It came quietly into the huge city. A visitor took ill aboard an arriving flight and was raced to Megakat Trauma Center. The doctors fought hard to save the stranger's life but to no avail. Such things had occurred before and would again. It was a tragedy for the stranger's family and the doctors were unhappy to have failed but the true cost of this visitor's death was yet to be felt.
"Dr. Tencou, you don't look very well. Maybe you should take off for the rest of the day," A fellow doctor said to his obviously sick looking colleague.
The striped Kat coughed hard for a couple of minutes before being able to answer. "Yeah, I was planning to. This damn cold is making me miserable." He agreed.
In the hospital administrator's office, Dr. Lezmer frowned at the absentee list for hospital employees.
"Strange, there seems to be an inordinate amount of hospital employees out sick." He muttered aloud. Concerned, he reached for his intercom and called for his assistant.
A trim looking red tabby male strode into Dr. Lezmer's office. "What do you need, sir?" He asked briskly.
"Jerome, there seems to be an unusually high number of absentee's today. I want you to investigate and see if they are all out with the same thing. I'm concerned we might have an epidemic. Get back to me as fast as you can." The doctor said seriously, handing the list to his assistant.
Jerome's face took on a worried look. "I'll get right on it, sir." He said taking the list and hurrying off.
It was an hour before quitting time for most of the hospital when Jerome hurried into Dr. Lezmer's office unannounced.
"Sir! I have that information you wanted. It's worse than this morning." He blurted urgently.
Dr. Lezmer and Head of Internal Medicine Dr. Ames looked up at Jerome in surprise. Jerome handed over his report but summed it up while Dr. Lezmer looked it over.
"By the time I finished the list you gave me sir there were over twenty more that had fallen ill and gone home. All those on your list were showing the same symptoms. Headache, cough, body aches, fever. It sounds like Calicivirus but its spreading much faster than normal." He reported.
"Hmm, yes it does sound like Calicivirus but we'll need a blood test from all the victims to know for certain. At the rate Kats are getting sick, it's possible the virus has mutated in some way and become more virulent." Dr. Lezmer said thoughtfully.
"If that's true, the public could be at risk if it isn't already. We'd better contact the Health Department." Dr. Ames said worriedly.
"I hate to jump the gun on this but I suppose you're right. Better safe than sorry. I'll contact them. Dr. Ames, I think you should delegate some students and get blood drawn from any of the victims you can reach. Better get on it right away." Dr. Lezmer said as he reached for his phone.
Dr. Ames frowned, taking the list from Lezmer. "Better make a copy of this Jerome and leave one here for Dr. Lezmer to use when the Health Department sends someone."
"Yes sir, give me a moment." Jerome said taking the list and going to make a copy of it. He returned quickly and handed the list to Dr. Ames who left immediately.
By dawn the next morning nearly three quarters of the hospital staff and patients were stricken with the unknown virus. Around the city, Kats were going to their doctors, clinics, and emergency rooms complaining of an unrelenting cough, fever, and headache that simple over the counter meds had no effect on. In just twenty-four hours the virus had spread like wildfire decimating offices, police, military units, schools, and anywhere else Kats congregated in large numbers.
Dr. Balnard, Assistant Secretary of Epidemiology, from the Department of Health, was studying the reports that were starting to flood into his office. Though a lot of Kats were becoming ill, no one had died that they knew of. He had his staff keep tabs on the epidemic, monitoring length of time it took for the illness to run its course, how many were affected by the time it stopped, and all the data collected by individual hospitals on the disease itself. His labs were already trying to determine if this was a different form of the common Calicivirus or something new.
"Commander Feral, here is the list of officers stricken by that bug going around." His Sergeant said handing him a report several pages long.
Feral blinked in dismay as he flipped through the some ten pages of names. More than a hundred of his enforcers were down with this thing and more seem to be coming down with it as he sat here. It made him uneasy.
"Have we received anything from the Department of Health?" He asked.
"The only thing they sent us, sir, is to take the normal precautions for controlling the spread of infectious diseases. Wash paws frequently, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue and throw it away, wash your paws again, wear a mask if you're actively sneezing and coughing, stay home and get lots of rest with plenty of fluids. That's it." The Sergeant relayed, shrugging his shoulders.
Feral sighed. "Wonderful." He said bleakly. He hated getting sick and prayed he didn't catch this thing. "Well type that up and distribute it throughout the building. And insure my combat troops are immediately removed from duty if they are actively coughing, have a fever, or headache related to this virus." He ordered.
"Yes sir." The Sergeant said briskly then turned and left to carry out the Commander's orders.
'Kat's Alive! I hope those damned omegas don't make a move against us now. We're sitting ducks with so many enforcers ill. One could hope the bastards get sick with this thing too. Unfortunately, Dark Kat, Viper and the Metallikats won't be affected by it. Heaven forbid that evil little dead wizard, Pastmaster should blow into town right now.' Feral thought worriedly as he stared out his window.
That evening, as they were eating their dinner, Jake and Chance were listening to the news. All channels reported record numbers of Kats falling ill with the virus everyone was calling the Lightning Flu because of the swiftness of the onset, the fever and the blinding headache that accompanied it.
"This is really bad, buddy." Jake said worriedly.
"No one is dying, Jake. I admit it's pretty bad that so many are sick but it should blow over soon." Chance said trying to be optimistic.
"Chance, it's already serious. I heard that nearly half the enforcers are down ill. If any of the omegas wanted to attack, they couldn't pick a better time to do it and win." Jake said.
"Don't borrow trouble, buddy. There's nothing we can do about it anyway and thinking negatively could bring something worse down on us. I'd prefer to think positively and stay upbeat." His friend said firmly. He changed the channel to watch his Scaredy-Cat Cartoons before bed.
Jake just shook his head. This epidemic was spreading far too quickly and it scared him.
Jake was right to be concerned. By the afternoon of the third day, nearly half the city had been afflicted. The SWAT Kats found themselves taking up the slack of normal policing of the city due to the badly decimated enforcers.
For once, Feral made no negative comments when the pair would bring in petty thieves, would be robbers, mob thugs, and other criminals that were taking advantage of the sick populace to make a quick buck. His enforcers that were still able to work would accept the criminals from the vigilantes and process them without complaint.
As the sun set on the city, the second death due to the Lightning Flu occurred.
The Department of Health was working 24/7 trying to track the virus, victims, and whether they could find a palliative to ease the symptoms. One of their researchers came across the medical report of the stranger that had arrived ill by plane three days back. He rushed the report to Dr. Balnard.
"So this is where it started, heh?" He said rhetorically, not expecting an answer. "Have you been able to track this Dane Storman back to his origin?" He asked.
"Yes sir! It appears only a few cases of this showed up in Sandeval Bay where Storman came from. The cases resolved themselves without a problem or particular notice. Once I told them what was happening here, they sent me everything they had on their patients. I made copies and handed them out to the team to see what they could find different about those cases compared to ours." The researcher said.
"Good, let me know what you come up with as soon as possible." Dr. Balnard said grimly.
"Yes sir!" The researcher said tautly, leaving swiftly to return to his office.
That second death was kept quiet by the Health Department to prevent a panic that is until more Kats began dying.
Hospitals were overwhelmed with sick Kats. Hallways were filled with patients because there was no more room. Schools were being drafted as alternative sick rooms. Doctors and nurses were being stretched to their limits trying to care for the constantly increasing patients.
At Enforcer Headquarters, Feral ordered that any officer taken ill would remain at headquarters and be taken care of by their own paramedics to help relieve the overcrowding at the hospitals. Feral was deeply dismayed to see just how many of his troops were ill. Several floors of the huge headquarters were now sick wards.
The news was filled with report after report of the number of newly stricken. The Health Department was forced to ask residents to stay in their homes. They gave them what meager information they had to make their sick loved ones comfortable.
At city hall...
"Mayor Manx we've got to declare a state of emergency. The city has to be quarantined. All traffic to the city must be stopped until this virus runs its course." Dr. Balnard told him grimly.
"C-c-close the city?!" Manx stuttered in shock. "That could ruin the city's economy." He objected.
"Kats are beginning to die, Mayor Manx. We cannot allow this to spread to other cities and countries outside our own. I am invoking a medical quarantine as of this moment. You as Mayor must announce this to the public as soon as possible. There can be no exception. No one will be allowed to leave or enter Megakat City until this epidemic is over." Dr. Balnard said firmly.
"We have no choice, Mayor. I'll get the press release written up immediately." Ms. Briggs said unhappily.
"Very well! But its going to be a disaster. I sincerely hope this thing blows over quickly." Mayor Manx moaned in dismay.
"So do I, sir." Dr. Balnard said heavily as he took his leave.
A blaring alarm sang out in the garage. Jake wiped his paws and reached out to answer it.
"Yes Ms. Briggs?" He asked.
"Razor, I know this isn't something you guys normally do but we're getting desperate. Food and medicine need to reach more remote sections of the city and aren't able to get there due to far too many transporters having taken ill. The city will pay for your fuel, if you'll act as emergency transport for these supplies." Callie Briggs said urgently.
"Uh...well of course we want to help anyway we can Ms. Briggs but we are already pretty busy trying to cover for the enforcers. Too many creeps are trying to take advantage of the emergency to pillage the city." Razor said worriedly.
"I know and we do appreciate what you and T-Bone are doing but this is really important and Feral hasn't anyone he can spare since nearly three-quarters of his air corps is down ill. Private facilities are out as well as they are already doing as much as they can to move cargo around the city as it is." Callie told him.
Razor sighed in defeat. "Okay, where do you want us?" He asked. Callie gave him the location for the Department of Health staging area where the emergency airlift was being coordinated with the Red Cross Agency. "Right, we're on our way." Razor told her and hung up.
His partner looked at him grimly. "So now we're Red Cross volunteers, eh?" Chance said heavily as he and Jake closed the garage and hurried down the ladder to the hangar.
"Yeah. It's really bad around the city now, buddy." Jake said grimly as he changed his clothes.
Within minutes, he and T-Bone were airborne and headed for their first emergency airlift. By the end of the day, they would make over twenty flights carrying supplies.
At Enforcer Headquarters, Feral was doing his best to place his meager troops where they could do the most good heading off criminals as well as acting as his eyes and ears of how bad the situation was around the city. He had to also put up barricades at all the city exits to prevent anyone from trying to leave or enter Megakat City.
He shoved the growing pile of reports to one side of his desk and made no effort to try to handle paperwork during this emergency. He and his niece divided their time in keeping the enforcement of the city going as well as pitching in taking care of their sick brethren.
It wasn't unusual to see the Chief Enforcer gently washing an enforcer's sweaty forehead one moment and bringing water to yet another. Felina could be seen flitting around from patient to patient as well as running downstairs and pitching in processing criminals.
Feral would also take a paw in handling criminals and placing them in cells. All would have to sit in cells for some time before even seeing a lawyer since there were hardly any well enough to see them or judges to hear their cases. The judicial system was rapidly grinding to a stall. The backlog was filling the jails to capacity.
When he and his niece took a rare break to shower and eat, they sat together in a break room near the processing center at enforcer headquarters, neither one making any attempt to go home during this emergency. The TV was on and they watched grimly as Ann Gora related the latest statistics of the number of Kats stricken. What caught their attention the most were the number dying. They'd been soo busy, they hadn't realized that the strickened were now dying. They hadn't encountered any dead while they labored but that didn't mean none had.
Feral dropped his fork and gaped. "That can't be right!" He turned to his niece in concern. "Felina, do we have dead among our enforcers and did we get an update on the number of stricken?"
"I don't know, Uncle. I've not had time to check in with the Sergeant. I'll go find him..." She said as she started to get up but her uncle stopped her.
"No Felina. Eat...rest. We might not get another chance for a while. I'll call around and see where he is." Feral admonished her as he reached for his phone.
It took him some ten minutes before he finally caught up with the tired Sergeant. What he found out was grim. After ordering his Sergeant to take a short down time before he fell down, he hung up and looked at Felina.
She didn't like the look of anguish on her uncle's face. "It's bad, isn't it?" She said softly.
"We've had over forty fatalities and nearly three-quarters of the enforcers are now ill. It's a nightmare." Feral answered.
Felina sat still trying to absorb the enormity of the disaster.
On the far side of the city, two vigilantes peeled off their sweat soaked G-suits and tossed them into a nearby laundry basket. They could barely move. Slowly climbing the ladder to the garage then the stairs to their apartment, they silently made for the kitchen to grab something to eat.
Taking their food to the living room, Chance flicked on the TV. The news was on and they stared blankly at it before what was being said finally penetrated their tired minds.
"Oh God! It's gotten soo much worse." Jake cried in dismay.
"All those Kats dead!" Chance whispered in shock.
They continued to watch, letting their food get cold. A feeling of dread and exhausted dismay overwhelmed them. This wasn't an enemy they could fight with their fancy weapons. They were just as helpless as the ordinary Katizens in the street. It wasn't a feeling they were used to.
To make matters worse, reports were coming in from other countries that despite Megakat City's efforts to contain it, it was spreading like wildfire all over the world. Kats were dying by the thousands everywhere.
Sick at heart, Chance and Jake finished their meal and went to bed, each wrapped in their own thoughts. The primary one on their minds was, how long would it be before they too became ill? It was a sobering thought they didn't want to even contemplate.
What Feral feared the most made an appearance amidst all the chaos of a virus run wild in the city. The Pastmaster blew into town on one of his famous storms.
When he arrived, he was momentarily stunned to find the city streets empty. A feeling of dread hung over it to his puzzled confusion. He headed for city hall on a mini-dragon and was further amazed not to be accosted by the enforcers or the SWAT Kats by now.
When he reached the clock tower, he made his dragon wait on the roof while he made his way unimpeded down the stairs and to the Mayoral offices. The ugly gnome peered into the Deputy Mayor's and found it empty. Frowning he began to move down the hall. Everywhere he went, he found empty offices. Confused and growing angry, the dead sorcerer used the elevator, he really detested, and went down to the lobby.
Once there, again, he noted the eerie silence. He wandered around for a bit until he came to an office that had Kats in it. This was an emergency status room that was used only during a city wide catastrophe. As he peered into the room through the partly open door, he saw a handful of grim faced Kats looking at a board filled with some kind of statistics. Ms. Briggs was listening to a male explain something the Pastmaster couldn't hear from where he stood.
'What was going on?' He wondered. He had come here for his usual purpose of taking the city but something was going on that had its Katizens on the alert and he wasn't it. Now that felt strange.
Pushing the door open and holding his watch out, he bellowed, "What is going on?"
Callie jumped at the shout from the door. She looked quickly and was even more upset when she saw who it was.
"No. Not now! You've picked a really bad time to come here you creep." She said angrily.
The Pastmaster blinked at her lack of fear and her aggressive stance before him. She stalked up to him and waved a finger at him in fury.
"For your information, this city is under siege already and doesn't need you coming in and making it worse. A virulent flu has stricken nearly the entire world. Get out of here!" Callie snapped at him.
He stepped back in stunned confusion. "A plague? But there wasn't supposed to be a plague here, that's in the dark ages." He muttered.
"I don't care where it was supposed to be, it's what's going on now. Now get your ass out of here or change us to the dark ages like you're always going on about. Face it you creep, whether you keep us here or change us to a past age, you'll still end up with a city that's dying." Callie snapped, far too exhausted to guard her tongue or care what he might do to her.
To the Pastmaster's stunned amazement, she turned her back on him as did the others in the room and continued their tense conversation. He lowered his watch and stood bewildered. This had never happened to him before. They actually didn't care if he changed the city because too many were dying now to care what he did. He didn't know why, but that made him angry and unhappy.
What was the point of taking over a city that was more than willing to let him. What was the challenge in that? And, if he did change the city to the dark ages, would there be enough Katizens to be lord over?
Dumbfounded and annoyed, the Pastmaster walked back down the hall for the elevator. He took it back up to the top floor, made his way back down the hallway to the roof stairs and collected his dragon. Hopping on board, he directed his dragon back to the portal he made reappear. He glanced back at the city and shook his head...no there was no point in trying to take a city that was nearly dead. He flew into the portal and vanished.
Jake woke with a raw throat and feeling achy. He didn't tell his partner as he made himself a health drink and took a vitamin C. There was no point in telling anyone that he wasn't feeling well. There wasn't anyone left to do what needed to be done.
He and Chance took off early for the staging center and began their now familiar routine of hauling Kats and supplies where they were needed.
At Enforcer Headquarters, Feral felt bad but kept on running all aspects of his command as best he could with the Sergeant and Felina's assistance. Only about a three hundred enforcers were still on their feet trying hard to take care of their fellow officers and keep patrols going.
The hours blurred together as everyone did what they could for the sick and dying. They kept the city as safe as it was possible with their limited resources. What made it bearable was the fact no omegas, that Feral knew of, had appeared to make things infinitely worse.
Mayor Manx finally succumbed and was bedridden in his own home. Callie was barely able to keep going but she wouldn't go home with so much going on so she slept at city hall on a cot. The normal day to day paperwork of running the city was put on hold as she kept on top of coordinating the needs of the city by insuring services such as water, electricity and emergency assistance were available to all that needed it.
Jake finally had to admit he was too ill to continue. Chance was concerned but there was nothing he could do for his friend but provide him water, make him comfortable and return as often as he could to check on him. Chance was forced to continue the airlifting on his own.
Feral finally dropped, literally in his tracks. He was carried to his office and made as comfortable as possible on a cot. Felina made sure he had what he needed before continuing her duties. She was tired but had managed to avoid getting the virus.
The Sergeant hadn't been as lucky and was now bedridden too. He had been brought to the Commander's office and placed on another cot not far from his leader since the building was full elsewhere. Besides her many other duties, Felina would come to her uncle's office several times to check on them and to see to their needs.
Callie also had managed to keep from getting the virus but exhaustion was her constant companion. She wished the pandemic would end soon before its last well Katizens succumbed rendering the city completely helpless.
Her wish was finally granted. By that evening she received the good news from Dr. Balnard that the Lightning Flu had finally run its course. No new deaths had been reported and the sick were recovering. Relieved by the news, she felt justified in going home for the first time this had started and getting a good nights sleep. Tomorrow would be soon enough to try and begin the recovery process for the city.
Around the world the virus finally ran out of steam.
It would take months to tally all the damage the Lightning Flu had caused. Economies had suffered terribly. Crime had run rampant in some towns while others had their populations decimated.
The scientists had not been able to find a way to stop the virus from spreading. Researchers had determined the Lightning Flu had been a mutated version of the more harmless Calicivirus.
When everyone that had survived were well once more, it took months to repair the damages wrought while everyone was confined to their beds.
When the number of dead was finally tallied, it was learned that in a city of some 1.6 million, nearly 500,000 had died. Around the world some 800,000 had perished. Funeral parlors had been overwhelmed and had to resort to mass graves to handle the number of dead. Until they could be buried, dead bodies had been stacked ceiling high in all the funeral homes and hospital morgues.
The SWAT Kats and enforcer troop carriers volunteered to assist in the grim task of ferrying the dead to the desert outside the city where a large trench had been dug to accommodate the huge number of dead. It took nearly a week to finish the sad task.
Razor had to use special chemicals to cleanse the inside of the Turbokat when they had finished. It had taken him a week to recover from his milder bout of the flu much to T-Bone's relief. The tabby tom had managed to not catch the flu much to his amazement.
Feral had put Felina on mandatory vacation for a week to recover from trying to run the enforcers for the week it took Feral to recover from the flu. As his force came back up to speed, he had his officers go around the city to render aid wherever it was needed as the city climbed back to its feet again.
Mayor Manx had managed to survive as well. Some two months after the last case recovered, he held a special ceremony where he honored those Kats who had done their all to protect and assist the city to survive the dark days of the pandemic.
Those honored to their chagrin were, the SWAT Kats, Feral, Felina, the Sergeant, Ms. Briggs, Dr. Balnard and many others.
After the ceremony, as they were companionably eating cake, Callie suddenly remembered what had happened during the emergency.
"Did you know the Pastmaster had come to the city?" She asked the group standing with her.
"What?" T-Bone blurted, nearly spraying cake on his partner.
"Yes! He walked into my status meeting at city hall bold as can be and I just snapped. I told him to get lost or change the city. I didn't care which since most were sick or dying then I turned my back on him and continued to deal with issues that couldn't wait. I just realized he disappeared without saying another word." She said, shaking her head.
"You said that?" Feral said in shock.
"And he just walked away?" Felina chimed in, stunned disbelief on her face.
"Yeah, apparently he did if none of you saw him." Callie said shaking her own head.
"When was that, Ms. Briggs?" Razor asked.
"Ahh...I think it was on day six of the outbreak." Callie said after a moments thought.
"We were out there making a delivery to the north. We didn't see him at all. Looks like it was no fun for him to take over a city that was sick so he left." Razor hypothesized.
"It's as good an explanation as any other. Who can say what goes on in that ugly gnome's head." Feral said with a sigh. "At least he did leave and that was a good thing for us."
"Amen to that!" The Sergeant said, raising his glass of punch in a toast. The others touched glasses in solemn agreement.