I watch the heavens but I find no calling
Something I can do to change what’s coming
Stay close to me while the sky is falling
I don’t wanna be left alone, don’t wanna be alone
~ Sarah McLachlan, "World On Fire"
"We oughta be with them, Jake."
These were the words Jake Clawson had been expecting. He was surprised not to have heard them much sooner.
Jake blinked his amber eyes, but did not turn away from the flickering images on the TV screen. A twitch of his ears was his only acknowledgment of Chance Furlong’s remark—and the tone of it. That normally deep, smooth, laughing voice was now quiet and taut with emotion.
Even so, the younger kat remained silent, giving the suggestion a chance to be merely rhetorical.
In his heart, he knew better… because he felt the same way.
He continued to feel Chance’s searching eyes upon him. It was no passing comment, then; the unspoken idea that hung between them for days had been given voice at last, and it had to be faced. Jake sighed and met his partner’s steady gaze, turning away from the Kat’s Eye News footage of a distant mountain battle—a battle joined but a few days before, in answer to an unspeakable crime.
"I know how you feel, Chance. But we’ve got a job of our own to do, here at home."
Chance’s eyes hardened, but they were looking past Jake, into the depths of the silent pain they both felt. "Doesn’t feel like we’ve been doing that job too well lately."
Jake understood. Quietly he closed his eyes, remembering that day.
They had planned to go on a routine patrol that bright morning—just a leisurely flyover to ensure that all was well in MegaKat City. However, a nighttime practice run in the Canyon had kept them out later than expected the night before, and they chose to sleep in. After all, there seemed to be no serious trouble on the horizon; Dark Kat and Doctor Viper were in custody, the Pastmaster had not returned from his last escape into time unknown, and the disassembled Metallikats were safely in the hands of Doctor Hackle. Given all of that, the SWAT Kats felt confident in permitting themselves one day of rest.
By the time they awoke to a frantic call from Deputy Mayor Briggs, the north tower of the Megakat Trade Center was burning.
They were in the air in time to see the second hijacked plane’s approach. T-Bone had pushed the TurboKat to her limits, his husky voice cracking as he whispered to her, pleading her to further speed… but they just didn’t have enough time. Too distant to intervene, they could only watch, helpless, as the airliner with all of its innocent passengers plunged into the south tower.
In the minutes that followed, they could do nothing beyond rescuing a handful of kats who, in panicked confusion, had fled to the rooftops instead of trying to reach the ground. In five airlifts, made treacherous by blinding waves of smoke that poured from the gaping infernos of the floors below, a mere seven lives were snatched from the jaws of Death.
And then the towers fell.
In his soul, Jake knew there was no way they could have predicted the attack, and nothing more they could have done under the circumstances. That still didn’t erase the feelings of guilt. If they had gone on patrol as planned, could they have been there in time? Could they have prevented it if they were?
Could they have shot down two passenger jets to save the thousands in those towers?
With a start Jake opened his eyes, banishing the afterimages of smoke and flame and wreckage. Beside him on the couch, Chance said nothing, but waited in patient silence. The muted television still showed scenes of soldiers and sailors bidding goodbye to their families, before they set out for Katghanistan to find and fight those who brought such horror out of a clear blue sky.
They carried with them the justice of a nation.
Looking over at Chance, Jake knew exactly what his partner felt. Everything in him longed to be going with those brave kats, to hunt down and stamp out the architects of terror. The same instinct that had led him to become an Enforcer, and then a vigilante SWAT Kat, now filled him with a burning desire to take down the bad guys.
His heart longed to act, just as Chance’s did—but he knew he had to keep a level head for both of them.
Jake sat up straight and faced his friend. "Listen, Chance. You know I feel the same way you do… I want to find the people that did this, and tear ’em apart." His eyes briefly glittered with a savage intent that revealed the warrior beneath his calm, steady nature. Then he shook his head and collected himself again, his voice softening in a tone of quiet reason.
"But Megakat City has never been more vulnerable. It’s a wonder Dark Kat hasn’t already busted out of jail to take advantage of all the chaos. If it isn’t him, it’ll be somebody else—and the Enforcers are in no shape to fight. A lot of them are going to Katghanistan with the Air Force Reserves… besides the ones we lost in the Towers."
Chance’s lips twisted in a grimace of grief. There were many Enforcers among the dead and missing, and he and Jake had known several of them, old friends and colleagues from their own days on the force. For all they had butted heads with Commander Feral, the rank and file of their fellow defenders of the city were still comrades at heart, and every loss hurt. The knowledge that those kats had given their lives in the line of duty was a hollow comfort.
In Jake’s mind, the best way to honor their memories was by protecting the city they had died to serve.
"Someone’s gotta stay and hold down the fort," he said softly. "Megakat City still needs us."
After a long moment, Chance let out a slow and heavy sigh, meeting Jake’s eyes with a softer gaze. "Yeah. I know."
That was all Chance needed to say. Hurt and anger would not overcome his dedication to the task they had sworn themselves to when they first put on their masks. They didn’t need to go halfway around the world to face evil; it would come to them soon enough.
And when it did, the SWAT Kats would be ready to meet it.
Smiling ruefully, Jake reached up to give Chance’s shoulder a pat. "We’re gonna get through this, buddy. All of us."
© 2004Jordanna Morgan