one mile south & three
stories below MKC
The hangar was almost dark, the halogen lights in the ceiling shut off to conserve energy. Only the widely-spaced fluorescent tubes that provided emergency lighting still shone, albeit dimly. From upstairs, a radio playing Christmas carols mingled with laughter from the David Litterbin Show. And in the wide space of the main hangar, two jets sat side by side . . . .
Maggie ran her fingers along the gleaming surface of the instrument panel, pausing every so often to name an instrument.
"Altimeter . . . turbo-boosters . . . VTOL mode . . . ." Finally, she leaned back with a sigh. "Well, kitten, it's all there." She grinned. "And it only took me four months."
Thanksgiving had passed without incident, (unless you counted the collision between Eppie Schultz and a bowl of cranberries as an incident) and the Christmas season was almost over. Hurricane hadn't had any reason to make an appearance since MacClawed's trial, and Maggie had devoted all of her spare time to her pet project.
She put her paws out again, reassuring herself that she really was sitting in her own cockpit. Everything was right where it should be — even down to having the most vital instruments on her left-hand side. Maggie couldn't help but laugh."It has been way too long."
MacClawed's had been the most-publicized trial since O.J. Simpkat's "trial of the century." The U.S. had finally gotten its claws on the kat who had killed its finest fighter squadron — and MacClawed hadn't gotten off easy.
Maggie reached into the inner pocket of her coveralls and fished out a battered photograph. "See, guys? I promised you I'd get him."
Hurricane Squadron posed in front of an old-style F-14 Tomkat, trying their best to look like a squadron from a jet-fighter movie. Scott Lewis flashed a wide grin and a thumbs-up; Salena gave her best "don't-try-anything" stare; Felix and Tami gazed at each other, lovestruck; and Tom just stood by, arms crossed and eyebrow raised.
The Maggie Blackclaw in the photograph stood dead center, leaning back against the jet and giving the camera a green-eyed gaze. Maggie had to smile. Only four years ago. But it seems like a lifetime.
Maggie found a blank spot to the right of the console and carefully wedged the snapshot into place.
"There." She said softly. "Now it's my plane."
"Maggie?" Chance's voice rang from the top of the stairs. "You still down here?"
"Yeah." Maggie hoisted herself out of the cockpit and leapt to the floor. "I'm just about finished."
"Good." Chance said, coming the rest of the way down the stairs into the dimly-lit hangar. "Jake's going nuts with the tinsel and gingerbread up there."
Maggie snorted. "Doesn't surprise me. That kat gives a whole new meaning to the phrase 'Christmas spirit.'"
"I didn't notice." Chance grinned. "We wanted to know what you were doing down here."
"And visions of Christmas gifts danced in their heads." Maggie snickered. "I wasn't wrapping, if that's what you're thinking. This Santa Claws has her gifts safely tucked away until tomorrow."
Chance looked vaguely disappointed. "Well, what were you doing?"
Maggie waved a paw at the black, red, and silver jet behind her. "Just some finishing touches."
Chance rolled his eyes. "C'mon, Maggs. You've been putting on 'finishing touches' for the past month. The jet's been painted, polished, armed, and gassed up. What else can we do to it?"
Maggie's eyes gained a spark of mischief. "Well, for starters," She raised an eyebrow, "You can give me a boost."
"Mmmph." Chance grunted, struggling to maintain his balance. "Hurry it up, Maggie."
"No rushing me." Maggie retorted from her perch on Chance's shoulders. "This is artistic genius at work."
"I don't care if you're Pi-kat-so," He growled. "Your tail is ticklin' my ears and you weigh more thanJake."
"Hey, Einstein, I've got paint up here. Watch with the weight comments — unless you want silver paint from ear to eyebrow." She shifted her weight. "Try to hold still."
"My mask would cover it." Chance retorted. "And if you're not down in about ten seconds I'm gonna . . . ."
"There." Maggie interrupted, popping the lid onto the paint can. "Finished."
It was a familiar design — the letters done in sweeping slashes, as if Maggie had carved the jet's name with a single claw. The fast-drying silver paint still gleamed in the dim fluorescent light.
Maggie hopped down off of Chance's shoulders and put the paint can back in its proper place. Then she turned with a grin.
"Did you say Jake was making gingerbread?"
As the two friends reached the top of the stairs, Maggie turned once more to look at her plane. Chance grinned and elbowed her ribs.
"Ya know, I hate to cop a line from 'Katsablanca' . . ." He began, "But I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
Maggie chuckled. "I think you're right." Then her eyes regained the glint of mischief. "Hey, Chance?"
"Last one to the kitchen's a tuna breath!"
They raced up the ladder to the living area, leaving the Ketsele sitting next to the TurboKat.
Where she was meant to be.
A/N — Yes, the end. After nine months and countless hours, my first work of "real" fanfiction is complete!
So many sincere thanxes go out to everyone — Timva, Raye, Imagi, Kristen Sharpe . . . okay, I can't name everyone. I'll be here all night! So I'll just say this — Everyone who read, reviewed, and e-mailed with help, comments, and suggestions, you are the greatest! Thank you for hanging in through this extremely long and sometimes frustrating process of writing, posting, and waiting. Love ya'll!! And . . . yeah . . . stick a fork in me . . . I'm done.