Title: Salvage Operation
Author: Kristen Sharpe
Date: December 27, 2000
Disclaimer: SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron, its characters and concepts are copyright to Hanna-Barbera Cartoons, Inc and are used without permission.

Author's Note: Just a short fic set between SWAT Kats' two seasons. Though it may not have been, I tend to assume that "Katastrophe" was the first season's final episode. Thus, this is set a week after the destruction of the TurboKat and the battle with the combined supervillains. Thanks to Cat Matson for help in making this "salvage operation" a bit more realistic (though I'm still relying quite a bit on SWAT Kats' alternate technology and a few cartoon physics) and to Mom for the proofreading job - what would I do without her?


Wind-swept foam bathed the big tabby's face as he stood at the prow of the ship. His tail twitched anxiously. Green eyes scoured the roiling green-brown waters ahead, searching, as though he could find what he sought at this distance. As though his verdant gaze could pierce the morning mists and the depths of the bay to find that which was hidden beyond.

Beneath him, the 250 foot long "Salvaged Pride" churned steadily through the waters of MegaKat Bay. She was a private vessel who found regular work finding, and with her accompanying salvage fleet, recovering lost ships, cargo, and the odd piece of antiquity from the bay. Her owner's recent most celebrated accomplishment was the delicate retrieval of the Red Lynx' shattered bi-plane after its dogfight with the SWAT Kats.

The expedition at hand was funded by City Hall. And, a generous sum it was... for a fighter jet that could hardly be worth salvaging. Bemusedly, the owner/captain looked again down to the prow where the big tabby stood.

Below, the broad-shouldered kat's thoughts were broken by a sudden voice.

"All I ask is that I recover enough of the engines to piece together the design."

The tabby's ears flickered as his friend stepped up behind him. "You have blueprints, right?" the burly one rumbled.

"Decent ones. Not as detailed as I'd like. I paid the most attention to recording my alterations," the other kat replied, stepping up to stand by the tabby. "Didn't think I'd be around to worry about it if she took a missile full on," he added, his amber eyes darting from the waters to his partner's tense face.

The tabby nodded assent.

Minutes crawled by in silence as the twosome stared across the water. Ahead, the ruined form of MegaKat Island became visible in the clearing fog, still smoldering. Embers burned beneath the rubble even a week after the explosion that had levelled the island's sole structure, an old tuna factory.

As the twosome locked their gaze on the smoking island, they felt the ship beneath them slow to a halt.

"They only found the Metallikats," the larger kat mumbled, breaking the silence with the concern they both shared.

"Hmmm...," his companion mused.

"Razor, if she's slag...," the big kat started.

"I had a conversion plan in mind for the truck," the slim Razor returned. "The tandem Cyclotron's still functional. And, then there's the SandKat. And, that hovercraft I was toying with."

After a few minutes thought, the larger kat nodded, somewhat satisfied.

One of the "Pride's" technical crew approached the SWAT Kats and paused, uncertain. The twosome stood ramrod straight, lost in their own musings. The tech retreated, a bit fearful of the two, grim vigilantes. Best to speak to them once there were results. The young kat hurried away to watch the launch of the mini camera robots that would explore what the sonar had detected.

Razor sensed the other as he headed away and started to call to him.

Then, T-Bone sighed suddenly, murmuring softly, "But, we're pilots."

His partner said nothing, opting instead to pat the big kat on the back, the visitor forgotten. He would miss the skies too, but he felt the jet's loss differently. The burly T-Bone was like a bird of prey whose wings had been clipped. He, Razor, mourned more the loss of his finest work, than the skies. Though nothing quite compared to flying. To feel that powerful machine holding you aloft. The roar of the engines, catapulting you to speeds few dared experience.

The corners of Razor's mouth tipped in a grin as he realized just how much T-Bone had worn off on him in five years of being partners, friends. Two years of being SWAT Kats. The slim feline cast a glance at his friend and his smile widened. Two years of close calls, narrow misses, and more fun than two kats should have. To be sure, it hadn't been easy nor had it been all fun, but he could imagine nothing he would rather do. It was everything he'd yearned for when he'd applied to the MegaKat Institute of Technology's Enforcer internship program... and more.

He was designer, engineer, tester, and user all in one. And more. He was a weapons systems officer and a pilot. And, he knew his hours of hard work were making a difference. TurboKat or not, he was a SWAT Kat, and in it for the long run.

T-Bone caught Razor's smile in his peripheral vision and returned it halfheartedly. Without the TurboKat, what would he do? He was a pilot. Of course, he wasn't unskilled otherwise. He could hold his own in a hand-to-hand fight. And, he made it a point to acquaint himself with each new gadget Razor created during the test phase, well before he would be relying on his skill with it to save his or anyone else's life. It had given the big tabby a knack for adapting to new gear on the fly as well as bringing to light flaws in Razor's designs.

'But, I'm a pilot,' he whispered in his own mind.

Becoming a pilot had been his dream. The impossible dream that came true. He could still remember the first time he'd taken a fighter jet to the skies. The power of that massive vehicle. The amazing sensation as tons of metal succumbed to physics and dared to challenge gravity. The speed. The rush. The fear. The joy. It was all in one. And, the TurboKat...

T-Bone closed his eyes. He could almost feel the stick in his hands. Like that first time he'd guided her from the launch tunnel. Filled with fear. Would she fly? Could he handle the tunnel? Filled with joy. Back in the air. This time in his jet. He'd helped piece her together from scrap. Studied Razor's plans. Suggested alterations. Followed his half of the finished designs to a 'T' with the precision of a master mechanic.

But, he hadn't done it all for wont of the skies. Nor had he joined the Enforcers just to fly. A true smile at last freed itself to spread over his face.

"We may've lost the TurboKat, but we're still the good guys," he announced, suddenly offering his partner a fist.

Razor slapped his own on top of it heartily. It was the conclusion he'd known T-Bone would find.

"Roger that, buddy," the slim SWAT Kat returned softly, grinning up at his partner.

An excited member of the "Pride's" tech team interrupted further conversation, running up to the twosome.

"We found 'er - the camera images are just loading."

The captain shouldered past him.

"The camera images have loaded." Admiration twinkled in his eyes even as he glowered at the two SWAT Kats. "And, her engines are several hundred feet away... in one piece."

Razor just grinned proudly and followed the tech to the computer center below decks. The image that greeted them on the main computer screen was just as the captain had said. The body of the jet was a shattered lump of metal debris strewn over the ocean floor. Little was recognizable of the wings. The nose cone lay where it had fallen. But, the engines appeared
untouched.

And, they alone held Razor's attention. Nose pressed so close to the monitor that his warm breath fogged the cold glass, the orange-furred kat studied the images as the tech flipped through them. At length, the intense inventor commandeered the mouse to select several images he found most intriguing.

The tech babbled on as Razor studied. "We'll need to send down divers. The mini-cam robots are good, but they can only give you so much information..."

Razor just nodded, the intensity of his gaze at last silencing the tech.

After twenty minutes more of Razor's intense scrutiny, T-Bone dared break the silence.

"Razor...?"

Razor turned to him slowly. His face was alight, a grin stretched across it.

"It worked."

Just two words. And, Razor's tremendous grin.

T-Bone whooped and pulled Razor into a monstrous headlock hug even as the excited SWAT Kat designer babbled on.

"Engines launched from the bays... before explosion... exactly like I planned. Since... fuel tanks were on empty... explosion wasn't powerful enough to damage..." T-Bone at last loosened his grip so Razor could talk normally. His voice was still high and fast with excitement as he continued. "And, we removed the middle engine and most of the system components, soooo..."

"So..." T-Bone turned to the salvage crew. "Get those engines for us and get ready to see the SWAT Kats back in action!"

The captain chuckled. "Cool your jets, boys. Take a couple days to get the rest of the crew in position." He slapped T-Bone on the back lightly at the big kat's brief scowl. "But, we'll have 'em up soon enough."

Two days later found the SWAT Kats again on the "Salvaged Pride," watching as its powerful wench pulled the first of the TurboKat's two thrusters from the bay. Water streamed down the length of glistening metal, sparkling and splintering the midday sun into a thousand rainbow shards.

"Now, if Manx just finishes the deal and gets us that custom frame," Razor murmured as he watched.

"He will," T-Bone returned smugly, "or he'll have to face Callie."

Razor chuckled quietly.

"Either way," T-Bone rumbled, "we will have our jet again, and, until that time, we're still the SWAT Kats." He turned toward MegaKat Island, still now, its embers finally banked. "Ya' hear that, Dark Kat?! And, the rest a' ya'! The SWAT Kats aren't beaten by a long shot! And, we will be back!!"


Author's Comments:

Begun as an effort to answer some questions that came to mind about the TurboKat's return, I also managed to toss in a bit of my defense of T-Bone's intellect. I often find fan writers treating him like an imbecile who loafs on the couch watching "Scaredy Kat" while Razor does all the work. That just doesn't work for me at all.

And, yes, "wont" is a word, not a misspelling of "want."

Originally inspired by Mannheim Steamroller's "Sunrise at Rhodes" from their "Yellowstone" CD. Additional inspiration from Enya's "Storms in Africa" and "Storms in Africa II."