THERE BE DRAGONS

CHAPTER 19: The First of Many Problems

Feeling more at ease than he'd had in decades, Feral enjoyed his flight back to Enforcer Headquarters. Doing some lazy barrel rolls for the sheer exhilaration of it he let the wind flow over him. He wished he had more time to just fly but work beckoned. Avoiding his patrol choppers with ease, he glided smoothly to a landing on the flight line close to the tower. Reverting back to Kat form, he strode with a jaunty step back to his office.

He'd barely settled at his desk, however, when he was interrupted by a knock. Sighing, he called out as he pulled a stack of file folders and reports toward himself.

"Come in."

The door opened and in walked a tall, trimly built, gray tom with thinning white hair and piercing blue/gray eyes. He wore no over coat or uniform jacket, only his dress shirt with it's sleeves rolled up just as his commander's were. A controller's earphone hung from one long ear and bounced as he crossed the tile floor and halted before Feral's pedestal desk, snapping to attention and offering a sharp, precise salute.

"Sir!" He barked.

"At ease, Captain ... what's the problem?" Feral asked, eyeing the tom questioningly. Captain Bonier was the officer in charge of the control tower and was rarely seen anywhere else so this visit was unusual.

"My apologizes for jumping on you just as you got in sir,..." the officer began briskly, though Feral could plainly see he was uneasy about whatever it was he was here about. "... but I felt this needed to be addressed immediately. First, I'm pleased to make the acquaintance of a real dragon..." Feral blinked in surprise at this unexpected statement, but nodded.

"Secondly, I'm afraid your unexpected departure and arrival caused quite a disturbance within the tower. As you know sir, all flights must get permission from the tower before taking any action. Though you are not within a machine, the rules must also apply to you as I'm sure you realize the threat of collision is even more apparent since you don't wear a transponder of any kind to warn aircraft you're in their airspace. May I recommend that you wear such a thing, sir, and advise your fellow dragons to do the same?"

Feral nearly let go a curse but quickly restrained himself and, instead, leaned back in his seat to stare at his officer in consternation. How could I have forgotten so basic a rule? Finally being able to fly isn't an excuse to forget the rules for the flight line, berating himself. Shaking his head, he sat forward again, folding his paws before him on the desk.

"You are absolutely correct, Captain, and I offer my apologizes for forgetting such an important rule. However, transponders would be a very bad idea." Captain Bonier blinked in surprised dismay.

Giving his tower officer an unhappy look, Feral said, apologetically, "You see, despite this being a definite safety issue, unfortunately, tagging dragons with transponders would make them targets for those Katizens who are still very upset and terrified that we even exist. Those very Kats could use those transponders to track us with ease. Their attempts to end us could also endanger others sharing our airspace as well as threaten our secret citadel home. So, no ... we'll have to find some other solution to this grave dilemma." Troubled, Feral rubbed his face and stared off into space a moment.

Captain Bonier could slap himself for being so stupid. He hadn't bothered to read up on the dragons so it never occurred to him this would even be an issue. But that was no excuse. Didn't he just read a security bulletin about an alert on some of the more radical groups stirring up the populace with demands to 'deal' with the menace of dragons? With that kind of mind set out there, of course tagging the dragons would be an incredibly stupid idea. He felt like an idiot. Okay, so what could be done? The problems of sharing airspace with these flying creatures still remained.

He gave his Commander a concerned look. It didn't appear his superior was having any luck with a solution either. He sighed and waited. What else could he do?

Feral suddenly leaned back and stared up at the ceiling then sighed and gave his attention to Captain Bonier still patiently waiting for some kind of answer. "I can think of nothing that will fix this and, besides, I haven't the authority to implement it either. As I'm considered a youngster in dragon terms, I must bring this matter to my mentor's attention immediately."

Eyeing Bonier sympathetically he added, "For now, I suggest an interim measure ... you brief your controllers to keep alert for dragons in the sky and warn pilots to not panic or over react to a dragon in their airspace. Since we can maneuver much more easily than a chopper or fixed wing craft, we can and will simply 'get out of the way'. This really shouldn't be a problem because nearly all the dragons except for myself and others that are Enforcers and a few elders will ever be in the sky at all. Too many of us are still too afraid of your kind to be out and about as moving targets. I'll write up an order to have squadron leaders brief their pilots on this matter and send a copy to the civilian traffic controllers as well. That should do the trick for now until my elders can offer other solutions."

Bonier relaxed and nodded his head. Privately, it had surprised him to learn the Commander was considered too 'young' by his own kind. To his eyes the tom seemed to be in his middle fifties. Vowing to read the report on dragons at his first opportunity and give a listen to the scuttlebutt he'd heard on his way up here, the Captain prepared to take his leave.

"Thank you, sir, that will certainly help for now. I'll see that it's disseminated quickly and brief my people immediately."

"Excellent. And I'll get my part underway as soon as possible. Thank you for bringing this serious matter to my attention. I'm sure there will be more issues that will have to be dealt with as dragons begin to come out but if everyone works together those should be solved just as quickly."

"Yes sir ... you're welcome, sir. I'll keep you informed of any future problems," Bonier said briskly. Frowning slightly, he dared to ask something he was very curious about. "I heard you hadn't dared to take to the air for most of your life either, sir. That must have been terrible for you ... being denied the sky, I mean."

"That's unfortunately true. Fear is a terrible thing. It keeps us from living normal lives." Feral's eyes glinted with remembered pain. "It's still not safe for us but I will never sit on the ground and hide again," he said, firmly, eyes glowing briefly. Bonier shivered as the predator the Commander truly was peeked momentarily out of that golden gaze.

"You're dismissed."

Bonier nodded, snapped a quick salute then added something he felt should be said. "Then I'm glad you're free to do so once more. Wind to thy Wings, sir!" Bonier declared then hurried out of the office.

The Commander smiled briefly then sighed. "Ah yes...just one of many problems to come..." he murmured aloud. Resigned, he pulled paper and pen to himself and began to write.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

After clearing most of the work from his desk, Feral noted it was moving on toward lunch. He sighed, dumped the stuff he needed typed and/or filed into his basket except for the order he'd promised Captain Bonier which still lay in the center of his desk.

Standing, he picked up the draft and walked out of his office to take a stance before his secretary's desk. She was preparing to leave for lunch but gave him a smile and a questioning look.

Smiling back, he handed over the hand written document. "I'm sorry, Grace, but could you please do this before going to lunch? I need it out as soon as possible so use my printed signature since I need to leave. Make sure all copies get hand delivered to the parties I've indicated and one left for me. Have Sergeant Fallon make the deliveries, personally. Also, I have a full out-basket to be dealt with."

"I'll take care of it, sir. When will you be back?" She took the document and sat back down at her computer.

"I'm not certain how long it will take but I will be available by cell but not radio."

"Understood, sir."

Turning away, Feral strode back into his office, halting next to the coat tree. Grabbing his coat, he pulled it on. Before buttoning it, he pulled out a small device from an inner pocket then closing his coat, he stepped back over the threshold, pulled his door closed, nodded at his secretary, and headed for the elevator. It arrived within seconds. Stepping inside, he punched the button for the flight line and only when the doors closed did he make a call on his cell.

His call connected before he reached the operations floor, a familiar voice answering.

"Sir, Feral here. It's urgent I speak with you right now. Can you meet me at the top of Megakat Towers in ten minutes?"

On the other end of the phone a cinnamon tom frowned while he wiped his paws on a rag and held the phone between his head and shoulder. His eyes fell on the work still to be done waiting his attention. Sighing, he resigned himself to being behind ... again.

"Yeah, alright." He agreed then hung up the phone.

Feral grimaced. His mentor didn't sound too happy which meant he was probably in the middle of some invention or other for use in the SWAT Kats arsenal or some other dragon problem as he was an elder, he thought ruefully. Nothing I can do about that. I'm just as swamped but this can't wait.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

"I hope that wasn't more work calling," Chance said, not stopping what he was doing. His voice reflected how tired he was despite it being only midday. They'd gone on patrol last night and had been busy so, consequently, he had started the day short on sleep. It didn't help that today was one of their hectic ones. And, though they could use the money, there really wasn't enough time in the day to get all the work done in time before closing.

"No, fortunately. However, it seems my student needs something from me that can't wait. So, though I hate to leave you with all this, I have to take off. Hopefully, this won't take long." Jake tossed the rag onto the bench and walked up to his partner.

Chance pulled his head from beneath a sedan's hood and frowned. "Feral? What the heck could be so important it couldn't wait?"

Jake simply shrugged. "Let you know when I get back."

The tabby rolled his eyes and growled more to himself than his partner and returned to his work.

Feeling a little guilty leaving, Jake continued on toward the back of the garage. Opening the hidden manhole cover, he leaped down into their underground base. Changing his clothes, he was soon roaring down the road as Razor on one of their cyclotrons. Being midday and living on a fairly busy street, he could not risk being seen taking off as a dragon from the garage. Though it was just as difficult to hide his departure as a SWAT Kat, a dragon was just more noticeable.

In less than five minutes he arrived at the rear of the Megakat Towers. Hiding the bike behind a huge transformer that was screened by some decorative bushes, Razor left his helmet on the seat then stepped out and looked around and up. No aircraft was passing overhead and the tower offices were still not occupied despite all Mayor Manx's attempts to get people interested in it.

Everyone from the city knew it to be jinxed and would have nothing to do with it. His only hope was to interest foreigners, that's if Mr. Young, a foreign investor himself, hadn't already spread the word that it wasn't a good idea.

Seeing the coast was clear, he altered his form then leaped upward, huge wings beating downward with powerful strokes sending him swiftly to the top of the tower.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

When he reached the flight line proper, Feral strode out from the hangars, making his way past aircraft being worked on then those being prepared to take off. As he reached the more active part of the flight line, he kept a weather eye on any outgoing and incoming flights. Halting at the very end of the flight line, he pulled out his hand held radio and called the control tower.

Notifying them of his intentions to take off, he waited for permission to do so. Using his radio might solve his problem of avoiding problems with air traffic but it wouldn't work for his fellow dragons. Moments later he heard the tower clear him. Putting his radio away he then allowed his Kat form to morph smoothly into his dragon one then opened his wings and leaped off the end of the tower immediately catching the thermals that roared around the top of his headquarters.

A short flight later, he was back-winging to a landing not far from the waiting red dragon. Once settled on the ground, he walked up to his mentor and bowed his head respectfully.

Adair eyed his student a little impatiently. "So what was so important?"

"Sorry sir, I know you're very busy," Feral said contritely. Wasting no time, he quickly explained the current problem facing their kind.

A soft hiss escaped the elder dragon. "Sooo, a very big problem then. I need to think on this a bit. Your temporary solution is a good one ... for now. I should have thought of this difficulty myself." He shook his head in annoyance. "Perhaps I can figure out something that will work for our needs but keep us safe at the same time."

"Thank you, sir. I appreciate it," Feral said, relieved. He was certain Adair intended to use his remarkable inventive talents toward solving this problem and he wouldn't take long to do it either.

Adair gave his pupil a small smile of resignation. "As you said, this is just the first of many challenges we'll have to deal with. If that's all, I've left my partner buried under work."

"Yes sir, that's it for now."

Nodding, Adair lifted off the roof and dropped down to his bike once more. As he changed form, he glanced up when a shadow passed over him. Feral's golden form soared off toward Enforcer Headquarters. Adair smiled at the sight. He takes such joy in flight that it hurts me to see complications already in being able to simply take to the air. Oh well, such is life in a city. He'll get used to it.

Now as Razor, he sat on his bike and pulled on his helmet. In moments, he too was heading back to work.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

Climbing back out of the hangar, Jake looked around for his partner. The garage was quiet but there were sounds coming from the waiting room. There he found Chance taking a brief lunch break before the TV, a huge sub sandwich in his paw.

The tabby waved toward a second sandwich waiting on the table. "Got you one too. Better eat quick so we can get back to work."

"Right, and thanks, buddy." Jake sat down and picked up his food, taking a huge bite only now realizing how hungry he was.

"So what did your youngster want?" Chance asked.

Jake quickly explained about the issues of flight around the city and the Enforcer flight line.

Grunting, Chance shook his head. "Huh, should have thought about that ourselves."

"Yeah, that's what I said to Feral. Can't believe I didn't think of that being a problem."

"Whatcha going to do about it?"

Jake shrugged. "What else ... invent something that will do the job but keep us safe."

"I can think of several ways to do that ..."

"So can I."

"Yeah, but even if you do, a dragon is just so big a target I doubt the hunters even need the transponders to shoot them down. That's worried me from the moment you told me you might still be hunted even now."

"Believe me, I've worried plenty about that even before I started this business of revealing ourselves. But when you've hidden yourself for soo long, the threat just doesn't seem worth the loss of the sky any longer. Yeah, some of us could well be killed even when we're accepted that's just part of life. After all, we could be killed in a simple traffic accident just as easily so why continue being afraid to fly? But a fear of many centuries is just not something that will be overcome that easily. It will just have to take the bravest among us to lead the way for the others to get up their courage and do the same."

"Like you and Feral and some of the others. Yeah, I guess I can understand that. I just hope it happens sooner rather than later. I don't fancy losing you to some idiot with a rocket launcher or sharpshooters armor piercing ammo," Chance said, gravely.

"Neither do I, buddy...neither do I."