“Owww…” Chance pushed himself out form under the truck he was working on and rubbed the growing bump on his forehead.
The alarm was still blaring as he pushed himself up off the sled and headed for the hanger.
By the time he got there Jake was already suited up and at the com. Razor, as he went by when in SWATKat guise, keyed up the com while Chance popped his locker and suited up.
“What is it Ms. Briggs?”
“It’s the Past Master. An Enforcer patrol spotted him to the south of the city with a flight of dragons. They attempted to engage but were wiped out! Feral’s scrambling an attack squadron to go after them, but I’m worried they won’t be able to handle this one.”
Chance, or T-Bone by his SWATKat call sign, stepped up beside Razor as he finished putting on his glove o’ tricks, “The Past Master? How many times do we have to put that creep down?”
Razor elbowed him lightly in the ribs and turned back to the com, “Don’t worry, Ms. Briggs, we’ll handle it.”
With that Razor keyed off the com and activated the Hangar doors.
T-bone was the first into the TurboKat, dropping into the pilot’s seat he fastened on his helmet, “Razor, why don’t we ever get to go up against anything normal?”
“Because T-Bone.” Jake grinned as he fastened himself in, “Nothing normal would be any challenge.”
T-bone chuckled, “Roger that buddy. Hang on, here we go.”
Bringing the engines up to speed T-bone opened them wide and the TurboKat blasted out of the hanger and into the sky.
“Coming up on Radar, T-bone. Due South. I picked up the enforcer squadron back at the city limits. We should have 2 minutes before they arrive.”
“That should be more than enough time. How many you got?”
“I make five… no make that six bogeys. Should be coming into visual any moment.”
T-bone scanned the horizon, keeping his flight path completely level. Squinting against the sun he made out black shaped against the blue, “I’ve got them. Moving to engage.”
T-bone brought the TurboKat in from a 5’o clock line on the Dragons. There atop the lead one sat the diminutive form of the Past Master.
“Hey T-bone, what do you think he’s doing way out here?”
“No idea Razor, but it can’t be good.”
“Roger that, Octopus Missiles on-line.”
T-bone cut to the left a bit to get in on the Dragon’s six. But the formation broke quickly, “Damn it, they’ve spotted us.”
T-bone turned into a pursuit arc behind the rear-most dragon. The thing didn’t have speed to match the Turbokat, but it maneuvered on a dime. T-bone had to juke left fast to avoid the fire blast it let out back at the Kat.
“C’mon T-bone, how can I get a shot off if you don’t hold it still?” Jake grumbled.
“I’d love to oblige you Razor, but this overgrown gecko wants to cook us.”
T-bone spun around and came in behind another dragon. The thing twisted and spun in the air like some demented worm, but T-bone managed to keep a bead on it.
“Here goes nothing. Missiles away!”
Razor fired off a pair of octopus missiles at the dragon. Despite the beasts best efforts it was struck clean by one of them and grappled by the missile’s clawed head.
“Bingo!” Razor grinned.
“Don’t look now, buddy, but I think we’re gonna have to try something else.” T-bone pointed down at the falling dragon.
It wiggled once in the missile’s grip, then broke free and spread its wings again.
“Krud! These things must have been eating their Wheaties.” Razor said with a touch of awe in his voice, “Well bring us around and I’ll… What the?”
Both SWATKats flinched as a purple vortex opened up in the air. The dragons all flew for it without hesitation.
T-bone brought the Kat around, “Do we follow?”
“No,” Jake replied, “We could end up Great Kat knows where, or when.”
The vortex snapped shut behind the last dragon just as a deep and rigid voice cut through the airwaves, “This is Commander Feral. What do you SWATKat’s think you’re doing?”
Razor rolled his eyes and keyed open the channel, “The party’s over, Feral; you missed it. We figured it wouldn’t be right to let him get away without ANY resistance.”
“I don’t think you’re in any position to talk, vigilante. I don’t see any sign of your win. Now land your plane; you’re under arrest.”
Razor turned off the com and shook his head, “He never gives up, does he?”
T-bone chuckled, “Nope, never.” And, pushed the TurboKat to full throttle.
Pulling a tight turn, he blew back through the Enforcer formation and raced away before they could regroup.
Commander Feral tossed his helmet so hard that the startled deck officer nearly went over as he caught it. Without looking back Feral stalked off for the locker room. There he replaced his jumpsuit for his usual button down coat. None of the other pilots got even close to in his way, they knew better.
Well, most of them did.
One lieutenant didn’t give way when he came out of the locker room. Instead, she marched right up to him.
“Geez, Uncle, you could skin a kat with that look.”
Feral paused, staring down at his niece and trying to remind himself it was not her he was angry with. Getting his emotions in check, he gritted out, “Not now, Felina.”
Felina Feral was never one to let well enough alone though. “They were right this time, Uncle, admit it. They got there in time to try and do something about it, and we didn’t.”
Something broke within Commander Feral right then and there. Rage and anger, not all of it from the same source poured forth into his veins. There was a sharp crack as his uniform’s cane splintered against the wall.
He thrust the snubbed off end of it into his niece’s face, “That’s ENOUGH, Lieutenant. One more word out of you, and I’ll have you thrown in the brig for insubordination.”
With that he spun on his heel and stalked to his office. Leaving a stunned Felina Feral standing in a dead silent hallway. A few Enforcers even plastering themselves to the walls to be out of the way of their commander.
Feral was surprised the window to his door didn’t shatter when he slammed it. A grateful surprise.
Dropping himself into the seat behind his desk, Feral took in a deep breath and let it out in a wave of sudden exhaustion. The rush of anger flowed out of him, leaving only shallow regret.
“Great Kat, Ulysses,” Feral muttered to himself, “What have you let happen to yourself?”
He looked down at his hands, still shaking from the sudden rage. He took another deep breath and let his thoughts flow as he stared at the blankness of his desk. His anger was getting out of control. Too many things at once.
Felina here put even more pressure into the mix. It’s one thing to be responsible for an entire city full of strangers. But to be responsible for sending your own niece on potentially deadly missions was something completely different.
The events of the past few years and especially the months since Felina’s arrival played out in his mind as the shadows cast by his blinds slid across his desk. The shadow of a bird crossing that perfect symmetry broke Feral from his reverie. Shaking himself, Feral glanced at the clock.
He’d been sitting here for over two hours and no one had dared to even knock on his door. Just as well. Tomorrow was another day.
Commander Feral dropped the broken end of his cane into the trash as he left for the day. The office was quiet. Night crew in place, and no more crisis at the moment.
Feral made it down to the parking deck without any interruptions and to his car. As he fished in his pocket for the key to the Hum-vee, Feral heard a throat clear behind him. Reacting on instinct, he spun into a defensive stance.
“Woah there, tough guy.” A smallish, somewhat nondescript Kat in an Enforcer uniform with specialist bars on the shoulder stepped out of the shadows. His voice dropped into a deliberate southern drawl, “Gonna take me on all by yourself, Son?”
Feral squinted in the dim lighting of the parking deck for a moment, then his eyes widened in shock, “Marcus?”
The other fur nodded and took three quick steps, throwing himself at Feral. Feral caught him mid jump, and the two embraced in a quick backslapping hug, then Feral held the other fur out at arm’s length.
“Great Kat’s ghost, Marcus. It’s been a long time. How did you come to be in MegaKat city… and… in an Enforcer uniform? What is that about?”
The smaller Kat grinned and drawled out, “Calm down, Son. There’s time enough for explaining when you buy me a drink.”
The day’s events gone for the moment, Feral permitted himself something that had vanished a long time ago, a grin. He dropped his voice another octave, which was a feat and clipped off each sentence in a rush as he spoke. “All right, soldier. You’ll get your drink. You have three choices. Whisky, whisky, or whisky.”
The smaller kat responded with practiced ease, “Well then, Son, looks like we’ll be drinkin’ whisky, just save the bottle in case any frat boys walk by.”
With that, Feral turned to open the Hum-Vee up again. Marcus hopped in the passenger side door, and Feral started the car up. Casting a glance over at his friend of old to be sure he wasn’t a ghost, Feral shook his head once and put the car in reverse.
One hour later, Feral and Marcus sat in the living room of Feral’s comfortable home. Each held a tumbler of whisky in hand, and the bottle sat near full on the low table between them. Feral had the couch, his Commander’s coat and sidearm left at the door. Marcus still wore the uniform of a Special Forces op, but had undone the collar and discarded the beret.
A slow silence hung in the air as Feral looked between his drink and the Kat who sat across from him.
It was Marcus who finally broke the silence. “Son, you look like you seen a ghost.” The drawl was gone from his voice, but the nickname remained.
“It’s been what, 20 yrs, Soldier. And, now here you are, in Enforcer uniform no less. It’s a bit much.” Feral took a sip from his drink and tipped it a bit to hear the ice clink in the glass.
“Yeah, I’ll admit it’s been a damn long time. When I had that attack during college though… it scared the hell out of me. I came close, Son, real close. After that.” The smaller fur shook his head and took a sip of his own, “I didn’t want to keep in touch; not with anyone. I know what I put people through with that and didn’t know how many times it would happen again. I just wanted to fade out, easier that way.”
Feral frowned a bit at his old friend and held his glass in both hands as he measured out his words, frank words no other Kat would hear, “I missed you, Soldier. We all did. You worried us enough as it was. Not like you to give up on life. We knew something was wrong, but no one could reach you.”
Marcus nodded, “Yeah, that was my major malfunction in this life. Something I had to get through my skull; it took too damn long. By then, I didn’t know if it would be best to get back in touch or not. Finally, I decided to.” Letting out a breath, Marcus looked back up at Feral and grinned, “So. Whatever happened to that hot number you were with all through high school?”
Feral took a moment to reply, and that moment spoke volumes.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Son. I didn’t mean to dig up old pains.”
Feral cleared his throat. He was a fur who didn’t show emotion. That was one of the reasons his wife had left him, why some of his friends had left. He hadn’t expressed emotion fully since the first year of college.
Since the last time Marcus had visited.
Feral had kept himself in line, kept the proud exterior that he knew people depended on him to have. Any and all emotion has been thrown into a vault and locked away for ‘later.’
Now was that later.
“It’s all right, Soldier. No. I didn’t marry her. I met someone else.”
Feral took a quick gulp from his glass and went on. Everything, the marriage, the divorce, promotions, Felina, the SWATKats. Over the course of the night he retold the last twenty years.
He wasn’t the only one.
Marcus gave the accounts of his travels too. 16 years of travel, then enrollment in the Enforcer program. Marcus brushed quickly over Feral’s questions about his heart defect. Cleared up he said, and the docs had approved him for duty. This was his fourth year in duty and his last. Time to retire back to civilian duty.
Feral stuffed down his misgivings and worry about his friend’s ‘recovery.’ If Marcus ever knew one thing in his life, it was what was best for himself.
Marcus’ tale was much less fraught with emotion than Feral’s, but then Marcus usually got emotion out at the point of impact. That was one of his best features, being strait up and open in even the most delicate of situations.
Night crawled over into day as they talked.
“Grow up, Chance,” Jake said, poking his head in from the other room. After that he pulled it back and continued drying out his fur from his morning shower.
Chance grunted a moment while tightening up a bolt on the transmission of the truck he was under. “C’mon Jake, I know you’ve thought about it. Eyes.”
There was a silent pause and Chance reached for a larger wrench, maybe Jake was out of hearing. Then came the call back from the other room, “I think I’d have to go with Callie.”
“Ya think?” Chance called back.
“Yeah. I could look into those baby blues all day.”
“I suppose. How about voice?”
Jake’s voice got louder, he was probably in the room now, “Callie again.”
“I’m gonna have to disagree with you on that one, Bud. Too nasal for my tastes.”
“Nasal? I think it’s perfect, soft, and sultry. Lingers in your ears.”
“All right. Gonna give physique to Felina though.”
“She’s a bit buff for me; I’m gonna have to go with Callie again.”
“Huh.” Chance took a moment to grab a ratchet, loosening the carburetor that needed replacing, “Chest?”
“Felina wins that one, I think.”
“Without a doubt. Hmm… Hair?
“Felina again. That two tone is sweet.”
There was a brief pause, then Chance slid the sled out from under the truck, he and Jake both looked at each other and spoke at the same time, “Callie.”
That was without question. The Kat who didn’t get a thrill from watching that tail swish was dead.
“So, what about…”
Chance’s musings were interrupted as the Enforcer alert radio they had set up squawked to life. “All units, all units. Be advised we have a situation at MegaKat Petrochem. Units 5-13 proceed to the area and provide backup and evacuation control. Flight Squadron Alpha is fueling, and Zeta patrol is en route.”
Chance groaned, “This must be one SICK individual; no one attacks a city before sunrise.”
Jake chuckled, “C’mon, Chance, let’s hit the skies.”
Back at Feral’s home, his phone rang at the same moment. Picking it up he glanced at his watch out of habit… 513AM! Kat’s alive! They’d talked the whole night!
“Hello.” Feral closed his eyes a moment, fighting back the wave of weariness that comes when your mind realizes just what you’ve been putting your body through.
The She-Kat voice on the other end was calm yet tense.
“Commander, this is Watch Captain Chavez. We have an emergency at MegaKat Petrochem. Some kind of mutant plants are attacking the place.”
Feral closed one hand into a fist, “Understood. I’ll head over there and organize things from the ground.”
With that Feral hung up the phone and went to the coat tree where he’d hung his uniform coat and sidearm last night.
“What’s up, Son?” Marcus stood, setting down his empty tumbler.
The whiskey bottle was still mostly full. One drink between non-drinkers, tradition.
“The usual for this town.” Feral shrugged into his weapon harness, “Some crazed psychopath trying to wreck it. I’m heading out to the site. You’re welcome to crash here if you like.”
“No can do, Sir.” Marcus tugged his beret into place and drew out a set of papers from his left cargo pocket.
Feral paused in buttoning up his coat as Marcus snapped to attention before him.
“Special Forces operative, sniper specialty. Marcus P. Kaque reporting for duty, Sir.”
Feral held out his hand for the papers and gave them a quick once over. The seal was official and brought a smile to Feral’s face, “Well then, Specialist, let’s get moving.”
He finished buttoning his coat as they headed for the door.
The situation on the ground was orderly, if bad.
Things that might at one point have been roses had mutated to 20′ masses of writhing leaves and tentacles; each with a bright red blossom nestled within. Enforcers had formed firing lines and were taking shots at the things to little effect.
Marcus had one foot out the door as Feral brought the car to a halt.
Two Enforcers quickly ran up, and one gave Feral a quick sitrep.
Marcus snagged the other soldier by the arm, “Where can I get a rifle?”
The Enforcer pointed to an armored van a few feet away.
Marcus ran and picked up one from the racks.
Marcus was headed back to Feral’s position when an explosion lit up the morning gloom. Marcus hit the dirt quickly, and a good thing too. Shrapnel blew by overhead as two smaller explosions chained off the original.
Getting back to his feet, Marcus spotted Feral crouched behind a squad car, giving orders into a radio. Down the street, the Enforcers were retreating in good order. Two other squad cars were burning, along with a gas tank in the petrochem compound.
Marcus reached Feral’s position and began breaking down the rifle, listening in as he worked.
“Get first squad out of the compound. And, have Alpha flight re-equipped with firefoam bombs. We don’t want these chemical fires spreading.”
Marcus popped the power cells out of his rifle and clamped his teeth down around the red ‘regulator’ insulation at the node. One good yank, and it was off. Slapping the cell back in, Marcus went to work on the lens assembly.
An Enforcer rifle was mil tech hardware and nothing to shake a stick at, but civil regulations had neutered the version Enforcers got to use down to the point where it was little more than an overgrown flashlight.
Another explosion sounded off down the street, closer this time.
“Damn!” Feral tossed down the radio and stood up, drawing his pistol. Using voice alone, he called out, “Enforcers fall back! From a line on me!”
Marcus finished his alterations and pumped the grenade loader a few times, to be met with only a hollow ‘k-chick k-chick k-chick.’ He looked up at Feral, “No grenades?”
“Mayor Manx had them banned during his last election year,” Feral replied with a good deal of venom in his voice. He snapped off a couple more shots at the creatures as Marcus stood up and braced himself against the hood of the car.
The things had split up into two groups. Three of them were slowly making their way to the main petrochem building while four more were advancing down the street on the Enforcer position.
The Enforcer fire was still carefully selected, but having almost no effect. Only tearing small holes in the blossoms.
Marcus picked his shot, aimed and fired. With its inhibitors off, the rifle let loose a thick, solid beam of energy that burrowed a hole clean through the blossom. The creature let loose a horrific shriek and flinched back. Through the rent in its petals Marcus could see something… brain-like. His shot had winged it, and it was bleeding a pale green ichor.
Feral was on the radio in less than a second, “All Enforcers. Switch weapons over to full auto, aim for the blossoms. Concentrate on the leftmost creature and work your fire across.”
The Enforcer rifles were still woefully under powered, but sheer volume of fire rent through the thing’s leaves and at the soft brain matter inside. Marcus fired as often as he could, but, without the proper coolant, an Enforcer rifle needed at least a 30-second cool down time between shots.
The creatures fell one after the other, too single minded to realize they were doomed before it was too late. As the last one fell in the street, the rotor noise of Zeta patrol echoed down the street.
Marcus popped the cell from his overheating rifle as Feral instructed the choppers in how to finish off the creatures in the compound.
“Hey, Razor, get a load of this.” T-bone banked back over the intersection.
Down below, a trio of Enforcer helicopters were finishing off the last of what looked like some bizarre mutated plants.
“Look like they don’t need us after all this time does it, T-Bone?”
“Bout time Feral did something right for once.”
The emergency band took that moment to come alive again; “This is Watch Captain Chavez to Commander Feral. Another one of those things has been sighted at the intersection of Valleywood and Bryne. This one’s a hell of a lot bigger than the others.”
Feral’s voice cut into the airwaves, “Where’s Alpha Squadron, Captain?”
“Still on the ground, Sir. One of the anti-fire tanks exploded and tore the wing off a jet. Cleanup crews almost got the runway clear.”
Razor reached up and tapped the back of T-bone’s helmet, “Looks like they need us after all.”
“Roger that, Buddy. En Route.”
T-bone pulled the TurboKat up and set out over the city line.
Marcus shielded his eyes from the morning sun as he craned his neck after the departing jet. “What was that thing? Looked big enough to be a transport, but rigged out like a fighter.”
Feral said in a low voice that was more like a growl, “That was the SWATKats, a pair of dangerous vigilantes.”
Marcus noted the tension in his friend’s voice and decided to feel it out some, “Looks like they have good equipment, I’ll say that for ’em.”
Feral was around to the driver’s side of the squad car before he answered, “Nifty gadgets, and flashy planes, but no discipline, and no regard for public safety.”
Marcus popped open the passenger’s door and scooped up his modified rifle before getting in. “They’ll get there way before we will,” he offered.
The result was slightly unsettling even though expected.
Feral turned quickly to him and said simply, “And?”
But, the look in his eyes said it all to Marcus. “Son.” Marcus dropped his voice to that calm reasoning near whisper that worked so well, “Let them have it this time. You know it’s the right thing to do.”
The obvious internal struggle lasted longer than Marcus would have liked, but the result was the same.
Picking up the radio handset Feral keyed it open, “This is Commander Feral calling the SWATKats.”
Putting down the radio for a second, Feral started the patrol car and reached out the window, motioning for the preassigned squad cars to follow.
“This is Commander Feral calling the SWATKats, respond.”
Even the second time it was still strange.
Razor opened the channel after a moments hesitation, “We hear you, Commander.”
“That thing you’re about to go up against has a weakness. Shoot for the blossom, then destroy the brain inside.”
A bit stunned Razor closed the channel for a moment, “T-bone, you think this is for real?”
“Feral? Giving us help? I don’t buy it.”
“Still, he is a pompous jerk, but I don’t think he’d deliberately set us up.”
“It’s your call, Sure-shot.”
Razor opened the channel again, “Roger that, Commander, we’ll take out your monster.”
The reply banished any worry from Razor’s mind. “Good, and try not to cause too much damage to the city while you’re at it.”
Closing the com again. Razor chuckled. “That’s Feral all right.”
T-bone dipped the TurboKat down between the buildings and turned onto Bryne, “Krud!”
T-bone jerked the controls around, and navigated more by instinct than pattern as they jetted full burn into a mass of writhing tentacles.
By the time he saw blue sky again, T-bone wasn’t sure whether the TurboKat would come apart first, or he would.
Pulling into a steep climb he circled around, “You okay back there, Razor?”
“I am, but my breakfast is gonna come up and strangle you personally in a minute.”
T-bone chuckled, “All right, hold on, we’re going back in,” he leveled off and turned back towards the intersection.
There in the middle of it was a creature at least twice the size of the ones the Enforcers had fought and still growing!
“We always get the fun ones.”
“Keep her steady, T-bone…. Cutter missiles away!”
Razor fired off a pair of the special make claw like missiles at the thing.
Striking dead on target they shredded the purple blossom, revealing the pulsing green brain.
“Eww. Is it a law that every giant monster has to ooze something nasty?”
T-bone let the TurboKat’s path cross over the thing’s body again. It wasn’t difficult to avoid the tentacles this time, especially after the hit it just took.
Bringing the ‘Kat around, he leveled it off again, “Take your shot buddy.”
“SWATKat speedy monster removers, just one mega-missile away.”
Razor triggered the triple payload missile and sent is streaking off right on target. It hit dead on obliterating the brain mass.
The thing lurched once upon impact then fall to the street again.
“That is one dead monster.” T-bone dropped low for a final flyby.
“Yeah, T-bone, but what bothers me is where did these things come from? I’d say they look like the work of Dr. Viper, but where is he?”
“Maybe the sight of the Enforcers actually winning something scared him off?”
Razor let out a chuckle at that, “Could be. I dunno though. I’ll check with Callie when we get back.”
“Right on Razor. Heading for home.”
The only thing that greeted Feral and the Enforcers when they arrived on scene was a huge mass of plant mess spread across the street.
Stopping the car Feral hopped out and Marcus did likewise on his side.
“Looks like they did okay work, Sir.”
“This time Marcus, this time. They’re a menace, untrained, undisciplined, and lawless.”
“Well, get them into Enforcer school. We could sure use a few more with skill like this. And, that plane of theirs…”
Feral looked around to be sure none of the other Enforcers were within earshot, “I’ve tried Marcus. They won’t go for it.”
“Balancing law vs. order again, Sir? Always was your specialty.” Marcus grinned over the top of the squad car at Feral.
He got a grin in reply and only a moment before he would have really started to worry about his old friend.
“Wouldn’t have it any other way,” Feral agreed. Then turned to bellow out orders for control and cleanup crews.
One week had passed since Marcus Kaque had come to MegaKat City.
Felina couldn’t deny the change in her uncle that had occurred.
As she sat in the passenger seat of his Hum-vee Felina stole another glance at her uncle.
A far cry from the lock-jawed fuming demon-kat she was so used to.
He was loose, relaxed, yet still held a poise that would never leave him.
Felina was snapped from her contemplation by Marcus’ fingers tickling her right ear.
“Hey, Felina, still with us, Cadet?”
He called her cadet, despite the fact that she technically outranked him. It seemed to be a thing for him. He and her uncle had nicknames for each other too.
“Hmm? Yeah, I’m here.”
“So tell me, what’s this party gonna be like?” Marcus slouched back across the back seat of the hum-vee.
“Just like any other city holiday the Mayor has made up for publicity sake. Bar-b-que, park sports, and several long winded speeches.”
“Eehh, I’m just glad we’re all off duty.”
Feral spoke up as they turned into the park. “I’d like to think that I had some influence in that, Soldier.”
Feral’s chuckle was shared by the others as he parked the car.
“Heads up, Buddy,” Jake nudged Chance in the ribs and pointed. “Felina sighting at 3 o’clock.”
Chance turned to look where Jake was pointing and sure enough, there was Felina. “Damn…” the word slipped from Chance’s lips with a bit of awe in it.
Felina in her uniform was a sight in itself. Felina in a tank top and jean shorts made his fur stand on end.
Chance knew she was tough, you didn’t make it in the enforcers without being tough, but ….Damn!
Toned didn’t cover it.
Her fur was a nice dark cream except for a dark patch of black that ran from the top of her chest all the way down into her shorts.
Chance had seen women like this in Ms. Fitness competitions around the world. But, he never thought… damn!
Another elbow in his side woke him out of his daze.
“Hey buddy, get your tongue back in your mouth,” Jake teased.
Chance shook himself once and grinned, “Hey, what can I say? I know what I like.”
“Yeah, just try not to toss up a hair ball when you talk to her.”
“Talk to her? Here?”
Chance felt his stomach tightening up already.
“Yeah Chance. T-bone isn’t gonna be able to go on too many dates with her. So you better try and get to know her as yourself.”
Chance felt the knot in his gut pulling itself in three directions at once and wished on all nine of his lives that he had his mask on right now, “Well.” He was surprised his voice didn’t crack, “Guess you’re right.”
Jake chucked him on the shoulder, “Good luck pal. I’ll catch you later.”
Jake picked up a soda from one of the many hawkers around Megakat park and made his way towards the stage where the Mayor would be making his speech later today.
Looking around the area he tried to spot Callie among the crowd of Kats.
The face he spotted was quite a different one.
Moving quickly Jake weaved his way through the crowd towards the Kat.
He was a Kat with a medium build and a face that was neither old nor young.
When he was in range Jake tested his hunch, “Mr. Kaque?”
The other Kat turned to Jake, from watching a volleyball game and nodded, “That’s me.
Jake grinned and held out his hand, “Jake Clawson sir.
I’ve seen your shooting at the nationals and I’m a big fan.”
Marcus chuckled a bit in good humor, “That was a while ago.
Surprised anyone remembers.”
“Are you kidding?” Jake heard his own voice, filled with all the enthusiasm of a kitten.
Appropriate, since he’d idolized this Kat ever since he was one, “I watched every one of your shoots. It’s what made me work so hard on my own marksmanship. I wanted to be able to do half of what you could.”
Marcus raised an eyebrow and might have blushed if his fur weren’t so dark, “Really? Well, Glad I did something useful other than help reduce the clay pigeon population. So, you’re a marksman?”
“Actually…” Jake shifted a bit, he was kind of hoping to avoid this, “I’m an Enforcer.”
“Really? I haven’t seen you around head quarters.”
Jake was glad he almost swallowed his tongue at that. It kept his jaw from dropping, “You’re an Enforcer?”
Marcus grinned a warm grin, “Yep, Special forces, Sniper specialist.
But that doesn’t explain why I don’t see you around Headquarters.”
Jake tried to find a way to make it sound less bad than it was, he didn’t find any. “My partner and I were the scapegoats for an accident. Now we’re stick working the scrap yard until we can pay off the damages.”
“Krud.” Marcus sounded genuinely disturbed, “That sounds like a bum rap. This before Feral took over as Commander?”
“Actually, it was Feral.”
Marcus’ expression clouded a bit with concern, “Maybe you better tell me the whole story.”
Chance screwed up his courage even though his knees felt like he’s just pulled a double Immalmen at full thrust.
A couple passed between him and Felina, giving him one last moment to run through opening lines in his mind. ‘Hi, what do you think our kittens will look like?’
‘Hi would you put your drink down so I could carry you off into the sunset?’
‘Hey there, what’re you doing for the next 80 years or so?’
Oi vey, was he in trouble.
Fate decided to kick him in the groin just for measure too.
Just as he was coming up to her Felina turned around towards him and took a step plowing smack dab into him.
“Ooff, oh I’m sorry.”
Felina shook her head once to clear it from the all out collision.
Chance made like his name and tried to turn disaster into opportunity,” No, it’s my fault, but hey. Aren’t you Lieutenant Feral?”
Felina focused more on Chance and nodded, “That’s right.”
“It’s good to finally meet you. I’ve seen you on the news, sort of followed your work. (not far off the mark on that one)
I was kind of hoping someday to talk to you about it.”
‘Okay, that was lame, I am so dead’ Chance thought. He braced for the brush off.
Felina paused for a moment, as if looking him over for the first time again, “Sure. Why not now?”
“I guess you’re… wait… you said yes?”
Felina’s laugh was sweet and husky. Chance thought he might melt on the spot.
“Yeah I said yes. It’s definitely better than listening to one of the Mayor’s speeches.”
Recovering enough to function, barely, Chance nodded and offered Felina his arm. She took it with a joking grin and they headed for someplace to sit.
Feral levered himself up from the bench as the Deputy Mayor’s car pulled up.
He waited at the head of the parking space as Callie pulled in. She got out of the car, reaching back in to get her briefcase.
As she approached Feral he straitened up just a little taller, Enforcer T-shirt tightening up just a bit more across his chest.
Then, as often had happened recently, he let the tension go.
Relaxing he put a smile with his words, “Good afternoon, Ms. Briggs.”
Callie’s return smile was tentative, but not from lack of emotion as much as uncertainty of reaction, “Afternoon to you too Commander Feral.”
Feral realized he was standing at parade rest and forced his hands to his sides, he probably should have worn another T-shirt, “Captain Chavez coming with the Mayor?”
Callie nodded, then said with a rueful smile, “Don’t you Ever go off duty commander?”
Feral coughed to buy time, “Well, I.” The first answer that came to mind was ‘There’s never any excuse not to be vigilant’ but another part of him caught that line in his throat and told him Callie of all people knew that.
She’d been through a lot with this city.
This new part of himself came up with a new line, “I think I’ve forgotten how.
Maybe you could lead me through retraining?”
It took all the stoicism and discipline in him not to die on the spot laughing when the briefcase fell from Callie’s fingers and broke open.
It hit the ground only a second before her jaw would have.
Feral had to admit he was surprised at the words himself.
But also to some extent thrilled.
An excited warmth tugged at him that he hadn’t felt in… in a long time.
Settling into a crouch he helped Callie gather up her papers but held the stack in his hand when she tried to take them until her eyes met his, “Well?” he asked quietly, forcing all semblance of command from his voice for this one question.
It was Callie’s turn to stall, shifting her grip on her case enough to right her glasses, ” I don’t know if I’m exactly the best teacher on having a social life.” She replied.
“Then neither of us will look like an idiot in front of the other.”
Feral found the words coming faster than his mind was registering the events.
That teasing rueful smile was back,” Tuesday, 6 o’clock?”
Feral finally let go of the papers and replied, “I’ll pick you up at Town Hall. Bring a set of casual clothing.”
Callie nodded as a response and put the last of the papers in her case and closed it up,”Well… I better go make sure everything’s ready on stage for the Mayor’s performance.” She sounded almost, reluctant?
“Then I won’t keep you any longer,” Feral replied.
He felt a smile cross his face again and found his feet carrying him away quickly, back towards the last place he’d seen Felina.
With each step his heart pounded louder in his chest his mind finally catching up with the rest of him.
Kat’s alive! What had he just done?
Feral didn’t have time to find Felina before a piercing scream rang out in the park. Quickly joined by several more.
Coming out from under a copse of trees, Feral turned and looked up at the sky where Kats were pointing.
There in the sky was a, well, a dragon. Twisting and spiraling as it flew. It belched out a gout of flame as it dove for the park. Lighting trees and grass afire.
“Kat’s alive!” Feral thought fast, “Felina! Marcus!” he called out, but didn’t wait for a reply.
He instead made a fast run for his hum-vee. Marcus was already there when Feral got to his car, piecing together his personal sniper rifle.
Feral gave him a brief nod before grabbing the radio handset, “This is Commander Feral, Captain Chavez, respond, what is your location?”
The response came crisply and in only seconds, “This is Captain Chavez Commander, I am en route to the park with Mayor Manx’s procession.”
“Abort Captain, send the Mayor back to City hall with an escort and bring all available units with you to the park, we have a crisis on our hands.”
Feral paused to look to the skies but kept the send button depressed.
The dragon was there and chose this moment to let out a titanic roar and dive for a grove of trees.
“Bring any knights you can find with you too Captain.”
With that Feral put the handset back and popped the glove compartment.
He took out his pistol and spare energy pack and turned to see an ‘ate the mouse’ grin on Marcus’ face.
“Son, was that a joke I just heard outta your mouth?”
Marcus tightened the stock on his rifle, finishing its assembly. Feral paused, then shrugged, “Might have been soldier, I’ll let you know when they debrief me.”
Marcus nodded, still smiling and shouldered his rifle, “What’s your game plan on this one son?”
“We’ll keep it busy until backup arrives.
I’ll have Felina work to evacuate the park once I find her.”
“Gotcha uncle.” Felina’s voice came from behind both Kat’s. She had obviously been running a good distance herself.
“Start with the podium, Felina, be sure to get the Deputy Mayor to safety.”
With that the three Kats broke into action, each running in separate directions. Feral for one flank of the airborne menace, Marcus for the other, and Felina for the podium.
Marcus slid his rifle off his shoulder as he ran. Pulling off the safety as he angled to the right of the dragon’s aerial show.
Oddly enough it didn’t seem to be ranging far, just making a scene.
Marcus crested a hill and a quick glance let him know the ground beneath the thing was clear.
Flipping off the safety Marcus pulled the rifle up to his shoulder and drew aim with the speed and precision that had earned him his reputation.
With a loud crack one round of CAP ammo speed for the dragon. The solid slug hit dead on. Tearing into the right side of the thing’s head and taking most of that head with it in a gory gout of brains, bone, and blood.
The dragon stopped mid twist and plunged towards the earth.
It wasn’t more than half way down, however, when a greenish good burst out of the wound and sealed it up. Reforming the creature’s head in a mockery of the original shape. This new head was nastier looking as well.
The teeth longer, several more horns, and each horn dripping a most likely unpleasant substance.
“Kat’s alive,” Marcus swore, then realizing the Dragon had righted itself and was flying in his direction he lifted his rifle snapping over to burst fire.
Three rounds hit the dragon across the chest creating three more gouts of blood and gore.
Marcus didn’t’ wait around to see the results, turning tail he ran for the nearest cover.
Feral finished ‘doctoring’ his pistol just as the Dragon’s regeneration brought it back from it’s second certain death at Marcus’ hands.
Taking aim he fired, the coherent blast of light stuck the Dragon mid flank.
It did nowhere near the damage Marcus’ rifle had, but it did what Feral had hoped. It draw the Dragon’s attention.
Firing off a second blast too soon after the first, Feral made sure the dragon was following him, but also made Feral drop the searing hot pistol as he turned to run. Feral ran full tilt, using every once of speed he had in him, which was quite a good deal for a Kat of his size.
The heavy beat of wings behind him let him know without a doubt that the Dragon was still following.
The pounding was so loud in his ears that when it vanished into complete silence the hair on the back of Feral’s neck stood on end.
Instinctively, he threw himself to the right and to the ground. Not a second later, fire blasted through the space he had occupied. The roaring torrent still singed his fur, but otherwise left him alive and well.
Scrambling to his feet, Feral got ready to run anew.
The triple crack of Marcus’ rifle was a welcome sound. However the shower of blood bile and intestines that rained down from above was not.
Barely keeping his feet and surging through the mess Feral got clear before the unkillable creature could recover from having it’s chest blown out a second time.
With a luck that had plagued him his whole life the Dragon chose still to lunge after Feral.
Gagging from the noxious bath he’d just been given Feral made for a pavilion.
Feral leaped the first row of picnic tables and hopped up onto the second before whirling to look back at his pursuit.
The Dragon descended at the edge of the pavilion and hooked a clawed hand under the edge.
With one heave it tore the roof clean away.
“So much for cover.” Feral gritted to himself as he looked up at death looming over him.
A shot rang out, striking the creature in the head. Followed by another, then a set of five in tight formation.
Looking towards the origin Feral saw Chavez and Felina standing side be side with a 10 man enforcer squad.
The first rank took a knee for the second to fire.
The shots also hit the dragon, doing little more now than upsetting it though, especially since the inhibitors were still on their weapons.
Still Feral took the opportunity to make a break for their lines.
Under order from Captain Chavez the squad broke into 5 man teams, each heading in a separate direction and staging a fighting retreat.
Felina took the squad nearest Feral, so he headed for it as well.
Scenarios ran through Feral’s mind as he ran, none of them good. They had to find some way to put this thing down.
Just as he reached the squad the roar of a jet sounded overhead.
“Ugh, why can’t MegaKat city ever get attacked by Amazonian she-kats?” Razor groaned as the now deformed dragon came into view.
“Look at it this way, Razor, as long as the bad guys stay ugly then no-one else will try and take our jobs.” T-bone brought the turbokat in low for a flyby then banked back around, “So, what’re you gonna use on that thing?”
Razor keyed up the weapons panel and looked over his options, “Let’s clip it’s wings first.”
Razor selected the cutter missiles and brought up the tracking display. The outline of the dragon was clear, as were the Enforcers shooting at it, ineffectually as usual.
Razor eased the crosshairs into alignment, “Cutter missiles… Away!”
Razor thumbed the firing studs just a hairsbreadth before T-bone pulled up sharply.
Razor blinked at the shift in G-forces, he sometimes forgot about positions when he was targeting, like the fact that the Turbokat had almost done a nose-dive into the Dragon’s back.
Coming back around The SWATKats surveyed the Damage from their attack, two wings, neatly severed at the bases; both oozing a thick green ichor.
Razor grinned, “Now, a quick round of swarmer missiles to finish it off.”
“Look again sureshot.” T-bone pointed to the scene below.
The Dragon’s head half exploded, hit by some form of weapon. Then in a heart beat the shattered head reformed, even more twisted than before.
“Kat’s alive!” Razor said with open disbelief in his voice.
“So, now how do we take it out, Razor?”
Feral dove to the right as the rest of Felina’s half-squad each ran in a different direction, each evenly spaced and all heading away from the dragon.
The SwatKat’s missile had hampered it’s mobility by severing it’s wings, which didn’t seem to be growing back, but it was still very much a threat.
Feral got a moment’s reprieve as a three round cluster from Marcus’ rifle struck the Dragon, tearing a gaping hole in it’s flank.
The Dragon began to heal almost immediately but Feral used those precious moments to try and reassess the situation.
His eyes scanned the park, almost empty and ravaged by this running battle. The stage torn to pieces, the only thing left standing was the refreshment stands…
Feral turned a bit and took off, none too soon as the Dragon reared up fully healed and quite pissed off again. A wave of cement rounds struck along its head and neck, stunning the beast and buying Feral a few more seconds.
“Chavez! Felina! Form up on me.”
Feral didn’t look to see if they followed, he just kept running for the refreshment stands.
His ears picked up the sounds of the others falling in alongside and behind him in moments.
Feral dropped from his run and threw out an arm, “Form up, two lines, fast firing retreat.”
The Squad fell in, with Chavez in first rank, calling off time to keep the retreat even.
The dragon was coming at them again. Pulse rifle shots ringing off its head and neck. The shots did almost no damage, but they slowed it up a bit, and kept it focused on the Enforcers and not the rest of the city.
“Uncle, what’re you planning on doing?”
“Me? Nothing, Felina, let’s just hope those SwatKats are as smart as you think they are. Now, get in rank.”
Feral didn’t have a sidearm so he settled for guiding Chavez, hand on shoulder, moving her and by default he whole line slowly to the left, getting in line with his objective.
Time passed too slowly, each round of shots seeming an eternity apart.
The dragon looming closer after every burst.
Feral heard the Turbokat overhead, at least three times as he backed the squad up. C’mon SwatKats, follow our path.
Feral looked up as the TurboKat passed overhead again, right down the line his squad was traveling,
“I hope that means you figured it out,” Feral mumbled under his breath.
The Rear rank had their backs to the stand and the Dragon wasn’t more than a handful of meters away. “Allright, Break and run!” Feral barked out.
The squad ran on command but Feral stayed. He snatched a rifle from a passing trooper’s hands and fired it right on target at the Dragon’s snout.
The ploy worked and the Dragon focused on him. Feral ditched the weapon and waved his arms once more to make sure then turned and cleared the stand’s counter.
Feral weaved his way past prep stands and pushed out through the back of the tent.
His caught the white cylinder that all of this depended on out of the corner of his eye as he felt more than heard the dragon his the stand behind him.
The cracking of would and tearing of cloth was joined by another higher pitched sound.
Feral had heard that sound enough to know what it was.
Match head missiles.
Three more steps was all that Feral dared then he dove for the ground and not a moment too soon.
The missiles stuck center target behind him, rupturing the Propane tank and igniting the contents.
The concussion picked up Feral and tossed him through the air like a doll.
The effect on the Dragon was much more satisfying though.
Caught in the middle of the blast the Dragon was annihilated.
Blown limb from limb and scattered in messy lifeless clumps.
Marcus watched the finale unfold from his vantage point high in a tree.
Just as the SwatKat’s made their final pass he slapped one last round into his rifle, this one slightly different from the others, took aim and fired.
The shot hit a little off target, it only tagged the TurboKat’s wing, Marcus hoped that would be enough.
The explosion happened just as he’d figured it would.
Feral was always good on his feet, and at his best when working with nothing.
Marcus climbed quickly down from the tree and made his way to the scene.
The TurboKat flew over once more then didn’t return.
Captain Sierra Chavez saw Commander Feral tossed by the explosion and her stomach twisted in a knot.
She ducked as debris blew past the upturned table she’d used for cover then vaulted it, running for where she’d last seen the Commander.
She found him, another ten feet away and out cold.
She could tell he was in bad shape as she took a knee beside him.
Her left hand went to her collar mike as her right pulled the emergency medkit from her pants cargo pocket.
Keying open the mike she snapped off lines that sounded so distantly cold and mechanical they made her sick, “This is Captain Chavez, we have an officer down South side of MegaKat North Terrace Park.
Situation Critical, send immediate assistance with full mobile ICU. Look for the blast Crater.”
When her hand left the mike it went right for Feral’s neck, there was a pulse, barely, and weaker with each beat.
Chavez ripped open her medkit, “Jenkins! Get over here, man down!”
The squad’s real medic was at her side so fast he must have already been on his way.
Felina and the rest of the enforcers were there before Chavez had opened the syringe package.
“Uncle!” Felina cried, pushing her way to the front.
This was what Chavez had feared, forcing the fear from her own voice she spoke almost icilly, “Lieutenant, take these men and establish a perimeter. We’ll need someone to keep the press out and guide the medical services people to us when they arrive.”
The trauma of seeing her uncle laid out and dying could push Felina one of two ways, thankfully it was the way Chavez needed her. With a stunned numbness Felina replied, “Yes, sir.”
And motioned for the squad to follow her, they moved out properly, if somewhat slowly until only Jenkins and Chavez remained, “Break out your Stim too, Jenkins.” Chavez directed as she drew the potent steroid into her syringe from its’ bottle.
“You sure what’s wise Sir?” Jenkins asked even as he opened his own medkit and followed her lead, “I know he’s banged up bad but, two?”
“The Commander’s a big Kat Jenkins, let’s hope big enough to handle two doses, because the rate he’s fading one just won’t cut it.”
Chavez traced Feral’s corodid artery with a finger until she found the right spot. She slide the needle in and pumped the Stim into Feral’s body. She kept her finger in place as she withdrew the needle and Jenkins handed her his syringe. Chavez unloaded it into Feral too, slightly slower than the first.
“Check him for any serious externals,” she said almost as an afterthought.
Keeping pressure on the insertion point, Chavez monitored Feral’s pulse. True to Stim’s purpose it rose quickly again, not too fast, but strong, almost pounding through the veins as the Commander’s heart went into forced Chemical convulsions.
“No serious externals, Captain, just some second degree burns and some cuts.”
“What I figured,” Chavez mumbled more to herself than anyone else, “It’s all inside.” Chavez felt a shadow fall across her and looked up to see Marcus standing next to her, not one to sugarcoat things she said strait out, “It’s not good.”
“He’ll live,” Marcus replied, and with such simple confidence that Chavez felt slightly reassured herself, “Tell him when he comes around that I went off to follow a lead.” Marcus turned without waiting and strode off.
Leaving Chavez to wait for the ambulance to arrive.
T-bone banked the TurboKat around in a lazy arc for home.
They’d spent the last five minutes flying random; the park had been too close to home for a direct fly-back, no sense in getting tailed.
Lining up the course, T-bone let his mind wander back to his conversation with Felina.
He had thought he was going to die on the spot, he was so nervous he was afraid he might start shedding but it had gone okay.
She had been in a pretty good mood and he hadn’t messed up too bad so all in all he had to call it a succe-
“T-bone, flip over to the EM channel.” Razor’s voice interrupted T-bone’s thoughts.
He casually flipped over to the emergency channel and picked up a transmission in stream.
“-tuation critical. Two, I repeat Two doses of stim have been administered. The patient’s metabolism is reacting violently. Enroute to Manx Memorial Hospital. Have a full emergency crew available. Expect contact from Enforcer Felina Feral; report her uncle’s condition as critical, but hopeful. EM Caster out.”
T-bone hit mute for a second, “Sounds like Feral took a hit down there.”
“What do you think, T-bone, should we check it out?”
“I don’t think we’d be too welcomed down there. Felina will be there for him no doubt. Best we can do is refuel, rearm, and try and figure out who’s behind this. That dragon was one of the past Master’s, but it wasn’t any ordinary dragon.”
“No kidding. The way it regrew like that, hmm. I smell Dr. Viper, and the plant attacks last week reeked of him too.”
“Think they’re working together?” T-bone turned his attention forward and brought the TurboKat in for a landing, Razor waited until they’d popped the canopy to respond.
“It’s possible T-bone.” Razor hopped out and pulled off his helmet and mask, T-bone finished post-flight checks on all the systems, “But whoever it is, they’re doing a great job hiding where they are. We can go out looking, but I don’t know how we’re going to find them. Sometimes I wish we had more than one jet.”
“Perhaps I can help you there.”
Both T-bone and Razor spun to face the new voice. As one both glove o’ tricks came up to train on the Kat walking our from around a repair dolly.
“Come now, we’re on the same side aren’t we?” The Kat’s roguish grin had ‘I gotcha’ written all over it.
“Mr. Kaque?” Razor’s voice held as much confusion as filled T-bone’s head.
“That’s me again. Hasn’t changed in the last few hours. Nice place you boys got here.”
Razor seemed pole-axed.
T-bone tried to recover the initiative, ask the obvious, “How did you find this place?”
Marcus pointed to the two still raised glove o’ tricks, “May I?”
Both SWATKat’s lowered their hands in unison and T-bone nodded.
Marcus made his way around to the left wing of the TurboKat and pointed to a small silver bullet hole, “Tracer round, fired it off just before you guys left, looks like my aim was a little off, I hit too high on the wing.”
T-bone heard Razor make a strangled sound, he continued to use the obvious, “That still doesn’t explain how you got here so fast.”
“Well you flew over this place directly from your way out, then went past into the desert lands out south. I had to say to myself. Where in the desert would you hide a hangar? The Salvage yard seemed a better place to get parts, and to hide things. So I took a peek, and got lucky.”
“What do you want now that you’re here?” T-bone felt his stomach knot, if this Kat blew their identities it was all over.
“Same thing you do, to find out who’s behind this. This half-baked on site co-operation stuff is a serious weak link in the program. I figure full-fledged co-ordination will work out much nicer. You have the tech, we have the manpower, and we can get things done. Of course the Enforcers could never ‘officially’ condone the SWATKats. Since no one knows you’re actually Enforcers we would appear to be condoning vigilantism.”
T-bone let the sarcasm sink into his voice, “Co-operate? With the Enforcers? Yeah, Feral’d have a field day with that. Not to mention your guys can’t handle what we go up against.”
Marcus frowned; it was an expression that seemed wholly out of place on the Kat’s face. He gestured to the hangar, “Look at all this. All this high tech stuff you’ve come up with. No doubt it’s advanced, and clever too. Now, look what we get to deal with. Down powered weapons, tin-can vehicles, dumdum shells, I’d say Feral and his men do pretty damn good with what they have.”
T-bone let his frustration at being found out get the better of him and words left his lips before his mind approved them, “Feh, we could do ten times better than all of the Enforcers, without our gear.”
“It’s a date then. I’ll pick the time and place; you just bring yourselves and your old Enforcer gear. We’ll see how it fairs.”
Marcus walked to the stairs up and grinned, “And just so you know, your secret’s safe with me, me and one other Kat that is.” “Wait.”
T-bone protested, trying to figure out how he’d been suckered into this deal. “The future waits for no Kat.”
Marcus said over his shoulder as he disappeared up the stairs.
T-bone climbed out of the cockpit and slide down off the wing of the TurboKat.
Razor was still just standing there rigid and unmoving.
T-bone reached out and tapped his friend’s shoulder, “Razor?
You okay buddy?” The words slipped from Razor’s mouth at only a whisper, a question steeped in awe;
“You hit the wing of the TurboKat… mid-flight…with… a rifle?”
Captain Chavez was pacing in the waiting room when Felina entered.
She pulled off her helmet and tossed her gloves into it as she made her way to the Captain, “Sir! Have you heard anything yet?” Captain Chavez shook her head and pointed to a closed set of Operating room doors, “They took him in there over an hour ago, and nothing so far.” Felina actually took one step towards the OR before good sense caught hold of her.
She couldn’t do anything in there, and she’d only get in the way.
She looked to the counter and the nurse on duty, then to Captain Chavez again.
The older She-Kat shook her head once and Felina sighed.
She flopped down in a waiting room chair and did just that, she waited. It wasn’t a long wait; some five minutes after she arrived a doctor in bloodless scrubs came out of the OR.
Pulling her mask off the doctor made her way directly for Captain Chavez, and by default Felina. “You the one who brought the Commander in?
Got the entire hospital put on Alert AND used two stims on him?” It sounded like a setup, the Captain must have known it too because her nod was a slow one, “Yes.” The Doctor shook a finger in the Captain’s face, “If you EVER, and I mean EVER pull anything like this again, I’ll have your badge, I probably should for cramming a perfectly healthy Kat full of drugs.” The Captain looked pole-axed.
Her mouth hung open for a moment, then worked wordlessly for another moment before a sound came out, “perfectly…?
But I took his pulse on sight; it was practically nonexistent.
And his ribs…”
“His ribs,” the doctor interrupted, “are just fine. As are all his internals, both CAT scan and x-rays came up negative. You got a lot of people worried over nothing and are just lucky a double stim didn’t kill him.”
The doctor turned, and Felina managed to get in before the doctor left, “Can we go in and see him now?”
The doctor paused and nodded; though she didn’t turn around, “Yeah you can, we’ll be moving him out of there and into a normal room until he decides to go. He’s got a clean bill from me though.”
Felina left a dumbfounded Chavez behind as she rushed into the OR.
There was her uncle, stuck in a blue hospital gown, lying in bed. He looked perfectly healthy, but just seeing him in this setting made Felina’s stomach turn knots.
Feral looked up from brushing his uniform coat at her voice, “Felina.” His voice was stern, not harsh, but it asserted he was still very much in charge.
Felina kept her voice down. There was something about hospitals that made you want to whisper.
“I came to see how you’re doing. The doctor said you’re fine?”
Feral nodded, “That’s right. I was thrown clear by the blast, but I was in the air when it hit me, so I got off with a few bumps and bruises.” The explanation over her uncle heaved himself out of the bed, “Where’s the Captain?”
“Probably being chewed out by the doctor again. She wasn’t too happy about the Captain doubling up your stim dosage, especially without your being injured.”
Feral pulled the gown over his head and Felina had to look away quickly. Her uncle was a perfect gentleman in most things. But, his sense of physical nudity around family was different than her own. His parents had been very ‘free loving’ quite the opposite of her uncle. She had learned about this habit early on after coming to work on his force.
She heard the sounds of him dressing back up in his clothes, then his voice; “The Captain was just doing what she thought was right. That could have been a dangerous explosion. If she thought my condition was bad enough to warrant it then I trust her judgement.”
“Whatever you say Sir.”
Felina had a hundred unvoiced questions, but as she studied the floor tiles intently and waited for her uncles polished boots to step onto them and let her know he’d fully dressed she couldn’t put voice to them.
This was a game he played with her. Toying with the one ‘delicate’ area in her otherwise gun ho personality.
She felt a flush of embarrassment rising in her cheeks as usual, and the hair on the back of her neck prickled.
Just then the boots came, saving her any further thought. She looked up, still feeling the flush on her cheeks.
Her Uncle straitened the top button on his coat with a scowl, “Grow up Felina,” was all he said and he stepped past her and out the doors.
Felina winced inwardly at the reprimand and released a breath she didn’t know she was holding.
Every time she made headway with her uncle it seemed something came along that knocked her back down to a child in his eyes.
It was much later that evening when Felina made it home finally.
She tossed her duffel down on the floor by the door, knowing full well that her uniform would wrinkle if she didn’t pull it out of the bag soon.
She left her helmet and gloves on the recliner and headed for the kitchen.
One long pull on a cold brew later she sighed.
Spinning the bottle cap on the counter she went over the day’s events.
The bottle cap was spun three times more before she was done, and able to classify this day as simply a push.
She’d lost ground with her uncle, but she’d met that new kat who seemed all right.
And also seemed to have fallen like a rock for her.
It was almost cute to see him falling over himself trying to talk.
He was nice though; maybe she’d give him a call… DAMN!
Tossing back the last of the beer Felina chalked today up as a failure, she’d not gotten his number. Felina headed back toward her bag, time to get the uniform out before it wrinkled.
A sound gave her pause though, the tink tinking of the bottle cap.
It should have spun this long.
Looking back she saw it vibrating on the counter, a moment later she could feel the vibrations through her feet.
The earthquake was only seconds in coming.
Enforcer Headquarters was a shambles.
The earthquake hadn’t damaged the building so much as sent every bit of paper splashing off of desks and onto the floor.
In the hurried dispatches that followed there was no time to pick it, or anything else knocked over up.
So, with relatively minor damage it still managed to look like a war zone.
Commander Feral stood in the Com center, picking up snippets of conversation as damage control teams reported in all over the city, along with the extra patrols sent out to discourage any random looting that might start.
One voice cut in over the din of the several dispatchers on duty.
“Sir, Zeta wing is reporting in, you might want to have a look at this.”
Commander Feral turned to the young com Kat; the fear in his voice was what caught Feral’s attention.
The Kat switched over to his full monitor displays. “This is live feed from Zeta leader’s nose cam.”
The image that filled the screen was an odd one.
A turtle, or at least what looked like a normal large land turtle, with black dots buzzing over it, flies maybe.
The only thing that ruined the otherwise peaceful image was the sight of one of Zeta’s planes in the picture too.
It looked larger than one of the dots, but was not even close to as large as the turtle.
Add that to the fact that that creature had to be at least a good distance off, and it smacked of what had become an alarmingly regular parade of giant creatures bent of destroying MegaKat City.
It was in the sand barrens, south east of the city, and a glance at the nearby area map showed it to be about 200 miles out.
The comKat just stared at the monstrosity, and Feral reached forward to key open the channel, “Squadron Leader give me your report.”
We got first sight on this thing 14 minutes ago and deviated within allowable limits from our flight path to investigate.
It is slow moving, very slow.
But also very big.
My estimate is that it is at least 1000 meters in length, and perhaps one sixth that in height.
“What are those things hovering over it?”
“Unknown Sir, we haven’t gotten close enough to find out.”
“Move in then, but do so with extreme caution, do not engage.”
The Camera view banked and adjusted at the Squad leader turned his plane dead on towards the creature.
It took surprisingly long for the image of the creature in the viewer to get larger, an indicator of the distance between it and the plane.
Eventually though the dots above it began to get larger and become easier to pick out.
“Sir, I make twenty objects over the creature, still no definite ID on them, but judging from here, I’d imagine each one’s about as large as a plane.
They might be an escort?” Feral rubbed his chin, normally he’d want to investigate this, but with all that had been happening lately, “Break off and return to base Zeta leader. You’ve done your job.”
Feral leaned back from the controls and spoke to the comKat who was still looking at the screen in a mix of awe and horror, “Call up an extra patrol for the express purpose of keeping tabs on this thing. They are to maintain a distance of two miles, and are not to engage under any circumstances.”
The comKat nodded, but Feral was already on his way out of the room.
If his hunch was right, he was going to need some serious firepower to even hope to save the city this time.
Razor threw a can of milk to T-bone as he came back down into the hangar. The can was intercepted though, pulled out of the air with a deft snatch by Enforcer Kaque.
“Thanks, Jake, just what I needed.” The Kat grinned and popped open the can.
Razor blinked, how had he gotten in this time?
T-bone was giving Razor the ‘well. What do we do now?’ look and Razor was fresh out of idea of how to deal with this Kat.
“Well, good to see you again Mr. Kaque.”
Razor lied, “What brings you by?”
Marcus took a drink and pointed to the computer monitor Razor had been working at, “You have to ask?”
Playing on it was live feed from an Enforcer cam of the beast that was approaching the town, “I was curious to see what you two had figured out about that.”
Razor pondered playing dumb for half a minute, but it really wouldn’t achieve anything in this situation, “It’s called a Behemoth.
Dr. Simian was able to fill us in earlier today.
They used to live in this area millions of years ago.
Wading through swamps and feeding off algae as they went.” Marcus took another swig of milk and pointed at the monitor, “Weaknesses?”
T-bone answered that one, “None.
Seems they only died out because they overpopulated, it takes a lot of food to keep one of them going.”
Marcus tapped the lid of the can, “Whoever’s controlling it seems to have gotten past that problem.”
“Whoever?” Razor asked incredulously, “This whole thing reeks of the Past Master.”
“Though that Dragon seemed more like Doctor Viper’s work.”
T-bone commented as he switches the view on the monitor over to a cam outside enforcer HQ here Enforcers were coming and going in droves, preparing.
Razor nodded and shrugged, “Maybe they’re working together.
But as of now we don’t have any leads on how to crack that monster.
Especially not with his dragon cover.”
Marcus nodded, “Well, the info will help. We’ve found what looks like an abandoned base twenty miles south of it’s present location, underground, only satellite imaging caught it.”
“Well we should get in there,” Razor said, more to himself than anyone else.
“We will. You two, four hours; in your real uniforms, south edge of town, Megakat highway” Marcus grinned as he set the empty milk can down, “Don’t look so surprised guys. Now you’ll get a chance to show how much better you are then normal Enforcers.”
With that he left back up the stairs.
Razor looked to T-bone who shrugged rather helplessly, “You better hope your uniform fits, Buddy, I think you’ve been putting on weight.”
Three hours and fifty-nine minutes later, Commander Feral was driving his hum-vee down Megakat highway with Marcus in the back seat rechecking a pistol.
“Soldier, you’ve rechecked that piece a hundred times.”
Feral glanced back in the rear view mirror, “What’s eating you?”
“Dragon if I’m not careful,” Marcus joked with little humor, “I don’t know, Son, something about this whole mess just has me spooked.”
“You mean besides the fact a prehistoric mobile land mass is going to hit the city in five days?”
Marcus holstered the pistol and leaned forward, “Yeah, besides that.” This time his voice held a little more humor, “Still, I can’t shake this feeling. Hold up, we got two passengers coming up here.” Marcus gestured to the side of the road and Feral pulled over.
Two Kats in Enforcer garb stood beside the road.
“Who’re these two?” Feral said as he opened his door.
“Our backup,” Marcus replied as he got out too.
Feral recognized the two Kats after a moment, and did his best to cover his surprise, “Clawson, Furlong, fancy meeting you here.”
The two Kats seemed just as surprised as he, and it was Marcus who spoke first, “I met these two at the picnic, Commander. I heard about the situation. Creative punishment, as always.”
There was a genuine admiration in Marcus’ voice, “Still, their records indicate they’re good. And, hearing them brag I thought I’d like to see them in action.”
Feral nodded, Marcus’ story seemed to make sense, and then Marcus said the line Feral had been dreading.
“I also thought it would be a kicker to see the SwatKats without their toys.”
Feral thought the two Kats took it well, Jake’s jaw dropped like a rock while Chance looked like he was trying to decide if he could take both Feral and Marcus.
He winced inwardly as well.
Marcus always did kick the hornet’s nest.
Feral knew though, when Marcus kicked, diamonds usually fell out.
Deciding against the riot act, Feral opted for the simple truth, “Yes.
IT will be interesting to see you two back in uniform, even if it’s only for a short while.”
Feral did get some pleasure in the various reactions that brought out, Even Marcus missed a beat, and so Feral went on, no sense in hiding anymore, “I’ve known for a while. It wasn’t difficult to figure out. Flying Style, availability of parts, timing of their arrival, attitude.” Feral crossed his arms. “You got the job done, barely. I was biding my time. But if you had ever crossed the line for even a moment I would have nailed your asses to the wall.”
There was a long silence, punctuated only by the rushing sounds of cars passing them on the highway.
Chance was the one to speak first, “So,” wary didn’t even begin to describe his tone, “Where does this leave us?”
Feral’s mind raced through alternate solutions he’d thought up, but they were all rejected for the one he’d long ago decided would have to work, “We finish this mission.
Then you two go back to the Junkyard, and I go back to headquarters.
I’ll still be watching, know if you two ever push it too far I’ll come down on you so hard you’ll wish Dark Kat were the one who had you.”
Both SwatKat’s nodded to that, though hesitantly.
Feral glanced at Marcus and saw the older kat giving him an appraising look, “Well done Son.” He murmured under his breath.
Then louder, “Well, let’s get out of the road, shall we?”
Both SwatKats still looked like they were trying to decide if they should bolt or attack, but they did pile into the Hum-vee, taking up the back while Marcus switched to the front.
The rest of the ride out to the site was done in silence. The insertion went off without a hitch; Feral had to admit Clawson and Furlong’s skills impressed him.
The group had ditched the hum-vee back at the road and humped it out four miles to the site.
The entrance was a vent hidden under a rock outcropping.
It led down into an underground complex that looked almost like an old military bunker.
Feral didn’t have time to think too much on it as they moved through the place room by room.
Nothing was what they found a whole lot of, until they hit the fifth level down.
There they came up to a door with a functioning maglock.
“Damn, complicated things.”
Marcus frowned as he examined the lock. “No way I can get us through this without tools.”
Feral nodded, and mulled it over, then let out a low short whistle.
Moments later, Jake came trotting up from his rearguard position.
“Alright Clawson.” Feral pointed to the lock, “You’re supposed to be a tech genius, can you get us through this?”
Jake took a moment to look over the lock then took out his knife.
Marcus fell back to fill the rearguard spot with Chance while Jake popped the casing off the lock.
Feral watched and waited for minute after minute as Jake toyed with the bundles of wires within the lock.
Just as Feral was about to tell him to give up the light on the lock switched to green and the door opened a fraction with the hiss of a seal opening.
Jake’s satisfied smile was larger than simply opening the lock justified in Feral’s mind.
Still, the kids were good, if ‘besting’ him kept them sharp and motivated; he could deal with it. Feral pulled the door open a bit more to get a look inside, only darkness greeted him, “Alright Clawson.
You and Furlong wait here at the door.”
Feral whistled the same whistle again, and then another one, and both Marcus and Chance came trotting up.
Feral motioned Marcus forward, and pointed to the door.
He himself took up a spot against the wall beside the door with his pistol drawn.
Marcus slipped a foot into the crack where the door was already opened, and pushed it open all the way with one quick motion.
Following up he ducked into the room and to the right of the doorway.
Feral followed up when no gunfire came, plunging into the darkness of the room to take up a position on the left of the door.
His eyes adjusted to the gloom quick enough, revealing some kind of lab.
Feral lowered his pistol. “Looks like we found something.”
“Well I definitely found a light switch.”
Marcus grumbled as he stepped away form the wall, rubbing his back with one hand.
He turned and flipped on the lights.
Feral moved the door closed as Marcus moved further into the room. With the door shut no one would see the whole group at once. Not that anyone seemed to be occupying this place.
“Find anything, Soldier?” Feral asked as he holstered his weapon.
“Looks like it…” Marcus was leafing through some papers on a counter. “But, there’s a lot of it here.”
Feral checked out what looked like a working computer console and began scanning through the database.
“Jake, do I have to tell you I feel like I’ve had every hair on my body rubbed the wrong way?”
“Same here, Buddy.” Jake kept his eyes down the hall as he talked, “I can’t believe Feral knew.”
“It does make sense I guess when you think about it. Seems the old Kat’s not as dumb as we thought.”
“Definitely not. I guess things will still work out, but something just doesn’t feel the same.”
“Yeah. Still, it does feel… I don’t know… kind of good to get back in uniform and do something sanctioned for once.”
Jake nodded at that, and silence fell between them for a moment.
Chance opened his mouth to speak again as something, nothing distinguishable, just something, came into view down the corridor.
It turned to face them slowly, “Jake, what IS that thing?”
“I don’t know, Buddy.”
The thing raised its arms, vaguely felinoid looking; it was covered in a green chitinous shell. Without presentation or pretense, it charged.
Chance drew his pistol and dropped to one knee, beside him Jake did the same but remained standing. They both snapped off shots at the thing as it charged. Each shot hit it square, and had no effect in the slightest.
Chance wasn’t sure how many shots he got off before the thing hit him full in the chest. Chance remembered thinking it weighed a lot more than it should have before everything went black.
Jake dropped the useless pistol from his hand as he turned to face the creature.
A part of his mind worried about Chance’s limp form slumped against the wall, but the rest of it was trying to decide how to hurt this thing.
A dozen ideas came to mind all needing the glove o’ tricks. And, all he had was himself, and a knife.
Squaring off, Jake feinted at the beast out of reflex then drove his heel into its midsection with a spinkick.
The results were, mixed. The thing staggered back a few steps, stunned.
But Jake was in no position to take advantage. Pain shot through his foot and up his leg as he connected. He did his own little step dance back, favoring his throbbing foot.
The creature lunged at him and Jake sidestepped less gracefully than he would have liked because of his foot, but good enough. He spun on his good heel until he was alongside the beast, and drove his elbow down into its face.
The outcome was a bit better this time. His arm just went numb from the elbow down as if he’d hit his funny bone, and the beast staggered and ran headlong into the wall.
Still, Jake realized as it rounded on him again. He’d run out of limbs before it ran out of steam.
A dull thump, heard even through the thick sealed door brought Feral’s head up from the computer display. He exchanged a quick look with Marcus, “Get everything you can gathered up; I think we’ve been found out.”
Feral keyed in the print command for the files he’d been looking over and drew his pistol, heading for the door; there was no further sound from it.
Feral eased the door handle to open then took in his breath, and pushed the door open. He dropped to a firing stance in one smooth motion doing a quick assessment of the situation.
Thinking back in future times, Feral often had to chuckle at how the job had changed him. He didn’t even miss a beat seeing Jake squaring off against a large green creature. He snapped off the obligatory trio of shots; all bounced off like he’d expected them too.
Things were just never that easy.
Re-holstering his gun Feral approached the melee.
The thing had turned it’s attention to him when his shots hit it, and was coming his way.
Feral heard the door reseal behind him as he flexed his hands.
“Feral, keep it at a distance, it’s hard as a rock and strong as one too.”
Jake was moving up behind the creature, but was favoring one leg.
Feral brought his hands up, a part of him wondering where Chance was.
The creatures lifted its arms and ran at him in a blind rush, Feral slide left and planted a solid blow right against the thing’s sternum. The blow brought the creature up short, but it reacted much faster than Feral had planned. It swung its arms with unreasoning savagery, one clipping the side of Feral’s head and the other catching him in the gut. Both blows drove him back, but the rain of punches stopped, much to Feral’s surprise.
Shaking his head once his vision refocused on the creature, flat on its back, with Jake pinned under it.
Feral took a step forward, but it felt like slow motion.
The creature squirmed around as Jake tried to get free.
The younger Kat was freed all right; a blow sent him flying back against the side of the hall with a loud crack as his helmet hit the cement.
A deep growl slid through the hall, and Feral realized it was his own, part of him was waking up that he’d thought long buried and silent.
Chance’s ribs felt like broken matchsticks.
He came too wheezing in pain. But the pain was good for something; it brought things into focus faster, sounds, fighting. His eyes opened sluggishly, but he forced them to.
Feral stood toe to toe with that green thing that had laid him out. The two seemed engaged in some twisted parody of a boxing match.
Blows landing on both sides looked devastating, but neither party was dropping.
Across the way, Jake was splayed out, unconscious at least, plastered against the wall.
It took a moment for all this to register to Chance, but when it did the rush of adrenaline that followed was enough to get his limbs moving again.
Pushing himself up he drew his combat knife, “Feral, you got backup.”
Feral landed a sharp shot to the jaw of the beast that bought a moments time, “This thing’s unstoppable.”
The large Kat’s uniform was rent in a dozen places, but he wasn’t bleeding at least.
“Just gimme a shot…” Chance hissed, moving up, hefting the knife in his hand and looking for an opening.
The thing was circling again, trying to figure out how to deal with both of them.
“Alright Furlong, you want your shot, you got it.”
Feral darted in at the beast, which struck out at the incoming target.
Feral caught the arm though, and used his momentum to circle behind the beast, grabbing it’s other arm and holding it in an effective if sloppy full nelson, “Take it!” Feral yelled, straining to keep the thing in check.
Chance was already on his way in, however tough the thing’s hide was to punches; the knife sank into it just fine.
Chance rammed the blade into its gut to the hilt, then twisted and zigzagged the knife, disemboweling it in one stroke.
The beast curled up around its wound and let out on last wail before dropping to the ground to lay still.
Chance dropped the knife on the body and hurdled them both to get to where Jake lay, “Hey, Jake, you okay?” He placed a paw on the shoulder of his friend.
This close he could see the spider web of cracks in the back of his partner’s helmet.
Chance lifted the Visor on his partner’s helmet and leaned in to check his breathing, “Jake, speak to me man.”
He was breathing.
“Oooo…” Jake shifted slightly, his eyes opening, “What… owww…”
Chance felt a weight lifted from his chest as Jake came around.
“Good work, both of you.”
The praise sounded so foreign to him Chance looked around to find out who else had snuck up on them.
But it was only him, Jake, and Feral in the hallway, all looking worse for wear, but on top in the end.
“Mmm, well, I’ll say one thing for the Enforcers.” Jake mumbled as he stood up, touching the back of his head, “They make good helmets.”
Marcus closed his eyes and waited for the numbness to go away.
It slowly pulled back from his arms the tingling reached back to his chest and finally pulled away. His breath calmed and he realized he was still staring at the hilt of his knife sticking out of the thing’s eye.
Whatever it was had been quick and it hit like a truck.
Pushing back the onrushing headache Marcus snatched up the satchel full of papers and disks and made for the door.
Outside Feral and the two SwatKats were all looking worse for wear, and another of those things was gutted on the floor.
“Looks like you boys had all the fun.” Marcus forced a grin passed his pounding headache.
Feral tugged what was left of his flak vest into some semblance of order and spoke, “You’ve got the information, Soldier?”
Marcus held up the satchel and nodded.
“Good, then let’s get the hell out of here.”
Jake piped in, “And nuke the site from orbit.”
To Marcus’ surprise Feral responded to that, “Affirmative.”
The exit was clean and quiet, a thankful relief to the team.
The ride back was as quiet as the one up.
Feral pulled the hum-vee over where they’d picked up Jake and Chance.
Marcus got ready to fill the void of silence he knew would follow, but Feral beat him to it.
“Alright Clawson, Furlong, listen up. Here’s the situation. This assignment never happened, You go back to the yard and continue on as you were.” Feral repeated, “Exactly as you were.”
Jake popped open his door and nodded once, sharply, as he got out, “Yes… Commander.”
Chance got out the other side and both shut their doors in sync.
Feral shifted the Hum-Vee into gear then said out the window, “The SWATKats will be kept informed of progress on this issue. Including any pertinent information retrieved from the disks.”
Feral hit the gas and accelerated away, cutting off the conversation.
After a moment Marcus decided to speak up, “Well, Son, speak your mind.”
“You set me up, Soldier.”
“Damn right I did, Son, though you set up a pretty little ambush yourself. Good call on your part though. So, what’s your POA on this little situation.”
“Wait and see. Those two are damn good, but still young. I don’t know just how bad all this rattled them.”
“Sounds like a fair plan.”
Marcus looked out the back Window as they Hum-vee slid into the City proper, a low dome-like hill crossed the horizon, but Marcus knew this hill wouldn’t be nice enough to stay there for long.
“Alright Jake, can you tell me what just happened?” Chance pulled off his helmet and gloves, setting them on the back of his bike.
Jake was doing likewise at his own bike.
“I think we just got unofficial license.” Jake scratched the back of his head then winced as his fingers slid over the bruise.
Chance undid his vest and coat, stuffing them into the cargo bins on the back of his bike.
He tugged out a civvie shirt and began buttoning it up, “When did we lose the edge exactly?”
“When that Kaque guy showed up.” Jake’s voice had lost some of its reverence for sheer annoyance.
Chance let that work through his mind as he changed pants and boots. Reaching for his bike helmet he spoke again, “I have this sinking feeling that pretty soon, all this will seem like peanuts.”
Jake’s voice was almost lost in the rumble of his bike starting up, “You too, huh? Feels like the end of the world or something.”
Chance revved his engine two more than needed, wanting some small reassurance to counter the chord Jake’s words struck in his gut.
Together they kicked their bikes into gear and headed back for the main road and into town.
Four days left until that thing hit the city.
Four days and still all they had were leads.
Dr. Simian picked up one of the myriad reports on her desk and tried to read it but after 50+ hours strait without a break her eyes didn’t want to focus.
All around her the room was the same. A dozen of the best minds in MegaKat City all digging through the data retrieved by Commander Feral.
It was some of the most complicated biotech Dr. Simian had ever seen.
A far cry from her specialty, she took solace in the fact that none of the Pumadyne eggheads could make heads or tails of most of it either.
Dropping the report Dr. Simian stood up, wincing at the aches and cramps rippling through her legs from sitting so long.
She needed more of it and fast.
This in mind she began her wandering through the halls of the Pumadyne lab.
This place was one hell of a maze, and her wanderings took her into rooms filled with other scientists all working on different aspects of the problem.
She finally hunted down a half pot of cold coffee in the Anatomy room.
Cradling the icy lifeblood she stared up at one of the big monitors.
A rather lifeless looking young tech was going over schematics of the beast’s head.
Out of that myriad of numbers and words a mile long something caught her eye.
“Hey. Wait. Go back there.” She touched the tech on the shoulder to get his attention.
The startled Kat nodded and flipped back slowly through the images.
“Hold it. Alright, zoom in on this part.” Dr. Simian made a motion with her arm to the screen and the tech complied, “What’s this right here?”
Again she gestured and the tech scrunched up his eyes, peering at the spot she indicated.
“That is the opening for the Optical Nerve.”
“So, it goes right back into the thing’s brain?”
“Yeah. Oh I know what you’re thinking. But, the opening is too small for an exact penetrating hit. And anything less would probably not take it all out. From what we gathered on the dragon’s corpse, if even a bit of the brain is left the thing won’t die.
“Still, it’s worth giving to the Enforcers.”
Dr. Simian thought to herself ‘and maybe to two other Kats’
The tech nodded and began typing up the report as Dr. Simian stumbled back to her own desk and those blasted reports.
Two Days left.
Feral sifted through equipment lists and organizational reports.
The Doc had come up with nothing but an unworkable plan for beating the menace.
It was up to raw firepower to pull it off.
A warm touch on the back of his neck came as a surprise, and the gentle massage it gave reminded him of just how tense he was.
Leaning back into it Feral was able to keep himself from purring outright, but only just.
He inhaled a moment, and caught the scent of his benevolent guest.
It caused him to sit up again rather quickly.
Callie moved around to another chair at the ops table Feral had sprawled his work across. “You look more stiff than usual, Commander.” Callie waved a finger at Feral, but her voice belied the gesture, “And you missed your first lesson.”
All of this hit Feral rather quickly, and in his sleep-deprived state he couldn’t compensate.
His mouth opened, but no words came out, and he was sure the look on his face was similar.
Callie grinned that …well… catish grin of hers, taking off her glasses and tapping her lips with one end, “Surprised, Commander? I know I am. You’ve changed a lot in these last few weeks, and I think I like it.”
Feral shook himself mentally, and when his fingers touched one of the reports he said the first thing to come to mind, “You’re early for the meeting.”
‘Alright, that was lame’ Feral winced inwardly.
Callie gave him a slightly exasperated look, but there was a good deal of play in her eyes behind it, “Maybe I should leave, Commander?” she cooed, standing back up and putting her glasses on, “You’d prefer to be alone?” Callie turned and headed for the door, her tail twitching in time with each step.
Feral felt a catch in his throat, “Ms. Briggs.” He paused and slowed down a little, “it’s quite alright for you to stay.”
Callie half turned back towards him, “I wouldn’t want to be a bother now.” Her face was all business except for the hint of a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.
Feral’s reply was cut off by a knock on the door, and he thanked the Great Kat, it would have been lame he just knew it, “Come in?” he called out.
Captain Chavez opened the door and both she and Felina entered, “Reporting as ordered, Sir.”
Chavez snapped off a smart salute, and to Feral’s surprise, so did Felina.
Feral nodded and they entered, taking their seats.
Feral caught a glance from Callie that seemed to say ‘you got off the hook… this time’ he wasn’t sure if he should be scared, or eager for the next time.
Callie retook her seat and all three She-Kat’s looked expectantly to Feral.
Pushing up one of his rolled shirtsleeves back into place Feral stood, “We have one more group coming.
But I can outline most of the plan before they arrive.” Feral spread out a large map of MegaKat City across the table, pre-marked with his troop assignments.
Feral let the two enforcers look it over a moment before speaking, “The scientists were really only able to tell us exactly how impossible our job is going to be. I’ve called up everything I can from around, and I still don’t’ know if it’s enough. We’ll be confronting it in fifty four hours, right here.” Feral stabbed at the map indicating where he’d marked the front lines.
Callie was the first to speak up, “Commander, that’s inside the city limits.”
Feral had been expecting this, “I know Ms. Briggs. But I want every last hour we can get to gather our forces and get them in place. Waiting until the time I’ve set forth gives us the maximum concentration of firepower, and the best shot at knocking this thing down when it comes.”
Callie looked back down at the map a moment, “Is it that bad?” all play from earlier was drained from her voice.
“Worse,” Feral admitted, “We’ve got no guarantees on this one. The evacuations have not been simply routine.”
Feral pointed to a secondary position on the map, “Captain Chavez, you’ll be in Charge of the Artillery.”
He moved his finger back to Enforcer HQ, “Felina, you will lead the air wing. Ten Pumadyne Striker Mk.5 attack aircraft will be accidentally sent to us tomorrow, I’ve got the word of someone I trust on that. Your job is to clear that dragon cover if at all possible.”
Felina was looking at Feral is if he had just sprouted a second head.
“Is something the matter Lieutenant?”
“Um.. No sir!” Felina shook herself, “Not at all.”
Feral heard her murmur under her breath with no small touch of awe, “Mk. 5’s…”
Feral continued to lay out troop strengths and assignments, informing Callie of what needed to be done from the civilian end of things which was mainly stay the hell out of the way and pray as much as possible.
Just as he was beginning to wrap things up the door opened admitting three Kats.
Feral folded his arms as they entered, despite the need, he still didn’t like seeing those two in their vigilante garb in his HQ
The question was almost a chorus from the three females assembled.
“Well, your PR boys are working, eh guys?”
The third Kat, Marcus, chucked Razor on the shoulder.
T-bone flopped himself down in a chair, grinning like he’d had a three canary breakfast.
Razor moved to another chair and spoke before sitting, “We got your information Feral, we also brought something else along.”
Feral nodded and turned to the three She-Kat’s to explain before asking about this new item, “It’s that bad.” He said by way of explanation.
That summed it up well enough for all present.
“Felina, the SwatKat’s will be attached to your Squadron for this mission, but give them as much free reign as possible for them to use every toy they’ve got in that plane of theirs.”
Felina nodded, still casting sidelong glances at the two Kats she’d likely never expected to see in Enforcer HQ.
“Alright SWATKat, what is this thing you’ve brought along?”
Jake stood up and pointed at the mark on the map for where the monster was to be hit, “We got the information you did about the so called ‘weakness’ of this beast.
We think we have something that can do enough damage to take it out, if we can deliver the explosive on target.”
Razor pulled a 6″ diameter Canister from his belt, “This, is supposed to be the warhead of one of my upgraded mega missiles. It’s what we would use. I even constructed a rifle that can fire it off at a range of 300 yds with accuracy. But.” Razor actually looked a little sheepish, “We’re talking an entry point that’s only two inches wider than this shell, and is shielded by many feet of hard flesh. I’m simply not that good a shot.”
Feral nodded, no shame in an admission like that, still, he shot a look to Marcus, “Soldier?”
Marcus shrugged and gave Feral a grin, “Can’t hurt to try.”
Little was changed by this new development; Feral wasn’t willing to spread out his forces on this mission.
Marcus would be hold up in one of the houses along the deployment zone.
When the creature got in range he’d take his shot if he could.
If it worked great, if not, then things were already set to engage the beast.
The rest of the meeting went smoothly enough and all assembled filed out to prepare for their tasks.
All that was left was the endgame.
The air reeked of metal and anticipation as Feral’s open topped jeep rolled down the street in the center of the procession.
Around him one mechanized battalion of Enforcers.
The district of Megakat City they rumbled through was empty save for themselves, and the Artillery Company they’d just past.
Feral was sure Captain Chavez would keep the fire fast and furious, but still, this whole operation worried the hell out of him. It was bigger than anything they’d dealt with so far. It was bigger than any military operation any Enforcer command had seen in the last decade.
Feral looked over the rooftops of the houses to the south. There, looming up in the distance, now only about a kilometer away was the creature. It looked like a building itself, except for the ponderous motion of its legs, and the slow swaying of it’s head.
Overhead, Feral could make out the black shapes of the dragons that still protected the monster.
He’d seen video before, but now just watching the thing move, he wondered if they really had enough to deal with it. Pushing the fear into a ball in his gut, Feral clenched his stomach tight around it.
This had to work; his city would not be taken, no matter what the threat.
As Feral double-checked every plan in his mind the cavalcade rode on.
“All systems double checked, Lieutenant. You’re ready to go.”
Felina nodded to the deck officer and strapped her helmet on,” All right, people, this is the real deal. Keep it tight and defensive. We don’t know how well these things perform.”
With that she trotted out to her flight and the rest of her wing did the same.
Felina climbed into the Mk 5’s sleek cockpit and took a moment to familiarize herself with its layout.
Nor a whole lot different than the usual layout, just a few nuances changed here and there to make things better. The real difference was the lack of a HUD cord. The standard Enforcer jet piped its HUD into the pilot’s helmet. The Mk. 5 went one better.
Felina buckled on her Oxygen mask and flipped the HUD switch.
The canopy of the cockpit went dark black and a sharp hiss signaled the cockpit being flooded with a gas mixture that was effective for its purpose, but Non-fatal to Kats.
The HUD cameras activated form their hidden spots and the flight deck materialized around Felina in perfect detail.
Her plane was a transparent outline around her, other than that it seemed visually as if she was floating in the air.
Important controls were activated by hand signals from her sensor-lined gloves, and steering was based off the positioning of her right hand in the air, not on a joystick.
Felina moved had hand into position, and fired the engines.
Turning her head she looked for the flight controller.
At his signal she taxied her plane out.
Felina marveled at how easy the control was.
The eggheads had worked on finding the most comfortable positions for the pilot to use for the most common maneuvers.
She looked out to her right for the signal, when it was given she squeezed her hand close tight and the engines fired hard, pushing the plane down the runway and up into the sky.
Felina slid her hand to the right as she took off, climbing into a banking turn, circling to wait for the rest of her wing.
Felina took the opportunity to really see what she could see, which was everything.
This HUD system gave her an all around unobstructed view.
It was slightly disconcerting to see nothing below her until the street, but she and her wing had all taken the mandatory drug injections before this flight.
The drugs countered the body’s natural sense of vertigo at least, it was supposed to.
In short order her wing was up and in formation.
“Sweet Jacob this thing handles like a dream.”
“Can the chatter, Phillips,” Felina cut in. “Alright people, we’re headed south east, out to five klicks where we’ll meet our backup.”
“We really working with the SWATKat’s Lieutenant?”
“That’s an affirmative Tonfeld. As I said before, this is the real deal.”
“I bet hell’s frozen over right now. That or Feral’s been replaced by an alien.”
Felina had to chuckle at that; it did seem such an unlikely set of events, “Roger that, Phillips. Feral just had a medical, so the HellKat must be wearing a parka right now.”
Felina pulled gently out of the holding pattern and her wing followed suit, heading for their rendezvous.
Marcus Kaque tapped his finger against the huge brass bell hanging in the center of the tower.
He ran his fingers over its surface slowly and idly wished he’d learned to read old Katin.
A church bell was bound to have something inspiring written on it, and every little bit would help right now.
Marcus looked back out one of the four small windows.
The thing was still there, still very much real no matter how much he wanted it to just be a bad dream.
Marcus went over all the checks on this monstrosity the SWATKat’s called a rifle.
Firing a 6″ canister 300 meters through another 30 meters of flesh and into a foot wide hole. Not what he’d planned his last few weeks in the Enforcers to include.
Marcus adjusted the ammo belt around his waist, 6 more canisters if the first missed its mark.
Marcus eyed the sky dubiously; it’d been growing darker all morning.
Rain was not something they needed today.
Marcus checked his watch; another 15 minutes until the operation began.
Turning away from the window he crouched beside the bell again and lowered his head silently, every little bit would help.
Ten Alric A-9 long barrel Howitzers stood lined up neatly in a row. Their crews each prepped and ready. Behind them com-techs and support staff scrambled among the vehicles of the mobile HQ.
Captain Chavez kept her hands behind her back so she wouldn’t fidget with them.
To the south some 1.5 kilometers was a giant beast approaching Megakat City.
She and her crew wouldn’t even get to see the thing if all went well.
For some reason that bugged her to hell and back, an enemy you faced could be defined, limited. Right now she and her company were shooting at each of their worst fears embodied. No enemy can ever be as bad as the ones you imagine in your head.
The sound of a vehicle pulling up caught Captain Chavez’s attention and she turned from her musings. To her surprise she saw the Deputy mayor getting out of the white compact that had just arrived.
Two MPs met Callie. but Captain Chavez knew that wouldn’t hold her for long. Moving her hands to her sides, Chavez made her way towards the scene.
“Deputy Mayor, I’m surprised to see you here. You should be with the other civilians.” Chavez started off strong; she didn’t have time for this.
“I couldn’t just sit by while the city is under attack.”
Callie wore a pair of faded jeans and a sweatshirt, not wholly practical but better than the skirt and heels she was usually running around in.
“Well, there’s not much you can do here, but watch Deputy Mayor. We won’t even see the beast if all goes well. And there’s no way you’re getting near the artillery.”
Callie looked ready to argue a moment, but closed her mouth again and just nodded, “Is there anything I can do?”
“Stick close to me, or go back to the shelters.”
Chavez turned and headed to inspect the arty one last time, her watch had 10 minutes until op start.
To no surprise, she heard Callie fall in beside her.
“There they are, right on time.”
T-bone pulls the TurboKat around to a course that took them west northwest.
The Enforcer wing turned to match as Razor opened the com, “Hey Felina good to see you in the skies, and with new toys too.” “Hey SWATKats, good to be here,” Felina’s voice came through the radio, “And these toys’ll kick your jet’s butt around the black and back again.”
T-bone added in, “Hey, maybe after this is all over we can have a little tousle and see who’s boss eh?”
“Roger that SWATKats. I make 5 minutes to attack zero. Entering holding pattern.”
T-bone pulled into line behind the Enforcer wing and set to circling with them, waiting for the cue to attack.
“All positions report in ready to go sir, the creature is just over 700 meters away and closing.”
Feral nodded to the report, looking over the map laid out before him one last time.
Everything was in place; it just had to all come together now.
A spot of water tapped down on the map, then another, and another.
Feral looked up to glower at the rain that developed form a shower into a downpour in moments, “Forecast said clear skies.
This can’t be normal.” He growled under his breath.
The rain soaked his uniform through in moments; the discomfort was only a distant thought though.
In less than a minute everything had just gotten one hundred times harder.
“Sir!” a waterlogged com-tech shouted through the growing din of the rain, “Thirty seconds to time.”
There was no going back, no place to retreat to.
As rain dripped off the ends of his whiskers Feral made a choice, “Send out the order, begin operation.”
“We’ve got a green light, Captain,” the com-tech called over the rain.
Captain Chavez ran a hand back through her hair, pushing the sopping mess out of her eyes, “Light ’em up.”
At her order artillery crews sprang into action, sightings and prep commands sprang throughout followed by a chorus of loud retorts as they let loose.
Without hesitation the crews reloaded and set off again, and again.
The sharp barks of the arty made the glass storefront next to Chavez rattle nervously.
“Is this it?” Callie asked from where she stood, just as soaked as Chavez.
“This is all we have to do, Great Kat willing.”
The artillery let loose once more.
Felina hadn’t been the only one to let loose a string of expletives when the rain started, and now as she sat in the CGI imaging world created by the radar images her plane was receiving thunder rumbled through the skies,
“Just what we need,” she muttered.
A sharper clap of thunder echoed, much closer than the first and her HUD painted images of the explosions ripping across the back of the Behemoth. Another set rippled across its carapace, neither having any effect on the huge beast, as they’d feared, but it wasn’t the beast Felina was concerned with.
She held her breath as she watched the black shapes hovering over it. A third set of explosions tore into the Behemoth and the black shapes over it scattered. Yes!
“That’s our cue people, break off into pairs and hunt those things down. SWATKats, you’re with Phillips and myself.” Felina triggered her afterburners and picked a target. “Phillips I’m on target Alpha 7. Watch my back, and get ready to backup the SWATKats if they need it. Razor, T-bone, you’ve got a fee reign, just call on us if you get in trouble.”
Felina hit her burners and sped in on her target.
Like clockwork, she pulled down the lock on and fired off one of the new acid saturation missiles the SWATKats had prepped for this mission.
Felina watched the missile speed towards its target and…. blast right through it.
The moment the missile hit the target the HUD repainted the dragon five degrees up from where it had been.
Pulling in on a tight turn Felina cursed, “This is Wing one to all Enforcer units, anyone else have a targeting malf up?”
“That’s a negative, Lieutenant.”
“No problems here.”
Felina frowned and set her sights on her target again, “Phillips, I want another crack at this guy, I think I’ve got a targeting problem.”
Her wingman fell in beside her as she lined up the shot; the dragons were scattering farther now, but still none had turned on any of the Enforcers.
Felina got tone and let fly with a second missile.
Once more the missile struck the target… which was then painted 5 degrees up, “Damn!”
Felina pulled off target again, “Phillips, my targeting system’s gone to hell, I’m going to have to switch to visual.
You have permission to break and engage.”
Felina switched off the HUD and her virtual cockpit dissolved into reality.
Her radar was still working thankfully, with the rain pounding away at her plane she could barely see ten feet.
Keeping tabs on the radar Felina pulled herself in a long curve to get her out of the hotzone, just as she got around the turn her radio flared to life.
“This is W 5 mayday… ma…”
“Krud! They’re coming back on us! These things can move…”
“Dickerson, Dickerson you there? Respond…”
Explosions lit the sky behind her and Felina’s heart twisted in a knot, “This is W1, wingmen report.”
“Damn, Dickerson’s gone sir.”
These things maneuver like a…”
The radio cut out to static again and Felina felt a chill down her spine.
She got no more responses, the pilots were either too busy to respond, or unable.
“SWATKats, come in. This is Lieutenant Feral, what’s your status?”
T-bone’s voice came to life over the radio, “Up to our hips in dragon, Felina. If your HUD’s down, don’t even think of coming back in here…”
The radio cut out but picked up again, this time it was Razor’s voice, “Lieutenant Feral, call off the Enforcers; this is turning into a slaughter.”
Felina growled in frustration, it wasn’t supposed to be going down like this her people weren’t supposed to be dying, “No.
We stay, If we don’t clear these things away, they’ll massacre the ground troops.”
Felina pulled her plane back around; the least she could do was provide a distraction that might let another pilot get a shot off.
Explosions blossomed overhead and daggers of light stabbed through the air at the hulking gray blotch out in the rain.
Feral could only grip his cane in frustration as his enforcers sent volley after volley into the Behemoth with no visible effect.
Above him Felina tangled with the dragons, a part of Feral’s stomach turned at the idea of his niece in this last stand, “ComKat Green What’s our time?” A nervous young Kat clipped off each word to try and sound professional, “We Are, T plus five minutes Sir.”
Feral hissed, two minutes past the time Marcus was supposed to take his shot. In this mess, Feral doubted that was going to happen at all.
Feral set his jaw and glared out into the rain, half musing that he might wish the monster away.
Something caught his eye though. Snatching up the binoculars from his command table Feral scanned around the feet of the Behemoth.
The rain made seeing anything almost impossible, Feral switched the binoculars over to IR and cursed, “Captain!” he bellowed, “Tell your men to rerig weapons, Pop safeties on my order. We’ve got incoming infantry. ComKat Green, send that order to B and C companies. Look to the ground people, they’re on their way.”
Feral looked through the binoculars again; confirming it wasn’t just a nightmare.
A mass of those freakish mutants from the base swarmed around the Behemoth’s feet.
Feral drew his own pistol and set about removing the civilian safety as best he could by feel.
He kept his eyes glued to the binoculars, watching the mass.
All around him silence had replaced the sound of gunfire.
Explosions spoke out far off overhead, but on the ground only the quiet click of weapons being modified could be heard.
That silence seemed to drag out, Feral fumbled with the powerpack for his pistol, he used to be able to do this in his sleep.
Just as the safety came free the swarm surged forward.
Like a tidal wave the beasts ran over the open ground, Feral dropped the binoculars and slapped his pistol’s powerpack back in place, “Here they come!”
The mutant’s body made a far off splating sound as it hit the bottom of the belfry.
The bell still swung, ringing a low sonorous tone as the rifle fell from Marcus’ hands.
Another mutant lay dead beside him, he could just barely make out it’s shape in the gloom.
He fought his breathing, trying to get it back under control.
This time the numbness wasn’t going away.
Marcus crouched to pick up his rifle again, and this time couldn’t get back up.
His breath echoed through the hollowness in his chest, blackness inked it’s way through the shadows of his vision.
He pushed himself to his feet, only to fall forward onto his face again.
Captain Chavez had lost count of how many volleys her crew had fired by now.
The thunder of the big guns mixed with the thunder in the air in a constant scream of noise.
No word from the advance elements, no word from anyone.
A comKat pulled her from her thoughts quite literally, tugging on her shoulder, “Captain!”
The anxiety in his voice was liquid, “Captain, a call from the front!” Chavez snatched the receiver from the panicked Kat and put it to her ear, “This is Captain Chavez.”
“This is Captain Strauss, C company. Chavez, you gotta reset your target aspects, bring it up one K.”
Static ate through the transmission and Chavez thought she heard screaming in the background.
“That’ll put us dropping ordinance right on your position Strauss.”
“*fzztt* Know. We’ve been overrun. *rrrrzz* mutant infantry *zzzsssttt* A company gone… commander too. *crackle* For Great Kat’s sake, drop that fire on us or no one is coming home!…”
The signal cut out sharply, Chavez didn’t even bother trying to get him back online, “Gunnery Sergeant! Make your range five hundred meters, sustained barrage.”
“Yes Sir!” the response came.
Chavez clenched and unclenched her hands, fighting down a rising sense of dread.
“What’s going on, Captain?” Callie asked.
Chavez had forgotten she was even here, too late to get her out now.
“Thing’s aren’t going according to plan.” The first volley went off, then a second, after the third fired it struck Captain Chavez, they were still using the AP ammo planned for the beast, they needed to switch to frag ammo if they were hitting infantry now, “Gunnery Se…”
Chavez was airborne, the wind ripped from her lungs, just as she was able to draw a breath the hard ground crushed it from her again.
Her ears were ringing, and the metallic taste of blood filled her mouth.
Still, everything worked and Chavez pulled herself up to her knees.
Two of the artillery pieces were gone, flaming wrecks.
A dragon was shredding what had been the command tent as the support staff ran.
Chavez tried to shout an order, but her voice wouldn’t’ work. She coughed and spat.
And looked up again just in time to see the nearest Artillery piece unload into the grounded dragon.
The frag shell blew the beast one hundred ways from Sunday, sending pieces of burned flesh everywhere.
Chavez pushed herself up on one knee and was about to stand when she saw a pack of greenish mutant feleniods break from a nearby building for the artillery pieces, “Heads up!” she shouted, her eyes fell on something beside her.
The storefront had blown out, spraying the street with its contents, army surplus.
Scooping up an old sabre, Chavez ran for the fighting.
“Take the two at nine o’clock”
Razor directed, cycling through his remaining weaponry.
T-bone followed the suggestion, using the radar to guide him as he pulled up on line with two of the remaining dragons, “I make one more after these Sureshot, we’re almost done.”
“it’s a good thing too, we’ve only got four missiles left, and the enforcers are all out.”
Razor lined up the shot as T-bone held the TurboKat on target.
“Gotta give ’em credit for hanging in here though,” T-bone commented.
Razor was silent as the lock’s lit up across his screen, then triggered a pair of his new Medusa missiles. The missiles streaked out after their targets.
On impact they injected a special chemical mix into the dragons, something that only worked on their altered chemical makeups, without the info from the raid Razor would never have been able to make them.
The chemical caused their tissues to calcify in moments, and the two dragons fell from the sky, breaking up as they went, “Bingo!”
Razor grinned and slapped the back of T-bone’s flight seat, “What were you saying, T-Bone?”
“Ahh, skip it. So, where’s the last one?”
“It’s not showing up on Radar…” Razor fidgeted with the radar controls, trying to figure out where the last dragon had gone.
T-bone switched back onto the enforcer channel, the chatter on it before had been so thick neither SWATKat could think.
“-ayday mayday, someone help me out here guys.”
“Felina!” T-bone blinked as her voice came through the radio, he thought she’d left a long time ago.
“I’ve got one on my six and I cant’ shake him, Afterburners are gone.. Steering’s melted..”
“W1 This is Phillips, I’ve got nothing left but guns. Moving to your six.”
T-bone keyed in the radio, “Pull back, Phillips. We’ve got missiles, and we’re good to go.”
“Sure thing, SWATKats, it’s all yours.”
T-bone keyed up the Enforcer tags on the radar, and sure enough There was Felina’s plane. No radar image came in behind it though. Still he pulled around to get in line behind her plane, “You ready, Sureshot?”
“This thing’s still not on Radar, T-bone. Targeting isn’t picking it up either. You’re going to have to get damn close for me to aim visually in this soup.”
“We’ll get in close enough.” T-bone gritted his teeth, nothing was gonna hurt Felina, not while he still breathed.
The radio came to life again as T-bone eased up the throttle, wanting to gain without running into the dragon.
“Whatever you’re doing do it fast… I’m losing control…” T-bone hit the mic button, “Don’t worry, Felina, we’re on-”
A fireball blossomed through the gloom up ahead and static shot through the radio, “Felina?”
T-Bone turned up the radio’s volume, “Felina!” no response.
T-bone gunned the throttle, and almost ran right into the dragon. It twisted one way and he the other at the last second. T-bone pulled a High G turn that slammed him back into his seat, trying to reacquire the dragon through the rain.
“T-Bone, T-BONE!” Razor struggled to get out the words as the G forces crunched him back in his seat, “Get a hold of yourself.. We can’t hit anything .. like this.”
Razor’s words hit home and T-bone eased up, a little, “We’re taking this bastard DOWN Razor.”
Razor loaded up his last pair of missiles, “Roger that, Buddy. I’ll smoke him for ya.”
T-Bone hissed, through the murk of the rain he caught it, the dark shadow of the dragon.
T-bone kicked the TurboKat over to hover mode to keep from blowing past it.
In the rain the TurboKat was just about as fast as the Dragon in hover mode, if much less maneuverable, “Get him Sureshot.”
“Consider him got.” Razor lined up the shot against the murk, all targeting useless with the dragon not on radar.
Razor aimed, fired, corrected, and fired again.
The first Rocket sped past the Dragon but the second hit home, calcifying it dead on the spot. “That’s it then,” Razor shook his head, “That’s all we can do.”
Below them the real war was going on, Razor wondered how they faired.
As he peered out through the rain he heard T-bone shifting through com channels, “Felina?… Felina come in. Felina, are you there? Respond please.”
Razor opened his mouth to say something, but decided to just let it go.
The feeling was still gone, but the light came back.
Wet, water, dripped down over his face.
Marcus opened his eyes and was staring out into open air, the side of the tower blasted away by something.
Out in the rain a darkness slowly shifted, the behemoth.
That’s right, he was supposed to stop it.
He tried to move his right arm no feeling, but he saw it move, picked up the rifle. He pushed himself up, and the world spun, colors exploded across his vision. Breathing didn’t seem to help at all.
His legs moved him to the edge. Then gave way. He laid down in a firing position. Rain soaked through his fur and clothing.
There was no line of sight to anything on the beast, much less its eye. Marcus peered down the scope at a shadow, and the shadow peered back.
A part of him noticed he didn’t have to steady himself before he took the shot, one plus. He aimed, adjusted, and knew it was good. As his mind sent its last command, it sighed a tired sigh and slept.
Marcus never knew whether his hand completed its last assigned task.
A roar ripped through the air, a deafening shudder that rocked the TurboKat. A dark shadow reared up from below.
The behemoth bellowed out, hurt. It lurched to the right and began to fall.
“T-bone!” Razor yelped. No response, he reached forward and gave his friend a knock on the helmet, “T-Bone! Get us out of here!”
T-bone pulled himself from the radio and looked up into the descending blackness. Instincts took over from a shocked mind and he hit the afterburners hard, pulling them out, and away from the collapsing giant.
The rumble as it struck the earth resounded and echoed back form the buildings back in downtown MegaKat City.
As they died away, so did the rain.
A soaked stillness filled its place. Looking down Razor surveyed the devastation below. Everywhere, destroyed buildings, and, it looked like bodies… The front Enforcer position seemed to be smashed.
And there, not fifty yards from Chestnutt street, the line of last defense, the behemoth lay seemingly untouched, sprawled out on its back.
Razor heard T-bone utter the oath he was thinking, then shook his head, “Doesn’t look like there’s too many of those down there…” he replied grimly, “Try taking us back to the rear position.”
“No can do, Razor. We’re on fumes now. I can’t VTOL again or we’re done. We’ll have to come back on the bikes.”
As they flew back, Razor caught a glimpse of the rear position, it didn’t look much better than the forward one.
Feral awoke to the sun in his face. And, a pain through his chest.
He tried to get up, but he seemed stuck. Opening his eyes he saw the problem, a spar of concrete sticking through his chest.
Feral hissed as his mind told him he should be feeling pain right now. But he knew there wouldn’t be any.
Slowly he reachef up with his hands, and pulled. Inch by inch he hauled himself off the spar, all two meters of it.
As he slipped free to his knees Feral felt the odd sensation of the cool wind blowing through the foot wide hole through his chest.
He waited, on his knees, the only thing he could do.
His eyes roamed the immediate area. This had once been a schoolyard, he thought. Hard to say for sure. First those things, then the artillery fire. It had been insane.
Feral counted three dead Kat’s within sight as he waited for the wound to close. The silence was a good thing, it told him the beast was dead. There was no way it could have moved on already.
Feeling the last of the skin seal over Feral stood up. He winced, still tender within. One hand went to the hole in his Officer’s coat. Without hesitation Feral removed the coat, no desire to have to explain THIS little secret.
Picking his way over the rubble, Feral made his way back out across the field of the dead.
T-Bone pulled up to a stop beside Razor as they came to the Enforcer position.
Kat’s bustled about here and there, some carrying messages, some tending wounded, some just looking lost.
In the shade of a half collapsed Tent he saw Captain Chavez and two more Enforcer Captains conversing.
“There’s our answers.” He pointed to the trio and Razor nodded.
Together they made their way through the busy camp, not a single enforcer bothering to stop them, and came up to the Captains.
“Captain Chavez?” Razor asked to cut through the hushed conversation the officers were having.
Captain Chavez turned to look at them.
She was a sight, an old sabre, broken off half way down the blade, was stuck into her gunbelt and gauss covered her right eye, “SWATKats, good to see you made it out in one piece.
Felina was worried.” T-Bone sprang to life faster than spring flowers, “Felina? She’s alive?” Chavez nodded slowly, “She’s being treated right now.
She ejected from her plane, but burning shrapnel from it did a number on her.
Not life threatening though, She’s a Feral, they pull through.”
At that Chavez winced, as did the other two captains.
“Speaking of Ferals,” Razor piped up, “where’s the Commander?” Chavez lowered her head, “Missing, we’ve got an unconfirmed report he was KIA.
But having been gone this long, it’s almost a sure thing.
We picked up any walking wounded we could and medivaced any worse that we found with the choppers.
Still, we haven’t found his body yet.”
“And You won’t for a long time if I have anything to say about it.”
Feral’s rough voice cut through the air like a knife.
The whole group looked up to see Feral walking towards them like something out of a movie.
Battered pistol slung at his hip, his jacket missing, wearing a replacement, non-officer’s jacket, still open and undone, and not a scratch on him.
Chavez piped up, her cry was echoed by the other two Captains.
“Captain Chavez, Captain Holtz, Captain Juno.”
Feral nodded to each in turn, “Where’s Captain Strauss?”
The look of relief turned to one of grim reality across Chavez’s face, “Dead, Sir.”
Feral nodded, and folded his arms, “What’s the count?”
“Your daughter is wounded, but alright, over in the med tent. Strauss is dead, along with 86 more from The infantry Battalion, and another 54 wounded. My support Company took 15 dead, 34 wounded. We lost 5 pilots and 7 planes. All the arty is shot.” Chavez paused, then added, “The Deputy Mayor is at Jacob’s Mercy Hospital right now, she got cut up pretty bad.”
Razor and Feral’s voices overlapped, “Callie?”
But, Feral’s was louder and he pushed on, “What was the deputy Mayor doing here?” Chavez held up her hands as it to hold back a wall, looking between the two of them, trying to decide who wanted the information more, “She came in just as the operation got started, I tried to keep her out of trouble, but she vanished during the assault. They found her near the command tent, dragon’s claws.”
Razor turned on his heel, but a heavy hand on his shoulder stopped him.
He turned back and looked up at Commander Feral the worry in his face surprised Razor, “She’s probably still on the table, SWATKat. There’s nothing we can do right now. You’ll have no trouble from my Enforcers if you want to see her while she recovers.”
Razor nodded, and tried to relax some.
Chavez added on another item, picking through her mind and the clouded events, “We haven’t heard from Marcus Kaque yet either. No one scouted his position yet. We were going to organize a party as soon as we could.”
Silence descended among the small group as the noise continued around them.
Feral turned and looked back towards the corpse of the behemoth, “Don’t. Don’t send anyone out until you’ve started the grave detail.”
“Commander?” Captain Chavez held out a hand palm up in a questioning gesture.
Feral’s hands clenched as his sides, then unclenched slowly, “You can handle the details, Chavez. I’ve got a stack of letters to write.”
There was a waver to those last words, and Feral never turned around, he just walked off towards one of the few remaining jeeps.
The sharp click of boots brought Razor back to the present.
He turned and saw Chavez saluting.
The look of pride on the old She-Kat’s face was almost an aura, but as he followed her gaze Razor couldn’t tell if she was saluting Feral, the fallen, or the living.
Maybe a little bit of all three.
After a moment Captain Holtz snapped to as well, and Juno.
Even though he wasn’t in uniform Razor turned alongside them and brought his hand up. T-Bone did the same and they stood as one, the sun shining a low red as it sank towards the horizon.
The salute lasted forever, yet was over all too soon.
Chavez spoke in a much quieter tone, “We’ve got things as good as they can be handled SWATKats. Thanks for your help, thanks for everything.”
With that she turned back to the other two Captains and began giving out orders once more.
Razor turned to T-bone, a hint of dampness touched at the edges of his partner’s mask.
Razor was glad his own features were hidden too, “Let’s check on Felina first. Then Callie?”
T-bone nodded, “Sure thing, Sureshot.”
Disclaimer: SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron is copyright to Hanna-Barbera Cartoons Inc. All Rights Reserved. © 1995. All other characters and material within this page are the property of their respective creators.