A Heritage of Power 2: Jessie's Story 1:
Daughter of the Future's Past

by Fur and Fantasy
NC-17 for M/M, F/F and M/F
R for Violence and Death
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file

"SWAT Alpha and SWAT Epsilon scramble!" The klaxon blared; interrupting the card game entertaining the eight elite Enforcers the call was for.

"Finally!" The caramel shekat grinned and was on her feet as the cards were forgotten and the two teams made quick work of the distance to their locker room. "Some action."

"You'll get tired of it soon enough, Clawson." Captain Shider chuckled low in his throat.

"Right," she smirked at the Alsatian Kantin. "Maybe when I've been at it as long as my folks were."

"Just make sure you fly straight so we've got the chance, KNight," one of her partners, a burly black-on-chocolate tabby tom, smirked as he grabbed his gear and pulled on his black flight-suit. "Don't get fancy unless you've got to, we're not all crazy."

"You're one to talk, Tank." His Puma gunner shot back. " We remember your father's flying, you know."

"Like any of you can talk," Sergeant Blackstone laughed. "I've seen you in the sims. Wet behind the ears, the lot of you."

"Hay, I was Enforcer first." Taller Windbright shot back with a chuckle and only a bit of his tawny fur showing around the black SWAT uniforms trimmed in dark red and blue. "I'm not that wet behind the ears."

"Quit complainin' Echo, and let's get in the air, prove we know what we're doing," KNight's gunner grinned as she pulled her helmet on over her head, the ends of her black stripes breaking up her light-grey fur as she strapped it on. "Hey, KNight, they tell us what lucky guy managed to catch us on duty?" She asked, making sure her comm was working.

"Info coming in now." She nodded professionally, her eyes scanning the helmet HUD as Intel flowed in from the field and database.

"PastMaster." Captain Shider provided with barely a glance.

"Joy." His gunner rolled his eyes as they headed to the hanger and their jets.

"Yeah, he's always a bitch and a half to get rid of." Blackstone muttered darkly and nodded to Karmel's hand-picked and trained successor as their non-con coordinator. He couldn't be surprised that Karmel wasn't here to send her kits into their first battle. "'Morning, Heather."

"Good morning, guys." The marmalade tabby smiled at the two teams gathered around her for a quick briefing.

"Morning, Heather," Tank nodded to her along with assorted greetings from the others.

"PastMaster is back with his dinosaurs near downtown." Heather began quickly as their helmet HUDs went over the material with visuals, history, powers and other useful data on their target and the area. "Nothing too serious," she smiled knowingly at them. "But he is an Omega and he's our job. Reason for this visit is unknown."

"Understood," Shider nodded sharply.

"Good luck and we'll keep you informed as we learn." Heather nodded them to their four jets, all of which strongly showed their heritage in the TurboKat and two generations of designers whose work brought them so far past the original and common tech that were often thought to be alien craft appropriate by the unit by the press.

"Mount up!" Captain Shider barked with a powerful rumble of adrenaline and protective instincts that they all shared.

"There you are," PastMaster muttered as the four jets blasted into view. "It took you long enough, pretty one. Your fathers were much more attentive." He grinned and began to weave one of his most potent spells in years.

"Looks like he's getting ready to call up something new," Tank said over the comm. "Headshot, can you get a bead on him? We'll run interference." A massive pteranodon swooped in, and the tabby pulled his jet into a climb, a leathery wing passing inches in front of its nose.

"Working on it," the back-on-grey tabby muttered quietly and worked through the interference of magic and creatures intent on protecting their master while avoiding both the other jets in the air and collateral damage.

"What the...." KNight's voice was laced with shock before it descended into a series of ever more creative curses as magical energy entangled the wings of her jet. "Watch it! He's learned something new."

Tank tried to pull out of the way, but not fast enough. "Shit!" He snarled, "caught us too! SWAT Epsilon, can you get through?" The dark, familiar shape of one of the PastMaster's vortexes opening gathered in the sky. "Preferably before whatever he's after gets dropped on us?"

"Working on it Alpha!" Shider barked back, struggling with his own attackers. "Tazer?"

"Got a lock!" Blackstone called out as two missiles raced towards the diminutive skeletal figure in the middle of the chaos.

"Kats!" KNight snarled. "He's pulling us into the vortex!"

"Thrusters on full reverse... no good!" Tank shouted. Just before the twin missiles exploded, the two jets of SWAT Alpha disappeared through the vortex - along with the mage that had created them.

" Now what is that little troll up to?" Sergeant Martin Timmerson snarled mostly to himself before he had to focus on blasting swarm of yellow-armored Grunts to cover the retreat of the MegaKat City Marine's 28th Powered-Armor Corps.

"Incoming marked as SWAT Alpha, circa 2023." A male voice echoed over an open channel. "Likely friendlies."

"Attempt contact and get those antiques out of here." The unit captain ordered and returned his attention to the battle raging on ground level. A hail of blaster charges dropped the last of the Grunts charging his unit's position, giving them a few seconds reprieve as the Covenant brought in the next wave. "Let's get moving, Marines! Keep your aim focused on the drop ship's hatches, bring those bastards down before they're ready."

The panther ducked as three glowing orbs of plasma from the drop ship's defensive gun slammed into the ground behind him. If they weren't back under cover fast, this could be one of the shortest engagements in the war.

His gaze flicked skyward at the motion there to see two extremely out-of-place jets joining the fray to strafe the drop ships with missiles and weapons more than a century out of date.

Still; out of date or not, they were effective. Covenant troops of all types were flung into the air as the hatches opened just a split-second too early. The blasts ripped half the u-shaped drop bay off, the rest of the ship crashing.

"Get down!" Timmerson shouted over the comm link with the rest of his unit. They dropped to the ground just in time for the shockwave from the engines detonating to wash over them mostly harmlessly.

"Contact achieved, Sergeant," the voice from earlier said matter-of-factly.

"I noticed, Darkeye. Jer? Thanks."

The drop ship remaining in the air, damaged by the attack and subsequent explosion, pulled back and turned away, leaving a glowing blue trail behind it as it picked up speed with the two new jets on it's tail until it too was brought to earth by the pair.

"Told you SWAT was something else." Lance Corporal Darkeye chuckled over the line before the order to assemble and clear the battlefield was called.

Sgt. Timmerson slowly brought his heavily armored power suit to its feet, the rest of his troops doing the same. As they set about bringing in the dead and wounded, finishing off the remaining Covenant survivors, and collecting as much of the alien weaponry as they could, he looked up, watching the two SWAT Kat jets come in for a landing at the old Enforcer HQ.

"Think I owe the little gnome an apology," the Panther rumbled deeply as he got to the unpleasant work of collecting the dead.

"Any idea when that little troll sent us?" KNight asked over the team's secure frequency when the chaos had settled and they'd swung around to head back to the Enforcer Headquarters building still standing tall in the city.

"From the feeds I can work out, 2241." Echo supplied from his seat behind Tank. "Assuming there hasn't been a calendar reset, we're a couple centuries up the timeline."

"And then some," Tank muttered. "At least it looks like the city's still mostly in one piece. Any clue what those hostiles were?"

"I dunno," Headshot said quietly. "But it looks like MKC's had a hell of a lot of better days. Maybe they can fill us in," she suggested, referring to the small party of kats and Xanith, most of them well armed, that emerged onto the roof of Enforcer Headquarters as the two jets made a circle to find a good place to land.

"Hopefully before demanding our weapons." KNight nodded as she brought her jet in for a VTOL landing near the group. "Tank, stay sky side and cover us."

"Will do, KNight. Echo, keep the glue-guns ready." The tabby kept his jet at a fairly safe distance, shifting it into hover-mode and keeping a close eye on the meeting below.

"Understood," the Puma nodded, watching his teammates leap from the cockpit to face off against the local party. We kept an eye open for local fighters we well, more than a little curious at their absence.

"Commander," KNight saluted the big Feral male with Commander's stripes once she had her feet under her. "Captain Jessie 'KNight' Clawson of SWAT Alpha reporting."

The Commander returned the salute, breaking out of it briskly and crossed his hands behind his back. He was so much like either of the Commanders she'd known it was almost funny, though he seemed more like the old Commander Feral than Felina.

"It's been a long time since anybody's said that," he rumbled. "Good to see that the PastMaster's spells worked. At ease."

KNight raised an eyebrow at that and slipped into an at ease stance with Headshot slightly behind her. It took her a moment to work that twisted concept around her brain enough to get to the question that was most important. "Why are we here, sir?"

"Because we're desperate, Captain," he admitted. "You already encountered the Covenant once. Unfortunately, you weren't so lucky the first time. If you'll call in your partners, I'll explain once we're somewhere a little safer."

"The first time," Headshot asked KNight dubiously as the cinnamon shekat considered and then signaled the other jet down.

"Time travel. Like when Pastie snagged dads to put his messed up Metallikat plan right," she explained quickly, then looked at the Commander. "Where should we park them?" KNight inclined her head to her jet and the one coming in for a VTOL landing.

"The old hangar is still functional. Not in full repair, but it will do for resupply and any repairs necessary."

KNight nodded and activated the autopilot, locking it onto the hanger and sent it home, shortly followed by its companion as Tank and Echo joined them.

"This is Lieutenant Deborah 'Headshot' Sumner," she indicated her gunner as the four followed their new Commander inside. "The Puma is Lieutenant Taller 'Echo' Windbright and Lieutenant Brad 'Tank' Furlong's his pilot."

"Commander Xavier Feral," the tall Xanith said, motioning towards the others with him. "Lance Corporal Jeremy Darkeye, with the MKC Marines," he said, indicating the well-built black tom with dark red tabby stripes, "and my aides."

KNight nodded to them. Her attention stayed on Feral, though she did recognize Darkeye as the Enforcer that had contacted them and knew enough of the right things to say to convince her they were the good guys. "What are the highlights of the last two centuries and what is the deal with the Covenant?" She asked quietly as they entered the many-times rebuilt headquarters.

"The Covenant are the highlights," the Commander admitted. "Two centuries ago, some eighteen years after you were brought here to judge by your jets, the Covenant attacked."

"Sounds like Mutilor," Headshot observed during the brief pause. "They went down easily enough."

"Mutilor was a raid," the Commander corrected her. "The Covenant are invading. Their drop ships and troops went down easily this time because we weren't up against a full-scale attack. When they first arrived, Hunter-class shock troops dropped into the center of MegaKat City in assault craft. We were completely unprepared for something of that magnitude, especially as quickly as it hit. We were lucky to drive them back before they completely leveled our military forces."

"How have you managed the two hundred years in between?" Echo asked as he tried to absorb the concept of being at war for that long against an invader without one side loosing or pulling out.

"It hasn't been easy," the Commander admitted. "We contacted our allies after the first attack, but most of them had been hit, and harder. They had more conventional military forces, but they were completely unprepared for dealing with Omega-class threats. The Covenant definitely qualified. It ended up being the Omegas that saved us, ironically."

"The Omegas?" Tank asked dubiously. "They've never decided to help the city before."

"They've never had this big a reason to. After the first attacks, they gradually decided that it wouldn't do any good to take over the world if the Covenant were just going to blow it up beneath them. We called a truce, of sorts. They were able to help us hold off the Covenant until our scientists developed the weapons and armor we needed to combat them effectively. The power suits you saw outside are the best example; all the armament of an armored transport in a size one well-trained marine can control.

"Since then, it's been a sort of stalemate. The Covenant were gaining ground, but they've decided that it would be more efficient to hammer away at us slowly. They only have one cruiser in orbit, so the resources they can bring to bear at any one time are limited. We can usually hold our own on the ground, but against that cruiser... well, the last time we tried to launch an offensive it cost us the rest of SWAT," he admitted.

"So it's been two hundred years they've had the planet under siege?" Headshot asked, raising an eyebrow as she took off her helmet. "Isn't that a little long to have just one cruiser up there? Why haven't they left? It can't be worth it to them."

"This isn't a war of conquest for them," the Commander explained, shaking his head. "From what we've gathered, the Covenant are several different species bound by a common faith. Unfortunately, we aren't members. We're not sure why, but their religious leaders have decided we need to be exterminated."

"How good a record do you have of SWAT's last offensive?" KNight asked as she pushed the emotional content of that statement to the background. This is what she'd spent her entire life preparing for. It was time to do her parents proud.

"Fairly good," the Commander nodded. "The last part of the offensive wasn't able to be transmitted before the last fighter was shot down. Unfortunately, what we have for records says they never even made it onto the cruiser. The Covenant has been very careful about maintaining strict air superiority since; it's likely why you took them by surprise so effectively."

"That's why you didn't have any jets out there," Echo nodded to himself, though he was still having difficulty with the idea of a two-hundred something year active war.

"What are you hoping we can accomplish?" KNight focused on developing a mission plan in her mind to have something to lock onto.

"Saving the world," the Commander chuckled slightly. "The technological superiority of the Covenant is what allowed their attack to succeed to the extent it did. We've held them at bay for two-hundred years. What do you think we could do, if we had eighteen years to study their technology before they arrived?"

KNight looked at the giant tom, then at her team and chuckled low in her throat. "A great deal of damage." Then she turned deadly serious. "It can be more of an advantage than that, you know. You've developed systems that'll take me months to understand fully, and as much time to study and develop equipment in this time as we can manage. If you can spare the equipment and people, we can go home ready to face them with today's technology against that first attack."

"We'll have to see," he nodded approvingly. "I like the way you think, KNight. Unfortunately, it means we'll have to capture more of their technology than we've managed in the past."

"Even if you can't, just going back with a good enough understanding to have the entire force equipped with that power armor you've got will make a radical shift in the balance of power." She nodded thoughtfully. "Add that to being aware of roughly when and where the attack will come and it's an incredible tactical advantage. Eighteen years will even be enough to lay traps for that cruiser. We may not be able to build ships to take it out, but unless it has something like the kick-tail energy shields my sire developed we can mine space, just like you mine the seaways."

"Unfortunately, their shields are actually stronger than Dark Kat's," the Commander said, darkly serious. "On the cruisers and drop ships. They just can't unload or move at full speed while they're up. We also have a plan to acquire the technology, at the very least one of their Banshees. Those include enough of the technology that you should be able to develop an effective defense. The fuel-rod cannon, vehicle-grade plasma weaponry, and repulsorlift technology, along with the alloys and other components."

"Debbie and Brad are the acquisition specialists," she inclined her head to the pair with a slight smile. "Anything you can give me, yours or theirs, is going to be an advantage. And something I can give you improvements on," KNight added seriously, almost unable to contain her excitement at the prospect of getting her hands on such advanced technology. "I am as gifted as my father in that field." She paused. "How much longer do you think you'll be able to hold out?"

"Do you think you can help us hold out until we're ready for the plan to go into action?" He asked her seriously.

"Sir, that is our job." She inclined her head to him.

"Then we should be able to last long enough to put things into motion, barring something unexpected happening. How long do you think it will take to prepare the operation?" He asked, looking back at Tank and Headshot. "Given all our intelligence regarding the Covenant facilities and ships."

The two of them looked at each other, considering what they knew already.

"We can't say for sure," Headshot admitted. "Not until we've looked at it and seen what sort of security we're looking at."

"And a reasonable idea of what you have here," KNight added. "If you give us access to the Intel, we should be able to give you a mission timeline and expectations by morning."

"Excellent," he nodded, a thin smile on his stern, tired face. "Do you want to be led to a workshop right away, or would you rather take a little time to adjust before you get to work?"

Tank and Headshot looked at each other, then back to KNight, as if to say it was up to her. It was a silent statement that was matched by Echo without reservation.

"A workshop," she chose without hesitation. "Our shift only started two hours ago."

"We'll get you set up," he nodded, leading them further into the centuries-old building.

"I'd like to barrow Darkeye if you don't mind, sir." She added to the dark tom's clear surprise. "He has the kind of understanding I'd like to have the advantage of."

"Lance Corporal, you're with them," Feral said easily, the entourage finally reaching a large room that had been converted into a workshop long before. "Good luck to all of you."

"Thank you, sir." KNight and her team made their first business to learn the layout and contents of their workshop, and especially all the nap spots available.

KNight was working in a small, blast-shielded room when she heard the comm beep, alerting her to the incoming message. She looked up slightly from the plasma pistol she was disassembling, and towards the speaker near the door.

"Captain Clawson, this is Sgt. Timmerson, Powered Armor Corps. Would you mind a brief interruption?"

"Not at all," she smiled and stretched out tense muscles before standing to greet the powerfully built black tom that clearly had Panther blood in him.

He glanced at her work before looking at her. "Having any luck?" He asked her curiously.

"A fair bit, actually." She smiled and relaxed against the table. "What can I do for you?"

"Well, first off, I wanted to thank you for helping us out earlier," he smiled. "You really pulled our tails out of the fire."

"You're welcome," KNight inclined her head. "Just doing our job."

"And doing it well," he chuckled slightly. "We haven't been that successful in a long, long time. I also heard you wanted to find out about the suits?"

"Oh yes." She perked up instantly. "They're going to be the most important thing I bring back besides intel."

"Well, my Thunder's in the maintenance pool right now," he chuckled, "but if you'd like, I can tell you some about them. I don't know all the technical details, but I could probably get you started well enough."

"Sure," her smile widened and warmed a bit. "Have a seat," she motioned to wherever he could find a place. "I hope you don't mind if I keep playing dissect-the-new-blaster."

"Not at all," he nodded. "Just, if you don't mind, make sure it's pointed the other way. Those things have a hair trigger, and I don't think you've taken it out yet."

"I've noticed." She laughed easily and pointed to the scorch marks on the wall. "I've already tripped it a couple times."

"Just wait until you're practicing with one on the target range and don't realize you holstered it wrong," he laughed, grabbing a chair and pulling it over, lean muscle shifting under his dark pelt. "You pull the trigger a little and it fires one shot. You leave it pulled down, it builds up a charged blast that'll go through about an inch of armor plate."

" That I haven't done yet." KNight blinked in surprise, a look that quickly got to dangerously plotting. "But it has definite possibilities." She added with a purr.

"Now you see why you're working in a blast-proof room," he chuckled, cocking his head slightly. "What are you thinking?"

"Well, the variable charge concept is something my father was fond of, but he never really moved it beyond the Glovatrix. It worked on a similar concept as this one. But by modifying it to a switch or knob it can become useful on just about all energy-based weaponry." She explained as the weapon under discussion lost a few more pieces. "How completely have you converted to energy-based?"

"Almost entirely. Our blasters are pretty similar to their plasma weaponry, and for some reason their personnel defenses are remarkably ineffective against them, except for when they change the polarity of their shielding."

"Sounds like I have my first job here." She nodded grimly and stuck the variable frequency and explosive weaponry for the ground pounders ideas onto the back burner to stew while she dissected what she had in front of her and Timmerson talked about technology, the world and what they really needed.

Echo stretched his arms up, putting his lean Xanith body on display under his black flight suit uniform as he took a momentary break from going over history and records with Darkeye. As he rolled his shoulders out, he regarded the shorter tom to work out how to broach a subject that even the SWAT enthusiast probably didn't know given the time between their reality and now.

"So, Darkeye," he began rather unceremoniousy. "Are you bi?"

"Wha?" The dark tabby looked over at him, his surprise written across his entire body. Clearly, that wasn't anything he'd been expecting to be asked. "Well... yeah, but... why?"

"Well, because while you're working with SWAT, you'll probably be around for at least some of the wind-down and breaks." The Puma smiled at him. "And face it, KNight asked for you here for more than your brain and interest in history."

"Really?" Darkeye asked, blushing beneath his black fur. "So... why does it matter for your breaks?" He asked, though he had a feeling he knew already.

Echo couldn't help but chuckle. "Because they tend to involve very little clothing and a lot of sweat and cum." He ran an appreciative gaze down Darkeye's body. "And you have a very nice backside."

The tabby's blush grew deeper.

"Thanks. You're pretty good looking yourself. So your team is more than just partners?"

"All of SWAT is," he leaned against the table/computer consol they were working on. "We got it from both sides of the unit's heritage. Bull's Ops team and the original SWAT." He nodded towards where Headshot and Tank were working on their own plans. "We all grew up around it. They were our folks after all."

"Quite a reputation to live up to," Darkeye chuckled slightly. "Though from what I've read, you managed it. We've got a couple units in this time like that too, actually. They can be really interesting to work with."

"Yeah," he smiled slightly and dropped his eyes with a slight blush. "Kinda nice now we'll manage to make them proud."

"And save more than just the city while you're doing it," Darkeye smiled. "Say... what did KNight mean by her sire's energy shields? There wasn't anything in any of the records I have access to about Razor developing those, or we would have had the technology after he went official."

Echo raised an eyebrow, and then chuckled. "She has an ... odd ... heritage. Her sire is Jermain Tabisan." He paused, unsure if Darkeye would recognize the name after so long, history buff or not.

"So that's why the Commander mentioned Dark Kat's shielding," Darkeye murmured. "So were the files about her being Razor's daughter wrong, or was there something stranger involved?"

Echo took a deep breath and sorted the story out in his mind before he went over its key points. "No, her father is Razor; her sire is Dark Kat ... who's also her grandfather by Razor. She was a lab creation neither knew about until the shooting was over with." He shook his head at the tale, weird even by their standards. "She was actually rescued from the lab in the same mission that turned SWAT official and ended with Dark Kat's death. Only Vale thought she was just a cat kitten at the time." He paused for a breath. "A lot went down that month. I doubt Kitten Services ever did figure out what hit them once Karmel got involved." He chuckled with fond memories of the shekat that had all but raised them all.

"It sounds like it. I can see why it's not on the list of things that most people know about," Darkeye chuckled slightly. "MegaKat City certainly hasn't gotten any less normal in the last 200 years, has it?"

"Nope," he shook his head a bit and grinned. "One thing you get used to with relatives like ours is weirdness. It's part and parcel of the package."

"And a nice package it is," the red-striped tabby grinned back.

"So, what do you think about a little break before you get thrown into the middle of the team?" Echo licked his whiskers hungrily, eager to not be looking at losses and grief for a while.

"Here, or somewhere more private?" Darkeye asked quietly, glancing back at Tank and Headshot, who were watching the two of them with matching amused expressions.

"That depends on how shy you are," Echo rumbled lightly and brushed Darkeye's cheek with his thumb. "They'll start playing soon enough."

"Think I'm a little more shy than that," Darkeye blushed, reaching up to rub the back of Echo's hand. "My quarters, maybe?"

"Lead the way," he quickly kissed his cheek and motioned for the shorter tom to go.

"Have fun." Tank mouthed at his teammate and got a smirk and wink in return.

"Everybody's having fun but us," Headshot muttered after the door shut.

"Ah, we can have some when we get this sorted out." He nuzzled her affectionately.

"I'll hold you to that," she smiled, nuzzling him back. "Think KNight's still staying focused with that hunk of a Panther in there?"

"Probably longer than he's willing to," he chuckled deep in his chest. "You know how that girl can focus when she wants to."

"About as well as we need to right now," Headshot chuckled, turning back towards the console. "So, now that we've gotten a break to watch Taller seduce the new guy, maybe we should finish figuring out what to collect on our first shopping trip?"

"They've got a good selection of weapons, but what I don't see in the inventory is much on those shields they have. A small vehicle, or live grunt, should do it."

"Think we should try for one of those Ghost hovercrafts?" She suggested, looking through the list of Covenant vehicles. "Or maybe shoot for a Banshee, like the Commander suggested? Be a bit harder, but it looks like they've got better weapons, and move slower, be easier to hit with something non-destructive."

"Hitting it isn't the trick," Tank smirked. "It's the driver that has to get hit. Wonder what Feral'd say to bringing one of those things back alive?"

"He'd probably blow a gasket, but in a good way for once," the black-on-grey tabby snickered. "Though the way I can think of to do it would probably give KNight a fit if I told her what I was planning on doing to her new toy. Kinda hard to pilot anything when you're glued to the cockpit. What those bozos were thinking then they left the pilot exposed to enemy fire, I'll never know."

"Force shields," he pointed out. "And a disregard for life. Glue is good," he added with a grin. "You know it wouldn't be hard to do that. And getting him separated is what solvents are for. We'd get a set of armor out of it too."

"And whatever personal shields those things use, according to this," she grinned, pulling up the video of one of the strange warriors in combat, indicating the glowing field around it shortly before an explosive charge ended its charge. "About the only way it'd get better for a first run would be to bring in one of those Hunter-things." She paused for a few moments, frowning as she thought about how to pull either off.

"Easiest way to capture 'em would probably be to just take to the air during the next fight. From what he said, they'll probably pull their air forces out to try and ground us. Between two jets as maneuverable as the TK-E's, we should be able to make mincemeat out of them."

"Mmmm, quite likely," he nodded. "As long as we stay away from that cruiser for now."

"I'm just holding out hope that they don't want to bring it into the atmosphere," she admitted. "It's kinda freaky, y'know? I mean, it's not like any of us planned on collecting a pension, but to know how it was we were gonna buy it, and that the reason is just waiting for us out there."

"Yeah, it wasn't exactly something dad talked about when he could avoid it," Tank nodded with a sigh and pulled her into a tight hug against his chest. "He always said that that future wouldn't come because they stopped it. Only ended up changing the date by a few years."

"Yeah," she sighed slightly, hugging him back. "Bet he'd have said it was worth it though. The extra few years, and that last fight with the Red Lynx."

"And what really mattered stop him; the battle was won, even though they lost." He close he eyes tightly against the pain of those days. "Hard to believe that Dark Kat can be thanked for it. If it wasn't for him, SWAT would have never been created, either time."

"One of the weirder parts of MKC back in our time," she agreed, nuzzling him lightly. "You'd've made him proud, Tank."

"Thanks, Debbie," the big tabby murmured and tightened his hug. "I still miss him a lot."

"We all do, Brad," she murmured, rubbing his back. "All our folks."

"We're quite the group of orphans, aren't we?" He tried to chuckle and kind of made it.

"Yeah," she agreed, her own chuckle not quite as weak. "At least we've still got Karmel back home. Bet she's about ready to kill somebody for what happened."

"I would not want to be Shider right now." He shook his head and kissed her lightly. "Or Pastie if she ever catches him."

"At least Pastie's already dead," she chuckled slightly, kissing him back. "Little troll's gonna have enough trouble when I catch up with him."

"I think Jessie's going to have a few 'words' for him too." He chuckled for real. "Never cross a Clawson, it's bad for your health."

"I almost feel sorry for him," she smirked slightly and hot a more playful kiss. "Almost."

"He's earned it," he grinned and pulled her closer. "He just better send us home close to when he grabbed us."

"Mmm ... agreed. So, think we've earned that break yet?" She asked with a wink.

"Yeah," he grinned down at her and claimed a more heated kiss. "We know our target."

"So," she purred, running her fingers down his broad chest, slowly undoing his uniform as she did so, "they haven't bothered to tell us about quarters yet...." She glanced over at the large conference table in the middle of the room suggestively.

"That'll do," he grinned and kissed her heatedly as his hands explored the familiar body of his teammate.

"KNight?" Timmerson asked after a couple hours of talking back and forth about the ins and outs of how powered armor worked, what had happened in the past two-hundred years, and what she was discovering about the plasma pistol she'd been dissecting carefully. "When was the last time you took a break, had something to eat?"

"Before the alert and half an hour before that." She answered easily.

"Which makes it about ... what, seven, eight hours?" He asked, trying to remember how long it had been since they'd arrived.

"Probably," she admitted and cocked her head at him. "This a hint that it's dinner time?" She chuckled.

"Well, I don't know that I'd say 'hint,'" he chuckled and watched her stretch. "But yeah, it probably is. Once you get going, you don't stop until somebody makes you, do you?"

"Not usually, though I'm not hard to get to stop either. Nothing like my father." She grinned at him. "So where is there to eat these days, and does it involve civvies?"

"It could," he grinned back. "We'd have to get you some civvies to wear, but there's a place not far from here we hit when we can get away from the mess hall, if you don't mind burgers and beer."

"Not at all," KNight licked her whiskers flat. "It sounds great to me."

"Come on," he chuckled, "we'll grab you something more comfortable than that uniform." He stood up and pushed his chair in, moving towards the door. "Want to ask the rest of the team if they want to come along?" He asked her, half-hoping she'd say 'no.'

"Unless you want to either make a quick exit at some point or be in the middle of a team wind-down exercise, probably not." She smirked teasingly. "A break from work and a meal is going to be the end of seriousness for a while."

"I can only imagine what that would be like with you four," he chuckled and opened the door to cross the workshop. His eyes got wide for a moment as he suddenly got a very good idea of what she meant by 'team wind-down exercise.' "Correction," he said, pulling his head back in with a deep blush under his black fur. "I could only imagine."

"Nah, they're just taking a break." KNight laughed easily and walked through the outer workshop without batting an eye at the two kats going at it energetically on a conference table. "I'm guessing that Darkeye is the shy type."

"Apparently," Timmerson chuckled, following her out quickly. "Whole new meaning to team bonding."

"It's not a common practice anymore?" She glanced up at him with a bit of pity.

"Didn't know it ever had been," he admitted. "Rumor mill has a couple units like that, but it's not something most units do, at least not these days. Not that they don't play around with each other, but not the whole team."

"Oh," she nodded, and then thought about it. "I suppose it's more common with the special ops units like we evolved from. Even the biggest units only had a dozen members, most are four to six."

"While if my unit did that, it'd be at least a twenty-four way orgy," he chuckled, thinking about it. "I just don't think we're quite ready for that level of togetherness."

"It's be a hell of a sight though," she rumbled and licked her whiskers again. "So are the civvies going to be on loan, or something that needs to be bought?"

"On loan, at least while you get started," he said. "I'm not sure what sort of deal Command will set up for you, but I imagine if you're going to be here for a while you'll get pay and be able to pick up your own stuff after you've gotten going. Maybe an allowance or something, if you're going home eventually."

"I would hope I see a paycheck matching rank and specialty," she raised an eyebrow but nodded. "Or whatever it's equivalent is these days. So who am I borrowing from?"

"Supply sergeant," he answered easily, leading the way to a lift. "He'll be able to provide you with a few sets of street grays and extra uniforms. Probably tell you where your quarters are too, if nobody else has?" He asked, looking over at her curiously.

"Not yet," she chuckled sheepishly. "It wasn't much of a priority. I honestly don't expect to see much of them."

"You're as bad as Ratchet," he chuckled. "Maybe worse, but you haven't been around long enough to prove it yet. Don't think I'd want to be there if you two got talking."

"It can't be as bad as when dad and I got at it," KNight snickered as they walked. "Unless she's as brilliantly creative as he was."

"Can't say I know the benchmark there," Timmerson chuckled, "but she's as bad about tech-talk as you are. She's the gal who keeps the suits of the 28th in fighting shape," he explained, the two of them moving through the halls easily. KNight noticed that there were signs posted saying which way to go; they might be handy later on.

At least that much hadn't changed. Enforcers were still Enforcers, and they loved their signs.

"Dad was the original Razor of the SWAT Kats." She explained simply. "We were a real terror while he was still alive."

"Ooh boy," he chuckled, shaking his head. "Okay, you two probably wouldn't be that bad. I've heard enough about him to know Ratchet's not that far along. By the way, don't let Darkeye bug you guys too much; he's a bit of a history buff, and you're his specialty."

"That fascination is what I'm interested in." KNight nodded with a grin. "He's going to know a lot of the details about that first twenty years that I want to know. He's got a seriously cute ass too."

"I'm guessing it wouldn't be out of line to guess that's why he wasn't in the room with the other two?" Timmerson asked with a grin as they finally reached the large supply area. "Hope you know what size you wear."

"Unless they've changed drastically," she nodded. "And I'd guess he's with Taller."

"What'cha need?" A huge creamy-white Mountain Dog Kantin asked over the counter.

"Uniforms," KNight smiled at him. "Cammies and grays."

"Full sets?" He looked her over and turned to collect the items.

"Yes," KNight called after the biggest Kantin she'd ever seen, who returned shortly with a pile of dark and light grey clothing, boots and covers.

"Just sign for them and your ID." He instructed her gruffly.

KNight nodded and slipped her ID from a hidden pocket slot on her thigh to hand over before filling out the info on the form.

"Some things never change." She chuckled as her ID was handed back and slipped back in place.

"Have a good evening." The Kantin nodded to her a bit more politely.

"You too." She smiled back and took the pile of clothes. "Your quarters?" She glanced at Timmerson.

"For now, yeah," he nodded. Good thing they hadn't changed the design of the ID that much in a long, long time. "Want some help with those?"

She opened to her mouth to say she was fine, and then smiled at him. "Sure. Thanks." She offered up half the pile and the boots, which he took easily.

"C'mon," he smiled, "quarters are the next few levels down."

The two of them made it back to the lifts just as they were closing from a Malamute Kantin who was getting off, and took them down three levels, chatting back and forth on the way down, and to Timmerson's quarters.

"Just set it down anywhere," he said easily as the door closed behind him. "You can change in the bathroom," he offered, putting his portion of her new outfits down on a small cabinet.

"No need," she said just as easily, putting hers down on the bed and starting to strip. Timmerson blushed again beneath his fur, turning around as she changed. He fought the urge to steal a glance at her fine, lean body and rich, thick fur while she was undressed, and was mostly successful.


The glances he did steal revealed that she was as attractive as he'd thought. It was a surprise that she had faint rosettes of cinnamon, brown and red along her sides and ass and tiger stripes of similar coloring along her back. She knew how to best to display what she had too, both in the muscular hardness of her body, the soft curves of a shekat in her prime and the Xanith markings that turned her simple caramel fur and long braided black hair into something truly exotic. He knew he could never 'prove' anything if he'd wanted to, but he was sure she was trying to get a rise out of him.

And doing a very good job of it, if the tightening in his pants was any indication.

"Something wrong?" Jessie asked softly, wearing only a gray t-shirt and her bikini underwear.

"Not at all," he said, doing a remarkably good job of keeping his voice steady, though he couldn't keep all the embarrassment out of it. "Just... uhm... well, it's a little different when somebody's changing in your quarters than when you're both changing in the locker room."

She considered him a bit. "Timmerson, what's your first name?" She asked softly, her tone definitely seductive.

"Martin," he said, getting the feeling that he was about to end up wishing he'd just watched.

"Mine's Jessie," she smiled softly and leaned back a bit on the single bed in the room. "Why don't you turn around, Martin?" She purred. "Or is it you don't want to look at me?"

He did turn around, and couldn't keep his eyes from looking her top to bottom, or the soft deep rumble in his throat.

"Not at all, Jessie," he said, ducking his head a bit in embarrassment. "Would you believe Darkeye isn't the only one who's a little shy sometimes?" He looked down into her eyes, his expression honest, and found a gentle smile there.

"You don't need to be shy here," she offered gently and extended a hand to him. "I won't laugh, and I do want you."

He took her hand lightly, smiling a bit. "Good to know it's wasn't just my imagination. You're gorgeous, you know that? Part Xanith?"

"A quarter, we think," she nodded and stood to press her firm body against his, relishing in the feel and smell of a fully aroused male. "Beyond my parents and grandmother, it's a bit iffy."

"Just wondering," he smiled, rubbing her back with one broad hand and leaned his head down a bit to nuzzle her head, inhaling her scent. "I like your markings," he murmured softly.

"Thank you," she shifted back to kiss him lightly. So much like her father and grandmother, she found the much bigger male intoxicating on a very visceral level. "Can I see yours?"

"Sure," he rumbled, unbuttoning his shirt enough to pull it off along with the white tank top beneath it, the motion smooth and well practiced. Dark rosettes of black showed faintly against his dark fur as he tossed his shirts into a hamper easily. "Mind if I ask you to take that back off so soon after you got it back on?"

"How about you do it?" She purred seductively and stepped back a bit to lift her arms and pose her body to make the task both easy and breathtaking for them both.

"With pleasure," he rumbled, running his hands down her sides, then pulling the gray t-shirt up and off of her. He sat it to the side and rumbled as he reached down to run his fingers along the bottom of the white sports-bra she was wearing. The ripple of muscle and fur under his finger send a spike of excitement through his body even as she pulled away teasingly.

"Show me yours, I'll show you mine," Jessie grinned and twirled playfully to show off her body with the grace of a martial arts master or dancer.

"Only fair," he chuckled, working on undressing quickly. He didn't move with half the natural grace she did, though it showed that he was used to getting in and out of his clothes fast. As his boots, socks and pants came off in order Jessie smiled and danced seductively for him. Her full, silky tail twitched and flicked to cover her full breasts as she rolled her bra off in response.

"You want to do the honors?" He asked her, only his briefs still on as he turned to give her a look at his firm ass and well-muscled body.

"If you can hold still," she winked with devilish grin and stepped up press her body against his during a fiery kiss while her hands slid under the band of his briefs to slowly slide them down. She took the opportunity to touch everything but what wanted attention most on their way down.

"You are far too good at this," he rumbled, leaning down to kiss her again. His large hands explored her body and slowly worked her bikini underwear down while her tail moved across his groin with all the self-control of a true believer.

"Thank you," Jessie chuckled low in her throat and caressed his chest before kicking her underwear towards her clothing. "Now, shall we get a little use out of this lovely thing?" She purred and ran her fingers along his rough, hard shaft.

"What, I don't get a chance to tease back?" He asked with a chuckle, guiding her towards the bed all the same. "I'll have to remember to pay you back some time."

"Any time you can pin me," she smirked and made an abrupt twist to land him on his back on the bed and leapt on top of him.

"Mmph!" He grunted as he hit the bed, only to have the enthusiastic shekat land on top of him. "Like it rough, hmm?" He grinned up at her, twisting and rolling on top of her, though he was sure he wouldn't stay there long. "Or just impatient tonight?"

"Both," she grinned up at him and kissed him again. "I've got some tension to burn off. Think you can manage that?"

"I think I can come up with something," he grinned, then returned the kiss passionately as she spread her legs for him and thrust up. "This good, or you prefer being on top?"

"For now," she purred, the sound turning into a mutual groan as he sank his thick, barbed length into her slick warmth.

"Oh yes," he groaned, starting to thrust into her hard and deep. He grunted with each matching thrust and squeeze she gave in a counterpoint rhythm as old as their kind and nearly as savage.

"Mmm, that was fun," Jessie murmured in contentment and kissed her playmate before slipping from the bed with most of her natural grace intact. "The shower does work, I presume?"

"Unless something got hit we don't know about," he nodded, climbing out with her. "Solo, or see if we both fit?" He asked, looking back over his shoulder at her.

"If we both fit, I'm game," she chuckled and walked to the small bathroom with a bit of a sway to her hips and playful flick of her slightly matted tail.

He followed behind her and chuckled slightly as she climbed into the shower, actually a fairly comfortable size for her. Still, there was no chance he'd fit in with her, at least not without a crowbar to get back out.

"Didn't really think it'd work," he chuckled. "You go ahead first; I'll grab it after that."

"I'm not surprised," she chuckled as she made quick work of scrubbing the sweat and various substances from her fur with efficiency he had to admire, especially given he doubted she was twenty yet.

"How long have you been military?" He asked her curiously, leaning back against the doorframe and watching her shower appreciatively.

"Technically?" She paused, actually a bit embarrassed. "About a week. That skirmish you saw was our first action."

"Hey, we were all new some time," he chuckled, smiling at her. "You did a lot better than some of new officers I've known. Every once in a while you still end up running into some Lieutenant or something who thinks he knows everything and forgets it once he's in a real fight."

"Gods, I'd never live that down," she laughed and shuddered at all the same time. "I may have just graduated, but I've been living with this my whole life. We all have. The original SWAT Alpha were our folks."

"Hell of a family business to be in," he laughed. "MKC wasn't much quieter during your time than it is now, was it?"

"I don't think so," she shook her head and switched the shower to blowers to dry off. "Less sustained damage, but the Omegas wanted to conquer the city, not raze it to the ground."

"And that's a whole new type of destructive," he nodded slightly. "That's probably the one good thing about this whole mess; we haven't had Omegas fighting against us in longer than anybody I know can remember."

"That's just ... too weird." She murmured and turned the blowers off before stepping out of the shower stall. "To need SWAT and not have Omegas. It's what out charter is . To fight the Omega problem."

"For what it's worth, they'll probably come back after the Covenant are out of here," he pointed out a little grimly. "We've still got a handful of them, Past Master mostly; they're just on the other side for now. Arrogant SOB's too, the lot of 'em."

That made her pause, her hand outstretched for a brush to put her fur right. "You realize that if we succeed in this mission and stop the Covenant in my time, you and everyone of this time will no longer exist."

"Probably," he admitted, climbing into the shower to start cleaning himself off. "But it's better that they be stopped. Even if we managed to win the war today, drive them out, destroy that cruiser of theirs... it wouldn't change what had already happened. Besides," he sighed slightly, letting the hot water soak into his thick fur, "what would we do?"

"After they're gone?" She looked at him while she brushed her short fur and fluffy tail out, and then redid her long black hair into its tight braid that trailed most of the way down her back. "Rebuild. Have kits. Put the world back together. Same as we've always done after a disaster. It's hardly the first time MKC's been razed, you know. Three world wars were fought on this soil by my time. Omegas and stopping them leveled sections of the city time and time again in my parents' time and in mine." She paused to look at him under the blowers. "Kats have always survived and rebuilt."

"Yeah, but none of the MegaWars or Omegas left nobody behind who could remember a lasting peace," he pointed out. "You'd probably be right, but between them being as well entrenched as they are, and the millions who've already died... it's better to stop them before all that happens."

"I'm going to do my best," she nodded sharply with a determination that gave credence to her full heritage as she claimed a set of grays and dressed quickly while he began to brush his short fur out.

After a few minutes, he was getting dressed too, and looked down at her as he buttoned a plain shirt.

"Does it bother you? Changing history, maybe wiping out this future?"

"The idea of having a great time with someone who won't exist if I do my job?" She glanced up at him. "Yeah, it bothers me. Not as much as dieing or the lives of billions, but ... it's not a good thought."

"Guess I've kinda gotten used to thinking of everything as going to end early one way or another," he admitted. "I don't understand all the time-travel stuff," he said, reaching down to rub her shoulder lightly. "But it might not work out that way. No way of being sure; that's the PastMaster's job, not some armor jock's."

"That's part of why I'm going to be giving you guys the best chance of winning as I can before we leave." She grinned dangerously. "No reason to give up on the future just because it might not happen."

"Now that's a philosophy I can live with," he grinned back, then finished dressing and looked at the clock. "Hope you don't mind hitting the mess hall," he chuckled. "Pretty much everything's closed after 2200."

"Not at all," she nodded easily. "I'm seriously used to it."

"Let's go," he smiled, pulling on his boots and opening the door. "What's the rest of your team like?" He asked, as the two of them started walking through the largely quiet halls of the complex.

"We're all pretty fiery. Comes with the territory and the heritage." She chuckled. "Brad, the other pilot, is T-Bone's son. He's got the touch for flying to prove it too. He was born a few months after I was and Karmel raised us all. He's more of a brother a lot of the time, even though we aren't actually related. Sometimes I think our fathers wanted us to hook up, to have a grandkit that would be a blood relative of them both."

"Unit as close as yours, and theirs, sound like they were, it makes sense," he smiled as they walked along. "Who was Karmel? It's not one of the names I recognize."

"She's the unit coordinator for Enforcer Special Ops, and went with Bull's team when SWAT was formed as an official unit. She was kind of the den mother for all the ops and when kits started to show up, she took them into her home as her own when our folks were away."

"Which probably happened a lot," he nodded, remembering his own childhood. At least the way things were now he'd had a reasonable chance of seeing his mother most nights. "So you and Brad were the kids of the original SWAT Kats, what about your gunners?"

"Debbie, my gunner, is the daughter of Shadow and Lucky, the espionage twins of Bull's team. Taller is Rail's son, another member of Bull's team that T-Bone recruited back before he even went Enforcer, much less SWAT. He was an Enforcer for three years before he joined the three of us for SWAT Alpha."

"So it really is a family business for you guys," he chuckled slightly. "Must make your folks proud."

"I hope so," she smiled weakly. "Only Karmel survived to see us in uniform."

"Sorry," he said softly. "I didn't know."

"Yeah, I guess the timing of things before the invasion isn't exactly a priority these days."

"I'm not really the history buff either," he admitted. "That's always been Darkeye's thing more." For example, the tabby would've known better than to make a screw-up like that. "It's never easy losing family. They went out in action?"

"Over the course of fifteen years," she nodded, and then sighed. "And you better believe we were some of the most watched kits on the planet after each one, but especially me after Jake died." She shook her head sharply, sending her long braid whipping around her as she pushed the memories and thoughts of those all too recent times away. "As much as they wanted us, they're really afraid of us too, and especially me."

"Why you?" He asked, looking down at her. "I'm sure you're a hell of an officer, but why would they be afraid of you for that?"

"Same reason a black ops team was assigned to kill Razor if he ever sided with his sire once that was found out." She muttered and shrugged. "My father's folks were an Omega and a shekat just as sick as he was. She turned her own son, my father, over to him. To Dark Kat." She glanced over to see if the name meant anything to him.

"That is sick," Timmerson muttered, his tail lashing. "If half of what I've heard is true, at least."

"You haven't heard the half of it." She shuddered. "As much as I hate him, Dark Kat was brilliant, almost as brilliant as his son. When a geneticist mixed the two to create me ... well, if I ever went Omega, the conservative estimates were that the city would last a month. I kinda doubt it would take me that long. It scared a lot of folks even more than the idea of Razor working for Dark Kat."

"Whoa," the Panther murmured, thinking it all through. "That makes sense then," he admitted. "They used to say Dark Kat was almost as bad as the Covenant when he wanted to be. If they figured you'd be worse ... well, remind me not to piss you off," he chuckled slightly.

"The great difference between Dark Kat and the Covenant is that he wanted the city largely intact. They don't." She paused, and then looked at him seriously. "How much structural damage was done outside city limits? To the mountains and forests."

"It varies," he admitted. "Not too much most of the time. If a battle ended up being fought there, a hell of a lot more. Sorry to say it wasn't always the Covenant that ended up doing the damage, either." He sighed a bit, shaking his head.

"Good," she said quietly, almost to herself, as the noise of the mess hall became more obvious.

"Good?" he asked curiously as the two of them walked through the mess hall. Even at the late hour, there were some people there, though it wasn't nearly as busy as it could be.

"Mess hall food that actually smells good," she chuckled and dodged the question. "What a concept."

"They usually manage to make it edible too," he chuckled, leading her back to grab a tray. "It's not the best, but it's better than MRE's."

"You've definitely got standards," Jessie couldn't help but laugh. "I'm still getting used to the idea that reheated take-out isn't home cooking."

"Who said anything about home cooking?" He asked with a chuckle. "You've just gotta know where to go before curfew." They made their way through the short line, each getting a plate of red and bird meat and assorted sides." Though I guess our standards are a bit higher, at least this time of year. If things were tighter, you'd probably be looking forward to getting back to whatever you're used to."

"I think I am anyway," she admitted as they found a table that gave them some privacy. "This is a hell of a first mission."

"Yeah, I'll bet it is," he nodded. "First time in the field and you get tossed a couple centuries into the future. On the bright side, when you get back, you'll have a hell of a story for off-duty nights."

"And maybe a new trick or two to show off for my playmates?" She raised a daring eyebrow at him.

"Do you all have libidos like yours?" He asked her, laughing as he shook his head.

"Usually," she grinned. "I did warn you that you might not want to get in the middle of a team wind down."

"As long as I managed to come up for air once in a while, I can certainly think of worse things to do," he winked at her.

"I'm sure between the four of us, you'd get an occasional break." Jessie rumbled with a teasing grin. "Or at least be able to crawl away to hide for a while."

"So," he chuckled, starting in on his dinner, "what was happening with those two in the workshop isn't too strange for you guys?"

"It's called a break," Jessie chuckled over her meat. "Which, if you hadn't asked me to dinner, is the kind I probably would have gone for with you in the workshop."

"Y'know, I think I like you better than my Captain," he smirked at her. "Though we did get to dinner eventually."

"I'm not so sure you'd like me as much if I was your Captain," she chuckled. "I can be real demanding."

"I think it's part of the job description," he chuckled. "Though you are much better looking than he is."

"I'm not surprised," she chuckled in return. "But if you stick around us, you'll probably get laid more often in a week than you would in a year elsewhere."

"Unfortunately, I suspect my real captain would have my stripes for that," he chuckled. "By the way, if you don't want to get trampled, stay out of the halls on my floor when the alarm goes off. Everybody moves at once."

"Some things never change." She laughed easily. "I grew up around emergencies, you know."

"And around ops," he chuckled. "A half-dozen or so people needing to get into flight suits isn't half as impressive as two dozen trying to get into a half-ton or more of battle armor at the same time."

"True," she inclined her head. "It's probably quite a sight when a scramble's called around here."

"Especially when they call out multiple units," he nodded. "Though personally? When it comes to heading out in the air, I'd rather have one of your jobs. The sights can be just as impressive, and they're not half as nerve wracking."

That raised an eyebrow. "What do you do in the air that is so nerve-racking?"

"It's what happens when a drop site's too dangerous to land," he explained. "When things are quiet out here, sometimes one of the other provinces will call for help. We get airlifted out; end up in the middle of a combat zone. If the anti-personnel guns can't clear enough of an area, we mount thrust packs and jump. That's not one rookies get sent out on."

"I bet," she murmured, remembering the respect such paratrooper units got among the Enforcers. "That's a hell of a job."

"And one that nobody sane likes," he chuckled. "Despite the fact we haven't lost anybody to a bad landing in years. Fortunately, it's not one we do too often. They can usually clear a landing zone, or find some other way to get us in."

"I'd think being kept busy on home ground keeps those minimal. It certainly was with SWAT. There just wasn't that often we could be spared."

"It definitely helps keep it down," he nodded. "And we never send out more than one or two units." He finished the meat on his plate, and leaned back slightly.

"So when do you go back on duty again?" She cocked her head and made quick work of what was left of her meal.

"I'm on tomorrow morning for training drills," he answered easily. "Late morning, fortunately."

"Then if you care to," she smiled as she stood with her tray, "you can hang out and help with breaks till you need to get some actual sleep."

"Sounds good to me," he smiled and got up to follow her as they dumped their trays and headed back to the workshop.

"Don't you four sleep ?" Commander Xavier Feral grumbled at the almost pre-dawn meeting SWAT had called with him and most of his top field and maintenance officers. It made for a fairly well packed conference room and several uneasy Enforcers.

"Rarely," Jessie smiled at him sweetly, still dressed in her grays from the previous night. It was a uniform her teammates had taken too quickly as well, being much more comfortable for extended lab work than their flight suits. "I thought you would find what we have by way of suggestions useful before the next encounter."

"We also have that game plan we promised." Brad Furlong piped up with an unrepentant grin.

"I'm listening," the dark-furred Xanith rumbled. He should've known they meant 'by morning' when they'd said it. "Start with your initial suggestions."

"One, upgrade your weaponry to lower tech." She began simply and with a bit of dark amusement. "Drop the energy weapons. They're all but useless against those shields."

"What would you recommend to replace them?" He asked seriously. It went against what they'd tried before, but it was worth considering if she had a better idea. "Bullets aren't particularly effective either, in our experience."

"According to your data, they are." Jessie Clawson chuckled lightly. "You've been using the wrong kind of guns, and bullets. Try upping the smallest caliber to at least 50 and include a high percentage of incendiary, armor piercing and explosive rounds. Also add as many mini-missiles and missiles as you can. It's not that they're resistant to kinetic damage; they're actually relatively vulnerable to it. It is that they are very resistant to low powered weapons of any kind. Treat anything with shields as a tank and you'll get the job done."

The Xanith thought about it for a few moments. "When you're working next after this meeting, I want you to speak with one of our maintenance personnel. She's been working on something that should work for what you're thinking of. We'll also have to refit and retrain for kinetic weapons, but it sounds like you think it'll be worth it."

"I do," she nodded. "What you're using clearly doesn't work. I've also looked over the data on their aircraft, and I'm sure we can take superiority back. Pilots will need to be trained, but the jets should still be here and ready to fly."

"Some are," he nodded. "Most high end fighters were destroyed early on, but we do have some yet. We need to make sure they are flight worthy yet. It's been years since we've used anything smaller than troop transports."

Jessie leaned back and glanced at her team before focusing on him. "That is good." She nodded. "How many do you have?"

"Six," one of his aides said reluctantly. "One Blue Manx, five EN-86's."

"How many pilots?"

"Fighter pilots, zero," the same aide answered. "We have about a dozen transport pilot-gunners, but not anybody trained on fighters."

"Then the first step is going to be screening for suitability," Jessie nodded slightly. "We can put as many jets in the air as we can find pilots for."

"How do you plan on reclaiming our air space?" Feral asked simply, steepling his fingers and considering the young pilot.

"Assuming there are enough pilots to be found, by using the weapons that work against our targets," she met his gaze evenly. "We've already established that energy weapons aren't very useful, and that's all most jets had by then. That is not what most of my father's gifts consisted of." She smiled slightly, half in fond memories, half in the amused viciousness of why she was given them. "If we can't find pilots, then we do it the hard way," she nodded to her team. "And turn their own tactics against them. The Crysto and StarDancer can wipe out anything in the air with them with us at the controls."

Bad flashed Deborah a quick glance, the expression in her eyes telling him she didn't recognize those names either. Still, they kept their curiosity out of their expressions as well as they could. There'd be time to ask about them later, when it wouldn't undermine their leader.

"A pity they weren't brought into the fray when you were facing the Covenant the first time," Feral said evenly. "Will you four be able to handle training of pilots?"

"Yes, it is," she nodded. "From the reports, there would have been no real need apparent before I was killed. For training pilots, we'll do our best." She agreed simply. "We're all combat pilots and gunners, and Tank and I have been working with this caliber of jet since we were able to work the controls. How many pilots, of any kind, do you have?"

"Roughly two dozen. We haven't had much use for them; most of them are in different specialties now and have been for some time."

"Any help taking the basic subjects of flight mechanics and basic flight training off of us will be that much more time we can work on new weapons and train the advanced subjects." Jessie pointed out with a nod. "Even civilian pilots are good for that much of the training. For that matter, they're pretty useful recruits if there are any left, especially stunt and exposition pilots. They tend to have fewer bad habits that'll get them killed in SWAT jets."

"We'll put the recruiters out," he nodded. "We've still got a few people willing to fly civilian."

"Now ..." she paused, still uneasy with what she was about to do. "I'll need at least two dozen people, a few with mechanical experience or training, and all with hand to hand combat experience, to go with me to put the facilities I'm giving you into operation. It'll take at least a week."

"Risk level?" He asked, inclining his head slightly.

"If the security systems are intact, very low." She decided. "If time has damaged them ... we'll have to run like hell."

"We'll try for volunteers first," he nodded. "I don't like to order troops into a situation where we can't be sure of the threats involved. Fortunately, it won't be too hard to find combat-trained personnel."

"And I'll do my best to protect them from what my father created." She inclined her head. "Fortunately, he was quite familiar with time travel and designed with it in mind. Still, I can not understate the danger if it was not enough."

"They'll be aware of it before they join you," he agreed. "Will your team be going with you on this... mission?"

"No," Jessie shook her head. "I'm the only one who can turn the security systems off. Their time will be better spent working on weapons, tactics and evaluated and training any pilots that want to fly fighters."

Brad frowned a bit, but accepted the explanation.

"Did you have anything else to bring up regarding your suggestions?" Feral asked her.

"A compiled list of what you have by way of personnel, their training, equipment, supplies and how easy it will be to convert whatever part of the force you intend to use my ideas on would be very useful in selecting what to dig up first."

"Rice," Feral said, looking to one of his aides, the sole Kantin in the meeting.

"We'll have it ASAP, sir," the white-furred Samoyed nodded.

"Good. Now, I believe you also mentioned having a timeline for collecting some of the Covenant technology?"

"More of a plan and target list," Brad nodded and took his place at center stage with ease.

SWAT Alpha was waiting in the room as Commander Feral and his aides left after the meeting. As the door closed, Deborah reached forward and tapped Jessie on the shoulder.

"So, Jessie... what's this about Crysto and SkyDancer? Or were you just blowing smoke in a Commander's face again?"

The caramel furred shekat grimaced, then shook her head and leaned back against the table to face her teammates. "No, they're real, still here and in working order." She informed them quietly. "The last of the projects I worked on with dad."

"Guess we're just a little surprised we never heard of them," Brad said, looking at Jessie as he leaned back against the wall. "Usually you never stop talking about your projects, as long as it's your call on whether or not to tell anybody."

"They were never meant for Enforcers to fly," she said softly, her eyes downcast. "Not even SWAT Enforcers. Part of dad's insurance policy against the city turning on me."

"You don't like the idea of bringing them out, do you?" Debbie asked softly, squeezing Jessie's shoulder. "For what it's worth, Jessie, you could've told us. Unless you were really going Dark Kat on us, I think it's safe to say we would've been with you if the city'd done something that stupid."

"Dad told me not to, not even Chance's kits." She shook her head uneasily. "Like everything else he gave me like that. From when he accepted me at five to his last days, I don't think he really trusted anyone not to turn on me like they had him. We weren't a team back then. Hell, I wasn't even going to go SWAT before he died."

"So what are they?" Brad asked her as Taller moved in slowly to embrace her from behind with a gentle nuzzle. "Something like DK's old monster-machines, or more like what you and our dads managed to turn the TurboKat into?"

"They're two alien fighters we rebuilt, so they're pretty close to what you're used to. Sort of." She chuckled weakly and almost relaxed against Taller's chest. "They're really something else."

"I'll bet," Brad nodded. "You really think the reason you didn't bring them out when all this started was because you didn't think we'd need them? I mean... it's not like we bought it in the first battle, we all would've had the chance to see what we were up against."

"I read the reports, all of them." Jessie shuddered slightly. "I was as arrogant as Dark Kat ever was. We'd put such a dent in the Omega issue and we were what turned that first battle. We were dead before it ever occurred to me that SWAT couldn't take out that cruiser. It wasn't as if Razor and T-Bone hadn't done it more than once with just one jet, two kats and no backing. We had so much more."

"And we probably all thought exactly the same thing," Deborah sighed. "It's not like any of us have inferiority complexes. Taller?" She asked, looking over at the quiet Puma holding their leader. "Any thoughts about this whole thing?"

"We'll just have to remember not to make that mistake this time." He said quietly. "Eighteen years is a long time, but we'll have a real advantage knowing what's coming and when."

"And I have to call a fallback if things go badly." Jessie added despite the obvious difficulty with the idea.

"Even your Dad had to do that once in a while, Jessie," Brad reminded her. "It's bound to happen some time."

Jessie took in a deep breath and nodded before smiling weakly at him. "Not an idea that is ever going to settle well." She half chuckled.

"Don't worry," Brad chuckled, smiling back at her slightly. "We won't tell anybody if it ends up happening before we head back."

"So, think we can see those jets after you've had a chance to talk to that tech the Commander mentioned?" Debbie asked curiously.

"That was my basic game plan," she nodded easily and pulled out of Taller's arms easily. "You guys work on what we've got, I'll go torture their current mechanical genius."

"Be gentle with her," Brad teased as Jessie left the room. He turned towards Taller, cocking his head curiously. "So, why didn't any of this seem to be a surprise to you?"

"Because I already knew most of it," he admitted quietly with a glance at the closed door that their leader had walked through. "She never told me, but I picked up enough to know."

"Back when Razor died?" Debbie asked quietly, looking back at the door and remembering the time Jessie and Taller had spent together when it had finally happened.

"That was the confirmation," he nodded. "The basics came from my father." He smiled fondly and nodded to Brad. "As your father like to put it, he was sneaky bastard and nearly as smart as Razor. He'd been keeping an eye on what he did even before they got booted from the force. He never got much in the way of details, but enough to know what was going down."

Taller sighed and looked out the window at the decimated city. "I'm sure he had something to do with how supportive of them the city and Enforcers made sure to be."

"Here's hoping they stay that way," Brad murmured, moving over to the window with Debbie as the they joined Taller in looking at what was left of the city they'd sworn to protect.

"Hey Timmerson! What's with this wet-behind-the-ears Captain giving orders to the Commander?" A dark furred, burly tabby called out as the Panther walked into the unit's locker room.

"What about her?" Timmerson asked, shrugging a bit. "It's weird, but if the Commander wants to let her push him around..." It was weird, though he had to admit Jessie had guts to try it. He wondered if it had anything to do with the big meeting they'd been getting ready for when he finally headed to bed. "You know how he can be when he trusts somebody's advice. Not usually a Captain, but if he okayed PastMaster pulling her and her unit out of the past, they've got to be something more than a regular pilot, right?"

"Yeah, but what is she more than a pilot?" Someone else demanded. "You've slept with her. What's going on?"

"It's not like she was telling me her life's story," the Panther pointed out, looking back at the calico private who'd asked the question. "According to her and command, they're one of the old SWAT Kat units. She says she's Razor's daughter. From what I can tell, that means she's a pilot, but also probably one of the best weapons designers we've ever seen. Commander's probably hoping she can come up with something that'll level the field a bit better when the Covenant starts moving in.

"I'd say she's got a pretty good chance of it too," he pointed out. "From what I saw yesterday, it took her a couple hours to figure out what took our techs weeks from pulling apart a plasma pistol."

"She's really Razor's kid?" Another sergeant, a big black and white tom, raised an eyebrow.

"That's what she says, and that's what the brass thinks," Timmerson said. "According to Darkeye she is, though it is a bit more complicated according to her. I'd say that even if she isn't, if that's just something she said to try and puff up her reputation, she knows enough it doesn't matter."

"So what's this big meeting that has the brass up so early?"

"With any luck, a sign that we're getting upgrades some time soon," the Panther chuckled. "They've got some ideas for bringing in some more Covenant gear, and giving us better odds against them the next time they attack."

"Now that is the best news of the year." Someone rumbled happily. "She tell you anything about it?"

"Well, she picked my brain about how well our weapons worked against them," he chuckled. "I have a feeling we're going back to kinetic weapons, and higher caliber ones."

"Bet Ratchet'll be thrilled to hear that," somebody laughed.

"Hey, if she could get that contraption of hers down small enough to fit on my Thunder, I'd give it a try," Timmerson smirked. "KNight seemed to think that we mostly needed to up the firepower of what we're using. Which means today's drills are going to be focused on explosives and our anti-vehicular gear," he added, looking over at where his unit was getting ready. "While they work on getting better gear for us, we're working on doing what we can with what we've got."

"Without getting decimated," a dark chuckle added.

"So is she going to provide air cover for us now?" Someone asked as much teasingly as hopeful.

"Sounds like they will," he chuckled, "and if they can pull off what they did yesterday again, I'm not about to complain about that."

"No one will," came the general agreement among chuckles and grins and smirks.

"Just make sure you keep her happy. I do not want to get pulverized cause you couldn't keep it up."

"Trust me, that is not going to be a problem," Timmerson smirked back, getting on the rest of his gear for the day's training sessions. He was still a little amazed how fast news about who was bedding who could travel.

"So," Alok Khan offered his lifelong mate a drink after the Commander had changed out of his uniform for the day. "What do you think of this savior Past Master has brought us?"

"As an officer, or personally?" Xavier chuckled slightly, shaking his head and accepted the drink gratefully. He sat down, looking into the dark amber liquid thoughtfully for a moment. "I'd say she believes her own press a little too much," he admitted. "Cocky as hell, and I don't think she quite grasps the fact that she already fought the Covenant and lost once. At the same time, her ideas are sound so far, especially if we implement them on a small scale at first, test them out."

"Yes," the big Tiger Xanith nodded. "I have a few words for Past Master for snagging her on her first call to action. She may well be as gifted and brilliant as her sires, but she'd be much more useful if she knew more than theory and family stories.

"You know how he works, unfortunately." Xavier rolled his eyes, shifting a bit on the couch to make room for his mate. "We're lucky he was willing to pull any SWAT unit forward. It would have been better to get a hold of them once they were more seasoned, but given the choice between this and nothing, I think we're better off with this."

"True," he nodded and settled in next to the big Feral. "What do you think she was talking about with those stores she's opening up? I got the feeling she wasn't very comfortable with the idea even as she gave the coordinates and contents." He paused. "And did you catch the looks her teammates exchanged when she mentioned the two jet names?"

"They didn't know about them," he nodded, putting an arm around Alok and drew him close. "Or if they did, they had no idea she'd be willing to use them. Probably the former; I've read the old files on her, and Felina's personal records from when she was in command of her father's unit.

"From what I can gather, those were probably private projects that nobody besides she and her father knew about. Probably created in case the city ever decided she was too great a threat, with her heritage. Every assessment I could find basically stated that she could have made Dark Kat look like an amateur. All his intelligence, and none of his megalomania to get in the way. Which, to be fair, worries me," he admitted and got a nuzzle for it.

"Well, for now, she's going to be focused on the Covenant. After that, hopefully Past Master can send her home if she gets to be a problem." Alok relaxed against his mate. "After all, I doubt the past is going to lead to this after she goes back no matter how it goes."

"We can certainly hope so," Xavier nodded. "Though that little gnome's staying safely under lock and key until this is over, barring emergencies. We can't risk losing him at this point."

"Yes, I can only imagine how badly they'd react if he were to be unavailable when they are ready to leave." He murmured. "Not something I'd like to witness."

"Or if they decide they don't want to leave," Xavier murmured quietly. "The greatest threat they could pose is still that KNight might go Omega, in either time. I just pray they're better kats than that."

"She is Razor's daughter," Alok kissed his cheek. "And he raised her surrounded by good kats. He may have been paranoid about being betrayed, but he never faltered in his defense of the city. Not even when the city wanted nothing to do with him."

"She also has Dark Kat's blood in her, from both sides," Xavier pointed out quietly, turning to return the kiss. "I don't think it's going to happen, but if it did...."

"We're screwed even worse than we are now." He nodded and pressed close to the warmth of his mate. "From today and the records, I'd say the key to that is going to be the same as it was with Razor. Her teammates are going to be the deciding factor if she ever considers it, no matter why."

"Or when," he agreed, holding the thickly furred Tiger close. "Let's just hope it works as well."

"Yes," he smiled softly and ran his hands down Xavier's sides as he claimed a slightly more heated kiss. "Now put the day behind us and enjoy the night." He rumbled softly with a promise of pleasure and the exhausted sleep that brought few nightmares.

"Ratchet?" Jessie asked a cinnamon shekat wearing maintenance coveralls and muttering about all the dents the training exercise she was watching was creating in her freshly repaired Thunders.

"Hmm?" The shekat turned around, looking at Jessie distractedly, then again, noticing that it was somebody new. "Yeah, that's me. And you are...?"

"Jessie Clawson," she extended her hand without a hint of concern for Ratchet's dirty hands. "Commander wanted us to talk prototypes. Something about an infantry rail gun?"

Ratchet's ears perked up instantly as she accepted the handshake firmly, her grip firm.

"Yeah, though it's not infantry-sized yet. Clawson, huh? That'd make you the reason they're out there banging up the suits I just got done fixing?"

"Something like that," she chuckled with an apologetic grin. "How small have you gotten this mini-rail gun?"

"It'll fit on something smaller than a tank, but not by much," Ratchet smiled a little sheepishly. "Want to go see it? I can already tell I'll have my full crew working on maintenance tonight," she chuckled slightly.

"That's why I'm here," Jessie grinned at her. "Let's go."

"This way." The mechanic grinned back and started leading the way into a large maintenance bay with assorted suits of powered armor, mostly the same model, in various stages of repair. "So, you're a Clawson? Any relative of Jake Clawson?"

"His daughter," she nodded, looking at the suits. "I think I have one of those slotted for dissection later this week."

"Cool. And just make sure you take a look at the blueprints so you can put it back together when you're done," Ratchet chuckled. "They're not exactly cheap or quick to replace." She grabbed a rag off a rack as they moved back through the maintenance bay, wiping off her hands and reaching up to tuck the end of her short pony-tail of auburn hair into the back of her dingy gray shirt.

"I have yet to meet the machine I couldn't put back together better than before." Jessie chuckled.

Hidden in the back of the bay, a large tarp was draped over what looked like a bazooka long enough for three or four people.

"Help me pull the tarp back?" Ratchet asked, moving around to the end and grabbing one corner as Jessie grabbed a handful and pulled.

"Very nice," Jessie murred as it came down to display a remarkably elegant looking weapon. "An excellent base to work off of to be sure." She nodded, commenting mostly to herself as she walked around it to take it in at every angle.

It didn't look like it had been built with aesthetics in mind, more like a relatively simple design on the outside. A very, very long, thin metal barrel with a power pack and trigger mechanism that looked suspiciously like something out of the weapons Jessie had been dissecting just a few hours before.

"Honestly, the biggest problem that I don't have a clue how to fix is ammo," Ratchet admitted, watching the other designer look at her handiwork. "It tends to burn up at longer ranges. Beyond that, I'm mostly having trouble getting the pulse generator to accelerate the ammo fast enough inside a barrel that's much shorter than this."

"Well, a solution to the first, more durable rounds, could well make the second more difficult." Jessie nodded thoughtfully. "What is the round composition you're working with?"

"Tungsten-carbide slug with a ceramic coat to try and reduce the friction," Ratchet answered easily. "I tried a titanium coat, but it's not heat resistant enough. On the plus side, we don't need a magnetic material for the rounds."

"Oh?" She raised a very curious eyebrow. "That's definitely new."

"Yeah, I used to be working on it, but it didn't work worth a damn," Ratchet explained, cracking open the ammunition hopper and pulled out a round to toss to Jessie, nearly an inch across and light brown in color. "Then I had a brainstorm, started working with a gravitic pulse. It'll work with any type of round, and doesn't use as much power with my current design."

"Both of which are definite advantages." She nodded as she examined the round, and the weapon it went with. "What rang are you looking for with this?"

"I'd like to get range over a hundred yards. If I could get the rounds to last long enough, I should be able to knock on that cruiser's doors with 'em," she smirked. "Not that they're going to do that , but I can get a hell of a good range on them in theory."

"In space, they'd certainly go that far," Jessie murmured thoughtfully while she examined the round. "Do needlers and flechette still exist?"

"Yeah, though - oh, you don't mean Covenant needlers," Ratchet chuckled. "They do. Actually, if you break the round open you'll see it's kind of a flechette slug inside. They burned up a little more slowly when each layer had to go separately."

Jessie nodded again, an answer churning in the back of her mind but not yet willing to come forward enough to be articulated. "Give me a bit. There's an answer." She said softly, still considering the round in her hand. "Do you have any other projects?"

"Mostly ideas for how to make the suits stand up better in a fight," Ratchet answered easily. "Care to look a few of 'em over, or wait until you know what I'm working with?"

"Not knowing the baseline has never stopped me before," the caramel shekat grinned. "Go for the grand tour."

"Come on," the cinnamon shekat grinned. "Just remember," she winked, "you asked for it."

"Ready to meet our new jets?" KNight asked her team a bit sharply after she had worn out all of Ratchet's projects.

"Sure thing," Deborah nodded, cocking her head slightly. "Everything go okay?"

"Yap," she grinned slightly. "Ratchet's brilliant, and that rail gun is going to be a real killer. Suit up and let's go meet the ladies."

"We going to be flying out to meet them, or borrowing some sort of local transport?" Tank asked as he pulled on the rest of his flight suit.

"The jets are on the roof," KNight nodded with a chuckle. "And just a little warning; they're both fully aware AIs."

"Hoo boy," Headshot chuckled, shaking her head. "Are we going to have to argue with them if they don't agree with what we're doing?"

"It depends on how stupid the action is and how much they trust you," she explained simply. "It's little different from a partner, though they are less independent than most people. They aren't quite that advanced."

"Probably a good thing," Tank said with a bit of a frown. "I can see why you kept 'em quiet, given the attitude about AI's back home."

"Add that to being alien craft to begin with and it wouldn't have been a good reception, even as SWAT jets." She nodded as they worked their way to the roof landing strip. "They're quite excited about getting out."

"I'll bet," Headshot chuckled, trying to warm up to the idea as they walked. "What's the security going to be like there?"

"The don't step in front of me until it's turned off kind." KNight informed her a bit grimily. "Dad and I are the only ones with any kind of clearance. You don't have to fly one if you don't want to."

"Let's meet 'em first, partner," the tabby shekat smiled. "Just like meeting any new team member, right?"

"Pretty much," she nodded. "They want to get along with us. They want to be our jets. It's what they were designed to be after all."

"Well, that helps," Headshot nodded. "Don't think I'd want to deal with them deciding they don't want anybody but you touching 'em."

"I doubt it," KNight chuckled as they reached the roof and headed for the SWAT jets there. "They're looking forward to meeting you guys. I did get to talk to them a bit." She added with a wink.

"I hope you were kind when you were telling them about us," Tank smirked, he and Taller heading off from their partners to head to the second jet.

"So do you have issues with an AI jet I don't know about?" KNight asked her gunner privately as the engines powered up and the cockpit slid forward.

"Nah," Headshot said, shaking her head. "Tank might, but the closest I have to an issue is that I'm not used to the jets talking back. What would you say if you were told we had a third person in the jet who might disagree with either of us and could ultimately decide to take over what's going on?"

KNight really had to pause to think about that for a while.

"Honestly ... I can override it." She kind of admitted. "It's not part of the programming, just something dad and I can do with anything short of a fully independent AI. I guess it would be kind of freaky if you didn't trust them. But it's not like it's much different from how either of us can transfer control to either seat. You or I could take complete command of a jet from the other."

"You've got a point," Headshot admitted. "Just remember how long we'd known each other before we were teamed up. As long as she doesn't end up snapping and deciding that the right way to handle things is to run us into a building," she chuckled slightly.

"I seriously doubt that," KNight chuckled. "Dad and I did develop these two to help me. Stupidity has never been a desirable trait around a Clawson."

The tabby smirked, doing her best not to snicker as she fought against the teasing remark that came to mind.

"Well, I hope they live up to your expectations," she said instead.

"Our lives depend on it," KNight countered quietly. "These jets aren't close to good enough to survive taking out the air defense."

"Then here's to getting along with our new partners," Headshot said quietly, running the rest of the assorted tests they had to clear before leaving.

Meanwhile, a few yards away, Tank and Echo were climbing into their jet.

"So, what do you think about working with these new jets?" Tank asked his gunner while they settled in.

"It should be quite an experience," the Puma replied as he settled in and began the pre-flight checks. "SWAT has never had a three-kat team."

"Never had jets that could decide they didn't like us, either," the tabby murmured as they lifted off and almost immediately dropped below the skyline, following KNight's lead. "You're okay with this? AI jets?"

"Until they show that they have bad personalities," he nodded, even though his partner couldn't see it. "These aren't things DK created and Razor modified, these are creations by the good guys to protect what they hold most dear. They get the same chance I gave you."

"They're also based off alien tech," Tank pointed out. "Not usually the good guys around here. Guess I'm a little leery of the odds. I mean, four full AI's, and three of 'em try to rip the city apart every chance they get."

"True," Echo consented. "I guess I just trust Razor and KNight enough that they wouldn't let something like that loose."

"Hackle and Greenbox wouldn't have either, if they'd known it was coming," Tank pointed out quietly. "It's not that I don't trust KNight, it's just... it'll take a bit before I can trust an AI like that."

"Unfortunately, time is not something we are likely to have in abundance. Odds are good we'll see action in them before the week is out."

"I'll just have to deal then, won't I?" Tank said simply, frowning as he focused on following KNight along the city streets. He still didn't like it, but Echo was right; there wasn't too much of a choice in the matter right now.

"The other option is to continue flying a jet that is severely outclassed and endanger all our lives." Echo nodded. "They will protect us after all, even if it's not a good idea. Or not fly at all."

"And that's no option at all," Tank nodded. "Not with what we've got to do. Just hope this works out better than most meetings with AI's in this city."

"It will," Echo assured him easily. "None of the others had a Clawson vouch for them."

"All right," the tabby consented. "Just remember, if they try to kill us, I owe you an 'I told you so.'"

"Agreed," the Puma chuckled as they swept up the side of a mountain not a dozen feet about the trees and rocks.

"Hope we don't end up running into any patrols right now," Tank murmured, following KNight's jet over the mountain crest to their unknown destination.

"It is unlikely," Echo assured him as KNight made a sharp turn to face the mountainside and slid into VTOL mode to hover there for a moment. "Flying this low should make it nearly impossibly to track us as anything interesting, even if they're looking. They don't go after just anything that moves, even when it's airborne."

"Follow me in," KNight ordered over the comm before her jet slid forward threw the solid-looking mountain. She was followed closely by the other jet, Tank not hesitating a second before doing as she told. Still he gasped slightly as the solid mountainside opened into a hanger suitable for the entire Enforcer air force at its height.

"Wow." Echo breathed.

"You can say that again," the tabby murmured. He hadn't been too surprised by the holographic camouflage. This... this was something else entirely. "The Clawsons sure know how to impress their guests."

"Imagine what the places meant to actually have a staff must be like." Echo chuckled weakly as they followed KNight in a landing near the back of the empty entrance hanger.

"I'll try not to," Tank chuckled as the engines cut out and the jet settled into place. "It'll end up giving me a headache."

Echo had to laugh at that as the canopy slid back and they jumped to the ground to follow KNight and Headshot to the kat-sized door. When KNight motioned Headshot back, they all hung back and watched as a control panel lit up along with several visible light scanners.

The caramel shekat stood still and very tense for a long moment as they worked over her. She relaxed abruptly before any visible sigh was given, then the door slid open.

"Come on, the jets are waiting." KNight called back to them with a motion to come forward.

"Good to see the security still likes you," Tank observed, following along with Headshot and Echo, all three taking in the vast hangar as it passed from view into an unmarked hallway.

KNight nodded as she passed several doors, and then paused to open one. "Crysto, SkyDancer!"

"Good to see you again!" A male voice called back, quickly echoed by a feminine one. "It's been far too long."

"Do we get to fly now?" The deep female voice demanded excitedly.

"Yes, you two." She laughed with a shake of her head and showed her teammates into the small hanger-workroom with a door that opened up to the main hanger. Even in the full light, the pair of black jets seemed almost translucent. "Crysto, SkyDancer, this is Headshot, Tank and Echo. Guys, Crysto's the male, SkyDancer's the female."

"Nice to meet you two," Headshot grinned, looking the jets over from a few feet behind KNight. Any misgivings she'd had before seemed to be disappearing quickly. "You two are gorgeous," she added with an appreciative rumble. Razor and KNight had really outdone themselves when they'd repaired the two jets.

"Thank you," SkyDancer's voice carried her pride at the fact and that she very much approved of the comment.

"Well, you've managed a partner with good taste at least," Crysto chuckled. "Come on up, Headshot."

The black-on-gray tabby walked up to the jet the voice had come from, running her hand along 'his' side lightly, like she was getting a feel for him.

"Of course I have taste," she chuckled. "After all, I picked KNight for my pilot."

"Flirt," Tank chuckled, shaking his head slightly, trying to ignore the uneasiness in the back of his mind about the entire situation.

"Come on Tank," Echo put a supportive hand on the tabby's shoulder. "Let's see what SkyDancer's made of."

"So Tank is the hotshot pilot now," her voice grinned at him. "Think you're good enough to keep up with me?"

"Probably," he smirked at her, forcing himself to move closer along with his partner. "You think T-Bone would've been good enough?"

"If he ever got over the idea of his jet talking back," she snickered. "Come on up. I don't bite."

"It is a little different," Tank admitted, stepping up closer. She was a gorgeous jet, looked almost brand new, not like she'd been sitting in storage for a couple centuries. Even as wary as he was, he couldn't help but feel a thrill at having his hands on such an advanced craft. Just her lines marked her as every fighter pilot's wet dream come true.

"Well settle in and let's work the kinks out." SkyDancer insisted excitedly.

"Sorry," he chuckled slightly and climbed up into her cockpit; repeatedly telling himself she was still a jet. After he was seated he realized that as advanced as the jets were, the controls and readouts were still very familiar.

He opened up a channel to KNight and Headshot in Crysto. "So, head out, give 'em a little exercise and then take 'em back to the new base?"

"That's the idea," she replied with a little unhappiness from the jets but no actual objections.

He started running the pre-flight checks on SkyDancer almost automatically.

"Maybe a quick run through the old canyon course? Far enough away from the city that we shouldn't have anybody watching that area too closely."

"Yeah!" SkyDancer cheered the idea heartily and Crysto and KNight laughed.

"Sounds good, Tank." KNight grinned. "A decent workout and no company."

Tank chuckled a bit. He was getting to like SkyDancer; her enthusiasm for getting into the air reminded him a lot of T-Bone.

"So, any extra tricks up your sleeve we should know about before heading out?" He asked her.

"Inertial dampeners and flight shields means I can go very fast, very quickly. They also mean I can change direction on a coin, quite literally." She chuckled and waited for Crysto to roll out into the main hanger, the followed him. "Real force shields means I can take a lot of damage before going down. I'm inherently almost invisible to most scanners and visual detection."

"And your scanners?" He asked curiously, settling in and taking a mental inventory of the features he figured he'd be using, reminding himself to be a little looser with his maneuvers.

"Top notch," she chuckled as they lifted off in a rolling VTOL to burst into the open sky just behind Crysto. "Space combat qualified too."

Even as Tank assessed that information, he felt how excited she was, the rush of being free in the air. Not in a rumble or vibration, but the tight heart and tingle along his entire body that it was like when he had first gotten to fly with his father.

"Interesting," Echo murmured from the back seat.

"What is?" Tank asked, focusing some of his attention on his partner.

"I can feel her excitement as my own."

"Sorry," SkyDancer murmured and made a distinct effort to keep her feelings to herself.

"So I wasn't just imagining it," Tank mused. "Empathic?"

"Sort of," she tried to explain something she only vaguely understood. "At least with those who have the innate ability to fly with me. It's as much your gift that lets you feel it as it is mine that you can."

"Sounds like you've got something to try and puzzle out when we're ground-bound, Echo," Tank smirked slightly. At the same time, he made a mental note to stay as calm as he could when they were flying. Then they were at the mouth of the old canyon target range and thinking was the last thing on his mind. There was only the joy of an incredibly responsive and powerful jet at his command and the precision and familiarity of working with his partners to breeze through the once-difficult course.

Then Crysto and SkyDancer came to a hover-standstill abruptly enough to make everyone glad they'd strapped in without input or warning.

"Two Banshees in ambush at course end and a Wraith is coming in up on the ground." The jets reported to their teams in tandem.

"Retreat, or take 'em out?" Headshot asked KNight. "If we move fast, we might be able to bring back more than just our new friends."

She paused a moment, then nodded. "Takin'm out from above." She ordered. "Only as high as we have to go."

"Roger," Headshot nodded, bringing the weapons systems online and checking the targeting scanners, quickly seeing the three targets. "These sensors are good," she observed.

"What sort of non-lethals do these two have, KNight?" Tank asked over the comm. "Or do we just drop 'em hard and fast, go shopping another time?"

"Octopus Missiles and nets," she shook her head, even though he couldn't see it. "Just toast'm."

"With pleasure. So," he continued, cutting the comm link, "Echo? SkyDancer? How about showing the Covenant they don't necessarily own the skies any more?"

"Oh Yeah!" She howled and he chuckled. "The skies belong to SWAT once more!"

"Basic explosive missiles should do quite well." Echo commented as he brought up targeting info and missiles. "I have a lock as soon as you get me a clear shot."

"Then let's go say hello," the tabby grinned darkly, pulling up slightly and taking off straight for the end of the canyon only feet above the ground of the canon's edge.

"Tracking ... tracking ..." Echo rumble grew more eager as they got close to the missile launch point with Crysto just off their wing, weapons at the ready. "Target lock: launching." He added as the extra thunder of the four missiles, two from each jet, snaked their way to their oblivious targets.

It was obvious that the two alien craft hadn't had any idea what was coming. Just before they each exploded into flames, they started to pull back away from their positions, but it was too late. In a matter of seconds, they were plummeting to the ground.

"A'right!" Headshot crowed with a grin from her seat in Crysto.

"Don't celebrate too fast," Tank warned her. "We've still got artillery on the ground." As if on cue, a massive energy charge detonated on the canyon wall, sending rubble raining down to the floor below. "I think they're a little miffed about their pals."

"Tough," KNight snapped back as they split up and swung around to tackle the soon-to-be-dead hovertank from opposing sides. "I'm miffed about dieing that time."

"You're not the only one," Headshot muttered, her focus almost entirely on the targeting. "Payback time." She gave the trigger the slightest of squeezes, releasing another missile straight for the base of the Wraith's massive energy cannon. Echo's shot trailed behind it by only a couple lengths and a foot to the side as it zeroed in on the Wraith's engine.

"And we have liftoff!" SkyDancer crowed in victory as Headshot's missile disabled the cannon and Echo's turned the tank's engine into an incendiary bomb.

"I do believe somebody just had a learning experience," Tank grinned. "Pity they didn't last long enough to take notes. Head back in before they decide to send more reinforcements than we have missiles?"

"Yes," KNight agreed with a great deep of good humor in her voice. They swung around to head back to Enforcer Headquarters without going quite as low as on the trip out.

Commander Xavier Feral scowled as he paced his command center. He'd received word roughly a half-hour before that SWAT had left the city with no more warning than it took to get somebody to open the hangar doors for them. As if that wasn't enough, radar hadn't been able to track them.

It had, however, been able to pick up the explosions that had happened mere minutes before.

"If those hotshots got themselves killed on the second day, I'm going to have PastMaster bring them back so I can personally do the job for the Covenant," he muttered. If they hadn't... he was still considering it. Alok came in from their room then, freshly showered and dressed.

As usual, fate had a strange sense of timing when it came to delivering bad news.

"Send out a re -" Feral was interrupted by the crackle of static over the comm link in the command room.

"Enforcer Command, this is SWAT Alpha. Mind opening the door so we can come in?" A new female voice asked with more than a hint of excitement.

"I'll give them an open door," Feral muttered, turning on heel. "Give them clearance to enter; I'm going to go make sure they have a warm welcome."

"Welcome to the joys of commanding SWAT," Alok chuckled slightly. There was no way he was going to miss this one.

"They'd just better have some good news for me fast," Feral muttered as the pair headed up to the top level and the small hanger that still existed at the end of the runway roof.

At least they were alive, but who could the new person be? They couldn't have already found somebody to start training as a new pilot, could they? And what were the explosions?

His steps, and thoughts, came to a screeching half with the first pace into the old hanger and he caught sight of the pair of translucent jets the four SWAT Kats were working over.

"Those are new." Alok murmured from right behind him.

"You noticed that too, hmm?" Feral walked in a farther, looking at the two new jets and the four kats working on them.

"Crysto and SkyDancer I presume?" He guessed.

"Hi Commander," the female voice from earlier chirped happily in greeting. "I'm SkyDancer. The grumpy old man there is Crysto."

"I am not old." Crysto's deeper male voice rumbled. "Hello Commander Feral." He added as an after thought.

"Yes, they are." KNight chuckled and walked over to him. "The first equipment retrieval went well. There are two very crispy Banshees and a Wraith out by our old canyon practice range as well."

"So that explains the explosions," he said, looking down at the SWAT Captain. "I don't suppose you put any thought into letting somebody know what you four were up to when you left earlier?"

"I informed dispatch that we were headed out to pick up some of our old gear." She nodded with a shrug.

"You really have no idea how much trouble you've caused us trying to figure out where you'd gone and if you were still in one piece, do you?" He knew he shouldn't be surprised. It was very much in the character of SWAT, all fifty-something years of them. Still, he would have appreciated at least a little warning that they'd been planning on going out that day yet.

"Commander, either you trust us to do our job and do it right, or we're useless." KNight shook her head. "You would have gotten the signal if any jet was badly damaged."

"Assuming both of them hadn't been destroyed before it could have been sent," he pointed out, reaching up to rub his temple lightly. "Just give Command a little warning next time so we can be ready to back you up if necessary."

"Very well, Commander." She gave him a dubious look, but inclined her head in acquiescence anyway before returning to her new jet.

Soon, the four SWAT Kats left the hangar, talking rapidly amongst themselves in the natural half-code of special ops who'd known each other far too long while their new jets staying behind silently.

Feral was glad for that much at least; he wasn't sure if he wanted to deal with the jets talking again right now. "Why do I have a feeling that I'm finding out the reason SWAT wasn't a very popular unit with most of their commanders?" He asked Alok quietly as the two of them left for their quarters again.

"And even less popular because they are so damn good at their job they couldn't be gotten rid of." The Tiger nodded with a low chuckle. "Whether or not they got a city paycheck for it."

"Personally, I think I'm going to look forward to sending them back with enough tech to take down the Covenant when they arrive," Feral chuckled slightly. "For a few reasons. So, back to our quarters, pick up where we were so rudely interrupted?"

"Mmm, I like that idea." He grinned back.

"Hey, Darkeye," a cheerful voice called from the front end of the line in the mess hall. "Long time no see!"

"Hay West," he grinned back at the black Alsatian bitch. "What's up in armor jock land?"

"You'd know if you weren't busy playing SWAT Kat," she smirked, walking back to join him. "Care to sit down and eat with somebody who doesn't fly?"

"Sure," he nodded easily and followed her to a table after they gathered their meal.

"So," she asked, sitting down and looking across at him, "what's it like, working with the biggest news to hit the city in years?"

"Exhausting," he chuckled ruefully and suppressed a yawn. "They don't sleep ."

"Sounds like you'd better, once you're done eating," she chuckled. "Is it true what they do instead of sleeping?" She asked with a wink.

"Huh?" Darkeye blinked at her, a completely blank look on his face. Then he flushed a bright red under his black fur. "As Timmerson has already found out."

West giggled slightly; he was definitely cute when he was embarrassed. "Yeah, but he'll only admit to one of 'em," she winked. "From what we've heard, you're lucky they let you out of the furpile to eat."

"It's not like that," he did his best not to duck his head, though his cheeks were burning. "They usually head off with someone for a break."

"Which explains why you've been hanging out with that hunk of a Puma?" She asked with a smirk that only widened when he did duck his head and look away a bit.

"It's not like that," he protested between bites. "Taller's the historian and culturist of the team."

"So you're gonna tell me that you two haven't been together yet?" She asked with a strong hint of honest skepticism in her voice.

"Well, no." He consented reluctantly. "It's just not most of what we're doing."

"I know," she chuckled. "You're just fun to tease about it. So, how is he?"

Darkeye shot her a dirty look. "If you're looking for a recommendation, go for it. Don't know if he likes Kantin, or for females that matter."

"Only one way to find out," she chuckled, working on her lunch. "So, what are you two doing most of the time?"

"Going over history, synthesizing the reports on the Covenant, catching them up on modern politics." He shrugged. "Everything but the hardware."

"So they're not letting you close to their new birds, huh?" She asked, leaning back in her seat a bit. "Y'think of trying out for their new pilots program?"

"Not really," he shook his head. "I never was much of a flyboy."

"Not too many folks around here would know if they were," she pointed out with a chuckle. "Me, I'll stick to the ground. Might not have the same knack for dropping Covenant like flies, but the job gets done."

"Oh, once that personal rail gun goes into production, I think you'll find it much easier." He grinned back. "Not to mention the mini-missile systems for infantry."

"I just hope it makes it into production soon," she chuckled. "Ratchet's been locked in a room with that thing ever since she met Captain Clawson."

"Well, KNight thinks that they have a working model now, and she handed the mini-missile system specs over just after they arrived."

"I almost feel sorry for the Covies," West smirked. "Almost. Hard to believe they're finally getting that thing to work," she chuckled. "Any word on who's field testing it?"

"Timmerson last I heard," he chuckled a bit. "He's taken to volunteering for our projects."

"Think he's taken to the gal behind them a bit more," she chuckled. "Good guy for testing it though. He's got that blend of crazy and careful when somebody gives him something new to play with."

"A mix that he'll really need with this stuff," Darkeye chuckled and finished up his meal. "I swear half her 'toys' break the laws of physics."

"Push 'em at least," West chuckled with a nod. "Those new jets of hers are something else, and that's before you get into what they pulled off in the canyon. Wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't been on the cleanup crew that went out to check for salvage."

"Was there any?" He paused as he stood.

"Less than usual," she chuckled, standing up with her own tray. "They really ripped 'em apart. Some alloy, but nothing fancy. If they can pull that off, they'll have earned the rep they used to have."

"Which is good, 'cause they hadn't earned it yet in their time." He shook his head a bit and headed to the drop off for dirty trays.

"Wouldn't know it to listen to them," the Alsatian said, looking down at him curiously as they walked. "They fresh, or just new to SWAT?" She asked quietly.

"Taller's got three years in the Enforcer rank-and-file, the rest are as fresh as they get in a military family."

"I'll just bet that's PastMaster's work," she muttered. "I know Command wouldn't have set it up that way."

"They aren't too thrilled with it either," Darkeye added. "At least in the moments they aren't absorbed in work."

"Think I'll keep that tidbit quiet," she murmured. "Thanks for the talk, Darkeye. Get yourself some rest, okay?"

"That's where I'm headed next." He nodded. "At least at this rate they won't be green much longer."

Timmerson worked his way back through the maintenance bay, the third-shift crew working on refitting the Thunders for the new mini-missiles and auto-cannons they were going to carry into battle the next time the Covenant attacked. As tempting as it was, he didn't stop to chat.

He had something more important to check up on.

"I can't believe those two," one tired worker grumbled, stretching as he walked out of Ratchet's lab. "Hey, Sergeant. Coming back to check on Ratchet's baby?"

"More coming back to check on Ratchet and Captain Clawson," he chuckled. "Go get some rest, Rook. I'll make sure they do the same."

"Good luck!" The Beagle laughed, shaking his head. "You're gonna need it!"

"Somehow," the Panther murmured as he opened the door to the lab, "I don't doubt it." He walked into the room, waiting until Jessie and Ratchet weren't busy.

"How's it going?" He asked.

"Pretty good," Jessie smiled at him over her shoulder as she set to another task that was well beyond his ability to follow.

"You guys do realize you've been working for two days without stopping for more than two hours?"

"Yeah," Ratchet said distractedly, reviewing their plans to see if there was anything else that might need changing. "Y'know Jess, we might try a repulsorlift module in here once you guys bring some in...."

"And that tomorrow you're both scheduled to be heading out to one of those supply caches?" Timmerson paused, waiting to see if they'd catch on.

"Security doesn't care if I'm tired," Jessie shrugged. "This is important."

"It does if it isn't working properly," he pointed out. "You're the one who said the only thing to do if it was malfunctioning was to run and run fast. And I kinda care if something happens with that and I end up having to use it with crossed wires. You're both pushing yourselves too hard. If it's not ready tomorrow, we'll be all right."

Jessie glared at him, her mouth open to tell him she was better than that.

"I can't sleep alone," she said very quietly instead.

"I can stay with you," Ratchet offered, beating a surprised Timmerson to the offer. "I could use the rest too, and we're hitting dead ends here for making it work any better than it does."

Jessie glanced between the pair, and then turned to reach up and kiss Timmerson softly. "I'll probably get some actual sleep with her."

"I'd make sure you did with me too," he chuckled slightly, returning the kiss, "but okay. See you two tomorrow."

"You'll get your turn after the mission." She promised with a sultry purr.

"Promises, promises," he chuckled, giving her shoulder a squeeze. "I'll let you two go get some sleep. And Ratchet?" He said, looking towards the cinnamon-furred shekat. "Real bed, not your cot in the back."

"Yes Mother," she teased.

"Yeah, something soft with real sheets," Jessie grinned tiredly. "Any idea whose quarters are closer?"

"That would be mine," Ratchet chuckled. "Since I'm on call pretty much 24/8, they moved me into a room just down the hall. C'mon, I'll show you the way."

Jessie nodded and tagged along, only now beginning to feel the fact that she hadn't really slept more than a few hours in the last week. It probably was affecting her reflexes and mind by now. Maybe it was the right time to actually sleep through a night, or most of it.

Assuming she could manage it.

"You mind sharing the bed with another fem?" Ratchet asked, opening the door to her quarters. They were about as sparse as Jessie'd expected, shelves filled with books and bits and pieces of assorted machines the room's owner had tinkered with.

It was almost like looking into her father's room.

The only thing missing were the sharp shooting trophies he had. And the pictures of Chance he'd put up.

"Never have before," she chuckled a bit. "Though that usually means something besides sleeping."

"Only if you're feeling up for it tonight," Ratchet chuckled, closing the door behind her. "Shower's through that door if you want it," she said, stifling a yawn as she motioned.

"Maybe in the morning," she chuckled and made for a quick, hot shower to relax her tired body.

She came out to find Ratchet tossing a towel into the laundry, her long brown hair out of its ponytail and looking freshly washed. The red, silky nightgown she was wearing was a far cry from the usually well-worn mechanic's outfit she'd been wearing every other time Jessie'd seen her.

"Mind if I ask why you can't sleep alone?" The older shekat asked, moving over to sit on the edge of the bed and patted the spot next to her invitingly.

"Runs in the family," she said quietly and shrugged as sat down, her gray t-shirt and underwear a marked contrast to her companion's nightclothes. "We sleep light to start with, then it gets hard to sleep at all. Dad never managed after he found out who his father was, I haven't since mine died."

"Sorry," Ratchet murmured, putting an arm around Jessie gently and felt her lean into the contact. "Think you're right about it running in the family though. C'mon, let's help each other get some sleep."

"You have the same trouble?" She murmured and curled back to settle under the covers.

"Sometimes," Ratchet nodded slightly, wrapping an arm around the caramel-colored shekat and nuzzling her gently. "Now shh... we'll just let it go and rest." She cuddled up close to Jessie, closed her eyes and finally let exhaustion finally win out.

Jessie, despite being even more exhausted, was slower in her surrender to the darkness. Her natural resistance finding out whether it would be blessed oblivion or the nightmares that left her more worn out than when she'd closed her eyes continued to fight long after she had consciously given up and sent a silent prayer to Bastet and Halikar for rest and the safety of her team.

That night, Commander Feral was focused on the list of volunteers for the next day's mission. He'd known who most of them were ahead of time, and already planned their replacements for the next few days. There were a handful of new additions.

"Good turnout," he mused, flipping to the second page of the list. "Looks like we might have to put a few off to the next time." He scanned through it quickly, reaching the last name. His entire body tensed as he looked up over the papers at his mate sitting across the table.

"You're not serious," he said, watching the Tiger's reaction to his finding out and knew instantly that he was.

"I am," Alok nodded slightly. "For a good half dozen reasons."

"And I've probably got just as many why you shouldn't go," Xavier frowned slightly. "You go first."

"One of us needs to get a field-eye view of how she's affecting morale and how she operates."

"Not the first time she's out with a unit. Security wasn't a problem when she retrieved those new jets, but she admitted that it was a different standard for these places."

"What better a time?" Alok raised an eyebrow in challenge. "She's already bedded at least two of them and we need to know how she operates under stress after that event that their new jets turned into."

"Badly enough to risk losing my second-in-command if the answer is 'badly'?" Feral challenged. "We already have observers involved in this. I don't want to take the chance of losing you in this, Alok."

"I want to go," he answered in a calm challenge of his own.

"Alok...." Feral sighed, closing his eyes and put the list down. "There's nothing I can do to stop you," he admitted. "But please, could you at least wait for the next mission? For me," he added softly, looking into the Tiger's eyes. "I don't like the idea of sending you into this until we've had at least one run that's worked."

He could see the turmoil that caused in his mate, the Tiger's desire to go wrestling with his desire to give his mate anything that would get that tone out of Feral's voice.

Eventually, Alok sighed and dropped his chin to rest on crossed arms on the table. "All right."

Xavier swallowed hard and moved around the table to squeeze Alok's shoulder gently. "I'm sorry," he said softly. "You know as well as I do that this is the one that's most likely to go wrong."

"I know," he sighed and leaned into the contact a bit. "That girl has more secrets than any six countries. I just want to get a feel for her in her own element, where she's most likely to show her true nature."

"If this is the only chance you'll get, I'll be surprised," Xavier pointed out with a slight smile, starting to rub his mate's back to put him in a better mood and was rewarded by a rumble of pleasure. "Next time."

The first sign that Ratchet was awake the next morning was a slight quickening in the shekat's soft purr against Jessie's back.

"Sleep well?" She asked with a murmur, rubbing Jessie's stomach lightly.

"For me," Jessie answered easily. Her eyes were closed, but she was making no attempt to pretend sleep. Or ignore the reflexive response to Ratchet's touch.

"When'd you figure it out?" The mechanic asked curiously, and rather out of the blue, nuzzling Jessie as her touch gradually became more intimate and Jessie's breath quirked.

"Figure what out?"

"That I'm related to the Clawsons," Ratchet clarified and felt the body against hers stiffen in shock.

"How?" Jessie stammered and twisted to look at her. "I don't ... I was the last one."

"Crap," Ratchet muttered, ducking her head a bit. "I'm not sure of all the details, it's a ways back, but my great-grandfather about a half-dozen times or so back was supposed to be related to Jake Clawson. He... hadn't been born yet, by the time he died," she admitted quietly. She really hadn't wanted to have to discuss this, not this morning.

"And the shekat's name?" She pressed and rolled over to face her.

"Calico Briggs," Ratchet admitted quietly. Normally she barely thought about it, but today she almost felt responsible for what had happened and the fury she felt building in her bedmate did nothing to help that.

"I see," Jessie growled even as she pushed it all to the back of her mind to deal with when she got home. It didn't matter now.

"Sorry," the cinnamon-furred shekat murmured. "I'd thought you'd figured it out."

"No," Jessie shook her head, still settling down from the rage and outrage that would take longer to work out of her system. "Jake never wanted kits. He wanted the bloodline to end with him. Something I agree with." She tried to relax with some success. "At least this timeline didn't see his fears come about."

"No, it didn't," Ratchet agreed. "They probably would've gone into politics if the Covenant hadn't invaded. As it was... well, it was his granddaughter who developed the powered armor. Ended up putting things into balance."

"Of all the possibilities, I really thought that she was more honorable than that," she sighed.

"I don't really know the details about what happened," Ratchet admitted. "Didn't take too long before it was something we didn't talk about, don't even know if anything about what she was thinking is still around."

"Given how it must have happened, I'm not surprised." Jessie murmured. "It would have been years after his death and against his very clear wishes. She hasn't been pregnant yet and he's three years gone already."

"Probably going to be soon, if she still goes through with it in your time," Ratchet said softly. "She has to be getting older now."

"Yes," she rolled to her back and stared at the ceiling. "And something to deal with when I'm back."

"Sorry for trashing your morning," Ratchet said softly, putting her hand on Jessie's shoulder, half-expecting it to be shrugged off.

"It's okay," she smiled weakly at the other shekat. "It wasn't your doing."

"Anything I can do to help you with it?" Ratchet offered and was surprised to hear Jessie chuckle.

"That's a dangerous question, you know." She cracked a grin.

"It can be," Ratchet chuckled back with a smile. "Depends on how you like to get out of a mood."

"Usually by a very thorough screwing." She considered Ratchet a little uncertainly. "Usually a guy, though."

"Not crazy about fems, or just prefer guys?" The cinnamon-furred shekat asked easily.

"Fems are fun, but it's not the same," she tried to explain something that left her confused and had irritated the couple non-teammates she'd been with. "It doesn't work as well."

"Nothing you can pin down?" Ratchet asked understandingly. "Well, if you wanted to try, I'd be game to see if I can change your mind about fems. Or we could see if one of your partners wants to join us," she offered with a smile.

"You just want to get laid," Jessie snickered. "Taller is usually entertaining. And we can leave him to sleep it off while we go to work."

"If it's worth anything, about thirty seconds ago it was the farthest thing from my mind," Ratchet chuckled, kissing Jessie lightly. "Any way you can call him down, or is one of us going to have to get up?"

"I can call him," Jessie chuckled and rolled from the bed to find the small comm mixed in with her clothing.

"Taller," his voice responded.

"You ready to have some fun and get your rest?"

He chuckled softly. "I have a lady here that will be sorely disappointed. Be there shortly."

Ratchet sat up in the bed and watched, smiling a bit at the interaction between the two of them. Then Jessie put the comm down and grinned at her before taking a flying lunge back onto the bed to tackle her.

"Oof!" Ratchet giggled and rolled back on the bed, easily wrapping her arms around Jessie as the younger shekat ended up on top of her. "Maybe I should've had you call him last night," she grinned up at her.

"We needed to sleep silly." Jessie smirked and kissed her with a fire and demand that really put her earlier words in question. Any questions aside, it didn't stop Ratchet from returning the kiss with every ounce of the same heat and enthusiasm.

She worked her hands up under Jessie's shirt, running her fingers through the younger shekat's exotically marked caramel fur. She purred deep in her chest while her own silken nightgown was pushed up with much less ceremony to expose her cinnamon fur to Jessie's marauding mouth and hands.

"Mmm, you're definitely getting points for enthusiasm," she purred down to Jessie, shifting to toss her nightgown down next to the bed, then work on getting her bedmate's own clothes off as she could, her eyes exploring every inch of the tiger stripes and panther rosettes when her hands couldn't. She rubbed Jessie's sides, working her hands down around her breasts and felt as much as heard and saw the appreciation for the touch.

"I get plenty of practice with Debbie," Jessie chuckled and arched into the contact, shamelessly rubbing her body against her bedmate's.

"Well, let's see if I can give you a little more before your partner's down here," Ratchet grinned, rubbing back as she splayed her fingers along Jessie's stomach to feel the gym and training-hardened muscle under soft fur. Slowly, she worked her hand down Jessie's compliant and eager body to slip under bikini panties. She grinned at Jessie's soft gasp and rubbed the hot flesh of her sex, catching her lips in a heated, probing kiss while Jessie spread her legs and lifted one knee to open her up to the expert fingers exploring her most intimate parts.

"Like that, hmm?" Ratchet spread Jessie's sex wide and slipped two of her slender, strong fingers into her tight, slick body.

Jessie's expression and body language shifted abruptly at the mild discomfort before she caught herself and relaxed again to catch Ratchet's mouth in a kiss intended to get her back in the moment. The older shekat let her adjust, mentally scolding herself for going too fast as she returned Jessie's kiss. It wasn't long before she realized that it wasn't an issue of adjusting, and withdrew her fingers from her partner's body.

"Sorry," she murmured. "Not your thing, I guess?"

"Not really," Jessie admitted and ran her hands along Ratchet's fit body.

"So, what do you like with a fem?" she asked with a smile, kissing Jessie's neck, then nuzzling her breasts lightly and felt her begin to purr again.

"Basic foreplay," she smiled sheepishly and let her hands explore Ratchet's back as her tail flicked up to tease her crotch. "Just touching."

"I can live with that," Ratchet purred, contenting herself with the rubbing, touching, and nuzzling that she could easily keep up until Taller arrived or they had to get out of bed. It was long enough to leave her a bit bewildered. Jessie was definitely responsive and clearly willing and playful with a shekat. But anything beyond foreplay just didn't work for her, no matter how hot and wet she got.

Ratchet nearly jumped out of skin when a large, strong hand ran down her spine between Jessie's smaller ones. She did let out a slight yelp of surprise and looked back over her shoulder sheepishly, smiling at the tall, powerfully built Puma behind her.

"Taller, I presume?" She purred and took in the display of muscle, rich tawny fur and maleness suitable for the Xanith sized tom.

"Mmm, yes," Jessie rumbled and twisted to roll Ratchet to her back and kissed her firmly.

Taller chuckled and knelt on the bunk to nudge Jessie to one side a bit so he could run exploring fingers lightly down Ratchet's chest.

"Now this is a sight a girl could get used to," Ratchet purred, reaching up to run her hands down each of their chests lightly. She leaned up a bit to kiss Taller lightly, if a little uncertainly and found he lowered himself to meet her with a gentle, easy certainty meant to put her at ease as well as arouse her.

"Good," he smiled and kissed her again. "Haven't been with many toms?" He asked gently.

"No," she admitted, blushing slightly beneath her cinnamon fur. "Just a couple times. I'm guessing you two have a better idea how this is supposed to work out?"

"We have been doing it for a while," Jessie chuckled and kissed her, much more at ease now.

"At least you aren't a true beginner," Taller chuckled deep in his chest and lowered his head to kiss down her chest, taking the time to pause and tease her nipples. "Not into guys, or just prefer girls?"

"Mmm ... prefer girls a lot," she decided after returning Jessie's kiss, rubbing the shekat's back and Taller's neck, purring at the attention he was giving her full breasts. "Though I'll make an exception here, I think."

"Oh, I think we can arrange that still." He chuckled and turned his head to kiss Jessie hotly. "As long as being eaten out works for you at least."

"Oh it works," Ratchet rumbled deeply, grinning as she watched the two of them make out and touch with the familiarity of long-time lovers. Lovers who probably spent as much time in foursomes as alone.

"Then if Jess rolls over, we can see how it works," he grinned at the pair of them.

"Sounds good to me," Ratchet grinned. "You don't mind giving that way?" She asked Jessie, looking at her as she shifted to kneel on the bed.

"Nope," she grinned easily and settled on her back to nuzzle Ratchet's slick mons while Taller spread her legs. He rumbled and leaned forward to kiss Ratchet while he fingered Jessie's slickness, teasing her into shuddering.

"Mmm, you're going to have to give me a few tips on how to make her do that some time," Ratchet grinned, reaching down with one hand to fondle Jessie's breasts and brought the other up to draw Taller close for another deep, slow kiss that continued as he slid his full, hard cock deep into Jessie's body with a single motion that made the exotic shekat cry out against Ratchet's sensitive flesh in pure desire.

"Happily," he grinned as they parted for a moment as he settled into a hard rhythm that quickly pushed Jessie over the edge, making her hands tightening on Ratchet's hips. "She's very easy to please when you know how to do it."

Jessie continued to lick at her distant relative through her cries and tightening tremors, knowing that Taller wouldn't even pause in his thrusting and enjoying every moment of the threesome. She'd never understand why only a male deep inside her could make her come in a way that felt so perfect, and even in these moments of bliss she managed to wonder what was wrong with her that Taller's touch did such different things to her than any fem's.

"Mmm, and very good with her tongue," Ratchet groaned, her breath quickening as she looked down briefly at Taller's shaft sinking deep into Jessie's body time and again. Her juices ran liberally down her thighs and matted the fur of Jessie's muzzle, her fingers working the younger shekat's hard nipples.

Ratchet came out of the bathroom; clean and dressed for work to see Jessie curled up against Taller's side, clearly asleep.

He glanced up at her without moving anything else that might disturb his leader. "Tell Command the mission will be delayed for a few hours. When she'll sleep, she gets to sleep."

"Will do," Ratchet nodded quietly. "Hey, Taller?"

"Yeah?" he looked up at her while gently caressing Jessie's hair.

"If she's ever in the mood for a repeat, lemme know," she smiled softly. "Or if you are. And uhm... when you guys get back home, you might want to keep her from running into Callie Briggs for a little bit."

That raised a curious eyebrow, but he nodded. "We can talk later." He said softly and soothed Jessie back to sleep when she shifted.

"Yes, later," she nodded, fastening the snaps on her overalls and headed out to report the delay.

Jeremy Darkeye yawned and rolled out of bed to answer the knock at his door. His half-awake brain took a moment to place the two kats standing there grinning at him.

"Hay Darkie," Deborah Sumner grinned at him.

"We heard you were sleeping all alone." Tank added.

"Yeah, so?" He tried to remember what the pair were referring too, the answer a tantalizing thing just out of mental reach.

"Want some company?" She offered, much more serious and surprisingly gentle.

He paused, feeling the importance of the moment despite his uncertainty as to why.

"Sure," he smiled and stepped aside, intent to not be self-conscious about being seen in his underwear.

Deborah smiled and followed him in, her eyes roaming his body with little subtlety.

"Sleeping well?" She asked.

"Pretty much," he nodded. "You guys work hard."

"We play hard too," Brad grinned at him and pulled the slightly bigger tom around to kiss him with all the fierce hunger of his nature.

"Preferably together," Debbie purred, moving up behind the dark-furred tabby to run her hands down his side, firmly but playfully. It was easy to feel his surprise, but also his confused willingness.

"So," Brad rumbled as he began to kiss down Jeremy's neck, "Since Taller's busy with Jess and Ratchet, we thought you could use some company."

"Mmm, okay," he breathed sharply and began to relax into their control.

"That's right," Debbie rumbled, "just listen to the nice tabbies." She hooked her thumbs under the waistband of his boxers and started to work them down slowly. Her tongue lightly traced one of the dark red stripes on the back of his neck.

"Ohhh, you two ..." Jeremy groaned and edged them towards the bed while expert hands removed his clothing and theirs, leaving three naked tabbies and arousal that demanded attention.

"Good boy," Brad grinned and pushed him to the bed to ravage Jeremy's body with his mouth.

"Very good boy," Deborah grinned with him, reaching down to fondle the Jeremy's lightly-furred balls, claiming his mouth with a hungry kiss.

"So what do you say to a Debbie sandwich?" Brad grinned at her.

"Mmm... sounds delicious, as long as our new playmate doesn't mind not being in the middle for a while," she rumbled deeply, grinning down at Jeremy.

"I can handle that," he murmured, still a bit on the stunned side at these two very aggressive bedmates.

"So how about introducing him to the pleasures of female flesh, hmm?" Brad grinned at her and shifted so she could claim the space directly over the dark tabby.

"With pleasure," she rumbled, straddling his hips and leaning down to kiss Jeremy tenderly. "Mmm... want us to slow down, handsome?" She asked him with a quiet purr.

"I have the feeling it's not going to matter," he chuckled back and ran his hands along her body to cup small, firm breasts. "Have fun."

"Oh I will," she rumbled, rubbing her slick sex against his shaft and drew a sharp inhale from him. "Mmm ... you have been with a fem before, right?"

He flushed under his black fur and shook his head.

"I'll be gentle with you then," she promised with a smile, shifting forward to kiss him deeply. As her tongue played along his lips, spreading them and slipping into his mouth, she pressed back, sliding her hot, wet body down around his barbed length. She felt him groan into her mouth and shudder at the new sensation.

Brad's hand on her back preceded his broad chest as he worked into their rhythm, just rubbing against her back to encourage their motion.

"Mmm ... any time you're ready, Brad," Debbie purred deeply, shifting her body to slide Jeremy's length in and out of her body, her breasts rubbing against the dark-furred tabby's chest while Jeremy rubbed her back with one hand and Brad's chest his other.

Brad chuckled and rubbed his hand between their legs, spreading her juices around even more while Jeremy shuddered at the extra sensation. "Soon, sis," he chuckled and kissed her neck. "He's just about ready."

"I think we can push him over," she purred, moaning as she squeezed down around Jeremy's length, working her body up and down his shaft faster. It was more than enough to make him whimper. "Mmm ... go ahead and thrust, if you want," she panted, leaning down to nip at his neck lightly, causing him to shudder even more and comply.

"Ohhh, you are hot," Jeremy groaned and arched before his instincts began to work on him. "So slick."

"Ooh, that's right," she cooed softly, gripping the sheets tightly as her own body started to flutter around him, her pleasure mounting along with his. "Fill me up, handsome...."

Jeremy tried to respond, but all he managed was a grunt and moan as he pulled her tightly against his chest and roared with each thrust that shot thick, hot seed deep into her body.

She moaned with him, pressing close and closing her eyes at the pleasure that rippled through her body as she came around his barbed shaft and the intensity of knowing this was very new to him.

Brad waited patiently until they had both recovered to an extent and Jeremy cocked his hips up in interest again.

"Want to try something really intense, handsome?" He asked in a soft rumble and got a rather blissed out nod. With a grin he shifted to settle between their legs and shifted Deborah's hips so her pussy was a little more accessible. Then as Jeremy pulled out slowly, he pressed his own cock against the same opening and slowly forced his way into the deliciously intense tightness.

"Ah fuck," the tabby shekat groaned, her pussy stretching near its limits, her eyes squeezed shut in pleasure and a bit of pain until she adjusted. The whimpers and tightness below her as Jeremy tried to process the sensations.

Then the toms were thrusting together, rubbing against each other as much as they were rubbing against her insides. All she could do was moan and enjoy the ride the two of them gave her, the intensity of the sensations leaving her unable to do much of anything else.

Timmerson's Thunder moved as quietly as it could, three more near-identical units spaced throughout the two-dozen kats that were working their way into the Clawson supply bunker.

So far, it had been perfectly quiet. Minimal security beyond the front door that responded to Jessie as it should have, no resistance, no trouble....

It was way too quiet for his tastes. Not that he wanted trouble, of course, but given the risks that had been described for this mission.... He almost felt like looking up, but he knew he'd just see the lighting and the ceiling of the warehouse-like structure, not the Covenant drop-ship he was half-expecting.

Gradually, they began to adjust to the lighting of the room, and he started to take a mental inventory of the supplies he could see.

He had to admit; it was impressive for being over 200 years old. Little dust, well-organized, useful looking weapons and equipment. It was going to be a godsend when they got it to secure territory.

"Kill it! KNight ordered even as she took a diving leap behind the nearest Thunder with Ratchet pulled along with her.

Even before the question of 'what' was fully formed, the machine-gun hail of bullets gave them their target in a trashcan sized robot-thing with guns bristling from its cylinder form.

Almost before any of them had fully registered the hostile, all the Thunders, and most of the weapons the others had, were opening fire on it. The roar of gunfire echoed through the warehouse as the robot fell, utterly ripped apart by the high-caliber bullets they had just been outfitted with and KNight's more unique equipment.

"That went well," she actually smiled as the smoke cleared. "And that was why we brought the Thunders."

"Enough firepower to handle anything in the way," Timmerson nodded, as the guns started to reload internally. He was glad it had gone down as easily as it had; he hadn't had to test the rail gun. In these confines, he really wasn't looking forward to firing that thing.

"So," Ratchet said quietly, climbing out from behind the armored suit, "that likely to be the only security coming after us?"

"It shouldn't have come after us," KNight shrugged and dusted herself off. "So it could be the only one, or it could mean that they all will. Spread out and start the inventory, one Thunder with each team, and don't stray out of shouting distance."

The next several hours passed with KNight and her technical team checking for any other security malfunctions. The rest of the team searched through the massive warehouse, identifying the most useful supplies to bring back on the spare transport they'd brought for just that purpose.

"Okay guys, I think we've got enough to start loading," Timmerson said, setting down a heavy crate of ammunition.

"Captain Clawson," he called, turning to look at KNight, his Thunder whirring as the main body twisted, "we're going to bring one of the transports in and start loading the first shipment back to MKC."

"Good," she nodded at him with a slightly relieved smile. "I'll open one of the main cargo doors."

"It didn't take us that long," he chuckled quietly, motioning for a couple of the other soldiers with them to head out.

"Zumbrowski, Walton, you're driving it in."

The calico shekat and Dalmatian nodded sharply, starting back down the corridor to the entrance. Timmerson turned, working with the other PAC marines to sort the piles best for loading. A few minutes later, the comms throughout the facility crackled to life.

"AMBUSH!" Walton yelled. "Covenant coming in at -" she was cut off by the sound of a massive explosion, the comm crackling with static before it shut off completely even as the internal alarms of the warehouse whirled to life with the internal security of the place at KNight's command.

"Shit!" Timmerson cursed. "Marines, with me, everybody else, arm yourselves and get ready for a fight!"

"Security activated." KNight called out as two tons of mechanized armor bolted for the entrance at top speed, moving remarkably fast for as large as they were. "Fall back if it gets ugly."

"Noted," Timmerson nodded, though he knew she wouldn't hear him. He'd known that something was going to go wrong today and this was just about right. He could hear the sound of a fire burning just outside, Banshee's screaming through the air, their plasma cannons laying down a pattern of suppression fire just outside the entrance. As he came closer, he could see that the transport had been blown up just outside the entrance.

Walton was huddled just inside the corridor's doors, cradling her arm. Timmerson moved over next to her, kneeling in his Thunder.

"What happened?" He asked the calico sharply.

"Zumbrowski was bringing the transport in," she answered, hissing in pain as she moved. "I heard three Banshee's coming in and warned him before opening fire. I ducked inside just before they hit the transport with their main guns... I don't know if Zumbrowski made it out," she admitted. "Piece of the wreck hit my arm, might be broken."

"Stay here," he ordered her grimly, "we'll see about Zumbrowski." He watched the rhythm of the fire outside, guessing at the flight patterns of the Banshees as he stood and the rest of the Thunders caught up.

"We have three hostiles out there," he explained to them, the pattern outside taking form in his mind, along with the timing for how they'd have to get out. "Andrews, Smith, bring your thrusters online; we break through one at a time during the lull. Carter, you stay in here and make sure nothing tries to get inside." The lean Saluki in the last suit in line nodded.

"Sir, should I call for the medics?"

"Yes," Timmerson nodded. "But tell them to be ready to fall back if you give the word. We are not losing anybody else on this mission. Am I understood?" He received three nods, as Carter opened a comm link with the people back in the warehouse. Seconds passed, feeling like long minutes, before the next lull in the suppression fire came.

He lunged for the entrance, the light thrusters on the back of his Thunder firing and propelling him forward just as the Banshees above him spun around for another pass. He brought the machine gun mounted in on arm up and opened fire, slugs almost three inches long and a half-inch across ripping through the protective shields and armor of the first Banshee. Smoke was pouring out of it as it flew by, and Andrews' first volley quickly dropped it. The two Thunders spread out, each picking a Banshee as Smith followed them out, taking advantage of the opening the chaos outside created.

Timmerson ran for cover, zigzagging across the field away from the transport.

"Smith," he ordered over his comm-unit, "head for the transport and look for Zumbrowski." He turned and opened fire again, regretting the decision as soon as he saw the sickly-green glow of the hover fighter's fuel-rod cannon discharging. He turned and dove out of the way, the blast impacting the ground behind him and throwing both him, and his armor, a solid ten feet away.

He groaned as he rolled to his back, seeing the Banshee start to spin around for the killing shot.

"Not today you don't," he muttered, raising the rail gun he, until now, hadn't risked using. "I hope this thing works," he added quietly, almost a prayer as his HUD indicated a lock on the Banshee. He fired, wincing as the recoil jerked his arm back painfully, and the maneuvering thruster on the side of the Banshee was ripped apart by the flechettes flying out of the experimental weapon. The Banshee started spiraling out of control, the Elite piloting it screaming in its garbled voice before it exploded on the side of the mountain. He heard the explosion of the last one; the mini-missiles Andrews had launched ripping the pilot's section completely apart.

He climbed to his feet, his body aching, and snarled as he felt the light plasma battery of a drop ship fire on him from behind, heat singeing his fur through the heavy armor of his Thunder. Spinning, he fired the rail gun again, disabling the blaster as the drop ship landed, disgorging its contingent of Elites and Grunts. Just then, he heard the staccato fire of lighter weapons from the entrance of the supply depot, the rest of the troops and the facility's security robots with them finishing off the Covenant soldiers as their drop ship pulled up and away.

"Smith here, sir," a deep voice crackled over his communicator. "I found Zumbrowski. He was knocked out when the transport blew, but he'll be fine once we get him in.

"Thank Bastet," Timmerson sighed, his body and armor both starting to wind down from the fight as reports came in that there was no sign of additional Covenant fighters, drop ships, or troops in the area. "Good job, troops; think we've taught 'em a lesson. Get any casualties inside. Carter, you pick two more and go grab the other transport, pray the Covenant didn't blow it up too." He shut down his comm, groaning as he tried to stretch out sore muscles, then started back for the cover of KNight's station and found her moving out on a powerful combat motorcycle to meet him -- no, to see if she could find anything interesting on the battle field. Her signal to move back to the warehouse was clear, as was the roar of a jet overhead as the two new SWAT jets came in with explosions overhead as the drop ships were turned to scrap.

All in all, it was a signal he could live with.

"You wanted to see me, sir?" Sergeant Timmerson said after a quick salute to the Commander and his Second-in-Command in the Commander's office.

"Yes," Feral nodded and motioned to a chair across his desk. "I want your report on the last mission."

"Yes sir," the Panther nodded and took a seat. "Where would you like me to start, sir? Captain Clawson already gave her report, I believe," he pointed out, wondering why he was being asked for this. He was sure this wasn't an official debriefing; he just wasn't sure why the Commander wanted his report for the unofficial one.

"Your assessment of her as a field officer," he began simply, something in his tone that didn't speak of much approval.

"Inexperienced, but skilled," Timmerson said easily, trying to choose his words carefully. "For an officer with as little field experience as she has, she controlled herself remarkably well. She's very used to being in control of any given situation."

"Her orders were appropriate, then?" He considered the grunt carefully. "And she let you do your job."

"They were," Timmerson nodded. "She also didn't contradict orders given in the field, or question sound judgments by subordinate officers. She was willing to get out and fight along with the rest of us as well, when the Covenant ground troops attacked."

Feral nodded, apparently appeased on some level. "You would lead your troops under her again?"

"I would, sir," Timmerson agreed. "I'd trust her to lead my troops," he added, "once she was more experienced."

The Commander nodded, accepting that assessment and the high praise it was from the grunt. It was even enough to raise Alok's eyebrow in curiosity.

"I see," the Feral considered the Panther levelly. "Thank you, and dismissed."

"Thank you, sir," Timmerson nodded, standing and saluting the two of them before leaving. He nodded at Ratchet, who was ready to go in.

"Hello, Pastie," Jessie Clawson couldn't quite keep the smirk from her voice at the gilded cage he had accepted staying in, and the decided absence of his watch among the variety of magical paraphernalia strewn about.

"So, you've finally decided to pay me a visit," the undead sorcerer observed, not bothering to look up from the heavy tome he was reading. "I'm surprised you didn't come down sooner."

"They kept me just a bit busy," she chuckled and walked over to read over his shoulder, not the least bit perturbed that she couldn't understand a symbol of it. "But I couldn't pass up the opportunity to have a little chat."

The book slammed shut, a small cloud of dust puffing up into her face, making her cough as PastMaster sat the book down flat.

"Yes, they do have a habit of keeping people with some talent working," he observed. "I can only imagine what they would have done with your father, if he'd lived to see the wars."

"I have a fairly good idea," she smiled sweetly at him; a look at made everyone uneasy. "Which brings up the question of why he's not here."

"Wrong father," PastMaster chuckled slightly, turning and walking to a tall chair that left him sitting at something more closely resembling a normal height. "As for the one you do mean, I have my reasons."

"That one was my sire," she said easily and leaned against the table. "Since he didn't live long enough to be my father. As for your reasons, I doubt they're good ones."

"Semantics. You're still his blood, more than anybody else but he could ever be. And before you judge my reasons, perhaps you'd best remember which one of us is the time wizard, hmm? Your father was enough of a disruption when he was following the time stream. No telling what he'd do pulled out of it for longer than absolutely necessary."

"Semantics that help keep it straight which one is being talked about," she chuckled. "And this would hardly be the first time you've brought him up the time stream to fix a mess for you."

"That was our erstwhile Commander's argument as well," PastMaster pointed out dryly, looking at the door the Xanith was waiting on the other side of. "I don't expect you to comprehend this, but there are some forces even I don't trifle with. Fate is one of them. The Red Lynx was lucky against him that second time. The Covenant were never meant to deal with him, or vice-versa. You, on the other hand...."

"Were," she nodded and considered him thoughtfully, even as the immortal time mage realized he'd just taught her too much. He could almost see her mind working. So much like both her parents it was decidedly unnerving. It had taken both of them decades to get that dangerous. This one was following things far beyond her understanding with all the sharpness of a master of the subject.

He had the sneaking suspicion that he was going to seriously regret having to deal with her in the past more than he already did.

"Quite," he nodded. "Not, of course, that that means you were meant to beat them, in this time or your own."

"The first time I lost because I gave into my own arrogance," she chuckled slightly and smiled at him with a calmness far beyond her years and the subject. "This time I'm giving others the tools to fight. Next time," she shrugged and rolled to an easy stride to the door. "We'll see how well I've learned my lessons."

"That we will," he agreed, resting his chin in his mummified hand as he thought. He'd have to be sure he arranged something particularly special for her once she was done preparing the past to deal with the Covenant. She'd be more of a nuisance than either of her parents had ever been. A hell of a lot more dangerous too, when she got some experience behind her.

Timmerson fingered the small packet in the pocket of his grays. He smiled as he watched Jessie lift weight in the busy gym. She really was a fine example of a shekat, and had the makings of a stellar officer. She'd been in her first battle and done it well. Whatever the Commander might think, there was nothing that could change that.

It was time to show her how Marines celebrated their first successful battle.

He walked in and waited until she was done with her set before looking down at her and the very sexy image her sweaty, mostly bare body made from this angle and the way it made his body feel to see her legs spread, even just to work out.

"Shouldn't somebody be spotting you?" He asked her with a smile.

"Yeah," she chuckled slightly and grinned up. "You volunteering?"

"Yep," he grinned back down. "And offering to give you something else to do, if you'd like."

"Oh?" Jessie purred as she fingered the bar over her head. "A more fun way to get sweaty?"

"Much more fun," he winked. "Assuming I can talk you into being a little adventurous and staying the night tonight?"

"Mmmm, I think I can manage that," she rumbled and slid from the bench to her feet. "But my quarters are much nicer."

"Rank hath its privileges, hmm?" He chuckled, watching her move. "You don't have to grab a shower, if you don't want to," he added with a wink.

"Mine's big enough for two," she grinned and brushed past him.

"If we get that far," he teased, following her to her room with no doubts in either of their minds, or anyone's they passed, what was going to happen.

"You have quite the opinion of yourself," Jessie smirked at him. "I wore you out pretty effectively last time."

"And you'll probably manage it this time too," he chuckled, moving closer to her and rubbing her shoulder lightly. "Though you'll be pretty worn out too, if I have my way."

"Mmm, I like your idea of a challenge," she rubbed back and stopped to open her door. The incredible blandness of it wasn't surprising; she'd only had it a week and was already well know around Headquarters for not being in it. The only sign anyone really lived here was the bedding. It was thick, fluffy and decidedly geometrically dark on a bed that was much bigger than the standard issue.

Of course, the standard issue didn't usually have two to four people sleeping in it at once either.

"I'd say it looked like you lived in the lab, if I didn't know any better," he chuckled. "But then, you do. Bed looks comfy though."

"It is," she grinned and twisted around him to close and lock the door. "Sleep and showers are the only thing quarters are for, you know."

"The only thing?" He asked her with a chuckle, twisting to wrap his arms around her from behind.

"Well, there is what leads up to sleep," she giggled and twisted in his arms to claim a playful kiss.

"You did good out there today," he rumbled, looking down at her with a smile and watched her blush slightly and press closer.

"Thanks," she purred back and nuzzled his chest.

"So, this was your first real mission, right?" He asked, leaning down to nuzzle her hair lightly.

"Yeah," she chuckled sheepishly and murred into his fur. "That was the first real thing."

"If you want, we've got a little tradition about first missions," he smiled. "Think you're game for something a bit more intense than normal?"

"Always," she grinned up at him and licked her whiskers. "Whatcha got in mind?"

"Ever hear of Cold Heat?" He asked her.

"Mmm, yeah." She nuzzled his chest with a curious look up. "Interesting stuff. Date rape drug. Came from a fertility treatment." She paused. "Come to think of it, a variant was how Brad and his sibs were conceived."

"It did?" He asked, cocking his head slightly as he looked down at her. "Well, they've worked a lot of that out these days. More of a party drug now. Legal, though they frown on it if you're on duty the next morning."

"So you get to remember it now?" She perked up with a hungry rumble.

"And you don't end up pregnant," he rumbled back with a nod. "At least not any more likely than you are when you're not in heat."

"Sounds like an intensely hot night," Jessie shivered in excitement, her panties already soaked at the thought of what it would be like to have a tom like that.

"So, want to take a dose before the main event?" He offered, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a slim package with two tablets.

"One for each of us?" She raised an eyebrow even as her breath caught at what that would be like. A tom in heat was almost too much to dream about.

"I have to keep up with you while you're on this stuff some how," he smirked down at her and found his mouth quickly consumed by hers.

"Oh, this will be a night to remember." Jessie breathed and slid her fingers along his hand with the pills. "For both of us."

"That's the idea," he rumbled deeply as their lips parted and he opened up the packet, letting her palm one of the tablets. "Want your shower first, or in the morning?"

"Ohh, water games," she laughed and let the pill slide down her throat before twisting skillfully out of his embrace to bolt for the bathroom. "You have no idea what water does to me, handsome."

"But I'm about to find out," he grinned, swallowing his own tablet and following her into the bathroom to find the water on and Jessie making quick work of removing her clothing.

"Yes, you are." She rumbled, rubbing her breasted erotically before stepping back into the water to dive him a wanton display of spread legs with her back against the side wall and water streaming down her body. "Think you're strong enough to hold me?"

"I know I am," he rumbled and stripped so fast he snapped a couple buttons in his eagerness to get to her willing body and between those spread legs that promised such pleasure.

Ratchet gripped the key in her pocket tightly; almost burning with curiosity as to what she'd see when she used it. Taller had dropped by her room just a few minutes before, offering her the key to Jessie's quarters and the opportunity to take that lesson in how to make the caramel-furred shekat shiver.

Ratchet had dressed almost as quickly as she did when a red alert sounded in the middle of the night, and was trying not to look like she was rushing as she walked to the Captain's quarters. When she finally got there, she unlocked the door quietly, a shiver running down her spine as she heard Jessie moan softly. She slipped in and locked the door behind her, her breath caught in her throat at the overpowering smell of pheromones and sex that hadn't even begun to clear from the room.

Even in the dimness of the room lit by a scattering of candles, she could see Jessie on the bed, her gorgeous fur and its complex patterns bare to all to see. Her hands tied over her head, her ankles to the foot of the bed and her knees even with her hips with matching securing. Next to her Taller was equally naked and definitely very hard as he traced light fingers along Jessie's trembling chest.

Ratchet let out a soft whimper, feeling herself getting wet beneath her coveralls, the only thing she was wearing besides a gray t-shirt.

"Am I wearing too much?" She asked quietly from the door.

"Assuming you want to get some," he grinned at her. "She's quite a sight like this, isn't she?"

"Yes, yes she is," Ratchet purred deeply, stripping quickly and moving in. She sniffed the air slightly, finally clicking with what was making the scent so potent. "Somebody introduced her to Cold Heat, huh?" She asked with a chuckle.

"Timmerson, I assume." Taller chuckled over Jessie's whimpers and her lashing tail. "Who didn't make it and went to his own bed when we got too noisy."

"Toms," Ratchet smirked. "Stuff always wears off faster for them. So, are we starting the morning's lessons in how to make a SWAT Kat moan?"

"This one at least," he rumbled and ran his hand down Jessie's chest. "I'm easy."

"Maybe we'll see about that later," she offered with a purr, before turning her attention to what he was doing to Jessie. "Have a feeling I'll owe you that after this."

"We can sort that out later," he chuckled and shifted to give her a better view of the light claw traces he was making along her abs and down her thighs. "Though as wound up as she is now, you could probably just play your fingers along her mons and she'd come."

"I'll bet," Ratchet purred, reaching down to brush her fingers just above Jessie's sex, looking at Taller almost like she was asking permission to do just that.

"Gods, stop teasing me already!" Jessie entered the conversation, making Taller chuckle and nod to Ratchet.

"We must please her," he grinned and shifted forward to occupy Jessie's mouth for a while.

"M'lady doesn't like being teased, hmm?" Ratchet chuckled and ran her fingers along Jessie's hot, swollen sex skillfully, tracing the tip of her thumb around the younger shekat's clit. She purred as the thick juices oozed over her fingers to increase the ease of their slide across the tender, pulsing flesh.

"No," Jessie whimpered as her body shuddered and strained against its bonds. "Oh, gods."

"I guess not," Ratchet murred softly, continuing to stroke and fondle Jessie's sex while the younger shekat came, reaching out with her other hand to fondle her breasts lightly.

"Mmm, game for a little 69 with extras?" Taller rumbled as he breathed in the intoxicating pheromones. "I really am starting to ache."

"She doesn't mind receiving?" Ratchet asked him, glancing down at Jessie's face.

"No!" Jessie answered for him between pants of desperation. "Gods, it'll be hot."

"Agreed," Ratchet grinned, moving to straddle Jessie's face, careful of her bindings as she leaned forward, inhaling the potent scent of arousal coming from between those slick, swollen pussy lips. She raised her tail up out of the way, licking and nuzzling at Jessie's spread sex hungrily.

She shuddered as the bound shekat returned the attention eagerly, if very distracted by her own state. Then Taller's hands were on her hips and his fingers played along her own slick slit, spreading her lips wider for Jessie's tongue and his own fingers.

"Mind if I get a little action?" He rumbled, his fingers sliding in and out of Ratchet's aroused body easily.

The cinnamon-furred shekat shivered and nodded, purring deep in her throat as she put every ounce of skill she could into making Jessie come again while the two kats working on her, one licking at her clit and one with his thick cock pumping in and out of her, did their best to break her concentration with the same kind of pleasure.

It was Jessie who cracked first, her bound body trembling as she cried out in pleasure so intense it was nearly pain. Ratchet wasn't far behind. Her sex spasmed around Taller's barbed shaft deep inside her as she lapped up Jessie's juices hungrily, rubbing the bound shekat's thighs and ass with her hands.

She felt the Puma's teeth on her scruff as he began to shudder. Sharp and powerful enough to break a deer neck, he still only held her. His chest rubbed against her back as he grunted into her hair and fur with each increasingly sharp stroke. Jessie's tongue helped ran along his shaft as much as Ratchet's slit as he let go and roared, pumping his come into Ratchet's body with complete abandon.

"Ratchet," Taller's voice was strangely calm when she came out of the shower to see him struggling with, and loosing to, his smaller and still drugged leader. "Get one of the comms and call Brad and Deborah down here now.

"Right," she nodded and started to sort through the clothes on the floor quickly. The drug was supposed to have worn off long before, unless Timmerson had waited until just a couple hours before she'd gotten there. It certainly wasn't supposed to be this strong!

She grabbed onto Taller's pants, pulled them over and fished his SWAT comm out of his pocket. After a second to figure it out, she hit the button to open up the beeper.

"C'mon, one of you be awake," she muttered, waiting until she got the response beep that said one of them was.

"Taller?" Deborah's sleepy voice murmured. "What's wrong?"

"Deborah, this is Ratchet."

"Wha're you -"

"No time. We need you and Brad down at Jessie's quarters fast !"

"Right," the shekat on the other end said, the sleep in her voice practically disappearing. Something that sounded almost like a scuffle started in the background, before Brad snarled something. Ratchet couldn't quite make out what they were saying, but it sounded like he'd still been asleep and had gotten a rude wake-up call. "We're on our way," Deborah said after a moment, before the line was abruptly cut off.

"They're coming," Ratchet said, looking back at the Puma being wrestled to his back by his lover and CO. "Should I try helping with her?"

"Distract would be just fine." He got out before Jessie silenced him with her mouth over his.

"Right," Ratchet nodded, moving to the bed behind Jessie and nuzzling her back, reaching around the drugged shekat's body to fondle her sex and breasts, doing her best to keep her occupied and not ask herself the question of why the drug was doing this to her.

Thankfully, Jessie seemed inclined to take to the distraction, at least enough that Taller got to breathe until the door opened and shut again.

"Wooph! Who turned on the heat?" Brad almost choked on the thick-smelling air and met his leader's wild eyes. "Ah, hell." He muttered and stripped as quickly as he could. He was only saved from having half his grays ripped off by the fact that Ratchet was between him and Jessie. The delay wasn't enough to keep him from being pinned to the wall by the lunging shekat, his mouth caught in a heated kiss as she started rubbing against him, getting his thick shaft into her body as soon as he was hard enough.

"What the hell happened to her?" Deborah asked, looking at the scene and shifting uncomfortably as the smells in the room began to work on her.

"Marine machismo and things not wearing off when they're supposed to," Ratchet muttered, her tail lashing behind her as she watched.

"And for those of us not from this time?" Taller asked as he got up from the bed, taking extra care not to touch his bruised and abused groin and more grateful than he cared to admit that someone else was her focus for now.

"Marine 'rite of passage' sort of thing," Ratchet explained. "First field mission, if it goes well, they celebrate with a local party drug. It was supposed to have worn off a few hours ago, but... well," she shrugged and gestured towards Jessie and Brad, who were both pretty much oblivious to the conversation.

"He meant well." Taller shook his head and moved to the bathroom, motioning the two shekats to join him. "It's something we'd definitely be inclined towards if it was available. I have serious doubts she didn't ask what it was first and was quite willing."

"Definitely," Deborah nodded, following Taller and Ratchet into the other room. "Though I think it's safe to say we keep Jessie away from it from now on. Unless he managed to drug her without any sort of consent."

"Not Timmerson," Ratchet said, shaking her head. "He wouldn't do that. This normal for her when she's in heat?"

"Not too far off," Deborah chuckled as the bathroom door closed behind the trio, her sex definitely wet from the smells that permeated the rooms. "They're not usually near that strong, but she's all over the place."

"Brad caught most of the heavy ones," Taller added as the water turned on. "She's calmed down as she's gotten older, but it's still pretty erratic."

"It's not like she's exactly old," Deborah commented with a bemused chuckle while Taller worked his fur clean of the worst of the past few hours so he could go out in public.

"Yeah, we're guessing she's five years or more from her full maturity." He nodded, taking extreme care with his groin.

"She did a number on you, didn't she?" Deborah chuckled, shaking her head slightly. "Shouldn't we leave somebody here in case Brad ends up needing us to go grab some more relief for him?"

"I've gotten kicked with less bruising." He muttered, though there was a fair bit of tolerant amusement as well. "I was thinking of 'volunteering' Timmerson, since he started it." He grinned at the girls devilishly. "He's had several hours of sleep by now, after all."

"Works for me," Ratchet grinned back. "He got her going; he can help her wind up too."

"Just going to have to make sure we don't let Jess out," Deborah giggled slightly. "Not that she wouldn't make for some very happy Marines before she was done."

"And a few very frightened ones," Taller smirked. "She can be just a touch aggressive."

"I noticed that when she was wrestling you to the bed," Ratchet chuckled. "How old is she, by the way? I'd thought she was in her twenties, but if she's got five or six more years to go...."

"She's twenty, it's just ... complicated." Taller worked on an explanation that didn't require at least two degrees to follow. "She's got a lot of Xanith in her and she resulted from a bit of genetic manipulation in a lab."

"Basically it amounts to she's maturing slowly." Deborah filled in for him. "Right now she's the equivalent to sixteen or seventeen in a normal kat. She'll probably be in her mid twenties and a few inches taller before she finishes maturing."

"Whoa," Ratchet murmured, shaking her head slightly. "That might be why the drug's going weird with her, something screwy in her genetics that doesn't want it to wear off at the right time."

"Let's just hope it doesn't work like its predecessor does," Taller said quietly over the shower's blowers. "We so do not need her pregnant."

"Given what she said last time I mentioned Clawson kits, I'm inclined to agree," Ratchet nodded with a slight shudder and earned a curious look from both her companions, but no questions. "She would not be a happy shekat."

"Though if you want a sure way to really screw with how history plays out, kits of that bloodline are an effective way to do it. They'd be of fighting age before the invasion starts." Taller said and accepted his clothes from Deborah and dressed quickly. "Why don't Ratchet and I go get Timmerson," he grinned at his teammate. "And you keep Jess from killing Brad."

"Will do," Deborah grinned, wondering a bit about the look on Ratchet's face when Taller mentioned the change that Clawson kits would create. "You two make sure he's in shape to take over for our tabby when he gets here."

"We will," he chuckled and muttered about pheromones and bruised flesh as they headed back out to the room drenched in the smells, sounds and bodies deep in rutting pleasure.

"So, want to grab something to eat before we go get Timmerson?" Ratchet asked as they closed and re-locked the door, inhaling the fresh air outside the room almost gratefully.

Taller had no such regrets. "Sure," he smiled. "Brad's good for a few hours, and he handles her better when she's like this."

"Better than you guys do, or better than he usually does?" She asked with a chuckle. "I'll have to go change quick," she observed, looking down at her overalls and grays, all smelling very, very heavily of the arousal in the room they'd spent the last few hours in.

"Better than I do," he smiled slightly and guided her towards his own quarters, only a few doors away from Jessie's. "She responds very well to the whole domination thing he does when she's like this. And I need fresh clothes as well."

"She's a little odd, for an officer who's in charge of a unit," Ratchet admitted as they walked into his room and he closed the door before making quick work of changing. "I wouldn't have expected her to have any sort of a subby streak."

"Oh?" He looked at her curiously. "It's not that uncommon, really. A lot of command-type personalities really enjoy having the burden taken off their shoulders for a while. But in this case, it's a lot deeper than that. Her father was the same way. It makes them feel safe to have someone stronger than they are around that they can trust. Or something like that. I think part of it's just primal too, and maybe something to do with their dads."

"She just struck me as always wanting to be in control," Ratchet explained. "Most of the officers I've known are that way. Their dads were the same?"

"Yeah, Razor and T-Bone," he nodded. "No one could doubt it was Razor in charge, especially in the field, but he was a total bottom with Chance. He just liked being taken care of when it wasn't life or death, and Chance loved to do it." He smiled fondly at memories of the couple. "Jessie's just like her dad. She's a commander because she's good at it. She's got the instincts for making the right choice and a mind that can handle the battlefield. But it's not something either really sought out. Hell," he chuckled, "she wasn't even going to go into field work until her dad was killed and it became obvious she was needed."

"Would've preferred to stay in the lab, huh? Or didn't want to get into SWAT in the first place?" She asked.

"Yeah, they both would have preferred to stay and create things to help the warriors. Her father tried to retire from fieldwork after the mess that turned SWAT official. He couldn't do it. Chance meant too much to him to go out without him, and Chance was one of those kats that was born to be a battlefield hero. It's what he was ." Taller nodded. "When they were killed, Jessie saw that the hole that left was too much not to try and fill. As much as it's going to cost her, she's right too. We do need her."

"And so do we," Ratchet admitted softly. "Maybe one of these days things'll calm down enough to let her get back into the lab more. By the way, don't suppose you have anything that'd fit me?" She asked him. "Save me a trip back to the maintenance bay for a fresh change."

"Maybe," he considered her before he went digging into a drawer. "Bigger tits, a bit shorter and leaner, but I think you'd fit in Jessie's grays."

"We are about the same size," she agreed, looking at the clothes he tossed her. She changed quickly, feeling rather odd without her usual coveralls but ignoring it for the time being. "So, how long do you think you'll be staying here yet?"

"No longer than we have to, I expect." He shook his head. "It's seriously depressing."

"Seeing your city in the shape it's in?" She guessed as they walked out the door. "What it took to shut down the Omegas and such?"

"To know we died for nothing," he shook his head, his voice low and quiet.

"You're changing that," she said quietly, reaching up to put a hand on his shoulder. "You've already changed that. I can tell you now, with what you've done and what you could take back with you now, that things wouldn't end up the same way, I'm sure of it."

"I know," he nodded and smiled at the shorter shekat. "But your SWAT, the people we were without this trip ... Gods, eight SWAT teams died that day, Ratchet. Most of them people I know and respect. Those aren't names in a history book for us; those are friends, teammates ... one of them is mine." He sighed and shook his head. "It's not like any of us really expect to see out kits grown, if we manage to have any, but we kind of expect to go the way the SWAT Kats went. Making a difference in the world. It didn't happen here, and that's ... rather hard to accept."

" Your SWAT teams won't end up that way. I don't know what it's like, Taller, I can't pretend to, but they won't be writing the history books the same way."

"No, we won't," he smiled slightly. "Even if we bring back nothing but our knowledge from this time, it won't be the same. And we don't plan on returning home empty-handed. I don't suppose we can eat in town?" He changed the subject abruptly. "We've got a few hours."

"Sure," she nodded with a smile. "I'll drive; I know a good place outside the base."

About a half-hour later, the two of them were sitting in a small restaurant a couple miles from the base. Ratchet smiled, watching the slender Siamese waitress walk away almost on reflex before she turned to her plate of eggs, pancakes, and bacon.

"So," she said, looking up at Taller, "mind if I grill you a bit about your time?"

"Not at all," he raised a curious eyebrow. "You didn't seem the history buff type."

"I'm not, usually," she admitted. "But as much time as I've spent around Jessie, I'm a little curious about the time you guys come from. You've gotta remember," she chuckled slightly, "most of the history I know about has us in the middle of a war that isn't going particularly well."

Taller nodded and smiled as he began to eat with deliberate slowness. "Ask away."

"Go ahead and tell me if I touch on something you're not comfortable talking about," she told him with a smile, starting on her breakfast with the same slowness as she sorted out what she wanted to ask him about first. She chuckled slightly.

"Don't worry, I will." He nodded easily. "And if it's classified."

"Guess I don't know what questions to ask," she admitted. "Darkeye's the history buff. I guess that mostly, I'm just wondering what you think about it ... what it's like. I know about the Omegas and stuff, but we don't keep too much about what life was like back then that I'd trust."

"Hell of a question," he chuckled softly. "Life's pretty good, at least I think so. Politics is politics, there are the poor and homeless, but most people have what they need, and a large percentage have more. It's nothing like it is now. It was a commerce center back then. A place of shopping and money and a lot of partying."

"Where now it's more like a fortress," she nodded. "And the Feral's only liked to think they were in charge," she chuckled slightly. "It was better than this? What we've got now, even if you counted the Covenant out?"

"I think so," he admitted. "It is certainly a very different place. It's still a city of hopes. The jewel of modern Aristal. The best and brightest and most ambitious come to make their fortunes. As citizens as well as Omegas." He added with a chuckle.

"Well, good to know that not all new arrivals are Omegas," she chuckled. "Kinda strange. Giant monsters attacking every week, but never doing as much damage as we've had to deal with. Of course, they usually didn't try to break things back down before you rebuilt 'em all the way."

"Most of them want to control the city too, which keeps the damage down too," he nodded, and then grinned. "And it's more like once every month or two for an actual Omega."

"Think there'd be a place there for a soon-to-be out of work tinkerer and maintenance-girl?" Ratchet asked hopefully.

Taller blinked, taken by surprise. "Hell yes."

"If it's not a problem, you might have one coming back with you," Ratchet admitted. "If you think that'd be possible?"

"It would be Jessie's choice, then it has to get past Pastie," he hedged a bit. "But those being willing, I don't see why not."

"I'll have to check with her some time after she's done jumping everything male," Ratchet smiled slightly. "Surprised in the interest?"

"Yeah," he admitted. "It's not something I expect given you're coming out of the war zone we're heading into."

"Depending on how you look at time," she pointed out quietly. "I might be able to help keep you from ending up in that war zone too. And honestly... it's possible my family won't even exist once you guys go back. Long story, and I don't even know all of it."

"It'll exist," he took a drink of milk. "At least in the timeline that leads here. This future simply ceased to be the primary timeline once we were pulled foreword. It's complicated at the Simplest of times."

"No kidding," she chuckled slightly, washing down the last of her bacon with some of her juice. "There's a reason I stick to applied physics. Still, even without that, there are some pretty good reasons. And all this may well end up not mattering in the least, too, if Jessie, Pastie, or the Commander nixes it."

"Feral?" He raised an eyebrow. "He doesn't get a say in this unless you give him one."

"He is my CO, Taller," she pointed out. "If your Commander was telling you to stay in the same situation, would you ignore her with only as much reason as I've got? Besides, Jessie and PastMaster are more likely to shut it down than he is, especially PastMaster. I won't be the first person who's asked him for a one-way ticket out of this time."

He cocked his head and considered her a bit. "You're far more loyal to your badge than we are." He finally told her. "If my Commander told me no without a damn good reason I agreed with, he'd have my resignation and I'd be gone anyway."

"And if I'd grown up in something other than a war zone, I'd probably agree with you," she admitted. "For me, that's still a bit more defiant than I'm willing to be just yet."

"Understandable," he nodded thoughtfully. "Though really, only Jessie needs to approve. Pastie doesn't even have to know."

"Stow away on whatever he's sending back in time?" She guessed.

"That's the basic gist," he nodded. "We already know he's not omnipotent. Just very old."

"No," she chuckled. "If he was omnipotent, he would've just thrown the Covenant back to the beginning of time, if I remember his ranting right. He was particularly unhappy with them for dropping one of his dragons that day."

"Yes, I understand those are a real pain to get," Taller chuckled. "Probably why he hates Jake so much. He got one too, back in Queen Callista's time."

"That was probably more ticked off about losing time and again than any of the critters Jake dropped," she chuckled. "He does not like to lose a fight."

"That's about the only thing we have in common with the Omegas," he cracked an amused grin. "None of us take failure well."

"Nope," Ratchet agreed with a chuckle, finishing her breakfast. "So, should we go get Timmerson to rescue Brad?"

"Eventually," he chuckled. "How do they handle the bill here?" He asked a little uncertainly. "Feral put us on the payroll already."

"We just head up to the counter, they'll have the tab sorted out," she smiled. "At least that's what you do here, this early. I can pay, if you'd like," she offered.

"I was the one who wanted to eat out," he chuckled and stood easily. "You handle the tip? Cash is something I don't have yet."

"All right," she chuckled, pulling out her wallet as he went up to pay for their meals.

"So what have you been up to?" Commander Feral asked with gruff respect as SWAT Alpha settled in the briefing room.

"We've been splitting our time between training new pilot/gunner teams and collecting Covenant equipment," Deborah answered easily. For once, she and Brad were ready to be answering most of the questions here.

"So far, we have two teams that are sky-worthy," Brad continued. "The pilots were both recruited from local stunt and courier pilots, gunners from the transport pilots already with the military. They're not up to SWAT par, but they are on a par with the Enforcers from our time."

"We both highly recommend additional training though," Deborah said seriously. "We'd give them about even odds against a good Covenant flight team, at best. It's better than nothing, but not enough."

"It usually takes two years to take a flight team to graduation in our time." Jessie commented. "These guys are exceptional, but even with the couple real fights we've covered them in and our old jets, they aren't ready to go on their own. They've got what it takes to rebuild the unit, and I got the flight trainer from our old HQ working again, so that's improving things for all of them.

"End result, you've got the raw materials, but we're going to have to work with them more," Deborah nodded. "The equipment recovery is going better, fortunately. Ten raids have netted us several Ghosts and Banshees, as you know, and the technical teams are still working on pulling them apart as fast as they can. Ratchet has integrated one salvaged fuel-rod cannon into a turret on a troop transport, and it has been tested in battle successfully, you have the full report on your desk," she explained, looking at Commander Feral respectfully.

"I read it," Lieutenant Commander Alok Khan nodded to her with honest respect in his tone for all of them. "It's quite an impressive run of successes you have going."

"We're hoping for one more major success, that will allow us to focus more on training flight teams," Brad said, looking up at Deborah with an expression that, to Jessie, said clearly that he wasn't entirely certain about what was going to follow.

"We have a plan to infiltrate one of the Covenant supply bases," the black-on-gray shekat continued. "We have a target, timetable, and plan. We plan on leaving with a Wraith, and hopefully multiple suits of Hunter battle armor to go with the Elite armor we've salvaged along with the Banshees."

Feral drew in a sharp breath, his gaze snapped to Jessie to confirm that this was not a joke and saw her mild surprise, but support for her teammate as the idea was assessed and agreed with.

"When do you plan to go?" He asked seriously. "Who is going?"

"We've been monitoring the Covenant's traffic and security since we knew what our mission here was," Deborah explained. "We've found that every week they leave a gap in their security that we intend to exploit.

"At a minimum, Lieutenant Furlong and I will go, but no more than the SWAT Alpha team. We have to leave at 0400 three days from now to be in optimum position when the security gap occurs. If something happens, as long as the Covenant aren't alerted, we should be able to try again in a week."

Feral nodded, reluctant to endorse such a risky mission, but fully aware that they'd do it with or without his blessing.

"And if you are caught behind their lines?" He asked instead.

"Our backup will be either Captain Clawson and Lieutenant Windbright, or Crysto and SkyDancer coming in to supply us with the cover, and then firepower, to break out. SWAT will not be captured," she said seriously.

"They are not likely to try," Feral reminded them seriously. "They shoot to kill, and you have been noticed."

"Commander, we'll make it work." Jessie said firmly. "We have ten raids to our credit and twice as many battles. We know how to make it happen."

"And we will make it happen," Brad nodded, standing behind his partners.

"Very well," Feral nodded. "Captain Clawson, this is your operation. Keep me apprised of the situation until you leave."

"Yes, sir," she inclined her head easily.

"Dismissed," Feral said, collecting his papers as he looked at the four SWAT Kats as they stood. "And good luck," he added seriously, before they filtered out.

The next day, Timmerson and Ratchet were at the door to Darkeye's quarters, hoping he'd come back alone after his shift was over. The panther knocked, waiting for a few moments for a response.

"Hey, Darkeye," he called out. "It's Timmerson, you in there?"

"Just a minute," Darkeye called back, and then opened the door for them after getting dressed.

"We interrupt anything?" Ratchet asked him, glancing into the room to see if anybody from SWAT was with him.

"Just a nap," he stepped back so they could come in. "Jessie's just a bit hyper-focused."

"Yeah, we've noticed," Timmerson nodded, the two of them stepping into his room. "Actually, we were thinking of trying to snap her out of it for a couple hours, get the whole team to wind down a little bit before that mission Debbie's planning."

"Bastet knows they need it," Ratchet added. "I think she's the only one who isn't trying to cover for her nerves."

"Which is only making the others worse," Darkeye nodded. "What kind of wind down event did you have in mind?" He asked cautiously.

"Dinner and drinks," Timmerson chuckled, rubbing the back of his neck a little sheepishly. "Trying to stay away from the usual type just a bit, and nowhere Jessie's likely to end up getting a dose of Cold Heat."

"Good," he let a breath of relief out. "That was disturbing to just hear about." He shook his head and chuckled. "So where did you have in mind?"

"Trust me, the look on his face when we came after him was almost enough to make it worth it," Ratchet chuckled, nodding her head towards Timmerson.

"We were thinking about heading to Mickey's," the Panther chuckled, ignoring Ratchet's comment. "Tried getting Jessie out there a couple times already, usually never managed to get off-base, but I think that between the three of us we can avoid the usual distractions."

"Hopefully," Darkeye flushed at the thought of what a seven-way orgy would be like. "The trick will be getting them out of the lab and avoiding quarters on the way."

"Well, now that they've taken to wearing their grays in the lab, that should be a bit easier," Ratchet chuckled. "The three of us are already in civvies, and we moved our cars to the parking zone nearest the lab so we won't end up getting too close to them. I think we've got all our bases covered."

"As much as you can when trying to put one over on four SWAT Kats at least." Darkeye smirked. "Thankfully they aren't likely to suspect us of anything."

"What's to suspect?" Timmerson asked with a smirk. "We're planning on being nice and up-front, at least about where we're heading. I don't know about you guys, but I do not want to be around if SWAT decides we tried katnapping them, even for fun."

"Oh, gods no," Darkeye shuddered despite his grin. "That is just not healthy. So when are we headed out?"

"How soon can you be ready?" Ratchet asked him with a grin.

"Fifteen minutes," he decided and moved to collect a clean set of grays and headed to the bathroom for a quick shower, "I'll be right out."

"We'll be waiting," Timmerson smiled, as the two of them left him to change.

"And dressed!" Darkeye yelled back over the sound of the shower starting.

Ratchet blinked, and then shook her head.

"Something tells me he's been hanging out with SWAT just a little too long," she chuckled, closing the door behind them and waiting in the hall.

"Yet it's a disturbingly valid order for anyone who tends to," he grinned down at her. "And we do hang out with them too."

"Very true," she chuckled. "Still, I think we'll get 'em to behave."

"As long as we get them outside, I think we can." He laughed easily. "They aren't that nympho."

It actually took less time than any of them had been planning on to get SWAT out of the lab and out to Mickey's. The bar and grill, fortunately, had cleared the seats they'd reserved a little early, so they were seated without much of a wait. A little bit later, they had their first round of drinks and their meals were cooking. By the time their sandwiches and sides had arrived, they were all relaxing and getting past the small talk and chit-chat they'd started out with.

"So, how do you like the place, now that we've finally managed to get here?" Timmerson asked Jessie, taking a drink of his beer and starting on his fries.

"Good food and good beer," she grinned at him. "Better than I expected for a war zone like this." She admitted.

"C'mon, Jess," Deborah smirked. "How else do you keep the troops willing to fight for as long as they have?"

"I think that actually was about the logic of it," Ratchet chuckled. "For a stretch it was pretty bad, according to the history, but once we realized it wasn't going to end any time soon, we started to adjust and make the best of things."

"Well," the Panther chuckled, "with any luck that'll be changing some time soon now."

"Oh yeah," the youngest member of SWAT grinned. "Changing big time."

"Yeah," Jessie rumbled with a dangerous grin. "That ship won't be over your head when we leave."

"Now that would be a big change," the Panther grinned. "Don't know how you plan on pulling it off, but I don't think anybody'd complain if you did."

"Except the Covenant," Deborah smirked, sipping at her drink.

" They won't be around to complain," Brad grinned back.

"Funny how that works, huh?" She grinned.

"I'm almost afraid to ask how you plan on doing that," Ratchet chuckled. "Have anything to do with that next mission?"

"Nah," Deborah said, shaking her head and taking a bite of her sandwich.

"It'll be a bit after that," Brad explained, draining his glass. "We're not moving that fast."

"Yeah," Jessie chimed in. "The cruiser takedown is my baby. There's some serious hardware work left to do on the nuke delivery system."

"Hope you've got better luck with that sort of thing than we had," Ratchet chuckled, shaking her head slightly. "They just shot 'em down back when we were trying it."

"Trust in the Jessie," Deborah smirked. "If tech can do it, she'll figure out how."

"It's their tech that'll do it," she grinned, almost giddy in her excitement over the plan. "What I have to work out is a missile that will attach itself to their drop ships, then explode after the ships are docked again. They won't shoot them down unless they kill their own equipment."

"Ooh, that is mean ," Ratchet grinned evilly. "Hope you don't mind if I help."

"Not in the least," Jessie rumbled, her body almost vibrating in her eagerness to make it happen.

"And we'll leave you with what you need to tackle the way Omegas work too." Taller added seriously. "It's very different from what you're facing now."

"Frankly, it'll be a welcome change," Taller said, shaking his head. "Much rather have to face 'em one at a time, and with breaks in between, than the way things are now."

"It is a lot saner," Taller nodded. "No walk in the park, but you can get months of downtime between real hits. It's more interesting if you aren't special ops, though. Beat cops see all the daily action."

"Daily action has to be better than the chance of daily invasion," Timmerson smirked. "You tell me which you'd rather have."

"Hay, I transferred from the beat to SWAT," Taller smirked. "I'll take the top notch equipment that only needs to get used once a month."

"The team perks are better too," Jessie grinned at him.

"Even when you're not with the team," Brad winked at Ratchet.

"Somebody's getting buzzed," Deborah chuckled, leaning over to nuzzle the tabby tom lightly.

"I'm not the only one," he smirked back at her.

"Hey, I'm still sober," she countered.

"Which leads me to wonder why." Jessie snickered even as she leaned into Timmerson's solid mass. "You drink as hard as he does."

"Hey, one of us has to be able to drive," Deborah smirked.

"Don't worry about that," Timmerson chuckled, reflexively rubbing Jessie's back lightly. "We'll make sure you guys all get home safe. We're here so you guys can unwind, remember?"

 "Right," the tabby shekat smiled slightly, finally finishing her first drink just as the waitress came by to replace the empty ones.

"Somethin' wrong, sis?" He asked her as the waitress left.

"Nah," she said, shaking her head. "Just got work on the brain yet."

"We'll come up with a way to get you thinkin' about somethin' else once we're back on base," he winked.

"If you can still stand," she grinned.

"Oh, you know him, it'll stand long after he can't." Jessie teased. "Unless there's a more interesting idea," she grinned devilishly. "I don't suppose Warlords survived?"

"Anything goes club," Taller added with a chuckle. "Our favorite party spot back home."

"And he does mean anything ." Brad added with a wide grin.

"Sweet Bastet," Ratchet chuckled, shaking her head. "I should've known."

"I don't know about any place called Warlords," Timmerson said, thinking about it. "A couple places like that, but I'm not sure it'd be safe to turn you guys loose in them."

Jessie couldn't help but giggle. "Oh, come on, Martin." She rubbed up against his side. "I'm just a bit drunk, no Cold Heat in sight."

"Yeah, but by the time we get there there'll be four of you," he smirked. "And there's no telling what the guys there might have with 'em. I'm not sure it'd be fair to the other patrons, they wouldn't have any warning what they were getting into."

"Or what was getting into them," Brad smirked.

"C'mon guys, tone it down a touch," Ratchet smiled slightly. "I think you're scaring the customers who do know your reps."

"Ah, come on, when have we ever left someone unsatisfied?" Jessie giggled.

"Not that I've ever heard of," Ratchet admitted with a chuckle. She leaned slightly towards Jeremy, who was looking almost like he wanted to just start running back to base.

"Don't worry," she whispered to him, "if they go, you won't be the only one begging off."

"Good," he whispered back, grateful that he wasn't alone in finding the club scene they were talking about just a little too much.

"Or we can take this back to base and see what kind of fun we can have there," Brad smirked at them. "I don't think we've had a full team and friends event yet."

"Murrr, no we haven't." Jessie rumbled.

"I think the reason for that has to do with nobody having quarters big enough," Ratchet smirked back. "Unless you're going to suggest we take over a wing in the maintenance bay or something."

"Or one of the workshops we have," Brad suggested. "It's not like they haven't seen action already."

"You guys just don't quit, do you?" Timmerson asked with a chuckle. "Surprised you didn't make it into the record books for largest orgy on top of the ones you did hold."

"Nah, that one belongs to our folks," Brad smirked back with an easy laugh. "They regularly had a dozen people in on it."

That was enough to make Ratchet's eyes go almost as wide as Jeremy's as she simply tried to imagine how it would work.

"No, that would at least take an a-frame and harness," she murmured, shaking her head and drinking her soda. "I think, for safety's sake, I'm never going to ask about watching home videos with you guys."

"You're missing out on some seriously good porn," Jessie giggled at the end of her third beer.

"Yeah, our dads are incredibly hot together." Brad rumbled and licked his whiskers.

"Rail and Chance were even hotter." Jessie countered.

"Are they usually that up-front about this sort of thing?" Ratchet asked Taller.

"Well, they're right," Deborah giggled. "Though I think Rock and Chance beat them all, myself."

"That's just 'cause you've got a thing for the muscle-toms," Brad grinned at her.

"Welcome into the world of special ops," he chuckled softly. "Yeah, it's a favorite subject along with video of it."

"I'm surprised you guys ever get out of bed some days," Timmerson chuckled, shaking his head.

"There are some days we don't," Brad winked with a grin.

"Okay, I think somebody's careening towards his limit," Deborah laughed.

"Which means he can't struggle much when we pin him down." Jessie licked her whiskers. "Tonight could be a lot of fun."

"Only time I've every struggled was when I ended up on top," he grinned lustily back at Jessie. "And I don't seem to remember anybody ever complaining about that."

"I'm beginning to think bringing you guys out here before you'd 'distracted' yourselves might've been a mistake," Timmerson smirked.

"No way, dinner is great fuel," Jessie grinned at him. "But getting back might be good before somebody calls the cops on us."

"Or before they have to put up curtains and play the music loud enough to drown you all out," Ratchet smirked, finishing her sandwich.

"Would anybody like some dessert?" The slender Siamese who'd brought them their drinks and dinner asked innocently as she came out of the kitchen.

The entire table burst out laughing without warning. "Ohhh ... what a question." Jessie got out while she gasped for breath.

"I don't think it'll be on the menu," Taller managed to tell her.

"Uhm... 'kay," she said, turning to go back for the check while she wondered just what it was she'd said, or missed.

Later that night, Ratchet woke up alone in her bed to the sound of somebody knocking on her door. She sat up, blinking the sleep from her eyes. Who would wake her up without an alarm?

"Hang on," she murmured, getting to her feet and moving to the door. After they'd gotten back to the base, she'd gotten pulled into the orgy along with the rest of them. It wasn't long before it was too much for Jeremy to handle, and he'd left for his quarters. She hadn't stayed too much longer, too tired to keep up with the rest of them. She had no clue that Jessie and Brad could get that worked up without one of them being drugged first!

She'd be having very, very pleasant fantasies about what she'd seen for a long, long time. She just wasn't quite up to a six-some, especially with only two other fems and one of them practically straight. At least she could dream something a bit more along the lines of what she usually liked; Deborah and Jessie all to herself, maybe Taller included for a little variety.

Yawning loudly, she opened the door... then blinked, snapping her mouth shut as she saw Deborah on the other side, looking like she was showered and dressed in her grays.


"Hi," the tabby shekat smiled apologetically. "You were sleeping?"

"Yeah," Ratchet admitted, "but don't worry about it... uhm... why're you here? Thought you and Jessie were seeing who could wear Brad, Taller, and Timmerson out fastest?"

"They're still going strong," Deborah chuckled. "Though now it's more like all four of them seeing who can take the most rounds in the middle of the other three."

"My money's on Jessie," Ratchet smirked, gradually waking up more.

"Ten says Brad," Deborah smirked back. "If I'm wrong, I'll pay up come payday."

"Deal. So... still doesn't answer why you came down here?" It had to be something more than that. Even if she was still interested in sex, even if she just didn't want to sleep alone, she'd spent most of her time with Darkeye when she wasn't with the rest of the team.

"Well, I figured you might be interested in something a little more private than the workshop... Taller said you prefer fems, right?"

"Yeah," Ratchet smiled. "Sorry," she chuckled, just realizing that she was blocking Deborah out of her room, "I'm keeping you waiting out there."

"S'okay, I'm the one who woke you up," she chuckled, stepping into the room. "I was also hoping we might be able to talk a bit?"

"Sure," Ratchet nodded. She'd had a feeling something like this was going to come up. "Make yourself comfortable, though I'd prefer if you did it near the bed. This have anything to do with why you weren't getting as drunk as the other party animals?"

"Yeah," Deborah admitted as she sat down on the bed. "Didn't want to bring everybody else down."

"I don't think you would've done that," Ratchet chuckled, grabbing a couple cans of milks and sitting down next to her. "They wouldn't have been trying to get you to loosen up more if you were a sullen drunk."

"Only when I'm wound up," the tabby chuckled slightly, opening the can and taking a drink. "And I'm pretty wound up," she admitted.

"The mission," Ratchet half-guessed with a nod. "It's pretty damned big."

" Really damned big," Deborah corrected her. "If we pull it off, we'll have everything the Covenant does that isn't space-worthy. Only things we won't have are their drop ships and battle cruiser."

"Not sure you can do it?" Ratchet asked carefully.

"Only an idiot's sure they can pull off a mission like this," Deborah snorted. "Sure enough that they don't consider the possibility they can't, at least. I guess... in SWAT, we each have our place. Jessie's my pilot, she's also our lead tech and a better weapons designer than anybody I've met. No offense," she added quickly, looking over at Ratchet, who just shook her head with an amused expression.

"At any rate, Brad's our other pilot, one of the best in SWAT, let alone SWAT Alpha. He's also infiltration, B&E, hacking... but he's a pilot first, his dad's blood. Taller's our researcher, the guy who handles all the weird shit we deal with, and he's Brad's gunner." She paused, taking another swig of milk.

"And you?" Ratchet prompted.

"I'm Jessie's gunner, but that's after everything else Brad does when I'm not in the jet with her. This is my job, it's what I've been trained to do for years, it's what my parents did."

"And it's the first time you've actually done it in the field." Deborah paused, then nodded.


"C'mere." Ratchet put her can of milk down as Deborah shifted closer to her on the bed. The older shekat stretched out her hands, cracking her knuckles slightly, and started to rub Debbie's back, earning a groan and deep, throaty purr for her efforts. "There, that's better. You get all wound up like that and you'll be a wreck when you have to leave."

"Ooh, that feels good," Deborah sighed. Ratchet just chuckled, leaning forward and nuzzling her friend lightly.

"I'm not field personnel when I can help it," she admitted, "but I know about how things work. You put too much tension on a part, it'll snap, usually just when you need it most. You said it yourself. This is damned big. Ask yourself something. Do you know you can do this, deep down inside? Do you know the plan is good, and that you and Brad are capable of doing everything you have to in order to pull this off?"

"Yes," the tabby nodded. "I wouldn't have suggested it if I didn't."

"So trust yourself. Don't get cocky, don't do anything stupid or try to prove anything. Just do it. Do the mission, and come back with all the goodies we'll need to sent the Covenant packing before Jessie and I figure out how to take out the cruiser. It's the only thing you can do."

"Right," Deborah nodded slightly, looking back at the cinnamon-furred shekat still working on her shoulders. "Thanks, Ratchet."

"You're welcome. So... what you said before, about something more private...."

"If you're still interested," Deborah grinned. "I might have a bad case of nerves, but I am still a SWAT Kat."

"Who actually walked out of a team orgy," Ratchet smirked, reaching around her body and hugging her close. "Poor thing, what will we ever do with you...."

"Mmm... somehow, I think we've both got plenty of ideas," the tabby purred, laying down on the bed with Ratchet and turning in her arms to kiss her deeply. As their clothes were gradually sent to the floor, a lean cinnamon-furred arm reached up, briefly fumbling for the light switch before finding it, and plunging the room into darkness.

"That's the last one," Tank secured the fourth Hunter armor to a Wraith hover-tank. "You have those two set to auto-follow?"

"Set, and set for evasive action if they're fired on," Headshot nodded, finishing the reprogramming. "Okay... hey, Tank, since this is probably the only chance we're going to get, why don't we hit up their computer system for some insider intel? I'm pretty sure I can hack it without any trouble, if I could get the autopilot programs into these Ghosts."

"We've been in here two hours, Deb," he shook his head with a nervous look at the door troops would come in. "We really should get out while we still can."

"C'mon, Brad, they've got a terminal right there , I'll just put a relay in so we can hack them from back at the base when it's safe." She opened up her kit and started pulling out the necessary gear. "Won't be five minutes."

Despite his reluctance, the big tabby sighed and motioned for her to go ahead, his weapon ready to cover her from any surprises.

"Great," she grinned, darting over to the console and quickly popped off an access panel. She worked expertly to splice in the small device that would give them access to the computer system in the future, and picked up the panel.

Just as she was about to put it back into place, the latch slipped, and the panel fell to the metal floor with a rattling 'clang' that was deafening in the silent vehicle bay. She silenced it quickly, looking over to Brad with an almost panicked expression, listening intently for any sign that they'd been heard.

Two breaths later his weapon arm had considered relaxing and she'd put the panel back on when the bay flooded in red light and a deafening siren.

"Out. Now !" Tank snarled and lunged forward to close the distance between them.

"Into the tank!" She yelled at him, her glovatrix clicking into combat mode as the first set of bay doors started to open and she got to her feet, backing towards the dark blue hover-tank.

The blue, yellow, and red glowing energy shields of Covenant Jackals showed as the fast-moving assassins carrying them darted out of the room and towards the cover of the vehicles in the room. Green fire lanced across the room as they opened fire with their plasma pistols.

SWAT Kats silenced their fire, the infiltration specialists focusing on getting back to their objective without getting hurt.

"Tank, I'll cover you while you climb in," Headshot informed him sharply, her glovatrix trained on the bay door as it opened again ... but nothing came out.

"Next wave must've gone for reinforcements," she muttered to herself, her senses sharp, her fur standing on end as Tank climbed up to the access hatch of the Wraith they'd secured.

Suddenly, she caught a shimmer of movement out of the corner of her eye.

"Shit!" She snarled, turning abruptly and launching a mini-slicer, praying that it would be wide enough to hit whatever she'd just seen. The shimmer faded into reality, roaring as an Elite trooper's arm fell to the ground with a spray of blue blood, some sort of cloaking device attached to the severed limb.

Bracing its plasma rifle against its body, it let loose a spray of energy globes, three of them burning their way up and across Headshot's body. Her cry of pain was cut short as she slammed back into the Wraith, her head hitting the armor plate hard as a mini-missile from Tank's glovatrix erupted at the feet of the soldier, sending it flying to its death among his curses and scramble to pull Headshot into the Wraith.

His breath came fast and sharp as the smell of scorched fur, flesh, and blood worked on his gut as he focused on getting the hover-tank moving and blast anything that got in the way. He could only pray that the emergency signal would bring the jets fast .

He felt the turret rise, heard the hum of the mortar charge before the entire tank was rocked with its discharge, blowing the door out as he twisted the control yoke around and moved it forward, driving mostly on instinct. The Ghosts they'd programmed to follow chased after him obediently as he crushed Covenant troops waiting outside the vehicle bay.

He focused on driving and managed to put a fair amount of distance between himself and the base before the first Ghost exploded. The Covenant had managed to get the remaining vehicles going. A display started flashing alerts in symbols he couldn't start to understand. The bone-rattling impact of something crashing into the Wraith explained well enough what the alert meant.

"Oh you have picked the wrong day for this, bastards," he snarled, yanking the control yoke to the side and ramming into whatever had hit him as they approached the canyons. The satisfying crunch of metal hitting stone told him he'd timed it just right; his shadow was decorating the canyon wall.

Another alert sounded, and he looked out the view port of the hover tank to see what was going to try and hit him next. The explosions he saw in the distance instead told him that SWAT had arrived - and that what was left of the base wasn't left any more.

"Tank to SWAT." He demanded into his glovatrix comm. "Officer down. I need her picked up now ."

"Coming," SkyDancer's voice rumbled over the link a moment later. Her engines made nothing of the distance between then, leaving Crysto to mop up the Covenant with the older SWAT jets that had arrived with pilots.

He stopped the Wraith, opening the access hatch and carefully picking up Headshot. He felt his breath catch as he had took care to support her head; he knew that there was more wrong with her than the hits she'd taken.

SkyDancer's cockpit opened, and he carefully strapped her into the gunner's seat, laid out flat like a stretcher. For a moment, he got ready to climb into the pilot's seat, then stopped and looked back at the Wraith.

"You had damned well better get her back to base in the same number of pieces she's in now," he told SkyDancer, jumping off her wing and back onto the Wraith as the cockpit closed.

"I will." SkyDancer promised softly and lifted off with care for the kat she carried and the urgency of knowing just how badly injured she was.

Tank climbed back into the Wraith, forcing himself to focus on completing the mission.

"This's for you, sis," he muttered. He felt the urge to turn the tank around and take out his aggression on the remains of the Covenant, and for a moment considered doing just that. Instead, the hovertank lurched back towards MegaKat City at full throttle with its remaining Ghost in tow.

Tank practically tore through the base on his way to the infirmary. He'd taken the time to make sure the Wraith and Ghost were dropped off at the vehicle bay, but as soon as that was done he was moving. Fortunately, nobody was stupid enough to get in his way. He wasn't sure if word was getting around or if he just looked upset enough to warrant avoiding, but he didn't particularly care either. He had to see how Deborah was doing.

The only thing that made him slow down from his near-sprint was seeing the rest of SWAT waiting for him outside the infirmary. Taller's face was a mask, as usual; he couldn't tell anything besides the fact that the news wasn't good. He didn't know Jeremy well enough to read the dark-furred tabby's expression. But Jessie's face told him everything he needed to know.

Her expression was the same look of tightly-controlled trauma she'd had when they found out their dads had been killed in action.

He made it up to them before he realized that he was shaking, everything that had happened finally coming down to the result he knew even before they had the chance to tell him.

"She died doing what she believed in," Jessie stepped up to him and spoke the words they'd all heard time and time again as parents and cousins and friends fell to various troubles.

Words that sounded just as hollow coming from her in pain as they had from Karmel in grief and regret.

"She still died," he said, his voice tight. "Damn it!" He snarled, turning as his voice broke and he drove his fist into the wall even as Jessie's arms wrapped around him.

"I know," she whispered, her tears refusing to come.

"Just five more minutes," he murmured, closing his eyes tight as he fought to stay in control. He wasn't sure if he wanted to cry, scream, or just break something; his reaction was somewhere between all three of them. "Five more fucking minutes!"

Jessie started to say something, and then paused as his tone caught her.

"She asked for a delay, didn't she?" She said very softly.

He nodded, his breaths slow and deep, shuddering every time he exhaled.

"She was setting things up so we could hack their network once we were back," he said after a few moments to recover himself.

"Did she?" Jessie asked, focusing on the mission to avoid feeling the mess she was inside.

"She tried," he nodded again, his voice catching in his throat. "She hooked it up, but...." He paused, shaking his head. "They caught us while she was finishing up."

"Taller," she turned her head to the Puma standing nearby. "Go see if it's working."

"Right," he nodded, reluctant to leave but recognizing that it was not yet time to make her relax and grieve.

"Do they know how long she lasted?" Tank asked softly.

"She was probably gone before you got her in the Wraith," Jessie said softly. "She was by the time SkyDancer got to you."

"At least she didn't suffer...." He turned and wrapped his arms around Jessie, holding onto her tightly as he started to shake. She could feel that he wasn't dealing with it any better than she was. The difference was mostly that she was controlling herself better.

And that was only because she had to. She was in command. It was her place to hold things together.

"You look like hell," Timmerson observed, watching Ratchet leave Jessie's lab quietly. She did too; exhausted, overworked, and more than a little frustrated.

"Feel like it too," she admitted. "I don't know how she's still working. Three days and she's still trying to build those damned things."

"What things?" The Panther asked. He'd heard rumors of the supplies Jessie had been requisitioning, a laundry-list of components that had the Commander and everybody who knew what she was asking for scratching their heads trying to figure out.

"Not where anybody else can hear," Ratchet said, shaking her head tiredly. "Any idea where Brad is?"

"Out hunting with Crysto and SkyDancer," Timmerson admitted. "Just like the past two days."

"At least they remember to bring him back when they need fuel," Ratchet chuckled slightly. "So, what're you doing down here? Planning on trying to pull Jessie off to get some sleep?"

"Not after the last time," he said seriously. "I was actually hoping to find out where Taller is. He has a better idea than we do how they're all holding up."

"C'mon," Ratchet said easily. "Last I heard he was checking for some of the pressure devices we're going to need for Jessie's plan."

"Right," he nodded and followed her into another section of the lab where the Puma was working. Despite that he looked like he'd gotten more sleep than Ratchet, he was visibly wearing thin.

"Hey Taller," he said quietly, hoping to get the Puma's attention. "Have a few minutes?"

"Sure," he stretched with a yawn. "I was getting ready to take a nap-break anyway."

"Looks like you could all use one," Timmerson said, looking between Taller and Ratchet. "How are you holding up?" He asked the Puma with a concerned voice.

"Better than Jessie and Brad," he said softly. "We're going to need some serious downtime when this is over."

"I'll bet," he nodded. "Is this... normal... for you guys? I still remember what it's like to lose your first friend... but I'm not sure if Jessie and Brad usually take it this hard to lose somebody close to them."

"It's not time to sedate either of them yet, but yeah, it's bad." Taller admitted quietly. "Our first mission and we loose a teammate, and it was Brad's call to let her stay the extra time that got her killed. It's not going to go over well no matter what."

"I just hope you don't lose any more teammates," Ratchet said softly. "What Jessie's working on ... sweet Bastet, I didn't think even Dark Kat had designed anything like that. One thing goes wrong, and it could be a disaster."

"He didn't," Taller shifted uncomfortably. "That came from the other side. Dark Kat wanted the city, people included, intact. Jake ... he made a few things meant to simply obliterate whatever threatened his daughter." He glanced towards the workroom Jessie was in. "This is where we find out which side of her heritage she'll follow."

"Only after the Covenant get to find out what it's like to be the test subjects," Ratchet said softly, shaking her head. "I'm sorry, but... for once, I almost hope she doesn't finish it."

"What's she building?" Timmerson asked, knowing he was well and truly out of the loop here.

"A neutron bomb," Taller informed him quietly. "The flip side of a nuke."

"A type of bomb that'll only take out living targets, no collateral damage at all," Ratchet explained. "I know it will do what she wants it to, once she's finished it...."

"But it's the type of weapon that could wreak havoc in the wrong hands," the Panther nodded, shivering a bit. "Still... I'd hate to be the person trying to talk her out of it."

"It wouldn't work." Taller shook his head. "She's got vengeance on the brain and she needs that ship intact to do it. Like it or not, it's an effective way to get it without costing a lot of kats lives."

"The only way," Timmerson agreed reluctantly. "A direct assault, even if we could move enough troops onto the cruiser, would almost be suicide."

"And this will work, especially now that we've worked out how to make them detonate a safe distance from the launch point," Ratchet nodded. "I just kinda hope she doesn't take the specs back with her."

Taller froze, tension rippling along his tired body. "You are not going to hurt her." He growled softly.

"Wha - no!" Ratchet looked at him, her eyes wide with shock. "That's not what I meant!"

"Taller," Timmerson said levelly, stepping slightly between the two of them, "she just meant that she hopes Jessie doesn't take them back, that she doesn't choose to. That she doesn't make any more than she needs, and that she doesn't keep the plans for whatever she develops. Do you really think any of us want her hurt?"

"Want, no," he settled his fur and rubbed his eyes. "Put it past somebody to make sure she doesn't go back alive? I've seen it happen too many times not to think about it." He admitted. "A mission just like that is what made T-Bone quite Ops in the first place."

"We're not like that," Timmerson said softly, stepping forward and putting a hand on Taller's shoulder.

"Yeah," Ratchet nodded, trying to relax herself and smoothing her own fur out a bit. "Think we're all a little too wound up," she sighed. "Are you going to need somebody with you to help you sleep?" She asked.

He looked at her, and then nodded with a slight smile. "It'd be nice to snuggle."

"I think I can offer that," she smiled back slightly.

"Sleep well, you two," Timmerson nodded, knowing that for once snuggling was probably all that would happen. "I'll see you both later."

Ratchet woke up early the next morning to the still-unfamiliar feel of a lean, hard body in bed with her. She stretched in place, trying not to wake Taller up. He must have needed the sleep more than she did; she'd been almost certain he was going to disappear at some point during the night.

But here he was, and only now was he showing any sign of coming too.

"Mmm, hi," he murmured sleepily, not quite sure who was in bed with him yet.

"Mornin'," she smiled, nuzzling him lightly. "Sleep well?"

"Yeah," he placed Ratchet's voice and rumbled softly in appreciation of the nuzzle. "You're a calm bedmate."

"How do you figure that?" She asked curiously, smiling at what she was pretty sure was a compliment.

"I actually slept," he chuckled and shifted to wrap his arms around her. "It's not that easy to manage, you know."

"I can understand that," she chuckled, wrapping her arms back around him and got a chaste kiss. "Glad to know you slept at all, let alone well."

"Now if only you can repeat it with Brad and Jessie," Taller murmured, for once really not in the mood to deal with his morning hard-on he became sharply aware of as she moved against it. "Before one of them does something stupid."

"That might be just a bit beyond either of us right now," Ratchet admitted, shifting so she wasn't pressing against him quite as much. "We'll just all have to work on keeping an eye on them until they're not hurting quite as much."

"That could take months," he sighed, thoughtful. "Months we don't really have with what they're doing now."

"You guys won't be here that long, I don't think," Ratchet pointed out quietly. "Not if Jessie has her way. Brad ... I'm sorry about him more than Jessie," she admitted. "At least what Jessie's doing doesn't put her in harm's way any more than it would if she was thinking more clearly."

"Brad's got two very protective teammates coving his tail," Taller chuckled weakly and rubbed her back. "They both need sleep. It's just a trick to wear them out enough that their bodies make them rest."

"We'll come up with something short of tranq'ing them," Ratchet smiled, returning the rubbing gently, then a little more deeply as she started working on the tense muscles in his back almost reflexively. It was enough like the night she'd spent with Deborah that, for a moment, the too-familiar pain of losing somebody she cared about hit her too, before being pushed back out of the way.

"She came to you that night," he murmured as it hit him where the tabby had disappeared to.

"Yeah," Ratchet admitted. "She was as wound up about the mission as the rest of you, she was just hiding it. We talked... she was doing better by the time we got around to tiring each other out enough to sleep better."

"Good," he smiled softly. "I knew something was up when she left, but she insisted she was fine before they left for the raid."

"Taller," Ratchet asked him softly, "what was she like? If you don't mind talking about her already."

"No, I don't," he smiled softly and let his mind drift back. "Jessie's put off the wake until we get back; it'll be good to talk a bit."

"I'm happy to listen," Ratchet smiled, waiting for him organize his thoughts and start. She hadn't had too much to do with Deborah before. Now, it almost felt like she owed it to her to find out what she'd been like.

"She was a sweetheart. The spunk and feminine touch on the team." He began wistfully. "The only one of us who traced both sides of her heritage to Ops. In a lot of ways, she was the closest to a sister I had. She didn't bring a load of baggage with her into the world like Jessie and Brad did from their folks and how they came about. Deborah and I were both born because our parents wanted kits when it happened.

"It made her a lot more playful, a lot less serious in a lot of ways." He smiled in memories. "Especially when we were younger. She wasn't trying to make her folks not regret her existence or really prove herself. What her folks did, it came naturally to her. The lying, espionage, sneaking and slight of hand ... Deborah took to it like a fish to water. She enjoyed it too. I'm not even sure when she decided to go Op, or SWAT, but it was a pretty natural match since she didn't want to be a freelance thief."

"With both her folks in Ops, she probably didn't think about that too much," Ratchet chuckled slightly.

"Don't bet on it," Taller chuckled. "After all, that's where they both started out."

"Ah," Ratchet smiled.

"Yeah," he nodded. "That part of things came naturally to her too. She was always the kit who had anything you thought you'd lost. Made her irritating as anything sometimes, but we all loved her despite it. She got away with a lot, being the youngest," he chuckled fondly. "She never really changed from that, even if she did get more serious as she grew up. You just couldn't stay mad at her long. Especially not after she flashed that smile, or even worse, her pout." He chuckled weakly. "Or what Brad probably fell for, her excited grin. She could get almost anything that way."

"She seemed like the type," Ratchet smiled slightly, nuzzling Taller gently. "It really is like you lost family, isn't it?" She asked him softly.

"We are family, Ratchet," he murmured. "We were all raised in the same house, mostly by the same person. Karmel raised all the kits, sometimes with other shekats, sometimes without. We're as much siblings any we share blood with."

"I'm sorry," she said softly, rubbing his back. "I wish there was something that could change it."

"It happened," he murmured softly. "It has changed plans and changed them drastically. I'm not sure I'd want to change what has happened. What is, is."

Ratchet didn't answer that, not out loud at least. She just held the Puma close, wondering how he could believe that given that the entire reason they were there, the whole reason it happened ... was to change what had happened before.

Brad stalked through the halls of the base, trying to find his way to one of the few rooms he hadn't checked out since his arrival.

It had been a mistake to use SkyDancer for his trips to hunt down Covenant. Not that she was a bad jet, far from it, but she was way too good at reading him. He knew that Jessie would be finding out about his plan soon. Not what it was, necessarily, but that he had something cooking.

But damn it... he had to try, at least.

He finally found his way to the guarded room he was looking for. Before stepping into the hall, he took a few moments to try and calm down, make himself look presentable, if tired. He'd have to try and get some sleep after this.

With any luck, he'd be able to.

Turning into the hallway, he approached the door at the end, leading into the PastMaster's library-suite, working over the cover story he planned on giving the guards if they stopped him.

"Lieutenant, your business with PastMaster?" One moved fractionally to halt the big tabby.

"Captain Clawson asked me to come down and see if he's going to be able to move everything we're going to need sent back," he explained. He did everything he'd been trained to do; he looked and sounded like he belonged there, like his story was perfect truth.

Most importantly, like it might not be the best idea in the world to check on it.

The two guarded glanced at each other, then at him before the senior one nodded and unlocked the door.

Brad walked in, not sure if they'd bought it or just not wanted to argue with a SWAT Kat. Honestly, he didn't particularly care either. He closed the door behind himself, and approached the little troll in the back of the room, busy studying again.

"I can't do it," PastMaster told him without even looking up.

"If you're talking about the line I fed the guards, don't worry about it," Brad said darkly. "That's not what I'm here for. If you're talking about something else, you'd damned well better listen to what you're saying you can't do before you say it."

"I know why you're here," he snapped back, glaring at the tabby that was so much like his sire it was infuriating. "The answer is the same one I gave your leader. The dead are dead. They stay that way."

"You brought us forward," Brad growled, the fur on the back of his neck rising. "Two hundred years forward for us, fifteen for our Dads, a few days should be child's play for you."

"That's foreword, not back." PastMaster pointed out with an insulting patience. "You can not go back to change what was meant to happen."

"Like hell that was meant to happen!" Brad snarled, his ears flat against his head. Part of his mind was screaming at him to keep quiet, keep the guards from hearing him, but the rest of him was too pissed off to care. "Maybe I can't go back and change it, but there's no damned reason you can't bring her back!"

The undead sorcerer looked at up him, sorely tempted by the wording before he decided it wasn't worth the grief.

"Be careful what you demand, SWAT Kat. You may get it."

"I think you know enough about what I'd do to you if you tried something like that to know much better," Brad growled. A long moment passed, at least in the tabby's mind, as his conscience warred with his grief.

"You really think you can hurt me, SWAT Kat?" PastMaster made his diminutive height as impressive as he could facing a kat that was solidly twice his height.

"Give me a good enough reason to and I'd make you wish you'd stayed dead," Brad said, his tone deadly serious. "What is it you want?"

"For you to shut up, do what you were brought here for and get back to when you came from." He rolled his eyes.

Brad's teeth locked, his hands clenching into fists. For a moment, he wanted nothing more than to see just how many pieces he'd have to tear the PastMaster into before undead became all dead. He forced it back down, along with the weariness and pain. It wouldn't change anything, wouldn't get Deborah back, and it would leave them stuck in the future, to say nothing of what the others would think.

"I won't forget this, you little troll," he growled deeply. "And you are going to regret that before I'm finished with you."

"Your father said the same thing," PastMaster taunted him with a smirk. "And his partner. They never could."

"You never left either of them with the other dead," Brad pointed out darkly. "You have Debbie's blood on your hands as much as anybody else, bringing her here, not changing what happened. Don't think for an instant that I'm going to let that go."

"I don't expect you too," he shrugged carelessly. "No more than your leader will. It's not any of your place to take me out."

"Not yet," Brad granted him, straightening himself out and getting ready to leave. "Not yet." With that, he turned and left the room, not honestly sure where he was going to go next.

"Timmerson!" Taller called out to the Panther when he spotted him in the mess hall.

"Hey, Taller," the Panther smiled, walking over to the Puma with his tray in hand. "Any luck getting Jessie and Brad to get some sleep?"

"No, but Jessie will soon. It's almost finished." He said quietly. "How hard would it to get enough Cold Heat for the team?"

"Pretty easy," Timmerson said. "You sure that's a good idea though, given what happened the last time?"

"We need it," the Puma shook his head. "I don't expect it looks odd to you with what happened, but it's not healthy for us to be this distant. If it takes getting everybody intoxicated, that's fine." He smiled faintly. "Besides, as insatiable as she was, it did wear off. That and some tranqs should see that everybody actually gets some sleep."

"And she did sleep afterwards without tranqs," Timmerson chuckled slightly. "So, once I'm done here, you want me to pick up enough for you three?"

"I was rather hoping you'd join us," he smiled in invitation. "And Ratchet is."

"Thanks," the Panther smiled. "Enough for five then. Y'know, I almost think it's something about this time you guys are gonna miss once you head back."

"For six." The Puma winked. "One is coming back with me."

"That answers that," Timmerson laughed, shaking his head. "You grabbing dinner yet, or just come down to ask me about that?"

"For dinner," he chuckled, reminded of his original mission.

"C'mon," Timmerson smiled. "We'll eat together, then I'll go grab that for you. You can pay me back when I'm back."

"Deal," the Puma smiled.

"Mmmm, so are you inclined to join us or stay here?" Taller murmured as the two toms where taking something of a break from the orgy that had ended up including several of his male squad mates as well as those original invited.

"I'd like to head back with you guys," Timmerson admitted quietly, leaning back against the wall and the Puma next to him. "But I don't think I can."

"You have someone?" He asked softly, not sure what to make of the answer.

"No," the Panther admitted. "But in the end... this is my city. Somebody's got to keep an eye on it, right?" He chuckled slightly, putting an arm around Taller and got a nuzzle.

"Yeah, I know the feeling. We were raised by some of the most loyal kats on the planet."

"They raised you well," Timmerson smiled, returning the nuzzle. "All of you. You're all good kats. If it wasn't for everything that'll need to be done... I'd be thinking about that offer real hard."

"Yeah, this city will need good officers, brave officers, to tackle the Omegas." He nodded. "Because they will be back in action as soon as we leave with that cruiser."

"And we'll be waiting to take 'em down," the Panther rumbled, rubbing Taller's side. "At least the culture shock will be a little slower than if I just came back with you guys," he smirked playfully.

"Probably not," he chuckled and claimed Timmerson's mouth as he pushed the bigger tom to his back and rubbed their bodies together sensuously. "But you would be a welcome addition to us. You fit in very well." He rumbled softly.

"Mmm ... I know you thought so earlier," Timmerson purred through his smirk, returning the kiss as they started to let the smells and sounds of the orgy going on in the rest of the workshop get them back into the mood. "Maybe see how well you fit in this time?" He suggested.

"I'm always game," he chuckled and kissed him heatedly again. "You are a hot hunk of tom."

"Mmm... I think I know why you want me to come back now," Timmerson teased, rubbing Taller's back and spreading his powerful legs to let the Puma between them as their tongues dueled.

"Oh, hot toms are easy to come by," he chuckled between kisses and shifted his hips so he could slide into the already well-stretched and lubed tailhole with a groan. "Hot toms who can hold their own, those are rare."

"Oooh," the Panther groaned, his body stretching a bit more around Taller's length. "Good to be... mmm... appreciated." He pressed back into the smaller Puma's thrusts, rumbling deeply as they gave into the pleasure of the orgy and each other's bodies.

Feral watched as what was left of SWAT walked into the briefing room. There was no missing the absence of their fourth member, or the effect it had had on all three of them.

Tank was looking the worst. From what Feral had heard, he would have ordered him into counseling already if he was going to be there too much longer. As it was, he hoped Felina would have the same sense, once they were back under her command.

KNight, on the other hand, was looking much better than he'd expected. It was almost a week after losing her gunner, and despite the schedule she'd been keeping she looked alert, if slightly worn out. She must have gotten some decent sleep the night before.

Echo was looking the best of all of them, for what little that meant. He'd been doing his best to take care of his teammates, but it looked like he hadn't neglected himself too badly in the meantime.

Feral nodded, indicating KNight should begin as he noticed another figure moving into the briefing room out of the corner of his eye. A quick glance told him it was Ratchet, sitting in the back and trying to be unobtrusive.

"The weapons are finished, the launch and delivery systems tested and prepared." KNight began without any preamble. "The jets and the other teams are briefed and ready for the first opening we get. The next time they send more than a couple drop ships down, that cruiser is ours and your war over."

It was much blunter, more to the point, than anything he'd expected to hear.

"How soon do you expect them to make that attempt?" He asked simply, thinking of ways to move the timetable up. It would be better for all of them to be going back home as quickly as possible.

"I don't know," she admitted. "But given the damage Tank's done to their ground bases, they don't have many options for their next attack."

"Agreed," Feral nodded. There wasn't a Covenant base left on the continent, at least not that they knew of, and most of the ones in the rest of the world had been annihilated as well. He wished they had more equipment in space yet; with the losses the Covenant had suffered, he had a feeling they would be attempting to get additional troops and supplies in.

The question was how long it would be before they got them.

"When they do prepare for their next attack, what sort of window of opportunity do you expect to have to get inside their shields?" He asked. Unless they were fast, he suspected that they would have to be there and ready when the shields dropped.

KNight paused as she realized that he was seriously out of the loop.

"The delivery system will attach neutron bombs to their drop ships," she explained briefly. "They will not go off until they have been docked with the cruiser again. Twenty-four hours after detonation, or at the first sign of a deteriorating orbit, the three of us will go up to recover the crewless ship for transport back to our time. We have two clean nukes for each jet to close the shields down long enough to get in."

"Understood," he nodded. "Are you certain you'll be able to crew the ship sufficiently for transport? After all, it's rather large for three people to crew."

"We've got two top end AI's to deal with it." She nodded. "Anything that's linked to a central network on any level will be dealt with."

"Now we just need to give them a reason to attack en masse, instead of waiting for more supplies," Feral rumbled, frowning as he thought.

"Sir, I might have an idea for how to accomplish that," a Marine spoke up from the back of the room.

"Captain," Feral nodded, watching the large Wolf bitch intently.

"The Covenant have suffered major losses in the past week. They've always launched retaliatory strikes before, but with what SWAT's been doing to their air forces, they're likely reluctant to do that. I suggest we bait them. Send out ground troops; give them a tempting target to use to prove that they're still better than we are. Air support only comes out once sufficient drop ships are within range for the mission to be completed."

"And what about the troops that have to fight without air support until those drop ships have arrived?" Feral asked.

"Sir, we've been fighting the Covenant without air support for a long time, and that was before our weapons were upgraded to take them on like we can now. Their resources, particularly as far as vehicles are concerned, have been taxed ever since SWAT arrived, we know that much. Ground troops we can take. The rest of the 28th agrees, and I haven't heard any arguing from the rest of the Marines."

Feral rubbed his chin, clearly considering the plan. It made sense, particularly the way the Covenant fought. And it would step up the timetable, if it worked.

"Captain Clawson, your opinion?"

"If the troops are willing, it should be tried," she nodded. "There is no arguing how valuable it would be to have this battle be on our terms and timing, rather than theirs. If nothing else, we could keep it away from the city this way."

"Which is always preferable," Feral nodded. "How unstable are these bombs? What happens if one of the jets is hit before it launches?"

"It shouldn't go off," she shook her head. "The only thing, aside from its trigger, that is known to cause detonation is if an explosive hits the warhead itself head on. If a jet is damaged, it would go down with it. Impact with the ground is not sufficient cause, neither is fire."

"Where would you put the chances of this mission being successful?" He asked her.

"At least ninety-eight percent." She conceded to the risks of the number of basically untested equipment involved.

Given the odds SWAT usually faced, even adjusting for any overconfidence she might have, those were good odds. Damn good odds. A hell of a price to pay if they didn't succeed ... but the rewards were just as great.

"Captains, I'll leave you to coordinate your battle plans. I expect your plans by morning."

"Yes, sir." The females replied in unplanned unison, something that made KNight smile slightly.

Watch the sky.

It wasn't what the orders were; it was simply what everyone was doing.

Somewhere up there was the Covenant cruiser and the troops that would soon be amongst them.

Somewhere up there too was a single SWAT jet ready to protect them if it wasn't drop ships that came down.

Sgt. Timmerson looked around for a moment, his upgraded Thunder armor whirling as he took in what must be at least half of MegaKat City's armed forces on this open and dead plane as far from the city as they could manage.

It was a measure he heartily approved of. Between the nukes and neutrons and Gods only knew what else the SWAT units were carrying, he didn't want what he was fighting to protect to be anywhere near them. Jessie swore the city was well outside the fallout range of everything. He could only hope she was right.

On the bright side, if something went wrong, the odds were that he and the rest of his comrades-in-arms wouldn't be around long enough to really care.

The field remained almost deathly silent for a few minutes more. Nobody wanted to say anything, for fear of missing the sound of incoming drop ships.

Finally, it started. Purple blasts traced through the air as the drop ships fell from the sky like a swarm. Marines in the danger zones started to break out of formation and scatter, trying to make themselves harder to hit. Rookies tried to return fire, but the shells just bounced off the armor and shields of the Covenant transports.

They touched down, bay doors opened... and all hell broke loose.

There was no looking at the sky. No time to see if the reason they were out here was happening.

KNight, in the one jet out with them roared around the battlefield. He heard it and could see the damage her normal missiles did even though he couldn't see the jet itself.

Then there were aircraft everywhere. He'd had no idea just what it was like to have ten jets overhead defending his unit. He could only assume that their attention to the Covenant grunts meant their first mission was complete.

He didn't have enough time to worry about it either; even with the air cover, he was busy enough fighting the forces that were trying to avenge all the damage done to them over the past few weeks.

It was in a scene little different from any of the dozens of other battles he'd fought in. Weapons firing all around, in practically every direction at once. Explosions from grenades, missiles, and other weapons. Screams of pain.

There was one difference though. This time, it was his people who were winning. The Covenant didn't have anywhere to go; as usual, the drop ships retreated as soon as they'd let off their cargo.

Covenant troops fought for their lives because they couldn't do anything else. In the end, even their desperation wasn't enough; MKC had won the battle again.

With a little luck... pretty soon, they'd win the war too.

KNight made one last check of the equipment loaded into Crysto and SkyDancer, still as amazed as the first time how the cargo bay, and its doors, could take in things larger than it was. All was the way it should be; secured in case there was trouble. The AI uplinks were checked and double-checked. The nukes on their wings were good to go.

She took a deep breath and turned to see Ratchet watching her.

"Have you ever flown?" She asked.

"Not in something like that," she admitted. "Transport once, but that was it."

"Yeah, that's a whole different class," she chuckled softly and guided her to the front of Crysto's sleek frame. "We usually just jump right in, but it's probably easier to get on the wing first."

"Thanks," Ratchet said gratefully, climbing up almost gingerly. "Y'know, I really don't have any clue how you guys fit everything on these two jets."

"It's a Clawson gift," KNight chuckled with an understanding smile. "It be honest, I'm not completely sure how it works either."

"Must be one that got lost down the line," Ratchet chuckled, climbing into the seat behind KNight's.

"You may share the blood and brilliance, but ... being a Clawson is a way of thinking too." She said and leapt up to the pilot's seat. "A way of seeing the universe that is taught, not just inherited."

"Maybe I'll pick it up one of these days," the inventor chuckled. "For now, I'll trust you that it'll keep working and let you do your job."

"I honestly wouldn't advise it," KNight commented as the canopy slid forward to cut them off from the outside world. "It lets you do some amazing things, but it comes with a very high price as well. You still like yourself. You got the better deal."

Ratchet was about to ask what she meant, when she saw KNight's attention shift.

"Ready to go?" Tank's rough voice crackled over the comm.

"Ready to get this the hell over with," KNight rumble and ghosted her hands across the controls to power the engines up and roll out of the hanger to the runway that had seen more use in the last couple weeks than it had in a century.

Ratchet took a deep breath as Crysto pulled up and started to rocket through the sky. The couple times she had been flying weren't exactly her favorite times ever. This wasn't doing too much to change her mind. The view was incredible, she couldn't deny that.

At the same time, she also couldn't deny that they were hurtling through the sky at speeds she didn't like to think about with the equivalent of several thousand tons of high explosives strapped in with them.

There were times having an advanced knowledge of applied physics sucked .

Then, just a few minutes later, they made it up to the point where the sky darkened, the stars visible despite it being mid-afternoon. "Wow," the cinnamon-furred shekat whispered, getting her first view of the upper atmosphere, then the blackness of the space surrounding her homeworld.

"Yeah, it is." KNight murmured, reminded of the beauty she had dedicated her life to protecting the sanctity of. "Look down."

Ratchet did just that, looking down at the planet beneath them. As much as she'd been almost too frightened to look out the window before, this was completely different. Looking down at the blue oceans, the mottled ground, it was like looking at an entirely different planet.

"I wonder what it looked like before the war," she mused quietly, looking up and out the cockpit at the massive cruiser they were approaching. "Uhm, KNight? Not to raise any doubts, but how do we know that place isn't going to be glowing like a Solstice Tree from the bombs?"

"Because one of the 'bombs' was actually a sensor robot pack." She chuckled and launched one of her missiles to close the shield down near one of the launch bays. "It's been scanning for radiation and life since an hour after detonation."

"That's good to know," Ratchet chuckled, glad for the light filters on the cockpit as the nukes launched by both jets detonated. The shields in the sectors surrounding the explosions flickered, then died, the entire ship glowing green except the places where the shield generators had overloaded.

It made an easy way to tell where to slip past them and find the open bay door KNight was expecting.

"That's our invitation," she called out. "Let's get this thing under control."

The two jets flew towards the cruiser, the energy shields that shielded the docking bays from the vacuum of space letting them through without difficulty. Already, it was easy to see that the bombs had done what they were supposed to. Covenant soldiers lay scattered near the drop ships, their lives ended in an instant while they were preparing to join the fray on the ground.

"I think the word for this is macabre," Ratchet murmured, looking around.

"The ship's ours as soon as SkyDancer and Crysto get themselves hooked into the network," Tank said from the other jet, touching down on a platform clearly meant to accommodate all manner of vehicles.

"Which is when we get them plugged into the electronics system." KNight nodded as the canopy slid back and she got out to retrieve the linking box she'd built for each jet.

"If I didn't know any better," SkyDancer observed while Tank pulled her linking box out and got ready to hook it up, "I'd say these guys never heard of network security."

"Well, let's not worry about that quite yet," Tank chuckled slightly, pulling the panel off a nearby console and starting to splice in the translator. He picked up the panel, getting ready to reattach it, and paused. He shook his head after a moment, starting to close up the console.

"Don't drop anything," he warned KNight softly. "Just in case, y'know?"

She glanced at him, confused for a moment until it hit her just what must have happened to Deborah. "Right," she nodded instead and was a little more careful than was even remotely necessary.

Still, it didn't take long before the two of them each had their respective devices hooked up, patching the twin AI's into the network and handling the translation from the Covenant's languages and systems into something more easily manipulated.

Not that much translation was needed.

"So, head up to the bridge next?" Tank suggested, taking a deep breath as he stood up, looking around. "See what a battleship meant to operate for centuries without refueling is like?"

"You two are," KNight nodded. "I have to be ready to head down in case they don't believe the radio saying this thing is SWAT equipment."

"Right," Tank nodded, motioning for Echo to follow him.

"Any objection if I tag along?" Ratchet asked, climbing out of Crysto. "I'd like to get a look at them, after this long."

Tank looked back at his partner and fellow pilot, shrugging slightly. "It does say everything's dead," he pointed out.

"Sure," KNight agreed a bit reluctantly. "Not like this probably won't be your pet project for the next couple decades."

"And that's if we do find blueprints somewhere," Ratchet chuckled, following the two SWAT Kats.

"Hey," Tank said, leaning down and grabbing something from one of the fallen soldiers. "Just in case," he said, tossing the plasma pistol to the engineer. "Just don't use the damned thing unless we're shooting first."

"Noted," she nodded, quietly thanking whatever impulse had made her get used to working with them in the years before.

KNight watched them leave, then leapt into Crysto's cockpit to relax in her seat until it was time to contact Commander Xavier Feral to get PastMaster's bony butt out and open the gate for them.

Commander Felina Feral closed her eyes briefly before she was to step up to the podium set up in the largest open area in Grand Central Park. Gathered before her were mostly Enforcers and SWAT's non-com members along with the strong civilian showing that these speeches always generated. The rest of SWAT would arrive with their jets shortly; a black line of the finest the city had to offer would soon VTOL into place behind her.

It was strange to think this gathering was safe, but after watching, once again, what SWAT was like after losing a member, much less an entire team, it wasn't hard to believe that no Omega would attack them. It was depressing to remember how many times she'd and her uncle had made some variant on this speech to honor a lost SWAT Kat. Even more when her eyes slid left to her second in command and realized that it wouldn't be many more years before this speech would pass on to a third generation of Commander Ferals.

She focused back on what she was to say as Mayor Briggs speech wound up and it was time for her to take the podium and speak of the four fresh graduates that had been lost two weeks before. The roar of SWAT's fourteen remaining jets marked the point where Mayor Briggs stepped aside and Commander Feral stepped up to the podium.

The big shekat waited, facing the crowd. Her long black hair flew in the air currents they generated on landing. She knew without any signal when the last SWAT Kat was out of their jet and standing at attention in front of it next to their partner.

"We are gathered to say farewell to four brave kats under the hardest circumstances," Felina began, her voice strong and level from more practice than she ever wanted to thing about. "It is never easy, and when you have nothing to burry, it is that much more difficult.

"But we done all we can, and we must accept that they are gone to us. SWAT Alpha, Captain Jessie 'KNight' Clawson, Deborah 'Headshot' Sumner, Brad 'Tank' Furlong and Taller 'Echo' Windbright, the newest members of the unit, gave their lives on their first mission to serve this city." She paused, letting her gaze drop for a moment.

"We must never forget that it is not just those who serve for decades who are heroes. Those who give all on their first shift are just as much so, and just as much a credit to their families and the SWAT Kats name as the original pair who protected this city even when the city did not want them."

She was about to go on when a beep from behind her nearly made her curse over the roar of engines powering up and the scramble of seven pairs of kats to their duty.

The entire crowd looked up, the murmurs of panic beginning to form as the too-familiar swirling clouds of one of the PastMaster's time vortices began to form above them. Felina could almost hear the growls of the remaining SWAT units as they recognized the opportunity for payback against the Omega who'd made this ceremony necessary.

Then something started to come through ... something very, very large. A massive airship, bigger than anything MegaKat City had seen before, painted a strange purple color. SWAT was airborne even as Felina's communicator buzzed.

"Commander Feral!" Felina couldn't believe her ears; she knew KNight's voice, and that it had to be coming from the intruding ship. "We're ba-ack! And we brought gifts."

"Of all the things ...." she shook her head, ready to laugh at the sheer absurdity of what was happening. "Everyone calm down." She addressed the crowd as well as the jets in the air headed for the intruder that was gaining altitude. "Apparently this ceremony has been held in error." She couldn't help a bit of a relieved grin.

"KNight, clearance confirmed." The deep rumble from SWAT Beta's leader came across the band.

"Give it a fucking rest Jaz," you could hear her roll her eyes. "I'll meet you on the Tower."

Several snickers greeted the words.

"Yes ma'am." Jazzic snorted. "Commander, if you would please join us."

"With pleasure," the Commander grinned, waiting no longer than it took to explain what was happening to the Mayor before returning to the Tower. She didn't even try to challenge the two older shekats joining her in the Enforcer chopper to follow SWAT back to Headquarters as the incredibly advanced SWAT-colored fighter swept down from space.

It only took a few minutes to get to the landing strip, but it was already choked with SWAT jets and members, all clustered around the new jet and its caramel-furred pilot.

Felina was the first out of the chopper, but only because she was on the outside. Karmel was out next, followed shortly by Mayor Briggs as the trio tried to work their way through the throng of excited pilots and gunners.

All in all, the big question seemed to be what had happened, though even that was only coming from a handful of people compared to the number of kats still too thrilled to ask about that.

The absence of KNight's gunner, who should have been present, was a question to be asked next. Somehow, Felina doubted it would be as good as the rest of the news.

"So, what is an alien spaceship doing over my city flying SWAT colors?" The Commander asked over the general din of excitement.

"Long story, Commander," KNight grinned up at her, though it was hard to miss the shadow of pain the question caused. "Right now we need enough personnel to clean out a few hundred thousand bodies before they start to smell and actually take charge of that ship."

"A few hundred thousand ?" Mayor Briggs repeated, her eyes getting wider. "Not kats, I hope."

"No, no," KNight shook her head. "Half dozen neutrons took the ship's crew out, not a strike force. They're all reptilian types. I think."

"I think I'm going to want to sit in on that debriefing," the cream-colored shekat said, shaking her head and thinking through the logistics of getting a large enough cleanup crew onto a cruiser that was still in orbit.

"What about the others?" Karmel asked. "Are they up on the new toy you brought back?"

"The ship comes with transport to it," KNight answered the Mayor's unspoken question before facing the kat that had all but raised them all. "Yes," she nodded slightly. "Brad and Taller are on the bridge along with a new recruit. Deborah is in stasis." She managed to get all the words out without her voice breaking.

The general murmur of excitement that had continued in the background was suddenly silenced. They all knew what that meant; she was either critically injured, or hadn't made it. And given that KNight wasn't pressing to get her into medical, the latter was almost guaranteed.

Three of the SWAT Kats they'd gathered to send on had returned, but it didn't do much to soften the blow of knowing that the fourth was truly gone.

"On duty?" Karmel asked softly, her mind racing at the loss of one of her most socially gifted kittens.

"Yes," KNight swallowed and nodded. "Our twenty-eighth strike mission. Took three plasma bolts to the chest."

"She went out fighting then," Captain Shider of SWAT Epsilon said softly, respectfully. "How long did you spend where ever you were?"

"Urr, three weeks." KNight answered uncertainly. "Maybe four. A lot of it's a blur."

"Twenty-nine days." Crysto answered more specifically, startling everyone.

"Your new jet talks?" Shider asked, turning along with the rest to face the craft they'd all been practically combing over before they got the news.

"He's a full AI," she nodded. "So's SkyDancer, Tank's new jet."

"Definitely going to have to sit in on that debriefing," Callie murmured, shaking her head again.

"We're going to need full reports from the entire team," Felina told KNight. "How are you all holding up?"

"Not as good as we look," she admitted, looking directly at her Commander. "After the debriefing, I am requesting leave for the entire team beyond morning leave."

"I'm sure we'll be able to arrange that," Felina nodded seriously. She'd be surprised if they weren't required to take leave beyond that. "All SWAT units but Alpha, disperse," she ordered, waiting for the runway to clear before going on. It didn't take long, for all there were hugs and kisses exchanged before each team headed back to their base. Soon, only KNight, Karmel, Mayor Briggs, and she were left.

Felina stepped forward, putting a hand on KNight's shoulder.

"It's good to have you back, Clawson," she smiled softly. "I'm glad we don't have to say goodbye to all of you, at least."

"Yes," she nodded, the effort to focus on what she needed to do becoming more visible. "There is a lot to set up, Commander, and very little time to get it done. PastMaster brought us forward two hundred and twenty years because we were losing a war with that cruiser. A war that begins in eighteen years with the loss of over half the Enforcers and all of SWAT."

"PastMaster was doing something to help the city?" Felina shook her head slightly. "Almost feel bad about the kathunt we've had going for him. You were brought forward so you would have the tools to prevent that war then?" She guessed.

"Something like that, yeah," she nodded. "And he only helped because those things," she made a general motion towards the cruiser, "weren't out to conquer, they obliterate all life. He and the other Omegas helped because they didn't have an option in the matter."

"Typical. We'll make sure things don't end up as badly as they were in the future... I'm assuming that, since you have the cruiser here, they don't have nearly the same issues to deal with anymore?"

"No," she actually chuckled a bit. "They have Omegas again, and the population is maybe a tenth of what it is now with two centuries under martial law, but it's looking up." She paused and cracked a grin. "It's still Commander Feral too."

"The more things change," Callie chuckled softly. "If there are no objections, I'll go back to City Hall, start getting things ready for your return."

"Thank you, Mayor Briggs," Felina nodded. The cream-colored shekat climbed back into the chopper nearby, the pilot taking her back to the center of MegaKat City's government that had been razed in the future KNight had just returned from.

"Think you can bring the others down," Felina asked KNight. "Or are they going to have to stay on the cruiser for now?"

"They can come down, but one of the jets had to stay on board. They're the ones that can actually control it until we have a skeleton crew trained."

"Understood," Felina nodded, wondering just how advanced these jets were... and where they'd come from. "Think you can bring them down? It would be good to see Echo and Tank again... and to meet this new recruit you mentioned," she smiled slightly.

"Yeah, sure," she nodded and shot a look at Crysto, who took off without a word and barely a sound despite the obviously powerful engines. "Three is a crowd in a jet, four is just not fun." She added to Felina by way of explanation. "So how long have we been missing?"

"About two weeks," Felina explained. "To be honest," she chuckled slightly, "you managed to come back just in time to interrupt your own memorial."

"Somehow, I have my doubts it'll be for the last time," she managed a grin. "Coming back from MIA is a fine SWAT tradition after all."

"And one I hope you don't stop breaking, though I wouldn't mind if you cut back on the MIA part of it a bit more often," Felina smiled slightly. "I take it that cruiser can't land, can it?"

"I seriously doubt it," she glanced at the sky and spotted Crysto returning in a faint black dot. "It maybe able to take a water landing, but we haven't come close to translating that much of it's operators manual to be sure."

"I'm surprised they have anything like one," Felina chuckled slightly, looking up at the approaching jet. "Are your new jets captured as well, or something else?"

"Well, its computer knows what it can do." KNight shrugged as Crysto became a visible form. "They're half captured, half rebuilt and a bit of Clawson magic mixed in."

"I shouldn't be surprised," Felina chuckled slightly. "Must have been something you developed down the line, before the war."

KNight just nodded as Crysto landed nearby and the two familiar toms helped the unfamiliar cinnamon shekat out of the cockpit.

"Sheena 'Ratchet' Grey," KNight told her. "My cousin."

"Cousin?" Karmel asked, cocking her head slightly.

"It's a long story," Ratchet said. "Not important in this time either. It's a pleasure to meet you, Commander Feral, Ma'am," she added, snapping a salute to her and Karmel.

"Don't worry, we'll break her of that habit in no time," KNight smirked.

"The pleasure is mine," Felina nodded, returning the salute. "And don't break her of it too fast," she smirked to KNight. "It's not easy to get anybody on SWAT to salute, almost a shame to make a new member stop. Now that we're all on the ground, why don't we head inside?"

"Of course," KNight nodded. "Let's get the basics down so we can go pass out for a few days."

"Callie," Jessie Clawson's voice was low, level and held a warning as the muscular shekat stepped out of the shadows of the Mayors office in much the way her father had in previous years, but with much less warmth. "We have a little issue to work out."

"Captain Clawson?" Callie said, looking up from the budget report she was looking at. "Where did you come from?" She asked, despite knowing she wouldn't be likely to get anything like a satisfactory answer. After all, it wasn't like the office had ever kept SWAT out before. Not even Feral's office could manage that one.

She wondered, though, why the young shekat was here now. She was supposed to be on leave; so it wasn't likely to be professional... especially given the fact that she'd used the nickname. As far as Callie was aware, Jessie had never called her that before, certainly not directly.

"The future in this case," she leaned against the wall, her civilian clothing looking a bit odd after all the years of wearing a SWAT uniform of one kind or another. "With an interesting bit of information on what you have planned for the next couple years that I very much object to."

"And just what is it that I have planned, Captain Clawson?" Callie asked, raising an eyebrow slightly.

"Another Clawson kit." She said simply. "Which is very much against my father's wishes, something that has fallen to me to ensure are carried out."

As surprised as Callie was to hear that, she didn't let it show. She was too good at what she did to make a slip like that.

"Captain, your father has been gone for years. As much as I would have liked it to have worked out, it didn't happen, and I'm hardly fit to be having kittens now. So just how am I supposed to arrange another Clawson kit? If you choose to have some, or not, it's hardly anything I can influence."

"How I'm not sure of," she admitted without backing down. "But there are options available to you with your money and contacts. Options you will not pursue if you do not wish to make an enemy of me."

"If I didn't know better, I'd say I already have," Callie said frankly. "Though I don't have a clue how. Who gave you this idea?" She asked.

"A little research and a genetic test. A kit by you and my father did happen five years after his death in the timeline Ratchet came from." Jessie smiled slightly, though it was far from a reassuring expression. "And you haven't made an enemy of me yet. You're still alive, after all."

From anybody else, Callie would have probably disregarded the comment. From Jessie, she knew better. Both of the toms she claimed blood relation to were quite capable of acting on it. It was part of the reason she hadn't done anything while Jake was alive yet; that, and holding out for the chance that he might change his mind. Now, three years later, she'd been considering moving ahead with her backup plan... but this was putting an entirely new wrinkle in even those.

"There's no need to be threatening, Captain," Callie said easily. "Believe me, I have no intention of getting pregnant in the next two years, or likely after that. It must have worked out different in the timeline you were in."

"I wouldn't be surprised," she nodded in acceptance, though her basic demeanor didn't change. "It is simply an abomination to his will I will not tolerate happening again."

"I'm sure he'd appreciate the sentiment," Callie allowed. "Just remember, Captain. One of these days, you might have to decide if he can make that decision for you too. Your loyalty is admirable though."

"My choice is my own," she said simply, though it was hard to miss how strongly she agreed with her father. "My duty to him is to see his wishes are fulfilled where his estate is concerned. That includes see that nothing is done with his genetics that he did not want. His choice to end the line was taken from him with me; I will not tolerate it happening twice. This is just a friendly notice of his wishes so we don't become enemies in the near future."

"Something I'm sure neither of us wants," Callie nodded. "If I ever would decide to find a way to have a kit of his, I'll make sure to clear it with you first. An exceedingly large if, I might add."

"Thank you," Jessie said softly for all the steel will behind it and slipped away in the blink of an eye, leaving Callie with a lot to think about.

"Hey, Jessie!" Ratchet called, seeing the younger shekat walk by her quarters as she packed her bag for their upcoming vacation/team psych leave. "Have you talked to Mayor Briggs yet, or are you going to save that for once we're back?" She grunted as she put her weight into forcing a borrowed suitcase shut.

"Yeah, I talked to her," she came inside. "She was up to something. I'm not sure if she'll go through with it now."

"That's good," Ratchet nodded slightly. "Kinda weird, y'know? I've read descriptions of her, but seeing her, it's like they're describing two different people. Oh, I have to call medical later," she added. "Something in the physical I had, they wanted me to know before I headed out. Just wait," she chuckled, "probably picked up a case of the flu or something before we came back."

"She's like any gifted politician," Jessie chuckled a bit despairingly. "And make no mistake, she is as gifted at her thing as I am at mine."

"I don't doubt it," Ratchet nodded. "Hey, Jessie? What you said in the jet ... about still liking myself... what'd you mean?"

She sighed and leaned back against the wall. "Accessing the gift that lets Clawsons do what we do ... it means looking inside yourself and knowing exactly what's there." She began quietly. "Our gift came from pure evil, Ratchet, something far worse than Dark Kat. Accessing it turns part of that evil loose. You can't do what I can, but you are still a brilliant designer and engineer. I can teach you to do what I can, but it means having that violence and evil as your constant companion."

"You're not evil, Jessie," Ratchet said softly. "Neither was your father."

"No, we aren't, but we each have a significant potential for it." She shook her head. "It's a conscious choice I have to make every time I wake up, every time I make a plan or lead a mission. It's not an easy choice to stay on this side of things either."

"Everybody has the potential, Jessie. But I'll take your advice about it," Ratchet promised. "I'll stick to bending the laws of physics, instead of breaking them," she chuckled slightly and caught the release of tension in Jessie's body.

"Good," she smiled slightly. "Are you all packed?"

"Yeah," Ratchet nodded. "Honestly, it's not like I had that much to pack. A bunch of this stuff is things Brad couldn't fit in his bag," she chuckled. "GameStar, that sorta thing. Jessie... did you know about the price, before you decided to pay it?"

"I didn't get a choice," she sighed and looked up at the bland ceiling. "The drive to explore, to break the rules, is too strong in me. I went there because I could. My father and sire were the same way. Dark Kat was consumed by the knowledge. Jake regretted his. I don't regret mine, for all it could turn me one day." She lowered her gaze to settle on her distant kin. "But you are far enough removed from the source that you didn't go there on your own, so you have a choice."

"I'll choose against it, at least for now," Ratchet nodded. "Just sounded like something you did regret, for a bit there."

"I regret what being what I am did to my father," she said softly. "Some days I regret what I am. Just not usually."

"Okay," Ratchet nodded. "Wonder why nobody else in the family ever mentioned anything about it," she mused slightly. "Well, I'll go call medical, find out what the news they've got for me is, and we can be on our way."

"Likely because none of them stumbled on it." Jessie almost shrugged. "Or like Jake, chose to end things with them."

"Or they decided not to tell anybody," Ratchet mused. "Doesn't matter though. It's not going to happen now. It'll end with you, if you let it," she said, putting a hand on Jessie's shoulder.

"It has to be us," she said quietly. "It's in the blood, and it can come back at any time from us."

"Well, given that I'm practically a lesbian as it is, not having kids is something I'm kinda expecting," Ratchet chuckled, moving over to pick up the phone. "What's the number for medical again?" She asked Jessie easily.

"620," she chuckled. "It's on that list pasted to it."

"Yeah, but I don't have to look it up if you tell me," Ratchet smirked, punching in the number and waiting until somebody picked up the phone on the other end.

"Sheena Gray, calling Dr. Thompson about my physical results?" She told the receptionist. "She said there was something she wanted to discuss with me.... ID? UF6946... thank you. Yes, I'll hold." She waited for a few moments, rolling her eyes a little bit at the bureaucratic red tape, brief as it was.

"Well, the music's better than back home," she chuckled, waiting for the SWAT doctor on the other end to pick up.

"Miss Gray?" The doctor's calm voice came on a moment later.

"Yes, Dr. Thompson," Ratchet said politely. "I'm calling you back about the 'unusual results' you mentioned in your call?"

"Yes, I need to see you about it as soon as possible."

"Can't we discuss this over the phone?" She asked, frowning a bit. What the heck could the problem be?

"As my message said, I need to see you." She said firmly. "When can you come down?"

"Should be down there in a couple minutes, if that works," Ratchet said, not sighing though her body going through the motion was clear to Jessie.

"Of course," she agreed easily and hung up.

"Doc being doc?" Jessie almost smirked at her cousin.

"Need to go visit again," Ratchet nodded. "Oh well, at least she's cute. So, where should I meet you guys before we head out?"

"Main rec room," she suggested with a chuckle. "We'll wait for yea."

"Thanks," Ratchet grinned. "See you there." She hung up the phone and started out quickly, closing the door to the apartment.

"Oh, hey!" She said, sticking her head back in. "You mind taking my bag down there, or should I take it with me?"

"I'll get it there," Jessie chuckled and picked it up easily to follow Ratchet out before they headed their separate ways.

"Ratchet, what's going on?" Taller asked her quietly as she unpacked her things in the spacious private bedroom decorated in a decidedly wealthy wilderness cabin style. She paused in her unpacking, and then shook her head slightly.

"Y'know, you're about the fifth person to ask me that since before we left," she chuckled slightly. "At least I know I can tell you." She sighed a bit, and then sat down on the bed. "Might as well just say it." She licked her lips almost nervously. "Seems I'm pregnant."

The Puma blinked a couple times, and then stepped inside to close the door and sit next to her.

"I thought that stuff just mimicked a heat cycle," he started, honestly not prepared for the conversation even though Doc had told him before she'd told Ratchet.

"Cold Heat? Yeah, that's all it does, at least if your body behaves. The fertility part was worked out decades ago... well, from now. But my heats aren't that heavy, and I thought mine had ended just a few days before that first threesome with Ratchet. Which means there's also a pretty good chance you're the sire," she added softly.

"Given how few males you've been with this month, I'd kind have guessed that." He nodded and hesitantly slipped an arm around her shoulders. "You know you're one of us, right?"

"I'd like to think so," Ratchet smiled slightly, leaning into the contact and soon found herself in a full embrace as he nuzzled her hair.

"We keep track of bloodlines, but kits kind of belong to all of SWAT. The non-coms raise them, overseen by Karmel. Those of us who fight are as involved as we can be." He paused and nuzzled her again. "If you don't want them raised in this culture, I'll see to it you don't need to. But I'd like my kits to follow the family tradition."

"It's a hell of a lot better than my family's traditions," she chuckled slightly. "Seriously though, I don't mind that culture. The help'll be welcome," she smiled and saw him lean down for a light kiss slowly enough she could avoid it if she wanted to. She didn't, accepting the kiss and returning it. Still, it was almost more of a gesture between friends than lovers, at least on her part and he didn't press it.

"Good," he murmured softly.

"Taller?" She asked him softly. "Could you help me figure out how to tell Jessie? It's not like the team's not going to find out and... well... there might be issues there."

"There are bigger issues with her right now," he sighed and rested his head against hers. "You might not want to tell her until she's calmed down enough to be at least slightly rational."

"What happened?" Ratchet asked him, a concerned tone in her voice. "She seemed to be doing pretty well earlier, for everything that's happened."

"'Cause she doesn't know yet." He sighed. "Doc left it to me to tell her without getting anybody killed. She is too." He finished in a bare murmur.

"Oh shit ," Ratchet murmured, her eyes getting wide. She swallowed hard, and then shook her head. "No way the doc could be mistaken?"

"Ran the test three times, then did a physical of the likes she's probably never experienced." He nodded. "Yeah, it's sure. Only the sire could be any of about three dozen toms, only two of which are still around and only about half of whom she remembers the name of. Assuming it's only one kit."

"Doesn't matter who the sire is, she is going to be pissed ," Ratchet murmured. "One kit with Clawson blood was going to be bad enough, and that's so far down the line I think she'd have taken the news pretty well. One of her own... it's the last thing she wants...."

"Very literally," he nodded. "The idea is to keep her from ripping her womb out long enough to convince her it's not as bad as she thinks."

"And she'd try it," Ratchet said softly, shuddering. "And we were just talking about the fact that it'd never happen just before I went to see Doc Thompson again," she murmured. "Gods, she is going to be pissed ."

"It gets worse," he nodded. "She'd dead in the middle of her cycle. Months away from being fertile naturally. It's so much like what happened to Chance and Midnight it's a nightmare repeating for a second generation on the same drug. I have no real idea how to tell her either."

"There's nothing in it that's supposed to be able to do that," Ratchet sighed. "I don't know how it did for her.... When you do tell her, it'd probably be a good idea to have some way to restrain her for real." She wished she had some sort of advice for him. In the end, it all boiled down to how he could tell somebody who was family, friend, partner, and lover all in one that her worst nightmare was coming true.

"I plan on having both of you there," he nodded. "As useful as the rest of SWAT would be, I don't want to humiliate her in front of any more people than I have to." He murmured. "At least we can settle her and Brad down some first. Get them out of emergency mode."

"Yeah," she agreed. "One crisis at a time... just hope they wind down before she figures it out on her own."

"Nice view from up here."

Brad's voice, soft and nearby, nearly startled Jessie into falling off her perch in a tree near the cabin.

"Yeah," she murmured and looked over at him, several branches over. "I've always like it up here."

"I've noticed," he smiled softly at her. He shifted, moving to perch on a slightly closer branch. As much as he resembled his father, he could move as carefully and lightly as any of them when he wanted to. "Howya doin', sis?"

"Sick," she sighed, staring up at the stars. "Sick that it's repeating itself. Sick that this time it'll be more than a city or world at stake."

"C'mon sis, you don't know that it'll be that way," he said softly, moving as close as he could safely. "After all, every Clawson I've ever met's worked to protect what they cared about, even if they did scare the shit out of folks while they were doing it."

"Yes," she said softly. "Yes, we have. But the heritage goes to Dark Kat too, remember, and I have more of him in me than my father did."

"And are you trying to conquer the city in giant spider-drones?" Brad pointed out. "You have the blood in you, yeah. But you're not Dark Kat's kid, remember? Nobody thinks that. Your kits'll have less of him in them than you or your Dad did, so I don't think having Dark Kat as their grandsire and great-grandsire in one is gonna mess 'em up too badly.

"After all," he chuckled slightly, trying to break her mood, "for all we know, I could end up being the sire. Oughta cancel out any genius genes in 'em, evil or otherwise."

"You just have the same problem your father did," she batted at him playfully. "Trying to compare yourself to a world-class genius like we're normal."

"Shh, don't tell anybody," he grinned, a sight that had been far, far too rare in recent weeks. "If you let 'em know, they'll start worrying about me blowing up the city next." He leaned over towards her carefully, balancing his weight on the branch as he squeezed her shoulder.

"Oh, like that'd ever happen," she snorted and leaned over and back to snatch a kiss. "You're both so goody-two-shoes it's scary."

"So, have you made up your mind about what to do about the kits yet?"

"No," her mood shifted abruptly. "They were all good kats, but it's still ... it shouldn't happen."

"Jess...." He paused, considering his words carefully. He didn't want to upset her, but he wanted to try and make his point all the same. "You ever wonder if Jake thought about that? If he ever thought it might've been better for you to not grow up, not get the chance to go the wrong way?"

"He did," she sighed. "Vale and Bull and Karmel had to protect me for a good five years before he came to terms with the idea that I might not be evil."

"But in the end, he did come to terms with it," Brad pointed out. "And y'know what? Deep down inside, I think you know he was right when he did that."

"I wish I did," she murmured and stared back up at the sky. "But I get tired of the daily battle to stay on this side, and I'm barely an adult. Can I take another twenty, even forty or sixty years of this? I don't know. Dark Kat was in his forties before he truly snapped. Dad didn't live much longer."

"Yeah, but I think most folks saw it coming. Jake's mother being the odd one out, in a lot of ways. Look sis... we both know you're the only one who can decide about this. But think about it this way. You and Jake have each done more good, saved more lives, protected people, than Dark Kat ever killed or hurt. You've gone through more pain than anybody deserves to, but you haven't let it turn you. Clawsons can do a hell of a lot of damage if they set their minds to it," he admitted. "But they can do a hell of a lot to help people, too."

"Every wonder why?" She asked softly. "Why some turned and some didn't?"

"Could be a lot of reasons," he pointed out gently. "What do you think?"

"Dad had a partner that made the fight worth winning." She answered. "Someone that made it worth being hurt, worth facing that demon inside us each morning and beating it down knowing it'll be back and just as strong the next day. Dad's demon lost to one kat. Mine faced ... just me, really. Then Taller when dad died. He wasn't a reason to fight; he soothed the demon, made it easier to make it back down. But I don't have anyone like dad had Chance. And that scares me." She finally admitted.

"You'll find somebody," Brad said softly, rubbing her shoulder. He found himself wishing she'd set up camp on the rooftop; at least there he could give her the snuggling she sounded like she needed badly. "Or maybe a few somebodies, who give you a reason when you look at 'em all together. Maybe that's what somebody's trying to do for you."

"And maybe they already do, and I just don't know it yet." She acknowledge softly. "Took dad years to really understand. I'm not real patient."

"Hey, if that's a crime then I think we're all supposed to be behind bars," he smiled softly. "You know we're there for you, Jessie. Doesn't matter if the demons are out here or inside you, we're here to help you against 'em if we can."

"Thanks," she smiled at him slightly and seemed to relax a little before gazing up at the sky again and towards the future that was suddenly so much more complicated.

A Heritage of Power 2: Jessie's Story 1: Daughter of the Future's Past

NC-17 for M/M, F/F and M/F
R for Violence and Death
Het Level is MediumHet Smut Level is Medium
Slash Level is Slash Smut Level is Low
Femslash Level is LowFemslash Smut Level is Low
Herm Level is None

306 KB, Story is Complete, Series is Finished
Written December 5, 2004 by Rauhnee Ranshanka and Karl Wolfemann

Setting: Halo, SWAT Kats

Primary Races: Kat, Panther

Contents: Furry. Het (M/F). Slash (M/M). Femslash (F/F). All Original Characters, Death, Future-Fic, Romance, Time Travel, Violence

Pairings: SWAT Alpha, Taller Windbright/Jeremy Darkeye, Jessie Clawson/Martin Timmerson, Jessie Clawson/Sheena 'Ratchet' Grey/Taller Windbright, Brad Furlong/Jeremy Darkeye/Deborah Sumner, Deborah Sumner/Sheena 'Ratchet' Grey, Xavier Feral/Alok Khan

Notes: A sequel to Jake's Story: For the Love of a Partner, set about 20 years and a generation later. While reading Jake's Story shouldn't be necessary to follow this one, it is recommended, as it'll give a lot of background and explanations to events mentioned here.

Blurb: The future is lost, and Past Master is simply not going to stand for it. His answer? Using his greatest enemy's kit and her unit to change the course of the future's history.

Disclaimer: All things taken directly from the sources listed under 'Fandoms' belong to the owners of those shows. No harm is intended and we're definitely not making any money. Now, the things we created are ours, and if you see 'Non-FanFic' up there, it's probably all ours.

Page Hit Count from December 5, 2004    2465