The Ci-Kat-A: The Novelization

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Kooshmeister
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The Ci-Kat-A: The Novelization

Post by Kooshmeister » Mon May 08, 2023 4:31 am

Figured that since I did a novelization of my fan rewrite of The Doctors of Doom, I'd do one for The Ci-Kat-A to go with it. cikataicon

Chance Furlong sat rooted to the spot in ultimate terror as the giant alien beetle crawled down the street, people fleeing before his advance, screaming in fear. This was exactly the kind of situation that would've ordinarily called for the intervention of the SWAT Kats. And yet Chance didn't move. Beside him, neither did Jake. Hard Shell - as he'd been dubbed by the smartypants scientists tasked with finding a means of destroying him - resembled an ordinary Earth beetle in all but size, with blazing yellow eyes slanted just right to impart a look of utter malice on an otherwise expressionless face. As the helpless kats fled in all directions, he grabbed an older model sedan in his mandibles, lifting it up; the car crumpled like tinfoil in the process, the windows blowing out, spraying glass everywhere.

Suddenly, a missile flew in and hit Hard Shell on the back. Blam! Chance flinched as it exploded harmlessly across the supreme monstrosity's shell ("carapace," Jake would've corrected him ordinarily, but owing to the situation remained silent). Another flew in and hit him in the face, with exactly the same results, which is to say none at all. Chance stiffened where he sat, the sound of Jake's loud munching filling his right ear. A cold sweat was beginning to trickle down his body, making him shudder as the droplets slithered along underneath the back of his coveralls. This was awful, he thought. How anyone could just sit here and do nothing while this was happening, while this monster from beyond infinity - or wherever he'd come from - had his way with the terrified populace.

Dropping the car, the monster turned to regard the one who dared attack it. A single fighter jet, bearing the colors and insignia of the Army Air Corps, flew high overhead. Chance could see the pilot in the cockpit, helmeted, his face hidden behind flight goggles and an oxygen mask.

"We're not makin' a dent in that Hard Shell!" the pilot exlaimed, pounding his control panel in frustration. Chance knew that everything counted on keeping Hard Shell in one place until the other jets could get there with their loads of insecticide. Then, steeling himself, his eyes, briefly visible through his goggles, he flew 'round and dived down at the creature. "I'm goin' in!"

Guy's braver than I am, thought Chance as his heart leaped into his throat. Whatever this selfless hero attempted to do, it didn't work; as he flew past Hard Shell, the huge, car-chomping mandibles clipped his jet. Chance winced as the left wing was sheared off entirely. The aircraft made a belly landing in the street, leaving a trail of sparks and fire as it slid along, narrowly missing an overturned van before turning in mid slide, its right side colliding against a parked green car. This annihilated the other wing, and the jet sat there for a moment, most of the back end and right side in flames.

Swallowing audibly, Chance's hope swelled as the canopy slid back and the fighter pilot, having taken off his mask, goggles perched up on his helmet, winced, painfully extracting himself from his cockpit... or trying to. Come on, come on, thought Chance. Hurry! He's gonna-- Too late. A shadow fell across him. With a gasp, he doomed pilot turned, eyes wide, to regard his soon to be killer. Hard Shell loomed menacingly above him, mouth open wide, drool flowing copiously from his chitinous jaws.

Making a fist, Chance pounded it impotently against the armrest in frustration. He wanted to yell "Come on!" out loud, but even as angry as he was with the movie, he didn't want to get himself thrown out of the theater Of course the movie would kill off the character he identified with the most, the cool fighter pilot guy. Not that he could remember the character's name. He'd only been introduced in the last act, and was played by Kit Westwood in an uncredited cameo, but still. It sucked having the brave, cool fighter pilot guy end up as a snack for the title monster a few minutes towards the end.

For Chance, this was enough. Keeping his voice to a hoarse whisper, he turned in his seat in the sixth row and hissed at Jake sitting to his right, "Aw, Jake, you know how I feel about bugs!"

"Yeah," said Jake Clawson, shoveling another handful of popcorn into his mouth, "I was surprised you came with me to see this flick."

So am I, thought Chance. "I thought 'Hard Shell' was about a tank, not some giant beetle."

"Sshhh!"

Chance turned and glared at some dopy guy in a tux. He felt underdressed. He and Jake had come to the theater just after knocking off work. Everyone else at Hard Shell's premiere was dressed "to the nines," as they said, all except for the two grease monkeys in their mechanics' coveralls. Fortunately, nobody seemed to mind, and were mostly too caught up in the excitement and thrills of the monster movie to bother noticing.

Jake was grinning ear to ear, soaking in his friend's indignation. But it was more than just indignation. Chance Furlong had a "thing" about bugs. That was how he explained it, so as not to seem like a wimp. But it ran deeper than that. He palmed his face, irritated at himself for just going along without asking questions. Irritated at Jake for not telling him beforehand there'd not only be a bug, but on big enough to crush cars, bring down fighter jets and eat kats whole.

He consoled himself by telling himself there was no way he could've known; the title was ambiguous, Hard Shell himself didn't actually turn up until near the third act, and although the clues were there, clear enough that Chance had felt the creeping fear crawling its way up his spine as the movie went on, he'd reassured himself that there was no way Hard Shell could be a giant bug; surely it was some villainous mastermind operating a fearsome tank designed to recall a beetle, just like he'd initially thought upon hearing the title.

Jake began getting excited at this point. He sat up a little further in his seat, the popcorn bucket tumbling from his lap, spilling its contents all over the already sticky, trash-strewn floor. He pointed at the movie screen as more fighter jets began flying in. "Shhh!" he hissed to Chance. Why is everyone shushing me tonight? wondered an increasingly nervous Chance. "They're using the bug spray now!" he whispered, as loudly as he dared.

Chance rolled his eyes. Thanks, Captain Obvious.

"Sshhh!" hissed someone behind them. Chance gave an apologetic glance at the hoity toity looking audience members behind him for his friend's enthusiasm making him forget that not everyone had seen Hard Shell and knew how it ended. Jake had already seen this film. In fact, it was a re-release, having originally come out back when they were kids. Chance had never heard of it.

Onscreen, the newly arrived jets swooped in and dropped their payload of slimy white gunk onto Hard Shell's back. Chance made a face. To him, it looked like something else entirely, but if the movie said it was bug spray, albeit bug spray mixed with some other compounds to make it stickier, then it was bug spray. Thoroughly drenched in the gunk, Hard Shell gave an unearthly scream and collapsed. His antennae twitched a final time and then fell limp. He was dead. The fact his favorite character's heroic sacrifice hadn't been in vain didn't do one bit to make Chance feel any better at the fact he was still looking at a giant beetle from space, whose motionless corpse the movie annoyingly insisted on continuing to focus on as the shell-shocked cast of characters walked over, standing around the invader's body. Just staring at the thing dead was giving the big mechanic the creepy crawlies something fierce. More cold sweat slid down his stiffened body as he stared at the screen like a deer in headlights.

"He's finished," said the handsome lead scientist character definitively. Chance hadn't bothered to remember his name either. "But for good?" he asked rhetorically, putting his arm around his love interest, who was attractive in a 60s-70s kinda way. Chance couldn't remember who she was or what she did for a living or what, if anything, she'd contributed to the plot. But he wasn't focused on her. He was focused on what the hero was saying.

Come on, come on, begged Chance, say he's dead for good and won't come back and there's no more like him comin', though he knew that there was a sequel coming out soon - which was in fact the reason for this much-anticipated re-release. But he still wanted to hear the words before he left the theater. His poor, jangled nerves needed it. And he was ashamed of it. But then the scientist continued. "Who knows?" he asked of no one in particular. He turned to the camera, seeming to look out at Chance in particular. Chance's eyes were as wide as saucers, his pupils shrunken to tiny little pinpoints, his mouth a tiny little "O" of stupefied worry. "Who knows what lies beyond the stars?" the scientist asked.

"Oh!" Chance finally blurted out in horror, covering his eyes as "The End...?" came on the screen in a dripping, blood red font. He shuddered at the very idea that there wwas anything even remotely like Hard Shell out there in the unexplored regions of the universe... in the movie's reality or in this one. A few of the other kats in the audience turned and looked at him. Now it was Jake's turned to giving apologetic glances for his friend.

~*~

A little while later, the two of them were walking out of the front entrance of the Megakat Multiplex, having been among the first to leave in the hopes of beating the crowds to the parking lot. Chance felt an intense sense of relief as he stepped out into the humid summer night air, which felt good against his sweaty fur.

"I give this flick two claws down!" he said with a smirk, giving signature Catskill and Felbert "two claws down" gesture with both thumbs, some of his usual bravado returning, though he still felt his heart beating fast.

He cast a glance at the marquee. Hard Shell, Hard Shell, Hard Shell! It was insane to think that dopy monster movie was playing on five of the thirty screens the Megakat Multiplex had to offer. He would've much rather seen Claw Hard 3 or even Feline Instinct.

Jake, for his part, considered asking why his friend obviously had such a problem with a fictional giant monster when they regularly fought real ones as the SWAT Kats, but didn't press the issue. Mostly because he wanted to respect his friend's feelings. If and when Chance wanted to talk about his problem with Hard Shell, he would, and pushing him was a bad idea. Besides, if he asked without invitation, especially now, he knew Chance would just clam up and lie, insisting that the movie had simply caught him off guard and that he totally didn't have a problem with bugs. Though Jake knew better. Any time there was an insect or spider in the house, it was Jake Clawson who had to deal with it while Chance did everything except climb up on the nearest piece of furniture, doing a panicky little dance. He'd find it funny if it wasn't obvious it caused Chance very real distress.

"Hey look, a shooting star!" cried Chance suddenly as they were halfway across the parking lot. He pointed.

Grateful for the chance in subject, Jake stopped and followed his pointing finger. What appeared to be a comet or meteorite was shooting across the starlit sky, leaving a fiery trail as it went. "Negative, Chance," he said, knowing what it was, having seen the latest Spotlight on Science report on Kat's Eye News. "It's just that space center satellite returning from orbit."

Kat Sat 1, he thought as the two continued on towards the tow truck. Though he wasn't an astrophysicist, Jake Clawson had tremendous respect for science and he valued knowledge of the world the kats lived in, and he envied who was going to get to find out what secrets from beyond the known galaxy the probe had managed to discover.

Chance, of course, just made a joke. "Darn," he said as they got into the tow truck, "and I was gonna wish I never had to see another bug."

~*~

Kat Sat 1, the pride and joy of the MASA deep space probe project, sat half buried in a smoking crater out in the middle of the Megakat Desert near a tall, narrow rock formation, the only noticeable landmark around for miles. Everything else was just plain boulders and plateaus. Having gotten out of their vehicles, the two scientists approached it with something like reverence. Their demeanor, coupled with their hooded clean suits sporting radiation symbols on the chest lending them an air of somewhat offsetting anonymity, made them look less like scientists and more like alien visitors or perhaps followers of some strange religion.

"I've waited two long years for this," said the one in the lead. His suit was trimmed in orange to distinguish him from his companion. Unafraid, he went right up to the satellite and laid a hand reverently, feeling the heat of the metal through the insulated glove. His colleague hung back, hesitating. They weren't sure if Kat Sat 1 was safe to approach just yet, and the lead figure's brazen act of just walking up to the thing was a trifle unprecedented.

The hand laying upon the Kat Sat 1 - his Kat Sat 1, he reminded himself - didn't betray the excitement that the suited figure felt. This was the culmination of years of hard work, years of arguing with the money men about the cost versus the reward and all that nonsense. Behind the opaque visor of the suit's hood, he was smiling with tremendous excitement and satisfaction. He thought he could almost feel the already diminishing heat from the satellite flowing through him.

"Now the secrets of the stars will be mine!" he declared aloud.

"There are no secrets from Kat's Eye news!" said a female voice from nearby.

The two MASA scientists jerked in surprise, nearly jumping out of their skin in surprise. Two hooded heads turned, eyes squinting through their visors at the approach of an attractive, auburn-haired woman holding a microphone. Behind her came a burly male kat in a purple sweater, sunglasses and baseball cap, filming over the woman's shoulder with a large video camera. The man in the orange-trimmed suit recognize the woman instantly. Ann Gora. But where had she come from? He hadn't heard the approach of an engine. Behind her and her cameraman, he could see their vehicle, a news van, parked partially hidden behind a rock formation.

"Ann Gora here in the desert with Dr. Harley Street," she was saying into her microphone, speaking to the man in the orange-trimmed suit, "brilliant creator of the satellite Kat Sat 1!"

Harley Street frowned behind the impenetrable visor of his suit's hood. He didn't like the unexpected. Had the two gotten there before them and then hidden behind the boulder, waiting to leap out and ambush them like a couple of kids waiting to yell "Surprise!" at some friend's birthday party?

And that was in fact what they'd done, though throughout it all Ann had had to force herself not to giggle at the childishness of waiting behind the big rock with Jonny to jump out and surprise the arriving scientists. She'd initially planned to wait a little longer, until the men from MASA had had more of a chance to properly examine the probe and begin removing it to take it back to the space center, but her eagerness to talk to Street had gotten the better of her. Although he and his companion were currently hidden from view by their suits, she knew what he looked like and she had to admit, although she ordinarily maintained a professional detachment in her work, she had to admit that she had a small crush on the astrophysicist. She had in fact fought for this assignment. She didn't normally do Spotlight on Science, but if Tab Mouser thought he was going to be the one to interview Harley Street, that square-jawed, grinning idiot had another thing coming.

A grinding, rumbling motor signaled the approach of the retrieval truck which had left the space center with Street but which had fallen a ways behind his car, owing to the rough terrain of the desert. It finally stopped, tires crunching on the dirt. Two hardhatted technicians in teal jumpsuits and mirroed sunglasses hopped down from the cab. Taking his own hood off, the other scientist who'd arrived with Street went over and began directing them in the removal of the probe from the crate. This would be accomplished with a big, extending crane-like mechanism that rose from the back of the truck, swinging over to position itself above Kat Sat 1, which had by now cooled down and was no longer smoking.

Managing to compose herself, Ann stopped as she reached Street, holding her microphone out towards him at a respectful distance. Behind him, the other man from MASA was giving the probe a once-over. "Well, what’s the story, Doctor?"

Dr. Street composed himself. Although he was still a little annoyed at having been blindsided, to say nothing of this reporter getting there before him, he was already getting over it. He relished the opportunity to talk about his work with someone, and besides, having seen Ann Gora on TV many times over the years, he had to admit, she was quite attractive. Smiling, he pulled his hood off, revealing an unremarkably rugged handsome face with broad features and strong cheekbones. Stylishly tousled headfur cut short crowned his head.

Tucking his hood under his arm, he said, "The probe survived reentry undamaged, Ann, but I’ll be able to tell you much more after I’ve examined it back at the lab." He'd already decided that as much as he liked Ms. Gora, he didn't have the time to talk her. About the Kat Sat 1 or anything else. At least not tonight. He began walking towards the car he and the other scientist, his assistant, had come in, a dark red sedan with the MASA logo on the doors. Ann followed, Jonny filming them both.

As a big magnet descended from the crane, grabbing the Kat Sat 1, Street decided on a plan of action. He'd get the scientific nitty gritty out of the way tonight and then spend the rest of the day being interviewed by the pretty Ms. Gora. And not in the middle of nowhere, either, but in the comfort of his office back at MASA. He opened the driver's side door of the sedan and paused, turning to smile flirtatiously at her. "Say, why don't you stop by the space center tomorrow?" he asked gently, giving a friendly little chuckle.

Ann was excited. A private interview with Dr. Street! "What am I? Chopped liver?" she could almost hear Jonny saying; as much as she liked Jonny and depended on him, in her enthusiasm she could sometimes forget he was there. She almost considered telling him to remain behind so she could go alone. "Kat's Eye News will be there, Dr. Street," she said.

Satisfied, Street, got into his car, waited for the other scientist to get in, then turned the key in the ignition. They threw their hoods into the back seat. As they drove off, the magnetic crane, carefully manipulated by the two trained technicians, lifted the Kat Sat 1 from the impact crater. Crumbling - and in some cases smouldering and burned - bits of earth and rocks fell from the bottom as it swung gently in the air. Then with a loud whirring noise that made Ann and Jonny turn and watch, the crane swung back into its "neutral" position and retracted, fastening the satellite into a specially designed clamp on the rear of the truck. Jonny filmed it with his camera for some B-roll before Ann tapped his shoulder.

"Let's go, Jonny," she urged him, and the two walked back to where they'd left the van.

"Lucky you," Jonny said. "Gettin' to interview Doc Street." He smirked, knowing about his employer's crush on the scientist. "Mouser's gonna pitch a fit."

"Let him," Ann said. She was beaming.

They got into the van and drove off. As the two technicians finished making sure that the Kat Sat was secured, they walked back to the cab of the truck. Consequently, no one was standing at the rear of the vehicle when a lumpy, viscous, greenish-yellow substance began slowly oozing out from between one of the seams of the metal and flowing sluggishly down the exterior of the satellite...

~*~

The Megakat Space and Aeronautics Administration was a sprawling facility located in the middle of the desert. Like most government and private installations in and around Megakat City, it boasted a variety of defenses against attack in the form of both manned and automated laser turrets which ringed the perimeter of the property. Armed guards were everywhere, seeming to outnumber the researchers and other employees, especially now that it was the middle of the night and there was basically no one else around except them.

And Harley Street. Upon returning to the space center, Street had insisted, nay, demanded that the Kat Sat 1 be taken into his private laboratory for examination. The workers lugged the thing into the lab and placed it carefully on the special examination table designed for it, where it sat with a camera aimed at it. The camera was on the end of a jointed metal arm descending from the ceiling, and its indifferent, aloof electronic eye just happened by chance to be focused on the blob of slime that'd been steadily oozing from the side of the probe ever since it left the desrt. Though now the flow had slowed and it dripped no further, seeming to just hang there of its own accord in defiance of gravity. This was shown on a TV screen on the bank of monitors at the far end of the room, though Street paid it no mind as he finished supervising the workers.

The workers had noticed the stuff, as had the technicians who'd driven the truck back from the desert and supervised its unloading in the high security motor pool. But none of them had considered bringing it up to either Street or his assistant. None of them were qualified to identify the weird-looking substance, and it looked to gross to touch, so they'd decided to leave it to the experts to notice. Street had a reputation of being hyper-observant. Surely he would find it and figure out what it was.

And ordinarily, they would've been right. But that fateful night, Harley Street was a hectic mixture of exhausted and excited, his mind going in a million different directions at once and struggling to fight off sleep. The same applied to the other scientist who'd accompanied him. He was tired as well, and Street's enthusiasm for the Kat Sat project was not exactly infectious at half past midnight.

As the two hardhatted kats trudged out of the room to clock out, leaving the lab door open, Street hurriedly struggle free of his clean suit. His assistant, Weyland Thorne, who'd accompanied him out to the Megakat Desert stood watching him, still in his own suit with the hood tucked under one arm. He was bleary-eyed and wanted to go home. He both admired and was annoyed by Street's enthusiasm.

"Surely this can wait until tomorrow," he mumbled, stifling a yawn.

"Nonsense!" said Street, putting on a shirt and tie. Even though he looked about as tired as Thorne felt, he was running on pure excitement and adrenaline. "This can't wait another moment!" he said breathlessly as he finished tying his black necktie. Grabbing his lab coat off an ornate antique coat rack, the only non-scientific furnishing in the room, he said dismissively, but sympathetically, "Go home if you're tired."

Yawning, the other scientist shrugged indifferently and left, shutting the door after him and entering the security code which would prevent anyone but authorized personnel from entering and disturbing his employer. No sooner had his slipped on his lab coat, which was such a light color of blue it looked deceptively white, than Street immediately went to work. He carefully removed the Kat Sat's data recorder unit from what amounted to the rear of the probe, still not sparing either the pulsating glob of ooze or the picture of it on the TV screen a second glance as he carried the heavy device to the terminal and plugged it in. Immediately, the other TV screens came to life, showing images of distant nebulae and planets. Street's breath caught and his pulse quickened. Such celestial beauty!

He activated a tape recorder built into the console. "The Kat Sat's data recorders have surpassed by expectations!" he began. Smirking smugly, remembering all those budget meetings with the facility's project directors and money men, he added, triumphantly, "And to think the fools here were ready to cut off my funding."

He frowned as he flicked through the various high-resolution pictures taken by the Kat Sat. It might do to make sure he delete that offhanded remark against his superiors. Complainers didn't get very far at MASA. Or anywhere, for that matter. He decided to focus on a picture of one planet in particular, which looked like it might support life, the possibility of which intrigued him. It clearly had an atmosphere of some sort and orbited a sun not unlike Earth's. Evidently the Kat Sat thought this world worth investigating as well, because as Street clicked through the pictures, it became evident that this world was one of the ones the probe had decided to visit and examine more closely rather than simply photographing it from space and passing it by.

The picture of the planet's surface looked bizarre and unsettling. It was a blasted, tortured-looking landscape that look somehow both alien and familiar. But Street couldn't put his finger on what exactly it was about this strange, empty landscape of twisted, malformed geological formations that struck him as being somehow familiar. He clicked "next." The next picture was of a big greenish-yellow globular growth clinging to the side of a ruined cliff. What was this? Life?

"Never saw anything like that before," he murmured, then described for the record what he was looking at. Another click. The next photo was closer. The thing didn't look any more pleasant up close. Frowning, Street stared at this thing, whatever it was, this possible indicator of life on another world. He'd have to alert the exo-biology department immediately. Reaching up, he rubbed the screen thoughtfully, studying the growth. "Reminds me of an... insect's cocoon."

That was the best comparison he could come up with. He was no entomologist. Surely someone in exo-biology would know what it was. Out of the corner of his right eye, he noticed the TV screen showing the lab camera's view of the side of the Kat Sat... and the glob of ooze clinging to the side. He was just opening his mouth to say aloud that it looked like the exact same substance from that tortured alien world when he heared a sound off to his left. It was a squeaky chittering noise. He turned, frowning. It was coming from the satellite from where it sat on the examination table. Leaving the wall of TV monitors, he walked around the probe until he saw the greenish-yellow substance on the side.

"Looks like something got stuck in the seam," he said, idly wondering if anyone else had noticed it and, if so, why they hadn't told him.

He reached out to touch it, then stopped. Bad idea. He really was tired if he came that close to making such an elementary, boneheaded mistake as touching an unidentified, possibly alien substance with his bare hand! Sighing, he decided that as soon as he was done examining this weird gunk, whatever it was, he was going to go lay down. There was a comfortable couch in his office that was calling his name. He grabbed a latex glove and pulled it on, and only then did he grab and attempt to pull the stuff free from the side of the satellite. It was incredibly sticky and didn't seem to want to come loose. Having failed to remove it, he decided to examine it where it was, prodding into its soft, slimy interior with one finger, making a face.

Suddenly, two black, pincher-like mandibles emerged from within the center of the gunk. Street had no time to react, no time to jerk his hand back before they bit his probing finger. He yelled in surprise and pain. The latter soon eclipsed the former as what he could only describe as a burning fire shot up his arm and into his body. Still yelling, he felt his legs give under him even as he turned towards the lab door and promptly collapsed face-first on the floor. There he lay shuddering as the pain burned its way into his mind. His very consciousness. And with the pain, which was already subsiding, came something else. A new understand. A new purpose. He felt a voice in his head.

Mine, it said. You are mine. And soon this world will be as well.

It wasn't a voice that spoke with words. Nevertheless, he understood it perfectly. It was her. The queen.

"Yes, I understand," he said.

He slowly got to his feet. When he opened his eyes, they were no longer normal kat eyes, but green, insectoid compound ones. His transformation had begun. It would take several days, perhaps longer, but soon he would become something more than a mere kat. The child and consort of the thing, the creature, the divine mental presence which still squirmed in her infancy in the cocoon that even now was bulging obscenely from the seam of the Kat Sat 1. He was the first of many. He turned and regarded her as she extracted herself halfway out of the slime. A purple-furred extraterrestrial that appeared to be a cicada with feline features. But unlike any Earth-bound cicada, she had blazing red compound eyes and large, wickedly pointed black mandibles.

She wasn't very big, but soon she'd begin growing, and, with luck, never stop. She'd soon have other consorts just like him, for this was one of the two ways in which his new benefactor's race reproduced. As for the other... despite her young age, the queen was ready to lay her eggs, but to do so she needed somewhere cloistered and away from prying eyes, and most importantly, where there could be food for both herself and her hatchlings. And for him and the other kats soon to be bitten and converted, Street realized.

He knew just the place. He held out his hands. The queen crawled into them, tugging the gunky slime of her cocoon with her as she went. It still clung to her and filled Street's hands to overflowing.

"I will do everything in my power to help you conquer this world."

Hiding his eyes was the main problem. Fortunately, he found a pair of black sunglasses that would do the trick. He certainly looked odd, walking down the hallway, wearing sunglasses indoors and carrying a gunky lump of vomitous sludge before him in both hands (the alien queen having secreted herself in its center once more), but he didn't look as alarming as he would if those fly-like eyes had been on fully display.

His destination was the nuclear furnace which powered the entire facility. A burly guard with a mustache was standing outside the door leading to the reactor, surrounded by radiation symbols. He had a laser gun in a holster at his side. Street didn't know his name and didn't care. It didn't matter. At his approach, the guard stood a little straighter, exuding professionalism, but his voice and attitude were friendly, conversational.

"What brings you down the reactor, Doc?" he asked.

Street didn't respond. He simply stood there with the glob of gunk in his hands.

"And what's that stuff?" the guard asked, making a face.

Finally, Street spoke. Holding up the handful of slime, he said, "It's... a surprizzze."

There was a slight "buzz" to his voice. The guard noticed it, but was more interested in the stuff being held up for him to examination. He grimaced, staring at it in morbid fascination... when suddenly, like a grotesque kat-in-the-box, something purple with red eyes shot out from inside it. The guard felt it bite his neck and collapsed to the floor. Another one for the growing army...
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R.I.P. Gary Owens (1936-2015)

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Re: The Ci-Kat-A: The Novelization

Post by Kooshmeister » Sun Jul 16, 2023 6:44 am

Just a quick little update:

It was the following morning at the garage. Chance was under an orange sedan belonging to Mr. Spinaldo, one of their few regular customers besides that one little old lady whose name he always forgot. Jake was standing by to assist him. The TV was on, though it was just background noise. Apart from the occasional commercial, there were constant updates for the upcoming Spotlight on Science segment from Kat's Eye News, where Ann Gora was going to be interviewing that smartypants scientist Dr. Street. Jake was interested, but Chance couldn't care less.

The big mechanic grumbled as he strained with a particularly stubborn lugnut on the car's undercarriage, muscles bulging. Jeez, what had Spinaldo done to the dang thing? Hit speed bumps going 90? He sighed. Oh well. Spinaldo being a terrible driver who didn't take good care of his car meant more work for his and Jake's struggling business, and that was okay by him.

He hadn't slept well that night. Much as he hated to admit it, and he'd never tell Jake, but he'd had nightmares about giant bugs from outer space coming down to invade the Earth. If he never saw another bug or anything even like a bug again as long as he lived he could die a happy kat...

He sighed, extending his hand out from under the car. "Jake, hand he a wrench..." he said tonelessly.

"You got it," said Jake, retrieving the requested tool from the toolbox.

His friend's request for the wrench had been the first thing he'd said since they'd begun work on Spinaldo's car, and it was obvious Chance wanted to be absorbed in his work and not converse. He strongly suspected it had a lot to do with their trip to the theater the previous night and was doing his best to respect his friend's obvious desire to work in silence, standing with his arms crossed, occasionally glancing at the TV and wishing the news would get to that Spotlight on Science segment already. He was intensely interested in hearing what that MASA guy Street had to say about what the Kat Sat 1 had found out in deep space. He loved science and technology of all kinds.

Under Spinaldo's car, Chance was about to put the wrench to work when suddenly he noticed it crawling up his left sleeve. It. The biggest dang spider he'd ever seen. He just about had a panic attack and began flailing wildly, screaming, "Get this thing offa me!" The wrench flew from his hand and sailed across the garage.

Jake ducked and the wrench clanged off the wall harmlessly behind him, though it chipped the already aged mortar. Unable to help himself, he said, "Hey, Chance, are you a kat or a mouse...?" as his friend scrambled out from under the car, holding his arm out and away from himself as though the spider clinging to his sleeve were contagious. With a smirk, he bent down and gently grabbed the offending arachnid between thumb and forefinger and flicked it away.

"There," he said, "the big bad spider's gone."

Chance sighed. "Sorry I almost clocked you when that wrench..."

Jake frowned and crossed his arms. It was obvious Chance's problems with the arthropods of the world ran far deeper than just being squicked by one cheesy sci-fi movie. Despite his decision the previous night to respect Chance's evident refusal to discuss the matter, now that he'd almost been brained by a wrench due to his friend's wild flailing over a perfectly harmless house spider, Jake decided it was time for answers. "I think it's about time you told me just what it is with you and bugs."

"Later," said Chance, getting back under the car.

"Chance..." Jake began with a sigh.

"I said later!" came the barking reply from under the sedan. "And hand me that wrench again. We don't wanna keep Spinaldo waiting. You know how he gets..."

Jake sighed again and kicked the wrench under the car to Chance with his foot. So much for that attempt to get to the bottom of things. Maybe later, after their customer had come and picked up his car.

~*~

The Kat's Eye News van drove along the winding desert road that lead to the front gates of the Megakat Aeronautics and Space Center, Megakat City's primary center for research into all things related to astronomy, astrophysics and outer space in general. Riding in the passenger seat as Jonny drove, Ann was excited. And not just for the story. She was anxious to see Harley Street again. Part of her felt foolish, like a schoolgirl with a crush on a respected teacher, but another part didn't get care. Even if nothing came of it - she had no illusions that an actual relationship would develop - she still looked forward to seeing the scientist again. And besides, she was getting one over that smiling jerk Tab Mouser, and that was worth any trip out into the middle of the desert, and away from the Mayor's white elephant of a building, at least for the day.

Yes, evidently Manx was not one given to heeding omens, and had ordered Megakat Tower rebuilt and reopened almost immediately after its destruction a few months prior. More of the city's ever dwindling budget sunk into that 300-story monstrosity for, as far as Ann could see, little to no gain. Construction had managed to get done ahead of schedule and the building's grand reopening was taking place the day after tomorrow. Rumor had it Manx had invited that Siamese businessman Mr. Young back to inspect the building ahead of the event.

Ann had been assigned specifically to cover the Megakat Tower event. Despite her excellent coverage of Dr. Viper's takeover of the building and its subsequent destruction, her editor, ever a stickler, insisted her job wasn't done; he'd assigned her to get an exclusive about Mayor Manx's business deal with the Siamese investors, not Viper's latest wacko scheme to conqueror the city. Besides, he'd pointed out, the Megakat Times had beat Kat's Eye News to the punch with their eye-catching headline about the event, "Destructive Nature!" Therefore, Ann's editor considered her assigned task incomplete, and only by covering Megakat Tower's "reopening" (even though it had technically never opened in the first place) could she absolve herself. Putting her foot down, she'd managed to twist his arm and get him to let her do this in Tab's place.

Her editor had responded by insisting she instead try and get something out of Manx's meeting with Young when he arrived by plane tomorrow, but she'd talked him out of it; after the disastrous attempt to open the building the first time, Manx was playing things close to the vest, and was unlikely to let any press near Young until the actual (re)opening ceremony. Her editor had conceded - much to Tab Mouser's annoyance - and now here she and Jonny were.

Jonny slowed as the van approached the front gate. A security guard in a green uniform with a holstered sidearm waved them through. The gate opened and Jonny drove on through. He found a place to park, and, grabbing his camera, he and Ann got out and walked towards the main building. In the main lobby, they talked to another MASA guard, who escorted them to the front desk, which was manned by yet another guard. This one looked especially bored and tired. He didn't bother looking up from the coffee he was drinking.

"Ann Gora to see Dr. Street," the first guard said.

The guard behind the desk didn't seem impressed. "Name?" he asked blandly without setting his coffee mug down.

Ann was annoyed but managed a smile. "Ann Gora, like the nice man said."

"ID?"

She handed the second guard her press credentials as the first one turned and walked off. "My cameraman and I are expected."

The guard behind the desk finally set his coffee aside and scanned the badge and the machine he used, some kind of identifier, beeped. There was a pause and something flashed up on a screen that Ann couldn't see. After a moment, the bored-looking guard seemed as satisfied as he was capable of looking, and handed the ID card back.

"Ah, you're the one here to interview Dr. Street. Street's office is down the hall and to the right. Follow the signs. And don't go to the left. That's where our nuclear furnace is and that's off-limits," he added, somewhat imperiously. Ann nodded. As she and Jonny headed off, the guard, grabbing his mug again, said over his shoulder, "I gotta warn you, though, the Doc's in a mood today."

"A mood...?" asked Ann, pausing. Jonny walked a bit ahead and stopped too, looking back.

"Yeah. He's shut up in his office. Just don't be too disappointed if he doesn't wanna go through with the interview."

The guard said no more and returned to his coffee. Ann frowned and continued on, Jonny trailing after. Street was in a mood? It was clear to Ann that it was the rude guard at the desk who was the one in a bad mood. He must've gotten up on the wrong side of the bed. She and Jonny came to a T-shaped intersection at the end of a hallway. Plaques serving as signs indicated that to the left was off-limits areas - Ann saw signs for "Laboratories," "Launchpads," "Mission Control" and "Reactor." Signs pointing to the right simply said "Administration," so that was where she and Jonny went. It was a long, almost featureless hallway, with corrugated walls and multiple doors with frosted windows, most of them unadorned with any signage.

Ahead was yet another one of MASA's omnipresent security guards. He was a big kat with a mustache and was wearing purple-tinted sunglasses that hid his eyes. Like all his co-workers, he was armed with a holstered laser pistol... but this particular guard evidently felt that this was insufficient, for he was also holding a large and menacing-looking laser rifle, barrel up, finger near the trigger. He was standing right by what could only be Street's office - it read "Dr. Street - MASA" on the frosted glass window - and something about him made Ann uneasy. Whether it was the - to her - needless extra armament of the rifle or his rigid posture - he didn't move at all as they approached - something about this particular kat made the reporter uneasy. Besides, what was with this third layer of security after the main gate and the front desk?

Nevertheless, maybe he was just the kind of guy who took his job very seriously. Besides, perhaps the extra security just meant that something earthshaking and revolutionary had been discovered with the Kat Sat. And that thought made Ann more determined than ever to interview Street, so she put her game face on, smiling her best smile, and walked up to the guy, who struck her as the one to talk to about being denied or admitted entry into the scientist's office.

"Hello," she said, and the guard finally turned his head and regarded her and Jonny from behind the impenetrable purple lenses of his shades. He said nothing, so Ann continued. "Ann Gora of Kat's Eye news, here to interview Dr. Harley Street." She hoped this would be enough. If it wasn't, she was prepared to show this guard her press pass too.

Instead, the guy just said, "Sorry, Dr. Street gave orders he's to be disturbed." There was a weird tonelessness to his voice, like he was reciting from a script he'd spent all night memorizing, and his expression was completely blank. Even weirder, he followed the sentence up with one of the most bizarre verbal tics Ann had ever noticed, a kind of buzzing mumble.

Ann decided to let that pass without comment. Maybe he just had some kind of weird speech impediment. Instead, she focused on the fact she'd just been denied entry to an interview she'd been personally invited to. Feeling irritated, she said, "But I just spoke to him yesterday." She kept her voice even, trying to not to let her irritation show. She knew getting angry with this guard wouldn't get anywhere but told to turn around and march right back the way she'd come.

The guard was unmoved. He turned his head back around so that he was back to looking at the blank wall across the hallway and not at the reporter and her cameraman and hefted the rifle slightly higher, finger moving almost imperceptibly towards the trigger. "Sorry, ma'am," he said, not sounding sorry in the least, his expression still unreadable, "I have my orders."

There was movement in the office. The door suddenly flung open and Harley Street stepped out. The guard's head automatically jerked around to face him. Like him, Street was wearing sunglasses indoors - Ann couldn't even begin to fathom why - and the room behind him was a black, featureless void; all the lights were office. "What's going on out here?" he demanded in a voice that was somehow both angry and yet weirdly emotionless, his voice quick and breathy, beads of sweat standing out on his face, as though he were nervous or had just gotten done running a marathon.

Despite this complete change in demeanor from the previous night, Ann was happy to see him. She held up her microphone. "I'm here for our interview, Doctor, remember?" she said, giving him her best winning smile.

"Not now!" Street hissed, his voice suggesting great impatience and irritation. "I've got more important things to do!" And with that - and a quick "bzzz" sound similar to that made by the guard a moment ago, he receded back into the total darkness of his office and slammed the door so hard Ann jumped.

Was... was he telling her to "buzz off" with that last bit? Ann was shocked. She hadn't taken Harley Street for someone who'd be so... juvenile.

Evidently that wasn't enough, for the guard stepped forward and grabbed Ann's shoulder. "You heard him!" he snarled. His grip was like a vice and Ann's anger at Street's inexcusable rudeness and his violation of his promise to her were momentarily forgotten and replaced by fear. She allowed herself to be steered unresisting by the guard away from the door and back the way she and Jonny had come, and a wave of relief washed over her when his hand let go.

Rubbing her shoulder, she glanced back, watching the guard resume his post by the door. "What's eatin' them...?" asked Jonny.

"I don't know, Jonny," Ann replied darkly, "but we're not leaving here without a story." Even if that story was what a rude jerk Harley Street, Ann thought angrily.

"Yeah," agreed Jonny. "Sure beats coverin' the reopenin' of Megakat Towers..."

Ann had to agree. But what kind of story could she wrangle out of this disastrous visit? Street turning out to be a short-tempered jerk without any people skills was hardly news. Everyone knew brilliant researchers were prone to eccentric behavior. How would that make for interesting viewing material? Besides, she had no interview, unless one of the guards was willing to talk. As she and Jonny neared the T junction, she considered asking the guard manning the front desk to go on record about Street's odd behavior. But that would mean she still had basically nothing to bring back to her bosses... and after all the effort she'd gone to to get this assignment in the first place!

That was when she heard the noise...
Last edited by Kooshmeister on Mon Jul 17, 2023 5:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Ci-Kat-A: The Novelization

Post by Kooshmeister » Mon Jul 17, 2023 5:18 pm

Ann paused. "What was that?" she asked. The sound was something like an ominous, echoey gurgle. She and Jonny paused, listening. And it was coming from the hall directly in front of her. In the direction she'd been instructed not to go and which all the signs warned her very blatantly were off-limits to visitors. "It's coming from down here..."

"Annie..." Jonny warned her, casting a quick glance down the hall to their left, where the main lobby was.

The guard at the front desk was talking to the one who'd escorted them in. If either of them saw them, they'd be kicked out, and he wanted to tell this to Ann, but she was already heading down the hallway. Jonny sighed. Sometimes he wondered why he put up with her. She'd had multiple cameramen before him, and they'd all quit except for him. He had a strong sense of loyalty to her because he admired her dedication, though sometimes, like now, he thought her dedication came dangerously close to obsession. Not for nothing her nickname among her co-workers was "Ann-bitious." Nevertheless, he followed her.

Ann moved carefully down the hallway, on the lookout for any guards or other employees who might spot them and try to halt their progress. There was no one. At a corner which led off into another hallway, there was a sign that said "Reactor," complete with the standard radiation warning symbol. Rounding the corner, she and Jonny found themselves staring at an enormous, reinforced lead door with a viewing window set into it. The sound, whatever it was, was coming from in there...

~*~

Dr. Harley Street stood impassively in the darkness of his office. The overhead lights were off and the shades were drawn. It wasn't entirely dark. Some weak light from the hall filtered in through the frosted glass window of the door, which he couldn't do anything about. He was waiting, just as the office's other occupant was. Waiting for the eggs to hatch. The queen had grown in record time after exposure to MASA's on-site reactor, as well as the consumption of the radioactive materials the facility kept on hand for various experiments, materials Street, as a senior researcher, had been able to get his hands on without any problems. If his superiors, who'd be coming in later that day, complained, he'd just introduce them to his new friend, and then they'd happily agree that MASA's stores of radioactive material were better served as food for the... well, they didn't have a name, exactly; none Street knew of.

And no matter how hard he probed mentally, he couldn't get the queen to give him a definite answer. The mental connection wasn't exactly a two-way street. She could connect to him easily, but he found doing it the other way around extremely difficult. Besides, her thoughts were jumbled and confused to some degree. Well, not confused. Alien. And he was still trying to accustom himself to her erratic thought patterns. Near as he could tell, the closest thing to a name her kind had given themselves loosely amounted to "the Joining." Street, though, thought they looked kind of like cicadas, just with feline features, and so for the present, the name he'd settled on for the queen and her impending brood was "Ci-Kat-A." The queen hadn't objected to this.

He was still troubled by his inability to see into her mind more clearly, though. He saw the mind of the guard she'd bitten the other night just fine. He even knew his name now, though it was unimportant. Street thought he could see the mind of the guard but not the queen's because he, Street, had been the first person she'd bitten upon arriving, and so he thought - no, he knew - that he had a special connection to her no one else had, including the ability to lord over all the other weak-minded individuals bitten and converted. They would all just become drones, as mindless as the ones currently gestating in the eggs in the nuclear furnace room; even the guard standing vigil outside the office was slowly but surely losing his ability to think coherently and speak complete sentences. But not Street. His thoughts, his ability to vocalize in English, remained unhindered. It would've made him feel special if he still cared about such things.

He watched the queen, crouching there in the darkness. What a magnificent creature she was. And so fertile! She'd laid nineteen eggs in total. And when they hatched--

Street tensed. So did the queen. Danger! The eggs were in danger! And so close to hatching, too! He watched the huge form rise up from its crouching position, an angry buzz of alarm coming from her. The unhatched young were signalling that someone or something was approaching their position. But who--

Street's eyes narrowed slightly behind his sunglasses, which he hadn't bothered removing even in the privacy of his office. That reporter. Ann Gora. Once, he'd found her attractive, and perhaps he still did, but the mission of the Ci-Kat-A took priority. Without needing to give a verbal command, he instructed the guard outside the door to go handle it, cursing himself for placing him here instead of at his usual post outside the entrance to the reactor room. He'd prioritized his and the queen's privacy over placing extra security at the reactor because for one thing, nobody but that specific guard and a few other key personnel were even allowed near the place, and the latter weren't due in until later that afternoon, which was when the queen had planned to make her move. Besides, the area was off-limits to visitors and the lead door was locked with an electronic keycode.

But it had a viewing window. And Ann Gora might've gotten suspicious after his brusque dismissal of her. If she decided to ignore the signs, and if she and her cameraman looked in through the window and saw the eggs... and if they got away and managed to warn everyone-- No! Street banished that thought from his mind. He gave both mental and verbal reassurances to the queen, confident that neither the nosy Ms. Gora nor her cameraman would be leaving MASA. Not alive anyway.

~*~

Ann and Jonny looked in through the door's viewing window. Inside was the high-tech nuclear reactor which powered the facility. It was unusual as far as reactors went, and didn't look anything like the one at the Megakat Nuclear Plant, being a series of large, silver spheres of different sizes connected to one another with tubes and wires suspended over a large, flat-topped bowl-shaped contraption coming out of a hole in the middle of the floor. But the unusual design of MASA's reactor wasn't what caught their eye. It was the nineteen or twenty or so objects lying around it.

"What the--?" gasped Jonny.

The things looked for all the world like fleshy pots that were open at the top, their orifices rimmed in a slimy off-green substance. What were they? Ann thought of insect cocoons. Now here was a story! "Get a shot of that!" she whispered, and Jonny obeyed, lifting his video camera to film through the opening.

"Hey!" a voice yelled from behind them. They turned. The mustached guard from earlier was hurrying up towards them, laser rifle at the ready. He did not look happy. "I warned you!" he said, his voice sounding like a snake's hiss. Stopping a few feet from where the pair stood, he raised the gun slightly.

Was he going to shoot them?! As impossible, as insane as it seemed, Ann's instincts were screaming at her that, yes, he was. And unless one of them did something, and fast, they were dead. Thinking quickly, Ann lunged forward, swinging her microphone down in an arc. It clacked noisily against the barrel of the rifle. The microphones Kat's Eye News used were pretty bulky and heavy and could be used as blunt objects if need be, and indeed hitting the gun with it succeeded in knocking it from the guard's hands. It landed on the floor with a clatter. The guard grunted in surprise, smacking Ann's microphone away, then went for the laser pistol holstered at his hip. Panicking, Ann shoved him back, but although he staggered backwards a few feet, he didn't fall, so she swiped at his face, slapping him, knocking the cheap purple sunglasses off...

...and recoiled in horror as his eyes were exposed. They were not kat eyes. They were the green compound eyes of an insect! Ann swallowed a scream rising in her throat. Behind her, Jonny gave a startled yelp. Ann Gora didn't know what she'd expected, but it hadn't been this!
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Re: The Ci-Kat-A: The Novelization

Post by Kooshmeister » Sat Nov 25, 2023 1:10 am

With another snakelike - no, insectile - hiss, the guard lunged at the pair. Ann and Jonny dodged to either side and the guard collided headfirst with the heavy reinforced reactor door... and promptly knocked himself silly, his hat flying off. He staggered back, then collapsed to the floor. Ann stood there, panting, confused, angry and afraid. Then suddenly she remembered that the guard hadn't been the only one wearing shades indoors and acting weird. A mental image of a glowering Harley Street filled her mind. It was time to get the heck out of there! Something was very, very wrong at MASA.

Jonny seemed rooted to the spot. Grabbing the dropped microphone and making a point of kicking the laser rifle across the floor - it was lying by the guard's outstretched hand - Ann grabbed the sleeve of Jonny's sweater and ran, jerking him along with her. He finally managed to get his rear in gear, lugging his camera as he hurried after her. Their destination was the "T" junction ahead. 'Round the corner to the right and they were in the lobby and home free.

But their path was blocked by two figures, backlit by the harsh flourescent lights of the hall. One of them was clearly Dr. Street, standing stiffly with his arms folded behind his back, still wearing his sunglasses, which made his eyes look like black, cavernous, empty sockets devoid of life and emotion... but he wasn't the one Ann was focusing on. That was his companion, an enormous... thing.

It stood at least a foot taller than the MASA scientist and looked like a huge purple cicada with long spindly arms and legs, blazing red compound eyes and ceaselessly twitching antennae. Black mandibles dribbling a yellowish, ichor-like fluid snapped once at the air, and then the thing started towards them, arms outstretched, clawed hands reaching for Ann and Jonny.

"Dr. Street!" Ann cried, as both an exclamation... and a plea.

But Street did nothing. Well, almost nothing. He reached up and took off his shades, revealing that his eyes, too, were green and insectoid. His expression remained impassive, bordering on bored contempt. There was no help there. Out of the corner of her eye, Ann could see down the adjacent hallway where two guards were standing with their backs to them. Should she yell for help? No. They might be like the other guard and Street.

Edging carefully around the approaching creature, Ann held her microphone up to her mouth and, incredibly, started speaking into it. "This is Ann Gora, Kat's Eye News," she said shakily, reporter instincts kicking in, "in deep trouble at Megakat Space Center!"

She wasn't sure whether she was just terrified and trying to cope by reporting on what could very well be her own impending death... or worse... being somehow made like Street and the others. A mindless, bug-eyed thing. Well, if that was what was going to happen to her and Jonny, then the least they could do was warn others.

~*~

In the garage, Chance and Jake were putting the finishing touches on the impatient Mr. Spinaldo's car. Jake, riveting the front passenger side tire on, heard a weird noise and turned, ears pricking up. The TV on the nearby worktable had been on the entire time he and Chance had been working, mostly just as background ground, but a bizarre chittering sound caught the thin mechanic's attention. He blinked as he watched a drooling purple bug monster approaching the camera, filling the screen.

What the heck? A minute ago it'd been Kat's Eye News. Something about the returning space satellite. Why were they suddenly showing a monster movie? Oh well, he wasn't complaining. After how much fun he'd had seeing Hard Shell, he didn't mind another movie about giant killer bugs.

Chance felt quite differently, of course. "Aw, Jake," he whined from under Spinaldo's car where he too was finishing up, "haven't we had enough bug movies for one week?"

Jake frowned. Despite his interest, something seemed off. "Gee, I've never seen this one," he said aloud, internally wondering why they'd interrupt an important Spotlight on Science report about a returning deep space probe to show a monster movie. Something wasn't right. Still... "A giant Ci-Kat-A," he said, blinking. Where had that come from? Well, it did look like a weird cross between a kat and a cicada. "Looks pretty cool!" he admitted. Very realistic effects.

Wait a second--

Right as he was processing that horrible possibility, the view on the screen whipped around to show a thoroughly terrified Ann Gora talking into her microphone. "This is Ann Gora, Kat's Eye News," she was saying, sound so scared she was nearly hyperventilating, "in deep trouble at Megakat Space Center!"

Jake almost dropped the rivet gun. An equally surprised Chance crawled fully out from under the car. It wasn't a movie. It was a live news transmission! It was real! The "Ci-Kat-A," or whatever it was, was real! Ann Gora, her cameraman and who knew how many other people at MASA were in very real danger right that very second! Jake mentally kicked himself for thinking it'd been a movie. But he'd worry about being slow on the uptake later. Right now, it was SWAT Kat time.

He looked at Chance, on his hands and knees by the car. Their eyes locked. Deadly serious. "Let's hit it!" they yelled together. Mr. Spinaldo's car was going to have to wait.

~*~

As the Ci-Kat-A queen advanced on the nosy reporter and her cameraman, Dr. Street, slipping his sunglasses into the front pocket of his lab coat, turned and walked past the trio, towards the reactor room door. Time to let the little ones out to play. As he passed the prone body of the guard with the mustache, he nudged him with one foot. The guard rolled onto his side and groaned. Good, he was still alive.

Another nudge. He didn't get up. Evidently he'd hit his head way harder than he'd thought. Oh well. In a moment, there'd be more additions to the queen's army. Street went to the door, opening the shutter box for the controls on the left. It was a key card reader. He stooped and frisked the unconscious guard for the security access card he carried, then swiped it through the reader. Beep! The heavy door opened... and from it began pouring small versions of the much larger alien creature currently advancing upon Ann and her cameraman.

"Go," Street commanded, pointing. "Go help your mother. Spread the gift."

Hissing and buzzing, the drones - all males - swarmed forth, some hopping over the still dazed form of the mustached guard. Street watched them go with a strange of paternal pride. Earth would soon belong to the new master race... and everyone would be like him and the kat lying on the floor. Speaking of the guard, Street, looking down at him again, noticed that his eyes weren't the only things that were changing.

His hands, groping along the floor as he struggled to come to his senses, were no longer four-fingered but three-fingered, just like those of the alien drones. Thick, fly-like hairs sprouted from the backs of the knuckles, and the fingers terminated in thick, sharp claws. Frowning, Street looked at his own hands. One was normal. His left, though, was already starting to resemble those of the guard. He clenched and unclenched his fist, then slid that hand into his pocket. He knew that there'd be further changes and so he was neither surprised nor concerned. He knew he, the guard and anyone else bitten would eventually become exactly the same as the visitors but for color.

He returned his attention to the drones charging down the hallway. What a glorious sight!
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