Title: Guard Duty
Original Title: I Wanna Check My Mail!
Author: Kristen Sharpe
E-Mail: skgirl@hotmail.com
Date: January 1, 1999
Finished: July 2000

---------------------------------------

Yes, yes, I know. This took me long enough. But, I was finishing "Hide N'
Seeker" while I wrote this. So, here, at last, is a follow-up to "Technical
Difficulties" as well as some follow-up details to "Silent Pursuit." This takes
place only a month or so after "Hide N' Seeker" but only vaguely refers to it.
Timeline:
Late 1994 -- the final show episode that I saw, "Unlikely Alloys" takes place
Early 1995 -- H2Oh, No!
1995 -- Nuke It!
Technical Difficulties
Have Yourself a Mad Little Christmas
1996 -- Hide N' Seeker
Silent Pursuit
Guard Duty

Next point - after my last few 'fics, I found myself missing the comraderie
between the two SWAT Kats that had characterized some of my older work. So, this
fic' is pretty much T-Bone and Razor. Oh, yeah, and Hard Drive.

As to the original title. This story began just after the new year in 1999
when my Internet service was being particularly irritating. I think you'll be able
to tell which scene was written first ;)

Thanks goes out to Sage for ideas and suggestions and my favorite proofreader -
Mommy!

And, yes, Fanfiction.net readers, this is the most recent of my regular series.
"Rendezvous" is my recent fic... but it's unrelated.

---------------------------------------

The interior of the First National Bank of MegaKat was lit dimly by a few
overhead lights, their flourescent tubes humming faintly. Abruptly, they
flickered, feeling a stronger than usual electric pulse interrupting their nightly
routine.

The security guard on duty blinked bloodshot eyes, wondering if the light
flicker was genuine or merely a trick of his weary eyesight. The crackle of
electricity brought him to full attention. Too late, he remembered the warnings
he'd heard. Power surges. Every power surge was a warning sign.

It was his last thought before a light tap on the back slammed a powerful
electric current through his body.

Hard Drive smiled in satisfaction at the limp, unconscious figure on the floor
at his feet. With casual ease he ambled around the high counter that separated
patrons from bank tellers and slouched into a chair before the nearest computer.
He flipped a finger toward the machine's power switch and waited as it hummed
to life.

---------------------------------------

Chance smacked the side of Jake's computer in frustration. Why wouldn't
the stupid Internet service let him get on-line so he could check his e-mail? He
growled softly to himself. Computers....

And he didn't doubt that his friend Alan had written him back. They'd been
arguing good-naturedly for days now.

As he waited for the dial-up program to log him in for the umpteenth time,
he snorted softly to himself. Since when was *he* a computer nerd?

The answer to that question was easy enough. Since Jake had started e-
mailing an Air Force pilot whose obnoxious ego and bull-headed defense of his
opinions drove the slender orange kat to distraction and brought Chance to his
friend's and, eventually, his own defense. Leaning over Jake's shoulder, he'd
loudly barked just exactly what Jake should say back to the loud-mouthed so-and-
so. At last tired of typing what had become someone else's fight, Jake
relinquished the keyboard, telling Chance, "You wanna fight 'im, you type to 'im."

And so began Chance's induction into the fascinating, and irritating, world of
computers. He rarely owned up to even touching the keyboard unless it was in
his way, but, nonetheless, he enjoyed his written debacles with Alan.

And... *right*... *now*... he'd like to continue the current one!

At last tired of the computer's finickiest and resigned to checking his mail
later, he stormed away from the terminal. In his foul temper, he failed to notice
that the dial-up program was still dutifully calling his ISP only to consistently
receive that irritating busy signal.

---------------------------------------

Hard Drive wavered uneasily, uncertain as to his options as the Enforcers
belted out their megaphone-enhanced threats for the third time.

"Hard Drive! Come out immediately! Toss your suit out into the street first
and then follow it... slowly."

The slender techno-thief drummed his fingers on the desk by the silent
terminal. The power was off. The power loss had been his first warning sign.
Hard Drive silently cursed his rash decision. He should have waited. He was
barely a month out of MegaKat Maximum Security. They'd made preparations
and his escape was still fresh enough in their minds that they hadn't grown slack
yet.

The tan kat's yellow eyes roved the room wildly. If they caught him...
MegaKat Maximum Security wasn't his deepest fear. Being trapped *anywhere*
was. It hadn't even been a year ago that he'd double-crossed Dark Kat... or tried
to anyway. He'd spent his last five months in prison after Dark Kat's escape
waiting... waiting for a bomb in the cafeteria, a meal that left him gasping, slowly
asphyxiating from some horrible poison; waiting in ever-deepening paranoia. No.
No. NO! He wouldn't be caught! Wouldn't go back to prison or even an
Enforcer holding cell -- make it more convenient for Dark Kat! Right in the city
no less!

Hard Drive's shaking hands steadied with his decision. There *had* to be a
way out. His frantic gaze fell on a phone, tracing its line to the wall jack. No.
Surely, they'd cut the phone lines too. There was no hope in that.

Still, he found his hand reaching for the phone and raising it to his ear. The
dialtone's buzz was the most beautiful music he'd ever heard.

Heedless of where it might lead without a preprogrammed destination, Hard
Drive yanked the phone line from its jack and charged his suit. Every cell in his
body destabilizing, transforming into raw energy, he leapt out into MegaKat
City's vast MKI network.

---------------------------------------

"Park rangers in the MegaKat Mountain Reserve found the remains of a
private aircraft yesterday. Reports indicate that the wreckage may be dangerous
and visitors to the Reserve are asked to avoid Tremblay's Peak until further
notice. In other news, it's that time again! Next week begins the annual Manx
Invitational Golf Tournament...."

Chance switched the radio off with a deft twist of his wrist before they were
forced to hear the "fascinating" details of the golf tournament.

"Guess that jet that chased us a few nights ago must've been somethin'
special like you thought," he muttered to Jake, submerging his upper half under
the hood of the red truck on which he'd been working.

(Author's Comment: The reference to the jet refers back to "Silent Pursuit.")

"Yeah," Jake returned darkly from where he was working under a car. "And
now, they're covering it up. Wish I knew..." His voice broke off abruptly.
"Chance?" Jake pushed himself out from under the station wagon he was
working on. His sensitive ears were pricked and flicking curiously. "What's that
sound?"

Chance emerged from the engine of the truck and cocked his head toward
the sound.

"Crud!" he snapped. "I left the computer trying to get on-line!"

"Then, how's about going and telling it it can quit now so it will stop that
sound?" Jake remarked mildly before reaching down to brace on the floor and
push himself and his creeper back under the car.

Grumbling, Chance went to shut the computer off.

---------------------------------------

Hard Drive had lost himself in the most exhilarating rush. As always,
travelling at what seemed the speed of light was heady, invigorating. But *this*
time.... This time it went on and on. And on and on...

Back in his conscious mind, Hard Drive knew he couldn't continue. If he
didn't find a point to exit the network, he'd lose himself in it. He'd stay there
forever. Briefly, his mind played with the concept. Dark Kat would certainly
never find him. Would never know what speeding blip of light, electricity, and
information was Hard Drive. But then, neither would Hard Drive himself. Or if
he did, he'd be powerless to remove himself from the stream, trapped for all
eternity in the endless cycle of energy until his energy was exhausted as it was
used bit by bit or the system was shut down.

But that was just the problem with flinging himself randomly into the
telephone system. Always before he "travelled," Hard Drive carefully
programmed his suit for the desired location. His current base, along with a few
other safe spots, were always preprogrammed for quick getaways. Where he
entered the power stream was inconsequential. Designating where to come out
again, however, was not. Had he leapt into any outlet but a telephone jack, he
would have had an out. Unfortunately for Hard Drive, he'd never planned for a
dive into the phone system, not with this suit anyway. This was his backup, the
spare he'd retrieved from safety after his jailbreak. The Enforcers had confiscated
his old one. The one that had his full programming codes, including over a dozen
power and phone line "safe spots."

Blindly, he began to probe for an exit. Any opening. There! An open
channel! Hard Drive leapt for the opening. Then, he felt it, the pulse that
triggered his suit to restore him to solid form. He was free!

---------------------------------------

Chance leapt away from the computer as a sharp sizzle erupted from its
CPU. Sparks began to dance above the keyboard even as the monitor's hum rose
to a shrill wail.

"What in the...?!" Chance yelped, leaping away as the monitor exploded.

Seconds later, the CPU followed it. Chance watched in shock as a mass of
blue flame shot from the remains of the computer. The electric fire coalesced,
assuming a kat's shape.

"Jake!" Chance screamed, recognizing the phenomenon too late. "Get a
weapon!"

He turned and searched for some form of cover.

"Hold it right there, Punk," a voice ordered behind him.

Chance froze, slowly turning his head to meet Hard Drive's confident smirk.

"Chance, what...?!" Jake demanded as he raced into the room. He skidded to
a stop when he saw Hard Drive.

"Well, well - *two* grease monkeys....," the techno crook purred, raising a
hand to casually watch sparks hop between his pointer and thumb.

---------------------------------------

By the time the sun was a glow on the eastern horizon, Hard Drive had
completely moved in.

"To borrow a line - what a dump," he muttered, looking through one of the
garage's grime-smeared windows. He turned back toward Chance and Jake.
"Still, your nice, secluded little hole here will work for me."

The two tomkats glared at him from their seats on the couch.

"You see - I need a place to hide out for a while. Not long - just until I can
get a safe way out of MegaKat City," Hard Drive continued. "This place," he
spread his arms wide to include the garage and the yard, "this is the perfect hiding
place."

Chance and Jake exchanged a quick, worried glance.

Hard Drive slouched into the room's battered easy chair. The tan-furred kat
sat for several minutes studying Chance and Jake. At last, he frowned and
focused a glare on Chance.

"You! Fatso! Get me some of that ham I saw in the 'fridge!" Hard Drive
barked imperiously.

Chance sat up quickly, baring his teeth in a fury. Jake quickly jabbed his
friend in the arm with his elbow. Sullenly, Chance accepted his friend's warning
and stalked to the kitchen under Hard Drive's watchful eye.

Jake kept his eyes on Chance's broad back even as his arm snaked around
behind him to find the wrench he'd slid into his back pocket.

"Hands where I can see them," Hard Drive purred, catching Jake's movement
from the corner of his eye.

Jake quickly scratched his lower back in an irritated gesture as though that
had been his intention all along and then presented his hands, palms up, fingers
spread. He grinned sheepishly at Hard Drive, making an effort to look every inch
the stupid grease monkey the tan kat obviously took him for. As if one could be
an idiot and even lay a hand on the sophisticated electronics that went into
modern cars Jake snorted to himself.

Chance meanwhile had snatched the ham from its shelf and shut the
refrigerator.

Hearing the door shut, Hard Drive called to him even as he stomped into the
room.

"Let me have that!" the suited kat growled, still eyeing Jake in some
suspicion.

Chance raised the ham slightly.

I'll "let you have it"! he thought to himself. Fatso, huh?!

Seeing Chance's intent over Hard Drive's head, Jake yelped, "Look out!"

Hard Drive swung toward Chance, fingertips blazing with electricity.

As he turned, Jake leapt from his seat, jerking the wrench from his pocket
and slamming it onto the top of Hard Drive's head even as a blast of electricity
shot toward Chance.

Chance tossed the ham into the air and dove to one side, feeling a flash of
heat along his side.

Seeing the airborne ham, Jake leapt over Hard Drive's still form and after it.
He felt the heavy plate in his hands an instant before he slammed into the floor.

"What was that for?!" Chance demanded as he got to his feet, only now
noticing the awful smell of burnt cloth and fur that permeated the room. "I coulda
put him out cold with the ham and not nearly gotten toasted!"

Winded, Jake slowly rose to his feet before replying.

"Yeah, you'dve been all the way toasted. You really sure you coulda laid
'im out with a ham?"

"Yes," Chance grumbled, grudgingly seeing the *possibility* anyway of a
flaw in his plan as he examined the singed area of his shirt.

"Besides," Jake continued. "Then, we wouldn't have had anything to eat."

---------------------------------------

Hard Drive was only just waking up when the Enforcers arrived to collect
him. His eyes fluttered as they snapped the handcuffs on his bare wrists. With a
sudden realization of what was happening, Hard Drive sat bolt upright,
screaming.

"No! No, don't take me back!" he shrieked. "He'll kill me! He'll kill me!"

Chance shook his head as the Enforcers pulled the lanky kat to his feet.

"What's with that nut?" he murmured to Jake.

The orange-furred tomkat frowned for a moment in thought. Then, his
eyes widened.

"Dark Kat! He's afraid of Dark Kat!"

"So, what else is new?" Chance responded with a slight smirk.

"No, back with the computer virus - when you were trapped in the
TurboKat's computer. He double-crossed Dark Kat."

"And, now, he thinks Dark Crud is gonna off 'im...." Chance shook his
head. "He's probably right."

The twosome watched as Hard Drive was pushed into an Enforcer cruiser,
still screaming half-hysterically.

"Can't keep out of trouble, can you two?"

The deep voice reminded them of the presence of the kat that they hadn't
met under their real names in years. Both turned to face Commander Feral.

"Hey, we've managed to behave ourselves for four years now,
Commander," Jake returned mildly.

Feral scowled a bit, but turned to go to his cruiser.

"Commander," Chance called after him.

The dark-furred kat looked back over his shoulder as his hand reached for
the driver's side door.

"Keep a close eye on him."

Feral snorted, but remained silent as he got in the car and drove away.

---------------------------------------

Jake slouched into the garage's chief living area and situated himself on
the couch, enjoying the luxury of having it all to himself. From the office he
could hear the sounds of Chance playing some video game or other on the
computer. He pricked his ears. "Ascent: Space for Sale" from the sounds of it.
He shook his head as he thumbed through the pages of sketches he'd made of his
latest missile idea. It sounded like a distant interstellar war in there.

Blocking out the sound, Jake studied his design sketches. He knew he
should give up the couch and go down to the hangar and set up his designs
properly on his drafting table, but he wasn't willing to relinquish the cushioned
luxury just yet. The orange-furred kat mused over the drawings for several
minutes more. He squinted at one doodle that he'd scribbled on the back of a used
envelope, trying to separate the missile image from the address.

Try as he might, he couldn't displace the thought that had plagued him
since that morning's events. Jake laid the designs on the coffee table and thumped
his feet up alongside them, deep in thought. At last, he rose to his feet and
followed the incessant sounds of digitized war to Chance.

Jake stepped up behind his friend, who was crouched over the joystick,
engrossed in the game.

"Chance."

The sound of his name fell on deaf ears.

"Chance," Jake tried again louder. The tip of his tail twitched in agitation
as he stared at his partner's broad back. Then, it stilled as a grin stole across the
slim tomkat's face.

On his bare, silent pawpads, Jake crept closer to the larger kat. His amber
eyes focused on the back of Chance's neck, watching the interwoven muscles
there tighten and loosen with his partner's efforts. Then... The perfect moment!
Chance drew his breath in sharply, his muscles went rigid, tense.

Jake pounced. He leapt forward, grabbing the big tabby around the neck
lightly with both hands.

Chance squalled like a startled alleycat, lunging from his chair. Without
thinking, he reached back to grab his attacker, attempting to fling him off. The
agile figure, however slipped from his grasp and perched on his shoulders.

Realizing how he'd been tricked, Chance stilled, adjusting his balance to
compensate for the extra weight and waiting, breathing heavily.

"Fun, huh?" a familiar voice cooed from the weight on his shoulders.

"Yeah, *real* fun!" So saying, Chance abruptly doubled over, flinging
Jake over his head.

Thankfully for the computer, Chance's wild gyrations from the initial
attack had left him facing, not it, but the other side of the room.

Jake hit the floor rolling, standing quickly. Smarting a bit from the fall, he
still took the opportunity to smirk a bit as he turned to face Chance.

"Not very observant are we?" he purred.

Chance snorted.

"Did you want to talk to me or just torment me?" he demanded, balling his
fists in mock anger. "You probably just ruined two hours of game time, you....
you... little booger!"

Jake doubled over in laughter. This was a new one. But, he sobered
quickly.

"Actually, I did want to talk to you - about Hard Drive."

"What about 'im?"

"He's right, you know," Jake stated simply folding his arms across his
chest and fixing his partner with an earnest stare.

Chance sighed, meeting his friend's gaze before responding.

"And, now you're worried about the punk?" he asked.

Jake nodded.

"I think the SWAT Kats should keep an eye on him," he returned.

"How?" Chance blurted. "Hover outside Enforcer Headquarters all day?"

"No, I have an idea."

Chance sighed, knowing when he was beaten, and turned to shut down the
computer.

---------------------------------------

"This is nuts - he hates us, you know," T-Bone grumbled to his slimmer
partner as they threaded their way through the labyrinth of hallways that led to the
Enforcer detention blocks, one story below ground.

"His fear of Dark Kat is stronger than his hate for us," Razor returned with
easy assurance. "He'll accept our offer."

T-Bone chose to keep his further doubts to himself. Razor's confidence
was wearing away his best arguments anyway.

After a few more minutes of walking, they reached the detention block. A
pair of guards stood on duty just outside the door that lead into the block.

"Hmm... I think they're awake and they look pretty alert - I thought they'd
gotten slacker than that," T-Bone whispered in his partner's ears from behind.

"Feral may not be Mr. Personality, but he keeps this place in order," Razor
returned, only half his mind on the response. The white slits of his eyes in his
mask narrowed as he thought for a moment. "This way," he said at last, slipping
past T-Bone and heading back the way they'd come.

Razor lead them a reasonable distance from the vigilant guards and
stopped beneath a ventilation grating.

"Detention block ventilation is a closed circuit - no entries from anywhere
else in the building but a special air filtration unit in the sub-basement," T-Bone
reminded, following Razor's train of thought. He paused and added, "And, pretty
much they say the only way in there is to crawl through the unit - not something
you wanna do while it's on.... unless you just wanna end up like ground round..."

Razor crinkled his nose as he muttered, "That's disgusting, T-Bone."

"No more than your horror movies," the big tabby snapped back.

Razor grinned, reaching up to work at dislodging the grate.

"Bothered by "Aliens", were we?" he asked as he slipped a small
screwdriver from a hidden pocket on his flight suit and began removing the
grate's screws.

"What tipped you off? When I ran for the litter box?" T-Bone returned, a
growl in his voice as he moved to Razor's side to support the grate while the
smaller kat worked.

"Actually, I think it was when you went that neat shade of pea green," the
slim kat chortled, passing his partner the screwdriver and putting a hand to the
grate.

"Hmph," T-Bone snorted, attacking the upper screws. At the back of his
mind, he began to wonder why the guards hadn't heard their banter. Each of them
had been listening for any signs of detection. Hearing none, they'd continued
their conversation even though the blatant lack of words concerning their actions
was proof enough that they didn't need verbal communication to get the job done.

T-Bone grinned. It was a part of Enforcer training, communicating
soundlessly through hand gestures or other silent signals, but he and Razor had it
to an art. There were moments they almost seemed able to read each other's
minds. He paused on the thought and wondered what Razor was thinking right
now.

"What? Will you stop glaring at me and give me a hand up in there?"
Razor demanded.

Clearly, he wasn't thinking what T-Bone was thinking.

T-Bone snapped from his musings, his frettings over the guard's silence
forgotten as he helped Razor into the ventilation shaft. Clambering up after his
partner, he turned to more pressing curiosities.

"And, just how are we gonna get to Hard Drive's cell from here? I just
told ya' that...," he began.

"Watch," was Razor's only reply as he saw the flash of his partner's helmet
light illuminating the tunnel ahead.

T-Bone's tail twitched in agitation as he awkwardly slid the grate he'd
carried up with him under his body, shoving it into a rough facsimile of its proper
position with his feet. Briefly, he thought it might fall to the floor, but it held. He
let out a deep breath and, cutting on his helmet lamp, followed Razor, praying no
one would notice that the opening to one ventilation shaft looked a bit suspicious.

---------------------------------------

The bevy of creeplings scurried quickly along long forgotten air shafts and
sewer tunnels, working their way ever deeper beneath Enforcer Headquarters.
Light was unnecessary. They had lived in caves by nature, before Dark Kat
"employed" them. When met with an obstacle, the diminutive gremlins merely
chewed or burrowed through it. Their orders were simple, but failure meant a
most unpleasant fate.

----------------------------------------

Razor's ears swivelled like twin radar receivers as he froze mid-crawl so
fast that T-Bone bumped into him from behind.

"Do you hear something?" he asked.

"Could you give me a more cliche line?" T-Bone responded.

Razor quickly lashed his partner across the face with his tail.

"Seriously," he snapped.

"Seriously? No, all I hear is your breathing and mumbling stuff to
yourself. Just for the record, you do know where you're going, right?" T-Bone
asked.

"Of course," Razor returned confidently as he started crawling again, ears
still twitching. Despite T-Bone's response he still wasn't at ease; something didn't
feel right.

Five minutes later, the sound reached his ears again. An undulating sort
of murmur. Razor frowned. Where had he heard something like that before? It
didn't ring true as a sound that should be heard in a ventilation shaft. Not the
sound of water gurgling in pipes or air moving. It was something else... More
like... cackling... like laughter... Razor froze in place, his head jerking up.

"Creeplings," he mouthed, half-vocalizing the word.

"What?!" T-Bone roared behind him, only hearing part of the word but
enough to catch onto Razor's meaning.

"They're here," Razor whispered. "Somewhere in another type of shaft.
They're here after Hard Drive!"

"Great," T-Bone growled. "How do we find 'em?"

"We start by making a door," Razor returned, turning to face the wall to
his right as best he could in the narrow shaft.

He raised his glovatrix quickly to point it at the wall, squeezing his fingers
into the pad on the hand part that would activate the device's buzzsaw attachment.
The buzzsaw shot from its hiding place and locked into position. Razor
speculatively tapped the blade along the wall, smiling as he was met with a
hollow sound. Satisfied, he started the saw. It came to life with a thunder that
echoed down the length of the tunnel.

"The subtle route, I see...," T-Bone commented wryly.

Razor simply grinned and thrust the roaring blade into the thin metal wall.
Deftly, he cut a rough square out of the wall. Retracting the blade, he gave the
square a shove. As planned, it fell inward. It was some seconds before it
connected with something below. Moist, earthy-smelling air rushed into the
ventilation shaft.

The two kats traded a glance before Razor experimentally worked a foot
into the opening and started to feel for footing. Without warning, he squalled in
pain and jerked backward into the ventilation shaft.

"Razor!"

T-Bone's cry of alarm was followed by the chattering war cry of a flock of
creeplings as they spilled through the opening. In a frenzy, they quickly covered
Razor, clawing and biting.

T-Bone started to lunge forward to aid his friend even as a second wave
flew into his face, the first slashing at his tender nose.

The big kat growled and grabbed the offending beast with both hands to
fling it off. Another quickly replaced it, clawing at his eyes. Frantically, T-Bone
hit the button to lower the visor on his helmet, shielding his vulnerable eyes.

Razor, meanwhile, felt as though a thousand knives were slicing through
his fur and into the skin beneath. He screamed in pain and fell over into the
opposite wall, trying to roll and either crush or dislodge the attacking creeplings.

Razor realized the situation quickly even as he struggled to keep the pink
demons out of his face. The quarters were too tight. The SWAT Kats couldn't
maneuver and the creeplings could.

"T-Bone!" he bellowed to his partner. "Brace yourself... and keep
fighting!"

With that, he slammed his glovatrix upward through the mass of
creeplings, distracting them as he slipped his other hand to his helmet. Quickly,
he adjusted his radio, searching, searching, then... he had it! The radio released a
piercing squeal as Razor at last hit the perfect frequency.

With the sound, the creeplings shrieked and broke off their attack.
Gritting their own teeth at the wail, T-Bone and Razor took every advantage of
the creeplings' distraction.

Ten minutes later found them panting heavily, faces scratched and marred
with red, painful welts, flight suits torn and tattered in several places. The two
looked first at each other and then at the limp creeplings lying around them.

"Any get away?" T-Bone grunted, reaching a hand up to feel the deep
gash running across his nose.

"Not that I saw," Razor responded, trying to direct his helmet lamp to
survey the damage to his suit and person. He winced, more at the incessant
ringing in his ears than any of his other wounds.

"Well...," T-Bone drawled.

Razor looked up expectantly and, seeing the start of his partner's
triumphant grin forming, raised his hand to meet the larger kat's in an awkward
high-five. For some minutes, the two simply grinned at each other.

T-Bone broke the moment abruptly.

"You sure we wanna save Hard Drive's scrawny hide?" he asked, raising
an eyebrow.

"Yeah," Razor returned confidently, turning back to study the hole
through which the creeplings had come. His eyes narrowed in curious thought.
"Wonder if they know something we don't?" he mumbled half to himself.
Experimentally, he hung his foot over the edge again.

"Don't get masochistic on me, buddy," T-Bone commented, watching his
friend with concern.

"They're gone," Razor shot back, unworried.

He probed the hole with his foot for a minute before finding footing. The
orange-furred kat leaned his weight into the foot briefly to test. Satisfied, he
looked up at T-Bone.

"I'm goin' in to take a look."

"Roger that."

T-Bone watched as his partner clambered into the hole, his light dimming
as he vanished into the gloom. The big kat worriedly scrambled to the opening to
watch the fragile glow bob away into the distance. He frowned and waited,
clenching and unclenching one huge fist. His ears twitched to the faint sounds of
Razor's movement somewhere in the damp cavern. Other noises reached him
distantly.

His left ear flicked backward. Voices? It seemed he could vaguely hear
echoing voices bouncing down the metal walls. Perhaps carried down by remote
shafts from the building above?

"Perfect."

T-Bone jumped as Razor's head popped up in the opening beside him.

"There's a tunnel that'll take us straight to the cell block. Looks like
something from the original construction. How Dark Kat knew about *that*,
y'got me, but it'll work perfectly." Razor paused in his report to look into T-
Bone's wide green eyes. "What?" he asked in surprise.

"You just scared the living meanness out of me!"

"Fraidy kat."

"Shut up." T-Bone glared at the smaller kat before maneuvering his large
frame into the opening.

"Hey!" Razor's voiced called from below.

"Now what?" T-Bone grumbled as he felt for footing in the emptiness
beneath him.

"Before you get down here, grab one of those creeplings."

"What for?!"

"Convincing Hard Drive."

T-Bone reached out to snag an unconscious, or worse, creepling by the
foot and drag it after him, grumbling to himself all the way.

----------------------------------------

Hard Drive rolled over in the narrow bed to face the wall for the nth time.
He stared at the blank gray surface for several minutes, his mind as bare as the
wall. At length, he released a shuddering sigh and turned back to face the tiny
cell that was his home for the next few days, weeks, however long it took them to
get him back in prison or Dark Kat to end his excuse for a life.

The tan-furred tomkat moaned in mental agony as he rolled to study the
wall again. He couldn't decide which was worse - watching the barred doorway
from which an attack could come or facing the wall and never knowing what
killed him. He was almost beyond caring. More than anything, he just wanted to
sleep, come what may.

He shuddered as a new nightmarish thought occurred.

"No," he mouthed. "Dark Kat wouldn't be merciful enough to let me die
in my sleep!"

Trembling, he flopped over to eye the cell bars fearfully.

Hard Drive wasn't sure if it had been minutes or hours since his decision
to watch the bars when he first heard the sound. A scrabbling, scratching sound
was emanating from the wall at his back.

Leaping from the bed in terror, he spun to face the wall. His ears
swivelled on his head, seeking the sound's source. At last, he settled on the upper
part of the wall, toward the ceiling. Shuddering again, the lean tomkat searched
for anything that could serve as a weapon. There was nothing, of course;
prisoners are poor choices of candidates to provide with weapons.

With no other options, Hard Drive assumed a tense stance, ready to
fight with the only weapons he had left. Thank goodness a court had ruled it was
too demeaning to have prisoners' claws either trimmed or completely removed.

Without warning, the sounds shifted, moving up and travelling across the
ceiling. Hard Drive followed the sound with his eyes and ears, at last letting his
searching senses come to rest on the single ventilation opening above. He froze
in place as the sound stopped by the opening. Then, the grate was forcefully
slammed inward toward the cell.

Hard Drive jumped back, every hair on his tail raising. Still, he held his
ground, waiting to fight for his life.

His eyes widened as first one and then a second, larger figure dropped into
the cell, facing away from him. The first figure turned quickly, blasting his night-
adjusted eyes with light.

"Hard Drive?" the figure whispered, its voice not at all the menacing
growl the techno-crook had expected.

"Yes?" Hard Drive responded weakly, struggling to make out the face
behind the flaming light. "What does Dark Kat have in store for me?" His stance
and his words were defiant, but the tan kat couldn't keep the slight quiver from his
voice.

"I wouldn't know." The kat flicked his helmet lamp off. "He'd hardly
send *us*."

"What are *you* doing here?!" Hard Drive growled in shock and
contempt as the clearing spots before his eyes revealed the two SWAT Kats.

"We've come to help you," the kat before him, Razor, returned.

"And, why would I want *your* help?" Hard Drive snarled, starting to
turn away as his surge of fear shifted to an easy alternative - anger.

"You see this, Hard Drive?" Razor waved the limp creepling he was
carrying in the lanky tomkat's face. Close as he was, he could see the loss of
color through Hard Drive's light fur as the blood drained from his face.

"Sure you don't want our help?" the orange-furred SWAT Kat pressed,
bringing the creepling's face, its muzzle now bound with a thick cord lest it
awaken, on level with Hard Drive's eyes.

Something in Hard Drive's throat moved and a hoarse squawk at last
emerged.

"He scared enough yet?" T-Bone asked, at last speaking as he moved
slightly out from behind his partner.

Hard Drive dropped his head to look down at the floor, breathing heavily,
for several minutes. At last, he looked back at the two blue-suited figures.

"He wants to kill me! Dark Kat! I... I..!" Hard Drive panted
desperately.

Razor cut him off.

"And we want to help you."

"Why?!" Hard Drive demanded, glaring at the SWAT Kat suspiciously.

"We're in the business of protecting kats, Hard Drive, - even you," Razor
replied. He fumbled in his suit, at last producing a tiny object. "Here." He
reached toward Drive. "This is a communicator. You can call us on it and we'll
come."

"What in the...?!" the tan kat yelped, staring at the thin, tan disk lying in
Razor's outstretched hand.

"Works best if you slip it in your ear," Razor explained. As Hard Drive
took the tiny communicator from his hand, he clarified. "They'd catch you with
anything bigger pretty quick. This shouldn't even trip a metal detector."

"Rubber coating with agrecite-aluminum alloy wires?" Hard Drive
murmured almost in awe as he examined the creation. Wonderingly, he fingered
the wax paper that covered its sticky backing.

"Yes, it's the only way the Enforcers won't catch you with it," Razor
returned, unable to hide the grin slipping over his face at the techno-crook's
obvious admiration.

"And, I'm to just trust you to come and save me?" Hard Drive snapped
abruptly, looking up at Razor quickly.

"It's the best chance yer gonna get," T-Bone snapped, crossing his arms
over his chest and glowering at Hard Drive.

"And, remember - Dark Kat wants us even more than he does you. At the
least, we're a good distraction for him," Razor added.

Hard Drive looked quickly between the communicator and the two
waiting tomkats. At last, he nodded.

"Fine...." He pulled the wax paper from the back of the disk and slipped
the device into his right ear, rubbing it so that it adhered smoothly to the inner
skin of his ear, beneath the fur that lined it. Then, he nodded resignedly to the
SWAT Kats and settled onto his cot, putting his head in his hands with a deep
sigh.

Taking that as a signal to go, Razor nudged T-Bone. The big tabby
nodded and they made their exit.

"I think we should check the guards," Razor commented. "They've been
far too quiet and after those creeplings I'm starting to wonder if they're alright...."

As they were clambering back through the shaft above Hard Drive's cell
they heard the half-sob of relief that at last escaped his lips.

---------------------------------------

"Card, they're only gonna give me a few minutes here - C'mon and pick up
the phone!"

Hard Drive shot a quick glance over his shoulder at the guard standing
nearby. The kat was leaning lazily in the doorframe, droopy eyes studying traffic
in the hallway beyond. Hard Drive refocused on the phone, growling as he heard
the phone on the other end ring for the third time. On the fifth ring at last he was
greeted by an answering machine.

"Leave your name and number at the tone and if you sound gorgeous or
profitable, I'll call you back," the voice on the other end chimed.

"Look, Card, I don't have much time. You owe me big and I need you to
get me something. I think you can look me up... If you help me, I'll...." Hard
Drive swallowed hard before continuing. "I'll let you in on that little secret of
mine, okay? And, Card...," he paused before snarling, "Hurry!"

With that, Hard Drive roughly smacked the receiver into the cradle and
turned to the waiting guard.

---------------------------------------

Two days managed to pass without incident. Hard Drive slept somewhat
easier, Chance and Jake continued life as usual, and the Enforcers fretted over the
incident in Hard Drive's cell.

Feral scowled as he remembered Hard Drive's explanation. Idly, he
twiddled the pencil in his massive hand. He didn't like it. Creeplings able to
infiltrate Enforcer Headquarters that easily! He growled in frustration. Much as
he hated to admit it, the SWAT Kats had bailed him out this time. Hard Drive
was still among the living, as were the two detention block guards. Though Feral
still couldn't figure out what gas had knocked them out on their feet or how it
could have gotten in. The lower levels were clear of any hint of it now.

The pencil was abruptly snapped in two as Feral clenched his fist fiercely.
And, he still had to deal with Hard Drive! It was clear now that Dark Kat did
indeed have plans for his old flunkie. With a deep-throated sigh that ventured
toward a growl, the Enforcer Commander reached for the phone. It seemed Hard
Drive was going to need a less obvious form of protection until he was sent to
prison.

---------------------------------------

Hard Drive eyed up the Enforcer's so-called "safehouse" warily. Frankly,
he saw little safety in the thin-walled apartment complex that had clearly seen
better days. Leave it to the Enforcers to house him in one of the city's less
pleasant sections. Not that it wasn't just like several neighborhoods he'd holed up
in over the years. Only now, he had no weapons to defend himself against the
punks that roamed the streets should he manage to elude his armed guard, and he
suspected every kat out there of being a potential spy for Dark Kat. Any one of
them would happily turn him in for even a paltry sum with which Dark Kat could
tempt them.

"Alright, you've had yer look - now, sit down and watch TV, okay?" the
Enforcer behind him announced curtly. Clearly, this was not a job he wanted.
His partner grunted some form of nonverbal agreement and motioned them both
inside.

Hard Drive growled and slumped into a ragged easy chair by the
television. Idly, he wondered why exactly some genius had felt the urge to shred
the cushion.

The Enforcer who'd spoken in actual words walked past him, flipping the
TV on as he went. His partner took up a wary position by the door, pulling a
rickety wooden chair up to sit in. The vocal officer, a slightly heavyset kat,
settled himself into the room's remaining chair and looked tensely out the
window, his ears flicking this way and that in a mimicry of a radar receiver.

Hard Drive looked between both Enforcers and smiled faintly at their
distress. So, they weren't as sure of themselves after all? He frowned then. But,
if his guards were scared... Fingering the tiny communicator hidden in his ear, he
resigned himself to his fate and tried to focus his attention on the television
program at hand.

---------------------------------------

"Eat the ham for lunch - we still have tons," Jake commented as Chance
walked past him toward the fridge.

"You wanted to save that ham so bad - you eat it," the burly kat snapped in
response.

"My mother sent us that ham."

"And, I enjoyed it... for the first week. Doncha think it's probably getting
a little rank by now?"

"Nonsense." Jake rose from his spot on the couch to stomp into the
kitchen past his friend and yank the refrigerator door open. "See?" He pointed
to the foil-wrapped ham with the statement before reaching out to peel the foil
back.

Chance looked slowly from the ham to Jake.

"So, what does it mean when it's all slimy like that?" he asked.

Jake wrinkled his nose.

"Hmm... Maybe it *is* time for the ham to go...," he muttered.

The klaxon's sudden shriek snapped both kats into action.

"Later," Jake told the ham, slamming the refrigerator door and racing after
Chance who had already bolted to the hatchway that lead to the hangar.

First to the intercom box, Chance smacked the round button to activate the
intercom and silence the klaxon.

Callie Briggs' familiar voice greeted him.

"SWAT Kats."

"We're here, Miss Briggs," the big kat replied, chimed by his smaller
partner as Jake joined him.

"There's trouble downtown. Some form of giant, robotic... *thing* is
randomly destroying everything in sight!" Her tone was tired, same old MegaKat
madness again.

"Roger - we're on our way!" Chance declared, cutting off the transmission
and bolting for his locker to change into his flight suit. Jake was right behind
him.

---------------------------------------

Hard Drive had just found something worth watching on TV when he
heard it, that subtlest of sounds. The lanky criminal's head jerked up, ears
swivelling wildly. The television's chatter was the only sound. Hard Drive's gaze
flew to the nearest of his guards. The heavy kat was looking out the window, his
back to Hard Drive. Watching him, Hard Drive sensed the other's tension. He
started to speak, but the Enforcer's bark cut him off.

"Mullins!" The shaggy feline by the door jerked from his light doze at
the sound of his name. "Go have a look around outside," his partner ordered. "I
think something's up."

The other Enforcer grunted and made his exit.

Hard Drive watched him go.

"Can that guy even talk?" he demanded.

The vocal Enforcer shrugged, eyes still focused outside.

"He can when he wants to," he mumbled.

"You guys fill me with so much faith," Hard Drive ground out, nervously
feeling his hidden communicator.

---------------------------------------

"Holy kats!" T-Bone blurted when the metal creation came into sight,
looming out of the all-too-familiar chaos of downtown. The big kat set the
TurboKat on a wide course around the destruction so they would have an ample
view of their opponent's features.

Behind him, Razor chuckled before reassuming his "serious face."

"There's nuthin' holy about it, bud," he assured his partner as his
instruments fed him information on the bizarre contrivance. "Looks like what
happens when you cross a dragon with a Macrobot," the SWAT Kat weapons
officer commented, glancing up at their new opponent.

T-Bone grunted and gave it a brief scrutiny. Built to be quadrupedal and
with a vaguely kat-like head, the creation did resemble a Macrobot. But, it had a
set of massive metal wings and a long reptilian tail. As he watched, its tail lashed
out and scored the side of a luckless office building.

"It's a MacroDragon," he informed Razor, assuming an authoritative air.

"Nah..." His partner sniffed at his ignorance. "It's a Dragonbot."

"That's a stupid name. MacroDragon is cooler."

"And, you'd know?"

"Of course. I read more comics than you do."

"Only cuz you won't let me near your collection."

Suddenly, the TurboKat's radio crackled to life. T-Bone jerked back in
surprise as a creepling's face filled the viewscreen. The pink imp chittered in its
own "language" before sticking its tongue out and onto the camera lens.

"Ew!" Razor mumbled.

"Gag me - I think I can see what it had for lunch...," T-Bone rumbled.

"What I wanna see is where Dark Crud is," Razor returned, squinting into
the dark recesses beyond the creepling's grotesque face. "Cuz where there's
creeplings..." He didn't need to finish the sentence; T-Bone had already thought
of it.

"Hey, little geek," T-Bone barked at the sneering creepling, "where's your
boss?"

The little beast's only response was to regale them with another round of
mindless chatter-giggling.

"What'd he say?" T-Bone asked.

"He said, 'I am Iniego Montoya - you killed my brother. Prepare to die',"
Razor returned.

T-Bone chuckled at his partner's joke and cut off the radio.

"I guess intelligent conversation is out," he rumbled. "Let's take 'em out
and maybe, if we play rough enough with his new toy, Big Purple himself'll come
on out."

"Roger that," Razor returned. Then, he paused. "But, maybe that's the
plan..."

"Huh?" T-Bone sent him a surprised look via the cockpit mirror.

"Think about it," Razor mused. "He's been after Hard Drive for at least a
week. Why not now?"

"But, how could Dark Kat hope to find Hard Drive like this?"

"He doesn't. Not like this. *This* distracts us and Feral."

T-Bone smacked himself in the head with one hand, snarling, "Blast that
Dark Kat!" The big pilot slammed a fist angrily into the side of the cockpit.

Calming his partner, Razor grinned a mimic of T-Bone's cocky smile into
the mirror. "He hasn't one-upped us yet... Think you can handle a buncha
creeplings and a giant robo-terror?"

"Think *you* can land in rush hour traffic and not kill yerself?" the big
kat snapped back, smiling as he caught onto the plan.

"Think *you* can learn how to drive on roads period?"

"That was low..."

"It was true."

"Get outta my jet."

Razor ended the mock battle with a pronounced raspberry, the "thbbbing"
sound audible even over the roar of the jet's engines.

After a slightly surprised pause, T-Bone found words to respond. "*That*
was mature."

"And, effective..." Razor smirked as he punched in the code for the
Cyclotron launch sequence, riding along as his seat slid backward. Once the seat
was locked in its rear position, he had the space to move and deftly inserted
himself into the tiny opening just beneath his console. With practiced speed, the
slim SWAT Kat crawled into the Cyclotron bay located beneath the cockpit.
Situating his lean body on the vehicle, he activated his helmet radio and made
contact with T-Bone.

Hearing the crackle of the open channel, T-Bone gave Razor the
information he needed.

"I'm bringing her around just beyond the affected area. Shouldn't be *too*
much traffic from the fleeing bystanders..." He paused, beginning the TurboKat's
descent. "In range!" he barked suddenly as the street flew to meet the jet.

"Launching Cyclotron.... now!" Razor screamed.

He barely heard T-Bone's "Roger!" as his partner entered the final
command and the launch sequence initiated. The cover of the Cyclotron slid
forward over the orange-furred kat's head, locking in place just seconds before the
vehicle was sent hurtling from the jet. As soon as he was in freefall, Razor
ignited the Cyclotron's single jet engine. Triggered, the curious motorcycle
unfolded, engine firing.

Razor and the roaring Cyclotron hit the pavement at eighty miles an hour.
The slim SWAT Kat grit his teeth at the familiar jolt before the Cyclotron dug its
wheels in and sped down the street. A car loomed not ten feet from the landing
point. Skillfully, Razor sent the Cyclotron around it with a whole half second to
spare.

"Let's pick up the pace, eh?" he murmured as his initial momentum from
the TurboKat wore off and his speed plummeted. He hit the throttle and sent the
motorcycle into the heart of traffic, weaving easily around vehicles.

"Now, talk to me," the SWAT Kat directed the scanner attached to the
onboard navigations array, only slightly scaled down from that of the TurboKat
itself. Faithfully, it found the signal Hard Drive's communicator was
broadcasting and gave Razor a visual display. "Thank you," the SWAT Kat
returned, angling his course between two tractor trailers. And, T-Bone thought he
was the only one living on the edge.

---------------------------------------

When the shaggy Mullins failed to return or respond to repeated pagings
on his radio, Hard Drive felt the knots into which his stomach was tightening
lurch into a vise. Dark Kat had found him! Unsteadily, he rose from his seat.

"Hey!"

The barrel of the second Enforcer's blaster brought him up short.

"Stay put," the Enforcer barked, his nervousness plainer than ever now.
"He's prolly just takin' a leak."

Hard Drive had almost growled an angry retort when a pronounced
'thump' from just outside the door sent both his and the Enforcer's eyes flying to
the shabby false wood.

"Mullins?!" the Enforcer queried, voice wobbling as he brought his blaster
to bear on the door.

Hard Drive saw the chance and bolted for the window. Better to be shot
in the back running away than sit still and wait for death.

The Enforcer saw the movement in his peripheral vision.

"Freeze!" He spun to level the blaster on Hard Drive even as the door to
the dingy room was ripped from its hinges. The Enforcer whirled, wide-eyed, to
face a force of the pseudo-ninjas Dark Kat employed on occasion - for missions
like this where the creeplings didn't quite have the finesse required.

Hard Drive took one terrified glance over his shoulder and, with the
strength born of fear, grabbed the window and forced it open. Unaccustomed to
use, and likely never once opened since it was installed, the window sash cracked
angrily. Hard Drive was oblivious. He only bothered to quickly gauge the drop
to the lower building that was built snugly against the apartment complex. Then,
he flung himself into open air, the sizzling report of the Enforcer's blaster ringing
in his ears as the heavyset kat attempted the impossible.

---------------------------------------

"My Momma told me to pick the very best one!"

T-Bone looked down at the auxiliary weapons panel to find his finger
hovering over the selection menu, which was flashing 'Scrambler.'

"Oooo... Scrambler missile. Those are always cool," he muttered with a
smile, hitting 'Select.'

"SWAT Kats!" Feral's booming voice reverberating from the radio made the
big tabby pause. "Back off - the Enforcers will..."

"Make a mess. I got 'im, Feral," T-Bone responded.

"I'm ordering you to...!" Feral began anew, angered more than irritated now.

"Feral, listen!" T-Bone snapped. He'd made his peace with the Commander
in his own mind; he didn't wish to begin the war anew.* So, he tried reason for
once. "That thing has shields. I can bring them down with a single missile. Last
I checked nothing in your arsenal could do that..." He let the statement hang.

(* Author's Comment: Reference to Hide N' Seeker.)

When it came, Feral's voice was restrained. "Very well. Use your missile,
but then let my men in."

"Can do," T-Bone responded. Then, he was focused solely on Dark Kat's
creation. "Let's rock and roll!" he screamed into the radio. The creeplings might
not be the brightest opponents, but he'd give them his usual banter anyway.

Locking the missile on the relatively stationary target, T-Bone angled the
TurboKat for the metal monstrosity.

---------------------------------------

Hard Drive pelted across the second rooftop, eyes wildly searching for a
stairway access or a fire escape. Now, he could hear his pursuers' feet behind
him. Swift and confident. The likes of him couldn't outrun them for long. And,
there was nothing on the roof, just squat air conditioning units. Hard Drive raced
for the roof's edge where it overlooked an alleyway. Surely there was a fire
escape there. He skidded to a stop against the low barrier by the edge and looked
down. There was a fire escape. But, it was some feet below him, on level with
the fire escape door on the floor below the roof.

The lanky criminal stared down at the twisted metal structure. It was rust
red and looked like it could pull free of the old building any minute. But, he
feared Dark Kat's men more. And, they were nearly upon him.

As Hard Drive threw himself over the edge and into space, he narrowly
missed the hurtling ball of blue and orange as another kat vaulted just past him in
the opposite direction. He hit the landing of the fire escape hard on all fours,
fingers curling around its metal rungs. Panting heavily, he jerked his head up to
find Dark Kat's ninjas. To his surprise, they weren't hot on his heels as expected.

Razor landed just in front of the ninjas as he came out of his leap from the
fire escape.

"Hey, guys," he greeted, grabbing the nearest ninja by the front of his gray
jumpsuit and flipping him into the low wall at the roof's edge. The ninja's suit
hardly from his hands, he spun, glovatrix raised, to face two others. Launching
two mini-spider missiles to capture those, he looked for more. The ninjas didn't
disappoint him.

At least thirty were spilling through the window of the apartment Hard Drive
had abandoned. Quickly, Razor looked down on the fire escape for Hard Drive.
The techno criminal was slowly making his way downward. Well, good. He
wouldn't have to be carried.

That thought in mind, the slim SWAT Kat leapt down onto the fire escape.
As he hit, the entire structure shuddered.

"Oops," Razor muttered.

As the metal beneath him bucked, Hard Drive looked up fearfully. Seeing the
SWAT Kat, his eyes narrowed.

"Brilliant rescue plan!" he screamed. His voice was nearly drowned in the
sudden shrill of metal ripping through brick. Hard Drive shot terrified eyes to the
bolts that secured the metal staircase. At least two above him were pulling free.

Razor was already taking stock of the situation.

"Hang on!" he called. With that, he aimed his glovatrix at the opposite,
taller building. As his fingers met the keypad in the electronic gauntlet's center, a
grappling hook flew from its compartment on top of the glovatrix to embed itself
in the other wall. Yelling, "Banzai!" Razor scrambled on top of the fire escape
railing and let himself swing out into open space.

Hard Drive watched as the orange-furred kat nearly hit the far building,
saving himself only at the last minute by rappelling off the smooth brick with his
bare feet.

"Is this your idea of helping me?!" he screamed at Razor as yet another bolt
freed itself and the fire escape sagged all the more.

"It's my idea of killing two birds with one stone," Razor responded,
enigmatically. He gave Hard Drive a sly wink.

"You let me die and what?" Hard Drive bellowed. Sound from above sent
his eyes to the top of the fire escape where the ninjas were leaping down after
him. "Please! Help me!" Hard Drive shouted to Razor.

Razor just winked again.

Hard Drive snarled in his general direction and tried to scamper downward
with the metal beneath his feet bouncing wildly. Then, with a final, ear-piercing
shriek, the old fire escape at last ripped free of the building and toppled for the
alleyway below.

The ninjas that could leapt for the roof they'd just left. The others leapt for
the ground. Hard Drive just shrieked... until someone grabbed him by the front of
the shirt and pulled him from the falling structure. When he opened his eyes, the
pavement many stories below was flying past his vision.

"You should brace yourself here," a calm voice advised.

The lanky technocrook barely had time to bring his feet up and bounce off
the far wall as he and Razor swung back into it. Razor's attention was already
back on the ninjas, who were, for the moment, scattered. He looked at Hard
Drive again as the kat in his arms spoke at last.

"I've decided... You SWAT Kats are just sadists," the tan-furred kat
muttered.

"Nah... We're just... unorthodox," Razor returned as he let his cable begin
lowering them to the ground. "Now, help me here. You're not that light and
those ninjas are gonna be on our backs again in a few if we don't move."

---------------------------------------

The scrambler missile had worked brilliantly. The "MacroDragon's" weak
shields were completely nullified. Unfortunately, its swinging "wings," which
seemed useless for flight, and its tail had nullified most of the Enforcer choppers
in like fashion. They simply didn't have the maneuverability or the speed.

T-Bone wasn't worried though. Most of the choppers had only taken
glancing blows and limped to safe landings. The most audacious of them all,
Feral, had taken a much worse hit and been sent spinning into the trees of the
park. But, his angry grumblings snarling over the Enforcer ban assured T-Bone
that he was fine.

The SWAT Kat wasn't worried about his own chances either. The TurboKat
could easily evade the robotic menace and had the firepower to take it down. It
was merely a matter of destroying it without taking downtown along for the ride.

"Now, where's Razor when I need him?" T-Bone commented. "I mean,
he's the one with the really creative plans. I could take it out, but this calls for
more... finesse than that..." He let one hand guide the jet and slipped his left
under his chin to adopt an appropriate thinking manner. "Let's see what we got at
hand." He reached out to punch up the dimensional radar display. "Building,
building, building," he listed what he saw. "Building, buildi... Wait!" His finger
slapped into the screen. "Isn't that the building they're imploding?!"

Naturally, Razor wasn't there to answer him. No matter; he'd answer it
himself.

"It's gotta be..." He looked back at the HUD. The big kat was just in time
to catch one of the MacroDragon's wings scything through the air towards him. It
had moved closer while he was distracted; perhaps it wasn't as clumsy as it had
seemed.

"Ahhh!" The big kat spun the jet to the left, ducking under the hurtling
metal wing. "Crud, that was clo....!" He broke off as the thing's tail whipped into
view. "CRUD!"

The TurboKat plunged under the tail, coming within ten feet of street level.
Eager to regain his altitude and not be trapped among the buildings with the metal
beast, T-Bone pulled the stick close to his body for a tight ascent. And, heard the
angry twang of power and telephone lines snapping in his wake.

"Glad Feral's already down so he didn't see that," T-Bone muttered to
himself as he regained his former surveillance altitude. Then, he looked to see
the MacroDragon rampaging his way. Clearly, he'd angered someone in there.
Perfect. "You wanna piece a' me?!" he screamed into the radio, switching to the
VTOL engines and cutting the thrusters. This would play right into his hands.

---------------------------------------

Razor lowered himself and Hard Drive to street level and quickly
disengaged his grappling hook from the glovatrix before grabbing the lanky kat
and pulling him from the alley. Dark Kat's ninjas were already after them.
They'd recovered quickly enough.

"I hope you have another brilliant plan," Hard Drive hissed as Razor
shoved him into the lead, covering his back. The tan-furred tomkat didn't hear a
response from the SWAT Kat as he skidded out of the alley and nearly fell over
the waiting Cyclotron.

"Get on," Razor snapped, hurrying around and leaping to his seat.

Hard Drive scrambled on behind him, and Razor fired the single engine.
The Cyclotron roared, blasting two of the ninjas in its backwash. Singed, they
tumbled backward with strangled yells. Razor rammed the throttle to its limit
and, tires squealing, the Cyclotron peeled out down the street. Hard Drive
screamed as a gray sedan suddenly appeared just inches beyond the Cyclotron's
covered front tire. Razor skillfully avoided the vehicle and moved them into the
center of traffic, claiming the turn lane as his own.

"Relax," he called back to Hard Drive. "This is easy."

"So easy I could barf on your flight suit," Hard Drive muttered, looking
ill.

Razor made no reply, instead noting the sudden appearance of a squad of
black motorcycle-like vehicles closing from behind in his side mirror. As he
watched, a burst of red ricocheted off the mirror. The orange-furred kat jerked
away from the crimson flash, focusing on his driving.

"CRUD!" he hissed to himself. Innocent bystanders were going to get
hurt if they kept firing in traffic like that. Which meant he needed a plan. "T-
Bone!" he screamed, tapping his helmet radio.

"Yeah?" The voice on the other end seemed distracted.

"I need a pick-up!" Razor informed.

"Uhm... Can it wait a sec?"

"How long?"

"'Til this blasted *thing's* off my tail!"

"Oh. I'll... uh... improvise then. Razor, out!"

"We're toast, aren't we?" Hard Drive asked suddenly. Apparently, he'd
been listening in to what little he could hear.

"Nah. We just need a new course of action," Razor responded, angling the
Cyclotron out of the turn lane, looking for an off-ramp.

"If you don't stop bein' so....!" Hard Drive started. He broke off and
clutched the sides of his seat as tightly as he could when he realized that they
were driving straight between the lanes of traffic.

---------------------------------------

Now, T-Bone's mind had even more weighing on it. Razor needed
backup, and he couldn't provide it. Well, couldn't until he dealt with the metal
beast before him. A metal beast the slashing steel claws of which were currently
just inches from the TurboKat. Granted, that was just part of the plan.

T-Bone slid the TurboKat back as the claws came too close yet again.
Maneuvering when flying purely on VTOL wasn't his forte. It wasn't that the jet
wasn't maneuverable; Razor had designed the TurboKat to be incredibly agile in
"hover mode." It simply wasn't fast. He couldn't dart and dodge at his usual
speeds. But, in this case, he couldn't risk losing the MacroDragon's attention. Or
rather the attention of the creeplings within.

"C'mon, ya' pink demons!" he bellowed into the radio. "Losin' yer edge or
what?"

The building he'd noted earlier was only a few hundred feet away and a
quick glance had already confirmed that if it wasn't the building slated for
imploding, it should be. It was clearly historic - aging gray stone covered its face
- not to mention crumbling... and abandoned. Good enough.

Inch by painfully slow inch, T-Bone lured the MacroDragon toward the
building. Then, a stone facade was at his back; any closer and he'd be trapped
between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

Quickly, the big pilot pushed the VTOL engines to their limits and sent
the jet into the fastest ascent it could manage. The MacroDragon's pilots
perceived his intentions immediately, but T-Bone had already anticipated the
slashing metal paw. He slammed the throttle control forward, opening the
afterburners to full before even cutting the VTOL. It was hardly by the book, but
it was effective. Forward thrust won out easily, and the jet rocketed over the
metal beast. The savage claws sliced harmlessly through the churning air of the
TurboKat's jetwash before embedding themselves in the crumbling building
beyond. And, there they stuck, wedged deep in heavy layers of cement, steel, and
stone.

"Gotcha," T-Bone purred as he banked gently and swung around to grin
over his imprisoned prey.

Within the MacroDragon, creeplings scrambled to free their wonderful
toy. Power was diverted from less important systems. Less important for the
moment; the lack of power to subsystems had stilled the wings and tail and left
the chittering pilots just shy of running blind as guidance and visual systems
powered down. The creeplings' sole focus was the pinioned appendage. At least,
until a single proximity alarm began venting its ear-splitting wail.

"Good-bye!" T-Bone crowed. Then, smirking, he half-sang, somewhat
off-key, "So long, farewell, don't hope to meet again!"

His first missile, a particularly potent variety of concussion missile that
Razor had lovingly dubbed a "Baby Boomer," hit the MacroDragon broadside,
exploding against its titanium hull. The second, another Baby Boomer, impacted
instants later.

The SWAT Kat watched with a satisfied smile as secondary explosions,
created by the MacroDragon's overloaded electrical systems and fuel tanks,
ripped through the metal beast. Shuddering, the MacroDragon tumbled into the
old facade in a cloud of shattered rock and cement that covered its final, fiery
death throes.

As T-Bone watched, the spectacle, a series of purposeful blips on the
dimensional radar drew his attention, informing him that the cavalry was arriving.
"Just in time for cleanup," T-Bone murmured, his attention shifting to a lone,
erratically darting blip that could only be the Cyclotron.

---------------------------------------

"They're gaining!" Hard Drive screamed.

"Tell me something I don't know," Razor returned. He'd deliberately cut
the throttle to ensure that their pursuers would stay close. Cost himself and Hard
Drive as it may, he had to keep as few bystanders between them as possible. The
slim SWAT Kat tensed, amber eyes narrowed in concentration as he searched his
options. The motorcycle-riding ninjas were closing in, and he could hardly say he
had a plan. Nothing concrete beyond leading them out of the city. Easy enough.
Just below the raised freeway they were shooting across were the freight yards,
the boundary of MegaKat City.

Half in thought as he was, the attack from the side took him unaware.
Something slammed heavily into the right side of the Cyclotron with the solid
crunch of metal meeting metal. Then, they were skidding into the path of an
oncoming tractor trailer before Razor had time to react to the initial impact. His
only thought was to keep the off-balance Cyclotron righted.

Hard Drive's eyes grew huge as the faceless mask of the ninja flashed by
in a blur as the other kat's motorcycle connected with the Cyclotron's front before
jerking away. Then, Razor was shouting his name. Blindly obeying, the tan-
furred kat grabbed the SWAT Kat.

There was no time to think, hardly time to move. Time only to react.
Razor threw his weight, and Hard Drive's with him, hard back to the right. Then,
the concrete barrier running along the overpass was alongside them.

"Hold on!" Razor shouted, screaming over the sudden blare of the truck's
horn.

Hard Drive's only response was to grip his harness tighter.

Seconds later, they were side by side with the still-blaring truck,
sandwiched between it and a wall of concrete. Mind reeling, Razor winced as one
of the Cyclotron's rear horizontal fins met the concrete wall in a shower of sparks.

I need a plan and I need it now.

Razor cut the throttle and dropped back, trying to get away from the truck.
He found a second eighteen-wheeler tailing the first. Then, a chunk of black...
*something* was hurtling at him. The slim SWAT Kat's eyes widened.

"Duck!" he screamed to Hard Drive, hunching low to place himself below
the Cyclotron's curving front shield. As the lump of black thudded into the shield
and tumbled off, shooting away behind them, he realized that it was, or rather had
been, one of the truck's wheels. Harmless enough.... comparatively speaking.
Razor breathed a sigh of relief, looking up and out at the road again.

He drew his breath in quickly. Scant feet ahead, a temporary concrete
barrier swerved into the road sharply, cutting off the shoulder in which he was
travelling. When the truck reached it, there would be no room for the two of
them. And, reaching it was only a heartbeat away.

The captain of the pursuing ninjas cursed as two eighteen-wheelers barred
his view. Surely, the target and the SWAT Kat were dead. Still... He slipped his
motorcycle just in front of a mini-van, angling closer to the far lane where his
prey was surely dying, crushed under several tons of truck. Horns bleated angrily
at him and his squad, but they were of no consequence. He needed confirmation.
Dark Kat was not fond of failure.

Razor almost cut the throttle. Then, in a split-second burst, a plan worthy
of T-Bone leapt into his mind. He took it. There was no time to second-guess
anyway.

"Here we go again!" he warned Hard Drive not a breath from the instant
the front wheel hit the angled concrete wall. The angle was perfect. The
Cyclotron rocketed over the barrier and, seconds later, the outer wall of the
overpass into the empty air beyond. A hot, fume-choked gust fanned Hard
Drive's back as the tractor trailer roared by behind them in a blast of exhaust.
Then, cleaner air was rushing to meet them.

Eyes widening, Hard Drive began to scream anew. Razor cut him short.

Even as the front wheel flew into space, the orange-furred SWAT Kat was
twisting free of the motorcycle, pulling Hard Drive after him with his left hand as
he brought his right up.

At last, the ninja captain and his followers were alongside the trucks.
Only, rather than mangled debris strewn over the highway, there was nothing...
and nowhere the two kats or the motorcycle could have gone.

The captain frowned. This was not good. Quickly, he hissed orders to his
underlings.

"Find them!"

Dangling by a taut cable just below the overpass, the two kats in question
searched desperately for options. Well, one of them did.

"I hate you. I swear I hate you!" Hard Drive hissed, clinging to Razor's
leg with a death grip.

"Shush, you shouldn't swear," the SWAT Kat admonished, glancing down
at him. The strain of supporting two of them was swiftly making his glovatrix
arm ache. "I better not dislocate my shoulder again," he murmured to himself.
He was starting to feel another strain, one that had nothing to do with his
shoulder. Everything was happening too fast. And, now, he needed yet another
fast plan. A piercing whistle drew his attention below.

A train was slowly chugging out of the freightyard below, heading under
the overpass. It was an older model, several engines pushing an endless stream of
boxcars. Sluggish at the start, but it would pick up speed soon enough.

Razor's masked eyes narrowed. Here was his out. Hearing a yelp from
Hard Drive, he looked up. And, the escape had come not a minute too soon. At
least two masked faces were peering down at them. They'd have his cable cut
soon.

The SWAT Kat glanced back down at the train. The first boxcar was
almost beneath them. Twenty feet beneath them. Quickly, Razor released more
cable, sending himself and Hard Drive into a sudden freefall before the line
tightened again, ten feet above the train. As the jolt of the cable snapping taut
jerked the twosome to a stop, the orange-furred kat felt Hard Drive's claws dig
hard into his leg, penetrating the flight suit and his fur to gouge his skin.

"You didn't warn me that time!" he bleated.

"It was getting cliche," Razor snapped back, his throbbing arm adding a
more agitated tone to his voice than he'd exhibited yet. "Now, jump."

"Jump?!" Hard Drive's widened eyes met the SWAT Kat's narrowed ones
with disbelief. He looked down at the passing train before looking back at Razor.
Surely he was joking. But, no, the vigilante's glower was firm; this was no joke.
Hard Drive gulped.

"NOW! Before they cut the line!" Razor yelled, feeling a twang along his
cable even as he said it.

That did it. Resigned, Hard Drive gauged the distance to the train below
and released Razor's leg. He plunged toward the train with his heart in his throat
as the moving cars rushed to meet him. The tan-furred kat landed first on his feet
before toppling forward, catching himself with his hands inches from the metal
roof of the boxcar. As the car lurched beneath him, he scrabbled wildly with his
claws for a purchase. After an eternity of heart-pounding fear that he would fall
to his death under the train, Hard Drive found a grip and steadied himself.
Breathing heavily, he lay there, almost spread-eagled, across the curving roof.

A solid 'thunk' heralded Razor's arrival. Hard Drive looked to his left to
find the SWAT Kat standing from an easy all-fours crouch, to all appearances
unfazed by the plunge to the moving vehicle. Well, he did have to give the
SWAT Kats a few points. Even when they didn't know what they were doing,
they certainly made it look like they did.

The trailing ends of the bandanna he wore under his helmet blowing back
in the wind, the slim kat was staring back toward the overpass, which was ever
more quickly moving away behind them as the train picked up speed. "Company," he
muttered darkly.

Hard Drive's head jerked up. Between the SWAT Kat's legs, splayed for
better balance on the shifting boxcar, he could see several figures making their
way along the cars in the distance.

"No, no, nooooooo!" he wailed. It was clear; they were never going to let
up. There was no escape; not even with a SWAT Kat helping him. Though he'd
bet good money that the SWAT Kat could get out unscathed. Razor's steady
voice interrupted his mental tirade.

"Stay down."

The blue-clad crimefighter was shifting into a ready stance, his feet
balanced carefully on the car.

Hard Drive's mouth worked for a second soundlessly. The vigilante was
going to fight Dark Kat's ninjas hand to hand? On top of a moving train?

Better him than me.

Assuring himself that Hard Drive wasn't going anywhere, Razor focused
on his opponents. His mental targeting scope was already choosing a target as he
slowly raised his right arm.

The foremost ninja was a car away from the two kats when a glob of wet
cement slapped into his chest like a hammer. Completely off-guard, he went
hurtling off the train to land on the grassy shoulder below the track.

A second and then a third joined him. Those threats eliminated, Razor
found himself with no more targets. The remaining ninjas, weaponless without
their motorcycles, debatedly by choice as they preferred fighting hand to hand,
had taken cover. Eyes and ears on full alert, Razor waited.

There wasn't much to hear on top of the train. The steady rumble and
chug of its wheels combined with the wind whipping past his ears drowned any
but the loudest sounds. And, looking back into the wind lashed his eyes
painfully as his facial fur took flight.

At least, he finally had some time to form a plan Razor mused. Not that
any were offering themselves as possible solutions. Abruptly, a figure lunged
over the side of the car to land in front of him. Well, so much for a plan.

Razor met the ninja with a roundhouse kick to his mid-section. The ninja
was sent hurtling over the side even as Razor's own momentum nearly took him
along. He caught himself on his hands at the edge, his head hanging over the side
of the car. An angry buzz hummed in his ears as his heart pounded. Stunned by
the near fall, Razor's eyes took a few seconds to focus on the flashing landscape.
When they did, he found another masked face looking back into his own in
surprise.

"Pleasure to meet you," Razor assured as he shoved himself backward,
rolling up onto his feet and meeting the ninja with a slug to the jaw as the other
kat vaulted after him. The ninja vanished over the side, visible instants later
rolling down the steep incline the train was now racing along.

Relaxing into a crouch, Razor twisted to find any new threats. A strangled
cry from Hard Drive sent him spinning around.

A katana-wielding ninja had his curved blade brandished above the
quivering techno-crook.

"Hey!" Razor yelled to divert the ninja's attention as he brought his
glovatrix into firing position.

A cement slug slammed into the ninja's sword, knocking it from his hands.
A second hit him in the face, sending him off the train.

Razor blinked. He hadn't fired.

"RAZOR!!!" The crackling voice in his helmet was at a painful volume.

"T-Bone!" Razor spun to find the TurboKat swooping low over the train.

"I've been screaming at you for the last ten minutes!" T-Bone raged, his
voice garbled.

"I was busy," Razor informed him, smiling up at the jet. So, that was what
that buzz had been. Odd; the radio-link should have been louder.

"Yeah, yeah. Get ready for your pick-up."

The orange-furred SWAT Kat looked up to see a cable being lowered
from the TurboKat.

"Here's our lift!" he called to Hard Drive.

Nervous as he was about walking on top of the train, Hard Drive wasted
no time in scrambling to his feet and grabbing onto the cable. Razor followed
him, looking back in time to see more ninjas swarming toward the car, heedless of
stealth now. A mirthful smile on his lips, Razor bowed to them like a performer
leaving the stage and cued T-Bone.

It really was too bad those masks hid the look on their faces as the jet had
shot away to the right of the train, taking himself and Hard Drive with it, Razor
thought as he wormed his way into his seat. Still, the day wasn't lost. Hard Drive
was safely in the jet's cargo bay and he didn't think his shoulder was dislocated.
The entrance from the cargo bay to his seat was another matter. It still needed re-
designing. If he ever built another jet,....

"Tell me that's a flesh wound."

"Huh?" Razor came out of his thoughtful stupor and blinked back at his
partner's worried face, visible in the mirror before him. "Flesh wound?" he
repeated. He didn't *think* he had any wounds.

"The helmet," T-Bone returned.

"Helmet?" Razor reached up to feel his helmet. No obvious cracks in the
front. Puzzled, he removed it and turned it over in his hands. His eyes widened.
Embedded in the helmet's crown, an inch from the right earhole, was a throwing
star. "Well, that explains my radio trouble. It's stuck in the receiver," Razor
commented emotionlessly.

T-Bone grunted a response, eyeing his partner curiously in the mirror.

With a forceful tug, Razor removed it to eye the vicious pointed weapon.
Superbly crafted, the star was lightweight and deadly. Had he not been wearing a
helmet...

"You have to admit," Razor told T-Bone, calmly holding up the star,
"They *are* getting better."

His partner made no comment for several long minutes. Then, he threw
his head back and laughed. So long as Razor could walk away from it.... So long
as Razor could walk away from it.

---------------------------------------

"No, no, and no," T-Bone hissed.

It wasn't an hour later and the TurboKat was lazily circling over the bay.

"Yes, yes, and yes," Razor retorted.

"Razor, this is above and beyond our duty here. We've already risked our
necks a couple times to save Hard Drive. We are *not* - I repeat, *not* taking
him back to the hangar!"

"Well, he's not safe with the Enforcers," Razor pointed out calmly.

"We're not safe with him," T-Bone snapped back.

"We come this far and let Dark Kat have him?"

"If Dark Kat wants his hide mounted on his wall, I don't...."

"Ut-ut, don't say something you don't mean."

T-Bone rolled his eyes in exasperation. "And, just how long would you
propose we keep him?"

Razor beamed. Success! T-Bone was wearing down. "Until Callie can
arrange something better," he stated in his most polite voice.

T-Bone moaned softly. But, Razor was right... again. And, Callie, of all
people, would understand the need to *quickly* find somewhere else for Hard
Drive. Yes, it was do-able. Unpleasant, risky, probably stupid, but do-able.

"Alright," he hissed between his teeth at last, eyeing Razor in the mirror.
Was a smirk like that really worth this?

---------------------------------------

Hours later, long after the sun had set, an exhausted Jake found himself
starting from a deep sleep as he felt a sudden rush of air. Mumbling, "Wha...?!"
he sat bolt upright in his bed, his body tensing for an attack.

Instead, Chance - or rather, T-Bone as the big tabby was still in his flight
suit - appeared through his blurred vision. The big kat stood at the end of the bed,
arms crossed. Jake noted that his sheets were piled behind T-Bone's feet.

"You wanted ta' protect 'im, you get the graveyard shift," T-Bone
growled, his mouth turned up in a wide grin.

Jake sighed and fell back onto his pillow.

"*Now*, I know why you agreed to first watch so quickly!" he moaned.

"Git yer tail outta that bed, soldier," T-Bone barked in a perfect
imitation of an Enforcer officer both remembered from the training camp.

"No! No - the flashbacks!" Jake wailed even as his partner grabbed him
by the scruff and hauled him out of bed.

Jake quickly fought free and, resigned, went in search of his flight suit.

---------------------------------------

The tan-furred tomkat's eyes fluttered as his dazed brain emerged into
consciousness. It was a highly over-rated state he decided quickly as he became
aware of a pounding in his temples. As his vision focused, he found himself in a
dimly lit concrete and steel room. A quick glance identified his resting place as a
slightly musty cot.

"Where...?" Hard Drive breathed.

He tensed abruptly as he heard someone approaching. The steady click of
bare claws on concrete allowed him to follow the sound with ease. Hard Drive
shuddered. Was he with Dark Kat now? No, no - it was the SWAT Kats who'd
taken him... and drugged him too when they took him out of the jet, curse them.

"So, you're up."

Hard Drive jerked his head toward the voice. The larger SWAT Kat, the
striped one, stood behind him, a scowl on his round face.

"Where are we?" Hard Drive demanded.

"Our place. We have a jet - it's a hangar," the big kat snapped, glaring at
him.

Hard Drive growled at the SWAT Kat's response. Not that he'd expected
more in the way of location.... A more pressing need suddenly snapped into his
mind.

"Do I get to go to the litterbox?" he snarled after several minutes of tense
silence.

The techno-crook could almost see the big tabby's eyes roll through his
mask.

----------------------------------------

"This can't go on. If I have to escort him to the litterbox.... one... more...
time...!" Chance punctuated the statement by smacking his wrench against the
nearest workbench.

"I know...," Jake returning, appearing as he slipped his crawler out from
under the red car on which he was working. "Callie's trying as hard as she can."

"I don't like having him here - he might find something he isn't supposed
to," Chance growled, searching the workbench he'd been abusing for a different
size wrench. He found it at length and brandished it at Jake to emphasize his
words. "He's not much of a fighter, but he's clever. That suit a' his is proof
enough of that."

"Agreed, but what other option do we have?" Jake demanded. He pulled
an already greasy rag from his back pocket and wiped his hands on it as he looked
up at his friend questioningly.

"Lemme see," Chance started, leaning against the workbench. "Dropping
him in the bay is tantalizing... and... and... burying him in a vault and losing the
combination is tempting. Oh, and then there's..."

"Thank you, but no," Jake cut him off. "We need a real solution."

"Talk to Callie. I'm fresh out of those."

Jake frowned; so was he.

---------------------------------------

Hard Drive paced the tiny room he'd been given, fidgeting. Time for one
of the vigilantes to come and feed him. If they were on schedule... But, he hadn't
heard the jet go roaring out, so he assumed they were around. Tired of pacing, he
slumped onto his cot.

"Hurry up," he growled softly through his teeth.

The lanky kat was eager to return to his project. What the SWAT Kats
normally used this room they'd assigned to him for was beyond his
comprehension. Most of the clutter had been shoved into a rear corner, but it
seemed to be parts storage. The pieces of aircraft guidance systems, AMRAAM
launch pads, and other parts less identifiable but likely salvaged from jets made
sense. It was the pieces of household appliances that puzzled him - blades from
blenders, cathode ray tubes from televisions, and pieces of long defunct transistor
radios.

Still, he didn't care. It was the pieces of electronics that would get him
out. It hadn't taken long. Days of nothing to do - though the SWAT Kats had
provided a tiny TV and comic books - who on earth read "Kat Kommandos"
anyway? - had left him ample time to make his own modifications to the
communications device the SWAT Kats' had given him. Not that it was easy.
The SWAT Kats weren't stupid; they hadn't left anything especially useful in the
room. Even the blender blades were dulled and how could he use one before they
could use those arm-mounted missile launchers of theirs anyway? Besides, hand
to hand combat was *not* his strong point.

The device he'd cobbled together, however, was. Cruder and bulkier than
the original model, it wouldn't escape detection as easily, but it would let him
contact the outside world.

At last, the perky little sadist who balanced on trains came in with a tuna
sandwich. After the usual small talk, to which Hard Drive responded only in
grunts, he was gone, leaving the food.

At last!

Tearing a bite from the sandwich, Hard Drive checked the room for any
monitoring devices a final time. Nothing new presented itself. Well, no better
time. The tan-furred kat produced the communicator and thumbed its activation
button. Modifying it from a radio receiver to a cell phone had been the real trick.
And, one that might not have worked.

He waited impatiently, eyes darting as he expected a SWAT Kat to come
storming in any instant. Would they intercept the signal? Had his cheap wiring
job been good enough to even *send* a signal?

The first ring answered his question. The voice after the second was
heavenly.

"Card?" Hard Drive's voice was a rasping whisper.

"Driver! I've been huntin' you for days! I mean, that offer you left on the
machine...." The voice on the other end grew deeper. "You *know* I couldn't let
*that* one go by...."

"I'm well aware, Card." Hard Drive cast the door a furtive glance before
continuing hurriedly. "Look, the SWAT Kats have me at the moment and I can't
talk long... Haven't a clue where I am, but I think it's underground."

"Well, I can trace your...," Card started.

"Don't bother," Hard Drive hissed. I'm piggybacking on someone's
service. You could trace it to the tower and from there to whoever's paying this
bill for me, but that's all you'll get. They're hoping the Deputy Mayor's found me
a temporary spot in Lake Faroe Minimum Security. What can you do about
that?"

"I have some favors owed in Lake Faroe," Card purred. "Should be a
snap. So, I'll see you then?"

Hard Drive chuckled darkly. At last. "Of course,... And, I know you'll be
there... bad as you want the secret."

"Oh, you can bet your life I'll be there," Card returned, his voice a throaty
laugh.

"I am, Card. I am."

---------------------------------------

Seventy feet from Hard Drive's room, another call was underway.

"That's great, Miss Briggs," Jake told Callie, giving the approaching
Chance a thumbs up to assure him this wasn't an emergency call.

On the other end, Callie laughed lightly. "I thought you guys would be
pleased."

"With what?" Chance asked Jake, leaning over to whisper in his ear.

"She's got Hard Drive a spot in Lake Faroe," Jake returned.

Chance grinned from one side of his round face to the other. "We're
*elated*, Miss Briggs," he beamed.

---------------------------------------

Two weeks later found Hard Drive clambering from the rancid stench of a
mound of laundry. His fur was plastered to his face with sweat after the
scorching ride across the desert in the un-air conditioned back of the laundry
truck. Still, he was smiling as Card met him at the door.

"Knew you'd come through for me!" He leapt lightly to the sun-baked
earth of the deserted roadside. There was a spring in the lanky tomkat's step. He
was free. Free of jail, but, most importantly, free of Dark Kat.

"Of course," Card assured, motioning to his car as he stepped up to the
laundry truck's cab. Hard Drive got in the car as Card purred to the driver. "I
transferred the money to your account this morning. No one will figure out where
I "borrowed" it from."

The driver nodded. "Pleasure doing business with you." He pulled away
in a cloud of dust as Card slid into the car with Hard Drive.

"Where to?" the dark-furred Card asked, looking at his old partner with a
glint in his eye.

"As far as you'll take me, then the first airport after wherever you won't,"
Hard Drive returned, suddenly nervous again and fidgeting with his seat belt.

"You're that spooked?"

"I'm never coming back to the west coast. Gonna hole up somewhere in
the east and go back to the old ATM business. It's smalltime, but it's a good
living."

Card just nodded.

They drove for some minutes in silence before Card finally commented,
"So, about that suit...."

"Everything you want to know," Hard Drive agreed quickly. "How it
works, how I made it work, everything. I talk, you drive."

"Fine." Card's eyes were gleaming. "So talk. Cuz you left me in a lurch
there. One night it was as useless as ever, I leave to get some sleep, and by
morning you're gone." He glanced over at Hard Drive, still smiling, apparently
over his earlier anger... At least, now that he was finally getting the secret of the
surge coat he was over it. "Next thing I know you and that suit are getting TV
spots."

"It was pure luck," Hard Drive admitted, relaxing again.

"But, you can do it again?"

"As many times as I've rebuilt that thing, I can do it in my sleep, Card."

"Then, tell me."

And, Hard Drive did.

---------------------------------------

"Hard Drive Escapes Lake Faroe Minimum Security... CRUD!!!!"
Chance slammed the paper down on the kitchen table, a black scowl marring his
face. "We run in circles to protect that clown and he...!"

"Still thinks he needs to run," Jake finished for him, sipping his hot coffee
carefully. "He's not out to wreak havoc, Chance. You saw the fear in his eyes.
He's running scared."

Chance sighed and nodded a mute agreement, letting it go. Maybe Jake
was right.

Jake, however, was frowning. "And, you know," he began, "It's not Hard
Drive that worries me. It's Dark Kat."

"What do you mean?" Chance had thought no more of Dark Kat since
saving Hard Drive the last time.

"We saved Hard Drive... and he backed off. Not a peep from him since.
After all that. The MacroDragon wasn't the only distraction he gave us that day...
Saving Hard Drive was the distraction."

"Then, what did he really want?" Chance's brows knit.

"I don't know. But, you can bet we're gonna find out."

Chance buried his head in his hands. "That's it. I'm goin' back ta' bed."

"You can't."

Chance peeked out between two large fingers. "Who says I can't?"

"Callie. She's pulling in the drive now."

"On second thought, it's a pretty day."

--------------------------------------

Notes:

While this story was intended to introduce a new villain character of mine (Card),
it was not intended for him to be a replacement for Hard Drive. I am *not*
replacing Hard Drive. I rather like him, and he most certainly will be back.
He *does* owe the SWAT Kats a rather big one, eh?

Inspirational music:
Track 7 and 8 from "Dinosaur"
Various tracks from the "Mortal Kombat Annihilation" CD