The Swat Kats and the Mysterious Door (Crossover with Coraline)

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The Swat Kats and the Mysterious Door (Crossover with Coraline)

Post by EditorElohim » Thu Sep 17, 2020 9:03 am

Good morning to everyone. I recently joined the forum and decided to share with you this story that I started last year. At the moment of publishing this, I have already finished 10 chapters -all in Spanish- so I will take the time to update: between completing this fic, translating it, and completing the other fics I have pending, and... well... routine life.

I just want to clarify three things before I start:

- My English is not very good: I use translators to be able to publish it; with time I hope to improve. If you notice any grammatical errors, please let me know.
- This fic is a crossover that takes elements from another franchise; almost all my works are crossovers. I don't have the rights to any of the franchises.
- In the places where I published it, I had a little more freedom regarding bad words. I will correct that to publish it here; don't worry.

Anyway, that's it. I hope you enjoy it.


LOGLINE: Before becoming known as T-Bone and Razor, Jake Clawson and Chance Furlong had their first big adventure from which they barely escaped with their lives. Fifteen years later, and after the disappearance of a child in their old neighborhood, everything indicates that the past has not forgotten about them, although it seems that they have forgotten about him.



__________________________________________________________________________________________



Chapter 1: Beware of the Door.


Gatalina Valley, Megakat City. Fifteen years ago.


— We're almost there, Jake! Run Run!!
— She's following us, Chance! We're not gonna make it!
— Sure we are, there's the door! Come on!

There it was: in the midst of the thick and stale darkness, the barely illuminated threshold with a half-open door stood up. Chance was the first one to cross, barely followed by Jake, who after the cry of "Close it!", hurried to look for the key in his pockets while Chance turned his back on the door to try to block it.

A loud knock shook the door, accompanied by an eerie scream that shook the two little kids. Chance wasted no time in blocking the door; despite being only ten years old, he was a robust and strong child for his age, while Jake, a year and a half younger, was much thinner and excelling in his intelligence.

— The key, Jake! Get the key!
— I'm not finding it: it got tangled up in my pockets!
— Hurry, she wants to get out!
— I got it! -In an attempt to take it carefully it slips from his fingers- Crud!
— JAKEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!
— I got it, Chance!
CLOSE IT!!

With hasty movements, Jake put the key in the lock and turned it as far as possible to lock it; then he hastily took the key out and held it in his paw before another loud knock on the door surprised them. He immediately helped his friend lock it with all his might.

It didn't take long for the banging and screaming to stop; the presence of any kind of threat soon vanished. Both children relaxed and sat down on the floor, supported by the door and extremely tired.

— I think she's gone, Jake. -Chance sighed- Finally.
— So it seems. -answered the youngest child with cinnamon fur; suddenly, he started crying- We couldn't save them, Chance.
— I know... -the older one put a paw on Jake's shoulder and patted him, but he couldn't hide his disappointment- But they said that the important thing was that we managed to escape; don't worry.
— But I promised! I told them I would get them out of there and I couldn't! -the little boy ended up hugging Chance; He didn’t know what to say- If I had not slipped...
— Jake, you tried; we tried. And we’re alive, and so are your parents: that's what matters.
— What are we going to do now?

Both boys looked at the key on Jake's right paw: it was black, very old, with a button head. Who would have thought that a key would bring so much trouble? Well, now they knew.

— We have to get rid of it.
— I will do it; trust me: no one else will ever see this thing again. -he replied more firmly and calmly. He had stopped crying- Chance...
— Yes?
— Thanks for coming to save me, buddy.
— Nah, it's nothing. -Chance replied, as if to diminish his importance- I had to it. Who would help me with my summer vacation homework if something happened to you?

Normally that comment would make him angry, but instead, Jake laughed along with his friend; at least Chance recognized that he wasn't that bright in school. Jake looked at the clock in the living room: it was almost dawn.

— I have to return home. -said the robust child- Or my parents and my brothers will kill me.
— You'll be fine?
— HAH! Do not worry. -he replied with a heavy heart as he was about to leave the house- I know how to avoid being discovered.
— Well, be careful.
— Jake… -Chance turned to him, facing him: his expression was more serious than usual. He put his right paw close to his friend- Let's make a promise.
— Promise?
— Promise me that we will never, EVER, cross that door again, not to mention what happened. And if someone breaks it, we will stop being friends.
— But Chance ...
— Forgetting it little by little is going to be the best, don't you think?

Jake was hesitant about such a request. Not to talk about it again and otherwise stop being friends? It was a risky gamble: neither he nor Chance were exactly the most popular kids in school. On the other hand, was it worth sacrificing something so valuable for a matter that had already been settled? Chance was right: forgetting it would be for the best.

— I promise, Chance.
— Right. So I'm leaving before my family wakes up. You’ll come to my house to play later, right?
— I'll try. -he answered unconvinced- I don't know what I'm going to tell my parents…
— You're smart, Jake. -he smiled knowingly- You'll think of something, and don't forget to help me with my homework!
— Of course. See you, Chance.

Jake stayed for a few moments on the porch of his house to watch his friend walk down the sidewalk in the dark, lit only by the streetlights that would soon stop working to make way for the daylight. That was what Jake lacked: the courage and bravery of Chance to walk alone through the streets of the neighborhood at night despite being only ten years old, or to enter his house without permission to rescue him from...

No: he had to keep his word even within his mind. Chance had saved his life and that was all that mattered; he would keep his promise. After closing the door of his house, he turned his eyes to the key, even in his paw: there was one last thing to do before burying everything that had happened in oblivion.

Taking advantage of the fact that his parents were still asleep -assuming they had returned- he took care of getting rid of the key before going to bed.



__________________________________________________________________________________________



Megakat City. Today.


The living room was empty, save for a little ten-year-old boy, with gray tabby fur in blue shorts and a white short-sleeved T-shirt, sitting on the couch in front of the turned on TV and hugging an old doll who looked very much like him.

Normally he should be in his bed trying to sleep because it was past nine o'clock, but nobody was there to reproach him: his father had gone out of the house, and who knows what time he would come back; his mother was in her room, lying down and possibly reading in silence. That did not matter to him: he preferred to be there alone watching the TV at those hours when the news of the night shift was on; if he was lucky, he could see the only interesting thing at that hour.
And that night, he was lucky.

“This is Ann Gora of Kat's Eye News reporting from the Megakat City downtown where moments ago the Swat Kats stopped another of Dr. Viper's evil plans.” -the camera points to the night sky, focusing on the of the Turbokat cabin- “There they are!"

Seeing their faces, which despite the distance, were recognizable, provoked a smile on the boy's almost inexpressive face: seeing his heroes was a rejoicing balm in the face of the dreary routine life. Then came the babbling of Commander Feral complaining as always; no matter how much that grumbler scolded: the Swat Kats were very popular among school children, and it was common for many to play at being them or even to build replicas of the Turbokat out of cardboard and pieces of wood.

He kept watching the news, even though they talked about boring things, always hugging his doll, who noticed a certain sparkle in its button eyes. Possibly from the reflection of the TV, he thought.


__________________________________________________________________________________________


"Jake ... Chance ... How much they’ve grown ... I missed them so much"


__________________________________________________________________________________________



It had been a busy night: Viper was leaving on his one-million-third attempt to turn the city into a paradise for the most psychopathic ecoterrorists, and of course, they had come to stop him ... and of course, the Enforcers were late so as not to make a big deal out of it, as usual.

— I'm beginning to wonder if Dr. Viper is missing a brainstorm, T-Bone: his latest plan reminds me so much of one of his earlier plans.
— Freeing up a mutant salad buffet all over the city? -asked the Turbokat pilot mockingly- Yes, it brings back memories of roasted cabbage.
— Let's just hope that if he takes the trouble to come back, he'll be a little more original. Or fighting it will get a little boring.
— Nah: kicking that lizard's tail will never be boring, Razor.
— Sure!
— What do you say? A little night patrol before going home?
— Roger, T-Bone. After all, Callie can't be our alarm forever; she needs to sleep.
— Right! I know a shortcut that’ll save us time!
— You and your shortcuts, T-Bone!

The Turbokat crossed the Megakat’s skies, watching for any suspicious movement they might find; some passers-by managed to see the silhouette of the jet ploughing through the darkness and hearing the roar of its engines as it crossed between the buildings in daring maneuvers, the vast majority just hearing the famous plane without seeing it. And some other vermin ended up surprised to hear such a noise at night and raise their eyes to the sky in search of the source of that deafening noise. From the Turbokat, its occupants couldn't tell who was looking at them down there. Did it matter? The people had their own affairs, and so did they.

Nor could they see all those eyes that looked at them with curiosity, with astonishment, with anxiety. Least of all the little ones: tiny black beads with a faint crimson glow, whose source raised its head and pointed at the sky after the Turbokat passed by.

“We are small but we are many
We are many, we are small
We were here before you rose
We will be here when you fall”




__________________________________________________________________________________________



After touring the city and finding nothing that required their help, the Swat Kats returned to their hangar. It was dark, and the Salvage Yard was deserted, so there was no risk of being discovered: Razor had insisted several times on installing security cameras around it, but T-Bone said it was a bad idea with a very good justification. Why put surveillance cameras on a junkyard? Although the smaller Swat Kat had good reason to disagree, he admitted that his partner was right: if those idiots Burke and Murray found them installing those cameras, they would tell Feral, and he could come and investigate.

Fortunately, Feral had left them in that Salvage Yard since he kicked them out of the Enforcers and never set foot there. “Better for everyone”, thought Razor, who pondered this and that as they approached their home.

— Today is Friday, right? -T-Bone asked pleasantly- Let's go outside and do something: the city owes us.
— How to get girls or something?
— Only if you put the kittens, Razor.
— Sure, T-Bone: I can invite Callie; But who do I leave your leash with?
— You invite Callie? Oh, you want to make me jealous, huh?
— Stop talking nonsense. -the gunner scoffed- Let's go out and get some pizza; I'm not paying for the delivery.
— Sounds good to me. Extra cheese and extra anchovies!
— And double portion of pineapple!
— Razor... putting pineapple on pizza should be a crime that we fight more often.
— I'm just kidding, T-Bo…! Huuh?

Razor turned to his right, towards a pile of garbage a few metres from the hangar: out of the corner of his eye he saw—or thought he saw something— moving, and with bright eyes. moving, and with shining eyes. They were already storing the Turbokat underground when T-Bone asked him if something was wrong.

— Uh ... nothing. I thought… saw something; maybe it was a raccoon.
— Ah, then there is no problem: they are very common. You have very good eyesight.
— I'm your gunner for a reason, buddy.

Once safe, they took off their uniforms and dressed in civilian clothes ready to go out: both of them with jeans and a pair of sneakers, Chance in a black tank top, and Jake in a red collared shirt. Jake turned his eyes silently thinking that Chance wanted to show off his physique if he was lucky enough to find a pretty girl at the pizzeria. So what will you do if you get one? Will you bring her here? Or will you pay for a motel? He thought. Then he erased those thoughts from his head when the "Shortcut Master" made a gesture for him to go with him.

Fortunately, the Turbokat was undamaged, so it did not require repairs or any major overhaul. Unless an emergency arose, they had the night to themselves.

— You´re planning to achieve a conquest, Chance?
— You never know. -he laughed heartily- The night is young.
— I hate to ruin your expectations, but with the car we're going to use, I doubt a girl will come near you.
— Is the kitten going to go out with me or with the car? Come on, get in: we'll take a shortcut, since I'm starving.
— Oh, Chance...

Chance's shortcuts were known to be winding roads, full of potholes, with many turns and a driver who was willing to do anything. Fortunately, they managed to survive such a labyrinth and reach a downtown pizzeria: since it was Friday, and it was also summer vacation, there were many children in the company of their parents. Some were running around the pizzeria and others were having fun in the play area.

Despite the noisy environment, they chose to stay there. They placed their order at the counter and settled at a table for two to wait for it to be ready. To pass the time, there were free breadsticks that they would take advantage of.

— If you were thinking of making a conquest ... -Jake said smiling maliciously from ear to ear as he looked side to side at the place- you chose the wrong time and place.
— We came for pizza, not for girls. -he replied with a shrug, pretending to downplay the matter- If you want to look for them, we can go somewhere else later.
— I prefer pizza, Chance. It's more… cheaper.
— Sure.
— And if I wanted to invite a girl, it would be Callie.
— Good luck with that, Jake. -he added before ate a breadstick; him sight stopped at the children's playground- What days, huh? It's a shame we're too big for that place.
— I hate that box of balls: once they made me try them and they tasted horrible.
— Hahaha!! It's true: they told you they were fruits and you believed it. How old were we?
— It was my seventh birthday, Chance. My parents organized a party and invited the whole class. -Jake remembered, folding his arms- You ate a whole pizza and two slices of cake.
— I remember, yes. Your father's business was still going good.

A sudden memory crossed Chance's mind as he mentioned that fact. What date was today exactly? When he realized, his expression changed to a more serious one.

— Jake...
— Yes?
— There are a few days left of the...
— I know... -he sighed reluctantly and some disgust. It wasn't exactly his favorite topic- I know.
— You’re planning to visit your mom?
— For what? It is not something we want to talk about; Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings are already quite… tense. -he put another breadstick in his mouth- I don't even know why I keep going.
— Buddy: it's your family.
— Since we got kicked out of the Enforcers, I'm practically the black sheep of the family, Chance. My mother was very disappointed in me; she thought it would be the only good thing to come out of her relationship with… my father.
— My family was also disappointed in me, but I keep in touch with them.
— It's not the same, Chance.
— Jake...
— Look: I understand what you want to do, and I appreciate it. But as far as I'm concerned, you’re my real family. Now, can we pay attention to when they call us to pick up our pizza?
— Yes… Sure.

It was only a couple of minutes before their pizza was ready and they had to pick it up; Jake took the box along with a few cans of milk and urged his friend to come home. Chance followed him and got in the car without saying anything, other than to give his friend a sad look from time to time without him noticing.

Interestingly for Jake, the road back was less turbulent than usual for Chance's shortcuts, which was strange. With the milk cans by his feet and the box in his lap, he settled down in the passenger seat and slowly began to fall asleep.


Spoiler:
Gatalina Valley, Megakat City. Fifteen years ago.

— I can't believe it: ten resignations in one week. You are a terrible manager.
— Is it my fault, Lilly?! My father left me with a bankrupt business!
— You're lying, Isaac! You’re always making excuses! Your father was an excellent businessman: since you took over, everything went to heck.
— Ahh... so it's all my fault!! Then why don't you leave me so I don't have to go on with "this loser"?!
— I'm not leaving Jakey. -she grumbled- Maybe we should sell this house: it's expensive to maintain.
— Are you crazy?! It's the only thing my father left us before he died!! I grew up here: I’m not leaving this house!!
— Stop yelling, you'll make Jake wake up!!
— WHAT DOES IT MATTER THAT JAKE WAKES UP??!! STOP TELLING ME WHAT TO DO!!

Several blows and shouts were heard through the wooden walls, followed by several objects breaking, to end in cries and grunts that ended up fading away until they were devoured by the silence.

Little Jake, contrary to what his parents would have expected or wished, had heard it all from the beginning. Curled up between his sheets and with his head pressed to the pillow, he sobbed in silence, wishing that the fight would soon be over: it had been months since the family business of selling mechanical parts inherited from his grandfather and managed by his father began to decline, and he hated getting used to that situation full of anguish, restlessness and conflict.

The worst thing was that they were a little over a month away from summer vacation, and if things didn't work out, she would have to endure those discussions all day long instead of taking refuge in school and homework. Perhaps he could go to Chance's house to play and spend the day, but he could not make it his private refuge either; his poor friend had his own problems at home.
He covered himself with his blankets and hugged his doll, “Jake Jr.,” tightly before falling asleep.


— Jake, Jake… Wake up, buddy.
— Huh? ... -he asked confused after feeling a few pats- What?
— That happens for not taking my shortcuts: they make you drop your guard.
— This isn’t the Turbokat, Chance… -he blinked repeatedly, still struggling to open his eyes- Where are we?
— We're going to rent a movie. -Jake turned to his right and looked out the window: they were in front of a video store with a few customers inside. He turned to his friend- What do you want to do? Laugh, cry or scream?
— Laughing sounds good.
— Then… “Scaredy Kat, The Movie!"
— I said laugh, not cry, Chance.
— Come on, it's not that bad! If you want, to rent two. Any suggestions?
— I doubt the pizza will be enough for both of us... and if I think about it, maybe not even one, considering my partner.
— Very funny, Jake. -he gave him a light slap on the head- Go?
— If you don't mind, I'll stay here.
— Okay ... Hey, I ... I'm sorry I ... touched on that topic. I know that…
— Don't worry, Chance. Come on, go: I take care of the car.

With Chance at the video store, Jake was left alone, thinking about that dream he had just had. Okay; in fact, he had to admit that more than a dream, it was a memory of his childhood: a not very pleasant one. His father's business began to lose money and that was the reason for strong discussions in his family, discussions that always ended with his father mistreating his mother... and in the worst cases, himself. This bastard, who by mere formality called "father", was unable to tame his problems and ended up blowing off steam in his family. Was it really worth visiting his mother to remember him?

There was a detail of his memory that intrigued him: he was in his bed, and he had a doll. It was a doll, right? He wasn't the type to play with those things: most kids his age saw them as girlish. But he was hugging a doll in that memory. Who had given it to him? There was something about that doll...

His ears suddenly stood up: he had heard something hitting the car, small but audible; he even heard something like soft and constant tapping. He opened the door, put the pizza on the seat and went out to see what had caused it: outside there were few people walking on the sidewalks, but beyond them, and after turning around he saw nothing strange. When he wanted to return to his seat, he ran into Chance, who was watching him with intrigue.

— What are you doing, Jake? If you wanted to come with me, you would have said so.
— No; is not that. It's just that I thought I heard something hitting the car.
— TO MY BABY?! -Chance ran to the car, checking every millimeter- What did they do to you?
— Didn't you have "another baby"? -referring to the Turbokat-
— They’re all my babies! What did they do to him, Jake?! -he began to get exasperated- Who was it?
— I dont know; I don't even know if I really heard anything. Could you calm down?
— Well... It doesn't look like there's any scratches. Let's go home before the pizza gets cold.
— And before you lose your mind.

They returned to the car and made their way home without any inconvenience... except for another of Chance's famous shortcuts. The rest of the night was for them: without the alarm sounding, they were able to enjoy a moment of rest that Megakat rarely gave them on weekends; as if even the villains took advantage of them not to carry out their crimes.

The pizza was good, and so was the milk; the movie ... well: if you could call “movie” an episode of Scaredy Kat of more than 105 minutes and wrapped in a pathetic plot attempt by a mediocre scriptwriter of few ideas... it was moderately passable. It made him laugh several times; Chance, for his part, was a volcano of continuous laughter whose secondary effect was the repeated eruptions of milk coming out of his nose and that ended up splashing it even on his face. It didn't matter: it was clear that one liked physical comedy and the other something more intellectual, but in the same way they were having a good time, and Jake got over it after remembering "that" imminent date.

After finishing the “best comedy movie of all time” -Chance's words- the idea of watching the next one came up: "Independence Day". It wasn't a bad choice; they both liked it and from time to time they talked about the idea of imagining themselves in the place of the two guys who entered the alien mother ship and saved the world: Chance as the pilot -obvious- and Jake as the one who created and downloaded the virus.

While it sounded childish, they laughed at just discussing this crazy fantasy.

— It's a little late, and we’re out of pizza. How about we save it for tomorrow, Chance?
— Looks like we don't have another one, right? Besides, we have work early tomorrow.
— Right. -Jake turned off the TV- Shall we clean up before bed?
— Nah, leave it like that; we'll do it tomorrow. Let's go to sleep.
— Whatever you say.

They just turned off the light and changed their clothes to lie down on their beds. Tomorrow would be another day in the garage, another day for the Swat Kats.


__________________________________________________________________________________________


“We are small, but we are many
We are many, we are small
We already know where
you are and she will know.
She misses you very much
and you will see her very soon."
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Re: The Swat Kats and the Mysterious Door (Crossover with Coraline)

Post by Kooshmeister » Thu Sep 17, 2020 3:40 pm

I'm generally averse to crossovers. I tried to do one a long time ago where the Tick and Chairface Chippendale ended up in Megakat City, and never finished it because I had no idea where to go with it. But this looks pretty interesting so far.
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Re: The Swat Kats and the Mysterious Door (Crossover with Coraline)

Post by EditorElohim » Thu Sep 24, 2020 2:46 pm

Kooshmeister wrote:
Thu Sep 17, 2020 3:40 pm
I'm generally averse to crossovers. I tried to do one a long time ago where the Tick and Chairface Chippendale ended up in Megakat City, and never finished it because I had no idea where to go with it.
I personally love crossovers; almost all my fics are. A friend on Facebook told me a phrase her girlfriend said: "There are no bad ideas, there are bad executions." But I believe that every crossover is possible; you just have to find a way to put the concepts together. I encourage you to try again: you are free to do so.
Kooshmeister wrote:
Thu Sep 17, 2020 3:40 pm
But this looks pretty interesting so far.
Thank you very much.

I hope that the translator has done his job well, as well as the revision based on my limited knowledge of English has borne fruit. I had to correct some things because in the original writing, I used a lot of bad words.

If for some reason, someone finds something that I think violates the rules, let me know and I will try to correct it. I accept all advice and suggestions.

Anyway: this is Chapter 2; I hope you like it:


Chapter 2.: Return to Gatalina Valley.


A new day, another day of work at the Megakat Salvage Yard: if Feral saw it as a kind of purgatory for the two of them, he would have been disappointed to see Clawson and Furlong taking it with utmost humility and dedication.

It wasn't a glamorous job and one that you strutted about, but it was legal and honest, and they did it well: Every morning, as he watched the sun rise over the mountains of twisted metal, with the aroma of his morning coffee mixed with rust and motor oil, Chance savored the idea of seeing Feral arrive all pompous in that forgotten corner of Megakat, expecting to see his ex-soldiers submerged in humiliation and misery, only to find them both working hard and a smile from ear to ear that hid all the unimaginable insults. Oh, how I wished it: since I could not break his face, at least to show him that I had not succeeded in bending his spirit by leaving them there was an appetizing consolation prize.

That opportunity never came: after expelling them from the Enforcers, Feral never set foot in the Salvage Yard; instead, he left the jerks of Burke and Murray as guardians of such an unusual Underworld to control them -and make their lives impossible- from time to time. It was partly a relief: unlike those pathetic attempts of Cerberus, Feral was smart -he had to admit it, however nauseating it might be- and if he thought of visiting them, he could -God forbid- start suspecting them and discovering their secret. Fortunately this never happened: for Commander Feral, the Enforcers, and the city of Megakat almost entirely, Jake Clawson and Chance Furlong had ceased to exist. A few pariahs, a few forgotten and dusty files in some filing cabinet, a mere anecdote in a few poor lines on some page of the Megakat Times, a few minutes of reporting in Kat's Eye News: that was them, that was their legacy.

And it couldn't have been better.

They both always wondered how people never suspected them as the famous Swat Kats: Two mysterious pilots who came out of nowhere shortly after the dismissal of two Enforcers? Their first ally was time: to build the Turbokat from the waste of the Salvage Yard, to condition that mysterious underground bunker they had found under the garage, to prepare their uniforms and to design and build their other vehicles and equipment took their time: enough so that when they made their first appearance as Swat Kats, nobody remembered their civilian identities anymore.

Why didn't we become criminals? That question was asked by Chance alone: both hated Feral -he above all else- and in a way, even felt some repudiation for the way the Megakat City treated them after the incident. Perhaps, it was said, that's why their alternative versions of that parallel universe had become evil: resentment, humiliation, fury, hate, had overcome them. Not here: his desire to help had been stronger; he almost felt sorry for those Evil Swat Kats.

Almost.

He heard the sound of an engine approaching; he left his coffee cup on a counter and went outside to greet his client; Jake was inside cleaning up last night's mess and would be out shortly. He lowered his eyebrows in disgust that it was the two jerks' truck loaded with garbage. Oh, what a great start to tomorrow.

— Good mooooorning! -a shrill and irritating voice was heard, as if from metal claws scratching a blackboard-
— Good morning, losers!
— Burke, Murray, hi.
— We're here to drop off the week's delivery. -said Murray after getting out of the truck with a planchette in hand; he passed it to Chance with a pen- The Enforcers have had a busy week.

Chance knew it all too well: in the last few days the villains of Megakat had been involved in several crimes in which Feral's guys had tried to stop them, and had lost several planes and helicopters, while they, with the Turbokat, barely had to make any repairs. Didn't Feral think about the waste of the city's budget that meant losing each of those vehicles every day and constantly replacing them? Maybe Mayor Manx did, and that's why he was pushing him; at least, as they said, some people's trash is other people's treasure.

Oh, great: the fact that the Swat Kats depended on the incompetence of the Enforcers meant that they were part of that waste of the city's resources. “What a reason to feel guilty”, he thought.

— It seems so. -He simply said after seeing the huge load on the truck: propellers, wings, engines, cabs, all turned into garbage- At least Jake will be able to take advantage of it.
— See it as a favor from us. -said the lower guy with a mocking smile devoid of empathy- It's the closest you'll ever get to an airplane in your lifetime.
Don't tell them you're a Swat Kat. Don't punch them in the face. Don't break their necks. -He said to himself in an attempt to contain his anger. He heard something snapping- Huh?
— Oh... You broke my pen! Again! -he laugh slyly- I'll tell Feral to deduct it from your salary.
— Grrr...
— Aren't you forgetting something? -said the planchette. Chance signed with the useful part of the pen to confirm that he received the order, and returned it to him. Murray refused- Keep it: it will be very difficult for you to buy a new one.
— Goodbye, losers!

The truck drove away, leaving behind a dense cloud of smog, dust and the irritating laughter of Burke and Murray in the background. Chance watched them drive off in a rage and threw the pen onto the scrap heap: the last thing he needed was their pathetic attempt at charity.

Jake left the garage shortly after to see who had arrived; that made his partner relax a bit.

— Who was it, Chance? -after seeing the mountain of scrap metal recently brought in, the answer came to him- Ahh...
— Our favorite jailers, buddy: they left us a little gift.
— How... nice of them. It will take all day to put it back. -suddenly the alarm went off; they both turned to their garage- It's Callie!
— What a shame. -Chance joked sarcastically- We won't be able to work.
— Chance...
— Just kidding. Let's rock!


__________________________________________________________________________________________



The problem was the Metallikats robbing a bank: nothing unusual about them; the only thing T-Bone and Razor could not understand was why if they kept causing trouble, when they were caught they were not disconnected and thrown into a volcano. It would remain as a "suggestion" to Manx and Feral for later.

They landed in front of the bank, and got off the jet; surprisingly, the Enforcers had not yet arrived, although the sound of the patrols in the distance anticipated their next arrival. The entrance to the bank was practically non-existent: it had been blown to pieces; you could hear screams inside: they had hostages.

— We'll have to be careful, T-Bone.
— Got it.

Inside, in fact, there were many regular customers of the bank, employees, and a few guards. All of them were guarded and threatened by Molly, with the help of her laser gun on her right arm; Mac was further down, carrying large bags of money.
And as usual, they were arguing.

— Hurry up, you dumbhead! I remind you that we don't have any transportation!
— That can be solved quickly: we stole a car and that's it, Molly.
— But I'll drive: you're a disaster at the wheel! And you have no idea what it took me to rebuild you!
— Ok, ok! Women: you need to complain as much as you need to breathe!
— We don't breathe, you idiot: we're robots!

— What if we let them kill each other, Razor?
— Negative, T-Bone: we won't wait for the divorce papers.

Razor used his Glovatrix to attack Molly by surprise with mini-explosives: she ended up turning around to see the person responsible for the attack, although she already guessed who they were.

— The Swat Kats!
— Couldn't they be like normal thieves and leave their marital fights for later? -Razor scoffed- Even their hostages are getting bored.
— There's a reason we need the money! -he answered as he shat his gun- Therapy doesn't come cheap!
— Free the hostages, Razor! I'll take care of the lady's attempt.
— LADY'S ATTEMPT?

Ignoring the exchange of insults and shots between his partner and the robotic grunt, Razor would help the hostages by untying those who were tied up and leading them to a safe place outside the building. The noises of the Enforcers' patrols and chops began to sound louder: they had arrived.

— This is Commander Feral! Mac and Molly: you are under arrest! There is nowhere to escape: we have the building surrounded!
— As always being late... -T-Bone muttered-
— Hey, Molly: stop playing with those idiots and let's go! -Mac was heard in the background- I already have what we need!
— They’re not going to escape!
— Ah, of course not. Not without leaving them a little gift.

Before even thinking about a quick answer, T-Bone yelled at Razor to chase the Metallikats around the back of the bank. They ended up leaving through the back door just in time, when there were numerous explosions from the front and the sound of a landslide that raised a lot of dust. Fortunately there was no one inside.

Both Swat Kats ended up on the floor coughing because of the dust.

— Aghh... Those guys are crazy.
— How'd you know they'd put bombs in the bank, T-Bone?
— Usually, when they say they're leaving us a "little gift," it's usually a bad thing, Razor.
— Roger... -he hissed reluctantly: clearly T-Bone wasn't just referring to the robots on the verge of divorce- We must find them!

In the background, one could hear the Enforcers' chops and the sirens of the fire trucks; ahead were the footsteps and mocking laughter of the Metallikats. The two Swat Kats ran through the alleys between the buildings in search of the robotic criminals: they were dirty, damp and loaded with the stench of garbage from the accumulated containers and crates, as well as dark despite the fact that it was morning. Every few steps, they lamented not wearing shoes when they were "on duty".

They managed to reach them when the next street at the end of the alley could be seen: the curious thing is that they seemed to be waiting for them.

— They took too long.
— Aren't they supposed to be running away?
— And aren't they supposed to be dead and bleeding under a pile of rubble? -complained the robot woman- We're not the only ones who are disappointed, Swat Kats.
— Enough! -grunted the larger Swat Kat, pointing her Glovatrix at both robots- You will not escape!
— We disagree with that... fatty.

Mac shoved a pile of boxes and trash cans piled up next to him; the pile of trash and miscellaneous objects fell on both vigilantes who fell unaware, and briefly buried over all that trash. The malicious laughter of the Metallikats was overshadowed by the horrific screams of dozens of black rats who had hidden in that pile and were now circling around, apparently frightened. It didn't take long for the Swat Kats to get up and shake off what they had on them, and set out to chase the Metallikats.

The rats were running in all directions, as if circling around the garbage pile and the Swat Kats; some were even climbing on their extremities and the Swat Kats were shaking them without seeing them completely. Once they were on their feet, the rats stopped running and came to a dry stop, surrounding them. There was one on T-Bone's left arm, standing on his hind legs on his Glovatrix and looking at him and his companion, both entirely motionless: their glances ended up crossing.



FLASHBACK
Spoiler:
Gatalina Valley, Megakat City. Fifteen years ago.

Chance left his twin brothers Tom and Zack's room resignedly: it was late afternoon, dinner was just around the corner, and his father hadn't arrived yet, while his mother was busy downstairs in the kitchen. Since no one else was around and it was a little late to go visit Jake, he thought maybe his brothers could help him with a math problem from one of his many summer vacation homework.
Bad idea: Initially they ignored him to the rhythm of heavy metal music that barely allowed him to hear his own voice, and after tolerating him long enough, they told him in unison to leave. Chance left grumbling against his brothers and his stupid music back to his room. If someone had told him that in a couple of years, he would love to rock, the little blond kid wouldn't have believed it.
Before arriving, he thought he saw a kind of gust out of the corner of his eye passing by him in the opposite direction: he turned back, and initially he saw nothing... Then he saw a couple of rats running quickly in search of shelter, leaving one behind, quite big, bigger than his own paw...

That one suddenly stopped, stood on her hind legs and turned to the little blond tabby boy. The first thing Chance noticed was his large, long incisors; then his other teeth, extremely sharp and showing them in an expression loaded with ferocity and an attempt too close to a smile mixed with a grunt. And there were those eyes, staring at him: he thought they were black, but swore they had a subtle reddish glow -and were looking directly at him.

The boy was paralyzed with fear until the rat turned around and ran in the same direction as the others. Once he was gone, Chance ran down the stairs screaming for his mother.


The intrigue turned to curiosity, and the curiosity turned to nerves, which led to an irrational fear that caused T-Bone to violently shake his arm to the sound of screams of "Go away, go away!", even though the intruder was firmly clinging to his arm: finally the rat made a violent leap towards Razor landing on his shoulder, turning to him and then jumping to the ground. The other rats broke the circle and slipped away to any corner they could find, until they disappeared completely. At no point did T-Bone realize that Razor reacted in the same way.
What he did realize, and only made him angry, was the taunting of the escaping Metallikats.

— Well, well: who would have thought that the tough Swat Kats were afraid of rats?
— I would have loved to have had a camera to record it! -Molly shouted- But I'd rather have my money.
— Even Feral would have paid us to immortalize this sweet moment! -a car door slammed- Bye bye, Swat Kitties!

From behind you could hear the footsteps of a group of people with boots: they were the Enforcers, led by Feral and Felina who came to where the Swat Kats were.

— You’re okay? -Felina asked- We thought you were caught in the explosion. What happened?
— We’re fine. -replied Razor- We managed to get out in time.
— And the Metallikats?
— They escaped. -T-Bone spat without looking at her face; he looked downcast- They set a trap for us and escaped.
— Well, well, I don't know why I'm not surprised. -that was Feral's voice- First they wreck millions of dollars worth of public property, and then they let two extremely dangerous criminals get away. Maybe they're not as good as they say out there.
— Uncle...
— At least we are here to solve their stupid mistakes and...

Razor was quick enough to avoid what could be a possible cause of his arrest: with a quick movement of his paw and a small struggle, he prevented T-Bone from hitting Feral directly in the face, using his forearm to stop the movement of his fist. Although his partner only grunted briefly, he then calmed down a bit. Felina was surprised to see what T-Bone was about to do; Feral not so much, but he didn't care: he expected anything from the Swat Kats.

— Yeah, yeah, Feral: we know your speech by heart and we are glad that you do too. -the smaller Swat Kat intervened before T-Bone made everything worse by opening his mouth; he stretched out his friend's arm and they walked towards the Turbokat, which was a block away- Now if you'll excuse us...
— Where do you think you’re going?
— We have work to do, and so do you, Feral.
— Come back here: we're not done yet!
— Feral... -T-Bone turned to see him- CLOSE YOUR CRUDING MOUTH!

Razor, Felina and even Feral were shocked to hear him scream so loudly and threateningly: that was not T-Bone's usual behavior... or Chance's, for that matter. Felina stared at them, wondering what had happened to him.

For Razor, it was a miracle that they managed to get out of there without getting into trouble because of some tremendous screw-up. They simply walked silently into the Turbokat and took off.

Once in the air, as they returned home, it was time to explode.

— Are you crazy, T-Bone?! What were you thinking trying to hit Feral? You were going to give him the perfect excuse to arrest us!
— You're gonna tell me you didn't want to hit that bastard who ruined our life either, because you'd be lying, Razor!
— I leave that to my imagination, where I do NOT end up in prison. Look, maybe you should calm down a little...
HOW THE HECK AM I SUPPOSED TO CALM DOWN? -a loud bang was heard at the controls; the Turbokat shook briefly before T-Bone stabilized it- The Metallikats escaped and it was all because of some cruding rats! RATS! How the heck could I have been afraid of things that our ancestors fed on until the Middle Age?
— Oh, man... you're gonna make me miss breakfast.
— I want to know something, Razor. -his tone dropped noticeably, but it was obvious that he was still angry- And tell me the truth.
— Sure, buddy.
— Did you get scared by those things too?

The Swat Kats’ gunner had a hard time answering, but he ended up saying that it wasn't easy to admit something as stupid as being afraid of rats, and even less so if you are someone with military training, and who has seen worse things in the time he has been a vigilant. And yet, there was something about those rats that was not at all ordinary... but rather frightening, and worse: something... familiar. Why were they afraid of those animals?

His answer calmed his partner a bit, but not enough. To break the ice, Razor kept talking. There was something left to do.

— Do you really think Feral ruined our lives?
— That's the stupidest question I've ever heard from you, Razor.
— Think of it this way: if we hadn't been kicked out of the Enforcers, we would still be following Feral's orders, we never would have built the Turbokat, and we never would have formed this team.
— What's your point?
— Don't you like being a Swat Kat?
— I take it back: That's the stupidest question you've ever asked. Of course I like being a Swat Kat! I love being T-Bone! I love this jet, I love fighting crime, I love fighting to protect our city, I love humiliating that useless Feral at every opportunity! I love the team we make together!
— So why do you say he ruined our lives? We owe the existence of the Swat Kats to him.
— Because... because...
— Yes?
— Because... because... -he sighed- because it's not enough, Jake.

Before Razor could continue, Callie's alarm went off. Had they found the Metallikats? Since he thought him partner was not exactly in the best of moods, he took the trouble to answer the call.

— Go ahead, Miss Briggs.
“Razor, what happened? I just talked to Feral, and he told me that the Metallikats escaped because of you.”
— We were set up; a very stupid one. -he sighed disappointedly- And took the opportunity to escape; we'll look for them, don't worry.
“I hope you manage to catch them. Tell me, is T-Bone all right? I can't hear him, and he's usually more talkative.”
— He's just... a little upset; that's all. -he let out a forced laugh- He'll survive.
“I understand, thank you very much. And don't worry, guys: I know you'll manage to catch them; don't be discouraged, good luck.” -there was a pause- “Oh, shoot, I forgot I have to change the oil in my car. I'll do it after noon. Huh? Haven't I hung up yet? Oh, excuse me. Bye, guys”
— So, "altered", huh? -he laughed maliciously- You're a real opportunist when it comes to Callie, Razor.
— I just wanted to keep you from ending up yelling at her for something she didn't do. I just saved your tail, T-Bone.
— Yeah, I know. It's good to know I have a partner who's willing to hold on to my leash when I need it most.
— That's what friends are for, T-Bone. -suddenly he arched his eyebrow; something had changed- Hey, you sound a lot happier. What's that about?
— You’re deaf? -threw the rhetoric at him with a big smile- Callie needs an oil change! Do you know what that means?

The Turbokat suddenly increased its speed in the direction of the Salvage Yard: of course Jake knew what that meant. He kept wondering if Chance was managing to make sure Callie required his services as a mechanic constantly.


__________________________________________________________________________________________



After stowing the Turbokat in the hangar and changing into their civilian clothes, Jake and Chance resumed their work in the garage. As expected, the one most enthusiastic about returning to work was the biggest guy, even though it was less than nine o'clock in the morning; in the end they had agreed to look for the Metallikats during the night, once they had finished their work in the garage, and to avoid risking Burke and Murray suddenly appearing during working hours and not finding them: that was a constant fear every time they were forced to go out in the Turbokat during the day, and although they were lucky so far, they preferred not to take too many risks.

Most of the morning consisted of reorganizing the scrap received at the beginning of the day: electronics here, mechanical parts there, armor for one corner, broken glass for another corner, twisted metal for recycling... There was a lot to sort and organize: they used gloves to avoid possible cuts. It was still engraved in their memory when Chance played the bold and worked without gloves reorganizing the scrap metal, only to cut the palm of his paws horribly. Never again: Jake had said after attending to him with the help of the first aid kit.
At least the constant work and knowing that Callie was going to visit them had improved the mood of the bigger Swat Kat, to the point of making him smile. For Chance Furlong, those clouds that had appeared in the early hours of the day had almost completely disappeared thanks to the bright rays of the sun... A sun with long blonde hair, an elegant pink dress and an old but elegant green sedan.

Noon arrived: they had a simple lunch inside the garage and rested for an hour before resuming work. There was no sign of the Deputy Mayor and the pile of garbage was still there in front of the garage. At about one o'clock in the afternoon, shortly after resuming work, the sound of wheels on the rocky ground of the Salvage Yard was heard; Chance took off his cap, did some hair and put his cap back on before running outside.

Here we go again, Jake thought.

— Good afternoon, guys. -she greeted them both, then turned his gaze to the thinner guy, carrying junk a few feet away- Hi, Jake.
— Good afternoon, Miss Briggs. How's it going? -a purr was heard- What can we do for you?
Mmm... I appreciate you being subtle about not saying the oil change, but could you stop using your quasi-pornographic tone, Chance? -Jake was saying to himself in his head as he rolled his eyes at such an unsubtle attempt at flirting. At least Callie didn't fall for it.-
— I was in the mayor's office when I remembered at the last minute that I had to have my car oil changed. In the middle of Saturday morning! Can you believe it? -Chance just nodded sympathetically. Poor Callie wasn't so perfect, but she was still charming- Al because the mayor asked me to transcribe a bunch of papers for him. Could you help me?
— No problem at all. If you like, I'll do a quick check on the car to make sure it's not inconvenienced by anything else.
— Won't that be too much trouble? -she asked after seeing the pile of trash in front of the garage- I see you have a lot of work.
— Not at all: it's a courtesy of the house.
“Courtesy of the house”. Translation to Chance’s language: “you will pay me with your prolonged presence by seducing my senses”. -Jake thought, laughing to himself-

While Jake continued to sort the trash, his partner began working on the deputy mayor's car while she watched him closely, despite offers to rest in the shop's lobby: the oil change wouldn't take long, while the car was being serviced…

There was the sound of the garage’s phone; since Chance was so busy checking the car -and thinking about Callie, all at once- it was Jake who went back inside to answer it.

— Jake and Chance's Garage. How can we help you?

Minutes later, Jake left the workshop to inform Chance that he would be going out to do some work. He found him, of course, talking to Callie as he checked the car under the chassis. That car won't be there today, he thought.

— Guess what: they just called to ask for a trailer for a crashed car to be repaired. I have to go to Gatalina Valley.
— Our old neighborhood? -exclaimed Chance from under the car with great joy; Callie raised her ears when she heard it, knowing so little about her favorite mechanics- We haven't been there in years.
— I know. Amazing, isn't it?
— You guys lived in Gatalina Valley? -asked the blonde girl- That place is pretty nice for a suburb.
— Jake and I lived there when we were kids; then we moved downtown. -his cheerful tone suddenly changed to a more... serious one; he stuck his head out of the frame to look at his friend; his look indicated distress- Jake... Do you want me to do that job for you? For... you know.
— Don't worry; I'll be fine. It's just a round trip.
— You’re sure?
— Sure, Chance: it's not something out of this world. Stay here and watch the fort... and Miss Briggs.

Normally he would have laughed at that comment as he did at all those who made fun of him in his attempts to flirt with the deputy mayor; it was a game between them that they knew well. But this time it was different: Jake would return to his old neighborhood, be back near his old house, and all within days of his father's anniversary.

The last thing he saw, even under the green sedan, all upside down, was Jake getting into the tow truck, pulling out and saying goodbye to both of them before leaving the Salvage Yard. The clouds were returning despite the Briggs sun. I hope you know what you're doing, buddy.

— Chance, is everything okay?
— Huh? Well: the brake pad still works, but I would change it in a couple of months; the radiator has nothing...
— I'm talking about Jake. -Callie thought for a moment before continuing- And you, by the way: you sounded so strange talking about your old neighborhood.
— Ah... "it". -he replied without taking her head out of the chassis- Well... see, Miss Briggs...
— You can call me by my first name, Chance: don't worry.
— Well, you see, Jake and I had a complicated childhood. We don't like to talk about it.
— I see... So you've known each other since you were kids.
— We met in the second grade, when Jake was transferred to my classroom from the first grade. From there we became friends and...
— It has been like that ever since. Something tells me that they are very close.
— Quite a lot: he's practically my little brother.
— So, could you tell me why you didn't want Jake to go to Gatalina Valley? You sounded worried, like you wanted to stop him from going at all costs.
— Callie, I really...
— Look: I imagine that you have some kind of male friendship code or whatever you don't want to break... but the truth is that I'm worried. He didn't look the same as I remember him: as if he was trying to hide something behind that carefree face.

Chance didn't know whether to feel comprehensive or jealous: Callie cared about both, but especially about Jake. Why the heck do I keep insisting on conquering her if she likes Jake? It was a question he couldn't answer other than the fact that he also liked the deputy mayor and couldn't help himself.

Should I tell Callie why I am concerned? She was probably the only person who showed any kindness to them since they were abandoned to their fate at that junkyard; she already knew they were once members of the Enforcers, and ironically she never suspected their identity as Swat Kats. “If you were as good at looking behind our masks as you were at looking behind Jake's face, you might have discovered our secret long ago”, thought Chance.

— I want you to promise me that you won't tell Jake what I'm about to tell you. -Chance he continued under the car- He should tell you anyway, but clearly he won't do it the right way.
— I promise.
— Well. -he sighed before continuing- Life has treated Jake harder than it has treated me. And every time his father's anniversary approaches, he becomes more... sensitive about it. That's why I didn't want him to go back to our old neighborhood: his father's anniversary is just a few days away, and coming to his old house will only bring back bad memories.
— Anniversary of what? I don't understand.

On this occasion, Chance took his head out of the chassis to look at Callie directly; she saw in those eyes and that face a sadness that she was not used to seeing in that robust and good-natured guy.

— He killed himself, Callie.


__________________________________________________________________________________________



To get to Gatalina Valley, one had to cross the entire city: either by taking the ring road around the city, or by passing through the center and driving in a northeasterly direction. Jake chose the latter.

Although it was the longest route, it was also the most interesting, and the young mechanic was overcome with a sense of nostalgia after almost fifteen years of never setting foot in his old neighborhood again. He had the opportunity to take a little walk around the downtown neighborhood where he lived after moving from Gatalina Valley: the old school, the apartment where he lived with his mother until he joined the Enforcers... everything was still the same. He then followed the route to the suburbs; traffic was normal, and despite the occasional honk or insult from an overzealous driver, the trip was smooth.

Originally, Gatalina Valley was a completely independent town located in a small valley with a lot of vegetation on the outskirts of what in the future would be known as Megakat. But when the latter began a rapid urban expansion, it ended up absorbing the once small town, turning it into one of its suburbs. In spite of this, it still retained traces of its past as an independent municipality: the neighborhood itself had a certain small-town feel, with its two schools, its small church, its commercial avenue and its medical clinic.

As you entered Gatalina Valley, you could feel the tranquility of a residential area in the middle of summer: children on the streets, freshly mowed lawns, few cars on the road, single or two-story houses. So different from the center of Megakat to which they were accustomed, with its constant crimes, attacks by psychopathic villains... so far away from everything. What had become of their neighbors, of their classmates?

A stopover at Midwich Elementary School made Jake aware that the building had barely changed, except for a new coat of paint and an improved playground; the businesses on the commercial avenue had mostly changed, except for an old candy store and the pharmacy. Even the branch of his father's business had not survived: it was now an electronics store. Great irony, he thought. He passed by the church, small and in the Spanish colonial baroque style, perhaps the oldest building in the neighborhood: it was still there, imperturbable to change, like a tiny mountain in front of the Ocelote Plaza, a small and modest but beautiful green space with many trees, flowers and games that in his childhood was the only decent place for children to have fun: now it looked much better.

He checked again the address: 732 Barbera Street. That was less than two blocks from his old house... Bad sign. He would get there, tow the car and go home. It was a good plan.

The client's house was modern, with a well-kept garden with a few hedges; the walls were white, the roof slate-colored; nothing like his old house. On one side of the sidewalk, there was the reason for his visit: a burgundy colored family car with a totally crushed front; miraculously not only the windshield survived with a few cracks, but also the driver was enough to ask for a tow truck.
He rang the bell. He was greeted by a man in his late fifties, with gray fur, wearing ash blue pants and a white shirt. There was something vaguely familiar about him...

— Good afternoon, did you request a towing service?
— Yes, boy. You’re the mechanic? -he looked at the name tag on his overalls- Jake… from “Jake and Chance's Garage”.
— That's right.
— Funny... Those names sound familiar.
Oh, oh... I think I know who he is this man. -Jake thought- What happened to his car?
— Uff... A catastrophe! I was on my way to work, when a man came by like a rocket as I was crossing the street: we both skidded off the pavement; we were lucky to get out alive. The jerk blamed me for the accident, but I had the upper hand. We didn't get to sue each other, but in the end, the insurance won't be able to cover my expenses.
— Really?
— They're leeches. You pay them every month to help you and in the end... Don't you work with insurance companies?
— We're a pretty modest garage, sir.
— Even so, they recommended them to me: they say they do a good job and at a low cost.

That was true: they had been running the garage for some time, and had done a lot of repair and towing work. Without realizing it, they had made a reputation for themselves: not one that was too popular to attract attention, but one that made a little more money.

— Here in Gatalina Valley they’re usually a bit expensive... and at this moment I’m not in a position to spend too much.
— Don't worry about that: we can give you an affordable quote and your car will be good as new in... a week or two. What do you think?
— Wonderful, you're a good boy, Jake...

Then the look of the man with the gray fur became more open, as if he had a wonderful vision. The young mechanic realized why... I know who this man is.

— Jake... Clawson, right? Is that you? -he looked at him again: every faction, the tone of his fur, his posture: it was him- It's you, long time no see! -Jake ended up getting a hug from the subject; he didn't deny it. He was very sincere- Don't you remember me? I'm your uncle, Dan Gueyrod.

Of course he remembered it, and no, it wasn't really his uncle: that was a pet name. Mr. Gueyrod was a neighborhood acquaintance and a very close friend of his father's since kindergarten. He had been quite nice to Jake as a child, and he remembered him well, except for two things: first, that his son Tod was a mess; he could never get along with him because of his... "eccentric personality.”

The second was that it was Mr. Gueyrod who discovered his father's body lying in the room of his old house and had given the news.
The universe is conspiring against me today, Jake thought. CRUD!

— Yes, I remember, sir.
— I haven't seen you since...
— My father's funeral.
— Ehm... yes. -quickly changed the theme- How much you have grown! Although you’re still as thin as ever.
— It must be my metabolism. -he answered without giving it any importance- How is everything here? How is your son?
— He moved to Canada: he said he "wanted to live in a country with more freedom". -he laughed with sarcasm- You can imagine what kind of "freedoms" he was looking for. -he made a gesture to inhale a cigarette- Anyway, tell me, what has become of your life? If you're the Jake, Chance is...
— Furlong, yes. He's my partner in the garage.
— I'm glad you've been able to keep in contact. You're still friends, right? I remember that you got along very well as children.
— Yes, we still are. -although he wanted to leave soon, he got curious- Do you know anything about Mrs. Krucible?

Mrs. Krucible was a very respectable old lady at the time Jake was a child: she used to support all the fundraisers for the underprivileged, school activities, etc... And her tuna cakes were well known; besides, she was his next-door neighbor. She had become good friends with her mother, and when they left her house, they went to her first. They hadn't heard from her since.

Mr. Gueyrod's expression did not bode well.

— Oh, Jake. I'm sorry to tell you that she passed away five years ago: she was too old, and she hardly went out much. Now there is another family living in her house.
— It's a shame. -Jake said very honestly. If there was anyone she would want to meet again in that place, it was her- But I guess I should have figured it out.
— Hey, next time try to come more often, huh? I don't want to have to destroy my car just so you can stop by for a visit.
— I'll try. I promise to bring the car to you as soon as possible.

He turned around to couple the car to the tow truck; greeted Mr. Gueyrod as if to say goodbye and started the engine. Before leaving, the man approached the window; he was very distressed.

— Your father... your father loved you very much, Jake. He loved you both.
— …
— Don't think that I defend what he did to you and your mother: that is unjustifiable, and I know that you suffered a lot. -he paused to take a breath- But... he suffered a lot too.
— Nobody knows that.
— I do: I know him from kindergarten. -he answered firmly, sounding so convinced that discussing it would be useless- I could see him in those thirty days of agony before... That wasn't my old friend: I wanted to talk to you and your mother about it after the funeral, but she wouldn't let me come near you.
Maybe it was for the best.
— I still want to talk about it with you, but it's up to you. Anyway; I don't want to bother you too much with this: you have to go to work.
— I'll have it ready as soon as I can. See you later, Mr. Gueyrod.
— See you soon, Jake. Think about what I said, okay?

He received no response, other than the sound of the engine and the crane driving away with his wrecked vehicle. His eyes were fixed on the transport his best friend's son was driving, thinking about how much he had suffered all these years.

All Jake could think about was the steering wheel and going home: remembering those things, those people, talking about his father again. He was fighting back tears that wanted to flow after thinking about that damn sunny day at the local cemetery with neighbors, acquaintances and classmates grouped around the casket: some expressing their sincere condolences, others muttering to each other. Damn gossipy neighbors.

There were his teacher, his classmates, Chance and his family, Mr. Gueyrod and his son trying to behave and Mrs. Krucible at his mother's side. He was alone: he didn't want to be next to anyone, not at that moment. He had left the group, seeking loneliness: it did not last him, as Chance came to talk to him. At first he didn't say anything, then he exploded and demanded that he leave; his friend said no, that he wouldn't leave him. In the end little Jake ended up falling to his knees, and crying inconsolably; his friend would give him a few pats and words of encouragement until his mother came looking for him to return to the ceremony.

With adults you couldn't argue; not if you are a child. He was forced to remain there, quiet and well-behaved against his will. Not only had his father died, but every positive image of him.

You made many good people shed tears for you; tears that you did not deserve. After much effort, the battle against his own tears had ended in victory for him. Never again... Never again will I cry for you. Then he thought about what his "Uncle Dan" had said. If you really loved us, why did you do this to us? Why?

He was so immersed in his thoughts that he barely noticed a bump on the hood of his crane truck, causing him to slow down abruptly from surprise and to be little more than a bump on the steering wheel. When he came to, he saw what appeared to be a raccoon on his vehicle: silver-grey fur, a ringed tail and slightly larger than usual. The animal looked at him for a few seconds, then turned around and stood at the edge of the hood: something had caught his attention by producing a noise.

Jake got out of the truck to find out the source of the noise. He was paralyzed when he saw a boy with gray tabby fur in blue shorts and a green T-shirt lying on the ground: he was just a few feet from being run over. If he hadn't been distracted... He immediately went to help him.

— Kid, are you okay? -he checked if he had any wound; when he saw that it was not so, he helped him to get up- Sorry.
— I am well, sir. Thank you; I just... got scared.
— I would tell you to look before crossing, but the truth was my fault for being distracted.
— Oh, boy... -said the kid; he sounded incredulous but happy- An adult who says he was wrong: you don't see that every day.
— Hahaha... I'm not that old... yet.
— It seems so. Thanks!

The boy said goodbye and went back on his way, possibly going to play with his friends or go explore the neighborhood; Jake didn't ask him, although it was most likely. He heard footsteps approaching, but dismissed them as being a neighbor walking.

— Well, well... Who would have thought that I would end up meeting one of my favorite ex-soldiers.
I know that voice... -he turned to see who it was- You must be kidding...

Of all the places in Megakat where they could cross, I did not expect to meet the Commander Feral here. Although he thought with relief that Chance would not have to deal with him there and now -his friend would not hesitate to give him the punch he so desired to be face to face right there- he cursed his own luck. It's official: today the universe hates me; all that's left is for a pigeon to poop on my head. He took a deep breath.

— Commander Feral... -he tried to sound as calm as possible- How is everything going?
— I was enjoying a walk around the neighborhood before returning to my brother's house, when I came across your failed attempted manslaughter, Clawson.
As charming as ever. Do you need to be in that ass mood like air to breathe? Luckily, nothing bad happened, and the boy is fine, as you will have seen. I didn't know his brother lived here.
— I usually visit him once a week to relax, and today all the more reason to clear my mind of the meddling Swat Kats and their cruded mistakes.
Scratched disk...
— And what you’re doing here, Clawson?
— I came for a job. -he pointed to the wrecked car attached to his crane- We work in a garage in the Salvage Yard. -at least that could be held against him- Your idea, Feral.
— I suppose you also took the opportunity to satisfy your nostalgia, didn't you?
— Huh? -How did you know he lived there? Ah, of course: as a former Enforcer, I'm sure Feral had his file, where he lived and studied- No, not at all: I'm leaving soon.
— It will be better: you don't want to disappear again.
— What are you talking about?

Feral gave him a look full of disbelief; as if he had suddenly become a freak before his eyes. And what did Feral's grumbler mean? Disappear?

— I should have known you'd cause me trouble when you joined the Enforcers, especially your little friend Furlong. You were good, you had potential: I gave you the opportunity, even with your rebellious background. But it became clear that you would always be a rebellious little boy.
— What are you talking about, Feral? I never disappeared or ran away from home in my whole life.
He’s kidding? -Feral thought; his tone changed from stern to more... hesitant- Don't... don't you remember?
— Remember what?
— Forget it, Clawson. -Feral gave up on the subject, chose to resume his walk- Get out of here and get on with your work. That's an order.

An order? Who did Feral think he was? They may have been forced to work at the Salvage Yard, but they were no longer his soldiers. Even the garage wasn't necessary, considering what Callie had told them some time before about they alleged "debt to society”. Bloody sadist.
When he turned to return to the crane truck, he discovered that the raccoon was still leaning on the hood: the little animal looked him in the eyes, tilted its head slightly to the left and returned it to its normal position: its eyes, small and black, shone with an unusual sign of curiosity... and with a weak bluish tone. Jake had never seen a raccoon behave like this: so... smart.

— Shu, shu...
— …
— Please leave: the hood is not the best place for a ride, and I must return home.
— …
— That's crazy; I'm talking to a raccoon. -as soon as he finished his sentence, the raccoon jumped up and left, heading across the street, hiding in the bushes- What a weird animal.

He got into the tow truck and started the vehicle again: just before stepping on the throttle, Jake's eyes were like plates when he realized where he had parked: Across the street, and a few yards from the corner, on his right, was an old Victorian-style house with two floors and an attic, cream-colored walls, a slate-grey roof, large windows, a large brown entrance door on the right side, a porch surrounded by thin carved wooden columns, a conical-roofed turret on the right side, and on the side, a flagpole with the American flag flying timidly. To one side was a garage with two cars parked in front; the house was fenced with a wrought iron fence; there was a large tree in front on the sidewalk, another behind the house and a smaller one on the right side.
Spoiler:
Image
He had changed almost nothing in fifteen years: it was his old house.

Time to go, Jake thought. He stepped on the accelerator and said goodbye to Gatalina Valley. With any luck, it would be forever.
Last edited by EditorElohim on Sat Sep 26, 2020 9:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Swat Kats and the Mysterious Door (Crossover with Coraline)

Post by EditorElohim » Thu Sep 24, 2020 2:48 pm

__________________________________________________________________________________________


The green sedan remained outside under the intense summer sun without having concluded its revision; the pile of garbage was still not completely classified, but nobody paid attention to them. Reluctantly, and only because the deputy mayor wanted to know the truth, Chance had her come in from the garage to explain it better.

While looking for something in the refrigerator to offer her, Callie took her first look at the place: she had never been in there long enough to pay attention to it, and she felt a little uneasy sitting on that couch. A cement floor, sideboards full of tools, worn-out second-hand furniture, an old TV, faded carpet, some grease stains on the wall and the occasional sign of clutter, were clear signs that she was in the two-man house and that the female presence was almost non-existent. He even slightly frowned at the sight of a calendar with pictures of girls in bikinis: it was very common in auto repair shops, he knew, although fortunately this one was less provocative than the others. Her eyes ended up on something perched on a sideboard on the left side of the place where they were watching TV, which made her smile with a warmth that made her see that her mechanic friends had their sensitive side, especially Chance, who from what she knew, was the typical big and gentle subject with quite evident masculine pride.

— Chance...
— Yes, Callie?
— Tell me... Do you like Swat Kats?
— What? -that question took him by surprise. He had to calm down before committing something foolish- Eh, yeah... -he answered with indifference- They’re good guys.
— Which one is your favorite?
— Ehm... Well... T-Bone, I guess. -how hard it was not to laugh at him praising himself, he thought- I like his style.
— I understand. I like them both.
— Tell me, do you want milk or something else?
— Water will be fine. It's a very warm day.

The mechanic returned immediately with a glass of cold water for her and a can of milk for him. He sat down next to her on the couch without getting too close to make her feel uncomfortable and went straight to the point.

— It started fifteen years ago. His dad was taking over the mechanical parts business his father had entrusted to him, Jake's grandfather. At first, everything was going well: they were making enough money to support themselves and that big house. They even rented a pizza shop for Jake's seventh birthday.
— I guess you went.
— Guest of honor, of course. -he laughed after drinking his milk- All the pizza and cake you could eat. How could you resist? -then he stopped laughing- But then things started to get worse: the business was losing sales, employees were quitting, and Mr. Clawson was getting nervous about not being able to solve his financial problems. -he paused briefly and looked at the TV, which was turned off- You know what happens when someone feels this insecure.

Callie could get an idea. Poor Jake...

— At first it was discussions, then verbal fights and then it came to blows. Mostly at night, when Jake was already in his bed, he would hear everything.
— And his mother didn't report him?
— No, and I think it was out of embarrassment or because she was still hoping things would get better.
— But from what you told me, they didn't.
— That's right: overnight, he became more violent, more... eccentric. -after he finished his milk, he crushed the can- He started screaming and hitting Jake: he was acting like a crazy person.
— Holy Kats... And how long were they like that?
— Two months. -he said, Callie couldn't believe it- Finally, Mrs. Clawson and Jake left the house and went to a neighbor, got a restraining order, and moved downtown. A month after that, Mr. Clawson shot himself in the head inside his house: a friend of his found him shortly after he shot himself. It seems he talked to him on the phone before...
— My God... Really, Jake suffered a lot.
— After that, he suffered from many nightmares. He had to go to the psychologist and... -suddenly, he began to have a surprisingly sharp pain in his head- Aghh... Crud.
— You’re okay?
— Yeah... Don't worry. It's all right.
— But there is something I don't understand: Why didn't his father look for them after they abandoned him? -Callie knew of many cases like that after reading a lot of Enforcers files- Usually that's what abusive parents do: they literally seek to hold their family hostage.
— Jake's father was already... “strange” before he changed his attitude. He was a good guy, a good father... until he had that change. Jake never forgave him: he's hated him since the funeral.
— What do you mean he was “strange”?

Chance bit his lower lip; bringing back that particular memory was difficult.

— I was in third grade when I went to visit Jake at his house to play with him; his father welcomed me: despite his attempt to smile nicely, he looked very depressed. He let me into Jake's room without any problems. When I told him about his dad's strange attitude, he said it was normal for him to act this way on his birthday.
— Was it his father's birthday?
— Yes, I was surprised, too. I asked if they were going out and he said no; that they would spend as usual at his house alone. -he paused briefly before continuing and looked her in the eyes- Callie, this guy didn't celebrate his birthday or let anyone do anything special to him. It was as if that day was the saddest day of the year for him.
— It didn't make any sense.
— No, it doesn't. -he sighed- Anyway: that's the story of Jake's father. I'd appreciate it if you didn't tell him I told it to you, or he'll tell me to go to heck. He doesn't like to share these things.
— Don't worry, I won't. But Chance, you...

The garage's phone started ringing, and Chance had to leave to attend: since there was no one else but him until Jake returned, he had to take care of any potential work.

— I don't think your car will be ready today, Callie. -said the mechanic- Not if the drivers of Megakat are still having problems.
— Don't worry: I don't work until Monday. I can handle myself well in a cab or bus.
— Jake and Chance's Garage. How can we help you?
Chancey?
— Huh? Mom? H… How are you doing?

Callie raised her ears when she heard the mechanic mention his mother. She hated being a gossip like her high school friends, but... Something told her that call was anything but welcome.

"I'm very well, and you?"
— Working, as usual. To what do I owe your call?
"Sorry to interrupt you, but I wanted to let you know that we were going to have a little family reunion next week..."
— Uh-huh...
"Where we will meet Zack's new fiancée..."
— Uh-huh...
"And we would like you to join us."
— Uh-huh...
"You’re planning to come, Chancey?"
— I'll be busy. -not that I was lying technically: I never knew if I'd have a job or not in the garage- I don't think I can; maybe another day.
"You don't want to go, do you?"
— Mom...
"Why don't you want to come? We hardly see each other throughout the year."
— We have Thanksgiving and Christmas. -he replied in a cold, almost mechanical way- And there is still time for that.
"Chancey, please. We miss you."
— Nothing stops you from coming to visit me: I'm not in a nuclear waste treatment plant. You know that.
"It's just that..."
— Dad is still ashamed of me for getting kicked out of the Enforcers. See? I read minds.
"Not true: we think it was a mistake on Feral's part to punish them like that."
And why didn't they say ANYTHING? -no; he would keep that to himself- Aha... I believe them. -It was everything but the truth-
"Speaking of which, is Jake okay? The anniversary of his father's death is coming up."
— He's fine. I'm making sure of that.
"I'm glad about that. Aren't you going to come, Chancey?" -his mother insisted again- "It would be very important for your brother to be there."
That's a big lie and you know it. -that was NOT going to be left alone- If it's so important to Zack, why doesn't he call me and ask? Or better yet, why doesn't he come here in person to see me? Sure, like my older brothers really care about me.
"Chancey..."
— Tell him I'll wait for his call... or his fourth attempt at a wife. Goodbye. -hung up-

After hanging up the phone, he felt bad about answering his mother like that; he had never done it before. But hearing about his brother "wanting to see him" broke his patience. Who did she think she was fooling? He had twin brothers for twenty-five years, and they hardly took him into account; moreover, they considered him almost a burden or a parasite. It was the misfortune of being the younger brother, and seven years apart.

His mother knew it: she was not absent-minded.

He became so engrossed in the discussion on the phone that he completely forgot that Callie was just a few feet away, hearing how he had raised his voice and responded to his mother. He had never felt so sorry in his entire life.

— I'm sorry, Callie. You... shouldn't have heard that.
— Neither of us has an easy family, right?
— Families are never easy. They would only be if we could choose them.
— Chance... Why are you still here? You know the city already paid for the damage they caused to the Enforcer Headquarters; I told them so myself.
— That's not up to us, it's up to that poor bastard of Feral. -He leaned against the wall, crossed his arms- He doesn't care if they pay for his stupid building, but he cares about punishing us for disobeying him and proving him wrong.
— Sounds like very capricious and... childish behavior.
— You're wrong, Callie: it's adult behavior. An adult with power who refuses to acknowledge that he made a mistake.
— Maybe if I talked to him...
— Leave it at that: you better not get in trouble for us. Or us for you. -he thought; that made him feel dirty and selfish, and even worse because it was true-
— Fine. -she replied with regret, then picked up on the question she was going to ask earlier- Tell me, don't you think you're, I don't know, a little overprotective of Jake?
— What?
— I mean, the way you tried to prevent him from going to his old neighborhood at all costs, or the hesitation you showed in telling me.
— I know Jake: I saw everything he went through up close, and for his own good, I think it's best to try to keep him away from a place that brings back bad memories.
— He's an adult now: he can decide that. I doubt that his other friends will act that way.
— Who? -he asked with bitter irony- We’re alone, Callie: all the friends we could have had in the Enforcers turned their backs on us.
— What about your friends in elementary school? Or in high school?
— We lost touch with them years ago: that's what happens when you change schools and move across town. We kept some of them for a while, but as soon as they heard about our "accident", they vanished. -He sighed half-heartedly- There are only two of us left: a few outcasts.
— I’m very sorry. -she apologized: she didn't expect her mechanic friends, whom she saw as so happy and carefree, to have such a... sad and lonely story. She was beginning to feel uncomfortable- I didn't know anything about...
— Don't worry: it's not your fault. -He said with a conciliatory smile- These things happen.
— Maybe I should go, so I can let them work. Could you call me a cab, please?

He didn't even bother to insist that she stay, even though she wanted to; he phoned for a cab for Callie and accompanied her to the exit of the Salvage Yard. Even that made him feels like trash: part of him wanted her to leave, not to worry so much about the two of them. What if she ended up defending them to Feral? He might ask himself why so much interest in those two unhappy outcast mechanics, and... if he thought about it too much, make an analogy to the defense that the Deputy Mayor made with the Swat Kats. Too much paranoia perhaps, but when you had a secret to keep, you couldn't let your guard down.

Life sucks.

— I'm sorry I caused them so much trouble; especially you.
— You didn't cause any trouble, Callie. We just... had a bad day: that's all. I'd even say you're the best thing that's happened to us since we got here. Heck, why did I say that?
— Really?
— I sure did. You already said it; no way, Chance. You care about us, you visit us, you do the hardest work in the world...
— I don't think so; Mayor Manx works very hard for the city.

Neither of them could hold back the laughter: it was very funny, almost hilarious, to think of Mayor Manx doing more than play golf or take care of his wig... and his tail when it suited him. That brief moment relaxed the previous tension, relaxing both of them.

— That was a good one, Callie. "Manx working hard".
— Do you know how hard it is to try not to laugh or get angry at the things Manx says or does? -She smiled- Yeah, maybe you're right: I get the hardest job in the world.

They were at the entrance of the the Salvage Yard when the cab finished arriving; Callie got into the car, but asked to wait a moment more before leaving.

— You know, you're good people; I wanted you to know that.
— Thank you. You’re too, Callie.
— Things are going to get better; I'm sure they will. Hey: I was thinking, wouldn't you like to go for coffee sometime?
— A coffee?
— A girl inviting a guy? -complained the cab driver- What a crazy world today.
— You, me and Jake. To go out as friends: I know a café that serves delicious cupcakes.
— Ohhh, what a great date...
— Hey, do you get paid for driving or for meddling in things you don't care about? -Chance grumbled before talking to Callie again- I would have to talk to him about it, but yes: we would. Next Saturday maybe?
— Sounds good to me. And you'll have my car to...?
— Monday, or Tuesday to be sure.
— Hey, lady. You want me to put your conversation with your boyfriend on your tab?
— Didn't I tell you to shut up?
— I better go before I get charged for breathing. Bye, Chance; say hi to Jake for me.
— Uff... Can we go now?
— YES!!

He watched the cab drive away for a while before entering the Salvage Yard again and without anyone noticing, take a leap accompanied by a roar of victory: even after the visit of Burke and Murray, the escape of the Metallikats, those odious rats, the insufferable Feral, talking about Jake's past and the call from his mother, Callie Briggs had the ability to make the sun continue to shine despite the constant clouds. If that wasn't a superpower, besides supporting Manx and being the de facto mayor, all at once, then what was it?

He walked back to the garage, already much livelier, and returned to his work.



__________________________________________________________________________________________




With one hour to close, the sun was beginning its slow march towards the horizon, and Jake had just arrived at the Salvage Yard: he carefully left Mr. Gueyrod's car in the garage, next to Callie Briggs' car. That got his attention, and he mentioned it to his partner, who was already putting his tools away.

— I couldn't finish reviewing it; I'll finish it by Tuesday at the latest.
— You didn't even finish reclassifying all the trash that Dumb and Dumbess brought in. What were you two doing? -Jake swallowed spittle- Didn't...?
— Please, Jake: don't be a crud pervert! -Laugh the blond mechanic- We were just talking. -by the time his partner was more relaxed, he added- Besides, if anything happened, I'd tell you.
— Chance!
— Hahaha! You asked for it! I love making you angry with that joke. Relax, man: you know I'm joking. Help me close the garage and get ready for the night. How did it go in our old neighborhood, by the way?
— Well... it didn't really change much.

Jake thought a lot about what he would end up saying to him as he helped close the garage. He mentioned the few changes at the school and the Ocelote Plaza, and even the incident with the boy, but he kept Feral's to himself... for now. He then pointed to the car in the garage.

— It is from Mr. Gueyrod.
— That name sounds familiar...
— He was a friend of my father.
— Oh... -the "O" in Chance's mouth said it all: that same guy had discovered Mr. Clawson's body- Yes, I remember.
— And he told me that Mrs. Krucible passed away five years ago.
— Did she? What a shame: she was a lovely old lady who made delicious cakes. Not like that grumpy lady who has car trouble every week.
— To be fair, we stood her up most of the day once, remember?
— Oh, is true. Well, let's get this over with. As the saying goes, when the garage closes for the day...
— Swat Kats go out at night.
— Yeah... -Chance nodded as he walked to the back of the workshop- Al and Peggy-bot won't escape our paws again.
— Sure, bud... Huh?

Out of the corner of his eye, Jake saw -or thought he saw- something on a sideboard. How long have they had that there? As he turned to look at it better, that something was gone.

— Ehm... Chance?
— Tell me, partner.
— Do you know anyone who has made Swat Kats toys?
— What? No! -he heard it in the distance, raising his voice- Did you see one?
— I think I did.
— Crud it! They make merchandise with us and we don't get our royalties!
— Sure, man. -Jake slapped his temples- And who will the check be made out to?
— Right, you're right. Heck... Well, enough chitchat! The Swat Kats must be finding some dangerous criminals! And... if there's any time left, see "Independence Day".

Jake chose to play along with Chance and go down to the hangar to prepare to search for the Metallikats... and then enjoy what was left of their Saturday, which, in the main, turned out to be worse than he expected. But he kept thinking about what he had seen: he swore and perjured himself that he had seen a T-Bone doll made of rag. Had it been real?



__________________________________________________________________________________________



It was a splendid night, with a clear sky and a full moon, and without the suffocating heat of the day, although the light pollution prevented us from seeing all the stars. It was also extremely quiet, with little or no criminal reports on radio stations: normally this would be excellent news for the Swat Kats, but for the Turbokat pilot it was terribly frustrating not to find the criminals who had humiliated him that morning. Razor knew his partner well enough to know that his pride had been hurt and it would be difficult to remedy.

The only tension that night was T-Bone's anxiety.

— It seems to be a quiet night... too much for Megakat.
— Too calm for me. -grumbled the pilot- Where the heck are those two idiots?! They're supposed to be criminals: let them do criminal things, crud it!
— You should relax: you’re literally screaming for them to assault, rob and kill just so you can catch them.
— Sorry, but... How are we supposed to find them? We don't know where they live, and Professor Hackle can't trace them.
— They may not even stay in Megakat: they took a lot of money.
— Aha... And they won't want more: how naive, Razor. Any brilliant idea of WHERE they might be?
— Ehm... I don't know: Las Vegas?
— Bah, forget it.

There was no case: neither T-Bone was cooperating to calm down nor were there any clues or even the slightest hint of finding the Metallikats. He had joked about the Las Vegas thing, but if they weren't in the city causing trouble, where could they be? In an attempt to break the tension he asked him about what they had discussed with Callie, hoping it would help him relax.
How wrong he was...

— Mmm... Of... things. -He paused; there was no point in hiding it- My mom called.
— Oh... -now it was Razor's mouth that was drawing an "O" expressing everything with that syllable- And what does it say?
— Nothing... She sends her greetings.
— I doubt that she called just because of that.
— Pfff... She called to invite me to a family meeting to meet Zack's third fiancée.
— Third? I thought it was his second. And you're going?
— Of course not. -he spat, as if spitting out a fat hairball from his throat- The last thing I need is another meeting where my brothers will show off their "success in life" and rub my face in what a failure I am.
— Whatever happened to "it's your family" and "keeping in touch"?
— It went down the drain this afternoon as it reminded me how cruddy life is, Razor.
— You won't even do it to see your nephews?

“You had to bring them out in the discussion; you're a evil, Razor”, thought T-Bone. Yes, he had nephews from his brother Tom, who unlike his twin, was not a disaster when looking for a couple: he was a disaster as an older brother and an unscrupulous lawyer. But at least he managed to form a stable family. His nephews, four-year-old Ben, and two-year-old Jonas, were the only thing that brought him any joy at those sour and soporific family meetings. At least they hadn't inherited their father's bad attitude... and their mother, who wasn't a good sister-in-law either, looking down on him at every opportunity.

For Ben and Jonas, Uncle Chance was a big boy who could play with everything and take walks while his parents talked to adults about adult things: that "babysitting" treatment of his nephews didn't bother Chance at all; on the contrary, he loved them deeply. If his job as a mechanic allowed it, he would buy them a present for their birthday, spend some time with them and then go home. No: not even his nephews' birthday could be attended without the derogatory look of his sister-in-law... or his own brother.

— I'll think about it, Razor. -he just said- I'll think about it.
— Ehm... T-Bone.
— What happens now... -he sounded jaded, but he watched his tone-
— Remember I said I almost hit a kid?
— Yeah... I hope you'll be more careful next time; there's a reason I'm flying the Turbokat.
— I met Feral shortly after.
— What? And what the heck was he doing there?

Razor explained it to him, with all the details about his brother living there. And that his attitude had not changed at all.

— If I had been you, I would have punched him in the mouth.
— So it's a relief that it wasn't you, T-Bone. -He one just moaned- Tell me, did I... did I ever... run away from home?
— WHAT?
— Feral... said I once disappeared.

He didn't know why, but as soon as he heard that answer, he felt an uncomfortable pain in his head, like a continuous prick or bump that caused a headache. Fortunately, the effect was brief, and he kept the Turbokat steady, but his partner noticed.

— You’re okay?
— Just... it was a little headache. Too many things made me angry today.
— Ah...
— You were always a good kid, Razor. Unlike me. -he smiled with a certain malice at the thought of his childhood- I didn't miss the chance to do some mischief. -the smile vanished at that moment- You never ran away from home, not even when you had real reasons to do so.
— …
— Take my advice, buddy: don't listen to Feral. He's a bastard who'll make up anything stupid just because he hates us: let's be Razor and T-Bone, or Jake and Chance.
— I guess you're right. -He sighed and kept quiet before taking up the word again- You're not a loser, Chance: I'm just reminding you.
— Thanks, buddy.

Another hour passed without any sign of the Metallikats or any other active criminals; there were also no calls from Miss Briggs, so they decided to return to the hangar, enjoy what was left of Saturday, and resume the search tomorrow.

There would be no action that night for the Swat Kats.



__________________________________________________________________________________________



— I had a great time. -said the boy before saying goodbye- The dinner was delicious.
— I'm glad you liked it, Max. Did you have fun with your dad?
— Oh, yes: the garden is much more interesting with those new games.
— All to make you happy, champ.
— Can I come over tomorrow too? -asked the little gray-haired boy- I know it's Sunday, but...
— Of course, honey. -said the woman- You can come as often as you like: we’re here for you.
— We just want you to be happy.
— What's more, if you come tomorrow, I'll probably have a surprise for you for being so good.
— A surprise? Really? Then I'll come tomorrow: I promise!

Max opened the door where he arrived and entered the hallway, not before saying goodbye to them, who answered him from the other doorway with a "Come back soon". He returned to his house, specifically to the living room, which was empty and the lights were off. He saw a string of light coming out of the kitchen doorway. There was his mother, sitting at the table with a cup of coffee on her paw.

— I thought you were asleep.
— I was... playing. Where's Dad?
— He went out. -she answered and drank her coffee- I don't know what time he's coming.
— Well... I'm going to sleep.
— Max... -said his mother before she left the kitchen- Is everything all right? Anything you want to talk about?
— No. Nothing, mom.
— You’re sure? You just went out this summer to play with your friends.
— I went out today. -he said, jaded, without showing much. The last thing I wanted to do was have a conversation with his mother at that hour- And there's not much to do.
— I understand. Better go to sleep: it's getting late.

Max left the kitchen and happily walked up the stairs to his room, looking forward to tomorrow to find out what surprise his "Other Mother" had in store for him.



__________________________________________________________________________________________


With the city seemingly calm - for better or worse - Jake and Chance had the night to rest, and both felt they needed it more than ever after a day of unpleasant encounters. Unlike the night before, they opted to order their meals from home: when the delivery man arrived, they left him a sizeable tip when considering the long drive he had to make to bring two family-size pizzas and six cans of milk.

— Funny; I would have expected you to order beer instead of milk.
— Why? -asked a confused Chance-
— I'm just saying: after the lousy mood you were in all day, I was hoping for something like "let's get drunk and forget this cruddy day" or something like that.
— Nah... It wasn't that bad. Besides, tomorrow is Sunday, and you know what that means.
— Obstacles track?
— Exactly! Megakat won't be quiet forever, and we can't afford to be careless. -he settled down on the couch- But now, let's forget about all the bad stuff. Put the movie on: I want to see spaceships and things exploding!

The movie began to play while they were eating their dinner: time passed and all the tension of the day faded away. Half an hour later, Jake asked me to put the movie on pause to go to the bathroom.

— Oh, by the way. I almost forgot: Callie invited us over for coffee next week.
— Really? Both of us? I thought you would have preferred a date with her.
— She had the idea, and I agreed: a date as friends. I told her I'd check with you. What do you say?
— Sounds good... I like the idea, as long as no idiot attacks Megakat and Callie tries to call the Swat Kats while we're standing next to her.
— Hey, man! Be positive: we can't be that unlucky.
— I guess. I'll be right back.
— Don't be long: I want to see when the ships fire and everything goes to heck.

Chance was left alone in the small living room with the TV on and a table with two half-eaten pizza boxes. Out of boredom while his friend was away, his eyes poked around the room as if staring into space, thinking about whether he would go to the family reunion or not, whether he would tell Jake that Callie already knew about his family, whether they would find the Metallikats soon...

It was then that he saw them -or thought he saw them- standing there on a sideboard on the left side of the sofa among some old books and tools, with big white eyes, looking at the couch, as if observing them carefully. As he had barely seen them out of the corner of his eye and then turned around until he realized their presence, he got up from the sofa and went to the sideboard. He did not find them.

— What's up, Chance?
— Huh? -he turned back: it was Jake, looking at him strangely- I thought I saw... something.
— Like what?
— I think... a rat. Nah, it must have been just a shadow.
— Or maybe it was a rat: this place isn't exactly the cleanest. Anyway, shall we go back to the film?
— Sure!

They went back to the couch, finished their movie with their dinner and then went to sleep. The next day they would have a lot to do: training to do, villains to defeat, cars to repair...

Sleeping, however, was not entirely easy for both of them: each had his own problems in mind related to his family. And for his part, Chance couldn't get his mind off the fact that he was being watched by a pair of white eyes before going to sleep.
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Re: The Swat Kats and the Mysterious Door (Crossover with Coraline)

Post by EditorElohim » Thu Oct 15, 2020 12:41 pm

Good morning, afternoon or evening; after some time away, and after recovering from the "fashionable illness", I move on to update the story.

I hope you like it:


Chapter 3: Rain.


He woke up like any other Sunday: he saw the clock on his bedside table striking five in the morning. When he got out of bed, however, he noticed a peculiar silence: looking at the top bunk, he found it completely empty and tidy. Where was Jake? Did he wake up before me? Chance wondered.

Believing that he would be ready to sign up for the obstacle track downstairs, he put on a tank top, went to wash his face and went downstairs. There was no sign of Jake in the living room, workshop or kitchen. At that moment, he heard a very familiar sound coming from downstairs: the hangar door, followed by the engines of an airplane. Had Jake gone out to fly the Turbokat? Although he was the most experienced pilot, his partner was competent enough to fly his jet. The question was, why did he do it alone and at this hour? He hurried down the secret stairs leading to the subway hangar: it wasn't that he was angry about Jake taking the Turbokat just like that, or about his overprotection of the plane. It was more a matter of concern as to what drove him to do what he did. Had an emergency occurred while they were asleep and only Jake came to the rescue?

Something isn't right at all.

When he set foot in the hangar, and saw the plane, he had to hold back a scream so as not to draw attention to himself and hide somewhere. He knew that jet, and the one he was watching was not his own: almost completely black, with few touches of blue, and that horrible green gremlin head on his nose. He was about to say something when the cabin opened, letting its occupants jump out: one of them was carrying something on one paw the size of a ball wrapped in a sack.

No, they don't! Impossible!

— Good hunting, partner.
— Yeah... -the other one was laughing; he sounded disturbingly pleased with himself- Three office towers, two apartment blocks, two elevated stretches of highway...
— And the Enforcers' Headquarters as the ultimate prize! -T-Bone laughed like a madman, followed by Razor- Too bad you didn't manage to destroy that crud in time before you got out of there!
What the heck did these crazy guys do? -thought Chance- I've got to get out of here.
— How much do you think it will cost to repair that eyesore?
— I don't know... -opening the bag- Let's ask Feral, shall we?

Again, Chance had to suppress another scream -even covering his mouth with both paws was difficult for him- when he saw what that T-Bone had hanging from his right fist by a few hairs. Commander Feral's head, severed from the base of his neck, and with an expression of terror engraved on it after his death, was still dripping blood on the concrete floor. Both Swat Kats laughed like psychopaths as they mocked that head.

— Tell us, Commander, how much money do we owe the Enforcers?
— Come on, Feral. -Razor scoffed- Did they get your tongue?
— No. -replied T-Bone, stretching his tongue out of the commander's mouth- It's still here, hehe...
— It seems that he is not as talkative as when he asked you to let him go.
— Oh, I remember the look on his face when he found out what we were going to do to him... I enjoyed every crudding second!
— And let's not even talk about his stupid niece! She was stunned!
— She'll be next. -He threw Razor's head as if it were a ball- Put it over there: we'll see where we can put our new trophy.
These guys are more insane than I thought. - Chance thought, really scared- Where the heck is Jake? We've got to get out of here before...

In his attempt to "subtly" climb the ladder that led to the workshop above, he caused a group of oil cans to fall to the ground, producing so much noise that he gave away his location to his evil counterparts, who immediately pointed their Glovatrix at him.

— Look: it's your Boy Scout version! -grumbled Razor- The bastard was spying on us!
— Forget the stupid Felina: I just saw my new trophy.
— I'm out of here!
— Don't run away, you coward! Razor, don't kill him: I'll rip his head off myself!

Chance rushed upstairs like a devil's advocate and left the garage shortly before it exploded: his counterparts had fired explosives at the building. What were those madmen thinking? Unarmed, alone and barely protected, he was forced to sneak through the mountains of debris and think of a way to get out of the Salvage Yard without being seen. He could hear the two Swat Kats giving each other directions to find him.

Something was definitely not right. Was that his world or the parallel universe where he and Jake ended up months ago? Why were these evil Swat Kats so different from the others? They looked the same, yes, but the ones they met got along terribly, to the point that he and Jake wondered on several occasions how the heck they managed to team up and work for Dark Kat. Furthermore, how did Dark Kat come up with the idea of recruiting those two? The ones he now had on his heels and at the tip of his tail worked better as a team -I could even say they were friends- and worse: they were wilder, more psychopathic and dangerous than the ones he remembered.

Where the HECK is Jake?

He stopped in front of a pile of boneless cars ready to recycle for some air: he was panting from the chase and the heat. The only thing on his mind, apart from the whereabouts of his friend, was to run away.

— Pss... Chance.
— Huh? Jake?
— Sigh... -the voice, which seemed to come from the garbage heap, moaned before answering- Chance, you have to hide.
— Who are you?
— Shh... Speak lower.

That was definitely not Jake: that voice was too high-pitched, almost childish. What was a child doing hiding in the Salvage Yard at that early hour? And even more so with those crazy people running around.

Something that caught his attention was that this voice was... familiar to him.

— What are you doing here, kid? It's dangerous!
— Really...
— I'm not kidding: there are some crazy killers on the loose.
— The Evil Swat Kats, I know... -he replied boringly- I'm used to those fools.
— How do you...?!
— Shh... They'll hear you, you idiot. -the voice paused- Listen: there is a green minivan around this corridor: slide the door and go down the entrance.
— What are you talking about?
— I want to help you, Chance! -the voice almost shouted out loud; it managed to keep its tone down- He approaches… -the boy stops suddenly- …
— What's going on?
Shhh... Don't talk to me.
— Who is coming? -Chance asked quietly- Kid?
A spy...

What was that strange child talking about? The Evil Swat Kats were the threat and he was talking about something else. Why didn't he give them the importance they should have? He sounded almost bored when he heard about them. He looked on both sides of the corridor and saw no sign of them: then he looked up and...

Then he saw it, standing there on the chassis of a car on top of a pile of twisted metal, staring at it without moving a muscle. Was it the Evil T-Bone? It had to be, right? Who else could it be? I had the perfect opportunity to attack him with the Glovatrix, kill him and take his trophy. Why didn't I do it and still stand there? It was that he realized that his helmet was not like his evil version, since instead of the green skull he had a red inverted triangle... like his own uniform.

And then there were his eyes... there was something strange about those peculiarly bright, round eyes. They were... they were...

— Chance, don't look him in the eyes!
— Huh? -he asked the boy- What do you say?
— There's the crudding Boy Scout! -Chance turned around and discovered the Evil Razor- T-Bone, go get your trophy!
— Roger!
They don't see the other one...?
— Stop wasting time, Chance, and wake up!
— What? Is this...?
WAKE UP, YOU PIECE OF ANIMAL!


__________________________________________________________________________________________



His awakening was tremendously sudden: he hit his head against the base of the top bunk so hard that he not only ended up screaming in pain and with a bump on his head, but he ended up suddenly waking up Jake, who literally felt a jolt similar to a small earthquake.

— Chance!! What the heck is wrong with you?! Why are you making so much noise?!
— I hit my head, genius! -caressing the bump- Agh...! I'm gonna need some ice.
— What made you get up like that? Don't tell me "Independence Day" gave you nightmares.
— Don't be silly, Jake. -He peeked out of the right side of the bunk, looking for something on the floor- It takes something MUCH more brutal than that to scare me.
— Uh-huh... Like some alien Ci-Kat-A, for example. -Chance ignored that comment- And what are you looking for?
— My pillow: I heard it fell.
— You have it behind you.

When he turned around, he confirmed that his friend was right. But if it wasn't the pillow, what was that seemingly soft thing that fell to the floor? As he stood up, he felt a slight shudder through his body, made worse by sweat. Jake felt the same way, and was forced to put on a T-shirt that he had hung on the headboard of his bed.

— Hey... Is it me, or is it a little cold, Chance?
— Did you leave the air conditioning on full blast?
— Chance... -Jake looked at him seriously- We don't have air conditioning.

It was true: their workshop and home did not have an air conditioner because of how expensive it would be to buy one, and because SOMEONE capable of building the best Megakat fighter jet, all sorts of weapons, gadgets and backup vehicles from recycled Enforcers scrap, was not capable of making a crud air conditioner under the excuse of "we have no refrigerant". Why had the temperature dropped significantly?

Now that they weren't talking, you could hear a soft but constant thump on the roof; Jake felt something wet fall on his cheek. Quickly the two friends ran to the window and opened the shutters.

— Is it... Is it raining?

And it was not just any rain, but a real deluge: it was as if all the rain that fell in Megakat in a year -or more- was falling at that very moment, which was very unusual, since summer was the driest season of the year and it was in August, added to the fact that the city had 320 days of sunshine a year, and a rather dry climate. Outside, the curtain of rain was so intense that the city's horizon could barely be seen because of the fog.

— Well... it was quite hot yesterday: usually it is a warning of a big storm. -Jake reasoned- It must be about 18 degrees Celsius or less now.
— But for it to rain this hard? Don't you think it's a Viper thing or something?
— If it was, Callie would be calling us. The only emergency I see right now is the fact that we'll have a hard time reclassifying our remaining trash. And that we can say goodbye to the obstacle track... Unless the training is to get muddy and slippery as heck.
— I'm going to take a look at it. -added Chance, leaving the room- You’re going to make breakfast?
— Sure, "Mr. Furlong”. -Jake joked- What do you want for today?
— Anything eatable, "Jenkins".

Like Jake, he put on his T-shirt and went downstairs, where there were some puddles of water from some leaks in the roof, or from the advance of water from outside; otherwise, everything was normal. He put on a raincoat from the closet and went to investigate the state of the track. The rain was falling uninterruptedly and intensely: walking through it was like passing through a waterfall that splashed your face at all times: the floor of the Salvage Yard, yesterday arid, now was all mud, soiling your boots.

Just as his friend predicted, the obstacle course was a sea of mud that could not be used until the ground dried out completely, and with such a deluge, that would take time; he took one last look at that pond of water in which he almost drowned months ago and turned around. Before returning to the garage, and out of mere curiosity, he took another path: the memories of his dream -rather like a nightmare- were still vivid, and he went through the same path of his dream until he reached the place where his counterparts found him talking... With who?

He followed one of the corridors until he came across a green minivan among the garbage. What did it exist with... Did he mean this one? He opened the sliding door, letting the water splash on it, and looked inside: there was nothing unusual but a metallic skeleton. Satisfied -in part- him curiosity returned to the garage, where Jake was already waiting for him with his raincoat on.

— Well, how about our obstacle track?
— Unless you have a slider, it won't do us much good. -laughed Chance- But we have the gym.
— I guess...
— I was thinking, what if we look for the Metallikats after breakfast?
— Mmm... I'm not so sure: we have work to do and...
— Jake?
— We could look for them later, but I really want to start with Mr. Gueyrod's car, and you have Callie's car. -when Chance didn't seem convinced, Jake patted him on the shoulder- If they cause any trouble, we'll know, and we'll catch them this time: I promise. But remember that besides Swat Kats, we have other responsibilities... -he pointed out Burke and Murray's little pile of junk- like the one that's still there because SOMEONE stayed to flirt with the customers.
— Hehehe... You weren't going to waste it throwing it in my face, were you?
— Nope. Come on, let's go have breakfast.


__________________________________________________________________________________________



After breakfast, simple but appropriate for someone in training, and a short break, they went down to the gym to train with weights and punching bags for two hours; then they returned to their jobs. At no point did it stop raining, or give any indication that it would, so Chance set about finishing up Callie's car, and Jake assessed the damage to Mr. Gueyrod's car to prepare his budget.

Jake was just as eager to go catch the Metallikats as his friend, but he wasn't going to admit it. More than just kindness, he wanted to finish repairing that car as soon as possible so he could return it to its owner and not have to go back to Gatalina Valley in... well, what was left of his nine lives. The car at first glance was a real mess; after a long time of driving around and meticulously checking it out, he deduced that it would take time and effort to repair it completely. New headlights, new bumper, new windshield, totally rebuild the engine and a coat of paint and wax to finish: all this was going to a sheet where the young mechanic of cinnamon coat was writing down everything, fixing the costs, and the necessary materials. Many spare parts would have to be bought.

— Is everything OK? -asked Chance as he looked at his desk in the shop, and then he saw Gueyrod's car- Wow, man. Did the driver really survive that?
— Yes, he did. -He hissed indifferently; it sounded almost as if he wished he hadn't. He leaned back, crossing his arms- This is going to be a little tricky: we're going to have to buy some things.
— Count on me if you need help, buddy. -Jake nodded- I've finished Callie's car. I'm going to finish separating Dumb and Dumber's trash.
— In this rain?
— It's just water: it won't kill me.
— Just be careful... and bring a life preserver.
— Very funny, Jake.

The budget calculation normally followed: it calculated where and how much I would get such a share, and if there was a possibility of lowering the cost of repair. He momentarily left the pencil on the table and looked at the car again: he would definitely need Chance's help to get it ready on time. As he got caught up in his calculations, he began to feel uncomfortable, as if there was someone else there in that workshop. The feeling was so strong that he ended up getting up from his desk because of his nerves.

— Chance, you’re done? -when he looked around the workshop he didn't see anybody- I'm alone; I thought that... -he heard something on the sideboard- Look, buddy: if this is a joke, it's starting to bother me.

There was no one: only him. He went to the room to look out the window, and saw that his partner was still out there with his raincoat, handling the scrap metal to be sorted with gloves. Fortunately, he thought: no Macho Kat for today. There were no prints to indicate that he had recently returned from the outside, so it was just his imagination? He returned to the workshop's desk to finish his budget and start the repairs he could.

The restlessness, however, that feeling of being constantly watched at all times, didn't go away.

— I'm done. -He heard Chance entering the workshop, hung his raincoat on a hanger, and kept dripping- Holy Kats: the rain doesn't stop. Jake... Jake?
— I'm busy with the car. -replied the alluded one- I'm really going to need your help to finish this.
— Did I ever deny you my help?
— I thought you might want to do something more fun like watch TV or play video games.
— Nah... I have to make sure you give the customers a real car and not a rope toy.
— Excuse me? -he said, pretending to be angry- A "real car" is like Callie's car that you made blow like a volcano?
— But then it moved beautifully, didn't it?
— Oh, Chance...
— You don't want me to help you with the car. -Chance's smile faded as he asked the question- Do you, Jake?
— What you’re talking about?
— You know what I'm talking about.
— It has nothing to do with... "it." I just want to do a good job.
— And you will; we'll do it together. We're a team, aren't we?

Jake couldn't answer, because that's when the alarm went off. Really? It's pouring out and there are villains committing crimes? It was the first time he wished he could stay in the workshop and not go on his Swat Kat duty. What is wrong with me?

— Go ahead, Miss Briggs. -Jake was so self-absorbed that he didn't realize his partner answered the call- Let it be the crud Metallikats, Chance thought.
“T-Bone, I received a communication: Hard Drive is robbing a store downtown.”
— Hard Drive?! -they exclaimed in unison- In this weather?
— He's the villain I least expected to attack today. Is he crazy?
“I don't know, Razor, I just know he's playing around: Security cameras at a store called ShockWave caught him stealing items from inside. I know it's a small thing for you, but the Enforcers are busy helping the firefighters with the problems caused by this rain in the slums. Megakat is not prepared for such weather."
— Understood, Miss Briggs: we'll take care of it. -the call ended- Well, buddy: it seems we have another responsibility.
— That's right. -He remained silent for a moment until...- But seriously... Hard Drive?
— He must be bored; I don't really blame him. Well, the Turbokat!


__________________________________________________________________________________________



In spite of being noon, the thick layer of clouds and the intense rain -accompanied by some occasional lightning strikes- that didn't stop since it started at some point in the morning, gave the sensation of being the hours of twilight. When T-Bone and Razor looked out of the cabin momentarily to see the city, they found it almost empty, with very few vehicles or pedestrians with umbrellas circulating and the streets turned into small streams. Maybe it was partly because it was Sunday, and on those days, the city used to be quieter; but it was more than obvious that that strange rain gave Megakat an atmosphere very unbecoming of summer, more somber, gloomy, melancholic, disturbing... and even boring.

— This looks more like Gotham City than Megakat City.
— Yeah... It doesn't seem to be summer. There is something very strange about this rain, Razor.
— I only know that it seems to be affecting me. -he let out a sigh of exhaustion- I don't feel good.
— What's wrong with you, buddy? You’re sick?
— Negative. It's just... I don't know... I feel... discouraged, and I don't know why.
— That's what happens when the Seattle's weather falls on us Southern California’s guys. Don't worry, buddy, we'll get some action and make you feel better.
— I hope so.
— Just try not to get too discouraged. -laughed T-Bone- Or I'll have to take you to a sunny beach by force.
— Hahaha... -laughed Razor a little more animatedly- Interesting offer. To Acapulco maybe?
— We'll see, we'll see...
— We are about to arrive: land in front of that building over there.

The Turbokat landed on the asphalt of the avenue, almost empty, in front of an electronics store on the first floor of a twenty-storey building. The metal doors were closed, suggesting that Hard Drive had entered through the electrical wires and inadvertently triggered the alarm. How was he going to get out if he couldn't take all the merchandise with him? Or could he?

The first thing they noticed after getting off the jet was the layer of water almost a centimeter thick on the asphalt soaking their feet.

— I think we should consider wearing shoes more often with our uniforms, T-Bone.
— We'll see about that later: we need to catch this nerd. Any ideas?
— Assuming he didn't hear us land, I propose entering through a back door to get the element of surprise on our side.
— It's good to know the rain didn't kill your neurons, Razor.

The service access was at the back of the building, and you could only get there by crossing an alleyway at the side: in the rain that place was even worse, as the humidity turned the dust into mud, and accentuated the unpleasant odors of the garbage containers. Again, the idea of including shoes in his Swat Kats uniform as an option came to Razor's mind as they walked down that narrow corridor from which, in addition to the rain, the walls were dripping.

That alley ended in an internal backyard that served as a parking lot for small trucks and for loading and unloading merchandise: at the back of the store building, there was a small wooden door on which a fluorescent light was flashing and a larger metal door for depositing the products; on the opposite side of that wall, about seven meters away, was a white cargo truck with the store's logo.

— It doesn't look like noon; it's too dark.
— Uh-huh... I'll open the door; watch my back, T-Bone.
— Right.

While Razor used his Glovatrix to SUBTLY open the door, T-Bone watched the surroundings somewhat uneasily, not knowing that his companion, who was determined in his task, felt the same even if he did not show it. He didn't know if it was the rain, or something else, but he felt uncomfortable being there. When he turned back...

— Razor...
— ¿Yes...?
— Look behind...

When he did so, he was slightly startled: on the small freight truck, there were small dark figures barely recognizable behind the curtain of falling water. Despite the darkness, they could almost tell that these tiny figures had little reddish eyes watching their movements carefully.

— Are those...?
— Those crudding rats. Who do they think they are? -He took a small stone from the ground and threw it at the truck- GO AWAY!
— T-Bone! You’re crazy? They're just rats...
— Rats who think we're a show or something. Open the door, Razor: I'm getting nervous.
— Oh, oh: that's always a bad sign. -a soft metallic click was heard- That's it: let's go in.

They entered the back room, a place with shelves and drawers in storage; it was dark, except for a thread of light coming through the barely open door to the store where Hard Drive was located.

— I can't avoid but think we forgot something, T-Bone.
— I hope it's nothing important, because we have to catch him. Ready, Razor?
— I'm always ready.

Hard Drive was in there filling his pockets with all kinds of electronics from the shop windows and shelves: cell phones, digital cameras, consoles, anything that could fit in his Surge Coat, which he wasn't exactly prepared to steal, but he had apparently modified it a bit.
A simple shot from the glove projectile was enough to get his attention.

— Swat Kats!!
— The store is closed, Hard Drive!
— Really? I'm here for the discount offer... four fingers.
— Didn't they teach you at home that stealing is bad?
— Mmm... -Hard Drive looked at the floor and smiled; his paws started to spark- And didn't they teach you guys that you should never go barefoot during a storm?
Oh, oh... Now I know what I was forgetting. -Razor thought- T-Bone... run... RUN!
— Eat lightning, you crudding meddlers!

Razor’s reaction was quick enough to dodge the electrical attacks and protect himself behind plastic windows; T-Bone was not so lucky, and although he avoided being electrocuted, he slipped because of his wet feet and hit a shelf full of artifacts that fell on him, leaving him on the floor.

— T-Bone! You’re okay?
— Twelve hundred dollars for a cellphone?! Oh, right... it's Apple. -said the alluded one as he pulled out the pile of artifacts on top of himself- Silly brand of spoiled children.
— T-BONE!
— See why I'm stealing these beauties? They're a real steal!
— I hope you like the taste of cement, Hard Drive!

With the help of his Glovatrix, Razor fired quick-drying cement minibombs at Hard Drive; he acted quickly and took a sideboard behind his back and used it as a shield so as not to get trapped. He hated to admit it, but the villain was learning.

Then, Hard Drive attacked again with electric shocks, preventing them from approaching him, especially T-Bone, who was trying to knock him down at an opportune moment that was not coming.

— Please, Swat Kats: that cement thing is a known thing, be more original, I'm getting bored!
— Original, huh? -grumbled Razor- Oh, you will have fun...
— Ehm, Razor... Any ideas? Our little friend is bored.
— Just pray this doesn't work too well. -His friend answered while preparing his Globatrix by putting some small metal balls inside it- Or we'll have to walk home.
— The truth is that I'm already bored: goodbye Swa...
— Eat this, you failed hacker attempt! EMP Minibombs, Fire!
— Minibombs what...??
— NOOOOOOOOOOO!!

Hard Drive's pleas came too late: three small metal balls hit him directly in his coat, causing an explosion of blinding light followed by a blackout throughout the store. When the light dissipated and they were left in the dark, Hard Drive was lying on the floor and stunned, with his coat completely disabled. T-Bone put improvised handcuffs on his wrists so he wouldn't escape.

— What did you throw at him, Razor? -he asked angrily- And why didn't you do it before?
— An electromagnetic bomb, you Swat Kat idiot. Don't you know what an EMP is?
— Nobody asked you. -He hit him on the head to keep him on his knees-
— A device that I created recently in case we face Hard Drive again, and that I brought before coming. -He explained with a certain pride, followed by a certain insecurity- But I never managed to put it to the test and I didn't know how powerful it would become.
— Great: I’m the subject of the crazy experiments of the Swat Kats.
— Shut up! -another blow to the head- Let me get this clear: you prepared to bring the ultimate weapon against this idiot…
— Hey!
— But did you forget that water conducts electricity?
— That's why we're still debating whether or not to include shoes in our uniform, T-Bone. -He gave him an ironic smile- Now his coat is completely useless; I just hope the Turbokat isn't ruined as much by the electromagnetic pulse.
— Now tell me, loser. -the larger Swat Kat headed for the Hard Drive- Why did you have the bright idea of robbing this store in this crazy climate, huh? This rain doesn't do you much good either.
— As if I would answer someone who slips so stupidly for walking barefoot in such weather.
— Don't make me angry. -He grumbled as he gave him a murderous look: like T-Bone, Chance had the freedom to show all his aggressiveness and threatening attitude without so many strings attached- Believe me, you wouldn't want to see me angry.
— Especially if you haven't had lunch yet. -Razor scoffed-
— I was bored! OK? -both Swat Kats are looking at him like a freak; that... wasn't the answer you'd expect from a villain- Just look at this rain! It overwhelms you, it suffocates you, it depresses you! It's frustrating to be locked up in your house unable to do anything!
— Let me get this clear... You stole this store just because you were dying of boredom in your HOME?! Why don't you just... I don't know... watch porn movies?!
— Oh, please, Swat Kats! Who are you kidding? -scoffed Hard Drive- I bet you were as bored as I was today; you were longing from your guts for something to force you out of wherever you were hiding. You enjoy being a hero, don’t you? The action, the adrenaline, the...
— We... don't do this for fun, Hard Drive. -Razor sentenced in a cold and sharp way- We're doing it because it's the right thing to do, let's be clear about that.
— Yeah, the fun is only a consequence; not the cause. -Razor looked at him in a quasi-homicidal way- What?
— Forget it.
— Do you hear that? -from outside, there were sirens- It must be the Enforcers... late as usual.
— Let's open the store and get him out of here.

After climbing the metal door of the store they found only two Enforcers' patrols, and among them the Commander Feral accompanied by Felina and other officers. Feral entered the store first to inspect the damage: shelves and cupboards smashed, merchandise scattered on the floor; some broken and all of them disabled by the EMP of Razor's mini-bombs. Then he went to the Swat Kats, with Hard Drive ready to be arrested.

— I hope you're proud, Swat Kats: you destroyed thousands of dollars by damaging the store of a noble working citizen to catch... this pathetic ATM robber.
— Grr...
— It's good to know that you put the status of material assets above whether criminals are caught or not, Feral: that says a lot about you. -Razor replied with a certain poison hidden in his ironic smile- Tell me, you’re really an Enforcers’ Commander or do you work for an insurance company?
— …
— Good one, Razor. -T-Bone whispered in a low voice-
— Very funny, "Vigilant". But someone has to point out all his mistakes, like the Metallikats' yesterday.
— Uncle...
— Still can't find them? -asked T-Bone- We looked for them last night.
— No sign of them. -replied Felina, nicer- We think they ran away from the city.
— Maybe Razor is right and...
— Well; enough of this pleasant and unnecessary conversation. -He gestured to his soldiers to take Hard Drive away, which they immediately obeyed- And you, better not cause any more trouble.
— Yeah, we love you too, Feral. -Razor replied again with sarcasm- Have a nice Sunday.
— Agh... This crudding weather: I don't remember it raining like this for fifteen years. Felina...
What did he say? Fifteen years ago...?
— I'll stay a little longer, uncle.
— Okay, but don't be late. I don't want you to get the recklessness.

After Feral left for the patrol, and after ignoring another of his "sweet" comments, they stayed talking to Felina; she was very intrigued by the Metallikats' whereabouts, but also by the unusual weather.

— Don't you think this rain is very strange? It was not predicted in the weather report last night, and it shows no sign of ending.
— We think the same thing, but it's unlikely that it's the work of some villain, like Dr. Viper. -Razor replied- Unless there are cases of mutations that we haven't heard about today.
— Beyond a few floods, the shutdown of subway service and some blackouts, there has been nothing more serious. -she sighed- Of course, and the fact that the Megakat’s children will be bored during these days of vacation locked up in their houses.
— It's true. -muttered T-Bone-
— Well; I must go. -Felina then looks at the Swat Kats' feet- Hey, wouldn't it be a good idea for them to wear shoes in weather like this?
— We're already debating it. -Razor replied- Thank you, Felina.

The lieutenant returned to the patrol car where her uncle was impatiently waiting for her, and then left with him. T-Bone and Razor remained at the door of the store, observing for some moments the sky that did not stop letting fall its constant rain.

— Your nephews must be very bored at home.
— Yeah… -sighed T-Bone, thinking about it- And to think that Tom had children's games put up in his backyard so they could have fun outside.
— Maybe they need a visit from their favorite uncle. -His partner hinted- Don't you think?
— It could be... but his uncle has a job, remember?
— It's true... Let's go home.

They had no more to do, so they got into the Turbokat, checked that the PEM pulse from the mini-pumps didn't affect their systems, and took off; seconds before, Razor heard his partner grunt in a low voice but it lasted only a few seconds. What had made him angry? Anyway, he didn't bother to ask: T-Bone looked livelier on the flight home, and so did he... at least until he settled into his gunner's position.
Watching the rain fall relentlessly on Megakat, and the water drops dripping onto the cabin, fogging the windows, had its effect on the Swat Kats gunner: there was so much on his mind, and that rain somehow relaxed him, maybe too much...


FLASHBACK
Spoiler:
Gatalina Valley, Megakat City. Fifteen years ago:

Jake had just looked out the window at the backyard, and now, from his room, he was looking out at the front yard: they looked like a miniature version of the Everglades, a real green-tinted, muddy soup in which it would not be uncommon for an alligator to suddenly appear. It was summer, and the rain, against all odds, was more typical of the wettest places in India or Hawaii that he had read about in his geography books than of Megakat itself: a depressing vision for an eight-year-old boy in the middle of his summer vacation where the house was turned into a prison, its occupants into prisoners or mere jailers against their will, and those merciless drops of water that kept falling from the sky and dripping down the windows, walls and ceiling into the cold bars.

He had already read all the books in his room, his toys were boring him, and he had no more things to do. He only had to turn to his parents: first he went to see his mother, but she was fixing up his room and he had no time to play with her. Then he went to his dad, who was in his study, working on some beads.

— Dad, I'm bored. Can you play with me?
— I can't now, Jake. -Mr. Clawson replied, politely, though with a slight hint of boredom and not looking away from his beads- I'm working; ask your mom.
— She's busy.
— Read something; you've got lots of books.
— I already have. -He sighed- I'm still bored. Can I go to Chance's house?
— Is it still raining?
— Pouring!
— Then no; we don't want you to catch cold.
— Can you give me a ride in the car?
— Jakey… -his father turned to face him, serene but visibly tired- I'm busy; I can't take a few minutes to drive you; besides, you don't know if Chance will be available at home.
— I can call him, and...
— Son, please. You can't expect people to be available to you all the time.
— …
— I'll try to finish soon and we'll see what we can do, okay?
— Fine...

But that "fine" came out very insincere on his side: Jake went back upstairs to his room, pouting with whimsy, anger and depression: he was bored, his parents were busy, he couldn't go to his best friend's side and he was stuck in his own house. The misfortune of being an only child, it was said: at least Chance had older siblings he could talk to. Well, if they were willing to do so, because his friend didn't exactly talk wonders about his teenage brothers, and he probably spent most of his time avoiding being bothered.

He lay on his bed, staring at the ceiling for a while, trying to think of what he could do to kill time, until...

He checked his pockets, then looked in one of his drawers and found it. How could he not have thought of it before?

— I know a place where I can have fun.

He quickly walked down the stairs carefully so his parents wouldn't notice, and...

— Razor... Razor...
— Huh? T-Bone, what... what happened?
— You fell asleep, man. That's the first time that's happened to you while flying the Turbokat.
— If I remember correctly, something similar happened to us when we traveled to prehistoric times.
— Ah, right... but now we're in the present and we'll get home. If you want to rest a bit...
— No way: I have to keep working on that car. -a very loud grunt was heard- And from what I hear, preparing lunch... -he remembered quickly; he had remembered something- And go to the supermarket afterwards.
— We could go now...
— Oh, sure: great idea, T-Bone. -he added sarcastically- Let's land the Turbokat in the parking lot and let people see the Swat Kats choose the brand of milk they usually drink.
— It would help our public image.
— T-Bone...
— I'm just kidding, Razor.

Upon arrival at the hangar, one of Jake's predictions came true: rainwater had taken advantage of the Turbokat's entry and exit to fill it with puddles that needed to be drained as soon as possible. Chance had offered to clean it up while Jake prepared the food: it was a fair deal. Fortunately for him, that underground bunker had a good drainage system that made it easy to get rid of rainwater. Both friends never managed to discover the origin of that mysterious bunker, possibly built during the Cold War or even before, but they were deeply grateful to have it; without it, the existence of the Swat Kats would be very difficult, if not impossible.

After lunch, which was a simple stew of rice and meat that Chance took advantage of, and after a brief rest, they returned to their work. Although he was not sleepy, Jake made himself a cup of coffee to avoid falling asleep again, even with Chance helping him; despite the help he received, it was difficult to concentrate: he had too many things on his mind to think about.

"You enjoy being a hero, don't you?"

"I don't remember it raining like this for fifteen years."

"I know a place where I can have fun.”


— Jake, Jake, Hello?
— Wha...? What?
— Dude; I swear you're falling asleep on your feet.
— Nonsense... I was just thinking about... things.
— It must be very tiring or very boring stuff. Are you doing mental calculations of missile trajectories again?
— No, not at all. It's just... Hey, how did you know I fell asleep in the Turbokat?
— I was making fun of the stupid things Hard Drive said about how bored I was, and you didn't respond as usual.
— Ahh... So you need my sarcasm, huh?
— There is no point in having a sense of humor if nobody laughs. Come on, Jake: there's something wrong with you, isn't there?
— Chance... Do you think Hard Drive is right? That we do this for fun?

His partner crossed his arms and gave him a serious look at first, followed by a more understanding one. It was Jake, after all, and I knew him very well.

— How long have we been living in Megakat?
— Since forever. -Jake replied- We were born here.
— So we know all about the number of criminals and corrupt people in this city, don't we?
— Of course we do. Even Callie has told us how rotten the city's politics are.
— And I mentioned to you that I always wanted to be one of the good guys.
— That's right.
— So why do you doubt it, Jake? We decided to form this team to fight criminals because Feral and the Enforcers don't do it right. In fact, it was your idea to form the Swat Kats.
— That's why I'm asking you the question. Do we do it because we care about the good of the city or because we enjoy playing the hero and making fun of Feral every opportunity we get?
— I always said that if you didn't have fun doing your job, it wasn't worth the effort.
— Chance...
— Look: I'm a mechanic, I love planes and cars. That's the only reason I'm still sane in this place. And I want to help people, and I have no doubt that you do too.
— Well... yes.
— You see? Then I don't understand your doubt. It sounds like you didn't believe what you told Hard Drive.

Jake didn't answer, and that worried Chance. It was understandable that he was sensitive given the proximity of the anniversary of his father's suicide, his recent visit to Gatalina Valley... and that tedious rain that kept falling and gave the impression of existing only to depress. But...

— You don't even believe that, do you?
— I... sometimes ask if... it is possible to distinguish altruism from selfishness.
— Huh???
— Do we do things for others because we care or because we see it as the right thing to do?
— Oh, Jake... -he sighed; regretting that his partner was going through dilemmas like that- I think you think things through too much. Don't you remember that Dark Kat took advantage of those kinds of doubts of yours months ago?

How to forget: in one of his missions, one of Razor's missiles ended up destroying a building and -apparently- causing injuries. Jake's guilt was so great that he almost quit the team; fortunately for him, the "wounded" turned out to be Dark Kat's henchmen whose aim was to provoke those same feelings of guilt and weaken him emotionally. How on earth did Dark Kat know that Jake was the more sensitive of the two? He never knew, but the bastard almost did.

— This is different.
— You're too sensitive, Jake. You shouldn't let it get to you.
— You say that like it's a bad thing. -He added, sounding a little upset- Do you think I'm weak because of that, Chance?
— What? No! That's just like you, just like it's like me to be impulsive.
— At least you admit it...
— Being impulsive is good in certain situations and bad in others; the same goes for your sensitivity. -Chance patted Jake on the shoulder- You've always been worried about what other people will think about you, so that's one problem you have. What does it matter what I think about you? What does it matter what that idiot on Hard Drive thinks? Or that jerk Feral? Or what your mom thinks about you.
— What's the point of bringing my mom into this?
— I know you well enough to know that you think she sees you as the biggest failure of her life. Almost like you're ashamed to be alive just because...
— That's enough. -Jake said, pointing a finger at him accusingly- I don't want to talk about it. Is that clear, Chance?
— Can I say one more thing before you hit me? -he asked almost mockingly, Jake reluctantly nodded- The only thing that matters is what you think of yourself.
— ...
— Are we going to keep working or do I have to charge you for my psychologist session at home?
— Pay you? -he laughed. That was something Chance had very naturally: he always found a way to make people laugh- You don't even have a license; let's keep working on this car or we'll never finish. Besides, I have to go to the supermarket.


__________________________________________________________________________________________
Last edited by EditorElohim on Sun Nov 08, 2020 11:43 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: The Swat Kats and the Mysterious Door (Crossover with Coraline)

Post by EditorElohim » Thu Oct 15, 2020 12:41 pm

A couple of hours before sunset - if that was even noticeable behind such a layer of clouds - Jake had gone out to the supermarket alone in the workshop crane: although Chance offered to go with him, he refused, arguing that he had no problem going alone - and that besides, they would save a few dollars by not having SOMEONE sneak things into the cart.

The reality was that he wanted to be alone; his friend's words only partly calmed him down: the seed of doubt was already planted and he couldn't get it out. To make matters worse, the rain was not helping: it kept falling like a relentless curtain of water languishing all around him, including his mood. Crud rain: you had to fall right now, right on THESE DAYS. For his fortune, he didn't have to go too far to go to the supermarket, as it was close to the Salvage Yard.

His visit to the supermarket lasted an hour and a half; by the time he returned with everything he needed, the rain had slowed down a bit, but there was no sign of it disappearing completely or clearing the sky; besides, it was already night. Upon entering the garage, he found Chance watching the TV, laughing his head off at the Scaredy Kat movie. Oh Chance, how many times have you seen that movie? He wondered with some embarrassment.

— Working hard? -Jake scoffed, with a couple of bags on his paws- If you have any energy left, I'd appreciate your help.
— Chance Furlong to the rescue. -He laughed, pausing the film and walking to the crane and back with some bags- Hard Drive is right about one thing: this rain is depressing. So I put the movie on to cheer me up a bit. Although there were a couple of blackouts while you were gone.
— Here too? -Jake left the bags in the kitchen- Also in the supermarket, but they didn't last long. It must have happened all over town.
— Hey! What happened to the chocolate milk I asked for?
— The budget came, slapped me and took my money, Chance.
— Crud. -he snorted, closing the refrigerator after placing some vegetables- I'll survive on white milk.
— Crud it! Now I remember that I could have left the movies in the video store that I was on my way to.
— Don't worry, buddy: we have until midnight; we can go after that. Hey, don't you want to race him at the Need for Speed?
— Aren't we supposed to have a work to do?
— Oh, come on Jake. You don't think you're good enough to beat me... two out of three?
— Chance...
— Three out of five!
— We have work...
— Five out of seven!
— Make it eight out of ten and the loser will wash our uniforms for a week!
— That's the attitude!

Crudding competitive attitude you gave me, thought Jake, laughing to himself. Or had he really always been like that and not shown it before? He ignored the irrelevant questions and started to play. He had to admit that there was a catch in the whole thing: maybe it was Chance's way of saying "I'm sorry I brought up your mother and made you feel bad"; of course Chance would never say it directly, nor would he claim it. At least his friend was fighting the game, which he took very seriously. They played for at least an hour and a half, which was not unusual when they both got excited about one of their friendly competitions. The loser, despite his efforts, was Chance, who had to carry the laundry load for a week.

Despite the distractions, he had made progress with Mr. Gueyrod's car, Callie's car was ready, and Saturday's pile of garbage was fully sorted and put away: it hadn't been such an unproductive Sunday after all.

It was already night, and although it was barely nine o'clock, they went to return the movies, taking advantage of the fact that it had finally stopped raining completely, even though the sky was still completely overcast. When they returned home an hour later, Chance settled down on the couch while Jake prepared to make dinner.

— Let's watch the news. -suggested the blond tabby guy- They may not be as interesting if we don't show up much, but they will say something.
— At least they will talk about the effects of the rain. -Jake replied from the kitchen- What do you want for dinner? We have fish soup, lentil soup with ham, and vegetable soup.
— Lentils with ham!
— Okay... Heck, I wanted that one: no way, vegetable again. Next time I won't tell you what we have for that one.
— Did you say something, Jake?
— I said, could you turn up the TV? Good thing he didn't hear me. Without breaking it, Chance.
— Very funny, Jake.

"Today's rainfall has caused a great surprise to the citizens of Megakat, who had not seen such heavy rain in years. Metro service has been cancelled until further notice due to flooding in the tunnels"

"The Fire Department and Enforcers continue to receive reports of power outages and flooding throughout the city. Affected citizens are encouraged to go to established shelters.”


— Wow: the city is really in trouble, Chance.
— At least the Enforcers will have something to do.

"Meteorologists cannot find an explanation for the recent rainfall, although they suspect it could be a consequence of global warming.”

— Well; there's the great explanation, Jake: it's the fault of global warming.
— Mmm...

"At about noon, the criminal known as Hard Drive, robbed an electronics store located in the Megakat downtown. The intervention of the Swat Kats prevented him from carrying out his task and escaping, although material damage and losses in thousands of dollars are reported. Currently, he is in the custody of the Enforcers in Alkatraz"

— How much do I bet that reporter likes Feral?
— Chance...
— If it had been Ann Gora, she would have showered us with compliments. Where would she be?

The answer was not long in coming: the image changed abruptly from the television studio to an outdoor one. One that Chance knew too well.

— “This is Ann Gora of Kat's Eye News reporting from the suburb of Gatalina Valley outside Megakat, where a kid has been reported missing today.”

As soon as he heard the name of the place and the "missing kid", Jake turned off the kitchen and went immediately to the TV. His friend was already there, staring at the screen and his face freezing: it wasn't about the disappearance of the kid himself, but about the place from which Ann was reporting with Feral and the kid's parents, who were extremely distressed.

And when he understood why, he felt the same way.

— Jake... T... that... is...
— My... old house.

In fact, it was 422 Derry Street, with its renowned Victorian style that he knew so well. Jake didn't expect to see his old house again so soon; now, with that post-rainy cloudy weather and darkness, he realized how dreary it could be. But there was something else: he felt something strange when he saw that house, at least at that moment. Something that gave him the creeps.

— "Commander Feral, could you give us details about this unfortunate event?”
— "The parents mention not having seen him since noon; they thought he had locked himself in his room when he felt resigned to not being able to go out. When they went to look for him in his room in the afternoon, they did not find him"
— "He wasn't there, it was as if he had vanished!” -cried his mother, a woman with a silvery fur- “We looked for him everywhere, but he wasn't in the house!”
— "We called the neighbors, but no one saw him leave.” -added the father, with his slightly darker fur and black stripes, trying to comfort his wife- “We saw that he didn't bring any umbrellas or raincoats, because they are still in the house".
— “We have already talked to the neighbors, and no one has seen him leave the house all day; we have not found any footprints either”. -said Feral- “Unfortunately, the occupants of the house next door…” -Jake recognized Mrs. Krucibile's house on the TV screen, with the lights off, and remembered that she had been dead for five years- “went on vacation several days ago and there is no one occupying it at the moment.”
— "Have you spoken to the kid's friends and acquaintances?"
— "We're working on it, Ann. As soon as there's any news, we'll let the public know," -Feral paused briefly- “This isn't the first time a child has disappeared in Gatalina Valley: we'll find him.”
— It's not the first time a child has gone missing from THAT house in Gatalina Valley, you mean. -Jake thought automatically, wishing he hadn't- Right, Feral?
— "Anything you can tell us about a previous case?”
— “Just that the boy showed up days later safe and sound, and that he's living a normal life. Out of respect for the family, I will not reveal his identity.”
— Yes: that that child was Jake Clawson, a former Enforcer pilot, whom you left abandoned in this Salvage Yard with his best friend Chance Furlong. -Jake thought again-
— “I understand. This is Ann Gora from Gatalina Valley: if you have news about the whereabouts of this child, please notify the authorities".


The photo of the child, along with his data and phone number appeared on the screen. Once again, Jake was stunned, as if it were a macabre joke: he was the same kid he had almost run over yesterday. His name was Max, he was ten years old... and now he lived in his old house.

The TV suddenly turned off, leaving the screen dark. Chance had the remote control on his right leg, visibly worried. At least, that's how Jake saw it.

— Poor boy; I hope they find him.
— Y... yes... I hope so. -He answered sincerely; in spite of his attempts to be calm, his voice came out choppy- It's... very... dangerous to come out wi... with... this rain.
— It's a coincidence that this kid now lives in your old house. -He added with great serenity- It could have been anyone else.
— R...Right, Chance. But the important thing is that he appears.
— Of course. Now... is dinner ready?
— Huh?
— Dinner, Jake. Hello? You were making soup and I was here starving.
— You... you're always hungry!
— My endomorphic body athlete metabolism demands constant nourishment to replenish my muscles. -he then did a push-up to show "his point"- Or do you think this is maintenance free?
— I'm going back to the kitchen. -he replied; didn't feel like answering- I'll be right back.

It didn't take him that long to reheat the soup and serve it for dinner: as usual, they ate dinner in front of the TV on.
But this time, they had dinner in complete silence; he did not even remember what channel they had left the TV on: they could have been watching the news, Scaredy Kat cartoons, a boring documentary or an erotic movie channel -if they had cable- and no one would have paid attention to the screen. Nor did they talk to each other over dinner, which was unusual: usually, they would bring up some topic for conversation such as jobs throughout the day, something about their missions, some joke or other triviality. That night, neither of them brought up anything for conversation.

After finishing dinner, Jake washed the dishes and prepared for bed: tomorrow they would return to work as usual in the early hours of the morning.

I kept thinking about Ann Gora's story. Why had Feral mentioned that this wasn't the first time a child had disappeared in Gatalina Valley? Why hadn't he given the identity of the case he was referring to? Assuming that he was referring to him, and given that what he had mentioned yesterday was still on his mind, why didn't he give his name? Contrary to what Chance had said, wasn't Feral lying? Was Feral keeping a minimum of respect for his person to protect his privacy?

That wasn't his only concern. Was it really just a coincidence that a child living in his former home had disappeared?

But there was another detail, something that disturbed him even more, and caused him a terrible displeasure: there was something in his friend, in his attitude towards the news. He had no doubt that he cared about the missing child, but he acted as if... he wanted to avoid the subject at all costs. And why didn't he propose to look for him himself? While it was unusual -not to say exaggerated, even for them- for the Swat Kats to take on the disappearance of people, including children, it was strange that Chance didn't even suggest the idea. Where was the "I want to help people, and no doubt you do too"?

When he went to bed, Chance was already in his bed, about to sleep; they didn't exchange a word beyond good night. Within minutes, he could hear his partner snoring in the bed below. It was not his snoring, however, that prevented him from sleeping: he remembered the view of his house on the TV, which made him feel uncomfortable. Maybe it was a hallucination, nerves, or something else, but... he could swear that that house... or something in that house, was staring at him... and possibly, though without understanding how and why, at Chance as well. That was impossible, Right?

Putting that illogical reasoning aside, one thing became very clear to Jake Clawson before he fell asleep:

— Feral was not lying. -he said in an almost inaudible voice- I... I disappeared. But why don't I remember?


__________________________________________________________________________________________



His alarm clock rang as usual, and like every start of the week, Jake got out of bed, went to the bathroom to clean up, put on his mechanic's uniform and prepare his breakfast. Chance was already on the couch, with a cup of coffee on one paw, and probably looking forward to putting something in his mouth. He looked more... cheerful than last night, as if he had gotten rid of a weight from above, and for a moment, he didn't notice the weather.

— Good morning, fellow in purgatory, I say dormitory. -Chance scoffed- How did you sleep?
— Pretty well actually, hey! The sun's out already.
— It's about time, isn't it? Yesterday's weather was terrible: we have to go back to our obstacle track one of these days... if it doesn't rain again.
— Let's hope not. What do you want for breakfast?
— Eggs and bacon... No! Make it fried anchovies instead of bacon.
— Lucky I bought them yesterday from the supermarket. -He went back to the kitchen- Two breakfasts immediately.
— Perfect! I'll go take a look at your automotive repair attempt.
— Very funny, Chance.

Already in the kitchen, I was about to break a couple of eggs when the alarm sounded. So early and the villains were starting to bother? Of course, they are villains for a reason, Jake thought: They have no regard for anything or anyone. Since Chance was not around, he answered the call.

— Go ahead, Miss Briggs, what's the problem?
"Jake..."

He was petrified when he heard his name on the other side of the phone, to the point of almost letting go. It was not only the fact that he had just called him by his real name, revealing that he knew his secret identity, but also that this voice was not Callie's; it sounded higher, in fact, more like that of a little boy. How did he manage to call him by that emergency line? Had Callie dropped the communicator and a child picked it up? Even if that had happened, how did that child know who he was?

"Look, Jake. If you've finished your mindless ruminations, then do the following: in two minutes, go through the bathroom door and close it tightly and immediately after you're in.”
— Who are you? -he asked quietly- How did you get this line?
"Two minutes from now, Jake.” -The voice answered sternly, "I'm waiting for you.”

What was that voice that had just been cut off talking about? His request was the most absurd I had ever heard, and how did he manage to call them? He would have asked himself more questions, if not for the fact that Chance appeared, sweating.

— Callie called, right? What's the problem?
— Ehm... The Metallikats are back! They're attacking Puma-Dyne!
— That scrap metal couple will get what they deserve for humiliating us! Come on, Jake!
— I'll catch up with you, Chance: get the Turbokat ready. I'm... going to the bathroom.
— Now? Well, don't delay: the last thing we want is for those two to make fun of the fact that the Swat Kats don't control their bladder.
— …

I didn't know why, but he ended up obeying the mysterious voice and running to the bathroom counting the seconds. Besides, he had lied to Chance without hesitation, "A mysterious boy called from Callie's communicator, he knows my secret identity, and possibly yours, and wants me to go to the bathroom in less than two minutes." Now that he thought about it, if that didn't convince his friend that he was lousy at making jokes or that he was crazy, he didn't know what other proof he would need.

Thirty seconds... twenty-nine... twenty-eight...

What the heck am I doing? There would be nothing in there but a simple bathroom modest and possibly still wet after using the shower- as soon as I opened the door at the right time. At least that's what logic dictated.

Twenty... nineteen... eighteen...

He had to recognize that it was a very elaborate joke; extremely bizarre, but very elaborate, perhaps too much so. How did that child know his identity? Would he have told anyone else?

Three... two... one...

He opened the door after a while, crossed the threshold, and closed it immediately. He did it so quickly that he hardly noticed that inside there was no bathroom; in fact, there was nothing but darkness. Behind his back, he felt that the door had completely disappeared, leaving only the air; trying to feel it with his paws, he felt something else: his paws were wearing gloves -and now that he was thinking about it, he was wearing something over his head, and he was not wearing his shoes, feeling an earthy surface at his feet.

When his eyes got better used to the darkness, which ended up not being as intense as he thought, he realized why: he was wearing his Swat Kat uniform. How had he changed so quickly? And where the heck was he? It was a wide place covered by darkness; you could hear the flow of a water stream a few meters away. Was it by some little stream or creek? Even though the place was wide, like an open field, Jake had the feeling of being in some kind of cave.

— Follow the current, upstream, Razor.
— Where are you? -he demanded to know the voice, which was heard in front of him- Where have you brought me? And how do you know I am Razor?
— If you want to know, please follow my instructions.
— How do I know that you’re not the PastMaster and you brought me to another place and time?
— Do you really think that cadaverous gnome lover of the Middle Ages would be talking to you instead of sending you somewhere else with his useless portals? Come on, Razor: we know you're smarter than that. Please do what I ask. It's not complicated, is it?

What other choice did he have? He was practically lost, and at least now, that voice sounded kinder. And no: the Master of the Past did not act that way.

He approached the creek to feel the current and go in the right direction: the place was almost as dark as a night with a crescent moon in the forest, and yet, you could see little more than an endless plain and a few rickety trees in the distance. Interestingly, he could see himself quite naturally, as if he didn't correspond to reality.

Finally, he reached a kind of waterfall from which the stream fed; next to it, there was a kind of gigantic deposit or dam, the size of a large mansion, whose walls reached three floors in height. Whatever it was, it looked extremely imposing and simple at the same time. In spite of the darkness, Jake saw a small figure sitting on the edge of the wall above the structure.

— Hey! I'm here!
— So it seems. -said the voice as he stood up. Why did it sound so familiar?- Let's get it over with, time is pressing.

The figure then jumped to the ground, and to Jake's amazement, landed without any major problems. How could he jump the equivalent of three floors as if nothing had happened and without suffering any injuries? When he had him in front of him, he could see him more clearly: he was unquestionably a boy, a little over eight years old, with cinnamon-colored fur, a slender complexion and a height that was somewhat short but not alarmingly low for his age. He was wearing blue shorts, a gray short-sleeved shirt with a black baseball team print and white tennis shoes.

The boy stood in front of Razor with his arms crossed and with a look that only the villains he often faced would convey: an extremely defiant, if somewhat more serene look than his enemies could express.

— Very well, "Razor". -He said- We need to talk.
— This can't be!!! You... you are...!


Continue...
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Re: The Swat Kats and the Mysterious Door (Crossover with Coraline)

Post by EditorElohim » Tue Dec 08, 2020 10:14 pm

We continue with chapter 4. I admit that it is a bit weird, but I hope you like it anyway.



Chapter 4.: We need to talk.


The hotel room was splendid, it must have been if it was the presidential suite; the view from the windows was magnificent, with the lights of the Megakat City shining on the night of the full moon. But I wasn't there to enjoy the view.

He would never have imagined that call at such hours of the night, nor that he would be looked for in such limousine, nor the reason why he was called. Even more so because it was something old-fashioned: it felt uncomfortable for a woman to invite a man and put everything, ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING, into a date. It was true that he didn't have much money; hardly the salary that the cursed Feral had assigned them to support themselves in that underdeveloped garage, what could he have paid for that meeting? Probably not even the bellman's tip.

But it was Callie Briggs, so what if she couldn't afford to pay for the meeting like any good gentleman? Better to enjoy it now: a dream come true.

And he had, and continued to, do so.

— Tell me again. -he asked again, using his "bedroom voice" or as Jake put it, porn voice- How did you get this site?
— I told you. -she replied, clinging to his neck, glued to him under the covers- Being the deputy mayor has its... advantages. Everything will go on Manx's account.
— That doesn't sound very honest, Callie.
— Oh, Chance, don't ruin the moment. Or are you sorry you took my call?
— Do I sound sorry? -he smiled; he didn't look or look sorry. Not at all- But next time, I'll invite. I know a small hotel on the outskirts of the city: it's not like this, but...
— Any place will be wonderful to be by your side.

There was a knock at the door. It must be the room service, Chance thought. He put on some dark shorts and his gray sleeveless shirt and opened the door: no one was there except a service cart with a tray covered by a bell and a cooler with a bottle of very cold milk. He raised the bell, discovering a box of chocolates with a little note on top:

"Get in the elevator in two minutes. I'll be waiting for you".

He ignored the card and went back to his room: Callie was still in bed, with wings and blankets covering her up to bust level.

— Room service. -He said in a singing way with his "voice"- Do you want anything, dear? Fresh milk, chocolates?
— Not now. How about joining me here?
— That sounds good. -He jumped into bed, hugging Callie- Do you want another one of my famous massages?
— I would like to...

The phone rang: Chance saved his curses for his mind, struggling to get out from under his gnashing teeth. Who would be the miserable party-pooper ruining the moment? Even if it was the hotel manager, he was willing to give him a good punch... in time.

— Yes?
“What's this about ignoring my note, Chance?” -shouted a high-pitched voice from the other side of the phone, not so loud that Callie could hear it, but enough to stun the receiver- “Stop trying to have sex with Callie again and do as I say!"
— WHA...? -Chance almost choked on his own tongue. I recognized that voice; no: it couldn't be- Who ar...?
— GET OUT... NOW... YOU ASSHOLE.

Whoever it was, he hung up at once. Who was this... this... Oh, he remembered: I'd heard him before. That meant he was...

Crud it...

— Who was it, Chance?
— Eh... -he made an effort to wear a mask of happiness; if she had seen his face of fury...- The manager! He says he has a surprise prepared for us, and that I must go and get it.
— And why didn't one of the employees bring it?
— Please! -He laughed; he was such a good actor that he almost believed it- It's a VERY BIG surprise, and none of those puny employees will be able to bring it: they need T-Bone's muscle.
— That's true. -she replied, sounding convinced. She gave him back a flirty little smile- Do not delay, my aviator.
— I won't, my queen.

As soon as he gently closed the door, he took strong steps down the corridor towards the elevator. He was still in his shorts and sleeveless shirt. His breathing was very labored.

— Dream or not, that brat better be with his parents, or else... -a punch from his fists ended the sentence- Grrr…

The elevator was not too far away: at the end of a corridor and with its back to a window that gave a magnificent view of the city. Now he could not even enjoy it: crossed his arms, annoyed above all, he waited for the device to open its doors. It took him a minute to do so: when he was about to enter, he felt that there was someone else in the corridor; he turned to see if he was right, and saw no one.

But that feeling was still there, even after he entered.

Where was that brat going to take him, and why the hell was he listening to him? He thought about it so much that initially he didn't realize the elevator was still going down. The hotel where they were staying wasn't that high, nor did it have several levels of underground. Was he still in the building or was he somewhere else?

Finally the doors opened: wherever he had gone, the place was dark but not so dark, almost in semi-darkness, and it looked much wider than any subterranean parking lot he had ever known; yet he still felt like he was inside some kind of cavern. When he left the cabin completely, the doors closed and vanished into thin air: he could no longer return.

Then he realized that he felt he had more clothes than he remembered, and he had something in his head: he felt with his paws to check that he was now wearing his Swat Kat’s uniform. How?

— Follow the river upstream, T-Bone. And fast.
— What stream? And who the heck are you, you cruding brat? Where am I? How do I have my uniform? How do you know I'm T-Bone? Where are you to get your...
— Agh... If you want to have an answer, do as I say.
— Why should I listen to you?
— Because I sincerely doubt that you will have fun trying to find a way out of a place you don't know. And because you're going to do what I tell you to do.
— Who the heck do you think you are?! -T-Bone was getting more and more angry- Come here and face me if you think you're so tough!
— If you still don't realize it by now, you're dumber than I thought -a row of lanterns appeared nearby, forming a lighted path by a stream- What I have to do to talk to you, come here, crud it!

More motivated by the desire to get even with the brat than by exasperation, the Swat Kat pilot followed the path that had been so "nicely" laid out for him. Did that brat treat him like an idiot? At least he hadn't put one of those airport conveyor belts on him. Now that I think about it... How the heck did that kid create those lanterns?

The water at the side of the path ran slowly and smoothly across the plain while the amber-colored lights of the lanterns barely drew the shapes around them: more than a cave or a parking lot, this place looked more like a plain with little vegetation. That didn't distract T-Bone from having that brat come face to face and give him his due.

The path ended up next to a kind of dam next to a waterfall from which the stream fed. The dam was extremely high, almost three floors high.

— It's about time! -a child was heard screaming from the top of the dam; T-Bone could barely make it out- Do you want me to call you a cab next time?
— There won't be a next time, you meddling little brat! Come down and let's work this out!
— We'll see about that. -the boy jumped off the edge of the dam and landed safely in front of the Swat Kat- Okay, "T-Bone". You and I are going to have a little talk.
— Bu... but...!!! You... you...!!! You are... YOU ARE...!!


__________________________________________________________________________________________



— This can't be! You... you are... you are me!

Jake was looking at himself when he was eight years old: it was impossible not to recognize him. The same appearance, height, clothes, fur, and even the gaze. Well, no: the gaze was not that of an eight-year-old, but of someone more mature, more... adult. Serious, defiant, angry with something. Jake didn't remember having a look like that when something was bothering him in his childhood, beyond the typical look of a little bratty boy.

The look of his childhood self was more like the one he, like Razor, directed at his enemies.

— But how is this possible? -he kept shouting and gesticulating- I was just in the garage with Chance, and now here with...!
— Logical deduction in 5, 4, 3...
— This is a dream, isn't it? I never woke up. -concluded the adult Jake, dressed as Razor- The sunny morning, the meeting with Chance, this place...
— Bingo.

Razor looked at him inquisitively; the little one replied with the same serial gaze as before.

— Why are you looking at me like that?
— That's my catch phrase.
— OUR catchphrase: I am you, and you are me.
— That's impossible!
— You just said this is a dream, Razor; I think it's perfectly possible. Oh, my goodness! I was really hoping you'd realize it faster.
— …
— By the way; try to improve the scripts for your dreams, please...
— What's wrong with my dreams?
— You dream about your everyday life. Really? You have an exciting life as Swat Kat! And that's all you do? The last time you had exciting dreams was after meeting the Queen Callista.
— You mean you...?! -Razor blushes behind his fur- Hey! You're a kid! You can't see those things!
— Just because I have the appearance of your eight-year-old self, doesn't mean I have the mind of one. Well, a little bit, but I keep your twenty-three year old mind.
— Ehm... Weren't you going to tell me something important?
— Oh, right... -little Jake was quiet for a moment, until...- WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU TRYING TO DO?! -Razor had to step back a bit from the explosive reaction of his childish self- IT TAKEN ME… US A LOT OF TIME TO BUILD THIS DAM! I'VE BEEN TAKING CARE OF IT FOR FIFTEEN YEARS JUST TO HAVE YOU START DAMAGING IT OVERNIGHT!
— But what about...? Wait... FIFTEEN YEARS?? You've been here... wherever... fifteen years?? Who or what are you really? And where the heck are we?
— I’m part of your subconscious, in charge of safeguarding your memories. -he turned to the dam- THAT one in particular.

Little Jake sat down by the river, putting his feet in the water: he looked calmer, but visibly worried; the adult Jake found it difficult to assimilate all the information he had just received, but he felt no danger. As his childish self had said, the Past Master did not act that way: this was real.

Or as real as a dream could be.

He sat beside his childlike self, hoping, if possible, to reason with him. He put his feet in the water: it was extremely relaxing. He even took off his helmet and mask. What was the point of wearing them? The two of them were the same person.

— Have you been here long on your own?
— It's your mind, Jake. There is no one else; no one else but us.
— I want to try to understand... Is this a dream?
— Not here. The subconscious has layers like an onion; or several levels like a skyscraper. The Dream Studio, where I got you from, is in the upper layers or levels; we are in the lower levels, where memories of all kinds are stored. Do you see the river? -he pointed to the stream that flowed in front of them- It's the River of Memory.
— "Dream Studio"? does it really work like a movie?
— Yes, and I'm really asking for better scripts: I don't expect the level of Spielberg, Kubrick or John Carpenter, but something more... exciting would help. I don't ask for erotic cinema either... Well, a little bit maybe... Occasionally.
— Eh... But what about the Chance I saw?
— It is part of your subconscious, but more like a very close projection of the real Chance: one that is based on what you know about him; it happens with all the people you see in your dreams. See it as a part of the "simulation" or projection that dreams are. Although... they can act very realistically, being almost alive.
— I do know Chance, because I didn't really notice the difference. -He shook his head- Getting back to the point, why did you take me out of my dream?
— Because we need to talk about something VERY serious, Jake.


__________________________________________________________________________________________



— YOU ARE ME!! AT TEN YEARS OLD!
— Brilliant deduction, Chance. -He mocked his childish self as if applauding- I'd give you the Nobel Prize of the Obvious, but I don't have it on paw.
— …

Indeed, he had his childlike self as it was remembered at age ten: a somewhat large boy for his age, slightly chubby or "broad-boned" as some would say. He wore a short-sleeved T-shirt with blue and white stripes interspersed with dark brown shorts and a pair of white sneakers. Despite his appearance, he looked older than he was, and more so with that angry and... disappointed gaze that didn't depart from his adult counterpart.

— Am I always this hateful?
— Uh-huh... But only when you feel that the people around you are idiots. Like Feral most of the time.
— I just realized... you called yourself an idiot on more than one occasion.
— It's better to acknowledge our faults than just deny them. Anyway... where was I? Ah, yes: we need to talk.
— Could you first tell me how this is possible? And where the heck am I?
— As you might have imagined, your "sexual encounter" with Callie in that hotel was just a dream. A very recurrent one, although... -the boy started to laugh- Nothing beats the one where you were with Turmoil and her women pilots. The things you did there...!
— You're a perverted brat... -grumbled T-Bone, more embarrassed than angry- You shouldn't see adult things! They're... private!
— Who are you trying to fool by pretending to be a prude?! I'm you and you're me. Are you forgetting that you've been sexually active since you were sixteen?! You think I don't know that Kat Kommandos' comics weren't your only reading material at twelve?!
— Eh... Ehm... THAT MAGAZINE WAS TOM'S, AND YOU KNOW IT!! -he answered completely blushing- I JUST FOUND IT AND RETURNED IT TO HIM WITHOUT HIM KNOWING!
— Sure... you gave it back to him... ONE MONTH LATER, after hiding it under the bed and because mom wanted to change the mattress and you were terrified that she would find it and give you the sermon of the millennium.
— …
— Anyway: let's leave that aside, which is not relevant. As I was saying, we are your subconscious, and I’m part of it. More specifically, the one in charge of protecting your memories -he reluctantly pointed to the dam- Especially the one in there.
— So I'm dreaming?
— No... but you're still asleep. You've already left the Dream Studio; I had to get you out of there to talk to you about something SERIOUS.
— Are you serious? -he asked incredulously- "Dream Studio"? Hey, you could give it a new name. And while we're at it, improve this landscape somewhat: it's depressing.
— You think I'm your janitor?
— The one with the mental powers is you. Or me, I don't know. I don't care. Why did you bring me here?
— You know very well why.

He was back with the riddles again: he hated complicated riddles like that, and even more so when villains used it as a tactic. What did he know? Know what? The only thing he knew at the time was that he was still dreaming in one way or another, and now he was with his childish self discussing nonsense.

And speaking of his childhood version, he had come to the riverbank to sit down, put his feet in the water and invited the adult side to join him: he seemed more... friendly and calm than before. The Swat Kat pilot decided to accept the "generosity" of his childish counterpart and be by his side; it was strange to see his childish self face to face. How much he had changed, how much he had grown... And in a way, he hadn't changed at all either.

— So... do you live here? It doesn't look like a good neighborhood.
— It's... quiet. If you're going to protect memories, you need a lot of peace and loneliness.
— If I were you, I'd look for some company... What about this river? The water feels... I don't know... strange. Nostalgic?
— It's the River of Memory: literally it's your memories that run in it. They flow naturally, and sometimes they run to the upper layers of the subconscious. That's why sometimes you remember things suddenly. Although sometimes you remember too much, and I have to... interfere.
— How is that?
— You've been having headaches lately, haven't you?
— As a matter of fact, yes. -It didn't take you five seconds to figure it out- It was you?!
— Sorry if I gave you a hard time, but it's a safety mechanism.
— Safety from what?
— Chance... We all have two kinds of memories: those you bring out because they bring you pride, happiness, nostalgia... and those you decide to hide in the darkest corners of your mind because you want to forget them. But leaving them behind is difficult: there are things, sensations, that bring back memories automatically.
— Like when I remember grandma every time they prepare that rolled up tuna at Christmas?
— Exactly.
— I still don't understand... What kind of memories are the ones you don't want me to know about?
— Some that you don't want to know about, for your own sake... and Jake's.
— Jake? What does Jake have to do with any of this?
— EVERYTHING.



__________________________________________________________________________________________



Jake's childlike self pulled his feet out of the water and stood upright in his reduced height; before his adult self said anything, he waved his paws so that he would be silent while remaining quiet, as if trying to, or hearing something. Once assured... -of what?- he went to the point.

— You shouldn't have come back to Gatalina Valley. -he sat with his arms crossed, looking into his eyes- Not now, not when the anniversary of Dad's death is approaching. Not ever.
— You know I didn't want to, but they called about a job. What was I supposed to do?
— How about... "Wrong number" and hang up.
— That's rude. -replied the adult Jake- Mom didn't raise us that way.
— When was the last time we saw Mom? About... six, seven months ago on her birthday, after an hour-long visit. I don't think Mom raised us like that.

If it had been someone else who had made the comment, including Chance, I would have hit him; being who he was, it wasn't worth it.

— Going back to that place makes your memories flow naturally like water from a spring... -turned towards the dam- or in this case since we are, in undesirable filtrations.
— That dam over there... What does it contain? Is it what I think it is?
— Repressed memories: correct.
— Memories of what?
— Of things that don't concern you, Jake. -he replied bluntly- That's all. For once in your life, stop thinking and forget the whole thing.
— But what thing are you talking about?! I don't remember!
— Of course not: because you decided to forget it. And I did my part by building that dam.

That couldn't be... That he decided to forget? Forget what? He was totally unaware of the content of those memories, but he felt he had to know: that it was very important for...

From the dam, new leaks emerged, small but constant: little Jake was more upset than before. The adult Jake began to suffer from a severe headache.

— If you're going to have the quip of trying to remember, at least do it while you're awake.
— You...! You cause me those headaches! Why are you doing this?!
— Because I want what's best for you, for us, Jake. And what's in there, it doesn't suit you in the least.



__________________________________________________________________________________________



Now Jake was involved in the whole thing. What did his friend have to do with this whole "Conspiracy" attempt by his "inner child" who didn't want to give any more clues? Ten-year-old Chance pulled his feet out of the water to stand next to his adult counterpart. He now looked more serious than before.

— Before you pull your feet out of the water, tell me something. Do you remember how you felt when Jake moved out?
— You mean after his father's suicide? -He thought about it for a few seconds; his expression turned gloomy- Oh, I remember...
— The boredom, the loneliness, the teasing... You felt that you would never see him again, even though you were still in touch.
— He wasn't my only friend then.
— I know, but he was the best we had. And at that time, Tom and Zack were unbearable about preparing for college: even if they had some time for us, they would never give it to us. We were their outcast brother.
— Were we? -He remembered talking to his mother and the fact that Zack didn't call to invite him to meet his third attempt at a wife- I think that's still happening.
— And yes, luckily, or just coincidentally, when we moved to the Megakat Downtown a year later, we ended up at the same school as Jake. And we stopped being lonely.
— But those fools kept teasing us... I wanted them... -he banged his fists against each other- They also told us...
— Pussies? I know: you ended up taking a few hits for that; very good ones indeed. Do you know why they did that? Because people in general, aren’t used to seeing such a close and united friendship between two boys; they see it as a girl thing. But you didn't care: Jake is more than your friend, Chance.
— WHAT ARE YOU IMPLYING, YOU LITTLE BRA…?!
— Relax, that's not what I meant. -He replied calmly when he saw his adult counterpart getting so upset that he wanted to strangle him- Sometimes that macho pride of yours is a little annoying. -he sighed- Jake is the brother you felt you never had, the brother Tom and Zack never were. What you feel for him is pure and simple brotherly love: nothing more. Do you already feel more at ease when you’re sincere or do I have to bring tranquilizers?
— I'm fine. Tell me, how can my subconscious say things as profound as that?
— You underestimate yourself too much, Chance: you’re smarter than you want to admit. It is good that your enemies underestimate you, because this way you manage to surprise them; but when you do it yourself, it is dangerous.
— But the smart one is Jake.
— Correction: Jake is the smart one when it comes to technology, calculations and so on. You when it comes to flying the Turbokat and other skills of a more physical nature. There are several types of intelligence: each one has its strengths and weaknesses; that's why they make a good team by complementing each other.
— Yeah… I guess you're right. We are a great team... and Jake is like my brother.
— That's why they've always taken care of each other since elementary school: they've helped each other, defended each other, formed a team. -he paused- And that's why you turned off the TV so quickly last night.
— What?

Was he referring to the report on the missing child? What was that all about?

— I'm saying you turned it off too fast as soon as the report was over. Why?
— It was already over and there was nothing to see.
— Surely. -replied the ten-year-old Chance; he sounded convinced but suspicious- And tell me, did you talk to Jake about that disappearance afterwards?
— I just told him I hoped they'd find him and that was it. Why are you asking me questions you obviously already know the answers to? Do you think I'm lying?
— I want to help you understand yourself and your actions: you don't realize that you do things automatically, as if it were an instinct. Now, did you talk to Jake about the disappearance of the child after dinner?
— I didn't.
— Why?
— I didn't see any reason to.
— Nor did you suggest going to look for him yourself.
— I doubt that something like that would require us to go in. Enforcers can take care of it.
— Just listen to what you just said. -severely stated- At what point since Feral expelled you... US, have we trusted them again? And don't give me Felina, that's another matter. -He pointed it out accusatorily with his finger- I'll tell you the truth, Chance: you're avoiding the subject without knowing it, because instinctively, you know perfectly well that something is not right...
— It is not tru...
— You know perfectly well that it is NOT a coincidence that the boy Max has disappeared knowing that he lives in Jake's old house...
— Stop...
— And you know very clearly that you lied to Jake when he asked you if he disappeared, because you yourself...!
— STOP IT, STOP IT, STOP IT!

Instantly, Chance made a fist directly at his childish counterpart: there was no reason beyond that to shut him up and stop him from saying things he didn't want to hear. However, he couldn't hit him: his fist had stopped inches from his face, while his childlike counterpart looked at him indifferently and carelessly.

— Why can't I hit you?! What are you doing to me?!
— I know you well enough to know you wouldn't hit me. Do you want me to give you the reasons?
— …
One: the hero you want to be and the Swat Kat you are would not allow you to hit someone helpless, much less a child.
— You’re not really a child, much less defenseless. -insisted the adult Chance, struggling uselessly- You’re part of me.
Two: For someone who as a child suffered bullying and mockery from older, stronger people like your classmates or your own older brothers, to abuse your now physical superiority would be somewhat hypocritical. You know what it's like to be a child bullied; you would never try to become a bully.
— …
— And Three: because you know very well that I am right in what I say.

He hated to admit it, but his childish version was right: he didn't know how, but he was right. Chance lowered his fist and sat down again on the riverbank, discouraged, defeated and very confused. He had lied to his partner, to his friend, and was not even aware of it. How? Why?

His childish counterpart seemed to pity him and patted him on the shoulder. It was strange for a child of ten to try to comfort a young adult of twenty-five, but it was possible.

— What am I supposed to do, and how am I going to do it?
— So far, you've done well. I will help you in any way I can.
— But how am I supposed to keep him from... remembering something that even I don't know what it is? Could you at least give me a clue?
— Mmm... -the childish Chance turned to see the dam behind him: it had small leaks but was still intact; nothing that could threaten his integrity- Well... I suppose I could, but that might make you try to remember.
— Cause me all the headaches you want: give me the biggest headache of the century if you have to.
— Nor to make you play the masochist; I’m your subconscious: I would never try to do you any harm. Although I must admit, such a request tells me that you intuit why it is important that you do not remember.
— Could you stop beating around the riddles? You know I hate them.
— Yes, of course; give me a moment. -The boy gave himself a few seconds to sort out his thoughts- When you were kids, you went through something... very bad. And you made a promise-one that if you broke, it would have terrible consequences.
— What consequences?
— That's... I'll leave that up to you, "T-Bone". But I think you know what it is... and given their current life, I doubt you want to risk it.
— What?
— Remember this: you're not just doing this for Jake, you're doing it for you, too, for us.

A water stream was heard flowing from the dam nearby: a new filtration appeared. The child Chance knew why it had appeared.

— And well: I think it's all clear, isn't it?
— I have other questions.
— Mmm... Okay.
— The first time we met, when I dreamt about the Evil Swat Kats... Why did I dream that? Did you have something to do with it?
— I'm not the one in charge of dreams, nor do I have the power to decide what you dream; there's another one dedicated to that aspect of your mind. The most I can do is try to communicate with you in them, or even get in there.
— And why did I dream about them?
— You should ask someone else: the Fears Specialist. The truth is that you have dreamt about them repeatedly, which means that you harbor some kind of fear related to that subject.
— One more thing... The other time, you said there was a spy. What did you mean by that?

For the first time since he arrived at that place, Chance saw his childish counterpart extremely uncomfortable, hesitant... In fear? Yes, that was it: he was afraid. Of what?

— It has to do with that which neither Jake nor I should remember, right?
— ...
— I'll take that as a yes.
— I hate that sometimes you're smarter than you look: it doesn't make my job any easier.
— He's here, isn't he?
— Well... ehh...
— Say it.
— Y... yes... -he nodded- It's here. Well, not here "here"... but in the higher levels of your mind. -The boy shook his ears up as if trying to hear something- Now it is in the Museum of Things.
— What? Seriously: you have to look for better names. And what is that place?
— It's where they display the things that you like, that you dislike, that you're afraid of... It's like a gallery of your likes and dislikes.
— And what is it supposed to do there?
— What is a spy supposed to do? SPYING! He's been coming to this site for a couple of days: he wants to know everything about you. He was in your dream with the Evil Swat Kats, where I had to force you to wake up, and he was stalking you in the dream with Callie.
— WHAT?!! That guy doesn't know about privacy. -then a revelation came to him- Hey, wait a minute: the other time you made me wake up by force because you told me not to look him in the eye... and now that I think about it... you contacted me very quietly on both occasions. It's obvious that you're afraid of him.
— And that's right...
— I'm going to teach him a lesson. -He banged his fists- Nobody gets in my head or makes Chance G. Furlong afraid.
— Don't even think about it! -he exclaimed in fear- If he catches you, he will have access to this place, to me and to the deepest levels of your mind! Or worse...
— And then what?
— I have the feeling... that he wants you to remember that very thing I want to avoid.
— I'm going: take me to him.
— NO.
— Take me!
— This meeting is over, Chance: go back to sleep.
— I'm already asleep!
— Then go back to sleep and get out of here! But you're not going next to that thing!



__________________________________________________________________________________________



The headache disappeared, but his doubts continued. He opted for another strategy.

— You said you've been here for fifteen years, right?
— Uh-huh.
— And judging by your appearance, I gather that those memories you're watching occurred when you were eight years old.
— Jake...
— So... is what Feral said true? I... disappeared when I was eight?
— This lazy-tongued son of a b*tch... -growled little Jake, pounding his fists; his adult counterpart never imagined using that vocabulary in his childhood, not even with so much hate. He had only done so since he was fourteen years old- Sometimes I wish Chance would break a few teeth.
— I'll take that as a yes. Now...
— Jake, stop...
— You don't need to tell me the content of the dam: I just want to clear up a doubt.
— I know what you're going to tell me, and I don't like it.
— I don't care; I want answers. -this time, it was Razor who was speaking: the assertive and daring Swat Kats gunner- Is what's in there related to the boy Max who disappeared?

For a few moments, little Jake remained without showing any change in his facial expression or pronouncing any words. Then he ended up bowing his head, and mumbling something in almost inaudible volume. Razor swore he heard a timid "Yes".

That was all he needed to hear.

— I have to go and investigate...
— NO.
— Do you intend to stop me?
— I can, and I will, “Razor”. You know it.
— You shouldn't have brought me here in my Swat Kat uniform: I will climb the dam with my Globatrix and discover the great secret you are hiding from me.
— How naive you are...

Razor was preparing to use the climbing hook of his Globatrix, but after several tries, it didn't work. He then tried to climb the levee without the help of his tool, but he slipped every time he took just two steps.

On his third try and lying on the ground, he looked at his childish counterpart smiling at him reluctantly.

— I don't know what is more naive of you: to tell me your plan out loud, or to believe that you have more power than I do in this place. -Despite everything, Razor stood up- Seriously, Jake: don't stoop to the level of a cartoon villain.
— I have to try anyway.
— Why?
— What do you mean, why? You're my cruding subconscious! You know perfectly well why I'm trying: there's a child missing and someone has to rescue him.
— That's what the Enforcers are for.
— I can't believe you're saying that, especially since you're me! Feral will never find him.
— I'm asking you again, why do you want to know what's inside the dam?
— Because if my "disappearance," which I don't remember, is related to what happened to Max, then remembering what happened to me might help him.
— Uh-huh. And tell me, do you plan to do all that for this Max or for yourself? Oh, yeah: I remember the talk you had with Chance.

That question struck him like a thunderbolt, and worse: he was right. Why did he do it? Did he really care about Max, or was he just curious about an event from his childhood that he mysteriously did not know about? He grunted helplessly as he couldn't give one with a clear answer, and realized that Chance was right: sometimes he thought too much.

In the end, he was left with only one alternative.

— For both.
— At least you are honest with yourself. -little Jake couldn't help but smile at the irony of it all; soon that smile faded after one more expression... Defender maybe?- You're going to keep trying to remember... and try to rescue Max.
— I have to: I'm a Swat Kat. As much as solving disappearance cases like this is not something we usually do, our duty is to help people no matter what. No matter what gets in our way.
— I didn't expect anything else from you. -He sighed; he sounded defeated and at the same time, satisfied: he was the Jake I knew, the Razor I knew. Why did he end up being such a cruding hero?- Don't think I won't put up a fight, "Razor".
— I wouldn't expect anything else from myself.
— I expect you to stick to the consequences of what you're trying to do. -I was about to ask you what you meant when little Jake continued- One more thing... This technically breaks some of the rules we set for ourselves years ago, but... I guess I can give you a little clue.

His childlike self approached its adult counterpart, standing in front of him, looking at him face to face, with a thoughtful expression in his eyes. He pretended to look up for a few seconds to look down again at the Swat Kat.

— Tell me something, Jake... -his voice sounded low but audible, his ears pointed momentarily upwards before continuing- Why do you think I called you pretending to be Callie?

He wasn't able to answer: not immediately. The answer eluded him: Why did he do it? In a way, he had enough control over that subconscious world: he had prevented her from climbing the levee, and in his dream he seemed to know her movements. Why the precautions? Why did he suddenly speak in a low voice? Why did he constantly look up as if?

And he understood.

Over the shoulder of his childlike counterpart, Jake saw a recent crack in the dam, from which water was flowing relatively smoothly. Surprisingly, the boy was not bothered.

— Now you know.
— Are they sp...?
— Shhh... -his childish self indicated that he should be quiet; his tone of voice was extremely low- Wake up, Jake. Wake up now, and you will know.



__________________________________________________________________________________________



His awakening was very sudden: in an instant he had gone from being asleep to feeling the softness of his mattress, of his pillow. The smell of the room, the cold and humidity of the environment because of that rain. The only sense he didn't dare use so soon was that of sight: partly because he wanted to keep sleeping... and partly because he didn't want to see.

His desire to find answers overcame his appetite for sleep and he opened his eyes suddenly.

And he saw it.

Jake shuddered so much that he backed up to the edge of the bed and fell backwards onto the concrete smoothing floor, causing a small shudder in the objects on the furniture. If it weren't for the Enforcers' training and later the Swat Kat training that had accustomed his body to such abuse, he probably would have broken his back; he had been hit with his head and hard anyway.

Leaning on his right paw, he lifted the upper part of his body while stroking his head with the other in search of some injury; fortunately, he had none. He saw his friend's bed to verify if he had got up before such a noise: surprisingly, Chance was still sleeping like a baby and snoring in the noise of a log in a sawmill; that was good, at least. Then he poked around the ground with his eyes if the cause of his fall was still there. He did not find it, but he knew he had seen it: it was real.

Everything was real.

He still had it in his memory, engraved on the retinas of his eyes that rag doll inches away from his face, staring at it with that inert expression of a toy, but with a sinister aura wrapping it around his whole body of cloth. He was barely twenty centimeters tall, with a slightly chubby body and a simple design; anyone else would think he was just a regular doll, and even adorable: the kind that grandmothers played with in their childhood.

But he wasn't just anyone, and that doll, by the design he brought with him, knew it: it was his spitting image made into a doll, but not like Jake Clawson the mechanic at the Enforcers’ Salvage Yard; it was his miniature version with the Swat Kat uniform, a Razor doll made in a simple way but with all the details: the helmet, the mask, the blue pilot uniform... He even had a small Globatrix on his right wrist.

And it had those eyes: a pair of white buttons with four holes sewn with black thread to the body of the doll, extremely impeccable buttons, almost glossy, contrasting greatly with the blackness of the mask as a background. And it was those same eyes that Jake saw when he suddenly woke up, staring at them... and it was those same piercing eyes, which scared him.

How did he get to the garage? Who sent him? And why? Despite being the only ones who had ever discovered their secret identity -and by mere luck, only to lose that knowledge to Feral- the Metallikats were automatically discarded: using dolls made no sense to them, given their wild nature and impulsiveness. Besides sounding ridiculous. Viper was also discarded for not being their style, as was Hard Drive, who was arrested... for now.

The Pastmaster? Could be, but he was too stupid to discover his identity, and his magic -assuming the doll possessed it- was more in the style of portals and spells; not voodoo dolls. Dark Kat? Unless the doll had a hidden camera, or a bomb, he doubted it was his work. He had already used psychological extortion tactics in which he had been targeted, so why not do it again? The problem was... How did he get that doll to the garage? How did he know where the Swat Kats were hiding?

No, it had not been any of them.

I had already seen the doll before... Where? When? I only knew one thing: I was spying on it, and not only in the garage. Maybe even inside his own mind.

Jake climbed into the bunk and lay down on his bed, but was unable to close his eyes and go back to sleep. He couldn't, he didn't want to anymore: fear had invaded him to the point that he couldn't stop seeing back and forth if the mysterious doll appeared again to spy on him... if he didn't keep doing it.





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Re: The Swat Kats and the Mysterious Door (Crossover with Coraline)

Post by EditorElohim » Thu Jan 07, 2021 10:57 pm

Chapter 5.: Researching the past.


When he woke up, he felt that he had slept like a log, an extremely heavy one that could barely remember what he dreamt... but he remembered everything else. He was surprised not to find Jake in the room as soon as he got up from his bunk; they usually woke up at the same time to get ready for work. He wasn't in the bathroom either, so the typical fight of whoever entered the shower first was conspicuous by its absence; once he was clean and in uniform, he went to make his breakfast in the kitchen.

He found his partner sitting on the couch in front of the TV off, with a cup of coffee on his paw and his eyes squinting at some papers on the living room table that he had obviously written. How long had he been there?

— Jake, Jake...
— …
— Jake! -He gives him a strong pat on the back without hurting him, but causing him to shake himself forward- Wake up, buddy. Didn't you sleep well?
— Huh? What the...
— That coffee doesn't do anything for you, does it?
— Huh... Ah... That. No... I didn't sleep well. -did you take a sip of your coffee- I've been awake since... four o'clock in the morning.
— You've been up here since then? If you want, you can take the day off and I'll relieve you.
— No, no... -he answered; he sounded tired but determined to continue- I have to see... the autoparts from Mr. Gueyrod's... Oh, and it's still raining. -he yawned- Crud it...
— So it seems. -He looked out the window and it was true: it was still raining outside, although not as hard as yesterday- I'm going to make breakfast for both of us; I'll be right back.
— Chance... it's not... -forkward- necessary.
— I prefer to do it myself, before you end up rubbing your face in the fire. -he commented as a joke, his laughter quickly and inadvertently fading away- It is for your own good.
— Okay...

While Chance was in the kitchen, Jake took up his personal project, and it wasn't just repairing his "uncle's" car, but something much more personal. What he dreamed about last night remained fresh in his mind, and since waking up hours ago, he had been pondering deeply how to solve the mystery of his lost memories: if he wanted to rescue Max, he had to remember what had happened to himself fifteen years ago.

Since he was a child, he had been careful at all times, avoiding to be carried away by impulses and always having a support plan: as a child, he had been useful at school; like Razor, that had been very useful in missions.
He thought of some kind of backup, such as a computer: if he could not remember, he had possibly written something in his childhood to remember it later. He had always been intelligent, and for a reason he was two years ahead at school: a blessing and a curse at the same time. As a child he had been smarter than most of his classmates and - although he was ashamed to admit it - perhaps even smarter than some of the adults around him, and that was a target for some bullies. As an adult, that intelligence had allowed him to excel as a gunner both in the Enforcers and later as a Swat Kat, in addition to building the Turbokat and other vehicles and gadgets. Overcoming his eight-year-old self would be easy, wouldn't it?

But with such a gap in his memory -which was more like a deep crater- Jake realized that any ideas he might have had at that age could be as indecipherable as the Egyptian hieroglyphs were for centuries. He needed his version of the Rosetta Stone: the point was where to find it.

First he thought of his old elementary school notebooks or some journal: if there was anywhere to write down what he had experienced, it had to be there; he had kept a good number of them for several years; the only problem was that they were at his mother's house, and he didn't feel like visiting her, at least until the day of the crud anniversary. A fleeting memory ruined his hopes: his mother had thrown away or recycled many of those old notebooks when he joined the Enforcers to "make more space".

With a flick of his thumb, he spun the pencil between his fingers, banging it against the coffee table in frustration.

What if I didn't do anything in the end He thought, what if I really decided to forget about it completely? No. There had to be something; I couldn't have been that reckless as a child, could I?

— I know you're there, trying to keep me from remembering. But I will.
— "I told you I'd give you a fight, Jake."
— I'm not going to let my eight-year-old self win: I know myself well enough.
— "Well, so far he' s beating you"
— Mmm...



His internal debate had to be interrupted by Chance's call for breakfast; he took his notes -really meaningless scribbles- and went to join him. After breakfast, he went directly to the car they had in the shop to buy some of the auto parts he needed. But someone got in his way.

— Where do you think you are going?
— To work. -He replied that he didn't like his friend's "fatherly" tone at all, but he kept it to himself- I have to go buy some things for my "uncle's" car. I will not violate the curfew.
— Forget it: I'm not going to let you go after seeing how you barely stayed awake half an hour ago. You could have an accident and wreck the car.
— It's nice of you to care about me, Chance.
— You know I worry about you, man; I'm just kidding about the car.
— I'll be fine: I'm more awake, see?
— Why don't we both go? I'll drive and you buy what you need.
— Someone has to stay in the garage in case a customer comes... or an emergency arises.
— Jake...
— I'm not a baby, Chance. -he said sharply, stepping aside in the direction of the car- I can take care of myself. -He got in the car and started the engine- I will try not to delay.

Without saying anything else, he left the garage and the Salvage Yard.


__________________________________________________________________________________________


The rain continued to fall over the city, more serene but intermittent: and since it was Monday, no one could have an excuse to miss work anymore. Traffic in Megakat during rush hour was already frustrating on sunny days; with this rain it was worse. Fortunately for Jake, he knew some secondary routes to get to his many scheduled destinations on time - only at that time, hurry was not a priority.

Above all, he wanted to be alone so he could think: he needed information to solve Max's mystery: his own blocked memories -not forgotten; he was forced to use the right term- but also information he could find outside his personal sphere. Feral had said that this was not the first time a child had disappeared in Gatalina Valley, and he tacitly acknowledged that he had been one of them. That raised two things: that what happened to himself and Max were not isolated cases, and that somewhere, surely, there was some record of those events, like old newspapers.

The Public Library.

If there was one place where he could find a clue beyond the reach of his subconscious, it was there. But it wasn't enough.
He was still thinking about it when he arrived at his first planned destination: it was already eight o'clock in the morning and it hadn't stopped raining; Chance was probably in the garage, getting bored or otherwise occupied. He bought the necessary auto parts from that shop and took the wheel to his next destination.

I need information about my own house.

He couldn't, of course, show up there and go around questioning the neighbors, or the grieving parents themselves. Who was he to get so involved? A nobody. Nor could he appear as Razor. Why would a Swat Kat be so interested in a kidnapping? Why ONLY ONE of them? There he felt a bitter taste in his throat, more so than the two cups of coffee, loaded and sugar-free, that he had taken in the morning to keep him awake after hours of insomnia. He had sensed it since the morning when he greeted him.

I can't trust Chance. Then who?

He parked his car inside a parking building in the Megakat Downtown and stood there thinking: there were few cars, and therefore, few people. He needed help getting the information about his old house, which he believed was a key part of the whole mystery. Chance was out of the question, no matter how much it hurt: I don't know why, but I have a feeling that more than help, he would be a hindrance. So who? He cursed himself for having lost contact with the friends he had made within the Enforcers, but he also held a grudge against them. What did they do when he and Chance were expelled? Did they defend them? Oh, of course not: they saved their tails by supporting Feral and cutting off all contact with "the outcasts".

Bloody double-decker lickers.

And he had an idea: crazy, but in a way, the only logic given the circumstances. Two years ago, when they formed their team, they had reached an agreement with Callie Briggs after she helped them on one of their first missions: given her work as the Deputy Mayor and her numerous contacts and access to information, she would be their informant, and she would warn them of any emergency occurring in the city that they were not aware of, or of any suspicious activity of which she was aware, and they would come to solve the problem; to that end, they had given her a communicator built by Razor himself. He just had to activate it and speak through it, and they would answer. Just this: Callie could only make emergency calls, and they would receive them; never the other way round.

At least, that was what Callie and Chance thought.

Once again, their caution had shone through. Since Jake had built the communicator, he gave himself the freedom to give it a secret mode that only he knew about: he had done it in the extreme case that they needed help, and could only trust Callie Briggs. Past experiences showed that she was able to help them despite her lack of training.

The other reason was that at the time, Jake hoped, though with little hope, to reveal his identity to her: he was the only person they trusted, and he felt some guilt for not telling her the truth. Chance's reason for not doing so was the most obvious: "If she knew our identity, and some villain kidnapped her, she might reveal it one way or another and put us, or our families, at risk.” It was more than obvious that he was saying this almost as an excuse, since he was almost as eager as he was to tell her about his secret identity.

That didn't take away from the fact that his friend was right. “She won't know who we really are, not today, not tomorrow, at least.” If Callie truly appreciated them, and this was more than evident after so much time "working" together, she would respect their desire to remain anonymous.

At least, he trusted that.

— Miss Briggs... This is Razor, can you hear me?

__________________________________________________________________________________________


Had she known that such rain would fall on the city, Callie would have rejected Chance's proposal to fix her car: now it was too late and she had to face the consequences. The subway system was still collapsed, she was not very friendly with the bus, the mayor had not offered to bring her, and all she had left was to use the cab.

By the time she arrived at City Hall, it was already a hive of people moving around, mostly taking care of those affected by the floods, accidents caused by reckless drivers speeding up despite the slippery asphalt, and restoring the pumping of the subway tunnels. For her part, she had to go to the mayor to... make sure he did something: since the rain had turned his golf courses into muddy, inaccessible swamps, Manx was "stuck" in the office doing something he didn't used to do: work.

On more than one occasion, Callie had to reread several documents to him so he could understand and sign them, as well as force him to stay in his office and keep track of the phone... and keep him from getting hooked on the computer playing Solitaire: his new discovery. And this guy is the mayor? How come there's still a city with him in charge? It was almost 9 a.m. when he had a chance to return to the comfort of his own office to do his job, one that was not Mayor Manx's "unofficial babysitter.”

She had barely begun to drink her mid-morning coffee when she heard a beep from her pawbag. It didn't sound like his pager or his cell phone: it was something else... like an alarm. He opened it looking for the noise until he ran into his communicator causing that sound and a red blinking light. What did that mean? But they had told me that it was only for making calls; not for receiving them. Then he heard their voice.

“Miss Briggs... This is Razor, can you hear me?”

She suffered a small shock that almost made her spill her coffee on the desk: fortunately she avoided that tragedy. Why would she call him Razor? More importantly, why didn't they tell her she could be called? Calm down, calm down; this is no time to get angry about nonsense: that's what Manx is for.

— I... I hear you, Razor. To what do I owe your call?
“I will be brief. I need your help."
This is new. -she thought- What can I do for you?
"It only involves me, Miss Briggs.”
— OK: that IS new. Razor, did something happen between you and T-Bone?
“No; we're fine. But this favor I'm asking is... personal. Very personal.”
— You don't want him to find out, do you?
"Please; I don't want to give too many details. Not now. Can you help me or not? I would understand if you didn't..."
— After all you have done for me and the city, I would be happy to help you. How can I be of service?
— "I... need... I need to find out from the real estate company that sold 422 Derry Street in Gatalina Valley. And gather as much information as possible about the last buyers of the house.”

Callie did not understand the nature of that favor. Why would Razor be interested in such information about a house? Was he thinking of buying it to live in? Or investing in real estate? She was confused when she heard such a request: it didn't sound like the Razor she knew. Besides, why did that address sound familiar?

— I'm sorry, but I don't understand the reason for this favor.
“As I said, it's something very personal”.
— I will need more than that, Razor. -she answered kindly, but firmly- I can't just quit my job to do something so... strange.
“I understand. I'm sorry if the..."
— Wait; I didn't say I wouldn't do it. I said I needed some kind of explanation.
“I don't know if I should tell you too much.”
— Trust me, please. I have trusted you since we met.
"Well..." -there was a brief pause.- "You must have heard about the missing child case."
— Yes, it was on the news... -Callie got the revelation like a flash- That's the kid's house, right?
"I think there's something strange about that house, and I want to look into it myself.”
— If that's the case, why doesn't T-Bone help you?
"He wouldn't approve of what I'm doing right now.”
— Why?
"Because I lived in that house, Miss Briggs.”

Those words left her cold. Did Razor live in Gatalina Valley? In the two years that she knew the Swat Kats, her trust in them was based mainly on their good deeds in favor of Megakat and its citizens, overlooking the destruction that Feral constantly recriminated them; even when they were falsely accused of criminals by Dark Kat, she gave them the benefit of the doubt. Their trust at that time was rewarded.

And yet, he never knew anything about them: if they had a family, where they had grown up, what their personal tastes were -beyond anything related to their Swat Kats work, of course-, their fears, their goals... and of course, who they really were. Since she was a professional, she didn't need to think too much about why they didn't trust her: revealing her identity would be dangerous for them and those close to them, and of course, for her. Moreover, Feral would not hesitate to arrest them as soon as she discovered their true identity.

She understood this well. And yet...

"Understand now why I don't want T-Bone to know."
— I get the idea, but why are you asking me this? I know you well enough to know that you're not one to take risks like this.
"I'd like to tell you that I know myself perfectly well too, but I'd be lying to you," -he paused briefly before continuing- "Lately... things have been happening.”
— I don't understand you.
"That's not important, Miss Briggs. The only important thing is to rescue the missing child, and if you can help me, I would be grateful.”
— You know I'd help them as long as I could, Razor, but are you aware of what you're asking? I could...
“I know," -he ended- "But just as you trust us, we want to trust you. I trust you.”
— What... what should I do?
“I just need you to ask the company for information about the previous owners of that house, as many as you can. And give me the information sealed in a folder. Once I have it, I'll come to you and pick it up. When do you think I can get it?"
— Tonight. -she said firmly, she would know that she could- I have contacts in the real estate business. I will wait for you at the town hall at nine o'clock at night.
"I understand. See you then, Miss Briggs.”
— Razor... I promise to respect your privacy. I swear to you.
“Thanks.”


__________________________________________________________________________________________


"I swear", had been his farewell. "Don't swear, please", he would have replied, but he simply thanked her for her help. A help he should not have asked for given the risks involved, but he had no one else to turn to. It was a horrible feeling not to trust your closest friend, and to lean on someone to whom you didn't even tell your identity. That's what the exile led to at the Salvage Yard: to distrust others, to always look sideways, to have eyes in the back of your head.

Crud Feral.

He put away his communicator, started the car, and went back to his new destination: the Library. A fleeting glance at the clock revealed that it was 9:30 in the morning; he had been out of the garage for over two hours and had no intention of returning yet. Possibly Chance was wondering why he was taking so long: it didn't matter; he was already forging an excuse -not to mention a lie- to justify his delay. Anyway, his visit to the library would not last long, and luckily, it was close by.

The Megakat Public Library was a somewhat old-fashioned neoclassical building; it was not the only one in the city either, but it was the first. If there was a place, apart from the Museum, where there could be records of the city's history, it was that one. Although he wore his mechanic's outfit, and was clean, he had to prove several times to the chief librarian, a decrepit and sullen old woman of character -almost a stereotype of her class- that his paws were clean and that he wouldn't dirty anything. He asked about the old newspaper section.

— End of Corridor 8, on the left. And be careful, young man! Some of those specimens are older than your grandparents.
— Thank you.

At the end of corridor 8, turn left. The old newspapers were organized in large leather-bound books, arranged side by side on gigantic solid wood shelves, and sorted by month and year. Each book corresponded to a specific month and year indicated on the spine. Once the year was located, all you had to do was find the month. And then he asked himself, in which month did he disappear?

I'll have to check every month... Wait; maybe not. What if I check the summer months? Let's start at the bottom: September, September...

He took out the September book and began to leaf through it as quickly as he could without missing the slightest detail. Beyond some curious news or the usual stuff, he didn't find anything significant beyond the restart of classes. He kept the book and took out the August book: at first, he found nothing useful, until he reached the last days of the month, where he found something he would have liked not to find again.

He knew what it was:

"Man accused of domestic violence found dead in his bedroom. Isaac Clawson, 40, was found dead and shot in the head by his friend and neighbor Dan Gueyrod, 40.”

There was the memory of his father stalking him once again. As if it wasn't enough that the date was so close. He closed the book, took it to the side of the table where he was researching, and took the July book: he also found nothing apart from the particularly expensive Independence Day celebrations, a heat wave that hit Megakat for weeks, and a shortage of milk on local farms due to the intense sun. “Oh, I remember that: the price of milk was through the roof”. He checked the rest of the month and found nothing unusual.

After putting the book back in its place, he walked his paw through the month of June; then he noticed a series of barely audible squeaks despite the deep silence of the library, followed by a few small knocks against the wood of the shelves, like little legs running around.

Rats... don't they clean this place? Those vermin could eat your books.

Ignoring the rats, he took out the June book and began to leaf through it as quickly as he could without missing the slightest detail. Beyond some curious news or the usual stuff, he initially found nothing significant. It was funny that all the strange things happening in Megakat today were unimaginable when he was a child. Even the city has changed, he thought as he flipped through a couple of pages. On one of the pages, they mentioned intense rains never before recorded. This must be what Feral was referring to. After that, nothing remarkable...

And then:

"Missing child in Gatalina Valley. Jacob Clawson, eight-year-old, has been reported missing by his parents after twenty-four hours since he was last seen in their home. Sergeant Ulysses Feral has been put in charge of the investigation.”

Jake felt his own tongue stuck in his throat, had Feral taken over his case, and had he NEVER mentioned it? He continued to read the news, condensed into a small, unremarkable column in the Premises section: nothing remarkable beyond the typical procedure of interviewing family members, neighbors and acquaintances, including his classmates. He raised his eyebrow when Chance was briefly mentioned. Didn't he mention anything about it either? Now he KNEW that his friend had lied to him. The question was WHY.

Then came another bombshell: a phrase I had heard before and from the same person.

"It's not the first time a child has disappeared in Gatalina Valley: we'll find him.”

Obviously he wasn't referring to himself, but to others who preceded him. Who was he referring to? At what point did they disappear? And most importantly, did they find them? A mix of emotions turned his head: shock, anger, confusion... Feral had kept the truth from him; he could be forgiven for being the bastard he was.

But Chance...

Why did you lie to me? Weren't we friends? -He ended up clenching his fists tightly, feeling his claws in the palms of his paws. Then, a fleeting thought passed through his head- Or do you remember it too?

He had overlooked something: he read the news of his disappearance again. It was too small a note, synthesized and modest; almost as if it did not matter. He read the newspapers of the following days: apparently, he had reappeared after almost two days of being absent. But it was hardly mentioned: the fact that he was safe, apparently, did not matter to the media. He opened the August book again and looked for the news of his father's suicide; he compared it to the news of his disappearance, and discovered something very strange.

Compared to his disappearance, his father's death was a much more detailed story, explaining the possible reasons for his fatal decision: financial problems, depression, violent behavior, isolation, abandonment by his family, loneliness... but curiously, in the whole note - which he had read more than three times - he made no mention, NONE, of the fact that his only son had disappeared TWO MONTHS BACK. They didn't even take it into account as a cause of their depression. It was incredible: Was he so unimportant to this city even before he was expelled from the Enforcers and was only eight years old?

He looked at the clock on the library wall: it was 10:15, a quarter of an hour longer than he had planned to stay there before Chance became impatient. He took the books he considered important, and ran to the old librarian.

— No running here, young man! -mumbled the old woman as loudly as she could. She was still a librarian, and she had to set an example- It's a library, not a racetrack.
— Do you have a photocopier? I need some copies of these newspapers.
— It's over there. -Replied the lady, pointing to a large machine a couple of meters from her counter. She snorted- Then you will return those books to their place, and be careful with them or pay for them.
— Yes, I will.


__________________________________________________________________________________________


He hurried out of the library with the valuable copies secured on a platter behind the papers of his "uncle's" car repair budget and a list of auto parts that remained incomplete. This ensured that they were protected from the rain that continued to fall, and from prying eyes - eyes that had names. He started the engine.

He had to get to the garage right away to avoid too much suspicion; he had already ruled out that there were none, since he had been gone for almost four hours. Chance was not the most enlightened guy, but neither was he stupid, and if the excuse he had forged didn't work, everything would go to hell. As I drove home, I thought about what I had discovered, but more about what I hadn't discovered: right, he had been gone for forty-eight hours and no one seemed to ask him if he was okay or where he had been. Feral, his mother -and possibly Chance- were aware of the matter. Why didn't they ever tell him? More importantly, where had he been for those forty-eight hours? It sounded like those cases of alien abductions you see in those ufology documentaries.

And the worst thing was that knowing what Megakat was like, that option didn't sound absurd. Not at all.

Now I'm sure I've disappeared. But that doesn't help me much.
— "The only thing you have is hollow information, Jake."
— That's why you didn't give me headaches, right? You knew that's what I'd find.
— "I'm your subconscious; I'm not a fortune teller. I know as much as you do why people didn't care about our disappearance. Better leave the whole thing in oblivion."
— And act like everyone else? Not a chance: there's still a piece of the puzzle missing. I should have known this would happen again.
— "No, you didn't..."
— You’re lying.
— “No, I'm telling you the truth. You think that your eight-year-old self was acting like your current 23-year-old self; that's absurd.”
— I'm sure I must have left some clue, some hint...
— "I told you no..."
— Although that was not my intention. I have to think.
— “Jake...”

— I don't want to go!
— Jakey, you have to go. It's for your own good...

— Stop bothering.
— "Jake, you know why I do it."
— You're making me angry.
— "Oh, I'm so scared: I'm going to be scared of myself.”

— But I feel good, Mom! I've been here so many times!
— I know, I know... But I want to make sure you're really okay. After...

— Stop those headaches!
— "No."
— I remind you that I'm the one with the wheel, and if I lose control, we both die.
— "Then pull over"
— Forget it.
— "You're crazy"
— There is a reason why I am a Swat Kat.

— Well, Mom, are you going to come with me?
— I'll be outside waiting for you in...

— You're making me lose my patience!
— "Same to you, you stubborn one!"
— I have to remember, and you're only in my way.
— "I just want to help you."
— Leave me. NOW
— "NO"
— I warn you...
— "And what will you do? Insult yourself?"


He was in a waiting room, with fairly comfortable furniture and nice music, a pile of magazines on a little wooden table and his mother beside him. Everything was blurry and confusing.

— Jake Clawson. The d...


— Enough!
"You don't have to remember, Jake! It's not worth it."
— Never that. Leave me.
"NO! I do it for...!"
DON'T BOTHER ANYMORE, YOU F*CKING BRAT!! GET OUT!!

Without realizing it, instead of thinking about it, he had shouted it out loud, and hit the brakes so hard that he almost hit the windshield. Luckily, he was driving on a street that was barely traversed at the time. Besides, it was less than three streets away from the Salvage Yard. If Chance had seen him brake the car like that... the copies would be the least of his problems.

When he came to, he checked that everything was in order, and not just the car or what he had with him.

— Are you there?
“Y... yes.”
— We seem to be okay.
“You... yelled at me.”
— Hey, I don't want to...
"You yelled at me... just like Dad did."
— I'm not Dad!
"For a second, you sounded the same"... "I'm leaving you, Jake. But I won't give up."

If that response wasn't a blow to the stomach on an emotional level, Jake wouldn't know what else it could be. Still, he had accomplished something; he had managed to remember a name that was key to unlocking the mystery: he quickly took a pencil and wrote the name down repeatedly on one of the sheets of paper he had before it was finally forgotten.

Without saying anything else, he started the car again and entered the junkyard, at a little over eleven o'clock in the morning. His partner was already waiting impatiently for him.

— Jake, where were you? You took too long.
— Did you need me?
— Actually, I didn't. There were no customers all morning, so I didn't do much: I ordered some things, watched TV, checked the Turbokat...
— You had a fun morning; I'm happy for you. -said this with a slightly poisonous twist of sarcasm- Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go check on the car I have to repair before lunch.
— I thought you were just going to go buy auto parts.
— I remind you that that car I have to repair is a mess, it has been raining all day and you know I am careful at the wheel to avoid unnecessary skids that you will end up complaining about later. And I tried to haggle over prices.
— You? Bargaining? -he laughed; that wasn't exactly one of his friend's talents- Really?
— They gave me a hard time. -he sighed, hoping that she would swallow the lie- I'll try it in the afternoon.
— I can go with you if you like: I can be very convincing. -He made a gesture, banging his fists together- Without using these two, of course.
— Mmm... I need to get my prices down: not get sued for assault, Chance.
— I'm just kidding! -He patted him on the back, trying to cheer him up- Don't get so serious, Jake!
— Yeah, well... I'm going to the garage.

Despite his attempts, Jake was not willing to improve his expression; no matter how much he pretended, he was still upset by what he had just discovered, and what he was feeling at the time. He could no longer see his friend with the same eyes as he had one day before: either he was a great liar, or - and I really hoped this was true - like him, he did not remember what had happened fifteen years ago. Whatever the case, the question was the same: Why?

With great reluctance, he took a look at the car he had to repair and the parts he had managed to buy: in the afternoon he had to get more to do his job. At least, that would be a good alibi for what he was going to do that afternoon; the worst thing of all, was that against his wishes, he would have to go back to that place. He took another look at the name he had written: if he didn't get the answers there, he wouldn't know where:

"Dr. Seymour Lloyd: family psychologist."
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Re: The Swat Kats and the Mysterious Door (Crossover with Coraline)

Post by EditorElohim » Thu Jan 07, 2021 11:39 pm

It was time for the midday break for lunch, then they went back to work, which was almost non-existent. It was an extremely boring day with such rain; even the villains of Megakat were not willing to do their thing that day. This lethargy was unbearable for two young men full of energy and used to action.

But that day Jake was not looking for action, he was looking for answers. He barely said goodbye to his partner with the excuse of going to buy more parts -which he would do... in time- and took back the car they had in case a towing emergency arose. Behind Chance's back, she had located the doctor's address so she could talk to him in person that same day: no phone, no appointments. He would have the answers TODAY. Unfortunately for him, the doctor's office was in Gatalina Valley, seven streets from his home.

Crud it.

Despite wanting to avoid it, he was forced to pass by his old house on the way, even if only for a few moments: it looked more desolate, empty and even sinister. He did not see his parents, but he assumed they were in there, distressed. If only I could tell them something, but I have nothing. Just like when he saw it on TV, he felt that same sensation that something or someone was watching him from that house, wishing, almost craving, that he would come in. That made him speed up, not without first hearing something hitting the roof of the car, possibly a branch.

Dr. Lloyd's office was actually a fairly large house with white walls, large windows and a beautifully maintained garden. Even in that rain, the house looked quite comfortable. Jake parked his car in front of the house and ran up to the porch getting slightly soaked. He rang the bell: seconds later he was greeted by a young woman with red fur and her hair in a ponytail and in a receptionist's uniform.

— Can I help you?
— I'm here to see Dr. Lloyd. -he answered somewhat agitated after running- It is an emergency.
— Do you have an appointment?
— No, I just said it's an emergency.
— If you don't have an appointment, he can't...
— Look: tell him his old patient Jake Clawson came by, please. I need to talk to him.
— Mmm... I'll talk to him; please wait in reception.

He settled down on the couch nearby and waited: he realized that it was the same place of memories that he had "rescued" in a real competition of "defeated on a mental level" against his subconscious. The place had barely changed: he could even swear he had the same old magazines from fifteen years ago.

Suddenly a door slammed coming from the back of the reception: an old man with gray hair and beards and silver-gray fur appeared, dressed in a white shirt with fine blue lines and black pants. When he saw Jake, it was as if he had a ghost in front of him.

— No... I can't believe it. Is it really you? It has to be you...
— Dr. Lloyd? Do you remember me?
— Of course I remember you... -he took a few steps until I was less than three feet away from you- Oh, Jake: how much you've grown.
— It's been years...
— Fifteen years is a long time, isn't it? To what do I owe your visit?
— I need to talk to you... about me.
— I guess what you mean. -turned to his secretary- Lynda, make some coffee for Jake and me please. -he turned to Jake- Come with me to my office, boy.

The doctor took the young mechanic into his office: it was small but comfortable, shelves full of books, a wall full of diplomas, a large metal filing cabinet, a wooden desk and two comfortable chairs for his patients; Jake sat in one of them, visibly nervous and still saying nothing. Lynda came in shortly after bringing a tray of coffee, milk and sugar, and then retired to her post at the reception. Although he didn't want to get too comfortable, the cold, soggy coat changed his mind, and he took a sip of coffee.

— I won't lie if I tell you that I didn't expect to see you here again, Jake. Not after what happened.
— It wasn't in my plans either, to tell you the truth. But... things have happened.
— Uh-hum... Tell me something, Jake. Are you happy?
— What do you mean?
— Are you happy? Are you?
— I have my problems, but yes, I'm happy.
— If you're here, it's because you're not. -there was an uncomfortable silence that Jake didn't dare to break- But well: tell me the real reason for your visit.
— I want to know... what happened to me fifteen years ago. I found out... that I disappeared, and I don't know how, where or why. Can you... help me?

From the comfort of his desk, Lloyd stared at his unexpected patient with much scrutiny and serenity, plus some compassion. He had grown up, yes: but it was impossible for him not to get the same eight-year-old boy he had cared for so long ago out of his mind. He knew he had to ask the questions carefully, so he took his time and some air.

— Really... Don't you remember?
— No. -he replied quietly, almost like a shy mumble- I discovered it... almost by miracle.
— I don't believe in miracles, Jake. I believe in what has a logical explanation.
— You don't believe in God?
— That's not the point: what I believe, is that if you're remembering that, it's not just by chance. Something is reminding you: some kind of external stimulus that has awakened a kind of alarm in your subconscious.
— Please don't tell me about him: he's a little bastard.
— Excuse me? -the doctor looked at him strangely-
— Please forget it. What I want to know is, have I been dealing with you before?
— That's right: you were here with me dealing with the problems in your house related to your father.
— I think I remember. And we didn't talk about anything else?

This time, the doctor took a sip of coffee and took his time to answer.

— Yes, he did.
— So... shall we touch on the subject of my disappearance?
— Yes, but...
— Do you know then what happened to me?
— No.

Jake felt all the rain yesterday and today fall on him in an instant. It couldn't be: it was my only hope. Lloyd had to be lying. His nerves were urging him to get up and demand answers to the bad ones: he had already endured too many lies that he could hardly claim. Apparently, the doctor noticed this.

— I don't know what happened to you, because you never told me.
— What?!
— Your parents were worried about what you had gotten yourself into; on top of that, you started having nightmares often. While they thought you had simply run away from home and that your nightmares were the result of that, your father was suspicious that you had not, so despite the problems he had with her, he managed to convince your mother to come with me to try to get you to talk. They must have thought you were angry with them or simply didn't trust them.
— And I never said anything to you? -Lloyd shook his head- Not a word?
— You refused to cooperate: you said it wasn't important. You acted quite angry every time he insisted. -Lloyd laughed as he remembered, somewhat sadly, and that sounded devastating to Jake- You said you made a promise, and you didn't want to break it.
— What kind of promise?
— You didn't tell me either. You were determined to stick to your decision, something I've never seen in any child. -the doctor took the liberty of letting out a few chuckles- It's funny: adults believe that children's promises are not so important because they are not mature enough to understand the value and importance of a promise. But I don't see it that way: maybe even children value their promises more than adults do. You acted as if your life depended on it.
What kind of promise did I make? Why?
— It's too bad I didn't believe in hypnotic regression, so I never bothered to learn it. I knew a friend who knew that technique, and I managed to convince him to help me with you. But by the time I did, you had moved away and your mother was totally disconnected from this neighborhood. I don't blame her: this place must bring back bad memories.
— Can we talk to your friend now?
— I'm sorry to tell you that he passed away three years ago, Jake.
— So... -he put his head down. I've never felt such bitter defeat- I came here for nothing.
— …
— Sorry to have bothered you.
— Jake... Could you... wait for me a moment, please?

The psychologist got up from his seat and walked through a door that led to some sort of storage room; a crestfallen Jake barely noticed, lamenting his fate: he had gone back to where he had no intention of going, he had lied to his friend, he had broken the rules to ask Callie for help as Razor, and with just a few confirmations, he now had more questions than answers.

He didn't notice Dr. Lloyd returning to his office, nor the khaki-colored, taped folder he had with him and placed on his desk.

— Every time I asked you to tell me about your disappearance, you said it was not important and that you had promised not to talk about it anymore.
— You told me that.
— So I decided to play another card. -the doctor showed a complacent smile when he said this- One that lawyers would call, as they say... a contractual gap.
— What?
— Since you weren't willing to talk, I suggested the following: "Show me." -he took the folder between his paws, lifting it upright- "Draw it for me: do it in a way that tells your story without words, without letters. I’m not asking you to draw a Leonardo da Vinci, or to make an effort in the quality of the drawing; but I am asking you to do it in such a way that you and others will understand it later.
— And what did I say?
— That you were not sure; that it would be the same as talking. I promised you that I would not show it to anyone without your consent, but that maybe, in the future, it would be important to you... and I see that I was not wrong.
— So I...?
— You accepted. -finally said the psychologist, handing the folder to Jake; he was shaking with emotion as he took it- They both accepted and did what I asked: everything is there. You'd better see its contents in private.
— I will, doc... Wait a minute. Both of them? W... Who are you talking about?
— Chance, Chance Furlong.

There he was again: his partner had not only hidden - or so he thought - that he had disappeared: now he was hiding the fact that he had also gone to the psychologist. Was it because of his own problems or because of the same thing?

— I guess you remember, don't you? He was your friend; I don't know if he still is.
— Neither do I... -Jake lamented in his mind. After this, I didn't know what to think anymore-
— He used to come to me earlier to deal with problems with his older brothers and the bullying he suffered at school... In addition to his little anger management problems: he was somewhat... troubled; unlike you, who were much calmer. No offense, but I wonder how you two became so close.
— Well, you see. -he answered reluctantly- Mysteries of life.
— Shortly after you returned from... wherever, he too began to have nightmares, but not with the same intensity as you. Of course, initially I took it as a mere isolated incident resulting from his own personal problems... or maybe it was his way of expressing how worried he was about you. Or so I thought until...
— What made you change your mind?
— Jake... Inside this folder are the copies of the drawings I had you and your childhood friend make. And if I put them together it's because in yours, Chance appears. And vice versa.

That only made Chance look even worse: if he had also drawn something inside that folder, it meant that he knew EXACTLY what happened to him during those forty-eight hours. Did he really ignore this whole thing? Had he forgotten it like he did? Or had he just kept quiet for all those years?

If he didn't leave there now, venting his anger at the doctor, it was because it would only cause him problems.

— One way or another, you ended up telling me: I think it just slipped out.
— So... the promise...
— You probably did it with him: you never told me explicitly, but you came close. After that, I had to call his parents for a few extra sessions with the excuse of dealing with the problem of relationships with his brothers: I never told them the real reason, since they would not understand.
— Sounds logical. -He answered with his arms crossed and leaning on the seat- Very logical.
— He was more stubborn and tangy than you. -the doctor remembered, laughing heartily- Even when I gathered together to tell me what happened, you refused to speak: you had clearly agreed on your little "law of ice".
The question is... Why?
— So I decided to treat you separately and at different times without you knowing it, and then I got the idea for the drawings. I promised you that the other one would never know, and I wouldn't show you the drawings of the other one; besides, I never told you that the other one would do the same.
— You’re obviously breaking that promise now, doctor.
— I had already lied to two children, Jake. I guess the universe can forgive me for being so manipulative for its own sake. -He stood up and walked over to his guest- I think that's all I can do for you, kid.
— I appreciate it.
— I just hope you know what you're doing. -He supported one paw on Jake's right shoulder, unclaimed by Jake. Then he looked at him with sadness and compassion- Oh, Jake, what happened to you?
— I don't know, but I'll find out.

Jake said goodbye to the doctor and quickly got back in the car to keep the rain from ruining the valuable folder he had with him. He was partly satisfied with himself, but also extremely disappointed, upset and confused: the only one who didn't know he had disappeared was himself; afterwards, everyone else - his parents, Chance, Feral, the psychologist, surely his "uncle" too - knew it perfectly. Who was next, Callie Briggs? At least he knew they hadn't been neighbors as children, and that they had only known each other for two years. He didn't even know who to trust anymore.

"Little bastard, huh?"
— Shut up. I've had enough of this day to fight you... again.
"I should never have let you come to Dr. Lloyd."
— So you knew about the drawings; no wonder you wanted to keep me from remembering. Now listen to me: YOU’RE NOT GOING TO STOP ME FROM DISCOVERING THE TRUTH. Is that clear?
"You have no idea what you're doing, Jake.”
— I just found out that I've literally lived a lie for most of my life. Does that seem fair to you?
"I understand that you're disappointed, but..."
— I forgive the idiot Feral, even those ungrateful Enforcers "friends" who probably whispered behind my back. But Mom? Chance? My own mother kept something so important in my life from me.
"Jake, she didn't..."
— And Chance! Crud it: he's been the brother I never had all these years... And he's been lying to me! How the hell can we stay under the same roof like this?!
"You don't think..."
— NO. I'm not going to throw it in their face; not yet, nor will I dissolve the Swat Kats. But SOMEONE will have to listen to me.
"Don't do it, Jake: you're going to look terrible.”
— Terrible is how I feel.

Before starting the car, Jake saw something unusual in front of Dr. Lloyd's house: it was small, furry, and it was looking directly at him: it was a raccoon leaning against the garden fence. What was that animal doing there exposed to the rain? Then he realized it wasn't just any raccoon: it was a little bigger than normal, and it had a gaze that conveyed more than just curiosity, but... intelligence. Either he was crazy, or it was the same raccoon he had seen on Saturday.

His madness was probably greater, because before he started the car, he could swear that this raccoon, besides being curious, was transmitting something to him with his deep look. Was it compassion?

__________________________________________________________________________________________


It hadn't been easy to get Razor's request: first he had to make up a good excuse to the mayor to justify his departure in the middle of the morning; he didn't even remember exactly what he had told him, but since Manx was someone quite distracted, he took advantage of the fact that he was paying all his attention to his computer game of Solitaire to tell him that he would have to leave: he barely said goodbye to her. Then there was the matter of how to get to the office of her contact, a college friend who worked in real estate: since her car was still in the shop, she was forced to take a cab.

Luckily her friend, Natalie Kadir, was quite cooperative and after two hours of searching her records, contacts and talking on the phone, she had found the real estate company that had been responsible for selling 422 Derry Street for the last sixty years: apparently, it was a company with her accumulated years and the house had changed hands five times in that time. Natalie's friend, Edward Steller, had promised to gather as much information as possible by evening, and that he would wait for the deputy mayor to deliver the files.
Unfortunately for her, the company's headquarters were in the Gatalina Valley itself, which meant a LONG cab ride from downtown, and more expenses affecting her pocketbook - or Manx's at best.

All to help Razor, she was said.

She stopped for lunch at a small restaurant before taking another cab, driven by the same nosy guy she had met that hot Saturday afternoon. As long as he doesn't say anything, perfect. The trip was long, and accompanied by the intermittent rain that had forced her to wear a raincoat over her usual pink suit. When she arrived at the neighborhood, she took time to appreciate the single-family houses, the manicured gardens and streets now empty because of the rain, feeling sorry for the children who were now sheltered in their homes, unable to enjoy the vacation days they had left. Then she thought of Jake and Chance, whom she had just discovered had lived here as children. How was it possible that in such a nice, peaceful, seemingly friendly place so different from Megakat Downtown, their mechanical friends had such a difficult childhood, especially Jake? Perhaps, she thought, because appearances sometimes deceive: Neither Gatalina Valley was a place so free from the common problems of society, nor were Jake and Chance the kind of simple, happy lives she once came to believe.

And this neighborhood was also where Razor had lived. What a small world. She knew where she had lived for how long, what her family had been like, had she met Jake and Chance? And now that she thought about it... could T-Bone have lived there too? The two were too close to rule out that possibility, and perhaps for that reason, Razor was secretive about asking for his help - clearly jeopardizing his secret identity.

Callie had arrived at the real estate company's office: a small two-story house set up for commercial and administrative purposes whose wooden windows and doors had been replaced with tempered glass panels, the iron grilles had been removed and the ornamental moldings removed to give it a more modern look. Since the house still looked a little old, Callie wondered if they had gotten a municipal authorization for such modifications to a building with potential historical value. She shook her head, forgetting her job as the deputy mayor: she was there for other reasons.

After asking the cab driver to wait for her, as she would not be long, Callie ran to the building, where she was greeted by Edward Steller himself, a young man -possibly in his early thirties- with jet-black fur, well groomed and dressed -as someone in his field is supposed to be- who invited her to sit in his office and have a cup of coffee. She accepted politely.

— I'm sorry to bother you for such a small and strange request, Mr. Steller.
— Don't worry, Miss Briggs; it's a pleasure to help Natalie's friends. -from under his desk he took out a well-sealed khaki folder and a black one, which he left on the table- It took me a little while, but I got what she asked for, and more.
— I appreciate it, very much.
— Although I would like to add, I really miss your request. Are you interested in that house? It's occupied... for the moment.
— I know... It's the house of the missing child.
— A real misfortune, but unfortunately these things happen. -Steller made a seemingly unpleasant grimace- Perhaps too much.
— What do you mean?
— I'm a native of Gatalina Valley, just like my parents, Miss Briggs. And let's just say that this neighborhood... has its secrets.
— Everyone must have them.
— I'm sure they do. -he smiled enigmatically- By the way, did you know that 422 Derry Street is classified as Megakat City's historical heritage?
— No... I didn't know that. -Callie was surprised- Why? Is it very old?
— It is one of the first, if not the first, of the houses built in Gatalina Valley after California became a State of the Union. A brief history of the house is in the black folder: it talks about the man who built it, among other things; the other has information about its owners since the 19th century.
— I imagine that it cannot undergo renovations.
— Not at all: it is forbidden by law. Each owner must promise to respect the original structure of the building and to submit it to restorations when necessary. Otherwise, you will be subject to fines for negligence and mistreatment of the city's heritage.
— Even so, Natalie told me that the house has changed owners about five times in the last sixty years. Did anyone not meet that requirement?
— All were respectful of that condition: if they put the house up for sale... it was for other reasons.
— I understand. -outside you can hear the cab driver's horns- Excuse me, Mr. Steller, but I have to go now.
— Don't worry; I hope I could have been of some help to you. -Before she left the office, he took the word again- One more thing, Miss Briggs... Take care of yourself.
— Huh? Of what?
— You know: this city... is dangerous.

Callie ignored Steller's warning, took the folders carefully, protecting them with her raincoat, and got into the cab: the driver was impatient with the delay; she promised him a good tip if he took her back to the city hall. There were no further protests.
She was about to read the contents of the black folder when out of the corner of her eye she saw a family car parked on the sidewalk in front of a house, or even more, her rather familiar driver.

— STOP!!
— What?! -the vehicle braked abruptly; the cab driver almost hit the steering wheel- What's wrong with you, lady? What's so urgent that you had to make me stop like that?
— Ehm… I have to check my makeup, yes! -she pulled out a compact from her pocket and began to see her reflection- I won't be long.
— Miss... IT'S RAINING: everything you put on your face is going to come off.
— Haven't you ever dealt with a woman before?
— Yeah... Unfortunately. -He mumbled, almost grunting- Don't be long, or I'll add it to your bill.

Callie pretended to wear makeup, but in reality she was spying out of the corner of her eye on that car and its driver. The car was the one Chance used in the garage, an old green one like his, but he wasn't the driver, Jake was. He was getting into the car with a folder on his paw before he started and drove away. She could barely see his face, for what little she could see, he looked sad; fortunately, he didn't notice the cab parked down the street.

What was Jake doing here in Gatalina Valley? The only thing that could have brought him here was the job he had been given on Saturday, which he barely knew about: a repair and towing job. He didn't have the tow truck with him, so it couldn't be that. Then he saw the place he'd come from: it was a psychological office whose doctor's name he quickly wrote down in a notebook. What's happening to you, Jake? She asked inside her head trying to understand what had brought her to that place. She was worried about him, maybe more than she should have been: something was making him feel bad to the point of making him come back to this place and see a specialist; she wanted to help him anyway. She set out to find out, but not today.

— Are you done, miss?
— Yes, it is. We can continue.
— Luckily -out of the corner of my eye, he ended up looking at the house where Jake had been- Hey, what a coincidence: we stopped near my Uncle Seamour's office.
— Your uncle?
— He's a well-known psychologist in this neighborhood. He's been treating the crazies in this place for decades.
— I don't think there are that many for a neighborhood like this.
— Oh... -laughed the cab driver, as someone who knows a lot more, treating Callie as naïve- If you knew, miss...

__________________________________________________________________________________________


Jake had already left Gatalina Valley and returned to downtown; he parked his car in front of a phone booth and went inside. Containing all the fury in his heart, he dialed the number by pressing the buttons hard. It began to ring.

— “Hello?”
— Mom...
— “Jake? Is that you? But not today...”
— COULD YOU EXPLAIN TO ME WHY YOU DIDN'T TELL ME THAT I DISAPPEARED FOR TWO DAYS WHEN I WAS EIGHT YEARS OLD?
— “What?”
— DON'T LIE TO ME! -He ended up exploding; if someone had been there, I would have called him crazy to see him scream like a beast into the earpiece- I KNOW EVERYTHING, OR ALMOST EVERYTHING! I just found out that I have lived a lie for most of my life, and that everyone around me was an accomplice. Why, Mom, why didn't you tell me?
— “Jake... How could you not remember that?”
— THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT I WANT TO KNOW! That's why I had to come to Dr. Lloyd.
— “Wait, you went to Gatalina Valley?”
— Don't change the topic and answer me frankly.
— “What am I supposed to tell you? You're telling me that YOU'RE REMEMBERING that you were missing.” -She was upset to hear her only son yelling at her like that- “You never told us anything: you suddenly appeared in our room just like that; we asked you repeatedly where you were or what happened to you. And you pretended you knew nothing.”
— That... I can't believe it.
— “In the end it was your father who had the idea of sending you to Dr. Lloyd to find out what happened to you. He insisted and insisted too much until I finally gave in.”
— And... Dad -he was still disgusted by the word- didn't say why he was so insistent?
— “No, he acted just like you.” -She grumbled; Jake's hair stood up on his tail in disgust at such a comparison- “All Clawson men are masters at keeping their crud secrets.”
Why would he want me to go to a psychologist? Did he...?
— “And from the reason for your call, I imagine the doctor didn't tell you anything either. Almost everyone in that neighborhood is like that: either they know nothing, or they know everything but they keep it to themselves. That's why we left there; it wasn't just because of your father, or the cost of that house.”
— And after we moved in, you didn't insist on asking me again?
— “I did, but I didn't get anything: you didn't want to talk. In time, I resigned myself, and we went on with our lives as if nothing had happened. And for what: you kept your crud secret so well that from what you are telling me, you even hid it from yourself. Tell me, Jake, why do you want to remember now, fifteen years later?” -She mumbled, in a mixture of sadness and anger- "You'd better forget it: you didn't want to tell us anything before; it's no use if you want to remember it now. What's the point?”
— So should I assume that what happened to me in those two days doesn't matter?
— “You're still alive, aren't you? Then it doesn't matter.” -she paused- “We'll talk later, and please, let's NOT TOUCH THIS THEME AGAIN.”

His own mother had hung up the phone before he could say goodbye: she sounded frustrated, angry and disappointed at the same time. Normally, he'd wonder if he hadn't been too hard on her, but after all he'd learned that day, it was worth it if he'd hurt her: it was one of those times when he had the privileged luxury of being selfish and thinking about himself. And wasn't he suffering? Should he ignore the fact that he'd practically lived a lie that those closest to him had kept him ignorant of for almost fifteen years? Just settle for staying alive? Did she at least take that into account? No: to heck with it if his mother felt like crud because her only son raised his voice to her: he felt much worse.

He walked out of the phone booth and sat in the driver's seat of the car just to rest his head and paws on the steering wheel and start crying in silence. There was hardly anyone on the streets, and it continued to rain; he didn't care: it was already impossible for him to contain his emotions after so many disappointments in a single day. The phrase: "happiness and ignorance come together" flew through his mind as he continued to shed his tears on the steering wheel and the car rug.

— "Jake..."
— Leave me alone.
— "I'm... I'm sorry"
— What is the point: even my subconscious hides the truth from me.
— "I was doing it for your sake, Jake. I didn't want you to feel this way."
— Well, you're like me: a loser. We don't achieve anything in life.
— "That's not true."
— Mom was disappointed in me when I decided not to go to college and join the Enforcers; she was even more disappointed in me when we were expelled. And she will continue to be disappointed in me for being the only thing that ties her to... him.
— "Jake..."
— I love her, you know? I always wanted her to be proud of me.
— "I know"
— And how do you repay me? By hiding something as serious as my disappearance for two days. What kind of parents do that?
— …
— And as a final touch, I find out that my best... Not that I am, I better stop deceiving myself: my ONLY friend who survives me until now, the one I considered a soul brother, has been hiding the truth from me all this time.
— You don't know if Chance was hiding it or if he forgot it too, Jake. Don't jump to conclusions.
— How can you be so sure? I don't know what to think anymore. I think I've been a better brother to Chance than his real biological brothers, don't you?
— "I don't dispute that."
— So, do you think I deserve all this?
— "What I think is that you deserve a break from all this mess.
— No. I'm going to continue searching for the truth: I've already come this far and I'm not going to go back.
— "You're a cruding masochist. Can't you see that all this is hurting you? What are you getting at?
— To find out not only what happened to me, but whether it's worth it to continue living under the same roof.
— "You can't be serious."
— What's the point of remaining a team after this? It doesn't matter if I have to be a lone vigilante: I'll do it instead of continuing to live a lie.
— "I'm only going to say this once, Jake: maybe not literally, but you're committing suicide.


He ignored that last comment and kept on driving: he would never become so stupid and cowardly; not like his father was. Oh, of course not. But if there was one thing he was not willing to do, it was to allow himself to be fooled further. And if that meant putting an end to his friendship with Chance...

What if in the end it was never real, and everything was based on a lie?

I have to stop complaining: keep a cool and calculating mind as usual. I'm about to get my answers... -he looked at Dr. Lloyd's folder on the passenger seat- and I'll take them like a man.

Before returning to the garage, he had to make his excuse and buy the auto parts he was supposed to take back with him: it wasn't difficult for him since he knew exactly what he had to buy; the only thing that made him feel slightly bad was the fact that he kept lying to Chance, but to his own surprise, the feeling of guilt was much less than in the morning. Even that, knowing well what it meant, was painful and disgusting at the same time.

Jake arrived at the garage at about four o'clock in the afternoon, as usual, accompanied by the persistent rain. His partner -calling him a friend was strange at that point- was nowhere to be found: neither on the living room sofa watching TV, nor in front of the old arcade console, nor working on the car they had to fix. Instead of continuing to look, he took advantage of the moment to hide Dr. Lloyd's folder and the photocopies of newspapers under the clothes he had stored on his bedroom dresser: since they had so little privacy in that ramshackle apartment to the point of sharing a room, there were not many options where to put it without him noticing. He expected her to at least respect the inviolability of the place where he kept his clothes; as soon as he had the chance, he would check the contents of the documents he had just received.

He returned to the living room, where no one was still there, at least until a few seconds later, when the missing occupant appeared rubbing his paws with a greasy cloth.

The occupant, the companion, the other, the...

— You’re back. -He greeted him; although he tried to sound jovial, he looked serious- Did you have any trouble buying the missing parts?
— No. How about you? How was your afternoon?
— Boring: no emergency, neither from the garage nor from Callie. It's a CRUDING boring afternoon. -He sighed, lifting his shoulders for a moment- I was in the hangar polishing some things.
— Ah... and... do you want to... do something?
— Maybe just watch TV, and then go to the gym downstairs.
— Shall I... join you?
— It's a free country. -He shrugged- You can do whatever you want.

Jake sat down on the couch, noticing that something had changed: not only in him, but in his partner. He sounded more distant, indifferent, almost unsympathetic... so different from what he was like this morning, or yesterday. Did he suspect anything? He hardly watched TV, where the afternoon news were on, and later some program that was not even worth remembering; there was no news about Max's location; neither did they exchange any word between them: he was like that for almost half an hour until he got up from the sofa and went to change to go to the gym. Jake accompanied him mechanically: he didn't feel like training, but he didn't want to leave him either... unattended.

— You don't plan to train?
— Not today: I feel tired.
— No wonder: you've been walking around the city all day.
— What do you mean?
— For the auto parts, Jake. You had a hard time finding them cheap, didn't you?
— Eh... Yes, quite a lot.
— Well, I'm going to train.
— I can come with you, just in case.
— Mmm... As you wish.

There was definitely something strange about Chance: he didn't used to act this way... cold; not with him at least. Why the hell did he worry about that detail when at this moment he felt so many doubts about his sincerity? There was still a part of his being that -was- trusting Chance, and he felt that part was slowly losing its edge. He sat on a bench in the corner watching his partner use the devices and inquisitively analyzing him with his eyes in the most subtle way possible.

Chance needed his help in almost no way: as far as genetics was concerned, he was the lucky one. He and his brothers had always been big and sturdy or "big-boned" as they say, inherited from their father; although as a child Chance became slightly chubby, that was solved over the years, especially since he started going to the gym at age fifteen and even more so when they were part of the Enforcers. Jake wasn't so lucky: he had always been slightly shorter for his age, slimmer and struggling to gain strength and muscle - a legacy from his father. It was tedious to remember that for this reason, he was teased in high school, when everyone was around fifteen and looking older, and at thirteen he still looked like a child. If Chance hadn't been there...

Crud. Why is it so hard for me to distrust someone?
— "Maybe because you don't want to."
— You again? Ah... I should have known: you're the one who makes me think about middle school and high school.
— "No... But it worked, didn't it?"
— I still can't believe that Chance lied to me, but I also can't believe that he just forgot about it like I did.
— "The bottom line: you want to keep trusting him."
— Unfortunately, I do.
— I'd tell you to ask him, but it's probably not a good idea.
— I wasn't planning to do that. Hey, haven't you noticed that Chance acts... differently?
— "I have, yes. Something must have happened. Mmm..."
— Do you think that... he suspects something?
— "I just know that he has other problems right now."
— Like what?
— "Maybe the fact that a 260 kilos bar is about to smother him."
— What?

— Jake, stop daydreaming and help me!
— I'm coming, Chance!

Jake immediately ran to the aid of his partner, who was struggling to lift an extremely heavy bar that was crushing his chest. What happened to him to get there? He was supposed to be able to lift that weight by himself, wasn't he? Explanations for later: He stood behind the bench and helped Chance lift the bar into place. The young tabby man gasped and coughed a bit before he took a breath and came to.

— Hey, are you okay?
— Yeah... I'm fine: thanks, buddy.
— What happened to you? These things don't usually happen to you... They usually happen to me.
— I was thinking about other things, and it just slipped out. My fault. -he said- Thank goodness you were here.
— Sure…
— And what were you thinking about? -he asked without being accusatory- You seemed to be above those crud rain clouds.
— Nonsense, I'm sorry.
— Nah, don't worry, I know you're not in your day. Hey... if you don't want to be here, you can leave. I don't want to force you to do anything.
— You just came this close to being crushed by a bar...
— I'm not that clumsy, Jake: it won't happen to me again. Go on.
— Okay...

Although he seemed to say it nicely, Jake felt it was a VERY subtle way of asking him to be alone. Since he had nothing else to do and felt somewhat uncomfortable being there, he returned to the room. On the way he reflected on the fact that for a moment, all those clouds of doubt about his friendship with Chance vanished. There was a reason he had come to his aid immediately, or was it just his heroic instinct? It didn't matter: the skies in his mind became cloudy again.


__________________________________________________________________________________________


The time was approaching to meet Callie and he had to find a way out of the garage: Fly the Turbokat? Too flashy; The Cyclotron? same problem; Going on foot? It would be possible, if not for the fact that I would have to explain to Chance why I was going out at night to walk. His only alternative was to use the car again... and take his Swat Kat uniform with him to change somewhere well hidden. It was too risky but there was no other alternative. At least he had another excuse to give to justify his departure, one that surely his partner would not reject.

He prepared to leave: blue jeans, a slightly faded red shirt and leather shoes; he had previously hidden his uniform in the back seats of the car. When Chance saw him so dressed up, he raised his eyebrow out of curiosity and left the TV on, getting up from the couch.

— Eh... Are you going to some date I don't know about? Because that shirt is a little old... Although if everything goes well afterwards, you'll end up taking it off and...
— I'm craving Mexican food, so I'll go buy some.
— Ah... Okay.
— Do you want anything special?
— Actually, no... -seconds later…- Wait; I changed my mind. Maybe a couple of fish burritos. And with a lot of spice.
— I'll try not to forget: I'll be right back.
— Okay...

He didn't even ask if he wanted to go with me, how strange. No matter how peculiar the situation, I wouldn't miss this opportunity: I already had two important sources of information and was going for the third one.

It was still cloudy, but there was a light drizzle that was almost imperceptible and harmless, similar to a soft sprinkler that left micro droplets of water on the windshield. Anyway, the streets of Megakat Downtown were emptier than usual: few vehicles driving and hardly any pedestrians wandering on the sidewalks. The rain had indeed affected the people, perhaps because they were not so used to it in those latitudes.

He parked the car in an alleyway that was spacious and secluded enough not to draw too much attention; before starting to change, Jake made sure there was no one, or at least too many occasional passersby; he also checked to see if there were any surveillance cameras, which at least for that moment, fortunately was not the case. That only made him think about why Megakat was so unsafe: those little details, tiny oversights, that could have made a difference to a lot of people.

Now he had to take advantage of them to change his clothes without problems.

Already in his uniform, he used the grappling hook of his Glovatrix to climb the buildings to the town hall; luckily it was not far from there. The building was almost dark except for a few lit windows, one of which was half-opened: it was Callie Briggs' office. With patience and great care, he used his grappling hook to climb up to that window: the drizzle continued to fall, and both his coat and his uniform ended up soaking wet on the way, making him feel cold. Soon he was at the window: he jumped up on the parapet and then carefully descended to the office floor.

There she was, waiting for him sitting at his desk: it was her vision of hope.

— You came.
— Did you expect me to be late? -Razor joked; he made an effort not to show how down he was. It seemed to be working- I never miss my appointments, especially if I make them myself.
— You're soaking wet. -she warned. She turned around and walked into an adjoining room- I'll get you a towel.
— No need, Miss Briggs; I'm fine.
— The last thing Megakat needs is a cold Swat Kat. -she answered from the other room- Do you want tea or coffee?
— Tea would be fine, thanks. -replied; he didn't want to cause too much trouble, but I was a little cold and needed something to warm up-
— I'll put the water on; I'll be right back.

He expected his visit to be short, ephemeral: so far this day, he had already made three outings based on lies, and as much as he doubted whether he would continue to consider Chance his friend or not, he could not take him for an idiot: he was not Murray; he would end up suspecting something, if he did not do so already. But he felt unable to refuse Callie's kindness: he had always been like that, whether as Jake or Razor, although it hurt him to have to share more with her under his alias and mask. Besides, after a day of disappointments, he could take a break and be with someone he thought he could still trust. I deserve a quiet moment, he said to himself.

Callie returned with a towel on her left arm and a cup on both paws: one she passed to Razor and another she kept for herself, which gave off a slightly spicy aroma. Before sipping his tea, Razor used the towel to dry his face and legs; he tried some of the tea, it was green, barely sweetened. It was good.

— Is that cinnamon I smell?
— You noticed it, yes. -she smiled, sitting back at her desk- I usually put a little bit on the coffee maker to give it a special touch.
— I'll take that into account the next time I invite her for coffee. -he took one more sip and then paused briefly before speaking again- Sorry if I'm a little abrupt, but I'm in a bit of a hurry. Did you get what I asked for?
— Yes, I have it on my desk: in fact. As a matter of fact, I got you a little more than what you asked for, Razor, and I was checking it out.
— What? But you told me...
— Don't worry: unless you're over 150 years old, it doesn't hurt. -the Swat Kat relaxed a little; that reassured her too- Did you know that your old house is a historical heritage of the city?
— No... In fact I didn't know.
— Strange: I assumed that it was. Shall I tell you the rest of what I found?
— Yes, of course.

She asked him to sit on one of the chairs, which he did and began to tell her a summary of the contents of the black folder: No. 422 Derry Street had been built approximately in 1852, by a young British immigrant dedicated to the railroad industry who was named after William Paxton; hence the Victorian character architecture. He founded a railroad company based in Gatalina Valley, then a small town on the outskirts of Megakat City, which at the time was called San Diego; over the years he became a millionaire and started a family. Around 1870, however, the company went bankrupt and sold the house due to financial problems.

— Since then, the house has changed hands more than nine times.
— I knew it was old, but not that old. -Razor reflected, scratching his chin- If those walls could talk...
— So you didn't know anything about your old house.
— We didn't talk about it much, Miss Briggs. To a child, a house is just that: a house, a home; not a historical heritage or something like that.
— Can I ask you why the interest in your old house? It has to do with the boy Max, doesn't it?
— Yes, it does. -before he went on, he drank a little more tea- To tell you the truth, I always thought there was something... strange about my old house. -It hurt to lie to him: that feeling was VERY recent- As if things weren't right.
— Did something happen to you in that place when you were a kid?
— I'm not... sure. -that at least was true- But maybe it's related to that house's past, and to what happened to Max.
— So why don't you ask T-Bone to help? I thought you guys...
— I want to do this on my own; I don't want to involve him.
— Were they neighbors? -the question surprised Razor- Because I guess you don't want to risk his identity.
— No; we met years later somewhere else. -another lie, albeit a half-baked one: they actually met as children in that neighborhood, but "met again" after Chance ended up moving out of Gatalina Valley as well- He knows that the boy lives in my old house and doesn't want me to get too involved for fear of revealing my identity.
— He cares about you a lot, doesn't he?
— He has to. -he laughed reluctantly- If not, he would have to find another partner... and we never liked job interviews. Can you imagine how difficult it would be to get someone to replace him as a pilot?
— And also to get along with you: sometimes co-workers are not the best. You were lucky. -she drank some of her coffee before she put the cup down on the table- But I think I should help you: you’re a team
— We are not bound by the waist, Miss Briggs: we are totally different people.

Those words came out of his mouth automatically; he didn't expect to say them, not like that, and certainly not in front of her: if that wasn't evidence of how frustrated he felt for having been deceived for so long, he didn't know what else it could be. At the stunned look of the young blonde woman, he hurried to apologize.

— Sorry. But... please forgive me.
— I... It's okay. I guess you're right: they are different people. They can't do everything together; not always.
— That's right.
— Tell me something, Razor. How long are you two going to keep being Swat Kats?
— I beg your pardon?
— You don't think you're going to do this for the rest of your life, do you?

It seemed absurd, but he never asked himself that question, or had he avoided it for a long time. Had Chance asked him? It was the big question he wouldn't have the guts to ask. What was the point of that question anyway?

— Excuse me, but I don't know what that question is about.
— I’m not asking it to make you uncomfortable, nor because its presence makes me uncomfortable. On the contrary: I’m grateful with all my heart for what you have done in these years. But we must be realistic: you will not be here forever. Feral is a jerk, but sooner or later his replacement will come, and it will probably be Felina.
— No doubt she'll be better than her uncle.
— I hope so. Besides, I can't stop thinking that the time will come when they won't be able to keep doing this. I mean, how old are they? Twenty-something? At most you can keep doing this until you're thirty, capable until you're thirty-five, but after that, what will you do with your life? Have you thought about it? Don't you think about having a more... profitable job, starting a family or something?
— Well...
— If they are not able to tell me who they really are, it will be impossible for them to do so when they form a family of their own. If that's the case, of course; I don't know what you think.
— Well... you're right about that: we couldn't tell you our identity. But tell me, what are these questions about?
— I think this is the first and only time I will have to ask them: we only meet when there is an emergency or my life is at risk. And yet, I admit that they worry me... even, and I'm sorry to tell you, I feel a little sorry for them.
— What? But Miss Briggs, you don't have to...
— Feral keeps insulting them every chance he gets, Mayor Manx doesn't give them a damn day of the year for their efforts to keep the city safe. Do you know what it took to convince him to pay for his new plane?
— We're not doing this for money or fame, Ms. Briggs: we're doing it because we want Megakat to be safe. -He paused, and couldn't help but laugh- Although if you were to ask T-Bone, he'd say he enjoys taking down bad guys, too. Don't see it as a game, please.
— Relax: I won't deny that we had a lot of emotions. But getting back to the subject, I think you deserve some recognition: a thank you that comes not only from me.
— As cliché as it sounds, seeing our city safe is more than enough.
— That's very noble of you, Razor... But unfortunately you can't live on that.

Callie got up from her seat, took the sealed folder and walked until she was in front of Razor; to the surprise of the cinnamon Swat Kat, the deputy mayor put her right paw on his shoulder and looked at him in the eyes. She looked somewhat sad.

— I want you to make me a promise.
Oh no... Not another promise. -he thought- What kind of promise?
— That you will tell me who you really are sometime. The day the Turbokat leaves the skies forever, that they take off those uniforms so they can never wear them again, that you decide you can't do it anymore... that you will show me your true identity.
— But I...
— It would be very sad to know that the day the Swat Kats retire no one will know who they were and they will end up being remembered as strangers until they are forgotten. If it is your wish, I will not tell anyone later, but at least I would like to know.
— I'd have to... talk it over with T-Bone, but... I think it's a fair request: I promise.

She really appreciates us: she cares about us; that's why she asks us what we will do after our lives. It was a type of attention they barely received from their families: except for a few meetings they were forced to attend because of the holidays, Jake and Chance barely saw their families. They didn't even come to visit them at the junkyard, and were perfectly aware that they were there "doomed for life”, courtesy of Feral. Such was the apparent indifference of their relatives that even phrases like "When are you going to get married? What are you going to do with your life" or "Are you going to give me grandchildren" were almost desirable, as they would be a sign of interest. Not even that was on the horizon.

And then there was Callie: that young woman -not so much older than Jake by a couple of years- who they had only known for two years and who they barely saw with their civilian identities and in fact, interacted more with their secret identities… and showed real concern for them. And the poor thing neither knew, nor suspected, that her mechanical friends and her favorite vigilantes were the same people. It's not fair to her.

She handed him the sealed folder next to the black folder, and he took them. There was no sign that the first one had been opened.

— I keep my promise: I did not open it and I do not know its contents.
— I thank you very much. -he stood up, facing the window- Thank you for everything, Miss Briggs.
— What are you going to do now?
— Me? -he smiled at her sincerely. He had been moved by that gesture of kindness- It's late, we haven't had dinner yet and I'm craving Mexican food. And I promised T-Bone I'd bring him something.
— So hurry up: you don't want to make him angry. -before he comes out, she stops him- Razor, one last thing... Remember I told you that William Paxton went bankrupt?
— Yes, I remember.
— He spent his entire fortune. -she answered darkly- That's why he was left on the street.
— Why? What did he spend it on?
— When you read the black folder, you will know.

He would have stopped to ask her more questions, but it was already too much: he had to go home soon before Chance started asking too many questions... and he was really starting to get hungry. He said goodbye to the mayor's assistant and carefully started his descent with the help of his grabbing hook.

She watched him go down, thinking about what they had talked about. Would she ever know who they really are? Should she have told him what happened to Mr. Paxton? After getting to know that neighborhood, talking to Steller, and reading about what happened to the builder of the house, she had begun to understand Razor's concerns: there was something very strange going on in that house, something that was not recent. And now, one of the Swat Kats was going to face that mystery... alone.

— Take care of yourself, Razor. You will need it...

After losing sight of him, Callie looked down, thinking she saw a very familiar motorcycle coming out of a dark alley near the city hall.

— Is it...? No, I don't think... He wouldn't...

Down below, hidden in the shadows of an overcast night when the rain had resumed, he watched as Razor carefully descended from the city hall until he was lost among the buildings. He squeezed the handles tightly before speeding away.

— What the heck are you doing, Jake?
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Re: The Swat Kats and the Mysterious Door (Crossover with Coraline)

Post by EditorElohim » Fri Jan 08, 2021 7:04 am

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Jake barely had time to change, drive to the restaurant, place the order, wait for it to be ready, and return as if condemned to the garage. He had the folders hidden in a bag he had ordered at the restaurant and his uniform would get him out as soon as he could. Anyway, there was no emergency at the moment: there was no reason to hurry.

He went in as normally as possible, finding Chance in front of the TV on watching... anything. Scaredy Kat didn't show at that hour, that he knew.

— How was your date?
— W... what? -Jake almost choked on that word- Date?
— It's just that you took too long and I figured you finally made a score with a chick...
— ¡¡CHANCE!! I just went for food!
— I'm just kidding, Jake. -Jake thought it was different than usual- Don't take things so seriously.
— It's just that sometimes you're a little bit too much of a pervert...
— We’re no longer children: I think we can say all the blasphemies and obscenities possible.
— Mmm... Whatever. -searching in the bag- Here I brought you your burritos with double spice. I'll keep my quesadillas.
— And the milk?
— The last time you drank milk along with Mexican food… Well, let's just say we were THIS close to paying for the plumber's therapy, Chance. Be satisfied with water.
— But if milk is the best way to counteract the spiciness.
— Yeah, but your insides don't do well with that combination.
— Bah... No way; who needs it. I'm macho enough to take it.
— …

Just like last night, dinner was absolutely silent; stranger still: Chance barely touched his food, possibly leaving it halfway through, which is VERY rare in him. He excused himself by saying that he ended up eating something else because of his late arrival, but this was not credible: SOMETHING was definitely happening to him. He was thankful they didn't need them that night. How were they supposed to work as a team if the trust between them was hanging by a thread?

As there were no signs of a change in his attitude, he went to bed; his partner excused himself by saying he would stay on the couch for a while longer. Anyway, Jake took advantage of that brief time alone to put the sealed folder away with his other documents and take a look at the contents of the black folder from the comfort of his bunk: A little summary of the history of his house and his builder were there: much of it he already knew from Callie, but he took a look at it anyway.

There were pictures of his old house dating from the 19th century, which was very strange, considering that they showed his house surrounded by almost nothing but the countryside with few trees. There were some of William Paxton, with clothes and hairstyle of the time: young, -a little less than thirty years old- well cared for... The typical Victorian British who thought he was master and lord of creation and guardian of civilization: he still seemed like a good guy. He found some pictures of his wife, who must have been pretty at that time, and then one with a little girl with long blond braids and clothes typical of that time that did not even show her ankle: it was his daughter; her name was Lilian. There were a few pictures of her: the last one was from when she was a pre-teen. She didn't look very happy, although she remembered that at that time people didn't smile much in photographs either.

For some reason that he could not specify, Jake felt a slight headache when he saw his photos. He didn't know how or why, but he thought he had seen her before.

The last pages were either clippings from an extinct newspaper called the Gatalina Herald, or photocopies of them, as they dated from 1869. When he started to read them, he felt a deep chill that shook his body to the tip of his tail and forced him to stand up from the waist up: he had started to sweat. When he finished reading the last clippings, he put the folder under his pillow, but was unable to sleep, at least at first.

Now he understood why Callie told him that he would understand everything when he read the contents of the folder. Now he knew why William Paxton had gone bankrupt, and why, even more so, he had sold the house. Now Jake knew that neither he nor Max were the only ones, nor the first.

And maybe, just maybe, that's why no one had told him before, and his mother had told him to conform. He was lucky after all.
Lilian Paxton, daughter of William and Jacqueline Paxton, mysteriously disappeared in the summer of 1869. Her father spent his entire fortune and his company's money to find her. He failed.

She was never heard from again.


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As he watched the television with empty eyes, he reflected on the course of the day. It had been horrible in every way: apart from a brief period of calm, it had not stopped raining all day, he had practically no work, he found almost nothing to do in the garage since Callie's car was already ready, and the criminals of Megakat had apparently conspired to take the day off and leave T-Bone far from the sky. The bottom line: it was a fucking boring day.

Added to that was the fact that Jake was absent too many times because of his trips: one in the morning, one in the afternoon, and now at night. All of them occupying a good time in which he could have at least stayed to have someone to talk to, or accompany him on his trips, but Jake wanted to do it alone. Worst of all, what disgusted him most was not the fact that Jake pushed him away by refusing his help, or that he used excuses to be away all the time and leave him alone in the garage, but that he treated him like an idiot: he accepted it as a joke on other occasions, but this was not one of them. The first time was acceptable; the second time suspicion came, and the third time there was no doubt: did his partner's brains go to his head and he was made to believe that he was so stupid that he didn't realize he was hiding something?

His subconscious -that boy was real, wasn't it?- was right: people were guilty of underestimating his intelligence too much.
That is why he had to swallow the bile that ascended from his entrails to his throat and drive the Cyclotron to follow it stealthily during its "night journey". The only doubt he had was whether to use or not his Swat Kat’s uniform: later he had everything clear, apart from that feeling of disgust to his own being for being suspicious and spying on his friend. But he felt even more disgusted when he found him... and where he found him: leaving Callie Briggs' office at about ten o'clock at night.

He was overcome with a sense of disappointment and anger as soon as he saw him: not just romantic jealousy. He knew that Jake felt the same way about Callie as he did, but they were keeping each other in line so as not to damage their friendship: if what he was seeing was a violation of that implicit agreement, that was reason enough to beat him up. But he knew it wasn't that kind of red line: it was a different one; one that even he didn't know perfectly well and that only by instinct, if you could call it that, did he know Jake was crossing.

After seeing such a scene, he rushed to the garage using one of the many shortcuts his partner hated so much; when he reached his destination, he carefully put away the Cyclotron, changed clothes and sat on the couch watching TV: no matter what he saw, he wanted to distract his mind from what was bothering him. And it worked, because fifteen minutes later Jake would arrive giving his cheap excuse and he would pretend everything was fine.

No, it wasn't. What the heck are you getting into, Jake?

When Jake went to sleep, he stayed on the couch for another hour, thinking about it. He wanted to talk to someone, but he realized he was alone. The only option he had left...

I’m so pathetic.

After finishing the dinner that Jake had brought, -at the end his grumpiness resigned itself to his stomach's desires, to his misfortune- he went to prepare himself to sleep: His companion was already sleeping in his bunk, visibly a bit uncomfortable, although he didn't mind. He just wanted to sleep.


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It was difficult to know how long he had been driving the Cyclotron through the streets of his old neighborhood: time was irrelevant to him at the time. If he could get rid of those limitations such as time itself, the need for gasoline, responsibilities, or hunger and sleep itself, he would drive aimlessly forever. Since he learned to drive at fifteen and got his license at sixteen, the steering wheel was synonymous with freedom. Even years later, when he learned to fly a plane and became the Turbokat pilot, the wheels fit him well.

He had circled that block so much that he had lost count; it was not important. He had the streets to himself: no cars, other motorcycles, passers-by... or stupid villains. It was just him and the cyclotron in the light of the full moon... a disproportionately large one to be real. And of course, he knew why.

His communicator rang: he was waiting for that call.

— You took your time.
— If you wanted to talk to me, Chance, you could have told me earlier. -replied his childish version- Instead of staying in that limbo dream and going round and round and round...
— I wanted to be alone and think. You know I like to drive.
— Obviously I do. Turn left and go into the garage of the blue wall building; it's safe.
— Roger.

He didn't take long to get to the location indicated: the garage was open, waiting for him to cross: when he did, the automatic door closed, leaving him in the half-light he already knew. This time he was not alone.

— You know, I always liked that motorcycle. Got to hand it to Jake: he did a good job.
— I guess. -mumbled the adult Chance, stepping off the bike- We need to talk...
— I know. -replied his childish self, arms and legs crossed on the floor- I'm listening.
— Jake is... taking me... for a fool. He's doing something: I'm almost sure it's about the boy Max.
— What makes you think that?
— I don't understand why you're asking me questions if you know the answers.
— You wanted to talk to someone, Chance. I'm trying to please you.
— I'm so pathetic... reduced to talking to myself in a dream. -he replied in distress, sitting on the floor and bowing his head- I never felt so alone in my whole life.
— Chance...
— But it's true! Who else could I turn to? To Felina? I don't want to deal with her asshole uncle. Callie? I just saw her with Jake... doing who knows what!
— Did you think they were sleeping together?
— What? NO!! Well... at first I did... and if it came to that I was going to...
— But it's not like that; you don't think that's what it was.
— I want to trust Jake, and I know him well enough... or so I thought. He's not a bag of hormones with legs capable of jeopardizing our friendship for a woman.
— But...
— He is capable of doing it for something else. -He sighed- You know what I'm talking about, don't you?
— Perfectly. And that would not be at all strange coming from him.
— And what am I supposed to do? I can't just tell him to stop; I'm not his mom, and he's an adult too: I can't treat him like a little kid. But I also can't let him do something that... in a way that I don't understand... and that YOU DON'T WANT TO TELL ME, would put him in danger. -He pressed his right fist and hit the ground with it- My life sucks.

The child Chance stood up and walked over to his adult version and after sitting next to him, patted him on the shoulder.

— I know it will sound very strange from me... or maybe a little vain, but...
— Say it straight out.
— You're a good person, Chance. -the alluded one kept looking at him with his eyes like dishes- Why do you see me like this? If you play the hero at least once a week.
— It sounds strange that I say it myself. That's all.
— If you don't believe in yourself, nothing you do out there will be worthwhile. You care about Jake and respect him so much that it creates conflict. Just like I worry about you and am forced to do things that you don't like.
— Like keeping information about what happened to us... and those cruddy headaches you put me through.
— Now you understand.
— I can't do my job if I don't know what I'm dealing with: it's like fighting blind. Can't you give me another clue?
— I already gave you more than I could, Chance: to abuse would be to break the promise you made.
— If you can't tell me anything, then I'll look for the answer myself. Take me to the Museum of Things.

That request took him by surprise until he realized the reason for it: since he could not have direct access to his memories, he would resort to objects that aroused certain emotions in him, in order to have at least a vague clue as to which path to follow. Well played, T-Bone... well played.

— You won't find anything there; nothing explicit at least.
— I'll try anyway.
— Chance...
— Listen to me, I'm T-Bone now! -he held the boy tightly on his shoulders; he didn't want to hurt him- You know perfectly well that I would do anything to protect Jake. You told me yourself that something bad happened to us, so I guess that something is trying to repeat itself, right?
— Um... I don't know...
— Answer me yes or no about Jake.
— Yes...
— So, take me.
— Mmm... You win.

To one side appeared the door of an elevator: it opened showing the inside of a cabin ready to receive passengers.

— Get in: it will take you to the museum. Once there, I will try to guide you by radio. -He smiled grimly- It's a good thing you're wearing your Swat Kat uniform.
— Any advice?
— Besides not to cause me any more trouble and to listen to everything I say... Take care.
— You already know me. -He said goodbye to him with his thumb up before the doors closed and disappeared-
— I know you, Chance... that's why I care.
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