It seemed as good a time as any to find a job.
The chairs in the employment office waiting room creaked, as each occupant sat uncomfortably. On the opposite end of the room, a clock ticked monotonously, mixing with the sound of rustling newspapers and tapping keyboards.
Jake Clawson did his best to maintain a proper stature, only daring to tap his fingers with one hand, the other writing neatly on his sheet of paper. First impressions were everything, and the young kat didn't want to risk leaving a bad one onto his potential superiors should an officer pass him by.
Five minutes passed before Jake looked over his application form. Nothing stood out, nothing that would hinder his chances, at least. Satisfied, Jake stood up and walked his way to the front desk.
The receptionist barely lifted his eyes. "Can I help you?"
"Yes, uh…" Jake let himself breathe. "I'm handing in an application for the Enforcers Recruitment Program?"
The receptionist had the decency to hide his surprise. "Uh huh? Let me see that…" His bored eyes scanned the paper. "Mm-hmm, yeah…Alright, kid, I can put you in the lists in a second…Just wait there..."
Jake nodded, watching the employee make his way to the back.
Kid, he called me a kid! Jake shook his head. Well of course he did, I don't exactly look like an adult, do I?
An awkward minute passed before the man returned. "Ok Mr…Clawson. Your application has been processed, we got you the last slot. You will be expected here at 0700 hours-tomorrow morning for pick-up. Do not be late."
Of course. Jake nodded. "Yes, thank you, sir!"
This time, the receptionist didn't bother to hide a slight sneer. "Sure thing, kid. Next, please."
Jake wasted no time leaving the building. His apartment would only be a fifteen minute walk from Enforcer Headquarters, nothing strenuous. However, his mind was more concerned on what little time he had.
0700…That gives me thirteen hours to finish my packing, have dinner…Jake processed. And hopefully enough time to sleep…
Jake unlocked the door to his flat and stepped inside. Cramped, dirty and having the occasional insect infestation, the flat was by no means a luxurious place. That being said, Jake was grateful for the price that came with it; living unemployed was no easy task, even with the pocket money Jake had tirelessly saved over the past years.
His bedroom was the smallest, but best maintained room in the flat. To call it tidy would be optimistic, but the lack of clutter made it habitable enough. A brown leather suitcase, likely the most expensive thing Jake owned, sat on top of his bed.
Jake opened it up and re-examined the contents. Uniform, check. Toothbrush, check. Books, check…Where did I leave that Handbook?
The feline almost had a panic attack until he found it under the bed. The Enforcer Law and Reform Handbook, not best-selling material and certainly nothing exciting-but it was Jake's best chance to get an edge over his fellow cadets.
Not that it's a contest of brains…more of a brutal struggle of strength and endurance, from what I've heard. Jake sat down on the edge of his bed, book still in hand, flicking through the pages. Still, a bit of last-minute revision couldn't hurt, I guess.
Half an hour later, Jake felt a bit more confident. If I don't have physical strength or fitness going for me, at least I have general knowledge on my side!
Jake put the Handbook back in his suitcase. Not that it'll matter to the drill sergeants yelling at me…Do they even read the handbook?
It wouldn't matter, not if Jake's fitness was an even bigger issue. Kats alive, I've signed up for the freaking ENFORCERS, what did I expect? Knowledge won't cut it if I can't even do five press ups…What the hell was I thinking?
With nothing to lose, Jake began the most basic exercise he could think of, star-jumps. It wouldn't make a difference to his fitness, but it put Jake at ease knowing he had at least tried to make an effort. Gotta start somewhere I suppose…Yeah, like it'll be this easy at Training…
Only five minutes later, Jake stopped, heart pumping furiously. He wiped the sweat off his forehead. Kats, I really am unfit...
After taking a cold shoulder, Jake cooked himself a simple microwave dinner and sat down on the couch to eat. He had no TV, only the dull decoration of his apartment to fix his eyes on.
It had only been a week since Jake had moved in, but he was already glad to leave-even if it meant leaving to face the Enforcer Boot Camp.
Better to be trampled to death than bored to death. Jake resolved, his situation looked a lot brighter when he saw it in that light. It was certainly a better alternative than running back home, not that Jake cared to think about it, some problems were best left behind-even if the future didn't look great either.
Jake made himself smile, finishing his bowl of cheap pasta. Who knows? I might actually get in, if miracles are real, that is.
He changed clothes and settled in his bed, falling asleep to the thought that he'd never feel so comfortable again.
The alarm went off at 5:45am the following morning. Jake didn't consider himself a morning person, but dutifully got himself up and into his morning routine.
He took another cold shower, more thorough than yesterday. Jake knew the time would come when he'd have to take one at the camp eventually, but until then, he did his best to prolong that necessity.
After a meager slice of buttered toast with milk for breakfast, Jake finally got himself changed into his uniform. Enforcer code required recruits to wear dull cargo pants, a dark vest and black combat boots-all of which felt unusual to Jake, and didn't suit his lanky stature.
He checked the time on his watch. 6:30, I better get going. Jake grabbed his suitcase and gave his former-home one last look, before shutting the front door and locking it for the last time.
Jake ran the fifteen minute walk to the Recruitment office, not letting himself stop for a break. When he finally entered the office building, Jake found the closest chair to collapse on, doing his best to suppress his heavy panting. Kats alive…
He barely had time to recover before a well-dressed employee arrived, calling loudly. "Alright, recruits applying for the Enforcer Training Camp, please follow me out to the front of the building. We don't have much time people, move it!"
Jake stood up, noticing the three other kats that stood up with him. Each wore the regulation uniform as expected, with their own forms of luggage at their side. He gave them a once over; all of them were toms, of course, but what surprised Jake was that they were all around his height, too.
What didn't surprise Jake, was that they all looked older, and much stronger, than he did. He didn't even need to check out their muscular frames, or any scars they had on their face-Jake saw the look in their eyes, and how confidently they walked out of the building. They were cocky, but for a good reason.
The young tom followed behind the crowd, as they made their way outside the building. There was a bus stop not far away, and as Jake predicted, it was for them.
There was little room to sit, as it sparked a race between the three other toms to find a seat. Jake did his best not to roll his eyes, there was no room left, but Jake could settle with standing.
The local Officer, who went by the surname "Tabb" did a final roll call on the four of them. It seemed pointless, but it was still a formality they had to obey.
Alphabetically, "Clawson!" was called first.
"Present." Jake answered, ignoring the looks of the other kats. He could tell what they were thinking already.
One of these kats is not like the others…Jake brooded. Skinny kat like me, I'm gonna hear that a lot, won't I?
The rest of the names followed. "Garand! Morrows! Steele!" Everyone was present, but Jake didn't bother learning which name belonged to which kat, they were all the same to him, and he was all the same to them.
It was 7:10 exactly when a dull green bus came into view on the horizon.
Here goes nothing, I guess…
Come on, come on, hurry up!
The bus had made its fifth stop to pick up recruits, and already it was enough to make Chance bored out of his mind. He sat alone, looking out of his window, waiting for the bus to start itself up again.
Four new recruits, along with their officer, climbed into the bus, and made their way down the aisle to find a seat. Out of boredom, Chance had made it a game to figure out which recruits would make it past Enforcer Training, and who wouldn't.
It didn't take long for Chance to find the "runt" of the litter-The auburn-furred tom that chose to sit near the front, clearly the youngest of the lot, had a thin frame-lacking muscles and confidence in stature. If what Chance had been told about Boot Camp was true, that kat was in for a hard time.
I'd give him a week, a month tops.
The bus started moving again. Chance fixed his eyes out the window once more, waiting for the Training Camp to finally show itself. It would be his time to shine soon enough, only a few miles left to go.
"Excuse me, mind if I sit here?"
Chance turned from the window, his train of thought had been cut off by a dark brown kat, topped with unusually blonde hair. He was one of the four that had stepped on.
There's a lot of empty seats, you know. Chance shrugged. "Sure, it's a free city, isn't it?"
The kat ignored his tone, and held out a hand. "Name's Steele."
Chance reluctantly shook it. "Chance."
"Looking to be an Enforcer too, eh?"
What else would I be doing? "Same as everyone else on this bus…"
"Yeah, haha. What branch are you thinking?"
That was an easy answer. "Air Force, you?"
"Haven't decided yet, actually…Whatever fits my abilities, I suppose..."
Chance didn't like Steele's tone. He was trying to be elegant, but instead came off as more arrogant-it didn't sound like anyone wanting to be an Enforcer-not for the right reason, at least.
"Fair enough." Chance resorted back to looking out the window, hoping it would give Steele a big enough hint to leave him be.
It didn't. "Looking forward to training?"
You don't quit, do you? Another shrug. "It is what it is." Chance had prepared himself well enough since he was a kitten, but even he knew to expect certain difficulties.
He just prayed they wouldn't have to swim.
"I heard it's really intense…Every day for three months, you wake up at 5am, eat nothing but gruel and do nothing but exercise." Steele chuckled. "Wouldn't be surprised if only half of these people survived the first month!"
Chance really didn't like his tone now. He turned to face Steele. "So what about you?" Chance almost let out a sneer. "You think you can make it any more than half of us here?" And here I thought only upper-state kats like me were supposed to be arrogant.
"Well…no, it's just…I know people and…" Steele faltered, adjusting his neck collar. "Never mind, I was making a point. Didn't mean anything by it…"
Sure…Chance held back from rolling his eyes. "We'll just have to wait and see, won't we?"
"Yeah, guess so…"
Chance leaned back in his chair, looking at the ceiling. He didn't like Steele's attitude, but if what he said was true, they would have their work cut out for him.
The bus stopped again, but this time it wasn't for picking up recruits.
"Alright, cadets!" An Officer from the front shouted, loud enough to reach the back. "We get off here, we're running behind as it is, move it people!"
Once every kat was off the bus, the Officers led the rest of the way on foot. A ten minute walk saw them outside the gates of the camp.
After a couple of clearance checks, the group was let inside. Chance widened his eyes at the sight of it all. The facility had everything he could imagine a stereotypical "Boot Camp" to have; from the vast range of obstacle courses right down to the ten foot tall walls topped with barbed wire.
Almost looks like a prison, actually. Hell, for some kats, it might be just that…
They stopped walking when they reached the courtyard, as another officer ordered them to stand attention.
A well-dressed official stepped in front to greet him. By his clothes, Chance already knew that it was not just any officer that faced them.
"Cadets of the 109th trainee division!" His volume commanded the entire courtyard. "My name is Ulysses Feral, but you lot will call me Captain Feral! Is that clear?"
Before anyone could answer, Feral cut them off. "Good." The Captain slowly began pacing in front of the recruits. "It is my task to lead and train the bunch of you into fit, capable Enforcers, worthy to defend Megakat city, be it by air, land or sea. Therefore I demand your undivided obedience and attention!"
Sounds like fun…
The Captain continued. "To ensure the best cadets get through, however, you will be expected to meet our rules, expectations and most notably, our tests. We believe in a fair, but firm system, and it goes as follows…"
Captain Feral brought out a sheet of paper, a list, from his back pocket. Chance groaned internally. Kats alive, how long is this gonna take?
Feral began reading. "Disobedience of our Rules and Regulations will earn you a strike. If any of you fail to follow orders, either from myself or any commanding officer, you will earn a strike automatically."
At this point, recruits began looking at each other, their nerves were evident. Chance could see Steele in the corner of his eye, working up a sweat.
The list still went on. "Should any recruit be unable to complete any of our training courses within a given time, they will earn a strike."
"And finally, in the event a cadet reaches their third strike, they will be terminated from the program. No exceptions!" Those last words left everyone in a tense silence.
Feral still had the final word. "Official Gateway training will start tomorrow, and will finish after three months. If any of you manage to make it that far, you will be permitted into our fine Academy. Do not disappoint us." With that, Captain Feral turned, and left the recruits, muttering to each other in a panicked atmosphere.
"Wait, did he really mean that?"
"I didn't think it'd be that hard!"
"Well, so much for being an Enforcer…"
Within it all, Chance let out a grin. The Captain had made the stakes clear, and now there was a challenge that set the bar remarkably high. A system that would make or break any kat that faced it.
There was no way Chance could let himself back down from that.
Bring it on, Feral.
Jake faced the ground, doing his best to keep a calm composure. Dammit, this was my only option left, too…
"Alright, alright, listen up. Over here!" Officer Tabb's tone was softer than Feral's in comparison, but it was enough to silence the unsettled crowd.
Tabb cleared his throat. "For the rest of today, we will be running you through the orientation of the Camp, so you know where everything is, etcetera etcetera…After that, we process each of you through the Medical Bay, get your vitals checked out. Standard protocol, I assure you..."
Jake forced himself to look up. Well, I'm here now…Just gotta follow the rules. I can be good at that, at least…
The tour of the facility became as tedious as it was time-consuming. Jake did his best to focus on Tabb's explanations of each building, hoping to forget the harsh reality of Feral's words.
When they passed the collection of obstacle courses, Jake's stomach caved in.
From one end to another, each course stood with the usual monkey bars, tire jumps, ropes, tunnels-all one would expect of a boot camp.
"This is the most exciting part of our facility, of course." Tabb explained. "The courses here are made to test the physical aspects that you will need to become an Enforcer. We will be frequently testing you with these courses; starting with that one on the far left tomorrow morning. Number 1, I believe…"
The course Tabb pointed out had the appropriate #1 sign on it, as the cadets were allowed a closer look.
"Of course, this is our most basic test course of the group. Wouldn't want to get you guys killed on the first week, would we?" Tabb made a half smirk.
That's not gonna stop me…
"That being said," Tabb continued. "This is by no means a playground. You will each be individually timed tomorrow, and as you've heard before, failure is not your best option."
"If I may, sir…" One kat behind him asked. "How much time will we have?"
"For the first course? Five minutes."
Five minutes?! Jake gave the course another look. Looks like I'm getting my first strike tomorrow. Great…
"Heh, no problem…" It was the same kat, muttering to himself.
Jake couldn't help but look behind to see who it was. Confident, are we?
A yellow-furred tom stood two lines behind him, folding his arms and an assertive smirk on his face. His build was broad, muscled into a strong, dominating appearance-strong enough to allow a level of confidence.
I take that back. His frame, his eyes, I know that look…He knows what he's doing. This course would be nothing to him. Kitten's-play.
Jake made himself face forward again, swallowing his envy. No point in comparing myself, not when I'm so far behind everyone else…
What followed next was the obligatory trip to the Medical Bay. Each Kat was required to have their heights and weights taken, along with fingerprints and even blood samples. Jake never liked the needles, no-one did, but he made sure not to show it in front of the nurses, or worse, his peers.
His mind was on other things anyway, mainly obstacle courses.
After the check-up, Jake was sent off-given the rest of the day off for free time. So long as they stayed in the area, they were free to use the facilities to rest, train or study, as Tabb explained.
Well, that's not so bad, at least. Half a day before I get my ass kicked is always a bonus…
Jake took himself to the dormitory, hoping to claim a bed of his choosing. For once, the last name "Clawson" had its advantages, it allowed Jake to be processed first, allowing him to leave early, before anyone else.
The inside of the dormitory looked as dull as its exterior, but it wasn't the slum Jake had been used to living in. Neatly made beds stood in two rows along the corridor, with a locker accompanying each piece.
And I get first pick? Talk about a silver lining…
Jake hauled his luggage to the very back of the room, distancing himself from the front door. After organizing his belongings into his now-personal locker, he threw himself on the bed.
Meh, It's not my old bed, but it'll do.
Jake sat up and, with nothing better to do, took out a book from his collection to read.
I know, I need to exercise…Jake turned his head to see more cadets enter the dorm. Then again, is it really worth embarrassing myself?
That question didn't need answering.
Lying down, Jake opened the book and began mindlessly turning the pages. Noir-crime never failed to thrill Jake on a regular occasion, but without the security of privacy, Jake couldn't feel comfortable letting his guard down.
Instead, he resorted to focusing on his peripheral vision. So far, none of the other kats had chosen to sleep near the back, but Jake knew that wouldn't last.
At least they don't want trouble, not today, at least.
Jake could still feel the tension in his shoulders, as his eyes went back to reading.
How long will that last, though?
The nurse struggled to hold Chance down as the needle pressed into his wrist.
"Argh!" The yellow tom suppressed a panicked growl. Get it out, get it out!
"Nearly there, one more second, and…done." The needle withdrew, as the nurse gave Chance a plaster for the wound.
Chance sighed, both in relief and embarrassment. "Is that it?"
The she-kat gave a small smile. "That's it, everything's done."
Best thing I've heard all day….Chance stood up, grabbing his suitcase. "Hey, uh. Would you mind if you, you know…didn't anyone about this?"
The nurse laughed. "Oh trust me, you're far from the worst I've had to deal with." She gave a sly smirk. "If you saw the Captain get his blood samples…"
Wouldn't that be a sight? Chance returned a grin. "Heh, thanks."
"No problem. Comes with the job, you know."
With that, Chance left the Medical Bay in a better mood than he could have hoped for.
Kats alive, that was a waste of time! Why the hell did we need a blood sample, anyway? Chance felt over his aching wrist. Guess I can pass on press-ups today…
Exercise was the last thing on Chance's mind, anyway. Gotta get a bed before they all get taken, unless I wanna sleep on the floor…
Fortunately, the dormitory had beds to spare, but only at the back of the room. It wasn't hard to figure out why. Those that slept closer to the front had a better chance of getting up earlier, giving them a lower chance to be told off. And it gets them closer to the mess hall. The early kat gets the milk, so they say…
Chance walked down the center aisle, carrying his duffel bag. I guess it doesn't matter where I sleep, the siren's gonna be loud enough to wake me up anyway.
The back of the room saw an array of beds, all empty except for the one at the back left row. Chance remembered him instantly; it was the auburn-furred tom-kat from earlier, there was no mistaking it.
Didn't expect to see you here…Guess you're not a fan of getting up early either, huh?
In a split-second decision, Chance threw his bag onto the bed, right next to the auburn kat. The smaller tom stopped reading his book, turning his face to observe his new roommate.
Chance ignored the gaze and unpacked his belongings, hanging up his clothes and storing his collection of comic books and instruction manuals in the locker.
With nothing left to sort out, Chance laid down in his new bed. Nothing made him miss home more.
Urgh, I can feel the strings pressing into my back…Are we really supposed to sleep in these?
Despite the discomfort, Chance remained lying down, hoping it would somehow adjust him to the new mattress. It wouldn't do any good to complain about it, he'd just have to adapt.
Out of boredom, Chance turned to face the younger tom, he was still watching him from earlier.
Ah, what the hell. "Is there a problem?" Chance asked, keeping his tone docile.
The auburn kat snapped out of his gaze, looking away tentatively. "Uh, no. Sorry about that…"
Quite the spine you got there…Chance looked away. He's not an asshole at least. But why did he come here?
Sitting up, Chance decided to keep the ball rolling. "Good book?"
The auburn blinked, sitting himself up. "Um, yeah. It's not bad, I guess…"
"What's it about?"
"Uh, murder, I guess?"
You're killing me here. "Sounds exciting…" Chance gave the kat another look, and with nothing to lose, held out a hand. "The name's Chance, Chance Furlong…"
There was a pause from the other kat, before he nervously reached out to shake Chance's hand. "Jake Clawson. Uh, nice to meet you…"
Chance leaned himself back. "So let me guess, you were forced to come here, huh?"
A siren sounded and a voice that belonged to none other than the Captain spoke up. His tone was unmistakable.
"Listen up you lot! You are expected in the mess hall in five minutes, presence is mandatory, unless you starve, that is!"
"Oh great, I wonder what luxuries await us for dinner…"Chance stood up. "We should head there now, before the queue fills up with kats..."
The kat named Jake blinked again. "…We?"
"Sure, why not?" Chance smirked. "Unless you wanna read that thrilling book of yours instead…"
"Ah, no. You've got a point…" Jake made a small smile. "Wouldn't want to annoy our dear Captain, now would we?"
It was the first time that day Chance allowed himself to laugh.
Who is this kat?
The only exciting thing about dinner for Jake was listening to his new friend complain about it.
"Porridge?!" The bigger tom exclaimed. "Is this really the best the mighty Enforcers could come up with?"
Jake shrugged. "What did you expect? It's not exactly a hotel around here…"
"I know that! But it's just so…bland!" Chance put down his spoon. "No sugar or sweeteners, nothing. Just liquid concrete…"
It didn't take to Jake's liking either, but he persevered though his bowl anyway, washing each scrap down with a can of milk. Better warm than cold…
Chance widened his eyes as he watched Jake finish his last spoonful. "I'll never know how you ate it all so quickly…"
A fast metabolism does wonders…Jake shrugged. "I was hungry. Besides, I'll need the energy for tomorrow..." Like that'll make a difference…
Chance huffed. "I'll take my chances, so long as we don't have this crud for breakfast tomorrow…"
I wouldn't hold my breath. Jake noticed Chance's bowl had barely been touched. "Hey, you gonna eat that?"
The one second of pure awe on Chance's face was almost priceless, before he pushed his bowl across the table. "Knock yourself out."
The evening wore quickly after dinner, as camp regulation ensured the cadets a tight curfew.
"You all have one hour before lights out. Need I remind that you are all expected awake and alert no later than 6am. No exceptions!"
Jake couldn't take his mind off of the tom that had chosen to sleep in the bed next to him. The yellow-furred muscle-bound kat had a personality to him, a flare that set him aside from everyone else.
Chance…that was his name, right? Yeah, that's it! Didn't think he'd want to be friends with a kat like me…maybe he felt sorry for me, or something…
It was something he'd have to figure out tomorrow, if he could survive it. It had only been Orientation day and already Jake felt ready to throw himself into his new bed.
That's not a good sign…
Changing into his boxers and slipping into bed at record time, Jake took one last glance of his surroundings. The young kat knew better than to gaze at the other kats for too long-as tempting as it was.
I guess it had to happen at some point, sharing a room with over twenty toms...Kats, that'll take some getting used to…
Jake had no choice but to put it in the back of his mind, knowing full and well the consequences of being caught.
No-one needs to know. No-one is gonna know, not this time…They'd all kill me if they knew…
Jake heard his friend collapse beside him, muttering some semblance of a 'good night'. Thinking about the yellow-furred kat added to the increasing list of Jake's insecurities. No no no, stop thinking about it! It's not right…
The auburn tom kept his eyes firmly shut, taking in a nervous breath as he tried to drift away into sleep. It only made him feel worse.
What have I gotten myself into?
There you have it, folks, the first chapter of my first Swat Kats fanfiction! Probably one of the longest chapters I've written, too, s forgive me for any errors. I can always fix them if they are too much of a problem.
If you liked the look of this, or have any questions about the story, please leave a review or PM, and i'll get back to you. This will, of course be a continuation, and one I really look forward to writing more for.