It took some effort for T-Bone and Razor to muscle the pod aboard the Turbokat, but they finally managed it without damaging it.
They arrived at Enforcer Headquarters an hour after they’d left the hospital. The tower notified Feral of their arrival, so he was on hand when the jet landed smooth as silk near the hangar doors.
A team of enforcer scientists came hurrying forward as the ramp began to lower, bringing the proper equipment to offload the machine, and, soon, the pod was being rolled carefully into the BioTech Labs.
Dr. Konway, head of the lab, came to see what was up and was shocked to learn a duplicate Feral had arrived in this pod-like device. Curious, he checked on the forensic study every now and then as Razor and Feral’s CSI went over the pod with a fine toothed comb, though they were very careful not to alter anything. No one was sure if the other Feral needed it to return home, so they used x-rays and other non-intrusive methods to determine how it was made and by who if possible.
Razor was grim-faced when the examination was over and the group gathered to discuss their findings in Konway’s conference room. Feral, who had left word to notify him when they were through, arrived to sit in on the briefing. The CSI personnel deferred to Razor to give the report of findings since it turned out he had a lot to do with the thing’s construction.
“This pod was made with parts from the Turbokat. There’s no doubt of that. My signature is all over that thing, but there’s also another’s design abilities blended with mine but for the life of me I can’t determine who assisted me.”
“So, you are fairly certain this is from our future?” Feral asked heavily.
“Oh, yes. I no longer have any doubt of that. Though I can’t give an exact time period, we figured it has to be approximately ten years in the future. We might get a closer idea by asking the doctors treating your future self how old they think he is,” Razor concluded.
Feral sighed and said, “Yeah, good idea. I’ll ask them. I haven’t received word on any improvement in his condition, so I guess there’s nothing else we can do right now. I’ll call you when I hear anything from the hospital.”
“Roger. We’ll head home then,” T-Bone concurred, turning to leave.
Razor followed, albeit reluctantly. He was itching to take the thing apart but knew he couldn’t and the identity of the other designer was driving him batty.
His mind was filled with possible scenarios as to why he would build such a thing and none of them were very nice. He shoved those thoughts aside as he hurried after his partner.
Feral stared at the pod, his mind picturing himself sitting in that tight space, knowing he could die making the attempt but determined to take the risk anyway. That more than anything told him just how important this mission was. It had to be on a scale of ‘the end of life as we know it’ kind of urgency for him to, even remotely, be willing to do something so insane.
He shuddered as his feeling of unease increased. ‘Kat’s Alive! I hope he wakes soon,’ he thought worriedly as he left for his office.
In the intensive care ward at Megakat Medical Center, the future Feral still lay unconscious. His mind, however, drifted fitfully, bursts of images would pull at him, forcing him to live again, just for an instant, the horrors of the past few years. He fervently wished he could change the channel as too many of the images were very painful, and he had no desire to live them again. But, it was as if his mind was stuck in a rut.
He watched helplessly as his niece died in his arms yet again, the invasion that whittled the world’s population over a period of years until there were only pockets of survivors left and, of those, too many sick of diseases or injuries they had no medical supplies or hospitals to aid them except to watch helplessly as they died in droves.
In his mind he whimpered and writhed, but outwardly his body lay still as death. He sobbed again at all his losses, the compromises he had to make with their enemies to survive the onslaught, and still they were losing. That final knowledge helped him break free of his tormenting dreams and wake up.
He blinked rapidly to clear his eyes of gunk then stared around him. His nose told him where he was, and he sighed in relief. It was a hospital, which meant he had made it to the past. Now he needed to tell his past self what was going to happen. Before he could make the effort to reach for the call button, a nurse bustled in quickly.
“Hello, sir. Here let me help you sit up a bit and get you some water,” he said gently as he raised the head of the bed a little then turned to pour some water into a cup with a straw and offered it.
Feral sucked the cool liquid down greedily. Gods, fresh, clean water! How heavenly it tasted. It had been so long since he’d had anything like this.
“Easy! Don’t want you to throw it back up… that’s it. You rest a moment and catch your breath while I notify people you are awake,” the nurse said briskly.
Feral just nodded. He wasn’t surprised at that so relaxed and looked around. It felt so good to lay in a clean, soft bed and be cared for. He usually hated hospitals but after being so deprived of every normal thing they had taken for granted in life, he no longer chaffed at being in a hospital bed. Felina would have been shocked by his attitude.
Tears sprang to his eyes at the memory of his niece. He swallowed quickly, not wanting to give in to the still painful memory of her loss. He took deep, even breathes to calm himself as he’d been taught by Callie. His grief had been so overwhelming he’d hidden himself away long enough for the others to notice. She finally decided someone should help him.
“Commander?… Ulysses?” she called softly, stepping into his tight little cubicle he called his own.
He was faced toward the wall on a cot, covered with a thin blanket and never responded. Callie sighed to herself and moved to sit on an overturned wooden crate that acted as a seat. She gently reached out and caressed the dark tom’s face soothingly, doing nothing else and keeping silent. She looked around the small area and saw the signs of someone who liked their things tidy and neat.
Against the wall was a stack of boxes on their sides. These were being used to hold personal care items, clothes, a few dishes, and books. There were also a small stack of sealed boxes of his more personal items he’d brought when he evacuated his apartment. She returned her eyes to the grief-stricken tom and continued to give what comfort she could.
It took a long while before Feral finally responded by moaning, then turning his head enough to see her. Red-rimmed eyes glimmered in the dim light from the constant running lamps that ran along the ceiling outside his cubby.
“I’m so sorry, Ulysses. I know nothing I can say will ease the pain of loss for you. However, when you’re willing, I’ll teach you some deep breathing exercises that will help center you and let you go past the grief to function as you need to. That is what she would want you to do,” Callie said gently.
He couldn’t speak for a long moment but then he swallowed and said hoarsely, “Thank you.”
They sat there in the near dark for some time after that. She kept her word, and, after a few lessons, he found he could think clearer. He’d been grateful to her for that act of kindness.
His brief trip down memory lane was interrupted by the arrival of a group of people he was glad to see.
When the hospital had called him, his heart leaped with fear and hope. He quickly had Sgt. Fallon summon the SWAT Kats, then, with Felina along, they hurried to his car and raced to the hospital. The SWAT Kats had gotten there nearly at the same time and met them outside the future Feral’s room.
The doctor halted them before they could enter.
“I know what my patient has to say is extremely important, but I just wanted to warn you – his condition is very poor. I may have been too optimistic about the amount of time he has left,” he said heavily. “According to his tests this morning, he may have less than a month left.”
Everyone gave a collective sigh of dismay.
“Thank you, doctor. Have you told him yet?” Feral asked quietly.
The doctor shook his head. “I haven’t even seen him awake yet. I can tell him or you can.”
“I’ll tell him, but I suspect he already knows it,” Feral said heavily.
The doctor nodded in understanding and left them.
Taking a deep breath to steady himself, Feral opened the door and they all trooped in. Future Feral had been raised up so he saw them enter. A look of relief crossed his tired face.
“So glad you all managed to be here at the same time. I…” he began to speak, his voice low and hoarse, but he stopped and stared when he saw Felina. “Oh god! Felina!” he cried brokenly, his arms reaching out for her desperately.
Felina was stunned by the mixed look of grief and relief written on this Feral’s face. She felt her heart tighten as she realized something bad must have happened to her future self for her uncle to show such intense emotion in front of others.
Not able to bear seeing such need on his face, she moved close and gave the sick tom a tight comforting hug. It was a very long moment before he could let her go.
The rest stood restless and uneasy at this unusual display. It only made them more concerned about what was waiting for them in the future. Feral’s heart clenched painfully as he suspected he’d lost his niece in the future.
Finally letting go, Feral sighed and stared up at his beloved niece. “If nothing else, this trip allowed me to see you once more. I’m sorry if I upset you, but your loss was the final straw for me and more than I could bear,” he told her softly, still holding her paw in his.
Felina tightened her grip a moment as this tom confirmed her worst fears.
“So, things are that bad, huh? That sucks. We’re all ears to hear what it is you have to tell us and how we can stop it,” T-Bone spoke up, upset to learn his favorite fem was doomed in the future and wanting to prevent it.
“Yes,” the future Feral said bitterly. “I only hope the information I’ve brought you will be enough to help you find a way to save us all or I’ll die just ahead of the rest of you.”
A cold chill settled over all of them at that pronouncement.
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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.