in another language the obligations the groom had towards the wife, Jake was able to pull his eyes off her for the briefest moment — only to see the crowd behind him, all faceless masses except for Ecuador. ‘I must be really flipping out,’ he thought, and immediately turned back to Abi.
Jake recited the appropriate blessing, and removed the ring from his pocket — a simple, gold ring as according to tradition. He placed it on the foreclaw, also according to tradition, though it would be moved to the middle one later.
He found not only for his knees to be shaking, but his paws, too as he lifted the veil from her face. G-d, she was so beautiful. He saw, finally, into her eyes — and realized with a stiff smile that she was just as nervous as he was. That was instantly, amazingly relieving to both of them.
He somehow managed to clear his mind of all thoughts, and kiss her.
Beyond that he lost most of his sense of time. He vaguely remembered, later, the tradition breaking of glass (a lightbulb, actually) to remember the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem by the Romans, and the rice and congradulations that came after that. It was all, however, very, very distant. The more important thing was Abi — his wife — at his side, and for all he cared they were the only two people in the room — them and Ecuador, now standing more to the side in the corner of his eye, smiling broadly.
*bema – stage **ketubah – Jewish wedding contract, in Aramiac
Throughout the evening and the party, Jake was still rather disoriented. Everyone seemed to be having a good time, but he was really less concerned with them then he had been before the wedding. Abi was the only thing important in his world, with even Chance and everyone else important to him just distant figures.
Everyone did, in general, have a good time. The Rabbis and the Cantor, for some reason, instantly linked up with Dan and Uri MacAugh, and spent much of the night talking with them. The gargoyles — who didn’t dance, maybe because of their huge feet and fears of stepping on each other’s toes — obviously liked the food, because they ate most of it. Thoran was quite and thoughtful most of the evening, though still in a high spirits, though he did converse with Abi whenever she was alone for a brief moment. Chance got tipsy, danced with Felina and *did* step on her feet several times — who didn’t care, because she was just as tipsy. Brian spent most of the night, when not under their care, trying to eat the tablecloth or throwing crackers at Sevian and Chan’s hatchling. A few Argun members, including Liam, Angus Wallace, and Duncan MagGregor were drunk by the second hour, but no one got really smashed. Still, it would probably look wild in the wedding video, years later, to see a bunch of guys wearing tuxedo jackets and dress kilts bawling around in the back of the room.
It must have been 2 AM or so when Jake and Abi emerged from the wedding reception. Jake had thrown the brown, Ecuadorian robe with gold trimmings over his suit, and had the sword of Ecuador at his side. Abi had changed out of her dress, comfortable as it was, into the traditional black robe of a vilthuril.
“Why did we promise to do this?” Jake wondered, hurrying down the hill that led to the planned, secluded grove.
“I believe you were asked about it during your bachelor party,” Abi reminded.
“That would explain it,” he muttered, coming into the grove. The gargoyles were already there, along with Liam and Sauraman. The clan were for the most part dressed the normal way, not in there fancy wedding attire now, except for Thoran. He crouched directly in front of them, completing the circle of gargoyles, back in his normal clothes but wearing as much of the black vilthuril robe that could fit over his monster-like body. There was a lion skin on his back, and his face was painted entirely red. He was to play the mog-ur, or holy man, in this ritual. Sauraman was in his white, Lopinenean Isatari robe instead of the councilman one he wore most of the time. Liam had on the full kilt now, not just the bottom element of it, wrapped over his shoulder — he looked like a medieval again, not a 20th century Scot impersonating one.
In a silent motion, Liam picked up his bagpipes, and began to play. The tune was not recognizable to Jake or Abi, but they suspected Ecuador had picked it long ago.
Thoran motioned for them to come closer. Dipping a claw in a bowl of red paste, he put their coinciding paws together and drew on each a symbol — it was likely one was for a son of Ecuador, the other for a vilthuril. Being non-Lopineneans, they had no traditional totems, but none were needed — they had these from birth. Gesturing with in silent language of a mog-ur, he made the proper acknowledges to Frith and whatever spirits decided to look on, and dipped his claw in a bowl of water. Diluting their symbols with the water, he mixed the two together, obviously indicating the joining of the two of them. Liam’s bagpipe played on, in a stead tune, filling the strange silence.
Finally, Thoran stepped back and motioned that the ceremony was over, and Liam stopped playing.
“Does he get to kiss me again?” Abi broke the silence.
“It’s not part of the ceremony,” Thoran responded.
“Well, I’m doing it anyway,” Jake retorned, and pulled her in. It was a long time before they came back up for air, completely unaware of the gargoyles’ cheering.
End of Part 2
“Paranoia is just reality on a finer scale.”
– that record company guy (Vincent?), “Strange Days” (1996) ———————————————————————
Part 3 Chapter 1
Scotland, late 1999
It had been a little over three weeks since the dreaded letter, and no word from anyone or thing. Jake hadn’t forgotten about it, simply pushed it in the back of his mind. There were other things to worry about.
Professor MacMillan, that old jerk, had thrown yet another surprise test at him. Jake knew there wasn’t a point to fighting it; he was university professor, and a powerful one — he was *allowed* to torture his students. Jake found it hard to believe he might actually be working with the guy in a few years, which is why he kept his cool in classes and went to most of there review sessions.
Yawning, Jake wandered down the hallway to the classroom, glancing at the clock to notice only how late it was. He was tired — probably due to the fact he got up around 3 or 4 AM each morning to work for Angus’s shipping and loading company before going to classes. The work was killing him, but necessarily if they were planning to raise a child in the 21st century.
“Hi,” said a kat inside the classroom, who looked above college-student age. “You Jake MacIsaac?”
“Yeah,” he tried to avoid yawning again.
“Great. I’m an assistent to the professor. Something came up, so I’m subbing for him.” He shook his paw.
Surprisingly, Jake was finding the assistent enjoyable to talk to. He was, at least, more pleasant to listen to than Professor MacMillan, who tended to drag on with obviously little patience for his inquisative students.
Taking another sip from his soda can, Jake finally closed his notebook, “Well, that’s about it.”
The assistent, a burly kat whom Jake had never seen before that day, also began cleaning up his notes, “Tell me, Mr. MacIsaac — at least before you go — why is a guy like you still in college? I mean, you must be at least thirty.”
Jake smiled, “Yeah, I am . . . but I’ve just had other . . . obligations . . . before now. This is the first time I’ve really been free to study and finally get my master’s.”
“So you want to teach?”
“Yeah — I do.”
The assistent nodded thoughtfully, “If you’re lucky, the professor will take you as a student teacher for a year — I heard he’s looking for one.”
“What about you?” Jake said, standing, but was abruptly caught off as he tried to stand, finding his body weight seeming exceptionally heavy. “Woah — ”
“Easy,” the assistent nearly rose from his chair, but stopped as Jake managed to catch himself by leaning heavily on the desk for support. “Something wrong?”
“I just didn’t realize I was this tired, I guess,” he felt dizzy, and a tad nauseous. “I’ll be okay in a minute. But getting on with it — ”
“Yes, me. Well, it would be rather hard to get hired, considering he’s never heard of me . . .”
“What?” Confused, Jake also found himself weakening. “But I thought you said he sent — ” He had to halt, feeling another wave of dizziness that nearly sent him to his knees. He also noticed the assistent did not get up to help him this time. “Excuse me, I think I need to sit down. I just don’t know what’s bothering me . . .”
The assistent shrugged, “Probably the MS-59 — new on the market. A great sedative.” He took a sip of his own soda. “Completely tasteless — especially in carbonated soda.”
“Wha — ?” Jake’s mind was beginning to spin as his legs fell out from under him. He collapsed on the ground, barely managing to sit up, as he glanced up at his soda and realized what the assistent was talking about. “Wha do you — ?”
“Oh,” he got up at last, standing over Jake. “I seriously wouldn’t try to speak. By now it has all ready begun to slow everything done up there.” He tapped on Jake’s head. “I suggest you stop fighting it and let it take it’s course, because your head isn’t going to clear for at least another few hours.”
Unable to clearly respond or make any complicated movement, Jake moaned softly as he curled up into a ball in the floor and allowed the haziness to close in.
There were certain things Abi didn’t like about being a curator — or, as she was now, an assistent curator. One of them was all the odd jobs to do, of which there much more of with her lower status, that kept her from her research. It was just after sundown and the museum’s closing that she was able to finally open the crate that had arrived earlier.
“What is it?” Thoran said curiously.
The gargoyles were still living in the museum, but were hidden to the general public except as statues during the day. The only one who knew of their existence was the curator, a reasonable kat who let them stay as long as they kept to themselves by night and added to the aesthetic beauty of his building by day.
“Help me open it and we’ll find out — these shipping companies screw up the orders all the time,” she was struggling with a crowbar, trying to open the long, rectangular box.
Thoran kindly pushed her aside, and with a grunt of brute strength tore it open with his claws, careful not to damage the contents. With a gentle grace, he removed the long, slender object still under wraps and set it up beside the work table.
Abi removed the sheet, revealing a full-length mirror, “Oh, thank G-d it wasn’t shattered.” She breathed a sigh of relief.
“What kind of mirror is this?” Thoran ran his clan along the edge. “It practically vibrates with faery magic.”
“It’s Titania’s mirror,” Abi responded, referring to the fae queen. “Used to call the fae. I got it from a museum in England — the curator knows my father.”
“Ah,” he rubbed his beard. “And what are you going to do with it?”
“Well, it’s a historical piece — but I was thinking of actually giving it a shot,” she smiled devilishly.
Thoran frowned, “What? And call up a fae? Whatever for?”
“Well . . . considering in the past few years I’ve made these discoveries about the existence of gargoyles, sorcerers, and whatever comes with that . . . I thought I would try to see exactly how much of these legends are really true.”
“What? You know the wierd sisters are real, better than anyone,” he pointed out.
“Yes . . . but I want to know about the rest of them,” her voice was eager. “What harm could it do?”
“Ach,” Thoran rested back on the folding chair, reminding himself yet again to ask for another arm chair. “I see you are too eager for this . . . all I can do is warn you . . . they are a sneaky folk.”
Abi flipped through a reference book, glancing at the well-studied pages, and picked up a silver bell in one hand, and a copper ring in another. “Here goes nothing.”
She sounded the bell with the ring, four times, then began the Latin chant, “Cum aescerat argentum, et aurum argentum . . .”
Thoran groaned as she let a feather go, that slid into the mirror’s portal.
“Postea Puck ad speculum . . . Titania penetrare.”
The mirror began to glow, so bright they had to shield their eyes. Thoran had a sudden, deep sense of foreboding as a shape began to take form in the mirror. A flash of light passed, and a figure spun past them, whizzing around the room in such a frenzy that a shape was impossible to make out before it — he, rather — stopped.
The creature, obviously male, was smaller — maybe three and a half feet, possibly four — and almost described as something Thoran spoke of as “human,” due to the flesh and lack of fur. The thing to seperate them from that species, however — aside from his poportionate size — was the long, pointed ears. His hair was completely white, despite the fact he looked incredibly young — possible ageless. He was dressed sort of neo-Roman, with a purple toga a length that stopped at his knees, and beneath is a red shirt lined with yellor or gold thread. He floated several feet off the floor, his long hair — with its two thick strans in front of his ears — flowing in the air, as he looked at them curiously.
“Who would dare to call me — a kat?!” He looked at Abi. “Excuse *me* — a she-kat. And may I ask why?”
Abi’s mouth opened, “Ah . . . I wasn’t really even expecting this spell to work — ”
“You have to have more faith in magic, Abi,” Thoran cut in, and for the first time the fae noticed the gargoyle’s presence.
“Oh *no* — not *another* one,” the fae said, and spun around in a circle in the air. “How I dread gargoyles — always so *serious*.”
“And as if the fae were all as playful as you, Puck,” Thoran retorted, recognizing the fae. “You have three sisters who come here too often, and always to tell us bad news.”
“The witch sisters?” Puck studied him curiously, to see if he was telling the truth. “Why would they — ” Revelation hit him, “Ah . . . you’re that vilthuril they’re always talking about — no, wait.” He gestured something, muttering under his breath, in Abi’s direction. “You’re *both* vilthurils, or my magic would have worked on you and you’d be under that spell by now.”
“Vilthurils are immune to faery magic?” Abi shot a glance at Thoran, who nodded.
“Well, no *duh*,” Puck flew in close to her face. “If you hadn’t been, you’d be a toad right now.” He spun impatiently, “No if you please, I am not allowed to be in this form — thanks to grumpy Oberan — unless I’m needed — ”
“I just wanted to see if the spell worked. I can’t think of anything — ”
She was cut off by the phone ringing, which she grabbed, “Hello? Yes, this is . . . no, I haven’t seen him since this morning — is there a problem? Oh, I see. Well, I . . .” She stopped to listen to the kat on the other end speak, and Thoran noticed her complextion place.
“Abi . . . what is it?” he rose from his seat as Abi set the phone down.
“Jake’s missing,” she began, not feeling all too steady. “He was supposed to stay for a study session with Professor MacMillan, but the police just called to say when the professor came back into the classroom he pick up something he left behind, he found Jake’s books still there, and the door open.”
“But wasn’t the professor *at* the study session? Wouldn’t he have seen Jacob leave?”
“No — the professor said someone told him Jake cancelled it earlier in the day, but Jake called about an hour ago to say he was going to it,” she steadied herself against her desk. “Thoran, what if someone — ”
“Easy, Abi,” he assured. “This is just a miscommunication on someone’s part. Everything will get cleared up eventually — ”
“Who’s Jake?” Puck suddenly cut in.
“Abi’s husband,” Thoran said, “the son of Ecuador.”
‘Son of Ecuador?’ Puck’s mind spun. He knew the Lopinenean G-ds were far more powerful than Oberan, the faery king, and if he could maybe win their favor, he might be able to have those restrictions on his powers removed . . . the fae’s mind began churning out ideas instantly.
“Maybe I’ll stay around after all,” Puck muttered to himself, now keeping himself to the side as Thoran continued to try to comfort the increasing disturbed curator.
Jake found it very, very hard to regain consciousness. His head was pounding, and his eyes didn’t seem to want to focus. Wiggling around as he began to feel his kimbs again, he noticed the fact he was pinned down wasn’t helping his struggle any.
He moaned softly, his eyes nearly blinded by the white light directly above him as he opened them. The focus wavered, but eventually the haze cleared. He was tied firmly to a chair similar to a dentist’s with duct tape. Feebly, he attempted to cut himself out with one of his claws, only to find the tape was wrapped in too many layers — he would need proper scissors to do anything.
His attention shifted to the surroundings. The small room, judging from the brick walls and lack of windows, felt like and probably was a basement. There was scientifical equipment — computers, spare parts, machines — scattered around the place in various states of disrepair. His eye caught one square, metal machine on the table beside his chair, which was obviously up and running from the dials turned up all the way and the flashing screens. Hooked to the machine were two prod-like devices, however, that were making him *very* nervous.
Jake groaned again, but then reminded himself to look on the bright side. From the looks of things, this was a one kat, home operation. So that meant it couldn’t be assumed that every villian from Megakat City knew who he was now, and where he was, just from this random phsyco. This could just be some guy who’d kept it all to himself, which would help the situation immensely once Jake escaped.
His captor must have heard his groan, because the supposed assistent popped his head in the room, smiling, “You’re finally awake! I was beginning to think I put too much in — hadn’t calculated your body weight, you know . . .” Grinning, he entered and stepped up to face him.
“Do I know you?” Jake asked at last, studying him curiously. “If this is about — ”
“You being a SWAT Kat, yes — ”
” — I’m sorry, I just can’t remember ever fighting you. I’m sorry if one of my missiles scratched your house or something, but — ”
Shaking his head, the captor gingerly picked up one of th freshly-charged rods ands and briefly touched Jake’s paw with it. The few seconds of impact were enough, and Jake gave a sharp yelp as electric bands shot through his body.
“Now that you’re through . . .,” he said, putting down the rod as Jake chose to wisely remain silent, “I’ll explain. No, you never fought me . . . directly. But you may recall a certain villian named Dark Kat — yes, you killed him, and that was why I brought you specifically here first and not your partner.”
Jake gave him a “so-what-do-you-have-to-do-with-this” look, but remained silent — he was still shaking from the touch of the rod lying on the table.
“And what do I have to do with Dark Kat? What does this overweight, phsyco kat have to do with Dark Kat? Well, he was my brother, damnit!” With that, he angrily grabbed the rod and swung into Jake’s shoulder. Jake screamed as he squrimed, desperate to be free and as far away from it as possible. It was far too long before his captor pulled away, and he was able to mildly recover.
“Y-You — ?” he managed to push out, still tingling and weaker from the shock. “B-But how could you be — ?”
“Dark Kat’s brother? What a big, purple kat with a deep, comanding voice and a medium-height fat guy with a squeaky one who looks like he should work in a comic book store? Don’t you see the resemblance?” He laughed, “No, you don’t understand. Didn’t he seem a little . . . unnatural? Didn’t his voice seem rather metallic?”
“Yeah,” Jake croaked, eyeing the rod in his captor’s paws warily. “Go on.”
“My brother Cecil — what a ridiculous name! Now you know what he was ‘Dark Kat’ and not something closer to his real one. Anyway, Cecil looked a lot like me — until he joined the enforcers. They shaped him up.”
“Dark Kat was in the enforcers?!” Jake responded.
He nodded, “Actually, it’s not surprising, if you want to look at why he turned against them. Ever wonder why the enforcer barracks were being rebuilt when you destroyed them — I mean when you were enforcers? Or why Feral was so pissed? It wasn’t the first time he had to pay for that kind of damage.”
“So he kicked Dark Kat off the force, and your brother wanted to get even?” Jake guessed.
“Exactly — you guys, you know — getting a jet to fight evil was great, but Cecil had other ambitions. The enforcers were just the beginning of his plan — he had the whole thing worked out since high school. Always planning things, you know. He figured once he got high enough in rank, he could impress Manx’s niece enough to talk her into marriage, and then total control wouldn’t be too far ahead . . .” He shook his head again. “I told him he was nuts — but he wouldn’t listen to me, ‘No, Dave, I got it all worked out.’”
“But how did he become Dark Kat?” Jake was more than desperate to keep him talking.
Dave continued, fiddling with the buttons of the machine, “That was my part, actually. Was always good in cyberbiotics. You see, he really snapped after he was expelled — went after Feral, and Feral . . . defended, to put it nicely. This was probably when you were in the Academy, or before. Anyway, when Feral was finished with him, Cecil was barely alive — but a little bioengineering helped that out. I knew he was gonna be really crazy after that, but shit — he was my brother? What the hell was I supposed to do?”
“Part kat, part machine? That’s incredible. I can’t believe — ”
” — what, you can’t believe what you felt when he struck him?” Anger rose in Dave’s voice again, and jake figeted nervously. “C’mon, you must’ve felt it — the mix of flesh and wires — did you take some of ’em home with you, as souvineers?”
Jake swallowed; this was still a touchy subject for him, “Look, I’m sorry — I feel bad — ?”
“You’re *sorry*? You *feel bad*?” Eyes wide and face turning flushed, Dave grabbed the other rod and held them together. “Do you know what it was like for him? Once you penetrated the outer layer of protective metal, it set off a chain reaction of electronic sparks — you electrocuted him, and all you can say is you *feel bad*?!”
“What else do you want me to say?” he rushed his words forcefully, struggling beneath his restraints. “Nothing’s going to bring him back — ”
“But there is something to even the score,” Infuriated, Dave turned up the dials and picked up both rods, slowly approaching his helpless captive. “Don’t worry — I’m not going to kill you just yet. This is just a *taste* of what it felt like.”
“No — please –!,” Jake continued his pointless struggle as Dave brought both rods to his chest, and whatever other words he intended to say were drowned out by his own terrified screams. He prayed for the pain to stop, or at least for the inviting darkness to pull him in and make it so.
Chance looked at his watch blankly — just past midnight? Where did the time go? Rubbing his eyes tiredly, he pulled the bulky trenchcoat over his now-gargoyle form tighter as he walked the length between his apartment and the new one Jake and Abi shared.
“Chance!” Abi, not suprisingly, was wide awake and rushed to greet him. “Is there any — ”
“No news,” he said sadly, stepping in and removing his coat. “The Argun are working on it, and once he’s gone for twenty-four hours or we recieve some kind of note, we’ll call the enforcers.”
Abi nodded, nervously, but was silent.
“We’re gonna find him,” Chance was immediately supportive, speaking in a soft tone. “Maybe he just went wandering around that valley he likes so much again — you know he does that sometimes. If he’s there, Angus and the guys will find him at sunrise, if not before — I promise.”
Quietly, she sat down at the kitchen table, “He’s not there . . . Chance, I know it — he’s in danger. I can just feel it — ”
“Shhhh,” Chance stepped up behind the chair, taking her head in his claws and letting her lean back against his chest. “Easy. I know it’s late, and it’s probably kind of scary — ”
But she was just getting more and more worked up, “I can’t sleep — not without him — I know he’s in pain, Chance. We have to find him — ”
“Shhh,” he continued, trying to calm her, but when he noticed her sobbing he knelt beside her. “It’s okay — just let it out. Holding it in isn’t going to make things any easier.”
He had no idea how long he stayed there, with her, until Thoran finally arrived and relieved him, “She shouldn’t be alone — but you go home, and you get some sleep. Tomorrow’s going to be a long day.”
Chance yawned again, and looked now at the clock. It was 7 AM, and he had recently transformed into his kat form again, then plopped uselessly into bed to try and pick up some sleep. It was useless; he was worried about his partner, and wondering if it had something to do with the letter send to Jake a few weeks before. Why hadn’t he recieved one? Why was someone giving Razor special attention? It didn’t make sense.
Deciding laying in bed all morning wasn’t going to get his questions answered, he rose and wandered around the kitchen. Brian was perched near the window, in his cute little “evil” or a bad a attempt to look that way stance, now stone for the day.
Throwing on jeans, he decided to go out and at least try to get his mind off things. He was halfway out the door, however, when he felt something beneath his sneakers — a white envelope that had been tucked under the doorway overnight. The only writing on the outside was, in typed letters, and name “T-Bone.” Nervously now, he tore it open and the only content spilled out into his paw.
His eyes widened as he recognized a simple, gold ring.
Jake’s wedding band.
“Crud!” Slamming the door angrily behind him, he ran across the hall to tell Abi.
The gargoyles were now asleep, as usual, and Chance noticed Thoran perched on her balconey protectively as he attempted to consul the growingly hysterical Abi.
“If we’d gone to the enforcers with the first note . . .” she wandered around the kitchen uneasily.
“Jake would have had to spill our identities, and would be in custody on our way back to Megakat for a trial right now — and that wouldn’t have done any good,” he pointed out. “Besides, there was no proof it was malicious, or that it is even connected to this. Look, we’ve contacted the enforcers and told them about the envelope, so they’ll be looking — ”
“I know, I know,” she reminded. “But I wish . . . will all the things that go along with being a vilthuril — things that I know — I wish I just knew where he was.”
Something flashed in Chance’s mind, “What about the Eye of — what as it? Started with a ‘b’?”
“Beraan? That I used to find Abadon?” she frowned. “I left it in the museum in Megakat City — it was their property, not mine. I just wish there was some way to . . . I don’t know . . . manipulate these annoying powers — ”
“Careful what you with for,” a childish voice came. “you might just get it.”
They both looked up, suprised to see a smiling, hovering form spontaniously appear in the air above them, and Abi said aloud, “Puck.”
Jake could not believe he wasn’t dead. He *couldn’t* be dead — not with the aching limbs he felt, or the dryness in his soar throat. Returning to awareness, he briefly wondered why Dave was keeping him alive. How long could it have been, after the initial blow, that Dark Kat could have survived, anyway? How was Dave re-creating the situation in some fashion if he was dragging the torture out, and why? To make Jake think about it.
He swallowed, desperate for water more than anything else. He had previous idea as to how dry his throat could get. Blinking in the bright light, he saw Dave standing their, grinning widely, and holding a glass of water.
“Please — ,” his pleading voice was thin and ready. “Jus’ a li’l . . .”
Surprisingly, Dave lifted the cup and positioned it so Jake could drink — which he did, immediately, savoring the soothing liquid as he nearly gulped all of it down. The glass empty, his captor made no move to refill it.
“Why,” Jake said at last, not with it easier to speak, “are you keeping me alive?”
Dave set the glass down, “I was wondering when you were going to ask that.”
“The pain’s not going to stop for you if I suffer,” Jake reminded. “Dark Kat — Cecil — will still be dead, and if you’re looking for some kind of closure, please . . . torturing me isn’t going to give it to you. I’ll promise that now. New pain doesn’t melt away the old pain — or anger, or rage.”
“There’s a first time for everything,” Dave smiled, and watched his captive wiggle as he reached for the dials of the machine.
“What do you want?” Chance was apprehensive about the faery, having never met one before, and not really interested in letting anyone upset Abi in her current state.
“Chance, it’s all right — I called on him earlier, so I’m the reason he’s here,” she assured, stepping in front of him to face the fae. “What are you talking about?”
Puck spun around, “There are some spells involving manipulations of your ‘visions’ — I learned them from those three sisters of mine who you must know all too well. But . . . as I said, you *are* immune to my magic — unless you *let* me in.”
“What? And let you posses me? Is that *safe*?” Abi was alarmed. “I mean — for both of us?”
“It shouldn’t be a problem if you don’t force me out too early — though I warn you, when you come out of this trance, you’ll probably be exhausted,” Puck made a move towards her, but she put her paw up.
“Wait,” Abi was too intelligent to forget the legends, or the Shakespearean play — Puck was a trickster, and this was all too simple. “What’s the price?”
“Service is its own reward,” the fae replied smartly.
‘Yeah, right,’ she thought. “I know your stories a little too well, Puck. What do you get out of this?”
“Maybe some favor from Ecuador, don’t you think, for helping save one of his children?” Puck reminded. “But . . . do you want to find your husband or not? Isn’t that worth it?”
Abi’s mind was practically screaming for her to not trust this fae, and even her vilthuril senses were sending rather forboding messages to her conscious mind, but she pushed them aside — remembering Jake, and reminding herself the clock could be ticking for him, “I’ll do it.”
Chance began to protest, “Abi — ”
“Chance, please — if this works –,” she stopped him, and let her mind clear as she closed her eyes and heard Puck mutter something in either Latin or Lopine — it was hard to tell.
The world instantly began very distant as she felt the fae’s magic presence in her body, heighting her spiritual sense and sending into a kind of trance like she went into during her Comings. But the swirls around her quickly cleared, and a room began to take shape.
She could sense Jake now — pleading with someone, though it was too far from her to tell who or why. He remained solitary throughout the conversation, despite his obvious uncomfort with his position, and she guessed he was tied down. The other kat then picked up some kind of bar and struck Jake with it, and it was almost as if she could sense he extreme pain as his scream pierced her eardroms.
‘Puck!’ she mentaly called. ‘Show me where he is! I have to help him — ‘
‘I know, I know,’ came the reply. ‘Have a little patience — this thing can take a while to track — ‘
Chance, still in the real world, had been watching Puck literally disappear into Abi’s partially-conscious form, and now heard her muttering. Most of it sounded like garbage, until he recognized what sounded like an address, and went to jot it down.
It seemed like a while before he saw Abi try to open her eyes as the emanation of Puck floated out, but fail and her form nearly collapsed.
“Whew,” Puck breathed. “That was fun. Did you get what you wanted?”
“Yeah,” he set her down on the couch. “Is she all right?”
“She will be — has to build up her strength, you know. And I’d better be going, or my employeer might miss me . . .
‘Since when did faeries have employeers?’ Chance wondered, and hurried out the door.
He was nervous about leaving Abi alone, but he left a note and realized it was the probably the best decision. He would send an Argun member to be there when she woke up, if he and Jake weren’t there themselves.
Still, he reminded himself, Jake could be dead. All he had was an address, mixed with other random mumblings on Abi’s part, and that didn’t mean much. So he went along with the enforcers, who were very nice to him thanks to his Argun membership, to see for himself — that and something else that was on his mind. This guy, after all, obviously knew they were SWAT Kats, and Chance decided it would be better if he got a chance to speak with him before the enforcers did.
“Ya sure about this, Mr. MacFarlane?” asked one of the more experienced officers, as Chance slipped on a bulletproof vest. “We could have one o’ our officers go in an’ — ”
“I’m sure,” he said firmly, glancing at the small, secluded house Abi’s address directions had led them to. Tapping his paw protectively over the gun holstered at his side, he slowly and quietly made his way into the seemingly-abandoned building.
The place was a mess. Clothes, electronic equipment, and other household items were scattered everywhere. Just the living room was barely presentable — even for someone like Chance. There was a thin layer of dust covering most of the rooms, and dirty dishes in the kitchen sink.
‘Guess someone’s too lazy to get themselves a made,’ he thought, pulling out his gun and readying it at his side. The place was also quiet — unnervingly quite. ‘Must’ve seen us pull up — or heard us. I told them to turn their damn sirens off earlier!’
The only sound being a soft creak of the wooden floorboards beneath him under his heavy weight, he carefully began systematically going through all the rooms. It was a ranch house, and he was nearly sure the place was deserted until he remembered the basement, and immediately went to look for it. Beside the kitchen was a door, with a dark staircase leading downward. A distant light illuminated the basement, so he assumed someone was down here, and slowly made his way down.
“Oh, shit,” Chance breathed, finding at last the orange kat tied to an armchair. Jake’s head was tilted sideways and he was unconscious by all appearances. ‘Or dead . . .’ Chance gravely reminded himself, watchfully striding forward to feel for a pulse. Relieved when he found one, he still kept his paw on his gun but had no time to draw when he felt something crash down on the back of his head.
The impact was rough but bearable, though it took him a moment or so to get reoriented — giving his attacker ample time to jump up from behind, wrapping his arms around Chance’s neck in an attempted choak-hold.
The bigger, burlier kat lurched around, trying to free himself or at least shake him off. In the process, he accidently knocked over the chair Jake was tied to. The sensation of hitting the ground must have stirred Jake back into consciousness, because he began to try to open his eyes and shift around in his even more helpless position.
“Jake!” Chance managed to grab a swiss army knife from his pocket and hurl it at his friend’s side. “Take this!”
The knife landed almost a foot away from where Jake’s paw could reach, and it took a great deal of shifting to try to nudge the chair in range. He was able to do it, though, and began to cut himself free as the two larger kats continued to thrash around.
Chance at last managed to tear off Dave, who he hurled across the room and who landed on the floor in front of where Jake was now free and standing unsteadily. Dave made another offensive gesture, but Chance brought his gun to bear — a message clear enough to a bioengineering genius.
“You okay?” not taking his eyes of the toppled captor, Chance watched his partner attempted to orientate himself. He seemed to be rubbing his chest and stomach as if he were in pain there.
“‘s all right,” he responded rather weakly. “Just some singed fur. Maybe a burn or too.”
“What do we do about him?” Chance cocked his gun in Dave’s direction. “He knows who were are, right?”
“Yeah — but we still have to turn him in, or he’ll just come back after us,” Jake watched as Dave climbed to his feet, steadying himself with a paw on the table containing the equipment and rods for the electronic shock producer.
“Are you sure that — ”
Chance was cut off by a sudden motion from Dave. His mind snapped from being put in a clearly bad position, he grabbed the two, charged rods and leapt at Chance. The bigger kat’s reaction time was not fast enough, and he growled and collapsed to his knees as he felt the surge through his shoulders.
“NO!” Terrified, Jake instinctively grabbed for the gun Chance had dropped and aimed it directly at Dave’s body. “*Let him go*!”
Dave, caught in the thrill of watching T-Bone, the famous SWAT Kat, suffer, did not respond.
A shot rang out in the silent air, and the enforcer captain immediately signalled to his troops, “Move in!” hoping that they were not too late.
They stormed the place, only to find a bloodied scene in the basement. Chance was by the stairs, collapsed and barely conscious — but recovering and rubbing his shoulders. Dave was lying on the floor, charged rods still in paws, and blood rapidly spreading across his shirt from the bullet hole in his chest. And Jake was standing their, silent and solemn, with a smoking gun in his paw.
Thoran was surprised that evening, when he broke out of his stone shell, to find Abi not in her apartment. In fact, the place was empty aside from a particular fae comfortably floating near the coach — with a rather smug look on his face.
“Puck!” he said, almost angrily. “Where is Abi? What has — ?”
“That’s the thing about gargoyles,” Puck said in a bored manner. “You always miss the fun if it happens when the sun is up. They found that son of Ecuador, by the way.”
“Jacob? Where is he? And is Abi with him?” as much as the gargoyle didn’t like dealing with the fae, he needed imformation and was willing to put prejudices aside for it.
“He’s at the hospital, if I recall — getting all that singed fur shaved off. Yes, the vilthuril’s with him — and that changling friend, the one with the blond fur?”
“How did they find him?”
Puck smiled, “It was more like *we.* Abi wanted to know, so I ‘helped’ her use her powers to find out — ”
“You possessed her?!” Thoran’s eyes lit up madly.
“*Relax. After all, she *let* me,” Puck explained, not the least bit defensively. “It didn’t hurt either of us, and shouldn’t have any lasting effects on *her.* But the other, I’m afraid . . .”
Thoran blinked, “What other?”
The fae floated in front of his face, grinning, “You’re the vilthuril, aren’t you? *You* figure it out.” With that, his image faded into nothing.
It took the old gargoyle a few moments of brain-racking to figure things out — putting together previously confused jumbles of visons and Comings was not an easy thing to do. His jaw dropped, however, as revelation was upon him, and he flew out the window to find Abi.
The skies were reasonably clear — at least for Scotland — as Abi made her way to the usual spot. Getting out of the car, she immediately spotted her husband in the field, beneath a tree with his back to its trunk. The sword of Ecuador was by his side, and from his position he had a view of the valley in which Castle Kilchurn, Loch Awe, and the mortal body of Ecuador rested. He often went there, she knew, when he was disturbed — and wanted to find peace. Not like she hadn’t expected killing a kat to phase him, but Chance said he was taking it rather well this time.
Jake briefly looked up as she approached and sat down beside him, then turned his attention back to his scenic view.
“Are you all right?”
He shrugged, “I’ve been better.” He rubbed his chest softly, where there were bandages from his burns. “I’ll feel fine when the fur grows back.”
“What about — what was his name? Dave something?”
“Dave, yeah,” hesitantly, he spoke — not resisting when Abi pulled him close and allowed him to rest his head against her lower neck. “I’m okay — really. I did what I had to do — I just want this . . . cycle of killing to stop.”
“Something tells me there aren’t going to be any more of Dark Kat’s relatives going after your head, Jake,” she assured, pulling him close and stroking his hair.
“I know, I know — I just — I just want to move on with my life. I know Chance does, too — maybe this move was good for us. I mean, it was a chance to start over and build a family — ”
“Now that you mention family . . .” Abi interrupted.
“You’re doing a pretty good job of starting one,” she breathed in his ear. “I’m pregnant.”
“Y-You’re — ?” Jake immediately choaked on his words, much to her amusement, as he turned to face her and she broke out into laughter. A smile slid across his face, so wide it nearly extended out to the tips of both sideburns, and he pulled her closer, “C’mere, you — ”
Any further mature, adult conversation was drowned out by further giggling.
End of Part 3
Scotland, early 2000 C.E. 9 Months Later
“You think they couldn’t get an updated version of this?” Chance held up a copy of ‘Life’ magazine, which proadly displayed a picture of two indentical-looking sheep and a headline that spoke about cloning. Not that one could expect that the nurses in the hospital waiting rooms had time on their paws to worry about updating magazines — it was silly, really.
Jake shrugged and ignored it further, continuing his heavy spacing and running his paw through his hair rather frequently, “How can you worry about a magazine? Abi’s in surgery, G-d damnit, and you’re — you’re calm!” There was no anger, just nervous tension in his shaky voice. “How do you do that? You were calm at my wedding, too!”
Chance shrugged, “Ease up. Having a kid’s a great experience.”
“Yeah, but you missed the labor, remember? You were across the ocean, not a few rooms away!” He pulled at his hair again.
“Careful, Jake — you don’t want to tear out all your hair or — ”
His partner ignored him, “What if they can’t get the kitten out? What if — ”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Jake — ”
“What if they can’t stop the blood, or she losses too much? There was this movie I saw about this — can’t remember the name — and the wife in it — ”
“Jake,” Chance stood, and put both his huge paws on his smaller friend’s shoulders. “She’s going to be *fine*. I’m sure the doctors know how to perform a lousy C-section. Hell, they’ve got almost every medical procedure perfected these days — ”
“But I’m still allowed to worry, right?” Jake glanced at the nurses talking at one of the doorways. “G-d — I wish they’d let me in — ”
“There’s nothing you could do by being there, ” Chance reminded. “She’s probably either zoned out on drugs or unconscious by now. Standing their and cheering a bunch of surgeons on wouldn’t help anything.”
“I know, but — ”
He spun around as the door swung open, and the scrub-clad doctor stood in it with a tiny, cooing bundle in his paws. Jake felt his knees buckle as he dared to step foward — to pull back the blanket and see what it held.
A tiny kitten looked back up at him blankly, obviously more than exhausted from its ordeal. The tiny kat was still partially pink, but had a small and scattered coat of orange fur — much like his own tint — obviously growing in steadily. Its hair, only a few strands put sticking out wildly, were a mix of Abi’s brown with reddish highlights. The facial and jaw structure almost instantly gave away the gender.
“Congradulations, Mr. MacIsaac — you have a daughter,” the doctor proudly announced, and held out the kitten for him to take.
Jake, immediately feeling the call to be a responsible father, did the appropriate thing for a responsible father and role model to do — he fainted.
Abi was forced — welcomed back into a tired consciousness by a soft kiss on her cheek, and a feeling of a shaking paw grasping hers. The only sounds were of a gentle murmur of a kitten’s purring estatically.
“Hey,” she looked up to see Jake beaming, stroking her arm with his free paw — in the other held a tiny bundle. “How’re you feeling?”
“Soar,” she muttered. Her eyes still looked glazed over from the sedative, but she was still rather aware. “And who’s this? C’mon — I want to see my daughter.”
Jake affectionately placed the kitten beside Abi in the bed, still wrapped protectively in a blanket. He opened his mouth suddenly, “Hey, how did you know she was going to be a girl — I mean, you were unconscious when — ” He shook his head as realization hit him. “You knew — how long did you know?”
“Jake,” she said softly, holding the kitten while it purred. “I had that vision a long time ago. You just said you wanted it to be a surprise.” She grinned, and stared down at the curious face looking up at her, “What are we going to name her?”
“I-I was thinking about it while you were still asleep . . . how about Sarah?”
“Sarah was my grandmother’s name,” pulling the kitten tighter. “What do you think, huh? You have to live with it.” The kitten giggled as her mother probed her with his paw, discovering easily her tickilish areas.
“Abi!” the sun was down now, and the familiar, low voice of the leader gargoyle sounded as he poked in through the window. “How is she?”
“Wha — ?” Jake’s draw dropped. “Was I the only one who didn’t know it was a girl?”
Thoran laughed, and with Abi’s permissive gesture picked up the kitten with both his paws, “Most likely — at least when you live among vilthurils.” He held her up. “And what is her name?”
“We were just discussing it. How does Sarah sound?”
He made a funny face, which made the kitten laugh joyously, “Sarah MacIsaac, Sarah Clawson . . . it fits. Sarah MacIsaac, the daughter of Ecuador and a vilthuril,” he laughed heartily. “I wonder what will become of her.”
Thoran was climbing his way out of the hospital room by way of window later that evening when Abi and the child both had to be put to rest, and he saw the distant, purple-clad figure on the roof — whom he promptly flew up to when he could get a good glide under the strong winds.
“How is the child?” Sauraman asked immediately.
“She is . . . as expected.”
“Does she still reek of faery magic, or did it wear off after childbirth?”
He sighed, “It remains — and it is not decreasing.”
The Isatari sorcerer nodded, “Have you told them?”
“Abi is so sick from surgery, and Jake has this fatherly glow — I could not bring myself. Not yet.”
“Aye,” Sauraman crossed his arms, and looked out over the edge. “So what does the future of this child bring us, vilthuril?”
“Too many things to speak of, Sauraman,” Thoran rubbed his beard thoughtfully. “Too many things.
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