The hangar door opened. A massive shadow angled down and into the tunnel mere moments before the Turbokat.
T-Bone landed the jet smoothly. Once the lift was up and locked, he and Razor jumped out and looked around. They saw Elena, sitting against the far wall near the ladder leading up to the garage above. She wore a flowing dark blue skirt down to her ankles, and a matching top, her mid-section exposed. The clothing was clearly from the Shadow Relm, not their own world. She had her arms resting on her knees, her head down. T-Bone ran over to her, but stopped a few feet away.
"Elena? Are you alright?"
Razor followed right behind him. The both watched the she-kat carefully.
Elena slowly raised her head and gave a soft, half-hearted smile.
"I'm fine. That spell just took a LOT out of me. I still haven't fully learned to use the Stone's power."
"That... that was you, right? The dragon?"
She nodded. "Yes. I merged with the Stone, and became what you saw. Mau called it the Astral Dragon. I'm the third ever to have mastered the form."
T-Bone held out a hand to help her up, which she accepted. She was very weak, but otherwise okay. The wounds she had sustained from the battle with the Pastmaster's red dragon were already fully healed.
Razor looked her over. "Well, I'm glad to see you're doing better. And I'm really surprised it didn't take that long."
"Didn't take that long?" Leaning on T-Bone for support, she looked at her friend. "Maybe here it didn't, but I was gone for almost four months!"
Neither one could believe it. "Four months?"
"Yes, which was a surprisingly short time all things considered."
Razor seemed hopeful, but something in her tone worried him. "So, did you find the cure?"
"Well, no. There isn't one."
T-Bone's heart sank.
"But, I did learn how to control it. I can change at will, and only when I wish it. I can also control myself, even as a werekat." She smiled. "Which means no more attacking whoever's nearby."
"Well, that's good news." Razor still wasn't sure he liked the idea of her being able to change into a werekat whenever she wished. Not after what happened the last time she did it.
Elena looked to her friend and gave a soft smile. "And there's something else I learned. Jake, give me your hands."
He hesitated, but he trusted her. He slowly pulled off his gloves, then held his hands out in front of him. Carefully, Elena removed the remainder of the bandages, revealing the raw and bloody burns on his palms.
"The Stone's power caused these wounds. It's power can also remove them."
Gently, she placed her hands, palms down, on top of his. Razor winced from the pain, but didn't move. The stone began to glow a soft blue. The glow moved to Elena's hands. Razor felt a soft tingling in his hands. They felt warm, but not painful. After a moment, she pulled her hands back.
Razor and T-Bone stared. The wounds were gone. Not even scars to show where they'd been.
An hour later, the three were upstairs in the apartment. They sat on the couch, Elena in the middle, watching Ann Gorra's news report. As usual, Feral was complaining about how the SWAT Kats, even though they still managed to once again save the city, caused damage to city property. Of course, Ann made a comment about how it wasn't their missile, but the strange dragon that destroyed the clock tower.
Elena stifled a small laugh. "Oops."
Chance put his arm around her shoulder. "So, now you can turn into a bird, a werekat, and a dragon?"
"The Astral Dragon was probably a one time thing. I don't know if I'll ever be able to merge myself strongly enough with the Stone to do it again. My predecessors never did."
Jake turned down the volume on the tv. "How is it that you were gone for four months? Here it was only about an hour?"
She shrugged. "Time works differently in the Shadow Relm. Remember when we returned here, you said that it was not even a half an hour after you left? And you were there for almost a full month. I'm not sure if it's time itself, or something to do with the portal. Because in the Shadow Relm, about 13 years had passed since we left."
"Thirteen years? What happened in that time?"
"I only saw Mau. He's still the High Wizard of the Moon. His powers are even greater than they were before. It was with his help that I learned to control my being a werekat, and to increase my use of the Stone's power."
Chance could hear in her voice that there was something else she wasn't saying. "Any news of Birman?" He remembered that Birman was like a brother to her. He worried that something had happened to the General.
"Mau told me that Birman was doing fine. His village is rebuilt, and he has a family now."
So that wasn't it. But what was?
"What else is there, then? Something's still bothering you."
Jake had noticed it too. The look in her eyes had betrayed her.
"It's just... For the past few years, he's felt a dark power stirring. He could never pinpoint it, but it was there. I felt it too while I was there. It's the same power I felt when the two werekats appeared here. It's the source."
She shook her head. "I don't know. I does feel a bit like his power, but it also doesn't. It's an ancient power. Strong. Evil."
Now Chance was starting to get concerned. This 'power' has already tried to kill Elena at least once by sending the werekats after her. Now that she's much stronger, would it try again? With something worse?
"And there's something else. Mau said that whatever this power is, it seems to have a keen knowledge of the Stone. It can locate anyone who's used the Stone, or one of the two Talismans, and attack them mentally. Since it's mainly only sorcerers that have ever used them, that's not much of a problem. With one exception."
She turned her eyes to Jake. The color virtually drained from his face. He knew very little about magic, and was not even close to being considered any form of mage. Yet he had used both the Moon Talisman and the Astral Stone. That meant he could potentially become a target for whoever, or whatever, this power was.
Later that evening, Chance sat on the edge of the bed, head in his hands. He was worried. He loved Elena. And he and Jake were as close as brothers. They were his family. He'd give his life to protect either one of them. And now there was something else out there, something powerful, that could potentially target both of them with magic. It had already nearly killed Elena by sending the werekats for her. Elena, with her magic and knowledge of the beasts, had survived. Only barely. Only with the power of the Stone, and even then only because he and Jake had gotten there in time and got it to her. But if another werekat were sent, this one for Jake, alone, his brother wouldn't stand a chance. Not on his own. And Elena's power was much stronger now. That meant that this thing could possibly send something much stronger the next time.
Chance looked up to see Elena standing near the door of the bedroom. He never even heard her enter, or close the door behind her. She stood wearing her blue silk night robe, her hair still wet from the shower. He could tell by the way that the robe caressed her body, that there was nothing underneath. Chance smiled and stood up, walking over to her. He put his arms around her and lightly traced his fingers down her spine. She leaned into him and kissed him deeply.
"I love you, Chance."
"I love you too, and I always will. That's a promise."
He gently picked her up and carried her over to the bed. He knew what she wanted, and there was certainly no argument from him.
[This is the end of our story for now. Look for the third installment of the Shadows Trilogy, "Shades of Shadow", coming soon!]
[Shades of Shadow preview: A powerful sorcerer from Elena's past returns to seek revenge on the she-kat, with the SWAT Kats getting caught in the magical cross-fire. As Elena learns to harness the power of the Astral Stone, and the consequences thereof, the dark sorcerer captures someone very close to her in and attempt to lure her out. She must return to the Shadow Relm, and with the help of the High Wizard Mau, Elena and the SWAT Kats must soon prepare for the greatest challenge of their lives.]