“Well there it is, Professor!” T-Bone said on his radio as he flew the Turbokat over the old military facility. “Sure is big.”
“At least it’s still basically intact. I doubt we have any budget or time to do any kind of remodeling,” Hackle commented as the pilot took them closer.
Going to VTOL, T-Bone moved the jet slowly around the entire perimeter so the Professor and Razor could get a good look at the facility’s outer defenses. The security fence was still intact and standing firm, thankfully. Except for the west side of the building, all the other windows were still in one piece. The guard shack hadn’t been damaged by vandals nor time. The grounds themselves were weed covered but generally in good shape.
“Well, the outside is better than we could have hoped,” Razor murmured. “Take us down near the entrance, buddy.”
“Roger!” The jet came around the building to its main entrance then set down smoothly, blowing plumes of dust into the air as they settled onto the ground. Razor waited a few moments before opening the canopy to let most of the dust settle.
They helped the professor out of the cockpit and down to the ground then walked at his pace for the main doors, which were chained together. Razor picked the huge padlock, opening it with ease. Dust lay over all the floors as he opened the door, and they stepped through. The air was dry and dusty but, in general, the place looked good… just needed some thorough cleaning up.
It took them three hours to go over the whole place, but, when they were through, they were relieved.
“It shouldn’t take more than a week to wire this place up,” Razor said with satisfaction.
“I agree, and I’m truly relieved most of the former security systems are still in place; it will make things much easier and quicker to get it up and running as well as tightly secured,” Hackle said, tired and dirty, but pleased with the results of their walk-through.
“You want to call Feral or shall I?” Razor asked as they left the building. He paused to restore the padlock then they walked to the Turbokat.
“I’ll speak with him. I have all those details I noted to you about the work areas I want to discuss with him anyway,” the professor reminded him.
“That’s right. Okay, let’s get you back to your lab then. ” Razor nodded.
T-Bone leaped up on the wing and aided the elderly tom up then into the cockpit, Razor leaping up after them, settling into his seat. They were soon airborne and heading back across the city to the bay area where the professor lived.
Feral had been relieved by Hackle’s report and gave the Professor the go ahead for some of the changes the old tom felt needed doing. He sent a large battalion of workers to the site to do the clean up. By the end of the week, the place gleamed like new. Razor and Hackle, with a team of Enforcer security specialists, got the alarms and wires for the upgraded security system the pair had developed installed and working before the following Monday arrived.
Which was a good thing as their out-of-town guests began to arrive. The large, fairly mixed group of scientists were housed in an out of the way but nice hotel that Callie had requisitioned for them. No other guests were allowed but the ones on the Mayor’s list. To put the news hounds off the scent, Callie let it be known that a group of scientists were coming to the city for a symposium on global warming and had actually set up such a conference to cover the sudden influx of so many strangers.
Feral had to task a large contingency of officers to exclusively handle all the background checks necessary for the visitors and local talent. It was a massive undertaking and had to be done and falling behind wasn’t an option as that would snarl the works very quickly.
Barirng a few snags along the way, the first set of visitors were cleared, briefed more in depth on why they were here, what the cover story was when in the hotel, and security do’s and don’ts during their stay.
Within a week, the first group of visitors were herded, under the cover of night and in a darkened van driven by an Enforcer, to the facility where they would live and work for months to come. The old dormitories had been upgraded as well as possible under the circumstances and tight budget, but it was still rough comfort. The scientists were told to pair up then pick a room. That information was to be given to the officer who Feral left in charge of seeing to their guests’ comforts. Lower ranking officers would rotate doing the daily housekeeping and feeding of the guests. This allowed all his enforcers to participate in the saving of their world and not feel left out. Additionally, it would be a constant reminder of how serious this mission was and to keep ranks closed to ensure security was always a priority.
Feral told his troops in recent group meetings they were to consider themselves at war and to behave accordingly. They would continue to do their normal duties but would have additional duties that helped the mission as well, so twelve hour days would be the norm for a long time. Nothing was to be said… ever… about the mission to outsiders and that meant family as well.
The scientists and other specialists could have been a problem, but the ones picked for this effort were dedicated, neither complaining about their housing nor their work environment, but simply getting to work with a will and grim determination. Feral was greatly relieved; that attitude made his duties much easier to bear.
The first duties the scientists had while they waited for more of their colleagues to arrive was to look over their work areas to determine if there were things that needed altering or more equipment that was still needed to accomplish their mission.
Midnight, four days later, an unusual group arrived. Razor had been warned by Feral of their arrival and was on hand when the group’s plane landed. Acting as the go-between for the two different groups of mystics, he introduced Byron and his two assistants to the foreigners.
Keeping the greetings brief, Feral and Razor hurriedly gathered the groups and hustled them into the same dark windowed vans used by the other groups and drove them out of the city to Byron’s compound in the country. For the mystics, the secret facility wasn’t conducive for magical workings, so it had been agreed all work on that subject would be done at Byron’s.
They arrived without a problem. Feral briefed the visitors and reminded Byron’s group of their responsibilities to this mission, the need for good security habits, and that all messages between themselves, Feral, and the scientists at the facility went through Razor, no one else. Satisfied they’d done all they could, Feral and Razor parted ways, returning to their homes.
As they geared up for the long mission ahead, in a room at Megakat General Hospital another drama was reaching an end.
Future Feral had enjoyed sleeping and resting in a comfortable bed for the first time in years, but his time was slowly and painfully running out.
Felina spent a few hours every day and evening by his side, giving him comfort by her presence and taking any information he’d remembered back to her uncle of the present. It hurt her inside to watch this older version fade away in such pain, though he bore it without complaint.
To her surprise and his, the SWAT Kats also dropped in to talk with him. Sometimes, it was Razor asking for more details about the many weapons used in the future, and, other times, it was just to talk with him. Hackle also surprised him by stopping by and asking if he remembered what worked and what didn’t with his robots.
Then present Feral would stop by late at night before going home to bed and grill his future self about the tactics he used, how the war progressed, and his personal point of view on what he would have done differently had he the chance.
It was kinda creepy to be told what you did in the future and then have yourself tell you what to avoid so you wouldn’t repeat those same mistakes. However weird it might seem to him, present Feral took everything his future self said to heart. After all, how often did one get the chance to be told what you were going to do and how to do it differently the second time around?
Just a week before time ran out for future Feral, the present one went by and asked a simple question. “Now that you know you’re dying, is there anything you want to say just to get it off your chest? I’m here to listen.”
Future Feral stared at him in surprise for a moment then gave a sad smile. “Thank you. I appreciate the offer, but I think I’ve said all I needed or wanted to during our many conversations. As long as you heed what I said and don’t make the same mistakes I did, I’ll feel my life had meaning toward the end.”
Present Feral was silent for a few minutes. Then he reached out and grasped his other self’s paw. “You did make a difference, and I won’t let that be forgotten.” Suddenly, a grin lit his face. “Even though it’s myself I’m going to remember, and damned if that don’t sound truly weird.”
His future self managed a small smile of his own. “We always did hate all this weird stuff, but it always seems to dog our tail anyway.”
“Yea, it surely does.” They shared a warm, quiet moment then present Feral said goodnight and left for home.
But, as the month drew to a close and the new one began, future Feral felt his life slip away. As breathing became ever more difficult and the pain was getting past the meds they gave him, he wanted to speak to the ones that mattered most to him one last time. It was a late Thursday afternoon when he asked his doctor to summon the ones he’d named off to him.
An hour later, Ms. Briggs, the SWAT Kats, Felina, and Feral were by his bedside.
“Thank you for coming to see me,” future Feral wheezed. Speaking was a struggle, and he had to halt frequently, his voice barely above a whisper. “I wanted to say something to each of you. I can’t say it to the ones I left behind, so please understand if what I say to you doesn’t make sense; it doesn’t matter as I need to say this anyway.”
“Of course,” Callie said, gently, having great difficulty holding back tears. She never thought she’d be affected this way about someone she usually barely tolerated, but this Feral had given his life for his city and his people, and his sacrifice reached something inside of her.
“Thank you, Callie, for making the loss of Felina so much easier to bear. You were a light in the darkness I needed. Felina, I loved you as if you were my own daughter. I am forever grateful I got this one last time to see you alive and healthy. See that you stay that way.”
“I promise, Uncle,” Felina said, tears falling unashamedly down her face as she held his paw.
“You two…” he looked at the SWAT Kats, “…you may have been a pain in my tail, but you have good hearts and you sacrificed much to save us all. Even now you show what you’re truly made of… not looking for glory nor fame… just heroes doing what’s right and saving lives. See that you stay alive and win this damn war! Don’t let our sacrifices be for nothing!”
“We’ll win, we promise,” T-Bone said for both of them, swallowing down his own emotions at this sad moment, never dreaming he’d feel this badly about someone he used to hate.
“I really don’t have much more to say to you, my past self. We’ve already said all we needed to, so just don’t repeat what I did and that will be good enough for me,” future Feral murmured.
“I will, I promise,” present Feral said, a lump in his throat and a sick feeling in his soul. He hoped when he died this second time, it wouldn’t be slow like this. On the job or in my sleep, please, he thought. This is just too horrible a way to go.
Having said all he needed to, future Feral closed his eyes and relaxed. In his mind he saw a light and the pain pulled away the closer he got to it. A smile lit his tired face as he saw his niece waiting for him and smiling, her arms open to greet him.
In the room, standing around the bed, the group watched as the exhausted and thin tom gave a long, slow sigh then silence. Only moments later, the machines sang out their warnings. The doctor hurried in, Felina moving away so he could check the patient’s vital signs. Only minutes later, he reached out and shut off the noisy machines and said softly, “He’s gone.”
All bowed their heads a moment. Callie gave a soft spoken invocation for the passing of a leader and prayers for his departed soul. Suddenly, a gasp jerked their heads up. The doctor was gaping at the body, which was beginning to fade away until there was no body there. Except for the indentation in the bedding, no one would have thought anyone had been there at all.
“What the hell happened?” the doctor cried.
“I think it’s because he couldn’t be in two places at once. Actually, Commander, you shouldn’t have been feeling so good sharing the same time and space with your identical self, but I think, because he was dying, his ties to this world were very weak and allowed this to happen without detriment to you. Now that his soul has left, the body was drawn back to its own time,” Razor suggested.
Callie could only shake her head.
Feral snorted then sighed, “Guess that’s as good an explanation as any. No way to prove one way or another.”
“Well, at least we didn’t have to figure out how to deal with the body,” Callie sighed.
With that issue dealt with and nothing more to be said, the group broke up and went home. Their focus now on making sure his sacrifice wasn’t in vain.
For the next month, Feral was neck deep in handling the security for the influx of visitors. It was hard keeping such a running stream of outsiders from the press, but they managed it. Because this project would last years, a plan was set up to allow the visitors to go home at regular intervals to deal with family and business needs. This would also serve to deflect any curiosity about the mission.
Professor Hackle split his time between his own labs and the ones at the facility. Feral had a designated driver assigned to the professor to help him make the trips safely and securely.
After all was in place and the project was up and running fully, Feral returned to his normal duties though he was also the sole person the whole mission revolved around to keep things flowing smoothly. To his surprise and relief, Steele actually stepped up to the plate. His former second in command had returned to Megakat City a few months back, much to Feral’s dismay and anger. He thought he’d managed to get rid of him, but the powers above him overruled his order and sent the tom back.
However, it was a different Steele that had returned. He was more focused, much of his whiny, self serving behavior had apparently been beaten right out of him by a much rougher superior. It hadn’t taken the slim tom long to realize how good he actually had it in Megakat City nor how important his position truly was.
So on his return, he quietly began taking most of the scut work from Feral without the Commander actually being aware of it. Normally, this type of work was done by his assistant, Sgt Fallon but, with the advent of the emergency, that worthy was knee deep in mission duties. Seeing this, Steele simply took over the normal day to day duties to free up the Sergeant, not once complaining. What was even better, to Feral’s mind, was the fact that Steele’s management and admin skills had improved.
So, when he was able to focus on the routine things of his office, Feral discovered Steele had been taking care of it and only Feral’s final sign off was necessary. Not only that, but Steele handled any other matters that didn’t concern the mission but the running of the Enforcers as well as any minor complaints from the visitors that didn’t deal with the mission so that Fallon and Feral could could continue to run the mission unencumbered.
He eyed his second with some surprise. “You have no problems doing all this?” he asked, still not certain he wasn’t being played with.
Steele gave him a firm look as he shook his head. “You have far too much to do, Sir, as the single one in charge of saving our world. I consider it an honor to aid you by taking your normal workload off your shoulders. If you would like, I’ll give you a weekly report on what’s going on in-house more often if it’s necessary.”
Feral sat back in his seat and just stared thoughtfully at the blond tom. “Well, that’s an offer I can’t refuse as I know I’ll be swamped fairly quickly if I tried to do both jobs, and, you’re right, I can’t afford to be distracted from the mission. Very well, so ordered.”
Steele saluted and was about to leave when Feral added. “About time, Steele, and thank you.”
His second blushed, murmured a brief, ‘You’re welcome, Sir,’ before hurrying away.
Feral just shook his head. “Will wonders never cease,” he muttered then reached for the latest report from the facility.
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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.