Death of an Age
by Fur and Fantasy
PG-13 for M/M and Violence
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file
"Close the door, Stella." Andrew said in a quiet voice, from the shadows of the Attorney General's office. As usual she had no idea how the large tom had gotten in, but there he was leaning casually in one corner with a large file in one hand. The dark jeans and black leather jacket accentuated the darkness of his fur, and the startling gleam of sapphire blue eyes. "We need to talk."
"Of course," the Great Dane Kantin nodded and locked it behind her.
"My brother likes to talk about putting an end to vigilante activities in the city, but the truth is it's all talk." Andrew sneered, as he placed the folder on Stella's desk. "He's known who the SWAT Kats are for years and hasn't done anything. That file contains enough evidence so that he'll have to act. Unless, of course, he wants to be responsible the next time something goes wrong during one of SWAT's operations." He chuckled softly. "And something will go wrong." He added with a sinister smile. "If he asks where the file came from, just attribute to it an anonymous concerned citizen."
"Excellent," she rumbled, her snub tail wagging rapidly as she skimmed the contents, then looked up at the Commander's brother with a vicious grin suitable to any wolf. "This is perfect no matter how he reacts to it."
"Just remember." He cautioned. "He'll try to minimize the damage with some misdemeanor charges that the deputy mayor can arrange to have Mayor Spineless pardon in the morning. You need to use those new clauses in Omega statutes when they're arraigned." He explained. "And see that they're sent to Alkatraz, not KatMax." He instructed. "A good lawyer could fight that, but I don't see one of the Public Defenders remembering how."
"No doubt," she nodded. "And I do not see them managing a good lawyer anytime soon. I'll make sure they don't get one of the better PDs."
"And the more of this you can leak into the press the better." He rumbled. "Enough of the city sees them as heroes to make my brother's life difficult for as long as they're in prison. Won't even matter that he can't do anything about it, once they've been tagged as Omegas." He chuckled. "And when you bring up the Omega statute, try to act like your shocked that it applies to the SWAT Kats. That should confuse the public as to just whose fault it is that they're being put in the same category with Dark Kat."
"I can manage that," she nodded. "The only problem I can see is keeping the Deputy Mayor from paying for a lawyer. She certainly has the personal resources to get them the best in the city.
"That's where this envelope comes in." Andrew grinned predatorily. "Leaked appropriately, this will have the Deputy Mayor tied up getting herself clear of charges of corruption and bribery. It'll also tie up most of her personal resources." He chuckled. "In time she'll manage to beat the charges, but I'll have something else by then." He chuckled, as he handed her the manila envelope he pulled from his jacket.
"Excellent," she nodded. "And very to make appear from somewhere other than this office."
"Would raise suspicions otherwise." Andrew nodded. "Given the Deputy Mayor's very public support of SWAT."
"Anything else?" She looked at the slightly smaller feline calculatingly.
"That will do for now." He said casually. "But expect to be seeing me more often in the coming months. Father's health is failing, which means I have to keep my dear brother as busy and off-balance as possible." He grinned sinisterly. "Preferably without him knowing it's my doing." The powerfully athletic tom added simply. "Any questions?"
"No, this will keep my office buzzing for a while." She nodded seriously. "It'll be interesting to see how the first Omega attack goes down after SWAT's down."
"Messily, I'd imagine." Andrew shrugged. "But that will be something of an embarrassing revelation for my brother won't it. A rather public exposure of the fact that his Enforcers can't handle everything." He chuckled, as he stood away from the wall. "Till next time, Stella." He smiled, pressing a concealed button on his belt. There was flash of darkness, and when the lights returned he was gone.
She shook her head and remained silent, not really expecting that he was gone just get as she carefully read the material she had been given and sorting it into several reports that could come in along with the legitimate ones as things progressed. She hardly needed it all to force the Commander to act.
"You know somebody's setting us up," Jake muttered angrily from the lower bunk of their jail cell in Enforcer Headquarters and started out the window. "First Callie on those bogus corruption charges, now us."
"Definitely too big a coincidence." Chance agreed, tail twitching on the top bunk. "Question is who? Who'd have it in for Callie and us?"
"And Feral." Jake added. "You know he was pushed into this by someone who can force him, which is quite a short list. He knows better than to take the city defenses down that far. As for who," he sighed. "That's a seriously long list, buddy."
"But not a long list of people who could do all three." Chance shook his head. "Feral's the real kicker. Planting the bogus stuff on Callie isn't that unusual for political types, and I suppose a real good investigator might have figured us out. But Feral's too stubborn to push around normally."
"Which means somebody's got some serious dirt on him, real or not, that can ruin his career." He rumbled and swung out of bed to pace the small space again, his hands on everything as he tried to work a way out without any of their gear. "Which is not that hard to come by, unfortunately."
"Of course, the dirt on him could be just as bogus as the stuff on Callie." He shook his head. "It's all just complicated enough to be something Dark Kat would try." He said thoughtfully.
"Wouldn't surprise me," Jake grumbled and glared at the surveillance camera balefully. "What better way to take over than to take out the only real resistance he'd have."
The clank of the metal door to the cell block opening preceded the arrival of two Enforcers at the door to Jake and Chance's cell. "Okay, your lawyer is here to see the both of you." The larger of the two toms said, as his partner unlocked the cell door. Both of the guards were too young to have been on the force when Jake and Chance had, but like the rest of the guards they treated the guys a bit better than run of the mill prisoners.
"Any word on what the actual charges are yet?" Jake asked quietly as they were lead to on of the small interrogation rooms.
"Operation of a jet aircraft in city limits without proper permits, failure to file flight plans, improper storage of fuel and possession of restricted military technology without authorization." The guard replied quietly. "All misdemeanors, I think."
"Told you we should've been calling the airport." Chance smirked at his partner.
"Except maybe that last one," Jake nodded. "Could be a lot worse given what else has been happening lately."
"Definitely." The guard agreed as he opened the door to the small interrogation room. "A real hard-ass could've come with a whole laundry list of charges." He said motioning for the guys to enter.
"Mr. Clawson and Mr. Furlong?" The petite black and white shekat who looked to be in her mid-twenties asked politely as they entered.
"Yes," Jake answered for them both and accepted her handshake. "Jake Clawson, tabby's Chance."
"I'm Belinda Dawson, with the Public Defenders office. I've been assigned by the court to represent you."
He nodded again and sat down across from her. "What are we facing, really?"
"Mostly misdemeanors." She said. "Except for the possession of restricted technology which is a Class D Felony. However, since this is your first offense it should be possible to plead it down to six months and probation." She said encouragingly. "I'll be honest, I'm surprised there are as few charges as there are."
"I'm half surprised we're not at Alkatraz." Jake shook his head and regarded her levelly. "And I can prove nothing we had is actually restricted technology. I built it all from scrap the public is allowed to buy and we own. Which leaves as very interesting question. Why bring us in, and not throw the book at us? A skilled lawyer could get us classified as an Omega threat, never mind the actual charges that are worth billions in fines and a few centuries of hard time."
"You're a lawyer too?" Miss Dawson asked in surprise.
"No," Jake chuckled a bit darkly and shook his head. "Just knowledgeable enough from when I wanted to know what was actually illegal about our plans to know exactly how screwed we would be if the city ever really came after us."
"Actually, there's a clause in the restricted technology law." She said, pulling out some paperwork. "Basically makes the technology illegal regardless of source, so it doesn't matter how the item came into existence." She explained, sliding the photocopy across to Jake. "It's a really obscure clause." She said thoughtfully. "As for Alkatraz, you can't be sent there without being convicted or at least being Omega-classed. And there's no evidence that either of you have committed any Omega-class offenses."
"Somebody's been having fun," he scrutinized the papers. "And very recently. And no, we haven't committed a crime like that; we're just capable of it. A good lawyer could spin it given Feral's ranting and a few other things. Has the DA's office said anything?"
"No, they haven't." She shook her head. "Which is pretty strange in and of itself. I expect we'll hear from them at the arraignment, but normally the DA's office doesn't ramp up charges. They occasionally decline to prosecute if the charges are too insignificant or not supported by the evidence, but that's about it."
"Do you know who's pushing for prosecution at all?" He asked pointedly. "Where the intel on us came from."
Belinda had to shuffle through her papers for a few minutes. "Ah, here we are. The information was in a manila envelope delivered anonymously to the Attorney General's office." She explained. "That means we'll probably see someone from the AG's office, not the DA's office at the arraignment."
"Which means almost anyone could be behind it," Jake grumbled and leaned back. "Not good."
"Especially not with Ms Danar involved." Belinda agreed. "She's extremely ambitious, and sometimes a little to eager for a conviction, in my opinion."
"Stella Danar?" Chance blinked. "First Kantin to reach the top level of city administration? From what I hear, that one is more Wolf than Great Dane."
Jake's expression went dark. "Start brushing up on Omega laws, particularly the new stuff in the last few years. She is not one of our fans."
"That would explain why this is my first case out of law school." Belinda shook her head. "I'll see what I can find. Just don't talk to any reporters or other journalist types when I'm not around. Don't need to give the enemy any extra ammo."
"I'm not talking to reporters period." Chance grumbled. "'Cept maybe Ann, off the record if you know what I mean." He chuckled, trying to make light of the otherwise depressing situation.
"I'm not going to ask." Belinda shook her head.
"Right idea," Jake chuckled slightly. "And don't worry about the reporters. We're not planning on talking to anybody not already involved."
"Good." She nodded. "Arraignment is scheduled for the evening court session today, so I'll see you in court at 8 pm. We can find out who the opposition is, and if anybody is willing to play ball." She said standing.
"Or if they're out to play hardball," he nodded and stood. "If you get anything from a Derik Brastar, trust it. He's a good friend of mine."
"I will, and if you think of anything else let me know." She said, as she knocked on the door of the interrogation room. "Just tell the guards you need to talk to your lawyer."
"Yes, ma'am." Jake nodded and tried to work the knot out of his gut.
Jake walked in behind his partner with a strait back and the kind of pride that came from believing he'd done the right thing and being willing to face the consequences. He took in the room, one that had been closed to the public and press for practical as well as security reasons. He didn't particularly like the second fact, and the amount of city paid muscle arrayed on the far side of the courtroom did nothing to appease him.
The Great Dane bitch he recognized from pictures as the AG, Commander Feral looked a bit less comfortable than her. It was an interesting juxtaposition of giants.
"All rise for his honor Judge Augustus Remillard." The bailiff announced loudly as the portly grey and white judge entered. He looked like a faded copy of Mayor Manx, except that he was wearing judges' robes and didn't have the ever-escaping toupee. He wasn't a judge that Jake was familiar with, but with the number of them in the city, it was hard to keep track of all of them.
"Be seated." He said firmly. "Attorney General Danar, are you lead prosecutor on this case?" He asked curiously.
"Yes, your honor." The meticulously dressed Kantin answered precisely. "The lawyer assigned to the case was hospitalized this evening, and I had no time to get another lawyer here."
"So how do the defendant's plea?" He turned his attention to who were arguably the two best-known kats in the city that no one would recognize.
"Not guilty, your honor." Jake replied, focusing on the judge as he spoke before he began keeping tabs on everyone else again.
"Not guilty, your honor." Chance added after Jake ribbed him lightly.
"So pleaded." The judge nodded, turning to Danar again. "Bail amount?" He asked, as a smartly dressed tricolor tom walked up to the Kantin, whispered to her and handed her a manila folder. "Ms Danar, I hope that conversation is relevant to the current proceeding."
"My apologies, your honor." She apologized politely. "And it is relevant. My paralegal just brought a recently enacted statute to my attention, which I had overlooked."
"And this statute would be?" He glared down at her, reminding her that he was known for his dislike of complex legalistic maneuverings.
"Section 25F, paragraph 7 of the MegaKat City Omega Control Ordinance, your honor." She said precisely, reading from the folder.
"Ms. Danar, no Omega charges were filed against the defendants, so I fail to see how the Ordinance is relevant." He rumbled, his annoyance becoming evident. "And you can not add charges during the arraignment."
"We're not adding charges, your honor." The Kantin objected politely. "But the previously mentioned section states that any person or persons charged with a crime that involve the use of technology significantly beyond current leading edge technology is to be classified as an Omega level threat, and is subject to the provisions of Sections 15 and 16 of the Control Ordinance."
"I want to see that statute, Ms Danar. Please hand the folder to the bailiff." He said sharply, as a surprised buzz and murmur passed through the courtroom. Impossible to miss was the look of genuine surprise on Commander Feral's face. He briefly scanned the folder once the burly grey on white striped tom brought it to him. "Court will recess for thirty minutes while I review this statute." He said, standing.
"All rise." The bailiff announced loudly as the judge left the room.
"Like we could have made bail anyway," Jake muttered under his breath with a deadly look for the Attorney General that didn't go unnoticed.
"It's more serious than that." Belinda said quietly. "Without the Omega statute, even if you couldn't make bail you'd just be back in the Enforcer lockup. If she can make that Omega-classification stick, there's no bail and you'll be in either Alkatraz or KatMax until the trial."
"Oh, we know plenty of people in both." Chance muttered darkly. "Who'll be real glad to see us."
"She wants SWAT to be Omega, maybe she'll get it." Jake actually shrugged, his rage sublimated into a roiling fire well behind anything visible until it had an opportunity to vent. He already had his target.
"No, she won't." Chance said firmly. "We're the good guys. We can't let her change that. Just 'cause she calls us that, doesn't mean we should act like it."
Jake bit back a couple different retorts before he backed down, a process and choice that no one but Chance knew him well enough to recognize was even happening.
"You're ready to go to prison under that label?" He asked instead, his voice low and his eyes no longer wandering the room.
"I won't go acting like an Omega." Chance said quietly. "We're supposed to protect the city. Omegas try to take over or destroy it."
Jake nodded fractionally, accepting the tabby's choice for both of them in this as he usually did and pushed his outrage and hatred that much further down while they waited for the judge to return.
"All rise." The bailiff announced as the judge returned and sat down.
"Be seated." The judge said simply. "After reviewing the statute in question, and consulting with several of my peers as well as leading experts in the aerospace industry, it seems clear that SWAT does meet the Omega-classification criteria set out in the statute." He said, though the look on his face was one of someone not entirely happy with what he was saying. "SWAT and its component members are therefore hereby classified as Omega-level threats. Pursuant to the Control Ordinance bail is hereby denied, and the defendants will be remanded to KatMax to await trial."
"Your honor, if it please the court, the prosecution would recommend Alkatraz over KatMax, in this case." Stella Danar said very formally.
"And why is that?" The judge asked, fixing green eyes on the large Kantin.
"A number of SWAT's former adversaries are currently housed in KatMax." She explained. "It would be an unnecessary risk."
"Very well." The Judge nodded. "Defendants will be remanded to Alkatraz to await trial."
"Your honor." Belinda said quietly, standing. "The Public Defenders office does not currently have any lawyers available who are certified to handle Omega cases. Of the three in the office, one is on pregnancy leave, one is recovering from heart surgery and the third is tied up handling Turmoil's case."
"The Attorney General's office would be willing to allocate additional funds to allow the defense to hire an outside attorney on a per diem consulting basis." Stella offered easily.
"That should be sufficient, Ms Dawson." The judge nodded. "Trial scheduling will take place as soon as a judge is selected. Court adjourned."
"All rise." The bailiff announced as the judge left.
"Guys, I'll see what I can do about this Omega classification." Belinda promised as the guards arrived to transfer Jake and Chance, a promise Jake didn't really hear, and didn't believe would happen.
"You know, I think he's going to make a record of how many times you can punch the wall without breaking a hand." A dark brown tom on special prisoners watch duty commented with a shake of his head.
"Can't blame him, really." His brown tabby companion added. "He did just loose a good friend."
"Yeah, that one sucks. It's not the week to be a SWAT Kat." Jeff looked at the pacing cinnamon tom on a monitor and his burly partner sacked out on his bunk in another.
"Not a good week to be an Enforcer either." Chris shook his head. "With SWAT down, all the nuts are coming out of the woodwork. Somebody at City Hall is not playing with a full deck. Not counting Manx, who can't find his cards." He snickered.
"For once I doubt it's Feral's idea either. I'm just amazed Miss Briggs hasn't pulled some string to get them out. Or at least that jet back in the air."
"Don't you know?' The female of the crew, a spirited marmalade tabby, smirked. "Razor rigged most of the gear. Half of it they still haven't figured out how to get out of that base of theirs."
"And Miss Briggs has her own problems right now." Chris shook his head. "Those corruption and bribery charges smell like a major set up. But whoever arranged it is very good. The lawyers she could've put to work for SWAT, she has to use to protect herself."
"Yeah, let's just hope it's not a Dark Kat plot and our prisoners are on his acquisitions list."
"No kidding. This place was designed to keep people in, not keep Omegas out." Chris chuckled lightly, covering the nervousness beneath. "Speaking of Omegas, does anyone else find it bizarre that they tag SWAT as Omegas and then charge them with mostly misdemeanors and one really low grade felony."
"My money is someone's making a bid for power and is counting on SWAT's absence to take out the competition." Sandra snorted. "And I'm betting the AG is in on it. That bitch is just no good."
"Betting that the AG is in on a bid for power is sucker's bet." The dark brown chuckled. "She'd sleep with Manx if he'd make her Deputy Mayor." He snickered with a look of serious distaste.
"Did someone just use the phrase 'sleep with Manx'?" Ronnie, a grey on brown tabby who did deliveries between floors asked as he arrived with a meal tray. "That's just a nasty image around dinner time."
"I can give you worse ones," Sandra smiled at him sweetly.
"Not while we're within hearing, please." Jeff winced, remembering the last time that had happened.
"I bet you can, but lets not go there." Ronnie chuckled. "Having to deliver dinner to an angry SWAT Kat is enough risk in my day."
"Nah, those two aren't dangerous to us," Sandra smiled at him. "Just don't taunt them. And don't be in the room if they ever cross paths with a resident."
"Taunt a SWAT Kat?" Ronnie shook his head. "Do I look that suicidal? Never taunt anyone having that bad a week. Especially if he can go fifteen rounds with the brick wall, and make you feel sorry for the wall."
"And folks think T-Bone's the dangerous one." Jeff shook his head. "The quiet one is always the one to watch."
"T-bone would be dangerous if he interacted with the general population." Chris said easily. "Something about him says street kat past. If he wasn't trying to prove the AG wrong, he'd probably be running the prisoner side of things."
"Yeah, but what I heard is that he's the one that keeps them both on our side." Sandra shivered slightly. "At least at the arraignment, I heard that Razor was ready to give the AG Omega SWAT Kats for this, and T-Bone stopped him."
"Not surprising, he takes being the hero very seriously." Ronnie nodded. "Feral may have taken his uniform, but T-bone kept the oath."
"Yeah, he always has," Jeff nodded to general agreement.
"I'm just going to be cruel and hope he outlives Razor." Sandra said softly. "I'm not so sure we wouldn't have a real Omega on our hands if Razor was out on his own. Especially after this."
"Yeah, Razor seems like the sort who needs a stabilizing influence." Chris agreed. "Scary thing is, T-bone is more likely to get himself killed, doing something heroic."
"I was at the Tower yesterday, and it seems they've had to get the Commander's secretary an assistant. Seems his regular secretary was getting swamped by the extra phone and mail volume." Ronnie shook his head. "Seems the public is really stirred up."
"Not much of a surprise," Chris observed sourly. "They have been what's keep every Omega attack in almost eight years from succeeding."
"Yeah, my younger sister doesn't even remember when there weren't the SWAT Kats protecting the city." Sandra took a deep breath. "You better get him his meal, Ronnie. No need to make him even more pissy than he already is."
"Right," he nodded and hurried out with the tray.
"Clawson, your lawyer is here to see you." Robert said, knocking on the door to Jake's cell to get his attention. The gold and white tabby usually worked night shift, and being on first thing in the morning was not something he enjoyed.
"Right," the tom sounded seriously worn out, which wasn't all that surprising since he hadn't stopped pacing or muttering since he'd arrived almost two weeks ago, except for going a few rounds with the walls to burn off enough stress not to snap. No one had seen him sleep yet. Which didn't mean he hadn't, just that it hasn't been much.
Once the maximum-security manacles and shackles were in place, Robert led Jake to the small room where he'd met Belinda a number of times. But two things were missing, his partner and his lawyer. Instead of Belinda there was a very professional and attractive Bronze Mau fem wearing a very expensive looking business suit. The air of being in control reminded Jake very strongly of Callie Briggs when she was taking on Commander Feral.
"Sergeant." She glowered sharply at Robert. "Why is my client in those things?" She gestured at the restraints. "I believe the paperwork I brought was quite clear."
"Yes, ma'am." Robert nodded, a little intimidated. "Just following procedure." He said as he unlocked the manacles and shackles.
"Of course." She shook her head. "A pleasure to meet you, Mr. Clawson." She said extending one hand to him. "Omorose Shakiri, and I'm your new attorney."
Despite being weary, wary and worried, he accepted her handshake.
"Where's Chance?" He asked the only thing that was on his mind.
She thought for a moment and went with the truth to a point. "They've got his cell block locked down, and I'm not getting any information. The warden seems to enjoy stonewalling me." She grumbled. "Hopefully, we'll have more information soon."
She could tell he didn't exactly believe her, or more likely, wasn't buying that it was the full story.
"You got the file from Dawson?" He asked tiredly and sat down, focusing his mind from the grief and stir-craziness of the past week.
"I did." She nodded. "And frankly the whole thing stinks. As for that new Omega statute, well it just happens to fly in the face of the entire rest of the Control ordinance. And the Circuit Judge in that district happens to agree. Which is why you're getting out on bail. The judge issued an injunction suspending the Omega designation, which means you're back to being a first-time offender facing a handful of misdemeanors and a low grade felony." She said confidently. "None of which rate more than probation and a fine."
"Thanks," he murmured softly, a significant portion of the tension in his frame breaking as his head sank into his hands. "Back to the Tower?" He asked, not completely processing everything she'd said.
"No, free on bail means you don't have to go to jail." She smiled reassuringly. "However, you can't leave the city until the legal matters are cleared up. My employer would like to meet with you though, if you're willing." She elaborated. "He might be able to help you figure out just who set you up."
"Sure," he nodded, his brain clicking a few more facts together as he stood. "Time to get my partner then."
"That's going to take a little longer." She said, standing. "Unfortunately, your partner isn't a first time offender. Getting him out is going to take longer." She said, glad that the tabby's lack of cooperative next of kin was indeed making things take longer. Jake needed to rest before he heard the truth.
That flattened Jake's ears, a very dominant part of him not willing to accept that until his loyalty to the tabby's wishes wrestled him under control, just barely.
"All right," he managed, his voice just above a growl and clearly taking all his self-control to walk away without his partner next to him. "Who's paying you?"
"Mr. Noble." Omorose said, as they walked. "CEO of Noble Industries, a company which you probably haven't heard of, since its incorporation was announced while you were in here." She explained as the security door opened and could almost see every alarm go off in Jake's head.
Still, he nodded and walked out, waiting for her to lead the way out and to whatever was coming next.
What was waiting was a private jet helicopter and pilot. Jake's experienced designer eye caught all the signs of a combat aircraft pretending to be a civilian transport. "We're not taking any unnecessary risks." She said, as the door opened on the passenger compartment.
"I can see that," he gave the craft a last glare to try to discern it's origins before boarding her against almost all his instincts. Still, there was something comfortingly familiar about how both Omorose and the inside of the jet smelled. Something his exhausted mind couldn't place, beyond that it was still associated with 'comfort' and 'safe' from whenever it was from.
The quiet and familiar scents inside the cabin as the jetcopter sped away from prison allowed Jake the luxury of curling up in one of the padded seats. His body and mind worn to their limit after almost two full weeks of unrelenting stress and very little sleep to resist drifting off for more than a few minutes. He actually growled when his brain forced him to wake up as the jetcopter landed. He so did not want to come back to the real world just yet.
"We've arrived, Mr. Clawson." Omorose said gently as he struggled back to consciousness and climbed out of the 'copter to wait for him on the landing pad.
A few blinks to get the sleep out of his eyes and he recognized the location of this great estate. Or at least close enough to get home from it ... except the Yard probably wasn't home anymore. The southern part of the city limits, well away from Alkatraz.
What he didn't know was who it belonged too. Though that would likely be answered soon.
"This way." Omorose said, leading the way into the main house, decorated in a style that seemed familiar while being strangely out of step with the modern world.
"Jake!" An excited and very familiar voice exclaimed, drawing his attention to the Silver Mau tom making short work of the distance between them.
He blinked a couple times, his sleep-deprived brain working hard to match a long-unseen face with a name he thought of too often in the intervening years. Years that had not changed Rashidi Bakar much, except that the casual wear of college had been replaced by an expensive business suit.
"Rashi?" He stammered, trying with little success to get things make sense.
"Yes," he smiled and put a hand on Jake's shoulder. "It is good to see you again, even if the circumstances are not good."
"What's going on?" Jake asked quietly, his mind forcing him to get at least a few answers before it surrendered to being in a safe place and shut down completely for some desperately needed rest.
"A great deal, I think." The spotted tom said quietly. "More than anyone figures, if my intelligence is correct so far. There are powerful political forces at work, though it doesn't seem that their interest is directed at city hall." He said, in the same cryptic fashion Jake remembered. "I'm afraid you and Chance have become pawns in a game of high stakes."
"I guessed that much," he sighed quietly and let his head sink against his long-absent friend's shoulder. "Just get him out of that place, Rashi. He doesn't belong in there."
"We're working on it, Jake." He said quietly, thinking that Jake was barely coherent from exhaustion, and not in any condition to take the full truth, much less the truth without any proof. "But you need sleep in a big way. If I know you, you've slept little if at all in the last two weeks. Even you can't function without sleep indefinitely." He said with gentle affection and embraced the tom so close to him gently.
"I know," he murmured, relaxing a little at a time as scent and touch and memory told him this was a safe place to rest. "Just couldn't sleep in there, not knowing what was going on with Chance and in that little cell ..." he shuddered and let his voice drift off in what was nearly a sob. "Couldn't do anything."
"Come on." Rashi said gently as he guided Jake down a hallway to a guest bedroom with a very soft, comfortable looking bed. "We can talk more, when you're actually awake." He smiled with gentle humor, as he guided the exhausted tom over to the bed and saw him asleep before he even got Jake's shoes off.
Jake mumbled softly to himself as his brain started to click back on line along with his body. He wanted to sleep more, but he knew the weakness he felt wasn't something he could afford to ignore. He needed to eat, and soon.
Still he took the better part of half an hour to convince himself to pull himself out of the incredibly comfortable bed and a little longer to find the jeans and shirt, clothes he'd normally wear but weren't his, to replace the silk pajamas he couldn't remember putting on, and didn't particularly care how they got there.
His prison clothes were gone and that was more than good enough.
He still felt a little guilty for being here when Chance was still in lockup, but that was to be pressed for after he stopped shaking from lack of food.
A polite knock on the door drew his attention and he quickly buttoned his jeans the rest of the way up before he answered it.
"Yes?" He asked the petite Smoke Mau on the other side. She was wearing a very traditional maid's uniform, which accented her generous figure in a tasteful way.
"I've brought you dinner, Mr. Clawson." She said politely. "If you're hungry."
"Very," he smiled warmly and opened the door the rest of the way for her and stepped aside. "Thank you."
"You are welcome." She said as she wheeled a large dining cart in, and then lifted the trays onto the large desk/table. "I hope it is satisfactory." She said very politely, with an accent that made it clear that the language was foreign to her.
"I'm very sure it will be," he smiled, his tone honest and grateful as he sat down and lifted one of covers to reveal roast bird and pasta in a cream sauce that made his mouth water even before he dug in gratefully with as many manners as he could manage.
"If you need anything else, just ring the bell." She smiled and indicated a very archaic looking pull chain next to the desk before bowing and rolling the now empty cart out of the room.
"All right," he nodded after finishing a bite. "Thank you."
"You are welcome." She said politely, closing the door behind her to leave Jake to the meal he desperately needed and still managed to relish. It had been years since he'd bothered to treat himself to a meal like this, much less at the quality. He was snacking on the last of the fruit slices when another knock on the door brought his attention up from what needed to happen and in what order to answer it.
"Hi Rashi," Jake smiled for real, the gratitude in it still not overshadowing the warmth and affection he still felt for the tom he hadn't seen in over a decade. "Thank you, for coming back right now."
"Even if I hadn't been in town on business, I would've come back when I heard." Rashi said with a warm smile. "I only wish I'd heard sooner." He said softly, sitting down on the bed.
Jake sat down next to him and hesitated, lowering his eyes a bit. "Rashi ... I'm sorry for how I reacted, when you ... when you asked me to be your Lifemate. I really wasn't in any shape to answer politely."
"It's okay, Jake. I understand that now." He said gently. "We all have to come to an understanding with our past, in order to make our future." He said calmly. "I have missed you, all these years." He added quietly.
"I've missed you too," he admitted quietly. "A couple times I even started to track you down, but something'd always come up to put that idea away for a few years. Seems that you've done well, though." He smiled, even if it was a bit forced.
"Not a lot of choice there." Rashi smiled back. "Father wouldn't accept anything less. He's a very demanding person to work for, though unscrupulously fair." He chuckled lightly. "It took a six hour presentation that I spent over six months preparing to convince him to back my takeover of Pumadyne. I maybe his oldest son, but I have to work as hard as the other VPs."
"A bit more impressive of a family business than I expected." He chuckled self-consciously and paused before continuing. "Did you find somebody?"
"No, but I wasn't really looking that hard." Rashi admitted quietly. "Some one nighters, short term things that didn't really mean anything."
Jake looked at him, hesitating even as what he knew added up to the same answer any way he looked at it. He took a bit of a breath and leaned forward, his fingers sliding along Rashi's neck as their mouths touched. Rashi brushed one hand along Jake's cheek as he claimed the gentle kiss. For years, he'd thought about this moment and only in his most unguarded moments had he thought it would go this well.
Jake slowly drew back, his eyes closed and his face more open than Rashi could remember seeing before.
"I wasn't ready when you asked me," he voice was low and thick with emotion that had little to do with the past two weeks when he opened his eyes to look at the tom that had made the second biggest impact in his life. "But I'd like another chance. I've changed a lot since collage. Grown up a lot."
"Easily done, Jake." Rashi smiled warmly. "I never stopped loving you. I just didn't know how to deal with the disappointment back then. So I ran home." He admitted softly. "Guess I had some growing up to do as well."
"Your father's going to be okay with me?" He asked nervously, almost in an afterthought. "I'm not exactly in your class."
"We had that discussion." Rashi smiled. "After some consultation with the house priestess, it was decided that engineers are part of the scholar class which is only one step below the noble class, so there's no problem." He smiled encouragingly. "Mother also approves, which was just as important."
"Just so you understand I didn't follow much of that," Jake chuckled sheepishly. "Except that it's not a problem." He leaned forward for another quick kiss that ended up lingering as he gently urged Rashi to his back on the bed they were sitting on. "Sweet Bastet, I've missed you Rashi." Jake whispered and pulled the silver-furred tom close to burry his face against the thick, velvety fur. "I never felt quite the same for anyone else."
"I missed you too." Rashi purred as he held Jake close and nuzzled him gently. "And I'm not surprised you didn't follow it. Most of the concepts are ones that MegaKat City has never really had." He chuckled. "Home is just full of them."
Jake looked at him seriously, then nuzzled his way into a lingering, intimate kiss that brought a rush only combat could match. "I'll try to pick them up, then. To know when to shut my mouth if nothing else." He rumbled with a bit of humor behind the seriousness. "Would you mind if I grab a long shower and help ferret out who did all this to us?"
"Any time you don't understand something, feel free to ask. No one will bite your head off for not knowing." Rashi said with a warm encouraging smile. "And actually I have a way you may be able to help." He nodded. "We can talk about it after you get that shower."
"Good," Jake murmured and reluctantly untangled himself from his old lover. "I was kind of hoping you might join me?"
"Like I've ever turned down that offer." Rashi rumbled. "You and water are such a fun mix." He grinned playfully.
"And you are just incredibly gorgeous in just your fur," Jake chuckled and kissed him lightly. "And mine looks a bit different that last time you saw it, unless your ops have been spying very well."
"Actually, my ops weren't spying on you till things blew up recently." Rashi chuckled. "And I hadn't really seen a need to look into the whole SWAT Kat question, though I had my suspicions about who the designer of the Turbokat was." He added with a playful winked, as he guided Jake toward the bathroom attached to his room.
"You and everybody who saw my early work," he chuckled a bit. "It's not like that was a big pool to start with for the possibilities."
"My cousin Khalid has been trying for almost four years to duplicate the Turbokat at home." Rashi chuckled. "As a result, his father has a small fleet of very similar looking planes, all with different performance specs." He shook his head. "None to match what he knows of the original."
"Which is actually the fifth in the line for the one that the Enforcers are probably still trying to get out of the Hanger, and there's one more advanced that they'll probably never even find. I wasn't that cooperative." He commented with some pride as the bathroom door was opened and he blinked, taking in the white and blue tiled room, which would've been large if was the only bathroom in a home. There was a good size shower stall with warm air blowers. There was also a large tub surrounded by walls that were painted in a desert oasis motif.
"At some point we may want to arrange a little B&E to make things disappear that shouldn't end up in the wrong hands." Rashi suggested helpfully as he began to strip down. "And right now, I'm not sure there are any right hands in the city. Present company excluded."
"Until they get someone who can break my security systems, it's not going anywhere." He chuckled with a bit of a smirk and stripped, his eyes roaming over Rashi's lush silvery fur and it's distinctive black spots. "Even then, the best of it will never be found."
"I don't doubt that." Rashi rumbled, as his eyes roamed over his old lover's fur and the warm cinnamon color that reminded him of the Caracals back home. "You never do anything half way." He smiled, as he reached in to turn on the shower and adjust the temperature, making an absent mental note of what Jake had meant that his body had changed. The muscle was expected, given Jake's life. The scars of lighter and darker fur that graced his frame, each one with a life and death story to tell, were less expected, but made just as much sense. Razor's life had not been without risk, and neither was the life of an Enforcer gunner.
"No, I don't." Jake agreed softly and slipped up behind Rashi and embraced him gently. "Not when I decide I want something."
"And here I thought I was coming to MegaKat City just to buy a company." Rashi rumbled playfully, leaning into Jake's embrace. "Being with you again, hadn't really crossed my mind."
"And I never expected to be brought in as a criminal." Jake murmured and nuzzled him affectionately. "Not after this long at least. After the first couple years, it was kind of obvious that Feral wasn't going to stop us, his public rants aside."
"It was kind of obvious he couldn't afford to." Rashi shook his head. "SWAT filled the holes in the city defenses."
"True," Jake murmured and stepped under the hot rain with a welcoming groan of unabashed pleasure. "Gods, it'll be good to be clean again."
"I bet." Rashi nodded, and moved around behind Jake. "Want me to do your back?" He offered, knowing the likely answer but not wanting to assume anything.
"That'd be great," he groaned and arched under the hot spray as his fur matted down close to his skin. "One good thing about solitary. Chance wouldn't have had to deal with anyone in the showers. It would have been so ugly if anyone went for him."
"Really not into guys?" Rashi guessed as he worked the shampoo into Jake's fur slowly starting with his shoulders and working his way down. As he scrubbed he also gently rubbed the tense muscles underneath the fur and was rewarded by an unabashed collection of appreciated and pleasured sounds as Jake's arousal slowly seeped into the humid air.
"Big time," Jake moaned and stretched out. "Between the two of you, I ended up with impossibly high dating standards." He added with a bit of a chuckle. "And he is so strait he just doesn't get it."
"Some of them don't." Rashi chuckled, as he worked down Jake's ass and legs. "Some don't even get how another guy could find them attractive. Of course, sometimes the unavailability makes them more attractive." He shook his head.
"True," he shivered at the increasingly intimate touch that brought back so many good memories. "It certainly fueled a few fantasies of mine over the years, but I never tried for him after I knew he wasn't into guys. You just don't do that to a friend."
"No, you don't." Rashi agreed easily, gently turning Jake around so he could use the water to work the shampoo out. "Nothing good could come it."
"No," he purred and gently pulled Rashi close to feel his arousal and kissed him. "You, on the other hand, are the kind to play the fantasies I have about you out with."
"Especially as we're standing in a shower." Rashi rumbled playfully, and claimed a passionate kiss as Jake's hands explored his body as if it was the very first time.
"What needs to happen?" Jake nuzzled Rashi when they were snuggling in bed and spent.
"What we really need to do, is find out what is really going on, and that requires intel." Rashi said as he nuzzled his lover back. "I know you design planes, how good are you with communication and sensor packages?" He asked, not entirely sure how much Jake would feel up to doing.
"Pretty good," he nodded. "Just not my specialty. It wasn't needed much for SWAT. I can break into anything though."
"Actually, what I need you to do is look over some communication traps we just inherited from a company we took over." Rashi explained. "Looks like they were keeping tabs on the whole city, which would be very useful in finding out just who the players are in this game and what they are up to. Unfortunately, the takeover of the company was not friendly, and they left little in the way of detailed operating instructions."
Jake grinned, a rather vicious look on him. "Do you have a central control center, or is it scattered?"
"Central control facility." Rashi smiled. "I think you might be familiar with it. It used to belong to Pumadyne."
"Hurr?" Jake leaned back and blinked. "Pumadyne?"
"Well, what used to be Pumadyne." He chuckled, in a sort of satisfied way. "That company actually went out of existence a day or so after you went to Alkatraz."
"Mmmm, couldn't happen to a more deserving bunch of idiots," he growled softly in similar satisfaction. "I've done some ... work ... on them before. They're too common an Omega target not to keep tabs on some things there. It's probably quality work, but nothing I can break in a few days."
"Just let me know when you feel like getting started." Rashi said easily. "My ops team will certainly appreciate the help. We knew we were going to have some trouble, but we also didn't figure on needing the equipment operational quite so soon." He shook his head. "Interesting thing is, if my tech chief is right, it seems they were eaves dropping a good share of the people of significance who had offices above the fifteenth floor."
"I've got nothing better to do right now," Jake said firmly. "Where is this control center I get to hack?"
"The control center itself is in the subbasement of Pumadyne Tower. Actually, its three levels of subbasement." Rashi chuckled. "The antennas and such are the top two floors and equipment on the roof."
"Jake," Rashi started, as they finished eating. "I need you to come back to the house with me for awhile." He said quietly. "This can wait for awhile." He said gesturing back at the computers that belonged to the now defunct Pumadyne.
Jake gave him a sharp look for that, even as a ripple of tension and well-trained paranoia started to scream about traps and bad news. It was promptly beaten down by the side that said Rashi likely just wanted him to sleep in a real bed, probably with him.
"Okay," he agreed, a very curious edge to his look as they stood.
The trip back to the house was a short one by the jetcopter that Rashi seemed to use in place of a land vehicle for everything. The copter landed on the opposite side of the house from the first time Jake arrived. A white and gold robed Silver Mau fem met them as they walked toward the nearest entrance to the house.
"Your lordship, all is ready." The shekat said politely.
"Thank you, Lady Ashira." Rashi inclined his head politely. "Please lead the way."
As they entered the building it was immediately apparent that the only illumination was coming from torches set in cleverly wrought gold sconces on the wall. At the end of the hallway, two Pharaoh Hound Kantin in black and gold robes stood sentry.
"Rashi?" Jake looked at him uncertainly.
"It's all part of tradition." Rashi said quietly, as the guards stood side. "Gestures of respect for a departed warrior." He sighed quietly. "Jake, there's no good way to tell you this, but I'd rather you heard it from me." He said quietly, clearly weighed down by what he had to say. "Chance died in prison, and I need you to ID the body, to make sure they didn't switch in a double."
Jake started to deny it, but the surroundings stopped him. This was too serious for a joke.
"How?" He asked, half way between wanting to curl into a ball and make the world go away and bolting further in to where the body no doubt was to see for himself.
"We're not sure yet." Rashi said quietly. "I've seen the official coroner's report, and I'd say someone was well paid for it. I'd like your permission to have a full autopsy done, so we know what really happened." He said quietly, as one of the guards opened the gold-inlayed door, revealing a room lit by many candles.
"All right," Jake nodded easily to the request as they stepped into the room and swept it with his eyes out of habit. "An autopsy is fine." He took a deep breath. "There are a couple things to look for in it. No guarantees, but I made it damn hard to copy him flawlessly."
"Write them down, and I'll have them forwarded to the doctor." Rashi said quietly, as gauze curtains surrounding a table were parted to reveal a burly feline lying on a white stone table and covered with a white linen sheet.
A shudder passed threw Jake's body as he stepped foreword and drew the sheet part way off. It quickly turned into one of pure rage at the rope marks around the tabby's throat offset by gashes made by a desperate attempt to claw the cord off that had ended his life.
"Someone's going to die for this," he growled, well past caring if anyone heard him as his claws dug into the smooth white stone.
"We will find out who did this, and more importantly who is responsible." Rashi promised quietly as he put his arm around Jake's shoulders supportively. "There will be an accounting." He added with a deadly earnest that was as threatening as Jake's growl even though it was far quieter and more civilized.
"Jake, there's something we need to discuss." Rashi said gently as they sat finishing breakfast in the very private and cozy garden enclosed porch. "Chance's funeral. His family was no help in finding out if there was any particular faith or belief he followed." He said easily. "Did he actually follow any religion?"
"Not that I know of," he said quietly, wanting to think about anything but that. "He only wanted his place on Honor Hill." He made a vague motion towards the north. "The Enforcer Code was what he followed, what he believed in." Jake closed his eyes and tried to stop the tears that were threatening again. "He wasn't much on believing he wasn't invulnerable, much less that we might not be accepted before it was over."
"Well, I don't know what I can do about Honor Hill." He admitted honestly. "That's Commander Feral's jurisdiction. But I can arrange a hero's funeral, if you'd like." He smiled warmly. "At least get him the recognition he deserved this one time." He said with honest admiration, thinking just how much the whole affair would be a poke in the eye to certain politicians.
"I'd appreciate it," Jake managed before his voice broke, stopping anything else he was going to say as he burred his face in his hands and fought to keep what little self-control and dignity he had left.
"Don't worry about it then, I'll see that everything is taken care of." He said gently and reached over to squeeze Jake's shoulder. "The house priestess has experience with state funerals, she handled my uncle Torin's funeral." He said, his tone indicating that this was clearly an affair that required significant skill.
"Thanks," Jake managed and leaned into the touch until Rashi was holding him as he broke down again, hurting too much with too little to focus on to get away from it.
"Hi Rashi," Jake slid his arms around his lover's shoulders from behind, his voice low and still carrying traces of the grief that overcame him at random moments no matter how completely he was focused on what he was doing. It was something the ops and engineers that worked with him had learned to tactfully leave him alone until it passed and act like it never happened. "Thank you, for taking care of so much." He continued with a nuzzle.
"My pleasure, Jake." Rashi smiled and nuzzled Jake back as he set the papers he was reading down. "And my privilege. I don't know how it is here, but back home it's an honor to be allowed to oversee the funeral of a hero. A sad honor, but an honor all the same."
"It is here too, mostly for the honor guard." Jake came around the small couch and sat down next to him and relaxed into the welcoming embrace he'd needed more and more of lately. "It's something their organization usually does for them. Something we haven't had in a long time."
"Actually, the honor guard was something I wanted to ask you about." Rashi said quietly as he held Jake close. "Traditionally, we use Pharaoh Hound Kantin for that role but if you'd prefer we could arrange to have Kats instead." He said easily.
Jake started to answer, then took a deep breath. "Do you have a video or something of one of these?" He asked quietly. "Enforcer funerals are all I really know."
"I'll contact Father and see if he has a recording of one." Rashi said after a moments thought. "Not something I keep in a my own video collection. I've only attended a few funerals on the level of a Hero's funeral."
"I've been in too many," he murmured and rested his head on Rashi's shoulder. "Every rank shy of Commander, and I remember watching that one on TV when I was little. I'll need to get ahold of Chance's things to find out who all to contact ... I don't know who all his friends are."
"We'll need to get access to the Yard." Rashi nodded. "I'll have Omorose talk to Commander Feral. They've had the place cordoned off as 'crime scene' since your arrest."
"If he's difficult, I can get in and out with what I need easily enough." Jake murmured. "Unless they've gone through our personal things and messed everything up."
"Don't know what things are like inside, but we'll give him the chance to be reasonable." He chuckled softly. "After all, with all the additional security arrangements he's got to worry about now ... he may not want to deal with an extra court fight."
"Probably not," Jake managed a smile and stretched up a bit to kiss him softly and wrapped his arms around Rashi's neck. "Thank you for being here." He murmured and nuzzled him. "I'd have made a mess of things without you. He's been everything to me since Academy."
"I couldn't do otherwise, once I knew what was happening." Rashi said seriously after a gentle kiss. "But you're welcome just the same." He smiled gently. "The autopsy report came back. Did you want to go over it now, or leave it till morning?" He offered.
"Now," Jake steeled himself as best he could. "Lets get it over with."
"Okay, just let me know if you need to stop." Rashi said sincerely as he pulled out a thick manila folder. "I'm going with the layperson's summary since my medical training is limited to Defense Forces first aid training." He explained and got a nuzzle.
"Mine's not much better. Too much field experience, but not much training." Jake admitted quietly.
"Cause of death was asphyxiation, caused by a single cord or wire around the neck. Autopsy timing isn't precise enough to determine if the electrical burn, probably a taser or stunner, occurred before or during strangulation." He read carefully. "However, finger and claw marks along the rope line indicate an attempt to fight back. There's also skin, blood and fur that aren't Chance's, probably from scratching his attacker. Samples have been sent for analysis, but it's unlikely the assailant is any of the law enforcement databases." The grey tom explained. "Back home this would be enough evidence to warrant a murder investigation."
"It would here, if it got to anyone in the system who cared, and could challenge an AG." Jake growled softly, closing his eyes as what he already knew was put into an official document. "He went down fighting an assassin," he swallowed with difficulty and pressed close to Rashi. "Doesn't matter where. He fought for what he believed in to the end."
"Which is the only way he would've wanted it." Rashi said gently, as he put his arms around Jake. "True Hero's are like that. I can have the doctor file a challenge to the official coroner's report. I can think of one reason not to though, if there's a official challenge filed then whoever is responsible will know that someone is onto to them." He said quietly. "And assassins of this caliber are hard enough to catch when they don't know that you know it was an assassination."
"File it after I get my claws on who killed him." Jake growled firmly. "The two who did it, and who paid them ."
"Who paid them is probably more telling, since I think we're dealing with mercs. Though I can think of one assassin who might have done it without being paid." He said thoughtfully.
"Who?" He looked up curiously, not remembering anyone that would qualify on their opponents list.
"Family is one of the oldest reasons for revenge." Rashi said simply. "I hadn't made the connection before I read the report, but Whiplash, aka Sergei Anatov, has a sister Alexandra Anatova. You would know her better as Turmoil."
"And that's a mess and a half," Jake winced with a groan. "She had a real thing for him. Don't think she ever got over it, if the letters I saw are any indication."
"And Turmoil did escape from KatMax less than a day after the two of you were captured." Rashi said thoughtfully. "Which makes Whiplash a likely suspect, but not the only one."
"Except she didn't want him dead," he pointed out quietly. "If her brother did it, it should have been before she got out, not after. Turmoil still wanted T-Bone for herself."
"Unless it was something he'd set it motion, and wasn't aware of her escape." Rashi said thoughtfully. "Her escape is still not public knowledge, but an agent of mine discovered it when checking the AG's claim that KatMax could not hold the two of you safely."
"Sorry, but that is a seriously duh statement." Jake chuckled a bit darkly. "Only reason we were even in Alkatraz more than two days was because Chance insisted on letting the system sort itself out."
"Alkatraz is a bit of an old facility." Rashi chuckled. "I really have to wonder why its even on the list of approved Omega holding facilities. Correction, I'm fairly sure that someone paid to keep it on the list." He shook his head. "But everything involving the case is being investigated, even the 'duh' statements."
"Yeah, it's a setup from start to finish," he sighed and tried to relax in Rashi's embrace. "Just a question of who's involved."
"I have a nasty feeling the list of who's not involved may be shorter." He shook his head. "About the only person of authority I don't suspect of being involved is Ms. Briggs, and that's because it looks like she was set up as well."
"Yeah, she's as clean as politicians come." Jake agreed quietly. "I'm not so sure Commander Feral's involved, at least as a conspirator. That look he got when we got classified as Omegas was somewhere between blindsided and horrified."
"Yes, but blindsided and horrified could mean he was outmaneuvered." Rashi said quietly. "The Ferals play dirty politics with the best of them, and I'm sure the next in line to lead the family, knows how to play the game."
"It just means he's not at the top of the hit list," Jake nodded. "The ones who outmaneuvered him are who I'm after."
"Very likely." Rashi nodded. "I don't see that Feral had anything to gain by having Chance killed. Even if you guys were showing him up on a regular basis."
"Yeah, and that was his own damn fault." He snorted. "He could have had us working for him pretty much any time he wanted. All Chance ever wanted was his badge back."
"I won't even pretend to understand what Feral was thinking." Rashi shook his head. "He should count himself lucky you guys didn't go merc. And I know of several governments that put out offers hoping SWAT would be interested. Don't know if you ever saw them though."
"Can't say I did," he shook his head. "Chance'd never have gone for it though. MegaKat City's his home."
"Oh, I know that but still, the offers were there." He smiled gently. "Of course, a few governments thought that SWAT was a black box testing project for one of the megacorps. The Sultan of Darakur is something of a terror at the big airshows, with him cornering every aerospace firm exec he can find and demanding to know when the TurboKat is going to go into regular production."
"Maybe in a couple years, by Noble Industries." He snickered. "I wonder if any companies have realized that Razor is the kat they blacklisted a decade ago."
"I think a couple of them suspect, but no one is sure." He chuckled. "And I'd be honored to, if you decide you want to." He said seriously. "Would certainly embarrass that lot of idiots that blacklisted you."
"It's tempting," Jake admitted. "It's really all I wanted to do. Design jets for the Enforcers. Just didn't work out quite like I imagined." He murmured and snuggled close. "I got a really good friend out of it, and another shot at you. It wasn't a bad way to spend a decade."
"It was a very good way." Rashi said reassuringly. "You did a lot of good, and you should be proud of it." He said seriously. "And I'm sure it's given you insights on design that someone who's never left the design studio would be hard pressed to match."
"True," he murmured with a soft smile. "There's nothing quite like knowing you'll be the first and last to see combat in a design to make you very careful with your work. Gave me more freedom than most designers do to. Chance didn't care what it was, as long as it either worked or didn't get somebody killed not working. He just wanted to fly fast and show off."
"Sounds like the best test pilots we have." He smiled. "Ones that are far to rare. Good enough to handle anything you throw at them, and big enough adrenalin junkies not to care what it is."
"Yap, that was Chance," he purred softly. "With a dedication to doing the right thing that just couldn't be taken down."
"That's really a one in a million." Rashi said quietly. "Most of the test pilots I've known are seriously mercenary in outlook. They'll go where the planes are the hottest and the money the best. Friendly company of either sex doesn't hurt either." He chuckled.
"Oh, Chance'd do that for his job if he could," Jake smiled fondly. "But SWAT wasn't a job. It's just who he was. Enforcer uniform or SWAT's, he did that because it was what mattered to him. The paycheck wasn't related for him. He would have loved to be able to be a test pilot as well as T-Bone."
"In a better world he could've been." Rashi sighed quietly, regretting the years it had taken him to get back to MKC. "And the world would've been better for it."
"Yeah," he murmured and closed his eyes. "Somewhere it happened."
"Huh?" Rashi looked at him curiously. "What do you mean?"
"Not everything we did made the news," Jake explained quietly. "One thing I built zapped us to an alternate dimension where we really were Omegas and working for Dark Kat. Never did figure out if it's homicide, suicide or something else when you kill you counterpart from another reality. If that's real, somewhere out there is a world where things never got screwed up in the first place and Chance still has his uniform."
"Well, at least a few philosophers and physicists think that there are an infinite number of universes, and each one represents a different set of outcomes." He nodded. "And I'd say its either homicide or self-defense depending on circumstance. But they aren't really you, any more than an identical twin would be you."
"City defense," he supplied. "They were about to drop one of Dark Kat's bombs on Enforcer HQ when I cement-gunned it to their TurboKat. Made a pretty rainbow effect before it disintegrated them."
"Oh, no homicide issue there then." Rashi said easily. "At least to the extent that I'm a legal scholar." He chuckled slightly.
"I'm sure I could give them a few headaches between time travel, alternate dimensions and alien races." Jake snickered a bit. "Life is nothing if not interesting as a SWAT Kat."
"I'm sure it is." The spotted tom nodded. "But living on the edge usually is. And SWAT was more the edge than anything else."
"Some days I think we invented the term," he smiled lazily. "Or at least it's current definition."
"You certainly raised the bar on it." Rashi chuckled. "SWAT made it tough for anyone else to claim to be living on the edge."
"Without an Omega classification at least." He managed a snicker. "It'll be interesting to see what it's like to live on something besides adrenaline and caffeine."
"Maybe you'll let me you show around Mauvandra." Rashi smiled warmly. "It's not as constantly exciting as MKC, but a change of pace can do wonders."
"As soon as things are tied up here, I don't have any desire to stay." Jake said softly. "It's not really home anymore."
"I understand." Rashi said gently, nuzzling Jake tenderly. "Wasn't sure how attached you were." He added softly.
"I thought I was," he sighed. "It's turning out I was attached to Chance. The city just came in the package as his partner." Jake made a small sound and closed his eyes. "And right now ... I'm more than a little angry about how things went down."
"You have every right to be." Rashi replied, with gentle nuzzle. "If that AG isn't in league with whoever hired Chance's killer, then she was played for a sucker by them."
"She's about to catch hell either way." Jake growled softly before relaxing into Rashi's embrace.
"Hard to believe this was the center of our universe for almost seven years." Jake murmured quietly as he got out of the large luxury sedan to look around the salvage yard that had redefined so much about his life.
"Like many things and people, the surface tells you nothing of what lies within." Rashi said quietly, as he got out to stand next to Jake. "Doesn't look like the Enforcers were really interested in actually searching though." He said, noticing how relatively undisturbed things looked.
"I'm not surprised. Feral wasn't interested in finding proof of anything, much less what we didn't deny." He drew in a deep breath. "First is that address book." He lightly caught Rashi's hand and squeezed it, seeking enough strength to face what was coming without breaking down completely. Of all the ways he thought it would end, him leaving alive wasn't one of them.
"More and more, I think Feral was the third target in this game." Rashi said quietly, as he held Jake's hand tightly for a time. "Actually, gut instinct is telling me that he was actually the primary target." He shoo his head.
"Well, if he was, taking out SWAT and the Deputy Mayor are effective," he nodded and headed towards the main building. "He's seriously hamstrung without us."
"Which may be exactly what someone wants." Rashi said quietly, as he followed. "The important question becomes who and why. At first I would've thought this was one of Dark Kat's schemes, but it's been three weeks and no sign of him."
"And he wouldn't have bothered to send us to prison," Jake shook his head and stepped inside the building that had three weeks of new dust, but was just as he'd left it in handcuffs. "Or had Chance killed that way. There's so much more effective ways of getting rid of us for him. We're a lot more trouble than Feral too."
"To Dark Kat certainly." Rashi nodded, feeling a slight twinge of guilt as he got a look at where the Kat he loved had spent the last seven years. He deserved better, could've had better if Rashi had got past the pain of disappointment sooner.
"Which brings us back to who has the most to gain from Feral going down and the resources to pull this kind of thing off," he continued and led the way up the narrow stairs to the second floor and the living quarters and the central hall. A large bathroom was on their right, a sparely decorated bedroom to the left and a closed door at the end.
"That's what Intel is working on." Rashi nodded, continuing to follow Jake. "But city politics are quite convoluted, especially when you add in the Syndicate. It's messes like these that make me leery of the concept of elected government." He admitted honestly.
"And monarchies are much less convoluted?" He raised a disbelieving eyebrow before turning to face the closed door. He hesitated for a moment, then opened it and stepped into the last space that held his partner's scent. He closed his eyes and just breathed in for a moment, trying to burn it into his mind even as he had to accept letting go.
"Depends on the monarchy." Rashi chuckled. "At least at home, the Noble's code restricts the plotting and scheming to a somewhat civilized level. And no Noble who wished to keep his head would allow a scheme to endanger the Kingdom or the people." He said simply. "And knowing who is going to be the next ruler does give a certain stability to things."
"Well, you already said that it doesn't seem aimed at city hall, which means that it hardly matters that this is an elected government." Jake commented as he worked through the mess of a room to find Chance's more private positions. "This is outside of politics, for all it's using them. The Syndicate would benefit a lot from Feral going down, if they took out Felina as well. Setting us up ... it's just not their style. There are much easier ways to really screw with them. Much more effective ways too." He paused, stood and looked out the window with a frown. "You mentioned families as a reason," he murmured. "Commander's got serious family, with a track record worth being scared of."
"Yes, he does." Rashi nodded. "And for all their power and influence, they've never put one of their own in City Hall." He shook his head. "And Uly is the first Commander they've had since his great uncle died in the line of duty during the last MegaWar."
"They'll have another when Ulysses steps down." Jake cocked his head; looking at something only he could see out the window. "Felina is next in line there." He finally looked at Rashi. "They play dirty among their own, would a challenger for Ulysses' place in the hierarchy likely benefit from him loosing control of the city?"
"It would, possibly, demonstrate that he's not fit to lead the family." Rashi said thoughtfully. "Depending on the challenger's own position, if the challenger managed to keep his own role in the situation concealed." He said thoughtfully. "I'll have to have someone look into the Feral family politics in more detail."
"Not sure why killing him would be as ..." He stopped dead and looked down, then around. "No one knows me that well." He shivered.
"Jake?" Rashi asked quietly. "Something wrong?"
"Remember how I said I'd have made a mess of this without you?" He asked softly. "Under a lot of circumstances, like if I hadn't seem him get blindsided, he'd be dead by now."
"Which may be what someone wanted." Rashi nodded. "Feral doesn't usually attend arraignments, which means whoever is behind events may have been counting on you not seeing his reaction to the Omega classification." He said thoughtfully. "That would've been enough?" He asked, wanting to be sure he understood what Jake had meant.
"No, Chance's ... death ... is what would have done it." He murmured, his eyes closed tightly. "And Callie had to be tied up with her own troubles to keep her from putting the kibosh on things too quickly."
"Someone may have been using him, to get to you." Rashi nodded, and put his arms around Jake and held him close. "When push comes to shove, you are the more dangerous solo."
"And more prone towards vengeance." He murmured, his claws digging into his palm.
"Which makes you more useful alive than dead to whoever this puppeteer is." Rashi nodded. "Someone has been doing very thorough research on the two of you, more than just what the AG showed at that hearing."
"Obviously," he pressed his face against Rashi's shoulder. "She's godda be in on most of this."
"Not necessarily." Rashi cautioned. "It's entirely possible that her job was just to get the two of you in prison, where you'd be easier targets. And where it would look very bad for Commander Feral if something was to happen."
"Well she did everything to make herself look guilty as hell." He snorted. "It's not like she doesn't have major political ambitions."
"Well, having political ambitions isn't a capital offense yet." Rashi teased playfully. "But you're right, she did put herself in a very bad position. It's possible she was a little overconfident about how things would go." He said simply. "And then there's element that no one probably considered." He chuckled lightly.
"That I'd have someone to help pull me back together," he murmured and kissed him gently. "Much less someone who could make Chance's funeral an event."
"Exactly." Rashi nodded. "We hadn't been item since college, no reasonable person would expect me to turn up now."
"I'd be much more likely to turn to Callie or Felina for support." He chuckled slightly. "And far more likely to just go on my own sense of justice; legal, with proof or not. I wouldn't have been looking to survive the sweep anyway."
"And whoever it was, arranged to see that Callie wasn't available." Rashi nodded. "Felina may be too well protected for them to get at easily." He said thoughtfully. "Or maybe the Ferals have rules to their game, assuming its them, of course."
"Not like she's much on rules," he chuckled. "And I'm not close to either of them, really." Jake sighed and stepped away to go back to look for the address book in the bachelor pad of Chance's room.
Rashi's breath came in sharply as he got the first real look at what two kats had envisioned and created in only a few years without being found. The complex itself he was sure had to have been there before, but everything in it, and much about it, bore the tell-tell marks of Razor's handiwork and taste in design.
"When you said Hanger, that was understatement." Rashi shook his head in amazement. "More like a Rapid Response base." He said thoughtfully.
"It's what I managed with what was here," Jake said simply as he ran his hands over the TurboKat in a brief exterior inspection before unlocking the cargo bay hatch.
"What you managed is very impressive." Rashi said easily. "Have you considered that it may be a good idea to relocate?" He asked quietly.
"It's what I'm setting up now," he nodded. "I've got a facility mostly functional off the coast. Not nearly this nice, but I've been expecting to have to vacate almost since the beginning."
"While I'm sure the TurboKat can get itself there, I'm guessing you've got a fair bit of stuff that can't." Rashi said as he looked around. "Care for a bit of help with the moving?" He offered helpfully, and watched as Jake paused.
"I can't afford to have this get out," he shook his head slightly. "Much less where the other base is."
"Jake, I'm not talking about run of the mill movers." Rashi said gently. "I'm talking about the sort we use to set up covert facilities. And I hate to point this out, but someone has obviously been watching you very closely for some time." He said quietly. "Can you be sure they don't know about the other base?"
"No, I can't," he admitted. "Covert ops aren't my strongest skills, even if I did learn a lot in the first couple years." He glanced over his shoulder with a bit of a sad look before finishing the visual inspection. "But it's what I have. I can't let it stay here. As bad as it'll be that SWAT can't fly anymore, I can't let her fall into the wrong hands. The damage my work can do is ... unacceptable."
"I understand." Rashi said quietly, putting a supportive hand on Jake's shoulder and felt the slight tremors in the tom's body. "But there are people I know and trust who can help, people who live covert ops." He smiled gently. "At least we can get everything moved to the island. What we do after that, we can figure out later."
He watched as Jake struggled. Hard-learned paranoia against a trust of someone he hadn't seen in over a decade. The promise of being taken care of against a decade of having no one else but Chance to turn to when things got bad. Questions of Rashi's true loyalties and reasons against the only thing he really had to go on: gut instinct.
"If you trust them, I will." Jake eventually consented.
"Thank you." Rashi said gently, grateful that Jake was letting him help, the way he needed to help. "It'll take a day or so for them to get here. We probably should get a start on packing though, especially if there's anything that needs packed specially."
"Not much. Mostly it's just turning the security systems off on various doors so they don't get fried," he kind of chuckled. "I'm assuming these guys can handle missiles and guns without shooting themselves."
"They can even handle nukes safely, if you've got those stored here." Rashi chuckled lightly, hoping that Jake didn't.
"Umm, no." He managed a bit more of a real grin. "Disabled a couple on their way down, but I don't use them."
"Just don't be surprised if they look like kids in a candy shop." He shook his head. "Most of them of them are serious gadget hounds, if it's shiny, new and does nifty things they want to add to their equipment manifest." He grinned. "Not that they'd ever steal anything." He said reassuringly.
"Which means your supply sources are going to have a headache and a half after this one." Jake smirked, much more his natural self. "Tell them that if they're good boys and get on my good side, they might get some of it to."
"That would make you very popular in certain circles." Rashi chuckled. "And the head of IMT will probably try and recruit you."
"IMT?" He glanced over and headed towards a section of the far wall with a half-room cut out from the main hanger that had three desks around the walls, all overflowing with papers and various drafting instruments.
"It's the R&D group that supplies all the special ops units." He chuckled. "It has a more official name but everyone that knows about it calls it Isis' Magic Toybox, or IMT for short. It's one of the units that actually dates back to dynastic times, when magic rather than tech was how you got neat toys."
"Anybody still use magic there?" He perked up even as he tried to make some kind of order from a dozen projects being worked on at once.
"We don't make a lot of noise about it to the outside, but yes people do." Rashi smiled. "I think IMT still actually has one wizard on staff."
"They might have something worth trading for them," Jake murmured thoughtfully as he rolled and filed oversized sheets of papers. "Magic would have been useful too many times."
"Pastmaster?" Rashi hazarded a guess.
"And just plain bad luck," he nodded. "He's not the only mystic thing we've faced, just the repeat customer. Trying to fight magic with tech isn't an easy thing."
"We might have to arrange to do something permanent about the little troll in the future." Rashi said thoughtfully. "According to history he's been causing trouble for over three thousand years."
"And who knows how long it's actually been, between time travel and lost records," Jake said quietly. "After all, if you go by dates, SWAT's first appearance was sometime in the dinosaur age, and Chance was there to fight the Metallikats a good thirty years up the timeline."
"I was just going by the first reference to him I remember reading in the archives." Rashi clarified. "He may simply not have come to Mauvandra's attention before then. There was an ocean in the way after all." He chuckled lightly.
"I know," he stilled and closed his eyes with a sigh. "Did you ever think that knowing how and when you were going die would be a blessing?"
"Since I never have known how and when I'm going to die, I can't say." Rashi said thoughtfully. "But I don't think I would want to know, though if you did know you could take steps to avoid it. The future isn't fixed till it happens after all."
"So I've noticed," Jake murmured quietly. "I saw the recording of our fate when we were up the time stream. The TurboKat went down, both of us in it. It made six years of less worry. I never thought about outliving him since. As odd as it might sound, I was looking forward to that. Not having to face this, knowing he'd go down the way he wanted in a blaze of glory."
"Well, I'm sure there is a time stream where that happened." Rashi nodded. "You just didn't end up in it. Some decision or another put you on a different course. And with an infinite number of possible futures, that's not really surprising." He shook his head. "Temporal mechanics is a headache on its best day."
"I know; I've lived through it." He let out a small sound and finished rolling his papers up. "I hope you don't mind an exciting life, Rashi. I doubt it'll let me go very easily."
"Jake, if I wanted a quiet life I wouldn't have come back to MegaKat City." Rashi said gently, putting his arms around Jake and felt the lean tom began to relax slightly from the pent-up pain memories and thinking caused. "And I'm not losing you again."
"You know I'll never stop loving him." He whispered with tears trying to form.
"Yes, I do." Rashi said quietly. "And I respect that, and I understand because I will never stop loving you." He said sincerely, putting into open words what the priestess had shown him was in his heart.
It was all Jake could take as he turned in the embrace to bury his face in Rashi's thick, silvery fur and let himself cry for real, not just for Chance, but for T-Bone and the partnership they had shared in the air.
"A junkyard." Myratha smiled approvingly as she got out of the van that served as their mobile operations base for this operation. "Perfect cover and lots of spare parts." The team's Caracal leader commented as she proceeded to the ramp that was just now sliding open to reveal a runway angled into the ground.
"No wonder the Enforcers never found it." Myratha's second, a Smoke Mau, commented as the rest of the team climbed out of the van and the two semis they'd brought to help move SWAT. "No heat difference between that cover and the surroundings. You could scan all day and not see it." Tunasu nodded approvingly.
"Speaking of cover." Myratha commented as she saw the Serval weather witch and her Pharaoh Hound guards descend from the sleeper cab of the first semi. "Tethys, is our fog bank secure?"
"Yes, Commander." The young fem answered promptly as she followed the moving team into the now open ramp. "Weather reports indicate that a dense ground fog will obscure most of the city until well past night fall."
"Excellent." Myratha nodded. "Okay people, lets go see how much moving is involved."
"Yes, Ma'am," the general response came as the mixed team of Smoke and Black Mau followed her down the well-abused ramp.
"Obviously that jet didn't go very slow when it hit," one of the toms commented, noting the thick rubber streaks despite the frequent stripping the ramp obviously got.
"It is the TurboKat landing here, Mocho." The fem next to him shrugged. "It's amazing it can stop in this short a distance."
"It's not that short."
"It is for a supersonic jet." Kestril pointed out.
"This is the jet that every military and megacorp on the planet has been trying to duplicate since it appeared with no success." Misshya chuckled.
"You think we'll really get to keep some of those toys?" Mocho grinned at the idea of having a Razor-creation to play with.
"I don't see why he'd lie." Myratha shrugged as they came to the dead end and a jet-sized circular lift that smoothly began to descend once they were all on it. "It's not like he has to pay us."
"Quite true," Misshya fluffed her smoke-grey fur as the interior of the SWAT Kat's lair came into view from their feet up.
"I don't think this place was built by two toms, no matter how talented." A smoke Mau tom who's specialty was facility engineering. "Though there was clearly a fair bit of modification done to the original construction." He said as the lift came to a halt inside the floor so it was a smooth transition between it and the rest of the Hanger.
"Never build what you can modify." Myrantha chuckled approvingly. "Though the fact that someone else built the original structure, suggests that the plans to it are out there somewhere."
"Which aren't going to be all that accurate anymore," Jake chuckled a bit as he assessed the crew of over a dozen in their grey fatigues. "Welcome to SWAT's Hanger. If those trucks have good breaks, they should be able to come down."
"Thank you." Myratha smiled. "Do you prefer Jake or Razor?" She asked politely. "Half the flyers at home don't answer to anything but callsigns."
"Loading team to Truck One." Hanys said quietly into his radio. "Come on down, but take it slow. It's a lot shorter than you'd expect and it's a lift down to the base."
"Truck One, I copy." A rough female voice replied.
"Jake's fine," he nodded. "There's not much packing left, just a lot of boxes to load." He motioned around to what he'd been up to for the past two days. "The dangerous stuff is still in the weapons locker." He added with a bit of a grin as they vacated the lift circle and he sent it back up for the truck.
"Any vehicles still to move?" Tunasu asked politely even as the crew took in the visible layout and piles of boxes quietly, planning how to work it out efficiently.
"Just the TurboKat 6." He nodded to the other tom. "She isn't complete enough to fly and too complete to move on my own."
"How close is she to here?" Myratha asked, as she began deciding on a packing order, and considering whether a third semi would be required. "I think we'll want to get her loaded first. Any vehicles that move on their own, but will need to be loaded on the ship?"
"In the construction workshop," he motioned towards a nearly invisible set of hanger doors almost across from the lift as it lowered the first semi down, "and no. I've already taken everything like that over. Just one major rule for working here," Jake caught all their attention. "If an alarm goes off, run like fucking hell and let me disarm the thing. I converted enough of them to bioscanners over the years I'm not positive I managed to find them all again. A fair number aren't hooked up to non-lethals either."
"Right." She nodded sharply. "Okay, let's get the aircraft loaded, then we'll move on to the rest." She instructed and then looked past Jake, as she spotted a familiar black and white spotted tom. "Major Bakar, I was wondering where you were." She grinned.
"Oh, you know me Colonel." Rashi chuckled as he walked up next to Jake. No one missed how the lean tom leaned into his presence and seemed to relax and settle. "I always turn up, sooner or later. Think you're people can handle this?"
"We set up covert op centers in hot zones, I think we can handle this." She chuckled and watched her team got to work on the delicate and rather dangerous work of loading the partially completed TurboKat while Tethys stood near the loading zone with the Pharaoh Hound guards. "Fog is expected to hold well into night, so no one should be the wiser to our leaving."
"Excellent work, Colonel."
"Not natural fog, I guess." Jake commented, his curiosity towards Tethys almost palatable with how out of place she looked.
"Oh, it's quite natural." The Caracal chuckled. "It just wasn't scheduled for today. Tethys was able to get us a change of schedule." She smiled warmly at the Serval, who bowed her head politely.
"Magic?" He hazarded a guess based on the fact that Tethys definitely didn't look like the techie type.
Myratha cast a brief, covert and querying glance at Rashi who nodded. "Yes, Tethys is a Magus of the Second Circle who specializes in weather magic." She said as the Serval walked over to join them followed by the two Pharaoh Hounds.
"How does that work?" Jake asked her, both curious and respectful in leaving her open to answer in as little or as much detail as she considered appropriate.
"Magic in general, weather magic or fog specifically?" She asked encouragingly.
"Magic in general," he clarified with a bit of a grin.
"Best description I have ever heard is that it's the process of shaping the universe by an act of will." She said simply. "To take the energy the universe provides and use to achieve our purposes. Actually doing this is more complicated since the universe is not always amenable to our desires."
Jake cocked his head slightly. "Does it take a natural talent, or is this something anyone can learn?"
"Natural talent does play a role, but it's strength of will and flexibility of thought that matter more." She explained as Jake guided her to a part of the Hanger where they could sit comfortably and watch without being in the way. "Most people simply can't believe that their will can truly shape the universe. They believe that natural forces are too 'big' for anyone to control simply by thinking they can." She smiled. "But if someone can believe that they can do it, then they can usually be taught how."
"Is it something that can be done without training?" He asked uncertainly, thinking back to all his creations that broke the laws of physics in one way or another that no one else could duplicate. Things he knew weren't possible but he had simply gritted his teeth and kept working at them until it happened anyway.
"Some stronger talented individuals have been known to achieve effects without knowing they were doing magic." She nodded. "It's often how we spot the most gifted children, they mold the universe without knowing it. According to records, my Mentor wanted a pony so badly when she was a child, that she actually summoned one." She smiled. "No one would've been the wiser, but the pony she summoned was carnivorous." She chuckled. "It seems she also wanted a pet tiger."
"Something only a child could come up with," Jake chuckled with a shake of his head. "That must have been quite a surprise the first time they had to feed it."
"Actually, it arrived hungry and tried to eat one of the neighbors pets." She shook her head. "Putting it back where she'd gotten it was not nearly so easy. Some things are more difficult to unsummon than to summon."
"That much I have noticed," he nodded. "Particularly when you don't know the spell that brought it here in the first place."
"Actually you don't need to know the spell that summoned it." She chuckled. "Everything in the universe knows where it belongs, unsummoning is simply the act of gathering forces to return something to where it belongs." She explained. "The problem comes when the something wishes to stay. In that case it becomes a contest of wills, though a trained Magus can use the local energy currents to reinforce her will."
"I think I know I few critters that would appreciate the opportunity." He considered her. "The dinosaurs in particular don't do well in this time. Not enough oxygen, I think."
"Dinosaurs?" Tethys blinked in surprise. "Someone is keeping dinosaurs in MegaKat City?"
"Yeah, MegaKat City Zoo ends up with the critters PastMaster summons once they're captured." He nodded. "Nobody here knows how to send them back. At least no one who's willing to come forward to do it. They're making a fortune for the city, but they aren't very healthy compared to when we fought them, even with all the equipment and stuff used to 'fix' their environment to something suitable. It's kinda sad to see them like that."
"I'm surprised that they have lived this long." Tethys said sympathetically. "The PastMaster's spell must have managed to anchor them in this time and place." She said, thinking aloud. "I will have to refer the matter to a specialist when we return home."
"So how do you tell if someone has magical talent?" He moved on to a new subject.
"Usually you can tell by examining the places they spend much of their time, and the places that matter to them." She explained easily. "Even the untrained talent leaves a certain mark on the universe."
Jake took a deep breath and lunched into something that had bothered him most of his life on and off when he had spare moments to wonder about it.
"Is magic how I do what I do with equipment?" He asked her seriously, motioning around the Hanger where he had spent a good deal more than half of the past six years and was the center of his universe put into a physical form.
"It is possible." She nodded. "I have not really been looking at things in that light before now." She admitted. "Perhaps if I looked at what you consider your greatest achievement." She asked, leaving it up to Jake what that was.
"That's the TurboKat 5, the one flying now." He smiled slightly. "Six'll whip her tail, but it'll be at least six months before she's flight worthy. I only just started working on her this month."
"Perhaps you could show her to me, while the others are packing." She asked gently.
He paused a moment, considering the organized chaos and the space taken up by having an 80ft long big rig in the Hanger at the center of it. They'd pulled it forward, far enough into the working shop where the TK6 was still largely present that he could close the bay doors to that section and not touch a thing. It left the lift open to sit the TurboKat on.
"Sure," he nodded and stood to check that their equipment wasn't anywhere that would get hit by the incoming jet and sent the signal for her to return home, along with the confirmation code that it really was him calling. "It'll be a few minutes," he added as the lift moved up to lock into place at the end of the ramp to wait for it's usual occupant.
Tethys waited quietly, engaging in a quiet meditation to center herself for the task of examination. As a Magus of the Second Circle she had had instruction in the process, but unlike members of the higher circles she was not expected to perform it. But she was the only Magus present, so the task was hers.
As the platform settled in the Hanger with its sleek black occupant, Tethys breathed in surprise at the strength of the ambient magic around the jet. She made a quiet prayer to Isis to let her keep her judgment unclouded by her initial surprise.
"If I may touch?" She asked politely, knowing how possessive some pilots and gunners were about their planes, even when they hadn't built them the way Razor had this one.
"Go ahead," he nodded easily.
He watched her carefully to make sure she didn't hurt herself, or anyone else, by touching something she shouldn't, but otherwise just stayed out of her way as she did whatever she was doing. It was a bit strange, being the clueless one when the subject was his own creation, but it was kind of exciting too.
If she said he had some talent ... he'd have a focus to build a new life and career on. Something that wouldn't keep bringing him back here and to how much Chance would want to fly what he was building. He was hardly old by most standards after all, just by the standards he'd lived his adult life with. A life that in Rashi's world was probably less than a third over rather than already several years past expectations.
Maybe he could really start over; a new place, a mate who loved him, a life that wasn't centered in bitterness and fear. Let Razor fade from memory so he could become someone who warranted respect in his own right. He knew it was what Rashi wanted and it was more temping than he dared admit. He just needed something to do , something to be , that wasn't just Razor with a change in scenery.
Something that this woman may be able to give him a hope of.
Tethys gently placed her hands on the fuselage of the sleek black jet and opened her mind to the flow of magic in the world around her. As she slowly walked around it, she was amazed by what had been accomplished by this tom who had asked her what magic was. The folding of space within the high tech vehicle was a feat that would've been impressive for a Magus with training, let alone for an untrained talent. It wasn't the only effect he'd accomplished either, just the most blatantly abusive of unaltered reality.
Clearly his need to make this jet the best in existence had required things of her that could not fit in the confines of a standard jet frame and his will to make it happen anyway had convinced the universe to make it possible. When glanced back toward him she saw a brief translucent image of the white crown and red plumes of Osiris floating over him, who among his many attributes was associated with rebirth. It seemed that perhaps Razor had 'died' with T-bone, and Jake was awaiting a rebirth into something new.
"Yes, you have the talent." She said quietly, as she stepped away from the jet. "A strong talent, I believe."
Jake nodded, assessing that. He couldn't say it surprised him. He knew long before he'd left home at fifteen that he could do things that just weren't natural. Life was usually just too hectic for him to care much about the how and why of it as long as it worked.
Now things were different.
Or at least they could be if he chose to let them be.
"Thank you, Tethys."
"My pleasure, Jake." She smiled warmly. "If you have any other questions feel free to ask." She added encouragingly.
"Well that explains what Grandmother meant." Rashi chuckled quietly. "She said I'd better look out if any Magus fems got a look at you." He chuckled, and Tethys blushed noticeably.
"Hur?" Jake looked between them at a complete loss.
"Traditionally, Magus fems choose their mates, or at least the sires of their first litter, by strength of talent." Rashi explained. "And you're unattached, at least as far as fems are concerned. At least the way we see such things back home."
It took Jake a minute to work through that, a moment that was marked by a sharp rise in the color under his fur as he stepped back a bit, almost putting Rashi between himself and Tethys.
"This is something I get to say no to, right?" He glanced at Rashi with something that was bordering on panic in his eyes.
"Of course it is." Rashi chuckled as his mate settled down. "Nobles haven't had that kind of power since the time of Rasmarin the third. Got abolished at the same time as slavery."
"Who'd want it anyway?" Tethys snorted dismissively. "Treating people like that distorts everything you do."
"Worst you'd have to worry about would be a persistent suitor." Rashi added reassuringly.
"Persistent?" Jake managed a playful smirk. "Remember who you're talking to."
"Which is why I figure a persistent suitor or two wouldn't be anything you couldn't handle." Rashi chuckled playfully.
"Even if you weren't looking for a female mate, you could probably make out decently on the sire price." Myratha added helpfully.
"You get to explain that one." Tethys smirked at the Caracal, feeling fairly certain that Jake wouldn't know what she was talking about.
"Some toms who aren't interested in female mates, either at that time, or at all, agree to sire a litter in exchange for a price. What the price is exactly is determined between the two parties, and it can be almost anything; money, land, knowledge, political favors." The Caracal explained easily. "Pretty much anything of value. The contract also includes details on how much, if any, involvement the sire will have with the kittens. Some prefer not to get involved."
"Right," Jake nodded, not all that sure what to make of it other than it was going to be a very strange conversation if it happened.
"Home is very different from MegaKat City." Rashi added with a smile. "In more than a few ways, though not as many as a couple generations ago."
"Wasn't your grandfather one of the leading figures in the debate about opening the borders?" Tethys asked curiously.
"Yes, he thought it was an awful idea." Rashi shook his head. "Actually, as far as I know he still does."
"Oh, he's going to love me," Jake chuckled nervously and nuzzled close to his mate, conscious that he didn't know much might be too much public contact.
"Don't worry." Rashi said reassuringly. "Grandfather doesn't involve himself in worldly affairs much any more. He retired to the monastery at An-Shural some years ago. He did have a few words on the subject when I first approached father about you. Since most of them had to do with my needing a good arranged marriage, I chose to disregard them."
"You're right, things have changed," Jake blinked. "It's been centuries since we had that idea. Not since Megalith City, I think."
"Which one? The monastery or the arranged marriage?" Rashi asked curiously.
"Both, actually." He considered. "Though I was thinking of the arranged marriage. It seems a really weird idea to me."
"It's a very old custom, marriages are often used to cement alliances between noble families." Rashi explained. "Of course, its usually male-female marriages that are arranged because the resulting offspring are seen to bring the houses closer together."
"I remember the theory," he nodded slightly. "We just haven't had a nobility in that long. Who you marry doesn't matter as much when there's no titles or much land to pass on."
"Very true." Rashi nodded. "Without titles or land, it does become less important. And even with the titles and land, it's still become an uncommon practice in modern times." He added as Jake nuzzled him. "More than a few of my generation have gone to school overseas and find that we prefer the idea of deciding for ourselves."
"I don't see how anyone could not want to." Jake murmured and wrapped his arms around Rashi to draw him close. "Especially after you find someone."
"Some people are just too traditional for their own good." Rashi chuckled, as he nuzzled Jake affectionately.
"Maybe we should leave you two alone." Tethys chuckled lightly.
"They're standing in the middle of the loading zone." Myratha pointed out absently.
"I'm sure we can drive around them." Tethys smirked. "I don't think they'll notice."
"Mmm, I'd notice," Jake rumbled with a bit of a chuckle and ran his hands down Rashi's sides. "But if it wasn't for the fact I need to stay here, getting back to my room would sound very appealing."
"It does at that." Rashi rumbled in agreement. "But it would be most annoying to have one of those alarms go off at the wrong time." He added with a playful wink.
"Mmm, yes, but at least we can't tie." He snickered, enjoying the freedom of not being in his partner's shadow and the persona he'd developed for it. "You have no idea of awkward until you have to explain that to your pilot."
"Try explaining it to your sister." Rashi snickered back, remembering a very awkward situation during one summer vacation.
"Okay, that probably has it beat." Jake agreed with a smirk.
Tethys' breath caught as she followed the rest of the team onto the docking platform that connected the open hanger doors with the small cargo ship that they used to move SWAT's gear. The trailers of equipment were lifted from the ship's cargo bay and set gently in the center of a hanger obviously designed for a good deal of expansion from the half dozen vehicles currently at the edges.
She had no idea how he'd managed to create this place that seemed impregnated with both creation and destructive magic, but after examining the TurboKat, one glance and she knew this place was all his, from the design to the whatever that had formed it from the very mountain to everything in it.
"So just how does all this stay up?" Tanith, a smoke grey female asked looking for the supports she knew should be present.
"Looks like Molekai work to me." Ranys, the team's field engineer commented. "Though I've never heard of them being willing to work this close to the ocean."
Tethys smiled, and she had to admit that it could be mistaken for Molekai work, if you couldn't see the magical signature in everything that made up the place. But the mole people's work bore a very distinctive earth magic signature, nothing like Jake's handiwork. "So how long did this take?" She asked the lean cinnamon tom curiously.
"Most of two years excavate," he smiled back, a touch of pride at the comments from this first view of his creation. "Almost five to get the nanites to work. I started the month the first TurboKat flew."
"For untrained magic, it's very impressive." Tethys nodded approvingly. "The race who does much of our subterranean construction would be hard pressed to do better, and they've been doing it for generations." She smiled. "They'd of course point out that they'd have put more time and care into the aesthetics, but somehow I don't really think that applies here. I think ornate, wrought gold lamps would look a touch overdone." She chuckled.
That idea made Jake blink a few times. "Umm, yeah. Not exactly my thing for a military facility, even if it is meant to live in."
"The Molekai spent generations locked in a war with another subterranean race. Their fortresses and homes, became one and the same thing and the ornate decorations were a way of refusing to surrender their cultural values despite the constant warfare." Ranys explained. "By the time the war ended, it was simply viewed as the 'right way' to do things. And you just don't try to argue with one of them about it." He chuckled. "They're as stubborn as the stone they live and work in."
"It's just not my taste in decor." Jake shrugged as they moved further inside. "The TurboKat 6 goes in there," he pointed to an empty workshop beyond the hanger. "Main weapons locker is over here." He continued and opened a set of reinforced double doors.
Myratha nodded. "Okay, everybody lets get this moving moving." She grinned. "Ranys, have the loading team set the trailer with the TurboKat in it down first. Once we have that where it goes, we'll work on the rest."
"Yes, ma'am." The Smoke Mau nodded, and headed back to the landing zone.
"So, officially who owns this chunk of rock?" Myratha asked curiously as she kept an eye on things.
"I do," Jake said simply to everyone's surprise. "I filed the paperwork back in collage. It was unclaimed."
"So that's why it's a couple hundred miles from shore." Rashi chuckled. "International water, no other jurisdiction." He nodded. "What were you planning to do with it back then?" He asked curiously.
"Nothing," he shrugged. "It was just to see if I could pull it off." He lowered his eyes. "I was a little aimless after we broke up."
"Makes two of us." Rashi admitted. "Father had me go back on active duty, till I, as he put it, stopped moping." He chuckled weakly. "He didn't think moping was the right frame of mind for serving as his assistant."
"It worked, apparently," Jake lifted a hand to scritch Rashi's chin, then kissed him. "For both of us."
"Hanging out with a bunch of commandos tends to cure moping in a hurry." Rashi chuckled, and kissed Jake back. "They have no problem teasing you about it."
"Especially if you're a wet-behind-the-ears lieutenant." Ranys added, as he and three of the other commandos walked passed guiding a platform filled with parts of the TurboKat 6 that hovered politely between them about a foot off the ground.
"I bet," Jake couldn't quite suppress a snicker. "I just got so busy with life to notice. Getting shot at every other day tends to accomplish the same thing."
"Rather like having a big scaly monster to deal with, when you aren't allowed to shoot it." Rashi shook his head. "Think firebreathing T-rex, only its smarter somewhere above your average housepet."
"How'd that happen?" Jake frowned, trying to think of possible grounds for it.
"He's talking about the Guardian of Al'Rashir." Myratha chuckled. "We had to go in and make sure the seals were all intact. But harming the Guardian is not allowed, so we have to do a lot of running and dodging."
"All cause some priest lost the words of control about five centuries ago." Rashi grumbled. "It was easy before that."
"You can't just immobilize it until you're done?" Jake looked between them uncertainly.
"Well, no one has figured out how to do that yet, without hurting it." Myratha said simply. "It was created to guard the seals against pretty much everything, which means being resistant to the bad guys trying to immobilize it."
Jake nodded, doubting anyone had tried very hard, physically or magically, but not really caring that much either. "And finding the control words is too difficult to be worth it?"
"Searching for them has been unsuccessful, so far." Myratha said simply. "Fortunately the seals only have to be checked about every ten years, give or take."
"That is good," Jake nodded, then shifted his attention to the so-far silent mage. "Up for talking magic while the muscle works?" He asked politely, the fascination and desire in his eyes unmistakable.
"Certainly." She smiled, and then chuckled. "Don't let the muscle fool you, there is a way but I think they prefer playing hide and seek with the firebreathing lizard." She added in a stage whisper.
Jake just rolled his eyes and let the stab of pain at the reminder of his partner wash over him and fade. "I am so not surprised."
"Well, the alternative method is rather personal." She snickered and very much had his full, mischievous attention. "And doesn't provide nearly as many stories you can tell in general company."
"Since when have commandos hung out in general company?" His eyes glittered with amusement.
"General company for them." She smirked playfully. "Most of them aren't inclined to the submissive role to start with." She chuckled softly.
"Or can't afford to let that be known," he snickered, covering his mouth with one hand in a vain attempt to control it. "So much face to loose."
"Absolutely, they barely take orders as it is." She chuckled. "They'd never live down taking orders in the bedroom." She smirked, repressing a giggle with difficulty. "And certainly not taking them from a lizard."
"No, I imagine not." He smirked, his mind well into the possibilities. "It'd be funny as hell though."
"Probably would at that." She grinned. "Somehow I don't think erotic shrinking lizards was the magic you wanted to talk about originally." She chuckled.
"No," he admitted with a chuckle. "How common is field specialization in magic?"
"Most people have some level of specialization either from interest or from the way their talent happens to work best." She said simply. "However, there's a fair amount of 'common' magic that everyone learns."
"So changing specialties isn't too big an issue," he half-asked. "What are the major fields?"
"Major fields are the four classical elements, time and space, weather, life magic, animal, plant, divination, illusion." She chuckled. "There's a lot of them, they've been slowly expanding over the course of our history. More recent major specialties including mechanics and electronics." She shook her head. "We even have one nuclear physicist turned Magus, who's working on magic based on the primary forces."
"That must be an interesting conversation to have," he laughed easily with a shake of his head. "Short form: however it makes sense to the mage."
"Pretty much, with one important exception." She said seriously. "Never try to unmake something. I don't mean break, destroy or convert to energy...I mean make it as thought it never existed. 'Be not' is the most dangerous magic thought there is, especially for the magic user thinking it."
Jake cocked his head, trying to wrap his mind around the very concept. "All right. I'll try not to try and make that make any sense."
"Somebody came with it early on when trying various methods of destroying things." She shook her head. "It was a step beyond what is commonly called disintegration, it was the attempt to remove the fact that the item had existed." She said simply. "The universe will not allow that, and the magic rebounds on the Magus with predictably lethal effects. Every so often it happens either by accident or because some destruction oriented Magus decides that she can control the energies involved."
That made Jake blink, then shudder as he realized just how close he had come to willing reality to 'unmake' Chance death. Maybe not what she had in mind with this, but it could go so wrong given he didn't realize it was even something he could try to do.
"It's better to time trip and change what led up to whatever it is, then stick around in that time splinter." He shook his head, increasingly rattled by the nightmares he was coming up with.
"A lot of Magi won't touch time magic." She said simply. "It's not a common specialty, and most aren't comfortable with it. But if you have the talent and precision for such, then it is the better option." She agreed. "But all evidence so far suggests that you while can't change the time stream you exist in, you can just jump into an alternate stream."
"I know," he said quietly, almost hugging himself. "I've done it a few too many times."
"So I've heard." She nodded. "Not surprising, considering you keep crossing paths with that nightmarish little troll, Pastmaster. One of these days one of the white necromancers is going to have to do something permanent about him."
"If they haven't by now, it's not likely to happen." Jake actually shrugged. "Unless he does something stupid by crossing one directly."
"Problem has been having one strong enough to deal with him around when he's active." She shook her head. "White necromancy doesn't seem to generate the stronger talents. And unless you break the magic that holds him to existence, it doesn't matter how much you blow him up."
"That much I've figured out," he nodded. "I thought you said anyone can learn any magic?"
"They can, but not every is equally strong in every magic." She clarified. "Someone may be very strong in fire magic, for example, but have very limited success with animal-related magic. They can learn it, but they won't be very good at it." She explained. "It's kind of like math, everyone can learn math but not everyone can handle advanced calculus."
"Oh," he nodded, mulling that over with limited success, then caught sight of the crew starting to work on putting the armory away. "Time to pay attention to the movers." He apologized and excused himself to get things in some sort of order without lifting everything himself.
"Rashi?" Jake murmured softly as they were snuggling in bed late in the night, back in Rashi's mansion after the new Hanger was all settled in. "Who are you, back home, that you can do all this?"
"The oldest son of one of the Twelve Houses, as well as being a vice-president in one of the larger multinational corporations headquartered in Mauvandra." Rashi said simply. He was surprised that Jake had waited this long to ask, even if Rashi didn't think he'd done anything that impressive yet.
"Translation for the Mauvandran impaired tom?" Jake asked sheepishly as he snuggled a little closer. He understood the concept of what he'd just been told -- that Rashi was a seriously important person back home -- but right now his brain was refusing to cooperate with a more useful question about the details.
"The Twelve Houses are the original twelve noble houses of Mauvandra from dynastic times." Rashi explained, nuzzling Jake affectionately. "They originated with the high priesthoods of the important gods and goddesses of the time. There are more noble houses in modern times, but the Twelve still hold a position of preeminence. They make up the Pharaoh's advisory council, and should the Pharaoh die without naming an heir, they choose the successor. Just to clarify, Pharaoh is the ruler of Mauvandra though they don't have nearly the absolute power they did in dynastic times."
"Which makes you heir to one of the most powerful positions in Mauvandra," he half stated, half asked.
"Still kind of a tie between me and my twin sister over who gets it." Rashi chuckled. "But basically right."
Jake mulled that over, then kissed him softly. "I volunteered myself for a pretty public life, haven't I?"
"To a certain extent, yes." Rashi smiled. "Though it'll be quiet for a while. I'm managing the MegaKat City operations currently, so I'm not expected at all the social functions back home with the exception of the big ones. And until we actually make a formal announcement back home, you're not expected to attend any of them." He said, trying to remember all the social conventions involved. "Just for reference, there isn't a big event for a few months."
"Good," he murmured and nuzzled close. "I'm sure my manners need some serious work before I'm presentable in public like that."
"Right now, no one would expect good manners." Rashi smiled gently. "You're expected to be short-tempered and unpredictable currently." He explained. "MegaKat City may not see things that way, but back home it is understood that the loss of a life partner can be just as devastating as that of a Lifemate." He added quietly.
"Enforcers understand," Jake closed his eyes with a small sound and pressed close. "I still want to know what's expected, even if I don't manage it."
"We'll cover that when we're closer to needing it." Rashi said softly, and hugged Jake close. "There's plenty to deal with now, without etiquette lessons."
"Yeah," he consented, breathing in Rashi's scent to calm down a bit. "Thank you for being here, Rashi."
"You're welcome, love." Rashi said gently. "Thank you for giving us a second try."
Jake wasn't sure what to make of his almost detached mood as he wiped his hands on a scarf again, despite them being perfectly clean. It had been the most surreal night of his life, bar none. He knew he should be horrified, sick at what he'd done, and he just couldn't be. It was enough to make him wonder just how much of his good kat nature had been a reflection of Chance's.
It was just too weird to walk into a mansion like nothing had happened.
"How was your evening, love?" Rashi said, noticing Jake just before he started up the stairs to where his office and the bedrooms where. In one hand he carried a mug that smelled of the hot spiced tea he drank instead of coffee.
"Strange," he admitted, pausing so Rashi could come up before they continued upstairs. "Not very informative either. But mostly it was extremely strange."
"I take it she wasn't interested in talking." Rashi said evenly, as he caught up with Jake and they began to walk up together.
"Oh, she was happy to talk, she just didn't know anything all that useful, or true ." He growled in frustration. "She named the Syndicate, but it doesn't jive. It just didn't sound right."
"Considering that SWAT never really tangled with the Syndicate, why would they be involved in this?" Rashi said thoughtfully. "You're right it doesn't make sense. But the question is was she lying or is that actually what she believes?"
"My gut says she thought she was telling the truth," he admitted quietly. "There's a point where you stop a lie than doesn't protect you and I pushed her considerably past that." He paused and murmured. "Well, what I really think is that she was hypnotized or the like into believing that. There was just something there that said part of her knew it wasn't the truth, but couldn't even think that consciously."
"If I was back home I'd suspect magic." Rashi said thoughtfully. "But Magi are virtually unheard of in this area since the time of Megalith City."
"Except as Omegas." He agreed. "And even those are rare. Still, the first rule of MKC survival is to never write anything off as impossible. This city exists as a testament to the impossible made real."
"Oh, I didn't say it was impossible." Rashi shook his head. "Unfortunately, it would take a Magus with some skill in mind magic to be sure. And I'm guessing we'd need one who was trained in forensic magic." He said, hazarding a guess as to just how things had gone, though his tone of voice was very matter-of-fact.
"Something like that," he nodded, still not sure what to make of his own actions and reactions to the night. "I'm sure the Enforcers will be having a collective fit about the lack of evidence in a few hours when they find out."
"I'll give the Intelligence Service a call, see if they have anyone qualified available." He said easily. "Lack of evidence?" He asked curiously.
"I was trained to do crime scene investigation in Academy and spent the last seven years getting better at not leaving tracks." Jake pointed out with a bit of a proud look. "I'm not about to give them something to clue them in on who was there with her, even if prosecution is unlikely."
"I wasn't sure how much crime scene training they gave fighter teams." Rashi admitted sheepishly. "And given recent events, I don't expect the Enforcers will be assigning a high priority to the AG's death. Especially considering that anyone who knows Feral family history would consider the Commander a suspect."
"Ur?" Jake shot him a look, one eyebrow in his hair. "I didn't see that one coming."
"Just something that research came up with." Rashi explained. "Seems that assassination is something of Feral family pastime. More so when other family members are concerned, but they've never had a problem using to eliminate other rivals." He shook his head. "Of course, this isn't information that most people know, but the Ferals have been a significant power on this side of the ocean long enough that we've been keeping tabs on them for quite some time."
"So how does Felina stack up on the 'screwed up morals' chart?" He asked curiously, more than a little blown away by this bit of information.
"So far as we can tell, she's one of the good ones." Rashi said easily. "There are a few in every generation who don't follow the family tendency to play extremely dirty politics. Her father was similarly minded, but he had the misfortune of being between Ulysses and the Succession."
"Which actually bodes well for the city in the future," Jake nodded as they got to their bedroom. "She'll make a good Commander, and she definitely gets along better with Callie."
"She gets along better with most people than her Uncle." Rashi nodded. "People may respect and/or fear Commander Feral, but there aren't many who'd claim to like him."
"And he's got more of an ego than she does," he added and sprawled out on their bed, still fully dressed. "Doesn't mind thanking people for going above and beyond duty, Enforcer, vigilante or civilian."
"Some inconclusive research suggests there's a reason for the way he is." Rashi said, sitting down on the bed next to Jake to sip his tea. "But I really do hope it's wrong, unfortunately all it is right now is one unconfirmed account from a traveling bard about seven hundred and fifty years ago."
"What's the rumor?" Jake glanced over curiously.
"That some Feral sorcerer tried to control and demon and ended up merging it into their bloodline." He said, clearly not entirely believing the idea. "It's why some of them are so big, when there's no Xanith blood in the line, supposedly. It all leads to certain negative personality traits, like Uly's overwhelming ego that blinds him to the true potential some of his Enforcers have."
"It wouldn't be the strangest thing I've seen, or done." Jake admitted. "Even if it is seriously up there on the hard to believe rating."
"It's just very strange, since there's very little in the records associating the Ferals with magic." Rashi said thoughtfully. "They've always been the cold steel type."
"True enough," he nodded agreeably. "They've also got to be one of the most double-faced families around, between the advancement-by-assassination private world and the very law-abiding public one."
"That actually fits with the nature of demonkind." Rashi replied after thinking a bit. "The fundamental nature of demons is deceit and misdirection."
"It's the nature of plenty of otherwise normal kats too," Jake counted as they relaxed. "It's not like mortals need much help, really."
"Also true." Rashi admitted. "And this far from the source it would be very hard to determine, even for an expert in such things."
"And maybe a more worthy question: does it matter if we find out?" He smiled over at his lover. "Really, even if it's true, does it change anything?"
"For us, probably not." he admitted with a smile. "But for someone interested in a Feral, it has large implications. Much like a genetic tendencies for certain illnesses and defects."
"True," he rolled to his side and ran his hand lightly across Rashi's chest. "Know someone like that?"
"Not personally." Rashi admitted. "But with increased traffic between Mauvandra and MegaKat City that's likely to change."
"I'm sure the real answer will be hunted down then," Jake said easily. "Hell, they might even still know if it's true if you know how to ask."
"Or possibly who to ask." Rashi said quietly. "It's possible it's something that not all of them are aware of."
"Or that," he nodded. "Bets Ulysses does, if it's true. Being the head of the family and all so soon."
"Possibly, though I wouldn't be sure." Rashi said quietly. "Sometimes the obscure bits of lore are only known to those curious enough to read through old family histories, which often are in languages no longer spoken."
"Well, anyone dating a Feral shouldn't have too hard a time finding out who the short list of family historians are."
"Any list of Ferals tends to be short, since though a powerful family they're not a particularly large one." Rashi chuckled. "Of course they have mostly themselves to blame for that."
"And that personality they tend to have," Jake snickered. "I mean I can almost see someone dating Felina, but any of the others I've meet? It's almost have to be for the money."
"Oh, I could see Uly appealing to someone with a really serious submissive nature." Rashi shook his head, and chuckled quietly.
Jake made a face. "I keep forgetting those people actually exist."
"I certainly try to, but my head of facilities engineering here in MKC is one. Actually, he's just plain confusing...he's a gruff, no-nonsense drill sergeant type at work, but run into him after hours at a club and he's either on somebody's leash or trying to get on one." He shook his head. "It's a very disturbing duality."
"I'm not even going to ask how you found that out," Jake snickered, though he was serious too. "I really don't want to know."
"Let's just say I was at the wrong club, courtesy of a recommendation from a colleague." Rashi shook his head.
"Who thought you were a lot kinkier than you are?"
"Some assumption that noble families keep secret playrooms full of all sorts of kinky to the point of bizarre stuff in them." Rashi shook his head at some of the things he'd heard about. "And apparently we all keep pleasure slaves to satisfy our insatiable appetites. By the Gods, slavery hasn't been legal in centuries."
"A harem is legal though. At least it sounds like it would be." He kissed Rashi on the cheek and took the empty teacup from his hands. "Come to bed, love. It's been a very long couple of weeks."
"Technically, I think so." He said rolling over to nuzzle Jake as he set the cup on the small bedside table. "But it hasn't been fashionable since my great-grandfather's time."
"And who needs a harem when you have me?" He grinned impishly and pulled Rashi close for a searing kiss.
"Who indeed." Rashi chuckled playfully, as he pulled Jake close and ran his hands down the lean toms sides.
"Commander, Lieutenant Commander Feral is here to see you," Ms. DeSty's prim voice came over his intercom.
"Send her in." The Commander replied, setting down the file he was reviewing. The way the month had been going she was probably about to tell him that one of the flock of foreign dignitaries had turned up dead. It was one of the few ways left for the month to actually get worse, short of Dark Kat attacking. Of course, he was expecting that to happen any day now. The city was too vulnerable for Dark Kat to ignore for much longer.
He was a touch relieved when her expression didn't bear out the worst thought, but she was just as obviously unhappy about something.
"Commander," Felina nodded her head fractionally with the respect that was usually there. "What do you want me to tell President Kymabro of Brazin when he asks why you are not handling this yourself?" She asked, largely out of respect for not making her uncle's predicament any worse with all that had happened that month already.
"You can tell him that just because he never learned to delegate authority doesn't mean that I have the same problem." Ulysses growled in frustration, which was clearly more directed at the paperwork burying his desk. "Actually, you'd probably better not." He shook his head. "I somehow suspect that the mayor would prefer that I not turn this into an international incident." He shook his head. "Somewhat ironic that if this whole mess had waited another month, I wouldn't have had to deal with it."
"Sir?" She blinked in surprise.
"I was at the Mansion this morning." Ulysses said simply. "The doctor says it is unlikely that Father will survive more than a few more weeks. I can not be head of the family and Commander at the same time, as either job requires full attention." He explained. "Father told me that he has made his decision on the Succession."
Her stunned look lasted only a moment, then she nodded sharply as she rearranged her mindset to taking over the Enforcers 'next week' rather than 'sometime next year' that it had been for so long.
"This news makes it even more likely that Andrew is behind the resent events." She spoke quietly with a dangerous edge on her manner. "It is his last chance to depose your claim."
"I'm sure this was his gambit, as is Father." Ulysses said simply. "It only solidified Father's decision. Andrew put the entire city at risk to further his own ambition, and he did so in a way that he couldn't control or undo if it was successful." The Commander said darkly. "He demonstrated the same lack of long-term planning that has gotten him into trouble before." He sighed. "As Father put it, Andrew would burn down a house to solve a termite problem."
"There is a fairly clean way to be rid of him," she said quietly. "Not even he is immune to the magic behind who killed the AG last night."
"That's hard to say." Ulysses said uncertainly, never comfortable with magic. "And even Razor would have a difficult time with Andrew." He added quietly. "My younger brother is a survivor's survivor, and should not be underestimated. By now he has probably found out about Father's decision and gone to ground. Finding him will be difficult." He said simply. "You would also have to have evidence linking the AGs actions to Andrew, which will be hard to come by."
"I understand, uncle." She stood a little stiffer, hating that she had to say the words. "I'm asking permission to deal with Andrew. Don't ask how. I will keep our public hands clean."
"Just be careful, Felina." Ulysses said seriously. "You will be Commander before the month is out, and you have a responsibility to the Enforcers and to the city." He said firmly, and then paused. "Something you should begin thinking about is how to repair the damage that Andrew has done to the city's defenses. The Omegas have been quiet so far, but that won't last."
"It starts with making peace with Razor." She said simply. "He would be an invaluable ally, even more now that he is allied to Mauvandra's House Bakar and it's operations head in the city."
"I had planned to suggest that you recruit SWAT upon assuming command." Ulysses nodded. "It never occurred to me that Andrew would take them down. Hopefully Razor has not been completely turned against the city by recent events, especially the death of T-bone."
"Considering both you and the Mayor are still alive, that is unlikely," she pointed out quietly, then paused. "You were the likely reason for T-Bone's assassination after all. If Razor followed through on your relationship of the past ten years, you would have been the target of his rage, not the AG."
"Quite probably Andrew's intention." Ulysses nodded. "For whatever reason, Razor must have decided that the AG was at fault for what happened, which is even true. Having to deal with an enraged Razor is not something I want to deal with." He shook his head, wondering idly to himself just who would come out on top of such a contest. It was far too close in his opinion to be worth having happen, unless there was a critical reason for it.
Felina paused, mildly disturbed by the realization that the city's best hope could well be described as a homicidal sadist. Not even her own family upbringing of siblingcide had prepared her for the level of violence inflicted both before and after the fatal shot. "Did you see what he did to the AG before he killed her?"
"Yes, I did." Ulysses nodded grimly, as he indicated the folder he'd been reading, which was the report on the AG's death. "Did you see what forensics turned up though? Some extremely convincing evidence linking the Syndicate to the hit on the AG." The giant tom added shaking his head. "Apparently, Andrew would like everyone to think that the AG was working for the Syndicate and the alliance went bad." He chuckled. "And it's just credible enough to let stand, which could be useful in a number of ways."
"It will certainly take a lot of pressure off questions of who did it," Felina nodded thoughtfully. "The city can't afford to let that get out. Not while there is a prayer of recruiting Razor at least."
"Even if we can't recruit him, I can guarantee we won't be able to prosecute." Ulysses said with quiet certainty. "Ms. Omorose will turn it into a temporary insanity caused by the death of his partner and his time in Alkatraz. And that assumes he doesn't just disappear from MegaKat City entirely." He said simply. "The Mauvandrans are very touchy when it comes to what they view as heroes. I have it on very good authority that when the Pharaoh's heir arrives for the funeral, he'll be carrying an official message from his father on the subject of SWAT."
Felina couldn't help but wince. "And that's before you get into the PR nightmare of trying to try a SWAT Kat for the AG's murder." She shook her head. "Better to leave it as it is."
"I know I've had enough PR nightmares in the last month already." He shook his head. "And I'm not exactly upset over the death of someone who was working for my brother." He chuckled lightly, but then went serious. "With any luck the AG's death will take some of the steam out Ms. Briggs legal troubles as well."
"It would be good for the city," she nodded slightly. "Are there any projects I should know about as Commander?"
"I've tried to brief you on all the black projects over the last six months." Hr said, standing. "With two exceptions, and now is a good time to cover those. Both are about as top secret as things come, and neither seems to be close to completion yet." He chuckled. "The first is one of my Omega equalizer projects, a brilliant researcher brought it to me about five years ago, and though its made progress its still not ready for field testing. It's what I call mechanized infantry; powered armor suits to give our ground troops greater strength, mobility and armor. The long-term plan is to have at least two ground squadrons, and a third airborne since one variant of the armor will be flight capable."
"That'll make a huge difference when it's ready," she nodded, her mind making quick work of the possibilities.
"That was the plan." Ulysses nodded. "The other project is less obviously applicable, but possibly of greater significance. It's an archaeological excavation in the southern part of the badlands, near the mountains." He said quietly. "Normally it wouldn't even be under Enforcer jurisdiction, but Dr. Synian is convinced that there is something of great importance there, something which we can't allow to fall into the wrong hands. We tried just sealing it up but there's something there that refuses to let us." He shook his head. "Now that the Mauvandrans are interacting with the world a bit more, you may want to consider getting their opinion. The one thing Dr. Synian is sure of, is that the Temple structure unearthed so far, is at least five millennia old."
She whistled slightly. "Hopefully it won't be similar to the one the giant mummies came from."
"Hopefully not." He agreed. "But if you want the details, you'd be better off talking to Dr. Synian."
"I will," she nodded easily and chuckled. "She's probably been itching to get to talk about it."
"In that case, I'll let you get back to funeral security." He said simply. "And tell the pompous windbag, that I'm currently busy dealing with a family crisis involving my father's health. It's partially true, and I seem to recall that his culture places a great deal of importance on duty to parents."
"Excellent," she nodded sharply and turned to leave, her mind going over everything she'd learned and scrambling for a time she could get Abi cornered in private for a nice long chat about that temple.
Jake Clawson, his mind already well past numb in shock at the past twelve something hours of royal state funeral for his partner, was grateful beyond words to let his SWAT uniform slide off his body in the privacy of Rashi's bedroom in the mansion. From the moment he'd stepped out of the limousine after Rashi to see what looked like every VIP and world leader in existence, everything had started to blur. It was utterly unreal. It was everything Chance deserved and would have loved to see done in his honor. It was as perfect as it could have been to honor the tabby's life.
"That went even better than expected." Rashi rumbled happily, as he came up behind Jake and hugged him affectionately. "So, you want to wind down in the whirlpool tub, or just collapse into bed?" He asked gently.
"Mmm, the tub sounds good, as long as you're in it too." He purred softly and turned in the embrace to hug him back with a soft kiss.
"Oh, I'm definitely in." Rashi purred, and started guiding Jake toward the large bathroom. "I can't remember having a day that felt that long before. But it was all for a good reason." He smiled warmly, clearly rather pleased with how things had gone.
"Yeah, it was perfect," Jake leaned against him lightly before slipping into the swirling hot water with a low groan of pleasured relief. "He would have loved it."
"That's good." Rashi nodded, as he quickly stripped and then slipped into the large tub next to Jake. "Listening to you talk about him, I regret I never got to know him myself." He said with complete sincerity.
"He was your everyday MegaKat City bred hero," he smiled fondly and leaned against his lover. "City's got a lot of good kats like him. Most just didn't have a partner than could let them back into the game, or they can play by the rules a little better than we could, and they don't catch the headlines. For all the media would have you believe, we didn't do it alone. Most of them just still wear a grey uniform." He paused with a soft sound. "Something Chance would have given up all the hero status and top notch equipment and freedom to fight in again."
"Most wouldn't do it without the uniform." he said quietly. "To do it knowing that you don't have any backup except your partner, that's something most can't manage. It's not taking anything away from the everyday heroism of the Enforcers to say that Chance was more than just an everyday hero." He added, giving Jake an affectionate nuzzle. "After all, some of those everyday heroes were the ones who looked up to him the most."
"Hard to think of it that way, honestly." Jake murmured and closed his eyes as his body started to relax in the steaming heat. "Sure we joked about being heroes and saving the Enforcers tails again, but it was just what we did. I'm not sure we could have not answered an emergency call. It's just not who he was, who we were. It didn't really matter what we wore, we were just doing what we needed to."
"It's hard to think of it that way, 'cause it would mean thinking of yourself as hero." Rashi said gently. "And it kind of fits a theory I've heard that there are two kinds of heroes; those who are heroes by conscious decision, and those who are born to be heroes and never have to think about it. Neither is better than the other, just different." He said quietly, letting himself relax in the hot bubbling water.
"And there are those who are because they're can't not help someone who is one," Jake added. "It's hard to keep up with him most days. But how do you say no to him, when you know the right thing to do is to go out with him? You never saw hurt until you saw what he looked like the time I asked what happened after SWAT, when we didn't go up any more. It was like the concept never crossed his mind."
"Probably because like most pilots, he didn't want to think about life without flying. And he probably figured SWAT would be going up as long as he could fly." Rashi said sympathetically. "The really good fighter pilots and test pilots have this unshakeable faith in their own invulnerability, a belief that they can take anything the universe can throw at them and give it right back. It makes them hard to keep up with, but it also makes them what they are." He said with a soft smile.
"And Chance was right about it too." Jake managed a half-hearted chuckle. "Nothing in the air came close to him. On the ground ... that was another issue. He got in all his trouble on the ground."
"No one is perfect everywhere." Rashi said easily. "We all have our limitations. Part of being mortal, I think."
"Something like that," he nodded and relaxed against him, his body gradually turning to very pleasant jello by the heat and water. "Are you coming to the wake tomorrow?"
"I was planning on it." Rashi nodded. "Someone will need to be sober enough to get you home." He smiled, teasing lightly.
"I'm sure there will be plenty of volunteers," Jake actually snickered. "Even if this isn't the 'home' they have in mind."
"The others won't mind I hope. I didn't actually know him, after all." He added quietly, showing the first real sign of uncertainty that he'd shown since they'd gotten back together.
"I doubt it," he kissed him softly. "Except for the monopoly you'll have when it's time to go home."
"That I can deal with." Rashi chuckled quietly. "So, any of these people going to be jealous ex's I need to worry about?" He asked playfully. It was hard to not be curious about the years that they'd been apart, but he tried very hard to limit his curiosity to things he really needed to know, especially in this time when Jake was under so much stress anyway.
"A couple ex's," Jake ducked his head a blushed. "More that were interested and know I'm not likely to refuse when drunk. Just about everybody thought I was mated by graduation."
"Which graduation? College or Enforcer Academy?" Rashi asked curiously, since he had a feeling that there were probably still people who thought Jake and Chance were a couple and the way Jake had talked of him at the funeral wouldn't have changed any of their minds.
"Academy," he clarified. "It was a pretty big deal to make top of our class with our discipline issues."
"And most everyone figured you and Chance were a couple." Rashi nodded. "Ignoring the fact that Chance wasn't into guys. People do like to ignore small inconvenient facts." He shook his head.
"As one of our classmates put it, he may not like guys, but he's sure as hell hooked on you. It didn't matter that I'd already tried to get Chance to go on a date and knew better. Once they get that idea in their head, it just won't go away." He blushed a little brighter. "And it's not like I exactly minded the mistake most of the time. We were lifemates in everything but the sex. It's the only word the language has for what we had."
"And the funeral has probably convinced more than a few that they were right." Rashi nodded. "And will probably lead to some very interesting rumor-mongering regarding me and my motives." He sighed. "One thing I miss about home; the lack of tabloid press." He chuckled quietly.
"Honestly I'll be glad to get away from them. The sooner the better."
"Well, we could always go to my home in Mauvandra." Rashi suggested. "I have it on very good authority that all your legal problems will be history within the next few days."
"I would like that," he murmured. "I don't really want to be here for the next Omega attack. I ... I've got a shot at the life I wanted. I don't want to loose it on a reflex or guilt."
"I just may have to come back here on business for a while." Rashi admitted honestly. "I just got through turning a company inside out and I need to look after it, at least till I can find someone qualified to run it."
"I can deal with that," Jake kissed him as soundly as his exhausted, relaxed body could manage. "Maybe I'll come with you." He lowered his eyes. "I just really need to get away from Razor and SWAT right now, before I do something heroically stupid."
"You're well overdue for a vacation." Rashi nodded. "And most of what I need to do with the company right now, I can direct by vid-conference from home." He smiled. "And I finally get to show you my real home." He grinned playfully, kissing Jake back as his lover squirmed onto his lap to relax chest to chest with his muzzle against Rashi's neck.
"I've never really had one," Jake murmured. "Even the couple times we took one, we were always on call, we couldn't go far."
"Then you definitely need one." Rashi rumbled decisively. "A few weeks somewhere quiet, just to wind down."
"And become at least passably fluent in your native language," Jake managed a wink. "If I'm going to live Mauvandra, I'd better be able to communicate on a basic level."
"Just to deal with the people who don't speak Magethin." He smiled. "Though I think it will take more than a few weeks, unless you're also a genius at languages." He grinned. "You're lucky though, we don't use the hieroglyphs anymore."
"I don't think that's possible with a modern society." He looked at Rashi dubiously.
"It has been a while, since they were actually our system of writing." Rashi chuckled. "It doesn't hurt to know some though, since they show up on signs and you'll run into them online as well."
"I'm nothing if not stubborn," Jake chuckled and nuzzled close with a contented sound. "I eventually manage anything I set my mind to. If that means a few new languages to get along, it won't be the most difficult thing I've accomplished."
"No, and there won't be the pressure either." Rashi said easily. "Other than the usual pressure you put on yourself." The spotted tom teased playfully.
"Trust me, nothing the outside tries can compare," he chuckled sleepily. "You're the same way. Always trying to be the best at what you do."
"If something's worth doing, its worth doing right." he chuckled, and nuzzled Jake tiredly. "We should probably dry off before we fall asleep here."
"M'kay," Jake smiled at him and nuzzled his neck before reluctantly hauling himself out of the exquisitely warm water.
It was barely into the afternoon, the sun still high in the sky, when Rashi pulled his SUV into the parking lot of Thunderbolt, which had been booked for Chance wake; staff, drinks and food included. He still felt a little uneasy going into this fairly intimate event for Chance's friends ... his family had been rather pointedly not invited ... but Jake had invited him, asked him to come. It wasn't something he could have refused.
When he glanced over, he saw the first sign of nervousness his lover had shown since the arrest. Apparently he wasn't the only one who wasn't entirely comfortable with what was happening. Several dozen kats, mostly guys and almost all who had worn an Enforcer uniform before, if they weren't still in it, and a lot of alcohol to mix up into a serious party to see their friend off.
It was also a potential powder keg, even with Felina Feral and Callie Briggs there to help keep things from getting too out of control.
Noticeable in the crowd was one grey and white Coyote Kantin, hanging out with a small group of the ex-Enforcer Kats. He was lean, muscular and on the smaller side as Kantin went, at Callie height. It was clear from the attitude of the Kats he was talking to, that he was definitely one of the group.
"Interesting." Rashi whispered quietly to Jake. "About the only person, aside from me, who doesn't look Enforcer, either past or present."
"And Callie," he nodded towards the blond shekat that looked more out of place. Of those here, only she and Felina knew them better as T-Bone and Razor than Chance and Jake, but Felina had the advantage of being an Enforcer and blending into that crowd flawlessly. "Never saw a Coyote with those colors either." He look a more serious look at the gathering. "And the only one here I've never met."
"Mountain clan, from what little I know about the breed." Rashi said quietly. "And you're right, Miss Briggs does look a little out of place, though I'm not surprised to see her here."
"She's the only one who knew us with and without the masks," Jay murmured softly, leaning closer to him. "I'm still not sure if she knew though."
"Wouldn't surprise me if she did." Rashi smiled softly even as she came over to greet them with a sadness in her sea green eyes that not even the wake's atmosphere was likely to take out. "She is one very discerning shekat."
"That she is," Jake nodded even as he put on a game face to accept the handshake and condolences; the only way she knew how to respond to the loss.
"I'm so sorry about Chance, Jake." Callie said softly, clearly struggling to maintain her own composure. "I only wish there'd been something I could've done." She added, allowing a brief window into the guilt she was feeling before she managed to get a better grip on herself.
"You were set up as much as we were," Jake smiled at her, though it was impossible to miss the pain just below the surface. "What happened, happened."
"You're right, of course." Callie nodded, admiring how well he seemed to be handling things. By itself the investigation would've been merely infuriating because it left Manx actually trying to run the city without her, but when it kept her from being able to help the one time she should've been able to, well that was almost too much. "And you seem to have found an advocate who wasn't set up." She smiled, nodding at the spotted tom who was standing quietly at Jake's side. "That's a serious relief."
"I look after my friends." Rashi said quietly even as Jake nuzzled him. "Even the ones I haven't seen in ten years."
"We were hardly just friends, Rashi." Jake chuckled softly against his neck, a level of public intimacy that definitely got attention from many in the room with reactions ranging from displeasure to relieved approval. Jake shifted to look at Callie without breaking the intimate contact. "He's been a real godsend." He admitted softly.
"Well, I wasn't sure about that when I first stepped in." Rashi smiled. "It had been ten years after all."
"Probably why whoever it was didn't set you up as well." Callie said thoughtfully. "And I thought it seemed a bit more than friends." She grinned. "Both at the funeral and when you just walked in."
"We are," Jake nodded slightly. "The break didn't change feelings much, just how ready we were to deal with them."
"Ten years teaches you a lot of things." Rashi smiled softly and slipped and arm around her mate in a completion of the clear display Jake had given.
"I'm happy for both of you." Callie smiled warmly. "Especially since no one should go through grief alone." She added gently.
"This would have gone down very differently if I had been," Jake admitted, his eyes a bit downcast. "I wasn't nearly as ready as I thought I was for this."
"So who's the stranger?" A deep male voice challenged Rashi by way of Jake as a chocolate brown tom with thin black stripes handed Jake a drink.
"Rashidi Bakar," Jake informed him with a sharp tone that held as much a warning as introduction.
"And you would be?" Rashi asked in tone that while polite, left no doubt that he was not intimidated by the larger tom.
"Landers," he extended a hand, taking in Rashi's measure and clearly making a judgment as to whether he was good enough for Jake.
"A pleasure." Rashi said politely, shaking the hand with a firm grip he'd developed serving with the commando group and caught a hint of approval. He made a conscious effort to tone down the high society behaviors that he figured would come across as snobbish, or worse, insulting.
"Give it up, Landers," Jake rolled his eyes even as he worked on the drink he'd been given. "This one won't chase off any easier than Chance."
"Though I might look for a little cover if emplaced weapons were involved." Rashi chuckled broadly, remembering a discussion between some of his teammates concerning an overprotective sibling and a comparison to heavy weapons. Only a fool didn't at least look for cover with such things. It had seemed funny at the time.
The big tom looked between them, then shook his head with a laugh. "I'll give you that much, Bakar. You just take good care of our tabby's partner."
"That I intend to, Landers." Rashi said with the same unshakeable confidence he displayed when he presented his proposal for the MegaKat City venture to his father.
It earned him a nod before the dark tabby reached over to squeeze Jake's shoulder. "You take care of yourself too, sureshot."
"You know that's not my job," Jake managed a bit of a smirk before Lander's walked away with a chuckle. He turned to nuzzle Rashi, his voice soft. "That went very well."
"He was just being protective." Rashi said very softly, returning the nuzzle. "Not obnoxious. Protective I understand and can deal with."
"He's the most persistent attempted boyfriend here." Jake chuckled a bit. "He's been sniffing around me since Academy."
"Attempted boyfriend?" Rashi asked curiously, thinking of far too many ways to interpret that term.
"He's wanted to date, I keep saying no, ever since we crossed paths back in Academy. He's okay; it's just not there. Bit rougher than I like, and he's not beyond trying to chase off the competition either."
"Ah, that makes sense." Rashi nodded. "Had one of those when I was on active duty, until he got assigned to a duty station about five hundred miles away. He still asks me out when he gets leave in the capital." He shook his head in amusement.
"Thanks for the warning," Jake chuckled a bit and headed for the bar for a refill, his arm still around Rashi.
"I haven't actually said yes, since the first time." Rashi chuckled, as he accompanied Jake to the bar. "I just can't keep up with his kink level." He chuckled.
"I've met them too," Jake rolled his eyes. "Something about me apparently screams 'kinky bottom'."
"I'm not sure where the kinky part comes from, but the bottom part seems to be a height thing, since I've had the same problem." He shook his head. "Unless they recognize me, in which case they're convinced I'm a kinky top."
"Oh, but you do Jake." A sleek white tom winked from where he was leaning against the bar. "I wouldn't say that about your friend though."
"Rashi, meet my version of 'nice date until the cuffs came out', though not nearly as stubborn as yours." Jake chuckled, motioning to the speaker. "Brandin Otheral."
"Pleased to meet you," Brandin offered his hand. "I'm impressed. He's not that affectionate with anybody in public."
"A pleasure." Rashi replied with a nod, continuing to use the firm grip as he shook hands. "And it just takes patience." Rashi chuckled, a wink to Jake to let him know he was playing. "About ten years, give or take."
"Thirteen," Jake corrected him with a low chuckle and pressed a little closer so Rashi wrapped his arms around him. "Don't forget those first three years."
"That'd cover it," Brandin chuckled, then made himself scarce as Felina came up to the pair.
"Your timing is immaculate," she inclined her head to Rashi. "A partner shouldn't face this alone."
"I agree." Rashi nodded. "I can only assume that Divine Isis was arranging things, because it's only the timing of my business venture that had me in MegaKat City." He admitted softly, leaving unsaid the details, including the fact that the High Priestess had nudged him toward the MegaKat City venture in the first place.
"Will you be staying in the area then?" She asked them both, though Jake seemed quite content to let Rashi speak for him for now.
"We haven't made any decisions yet." Rashi said simply. "Except that we're planning a nice long vacation once Jake's legal troubles are cleared up. Jake needs some time away from here to recover and come to terms with things, and I find myself wanting to be away from the tabloid press as well."
"I can't blame you for that one," she rolled her eyes. "They have far too much freedom to exploit people, but it's not something that's a crime yet." She focused directly on Jake. "Do you think you can find some time to talk before that vacation?"
"Umm," he went a bit tense. "Yeah, sure." He agreed a little uneasily.
"Thank you," she inclined her head slightly. "I wish you both the best. Now I'll stop scaring your friends away," she chuckled softly and excused herself.
"That's interesting." Rashi murmured, once she'd walked away. "She's up to something." He added very softly, though it was more his distrust of the city and its institutions than anything.
"Almost always," Jake shrugged with a soft sigh. "But she's serious about protecting the city too."
"Which is not a great combination as far I'm concerned, when she wants to talk to you." Rashi said protectively. "I'm definitely getting the impression that that Coyote has something to say, 'cause he keeps looking this way. Anybody here you know well enough to ask about him?" Rashi asked quietly.
"Ash," he nodded towards a sleek black tom in a serious round of drunken story-telling with two others. "Chance and I didn't share a lot of friends."
"Not surprising." Rashi nodded, as the sleek black tom stood and started over toward them. "I expect you gravitate to very different people normally."
"How'ya holding up, Jake?" Ash asked with honest concern, even if he was a bit drunk. He took a few moments to take in the white and black spotted tom, who had his arm around Jake protectively.
"Pretty good," Jake chuckled, his grin a little more drunk that he really was. "Only one kill to the count."
That raised an eyebrow. "Only one?" He looked at Rashi again. "Damn, you must be good for him."
"Yeah," Jake purred softly. "So who's the Coyote? I've never seen him before."
"Oh that's Finder." Ash said easily. "Probably Chance's oldest friend, who could make it. He knew Chance back when Chance wasn't much bigger than you, and trust me that was a long time ago." He chuckled. "You wouldn't know it to look at him, but he's actually a doctor."
"Back to when Chance didn't talk much about," Jake considered the Kantin a bit more curiously. "How'd you meet him?"
"He used to show up at parties with Chance." Ash said easily. "And since he's a great source for party drugs, the ones that are basically safe but the authorities don't like them anyway, he was always welcome." He chuckled. "And there's nothing quite like listening to a Coyote Moonsong when you've had a little Eclipse. It's truly surreal."
"I think that was more than I wanted to know," Jake murmured with a shake of his head and sighed, closing his eyes briefly.
"You didn't know your partnered partied?" Ash asked, more than a bit surprised. "Jake, he was a good Kat, but a saint he wasn't." He smiled. "And he was usually the one making sure people didn't try to drive themselves home when they were too drunk too."
"I know," he sighed, leaning a little more against Rashi. "I shouldn't be surprised, just ..." he finally shrugged in surrender to reality, though what he really wanted was to get away from these people and what they knew about his partner while he still had a few illusions left.
"Giving people bad impressions of me again, Ash?" Finder asked as he came up quietly behind the black tom. "My reputation really doesn't need the help." He chuckled, and then turned to Jake. "Chance was one of the best, we will all miss him greatly." He said sympathetically, and it was pretty clear he was having a great deal of trouble dealing with it as well. "Before you leave town, could you stop by my place?" He asked quietly, after taking a few pained moments to pull himself together. "Chance left some things that he wanted you to have, when he died." He finished quietly, sipping at his drinking to calm himself.
There was real reluctance in Jake's body, even more than when he'd agreed to see Felina, but it wasn't in him to say no to something his partner had wanted. "All right." He sighed, nothing about him giving any doubt that it was close to the last thing he wanted to do, for all he would.
"Address is on the card." Finder said, handing Jake a business card with an address in one of the rougher parts of the city handwritten on it. "Anytime, I'm usually there. There's a cell number on the card too, in case I'm not." He said, indicating the back of the card before heading back to talk with another one of the group.
"I understand," Jake nodded and slipped the card into his pocket.
"I'm gonna have to keep an eye on him." Ash said quietly. "He's taking this harder than I thought."
"Loss of a lifetime friendship will do that." Rashi said quietly, hugging Jake gently. "It creates a absence that the mind doesn't know what to do with."
"Especially when filling it isn't on the agenda." Jake added quietly as he and Rashi put a little distance between them and everyone else.
"Guess Chance had a will after all, even if it wasn't filed in the usual way." Rashi said quietly.
"Honestly can't say I'm surprised. Let's go home," Jake said quietly with a last look around. "This isn't how I want to remember him. It's their Chance that's here, not my partner."
"I wondered if that was going to be the case." Rashi said softly as they turned to leave. "Given that you had few friends in common."
"And if what they're saying is true, I wouldn't have been happy even if he'd invited me along more often." He sighed with a shake of his head; oblivious to the looks he got for the quick departure after having arranged things. "Not even Ash realized my idea of 'party night' was pretty different from theirs."
"Of course, if he'd invited you along more often, you wouldn't have been surprised now." Rashi said quietly as they got to the SUV. "As for Ash, I think he's one of those people who says exactly what they're thinking when drunk. If he'd been thinking he probably would've left out some details."
Jake sighed as he dropped into the passenger seat and let his eyes close. "You know what's really sad? I've lived in this town my whole life and I don't have anyplace I go to think or work things out."
"Sounds like you either did your thinking at home, or you just haven't had much to do." Rashi said quietly, as he put the car in gear. "Only one of my thinking places is on this continent, about ninety minutes from the mansion by motorcycle, up in the mountains."
"Choice 2." Jake kind of chuckled and drew one knee up to drape his arms around. "Though more like I tend to avoid it when there isn't an answer that'll do much more good than just saving it for later."
"And now you have more thinking to do, than you want anything to do with." Rashi hazarded quietly.
"Fair summery," he nodded. "And none of it'll really save for later very long."
"Not really." Rashi nodded. "Waiting doesn't make it any easier to deal with. I don't know what I can do to help, but if you think of anything, please let me know." He said, very sincerely.
"Keep blatantly stupid reactions from going into action would be a big help." He glanced over at his lover. "I'm kinda prone to it when I'm rattled."
"Well, as soon as Omorose gets things straighten out, we're going to get a few thousand miles away from here." Rashi said firmly. "That should help."
"Yes, it will," he smiled and leaned over to kiss him lightly on the cheek. "Thank you for coming, and not insisting I should stay."
"It's what mates do." Rashi said quietly. "And there was no point to staying once you decided it wasn't helping you."
"So what do you think?" Rashi asked, leaning against a tree in the small glade, next to the small waterfall pool. Water cascaded down from the mountains in a small waterfall into the pool, and then slowly flowed out in another stream to continue its journey down the mountain to join other streams and eventually become a river. The glade was wide open grass with a few boulders and pine trees, and was only directly accessible by either walking or motorcycle.
"It's very different." Jake took in the scene with a mixture of curiosity, being completely out of place and liking it. "I didn't think places like this existed around here."
"They're not easy to find, that's for sure." Rashi nodded. "I found this one by accident during my freshman year."
"Doing those activities I had no interest in?" He managed a grin and moved to hug Rashi in a loose embrace. "I think I like it here."
"Actually I just needed to get away from all the noise." He admitted quietly, as he nuzzled Jake affectionately. "I found MegaKat City quite overwhelming for the first year or so. None of the cities back home are so large and crowded."
"I don't think there's a city in the world that comes close to this one on any level." Jake chuckled a bit. "Good, bad and just city-stuff. It really is pretty insane if you step back and look at it."
"It's pretty insane if you didn't grow up here, and get thrown in." Rashi chuckled. "One of Father's ideas for increasing contact, as he figured those of us who went to college on the 'outside' would be more comfortable with it."
"Or at least finds mates who where," he managed a grin and drew Rashi's back against his chest. "If you can make it here, any other city is going to be a cakewalk."
"Oddly enough, he had overlooked that possibility." Rashi chuckled. "Or at least he had where his own kits were concerned."
"Mmmm, nice to know he doesn't get everything right." Jake nuzzled him. "Ever gone swimming here?"
"Once or twice during the summer." Rashi nodded. "The water is cold even then, almost too cold for my tastes. That stream comes from snow melting higher up on the mountain, and it hasn't warmed up quite enough this time of year."
"So much for that idea." Jake chuckled lightly and nuzzled him. "It's still nice."
"Reminds me of some of the oasis's back home." Rashi smiled softly. "In that it's calm and peaceful, it actually looks nothing like them."
"It brings up some not so peaceful things for me," Jake purred softly and licked Rashi's ear as his hands slid down the Mau's body.
"I think any private location would do that." Rashi teased playfully, as he turned his head to claim a passionate kiss that was returned eagerly.
Jake suddenly went stock still, every muscle in his body frozen as his ears focused on the sound of a large explosion in the distance, followed by several smaller ones.
"Krud!" He snarled and pulled away a bit to pull a small device out of his pocket and pressed its largest button.
"Jake, no." Rashi said quietly, but very firmly. "It isn't your responsibility."
"I'm still here." He pointed out, growling at another explosion before the powerful engines of the TurboKat overcame them in their ears.
"Yes, and I intend to keep it that way." Rashi said insistently. "Just from a military standpoint, you have no business in combat." He said firmly. "You've just suffered the loss of a long-term partner, and that can compromise your judgment in ways you don't even realize. And more importantly, when's the last time you actually piloted in combat?"
"Years," he admitted without blinking as his jet landed and he turned to leap on board. "This is what I do."
"Which means you wouldn't be considered certified for air combat anywhere." Rashi said, putting both hands on Jake's shoulders in a firm grip. "Jake, you never did it alone and this is a bad time to start." He said insistently. "Please, don't go." He added in a tone that revealed just how much the thought worried him.
He felt the affect on the cinnamon tom, the decrease in resistance under his hands, but almost a decade of responding no matter what, and Rashi had no doubt there had been times when they'd gone out when they shouldn't have, didn't break easily. Particularly not with the jet right in front of them and the explosions still going off ... now likely weapons fire of a full-scale battle.
"Jake, the Enforcers have to handle this now." Rashi said calmly. "They have to learn to handle these things without you. And they never will if you're always there. It's time you let them." He added, still holding Jake's shoulders.
"They don't know how," he broke away sharply and got one step towards the TurboKat when Rashi snapped a quick, untelegraphed swing aimed to knock Jake away from TurboKat and hopefully unconscious, at least briefly. It was a tricky shot, since Rashi didn't want any damage that would need medical attention. He hated having to do it, but knowing how good Jake was in hand-to-hand combat, he knew he had to win the fight on the first strike if he was going to win at all. But he was damn well not going to let Jake go back up there, not this soon at any rate.
The slight turn Jake made at the motion behind him made the swing land perfectly, the impact knocking his head back with a solid crack before he crumpled to the ground.
Rashi was instantly down beside him, making sure that he hadn't managed to find a rock or something with his head when he landed. "Sorry about that, but you didn't leave me much choice." He murmured as he settled and waited for Jake to come to. He could only hope the sounds of battle would be gone by then.
Jake groaned and instinctively lifted a hand to his face as consciousness informed him he's been decked and but good. Then the bit that only one person could have done it hit him even harder.
"Rashi?" He mumbled, his voice still a bit slurred.
"Sorry about that." He said, a bit guilty for having done it, despite knowing it had to be done. "How're you feeling?" He asked, from where he was sitting next to Jake as the cinnamon tom struggled to sit up and rubbed his jaw tenderly.
"You've got a mean right hook."
"I had a refresher course in close combat over the summer." Rashi replied casually, still somewhat surprised that it actually worked. He'd been half expecting Jake to block.
"City still there?" He asked quietly, not quite willing to look for himself even as he leaned a bit towards his still-ready jet.
"Still there." he nodded. "Enforcers managed to handle the situation, with effort."
"Casualties?" Jake leaned forward to rest against his raised knees with a low groan.
"Probably, I haven't heard an official report yet." Rashi admitted. "With explosions like that you're going to have casualties."
"Guess I'll know soon enough if it's anyone I know," he uncurled shakily and got to his feet. "I'm going to be seeing way too much of Honor Hill this year."
"Or maybe the Enforcers will get better at handling things." he suggested, as he stood. He stayed close to Jake, just in case. "And there are ways to help them, without being on the front line." He suggested softly.
"Like handing some of what I built over to R&D for reverse engineering." He nodded towards the TurboKat. "Schematics were never really drawn up."
"Not to Enforcer R&D directly, not enough control there." Rashi said thoughtfully. "Better to go with a corporation you have some influence over." He grinned playfully, though he was quite serious.
"I know," Jake sighed and let his eyes close briefly. "I don't believe you decked me."
"I do what I have to, to protect you." Rashi said simply. "And that includes protecting you from yourself." He added pointedly. "It's not like I wanted to."
"Kats, you would have had a fit if you'd come back three months ago," he actually chuckled. "Suicidally dangerous was a daily fact."
"Yeah, I probably would've." Rashi admitted easily. "And I probably would've become Feral's biggest headache. But I didn't, and things are what they are." He sighed and found himself in a gentle embrace.
"Yes, they are." Jake kissed his forehead gently. "Just don't be surprised if I try that again." He murmured. "It's pretty well engrained by now."
"Just don't be surprised if I try and stop you again." Rashi replied quietly. "It's pretty much instinctive."
Jake tipped his muzzle up for a kiss. "We should probably avoid going out alone. You won't get the drop on me twice."
"I was surprised I got it once." Rashi admitted as he claimed a gentle kiss. "Next time I just won't tell the bodyguards to go home."
"I never expected you'd hit me," he shook his head, then got a slightly mischievous look. "If I promise not to get into a dogfight, care to take the jet home?"
"I'd love to." Rashi agreed easily. "The mansion does have a VTOL landing pad."
"And as you can see, she handles grass just fine." He shivered slightly in a mixture of excitement, dread and a simple need to fly in his jet again, just to know what it felt like alone.
"Yes, but I expect the grass doesn't handle her so well." Rashi smiled, making Jake snicker a bit.
"No one's complained yet." He winked and took a step back, towards the jet.
"Grass usually doesn't." Rashi chuckled, and followed. While he was excited at the idea of flying in the jet, he was more than little hesitant to sit in the pilot's seat. Something made him leery of doing anything that seemed like taking Chance's place, or even looking like he was.
"Want to sit up front, or on my lap?" Jake purred rather seductively.
"Can you fly with someone sitting on your lap?" Rashi asked curiously, thinking it would be difficult to reach the controls.
"Yes, but I could sit in your lap if you'd prefer." He chuckled softly.
"Since you have to fly the plane, we should probably go with what works for you." Rashi chuckled back. "I know just enough about piloting to get one of our corporate jets down safely, if necessary. Handling a fighter jet is a whole 'nother world, and one of your designs is probably a whole 'nother dimension." He teased playfully.
"Well, I usually put the passenger in front of me for safety, but I'm not usually flying either." Jay considered carefully, then kissed him. "But the best view is the front seat."
"As long as you don't mind." Rashi said, looking at the front seat uncertainly.
"It's just a seat, Rashi." He said softly. "He's not the only one who's been there."
"Sorry, I just think this plane as being just the two of you." Rashi smiled uncertainly. "Guess I feel like I'm intruding."
"It usually is," Jake admitted at he looked up at the sleek black jet. "But I would have given you this ride anyway."
"Well, in that case I'll sit up front." Rashi smiled more certainly. "Cause you're right, it is the better view."
"Think you can make the jump?" He looked at him and made an easy lunge to land on the wing over their heads.
"Should be able to." He said taking a few steps back to run and jump up onto the wing next to Jake. "Military reserve drill every month are good for something." he grinned.
"Keeping up with me," he chuckled and kissed him lightly before helping him into the slightly harder to reach front seat. "Just for reference, your controls won't respond unless mine are knocked out."
"Which is fine with me." Rashi chuckled as he slid into the front seat and tried to get comfortable in a place designed for a kat much bigger than he was. "I'm just along for the ride."
"It'll be a ride to remember," Jake promised softly, a hint of pride as well as pain in his voice as the canopy slid forward to enclose them in a very intimate and secluded world that still smell faintly of the heavy musk of battle and both SWAT Kats. The roar of the engines, almost deafening from outside, was just a dim rumble in here as the nose lifted off smoothly and the tree line quickly vanished into open blue sky.
"Of that I have no doubt." Rashi rumbled appreciatively, as he looked over the controls in front of him. He didn't have the skill to design such things, much less use them, but he knew enough to recognize exceptional design when he saw it. Not that it was a surprise, but it was definitely a confirmation of Jake's talent.
If this is what Jake could manage in a junkyard with only one kat to help him and six months, just imagining what he could do with a real R&D lab was boggling.
"Hay, Rashi, when is one of us expected somewhere?"
"I don't think anyone will get too worried as long as we're back by morning." he replied after a moments thought. "Or were you thinking something longer than that?"
"Not really," he actually purred as he tipped the nose up and added a little power to the engines, mindful that neither of them were in flight suits. "Just a view that only two living kats have seen."
"And what view would that be?" Rashi asked, curious as to what it could be. That was a hell of a short list, given they were in a jet.
"The view of home from space," he answered easily as they left land behind and continued to climb over the ocean.
"Fascinating." Rashi rumbled excitedly, though he rather hoped they wouldn't come too close to the Mauvandran orbiter that had been launched the week before. He knew that MASA had had some serious problems with their program, mostly in the realm of horribly bad luck, and the Mauvandran project was top-secret so it wasn't surprising Jake thought he and Chance were the only ones to have been space-side. It was still unique and exciting to be seeing it from a fighter jet.
In the meantime, he got to watch the sea retreat under them with its multitude of shades of blue-green while the sky became bluer. He couldn't help but draw a breath when he saw the white line where space met sky on the horizon.
"Wow." Rashi whispered in awe. This wasn't a sight he'd ever expected to see in person. "This is incredible."
"It gets better," Jake promised, his voice conveying the pleasure his smile and eyes showed. "Just wait until we're really in orbit and you can see half the world under us."
"Do you realize that this is actually the first time we've gone out together since I got back?" Rashi chuckled, amused. "I mean, when we didn't have to be somewhere, doing something. One hell of a first date, so to speak."
Jake blinked a few times, trying to work that out.
"Yeah, I guess it is," he chuckled. "What would you call the shower, then?"
"Getting reacquainted." Rashi chuckled playfully. "I've always thought there had to be more than just sex for a 'date'. And this is much more memorable." He added gesturing outward.
"It doesn't get much more memorable," Jake agreed with a rumble of appreciation as they entered the blackness of space. "At least not and stay in the same time/space."
"And I'm told that can get very exciting." he chuckled. "Perhaps a little too exciting for something to do on a 'date'." He chuckled, with a noticeable emphasis on the word 'perhaps'.
"It's not anything I've ever planned to be honest." Jake shook his head. "But it's happened often enough to be memorable ... and a couple included a date."
"Planning such things is actually possible at home." Rashi chuckled. "Though it must have been interesting, if a date ended up being included."
"Oh, that never happened," Jake shook his head, mildly disturbed that anyone would intentionally visit another time or dimension. "But a couple times a date happened during the trip."
"Found someone interesting in another dimension, huh?" Rashi teased playfully.
"She found me interesting, and I wasn't in much of a position to say no," he shrugged. "It wasn't exactly a hardship, but she was our ticket home."
"Ah, that makes sense." he nodded. "This wouldn't have been around Megalith City would it?" He asked curiously, remembering a story that kind of fit the description.
"Yeah," Jake blinked, surprised that anyone else knew about that one.
"There's an interesting story from that time period about a couple of heroes who appeared out of nowhere and came to the aid of Queen Callista, and then disappeared just as abruptly. And supposedly they rode a dark metal dragon." He chuckled. "Interesting description, huh?" he chuckled playfully.
"And fought a fire breathing red one," he added, shaking his head. "Ridden by a little troll of a time-mage. It was a strange fight."
"Yes, one of PastMaster's active periods. Rather like now, though fortunately he doesn't have any dragons currently." He said, thinking it would be amusing if the little troll tried something with one of the few dragons still awake.
"Definitely," Jake shuddered. "Look outside," he shifted the conversation as he maneuvered them to have a glorious view of MegaKat City's continent out the side of the cockpit.
"Wow. It looks deceptively peaceful from up here." Rashi said quietly. "Could probably make decent money on the art photography scene selling shots like these." He said almost absently, as his mind almost reflexively picked up the business venture angle.
"There is more in the tech that gets the shots," Jake chuckled in tolerant amusement of his lover's habit. He knew he had his own set of reflexive ways of thinking that could drive people crazy. "But you'd never know from up here how war-torn it is." He added softly, becoming aware of just how much land was around MegaKat City that was completely uninhabited.
"Or how empty it is for hundreds of miles in every direction." Rashi added thoughtfully. It had always struck him as strange just how little the city had spread out. For a city its size, it had precious little in the way of suburbs or sprawl. "Like a larger version of the walled city of ancient times. Without a physical wall, of course."
"It's the only kind that's ever been here," Jake shook his head. "Most of the size restraint has been for the same reasons though. The forces available can only reliably defend so much land, and the city stays within that range. There's a reason the Enforcer Tower is at the heart of the city when there are much better places for it for every other reason."
"Sounds like what's needed is some sort of fast response system distributed around the city." Rashi said thoughtfully. "SWAT was the right idea, and a good proof of concept, but the city really needs something larger. At least a half-dozen six-person teams around the periphery of the city." He said thoughtfully. "And a Commander who can handle giving special ops teams that kind of independence."
"Felina could," he considered quietly. "It's just a matter of how long until she's in that position, and if there's something in politics stopping it. It's simple numbers and funds that are the real limit."
"From what my sources tell me, the way the rules are currently she'll be Commander unless her uncle decides otherwise." Rashi said quietly. "And if what my sources tell me is correct, probably sometime in the next two months."
"Two months?" He blinked in surprise. "What in the world is getting him to retire?"
"They weren't entirely sure about that." Rashi admitted. "My personal suspicion is that there's a Feral Succession about to occur. Unfortunately, finding out what's going on inside the Feral estates makes breaking into most top security installations look easy."
"That's going to be weird ." He shook his head. "Feral not being Commander and still alive."
"As head of the Feral family, he wields significantly more power. Subtle, behind the scenes power, but power just the same." He said simply. "It's credit to his survivor nature that he's lived this long, as close to the top of the Feral hierarchy as he is."
"They play dirty politics?" He barely had to ask. It was nearly a given in his mind, to some extent or another.
"Well, officially no." Rashi chuckled. "But when one has a several hundred years of history to look at, it becomes apparent that the biggest danger to one Feral, is another Feral. After all, Ulysses did have two older siblings who died under questionable circumstances." He chuckled lightly. "Of course, the official investigations concluded that the one died in car accident due to excess speed and equipment defect, while the other died in a explosion caused by improperly stored household chemicals."
"And you doubt both reports?" He looked forward curiously.
"Given Feral family history, yes I do." he said easily. "Of course, that's just my gut reaction but I find it far too coincidental that the person with the most to gain from the untimely deaths of those two was in charge of the investigations into their deaths." He explained. "And there are more than a few officers who will do pretty much whatever Ulysses asks, no matter how questionable."
"Trust me, I know that one," Jake muttered. "That was our biggest problem. We didn't."
"I'm not surprised." Rashi chuckled lightly. "You're just too independent to work well with Ulysses Feral, and too good at what you do. From what I've read, he can't seem handle anybody who's really exceptional."
"Felina's doing well, but she's kin."
"And not in the inheriting generation." he nodded. "Even the Ferals probably have rules about who's a valid target." He chuckled lightly, though he was serious. "And they do tend to protect their own from outside threats, so she probably gets more slack than any non-Feral."
"At least she's good at what she does," Jake said quietly. "She'll make a good Commander."
"Yes, she is." Rashi nodded. "And I expect she will."
Jake nodded and looked below them quietly for a moment. "Want to see the moon, or head home?"
"I don't think we should be gone that long right now." Rashi said quietly. "Maybe we could see the moon while we're on vacation." He suggested.
"That is an advantage of having a private craft capable of space flight," he chuckled and reached forward to scritch Rashi's jaw. "We can go anywhere, anytime we want."
The address Jake had been given was in one of the rougher sections of the city, a part where Enforcers generally didn't show unless they had to and then came in force. It was one of the few choices that Jake himself, even as Razor, found to be a reasonably bright idea, especially now that he was here. His destination was the back apartments attached to what appeared to be a low-cost medical clinic.
He parked his bike and locked it, setting the security system that would give anyone touching it a nasty shock and headed inside. It was painfully nice for the area despite being a real beater for looks; something a junkyard mechanic could have put together from scrap and kept running by skill alone. He took a little too much care for the shine and smooth rumble of the engine.
"Something I can do for you?" A young black and white coyote that looked a lot like Tracker greeted Jake at the door to the clinic, the only apparent way inside. Like Tracker he was lean and a little on the small side, only he looked to be maybe sixteen and had a distinctly street rough attitude.
"Here to see Tracker," he said simply.
The Coyote looked Jake over for a moment and then stepped aside. "Come on in, I'll go get Doc." He said tersely, and headed out a door on the opposite side of the room, which was furnished with living room furniture that had all seen better days. "Just make yourself comfortable." He said over his shoulder, before he was out of sight.
Jake found a spot to sit that gave him a good view of both doors and most of the room and settled in to wait for a while, willing to give the young Coyote a fair chance to be telling the truth. About ten minutes later the door opened, and Tracker came in wearing a white doctor's coat. "Hello, Jake." He said easily. "Wasn't sure you were going to come." He said simply.
"I couldn't refuse his request." He said softly and stood to go with the Coyote.
"Well, the stuff is back here." Tracker nodded and headed out through the door he'd just come in through and down a flight of stairs, the lean tom on his heals and keenly aware of his surroundings. He opened a door into a room that seemed designed for comfort. Large padded chairs, a large screen TV and entertainment system and a fridge about the right size for holding cold beverages. From the scent it was clear that Chance had spent a lot of time in the room. It was imprinted here almost as strongly as home or the Hanger. "Chance's home away from home, as it were." He said quietly, as he went to one wall and slid a bookshelf section away to reveal a concealed safe that he began opening. "When he needed to talk mostly."
"To someone besides me," Jake nodded. He really wasn't all that surprised. A bit hurt, but he knew better than to give that much credence. Not after the wake at least. He'd always known his partner had friends that didn't come around the Yard. It wasn't that big a leap to realize that the tabby had an entire life he wasn't included in.
"There were things he wasn't sure how to tell you." Tracker said quietly, as he entered a second series of digits into the lock. "Things he was afraid would make you think less of him, and things that I already knew because I wasn't just his friend, I was also his doctor." He added with a sigh. "Chance and I were friends since kittenhood, so talking to me was safe because I knew everything already."
"At least he had somebody," Jake nodded quietly, not sure what the hell the Coyote could be talking about, but honestly grateful that Chance didn't have to face such a painful thing alone.
"I think he would've told you in time. But words were never easy for him." The Coyote said quietly, as he began taking things out of the safe. "Even to me, he had trouble admitting just how scared he was, because being scared wasn't part of who he was. All his life he'd made a big show of acting like he was invulnerable. It was necessary in the beginning and then part of his pilot bravado when he started his life over."
"At least the Kats we knew had something in common," Jake admitted to something to hurt a lot more than it should have, but was still an agony at times to feel like an outsider among the people who knew his partner. He knew he should be curious about these objects and what they meant, but he just couldn't muster it. He was here out of a sense of obligation to his partner's last wishes, not any desire to know anything more about him.
"This is probably the big thing, for all it's the smallest." He said, holding up what looked to be a personally recorded disc. "A video disc he made a few weeks before everything fell apart. Things he wanted to make sure got said, even if he never figured out how." He said quietly, as he handed the disc over. "The papers are some things he'd been putting together, for the day when the two of you retired from SWAT. He didn't actually tell me more than that." He admitted, as he handed the sealed envelope over. "The keys and the receipt in that envelope are for something he'd been working on getting since he was eighteen. It's for one of the Wraiths."
It made Jake blink, his jaw slightly open as he accepted the small collection of things. It wasn't a surprise Chance had wanted such a mark of distinction among motorcyclists; a bike that rivaled anything Jake could have produced for him and incredibly rare ... and expensive as hell. It had probably taken every spare penny Chance could keep from every paycheck in the intervening decade and a half to pay for it.
"Did he ever get to ride it?" Jake asked even as his mind worked back to the fact that Chance had thought of retirement enough to prepare for it, even if he couldn't talk about the concept with his partner. The disk was no doubt not going to be fun to watch, for all he knew he would as soon as he got home ... or rather, back to the Yard where that part of life belonged. Where their life was.
"He was supposed to pick it up the day that the two of you were arrested." Tracker said quietly, blinking away a few tears that were trying hard to flow. "He'd been looking forward to the look on your face when he rode it into the Yard."
"That's Chance, all right." He smiled fondly despite the sadness. "It would have been a moment to remember."
"Well, at any rate, he wanted you to have it, if anything happened to him." He said quietly. "The other thing he wanted you to have wasn't exactly an object." He smiled. "He said that he was afraid he might not've explained things on the disk very well, and that you might have questions and no one to ask. So feel free to ask me about anything that doesn't make sense. Chance gave me permission in about a dozen different ways to tell you anything and everything, especially concerning medical issues."
"All right," Jake murmured, then paused as he turned to leave and looked the Coyote in the eyes, the pain each felt clearly visible there. "Tracker ... thanks for being his friend." He said before he left, wanting to be away from this place and everything it represented while he could still hold himself together enough to get somewhere safe enough to break down. It'd take too long to get home ... to the Yard rather ... as it stood, though he knew he'd make it.
From experience he knew could make it back there no matter how lost or out of it he was; he had long ago developed a homing instinct that sometimes even surprised him. It was just a question of whether the shadow Rashi had silently assigned to him would have to intervene in anything to keep it from being a rough ride. Last time he'd been badly messed up on the drive it had taken a couple weeks of aches, battered muscles and tabby fussing for the scabs to start to fuzz over so he looked normal again.
All the things he'd need to deal with the disk were at the Yard too. TV, DVD player, couch ... everything involved in daily living had been left behind. He'd hardly needed to bring such things with Rashi around. It left the Yard distinctly livable, if lacking much personality.
It left it in solitude .
It also left him with nothing he wanted to think about on the drive there, so Jake did his damndest to not think about anything. To have a clear and reasonably focused mind when he sat down to watch this recording his partner had made of things he couldn't say in person.
The video was very clearly a fairly amateur affair, just Chance sitting on the couch in the room where Jake had been handed the DVD, along with the other things. Just watching the tabby's body language told Jake that he was nervous, and Jake hadn't seen the tabby nervous all that often.
"Hi, Jake." He said with an uncertain, almost shy smile. "If you're seeing this then I'm dead. Kats, isn't that the cheesiest opening in existence?" He shook his head. "I made this to clear up some stuff that maybe I never got to when I was alive. I'd like to think I told you everything by the time you get this, but I really doubt it." He said pausing to take a drink of water from a tall glass.
"First thing is, and this is really important, Jake." Chance said seriously. "I don't care how I died, or who killed me. It doesn't matter, and I don't want you getting yourself killed getting revenge for me. Honestly, you should just get on with your life, one of us needs to have one." He said quietly. "I always knew being T-bone would get me killed, and I accepted that. Long time ago, someone told me I could choose between a long life that didn't mean much, or a short life that did.
"Jake, if anybody comes 'round after I'm dead claiming to be my family, you just stay clear of them." Chance warned, a deadly seriousness in his voice. "My blood relations are nothing but trouble, and the worst sorts of it. Only people who really ever felt like family after I enlisted, were you and Tracker.
"Tracker, he's basically my older brother, assuming you ignore the whole species thing." Chance chuckled. "Actually, he was a lot more than that at one time. I imagine the tabloids will probably drag it out, so I'll just say that Tracker was my boyfriend but that was back in high school." He sighed. "I haven't even looked at a guy that way since I enlisted. See I always wanted kits, and that meant a female mate." He said as though that explained everything. "You didn't make it easy though, buddy. If I could've figured out how to have a male mate and kits, I might've said yes that time you asked me. You're the only person who ever made me think twice about it.
"The big one I have to explain, and you may need to get Tracker to really explain things, is that I've been working on finding us a way to retire for a while now." He said quietly. "It's not because I don't want to be T-bone, hell that's the greatest thing I've ever done, it's because sooner or later I won't be able to do it anymore." He sighed, clearly disturbed. "You've probably never heard of it, but I've got Schaeffer's Syndrome. It's a mild degenerative disease of the nervous system and retina. It degrades distance vision to where glasses are required, seriously impairs reflexes and lowers G-tolerance. In short its a pilot's worst nightmare." He sighed, looked seriously deflated. "Tracker's gotten me every treatment that exists to hold back the progression of the disease but none of them last very long, and there's no cure. He says that in six months, I won't be qualified to fly fighter jets, which means the TurboKat is definitely out." He shook his head. "It's been a few weeks since he told me that, and he's made it pretty clear that if I don't tell you soon, he will.
"Jake, I know I got you into this whole hero business and I'm sorry I'm pulling out like this. But I won't let my failings get you killed." He said quietly. "Tracker's brother just back from overseas and he's pretty sure that the corporations over there won't care that you got blackballed over here. Jake, I can't make you stop being Razor but if you're honest you'll admit that you don't have the pilot skills to do it alone." He said quietly. "I just want you to have a good life. You could've by now, if I hadn't dragged you into this hero business. Well, life doesn't hand you many second chances, so please take this one.
"Well, I hope I said everything. If stuff doesn't make sense, ask Tracker about it. He knows pretty much everything." Chance said, clearly becoming a bit choked up emotionally. "You were the best thing that ever happened to me Jake. I just hope I was half as good for you." He said quietly. "Live well, partner. And remember, having a good life is often the best revenge there is." He finished, and then the screen went dark, though Jake hadn't seen it through his tears for several minutes.
"Damnit, Kat." He muttered through a tight throat and stood, then forced his eyes to clear and sat back down to see what the paperwork was.
The paperwork was a varied mix of things, including a life insurance policy listing Jake as the sole beneficiary, an account in a bank that Jake had never heard of but which sounded distinctly foreign, Royal Bank of Scharzi-Kovu, and the deed to a piece of land which sounded very much like an island. There was also a list of names, titles and phone numbers of corporate R&D executives overseas. All in all, it looked like Chance had been doing a lot of research, or someone had been doing research for him.
"Kat, if you weren't already dead, I'd kill you for keeping all this secret." He muttered before the reality of the words caught up with him and he closed his eyes to stop the tears.
Abruptly he stood up, grabbed the papers, the disk and stalked outside on muscle memory of the place. He couldn't see where he was going, but it hardly mattered when it was just to the open space outside the building that had been home for so long to wait for his jet to arrive from its new home far off shore.
Rashi sat on the sun deck, soaking in the morning rays and a leisurely breakfast even as he tried not to be uneasy that Jake was still gone. He knew if there had been danger he'd have been informed, but a nagging part of his mind still wasn't sure if Jake would turn to him for emotional support that he'd almost certainly need if Tracker's reactions to what Jake was going to get were any indication. He looked up at the sound of the TurboKat coming in to rest on the VTOL landing pad. He stood and headed down to meet Jake, after signaling the staff to set up breakfast again. Knowing Jake, Rashi suspected he hadn't eaten since he'd left.
He probably hadn't slept either. Though that was less of an issue with the lean tom. Jake never had slept much.
Rashi drew in a bit of a breath when Jake dropped to the ground and nearly stumbled. He made the short distance in time to catch him as Jake straitened a bit.
"Are you alright, Jake?" Rashi asked, clearly concerned. Jake might not sleep much, but it was rare for him to actually show the effects. But then, to judge by the way Jake's face and hands were completely matted and still wet; he probably hadn't stopped crying much in the past twenty hours either.
"Will be," he mumbled and dropped his chin against Rashi's shoulder and closed his eyes. "You win."
"I win?" Rashi asked quietly, more than a little confused as he held Jake close. "Well, I think you need some sleep." He said gently, as he tried to judge whether Jake could make the distance to the bedroom or would need to be carried.
"Even Chance is telling me to get a life and move on," he sighed and sort of waved the folded papers and disk up where his lover could see them. "You would not believe what that kat pulled over on me."
"He had some very good help, if half of what my people tell me about Tracker is true." Rashi smiled. "And from what little I know about Chance, he was too loyal to not tell you to move on. I take it those are what Tracker had for you?" The spotted tom said, indicating the papers and disk.
"Yeah," he sighed. "A vid-CD Chance made a few weeks before we were arrested, the deed to an island off the coast of Scharzi-Kovu, a bank account there and a list of people who'd hire me longer than I thought were even in aerospace, and none of them in the City. Did your folks find out he and Tracker were lovers in high school?" He asked quietly, rambling with too many things he wanted to say and not enough time to say them.
"No, but then we weren't really looking for that kind of info." Rashi admitted. "Kittenhood romances aren't something we usually look for. The list of people, on the other hand, is no surprise." He chuckled lightly. "I imagine it looks somewhat like the list I had made up. And Scharzi-Kovu does have some pretty islands off its coast, though I am curious how Chance was able to afford one."
It was enough to make Jake chuckle weakly. "Especially when it took him from eighteen to now pay for a Wraith."
"Given what a Wraith costs, I'm not surprised it took that long." Rashi said thoughtfully. "That he got on the waiting list is pretty impressive."
"Yeah," Jake shivered lightly. "He was going to pick it up the day we were arrested. Now I'm supposed to."
"He'd want you to." Rashi nodded, holding Jake close. "They only have the one location, it's both showroom and factory."
"Later?" He glanced at Rashi's face. "I'd rather be presentable ... I'm sure I'm not."
"It's waited several weeks, I'm sure there's no hurry." he said easily. "And you need sleep, food and a shower, in whatever order you like." He said firmly.
"Food, shower, sleep, loving." He decided and hugged his lover tightly.
"Welcome to Ceritas Technologies, how can I help you?" The professionally dressed black and white shekat at the receptionist desk asked Jake as he entered with Rashi only a step behind.
"I'm here to pick up a Wraith," he said with an uncomfortable shift of his body and a slightly tight throat.
"May I see your receipt please?" She said professionally and called up the Wraith order system on her computer as he handed it over.
She blinked as she pulled up the receipt and noticed that customer was listed as deceased, and then she noticed the 'next of kin' entry. "Are you Jake Clawson?" She asked, following routine, even though she recognized him from the television coverage of the T-bone's funeral now that she had something to link his face to.
"Yes, ma'am." He answered quietly and pulled his wallet out to show her his driver's license.
"Thank you, Mr. Clawson." She said after looking at his license. "If you'll just step into the waiting room, one of our consultants will be with you shortly." She said politely, indicating a very luxurious waiting area off to one side.
"Thank you," nodded to her and chose a spot with a good view of everything after putting his license away.
"Nice waiting area." Rashi commented quietly, as they entered the well-appointed room with plush leather furniture, wood paneled walls and several pots of excellent smelling coffee brewing. "Reminds me of father's main waiting area."
"Considering what they build here, you can't really have anything else." Jake chuckled softly. "Between the people who get Wraiths and those who buy their jet systems, it's not a low class clientele on average."
"They do make good avionics." Rashi nodded. "Shame they've never been able to scale their quality up to real production levels. They'd probably turn out kick-tail fighters." He said thoughtfully.
"Rather like the problem with my gear." Jake chuckled ruefully.
"Mr. Clawson?" A polite female voice asked, as a petite grey and white shekat in a dark grey business suit entered the room.
"Yes, ma'am." He stood to greet her politely, his near-instinctive shyness around females showing.
"I'm Dr. Shelinda Taggert, I was the lead on the design team for your Wraith." She said extending a polite hand. "I'll be introducing you to her."
"Urr, okay," Jake blinked and shook her hand, more than a bit surprised to hear the language he'd use to describe the TurboKat or even more advanced projects apply to something on the market. "Is she going to talk back?"
"Not literally." She chuckled lightly. "Her electronics aren't quite that advanced. But she won't let you take her for granted, much like a jet fighter."
"That one I'm used to," he relaxed significantly. "She have a name yet?"
"We normally leave naming to whoever is going to be riding them." She smiled easily. "But the design team usually calls this one Black Lightning."
That brought a slight smile to Jake, memories of his partner and the specs that had produced such a name. "Appropriate, knowing Chance." He said softly. "I just hope she gets along with the Cyclotrons."
"If she were more advanced I'd be worried about being over competitive with them." The Doctor chuckled. "Ready to meet her?"
"Yes," he nodded and took a bit of a breath, still feeling a little weird to talk like this with anyone. Openly admitting what he had created, and by extension, who he had moonlighted as for years.
"This way, please." She said with a polite nod of her head, as she led the way out of the room. "If you don't mind my asking, did you design the TurboKat yourself, or was that a design team effort?" She asked conversationally.
"Designed her and built her," he answered simply. "It was never more than the two of us."
"Very impressive." She nodded as they left the office section of the building and entered the part that housed the manufacturing facilities. "Turning out something more impressive than most of the bleeding edge facilities, without any support." She added in honest admiration, though she did raise a curious eyebrow at Rashi.
"Don't even go there, Shel." Rashi shook his head. "I only found out recently. SWAT was not a black project of mine."
"But you would've." She chuckled.
"That's a given." Rashi shook his head. "In case your wondering Jake, the Doctor and I met while she was doing her graduate work at the Royal University. I didn't realize she'd joined Ceritas."
"I really shouldn't be surprised." He shook his head with a low chuckle. "You seem to attract the bright people."
"It's a useful talent in the high-tech industry." Rashi grinned. "Never hurt in the dating game either."
"Says the tom who's a master of the short term relationship." She chuckled, as she swiped a keycard to open a door.
"I had my reasons." Rashi grinned, before Jake got a quick kiss on the cheek that turned into a real one when Jake shifted and squeezed Rashi's hand.
"So I see." She smiled back as she opened the door. "Here she is, Wraith #426, otherwise known as Black Lightning." She said as the door opened to reveal a jet black motorcycle with a single gold lightning bolt down the side. Though she was clearly a motorcycle everything about her screamed jet fighter, with every line crafted to reduce wind resistance.
"Wow," Jake couldn't help but whistle softly as he took in work that rivaled anything in the world.
"Coming from you, that's high praise indeed." The doctor said quietly. "She comes with her own personalized tech manual and CD, along with a diagnostic computer. Like fighter aircraft, Wraiths require frequent maintenance to maintain top performance. Most of our clients have personal mechanics who go through our Wraith Maintenance Training School while their bike is being constructed. Mr. Furlong said he already had someone who could handle the job." She smiled softly. "The Wraith comes with lifetime tech support here, on the phone and on the web."
"I understand," Jake broke out of his reverie enough to walk up to the bike and run his hands down its sleek form, appreciation for the workmanship and quality of design evident in every move. "Chance would have loved this, Dr. Taggert." He added quietly, his fingers tracing the lightning bolt along the side. "She's perfect for him."
"It's a shame he never got to ride her." She said quietly. "I'm just glad she's going to someone who can appreciate her. Next of kin don't always appreciate a Wraith the way the intended customer would."
"No, I expect some don't," he nodded, torn between uneasy riding something so clearly meant for Chance and knowing his partner would want him too. In the end, Chances wishes won out and he smiled down at the sleek bike. "What needs to be done before I can take her home?"
"Just some final paperwork." She said easily picking up a clipboard from a nearby table. "Most of which is acknowledging receipt, and that we've gone over some of the more unique features. Black Lightning is even more of a custom job than most Wraiths. Of course, it makes more sense now that I know exactly who the client was." She smiled softly. "The only thing we couldn't put on for him was weapons, and that's because we don't do weapons." She said simply but firmly. "But she's got more than enough power to spare, if one was going to make that sort of modification."
"I understand," he nodded with a soft chuckle and walked closer to her to go over the paperwork. "Not that she's likely to see combat with me."
"We like to hope not." She admitted. "But it wouldn't be the first time." She said as she slid the first piece of paper over. "This is acknowledging receipt of the motorcycle."
Jake nodded and signed after a quick skim of the contents. "I would have been obliged to with Chance riding her. Just for safety's sake."
"I don't doubt it." She nodded, taking the form away and replacing it with others. "These cover the various legal requirements including registration, and the fact that just because the Wraith can go two-fifty doesn't mean that the speed limit has been suspended." She chuckled lightly.
"Oh, kats, he would have never been held to that," Jake laughed in fond memories before skimming and signing the forms. "Kat was such a speed-junkie."
"Most of our clients are." She chuckled. "This just covers us, we don't really expect it to accomplish it." She said as she put those papers away. "Now we can cover some of the more exotic add-on features, including one that we actually designed for another customer; the retractable armor shell. It encloses the rider in a shell of military grade titanium armor, while maintaining the aerodynamic shape." She said pressing a button, which caused a series of plates to extended sequentially creating a black metal shell over where the rider would be as Jake's eyes went wide. "Special sensors allow the plates to accommodate a passenger in addition to the driver."
"Damn, I never thought of putting that on a bike." Jake murmured, his mind clearly going full-tilt on the applications and variants and his excitement built. "That's a great idea."
"It also has a special slide detection system to extend the armor on one side in case of a slide out." She explained. "Theoretically, a good rider could slide flat on the armor for some distance and then manage to right the bike and keep going."
"I'm sure he would have practiced till he could," Jake shook his head in bemusement. "That's a nice feature."
"The design team thought so." She smiled. "Courtesy of the advanced composites used in the construction of most of the bike, it's lighter than you'd expect and it has a much smaller radar signature. Very hard for any sort of radar to acquire it. However, these composites are as tough or tougher than metal equivalents."
"I'm sure he would have abused it all to the limit," Jake chuckled softly. "And had the time of his life doing it too."
"We rather thought so." She smiled. "All the specs are in the manual, which is stored with the diagnostic computer here." She said, touching a panel on the side of the bike to reveal a cleverly concealed 'trunk'. "While she'll run on anything unleaded, you'll get the best performance with the premium grade. She also has an alternate fuel tank, since she can run on jet fuel. You just have to press the button on the console to engage the alternate fuel supply."
Jake's eyes glittered at that. "Sneaky. She's going to be incredible where there are no speed limits to contend with."
"Navigation program and GPS link are built into the console, along with the best stereo system you can mount on a cycle." She smiled and showed him how to work it. "The two helmets that come with her have wireless receivers so you can hear the stereo over the wind. They also double as short-range walkie-talkies if you don't have the stereo on. Helmets are also bullet-proof up to the 50 cal range, where it depends on exactly what ammo the shooter is using."
"Damn," Jake murmured with a shake of his head. "You guys thought of everything."
"Actually, that was requested by Mr. Furlong." She said simply. "We just had to work out the details."
Jake could only shake his head with a chuckle, more than a little overwhelmed by it all. "What else?"
"The main screen is actually a HUD display, as well as the display for the rear angle camera, which incorporates a 16x zoom option." She explained, switching the bike on so as to let Jake get a look at the console and display. "Dual battery set-up, good for ten years before they need replaced. In the event you deplete the normal fuel supply, the batteries will give you about two-hundred and fifty miles of low-power operation."
He nodded, impressed with it even as he was working on extending it like he had the rest of their vehicles. "Range on the two tanks?"
"Depends on exactly what you're doing." She smiled. "But the normal range on two tanks is sixteen hundred miles. Needless to say, the fuel companies are glad we haven't got our engines into mass production." She chuckled. "Those figures go down if you use the afterburner mode for extended periods."
"No kidding," he chuckled with a shake of his head. "What's the problem doing so?"
"The engineering precision drops in mass production." She chuckled. "It just doesn't scale up properly, mostly because we don't think of scalability when we create designs. There's a level of perfection you can achieve when you create maybe a handful of engines at a time, that you just can't match on the assembly line. There's also a cost factor, our engines use materials that are quite expensive including a number of patented alloys and advanced composites."
"Sounds like the headache I got last time I tried to draw up production schematics for a TurboKat." He chuckled with a bit of a sheepish grin. "Some things are just meant to be one-of-a-kind."
"Of course, the big thing is that most of us aren't interested in mass production." She chuckled lightly. "We like being able to put real time and effort into each bike. It's far more satisfying than creating a simple design and watching a hundred thousand of them roll out. Or so I'm told, I never actually worked in mass production." She grinned.
"Well, after you called mass production 'engineering for the imagination impaired' did you really expect to?" An older male voice behind them added with a chuckle. "And don't tell me you didn't know that the CEO of Kattarus Industries was one of the their former designers."
"He did ask me what I thought." She chuckled. "Jake, Rashi, this is Calvin Thunderclaw, suspension design and our chief test pilot."
"Pleased to meet you." The tall, lanky dark brown tom said with a smile. "Heard Black Lightning's new owner was here, thought I'd see who she ended up with."
"That would be me," Jake extended his hand. "So an actual pilot, or 'test pilot' for these beauties?"
"Test pilot around here, means for these beauties." He smiled, and shook Jake's hand. "I do fly, but I prefer land vehicles. Well, considering how at ease the Doc is, I'm guessing she's decided you're a good home for Lightning." He smiled. "Just plan on spending a fair bit of time on maintenance; she expects to be pampered." He chuckled and patted the bike fondly.
"Between the TurboKat, ChopKat and Cyclotrons, I'm quite used to it." Jake chuckled with an easily grin. "Only vehicle around the place that doesn't expect pampering is the ThunderTruck."
"Trucks don't usually expect pampering." Calvin grinned. "But then trucks always seem more like 'He' than the 'She' we use for other vehicles."
"It's true, they are." Jake snickered.
"Given they like to play in mud, and show off hauling heavy loads around, it seems about right." Shelindra chuckled, clearly enjoying a recurring 'discussion'. "And yes, we do attribute a lot more sentience to our vehicles than we've ever built into them."
"At least yet." Calvin smirked. "Given KW over in division three another year or two and that might change."
"Division three?" Rashi asked, one eyebrow going up. "Then the rumors are true and Ceritas is expanding beyond just custom cycles."
"Oops, let the cat out of the bag did I?" Calvin chuckled.
"Yes, you did." Shelindra shook her head. "And Rashi happens to be the head of Noble Industries."
"We're not planning on entering the exotic vehicle market." Rashi grinned. "I don't want to have to try and overcome your rep."
"We're not?" Jake raised an eyebrow with a teasing gleam in his eyes and more life showing than had in months.
"And then again maybe we are." Rashi chuckled. "I haven't really had a chance to adjust my business plans to account for the last few weeks."
"Maybe we could come to some sort of working arrangement." Shelindra smirked playfully. "Our production and design model is much better suited to his kind of designs."
"A business alliance?" Rashi grinned. "Well, that really depends on what Jake decides he wants to do, after we get back from a nice long, secluded vacation." He said playfully, but clearly serious.
"Now, you know I promised several good sets of schematics for Enforcer equipment, after that ... it could be entertaining at least. It is basically what I've done for years now." Jake's eyes glittered, having anyone in the high-performance vehicle industry talk to him like he mattered as a designer enough to bring a spark of life back to his spirit.
"The Enforcer equipment was a special case, I thought." Rashi chuckled, and then grinned at Shelindra. "Definitely sounds like we'll have something to talk about after our vacation."
"I certainly hope so." Shelindra smiled, mostly at Jake. "To be honest, I've often wondered if the designer of the TurboKat was someone who didn't fit in in the normal world of engineering design." She said easily. "A good share of our designers don't for one reason or another.
"Like those of us who couldn't be bothered with college." Calvin chuckled. "Never took a class, but there's nothing I don't know about automotive design."
"And he's not exaggerating." Shelindra smiled. "Blaze Talcot's Silver Thunder, was one of his early designs."
Jake took a moment to place the reference, then whistled in admiration as he placed the names with the record holders of the race car circuit. "That's an accomplishment."
"Silver Thunder is good, but she could've been better." Calvin shook his head. "Too many rules and restrictions in the race car circuit. That's why I got out of it."
"I don't suppose you'd be interested in a tour." Shelindra suggested to Jake. "Meet some of our other designers? Or do you have somewhere to be?" She asked looking back at Rashi.
"Don't look at me, Jake's quite capable of making his own decisions." Rashi chuckled.
" Do I have anywhere to be today?" Jake looked at him, clearly excited about the tour but trying to keep it at least vaguely professionally looking for the time being.
"No, today is a free day." Rashi smiled. "And I bet it's been a while since you got to just hang out with other designers." He added with an encouraging smile.
"It has been ages," he smiled sheepishly and shifted his attention to Shelindra. "A tour sounds fun."
"Excellent." She grinned. "You're welcome to join us, Rashi." She added politely.
"Thank you, but I expect it'll all go over my head." He grinned playfully, and then kissed Jake playfully on the cheek. "See you at home after the tour." He smiled. "Have fun."
"See you later, and don't wait up for me," he winked back.
"Hay," Jake draped his arms over Rashi's shoulders, happy to be back from his final obligation in MegaKat City: talking to soon-to-be Commander Felina Feral. "How's the paperwork going?"
"Endless as paperwork always is." Rashi chuckled, and turned his head to nuzzle Jake. "How did your talk with Felina go?" He asked curiously.
"Better than I expected it to, honestly." He admitted and nuzzled him back. "No attempt to recruit me, she basically said she'd be Commander in a couple weeks and hoped that I would be willing to help design Enforcer equipment to give them a real chance at beating the Omega problem."
"Well, I'm glad to hear she refrained from trying to recruit you." Rashi smiled with honest relief. "So, did you mention that we'd already given some thought to the equipment idea?"
"Yeah, and that I was going to be out of contact for a while." He nodded. "She actually seemed pleased by that."
"Well, that's good to hear. Sounds like she may be a Commander we can work with." Rashi nodded. "Which will be a nice change, even if it is much sooner than anyone had anticipated."
"I think so," he nodded. "She's not nearly as egocentric as her uncle yet."
"And probably won't be, I don't think." Rashi added thoughtfully. "Uly's problems weren't something that developed over time from what I've been able to discover. He's always been egocentric and excessively territorial."
"Either way, the city has a better shot at survival now." Jake hugged him tightly. "And so do I."
"And seeing as all the legal problems are cleared up, I think we can leave for our long overdue vacation whenever we want to." Rashi grinned playfully. "How's tonight after dinner sound?" He suggested.
"My jet or yours?" He leaned down to kiss him softly.
"I was thinking mine, it may take longer but it's designed for comfort rather than combat." Rashi rumbled as he claimed the kiss. "And since somebody else will be flying, we can do whatever we want."
"Mmm, I think I like that idea." He chuckled softly and pulled Rashi to his feet and into an embrace. "Maybe by the time we come back, this won't feel so surreal."
Death of an Age
PG-13 for M/M and Violence
Het Level is None Slash Level is Slash Smut Level is Very Low Femslash Level is None Herm Level is None
234 KB, Story is Complete, Series is Finished
Written January 9, 2005 by Rauhnee Ranshanka and Todd McCall
Setting: SWAT Kats
Primary Races: Kat
Contents: Furry. Slash (M/M). Alternate Universe, Death
Pairings: Jake Clawson/Rashidi Bakar
Blurb: It is time for a new Feral to accent to the family throne, only this time they may not manage to keep their dark secrets under wraps when a younger son uses pawns better left alone to claim the succession.
Disclaimer: All things taken directly from the sources listed under 'Fandoms' belong to the owners of those shows. No harm is intended and we're definitely not making any money. Now, the things we created are ours, and if you see 'Non-FanFic' up there, it's probably all ours.
Page Hit Count from February 12, 2005