At their leader's command, the combined might of the Ci-Kat-A came pouring out of the lab door behind Dr. Street as he stood motionless, seemingly impassive, the converted kats buzzing past him. Murdoch and the other two convicts got up and joined them in advancing on their two intended victims. It was a gruesome and terrifying sight. Callie couldn't believe this. Harley Street alive! And now more Ci-Kat-A!
If they got out of the building, there was no telling what harm they could loose upon Megakat City. But maybe it was already too late. After all, Street hadn't come alone. Who knew how many other kats he'd bitten before coming here? Megakat City could already be doomed. But Callie would worry about that later. Right now, she needed to get herself and Dr. Belljar to safety. She wasn't going to do any good if she got bitten and became a Ci-Kat-A herself.
Dr. Belljar raced off down the hallway. Callie started to follow before noticing her communicator lying over by the other items that spilled out of her purse. She hesitated. She needed to call the SWAT Kats. She lunged for it. Halfway down the hall, Belljar turned and saw her. He ran back and grabbed her arm, misunderstanding. Of course, he didn't know about the communicator.
"Are you nuts?" he cried. "Come on!"
"But-!" Callie protested.
Ignoring her pleas, he dragged her along down the hall as the buzzing horde of kat-insects pursued them. Callie and Belljar made it to the elevator. She'd need to find some other means of contacting outside help. Belljar pressed the call button, Callie gasping as she watched the Ci-Kat-A horde coming towards them.
"Come on, come on...!" Belljar whimpered, desperate.
Ding! The doors opened. The two rushed in and waited for the doors to close. They were halfway shut when one of the convicts suddenly appeared and reached in. If the door shut on his arm, Callie realized, the safety feature would cause it to automatically open again. And it seemed he knew it, grinning evilly. Pressing herself flat against the rear wall of the elevator car, Callie took off one of her high heels and threw it at his face. He yelped and staggered back as it bounced off his forehead and back into the elevator. The doors shut. Callie sighed in relief.
She and Dr. Belljar heard frenzied banging, then clawed fingertips appeared through the crack, beginning to force the fiercely-resisting doors open.
"They're gonna get in!" Callie cried. She looked up and saw the emergency hatch. She kicked off her other shoe. "Give me a boost! Hurry!"
Belljar complied. Opening the hatch, Callie climbed onto the roof of the elevator car. She reached down.
Belljar jumped up and grabbed her hand and climbed up just as the Ci-Kat-A wrenched the doors open and came rushing in, the mustached former MASA guard in the lead. Belljar kicked the hatch cover closed. Suddenly it opened again, and the mustached Ci-Kat-A appeared, mandibles snapping. He bit Belljar's heel. The scientist screamed. Using her bare foot, Callie kicked the Ci-Kat-A in the face, but he refused to relinquish his hold, attempting to drag the flailing Dr. Belljar back down into the elevator with him. Callie kicked the hatch cover closed on the former MASA guard's head. Bang! With her heel, she grunted and kicked down on the cover's top, banging him on the head a second time. Finally, the kat-insect released his grip and fell back down into the elevator interior, leaving Callie and Belljar lying there panting and sweaty.
After a moment, a panicky Dr. Belljar took off his shoe and inspected his foot. Nothing. No bite. His sock isn't even torn. He sighed in relief. The mandibles had only penetrated the thick rubber of the shoe's heel. Callie looked up at the elevator cables. She remembered how she and Razor had ascended the central air shaft of the Megakat Tower with her piggybacking on him. Vines, elevator cables...
She turned to Belljar. "Can you climb?"
"I, uh, I think so..."
"Then take off your other shoe and follow me!" She began to climb, using her splaying toes to grip the cables. "Grip the cable with your toes!"
Confused, but getting the idea, Belljar took off his other shoe and both socks and went up after her. "Where'd you learn to do this?" he asked.
Callie smirked. "You mean besides hitting the gym and climbing the ropes twice a week to stay in shape because I'm constantly being targeted by every criminal with a pulse? And some without?"
"I meant the gripping the cable with your toes thing."
"Oh," said Callie, smiling gently. "A friend taught me."
In the elevator, the Ci-Kat-A with the mustache was furious, clenching his fist and rubbing where Callie kicked him. "Capture...!" he managed to snarl. His voice was heavily distorted but intelligible. Unlike Street, the further a converted kat transformed, the more difficult speaking became for them, and they were really only capable of uttering a few monosyllabic grunts.
Street approached. "Forget them."
The mustached Ci-Kat-A was irritated. "They'll tell..." he hissed.
"It won't matter," Street said, dismissive. "By the time help comes, our business here will be finished. He turned to Steven. "Which way to the main lab?"
Steven pointed and walked towards the stairs, the other Ci-Kat-A following.
On the next floor, Callie managed to get the elevator doors open and climbed through. She waited for Dr. Belljar. He climbed into view and she grabbed his hand and helped him get up the rest of the way.
"Now come, we've got to get a phone and contact the Enforcers!"
They ran off down the hall.
"There's a phone in my office!" said Belljar.
Meanwhile, Felina Feral's chopper zoomed between the buildings on patrol. Suddenly a voice buzzed through the radio. A priority message from dispatch.
"Attention all units in the vicinity of Megakat Biochemical Labs! Respond to a possible break-in!"
That place, thought Felina with a sigh. She grabbed radio. "This is Chopper 4, responding on the double!"
In back, Gray Taylor could barely contain himself. What a time to have a rookie along, Felina thought.
"This is getting better and better!" Gray said.
"I told you this place was rarely quiet for long! Hang on!"
She pushed the throttle forward. The chopper flew towards Megakat Biochemical in the distance.
At the salvage yard, everything had been loaded up for the park trip. Chance and Jake had put their shirts on and were getting into the tow truck. Outside, Burke honked the dump truck's horn impatiently as Murray poked out of the passenger window.
"C'moooon, are we goin' or what?!"
Chance sighed. "Why are we bringing those two?"
Jake smiled. "Because we're nice?"
Chance didn't look convinced.
Turning serious, Jake said, "And besides, it keeps 'em outta trouble."
He and Chance shut the doors. Chance turned the truck on and messed with the radio, flipping past some music, trying to find a good song to help him take his mind off of what a day at the park with Burke and Murray Schlepper was going to be like. Suddenly, an Enforcer dispatcher's voice filtered in weakly. As with all their radio equipment, he and Jake had modified the tow truck's radio to be able to tune in to the Enforcer channel in case of emergencies.
"-akat Biochemical L-" the voice was saying. Chance could only pick out "biochemical" and he already didn't like the way the afternoon was shaping up.
"Hold it, Chance! Go back!" Jake cried.
Ignoring more honking from Burke, Chance turned it back to the Enforcer band. "I repeat," said the dispatcher, "we have a possible break-in at Megakat Biochemical Labs! One unit is already en route, but be advised, all available units in the area join in investigation! This is a Priority 1 site!"
"Boy, he can say that again!" grumbled Jake. Sometimes it was a toss-up whether Megakat Biochemical Labs or Puma-Dyne was a more popular target for the city's criminal element.
Chance turned off the radio. "And he will. That's what dispatchers do. That's probably the tenth time he's said it. Let the Enforcers handle it."
"Chance...!" cried Jake, aghast.
"What?" the bigger mechanic asked sheepishly. "They've gotten better!"
Jake just glared at him.
"Nnng, fine!" He shut off the engine. It beat going to the park with Burke and Murray anyway.
He and Jake got out and walk to the idling dump truck. Murray looked down at them, growling, Burke visible over his shoulder at the wheel.
"You guys go on ahead," said Jake. "We, uh, forgot some stuff." If anybody would buy such a lame excuse, it'd be the Schleppers.
"Fine with me!" said Murray, then nudged his brother. "C'mon!"
The truck turned and lurched out of the salvage yard. Waiting until they were sure it was gone, Chance and Jake turned and rushed with all speed towards the garage - and the hangar.
Felina's chopper continued towards Megakat Biochemical. Its path took it towards the Kat's Eye News chopper, flying at a slightly higher altitude. Ann Gora was in the front passenger seat. Jonny K. sat in back filming out the open side door.
Ann was speaking into her microphone, finishing a wather report. "And so it's a perfect afternoon for a day at the beach. This is Ann Gora, Kat's Eye News, wishing everyone in Megakat City a fun and sunny Thursday!"
She yawned and stretched.
"And I've got a date with my deck chair back home. Oof. Take us back, Al."
"Hey, look!" Jonny said, pointing.
The Enforcer chopper zoomed by underneath them, the rotor blades whizzing past close enough to touch.
"Now where are they going in such a hurry?" Ann wondered.
She squinted in the bright afternoon sunshine, seeing that the Enforcers' path would take them to Megakat Biochemical Labs. Jonny did too.
"Looks like Megakat Biochemical Labs!" he said.
Suddenly all fired up, Ann said, "Al, go after them!"
Sighing, the news chopper pilot whipped the helicopter around and flew off after the Enforcer one.
Felina's chopper approached Megakat Biochemical Labs and hovered a safe distance down the street. Felina's co-pilot King looked through some binoculars as Gray Taylor fidgeted in the back.
"Let's see what we can see..." King muttered.
Gray was impatient. "Come on, what are we waiting for...?"
"Pipe down kid," said the veteran Enforcer. "We gotta get the lay of the land."
"No use rushing i-" King continued but stopped short.
Through the binoculars, he saw through the front windows looking into the main lab. Although the huge panes of glass primarily showed reflections of the surrounding buildings, King could see the Ci-Kat-A ransacking the room. He froze and went cold. He remembered those things. And what they'd done to three good Enforcer pilots he'd known personally from the academy.
"What is it?" asked Felina, sensing something was wrong with her co-pilot.
"Ci-Kat-A!" King said, gritting his teeth in fury. "They tried to take over Megakat City once! They got a lot of good Enforcers killed that day!"
His grip tightened on the control yoke on his side of the chopper, finger twitching at the trigger. Felina placed a calming hand on his wrist and his grip relaxed. She hadn't directly experienced the Ci-Kat-A incident. It'd been before her time. But she shared his anger at the Enforcer lives lost. Nevertheless, she prided herself on remaining cool and professional, and she needed her companions to keep their heads.
"Easy, Private," she said. "I know I wasn't there when this all went down but I can understand your anger. Nevertheless, we've got the element of surprise, so let's not spoil it.
"Roger, Lieutenant," King said, a little reluctantly.
The chopper climbed higher and flew around to flank the building, coming in from above and behind to land on the rooftop helipad undetected. As the rotor blades wound down, the side door whooshed open and Felina and King out, checking their laser pistols.
Gray squatted in the open door. "What about me?"
Felina didn't want the rookie near anything dangerous on his first mission. "You stay here!" she commanded sternly. "Radio for backup!"
She turned to King.
They rushed towards the rooftop door. Looking angry and dejected, Gray went and slumped into the pilot's seat, arms crossed indignantly. He flicked on the radio to report in to Headquarters.
"So much for my big first mission," he grumbled to himself. Into the radio, he said, "Attention, dispatch! This is Corporal Gray Taylor! We've got a break-in at Megakat Biochemical Labs by some creatures called Ci-Kat-A! Over!"
The Turbokat roared out of the salvage yard tunnel and took to the skies. Chance and Jake were now masked as T-Bone and Razor and were tuned to the Enforcer radio broadcast in the jet.
"I repeat! Megakat Biochemical has been infiltrated by creatures known as Ci-Kat-A!" the Enforcer who'd identified himself as Corporal Taylor continued.
A shudder went through T-Bone and he made a face. "Eeew, not those guys again. I thought we'd eliminated that bug problem!"
Jake thought for a moment, trying to remember every individual Ci-Kat-A they'd taken out. "I'm pretty sure we killed the Enforcers who got bitten, and all the drones."
"And the queen," T-Bone interjected, remembering how the penthouse of Megakat Tower had landed on her and flattened her, smirking a little at the memory. He'd loved seeing that big bug go splat. It'd been especially funny when her guts drenched Mayor Manx's limo.
"Right." They were flying over the city now. "That leaves only a few unaccounted for. Like Dr. Bug-Eyes himself." It occurred to Razor that they never had found out what had happened to MASA's Dr. Harley Street, last seen taking an Octopus Missile to the face and falling three-hundred stories out the Megakat Tower penthouse window. Not to mention-
"And..." said T-Bone, realizing, "the guards from the Space Center! Nobody ever did tell us what happened to those guys!"
"Took the words right outta my mouth!"
T-Bone thought. "Three-No four! So five left?"
He glanced back at Razor, who was rubbing his chin, eyes narrowed in concentration. Wracking his brain. That was all the Ci-Kat-A. Wasn't it? "I can't help but feel there's one we're forgetting..."
"Who cares?" said T-Bone, turning around and focusing on his flying, smirking smugly. "At least without the queen it's not a full-scale invasion this time. Just the leftovers from last time to mop up."
"Yeah, except they can make more by biting people!" Razor reminded him.
T-Bone's smirk vanished.
"Even without the queen, it could be a huge epidemic!"
"Take it easy, buddy!" T-Bone said, trying to reassure his partner - and himself. "We'll find out how many there are when we get to Megakat Labs! And then we'll squish 'em!" he added with grim determination.
Razor was a little uncomfortable with T-Bone's cavalier attitude towards killing the converted kats. The three Enforcers whose choppers they'd shot down had been last resorts to save the life of Commander Feral. Nevertheless, he said nothing else as the Turbokat continued on towards Megakat Biochemical Labs.
Steven and three of the four converted prisoners watched impassively as the more "evolved" Ci-Kat-A randomly trashed the lab, hurling empty beakers and overturning tables. Street stood apart from his brothers, idly watching the scorpion crawling around in its tank. The little arachnid crawls around, snapping its pinchers up at Street. He then walked over to the window. Were those rotor blades he heard? He didn't see anything.
His face with his mandibles and huge green compound eyes was almost blank and impossible, but his antennae betrayed his inner emotions. He was angry at being reduced to being Dr. Viper's gofer, and didn't like the idea of continuing to work for that slimy swamp-dweller, even if Viper had saved his life.
Off in the distance, he could see the cooling towers of the Megakat Nuclear Plant. His antennae twitch more excitedly now, in deep thought.
Nearby, Murdoch walked walked along the rows of shelved katalysts. They were almost all a sickly orange colored, each in a neatly-labeled, stopperared Erlenmeyer flask. Murdoch moved his finger along the rows until he stopped at the one labeled "Super-Katalyst 566." He grabbed it, turning to Street over by the window.
As though snapping back from a daydream, Street jerked and turned to look as Murdoch walked over with the flask.
"Super-Katalyst 566! Success!" Murdoch proclaimed, grinning broadly.
"Good work, but there's been a change of plans," Street said. "I've decided that what we want and what Viper wants are no longer compatible."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean we aren't going to give him Super-Katalyst 566," Street said, walking past Murdoch to investivate the shelves himself, head jerking rapidly this way and that in a very insectlike manner as befitting his nature. "He's going to think we are however..."
Murdoch's mouth twisted into a grimace of curiosity and confusion. He didn't like being Viper's flunkey either and would do whatever Street commanded, yet he was nevertheless thrown by this sudden change in what had been a very carefully laid plan. He still possessed some autonomy because his transformation hadn't progressed as far as the five drones they'd freed from captivity.
Street's gaze lighted on something. Realizing he found what he was looking for, he snatched another flask frm the shelf, antennae going wild, suggesting great excitement. It was another super-katalyst, but of a higher number, but Viper wouldn't know the difference until it was too late. All he had to do was switch the labels.
Murdoch walked over.
"I know enough of biochemistry to know that this chemical will serve our purpose better," Street said, pointing to the flask he just grabbed. "But I still need that swamp-dwelling maniac to mix the brew for us."
Murdoch nodded, beginning to understand somewhat. "And then...?" he asked eagerly.
"Then we won't need that pitiful slime anymore."
Murdoch grinned evilly.
Felina and King took up positions on either side of the double doors leading to the lab, guns up. The doors were slightly open, allowing the two a good view of the lab interior. They could see the Ci-Kat-A but the Ci-Kat-A couldn't see them.
King was sweating a little. "Don't let them bite you," he said in a husky, terrified whisper.
"Huh?" Felina whispered back.
"The ones with mandibles," King clarified hoarsely. "Don't let them bite you... If you do, it's all over."
Grimacing, Felina looked in, watching the fully transformed former kats crawling over the walls like roaches, while the recently-converted kats stood in a line like stoic soldiers awaiting orders.
"You become like... them..." King continued.
"I read the reports," Felina snapped. She really needed King to keep his cool. Reassuringly, she said, "It'll be okay, all right?"
He nodded. Good. A combination of harshness and kindness never failed.
"Now, on my signal..." She waited a moment, inhaling deeply. "Go!"
Street was still holding the flask of the second super-katalyst, while Murdoch still has Super-Katalyst 566. "Now to switch the labels," Street said.
Bam! The doors flew inward. The two Enforcers leaped in, guns aimed at the eleven Ci-Kat-A. The five fully-transformed drones jumped back, making irritated, angry shrieking sounds, while Steven and the converted prisoners merely turned their heads as one, their formerly expressionless faces twisting into hateful grimaces at the intrusion.
"Freeze!" Felina ordered.
"The Enforcers!" cried Murdoch.
The converted kats found themselves staring down the barrels of two laser pistols and were unsure how to act. Felina and King had them dead to rights. They entered the room fully, the Ci-Kat-A backing up warily. Meanwhile, two of the "old" Ci-Kat-A - including the mustached guard - were carefully and stealthily approaching on the ceiling.
Sensing movement, however, Felina whipped her gun up and fired. The laser blast hit between the duo, blowing a huge hole in the ceiling. Amidst falling debris, the two drones fell down and landed flailing on their backs, stunned. Their brother Ci-Kat-A tensed as if to attack, but Felina quickly brought her gun back down to point directly into the midst of them.
"Nice try. Now, surrender or we'll splatter your guts all over this lab!"
She and King approached cautiously, the Ci-Kat-A backing up further. A completely unfazed Street made a point of handing the flask he was holding to Murdoch so that the converted con was holding both it and Super-Katalyst 566 and he had his hands free. His wings buzzed in irritation. Turning, he eyed a flask labeled "Katalyst 96" on a shelf nearby, then looked over at the tank with the scorpion in it.
Suddenly, Gray Taylor rushed into the room, gun drawn. "Freeze!" he yelled. "Enforcers!"
Felina and King whirled, startled and angry to find Taylor standing in the doorway behind them.
Street issued forth a piercing shriek. "Attack!"
The Ci-Kat-A rushed towards the distracted Enforcers.