Original SWAT Kats Story

The Struggle Within

By DJ Clawson & Kage

  • 1 Chapter
  • 11,185 Words

Based off of the events of a SK RPG. Mike McKatson is off on a desperate search to seek help for Jonathan Weissman, who has been drugged with a deadly serum and, without help, who’s mental deterioration is becoming uncontrollable.

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Author's Notes:

This fan fiction is based off of the Role Playing Game log started on October 5th, 1997. The players were Jonathan “Underdog” Weissman (played by DJ Clawson) and Michael “Kage” McKatson (played by Kage), with a cameo by Abby “Strike” Furrson (played by Strike).

In a previous RPG, Jonathan was kidnapped by Dr. Leitch, a scientist working for a government-funded research company called Gen-Tech. Over ten years ago, Gen-Tech performed experiments on Jonathan that eventually caused his powers he used to become Underdog. Leitch had Jonathan kidnapped and brought back to the lab, only to be injected to a chemical meant to destroy his powers. He escaped with the help of his friends, but Kage noticed a change in him the others didn’t see …

<djclawson@garden.net> <kage@voyager.net>

Jonathan Weissman yawned as he slowly walked up to Kage’s estate. He hadn’t been able to sleep well since Friday’s experience at Gen-Tech, plagued by forgotten memories of Dr. Leitch and experimental serums. Maybe what his kat friend would have to say would take his mind off things.

<I gotta get me a place like this someday,> he thought to himself, slipping in through the gate of the ostentatious manor house. Entering the door, he was quick to duck sideways to avoid the can of Mountain Dew flying past him at lightening speed.

“Hey, Jon!” came Kage’s booming voice. “I’m in the den. Just keep walking straight and watch out for the laser beam!”

<Not a bit paranoid, are we, Mike?> Jonathan mused, jumping the electronic laser beam in the hallway and landing in the den. “Hey Mike.”

The massive tabby kat was on his armchair, a pair of darts in paw. On the wall across from him, off course, was a dart board with a particular enforcer’s picture on it.

“Nice picture of Steel there,” Jon remarked slyly.

Kage laughed, “Aw. He gave me a speeding ticket.”

<What else?> “I can tell. How’s Jessica?” He was referring, of course, to the previous night’s hysteria involving a drug deal gone horribly wrong. “That whole drug dealing business get cleaned up?”

“She’s fine. Far as I can tell, though, we still have a lot of work left to do.”

“Took care of She-bayne?”

Kage shrugged, “Kinda.”

“Oh — sorry I had to leave last night. Headache, you know,” he began to explain. “You see, while you were fighting her, I could this Agent in Black sneaking out of your house.”

“Shit. What happened?”

Jonathan seated himself on the couch next to Kage, “I think she stole some kitchen knives, sorry. I tried to stop her,” he shrugged. “She had a tranc gun?”

Kage looked about, “AGH! My collection of Hibben’s Throwers!”

The dawg was taken back, “Woah — sorry. You were kinda caught up slicing into She-Bayne’s stomach when it happens, so I didn’t feel compelled to bother you about it.”

“It’s all right,” he muttered. “I’ll just have to fly over and get new ones.”

“Fly over? Where?”

Kage smiled, “TO Hibben’s House of course.”

“Where’s Hibben’s?”

“Europe.”

Jonathan blinked, “Oh. So … you wanted to talk to me about something?”

Kage immediately looked uncomfortable, pulling at the back of his black silk shirt collar — not a characteristic of Kage, “Umm, yeah, I did.”

“What is it?”

The kat looked at Jonathan, visibly steeling himself for whatever was coming, “I’m umm … afraid I have bad news for you.”

“What?”

“Um … it’s about when the black operations group kinda got you.”

Jonathan still didn’t see where Kage was going, “What, on Friday? What about it?”

“Yeah, it’s kinda a long story … but the drugs they injected you with … err … well, it’s not going to be pretty.”

The dawg blinked, “What do you mean — it’s now going to be _pretty_?”

“Umm … well not quite your … kinda going to develop mental problems from those drugs err … far as I can tell.”

Interested, Jonathan probed, “Go on.” <Is this kat dillusional?>

“Well, you kinda see, I got sucked into the future to fight Snarl who came back with an army … wait, I know it sounds crazy but, well … Sergo was involved and that’s all you really need to get wild like that.”

“_Okaaayy_,” Jonathan said in disbelief. “Slow down, buddy. So you went into the future … and I’m assuming _I_ was there?”

“Sergo had a time machine. He sucked me into the future and you were there. You were … well … kinda having more than one thought about everything. It’s hard I know, but you had an extra Jon or two in your head.”

“Extra Jon or two in my head? Did you speak to me — I mean the future me? What did I say to you?” <This kat is _definitely_ dillusional>

Kage continued, “You kinda had a break down and attacked the SWAT Kats. You nearly killed a few of us I might add.”

“But you spoke with me? In the future?” Strangely, Jonathan felt himself pale.

“You said you had schizophrenia in the little bit you told me. I know how it goes.”

He felt himself pale further, “Oh my G-d … and you think the drug Leitch gave me did this?”

“It’s okay, Jon. You didn’t hurt anyone. From what I gathered in the future, yes, I think it did, though you didn’t actually say it.”

“_Oh my G-d_ … ,” Jonathan ran his paws through his thin hair.

Kage got up and sat himself next to his dawg friend, holding his shoulders firmly, “It’ll be okay. I think you’ll get help for what happened and the future isn’t set in stone. You might be able to beat it before it ever happens.” He muttered, “Like I had to.”

Jonathan removed his glasses, rubbing his eyes, “Thanks. It’s just like … G-d, it’s like being told you have cancer or something.”

He muttered, now louder, “I know what it’s like — believe me, I do. You’re in for rough times, my friend. All you can do is fight and hope.”

Jonathan leaned more on the huge kat, “There has be something … ”

Kage looked down as a tear fell from his eye and landed on Jonathan’s flat head. He laughs suddenly, “You know, it’s kinda eerie.”

“What, staring at the top of my head?”

He sighed, “No, just remembering the last time I cried — or tried to. It was a long time ago.”

“I guess that’s a good thing — I mean that it’s been so long. Haven’t had much to cry about.”

Kage shook his head, “No, it’s really not. It’s probably unhealthy to hold it all in. At least that’s what Dr. Gabriel used to say.”

“Dr. Gabriel?”

He looked embarrassed, and froze instantly.

“Who’s Dr. Gabriel?”

“Umm … no one.”

“No, really — who is it?”

Kage blushed, “He was my psychiatrist a long time ago.”

“Why is that so embarrassing? I’ll probably need him soon, if what you tell me is true.” Since Kage seemed to be in one of his rarer open moments, the dawg decided to probe this new development.

“Well … umm … I wasn’t always quite this sane.”

Jonathan smiled warily, “No one is really who they were in the past, Kage.” He replaced his glasses on his snout.

“Well, I like you now, and I don’t want to lose that, so I’ll hope the future you I saw is wrong.”

The dawg thought, “There might be someone, though — to get me checked out physically before I jump on the therapy couch. One of the doctors at Gen Tech … back when I was ten and they were doing the experiments with the serum … Dr. Roberts. He left Gen Tech after the project was terminated, I think. he might have his own lab by now.”

“I hope for your sake. The future is going to get ugly if it’s not changed. I could probably find him if you wanted.”

“Yeah. I would appreciate it if you could check up on that for me,” he said curiously. “You have a lot of contacts, I take it.”

Kage, however, was already standing in front of the phone with a black book in his paw, “Just tell ’em who it is.” He flipped through the book and looked at Jonathan.”

“Dr. Daniel Roberts.”

The kat dialed, and started talking with an unidentified person on the other line. Roberts’ name was mentioned a few times before he hung up. “There — it’s in good paws now.”

Jonathan, how was waiting patiently, hesitated, “If I go to see him … ”

“Yesss?”

” … will you go with me? I don’t have any … family, and I don’t want to do this alone.”

Kage nodded, “I’m here for you. I don’t have so many friends that I can’t take care of them.”

He smiled, Thanks.”

The huge kat sat back down, apparently mulling over an earlier question, “Oh, and I don’t have many contacts, but Dragon Intelligence is the best there is.”

Jonathan, feeling a lighter subject coming on, was now curious, “What kind of business are you in, anyway? You live like Bruce Wayne, for G-d’s sakes.”

“I’m not — anymore, anyway.”

“Fine — what kind of business _were_ you in?”

Kage, apparently still in the open mood, spoke haltingly, “I used to kill people. I was a mercenary, and a good one, too.”

Jonathan blinked, “Oh.” <Okaaay>

He smiled ferally, “Don’t spread that around. Manx would have a heart attack if he knew where all those campaign contributions really came from.”

The dawg laughed. Kage spoke more pleasantly, “Well, you did ask.”

Jonathan, still sensing unease, decided to even the score, “I’ve done some things I’m not … proud of.”

“We all have, Jon — G-ds knows I’m not proud of some of things I’ve done.”

“I just thought I’d even it up,” he admitted, painfully. He knew it was hard on his friend to reveal so much, and he wanted to secrets between them. “I sold some drugs … back before my Pizza Cat Delivery job. My pills … I you take out the inside, there’s a white powder that can give a normal kat or dawg a “high.” He continued shamefully, “And I sold that.”

Kage, surprisingly, laughed heartily, “So did Jubei ever rip you off for pocket change?” He hugged him, trying to make the uneasy dawg feel better.

Jonathan chuckled, “No, never did. This a while back.”

“It’s okay, Jon — at least you never killed anyone,” his finger traced a scar on his cheek and Jonathan knew there was a story there.

“Where’d you get the scar?”

“In a fight … a while ago and far away.”

Jonathan was about to speak when he heard the phone ring. Kage immediately grabbed the phone to answer it. He talked a while, nodding, then hung up.

“I know where Roberts is. He has a private clinic and lab in Canada,” he smiled jokingly. “You’re going to foot the bill for this one, Jon.”

Jon mockingly dug into his jeans, “Let’s see … umm … two dollars … no wait, three. Bills are kinda crumpled, though. And here’s .42 cents … How much was it?”

Kage just laughed harder, “Don’t worry about it, Jon. I was only kidding. Wasn’t bad — only $500 dollars. Usually it costs more.”

Jonathan choked.

“In fact, it’s not even pocket change,” Kage pulled out his wallet and tossed it to the dawg.

Jonathan opened it, “Picture of Jessica, picture of Jessica … oh look, another picture of Jessica — ”

Kage looked chagrined, “Well, gee, how did those get in there — ”

“How surprising,” Jonathan remarked, then found the money slit. “Oh my _G-d_ …” He was looking at ten $500 bills and five $100 bills. He handed it back to Kage. <I need more rich friends> “You really like Jessica, don’t you?”

Kage took it back, placing the wallet in his pocket without looking, “If you ever need something just ask, and yes, there was only one other person I cared about that much — ever.”

“And that other person being … ?”

“Dead.”

“I see.”

Kage looked shaken, “Don’t worry about it — I’m over it.” He muttered, “Mostly.”

——-

Two weeks had passed since they had spoke, and Kage was concerned for his friend. If his gamble about the future was correct, Jonathan was beginning to deteriorate — all the was left was how well he was managing to hide it from the SWAT Kats and other salvage yard residents. After going out to get some milk and finding the store closed, he decided to stop by the yard for a check-up.

He pulled up to the yard and walked in slowly, feeling relaxed for once, “_Heeeeeelllllloooo_?”

Jonathan’s voice came from upstairs, “Oh, Mike. Come in.”

Kage walked in the room, almost busting the door down, “Hey, Jon — how are ya?”

The dawg was sitting in front his dresser, looking at his forelorn self in the mirror, “Woah. Easy on the door, Kage.” He smiled warily.

“Oops,” he muttered. “Cheap hollow door — they just don’t make things like they used to.”

“Nice to see you.”

Kage smiled and pounced Jon, pinning him to the bed and tickling him, “You look like you need to be cheered up, pal.”

Jonathan laughed, and pulled him off weakly.

The burly kat sighed, You don’t look so hot. You okay?”

“Yes,” he lied, sitting up uneasily. The bags under his eyes and his twitchy manner down Kage another story, and he read it in his friend’s eyes. “No, Mike — it’s okay.” He said defensively, “I’m not sick.”

“It’s alright, Jon. I told you we’d go find this doctor of yours.”

“_No_,” he replied angrily, then calmed himself. “I’ll be okay.”

“Jon, as your friend I’m telling you that you look pretty bad. You should go see someone. I could make Dr. Gabriel come over and talk if you want — it might help.”

He frowned, “No, no, no — I’m okay. I just can’t … damnit … I can’t get to work. I can’t pay attention. I just know I’m gonna lose my job again.”

“Say, Jon — I saw the future, remember? The sooner you get help the better your chances of kicking this thing’s tail are.” He sat down beside him, squeezing his shoulder, “Look, I know how hard it is, honestly. I’ve been there. You’re depressed — that’s why you can’t concentrate.”

Jonathan hesitated, “Can we go to his office or something? I don’t want him to come here. I don’t want the others to know — not yet.”

“I’ve been there, Jon. It hurts. It’s scary, I know, but getting some help might help.”

“Alright,” Jonathan stood. “Let’s go.”

Kage looked relieved, “Thank you, Jon. I was worried. Are you sure you don’t want me to have him make a house call?”

“No,” he replied firmly.

“Alright, Jon. I’ll go down and start the car and call ahead. You … umm, get ready.”

“Right.”

As Kage went down stairs, calling up on his cell phone, Jonathan went into the bathroom. He cleaned his glasses and washed his face, trying to look as clean and kept as possible in his state. He slipped downstairs, careful not to wake Abby on the couch, and walked outside to find Kage’s care running.

“Ready.”

Wondering why Kage had a car that sounded like a few dozen Harley Davidsons, Jonathan stepped in the car and rested his head against the window. He instantly began to space out. Kage smiled at this, nailing the engine as the speedometer shot up. After cruising at over a hundred miles an hour, they were beyond city limits in no time. Kage was silent as he pulled up at a ranch house, far outside the city.

Jonathan didn’t get out of the car, nor did he seem to notice their arrival. Kage got out, walked around, and opened the passenger side, immediately calling the dawg’s attention. He had been leaning too hard, and the car door’s opening caused him to fall out the side, only to be caught by Kage.

He of course snapped out of it, “Woah … thanks. I just kinda … lost it there.”

“It’s okay, Jon.”

The dawg looked at the ranch house as he came to his own feet, “I don’t want to do this, Mike.”

He looked at Jonathan, “If you don’t want to, don’t, but it’ll only get worse without help, I’m afraid.”

Jonathan inhaled, “Okay.” He approached the door, ringing the doorbell.

He heard a sound from inside, “I’m coming!” Moments later a greying kat appeared, and seeing who was at his doorstop, smiled warmly, “Hello, Michael.”

Kage returned the smile, “Hi, doctor. This is my friend Jon.”

Jonathan smiled, “Hi, doctor.”

“I see. Come in.”

Kage nudged his friend in, “We, umm, I know it’s short notice, but my friend needs help.” He muttered something about the tiny door as he rubbed his shoulder against the frame.

Dr. Gabriel beckoned them to sit as he chuckled at Kage, which Jonathan did nervously, “And what seems to be the problem?”

“Well,” Kage began. “It’s a really long story, but my friend here was exposed to an experimental drug and I have reason to believe it will erode his sanity, and he’s already feeling very depressed.”

“I see,” Dr. Gabriel turned to Jonathan in a friendly manner, “Well, let’s have a look at you.” The doctor pulled out a pen light and began checking out the dawg’s eyes, nose, throat, etc. Kage sighed, hoping it would help. Gabriel continued his examination, but spoke clearly to Kage, “And how are _you_, Michael? I haven’t heard from you in a while.”

“Well, actually, I found some friends and got active again. I feel much better now.”

He smiled, “That’s terrific.”

“It is, however, a pleasure seeing you again.”

Gabriel checked under Jon’s eyes, “And she-kats in your life, my boy?”

Jonathan beat him to the punch, “Yeah, he’s got one.”

Kage smiled happily, “And a fiery one, too. I couldn’t have asked for more.”

“Funny word there … fiery …”

Gabriel laughed at the dawg’s comment, then put away his pen light, “Alright … I’m going to need to give Jonathan here a complete examination.”

Kage sighed, “I was afraid of that. Try not to go rectal on him; he’s had a rough day.”

“C’mon, Jonathan,” Gabriel tugged gently on Jonathan’s arm, pulling in into another room. The nervous dawg shot Kage an agitated look, but obeyed.

“Don’t worry, Jon,” Kage assured, smiling. “He’s the best.”

Dr. Gabriel closed the door to the private room, leaving Kage to wait in his den. The kat sat patiently for a while, listening to Jonathan’s voice — mainly muffled by the closure of the door, until it began to rise. The words were still for the most part incoherent, but there was obvious anger as he shouted at Gabriel. Minutes passed and he calmed down again, to the relief of Kage. Finally, Dr. Gabriel emerged alone from the room.

Kage looked up, “Yes?”

Gabriel looked exhausted, “He’s resting. I gave him a little sedative to calm him down.”

He blinked, “what happened?”

“He’s just … ,” Gabriel sat.”

“Yes?”

“He’s deteriorating — and he realizes it. Maybe only subconsciously, but he does. It’s frightening him.”

“I know. Damn black operations creeps.”

Gabriel sighed, “I could treat him for his symptoms … but the condition needs to be attacked head on. I’m just a psychiatrist, not a neurologist. He needs someone to look at the physical side of this. Something’s causing this deterioration, and it’s not something psychological.”

“Well … he did mention a black operations doctor that cared for him the first time they had him. I had the guy looked up — maybe he could help?”

He nodded, “He should see him immediately. I can give him medication to try to slow the process in the meantime … but he needs serious help.”

“An antidepressant?”

“Of sorts.”

Kage nodded grimly, “Well, then it looks like a road trip.”

Gabriel went to a locked cabinet, opened it, and handed Kage a few pill bottles, “Give him these, and don’t let him miss any.”

Kage tucked them away, “I won’t.”

“He should be watched — carefully.”

He nodded again, “I know. That’s why I forced him out here.”

“He should be awake now. You can go in,” he stopped. “And Michael … ”

“Yes?”

“I want to thank you for bringing him here, because he can’t do it himself — at least not yet.”

Kage shook his head, “No, it’s me who owes you one, Doc. If you ever need any funding or anything just let me know. You didn’t have to help or take us at home on your vacation, but you did and I owe you one for helping my friend.”

Gabriel nodded, “You’re welcome.”

“Like I said, I owe you one. All you have to do is ask — I always pay my debts.” Kage stepped into the examination room, finding Jonathan on the couch. “Well, Jon — you okay?”

Jonathan looked up groggily, “Wah … ,” Still disoriented, he sat up. “Yeah … I’ll be okay.”

Kage pulled out one of the bottles and looked over it, then handed a set of three gigantic pills to Jonathan.

“What’s this?”

“The good doc said these will help until I can get you to Roberts.”

Jonathan hesitated, then put them in his mouth, “Let’s go.” He stood, noticing Gabriel. “Thanks, doc.”

Kage led them into the front of the house, opening the door and muttering about the size again, “Coming, Jon?” The dawg immediately followed him.

Gabriel watched them leave, “Take care of him, Michael.”

Kage fired up the engine of the car, waving, I will.”

“You seem to be doing enough of a job with yourself.”

The two friends got in the car, Jonathan now curious as the kat pulled out of the driveway, “What’d he say to you?”

“That there is a physical side to your deterioration.”

“Not surprising.”

“And that you need to get that treated quickly. And that I need to watch you and that these pills might help.”

The dawg frowned, “Roberts’ it is then?”

Kage pulled out onto the highway, giving the car a little gas,” Yeah, it looks like we’re off to Canada, my friend.” “We’ll call Abby at least, okay? We should really tell someone where we’re going.”

Kage handed him his cell phone, “Here — why don’t you call her now?”

Jonathan dialed, and not receiving an answer, heard the answering machine beep, “Hi, this is me. You’ve reached the number you’ve dialed. If you’re trying to reach me, you can leave a message, or dial the other number that I gave you if I felt you were important enough. If this is an emergency, call 911.”

He spoke after the tone, “Hey Abby — it’s Jonathan. Kage and I are going to Canada to find Dr. Roberts. He’s gonna help me with some … err … problems. Give Kage a call on his cell phone number when you get a chance. We’ll be in touch.” He hung up and handed the phone back to Kage, “Thanks.”

Kage folded it and tucked it away. He pulled out the inside of his door and removed two bottles of Mountain Dew, one of which he handed to Jonathan with a few more pills.

“Umm … thanks,” the dawg swallowed the pills and the soda.

Kage smiled and leaned back, watching the road between his paws and steering with them. Through the wheel, one could see they were moving about 130 miles per hour on the speedometer.

“So … Mike …,” Jonathan said after a period of silence. He didn’t want to think about being sick, and had to get his mind off of it desperately.

“Yeah?”

“How’d you get into the vigilante business. I mean, a … err … retired mercenary such as yourself.”

“Kinda drove by a mugging and decided that I needed a little fun. At the time I was almost hoping that one of the punks would off me — I was really depressed then, but it felt so good — the combat, that is — that I started looking for more.”

Jonathan let it sink in, “Umm … I suppose that’s a good thing — that he didn’t off you, I mean. I retired for a little while, too.”

“Yeah — I understand.”

“I don’t really understand why the hell I’m back in the super hero business, but …” he shrugged.

“I used to have the handle Phoenix because I raised myself from my own ashes when I first became a merc.”

“What ashes?”

“Those of my childhood.”

He nodded, “Sounds like we have something in common.”

“My dad died when I was ten, my mom before I can even remember her.”

“I think that was why I became a super hero — to escape real life. It was like a fantasy, when I started when I was ten. Fly off, save the world, rescue the reporter, et cetera.”

“You hardly knew your parents, then. I was close to my father. He always loved me. He was murdered — the enforcers said it was suicide, but I s-saw the body. He was tied into that chair when the McKatson Tech building burnt.”

“So why did the enforcers think it was suicide?”

“I think someone bought them off. It’s a long story.”

Jonathan leaned back against the seat, “I’m sorry, man.”

“It’s okay, Jon,” Kage said, regaining some composture.

“We need some music,” he broke the tension. “I don’t want to think about death right now.”

Kage thumbed the CD player in his dashboard. Led Zeppelin Four began to play loudly.

Jonathan’s baggy black ears curled up instantly, “Woah. Easy on the supersensitive hearing there … ”

The kat smiled a little, turning it down a hair and humming along with the music. He began to sing along, wrapped up in it like it brought him inner peace somehow.

———

Abby Furrson was awoken suddenly by the sound of her phone ringing. She rolled over, grabbing it, “At the tone, the time will be 2 Am — WHAT!?”

Jonathan’s voice came over the phone, “Hi, Abby. I’m at rest stop in one of those big, empty, flat states.”

“That would be Nebraska — ”

” — not exactly.”

“Hi, Jon. Need sugar for your newest cake?”

“Not exactly. I just wanted you to know Kage and I will be out of town for a while. We’re not dealing drugs or anything, so don’t get any funny ideas.”

“Okay … big, empty, flat … don’t drink the water, right?”

“We’re going North, not South.”

“So don’t drink the beer?”

“Umm … too late …,” Jonathan laughed. “Kage would say hi if he wasn’t napping … with his head in the nachos, actually. Cheese doesn’t stick in facial fur, does it?”

“Umm … as long as you’re not sleeping in it.”

“You wouldn’t know of any magic items usually found in a glove compartment of a car that would remove cheese, now would you?”

Abby yawned, “Only wd40.”

“What? I’m just saying I don’t want to be around when Kage wakes up here, but he’s kinda my ride …”

“That spray can of stuff you use to unstick things. wd40. Mostly car things, actually. Kage is a man. He can take it.”

“What if it gets in his eyes?”

“Well, then he’ll blink that much easier.”

Jonathan laughed, “I’ll give it a shot.”

“No, give it a spray!”

“Er, good point,” he noted. “If anyone from the Samurai Pizza Parlor calls the yard, I’m out on sick leave.”

“Gee … you could use that excuse any day.”

“Yeah … look, I’ll explain it later.”

“Ack. Well, good luck. Call if you need an emergency favor.”

“Sure, thanks … uh, I’d better go now. I think Kage is startin’ to wake up.”

Abby heard the sound of the phone disconnect, “Huh? Bye.”

——-

Abby had gotten up only minorly successfully to wash her face, and had almost fallen asleep in the bathroom when she heard the phone ring, “Uh…”

“Sorry. I forgot. You might want to take that P&B pie out of the oven before it gets overbaked.”

“Whose oven?”

“Mine.”

“Ah. You mean the one at the garage?”

“Yeah. I had to go to see the psychiatrist, and then I forgot it — uh oh. Hold on.” There was a moment of silence before his voice came on the line again, “Sorry, Kage just walked by. Had to duck. He’s still kinda mad at me.”

“Uh oh. Did the wd40 work?”

“Yeah … _too_ well.”

Abby chuckled, “Uh oh.”

“And he’s got my pills, too. Darnit!”

“Ack. Better go get hi.”

“Yeah, I know. See ya, and enjoy the pie!”

“Bye.”

——

The trip continued, across the border without a problem. Jonathan continued to nervously sip his Mountain Dew, listening to the Metallica he put in the CD player, and spacing out.

He looked up at Kage uneasily, “Are we there yet?”

Kage, meanwhile, was flying down the highway at least three times the speed limit, jamming a little, “We’re almost there!”

“Hooboy,” he replied nervously, watching the clinic come into view as Kage pulled up. He slid through the gates of the lab in a cloud of white smoke with a lurid powerdrift to parallel park without using reverse. Kage hopped out, dragging Jonathan out before he had a chance to hesitate.

“I don’t want to do this … G-d …”

“You have to. I’ve seen your future. This should help,” he said in encouragement, nudging him in the door.

“Could you put my name in for me?”

He nodded, and walked up to the desk as Jonathan sat down in the reception area, “Hey, is there a Dr. Roberts here?”

The receptionist replied sternly, “Do you have an appointment? Dr. Roberts is a very busy kat.”

Kage looked mad, “No, I don’t need an appointment. If you don’t tell him that Jon is here to see him — and he will want to see Jon — then I’ll buy this damn lab out lock, stock, and barrel, and fire you myself.”

She was taken back, “I’ll call him and ask him if he wants to see “Jon”, and then I’m calling the cops.”

He shrugged as the receptionist called up Roberts on the intercom.

The doctor’s soft voice came on the intercom, “Jon who?”

Kage replied, “Weissman.”

“That’s impossible,” he had heard him. “The dawg you’re speaking about has been dead for over ten years. Tell him to get out.”

The burly kat looked very immovable, “Jon, get over here. This is your friend.”

Jonathan looked frightened, “Just tell him I’m alive.”

The receptionist spoke back into the intercom, “He’s being insistent, doctor.”

Kage spoke into the intercom, looking at Jonathan, “He seems quite alive to me.”

Roberts’ voice returned, “Hold on.” Moments later, a brown kat emerged from behind a door, “Excuse me, Mr. –” His color drained as he saw Jonathan, however. “Oh my G-d …”

Jonathan smiled as best he could, “Hi, doc.”

“You’re … _alive_,” Roberts hugged him. “They told me you were killed.”

“Yeah, well … they thought I was.”

Kage folded his arms on his thick chest, watching the reunion.

Jonathan continued, “Sorry we didn’t call ahead. This is my friend Mike McKatson.” He indicated Kage.

Dr. Roberts offered a paw to Kage, “Sorry about the confusion.”

Kage smiled and shook his par firmly, “Don’t worry about it.”

“Did you say your name was McKatson?” he blinked.

He nodded, “Yeah.”

“Have we met? You name sounds familiar somewhere.”

“No. I would remember you, I believe.”

“Yes, so would I. Strange.”

Kage shrugged, “And I suggest that this conversation be moved.”

“Yes, it should,” Roberts led them into his office, turning to the problem at hand. “Anyway … how are you, Jonathan?”

The dawg frowned, “I need your help.”

“What’s the trouble?”

Jonathan spoke uneasily, “Mike … could you explain –”

He sighed, “Well, it’s a long story.” Sitting, “You see, a Dr. L or something recently injected Jon with a drug — the black opps were involved.”

“Dr. Leitch?” he turned to Jon. “Do they know you’re alive?”

“Unfortunately.”

Kage nodded, “Well, you see, do to the joys of a time machine I’ve been to the future, where Jon is rather insane because of the drug Leitch gave him.”

Roberts blinked, “I take it he’s begun to show … signs of this?”

“It’s getting worse quickly,” he nodded again.

“And you think I can do something for this? It’s been a long time since I’ve even seen Jonathan.”

“I know you can do something. Someone did in the future — it wasn’t a cure but it kept him on this side of sane — just barely.”

Roberts paced, thinking hard.

Kage continued, “And I believe it was you who did so.”

“I can certainly take a look at him.”

Jonathan smiled, “Thanks.”

——

Kage occupied himself in the office somehow, sprawled out over the couch, before Roberts emerged, carrying with him various x-rays and MRI scans. He began to study them at his desk, scratching his head. The burly kat stretched out, then began to look at the test results himself over the doctor’s shoulder.

Roberts, seeing the interest sparked, pointed to the brain x-ray, “There’s definite deterioration here … but I can’t tell how much. His whole brain is … mutated from whatever he’s been taking for so many years for his serum addiction.” He added guiltily, “The serum addiction I gave him.”

Kage nodded, having a tiny bit of medical background from his past to almost understand, “Say, it’s not your fault, and he’s gained a little from it as well.”

“It _is_ my fault. I took advantage of a homeless, clueless dawg for the sake of science. For years I’ve tried to justify it, but I’ve never been able to.”

The bigger kat shook his head, “That was in the past. What _you_ did was misguided, but what Leitch did was evil because he knew what he was doing and felt no remorse.”

“I suppose you could look at it that way — but that doesn’t help Jonathan,” he braced himself. “Maybe I still can.”

“I know you can or I wouldn’t have brought him here.”

“Listen … I think I can make up something … to try to lessen the effect of the drug Dr. Leitch gave him. I’m not sure what it did because I don’t have any scans of Jonathan from before it was given, but I can guess.”

He nodded, “I could pay to research a total cure if you need the money. I’d like you do look into it for a while at least.”

“There’s no time for research. We have to slow this deterioration process or it will become unstoppable,” he added softly. “If it isn’t already.”

Kage shook his head, “Later, after you slow it. I’d pay for you to try to find a cure if you think there’s any chance.”

“A cure? To what? These mutations are not a disease. They’re the only way his brain knows how to grow,” he continued. “What I can give him now … will stop only the deterioration. Permanently, there’s no way to tell. But we’ll have to wait and see. What does he take to sustain himself when he’s healthy? For his serum addiction? A pill?”

“Yes, a pill.”

“What kind of pill?”

Kage shrugged, “One from his ring.”

“And how long can he go — without this pill?”

“A couple hours longer, but then he’s in pain.”

Roberts frowned, “You think he can go through with it, though? He needs my medication by IV for at least three hours.”

“I hope so. It’ll be tough on him, though.”

“I’m afraid this is the only way. I’d like to start the IV immediately tomorrow morning, right after the last of his pill’s effects wear off.”

Kage sighed loudly and nodded, “I’ll stay with him.”

“Can you break it to him? He’s down the hall, in one of the private patient rooms.”

Jonathan was setting in the chair next to the bed of his room, dressed now in a hospital gown and looking drained from either the tests, his sickness, or both. He watched expectantly as his friend entered the room.

Kage sat down on the bed, facing him and looking in him in the eye, “Jon, I need to talk.”

“What is it? Can he help me?”

“The doctor thinks he can stop the deterioration, but it has to be now, a-and — ”

“And?”

“You’re going to have to be off your pill to take what he has for several hours at least.”

Jonathan visibly paled, “Is there any other way?”

“I don’t think so, Jon,” Kage sighed. “I wish you’d told me more in the future.”

He steeled himself, “Okay. I’ll do it.”

“Good,” relief flooded Kage’s face.

——

Twelve hours later, their positions had changed. Jonathan was now in the bed, strapped down and amply secured. Kage sat beside him in the chair, talking idly to him to pass the time.

Jonathan began to squirm, “What time is it?”

“It’s ten, Jon. You have just a bit longer to go.”

He moaned softly and leaned back against the pillow, “Damn.”

Before either could say something, Dr. Roberts walked in, carrying a manila folder, and turned to Kage, “How is he doing?” He checked the IV, adjusting the rate of the drip a little as he noticed Jonathan’s growing discomfort.

“Good so far.”

“Mr. McKatson …” Roberts began uneasily.

“Yes?”

“I’m afraid I have something to confess to you,” he held up the folder. “I did some checking — your name sounded too familiar.”

Kage sighed, “Look, I told you that Jon isn’t your fault … what?”

“Mr. McKatson — or may I call you Michael?”

“Yeah, go ahead. It’s what my friends call me anyway.”

“Michael … have you ever experienced any major physical problems in your life? Abnormal growth? Disease?”

“No,” he looked suspicious. “Why?”

“Have you ever experienced any … mental problems?”

“Yeah, a few. Why?”

Roberts scratched his head, “Interesting … Now, before I explain this to you, you have to understand — I was new at Gen-Tech … twenty-two years ago.”

Kage looked a little upset and confused, “What are you talking about?”

Jonathan watched, beginning to wince in pain, with interest.

“Twenty-two years ago, Gen-Tech was a small group of not-well-funded scientists working out of hospital — a public medical hospital.”

“Yes??”

“As Jonathan can attest to, Gen-Tech has always been concerned with experimental serums.”

Kage looked up at the doctor, “And?”

“We used to — actually, I wasn’t directly involved — _they_ used to experiment with serums … but test subjects were hard to find.”

He snarled, “What exactly are you telling me?”

“They turned to using subjects who would be unaware … like newborn kittens. What hospital were you born in, Michael?”

He shrugged, “I don’t know. I’d imagine a private one, why?”

“Michael, you were born twenty-two years ago in St. Barnabas Hospital — Gen-Tech’s only source of a research facility,” he handed him the folder.

Kage looked up again, his face more than a little pale.

“I remembered your name because I was new to the group,” Roberts continued, “and you were my first assignment.”

The burly kat numbly removed the file and read it over.

“It was strictly observation — for me, anyway. I wasn’t the one who gave you the serums …,” he spoke slightly defensively.

Kage snarled, hurling the papers at the doctor as hard as he could, “WWWWHHHHHAAAATTT…”

Jonathan spoke up weakly, “Mike, don’t hurt him.”

Roberts had his paws full cowering, “I’m sorry, but — it’s true.”

Kage pulled his lips back in a feral smile, still snarling, “Oh, I won’t hurt him. But you’d better talk fast, doctor.”

“It’s all true, I’m sorry. But there’s nothing I can do. The serum’s been in your system for years.”

Kage suddenly deflated at the sight of the old kat cowering, “Why? And what makes you think it had any effect on me anyway?”

“I’m not saying it did. The experiment _wasn’t_ a success. I’m just saying it happened.”

“Then why did you bring it up? For honesty’s sake?”

“Y-Yes.”

“What was this serum that they injected me with? And what would have happened if you had seen a change?”

“It was … it was a growth serum,” Roberts explained. “It shouldn’t’ have effected your mentally, but that was always a possibility.”

Kage shook his head, “I had a few problems because of things that happened to me — nothing more.”

“You’re family genes showed you would be large anyway when fully grown, so we figured if we pushed your growth ahead as a newborn it wouldn’t be noticed as much. And we were right about the genes part … you are a rather imposing figure.”

Kage nodded, “But I’d say your serum was a failure. My father was every bit as big as I am.”

“Yes … I suppose it was … thankfully. But when I pulled up the file and realized who you were, I wanted you to at least _know_ what was done to you.” He shook his head, “The horrors of Gen-Tech must be brought to light.” “Well, now … it looks like I have a score to settle with Gen-Tech now as well, doesn’t it?” he smiled mildly, but it was still among the most terrifying expressions Roberts had ever seen.

“Y-Yes,” Roberts hurriedly checked Jonathan’s IV again, then left the room.

Kage walked back over to Jonathan, “You heard, right?”

The dawg, who hadn’t spoken for several minutes now, reopened his bloodshot eyes, “I’m sorry you had to come here … and find out all that stuff.”

He shook his head, “Don’t worry about it. Just a few more names on the list, that’s all.”

Jonathan winced in pain, “Mike, get me out of here.”

His friend sighed, “Jon, you’re almost done. You’re going to have to stick it out, or I’m afraid if you don’t get this finished you will kill the SWAT Kats in the future. You came close before. Not sticking it out would make things worse.”

“I don’t want to do this,” he began to struggle with his restraints. “I take it back.”

“Jon — stop it.”

His voice gained force, “Let me out.”

“It’s almost over. You’re going to have to hold on unless you want this to get worse than you can imagine. Would you like to kill Abby in thirty years? You might if you don’t stick this out.”

“Mike … please … just take this G-ddamn needle out,” the dawg, in his growing delirium, began to tug at his straps, trying to bite out the IV.

Kage looked at the time, “Just a little bit longer, Jon. I know it hurts, but you have to stick it out.”

“TAKE IT OUT!”

He lowered his ears, watching his friend, “I can’t, Jon. It’s for your own good. You need this to help you.”

“G-D DAMNIT, KAGE!” Jonathan began to bite at his kat friend. Kage did his best to pin him down as the dawg began to lash out, trying to fight him off.

Kage lowered his ears again, looking hurt as he glanced over at the IV bag, hoping to find it almost empty.

“KAGE, if you don’t take the IV OUT NOW –,” he was cut off by a rush of pain, then was able to continued, ” — I’m going to FUCKING KILL YOU.” He kicked Kage’s stomach, hard.

The kat grunted in pain, losing some of his breath but still holding onto Jon very tightly. He maneuvered himself so that he had the dawg entirely pinned down so he couldn’t move at all.

“DAMNIT, KAGE. LET ME –,” he stopped again, cut off by the tremendous pain of withdrawal.

Kage glanced again over at the bag, and cringed. His cheeks were damp, but he held on tightly so Jonathan wouldn’t teat the IV out. Jonathan suddenly collapsed from the struggling position he was in, closing his eyes. Kage held him much more gently now, recognizing he had grown too weak to continue any real struggle.

Jonathan managed to reopen his eyes, now speaking faintly and calmly, “I’m sorry.” With that, he lapsed out entirely, giving in to withdrawal.

Kage had not expected his, and yelled out the door, “Dr. Roberts!”

The doctor came immediately, “My goodness –” He checked the bag, and began to remove the IV. “Do you have his pills? Quickly now, before he slips into a coma.”

He looked at the doctor, “You should give him as much as you can. I’ve seen where this is going.” He handed the ring to the doctor.

“He’s taken all of the medicine,” Roberts opened the ring and removed a pill. “Open his mouth. We have to get him to swallow this somehow. I was just hoping he didn’t lose consciousness before the medicine was done. Try to wake him.”

Kage pried Jonathan’s mouth open as gently as he could, shouting in his ear to wake up. Jonathan began to stir, mumbling something, but did not open his eyes.

Roberts dropped the pill in, “Try to swallow, Jonathan.” He watched the dawg successfully swallow the pill, then turned to Kage, “It’s going to take him a while to react to this. He’s going to need about twenty-four hours before he recovers any of his … powers.”

He nodded, “Will it help him a little straight away, though?”

“The pain should stop in a few minutes, yes.”

“Good.”

“But he’ll be vulnerable, and he’ll be weak until his next pill — which he shouldn’t have until tomorrow morning.”

“Say — when the pain stops, will it be okay to take him home?”

Roberts said, “I’d like to keep him overnight for observation –” he was cut off by the sound of glass breaking. “Now what could that be?”

Before he could respond, a man dressed in black fatigues and bearing an uzi stormed into the room, holding up the gun to Kage and Jonathan. The dawg moaned softly, only partially aware of what was going on.

Roberts paled, “Oh, my …”

Kage snarled, rolling across the door and throwing a chair at the black opps kat. The mysterious kat dodged, shooting at Kage with his uzi. Kage snarled and rolled further, “Darn creeps…”

The kat in black looked unsure of who to shot first — Jonathan, Kage or Roberts. He was distracted again by Kage, though, who charged at him with table. He fired at the table, then leapt up and grabbed the light fixture above him, using it to swing over Kage and land behind him. Kage turned and hit the kat in black with the coffee table, swinging it like a club in both arms. It flung his opponent into the wall, causing the uzi to drop and go off when it hit the ground. Roberts ducked behind the bed Jonathan was still restrained to, cowering for dear life. Kage gave a yelp as several mugs smashed into the back of his armor, cracking a rib. This gave the kat in black enough time to recover and retrieve his uzi.

“Careful, big guy,” the kat in black said to Kage, who was getting ready to hurl what was left of the table at him. He cocked his gun in the direction of Jonathan and Roberts.

He was too late. Kage hurled the table at him, smashing him back against the wall, where he passed out. Kage pulled his gun, aiming the laser sights at the kat in black’s head as he went over and freed Jonathan, “Are you ready to go?”

Roberts cowered, and Jonathan mumbled incoherently, still too distant to understand what was going on as the sounds of boots in the hallway flooded their ears — more kats in black, no doubt.

Roberts turned to Kage, “Get out. I have to face these kats myself. I deserve whatever they want to give me.”

Kage grabbed Roberts’ lab coat and pulled him into the shadows, “No, you don’t. At least you fessed up about things and were honest with me.” He finally convinced Roberts to follow as they slipped out of the building. He tossed them in his car, locking the doors.

“Just drop me off a few blocks down,” Roberts explained. “I have to get my family. They might go for them.”

Kage hopped in the car, starting the engine, which did its usual 80 db roar while idling. Jonathan groaned, being to come to.

“Wha’s goin’ on?”

The kat slung the car into reverse and pealed out, slinging the car around towards the exit, “Trouble, Jon.”

“Black opps?” Jonathan leaned against the back of the seat.

“Yeah.”

Suddenly, behind them, a kat in black appeared, running up beside the car as it pulled out. Kage smiled and reached to the dash, thumbing a red switch that turned on sparkplugs in the exhaust system. He stopped down on the pedal as the engine roared. The turs smoked, and a fourty-foot roster tail of flame engulfed the kat in black. He dropped and started rolling around on the ground screaming like crazy.

Jonathan watched, “Oh my G-d …”

Kage slide the car out, driving like crazy. He dropped Roberts off where he asked.

“Thank you,” the doctor got out. “You’re welcome. You deserve better then black opp’s, doc. Good luck!”

He spoke to Kage quietly, “Don’t let Jonathan do anything to excite him. He’s too weak and he’s vulnerable.”

“I know,” he looked sideways, noticing Jonathan hadn’t heard them. With that he closed the door and drove off slowly into the night, intent on heading home.

“No, Kage –,” Jonathan seemed to sense this. “Don’t go back home. They’ll just follow us. Pull over somewhere — a motel or something.”

The kat sighed, pulling off to a roadside motel, “Jon, I wanted them to follow me so I could make mince meat out of them.”

“Then do it here. Don’t bring this stuff home, or to the yard.”

He shrugged as they got out of the car, “Okay.”

Jonathan stepped out, glancing down at his hospital gown, “Great. We don’t look _too_ weird. A kat wearing body armor and a dawg who looks like he just escaped an asylum.”

Kage went into the motel office, checking in, then stopped in the gift shop before coming back, “I love Canada.” He tossed Jonathan a hockey jersey and a pair mountie pants.

The dawg laughed weakly, “What, no matching read jacket?”

“This was all I could get.”

They entered their motel room, Jonathan changing into the clothes and collapsing on the bed.

Kage smiled and sat down heavily on the bed as well, “You know, Jon — this has been the longest day.”

“You can say that again –,” he stopped, noticing the dents in Kage’s body armor. “Mike, are you okay?”

He visibly winced a little, “Yeah, fine.” He pulled off the armor and rubbed his side gently, massaging it. “There — all better.”

“Lemme look at it.”

Kage bent to the side and lifted an arm out of the way, “There.”

Jonathan looked, pushing on a rib, “Does that hurt?”

He tensed a little, “Not too bad, Jon.”

“We should get you checked out. Here, maybe there’s a first aid kit around here …”

“Nothing’s broken, Jon,” he sighed. “Just a little bruising. I’ve been shot before, you know.”

“That doesn’t mean it’s not serious, Mike. I’ll be right back,” he walked out, off to ask the motel manager for a first aid kit. Kage leaned back on the bed, kicking his feet up on the bed and immediately snoring loudly.

——-

Jonathan walked into the front office, nonchalantly noticing the motel manager had a gun to his head, surrounded by kats in black.

“Uh oh …” he turned around, only to discover Dr. Leitch standing behind him in the doorway.

Leitch smiled, “Hello, Jonathan.”

The dawg paled, “Leitch.”

“Good to see your memory hasn’t deteriorated, too. Still, I’d like to remind you,” he indicated the kats in black with uzis, “that you’re not exactly bulletproof in your current state. Now, where is your large friend?”

Jonathan swallowed, putting his paws on his head and leading them back to the room.

——-

Kage had stirred a little, prompting himself up before closing his eyes again to relax. He decided to redress and cover up, knowing he’d have to share a bed with Jonathan and not wanting an embarrassing moment. He laid back afterwards, prompting himself against the headboard with his eyes closed just before he heard Jonathan reenter the room with his company.

“Umm … Mike.”

From under the covers, the burly kat pulled the gun from his holster and waited. Leitch indicated from a kat in black to nudge Kage awake, which he did. Kage twisted the barrel and fired from under the sheets at the guy, then tossed the blanket up in the air so they couldn’t see him and ducked behind the bed, leveling the barrel at the rest of the group.

Leitch was taken back, “Easy, Mr. McKatson.” He motioned for the other kats in black to point their uzis at Kage, except for one who had the barrel of his gun pressed into the back of Jonathan’s head.

“Move and die,” Kage cocked his gun at the kats in black. “That goes for them as well.”

Leitch said, “One more shot and Jonathan’s little mutated brains will be splattered across this nice carpet. Is killing me worth that?”

Jonathan swallowed helplessly, staring at Kage.

The big kat responded it, “They’ll all die as well, starting with the one that pulls the trigger.

The doctor shrugged, “Have it your way.” He motioned to the kat in black beside him, who clicked off the safety of the gun aimed at Jonathan’s head.

“Mr. McKatson, right now, I’m having a serious consideration as to whether Jonathan here is worth taking back to the lab for more experimentation, or whether I should have his brains blown out right here. You’re not helping his case.”

“Well, if you kill him, I garantee that your body will hit the ground the same second his does.” Kage shrugged, “Your funeral. I can’t believe you guys have such a reputation. I’ve killed street thugs much tougher than you bozos — well, a dozen or so that I’ve killed, at least.”

Leitch sighed tiredly, “I wasn’t planning on killing Jonathan, you know. He’s been a lot of work, and it would nice to see some results come out of it. But he’s also getting to be a pain — especially with his gun-toting friends hanging around.” Jonathan growled, but the doctor replied, “Hush, mutt.”

Kage shrugged, “Then I guess not dying is your bonus prize, and why did you want to play with me, anyway?”

“Gen-Tech has some bad records, Mr. McKatson — especially that ‘kittens injected with experimental serum’ incident. Some bad records we don’t want the public knowing about.”

“Too late,” he smiled grimly. “On the way I had twenty copies of that file made and placed in escrogo accounts with various lawyers. If I disappear, it goes public.”

“But you’re the _living_ proof, Mr. McKatson. And, of course, you know about Jonathan here.”

“How do you figure? That stupid serum you gave me didn’t do squat.”

“Not on the surface, no.”

“It was as worthless as you are. Heck, considering that it didn’t work, I’d bet you made it.”

Leitch reached out with his scarred paw to rub Jonathan’s head, “Not one of my best experiments, I’ll admit. Not so much as Jonathan here –” he cried out in pain as Jonathan bit him. The dawg felt a sudden shock, and collapsed writhing in pain. “Not so fast, mutt.” Smiling, he held up his paw — showing off the electric buzzer on his claw.

“Oh, and I’m so glad there was so much detail in the file Dr. Roberts gave me. It’ll be so good for you when it hits the streets, and why — I even remember seeing your name on it. Isn’t that a shame?”

Jonathan suddenly leapt at the legs of the kat in black aiming at him, “Now, Kage!”

Kage shot the guy holding Jonathan square between the eyes, then opened up with a burst of ammo. While he was taking care of the kats in black, Leitch leapt out of the way of his bullets, grabbing the uzi off the dead kat in black beside him.

He aimed it at Jonathan’s head, “I should’ve done this years ago –”

Kage cursed, charging the room and spraying it with gunfire, ripping apart the walls and anyone in his way, but he was too late. Jonathan was helpless, on the ground and too weak to do anything other than cower.

A gun fired.

Leitch looked down in surprise, paling when he noticed the blood spilling across his chest. He dropped to the ground, dead. Kage continued to take down the kats in black, bullets slamming into his body armor. It was Jonathan, while pulling himself off the door with the bed pole, who noticed Dr. Roberts standing behind where Leitch had been, a smoking gun in his paw.

“Jonathan! Michael!” he looked pale, realizing what he had done.

Kage smiled, “Dr. Roberts. I knew I was right. Say — we’d better get out of here. I’ll call a clean-up team.” All the kats in black were dead now, from his bullets.

Jonathan stood uneasily, leaning on the wall for support, “Clean-up team?” He glanced at Leitch, “Good riddance.”

The burly kat nodded, then looked down at his torn armor and frowned deeply.

“Mike — are you okay?” Jonathan had to ask.

“Yeah. A clean-up team. You want to see this on the news?”

“No, I don’t. I think you’re gonna need some new body armor, dude.”

Dr. Roberts put in, “Thank goodness he was wearing it.”

Kage pulled out his phone, making a call, then put it away, “In fifteen minutes this place will be cinders. No evidence at all. We’d better get going.”

The doctor turned to him, “You won’t … tell anyone about this.”

“No.”

“Good,” he handed him the gun. “You probably now how do dispose of this better than I do.”

Kage took the gun away, “Yes, I go. In fact, I’m trying to refound McKatson Tech. I’d be more than willing to hire you in some respect or another.”

“Maybe,” he smiled. “The kats in black from Gen-Tech torched my lab after we left. I need a new start, anyway. And I suppose I should look after Jonathan.”

He nodded, “Good real talent is so hard to find.”

“I have to get back to my family. I’ll be in touch,” he handed Kage a card, then walked away without another word.

Jonathan finally managed to pick himself up, “Let’s get out of here. I want to go home.”

“Come on. Let’s go,” Kage walked out to the car, tucking the card away.

They got in the car, Jonathan uneasily silent.

“Yes?” Kage noticed the hesitation, hugging him. “What’s wrong, Jon?”

“I’m sorry — I’m sorry I got you into all of this. G-d –”

“It’s nothing. Heck, it was still a peaceful weekend for me, all things considered. And Jon …”

“Yeah?”

“I take care of my friends. I learned that lesson not too long ago. They’re the most important thing in the world.”

Jonathan smiled, feeling stronger, “How could I thank you for this? And no, I’m not going to get you another pair of Hibben’s Throwers.”

Kage chuckled deeply, “That’s okay. Don’t worry, Jon. You’re all right and that’s what really matters to me.

“Home it is, then?” The dawg looked happier than he had been in a while.

“Yeah.”

“Say, Mike — I think I need a little ‘Fade to Black.’ How about you?” he asked, referring to the Metallica song.

He nodded, “Sounds appropriate.”

Jonathan put in the CD, turning it up as they pulled out of the motel lot.

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