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[On a day unlike any other, in a dimension which could quite possibly have been our own… ]
“Sergeant Cooper! Sergeant Cooper, sir!” A kat in full body armor ran towards a uniformed kat, saluting and running simultaneously.
“Yes, Private Simmons?” The uniformed kat calmly returned the salute, his many medals and stripes of rank proudly displayed on his black, trench coat-like uniform, painstakingly kept absolutely free from dust or grime. He was a tall kat, grey furred with blue eyes that he would claim his mother gave him, but none in his family line ever had blue eyes. One was an implant, but the military often got dibs on the best cyberware, so to tell the difference would most likely mean tearing the eye from its socket.
“Sergeant Cooper, sir, the tech-heads say their warp field generator is ready for a field test. Sir!” The private was due for his promotion soon. It was obvious by looking at him. Spunky, ready for anything. Soon he would be Lieutenant Simmons… No, Sergeant Simmons. Even better was Major Simmons, or, dare he dream, General Simmons. The brown furred built-like-a-tank kat really couldn’t be seen though the plated body armor he wore over him. Tears in the metal and bullet holes proved he was no squadie. He had seen combat, and lots of it.
“Excellent, Private. You’d make your father very proud of you.” The sergeant patted Simmons on the head. Simmons’ father was lost two years ago, though the details of his death were vague. All he knew was his father was lost at the ridge. They told him that ‘…these things happen in deep space settlements. Sorry kid, your dad’s space dust…’.
“Thank you sir. I’m sure he’d be mighty happy to hear that from you, sir.” Simmons said with a grin. A scratch of static broke the almost tactile silence for a moment… static from…
[High above MegaKat City, the TurboKat, piloted by T-Bone and Razor, soars through the air]
“…The radio! T-Bone, there’s trouble at the museum.” Razor called out to his partner.
“I read you, buddy. Let’s brush up on our history.” T-Bone said with a grin, of course that joke had more cheese then the dairy section of the MegaMart. Razor merely groaned at the comment. T-Bone punched the throttle, and they shot off in a blaze of light toward the MegaKat Museum of Natural History. Once there, they were greeted by a creature from times long past, a Pteranadon.
“Crud Razor, it’s the Pastmaster!” T-Bone whined as he steered the jet clear of the ancient beast’s screeching dive. As the jet turned aside, they caught a glimpse of the Pastmaster’s form upon the roof of the Museum, with his archaic watch and the being’s spellbook, the Tome of Time.
“He looks busy there, T-Bone.” Razor said looking down at the Pastmaster.
“Yeah, but we’re a little busy up here. Can you see Callie?” T-Bone was obviously busy keeping the jet he and Razor built from scratch in one piece. The Pteranadon again snapped its razor-like jaws at the jet, and again was denied its meal.
“Yeah, I see her.” Razor said with a chuckle.
“Fight all you want, Swat Kats. Within a few brief minutes, I shall open a rift to the Dark Ages so powerful, nothing in this city can escape from it!” The Pastmaster said with an evil laugh. His timepiece already beginning to channel the power it needed to open such a rift, though even some things go beyond the notice of the Pastmaster. He failed to notice, for instance, that Callie was right behind him, raising her purse up to strike him, or that the usual purple aura surrounding his watch was replaced by a deep red glow, or that ….
[Back in the alternate dimension]
“The Warp-Field Generator is ready, Sergeant Cooper!” One of the technical administrators said with a smile. She wasn’t quite as tall as the Sergeant, though judging from her station, just as important. With light orange fur and one of the only remaining pairs of eyeglasses in this sector, she was an individual all her own. The subtle hum of the machinery started to increase in volume as the generators started to spin and a faint light started to appear from between the Warp-Field Generator pads. Twin pads, one on the floor, one on the ceiling, within a room roughly fifty yards in diameter, and cylindrical in shape.
“Goggles down.” The Shekat said. Though not by rank, but by common sense, this was not the order of which to question. All complied, except for Simmons.
“Simmons, put your goggles on, that’s an order.” Cooper looked at Simmons oddly, a look which turned to shock as the body armor of Simmons tore apart. Fleshy limbs tore through his furry flesh, capped with thick spines. Sickly red flesh stretched between the new limbs from his shoulder-blades to what was his back. His knees bent inward with a sickening crunch as his jaw opened twice as wide as any Kat’s should. Talons tore through his boots, though some came from where no toe was.
“I don’t take orders from you anymore, Cooper…” Simmons’ voice had changed quite a bit. Deeper, darker, eviler now then a few hours ago. The Shekat, “Sandra” according to her nametag, turned and screamed.
“Guards!!! We’ve been Infested!” No sooner spoken then the guards ran into the room, aimed their rotary guns at Simmons, and were about to fire when Sandra stepped in front of them, shouting “NO!! If you shoot, you’ll damage the Warp-Field Generator!”
The guards nodded, defeated, their fingers off the triggers of their now slowing rotary guns. Simmons only laughed.
“When, Simmons? When did the Swarm get you?” Sergeant Cooper asked.
“I’m not Simmons anymore. I stopped being him … ” The eyes of the infested kat glazed over a pale yellow, and patches of his fur fell out, replaced by a sort of armor “… Yesterday.” The guards, though disobeying a direct order, opened fire on Simmons. The bullets pieced his flesh in several places. From those holes, a thin coating of bubbling fluid started to burst. A sick sizzle started to fill the room, what could be heard over the sound of the Warp-Field Generator. Sandra stared in horror, only to be pulled by the arm out of the room by Cooper. He pushed the other guards out, and sealed the door, mere seconds before what sounded like an explosion under water shook the door and the wall. No one needed to say it, they all knew …
[ Yet again back in MegaKat City ]
“… Something’s wrong!” The Pastmaster’s watch flew from his hand, arching skyward. His control over the ancient timepiece was, apparently, now completely gone. The Pteranadon chasing the TurboKat faded back into extinction, though an oddly large purple swirling rift was opening overhead. It continued to swell in diameter until it blackened the sky. The TurboKat landed near the Museum, both T-Bone and Razor removing their flight straps, and exiting the jet. The Pastmaster took this opportunity to run, though he was stopped by Callie, who hit him dead in his skeletal face with her purse.
“Look who showed up, T-Bone..” Razor whispered with a chuckle. Ulysses Feral, Commander of the Enforcers, walked toward the Swat Kats, obviously upset, as if his stare alone was enough to disembowel them both.
“I wish I could throw you both into a cell with all the other miscreants of society. You two vigilante delinquents have caused this city more property damage then any other criminal….” His speech was cut short by Deputy Mayor Briggs.
“…And they’ve captured more criminals then the Enforcers.” Callie’s green eyed gaze was adamant. Her and Feral looked into the eyes of each other for a long while, and for a moment, a mere fraction of time, a spark seemed to form between their eyes. Though Callie blinked first, she didn’t intend to back down. “Was there something else, Commander?”
“Why do you defend these two, Miss Deputy Mayor? They’re dangerous.” Feral was out of Enforcer tricks. Perhaps she would listen to common sense.
“They’re the best, Feral. Though right now, I’m more worried about that…” She looked up toward the swirling purple mass “… Then my allegiances with the Swat Kats.” She said with a grin. Feral stood there for a moment, then turned, and returned to his troops. A radio blared to life inside the TurboKat. T-Bone jumped into the sleek black jet to respond to the call.
“T-Bone here.” Was his response, though the reply was rather unexpected.
“T-Bone. Come quick to my laboratory. You must both see this.” The voice was that of Professor Hackle. Razor helped Callie into the TurboKat, and they flew off into the distance.
[ Meanwhile, after the explosion on the alternate dimension ]
“Sergeant, look.” Sandra pointed towards the Warp-Field Generator. “Simmons blew a part of the containment grid clear off. Scanners are showing a rift from the WFG easily four miles wide.”
Cooper wasn’t listening… “That wasn’t Simmons, damn it. I should have known.” Cooper cursed himself under his breath. Sandra patted his shoulder. “The Swarm’s learning, Sergeant. They know what we know to look for in an Infestation, so they hide it.”
“Yeah, but I still don’t feel any better. Simmons was a damn good trooper. What’s the status on the Warp-Field Generator?” Cooper asked. As he asked, a guard entered the room carrying an ancient, though perfectly intact, timepiece. The golden watch was held in a glass case, and presented to Sandra.
“Well, Sergeant. I’d say it’s a safe guess that wherever that rift leads to, this came from it, meaning that the rift, though quite large, is indeed stable.” Sandra looked at the watch. “It’s an older model timepiece. I couldn’t begin to date it if I tried.”
“I don’t care when it’s from, just bottom line it, Miss Jor. Can you tell us roughly where it’s from?” The Sergeant didn’t exactly ask nicely. In fact, he was almost demanding. Another body bag to fill, though the Infested Kats were always easy to clean after, since they usually incinerate themselves.
“To be honest, Sergeant, in my professional opinion, I’d say this watch came from an archeological dig, not some Warp-Field Rift. It’s from here, just from there.” She pointed upward toward the massive rift.
“Send a Wraith through the rift. We need to know if this rift is the result of our Warp-Field Generator, or is it one of the Protoss’ rifts.” The Sergeant turned to one of the guards, who saluted in return, and left. “Now we’ll know for sure. If it is the Protoss, we only lose one Wraith, but we’ll know, but if it is the Warp-Field Generator’s, we’ll know where it leads, and maybe find someplace to send the civilians.”
“Yes sir.” The guard left.
“I hope you know what you’re doing, Sergeant. The last time we tried a stunt like this, the Protoss wiped Sigma Beta off the face of Mordria IV.” Sandra shook her head. “How any one race could be so insanely powerful is beyond me.”
“It’s not just the race, it’s their technology. I’ll be honest, what scares me is that other race. No technology as we can see it, but such evil… What have you found out about them?” Cooper asked. He was led to another chamber by Sandra, and upon entering the chamber was greeted by three tubes, one of them contained a creature similar to what Simmons was: A horrid kat-thing, trapped somewhere between Kat and … and … and whatever those things are. In the second tube, though there wasn’t much of it left. A horrid creature, somewhat small though. Bipedal, though not humanoid. Like some form of animal rather then what it was. The sound of the Wraith rocketing off shook the complex slightly.
The other tube housed a creature that none of the science staff enjoyed working with. Even as they walked about, they walked a little faster when walking past this particular tube. It housed a creature of nightmares, something serpentine, with a large shell over it. A lengthy head, and two arms, ending in scythe-like talons. On the bottom of each of the three tubes was a number. The numerals were Roman, with the symbols I, II, and III under the Kat, the smaller creature, and the serpent, respectively.
“They don’t even like Specimen three. They say it talks to them, promising them power and knowledge if they’ll let it out.” Sandra laughed a little, then shook her head. “I’m scared of it too… Look at these.” Sandra pointed to a part of the third creature where the carapace had been removed. “The shell disintegrated almost as soon as we took it off the thing and out of the fluid, but you can definitely see this thing wasn’t a peaceful creature.” Just under the shell there were literally hundreds of spines with what looked like muscles around them. “My guess is these spines were fired off, though how they got the spines into firing position is beyond me.”
[ Back in MegaKat City, at the laboratory of Professor Hackle ]
“Yes Professor?” T-Bone asked as he and Razor leaped from their jet. Razor helped Callie out of the TurboKat as Prof. Hackle started.
“I called you here on a matter of grave urgency. As you know, a large rift has opened over MegaKat City. This rift is no different from one of Pastmaster’s usual time rifts, save for its sheer size and … ooooooh, what’s this?” The professor turned to one of the monitors in his lab, moving into alignment a small, yet powerful telescope. A small object flew through the rift, though after the professor zoomed in….
“It’s a jet!” T-Bone recognized a jet when he saw one. Though what he didn’t recognize was the fact of how this jet slowly faded from sight, being all but invisible, a mere trace of it existing to be seen.
Razor’s jaw dropped, “It was a jet, now it’s just a blur.” Callie took her glasses off, cleaned the lenses, then put them on again. “Am I seeing things, Professor?” she asked quietly.
“No, Miss Briggs, you are most definitely not seeing things. That craft from the rift must have some form of cloaking device similar to the one I have created.” The professor said, steadying himself with a cane as he walked over to a large metal table, upon which was a large, engine-look alike device. “Come, I’ll show you a demonstration of my device. I intended this research to be used for reconnaissance, though the military will most likely use it to hide their bombers or something.” He muttered on about this and that, then flipped a switch by the device, and it and the table vanished from sight.
“That’s amazing, professor!” Razor said, slowly inching forward toward the table.
“Careful Razor, the table is still there, it is just rendered invisible since none of the light photons from the lights are hitting it. Whatever that jet is, it probably has a device like this on it. Though I have experienced one slight problem with the device.” Professor Hackle explained as a few sparks flew from where the device was. A few small flames started to burn. T-Bone grabbed a nearby fire extinguisher, and hosed the small flames out. Checking the charge on the fire extinguisher prompted T-Bone to ask, “This sort of thing happen often, Professor?” The extinguisher was only half charged.
“Often enough T-Bone. I’ve asked Pumadyne many times if they’d fund my device, but they want the full rights to my research, and I won’t let them use my research to destroy Kat-kind.” Professor Hackle started to fix what damage the fires did to his device.
“That’s noble of you, Professor.” Callie said with a grin “But what about the jet?”
Razor looked at the monitor, and pointed at a moving blur on the monitor. “There’s the jet, buddy. Maybe we should go introduce ourselves before that whatever-it-is starts shooting. Cause if it can hide itself like that, imagine what its weapons are like.” T-Bone nodded. “Affirmative buddy. Miss Briggs, you stay here with the Professor. Razor and I’ll go check out that phantom jet.”
“It’s not a phantom, T-Bone. According to myth, phantoms were never visible. You would never see them. The more appropriate term would be a wraith.” Professor Hackle said with a grin.
“A wraith, eh?” Razor said with a grin. “Sounds like a nice name for this here machine of yours, Professor.” The professor held his chin for a moment, then nodded. “Yes, it does, but you better go check on that jet.”
“Hurry guys. And until we figure out exactly what we’re up against, consider yourselves both on Mayor’s orders not to disclose anything about the jet.” Callie said with a grin.
Razor and T-Bone nodded, then jumped into their jet, and flew off to meet their invisible visitor. Within minutes, they were near where their “Wraith” jet was at.
“Try to get him on the radio, Razor.” T-Bone called back to his co-pilot. “Affirmative, T-Bone.” Razor adjusted the frequency on the radio to check the normally used bands. The radio blazed to life, though the voice on the other end was very familiar.
“What are you two hotshots doing up there on every band of radio?” Commander Feral was in his usual cheery mood.
“That’s classified, Commander. Deputy Mayor’s orders.” Razor said authoritatively, and cut off transmission. “You know Razor, I always wanted to say that.” T-Bone said with a grin. Razor returned the grin and switched frequencies, though the one he switched to usually wasn’t in use. However, this one was in use, and awful lot of use.
“This is Maelstrom to Base. Maelstrom to Base. Reply.”
“That’s our jet, T-Bone!” Razor beamed. “We found him.”
“Affirmative buddy. Let’s contact him and let him know we’re here to help.” T-Bone reached for the radio control, and turned it on. “Attention unidentified jet. This is T-Bone and Razor in the TurboKat. Please identify yourself.”
“Maelstrom. Identification two eight sigma niner alpha. Identify yourselves or be fired upon.” The voice over the comm rang out. The threat wasn’t the scary part, though. It was the fact that the pilot not only sounded female, but was dead calm in her lethal threat, and seemingly dead serious. T-Bone put the TurboKat in hover.
“Repeat, this is T-Bone and Razor of the TurboKat. We come in peace.” T-Bone was a little scared, though he’d be the last to admit it. After a few moments, which seemed like forever, the empty air was disturbed by the uncloaking of the jet.
“It’s good to hear from real Kats again. Where can I set down, T-Bone and Razor?” The voice called over. The three winged craft hovering just a few feet from the TurboKat itself. Two stabilizer wings and a third on the bottom.
“Follow us.” As T-Bone banked the TurboKat around back toward Professor Hackle’s island, the mystery jet in close pursuit. The TurboKat landed without any difficulty, as did the mystery jet, as its third wing folded against the body and right wing. The cockpit window hissed open, and as the pilot detached various cables and tubes from the flightsuit, it was clear that he… was a she. She flipped the visor up on her helmet, the word “Maelstrom” printed on it, with wild blues and blacks spinning around, perhaps a picture of a hurricane. The Swat Kats climbed out of their jet, joined soon by Professor Hackle and Callie, and they all walked toward her, T-Bone offering his paw.
“T-Bone” He said with a grin. She took off her helmet, and gave the four of them quite a shock.
“Serena Malistra. Maelstrom’s my callsign.” She looked, sounded, and shook T-Bone’s paw just like Callico Briggs did. In fact, if he had just met her on the street, T-Bone’d swear it were her. Miss Briggs herself gasped, and walked up to look closer. Serena’s eyes widened, and she reached for her gun, pointing it at Callie. “S…stay away from me. You got Simmons, but you won’t take me, do you hear?!” T-Bone put his paw over hers. “Relax. This is Miss Briggs. She’s from here. She’s the Deputy Mayor.” T-Bone tried to explain.
“Then why do you look like me? You’re not a Kat! You’re one of them!” Serena’s face twisted in anger as her grip on the pistol tightened. Callie slowly reached into her purse, and Serena put the gun closer to Callie. “What do you think your doing?” Serena gritted her teeth in anger. Callie, though scared out of her mind, managed a reply. “I’m getting some ID, so you can know who I am.” Serena slapped the purse from Callie. “ID don’t work when the problems are inside. Only way to know for sure…” Serena fumbled through her flightsuit’s pockets, and took out a small device, square in shape, though less then half an inch thick, and blue in color. “…Is to test you. Gimme your finger.” Serena snapped, and Callie did so.
Serena pressed Callie’s finger onto the square, and waited, gun still pointed, though awkwardly, at Callie. For a minute, both Swat Kats did nothing save watch, scared to move, though they needed to act. Just as Razor was about to snap, the square produced a beep, and a green light flashed on its surface. Serena dropped her gun to the ground, and the square.
“I… I’m sorry. You really are a Kat, aren’t you?” Serena asked her twin, tears in her eyes. Callie nodded, and gave Serena a pat on the shoulder. “Yes, I am.” She said softly. Serena wrapped her arms around Callie, which made T-Bone and Razor look at each other and grin. “How long has it been since you’ve seen another Kat, Serena?” Callie asked, giving T-Bone and Razor both a look. “It’s been almost a year, Miss. I’ve seen pictures and talked to ‘em, but I haven’t seen another real Kat in almost a year. After a while, you start guessing who’s still real, and who’s not.” Serena said, lightly crying on Callie’s shoulder.
“A year? Whoa. What were you doing for that long?” Razor asked. Serena let Callie go, and took a deep breath. “Where I’m from, we’ve colonized entire solar systems. Our home system was quickly stripped of resources, forcing us to move on. By 2031, none of the core worlds had any resources at all. In 2033, Professor Rameres Vesp discovers a new element, found on many of the outer world. This element, a gas, was named after him. This gas was found to possess extraordinary potential as a replacement fuel. In fact, my Wraith runs off it.” She pointed to her jet.
Razor blinked a few times. “D..Did you say your Wraith?” Serena nodded. “Yes. Standard issue C1/J17 Wraith class interceptor. Equipped with Gemini class Aero-to-Aero missiles, a seven gigawatt burst laser, and the CP-44 Cloaking unit. But, as I was saying. The Wraith, and all the other vehicles of the Unified Kat Alliance run off Vespene Gas. In 2037, a new mineral was discovered during a mining operation. The mineral, a crystalline based element, was soon shown to be harder then any other mineral in known existence. Incorporating the new mineral into our refining techniques, we were able to make a metal, Crysnesium, that was stronger then anything else in our grasp, and that’s where the trouble starts.”
“Trouble?” T-Bone asked. Though before she could answer, Professor Hackle interrupted them. “Please please, let us go inside. We cannot allow the young lady to stand all day.” And the group moved inside where the Professor set a pot of Coffee to brew. “Now, miss, please continue? Something about trouble…”
“In 2039, a fleet of fifty ships, highly advanced ships, mind you, just appeared out of the black of space. The Faerpoint colony, one of the more densely populated, was wiped from the planet in a matter of minutes. These beings, calling themselves the Protoss, have engaged us in combat on numerous occasions, though they are not our only enemy. Around the same time, we lost contact with five of our colonies…” Serena continued. Callie’s face was in shock, hearing of such atrocities.
“Those Protoss?” Razor asked. “Yeah, they sound like bad news.” T-Bone agreed.
“No. If it were the Protoss, it would have been easier. We don’t know what they are, but we do know they’re evil. Sadistic, is more like it.” She fishes through her flightsuit, and pulls out a long quill, about seven or so inches in length, and lays it on the table. “..I got hit with this from one of them, a serpentine looking one, though it looked different from the others. Bigger, stronger, almost like it were a leader.” Callie looked at the quill, as did the others. The silence was broken by an alarm on Serena’s flightsuit. She grabbed her helmet, and took out the headset.
“Yes?” A pause, then her face showed the words of the headset. Nothing happy was said as Serena’s face dipped. “Yes, yes they are. No, no they… are you sure? Yes sir!” And she put the headset back in her helmet, and looked at Callie.
“You’re an authority figure here, right?” Callie nodded. “Good. Get your people to safety. Homebase has just confirmed a communication with the Protoss. We’ve received information from them about this other race.” Serena looked out toward the rift in the sky. “They don’t know how to close it, but they know it’s stable, and so do the Zerg.”
“The what?” Razor asked.
“The Zerg. That’s what the other race is called by the Protoss. The Zerg have taken two more colonies, and their next movement is toward my homebase. After that…” Serena shook her head.
“…They’ll be here.” Callie finished. Serena only nodded. “Techs say at their current rate of progress, they’ll be here in less then four hours.”
“What happens then?” T-Bone asked.
“Then? Then your race will die.” Was Serena’s only reply.
( Chapter 2: Through the Never )
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