Title: FIGHTING TO LIVE
Warnings: Some profanity.
Disclaimer: “SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron,” its characters and concepts are copyright to Hanna-Barbera Cartoons, Inc and are used without permission.
He felt a strange, cold shiver ripple through his body. A distant memory told him this was very bad, but before he could try and remember why, an explosion like a sunburst went off in his head.
‘It hurt… oh god, it hurt…!’ His mind shrieked in anguish as he lost control of his body. It shuddered and spasmed, his breathing became labored, his throat tightened so he couldn’t even scream. His body behaved as if a mad puppeteer had control of his limbs.
T-Bone frowned when he heard a strange noise coming from behind him. Tired of Feral’s continual grumbling since they began this search, he turned to tell him to be quiet but froze in horror instead. Feral’s eyes were nearly all pupil with a weird lightning storm of gold sparks going off in their centers. The big tom’s body had begun to shudder violently, an expression of terror and pain spread across his face.
Instantly, T-Bone lunged for the stricken kat. His mouth had gone dry and his heart beat frantically as he realized what was afflicting the dark tom. A beloved cousin had suffered from this deadly condition and had died before he reached the age of 18. He didn’t have time to wonder how Feral could have survived the Lightning Fit Syndrome to adulthood since he was too busy trying to prevent the tom from hitting the unforgiving cement.
He wrapped his arms around Feral’s waist just as the huge Kat’s legs gave way. The dark tom was now completely in the throes of the terrible fit that could take his life.
Further up the tunnel the three had been navigating, searching for an elusive spy who had stolen some very sensitive documents for a new weapon of horrific power, was Razor. The SWAT Kats would not normally be involved in something like this, but the spy had cleverly used Hard Drive as his scapegoat. While everyone was trying to catch the electrically skilled thief, the spy slipped in and stole the documents.
The SWAT Kats had captured Hard Drive, finally, after a lengthy chase through the government facility. Razor had used a newly invented capture device to corner the crook. HD was presently on his way to jail in a very small electrical containment unit. Before anyone could leave, however, they were informed of the theft. The trail led them into the warren of tunnels beneath the facility that provided water, electricity, and storage.
Feral had become separated from his enforcers and ended up with the SWAT Kats. He’d not been happy about that and was grumbling to himself when the fit struck.
Razor realized his partner and Feral were no longer behind him and swiftly turned back around, arriving in time to witness a terrible scene. T-Bone was struggling to hold onto a wildly shaking and bucking Feral. The tom’s teeth were clenched tightly together, his facial expression a rictus of intense torment.
Joining his friend on the floor, he held the legs that were kicking the floor wildly. “What the heck is wrong with him?” he asked anxiously, his normal speaking voice echoed off the cement walls, making it louder than it actually was. This had the unfortunate effect of setting off an even stronger wave of chaos within Feral’s body, which nearly caused T-Bone to lose his hold on him.
“Keep your voice down… whisper only!” T-Bone hissed softly at his partner, gritting his teeth as he struggled to hold the sick Kat. Turning his attention back to Feral, T-Bone leaned close to the poor Kat’s ear and began to murmur comforting words and urging him not to give into the desire to surrender.
Feral couldn’t focus on anything but the agony ripping him apart. He wanted to scream and scream. Some corner of his brain remembered fighting this same battle to survive the frightening storms that raged without warning when he was very young.
Another part of him seemed to hear a voice pleading with him to fight and hold on while strong arms held him tightly, insuring he didn’t hurt himself. God, he soo wanted to give up… it just hurt too much and he was having so much trouble breathing that he felt like he was in an airless chamber. The fact he couldn’t regain control of his limbs made him even more frantic. Add to the horror of his condition was the fact he was aware of every moment of the fit instead of being blissfully unconscious like those that suffered epileptic fits.
T-Bone felt sick at heart and scared. He may have hated Feral for all the things the arrogant Kat had done to them, but he would never have wished such a fate on anyone. His cousin Jed had suffered terribly before the cruel condition finally ended his misery. Feral was beginning to make strange choking sounds despite his clenched teeth.
He hissed softly to his partner, “ Razor, put your oxygen mask on him! The fit has cut off his air supply, making it harder for him to hold on until it ends.”
Though still confused as to what was going on with Feral, Razor obeyed immediately and moved to straddle Feral’s legs so that his paws were free then swiftly fetched his oxygen bottle from his backpack. Undoing the thin tubing for the mask, he leaned forward and attempted to place it on Feral’s face. It was extremely difficult as Feral continued to flail around, his face turning blue. After many attempts, Razor’s persistence finally won out as he managed to get the mask over Feral’s mouth and nose then turned the bottle on full strength.
‘Air! Oh God, yes!’ Feral’s mind gibbered in relief as much needed oxygen poured through his nose though not through his clenched teeth. He snorted and sniffed, desperate to get as much air into his lungs as he could even though his chest was still tight and made it nearly impossible to draw any kind of breath.
For several more life and death minutes, Feral struggled then suddenly the fit ended as abruptly as it had started. Stunned as always after so much agony and oxygen deprivation, all he could do was heave like a landed fish through his now unclenched mouth. His body lay limp, his chest working like bellows in T-Bone’s arms. Razor quickly got off Feral’s legs and made the tom a little more comfortable by straightening his limbs.
Squatting on his heels, Razor frowned in worried confusion. Remembering what happened the last time he spoke, he whispered his question to his partner, “T-Bone, what the heck is going on?” .
Despite his effort, the smaller SWAT Kat’s voice still echoed rather loudly in the tunnel. Feral gave a helpless mew as he felt a jolt through his system that sent his body into a brief spasm for several seconds then eased off once more. He whimpered like a helpless kitten as he once more panted for breath.
T-Bone looked up at his partner with an angry glare. Razor gulped in shock at what his voice had caused and wisely kept silent. Whatever was wrong with Feral, his partner apparently knew what it was and what to do. He would wait till the big tabby told him it was safe to speak.
Feral’s eyes were closed as he continued to suck air into his oxygen starved lungs. It took some time before his breathing slowed down from the frantic panting. A strong feeling of unfairness overwhelmed his recovering mind. Through the mask he whined like a kitten that’s lost something precious to it, “Nooooo… not fair… they… promised… wouldn’t happen… again!”
T-Bone swallowed in anguish at the desperate denial emanating from the normally stoic tom. It really wasn’t fair. The ones who suffered this very rarely survived to adulthood and those that did never suffered it again. He didn’t know how it was possible that Feral’s condition had returned.
“I’m so sorry!” T-Bone whispered softly near Feral’s ear. “You’re right. It’s not fair but there is nothing that can be done about it but try and survive it again.”
Feral choked at that and shoved the oxygen mask off with a violent gesture. “No! Can’t… oh god… hurts too much… so awful not being able to breath… I don’t want to do this again!” he wailed bitterly, too lost in the horror of what he faced to be sensible.
T-Bone couldn’t bear hearing that deep voice in such anguished despair. He really didn’t know what to say to make this any better. There just wasn’t any positive things he could say to help Feral want to fight and he didn’t know if he even had the right. After witnessing his cousin’s battle, who was he to say Feral didn’t have the right to end his life right then rather than suffer what would be a hideous end later in the flimsy hopes he might survive this again.
“I know it’s not fair… no one should have to experience this again after surviving it the first time but you’re strong… don’t let it destroy you,” T-Bone said, knowing it was lame but feeling he had to say something.
Feral didn’t open his eyes or acknowledge T-Bone’s words. He pulled away from the tabby and leaned over his legs, panting rapidly which only caused him to shiver, threatening to send him into another fit.
T-Bone sat up on his knees and moved to one side of Feral, while using one paw to begin a soothing massage on the broad back. He used the fingers of the other paw to pull the tom’s chin around to face him. Feral’s eyes snapped open in surprise.
“Breathe with me… in deeply… out slowly… stay with me… in… out…” T-Bone instructed, making Feral take deep breathes to match his own. “That’s it… slowly and deeply…” He kept encouraging the tom until Feral’s body felt more relaxed under his paw. “There, do you feel better now?” he asked softly.
Feral blinked at the SWAT Kat for a long moment as he tried to focus on the here and now. He did feel calmer and his breathing was easier, but he could tell he was still shaky. He swallowed, his mouth was very dry. Suddenly, a water canteen was pushed close to his lips. Not hesitating, he drank the cool water, relieving his parched mouth. He pulled back when he’d had enough.
He continued to stare at T-Bone, trying to bring his fit-confused mind back on line. Gradually, he was able to remember where he was, why they were there, and how he came to be with the SWAT Kats in the first place. He grimaced unhappily as he realized they knew something truly damaging about him. However, he was surprised to feel unthreatened by that knowledge. The bigger of the SWAT Kats had obviously seen his condition before and knew exactly what to do so that he was alive to be upset rather than very dead.
However, he wasn’t so certain he wanted to be alive as the rest of his memories returned and he gave a shudder. Somehow death seemed preferable to what lay ahead of him now. Though he couldn’t see T-Bone’s eyes, the look on the tabby’s face told him how sorry the Kat felt for him.
An explosion of fury erupted within him. Growling angrily, he started to get up, but T-Bone immediately put his paw on Feral’s shoulder, keeping him sitting.
“Uh-uh, sit still. You aren’t ready to stand yet,” he warned still keeping his voice soft.
Feral eyes and tight expression informed T-Bone the tom was angry about something but he ignored it and kept a paw on the enforcer’s shoulder. Feral had frozen unwillingly and didn’t attempt to stand.
“I don’t want your pity!” he hissed softly.
T-Bone rolled his eyes in annoyance but didn’t snap back as he usually did when interacting with the stubborn and arrogant tom. He knew it was a defense mechanism on the tom’s part of saving face.
“Look, I know this is bad. No way did you want this terrible thing to happen again much less having your antagonists know about it. Razor and I will never tell anyone. I watched a cousin of mine die horribly from this thing so I know very well what is happening to you and how awful surviving it will be so I have a very important question to ask you,” T-Bone said seriously.
Feral blinked in surprise, taken aback by T-Bone’s assurance of discretion and his grim demeanor. It was equally surprising that the tabby had someone close to him with this rare condition. Still upset and angry, he stared at the tabby for a moment longer.
Frowning, he asked, “What question would that be?”
“Do you want to live?” T-Bone asked grimly.
Razor gasped in shock, turning to stare at his partner in disbelief.
Feral jerked back, his eyes narrowed in confusion. “What?” he blurted.
“You heard me! I have no right to urge you to fight on… to tell you that since you’ve survived this the first time you can do it again… I’m not the one suffering something so horrible that battling Dark Kat would be a better option. So I ask again… do you want to live?” T-Bone explained flatly.
The dark tom sat still and stared at T-Bone silently. His anger evaporated, he felt chilled and lost. He turned his face away and was silent. Neither SWAT Kat spoke, letting him absorb the enormity of what was being asked of him.
Breaking the silence after a long moment and whispering as if to himself, Feral said, “I was only thirteen when it hit me the first time.”
T-Bone grimaced in sympathy but didn’t speak.
“Am I cowardly to say, I don’t know?” the dark tom murmured heavily, not looking at them.
“No… you’re the bravest, most arrogant, stubbornest tom Kat I’ve ever met!” T-Bone said honestly.
Feral turned a little toward him and gave a wane smile. “Humph! Really like me don’t you!” he said sarcastically then sighed, his shoulders slumping. “What an amazing choice… die by my own paw or suffer untold agony and choking to death due to oxygen deprivation since I have no one that cares much for me to be nearby like when I was a kitten,” he said numbly.
Razor felt sick inside. No one should have to face such a decision, and he had no idea how he would handle watching Feral take his pistol and blow his brains out. Just the thought alone made him want to heave but the alternative that he’d just witnessed didn’t look like an option either. Yeah, he was right; it was really a no-win choice.
T-Bone had a hard time keeping his voice level when his throat was so tight. “Yeah, not much of a choice alright, but it’s the only one you have. So tell me, how long are your cycles,” he asked quietly.
Feral face was empty of emotion when he answered, flatly, “Forty-eight hours with two week breaks.”
T-Bone sucked in his breath in shock. His cousin’s cycles were only twenty-four hours long and had at least a month between fits. “Ohmygod!”
Feral turned his face away and lowered it in misery. It was his family’s determined efforts that had kept him alive back then, but he had no one to save him now. ‘This just can’t be the way my life was meant to end!’ his mind objected in angry despair. ‘I’ve fought my way to live then continued to keep myself alive under insurmountable odds in my job. Do I just roll over and die now?’ he suddenly demanded of himself. ‘NO!’ he shouted.
“I want to live!” Feral said forcefully, startling himself when he nearly shouted that. Fortunately, the fit had completely passed, and he didn’t jerk from the noise.
“Right, then we will stay by your side 24/7 until it passes,” T-Bone said, even though he felt divided by Feral’s decision. It meant watching him through multiple, hideous fits until it finally ran its course or he perished from the attempt. Not a nice prospect and one guaranteed to give him nightmares for a long time.
Razor was stunned by T-Bone’s decision but realized he was right. They were all Feral had, and he wouldn’t feel right abandoning him now knowing what he faced, so he nodded his agreement.
Feral looked at them in shock. “Are you nuts? How would I explain having you two around me all the time?” he asked in outrage.
T-Bone’s eyes narrowed. “You seem to forget that you’re in no condition to do your job. You would be risking the lives of all those around you, so forget about returning to duty and something else you should remember, the first time you displayed a fit they would hospitalize you immediately then, if you recovered, you might never be allowed to return to duty,” he warned.
Feral’s mouth gaped. He hadn’t thought of that. The possibility that he would be removed permanently from duty made him sick at heart. His job was his whole life and the reason he was willing to fight to live… to lose it permanently… it didn’t bear thinking. Much as he hated the fact, he knew T-Bone was absolutely correct. Snapping his mouth shut and taking a shuddering breath, he nodded silently at the burly tom.
T-Bone sighed in relief but also with grief for what Feral was about to go through. He gently rubbed the tom’s back in sympathy.
“Well, we still have a spy to find or do you suggest we allow this guy to make off with documents that could wipe out our whole city?” Feral asked flatly, making a move to stand and pleased when T-Bone didn’t hold him back..
He wobbled as he gained his feet but felt the light touch of a strong paw steadying him then withdrawing as if it hadn’t been there. Oddly, it comforted him.
“No, you’re right. We’ve got to catch this guy. You will stay with us the whole time, and we’ll see if we can do this quickly,” T-Bone said as they began to walk down the tunnel once more.
“I’ll go ahead and see what I can find of the trail we’d been following,” Razor said, quickly running down the tunnel.
“Let’s hope this guy ran into some trouble that slowed him down or I don’t see how we’re going to catch up to him,” T-Bone said glumly, staying close to Feral’s side as they walked as fast as the dark tom was able.
Feral didn’t respond, being too wrapped up with his tangled thoughts about his shaky future. It would feel very strange having the SWAT Kats at his side for the next few weeks. He just didn’t see how this was going to work. Also, just the thought of more fits sent tremors of fear down his spine. He’d rather be tortured by Dark Kat.
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Disclaimer: SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron is copyright to Hanna-Barbera Cartoons Inc. All Rights Reserved. © 1995. All other characters and material within this page are the property of their respective creators.