The quartet made their way swiftly down the nearest route that ran perpendicular to the rows of cylinders that encircled the office building. Each step made a dull noise against the mixture of concrete and steel that made up the floor. High above, the lights cast mixed shadows of the group, which made Callie feel like she was walking in a perpetual crosshair.
Halfway there. Soon, this will just be a bad memory.
The lieutenant was in the lead, brandishing the bayonet-rifle in a way that seemed medieval. Some liquid remnants of the creatures Felina had killed with it were still on the blade. Callie was hesitant to describe it as blood, as their vital fluids seemed to be closer to motor oil in appearance and consistency, and smelled as artificial.
I’ll have to burn these clothes. No way these stains are getting out.
T-Bone was right behind her, brandishing the handgun with both hands, barrel pointed down and to the side. He moved with a quick attentiveness, checking around the corners where a row of cylinders would start on the left or right of the group, checking for any assailants that could be waiting just out of sight. Thus far he had found none.
Behind her, Razor brought up the rear. He had slung one of the straps of the backpack over his shoulder, the rocket launcher looking even larger at his back than the lieutenant’s.
They moved in silence, but Callie could tell each of them felt the anxiety she felt, even if they were better at hiding it.
They soon made it to the perimeter, the wall a mixture of concrete and earth that sketched far above into a dome. Callie imagined it’d look about the same as being inside a giant fruit bowl that had been turned upside-down.
Now at the edge, they quickened their pace, all knowing that the entrance to the long stairwell would soon be in sight.
Soon enough, it was.
Just entering view from the horizontal horizon was the entryway to the stairs. It was cut into the side of the wall, its lack of finish made it look like an open wound.
But, Callie quickly realized, it wasn’t the only thing there. Standing there, his profile accentuated by the dark and grey background behind him, every tone of the green pattern that covered his scaly skin in clear view, his white lab coat dirtied with the remnants of who knew what, was Dr. Viper.
He held a syringe in his left hand, its pinkish liquid contents glowing brightly.
T-Bone skidded to a stop, taking aim with the gun, but the lieutenant kept advancing, undeterred by the mad scientist’s appearance.
“Yes, please, don’t hold back,” Dr. Viper said with a laugh as he plunged the needle of the syringe into his leathery neck. The glowing contents of the injection quickly disappeared.
Felina rushed at Viper and hit him squarely in the stomach with the butt of the M16 with enough force to knock him down. Viper was now lying on the ground, and as he sat upright the lieutenant switched the weapon around in her hands to bring the point of the bayonet just inches in front of his face.
“Like I said earlier, you’re under arrest,” Felina said. “But, I wouldn’t mind it if you resisted, just a little.”
T-Bone frowned at the display, and Callie wondered if the lieutenant was being overzealous. But, Callie realized, following the SWAT Kat’s eyes, he wasn’t frowning at Felina. His eyes were focused on the discarded syringe.
“Be careful what you wish for,” Viper said, and began to laugh.
There was something deeply unsettling about Viper’s tone, more so than usual.
He’s always been a difficult one to figure out. He’s a biochemical genius, doing feats with science that should be impossible. And yet, he’s also crazy, his motivations often times seeming more animalistic than rational. He didn’t even unmask the SWAT Kats when he had them captive. And here, in this place, he makes himself content with cultivating monsters and bio-weapons for an attack on the world that hinged on his ability to persuade Razor to build him a weapon. There are so many holes in all of this, but to him I’m sure it makes perfect sense.
“Shut up,” Felina said, gesturing with the bayonet.
“Lieutenant, get away from him!” Razor shouted.
The warning came too late, as Callie’s mouth opened in shock. Viper’s body was changing, his skin seemingly bubbling with a sick sound not unlike wet leather being dragged on a sidewalk. It was also expanding, rapidly. The lab coat he wore stretched and tore at the seams, turning to tatters.
The lieutenant took a step back, staring at the transformation occurring in front of her, her gaze turning to look upward. Viper’s eyes and ears dissolved away into his bubbling flesh as his skin turned from its usual green to a washed out, white hue. Now standing at what must have been 50 feet tall, he more closely resembled one of his Shriekman, though his elongated mouth, reminiscent of a crocodile’s with his signature sadistic smile, was still intact.
Dr. Viper was already a monster, Callie knew, but now he was something entirely more frightening.
“Now, where were we?” Viper asked rhetorically, his eyeless face looking down at the group, his voice booming loudly. “Ah yes, I was going to cut my losses and kill all of you.”
In a swift motion he reached down and grabbed Felina with a grotesque, clawed hand. His fingers easily wrapped around her waist as he held her up. She struggled in his grasp, and Callie could see her pause in her struggle as Viper held her up, and licked his chops with his lizard-like tongue.
“Perhaps you’d make a tasty snack,” Viper said, and opened his mouth, revealing rows upon rows of triangular, shark-like teeth that had developed with his transformation.
“Let her go!” T-Bone shouted as he took aim with the handgun, firing several times until its slide locked back.
Callie could see the rounds above hitting Viper in the face, but they didn’t appear to be hurting him, though they got his attention.
“You’re nothing but insects to me now,” Viper said, his horrifyingly empty face looking down at T-Bone as he lifted a foot, casting a shadow over the SWAT Kat, preparing to stomp down. At that same instant, Callie saw the lieutenant thrust the rifle’s bayonet down with both hands.
Viper let out a screech, reminiscent of the monsters that had plagued Callie’s communicator, and dropped Lt. Feral, ceasing his attempt to crush T-Bone under his foot.
She must’ve stabbed him right between the fingers.
T-Bone lunged forward, arms outstretched, making a desperate attempt to soften the lieutenant’s 35 foot drop. The two collided and rolled to the floor. Both were unmoving.
“Stand back, Callie!” Razor shouted.
Callie turned to see the other SWAT Kat had unslung the lieutenant’s rocket launcher, the SMAW, and had it resting on his shoulder. He was taking aim at the multi-story monster.
“Just a minor irritation,” Viper said, pulling the lance out of his hand, discarding it like a toothpick, and looking down to see Razor preparing to attack. In an instant, Viper spun around 180 degrees. His tail had remained through his physical change, and it came around like a pale, high-speed truck.
Callie, who was already in the process of ducking out of the way, narrowly avoided getting hit as the appendage rushed over her head, the displacement of air whipping her hair over her face.
Razor, she quickly realized, was not so lucky, as the tail nicked him, colliding with his torso. He flew back and collided with one of the cylinders, his body denting it as he too collapsed to the floor. The rocket launcher clattered and rolled a few feet before coming to rest.
Callie’s heart was beating in her ears, her eyes darting from Razor’s unmoving form, to T-Bone’s and then to Lt. Feral’s. With a resounding dread she looked upwards to see that Viper had recomposed himself, his towering form within what must have been grabbing distance of the chamber’s high ceiling.
Callie was hesitant to use the word “looking,” but she could tell that he was in fact looking, the snout of his crocodile smile pointed right at her.
“Please, Deputy Mayor,” Viper said, and leaned down, putting his hands on the ground in front of her, like an predatory animal on all fours ready to chase after its prey. “Run.”
From this distance Callie could smell his disgusting breath, see every detail of the jagged teeth, each one the size of a pizza box, all looking like they could easily rend her flesh into bits. The sight was terrifying, and her brain did not even consider an alternative.
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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.