[This is the third in my SWAT Kats "Shadows Trilogy". If you have not already done so, I recommend reading the first 2 installments: "Shadow Relm" and "Nature of the Beast" first. Certain characters and story references contained here-in pertain to the first two stories and may be confusing to those who have not already read them.]
[This story is rated "M" due to graphic violence, gore, and some mild sexual content. May not be appropriate for younger readers.]
Elena's muscles were fully extended, trembling slightly from the effort. Sweat dripped down her body, soaking her light chocolate fur. Her purple halter-top and black yoga-pants were also soaked. In the background played the soundtrack to Shear and Katstina Angorlera's new movie, 'Purrlesque'. The music was perfect to move to for her exercises. The guys were very skeptical about her request to have the system of poles and bars installed, but it was the best way to keep herself in shape. To males, 'pole dancing' was something only done in strip clubs. But in fact, and most she-kats knew this, it was an extreme form of athletic exercise. It required a massive amount of strength, agility, and concentration. Not to mention skill.
She had a single paw hooked through one of the upper bars, about twice her height off the ground. The lower pair of beams were below it at chest height. The one paw was all that she held on with, her other leg stretched out, her arms held out straight at right angles to her body. She then bent forward, flexing in her leg to pull herself closer to the bars, straining the muscles. She pulled herself upwards, and grabbed onto one of the bars with her hands, then released her paw. Now she hung by her arms, her paws dangling in the air. Letting go, she dropped to the pair of horizontal beams below her, landing with one paw on each bar. Almost the instant she hit the metal bars, she took two running steps, then flipped once, grabbing a nearby vertical pole and wrapping both legs around it.
Gripping onto the pole with her legs, she released her grip with her hands. She bent her entire body backwards, her spine resting upside-down against the cold metal, arms hanging down. Her fingers just barely brushed the ground at the base of the pole. Carefully, she released one leg, holding it straight out at an angle from her body. Stretching the leg, she then placed it back flat against the pole and arched her back, leaning back up away from the ground. Grabbing the pole again, she released her legs and reached out until she felt the horizontal bars under her paws again. Getting go of the pole, she balanced back on one of the bars, one paw in front of the other. Bending backwards, she stretched her back until her hands gripped the bars only a foot away from the paw further back. The forward paw she lifted from the bar, holding her leg straight out for balance. Carefully, she maneuvered her body backwards, doing a handstand on the single, 4" wide bar. She then lifted one hand, her muscles trembling from the exertion. Her tail swished lightly, adding to her balance as she again extended her body, reaching with her now free hand to the other bar.
Elena really only did her pole exercises when they guys weren't around. Right now, they were down in the Reflex Room. She smiled to herself as she thought about the gauntlet. Jake had designed most of the electronic traps to switch locations and appear randomly. Be they still knew everything that was down there, and all the places that they would potentially appear. That's why they had asked her to design and install some traps of her own. But she wondered, what would they think of her newest little 'feature'.
Elena had to laugh at the thought. "Oh they so will never see that one coming!" They had been down there a while. She was sure that they had found him by now. They should actually be about done by now.
She then heard Chance's voice.
"Yep. They found Aries."
She handspringed off the bars, flipped twice in mid-air, and landed easily on her paws on the ground. Grabbing up the towel from the chair beside the door, she flung it around her neck and wiped the sweat from her face as she walked out of the room.
"Is there a problem?" She spoke sweetly, as if nothing could possibly be wrong.
Both the guys were standing there glaring at her. Chance's left pant leg had a large piece ripped out of the bottom of it.
"Care to explain where that came from?"
She shrugged. "You said you wanted some more traps down there. Things that would be unexpected, as well as some stuff you might encounter randomly in the city. That certainly fit the criteria."
"But a dog?"
Jake was slightly more amused than his clearly upset partner. "Where did you get that thing? It sure seems pretty vicious."
"And it better have had all it's shots! That mutt nearly took a chunk out of my leg!"
She had to smile. "He's actually not that vicious at all. Just well trained. Smartest dog I've ever worked with. And yes, he's been fully vet checked and vaccinated."
"But where have you been keeping him? We would have noticed a dog that size around here."
"That old abandoned warehouse two blocks away. I found him about two weeks ago as a stray. I'm pretty sure he's a rottweiler/shepherd dog mix."
Chance found it hard to be mad at her for anything, but he was still upset about the dog 'attacking' them down in the reflex room. "Well, that explains why you've been disappearing for several hours each day. So, exactly what do you plan to do with him now?"
Jake took a few steps back. He'd made the mistake of getting her mad once before.
Chance crossed his arms over his chest. "No."
The she-kat placed her hands on her hips. "He's well trained. A guard dog wouldn't be a bad idea."
"Elena, we run an auto garage. We can't have a mean dog around here."
"He's not 'mean'."
"Then explain this!" He pointed down to his ripped clothing.
She simply shrugged. "He was doing what he was trained to. He didn't know you at the time."
"Exactly! That's why he can't stay if he's trained to attack anyone he doesn't know!" 'Although', he thought, 'there are some clients that might deserve it'.
"Only if he's commanded to do so. Otherwise he's actually quite friendly."
Without another word, she turned and stalked off towards the Reflex Room.
Jake placed a hand over his mouth to stifle a laugh.
Chance spun around on his friend. "Shut up!"
About ten minutes later, Chance had changed clothes, and was playing his Space Kat video game. Jake was relaxing on the couch watching tv.
Elena came up the stairs, the large dog at her side. He was black with dark tan points, and closely resembled a rottweiler. But his slightly larger, and upright, ears, his longer muzzle, thicker coat, and bushy tail betrayed the fact that he was a mixed breed, and that Shepherd dog was a good possibility. He also wore a red leather collar with no tags.
Chance glanced over at Elena and animal. "What is that doing up here?"
The dog bristled and growled loudly at Chance.
The dog instantly sat at her side, and stopped growling, though his ears were still back.
She scratched the dog on the ear and he leaned into her. "Showing you he's not mean."
Jake got up and walked over towards them. "Well, he doesn't seem nearly as bad now as he did back in the reflex room."
"Here." She tossed something to Jake which he easily caught. A small dog treat. "Call him to you, tell him to 'sit', then 'down'. Then give him the treat."
Elena took a step back from the dog. "Aries, Release."
The dog looked at her and tilted his head, appearing slightly confused.
"What did you call him?"
Elena made a gesture with her hand to the dog. He looked towards Jake, then got up and trotted over to him.
The dog sat, looking up at the ginger kat.
Aries laid down, still watching Jake.
Jake kneeled down and gave him the treat.
The dog took it eagerly and wagged his tail as Jake petted him.
"Okay, you're right. He is pretty good."
"Hmph." Chance was clearly not impressed.
Neither was Aries. He flattened his ears at the big tabby and gave a low, rumbling growl.
"That's enough, Aries." Elena slapped her right thigh. The dog instantly got up and ran back over to her. He went to her left side, walked around behind her, then sat down on her right, watching the other two kats. Elena rubbed his ear again.
Chance knew he'd never win this argument. "Fine. He can stay. Just keep him away from me." With that, he went back to his game. Elena, still in her workout clothes, went to go shower, then change. The dog followed her at a heel wherever she went.
Jake went back to the sofa and laid back down. He glanced over to Chance.
"Y'know, it could be worse."
"She could have kept that black warhorse of hers from the Shadow Relm."