LIVING IN THE PAST

Chapter 15: The Return Home

The moon was rising high in the sky by the time the Queen finished her preparations. Turning to the group watching her from the doorway, she called, "I'm ready to send the group in the cavern home."

Feral nodded. "Good luck." She smiled and nodded. "All those not in the spell, leave me," She commanded.

Sir Gregory and the Queen's wizarding assistants quickly went back through the broken door. When the last passed through, Callista cast a barrier across the open door to seal her magics in then turned to raise her amulet above the pool. Her voice rose and fell with the cadences of her spell and the water of the pool began to glow.

Feral shivered as the air seemed to chill a bit as the spell took hold. He wished he could see it working.

The SWAT Kats were standing just behind Callie and next to Feral as they too watched anxiously. It seemed to take a long time before the Queen sighed and lowered her arms, her body slumping a bit in obviously exhaustion.

Turning her head, she smiled wanly at them. "It is done. Thy people are now home. Give me but a moment to catch my breath and thou will be next. Come stand before me."

Feral was first out the door, the rest following close behind. He quickly got the people into a fairly neat grouping much like putting his troops into rank and file formation then made them be quiet and wait. He, the SWAT Kats, Ms. Briggs and Lt. Farthington made up the front line.

"This has been a hard trial for thee and returning with fewer than before is a true sorrow. For that I am deeply grieved with thee. However, sorrow has turned to triumph with thy help. I and my people thank thee and wish thee a safe journeying home," Callista said, bowing her head in respect for what they'd suffered and for their aid.

"Though it was through no choice of our own, I and everyone here are very glad we could get ride of our mutual enemy at last. Good life to you Queen Callista. It was an honor to meet and work with you," Feral said gravely, bowing his head back to her.

"For me as well, Sir Feral," she said then turned to smile at the SWAT Kats. "I will miss thee my unusual knights. I will never forget you both."

Razor and T-Bone both bowed their head then grinned at her. "We won't either. You're one heck of a Queen and now you shouldn't have too many problems with pesky wizards," Razor said.

A brief spurt of water rose from the pool as if a signal had been given. The Queen sighed and turned back to the pool. "Be ready. I will cast the spell now. Farewell!" She said warmly before raising her amulet again and saying the words of the spell once more.

A cold wind blew through the Kats waiting making them shiver then suddenly they were being lifted into the air and plunged through a swirling tunnel of light and noise that had many screaming in fear though no one could hear it. Seconds later, the entire group appeared before city hall causing shouts of relief and flashbulbs going off from cameras nearby.

As for the time travelers, they stood bewildered and dizzy, unable to move for some moments as their senses settled.

When Feral's head stopped reeling, he was able to see where they all were...in the street rather than the sidewalk and just beside them were all the ones who had been in the cavern as well as the dead in their sad, macabre little pile nearby. The smell was already making many of the Enforcers forming a cordon between the returnees and the public and press, to grimace and look ill.

Apparently, his Enforcers had not been willing to allow anyone to leave until they could get answers to what was going on. Major Larickson, his third in command, pushed his way through the officers to hurry to Feral's side but halted when the Commander made a warding off motion with his right paw.

"Hold it right there, no one comes any closer to us!" Feral shouted before any of his officers could move in. Everyone froze including the returnees.

"Commander Feral, sir! It's so good to see you but where have you been and why the caution?" The major asked anxiously.

"How long have we been gone?" Feral asked instead of answering.

"Five days sir."

Feral looked surprised. "Really? For us it was two months."

Larickson gaped at the Commander in shock. "Two months? Oh sir..."

"Never mind. You'll be briefed as soon as we get all these people sorted out and gotten them medical attention. The dead need to be treated as biohazards with the appropriate methods used to handle and transport. Get with Steele on the names of the dead. Also, we've been exposed to things no one is used to in this time period. I want no risk of anything we might be carrying spreading to the modern population so glove up and put on masks," Feral warned the major insuring the tom didn't get any closer to them.

Fortunately, none of the returnees had moved from the arrival area and the cordon of Enforcers hadn't closed in when they heard his command and froze where they were. He continued, "Use however many officers you need to collect everyone's name, address, and phone number and arrange secure transport to the emergency medical disaster processing center. If it hasn't been notified, do it immediately. And hurry it up. Everyone has suffered much and are very tired, weary, and hungry. Many, I don't doubt, will require some kind of counseling to deal with what they went through as well."

"Don't worry, Commander. I'll make sure the city takes care of that," Callie spoke up for the first time since their return.

Feral gave her a grateful nod. The major saluted then immediately got busy following Feral's orders. From one of the officers in the cordon, Feral obtained a bullhorn.

"Attention everyone that were in the past. Listen up."

The excited conversations going on around him ceased as they turned to hear what Feral was going to say.

"Give the officers circulating among you your name, address, and phone number. All of you will be given an examination and anything else you need before being allowed to go home."

A groan of dismay and angry shouts greeted that announcement but ceased when Feral raised his paw. They had learned to obey his commands very well.

"I know you're anxious to go home. Believe me, I truly understand. However, you have been in the past with diseases no one here has been exposed to. You don't want to make your loved ones ill do you?"

Eyes wide with shocked understanding and fear caused heads to immediately shake in the negative at that question. All anger vanished.

"Good, then just do as I ask for now and cooperate. You'll be allowed to call your loved ones but not see them right away. We'll get you done as fast as possible so be patient and you'll be home soon. I promise."

Though unhappy no one argued with Feral's orders. They had learned he never made a promise he couldn't keep so in orderly fashion, everyone turned and prepared to give the information needed to officers wearing masks and gloves. As soon as they were through, they were herded in small groups into busses that arrived some minutes later.

All ignored the shouted questions being hurled at them by the press. No information would be released until everyone had been evacuated from the area, processed, and declared safe to go home. Even Mayor Manx didn't dare to come close once Feral had called out the warning but he did have someone give Ms. Briggs a cell phone so she could brief him on what had happened. After all, they couldn't keep the press at bay for too long.

As for Feral, Callie, and the SWAT Kats, they were taken to Enforcer Headquarters medical center instead as they were needed back on duty as fast as possible. However, despite being put through a medical ringer that made him irritable, he kept in contact with Major Larickson constantly, insuring all those he worked so hard to save were being cared for properly and no problems were incurred.

The SWAT Kats stoically bore all the poking and prodding and even having their uniforms taken and decontaminated before being given back. Though their masks weren't taken, they had to endure going through decontamination sprays then wearing their wet masks until they were finally released late in the day.

"Isn't it weird that it was midnight or so when we left but early morning when we arrived," T-Bone asked his friend as they stood getting sprayed.

"Not really. The Queen probably couldn't tell what time of day it would be when she chose the date of our return. I'm glad it was during the day, made all this easier," Razor said, ending up shouting when the dryers came on to blow the water off them.

As they put their uniforms back on, T-Bone said, "Still it's strange to know we've lived two months yet it was only five days here since we left. Our bodies don't know that so they are now two months older, aren't they?"

"Uh...you know I have no idea, for sure," Razor admitted.

"Geez, I hate time travel. Wonder how many days we've lost and gained from the number of times we've done this," T-Bone scowled.

"Good question. Maybe we should ask one of the scientists that deal with that subject some time about it," Razor mused.

"When you get an answer, let me know," Feral grunted, pulling on a clean uniform his Sergeant assistant had gotten him. He'd been in the shower with the two other males while Ms. Briggs had been taken to another. "Also, I'd like a report of those other times for our records, please."

"Oh, sure Commander. Though I don't know what good it will do you," Razor said, shrugging.

"Just need my records current is all," Feral said, sniffing the air as he caught the scent of food. A tech was bringing in meals for them and setting them on a coffee table in the small waiting area where the four were being kept until their test results were finished.

"Ooohh, that smells heavenly," Callie said, coming in the door behind the tech. She was wearing a one piece white jumpsuit she'd been provided. "I'm starving."

"Me too," T-Bone rumbled, taking a seat and digging into a meal of turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, and greens.

"Never thought I'd miss something so ordinary as a turkey dinner," Feral rumbled, happily chewing. His face showed how much he was enjoying his meal.

"You said it," Razor hummed with pleasure.

No more talking went on as each satisfied their urgent hunger pains. When they finished, they still didn't feel like talking. Each were lost in their own thoughts.

Feral sighed as he stared around the simple room. It was clean, modern, well lit, and warm. God how he missed this. It would be a long time before he ever went camping again. He really missed all the modern conveniences.

T-Bone's thoughts were running along the same line as Feral's except for one. He could hardly wait to be flying in the Turbokat again then suddenly he froze as he realized something. Turning toward his friend he asked urgently, "Razor! The Turbokat...was it destroyed or did ugly puss leave it here somewhere?"

Razor's eyes widened behind his mask. "Crud! I have no idea."

"Easy SWAT Kat. I'll call my office and see if they know anything about it," Feral said, amiably. He pulled out his cell phone that his Sergeant also brought for him, smiling inwardly at being able to just call rather than send someone running to send a message...oh yes, it was good to be home.

"Larickson! Have you seen the SWAT Kat's jet about?" he asked when his third answered.

"I don't...recall seeing it but let me ask and get back to you, sir."

"You do that and thank you." Feral hung up. "He doesn't know himself but will check around and get back to us. Shouldn't take very long."

"Thanks, Commander...that was nice of you," T-Bone said, rather surprised.

Feral simply shrugged. "By the way, Ms. Briggs, how did the Pastmaster treat you?"

Callie sighed and leaned back in her chair as she sipped her cold glass of milk. "Very well, actually. Except for intense boredom relieved by the daily visits by three of our fellow she-kats and the very rare visits by him. To stay fit, I would run in a circle, do sit ups and other exercises and stared out my window."

"Boring alright but in some ways I would have traded," Feral said, sadness in his eyes.

"I got the impression things had gotten every bad for you guys..." she said. Her eyes and dangling sentence asking him to elaborate if he was willing.

Feral stared toward the window where the sun was going down. "It was hell. We lost the weak, infirmed, and kittens to disease, others to being stupid and many more due to a panicked uprising by a frightened few while I, my niece, and the SWAT Kats went to see Queen Callista."

"Oh that's awful. Does that mean you left Steele in charge?" She asked in surprise, knowing what a weak link his second in command was.

"Yes, but surprisingly he and a merc commander, I left to share command with him, did all they could to prevent what happened and did manage to bring it under control before even more could be killed. So this sad trip forced him to be the officer he should be though I could have wished a better way to go about it," Feral said sourly.

"Well, at least something good came out of it," Callie said sadly. "It hurts to lose so many though."

Feral just nodded. The SWAT Kats were quiet too.

"I'm pleased you guys were able to set aside your differences to work together. I'm sure it made all the difference in our getting out of there. But, I'm curious... how did you get Queen Callista to help you?"

T-Bone snorted in bitter amusement. "When the Pastmaster sent us into the past we met her then. We help defeat him that time too but he got away. She sent us home. On this trip, we really hoped we'd gotten there after that visit occurred and luck out that we had. It made getting her help much faster than having to convince her and her knights all over again."

"And trust us...without her none of us would have returned. There was no way we could have known what kind of spell would have worked," Razor said, grimly.

Callie shuddered. "I don't even want to think about it."

Suddenly, the door to their room opened and Dr. Konway stood there smiling at them. "Good news, folks...you're cleared to go home."

"Fantastic!" T-Bone said, jumping to his feet.

"Konway...what about all the others?" Feral asked, standing himself.

"The word I've gotten sir is a few of them have contracted some things and are getting treatment, a few others are carriers of diseases we've not seen in a long time, but the rest have been cleared and allowed to leave. All of them do require some form of counseling including the poor souls whose loved ones had been so callously killed by the Pastmaster," Konway reported.

"That's good news. Well, I'm for home..." Feral began to say when his phone chirped. He pulled it out and opened it. "Yes?" He listened for a few minutes then said, "I see...no that's alright...thank you for checking...no I've just been cleared to leave so have my Sergeant come and pick me up...no, I'm not coming in until tomorrow...yes that will be fine...tomorrow then," he hung up. "I'm sorry SWAT Kats, there's been no sign of your jet. Maybe its in its hangar but you won't know until you get home to find out. Want bus fare to get you there?" He asked.

T-Bone blinked at him in surprise. He was upset their jet was missing but also amaze Feral was being so polite with them. What was he up to? After all, he knew who they were. Waiting to see what the tom was going to do to them was going to be hell but now wasn't the time to pursue it. "Uh, sure that would be appreciated."

Feral nodded, a brief, small knowing smile tugged at his lips just for them before turning toward Ms. Briggs. "Need a lift Ms. Briggs?"

"No, thank you Commander. The Mayor still wants to talk to me despite me giving him a report." She grimaced at that. "He's sending his limo for me."

"Don't let him keep you. You need a break too," Feral warned.

She was surprised by his genuine concern and flashed him a warm smile. "I won't. I'm looking forward to soaking in my own bathtub and listening to some of my favorite tunes or watching some TV. It sounds heavenly just talking about it. See you all around the city," She said in farewell as she left the room to head downstairs.

Left alone for a moment, Konway having returned to his own duties, Razor turned to Feral and eyed him intently. "Well Commander, what are you going to do about us?" He demanded boldly.

Feral returned the tom's stare, a thoughtful look on his face. "I haven't really made up my mind yet. However, I will tell you I won't arrest you nor give you away. What I will do, I need to think about first. You were an important part of why we did get home and I won't forget that." He reached into his pocket and handed them a few dollars for the bus. "See you two soon enough." With that he walked out of the room heading for the elevator.

The two stood unmoving for several minutes. Razor was the first to speak. "Apparently, he's not going to punish us or force us to give up our secret. But I'll be damn if I know what he does intend to do."

"Yeah, I know and that makes me uneasy. However, there's nothing we can do about it so let's go home and pray our girl is in the hangar or we're going to be out of commission awhile until we build a new one."

Razor grimaced. "Don't even think it buddy. Let's get out of here." He went out the door and hurried to the elevator, T-Bone on his heels.

Before they reached the lobby, they got off on the second floor found a storage closet, pulled off their more identifiable parts of their costumes leaving them in t-shirts and the bottoms of their g-suits then quickly slipped down the stairs and out a side door of the busy lobby. They caught the bus going to the salvage yard some ten minutes later.

They were uptight and tense the whole trip and even the walk home from the bus stop. The yard was undisturbed, thankfully. Looked like Burke and Murray hadn't been here the week they were gone. Breaking inside, they hurried to their hangar. Razor flipped the light switch and gave a sob of relief.

There on her platform was the Turbokat. T-Bone cheered and raced across the floor to check the jet out. Razor followed a little more slowly. He could only figure that when the Pastmaster ripped them from the jet, he just let the time currents take the things from the future and return them to their last location. It was entirely possible Feral's copters had also returned. He'd have to ask.

Right now the only thing that was important was they were home, the Pastmaster was gone for good, and Feral was no longer their enemy. Life was good.

~fini~