Chapter 7: Alias
Summer turned into winter, and winter into summer once more. Life moved on as normal and no other calamitous event wrought itself upon Megakat City during that time. Winter was always the slow season, it was as if most villains hibernated through the snow or moved on to warmer climates for the holidays.
Jake and Chance fell into their usual routine of repairing cars and fiddling with new gismos. Viper's latest escapades went unmentioned as just another adventure chalked up for the books. But any time they went into the city and passed the Enforcer building construction, they got quiet.
After one such excursion to the city for groceries, the duo returned to find an unfamiliar vehicle parked outside. It was late, the garage was closed, but their door was wide open. Looking at each other, they pulled out the guns they kept in a secret compartment in the truck and carefully crept inside.
Jake went in first, flicking on the lights and doing a quick sweep of the garage and the front office, moving into their living area. Chance watched his tail, ducking to check under the vehicles in the garage and making sure no one was coming in behind them. Each room was systematically searched and every time they came up with nothing that sinking feeling in their guts got heavier and heavier.
There was no question someone was here with that car parked out front. And if they weren't up in the garage, it meant they could only be down below in the hanger. They both crouched at the ladder's entrance, hearts beating and paws clutching their weapons. Who had found them this time? Was it going to be like the Metallikats all over again?
The lights were already on down there; certainly not left on by the owners. Jake dropped down, not even bothering to use the ladder. He landed into a crouch, gun pointed.
"Ah, there you are," a voice said calmly.
Jake spun toward the sound. There was indeed a kat in their hanger; male, tall, sharply dressed. Jake had never seen him before in his life.
The kat merely raised his paws in surrender. "I'm not armed."
Chance joined his partner below, both of them now training their weapons on the intruder. While they were glad it at least wasn't one of their usual arch villains, they still had a big problem.
"Who are you and what are you doing here?"
"Please, allow me," the kat said as he carefully reached into his jacket as nonthreatening as possible.
"Slowly," Chance warned, both still ready to pull the trigger at the slightest hint of danger.
The tom kat pulled out a wallet-shaped object and flashed them an official-looking badge. "Special Agent Stone, KBI."
Their hearts instantly jumped up into the pilot's throats. Perhaps this was even worse than one of their enemies finding the hanger. If the KBI knew about them, the SWAT Kat's days were over and everything they owned would be expropriated to the government.
Jake instantly lowered his weapon, his face pale. Chance wasn't so easily swayed. Something wasn't right. If the KBI came to take them out, why was there only one agent?
"What is this?" the burly tom demanded. "What do you want?"
Agent Stone returned his badge and straightened his black suit. "I apologize for coming in like this. I got tired of waiting and, I have to admit, I have been dying to see inside your hanger for a while, T-Bone and Razor."
Chance just growled. It couldn't end like this. He wasn't going to go down without a fight if this suit thought he had the upper hand just because he knew their aliases.
"Exactly how long have you wanted to come here?" Jake asked.
"Ever since we discovered your identities, of course. It's been a few years now."
It was that comment that caused Chance to finally lower his gun. They had been made all that time? Now he was feeling lightheaded. "How... how did you know?"
Agent Stone just grinned at them. "We are the KBI after all. We have eyes in the skies and ears everywhere. Do you think we would allow two vigilantes with the type of artillery you have to run around unchecked?"
"But you have been letting us run around," Jake pointed out, feeling a little numb. This whole conversation was so surreal.
"Yes we have, because the truth of the matter is we couldn't train kats like you on our best day. The two of you are something extraordinary and you came about that all on your own. This world gets stranger and stranger by the day and even our agents aren't able to keep up with the changes. You two, however, jump into the danger without orders or pay. And you have managed to come out on top every time.
"Megakat City- no, the world- needs the SWAT Kats. That is why we've allowed you free reign all this time. But we have always been watching as. If you two ever decided to work for the other side, you can bet agents will swarm this place faster than you can board your jet."
"So what do you want from us then?" Chance asked, now more irritated at the intrusion than scared of what this kat could do to him. "Is this a warning to keep our whiskers clean?"
Agent Stone put his paws in his pockets, expression rueful. "I need your help."
"The KBI needs our help?" Chance snorted.
"The agency doesn't know I'm here. I'm the one who needs your help. More specifically, Tawny needs your help."
"What? Why? What's going on?"
Stone pulled a file from his jacket. He held it out, waiting for the pilots to come to him. Chance strode over without a second thought and took the folder, instantly glancing over the information.
"Tawny Furfax. Alias: Black Kat," Stone said. "We knew who she was mere months after she put on the mask. Since she's most definitely no SWAT Kat, the bureau wanted to get her off the streets. Mostly they were worried she would get herself killed or botch up our attempts at building a case against these large crime lords.
"But not only did she prove to be far more competent than we thought, the weaponry her company produced was far more advanced than what we had in our R and D departments."
"So you guys couldn't pass up the opportunity to have Furfax Industries under your thumbs," Jake surmised with a cross of his arms.
"My bosses couldn't," Stone confirmed. "But more than than, we could help each other. Tawny put on the mask to save her own life. If she got in trouble we could back her up, and she could help us build our cases against high profile illegal cartels like Vinnie Bombay's.
"Recently we pulled her into an investigation with the Katolinni family. Instead of using Black Kat, we sent Tawny under cover."
"And why would you government big shots need her to do your jobs? She has her own life," Chance growled, crinkling the file in his fists. "Hasn't she been through enough? Why can you just leave her alone?"
Agent Stone sighed. "Believe me, if it were my call, we would. But just like the two of you Tawny Furfax has a unique skill that can't be trained into an agent. She can take on any given role and immerse herself into that character, seamlessly become that other persona."
Stone pointed to the pictures in the file. There was a photo of a she kat with a short skirt and long legs. She had large, pouty lips and a thick shock of electric blue hair. Definitely a she kat dressed to grab attention from anyone in the room. "This is Lola Katolinni, the daughter of Tony Katolinni, Purrson Heights's current high roller. Lola was arrested for her third DUI, and the Bureau could not pass up. The opportunity. Tawny was the right height and body type. With her holographic generator, she could look and sound every bit like Lola from ear to tail. No one else would be able to play that part as thoroughly convincing as she could.
"While the real Lola was secretly put in jail for a four month sentence, Tawny has been taking her place, having free reign of the house for the past three months."
"But she wasn't good enough," Jake surmised. "They realized she was an impostor."
"Not under any fault of hers," Stone insisted. "She was magnificently flawless in the role. No one suspected a thing; it was our screw up. We had a leak somewhere. Somehow, word got out that the real Lola was still in jail. Tawny's cover has been compromised." He ran an agitated paw through his thick, blond hair. "She's been missing for almost sixteen hours and we're fearing the worst."
Chance immediately began to growl. He was furious. Mad at this arrogant suit who put Tawny in danger. Mad at her for allowing herself to go along with these bureaucratic idiots. Mad at himself for never calling to check up on her all this time.
Jake understood the feeling, but remained outwardly calm. There would be plenty of time to get mad when Tawny was safe. "What can we do to help?"
Agent Stone seemed to break a bit right there, shrugging helplessly. "You're the heroes," he said, voice cracking a little, "do what you do. We believe Tawny's being held in a secret sub basement below the house. We don't know how to get to it. We've gone in with warrants before, but we've never been able to find it. Our paws are tied with red tape, but you two, you're outside the law. If a pair of vigilantes busted into that house and tore it up, that wouldn't be anything related to the Bureau. But you would be putting your lives in danger. There's a lot of armed kats in that building. Even more now that they have a hostage."
Chance and Jake looked at each other. There was no choice in the matter.
"Not like we haven't been shot at before," Jake said.
"And lucky for you, busting things up is our specialty."
Agent Stone smiled at them. "She's spoken highly of you two ever since she got back from Megakat City."
"And what are you going to be doing?" Chance asked, already grabbing his G-suit from his locker.
"Me?" Stone asked with a grin, stepping backward into the darkness of the take off ramp. "I was never here."
The night skies over Purrson Heights were overcast and unfamiliar. The SWAT Kats relied heavily on their GPS and guidance systems to navigate the area. The stars were completely blocked by heavy clouds. It served as extra cover for the Turbokat as the jet hovered over the Katolinni estate.
"Look at the size of that place," T-Bone said with a low whistle. Even from their altitude, the impressive mansion was plenty large. "It really cranks my whiskers to see scumbags like these live like kings while we're stuck with that junk yard."
Razor offered no accession. He plugged himself into their dimensional radar, scanning the grounds. "The agent was right, there's an extra level below the basement." A 3D image of the house and all its levels rotated on his screen, giving him a view of the estate from all angles. "It's heavily fortified, too. Metal and cement walls. If they've got Tawny, she'll be in there."
"She better be in one piece or the Turbokat and I will tear this place apart," T-Bone promised.
Again, Razor remained silent. He had been very tight lipped about anything involving the she kat since their last encounter. Even T-Bone had no idea how his partner felt about all that had happened.
The property was located well outside the city, cloistered among a thick grove of trees which tapered into preserved forest territory. A perfect place to land the jet without being discovered. Below the canopy of evergreens, it was nearly dark as night. The masked pilots blended well into the shadows of the forest with their dark G-suits.
They reached the edge of the treeline. It cut off sharply into a sprawling, finely kept yard. The house itself seemed innocuous enough. No armed guards on the outside, no search lights. But that didn't mean it wasn't well protected.
"It's just grass all the way up," T-Bone whispered. The mansion was still several yards away. "No cover."
"Probably so they can see anyone coming," Razor replied. He pressed a button on the side of his helmet and a visor slid over his eyes. The mini computer in the helmet immediately went to work scanning the area. "I'm picking up both cameras and motion detectors on the property."
T-Bone activated his own scanner. "Puh, we've seen worse. These guys are watching out for the feds, they're not ready to handle us."
The two crept around the grounds to far side of the house- the weakest point in their security. There, the grass conceded to a lovely garden of bushes and flowers. The few motion sensors hidden among the foliage were easy to avoid. The single rotating camera was not fast enough to catch the cunning pilots.
Once pressed flush against the side of the house, T-Bone peered around the corner. Two muscular kats were lounging on the back deck, smoking indolently into the night. T-Bone had no doubt they were well armed. It would be best to avoid them. With armed kats no doubt guarding every door in the house, they would have to get creative. On this shadowed side of the estate, there was only one window, high up on the third floor.
Razor went up first, firing his grappling hook. Timing his movement with the rotating camera, he ran up the wall with the aid of the Glovatrix pull. Once reaching the top floor, Razor inspected the window. Inside, the frame was wired with a motion sensor. Easy to circumnavigate. He activated his glass-cutting laser and neatly removed the glass right from the frame.
After crawling inside, Razor signaled his partner that everything looked safe and T-Bone climbed up after him.
The window led to the attic, full of old furniture and various other boxed junk. All covered with several year's worth of dust. T-Bone peered outside to make double sure no one saw them. Razor padded over to the door, checking for any more motions sensors before peeking out. Before him extended a set of wooden stairs leading down to the next level. T-Bone was at his back, ready for anything, as the two descended.
The house was dark and quiet. Hopefully most of the family members had retired to bed by now. From the KBI files, the SWAT Kats learned that Lola Katolinni was the oldest of four children. The family resided in the estate. No matter what their father used the subbasement for, this was their home. The last thing either vigilante wanted was for civilians to get involved if any fire fights broke out.
The hallway on second floor was empty and silent, all bedroom doors closed. A grandfather clock ticked away at the head of the stairs. Razor swiveled his ears, listening for any movement behind the doors. No one stirred.
Down the next flight they crept onto the main floor. An expansive foyer with glittering tiles stretched out before them. Near the front door, a kat was stationed at a desk, eyes glued on three surveillance screens. He was still watching out for intruders outside. He didn't notice the two encroachers slink behind him and move further into the house.
Razor brought up the house schematics on his Glovatrix screen, courtesy of the dimensional radar's findings. He led them unerringly to an impressive study room, complete with fire place, plush reading chairs and ceiling to floor bookshelves. A grand oak desk squatted in one corner, a black grand piano in the other by the windows.
"This is it," Razor said in a cautious voice. It was pitch dark inside, the only light coming from his Glovatrix screen. "There should be a set of stairs right behind... this wall." He gazed up and down at the sheer barrier of book shelves.
"Ah, the old secret door in the library," T-Bone said as he cracked his knuckles. "So what, we pull out all the books to see which one is the trigger?"
"If a book even is the trigger," Razor replied. He gazed over the room. "It could be anything, a knob on the fireplace, a secret button hidden in the desk, a certain string of notes on the piano keys..."
T-Bone growled out a sigh. "That could take forever. I say we just take out the wall and rush down there."
Before Razor could offer the many reasons why that was a bad idea, they heard the door open. The pilots quickly scrambled out of sight as the lights flicked on. T-Bone could see two pairs of shoes stroll in from where he crouched beneath the desk. Razor peered from behind a chair. Both kats were larger than he. This Katolinni guy sure liked his muscle.
One of the thugs reached into his coat and pulled out a small device the size of a keychain. He pressed a button and the entire wall slid open. The cement stairs below were swallowed in blackness and he flicked on the light. Behind him, there was a shattering sound and a heavy thud. The kat spun around to find his companion on the floor, a broken vase near his head. A thin masked kat in a flight suit stood over him and the thug panicked, reaching for his gun. A second, burlier masked kat appeared and all the hired muscle saw was T-Bone's fist before he crumpled to the ground.
T-Bone caught the kat so he wouldn't fall down the stairs.
Razor recovered the remote device. "Or, I guess these days villains carry the key on them," he quipped.
"Come on," T-bone called as he hurried down the stairs.
Caution was momentarily forgotten at his find and he paid for it. Before reaching the bottom step, another kat appeared from the tunnel below. This one had a shot gun in his paws. He immediately fired at the sight of the SWAT Kats. The booming shots in the enclosed space deafened the pilots as they scrambled out of the way. There was no way any of the hired guns on the property would miss that sound.
T-Bone activated the shield on his Glovatrix while Razor ducked behind him and fired mini cement launchers. The gun kat was hit right in the eyes. He squawked in surprise as T-Bone rushed him. Another gun shot went wild before the masked kat tore the weapon from his grip and chopped the kat in the back of the neck. He crumpled to the ground, out cold.
Razor was already racing down the tunnel, shield up. "Our cover's blown, buddy. We've got to find her before they decide she's too much of a liability to keep alive." If she isn't dead already.
T-Bone was at his tail. The tunnel veered a hard left. As they raced around the corner, it opened up into a wide room with low ceiling. More armed kats were waiting for them. The vigilantes fled back around the corner from the barrage of bullets.
Razor dared to steal a quick glance before another fusillade whisked by his ear. Behind the firing thugs, he caught sight of a large, middle aged kat, portly and short. He was well dressed with an air of command about him, most likely the boss. He was yanking a female form down the back of the tunnel. The she kat was barefoot, in a skimpy dirty dress. Her head was covered with a bag, but the ginger coat was a familiar pattern of subtle stripes.
"T-Bone, they've got her! She's being dragged out the back."
"Where does the tunnel lead?"
"I don't know, I didn't see it on the screen. It must be too deep underground for the dimensional radar to penetrate."
T-bone fetched a handful of black orbs from his pocket. "Then we go through," he said with determination.
Handing them to Razor, the smaller SWAT Kat lobbed the objects down the tunnel. The armed kats backed away in suspicion as the unfamiliar objects rolled toward them. The black orbs popped open down the middle and released a thick, black smoke into the air.
"Hold your ground," one of the kats called. "They're trying to confuse us. Don't let anyone through."
Then, when entire visibility was lost, the smoke balls exploded. Not enough of a charge to kill a kat, but it sure threw a few of them off their feet. T-Bone and Razor rushed through in the chaos as the kats stumbled blindly and groaned. Out of the smoke they raced and down the dark tunnel. It began to slope upward, lights up ahead.
They emerged into a cave- right into more gunfire. Once again, the SWAT Kats were forced back under the barrage. Match-head missiles flew from the tunnel, disarming Tony and his accompanying thug. Razor jumped into the open, Glovatrix aimed. But before he could fire, the mouth of the tunnel closed.
Both pilots scratched and pushed at the barrier, but they were sealed in by a wall of solid cement.
Razor tried the key they had stolen earlier. He pushed every button, but nothing happened. It seemed only Tony Katolinni had the right device for this end of the tunnel.
"Come on, buddy," Razor called, running back down the tunnel. "I saw water and a boat. They're going to be on the lake, headed for open ocean. We need the jet."
They raced back up the tunnel, tearing through the group of thugs still stumbling around. Any kat able to give them trouble was hit with nets or cement as the SWAT Kats ran through. Up the stairs and into the study, Razor pulled out the key, locking the tunnel entrance behind them before any kats could follow.
They dashed into the hallway, hearing startled cries behind them before bullets whizzed by their heads. They reached the main foyer and Razor turned with a growl, Gloveatrix aimed. He was so tired of being shot at.
Ahead, T-Bone noticed something that stopped his heart cold. A male kitten of about five was blearily standing at the bottom of the stairs, rubbing one eye. He glanced at his partner. "Razor, don't! There's a-"
But Razor had already fired. A missile shot down the hall; the plain, ordinary kind that knew how to blow up real good. The goon squad scattered in his wake and T-Bone grabbed the kitten as the two ran for a safer distance. The heat of the explosion was enough to lick at their backs and knock them to the ground. T-Bone rolled to his knees, the kitten in his arms unharmed.
"Wow! You're the SWAT Kats!" the kid exclaimed, eyes now bright with excitement. "What are you doing at my house? Are there bad guys here?"
The vigilantes looked at each other. This kid's father was the 'bad guy' they were after.
"Uh, yeah, bad guys," Razor mumbled as retreated for the door.
The kitten watched him leave in confusion. "Hey, wait."
"Gotta go kid," T-Bone called as he ran backwards. "Got hero stuff to do. Uh, eat your vegetables, stay in school. Oh! And tell your dad you want to be a cop! He'll love that!"
The kitten heard his mother give a startled cry as smoke alarms in the house began to go off. He couldn't wait to tell his mother who he saw.
Tony Katolinni couldn't believe how fast the litter had hit the fan. First, the imposter impersonating his daughter. God only knew how long that bitch had been in his house, among his family without him even knowing it. That thought alone was almost enough to put a bullet in her skull where she stood.
But first, he had to find out who she was working for and why she was there. Even when his boys roughed her up the whore wasn't talking. But when they pumped her full of truth serum, her faces paled as the KBI passed over her lips. If she was an agent, they were in trouble. Tony had been trying to figure out what to do with her ever since. The best course of action seemed to simply do away with her and disappear the body.
Then the situation worsened. Tony had only heard of the SWAT Kats from the news. What were they doing in Purrson Heights? How did they get past his security? And how had they infiltrated his secret tunnels so easily? Agent Stone had be behind this. A constant thorn in his side, that bastard had to be the reason for all of this.
Cold droplets stung Tony's face as the boat raced over the lake behind his estate. At his feet, Stone's whore lay feebly at the bottom of the hull. Still blinded with wrists tied behind her back, the ginger she kat was practically useless now. Delirious from the beating and all the drugs that had been pumped into her system, she hardly had enough control in her limbs to stand. She could do little more than curl up and shiver. Maybe when they reached the ocean, Tony would just throw her overboard.
From the middle of the lake, he heard sirens in the distance. He gazed in the direction of his estate and nearly fell overboard. "What the- what the hell did they do to my house!?"
One side of the mansion was choked in smoke, flames lighting up the low hanging clouds.
"Those two clowns are dead! You hear me, dead! NO ONE attacks me in my own home! Not in my town!"
The shrill scream of jet engines rose from the trees, a sharp shadow making a bee line for the boat.
"Boss, they're coming!"
Tony gawked at where his henchkat was pointing. What would it take to get rid of these masks jokers? "Don't just stand there! Shoot them down!"
Both kats opened fire as the Turbokat caught up to them, its black belly hovering closer. It was peppered with gunfire, but mere bullets were not strong enough to do more than dent the jet's thick armor.
When he saw they were out of their league with the vigilantes, Tony grabbed the she kat, yanking her to her feet. She stood uneasily, barely able to hold her weight as he pressed his gun to her bagged head. "You follow us and I blow her brains out," he yelled at the sky. "Do you understand that, you costumed wackbags?"
The Turbokat slowly pulled higher.
"Not as stupid as they look," he muttered.
"Boss, they're going to follow us with that jet no matter what we do," the other kat said. "There's no way we can lose them."
"We need ta give them somethin' else ta chase," Tony decided. "Grab that sandbag, tie up the girl."
He grabbed a thick rope and tied the sandbag around the she kat's ankles. The Turbokat was getting closer again, despite the gun held to the hostage's head. The belly of the jet opened, Razor standing in view, Glovatrix aimed.
Tony just smirked at the SWAT Kat. "Go fish for her."
He shoved the she kat off the side of the boat, sandbag and all. Her thin form instantly disappeared beneath the water, left far behind by the speeding vehicles.
Razor's eyes widened in horror. "T-Bone! T-Bone, go back! Right now!"
The jet put on the brakes, hovering in mid air and rotating before taking off back the way it came. Razor grabbed an oxygen mask from the cargo hull and the heaviest missile he could carry. He didn't even bother to ask T-Bone if they were close to the spot where the she kat went under. He trusted his partner's judgment. The second the jet stopped he jumped in the water.
The missile weighed him down like a bag of rocks, hurling Razor toward the bottom of the lake. The light from the triangle on his helmet illuminated the depths as he was pulled deeper. Further below, he saw a form, pale dress glowing in the light like a ghost. He swam for the body, carefully and quickly cutting free the bag on the she kat's head.
Once free, Razor shoved his oxygen mask over her nose and mouth. Tawny's eyes fluttered as she gasped in coughing breaths. Razor put her paw in the mask as a silent order to hold it there. He moved down to cut the rope at her ankle. With she kat in his arms, he gave a strong kick, propelling them both to the surface.
Two heads broke through the water. Tawny sputtered and coughed up liquid.
"Razor," was all she managed to say, her thin arms around his neck.
She was so weak, Razor had to swim for both of them.
The Turbokat hovered nearby, only a few feet from the lake's surface. T-Bone appeared from the open belly as Razor swam them both over. T-Bone gently lifted Tawny's weakened form into the jet as Razor climbed in.
"I'll keep an eye on her buddy," Razor said as he held the weak form. "You go get that slimeball."
"Roger," T-Bone growled as he climbed back up to the cockpit.
The jet surged forward. Razor held the trembling body close, brushing matted hair out of her face.
Tawny coughed and weakly opened her golden eyes. "You were the last kats I ever expected to see."
"We had an unexpected visitor inform us you could use some assistance."
The she kat sighed softly. "Stone. He never let's me down."
Razor felt an unexpected surge of emotion at her gentle smile. Was that jealousy he felt?
Above, T-Bone had all sensors on full alert. Katolinni's boat had now broken for open water. He probably hoped to get lost amongst the expanse of the ocean and disappear into the darkness, but he didn't know the Turbokat. T-Bone didn't need the light of day to search for the fleeing mobster. His scanners and the dimentional radar showed him everything from the boats on the surface to the fish below. A fleeing speedboat in the middle of the night was easy to pick up.
The the Turbokat raced toward its prey, catching up within seconds. The two kats aboard, despite their last failed attempt, fired upon the jet again until all their bullets ran out. A massive claw extended from the Turbokat's belly. Like picking up a toy out of a claw machine, the boat was captured and lifted into the air. The two startled kats cried out and crouched to the floor as they were lifted high above the water, back toward the smoking mansion.
By then, Razor had climbed up into his seat, Tawny curled up in his lab. Her head rested on his shoulder, bridge of her nose pressed against his neck. She looked exhausted and a bit green at the gills. T-Bone only spared her a quick glance, he still had work to do.
Flying over the Katalonni estate, several emergency vehicles were now on sight. Firefighters swarmed into the home while police units covered the grounds, their red and blue lights flickering. A few black, unmarked vehicles were parked as well. Well dressed federal agents surveyed the scene from afar.
All kats gazed skyward as the Turbokat appeared out of the inky blackness of night. It hovered over an expensive sports car parked right up front.
"No! Not my car!" Tony cried.
The boat was unceremoniously dropped onto the vehicle, crunching and shattering under the weight.
"That should keep all the officials busy," T-Bone announced. "I hope they like my present."
"I hope it's enough to keep them off our tails for a while," Razor said quietly. He gazed down to the she kat in his arms. "We need to get you to a hospital."
"No," she immediately protested. "I don't need one, I'll be fine. Just take me home. Please."
Razor sighed and looked to his partner. The two understood. How many times had they dragged themselves home instead of getting medical aid? It was another part that came with the mask, that came with their life style.
T-Bone quietly rotated the jet and took off into the sky.
Neither pilot had been to the Furfax estate before, but they located it easily enough with the help of their GPS. The mansion, while still large, wasn't quite as ostentatious as the one they had recently damaged. The building was beautiful, but simple with ample gardens and trees dotting the property. T-Bone landed the jet behind the house and Razor carried Tawny inside.
Though clearly exhausted, she managed to give him directions to her bedroom; a very modest area, unlike the rest of the mansion. Tawny seemed to have passed out by the time Razor lay her in bed. The two pilots stood there, watching her while she slept.
"We should probably get those wet clothes off her," T-Bone stated.
"Yeah," Razor agreed.
Neither SWAT Kat moved to touch her. They weren't entirely sure what was the proper protocol for touching sleeping she kats.
Tawny groaned and rolled herself in the thick bedding, burrowing until just the top of her head could be seen. The pilots decided that would be good enough for now. It was the middle of summer after all. And, with the owner being gone for several months, the house was rather warm without air conditioning. At least she wasn't going to freeze.
"I'm going to check out the house," T-Bone said.
"Really?" Razor demanded.
"I'm not trying to nose around, I want to keep an eye out, make sure no one comes to bother us tonight."
Razor eventually nodded. "Sounds like a good idea."
It was dark inside her bedroom when Tawny stirred. Despite her exhaustion, her eyes flew open as her stomach roiled. On drunken limbs, she stumbled from bed, clamoring for the bathroom. In the corner of her eye, she took note of a figure sitting in her reading chair. She couldn't process much more, pawing for the door frame to catch her balance. She didn't even flick on the lights before jerking up the toilet lid and heaving.
The bile burned as her stomach rejected all its contents. There wasn't much to reject, she hadn't eaten in almost 24 hours. The drugs made her sick; the truth serum Katolinni's boys gave her in order to find out what she knew. Her head spun as she thought about her time below the mansion; tied up, beaten, wondering if that night would be her last. Her stomach lurched and she heaved again.
As she spit out the acrid, filmy substance, she became aware someone was standing behind her. At a glance she saw thin legs and dark blue material.
"Mouth wash," she ground out in a harsh voice, motioning weakly toward the vanity.
Razor silently opened the bathroom mirror, inspecting the contents. He handed her a bottle of blue mouth wash which was accepted gratefully. Razor watched her as she took a swig and spat that as well into the toilet. The tiny straps of her ruined dress left her shoulders and back bare. He could see all the scars that mottled the fur of her back and arms. A she kat shouldn't have such scars.
He knew his own body held much of the same. How often did he stand in front of a mirror, wondering if he would ever meet a she kat whom he dared to show all his scars. Would she ask him how he got so many? Would he have to lie to her?
Tawny closed the toilet lid with disgust and flushed. She remained there for a moment, forehead pressed against the cool porcelain. Razor crouched down to her level as she rolled her head to look at him, cheek resting tiredly on her arms. He smelled like moss and lake water, they both did. He still wore the full flight suit and mask, only the helmet has been removed. Razor didn't say a thing, just watched her with sharp eyes.
Tawny reached out for his mask. Razor allowed her to slowly pull it off his face.
"You never came to visit," she whispered.
His expression was gentle, rueful. "I'm sorry, I've been busy."
She sat up, leaning against the tub with a sigh. Her head lolled back as if she didn't have the strength to hold it up. "Thank you for coming. They would have killed me."
"Thank Agent Stone. If it weren't for him breaking protocol to tell us what happened to you, we never would have known."
Tawny chuckled weakly. "Yeah, I can't believe he did that. He could lose his job for making contact with you two. But he's so great. He's always been willing to put himself out there for me."
"Yeah, he really seems to care about you."
Tawny couldn't help but chuckle at the flatness of his tone. "Jake, he's married. He just wants to look out for me. He said I remind him of his sister." While the tom kat processed that information, Tawny ran her fingers through her hair with a sigh. "I still can't believe they blindsided me like that. I shouldn't have needed a rescue in the first place. I thought my cover was perfect. I don't know what I did wrong."
"It wasn't you," Jake said. "Stone told us someone found out the real Lola was still in jail. They knew you were an impostor."
"Well at least it's over now. I don't want to wear another pair of stilettos as long as I live."
By now, Jake was sitting on the floor as well, leaning against the counter. "I like you better this way; your face expressive, your eyes alive. I keep wondering which one is the real you. You were like two different kats."
"Black Kat isn't real, Jake. She's just a farce, a character. It's not who I am."
"Neither was it you the last time I saw Tawny Furfax," Jake insisted. "I know that kat, too, is just a mask, a front. A part you play. You can be your real self with me and with Chance. I know he'd like that."
She smiled at him, sad and then grateful. She nodded slowly and the two sat in companionable silence.
"Is it just me, or is it sweltering in here?" Tawny then spoke. "Do I have a fever or something?"
"No, the AC's off."
"Can you go turn it on? There should be a control panel just down the hall."
Jake stood to grant the request, more than happy to get some cool air into the stagnant room. He located a glowing panel at the opposite end of a long hallway. After a second of looking over the buttons, he figured out how to turn it on and soon blissfully cool air was piped into the house.
By the time he returned to the bedroom, Tawny had slipped into a long T-shirt, her ruined dress discarded on the floor. She turned when Jake approached, stepping forward to meet him. They locked eyes in the darkness.
"This suit smells rancid," Tawny said quietly as she fiddled with Jake's zipper.
He allowed her to unzip his suit, shrugging it off his shoulders until the top half was hanging from his waist. He wore a white wife beater underneath. Tawny gingerly touched the material at his waist, it was still damp. She swayed a little and Jake held her shoulders to steady her.
"You need sleep," he told her gently.
She leaned closer to him. Jake could feel her breath on his fur. When he made no further move, she let out a long, soft breath and turned toward the bed. She was exhausted, her balance still affected. Tawny practically tumbled onto the mattress. To her wide-eyed surprise, Jake followed her. He kicked off the rest of his fight suit as he climbed into bed in just a shirt and boxers.
Tawny lay on her pillow, suddenly timid with arms folded against her chest. Jake tucked one arm under his head while the other pulled her next to him. Her head settled on his shoulder, one paw tentatively on his stomach. Lulled by his heartbeat, she quickly succumbed to her fatigue and drifted off, feeling safe for the first time in a very long time.
In the darkened doorway, a large figure lurked, eyes shining and whiskers twitching. He was lured upstairs when the cool air had finally been activated. Mask removed and suit hanging around his sweaty waist, he silently watched the slumbering kats. With the flick of an ear and a smirk, Chance quietly padded back downstairs.
Tawny woke up alone; it was still dark outside. She groaned at not being able to sleep until daylight. At least the house was cooler now. Retrieving a pair of flannel pants, she padded downstairs. The shadowed house was still the same, no matter how many nights she had been gone, no matter how much life-threatening craziness she got herself into.
The sky was clear where it had been overcast earlier. The nearly full moon shone through her large picture windows, throwing squares of illumination across the hallway. In her back yard, she saw the Turbokat shining in the moonlight.
At being reminded of her guests, she perked up her ears for any sound of movement. She followed the low murmurs of voices to the brightly lit kitchen where Jake and Chance sat at her table playing cards. Milk cans and chips were stationed around them.
Chance was facing the doorway and noticed her first. "Well look who's finally up." Both of them were dressed in street clothes and looking far fresher than she felt.
"Hey guys," she said in a scratchy voice. Her hair stuck up around her face in all angles and she tried fruitlessly to tame it. "I'm glad you found something to eat. I'm afraid I don't have much to offer right now."
"Don't worry about it," Chance said, taking a sip of milk, "we went shopping."
"You did?" She blinked at him. Glancing at the clock, it said 4AM. "How long have I been sleeping?"
"Over 24 hours."
Tawny leaned against the counter in bewilderment. "I've been out a whole day? Wh... why are you guys still here? The jet's just sitting in my backyard."
Chance stood and offered his chair. "Sit down and finish my hand. I'm going to make you an omelet."
She sat obediently, expression still blank. "But... it's the middle of the night."
"Never too late or too early for breakfast," Chance insisted as he pulled eggs from the fridge.
As food simmered on the pan, Tawny's gaze eventually wandered over to Jake. The tom kat had set his cards down, watching her expectantly.
"I'm sorry you guys got involved in this," she apologized. "I'm sorry you had feds telling you what they knew. It's a horrible feeling, isn't it? To know that faceless kats out there know your secret. That they can end it all at any time. You don't deserve to live in their shadow like that."
"You mean like you have to?" Chance shot from the oven.
"Well technically that doesn't change anything," Jake said. "They've known who we are for a while. Now we just know that they know."
Tawny grew quiet and the rest of the kitchen with her. When steaming food was produced, she ate with relish. It had been two days since she had any nourishment. She was starving. Once sated, she excused herself to shower. Her fur was matted and filthy; she smelled awful. She cranked up the hot water, trying to scald the past six month's accumulated filth from her coat.
Nausea threatened to settle in as she thought about her latest mission. It was the worst one she had ever been on. As the Black Kat, she felt free. She did things her way on her own agenda. That reckless part of herself that thrived on danger was allowed to come out and play. Even if she was still been fighting for her life, she felt so free when donning the mask.
Working for the KBI was worse. Even though she liked Stone, it was suffocating to be under their thumb. They knew who she was and what she had done. Though they preferred not to call it by such an ugly name, they were blackmailing her into working for them. This time it had almost cost her life. She never wanted Chance and Jake to fall into this situation. The work they did was far more important than anything the KBI dragged her into. And she hoped they realized how important the SWAT Kats were to the world so they would be left alone.
Once cleaned and dressed, Tawny sat in front of the mirror, drying her hair. A purple bruise on her check bone was forming, her eye slightly swollen. Her body let her know about all the other damage she had incurred over the past two days.
"Why do you keep doing this to yourself?" she asked her reflection. "Is it really worth it? Aren't you tired?"
In these quiet times, Tawny often wondered about her alter ego. Sometimes it seemed she and Black Kat were not one in the same. Sometimes she would imagine what Black Kat would say to her if she were real.
Are you ready to call it quits so easy, Kitty Girl? Will you let those suits take this away from you?
I did this to keep myself safe and see that my family saw justice, she reminded herself. Bombay's gone now, it's over. I don't have to fight for it any more.
Then why did you put the mask back on when you came home? Why were you still hunting bad guys?
Tawny paused. Why did she continue to moonlight as Black Kat? Why couldn't she give up the streets? Why couldn't she give up the rush?
Because you love the rush. You love the excitement, the challenge. And you love protecting those who can't protect themselves.
Tawny Furfax was merely the first of many whose life had been saved by Black Kat. She would continue to save lives if the stupid KBI would just leave her alone.
They need you more than you need them. They threaten to expose you, but they won't. Imagine the public outrage when they stick you at the top of every villain's hit list. The public won't stand for it. Not to mention they'll lose that fat contract for all those toys you're making for them. Don't you see Kitty-Girl? You have the upper hand.
"I do!" Tawny announced out loud, surprise in her voice. "Especially since-" She glanced behind her to the doorway, as if that alone provided her a full view of her house and all within. She couldn't help but grin as she thought of the other kats somewhere downstairs. Those beautiful pilots had saved her again.
She found the two toms playing around in her gym room, sparing on the practice mats and none too seriously. It seemed this latest mission had interrupted everyone's sleep schedules. Tawny took a few minutes to watch them play. It was nice to hear voices, life, inside her big empty house. When the sun rose again, she had no doubt that this time they would leave. Perhaps for good. Though their worlds were similar, they were still very far apart.
Jack and Chance stopped tussling like kittens. Good humor shone in their eyes when they looked at her. Her heart grew even sadder to see them go.
"Join me on the roof?" She had wine glasses and a bottle of expensive cream in her paws.
The two pilots looked at each other then followed her lead.
They settled together on the roof of the mansion, overlooking the vast gardens. The Turbokat nested among the foliage like a bird. The toms sat on either side of her, sipping their glasses and watching the sky.
"Don't you think it's weird that we both ended up being costume vigilantes?" Chance asked out of the blue.
Tawny laughed right out. "Yeah, I've wondered about that. Maybe something in the water? Or all those Kat Kommando comics we read as kittens? You two had far more altruistic motives than I."
"No," Chance argued, staring down at his jet. "For us, it was about our egos. Of course we wanted to save lives, that's why we became Enforcers in the first place; but the driving force for the SWAT Kats at the beginning was getting back at Feral for firing us. We wanted to show him how much better we were. We wanted to make him look like a fool. Everything else came secondary."
"At least back then," Jake put in with a sip of his glass. "Now it's about the race, trying to stay one step ahead of the big nasties that the Enforcers can't handle. Now now number one is keeping the city safe." He added with a smirk, "pissing off Feral is just a bonus."
Tawny laughed aloud. "Perhaps you don't see eye to eye with your commander, but that kat is still one of the best at what he does. He's uncorrupted which is not something a lot of folks with authority out here can boast." She gave a thoughtful pause. "And really, without Feral doing what he did to you, there would never be any SWAT Kats. And you two would have never known just how far you could go."
"Well they do say necessity is the soul of invention," Jake countered lightly, though his expression was reflective as he mulled that thought over.
"Feral would shed himself bald if he knew he was the cause of the SWAT Kats," Chance chuckled before downing his glass. "So can you tell me why it is we haven't seen a single fed since we got here? I'm pretty sure they know where we are."
"They won't come while you're still here," Tawny said. "They're afraid of you."
"But they already know who we are," Jake argued. "They're the ones holding all the cards. They could arrest us any time they wanted."
"They could," she agreed, "but they know better. Jake and Chance are normal citizens, subject to the same laws as everyone else. But Razor and T-Bone are something more. They are icons; a warning to all villainy that evil will not go unpunished. To put you two away, whether publicly or privately, would cause chaos. And they know it."
Jake nudged her shoulder. "And where does Black Kat fit in all this?"
She allowed herself to lean against him ever so slightly. "She's still figuring that out. But you guys coming to my rescue may be a game changer."
"We just told them you're under our protection- a fellow masked kat who has our approval, huh?" Chance said.
She smirked at him. "Something like that. It's at least going to keep them off my back for a while as they try to figure out how to react to this new development." Maybe that was Stone's plan all along.
Tawny leaned back on her palms, watching the first warm glow of sunlight spreading over her estate. Then she gazed heavenward, to where the lights were still trying to twinkle in the fading blue.
"Who knows, maybe they're watching us right now with their satellites. They don't know what to do with us, but they can't leave us alone either. Those bastards up there may be able to see who we are, but they don't know what it's like to put on the mask."
Chance filled his glass a second time and raised it to the air. "To the mask. May we all be in it for the long haul."
"I can drink to that," Jake agreed. "Never regretted a day of it."
Tawny was hesitant for a moment, then raised her glass. "Neither have I." The other two glasses clanked against hers. "To the mask."
Author's note: Thank you to everyone for reading. Especially those who left comments, I appreciate the support. This was a very VERY abridged version of the story I wanted to tell. I had to write it this way or it never would have happened at all. Thanks for joining me on this adventure. I have been such a fan of the show for years and years. It was so much fun to write about these characters again.
I do have an idea for a sequel. Hopefully something at a slower pace without all the boring back story getting the way. However, it may be a while until I get to it. There are other current projects I would like to finish first. Thank you again everyone! I hope to see you again at the next adventure!