MegaKat City Salvage Yard: 2:34 A.M., Monday, September 9
The skeletal remains of tumbleweed staggered and rolled lazily along the current of the winds like a living, breathing creature, towards the asphalt and powdered by the desert dust. Along one side of the road lie rows of kat-made hills-- remnants of past technological innovations laid to rest into a mound that resembled a graveyard. It was always the reality of life in the pursuit of innovation, where only the old must give way to the new. Everything, from broken home appliances to cars and even jet engines, there was nothing that resembled the past that once signified the glory being brought to them by their creators after having poured blood and sweat and tears into creating them. The tumbleweed rolled deeper into the dust-covered road until its urchin-like branches snagged against the sharp edges of the pile of scrap metal, ending its aimless voyage within the small clearing parked with two cars and a tow truck.
The garage sat silently in the darkness, surrounded by the same pile of wreckage. Within the stillness of the night, crickets sang its lonely tune that echoed within the hills of scrap metal and bounced off within its hollowed-out metallic shells creating a moody sound. A singular stream of thin gray smoke flowed out from the pipe exhaust and headed westwards, where MegaKat City lies. It was a picture of perfect serenity that resembled a log cabin high up in the mountains where the only potential danger would even be nothing more than a pin drop falling off the table. Yet something must bound to happen for every second that pass by this desolate area, but no one, except fate alone, could foresee the change that will occur whether it would deem significant or not.
The silence of the night shatters like glass from a short but sharp scream shooting out the bedroom window. Inside, a he-kat finds himself staring at the chipped off patches of paint as his eyes shook, staring at the ceiling. Unnoticed, trickles of sweat falls off from the sides under his ears and onto the pillow as he sits up and drags his left paw slowly over his face. The leather under his paw drenched and shimmered under the column of light from the lamppost outside as his hand shudders that he retracts his claws under the hood of his fingers. Never before did he have a nightmare that made the fur on his face drench in sweat for the first time.
A she-kat swiveled her head all over the pillow on the other side of the bed as she tossed herself to her right side facing the edge. She moans, trying to break free from the overwhelming drowsiness of slumber the moment her ears began feeding the sharp sound coming from her partner into her consciousness.
For almost five minutes he kept his eyes towards the ceiling like a patient suffering from a very high fever. Slowly, his thoughts began to settle back to reality, realizing he would never find any answers from a thin, peeled off layer of plywood that dangled under the influence of gravity. With the thought of sleep fading away once he opens his eyes, he lifts himself off the pillow, throwing the sheets that covered his body over to his left side where the she-kat was sleeping. He sat up on the edge of the bed as the drops of sweat began to accumulate off his whiskers. Reaching for his track pants hanged on the backrest of his computer chair, he throws himself out of bed and heads for the windows to cool his head. The fur over his face began to sway with the wind flowing from outside. His nostrils began to twitch as well, taking in the odor of rusted metal. Allowing the shimmering distant lights of the city to melt into his mind in the wee hours of the morning, he slowly closes his eyes and begins to dream again. The visions of notorious dogfights; the continuous beeps of warning indicators on his weapons panel to a deafening level; the aftershocks in the cockpit whenever a missile explodes close to them; the blood mixing with the oil spilling from the wreckage of tanks, fighter jets and bodies that littered the streets more than the scrap in his junkyard. It continued to blind him away from the present. He had seen enough carnage to last him nine lifetimes when he decided to replace their non-lethal weapons with conventional ones, filling his mind with floodwaters tainted red. It was a desperate thing for him to fight a near losing battle.
The she-kat he was sleeping with slowly sat up on the bed as she pulls the sheets above her chest. Turning her head towards the nightstand on her left, her hand gropes for a pair of glasses and dons them over her eyes. She easily spots him as she crossed her arms, tucking the hems of the sheet under them. To her, everything was as clear as daylight even in the darkness as she ignored the thought of turning on the night lamp.
"What's wrong, Jake?" She asked in a soft voice.
As if he was the only one in the room, Jake ignores her. He opens the bedroom door and exits to the kitchen where the refrigerator can be seen from where she was sitting. He pulls out a quart of fermented milk from the refrigerator and rips a small hole over the cardboard flap with his index claw.
"Nothing, Callie. Just having a nightmare, I suppose." Jake answered as he pressed his lips over the spout. For that one minute, he was conscious enough to acknowledge her presence.
Calico Briggs was no stranger to fact, let alone fiction. She had seen and had her share of the danger even if it defies the laws of science or of common logic. Premonition, too, was neither the product of science nor logic, but she is willing to believe whatever Jake dreamt about, if it were such a dream.
The tip of Callie's left ear began to droop a little, watching Jake slowly tipping the end of the carton halfway over his mouth. A stream of milk with the hazy color of fresh coconut juice gushes out from the sides of his lips every time he swallows huge mouthfuls into his gullet. Thirst also entered her mind as Callie slips out of the bed as well and wrapped a towel around her waist, but it was so small that much of her upper left thigh was still exposed as she walked. She joins Jake into the kitchen and took the carton off his hands. With a slight grin as she watches Jake's eyes following hers, she drank the remaining contents to the last drop and placed the empty carton on top of the refrigerator, licking the remaining droplets off the sides of her whiskers and lips and lets out a slight purr. Before she could wait for the alcohol to settle into her system, she inched closer towards Jake and dragged her fingers reaching over the fur on his chest in soft circular motions.
"You've been having that nightmare for the past six months now, Jake. And you keep insisting that it hasn't been bothering you." Callie whispered.
Jake Clawson was always the 'honest Kat', but for once he felt like lying to her.
"There has to be a first time at something, like having a nightmare." Jake shrugs.
Callie shook her head slightly and pursed her lips. "Then refresh me: what was the dream about?"
It was the chill that ran up and down his spine that held his tongue and his lips refused to move as if his jaws were locked in place. The only vision that kept surfacing in his mind is the remains of the pinnacle of law in MegaKat City: the city hall. Inside the collapsing building was a portly middle-aged tabby with an unconvincing wig and an Irish accent screaming for help, his eyes frozen and motionless as he watches the world crumble under him.
To Jake, it was another lifetime ago.
"Everyone could still remember that day. It still lingers in my mind." Callie whispered that her voice choked up. She knew what Jake was thinking about.
Callie wraps her arms around Jake's neck and rests her head against his chest, feeling the extra warmth of another furry body.
"Did you think that returning to normal life is something you always wanted?"
Jake could only scoff as he shook his head slowly.
"It never used to be like this. I was a pilot back then. Every time I ride piggyback in the cockpit of a fighter jet, I could feel the fur flying off my skin that I thought my guts are gonna pop out of my tail. I love it when I'm up at the sky in a jet faster than a bat out of hell."
"I could almost imagine that." She smiled as her arms trembled slightly.
"Then there was Dark Kat."
It was the one name that that cut her soft breathing short. Her lips started to strain as she looks up and stared Jake straight in the eyes long enough to see her reflection in his pupils.
Jake sighed. "It was strange. After having to 'destroy' the Enforcer Building Flight Deck and being sent to this junkyard, I thought I could relive those days riding inside the cockpit once again."
He hums a low tone to relieve himself and continued.
"So you think that having Dark Kat locked in my targeting scanners was something not meant for rookies?"
She shook her head, feeling the pull of the strands of her short blonde hair brushing against Jake's fur as if it were Velcro. "We were all rookies once. Every hot-blooded young Kat out there would have gone through the same ordeal just to prove that they could slug it out with the best of the veterans with equal force. Manx, however, was another thing to begin with. Men like Feral shouldn't be hated, nor to be totally worshiped in a way. He knows that Dark Kat was too much a handful to begin with."
His eyebrows frowned as he released himself from Callie's embrace. Walking towards the table, he grabs the backrest of the chair and pulls it out as he sat down, staring blankly through the vase of daisies that Callie brought with her during the day when Jake towed her sedan to the garage for an overhaul.
"We had the tag. And because of that we had to take matters into our own hands by building the Turbo Kat out of worthless junk. Dark Kat and Feral created us." He mumbled. The alcohol from the fermented milk began to give everything halos as his eyes started to glaze. He huffs.
"Do you still regret it, then?" She asked without turning to face him.
The two felt silent and Callie gave up on waiting for Jake's answer. As if curiosity didn't kill the kat, Callie allowed her eyes to roam around the kitchen. She raised her eyebrows when she spots a glimmer of something shiny and rounded just next to the sink. Walking towards it, she spots a helmet; a design in which unlike any of the Enforcers use as the blue and red trim glimmered under the light of the lamppost outside. She picks it up with both hands that felt like carrying a bowling ball under her arms. Callie inspects the nearly rusted and scratched off paint, then in the hollowed out area padded with foam and a few wires embossed inside that she grins playfully and dons it onto her head.
"Look at this." Callie smiled as she pressed the button protruding on its right side under the ear. The tinted visor slid down with a mechanized whir and instantly her vision disappears to pitch black as she looks around. Her ears twitched when a short beep came from the helmet, as everything she sees started to glow into a bright green. A smile formed over her lips, as everything she sees was something like a world in a fairytale.
"Night vision. Amazing." She smiled as she pressed the button again and the visor slides back to its former position. She removes the helmet off and continues to examine it. At the left side of the helmet, she also noticed five letters embossed in black. The tip of her fingers lumbered up and down as she drags them along the sides, tracing the shape of each letter and spelling it in her mind.
It spelled RAZOR.
Nostalgia began to fill her thoughts as she spoke. "I always felt that you we're the sharp one, always keeping cool under fire as you wait patiently for the indicators on the monitor to zero in on your target. Back when you and Chance used to fly the Turbo Kat..."
Callie's eyes shook with bafflement as she watched the helmet being snatched away in a blink of an eye. She looks up, Jake staring at her blankly as she watches him throw the helmet out the window and towards the pile of junk. Gravel and sand along with a few pebbles on the dirt began to scratch the helmet off its remaining paint as it crashed and skidded several times like a stone skipping on the surface of water. A sharp metal-to-metal crash pierced her ears as Callie flinched and pulled the muscles of her earlobes back.
"What was that all about? You didn't have to do that!" Callie scolded as she looks out the window.
Jake grunted as he returned to his seat.
She scowled at him in the darkness. Refusing to be ignored, Callie made up her mind to start an argument.
"It seems to me that the only thing that spawned out of you ever since you buried your secret identity is remorse."
"What did you say?" Jake muttered. The pupils in his eyes narrowed.
"Make up your mind, Jake! It seems like you still miss playing 'superhero' for the good people of MegaKat City! Maybe all it takes is to have one of Dr. Viper's killer mutant monsters chewing up buildings, or having the Metallikats blow up a few bank vaults along the way then all I have to do is press the communicator and..."
The thunder of fisted paws slamming over the table returned the silence back in the room, followed by the ringing of broken glass over the floor. Callie lowered her sights near his feet and saw the litter of daisies and fragments of the vase all over the floor. He shot up from his seat and faces her, shaking his finger as he snapped.
"The Swat Kats are dead! If Chance wanted to go back to being an Enforcer then that's fine with me! I just don't want any part of it, either with the psychos we call super villains, or Feral, or that junk heap I named as the Turbo Kat! I just want to live my life without fear of blowing up some innocent house or Feral breathing down my neck over the radio all because the Swat Kats are 'trigger-happy hotshots and blew up millions of dollars worth of damages'!"
Jake didn't need to be reminded how much of his pent-up emotions exploded by the way he glowered at Callie as he breathes sharply through his teeth. As if breaking free from the bondage of guilt, he began to simmer down as he watches the tears falling over her eyes, Callie covering her chest under her arms as she turned her head away, sobbing. Jake paid attention to her breath turning feverish every time he inches closer to her and watches her retreat against the kitchen counter. It was lightning that struck his consciousness-- the lightning of his confused mind.
"Callie, I'm so sorry. It was stupid of me to..." Jake uttered, dragging both hands to wipe away his confusion as he staggers back against the sink. He sucks in breath.
The fur behind Jake began to crawl as he waited for Callie to answer. The unnerving silence continued to drill forcefully into his mind of the possible outcome of having to display his anger. His body shook when Callie spoke.
"You were a soldier once; you carried real weapons and trained to follow orders even if the ultimate price for it is to kill."
Jake turns to face Callie the moment he hears her voice and removes his hands over his eyes. Somehow, he managed to avoid the unthinkable as Callie kept her eyes to the floor.
"You know, I was glad that you were on my side in the decision to stop your vigilante lifestyle, knowing that the Enforcers are out there patrolling the streets with the skill and firepower now equal to yours, only innumerable. You and Chance protected the city for countless times and the people will cherish it in their minds. So this time, it's my turn to protect you."
It was a difficult time for Jake as Callie observes him, almost as if witnessing a green soldier who was forced to choose between his duty and his conscience. But it wasn't Jake alone who was suffering, knowing that the people of MegaKat City did share his pain, if not lingering on one's own. It wasn't something that is out of the ordinary during months of stopping one super villain after another with their plans of domination or outright destruction. It took only another of their own kind to turn life upside down and to change their way of living forever. Somehow, those fortunate few who survived the Second MegaWar felt fortunate back then: only the courageous die young.
She sighed deeply, thinking whether if this was the same he-kat who she fell in love with, even before she knew the extra service he has done for the people of the city aside from repairing cars and keeping their junk. Realizing that Jake needed time to sort out his feelings of remorse, she returns to the bedroom and began picking up her clothes scattered all over the floor.
"I have to go now. My public awaits me in the morning, you know." She said as she slips on her bra. "Plus, I have to deal with a bunch of bureaucrats along with Mr. Young and company for talks about the new satellite defense system in Puma-Dyne."
Jake shook his head, thinking that things might have cooled off between them. He decides that casual talk works best to iron out a relationship after an argument. "These new innovations would soon put the Enforcers out of their jobs." Jake spoke silently.
"Well, let's just hope that will never happen. You almost don't have enough bed space for the two of us if Feral or Chance decides to have either one of them as your new bunkmate."
"So much for privacy." Jake mumbled as he silently remained where he stood.
* * * * *
Outside, the sun still halfway before showering the world with its warmth, an engine sputters to life as Jake stood outside the driver's side of the door of his car. Callie sat behind the wheel working the gas pedal.
"I'll have someone return your car in the morning." Callie said, raising her voice a bit as the engine roared like a racecar engine.
"Sure thing. By that time your car's gonna be good as new." Jake said.
The shiver in his spine compelled him to begin clearing up some misunderstandings as he watches Callie silently, choosing the words he could use. As Jake watches her outside the driver's side of the window, he noticed the way Callie frowning slightly and realized she was still far from recovering from the shock, staring aimlessly across the road leading through the desert and to the city. It was going to be any second before she drives away as he fidgets slightly in the darkness and decided to take a risk on the words he chose to break the wall of ice. Waiting for the engine to slow, he began.
"Listen, Callie," Jake stutters, "I'm sorry for snapping at you back there. It was insensitive of me when I know you were just trying to help. I shouldn't have…"
It was something unexpected from Callie as Jake helplessly watches her left paw stretching behind the back of his neck and being pulled towards her, his lips now preoccupied on hers rather than finishing his explanation. She released him from the lip lock, Jake silently gasping for air as Callie smiled slyly at him.
"Next time, you better have a damn good apology cooked up before I drop by again. Later tonight, I mean."
As if coming out from a deep hypnotic trance, Jake smiled and answered, "Yes, Miss Mayor. One car overhaul and an apology coming up."