This is the first official “The Highlander” spoof fanfiction! Please don’t confuse this with a crossover. A spoof just uses the theme of a show and maybe steals some characters and changes the names around (“Children of the Stone” might be considered under some terms a spoof of
the “Gargoyles” show). A crossover actually uses characters from two or more places (typically shows, books, roleplay, etc).
There are four types of people who should be reading this story:
1. You have seen SWAT Kats, but have never seen “The Highlander” movie or TV series – you should be okay. I suggest the first and maybe third movie to you (skip the second) because it’s excellent sci-fi. The TV series is okay and reruns run on USA. You don’t really need to see either to read this; everything is explained.
2. You have seen both SWAT Kats and Highlander – I use concepts from the TV show in this story, but if you’ve only seen the movie you should still be okay. Some parts may seem like a rip-off to you; please just keep reading and it should still be enjoyable.
3. You have seen Highlander, but not SWAT Kats – Here’s what you have to know. SWAT Kats : The Radical Squadron is a cartoon/anime show produced by Hanna Barbera a few years ago that was cancelled for not a ton of good reasons (actually, not any). The SWAT Kats themselves are two ex-enforcer (their versions of cops) vigilantes who fight crime in their jet, the Turbokat. They exist in an all kat and dawg world, though the dawgs are never featured on the show and are strictly a product of my imagination. They are different from cats and dogs by the fact that they are anthropomorphic (walk on two legs, wear clothes and that sort of thing). The two SWAT Kats are Jake “Razor” Clawson, the weapons manager, and Chance “T-Bone” Furlong, the pilot of the jet. They are occasionally aided by Lt. Commander Felina Feral of the enforcers, who tends to be on her side–different from her uncle, Commander Ulysess Feral, who kicked Jake and Chance out of the enforcers in the first place. Callie Briggs is the Deputy Mayor of their hime, Megakat City, and the damsel-in-distres of the show.
4. You have seen neither – what are you even doing at this site?
NOTE : One thing I can’t write is accented dialogue, and there are people with heavy accents in this story, so instead of just leaving it up to your imaginations I got a *very* nice woman from Britian named Catherine to help me, along with her friends. Please e-mail her at : <firstname.lastname@example.org> and tell her what a wonderful job she did for Angus and Jaques.
1. The concept of the watchers is borrowed from the TV show “Highander : The Series” and is a product of Rysher Entertainment.
2. The characters of Jake, Chance, Felina, Callie, and Feral are borrowed (along with various places and items) from the TV show “SWAT Kats : The Radical Squadron” and are products of Hanna Barbera Inc, and owned by THe Cartoon Network and tED Turner Enterprises.
WARNING : This story contains a few vulgar phrases and excessive alcohol abuse.
Beneath the messy, dusty layers of apparatus, Jake Clawson was lying on his mechanic’s dolly when he first heard it. The phone in the garage above the hangar had a ring somehow capable of penetrating the outside layers of the Turbokat, as it echoed in his ears. Jake felt the urge to drop the wiring he was working on and wheel out, but for once he decided to let Chance get it. Sighing, he shifted his attention back to the cables he was setting up.
Sooner or later, curiousity got the better of him. He made his way up the metal ladder, emerging next to their tiny kitchen. Chance, strangely, was still on the phone. That was enough to raise Jake’s eyebrows; Chance Furlong wasn’t much of a talker on the phone, except of course if it was Callie Briggs.
He asked at last as his partner slammed the receiver down, “Who was it?”
Chance replied, less than nonchalantly, “Kowalski. Carlson’s dead.”
“*What*?” Jake nearly shouted in shock, then continued quietly. “How?”
“Shot. He was trying to stop a guy from robbing a fruit stand. *Christ*, a fruit stand!”
Jake sat down at the table beside him, sullenly, “Yeah . . . doesn’t seem right.” They had spoken at one time or another with him, and had both developed a reasonably friendly relationship with him in the bar on Friday nights (which were often dubbed “Enforcer Club Nights”). It was obvious from the conversations he had great respect for them both. Jake supported him as well, telling him he had potential, but Chance had often been too drunk to speak full sentences.
After their expulsion, he had seen or spoken to them once or twice, on duty or off. A few older enforcers who know them well felt obligated to do so; he was once of those. The ceremony ended with the folding of the flag and actual burial, and the ones who knew him well were able to pass by the grave. Chance dropped a flower, and Jake (according to Jewish custom) placed a rock on the tombstone.
“Damn shame, isn’t it?”
Chance turned sideways. Kowalski was beside him, a smaller built grey-brown kat they had
also known, but not quite as well.
“Did they catch the guy?”
“No. Was a hell of a shot, too. Got him right in the heart.”
“At least he didn’t suffer,” Jake added softly.
“Yeah, well . . .,” Kowalski swallowed. “Look, we’re uhh . . . goin’ down to the old bar for a little while and talk it out. You wanna come . . .?”
Chance felt a tug of disapproval inside, but he pushed it away and glanced back at Jake, who nearly shrugged, “Yeah . . . I could really go for that right about now.”
The bar was a major enforcer hangout for trainees on Fridays and officers on their days off. Now the bar was nearly packed with them; nearly everyone close to Carlson had been given the day off.
Chance sat in the usual place at the bar, not at the tables, with a nearly-empty beer glass in front of him. Jake was on the side, stewing over a soda, and Kowalski and a few others to his left. They had all loosened or removed their dress jackets long ago. Chance had his sleeves rolled up.
The enforcers had mixed feelings about Jake and Chance. Among their old comrades they were held with great respect and admiralty. Many of the younger enforcers that graduated after their expulsion saw them as some great mysterious legends, that had been swept under the carpet by society and would rise again if the time came. Then there were the few who thought them as disgraces to the force and the Academy; they were mainly butt-kissers to Feral. Everyone, though, *everyone* knew who they were. Feral still intended to make an example of them, but the message that got across to the trainees was often not what he expected.
“You remember,” Kowalski spoke with a slight slur to his speech–his glass was empty, “back in ’90, when we played that great joke on Feral?”
“Which one?” that comment alone caused an instant surge of chuckles.
“The one where we drove his car up to his old apartment window–”
“–at two in the morning–”
“–with the headlights on!” they simultaneously burst out in roaring laughter.
“I remember that,” Jake laughed, though not as hard. “If he’d kept his eyes open any longer he wouldn’t have been able to see for a week.”
Chance recovered from his state of hysteria, glancing at his partner, “C’mon, Jake–‘ave a beer–”
“No way. I gotta get you home, remember?” Jake knocked him in the shoulder with his knuckles. “Just don’t pass out, okay? I don’t want to have to drag you back into the truck?”
“Ah . . . it’d be just like old times, wouldn’t it?”
He smiled, wondering how many nights he had done just that when they were at the Academy, “Yeah . . . just like old times.”
Jake was all ready pouring over the morning paper when Chance stumbled in, poured himself some coffee, and slumped down in the chair beside him. He then went to work on massaging his head.
“Got a headache?”
“Pounding. Ugh . . .,” he sipped his coffee, *slowly*. “Did they catch the guy who got Carlson yet?”
“Nope. Still searching,” Jake folded the paper over to another page, and Chance raised his eyes just enough to recognise the section he was reading.
“What’s my horoscope?”
“Horoscope. The thing with the birthdates. What is it?”
“Chance, they write those things in the elevator on the way to their editor’s office–”
“So? Read it.”
Jake frowned, but complied. He didn’t feel like fighting with his friend while he was on an obvious hangover. “All right. ‘You will have to overcome a great sadness. See comfort from close friends.’ Not good, Chance.”
“I think that horoscope is a day late,” he sighed, heavily. “You’re here for me, right?”
“Sure,” Jake said confidently. “Always.”
There was a ton of backlog since they had taken off for the
funeral, but for once Megakat City was quiet and they weren’t called.
“Hey, guys!” they both looked up from their work as a familiar green car pulled in. Callie Briggs stuck her head out the window, “Sorry to bother you so soon, but . . .” she patted the outside of the car door, running her paw over the sizeable dent.
“Woah,” Chance ran to help her out of the car, which he refused, then inspected the dent himself. “Who did this?”
“Let’s just say the mayor’s limo is more dangerous than it looks,” Callie frowned. “You’re not going to have to replace the car door, will you?”
“We’ll . . .,” Jake cut it, ” . . . see what we can do.”
She handed him the car keys, which sparked a frown on Chance’s part, “Could you call me when it’s done? I might need it for Saturday’s meeting with the mayor of Faroe Lake.”
“Sure,” Chance managed to put in as she headed out, where the notorious limo was waiting. He watched her pull away, smiling that he got in the last word, then turned back to the car.
“This is a mess,” Jake stood from his kneeling position, where he had been looking it over.
“It’s also gonna need a fresh coat
“Do we have any green?”
His partner’s frown deepened, “We’ll have to run down to the supply shop later tonight and pick up some.” He rubbed his chin thoughtfully, “Come to think of it, I could use some stuff myself. I’ve nearly run out of spare cables.”
“Thinking of bungee jumping, buddy?” Chance threw him a mock grin. “Sometimes I wonder what you do with those things.”
The appliance and supply shop was open well after dark; a risky motion, considering the neighbourhood. No one complained, however–it was pretty convenient.
Jake and Chance pulled up late, after a two called in barely minutes before they closed for the evening. There was an audible ‘ring’ as they entered, signalling the kat behind the counter. He looked up from his magazine, acknowledged their presence with a familiar nod, and slipped back into his reading.
There were only two other customers. One heavily-built kat was looking over the nails rack, obviously in search of something specific. The other crossed paths with Jake in an aisle nervously. His appearance was enough to cause the mechanic to take an extra glance. He was entirely grey, with wildly-white hair nearly sticking up on his head. He was wearing a grey T-shirt, black pants and a long, black trenchcoat.
Something clicked in Jake’s mind, almost a distant recognition, but he brushed it away. Maybe he was just getting paranoid.
“Hey, Jake–” Chance held up a greet paint can as he entered the wire aisle. “Found it. How’re you doing?”
“Uh . . .,” he flipped through the sealed packets hanging on the racks. “Not so good. I think we might have to go–”
He halted in mid-sentence; the sound of a gun safety clicking off was familiar enough to both of them.
“What the–” Chance whispered, setting down the can, but Jake held up a paw to silence him. They slowly advanced through the aisle, coming out to see the scene unfolding in front of them.
The strange grey kat was facing the register. In his paws now was a shotgun, pointed at the head of the heavy kat. The heavy one and the manager behind the register both had their paws up nervously.
The manager clearly had little patience, “Look, cool it . . .”
The grey kat spun around, his stance rigid, “Easy, old kat.” His paw curled around the trigger.
“The money . . . in the register. *Now*.”
Recognition finally clicked in Jake’s mind; this was the guy who had shot Carlson! His face was all over the news! Jake felt like smacking himself for not seeing it before.
He made an advancing step, and the grey kat apparently heard it. He spun around, with lightening speed, pointing the gun in their direction.
Their paws flew up, and Jake backed off, “Easy . . .”
Their attacker quivered, fingering the trigger.
“Easy . . .,” Jake said softly and calmly, remembering his training as he shot Chance a let-me-handle-this glance, then locked eyes with his opponent. “No one’s going to hurt you.” The kat twirled around, making sure the manager was stuffing the bag and the heavy kat was still far away. He moved so fast, stiff in motion, he missed the manager activate the silent alarm beneath the register.
Jake felt the pressure mounting as the gun targeted his chest. He had been, though he was no expert, through enough enforcer courses to know and maybe predict the criminal mind.
This grey kat was clearly strained onto the frayed edges of his
sanity. His stiff stance, the beads of sweat matting his fur, his bloodshot eyes–this must’ve been one of his newer jobs. He looked inexperienced enough, but Jake reminded himself that Carlson might have assumed that as well. So no he’d moved up to appliance stores instead of fruit stands . . .
What Jake knew he needed was to calm him down. Though nervousness often triggered mistakes, one simply couldn’t afford to let a kat with an itchy trigger figure slip up. If he calmed down . . . then maybe they could get somewhere.
“Look . . . I don’t want you to get upset . . .,” he began.
“Huh?” Maybe he had underestimated this guy. There was a gun on him; it was well hidden in the lining of his mechanic’s overalls. No one aside from Chance had ever seen it, but this kat had spotted it pretty quickly. Maybe he had training . . . that was a variable. Jake would have to throw it into the equation.
“Your gun. Give it to me!”
“Okay. Okay . . .,” Jake knelt on the floor, slowly retrieving the small hand gun and setting it down on the floor. “I’m not going to hurt you, all right? I’m putting it down. Just take it easy . . .”
He suddenly re-aimed his gun at Chance, “You, too!”
Chance turned to Jake uneasily, but his partner only nodded, “Give it to him, ” he lowered his voice, “or we’re both gonna end up in plots next to Carlson.”
Hesativly, Chance complied. He handed his gun to Jake, who set it down gently on the ground beside his and slid them both to the grey kat’s feet. He came to his own feet again, keeping his paws raised.
“Now . . . you’re safe, okay? No one can hurt you.”
The grey kat opened his mouth to respond, but the sound of an enforcer siren broke the tense silence.
Jake and Chance both inwardly groaned. If they hadn’t arrived, the kat might’ve just taken the money and left them unharmed. Now it was turning into a hostage situation. He wasn’t sure his attacker could keep his cool in a stand-off. The grey kat flinched, apparently unclear of what to do. He spun around, pointing his gun in every direction to make sure his hostages were stationary.
“Give it up, Bryers!” through the enforcer megaphone, Kowalski’s voice was still quite recognisable. “We have you surrounded.:
Jake nearly groaned. Like *that* would do any good! If anything, it would upset him further. He had to try and keep his captor’s attention to him.
“Bryers,” he said softly. “Is that your name?”
The kat almost nodded, “Joe Bryers.”
“Is it okay if I call you Joe?”
“Okay, Joe,” Jake continued, carefully. “You have to keep things calm. The enforcers aren’t going to hurt you as long as you don’t try and hurt us–”
The phone interrupted him again. Bryers quivered, nervous of its nagging ring.
“Joe?” Jake tried to hold his attention. “How about I answer that? You can keep your gun pointed at me if you want. Here,” he grabbed Chance by the shoulder and led him to the counter. “Chance’ll go over with this kat and the manager, so you can see us all at once. Would that be okay?”
Bryers shifted in stance, motioning towards the noisy phone, “Pick it up.”
Jake slowly picked up the receiver, and as calmly as possible spoke, “Hello?”
“This is Kowalski. Who is this?”
“Clawson. Don’t you recognize me?”
“*Jake*? What the *hell* are you doing in there?”
“Well, I was formerly buying some paint, but things seem to have gone a bit wild–”
“What’s the situation?”
Jake faced Bryers, looking him straight in the face, “Well, Joe here has a shotgun, and in case you didn’t notice he’s holding us hostage.”
“How many hostages?”
“Four, including me.”
“Do you have a gun?”
“No. I had to give it up.”
He heard Kowalski curse on the other end, so he continued assuringly, “Look, Joe and I are going to have a little talk. If I can get him to send a hostage out, will you back off just a bit?”
“You can handle it?”
“I can try, can’t I?”
“Okay. Get him to send a hostage out. Kowalski out.”
He set down the receiver, and Byers started at him cautiously.
“They’re going to back off . . . and give you some time to think. All you have to do is send a hostage out.”
His captor hesitated, looking over his options. He turned to Jake, “Not you. I want you to stay here.”
“Okay,” he was pleased by the response. So Bryers was beginning to trust him. He pointed to the heavy kat, “How about him? He’s harmless.”
Bryers nodded willingly, probing his gun in the kat’s direction, “Go.”
The heavyset kat hurried out, glancing at Jake thankfully. Jake turned back to Bryers, who seemed a little uncomfortable at the idea but was willing to let it happen, and he realized it was going to be a long night.
“They’re sending out a hostage!” Kowalski shouted as the kat was greeted by a team of enforcers. “Everybody back!”
“What are we doing about this, sir?” a younger officer came up beside him, behind their squad car.
“We’ve got a guy inside–two of ’em, actually. Trained enforcers,” he answered almost proudly.
Jake smacked his lips, trying to relieve his dry mouth. They’d been in a stand-off for over an hour now, and he’s managed with Chance to keep things considerably calm.
He squirmed, his cramped muscles begging for relief. He was bound tightly by the wrists and ankles to a chair, on Bryers’ still paranoid attempt to keep him secure. Chance and the manager were sitting on the floor, leaning up against the wall. Bryers paced, occasionally cocking his gun barrel in their direction.
“Why are you doing this, Joe?” he asked at last. “Why are you hurting innocent people?” Bryers almost laughed, “Nobody’s innocent.”
“You know what I want to do, Joe?” Jake spoke tiredly. “I want to walk out of here, *alive*, go home, fix the ’88 Chevy sitting in our yard, watch Litterbin, and go to bed. That’s all I wanna do. So why are you doing this to us?”
His captor toyed with the gun barrel, leaning against the counter, “You don’t understand. You could never understand . . .”
“What you’ve been through? Try me.”
Bryers turned serious, though, as he resumed his pacing, “No . . . you couldn’t. You aren’t . . . like me.”
He brushed his hair back nervously, “Y-You don’t want to know–you can’t know–you’re . . .,” he visibly hesitated, ” . . . *mortal*.”
“And what does that make you?” Jake was sceptical, but he tried to hold it back.
“Imm–No, I can’t talk about that–I can’t tell you. You aren’t suppose to know–,” he shook his
head, then suddenly smiled wickedly. “But what does it matter? You’re gonna die anyway.”
Jake swallowed nervously, longing to be free of both Bryers’ stair and his restraints, “Why?”
“Why?” Bryers almost laughed. “Why *not*? You think your puny mortal lifeline matters to me?” He seemed a bit hurt that the question was even asked. “*Me*, Joseph Bryers, immortal. I could stamp on your whole
Earlier, Jake had simply classified Joe Bryers as a trained professional who had simply snapped, or in a state of desperation and strain that had reached the limits and crossed the line. Now he was considering the variable that he was dealing with someone completely insane. Now he was twice as dangerous, and twice as hard to control. Jake felt like kicking himself; he had underestimated again! “Uh-huh.” He couldn’t help but let some of his disbelief slip into the words.
This angered Bryers, just as Jake feared it would, “You don’t believe me.” He came closer and grabbed Jake around the neck, nearly choking him, driving his gun barrel into his captive’s ribs. “No one believes me!”
“Woah, woah,” Chance suddenly stood, coming to his partner’s defence. “Easy. Nobody wants to get hurt. Just . . . calm down.”
Bryers almost laughed, his bloodshot eyes wide with insane excitement, “You don’t understand!” Thankfully, released Jake’s neck, but kept his gun firm. “You mortals *can’t* understand.”
“‘When you kill a person, you annihilate an entire universe,’” Jake quoted.
“A mortal said that!” Bryers jabbed his gun further into his ribcage. “Don’t you get it? In one year, or ten years, maybe a hundred, the fact that I held up a store in Megakat City and maybe killed some kats won’t matter. You’re mortal lives barely make a ripple in time!”
“But it doesn’t make it right,” Chance said firmly.
As he spoke, Bryers’ attention was momentarily shifted from Jake. He pulled the gun from his ribs, redirecting it at Chance.
Jake took the opportunity to pull out the mini pocket-knife he always had hidden in the sleeve of his overalls, and slowly began to cut the ropes. As much as he preferred a non-violent means of controlling the situation, his captor was clearly a ticking time bomb of insanity, and he didn’t exactly want to be around when he went off. He freed himself quickly, but hesitated on the jump. The last thing he wanted was for Chance he get hurt.
He never got the opportunity.
Time slowed to a crawl as a sequence of events that determined the fate of the situation began to play out. The manager, who had been more or less silent, was suddenly caught trying to sneak out the door while Bryers was distracted.
Something clicked in Bryers’ head; he spun to face the manager, who was now nearly past Jake and had broken off in a run.
Another disturbing thing was Jake was standing, out of the restraints. What seemed secure in Bryers’ mind suddenly became a very dangerous variable.
He released a shout as the paw around the trigger tightened, and two shots went off. Something clicked in Chance’s mind as well, as he watched Jake Clawson collapse to the ground.
Out by the enforcer line, the shots were audible.
Kowalski spit out his coffee, cursing outwardly, “I heard shots! What the *hell* is going on in there?” he turned to face his team, who only had confused looks on their faces. “Don’t just stand there! Move up!”
Chance ignored Bryers now, brushing past him to kneel beside the body of his fallen partner. The two bullets had both struck him in the chest, one on each side. Chance prayed they hadn’t struck the heart, but apparently they hadn’t. Jake was still breathing and partially awake. His eyes fluttered as Chance prompt him up across the shoulders with one arm.
Breathing heavily, Jake refused help as he unzipped the top of his overalls and felt where the bullets had pierced the fur. Blood was all ready covering most of his T-shirt, and spreading quickly across his overalls. He brushed his paw over the spot where a bullet had torn his left lung.
“It missed the heart,” Chance assured him. “You’re gonna be okay. It missed the heart.”
“Yeah . . .,” Jake answered seriously. “But it hit . . . ungh . . . an artery . . .” He was already feeling chest pains from the lack of blood to his heart, aside from the wounds. A major artery was now cut off. Even if they hot him to an ambulance, there still wouldn’t be time.
“C’mon, buddy,” Chance pulled him up further, resting his head on his knee. “Hang in there.”
He looked up to the still Bryers, angrily. Their captor opened his mouth to say something, but Chance’s attention drifted back to Jake as his partner began muttering incoherently.
It sounded like some kind of prayer.
At last, he stopped struggling to keep his eyes open, letting the inviting darkness surround him. Moments after he stopped responding, Chance searched for a heartbeat, and lowered his eyes when he found none.
Bryers couldn’t help but feel a twinge of sadness as he watched Chance set his fallen partner ever-so-gently on the floor. He was mortal, but he had at least tried to understand . . .
He ignored the enforcers as they approached the door, but made to movement to open it. He still had the opposition : the gun was in his paws, and he still had two captives. They wouldn’t try anything, would they? Not after what happened to Jake.
Then something ignited in his brain; a familiar buzz feeling. He knew what it meant; he reached for the other weapon concealed in his trenchcoat. Maybe it was one of the enforcers . . .?
No, shock registered on his face when he realised the buzz was coming from the kat lying on the ground. It couldn’t be! This must be his first time–!
The solution, of course, was simple. Finish it, now. Then split. He could escape the enforcers easily enough. But not with his usual weapon–no, that would attract too much attention. He instantly spied the fire axe on the wall. It would do well enough. He smashed the glass case with the back of his gun. Not hesitating, he headed over to where Jake’s body lay motionless and raised the axe, prepared for the slice that would separate the dead kat’s head from his body. Something caught the axe in the downward swing; it was Chance’s stead paw, “Leave him alone!” With a heaving force he hurled himself into Bryers, sending his opponent sprawled on the ground.
Bryers picked himself up quickly, “You don’t understand! It has to be finished!”
“I’ll show you *finished*!” Chance leapt out again, hurling the axe in his direction.
His former captor was fast, but apparently not enough. Moments hadn’t passed before he slumped to the ground, the axe in his shoulder and dug deeply into the heart.
Chance steadied himself, still breathing heavily while he tried to tell his adrenaline that it was over, and to stop rushing to his brain.
“Chance!” A voice behind him–Kowalski’s as he finally barged through the door. “Did you–oh *Jesus*.” He had caught site of Jake’s body; his voice lowered to a shocked whisper of disbelief, “Jesus *Christ* . . .”
Felina Feral sighed.
She had a feeling it was going to be a long night. She’d been delivering a load of chemicals to Faroe Lake’s CDC when she got the call there was a hostage situation, and her uncle was out of town (further than her, anyway). After a long ride back she had discovered she was too late, and now two kats were supposedly dead because of it. Now she had to deal with the deputy mayor on top of it.
Rubbing her eyes tiredly and straightening her uniform a bit, she slipped behind the enforcer line and faced the palest Kowalski she’d ever seen.
“What do we have?”
“Two bodies. One of ’em’s Joe Bryers, the guy who plugged Carlson the other day.”
Kowalski visibly shifted weight on his feet uncomfortably, swallowing before he spoke,
“*Clawson’s* dead,” she repeated in disbelief.
“Yup. Two bullets in his chest. Cut off the blood to the heart,” his eyes flew around, mainly in the downward direction. “He was trying to calm Bryers down . . . hell, he’s probably the reason the other three are alive.”
Felina slicked her thick hair back with her paws, “G-d . . . look, Kowalski, I can’t–” something struck her. “Where’s Furlong? Was he in–”
“Yeah,” his voice was low and sullen. “He’s the reason Bryers . . . is dead. He’s . . . ummm,” he pointed to the ambulance. “He’s in there. Not injured . . . but I think someone should . . . umm–you know, talk to him.”
Felina nodded, and ignored Callie Briggs’ inquiring face as she
headed for the ambulance.
Chance was alone in the ambulance, sitting on one of the matted seats towards the back as Felina let herself in, shutting the door behind her.
He was neither crying nor tensed, but a nice medium in between. He was silent when she entered, but apparently not disapproving of her presence.
“Chance,” she said softly. They had spoken a few times, and were reasonably friendly. “I . . . I’m sorry. Look, I’m sorry I wasn’t . . . there. I should have been–”
“There was nothing you could have done,” Chance said softly.
Felina’s mouth opened in preparation for a dispute, but she was in no mood, and neither was he. Chance hesitated several times before speaking, like he had something in him that wouldn’t come out. Felina watched curiously, waiting patiently. Whatever it was, the time would come.
“Felina . . . ummm . . . now that Jake’s . . .,” the word ‘dead’ refused to roll of his tongue, ” . . . you know . ..
a lot of things are . . . over for me. I thought you should know . . . that an agreement he and I had . . .,” he visibly tensed as he pulled as set of keys from his back pocket.
“Here . . . I want you to have this . . .”
From the ring he removed a single key, unlabeled except for a red and black sticker. He clutched it briefly, closing his eyes as if to savour the memories, then placed it in her paw and closed her claws around it.
“What is it–?”
“The keys . . . to the Turbokat,” he at last pushed the words out. “I don’t think . . . I’ll be needing them anymore.” He stood, and turned to leave.
“Wait, Chance–T-Bone,” Felina stopped him, too shocked for one evening. “Who should I–?”
“I don’t care,” he said gravely. “Tell Feral, tell the press, or just keep it to yourself. I don’t care.”
With that, he exited, leaving Felina alone with a kay and enough shock for a week’s worth of emotional overloads.
Jake hadn’t really expected a light at the end of the tunnel, or a fluffy bunch of clouds with angels hopping to and fro; not in his religion, anyway.
But he expected something to *happen*. He was lying down, and cold. That was all he could feel, aside from the full ache in his chest where the bullets had been.
A cold, metal floor beneath him. Metal. *There* was something unheavenly. Was something wrong?
At last he forced his eyes open. He was in an enclosed metal space, barely bigger than his own body. He was still in his overalls, now with the blood dried. over his head and covering most of him was a white sheet.
Nervously now, he realised he was most definitely alive.
The metal beneath him was on some kind of wheel, quite mobile, but around him his cell was stationary. He propelled himself, pushing off with his paws by the back wall where his head met the metal, so he pulled out of the containment unit and recognised his surroundings.
He was in a morgue. The metal supporting him in his slumped position was a drawer.
Shock registered, and he stood shaking. He was in a morgue alone, and quite alive. The drawer was all ready labelled ‘Clawson, J’ on the front.
Something was wrong.
He pulled up his T-shirt, pulling back the overalls, to reveal two scars where the bullet holes had been. How long had he been out? Wounds like those didn’t heal on their own, but there no surgical marks. The scars had the look and feel of age, like they had always been there.
Something was *very* wrong.
There was a distant noise that made him jump a bit; an attendant was coming. Instinctively, he ducked behind a set of cabinets.
The attendant saw the empty drawer immediately, and reached for the phone as Jake watched curiously, “Boss? We got another body missing.”
Jake frowned; another?”
“Yeah, I know. Look, I dunno how two guys in one night–they couldn’t just have *walked* out–okay, okay.”
The conversation as the attendant got a talking, and worry wrinkled Jake’s brow. So he wasn’t the only guy to find himself quite alive. Weird. How had the paramedics screwed up twice in one night.
The situation really bugged him. He was dead; at least, he was *supposed* to be. He had to get back to Chance–Chance! His mind reeled; was he dead, too (or alive, for that matter)?
With too many questions and a sinking feeling the answers weren’t coming exceptionally quickly, he slipped out the door while grabbing a jacket to cover the blood stains, and headed back to the salvage yard.
Chance had managed to slop away from the reporters and a very apologetic Callie Briggs only through several sneak attempts. He at last made it back to the yard, poured himself some coffee, and nearly collapsed in the kitchen chair.
They had always, the two of them, had an understanding of death. There wasn’t a day that they stepped into their enforcer jet or Turbokat that they hadn’t first faced the idea that one (or both) of them might easily not step out alive.
However, it never meant they *welcomed* the idea.
There were many times, especially during their years as SWAT Kats, that for a brief moment he was sure he lost his partner, but only for a brief moment. He’d been lucky, though. Razor always poked his head out from under at the last moment, or requested a lift or a paw. Then again, there were times Razor was probably sure Chance was lost as well. They’d both had their moments, which had come and gone.
There was one moment that wasn’t quite so brief, back in their enforcer days at the Academy. Thinking of it was still frightening, but only now could he appreciate how lucky they had both been.
As one of their final tests before graduation, the two trainees were forced to down their jet in Megakat Swamps, and survive two days alone. It seemed simple enough; no enforcer had ever died on it, but it was possible to fail. They were graded by how well they came out the other end. Unfortunately, their experience hadn’t gone so well. They were doing fine until somewhere in the first afternoon, when they were attacked by a group of mercenaries-for-hire. They both assumed, of course, that it was faked. The attack was simply treated as a part of the schedule for the mission. A group of enforcers were regularly assigned for the job, though secretly,
and the trainees got their chance to experience something close to a real situation.
Jake and Chance’s problem was it hadn’t been fake. Chance was the first to figure that out when they dragged them both through half the swamp by the legs. Their reasonably non-existent luck had wound them up getting jumped by a group of *real* mercenaries, on a mission to steal the new defence secrets held for safe keeping at Enforcer Academy.
It had been Jake who freed them. He had picked up the habit of carrying a small knife in his sleeve, so heavily concealed even their captors missed it. With it he had freed them both, and they had made a break for the cover of the swamp.
Chance made it without a scratch. Jake was shot in the leg, trying to escape, and it rendered him nearly incapable of walking by himself. So Chance had slung him across both of his shoulders, thankful his partner was so light, and got him as far from the mercenaries’ camp as possible before collapsing.
Now, alone in the salvage. Chance still shuddered as he remember that night.
The air in the swamps was unseasonably warm, something that involved the only luck Chance seemed to have that night. Sighing, he readjusted the lining of his enforcer jacket so things were a little looser, then headed back to the cave.
The mercenaries had apparently given up, or weren’t coming that far to look for them, because he hadn’t seen a sign of them. So their cave was safe, at least until morning. At least he didn’t have to light a fire with the strange weather, or they would’ve surely seen it.
There was no stirring from Jake as he ar before the enforcers found them. Jake’s eyes had drifted closed again; his partner rustled him gently until they reopened.
“Wha–?” Jake’s voice was barely above a whisper this time. “Did I fall asleep again?”
“Yeah.” They both knew the danger of him falling asleep too deeply, and slopping unconscious. Chance grabbed the canteen, “Here. I got you some water.”
Jake attempted to sit up, and failed. He was getting weaker. They both wondered how long he would hold out as he was fed most of their water supply.
“Christ,” Chance felt his forehead. “You’re burning up. Here,” he tore off another strip of the sleeve from his uniform, soaked up some water from the canteen, and placed it on Jake’s forehead. “It’ll lower the fever.”
They were silent for a moment, alone in their own frightened thoughts.
Jake inhaled, the strain obvious of his efforts to talk, “What would you do . . . if I didn’t make it?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well . . . would you get a new weapons manager?”
Chance almost laughed, “Hell, no. You know I couldn’t replace someone like you.”
His partner was serious, “No . . . I mean really. You’re young . . . you’re strong . . . and you’re about to graduate from Enforcer Academy. You couldn’t . . . throw your career away–your life–just because of me . . .”
“Come on, buddy–lighten up,” he knocked him in the shoulder. “You’re gonna live, and I don’t want to think about it.”
“No . . . it’s something we have to face. We’ll . . . G-d willing . . . be enforcers soon. That means . . . putting our lives on the line . . . every day. We might as well . . . face it now.”
“All right,” he admitted in defeat. “I would go on . . . maybe I might work with some other people. I don’t know . . . I’ll think about it, okay?”
Jake didn’t answer, except for a feeble attempt at nodding, then closed his eyes in sleep.
Jake had, of course, survived. Later in the night he drifted in and out of sleep, hallucinogenic from lack of blood and mumbling incoherently at times. It seemed like only minutes after Chance had allowed himself to doze that it was morning. He tried to stir his partner, only to find Jake had sunk to a deep level of unconsciousness.
Only shortly afterward were they discovered by the enforcers. A search had begun after they missed their afternoon checkpoint, and the fake mercenaries couldn’t find them on route. With Chance’s description of the camp, the enforcers were able to find the real mercenaries in time. Even though they were still both trainees, as soon as they graduated Chance was awarded a medal of honour and Jake a purple heart. He went to the podium to receive his award on crutches.
Chance was interrupted from his musing as a rapping on the front door brought his attention back to the present. Not surprisingly, it was Felina.
“You want a statement,” he said flatly, ushering her on. Come on in.” He knew the enforcer procedure had to cycle through before the case could be files, and he knew he was wrong to sneak away before she could speak with him formally about it, but he had needed more than anything to be alone.
“That . . .,” she continued hesitantly, ” . . . and I have some bad news.”
“Trust me,” Chance headed for the coffee pot as she sat down at the kitchen table. “Nothing could top the day I’ve had.”
“Chance, the body’s missing.”
He halted momentarily, absorbing the words, then continued refilling his coffee cup. “Well . . . I’ve heard worse.” He seated himself beside her, “I’m warning you, though–his dad’s gonna be pissed. We all ready broke some Jewish laws by leaving the body alone in the first place.”
Finally, his feelings surfaced, “Jesus . ..
what else could go wrong today?”
“I know, I know . . . look, if you need some time before giving out a statement–” she stopped as a light buzzing noise lit her ears. “What’s that?”
Chance produced a small, orange triangle button from his pocket, “The alarm. Someone’s in the hangar.”
“The hangar–?” it had never occurred to her that they managed to operate right out of their home; then again, she hadn’t had time to put much thought to the matter. Obediently she followed him down a ladder hidden beneath the rug.
She was really shocked by the hangar. The place was immense, complete with two levels, a runway, and a launching pad.
“How come no one knows about this place?”
He flipped on the lights, fully illuminating the room, “Dunno. We found it when Jake crashed through some floor boards. City records say it was an old military base in MegaWar II that was supposedly destroyed. I guess they never got around to it.”
“And you built *this* out of it?” she gestured to the mass of electronic equipment lying around, in various states of use and repair.
“Jake designed it, mostly,” Chance admitted, with a twinge of sadness. “I’m still wondering why he isn’t head of Pumadyne yet.” He shuddered as he realised ‘isn+t should have been ‘wasn’t’. “Shh . . . I hear something.”
He motioned to the floor, retrieving his gun, “Someone’s on the level below.”
He was right; the sound of footsteps was quite audible. He motioned for silence, activating a button on one of the wall panels. The launching pad containing the Turbokat lowered itself. Chance positioned himself near the edge with his gun out. Felina’s paw slid over her sidearm, just in case.
The reply shocked them both, “Jeez, I’m gone for a few hours and you get yourself a new partner! The respect I get . . .” he clicked his tongue.
They both paled as the light went on in the room beneath them, where Jake Clawson was standing, staring back up at them. His clothes were still stained with blood, mute testimony to the evening’s earlier events, but aside from that he looked quite *alive*.
“*Jake*? Is that–?!”
“Yeah, it’s me,” Jake stated matter-of-factly. “Gimme a lift, will you?”
He rode the launching pad back up, and Chance felt like hugging him when he reached the top level, but instead just put both his paws on his friend’s shoulders, to check he was real, “It *is* you . . .”
“*How*?” Felina’s wide eyes looked over him. “I saw your damn body, Jake!”
“I don’t know,” he shrugged helplessly. “I just woke up in the morgue and came here–”
“You didn’t go to the hospital?”
“I didn’t *need* to,” he fingered his overalls. “I feel fine. Everything’s healed. All I have are a few scars on my chest that look like they’ve been there for a while.” He shook his head, still in disbelief, “This isn’t *right*, damnit. I shouldn’t be here.”
Chance felt like nodding, but resisted the urge, “I’m not complaining.”
“Chance,” Jake started at his partner in a dead seriousness. “Don’t you see what’s happened? Something’s *wrong*. Someone up top to screwed up and I’m still here–”
“Look,” Felina tried to keep calm. “You can think it over. No one’s coming by the yard ’till at least the morning–I’ll make sure of it. Why don’t you relax a bit before we figure out what the hell’s going on?”
“Yeah,” Chance indicated his partner’s overalls. “Go take a shower or something.”
Jake rolled his eyes, and began the climb up the ladder.
Jake emerged from the shower a good fifteen minutes later, wearing jeans and a blue shirt, his fur still slightly damp. He looked refreshed, but then again one did feel kind of gross after waking up in a morgue. He was still, however, regaining his colour from the paling he’d done since he’d been shot. He nearly collapsed in his chair, apparently remaining bewildered by the day’s events–not to say that any of them weren’t worthy of his expression.
“How do you feel?”
He held his coffee cup in his lap, both paws clasped around it, “I don’t know–it’s hard to explain . . .,” His eyes were towards the table, but clearly unfocused and unwavering as he spoke. “I don’t feel like I should be dead . . . but something’s changed.”
“How?” Felina asked curiously.
“It’s like . . . I feel more alive now . . . then before I was shot,” he took a sip. “I can’t explain it. I certainly don’t understand it.”
“It’s like you’ve been given a second change,” his partner said, in awe.
“What second chance?” Jake replied, sceptically. “Everyone thinks I’m dead. I can’t just pop back up in a week from now. ‘Oh yeah, I’m okay. I was just faking it.’ If they *do* find out, next thing I know I’ll be in some lab, being inspected by every certified doctor in a hundred mile’s radius.”
“That’s worst case scenario.”
“No,” he corrected. “That’s most-probable case scenario. What if I really *can’t* die? I’m the perfect weapon! Do you really think the enforcers–or any other military–is going to pass me up?”
They were silent, until Chance continued, “You know, he’s right. Maybe it’s better if you stay dead, Jake.” His face was sadly serious.
“Where are you going to go?” she said at last.
“I’ll stop by my dad’s house, most likely. Tell him I’m alive. Then . . .,” he sighed. “I don’t know. I suppose I’ll get as far from Megakat City as possible until things cool down. Go somewhere that no one knows me. And beyond . . .” his face was blank from ideas.
He collected his things, a small backpack mainly consisting of his Turbokat plans, a few items he treasured, and a spare shirt of two, they drove him to the outskirts of the city, near his dad’s house.
“So . . . this is it.”
Jake lingered by the side of the road, “Yeah . . . I guess so.”
“So now you get to just disappear . . .” Felina’s voice wavered as she spoke.
“I think I’ll see you again,” he smiled, then turned to Chance. “I’ll call.”
Chance didn’t fight his sadness and embraced him, “Jesus . . . you’d better call. I just got you back . . . and now I’m losing you again.”
“I know . . . I know,” he released him, glaring back at the kat he had known as his partner and best friend in nearly every faucet of his life, “Good-bye.”
His farewell was obviously collective; he’s miss them both. Without another word he turned away, facing the open road. And so, armed with a few possessions and two hundred dollars, he started down, having no idea what turns the road would take before he reached his final destination.
End of Part 1
[For the dawg in the next scene, if you want a visualisation, picture Underdog]
It was maybe ten, eleven o’clock when a haggard kat stumbled into the bar. The bartender watched as he nearly collapsed on the stool, slumping over the bar in front of him.
“Tough day, pal?”
The kat was nearly bright-orange furred, with wide sideburns of fur on each side of his face. Covering the sideburns was about a week’s worth of a beard. His clothes were wrinkled but not dirty, as though he’d been wearing them for a while. His backpack was evidence of his travels.
“Yeah . . .,” the bartender motioned to the alcohol displayed on the wall, but he refused, “No, no–I don’t drink. Just gimme a soda or somethin’.”
Out of habit, Jake wasn’t much of a drinker. In his enforcer says he was always the designated driver for Chance, and since then they hadn’t exactly had a lot of money to burn. Now, more than ever, he had to be careful on what he bought.
He had stayed the week in Faroe Lake, not willing or ready to really leave his life behind. The funeral, unlike Carlson’s, was not televised. In his will he’s asked for a Jewish funeral and he’d gotten it. He’d toyed with the idea of going in disguise, but realised it would probably make leaving more painful in the end.
He stewed over his glass, occasionally sipping and contemplating how life suddenly got so complicated. After what seemed like a long time he looked up, because something else was bothering him.
A strange buzzing noise rang in his head. He looked over
his shoulder, tracing it to the presence of a dawg who had just wandered in and seated himself at the other end of the bar. Jake watched him curiously; it was almost as if he could sense his presence. The dawg shot him a glance, which he tried to avoid; could he sense him as well?
In his life, Jake had seen few to no dawgs; they rarely hung out in Megakat City, or most of the time had their own bars and clubs. There was no segregation laws, but unsaid boundaries were often clear enough.
Dawgs were curious curious creatures, evolving similarly to kats, but in fewer numbers. A dawg was only about three to four feet, average fully grown, while a kat was five feet average. They had fur, and depending on their breed they had hair as well.
They had occupied Europe; mainly Scotland, Ireland, and Britain. Throughout the centuries they were never held in high regard, often persecuted. Most were drunks, and rowdy–this was the nature of the dawg–and often considered less civilised than kats. A dawg proverb stood against that, “A dawg barks as often as a kat purrs.”
The dawg to enter was a beagle of sorts, with golden brown fur and a huge black nose. With his short hair and tense stance, he had the look of a well-worn traveller who had seen enough in his day for a lifetime. He couldn’t have been that poor, with his reasonably nice trenchcoat. He ordered a shot of whiskey and didn’t hesitate when the shotglass was set in front of him to chug it like mouthwash, sloshing before the swallow in his mouth.
Jake felt it a good time to leave. Whatever the mysterious buzzing meant, he wanted nothing to do with it. He paid and headed out the door, noticing the buzzing noise dying down when he left the building.
Not noticing or caring about the late hour, he walked briefly down the poorly-lit street, not stopping until he felt the buzz again. It was different; a weaker signal. He found the source–a kat jumped in front of him from an alley.
It was Joseph Bryers.
“Hello, Jake,” his eyes glittered with a frightening spark. “Nice to see you again. I honestly didn’t expect to,” he pulled something from his trenchcoat. Jake’s eyes widened as he realised it was a sword, “but now that you’re one of us . . . ”
“Easy, Joe . . .,” Jake inched backward as the tip of the sword pressed against his stomach.
“Not this time, *Jake.* I’m going to finish what I began,” as he spoke, he drove his blade into Jake’s stomach, then pulled it out quickly. His victim doubled over, overwhelmed by the pain and disbelief. Bryers raised his sword to swing down at Jake’s exposed neck. “There can be only one.”
“Do it, and It’ll be your head Bryers!”
The shout that easily could have saved Jake came from behind. Jake strained to see who faced him; it was the dawg from the bar. The two buzzes, now combined, were driving him crazy.
The dawg took a rigid stance, drawing a blade recognisable as a katana from seemingly nowhere but the lining of his trenchcoat.
Bryers, thankfully, did not swing as he said coldly, “Angus MacLeod.”
“Of the clan MacLeod,” almost jokingly, Angus saluted him with his sword, then retook the stance. “Let him go, Bryers. he’s worthless to you.”
“Maybe now . . . but in another fifty years? I’ve spent too long looking over my shoulder, MacLeod.”
“Th’ can be easily fixed,” Angus was clearly serious, speaking with a thick Scottish accent. “He’ll nae be th’only one t’die tonight-tis your choice.”
Jake saw Bryers wince. He didn’t understand what was going on at all, but at least the pain from the stab was receding. All he wanted to do was lie down, but he was caught in the kneeling position, all doubled over by the wound.
Suddenly, Bryers lowered his blade, tucking it back in his coat, “You win, MacLeod . . . for now.”With that, he was gone.
Sighing heavily in relief, Jake finally allowed himself to collapse. The strange dawg hovered over him.
“Slit your gizzard did he?, Come, I’ve no come all this way ta leave ye here bleedin,” he heaved one of Jake’s arms over his shoulders, and began helping him up. Jake was still not capable of standing straight, so the high comparison didn’t matter much. He was feeling weaker now, at least that over the pain. His body craved sleep, which prevented him from asking any of his questions before they reached the apartment.
Jake awoke, not recalling ever falling asleep. He must have passed out along the way.He was not in a hospital; he was on a couch in what looked like an apartment. Instinctively, he reached down to his stomach, but found it fine. No scars, no nothing, no pain but a dull ache. He was stronger–how long had he slept?
“About time,” Angus appeared at the door frame, drink in hand. “I was beginning t’wonder if yed wake up a’tal.”
He was no longer wearing his trenchcoat; it brought Jake’s attention to his own clothes. He was wearing a spare shirt and pants he had stuffed in his pack.
Angus spied him fingering his shirt, “Your stuff’s in the wash. Was bloody as hell,” he took a sip from the glass in his paw. “So . . . how’re ye feelin’?”
“Why did you save me?” Jake asked, finally.
“Why did I save you?” with his accent, the ‘you’ sounded like ‘yoo’ with a strain on the rolling ‘o’s. Angus almost chuckled, “I had to. We’re kin, brothers o’ sorts.”
“You. Me. Bryers. It dinne matter where your from, heritage is nae a requirement fur immortality Jake.”
“Immor–oh wait,” Jake rubbed his eyes, trying to wake up from whatever strange dream he was in. “What’re you talking about?”
“Perhaps you ha’ne noticed,” Angus nonchalantly gulped his brandy, “tha you’ve been havin’ some trouble doing thin’s lately–like, say, *dyin’*?”
“I thought . . .,” he lowered his eyes, feeling the scars on his chest, ” . . . it was some kind of act of G-d or something.”
“Twice? Bryers carved straight in’te your spine, a mortal woulda been dead in sixty seconds. You’re immortal, Jake. Why don’t you just face it?”
He was silent for a moment, then continued hesitantly, “So what happens to me now?”
“Well . . ,” Angus set his glass down, and seated himself on the chair beside the couch. “You stop again from your firs’ mortal death. I s’ppose ye’were lucky te die when yuir young an strong.”
“So I’m twenty-seven for the rest of my life?”
“Basically. Your immune te disease an all forms of death . . . *except* beheading. A sword cleaves your neck–or any other sharp object–an it’s over. Your only safe on holy ground.”
“Safe? From what?””From other immortals. You kill unother immortal, you get their life energy. Tha’s called The Quickening.”
Jake thought for a moment, then asked, “What about what Bryers said as he was about to kill me?”
“‘There can be only one?’ Tis an immortal concept. In the end, we will all be drawn to one place to do battle. Tha’s called The Gathering. Th’last immortal standing will have the power of every immortal,
The Prize.- Tha’person’ll have th’power t’rule the world.”
“When is it?”
He shrugged, “How the hell should I know? That’s where the Game comes in. Some are nae content to wait around fer the Gathering. They hunt down other immortals an’take any heads they can.”
“Like Bryers and you?”
“Me?” Angus practically laughed. “Bryers was one o’ them, yes, but no’ me. I’ll nae go out of my way tae find anybody, an’ I’ve got immortal friends. Meeting another one of us on the street and letting him be is nae problem as long as I dinne have an arguement with them.”
“Is that why you haven’t killed me yet?”
Angus seemed almost surprised at the question as he reached back for the glass, “Going paranoid on me, eh lad? Good,” he took a gulp. “Keeps you alive. Besides, your head would be worthless. You’ve taken no heads an’you’ve been immortal for a week. Nae doubt it’d be a lousy Quickening if I did.”
“Then why did Bryers want to?”
“’cause Bryers knows you’re likely to hold a grudge against him for killin’ you. Of course you’re no much now, but in fifty years?” he shook his head. “He’s got enough to worry about.”
Jake leaned back against the sofa’s cushions, moaning softly. Far too many things had been tossed at him in one night, not all of them things he believed. “So what do I do now?”
Angus stood, retrieved his blade from the coat on the rack, and held it out in front of Jake, “D’you know what this is?”
“Yeah. A katana.”
“Superb,” he drew it back. “I’m goin’ t’show y’how ta use it.”
Scotland International Airport
“Ah, Scotland!” Angus inhaled deeply through the nose as they stepped outside the airport. “Better than Faroe bloody Lake any day!”
Jake had long-since gotten used to Angus’s strangely ancient Scottish accent. The dawg, as he soon had discovered, was a 450-year-old warrior who first died at the age of twenty in a battle between the MacLeods and the Frasiers. Since then he had done a great deal of travelling and lived in Paris many different times, in many different lives, but never had lost his accent or love of his birthplace. His apartment in Faroe Lake was only a rest stop for overseas business deals; his real home was above his antique shop in the Scottish Highlands.
In a way, Jake considered himself luckily. No one (practically) knew he was alive. When Angus awoke on a funeral pyre in medieval Scotland, they deemed him a warlock and chased him out of town. Only in 1992 had he finally been reunited with his clan, after going to the Meeting of the Clans and signing up as Angus MacLeod, number-G-d-knows-what, long descendant of the original Angus.
Angus had, after telling Jake he would be his teacher, also said he would supply him with whatever he needed before he settled down. Jake questioned the monetary expenses involved in this, but the dawg shrugged it off.
“One doe nae live 450 years without buildin’ himself his own little pot ‘o’ gold, lad,” he explained. “I was buyin’ stock in Ford Motor Company back when shares were ten cents. The shop is so I don’t get bored with me life–something to do. Don’t go worryin about it.”
Jake was also overwhelmed by the number of dawgs in Scotland. Of course–where else would they go? Three beggars, two clutching a bottle wrapped in a brown bag, had nearly stopped them just getting to Angus’s shop.
“Your species sleeps in beds, mine in the gutter,” Angus muttered coldly, but his anger wasn’t towards Jake. “Don’t kid yuirself. I’m no blamin’ *you*. They do it tae themselves.”
Jake noticed he had said “they” and not “we.”
Their next stop after the apartment and dropping off luggage was a pub that reminded Jake of the old enforcer hangout as they approached. With
it came a horrible rush of memories, but he forced them back.
The pub was a quaint, little place. At the bar, facing the door, was an elderly, gaunt kat with the classic white shirt, black vest, and black apron look to him–straight out of the 1950’s. His fur was mainly grey, probably from age and not lineage. The hair was slicked back neatly. Behind him, in neon lights above the alcohol display, were the words, “Fritz’s Pub.”
It was packed, at nearly every table with both kats and dawgs. There must’ve been at least three or four buzzes instantly going off in his head as Jake entered, beside Angus’s. He sighed, and wondered if he would
ever get accustomed to the feeling.
Some minor cheers arose as Angus entered, alone with some “Hey, Angie’s back! “Weren’t you in Faroe Lake?” and other comments. He was obviously a regular.
Angus waved them off and smiled a bit, heading to the bar. There were two open stools beside the one dawg who didn’t seem surprised at their arrival.
“A tad late ar’t we?” the dawg smiled broadly as they sat beside him. “Could you possibly have been delayed by those wonderfully efficient
people of her majesties customs again?” He spoke with a British accent.
“No, no. Your passports were grand. Just stopped at th’ apartment,” he was seated between Jake and the dawg, so he leaned back a bit so they could shake paws, “Jaques Valjean, meet Jake Clawson. Jake, this is the dawg who made your passport. Best forger on th’ continent.” His passport to get out of the country had of course been fake; it read, ‘Jake Hackle.’
Jaques laughed, “Delighted to meet you young man.” He shook the paw. Jaques was about the same height as Angus, but definitely a cross between a bulldog and beagle in breed–maybe with a shaggy type thrown in. He was a bit on the heavy side, and laughed with a jolly jingle that cycled through most of his limbs. He was dressed in grey, very nice clothes–he had obviously just gotten off from work. Of course he had a trenchcoat, but Jake still found it hard to believe he had a sword hidden in there.
“If you don’t mind my asking,” Jake inquired, curiously, “Your accent–it’s British?”
“That it is.”
“So how did you get a name like Jaques Valjean. I mean, that’s French.
“He smiled, “Very perceptive. I was born in Paris, but I’ve spent six of my eight hundred years in Britain,” he shook his head sadly. “France was–and continues to be’a frightful place for dawgs. Especially Paris.”
Angus signalled for Fritz, who automatically brought three beers, “Did I no tell you how Jaques died?”
Jake wondered if Fritz was listening, but his companions didn’t seem to give a damn, “No.”
“A vegetable cart,” he instantly broke out into chuckles. “A bleedin’ vegetable cart! He got run over!”
Jake couldn’t help but laugh as well, though Jaques did try and
salvage some pride, “Mind you, it was moving at a fair speed, and I was pushed.”
“A vegetable cart! Have you ever heard th’like!” Angus sipped, then turned and noticed Jake hadn’t taken a sip. “What’s wrong?”
“I dunno . . . I just don’t drink. It’s not healthy.”
Angus shrugged, “Th’s nae problem_ He took the glass, and spilled half into his and half into his friend’s. “It do’n really matter, though. You ‘ave to git that inta yuir head.” He chugged heavily, then continued. “Alcohol canne do much damage to us, if you think on it.”
Jake squirmed on the stool.The dawg looked at him seriously for a moment, then signalled to Fritz, “it’s on my tab.” He stood, finishing the last of the beer. “Come. I want to show you something.”
Jake opened his mouth for a response, but Angus was on his way out all ready. He shot a glance at Jaques, who simply shrugged. Wordlessly, the kat followed his mentor outside.
The air had a certain chill to it on the bridge. Clueless, Jake watched as Angus, without hesitation, climbed up the rim of the metal structure positioned himself on the ledge.
“C’mon,” he held out a paw. “Air’s nice up here.”
“Are you crazy?” Jake peered over the edge. The drop was nearly fifty feet. “Or just drunk?”
“This is the biggest bridge in Scotland, Jake,” Angus wobbled on the rim, like an acrobat trying to catch his balance with both arms outstretched. “Either I’m crazy *or* I’m immortal. Tis your choice.”
He knew a challenge when he had one hurled in his face, and was not about to let a half-drunk dawg show him up. Nervously, he pulled himself up onto the ledge.
“Good show!” Angus clapped, and grinned. “Now–can you swim?”
“Huh?” Jake backed up, out of range of Angus’s arms. “Yeah, sure.”
“Oh, I hope so,” the dawg reached into his trenchcoat. “I’ve heard the undercurrent can really drag you down.”
Jake caught the flash of the sword, but it was too late. The swing was harmless, utilising the blunt side of the blade, but it had the desired effect.He lost balance, screamed, and plummeted downward.Angus roared with laughter, and jumped off, sword in paw.
Angus was right; the undercurrent was incredibly powerful. Jake was instantly dragged under, further and further from the shiny surface that intrapped him.His lungs burned for air. It wasn’t like he hadn’t swum before, just most of the time he had an air pack or something to aid him. And never under a current like this. It wasn’t long before the inky blue darkness around him faded into blackness.
He awoke, strangely, with air in his lungs. He was still underwater, deeper than he recalled, but there was air in his lungs and renewed strength. Slowly but surely he began his ascent.It seemed like forever before he broke the surface. The first deep breath was almost painful as he gasped to inhale it. His lungs still burned; there was probably some water left in them.It took a minute for him to get his bearings. He felt the warmth of the sun against his back, drying his fur. Morning all ready? He shook some of the water off, and started to shore.
He arrived to find Angus sitting on some rocks by the small beach, looking considerably drier and laughing light-heartedly, “What took you so long? Ye’ve already missed half th’mornin.”
Jake started at him coldly as he emerged dripping wet, and nearly collapsed on the rock beside him, “Why the *hell* did you do that?!”He shrugged, “‘T’was no harm in it. I had’te prove tha’ to you.”
Jake felt like laughing at the sheer stupidity of it, but something held him back. After all, Angus *was* right. It didn’t really matter.He shook his head. As strange and alien as this new life was, he realised now he had to live it. There was no looking back; Razor and T-Bone were long gone, even if the memories were only a little more than a week old.
Sighing, “So . . . where do we begin?”
End of Part 2
Part 3 10 Years Later
Something was infiltrating his dreams; he groaned when he realized what it was.
The sounds of the night club beneath his apartment had drifted up through the ventilation shafts again; that or they had managed to burrow through a plaster ceiling of several stories. Either way, the music was quite audible.
He groaned, and stuffed the pillow over his head, bringing it tightly around his ears in an attempt to drain out the noise.It didn’t work, but the phone ringing certainly did.
A muffled curse emanated from his bed. Who would call at *this* hour? A glance at the clock showed 1 AM. His job, working as one of the Heads of the Megakat Department of Motor Vehicles, was not exactly one that required he always be in touch. The only emergency he’d even actually dealt with in his ten years of service there–since Deputy Mayor Briggs had ‘promoted’ him–was when they discovered one brand of cars carried a defective engine capable of exploding at any time, and hundreds of citizens drove one. Even then the’d let him sleep in.
His arm flung out wildly, meeting several objects on the dresser before finally the phone, “Ungh . . . who is it?”
“Gee, Chance–if I thought you were going to be so unappreciative I wouldn’t have called.”
He was suddenly *wide* awake. He had instantly recognised the voice on the other end–one he hadn’t heard for ten years.
The kat watched as Jake spoke into the paw phone. He had dark brown fur, some protruding from his cheeks, and a medium build. He was wearing mainly dark clothes. Not all black–no, that would have attracted attention. On his left wrist, barely visible with his long sleeves, was a tatoo–a blue circle with three squiggly blue lines running through it.
He had followed Jake from the bar. Typically he wasn’t so thorough about following his every move, but the immortal had been acting strangely lately. He was restless and more off to the side in the pub. He was inattentive in his lessons. Maybe he was thinking of running away from MacLeod and finding someone else–no, he would be foolish to do that. His training wasn’t done yet, and he and Angus got along quite well.
And a week ago, he had made a phone call. This was strange, because it was from a pay phone, not MacLeod’s. The kat had never seen him use a pay phone before. He inserted a tremendous amount of money for the call, let the phone ring, then quickly placed the receiver down and walked away glumly.
The kat, utilising his pull at the local phone company, had traced the call–to a certain Chance Furlong in Megakat City. A conversation with the phone operator told him Jake had let the phone ring, then hung up when Chance answered.
The problem was clear; Jake wanted his old life back. Now he had worked up the courage to call and actually have a conversation with his long lost friend.
The brown kat was lucky; Jake used the same pay phone, so he had it all ready bugged. He was busy readjusting the focus
on his binoculars when he heard a ringing noise in his coat pocket.
He cursed softly, and retrieving his cellular phone, he headed down the block. It put distance between him and Jake, who from the looks of things wasn’t going anywhere soon.
“Hello?” he asked impatiently, moving further and further from the phone booth.
“How is he?”
“Talking. I got the phone rigged.”
“Is MacLeod there?”
“Should be on his way–there or home. He left the pub about five minutes ago.”
“I’ll watch out–” his sentence halted, as did his life. He had been crossing the street, and with the late hours hadn’t seen the car approach. He’d forgotten, as it turned out while his body was crushed beneath the tires, one key thing.He’d forgotten he wasn’t immortal.
Chance was still blinking awake with surprise as his former partner responded, “It’s me.”
“Jake–oh *Jesus*,” he was sitting up, nearly out of bed now. “Where the hell are you?”
“Scotland? Watcha doin’ there?” he was ecstatic, though Jake seemed calm and strangely withdrawn.
“Things, I suppose. I’m helping out at an antique shop.”
“Antiques? Jeez, Jake, I never figured–Say, did you ever find out why–?”
“Yeah,” he said almost sadly. “I know. It’s . . . kind of hard to explain over the phone.”
“Christ,” it’s good to talk to you again. Why didn’t you call?”
“Well . . . I guess I’ve been kinda paranoid about people finding out about me.”
“I can’t blame you. So . . . I’m speechless here. Whattaya say to a guy who’s been missing for ten years?”
“I don’t know. You married?”
He nearly laughed, “*Me*?” Nah–how ’bout you?”
“Nope. What’re you doing?”
“Well . . . Callie felt so bad after you uhh . . . died . . . that she promoted me.”
“Oh?” Chance could practically see him raise his eyebrows. “What’re you now?”
“I’m a Department Head at the Department of Motor Vehicles. I don’t like it, but ah . . .,” he shrugged. “It pays.”
“Gee, Chance Furlong at a desk job. Never though I’d see the day–”
“Well, it’s not really a *desk* job–I go down to the yard and yell at Burke and Murry a lot.”
“Heh heh. Must be fun,” he was silent for a moment. “I gotta go–my boss is coming. Look, I’m gonna call you back soon, okay?”
“You’d *better* this time. Bye.”
And just like that, he hung up the receiver and Jake Clawson was out of his life again.
Jake was right about the boss thing, although Angus was more of a mentor. Over the years the two had formed a powerful relationship, though Jake knew himself that no one could ever replace Chance.Angus had taught him everything; from how to use a sword, to how to hide it in a trenchcoat or sneak through customs with it, or how to invest so he would have comfortable amount of money in the future. Angus had given him something he could never hope to repay, and he was forever grateful for it.
Angus approached slowly as Jake hung up the phone, “Who were that?”
“Oh . . . just an old friend,” his voice was laced with longing.
The dawg opened his mouth to inquire further, but never got the chance. In the far distinct road there was a sudden screech of tires, and a short scream.
By the time they got to the scene, the local enforcers were all ready setting up the blue and white stripped tape.
There were two people involved. A dawg was plowed into the steering wheel–his airbag having failed to inflate.
A brown kat had been plowed down by the car. His clothes and fur were soaked with blood. A surprised look was still on his face.
“Poor bastard,” Angus grumbled. “Nev’r even saw it coming.”
It was then that he recognised the kat. On the road beneath a tire, his twisted body had one arm sticking out. The sleeve was torn, and the tatoo on the inside of the wrist was quite visible.Angus turned away. He knew what the tatoo meant, and he knew quite well who the kat was. Jake had no idea; maybe because he had never had the heart to tell him, and maybe it was better that way.
The kat was Jake’s watcher.
Jake, a day later, was sitting by the bar alone, contemplating life over a beer and watching Fritz serve customer after customer. Something he liked to do, when the pub wasn’t busy and things were reasonably quiet.
He had been silent for a while, waiting until the bartender had his paws free, then spoke, his voice partially drained out by leaning his chin on his paw, “Fritz?”
“Yes?” he always answered in the same voice. Never particularly cheerful or sad, or even monotone, it just had a certain beat to it Jake could never understand.
“Where did you get your tatoo?”
Fritz looked visibly uncomfortable; Jake was referring to the blue circle with the lines inside of his left wrist, the one he had stared at curiously for ten years.”That’s a long story . . . why?”
“I saw the same one on the guy who got run over yesterday,” his voice had no cold suspicion, just simple curiosity.
“That’s . . . a longer story.”
“Oh?” Fritz wasn’t a storyteller, but then again he wasn’t one to hold secrets either. Jake wanted to pursue it, but he didn’t want to put anyone in an uncomfortable position. “I was just wondering.”
Fritz was saved; a customer walked in, and he had to leave Jake to his thoughts.Jake didn’t put much though to the matter–but he didn’t forget it, either.
A week passed, and Chance couldn’t have been happier.
Jake had called him three times, and they’d spoken for a while. He was still reluctant to talk about his past brush with death, but Chance didn’t pressure him. It would come out eventually.
And then Jake had invited him to Scotland. That had been a shock, and more of the same when he accepted. Now all they needed to do was set up a date.
G-d, did it feel good to be reunited with him again! It almost made Chance forget his surroundings. He was on his way home, walking–the car was broken. Megakat City had really gone to the dumps after the SWAT Kats disappeared. The enforcers handled things with guys like Dark Kat well enough, but it left no time for little things–robberies, muggings, parking tickets, littering, and et cetera. Chance had to step over at least six bums on his way home, and he lived in a good section. There were streets and blocks he would wouldn’t ever venture to, like warzones. There were guys who had the enforcers running scared. It wasn’t that he thought the enforcers weren’t doing their jobs as they were supposed to, it was simply that they had too much to really deal with.
Then, of course, there were the religious fanatics. With the slow deterioration of Megakat City, they were more and more prominent. He couldn’t blame them; they offered a method of escape. It just simply wasn’t his route; it hadn’t been since he started cutting CCD in fourth grade.
One stopped him again–this one was wearing plain clothes (a nice suit, to be exact). He actually didn’t look much like a fanatic.
“Excuse me–may you spare a few moments to discuss your immortal soul?”
“No thanks,” he pushed by.
The strange kat then whispered in his ear, “Would you spare a few minutes to discuss your best friend’s immortal body?”
*That* got his attention.”Hey, buddy–what is this about–?”
The kat was silent now, signalling him in a small bookshop.
He followed, suspiciously. As he entered, the door slammed shut and locked. A burly kat appeared behind him, urging him deeper in.In the back of the store was a set of stairs, leading down into a surprisingly well-lit room full of bookshelves. In the centre was a ring of chairs. There were several kats, male and female, inside, a few were sitting down.
He was told to sit down in a voice that made it surely sound like a command, across from the light brown kat who was facing him. The others mainly avoided eye contact, or tried to bore a hole in his head with their stares.
“What is this about?” he said at last, and screw the consequences.
“What do you know about Jake Clawson?” The kat across from him, with a grey goatee, asked. He had his paws clasped in front of him, and a partially visible tattoo on the wrist. It only took Chance a few minutes to realised *everyone* had the same tattoo.
“He’s dead,” he replied softly. “He died ten years ago.”
“Did he?” he kat said curiously. “Then how did you talk with him last night.”
The kat held up a small tape player, “Would you like to hear a recording of that conversation, Mr. Furlong? Just to jog your memory?”
Chance was silent.
“Now . . . I’m not one to beat around the bush, so I’ll make this clear for you. Your lies to protect Clawson are worthless here. We know more about him than you do.”
“Then why am I here?”
The kat’s manner was surprisingly friendly, less cold than before, “We had our doubts about bringing you here–”
“We as in . . .?”
“We . . . the watchers. A secret society of people who watch immortals throughout the centuries and record their doings. I’m Frank Rivera, head of this region,” he actually extended his paw in greeting, which Chance hesitantly accepted.
“People who can’t die . . . except if you take their heads. There’s one born every generation–we don’t know how or why. We just watch and record.”
“Chance stared at him curiously, but Joe’s face remained serious, “Why?”
“Who will tell their stories when all but the last immortal are dead? They live secret lives. Only few even know of their existence.”
“Do they know about you?”
“Of course not.”
“Then isn’t that kind of rude–watching their every movement?”
“It’s necessary,” Jake’s voice was not at all cruel, “to be secretive. If they knew of our existence, they could use our records to gather information on each other and every immortal would be dead before the Gathering even got a chance to start.” He stood, walked over to a bookshelf, and retrieved a manila envelope, which he handed to Chance.
“This hasn’t been filed officially as one of our Chronicles,” he indicated the bookshelves, “the books you see around you, because he’s too new.”
Chance fingered the envelope, which was labelled, “Clawson, Jacob.” Not sure what to make of it, the group around did what they apparently did best–watch–as he opened it.
The file at first contained a preliminary record, complete with birth certificate and profile. Along with it were medical records and a series of newspaper clippings from their life, such as their expulsion from the enforcers and the first appearance of the SWAT Kats.
These guys were thorough as hell. There were descriptions of his parents, and close relatives. There was even an enforcer record of Chance and all the awards they had earned together listed. What came after the last clipping–one with the story of the hold-up–really spooked him. There were a series of documents, labelled at the top as “Official Watcher #87 Report.” They were occasionally lengthy, so he didn’t have time to read them all. Most were detailed descriptions of his latest location, action, and what was referred to as ‘training status’. With nearly every one was a photograph. Chance noticed as he continued chronologically that Jake had a small beard that continued to lengthen in the pictures. A few contained a dawg, labelled as immortal Angus MacLeod. Hadn’t Jake mentioned him as the owner of the Antique Shop? There was a note beneath the first paragraph to see Angus’s watcher file, and a brief description.
The last sheet was a form, labelled, “Head Count”. Beneath the header was Jake’s full name and birthdate filled into the slot. There were the words “Heads Taken” and numbers down a line that formed a list. There were only two names, each with locations, date, and a minor description of the battle. It made Chance’s stomach turn to imagine Jake cutting somebody’s head off.
“You’ve been spying on him!” he said suddenly, almost angrily. “You’ve been watching him behind his back for ten years!”
“That’s what we do, Mr. Furlong.”
Chance shook his head in disbelief, “I can’t believe this.” Something clicked in his mind, “What are you showing me this? Why am I here?”
Joe leaned back into his chair, “It seems . . . we’ve run into a problem. You see, Jake’s watcher died a week ago–hit by a car. A damn shame. The problem is . . . we don’t really have a lot of open guys, except for trainees. It’d stick a trainee with Jake because he’s fairly young and not very active anyway, but he lives with MacLeod. MacLeod . . . knows how to watch his back. He nearly found one of us before.”
“And what does this have to do with me?”
“It has come to our attention . . . that he’s been contacting you. He even invited you to his home in Scotland. For us . . . it’s the perfect opportunity to slip right under MacLeod’s nose.”
“For wha–” realisation hit him. “Oh *no*,Rivera–there’s no way in hell–”
“Chance,” Joe sighed, lowering his voice calmly. “Let me explain something to you. If you’re his watcher, *you* decide what goes in this,” he held up the envelope. “Either way, *someone* out there will be watching Jake Clawson. Some of us can get very descriptive in our reports. The only thing you’d be *required* to do is put in his location and kills.”
He thought for a moment. In way, Joe was right–in a cold, twisted way, “I’m tellin’ Jake.”
“And put the lives of every watcher on the line? One immortal knows, ten immortals know. Scotland is full of them, and most won’t be happy about it,” his face was deadly serious. “We are a society that has successfully continued our mission for hundreds of years, Chance. We’ll continue where you like it or not. Now . . . you could help us . . . or we could do it ourselves. It’s your choice.”
Three weeks later, a plane took off, bound for Scotland International Airport. On it was Chance Furlong, who’s long sleeves hid the freshly-shaven fur over a section of skin that contained a tattoo on the wrist.
Chapter 3 Scotland
To put it simply, Jake was nervous as hell as he waited in the airport terminal.
Ten years had gone by! Did it really feel like ten years? He wasn’t too worried about Chance changing–he simply wasn’t that type of guy. It was himself that worried him. He did, indeed, wear a short beard. He debated about clipping it, because Chance had always detested beards, but decided against it. The last thing he ever wanted was to be recognised by someone from Megakat City–it was better not to take chances. He wore basically the same clothing, except now with a trenchcoat. The first thing he’d been taught, of course, was never to leave without his sword.
The PA system announced the arrival of Chance’s plane, and he headed for the gate. Angus hadn’t come; he was minding the store and Jaques was at work (he was a computer programmer).
He waited patiently until Chance arrived. For a brief moment they stood staring at each other, two lifelong friends who’d been separated for ten years; the effect was overwhelming.
The moment passed, and they embraced each other wildly.
“Jesus, Jake . . . I found you at last,” Chance felt a minor urge to cry as he held his former partner in his arms, but he ignored it.
“Join the club,” Jake finally released him, and glanced over his friend. “You look good; been working out?” It was true Chance had more packing then before, if that was possible.
“Yeah. You too?” he slapped him on the shoulder. “C’mon. I better get my bag before it gets stolen.” He wasn’t joking. Airport terminals were really murder these days.
“So that’s what you’ve been doing for ten years?” Chance stepped out of the car, in front of a store with a sign that read, ‘MacLeod’s Antiques.’ “Workin’ in an antique shop?”
“Hey, mister desk job,” Jake joked, holding the door in front of him. “How’s the Department of Motor Vehicles?”
“Oh, *shut up*.”
Angus did not appear at the sound of the door shutting. Jake guessed he’d sensed the buzz, known it was them, and not bothered to hurry down. The store didn’t have much customers for that time of day, so he was usually upstairs, reading or training, but always in earshot of the door.
He did finally appear at the top of the steps, “So . . . this is th’ famous Chance Furlong.”
Jake gestured to him, “Chance . . . this is Angus MacLeod.”
“Of th’ clan MacLeod,” had he had a hat, he would have tipped it. He ushered them up the stairs.
Chance had to admit; Angus’s actual living quarter weren’t a whole lot different from his shop. There were wall-to-wall antiques, except these weren’t labelled in any fancy display cases. Momentoes from his life, Chance guessed. Things with sentimental value that he couldn’t bear to sell. He must have sure done a lot of travelling, Chance thought, eyeing the samurai armour set.
“There’s a guest room you can stay in,” Angus offered, lifting his bag with incredible ease.
Chance thanked him, then followed Jake into his room, “So this is where you’ve been living . . .” The walls and bookshelves were lined, aside from a few items he’d taken with him ten years before, with books and various mechanical devices. His desk was more of a workplace, with two operational computer terminals. In the center looked like a piece of computer equipment, all laid out with the wires in various points of entry and took s still set beside it. So he still liked to tinker with machines in his spare time.
“How’d I guess?” he shook his head, indicating the equipment. “Some things about you never change, buddy.”
“I guess so,” Jake chuckled. “Some things never do.”
Jake and Chance were reminiscing much later over a few beers and catching up on ten years when Angus reappeared. Jake explained the dawg was often coming and going as he pleased.
“After four hundred and fifty years,” he had wanted to say, “there tends to be a lot on your mind.” But of course, Chance didn’t know yet, so that was left out of the conversation.
Angus came through the kitchen, sweating and holding his sword loosely in one paw. He was obviously back from a workout. He set the sword by the door, poured himself a drink, and began pacing lightly.
“Worried about something, Angus?” Jake offered.”Oh, no–I just–” he stopped abruptly, in mid-sentence. Chance now had his sleeves rolled up, and the tattoo was quite visible. Angus took a moment to regain himself, “Odd tattoo, is all.”
“Yeah, well . . . that’s a long story.”
“And one I’d love tae hear” his voice was a little colder now.
“Woah, woah,” Jake could feel the strange tension mounting between the two of them, and didn’t want to see where it went. “Easy, guys. Chance’ll tell us when he wants to.” He added guiltily, “We’ve got a few
“Like how you survived two shots in the chest,” Chance stated not coldly, but quite matter-of-factly. He didn’t like Angus’ inquiries on the tattoo.
Jake swallowed as Angus stared at him, “You have’nae told him yet?”
“Actually . . .,” he wasn’t too comfortable yet with telling Chance about his immortality. If anything, he felt guilty he had been blessed with possibly eternal life and to their knowledge his partner had not. He knew being reunited meant he had to spill the beans sooner or later, but he simply didn’t feel ready to confess to his best friend that he would have to age while watching him stay young–that was one of the reasons it took him ten years to call, ” . . . no.”
“Grand. You’d only be wastin’ yuir breath.”
They both shot him looks, Jake’s curious and Chance’s suspicious. In what seemed like a dangerously calm, fluid motion Angus retrieved his sword, raised it upward, and swung down. It sliced right through the table, a few inches from Chance’s fingers.
“Woah!” Chance jumped away as Angus pointed his sword as him menacingly, coming between him and Jake. “There must be some mistake–!”
“‘Tis no mistake,” Angus’s voice was down to a chilling octave. “I know what a watcher tattoo is. I also know,” Chance’s back hit the wall, and the dawg put the blade up against his neck, “tha’ Jake’s watcher died a month back, and has’ne been replaced yet.” He pushed his free paw up against Chance’s throat.
“Angus!” Jake recovered slightly form the shock. “What the *hell* are you doing?!”
“Nothing tae worry about,” Angus pressed harder, causing Chance to make a gagging noise. “Just a wee bit o business.”
The dawg suddenly felt a blade against his neck; he glanced over his shoulder to see that Jake had retrieved his own sword. “I’m not going to let you kill my best friend before I figure out what’s going on,” he said firmly.
Angus persisted, “Fine.” He turned
back to Chance, who was firmly held in place by his amazing strength. “Tell him who the watchers are.”
Chance gurgled, but was silent.
“Fine,” his captor shrugged. “As your friend here seems t’be havin’ some trouble, I’ll fill you in.” He faced Jake seriously, but held a strong hold. “Th’ watchers are a secret society of mortals who watch immortals and record their doing throughout the centuries. One watcher to ev’ry immortal. Each week he records and reports their location, how many heads they’ve taken. If the watcher dies, they assign another. If an immortal dies, they
reassign the watcher. This,” he released Chance’s neck long enough to grab his left wrist and hold it out against the wall, “is a watcher tattoo and from the looks o’ it, a fresh one.”
Jake’s eyes widened, “Fritz has–”
“–one. Yes. Fritz is my watcher,” Angus lowered his eyebrows. “I let him live because he does¦nae bother me and gives me free drinks once in a while. The kat we saw run over last month was your watcher–I’d seen him around. I’ve been waiting for them to assign someone tae you.”
Jake raised his eyes to face straight into his friend’s, “Is this true?”
Chance swallowed as best he could with the blade at his neck, “It’s
Jake’s expression collapsed into a mix of shock and sadness. He pulled Angus away, “Let him go.”
Chance gasped as he was released, nearly allowing himself to slide to the ground. His former partner started at him coldly, and he felt as though the eyes could bore holes in his face.
Jake’s face was washed with a look of betrayal as he said softly, “Get out.” Angus shot him a look, but he ignored it. “Just . . . get out.”
Wordlessly, Chance picked himself up and hurried out the door.
Hours later, when the blood was done boiling and dawn’s first light crept into the apartment, Jake went out to hunt for his friend.
Maybe I was too harsh, he pondered. I shouldn’t have thrown him out in the middle of the night. Still . . . he lied. No, he didn’t lie, he just held some stuff back.
He felt a rush of anger as he thought again of the watchers, and Chance joining them. Maybe he wasn’t given so much choice, he though. Maybe I should’ve asked for the circumstances behind it. Besides, it wasn’t like I didn’t hold stuff back too . . . maybe if I’d been more front the whole thing would’ve been settled on the phone.
He spotted Chance on the bench in the park, his face buried in his paws. Quietly, he sat down on the opposite end.
Chance, after a few minutes, raised his head, but kept his eyes levelled to the ground. His features were crossed with a hung look of sorrow and guilt.
“Look, Jake . . .,” he said at last. “I’m sorry . . . I don’t know what to say . . .”
Jake didn’t respond.Chance sighed heavily, “I thought I should at least explain . . .”
“He began to relate the tale of his meeting with the watchers in the bookshop, ” . . . they said they’d find another guy if I refused–I figured I might as well try to keep your life . . . kind of private.”
“‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions,’” Jake quoted. His voice suddenly became a bit more light-hearted. “Ah . . . what the hell–the guy who said that didn’t have friends like you.”
“So you forgive me?” Chance asked hopefully.
“Not quite . . .,” he exhaled. “Just give me some time. I’ll be at Fritz’s.” He stood and turned away.
When Jake didn’t return later that day, Chance began to loiter around the block with the antique shop, ready to duck in an alley if Angus showed up.
He began to worry if Jake would ever forgive him. He said he might . . . and he always forgave him in the past.
But he knew he had betrayed his partner and best friend, and it was something he knew he could never forget. He collapsed on the front steps, both physically and emotionally exhausted, and didn’t look up until he heard footsteps.
It was a kat, but not Jake. He was wearing mainly black, and a trenchcoat. Almost instantly, he stood as he came to recognise Joseph Bryes.
“Well, hello . . .,” he was considerably calmer than his last encounter. “Oh wait . . . I remember *you*–you’re Chance, aren’t you?”
“Glad to see one section of your brain’s still intact,” he replied huskily. “Now what the hell do you want?”
“Relax,” Bryers smiled, pushing a gun into Chance’s hip. “I’m not here for you. I just want Clawson–where is he?”
Chance bit his lip, answering firmly, “I don’t know.”
He probed deeper with the barrel, “Let me make this clear to you–”
Chance persisted coldly with the lie, “*I don’t know*.”
“Suit yourself,” Bryers fired, and walked away as Chance’s body connected with the ground.
Angus and Jaques strolled down the block, half-drunk and reminiscing over some colonial dinner they had attended, when Jaques spotted the body in front of the store.
“What on earth? . . .,” he knelt beside him, looking over the wound. “He’s got a bloody bullet in his hip.”
“Literally,” Angus tipped his head up, noticing he was still partially conscious. “Chance? You bastard–can you hear me? Who did this?”
Chance gritted his teeth, struggling to stay awake, “It was Bryers . . .,” he groaned in pain. “Wanted to know . . . where Jake was . . . didn’t tell . . . him . . .”
“Stay calm lad,” normally, he couldn’t have cared less for the life of a watcher, but he knew what it meant to Jake. “Jaques–stay here. I’ve got tae find an ambulance . . . and Jake.”
By the evening, Jake had firmly made up his mind; he was not going to let some stupid society come between him and his best friend. Not that it didn’t make him a bit nervous to have someone around who had to write down everything he did, but he supposed they’d work it out later. On the phone, they had all ready discussed the possibility of Chance coming to live with him–it wasn’t like he had much going for him in Megakat City. Now if only he could make Angus get over it . . .
Silently he left the bar, a bit wary of Fritz. He had yet to get over the watcher concept. He began to slowly neander down the street, in the general direction of the shop. He only hoped he hadn’t left Chance waiting too long.
He halted, feeling a familiar buzz. Normally this wouldn’t have bothered him, considering the number of local–and friendly–immortals, but something told him to reach for his sword.
“Getting paranoid, Jake?” the grey kat behind him twirled his Crusader’s sword.
“I couldn’t compete with you . . . Bryers,” he said coldly, retrieving his sword. It was a katana, used for beheadings by an actual samurai, similar to Angus’s but heavier and longer. It had been a gift at the start of his training. He gripped the ivory handle tightly, inching into an attack stance.
Bryers held out his arms, indicating their surroundings, “No more interruptions, Jake. Not even your mortal friend.” They were in a quiet alley, definitely isolated enough.
“Don’t be so sure.”
“Oh, I’m quite sure . . . after what I did to him.
“The anger in his blood rose, but he tried to keep it levelled, “Leave him alone.”
His opponent shrugged, “Too late.”
With that, he took the first, wild swing, which Jake successfully parried.
Jake didn’t doubt his sword skills, but he was new and young compared to the nearly-two-hundred-year-old Bryers. It was obvious his opponent was no Angus–G-d knows when he had used his sword last–but he had almost two centuries of experience over him, and it showed easily enough.
Another thing to throw into the pot was he was considerably calmer than the last two encounters–why now? He’d had ten years to unwind and sort himself out. He’d become twice as cocky, and twice as dangerous.
The battle continued, and Jake began to feel his defences weaken while Bryers’ remained stiff. ‘The best defence is a good offence,’ he reminded himself, and moved into an attacking angle.
“Getting tired?” Bryers had seen it.
“Not on your head,” he replied confidently, sparing a moment to wipe the sweat off his brow before blocking his left ribs. “Tell me . . . if you’ve been alive for nearly two hundred years . . . why did you bother to rob an appliance store? Haven’t you built up an account for yourself?”
He nearly laughed, “Don’t you see? Mortal lives don’t matter.”
“And every now and then you have to try and prove that to them?”
“Perhaps,” he didn’t miss a beat as their blades clashed again. “Who cares about them? There are a million different ways for them to die anyway.”
“Killing an immortal in battle, that’s self defence,” Jake speculated. “Killing a mortal unnecessarily–that’s murder.”
Their blades met low, bringing them inches from each other as he replied, “Then I have just sinned.”
Jake gritted his teeth in rushing hatred as he stepped down on Bryers’ low blade, slamming against the floor with his heavy boot.
“There can be only one,” Jake raised his blade, and swung downward.Bryers’ head and body simultaneously but separately hit the ground with an audible ‘thump.’
Still breathing heavily and soaked with sweat, Jake held his sword loosely in his paw as he awaited the Quickening.
It began with a cloud of white hot energy drifting from Bryers’ body to his. This was when the main energy was transferred. He could feel his former opponent’s life energy coursing through his veins, and he felt as if he had, in that brief moment, lived two hundred years himself.Then came the sparks. Like lightening they shot through his body. The rush was painful and overwhelming, but he helplessly opened his arms to welcome it.
Sparks and bolts were throughout the alley now, igniting all the conductors and anything in their way. The lids flew off trash cans. An explosion of sparks erupted from the nearby phone booth.
He released a yelp as the Quickening began to die down, collapsing to his knees from sheer exhaustion. He allowed himself only a spare moment, though, before retrieving his sword and hurrying back to the shop.
He arrived to discover Angus on the front steps, sipping his drink and waiting,”’bout time.” He started to explain. “Bryers is–”
“–dead,” Jake finished his sentence. “Met him on the way back from the bar.”
Angus smiled, “There’s a good lad. Saved me a bit o’ trouble.”
“Surgery, I expect. He’s got a bullet in his hip.”
“Then he’s not dead?”
“Did Bryers tell you that? Tryin’ to spook you tha’s all. No, he’s alive–but for how long is anybodies guess.”
“Thanks,” with that, Jake was gone.
Fear overcame him as he met Jaques at the hospital. Chance was still in surgery, and they were having trouble removing the bullet without paralysing the lower half of his body. The bullet was very close to the spinal nerves, the doctor explained. There was no way to know how well or how fast he would recover.
The fear was, specifically, not so much that Chance might not make it, but with that also a realization that he might never get to tell his best friend he forgave him. He prayed to G-d that he would be all right, promising to make up once Chance was awake.
He didn’t lift his head from his paws until the doctor shook him, “Mr. Clawson? He’s out of surgery.”
“How is he?”
“He survived–he was lucky to be in excellent health before he took the shot. Fortunatly we were able to take the bullet out, but there was a lot of damage to the hip bone that was simply too dangerous to repair. We won’t be able to tell if he’s paralysed until he wakes up. Even so. . .,” he sighed, adjusting his glasses, ” . . . he may never walk again.”
Jake had drifted off in the hospital chair when he found Angus shaking him awake–Jaques, apparently, had to get to work, “He’s waking up. I assumed ye’d want tae see him?”
“Yeah,” he pulled himself off the chair. “Where is he?”
Chance was nearly awake when he entered quietly. He blinked, almost surprised to see Jake there, “Bryers . . .?”
“I . . . took care of him,” Jake explained, seating himself beside the bed. “How do you feel?”
“Do you forgive me?”
“Well, if you didn’t I was gonna say I couldn’t feel my legs,” he joked. “But really . . . they hurt like hell. The doctor says that’s a good sign.”
“It is,” Jake replied.
“So, am I gonna walk? I don’t trust what the doctor told me.”
“Sure you will,” he patted him on the shoulder. “Do you really think I’m gonna spend the next fifty years carting you around in a wheelchair? You’d *better* walk.”
Chance smiled, “What are we gonna do,” he indicated his tattoo, “about this?”
“Why should we go anything?”
He was taken by surprise, “Whattaya mean?”
“Why should anyone have to know . . . that I know about you?” he explained. “I thought about it, Chance . . . better you than some dark-coat-and-glasses type guy on my tail for the next fifty to seventy years. So why do the watchers have to know?”
“You realize . . . it means I keep a lot of things from you,” Chance squirmed under the sheets. “I mean . . . I don’t like hiding things from you . . . but you can’t exactly go cruising through watcher chronicles in your spare time.”
“I know. Just keep the stuff at Fritz’s or something. Oh, and don’t tell Fritz about Angus, okay? The damn dawg finally found a watcher he doesn’t mind.”
“Was is it with him and watcher, anyway? You realize he would’ve killed me if you hadn’t been around.”
Jake shrugged, “He found his watcher about two hundred years ago. The guy did something to his girlfriend. Ever since then, he’s had a history for killing watchers. Didn’t they tell you that when you took the job?”
Chance scratched his head, “Well, they said he *almost* found one. I guess Frank mentioned once that he’s been through an awful lot of watchers since then, but I wasn’t paying so close attention.”
“Well . . . I’ll do my best to calm him down. Just watch your back around him, okay?”
Chance laughed, motioning towards his lame leg, “I guess I should start doing that in general, huh?”
Epilogue 1 Year Late
Chance Furlong groaned both inwardly and outwardly; the elevator was busted again. Even though their new apartment–a block from Angus’s–was on the second floor, that one flight was enough to keep him sore for the rest of the evening. Slowly and painfully, he began the long climb with one paw gripping the pawrail, and the other leaning heavily on his cane. He walked, but not without the aid of his cane–his hip would never work right again. Still, it had only been with Jake’s endless support and encouragement that he had made it out of a wheelchair.
Ah, Jake. He had never once, in his year of handling reports and writing files, though of him as his immortal ‘assignment.’ He had once asked Jake if he had ever felt like Chance was watching his every move, and the reply had been negative. It wasn’t a matter of what one was and the other wasn’t; they were partners, plain and simple.
“Hey, Chance–wait up,” that very partner appeared at the bottom of the stairs.
“That won’t be too hard,” he muttered, gritting his teeth to force back the pain.
“Easy, buddy,” Jake ran up to his side, instantly wrapping the arm with the cane over his shoulder. “Next time the elevator’s busted, wait for me, okay?” he knew the agony Chance went through with his leg, and to this day felt guilty for it.
“What would I do without you, Jake?” he smiled, a bit relieved with the new-found support.
“For once in my life, Chance, I think that’s something we don’t have to worry about anymore.”
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