FOR LOVE OF A PRINCESS
CHAPTER 1: Found
A/N: An old story I started years ago but never went anywhere with it. Though it might sound like a few of my other gender bender stories, I still wanted to go ahead and write it. My slash fans won't like this but my few het ones will and it's still a Feral/T-Bone piece.
Four powerful and oddly dressed strangers arrived outside Megakat City Hall without fanfare and by no apparent means of transportation, during the waning days of a very hot summer. Despite their strange attire and formidable size, the foursome somehow managed to draw no attention by anyone streaming in and out of the fine edifice. Not even the plethora of surveillance cameras and eagle-eyed security officers seemed to see the visitors as they swept hurriedly through the main doors, wended easily through the throng of Kats going about their business, passed the busy elevators, taking the emergency stairs on their way up to the lofty offices of the Mayor and his deputy.
Up in the fancy office of his honor the mayor, Manx's personal secretary was already hard at work at her desk typing up a report when the strangers entered through the open door and took a stance before her desk, standing in a row.
She blinked at them in nervous surprise as the visitors were rather intimidating looking and moved with eerie silence. The four males or females? The cloaks made it hard to tell as the material covered their impressively tall, broad shouldered bodies from head to nearly their feet. The cloaks were bronze colored and seemed to be made of some heavy fabric. Deep hoods hid their features and only a small piece of what were apparently gold silky pants peeked from the bottom of the cloaks. They all wore soft brown boots.
When one of them turned their head a little, she was able to just see a face of dark brown fur that appeared thick and plush, a mouth with full lips and shockingly long fangs that peeked out either side of it's mouth, but it was the eyes that captured her attention. Three rings of color circled the pupils, each ring a different hue of gold. Gold was a rare color among Kat kind and she knew of no one with rings like this. Added to that oddness was the encircling, thick black ring around each eye ... as if someone had drawn it with a black marker, but she could tell it was part of their fur pattern. She, personally, knew of only one Kat with gold eyes and a dark line around them ... the Chief Enforcer, and, come to think of it, he also was as large and broad as these guys. Doubtful he knew them though. So who were these strange people and what did they want?
She realized she'd never get an answer if she didn't stop staring at them. Shaking herself for being rude, she offered her strange visitors a bright, professional smile and asked, "May I help you?"
"We respectfully require the attention of your leader on a matter most urgent," the one in the center requested, his voice deep, laced with an unfamiliar accent that was rather pleasant to the ear.
"I'm sorry but Mayor Manx is a very busy person so an appointment is necessary to see him. Do you have one?"
She sighed. The Mayor was in council chambers for the regular semi-annual budget meeting so wouldn't be in for another hour, however, she got the feeling that information wouldn't be received very well but unless they were willing to see Ms. Briggs, there was nothing else she could do. Offering them an apologetic smile she said, "I truly am sorry but Mayor Manx is in a meeting ..."
Their apparent spokesperson interrupted her, his manner cold and unfriendly. "Our mission is dire and time is urgent! Any delay will have serious consequences. Our King was most insistent that we take care of this matter expeditiously and return."
She blinked again. Their leader was a King? But I don't recall any kingdom with people like these coming to call. Though he seems to be well educated, his manner of speech is antiquated, but no matter how important the issue the fact remains the mayor simply isn't available, soo...
"I'm truly sorry, sir, but he's unavailable for at least another hour or so. Do you wish to wait?"
The four traded looks then the spokesperson turned back to her. "We are supposed to treat with your leader but if he has a deputy, they will suffice so no more time is lost."
"Well the Deputy Mayor is in …." The secretary began before being cut off again.
"Excellent, we will speak with them."
It felt like this person really didn't like talking to her even though she had been unfailingly polite. Not taking offense, she rose from her desk. "I'll see if they have time for you, sir. Please wait here." She walked briskly through an open doorway located to the left of her desk. Passing through, she wisely shut the door behind her.
"Ms. Briggs? There are four visitors here to see Mayor Manx. They say they are from some kingdom, though they didn't say what one. They are really odd especially their eyes, manner of dress, and speech. They're not very friendly and are in some hurry to speak to someone in authority. With the Mayor still in council chambers, I'm afraid you're it."
Calico Briggs, the Deputy Mayor of Megakat City, eyed the secretary with mild annoyance. As usual, she was desktop deep in reports but with the mayor out she had no choice but to deal with the visitors.
Sighing, she rose from her seat. "Fine, I'll take care of them." The secretary looked relieved and allowed the deputy to precede her back to the visitor's area.
It was Callie's turn to be taken aback at the sight of the strangers. Not liking the odd vibe she was getting from them and wishing she had a can of mace right now, she halted a precautionary distance from the visitors then offered them a professional smile.
"Good day and welcome to Megakat City. I'm sorry Mayor Manx is unavailable but I'm his deputy so is there something I might be able to do for you?"
Immediately, the four stiffened and eyed her with a mixed reaction of shock, distaste and consternation. If she was reading their body language right, she'd apparently offended them in some way but how?
As if unwilling to do so, the spokesperson said stiffly, "Excuse me, mistress, but there must be some mistake. We asked to speak with someone in authority not a female. The matter is urgent and for a male's ears only."
Callie's eyebrows rose in annoyed anger and her expression turned frosty. Oh joy! Not only do they look like something from the past but they hold outdated ideas of gender roles too.
Her voice tight but still cordial, she said, "As you seemed to be unfamiliar with our city's power structure and gender roles, allow me to instruct you. Here females can and do hold positions of authority. As you were already told, I am the mayor's deputy and as such have the full authority to speak with and handle whatever it is you need taken care of. If you cannot set aside your prejudices and deal with me then I'm sorry to say you will have to wait until his honor returns as there is no one else for you to speak with."
She smugly congratulated herself in putting the person in their place while remaining polite …. mustn't insult the visitors even if they had been rude to her, then sucked in her breath in shocked surprise when she got a peek of the speaker's face. She quickly hid her reaction. What kind of people are these? She wondered. I've never seen such a face before. Are they even Kats?
Looking like he'd eaten a lemon and even more scandalized and upset by the apparent surprise of a female in a position of power, the speaker retorted stiffly, "Be that as it may, mistress, we will not treat with females."
Barely restraining herself from rolling her eyes and bridling at the term 'mistress', Callie wasn't about to take shit from a visitor no matter how important. With a tight smile, she said firmly, "Then it looks like you'll either have to wait or return to your king with your mission incomplete."
The male's eyes flashed in anger but apparently realized he had no choice. It was obvious to her that whatever their mission was, it was important enough for the visitors to swallow their prejudice and remain to get their mission accomplished. He was about to speak but whatever he might have planned to say would never be known as the sounds of someone entering the office behind Callie could be heard.
Not certain this was a good thing or not, Callie told the visitors, "It sounds like you're in luck. That would be the Mayor now. If you'll wait a moment, I'll see if he'll receive you..." With that she left them and went through a different doorway and closed the door behind her.
Walking up to the Mayor's desk, she watched as the portly Kat took a seat behind the huge and clean-surfaced oak desk.
"Ahh, Callie, just the one I need to see. Council Kat Striger needs the latest figures on the Larks Construction Project," Manx said without preamble as he dropped a file before him.
"I'll get it for him as soon as I can, Mayor, however, right now we have a situation..." she ignored his flash of annoyance and quickly briefed him on their visitors.
Manx's expression was sour with a dash of fear at the description of just how formidable the visitors were and how odd. A coward at heart, he didn't like confrontation nor strange, deadly, things but this had to do with business or so he hoped.
"And you say they wouldn't tell you what they're here for because you're female, eh?" She nodded her head. He sighed and snorted in annoyance. "Sounds like they come from a very uncouth and out of touch place. You stay with me anyway, Callie. They will just have to accept that you have a right to be there," he said firmly, then reached over and keyed his intercom. "Alice?"
"Yes, sir?" His secretary's voice floated up from the machine.
"Send our visitors in."
Callie stepped around the desk and took a stance beside his chair.
As Manx waited, he fumed and fretted. He really hated situations like this but couldn't risk making apparently important dignitaries wait, especially if they were indeed sent here by a king, of all things. He was only aware of a few kingdoms in the world and none of them would send emissaries without requesting permission first as per protocols, so who could these people be from?
Curious as well as a bit afraid, Manx watched as four huge strangers entered. Now he was glad he was behind his heavy desk. His only other wish was for a nip of good Irish Whiskey for courage. He was confused as to why the devil they chose to hide themselves so thoroughly. Despite his trepidation though, he rose from his seat but didn't come from behind the safety of the desk.
"Welcome to Megakat City. I'm Mayor Manx. Sorry about your reception but our city is plagued by some powerful enemies that constantly threaten me so I'm sure you can understand why we're extra cautious with strangers trying to see me," he said urbanely, putting the visitors at ease and trying to soothe their anger at their initial welcome to his offices.
The lead male nodded and relaxed a bit, this expediency they understood very well. "Perfectly alright, sir, and let me hasten to assure you we mean you no harm. We are only here on the behest of our King."
"So I heard and what King might that be?" Manx asked, still on guard.
The speaker turned his shadowed face toward Ms. Briggs, a look of distaste and annoyance that the female was still in the room and showed no signs of leaving.
Normally, Manx would accommodate the quirks of visitors but these strangers made him far too nervous and he was still miffed they felt his duly chosen deputy had no place in this meeting so did something he wouldn't ordinarily do.
"As my second in command it is important that Ms. Briggs be present for whatever it is you've come to see me about as I rely on her heavily in taking care of all the work this office entails. She is a smart and very efficient person and I'm very honored to have her as my deputy. I have been given the impression females in your country are not given positions of power but that is not so here. I insist you give her the same courtesy and respect as you do me. I'm sorry if that isn't acceptable to you but this is our country, our rules and you must abide by them while you are here," he said firmly.
Callie was completely floored. Manx rarely ever said something so supportive of her since the time he'd chosen her for the position. It felt incredibly wonderful and was about time.
"Now, if you please, may I have the name of your King and why you're here?" Manx demanded, interrupting her thoughts.
Patently uncomfortable having a female at paw, the male nonetheless bowed to the necessity but showed his displeasure by snubbing Callie and directing all his attention toward Manx as he told his tale.
"Of course, sir. My apologizes. I am Lord Firelain and I have been sent by King Bodien of Glanascol, to ascertain if a rumor we've heard recently is true."
"What rumor might that be?" Manx asked, not too happy these strangers were on a hunt of some kind.
"The King's daughter, Princess Rainstar vanished some twenty years ago at the age of eighteen. The King has had his knights searching for her ever since. A possible sighting of her has reached his ear that she might be within your city."
"Oh my, a missing princess you say? Was she kidnapped?" Manx asked, surprised and shocked.
"Not that we know of as there was no ransom demands nor sign of foul play. She simply went riding one day and vanished. There were indications she may have chosen to leave on her own but no one can substantiate them. Whatever the truth, a princess cannot simply 'run away from home'. They have a duty to their kingdom and their people, but she was young and rebellious so the King felt he should give her a small amount of freedom as long as she didn't leave the boundaries of our Kingdom. Appearances seem to indicate she did just that. Without a word of warning nor keeping in contact, she simply chose to vanish. This, of course, has caused his majesty considerable worry. The years long search has understandably stressed him out. But recently, traders through our country, told our King they may have seen Princess Rainstar here in your city. So he sent us post haste to see if it were true."
"Ahh, the young can be headstrong and I can certainly understand a father's concern. By all means, we'd be happy to allow you to..." Mayor Manx began, relieved this was simply a matter of a runaway kitten, but someone else didn't agree.
Callie hadn't like what she'd heard. One didn't just run away leaving no trace without a very good reason. She wondered what the missing princess' reason might be?
"Excuse Mayor Manx, but it's been my experience that someone who hides their tracks that well has something to fear from those hunting her. Don't you think we should find out what it is before handing this princess over? That's if she is in our city in the first place," Callie cautioned.
Manx looked annoyed. "Now Callie, this is between the princess and her father. We have no right to interfere..."
"No, Callie! If their princess is indeed here, it is our responsibility to hand her over. To not do so or to interfere in any way, could cause a diplomatic incident maybe even war because we have no diplomatic ties with this Kingdom. I'm sorry but we will not get involved with what appears to be a simple parent/kitten spat," Manx said firmly, then turned to the visitors again. "Now then my good sirs, do you have some idea where your princess might be. Our city is large and it's very easy for someone to hide here, unfortunately, so I hope you have a location for her."
Callie was angry and frustrated, though she realized Manx was right and was surprised to hear him handle this correctly. That still didn't make her happy about a situation she was beginning to suspect had more to it than anyone was saying. She felt Lord Firelain wasn't telling them the whole truth of the matter for why their princess left like she did, but there was nothing she could do about it. She fumed as she listened to the Mayor railroad the unknown female into the paws of her former country Kats.
Looking pleased and relieved, Lord Firelain told the Mayor, "Indeed we can, sir. The rumor stated our missing princess may be disguised as someone of importance within your government. We merely need her to be summoned to your office so we might ascertain if this person is indeed Princess Rainstar."
"Ahhh, I see. I must say I'm not happy about someone hiding among our important katizens under false pretenses. This is very disturbing news, indeed," Manx said, frowning. "Who might this person be? I'll have them report to my office immediately."
"Before you call them, sir, I must ask a favor," Lord Firelain said, looking a bit uncomfortable.
"Oh? What kind of favor and why?" Manx asked, looking unhappy.
"Nothing difficult, sir, but it is necessary. Princess Rainstar has taken a position within your military, the Enforcers, I believe you call them. She has cleverly disguised herself as a male and is quite the formidable warrior herself if what we heard is true. We request the assistance of a pair of warriors you call the SWAT Kats..."
"What?" Manx sputtered.
"Why would you need them?" Callie asked, surprised.
Lord Firelain almost didn't answer her but realized it would only delay things so explained though he faced the mayor and continued to ignore her.
"As a member of royalty, we knights are forbidden to handle her in any way and we are fairly certain she will fight to remain here rather than return to her duty at home. We wish the SWAT Kats to intercede and help capture her carefully and safely without harming her too much. Also, we've heard she's had some interaction with them so wouldn't know this was a trap to take her until it was too late which could spare her even more trauma and pain if possible."
Callie was outraged. "You're not even going to ask her? You're taking her prisoner?" She turned to Mayor Manx, eyes flashing with fury. "Mayor Manx you can't allow this!"
Manx wasn't happy about it either but he held firm. "Callie as I already said, interference could cause a very nasty altercation between us and King Bodien. We have enough enemies of our own without borrowing new ones from outside our boundaries. And for the record, I'm not that happy about this either but my paws are tied."
Callie backed off as she realized he was right, though it burned her to admit it. An international incident was not something Megakat City could afford at this time. So as much as she hated this whole affair, she too would have to stand by and allow it to happen. However, she wasn't too sure the SWAT Kats would do it for the same reason.
"Fine! However, I doubt the SWAT Kats could be persuaded to take someone against their will. It's just not who they are and is against their principles."
Before Manx could respond, Lord Firelain jumped in. "We would prefer to keep this as calm and easy as possible but she will make it difficult. Please see it our way, sir. We have no choice. She must come home. Can these warriors be made to see that and help us?" He was loathed to be reduced to begging but if that's what it took to capture the stubborn princess, that was what he'd do. If he had a choice he would bound and gag her for all the trouble she'd caused but he liked his position as Chief Knight and much preferred to keep his head that his King would lop off should he ever treat the princess with anything less than care and consideration. So he swallowed his pride and pleaded for two costumed heroes to do what he'd rather do himself.
Callie remained unhappy but could see there would be no way around this issue. Sighing, she gave the mayor a reluctant look. "All I can do is ask them, Mayor Manx. I certainly can't force them."
"I understand, Callie. Do what you can to convince them. I want this dealt with quickly for all concerned. Dragging it out will only make it worse," Manx said, equally unhappy.
She nodded and left his office and went down the hall toward a dead end. Here was a doorway that led to a hidden stair that lead to the clock tower room above. There was another door up there that lead out onto the roof where the helicopter landing pad was.
Halting in the room where all the gears for the clock hummed and clunked above her, she pulled out a special communicator from her suit pocket. Recently, Razor had miniaturized it so it was less bulky and easier for her to keep on her person rather than in her purse.
A loud alarm went off, succeeding in getting through the roar of a car engine being tested. A small figure ran from the back of the garage and snagged the phone.
"Yes, Ms. Briggs?"
"Razor, I have a situation you're not going to like and I don't like it either but due to diplomatic reasons we have to comply. Is T-Bone nearby?"
"Yeah, just wait a minute," Jake, a small cinnamon colored tom, covered the mouthpiece firmly so she couldn't hear him then shouted for his partner. "Chance shut off the car!"
"What?" Chance, a big burly tom with sandy colored fur and stripes on his arm, shouted back, shutting off the engine to hear. Jake just waved him to come closer. Seeing his partner was on the emergency alert phone, the tabby hurried out of the car and to his friend's side.
"Okay, he's here, Ms. Briggs. What's up?" Jake asked into the phone.
Tersely and using an economy of words, Callie explained the problem and what they were needed for.
"Uh, uh! No way! We don't do things like that!" Chance was the first to object.
"Believe me, T-Bone, I don't like it either but this could cause serious repercussions with another country's government. We simply have no choice. However, you do. You can refuse but then that means this princess will have to be handled a little less gently and that too might make the King unhappy with us."
Frowning, Chance stared at his friend with a questioning eye. Covering the mouthpiece again, Jake said, "I don't like it at all, but she's right. If our help can make this Princess' capture easier and gentler we can't refuse or be guilty of causing the incident Callie and the Mayor are trying to avoid."
"I know but we have no real choice either," Jake said unhappily. Uncovering the mouthpiece, he told Callie. "Alright Ms. Briggs, we'll do it under protest. When do you want us and where?"
"Now, please, and in the Mayor's office."
Jake sighed. "Very well. Be there soon." He hung up the phone.
"Since when do we take people against their will?" Chance groused, as he moved to help Jake close their shop temporarily.
"Since now, I guess," Jake grumbled.
Soon the shop was sealed up and the two powerful males were climbing down into their secret lair beneath the garage.