Title: PHOENIX RISES
Disclaimer: “SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron,” its characters and concepts are copyright to Hanna-Barbera Cartoons, Inc and are used without permission.
Disaster! The Pastmaster, Dr. Viper, and Dark Kat had joined forces and had been attacking Megakat City for weeks in a triple prong siege that had laid waste to most of the city. The deadly coalition had whittled away most of the city’s defenses while staying hidden from direct attack. They sent out their armies of dinosaurs, creeplings and plantimals to cause maximum terror and damage.
In the barricaded Enforcer Building, exhausted and dispirited enforcers, Swat Kats and city officials met in hopes of coming up with a plan to defeat these overwhelming odds. Many ideas were presented but were thrown out due to insuffient manpower or equipment or both.
Listening to the gloomy group trying to brainstorm some way to save the city, T-Bone sat next to Razor and felt helpless. He looked around and found Feral staring back at him. He looked away quickly and shuddered. He knew what Feral wanted, but was terrified of making such a decision. He knew in his heart, though, that there was no other choice. He stared at Feral again and remembered that fateful day.
Flashback…One year ago…
“How did Ringtail get his paws on that box again?” Razor snarled angrily as he prepared to try and shoot the jester’s bells off his hat.
“I don’t know, buddy, but we better put him down fast before he can catch us all again. It’s bad enough the creep has already caught Feral,” T-Bone grunted as he dipped the Turbokat into a fast plunge to avoid MadKat’s magic. Razor shot off one of the bells as T-Bone zipped by the criminal’s head. MadKat screamed in anger and succeeded in teleporting T-Bone from the cockpit as it passed close then disappeared. Razor had to snatch at the controls to halt the suddenly pilotless jet from crashing into the nearest building.
Now Madkat had both Feral and T-Bone captured. Angry, scared and upset, Razor veered the jet toward city hall, hoping MadKat would reappear sooner rather than later.
“Think your partner will get us free, SWAT Kat?” Feral growled.
“We’d better hope so or the city will be enslaved by MadKat,” T-Bone huffed worried for his partner’s safety. He looked around, but there was no way to escape this odd box and its window to the outside. Reflected in the glasslike material he caught Feral studying him with a serious and troubled look on his face. He turned to look at the Commander directly.
“Ever heard of the Phoenix Kat, T-Bone?” Feral suddenly asked.
“What does a Phoenix Kat, whatever that is, have to do with our problem? ” T-bone huffed in irritation.
Feral sighed and cocked his head and studied T-Bone intently making the tiger tom eye him warily. There was no other choice; the tom was strong and had a strict moral code. No matter what else Ulysses might feel about the annoying SWAT Kat those qualities were essential to handling a mythical beast of horrific power. Reluctant, but seeing no choice, he told the story of the Phoenix Kat.
Hold it!…You’re telling me that there is some kind of mythical creature that only looks like a Kat because of a magical spell. That this creature must be bound to another who will have the power to release the Phoenix with a spell and keep control over it while it uses its power to destroy? Is that the gist of it?” he asked in obvious disbelief.
Feral nodded his head and continued, “I am that creature! I was born at the beginning of time. This form that I wear is one of two I possess. This one you see before you was placed upon me by a powerful wizard centuries ago to contain me. The wizard made sure that a special spell was placed upon me to prevent me from returning to my natural form and laying waste to this entire planet.”
“So…what do you look like really?” T-Bone was still skeptical.
“I look vaguely like a Kat with fiery wings who lives and breathes energy. My lifespan is very long, and, when I die, I return from the ashes to live again. The wizard who caught me wanted a familiar to use against his enemies. Eventually, his enemies killed him, but without him I was trapped in this form and have wandered the world taking jobs to fit in and moving on when I reach old age. I die then am reborn and appear about 20 years old. This has gone on again and again in a never ending cycle for many centuries,” Feral explained patiently.
“Huh! Come on, Feral! You expect me to believe that bunch of garbage” T-Bone snorted shaking his head.
Feral quietly proved his claim by allowing some of his energy to alter his eyes. They glowed with fire and were slits shaped like a bird of prey.
T-Bone gaped open mouthed for several seconds.
“Woah!. .Uh… Okayyy! So, you want me to be your… uh… controller? Is that what it’s called? Why me?” T-bone asked awed and a little afraid.
“You are strong willed, have a strict moral sense, and are compassionate. You will not allow power to corrupt you. These are the traits necessary to control me in my natural state,” Feral said solemnly.
“I… this is a very big responsibility! I’ll be tied to this creature for my entire life?” T-Bone asked hesitantly.
He nodded gravely. “I do not want to be a slave to anyone, but I’ve watched as the dangers facing Megakat City have increased year by year. Our enemies have started forming coalitions that will soon exceed our abilities to control, contain, or end. I have lived amongst your kind for soo long that I now identify myself with you. I do not wish to see this city and all others outside our limits to suffer such a fate if it is within my power to end it.” He paused and stared sadly into T-Bone’s face. “I will not sugar coat the danger, T-Bone. I am truly dangerous. No enemy that this city has faced can compare to the sheer magnitude of damage and terror I can inflict. I have no desire to be the instrument of Megakat City’s destruction. If you undertake this responsibility, you must never lose control when I am released and be stronger willed than I to return me to this safer form.”
T-Bone felt a chill chase down his spine. If everything Feral was telling him was true, he would control an unimaginable force and it terrified him. He turned away from the Commander trying to decide if he should do this. Abruptly, their predicament changed; the box that had held them prisoners disappeared and they were falling through the air to the ground. It was a short drop, thankfully, and once they got their bearings they could see that Razor had managed to defeat Madkat.
Lenny Ringtail lay unconscious on the pavement in front of city hall. They were surrounded by enforcers. The danger was over. T-Bone was greatly relieved that the strange deal with Feral was delayed for a while but by the look in the Commander’s eyes, not for very long.
Feral took charge of arresting Ringtail and getting cleanups organized. The SWAT Kats took that moment to slip away. T-Bone had some heavy thinking to do and wasn’t sure he should tell his partner about it.
For days Chance stewed about Feral’s revelation and was no closer to an answer. Feral was right though, the bad guys were getting bolder and damage to the city more extensive. Jake had been working tirelessly, developing stronger, deadlier weapons to try and combat the increasing menace, but they were still losing ground. Even so, he didn’t think things were soo bad that Feral’s secret would be needed.
Watching his partner working on a new missile a week later, Chance decided to test the waters. “Hey, Jake, I have something I want to feel you out about.”
Hearing the concern in his partner’s voice, Jake stopped his work. Wiping his hands on a rag from the work bench, he turned and gave Chance his full attention. “I thought you seemed a little preoccupied lately. What’s up Chance?”
“Does it feel like we are losing the battle against these creeps? I mean it seems like every time we defeat and jail one another one is charging in before we make it back to the hangar.” He shook his head frustratingly.
“Yeah, I have to admit it does seem the creeps are stepping up their determination to take over the city.” Jake sighed. “However, it may only seem that way because we haven’t had a break for a while and are just tired. It might not look so bleak if we could take a brief holiday to recharge.”
“Oh yeah, like that’s going to happen anytime soon,” Chance growled.
“Well, what can I say here, buddy. All we can do is keep doing our best.” Jake shrugged
Silence fell for several minutes as Jake studied his troubled partner. They really did need a break and badly. Chance looked up from the floor he’d been staring at and sighed gloomily. “What if there was a power out there that could take care of all the criminals at once but it is even more dangerous than the criminals and could destroy all life as we know it? Would it be right to use it against the creeps who would never survive contact with it?” he asked cautiously.
“Huh?! What kind of power could do that?” Jake blinked in confusion.
“Just hypothetical, buddy. What if there was such a power and we controlled it. Would it be right to unleash such a deadly force to defeat our enemies knowing that this force could do more harm than the bad guys together could?” He knew it was unfair to ask Jake to give him an answer with so little to go on, but he really couldn’t bring himself to tell his partner about Feral.
Jake just stared at his partner, perplexed. ‘What was Chance trying to say? What wasn’t he telling him? He must have a good reason for not explaining better.’ He turned away from Chance and stared hard at the far wall, analyzing the question for the best answer. Finally, he turned back to his friend. “I guess if the situation was so dire that there was no choice, then this deadly force might be our only chance to survive,” Jake said uneasily.
Chance sighed. “Thanks, Jake. It helps a little to hear that.”
“Well, glad I could help. Anything else I can help you with?” he asked in concern.
“No. Thanks. You better get back to work. I think I’ll go up and finish that station wagon’s tuneup. Want Chinese for dinner, I can order when I’m up there?” Chance smiled to try and relieve some of the tension.
“Sure! Sounds good. Just holler when it’s here.” Jake smiled back and returned to his work.
Some days later, a message reached T-Bone. Commander Feral needed to see him. To insure their privacy, he suggested they meet at the south end of Megakat Park, next Saturday afternoon. Nervous but determined, T-Bone sent his acknowledgment. He told his partner he was meeting a friend and might be late getting home.
His mind was in turmoil as he rode the cyclotron toward the park. As he rode up, he spotted Feral standing back in the trees. There was no vehicle in sight and Feral was wearing civilian clothes. Before he could park and turn off the bike, Feral moved toward him and signaled him to stay put. When he reached him, he took the spare helmet and mounted behind the SWAT Kat. Surprised, T-Bone turned to his passenger questioningly.
“Take us out to the desert, T-Bone, southwest section. I’ll tell you where once we get there,” Feral instructed.
Shrugging, T-Bone nodded and turned back around. He took off at a good clip with Feral holding on grimly. It took only thirty minutes for them to reach the outskirts of the desert plains. He slowed the cyclotron to a stop near the beginning of the deep canyons in the desert and waited for further instructions from the Commander.
“Go about three miles north until you come to a deep box canyon,” Feral quietly directed.
Without a word, T-Bone steered the cyclotron in the indicated direction. Another five minutes and they reached the canyon, driving into it where it ended in a high wall. T-Bone stopped and cut the engine. Feral dismounted, placed the helmet on the seat and began walking. T-Bone quickly did the same and followed him. They walked in silence for several minutes until they came to a barely seen cave entrance. Feral continued on into it. The cave was small at the entrance then opened up into a large airy space with a hole in the ceiling that let the sun in. They stopped and looked around. The cave was roughly oval, with sandstone walls, and sandy floor.
“This is a place of sanctuary for me. It’s where I can be alone and commune with the energy flow of the planet without other life forms around me. I thought it would be a suitable place for what we need to discuss and for the ritual to be performed without interruption,” Feral said quietly. He looked at T-Bone questioningly. “Have you decided or do you need to ask me more questions?”
“Yeah! I’ve got questions! Why have you never gotten a controller to release you before now?” T-Bone asked nervously, his stomach was tight with tension.
“Because I could never find someone who had the right traits and there was no serious danger that required my powers to overcome. I don’t really miss being the Phoenix. Being one of a kind and rather frightening in appearance, I would be alone all the time. In this form I’m able to interact with others and enjoy my existence,” Feral explained.
“Okay, that makes sense and understandable. So, I guess all I need to know now is what is involved in binding us together and all the other stuff it takes to handle you.” T-Bone sighed and prepared himself to listen closely.
“Let’s sit. I have much to tell you, and we might as well be comfortable.” Feral followed his own words and seated himself in lotus fashion on the sandy floor. T-Bone hesitated a moment before sinking down and crossing his legs. For the next hour, Feral quietly briefed T-Bone on all aspects of the ritual and the things he could expect to see and experience after the release of the Phoenix. He went on to explain, in detail, how to control the creature and restore its Kat form. T-Bone asked many questions till he was satisfied he understood everything and was comfortable with the knowledge. But, knowing everything didn’t mean he wasn’t still tense and worried.
“I know you are understandably nervous. This is dangerous for both of us. Shall we begin the ritual?” Feral asked seriously as he gracefully got to his feet.
“I guess there is no reason to delay. It won’t get any easier waiting.” T-Bone sighed and stood back up.
“There is one last thing, however, you must stand revealed for who you really are. No deception can be allowed for the ritual to work,” Feral intoned solemnly.
“What!? I can’t do that! It’s not just my secret alone,” T-Bone exclaimed angrily.
“I have known who you really are from the beginning, Chance Furlong. I was the reason the SWAT Kats were created in the first place. I knew Megakat City needed help, but I had to bide my time until a pair of extraordinary fighters appeared. You were the ones. I set up the situation where you were cast out so that you would become more than you were,” Feral stated calmly.
T-Bone gaped at him in anger and shock. “You did that to us deliberately??!!!”
“It was necessary. None of that matters now. Please reveal yourself and prepare for the ritual,” Feral quietly ordered.
“We’ll be talking about this later.” T-Bone fumed but complied by removing his bandanna and gloves.
Feral nodded agreement and reached into his jacket for a rather unusual dagger. It was very old and the hilt was ornate with ancient runes engraved on it. T-Bone held out his paw. Feral took the dagger and sliced a cut into T-Bone’s palm. Then sliced his own palm. Dropping the dagger into his pocket, he clasped his bleeding palm to T-Bone’s. His golden eyes glowed as he stared into T-Bone’s emerald ones. “Repeat after me,” he ordered.
Bound you are to this young soul,
Your heart and fate he will control,
Master and servant this union will be,
Until the Master’s life ends and sets you free.
The chant echoed in his mind, and their joined palms warmed to an intense heat. T-Bone grit his teeth against the burning pain but did not let go. By the time the pain became unbearable, Feral released his paw. T-Bone checked his palm to see if it was alright and was stunned to see the image of the Phoenix burned into it.
“There; it is done. We are now bound together for your lifetime. Now it’s time to release the Phoenix. Are you ready?” Feral asked.
Shaking his palm, he shrugged and looked at Feral again, “Yeah, as ready as I’ll ever be.”
“Then recite the spell of release and set me free.” Feral stepped back and waited impatiently.
Taking a deep breath and settling himself, T-Bone carefully recited:
Born from the flames of one’s desire,
Rise now the Phoenix Kat of sacred fire,
Beauty personified and powers untold,
Return to the world and under my control.
Feral’s body began glowing more intensely and changing rapidly. Moments later, it was over.
The fiery creature stood more than 12 feet tall. Its thick arms were gold colored and scaly; its legs were thick and powerful ending in the sharp talons of a raptor. The wings were a fiery gold and sparks flew from them as the Phoenix moved. Its body was still brown furred but thicker and nude. Its tail was snake like except for the fan of fur at its tip that lashed and threw sparks in its excitement. The head still basically resembled Feral’s except its ears were much larger, its eyes had slit pupils and glowing, and its mouth held much longer fangs with a pair of incisors protruding from the top of its mouth to its bottom jaw. A mane of black hair rose up between its ears and tumbled down its back.
T-Bone could only stare at it in awe and a shiver of fear. The Phoenix Kat raised its head to the ceiling and roared and flapped its enormous wings. T-Bone stumbled back, catching the creature’s attention. It cocked its head and studied him intently. It seemed to be waiting for something. It took him a second to realize it was waiting for his command. Now was not the time for him to lose focus. He needed to stay in command the whole time the Phoenix was there. It was then that he realized the strange sensation of someone else in his mind. It wasn’t uncomfortable, but it just felt odd to realize that he was no longer alone in his head. There were no words, only a feeling of emotions from the Phoenix. Right now, it exuded strong excitement and impatience. Shaking himself, he concentrated on the creature before him, setting all other thoughts aside for later perusal.
“You want to stretch your wings, huh? So, let’s go outside, shall we?” T-Bone said carefully and led the way out of the cave. They were soon standing in the late afternoon sun. The Phoenix was trembling and stamping its feet in excitement. T-Bone pushed at its mind to get its attention and stared into its glowing eyes.
“You may fly and use your powers on the rocks around you, but never leave my sight and return to my call immediately, understand?” he commanded.
The Phoenix stared at him intently and nodded its head. T-Bone stepped back and waved it off to the air. Giving a roar of pleasure, the Phoenix Kat spread its wings and launched itself skyward. T-Bone could feel its joy in his mind as it cavorted wildly in the air. He had to smile because he felt the same way when he flew the Turbokat.
For the next few hours, T-Bone let the Phoenix play. He watched it dive and swoop and chase birds of prey. It played target practice, shooting flames from its claws at mountain peaks, blasting them to powder. That was a powerful reminder of just how dangerous this creature truly was. Night had begun to fall when T-Bone finally called the Phoenix back to him.
He had to concentrate hard because it was resisting. The battle of wills lasted several minutes before T-Bone finally won and watched narrowly as the sulking creature landed before him. It tossed its head defiantly, its body sparking with energy.
“Hey, hey! It’s alright! You are magnificent, especially in the air, and I promise you get to do this many more times, but now you have to sleep again,” T-Bone soothed verbally and mentally. He carefully approached the irritable Phoenix, gently reaching out to caress its chest. The creature purred and lowered its head for a scratch between its ears. “That’s a good boy, easy, just relax,” T-Bone praised it. Quietly, but firmly, he chanted the reversal spell:
Phoenix Kat bound to me,
Hear your master’s firm decree,
Shed your feathers of fiery gold,
Let your spell form now take hold.
He stepped back quickly as the Phoenix’s form shrank and Feral stood before him once more.
“Thank you, T-Bone. That was nicely done for your first time. It will get easier as time goes on.” He smiled at the striped tom easily.
“Yeah… uh.. thanks,” T-Bone muttered uncomfortably. It felt so odd to be on such good terms with Feral. “Uh… you know this feels so weird. How am I supposed to treat you now that we are connected so intimately and you know who we are?” he asked uneasily.
“Nothing will change, T-Bone. This will be our secret. I will continue to behave the same as I always have toward you two. Only the time we spend as Phoenix and controller will we behave differently. My Phoenix persona will rest in the back of your mind, and you shouldn’t be aware of it when I’m in my Kat form.” He eyed T-Bone questioningly at that.
T-Bone stood silently for a moment listening within his mind but could not discern the Phoenix’s emotions except as a vague presence. “You’re right! I don’t really sense it there.”
“Good! Then we will live our lives as we have been, although I will not be making any real effort to try to arrest you since it would be detrimental to both of us. So, I talk the talk but not take any real action. That alright with you?” he asked mildly amused.
“Huh… well that will relieve the stress a little. I’m still a little pissed that you dumped us from the Enforcers. It destroyed our credibility and puts us in a bad light with our family and friends. Besides that, I don’t think I should keep Razor in the dark. We are a team and shouldn’t be keeping secrets from each other,” T-Bone said, concern for his partner and anger at the injustice done them shining from his eyes.
“You are right. I would not want to endanger your partnership’s trust so, yes, tell Razor. As for throwing you out of the Enforcers, I had to think of the greater good you could do the city than your reputations. You two were the only ones who could do this and still keep your integrity. I am sorry for the rest but sometimes we give up much to see to the safety of others. Look at me, I can never let a female share my life because I am not what I seem. I must accept that and enjoy life the best I can. You are heroes and that will be the legacy you leave behind you,” Feral said seriously. “This is all I can offer you. Now is everything settled? Can we return to the city?”
“It still sucks and I’m not sure I can forgive you, but I can understand why you did it. I just hope Razor can accept it too.” Sighing he began walking to the bike, “Yeah, we’d better get going, it’s getting late,” T-Bone agreed. They headed down to the cyclotron, mounted, and zoomed at a good clip for town. Arriving at Megakat Park an hour later, T-Bone drove into the shadows and stopped.
Feral swung off and hooked the helmet back on the bike.
“I’ll contact you when we should go out again. We should do this at least three or four times a month for a little while then back off to once or twice a month as we get comfortable,” Feral instructed.
“Okay, that’ll work, I guess,” T-Bone agreed, nodded and took off for home.
Feral turned and walked to the nearest taxi stand to get a ride home.
On their next meeting, T-Bone was not alone. Razor was still skeptical about what his partner had told him and wanted to witness the real deal. So, when Feral strode out to meet them from the trees, he wasn’t really surprised to see Razor as he nonchalantly mounted the bike and they took off for the desert. The transformation was a shock for Razor as he stared at the beautiful, but dangerous creature. He didn’t dare disturb T-Bone with questions, fully aware of the concentration his buddy needed to control the Phoenix. They both sat on their bikes and watched the Phoenix enjoy its freedom. He watched with interest as, a couple hours later, T-Bone ordered the creature to return and recited the spell to reverse the transformation. Shaking his head in amazement, he prepared to return to the city. He had many questions to ask his partner when they got home.
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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.