(Wow, I can't believe the kind of attention this is getting. Well, here's the next chapter. Disclaimer: I do not own SWAT Kats, Hanna-Barbera does. The plot and the OC are mine. A'ight then, read on and enjoy.)
By A Thread
Chapter 3: Weekend Warriors
*Megakat City; outer southwest district*
Sarah stood staring across the street, listening to her stomach rumble, and cursing herself for being an idiot for what must have been the hundredth time that day.
She had made it out of the forest after about ten minutes of jogging and was able to slip between two backyard fences that were only a foot apart. Just as her bare feet touched the paved sidewalk, a black jet with red markings had flown overhead in the direction Sarah had just run from. Not much later, the same jet had flown back the way it came before banking sharply to the west.
Or, at least, what Sarah assumed to be west.
In any case, it confirmed that someone might already be searching for her. Sarah didn't dare look anyone in the eye for a solid half-hour after that.
Even when she reached the inner city limits, she didn't dare ask for directions to any place. Mercifully, there was no language barrier for her to overcome. Most everything she heard or saw written was in English. Sarah thanked her lucky stars for that, knowing the odds of this were astronomically thin. If she had needed to learn a whole new language, the jig would have been up.
Once Sarah managed to get over the constant urge to dig a foxhole and bury her head, she actually started to take in the sights. The downtown district that she found herself in looked historical with old red-brick buildings on either side of the street. Old-fashioned-looking lampposts lined the roads at the edges of the sidewalks. Storefronts sported glass windows painted with each shop's name while the city's denizens hustled to get started on their weekend. Sarah had come across a newspaper stand and had read the date, so she knew that today was Saturday, September 27th, 2013.
The people were the most interesting part to Sarah. Everyone was the same kind of cat-creature she was, but they came in many sizes, shapes, and colors. Yet, while they were so different, they acted almost identically to the humans in her home dimension. Despite the astounding similarities, Sarah still felt a big sense of culture-shock. Her wide eyes drank in everything there was to see like a little kid who'd wandered off into the candy aisle by herself.
It was a while before Sarah noticed that she was getting odd looks from a few cat-people. All of a sudden, the buffer zone that had formed between her and reality evaporated. Sarah had to force herself not to panic. While she didn't flat out run away, Sarah's footsteps were almost a jog as she turned from the cat-people that were ogling her and kept on walking. When she calmed down again, she shook her head at herself in reproach.
Get it together, Sarah. You're supposed to be smart, so act like it. Step one is 'Don't get caught.'
That had been around 8:30 in the morning. It was now noon, and Sarah had spent that time wandering the city. The pain that had subsided from her head seemed to be slowly transferring itself to the foot that had been snared, making her wish for her customized Yamaha R6 sport bike. Thankfully, no one appeared to notice her shoeless state since roughly half the cat-people she saw apparently liked going barefoot. She had stayed hydrated by getting water from public fountains, but her stomach had been kicking up a constant fuss over the last hour. Sarah was still trying to figure out how in the hell she was supposed to go about getting lunch.
On a whim, Sarah stopped in front of a window that looked into a retro diner. The place was like a throwback to the 1950's, but with cat-people instead of humans. A dessert carousel stood at the far end of the counter, and Sarah gazed longingly at a giant crème puff on the top shelf.
Her stomach growled longingly, too. Sarah pressed a hand to her abdomen, but she knew there was nothing she could do about it. Any money she may have had in her wallet wouldn't do her an ounce of good in this place.
As she was about to turn away, Sarah actually saw her reflection in the glass. For a moment, she stood frozen in place as her new appearance washed through her mind.
Her face was definitely cat-like, alright. The whiskers alone sold that much, though they weren't particularly long. She had deep coffee-brown fur all over while orange-gold curved stripes bedecked almost every part of her. Her long, pointed ears were brown and rimmed with orange-gold. She had six stripes on each arm and two on either side of her neck. Two thick stripes cut swathes of color through the fur on her cheeks, and her eyebrows were also the same orange-gold as her stripes. She had an orange-gold patch around her mouth and chin that ended at the corners of her shell-pink nose, and there was a stripe that covered the top of her nose and tapered to a point between her eyes.
The eye color was the only part of herself that Sarah recognized, although the eyes themselves were still alien to her: jade green with deep black vertical slits for pupils. Her eyes appeared even brighter because of the dark color of her fur and the natural black lining around them.
Her eyes were currently being hooded somewhat by her piecey bangs. Sarah's straight hair was still the same shade of brown it had been before, a bit darker than her fur was, but now it was highlighted with thick streaks of orange-gold.
Even though it was strange, it was also kind of pretty. Sarah shrugged to herself. I could have ended up looking a lot worse, all things considered.
Sarah finally turned away to focus on her surroundings once more. There wasn't much that was different on this block other than a building with a neon-yellow sign proclaiming it as Hal's Pawn Shop. Out of habit, she tucked her thumbs into her front pants-pockets. When the sensitive pad of her thumb brushed a metal band, Sarah frowned in confusion and fished out the object with her fingers.
She found herself staring at a gold ring set with a 5-carat emerald and studded with six small diamonds. It was a ring she had owned for a year or so, but she didn't wear it very often. Sarah was struck dumb for a second before she recalled that she had worn this ring to work and slipped it into her pocket to wash her hands after lunch the day before.
Up until this very moment, Sarah had completely forgotten about it. Now her stare migrated to the pawn shop across the street, and she saw that Hal—or whoever ran the shop—dealt in high-end goods and cash. The solution to many of Sarah's problems was literally right there in front of her, painfully obvious.
Sarah clenched her fist around the ring, closed her eyes, and smacked herself in the forehead. Internally, she was berating her slackened awareness in all three foreign languages she knew as well as some choice words in English. Then she took a deep breath to calm herself, opened her eyes, and used the crosswalk to get to the pawn shop.
The little bell on the door jangled when Sarah entered the shop. It caused the gray-furred cat-person behind the counter on the right to look up from his comic book. There was a superhero of some kind on the cover.
"Welcome to Hal's Pawn Shop. I'm Hal's brother, Hank. How can I help you today?" The greeting was professional and polite.
Sarah strode up to the counter with her most winning smile and told Hank, "I'd like to sell this ring, please." She held up the ring, and Hank set down his comic book to get a closer look at it.
As he took the ring from her, he reached for something behind the counter and donned a pair of jeweler's glasses. While Hank studied the ring, he asked in a smooth bass voice, "So, why are you looking to sell this, if you don't mind me asking?"
Sarah stared blankly for half a second before replying, "I'm looking for a new place." That much was true.
"Oh, really?" Hank said, still studying the ring. He didn't sound suspicious. "New to Megakat City?"
It was a casual question, but it took all of Sarah's self-restraint not to grab the ring and bolt. "Umm, yeah. Brand new," she answered. Fresh off the bus from another dimension, in fact, she thought wryly.
Hank nodded and asked, "Want some friendly advice?"
Her eyebrows rose in surprise, but Sarah said, "Sure." I'll take anything I can get, at this point.
The man—or male—finally looked at her. Even through the distortion of the glasses, his yellow eyes carried a warning. "Don't buy a place anywhere in the central districts. Anyone who lives in that area winds up seeing way more action than they bargain for. The housing is cheap for a lot of reasons, and none of them are good," he said emphatically.
Sarah didn't have a clue what Hank was talking about, but his cautionary tone made her afraid to ask. Instead, she forced a smile and chirped, "Well, I never liked being in the middle of things, anyway."
That response seemed good enough for Hank, because he flashed a toothy smile at her. He removed the glasses and announced, "I can give you fifteen-hundred dollars in cash for the ring."
Sarah grimaced slightly. Desperation aside, there was no way she was walking out of this shop with only $1,500. That ring had readily fetched $5,000 from a cheating ex-boyfriend's bank account. For all of Hank's politeness, he was still a businessman.
Still, she understood well enough that this was a pawn shop. Prices weren't set in stone here, and dickering was still considered an art in some places. Hopefully, this would be one of them.
The young engineer said, "I was hoping for something closer to $3,000."
The seasoned clerk sucked in a breath through his teeth. "Sorry, I can't go that high. What do you say we go with $1,650?"
Sarah watched him carefully as she threw out her next figure. "$2,800."
Hank gave Sarah a shrewd look. "Still can't go that high. How about $1,850?"
"$2,700," she said, deadpan and unwavering.
The gray male held his hands up in a 'Let me stop you right there' gesture. "Look, I can't go any higher than $2,100 if I want to make any kind of profit on this thing. You see what I'm saying?"
Sarah had known that his ultimatum was coming sooner or later. As she looked to the side and considered the offer, a jacket hanging nearby caught Sarah's eye. She held up a finger and said, "Hold on to that figure for moment, will you?" Without waiting for an answer, she walked over to the jacket and slipped it off the hanger. It looked to be about her size, and it was clearly designed to be worn on a motorcycle. It was black leather, well-worn, soft, and supple. The inside was lined with army-green mesh-weave cotton that had been sewn up and patched multiple times. Someone had clearly loved this jacket for a long time before giving it up.
Hank saw the item in her hands and gave her a sly smile. "Liking that jacket, eh?" he asked.
In response, Sarah slid her arms into the jacket and zipped it up. It was a little long on her, but otherwise it fit like a glove. When she finished her evaluation, Sarah looked up at Hank with a satisfied smirk and answered his question. "Very much so. In fact, I'd be willing to call it $2,000 even on the ring if you include this jacket in the deal," she said with a note of confidence in her voice.
To his credit, Hank at least pretended to think it over hard before flashing another one of his grins at her. "Deal," he proclaimed.
He held out his paw, and Sarah walked up and shook it.
Thirty minutes and an order of chicken fingers later, Sarah sat on one of the revolving stools in the diner enjoying her fudge-drizzled giant crème puff one delectable spoonful at a time.
After picking up any necessities at a convenience store, Sarah purchased a newspaper from a local newsstand and ventured into the cleverly-named Wired Up internet café. As soon as she had walked in, she had ordered a large cup of black coffee from the menu above the counter and took possession of a computer near the back corner. Sarah set up a free online email account while she waited for her coffee. When that was done, she flipped to the local advertisement section, pulled up a digital map of the city, and began combing through the housing and work ads.
It was getting late in the evening. Sarah had sat in front of a desktop computer for the last few hours and was on her third cup of coffee for the evening. It was considerably awkward to suddenly be typing with eight fingers instead of ten, but Sarah pulled it off once she got a little practice. Despite all that effort, she was still nowhere close to finding somewhere remotely suitable to live. It turned out that the only places she could currently afford in Megakat City were mostly in the central districts; the one place she had been warned off of.
Go freaking figure.
Sarah stole a glance at the window only to see that the sunlight was slowly disappearing. Another glance at the clock told the young engineer that it was almost 7:00.
Damn it, I'm not going to be able to do much else tonight, she thought, trying to stifle a sudden urge to yawn. Deciding to call it a day, Sarah searched for a nearby motel and shut off the computer once she had written down the address on a piece of scrap paper. After stuffing her various notes and papers into her new orange backpack, Sarah drained the last of her coffee and paid at the counter before exiting.
The motel was only two blocks away, but Sarah still didn't feel terribly comfortable walking there now that the sky was turning dark and the street was mostly empty. However, nightfall brought out another surprising development for Sarah.
She had used night-vision a couple times before while playing paintball one weekend with some college friends, but it was nothing compared to what her eyes were doing now. Everything that should have been encased in shadow was clearly visible to her and highlighted in golden green. It was an interesting effect, and while a few of the colors weren't as vivid as before, Sarah was amazed at just how many details she could make out. It was almost like her own eyes had become self-luminescent, opening up a whole different realm of sensation to her. Even as tired as she was, Sarah couldn't help but stare at everything around her like she had earlier that day.
She was still a full block away from the motel when she heard something to make her ear twitch, but Sarah still wasn't used to the heightened senses. She wasn't paying enough attention to recognize the sound of running footsteps until they were right behind her.
Reflexively, she spun around, but something had already grabbed her shoulders and roughly yanked her off her feet.
After T-Bone and Razor had unloaded the Turbokat, they hadn't had time to really examine the damaged robotics. As soon as they had changed out of their g-suits, their normal work-a-day lives had kicked up a fresh wave of drudgery.
T-Bone and Razor, now Chance Furlong and Jake Clawson, had wound up spending most of their day dealing with busted radiators and a gummed-up valve system. That had been a nightmare. Now the two toms were just content to drop off the custom parts Jake had made and get some dinner.
They were on their way out the door of the motorcycle shop that had commissioned the parts when Chance asked, "Hey, Jake, what do you feel like eating?"
The cinnamon-furred tom looked over to his partner and shrugged. "I'm not sure," he answered. "How about you?"
Chance thought it over for a second as he leaned his hands on their tow-truck. "I'm craving some beef," the tabby proclaimed before asking, "Wanna do cheeseburgers, buddy?"
Jake couldn't help but smirk at his friend's hopeful expression. There weren't many decent burger joints open this late, but then one place actually did come to mind. "You know, I think Olly's is still open. We could go there," Jake suggested.
Chance's resulting grin was answer enough. They were about to climb into the truck when a scream rang out.
"NOOO! HELP MEEE!"
Both toms snapped their heads towards the sound. It was a she-kat screaming, and she sounded like she was just around the corner from where Jake and Chance stood.
The two partners wasted no time and sprinted for the source of the scream.
"HELP MEEE!" Sarah screamed like a banshee, praying for someone to hear her.
Whoever had grabbed her first was holding her up by the straps of her backpack. That person had apparently brought along a buddy, because Sarah was abruptly picked up by her ankles as well. Every worst case scenario had rushed through her mind in that second, so she lashed out with everything she had while still holding on to her backpack. Adrenaline was making everything vividly clear.
The thug behind her grunted something unintelligible, but Sarah just kept kicking and screaming. The guy behind her suddenly yelled, "Let go of the bag, lady!"
In that instant, with two thugs playing tug-o'-war with her body, something in Sarah snapped. Her fear and anger were doused with liquid nitrogen and were replaced with a hyper-awareness she had never experienced before.
In a cold, intense voice, Sarah snapped, "No! You let go of me!" She released one strap of her backpack to slash at the air behind her with her claws. They connected with something soft then tore through something harder with a wet ripping noise. The guy behind her howled in pain and let her drop to the pavement. Sarah's landing was cushioned by her backpack, and she used her new leverage to aim a solid kick at the other guy's chest. Even in her bare feet, it caused the breath to whoosh out of him.
The second her feet were loose, Sarah scrambled into a run down the street. Her sense of direction was whacked, but she didn't care. Right now, she just wanted to get as far away from here as quick as she could.
However, it wasn't going to be that easy.
As soon as Sarah passed the next alley, she found her path blocked by five more kats. By the looks of them in their dark-red hoodies, they were part of the same gang as the two toms she was trying to escape. Sarah halted her retreat and began backing up. As the five toms flanked her, she realized too late that she had backed herself into a dead-end alley.
Sarah retreated even further into the alley, breathing hard. As she tried to formulate a way out, her bare foot nudged something metallic. Looking down, she saw a two-foot-long metal pipe. Immediately, she picked it up, brandishing it like a baseball bat before the five toms in front of her.
Sarah then growled—actually growled, like an animal—at the gangsters in front of her. The sound emanated low in her throat and rumbled up through her bared fangs. She glared defiantly as the gangsters paused at the mouth of the alley. At this point, she had already lost most everything that mattered to her. There was no way she was going down now without a fight.
"Who wants some?" she taunted in a low voice. "Huh? Who's up for a world of hurt?" Sarah was beyond any and all hope of victory, but she would be damned if she let these punks off easy.
All of a sudden, two shadows appeared behind the five gangsters trapping her in the alley. Faster than she could blink, the newcomers had knocked three of the five gangsters out cold on the pavement with some choice punches and a couple of roundhouse kicks. At the end of it, each one was holding a struggling punk by the scruff of the neck.
"Sounds like fun. Mind if we crash the party?" asked the taller one in a deep voice.
An unseen signal passed between the two newcomers, and they threw their captives into a synchronized head-butt. It knocked the last two gangsters out cold, and they crumpled to the pavement.
Sarah stood staring at her would-be saviors for a good long minute before she finally lowered the pipe. It was another moment before she could speak coherently, and the first words out of her mouth were, "Wow, that was fast."
The smaller one seemed to smirk and spoke up, "Thanks. We aim to impress." The larger one flexes his muscular arms as if in emphasis.
Sarah drops the pipe and steps forward to the mouth of the alley. She's still blinking in shock as she replies, "It's me who should be thanking you two right now, so…thanks for saving my ass."
"Yeah, well," the larger one says, "five against one seemed like pretty stiff odds." In the glow of the streetlight, Sarah is able to make out the brown stripes on his cream-colored fur.
The smaller one, who has cinnamon fur, interjects, "Not to say anything against your abilities, that is." He cast a glance towards the corner where Sarah had been attacked and added, "The two you handled certainly don't look like they're going to be bothering anyone for a while."
The praise actually made Sarah blush slightly.
The larger of the two spoke up again. "We were just about to take off when we heard you screaming, so we came to investigate." Then he grinned and said, "You looked ready to kick some tail." There was almost an undercurrent of admiration in the tom's tone.
Sarah smiled brightly at her two rescuers, then she realizes something and mentally kicks herself for it. "Despite all of this, where are my manners?" she asks rhetorically. As she hold out a paw to the two toms, she introduces herself. "My name is Sarah Majkowski. What are yours?"
The smaller, cinnamon-furred one takes it first and answers, "My name is Jake Clawson." He points a thumb at his friend and continues, "This is my buddy, Chance Furlong."
Chance takes Sarah's hand in a gentle grip and shakes it lightly. "Pleased to meet you, Sarah," he says politely.
Sarah finds herself unconsciously smiling at the two males as she says to them, "The pleasure's all mine, Jake and Chance."
(Okay, so that is Chapter 3. If you find anything desperately wrong with the last one-and-a-half sections, please keep in mind that I typed it while nursing a very good buzz and tell me in a review so I can fix it in the near future. Otherwise, I hope you enjoyed this installment. If I haven't done this before, my thanks to everyone who has reviewed, followed, and faved thus far. I hope you keep enjoying the story and stick around for the next part which should be relatively soon.
Edit: Went back and made some tweaks. Just a couple details, but they were seriously bugging me.)