Author's Notes: Hi everyone. Long time SWAT Kats fan here. I loved the show as a child. Wrote a fanfic series way back when and it was awful. Still love these guys and feel like I owe them something a little better this time around. It's kind of a side project, so chapters may come out slow. I only work on it when I'm on a SWAT Kats kick. Reviews may help speed the process, but I promise at least the chapters will be long. I hope you enjoy.
By: Ghost of the Dawn
Chapter One: Masquerade
Commander Feral stared at the building, frowning in the darkness of night. He couldn't shake the horrible feeling in his gut. Someone was going to die tonight and there was nothing he could do about it.
The Enforcers had been at a stand off since that afternoon when a bus full of kittens teachers had been hijacked by an unknown group of masked kats. They had holed up in an uncompleted office building with their hostages, locking themselves up on the fourth floor. As best as Feral's intelligence could gather, there were at least three kidnappers, maybe four. All armed, all desperate and getting more agitated as the night went on.
They wanted money and a vehicle to make their escape. They wanted to take some of the kittens with them to ensure they wouldn't be followed. Feral couldn't give them any of those things. The Enforcer policy was strict, no negotiations with terrorists.
But if not negotiations, Feral wasn't sure what else could be done. There were children in there, someone's babies. Swat teams had surrounded the building on all sides, but there was just no safe way to get to them without putting lives in danger. There was nothing else to do but continue to drag out the stand off under the pretense of cooperation with the criminal's demands while the team continued to come up with some sort of plan.
"We're sick of playing around with you, Feral!" barked the kat over the radio Feral had been negotiating with. "There better be a truck for us in the next fifteen minutes or you're going to start losing lives here. One for each minute it's late. And it will be your fault, Commander."
"Now hold on here," he replied as calmly as he could. "We're trying to get everything you asked for, but we need more time. Don't do anything hasty."
One of the windows on the fourth floor opened. The search lights caught the gleam of a gun before the ground was peppered with automatic fire. Feral dove behind his car for protection, along with his fellow officers.
"I'll be as hasty as I want!" the voice on the radio screamed. "Fifteen minutes, Feral!"
The line was cut.
The commander found himself almost wishing for the interference of the SWAT Kats. At least then he'd have someone who could break protocol and do something drastic. Then if anyone got hurt, he could hurl that anger at a failed rescue mission at them and not himself. But chances were the masked pilots would never show. They didn't come out for every little thing. It was the mutants, the time lords, the alien invasions that drew out the vigilantes. Whatever warning system the SWAT Kats kept in place to alert them of the large disasters, the smaller more intimate city crises slipped through the cracks.
There was a surprised shout and Feral snapped his head up to look where his officers were pointing. A search light moved as a form was spotted on top of another building. Who was that? Another armed kat? One of his own team? Feral was getting his goggles to try to identify the figure, but the new kat was already on the move.
The form was thin and quick, dashing across the rooftop and then springing suicidally into the air. Great, Feral thought for a brief moment. That was exactly what he needed now, a jumper.
But the body didn't fall. It swung through the air on a rope, flying right toward the building with the hostages. Feral watched with slack jaw as the form flew feet first through the same fourth floor window where the gun had fired. Glass shattered. The sounds of screams and gun fire echoed out into the street. Then everything went silent. The entire building was dark.
Feral tried the radio to hail the hijackers. No response. The Enforcers had no other option but to wait. Several minutes passed. Feral's whiskers twitched. Something needed to happen or he would go crazy.
Then the doors of the building opened. The Enforcers readied their weapons. Kittens spilled eagerly out the door followed by dazed teachers. Felina was at the front, rushing in with a few other officers to safely escort everyone away.
"Is anyone hurt?" she asked the nearest adult, a shaken she kat who looked to be in her fifties. "Anyone still left in the building?"
"No, everyone is fine," the teacher managed to say. "We're all here. Someone came in the window and took out all the armed kats and told us to evacuate."
Before Felina could ask anything else, something big and bulky was pushed out the window. There was a startled gasp when the Enforcers realized it was a group of bodies, but the bundle slowed as it descended, landing with only an uncomfortable jerk a few feet above the ground. Felina stared at the package, four kats in black, bundled together in a neat package. All out cold, hanging pendulously from the thick rope.
Another form hopped from the window, sliding gracefully down the rope. The captured criminals groaned as the kat landed lightly on top of them, but she did bother to remove her weight. The kat was clearly female: tall and thin, with gray fur. Thick blonde hair was pulled up in a pony tail and she was dressed in a blue and dark gray suit.
The she kat was masked, a smirk playing upon her lips.
"For you," she grinned at Felina, motioning down to the kats she stood upon.
Commander Feral pushed through the gawking officers to the front of the building. "You!" He punched an accusatory finger at the she kat. "Identify yourself right now."
"Hey, I know you," Felina announced. "You're that vigilante she kat from Purrson Heights." She turned to her uncle. "She appeared in the city about two years ago. They call her The Black Kat."
"I know you, too, Lieutenant Feral," the vigilante nodded back. "Congratulations on the promotion, but you're certainly missed back in Purrson Heights."
"I do my best work here," Felina insisted. It seemed to take forever to finally get that transfer to Megakat City. Her uncle wasn't going to promote her to lieutenant just because they were related. Nor would have Felina's pride allowed her to accept on that alone. She had to work her tail off to earn that promotion properly. And now that she was in Megakat City she was never going back to Purrson Heights. Not if her rich, disapproving parents were still waiting there for her. Not a chance.
"And you," the commander cut in. "You are not welcome here. It's bad enough that we have two reckless hotshots as it is. I should arrest you right now."
The Black Kat pressed her cute little mouth into a pout. "At least I'm much easier on the eyes than your fly boys."
"I'll say," one of the offers said as he raised his visor to eyeball the attractive she kat.
Commander Feral shot a glare at him and he immediately backed off.
"I'll say it again, vigilante, I have no tolerance for you," Feral then told her. "You are not welcome in my town. Get out or I'll run you out."
All the masked kat did was crouch down to be closer to his eye level. "Relax Commander, I don't plan to be here long. It's just a temporary visit. Some of our local scum has been shipped to Megakat for judicial processing. I'm just here to make sure everything goes smoothly and Vincent Bombay sees justice."
"The mob boss?" Felina asked. "The one who's up for trial next week?"
The Black Kat nodded seriously. "I've been working my tail off for two years trying bring that rat to justice. Any witnesses against him are infamous for disappearing or meeting rather suspicious and fatal accidents. He's been put in the paws Megakat City's judicial system with a hope that, this time, he won't fall through the cracks and they can make something stick. He's the worst kind of scum and he's dangerous, even behind bars."
"I'm well aware of who and what he is." Feral continued to frown. "We don't need your help. The Enforcers have everything well under control."
The Black Kat smiled again, nodding graciously. "Of course. Everyone knows Megakat City has the biggest baddies of them all. Only the best of the best Enforcers can cut it in this town."
Feral tried not to let his pride show as his ego was stroked.
"If my assistance is not necessary, I'll consider my visit to Megakat a mere vacation," the masked she kat went on. "But whether you like it or not, Commander, I will be watching."
Before Feral could offer a rebuttal, there was a mechanical whirr and the she kat was whisked into the air. The bright search lights were not fast enough to catch her getaway. Once her form was in the darkness, the lights were not ever able to catch sight of her again. The vigilante had disappeared into the night. Feral was not happy.
"This is the SWAT Kats' fault," he grumbled outwardly. "Soon every town on this planet is going to have its own costumed mascot." On this inside he decided maybe he should look at the Bombay case more closely.
Jake stretched as he sat himself at the desk in the front office. His back was killing him. Four hours arching under a jet engine would do that. It was now Chance's turn to work on the Turbokat's repairs from their previous mission.
It was Monday, which meant only one of them could be down in the hanger at a time. Not that the salvage yard had many regular customers to speak of, but Mondays usually brought in cars involved in minor altercations during the weekend when they were closed. The salvage yard wasn't an official auto shop to begin with, but when Jake and Chance had taken it over, it had gone around through word of mouth that very skilled mechanics worked there who had fair prices and excellent service.
When the pair realized they could earn extra cash on the side, Chance had instantly brought in an old junker and began modifying it as a tow truck. Then he got them a business license and put their number in the phone book. They were under some title that expressed they would come out to tow any time after hours. They were usually up late at night playing around in the hanger anyway. It was those tows that usually brought in the most money. It had surprised Jake just how business minded Chance was.
But with any kind of business, time had to be sacrificed. In this instance, time away from the Turbokat to run the front office on the busy days. But Jake didn't mind it so much. It was nice to have that brief peek at a normal life before descending down into the surreal darkness of the hanger.
He still remembered those first weeks after discovering the large bomb shelter below the salvage yard. He recalled laying awake in his bed, knowing the skeleton of the Turbokat was laying in wait in the blackness below ground. It was like sleeping above restless monster and his eyes would stare at the ceiling for hours, excited; haunted.
But today was slower than most. No one had yet to come in. Jake was mostly just waiting for the unfortunate appearance of Burke and Murray to deliver their weekly supply of scrap and cackling grief.
He had sat himself in a worn but comfortable chair to read the morning's paper. The front page story was about the new vigilante in Megakat City. A female vigilante. The Black Kat, they called her. She hailed from Purrson Heights and had been on the prowl for a little over two years now. There was much speculation around what she was doing in Megakat City. She seemed to show up around the regular crimes: burglaries, drug busts, kidnappings. Unlike the SWAT Kats who only came out when the big bads reared their ugly heads and the Enforcers couldn't handle it.
The bell at the door signaled someone was walking in. Jake glanced up to see that it was neither Burke nor Murray, but a she kat. Perhaps they would be having a customer today after all. Jake only spared her a brief glance as she entered, trying to quickly read the current paragraph he was working on.
"Good morning, how can I help you today?"
"I'm looking for Chance Furlong. I was told he works here," came the response.
That caused Jake to put his paper down. How did this she kat know his partner's name? Maybe he picked her up on a tow sometime. It certainly wasn't unheard of for Chance to have she kats ask for him by name if they came by the garage. He gave out his business card to any she kat he fancied.
"Chance is busy right now. But if you need someone to take a look at your car, I can do that."
"Thank you, but this is a personal matter. I need to speak with Mr. Furlong. I don't mind waiting until he is finished."
"I see," Jake relented. He didn't like calling Chance up from the hanger when someone was at the garage, but it seemed like he didn't have a choice.
"Please take a seat. I'll see if I can get him."
The she cat sat down and crossed her ankles, the very picture of serene patience. As Jake got up, he finally took a moment to really look at her. Had she been a normal customer, he probably wouldn't even have remembered her face after she was gone. She was average size, average looks. Slight ginger complexion with shoulder length reddish brown hair. If Jake had to sum her up in one word it would be professional. Everything about her was strait, smooth and spotless. Even the way she sat. She didn't seem like the kind of she kat Chance to give his number to.
Jake almost shook his head as he stepped out of the front office and into the back area which served as their living quarters. On the wall was a com system that led down to the hanger. Jake pushed the big red button.
"Chance, I have someone up here asking for you. Can you come up?"
There was the heavy sound of the rivet gun roaring through the speaker.
"I'm kind of in the middle of something Jake. Can't you take care of it?"
"They said they wanted to talk to you specifically. It's a personal visit."
"And who is that?"
"A she kat."
Chance's response sounded annoyed. "Does that she kat have a name, Jake?"
Jake sighed. "I'll ask." He wished Chance would just give it up and come up to ask the questions himself.
He poked his head back into the front office. The she kat was still sitting exactly how he left her.
"I'm sorry, can I get your name Miss..."
"Furfax. Tawny Furfax. Thank you."
Jake went back to the speaker. He could hear Chance already going back to work, not waiting for an answer.
"She said her name is Tawny Furfax."
There was a heavy clang from the speaker and then a few choice words from Chance. Then silence.
Chance's voice was clearer this time. He must have gotten up to come up to the speaker.
"Say that name again, buddy?"
"Tawny uh... Furfax?"
"Tell her to wait. I'll be right up."
Well, Chance obviously seemed to know this she kat, Jake decided. He idly wondered if she was an ex girlfriend by the way he reacted. Not that it was any of his business.
"Chance will be out in a few moments," Jake said as he sat himself back at the front desk and fiddled with his paper.
"Thank you," answered the she kat.
After a moment of silence, she nodded toward the paper in Jake's paws. "What do you think of that? An extra vigilante in your city?" she asked, referring to the front page story.
Jake turned the article toward himself. "Oh, I'm not really sure. But it's an interesting story."
"I'm from Purrson Heights as well. In fact, I just arrived into Megakat City today."
"Oh really?" Jake replied politely. "Any idea what she's doing out here?"
"I sure do," Tawny replied with conviction. "Look at page three, down at the bottom."
Jake flipped the pages of his newspaper and saw a story about some mobster named Vincent Bombay soon to go to trial.
As he glanced at it, the form of Chance Furlong hesitated in the doorway. He looked a little uncertain of what he would find in the front office as he wiped his paws on a stained rag. There wasn't any recognition on his face when he saw the she kat.
"Chance," Tawny greeted, standing smoothly, "It's good to see you."
Any question Chance had that this might be someone other than who he thought it was disappeared when she said his name. He just nodded at her.
"Personal business, huh?"
Her congenial smile turned into a thin line. "I'm afraid it is."
Chance inclined his head for her to follow him through the doorway into the modest space that was their kitchen/living room. For a moment, Jake felt a bit of embarrassment as he recalled the state of their living quarters. Full of empty milk cans, cereal boxes and dirty clothes. But she was Chance's guest and most of that mess was his anyway. Let him feel self-conscious over it, that is if he could bring himself to. Chance didn't get embarrassed over much. Either way, Jake was happy to stay up front at the desk reading his newspaper.
His left ear twitched when he heard the rumble of Chance's voice talking in the other room. The quiet, calm tone of the she kat he could barely hear at all as they conversed. At one point, Chance's voice rose in his usual volume when he heard something he didn't like. Then there was lower talking again.
Finally, the door opened and Chance poked his head out.
"Jake, come here for a moment. I gotta talk to you about something."
Surprised and curious, Jake got up and joined them in the other room. The she kat was sitting in one of their torn kitchen chairs, Chance was standing. The air in the room was serious.
"Tawny here has a business proposition for us."
The she kat stood and offered her paw. Jake quickly wiped his paw on his coveralls before taking it.
"Tawny Furfax, I apologize for not introducing myself properly earlier."
"Uh, Jake Clawson. It's... fine." Kats didn't usually talk to him like that. Jake wasn't exactly sure what the proper etiquette was for a response.
"So the two of you were partners," Tawny said. "I'm sorry to hear about what happened to the both of you. I didn't know." She glanced over at Chance. "I went to Enforcer headquarters to look up Chance's whereabouts. They, unfortunately, told me all about it."
"Yeah, so much for confidentiality," Chance huffed, eager to get off the subject of the past. "It's old news anyway and we're fine where we are. So Tawny, tell Jake what you told me."
The she kat settled her eyes on Jake.
"Quite frankly, Mr. Clawson, I'm looking to hire out bodyguards for myself while I'm conducting my business in Megakat City. My assistant insisted on a police escort so I naturally thought of Chance. But since you both are no longer with the Enforces and you have the proper background, I would like to hire you."
"Bodyguards?" Jake repeated. "Do you mind explaining to me, Ms. Furfax, exactly why you would be needing them?"
With a small motion, Tawny had a card in her hand and smoothy handed it to Jake. "Furfax Industries is one of the biggest privately owned technological engineers in the world just short of government owned facilities like Pumadyne. As CEO, that alone makes me a target.
"But my main concern while here is that page three story."
"The trial?" Jake asked.
Chance's face darkened with disapproval.
"I'm not allowed to go into the details, but I am going to be a witness at the trial. The Bombays are a very powerful mafia family, both here and in Purrson Heights. I've already had several attempts on my life, trying to scare me away from testifying. I won't sugar coat it, Mr. Clawson, if you take the job, chances are you will be in danger. I have already lost my previous bodyguards to gunshot injuries. No fatalities as of yet, but-"
"But there's always a first time," Jake responded.
Tawny reached into her purse and pulled out some papers, handing them to Jake. "My standard contract. Please take your time to look it over. I'm willing to negotiate."
Jake glanced over at Chance, wondering what he thought of this. The burly pilot's face was completely blank. Chance wasn't giving anything away. Jake turned his attention back to the contract. It looked pretty cut and dry. He had seen similar when he did some freelance security work out of high school. Jake skimmed most of it until he got to the offered pay. His eyes widened.
"That- that's a lot of money."
At this, Chance frowned a little. It was obvious the offered amount did not make him feel comfortable either.
"That is my standard pay," Tawny explained. "I assure you it's an appropriate amount for the risks involved. I will also be providing you with all the proper equipment: radios, bullet vests and such."
The room went quiet. Tawny seemed to be waiting for any further questions. But none came.
"I will leave you two to discuss it. If possible, I would like to have your answer by tomorrow morning." She nodded at Jake. "You have my card."
"I'll walk you out," Chance was quick to offer. He glanced at Jake, giving him a sort of wide eyed look as if unbelieving of the whole situation, then followed Tawny out the door. They walked outside toward her car. It was silver and generic. It looked like a rental. Not exactly the usual mode of transportation by a kat who claimed to be such big money.
"So if we say no, what is left for you?" Chance asked as Tawny fished for her keys.
The she kat smiled. "I've always liked that about you. You never beat around the bush."
"You do the same," Chance challenged. "Coming here like this, offering us money to get our tails shot at."
"Very true," Tawny admitted, but offered no apology. "Without the two of you, I'm back to relying on Enforcer escorts. Inconvenient, but I can work around it. Don't feel like you have to agree for my sake. I know I'm asking a lot, appearing out of the blue like this."
Chance purposefully avoided giving an answer. "If you're in so much trouble, what are you doing out here alone? Where exactly are you staying right now until we're officially under your employ?"
Tawny gave him a not so proper smirk. "You mean IF you decide to become under my employ? Because I'm sure you certainly haven't decided yet."
Chance didn't respond.
"I have made arrangements. As of yet, I'm not even officially in town. I will be okay until the press gets word of my arrival. Don't worry about me."
Again, Chance didn't say anything. Instead he shoved his paws in his pockets and kicked at her tire. He looked up when she patted his shoulder.
"It was nice to see you again, Chance." She looked him over, mechanic ensemble and all without any judgment. "You're looking really good."
He smiled weakly. "Thanks. You look..." he drifted off as he looked her over, unsure what to say.
She nodded. "I know. I hope to see you again."
Then the she cat got in her car and drove toward the city. Chance watched the cloud of dust in her wake long after she was gone, paws still in his pockets.
When he finally turned around, Jake was standing at the mouth of the garage, leaning against the frame.
"So are you going to tell me what that's all about?"
Chance walked past him and to a truck that had been waiting for a few parts to come in. "I don't even know what it's all about Jake."
On automatic, Chance lifted the hood and poked his head inside. Working on engines helped him think. He needed to think right now. Jake wasn't about to let him drift off just yet though. He dipped his head in as well to look Chance in the face.
"But you know that she kat that came in, don't you?"
It was suddenly annoying to have Jake so close and Chance frowned as he pulled away.
"Yeah, I know a she kat named Tawny Furfax. But not that primped up, blank social robot."
Jake waited, but his partner wasn't offering more. Now it was his turn to frown. He hated trying to fish information out of Chance when he didn't feel like talking. It usually ended up in an argument. Jake tried the broad approach. There was always time to get the smaller details later.
"So do you want to take this job or not then?"
The question surprised Chance enough to pull his head out of the engine and look at his friend with incredulity.
"Do YOU want to do it, buddy?"
"I'll do it if you want me to, Chance."
The fact that the leaner tom didn't even flick a whisker made Chance's mouth tick up a little.
"You're willing to get shot at for a stranger, Jake?"
He mirrored Chance's half smile. "Don't we usually get shot at anyway? For free? At least this time we'll get paid and we could use the money. The tow truck needs some specialty parts and it would put a significant dent in our debt with Feral."
Chance grumbled and slammed the truck hood down. "I don't know how comfortable I am taking her money. We have... history, it doesn't seem right."
Jake folded his arms. "Care to tell me about any of this history? Like how did you even meet Miss Big Business back there? I didn't know you even knew anyone with that kind of money."
"She wasn't always rich. They're family is new money. Really new money."
Chance shoved past him, through the door into the living half of the building. Jake wasn't given much choice but to follow. Chance headed for his room. Figuring he had something to show, Jake stayed in the door way.
Neither of them had much in the way of personal articles from the past. Chance kept his in a battered shoebox beneath his bed. That was exactly what he pulled out and rooted through the papers before handing Jake a faded photograph.
"There she is."
Jake inspected what he was given. It was a birthday party photo. Chance was easy to pick out. He was the only tom kat in the picture. He looked about twelve. Two older she kats stood behind him. The clear family resemblance told they couldn't be anyone else but his two older sisters. There was a she kat Chance's age standing on the other side; very tomboyish with jeans, T-shirt and reddish hair pulled hastily back.
Jake's eyebrows raised a little. "That's her?"
"Yeah," Chance frowned. "Doesn't look like her at all, does it?"
Jake looked at the picture again. There was another small she kitten in the middle of the picture, also obviously a Furlong, grinning happily over a cake with a big 5 painted on it.
Chance took back the picture and looked at it sadly. "Yeah, Cleo's fifth birthday. We tried really hard to make it special."
There was a pang in his chest as Chance recalled his little sister. He tried not to look at pictures of her too much. It still hurt. Poor Cleo. Chance had loved being a big brother while it lasted. But she was so small and always so sick. Nine candles were the most Cleo Furlong's cake ever saw before her tiny body finally gave up the fight to leukemia.
Jake slapped his friend on the shoulder. "Looks like we got no choice buddy. We gotta do it."
Chance took Tawny's business card from Jake when it was offered and looked it over. He really didn't have a choice at all.
When Chance called the number, it only rang twice before it was answered.
"That was sooner than I expected to hear from you," was how Tawny answered the phone.
"Yeah?" Chance said, a smile tugging at the side of his mouth despite himself. He knew Jake was probably listening somewhere. That kat had super hearing.
"I wasn't sure it was something you would go for, being "retired" and all from the exiting life of an Enforcer."
Chance leaned against the wall and lowered his voice. "You know I'd do this for you if you were in trouble. I don't want anything to happen to you."
Silence for a moment on the other end.
"I don't want anything to happen to me either. So then the contract looks good? To both of you?"
"Yeah, for the most part. There were a few things I wanted to discuss."
"I'm not lowering the pay."
Chance's jaw fell open for a minute. He didn't expect her to still know him so well. It took him only a moment to recover. "But you said you were willing to negotiate."
"I can go higher if you would like."
"No! That's not-" Chance rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Darn it, Tawny, you're still a stubborn pain in the tail."
It almost sounded like she was grinning on the other end. "I'm so happy you remembered."
Chance did not reflect her playful mood. Nor did he stop frowning long after he and finished discussing the job with her and hung up. Jake wisely kept himself away from his larger partner while he brooded and went back to work on the Turbokat. The leaner tom wasn't one to pry in personal business. Chance needed some time to stew in memories he obviously hadn't considered for a long time.
"So I do have a question about this new job of ours," Jake finally spoke up while they were watching tv later that night. "What if we're needed at our other other job during our stint as freelance bodyguards?" He motioned with his head toward the hanger below his feet. "That contract didn't give a specific time frame as to how long we're going to have to tail your friend around."
Chance just shrugged, elbows resting on the back of the couch. "If the time comes, we'll improvise. Isn't that what we're good at?"
"You think we're going to be that lucky, that the city's going to stay quiet the entire time we're doing this?" Jake pressed.
Chance thought about it and then stood up. "I'm going to go work on the jet some more."
Jake got up to follow. "Yeah, I'm going with you."
It was an average part of Megakat City. Not too poor, not too rich, not really on any of the main streets. The three star hotel was tucked back from the traffic, hidden behind a gas station and a fast food joint. A she kat in an old beat up clunker of a car pulled up into the parking lot. She appeared middle aged, short black hair with brown fur that was graying around her face. She looked tired as she waited at the front counter, the face of a kat who had been part of the working class her entire life.
She was given a room with hardly a glance at her ID and the she cat trundled off to the elevator, wheeled luggage in tow. Once inside her third floor hotel room, the she kat parked her luggage next to the single bed and drew the curtains tightly closed. The full body mirror doubled as a closet door and the she cat regarded her appearance: aged and tired in frumpy clothes and worn shoes.
Moving to the bathroom, she flipped on brighter light to inspect herself more closely. With a hand, she removed the grayed wig from her head and bushel of curly brownish red hair sprung out. Tawny Furfax ran her fingers through her hair as she once again admired how the simple make up put so many years on her face.
She ran the faucet until the water was hot and proceeded to clean her facial fur. Once the gray was washed out, Tawny looked at her appearance again. The years had been magically washed away with her youthful complexion returned.
Her eyes, however, still looked aged. They were tired and haunted with a weight that no amount of make up could remove. Tawny sighed as she stared at them. Some days she did indeed feel so old. Sometimes she wondered if the fight was really worth it.
It was early morning. Too early to get up after repairing a jet all night long. But some rude noise wasn't allowing Chance to sleep in. His ear flickered at the harsh sound of the door buzzer. It wasn't even the buzzer for the garage, but the one for their front door on the opposite side of the building. What sort of idiot dropped in unannounced this early in the morning?
Chance heard the bedroom door next to his open and buried his face back into his pillow. Jake was a much lighter sleeper. Confident his partner was going to get the door, Chance fell back into a light cat nap. Only to be woken again a few minutes later by Jake knocking on his door.
"Chance, get up and get dressed. There's someone here to see us."
"Ugh, why?" the yellow tom growled back. He was never a morning kat. Jake opened the door, in the middle of putting on a clean shirt himself. "A she kat is here on behalf of your friend. She needs to talk to us about the job."
Still growling a little, Chance dragged himself out of bed to comply. Come to think of it, Tawny had mentioned sending someone over in the morning for some reason. Chance couldn't recall what for. His mind had been on other things.
A bleary but fully dressed Chance Furlong finally shambled into the main room where Jake was waiting, far more bright eyed and bushy tailed than he. A she kat was waiting with him. She was roughly the same height and body type as the one who had dropped in the day before, maybe a year or two younger. Her fur was gray, black hair pulled back into a professional bun.
She extended a dainty paw as Chance came in. "How are you, Mr. Furlong? I'm Mayven Goldeneye, Ms. Furfax's personal assistant. I apologize, it appears I came too early? Ms. Furfax said you would be fine with the time. Maybe there was a misunderstanding?"
"Don't worry about it," Chance waved her off as he flopped on the couch without even taking her paw. He was already tired of prissy she kats dropping in on him unannounced. "We had a last minute project to take care of last night. What can we do for you?"
"I came by to give you a calendar of the next two week's events, every place that Ms. Furfax needs to be and where and when she will need security detail."
"And just exactly how long are we expected to be on security detail?" Jake asked as he looked over the paperwork and then back up at her. The young she kat was cute. And Ms. Goldeneye didn't actually have gold eyes, but bright blue ones. "The contract never gave a specific date."
"Ms Furfax currently is not sure how long she will need your services," Mayven responded brightly, her tone was not quite as severe and professional as her employer's. "But your contract holds no specific time frame. Any time you feel like the job is too dangerous, you are welcome to quit."
"Can I ask just what sort of danger we should be expecting?" Chance said dubiously, as if the worst she could offer would not be up to his standards.
"Any sort of danger," Mayven answered seriously. "There are only two eye witnesses left in this case, one of which is Ms. Furfax. There used to be six."
"What happened to the others?" Jake asked.
"Disappearances, shootings, bombs... one stepped in front of a train, you name it. And of course nothing could be proved Bombay was behind any of it, but we're pretty sure he's put a price on the heads of every witness at the trial. It's very possible Ms. Furfax will have the lowest of the low from both Purrson Heights and Megakat City gunning for her before the trial."
Chance's expression softened. "This mobster guy sounds like he's over due for the slammer."
"Oh God, they have to convict him this time," Mayven blurted out, suddenly full of emotion. "They have to make it stick. This is our last chance. He can't slip through the cracks, not this time. We've worked so hard for this."
Jake moved in closer as she covered her mouth with her paws. "Did he do something to you?" he asked gently.
"He's done something to everybody," she replied darkly. Then she forced her professionalism back to the surface.
"But nevermind that, back to business. I brought some of your equipment." She produced a metal case, opening it to reveal an array of technological goodies inside. Jake's eyes widened with intrigue as he inspected their new private radios and then settled his gaze over the streamlined hand guns and holsters.
"Chance, check these out. They're top of the line," he said as he picked up one of the weapons and began fiddling with it.
Chance leaned in curiously, ears perked at the idea of new toys.
"The last thing I need is to take your measurements," Mayven said as she pulled a notebook from her briefcase.
"Why? Do we have to wear uniforms with our boss's logo, too?" Chance asked as he finally stood up.
Mayven unraveled a measuring tape, almost laughing. "It's not quite that bad. But you will need to be dressed professionally, and Furfax Industries will be providing your suits, We are also going to fit you for custom bullet vests. Plus you'll need tuxedos for tonight."
"Tuxedos?" both tom kats asked at the same time.
Chance finally got up and snatched up the paperwork from the table, eyeballing the calendar. He suddenly had the feeling he really had no idea what he had agreed to.
Before the pilots knew it, they had gone from half mechanics, half masked vigilantes to mechanic/vigilante/bodyguards. Mayven was a sharp she kat with a tight schedule. While her smile was bright and friendly, she took no shirking from the two new tomkats now under her boss's employ. The day was a whirlwind of information, schedules, preparations and her pretty much telling them how they were expected to spend every second of their day.
It was more than either tomkat was used to. They did things in their own way, on their own time. Not on someone else's tight schedule. Before either felt like they had time to take a breath it was already evening. The sun was going down and they were in a short limo, sharply dressed and parked outside a massive five star hotel. The building reached up to scrape the sky and lights glittered everywhere in the growing darkness of the evening.
Each pilot wore a sort of wide-eyed, shell-shocked look on their faces as they sat in the limo and waited. Chance was driving as always, Jake in the passenger seat.
"I think we'll have to close the garage for the next few weeks," Jake eventually spoke, the rest of his body still frozen. "There's no way we'll be able to do both of these jobs at the same time."
Chance suddenly came to life as he let go of the steering wheel and grabbed the previously combed fur on his head. "Ugh! What did we just agree to? We're pilots! Heroes! We don't have the time to do this kind of crap! We don't belong at some boring, snooty rich kat party! Why did we say we would do this? We're idiots!"
"You are the one who agreed to it, I just tagged along," Jake said calmly.
"I'm the biggest idiot of them all!"
"The suits are really nice, though," Jake continued, checking out his tuxedo. "And the bullet vest, it's so thin I forget I'm even wearing it."
"Like we're even going to need them where we're going," Chance grouched. "The place is going to be swarming with enforcers with so many rich, important mucky mucks in one building. A kat's not going to be able to twitch a crooked whisker there without getting arrested. It's going to be the safest place in town."
"But do you know who will probably be there?" Jake asked. "Callie Briggs."
"Yeah?" Chance perked up a little.
"Oh yeah. All the big government officials go to this thing every year. The mayor and deputy mayor will both definitely be there. Imagine Callie, all dressed up in a flowing gown."
Chance smiled slightly, a bit more amendable now as his imagination hit him. "Okay, so we'll make the best of it then."
"And we can always quit after this if we find it's not a good fit," Jake added pragmatically. "We don't have to keep doing this if we don't want to, remember."
At that statement, Tawny Furfax herself stepped out the front door of the hotel. She was dressed in a very subtle black dress that cut tight at her neck and wrists and flowed almost to the floor. The uniformed doorman tipped his hat to her as he opened the passenger door of the limo. The ginger she kat slid in and the door was closed behind her.
"Good evening Mr. Clawson, Chance," she greeted politely.
"Hey," Chance mumbled.
"Um, good evening," Jake quickly responded. He wasn't used to being so proper, but was raised to offer the same consideration given to him by any she kat.
His next response would have been to immediately compliment her on her appearance, but at glancing back, he found her not quite as elegant as he had expected her to be. Sure her hair was pulled up professionally and the black dress looked expensive. She wore make up and sparkling earrings, but everything on the she kat glittered more than the kat herself. Despite all the accessories, she was still as she was the day before in the garage: plain and unremarkable.
Jake immediately felt that was a mean thought. Maybe she was just normal. He was so used to picturing the deputy mayor when the idea of female beauty came to mind. In reality, he supposed not every she kat would measure up to the beauty and polish of Callie Briggs. Such thoughts bounced around in his head and made him forget about finding any sort of compliment to grant the she kat.
"You look stuffy," Chance said, glancing at her in the rear view mirror as he put the limo in drive and pulled out into the street.
"Chance," Jake hissed.
"It's a stuffy occasion," Tawny replied, taking no offense.
Neither of them said another word as Chance drove them the few blocks to their destination. It was hard to miss. The Megakat City capitol building was alive with lights, kats and music. Vehicles of guests were lined up as one by one they pulled up to the sparkling white steps to the equally sparkling edifice.
Young valets in sharp suits awaited to open doors and park expensive cars. Chance allowed himself out and dropped the keys into the valet's waiting paw.
"Don't scratch it," he said as if he did this every day.
Jake, stepping out of the front passenger seat, was impressed. He was expecting Chance to appear more uncomfortable with the unfamiliar setting. More like how Jake was feeling. But that was Chance. He did everything with the same confidence, no hesitation. No matter what needed taken care of from a blown engine to evil villains, everything was just business and Chance knew how to take care of business.
Jake opened the door for their female passenger and offered his arm slightly so she was welcome to take it or leave it as she preferred. Tawny gave only a slight nod, putting just the tips of her fingers on his arm and allowing him to escort her up the stairs. It wasn't much, but Jake still felt a bit light headed being in a tuxedo, escorting a she kat to a fancy place like this.
"Keep your head in the game, sure shot," Chance's voice told him over his radio ear piece. "Remember, we're here to work, not to party. Just because there are enforcers in every corner of the compound doesn't mean we should be off our guard."
"Roger," Jake said quietly. His brain instantly went into work mode.
He recalled the blueprints of the building Mayven had provided. All the emergency exits and security cameras had been highlighted as well as the position of every stationed enforcer on the grounds. Even if he didn't always have faith in the Enforces, Jake had to admit it would be nearly impossible for any unwanted kat to get through this type of security.
As they entered through the main doors, the massive ballroom spread out in front of them. The floors were of polished marble, the ceilings of grand architecture with dangling glass chandeliers, each sparkling like diamonds. Every important kat of Megakat City and beyond were dressed in their most extravagant and mingling out on the main floor.
"Wow," Jake found himself saying.
"Not used to these sort of things?" Tawny asked.
"Never been to one before," he admitted.
"You don't have to actually participate in anything, you just have to keep an eye out," she told him as if she were a bit jealous. Then she sucked in a deep breath, letting out the air slowly before abandoning Jake's arm and walking into the crowd alone. Kats were already recognizing her, welcoming her to Megakat City, eager to do business with one of the most successful technological companies in the world. There were several comments of I heard you were single, why don't you meet my son and my isn't that Bombay trial business just horrible?
Jake backed up to regroup with Chance.
"So how do you want to do this, buddy? I've ever actually been a body guard before."
"Neither have I," Chance shrugged. "But after facing off with mutated monsters and a future ruled by the Metallikats, how hard can this be?"
"Point taken. I suggest we play this by the book. Spread out and get the layout of the room. Make sure all exits are covered and all security personnel are where they are supposed to be. And, hopefully, not be seen by anyone who would recognize us."
"Nah," Chance huffed in dismissal. "I doubt anyone besides Feral would know our faces. They might know our names, but it's been too many years since we've been in the Enforces. We weren't even there long enough for anyone to get to know us before we got kicked out."
"Roger that," Jake said with a smirk. "Check out the place, avoid Feral. I think I can handle that."
The two split to survey the area. Chance purposefully to the route that led him near the hors d'oeuvre table. He was starving. Hopefully these fancy cats would have something edible and he could still look around while he munched. This job was cake.
Before he even got half way there, something caught his eye. Something dazzling that made his heart flip flop. There she was, captured in the light in all her brilliance. The deputy mayor, the she kat that often found herself within Chance's idle fantasies. His imagination couldn't compare to the real thing.
Callie's voluminous blonde hair was pulled way from her thin neck and shoulders. Her dress was deep blue and glittered like a cluster of stars in the depth of space. The fabric modestly covered her front all the way up to the collar bone and then plunged wickedly down the back.
What Chance wouldn't do to get his fingers on that back.
He adjusted his suddenly tight collar and took in a deep breath. He could do this. He could walk up to her in this fancy place and she wouldn't notice he didn't belong here.
Callie was speaking to a pair of elderly cats as Chance approached. Before he could even get close, she turned in his direction, instantly landing her green eyes right on him. It took her a moment. She squinted at him while he froze under her gaze, unprepared to be the center of her attention so soon.
"Chance? Chance Furlong? Is that you?"
"Guilty," he grinned, forcing his whole body to relax though his heart was clipping along a million miles a minute. Stay cool Chance, you can do this. You can have a normal conversation with Callie in a normal setting without the mask. Stay cool, buddy, you got this.
"I almost didn't recognize you," she admitted.
"Yeah, I know with the fancy suit and all..."
"Well that, and these contacts aren't really quite the same prescription as my glasses," Callie said, rubbing an eye. "Faces are a little bit fuzzy tonight."
Chance put on his best charming smile, whether Callie could see it clearly or not. "I have to say I think glasses look just fine on that pretty face of yours."
Callie took the compliment as if she received them all the time. She probably did. "Thanks. I'm more comfortable with them, too. Though I have to say, I'm surprised to see you here. It doesn't seem like the kind of place you would be invited to- oh gosh, that sounded awful. Let me reword that. You know, doing what you do- not that there's anything wrong with what you do. I appreciate your services personally um..." She paused. That sounded a bit awful, too.
Chance was fully enjoying being in her company. A flustered Callie was an adorable Callie. And it made her seem more real to see that she was capable of sticking her foot in her mouth just like everyone else. He decided to save her from further embarrassment.
"No, I completely understand what you mean. I can't say I'd come to something like this even if I was invited. I'm working security for a friend." He motioned to his ear piece.
"I didn't know you had the background for something like that, Chance."
"Oh yeah, I've had... a bit of training in that area." Chance wasn't about to tell her that he had been fired from the Enforces. That was something he hoped she would never ever find out.
"Not just a simple mechanic, I see," she teased. Was she flirting with him? "How interesting."
"Oh Chance, you're soooo interesting," a falsetto voice mocked over his earpiece. "Why don't you just keep telling me about your interesting life because you are just so interesting?"
Callie was still talking to him, but Chance couldn't hear a word of it with the obnoxious voice on the line. He politely held up a hand to her.
"Sorry Callie, I got someone on my radio. Give me a moment?"
"Of course, you're working," she quickly apologized. "I'm sorry to take up your time, you go ahead." She turned her attentions to other kats in the crowd waiting to speak with her.
Chance threw her a pained expression as he watched her go. Then he turned his back to the she kat of his dreams and growled on his radio.
"What?" he hissed to the radio.
"So now I'm just someone, huh?" Jake grouched on the other end. "I CAN hear everything you're saying you know. You didn't even tell Callie I'm here, too?" There was jealousy in his friend's voice.
"Yeah well, you didn't come up in the whole two seconds of the conversation before you butted in."
"Anyway, you should be working, not flirting. We're being paid to do a job, remember?"
"Yeah, yeah," Chance sighed. "Not that anything's going to happen tonight. This place is locked up tighter than the federal mint. Any small time crook wouldn't even make it to the front door. As for the big baddies, you can usually when tell they're coming from a mile-"
All the lights in the room flickered as the sound of too much electricity crackled in the air.
"Aw, crud." Chance's crime fighting instincts instantly kicked in. He looked around for his partner to find Jake already by his side, his eyes sharp as he glanced around the room. The brown tom's brain was already at full speed, trying to come up with every contingency plan for anything and everything that may happen.
The guests let out startled sounds and looked around as the lights flickered. Then the entire building went dark and kats gasped and cried in surprise.
"Can't see a thing," Chance growled.
He felt Jake's calm voice next to him. "Wait for it, buddy. He'll come to us."
The lights flickered back on and a single extra guest was standing in the midst of them. The crowd gasped and surged back as the charged form of Hard Drive crackled with energy.
"Well, if it isn't the creme de la creme of Megakat City," HardDrive sneered. "Sitting up here on your fat cow, living off citizens' tax dollars while all the working kats are barely scrimping by. Well done."
He was answered by the sound of several Enforcer's flicking the safety off their weapons and aiming right for him. But Hard Drive continued to grin.
"Careful boys. You've got a lot of civilians here. You wouldn't want any bullets to miss their target now."
Commander Feral pushed his way through the crowd, bedecked in his formal dress uniform for the occasion. "Hard Drive! You've got to be some special kind of idiot to show your face around this many Enforcers. You won't be robbing any kat today."
"Oh I didn't come here to rob anybody," Hard Drive answered, strolling casually through the room. Every crosshair in the area was trained upon him and he didn't seem to mind. "You see I'm looking for someone. A very special kat." His glowing eyes settled on a frowning Callie Briggs who was standing proudly in front of several other nervous kats. He grinned wide in her direction. "My very own princess to be exact."
"He's going for Callie," Chance growled.
"On it," Jake responded.
He grabbed a silver platter from the hors d'oeuvre table and sailed it like a frisbee through the air. It collided against the far wall with a deafening clatter in the silent room. Everyone glanced in that direction, including Hard Drive.
"Go!" Jake hissed.
The two rushed over, moving like a well oiled machine. Chance moved first, fist colliding with Hard Drive's face so hard the villain stumbled back. Jake already had Callie in his arms, making them both disappear into the crowd with a rush. Chance was on his heels, covering their escape. Jake thought he saw a glance of their new employer as he raced by. Hopefully she wouldn't mind them saving the life of an important political figure before coming back to take out the bad guy.
Hard Drive was sitting on the floor, rubbing his jaw. "The Deputy Mayor has beefed up her security since last time." He laughed. A Hyena-type laugh that ricocheted off the rafters as he dissolved into energy.
The room went dark again. The whine of energy grew in intensity. The lights flickered. Several bulbs snapped and exploded all over the place, the crowd panicking. Then the lights returned to normal, the few that were still intact. Everyone remained tense and alert in the dim light.
At the back of the ballroom, Jake gently set Callie down on the floor, looking her over. "You okay, Callie?" he asked, trying to not use his professional "Are you okay, Ms. Briggs?" Razor tone.
Callie's eyes were wide, but not frightened. "Wow, you two are quite a team. Ever think of joining the Enforcers?"
The two toms glanced conspiratorially at each other but did not answer the question.
"Stay here," Chance said. "I'll check it out."
He moved back to the main part of the room, paw on the concealed gun in his suit. Eyes alert, ears twitching at the slightest sound. All Enforcers were also still on alert and the civilian kats were
nervous. But nothing else happened.
After several uneventful minutes, Commander Feral took charge of the event and announced it to be over. Mayor Manx tried to argue with him, unhappy that he didn't get more time to solicit for supporting votes and election campaign funding as he would have liked. But he had to admit safety needed to come first. He eventually allowed Feral to do his job. All kats in attendance were systematically asked if they had any injuries and then checked off the guest list as they left.
Callie was still in the building as the crowd dwindled. Jake and Chance kept a sharp eye on her while they searched for the one who had employed them to be there in the first place. The ginger she kat wasn't anywhere in the crowd.
"Hey buddy," Chance said as he approached the enforcement officer with the guest list. "We're looking for Tawny Furfax. Has she gone through yet?"
The officer looked him over once. Chance wasn't the only extra security detail at the party. Several high ranking officials and celebrities had personal security in attendance.
"Chance Furlong. Jake Clawson." He threw a thumb at his partner. "We're with her party."
"Nope, she hasn't gone through yet."
"Great, looks like we-"
"Furlong, Clawson," the booming voice of Commander Feral interrupted them. "I'm surprised to see the two of you here. The scrap yard doesn't keep you busy enough? You rent yourselves out for security?"
Chance tried not to growl at Feral's haughty expression. To an Enforcer, working security was the lowest you could get. He had to remind himself he couldn't be as mouthy to the commander as Chance as he could as T-Bone.
"A friend asked us to help out, sir."
"I see." The commander raised an inquisitive eyebrow. "And are you having difficulty locating that friend?"
Chance was about to tell Feral to go blow it out is nose when Jake grabbed his sleeve and tugged him back.
"Excuse us one moment commander."
"What?" Chance demanded when they were out of earshot.
"I just had a disturbing thought," Jake said quietly. "Hard Drive said he was looking for his princess."
"Yeah, and we made sure he didn't get near Callie, so?"
"Well Callie could be called the princess of Megakat City, but Hard Drive has never really been interested in the city. He just likes high tech toys. And isn't your friend pretty much the owner of the biggest cutting edge gadget company in the world?"
Chance slapped his paw to his face. "Cripes, we're idiots! I didn't even think..."
"Yeah, old habits, huh buddy?"
"So is there a problem or not?" Feral asked again, tired of waiting on them.
Chance growled but Jake stopped him from saying something he might regret.
"If she's missing, we have to tell the Enforcers. Her life is worth more than our pride."
"Fine," Chance huffed. "YOU tell the commander, Jake. I'm going to get the car." And go get the jet.
"Me?" Jake sighed. "Fine. Hey test this out for me, would you?" He tossed Chance a small remote control-sized device.
"What is it?"
"If anyone planted a bomb on the car, the light should turn red. If the bomb has a timer, the red light will flicker. If that timer is is close to going off, the device will start beeping."
Chance stared at the gadget and then at his partner. "Why did you build this?"
A shrug from Jake. "You see it in the movies, mobsters always put bombs under people's cars."
Chance rolled his eyes and headed for the door. After he was checked off the guest list he marched down to the valet station and grabbed the keys with a moody "I'll get it myself." Upon reaching the rented limo, Chance dubiously checked the new toy Jake gave him. No red light. He didn't think there would be. Just for the heck of it, Chance waved it at a few different cars. Nothing. Jake was brilliant, but sometimes his devices were just odd.
Shaking his head, Chance got in and pulled up in front of the capitol building to wait for his partner. A few minutes later, Jake trudged down the steps, not looking happy.
"Took you long enough," Chance said, taking off the second Jake got in.
"Thanks for leaving me with Feral," the brown tom shot back. "He pretty much told me I had no business working in security again and to get back to the salvage yard where I belonged while the Enforcers took over the missing kat case."
"Better you than me, buddy," Chance said as he ran a red light. "You know I would have probably said something that put us both in jail and then how would be take out Hard Drive?"
"Yeah, just get us home safely, hot shot," Jake said, clenching his teeth. "Or we'll have no choice but to leave it up to Feral."
Lieutenant Commander Felina Feral was having the best night of her life. There was a big, stuffy party going on that required a large number of Enforcers to attend and she didn't have to go. With her Uncle having mandatory attendance to the ridiculous thing, that meant Felina had to be on duty to cover any emergencies going on within the rest of the city.
The night had been pretty low key so far: a few domestic disturbances, a report of a stolen cell phone. One drunk call to 911 saying he couldn't find his remote. Routine stuff.
Not that Felina lost any courage in the face of the bigger monsters of Megakat City's underbelly, but she was a kat that enjoyed the little things in life as well. Just earlier that evening she got to rough up some teenage punks who had gotten wasted and decided vandalize an elderly neighbor's yard with baseball bats. Felina had the honor of personally putting the fear of God into those idiots.
All in all, it was a good night.
The phone on Commander Feral's desk rang and Felicia guiltily removed her feet from it. She was just testing it out for fun. Not that she was aiming for her uncle's job any time soon. She would love to work with him as long as he was in the Enforces. But make no mistake about it, when her uncle retired, Felina was dead set on making that job hers.
She just hoped the commander didn't mind a few boot scuff marks on his desk before it became hers.
"Lieutenant Feral," she said crisply as she picked up the phone.
"Felina, we've had a situation down at the city capitol building," Commander Feral responded, not even bothering to identify himself. He was the only one who dared call her by her first name. "Hard Drive crashed the party and we believe he may have kidnapped one of the guests."
"Let me guess, the deputy mayor?" Felina retorted cheekily.
Felina sat up straighter. "Tell me all about it, Uncle."
Now she was going to be on the prowl for a kidnapper. Her nose was already itching to get on the hunt. Depending on how this night ended, it just might be one of the most favorite nights of her career.
Tawny wasn't sure exactly what happened. One moment she was standing among the crowd in the ballroom. When the lights in the building went out for a second time, she felt someone grab her. There was a strange sensation of energy flowing through her whole body. It didn't necessarily hurt, but it made her skin tingle and her fur stand on end.
Then she was just suddenly somewhere else. In a different building, one with a dirty floor, cobwebs on the ceiling and massive generators lined up against the walls.
"Ah, there you are," a male voice spoke to her. There was Hard Drive standing before her, his coat still crackling with residual energy from the journey. He looked her over with glowing eyes, a wide grin on his face. "Like a diamond in the rough, look how you sparkle with brilliance. My beautiful princess."
Tawny glanced around, as if expecting him to be talking to someone else. Maybe some beautiful she kat who better fit the description was behind her. When she failed to locate anyone else, she pointed dubiously to herself. "Me?"
"Of course, it's you." Hard Drive stepped closer. "You are the one, my other half. The only one brilliant enough to become the partner of the infamous Hard Drive. I'm sure you must agree after witnessing my genius."
"I've never heard of you," Tawny told him.
"Never?" Hard Drive asked, finding it hard to believe.
She shrugged. "Sorry, I'm busy. I have a company to run."
He grinned. "Yes, you do. With the output of technical advancement rivaling that of even Pumadyne. Think of what we could do with all those lovely toys together, your company and my brilliant genius." He suddenly disappeared and then reappeared next to her. His close proximity caused her hair rise a little with static. "What do you say?"
Tawny pressed a thoughtful paw to her mouth as she looked him up and down. "Well, I already know the possibilities of what I can do with my toys. The big question is what can you offer me?"
He laughed. "What can I offer? I'm Hard Drive! I could give you the very world if you asked for it, my dear. Money, power, jewels, whatever you wanted!"
"Yes, yes," she waved him off impatiently. "I already have money and all that. What I'm more interested in is you."
She moved closer and Hard Drive's eyes widened pleasantly.
"Interested in me, huh?"
"Mmhm," she nodded with a smile. Her body was so close to his now. She glanced over him up and down. "Did you build this suit yourself?"
"I sure did," he grinned, liking her eyes on him. They seemed to glow with their own light themselves. Golden yellow, like electricity.
"Take it off."
"Well now, can't resist me already huh?"
"I want to see the suit," Tawny clarified. "You claim you're such a genius, show me."
"No can do, beautiful. I don't take off the suit for anyone on a first date."
Tawny pulled back a bit, crossing her arms in front of her. "Look, you wanted my attention and you got it. Are you going to put up and show me the goods or are you afraid a tiny she kat in a stuffy dress is going to overpower you without your magic jacket?"
Hard Drive just grinned wider. He liked it even more when she was bossing him around.
The Turbot cat prowled the skies of Megakat City, all sensors alive, all her equipment listening. She was on the hunt.
"Anything, Razor?" T-bone asked as he gazed down at the city. It was getting late. Lights of different businesses were shutting down and there was no flicker of anything out of the ordinary to his eyes.
"Negative," Razor replied from the back. "All my instruments are picking up a big, fat zero. No energy surges, no anomalies. Nothing."
"Well keep an eye on it. Hard Drive's gotta make his move sometime."
"I'm picking up something on the Enforcer band. A tip has been called in on Hard Drive's possible whereabouts. Wanna check it out?"
"I guess," the pilot sighed. "We've got nothing else to go on right now. Probably a bogus lead but we'll at least do a fly by."
They were quite for a while as the jet changed course.
"You worried about her?" Razor asked.
"Of course I'm worried about her," T-Bone growled back. "Even though I hardly recognize her any more, I still don't want anything to happen to her."
"I'm sure she'll be fine, T-bone. Hard Drive is a thief not a killer. He'll probably hold her for ransom and when he makes his demands and shows himself, we'll nab him."
The Turbokat flew over the suspected area at the other side of the city. It would still be a good several minutes until the Enforcer vehicles would arrive on the scene.
"T-bone. I'm getting some weird readings going on down there," Razor reported from his instruments. "Not to mention we've got one building with its lights on compared to all the other abandoned buildings in the area."
"Knock, knock, Hard Drive," T-bone grinned. "We found you."
He landed the jet a few buildings down as not to alert the felon of their presence. Soon the SWAT Kats were skulking around the old building, searching for a way in. They gathered by an old door, still barely on its hinges. A weak stream of light spilled out from under it. As one, the two kicked down the door, glovatrix at the ready.
"Freeze Hard Drive!" T-Bone growled.
A startled she kat stared at them, her cell phone hovering at her ear. Then she glanced down to the unconscious tom sitting in the chair next to her. His arms were bound behind him by rusty wire and he was sporting a black eye.
Tawny pushed his shoulder. "Excuse me, Mr. Hard Drive. I believe someone is here to see you."
Hard Drive stirred, but did not come back to consciousness.
"I'll call you back later, Mayven," Tawny said to her phone and promptly hung up.
"Are you okay, Ms. Furfax?" T-bone asked, not taking his aim away from the unconscious Hard Drive.
"Fine," the she kat answered as if it were any other day. "This one isn't so bad." She nodded to Hard Drive's form and then straightened the garment she held in her arms.
"Woah, you got Hard Drive's surge coat away from him?" Razor said, impressed.
Tawny brushed the dirt off the bottom hem of the jacket. "It's my surge coat now. A consolation prize for my troubles."
The two pilots watched her parade toward the door with open mouths.
"I don't think she's allowed to take that," Razor said.
T-bone hurried to catch up with her. "Well we're glad you're not hurt. Can we give you a lift somewhere?"
Tawny carefully picked her way through the random debris on the floor and stepped out the open doorway. "No need. I called a cab a while ago. It should be here at any moment." She patted the surge coat with satisfaction. "And I've got something to keep me warm if it gets chilly."
T-bone was frowning after her when she paused and turned back to him as if forgetting something important.
"Oh, and it's a pleasure to meet you, SWAT Kats." For the first time, she finally got that 'my, it has been a strange night' look on her face before a taxi did indeed pull as if the whole thing had been staged.
"By the way, I also called the Enforcers. You shouldn't have to watch Mr. Hard Drive too long before they get here," Tawny said as she stepped into the cab. "Tell them they are welcome to schedule a time with my personal assistant tomorrow if they have any questions."
The taxi drove off and the Enforcers arrived soon after. Razor had tied up Hard Drive a bit better in time for their arrival.
"Hey there guys," Felina greeted them, looking the most relaxed and content the vigilantes had ever seen her. "He's already all wrapped up for us, huh?" She paused as she looked at the sky, peacefully chewing on a toothpick. "Definitely been a good night." She'd soften the punk up a bit for her uncle before questioning. Just as a consolation prize for having to go to that stuffy party.
The SWAT Kats didn't stay much longer after letting Felina know that Tawny Furfax was found unharmed and had provided her own ride away from the crime scene. They immediately returned the sky as Hard Drive was marched into a prison truck.
"So what do we do now?" Razor asked when they were almost home.
"What do you mean? Hard Drive's in custody and Tawny's safely on her way home. What more is there to do?" T-bone wondered.
"Well, T-bone and Razor know Ms. Furfax is safe, but Chance and Jake don't."
T-bone suddenly felt a headache coming on. "This bodyguard stuff is more complicated than I thought."
The Turbokat landed and the two pilots jumped out to recover their tuxedos.
"Okay, here's the plan," Chance said. "We get dressed, grab the limo and-" His cell phone started ringing and he rooted around in his black slacks to locate it.
"This is Mayven Goldeneye, I just spoke with Ms. Furfax a few minutes ago." The friendly tone in the assistant's voice was gone. "The two of you are fired."
"What?" Chance barked.
"You will receive one full day's pay each. Expect your checks in the mail in three to five days."
"Now listen a minute, we-"
"You can leave the limo at the garage. We'll send a driver for it in the morning. Good night."
The line went dead.
"We just got fired!" Chance announced to Jake's curious expression.
"Woah," his partner commented. "Of all the crazy stuff we've done, who would have thought that being body guards is the one thing we'd fail at?"
Chance got a determined look on his face and dialed a different number on his phone as he picked up his tuxedo. Two rings and the call was answered.
"Hello." Tawny's voice sounded like she knew exactly who's calling.
"Are you serious?" Chance jumped right in. "We're fired? Just like that? And you don't even bother to tell me yourself?"
Tawny sounded just as perturbed as he was. "I paid you a large sum of money to do one job and you didn't do it. You know who did try to do your job? The SWAT Kats. For free! Maybe I should hire them! Do you realize I was KIDNAPPED tonight Chance? And where were you, huh?"
Chance winced as her voice rose in pitch the angrier she became. It also robbed him of his own anger. She was right.
"Look," he said in a softer voice as he attempted to keep the phone to his ear while he dressed. "I'm coming over to your hotel, okay?"
There was no answer.
"You can keep me fired if you want, but I'm coming over there. You deserve an apology in person."
She sighed on the other end. "Tonight? I'm busy."
"Busy with what?" Chance challenged. "It's the middle of the night."
Tawny let out another heavy sigh. "Fine. I'll be here."
"I'll be over in twenty minutes."
Now fully dressed back in his tux, Chance climbed the ladder to the garage.
"Should I come with you?" Jake asked, still half way out of his flight suit.
"Nah, stay here," Chance called down. "This is just between us."
Roughly twenty-five minutes later, Chance was in front of a hotel room door, fiddling with the collar of his tux. Why did he put this monkey suit back on again? He hadn't be thinking about wearing something comfortable, he was just trying to get out to the city.
Tawny opened the door and the smell of pizza filled his nostrils. She was dressed in flannel bedtime pants and a t-shirt. The makeup was washed from her face and her curly hair was pulled back in a sloppy pony tail. For the first time she actually looked like the kat he used to know.
"Didn't get enough of that fancy food at the party?" Chance asked, nodding to the slice of pizza in her paw.
"I'm starving," she said unrepentantly with mouth full of hot cheese. "I haven't had a chance to eat anything since this morning."
Chance's stomach growled. He hadn't had any dinner either. Tawny walked in and angled the open box in his direction as silent permission to help himself. Chance shut the door behind him. He took a slice and leaned his hip against the table, looking at his food.
"Hey, I'm sorry for what happened tonight. With all the Enforcers around, the last thing anyone was expecting was a visit from Hard Drive. I can't predict the future, Tawny. I did what I could."
She was sitting on the bed and immediately looked unconvinced. "Yeah, I saw you do what you could for the deputy mayor real well. Even though she was neither the target nor was she the kat you were hired to protect."
"I'm sorry about that, but you don't know how it is around here. That poor deputy mayor practically walks around with a target on her chest. We saw one of Megakat's big bads and we just assumed she was the target. Believe me, Tawny, if I had known you were the one in danger, things would have gone differently."
"You seem to know a lot about the deputy mayor," she said suspiciously.
"She's a client of ours. But back to you. I'm glad you're safe and if I could do it all again differently, I would. Now, do you want to give Jake and I another chance at this?"
Tawny lowered her gaze. "You have something blinking red in your pocket."
Chance lowered his brows at her in confusion.
"In your pocket," she repeated, nodding in his direction.
Chance dug through is pants and pulled out the device Jake had given him earlier. The light was flickering red. It began to beep and his eyes went wide. Jake never mentioned exactly how much time he had when it started doing that.
"Tawny watch out!"
The device started beeping faster.
"What?" she asked.
"There's a bomb in the room!"
Her eyes went wide. Chance grabbed her and jerked her off the bed, reacting on full instinct.
The room exploded.