COMES THE PHOENIX

Chapter 8: Peace at Last

It took Feral about two hours to get teams organized to begin the cleanup. While he was busy, the council decided they might as well use the time to cover all the things that needed to be done to get the city back to normal again. One of Feral's officer's was drafted to take notes.

By the time Feral walked back into the conference room, T-Bone was still napping while Razor listened in on the council meeting. Said council was just wrapping up their session when Feral joined them so everyone went silent, waiting for Ms. Briggs to begin the interrogation of what went on a few hours past.

Razor jabbed his partner awake as the Commander took his seat near the Deputy Mayor. T-Bone groaned and sat up, more or less alert. He was beat! It had taken every ounce of brain power he had to gain control of the Phoenix and despite a judicious amount of aspirin, his head still ached.

Calico Briggs eyed the obviously hurting T-Bone in concern wondering what was ailing him. She wanted to ask him if he was alright but knew the council was anxious to have their answers. Sighing inwardly, she had to admit, so did she. Clearing her throat, she gained everyone's attention.

"Though we are extremely grateful for the successful defeat of the omegas, it's the 'how' it was done that has many of us confused and wondering." She turned to Feral and began the questioning. "Commander Feral, exactly what happened to you? What was that creature you turned into? Are you under a spell of some kind?"

"Actually, Ms. Briggs, this" pointing to himself "is my spell form. The creature you saw is my true appearance," he told her blandly.

There were shocked exclamations around the room as they gaped at Feral. Squadron Commander Stiles was the first to speak.

"What! You're not real? You're only a spell?" He asked in disbelief.

"Yes and no."

"Huh? How can it be both?" Steele blurted totally bewildered.

"What I mean is....my spell form is just as real as my true form. Now if you'll just settle down, I'll explain how this came about and what I really am," Feral said calmly.

"I am a spell form and I've only existed for about three hundred years....the Phoenix......the only such creature in existence, has been around since the beginning of the world. I have no idea how it came to be in the first place so I can't answer any questions about that.

The Phoenix, though technically an animal, isn't stupid. It's a very cunning creature, but it's ruled by its emotions and instincts not by intellect. It lived, hunted, and destroyed as it wished for centuries uncounted. When Kat's first appeared on the scene, it killed some as prey but really didn't like the taste, and, since they multiplied rather rapidly, it decided to seek more quieter places and chose the chain of volcanoes near the equator, living there for about a century.

Eventually, it returned to the lands of the Kats and watched them with some fascination, much like a parrot or monkey would. Kat kind were awed and terrified of the creature and that's how the legend of it began appearing in the ancient history books.

By this time Kat kind had developed magic and one enterprising wizard wanted a powerful weapon to use against his enemies. He got it into his head that maybe he could find a way to use the Phoenix for this purpose. After some years of effort, he finally developed a spell to force the Phoenix to assume the form of a Kat, which is where I came in.

He gave it the gift of language and intellect so he could communicate with it and be able to use it as a spy. He would send the spell form to find out his enemies weaknesses and locations then send the Phoenix to destroy them. During the wizard's lifetime, the spell form learned much about Kat civilization which was a good thing because when the wizard died it was stuck in its spell form.

It was unhappy at first to lose the ability to fly and be free but soon learned to like its new life and enjoyed the new kind of freedom it gave him. Over time, the spell form eventually developed its own personality and thought of itself as real as its alter ego.

Over the next few decades, the spell form moved through Kat society as one of them. Other wizards found out about the Phoenix and enslaved the spell form, releasing the creature a total of five times but after the last one died, magic seemed to die with him and the secret of the Phoenix faded into the area of myths and legends. So the spell form moved through time living and learning until present day and that's my story. Any questions?" Feral asked as he finished his tale.

Everyone had been hanging on to his every word in utter fascination. It was a tale that, if they hadn't witnessed the real creature in the flesh, they certainly wouldn't have believed except as a good story.

Rubbing her temples, Callie was thoroughly stunned to learn the 'Kat' they had commanding the Enforcers wasn't a Kat at all and that a mythological creature did exist. It was a lot to take in and accept..

"Commander Feral, how can you seem so real? You say you're only a spell but I've known you for five years and there's nothing outwardly odd about you to tell anyone that you aren't what you seemed to be.....a Kat?" She asked confused.

"Well I couldn't have fit in Ms. Briggs if I didn't. When I was created as part of the Phoenix's cover form, I was nothing more than hot emotions and instinct. A good comparison would be a newborn kitten. It, like me, has no thinking abilities at first but with experience, training, and time it learns how to become a member of its family and society. The wizard did the same thing with me but at a much more accelerated rate so that I could be of use to him. After that, I simply drank in everything I saw, heard, and was taught for centuries afterward. Does this help?" He asked politely.

"Uh, I guess so. I'll just let that go since its obvious you behave just like a Kat who just happens to have a very powerful alter ego and is really well educated," Callie said wanly. "So, now that you can be both sides of your self, which do you prefer most?" She asked curiously.

"Kat, obviously. As the Phoenix I'm alone and too dangerous to live in peace and harmony with so many Kats. In my spell form, I can mingle without causing a stir and simply enjoy life," he said honestly.

"You said you had to have a master and be enslaved to allow the Phoenix to be released. Do I understand that this SWAT Kat is your master?" One of the council asked shrewdly.

"You are correct. T-Bone is the only one who can control the Phoenix and he is my master. As for why I allowed it since he isn't a wizard to force my compliance, the threat to Megakat City was too large for its defenses to win. Over the centuries, I've watched many conflicts be born and knew the signs to look for. I saw those signs when Dark Kat began his feints to try and take over the city. I knew it was only a matter of time before he finally succeeded. I was right so when the threat manifested into the real thing, I felt I had no choice but to use the Phoenix to save the city from total destruction."

"But why would you care? You could have just left for another place and kept your freedom?" Another council member asked, confused as well as curious.

"Because I liked this city and didn't want to see it fall and I loved my job and life here. To me it was a small price to pay."

"Then that means this SWAT Kat can control you. That compromises your position as Chief Enforcer," Steele objected angrily, surprising everyone that he'd seen the implications so quickly or at all for that matter.

"Actually, I only control the Phoenix not Feral. He most definitely has a mind of his own. After all, it was he that approached me to ask me to be his master to save a city," T-Bone spoke for the first time.

"He is correct. I make my own decisions and he does not interfere with my life except when my true form needs release. When it was masterless, it did not mind being trapped because it had no choice. But now that it has a master, it demands being set free periodically otherwise it will make attempts to over ride me to get at T-Bone. Though this should never be a problem as long as the Phoenix gets a lot of free time, it could force me to go after my master when its feeling particularly neglected and angry at T-Bone."

"What do you mean 'over riding your mind'? How can it do that? Will it be a threat?" Callie jumped at that statement.

"The Phoenix cannot break the spell, Ms Briggs. All its hostility will be directed at its master and no one else and since it can't break the spell what it can do is push me to play some dirty tricks on T-Bone at really inappropriate times that could endanger us both. But others are absolutely not at risk......it's a safeguard built into the spell," He quickly reassured her.

"Well that's a relief to know." She sighed. "Though not for T-Bone, I would think?" She said questioningly, glancing over at the big SWAT Kat.

"You're darn right it isn't for me. This is the first I've heard about this," he growled belligerently, glaring at Feral.

"It will never be a problem, T-Bone, as long as you release me on a regular basis. Remember! You did take on this responsibility," Feral insisted firmly. T-Bone scowled unhappily but subsided.

"But why did you chose a SWAT Kat in the first place," a city council member interrupted to ask.

"He had all the qualities a good master needed. He had to be incorruptible, strong and of good moral character and he can never falter in his duty. How many here could handle such a burden for your entire life?" Feral asked seriously.

"Entire life?" Steele blurted in shock, giving T-Bone a look of pity mixed with awe.

"That's right! The binding between us exists for as long as T-Bone lives," Feral answered.

"I see what you mean, Commander and I agree with you that T-Bone is a good choice. I can't imagine anyone else wanting such a responsibility for the rest of their life," Callie said, amazed T-Bone was willing to do such a thing but then that's what heroes do.

"Well, now that we know what you are, can you tell me what kind of danger, if any, the Phoenix represents?" She asked.

"Its only a threat if T-Bone loses control," Feral said flatly.

"And I have no intention of letting that happen," T-Bone added firmly.

"Hey, is there anything the Phoenix can help us with then?" Another council member asked excitedly.

"Well, for right now, I suppose the Phoenix could help clear the rubble and mountain of trash so clean up can happen faster. It would be cheaper, faster, and cleaner," Feral suggested. "As for later, I really can't say."

"Well as the one who is the master and has to control such a volatile creature, I would be reluctant to release it for anything else but the cleanup. When its in a fighting mode its really hard to control and I don't think I could handle too many of those mega headaches that it causes me," T-Bone said, shaking his head.

"Okay, you're the expert in that area. We'll have to trust you will keep the Phoenix under control and safe. When do you think it can start the clean up work?" Callie asked, settling the matter of the Phoenix's care so no one would pursue the subject further.

"I need several days to rest up. I'm really exhausted and the Phoenix needs to cool down from the battle so it will be easier to control. At least allowing it out to burn and destroy even if its only trash makes a happy Phoenix since it loves to do that anyway," T-Bone told them, giving Feral a small smirk which caused the big tom to blush.

The council agreed to wait a few days and accepted Feral for what he was and that T-Bone was responsible for keeping the Phoenix under safe control. With all matters finally dealt with to everyone's satisfaction, the group broke up, relieved to be able to go home and see their families and return to a normal life again.

A month later...

Cleanup and rebuilding had begun in earnest. Most of the population had returned to the city, though to many were now homeless. The Mayor's office was inundated with requests for assistance. It was going to take a long time for them to get things sorted out.

Of course, the lion's share of the work to restore the city fell on Callie's shoulders. Manx had finally returned but felt it was her place to take all the complaints, requests for assistance, and the decisions to repair what next.

It was another long day and Callie was spending a long night in her office as well. For the last week she would drag herself back each morning despite being very tired.

The needs of the city during this time were nearly overwhelming and sometimes she despaired of getting it all done. What made it easier to bear was the pep talks Feral gave her whenever he dropped in to tell her the progress being made around the city (his enforcers were keeping the peace and preventing looting as people returned to their businesses).

She truly appreciated his kind words though at first, she had been totally taken aback by his more kindly demeanor. However, Razor told her when she'd commented on it one day, that this was Feral's true personality......the gruff one was for keeping his enforcers and Katizens in line. She had to admit.....she really liked the real Feral. The irony of that didn't escape her since 'real' was subjective when talking about the fake dark tom.

Cleanup of the city was going at a rapid pace thanks to the Phoenix, for which Callie was truly grateful. So far it had cleared the section from city center out to the MASA complex. Thinking of that, she remembered it was due to clear the area surrounding the nuclear power plant today.

Though late and dusk was falling, she went to the Mayor's windows and stared south of the city. In the distance, she could see the flames of the Phoenix as it turned to ash another section of debris. Hovering nearby, the dying sun glinting off its wings, was the Turbokat keeping watch. She smiled to herself, for the first time since the war started she felt at peach. Sighing, she turned away from the view and went back to her work in a better frame of mind.

Out in the evening sky.......

"Hold us steady, buddy," T-Bone admonished his partner as he kept his eyes on the Phoenix.

"I've got it, stop worrying, T-Bone," Razor snorted in pained annoyance at his friend's nervous picking at him. "He sure does love to burn and destroy!" Razor observed as he watched the Phoenix turn a five story, completely gutted building into ash with ease.

"Yeah! It likes it a little too much. It's hard to handle when the Phoenix gets drunk with the heady excitement of destruction." T-Bone sighed. "But I have to admit, it does help to keep it happy and content when its put to rest after a glut of heavy burning for the day."

"Hu, what are you going to do when the cleanup is finished?" Razor asked thoughtfully.

"I don't want to think about that right now and believe me I've been thinking about. Perhaps just taking each day at it come while we help the city back on its feet, I'll think of something else it can do. Maybe even Feral will have some ideas." T-Bone shrugged, dismissing the problem for later.

After about another hours work and getting low on fuel, T-Bone called the creature back to him. It soared and swooped playfully as it made its way back to the Turbokat.

T-Bone smiled at its happy antics. When it was just above him, he opened the canopy. "Hi there beautiful. Follow us to your hunting grounds to get a bite, follow close." Bugling with pleasure, the Phoenix fell in behind the Turbokat as Razor flew it toward the northern forests.

Finding a place to land, Razor put the Turbokat on VTOL and set it down on a ledge high enough for T-Bone to keep watch over the creature. Yawning, T-Bone watched sleepily as the Phoenix succeeded in snatching a wild boar, taking it to a comfortable spot near the lake and beginning to eat his meal. When it had cleaned up after its kill, the tabby ordered the Phoenix to follow them back to Enforcer Headquarters.

Tossing its head in agreement, it soared above them as Razor piloted the jet to their destination. After landing the Turbokat at the end of the flight line, T-Bone hopped out as soon as they stopped. The Phoenix landed a few feet from them, folding its wings and approaching the tabby pilot.

T-Bone watched as the creature waddled up to him, dipping its head for a scratch. He smiled warmly and obliged the beautiful thing. It churred in its throat happily.

"Yeah, you've done a great job today. I'm very pleased with you and so is everyone else in the city but it's time for rest now. You'll get to do some more very soon," he promised, giving it a final caress to its crest then recited the spell.

In moments the Commander of the Enforcers was standing before him, a smile of pleasure gracing his rugged face. "Thank you, T-Bone! The city is getting cleared very quickly and the Phoenix is content. That certainly makes my life much easier." Feral bowed his head at T-Bone in respect.

T-Bone merely grinned and clapped the Commander companionably on the back. "Hey I'm glad we are able to do our part in repairing the city. I think we will wait about three days before letting it out again, that okay with you?" T-Bone asked politely.

"You know it wants out at every opportunity, like a kitten that can't get enough candy," Feral snorted in amusement.

"Heh! Don't I know it but my head just isn't up to it."

"Yes, I know so that's why I have no problem waiting. You do what's best to stay healthy. It's getting enough out time to not get antsy so don't worry."

"That's good to know. Anyway, we've gotta get going.......see you a few days." T-Bone waved at Feral in farewell, walked back to the jet, hopped in and took back the controls from Razor.

"Let's go home, Razor" He said as he piloted the Turbokat toward their hangar receiving an affirmative grunt from the rear. T-Bone felt at peace, even though controlling the Phoenix was tiring, it was rewarding as well. The working relationship with Feral was friendly which made their life soo much easier and with all their foes gone at last, they could finally enjoy living again.. Yeah life was definitely good!