THERE BE DRAGONS!

Chapter 18: The Dragon Commander

Feral steamed through the pilot's prep area as if his tail were on fire and headed straight for the elevators with Fallon and Steele hurrying to keep up with him. They nearly had to jump aboard the elevator as Feral had already pressed the button. The pair maintained a small distance from their leader, still quite wary and nervous around him.

"Sergeant, call all squadron leaders and have them report to my conference room immediately. I want to address this matter before it causes fear and disruption among the ranks," Feral suddenly barked, startling the other two in the car with him.

"Yes sir," Fallon said briskly.

When the elevator door snapped open, Fallon quickly split off to head to his office while Steele reluctantly followed this strange creature he once thought was a Kat. He wasn't certain what to expect now but he was definitely feeling fear.

"Steele. I want you to followup on the incident at the Biochemical Labs. Get the onsite officer's report and have someone retrieve my chopper."

"Yes sir," Steele said briskly, relieved to be dismissed from the scary individual's presence and given a fairly simple task to complete. He continued on past the Commander's offices to his own down the hall.

Feral headed on into his office. Steele would have been surprised and shocked to learn that this formidable individual was just as afraid but hid it well. His stomach churned with butterflies, afraid of what his troops might think and how they would react. Years of warnings had been drummed into his head and it was hard to ignore them. But, perhaps that was exactly what they should know, he realized suddenly. It could defuse this situation if everyone knew that dragons were just as afraid of them. Though they'd been told about why dragons hid, it didn't seemed to have registered just how afraid dragon kind had been and still were of what Kats could do to them still.

I need to make them see that and then perhaps they'll understand and we'll all be on equal footing. It couldn't hurt to try, he sighed. Keeping that in mind, Feral prepared the speech he would give to his officers shortly.

Some thirty minutes later, nervous eyes stared at Feral as he stood before them at the head of the conference table. The rumor mill had must have worked overtime for all of these guys to know what happened, he snorted, mentally.

"I have no doubt the rumors about what happened just a few hours ago are racing around the building. Which is why I've brought you here to insure what gets passed is the truth and not some mishmash of it," he began bluntly. "Yes I am a dragon not a Kat. Why didn't I show myself when the dragons first revealed themselves? Because my family was terrified of the dragon hunters and felt segregating themselves from dragon kind and taking their kat form permanently, would keep them safe. But hiding didn't work as the hunters found us; killing my mother first, then father a few years later, and finally my grandfather a few years after that. Only I managed to escape and survive even though I was really too young to be on my own. I had been trained never to take dragon form so to survive without my family and make a living, I joined the Enforcer Academy and buried myself deep within your ranks, never taking my true form until just recently." He paused a moment to take a drink from the water bottle on the table in front of him.

Every face in the room stared at him in shocked denial.

"Who were these dragon hunters, sir, and why would hiding among us and not your own kind keep you safe?" One of his officers asked, a troubled expression on his face.

Feral shook his head. "How many of you read or heard the report on dragons that came out during our reveal?" He asked instead.

Of the some thirty people there only half raised their paws. Feral sighed and shook his head. "Then your assignment is to read it. Most all your questions about our history and about us will be answered there. But a thumbnail explanation for now is; Kat kind decided to get greedy centuries ago and began to fight over land with dragons who were their peaceful neighbors. Being fewer than Kats due to our lower breeding rate, we were forced to leave but that wasn't good enough for a small faction of Kats who decided we should be exterminated and became vicious and efficient hunters at their task, nearly decimating us. To survive, we developed a spell to allow us to take your form then went about living among you, hiding in plain sight as it were. But some of my kind were still too fearful and chose to hide from dragon kind too and that's what happened with my family."

"But when your family was killed, sir, why didn't you join the dragon community for safety? You said you were too young, how old were you?" Another asked, puzzled.

Feral grimaced. "I'd rather not say. Dragon and kat ages are vastly different as we're a much longer lived species than you but mature at a much slower rate. As for joining the dragon community...one I didn't know they existed and two, I'd been strictly forbidden to talk or reveal myself to a dragon not of my family."

"But you did finally, Commander. Why?" Colonel Fairclaw, Alpha Tank Squadron Leader asked.

"My duty!" Feral said wearily. "When the other dragons were fighting Dark Kat and my jet had been shot down, I was alone, and my radio busted, I simply couldn't stand by while they did my job. But the only option left to me was my true form. I made the most difficult decision of my life and went into battle as a dragon."

"It must have been a shock to learn a whole dragon community was here then forced yourself to actually join them like that, Commander. I applaud your bravery to get past what must of been truly a frightening decision," Colonel Fairclaw said, commiserating with Feral's situation and admiring his courage.

Feral felt a blush heat his face for a moment. He'd never expected sympathy from one of his officers and didn't know how to react but it did warm his heart.

"Uhm...thank you. It was frightening especially when the elder dragon who ultimately brought down Dark Kat's...uh... mountain along with the SWAT Kats, took me to task for interfering," Feral said, nearly giving away how Dark Kat truly died. He just wasn't that good at lying.

"But you weren't interfering! It's the Enforcers job to take out the omegas not civilians, even if they are dragons," Steele objected.

Feral shook his head. "I wasn't there as an Enforcer but as a very young dragon. The elders protect their hatchlings fiercely and were unhappy to see me mixing it up with a dangerous criminal. Remember, they had no idea who I was and the situation didn't allow me time to identify myself. Only after the battle did they learn I had a right to be there but by then it was too late to take command over the situation."

Steele frowned at that then asked, "You're really that young,sir? Just how old is this elder and who is he to you now?"

"Yes I'm considered rather young as a dragon and the elder is over four hundred years old and my mentor."

Mouths gaped at that number. "Wow, you weren't kidding when you said your kind was long lived." Capt Brightlight, commander of Bravo Chopper Squadron, whistled. "So you must be a hundred or so, hmm?"

Feral just shrugged his shoulders and shook his head, ignoring the question. "Fighting beside my own kind was rather exhilarating and had a happy ending as I was accepted into the local dragon community."

"And that's important to you, sir?" Colonel Frank Tarbel, Alpha Ground Division Commander, asked, curiously.

"Since my father and grandfather insisted I be only in my kat form, I never really learned the things I should know to be a dragon. Adair, the red dragon elder has agreed to take me under his wing and train me in the ways of dragonkind."

Colonel Tarbel nodded his understanding.

"So how does what you really are affect us and you from this time forward, sir?" Steele asked for all.

"Only one thing changes. Since I am now revealed and no longer hiding, I will take back our city from the omegas. None of them really have any weapons that I can't shake off. Besides, I'm apparently not the only one hiding among the troops. Other dragons will come to my call and we'll finally have our city back and at peace again," Feral said passionately.

That declaration sparked a loud cheer from every throat in the room making Feral feel warm inside and finally vindicated. No longer would he have to put up with being disrespected by the Mayor's office and the press. Soon the Enforcers would be back on top which should help with recruitment of new blood as well.

When the cheering tapered off, Steele asked something a few of his fellow officers wanted to know as well."It must have been hell for you to hold back all this time, sir, especially, when you knew you could kick their tails."

Feral flashed his fangs a moment in a grimace of remembered frustration. "You have no idea!"

Colonel Fairclaw grinned broadly. "So now you don't have to, sir, and damn if that don't make us giddy with relief. Finally, we just might win our city back from this creeps at last. And as an extra bonus, we'll finally show up those two vigilantes in the public's eyes when we take the enemy first!"

His pronouncement made his fellow officers cheer wholeheartedly again much to Feral's pleased pride. Yes it was about time the Enforcers won and he could hardly wait for that first opportunity. Beating out those SWAT Kats was just icing on the cake but inside he winced a bit, remembering one of those SWAT Kats was his mentor. Oh well, nothing he could do about that as Adair hadn't told him he couldn't do his job and until he objected in some fashion, Feral planned on doing what he was trained to do with all his skills at paw rather than one of them being tied behind his back. However, his troops would never learn that a SWAT Kat was his dragon mentor. He'd never live it down.

Relieved they were more pleased than unhappy that he was a dragon, he answered several more of their questions until they felt comfortable with the information they'd been given then dismissed them back to duty.

Returning to his office, he was in an expansive mood. Revealing himself had gone off far better than he'd hoped. However, there was still one more office he had to inform. He winced at what the Mayor would have to say about this.

Well, no point putting it off and best I do it in person. Sighing, he walked out of his office again, paused to tell his secretary where he was going, then took the elevator to the flight line.

On the ride upward, he tried to decide whether to go by chopper or fly there himself. When the doors slid open, he had decided flying would be fun. Walking past the pilot prep area, he strode through the hangar and out onto the windy surface of the flight line. Keeping an eye out for departing and landing choppers and jets, he walked a short distance away to a large cleared area then changed form in the blink of an eye.

The control tower was startled and unprepared for the sudden sight of the golden dragon taking off from just below the tower. They scrambled to redirect traffic to ensure none of their aircraft hit the beast as with one down stroke of its massive wings it shot skyward, passing the tower before leveling out and flying off toward the south.

The officer in charge of the tower muttered in annoyance, "Someone needs to tell the Commander he needs to request takeoff permission just like everyone else if he doesn't want to end up as sushi."

His lead controller snorted. "That someone is going to have to be you, sir and I don't envy you."

The office scowled in response without speaking. Why do I always get the shit jobs? Now I have to tell a dragon he needs to ask permission to take off and land on his own damn flight line...joy. I'll be lucky he doesn't flambee me first. Still grumbling to himself, he went back to work. He would speak to the Commander when he returned. As much as he hated seeing his formidable leader at all, this couldn't be ignored.

Not realizing what chaos he'd caused when leaving his building, Feral was more focused on exactly how much to tell the Mayor and Deputy Mayor. Callie would handle it fine, he was certain, but Manx...he would either faint or scream in fright.

Sighing, he landed on the chopper pad with ease, altered his form then walked to the clock tower door that lead to a small staircase which opened onto the Mayor's floor.

He lucked out running into Ms. Briggs just entering her office and called out to her.

"Ms. Briggs!"

She stopped and turned. "Oh, Commander...what brings you here?"

"You didn't hear the news about the explosion or felt it?" He asked, surprised. The plant explosion had shook the city hard, how had she missed it?

"Uh..I was in the council chambers in a meeting but we did feel a shake. However, since there were no alarms, we continued on. It was thought it might be a mild earthquake rather than an omega. Were we wrong?" She asked, worriedly.

"No, fortunately, it was not an omega attack but an accident at the Biochemical Plant tank facility outside town. Apparently a pressure valve failed and allowed gases in the tank to build and eventually blow the tank to pieces releasing a toxic gas cloud that began to drift over the city."

"Oh no!" She exclaimed but relaxed instantly. "No one was hurt I trust and the fact you're here and not there means all is well with the cloud too, right?"

Feral blushed and felt really uncomfortable admitting this but she would find out soon enough on the news. "Uh...let's go into your office first before I explain."

She eyed him in puzzlement but turned and stepped into her outer office and on into her inner sanctum. Why would the Commander seem uncomfortable about telling her about the accident? she wondered. Guess I'll find out.

Feral followed her and shut the door behind him as she took her seat behind her desk and waited for him to speak.

"No one at the plant was hurt. As for the cloud, the plant manager told me the best way to disperse it was to burn it off but we both knew that wasn't possible even if every chopper was equipped with a flame thrower. That left only one other option. Dragon's belch fire and it was they I called to help. Using Ann Gora who was on scene, as usual, I broadcasted a call to all dragons. Hundreds came running and together we burned off the gas before it could harm anyone," he explained, knowing she would catch the pronoun he'd used.

Callie stared at him closely. Had she heard him right? Shaking her head, she asked, "Did you say we?"

"Uhm...yeah. It was my idea to use dragons to solve the problem but I'm young and inexperienced in the ways of dragons so had to ask an elder who was on scene as well. He told me it could be done but left it up to me to decide to do it or not. Frankly, I was terrified about revealing myself but it's my job to protect this city so..." he trailed off and shrugged.

Her mouth dropped open and stared at the nervous Commander. "You're a dragon?" she finally managed to gasp out.

He nodded.

"Oh my! That's...I'm nearly speechless," she nearly stuttered, shaking her head. "You said you're inexperienced...why?" She asked after absorbing what he said and not said.

Rolling his eyes, Feral sighed and gave her the explanation he'd just finished telling his own officers.

"Happily, my officers weren't too upset by my reveal. Instead they were ecstatic. To them it means the Enforcers will win the battle against the omegas with me leading the charge. It will restore their reputation and beat the SWAT Kats. All in all what's not to like, was their thinking. I was greatly relieved as I feared I would be forced out of my job by their fear and unwillingness to work for a dragon," he said smiling.

Callie's eyebrows rose at that statement. Well, he has a right to feel that way. As a dragon his odds are good that he can do what he said, she thought, sighing. She didn't know how the SWAT Kats would take this turn of events but it didn't matter. Their whole world had begun changing the moment dragons burst onto the scene. Maybe it was just as well. This city had its fill of being under siege for so long...it was about time they found peace.

"I must say, the city is changing a lot but only for the better, to my mind. Dragons are welcome and we're grateful for their bravery in coming out of hiding. Especially you. I can't imagine what it felt like revealing yourself to your former enemies like you did but may I say, I'm very proud and pleased that you did," she said, smiling warmly at him.

A shy smile was surprised from him at her comment. "I...thank you, Ms. Briggs. That's the first time you've ever said something nice and supportive to me since I've known you."

"Actually, I've always respected your ability to keep the city safe from the normal criminals, Commander. It was your inability to fight the omegas that had me not so confident in you. However, now that you and your kind have gotten rid of Dark Kat for good and showed great courage in revealing yourself to accomplish it, I feel fully confident that you'll set our city free entirely from the omega menace and keep the peace with ease from now on. That deserves a pat on the back and a good word which I'll make sure the Mayor gives you on your next performance report," she said, smiling. "And don't worry about telling his honor about this exciting news. He's at the golf course anyway, so I have plenty of time to prepare what to say to him and spare you all the drama," she smirked.

He couldn't help grinning back, totally surprised and pleased she was willing to bury the hatchet between them. Gaining back her respect wasn't something he really cared about but it felt nice to get it at last. Knowing she would stand by him now was what counted, making for an easier working relationship between them...a major plus. Pleased by his success here and at headquarters, he prepared to leave.

"By the way, can I see you in your true form?" She asked before he could turn away for the door.

"Uh, if you'd like but we'll have to go to the roof for more room."

"Of course. Lead the way, Commander," Callie said, rising from her seat and letting him lead the way out of her office, down the hall, and upstairs to the rooftop landing pad.

As the wind whipped her long blond hair and tangled it, he walked to the center of the landing pad while she remained near the door and watched with interest. He changed instantly then lowered his head so they were eye to eye.

"Like what you see?" he asked, amusement in his tone.

Callie's eyes had lit up with delight and wonder at his new form and could only grin and nod her head wildly before coming close to him to gently touch his snout, feeling the softness of his scales rather than a rough texture she expected.

"How amazing and handsome you look, Ulysses and your skin is so soft. Your scales gleam like gold and your eyes look like glittering jewels," she said, admiringly.

"You're going to make me blush," he said, self consciously. He knew she wasn't flirting with him, just was very taken with his appearance which he thought was kind of cool.

She laughed. "I'm looking forward to seeing you fly the skies watching over us, as well as your fellow dragons. That's a far better sight than omegas any day."

"Why thank you, Ms. Briggs. Hope the city feels the same about us soon as well. I'd better be off. Have a desk full of work waiting," he said, smiling then backing away so he could launch. Opening his wings, he swept them out and down, kicking off the roof and nearly knocking Callie from her feet as he grabbed air and soared away.

What an amazing sight and how cool is it to have wings and fly like a bird? She sighed enviously, watching him until he became a small spec heading toward the Enforcer building before turning away to return to her own desk full of work.