Title: Technical Difficulties: Part 1
Author: Kristen Sharpe
Date Started: August 15,1997
Date Finished: March 13, 1998
“No, look – it’s GONE!”
High, near hysteria, the voice echoed down the darkened hallway and to the curious ears of one eavesdropper. Smirking at his handiwork, the eavesdropper slunk away from the pool of light streaming from the doorway where the voice was emanating.
“Are you sure? It was deactivated! It can’t have gone anywhere by itself!” a second, more restrained voice soothed. Yet, even the soothing tone was unable to hide an uncontrollable nervous edge that tinged it with urgency.
“I’m positive!” the first voice yelped, before dropping to an urgent stage whisper. “I was examining it in the lab. I left it in the examining tray inside the KAT Scan!”
“Look, check back in the other lab. Maybe you just forgot where you left it.”
Footsteps echoed down the empty, sterile corridor as the voices erupted into the hallway. The dark figure ducked into the shadows, hearing the voices grow closer and then dim as light poured into the hallway from another open door.
“It’s not here! I told you!!”
“You’ll have to tell…. ….find it,” the calmer voice whispered insistently, becoming so low it was difficult to hear at points.
“NO!” The voice dropped back to a whisper quickly. “You still don’t realize what this thing is! I had to fill out mounds of paper work. I waited over two years for a response! They’re paranoid about this thing! It—”
“What were you studying?!”
“A top secret prototype artificial intelligence device developed a little over twenty years ago.”
“They had that then and we don’t now?!”
“AI was abandoned after the experiment. I don’t know a lot of the story, just pieces. It— it’s classified. Some college student hacked into the computer system, got the plans, and then he— he built a copy of the prototype! Don’t ask…”
The voices faded as the speaker’s voice dropped to a true whisper. Carefully, the listener slunk closer to the open door, curious, as it strained to hear the two lab coat-clad figures.
“… kid must’ve been a genius…. …set the prototype loose… It got so bad the government stepped in to contain the situation. The FBI caught the kid. Nobody knows what happened to him. They classified the file and destroyed everything involved. Except the original prototype. I don’t think the government even knows that it still exists.”
Abruptly, the speaker broke down.
“I pulled so many strings to even get permission to look at it!! When they hear I lost it! I might as well tell them I lost a culture of the bubonic plague!”
Hearing enough, the silent audience of one slunk away as the young scientist blubbered on.
“Hey, calm down. Look, I’ve gotta friend…. They’ll never know… When they do realize…” the second voice soothed as the eavesdropper glided down the corridor, a part of the shadows he resembled.
The eavesdropping figure rounded a corner and crept down the next corridor. He was almost home free, just a little farther away from the voices.
Abruptly, light flashed over his shoulder. Without a backward glance, the intruder broke into a run, racing to the end of the hall where it opened on the elevators as a shout rang out.
“Hey! Who’s there?!”
The guard increased his pace as he charged down the hallway. Entering the lobby with the elevators, he found no one. The elevators were shut down for the night. There was no other exit. The guard reached up to scratch his head, eyeing the scene suspiciously. Finally, he wandered back down the hallway.
“I gotta get some more coffee,” he muttered.
“You sure you can do it, Jake?” Chance Furlong called up to his friend, Jake Clawson, shuffling his huge feet for a better stance on the small seat area of the chair he was perched atop.
Jake was balancing himself precariously on Chance’s broad shoulders, holding a long fluorescent tube in one hand as he tried to remove the burnt-out tube from the light fixture just above his head. His hands were gloved against the open connection of the still-lit fixture, the thick rubber making them awkward as he tried to gain a grip on the slick, rounded surface of the fluorescent tube. Making Jake’s precarious position all the more unstable was the fact that Chance’s rickety chair was situated atop their jet, the TurboKat, just behind the canopy.
“Okay, stretch time again,” Jake announced, standing on his toes and stretching as he tried to snap the replacement tube into the light fixture.
“Maybe we should’ve gotten a ladder,” Chance commented, glancing down at his chair’s legs, wobbling unsteadily on the uneven metal, and trying to steady both the chair and Jake.
“If somebody hadn’t run over it with the tow truck, that would have been the way to go,” Jake returned, a slight growl rumbling his normal tenor. “Besides, Chance, any idiot can change a light,” he added confidently, glancing down at his friend.
“Yeah, in a normal room, not a thirty foot high hangar,” Chance replied, steadying himself again as Jake’s weight shifted.
He needn’t have worried; Jake’s balance was amazing, more so than that of most kats.
“There,” Jake announced, finally snapping the tube in one-handed as he held the burnt-out tube in his other. Casually, he tossed the old tube up into the air and leapt after it, somersaulting before landing on the floor of their underground hangar.
Chance yelped as he lost his footing on the chair from the force of Jake’s thrust, quickly jumping down before he could fall. Scowling, he glared at Jake past one of the TurboKat’s stabilizers.
Jake landed nimbly and stuck a hand out to catch the falling tube. Smirking, he twirled it deftly just in front of Chance’s nose as his friend jumped down from the jet to join him.
“Show off,” Chance muttered sourly, glaring at his friend.
“Now, it’ll work,” Jake announced, still smirking as he jogged across the huge room and flipped the light switch by the ladder that led to the garage above.
There was an electrical crackle accompanied by a shower of sparks from the light fixture With a final flicker, the rows of lights illuminating the hangar died and darkness descended on the twosome.
“Well, congratulations,” came Chance’s voice through the black nothingness.
“On what? Blowing a fuse?”
“No, on not being just any idiot.”
“Very funny,” said Jake, glad he couldn’t see Chance’s smirk as he started to walk forward in search of a flashlight. Even a kat’s eyes couldn’t see in this kind of darkness. “Don’ worry, I’ll fix it.” No sooner had he finished the sentence than a rumble began, emanating from the huge level still farther beneath them and vibrating the floor beneath their feet. “That’s the backup generator,” Jake muttered in confusion. “That shouldn’t start just because I blew a fuse.”
“Yeah, you musta shorted out the transformer,” Chance growled.
“That’s impossible,” Jake shot back. “Lemme get the flashlight and we’ll check the fuse box.” The room was suddenly filled with thumps and bumps, including Jake’s loud yelp. The sounds of a news report abruptly blared through the hangar, echoing in the vast space. “Well, I found my work table,” Jake grumbled, reaching down to rub his throbbing shin.
“This is Ann Gora for Kat’s Eye News. MegaKat City has had a massive power failure,” the familiar newswoman’s voice echoed through the hangar.
“Oh, great, Jake. You blacked out the whole city,” Chance muttered dryly.
“Shhh,” returned Jake, trying to hear the rest of the report.
“….having to broadcast this using a private backup generator,” Ann continued. “We will keep you informed as more develops and as the cause of this blackout is discovered.”
“Here, I found a flashlight,” Chance announced as the report finished and a beam of light suddenly knifed through the darkness. It illuminated Jake’s face, his yellow- orange eyes, fully dilated in the darkness, squinting at the sudden light and narrowing to vertical slits.
“Wonder what caused the blackout,” Jake muttered, turning his face away from the light. Keeping his back to the blinding brightness, he used the light to find the “off” switch and silence the radio.
“Got me,” returned Chance. He turned to flash the light across the nose of the black fighter jet sitting across the room. The light glinted from its sleek metal surface. Chance smiled with pride. “Y’know the TurboKat looks better’n ever with the new armor,” he commented.
“Yeah,” Jake agreed, letting himself feel a touch of pride as well as he looked at the magnificent jet. “Let’s hope that new agrecite alloy is as good as it’s supposed to be.”
“Wanna test it out?” Chance asked suddenly, turning back to Jake and once more hitting his friend dead center in the eyes with the flashlight’s beam.
“Sure, guess the SWAT Kats better make sure MegaKat City stays quiet in the dark, dark night,” Jake replied, blinking. “Lemme fix that fuse and we’re outta here.”
Chance turned to lead the way to the fuse box. He could hear a quiet mutter behind his back as Jake followed.
“If only his aim was as good when he uses the targeting scope.”
Some minutes later, the TurboKat roared from of its underground hangar and, free, hurtled into the night sky.
“Y’know, the hangar’s backup generator could be put to use powerin’ the TV, Razor,” said Chance, reverting to his partner’s alias as he shot a glance back at Jake from the pilot’s seat. “When the fuses aren’t blown,” he added with a toothy smirk.
“Hangar use only, T-Bone,” returned Razor, also switching to Chance’s alias as he effortlessly slipped into the familiar guise of his SWAT Kat alter-ego. He pointedly ignored T-Bone’s second comment.
“Yeah, well, I guess I’m ready for some fun with the ol’ TurboKat,” returned T- Bone, tightening his grip on the stick situated between his legs with his left hand as his right reached for the throttle. He slowly slid the throttle forward, the widening afterburners’ roar music to his pilot’s ears. “That armor isn’t even slowin’ ‘er down,” he purred.
“It only weighs a fraction more than your regular aerospace alloy, remember?” Razor clarified, a smug smile tugging up the corners of his mouth. “How else d’ya’ think I could’ve talked you into it?”
“Let’s see how it holds up under pressure,” T-Bone shot back. “Hang onto yer stomach!” he warned, pulling the stick towards him. The TurboKat shot straight up into the clear, star-flecked sky. Then, screaming, “ROCK AND ROLL!” T-Bone sent the jet into a barrel roll and let it plunge downward to roar over MegaKat Bay.
“Well, that should take care of my work here,” the shadowy figure announced as he strode through the darkened hallway. He glanced at the dim outline of a white sign on the wall, reading “Main Generator – Left,” the blacks words just barely distinguishable. Smirking, the kat pointed a finger at the sign, a stream of blue light shooting from his fingertip. As the light vanished with a flicker of sparks, the kat muttered to the charred sign. “MegaKat City Light and Power won’t be generating anything for a while,” he chuckled. “Even the backup generators won’t cut on – MegaKat City is virtually helpless for the rest of the night. Oh, you do your work well, Hard Drive,” the tan kat complimented himself with an evil chuckle as he leapt over two uniformed figures slumped in the hallway, breathing faintly. “Enjoy your naps while they last, boys,” Hard Drive called gaily back to the unconscious security guards.
Hard Drive’s smirking face sobered for a moment as he searched the walls of the hallway. His eyes lit on an electrical outlet. “Now, for a timely exit,” he pronounced as the bulky suit he was wearing flared to life with an electric blue glow.
Without warning, the suit’s glow intensified to a cool blue flame.
Gasping in surprise, Hard Drive found himself engulfed in the electric blaze. “What’s going on?!!” he snarled, desperately fidgeting with a small control panel on the front of the suit. “My surge coat’s malfunctioning!”
“Wha—!” T-Bone yelped, watching as his navigational instruments went wild, splashing red-orange light over the control panel and the pale yellow fur of his face before suddenly stilling. T-Bone stared in confusion at his controls. “Razor, all my compasses just freaked out!” he called back to his partner.
“Lemme see.” Razor leaned forward into his harness to study his instruments. “Hmm, look’s like we just passed through some kinda freaky electromagnetic disturbance.” Another “hmm” escaped his lips as he punched commands into the onboard computer, bringing up his dimensional radar display. “We just passed over MegaKat City Light and Power,” he mumbled half to himself, putting a finger to the skeletal image of the power plant projected on his screen. He looked out at the city below. “The power hasn’t come back on yet either,” the slim kat added, thinking that he and his partner should have been paying more attention as they had their fun.
“Sounds like we’d better head down there and have a look, partner,” T-Bone announced as he turned the jet sharply and headed for the power plant.
“Finally, I’ve got that malfunction under control,” muttered Hard Drive, scowling at the annoyance as he stalked out of the power plant’s main door into bright moonlight. “I’ll make my exit out here,” he grumbled. “Maybe their equipment somehow….”
No sooner had he left the sheltering darkness of the doorway than an all-too-familiar sound reached his ears, making him cut off his half-thought mumbles abruptly. His head jerked skyward in time to see the TurboKat fly over the building. Growling a curse under his breathe, Hard Drive ducked back into the doorway and watched the great black jet land in the deserted parking lot in front of the main building, using its VTOL engines to land vertically.
The TurboKat’s canopy slid open and the two SWAT Kats leapt out.
“See anything, Razor?” asked T-Bone as he checked his glovatrix, eyes scanning the building’s facade.
“Negative, T-Bone,” Razor returned, cautiously starting across the parking lot toward the building, “but we’d better keep our eyes open. Somethin’ weird’s goin’ on around here,” he added, ears pricked and flicking this way and that, searching for any sound.
“If I could just get to the power lines,” Hard Drive muttered, watching the SWAT Kats head for the side door to his left.
Seeing their attention focused on opening the door, he began to creep out of the doorway, away from the two crimefighters and toward the two huge pylons to his right.
“It’s just a normal electronic lock. No prob,” Razor muttered as he started to slide his glovatrix’s lock-picking tool into the side door’s lock mechanism.
He stopped, catching the faintest movement out of the corner of his eye. He whirled to the right.
“Over there!” the slim SWAT Kat shouted, pointing with his right hand as he simultaneously let fly a mini-octopus missile from his glovatrix.
Hearing Razor’s shout, Hard Drive broke into a run. He didn’t get far. The octopus missile’s pudgy torpedo-shaped form split, opening into metal arms. The six powerful pincers slammed into Hard Drive’s back and propelled him face down on the pavement.
Hard Drive was groaning and slowly pushing himself up as T-Bone and Razor reached him. His movement made the mini-octopus missile slid off his back and clatter to the pavement. Hard Drive glanced at it and growled; he could feel throbbing pains where the pincers had connected. The tan-furred kat suddenly froze as a great, clawed foot filled his view. Looking up, he met T-Bone’s smirk.
“Whadya know – Hard Drive,” the big SWAT Kat commented off-handedly, reaching down.
Before Hard Drive could react, he was snatched up by the back of his coat in the firm grasp of a brawny tiger-striped arm. He struggled briefly as he was jerked to his feet and his right arm was none too gently twisted around behind his back.
“Looks like we found the cause of the blackout,” T-Bone announced as Razor joined him. He looked back at his captive. “Nothin’ sneaks past Razor here,” he told Hard Drive, pointing a thumb at his partner. His grin spread across his wide, round face as he continued. “He’s not just any idiot.”
Razor rolled his eyes, noting that Hard Drive wasn’t amused either.
“You SWAT Kats and your stupid jokes,” the lanky techno-crook growled, “I should—” His snarl suddenly changing to a gasp as his suit sparked into an brilliant, electric glow. “WHAT! Again?!” he gasped.
“T-Bone, you’d better—!” Razor started, but was abruptly cut off as, with a joint gasp of surprise, T-Bone and Hard Drive metamorphosized into a streak of light that arced across the parking lot and into the TurboKat.
“T-Bone!” Razor gasped in shock.
No sooner had his shout died away than a streak of light shot from the TurboKat. Touching the ground, the mass of cool flame coalesced into a kat-like shape. Hard Drive appeared out of the glow, standing somewhat unsteadily.
“Where’s T-Bone?” Razor demanded, moving toward the dazed kat.
Hard Drive glanced toward him, his face contorted in confused shock. As he registered the significance of the last few second’s events, a slow smile spread replaced his shocked expression. Straightening up, he sneered at Razor as his surge coat again sparked to life.
Seeing the surge coat’s glow, Razor assessed the situation in seconds and dove for Hard Drive. He was inches from the lanky kat when a well-aimed blast of electricity flung him back on his tail.
“Sorry, SWAT Kat, but I have to go now,” Hard Drive smirked, sneering down at Razor before vanishing in a blast of electricity that disappeared into the power lines. “Adios, Sucker.”
His staticky parting words hung in the air as Razor stared after him in shock. Stunned, he stumbled to his feet and turned to the TurboKat.
“T-Bone,” he called anxiously, hopelessly. He could feel a cold knot forming deep within. Whispering a silent prayer, he broke into a run toward the TurboKat.
“Razor!” T-Bone’s voice rang across the silence.
“T-Bone?!” Razor paused by the TurboKat’s wing. The voice sounded like it had come from inside the cockpit. “Oh, no!” Razor gasped, leaping to the wing and punching a button on the top of his glovatrix to open the canopy.
“What in the—?! Razor?!” came T-Bone again, shocked. “Razor, what’s goin’ on?! Where are ya’, buddy?!”
T-Bone had seen his friend perfectly, his features clear and instantly recognizable. But Razor had been a three-dimensional green outline, running towards him through a schematic world of green lines and black background, his voice strange as he called out to T-Bone. Now, Razor had disappeared from view. T-Bone desperately tried to relocate his friend, tried to locate himself. The world had suddenly been reduced to nothing more than a green and black schematic.
Not replying to T-Bone’s calls, Razor dove into the cockpit as soon as he could fit under the still-raising canopy and clambered into the pilot’s seat. He looked at the screen in front of him. His suspicions were confirmed; a schematic outline of T-Bone’s face glowed from the dimensional radar’s screen.
“T-Bone! You’re inside the TurboKat’s computer!” Razor gasped.
“What?!” T-Bone yelped, staring unseeingly at Razor from the screen, his simplified features not hiding his shock. “Inside the computer?! Then, what am I seeing?!” he stammered.
“You’re using the dimensional radar - and the radio -I think,” Razor replied, the shock on his face replaced by worry and his habitual thoughtful look.
“Then, how—?!” T-Bone started. “What?!” he suddenly muttered, interrupting himself. “Chopper,” he murmured.
“What is it, buddy?” Razor asked.
“I’m pickin’ up an Enforcer chopper headin’ this way.” T-Bone grinned, his head on the screen cocking like he was listening to something. “Feral’s in it too; I can hear ‘im chewin’ somebody out on the radio.”
“You’re using all the TurboKat’s equipment!” exclaimed Razor, his thoughtful look deepening.
“Great, I have super powers,” T-Bone returned sarcastically. “Big whoop when yer stuck in a computer. Now, let’s fire up the engines and get outta here before I get ta’ find out what Feral does with ‘hotshot vigilante’ jets.”
Before Razor could move, the engines came to life with a roar of sound, powerful VTOL engines thrusting the TurboKat into the air.
“Ah, T-Bone, please tell me you did that,” Razor muttered, scanning the instruments before him quickly.
“Yeah. Guess I’ll be gettin’ us home,” T-Bone returned, his worried expression replaced by his usual, smirking grin.
“Hope you can handle flyin’ like this, bud,” Razor commented as he strapped in.
“No problem… if you’ll take yer hands off the stick.”
“Oh, sorry,” replied Razor, releasing the stick which he had been holding instinctively. It immediately moved a bit, settling into the position T-Bone wanted it at.
” Uh, oh, Feral wants ta’ chit chat,” T-Bone muttered suddenly.
No sooner had he said it than the thundering growl of Enforcer Commander Ulysses Feral rumbled over the radio.
“Hold it right there, SWAT Kats. I’ve caught you two destructive vigilantes in the act. You’re not getting off this time,” he growled.
“Y’know, I’m startin’ to think Feral has some kinda radar so he can find us whenever we look the most guilty,” Razor commented.
“Yeah, and it works overtime,” T-Bone returned before snapping back to the Enforcer Commander, “Yeah, Feral, you caught us in the act of leavin’.”
With his words the TurboKat’s throttle slid forward and the jet streaked away into the night sky, Feral’s threats vibrating the radio speakers long after the TurboKat’s glowing afterburners had ceased to be even dots on the distant horizon.
“Well, Chance, I have no idea how to get you outta there without Hard Drive’s surge coat,” said Razor, somewhat despondently as he pulled off his helmet and mask, balling the mask up and stuffing it in the helmet before tossing both into his locker. He turned back to face the TurboKat sitting across the hangar on its launch platform. “As best I can tell, you’ve been turned into some kinda electrical impulse that’s fused with the TurboKat’s computer. I don’t guess that’s really dangerous or anything. Hard Drive does it all the time to pull off his techno thefts. The only problem is: Hard Drive doesn’t stay in the computer for extended periods of time,” Razor stopped, letting his thoughts trail off, and concentrated on unzipping his flight suit.
“Razor, what?” T-Bone demanded, recognizing Razor’s reluctance to tell him the rest of his thought.
“Well, if you stay in there too long, you could fuse with the TurboKat itself or…. you might just fade away as your electrical energy disperses.”
“So we gotta wait ’til Hard Drive makes his next move to get him and the surge coat,” said T-Bone, his deep sigh the only indication that he’d acknowledged Razor’s last comment.
“Yeah, I gotta hunch he was up to more than just making life miserable with that blackout,” returned Razor, now Jake once more, back in his mechanics coveralls. “Well, I’m headin’ for bed.”
“Hey, whada I do? I don’t suppose computers get to sleep, do they?” asked T- Bone.
“Actually, you should be able to shut down for the night,” Jake replied.
“Or I could stay up and intercept some “Scaredy Kat” reruns. Computers don’t need sleep.”
Jake knew without seeing it that T-Bone’s face was alight with one of his wide, fang-filled grins. “The computer doesn’t, you do,” he returned sternly. “You may not ‘get tired’ while you’re an electric impulse, but you need rest mentally. If I catch you up all night, I’ll unhook some systems and make sure you sleep. Ya’ got that, bud?”
“Yes, Mommy,” T-Bone snickered in reply.
Jake rolled his eyes and turned away to climb the ladder into the garage above. “You gonna be okay down here?”
“Sure. Somehow I don’t think I could get the TurboKat in my bed,” returned T- Bone.
“Hey, there’s a good side,” Jake called back, stopping poised on the ladder. “I don’t have to listen to yer snoring from the other side of the room for one night,” he said with a mischievous smile, scrambling up the ladder as a net from the TurboKat flew past him. “Even with all my targeting systems your aim’s still lousy!” he yelled incredulously through his laughter, his voice echoing down into the hangar from his safe vantage point.
“Ha, ha,” T-Bone snapped dryly.
Hearing Jake’s footsteps fade away, he shut down the system, letting himself slip into a kind of half-sleep. He was hyper-aware of everything around him: the faintest of noises from equipment in the hangar, sounds from the world above, radio signals that the emergency ban constantly monitored, everything. Still, it was like he perceived it all on one level and was aware of nothing beyond his own dreams, grateful signs that his mind was still functioning like any normal kat’s, on the other. It was strange and different, a feeling he couldn’t even conceive of living with for the rest of his life – short as that might be.
“Commander, you’re just grabbing at straws!” announced Deputy Mayor Callie Briggs, almost standing on tip-toes in her high heels to see over Commander Feral’s huge desk.
“With all due respect, Deputy Mayor, your SWAT Kats were at the power plant twenty minutes after the blackout started – I saw them leaving myself. They are my most likely, most obvious suspects!” Commander Feral snapped back.
“So, they sabotaged the power and then hung around for twenty minutes for your Enforcer choppers to spot them so everyone would know they were responsible?”
“Some criminals enjoy taking credit for their crimes,” returned Feral, glaring at the blond she-kat over his desk.
“Commander, if the SWAT Kats wanted to be destructive and cause the city a major power shortage, they could just bomb the power plant!”
Callie was exhausted and slightly frazzled. The power outage had occurred just as she was finishing Mayor Manx’s latest speech, due early that morning. She’d failed to save the file on her computer prior to the outage, and, as a result, she’d lost her entire night’s work. It had taken until 3 am that morning to rewrite the speech on the ancient manual typewriter she’d somehow inherited; so much for the wonders of modern technology. Now, she’d come to handle some routine paperwork at Enforcer Headquarters, after only three and a half hours of sleep, only to hear rumors that Commander Feral, for the millionth time, had an APB out on the SWAT Kats, blaming them for last night’s power outage. Callie adjusted her glasses and brushed a strand of damp golden hair from her face before glaring up at Feral again.
‘This day is getting off to a miserable start,’ she thought.
“My mind is made up, Deputy Mayor – those SWAT Kats are to be brought in for questioning and held if they are sighted within MegaKat City,” Feral snapped, dropping his head back to his work, a sign that the ‘interview’ was over.
“Easier said than done,” Callie snapped under breathe before turning and stalking from the Commander’s office.
Stepping out of Feral’s office, she walked down the hall to the elevators and stepped into the first one that arrived; it was empty. As the door closed, Callie reached into her purse and pulled out her triangular communicator.
The young Enforcer at the main desk in the lobby many floors below looked up from his computer terminal and scanned the room. It was empty. Smiling, he produced a comic book from under the computer’s keyboard and dove into it.
No sooner had he found the page he’d been on earlier than the lights flickered abruptly. The rookie raised his head as he felt a crackling electric charge fill the room, his fur standing on end. He watched as a bolt of electricity exploded from an empty socket across the room in a blinding flash of blue-white light. Blinking, he stared blurry-eyed as the electric mass coalesced into a feline shape. Seconds later, Hard Drive stood in the center of the lobby, showering sparks from his still-glowing surge coat.
He smiled coolly at the young Enforcer and casually flipped a hand at the sliding electronic doors that opened off the street into the lobby, shooting a stream of electricity from his fingertips. The doors sparked and the motion sensor above the door exploded.
Hard Drive turned to face the speechless Enforcer.
“Lights out,” he announced, raising a glowing hand.
In the SWAT Kats’ hangar, the alarm was steadily emitting its ear-piercing wail. Wincing, T-Bone unconsciously shut off the TurboKat’s highly-sensitive radio systems. Because of the extreme volume at which he now perceived the sound he didn’t realize that the wail was merely the alarm. Though no longer an audible noise, T-Bone found himself still quite aware of the radio transmission screaming for attention. It was then that it hit him.
“That’s Callie on the distress ban,” he thought, starting to answer the transmission.
Razor’s voice over the radio stopped him.
“Yes, Miss Briggs?” asked Razor as he pressed the intercom button beside the alarm, silencing the piercing scream.
T-Bone cut the radio systems back on and scanned the transmission from Callie, letting the TurboKat’s systems give him her location as he heard her reply to Razor.
“It’s Feral, Razor,” Callie said with a sigh. “Last night he saw you two leaving the power plant after the blackout, and you know Feral. He thinks you’re either high-tech vandals or scheming some kind of plan.”
There was a ding as the elevator decelerated. Callie glanced up to see a dimly lit ‘G’ above the doors.
“Oops, gotta go,” she whispered into the communicator as the doors slid open. Callie lowered her communicator and dropped the hand that held it down toward her purse before looking up to step out the opening doors. She gasped.
Razor caught the sound only faintly as her mouth wasn’t near the speaker.
“Miss Briggs?” he called, a hint of worry creeping into his voice.
There was no response.
Hard Drive stood framed in the doorway of the elevator.
“Why, hello, Deputy Mayor,” he purred, putting a hand out to keep the doors from closing.
“Hard Drive!” Callie gasped loudly, pressing the red distress button in the center of her communicator as she let it fall discreetly into her purse.
“Yes, indeed. Now, how about coming along quickly and quietly?” Hard Drive cooed as an electric light ran along his right sleeve to form a sparking glow at his fingertips.
Squaring her shoulders, Callie stepped out of the elevator as the doors slid closed behind her.
“Hard Drive!” Razor and T-Bone echoed Callie with one voice as the smaller SWAT Kat slammed his fist onto the button beside the intercom to silence the once more screaming alarm and dashed for the TurboKat.
“We’ll be right there, Miss Briggs – just hang on,” Razor added under his breath as he vaulted onto the TurboKat’s wing.
“She’s in Enforcer Headquarters,” T-Bone informed him, his face appearing on the screen in front of Razor as his partner slid into his usual seat at the rear of the cockpit. Though it would look strange to any who happened to see him flying in an apparently pilotless jet, he preferred the familiarity of his own instruments. As Razor strapped in, the TurboKat’s platform lowered to take-off level.
“Let’s rock n’ roll!” announced T-Bone as the engines fired and the jet shot off down the tunnel to the surface, rocketing into the sky in seconds.
Razor felt an excited thrum pulsing through the TurboKat as it hurtled into open sky. He frowned. The jet’s awesomely powerful engines created vibrations all their own to be sure, but he knew the sound and feel of the TurboKat’s engines by heart. This wasn’t normal. His eyes widened as sudden realization came to him. The pulse was T- Bone’s excitement, humming through the very body of the jet itself.
“Easy, buddy. We’ll get there,” Razor assured quietly, pushing aside the cold rush of fear for his friend that surged through his being and focusing on the business at hand. He punched a button beside the screen before him to bring up an image of Enforcer Headquarters, a flashing red blip indicating Callie’s location. It wasn’t anything T-Bone didn’t know, but he hadn’t exactly divulged the information yet.
“Yeah, and then I get to sit around and wait.” T-Bone’s tone was bitter.
“Only until we catch Hard Drive,” Razor returned as he leaned forward into his harness to do an inventory of his weapons.
“Hey! That tickles,” T-Bone chuckled suddenly as Razor’s fingers ran over the controls.
“You can feel that! T-Bone, we gotta get you outta there fast. You’re really starting to fuse with the TurboKat!” Razor gasped, feeling his stomach tighten, the earlier fear rushing over him in a wave that he quickly suppressed once more.
“Yeah, but first we gotta stop Hard Drive.”
‘Then, we get you outta there as fast as we can,’ Razor thought.
“Stupid malfunction,” Hard Drive snarled as the violent glow emanating from his surge coat subsided.
Callie had backed away from him when he’d first become enveloped in the blinding light. Now, she stood just beside the elevator, using her body to cover the controls where the ‘up’ button was lit. She shot a quick glance at the floor indicator above the elevator. Fifth. And, it wasn’t moving.
“C’mon,” she muttered softly.
Hard Drive ignored her, impatiently adjusting something on the control panel on the front of his suit.
Hard Drive twisted his head to see a black-haired she-kat clad in the familiar slate and beige of an Enforcer flight suit standing in the hallway just past the front desk where the rookie was slumped in his seat unconscious.
Lieutenant Felina Feral took in the scene before her in seconds, reaching for her blaster. Hard Drive was a split-second faster. He jerked his head back to Callie, diving for her.
Callie sensed his intentions an instant before he turned back to her, dodging from him to the left. Hard Drive caught her arm and jerked her to him, whirling to face Felina as a wave of Enforcers, alerted by her shout, charged up behind the lieutenant.
“Not another step!” Hard Drive snarled, raising a sparking finger to Callie’s chin.
“Hold your fire!” Felina bellowed to the other Enforcers, throwing a hand back behind her to emphasize her words.
Hesitantly, the Enforcers lowered their blasters, still on guard.
“When he gets here, tell the last SWAT Kat he’ll have to meet me on the roof of the MegaKat Trade Towers tonight at midnight if he wants to still have at least one friend,” said Hard Drive, coolly eyeing the lieutenant, confident behind his hostage, whose eyes were widening with his words.
Felina’s face hardened as she listened to Hard Drive.
“And, let’s just say that the sight of a single Enforcer chopper could get her sent on a little ‘trip’,” he continued. “Call this a ‘personal matter’.”
With that, Hard Drive’s suit flared to life, turning him and Callie into an electric glow that arced over the Enforcers into the socket through which he’d come.
Felina growled in frustration as she lowered her blaster and slid it back into its holster. Sighing, she exhaled deeply, blowing upward to flip straggling hair out of her eyes. For the first time, she suddenly became aware of a distant roar. Looking out the sliding glass doors at the front of the lobby, she saw the TurboKat descending in the middle of the street outside.
“Tell the Commander what’s going on,” Felina suddenly snapped to the nearest Enforcer, having made a fast realization. The SWAT Kats needed to know what was going on and get out of there before her uncle or anybody else could interfere. She could already hear mutterings passing through her fellows about the Commander’s APB on the SWAT Kats.
“And, get that guy looked at,” she added, bolting for the door and gesturing back toward the unconscious rookie. “I’ll deal with the SWAT Kats – alone.” Her tone brooked no argument, and she was practically out the door before anyone could say anything.
Felina nearly collided with the door, expecting it to open. She looked at it in frustration, eyes coming to rest on the charred motion sensor. With a growl, she grabbed the edges of the two doors and began to push them apart. The motors along the sliding track squealed their disapproval as she forced the doors ajar enough to squeeze her way through; she had a message to give before anybody could interfere.
The TurboKat’s landing gear had barely hit the pavement before Felina was running up to it.
“I think we got trouble,” Razor muttered to T-Bone, punching the button to open the canopy as he caught sight of the disgruntled young she-kat, black hair tussled in the gusts from the slowing VTOL engine fans.
“Hard Drive’s got Miss Briggs,” Felina called as the canopy slid open.
“Crud,” Razor growled softly as Felina continued.
“And, he said….” She was hesitant as she started to ask about Hard Drive’s claims, fearful they might be true.
“Said I’m dead?” T-Bone finished for her. “Not by a long shot! I’m sorta… misplaced at the moment, but as soon as I get my hands on that scrawny low-life….” He paused and added abruptly as though under his breath, “If I had hands…”
“What?!” Felina demanded, brow furrowed in confusion. T-Bone wasn’t making any sense… and she couldn’t figure out where he was. She could see Razor’s head protruding from the cockpit, but the larger T-Bone was nowhere in sight.
The commanding shout interrupted her thoughts. Felina glanced over her shoulder to see Commander Feral storming down the steps from Enforcer Headquarters.
“He wants to bring you in for sabotaging the power last night,” she growled, watching him.
“Fat chance,” returned T-Bone as the VTOL engines roared back to life.
“Hard Drive wants you to meet him at midnight on top of the MegaKat Trade Towers,” Felina shouted above the engines’ roar, turning her head back to the jet and backing away as it slowly lifted into the air.
Razor gave her a thumbs up to acknowledge that he’d heard as the canopy started to slide forward. “What’re you going to do?” Felina called, shouting to be heard over the roar of the VTOL fans.
“I guess we have a date at midnight,” Razor called back as the canopy slid closed.
Felina watched the jet rise above the street. Behind her she could hear her uncle’s angry growl. She sighed as she turned to face him, squaring her shoulders and setting her jaw; she was going to get her head bitten off over this one, but she wasn’t going down without a fight.
“So whada we do, bud?” T-Bone asked, setting the TurboKat for the hangar.
He couldn’t see it, but he knew Razor’s face was set in that familiar thoughtful look.
“I meet him,” his friend returned simply.
“WHAT! You can’t just—”
“To Hard Drive you’re dead, remember, bud?”
T-Bone could feel Razor’s mischievous grin.
“One lone SWAT Kat and his jet will meet Hard Drive tonight on the roof of the MegaKat Trade Towers.”
T-Bone chuckled, his grin filling the screen. “Of course,” he returned.
A warm night breeze fluffed Callie’s long hair as she stood beside Hard Drive on the gravelly roof of one of the MegaKat Trade Towers. A bright full moon lit the night, helping her searching eyes as she scanned the purple-blue sky. She chewed her lip worriedly, twisting her bound hands in an attempt to lessen the pain from the tight cords.
Hard Drive glanced at her, scowling.
“The wait will be over soon enough,” he ‘assured’.
“Yes, it will,” she returned simply, green eyes flashing as she glared at Hard Drive. Inwardly, she doggedly forced herself to believe that the SWAT Kats could handle whatever Hard Drive had planned for them. And, that Hard Drive’s comments about there being only one SWAT Kat were his own boasting imagination.
The distant rumble of an approaching jet reached both kats’ ears.
Callie looked toward the sound. The jet’s profile was unmistakable. She mouthed a soundless prayer as Hard Drive stepped away from her to meet the approaching TurboKat.
“Ready, bud?” Razor asked, his eyes running over his instruments out of long cautious habit when he was in the unfamiliar territory of the pilot’s seat. He needn’t have worried – T-Bone received the warning signals even before the warning lights lit.
“All set,” T-Bone returned. “Just give the word when you’re ready.”
“Here they come, Sir,” the nondescript tan-furred Enforcer reported to his Commander, looking upward in time to see the TurboKat flash across the patch of sky visible between the brick walls that towered around their chopper. He let his eyes wander back down the walls, estimating for the millionth time just how close the rotors would be to them when they made their ascent.
“Alright,” Commander Feral returned curtly, flipping the switch on his handset.
“Felina, are you in position?” he asked, holding the handset up to his mouth.
“Roger,” she returned, voice staticky over the short range frequency they were using to avoid detection.
“Stand by for my orders,” Feral snapped, abruptly switching frequency. “McFurland, Wilson, do you copy?” he demanded.
“Yes, Sir,” a voice returned.
“Alright, McFurland – first clear chance you get, get the Deputy Mayor out of the area while Hard Drive is distracted with those vigilantes. Feral out.” Feral flicked the handset off and set it down, a small smile turning up the corners of his mouth. “Maybe I’ll be able to catch three criminals tonight,” he muttered.
One nagging little thought quickly replaced his smile with a tight sour expression. The fact that the SWAT Kats showed tonight said they had guts and that they cared about the Deputy Mayor. Still, he had a duty to fulfill; he’d just wanted to enjoy catching the vigilantes, not worrying if it was the right thing to do or not.
The TurboKat landed gently on the roof of the MegaKat Trade Towers, its VTOL engines scattering the loose gravel. The canopy slid back and Razor jumped out from the pilot’s seat. Eyes narrowed, he walked slowly toward Hard Drive, stopping a few feet from the lanky techno-crook.
“Where’s your partner, SWAT Kat?” Hard Drive demanded, looking around worriedly as he lunged backward to grab Callie roughly.
“You should know,” Razor snapped, his voice cracking, fists clenched as a shudder of pent up fury washed over him.
Callie gasped softly, dropping her head for a minute, long hair covering her face as she quickly set her jaw. Then, she raised her head to watch the scene before her.
Hard Drive’s face twisted into a horrible grin, his confidence restored.
“Don’t worry. You’ll see him again,” he sneered, shooting a stream of electricity over Razor’s head. “And, SOON!”
Razor whirled to watch with widening eyes as the electricity formed into the shape of a jet. His jaw dropped as the sparking blue mass solidified into an oddly-designed deep blue jet that hovered above the TurboKat, VTOL engines roaring.
“I’ve learned a few new tricks,” Hard Drive announced, aiming another blast at the jet’s nose.
Responding to Hard Drive’s electric command, the computer locked in Razor’s mass and specific body heat. The twin lasers positioned just under the wingtips swivelled and targeted the SWAT Kat.
Razor dove to the left seconds before the lasers scorched the gravel where he’d been standing. He caught himself on his hands, flipping to land on his feet. As he did so, he heard the TurboKat’s VTOL engines come to life.
“What the—!” Hard Drive gasped, releasing Callie and whirling to see the TurboKat rise from the roof.
“Two can play at your little game, Hard Drive!” shouted Razor, tackling Hard Drive.
Hard Drive hit the gravel on his stomach with a grunt of pain.
Callie suddenly felt herself grabbed none too gently from behind. Quickly, she kicked back, hitting her assailant’s shin as she spun to face him. She gasped as she saw the two Enforcers behind her.
The tall, gray-furred Enforcer closest to her smiled wanly.
“Officer McFurland, SWAT Team,” he introduced himself. “We’re here to rescue you,” he explained, gritting his teeth at his smarting shin as he reached into a pocket for his pocketknife to cut Callie’s hands loose.
Meanwhile, T-Bone felt the grinding of metal as the TurboKat’s stabilizers scraped against the underside of Hard Drive’s jet. Quickly, he fired the rear engines, blasting out from under the other jet. Airborne, he made a tight turn and circled back to hover some distance in front of the blue jet.
“Bring it on!” T-Bone dared, locking the other jet in his sights.
The blue jet’s computer noted his actions as its radar tracked the TurboKat’s movement. It ignored him. Its programming was locked on a specific mass of body heat below. Locating Razor, the jet stopped. Its target was located just above another familiar heat ratio; one its orders were rather specific about.
Noting the other jet’s lack of action, T-Bone smirked, “Guess I’m smarter than the average jet.” He centered his attention on Razor grappling with Hard Drive, the dimensional radar allowing him to watch both his friend and the blue jet simultaneously.
Razor was suddenly flung back, away from Hard Drive, as the techno-crook’s surge coat glowed to life. He hit the roof on his back with a ‘whoof’ sound as the air rushed from his lungs.
“Crud!” T-Bone growled, aiming the cement machine gun at Hard Drive. He paused, registering movement from the blue jet. Focusing his attention on it, he saw its lasers targeting Razor again.
“Oh, no you don’t,” T-Bone growled, training the cement machine gun on the lasers. He opened fire with a barrage of cement globs, spraying the nose and canopy of the other jet with the thick globs. “YES!!! Move over, Sureshot!” T-Bone crowed as he used the targeting scope to zoom in on the laser tips and note their generous coating of cement. Then, he watched the other jet with a smirk. “Just try ta’ fry my partner now, Afterburner-Fer-Brains.”
The blue jet did indeed try. T-Bone watched with satisfaction as first the hardened cement and then the laser barrels glowed red.
“Any second,” he purred.
The lasers exploded, flinging shredded metal. The blue jet shuddered with the explosion but stayed aloft, motionless. Its sole orders were now impossible to carry out. It waited.
T-Bone took a second to enjoy his triumph. Then, he focused his attention back on Razor and Hard Drive. The three-dimensional image of his face on the screen split in a surprised smile as another figure entered the scene.
Hearing the explosion, Hard Drive staggered to his feet to glare up at the TurboKat, noting the smoke trailing from his own jet. With a growl he turned to advance on the fallen SWAT Kat before him.
“You and your stupid jet!” he snarled, hands glowing with electricity as he stepped toward Razor.
A sharp crack on the back of his head sent him to his knees.
Razor dazedly shook his head, looking up to see Callie standing over Hard Drive with a short two-by-four she’d picked up. Behind her, two Enforcers looked on in amazement.
“That’s for T-Bone,” Callie announced.
“Thanks, Miss Briggs,” Razor muttered, shaking his head as he got to his feet and moved toward Hard Drive.
“No problem,” Callie returned. She smiled. “I can’t let you guys have all the fun.”
At her feet, Hard Drive groaned and stretched a glowing hand toward Razor. Callie rapped him on the head.
“One lump or two?” she asked sweetly, flashing a glowing smile at the back of the scrawny kat’s head.
With a moan Hard Drive dropped his hand to support his throbbing head.
Callie held the two-by-four ready to strike again as Razor warily approached him.
“Alright, Hard Drive, enough games,” Razor snapped, lifting his right arm.
Hard Drive raised his head to find himself looking up the triple barrel of Razor’s glovatrix, Razor’s angry scowl just above it. Over Razor’s shoulder he could see the hovering TurboKat. Further, behind him was a she-kat with a two-by-four and a great swing.
“I give up!” he moaned.
The air was suddenly filled with noise as two Enforcer helicopters exploded from their hiding places in back alleys, advancing on the towering skyscrapers from two sides.
“Incoming!” T-Bone yelled to Razor over the radio.
As Razor jerked his head around to see the choppers, Hard Drive saw his chance. “You win…. this time,” he snarled, a strange smile crossing his features before he was engulfed in blue light.
Razor looked back in time to see him vanish in a flash of blue that flew into a power line running into the building. Hearing a crackle of electricity above, he jerked his head up in time to see the blue jet also metamorphosize into a mass of blue light and vanish after Hard Drive.
“Crud!” Razor growled, lowering his glovatrix. He could a staticky echo of his words vibrating the speaker in his helmet as T-Bone voiced his own frustration. “Now, how’re we gonna get that suit?!” he groaned, sighing heavily.
“That’s the least of your worries right now.”
Following the sound of the voice, Razor looked to see the shorter of the two Enforcers leveling his gun on him.
Felina’s chopper had just reached the scene and was hovering behind them.
“Crud,” Felina mouthed, seeing no escape for the SWAT Kats.
She watched Callie take a step toward the two officers.
“Hold it! He came here to—!” Callie started to protest.
“They’re criminals, Ma’am, and we’re bringin’ ’em in!” snapped the short, stocky Wilson, gun ready as he stepped toward Razor, eager to get the SWAT Kat in handcuffs.
“I’m sorry, Deputy Mayor,” Officer McFurland, the Enforcer Callie had kicked, apologized, eyeing his over-eager companion and glancing back over his shoulder at her, “but we have orders.” He turned his head back to look at Razor. “Hoped I’d never have to be one of the ones who brought you guys in,” he muttered, genuine apology written on his face as he advanced on the SWAT Kat, slowly pulling his blaster from its holster.
“Don’ worry about it,” Razor returned. He grinned, hearing the steady thrum of the TurboKat’s VTOL fans just behind him. “Just DUCK!”
Razor dropped to his stomach as T-Bone opened fire with the cement machine gun on the advancing Enforcer, knocking him back and pinning him to the roof.
With an incredulous smile, McFurland raised his gun aloft, a little higher than necessary. He was rewarded for his efforts as a well-aimed glob of cement knocked it away.
“Oops,” he muttered, spreading his hands wide, palms up to display their emptiness. “Too bad.”
“Too bad for Feral alright,” Razor returned, trading a knowing smile with the Enforcer and Callie as he leapt to the cable T-Bone lowered before him.
“Razor!” Callie shouted, suddenly remembering something. “Is T-Bone really—?!”
“He’s fine, Miss Briggs,” Razor assured as he vanished into the TurboKat’s tiny cargo bay.
No sooner was Razor safely aboard the TurboKat than Feral’s chopper reached the scene.
“See ya’, Commander!” T-Bone’s voice called over the radio as the TurboKat vanished into the distance.
Callie watched it, glancing at the choppers and wondering just what was being passed between them via the radio. She shuddered; better she didn’t know. Feral was probably in a really foul mood, having lost both the SWAT Kats and Hard Drive. She looked toward McFurland. He caught her glance.
“Think I’m gonna get it for that?” he asked with a wry smile.
“I’ll put in a good word,” Callie offered with her own faint grin.
Felina was waiting for the explosion Callie had predicted. The radio before her crackled, and she tensed.
“Lieutenant, pick up McFurland and the Deputy Mayor. The two of you get her home. I’ll pick up Wilson and get him back to Headquarters to clean that crud off him,” was Feral’s only comment, his voice carrying an almost relieved quality.
Felina smiled and set about carrying out her orders.
Razor stretched as best he could in the cramped space of the cockpit, now back in his familiar position at the rear of the cockpit, his seat being the only one accessible from the cargo bay. His stretching revealed several protesting muscles as well as the aching beginning of a few nice bruises. Yawning, he smiled briefly at the memory of the young Enforcer who’d helped them escape. His thoughts wandered farther back to his meeting with Hard Drive. The orange kat snickered to himself as he remembered the look on Hard Drive’s face when the TurboKat had started ‘flying itself’.
“So, how was my acting back there?” he asked T-Bone.
There was no response. Razor glanced down at the screen in front of him. T- Bone’s face conveyed some form of mesmerized joy, his mouth upturned in a wide smile, eyes squeezed shut.
T-Bone was lost in the most amazing exhilaration he’d ever felt. He could feel the air streaming around the TurboKat’s nose, rushing under the wings, lifting them. He could feel that he was… flying. Flying like one feels in dreams – that amazing, weightless floating. But, far faster, rocketing across the sky, skyscrapers passing below in a schematic blur. He could feel… himself… the TurboKat… him!
Razor’s voice finally reached him and he snapped out of it.
“It’s incredible, Razor,” he murmured, his voice dazed.
“What’s incredible?! What’re you doing?!” Razor demanded.
“I can feel it, Razor. Feel myself flying.”
Razor’s head sank to his chest briefly, mute in his misery as he realized what had yet to hit T-Bone.
T-Bone sensed the response he couldn’t see. His schematic face frowned in confusion. Then, the reason for Razor’s reaction hit him. He reeled with the thought. He could feel the TurboKat. The metal outer frame of the jet had become like his own skin. He had merged with the jet. Maybe completely. Maybe permanently.
“I—it’s— I…. Ah, crud.”
As T-Bone felt a certain despair filling him, he suddenly became aware of something else nagging at the back of his mind.
‘Commence command protocol one.’
As clear as a voice speaking to him, T-Bone heard the words.
“What?” he muttered.
The thought tugged at the fringe of his consciousness, almost a subconscious urge. Vaguely, a part of his mind registered and understood the order. But, it was like a separate part of his mind, connected to but somehow not really a part of him.
Confused, T-Bone shoved the thought aside and started to speak again. Whatever the thought was, he had more important things on his mind. As soon as his attention centered on something else the thought returned in force.
“T-Bone, what is it?”
Razor knew instinctively that the confusion and conflict on T-Bone’s face was something even more than the thought of being permanently fused with the jet.
“I don’t— It—”
T-Bone broke off. Receiving the mental transmission for the muscles T-Bone was no longer composed of, the dimensional radar’s readout converted the electric signal to images as the on-screen image of T-Bone’s face shook its head as though trying to shake off a clinging annoyance.
Faintly, T-Bone heard Razor calling. His friend’s voice seemed far away, muted and drowned by that nagging little thought that had grown to an imperious command.
T-Bone found himself unable to answer Razor. He couldn’t do anything. The commanding “voice” dominated his thoughts, driving out any other coherent idea. Desperately, T-Bone tried to collect his thoughts to fight back. With all his strength he focused on one word – ‘NO’ – repeating it incessantly. Everything he had was poured into mentally screaming that single word. Yet, his efforts only seemed to make the commanding voice intensify. It grew more insistent.
As the big SWAT Kat struggled, everything around him faded away, he saw nothing, heard nothing, his entire attention focused on what had become a battle for control of his mind itself.
Razor sat helplessly in his seat. T-Bone’s face on the screen before him was contorted in pain, but there was nothing he could do. T-Bone obviously couldn’t hear him – or was unable to respond if he could.
Without warning, Razor felt the TurboKat rise abruptly into a vertical climb.
“T-Bone! What’re you doing?” he gasped. He had hardly finished the sentence before the jet went into a high-speed upside-down loop, g-forces pressing Razor into his seat. Razor grit his teeth at the sickening sensation. He relaxed as the jet leveled out, heading toward the bay. His relief was short-lived.
The TurboKat suddenly dove, plunging toward a skyscraper.
Razor gasped, eyes focusing on an air conditioning unit on top of the building that steadily grew until it seemed to fill his field of vision. Then, engines screaming, the jet’s nose again pointed skyward as it rose into another climb, looping again.
Razor felt his stomach lurch this time. The speeds were greater, the loop tighter.
“T-Bone!” he screamed as he felt the jet rise almost before completing the loop.
This time, Razor heard a roar louder than the screaming engines filling his head as the blood rushed to it. His vision blurred and dulled, blacking out completely at the corners, becoming fuzzy like poor TV reception at the center. Desperately, he fought for his consciousness. It seemed like hours before he felt the jet level out.
Razor waited, heart thumping wildly. Would the jet climb again? He couldn’t take much more. The g’s he was pulling would undo the best.
The jet held steady and Razor spared a glance at the screen before him. T-Bone’s face was strained, contorted, hurting.
“T-Bone! What’s going on?! What’re you doing?!” Razor gasped.
“I’m…not… It— AGHH!” T-Bone screamed in pain. “Razor! Get outta here! Eject now! I can’t keep—! It—!”
Razor gasped as T-Bone’s face on the screen blurred.
“Go! NOW!” T-Bone shouted.
Razor heard the click of the canopy release triggering a split-second before air rushed into the cockpit. No sooner had he registered the action than he felt himself being catapulted into the air. For several seconds he was paralyzed in the incredible rush of speed as his seat shot out of the jet. Feeling the paralyzing g-forces lessening, Razor jerked out his oxygen mask, shoving it over his nose. He reached a finger down to the two buttons on the end of his seat’s right armrest, pushing the left one. Hearing the small jets that would keep the seat airborne fire successfully, he grabbed the handgrips that rose beside the seat and looked for the TurboKat.
It was some distance below him, continuing a wobbly course toward the bay. Razor watched as it abruptly jerked to the right, turning back toward him. Equally abruptly, it jerked to the right again, traveling in a full circle.
“I gotta get down fast. T-Bone’s losing with whatever he’s fighting,” Razor muttered to himself, angling his ejektor* seat downward. Quickly, he searched for a narrow opening between buildings. Seeing none, he sent the ejektor seat into a dive, plunging down among the towering structures. He could hear the TurboKat’s engines grow louder as it turned back towards him.
“Let me guess – SWAT Kat fan?” Callie asked, tapping McFurland on the shoulder from behind.
They had been flying over the city in silence for several minutes, Felina piloting, McFurland filling the position of copilot but lost in his own thoughts. Of course, he wasn’t much of a copilot anyway; all Enforcers learned the basics of flying a chopper in a one week crash course at the academy. Only those in flight training ever became competent pilots.
“Yeah. I mean, I know what the Commander says about ’em, but...,” he mumbled sheepishly, first looking at Callie’s smiling face and then looking down at the instruments before him.
“But, he’s pretty talented at being a jerk when somebody can do the job better than his force,” Felina finished with a small smile.
“Well, I wouldnt’ve said that, but, yeah, the SWAT Kats’re awesome,” McFurland added, eyes taking on a dreamy look.
“Wanna be a fighter jock, McFurland?” Felina asked, studying him. She was somewhat surprised to realize that he was her own age, if not older. She briefly wondered why a kat like him would have such a low rank. He seemed like the sort of kat who would quickly distinguish himself. His response to her question snapped her from her musings.
“Love to,” McFurland responded, cracking a wide grin as he added, “but I’d hurl on the way up and keep on hurling for the rest of the flight. When I wasn’t screaming “I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die!”
Felina and Callie both laughed at him.
“I’m serious,” McFurland returned, giving both such a perfectly straight, pathetic face that they burst into laughter again.
This time McFurland joined them.
“What in the—!” Felina gasped without warning as she turned her attention back to her instruments.
Following her gaze, McFurland looked at the instrument panel.
“Ah, Lieutenant Feral, if that altimeter was reading correctly, we’d be dead in about a second,” he joked nervously, watching the altimeter’s needle drop to zero.
He’d hardly finished the sentence when red warning lights lit in succession across the panel.
“McFurland, radio HQ. We’re gonna make an emergency landing – NOW!” Felina shouted to the other officer, who had already snatched up the mike and hit the radio switch.
“It won’t work!” McFurland shouted back, throwing the useless mike at the blinking lights of the control panel.
Callie gripped the back of his seat tightly, reaching a hand toward her purse uncertainly.
“Okay, we get on the ground, then we’ll worry about it,” Felina returned, scanning the rooftops below.
Sensing that the helicopter was having some form of total electrical malfunction, she quickly hit the button for the huge spotlight mounted on the front of the chopper, praying it would work. Landing without any form of light to guide by would be very difficult. Felina glanced through the glass in front of her. The only light visible was the dim glow of the street below.
“Shoot,” she growled.
Bright lights below suddenly caught her attention. Felina looked just ahead. The wide four-lane street below was awash with light. In its center was an Enforcer chopper surrounded by gray cruisers, headlights trained on the helicopter, emergency lights flashing. Cars were packed in a tangle snarl behind the choppers. Even at this hour, traffic was bad.
“What’s goin’ on down there?” McFurland asked, leaning forward to see below better.
“We’ll find out after I land this thing,” Felina snapped in response, scanning ahead for a less crowded part of the street on which to land. Abruptly, her controls locked. “What in the—!” Felina yelped, as she felt the steering column become rigid before suddenly jerking forward out of her hands and heading the chopper for the street below.
“Lieutenant Feral, what’re—?” McFurland started.
“It’s not me! The crazy chopper’s gotten a mind of its own!” Felina snarled, grabbing the steering controls and trying to pull the column back. “Arrrhhh! I can’t budge it!” she growled. “McFurland! Try your controls!” she shouted, reaching forward to slam a finger to the button that would give power to the other set of steering controls.
McFurland watched for the light on the main console that would indicate he had control.
“It’s not giving it to me!” he muttered, as the light stayed dull.
“Try it anyway!” Felina shouted, breathing heavily through clenched teeth as her fingers tightened around the steering controls before her.
McFurland grabbed his steering column and experimentally pulled it back towards himself. There was no response from the chopper. He looked over at Felina, shaking his head.
By this time the chopper was hovering just above street level. Its rotors slowed, holding it steady over the first car that had found itself stopping to let an Enforcer helicopter land. Seeing several Enforcers running towards them, Felina threw open her door.
“I need these cars outta here – NOW! All my systems’ve gone crazy! I have no control!” she bellowed above the roar of the rotors and the angry honking now audible from the street. “Send someone around to the other side. I’ve got the Deputy Mayor, and I’m gettin’ her outta this thing before anything else happens.”
“Roger that,” an Enforcer shouted, his insignia indicating he was a captain. He waved a hand at several Enforcers behind him. “You heard her,” he shouted. “Go help the Deputy Mayor out. The rest of you,” his hand indicated a group to his right, “help me get these cars moving.” Finished, he reached for his handset, raising it to his mouth. “Commander, your chopper trouble seems to run in the family,” he announced into the handset.
McFurland hurried to the chopper’s large side door and slid it open.
“C’mon, Deputy Mayor,” he called to Callie, stretching a hand towards her as he saw several Enforcers waiting below.
Felina waited impatiently as McFurland put an arm around Callie and gently handed her down from the helicopter into the waiting arms of the Enforcers below.
“She’s clear,” he announced to Felina, turning to join her at the front of the chopper.
Felina nodded. “Good. You clear out too. I’ll stay and see if I can set ‘er down.”
McFurland shook his head. “I’m stayin’ in case anything happens,” he declared decisively.
“That’s an order, Officer,” Felina returned, dark eyes narrowing.
“Ma’am,” McFurland plopped into the copilot’s seat, “I’m stayin’.”
Felina shook her head, the shadow of a smile creeping across her face. “Alright,” she relented, settling herself into the pilot’s seat to await developments.
They had several minutes of impatient waiting ahead of them before the Enforcers below would able to create enough room for Felina to land the chopper. As they watched the scene below in silence, the helicopter’s occupants started to feel sorry for the Enforcers redirecting cars and dealing with the irritable, confused drivers.
While they waited, Felina’s earlier thoughts on McFurland’s rank returned. Hesitantly, she glanced at McFurland. He seemed like a very candid kat who wouldn’t mind the question even if its answer was that he’d been demoted for misconduct. Still, one never knew. Curiosity eating away at her, she settled on what she did best; the direct approach.
“McFurland, how come you’re still just an officer at your age?” she asked bluntly.
He ducked his head for a minute, and Felina instantly gave herself a mental slap for being so rude. Before she could stumble through an apology, however, McFurland had raised his head to treat her to a quirky little smile.
“Well, I’ve only been out of the Academy for about a year,” he mumbled sheepishly. “It took me a while to figure out just exactly what I wanted to do in life. And, well….”
“Point taken,” Felina returned, looking a tad sheepish herself. Before she could apologize, the voice of a megaphone-amplified Enforcer boomed from the street below, indicating that it was time to land the helicopter. “Well, here we go,” Felina breathed, gripping the steering controls again. To her surprise, the chopper responded immediately. Mouth hanging agape for a minute or two, Felina set the chopper down neatly, sharing a sigh of relief with McFurland as she cut the engine.
“I think I’m sticking to the jets from now on,” Felina commented to no one in particular as she unstrapped and opened the door at her side.
The lieutenant looked up sharply to see Commander Feral striding toward them.
“Uncle?” she muttered, surprised to him. “What’re you doing here?” she asked, jumping out of the chopper as Feral stepped up beside it.
“My chopper had a total electrical failure. Then, it decided to get a mind of its own and took us off course. It finally let me land here,” he replied in a growl, glancing beyond her to see that everyone else in the chopper was accounted for.
“Sounds awfully familiar,” Felina returned with narrowed eyes, jumping down out of the chopper.
“Something funny’s going on around here,” he rumbled, yanking out his handset. “I’ll radio Headquarters and get a crew out here to get these things out of the street.”
Razor cautiously slunk out of an alleyway, glancing upward. Nothing, not even the sound of distant engines. He frowned.
“Where’d it go?” he asked himself quietly, crinkling his nose at the foul aroma wafting from the alley’s overflowing trashcans. He was worried for T-Bone. The jet had nearly overtaken him just as he’d plunged into the alley. Even as he’d descended, he’d seen it suddenly bank sharply and streak away.
Cautiously, Razor reached up to depress a tiny button just by his ear on his helmet. The tiny but powerful radio within clicked on, speakers mounted beside each of his earholes crackling to life.
“T-Bone, do you copy?” Razor murmured to the tiny microphone near the front of his helmet. Faintly, he thought he heard words. Suddenly, the speakers blared with a string of garbled syllables, almost drowned by static and a horrible ear-piercing scream that intensified until Razor slammed his hand down on the button to cut the radio off. “Crud!” he growled, more worried than ever for his friend.
Hearing something above, he looked up in time to see an Enforcer chopper thunder overhead, flying low.
“Too low. Unless it’s after somebody,”Razor muttered, watching the helicopter. Then, the wail of sirens reached his ears. “Somethin’s goin’ on,” the SWAT Kat commented to himself, setting out at a jog in the direction the chopper had been flying.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with it, Sir,” a surprised Enforcer announced to Commander Feral after his fourth attempt to restart his cruiser. “It won’t do anything. I can’t even get the lights to cut off!”
“They’re all that way,” Felina reported, stepping up behind the Commander. “So are the cars back there,” she added, pointing to the snarl of traffic just beyond the police barricade.
“And I can’t radio Headquarters!” Feral growled, his face set in a tight scowl. “I want to know what’s going on here!”
Having finished his eavesdropping, McFurland turned away from the irate Commander and stepped over to Callie, who was leaning against one of the cruisers, looking tired and worried.
“Having fun yet?” he asked.
She responded with a tiny smile.
The street had taken on a surreal, otherworldly look in the bright headlights and ceaseless flashing red and blue lights of the Enforcer cruisers. Crowds had gathered to stare at the scene, talking to themselves, some shouting questions to the harried Enforcers who shot back only curt replies.
Callie paused briefly to take in the scene before replying. Finally, she answered, “Well, it definitely beats attending one of the Mayor’s golf games.”
“Looks just like a scene from an action movie or something, doesn’t it?” McFurland grinned. “All we need is a few good explosions.”
Suddenly, a distant roar reached their ears. Both kats looked up to see the TurboKat hurtling down from above. It thundered down between the buildings, just above the wide street. As the kats on the street below watched in horror, the jet launched a missile at one of the Enforcer cruisers.
Enforcers leapt out of the way as the crowd on the sidewalk screamed in terror.
“Why’d I even open my big mouth?!” McFurland yelped, throwing Callie to the ground as the cruiser exploded.
Callie hit the asphalt hard. As she did so she felt a strange sensation, strange and familiar. She gasped as she recognized the feeling. That was all she had time for before she was engulfed in blue light.
McFurland yelped as he felt an electric tingle run up his arm, jerking it away from Callie.
“What in the—?!” he started, but broke off in a gasp as he realized that Callie was gone.
Razor reached the scene seconds later, fighting his way through the panicked crowd that had been watching the Enforcers’ troubles earlier. As he broke free of the stampede, he stopped, stunned. Before him, Enforcers were scrambling to shelter, some making it, some being slammed to the pavement and pinned in the thick globs of cement globs that were raining down from the TurboKat’s cement machine gun. The kats trapped in the blocked traffic were abandoning their cars and running to the nearest open business along the street. It was a scene of total chaos.
As cement streaked past him, the SWAT Kat ducked into a canopied doorway just off the sidewalk and slammed a hand onto the button on top of his helmet again.
“T-Bone, please – what’re you doing?!” he shouted into the receiver.
Only static answered him.
Razor cut the radio off and turned to peer out at the street beyond. His eyes came to rest on a familiar gray-furred Enforcer several feet away, crouched behind a car. He smiled briefly at the memory the kat brought to mind.
Ears suddenly catching a sound above, he looked up to see the TurboKat banking and climbing to swing around for another pass. Smile replaced by a firmly set line, he jumped from his hiding place and raced to the tall Enforcer.
McFurland’s head jerked up as the SWAT Kat came up beside him. His face twisted in confusion. “Mind tellin’ me what’s goin’ on?” he asked.
Razor ignored the question. “Where’s Miss Briggs?” he asked.
“She disappeared,” McFurland returned, lowering his head in shame. “I— I was right here with her. She just vanished in this blue light like... Hard Drive… McFurland’s head jerked up, yellow-green eyes narrowing dangerously.
Razor met his gaze. “Of course,” the SWAT Kat murmured, suddenly remembering that strange, almost pleased, smile Hard Drive had given him before he disappeared. Angrily, he growled, “We were supposed to rescue Callie, or think we could rescue her anyway.”
Razor glanced up at the TurboKat.
“I think I know,” he rumbled, the growl in his voice deepening.
“Razor! What’s with the TurboKat?!” Felina’s shout abruptly interrupted the conversation. He looked to see her several feet away ducking behind her chopper.
“Some ‘technical difficulties’, Lieutenant,” Razor shouted back.
Feral appeared, jumping down out of the open side door to Felina’s chopper.
“You!” he gasped, seeing Razor.
“Easy, Uncle. He’s not doing it; the jet’s malfunctioning,” Felina told him sternly before he could say more.
“Just stay out of the way, SWAT Kat.” Feral spat the words ‘SWAT Kat’ as he eyed Razor with distrust. “The Enforcers will handle this.”
The Commander ran around the chopper into the open street as the TurboKat’s engines once more grew louder.
Razor looked up. It had taken too long in its turn; it could move faster than that. He smiled faintly. T-Bone was still there, fighting. Then, something flashed across his mind.
“Handle it…,” he repeated Feral’s words, his memory suddenly seeing the great bazooka that Feral had been carrying. “NO!” he gasped, vaulting over the hood of the Enforcer cruiser and racing into the street.
McFurland watched the SWAT Kat race into the street, wondering just what was going on. He was suddenly aware of a faint sound, strangely audible above the chaos around him. His ears pricked, twitching around toward the high-pitched sound. Frowning, he turned to search for its source.
Feral had gathered what remained of his Enforcers and positioned them behind a cruiser parked at the center of the intersection. He himself had backed a little away from the car and was leveling the bazooka’s barrel in the TurboKat’s general direction.
“Get ready, men!” he commanded as the TurboKat shot into a loop before quite reaching them for the second time. He was vaguely beginning to believe that scrawny SWAT Kat; this jet was acting bizarre.
“I want to take that thing out in the air – as far above MegaKat City as possible.”
The TurboKat thundered back towards them, streaking down from far above.
“NO!!!” Razor screamed, suddenly jumping in front of Feral and knocking his gun away from the jet. “You can’t shoot it down!”
“Out of the way, SWAT Kat. I have a job to do, and I don’t care how attached you are to your little toy!” Feral snapped.
“No, Commander, you don’t understand! T-Bone—!”
“Commander—!” An Enforcer’s warning shout cut Razor off.
Instinctively, the SWAT Kat jumped to the side. Even as he did so, he felt a rush of air. Razor looked back to see Feral pinned down in a monstrous blob of cement.
“Men, open fire – NOW!” the Commander shouted as struggled to get to his feet.
Razor watched the TurboKat loop to make another pass at the street. Catching movement out of the corner of his eye, he turned to see Enforcers aiming their blasters at the jet. His shout of “NO!” was drowned in the jet’s thunder as it hurtled down on the street, a small barrage of Enforcer energy blasts bouncing off its fuselage. As he watched, Razor breathed a prayer of thanks that he’d just gotten that new armor installed.
Abruptly, a flash of movement caught his eye. He jerked his head around to see a nearby Enforcer carefully taking aim at the incoming jet with a powerful energy rifle. Without thinking, Razor tackled the Enforcer, slamming them both to the pavement. The two grappled for several seconds before Razor finally knocked the rifle from the other kat’s hand with such force that it skidded under a nearby Enforcer cruiser.
“So this is your plan!” growled the Enforcer, getting to his feet and grabbing the front of Razor’s flight suit. He wadded the blue material into a ball, gripping it in his fist as he drew the other back for a punch to the SWAT Kat’s jaw.
“No,” Razor returned curtly, his sweeping kick knocking the Enforcer to the asphalt and freeing him, “it’s not.”
Turning from the Enforcer, Razor whirled to face the incoming TurboKat as he heard the roar of its engines growing closer. Even as he turned, he gasped, recognizing a familiar sound. He watched in horror as a match head missile streaked toward Feral’s chopper. The chopper exploded in a fireball that flung Razor back. The SWAT Kat looked like no more than a doll as he hurtled across the hood of a nearby cruiser.
The “doll” suddenly came to life as Razor flipped in midair, executing a flawless handspring off the hood and somersaulting to land in a low crouch. He got to his feet slowly, blinking and gagging at the painful heat and noxious fumes from the inferno before him. He stared in horror at the flaming remains. Then, he glanced toward the TurboKat. It had stopped and was hovering in the air above the street. Almost as though it were waiting.
McFurland’s sharp eyes had finally caught on a blinking red light. Cautiously, the Enforcer advanced on the light to find what appeared to be a video surveillance camera attached to the side of the nearest building. He watched as the lens of the camera lit with a blue light. McFurland jerked his head around to see where it was aimed. It pointed out into the street. As he surveyed the street, the Enforcers, cruisers, the TurboKat, everything, faded into the distance. Only the blue pinpoints of light that seemed to encircle the area, the area in which two Enforcer choppers had landed themselves, were visible to his eyes. The gray-furred kat’s eyes widened as he remembered Callie’s sudden disappearance.
There was no time to shout a warning, no time to do anything. The entire intersection was engulfed in electric flame as blue light streaked from the camera-like devices, meeting in the air above the intersection with a sizzling crack.
“What?!” Razor gasped, throwing up his arm to shield his eyes.
The light vanished as suddenly as it had appeared. McFurland’s wide eyes watched as the mass of light streaked into the air, connecting with the line supporting the street lights above the intersection and disappearing. Slowly, he lowered his gaze to the street below, blinking. He gasped as the floating blob of color dominating his vision, a brilliant after-image of the light show of seconds ago, faded out of existence, and he saw the street. It was empty of life. The flaming chopper was still sending clouds of dark smoke into the sky, the emergency lights of the Enforcer cruisers were still futilely flashing, but there wasn’t an Enforcer in sight.
“Uncle!” Felina shouted in shock, leaping from behind her chopper and charging into the empty street.
“Lieutenant!” Razor yelped, recovering from his own shock and diving after her, tackling her and throwing them both to the pavement as a laser blast from the TurboKat sizzled through the air over their heads.
Rolling away from Felina, Razor looked up at the TurboKat. His eyes widened as he realized that the jet’s lasers were probably targeting them again. The TurboKat’s lasers, positioned within the wings, were impossible to track.
“Hey, Mr. Jet!”
Razor and Felina jerked toward the voice. Officer McFurland stood beside the Enforcer cruiser which he’d been crouching behind seconds ago, his face split in a nervous smile.
The TurboKat rotated in midair to face the gray-furred Enforcer.
“Is your engine running?” he announced playfully, tensing to leap away.
The TurboKat did nothing, hovering in place as the faintest hint of amusement flitted through T-Bone’s mind, for an instant breaking through to him, breaking through the wall of commands.
“Now!” Felina heard Razor whisper in her ear as he jumped to his feet. She understood immediately and followed him, leaping to her feet and racing toward the nearest car.
The moment passed. T-Bone saw the two moving shapes through the dimensional radar’s 360 degree view. The command protocols snapped back into his mind, overriding any thought or emotion.
The two kats leapt across the car’s hood even as a spray of laser fire showered around them.
On a sudden thought, Razor slowly raised his head to peer over the hood. It was unscathed save a few small discolorations.
“He’s not shooting to kill,” he murmured.
“Let’s get outta here before ‘he’ starts. By the way, is Turbo ‘his’ first name?”
Razor followed the sound of the voice to see McFurland slip up beside them. He didn’t get a chance to respond to the comment as Felina suddenly hissed in his ear.
“There,” she announced, pointing to an alleyway several feet to their right.
Razor nodded agreement. “On three,” he said softly.
“Three!” the threesome announced together, leaping to their feet to dash into the alleyway, red beams from the TurboKat slicing the air around them.
“So, what’d you do to tick your jet off?” McFurland asked as the three kats raced down the narrow alleyway.
“Long story,” Razor replied, skidding to a stop by a dimly lit doorway.
The three kats stood in silence for several minutes, listening. Abruptly, they heard the TurboKat’s roar far above. Fearfully, they pressed themselves against the brick at their backs. The sound faded in seconds.
With a thoughtful frown, Razor raised his glovatrix and punched a button on its side. The red triangle atop its flat surface slid away to reveal a glowing screen. A bright green blip was moving steadily toward the screen’s far right corner.
“It’s moving away,” he breathed.
“Okay, hold it. What’s going on?!” Felina demanded. “That thing’s after us. Jets don’t do that on their own!”
“Only if they have a mind of their own,” Razor returned softly.
“WHAT?! Razor, I know that thing’s high-tech, but that’s—!”
Razor cut her off. “Me an’ T-Bone had a run-in with Hard Drive at the power plant last night. His suit had a malfunction. The long and short is: T-Bone got trapped inside the TurboKat and somehow merged with its computer.” He grimaced. “Now, something’s happened. Something else took control, and T-Bone ejected me. He was in pain, fighting…. whatever.” Razor paused. “But, it’s not T-Bone that’s doing this! I know it’s not!”
Felina nodded her agreement quietly. She might not exactly know the SWAT Kats, but she trusted them. And, Felina Feral threw as much of her stubborn will into defending those she believed in as she did into battling supervillains.
“I believe you.”
“Ditto,” McFurland jumped in. “But ah…. will he – it – start bombing the general area to get to us?” he asked in concern.
Razor shook his head. “I don’t know. I don’t know what ‘it’ is!”
“Well, we know one thing – we can’t stay here all night,” Felina put in. “We gotta find out what happened to my uncle and the other Enforcers!”
“I can give you one clue on that one: Hard Drive,” McFurland put in. “They disappeared the same way he does using that suit of his. The same way the Deputy Mayor disappeared right in front of me!”
“So he’s behind this!” Felina growled incredulously. “I wouldnt’ve thought that little weasel was capable of all this!”
“He may not be alone,” Razor muttered ominously, his face settling into a thoughtful scowl. “What’re the chances of Hard Drive comin’ up with all this?” he added, scowl deepening. “I’m willin’ to bet a month’s worth of tuna all these electronic ‘malfunctions’ are tied into it too.”
“So, we can’t trust anything electronic?” Felina muttered. “It even affects cars!” she added under her breath, answering her own question.
“That’s about the size of it, Lieutenant,” Razor agreed wryly, shaking his head. “But, I think I know someone who can help us. We need to know what’s affecting the electronics. And, how to destroy it. If anyone can figure that out, it’s Professor Hackle. I suppose you’ve—”
“I’ve heard of him,” Felina nodded.
Razor acknowledged her statement with a glance and a nod and continued. “He’s got a place down along the coast if we can just get to it.”
“But how do we get there without a car?” McFurland asked.
“Hmmm.” Razor frowned in thought. Something flashed across his mind. Cautiously, he padded down the alleyway toward its opening on the street opposite the war zone they’d left behind. Reaching the end of the alley, he peered out into the street beyond. It was quiet. Somewhat reassured but still on the alert, Razor stepped onto the asphalt. He could hear the two Enforcers following him quietly.
“Razor! What’re you—?!” he heard Felina hiss.
“Just a minute, Lieutenant. I think I know where to find some transportation,” Razor replied. Glancing down the street, his sharp yellow-orange eyes lit on exactly what he was looking for. “Bingo,” he whispered, eyeing up his prize with satisfaction.
“I thought this was nightmare. It’s suddenly become a beautiful dream.”
Razor looked to see McFurland beside him, eyeing the car he had found with a smile.
“What is it?” Felina asked, coming up behind them. Then, she saw it too. “Oohhh, yeah,” she muttered with a smile.
Several feet away, on the opposite side of the street, bright streetlights glinted from the sleek hood of a gorgeous classic Mustang.
Razor cautiously walked across the street to the beautiful red car.
“Man, I figured I could find a clunker, but nothing like this,” he murmured, noting the long-since expired parking meter beside the car. He turned to face the Enforcers. “The way I figure it this virus – or whatever – can probably only affect electronics. Stuff with circuitry.” He patted the car’s hood. “This baby doesn’t have anything complex like that. I just hope it has an engine,” he added, turning to the car’s door.
“Yeah,” McFurland agreed. “Who’d leave this beauty sitting around? Or, better yet, why would they?”
“We’re about to find out,” Razor returned, sliding into the driver’s seat, having easily picked the door’s simple lock with his glovatrix’s tool. In seconds the SWAT Kat’s practiced hands had hot-wired the ignition. The car’s engine came to life with a growl, settling to a smooth purr. Razor stepped out and, ears tuned to the engine, circled the car, studying it with a trained eye. “Nothin’s wrong with it,” he muttered incredulously.
“Then, let’s go,” Felina announced, somehow having found her way to the driver’s side door. Both tomkats eyed her darkly. “Ladies first,” she purred sweetly, then slid into the driver’s seat.
Razor and McFurland traded a dark glance and, with joint sighs, headed for the passenger’s door.
Hard Drive stamped a booted foot impatiently as he watched the TurboKat descend onto the helipad before him. Scowling, he cast a glance back into the dark opening of the maintenance hangar that topped Enforcer Headquarters. He scowled even more fiercely as he turned to stalk out to the jet.
“Open up,” he demanded as he stepped up to the boarding ladder built into the side of the cockpit area. Obediently, the TurboKat’s canopy slid away, opening the cockpit. It seemed docile enough.
Hard Drive clambered into the jet and strapped in. His entire demeanor was nervous, his movements jerky as his eyes constantly swept across the controls.
“Let’s go,” he ordered, as satisfied as he was going to get.
“Roger,” T-Bone’s voice rumbled from a speaker somewhere, distorted and faint. As the engines fired the SWAT Kat’s face appeared on the screen before Hard Drive.
“No tricks,” Hard Drive snapped to the image. T-Bone’s face showed no acknowledgment of his comment as the jet lifted off the roof. Hard Drive relaxed a bit. “I’m here to make sure you take care of your little friend, SWAT Kat,” he cooed, tensing even as the comment escaped his lips, expecting some retaliation.
There was no response. The face on the screen remained blank, unemotional as the rough voice asked, “Course?”
“Downtown,… follow your partner’s homing signal. You can track each other, right?” Hard Drive purred, completely relaxed now, reveling in his power over the SWAT Kat.
“Roger…… heading downtown….. tracking signal….”
“Good. Now, I want you to transmit that frequency,” Hard Drive continued.
“This is weird,” McFurland muttered, eyeing the empty streets darkly. Cars, some with flashing lights and blaring horns were parked everywhere, lining every sidewalk. Apparently, most drivers had been able to angle their cars off the street when the engines quit. “Looks like everybody’s having car trouble.”
“Yeah,” Felina replied darkly, swerving abruptly to avoid a car that hadn’t managed to get out of the street.
“Ut ut uuh, breaking the speed limit, Lieutenant,” Razor joked from the back seat, tsking reproachfully.
“Like you guys don’t with all your jet-powered vehicles,” Felina shot back even as a whining sound filled the air. Seconds later, a flash of bright red streaked past the car.
“What in the—!” Felina gasped, jerking the wheel to the right violently.
“We got company,” Razor announced, glancing out the back window of the Mustang. What looked like a pair of miniature jets were rocketing down the street behind them.
“What are those things?!” McFurland yelped, twisting his head to see out the rear window.
Felina glanced in the rear view mirror.
“I’ve seen those!” she shouted, eyes widening. “They’re Puma-Dyne’s experimental spy planes!! What’re they—?!”
There was a sudden flash of light from one of the jet’s twin laser barrels.
Felina broke off and swerved to the left, evading the blast even as she slammed the accelerator to the floor. With a roar the engine responded, racing down the street. The jets easily accelerated and overtook them, spraying laser fire all around the speeding vehicle. One blast sliced through the rear window, melting a wide hole and narrowly missing Razor.
“We gotta take those things out,” the SWAT Kat shouted as he slammed the back of his glovatrix into the glass, shattering it.
“You got it,” McFurland returned, grabbing the handle to roll the window down.
He suddenly felt something jab him in the shoulder. He turned to see Felina extending her blaster to him.
“Forgetting something?” she asked with a smile.
“Oh, yeah,” he muttered sheepishly, reaching a hand down to his empty holster. His blaster was more or less a permanent part of the roof of MegaKat Towers. “You mean pointing my finger at them won’t have any effect?” he joked, accepting the blaster. Hearing Felina’s dry, “No,” behind him he leaned out the window and tried to take aim at the spy planes, squinting into the wind. Razor was already lining up a shot at the nearest of the incoming spy planes with his glovatrix as he crouched just below the backseat.
Having flicked the switch that would activate the sensitive electronics in the hand part of the glovatrix, Razor tightened his fist and squeezed his pointer finger into the familiar circular pad in his palm. Nothing happened. He heard a blaster discharge to his left as McFurland fired at the rearmost mini-jet. The SWAT Kat watched as the laser blast left a smoking hole in the nose of the flying attacker.
“Aim lower – under it. The fuel tank or battery should be just before the engines,” Razor shouted to the Enforcer, taking aiming again. He tried a different finger this time – still nothing! As he studied the glovatrix with a sinking heart Razor suddenly noticed a faint, blinking red light beside the mini-scanner on his glovatrix. “What’s that—?!” he started, but broke off as he suddenly felt something clamp down on his shoulders, gripping them painfully.
He’d been so engrossed in his malfunctioning glovatrix he’d ignored the mini-jet swooping in over him while McFurland’s attention was centered on its counterpart.
McFurland looked back into the car as he heard the SWAT Kat’s strangled cry. He was treated to a brief glimpse of Razor’s churning feet as the mini-jet jerked the orange-furred kat out the shattered rear window, some form of steel talons digging cruelly into Razor’s flight suit.
Without thinking, the Enforcer dove through the opening between the front seats after Razor. He was too late. His outstretched hand only felt the swish of air just behind the SWAT Kat’s feet as the jet shot away with its captive.
McFurland twisted, trying to see where the mini-jet carrying Razor had gone. Something moved against his right knee.
Immediately, the Mustang began to lose speed even as Felina floored the accelerator in confusion. The mini-jet still following them shot past the slowing vehicle below.
Felina realized the problem first. “You hit the gear shift!” she growled.
Lifting her foot off the gas pedal, she turned to search frantically for the gear shift under McFurland.
“Sorry, sorry!” McFurland tried to slide back into his seat.
“Stay still!” Felina shouted, searching.
Seconds slid away, and then, her groping hand found the stick. She glanced back out the windshield. The mini-jet was already swinging around and heading back towards them. Desperately, she shoved the gear shift forward and floored the accelerator, sending the car into a squealing reverse. Growling, Felina then pulled the stick back, foot never leaving the gas pedal. Engine roaring, the Mustang streaked forward, shooting under its oncoming attacker.
McFurland quickly pulled himself off the center console and scrambled back into his seat.
“Do I have to pay for this ride?” he asked with a tiny grin.
Felina glanced over at him. “At this rate, you're gonna have to pay for my funeral expenses!” she snapped.
“So... ah… do you prefer mahogany or oak?” McFurland asked as a laser blast bounced off the rear view mirror beside him. His eyes suddenly widened. “Lieutenant Feral!”
Felina whirled to face ahead. She was forced over as McFurland dove across the car to yank the steering wheel to the left.
On two wheels, the car skidded around another parked car, its parking lights flashing. McFurland released the wheel, giving Felina control again and scooted back onto his seat asking, “We even?”
“We’ll see,” Felina responded as she spun the wheel to the right, sending the Mustang into a screeching turn onto a broad street and forcing McFurland to dig his claws into the vinyl seat to keep from being thrown against the door.
“Hey! I thought we had to cross the Old MegaKat Bri—?!” McFurland started.
“We’re not takin’ the bridge,” Felina cut him off. “We’d be sittin’ ducks. We’ll take the tunnel. Maybe that way we’ll lose this thing.”
McFurland nodded and twisted to find the spy plane. It was closing from behind again, their sudden change in direction having confused it little. The Enforcer looked back through the windshield. A series of signs stretched across the road ahead supported by a steel frame. His eyes read the words of the rightmost sign as they swept under it: “Old MegaKat Tunnel 1/4 mi.”
“Crud!” Felina suddenly shouted.
McFurland jerked his head to see the mini-jet closing fast. Quickly, he rolled down the window and raised his blaster to fire at it. His shot connected on the jet’s belly, the general area at which Razor had suggested he fire, in a flurry of sparks. The jet faltered briefly, falling back ever so slightly.
“Yesss!” McFurland crowed, taking aim again. He squeezed the trigger. This time nothing happened. “Aw, crud!” he groaned, flinging the useless blaster at the spy plane. It bounced easily off the vehicle’s armor even as the flying attacker shot forward to come up alongside the car and ram it.
The Mustang skidded across the road with the impact.
“Great, just great,” Felina muttered, realizing that they’d just lost their last weapon as she took a firmer grip on the wheel.
“Well, at least I think I shorted out the lasers,” McFurland suggested hopefully, scooting away from the door beside him as it was his side of the car that was currently under attack. He looked ahead to see the dimly lit mouth of the tunnel looming before them. His eyes lit with an idea.
“Lieutenant, drive as close as you can to the wall,” he ordered, grabbing the door handle and bracing himself for the impact as the mini-jet slammed into the side of the car again.
“Roger,” Felina returned with a tight smile, catching onto his idea.
The tunnel mouth grew larger by the second. McFurland’s eyes flew from it to the mini-jet and back.
“C’mon, don’t be chicken,” he purred to the jet.
As they reached the tunnel entrance the mini-jet rammed them again, forcing the car away from the concrete walls and making room for itself alongside. As it backed away to get room for another attack, McFurland threw open the car’s heavy metal door, slamming the spy plane into the concrete walls. The spy plane suddenly found itself pinned between solid concrete and steel. Ear-piercing metallic screeching echoed through the tunnel. Despite its armor plating, the mini-jet’s right wing bent with a tortured squeal and it dropped back, away from the Mustang. McFurland looked back quickly to see a tremendous explosion as the vehicle, unable to fly properly with its damaged wing, slammed itself into the asphalt.
“YESSSS!!!” both Enforcers shouted, giving each other a high five.
“Score one for the Enforcers!” Felina declared. “Now, we’re even. Great job, Officer!”
McFurland bowed his head mournfully for a moment. “Yeah,” he sniffed only half-jokingly. He reached a hand out to pat the dashboard before him affectionately. “I’m sorry, Baby.” The gray-furred kat bowed his head and murmured softly, still only half-joking, “Oh, the sacrifices we must make!”
Felina grinned at his antics though she agreed whole-heartedly; she could get to like this car that was for sure.
After a minute, McFurland sobered. “What about Razor?”
Felina’s lips thinned. “Who knows where that thing took him. And, he’s a SWAT Kat; he can take care of himself.” Except he was alone. And, it burned to leave anyone behind. But, all she could do was finish the mission he had given them. “Our job is to find the Professor and get those machines out of Hard Drive’s control,” she forced out. Then, she grinned faintly. “And, hey,” she patted the steering wheel, “maybe the professor can fix this baby too.”
McFurland raised his head, a mischievous spark lighting in his eyes again. “Then, can we keep it?”
“Dangerous thoughts, Officer,” Felina warned. Then, she grinned. “But, tempting ones.”
“Ah-ha! The conspiracy is complete!” McFurland announced as they shot out of the tunnel and down the road beyond. “And now, we’re off… to see the wizard!”