When Lt. Feral had agreed to help, Callie didn’t realize that the help would be immediate as the two were now walking side-by-side through an equipment locker. Felina was shoving aside boxes, and finally pulled one down from a high shelf, locating what she was looking for.
“This should do it,” Felina said as she opened the box, revealing a flight helmet, jumpsuit and assorted gear within.
“Are you sure right now’s the best time?” Callie asked, as she reached down and began putting the grey jumpsuit on over her clothes.
“There’s an unmanned monitoring station about 800 clicks in roughly the same direction,” Felina explained. “Every two weeks one of us gets sent out there to replace a battery. It’s a boring mission usually assigned to trainees.”
“Or punishment for pilots who disobey orders?” Callie asked, quirking an eyebrow.
“You catch on quick,” Felina said. “Fortunately, there’s one leaving within the hour. The monitoring station has a landing strip and refueling facilities. I sneak you in on my Sabre, fly the mission like normal, swap the battery, pick up some extra fuel pods, and take a detour on the return flight to this desert of yours.”
“Didn’t you just finish a shift, though?” Callie asked as she put the helmet on.
“I’ll pull rank. They won’t ask questions, and they’ll be happy not to do it,” Felina said. “Besides, it’s not unheard of for me to have to make that run.”
“If you say so,” Callie said, and then held out her arms at her side. “Well, how do I look?”
Felina grimaced at the ill-fitting attire that Callie was now wearing.
“Well, no one would suspect you for the Deputy Mayor,” Felina said, and flipped the visor down over Callie’s face, partially concealing it. “Just don’t talk to anyone, and stick close.”
“Yes sir,” Callie said half-heartedly with a mock salute.
The two exited the storeroom, and walked down the hall. Red directional lines labeled FLIGHT DECK ran alongside the walls. Other pilots were starting to walk in the opposite direction, and more than once they gave Callie a suspicious glance.
“Prospective recruit,” Felina said. “I’m going to scare her out of joining up.”
One of the pilots laughed at that and continued on his way.
“Stay close, and try not to touch anything,” Felina cautioned Callie as the two neared a large set of closed steel double doors. “This place can be dangerous.”
Callie wondered what Felina could mean, and immediately realized as the doors opened. Callie was assaulted by a cacophony of noise, made up of a combination of wind, jet engines and steam. They were now standing on the flight deck, which was bustling with activity, as several personnel were moving wheeled crates, carrying refueling lines, and directing taxiing aircraft with handheld beacons.
Callie could barely hear herself think, and as her attention panned to the left, she became dizzy. This particular doorway was right near the edge of the runway, and the streets of Megakat City could be seen a hundred stories below. Despite the presence of a guard rail, the overwhelming feeling of vertigo overcame her and she fell to her knees.
I must’ve hit my head harder than I thought.
“Come on!” Felina shouted, and lifted Callie up by her shoulders.
Callie stumbled along, dragged more than led by the lieutenant who expertly circumnavigated the controlled chaos of the flight deck until they arrived at a less busy corner where an Enforcer Jet, a Sabre, was canopy was open and a wheeled ladder was attached.
Felina shoved Callie upwards, and she climbed up the ladder and fell into the cockpit, landing awkwardly into the second, rear seat.
“Wait here,” Felina ordered, and then disappeared from sight.
Callie took the moment to get as comfortable as possible in the tight accommodations. Her queasiness was subsiding, and hesitations started coming to mind.
What am I doing? I’m not some professional soldier like Lt. Feral. I’m a working politician. I attend meetings, appease constituents and solve problems from the comfort of a cluttered desk in a modest office.
Images of Mac Mange shooting Councilman Anderson and Molly Mange nearly clubbing Corporal Myers to death came to mind, and her thoughts cleared.
I have to do this. The SWAT Kats are my responsibility. This city needs them.
Callie started feeling other emotions, and realized her resolve wasn’t based purely on protecting the city.
I need them, too.
“We’re all set,” the voice of the lieutenant said, startling Callie out of her thoughts. Her head had just popped into view as she climbed up the ladder.
“It was that easy?” Callie asked.
“Like I said, no one likes doing this run,” Felina said as she reached in and pulled Callie’s flight harness into place, locking the Deputy Mayor in her seat tightly. Callie could see several personnel wearing purple colored shirts running fuel lines to the Sabre. Another pair wearing red shirts were moving a wheeled cart over and under the wing.
“What are they doing?” Callie asked, curiously, eager to get her mind off what might lay ahead.
“The guys in purple do fuel. The guys in red do ordnance,” Felina explained as she climbed into the pilot’s seat and put on her helmet, securing her own harness in the process.
“Ordnance? Like bombs?” Callie asked.
“Not on this load-out,” Felina said in Callie’s head. The lieutenant had switched to the internal mic system, and her voice was now coming through Callie’s helmet. “Today it’s just a pair of Am-Rams and 1,200 rounds of 20 millimeter.”
Callie wasn’t sure what that meant, but from the lieutenant’s tone it sounded modest at best.
“Is that going to be enough?” Callie asked.
“Why?” Felina asked as she flipped some switches on her control board. “Is there a reason that wouldn’t be?”
Callie wasn’t sure how to answer that. In their rush to be underway, she had neglected to tell Felina the full details of what Hackle had disclosed.
“Well, it’s just that-” Callie began, but was interrupted as communication chatter filled her ears.
“Sabre Three-Five-Niner, prepare to taxi to position 18,” a male voice said.
“Sabre Three-Five-Niner acknowledged,” Felina said into her helmet’s mic. The personnel around their Sabre had moved away, and the canopy was now closing shut. Felina flipped several move switches and their single-engined aircraft rumbled to life. Callie’s hands grabbed onto the small corners of her chair that hardly qualified as armrests.
Felina pushed gently forward on the throttle and they began to move forward. One of the flight deck crew dressed in yellow was guiding them forward to an open position on the runway. Felina came to a stop, as other personnel secured equipment underneath the Sabre. Must be the catapult, Callie realized, and then tightened her grip further, starting to feel sick with anxiety.
“Don’t worry,” Felina said, sensing Callie’s unease. “Just think of it as the best roller-coaster ride in the world.”
“Sabre Three-Five-Niner, you are set for takeoff. Check for workers,” the tower said.
“Workers checked,” Felina said, looking left to right, seeing all personnel were clear, and then added. “All are working.”
Callie heard the person snicker over the radio.
“Flight plan logged. Blue skies ahead. Remember, no tips for the deliveries,” the tower said.
“Roger,” Felina said, taking her hands off the control stick and grabbing onto handles.
“Wait, does that mean we’re-” Callie started, but was cut off as she was slammed back into her seat, the world ahead rushing forward, the Sabre’s engine roaring from behind. As the jet lurched over the edge of the runway, it dropped down just enough for Callie’s stomach to nearly lurch up her throat. Felina had taken the control stick at that moment, and was now guiding them upwards while banking to the left.
Callie could see the extensive skyline of the Megakat City sprawl below just out the canopy, and it was rapidly growing smaller and more distant. The banking leveled out, and soon the jet was moving steadily along.
“See, that wasn’t so bad,” Felina said. “Unfortunately, there’s no inflight movie.”
“It wouldn’t be the first time,” Callie said as she reached through the jumpsuit and dug into her pocket, taking out the modified communicator. It was still functioning, showing their position in the Sabre moving roughly in the destination’s direction.
“We should arrive at the monitoring station in four hours,” Felina said.
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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.