Any doubt you have, like about the Stargate franchise, don't hesitate to ask me.
LOGLINE: After being arrested for helping Dark Kat, Hard Drive is sent to Alkatraz, where an unexpected ally helps him escape and offers him a deal he could hardly refuse, and would change his life and his perception of the world forever.
Chapter 1: The Offer.
I had ended up in Alkatraz again, and all because I had allied myself with Dark Kat. How could I have been such a fool? His Creeplings got me out of the Enforcers' prison, yes, but for what? To be a pawn in their stupid plans? To waste all the data of the Defense Center's secrets that I stole on a stupid voice-altering device? The idiot wasn't even smart enough to kill the Swat Kats when he could, it would have been so easy and fast! But no: the giant purple ant-brain wanted to show off, be too melodramatic and make the Megakat City believe that their favorite vigilants had turned into real criminals. What was I thinking?
I wasn't thinking, I repeated myself several times: I was afraid of that idiot in the black cape. Who in Megakat wouldn't do it? The guy was huge, just over two meters tall and with a wide and robust body, he was extremely strong, evil, and as much as I don't want to admit it, intelligent. All criminals in the city was afraid of him: from petty thieves, to slum youth gangs, to organized crime. If you got in Dark Kat's way, you'd better be dead... and if he showed an interest in you, whether as a nuisance or even a mere servant, too. And I found out the hard way: I was now behind bars and with no chance of escape.
At times like this, I think back to my life before I went down the road of crime, when I was seventeen and a high school prodigy, especially in science. Since I was a child I had demonstrated talent with electronics and machines, which had given me the reputation of a nerdy child: this, added to my scrawny physique, athletic ineptitude and the poverty of my family, had slowly led me to the path of crime. Even though I lived in a poor area, thanks to my grades, I had the chance to win a Puma-Dyne scholarship and perhaps get out of poverty. And what did I do when I was seventeen? I threw it all away by joining a gang of juvenile delinquents who took advantage of my technological skills to rob a bank. The worst thing was not that they left me, or that they caught me -I was lucky that time- but that I liked the thrill of stealing. Why the hell would I waste my time studying if with what I already knew, I could get more? I didn't even have to go to a dumb university to learn more things: I would do it with practice.
That's how I left high school and gave up that scholarship; my parents were disappointed, but I ignored them: maybe in the end they wanted that scholarship more than I did... and I was sick of doing things for others: from now on, I would think about myself. When I turned eighteen I was kicked out of the house and ended up living in a homeless shelter. I managed to get a job in an electronics workshop and tried to settle down. I was free: with the little I earned, I paid for my apartment, a few prostitutes and alcohol to spend the weekends, and prepare my next robbery plans. Making the plans, and executing them was almost as exciting as sex.
That's how seven years went by, until one night, I came across a briefcase with the Puma-Dyne logo lying on the asphalt a few streets away from my house. I took it and took it with me to check it in my apartment: I was very surprised to discover what would change my life forever. They were plans of a kind of coat that allowed the user not only to absorb a lot of data and connect to electrical or telecommunications networks, but literally to become energy to move through those same networks, and even to have certain electrokinetic abilities. What the heck were those crazy Puma-Dyne people thinking? Whoever the madman was who devised such a thing, I will be eternally grateful to him: the components to build it were not so difficult to obtain, but it required numerous thefts to various places: from electronics stores, textile companies to the Puma-Dyne facilities themselves. Or, I would take the easier way: the black market....
And for that, I needed money: good thing I was an expert at robbing ATMs.
It took me almost a year, a period in which those odious Swat Kats appeared. Between stealing money from several ATMs as well as electronics stores, getting the money to buy the black market parts and tools, building the blissful vest and submitting it to several tests. But finally, I was ready: when I put it on, something changed in me: I acquired not only impressive power and skills but also a greater self-confidence. I was also changing my hairstyle to a peculiar blond Mohawk and my eyes were turning yellowish-orange, but these are cosmetic details that I can't explain and that make me look intimidating and cool, so I don't care. I was no longer the puny nerdy kid who lived in misery. I was now...
— Pss... Kevin.
I shook my head, leaving my thoughts, had anyone called me by my real name? It was someone so lonely that since I became involved as a criminal, I hardly ever heard myself called that. I turned to the source of the voice only to realize that it was completely dark, as if there had been a blackout. I could barely make out his silhouette in the shadows: average height, thin and wearing a trench coat. I heard him pass his arms between the bars.
— Here, it's yours.
— What? -I asked as I took something from my paws; his voice sounded familiar, but I didn't quite recognize it- Who are you?
— If you want to know, check out what I gave you.
— You'll get in trouble for helping me: there are cameras.
— You think I didn't think of that before? See you, Kevin: you have five minutes.
I could hear his footsteps moving away from my cell until the whole place was silent; no one but me noticed the presence of this guy. When the light came back, I was astonished to see that I had my Surge Coat perfectly restored and folded as if it were clean clothes: when I unfolded it, a piece of paper on which it was written fell:
"Go to this address tomorrow at one o'clock in the morning. I’m interested in a business partnership with you."
A business partnership? Really? I had just finished one with Dark Kat, which was a terrible disaster: it was not in my plans to partner with anyone ever again. But on the other hand... my curiosity about that guy was a force to be reckoned with. Besides, no one could be worse than Dark Kat, could they? I calculated that it was a little after two in the morning, so the appointment would be the next day; I also calculated that those "five minutes" were for me to put on my coat and escape before the prison cameras and alarms went off. My mysterious benefactor had given me a small window of opportunity and I didn't plan to miss it: I put on my coat and used it to escape through the power lines to my apartment in less than a couple of seconds.
After a day of rest and evading the Enforcers who inspected my apartment after learning of my escape, I went to the meeting place: an abandoned stretch of a dirt road on the outskirts of Megakat, in the middle of rural surroundings. No car and certainly no person passed by: my only company were the trees swaying in the night breeze, and a solitary wooden streetlight whose light flickered constantly, and was the only source of illumination on that moonless night. I remained there alone and on guard for about five minutes until I heard his voice again coming out of the trees and approaching me.
When the light hit his face, I drowned out a scream. Despite his black sleeveless t-shirt, his leather boots and camouflage pants, I recognized him.
— You? You’re the...!
— Shh... Leonard. My name is Leonard, but I prefer to be called Lenny.
— Lenny is not short for Leonard.
— Leo sounds very stupid and bland, Kevin. Let's meet at Lenny, Shall we?
— Okay, "Lenny." What did you bring me here for?
— To what I left on the note: a business partnership with you.
— Which translated would be... I'll be working for you.
— More like for my boss; the two of us would be partners. -He smiled mockingly; I began to get angry- But I promise you will gain a lot by working with us: technology, wealth and knowledge you could never imagine.
— Uh-huh... And how does your boss plan to do that?
— He has resources that you have no idea about; that even Dark Kat would be amazed to have them in front of you. Besides, unlike that idiot, he's not so melodramatic or wasting his time on foolishness. He's subtle, precise and efficient.
— Mmm... I don't know. -I answered with some hostility- I already went through Dark Kat's bad experience, how can you assure me that with you and your boss it won't be worse?
— Let's see... -he took out a folded paper from his pocket and started reading it- Kevin Stern, born March 15, 3968 in Megakat City, state of West Andreas... excellent grades up to high school... possible candidate for a Puma-Dyne scholarship... And then comes a long list of misfortunes: of robberies to electronic stores, ATMs, drunk arrests... Your parents don't want to know anything about you, you're on the Enforcers' wanted list, and you owe so much on your apartment rent that it won't be long before they get you out of there. -he clicked his tongue with his teeth- I don't see that you have much choice, my friend.
I clenched my fists angrily, but resigned; everything he said was true: my parents and my family had turned their backs on me since I left school and no longer wanted to see me; I had had my troubles in bars and with pimps, they were about to kick me out of work because of my reputation, the money was running out and because of my recent failures, I could no longer pay for the apartment. And the Enforcers were looking for me.
Heck, I had nowhere to drop dead. Crudding Dark Kat. Why did I have to work for you?
— Apart from what you already offer me... I would like to know some things.
— I'm all ears.
— If I join you and your boss... Will I have a place to live?
— It can be arranged; don't worry. And I promise you will live better than before.
— Will I be free to do things my own way?
— You can do the robberies you want in your own way, but you won't use the boss' resources. In any case, if you get caught again, I will help you get free.
— Your boss likes to stay hidden apparently.
— Of course he does. -He smiled- Taking into account his ambitions and his nature.
— And what exactly does he want? The city? -he denied with his head- The state? -He denied again- The... country?
He denied one last time and looked up, pointing his finger, as if to tell me to do the same. I did, and all I could see was a starry sky like I had never seen before: Megakat's light pollution made it impossible to see a sky like that at night. But being here, so far away from the city, the Milky Way looked in all its splendor.
When I heard that voice, my whole body, from the tips of my hair to the soles of my feet and the tip of my tail shook with fear. That voice wasn't from the guy I was talking to... or rather, it sounded the same, though distorted, deeper and with a very strange metallic tone. But when that subject lowered his head and looked at me, I was paralyzed with fear: his eyes shone momentarily in a yellowish-white tone before speaking to me again.
— “Good evening, Kevin.”
From his left wrist a kind of golden glove emerged, as if it were unfolding from the watch he had been wearing. He pressed a button on his wrist, and to my surprise, a strange, vaguely pyramid-shaped ship of leaden, golden hues appeared beside him. A hatch opened at the side, revealing an interior apparently covered in gold.
— "I'm the "boss", Kevin." -He said in that metallic voice- "And my name is Li Shou."
— You're... you're a...
— "Do you want milk or beer?"
— "Do you want milk or beer? I imagine you're very confused, and I try to be a good host."
— Uh... Milk?
— "Fine." -He nodded- "Get on the ship; you and I have a lot to talk about."
It's a good thing I didn't ask for beer, because if I had, I would have believed that the whole story of this Li Shou was the result of a drunkenness. Between cans of milk that we drank as if we were known forever, he told me everything about him: that he was a kind of alien parasite called Goa'uld that once ruled over a good part of the galaxy for almost twenty-four thousand years, until about fifteen years ago, a group of aliens called "humans" from a planet called "Earth" killed Ra, the "nominal emperor" of his species, and since then, his rule has been in a tailspin until it disappeared about four years ago. He also told me about some aspects of their biology, technology, and behavior, as well as other alien species.
He also told me about the “Stargate”, and its builders. The very idea of a network of wormhole portals throughout the galaxy blew my mind. I was also amazed to learn that many Goa'uld live by the thousands with the help of a device called the "Sarcophagus", and that this Li Shou was actually fifteen thousand years old. Older than our own civilization!
When I asked him how he got here, he said it was by simple chance: he was looking for a safe haven from even more powerful aliens called "Ori" -whom he would tell me about later- and he saw our planet in an ancient database of the Goa'uld portal network, and that it was apparently forgotten. Believing it to be a primitive world, he came here only to discover that it was not only a technologically advanced world, but also one that was highly populated. Sometime later, he told me, he remembered that he had visited our planet before.
But what blew my mind was about the identity of other Goa'uld, especially those called "System Lords", among whom was Bastet, the mother goddess of the kats of antiquity.
— She was one of you too?! So...
— "I understand that she discovered them ten thousand years ago, naming her species and this planet "Mye'yu". Just as Ra did with the humans, she enslaved them, scattered them throughout the galaxy, and subjected them to her mercy for five thousand years until apparently there was a rebellion that drove her out of here." -said Li Shou calmly while I was digesting this information next to a can of cold milk- "Thanks to this, you managed to advance technologically, or you would still be in the Copper Age."
— I... can't believe it. If only the Basteists knew... if only the Bhurakistanis knew...
— "They would tear their clothes off, calling everyone else a heretic, especially when they found out that I was hosting a human and not a kat." -He scoffed- "Even more so when they learn that their beloved goddess is dead. Ba'al, a System Lord, had her killed with his army of Kull Warriors about four years ago."
— Crud it... You guys are terrible.
— "I know... Do you have any other questions about me?"
— If you're a Goa'uld... Did I say it right? -Li Shou nodded- You mean Lenny is a prisoner of his own body?
— "Normally, that would be the case: that's how we take our hosts, but I'm different." -Li Shou closed his eyes for a moment- Li Shou and I have a true symbiotic relationship: I agreed to be his host for good. It was... painful at first, but you gain a lot: more strength, better health, improved mental acuity, stamina and agility, incredible knowledge. And you’re never alone.
— I find it hard to believe that you have accepted something like that. -I answer honestly- I mean... it's... weird. And scary.
— I have a terrible life, too, Kevin: people who make fun of me, who look down on me, a family that turned their back on me. If you only knew the effort I have to make to be seen as an idiot and not be noticed.
— I understand...
— In fact, Li Shou went through that too: the System Lords despised him also for being very intelligent.
— Really? How so?
— I could explain that to you later, but he prefers to discuss what you could do by working for him. Shall we continue?
— Ehm... Okay.
Again, Lenny closed his eyes and then opened them, showing a fleeting yellowish-white flash. I learned that this was the Goa'uld's way of implying that he was in control of the body.
We talked a bit about what I would have to do: at the moment it was very little, but more than anything, it would be to use my abilities with the vest to steal information from kat military installations, and from other targets outside the planet, such as abandoned Goa'uld bases, from a group called Lucian Alliance, and even from Earth itself. In return, he would train me in the use of Goa'uld weapons and technology, as well as in both weapon and close-combat techniques. He would even teach me how to pilot the ship we were in, called “Tel'tak”, which was capable of interstellar travel. He would also share some of his wealth with me.
It was a tempting offer: no one, least of all Dark Kat, would have offered me such things in exchange for my cooperation. That purple giant never paid me a single cent, nor did any of his Crepplings give me a measly glass of water, nor did I get any respect. This alien Li Shou, in spite of being someone much older, more intelligent, and possibly more powerful... treated me with some respect, and asked for my help and cooperation in a more... polite way: he even invited me to drink canned milk with him. In spite of this, I sensed that there were things I needed to explain to myself.
— I want to understand this: you want me to help you conquer my planet...
— To use it as a starting point to conquer the rest of the galaxy.
— And what about the kats? Will you enslave us like you say Bastet did?
— "Of course not: that was the old method of the System Lords... and now all those idiots are dead. I myself criticized almost ten thousand years ago the shortcomings of that system of domination... and they mocked me, marginalizing me for it. I’m looking for something different."
— Like what.
— "You may have heard of those conspiracy theories of aliens ruling the world from the shadows.” -I went; those things sold a lot and were entertaining- “Basically, imagine that applied to reality: the Goa'uld ruling over numerous planets in the galaxy, infiltrating the upper echelons of their governments -politics, military, culture, economy, science, religion- while the natives, except for a duly selected elite, are ignorant of this. Eventually, a federal galactic government would be created under Goa'uld rule, where people would live in peace, under my rules and conditions, obviously. And of course, my species would not be on the brink of extinction."
— I see... You're all doing this out of altruism.
— "Partly yes, and also to satisfy my ego: those stupid System Lords mocked my idea because it eliminated their traditional savagery inherited from their times in the swamp. I want us to be a civilization, and at the same time, respect the fact that we are parasites. Intelligent, yes, but parasites after all."
— Uh-huh… And let me ask. How do you think you can, with or without my help, conquer the whole galaxy?
— "I have woven a veritable network of spying throughout most of the known galaxy over the past ten thousand years: beings of numerous species, and even other Goa'uld, serve me as spies and sources of information and resources. Of course; I have the economic resources to sustain it, but I do not have enough logistical resources to carry out my plan, at least for the time being".
— I guess that's where I come in.
— How long have you been planning this?
— "Ten thousand years." -He replied; I was totally perplexed- "But only in the last seventy years have I been able to speed up the final execution of my plan. Just yesterday."
— Suppose I refuse to help you, What will you do to me?
— "If you stand in my way, I will clearly kill you." -I tried to hide my fear in my chills, in vain- "If you decide not to help me and go back to your normal life, no problem: I will only erase your memory of the last twenty-four hours: you will wake up in your apartment as if you had suffered a terrible hangover and you will not remember anything we talked about nor will you recognize me once you see me again." -He sighed and looked at me inquisitively- "But if I were in your place, the decision would be very easy, wouldn't it? We're a lot alike, Kevin: we don't have a lot of options to choose from."
I didn't know much about his case, but he was right: What options did I have? Go back to my usual life and wait for Dark Kat or another more powerful criminal to look for me to be his pawn and then be defeated by the Swat Kats and the Enforcers and thrown into jail? My life was horrible, and possibly partly my fault, but there was no turning back now: my family wanted nothing to do with me, I had no friends, and soon I would have no job or home. And now, someone, literally fallen from the sky, was opening the doors to a new world for me... No: to A GALAXY of possibilities. How could I refuse such a juicy offer?
What about the moral implications of helping an alien conquer my home planet and subjecting my species to an invisible dictatorship? Not to mention the entire galaxy. I thought about it carefully and concluded that... Bah, TO HECK WITH IT! I love my country, my planet and everything, but they're not perfect, so why fool me? And if someone can lead it better, then let him be welcome.
And that someone, without a doubt, was this Li Shou.
— There will be no unnecessary deaths, right? I am a thief; not a murderer.
— "Curious; you once tried to kill the Swat Kats."
— You know what I mean.
— "I will try to minimize civilian deaths, but if you work for me, sooner or later you will have to kill. Of course; not innocent people."
— I guess I can assume that.
— "Good. Any more questions?"
— I'll get my share of the loot, right?
— "Of course: I already have enough wealth; you will have a generous share of the robberies you do for me. In addition to everything I will teach you."
That was it: my doubts had been cleared up. I stretched out my arm and passed my right paw over it.
— I'm in, boss.
— "Welcome aboard, Hard Drive. This will be the beginning of a productive partnership." -He pulled two cans of milk out of an icebox- "Let's celebrate."
- Li Shou: A OC character, based on an ancient cat god -or goddess- from Chinese mythology.
- Mye'yu: Derived from the ancient Egyptian words myeou and mau, meaning "cat".
- Bhurakistan: A fictitious country of the Kat Homeworld, based on the culture of the Indian Subcontinent. Patent pending