"SwatKats Unmasked?" Part IV of V

From: Andy Hill <chance_at_unix.infoserve.net>
Date: Fri, 21 Apr 1995 21:48:54 -0700 (PDT)

     Last part will be Sunday, if nothing stops me filling in the outline
later tomorrow. News, first. I've been trying to get some questions
answered at Hanna-Barbera, but I keep playing telephone tag with Victoria
McCollum - three answering machine exchanges in both directions last count.
I'll post the answers if I can.


     T-Bone awoke to the sound of the alarm clock, which showed the
battle scars of many a previous encounter with a solid object. Though a
pilot first and foremost, his aim was something to fear, and the alarm
clock was immediately silenced by an empty milk glass. The intermittent
scream of the TurboKat in the hangar signalled that Razor was already up
and preparing for the morning test-run in the Canyon. T-Bone grabbed a
handful of stale nachos, two cans of milk, and headed for the ladder.

     Razor was a perfectionist, and had been up before even the birds to
ensure that nothing unexpected would occur during the work-up run. The
new wireless throttle control performed flawlessly, though T-Bone would
take awhile to get used to the new calibration. The engines registered
an output some 36 percent above average, translating into a groundspeed
increase of nearly 120 mph - better than his highest hopes. He didn't
notice the approach of T-Bone, as he leaned into the cockpit to tighten
the last remaining screws.


     Razor banged his head on the canopy and dropped the screwdriver,
turning to face T-Bone from the ladder.

        "Thanks a lump...you just used up about three of my lives!" Razor
rubbed the back of his head, and reached out to accept the can of milk
offered by T-Bone.

        "Sorry pal, I just couldn't resist. Why didn't you get me up?"

        "Well, I know how you feel about 'unnecessary modifications'... I just
          wanted to make sure we weren't going to have any problems before you
         got a chance to say 'I told ya so'. The new stuff's pretty cool...
         you get to go even faster!"

     Razor knew the weakness of all fighter pilots; the only thing better
than "fast" was "faster". Going 36 percent faster would certainly take
T-Bone's mind off of any concerns regarding "unnecessary modifications".

     T-Bone gave the jet a brief examination, checking the control
surfaces and the engine intakes, slamming his empty milk can onto the
wing as though it were a show of approval.

        "Great! What are we waitin' for?"

        "We were waiting for someone to get up...let's grab our stuff."

     T-Bone finished off his mouthfull of nachos, "faster" would
certainly be a substitute for breakfast today, besides - there was always
lunch. They rode the platform up to the runway level, discarding their
coveralls in favour of flightsuits on the way.

           "Okay buddy..." began Razor, jettisoning the last of his tool
belt as he climbed into the second seat, "...keep it slow for the first
few clicks..."

        "Naturally, Sleeping Beauty - you can't see how well your stuff
         works if you're unconscious..."

        "Hah, hah, very funny...just don't do any high-g climbs until you
         get used to the new throttle ratio.."

     Razor had a fairly low tolerance for g-forces, which had caused him
considerable ridicule during flight training at Enforcer Academy. He'd been
mercilessly picked on by his fellow trainees, emerging from the
centrifuge sessions unconscious more often than not. Nobody had wanted
a partner that was liable to pass out in a heavy-g situation, and he'd
been ready to call it quits until T-Bone - the most promising pilot
candidate - requested him specifically as his Weapons Officer. Razor had
never forgotten that, and wasn't about to get the opportunity; T-Bone
called him "Sleeping Beauty" at least once a week!

     T-Bone didn't do any high speed climbing, but pushed the throttle to
its limits anyway - easily outpacing the MegaKat Shuttle on its approach
to the airport. T-Bone gave the "wing-waggle" salute, which was given in
turn by the commercial flight. Everyone loved the SwatKats.


     Lt. Steel did not love the SwatKats, nor did he love getting up at 4
a.m. to get to the Canyon without being observed from the air. The
"Canyon" was once a training are for pilots during MegaWar II, and was
renamed "Manx Canyon" shortly after the war's end. Most locals still
referred to it simply as "The Canyon", and the training area had lain in
disuse for over 20 years. At the end of the site was an airstrip left
over from the war, and it was here that Steel was heading to lie in wait
for the SwatKats. The road leading to the strip was a "road" in name
only, and the Enforcer cruiser was taking quite a beating, as was Lt.
Steel trying to navigate the machine without the benefit of headlights.
Steel turned the car through the remains of the gate, and headed towards
what was left of the Hangar, choking through a thick cloud of dust. He
drove inside, and once satisfied the vehicle couldn't be seen from the
air, looked around for a building of suitable height - eventually
settling on the shell of the Control Tower, some distance across the tarmac.
Steel ignored the barely-legible "Keep Out" sign, pushed aside the
remnants of the door, and climbed the steel staircase to the platform above.
The rusting hulk of the Radar antenna served as a windbreak, and Steel
propped himself against it's base, scanning the canyon walls for the
likely approach route of the TurboKat. Dawn broke, the dust devils
subsided, and Steel waited for his target.


        "Gotta hand it to ya, Razor - the TurboKat purrs like a kitten.."

        "See...hate to say 'I told ya so' but..."

     Razor was thrown into his seat as T-Bone yanked back the stick, cued
the afterburners, and pushed the throttle to its stop. The resulting
sonic boom panicked the herd of cattle below, sending them scattering in
every direction.

        "Sorry Razor, were you sayin' somethin' ?

        "I get the message...Head's up! Approaching first target..."

     The "missile lock" warning flashed on the display in both
positions. T-Bone banked sharply left in an attempt to break the missile
lock, but to no avail. Razor brought up the missile inventory on the
Weapons display, and made his choice. The "missile proximity" alarm
sounded just as Razor announced:

        "Slicer Missile - deployed!"

     The Slicer made contact with the control fins of the approaching
missile, sending it spinning out of control into the canyon wall -
resulting in a spectacular explosion.


        "Um...Razor? Please tell me that was the only explosive one..."

        "Hey, you said you didn't want to 'sightsee'...next one's all yours

     Razor folded his arms across his chest, making it clear that T-Bone
would have to deal with the next encounter unassisted. The "missile
lock" alarm sounded a full second before T-Bone caught the telltale flash
of a missile launching from the canyon wall. He headed directly for a
natural land bridge spanning the canyon, and didn't appear to be altering
course quickly enough to suit Razor, who's worried expression he caught
in the mirror.

        "Ah, T-Bone..."

     Razor was quite obviously distraught, but was determined not to give
T-Bone the satisfaction, and kept his arms folded. The "missile
proximity" alarm made a curious note coupled with that of the "Terrain
Collision" warning, and the land-bridge filled the view ahead. Razor
closed his eyes, the signal T-Bone had been waiting for, and the pitch of
the TurboKat's engines changed to a scream as he pulled back the stick
and maxed the throttle, causing the TurboKat to climb out of harm's way,
and the missile to slam into the land bridge. Razor's arms were still
crossed, and his eyes tightly shut...causing T-Bone no end of amusement.

        "Whatsamatter buddy? No appreciation for the majestic beauty of
         land formations?"

        "No...more like no appreciation for 'scratch and sniff' terrain
         encounters...I thought I said to hold off on the high-g stuff.."

     Razor checked the status panel, which showed the wireless throttle
link to be performing perfectly.

        "Razor, you worry too much...you said yourself that you'd checked
         everything thoroughly - c'mon, lets have some fun!"

     T-Bone brought the jet low into the canyon itself, weaving in and
out of the natural obstacles completely by instinct, until the canyon
widened out on the approaches to the old airstrip. The "missile lock"
warning sounded yet again.


     Steel had dozed off, and was awakened by the sound of the
land-bridge exploding and crashing into the canyon below. He could hear
the TurboKat approaching, and scanned the horizon through the launcher's
viewfinder - eventually catching sight of the TurboKat as it cleared the
narrow part of the canyon. "Lock" appeared in the top-left corner just
as Dr. Alley said it would, and Steel pulled the trigger as the TurboKat
drew even with him in a steep bank preparing for another run at the
canyon. He followed the track of the projectile through the viewer,
watching it impact on the underside of the aircraft just in front of the
landing gear as the TurboKat disappeared back up the canyon. He dropped
the launcher and rummaged around in his knapsack for the tracking device,
wondering how long "shortly after impact" actually meant. He turned on
the tracker, and waited for the appearance of the blip. Everything was
set, he'd promised certain officers a promotion for helping him bring the
SwatKats to justice, even managing to convince them it was Feral's idea.
Once the blip stopped moving, he'd track it to its source, call in the
troops, and arrest the SwatKats just in time for the six o'clock news.
Feral wasn't scheduled back from his press event for hours, and once he
found out about it - it'd be too late - and everyone in MegaKat City
would know that _Commander_ Steel had succeeded where Feral had always


        "..'Missile Lock'? I didn't put anything this far out...must be
         some kind of glitch."

     Razor tapped the "Lock" indicator, hoping the lamp would extinguish.

        "Negative buddy, it's on my panel too..."

     Both heads frantically scanned the sky as the "Missile Proximity"
alarm screamed that impact was imminent. T-Bone did all the SAM
avoidance manuevers he knew how, but nothing was showing up on the
Weapons panel, and no missile could be seen. The proximity alarm went to
a fever pitch.

        "T-BONE!...WE GOTTA PUNCH OUT!!!!!"

     Both their hands went automatically to the "eject" levers as T-Bone
prepared to blow the canopy, then...nothing. The cockpit fell silent.

        "Wha...what happened?!"

        "You're complaining?!! Razor, you must've messed somethin' up
         when you were playin' with the throttle controls...we almost
         ditched for nothin' !"

        "I..I don't get it. Those two systems don't talk...it's impossible.."

     Razor checked the status panel, which showed nothing but green
lights, and no indication of a missile event.

        "Yeah, well...'impossible' or not, I'm not flying a plane I don't
         trust, and right now I don't trust the TurboKat...we're headin'

     T-Bone had a clear mental picture of his father saying the familiar
"if it ain't broke, don't fix it", as he set course for the Salvage Yard,
watching the reflection of Razor in the mirror still frantically trying
to determine the cause of the malfunction. T-Bone pushed the throttles
up just as Steel's transmitter device actuated, causing the interference
Dr. Alley had predicted. The cockpit alarm sounded.

        "THROTTLE LINK FAIL?!!!...aw, CRUD!!!"

     T-Bone fought with the throttle control, as the TurboKat's engines
alternately surged and slowed. The airspeed was dropping, and he knew
he'd have to gain as much altitude as possible before the engines quit
completely - it would be the only chance for any kind of controlled

        "Razor...anything else you'd like to 'improve'...before we CRASH!!"

        "..it doesn't make any sense, it all checked out...I don't

        "Understand later. We're going to lose the hydraulics when the engines
         quit, I'm going to have to land it in the Salvage Yard rather
         than attempt the hangar. I want you to punch out just before we
         get there..."

        "NEGATIVE, T-Bone! We BOTH ride it in, or we BOTH bail out...besides,
         you'll need my help with the chutes."

     Neither of them had attempted a dead-stick landing in the TurboKat,
but T-Bone would need both hands for the stick, and he knew it. He
switched the wing setting to the subsonic mode, and made the last turn
before final approach. Steel's device had managed to knock out every
instrument landing system on the jet, and the engines had finally quit
altogether. It would be a bumpy ride.

        "Fine. Have it your way, Razor. Get your harness as tight as
         you can stand it, dump your missiles, and gimme the checklist.."

     The TurboKat descended evenly, the Salvage Yard and Garage looming
ever larger through the perspex of the windshield. Razor began the

        "Fuel Shutoff?"

        "Weapons Systems Off-Line?"

        "Gear Down and Locked?"

     T-Bone knew he'd have to touch down in the uneven area just short of
the Salvage Yard, they had only the drag-chutes to slow them down and
needed all the runway they could get. The TurboKat would have to end up
as close to the Garage as he could judge it, they had to get it out of
sight as quickly as possible after landing. T-Bone tightened his harness
until he had trouble breathing, as Razor got to the final item on the

        "Jettison canopy...NOW!"

     Wind and dust whipped through the cockpit as T-Bone fought to see
through the windshield, it took every ounce of strength just to hold the
jet steady without the help of the hydraulics.

        "RAZOR...COUNT DOWN WITH ME...FIVE...FOUR..." T-Bone screamed at
the top of his lungs, Razor counting in unison.


     The ground rushed up and the TurboKat hit heavy. Razor waited for
all wheels to touch and deployed the drag-chutes. The Garage was coming
up fast, and the chutes appeared to be doing little to slow their
approach. The TurboKat shook violently as it encountered potholes and
debris on the makeshift runway, and T-Bone waited until the last possible
second for the surface to improve before jamming the brake lever full on.
Tires screaming in protest, the front landing gear collapsed - plowing
the nose hard into the dust and dirt of the yard. T-Bone's harness
ripped away from its mount and threw him into the console, cracking his
helmet with the force of the impact. The TurboKat had landed.


Received on Sat Apr 22 1995 - 00:45:00 PDT

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