Title: Imagining the Worst
Author: Kristen Sharpe
E-Mail: skgirl@hotmail.com
Date: May 5, 2000
May 8, 2000

Twas the middle of exams and a fanfic author needing a break scrawled a
few vaguely connected words onto paper and then bothered to type them.

I give you a "what if?" scenario based off my fanfic "Technical Difficulties."
What if things had gone wrong? What if the ending hadn't been as it was? I think
this could serve as a general SWAT Kat "what if?," so it should be easy enough to
understand for those of you who really don't want to read the monster that is
"Tech Diff." For now, it's a baby fanfic that almost wasn't posted. But, I
*might* to expand it someday... Perhaps when the "T-Bone Too" saga and "Doubletake" are
finished...

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"Morning! Rise and shine!" the perky voice chirped in Jake Clawson's
ear. Well, it chirped as best a voice that deep could.

"S'not time to get up," Jake moaned, rolling over.

"Six forty-five! On the nose!" the voice returned.

Groaning, Jake freed a hand from the sheets and found the tiny transmitter
affixed just within his left ear. With a deft twist, he turned the volume down.

"Jake?" the voice queried.

The orange-furred kat ignored it and buried his head back in his pillow.

"Jake?" the gruff voice persisted. "Did you turn the volume down again?"

There was no answer.

Three seconds later, raucous rock and roll burst through the tiny speaker
in Jake's ear. Ear ringing, he jerked bolt upright, screaming, "I'm UUUUuuupppp!!"

The music ground to a halt.

"Glad ta' hear it."

"Argh! Chance, do you *have* to be so... exact?!" Jake hissed, exasperated.
He regretted it immediately as no voice answered. It wasn't a horrible thing
to say by any means. Not for most. But, for Chance, it had been another nail
in his coffin. "Chance? Chance?"

The big kat made no reply.

"Chance, I'm sorry," Jake mumbled.

Still, no response.

Mentally kicking himself, Jake scrambled out of bed and hurried downstairs.
His bare feet swished over the sitting room's carpet as he swept to the far end of
the room. The aging shag carpet by the wall was ripped away to reveal the hangar
entrance seconds later. Tugging the hatch open, Jake leapt into the darkness
below.

"Chance?"

Jake stood as he'd landed on the concrete platform just below the hatch.
His amber eyes strained into the gloom. The room was soundless, save the steady
hum of the ventilation system that pumped air into the subterranean chamber.

"Chance, please!"

The slim kat flipped the light switch at his back. His eyes blurred then
refocused as brilliant light flooded the cavernous room. Blinking away the dancing
phosphenes his mind and eyes collaborated to devise, Jake found the TurboKat. It
sat on its launch platform.

"Chance."

Jake strode to the jet, his claws clicking on the concrete floor. Amber
eyes soulful, he laid a light hand on the underside of the near wing. It shuddered
at his touch. Metal, but alive. Inanimate, but blessed with a cursed soul. A
trapped soul.

"I'm sorry," Jake whispered. "You're not a computer and I didn't mean to
sound like..."

Chance's gruff voice, vaguely electronic and magnified by the huge room,
stopped him.

"Are you sure of that?"

"How would a computer worry about its being a computer or not?" Jake
responded. "You're a kat, Chance." He slipped around to scamper up the access
stairs to the cockpit. Not that Chance couldn't "see" him already;
he was well in range of the dimensional radar's scanning capabilities.

"I'm a jet that talks." Now that Jake could see it, the dimensional radar
display, where Chance projected the best likeness of his old face he could manage,
showed a woeful, weary kat.

"Well, I like your conversation more than that of most jets," Jake responded,
forcing a smile. He felt the jet beneath him shudder again. A sigh.

"Jake... If you unplugged the main computer right now,... Just unhooked it
from the battery...," Chance started softly, his digital face doing its best to
portray an image of the appropriate intensity.

It was unimportant; his words were enough.

"No," Jake whispered fiercely. "I'm not killing you!"

"I'm already dead," Chance hissed softly. "My body's gone. Hard Drive's
suit converted it to so much electricity that merged with the jet's computer. All I
have is this metal frame and a buncha microchips."

"You're not dead so long as you have a soul," Jake returned, eyes liquid,
wetness he was trying to ignore welling in their corners. "And, it's still here."

"Do you need me?"

Jake was taken aback by the question. Why was Chance asking that? As a
reason for living? Would he find a way to kill himself if Jake said, "No, I'll
be okay - I don't want to hold you here against your will"? Could Chance Furlong,
of all kats, even contemplate suicide? Yet, here he was. He most certainly was
thinking of it. And, could he be blamed? He had little of a real life left.

"Yes," Jake blurted before another thought could chase itself across the
minefield of his brain.

"You have a family. People to rely on." Chance paused, finding more to
fuel his argument. "And, Feral let you off the hook when he found out I'd...
'disappeared.' You don't have the debt to pay off anymore." His voice cracked,
nothing a kat without vocal chords could honestly do, but Chance's consciousness
unknowingly willed the radio output, his means of "talking," to mimic the patterns
of speech he expected.

"Yes..." Jake fumbled with his words, trying to defy Chance's logic. "But,
you're my only partner... And, the city needs the SWAT Kats. Maybe more than I
need you." He hesitated. What was in his mind was cruel... But, it was the only
way, wasn't it?

"I... I'd have to continue... if I was needed."

There. He'd said it. Blackmailed his friend.

Chance sighed again, an action expressed in a shuddering over the speakers
and a faint quaking of the TurboKat's frame.

"Yes, the city does need the SWAT Kats, I guess." The TurboKat rumbled.
"And, I'm not letting you get yourself killed."

Jake smiled ever so faintly. "Glad you care."

"Care nothing!" Chance snapped abruptly. Who else is gonna keep this hunk
a' metal fueled? Not to mention my operating systems..."

Relieved, Jake grinned that familiar, sardonic smirk of his. "Nice to be
needed."

"Yes, it is," Chance returned softly.

Patting the side of the jet lightly, his friend leapt to the hangar floor.
"I'm gettin' breakfast. Be right back."

Chance chuckled. "Fine. Just feed me when you're done."

"High or low octane?"

"Uhm... medium."

"Cute."

"I thought it was."

Grinning, Jake hurried upstairs; one crisis averted. There might be a
thousand more before this was over, but they would get through it... somehow.

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Personally, I think Rendezvous was a much more successful short. But, this was my first
effort at a... vignette I believe is the correct term.