MISSION: SAVING THE WORLD
Chapter 1: A Last Ditch Effort
Feral had to stop and lean against the cement wall for a moment as pain and dizziness swept over him as it had so many times these past couple of months. As he rested, he heard a kitten cry, a voice trying to soothe it, other hushed voices talking urgently, and the sounds of frantic construction work going on out of view ahead of him.
When he felt marginally better, he pushed himself off, biting off a moan of pain as his body complained bitterly at moving at all, and trudged slowly down the long corridor until he came to a doorway that led into a huge space that acted as a hangar and repair bay.
To his left, sitting at the rear of the cavernous space on its platform, was the Turbokat. It looked forlorn now since it had been reduced to little more than a skeleton as all of its usable parts had been stripped from it. It couldn't be flown anyway since the skies above Megakat City were now owned and patrolled by the enemy. And very soon after that, the surface became a deadly killing ground.
Just before travel about the city became impossible, Clawson and Furlong had scrambled madly to collect anything of use from the yard and city environs with the help of some new allies.
They concentrated their efforts on procuring survival necessities such as: food, a water source separate from the city, medicines, medical supplies and equipment, personal care supplies, entertainment items to keep people preoccupied and off their dangerous situation, survival manuals, educational books/cds, computers, scrap metal, fuel, furniture, electronic gear, bedding, golf carts for getting about, mattresses, boxes for belongings, flashlights, batteries, and lamps.
They brought all these supplies and any survivors they found to their underground hidden hangar. It was an Old MegaWar II military base, long forgotten by the city. Being as large as a small city and located deep underground, the thick concrete walls were strong enough to hide and keep safe everyone within it, handle their needs, and be defensible.
Unfortunately, since the two vigilantes had only used a small section of it, that which was under the garage they'd worked in so many years, it took them, the survivors, and their allies a few months and, only under the cover of darkness, to make the rest of the enormous place liveable.
But by the time they'd finished, there was a safe water supply, working lights and power, increased security, and working generators. Additionally, with a lot of elbow grease and hard work, many of the offices, meeting rooms, and old barrack areas were converted into temporary living quarters for everyone. The small medical bay was increased in size and an additional kitchen/dining area was set up in one of the repair bays. Storage bays were piled high with supplies, as much as they could stuff in as there were a lot of people to feed and care for. And separate from the personal areas was the old hangar and its rooms the SWAT Kats had used that were now headquarters for the resistance fighters and all their equipment needed to defend what was left of the katizens of Megakat City.
When they were finally forced underground completely, Clawson sealed all the exits, actually blowing up the garage to bury two of the main entrances. Only one was left and that was located underground, connected to the city sewer system which could only be accessed by opening a solid cement door.
Now a year later, they still hadn't been discovered. That was thanks in part to the sound construction of their sanctuary by those long ago builders and the modifications Clawson had added with his additional security measures. But hiding wouldn't save them from complete extinction by the enemy that still relentlessly hunted them.
He let those memories of their frantic early days fade from his mind as he walked closer to the frenzied activity going on in the center of a huge expanse of floor in this main hangar area where the few remaining defenders worked to try and save their world.
Clawson was wielding a screwdriver while Sgt. Fallon, Feral's longtime assistant, held a section of wiring out of the way for him. He heard but couldn't see Furlong working with an arc welder on the far side of the weird looking machine they were all feverishly building. Just leaving a work bench to the dark tom's left was Dark Kat, carrying some kind of complex device carefully in his massive paws toward Clawson for installation.
Back at the bench DK had left, Feral observed Professor Hackle and Dr. Liter Greenbox building something that he assumed would also be installed in this strange machine. Pouring over a book on Megakat City's past as she sat beside the computer console was Dr. Sinian and sitting next to her, using the computer, was Dr. Konway. They had been very lucky he had survived as they were lean on anyone with medical skills, he thought. Though it hardly mattered now since medicines were running extremely low.
Turning his attention back to the machine, the dark tom walked stiffly and in pain, closer to the machine and offered his assistance. "Anything you need me for?"
"Yeah! Come over here and hold this for me," Came Furlong's voice. Feral walked to the rear of the machine and took hold of a big piece of metal the tabby was attempting to hold and weld by himself.
Time passed with only short bursts of conversation to break the sound of everyone working at different tasks when a noise coming from the secret entrance behind and to one side of the Turbokat caught Feral's attention. Turning his head in that direction, he saw Dr. Viper enter, looking even more worse for wear than when he'd gone out on his scavenging and scouting mission a few days ago. Since his reptilian face was nearly impossible to read, Feral used other clues to tell him what the lizard kat was feeling. The slumped shoulders and fear in Viper's eyes told him the mutant's mission had not been successful and the news he brought was going to be bad.
Severely diminished in numbers, Viper's plant creatures huddled in the alcove of the hidden entrance as they'd been instructed, just as Dark Kats creeplings were required to remain near the ceiling in that same area until needed. Several of the creatures were also at the now defunct entrances as a precaution. Both types of creatures made rather excellent watch dogs, sometimes better than the electronic surveillance system.
With tail dragging somewhat, Viper walked tiredly up to the busily working group, stopping before he could be in the way. He stood there watching them for several minutes before speaking.
"There are no more survivorsssss."
Everyone paused a moment to give him a bleak stare. Entering just in time to hear this stark pronouncement was Calico Briggs, pro tem leader since Manx was killed. She was the only government left and was required to deal with all the many problems that came up when people are forced to live in such tight conditions. Needing to escape those duties for a little while, she had decided to see how much progress had been made in the hangar on the project they had pinned their hopes on.
"So, how bad is it?"
Viper glanced over at her, nothing but emptiness and defeat in his gaze. "Our enemiesss minionsss have leveled more than half the city. My ssswamp liesss dried with dead animalsss laying at it'sss bottom asss doesss Megakat Bay though the city's ressservoir does ssstill hold sssome water, but not for very long at the rate they are draining it. It isss fortunate we have the well but it too won't lassst usss much longer. We have very little time before our world isssss uninhabitable. And to make mattersss worsse, the sssewersss are now impassssable asss our enemy hasss now sssent their minionsss to sssearching for anything left living. I ran into a group of ten near the mussseum. Assss you can sssee, I losst many of my petsss in the attack. I wasss barely able to essscape capture myssself. We are truly trapped here now."
No one made the mistake of asking if the altered Kat had been followed. Viper was too careful and too good at escaping detection which was why he'd been the one doing the scouting in the first place. They also didn't question his flat pronouncement that there was no escape for any of them.
Not having anything to say in response to Viper's dire report, grim looks were shared before all went back to their work ... the strange machine they were building now their only hope.
Viper watched them a bit longer before dragging himself off to get some food and sleep. He was of no use to them as he hadn't any technology skills.
Despite working twenty-fours nonstop on each shift, it still took the group four more days before the machine could be considered complete and ready for use. There would be no time to test it. All that was left was to choose the one who would be brave or suicidal enough to attempt to use it.
"Perhaps we should draw lots among those qualified?" Callie suggested as everyone on the project stood to one side studying the machine.
"No, I or Jake will go," Furlong stated brusquely. His expression uncompromising.
"So noble of you," Dark Kat's drawled sarcastically.
Hissing and raising his fists, Furlong snarled, "I don't hear you volunteering."
Before Dark Kat could make a scathing rebuttal, he was interrupted.
"I'll go," Feral said, his once resonant voice hoarse and low.
Eyes stared at him in stunned shock except for the two omegas. They weren't part of this and had no say but they did trade a glance that showed they weren't surprised by Feral's willingness to do this.
"You can't! You might not survive the trip," Dr. Konway interjected firmly, his expression sad but unyielding.
Feral's mouth firmed into a grim line. "I'm certain I could survive the trip if it succeeds in getting me where it's sent. The fact I'm dying makes me the perfect candidate since if it fails, I won't care. Besides, I'd be quicker believed than any of you and we haven't much time to convince them of what's needed done."
"Except for meeting yourself and causing a paradox," Clawson said, worriedly. This possible problem had been discussed repeatedly during the building of the machine but no resolution had been found to solve it.
"That might not happen," Dark Kat suddenly interjected. All turned to him in surprise. He shrugged. "Since his soul is only loosely attached as he gets closer to death, it's possible he won't suffer being in the same space as his past self."
Razor and Professor Hackle frowned thoughtfully.
"That's only a guess on your part. If you're not right then the mission is lost before it begins!" Furlong argued. "And we have no one else to send that would be believed by those that find our machine. It has to be someone that everyone knows and will listen to."
"That's why it must be me. No one will question it's truly me and time won't be wasted. Anyway, if this thing doesn't succeed, I'll die sooner rather than more slowly and painfully later. And you two," he said, pointing at Clawson and Furlong, "...are needed here. If there is any chance of saving our kind if I fail, you will be the ones to find it," Feral said pragmatically.
"And though my vote doesn't count, I agree with his reasoning. Feral has a much better chance of succeeding, much as it pains me to admit it. Besides, he is of no use here as he grows sicker and eventually dies anyway," Dark Kat stated flatly, his cold eyes giving nothing away on how he truly felt about this.
"I concur," Viper chimed in.
The rest of the group looked at a loss. It felt weird to hear their enemies, who had no love for anyone there and were only concerned for their own survival, advocate Feral to be their last hope to escape their doom. They couldn't really refute Dark Kat's and Feral's logic as much as they'd want to. There was one among their number who could also be pragmatic and it was he that spoke into the tense silence.
"I'm afraid they're right. I may not like it but the logic is irrefutable. Feral is the right person to go." Clawson sighed, shaking his head.
Furlong threw up his paws in resignation and that was the end of the discussion.
Over the next hour, Dr. Sinian briefed Feral on what events were happening in the time zone they hoped he would end up in, Dr. Konway gave him a quick exam then injected him with some of the few precious pain meds still they had left, and finally, Clawson instructed the Enforcer on how to read the instruments, make minor repairs and how to respond to an alarm before cinching Feral into the padded seat of the pod-like machine.
Before the door was shut and sealed, Feral gave everyone a long, final look then nodded he was ready.
"Our hopes go with you Ulysses. Good luck!" Callie called out, tears glimmering in her eyes as Furlong and Clawson shut the door with a loud clang then sealed it.
Inside the claustrophobic container Feral allowed the anguish and grief he'd held inside for so long free reign. He sobbed and cursed his losses then calmed and prayed. All their hopes of survival rode on his shoulders, a truly heavy responsibility. He hoped he'd not over estimated his ability to survive this trip. Please let my luck hold out one more time, he whispered aloud then waited for something to happen. He wasn't ashamed to admit he was terrified as he gripped the bars on each side of his seat.
The watchers moved quickly to stand behind the shield wall Greenbox and Hackle had constructed. Clawson and Dark Kat stood side by side behind a control console and began flipping switches and turning dials, muttering technical jargon to each other.
A loud hissing noise began coupled with a deep hum that rose to a fierce whine as the engine warmed then came up to speed.
When everyone's eardrums felt like they would burst, the machine glowed like a star then disappeared with a loud boom.
They stared at the space where Feral had been moments ago, each wrapped in their own thoughts and memories of how much they had lost and how desperately important Feral's mission was to the survival of their race.