Former Enforcer Commander Ulysses Feral left the morgue, unsure what to think of the various matters that congested his mind. The body of the "Judge" was exactly what he assumed it would have been: an unidentifiable mass of flesh.
Nothing special or out of the ordinary, Feral thought to himself. Had it not been for the manner in which the body had become deceased, he would not have concerned himself with it at all. But, Jake Clawson's reputation, life and future hung in the balance.
"Bodies escape from the morgue all the time. Why couldn't it have done so today," Feral muttered as he walked to the building's parking lot and entered his sedan.
As he put the key in the ignition his police scanner came to life as well, turning the peaceful confines of the vehicle into an eruption of chatter.
"…repeat, rogue aircraft stolen. Enforcer air units intercept. Suspect is Jake Clawson a.k.a. Razor. He is armed and dangerous. Lethal force has not yet been approved…"
Feral frowned as he stepped on the gas pedal, sending the car speeding forward.
The memories continued to haunt Jake, as reality seemed to fade between the past and the present. The heads up display that overplayed the front of the canopy seemed to grow fuzzier with every passing moment while proximity alerts blared on the Turbokat's displays.
"He who hesitates is lost," the voice of Dark Kat said as Jake adjusted the pitch of the aircraft to narrowly avoid colliding with the pitch of a towering high rise.
"Hope you enjoy the future," the voice of the Pastmaster cackled.
Jake gritted his teeth, struggling to maintain control as the voices flooded his mind. He had not been there for Chance when he needed him. He had wasted both their lives in a scrap yard, ruining both their reputations for a moment of glory. Together they had risked their lives on countless occasions, never gaining recognition or advancing in life, only to age, die and be pursued.
The proximity warning came to life again as three Enforcer jets came up on the Turbokat, matching course and speed.
The radio crackled to life as a familiar voice spoke over the speakers.
"Jake, land the Turbokat. It's over," Commander Felina Feral said.
"What was the point, Felina?" Jake asked, a tear running down his face. "He's dead, they're all dead. We got to play cops and robbers together, and what did it get either of us?" Jake asked, noting for the first time in the canopy his own reflection.
Gray hairs had subtly replaced some of his features, and a receding hairline was starting to show.
"I can only give you one last warning," Felina said, struggling with the words. "I can't protect you any longer."
"You never should have in the first place," Jake responded, as he abruptly pulled back on the control stick. The Turbokat banked sharply upwards, the side of a skyscraper zooming by below like water rushing down a river.
The Enforcer jets did the same, climbing straight upwards as the tip of the building zoomed past and away, the sun filling the sky above.
It's a beautiful day, Jake thought to himself. Not a cloud in the sky. Warning klaxons blared as the engine lights blinked, signaling the oncoming of a stall.
"I'm a terrible pilot," Jake said somberly to himself as the vibration of the Turboprops ceased, the engines extinguishing like the butts of discarded cigarettes.
"Commander, he's going to stall. That aircraft is fully fueled and still carrying an active payload," a flanking Enforcer pilot radioed. "If it crashes into the city, it could kill hundreds."
Felina Feral grimaced, her flight helmet feeling more claustrophobic than ever. She could clearly see the Turbokat through her canopy as it started to arch backwards like a breaching whale, the force of gravity equalizing the descent so that for just one moment, it hung weightless in the sky, fully illuminated by the sun.
The glimmer of the jet-black, radar-absorbing paint shone brightly, and in that moment she saw Jake's silhouette. Razor, the SWAT Kat, alone, holding his hand to the canopy.
The moment ended, and the Turbokat dropped downwards.
"Permission to engage?" the other flaking pilot pleaded as they sloped in a loop in pursuit.
Felina held up the ring Chance had given her so many years ago. Why she still carried it she did not know. She clasped it in a fist, as she closed her eyes, leveling off her descent.
Mayor Callie Briggs walked across Megakat Square, just outside of the City Hall clock tower. Despite the mass-merge of surrounding areas into the Ultrakat district, old Megakat Square still managed to draw in both tourism and commerce. It was a historical site after all. Many an important event had occurred there, several of which she'd had the so-called "honor" of being a part of.
"Care for a hot dog, Mayor Briggs?" a nearby vendor asked.
"Not today. Had too many of those during Manx's old campaigns," Callie said with a smile.
"And so did he," the vendor replied.
Callie chuckled at the quip, but her humor ceased as she saw in the reflection of the city hall windows a large flame that was rapidly descending. She dove forward into the vendor as they both fell over the hot dog stand as a flaming piece of debris collided in the sidewalk where they had just been standing.
Other pedestrians and motorists did the same as small bits of flaming debris crashed into trees, cars and even a fire hydrant, causing a small geyser of water to spray into the air.
"What was that?" Callie asked aloud, looking up from her vantage point on the ground as three Enforcer jets zoomed past.
Former Enforcer Commander Ulysses Feral watched as the sky ignited with flames, and the Turbokat became no more. Three Enforcer jets flew past, one of them banking around and initiating its vertical landing mode as it gracefully landed on the street.
Feral stopped his sedan and exited, knowing full well who it was. As she descended from the jet, stepping to the ground she had barely the time to remove her helmet before Feral was up to her.
"You could have found another way," he said loudly, authoritatively and meaner than he intended.
Felina snapped to attention out of reflex, years upon years of Command authority melting away in an instant as her uncle stared her down.
"Sir, there was no other way," she said, a lip quivering and a tear rolling down her cheek as she dropped a small golden item that bounced briefly on the concrete street before rolling to a stop.
Feral's composure abruptly changed, as he saw his niece like he had never seen her before. Sad, vulnerable, and no longer possessing the confidence he had thought she would never lose. He said nothing more as he pulled her close and hugged her, the tears seemingly endless from both as the media caravan began to arrive.
I have survived, Jake Clawson thought to himself as consciousness returned to him. How many countless occasions should I have died? Why am I so lucky, while Chance was so unlucky? His random fears that plagued him at every corner, leading him to try and overcome, to be something more. He always wanted to prove himself.
"He never needed to prove anything to me," Jake said aloud as he hoisted himself out of the ejector seat. He had landed in an open dumpster. His chute had not opened. "One in a million chance," he said, realizing the odds.
He climbed out slowly, dragging his body out and standing on shaky legs. His whole body ached, and he felt that he had broken a few bones. A small conveniences store was just around the corner, and he staggered towards it.
Upon entering, the clerk manning the register looked up from a small TV and the expression on his face told Jake all he needed to know about his injuries.
"Uh…band-aid?" Jake asked.
"Last aisle," the clerk said, a bit beside himself.
Jake made his way towards the last aisle at the back of the store. A door leading to the back room had been left open, revealing a separate parking lot behind the store. Beyond it was a road sign that showed the distance to Megakat Springs. Beyond that, open road.
Jake eventually found the band-aids, and rummaged through the available medical supplies. As he did, he could hear the clerk's TV, and the familiar sound of Ann Gora's voice.
"…if you're just joining us we have some unfortunate news. Fugitive Jake Clawson, wanted as a person of interest in last month's incident involving the terrorist known as the Judge stole an impounded aircraft an Enforcer headquarters. Clawson, better known as the SWAT Kat Razor, evaded authorities for a short while until his aircraft was destroyed mid-air. The details are still coming in, but it is confirmed that Clawson is dead. Stay tuned to Kat's Eye News for more details…"
I'm dead, Jake thought to himself, almost amused. Before he could ponder the implications of such a statement, the convenience store door opened as a tall individual wearing a ski-mask approached the cashier.
The clerk held up his hands as the masked assailant drew a pistol and started making demands.
"Open the register and put all the money in a bag!" the assailant ordered.
The store clerk, so startled, fell back momentarily.
"Get up!" the robber shouted. "Open the register and get the money out. I'm not going to ask again!" he said as he pulled back the hammer on the weapon with an ominous click.
"Please, don't shoot me!" the clerk said as he struggled to his feet and opened the cash register, messily spilling the contents onto the counter and hurriedly trying to put them into a plastic bag.
Jake stayed low, grimacing as his aching body begged him not to move. The back door of the convenience store, still opened, seemed to beckon him towards it. He could leave, move to another city, and start over where no one had ever heard of Megakat City, the SWAT Kats or Commander Feral. Somewhere where freak occurrences involving terrorists, megalomaniacs, sorcerers and all kinds of destruction were unheard of. Somewhere where Jake Clawson and Razor would never be recognized waited.
A bus pulled into view, stopping just beside the road sign, its destination leading out towards the open road. The door opened, seemingly waiting.
"What is this?" the robber nearly screamed. "There's less than a hundred bucks in here!"
"W-we just opened," the clerk said, stammering. "There's been no business for today."
The robber clenched his teeth as his eyes glared through the ski-mask, until they fell upon a small safe.
"Open up the safe!"
"I-I can't! I just work here, I wasn't even supposed to be here today!" the cashier said.
The robber brought the gun forward and shot the clerk square in the leg, causing him to fall to the ground, his face in pain, but no audible noise being made.
"That was a warning. Now, open the safe or I start aiming higher!"
"Hey, leave him alone," a quiet voice called from behind the assailant.
The masked robber spun around, gun aimed towards the voice. To his surprise, he found someone of under-average height, looking as if he'd just been in a car accident, facing him.
"On the floor buddy!" he ordered, clicking the hammer into place once more. "Or I make another bad addition to your looks!"
Jake held his ground, judging the distance and his condition. He saw that the robber wasn't afraid to use the pistol, and he likewise knew that he was in no condition to physically stop him. His glovatrix had been lost in the ejection.
"It's the same story. A continuous cycle. I've stopped many like you, many worse than you. Some did it for greed; others did it due to some psychotic delusion," Jake said.
"Worse than me? Story? I'll tell you why I'm doing this: I'm sick of being underscored, that's why. I need the cash, and I'm taking it," he replied, aiming the pistol. "My stories don't have a happy ending."
Jake felt the cold impact of the bullet long before he heard the discharge. A familiar feeling; he had been shot many times before. This time was different, as he felt the wind knocked out of him, and his perspective was suddenly from the floor.
"That's what you get for trying to play a hero," the robber said as he turned back to the register.
Jake tasted the familiar metallic taint of blood as the crimson fluid leaked from his mouth. He could see the bus outside the store from the still open back entrance. Its doors closed as its engine came to life, taking its passengers away, disappearing down the road.
The view became more obscured as Jake's vision began to dull, the florescent lights above not seeming very bright at all.
"Maybe we did something good," Jake said to himself. "Maybe we did more than just play the hero."
"We did," Chance Furlong's voice replied in Jake's head. "Playing eventually ends, but doing something right, something just, something that makes a real difference. That's timeless."
"It is…" Jake said, as he felt the beating of his heart slow. It continued for a few moments more, until it finally ceased, and Jake's chest stopped moving, his last breath sighing out of him as his eyes rolled back.
Laying there, in a pool of his own blood in the middle of a convenience store, the SWAT Kat known as Razor lay dead.
A cocky fighter jock, a clever inventor and talented marksman were the traits of his character, but like many before him and many to come after him, he and those close to him had played the role of hero, filling in for a time of need at both personal and public expense. The game had not been fair, with cheats on both sides, but the results could not be disputed.
Despite the mortal constraints, their actions would speak louder than words, so that a city full of memories could progress unhindered, overcoming the brief hesitation of loss, hopeful that those sacrifices of its many protectors could bring better tomorrows.