COMES THE PHOENIX
Author's Note: Yes, another rewrite. I simply can't resist since it is a real challenge to rewrite a very old story and it amazes me how different my writing style has become. I don't really care if anyone reads this new version, I just had to do it!
Chapter 1: Feral Reveals a Secret
The Pastmaster, Dr. Viper, and Dark Kat had joined forces to attack Megakat City in a triple prong siege that had already laid waste to more than a quarter of the city. What was worse, the deadly coalition had succeeded in whittling away nearly half of the city's defenses while staying hidden from direct attack as they sent waves of dinosaurs, creeplings and plantimals to cause maximum terror and damage with terrifying success.
In the barricaded Enforcer Building, exhausted and dispirited enforcer squadron leaders, the Swat Kats and city officials met in desperate hope of coming up with some way to defeat these overwhelming odds. Many ideas were presented but were thrown out due to insufficient katpower or equipment or both. Even the last minute addition of Professor Hackle's robots failed to give them a victory. Dark Kat had, surprisingly, a deadly counteractive weapon which basically reduced them to piles of junk with far too much ease.
Listening to the gloomy group trying to brainstorm some way to save the city, T-Bone sat next to Razor and felt helpless. He looked around and caught Feral staring back at him. He looked away quickly and shuddered. He knew what Feral wanted, but was terrified of making such a decision. He knew in his heart, though, there was no other choice. Bleakly, he remembered that fateful day when he learned something very scary about Feral.
One year earlier...
"How did Ringtail get his paws on that box again?" Razor snarled angrily as he prepared to try blasting the jester's bells off his hat which would defeat him.
"I don't know buddy, but we'd better put him down fast before he can catch us all again. It's bad enough the creep has Feral," T-Bone grunted in response as he dipped the Turbokat into a fast plunge to avoid Mad Kat's magical attack.
Razor shot off one of the bells as T-Bone zipped by the criminal's head. Mad Kat screamed in rage and instantly teleported T-Bone from the cockpit in retaliation before the jet could get out of the way, then took a powder before Razor could fire another burst. The smaller SWAT Kat was immediately too busy snatching at his auxiliary controls so he could prevent the jet from slamming into the nearest building to pay heed to the jester's departure.
Angry, scared and upset at the loss of his partner, Razor veered the jet toward city hall hoping Mad Kat would reappear sooner rather than later so he could free both his friend and Feral.
Inside the strange capture box......
"Think your partner will get us free, SWAT Kat?" Feral growled, not happy to be caught again by that maniac.
"We'd better hope so or the city will be demolished or enslaved or whatever the hell that crazy Kat has in mind for it," T-Bone snarled, arms wrapped tightly across his chest, trying to hide his worry for his partner.
Looking around the strange, alien box he was trapped in, he saw no avenue for escape. Hunching in angry frustration, he returned his attention to the window-like surface that allowed them to see what was happening outside the box.
Unfortunately, the view was of an eerie blue mist instead of the city. 'Was this what Mad Kat disappeared into when he vanishes?' He wondered idly, frowning at the blue mist then suddenly the city popped into view again. They could now see the Megakat Broadcasting sign just overhead. 'The creep must be watching my partner it's roof....if only I could warn him......'
Gritting his teeth in helpless frustration, T-Bone scowled, trying to come up with some way to escape his prison when his eyes caught the reflected sight of Feral's gold eyes staring at him intently.
He blinked in surprise as he saw no sign of annoyance or disgust at being trapped with a SWAT Kat or even anger at his own situation in the dark tom's eyes, only one of thoughtful consideration and worry were reflected there.... such an odd mix of emotions sent an inexplicable feeling of unease through the tabby. Something wasn't right here.
Turning completely around to face Feral, he was about to demand why the tom was staring at him that way when Feral spoke.
"Ever heard of the legendary Phoenix, T-Bone?"
"Huh? What does a mythical bird have to do with us being in here?" T-Bone asked, bewildered, totally thrown by the odd question.
"Just answer the question, please.....humor me," Feral grunted, his expression watchful, giving nothing away.
Unnerved by Feral's strange behavior, T-Bone decided answering would be the best policy right now as fighting would be counterproductive anyway.
"Sure, I know what it is.......it's supposed to be some kind of legendary creature which looks like a mish-mash of bird, Kat, and Gryphon, I think......it uses fire as its weapon and it dies and returns to life out of its own ashes."
Nodding his head, pleased the tom wasn't totally ignorant, Feral said nothing more while he studied the tom intently for several more minutes which made T-Bone squirm in unease.
Feral had watched this young tom grow into a hero that the city believed in and trusted. T-Bone was the epitome of strength, honesty, bravery, compassion, and possessing a strong and stubborn will. Such qualities were what made him exactly what Feral needed right now.
Still he was reluctant to give up his freedom after so long but if he wished to continue the life he'd built for himself, he would have to do just that. All the evidence he'd collected the last six months told him a major threat was building and would engulf the city very soon. Nothing they had at present would stem the tide of trouble coming their way except for one. So swallowing his misgivings and knowing he hadn't much time before their situation changed, he sighed and prepared to give T-Bone a quick history lesson and a choice.
"The Phoenix is not mythical but real. It has existed since the beginning of time and was known as the 'Destroyer of all Things'. Then a wizard decided to find a way to bring the creature under his control. He managed to create a spell that locked the Phoenix into Kat form. In this fashion he could send it out to spy on his enemies then release the spell and have it destroy them. When he died the Phoenix was left in its spell form much to its angry dismay. To exist, it learned languages and skills while it traveled around the world, that allowed it to blend in with Kat kind and soon began to actually enjoy its new lot in life. However, it did have to endure wizards taking control of it from time to time as well as put up with dying every hundred years and being reborn but other than that, its life was full and interesting."
T-Bone gaped at him as if he'd lost his mind but played along hoping he could figure out what the heck was Feral's game.
"Okay, say I believe all this stuff you've been saying.....how do you know so much about it.....why the heck are you telling me about it......and what does it have to do with our present situation?"
"Unfortunately, it has a lot to do with our situation.....you are a major player.....and how do I know so much?......I am the Phoenix," Feral said rather blandly as if he was discussing the weather.
"Uh, so you're the legendary Phoenix, huh?......yeah...well.....you know Feral, you really should see your enforcer shrink because you've finally lost your mind," T-Bone snorted in disbelief.
Feral gave him a strange and wicked smile before allowing his eyes and teeth to alter plus something extra. Though the spell froze his form, over the centuries he found he could do small things that belonged to his true form when he willed it.
T-Bone gulped and his fur rose as fear spiked through him as Feral's normally golden eyes suddenly went slitted and glowed red-gold, almost looking like flames were deep within them while his fangs grew longer than a normal Kats...the finishing touch......a soft fiery glow surrounding his body like a nimbus.
Feral chuckled, amused by the tabby's wide eyed shock as he allowed his body to return to normal.
"Oh yeah.....real funny, Commander," T-Bone choked, not enjoying having his fear laughed at. Getting himself back in paw, he asked, ".....hard to believe you're not a Kat at all....that's going to take some getting used to.....and I thought the Pastmaster was weird. Uh, so what did you mean by saying I would play a major part in what's coming?........exactly what's coming?"
Feral's expression fell into grim lines as he explained the danger facing them all. "I'm sure it hasn't escaped your notice that the omegas seemed to be stepping up their aggression. My experience in these things has sent me searching a little deeper and what I've discovered is an unholy alliance. If you remember, Dark Kat, Viper, and the Metallikats working together nearly succeeded in their plans but couldn't trust each other and it fell apart which is why we we're able to defeat them. Well apparently, this time around they've found a way to tolerate each other enough to form a coalition but instead of those two robots, they've gotten the Pastmaster to join them."
"What? Oh my god! We barely won that last time........" T-Bone blurted in stunned shock. "Yes Razor and I were beginning to suspect something was up but not in our wildest dreams did we suspect magic would be added in the mix.....we're so screwed."
"I'm glad you see the gravity of the situation. This is why I've come to a decision I'm really unhappy to make. I have enjoyed a long period of freedom from the controls of a master but to save the city from certain destruction, I will give up that freedom to become enslaved once more."
"Why would you be willing to do that? We aren't your kind! You could just leave us to our fate!" The tabby pointed out.
"I have existed in this form for so long that I now identify myself as one of you. I've learned to enjoy the freedom that being in Kat form provides me and I don't wish to lose that plus I happen to love this city and my job and have no desire to leave and start over though eventually I will have to since I will outlive everyone here. So my only choice is to use the power of my true self to save Megakat City which means accepting a master once again," Feral explained with some passion.
T-Bone stared at him, absorbing the grim picture Feral had painted and the sacrifice he was willing to make. It made him feel small that he'd treated the Chief Enforcer so badly all these years and here he was willing to become enslaved to another just to save the city they both loved.
"Okay, now I feel like such a heel for the way my partner and I have treated you," he said unhappily. "But why do you think I, of all people, could make an adequate master for you? You've never felt that highly about me in the first place but now you're willing to entrust your true self to my paws. I don't mind saying I find that rather terrifying."
"I don't blame you! The Phoenix has the power to burn the world to ash if it has its own head, but I know you can control it....you have what it takes......trust me!"
"Uh.....if you were trying to make me feel better, it didn't work! Now I'm even more scared of screwing this up and there's no room for that from what you're telling me. Are you sure there isn't a better candidate out there than me? If you haven't noticed, I sorta got enough on my plate just being a SWAT Kat. I certainly don't think I'll have time to be master of a mythical creature."
Feral shook his head. "Don't sell yourself short, T-Bone. You've handled countless dangers as a vigilante but I won't lie to you, this will exceed anything you've handled before. What makes you perfect is your strong will, compassion, bravery and strength. That's what makes you a hero. You've worked hard to keep this city safe and now you're being called on to do that again but instead of missiles, you'll be guiding a creature of destruction."
T-Bone felt a chill chase down his spine. This whole business terrified him more than dealing with Dark Kat and Viper together.
"Thanks for the vote of confidence though it sounds truly weird to hear it coming from you! I never really thought of myself as a hero, just someone who has the skills to protect those he loves. What you're asking me to do, however, goes against those beliefs. You're wanting me to enslave you to my will and that just feels so wrong to me!" T-Bone said gravely, shaking his head. "Perhaps, someone else can get past that and be what you need. Until you find that someone, I guess I can temporarily manage you........" he began then stopped when he saw Feral shake his head. "Why not?"
"I'm sorry, T-Bone, but when or if you take on this responsibility it is for the rest of your life. Only death can break the ritual bonding," Feral said gravely, "......and I'm sorry to force you to accept something you feel so strongly against but you truly are the only one I trust to do this."
T-Bone froze in shock. 'Crud! I would be his master for the rest of my life!!!! Oh, man this is just beyond me.' He thought in dismay. Staring at Feral's grim face, he felt trapped. This was one decision he didn't want to make and he couldn't even tell Razor about it.
He needed time to think about this. Huffing out a breath and squaring his shoulders, T-Bone prepared to tell Feral that he would have to wait for an answer when suddenly their current situation changed abruptly when the magical box vanished and the two of them were free falling to the ground, which was, fortunately, just a couple of feet beneath them.
Bouncing quickly to their feet, they noted Lenny Ringtail laying unconscious on the pavement in front of Megakat Broadcasting building, the enforcers had the area cordoned off and the jack-in-the-box was firmly in Razor's paws.
The smaller SWAT Kat quickly handed over the magical box to Feral, who took it gravely into his paws.
"I suggest you guard this better, Commander. I don't think I could stand going more rounds with that particular omega," Razor said dryly.
"I'll see what I can do and I agree......I'm tired of being captured," Feral said in grim humor then walked off, bellowing orders to get the area cleaned up and Ringtail taken back to the asylum.
T-Bone used that moment to drag his partner off and escape the scene as fast as he could. Casting a final glance over his shoulder at Feral, he saw the tom had turned at the same moment to give him a significant look that said he'd allow T-Bone time to think about what they'd discussed but he'd want an answer very soon!
The tabby shuddered and turned away, leaping into the cockpit. If he rushed his take off a bit, to his partner's shouted dismay, he ignored it as his mind was too filled with all that he'd learned and the decision he had to make.
Some days later............
Despite being extremely busy, Jake couldn't fail to notice his partner's distracted manner. He tried to get Chance to tell him what was troubling him but his partner would only shake his head.
"No....thanks.....Jake but I have to solve this on my own." Then went off to work in the yard for most of the day.
Shaking his head, Jake left his friend alone and went back to his many projects he was trying to complete. Their enemies were getting bolder and more powerful and he was hard pressed trying to design better weapons to combat them. It didn't make him any happier to know he was barely succeeding.
Days later, Chance frowned with worry as he caught Jake asleep at his work bench. His friend was working himself to death trying to stem a tide that was getting harder and harder to hold back.
It bothered and creeped him out to know Feral was centuries old and had seen this cycle of violence many times before in his long life. The Phoenix spell form seemed to calmly accept the need to fight without too much fuss or complaint.
Chance wasn't sure how he'd handle fighting the same type of war over and over again for as long as Feral had and still retain his sanity and spirit. Yet, Feral managed somehow and even was able to enjoy life in between bouts of conflict.
'I guess if you were immortal, you would have to develop a thick skin or go mad but it could also be because he's not a Kat at all and I have no idea what a Phoenix thinks about our conflicts,' he thought bemusedly. For all he knew, the Phoenix probably liked war since it could destroy with glee on both sides if ever set free. Okay, that was a really bad thought so he went back to the stupidity of Kat Kind. Why couldn't they learn from the past? He guessed that was the one question historians were always asking themselves and never finding the answer to.
Anyway, the past wasn't what mattered now, it was the future and what this city faced very soon. All indications showed them heading for a major war with the omegas in the coming year that could kill thousands if they didn't head it off. He shuddered inside. Despite days of stewing over the choice he had to make, he was no closer to a decision.
Frankly, what he was being asked to do terrified him witless. He wished he could talk to his partner about this but even though Jake was open minded, this might make him think his partner was in need of psychiatric help, besides, he felt Feral meant for this to be kept secret even though he'd never said so aloud.
No, he had to decide on his own and it just wasn't getting any easier as time went on. Perhaps, he could ask Jake his opinion without giving too much away. It was worth a try to help him get past this deadlock his mind and heart was in. This was his opportunity while things were fairly calm at the moment. He gently woke his partner by shaking the small tom's shoulder.
Jake jerked awake and stared around hurriedly.
"Easy bud, you just fell asleep while working......again!"
"Oh, uh.....thanks Chance," Jake said sheepishly, his face blushing at being caught unaware. "I didn't realized how tired I was. I just wanted to get this done so we have it to use against the next appearance of Dark Kat."
"Yeah, I know and that brings to mind something I'd like your opinion on," Chance began, glad Jake had given him the perfect opening.
"I thought you seemed a little preoccupied lately," Jake observed, giving his partner his full attention. "What's up, buddy?"
"Does it feel like we're losing the battle against the omegas? I mean it seems like every time we defeat and jail one, another is launching an attack before we make it back to the hangar," he asked, shaking his head in frustration.
"Yeah, I have to admit it does seem like the creeps are stepping up their determination to take over the city," his friend agreed, sighing. "However, it may only seem that way because we haven't had a break for a while and are just tired. It might not look so bleak if we could take a brief holiday to recharge."
"Oh yeah, like that's going to happen anytime soon," Chance muttered, sarcastically.
"Well what can I say here buddy. All we can do is keep doing our best and pray we don't falter due to exhaustion or being outgunned," Jake said fatalistically, paws spread to show just how frustrated he was too.
Silence fell for several minutes as Jake studied his troubled partner. They really did need a break and badly. Chance looked up from the floor he'd been staring at and sighed gloomily.
"What if there was a power out there somewhere that was greater than the threat arrayed against us but using it has its own dangers because it is far more deadlier than the worst omega we got? If it could be controlled, would it be right to use it even knowing one false step and it could end all life as we know it if it got free?" He asked cautiously.
Jake blinked at him in confusion. "What would be that powerful and controlled by who?"
"Just hypothetical, buddy. What if there was such a power and we controlled it. Would it be right to unleash such a deadly force just to defeat our enemies knowing that this force could do more harm than the bad guys together could?" He knew it was unfair to ask Jake to give him an answer with so little to go on, but he didn't have a choice.
Jake just stared at his partner, perplexed. 'What was Chance trying to say? What wasn't he telling him? He must have a good reason for not explaining more full,' he thought in confusion.
Turning away from Chance, he stared hard at the far wall analyzing the question for the best answer. Finally, he turned back to his friend. "I guess if the situation was so dire there was no other choice then this deadly force might be our only chance at survival," he finally answered, reservedly.
Chance frowned for a long moment mulling over his friend's answer then sighed, nodding to himself. "Thanks Jake. It helps me a little to hear that."
"Well, glad I could be of some help. Anything else I can do for you?" Jake asked in concern.
"No. Thanks. You better get back to work. I think I'll go up and finish that station wagon's tuneup. Want Chinese for dinner, I can order when I'm up there?" Chance asked, distractedly, beginning to leave.
"Sure! Sounds good. Just holler when it's here," Jake smiled wanly, willing to let the strange discussion drop for now.