Title: A.I. - Artificial Iniquitous - Part One
Author: Sage SK
Rating - K+
Genre - Action/Adventure/Comedy
Warnings - None
Comments: I've never seen the movie "Stealth", but watching the trailers and rewatching "Unlikely Alloys" inspired me to come up with this little something. Please do note that this will make more sense if you've seen that episode.
Disclaimer: I don't own nor claim anything from the SWAT Kats universe; all the canon characters have restraining orders against me. Come to think of it, so do all my original characters. What is up with that?
MegaKat City was once again basking in quiet, as quiet as things could get in a metropolitan giant. The sun was setting, and clean-up was barely finishing after weeks of exhaustive scavenging. Salvagers loaded up what was left of the wreckage piled up around the area surrounded by Puma Dyne buildings. They took a breath of air for every piece of heavy alloy, for every piece of what was once left of Zed.
The threat of Zed was a memory slowly dying down, along with all the other menaces that MegaKat City's katizens once considered unstoppable. Zed had been different, however. Zed had no definable purpose, no clue as to what it was created for. That is, not until it finally linked with the memory of its creator, Dr. Greenbox.
Leiter Greenbox had become aware of what this machine, this child, was capable of doing. He'd even teamed up with the SWAT Kats to find a way to infiltrate and destroy it before it caused any more damage. The con of being a scientist, however, was the pride a creation like Zed could bring. Despite its child-like behavior, Zed was magnificent. Cases like these were what he taught his students at Megakat University, nevermind no one amongst his class of 80 would go out and create a machine capable of bringing an entire metropolis to its knees.
He pondered this in his cell at Megakat Minimum Security, letting his eyes scan the outside of his barred window, counting the hours until he'd be let out once again. Weeks of intensive therapy had made him realize where it was where he'd gone wrong.
His position at Gem-Kat Labs had been terminated after the incident with Rex Shard, but he couldn't leave his love for inventing behind, much less when so many ideas were begging to be created. The grant Megakat University had offered after his being hired as a professor was a blessing. Not only did it give him the opportunity to teach young minds about the world of future electronics and technology in general, but he had the time on the side to find new ways to improve the livelihood of people. He nodded to himself. Once he returned to the outside world, he had to plead his case with the university council. And, hope that they'd still consider reinstating the grant for next year.
"Well, Chance, this is the last of it."
"After a few weeks of watching you guys bringing in the same trucks everyday, I'd hope so." Chance Furlong smirked as he signed the delivery slip. "Gonna go on a long, deserved break after this?"
"We wish." The stout delivery kat got back into the driver's seat of his truck. "We've got that mess on Third to take care of."
"Right. That bank robbery the SWAT Kats foiled."
"I don't mind the SWAT Kats. It's the mess they leave behind I do mind."
Chance tried not to look amused. "Look at it this way, Pat. They've doubled your paycheck within the last few months."
"Don't remind me. See you tomorrow."
As Chance waved to the disappearing truck, he surveyed the piles of metal recently delivered. At least this time they were in an area away from their front door. Come to think of it, he mused, their usual delivery kats hadn't bothered them in days. Then again, days without looking at Burke and Murray's ugly mugs were a quiet blessing.
The burly tomkat stretched, feeling each of his aching vertebrae popping in some relief. Today had been a non-stop haul of cars in need of serious tune-ups and replacements. But, the work was done and it was closing time. Tonight he planned on sitting back and catching up on the T.V. he'd missed due to his "other job's" requirements for city protection. As far as he was concerned, the usual megalomaniacs were taking a break and their usual plans of taking over the city were put on hold. Tonight, he was putting himself on hold, too.
"And, that's final," he said out loud as he locked the garage doors. He'd expected a retort of some kind from his partner, who he also expected to be on the couch working on whatever it was that'd popped into his head earlier in the day. But, Jake was nowhere to be found. It meant he was either upstairs in his room, or downstairs in the hangar adding a newer "explain-this-to-me" gadget to the TurboKat or even their Glovatrixes.
Which means I have reason to either be amazed, or scared, Chance mused. But, not tonight.
Tonight, he was commandeering the couch and the T.V.
"And, that's final."
Jake Clawson leaned back against his work stool, gazing up at the hangar's ceiling in languid thought, a screwdriver balanced precariously over his nose. He was at a standstill. Not a single idea had come to him all day, even after he told Chance he was going down into the hangar to work on a few things.
He yawned, reviewing the events of the week in his head and frowned. Nothing interesting had happened. Not since the Zed incident had he and Chance done anything deemed "exciting" as the SWAT Kats. Sure, there was that bank robbery, but that was only because they'd been passing by on a routine patrol.
Jake sighed and surveyed the hangar, catching the screwdriver as it fell off his nose. Their missile stockpile was in check, the TurboKat shone with a brand, new coat of paint, and the floor was impeccable. So much for cleaning up.
A sudden rumble emitting from his stomach indicated that the reason he wasn't coming up with anything was due to the fact that he hadn't eaten since breakfast. Tossing the screwdriver into the toolbox, he sat up and headed towards the ladder that led to their home above ground. Maybe Chance would be interested in ordering pizza tonight.
"So now it's time to let him go?"
Lieutenant Felina Feral eyed her uncle curiously from across the table they were sitting at. She'd joined him for dinner hoping to discuss something other than work or politics. But, news spread that Dr. Leiter Greenbox's therapy sessions had finally concluded and gave him the opportunity to get out of jail early on good behavior. And, this news wasn't something her uncle wanted to hear so soon.
Commander Ulysses Feral merely grumbled as a response, studying with great intensity, Felina imagined, the tuna salad sandwich he'd picked from the cafeteria refrigerator.
"You sure that's wise? He did go crazy with that thing," she continued, referring to the near catastrophic event that would have taken place had Zed fired the Megabeam. She shivered at the thought. Sure, MegaKat City'd had close calls before, what with the space pirates who'd attempted to steal the planet's water with Aquian technology and Dark Kat's endeavors to use a weapon so powerful as to wipe the city clean off the map. But, the Megabeam came too close for comfort. Had the SWAT Kats not infiltrated the robot from inside, she and her uncle wouldn't be having this conversation right now.
Again, Commander Feral responded with a grunt.
The ebony haired she-kat rolled her eyes good-naturedly. "And, one of the SWAT Kats asked me to meet him tonight for a candle-lit dinner."
"I'll be sure to have a sniper on every roof top."
Felina chuckled. "Oh, good. You were listening."
"It's too soon," Feral said, responding to her statements. "I'm not even sure I want to risk having that lunatic back on the streets." He frowned. The city's typical justice system of letting criminals out on good behavior gave him more headaches than he needed on the job. Had *he* written the law, Greenbox wouldn't have been allowed to see the light of day.
"He did help us find a way to stop Rex Shard, remember?"
"Hardly," Feral lied.
"Are you at least going to interrogate him?"
"Do I have a choice?"
"He better have a credible reason to go back into society." With a grumble, Feral bit into the sandwich he'd been eyeballing for the past 15 minutes. He made a face thereafter.
"Mayonnaise?" Felina guessed.
"Mayonnaise. Do me a favor and feed this to that SWAT Kat tonight."
He merely smirked as Felina let out a hearty chuckle.
"You mean there's nothing in that big brain of yours that'll have mine hurting in the morning in regards to our arsenal?"
"Hard to believe, but yeah." Jake's voice was muffled by the pillow he'd put over his head. "I may even consider going to bed early tonight."
"You're that bored."
"Well, I guess I can't complain." Jake grinned lightly beneath the pillow. "Maybe I just need time to rest thinking wise."
"I can help with that."
"No blunt objects, thanks."
Jake could already see the pout Chance was making.
"Just a little one?"
"Is it a wrench?"
Chance repeated his statement without the question. "Just a little one."
"It'll render me unconscious, won't it?"
"That would be the point." Chance raised an arm up to block the pillow Jake hit him with, then turned his attention to the television when Jake spoke up.
"Hey, isn't that...?"
Chance hadn't realized that they'd been watching the news for the past five minutes, which meant that his talking to Jake made him miss the ending of his show. Ah well. There was always room for repeats.
And, that's when he saw it. The news camera was focused on a figure emerging from Megakat Enforcer HeadQuarters, and surrounding that figure were Enforcer escorts and just about every news channel known in the city. Had it not been for the mass of questions the media kept tossing at he who was the center of attention, both kats wouldn't have realized who it was.
"Dr. Greenbox, is it true that you've been cured?" asked a newskat from KAT.
"What will you do now that you're out of jail?" asked another from PAW.
"Will there be another 'Zed'?" came the question from MBC.
Leiter Greenbox, ragged and tired from weeks of no sleep, merely smiled and stepped into the vehicle waiting for him.
Chance arched a brow, muting the television. "Huh... Are they saying he's not crazy now?"
Jake shrugged. "Guess he didn't realize he went overboard with that thing."
"Trying to blow up the city isn't just 'overboard.' That Zed thing did something to his head."
"Zed's central processing unit, yeah." Jake frowned in thought. "But its main purpose was to repair things. I still don't get how getting contaminated with the Metallikats' criminal tendencies made it believe it had no purpose. If that were the case, then it would have believed it had to steal from every bank in MegaKat City."
Chance shrugged. "Guess it just thought bigger than they did."
"Or Greenbox made it more katlike than what he intended."
"Could be. At least it's gone now. Good riddance."
Then Chance heard the sound coming from his partner that usually made his fur stand on end. Jake merely responded with a mumbled "Mmm...," along with the look on his face that could only indicate that the gears in his head were turning. He gave him a wary look.
"What?" Jake asked, catching the taller kat's look.
"You're up to something."
"What makes you think I am?" Jake asked again, feigning surprise.
"You've got that look in your eye. Whatever it is, I just know it's gonna scare me."
"And, you call *me* paranoid." Jake chuckled as he stood up and stretched. "I'm heading to bed."
"Which means you'll be thinking in your sleep."
"I'm not that talented."
"Again, I can render you unconscious, just in case," Chance said as he reached a hand towards the toolbox. He turned around in time to see a flurry of shedded orange fur falling neatly to the floor as the sound of panicked footsteps disappeared upstairs.
SEVERAL WEEKS LATER
"Again, you don't seem to give us a valid reason of why we should consider giving you that grant, Mr. Greenbox."
The MegaKat University Council members eyed Greenbox with great speculation, half wondering if the once ragged tomkat really meant what he said when he announced he'd want to return to teaching.
"It's not a matter of giving a valid reason," returned Greenbox, standing straight and at attention behind the podium facing the council. "It's a matter of proving to this university, and perhaps this city, that I've learned from my mistakes, and that I am willing to return back to a normal life."
"Your involvement with this 'Zed' machine put a lot of people in jeopardy, not to mention nearly annihilated the entire city."
"I realize that. And, I can say that I do regret my actions. My invention became more than just a machine and my purposes for its creation went out of control. My time in solitary confinement made me aware that I wish to return to helping this city, not aid in its destruction. And, it would help me teach my students the consequences of what that much power can do if they were capable of building such a thing as what Zed once was."
Greenbox let out a deep breath as he finished his last sentence. He knew that convincing the council would be difficult, explaining to them his reasons for going temporarily insane with power. It'd taken him a week to even get them to hear him out.
The elder kats murmured amongst themselves for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, one of them spoke up.
"Unfortunately, considering the circumstances, we can't allow the university to continue funding your research. However, you are able to continue teaching with the University of Quantum Physics. Do keep in mind that, while we can't put a stop to your inventing process, you will be paying out of your own pocket."
Greenbox thanked them. Well, one out of two wasn't too bad. For all he knew, between classes, he hadn't a clue when on earth he was going to be able to invent anything. And, at what cost. Still, the idea of being unable to do such a thing left him with a strange emptiness inside. Such was the life of an inventor, after all.
Mildly defeated, he gathered his belongings and left the boardroom before anything else was said.
It didn't feel like a complete reformat. More like... a suspension. The prior settings were still there; nothing had changed.
Except for the fact that it was no longer connected. And, if felt as if it were missing something. What was it?
The systems once known as Zed slowly pieced together what it had gathered.
What was its purpose?
"Again, what are you doing with this?" Chance looked at his partner warily, unsure of what Jake was planning with the parts he'd found in the scrap yard.
"Just think about it, Chance. Can you imagine the TurboKat communicating with us? Giving us a heads-up when we're not looking?"
"You're still on about that Zed thing? I thought we agreed that Greenbox lost his mind and that thing was dangerous."
"Greenbox had the right idea, buddy. He just went about it the wrong way." Jake finally found the wrench he'd been digging for in the tool box and hopped onto the dolly, pushing his way underneath the TurboKat.
"I dunno, Jake. After what happened..." Chance's tone was still unsure as he watched his partner, standing by with the main component. He eyed it with intense scrutiny, half hoping whatever new idea Jake had in store for the TurboKat wouldn't work.
"It's just a matter of testing it out, buddy. If this doesn't work, I won't bother with it."
"After you stay up another ten hours fixing it."
"Do not question my brilliance, Igor." Jake's hand shot out from beneath the TurboKat.
"Igor?" Chance handed Jake the component. "You've been watching those B-Movies again, haven't ya?"
"Only a couple dozen." A few minutes of adjustments was all Jake needed. Satisfied, he pushed himself out from beneath the TurboKat. "Now," he said, nearly mimicking what Chance believed was a mad scientist, "we throw the switch. Throw the switch, Igor!"
"Right. We have no switch. But, it doesn't matter, Igor. For tonight... we shall see... LIFE!" Jake's arms were outstretched as he mimicked a perfect mad laugh. Enough to send a chill up Chance's spine.
Chance rolled his eyes. "Whatever, Crazy. I'm heading for bed." Smirking, he gave Jake a loud pat on the back and headed for the ladder. "Maybe you should, too. That is, once you're done with the mad scientist thing."
"I'm done." Jake yawned as he went after Chance. "Real shame. I coulda used a flash of lightning."
"I can turn the lights on and off."
It had felt itself coming back from suspension, as if a sudden jolt had "awoken" it.
Was it connected?
Zed knew the all too familiar feeling of being reconnected. It was foreign territory, but a quick scan revealed an open matrix. And, it wasn't alone. There was... something else. Another program.
"State your purpose."
The program in the TurboKat seemed lost, confused.
Was there such a thing?
She didn't recall anything regarding "emotions" or "feelings" from her creators. Granted, she'd "felt" them on numerous occasions.
"My purpose is to serve," she finally returned.
"The SWAT Kats, T-Bone and Razor."
Yet another piece of the puzzle had come into place. Zed remembered these SWAT Kats. They were the very ones that had been responsible for its premature destruction; for causing it to lose the link it'd found with its creator. It now realized that with this new body, finding its creator would be an easier task, and the being known as "TurboKat" would be very helpful in this case.
"Zed requests assistance from program entity known as "T-KAT."
Once again, confusion crossed the jet's AI.
"To find Zed's creator."
Chance had originally come downstairs for a drink of water. Also, he couldn't sleep, which was no surprise to the burly tom. As a SWAT Kat, he'd pulled all nighters before, so insomnia was an understatement.
As he opened a bottle of water, he thought again of the modifications that Jake had done to the jet. He could only imagine the look on his partner's face if it didn't work.
Personally, Chance hoped it didn't. While communication with the TurboKat seemed like a good idea - heck, it was a GREAT idea - it just didn't seem right. Not with the most powerful jet known to katkind, which was nearly torn apart by the Zed menace. And, he feared again the possibility of it falling into the wrong hands again. Ever since Hard Drive stole the TurboKat and went on a sky rampage, he and Jake kept tabs on the TurboKat at every waking moment, even on missions when it required them to continue their treks on foot or via Cyclotron.
What was worse... if the jet had the ability to communicate, would it reveal their secret identities if it went haywire?
He shuddered at the thought. Bottled water in hand, he crept down to the hangar.
The TurboKat remained in suspended "thought", questioning her newfound programming, and also wondering about the entity that called itself "Zed." It sought a purpose, but even the jet couldn't find the answer. She'd known her purpose the minute Razor had activated the A.I. Maybe her creators would have an answer.
She picked up an object entering the hangar, a quick scan revealing the signature to be that of her other "creator". "Good evening, Chance," she said perkily.
Chance nearly jumped out of his fur as he spun around, searching for the source of the voice. "Who?!"
"How are you this evening?" she queried, mildly puzzled at her creator's reaction.
She watched the burly tom make his way towards her, cautiously. "Who's here?!"
"What do you mean?" Once again, the jet sounded puzzled. Did her creator not see her? "I'm the only one here."
Chance peered under the jet. "Who?!"
"Me. Just me."
"Me who?!" Chance was slowly making his way around the jet, as if searching for an intruder.
"But I'm right here in front of you..." Surely her creator wasn't blind.
Chance looked up at the jet, frowning. He leapt up onto the wing, peering into the cockpit cautiously. That's when he saw it. The jet's console was glowing a soft shade of blue. "What th'.....?"
"Do you need to go somewhere?" she asked. "If that's the case, shouldn't you change first? You appear to be out of uniform."
From there, all Chance could do was stare.
Jake winced as he sat up from his slumber. The yell seemed vaguely familiar. Well, it WAS familiar. After all, no one could mistake the voice of Chance Furlong when he was upset.
The yell reminded him of a movie* he saw once. Something about a space captain being marooned on a planet by a vile adversary. He wouldn't forget the way said captain yelled out the name of this enemy.
Yeah, something like that.
"You hollered?" Jake asked as he climbed down into the hangar.
"What. Did. You. Do?" Chance's tail was twitching dangerously as each word was snarled through his teeth.
"Could you be more specific? I've done a lot of bad things, apparently."
"The TurboKat," Chance returned around clenched teeth.
"What's wrong with the TurboKat?"
"Talks! Talks!" the burly tom returned, pointing towards the TurboKat. "In full sentences, even!"
Jake eyed Chance with mild amusement, wondering if his partner had gotten any sleep.
"And, don't give me that look. You're the one who put it in there!"
Jake was on the verge of questioning his friend's outbursts when his ears perked to an unmistakable sound. Both mechanics turned in time to see their jet springing to life.
"What are you doing?" asked the TurboKat. "I wasn't given orders to leave, nor are either of my creators here."
"Zed doesn't take orders unless they are from its creator. Zed seeks purpose. Zed may only find it with Zed's creator. TurboKat entity must take Zed to its creator."
Slowly, the jet's systems began to feel corrupted, as if her very will was being pushed aside.
And, within only a matter of seconds, she was shooting straight out of the hangar and into the skies.
And, back in the hangar, two SWAT Kats stared with flabbergasted expressions as all they heard was the dying roar of jet engines.
TO BE CONTINUED.
*-minor reference to "Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan"