Title: Hide N’ Seeker Part 1: Hidden Memories
Authors: The Seeker and Kristen Sharpe
Date: July 1, 1997 June 30, 1998
::sheepish laughter:: Whadya know?! This one’s been in the works for a year! Yes, yes – you *are* dealing with at least one crazy author who jumps around working on upwards of five stories at time and rarely finishing any! A brief note: During the first Seeker story the natural conflict between Seeker and T-Bone developed – it wasn’t planned, it simply happened when we put the two personalities together. That rivalry/enmity continues in this story. Seeker is *T-Bone’s* nemesis, so these stories may well tend to center on T-Bone a little more than Razor. But don’t worry, Razor is Seeker’s (the author, not his smooth-talking creation) favorite, – that and, there was a time when both authors fought over the right to claim him as their favorite (it’s a sibling thing not wanting the other to have *your* special favorite) – so he won’t be neglected by any means. As always, the “Author’s Note” is provided by bubbly Enforcer, Lt. Kristen Sharpe.
Late 1994 — the final show episode that I saw, “Unlikely Alloys” takes place Early 1995 — H2Oh, No! 1995 — Nuke It – first of the Seeker Trilogy Technical Difficulties Parts 1 and 2 Have Yourself a Mad Little Christmas
—————————- Author’s Note: —————————-
I’ve put this off for far too long. Of course, I have good excuses – work, night classes,… lots of things to do. I did find a night to just sit down and finally read the contents of those last two disks the Seeker gave me months ago. From mid-way through the second one I was in a state of shock. Shocked at what the Seeker knew… about the SWAT Kats, about MegaKat City,… about the future. Shocked that *I* had written large portions of it already – a me from a far distant time. If that second disk was mind-numbing the third was… Well, the third disk is a story for another time. For now, I’ll just settle on relating the contents of the second disk, the Seeker’s second encounter with the SWAT Kats. Once more, I find myself studying him, but even more, I’m studying the SWAT Kats. I guess it’s no surprise to hear that I idolize these heroes who have saved MegaKat City countless times, Enforcer though I be; in fact, many Enforcers admire and appreciate the SWAT Kats. Perhaps what I now know about them is stunning. I know secrets that I only hope my scatter-brained self will never divulge. I searched the Seeker’s mind last time; now, I find myself staring into the *souls* of the SWAT Kats.
–Lt. Kristen Sharpe
Three silver Enforcer jets shot through the sky over MegaKat City in hot pursuit of Dark Kat’s Fear Ship.
“Chance, Jake,” the squadron leader called to the jet closing on Dark Kat, “let ‘im go – it’s too dangerous.”
“Negative, we’re bringin’ Dark Kat in,” pilot Chance “Hotshot” Furlong returned into his headset firmly. “You guys get yourselves some doughnuts,” he teased. He focused his attention ahead to see Dark Kat’s ship roll to one side to squeeze between two neighboring skyscrapers. Chance followed without hesitation, rolling the jet in a mimic of Dark Kat’s move.
“You two are nuts – we’re breakin’ off pursuit,” announced the squadron leader, exasperated, as he and the jet beside him pulled up sharply, veering away from the narrow opening.
“Roger that – leave it ta’ us. We’ll bring this psycho in if it kills us,” returned Chance, his voice grim and determined.
“Chance, he’s locking missiles on the new Enforcer building,” his partner, Jake, called urgently from the weapons officer’s seat behind him.
“Then, we gotta nail ‘im now, Jake,” Chance yelled back, gripping the stick before him tightly, half in tense anxiety, half in the thrill of near-victory. Abruptly, his face twisted spastically and he jerked the stick towards his body. The jet responded and shot upward into the sky. Controlling himself, Chance leveled it out above Dark Kat’s ship, now squeezing the stick so tightly that the whitening of his knuckles could be seen through his light fur.
“Chance! What’re you doin’ – I can’t fire from here!” Jake called.
Chance barely heard him. An image was flashing across his mind. He had to do this… or it would happen all over again. Commander Feral’s growling voice crackling over the radio snapped him back to attention.
“Fall back, you two – I’m taking Dark Kat personally.”
Chance’s moment of clarity vanished, the voice bringing his fears to their peak. Feral… He was the key. It happened because of him. Chance searched for Feral’s jet desperately, craning his neck to see out of the cockpit. This was when “it” happened. He struggled to remember just what “it” was. The memory stubbornly refused to surface, the cold knot forming in his stomach the only indication of its existence.
Jake’s warning shout blended with the screech of tortured metal as their left wing slammed into the side of a skyscraper, wrenching it from the jet. The jet went into a spinning dive.
Chance watched as the world around him began to spin faster and faster. Desperately, he tried to control the jet, but he couldn’t seem to find his instruments. Jake’s voice came to him from somewhere far away, distorted and unintelligible beyond the condemnation in his voice. Then, the voice was gone, drowned in the roar of a jet plunging from the sky. Chance found himself spinning through a blur of color, the roar growing ever louder in his ears. He closed his eyes and prepared for impact.
The spinning sensation stopped abruptly. Chance opened his eyes to find himself sitting in a realm of black nothingness, looking up at a huge brown-furred kat who stood over him grinning with a form of wicked glee.
The kat stepped aside as two figures stepped out of the blackness behind him.
“Guess who your replacements are,” smirked Murray as he and Burke came into the light wearing Enforcer uniforms.
“I told you you were a loser,” the huge kat sneered, facing Chance again. “You even managed to get your partner killed *this* time.”
The kat’s words echoed as he burst into loud, evil laughter.
“Nooo!!!” Chance yelled as he flew up into a sitting position in his bed.
“Chance, you okay?” Jake called sleepily from the bed to his left.
Chance looked over at his friend dazedly as his breathing began to return to normal. Grasping the situation, he felt the dream world dissolving as reality focused in his blurred vision.
Chance could feel Jake’s intense gaze through the darkness.
“I just… had a nightmare,” he mumbled, his tone saying more than his words.
Jake said no more, respecting his friend’s privacy. Silence filled the room broken only by the sound of Jake rolling over and turning to face the opposite wall. Sighing, Chance flopped back onto his pillow. For several minutes he stared at the ceiling, thoughts and memories whirling through his head. Slowly, his eyelids drifted downward. Images flitted across his mind. The huge brown-furred kat reappeared, leering at him like he had that day….
“Report,” Feral ordered curtly as a wide-eyed young officer ran up behind him. The Commander’s eyes never left the two bedraggled figures before him, standing at a tense attention in their torn and singed flight suits.
“Sir,….. the jet… there’s hardly anything to even send to the salvage yard…. it’s a miracle…!” the officer stammered. Feral nodded.
“You might not have come so close to getting yourselves killed if you’d called in for backup earlier,” he began, yellow eyes narrowing as he studied the twosome. His voice dropped to a growl. “If you’d told someone what was going on!” He paused for a few seconds to let his words sink in. “Do you realize that by taking an Enforcer aircraft out without notifying your commanding officer you’re just as guilty as Katz?!” he demanded. “I should have you two court-marshaled!” Feral took a deep breath. “Still, your efforts to apprehend Katz are commendable.”
Chance remembered the tense moments that followed. He had no memory of the Commander’s face at that moment. He’d been too shamed at his own actions, actions which could have cost not only himself his job, but the job of his friend as well, to even look at Feral’s face. Much as he disagreed with the Commander, Feral had been right. Chance could remember watching the Commander’s tail lash from side to side angrily, no doubt emphasizing the livid face that went with it. Then, Feral had turned away, tossing a single word over his shoulder.
“Commander,…..?” Chance’s own hesitant query echoed in his ears.
“Consider yourselves on probation for a month… and I’d better *never* have to deal with you two again!”
Feral’s words faded away as the memory images dimmed and Chance plunged into quiet, dreamless sleep.
“Morning,” Captain Felina Feral called cheerfully as she stopped beside an open office door and stuck her head in.
Her uncle, Commander Feral returned the greeting with a curt nod of his head before returning to scowling at the papers in his great hands.
“You’re so cheery in the morning,” Felina cooed before ducking back out into the sunny, window-lined hallway. “Watch it, boys – he’s in a rank mood this morning,” she announced to a group of Enforcers heading toward the office. They grimaced and squared their shoulders.
“Well, *I’m* in a good mood!”
Felina spun at the sound of the familiar voice to come face to face with two huge smiling faces. The first tremendous grin was bounded by a ring of white fur fading to gray and a pink nose. Below it was a cartoony yellow smiley face, winking playfully.
“Nice shirt,” Felina said, grinning as she eyed up the gray-furred Enforcer clad in the smiling t-shirt.
“I just try to spread a little cheer,” Lieutenant Robert McFurland returned. Abruptly, he looked at his watch. “Uh, oh – I gotta be in uniform in six minutes. See ya’, Felina!” With that, he sprinted down the hallway.
Felina shook her head as she watched him bound around a corner. “Now, there goes a morning person,” she muttered. “He should get a promotion just for that,” she added, thoughtfully reflecting on she and McFurland’s recent promotions for their efforts in saving the city from Dark Kat and his computer virus.* Well, she could get to like being a captain she thought, walking to the windows to her left to lean against the sill and look out. She sighed, feeling the warm sunlight soak into her as a thoughtful sniff brought the aroma of fresh coffee to her appreciative nostrils – they being far more appreciative than her taste buds had ever been. It was mornings like this that she loved. Her stomach rumbled unhappily. Well, she *really* loved them when she had had time for breakfast. She shrugged. A nice, refreshing can of carbonated, liquid caffeine would just have to do her until lunch.
Lost in her thoughts of the sun-drenched world beyond the glass and her secondary focus of a trip to the vending machines, Felina turned just in time to see a large shape before her as she walked into it.
“Excuse me,” the captain apologized as she backed away from the tall kat she’d just slammed into, his flight suit identifying him as a pilot.
“‘Scuse yerself, doll – watch where yer goin’!” the pilot snapped, brushing her aside roughly and hurrying past her in great, ground-eating strides.
“Doll,…..!” Felina spat, eyes narrowing in fury as they followed him. With effort she slammed down on her anger and, squaring her shoulders, turned to take an alternate route to her intended destination, one where there wasn’t a chance of running into the tomkat again. But something about the tall Enforcer stopped her. She turned to take a longer look at the kat’s retreating back, trying to remember his facial features from that brief moment she’d seen them.
His lowered visor left only his nose and leering mouth visible. Just from his profile she could see that he was tall and well-muscled. The captain’s face tightened in thought as she worked to remember the face. His fur appeared to be a solid, dull brown. On the whole, he was a strangely nondescript kat. His one defining feature was a broad scar that ran from his left eye down to his chin. Normal enough…. Still, there was something about that tomkat…. something she didn’t like – and it was more than his attitude. She didn’t have time to dwell on it.
A tremendous roar of sound suddenly rocked the building as the skyscraper beside Enforcer Headquarters exploded…. or rather *imploded*, as perfect as any demolition crew could hope for.
Felina stared in horror at the collapsing building for an interminable split-second. Then, the force of the blast – all of which was clearly *not* directed inward – blew out the windows and threw Felina and several other kats in the hallway back onto the opposite wall in a spray of shattered glass.
Felina hit the wall hard before she dropped into the floor, numbed. She lay where she had fallen amid shards of glass for several seconds as the roar of sound died away, one arm thrown over her face to shield it.
“Felina, are you okay?”
The voice seemed far away, hard to hear above the ringing that buzzed in her ears. Shaking her head in an attempt to stop the ringing, Felina looked up to see her uncle bending over her, worry written clearly on his face.
“I’m fine,” she returned quickly, standing up and brushing off her uniform. She could feel the throbbing start of what would likely prove to be some rather colorful bruises, but she wasn’t about to admit to the injuries. “What *was* that?!” she asked her uncle, still stunned from the sudden explosion.
“That’s what I want to know,” Feral returned, yanking out his handset. “I want that building cordoned off as fast as you can get a team out there!” he bellowed into the communicator.
“Yes, Sir,” a voice returned shakily, clearly not quite recovered from the ordeal. “Sir, what just….?” “Are the choppers damaged?” Feral demanded, interrupting the voice on the other end.
“I don’t think so, Sir – the blast seems to have mainly affected the lower levels of the building,”
“Good, I want a chopper ready for me in five minutes.”
“Now, to try to figure out what’s going on around here,” Feral growled as he turned to storm down the hallway.
“Not without me!” Felina shouted, running after him.
Feral whirled to face her. Seeing her set jaw, he growled and twisted back around to stomp toward the elevators with Felina following him, a pleased smile on her face.
The tall pilot Felina had bumped into was already on the roof, striding across the airstrip that dominated it. Enforcer pilots raced about inspecting damage and helping fallen companions to their feet. None paid any attention to the brown-furred tom.
Casually, he strode to the nearest helipad where a chopper was waiting, its rotors already turning. He started to climb into it and paused, looking toward the imploded building, still shrouded in settling dust. He eyed it with a raised brow, suspicion flitting between his narrowed yellow eyes. Then, he turned back to the helicopter and, with a huge step, climbed into the pilot’s seat.
“Hey, that’s my chopper,” announced the vehicle’s disgruntled pilot, returning from a hasty preflight check on the other side of the helicopter.
“The Commander wants to get over there pronto – I’m takin’ him,” the tall kat snapped, raising a hand to his visor. Briefly, he paused as if in thought and then slowly, deliberately flipped the visor up.
A look of sudden recognition flashed across the other pilot’s face.
“You,….!” he gasped. The disbelief written across his face suddenly vanished as his features contorted in fury. “You miserable…!” he growled.
The other kat sneered down at him.
“Glad I’m remembered with *so* much fondness,” he rumbled, a cruel smile slipping across his scarred face as he reached quickly for the standard-issue blaster strapped at his side.
Some minutes later, Commander Feral strode out of the hangar that opened on the roof and strode up to the waiting helicopter, Felina just behind him.
“All set, Sir,” the brown-furred kat called above the roar of the spinning rotors as Feral approached him.
Felina suddenly had a thought and looked around for her assigned chopper. Finding it, she waved a hand in her uncle’s direction to indicate her intentions and hurried over to make sure her vehicle had survived the explosion intact. Feral scowled after Felina, but quickly put his thoughts aside and climbed into the helicopter before him.
As she approached her helicopter, Felina heard a faint sound. She paused as her ears pricked briefly and swivelled in the direction from which it seemed to have come. Her impatience to get in the air and find out what was going on quickly overrode her curiosity and she put the noise from her mind as she did a quick pre-flight check of her chopper. As she was rounding the chopper to climb in, Felina heard the sound again; this time it was disturbingly like a pained moan. Felina’s head jerked toward an open cargo chopper several feet from hers. Curious, she stepped over to peer in the open side door of the helicopter.
A kat clad in the familiar Enforcer slate and beige was curled in the center of the cargo bay, moaning faintly. Felina leapt into the chopper and hurried to the kat’s side. Groaning, he turned his head up the tiniest bit to find her face. Felina gasped as she recognized her superior, Major Trestain. Trestain moaned and clutched his stomach. Felina could just barely make out the fringe of black scorching that discolored the kevlar padding on the front of his flight suit.
“Major Trestain,” Felina murmured softly, reaching to move his hands so she could see the wound. She was hoping that the kevlar, standard on Enforcer flight suits, particularly those of chopper pilots who might be called into the line of fire on the ground at a moment’s notice, had taken the brunt of the blast, but she had to be certain.
A shudder passed through Trestain’s body and his eyes suddenly snapped open to their farthest extent, pupils dilated so much that they seemed to be no more than black pools.
“The Commander!” Trestain rasped urgently. “Don’ let him go up…! The pilot…! The pilot…. he’s no Enforcer!”
Felina gasped and leapt to her feet. Glancing back at Trestain worriedly, she hesitated an instant before bounding from the chopper and racing across the tarmac to where her uncle’s helicopter had been.
She never heard Trestain’s final rasps before he lost consciousness.
“He…. he’s no Enforcer…. not…. anymore….”
Felina reached the helipad seconds after the helicopter lifted off. Desperately, she flailed her arms in the air, trying to get her uncle’s attention.
Feral caught the movement below out of the corner of his eye.
“What is she doing?” Feral murmured, watching the captain. He turned to the pilot beside him and started to order him to land. The pilot interrupted him with a rumbling snarl.
“Nothin’ for you ta’ worry about, *Commander*,” he sneered, lifting one hand from the chopper’s handgrips, a slender remote control now visible in his tight grip. He squeezed a finger to the control’s single button before Feral could react.
The Enforcer Commander gasped as a plethora of metal cables shot from behind his seat and encircled him, jerking him back against the padded seat holding him in a crushing grip.
“What’s the meaning of this?!” Feral demanded, his voice strained as he fought against the constricting cables.
The pilot headed the chopper away from Enforcer Headquarters before turning to smile at Feral. Casually, he reached a hand up to raise the visor of his helmet.
“Remember me, Commander?” he asked turning his face so that Feral could see it full view.
Feral’s eyes, like Trestain before him, widened in stunned recognition before narrowing to thin yellow slits.
“You,” he snarled.
“Please, it’s getting old, Commander,” the brown kat growled, as he backhanded Feral across the face. He drew his arm back, dropping it to once more grip the steering controls as he glared at Feral with unconcealed contempt. His slow, cruel smile quickly replaced the former expression. “This’s the best job I’ve ever taken,” he sneered. “I get *paid* for rubbin’ you out!”
“Do your worst, you pathetic traitor,” Feral snarled in return.
“If my employer lets me, that’s *exactly* what I’ll do,” the brown kat assured as he reached for the handset. Felina jumped as the radio in her helmet crackled to life.
“Attention all Enforcers!” an annoying imitation of a female voice cooed from vocal chords never intended for such a high key. The pitch suddenly slid downward, rumbling into a mid-range baritone. “Make *no* attempt to follow the Commander’s chopper I’ll shoot down anyone who comes after me. If you shoot me down, the Commander goes with me.”
Forgetting that the receiving microphone on her helmet was in position to catch her words, Felina screamed, “CRUD!!” balling her hands into fists.
“Say!” the sneer growling its threats across the Enforcer ban cooed. “Was that the Commander’s niece I just heard?” The voice became infuriatingly condescending as it added, “Don’t worry, Doll, I won’t hurt him… too much.” The voice dissolved into raucous laughter as Felina snarled.
Still chuckling, the brown-furred kat headed the helicopter away from Enforcer Headquarters with Feral’s growling threats and the confused babble of dozens of Enforcer commanding officers ringing in his ears.
Felina watched the retreating chopper with narrowed eyes. Her furious glower suddenly vanished as her dark eyes widened. The chopper wasn’t heading away from the city; it was swinging around, heading for City Hall.
Deputy Mayor Callie Briggs brushed the hair she’d been chewing on away from her mouth, reminding herself that she’d conquered that habit years ago. Besides, it didn’t exactly look good for the Deputy Mayor of MegaKat City to have a sticky clump of hair hanging around her face. Straightening, she refocused her attention on the monitor before her.
“It’s important to remember that MegaKat City has a long, rich history…,” she mumbled, intent on the Mayor’s upcoming speech for the opening of the MegaKat Museum of History’s latest wing. A rhythmic thrumming drew her attention away from the bright document screen. Her emerald eyes grew huge as she saw an Enforcer helicopter barreling toward the bank of windows that opened on her office.
Gasping and uncertain as to what action to take, Callie ducked down beside her desk, snatching her purse up and dragging it after her. As the thrumming became a pulsing throb that vibrated the desk at her back, Callie tentatively started to crawl toward the door of her office. The phone on her desk rang, its electronic buzz almost lost in the roar of the helicopter. Callie ignored it, pausing at the corner of her desk and concentrating on a safe route to the door. She wanted to stay low and not in line with the windows lest the chopper open fire.
The chopper’s pulse abruptly changed its pitch, its volume holding steady. Callie froze as she heard the shattering of glass. Unable to see what was going on and shielded from view and falling debris, she stayed still, frozen on her knees.
A thud followed the tinkling of the last tiny shards. Callie held her breath as she heard glass crunch. The sound was incredibly loud, strangely loud when the helicopter’s thrum should have drowned all such lesser sounds. The crunching slowly approached the desk, its creator taking slow measured steps. Abruptly, the crunching stopped. The phone’s ringing stilled an instant later, the first time it had been silent since she’d heard it earlier Callie realized.
“I’m afraid the Deputy Mayor can’t come to the phone right now,” a rough voice announced, presumably into the receiver. “Say, Captain, you’re shrewd – y’know that?” the voice snarled.
Callie never heard the phone returned to its cradle. Instead, she found herself staring at a booted foot. She jerked her head upward to find a smiling scarred face looking down at her. The kat wore an Enforcer uniform, but the blond she-kat knew far better than to think he had any good intentions in mind.
“Hiya, Sweetheart,” the uniformed tomkat purred. His smile vanished as though it had never been. “Now, get up – I got places ta’ go and quickly!”
Callie slowly rose, pulling her purse strap over her shoulder. Impatient, the brown-furred kat grabbed her left arm and jerked her to her feet.
“You won’t be needing to pretty yourself up, Sweetie,” the tomkat growled, smiling cruelly as he jerked the purse away from Callie. “Or call for any SWAT Kat help,” he added. “That would get my pay docked and I’d *really* hate that,” he whispered, eyes narrowed dangerously. Tossing the purse aside, he ordered, “Let’s go,” pulling Callie roughly toward the window.
Now able to see the view above the desk, Callie faced the window. The helicopter she’d seen minutes ago was hovering just beyond the window-frame. As she was still grasping the situation, she felt a burly arm wrap around her waist. With a gasp, she was slung over the tomkat’s shoulder as he vaulted to the window sill. Now looking inward, Callie raised her head and cast a longing glance toward where she could see her purse lying on the floor, her triangular comlink safely tucked into a side pouch.
Chance propped himself against the grilled front of the round-nosed van and leaned over for a closer look at the engine. A regular squeaking was accompanying the engine’s already noisy rhythm. He rubbed a relatively clean hand across his eyes. Morning had come far too soon for his taste.
“Think it’s a belt,” he pronounced to Jake as his friend slid from the van’s driver’s seat and joined him under the hood.
“Hmmm….,” Jake hummed, leaning over so his sensitive ears could better trace the source of the irritating noise.
Today, in place of the speaker tuned to the Enforcer ban that they kept mounted in the garage and the incessant squawking it produced, the two kats had opted for the simple pleasure of a good radio station. Well, “good” was in the ear of the listener; it was Chance’s turn to choose the station and Jake was desperately trying to ignore the hideous cacophony they called “Alternative.” The speaker silent, neither heard the frenzy that had suddenly spilled over the Enforcer ban two hours ago. The squeaking of the burgundy van filling their ears and concentrations, the twosome almost missed the public announcement of the day’s kidnappings.
Jake was the first to notice that the music had ceased. He grinned to himself in some relief.
“Hey, that twenty in a row must be over,” he shouted to Chance over the hum, rattle, and squeak of the van. “By the way, what exactly is that stuff an alternative to? Music?”
(Kris’s Comment: No, noooo – there are *no* personal opinions stated here – you know not. Seeker’s Comment: ::hits her on the head::)
From the other side of the engine Chance shot him a dirty, “just-can’t-appreciate-good-music” look.
“….special report….,” a voice crackled over the radio.
The two key words shot across the room and into Jake’s pricked ears.
“Uh, oh,” he mumbled, turning from the van and hurrying to the radio to turn it up even while shouting, “Turn that thing off!” to Chance.
“This just in from the Kat’s Eye Newsroom,” the radio announcer said more audibly as Jake gave the volume knob a quick twist. “We’re receiving reports that Enforcer Commander Ulysses Feral has been kidnapped.”
The final word blared through the suddenly silent room as Chance cut the van’s engine. Distractedly, Jake jerked the volume knob back to its original position to stop the distortion the extreme volume was causing, sensing Chance slowly stepping up behind him.
“They’ll either kill ‘im fast or send ‘im back in an hour,” Chance predicted even as Jake shot him a disgusted look that contained a double message of his need to be both polite and silent.
“In a bizarre sequence of events the new corporate headquarters of CB&T being constructed alongside Enforcer Headquarters was imploded. On his way to survey the damage from the air, Enforcer Commander Ulysses Feral was apparently kidnapped by a tomkat disguised as an Enforcer. Captain Felina Feral reportedly witnessed the kidnapping along with an unidentified Enforcer who is said to be wounded and unconscious at the moment. The details are somewhat vague at this time, but Kat’s Eye News reporters are on the scene. We’ll keep you posted as more develops.”
“Man, somebody’s got it in for Feral,” Chance muttered.
Jake started to nod, suddenly pausing and frowning.
“Wait a minute, Callie should’ve heard of this before the news!”
Tail switching in agitation and worry, Jake bounded to the intercom mounted by the Enforcer ban speaker. Pushing the red button that activated it, he leaned to the speaker and urgently called, “Miss Briggs. Miss Briggs, are you there?”
Silence answered him.
Chance watched, his first twinge of worry growing into certainty with a sinking feeling that created the sensation of an empty hole within him. He clenched his fists together and waited for that familiar, welcome voice to answer Jake saying she’d left her purse on her desk while she went to the ladies’ room. To say something, *anything*.
The two kats waited in silence for an eternity of five minutes. Jake started to press the intercom button again to close the connection. Even as he thought of it, staticy noise hissed through the speaker. After several thumps and a considerable rustling a distant voice could be heard.
“Strangest pager I’ve ever seen.”
A voice even further from the speaker answered the first, but its words were unintelligible. The first abruptly returned, louder this time.
“Oh, alright…” The voice suddenly burst over the speaker, loud now, obviously at last near the speaker’s mouth. “Hello?” the female voice asked.
Hoping for answers, Jake answered the voice.
“Ah, hello, Ma’am – I’m looking for Deputy Mayor Briggs. It’s very important,” he responded.
“Well,… the Deputy Mayor…,” the voice stammered. “Well, she’s gone. We can’t find her anywhere and the Mayor’s just stammering along like an idiot…” The she-kat suddenly stopped herself, realizing that she had no idea to whom she was talking and that she was possibly saying things she shouldn’t. “Uhm… can you give me a number and let me have the Deputy Mayor call you back when we find her? This is the City Hall receptionist.”
“That’s okay, Ma’am,” Jake returned. “We’ll try back later.” With that, he punched the intercom button and turned to find Chance already bounding toward the hangar and their waiting jet. “City Hall, here we come,” he muttered grimly, dashing after his friend.
“Did you see *anything*, Mayor?” T-Bone demanded, towering over Mayor Manx as the plump yellow kat quivered behind his desk, whimpering pathetically. “We need ta’ know!”
“I… I… don’t know…..,” Manx stammered.
“Go easy, T-Bone – you’re only makin’ it worse,” Razor interjected, laying a hand on his partner’s shoulder.
Knowing his friend was right, T-Bone backed away and left the questioning to Razor.
Razor calmly stepped up to the Mayor’s desk and studied Manx. Watching his friend out of the corner of his eye, T-Bone distractedly stared at an old black and white photograph of Manx’s great-grandfather, the Blue Manx, a famous MegaWar II ace.
Seeing the smaller, slim SWAT Kat, whose quiet manner he remembered from a rescue two years ago, Herbert Manx relaxed considerably. He hated this questioning, the SWAT Kats impromptu entrance through the window having done little for his already quaking nerves. He’d simply tell the reasonable SWAT Kat, Buzz or whatever his name was, what he figured the twosome wanted to hear – this was his strong point.
“Well,… Buzz, is it?” Manx started hesitantly. Gaining a weak confidence, he plunged on without waiting for an answer. “Buzz, my boy,… if I know the Deputy Mayor – ever so efficient and careful that Callie – she’s gone to Enforcer Headquarters to see to their… dilemma or perhaps to talk to Dr. Sinian at the museum about the speech she was writing for me. I’m sure she’s fine – frightfully dedicated and all – always hurrying off…”
Nodding an agreement and giving Manx his most encouraging smile, Razor cut off the jabbering politician.
“I’ll bet you’re right, Mayor. Say, the receptionist we spoke to a while ago said something had you worried – anything you want us to check out?” He kept his voice lazily casual, trying to keep the Mayor at ease and talking in coherent sentences.
Impatient, T-Bone cast a scowling glance at Razor’s back and began to work his feet claws in a kneading motion in the plush carpet of the Mayor’s richly furnished office. In. Out. In. Out. Prickling muted pops sounded from the expensive weave as T-Bone shredded fibers. If Razor or the Mayor heard the sound, however, neither gave any indication of it.
Manx was visibly relaxing at Razor’s laid-back manner and, at last, sat up straight in his chair, leaning forward and replying casually.
“Well, my lad, early this morning I heard an Enforcer chopper passing by rather closely.” He paused, reaching for an ornate glass candy dish sitting at the corner of his desk and extending it to Razor. “Butterscotch, my boy?” As Razor graciously accepted the candy and started to suck on it contentedly, he lazily continued. “I was a bit worried that it was another of their aerial chases – quite common you know – so I took cover – just safely away from the windows and all. It hovered around for a while, but went on off – nothing anyone should worry about I’m sure.”
Razor nodded an agreement.
“Well, glad everything’s okay, Mayor.” He heard T-Bone sputter an indignant, “WHAT?!” behind him, but continued unruffled. “We’ll just go and see if Miss Briggs is at the museum. Thank you for your time,” Razor purred as he headed for the window, pausing to grab T-Bone’s arm and drag his protesting partner after him.
T-Bone held his silence as they refitted the cables on which they’d lowered themselves to the mayor’s window to their glovatrixes and started the ascent to the roof. Once they were several floors above Manx’s office, however, he could hold it no longer.
“And, just what did you get from all that smooth-talking,” the brawny tomkat growled. “You *know* he was spouting crud – it’s what he does and besides, we saw Callie’s office before we went ta’ see that little weasel…”
“The helicopter,” Razor returned calmly, cutting him off. “We learned about the helicopter. Feral was taken in a chopper. Callie’s window was busted out and we now know a helicopter hovered around here for several minutes. I *know* Manx didn’t see it – kinda hard when you’re hiding under the desk – but he *heard* it. The long and short is: the helicopter clue tells us that we can pretty much figure that whoever took Feral took Callie.”
The two had reached the roof by now and quickly unhooked their grappling cables and headed toward the TurboKat.
“So, now we go the Enforcers and see if we can get any information there. If I know Lieutenant Steele, they’re probably so disorganized we shouldn’t have much trouble,” Razor continued, strapping into his seat in the rear of the jet.
“Yeah, yeah – got all the answers don’t you, *Buzz*?” T-Bone growled, his playful grin belying his words.
“You’re just jealous because you didn’t get a butterscotch,” Razor returned, sticking his tongue out at T-Bone to display the golden candy sitting atop it.
The descent of the TurboKat to the airstrip atop Enforcer Headquarters caused no small stir among the already disgruntled Enforcers. Leaping from their jet, the two SWAT Kats found every eye focused on them.
“Hmm… grrrreeeaaatttt welcoming committee,” T-Bone murmured to his partner’s ears. Turning to the Enforcers, he boldly demanded, “Who’s in charge here?”
“I’m commanding officer here,” a tall, calico she-kat announced, stepping forward to meet the vigilantes. The ivory tip of her tail twitched in an unreadable emotion as she extended a polite velvety hand to each kat.
“Well, Ma’am – we have good reason to believe that the Deputy Mayor has been kidnapped along with the Commander,” T-Bone returned.
“Crud,” the she-kat hissed under her breath, tail slashing across her legs in a fast jerking motion.
Before T-Bone could ask for details on the Commander’s kidnapping, the calico was studying him and Razor intently.
“I tell you now – this is strictly against regulations,” she started. “I have to report this news downstairs – I’ll inform Captain Feral that you’re here,” the she-kat stated curtly, spinning around and stalking away.
“I guess that means we get our info from Felina?” T-Bone ventured.
“I know who the kidnapper was,” a voice rasped to their left.
The SWAT Kats turned quickly to find a familiar-looking black kat approaching them. He moved slowly as though wounded.
Sudden recognition hit T-Bone as he studied the kat’s face. This was the commanding officer he remembered as Captain Trestain. Judging by his insignia, the black tom had had a promotion.
“It was Katz – Brett Katz,” Trestain stated, stopping before the twosome. T-Bone stared at Trestain in shock, stupidly repeating the name.
As Trestain nodded, T-Bone’s mind whirled. His dream! Katz! His greatest rival in the Enforcers… his greatest enemy before the debacle was over.
Catching T-Bone’s stare, the dark tomkat locked him in a piercing gaze.
For the briefest of instants T-Bone forgot about Katz as he felt as though Trestain could see through the mask of T-Bone, the SWAT Kat, and into the face of Chance Furlong. He shook off the feeling as the Enforcer broke the contact with a shake of his head that was neither a denial of the suspicions T-Bone suspected him of having nor an act of shock at the confirmation of those suspicions.
“Brett Katz?” Razor asked slowly. T-Bone wondered if he’d had the same feeling and was trying to play dumb now.
Trestain nodded his head in another enigmatic gesture before replying.
“A former Enforcer – turned traitor a little over three years ago. He escaped with an Enforcer jet and an experimental weapon when he went AWOL. Ask Captain Feral for the files if you want.” As an afterthought he added, “I warn you – he’s a mean shot with a blaster.” With that, Trestain turned and slowly started to walk away, pain shooting through his gut as each step pulled at the muscles and thusly the seared skin of his abdomen.
“Major!” T-Bone called after him.
Trestain stopped, keeping his back to the SWAT Kats, ears twitching expectantly.
“Get well soon,… Sir.”
“Thanks,” Trestain returned, a smile forming on his lips. “Thanks,… Lieutenants,” he mumbled the second word so softly it was almost inaudible… except to those ears expecting to hear it.
Razor tensed as the TurboKat hurtled through the canyon parallel to the rocky cliffs, its belly only a few scant feet from the rock walls. A craggy outcropping ahead suddenly grabbed his attention. He gasped and then quickly, with great effort, bit back the warning he’d been about to shout. The TurboKat lifted ever so slightly and easily cleared the rocks. Razor released the breath he’d been holding and glanced up at his partner’s ears in the seat ahead. They were rigidly erect in the narrow confines of his helmet’s ear holes. Still, they were pulling back toward the farthest extent of the holes. If the helmet had been off, Razor didn’t doubt that they would have been flat to T-Bone’s head. The knowledge wasn’t anything that T-Bone’s face, reflected back to him in a mirror before the pilot’s seat, couldn’t tell him.
T-Bone had made a very quiet, tight-lipped request that morning. Razor had agreed with no more than a curt nod of his head. Now, T-Bone was navigating the close quarters of their canyon training run and handling their practice drones solo. It was only two days after Callie and Feral’s abductions, but the silence coming from Katz had everyone, not least of all T-Bone, worried. They’d kept in touch with Felina ever since their talk two days ago. Realizing the ebony-haired she-kat already knew more than most about them, up to and including the deep secret of Callie’s comlink, he and T-Bone had entrusted her too with a comlink. Felina had been able to provide little news. Neither they nor the Enforcers had any leads. The combination of Callie’s kidnapping and the return of the kat who had almost killed them years ago in the Enforcers had taken its toll on T-Bone.
T-Bone had chosen the training course as his outlet for the churning emotions within him and Razor felt as though he was merely along for the ride. And, he sensed it would be quite a ride.
The orange-furred tomkat watched as a red beam shot past the canopy. He’d barely noted it when he was slammed violently back into his seat as the TurboKat shot into a climb. Abruptly, the jet broke out of the climb, banked, and plunged downward on the drone. Its sensors had hardly registered the jet when it was engulfed in a barrage of cement globs. The drone plummeted to the floor of the canyon, making a small explosion as it connected with the rock below.
A mini-squadron of drones suddenly launched from their hiding places in the rocky walls and flew toward the TurboKat. T-Bone held the jet’s course. Razor started to remind T-Bone of the stupidity of playing chicken with drones, but held himself again.
The drones scattered around the incoming TurboKat, regrouping to pursue the jet. T-Bone thrust the stick forward, diving and leading them down into the darkness of the canyon depths. Razor eyes grew wide as the jet plunged farther and farther, the bare canyon floor growing nearer by the second. T-Bone leveled off at the last second and the jet shot upward in a vertical climb that slammed Razor back into his seat so hard his teeth snapped together on the tip of his tongue. Razor yelped involuntarily at the pain.
“Sorry, buddy,” T-Bone muttered, shooting his partner a weak apologetic grin via the mirror before refocusing his attention on the drones. Thundering booms rocked the canyon as several of the drones collided with its floor, now far below them. “Yes!” T-Bone hissed between his teeth. Razor smiled a little. Well, T-Bone wasn’t *too* uptight. The next second made him retract the thought.
The remaining drones abruptly shot up from the canyon below directly in front of the TurboKat. One hurtled for the jet in a wild kamikaze attack, strafing the nose and canopy with a barrage of brilliant red beams. Razor threw his hands up to shield his eyes against the bright flashes of light. He’d forgotten about his latest additions to the course. Harmless enough with their low-key lasers, which had only a little more power behind them than those used in a grocery store to read bar codes, the “kamikaze drones” were startling and scary if one imagined an attack like that with *real* fire power.
T-Bone gasped at the furious “attack” also forgetting the new challenge. Without thinking, he sent the TurboKat into a roll to the right, hearing the drone, still barreling forward, scrape against the fuselage. As he righted the jet T-Bone stilled his pounding heart. He growled angrily as he saw the remaining drones coming toward him.
“Think you’re smart, do ya’?!” he snarled, slamming a fist to the weapons console before him.
Razor’s head jerked up and he twisted to see the weapons panel before his partner. He was just in time to see the reading – “Missile Armed” – as the lock tone sounded.
Hearing the tone, T-Bone jammed his thumb to the firing button, watching in satisfaction as a barrage of missiles – *real* missiles, not Razor’s trick missiles, – met the drones in a fireball.
Razor watched with mouth agape for a minute. Then, his face tightened. That was it, enough was enough. Target drones and missiles both took a lot of time and effort; wasting them wasn’t something they could afford to do. And, they certainly couldn’t afford to waste his very limited supply of *real* missiles. The explosives were both hard to find – he knew of “channels”, but they weren’t the sort of kats with whom he and T-Bone wanted to associate – and dangerous to handle.
Shoving his musings aside, Razor let his worry finally spill out as he blurted his friend’s name.
“T-Bone!” Razor’s voice shattered the grim silence that had settled over the cockpit.
T-Bone’s warning didn’t fall on deaf ears, but it was time for something to be done.
“T-Bone, we can’t afford to waste equipment – let alone our entire test area!” Razor announced sternly.
“Razor, we agreed…..” The warning was stronger.
“I know there’s some stuff you need to work out here,” Razor persisted. “I understand that – maybe not the way you go about it, but I understand the need to do it. But there are better ways to do it.” Razor’s voice was calm, but firm. “Use this to practice – *real* practice. You can’t shoot like that in the city!”
T-Bone’s expression softened, relaxed as his friend spoke. His tense, grim scowl slid away, letting the strain and worry show through.
“Y’know Katz’ll take it into the city. He was no genius, but even he knows how hard it is for us in the city.”
A glimmer of T-Bone’s former scowl returned. It was always harder for *them* in the city. The bad kats didn’t care about innocent lives. Abruptly, he sighed. Razor was right; he should take out his anger practicing, not senselessly destroying everything in sight.
“Hey, guys, mind if I join the fun?”
The purring voice oozed from the radio so abruptly it startled both kats. Razor quickly checked his systems. Nothing. He wasn’t surprised really, just a little annoyed. Quickly, he glanced anxiously at T-Bone. His partner was, if possible, tenser than ever.
“Not *now*!” T-Bone snarled through clenched teeth. “Not *him* NOW!!” His fist connected with the panel before him with a sharp crack.
“My, my – bad day?” the voice asked.
“*Go* *a*-*way*, *Seeker*!” T-Bone growled.
“You don’t *really* want me to leave, do you?” Seeker asked innocently as his black jet suddenly dissolved from the canyon’s depths and came up alongside the TurboKat.
Briefly, T-Bone felt a stab of admiration. The canyon was hardly wide enough for two jets to fly side by side. Seeker’s left wing tip could only be a foot away from the wall…at the *least*. T-Bone’s admiration quickly became a white-hot determination to out-fly both Seeker and Katz.
“Come, come – I’ve got something that just might interest you greatly,” Seeker purred.
“You’re planning on committing suicide?” T-Bone snapped.
“Actually, it involves your two missing friends.”
“How’re you involved in this?!” T-Bone snarled, face contorting in pure hatred.
“Let’s just say I’m somewhere near the bottom.” Seeker’s jet shot ahead of the TurboKat, rocking the SWAT Kat’s jet in its wake. “Meet me tonight in the lobby of the building I imploded – it’s still intact I assure you – and I’ll explain *everything*. Toodles.” Seeker’s jet abruptly vanished.
“Off radar too,” Razor commented out loud.
“Well, *of course*.” Seeker’s voice returned. “The BlackFire has quite a few tricks. We’ll trade notes sometime – ta-ta!”
“I’ll show ‘im some ‘tricks’,” T-Bone snarled. Abruptly, he fell silent. “Not like last time though, Razor,” he suddenly mumbled softly. “I learned my lesson – I won’t let him manipulate me again. And, if I do….” T-Bone let the words trail off, knowing they didn’t need to be said, the request didn’t need to be made.
“Well, we’ve got a few hours to plan for this one at least,” Razor returned, knowing what T-Bone had been about to say… and knowing he had already agreed years ago. —————————————
The half moon shone with a pale blue light, giving a shadowy illumination to the shattered skyscraper that rose in jagged ruins before the two kats. Switching his helmet’s visor to night vision mode, Razor studied the level of the building before them. Clearly, Seeker had thought of everything. The building had imploded neatly, leaving Enforcer Headquarters relatively unharmed. Further, the explosion had taken place in the mid-range floors, toppling the upper levels and leaving the lowest floors relatively undamaged. “How much ya’ wanna bet the door’s open,” T-Bone growled over his shoulder, having come to the same assessment as Razor.
Razor nodded and turned to his partner commenting, “Well, let’s not keep ‘im waiting,” before starting toward the door.
T-Bone trailed his partner, covering their backs with wary glances in every direction.
“S’open,” Razor called back to him, giving the door a gentle push that sent it slowly inward.
Green eyes darting suspiciously, T-Bone followed his partner into the building, half-backing through the doorway in his efforts to cover the rear. He backed into Razor who was standing just within.
“Gah! Razor! What’re you…?!” he started, quickly dropping his yell to a gruff whisper as he jumped back, regaining his balance.
“Shhh….,” Razor hissed. “The visor picked up something just over there – a heat signature,” he whispered to T-Bone as the tabby stepped up beside him, his outstretched hand indicating an area somewhere beyond what appeared to be a stack of planks and paint cans.
A burst of red suddenly flashed before the two kats.
“Get down!” T-Bone screamed, pushing Razor to the floor as he dove after the smaller kat. On all fours the SWAT Kats crawled for cover, finding precious little in the empty room. Fiery bursts shot down just above their heads, the brilliance blinding them time after time as their night vision visors amplified the light. They felt waves of heat washing across their skin. At last, they found shelter under a table made of a sheet of plywood stretched across two saw horses. Crouching in the tight space beneath it, the two tomkats searched for their assailant.
“Alright, where is he?” T-Bone growled.
“The blasts came from above,” Razor murmured. “It’s a flame thrower of some kind – not a laser – the signatures are too broad and too irregular.”
A throaty giggle echoed down from above, freezing the two kats in their spots. Both looked upward quickly, searching the unpaneled grid that cris-crossed the ceiling.
“Do you guys know how ridiculous you look cowering under that pathetic little shield?” the Seeker’s unwelcome voice snickered. Before either kat could react, the ceiling seemed to explode silently in white flame. With gasps of pain the SWAT Kats jerked away from the painful light, magnified to unbearable levels by their visors, the constant glare far more painful than the intermittent flashes of earlier.
Razor squeezed his eyes closed briefly, opening them quickly to try to find the Seeker. His visor, acting on its safety parameters, had reverted to its normal mode seconds after the lights had come to life, but vivid splashes of color still floated across his vision. As his eyes finally adjusted, Razor realized that he and T-Bone were engulfed in a fuzzy green light. Disconcerted, he scanned the room for the Seeker, trying to determine what was creating the light. As his attempt to turn his head proved futile, Razor realized that he was paralyzed in the beam of light. A faint tingling prickled across his skin. Worried, he tensed and awaited further developments. At last, the bright light of the beam vanished. T-Bone and Razor looked at each other in confusion.
“Hello, boys – enjoy the light show?” the familiar purr crooned.
The SWAT Kats looked up to see the Seeker standing several feet from them, a long-barreled laser-like gun in his hands and a flame thrower pack strapped to his back.
“And that was supposed to…..?” T-Bone asked, letting the question hang in the air as he and Razor got to their feet.
“You’ll learn soon enough,” Seeker returned with a smile.
Then, he casually tossed the gun into his left hand and flicked his right wrist in T-Bone’s direction, simultaneously spinning on his heel. As he did so a thin metal cable flew from some hidden compartment on his glove and wrapped around T-Bone’s right leg. The force of Seeker’s spin jerked the big SWAT Kat off his feet. He thudded to the floor heavily. Smirking as his twirl brought him back to face his opponents, Seeker took up a ready stance as the cable snapped back into his glove.
With a growl T-Bone leapt to his feet, hands balling into tight fists.
“Ah, fisticuffs, – well, old chap, shall we?” purred Seeker, pitching the gun aside and raising his own fists.
T-Bone held his ground, smiling his own dangerous smile back at the huge kat.
“Sometimes I’m a slow learner, but I’m not stupid,” the SWAT Kat muttered.
“It’s just a simple little thing I want to prove to you and you have to make it so difficult,” he groaned. “But easier on *you*, I guess.”
Even as he finished the sentence Seeker whirled away from T-Bone, the whip-like cable flashing from his glove once more. This time it was lit with an electric glow. The lightning quick movement caught Razor off-guard. The cable slapped into him, the force of the slashing cable and the electric current humming through it flinging him several feet across the room.
T-Bone started to lunge at Seeker. Before the thought had hardly finished forming in his mind an agonizing pain shot through him. T-Bone screamed and collapsed to the floor. It was the most horrible thing he’d ever felt, nothing could compare. His entire body hurt. Moaning in an agony that sapped even the strength it took to scream, he curled himself into a fetal position on the floor.
Still reeling and numbed from the electric shock, Razor missed the initial jolt of pain that had hit T-Bone. Still, he never even felt his body connect with the floor. As the electric burning diminished the new pain racking his being drowned any other sensation. It felt as if every cell of his body was being torn apart. Razor moaned softly. Suddenly, Seeker’s booted foot came into his view, its sole level with Razor’s eyes.
“Now,… what?” Razor asked shakily, lifting his head with incredible effort to look up at Seeker through pain-blurred vision.
Seeker seemed to ignore the question.
“T-Bone, if you would step – excuse me, *crawl* – over here near your partner, I think you’d find that the pain will subside,” he said calmly.
T-Bone said nothing. He just staggered to his feet and stumbled over to Razor. Once he was within two feet of his friend, the pain began to lessen to a dull ache and then vanished as if it had never been.
Razor too felt the agonizing pain disappear.
“What did you do to us?” he demanded, standing up unsteadily to glare up at Seeker.
“I merely mutated the cells in each of your bodies so that you can’t exist without the *close* – as in a scant few feet – presence of each other. If you separate, your body cells will die.”
“What?!” gasped Razor.
“And what do you get from this? The fun of watching us suffer?” demanded T-Bone, clenching his fists.
“No. *This* is what I get.” Seeker whirled around and pointed his glove in the air. Two screens, mounted somewhere on the far wall, glowed to life. The left one dissolved from a glow of light to an image of Callie huddled in an empty metal-walled room.
“What’ve you done to her, you freak?!” T-Bone snarled even as the right screen cleared to show an almost identical image of Commander Feral.
“Nothing, I promise… For all that’s worth to you…,” the gray-furred tom assured. “That would violate the ‘deal’ I mean to make with you… the start of your second… *test*.”
“More of your stinkin’ tests…!” T-Bone sputtered.
“Indeed.” The Seeker casually propped himself against the nearest wall to begin his spiel. Before he could start, T-Bone cut him off.
“Is this gonna give us a sense of deja vu?”
“Of course. That’s what I’m going for,” Seeker shrugged, continuing where he had broken off. “You see, that room Miss Briggs is in is currently sitting at a comfortable temperature of 64 degrees Fahrenheit. Over the next three days that temperature will rise half a degree an hour. I’ve already done the math for you – that will put the room at a lovely 100 degrees. After your three days have expired, the temperature will undergo a more… dramatic increase – directly to 200 degrees. No passing “Go”, no collecting 200 dollars. I’m not so cruel as to make anyone suffer long. The same will happen in Commander Feral’s… accommodations. Now,” Seeker began to idly pace before the SWAT Kats, “Your handprints can open the doors to their rooms. You’ve but to press either of your hands against the plate I’ve prepared and the kat you’ve chosen will be free.”
“Wait a minute! What do you mean ‘chosen’?!” Razor demanded.
“Well, you see the only way to release *both* of my prisoners would be for two of you to touch the two plates simultaneously. Unfortunately, the two plates – and, incidentally, the two rooms – are at opposite ends of MegaKat City… And, well – the two of you wouldn’t even survive long enough to get that far apart.” The Seeker stopped in mid-stride and studied the SWAT Kats’ livid faces. “Oh, and should you get all self-sacrificing on me, the plates can tell the difference between a living and a dead kat.”
“So, you intend to force us to choose – to choose which kat lives and which dies?!” Razor shouted, his tail lashing furiously, ears as close to flat as his helmet would allow.
T-Bone’s fury was beyond words, a steady rumble his only sound as he eyed Seeker with narrowed eyes. His lips were slightly curled back, revealing his vicious incisors. His tail was still, save its tip, which twitched spastically as he fought the impulse to pounce on the Seeker and throttle him.
“Precisely,” Seeker answered Razor’s outburst. I just love psychological torment, don’t you?”
“Miss Briggs is being held in the abandoned power plant on the east side of town – the one along the Tiger River. The Commander is in a remote portion of the sewer system – on the west side of course,” Seeker explained, producing two folded sheets of paper from an invisible pocket on his night- dark suit. “Here are directions to the two locations,” he clarified, extending the papers to Razor. “I’d offer one to your partner there, but I’d hate to pull back a nub,” he commented as Razor snatched the papers away.
As T-Bone and Razor glanced over the papers, Seeker turned to go.
“Don’t take too long making your decisions,” he called gaily back to the two tomkats.
T-Bone’s head flew up from where he had been looking over Razor’s shoulder.
“We’ve made it, Seeker,” he growled slowly.
Seeker turned back to face them.
“We’re going to the Enforcers – we’re finding a way to undo what you’ve done to us and saving both of them,” T-Bone returned.
The gray tomkat seemed to consider this a minute, one hand placed thoughtfully under his chin.
“A possibility,” he murmured. “But, you see, I’m very thorough. You might die during the process. Then, *four* kats would be dead when *three* could have lived.”
“There can be no choices of one life for another, Seeker – that’s not how we work,” Razor replied levelly, having calmed himself.
Seeker shrugged and spun around to walk away.
“I’d hoped it wasn’t,” he whispered to himself as he slipped behind a thin partition at the end of the room.
T-Bone looked after him, knowing better than to go see where he had gone; it was too late, Seeker would have vanished as though he’d never been there.
“Ready to go to the Enforcers now?” he asked Razor.
“Yeah, hopefully Doc Conway’ll know something about this,” Razor answered.
“*If* we can get to him,” T-Bone grunted. “With Feral gone, you know who’s taken charge by now.”
Lieutenant Commander John Steele leaned back comfortably in the huge chair that sat behind Commander Feral’s massive wooden desk. He propped himself up on his elbows and surveyed Feral’s office. Imposing; he liked that. But there were a few “minor” changes he could think of that he would have to set someone on just as soon as the role of Enforcer Commander was officially his.
That Commander Feral might return had only briefly crossed the orange-furred kat’s mind. Steele smiled. How was Commander Feral going to return? Hostage situations could so easily go bad.
Thumping his feet up onto the top of the desk, he tilted his head back onto the padded backing of the chair and closed his eyes.
A sharp rap at the door brought him back to reality. His eyes snapped open and his efforts to get his feet back on the floor nearly sent the chair tumbling over backward. Finally organizing himself, Steele rested his elbows on the desk, assumed his best aura of collected calm, and shouted, “Enter,” to the knocker.
The familiar graying face of Sergeant Katmull appeared as the tan-furred kat stepped into the room.
“Lieutenant, the SWAT Kats are here asking to speak to Dr. Conway,” the Sergeant announced in his slow manner.
“What do they want?!” Steele yelped.
“I have no idea, Sir,” the Sergeant returned.
Steele debated. Finally, he decided that it was too much trouble to kick the vigilantes out; they never left quietly – certainly not that big- mouthed tabby.
“Keep an eye on them and let them speak to Dr. Whoever,” he said, waving a hand in a bored gesture that said Katmull was to leave now.
“Yes, Sir.” The Sergeant turned to go.
“Oh, and Sergeant,” Steele called after him, suddenly remembering something, “As I *am* the acting Commander, refer to me as Commander for as long as I hold this position.”
“Yes, Sir,” the Sergeant replied, the slightest hint of a growl in his voice as he disappeared through the doorway.
Steele heaved a contented sigh and returned to basking in his good fortune.
“Well, the results of my tests on your most unusual condition indicate that the effect should be reversible,” Dr. Conway announced, turning from his electron microscope to present T-Bone and Razor with a grave face.
The two SWAT Kats sat on the edges of the examining tables Dr. Conway had provided. Each was expressing his anxiety. T-Bone, hands splayed on either side of his body, was digging his claws in and out of the vinyl covering of the table. Razor was swinging his dangling legs so that they hit one of the table’s legs and bounced off to swing forward again.
“But it’s not that easy, is it, Doc?” he asked, sensing the bearded scientist’s reserve.
“No, I’m afraid it’s not,” Conway returned, removing his glasses for a minute to wipe them on the front of his lab coat. “The Seeker has somehow managed to alter a single set of the alleles on your chromosomes. Now, as you may know, chromosomes contain your DNA as well. We’re discussing the most fundamental levels of your bodies’ genetics codes here.”
“So what exactly do these alleles do?” Felina asked, straightening from her slumped position against a rolling computer desk beside Razor. When she’d first heard of the SWAT Kats’ arrival, she’d hurried to find them. Alongside the two kats, she had also found the mild sergeant in a surly mood she hadn’t thought him capable of. Wanting to stay with the kats anyway and learn what was going on, she had taken his job of watching the SWAT Kats hours ago. Her secondary job was to make sure no one beyond Conway’s team did any scans of the blood samples the SWAT Kats had provided. The vigilantes hadn’t asked it of her, but Felina knew the job needed doing. She abruptly broke from her thoughts to hear Conway’s explanation.
“Alleles shape certain traits. There are always two alleles for each trait a person might exhibit – often more. One trait is dominant, one recessive. The dominant trait alone will manifest itself. Certain recessive alleles may go for generations without ever exerting their influence. Now, the Seeker has somehow managed to reverse the SWAT Kats’ alleles so that this one particular set of alleles has been altered. The dominant allele has become the recessive allele and vice versa,” Conway explained.
“Why would our genetic code include a trait that linked two kats together?” Razor asked, frowning thoughtfully.
“That I can’t answer. The answers to all the mysteries of genetics are still far beyond us. Perhaps that trait was highly useful at one point in our history for reasons we can’t even fathom now.”
“But how did Seeker know that me and Razor would… match or whatever?” T-Bone asked. His face twisted in confusion. “I don’t claim to know peanuts about this genetic stuff, but couldn’t just making this trait active have made me need to be near another kat? Another genetic code? Why’d it *have* to be Razor’s?”
Conway’s face took on an intense thoughtful air.
“An excellent question,” he announced, his eyes lighting a bit. “Perhaps the Seeker knows far more about genetics than one would imagine,” he murmured almost to himself.
“Even if you don’t understand it all, can you reverse it?” Razor asked, leaning forward and gripping the edge of the table beneath him.
“My area of expertise is mutations,” Conway began slowly. “Alleles are known for their mutational abilities.”
“So you can do it?” Felina asked.
“Yeeess,” the somewhat round-bellied scientist drew the word out. “The mutagens I work with carry a strand of DNA within them. Their other components override the body’s previous DNA and allow the new strand to dominate.”
I already have samples of your DNA. I’ll need a few hours to add the normal dominant and recessive alleles to the strands and combine it with the necessary chemicals.”
“Then, let’s get cookin’, Doc,” T-Bone announced.
Dr. Conway turned to him gravely.
“You realize that tampering with your genetic code could easily kill you?” he asked.
“We know the risks,” T-Bone assured him.
Conway nodded and turned to amble back to his workstation in the isolated lab area off the main examining room.
“Dr. Conway,” a voice echoed across the high-ceilinged room.
Conway, Felina, and the SWAT Kats turned to see the graying sergeant entering the room.
“I’m afraid you’ll have to suspend your research indefinitely,” he announced. “Lieu… Commander Steele has ordered the SWAT Kats be questioned on the kidnapping of Commander Feral and Deputy Mayor Briggs.”
“He what?!” Felina snarled.
“I’m sorry, Captain. I know,” the sergeant apologized, an angry scowl sitting on his face.
“That arrogant little…!” T-Bone started, jumping off the examining table.
Felina suddenly held up a hand to still the furious tomkat, her face flashing a look of sudden decision.
“Sergeant, can you hold them *here* while I have a little heart to heart with Steele?” she asked, setting her jaw.
“No problem, Captain,” the sergeant assured her.
“Great,” Felina returned. “Doctor, do I have your agreement that what the SWAT Kats say about their condition is true?” she demanded of Conway curtly, spinning to face him.
“Of course,” Conway returned. “I’ll get my written report,” he added, bustling off toward his office to fetch the papers.
“Good,” Felina beamed several minutes later as he laid them in her hands. She quickly ripped her handset off her belt and switched it on. “Lieutenant McFurland, please respond if you’re in the building,” she ordered into the receiving speaker even as she bounded toward the door out of the Bio-Tech labs. “I’ll be back, guys,” she called to the SWAT Kats.
“Give him one for me,” the sergeant called after her, a twinkle sparkling in his eyes.
Steele looked up as the door to his office was first opened and then slammed. Captain Felina Feral stalked across the tiled floor to the huge desk at the back of the room. Her jaw was set and her dark eyes flashed. The absence of her uncle’s nameplate and the new one labeled, “Steele,” sitting in its place at the corner of the desk was not lost on her.
‘I think it’s time she learned who’s in charge here,’ Steele thought to himself. ‘Her uncle isn’t here to let her get away with whatever she pleases now.’ With that thought, he pointedly ignored the she-kat, ducking his head and pretending to concentrate on the papers before him.
“Here’s Dr. Conway’s report, Sir,” Felina announced dropping several typed sheets onto the desk. For all her impressive height, she could still only just see over the top of the massive desk. “He’s verified what the SWAT Kats told us about their condition.” She paused before growling, “I presume you’re aware that he’s not the only one verifying this.”
“I’m well aware of the messages the Seeker has been broadcasting all morning,” Lieutenant Steele returned indifferently never raising his head. “And, in light of those, I believe that he and the SWAT Kats are working together in this little scheme. I’m having those two masked freaks held for questioning.”
Felina started to explode, but quickly controlled herself and held her cool. Throwing a temper tantrum wouldn’t help her case. Besides, there were *much* more effective ways of revealing one’s anger.
“Steele,” Felina ground out. “Might I remind you that two kat’s lives are at stake here?” She slowly began to walk around the high desk, pausing as she planted one foot on the first tiered stair leading to the chair Steele sat in. “I *know* you don’t care a lick whether either of them live or die,” she snarled, looking up at Steele before heaving herself onto the next tier.
Thoughts of calling the Captain down for her insubordination flitted through Steele’s mind as he stared wide-eyed at the suddenly possessed she-kat. The words came at last, but somehow they got stuck at his mouth, refusing to come forth as Felina moved slowly ever closer. Without thinking, Steele cringed back in his chair, huddling against the arm farthest from Felina.
“My uncle has the job you want and Deputy Mayor Briggs has the power and the will to throw you out of that job the minute you prove just how inept you are,” Felina continued, now standing beside Steele, he a pathetically small figure in Commander Feral’s tremendous chair, she a bristling dark-eyed apparition. “Steele, if *anything* happens to either of those kats, I’m holding you responsible. You *don’t* want that, Steele,” she hissed, her voice dropping to its absolute lowest registers as she laid a hand on the nearest arm of his chair, slowly releasing her claws and letting them dig into the yielding plush. Steele inched further from her, practically hanging over the opposite arm of the chair. “And, when it comes to the job of destroying you,” Felina continued, “Don’t think for a minute that the majority of this base is on your side. We don’t all accept bribes… and some personalities are more hateful than all the money in the world can pay for,” she added with a genuine throaty growl.
At last, Steele found words.
“Captain Feral,… maybe you should go down to the bio-tech labs and tell Dr. Conway to begin whatever it is he needed to do with those SWAT Kats,” Steele stammered.
Felina backed away from the recovering coward and snapped a smart salute.
Whirling away from Steele, the Captain practically flew from the room, trying desperately to hide the glowing smile on her face… and the gales of laughter that threatened to make her explode. Stepping out into the hallway, Felina closed the office door behind her and faced her co-conspirator.
“Phase One accomplished,” she reported with a snicker.
Lieutenant McFurland grinned back at her.
“Did you leave anything for me?” he asked before reaching out to knock on the door.
“Come in,” a shaky voice called from within the office.
Trading a grin with Felina, McFurland strode into the room.
“Sir, this is the SWAT Teams’ reports on that operation…,” he started as he approached the desk where a visibly paled Steele was struggling his hardest to look collected.
“Fine. Lay them on the desk and leave me alone – I have work to do,” Steele snapped.
With a shrug, McFurland did as he was told. As he left the room, he paused in the doorway.
“Sir, do you want the door closed?” he called back to the Lieutenant Commander.
“Yes!” Steele shouted.
McFurland nodded and pulled the door closed behind him, slithering through the doorway and stopping just outside with his back to the door. Free of Steele’s sight, he ducked into a crouch, pressing himself to the door and planting each hand on either side of the door frame in a wild, furtive gesture. With narrowed eyes he cast darting glances up and down the hallway. Seeing only Felina, he gave her a short businesslike nod and slipped his blaster from its holster, all the while searching the hall suspiciously. He set the blaster to its lowest power and “casually” slipped it around behind his back and tried to aim it at the door’s electronic lock.
“Will you stop poking around?!” Felina hissed, tired of his ridiculous antics. “There’s nobody in the hall!”
Grinning sheepishly, the gray-furred officer squeezed the trigger of the weapon and released a short, low-key blast directly into the lock mechanism. Satisfied with his work, McFurland turned back to face the door and knocked on it again, calling loudly.
“Sir, I need one of those papers back – it goes to…,” he began.
“Come on in!” Steele bellowed, his tone more annoyed than ever.
Obligingly, McFurland tried to open the door. The electronic lock flashed a warning red light and beeped loudly as he tugged at the doorknob.
“Sir, the door won’t open,” McFurland called.
“Of course it will!”
“No, Sir – the lock is malfunctioning!”
“Don’t worry, Sir – I’ll get help!” McFurland shouted, bounding away down the hall. At the first corner, he stopped and turned to face Felina. Giggling inwardly so hard tears rolled through the short fur of her face Felina looked to see him flashing her two fingers before he disappeared around the corner.
Phase Two was complete. —————————————
“Steele shouldn’t be giving you any trouble for a while,” Felina assured T-Bone and Razor as the two kats sat anxiously on their padded examining tables in the area Conway had cordoned off for the procedure.
“Thanks, a lot, Lieu… er.. Captain,” Razor replied with a smile.
“No problem,” she returned. She grinned. “It was fun.”
“Wish I’d seen Steele’s face when you came into the office!” T-Bone chortled.
“What?!” Felina pretended to growl. “Are you saying my looks scare people?! If you say no, you’re a dead kat,” she added with an evil grin.
Talk ended as Dr. Conway walked over to the group.
“The mutagen is ready,” he pronounced.
“Well, we are too. Bring it on!” T-Bone returned cockily.
Conway nodded and motioned to a white-coated she-kat who had magically appeared at his side. She stepped forward and set a tray down on a flat-topped metal cabinet between the two examining tables. She was followed by two other kats rolling tall poles with some form of machines attached to them.
“I want to monitor your vital signs throughout the process for any indications of unexpected complications,” Conway explained as the kats started hooking up the machines.
“Ah, man – I didn’t know ya’ had ta’ stick holes in me!” T-Bone whined as he watched the thin she-kat prepare a syringe from the tray she’d brought.
“See the big, tough tomkat whine like a kitten at the sight of a little needle,” Razor teased. “Yee-OW!” he yelped as a needle entered his arm.
Felina stepped up to the two kats as the lab-coated kats finished their work. “Captain, if anything happens to us, you have the maps to where the freak’s holding your uncle and Callie – I know you’ll do your best to save them,” T-Bone told her.
Felina nodded, stepping away as Conway approached them.
“The mutagen should have an anesthetizing effect,” Conway told them as he filled the first syringe with a thick, yellow-orange liquid. “Hopefully, when you wake up, this will all be over,” he added, squirting a stream of orange onto the tray the she-kat had used earlier as he checked for bubbles in the fluid.
“Can we sue if we come out of this with fur the color of a school bus?” T-Bone joked, eyeing the liquid.
Conway chuckled in response and reached out to take T-Bone’s arm in his hand. The big kat winched and squeezed his eyes tight as Conway moved the needle closer.
Some seconds later, both kats had been injected and were beginning to be noticeably groggy.
“I’ll keep an eye on things, guys – I promise,” Felina reassured.
Razor weakly gave her a thumbs up before giving in to the chemicals. T-Bone too succumbed, hearing the chattering voices of Conway’s research team grow far away, dimming into nothing but darkness….
To Be Continued…….
* – reference to Kristen Sharpe’s fanfic, “Technical Difficulties”
Navigate This Author's Stories
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.