Affairs of the State and Heart part 2 of 2
by Fur and Fantasy
NC-17 for M/M
R for Violence
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file

Augustus' office was spacious and a mix of old and new technologies. The furniture was old wood and leather in classic designs, with state of the art computer equipment sitting on top of it. Solid wooden bookshelves filled with books lined the walls, with the exception of a large monitor on the one wall.

"So what brings you by?" The old tom asked with a smile as they entered. "Have a seat before you tell me." He said indicating the luxurious chairs in front of his desk.

Jake nodded and took a seat, glancing at his mate over who was actually going to start this.

Terry sat down quietly. "I'll assume you know by now that the situation is a little more serious than just a run-in with Feral."

The old Kat smiled. "Yes, I suspected as much but had it confirmed when Deputy Mayor Briggs called me personally to warn me concerning a threat to Jake from one Marissa of Teveris. She wasn't sure if Jake would tell me himself, and she needed to make sure her friend was protected. What I need to know is how active a threat is she." He asked looking at Jake.

"Given what she just did, I have to assume a very active one." Jake answered quietly. "The blackmail she has on Feral dates back at least ten years, but I hadn't heard anything from her since I escaped. I don't know what changed but I ... it probably means she wants me back." He swallowed, fighting to keep in control enough to get through this.

"I'll repeat what I'm sure Terry has already said; that's not going to happen." The old tom said firmly. "I will not allow it. Sounds as though some direct action is going to be required. Though that will require prep time, so I'll take some indirect action first. I don't know the name off hand, but I'll bet they do business outside their country.

"Or at least they used to." He said with a dangerous gleam in his eye.

"This is what Black Lightning and Rolling Thunder were created for." Terry said quietly.

"Agreed, activate them and begin preparations."

"Check ... see if you can find out if anything's happened to Marissa's heir." Jake murmured uneasily. "It's the most likely reason for the sudden interest."

Augustus looked at him curiously. "Okay, but what does her heir have to do with you?"

"If the last one's dead ... she'll want another sired." Jake murmured. "It's what I'm for, to her."

A very dark look crossed Augustus' face. "Well, she's in for a very big surprise. I believe the Deputy Mayor said this person is Crown Princess, would I be correct if I assumed that she's not violating any cultural taboos by what she's done and probably intends to do to you?"

"Heir apparent." Jake nodded. "It's how she's expected to treat a male mate. That she couldn't break me before I escaped ... doesn't look very good on her."

"I wonder how bringing a war crashing in on her country is going to look on her." The old tom growled quietly, as he typed at the computer on his desk. "I know Deputy Mayor Briggs is inclined to treat the blackmail incident as an act of war."

Terry cleared his throat. "Ummm, I expect there's a lot of common folk who don't really have any say in things, who'll get hurt in open war." He said quietly. "Maybe it'd be better to get a strike team or four in and simply wipe out the leadership and upper class, they're probably the problem."

"And ... ur ... don't be too hard on the Enforcers." Jake said quietly. "Please don't punish good Kats just trying to do their job for the actions of one."

"Looks like Deputy Mayor Briggs is handling that problem. Sometimes you just have to make it clear that problems have to be taken care of. Besides, Halycon's displeasure is intended to convince Feral that his continued presence is a liability.

"I'll have to have a word with Melton BrightClaw though, his clan really needs to calm down a little." He shook his head.

Terry blinked in surprised. "They do? I never even told dad." Then he remembered his older brother. "Oh gods, what did Greg do?"

"Resigned effective immediately on the grounds that he refuses to take orders from a rapist, even an unconvinced one."

"He didn't." Terry started. "Yes he did. I knew he was taking the whole affair way too personally. Gods I hope he had enough sense to keep some of the details quiet."

"From what Syrina told me the story making the rounds is that Feral attacked your LifeMate and is using his position to escape prosecution."

Terry sighed. "Well, at least he just made it assault."

"They didn't need this kind of dissention." Jake said quietly, looking at his hands. "With SWAT down, the Enforcers will have to stand united."

"Hopefully, Ulysses Feral will see that and resign quietly." Augustus said. "I can hope that he still places more importance on the Enforcers than on his own ambitions."

"If the BrightClaws start resigning in protest, it's gonna take a fair number of others with them." Terry said quietly. "Aside from the loss in manpower, the loss of experience will be hard to recover from."

"Ms. Briggs has crafted a temporary solution and is putting those Enforcers who refuse to follow Commander Feral on administrative leave. Gives her time to work on getting Feral out, without losing Enforcers."

"She always was a smart leader." Jake smiled slightly, though it was shadowed by more than a bit of guilt. "Though there's enough here ... maybe to put a kind of SWAT back up. Not as good, but it might be enough."

Augustus smiled. "Don't worry, Jake. When I found out about SWAT, I moved one of my elite combat squads in to help out. You don't need to worry about MKC."

"Jake, this isn't your fault." Terry said quietly as Jake nodded to Augustus. "I suppose I should've seen Greg's reaction coming, but I wasn't paying attention. But ultimately, there's only one Kat responsible."

"That much trouble ... just over me." Jake shook his head and sighed. "I'll be glad when I can forget your family's this powerful." He shivered slightly trying to suppress the fear building in his soul.

"Jake, it isn't just over you." Terry said quietly. "It's the principle that a commander who can do such things to maintain his own position can no longer be trusted. That's a principle this family has held for a very long time."

"Without that power, we'd just be huddling in MKC waiting for whatever predator came along next." Terry said quietly. "Whether it was Feral, Marissa or whoever. The world's a dangerous amoral place, a powerful family is the only safety you can trust."

"Just because I know that, doesn't mean it settles well." Jake half growled, then looked up at Terry apologetically. "Look, I've got nothing against your kin, I just don't like being reminded any one person has that much power. Much less that half a dozen of them are playing a game I'm a central pawn in." He sighed and reached his hand out to his mate. "Illusion or not, I liked being able to pretend I was just another Kat on the street."

"Guess I never really had that illusion." Terry said quietly, taking Jake's hand. "I always knew it made you uncomfortable, that's why I waited this long. It was easier, and with the Wraiths I could do both at once, without them intersecting."

"Perhaps strategy discussions can wait, I think there are more important things." Augustus said, as he quickly crossed the room and left, closing the door behind him.

Jake watched him leave, more than a little distressed. "I didn't mean ...."

Terry shook his head. "Don't worry, he just thinks we need to talk." He said quietly. "He told me, back when we became LifeMates, that I was making a mistake not telling you then. I just didn't like the way it made you uncomfortable. Not the first time I've tried to hide who I am."

Jake looked down, tears threatening as he stared blankly at his knees for a very long time, trying to come up with anything to explain just how horribly out of place and threatened he felt here among the rich and powerful; those that could actually say they were going to declare war and crush a country and it wasn't a joke.

"I'm sorry," was all Jake could eventually say, hurting almost more than he could stand; knowing he'd failed the most important person in his life.

"No it's not your fault." Terry said quietly, kneeling in front of Jake. "I didn't give you any time to adjust, and I knew it would make you uncomfortable. I forget how overwhelming it can seem when it's not the world you grew up with." He said nuzzling Jake gently. "If it helps any, I'm still a bit stunned at my grandfather just declaring war."

With a difficult swallow Jake nodded, though there was little conviction behind it. "I don't know what to say, Ter." He whispered miserably. "I felt more at home on the Aquarian's ship than I do with this. I would have married you even knowing, but ... this," he waved a hand around, "is everything I've hated my entire life. The rich and powerful that can just do whatever the hell that want without thought to what thousands will be hurt by it.

"I know I lied to myself these years." He sobbed and buried his face his hid hands. "I always knew there was a lot of power behind you, even before I knew just what. But you were so normal, I could usually just forget about it. I told myself you had things just because you were good at your job, even when I knew better.

"This isn't my world, Terry." He tried to look at the gray tom. "It never will be. I don't want it to be. I am just a working kat, Terry. I am." His voice drifted off softly with the denial.

Terry simply shut down. There wasn't any fight left in him. He could deal with rapist commanders, psychotic females, traitorous tabbies but Jake rejecting him on every level he couldn't handle. Everything just ceased to matter, if he couldn't have Jake in his life none of it mattered, none of it at all.

Externally, it was a puppet with the strings cut; slumped on the floor, eyes lifeless staring at the floor, with complete and utter failure the only scent. The one Kat that ever mattered to him had just told him he wasn't wanted.

"Ter?" Jake abruptly snapped into focus. "I'm sorry, Ter." He slipped to the floor and gathered his LifeMate in his arms. "I'm sorry. Don't hate me. Gods, please don't leave me for this. I'll learn." He started to panic for real. "Terry, please, I love you. Nothing'll change that."

Jake's panic triggered enough of Terry's consciousness to hear the rest. "Couldn't hate you, I love you too much." He said weakly. "Just couldn't take the thought of you leaving me." He said softly. "The agency was just me, just had the family if things went wrong.

"I tried to be normal, but I can't deny who I am." He sighed. "I don't want to have to choose between the two most important things in my life. I don't think I can."

"Family and me." Jake half asked, resting his head against his mate's. "We'll make it work, okay? Don't know how, but I love you even with all this. I would have married you even knowing all this. We can have another wedding, a real one, if you want. I'll deal with it. I'll figure out how."

"Truthfully, we're not into big weddings." Terry smiled. "Big dinners sure, but not big weddings. If I recall the story right, I think grandfather and grandmother eloped. It's really a lot more normal around here, when we're not threatened."

Jake nodded, not daring to let the turmoil just below the surface show.

"I mean think about how most parents react when their kits are threatened, that's what grandfather was doing, he just got carried away because the threat was coming from a country. We don't really have the armed forces to carry on a full-scale war."

"I'll learn how to deal with this." Jake promised fervently, his fear of loosing his LifeMate crushing everything else for a while.

"Maybe after this is all over." He said quietly. "We could get a place in Port Haven, just work up here." The gray Kat suggested trying to get things back to something like normal.

"We'll work it out." Jake nodded, holding Terry close as the intense fear passed, to leave an even more terrifying realization deep in Jake's soul. "When this mess is settled, we'll figure something out."

"Yes, we will." Terry said clinging to that unity. "You do realize how much designer/ inventors of your caliber make, don't you?" He said gently.

"No," Jake shook his head slightly. "Never bothered to check. More than I'd ever need I'm sure."

"Beginning designer with a set of hot plans and college degree can pull 150K easy, with more demonstrated ability 175K. An experienced designer/inventor with broad skills makes 250K minimum. And that doesn't include things like royalty agreements or prototype sales." Terry smiled. "That's what they're worth ... has nothing to do with connections."

"Okay," Jake could only look at him in confusion. "What does it matter?"

"Not much." Terry shrugged. "Just not exactly working Kat level, you've always been worth more than that. Especially to me." He said with a warm smile that clearly said he wasn't talking anything monetary in the last statement.

"Oh," he nodded and snuggled close, quite willing to not move for a long time.

Terry was more than willing to just snuggle for a long time, at least partially cause he was too tired to feel like walking.

"You seem troubled, sir." Akisha spoke quietly as she walked up to Augustus in the garden, far away from the cinnamon rose Terry was so tuned to.

Augustus nodded. "Very much so. My grandson's heart is given to one who seems to have a terrible fear of wealth and power. For once, I can't say with any certainty what he'll do." The old tom said quietly. "It would be easier if I could dislike the tom, but I find myself as protective of him, as of any of my children."

"Jake has had a great deal of cause throughout his life to learn to fear those of wealth and power." She spoke with calm certainty. "Perhaps all he needs is to learn his new family is the exception to that rule."

"I know he has, that shekat is an especially good example." He said angrily. "Though I fear my reaction to the threat she poses didn't help ease his mind any. I'm just hoping he's still open to learning that there are exceptions, the pain in him cuts very deep. For Terry's sake if nothing else."

"Sir, unless I'm mistaken, he has several years yet to adapt." Akisha said quietly. "And I would hazard that adapting is something he does extremely well."

"I'm worried about the next few hours." He said quietly. "He was reacting badly, and I don't know how well Terry can handle another crisis. Especially after having been through one of those dreams again."

"Ah," she dropped her nose slightly. "Might I suggest that Ms. Terris talk with them?"

"Perhaps, though I don't know how much she can accomplish. Jake's very secretive about what happened. Though given what little he's revealed I can understand why." He shook his head. "A culture that promotes the idea that the proper way to treat a mate is to break them, incredible."

"I rather meant to help him adjust to the fact that this family is not like the others that have taken advantage of him." She said politely. "A great deal can be done to create acceptance of an exception, without dealing with the root of the fear on occasion."

Augustus smiled. "Yes, perhaps that she might be able to do. I'm far too used to going to the root of the problem. Would you check if she's available? They're in my office at the moment, and Terry's just had one of his panic attacks. Seems to be recovering faster than before, but having Jake there probably makes all the difference."

"Of course, sir." She stepped away before pulling a smell cell phone from her belt and punched a complex series of numbers in it before lifting it to her ear.

"Yes, they are in Mr. Pellatier's office." She paused a moment. "Terry and Jake, the primary concern of the moment is Jake's ability to accept the family." Another pause. "Yes, I will tell him."

Akisha folded the phone and put it away before approaching him again. "She is on the way now, sir."

"Thank you, Akisha." He said relaxing a little. "She was quite good with Terry before. That'll let me handle other matters for now."

"I have the reports on Teveris, if you care to look them over."

"Yes, I would. I need to know who the enemy is before I start talking with our friends and allies."

Jake and Terry were still clutching each other tightly on the floor, leaning against Augustus' desk when there was a gentle knock on the door.

"Probably grandfather or Akisha come to see if we're okay." Terry said quietly.

Jake only nodded, between the fear of loosing his LifeMate and the worse fear it left in his gut, he couldn't have cared less about the rest of the universe right then.

"Come in." Terry said loud enough that the intercom would pick it up for the person knocking to hear. On other occasions he might have wanted to be a little more dignified than huddling against his grandfather's desk, but part of him still didn't want to move.

The door opened to quickly admit a very fluffy Shetland Kantin in a comfortable orange and brown dress suit that matched her fur.

"Hello, Terry, Jake." She smiled with gentle understanding as she moved slowly up to them and knelt under Jake's wary gaze.

Terry nodded as he slowly remembered the counselor; it was difficult because she was part of a time he tried to forget for the most part. "Hi, it's been a long time." He said quietly, though there was a very light change in his scent that indicated she was someone he trusted.

"Yes," she smiled at them and sat down on the floor about an arms length away. "Jake, I'm Brandy. I help family get through trauma."

"Hi." He mumbled.

"She's good, Jake. Put me back together a few times." He said reassuringly, with a grateful smile for the Kantin.

She gave Terry a smile for the praise before shifting her attention to Jake. "I hope your willing to let me help."

"With what?" He sort of growled.

"With understanding that this family isn't like all the other powerful people who've given you reason to distrust power and wealth." She said gently.

"No need." Jake shrugged. "I'm dealing with it."

"Dealing with it, or simply trying to forget it's there?" She asked gently, knowing that denial and suppression were very common responses.

"Does it matter?" He growled. "It's not going to be a problem."

"Pretending something isn't there when it is, makes it a problem waiting to resurface. " She said gently. "It's like installing a flawed part in an jet, it'll work for now but sooner or later it's going to break."

"It's better than nothing when that's what you've got." Jake flattened his ears.

"Yes, but you wouldn't use the flawed part if you didn't have to." She said gently. "Is there a reason you don't want to consider that this family may be an exception?" She asked.

That earned her a scathing look and growl. "No. But it works for now."

"And when it stops working?" She asked gently.

Jake gave her a wary, grudgingly respectful look before answering. "You get a better solution before then."

She nodded. "That's what I'm trying to help you do; get a better solution." She explained. "Because there's no way to know how long the temporary solution will hold."

Brandy looked at him seriously. "If you had to install a flawed part on that black jet of yours because you had nothing better ... how long would you wait before you looked for a better solution?" She asked very gently.

"I wouldn't." He snapped. "It'd cost us our hides."

"But the cost if the 'part' you've put in your relationship with Terry fails doesn't warrant looking for a better solution?" She asked softly.

"How dare ..." Jake snarled and lunged for her, claws splayed and aiming right for her long muzzle and bright eyes.

Terry felt the lunge as it began and wrestled his mate to floor, keeping claws away from the retreating therapist. "Jake, you are not going to kill anyone in my grandfather's office." Terry said firmly, as he held his mate down.

The amber eyes looking up at him held more indignity than rage though. "I said we'd make it work." Jake growled without resisting. "Shrink wants to help, fine. But I am not taking insult from her either."

"Jake, it wasn't an insult." Terry said quietly. "It's a valid point. We can't make it work by trying to pretend my family is something other than what it is. And it's a reality we both have to learn to live with." He said gently, and watched intently as Jake struggled with his pride, fear, distrust and need before the cinnamon tom let all tension in his hard body go.

"All right." Jake sighed. "I'll behave."

"Thank you, love." Terry said giving the Kat a gentle kiss as he let him up.

Brandy came back and sat down. "Jake, if accepting that this family is different from the powers you've had problems with isn't the better solution you want, what is?" She asked facing him from inside lunge range, but without a trace of fear.

He growled at her, clearly frustrated. "It is the solution."

"Is there anyway I can help you with that acceptance?" She offered quietly. "Is there a reason you can't accept it?"

Jake groaned and leaned back against Terry. "Give a guy a chance, will yah? I only really found out an hour ago. A lot of crap's happened the week."

Brandy nodded, having seen the complete file. "Are you going to be okay dealing with it on regular basis? Given the state of things, that will probably be unavoidable for the near future." She asked gently, genuinely concerned.

"It's not like I have a choice." He shrugged. "I'll deal with it."

"And if you can't deal with it, let somebody know. Either Terry, myself or even Augustus. There is no shame in asking for help." She said encouragingly.

Jake could only look at her strangely. "I have to deal with it." He said simply.

"Perhaps that's enough." She said with a gentle smile. "Augustus was just concerned, he's like that." She said as she stood. "But I'm available if you need help with any trauma, not just this one."

"Thanks, Brandy." Terry said as the Kantin closed the door quietly behind her.

"That was ... strange." Jake shook his head.

"Not really." Terry said quietly. "Last thing grandfather saw was that you weren't handling things well. That worried him, and she's the family counselor."

"You always talk like that when you've got problems?" He looked at his mate uncertainly.

"Talk like what?" Terry blinked, confused.

"With shrinks and stuff."

"Do I talk to her when I have problems?" Terry shrugged. "Not in a long time. Just when the problems got real bad."

Jake was silent a long time, just resting in Terry's arms and brooding about it and everything else that had gone to hell in the last week.

With a deep sigh he pushed himself to his feet. "At least let me know what I'm dealing with."

"That's a broad request, where would you like me to start?" Terry said, clearly willing just not sure exactly what was being asked for.

Jake rested most his weight on one hand on the desktop and closed his eyes. "I've never feared anything I understood." He said tiredly. "Start anywhere, it's not like I know enough to even ask the right questions yet."

Terry nodded, and bent down to pull two cans of milk out of a concealed cooler. He popped his open after handing one to Jake. "Okay, guess a brief autobiography of me wouldn't hurt." He said after several sips. "My father's family is the BrightClaws, who you've probably heard of in relation to the Enforcers. They're the second of the big families, the first being the Ferals. That's most of their influence in the city, that and the fact that there are a lot of them."

He took a deep breath as Jake nodded and found a chair to curl up in. "My mother's family is the Pelletier's, the family that owns Halycon Industries, one of the really big corporate concerns. Big enough that we deal with Khan and Xanatos Industries as an equal, among others."

Jake nodded, though it was just as clear that startled him even now.

"The Pellatiers used to rule a fairly large area, including the city of Port Haven. However, my great-grandfather felt that the days of kings and queens and the rule of the nobility were passing, so he stopped using the titles and gave Port Haven its independence. We still have a very good relationship with Port Haven as a result.

"Halycon produces advanced aircraft and weapons systems for many governments including MKC, and holds a number of patents which give them significant leverage. It's this leverage and our fairly close relations with the other major suppliers, which my grandfather is using to encourage Commander Feral's departure.

"Because of our size, we maintain a moderate military force for defending our various interests. These forces are comparable to anyone's, and have better equipment than most." He paused watching to see what Jake's reaction would be.

The cinnamon tom nodded slowly, digesting it even as he began translating it into more familiar, and safer, terms.

"Planetary distribution?" He glanced up.

"Yes, we do operate globally, with forces stationed to support those operations. We're careful about where we operate, since some governments can't be trusted."

"Where are the strongholds?" Jake clarified.

"Let me check the computer. I haven't been involved that closely with global operations." He said as he sat down at his grandfather's desk, and began typing. "Global strongholds are indicated on the wall map." He said as red dots began appearing, concentrated mostly on the continent with MKC, but a noticeable number on all continents.

Jake stood to study it, running his fingers over the various clusters and making lines between them. "What do each do?"

"Okay, let me classify by primary function: red is defense, green is resource development such as mining, blue is research and yellow is manufacturing. Secondary function indicated by colored circle surrounding main color." He explained as he typed commands that changed the map to a grouping of multi colored dots. Red dots were the least common and appeared space to provide coverage for all of the others.

Again Jake's fingers danced over the map, tracing patterns that only usually made sense.

"Ter, why isn't there mining here?" He circled a plains area on the smallest southern continent.

"Let me see what I can find out." He said while he ran through the database. "The crust is fairly opaque to LandSat scans, and there are several large tribes of primitive Xanith that inhabit that area. Apparently, they're quite hostile to outsiders. It would require a military grade expedition to do the mineralogical survey on-site. Currently, not viewed as economically viable." He said, summarizing a series of reports. "Why? You think there's something there?" He asked curious, and quite open to the fact that Jake might have discovered something.

"There should be, but nothing worth a battle over " He shook his head. "It just follows the pattern."

"Not a battle, no." Terry said quietly. "But maybe a little joint effort." He said making a few notes in the computer for later consideration.

Jake backed up, leaning back against the edge of the desk as he regarded the map. Then he turned his attention to Terry. "What are you into? Products, patents, corporations, politics, that kind of thing."

"Actually, I'm in Corporate Intelligence, though I also work politics at times simply because I'm good at alliance building." He said leaning back in the big leather chair. "Grandfather would like me to do some of the overseas diplomacy work on occasion but I've always talked my way out of it."

"Generic you, Terry." Jake would have chuckled if he wasn't so stressed. "The family." He rubbed the bridge of his nose.

"Sorry." Terry smiled. "A bit of all of it really. Production is big, but we have research so we don't have to rely on other people's patents. Politics is really more of a necessity than a business line." He paused and thought a moment. "I guess its really Products, everything else pretty much supports that. "

"What products?"

"Military hardware; especially planes, and weapons systems. High tech watercraft such as hydrofoils and submarines. We also do business-to-business sales with things like passenger aircraft, luxury liners and cargo planes. And there's the relatively new consumer goods division which captures the product opportunities that occur from military development."

Jake nodded and fell silent, trying to wrap his brain around this with little success. With a frustrated sigh he pushed his hand threw his hair. "I can built the TurboKat from memory, but this crap is beyond me." He growled, mostly to himself.

Terry got up, walked around to Jake and put his arm around him. "That's okay, I get lost if I try anything more mechanical than a basic tune-up. And even that's not a good idea." He chuckled lightly. "Remember the last time I tried to tune the SUV up myself."

"You don't have to understand that." He sighed. "Only thing I've got to get, and it makes less sense than politics."

"The operations of a global corporation?" Terry nodded. "Yeah, politics is simpler at times. Is there a particular point where it stops making sense?" Terry asked gently, trying to help.

"When I start to think about it in terms other that an interesting pattern on the map."

"Details are a bit much, huh?" Terry said sympathetically. "Well, I can try to simplify it. I just don't want you to think I'm talking down to you, 'cause I'm not."

"My head hurts." Jake let out a deep sigh and shook his head. "But go ahead and try to simplify it."

"Analogies seem to work best." Terry said quietly. "If you consider the Corporation as a whole to be a car, then Product Lines are the engine, Research becomes the ignition and Resources such as mining the Fuel. Politics is the Tires since it smoothes the company's way. Management is the driver."

Jake looked at him a little funny. "Okay, but how does that relate to making heads or tails of the real world thing."

Terry sighed. "I shoulda known that wouldn't work." He chuckled lightly. "Maybe I better back up. Are you trying to understand how the company works, or how it interacts with the world around it?"

Jake dropped his head to his mate's shoulder and groaned. "Damned if I know. Is there a difference?"

"In a manner of speaking. Some parts of the company don't really relate to the outside world while other things only apply when dealing with outside world. Research is internal only it supports other operations. Politics on the other hand, is an external division that handles our relations with governments and other Corporations." Terry said quietly, as he put his arms around his tired mate as cinnamon ears drooped.

"Okay," Jake took a deep breath without moving. "And how does the family relate to all of that?"

"The family as whole provides direction for the company. The heart, soul and mind if you like. We keep it from becoming simply a heartless mechanism for profit, like some of them have become. We try to find ways to do good with the power the company has."

With a weak nod Jake slipped his arms around Terry's neck and brought his head back to look at his mate. "Like what?" He rumbled softly before gradually leaning forward for a kiss.

"The free medical clinics in the poorer sections of MKC." Terry said softly before claiming a gentle, loving kiss.

"And?" Jake smiled with half-lidded eyes as they parted.

"The University Scholarship program. Education for talented Kats who couldn't afford it otherwise." He said softly, listing one of his personal favorites and earning another kiss, this one longer and more inviting.

"Anything else?" He purred, barely backing off enough to speak.

"We're the biggest supporter of the WorldHarvest program, which is developing sustainable methods of agricultural for the increasing population, as well as helping less developed regions with famine problems." He said, beginning to be glad he'd handled the charitable projects division for a while.

Jake's smiled turned serious. "And the skeletons in the closet?"

"You mean the inevitable bad apples you get in a family this large?" He shrugged. "Yeah, we've had 'em. We've gotten lucky that they've never made it to head the family. I seem to recall that one of my grandfather's brothers turned out to be taking money from organized crime. We managed to repair the damage he'd done, after removing him.

"But our corporate problems are usually the non-family members, who don't see it the same way. Managers who overstep their authority, directors more interested in their profit margin than in keeping with the company vision."

"That's the worst of it?" Jake raised an eyebrow in suspicion.

"Well, it's not a subject we exactly teach our kits about." He said quietly. "We deal with them, fix whatever they did, and try to make sure it doesn't happen again. And for us, dealing with organized crime is considered pretty bad. I'll grant there might be something worse in almost eight hundred years of family history, every family has their problems."

Jake fell silent for a long moment, his gaze somewhere around the middle of Terry's neck.

"Will we have kits?" He asked very quietly.

"Assuming there's a way around us both being toms, I'd like to." Terry said sincerely. "Sounds like you'd like to." He leaned forward to kiss his mate gently.

"Surrogate mother," he murmured against his mate's mouth, "and there's tech."

"Tech?" Terry asked quietly. "Didn't know about that. Sounds interesting." He said before claiming another kiss.

"If a kit can be created from scratch, it should be possible." Jake whispered with a trace of pain.

"What's wrong, Jake?" Terry asked gently, nuzzling the lean tom.

"Just remembering." He shook his head. "Nothing I can prove."

"Something important?" He asked quietly. "You don't have to prove it first." He said reassuringly.

"Not really." Jake shrugged. "We both know they weren't my parents."

"Oh, yeah that was pretty clear." Terry nodded. "You don't really look like either of them. Wondering who your parents really were?" He asked sympathetically, not sure what it would be like without family and heritage.

Jake shook his head slightly. "I think I know. I just ... would rather not."

"Why?" Terry asked confused. "What could be so bad?" He asked, not really understanding.

Jake fell silent, his gaze unfocused as he pressed close.

"I don't have any." He whispered.

"What makes you say that?" Terry asked, holding the tom close.

"I saw some records once, in 'moms' stuff, reporting about me." Jake murmured very softly, trembling and afraid. "Genetic Constructs Batch One, Number 3."

With that said, Jake sagged, his strength gone.

"Okay, back to bed." He said, feeling none to steady himself as he pulled a comm unit out of one pocket. "Kar, this is Terry. You in the main house?"

"Yeah, front hall." His cousin's deep voice came back. "Wha'cha need?"

"Augustus' office. Need help getting Jake back to our room."

"Sure thing. Be right there."

A few minutes later, a big orange and gray tabby walked in. He was over six foot, and built like a bodybuilder. "You okay, Terry?"

"I'll be fine, Kar." He said standing unsteadily, and supporting his barely conscious mate. "Can you carry him?"

"This little fellow, sure." He said gently picking the unconscious Kat up, while Terry kept a hand on Jake's shoulder. "But shouldn't you two go to medical?"

"Trust me, Kar. It's better he wake up in a bed he's familiar with. I'll get medical if I think it's more serious."

"Okay, Terry. He's your LifeMate."

"That he is." The gray tom smiled affectionately.

Terry waved quietly to his cousin as the big tom departed. He gently pulled the covers up around Jake, and snuggled close to him in the big bed.

Without rousing Jake shifted to nuzzle him, settling again with a few muted whimpers and his nose buried in Terry's fur.

Terry gently stroked Jake's hair while he wondered if grandfather would mind a little digging into government circles. He decided it would probably be okay, but would have to wait till he and Jake had gotten some rest.

"*Ter?*" Jake's voice, very quiet and even more uncertain, danced across the gray toms nerves some time later.

"*Yeah, Jake?*" He replied quietly.

A jumble of confused thoughts flashed by before Jake managed to focus enough for words again. "*How can you love ... we're so different.*"

"*Maybe it is the differences.*" He thought quietly. "*Have you ever noticed how I love to watch you work. That's because you're creative in a way I never will be. You actually add something to the universe, while the best I can manage is to rearrange it.*" He paused. "*But really it's just feeling on my part, there isn't a real why to my loving you, I just do. Maybe I've said it before, but I feel complete when you're with me, and when we're apart something is missing. I don't like that 'missing' feeling.*"

Terry actually felt his mate's mind relax as it pulled away, back into just it's own body.

"I think I've got a new definition for hell week." Jake chuckled weakly.

"And it hasn't even been a week." Terry chuckled quietly, before turning serious. "Jake, do you want details on that project you saw the papers for? I can probably get them." He said gently.

Jake closed his eyes and relaxed to his back in the bed. "Yes and no ... I want to know, and about the others. If they survived."

"Okay, I'll get our intelligence division working on it." He nuzzled his mate comfortingly, though clearly a little distracted.

"And you?" Jake scratched Terry's chin.

Terry blinked. "And me what?"

"What's bothering you?"

Terry smiled. "Not bothering exactly, just something I've been thinking about." He said quietly. "What you said about putting something like SWAT together, as far as MKC defenses go. A few random ideas that started floating around, especially after I saw your reaction to what Chance has been saying about who created SWAT."

A bone deep shudder snapped Jake to fully enraged awareness. "That bastard is not getting credit."

"Easy, Jake." Terry said quietly. "What I have in mind will make sure he doesn't. Assuming you don't mind getting public credit as being Razor." He said gently.

The reflexive denial, even with Terry, was clear on Jake face before he relaxed a bit. "I guess not. It's not like it matters anymore."

"Exactly, and you do deserve the credit for all you did." He said supportively. "Other thing is do you mind me putting one of the elite fighter squads under SWAT colors? They may not be as good as the original but the appearance of continuity is good for public morale. If I recall an obscure section of the MKC legal code correctly, it will also allow Callie to do something she may already have been planning to do."

"Sure," Jake shrugged, then considered. "I'll definitely need to work on their jets, and some serious briefing time. There's a lot you couldn't have in the reports." He added, warming up to the idea considerably.

"Agreed." Terry relaxed, relieved that Jake seemed comfortable with the idea. "What's going to be different, is that now SWAT will be official. Answering to the Deputy Mayor's office, with you being officially recognized as having created SWAT, though no longer flying for unspecified personal reasons."

"Mm, yes, and if it's more than just a single team, they can still be stationed out here, and just head out to MKC when they on-duty." Jake suddenly chuckled. "Hell, I could not be flying anymore because I'm more useful on the ground."

Terry nodded. "Actually, the team in question consists of three pilot/ gunner pairs and a medic." He smiled. "They were brought together with the idea that the city would need someone after Clean Slate became necessary."

"And you're right. It works even better having you still part of SWAT but in a support role." Terry thought about something for a moment. "Good thing I put Callie's number on speed dial." He chuckled.

"How does their gear compare to SWAT? Not just the jet, but the rest?"

"The jets are as close as we could get, given you didn't design them." He smiled affectionately. "But they are our top of the line, better than anything we actually market. And the stealth performance may actually be better.

"We've managed a copy of the Glovatrix, though it's not nearly as versatile as the original. It's mostly climbing gear on the right hand, and the shield on the left. Uniforms are combination flight suit / body armor and contain a layer of blaster resistant material. Flight helmets also contain enhanced night vision gear. We actually did manage to add a Cyclotron like cycle to the jets in the latest upgrade.

"There's probably a lot of stuff, SWAT had that this group doesn't."

"Though you've got at least two of everything now, plus me." Jake grinned and rolled to face his mate. "And we are going to kick some serious tail."

"So shall we give Callie a call and let her know her problems aren't as big as she thought?" Terry grinned, as he leaned to kiss Jake quickly.

"In a bit." Jake rumbled and followed the kiss back down, claiming a much more intense one as his hands ran down Terry's clothed body, as the gray Kat ran his hands along his mate's back. "Right now, it's just you, me, and lust." Jake purred hungrily as he shifted to rub their bodies together.

"What a wonderful threesome." Terry murred, as he trailed kisses down the lean tom's jaw line.

"Then get rid of the clothes." Jake rumbled with a chuckle as rocked up to kneel over his mate and pulled his shirt off.

Terry chuckled, and quickly shed his clothing paying little attention to where it end up as Jake ran his hands and mouth everywhere but to actually interrupt the shedding of Terry's clothes.

"Lube?" Jake breathed into Terry's ear as he pressed against the gray tom's back.

"Night stand." Terry murred, nodding to the upper drawer.

Jake murred back and licked his mate's ear before fetching it. He was suddenly a little shy as he came back over.

Terry noticed the shyness and raised an eyebrow. "You seem a little uncertain." He observed sympathetically.

"I ... want to mount you." He shifted a little uneasily, but met his mate's eyes surely.

Terry smiled encouragingly. "I'm willing, you know that." He said warmly. "How do you want me?" He asked tenderly.

"Face me," he said a little more sure of himself.

Terry rolled to his back so he was looking up at Jake, and put his legs up, and tail out of the way. He smiled warm encouragement to his mate as Jake smeared a large dollop of lube on his fingers.

With careful attention Jake pressed one finger forward, as aware of his mate's long lack of this, as his own inexperience.

Terry concentrated on relaxing the muscles as his mate pressed forward. A slight sigh of pleasure passed his lips as the finger entered him. He purred lightly giving voice to his pleasure as Jake concentrated on what he was doing, hesitantly adding a second finger.

The gray Kat moaned, and rumbled in pleasure as the second finger entered, giving his mate a little more assurance in his work.

"Is that enough?" Jake asked as he continued to move his fingers in and out.

Terry had to remember what 'ready' felt like, which took a moment. "Yes, feels right." He said not hiding his excitement, and the tip of his cock peeking from its sheath made his arousal equally plain.

"Get you hard first, or now?" He asked hesitantly.

"You mounting me, will get me hard." Terry rumbled seductively. "Take me, love." He said his voice full of warm encouragement for his nervous mate.

Jake nodded as he drew a deep breath to steady himself before coating his cock and pressing the tip against the tight pucker. His breathing increased as he fought down conditioning and fear as he held there, determined not to let the past take his future from him.

Very slowly, trembling with fear and determination, he pressed forward with his eyes locked on his mate's. Drawing strength from the desire and loving there.

Terry sighed, deeply contented at the full sensation he got from Jake being inside, if only a little way. He rumbled deep in his chest, strongly aroused by having his mate inside him, his fully erect cock making a dark pink flagpole against his dark gray fur as the welcome invasion continued.

Jake was nearly hyperventilating with whimpers when he stopped about halfway in, locked in a battle between will and fear.

Terry reached one hand out to gently touch his mate's chest. "Together there is nothing we can't overcome." He said supportively. "Fuck me, love. We both want it, and no one else matters." He said, trying to lend strength to the struggling tom, through his touch and words.

The words locked onto something even deeper than the fear as Jake suddenly relaxed and pressed forward, up to his sheath. He held there for a moment, focusing on his mate's desire more than his own pleasure as he began to pull out smoothly.

Even as the movement made him moan and rumble with pleasure, he kept his hand in contact with his mate. "Yes, that's it." He said encouragingly, though pleasure made his breathing a little rough.

A shallow nod acknowledged the statement as Jake settled into a steady, strong rhythm of thrusts; pulling all the way out to the smooth tip and forward until his sheath was pressed back against his balls.

Terry moaned and rumbled his pleasure with each stroke, and a deep purr began emanating from his chest. The sheer pleasure of Jake mounting him was almost enough to push Terry over the edge but he forced himself back, not wanting to come to soon. Eventually, physical limits won out over good intentions. He roared with pleasure as intense muscle spasms blasted gouts of his seed across his chest.

Almost on cue Jake roared, his eyes closed as he thrust forward hard several times as a pleasure he hadn't known before rushed threw his body in a tingling, muscle locking wave he welcomed in blind devotion.

As Terry caught his breath Jake strained forward a last time with a second throaty roar and held there for a heartbeat before collapsing forward as his arms gave out. Reflexively Terry caught his mate and lowered to the bed next to him where he pulled the tom close to snuggle. "That was wonderful, Jake." The gray tom said with warm approval.

"Did it," he chuckled with a slightly manic edge before claiming a fierce, hard jaw-lock. "I did it." He trilled again, trembling with intense excitement.

"Yes, you did." Terry agreed, reinforcing the tom's excitement with his own pleasure at his mate's success.

"Cook for us?" Jake purred seductively as he licked his mate's ear after they'd both dressed.

"Sure." Terry smiled, turning to claim a quick kiss. "There's small kitchen on this floor. Anything in particular you'd like?"

"No, just your cooking." He murred. "The staff is good, but it's not the same."

"Thank you." Terry smiled, as he opened the door out of the bedroom. "I do enjoy it."

"You can bring me up to speed on this SWAT project while we're at it." He grinned eagerly.

"Sure thing, what didn't I cover before that you wanted to know?" He asked conversationally as they walked down the hall toward the small kitchen.

"What kind of rotation are they on?" Jake started. "And are they all expected to be airborne at once, or is this one or two jets and three teams?"

"There are three pairs, each with its own jet." Terry explained as he started gathering ingredients from the kitchen. "Under 'normal' conditions each 'team' is on standby for eight hours, and then off for sixteen, though all team members will be considered 'on-call'.

"If trouble is expected by not actually present, they'd change to a eight-on, eight-off, eight on-alert rotation pattern. Actual crisis would put one team in the air, and the other two on stand-by as back-up." He said as he located the various tools needed for cooking.

"Training, specialties?" Jake prompted as he found an out of the way counter to watch from. "Who are they?"

"All team members have completed our intensive anti-terrorism program in addition to their prior training and background. They also have advanced first aid training. All personnel are certified combat pilots, just in case.

"Team one pilot is Cassy 'Frostwind' Eckers, graduate of the Protector Academy, five years active duty. Specialty is hand to hand combat.

"Team one gunner is Raven 'Longshot' Malinak, graduate of Enforcer Academy, four years on active duty. Specialty is Electronic Warfare and Intelligence.

"Team two pilot is Harshan 'Mirage' Meshabi, originally served with the Bandits of the Bright Desert, recruited six years ago. Extremely reliable. Specialty is Tactics and Motorcycle combat.

"Team two gunner is Matthew 'Striker' BrightClaw, graduate of Enforcer Academy, two years active duty, dismissed for giving Lt. Cmdr. Steele a serious thrashing." He chuckled. "Four years active duty with Port Haven Protectors. Specialty is Stealth Operations and Hostage Rescue.

"Team three pilot is Avon 'Slingshot' Thorton, graduate Protector Academy, seven years active duty. Specialty is Security Systems and Demolitions."

"Team three gunner is Tracy 'Valkyrie' Nordecki, ten year test pilot for Halycon, completed Protector Academy with flying colors, and surprisingly deadly in hand to hand combat. Specialty is Computer Operations and Research, secondary specialty in Trauma counseling."

"Are they around?" Jake cocked his head. "So I can get to know them, and start the training you couldn't do. These are the jets I'll really need to know their teams for."

"I'll have to check." Terry said as he cooked. "They should be, the recall order was issued when Clean Slate was initiated. They're going to be really jazzed by this, they never expected to meet you." He said with a smile.

Jake looked at him strangely before shaking his head. "It's going to take some getting used to, having strangers think I'm special."

"It's more common than you think." He said gently. "Your masked identity has a fair amount of popularity."

"I just don't think of him as me very often." Jake shrugged with something of a chuckle.

"Speaking of masked identities." He said quietly. "The team doesn't know what's happened, or what happened between you and Chance. Please, try not to jump down their throats when they ask about T-bone, and I'm sure they will."

"I'll try my best to remember." Jake nodded tensely. "In a way, he never really hurt me." He stopped and sighed. "I'll really try not to snap. Hopefully we can get that over with in one round."

"Once we explain that he won't be with the new unit, that should be the end of it." He said as he drained the boiling water off the pasta.

"It'll be nice to not be on the front line anymore." Jake murmured as he watched his mate move with a relaxed contentment at odds with his voice.

"It may be selfish of me, but it'll be nice not to have you on the front line, anymore." He said as he took the sauce off the burner while, and checked the garlic bread.

"It's not selfish, Ter." Jake murmured with a soft smile as he came up behind his mate to kiss Terry's neck. "It's right."

"Guess it's easier, since we're both getting off the front lines." He said quietly, turning to kiss Jake quickly before shifting his attention to the counter and rapidly cutting up some fresh fruit.

"We've done our share, and then some." Jake murred. "It's time for others to take up the banner while we teach the kits how to survive."

"Agreed. SWAT proved that a rapid response team independent of the main military could work, and handle major crisis' better than by the book responses." He agreed. "Time to put that hard earned knowledge to use, and show others how it's done."

"I'm going to miss it a little," he admitted, "but not that much. He was always the one who really wanted it."

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't going to miss the PI business some, but I never cared for the getting-shot-at part that much." He said as he pulled the garlic bread out.

"Yeah, that never was the fun part." Jake actually chuckled as he snagged a piece of bread. "But it felt good making a real difference."

"Yes, it did." He smiled. "And we will still be making a difference, just in a different way." He said as he looked at the sauce, pasta, bread and fruit and nodded. "Okay, help yourself we're being informal." He grinned as he handed Jake a plate and silverware. "Milk good?" He asked as he pulled down two glasses.

"Works for me." He grinned and stole a quick kiss as Terry moved and served a large plate, especially of the garlic bread.

Terry led the way into the large underground hanger, where three advanced swept wing jets with gray and black paint jobs were parked. Six individuals in gray and black uniforms similar to the jets lounged about near the closest jet.

"So what d'ya think this is about?" A gray and white shekat wondered out loud.

"SunClaw said it was important, and given Clean Slate was initiated that would lead to certain conclusions. But we will find out in good time." A tall, King Cheetah Xanith said easily from where he lay under the jet.

"Sure, Mirage nothing to worry about." A lanky six foot tall gray on gold tabby smirked from where he leaned against the jet's fuselage. "You are way too calm. Something big is happening."

"Perhaps, but it will happen whether you worry or not. All the worry in the world will not move sand of the Bright Desert." The Xanith said with lazy certainty.

"Well, I talked to my cousin Greg, and there's something major going on at Enforcer HQ. He wouldn't say what, but I know stress in someone's voice when I hear it." The athletic light gray tom with white points said confidently.

"Hey Striker, you mean your cousin wouldn't tell you something? Must be big and bad." A wiry Red Fox Kantin quipped.

"Guys, they're here." A short athletic dark reddish-brown shekat commented looking up where Jake and Terry were descending the stairs.

"Okay, people." Terry said with a smile, as he and Jake reached the group. "This is my mate, Jake 'Razor' BrightClaw. And yes, that Razor."
"Jake, going around that's Cassy 'Frostwind' Eckers." He said indicating the gray and white shekat.

"Raven 'Longshot' Malinak." He said indicating the tabby leaning against the jet.

"Harshan 'Mirage' Meshabi." Terry said pointing to the Xanith under the jet.

"Matthew 'Striker' BrightClaw." He nodded to the smirking light gray tom.

"Avon 'Slingshot' Thorton." He said, taking a moment to locate the Red Fox who was lounging behind Mirage.

"And Tracy 'Valkyrie' Nordecki." He said nodding to the reddish brown shekat.

Jake let his eyes and other senses run over the group, taking their measure, just as he took their gears.

"Who here is ready to face Dark Kat, and walk away with no lives lost?" He challenged them.

That challenge got chorus of "Hell, yeah's", with two quiet exceptions. The Xanith and the reddish shekat.

"If Dark Kat can be eliminated without loss of life that is good, otherwise life is simply the coin to buy the world freedom from him." The Xanith said philosophically.

"Dark Kat, or whatever the psycho of the week is. Take 'em on and take 'em down." The reddish shekat said coolly.

Jake nodded, considering the group as a dangerous smile crossed his face. "We'll see. Let's phrase that differently. Who here thinks they're better than me?"

There was a bit of nervous laughter and general demurring to Jake's experience, except for Valkyrie.

"Better in what area of expertise?" She asked evenly.

"General survival, SWAT's job." He focused on her, then swept his gaze over the rest of the group. "You do realize those two questions are the same thing. If you can take down Dark Kat, with or without casualties, you're better than we were." He locked eyes with each in tern. "And you will be when I'm done with you."

There was a murmur of surprise from the group. They hadn't really considered being better as a possibility, they'd just been hoping for 'as good as'.

"Seeing as you're here, will T-bone be joining us?" Cassy asked casually.

"No." Jake managed to keep his voice fairly level, though his body language made it abundantly clear this was touchy subject. "T-Bone is dead. So's Razor, for that matter. You are the new SWAT. I'll give you what advantages I can, but in the end it'll be up to each of you, as partners, to make this work."

There was general acceptance, but a little confusion at the statement that Razor was dead. It seemed to conflict with reality, but was quickly shrugged off. If Razor wanted to say he was dead, who were they to argue.

"Well, we were ready to go at this on our own." Cassy said with a smile. "So with you helping us, we're really gonna kick tail." She said with a grin, an attitude echoed by her teammates.

"Then let's start with showing off what you know." Jake grinned at them. "And don't be surprised if I get nosey about everything." He chuckled. "You're gear will be better, the better I know you."

There was general acceptance, as the team waited to see just what he wanted them to show off first.

Jake chuckled low in his throat and shook his head. "Pair up, gunner and pilot. Hand to hand combat's first." He focused on the gray and white shekat, Cassy. "And the 'winner' doesn't necessarily mean the one to puts their opponent down." Then swept his gaze over the rest of the group. "I am looking for something in your styles."

Cassy nodded. "There's combat mats in the gym." She supplied nodding toward the door in the far wall of the hanger.

With a nod the lean cinnamon tom headed for them. He took in central part of the gym, which contained a large combat mat, easily big enough for a half dozen pair combats. "This'll work. Which team wants to go first?"

"C'mon Avon." The reddish brown shekat said as no one was quick to volunteer.

The Red Fox nodded a little reluctantly and stepped into the center of the matt with her, reflexively dropping into a defensive position against his gunner.

Valkyrie's first strike was lightning quick, sliding past the Fox's defenses to strike his solar plexus. It would've been a devastating strike, but she seemed to have put no power behind it, as if demonstrating that she could hit there. Her block against his counterattack was fluid and seemingly effortless.

"Hold." Jake ordered calmly as he stepped into the ring. "Try that with me, Valkyrie." He nodded at the shekat and dropped into a defensive stance with every sense fully open, and his nervous systems encrypting its signals to attempt confuse her.

Valkyrie nodded, and snapped through a lightning strike that connected hard with the lean Kat's shoulder, harder than her 5' 3" frame would seem to support.

Jake grunted and rolled with the hit, his surprise clear on his face as she saw his tactics abruptly change in the possible futures that were always floating just within her reach.

With lethal speed he closed for a fist strike that was deflected, but connected with his foot to her side just below the ribs before moving with both their momentum to dance away.

A respectful look for the connecting strike was followed by a increase in speed, just before an untelegraphed snap kick struck Jake at the knee.

"Yield." Jake called even as he involuntarily went down and rolled to his feet, grateful he'd shut off pain even as he tested the stability of his left leg. "We need to have a chat in private." He regarded her with both respect and curiosity. "I don't suppose you can fight without that trick?"

Terry, who'd been watching at the edge, was immediately at Jake's side offering a shoulder to lean on, while Jake was testing the stability of the leg, which was quickly determined to be basically uninjured.

There was a brief moment of confusion before the combat focus faded. "What trick?" She asked.

"Answer enough," Jake nodded as he stepped out of the ring. "We can discus this in private. Avon, you'll be advancing to the next round. Who's the next team to show off?"

A brief look of panic crossed Valkyrie's face before Avon put his hand on her shoulder. "It's okay, Val. It's not a defeat." He said so quietly, that no one but Valkyrie and Jake could hear him. She looked at him, nodded shallowly and walked to the far edge of the gym.

"The knee okay?" Terry asked quietly.

"She didn't strike to injure." He nodded before walking after the rusty shekat. "I'll be fine."

"Valkyrie," Jake said quietly when he got close. "Avon had it right. I understand your fighting style, now I need to see his. It's not about win or loose."

Valkyrie nodded, still clearly shaken by something. "I understand."

"Okay, Longshot let's do this." Cassy said to her lanky partner as she stepped on to the mat and dropped into a fluid, pensive stance.

Jake nodded, and kept a careful eye on Valkyrie as he regarded team two as Raven stepped into the ring with the team's hand-to-hand expert.

The gray and gold tabby with an even leaner build than Jake made a quick feint, determined to make a good showing even if he didn't have a prayer of winning.

Cassy caught the feint and redirected the tabby into a throw, sending him across the mat where he rolled to his feet.

Jake nodded as Striker surrendered to Mirage. "Hit the showers if you want, I'll probably drive you crazy next." He called out to them with a chuckle, then turned to Valkyrie. "Are you okay to talk to me?"

"I'm okay." She said from where she was sitting at the edge of gym, after looking at Avon who nodded.

"Would the two of you come into the office then?" Jake asked softly.

Valkyrie nodded and stood. "Yes, sir." She said politely.

"Of course." Avon agreed easily and followed Jake in a private office space behind the hanger.

"Please, I'm Jake." He smiled encouragingly at her as he shut the door. "I work for a living."

"Yes, Jake." She said quietly, a little confused but accepting.

"So do we." Avon smiled. "Its just standard here for pilots and gunners to be officers. And no matter how you measure it, you do outrank the lot of us, Jake."

"Point taken," he shook his head. "Chalk it up to a personal quirk, I don't like the title." He turned serious, focusing on the pair. "Just what happened out there?"

"I don't know." Valkyrie said quietly, clearly hitting some kind of wall, a look Jake knew the inside of far too well.

"Not sure exactly." Avon said putting a reassuring hand on his partner's shoulder. "It's happened before, once or twice. Val seems to have a bad reaction to combat defeats, especially in tournament-style settings." He paused, until he caught the reddish shekat's shallow nod. "The first time I saw it happen, I asked her what was wrong and she said she was waiting to be punished.

"Jake, I know Val well enough to know if something scares her like that it has to be pretty bad, she doesn't scare easily."

"Winner gets praise, loser gets punishment." She muttered, fear tingeing her scent.

"I'm sorry, Val." Jake said softly. "I could have set that up differently, I just didn't think to." He moved closer to her and met her eyes certainly with an understanding of that kind of fear showing in them. "For what the words are worth, Valkyrie, you're not going to be punished here, not by me, and not for failure, even if that had been one."

"Not your fault." She said quietly. "You couldn't have known. And I believe you, Jake." She said, relaxing noticeably.

"Thank you." He smiled with a shadow of the loss haunting him, then backed away a bit to taken them both in. "Are there any more of these quirks in the teams you know about?"

"Only thing that comes to mind is that Mirage really doesn't like or trust females in positions of power or authority. He's learning but it's still real obvious when somebody like Lt. Cmdr. Syndri visits."

"Disobedience level?" Jake went slightly tense.

"We don't answer to her, so it's not an issue. But you can just smell the distrust, along with anger and some fear. I think it would depend on the female in question."

Jake nodded. "Thanks for the heads up. MKC may well have a female Commander soon." He said darkly, then relaxed and patted their shoulders.

"Is that what all the secured traffic is about?" Valkyrie asked curiously. "Secured traffic over the main bridge has increased threefold in the last twenty-four hours. And Striker can't even get news out of his cousin who's a senior officer in MKC."

"Some of it." Jake nodded. "That's not the only thing doing down."

"Yeah, well that's no surprise since Clean Slate was activated with the TurboKat in one piece and you alive. Something bad went down and now the fallout's coming in." Avon said quietly.

Valkyrie looked at Jake intently, though her eyes seemed to be looking a around and past him. "Yes, and you say Razor and T-bone are both dead, but neither Kat is, though the identity may be. Something very bad indeed."

"*My sympathy for your pain, Jake.*" Her voice, deep in sympathy and the understanding of pain seemed to jump the space between them to resonate along his nerves.

He half jumped in surprise, but relaxed almost as quickly and brushed the back of his hand against her arm with a soft smile. "*Thank you.*" He whispered back before nodded at both of them. "Very bad, and not something we expected." Jake sighed. "Which makes it worse. We may see a world war before this is settled."

The two of them blinked surprised. "That bad?" Valkyrie asked, clearly not having considered that before. "Guess maybe that's why Thunder and Lightning are active, I saw their Wraiths on maneuvers a few hours ago."

"That bad." Jake nodded and opened the door. "At least a half dozen significant powers are intimately involved, and it may well be more."

"So how do we fit in?" Avon asked quietly, clearly speaking of the team as a whole.

"Just as you've trained for." Jake said as they rejoined the other four members near their jets. "To protect MKC and the world as the SWAT Kats have the last six years."

"How does that work if there's a World War going on?" Valkyrie asked quietly.

"Your work gets harder, but not much different." Jake shook his head. "SWAT's always dealt with what the Enforcers couldn't. That won't change."

"There's just likely to be more that they can't deal with." Cassy said from where she was leaning against her jet. "Any indication how sides are shaping up for this potential war?" She asked evenly.

Jake considered a moment before shrugging and relaxing back against the jet across from her. "Some. One side is the Kingdom of Teveris. Another is Commander Feral. The Mayor's Office of MegaKat City is siding with us, or we're siding with them, depending on how you look at it. Those at the major factions at the moment at least."

Terry walked back in. "An alliance would be a fairly good description." He said easily. "You'll want to reprogram the paint job on your jets, to pattern two. This unit will officially take over as SWAT, a special defense force under the Deputy Mayor's office effective tomorrow morning. And we have a press conference to do, or more accurately we have to be an Deputy Mayor Briggs' official unveiling of the new addition to the city's defenses." He said with a smile.

Cassy blinked. "Official? I thought we were supposed to unofficial, same as the original." She asked surprised, but quietly pleased.

"Circumstances dictated a change in plans." Terry said simply.

"What do the other uniforms look like?" Jake glanced at his mate curiously. "I never really thought about trying to make a unified look out of that."

Terry looked at the squad. "Why don't you get into the SWAT uniforms?" He said watching as they head to the lockerrooms. "We took the SWAT colors and let the house uniform designer work with them for a while. There's actually three forms; fatigues, the body armor, and the dress blues."

"Dress?" Jake quirked an eyebrow as he moved over to embrace his mate. "Now that's something I never thought of. They'll be wearing them tomorrow, I expect ... we'll be wearing them?"

"All official military personnel have them, so I had them made for the squad. Yes, tomorrow is definitely a dress uniform occasion. And ours will be ready before it's time to depart tomorrow." He said putting his arms around Jake. "Callie was, to say the least, thrilled to find out she hadn't lost SWAT after all. Especially to find out you were staying involved."

"As much as it hurts, I still balk at abandoning my city." Jake sighed. "Like it or not, it's been my territory a long time."

"Some habits are hard to break." Terry said understandingly. "My family has put a lot of years and lives into protecting it. And it's not likely to stop needing SWAT anytime soon."

"No," he agreed sadly. "Do you think Mirage will have much trouble with Callie?"

"I don't think so. From what little he's said about the Witches, she's not likely to remind him of one. When he was first recruited, it would have been a different story."

"Good," Jake murred and closed his eyes as he relaxed in Terry's arms, soaking his senses in the gray tom's existence. "We have a quirky group so far," he chuckled against Terry's neck. "It's a good sign."

"So you were able to handle things with Valkyrie? That's a reaction I'd never seen before." he said quietly.

"We understand each other." Jake nodded with a soft, sad smile. "She's calmed down, and I know how to avoid it."

"That's good." Terry said sincerely. "She's very good at what she does. She also plays a mean game of chess." Terry smiled as Jake nuzzled him.

"I can't believe I'm tired." Jake sighed with a mutter as he shifted back enough to look at his mate. "Do you have many details on our status? The team'll need to know."

"I can believe it." Terry smiled. "But what kind of details do you mean?"

"Well, like who ranks who with the Enforcers. Do we have the Yard back, did she add anything to the basic mission statement of dealing with the super-creeps ... that kind of thing."

"With regards to the Enforcers it comes down to domain. If it falls inside out mission parameters then we have authority otherwise, they do. We're completely separate chains of command. While the Enforcers can request our assistance, they can not give SWAT orders.

"Mission profile includes the basic dealing with super-criminals as it did before, but SWAT also has jurisdiction where the 'weird and unusual' are concerned. This includes visitors from other planets, times and dimensions.

"No one has been at the Yard, except one very brief visit by Chance, since this started. Callie said it's ours if we want it."

"It's a good base and set up for this kind of thing, at least until something better can be built." Jake said quietly. "At the very least it's much closer than here if they have to hand fast somewhere secure, for supplies or repair."

"Ever give any thought to what the 'something better' would be?" Terry asked encouragingly.

"As a headquarters?" Jake looked at Terry as he saw Mirage and Striker come back in. "A little. I mean, I made a lot of improvements to the Yard with that in mind."

"Well, you've got a lot more freedom to design now." Terry smiled, noticing the rest of the team file in wearing the dress uniforms. They were very smartly tailored incorporating SWAT's blue and red while still maintaining the formal dignity of a dress uniform.

"Attractive," Jake nodded as he looked over the team in approval, his eyes lingering a moment longer on Valkyrie than the others.

"They did come out good." He observed, pleased with the fourth try at the uniform. "Now to see if we can get the jets dressed as easily." He smiled. "Longshot, please activate the MPS and bring up paint design two." He said, seeing the tabby was closest to his jet.

"Yes, sir." The lanky tom said before climbing into his jet. There was a delay, and then the black and gray paint scheme was replaced by a paint scheme almost identical to the TurboKat's.

Jake regarded the new pattern with interest, then around the hanger. "Is there a C&C craft?"

"Not particularly, since under normal circumstances it was expected that only one craft would be in the air at a time. In the cases where more than one craft is in the air at the same time, they've trained to work as wingmen, with Frostwind serving as wingleader, unless she isn't in the air. In that case, Striker is wingleader.

"Their training was that six of them would function independent of outside guidance. Necessary given the assumptions made regarding what circumstances would surround their activation."

"Might be worth it to build a Raven," Jake said, mostly to himself. "Especially with the active hunting the next few years will bring. A dedicated sensory craft could be useful."

Longshot blinked, and looked at Jake curiously having heard his name.

Terry smiled. "You've got the resources to do so." He said supportively.

Jake nodded and looked over the group again. "Just how restrictive are those uniforms?"

Terry smiled. "The designer is a hand-to-hand combat instructor. They don't impair combat ability. I wanted the team to be able to jump into combat from a formal event without having their combat efficiency impaired."

"Now that's a first." He chuckled, suppressing a yawn.

"I always hated the dress uniform." Terry smirked. "Feeling a need for a nap?" Terry whispered gently.

"Yeah." Jake shook his head, rather irritated by it.

"Even you don't bounce back from hell week in a day." He said affectionately.

"I used to." Jake grumbled in amusement then looked over at his new team. "My working project for you. What would make the gear better. And don't worry about possible, just what you'd like it to do. I'm sure you can get a look at the originals if you want, except for the TurboKat herself."

That elicited excitement from the team as they headed off to look at the originals.

Terry smiled. "Just remember, launch is at 7:30am be here and in dress blues by 7:15." He reminded them as they left. "We'll have to be careful to time our sleep habits so we're not napping then." He smirked at his mate.

"That's what an alarm clock is for." Jake said with a wide yawn. "But 7:15 is gods awfully early."

"Press conference is at nine, and Callie needs us there early to get things set up. Fortunately it's only a ten minute flight."

"Fortunately, yes." Jake nuzzled him affectionately. "That's still an hour before we used to open."

"And you rarely slept till then." Terry chuckled. "And your team has two who sleep much the same, or more accurately don't sleep much the same." He teased gently, affectionately.

Jake grumbled good naturedly and shook his head. "You know I'll sleep in a jet, but if you want to be comfortable ..."

"Let's go back to the bedroom. You may be able to sleep in a jet, but I've never been able to." He said leading the way out of the hanger and back to the main house.

Terry woke to the most intense sexual arousal he could remember, a nose full of his mate's equally excited scent, and remnants of an intense mating dream staring Valkyrie.

Terry shook his head, not sure whether to find that disturbing, arousing or something else. He found it strange that Jake would react that strongly to someone he'd just met.

"Murrph?" Jake blinked himself awake to roll half over to look at his mate.

"Nope, not time yet." Terry smiled.

"Mmm, you're turned on." Jake purred, and rolled over to face him for a kiss.

"So are you." Terry murred claiming a kiss. "As far as I can tell one of your dreams turned me on." He chuckled.

"Valkyrie?" Jake chuckled deep in his throat as he rubbed their bodies together.

"Yeah, kind of a surprise." He chuckled. "Considering you just met her."

Jake kind of shrugged before trailing one finger along his mate's hard cock. "No faster than I decided I liked you, Callie, Sandy or Chance."

Terry nodded. "Okay. Guess I'm just a slowpoke about such things." He chuckled, then murred appreciatively at Jake's attentions. "She is a very interesting person." He added, claiming another kiss, more passionate this time.

"I know," Jake breathed as he nipped Terry's neck gently. Then he suddenly stopped to look at his LifeMate. "Does the desire bother you? That I'd want a female."

"Jake, I'm not blind." Terry said gently. "I've always known you were interested in females, for a long time I wondered why you passed on the obvious interest Callie had in you. Now I've got a good idea why, and I guess I just wonder if you're settling for toms because of that trauma." He said quietly as Jake looked away.

"It's ... about trust." Jake said very quietly. "Not male or female. I trust you."

Terry nodded, and nuzzled Jake reassuringly. "That means a lot to me, Jake." He said warmly. "I know trust isn't easy for you."

"This trust is harder than most." He added. "I wish I could have returned Callie's affections, or Sandy's. It just wasn't there, to risk it."

"It's how you were hurt, of course it's harder." Terry said sympathetically. "And it was a female that hurt you, it's a hard thing to get around." He nuzzled Jake gently. "I kind of wish you could have too, would've been good for you." He said quietly, but sincerely.

"Good for me?" Jake looked up in confusion.

"To get past that trauma so you could do as you chose." He explained. "No one should have their life dictated by another."

Jake sagged with a pain-filled sigh. "Ter, as much as you mean to me, nothing in my life was by choice. No amount of money, power or desire's going to change the fact that it's going to be dictated by someone else, and it's not going to be what I'd hoped for."

"And what was that?" Terry asked, very quietly.

Jake blinked, caught off guard and surprised. "Hell if I know." He sighed. "I'm sorry, Terry. Life is about compromise. I'm so far into it ..." he pressed his face against war, gray fur. "I'm so far ... I just want to be happy with a nice, simple life. It's not going to happen."

Terry sighed. "Nice I can probably manage...but simple, hell I don't even know what simple is." His shoulders slumped. "I tried to find it for a while, but it never lasted. But maybe we'll find happiness yet." He said quietly. "If it really exists." He said with considerable doubt.

Jake smiled softly and brushed his fingers along Terry's cheek. "I know what happiness is. Or at least what it feels like."

Terry leaned toward the touch, smiling slightly. "Guess maybe I'm thinking too hard. Guess this week's got me more turned around than I want to admit." He said quietly.

"I don't think anyone could blame you." Jake kissed him gently. "It's been a hell of a few days."

Terry smiled. "No one else would, but I'm not good at giving myself much slack."

"That's why we have each other." Jake chuckled with a lick to Terry's nose. "To remind each other that even we can be forgiven."

"And to make sure that between the two of us, we still have two oars in the water." He chuckled, giving Jake a quick kiss.

"Because our other two are otherwise occupied." Jake purred and snuggled close, trailing one hand along the cleft of Terry's ass to tease the sensitive pucker there.

"Sometimes we just don't put the oars in the water." Terry murred, enjoying Jake's touch. He tenderly explored the soft cinnamon fur of Jake's back with his hands, while nuzzling him tenderly.

"It can be fun to drift." Jake crooned as he slipped down the dark gray chest, kissing and licking as he sought his goal.

"It's relaxing, something we need to do more often." He purred, gently massaging the Kat's ears.

"Yes, we do." Jake murred as he nuzzled the fledgling erection in soft gray fur. "Game for being the bottom again?"

"Any time you like, Jake." Terry purred gently. "I enjoy both roles."

"I'm beginning to." He gave his mate a last nuzzle before urging Terry to roll forward.

"Ter?" Jake nuzzled his lifemate awake near dawn.

"Yes, Jake?" Terry replied, turning to face his mate.

"Just what is my role in this thing?"

"Is the thing you're asking about the new SWAT?" Terry asked gently, not wanting to jump to conclusions.

"Yeah," he rolled to his back. "They look at me like a CO, I was acting like one today. But I'm not their leader ... I don't want to be. That 'sir' business is bad enough."

Terry nodded. "I'm afraid its at least partially because in their minds, you're Razor and there's a certain level of hero worship." He snuggled against his mate's side. "And if you're going to train them like you said, that does assume a certain level of authority.

"You make a good CO, by the way." Terry smiled. "But I think you're more of a drill sergeant and armorer. If you look at the organizational chart, I'm the listed CO."

"So where do I fall, as drill sergeant and armorer?" He asked uncertainly.

"Above them, effectively second in command. At least on the ground. Cassy's a very good squad leader in the air."

"Do we use rank?" He asked quietly, trying to work something through in his mind.

Terry thought about it. "Not really. The members of SWAT are employees of a private company, not a military outfit. Though they all retain their rank of Lieutenant in the Protectors. I'm CO, cause I created the unit and because of my position in the company."

"So just what do I answer to in the presentation?" Jake bit his lip. "I don't have rank anymore, and I'm not Razor ..."

"Remember I asked if you'd mind being publicly acknowledged as Razor?" He said gently. "You'll be introduced the same way I introduced you to the team. I expect the bulk of the questions will be directed to me and Callie honestly. You're there primarily to demonstrate that this team is a continuation of what you started with the original SWAT."

"Oh," Jake murred softly. "But in the new uniform?"

"I didn't think you'd want to wear the old one, and it's appropriate since you're part of the new organization." Terry said gently.

"So how do they know it's Razor?"

"Guess I'm hoping they'll buy Callie saying so, she asked me to see if you'd wear the old costume, but after everything that's happened I just couldn't." He said quietly.

"We could take the TurboKat in." Jake offered after a shiver. "She's at least as recognized as the old uniform."

"That's true. I'm sure Rik would be thrilled."

"What would you take in?" Jake suddenly tensed.

"Probably one of our courier jets. I'm sure as hell not qualified to fly the TurboKat." Terry smiled. "And Rik is."

"So am I." Jake reminded him a touch defensively. "She can be flown combat by one. This is easy. The autopilot could handle it."

"I guess I just feel out of place in combat aircraft." Terry said quietly. "But I can travel with you in the TurboKat, if you'd like. Rik's not really part of SWAT, so he doesn't really need to be there."

"I'd ... prefer that." Jake admitted quietly.

"Okay, then we'll do it that way." Terry said gently.

"Do you like Valkyrie?" Jake asked softly, still staring at the ceiling.

"Val?" Terry repeated, surprised by the change of subject. "Yes, I'd say so."

"Is ... well, do you know if she likes toms?"

"I've never asked, but I think so." Terry said quietly. "She certainly gives the toms on the team the kind of looks you'd associate with liking toms."

"Would ... if she likes me, like that ... would it bother you if I spend some time with her?"

Terry smiled gently. "No, it wouldn't bother me. Maybe she'll be able to help with the scars I can't." He said with a warmth that was completely accepting.

"Thank you." Jake rolled to snuggle against his LifeMate. "Do ... do you think she'd be ... influenced ... by our rank?"

"I don't think so. Val's only sort of aware of rank anyway, she only went through the Academy for the training. She's got a pretty solid separation of personal and professional selves."

"Good," he murred and snuggled close, relaxing back into a resting state.

"Felina?" Lt. Cmdr. Kylen NightWind's deep voice asked as her office door opened after a quick knock.

Felina sighed and put away a few half-written drafts she'd been working on, looking up once the drawer was locked. "Come on in, Kylen. Something wrong?"

"Kind of depends on your definition of 'wrong'." The large Saber-toothed Snow Leopard said quietly as he shut the door and found a spot on her desk to rest his hip on. "You're stressing way beyond what's made the scuttlebutt."

"What's made the scuttlebutt then? I haven't been keeping up on the gossip mill as much as I used to."

"That the Commander assaulted an x-Enforcer, to protect his affair with a cadet." He said quietly. "I know a little more of the truth than that."

"Then I suppose telling you the rumors aren't true wouldn't do any good would it. Or that I just had a few rough days, and the stress must be getting to me. Oh, hell, anything like that'd be insulting both of us." She sighed deeply before continuing. "How much do you know? And, more importantly, what do you plan on doing about it?"

"I know the assault was a rape, blackmail from a foreign power was involved, and the Enforcers are being ripped apart by it." Kylen twitched his long, heavily furred gray rosetted tail uneasily. "I suspect a few names involved include the SWAT Kats, and there are more special ops teams running around this city for various powers that be to make anyone with a clue nervous.

"As for what I'm going to do, it really depends on what Commander Feral does." The sabertoothed Xanith sighed. "As much as I'm not fond of him, he's done a good job for decades. I'm not looking forward to what'll happen if this goes truly public, but nether can the Enforcers survive like this. Between the BrightClaws, Shydar and WindStar, their contacts, and the government stuff going on in the background, we are in a lot of trouble."

"That's putting it mildly. You know almost as much as I do, frankly, but I can add that he seems to be convinced he's still the best to do the job. And he would be if it weren't for this - but he seems to think that the Enforcers falling down around his ears is the lesser of two evils. Can't believe I was that stupid," she finished quietly, almost to herself. "There isn't really any way for this to end cleanly, is there?"

Kylen hesitated, then shifted off the desk and extended a hand to her. "Talk about this over dinner?"

Felina smiled. "I'd love the chance to get out of here, believe me, but I have to figure out how to buy a few days more time to try and talk to him again. But, if we could meet somewhere at about seven, I should have either given up thinking about that here, or already solved that problem, one way or the other. Would that work out?"

"I'm good at that too." He nodded with a soft chuckle and tap on his glistening silver-encased saber teeth. "Seven will work fine."

She pushed aside the disturbing thought that the tap brought to mind. "Any particular place you have in mind? Or just somewhere more private than this?"

"More secure." He inclined his head.

"Understood. Well, if you don't have any place in mind," she wrote an address on a slip of paper and passed it over, "this should work well, as long as informal works."

He glanced at the address, raised an eyebrow slightly in surprise to see it was her apartment, and nodded. "This'll be fine."

"Okay." Felina thought for a moment, and shook her head again. "Actually, if you wouldn't mind waiting while I make a call, I could probably use a chance to get out of here sooner. Somewhere new to think."

"Of course," Kylen nodded and turned to leave. "I'll wait in the hall."

"Thank you. I should be out there in a few minutes." Once the door was shut, she pulled her cell phone out and hit the dial code for the Deputy Mayor's office.

"Deputy Mayor Briggs speaking." The shekat's voice came back sounding both stressed and tired.

"Miss Briggs, it's Lieutenant-Commander Feral. I'm guessing the rest of your day hasn't been any better than mine?"

"Mostly no, though there was one bright spot though. I'd guess that you didn't have any luck with Commander Feral." She said quietly.

"That would be putting it mildly. How much time do I have to work with? He might be willing to listen if I try again later. Tomorrow, maybe, or maybe even in a few hours."

"I wish I had a definite answer. But as long as nothing escalates, and the press doesn't get wind of what's going on I'll wait. You do realize, though, that if the press gets a hold of this we've all run out of time." She said, not threatening but merely stating a fact.

"Understood. I'd rather it was over now, I assure you. I should probably let you get back to whatever you were doing before I called, then - good luck to both of us."

"That makes two of us, Lt. Commander. Good Luck." She said before hanging up.

Felina hung up the phone on her end, and pulled out the papers she'd been working on earlier - since she didn't seem to need them any more, she wanted to shred them before they were noticed, and soon they were in the garbage. She grabbed her purse, and started out of her office, where Kylen was waiting.

"Well, that's over with for now. Ready to go?"

"Of course." He inclined his head to her. "Your vehicle, or mine?"

"Might as well take mine - if you don't mind coming back afterwards, of course. If you do, we should probably take yours."

"We both have to come back afterwards, anyway." He nodded. "Lead the way."

"Well, here we are," she said as she opened the door, probably the longest sentence she'd said since they'd left. "It's not much, but it's as secure as healthy paranoia allows. Pull up a seat." She locked the door behind them, and pocketed the keys. "Talk business, or dinner first?"

"And a certain level of paranoia is quite healthy." He agreed and dropped into a table chair backwards. "Depends on if you're hungry, though we probably should eat first."

"So what are you in the mood for? I have to admit, my appetite's a bit shot these past few days - you can probably guess why."

"With very little difficulty." He dropped his chin in agreement. "Take out or real food?"

"Real food, actually. When I'm not pulling extra shifts, I can cook. And I need to do something to burn off some steam. As long as you're not in the mood for something I can't pronounce, I probably have the makings to fake it at worst, too."

"I'm always game for something new." He chuckled. "Know how to make these seafood pancakes I keep hearing about?"

"Okay, I'll admit you've got me stumped there - but if you could describe them, I could probably do something up."

"As best I understand, they're pancakes with diced fish, shrimp or shellfish mixed in." He considered thoughtfully.

"First I've heard of it. Unfortunately, I think you do have me stumped there - if I faked that one and it came out wrong, I don't think I'd want to know what it would taste like. Hmm - you're in the mood for something new, you say? I might have something I could whip up pretty well, if you don't mind ham. And aren't too picky about visual results."

Kylen grinned at her. "No problem. Already sounds like it fits in my favorite foods department."

"In that case," she pulled out a saucer, small block of cheddar, and a grater, "start grating that. It'll take a bit to finish up the rest, and I can get it on the table faster if you help out a bit." She put the stuff on the table, then went back to the fridge and pulled out some eggs, milk, onions, ham, and butter as he went to work without complaint. A few minutes later, she was frying the ham and onions, and slicing potatoes.

She added the potatoes, and fried the mix until they were all well browned, then added the eggs and milk she'd mixed earlier, and stirred everything until the eggs were almost cooked. Then she added the cheese that had just been grated, and mixed until well-melted, peppering the concoction regularly, though not too heavily. When she was done, she slid it off onto a plate and small saucer, and brought them over to the table.

"Enjoy," Enjoy," she said, taking the saucer for herself. "It doesn't look like much, but it's a good blend for breakfast, dinner, or anything in between."

"Smells very good." He said before digging in, keeping it just on this side of dignified.

Felina smiled as she watched him eat, working at her own serving much more slowly. "Good to have an appreciative audience."

"Anytime you want one," he grinned at her, "I'll happily play audience."

"At this rate, I might need one more often. I'll either need blood pressure meds, or a new job."

"I know a good doctor for the first," he chuckled lightly, "and a few openings for the second." He suddenly turned serious and fixed her with a searching storm gray gaze. "But you're good enough not to need either, if you've got a friend to help you relax."

She turned her eyes away slightly. "Might not matter, depending on how this turns out. If this doesn't work out fast, something's going to give. Almost did already."

Kylen regarded her carefully. "That shot wasn't an accident, it was a miss."

"I don't know what the hell I was thinking. Just how confidential is what we talk about tonight?"

"Short of a court order or treason, it's not going anywhere by me." He said simply. "And shooting the Commander, given the situation, doesn't count as treason. This is all past any rank I'd be investigating, and SI has better sources than me."

"Good. The thing that worries me most is that this isn't the first time since this all started. Just the first time I actually fired." She chuckled bitterly. "And the first time made more sense than this time did, damn it. This one ... he could serve me up on a platter and be rid of me for good if he wanted to, and not a damned bit of good would come of it. But it made so much sense right then.... Well, I'm sure that's the last part of this you want to hear about - I'm assuming you had something in specific you wanted to discuss, away from HQ?"

"To some extent." He jerked his chin up in a nod. "Mostly I'm looking to find out if there's a chance I won't end up Commander when the dust settles. It's bad enough we're loosing an effective Commander, there's no way around that anymore, but there is no reason to loose you too. Unless it's out of moral obligation of some kind."

"You mean besides watching it happen and not doing a damned thing about it?"

"Oh," Kylen blinked and quickly digested that. "Mind some honestly meant advice?" He asked seriously.

"As long as I'm not obligated to take it. I've gotten a lot of advice that just doesn't work lately."

"Understandably." He sighed and rested his chin on interlaced fingers as he watched her. "When you make that choice, list the pros and cons of each action. Give each a weight for how important they are, and take a good look at it before you decide. It can work well, when you have some time. Bouncing it off a good friend can be helpful too."

"When you have time, it helps. When you can think, it helps. I don't plan on having a nervous breakdown, it's just that I was trying to pretend nobody else knew what was going on. And when push comes to shove, it's like I go on instinct. And some pretty strange instincts at that. It's not like I walked in there planning on killing him, unless there was no other way to keep what's left of his reputation from being destroyed. That came to me when I realized that he wasn't going to resign, and I didn't know how much time I had left before events followed their natural course."

Kylen frowned for a moment. "What would killing him accomplish to save his reputation?"

"That's what I can't make sense out of. At the time, I had some sort of insane plan that would have ended up with both of us dead, and my reputation, what there is of it, taking the brunt of the damage. The worst that would have happened to his would be that the affair would come to light. Now that I think about it, there wasn't a chance in Hell the plan would work - something would have gone wrong, it was too complicated. And even if it had worked, it would have resulted in the Enforcers having to deal with losing the Commander and his second at the same time, though with the scandal focused more on me than on him."

He nodded. "It makes more sense than you might expect." He said softly. "Considering how you seem to have seen him as an icon, or hero." He cocked his head slightly, making the light flash off his silver teeth as he thought. "You are right, it's too complicated, but in simpler times it would may have well worked as intended."

"You're right, about the first part at least. Hero as a cadet, hero as a kit, hell, it wasn't until a few days ago I had to acknowledge the possibility he wasn't, until I couldn't ignore something. But the second part - it wouldn't have worked. Would have left you in command with a lot of questions to deal with, and no good answers because the questions were all parts of lies. Maybe I've already had that breakdown, and it's just showing up now."

"Sometimes breakdowns are good, when they lead you to a better understanding and inner strength." He offered quiet support. "Something has broken down for you Felina: the ability to hide an important truth from yourself. That's not a bad thing, as much as it hurts."

"I still have to deal with him, though, until this is done. Hell, Dark Kat's next project could come down the pike tomorrow, and the working strain could get people killed, if somebody doubts the wrong order at the wrong time. Though I suppose that could work out to the general advantage, depending on who got killed in the process. I'm just not sure I can, with this hanging out there yet."

"Have you considered taking a few days off, until this is settled?" Kylen asked. "If this lasts more than a week, I'll be stunned."

"That might be a good idea," she mused. "I certainly have enough personal days saved up. Though I should go back in to make sure all the paperwork's finished off for today's reports."

"Why done we do that, then come back and talk at more leisure?" He offered quietly.

"You don't have to come back over here with me if you have something you'd rather do - I should be okay, as long as I don't have another argument with him."

"Nothing I'd rather do." He chuckled. "Your company is hardly that bad, and face it, we should get to know each other better before we get thrown into the fire."

Felina half-smirked at him. "You know, if you keep coming up with good points like that, I'm going to start thinking you'd be the better candidate for Commander." She paused as he nearly choked on his milk.

"Just let me know when you're ready to go, I'll start the dishes before we head back to HQ," she explained as she went over to load the dishwasher.

"Yeah, sure." He watched her moved with a very bewildered look, and a new appraisal.

"Sorry I startled you like that," she said while she cleaned up. "Mostly unintentional, especially timing it while you were taking a drink. Mind if I ask what threw you that badly?"

"Me being Commander, over you." He shook his head. "It wasn't something I expected to hear, especially from you."

Felina chuckled. "If I'd been completely serious, I'd remind you that I'm not interested in being Commander besides thinking it's what's best for the Enforcers, and the city, at this point. But for what it's worth, I think you would make a good Commander."

Kylen shook his head and chuckled. "It's been too long since I hung with a Feral. It's too easy to forget you do have a sense of humor."

"If I didn't know you were more used to my uncle, I might take the time to be insulted. We have senses of humor, just that sometimes we forget to use them around other people, especially at work," she explained as she loaded the last of the dishes that were ready and closed the washer, ready to start it when they left.

"Noticeably." He shook his head. "Though I've been accused of the same thing."

"And I have to admit, if you've been watching me the past few days, I haven't exactly been in the best of moods."

"I don't think anyone who has a clue has their sense of humor intact without prompting." Kylen sighed. "Might not be a bad idea, at that." He murmured to himself, then looked at her with a gleam in his storm gray eyes. "I know a good place to take both our minds off this crap for a couple hours. Maybe get some ideas working once our brains have loosened."

Felina cocked her head and smiled. "Oh really? And just where do you have in mind," she asked, the tone of her voice about half curiosity, and half challenge.

"The Gray Stripe." He raised a dark gray eyebrow at her.

"Can't say I've ever heard of it before."

"I'm not surprised," he chuckled. "It's a fairly small, and very specialized club. I think you might enjoy it though."

"Sounds good. Well, why don't we go take care of whatever we have to do back at HQ, then head over there afterwards?"

"Deal." He stood with a grin and extended his hand. "We both need a good laugh fest right now."

Felina hit the dial on the washer, and starting it as she grabbed her purse and took the offered hand.

"How right you are."

Felina had just finished up the last of the reports she had to deal with, when she noticed a stocky figure outside her office that was significantly too short to be Kylen.

The kat walked slowly past the empty desks outside and into Felina's office without hesitation. It took her a moment to recognize Chance Furlong in the large leather jacket, it's collar flipped up over his neck. "Hey," he said softly.

"Hi," she said. "Don't suppose we'd be lucky enough that this visit doesn't have to do with the other night, would we?"

"I, uhhhh, I was just wondering if maybe you could get this to Jake." He reached into his jacket and pulled out a red envelope, marked 'Jake' in the tabby's own distinctively appalling handwriting.

"I can't make any promises, I'm afraid. I'm probably not on the list of people he'd like to see, and there's only so many places I know of to look for him." She paused for a moment as she took the envelope, and looked at his face. "Chance, what happened to you?"

The tabby almost smiled. Almost. "You really need to ask?"

"Depends on what you're talking about. What I'm most worried about is whatever happened to your neck that you're trying to cover up. Unless, of course, there's a vampire epidemic nobody's told me about."

Moving very carefully Chance reached up and turned his collar down, slipping the jacket off his left shoulder so that she'd have a clearer view of his injury.

Felina looked at the long, deep gash quickly, glad to see that it had been taken care of, but couldn't keep the concern out of her voice. "Good gods, who did that to you?"

"Jake did," he murmured softly, replacing the jacket with exaggerated care.

"I can see why you don't want to deliver this personally, then. Mind if I ask you a personal question?"

Chance shrugged. "I can't hang around for the inquisition, but sure."

"Hardly an inquisition. I just need to know what the odds are that my uncle would listen to you if you tried to convince him to do something he didn't want to do."

Chance smirked and shook his head. "I don't think you're gonna have any more problems with that, Commander. I've gotta get going now, goodbye Felina."

It took her a second to register what he'd just said. "Hold on, what?"

Chance stopped with his hand on the door handle. "You heard me. It might not be a good idea to work too late. Tomorrow's gonna be a busy day." With that he pulled the door open and stepped out.

Felina's first thought was that he couldn't be serious. But, then, he had known what it was about before she'd asked him. She walked out of her office slightly dazed, not quite sure what to make of it.

"That was interesting." Kylen's voice was low and curious as he offered her a supporting hand from the left.

"I take it you heard what he said, then? I wonder if Miss Briggs knows yet - I should probably call to find out. Even if she doesn't, this changes things quite a bit if it's true, and she should know." Felina pulled her cell phone out, hit the dial code, and waited for somebody to pick up on the other end, hoping that Callie hadn't left the office.

"A chunk of it." He nodded. "And it might be better to see her than call." He suggested calmly. "Something happened in the comm lines between here and there. I'm sure of it."

Felina closed the phone and nodded. "You're probably right. That being the case, I guess I'd better get started over there. Besides, we're probably going to have to sort out a few things over there, like what to do next for damage control. At least I shouldn't have to try and convince him to resign any more."

"Take my car this time?" He offered quietly.

"Thanks. I don't think you'd have to come along, though, if you don't want to."

"If this is true, I'm second in command unless you choose another." Kylen shook his head. "This is as much my duty as yours. Besides," he cocked a bit of a grin, "I'm beginning to like the idea of being your friend."

Felina smiled back and shook her head slightly. "Guess I'm still getting used to the idea of having a friend who's willing to go out of his way to help out, and the idea of not just being second-in-command anymore. Though there's nobody else I'd rather have the job than you."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence." He gently guided her out of the empty office space. "And going out of your way to help, well, that's what friends do for each other."

"We're definitely used to different types of friends. I like your version better, though."

"You have one now." He said stubbornly as they walked to the Command Officers parking garage and his Xanith sized urban gray SUV he unlocked with a silent, keyless signal.

"Trust me, I'm not arguing. And thank you."

Kylen smiled at her and slipped easily into the driver seat of a crafted leather interior that looked more like a mobile command center than a private vehicle.

"Mom insists I keep a few perks of being a NightWind, even if I chose another career." He chuckled a little self-consciously as the interior powered up to reveal of fully computerized data access and communication center built into the dashboard. "What kind of music do you like?"

"Wow," was all Felina could think to say as she climbed in next to him. "The perks must be very nice." She thought for a moment. "Uhm, just about anything, really. Whatever you're in the mood for."

"All right." He chuckled and pressed a button as a very distinctive beat and instrument filled the air, though it was nothing she could place.

"Bervani Historical remix." He explained as he tagged several more buttons before pulling out. "The perks are mostly to keep in contact. It's quite useful to have the NightWind database at my disposal."

"I can imagine. Especially in this line of work - the more info the better."

"No kidding." Kylen chuckled as they pulled into traffic aggressively, showing the full power of the large vehicle to handle high acceleration, and maneuverability. "What's your list of things to fix?"

Felina thought for a moment.

"First thing on the list is basic damage control - trying to calm down the officers who were going to resign, talk Halycon down from canceling their contracts with us, basically undoing as much of the damage my uncle caused as possible. I can't turn back time, but I can try to make up for what happened - besides, we'll need all the support we can get while we deal with problem number two.

"Without SWAT flying, we're screwed. We can hold our ground, if we're lucky, but I can't count the number of times they were the only thing that kept the city from becoming a smoking crater."

"Agreed there, unfortunately." Kylen nodded. "The original SWAT is a lost cause, in my opinion, but there is a project that died at Ulysses' hand about forty years ago, to create something just like SWAT, but with three teams, and official backing."

"Might be a good time to resurrect that project, although it sounds like he had more involvement than anybody would have guessed with SWAT when it was flying - besides the obvious connections I found out about earlier today."

"Probably, though I seriously doubt half of the team was aware of it." He growled softly. "That is no way to run a project. I can hardly imagine what Razor could have done without all the distractions and scrounging."

"Almost frightening to think of, really. Even when all he had was the chunks that were left from our damaged birds, he managed to keep several steps ahead of us. That Kat's done a hell of a lot for the city, and it ends like that...." She trailed off for a moment before she continued.

"The hardest part of getting that new team running would probably be finding three teams who were that crazy and good enough to back it up. It's not exactly what most people would put on their list of things to do on a day-to-day basis."

Kylen actually laughed: a deep, throaty sound of amusement and knowledge. "More than you might think, if you're willing to look outside the recruiter's office prize boys."

"To get something even half as good as SWAT going, I'd be willing to look just about anywhere - don't suppose you have names, do you?"

"Not particularly, but I know where to look." He dropped the right side of his head in a quick nod. "I send them to my family, and the other agencies where they're wanted."

"In which case they might already have jobs they prefer - but it wouldn't hurt to ask.

"Not all of them." He muttered. "There are a few that haven't been booted yet. But the cream of the last three generations of Enforcers are definitely gone."

"We'll have to run it by Briggs, of course, but I seriously doubt that she'd have any problems with something like that. It doesn't make sense, really, that if he really had wanted to make SWAT official, that he couldn't have had it done at some point, even after the fact. I suppose Manx could have turned it down consistently, but that would have involved actually doing some work."

"That's why I suspect there is something more than two stubborn personalities involved." Kylen said. "There are a lot of little things, where the facts between Enforcer HQ and City Hall have differed. This may be the most blatant, but I think there's someone not just tapping our comm lines, but feeding bad information both ways."

"Wouldn't need to feed bad info through, just stop the right things. After all, which is easier - to consistently feed each side of things altered proposals, or just to stop the proposals from going through?"

"Very true." He gave her an approving jerk of the chin. "Either way, anything important should be dealt with in person, until we've hunted down and exterminated the rat."

Felina growled lowly. "Which should go on the list at number three or four. Clean up a few long-term problems that never quite got dealt with, whoever's responsible for that on the top of the list."

"No argument there." He agreed as they pulled into City Hall's reserved parking lot and claimed a space. "Will you indulge my paranoia for a moment?"

"Depends - what are you paranoid about? I don't think we should have to worry about anybody trying to stop us from getting into the building, for example."

"I want to scan that letter Chance gave you."

"Any particular reason? Given that it looks like Jake almost killed him, it's probably just an apology that he didn't feel safe delivering personally."

"I hope you're right, but that tabby's got as many reasons to want his former partner dead, as to apologize." He explained. "There are just so many poisons, diseases and nasty things that could be on it, I'd rather know now, than after Halycon confronts us about it."

"You didn't see him tackle my uncle that night. I thought he was going to kill him for a minute there. Normally, I'd agree with you, but I'd rather not pry into what goes on between the two of them more than I have to. But since I don't know where to reach him, I'll turn it over to Halcyon so that their security people can go over it before delivery. At least that way it stays more or less inside his family."

"It's not prying, Felina, it's just a scan." He bapped to the dashboard top to open a ten by fourteen inch compartment. "It doesn't even have to open the envelope."

"In that case, no problem. I just didn't like the idea of anything very intrusive," she explained as she put the envelope into the compartment. "Is that in right?"

"Thank you, and yes." He nodded and closed the lid before punching several more buttons. "It'll be done thinking when we get back, most likely. I expect we have a lot to go over in there." He jerked his chin at the building.

"Most likely," she agreed, opening the door and unbuckling. "Let's go, and hope she's still in the office. Though if she'd gone home by now, I'd be surprised."

"Me too." Kylen nodded and snagged a notebook sized folder before following her inside. "She never leaves this early. Especially not on a disaster day."

"And does this ever qualify."

Callie looked up from writing to see Felina and Kylen walk in. She looked curiously at Felina before focusing on Kylen.

"Lt. Cmdr. NightWind, before anything gets said, are you aware of the situation and more importantly, is Internal Affairs, officially?" She asked firmly, but there was a tired edge to it.

"I am personally aware of at least most of the situation, ma'am." He nodded sharply. "And it is solidly not an IA matter. I'm here as the probable Enforcer Second-in-Command too soon."

"No disagreement about it not being an IA matter, but I was wondering what IA was aware of." She said quietly. "And perhaps, probable Second-in-Command not soon enough."

"IA knows very little." He clarified. "I know a great deal."

She turned her gaze to Felina. "Any progress with Commander Feral?" She asked hopefully.

"That's why we're here. I was finishing up some paperwork tonight when Chance came into my office. On his way out, he made a comment about me not having to worry about convincing my uncle to resign, and referred to me as Commander. Not a confirmed resignation, but we were hoping that if it was, you'd know about it. I'm guessing you don't, then?"

"I haven't heard from him since this started." Callie said in quiet frustration. "Of course, I'm beginning to think that communications are bugged between us, so I'm not sure I'd get his resignation unless he handed it to me personally."

"Agreed." Kylen nodded quietly.

"That's another reason we came over - if somebody was trying to delay communications, then this was something we couldn't afford to have interfered with. Though it is possible that he didn't want to file the resignation until tomorrow, or some other simple reason. He wasn't exactly in the best of moods when I left him earlier."

"Understandable, though I imagine getting shot at didn't help his mood." Callie said casually.

Felina winced. "I'm beginning to wonder if everybody knows about that. Hopefully that won't interfere with operations."

Callie smiled reassuringly. "Not everyone, but Ms. Callahan did place a call when she heard the shot. Fortunately, the officer on duty didn't log it, merely told me."

"Good. That would not be something to have become public knowledge, if we want this to look relatively normal."

"Agreed. Ms. Callahan is willing to accept the story you told her, and the officer she called doesn't think you did anything wrong." Callie said with a slight chuckle.

"I'm hearing a lot of that, it seems," Felina said dryly, looking over at Kylen. "At any rate, we should probably work on what to do next. If he has resigned, and it seems likely that he has at least stepped down, we need to figure out how to fix as much of the damage that's happened as possible."

"Most of the external damage will be fairly easy to repair, as the objections were to his continued presence. With him gone, things should go back to normal, barring any other scandals." She said quietly.

"The internal problems may be more difficult, though at least I managed to head off the resignation of experienced officers, by temporarily transferring them to SI. Once we've briefed them on the change in the top slots, I can transfer them back. There maybe some lingering hard feelings between the divisions though."

"There is one thing I'm going to brief you on, with the understanding that its strictly confidential, until after the press conference tomorrow morning. That means no sharing this information with anyone, meaning anyone outside this room...including family." She said firmly. "Am I clear on that?"

"Yes, ma'am." Kylen responded instantly.

"Perfectly clear."

Callie paused for a moment. "Courtesy of Halycon Industries, we won't be losing SWAT after all. They're providing a complete SWAT squad to fill the gap left by the old one. Officially, the Old SWAT unit was a prototype to test the concept, and now its going full scale."

Kylen's jaw dropped slightly open for a moment. "Well, that will makes things easier for us." He managed.

Felina was just as surprised, but she avoided showing most of it. "Much easier. Faster too. That's what your speech is about, then?"

Callie nodded. "Yes, I'm unveiling the new squad and introducing it to the public. Jets and crews will be present for the press conference though Mr. BrightClaw and I will be handling questions."

"All right. I'm sure you've thought of this already, but do you have any plans for explaining why my uncle isn't there? Or the original SWAT? Especially that last one - people will probably expect to see both of them there, since nothing's happened in the news that would leave them unable to attend."

"Razor, as the creator of SWAT will be there." Callie said quietly. "SWAT will not be part of the Enforcers, but will answer directly to this office under the Special Defense Forces authority in the city charter. As far as anyone asking about your uncle, I'll cover that as his having taken a leave for personal reasons, since he hasn't actually bothered to resign."

"Ma'am," Lt. Cmdr. NightWind asked politely. "Is there any indication how cooperative this new SWAT intends to be with the Enforcers?"

"Cooperative as appropriate." Callie said simply. "But part of what made SWAT effective was its flexibility and independence in response. It's expected that the two organizations will cooperate on cases that require it. The Salvage Yard will be transferred to SWAT control, with actual salvage being redirected to the other Yards."

Kylen nodded. "Who has the authority to call them to a scene?"

"Myself primarily, with the Commander and Second-in-Command of the Enforcers having authority to request their assistance. I expect that the antagonism of the previous administration, no matter how much of an act it may have been, will not be continued." She said firmly.

"Of course not, Miss Briggs. I never liked the way they were treated in the first place. You don't want to antagonize the people responsible for you still having a city to protect."

"After some of the communication problems of the last ten years, I think clarity is important." She said simply. "At least part of the cause of the tragedy of the past few days, is a lack of direct communication between the former Commander and myself."

Callie looked directly at Felina. "If you have a project that's important enough to request special funding for, please come to me directly. If your uncle had ten years ago, he'd probably still be in command."

"Good." Kylen nodded, obviously relived. "Would it be appropriate to forward what information we have on Dark Kat, Dr. Viper, Hard Drive and other of their ink to the new SWAT, or are they primarily a reactionary force as before?"

"Very appropriate. The plan is to establish a joint database regarding on the subject of the super-criminals. From my discussion with the SWAT Commander, they will be taking a more active approach where such does not compromise their defensive role. The new SWAT will be looking to solve those problems on a more permanent basis."

The Saber-toothed Snow Leopard nodded with obvious approval. "Including the information not admissible in court?"

"I expect that much of the important information is not admissible in court." She said quietly. "The solutions probably won't be either."

"I think we can all agree that that's acceptable, as long as they aren't long-term threats any more. After all, if working by the book would solve problems like that, we probably wouldn't need SWAT."

"Assuming that he had handled the blackmail differently. I doubt the people behind that cared about SWAT's official standing. But I will make sure you get requests of that sort. If I can help it, nothing like this will ever happen again, especially once we find out who the mole is." Felina shook her head.

"I'd recommend looking at whoever signs off on mail between the Commander and myself. Especially budgets, since the Commander apparently thought he'd submitted detailed budget requests for a SWAT operation, and all I ever saw was requests for budgets increases. There's also my annual request for him to approve making SWAT official, which he consistently returned unsigned. Or at least someone made it appear that he did."

"That should narrow down the number of people to check out first significantly. It would probably also be a good idea to rework some of those processes so it's harder for somebody to interfere with them."

"Understood, ma'am." He snapped his chin up. "What is SWAT's clearance, for general future reference?"

"If it should come up, they're clearance is the same as any of the other Specials, unless its directly regarding a super-criminal. Regarding the super-criminal they're cleared for all information. Also for reference, the Salvage Yard is now a restricted zone, requiring high security clearance; such as ranking Enforcers."

"Felina, the SWAT Commander has suggested that you may want to keep your distance due to Razor's unpredictability with regard to certain people involved with the events of a few nights ago. He said that arrangements can be made if you'd like to meet with the new team, but for your own safety you might want to stay clear of Razor for a while."

"More than understandable, especially given what happened between he and T-Bone. Should I contact the new Commander about the arrangements, or leave that to you? I think it's important that I have at least some knowledge of who's in SWAT now."

"It would probably be good for you to contact the SWAT Commander since it would help if the two of you got the working relationship off to a good start. You may already know him, Terry BrightClaw."

"Do you know who is on the new team, ma'am?" Kylen asked curiously.

"I have names and backgrounds. Most of them aren't going to be familiar since Halycon did the recruiting. A couple are former Enforcers, one booted for trashing former Second-in-Command Lt. Cmdr Steele."

"I like this group already." He chuckled. "No disrespect for the deceased, but Steele had no business being an Enforcer. Pity we can't be there for the presentation, to show the new solidarity."

"You'll get no disagreement on that subject." Callie smiled. "But I don't want to overshadow this announcement with the restructuring in the Enforcer ranks. Just so you aren't surprised, Special Investigations will be handling security for the press conference."

"Makes sense. They'll probably keep it quieter, too. I think it'll show that we intend to work with SWAT, instead of alongside them, soon enough - the results, if nothing else, should speak for themselves."

"I don't know him personally, but we've worked with him before - ex-detective, used to do consulting work for us after that. Probably a good person to work with for re-establishing relationships between the two groups."

Callie nodded. "Good person to work with, bad person to have on the other side." She smiled. "He also happens to be Razor's LifeMate."

Kylen nodded slightly.

"Definitely a good reason to work with him, considering. Somebody needs to try to make up for what happened."

"I think the fact that we're getting this new SWAT is a good indication that there's no hard feelings against the city. But a bit of advice; don't mention Chance Furlong in any context, not even as T-bone." Callie said quietly.

"Around Jake, or around Terry?"

"Jake, if you value breathing, and Terry, unless you're trying to annoy him." She said quietly. "In a lot of ways, his betrayal was more damaging than what Ulysses did. Jake probably would've recovered from the rape in time, and SWAT would've continued, if Chance had been who Jake thought he was. The betrayal did a lot more damage."

"Understandable. After all, he didn't really trust my uncle in the first place. Chance, he trusted him with his life. That could make things a little awkward, but I can work around it. The only reason I'm asking is that before he left, Chance gave me a letter for Jake. Of course, even if it got to him somehow, there's a good chance he wouldn't read it, so I suppose that 'misplacing' it wouldn't be the worst thing I could do."

"Except of course, if Jake found out about it, it would probably cause problems." Callie said. "But right now, the only way anything is going to get to Jake is through Halycon security."

"Then I'll just turn it over to them and let them work with it, that should be fine. Kind of what I was planning in the first place."

"Speaking of security, I think given the actions of Teveris lately their activities in MKC bear examining. Specifically, a detailed look at how many Teveris nationals are present, and what they're up to. SWAT is now officially part of the city defense structure, and I have reason to believe that Crown Princess Marissa may go after Jake again."

"Most likely." Kylen spoke up quietly. "With the execution of her Occuri daughter, she will be looking to have another. I'll forward you what my family has on them. It's a nasty culture, that doesn't respect national boarders much."

"That I suspected, and thank you." Callie said. "They may have bitten of more than they can chew though, this time. Port Haven considers the Pellatier family to still be the royal family of Haven, and Jake is LifeMate to the tom most likely to be the next family head. The more aggressive members of the governing council have already stated that they consider Marissa's actions an act of war." She said quietly. "The question becomes how soon that sentiment becomes a majority."

"And how many other nations get caught up in the crossfire. Though I imagine that once the reasons got out, Teveris would be the only ones on their side. There's another issue to consider involving Teveris - while I don't know if he's still working on it, my uncle was working on teaching a lesson or two to some of her agents before I had my talk with him - if there were any explosions around that time, the victims were some of the ones involved in their blackmailing plot. There may be some information that he found that I can get access to, that might help direct any activity taken against Teveris away from bystanders. There have to be some."

Kylen got a distinctly uncomfortable look on his face. "This could get extremely ugly."

"Given the treaties we have with Port Haven, yes it could." She said quietly. "I was reviewing them earlier. The mutual defense treaty very clearly applies, since Teveris has initiated hostile action against the royal family of Port haven. However, Port Haven has not responded yet, nor have they invoked the treaty.

"This is separate from the fact that Teveris officials have kidnapped citizens of MegaKat City. That is quite clearly an act of war against this city. However, I am not in a hurry to start Mega War III, however I believe it would be fair to consider any Teveris noble or servant thereof to be a potential threat to public safety.

"Dealing with that threat is the purview of the Enforcers, so I'll leave it to your discretion how you want to handle it." Callie said quietly.

"Ma'am, is there time to do a brief overview of the budget." Kylen asked. "What you approved, and what we actually thing we have. Given the communication issues already known, the Enforcers may not be as under funded as we think we are."

"And if we're going to be dealing with Teveris nobles," Felina added, "and possibly worse, we're going to need to know that as soon as we can."

"Probably not a bad idea. Do you have a copy of what you think you have?" She said as she pulled out a printed copy of the budget.

"Approved, denied and unreturned." He jerked his chin up sharply before opening the leather folder he had and set several sheets of paper on the desk. "Those are summaries, or course, but it should tell us if more in depth review is warranted."

Callie took out her copy. "Here's what was requested, and what was approved." She said setting her copies next to his. "Usually ended up approving more than what requested because the analysts didn't think the requested amounts were sufficient."

"By your copy, they weren't, by a long shot." He flicked his ears back. "Makes me wonder where a few billion dollars has go to, each year this has gone on."

"Maybe we've figured out where the funding for a few villains came from. Of course, there's no way to be sure how long it's gone on, unless we compared each year's numbers until there weren't any discrepancies. That might go further back than we keep records for." Felina commented as she compared the sheets.

"Possibly, but if we've had a mole in the communications for that long, no wonder there's been problems." Callie shook her head. "Given that a few billion dollars is not an easily movable sum of money. Sounds like the city treasury is in need of a detailed audit... that money had to be accounted for somewhere."

"You'll probably find it was sent to the Enforcers, or to pay for contracts we do have." Kylen flicked his huge tail irately. "At least on your end, and of course, as it wasn't expected, we never noticed it not show up."

"Perhaps, but it still bears investigating. It may reveal a pattern that's a clue to who actually ended up with the money."

"I'll set II on it from our end." He nodded. "We can probably get this worked into a treason charge, not just embezzlement and falsifying records."

"Given that it amounts to sabotage, I'll put SI on it from my end. With any luck will catch the guilty parties in the middle." Callie grinned darkly. "You should probably evaluate what the Enforcer's need right now, while I put a watch on any disbursements."

Felina nodded as she continued to study the numbers and what she really would have to work with. "Given the amount of damage done because we didn't have the money, the number injured and dead - I can think of a number of charges this could be snowballed into, treason just being the biggest one. Especially given the damage it would do if we did have a war."

"Well, let's worry about exact charges when we have someone to charge." Callie suggested.

"Point taken. Hopefully, though, it won't take too long to get to that point. What worries me is that if they've managed to hide this for as long as they have, there's a good chance that whoever's on the receiving end of the money is ready to disappear as soon as there's any trouble, assuming they haven't distanced themselves by enough layers to make figuring out who they are impossible."

"Nothing is impossible, Felina." Kylen growled dangerously. "Extremely difficult and time consuming, yes, but not impossible."

"Then let's say not necessarily worth the investment of manpower and resources to get a case we can take to trial. If we shut them down, I have a feeling that they'll show up when they lose their funding, or be found out when their subordinates start talking. But it's possible that it will never come to trial, regardless of whether or not we know who they are." Felina shook her head.

"Treason is also a crime that can be handed to Sniper Squad for final resolution." He reminded them both.

"Well, the system does make hiding it easier. And the fact that Ulysses and I were never on great terms easier still. After all, if we'd talked on a regular basis we'd probably have noticed this years ago." She said mildly frustrated. "I think someone took advantage of the fact that we mostly growled at each other."

"I did have that solution in mind. One way or the other, it will be resolved. I meant it may not come to resolution publicly." Felina commented to him.

"I'm well aware of Sniper Squad." Callie said shortly. It wasn't exactly a secret that she wasn't fond of the choices made in who was recruited. She accepted their existence, much like she accepted certain levels of corruption in the city.

"There may be better ways of doing that job, but until it's implemented, they are useful." He countered.

"Much like some medications, a little cures and a little more than that kills. It's very dangerous to use, and very easy to have something go wrong." Callie said quietly. "But if there were any point to arguing about them, there wouldn't be an argument." She said quietly, cursing internally at the predecessor that allowed them to come into existence.

"Yes, ma'am." Kylen grinned dangerously. "Can you authorize a ten thousand dollar consulting fee for NightWind Investigation to back us and trusted officers up in this? I know it's a family contract, but I trust them, and they are outsiders; something we need right now given the internal corruption. I can have details to you in the morning."

"Right now, I think family contracts may be our best security. I expect the corruption is outside the big Enforcer families; they're usually pretty good at policing themselves. Speaking of which, I'll be transferring Lt. Cmdr BrightClaw back from SI tomorrow, after I bring him up to speed. That's one Kat you can trust. Even does the right thing when he expects to get in trouble for doing it." She smiled.

"Good to know we haven't lost him yet, then. Especially with these problems, we'll need all the trustworthy officers we can get."

"It was close." Callie admitted. "He was going to go in and give his resignation to Ulysses directly, along with a piece of his mind but decided I needed to know what was going on."

"Well, thank you for delaying him. Especially since if he'd just left, we'd probably have lost the rest of those who were considering leaving right then." Felina added.

"Losing Ulysses' experience was going to be bad enough, I knew we couldn't afford to lose the combined experience of other officers as well." Callie said easily. "Fifteen year veterans aren't easy to replace."

"Damn near impossible, usually." Kylen nodded. "Especially once they find out what the pay scale is outside."

"Some of them know, and stay anyway." Callie smiled. "Fortunately, some Kats have a defender nature that isn't satisfied by simply working for a paycheck, no matter how large."

"It is hard to explain problems when your teeth are clenched, though he always found a way to complain. I think we can keep that from becoming an issue again, though. I hope to be easier to get along with than he was."

"Given that we're at least on the same page right now, I think we've made a good start." Callie said easily. "Though I honestly wish the cost hadn't been so high."

"At least it wasn't as high as it could have been." Kylen said quietly. "Between having a new SWAT, and Jake not going psycho, we're in reasonably good shape."

"I think we got very lucky." Callie said quietly.

Felina nodded. "Best possible outcome I can imagine, the immediate situations under control, and others ready to be dealt with. As long as nothing else blows up that we aren't ready for, I think we'll come out of this all right."

"However, given what's brewing I think you should review the Enforcer's war preparedness status, as well as civil defense status." Callie suggested. "The last Mega War was before any of us was born. Counter Terrorism preparations would probably also be good."

"Yes, ma'am." Kylen nodded upwards sharply. "We'll be in much better shape shortly.

"Especially once we've gone over the issues that keep us from doing more than hold our ground against local threats," Felina added. "Aside from those, it's primarily a matter of time to make sure everybody is up to speed. Which we will be able to do, assuming nothing starts things off faster than anybody could expect."

"No doubt. Felina, have Enforcer Personnel review your uncle's record for the longest leave he's taken. Since we don't have a resignation we have to either give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he's taking leave, or treat it as a missing person case."

"I should have the information by tomorrow. For obvious reasons, I'd prefer to assume he's taken leave as long as we can, give a resignation as long as possible. Though a discharge because he went AWOL would be preferable to having the real reason come out."

"Agreed, that's why I need to know how long he's gone before. After that we'll have to decide whether to treat it as a missing person or AWOL, unless he decides to actually resign formally in the meantime."

"Let's hope for the third, or that we find out our 'communications glitch' turns out to know something about it." Felina added.

"That would be a pleasant surprise." Callie nodded.

"I'd like to think he wouldn't want to risk disrupting the Enforcers by making us look for him - though Chance's behavior makes the possibility that he was captured by somebody seem unlikely. I'm sure that if the reason he was missing was because somebody had taken him, we'd hear about it soon, if we hadn't heard already."

"Agreed, however I was warned that Marissa might not be pleased with him for failing her. And we know she has the resources to pull such an abduction, if she chose." Callie said quietly. "But we'll cross that bridge when we get to it."

"Definitely. We have more than enough other things to deal with until then."

"That's an understatement." Kylen muttered.

"Okay. So effective tomorrow morning you'll be acting Commander, though the three of us know that promotion is permanent. Second-in-Command is at your discretion. Is there anything else we need to cover this evening? I presume we'll be meeting sometime tomorrow."

"Just plan for it to be a long one, ma'am." Kylen inclined his head. "I'll have much of the research coordinated by then."

"Definitely. We need to get all the information together and go over the final plans. However, I can't think of anything else to go over tonight." Felina nodded. "As for my second-in-command, I see no reason to change the original plans for Kylen to take my place."

"I'll leave it to you, as to how you want to inform the Enforcers of the change."

"When would be best to hold it then, from a research standpoint?" She asked. "I'd already cleared my schedule to leave room for 'unexpected things.'"

"Late afternoon." He inclined his head. "I'm sure we're going to be seeing a lot of each other in the next few months. It would also be better to hold it in an II briefing room."

"Very good, and not that I mind but any particular reason?"

"Security, and I don't fancy the idea of carrying all that material over here." He shook his head. "We're talking about over a century of work from dozens of agencies across the world. Even just what my people have done is not a pleasant thought to transport, not to mention much of it doesn't technically exist."

"You mean to tell me that this kidnapping regime has been known about for that long, and no one's bothered to object." Callie asked with a disbelieving look on her face.

"They've never been that secretive about it ma'am." He stiffened. "NightWinds and most other agencies have been pulling victims out of there for decades. Not than many are suffered to live afterwards. I don't know why governments have looked the other way."

"I would hope because most of them haven't known about the victims," Felina said, a disturbed expression on her face.

"Well, apparently the Port Haven government was unaware, either that or they've never kidnapped anyone from there before." She said quietly. "And this is the first I've ever heard about it. Were the Enforcers aware of it?" She asked quietly.

"This is the first I've heard of it. The more I hear, the more I wish it was the last that anybody would hear about them, at that." Felina shook her head.

"Just remember Commander, the Port Authority and Airport Authority both are under Enforcer command. If you feel they're a sufficient threat, you can deny them entry." Callie said quietly, reminding Felina of something she probably hadn't had to deal with before.

"Some Enforcers know." He nodded. "But it had been a solid sixty years since they took anyone from here before Jake Clawson, and haven't come back since. That I know about, at least. They tend to stick closer to home in their mischief, or they tend choose victims no one misses. What intel I have would suggest the later. It should be noted, that while what happened to him has come to light, no charges were ever filed, and it was never officially reported. I get a lot of my intel from outside."

Callie nodded. "I expect that it 'came to light' over a long time, and probably with great difficulty. And file charges with who? Report it to who? There's no court that covers the misdeeds of a foreign ruler. I think Jake's LifeMate's family is handling it now." She said quietly, clearly frustrated at the conspiracy of silence.

"Thanks for the reminder." Felina spoke up. "I don't think that's been done in a few administrations, but it sounds like a good time to do it again. I'll take it under consideration as part of a plan for dealing with the ones who are already here."

"I think I'm going to encourage the Mayor to extend his vacation. This situation doesn't need him in the middle of it." Callie said as much to herself as to anyone else.

"No, it doesn't." Kylen agreed quietly as he gathered his paperwork up.

"Gods, that'd be a disaster. I think the safest thing would be for him to come back after everything's been in place for a while."

"Assuming there's nothing else, I'll see you both tomorrow afternoon."

"We'll see you then, Miss Briggs."

"Come on Felina," Kylen smiled supportively at her. "We can chill at the club for a couple hours, then get to work."

Felina smiled back, a little nervously. "Yeah. We sure have enough to do."

"Nothing to be nervous about." He grinned as they got in his SUV. "The Gray Stripe's not inappropriate to be seen at."

"That's not what I'm nervous about," she admitted as she climbed in the other side.

"Then what is it?" He asked, more as a friend than officer.

"I think tonight proves I'm further behind the curve than I should be. I didn't expect to know everything that was going on when I wound up taking over, but as it stands I've only just become aware of a number of the major problems that we're going to be dealing with."

"Felina, a number of those problems are not ones a second-in-command would know about." He said calmly. "I'm only in as good as shape as I am in that arena because it's a family business, and my job."

"Guess I'm just feeling a little lost here. I just hope he didn't take all of his files with him - I'll need to go over those fast."

"If he did, he's in more trouble than he already is." Kylen growled as he pulled out of the lot. "I'll bring you up to date as much as I can." He shot her a grin. "I'm good at the paperwork and investigation, you're a damn good field commander. I don't see a reason we have to change that."

"Thank you. The last thing I want to do is ground myself - won't do as much field work, but only heading out when we need extra pilots isn't a good idea. You lose track of the reality of the situation."

"Not to mention critical skills." He added. "We've got a good mixed of skills for breaking things up like that. Unlike the previous arrangement."

"Very true. Both of us in the field at once meant we could both get taken out pretty easily. Especially if we were in the same vehicle, though we managed to avoid that most of the time. Well, let's hope the new arrangement can improve things around here."

"I find it hard to believe that better communication between the Enforcers and City Hall can't help but improve things." He chuckled. "Even if everything else remained the same, we'd be in better shape."

"Oh, there was very clear communication before, on certain subjects," Felina chuckled. "There was no ambiguity whatsoever regarding the fact that they didn't like each other nine times out of ten, for example. We'll just have to make sure that the communication is on more vital issues."

"And of a more useful tenor." He added. "Who are the officers you trust?"

"Depends on the level of trust. To do their jobs to the best of their ability, most of them. Too far beyond that, the list becomes quite a bit shorter. Ironically, most of them are probably on the list of people who were going to resign, particularly Greg BrightWind." Felina came up with a few other names that she felt she could trust completely. "Would I be right if I guessed that you're thinking of filling a few positions, maybe creating a few, to help run things around there?"

"Filling them, yes. With your approval on them, there are going to be several higher ranking posts that will be needing to be filled shortly." He huffed. "Ulysses may have been good at a lot of things in running the system, but making sure he had truly competent and trustworthy officers in the upper ranks was not one of them. One of my top priorities is to clean up our ranks of those that couldn't honestly hold the posts, and giving the promotions out to give us the best force we can."

"Agreed. Steele should not have been allowed to breathe as long as he was, and there are too many Steele wanna-be's already. Why do I have a feeling that Personnel Resources is going to hate us when we're done rearranging things?"

"Because we have about the same opinion of what needs to happen, and they know me." He grinned dangerously. "There's a reason II has the lowest corruption and highest efficiency rating in the system, and it's not nothing to do with what's inherent with the division. We'd be in a lot better shape in Ulysses had let me do my job all these years."

"In his defense, I have a feeling he wasn't allowed to handle some of the problem officers as much as he would have liked to. I know of a couple examples he wanted to get rid of, but couldn't, officially."

Kylen raised an eyebrow. "I heard the rumors, but do you know why? There isn't an undesirable on the force I couldn't get rid of, one way or another."

"I would pin at least some of the blame on the one person you can buy who could have had my uncle removed and another, more easily controlled, officer put in his place. Who just happens to be on vacation currently. Nothing that could be proven, of course, but I know that Steele wasn't suffered willingly. And it seems to be his style, unless he really is that damned incompetent."

"Hmm, maybe we should give a few other agencies a nudge in housecleaning." He rumbled. "Might well cut down our work." Kylen suddenly looked at her very seriously as they stopped for a red light. "What kind of access do you have to your family's resources?"

"I'm not sure any more. I never really used them much before, and with everything that's happened, for all I know I could be disowned by the next time I talk to them."

"I doubt they'd try something that hazardous, at least not without a solid means of getting rid of both of us first." Kylen shook his head. "Commander of the Enforcers is a position of significant power, and a pissed Commander can make life very miserable even for a group that powerful. But you are right about maybe not having their support anymore." He admitted quietly. "Which leaves my kin to count on for now."

"At least until I can make sure that missing when I fired earlier works out to my advantage. There's a very real possibility that they don't disapprove of his actions, given that he was using my grandfather's resources to track down the people who were blackmailing him. Speaking of which, I'll need to check out reports of any large explosions this afternoon, make sure they kept the collateral damage to a minimum."

"It'll wait till we get back on duty." He said stubbornly as he pulled up to the nearest guest parking to her apartment.

"I know it'll wait, I was just reminding myself as much as anything."

"If you don't mind me changing in your place, we should go in civvies."

"If you have anything to change into, feel free. It'd be a good idea to get out of uniform for a while," Felina said as she unbuckled her seat belt.

"Always carry a couple sets of civvies in the car." He grinned and twisted to grab a small duffle bag from the back seat. "We're going to have at least a couple hours of fun before the real work starts."

"Good, we could both use it. What sort of dress code are we talking about?"

"It's pretty much anything goes, jeans and a T-shirt is what I usually wear." He shrugged and chuckled as he followed her. "But I've seen fetish wear and wedding clothes there too. On stage and off."

Felina chuckled. "I think I'll go for the jeans and T-shirt combo," she replied as she pulled out her keys and unlocked the door.

"Any luck?" Kylen's deep voice drew Felina out of her search pattern as he shut the Commander's office door behind him.

"Some. It looks like everything's here, it's just a matter of finding the right things. The good news is that it's all filed properly. So, what should we go over first? My first inclination is to go over the status reports on the various projects in the works, figure out which ones to bring up to full budget fastest."

"Sounds like as good a place to start as any." He nodded. "At least we don't have to worry about funding SWAT."

"That would not be fun," she agreed. "I think the only project we had recently that was even close was the Blue Manx, and that was just as far as the technology was concerned. Do you have any information on Teveris combat forces? If the possibility of going to war with them exists, I think we should get the projects that would help us the most in that sector up and running first."

"Lets get the files together, so we can discus this with easier access to the information we'll need." He suggested.

"Right." Felina pulled out the files she could find on the projects and Teveris, and stacked them on the desk. "You have anything to add?"

"Not that we won't be grateful for the break to come get." He grinned slightly.

"All right, then. Let's get to it."

"Ms. Briggs, Mr. Terry and Jake BrightClaw are here to see you." The secretary's voice interrupted her early morning double-checking.

"Please send them in." She said, convinced that if she double-checked her double-checking one more time screaming would be involved.

"Morning, Jake. Morning, Terry." She said as they walked in. "Have a seat."

"Morning, Callie." Terry replied following her lead on formality, before sitting down.

"Morning," Jake nodded and settled close to Terry, the sharp look of his new uniform offset by his intense unease.

"I like the new uniforms." Callie commented casually. "Okay, is there anything that you want to go over before the press conference?"

Terry thought for a moment. "Are we still going with the original division of questions; you field the City and Enforcer questions, and I'll handle the SWAT questions?"

"Unless you've got a better arrangement."

"No, just checking."

"Okay, then I'll give my little announcement; we deal some questions from the press, and then the VTOL take off by the squad. Sound about right."

"As long as nothing comes up." Terry nodded agreeably. "Any idea if Commander Feral knows about this presentation?"

"Acting Commander Feral does. Whether Ulysses Feral does is anyone's guess, he didn't report in today." She said simply as Jake's tension instantly magnified.

"You don't know where he is?" Jake's voice held steady. Only just.

"We know he was in his office yesterday afternoon. He left the building between two and five in the afternoon, and has not returned. He did not put in for leave, call in sick, or resign. After discussing the matter with the acting Commander and her Second, we've decided to treat his absence as personal leave, which he has a large amount of unused." She said evenly. "Until such time as we evidence to the contrary."

"Understood." Jake nodded.

"Who's handling security?" Terry asked.

"Special Investigations. I still didn't know what the situation was with the Enforcers when I made arrangements."

"I take it they're a bit larger than they used to be."

"Only temporarily. I've been using them to delay resignations."

"Is my big bro working security?"

"Greg? Yes, I figured he was probably a good one to put in charge of it."

"How is this actually going to go down?" Jake asked very softly.

"Fairly simple presentation in the open area in front of City Hall." Callie explained. "Short speech announcing that Halycon and the Deputy Mayor's office, Special Defense Authority are taking the prototype SWAT, that you created, to the next logical level, a full squad. We then unveil the jets, and introduce the team. After that we deal with questions from the press."

"When do you want the TurboKat to come in?" He asked with a slight nod.

"As we unveil the new jets would be good." She said easily.

He simply nodded acceptance.

Terry nodded. "I think that covers everything, and since Jake and I will be 'arriving' with the TurboKat, I guess we'd better get ready for our entrance." He said standing.

"Agreed." She smiled. "Hopefully, this will go smoothly."

"Yes," Jake nodded slightly. "Thank you, Callie." He looked up, not quite meeting her sea green eyes. "For being a friend."

"You're welcome, Jake." She said standing and walking around the desk. "In a job like mine, friends you can be sure of are rare. I've always been glad to have you as one." She left unspoken that she'd once hoped for more.

He smiled slightly and leaned forward to kiss her on the cheek. "I am sorry I could never return your interest in more."

"I understand why, now." She said, sympathy shining in her green eyes.

Jake could only nod slightly as he retreated back into the temporary walls he'd built to protect himself.

"We should get together sometime, perhaps over dinner. When none of us has to be officially anything." Terry suggested as he put a reassuring arm around Jake that the cinnamon tom relaxed noticeably into.

"Sounds like a wonderful idea." She smiled as the two of them left, though not before Jake gave an agreeable nod.

"Members of the press." Deputy Mayor Briggs started easily. "As you're all aware, this city has benefited for the last seven years from the protection of the SWAT Kats. What you didn't know is that the SWAT Kats were the prototype of a new defense strategy. Now that the prototype has proven itself in the field, it is time to move to the production model.

"Today I'm pleased to announce the commissioning of the SWAT Squadron, under the Special Defense Authority of the Deputy Mayor's office. This squadron is made possible by the very generous support and funding from Halycon Industries." She gestured to three large tarps which lifted on cue. "These are the new fighters that will be providing the security that SWAT has come to stand for over the last seven years.

"And these are the SWAT pilots and gunners who will be standing guard over our city, keeping it safe from the super-criminals who threaten it. Ladies and gentlekats, I give you the new SWAT, and the creator and inventor of SWAT, Jake 'Razor' BrightClaw." She gestured to the TurboKat, which was just landing in the space reserved for it among the new fighters.

There was an actual moment of shocked silence as Jake, dressed in the uniform of the new SWAT, but with his Razor mask and old helmet on in as much of a concession to his old uniform as he could, jumped from the back seat to join his LifeMate and other teammates.

It was no surprise that Ann Gora recovered her wits first. "Was this done with Commander Feral's knowledge?"

"Commander Feral chose not to be involved, by not approving the paperwork to make the prototype official. That left the decision to the Special Defense Authority."

"Where's T-Bone?" A male reporter asked briskly from the right.

"T-Bone has chosen to part company with SWAT for personal reasons, and that's all we have on that subject." Callie said swiftly as Terry discretely put a reassuring hand on Jake's arm.

But it all didn't come quite fast enough for Jake's silent, nearly motionless reaction to rake over the reporter who asked, draining all the color from the brown tom's face, and having a fairly palatable effect on the rest of the gathering.

"Who are the new teams?" Ann prompted as a distraction, and for once in her life, not completely sure she wanted to pry into this one.

Callie nodded. "Team one is Frostwind and Longshot." She gestured as the two stepped forward, and then back. "Team two, Mirage and Striker." She supplied as the tall Xanith and his shorter partner stepped forward. "And team three, is Slingshot and Valkyrie."

"Will they be more available than the prototype for interviews?" A perky blond shekat with light brown fur asked.

"Since they don't have to dodge Commander Feral, interviews can be arranged." Callie said with smile.

"Are there plans for a Exhibition Show?" Ann took center stage again.

"Nothing is scheduled at the present time. But that will likely change once the squad settles into its routine." Callie responded.

A dark Tiger Xanith was about to ask something when all four jets suddenly powered up to pre-launch standby.

Jake made an abortive turn to the TurboKat as the three active teams responded reflexively to the alarm and ran for their respective jets.

"Okay, what's the situation?" Terry said into the comm unit in his glove once the three jets were airborne and headed out to sea.

"An unknown and very large entity is coming ashore at Bramble Beach, sir." A female calm voice responded after a moment.

"Understood." Terry said before switching to a secure company channel. "Get HalSat2 to focus on the Bramble Beach area."

"Yes, Sir." A male voice responded.

Jake was something of a nervous wreak from the stress of not responding to a call of danger by the time the TurboKat set down into it's hanger at Haven.

Terry was down first, walking over to the Doberman Kantin bitch waiting for them. "Something the matter, Akisha?" He asked quietly, since meeting planes wasn't something she did unless something was wrong.

"This letter for Jake passed security." She handed Jake the red envelope as he walked up, tail flicking in agitation.

"Thanks." The lean tom glanced at his name scrawled across the front for a moment before it clicked who that handwriting belonged to.

"Any idea who its from?" Terry asked, finding the choice of color for the envelope interesting.

"Chance." Jake growled as his ears flattened and claws unsheathed. "How was it delivered?" He demanded as he used one claw to slit the envelope open.

Akisha handed the security report to Terry.

"According to Security, Chance gave it to Felina Feral, who gave it to our Enforcer Liaison office. Security scrubbed it, and then had it sent down here." He summarized.

"His tracking implant." Jake snorted. "And a legible letter." He said a little softer, knowing just what it took for the tabby to write even this neatly.


We're leaving the city. Tonight. I dunno where you are so we'll probably be gone by the time you get this. I'm not even sure where we're going but it's gotta be better than here. So many people hate me now, and my best friend wants me dead. I guess I must deserve it.

I'm sorry. I know it doesn't make any difference, and I know you'll kill me if I see you again, but I'm really sorry. This is nothing like how I wanted things to be.


Jake read it once, then handed it to Terry as he tried to stop thinking about the entire mess.

Terry scanned the letter once, and decided he didn't know the tabby well enough to really decide what weight to give this. But as an attempt to make up for the level of betrayal he'd committed it seemed insufficient. He put the letter back in its envelope, set it down and put his arms comfortingly around the cinnamon tom.

It was all that was needed to make up Jake's mind. With a low sob be pressed as close to Terry as he could and buried his face against the gray tom's neck as some small amount of the grief began to come out in body wracking sobs.

Terry held Jake close, stroking his hair gently as the lean tom sobbed.

"*Ter?*" Jake's mind reach for his mate as the grief settled down enough for him to think a tiny bit. "*Love me?"*

Terry wasn't exactly sure which meaning of love was being used so he went with his favorite. "*Yes, I love you. I always have, always will.*" He thought, without hesitation or doubt.

"*He ... he didn't love me, did he?*" Jake whispered as he snuggled closer under the covers.

"*Judging by actions, I don't think so.*" Terry said, without any anger. "*That's all I have to go by."*

"*I loved him.*" He whispered miserably. "*Partners ...*" He lost the trail of thought as a swell of grief, longing, pain and betrayed outage flooded his mind.

"*I know.*" Terry said sympathetically, as he simply accepted the thoughts and rode the storm out, holding close to Jake, giving him all the reassurance he would accept as Jake gradually drifted into a hurting numbness that passed for feeling better.

"*Tired?*" Terry asked gently, with image of sleeping.

Jake couldn't really form words, but a sense of uncertain agreement drifted up as he mentally shifted the connection between them to one for rest.

Terry pulled the covers up around them, and pulled Jake close to snuggle.

Felina and Kylen looked up at the knock on II's main conference room's door.

"Come in." He called with a glance at the monitor to see who it was.

"Good afternoon." Callie said as she entered carrying a bulky set of files and a laptop computer.

"Good afternoon," Kylen nodded with a smile. "Have a seat. There's a fully stocked refreshment bar if you'd like something to drink, and my second knows all the good places to get take-out for long meetings."

Felina quickly closed a file she'd been looking over, and nodded a greeting to Callie. "How'd the press conference go? I hope you managed to handle the introductions before the excitement we had earlier."

"Introductions are about as far as I got." She smiled. "Forgot to answer the T-Bone question before it was asked, and some poor reporter almost lost his head for asking it." She said as she set the files and laptop down. "Your refreshment bar have Kat Cola?" She asked.

"Of course." Kylen nodded and stood to open the panel concealing a well-stocked beverage and snack bar, with alcohol notably absent. He pulled a chilled one out for her before returning, leaving the panel open. "I'm sure that's going to be the talk of the rumor mill and tabloids for months."

"Should keep anybody from asking questions like that in the future too. Unless they enjoy having their spleens handed to them." Felina commended.

"Yeah, that look is enough to deter just about everyone." Kylen shook his head.

"Can't entirely say I blame Jake though." Callie said after a sip of soda. "I'd be sensitive about the subject in his place. "Hell, I was tempted to slug Chance myself." She said quietly, seeming a little embarrassed. "Not really behavior becoming the Deputy Mayor." She said sheepishly.

"Is it becoming of his friend." Kylen shrugged. "Besides, you didn't. No one should be judged on their thoughts, only their actions."

"If we were judged on our thoughts, I think we'd all be in jail by now. And we've all wanted to slug him at one time or another after this started." Felina shook her head.

"Okay," Kylen relaxed back in his chair and looked at the two females. "Where do we want to start this?"

"Perhaps we should start with readiness, specifically what projects are needed that aren't funded. That's a good way to work in to correcting the budget mess." Callie suggested.

All right," Felina said, pulling out the information in question.

"Our general state of readiness is actually fairly reasonable - we need to update our equipment, and start training harder, but the majority of our forces are ready for large scale activity - one of the benefits of having to deal with one crisis after another.

"Unfortunately, our information on Teveris indicates that we're seriously outclassed - we outnumber them, but that's about it at this point. They seem to specialize in small, but highly advanced, forces. Kylen, do you have anything more specific to add to that?"

"Plenty," he sighed. "Mostly names, specialties and service records of the more notable members. I don't see a need to go over them here, but I agree with Fel. We'd have a better chance of taking out Haven than Teveris right now." He hesitated a moment. "This is extremely sensitive information," Kylen locked eyes with each shekat in turn. "Teveris has NBC capabilities, and a proven willingness to use them."

"A disturbing thought, though I can't claim to be surprised that they're willing to use them." Callie said quietly. "And I think that without the NBC component, Haven can probably take Teveris. Sounds like we have some serious catching up to do."

"And unfortunately, it's hard to catch up with NBC's. That should probably be our first priority - no matter who gets involved in a war with Teveris, we'll probably have to deal with the fallout if they use them."

Kylen shifted uncomfortably. "Let me rephrase that. They have intercontinental NBC, emphasis on the N."

"As long as we're discussing highly classified things." Callie said quietly. "Halycon has been developing a counter to intercontinental weapons. At my last meeting with the Haven Minister of Special Defenses and the Halycon lead developer they were expecting deployment in six months. That was five months ago." She said quietly.

"That is a good thing, especially now." Kylen nodded with a bit of visible relief. "Even a prototype of that system is better than nothing."

"Hopefully they'll wait long enough to deploy before anything starts. Don't suppose you know if they'd be willing to share that technology, would you? I know most places don't like to let advantages like that get outside their borders."

"I'll talk to Minister Corlas. Callie nodded. "I think under the circumstances they may be willing. After all, Halycon has assets to protect here as well."

"I hope you're right. That would leave us with one less thing to develop ourselves before we're ready for whatever goes down." Felina added. "And I don't think that any of our other contractors has anything in the works along those lines, at least not anything we know about."

"We will also only be involved at their request," Kylen leveled his gaze at her. "Or are we going to war, and just not announcing it yet?"

"We're preparing for a war that may very well happen soon." Callie said simply. "Teveris' actions have crossed the threshold for an undeclared war on their part, however we should not act hastily. Barring any further hostile actions against MegaKat City by Teveris we'll wait for movement by Haven."

Kylen nodded. "For my reference, what is your personal, and MKC's official, stance on using Blacks Ops and similar tactics?"

"MKC officially uses Sniper Squad, so I'd say anything goes." She said quietly. "Personally, we're facing an opponent with no moral or ethical qualms on the use of NBC weapons. We'd be foolish to handicap ourselves, by not using Black Ops."

"I'll see what's available, but with my standing as second-in-command of the Enforcers, we can probably count on support from Veldt, Calvagia and Parthin." Kylen inclined his head. "And full NightWind backing."

"That being the case, maybe we can head off the NBC issue before they have a chance to launch." Felina commented.

"At least most of it." Kylen agreed. "But if reports are accurate, getting into Teveris covertly is harder than it will be to out-fight them in open conflict. They've put a lot into the small force they have."

"Given the choice between risking it, and risking the chance that they'll launch and whatever safeguards we have in place aren't sufficient, though, I'll risk it." Felina stated evenly.

"The more of the NBC issue we can neutralize in advance the better." Callie said simply. "I don't think Teveris is up to the forces converging against them."

"Ma'am, with all due respect, we probably wouldn't be either." He shook his head.

"I don't think they were expecting that anybody would ever find out enough to object to," Felina said. "Or that matter, if anybody did, that they'd actually do anything about it besides object. Very big mistake, on their part."

"Most likely," Kylen agreed with a small nod. "They have been doing this for centuries without censure. It's not unreasonable for them to believe that state of affairs would continue." He considered both of them. "And you have to admit, if it wasn't for a single very serious mistake, that would still be true."

"I think the very serious mistake was the first abduction of Jake Clawson. This has been brewing since then, it was merely a matter of time before it blew up." Callie said quietly. "I think the governments that ignored the abduction of their own people have much to answer for. It should not have gone unchallenged."

Felina shook her head. "No, it shouldn't have. Though proving anything could be difficult. And even if we could, what could we do that wouldn't lead us into a new MegaWar?"

"Though as you pointed out Callie, many might not know." Kylen shook his head. "I am beginning to wonder just how much of the world's difficulties are because of a lack of communication, just like here. It's kind of amazing what wasn't reported."

"True, though you'd think that at least some of the agencies doing rescues would have informed their governments what was going on." She sighed. "Speaking of communications, what progress have you made on determining what needs funded?"

"A fair amount. Primarily returning a number of the projects that produced working prototypes to active status - the Blue Manx project, for example - and bringing the maintenance budgets up to full. Upgrade our technology to the point where we're actually keeping up with our various neighbors, and keep what we have in the air while we're upgrading," Felina explained, as she pulled the proposals they'd made the night before out and handed them to Callie. "There are a few other suggestions, but those are the ones that I consider the most important at this point in time, as far as the budget is concerned."

"Even with Halycon's SWAT, I'm also very interested in resurrecting the rapid response team project that Ulysses killed as a second in command." Kylen added.

Callie looked at him curiously. "What is it, and how does it differ from SWAT?" She asked with open interest as Felina raised an eyebrow.

"Primarily it differs in that it is ours." He rumbled deep in his chest. "But also in several significant ways. Rapid Response is geared more towards initial contact, damage control and rescue. From natural as well as unnatural disasters."

"Well, if you've observed the extras Razor puts on, SWAT also does those. So lets keep this civil, and non-competitive. But when it comes to super-criminals, aliens, and the stuff SWAT's been handling, they have jurisdiction. It's part of their charter." She said making sure things were clear.

Felina nodded. "We certainly wouldn't want to do anything that might start the old SWAT vs Enforcers problems up again. I think that the primary reason other squads would be preferable, besides the obvious reasons, is a matter of being able to respond to certain situations SWAT might not, whether because they're dealing with another situation, or because it hasn't come to their attention yet. Am I right, Kylen?" she asked, wondering herself why he was still interested in starting the second project.

"I don't mean to be competitive about it." Kylen shook his head, directing his words more towards Callie. "But even if it's low on the funding scale, would it really hurt to have a more rescue and intel oriented unit to support SWAT to back them, and us, up?"

"As long as they aren't duplicating anyone's efforts, I don't see a problem." Callie said. "If you've got a proposal, I'm certainly willing to review it."

"Of course," he nodded easily and shifted to pull a sizeable folder from a drawer in the table. "Another issue in the money department are raises for the lower ranks. While it's a living wedge, it's nowhere close to where it should be, if you consider similarly sized cities."

"A good idea, raises are always good for morale." Callie nodded. "An across the board comparison of salaries to similar sized cities maybe in order."

"That was next on the list of suggestions, especially for the lower ranks," Felina said, kicking herself mentally for not mentioning it before.

"Here." He handed Callie a smaller folder. "It's for the last five years, accurate by NightWind Investigations and accepted in nineteen court cases so far. To bring us up to the world average, we're looking at a 250% or more increase for most officers."

Callie blinked. "We're that far behind? No wonder we're losing our best to the private sector. Good thing we caught this before next years budget was written."

"Further behind than that, when you consider that even a beat cop around here rates at least level one danger pay everywhere else, and most Enforcers are at level three or four, pilots at five and six. Ma'am, We don't even have danger pay. Or overtime." He looked at her seriously. "The more I've real looked at our budget, the more I'm amazed with how Ulysses did it. I'm sure he must have supplemented it, at least to some extent, from elsewhere. We could barely make payroll on the numbers we got approved for, according to our records."

Felina had known things were rough for payroll at lower ranks, they weren't great even at the top - but she had no idea they were that bad. "Very good thing," she said quietly. "Is there even that much money left in the current budget?"

Kylen shook his head. "Nowhere close."

Callie nodded. "Not to fix everything at once, but we can start." She said quietly. "There's money you don't know about because it's in various special projects funds. Money that the mayor brought in with his emergency tax hikes and would've wasted. I'd been planning on using it to fund SWAT but with that funding taken care of, it can be put to other uses.

"Looking at the current payroll figures, we can fund a twenty percent increase plus danger pay and overtime for the remainder of this fiscal year. Start writing next years budget proposals and be greedy, every other city department is. Only this year, we make sure we're all talking about the same budget."

"Thank you, ma'am." There was an intensely warm, grateful undercurrent in his deep voice. "

"We'll keep those suggestions in mind." Felina nodded. "Even the amount you're talking about should make a lot of people very happy with the results. And we'll definitely be talking about the same budget - I'll make sure of that."

"And by planning time, we will have a much better grasp on this." Kylen promised. "When we don't have to keep this as an effective black project, there are others I trust that understand these things more than the two of us."

"You might want to look through any notes the Commander left to see who he consulted on budget matters." Callie suggested.

"Good idea." Felina nodded. "Fortunately, all the information would seem to be there, it'll just take time to go through properly, find everything we need."

Go to Part 1         Part 2        

Affairs of the State and Heart part 2 of 2

NC-17 for M/M
R for Violence
Het Level is None
Slash Level is Slash Smut Level is Medium
Femslash Level is None
Herm Level is None

185 KB, Story is Closed-Unfinished, Series is Closed-Unfinished
Written February 15, 2002 by Rauhnee Ranshanka, Todd McCall, Vorex and Karl Wolfemann

Setting: Haven, SWAT Kats

Primary Races: Kat

Contents: Furry. Slash (M/M). Betrayal, DarkFic, Rape (M on F), Rape Recovery

Pairings: Jake Clawson/Terry BrightClaw, Jake Clawson/Ulysses Feral, Chance Furlong/Ulysses Feral

Notes: This starts out dark, and gets darker, and very, very little is as it first appears. For the curious, Vorex brought in Chance and Feral, Todd has Terry, Rauhnee's Jake, and Jason's Felina.

Blurb: Jake has survived some brutal times he keeps to himself, things that not even Terry, his LifeMate of three years, can sooth. But it is a secret Chance and Feral share that may finally break him.

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.

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