Dance of the Dolphin: Prologue

Author's Note: first fanfiction up, so don't be too harsh. Let me know if things are too vague - they will contiune to be explained as time goes on.

Original characters in the SWAT Kat/Ecco the Dolphin universe owned by their respective companies.

Ecco Defender of the Future Cross over with the SWAT Kats.

Ecco is a young, bottlenosed dolphin who was on the quest to restore his reality back to what it was - peace and harmony. Most of dolphin-kind had left with man to travel to the stars, while some dolphins and whales stayed behind, on Earth, as caretakers. They had the Guardian to protect them, but it was eventually destroyed by the evil, alien species known as the Foe. Traveling in their space ships, they came to earth to consume and destroy the cetaceans population that remained on Earth, as well as all the other life on the planet. Ecco was able to drive them back, but just before they were defeated in his present reality, they stole the five key traits of the dolphin psyche: Intelligence, Ambition, Compassion, Wisdom and Humility. When this happens, Ecco the Dolphin lands in an altered future - one where mankind enslaved the dolphins, and built a great "Engine of Salvation" to defeat the Foe. The story takes place after the trait of Intelligence is sent restored and the dolphins realize the "Engine of Salvation" is actually a machine of incomprehensible power.

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Begin:

The dark gray and white dolphin slowly swam in a large, circular path, lost in his own thoughts. He looked like a large, over-grown dusky dolphin, his 12 foot long body covered with hundreds of scars from advanced age and his run-ins with peers. "Complete the Circle..." he sang quietly, "...And let the Engine of Salvation save us from a contiuned existance of agnoy." His entire frame shook suddenly, and the dolphin paused. For a second he eyed the beams of light managing to filter through the murky waters, from the sun above. As he rolled to his side, he looked directly below him at the platform jutting from the rocks that stretched for some miles out to form the bay he lived in. Below him, his little shrine of twisted and rusting metal seemed to portray his feelings about the world. Every now and again, a beam of light would penetrate the water's surface and be reflected on one of the many broken panes of glass that littered the floor of the once-dolphin shrine.

Far below the platform, at least 15 body lengths below, there other dolphins, but they were not like him. Movers worked below him, oblivious to his musing. They did what they had been taught to do in ages past: survive with the little resources they had. The thin veil of hope that the next generation would see better days was all those dolphins had left. The Movers were dolphins that looked like a crossbreed between an Orca and a Belgua - muscular in nature, resilient and stocky. Now, with the polluted waters about them, their once white and black bodies had become a sickly white and yellow, the patches from their killerwhale heritage, all but forgotten. Movers' bodies suffered from lack up upkeep and a dying food source, more than anything else.

"I am one of the last Crimson alive, once obligated to lead my brothers and sisters to finish the great Engine...." The dolphin sighed inwardly, watching the 'fins below him. "Now I am an observer of a slow derth..." A low series of clicks reached the Crimson one, and he looked down to see the scant outline of a particular Mover swimming slower than the others. It struggled to make it to a metal beam protruding from one of the stone walls that breached the surface and rose high above the waters of the bay.

Commanding his muscles to propell him through the water at a moderatly fast speed, the Crimson dolphin dove towards the Mover. A quick sonar blast and it was evident that its breathing apperatus was working at 30% of capacity and probably had been for a great length of time. The sickly dolphin had slowly been dying of lack of oxygen, and with the way the harness seemed to have grown into the dolphin's flesh any way of removing it without possibly killing the poor creature.

"Hush.... hush ...." The grey dolphin softly trilled. "After tonight you will be with Delphinus and the stars, free of pain."

The Mover looked up, eyes dull and bearly able to focus, the rest of its body, unresponsive. "Crimson, when the One came, I thought everything would change. The knowledge of the machines of war has done nothing for us, except teach us what fools we were to believe in Man." Her voice was steady, but in great pain.

"Shhh.... " The Crimson's face twisted in saddness and he gentley nosed the dying creature, a teenaged, female Mover. Her skin had cracked in several places and had taken on the yellow sheen of rot. Even now in the shadows, the Crimson could feel them -the vultures of the sea, the bio-engineered barracudas, designed by man, hanging several body lengths out.

There was silence for a few minutes. "I haven't breathed a normal breath in over a year now. I refused to believe that it was the machine.. that it was my own body.... But now, I see." The Mover tilted her head upwards, and whispered, "I rather live as a stupid cow if it meant that I could live free and naturally."

Less than an hour later, one less creature stirred.

The Crimson dolphin could only stare blankly. THe idea of living 'naturally' without technology to conform nature to one's needs seemed crazy, almost obscene. There was a moment however, where he remembered what the One had showed him when they had sung together- a bay filled wish fish of all types and kinds, where whales and dolphins lived a more natural life, aware that they were caretakers of something very precious - life itself. After several more moments, the Crimson swam off hurriedly to get the Prime Mover. It wouldn't be long before the vultures of the sea would claim the Mover's corpse.

Dark Kat gripped the Pastmaster's watch in one meaty paw, obsidian claws threatening to create cracks in the golden frame. The long chain attached to it ended about a foot from the ground and a pair of creepings made a game of trying to grab it while their master was occupied.

"I CAN NOT TOLERATE MUCH MORE OF THIS, PASTMASTER!!!" There had been three attacks with the Pastmaster and Dark Kat fighting hand in hand to control Megakat City - each had failed miserably, ending with the two villians scrambling for cover. This left one very mad purple-furred kat at wit's end, angry his crime organization had been pushed underground, with unsuccessful levels almost exceeding that of the other omega villians in the city.

The Pastmaster's boney tail twitched in unfettered annoyance. "What do you want me to do about it, Dark Kat? If *you're* such a genius, maybe you should should just cast some spells and do this job, yourself," The Pastmaster growled, trying to keep several feet between him and Dark Kat, least he lash out again. The two creeplings who had been trying to grab a piece of the golden chain attached to the Pastmaster's timepiece suddenly decided laughing at the Pastmaster would be more entertaining and quickly flapped their way over to him, mocking him loudly.

"The Tome of Time," Dark Kat rumbled, rubbing his chin thoughtfully and ignoring his minions, "I discovered it had other volumes. I have managed to procure them. Research them, study them - find out if they are of any use to you... to help me! No tricks, or your watch will be a pile of dust - and so will YOU!"

The Pastmaster laughed. "Those tomes only suggest crossing into other realms. I would have no power over the creatures and beings, within! If we start tearing holes in the fabrics of space and time, there is no telling WHAT will happen." Even as he finished the sentence, the Pastmaster was already thinking of different strategies to get rid of Dark Kat and get his watch back. The Swat Kats could wait - the Pastmaster had eternity on his side.

Dark Kat took two enormous strides and picked up the Pastmaster, acting as if he weighed nothing more than a feather. "Find what I need, and we both win, otherwise if I loose, you will have thrice what I have. This, I promise."

***

The skellital kat held a dusty tome in his claws, trying to calm his anger. He was a spell caster, a commander of magical creatures large and small, not some booking-reading lackey! He may have had time on his side but saw no point in spending half of his eternity serving a lesser being such as Dark Kat!

The marks on the elderly pages were barely legable, detailing different dimensions and places that the Pastmaster could travel to, with the right spell regeants. There were six books, and so far, the first five had turned up nothing. The only thing keeping this old kat sane was the fact that hidden deep in the mountains, quiet was something that was available in great amounts. Even Dark Kat's creeplings weren't as noisey as they normally were.

Many spells offered trips to places of no interest, such as hideouts for rogue casters to flee to, only to get trapped, as some spells were a one-way trip. Other places where workers, fighters or weapons could be procured lacked the spells needed to even create a rift to travel to those destinations. Pages were missing in these old books, pages which could never be replaced. Another problem that confounded the Pastmaster was that one could not force his or her enemy to unwillingly cross dimensions. Blasted safeties! Tapping one orange colored claw against a page, the Pastmaster contiuned to flip through the ending pages of the fifth tome.

A few more page flips and the Pastmaster hissed loudly, tired from pouring over the tomes for hours. As he turned the second to last page, he was faced with an incredible picture of a large volcano with some sort of mechanical device perched on the top of it. At the bottom of the page was a reference to another tome that the Pastmaster had gotten ahold of. It was the last book in the Pastmaster's pile that hadn't been touched. "What is *this*", the Pastmaster wondered.

The Pastmster absently put down the fifth tome, and settled back into his cush chair with the sixth tome. While it was about half the length of the other books, the cover of this particular piece of literature was made of very sturdy leather. It was most likely dragon leather, from the scale-patterns. On the front cover, there was an engraving of a single dolphin with five stars upon his head. To his left was another figure, looking like some sort of alien with many legs, with an insect-like hide. Where the eyes of the alien would have been, there were a pair of rubies embedded in the cover, and where the stars would have been for the dolphin, were five perfectly formed diamonds. For a thief, the cover itself would have been worth thousands, but to a spell caster like himself, this was part of a sustainment spell, ensuring the book's contents would never age.

The Pastmaster moved a claw about the cover and closed his eye, disarming a protection spell that had been threaded above the sustainment spell. There was a quiet hiss and the Pastmaster opened the book without incident. On the inside cover, he saw a sentence written in Atlantean, a language he had seen perhaps three times before in his life. Each mark was as if it had been made hours ago. It read: "Ecco: You are the stone that split the stream of time in two."

The Pastmaster's jaw dropped. "Impossible!" For thousands of years, Kats and other time travelers had often referred to the path that time 'took', as the "stream". Those who dared to interfere with time often did it in small leaps and bounds. Folks like that were called "pebbles" or even "dust", for the greater path of the stream remained unaltered. Few earned the title "stone". A "Stone" could change the entire outcome of a world, or on a vaster scale, a universe. The Pastmaster grunted, digesting this information. This dolphin was a time traveler, but it was doubtful it was by choice. As a stone it was possible that this dolphin could even summon a rift himself after a great event. The Pastmaster was a "pebble" and needed tools to force a rip to allow himself to travel up and down the time stream.

Dolphins in the kat universe were social animals, but not at the point of carrying on conversations, or understanding metaphorical meansings.... or where they? The Pastmaster rubbed his chin.

Who was this dolphin, and more importantly, what was his world like and how could he use it to gain his own ends? The ages old caster turned a page and looked at the table of contents. A good majority of the book was dedicated to explaining the realm this dolphin lived in, and the conflicts that raged with in it. The curious thing was the book was not finished, for over half the book was blank.

There were too many questions, not enough answers. Now was as good a time to study the information provided therein. Altantean was an ancient language that was only used in a few places in existance - it flowed in the same sentence structure as english, but used many more metaphors to convoy points across. The translation would take some time, but the Pastmaster was determined to find out the story that was going on, a universe away from his own.

As the ages old scorcerer settled in, reading the story of "Ecco the Dolphin" he wasn't prepared for the Creepling that had been coming in the room ever so quietly. It was bordem that spurned it to try something so dangerous as to toy with the Master's "coworker" but it had nothing to loose. Climbing up to the top of a bookshelf, it flung itself at the tome, managing to grab it out of the Pastmaster's paws.

"HEY!!!" He screeched, his eye searching for where the thief had went to. He was powerless without his watch, and without any way to escape into another time, could only do Dark Kat's bidding until he found an oppertunity to get his watch back.

The Pastmaster ran in the only direction the Creepling could have gone - to the command center, going full tilt. It took a huge effort not to slam into Dark Kat as he seemingly appeared out of no where. A step away, he could see the Creepling with the book in its beak, trying to fend off one of its counter parts.

"I can't work with conditions like this if your vermin can't stay out of my books!" The Pastmaster fumed, pointing at the pair of creeplings.

The creeplings stopped fighting and the dominant one dropped the book into Dark Kat's waiting hand, before sounding off with a chirp of glee. Dark Kat inspected the book for a long second, opening it and trying to make sense of the strange marks on the pages.

"What is this?!" The voice reverberated through the thin hallway, and the glow in the kat's eyes flared brightly with anger. The cover of the book seemed to shine at the outburst, as if laughing at the Pastmaster.

"Maybe if I could finish my research I could tell you. There has been rumor in the caster community of "the stone" that could split the "the time stream". It seems as if this DOLPHIN on the cover of this book has managed to do that - or is in the process. Time travel even-..."

Dark Kat's face was impassive, as if made of stone. "What does this do for me? I care not for the details, only results!"

"Anyone trying to split time is trying to reverse damage being done. There are always two outcomes, maybe three. What they want to happen, the "good future", what they don't want to have happen "the bad future" and then the unexpected-.. "

Dark Kat picked up the Pastmaster with a giant paw, claws threatening to rip holes in the skellital kat's garmet. "Why do I CARE? What does *THIS* do for me?"

The Pastmaster smiled. "Any future, especially a troubled future that is in the process of being fixed, often leads to a distorted "future tense" which means that one faction has overwhelmingly won and great advances in technology were made, but at a cost."

"Explain...." Dark Kat's creeplings had grown in number, chittering quietly, eyeing the Pastmaster as if he was a pie about to be divided.

"A troubled future means people need help... means they would do things for us if it meant saving themselves..." The Pastmaster trailed off, giving up trying to explain the mechanics of it all.

A smile started to play across the demon-like kat's features, and he partially relaxed his grip.

"Get into contact with the beings on the other side and see if their advances are far enough that we could make use of them...." With that, Dark Kat dropped the Pastmaster with a loud *thud*.

When he returned to his study, the Pastmaster brushed himself off and slammed the door as one of the Creeplings tried to follow him in. There was a loud shriek, then silence. "Simpleton! Does he not care about the side effects of what he wants? He obviously only see what he wants to see... but this just may work out!" the Pastmaster stared into space for a long moment, before returning to the sixth tome.

In the book, the story contiuned along, where the kat had left off, speaking of 'humans' - a race that closely resembled kats, except being hairless, tailess, and clawless, and having rounder eyes. THese humans had made such increadible leaps in technology, eventually extending their hand out to the dolphins, who in turn, showed off their true nature of peace, harmony and a desire to reach out to the universe. In time, a great enemy had attacked, and before the final blow to the enemy queen could be struck, a disaster happened. The Foe tore a rip in time and stole parts to the dolphin's soul- essentially to stop the human-dolphin bond that would allow their societies to become one.

In the end, only One had been able to stop the Foe. And he was in the process of doing it. Already, one trait had been sent back, but it was not enough. "Humanity" had enslaved dolphin kind, creating a weapon of such terrible destructive force, that should it be activated, there was a chance the world would be so heavily damaged, it would result in permenent climate change and massive life loss.

The Pastmaster smiled. Here was his weapon of destruction. He stared out at the study - it was a giant library, but it also had a large central area which was specially prepared for him: several cauldrons with electric stoves to heat them up, and rows and rows of shelves, filled with many antique items, from dragon claws, to hyena spit, to griffin tongues. There were many powdered metals as well, as well as a lesser supply of small live creatures from mini drakes the size of rats to spiders just a little too evil-looking to be from the current time.

As he walked casually over to one of the brewing cauldrons with nothing but water filled to the mid-point, the Pastmaster remembered an older spell that allowed him to observe his enemies without their knowing. He grabbed a pinch of dragon scale, a pinch of ghoul drool, and a scale from a lungfish, sprinkling them into the iron pot. He chanted slowly and watched the clear smoke suddenly turn shades of purple and red. In a few moments, the Pastmaster closed his eyes and saw into Ecco's world....

The water was thick and putrid: dolphins lived in an enclosed bay, most either not caring to escape or just not wanting to leave those who could leap over the 10 foot tall barrier. They all looked sickly. All about the enclosed bay, where signs of Man's machines, from the great temple that rested on the floor - which was empty of whatever it had been holding, to the great volcano that stretched beyond.

The dolphins didn't feel the magical presence there, for during time the Pastmaster observed the Homebay, no dolphin seemed to miss a beat in their daily living.

Some dolphins, colored white and yellow, appeared to be the muscle of the group, and made about 1/2 the number in the bay. They all had metal harnesses on their backs, where their blowholes would have been, and it was apparent that these things did more than allow the dolphins to breath underwater - they allowed interaction with the machines.

There was another group, this one seeming to have more body shape variation than the white/yellow dolphins, most of them retaining a dull blue sheen to their bodies, and being a lot thinner in general. They had scars of circles on their backs and seemed almost obsessed with the more intricate parts of the Man-made machines. They seemed very mechanically inclined, more docile. and Of these, only half wore harnesses that would allow for permenent breathing, but all wore some kind of attachment that allowed for more delicate machine manipulation.

The last group - the Pastmaster only spotted a very low population of those - were mostly grey and white or black and white dolphins. If they had had other colors in the past, they were well-faded by now. These had harnesses but they were much lighter and seemed of a different nature than the other variations he had seen. Each one had their fins dipped in some kind of red 'paint' and they often acted apart from the other two groups of dolphins....

The Pastmaster was amazed - never had he seen such a polluted world and he was beginning to wonder how anything stayed alive.

END CHAPTER 1