Title: Technical Difficulties: Part 2
Author: Kristen Sharpe
Date: January 21, 1998
Final checking: February 4, 1998
Blinking at the stinging rush of wet air, Razor glanced down between his writhing feet to see the Mustang rapidly growing smaller below. He looked back up at the belly of the spy plane, sharp eyes searching for any opening in the sleek metal. A tiny indentation suddenly caught his attention. He stretched a hand towards it, feeling it. Carefully, his probing fingers traced a rectangular panel on the fuselage of the vehicle. Frowning in deep thought, Razor picked at the indentation with the claw on his left pointer finger. He quickly found that the indentation was much deeper than he’d expected.
“How much armor does this thing need?” Razor muttered, extending his claw to its limit.
Finally, one hard tug succeeded in opening the tiny access panel. Razor let his eyes fly over the tangle of wires and circuit boards within. Abruptly, he felt something. The air pressure and the tone of the mini-jet’s engines had changed. And there was a sudden, curious dampness in the air. Razor looked down and under the jet’s belly quickly. Only clouds met his gaze. He looked below his dangling feet where he could make out the winking lights atop the skyscrapers below, veiled in a thin curtain of fog. Briefly, he wondered where he was being taken.
‘No time to worry about that now,’ he reminded himself. ‘Cause I sure don’t wanna show up there like this.’
Just as he started to reach for the panel again, the jet abruptly lost altitude. Razor felt moist air swirl through his facial fur, ruffling his loose flight suit as they dipped into the fog. The gravel roof of a skyscraper rushed to meet him, illuminated faintly by the rooftop warning lights.
“Not again!” the SWAT Kat murmured, eyes widening.
The rush of air suddenly stopped as, engines roaring, the mini-jet pulled up with Razor’s clawed feet inches from the gravel below.
Seeing his chance as the jet hovered above the roof, Razor plunged his hand into the panel over his head. Quickly, he yanked a sparking wire free and thrust it into the exposed circuitry.
“Bingoooo!” Razor shouted triumphantly as the steel talons released him and he tumbled to the roof below. He landed in a crouch, eyes searching for any form of cover on the flat roof. He shot a glance at the mini-jet above; it was enveloped in blue sparks. Razor watched as the spy plane teetered dangerously for several seconds. Abruptly, the sparks faded and the jet’s afterburners came to life with a roar. “Yaaahhh!” Razor yelped, ducking as the vehicle hurtled over his head to vanish in the misty fog beyond the roof’s edge.
He stared after it for several seconds, waiting for it to return. The only sound to reach his flicking ears was the moaning wind as it whipped around the building beneath him.
“Well, that’s over,” Razor commented. “Now, I just need to….” He broke off, sensing a change in the wind noise. The pitch had increased. His ears swivelled to the left, eyes following them. Blinding light burst over the low concrete rim that surrounded the roof-line as the scream faintly audible seconds ago rose to a crescendo.
Razor threw up an arm to shield his eyes, feeling that nagging deja vu tugging at the corners of his mind. As his sharp eyes adjusted he made out the unmistakable silhouette.
“The TurboKat!!!” he gasped.
The great jet hovered before him, its spotlight reflecting painfully from the thick fog.
“Why, hello, SWAT Kat. Ready to take it up where we left off?” an all too familiar voice boomed from the loudspeaker mounted on the belly of the jet near the spotlight.
“Hard Drive?!” Razor shouted.
“How’d you ever guess?” the techno-crook purred. Casually, he ran his hand over the stick before him, toying with the firing button wistfully. He looked at the SWAT Kat helpless before him – him – pilot, controller of the most powerful weapon on the planet! He grinned maliciously, flipping the cap off the firing button in sudden decision.
Razor eyed the jet; if Hard Drive was in it…. Thinking quickly, he scanned the rooftop, eyes lighting on an air conditioning unit. He tensed to jump. Before he could move a laser blast whizzed just past his cheek fur, scorching the gravel by his bare foot.
“Uh, uh, uuuhhh,” Hard Drive purred. His smile grew as the lock tone sounded from the targeting screen before him. Then, he paused. “You do it,” he cooed to T- Bone. “It’ll be the perfect irony.”
“Termination of SWAT Kat is against command protocols,” the big SWAT Kat’s voice responded.
“I’m calling the shots here!” Hard Drive snarled, ignoring the emotion, the anger, creeping into the formerly blank voice. “The protocols change to my orders!”
Deep within, T-Bone’s anger flared to life. Hope edged his anger; this time the commands were on his side. He didn’t have to obey Hard Drive, and he wasn’t. Even as the thoughts flashed through his mind, something else occurred to him.
‘I’m back! I’m thinking!’ Even as he marveled at his sudden ‘freedom’, an idea swirled into being.
“Hey… Hard Drive…!” T-Bone’s strained voice, laced with the cockiness Hard Drive knew so well, caused the techno-crook to jerk his head to the radar screen before him quickly. “I’m ba-aaack!” the SWAT Kat warned as his trademark grin filled the screen. “And… welcome… to… SWAT Kat Air! Say…. Hard Drive… ever thought about… bein’ an….astronaut?”
Razor watched in surprise as the TurboKat’s rear engines roared to life. The VTOL engines retracted and the jet shot away, nose pointed skyward. Razor followed it, eyes only seeing the glowing circles that were the rear engines as it hurtled into the void of the sky above. The glow suddenly intensified to a flaming red, settling quickly to a bright blue as he heard the roar build to a scream.
“The Speed of Heat! ” he breathed. “T-Bone!”
“Hey, Hard Drive…..whadya…think….of the ride?” T-Bone rasped. The command protocols were growing ever more imperious by the minute. He couldn’t hold out much longer; every comment, every indication of free will was an awesome effort. Still, he was determined to put Hard Drive out of commission for a while before he succumbed.
“STOP….NOW…I order you….” Hard Drive’s voice was a weak attempt at a snarl.
“Hey! Don’t….hurl….. on the… upholstery,” T-Bone warned. He smiled faintly. “‘Cause… it’s Vomit Comet…. time!” he announced as he sent the TurboKat into a dive.
Hard Drive desperately clutched at the sides of his seat, feeling his stomach pitch. Waves of nausea and terror washed over him as the scream of the TurboKat’s engines rose to unbearable levels. When the blackness crept across his field of vision, he gave into it willingly.
T-Bone let the TurboKat plunge, farther and faster than he’d ever dove before. As the flashing lights of the skyscrapers blinked into existence on the radar screen he realized with a thrill that he was no longer affected by g-forces. Sure, it made sense; he was pure electricity. But he’d never thought… He could do anything with the jet. Abruptly, his joy faded. His thoughts clouded. Sighing inwardly, he brought the TurboKat out of the dive and lowered the VTOL engines. He waited, listening. Nothing; there wasn’t a sound from Hard Drive, not even labored breathing.
“Out…. like a light,” T-Bone purred weakly. “My…. turn,” he mumbled as he slid away into oblivion again, lost in an abyss of darkness as the other “being” again claimed his mind.
The TurboKat hovered in place in the clouded sky. The command protocols demanded it wait for a vocal command from Hard Drive. Hard Drive slept soundly, dreaming of a quiet place where there were no deranged SWAT Kats.
Razor stared after the TurboKat for a few minutes and then turned to find a way down from the roof. Seeing a door built into a shed-like structure, he trotted to it, guessing correctly that it opened on stairway leading down. As he reached the door, he raised his glovatrix in readiness to tackle the lock.
“Crud!” he grumbled, remembering as he stepped up to the door that his glovatrix didn’t work. “Well, looks like I’ll just haveta’ handle this the old-fashioned way,” he commented, aiming a powerful kick at the door with a loud, “Hee-yaahhhh!”
The aged wood ripped free of its hinges and sagged inward. Razor reached up to his helmet and pushed the red triangle at its center. Its light glowed to life.
“Glad some things are too simple to be affected,” Razor muttered. “Now, I just gotta figure out what’s affecting everything else and how to stop it. If I can stay away from all the vehicles that’re out to kill me,” he added darkly as he shoved the door aside and started down the concrete stairs. “How’re they finding—?” he started but broke off, quickly glancing down at his glovatrix where the red light he’d noticed just before he was yanked out of the Mustang was still blinking intermittently. “My emergency tracker!” Razor gasped as he stared at the blinking light. “No wonder they can find me everywhere!”
Quickly, he lifted a panel on the top of the glovatrix and pressed a button. He frowned as the blinking persisted. Urgently, he pressed the button again repeatedly.
“CRUD!!” Razor snapped the top of his glovatrix down and quickly pushed a button on the electronically-enhanced kevlar strap that held the glovatrix tight to his arm. “It won’t release!” he yelped as he stared at the form-fitting hand part of the glovatrix, also electronically-enhanced kevlar; it had to loosen for him to get it off.
In frustration, Razor slammed his glovatrix into the brick wall of the stairwell violently. He hacked at the wall with the back of it until his arm was numb from the shock of the impact. Breathing heavily, he raised the glovatrix toward his face and looked at the tracker screen. It glowed faintly but was soundless.
Micro-seconds later Razor’s shout of joy died on his lips as the familiar, faint beep returned, fainter and distorted but steady.
“I just reinforced it with a mega-alloy,” he moaned, turning and smacking his forehead into the wall several times, his helmet softening the impact.
“So, this is the place?” McFurland asked, peering through the windshield as the sandy hills that surrounded the narrow road opened to reveal a modern style condo.
“Yep,” Felina returned, easing up on the accelerator for the first time that night as they approached the house. “Let’s just hope the Professor’s here.”
She brought the Mustang to a stop where the driveway ended a few feet from the front door. The two Enforcers stepped out of the car and surveyed the building. McFurland glanced back at the Mustang and carefully reached a gloved finger to its hood.
“Whoa!” he yelped, yanking his finger back as it contacted the hot metal. “We’re lucky she didn’t overheat,” he muttered, eyeing the car as he removed the finger from his mouth.
“Awesome car,” Felina purred.
A voice interrupted their thoughts.
“Enforcers! What is going on?!”
Felina and McFurland turned to see Professor Hackle standing framed in the doorway to his house, the tip of his dragging tail twitching in worry.
“We were hoping you could tell us, Professor,” Felina returned, starting to him.
Hackle’s worried frown deepened. “Please come inside and tell me everything,” he said, motioning past himself and into the house.
Razor hopped down the stairs cautiously and into the subway terminal beyond, ears pricked to catch even the faintest sounds. Only the rustle of paper blowing in the light wind that swept down the stairs and into the terminal met him. Assured all was clear, Razor relaxed a bit and surveyed the empty terminal. Paper and empty Styrofoam cups rolled along the floor, playing their role of modern-day “tumbleweeds” well. With a frown Razor reached to slide his baggy sleeve up to reveal his watch. Thankfully, it still worked. Its black letters read “4:00.” As he lowered his arm, Razor’s face set into a determined scowl as he paced to the edge of the concrete floor, flicking on his helmet lamp and leaping down onto the subway tracks.
“I’m comin’, buddy,” he muttered, voice echoing down the tunnel. “Let’s see if they can find me down here,” he added as he started down the tracks.
Hopefully, no vehicles could follow him along the subway. Further, his tracker was now buried under several feet of earth and concrete. Still, deep inside, he knew just how powerful he’d designed the tracker; it would take more than a subway to contain its signal. But then, in a way, he’d counted on that.
“Let’s see if this works now,” he muttered, raising his arm to study the tracker. “If the TurboKat can track me, I can track it.” Sure enough, even as he watched the red light began to blink faster. “Bingo,” he breathed. “I knew I programmed that. Just hoped whatever was in there hadn’t erased it.” He tapped the bulletproof shielding on the tracker screen. “Now, you’re working for me again.” Razor paused and studied the light that was blinking rapidly now. “And, just in time. Something’s coming.”
The SWAT Kat froze, ears pricked. A very familiar sound reached his ears.
“Oh, no,” he muttered. The sound grew louder. The roar of that peculiar modified jet engine was unmistakable. “The Cyclotron!” Razor gasped. Thinking quickly, he bounded down the tunnel, his helmet light flashing wildly across the tracks ahead. “Gotta find a maintenance access,” he muttered, eyes scanning the walls for one of the small hatches.
The roar of the Cyclotron’s engines suddenly became an echoing scream as the jet- powered motorcycle plunged down onto the rails behind Razor. The SWAT Kat didn’t look back, he kept his eyes ahead, searching.
As the scream intensified, Razor slowed his pace a little and mentally gauged the distance between them. As the scream heightened to an unbearable, ear-shattering roar of sound, he threw himself to the wall of the subway, catching onto a pipe running along it as the Cyclotron thundered past. Its ear-piercing wail dimmed faintly. Then, there was a sudden squeal of tires and the shriek of metal crunching as the motorcycle tried, and failed, to make a tight U-turn in the tunnel’s narrow confines.
Razor braced himself as an explosion rocked the tunnel. Then, he released the pipe and fell to the floor of the tunnel, landing softly on his padded feet. He looked at the smoldering wreckage of the Cyclotron.
“That takes care of that,” Razor muttered. Seeing movement in the flickering flames, his eyes widened.
Two figures stepped out of the fire. Razor gasped.
“The Metallikats?!” He backed up several feet as the two robots advanced on him. “So, guys, long time, no see?” he quipped, mouth and mind functioning separately as he searched for a way out. “Not long enough,” he added under his breath.
The twosome didn’t reply as they closed in on the SWAT Kat, features expressionless.
“They’re affected by this thing too!” Razor gasped. He eyed the powerful laser cannons attached to each robots’ right arm, still swinging at their sides. “Guess the orders are ta’ take me alive,” he added. “Sorry, guys,” he shouted, a powerful thrust of his legs catapulting him into the air, having finally found exactly what he was looking for, “I’m not going Alive or dead!”
He somersaulted over their heads, landing briefly to make another leap onto the steel ladder he’d found on the opposite wall. He scrambled up the ladder, slamming his shoulder into the manhole cover he met at the top. With a grunt he heaved the cover aside enough to admit his slim body. He pulled himself out of the hole and onto an empty street, briefly thankful that there were no cars. He raised his head to get an idea of where he was. A sign across the street met his gaze.
“MegaKat Memorial MRI Building,” he read. “Perfect.” He jumped to his feet, glancing down into the hole where the Metallikats were halfway up the ladder after him. “C’mon, guys, you can move faster than that!” he taunted, bounding away toward the one- story MRI building.
“Hmmm,” Professor Hackle frowned thoughtfully as Felina and McFurland finished their story.
They were all in the professor’s sitting area, the professor in a comfortable easy chair facing the Enforcers. Felina perched on the edge of the couch while McFurland was seated on the armrest as comfortably as he would in his own house.
“So, any ideas?” he asked, thumping the couch with his huge boots in a fit of pent- up energy.
“I’m afraid I can’t say for sure without examining one of the affected devices,” Hackle replied. Worry spread across his features. “Though I have my fears.”
“Of what?” Felina asked, leaning forward even farther.
“Over twenty years ago, Puma-Dyne developed a powerful artificially intelligent computer. It was microscopic, completely invisible to the naked eye. It had the ability to control any device it entered. It was probably the world’s first – and most deadly – computer virus.”
“How’d this thing work?” Felina pursued.
“It affects a computer much like a real virus affects you. It turns the computer into a center for copying itself and reprograms it,” Hackle returned. “It can be carried, like a living virus, inside anything electronic.”
“We couldn’t have brought any of those here, could we?” McFurland asked suddenly, worry filling his voice as he almost leapt from his perch.
“It’s not likely. They wouldn’t ride on kats.” Hackle shrugged and allowed a small smile to escape his lips. “It doesn’t matter anyway. My security systems disable any foreign electronics. A precaution I’ve had for some time now. I should have mentioned it to you in case you had anything that might be affected.” He looked at both apologetically.
“Nothing here,” Felina shrugged.
“Aw, man,” McFurland muttered, looking at his digital watch. Its tiny green letters were flashing 12:00.
“That’s it!” Hackle stood as fast as he was able, his tired eyes lighting. “May I see that, my boy?” he asked. McFurland slipped off the watch and handed it to him. “This could be just what we need,” the aging kat pronounced. “Hopefully, it will have been affected,” he added as he snatched up his walking stick and hobbled toward his lab.
McFurland leapt to his feet and bounded after the professor in huge strides that quickly overtook the aging kat. Felina trailed the two. When she reached the lab, traveling at a more discreet pace, Professor Hackle was sliding a bizarre-looking apparatus over his head. It consisted of a head band from which a huge magnifying lens protruded, curving down from a metal rod to come in front of the professor’s eyes.
“Let’s see what we have here,” Hackle murmured as he laid the watch on a bare patch of his cluttered worktable and picked up a tiny screwdriver.
“Cool gear,” McFurland pronounced, donning another magnifying apparatus, identical to Hackle’s. “Officer Robert McFurland at your service,” the gray-furred tomkat announced, turning to Felina with a widening grin and bowing grandly. “Howda I look?” he asked, looking up at Felina with a stupid grin.
She cocked an eyebrow. The magnifying lens fell across one of the tall tomkat’s eyes lop-sided, making McFurland look like he had one huge eye in the center of his face.
“Like a dorky cyclops,” the lieutenant returned dryly.
McFurland bowed again.
Felina rolled her eyes, but smiled as the two of them turned to watch Hackle work.
Razor raced down the main corridor in the MRI building, shooting a glance into each room he passed. He didn’t have a lot of time; the Metallikats couldn’t be too far behind. His eyes swept across the bare rooms, some partially covered in plastic sheeting.
“Hope they’ve installed the MRI machine,” he muttered to himself. His “Bingo!” tumbled out almost before the earlier sentence had escaped. He skidded to a stop beside the door to the first MRI room, peering inside.
“Okay, now how ta’ get ‘im in there?” Razor mumbled to himself, looking down at his glovatrix. “If this stupid thing,” he punctuated the word by smacking the glovatrix into the wall beside him, “weren’t stuck to my arm….” His eyes narrowed as he studied the room.
The Metallikats paced down the hallways. There were no wrong turns, internal systems homed in on Razor’s signal unerringly. As they turned down a hallway the signal intensified. They headed into the first MRI room.
Razor gripped the ceiling panels tightly with his outstretched claws. He watched the two robots enter the room.
“C’mon,” he whispered under his breath.
Endless seconds crept by as the robots surveyed the room. Molly stepped forward toward Razor and directly in front of the awesomely powerful magnet that the MRI machine housed. Nothing happened.
‘Crud!’ The word flashed across Razor’s mind even as it went into overdrive again, searching for a way out.
Mac looked up to the ceiling, his eyes meeting Razor’s.
Razor retracted his claws, falling downward. He twisted as he fell instinctively, landing on all fours in a ground-hugging crouch. A metal foot filled his view. Razor looked up at Molly. Then, he sprang into the air, twisting his body to send it just over her right shoulder beyond which he could see the door.
Even as he landed he knew he’d miscalculated. He was in the path of the magnet. Razor grunted as his right arm was painfully jerked toward the magnet. Before he could react he was hurled across the room and into the magnet with a force that left him numb and dazed.
The one flaw in agrecite – it was magnetic. Certain other mega-alloys on the other hand….
Razor shook his spinning head to clear it. There were more important things to worry about right now. His blurred vision quickly focused on the two robots advancing on him. Knowing it was useless, he pulled his right arm with all his strength. It was held over his head with the back of the glovatrix flat to the magnet. Razor’s already abused shoulder muscles screamed with the effort, already hurting from the magnet’s initial jerk that had nearly torn them coupled with the exertion of supporting Razor’s full weight. Ignoring the pain, the SWAT Kat pulled again desperately as his dangling feet kicked the metal at his back. It was no use; he was trapped hanging by his right arm with his feet two inches off the floor.
He watched the Metallikats step up to him with wide eyes. The two robots stopped a few feet from the SWAT Kat, seeming to study him but unseeing, their minds as blank as the virus wiped T-Bone’s consciousness. Razor waited, returning the gaze with its opposite.
Abruptly, Mac stepped up to the MRI controls, punching several buttons quickly. Razor heard a hissing sound from the machine behind him. His eyes widened. They were “quenching” the magnet – releasing helium gas onto it to shut it down. Mac checked the controls and then vacantly studied the panel again. As though gaining sudden knowledge, he plunged a metal fist into the panel. The control panel sparked and sizzled as the short Metallikat yanked a fistful of sparking wires free of it, flinging them aside.
Razor gasped as the hissing sound increased. The quenching process was out of control now. Out of the corner of his eye he saw several red lights glow to life on the shattered controls. Helium was escaping into the room. The lighter-than-air gas would displace the oxygen in the room. Even as Razor recognized the danger, Molly stepped up to him and grabbed the oxygen mask attached to his flight suit, crushing it in her hand.
“Least maybe I finally get ta’ find out….what’s goin’ on, huh?” Razor muttered to the speechless robots as he gradually found it harder and harder to breath.
“Found anything?” asked McFurland, looking over the professor’s shoulder.
Hackle produced a pair of tweezers, clamped tightly onto what appeared, even with the magnifying lens he was wearing, to McFurland to be nothing more than a black speck.
The gray-furred Enforcer eyed it skeptically. Then, his eyes widened as he pronounced, “We have killer lint, Lieutenant Feral. No doubt hatching a vicious plot to conquer the known universe.” His tone became gravely serious as he added, “This could be the end of life as we know it.”
“Not lint, my boy,” Hackle interceded on McFurland’s joke. “This is the virus.”
Felina looked past McFurland to study Hackle’s tweezers. Seeing nothing, she grabbed the lens hanging in front of McFurland’s face and jerked it into her line of sight.
“Hey!” the officer yelped.
“So, that’s it?” Felina asked.
Hackle nodded, deep in thought.
“Now, to reprogram it,” he explained, carefully placing the virus on a slide and gently slipping it into a powerful electron microscope.
“Reprogram?” McFurland asked, watching the Professor askance as his head was still being pulled to one side by Felina’s tight grip on the wire attached to his headband.
“Once reprogrammed this virus will be something like a vaccine, counteracting the effects of the others.”
“But that only gives us one ‘shot’!” Felina groaned loudly, jerking the wire she was holding.
“Lieutenant, Lieutenant… wire… please…. Pain, pain....,” McFurland pleaded.
“Oh,” Felina released her grip and McFurland straightened, rubbing his neck.
“But, you see, it only takes one to build more for us,” the Professor explained, probing into the virus with some tiny instrument.
“Okay.” Felina took a deep breath. “So, we’re back to waiting.”
A dull roar was the first sensation to work its way into Razor’s numbed mind. The sound penetrated his sketchy, clouded dreams, gaining intensity. Slowly, he felt a solid surface form beneath him. Stubbornly, he held his eyes closed, refusing to return to the world. It was peaceful and painless in the darkness. But, duty called.
Razor opened his eyes to meet a blackness even deeper than that which he’d just left. He scrambled into a sitting position with some difficulty, finding himself pinned in a heavy steel net of some kind. There was a metal floor beneath him, vibrating in tune with the roar that had woken him, a thunderous cacophony now.
As his sharp kat’s eyes adjusted to the darkness, Razor recognized his surroundings.
“I’m in the TurboKat’s cargo bay,” he murmured. Abruptly, he heard the engines change pitch and felt the jet lose momentum as he skidded across the slick metal. “We’re stopping,” he commented to himself.
Without warning, the floor beneath him dropped away as the bomb bay doors opened. Sudden bright light filled Razor’s eyes as he was dumped out of the TurboKat’s cargo bay onto cold concrete.
“Well, well, the prodigal SWAT Kat at last.”
Razor’s mind registered the voice instantly. “Dark Kat!” he gasped as he looked up at the huge kat, a dark blur as his vision adjusted again, eyes narrowing to slits.
As Dark Kat’s silhouette became distinct, Razor realized that the blinding light behind Dark Kat was one of the great searchlights that lit the landing strip atop Enforcer Headquarters.
“Puzzled, SWAT Kat?” Dark Kat asked condescendingly. “Don’t worry, I’ll explain it all. While I think of a suitable way to destroy you.” Turning from Razor, he shouted, “Bring him,” over his shoulder.
Razor heard the familiar curious, chatter-giggling of Dark Kat’s creeplings as the pink-skinned, winged creatures came forward to grab the net that surrounded him and drag him after Dark Kat. He twisted his head to look back at the TurboKat. It was almost invisible, blending with the black sky beyond. Briefly, he wondered how it could be so dark with dawn only an hour away.
“It’s always darkest before the dawn.”
The phrase came unbidden out of the depths of his memory.
“It’s always darkest before the dawn,” Razor mumbled to himself, staring back at the jet.
“Well, Hard Drive, you did your work well,” Dark Kat announced, his purple face lit eerily by the glow from the computer monitor he was studying in the dimly lit Enforcer lab. “The blackout was perfect. There was ample time for me to put my new computer virus into all of the city’s main computers, leaving it to spread to others. One SWAT Kat is out of commission, and the other will soon join him. Far better than I expected of you.”
“Just remember all that when you pay me,” snarled Hard Drive in return.
Dark Kat ignored him and turned to Razor, still captive in the net.
Razor was kicking angrily at the cackling creeplings that had him surrounded. The creeplings stayed well clear of his clawed feet but stubbornly refused to back off, intent on getting something out of one of his flight suit’s pouches.
One latched onto the hose to his oxygen mask, yanking it from the pouch of compressed air on the front of his suit. It howled and leapt away as the escaping air blasted it in the face.
“Take that,” Razor growled, snapping at the little hands that came near his face.
A triumphant garbled shout suddenly rang out as a creepling finally freed the Mongo pepper they’d been after from a pocket on Razor’s suit. He watched darkly as it scampered away only to be attacked by its fellows.
“I hope you choke,” he muttered.
“Really, that’s not very civil.”
Dark Kat’s purring voice caused him to jerk his head back around to the huge kat.
“Oh, and I suppose your little ‘conquer the city’ scheme is?”
“Perhaps not ‘civil’ per se, but my little invention is rather ingenious,” Dark Kat returned proudly, gesturing to the large, wall-mounted monitor he’d been studying.
The screen showed an enlarged image of the virus at work within a computer. The microscopic, bug-like creation had just attached itself to the computer’s motherboard. In seconds, leg-like projections from it were removing parts from the board and assembling them into what appeared to be a larger version of itself. The reason for this became apparent as the new contrivance stood up on its hair-thin legs and began traveling around the computer’s internal workings, selectively removing parts and using them to create more devices like the first virus. The new viruses spread out into the rest of the computer, changing and altering its structure.
“You see, in minutes the virus will have modified the computer so that it is under its control. Or rather, under my control,” Dark Kat explained, smiling wickedly. “This virus is truly the crowning achievement of my genius.”
Hard Drive scowled, barely hiding his nervousness as he watched it. The creation was far too like a real virus for his tastes. And after what he’d heard at Puma-Dyne when he’d stolen it… The thought of Dark Kat having that kind of power, being able to control every electronic or mechanical device, even his surge coat, made him extremely uneasy.
Dark Kat turned to look back at Razor.
“Now, with your TurboKat, I control one of the most powerful weapons in the world. Intelligent enough to be extremely dangerous with my virus,” he purred.
“What does intelligence have to do with it?” demanded Razor, a hollow fluttering filling his stomach.
“Can’t you see?” purred Dark Kat. “The virus modifies every electronic device it enters to where it will respond to my voice commands. The more sophisticated the technology, the easier it is to alter for my needs.”
Razor felt the feeling in the pit of his stomach intensify. “So, that’s why you had Hard Drive kidnap Callie and let us think we’d rescued her. You wanted to be sure you’d infected the TurboKat!” he growled.
“Precisely. And, with my virus in every electronic device in MegaKat City, my Dark Kat City will be a dream no longer by this time tomorrow!”
Dark Kat’s raving was suddenly interrupted as a creepling squealed in anguish. Razor smiled slightly as he watched the creepling run in circles around the room, squealing and all-but foaming at the mouth. Hurling away the Mongo pepper its fellows had stolen from Razor, it jumped into the air, arms gyrating wildly, and flew from the room.
The discarded Mongo pepper rolled across the floor, a deep gouge now ripped into its smooth surface from the creepling’s eager bite,. As it approached them, several creeplings squealed and jumped away in terror, certain it had killed their comrade.
“ENOUGH!” bellowed Dark Kat, lurching forward to crush the pepper beneath one great foot. As an oily liquid oozed from beneath his toes, the feline behemoth fixed the flock of creeplings cowering in a far corner with a fierce glare that silenced them instantly.
“Score one for the opposing forces,”Razor muttered.
Dark Kat spun, reaching down to grab the front of Razor’s flight suit through the net. In one fluid motion he yanked the SWAT Kat up to his livid face, giving the orange- furred tom a close-up of his blazing eyes.
Razor slowly lifted his head to meet Dark Kat’s gaze. He didn’t struggle; he knew it was useless. He let his tired, aching body hang limp. Only his defiant yellow-orange eyes gave testimony to his unbroken fighting spirit.
“Well, well. Without your partner you’ve become rather outspoken,” Dark Kat purred. “I guess someone must carry on seeing as he’s…changed loyalties.”
He waited. Faintly, briefly, he saw the slightest waver in the SWAT Kat’s gaze.
Inwardly, Razor felt his stomach tighten. Dark Kat knew!
Dark Kat’s hideous laughter echoed through the room as he hurled Razor into the far wall. The SWAT Kat’s head connected with a ‘thump’ and he slumped to the floor in a heap.
Eyes never leaving his handiwork, Dark Kat casually waved a hand to his creeplings. Several of the little creatures used the leathery wing-like membrane stretched under their arms to fly up to a wall-mounted security camera and position it on the sinister kat they served.
“I think we’re ready for that little broadcast of mine,” Dark Kat purred, turning to face Hard Drive.
Hard Drive nodded and walked to the laptop sitting on the floor beneath the camera, a wire connecting the two. He punched several keys and looked up.
“Then, let’s explain to MegaKat City why none of their marvelous electronics are functional,” Dark Kat returned.
Felina was pacing the length of Hackle’s workshop impatiently. McFurland watched her as he lay, stretched full length, amid the cluttered gadgets and tools on a worktable. Bored, he sat up and groped among the clutter for the television remote. Aiming the first remote-like object he found at the TV, he was rewarded with a blare of rock music from a powerful stereo somewhere at the back of the room. The Enforcer promptly perked up and feigned playing a guitar.
Felina stopped in mid-stride at the tremendous cacophony. Calmly, she spun on her heel and stalked to the worktable where McFurland was enjoying his little air guitar performance, her tail lashing. Grabbing her fellow Enforcer by the front of his uniform, she hissed, “Turn. It. Off.”
“Yes, Ma’am!” McFurland saluted with the remote in his right hand, pressing the “off” button in mid-salute. He watched the lieutenant whirl away from him and stalk off. “Nice sound system you have here,” he called to Professor Hackle, eyeing Felina sheepishly before turning to find the real television remote. He pressed the “on” button and, being sure to turn the volume down, began to channel surf lazily.
Abruptly, Dark Kat’s face filled the screen.
“Ughha, ug-ly,” the gray-furred kat muttered, hitting the “up channel” button. The grotesque purple face merely seemed to flicker briefly. Frowning, McFurland punched the button again. The screen flickered once more but the on-screen image remained unchanged. “Uh, oh. That’s not a movie,” he mumbled. “Lieutenant!”
Felina jerked her head first to McFurland and then immediately to Hackle’s television as Dark Kat’s deep voice filled the room.
“Good evening, MegaKat City,” the almost skull-faced kat oozed. “I suppose you’ve all discovered that every electrical device you own is nonfunctional, courtesy of the most dangerous computer virus in existence. Now, if you’re wondering about getting help from your Enforcers….”
The screen suddenly changed to show Enforcers being herded into cargo helicopters under the watchful guns of several assault choppers. Then, it abruptly flipped to a shot of a cell in which Commander Feral, Mayor Manx, and Callie sat on the bare benches.
“As you can see, MegaKat City is at my mercy,” Dark Kat purred as his hideous face again filled the screen.
“Not yet it’s not!” Felina snarled, clenching her fists.
“Oh, and if you’re wondering about your precious SWAT Kats.”
Suddenly, the TurboKat filled the screen, sitting on the runway at Enforcer Headquarters.
“Their jet – along with the entire Enforcer squadron – is at my command,” Dark Kat continued as his face reappeared. “And the only remaining SWAT Kat...”
Dark Kat stepped aside, revealing Razor’s inert form lying in the floor, crumpled like a discarded toy.
“RAZOR!!!” Felina growled. “CRUD!!”
“By morning, I expect your government to hand MegaKat City over to me officially,” Dark Kat announced, stepping halfway back into the picture, leaving Razor partially visible. “If they refuse my demands,” he paused meaningfully, “then the medical equipment I have so graciously ordered my virus to ignore will cease to function along with everything else.”
Dark Kat couldn’t hide his surprise as he whirled to see Razor staggering to his feet.
The transmission abruptly blurred into static.
Razor stood on unsteady legs, eyeing Dark Kat with contempt.
“There’s at least one thing you can never take from me,” he declared. “And, I won’t let you take it from anyone else either!” His speech finished, the SWAT Kat slumped to the floor.
“Well, score one for Razor,” McFurland muttered, still staring at the screen.
“Yeah, he just ruined part of Dark Crud’s little attempt to convince everyone the situation’s hopeless,” Felina agreed. “Big Purple’ll carry out his threat though,” she added through clenched teeth. Abruptly, the she-kat whirled to punch the wall beside her. “But, how isn’t our situation hopeless?! He’s got an army of vehicles – including the TurboKat-”
“And T-Bone,” McFurland put in.
“- on his side!!!” Felina finished, giving McFurland’s addition an acknowledging nod.
“But, we have this,” Professor Hackle put in triumphantly, raising his tweezers with the virus firmly pinioned between the tongs.
“It’s finished?” Felina asked.
“Use these,” he produced two gun-like apparatus, “to inject the vaccine. I’ve modified the virus’s programming so that it should immediately disorient the affected equipment. The actual reprogramming will take some time, but the disorientation will prove useful should you need to defend yourselves. There are several ‘shots’ now – six for each of you.”
“Aah, a six-shooter. Guess it’s time ta’ call Dark Kat out,” McFurland joked, his voice becoming a classic western drawl as he finished the phrase.
“Yes, and, if what you say about the SWAT Kat is true, it would be best if you ‘vaccinate’ the TurboKat with one of your ‘shots’ quickly,” Hackle added quietly, worry filling his voice.
“Why?” Felina demanded, brow furrowing.
“Because T-Bone was merely an electrical being existing within and manipulating the jet’s computer systems—”
“In other words, he was… uh… ‘possessing’ the TurboKat?” McFurland threw in.
Felina laughed. “Usually we fighter pilots are ‘possessed’ by our jets, not vice versa!”
Hackle interrupted their banter, continuing.
“Yes, but by now he has likely fused with the computer. When that happens,” Hackle shook his head, “He – his body and his memories – are no more than so much programming information within the computer…. like any file’s information.”
“And, any file can be—” Felina started.
“Reprogrammed,” Felina and McFurland breathed simultaneously.
Hard Drive fidgeted with the laptop in his lap distractedly, reaching one hand up to jerk the collar of his surge coat up. A cold, wet wind was streaming over the flat roof of Enforcer Headquarters, and the rubber-like suit, heavy with electronic gear and wires, provided little warmth. Hard Drive scowled as he studied the display before him, looking up to let his eyes follow the wire trailing from the laptop into the TurboKat’s cockpit.
“You,” he hissed, eyes narrowing as he gazed at the jet. A weak chuckle reached his already flattened ears, making the lanky kat growl in fury.
“Sounds… like… somebody… should switch… to decaf,” T-Bone taunted from the cockpit.
“We’ll see how cocky you are when I delete half of you!” Hard Drive snarled.
“Then… get…. on with it… If you…. can,” the SWAT Kat snapped back.
“As soon as you fully merge with the computer I will!” Hard Drive growled. He smiled suddenly. “You can see how much I can manipulate the program already. You’re powerless to control the jet, but I’ve left you able to talk. I want to hear you scream when I do this!”
“You’re… too thoughtful,” T-Bone hissed.
Hard Drive ignored him, certain that, underneath the cocky voice, he’d rattled the SWAT Kat. The techno-crook turned to look back at his laptop. A series of .dll, .ini, and .exe files slowly faded into being on the computer’s file listing. Abruptly, they flashed away only to return, once again slowly emerging, several minutes later. Hard Drive’s face twisted in an evil smile. The file names were unreadable, a series of numbers and letters, but their extensions – .dll, .exe, and several others Hard Drive knew well – were unmistakable. They were the primary running files for a program, a program that was T- Bone.
“Don’t you ever get tired of this?” Feral growled to Callie, plopping down on one of the bare benches, having finished his third, frustrated attempt to find a way out.
“Very,” Callie returned with a small smile. She did indeed know what it felt like to be in a helpless position. It was, to say the least, frustrating. A look at Feral’s face told her that he wasn’t likely to take to it with the stoic attitude she’d developed.
The two suddenly looked up as a loud metallic ringing echoed down the hallway outside their cell. Mac and Molly appeared at the doorway, a limp Razor held by each arm between them. Callie gasped faintly at the sight of the SWAT Kat, taking in his bedraggled flight suit and battered, heavily dented helmet.
The two robots wordlessly opened the cell with an electronic key card and flung the small kat inside. Callie quickly leapt up to catch Razor as he fell. She slipped to the floor under his weight, managing only to support his head gently. The golden-haired she- kat glanced up briefly as the Metallikats left and then returned her attention to the SWAT Kat.
“Razor,” she called softly, feeling Feral bend down beside her to study the injured kat.
“Oohh, we’re doomed! Doomed, I tell you,” Mayor Manx whimpered from his seat on one of the bunks.
Callie and Feral ignored him as they examined Razor.
“He looks like he’s had a time,” Feral muttered, the faintest of grudging sympathies in his gruff voice.
Razor’s eyes fluttered at Feral’s voice. His muffled words echoed off the floor.
“Man, I hurt.” He lifted his head ever so slightly to meet Feral’s gaze. “Do you believe me now, Commander?” he murmured before collapsing back into Callie’s arms. Briefly, a tiny, sad smile escaped the corner of his lips. ‘Would T-Bone ever be jealous if he could see me now?’ he thought before the world faded into a welcome blackness that took the pain with it.
“Hard Drive, how goes our little ‘project’?” Dark Kat demanded, pacing slowly across the tarmac, a flock of creeplings running before him.
Smacking the creeplings’ inquisitive hands away from his laptop with a growl, Hard Drive glanced up at Dark Kat, a smile spreading across his face.
“Another hour should do it, Dark Kat,” Hard Drive purred, turning the laptop so that his employer could see the blinking files, now lingering on the screen before they faded, returning faster than ever.
“Excellent. If this works properly the TurboKat can lead all my attacks,” Dark Kat announced, his eyes lighting as he envisioned his triumph. First, MegaKat City would fall to him. After that it would be easy to take the out-lying areas that comprised the whole of MegaKat State. Then, others would fall, one by one.
“Come.” Dark Kat suddenly snapped from his thoughts, whirling away in a swirl of his cloak. “We should be receiving a message from the government any minute now. The SWAT Kat will wait for the moment.”
Hard Drive trailed Dark Kat slowly, scowling in thought. He knew what the sinister kat was planning. Thoughtfully, Hard Drive reached a hand down to feel the comfortable wad of bills in his pocket, his payment for his services so far. He smiled. He was paid and it was quite enough to occupy him for a while. His own plans of “the good life” would come to nothing if Dark Kat’s dreams came true. Yes, now was definitely the time for a double-cross.
“This is Ann Gora for Kat’s Eye News with a… shocking announcement.” The newswoman’s voice was choked as her face appeared on television screens across MegaKat City.
Weary citizens watched with disbelieving faces as she delivered her message.
“The government has given in to Dark Kat’s demands and MegaKat City has… officially been handed over to him.” The words left Ann’s mouth in a rush before she collected herself and continued. “Citizens are advised not to attempt to evacuate as Dark Kat has promised that the Enforcer jets and helicopters he has commandeered will attack all attempting to leave.” Ann paused, setting her jaw. “But, despite the official statement, I trust we have not been abandoned.” Her voice dropped. “This is Ann Gora, signing off.”
“Well, phase one complete,” Dark Kat purred, watching the screen before him back in his chosen control room. Casually, Dark Kat waved a huge hand toward Hard Drive. “Best check on our project, Hard Drive. I’ll have need of the TurboKat yet. The government is not known for giving up that easily. I expect we can anticipate the arrival of some form of military force soon enough.”
Hard Drive nodded and slipped from the room. He smiled as he strode down the hall; here was his chance.
“Ah, here we are,” Professor Hackle murmured as he pressed a plate beside the steel door looming before him and the two Enforcers. The door raised with a quiet rumble, revealing a huge garage area complete with several strange vehicles. Eyeing them, Felina realized that some were newer, or maybe older, versions of the Metallikat Express hovercraft. McFurland’s eyes were only for the Mustang.
“Whoa!” he gasped, bounding to the car and nearly tripping over the three foot robot that had been carefully checking its work on the car’s passenger side door. “Oh, ‘scuse me,” he called to the robot, eyes never leaving the car.
The passenger’s door had nearly been ripped from the car in his little stunt with the wall. It was now firmly attached and a new sheet of unpainted metal now covered the door to replace the shredded fragment the wall had left. The shattered rear window had also been replaced. The car still looked like it had been through a war, but there was a definite improvement. McFurland bent down to lovingly run his hand over the emblem of a thundering horse on the lower side panel.
The little robot by the car turned to Professor Hackle, emitting a series of high beeps.
“Good, that’ll be all,” Hackle assured the robot, somehow translating its beeps into words. “I had one of my ‘helpers’ take a look at it,” Hackle explained, turning to Felina.
“Thanks, Professor. For everything,” Felina called over her shoulder as she made her way to the car and slid into the driver’s seat. “Stop droolin’ and get in here,” she called to McFurland.
“Hey, you got to drive last time,” he complained, getting into the passenger’s seat.
Felina rolled her eyes as she started the engine, dropping her hand from the ignition to pat the gun with the ‘vaccine’ safely strapped into her holster.
Razor opened his eyes slowly, disoriented. He sat up, rubbing his eyes. As he lowered his hands to study the room, he found himself in the Enforcer cell he remembered only vaguely from the night before. Dull light trailing through the window to his left told him it was day, maybe just by a few hours. He was sitting on one of the cell’s two bunks. Callie sat on the bunk across from him, looking distractedly through the cell bars. She hadn’t noticed him yet.
“Well, you’re up.”
Razor turned toward the left to find Commander Feral sitting on the floor with his back to the wall, Manx beside him huddled into a miserable ball of unkempt fur.
“Razor, are you okay?” Callie asked, turning to him quickly.
“Been better, But, yeah, I’m as okay as I’m gonna get ’til we take down Dark Kat and Hard Drive,” Razor returned, standing and stretching slowly. He winced as his muscles throbbed, particularly his right shoulder.
“For once, I’ll agree with you,” Feral put in. “But there’s no way out of this cell. I’ve checked.”
Razor let his gaze sweep across the cell. It was barren, save the two bunks built into the wall. There was a ‘litterbox’, as the toilet was more commonly called; Enforcer holding cells often had to house prisoners for months before court trials and before they were sent to the distant MegaKat Maximum Security Prison. The cell was secure. Razor grabbed the bars at the front of the cell, giving them a frustrated tug. Releasing the bars with a sigh, he looked back at his fellow prisoners.
“Don’t guess ‘open sesame’ would have any effect?” he commented with a faint grin.
As he spoke, the cell door swung open soundlessly. Razor whirled to stare at it, feeling the empty air.
“Huh?!” he muttered, advancing on the opening and cautiously extending a hand through it. Face set in a thoughtful scowl he stepped out of the cell, slowly looking first to the right and then the left as though expecting the Metallikats or swarms of creeplings waiting for him. With a shrug he turned back to the others. He smiled, folding his hands before his chest and bowing. “Call me Ali Baba. Perhaps you’ve heard of my forty thieves?”
Voices suddenly filled the corridor, making Razor turn quickly to look past the cell bars. Enforcers were flooding the hallway, pouring from the cells and stumbling into the hallway.
Commander Feral quickly shouldered his way past the SWAT Kat and into the corridor, bellowing in a quasi-whisper for the Enforcers to get quiet. Razor watched them, the tip of his tail twitching in agitation. Not that he was one to look a gift horse in the mouth, but doors didn’t open themselves. With a shrug, he finally set his worries in a back corner of his mind. He’d be on his toes, but he certainly wasn’t passing up this chance. He refocused his attention on the world beyond his inner one, surveying the milling Enforcers; they had enough kats, but they needed weapons.
“Commander,” the orange-brown tom shouldered his way through the crowd to Feral, “do you still have any older weapons? Non-electronic?”
Razor remembered a large armory of outdated weapons in the basement. He’d been given complete access to it during his brief stint on the Enforcers’ now-nonexistent Weapons Development Unit – a failed plan to avoid the Enforcers’ current long-term, costly contract with Puma-Dyne.
Commander Feral looked annoyed for a moment, irked by the SWAT Kat’s authoritative air. Then, his face settled in a frown. For what seemed endless seconds Razor feared having to suggest the basement armory, something he shouldn’t know about and would surely be questioned about. Finally, Feral’s frown vanished.
“There’s something of an armory of outdated pistols and rifles in the basement,” he announced, turning quickly to his men and issuing orders.
Turning from the crowd, Callie searched for Mayor Manx, finally finding him still inside the cell.
“Mayor?” Callie called into the cell, where Manx was situating himself on one of the bunks.
“I’ll just stay here until it’s over with,” he quivered. “Wouldn’t be any good to you in a fight anyway – Feral and the SWAT Kat can handle it.”
Some minutes later found the group in the basement arming themselves. Razor glanced over at Callie who was standing watch at the door with several Enforcers who’d already selected and loaded their weapons. Thoughtfully, he slung the rifle he’d chosen over his shoulder and hunted around until he located a small lightweight pistol-like weapon. Quickly, he loaded it and then, as an afterthought, chose another and loaded it as well, slipping the second into the belt that supported his oxygen pouches. Satisfied, he trotted over to Callie.
“Miss Briggs.” Callie turned around to face Razor as she heard his voice. He extended the first small pistol to her. The blond she-kat drew away slightly before reaching her hand out, eyeing the gun with a dreading resignation. “It’s a tranquilizer gun,” Razor assured quickly. “Just in case you need it.”
Callie nodded as she accepted the gun, her expression settling into one of firm determination as she prepared herself for what might lay ahead. She looked up as Commander Feral began organizing his men to explain the battle plan.
“MegaKat City, comin’ up,” Felina muttered as the city skyline drew ever nearer, obscured by fog against a leaden sky.
“Trouble comin’ up!” McFurland shouted beside her, pointing upward at three Enforcer jets closing on them.
“Crud! Again!” Felina growled. They were sitting ducks driving down the road that crossed the barren desert outside the city.
“Maybe not. We’ve got plenty of ‘vaccine’, right?” McFurland asked.
“Yeah,” Felina returned reluctantly, slipping a hand to her holster.
“It’s our only chance, Lieutenant Feral. Those things aren’t like the spy planes. They don’t need close range to blow us away You fly one; you know I’m right!”
“Roger that,” Felina relented. “Don’t miss,” she warned.
With a nod McFurland pulled his gun from its holster and rolled down the window beside him. Sticking his head and arm out the window, he tried to take aim at the jets. With a growl of frustration he ducked back in the car.
“I can’t get a clear shot at ‘em up there!” he growled.
Even as he spoke laser fire sprayed around the car as the first jet swept over them.
“Lieutenant, I’ve got a plan,” McFurland suddenly announced. “Just drive mercifully for me, okay?”
Before Felina could reply, the gray-furred tomkat was climbing out the passenger’s side window.
“The nutcase!” Felina mumbled after him, shaking her head. Still, she had to admit – his crazy plan just might work.
McFurland clambered to the roof of the car slowly, grateful for the deceleration he felt in the vehicle beneath him. Quickly, he slid to the trunk, getting a more or less stable position and taking aim at the first jet he saw. He paused for an instant and then fired. He waited with bated breath. The jet abruptly swung away, wobbling in the air. Certain that one was no longer a threat, McFurland turned his attention to the next. Again, his aim was true and the jet began to fly in aimless circles. The roar of an engine reminded McFurland of the third jet. He jerked his head toward the sky ahead to see the jet diving for a pass at the car. Taking aim, he fired his third shot. The jet faltered, then continued the dive.
“Aw CRUD!” McFurland yelped, remembering Hackle’s words about “disorientation.” The jet was disoriented alright, and it was diving straight into the ground.
Felina had noticed, too.
“Aw CRUD!” she echoed McFurland, spinning the wheel to the left.
McFurland felt the car under him jerk to the right. Car and kat abruptly went in two different directions. Unprepared for the sudden movement, McFurland skidded wildly across the trunk. He scrambled with his claws as he slid, just catching the groove where the trunk opened as his feet skidded out into the empty air. Looking back, he saw the final jet slam into the road in a thunderous explosion as the Mustang skidded to a stop in a cloud of dust.
Still traveling under his own momentum, McFurland slammed into the rear window of the car with a choked yowl. He bounced back from the impact, tumbling across the trunk and landing heavy on his left shoulder in the dust. Rolling onto his stomach, he lay half-under the Mustang in a daze as waves of heat washed over him from the fireball that was the destroyed jet.
“McFurland!” Seeing the gray tomkat’s absence at the back of the car, Felina fumbled with the cumbersome, oversized catch of the seatbelt. Finally extricating herself from the vehicle, she raced to where McFurland lay, bending down quickly to see how badly he was hurt. As she reached to roll him over, hesitating at the sight of the small oval dent in his helmet, he moaned softly and uttered a jumble of incoherent syllables. “What?!” Felina asked urgently, leaning her face down toward his.
McFurland raised his head to meet her gaze, a thin film of pale dust coating his fur.
“I said I wanna ride inside from now on!” the tomkat mumbled, letting his head thump back down in the desert dust.
“Ah, HAH!” Hard Drive announced in triumph as the flashing files on his laptop’s readout suddenly snapped into bold black, unchanging text.
“At last,” Dark Kat breathed, leaning over Hard Drive’s shoulder. “Now, to—” he began.
“Now, you have a problem!” Razor’s voice rang across the open air.
Dark Kat and Hard Drive twisted to see the slim SWAT Kat standing a few feet from the huge hangar that opened on the roof. Behind him, Enforcers were boiling from the doors.
“You’re under arrest, Dark Kat!” Feral added as he stepped forward, raising a pistol and leveling it at Dark Kat’s chest.
Dark Kat looked at the force amassing before him and smiled. His loud laughter echoed as his smile spread ever wider.
“Really, Commander, with what I’ve already demonstrated, you still think you can defeat me?” he demanded. “I was prepared for you even before Hard Drive had his second thoughts and helped you escape.”
“D—Dark Kat, I swear I never—” Hard Drive stammered, leaping to his feet.
Dark Kat looked down at him.
“Really, Hard Drive, I control every surveillance camera in this building. Do you think I could miss you tampering with the cell’s electronic locks?” he purred as Hard Drive cringed away from him. Ignoring him, Dark Kat continued. “Now, hold your fire, Commander. You may want to see this.”
Feral scowled as Dark Kat reached into his great cloak to produce a floppy disk. He raised it into the air, waving it before Feral.
“Now, Commander, think about this before you decide not to believe me. Surely, you’ve noticed that this building is rather empty… and you hardly have your entire force there with you.” Dark Kat paused to let Feral and the others think about what he’d said. Then, he continued. “Now, just where do you suppose your men are, Feral?” He brandished the disk. “Right here, Commander. Part of them anyway.”
As he spoke, the Metallikats stepped from the shadows beside the hangar and advanced to within a few feet of the Enforcers, guns trained on the confused kats.
“What’re you talking about, you psycho?!” Feral growled, eyeing the Metallikats warily.
Beside him, Razor gasped. He’d already grasped what Dark Kat was saying.
“It’s very simple, Commander,” Dark Kat continued. “Remember how I captured you back at the intersection? Just as Hard Drive can turn himself into electricity, so can I transmogrify any kat I choose with my variation of his technology. And, I can hold them as electricity. Stored as no more than data on a disk. Now, my dear Commander, you’re the only Enforcer taken from the square that I bothered to… ‘rematerialize’ shall we say. But, I believe your niece was there as well?” Dark Kat purred, letting the sentence hang in the air.
“You miserable piece of slime!!! If you do anything to Felina….!!!” Feral snarled.
“Really, Commander – there’s no need for the dramatics,” Dark Kat purred. “She’s safe… for now.”
Eyeing Feral, Razor saw behind the Commander’s tight jaw and ferocious scowl; Feral was worried about Felina. Feeling sorry for him, the SWAT Kat discreetly leaned toward his ear.
“She’s not there,” he hissed up at Feral’s ear, adding in a mumble, “…outside the field. I was too.” Feral’s faint nod was his only indication of the comment.
“Well, Commander, have you made your choice?” Dark Kat called, his tone condescending.
“Alright.” He turned back to his men. “Drop your weapons,” he growled.
“Make yourself useful, Hard Drive,” Dark Kat murmured, nodding toward the Enforcers. “And maybe I’ll reconsider your little double-cross.”
The Enforcers reluctantly threw their weapons down as Hard Drive, glaring at Dark Kat over his shoulder with suspicion and contempt, strode up to oversee the affair. Eyeing him, Razor unslung the rifle and dropped it, wondering briefly if Hard Drive might not notice the tranquilizer gun, partially hidden in the folds of his baggy flight suit.
“The other one too, SWAT Kat,” Hard Drive snarled, dashing his hopes. With narrowed eyes Razor chucked the gun at Hard Drive’s booted feet.
“Hard Drive,” Dark Kat called, truly noticing Razor for the first time, “bring the SWAT Kat over here – perhaps he’d like to watch what we mean to do to his friend.”
Growling softly, Razor shook off Hard Drive’s hand as the lanky techno-crook grabbed him. Pointedly, he stalked across the runway to Dark Kat, Hard Drive trailing him, wearing a nasty scowl. The Metallikats stepped forward to hold the Enforcers at bay as they walked away.
“Ra…zor,” T-Bone greeted weakly as the smaller SWAT Kat stepped up beside the jet. His voice was gravelly and strained.
Razor shoved aside the pang he felt at the sound of his friend’s voice.
“Hey, Bud, you okay?” he called.
“Well, let’s get on, shall we?” Dark Kat purred, interrupting their meeting and motioning for Hard Drive to assume his position at the laptop. Hard Drive sat down and put the computer in his lap, glancing up at Dark Kat for further instructions.
Wordlessly, Dark Kat casually reached out a great hand to force Razor roughly down on the tarmac beside Hard Drive. The SWAT Kat growled softly, but settled to eye the laptop with a horrified curiosity.
“Don’t worry, SWAT Kat. It will be much easier for your friend than it will for you,” Dark Kat purred to Razor, who refused to even dignify the comment with a glance.
T-Bone, however, growled like a wild animal, the low rumbling bass of his snarl vibrating the TurboKat’s outer speakers. Indulging in a moment of vicious inner gloating, Hard Drive didn’t notice as the files on his screen began to flash again, faster than ever.
Smiling at his triumph, Dark Kat nodded to Hard Drive. “Now.”
Abruptly, Dark Kat groaned and doubled over with a deep groan. As he bent forward a dart clattered to the tarmac.
“What in the—!” Commander Feral gasped, knowing the shot had come from somewhere to his left. He whirled to see Callie Briggs slowly lowering the tranquilizer gun Razor had given her, her eyes narrowed. Seeing him watching her, she smiled, raising the gun to casually blow across its barrel.
Seeing a chance, Razor lunged at Hard Drive, knocking the laptop from his hands so that it fell to the concrete with a sharp crack, the wires that connected it to the TurboKat pulling free. Using the momentum from his thrust, Razor slammed Hard Drive onto his back, raising his right arm to punch the lanky kat.
The punch never connected as a blast of raw electricity shot from the trailing wires and hit Razor full in the chest, knocking him back.
“Metallikats!” Dark Kat rasped. “Don’t… try anything… Commander!” he warned.
Hard Drive clambered to his feet, quickly glancing at Razor, who was flat on his back and seemingly unconscious. He whirled to face the Enforcers.
“It’s a lie!” he shouted. “The disk is blank – the real ones are downstairs in the—!”
He broke off as Dark Kat turned to catch him up by the throat. The monstrous kat held his scrawny flunky as easily as one would lift an empty bundle of clothes. Without taking his eyes from Hard Drive, Dark Kat shouted to the Metallikats.
The Metallikats slowly raised their arms, heavy with the great energy cannons they always wore.
T-Bone felt… strange. He could feel something – something almost alien, but hauntingly familiar. He opened his eyes instinctively, squeezing them shut instantly as they met blinding light. Seconds later, he looked again, eyes adjusting quickly this time. The sun was above him, no more than a disk of white flame against a dull, featureless expanse.
Next, sound floated into his brain. Other sensations followed; the most obvious was a dull, throbbing pain in his right shoulder.
As the Metallikats’ guns began to hum with building energy, a shout rang out from the hangar opening behind the Enforcers.
“Hey, wait! You can’t start the fun without me!” McFurland unhesitatingly plowed his way through the Enforcers to fire two shots in succession at each Metallikat. The two robots almost immediately lowered their guns, staggering away and shaking their heads. They staggered aimlessly for a minute and then slumped over as they seemed to shut down.
“What?!” Dark Kat bellowed, dropping Hard Drive and whirling to see Felina join McFurland, standing in front of the other Enforcers. “How?!” he demanded weakly, his stance suddenly faltering.
“We found the cure for your ‘virus’, Dark Kat,” Felina announced.
“Worked real good on the robo-guard ya’ got at the entrance,” McFurland added.
Dark Kat tried to say something further, but failed as he sank to his knees.
“It’s over, Dark Kat,” Feral announced, snatching up his pistol and motioning for his men to get their weapons.
“Good, then I’ll be leaving,” Hard Drive suddenly put in, scrambling to his feet.
“Sorry, Hard Drive!” Razor’s voice suddenly announced behind him as he was slammed to the tarmac. “Your flight’s canceled!” Hard Drive struggled, rolling onto his back before the SWAT Kat pinned him. “Where’s Razor?!” the kat demanded.
“Razor?!” Hard Drive squawked, claws scrabbling against the tarmac as he struggled to free his pinioned arms. For his size the SWAT Kat was strong. “I thought Razor was the little one!”
“Razor is ‘the little one’!” the kat atop him snarled, pressing down harshly against Hard Drive’s windpipe, painfully driving into his already bruised neck. “Where is he?!”
“He….he….” Hard Drive choked from the pressure on his neck.
“I’ll repeat the question. Where—?” the SWAT Kat started again, suddenly breaking off and staring wide-eyed at his hand as though he’d never seen it before.
Hard Drive watched him, breathing heavily. What was with this crazy kat? That electric shock must have fried his brain. The deranged SWAT Kat slowly raised his right hand to stare at it closer. Hard Drive saw his chance as the pressure lessened.
“Maybe another shock will clear your head!” he snarled.
The SWAT Kat leapt away as Hard Drive’s suit glowed to life, back-flipping. As he came out of the flip, he abruptly fell on his tail, suddenly disoriented.
“That’s far enough, Hard Drive!” Feral’s commanding voice broke in.
Hard Drive looked up to see several Enforcers aiming their guns at him. Glaring at the SWAT Kat, he raised his hands in defeat.
Seeing Hard Drive well in hand, Callie ran to the fallen kat, who was just staggering to his feet.
“Razor! Are you okay?” she asked worriedly, searching his face.
He looked back at her, dazed.
“Miss Briggs,…. glad the dart gun…. came in handy,” he mumbled. Then, his eyes glazed and he fixed his gaze on some point beyond Callie.
Worried, Callie stared into his suddenly vacant eyes through his mask. For an instant, they flickered. In that moment, it was like a flash of green light flitted across them. Callie stared into Razor’s now-clearing eyes. They were the same eyes she’d seen seconds ago, yellow-orange, but something was different.
“Miss Briggs?” He looked at her again in a confused daze. Abruptly, he snapped out of it, grabbing her by the shoulders quickly, but gently, and urgently demanding, “Who am I?” At the sound of her faint, startled gasp he quickly added, “Just humor me. Please!”
“You’re Razor,” she returned, shaking her head in confusion, worry heavy on her face.
“Aw, man,” the kat mumbled, reaching a hand up to hold his head.
T-Bone’s mind reeled. He was in Razor’s body?! Then, where was Razor?! As Callie stared at him stunned, he heard a voice calling from the fringes of his mind. Razor. T-Bone recognized his friend instantly. Urgently, he reached out to his friend. In a burst that was almost painful, he found Razor. His friend’s thoughts rushed over him in a confused torrent. T-Bone grit his teeth and sank to his knees. For a microsecond that felt like hours the two… communicated. Neither could ever describe it later. It wasn’t speaking; it was trading raw thoughts and feelings. Slowly, they cleared each other’s confusion. Then, Razor dove into an idea.
Callie stared at Razor; his face was twisted in pain or confusion and his eyes stared unfocused at the ground. She frowned with worry and bewilderment; something was desperately wrong. She started to shout to Feral to call an ambulance when Razor’s voice stopped her.
“It’s okay,” the SWAT Kat said quickly, getting to his feet. “I’ll explain in just a minute,” he added, suddenly fixing his gaze on Hard Drive, who was surrounded by Enforcers with trained guns.
Praying their plan would work, T-Bone lunged with his entire being at the lanky kat. He felt himself leap from Razor’s mind, tearing away from the other mind. Then, an eerie blackness engulfed him. There was nothing to see, nothing to hear, nothing to feel.
“What did I do?!” T-Bone thought, acutely aware of his aloneness after even those bare few minutes of being mentally linked with Razor. There was no one here, no nothing. He was faintly aware of himself, his… body? No, not a body like he knew, but there was something to himself. But he was bereft of his senses. He had no idea where he was, if he was even still in the world he knew. Even trapped within the TurboKat he had been able to see and hear the world outside.
Then, he ‘felt’ something, the same way he’d ‘felt’ Razor’s voice. He was feeling someone. Or their mind, their consciousness, anyway. Quickly, he reached out as he’d done with Razor. The mind he found tensed at his probe, wary and distrustful. T-Bone dove.
Then, he was staggering to regain his footing, an angry, scared voice screaming at the fringes of his mind. Cautiously, he began trying to probe Hard Drive’s mind. He had to know how to work the surge coat. He was uncomfortably aware of Hard Drive’s nearness to his own mind. Briefly, he reminded himself that he couldn’t let Hard Drive read it, couldn’t risk the scrawny techno-crook learning his true identity. He needn’t have worried; Hard Drive was, momentarily anyway, too furious and terrified of the strange, relentless being that had possessed his body to think of such.
“What are you?! What do you want?!” Hard Drive screamed inwardly and outwardly. The Enforcers stepping up to cuff him shouted for him to be quiet and stand still. Hard Drive screamed to them. “It’s after me! There’s something in my head!” He shook his head violently, struggling against the Enforcers.
T-Bone, meanwhile, couldn’t stop his own response of his identity. Hard Drive mentally cringed, blasting T-Bone with split-second thoughts of ghosts that vanished into a near-realization of the truth. The revelation scared Hard Drive as much as his superstitious terror.
“Stop it!” T-Bone ordered, feeling Hard Drive’s terror leaking into his own consciousness. “Tell me how to use the surge coat and I’ll leave you alone!”
Hard Drive blasted the information so forcefully it hurt. T-Bone grit his teeth and tried to sort through the churning thoughts in the whirling mind he and Hard Drive were sharing. If he could just turn the suit on and then leap from Hard Drive’s mind into the field….
Callie shook her head as Razor finished his explanation. She suddenly remembered the gun still clenched tightly in her right hand.
“Here,” she held it out to Razor, who accepted it. “Thanks,” she said with a smile, “it did come in handy.”
“Y’know, Miss Briggs looks like you’re a crack shot with one of these,” he commented. He started to say something further even as a dark shadow fell over Callie.
A piercing scream suddenly cut into T-Bone’s thoughts. The airstrip atop Enforcer Headquarters snapped into focus. With horror, T-Bone saw Dark Kat snatch Callie up by one arm in front of a stunned Razor. Two unconscious Enforcers lay on the tarmac. The remaining Enforcers were as startled as himself; Dark Kat had snapped out of seeming unconsciousness in an instant.
“I think I’ll have to decline your offer of that cozy little room downstairs, Commander,” Dark Kat announced to Feral, backhanding Razor so forcefully that he tumbled end over end into a cluster of Enforcers. The action seemed to require no more effort from Dark Kat than swatting a fly. “I’m not affected by tranquilizers as much as most kats – bear that in mind next time, my dear,” he purred to Callie. Then, he turned his attention back to the Enforcers. “Now, I believe Miss Briggs and I must be going,” he called.
T-Bone searched the airstrip, focusing his attention on Dark Kat. Then, he lunged again. Once more, he found himself bereft of senses, save his new-found sixth sense that allowed him to sense the consciousness of other kats. He quickly passed several minds, the dominant emotions emanating from them confusion – the Enforcers. Then, he found it. The mind radiated a smug confidence, undergirded with a cool malice. Quickly, T-Bone lunged into Dark Kat’s mind.
Images faded in fuzzily, sound rushed forward, then it all faded to return and fade continuously. T-Bone shook his head, desperately trying to clear it. He felt suddenly weak and dazed. The voice at the back of his mind wasn’t terrified this time. Startled, yes, but fighting. It quickly communicated a horrifying fact to T-Bone: Dark Kat knew exactly what and who he was. He’d listened as Razor explained it to Callie. It was T- Bone who filled with fear this time as Dark Kat’s thoughts met his and began to try to dominate. It was like the virus all over again, the fighting, the struggle to even think.
“NO!!” T-Bone screamed in terror, putting his hands to his head and sinking to his knees. The force of his thought succeeded in warding Dark Kat back momentarily. T- Bone raised his head to see Callie scrambling away from him. He’d dropped her in his fight with Dark Kat he realized. Shouting reached him as the Enforcers ran forward. Time to leave.
‘My thoughts exactly,’ Dark Kat’s voice purred. The voice communicated in an idea clearer than spoken words. Before T-Bone could react Dark Kat was in control. T- Bone could only watch in horror as Dark Kat’s hand – his hand at the moment – reached for a metal object hidden in Dark Kat’s robe. ‘A variation of Hard Drive’s technology,’ Dark Kat explained. A finger pressed a button on the square object’s side.
T-Bone would have screamed at the pain, but he suddenly had no voice to scream with. He was flung back into the void, ripped away from Dark Kat’s body. This time the blackness was different. T-Bone felt… stretched. It was as though the ephemeral body he could vaguely sense was pulling apart. Weakly, he searched for something, someone. Stumbling across a consciousness, he dove to meet it, too weak to search it.
The stretching sensation vanished and he again saw the airstrip. He felt himself jostled as Enforcers pushed around him. He realized that he was looking at the spot where Dark Kat had just been standing and that he must be inside one of the Enforcers. He didn’t bother to examine his current form; only one thought was in his head. Where had Dark Kat gone? He felt a nagging memory, something Dark Kat had communicated, whether consciously or not, before he’d disappeared.
“The other Enforcers!” he gasped.
Razor’s eyes widened as an Enforcer suddenly broke from the crowd surrounding the spot where Dark Kat had just been. The kat raced up to him, shouting.
“He’s downstairs – he used Hard Drive’s trick to zap himself down there. He’s in the dispatch room – destroying the disks with the Enforcers!”
The two kats’ eyes met and an understanding, an explanation, passed between them. As one they whirled and raced into the hangar that opened on the airstrip, quickly finding the stairwell access and thundering down the stairs.
As the twosome alternately raced and leapt down stairs Razor commented, “Hope they haven’t moved the dispatch room.”
T-Bone paused for an instant, searching his host’s mind.
“Nope,” he returned, “same as always.”
“That’s handy,” Razor muttered, referring to T-Bone’s unintentional choice in “leaping” into an Enforcer. “Too bad he’s not shorter though – I might could’ve actually been taller than you for once!”
“Hey, I was so out of it I’m lucky I didn’t leap inta’ Callie!”
“Aw crud!” Razor complained. “Y’mean I missed my chance to have a gorgeous partner and tease you for months... years… the rest of your nine lives?!”
T-Bone smacked him squarely on the back of the head.
Minutes later, the two SWAT Kats burst into the dispatch room in time to see Dark Kat aim a small blaster at a stack of thick, multi-megabyte ZIP disks sitting atop a computer terminal.
Quickly, T-Bone snatched up a mouse from the nearest computer, ripping it from its port and swinging it over his head to twirl it like a bolo. Shouting, “Hey, Dark Crud!” he let it fly at Dark Kat. With a sharp crack it connected with the side of Dark Kat’s head even as he whirled to face the SWAT Kats. Taking advantage of Dark Kat’s momentary disorientation, T-Bone dove at the larger kat, his weight throwing the monstrous kat to the floor and sending the blaster flying across the room.
Dark Kat growled and reached up to grab T-Bone by the shirt collar. T-Bone punched him squarely in the jaw. Dark Kat merely seemed to absorb the blow, hurling T- Bone away from him. T-Bone landed on his feet, jumping up to take a defensive stance as Dark Kat rose to his full height. The two squared off, eyeing each other.
Without warning, Dark Kat groaned and fell to his knees. Razor stood behind him with the tranquilizer Callie had returned to him in hand. Calmly, he blew across its barrel as Dark Kat pitched forward, his chin hitting the floor with a thud. Seeing the giant at his feet making no move to rise, the SWAT Kat calmly stepped around the fallen villain to join his partner.
“I think he’ll be taking a nice little nap now,” Razor muttered.
“Good, then if it’s okay with you, can I leave this guy here to keep an eye on ‘im?” T-Bone asked, eyeing Dark Kat as he gestured to himself, or rather the Enforcer he was “occupying”.
“Sure,” Razor returned, bracing himself as he again felt T-Bone enter his mind while the Enforcer beside him suddenly moaned and put his hands to his head, shaking it.
T-Bone felt dazed even as he entered his partner’s mind. The stretching sensation had been far worse this time. He felt so weak. It was only slowly that he realized that he couldn’t feel anything. He could see and hear, but he wasn’t in control of Razor’s body as he’d been before. He was a passenger, seeing through Razor’s eyes, hearing through his ears, but powerless.
‘Are you okay?’ Razor communicated in worried thought, knowing better.
T-Bone weakly opened his mind to his friend, too exhausted to even collect his thoughts, letting Razor find them himself. He felt Razor’s gasp.
“You’re dissipating!” Razor mumbled to himself and T-Bone. “The energy you use to leap from kat to kat comes from yourself. You’re literally using yourself up!”
Dark Kat’s voice snapped both from their thoughts. Pupilless yellow eyes no more than slits in his skeletal face, he leered up at Razor.
“You disappoint me, SWAT Kats. Can you have forgotten my trademark that quickly?” He produced a tiny microphone quickly and whispered into it, “Last resort sequence – activate,” before collapsing to the floor.
“Last resort,” Razor mumbled. It hit him and T-Bone at the same time. With a gasp Razor raced from the room, leaving the still-dazed Enforcer to watch the unconscious Dark Kat.
The Enforcer dazedly shook his head. As his vision cleared he looked down to see Dark Kat lying on the floor at his feet.
“Huh?!” he muttered, trying desperately to remember what had happened in the last few minutes. “I captured Dark Kat?!” A smile spread across his face. “I captured Dark Kat!”
“Alright, I want this squad to come with me – we’re….,” Feral announced to his men as he tried to organize the chaos on the roof. The roar of a jet engine drowned his words. Feral’s head jerked to the TurboKat. VTOL engines roaring as they powered up, the jet rotated to face a stack of barrels lined up outside the hangar. Fuel barrels Feral remembered with a start. “What’s that thing doing?!” he demanded.
“Do you have to ask?!” Felina shouted, racing to the jet and leaping to its wing to dive into the cockpit. A glance at the weapons panel confirmed what she’d already guessed. It was lit, the words “match head armed” flashing across it in bright orange. She reached for the weapons controls. As her fingers touched the controls a blast of electricity shot from them. Felina screamed at the pain, unable to pull away.
Hearing her scream, McFurland and Feral raced to the jet. McFurland reached it first, bounding onto the wing and reaching into the cockpit to grab Felina. As the current shot through his arm he jerked her free. Quickly, he handed her down to the waiting Feral, who set her down gently, propping her head up. McFurland jumped down as Feral started to examine her, wincing at the pain in his hand where the electricity had entered it.
“I’m fine,” Felina muttered, pushing her uncle away. Her breathing was ragged, but she seemed okay otherwise. “We’ve got to stop it from firing!”
Even as the sentence left her mouth, the jet’s VTOL engines grew louder and it lifted off the roof to hover several feet above, well out of their range.
Feral growled as he watched it. McFurland looked at his commanding officer. His face suddenly lit.
“The gun!” he announced, reaching for his holster. “Hey!” he yelped, finding it gone.
“Use mi— WHAT IN THE—!” Felina started, finding her’s missing as well.
A triumphant squeal rang out as a creepling suddenly dashed from under a nearby jet, carrying both guns.
“He’s mine!” McFurland shouted, jumping to his feet and pursuing the fleeing creepling, who was quickly joined by several others. One broke off from the others and flew into his face. “Ugh,…. little bat!” McFurland growled, slapping the creature away in time to see the remaining creeplings disappearing into the stairwell that lead down from the hangar. He charged to the stairwell, pausing at the door to slam it open so hard it smacked back into the wall and bounced back. As it swung back toward the waiting kat, an unconscious creepling dropped from its hiding place behind the door.
“Oh, yeah – I’m the kat. I’m the kat,” McFurland shouted as he charged into the stairwell and down the stairs. Leaping to the bottom of the second flight down, he was met face to face with the last two creeplings leveling a bazooka at his chest, one supporting the weapon’s barrel and aiming it, the other ready to squeeze the trigger. “You the kat, you the kat, you the kat!!!!” the Enforcer yelped, leaping over the rail beside him as the bazooka discharged. Landing on the flight below, McFurland wasted no time in charging up the stairs to the landing where the creeplings were frantically trying to reposition the bazooka. Shouting “Banzai!” the gray-furred Enforcer knocked the bazooka away and clouted the first creepling he came to with one tightly balled fist. The second squealed loudly and threw itself at his face. McFurland deftly caught the little beast in one gloved hand and slammed it into the concrete wall beside him. Panting heavily, he let the limp creepling drop from his hand as he slowly reached down to snatch up the vaccine guns from where the creeplings had let them fall to the floor.
“I think we know who the kat is,” McFurland purred before turning to jog back up the stairwell with his prizes.
Razor was bounding up stairs two or three at a time. As he ran he realized that it was getting harder and harder to run. He felt so tired. Panting, he stopped to lean against the railing.
“Can’t stop,” he mumbled. He looked up the stairwell. It was no more than a blurred mass.
‘Razor, you okay?’ T-Bone’s voice asked, sounding markedly better than before.
Razor’s problem hit him like a bolt, the blast of thought traveling to T-Bone a fraction of an instant later. T-Bone mentally reeled in shock. He was draining Razor for the energy he needed to survive!
“Hey! You okay?” a voice suddenly called from above.
Razor looked up to see a gray figure on a landing several floors up. He jerked spastically as T-Bone lunged from his mind again even as he mentally screamed “NO!!” at his friend. He collapsed as T-Bone left him, drained as T-Bone unconsciously, unknowingly, gathered energy for the leap.
T-Bone found himself looking down the stairwell at his friend, lying on the floor below. Quickly, he leapt down the flights between them and slung Razor over his shoulder, starting back up the stairs. His most pressing thought out of the way, McFurland’s worried thoughts surged to the fore. T-Bone gasped as he realized what was going on back up on the roof, doubling his speed.
Back on the roof, Feral anxiously glanced up at the TurboKat, wondering what it was waiting on. He frowned, better he didn’t know. His face settled into a scowl as he searched his options. To get off the roof he and his men had to pass the stack of barrels. On the other hand, the explosion the fuel barrels would cause would level the roof and several floors below it. Still, the TurboKat’s inaction made him suspicious of a trap involved with the obvious way out; he’d dealt with Dark Kat for too many years not to be suspicious. The Commander growled in frustration; if that goofy officer would just get back with the vaccine!
In sudden decision Feral bellowed to his men, “Everybody, clear the roof – ON THE DOUBLE!!!” Even as the words left his mouth a tremendous grinding drowned their completion. “Now what?” Feral growled, whirling around to see the massive steel doors of the hangar begin to slowly close. “Don’t let it close!” he ordered his men, rushing to the door.
Feral and several of his Enforcers caught onto the great doors as they were only a few scant feet apart. Desperately, the kats wrestled against several tons of metal. Feral, his voice strained with his efforts, shouted to the rest of his force to help as the doors inched ever closer to each other with an inexorable squeal. More Enforcers came readily, but couldn’t find room to get holds. Forced out of the way, Enforcers dropped away to watch the few there was room for struggle. Several traded off with their fellows, desperately trying to even slow the metal monoliths.
There was a sudden yell from the other side of the door and McFurland dove through the opening with Razor slung over his shoulder. Feral glanced at him briefly, concentrating his efforts on the door. It was a useless effort. He and a handful of his men stayed with it until they finally had to release their holds or lose their hands.
Feral backed away from the doorway, breathing heavily as he eyed the doors warily. His entire face contorted in a black scowl.
Felina’s head jerked up as a panting McFurland raced up to where she was slowly regaining her feet, still toting Razor.
“What—?!” Felina started.
“No time, Lieutenant,” McFurland returned, setting Razor down quickly and looking at the TurboKat. He stared at it for several minutes, his face settling into something like resignation.
“McFurland, what’re you doing? Use the gun!” Felina yelped.
The gray-furred Enforcer shook his head.
“Remember the disorientation? The jet could fire the missile before it shut down. No, I gotta do this the hard way.” Even as he spoke, the kat suddenly twitched, abruptly staggering back several feet. He dropped to his knees, head cradled in one hand.
“McFurland!” Felina knelt beside him.
“Ooohhh,” the Enforcer groaned, looking up at her. “What hit me?”
Hearing him, Razor quickly raised his head, trying weakly to stagger to his feet.
“Where’s T-Bone?!” he asked urgently.
“Razor, he….,” Felina started, not sure what to say.
“The jet!” McFurland gasped, snapping out of his stupor and remembering T- Bone’s presence in his mind.
T-Bone was ready when he felt himself hit the TurboKat. He felt the virus’ presence, but not half-merged with the jet as he had been before, he was able to ignore it. Quickly, he ordered the weapons systems to abort. The virus fought back. T-Bone mentally grit his teeth and plunged into the mental war with everything he had.
“The gun! USE IT!!!!” T-Bone’s voice suddenly screamed over the TurboKat’s public address system. “USE IT… NOW!” he cried desperately. “I’ll keep the missiles from firing!!!!”
McFurland slowly raised the gun, aiming it at the TurboKat. He glanced at Razor for confirmation as his finger tightened around the trigger. The orange-brown SWAT Kat nodded, his face set. They had no way of knowing how the vaccine would affect T- Bone. Taking a deep breath and expelling it with a breath of prayer, McFurland squeezed the trigger.
The dart-like missile hit the underside of the TurboKat’s cockpit in a flurry of sparks. The sparking spread to the cockpit quickly. As the sparks reached a fever pitch, the VTOL engines suddenly died with a final thrust of air that threw the three kats below back before the jet succumbed to the gravity it thrilled in denying and slammed into the tarmac. There was a blinding flash of light from the cockpit as it connected. Felina shielded her eyes with a hastily outflung hand, seeing McFurland do the same. An indistinct figure suddenly blocked a portion of the searing light, racing forward into the electrical radiance. She screamed to Razor as she recognized him and realized his intent. Dropping her hand, she raced after him, McFurland behind. Another burst of electric energy flung them back.
Felina opened her eyes to see the TurboKat several feet away, nose buried in the airstrip, its cockpit little better than a blackened mass. She let out a choking gasp, quickly putting thoughts of T-Bone aside. Razor. Where was Razor? She could help him.
Her eyes came to rest on a tight knot of Enforcers, surrounding a limp figure lying on the tarmac.
“Felina,” a voice called urgently beside her. Felina glanced up at her uncle, hearing his worried voice for the first time and realizing he’d been there all along.
“How long was I out?!” she demanded.
“Just a few minutes,” he replied, looking her over with concern.
Ignoring his obvious wishes for her to stay still, Felina staggered to her feet and limped to where the SWAT Kat was curled in a tight ball on the cold pavement. Callie was down on her knees by him, calling his name softly.
“Razor?!” Felina asked urgently, squatting and gently tugging on the arm that shielded his face.
Razor slowly moved his arm with a deep-throated moan, looking upward to stare into Felina’s dark eyes. Felina and Callie gasped together as they stared back into the kat’s wide eyes. His eyes were literally two different colors, half yellow-orange, half green. Even as they watched the eyes clouded, the colors running together to form a murky brown.
“Lieutenant… Miss Briggs…..,” the SWAT Kat moaned, “….help.” Abruptly, with a spastic motion, he jerked back into a ball, screaming in pain. The scream reverberated strangely as though two voices, not one.
“It’s both of them!” Callie gasped, realizing quickly that the two were bonding physically now.
Felina quickly grasped the situation.
“And, it’s killing them!” she added in a lower tone. “Get Hard Drive’s suit over here – NOW!!!!” she bellowed, jerking her head up and screaming across the roof.
Ignoring a very confused Feral, McFurland scrambled to his feet from the sitting position he’d assumed as he recovered from the blast and searched the rooftop. Seeing the suit lying in a pile on the tarmac, he raced to it and scooped it up, dashing back to Razor.
“I’ll get ‘im up – you two get this on ‘im,” he ordered, tossing the suit to Felina and getting behind Razor’s head to reach under the SWAT Kat’s arms. Confused, the other Enforcers backed away from the three purposeful kats surrounding Razor. McFurland jerked Razor up and off the floor in one smooth motion as Felina got the surge coat ready.
The two kats in one screamed again and struggled violently at the movement, desperately trying to get back into a fetal position. Felina’s eyes widened as she caught sight of the kat’s face as he fought McFurland’s grasp. The fur of his face had become a patchwork of yellow and orange fur.
“We don’t have much time!” she muttered.
Callie didn’t answer as she quickly raised Razor’s right arm. Felina slid the sleeve over it, grunting in frustration as she worked it behind the kat’s head, between him and McFurland. Callie met the suit on the other side, sliding Razor’s left hand into the sleeve.
“Now, howdya’ turn it on!” Felina growled, searching the front of the suit. Her eyes flew to the control panel in the center of the surge coat. “Got it,” she muttered, finding a likely-looking switch. “Get ready to let go, McFurland,” she called. “Now!” McFurland jumped away as Felina hit the switch and the suit glowed to life.
Amazingly, Razor remained standing without McFurland’s support, engulfed in the suit’s glow. He moaned and doubled over.
“T-Bone! Get out of there!” Felina shouted to the kat.
He raised his head and looked at them for a interminable instant. The three kats watched as the patches of yellow fur vanished.
“That’s it... C’mon,” McFurland urged.
A blinding flash of light suddenly engulfed the SWAT Kat. When it faded, two figures stood before the threesome.
T-Bone dazedly shook his head, dropping to his knees to hold it gently. Razor slumped to the tarmac in exhaustion.
“Man, my head hurts!” T-Bone groaned.
“Gotcha beat,” Razor mumbled from his prone position flat on his back several feet from T-Bone. “I just hurt.”
The crisis over, Commander Feral stepped up to McFurland and got one of the vaccine guns to use on the hangar doors. He glanced at the two SWAT Kats but quickly turned away from them. Much as his personal feelings for the two vigilantes screamed against it, they deserved at the least a reprieve from his growling. The Commander focused his attention on getting off the rooftop and making sure Dark Kat had left no further surprises. Thankfully, the only “disorientation” to the door controls made the massive steel doors open. Feral started as he was met with a small assault force clad in military fatigues on the other side.
“General Tyler, sent to ‘liberate’ MegaKat City,” the tall, yellow-furred kat at their head introduced himself. Confusion flashed across his face. “Mind tellin’ me what’s going on, Commander? My force took out several jets as we entered the city. We haven’t met any form of resistance since.”
“It’s a long story,” Feral returned slowly.
The other kat looked at him in greater confusion.
Felina glanced at the military force spreading out onto the airstrip.
“Think you guys better get goin’,” she muttered to T-Bone, who was slowly standing. He glanced at the force.
“Think you’re right, Lieutenant,” he returned, his voice gruff and hoarse after his ordeal. “Up for some hang glidin’, Bud?” he called to Razor.
“I don’ wanna move,” his partner moaned, throwing an arm over his face. “Carry me.”
“You’re carryin’ yourself!” T-Bone snapped, walking up to the shattered TurboKat. Briefly, he paused beside it, removing his helmet. Softly, he hummed “Taps” off-key, looking at the jet mournfully. He felt a hand on his shoulder suddenly.
“So, since we have to rebuild her, can I upgrade the systems?” Razor asked, giving his partner one of his own fiendish grins.
T-Bone half-growled and shook Razor’s hand off, stalking to where the bomb bay doors were visible under the jet.
“The display will be just like it always was. It’ll just have this little—” Razor continued as T-Bone reached under the fuselage and into a maintenance access, grunting as he jerked a lever to open the bomb bay doors.
Watching them, McFurland suddenly turned to Felina with a pathetic expression written across his face.
“Do we have to return the car now?!” he asked, his voice pleading.
Before Felina could answer, T-Bone’s voice broke in.
“Lieutenant, Miss Briggs… uhm… Officer, see ‘ya!”
Felina looked to see T-Bone and Razor strapping a pair of hang gliders to their backs.
“Miss Briggs—” Razor started, looking at Callie.
“I’ll make sure every piece of it gets to wherever you want,” she returned with a smile, gesturing to the TurboKat.
“How about same as after the fight with Mad Kat? The desert? Near the canyon?”
The twosome grinned at her and the two Enforcers before racing to the edge of the runway and leaping off into the open air. Felina, Callie, and McFurland watched as the two hang gliders caught updrafts and spiraled upward gracefully.
They know how to make an exit, don’t they?” Callie muttered.
Felina nodded as McFurland sighed.
“Y’know, Lieutenant Feral, I think I do want to be a pilot,” he muttered.
“Call me Felina,” she returned with a smile.
“Yes, Sir! Er… Ma’am!” he responded with a smile and a silly salute.
Callie smiled as she watched the two and then turned to stare out over the distant horizon again, where the two flying figures had vanished through the clouds. The sun was beginning to break through, just barely, but it was a start.
Callie smiled, casting a sidelong glance at the two Enforcers. Abruptly, she frowned; it felt like she was forgetting something. But, what?
Mayor Manx jumped as the cell door clanged shut, hearing voices down the hallway. He raced up to the bars, grabbing them and yelling at the top of his lungs.
“Wait! I’m not a criminal! Let me out! Feral! Callie!” Hearing no response, his voice trailed off into whimpers. “I promise not to raise taxes again – really! Just let me out! Please?! Somebody?! Anybody?!”
————————————- Epilogue ————————————
Slowly, silently a tremendous figure slipped from the shadows in the hangar atop Enforcer Headquarters. The hangar was silent now in the wee hours before dawn. A new day was coming and the tired Enforcer and Federal crews had gone to rest, feeling relatively free from danger. The tall kat smiled as he wandered, aimlessly it seemed, through the hangar, pausing beside each jet briefly and raising his left hand slightly before moving on. He was here to see to it that all was indeed safe. He lingered by one jet, finally reaching into an open access panel. It was several minutes before he removed his gloved hand and held it up. He eyed the almost invisible black speck between his fingers.
“Something so tiny yet so dangerous,” the kat murmured. “Because of you,” he muttered, his tone holding a vague accusation. “Because of you I spent three years in a maximum security prison. Because of you… and my dear, sweet brother.” The kat’s tone was less bitter, more a wry observation, as he said this, a sad smile crossing his face.
Slowly, the kat walked away from the jet, talking to himself. “Yes, brother dear, I’m on your trail…. as always. As always, I’m here to clean up after you. First, I’ll finish cleaning up your little handiwork of years ago. Then, I’ll see to your current mayhem and mischief.”
The huge kat smiled faintly as he spoke. “You know, maybe we should switch names – after all, you’re the one who brings all the strife….. and it is I who seek you.”