"Oh, boy, my first mission!"
"Calm down, rookie," said an amused Felina, keeping her attention on her flying, even though Gray's enthusiasm was infectious, making her feel like a rookie again herself, "nothing exciting happening yet."
"Sorry, ma'am, I mean, sir, I mean..." Gray trailed off uncertainly. "How do you address a female Enforcer officer?
"You say 'Lieutenant,'" King informed him from the co-pilot's seat.
Gray blushed. "Sorry, sir." Then to Felina, "Sorry, Lieutenant..."
Felina shook her head and exchanged smirks with her co-pilot.
"Not even a week out of the academy and he's already itchin' for action, huh, Lieutenant?" said King, already building an easy working relationship with Commander Feral's niece.
"Don't I know it," said Felina. Over her shoulder, she said, "Don't worry, Corporal Taylor."
The chopper continued to zoom through the city.
"This is Megakat City," she added, a little darkly. "Trust me, you won't lack for excitement here..."
The elevator doors dinged and slid open as Dr. Belljar stepped out. He was young and slim with short blonde hair. Carrying a notebook, he walked down the hall towards and enormous, steel-reinforced door marked "Top Secret - No Admittance." He sighed. Beyond that door was an old secret, mostly forgotten by all but a few Megakat City. He did not relish these weekly visits, or the progress reports he had to give Deputy Mayor Briggs and the Enforcers.
Posted out front was Steven. He was a big, burly kat wearing the uniform of a security guard. Gone was elderly, inattentive Emil. Megakat Biochemical Labs took its security very seriously these days. Steven rose and walked to the door, which had no visible handle. To one side behind the guard's desk was a big keypad. A little light above it was currently red.
"Come to see the freak show again, Doc?" asked Steven with a smirk.
"Just open the door," grumbled the scientist.
Shrugging, Steven entered a security code. There was a beep and the light turned green, the enormous armored door sliding open into the wall. The two went inside. This room amounted to little more than a long hallway. On either side were three huge holding cells. Like the entrance, they were only openable by a keypad each, but instead of a thick metal door, each cell had a sliding clear glass door allowing observers to see inside.
Inside five of the six cells were the surviving converted guards from the MASA incident. The sixth cell was empty. These five individuals were all that remained of the MASA personnel bitten and turned by the Ci-Kat-A queen and her drones... now progressed so far into their transformations they were essentially fully-fledged drones themselves, but unlike ordinary Ci-Kat-A, they were not purple, as they'd retained their original fur color, and their compound eyes were green instead of red. They had no clothing. One was distinct from the others; he had a bushy mustache from under which his insectoid mandibles poked. This, Belljar remembered, had been MASA's nuclear reactor guard and the first one turned after Dr. Street.
The five had been kept here since the incident, where Megakat Biochemical experimented on them endlessly in an effort to find a cure for the Ci-Kat-A bite, not just in the hopes of saving them, but also to develop a means of fighting the aliens if they should ever return.
Belljar turned and looked at the sixth, empty cell, wishing the missing Street occupied it. His whereabouts were unknown, and as long as he remained loose, the danger of a resurgent Ci-Kat-A "plague" was ever present... putting more pressure on Belljar and his colleagues to develop a cure.
Consulting his notes, Belljar walked down the line of cells on one side, examining the occupants to see what, if any, effect the latest experimental antidote they'd given them the previous evening had had. They stood motionlessly in the middle of their cells, and but for the twitching of their antenna, there was no sign that they're alive. The cells were soundproof, so Belljar and Steven couldn't hear any noises the creatures were making.
As the scientist and the guard walked down the line of cells, the Ci-Kat-A's behavior changed. They rushed the glass doors and smacked into them, clawing uselessly at the clear barrier between them and their intended victims. Neither Belljar nor Steven flinched, used to these fruitless attacks.
"Ever wonder what goes through their heads?" asked Steven conversationally, pointing at the Ci-Kat-A.
"How much they'd like to get out of these cells and bite us," replied Belljar without looking up from his notebook. "So be vigilant."
With a sigh, Belljar made some notes. No improvements. He examined the two occupied cells on the other side of the room. Stopping at one, he activated an intercom, through which he and Steven could hear the occupant's ceaseless buzzing. Belljar turned the intercom off and then sighed again, making more notes.
"The latest treatments are still having no effect. Well, we'll just have to try something else. We can't give up on them."
"If you say so, Doc," replied Steven skeptically.
They left. Steven entered another code, shutting the door. Gradually, the agitated Ci-Kat-A stopped trying to break through the glass and resumed their original positions, standing motionlessly in the middle of their individual cells. They were as still as department store mannequins.
Belljar walked off down the hall toward the elevator. "I'm going back upstairs. Deputy Mayor Briggs ought to be arriving soon. I'll be back shortly."
"Sure thing, Doc."
Belljar got on the elevator and left.
Back in the restricted area, another change came over the five captured Ci-Kat-A. Their antennae twitched and they started becoming restless, even though no one was in the room, as though they sensed something.
Steven sighed tiredly, using one finger to spin his articulated desk lamp around in an effort to entertain himself, when suddenly the duct cover of an air vent flew off and lands on the floor. Suddenly very attentive, the guard gets up.
The converted Murdoch slithered out of the air vent. He was still mostly kat-like except his compound eyes. The other three converted former convicts followed suit. As Steven went for his gun, the four hurriedly overwhelmed and subdued him. One covered his mouth. Another prevented him from drawing his laser pistol. Emerging from the vent last of all was Dr. Street. He glided down to the floor using his wings and landed in front of the group.
He studied the door, eying the keypad. Turning, he grabbed the front of Steven's uniform, jerking him out of the cons' grasp. Before the guard could yell for help, Street's mandibles sank into his throat. Releasing Steven, he steps back as the guard collapses, writhing. The Ci-Kat-A hive mind began to worm its way into his brain. After a moment, he stopped, rose, eyes green and insectoid. He walked to the keypad, where he entered his security code. The light turned green and the door opened. The converted prisoners entered one by one, Steven following.
Murdoch lingered with Street. "What about Super-Katalyst-"
"What that small-minded fool Viper wants can wait," Street cut him off angrily. "This is more important. Come."
Murdoch didn't the press the issue any further and the two went inside.
Callie Briggs' dark green sedan pulled into the parking lot of Megakat Biochemical and parked. Opening the gull wing door, the Deputy Mayor got out. She was dressed in her usual attire, but had her jacket off, slung over her shoulder, tie slightly loosened, the top button of her dress shirt undone; concessions to the heat. She was here for her weekly visit to check up on the captured Ci-Kat-A, to see if Dr. Belljar had made any progress. She saw him through a window and waved, then went inside.
A stone-faced security guard was at the front desk in the lobby. A little desk fan blew over him nonstop. He glances over disinterestedly as Callie came in. Dr. Belljar got off the elevator to greet her.
"Ms. Briggs, thank you so much for coming."
They shook hands. Although she put her blazer back on, Callie had elected not to button it, or her shirt, and left her tie loosened.
She fanned herself. "It sure is a scorcher out there today, isn't it, Dr. Belljar?"
"Yes it is, isn't it? Thank goodness for the miracle of air conditioning!"
They turn and headed towards the elevators.
"The AC in my car is busted. It was like riding in an oven all the way over here. I don't supposed you can make this presentation a long one, can you, Doctor?" she asked half-jokingly.
The two got on the elevator. "I'll do my best to ensure you remain to enjoy our facility's air conditioning for as long as you require, Deputy Mayor."
The doors shut. A few minutes later, the two were in the main lab of the building while Dr. Belljar retrieved the necessary files. Big windows from floor to ceiling let bright sunshine in. There were rows and rows of shelves containing neatly arranged and carefully labelled bubbling flasks and canisters of orange-colored katalysts and gently humming electronic machinery, computers and the like. There are a few workstations and desks. On one, there was a ten gallon tank containing a large black desert scorpion. After a moment, Dr. Belljar approached holding a manila file folder containing the data on Megakat Biochemical's efforts to cure the afflicted guards.
"I hope you have some progress to show me," Callie said. "There's five anxious families awaiting answers. They're calling my office night and day. I need to give them something, Doctor."
The scientist squirmed uncomfortably. "I just got done checking the latest results and they aren't encouraging..." He trailed off.
Callie sternly adjusted her purse's shoulder strap. "I want to have a look for myself anyway."
Belljar sighed, setting the file folder aside. "Fine," he said, "follow me."
The two left the lab and started off down the hallway.
"Sam Konway down at Enforcer Headquarters has a few interesting ideas. He's a little more openminded than I am, which is probably why Feral headhunted him to head their biotech division. I can show you what I've managed to get done so far, and then what Konway has in-"
He stopped short as they 'rounded the corner. They saw the ventilation grate on the floor - and the top secret room's door wide open, various figures filling the doorframe.
"What in the world?"
They walked closer, more cautiously, and ducked down behind Steven's desk, peering over the top into the room. Dr. Harley Street looked around angrily at the imprisoned Ci-Kat-A, spreading his arms like a preacher giving a sermon.
"My brothers! In a moment you shall be free! And together we shall have our new queen and conquer not only Megakat City, but the world!"
The five converted MASA guards in their glass-encased cells were jumping up and down excitedly. The bug-eyed Steven went to each one in turn and entered the security code to open it. The glass doors slid open, and the former MASA personnel stepped free to mingle with their new "brothers," making particularly grateful buzzing noises to Dr. Street, who offered soothing pets and strokes.
Callie and Belljar continue peering over the desk. "This is bad!" whispered Belljar.
"It's... it's Dr. Street!" Callie whispered back. "I thought he was dead!"
"And now, my brothers, we must complete our secondary mission for our 'friend and benefactor' Dr. Viper," Street continued.
More excited buzzing from the assembled converted kats. Murdoch glanced towards the open door. The two ducked down behind Steven's desk. But it seemed Murdoch had seen them. Or at least he thought she saw something. Enough to go and investigate. Two of the converted convicts accompanied him.
"We'd better alert someone...!" Dr. Belljar was whispering fearfully.
"A good idea!" Callie agreed, slipping her hand into her purse, trying to locate the communicator. Suddenly-
Gasping, they turned. Murdoch was standing on the desk, pointing at them as though in accusation. He was flanked on either side by the other two converted prisoners who'd accompanied him. Behind them, through the open door, Street and the others stopped what they were doing and turned, antennae twitching in agitation.
"Spies!" cried Murdoch.
He hopped down from the desk and ran towards them, salivating, arms outstretched like a zombie. Callie swung her purse to hit him, knocking him slightly off balance. A second convict rushed forwards. Having seen Callie in action, he grabbed her purse and ripped it from her grasp, throwing it aside. It smacked into the wall, spilling out its contents, including the communicator.
Jumping up, Callie resorted to fisticuffs, punching the converted prisoner in the face, sending him staggering backward. He fell onto his back and lay spread-eagle on the carpet. She then kicked Murdoch in the diaphragm with the tip of her high-heeled shoe, making him double over in agony, ripping her skirt all the way up past her mid-thigh in the process.
As Murdoch collapsed and the third convict advanced, Callie grabbed a potted plant and threw it at him. It smashed across his face, and he fell to his knees, clutching his head.
Dr. Street emerged from the top secret lab, growling, and with one great sweep of his arm, knocked everything off of Steven's desk, and then, with superhuman strength, he grabbed the desk and lifted the entire thing over his head.
"All those who oppose the rule of the Ci-Kat-A... MUST DIE!"
With a grunt, he hurled the desk towards Callie and Dr. Belljar.
"Duck!" cried Callie.
The two hit the dloor and the desk smashed into the wall, splintering into pieces!
"Get them!" ordered Street.