(Here it is, Chapter 4 of Sarah's inter-dimensional adventure! Just letting you know that I'm not dead, and this story has not been abandoned to the wilds. Blame it on the chronic condition known as 'college'. Also, there was an epic battle with writer's block. You should have been there. Actually…no, you guys are lucky you didn't have to see it. Trust me. It got ugly.

Now, I've been asked this question thrice, so I'll put the answer in writing just so I don't wind up repeating myself. This fic is not following the SWAT Kat episodes. The beginning of this story takes place shortly after the last aired episode, "Unlikely Alloys". It gives my plot room to breathe, plus I get to keep the rest of you in suspense which I find to be considerably more fun. *smug smile*

Disclaimer: SWAT Kats belongs to Hanna-Barbera. Only the OC and the plot of this story are mine.)

By A Thread

Chapter 4: New Girl in Town

After Chance released her hand, Sarah thought for a second that her luck might be changing.

Then one of the gangsters groaned softly. Sarah's gaze snapped to the unconscious kats who were currently serving as a reminder of her recent misfortune.

She stared silently at the kats on the ground for a second then looked up at Chance and Jake. "We should probably get moving," she suggested nervously.

The two toms seemed to understand her reluctance to stick around. "Yeah, that might be best," Jake said, nodding in agreement.

"The truck is this way. We can give you a lift." Chance pointed down the street with his thumb. Sarah nodded hesitantly before falling into step with the two friends. They had only gone a few feet when Jake moved to her right side while Chance moved to her left. Jake placed a paw gently on her elbow, and that's when it clicked for Sarah that this was yet another flanking maneuver. However, this time, it felt more protective than anything else. Sarah wasn't sure how she knew that, but the light pressure on her elbow cemented the conviction that these two guys were simply looking out for her.

It was almost disorienting.

Sarah's eyebrows rose a bit in surprise when she saw the tow-truck by the corner. Even in the dim streetlights, at this distance she could read her rescuers' names emblazoned on the door. "So, you two own a garage?" Sarah asked in interest.

Chance guffawed loudly while Jake just smirked again. "We wish," the big tabby said. Sarah stared at the tabby in confusion, but he just smiled and told her, "It's a long story."

Jake patted Sarah on the shoulder. "We'll tell you some other time," he promised.

The young she-kat looked at the cinnamon tom and saw his expression was a little closed off, like he was keeping away something unpleasant. She just smiled anxiously and nodded. These two had saved her life tonight, so she wouldn't push the bounds of propriety.

Just before they reached the truck, her gaze traveled to the phone booth it was parked next to. That was when Sarah realized she still had to do something about the gangsters. "Hold on," she said, "I need to make a quick call." She darted towards the phone booth.

Jake and Chance both shot a curious look at her, and Jake asked, "What kind of call?"

Sarah turns around and smirks at him. "I'll tell you in a minute," she replied mischievously, then she slid the door shut.

Jake stared at the she-kat's back through the glass door as she slipped some coins into the machine. He couldn't help it whenever he was thinking about something. There were just some things about Sarah that intrigued him. For example, her coloration was rare in and of itself. It wasn't as though Jake had never seen a tortoiseshell, but her stripes were almost tabby-like. Even her name was unusual. It sounded Norwegian, but there were no signs of a northern heritage on this she-kat, not that it really mattered. Surnames almost always lasted longer than most family characteristics. Jake recalled that he had once known a guy named Majklawski back when he and Chance were still on the Enforcers.

But Majkowski? He wasn't so sure about that one.

The cinnamon tom scoffed inwardly at himself. I'm probably just being paranoid, as usual, he thought. Sarah's name and fur color were more likely just a case of rare coincidence.

Still…this she-kat interested him, and not in the way most she-kats did. Jake didn't usually dwell on stuff like this, but there was a spark of something in her that he couldn't put his claw on.

"So, what do you think of her?" Chance asked.

The sound of his partner's voice popped Jake's thought bubble. He looked blankly at Chance and mumbled, "Huh?"

Chance knew Jake had heard him, but he still gave his partner a long-suffering look while Jake processed the question. "Oh, uh, well…" Jake paused as he thought of his answer. "I think she's brave, or at least willing to fight when it comes down to the wire. Nervous, but that could be chalked up to stress. She's trusting, but not too much. Overall, she seems pretty nice."

The creamy tabby was nodding his head in agreement as he replied, "That's pretty much what I was thinking. But, still…"

Jake knew his partner well enough to fill in the blank. "There's just something about her, huh?"

"There is," Chance agreed. His blue eyes narrowed at Sarah's back which now leaned on the glass of the phone booth.

The two toms stood in silence for a few seconds before Chance broke it by asking, "You don't think she might be the kat from the clearing, do you?"

"I'm not willing to rule out the possibility," answered the slim tom, "but the list of suspects is still miles long."

Jake saw Chance's ears droop a little. "Yeah. What are the odds we'd end up saving the same kat we're looking for?"

The cinnamon tom was actually calculating the exact odds in his head when Sarah hung up the payphone and exited the booth. "So, I just got off the phone with the Enforcers," she announced with relish, swishing her tail happily behind her. "Those gangbangers are most likely going to spend the rest of the night in a cell."

"Good," Chance grunted, smiling a bit. The she-kat had a very smug look on her face. To be fair, a little vindictiveness on her part was allowed.

The young tortoiseshell glanced between the two of them and asked, "Are you guys ready to go?"

Jake gave her a warm smile and said, "Sure, hop in."

Sarah followed Jake to the passenger side of the truck where he politely opened the door and gestured for her to go first. Her eyebrows rose in surprise, but she smiled a little wider as she thanked him and climbed into the truck.

Once they were all buckled up, Chance turned to Sarah. "So, where do you need to go?" he asked.

The she-kat opened her mouth to reply, but her stomach answered for her when it rumbled plaintively. Sarah chuckled and looked down before sheepishly admitting, "I guess I haven't eaten in a few hours."

Chance and Jake shared a grin over her head before the big tabby bent his head to meet her eyes with his sweetest smile. "Sarah, how would you like to join us for burgers?"

The she-kat raised her head to meet his gaze and smiled. "As long as it's my treat," she answered. When Chance and Jake gave her a surprised look in response, she continued, "It's the least I can do to thank you guys." That earned a nod of agreement from both toms as Chance started the truck.

"Let's roll," he said, pulling out of the parking space. The timing couldn't have been better, because they turned the corner just as a couple of Enforcer cars could be seen wailing down the street.

"Looks like the Enforcers' response time is finally improving," Chance remarked as he glanced in the rearview mirror.

Sarah looked oddly disturbed when she turned to look back at the street corner. "If that's slow for the cops here, they'd put the police in my hometown to shame," she said.

Jake explained, "The police here have a lot more to deal with than most other cities do, or haven't you heard of Megakat City's reputation?"

Sarah shot him an odd look and replied, "Apparently, not enough."

Jake could feel his suspicions rear up, but instead he gave Sarah his signature smirk and said, "I'll give you a summary over dinner." The she-kat raised her eyebrow, but then she just shrugged. Jake figured that was her way of saying 'Okay' and left it at that as Chance continued to drive to Olly's.

It took nearly ten minutes to get to their destination during which Sarah told Jake and Chance a vague outline of her cover story. It was really a play on words to describe her current situation, explaining how she lost her job along with most of her money and was forced out of her home due to an 'unfortunate snag'. She told them that she arrived in Megakat City by bus and had been traipsing across the city on foot since early this morning. The story seemed to go over well with the toms. In any case, they didn't ask her to elaborate which Sarah took as a good sign.

They finally arrived, and the smell of the place alone was sooo worth it. The second she stepped out of the truck, Sarah was overwhelmed by the scent of sizzling meat and fried food and the grease from the grill. Even the minor tinge of burned onions and disinfectant didn't dampen the appetizing aroma that wafted from Olly's Burger Stand. Sarah's mouth watered as she took a deep breath through the nose and moaned, "Oh, God, this place smells amazing!"

Thus occupied, she missed the amused smile that Jake and Chance shared over her head. "Glad you like it," Chance said.

It only took a few minutes for the three kats to get their bacon cheeseburger combos with onion rings. It surprised all three kats when Sarah bit into her burger with ravenous gusto, but the taste was almost good enough to make her weep in pleasure. She probably would have inhaled the whole thing if she hadn't remembered to mind her new fangs as well as her manners. They may have been short, but they were still sharp enough to hurt if she bit down. Sarah had learned that the hard way at lunch.

She still managed to speed through the first half of her burger before coming up for air and proclaiming, "Whoever came up with the idea of putting beef, bacon, and cheese on a bun was culinary genius."

"Can I get an 'Amen'?" asked Chance around a mouthful of burger.

"Amen and Hallelujah," Jake replied before popping an onion ring in his mouth.

They all grinned at each other and dug back in. The quiet munching lasted for a bit longer before Sarah remembered Jake's promise. "So," she began, "what's the deal with law enforcement in this city? Exactly what kind of trouble do you guys get that other cities don't?"

Jake and Chance looked at her like she had asked them if the earth was round. "You really don't know anything about the omegas?" Chance asked her incredulously.

Sarah went on the defensive and responded a bit too quickly, "I've heard about them!" After pausing for a second, though, she admitted, "It's just that the facts are kind of sketchy." She had, in fact, encountered numerous articles on the city's more famous super-villains or 'omegas' as they were called during her research, but Sarah wasn't really sure of what she should believe. Some of the claims made about what the omegas were capable of were even farther from this planet than she had been yesterday, and that truly was saying something.

The two toms shared a significant look before turning back to her. It was Jake who finally leaned forward and began to regale her with a synopsis on the city's more extreme criminal element.

The cinnamon tom turned out to be a pretty good story-teller. By the end of it, Sarah had forgotten all about the food in front of her and was staring at Jake like a deer in the headlights. There was silence at the table for a couple of minutes before Sarah regained her composure. Tentatively, she asked, "How do the Enforcers deal with all of these guys?"

Chance wore a look of controlled contempt as he answered, "Usually, they don't. They get a lot of help from the SWAT Kats."

"I've heard about them, too," Sarah said, perking up a bit at the change in subject. She began to paraphrase an article that she had read. "A team of vigilantes who always come soaring to the rescue in a high-powered jet loaded with unique weaponry and ingenious gadgets." As an afterthought, the she-kat added, "I'm guessing that the papers weren't exaggerating about them, either."

"Not by much," Chance chuckled.

Sarah nodded to herself. "Yeah, I've got to admit that I feel better knowing someone can handle the major bad guys," she said honestly.

Jake gave her a chagrined smirk and said, "That's good to hear. I didn't mean to scare you out of the city."

Sarah had to laugh at that. "It's okay," she told him, "you're just a really good story-teller."

"No doubt about it," Chance said, shooting an amused glance at Jake. The cinnamon tom gave an amused grunt in response before Chance announced, "Hey, if you're finished eating, we can get moving."

Sarah nodded eagerly, and they all piled into the truck once more. After having the guys drop her off at a nearby motel, Sarah thanked them and wished them a good night.

As she was heading for the front desk, she heard her name called and turned to see Jake walking towards her. He produced a card seemingly out of thin air and held it out to her. "If you ever need anything, don't hesitate to give us a call," he said.

Sarah felt touched by the offer. She smiled at him as she took the card and tucked it into her jacket pocket. "Thanks," she said again.

The cinnamon tom smirked and replied "No problem" before going back to the truck. Sarah waved at Chance behind the wheel once more before heading inside to rent a room for the night. As she listened to the truck drive away, Sarah began to feel her nerves tighten again. Try as she might to dismiss them, she didn't relax until she was tucked safely into the covers of her bed for the night. Even then, it was difficult for her to fall asleep.

Finally, her exhaustion won her over, and Sarah drifted off into an uneasy sleep.

(And that's a wrap. First off, I want to apologize for taking such an obscenely long time getting this chapter out, but like I said before, college takes priority and writer's block is a bitch. Anyway, I promise that the next chapter will have much more action! And don't worry, the guys aren't gonna be able to get rid of Sarah that easily. *evil smile* See you next time!)