Chapter 1The Press Conference

Five years had passed since the Swat Kats had defeated Zed, a micro-brain repair unit which got out of control and almost destroyed Megakat City. But the city was still living in constant fear of its most notorious villains, like Dark Kat. Curiously, it had been very quiet about him for quite some time and some of the inhabitants started asking themselves: “Has he left Megakat City for good or is something really terrible about to happen?”

There was a rumor that seemed to be haunting the minds of the citizens. It said that he was busy recruiting new followers amongst those who were disappointed or rejected by the society. But this was only a rumor.

It was a pleasant spring morning in Megakat City. The sky was clear so that the sunrays warmed up the streets unhampered which was a most welcomed change for the citizens after a long and dark winter season. There were some small clusters of snow left here and there, but it would only be a matter of days until they'll have vanished too. The birds were returning from their wintering grounds, claiming their places in the trees in the parks and the city streets were crowded like always at this time of day. On a day like this one could get a clear view on the tallest building of the city, Megakat Tower, where a press conference was about to start.

After a long lasting and challenging negotiation Mayor Manx had finally convinced Mr. Young of Young Industries to sign a ten year lease for the tower. This wouldn't have happened without Deputy Mayor Callie Briggs, of course. She had most of the work with this project and especially in convincing Mr. Young and his associates, that it was now safe to move the new company branches into the building. One of these new branches was Young Digital Entertainment. Its declared goal was to create the most immerse and sophisticated games on the market.

The company's press room was filled with reporters and camera teams. Naturally, Ann Gora and her cameraman Jonny reporting for Kats Eye News were also present. Mr. Young, Mayor Manx and Callie Briggs were gathered on the presentation stage, accompanied by another male kat in his late twenties. His fur was light brown and he was dressed more casual than the others as he wore a white shirt having a black line running from its top to the bottom. This line covered a zipper which he had zipped up to the round collar of the shirt. This way he didn't need to wear a tie while still being dressed well enough for such a formal occasion. Over his shirt he wore a black coat and a pair of blue trousers. He was also wearing a black belt and a pair of white sneakers with red lines on their sides to accent his more casual sense of style.

After the reporters got seated and the cameras had been set up, Mayor Manx stepped forward onto the speaker's podium and began with his speech.

“Good morning, ladies and gentleman. Thank you for attending this press conference today. I am very proud to announce that Young Industries has started its operations in this tower, the marvel of our fine city.” While saying this he raised his arms in a symbolic gesture enfolding

the building. “I'm certain that this partnership will be a benefit for both, Young Industries and Megakat City.” He also underlined these words by putting his right hand on Mr. Young's shoulder and raised the other one into the air. “With this partnership this city will prosper more than ever before.”

Callie started smiling slightly and thought for herself: “It better be. Rebuilding Megakat Tower two times charged the city treasury almost to its limits. If this doesn't work out, we could get into really serious financial troubles.”

For a moment she was carried away by her memories, remembering how Dr. Viper, the mad scientist who was half-kat, half-lizard, trashed the tower in the first place in order to transform it into a breeding place for a gigantic spore pod. If this pod had been exploded, it would have covered Megakat City with its spores making it uninhabitable for its citizens. Fortunately, the Swat Kats crossed his plans, but they had to demolish the place even more in order to stop him. Then she remembered Dr. Harley Street, the well-known scientist from MASA Space Center, who was transformed into a bug-like creature by a cicada-like alien. Ironically, Dr. Street also decided to use the penthouse of the tower as the breeding place for his aliens. Megakat City's law enforcement organization, the Enforcers, had to burn down the cocoons leaving the upper floors of the building in a severely damaged state. The penthouse even fell off the building during the action.

Callie drove the thought away that something like this could happen again and tried to concentrate on the moment. Right on time to hear the end of Mayor Manx's speech.

“And without further adjourn I'd like to give the word to our partner, Mr. Young!”.

Mayor Manx stepped back from the podium and moved his right arm towards Mr. Young who now stepped forward onto it.

“Thank you very much for your kind introduction, Mayor Manx.” he started his speech and nodded towards him. Then he turned over to the audience and continued. “Good morning, ladies and gentleman. I am Mr. Young, the CEO of Young Industries and I'm very pleased to officially announce some of our latest developments and showing you the future of Young Industries.”

At the same time, Chance Furlong and Jake Clawson, the two auto mechanics of the Megakat City Salvage Yard were having breakfast in their garage. The TV was on and showed the simulcast of the press conference at Young Industries.

“Looks like Manx finally made his big deal.” Jake commented the broadcast.

“Yeah,” Chance responded. “I'm really surprised that he convinced Mr. Young to rent the building, thinking about what happened the last two times he tried.”

“Don't forget about Callie. I'm pretty sure she put a lot of effort into it to make it happen.”

“Yeah, she's a clever kat and really good at what she's doing. Without her, Mayor Manx surely would had to leave his chair quite a while ago.”

Suddenly Chance started to look thoughtful. “I wonder who this guy is.” He pointed with his finger towards the casual dressed man who was now standing next to Mr. Young. “I'm sure I've seen him before, but I don't know where. Wait, I'm sure I'll remember shortly.”

In the same moment Mr. Young concluded his speech: “And now ladies and gentleman I have the great pleasure to introduce you to Mr. Matthew Doubt, the CTO of our new company branch Young Digital Entertainment.”

“Of course!” Chance shouted almost spilling his milk while Jake was looking rather confused about Chance's sudden excitement.

“What's the deal with that guy?” Jake asked. “And why are you suddenly getting excited like a young kitten under a Christmas tree?”

“That's Matthew Doubt!” Chance started to explain. “The guy who was responsible for the game mechanics of Airborne Kats. You know, the action game I play quite often. Man, this game is really awesome!”

“That's Matthew Doubt! … The guy who was responsible for the game mechanics of Airborne Kats.” - Illustration by Jan Rathje

“That's Matthew Doubt! … The guy who was responsible for the game mechanics of Airborne Kats.” - Illustration by Jan Rathje

“Yeah, I know.” Jake answered. “It is hard to get your attention when you are playing it. You should really grow up, you know.”

“Oh, c'mon Jake! What's wrong about having a little fun? Let's hear what the guy has to say. With Young Industries in his back he could turn the game industry upside down for sure.”

“Whatever.” Jake raised his eyelids for a moment and then turned his attention back to the broadcast. Chance wasn't already paying attention to anything else.

Matthew Doubt had already started talking: “The great success we've had with Airborne Kats at my former employer a few years ago has encouraged me to take game development one step ahead. Our next game will combine the mechanics of an action-oriented flight simulator with those of an first person shooter and a real time strategy game. I know that there have

already been some attempts to do this and none of them really convinced the players. But with all these talented people here at Young Digital Entertainment, our knowledge and the resources we have at our disposal, I'm certain we will succeed where the other companies have failed.”

An overzealous reporter from a game magazine asked right away: “Can you give us some more information about the technology you are using to make your vision to become real?”

Matthew condoned the rather rapid interruption and answered: “We don't use any out-of- the-box-technology which is available on the market. Instead we are developing our own technology which will be much more powerful and sophisticated than anything you have ever seen before. Without revealing to much upfront I can already say that our artificial intelligence system will play a vital role in the success of our project. If everything goes well we can show a first prototype to the public at the next Digital Game Convention in two months. So please, have a little patience. You won't be disappointed.”

Among the viewers of the broadcast there was one in particular who seemed to be especially interested in what Matthew Doubt had to say. Sitting at his desk surrounded by lots of hardware and technical gimmicks he was sunken deeply into his chair, having a grim smile on his face. The Surge Coat – his trademark – was safely looked away behind thick bulletproof glass. The man only known to the public as Hard Drive – the nightmare of every company caring for its corporate data – was watching his prey like a hawk.

“Oh Matthew, you old liar,” he said, like Matthew was able to hear him through the TV. “I know that your precious AI project is almost ready and only missing some fine tuning. Yes, I've been watching you very closely since you've left Scratching Post Games. I've hacked into your servers shortly after you've moved into that 'marvel of our fine city' and you ignorant fool didn't even notice. Soon I will take Sally, your precious AI project, your baby, away from you. Then you'll be learning the true meaning of getting disappointed my old friend and then you will suffer. You have probably forgotten what you did to me, but I haven't. No way! And soon you'll be paying for it. The whole city will be paying for it.”

Then he started laughing contemptuously.

Back at the press conference Ann Gora just had taken the word in the ongoing discussion: “Ann Gora, Kats Eye News. Mr. Doubt, what is your opinion in the ongoing discussion on violence in video games and its effect on the players, especially the younger ones?”

“Oh, oh,” Jake immediately started commenting the situation. “Now he has to deal with Ann. This could be getting interesting. Hopefully she's not getting too hard on the poor fella.”

“Ann,” Matthew started to answer Ann Gora's question. “I'm getting this question asked quite often and I'm constantly asking it myself. As a game development company our main goal is to entertain people and it is definitely not one of our goals to have a negative influence on our player's social behavior. All of our products are reviewed by neutral experts which have a keen sense for rating them properly in order to make them only accessible for the convenient audience. Some of the games I've been working on surely contained violence, no doubt. But we only made use of it as much as it was necessary to tell the story and to make the motivations of our protagonists better understandable. In most of the games I've been working on you are fighting. But we always made it as clear as possible that shooting someone for real is a serious crime and no fun at all. From my point of view as a game maker you always stand between two issues: creating a piece of art in which everything is possible and on the other side being aware of our social responsibility. I think I've always found a good balance between those two and I will do everything to keep this balance in our future games.”

Although Matthew had given her an extensive answer, Ann Gora just had warmed up and continued asking: “But what about illegal copies? Don't these get into the hands of an audience which isn't convenient?”

“Illegal copies are indeed a problem,” Matthew admitted. “And we do our best to protect our products from being hacked. But unfortunately there is no bulletproof protection system. Hackers will always penetrate these systems sooner or later. This is an ongoing battle which will probably not come to an end anytime soon.”

“So what do you suggest to protect younger players from unsuitable games?”

“First, I'm asking all of my colleagues in the industry never to forget about our social responsibilities and secondly I advice all parents to look after their children and watch them what they are doing. Discussing and playing the games with them together would be even better.”

“But wouldn't it be best to pass on violence altogether then?”

“Ann, please think about this,” Matthew started to justify. “If you pass on violence completely you'd also have to banish classical board games, like chess. When you are playing this game the figures actually represent people which are fighting against each other and they are dying on the battlefield while you play it. Although this game is very abstracted it's still cruel when you think about it, isn't it? But would you banish this game which is still played by lots of people only because of this?”

After Matthew had finished his explanation, Mr. Young intervened in the discussion: “I am sorry to interrupt this discussion here, but Mr. Doubt has a busy schedule today. Therefore I'd like to finish this press conference at this point. I thank you all for coming this morning and for your great interest in our company. I'd also like to thank Mayor Manx once again for our wonderful collaboration so far and finally I'd like to thank Mr. Doubt for his attendance. I hope you all enjoyed this press conference as much as I did, wish you a safe trip back and a very nice day.”

It was getting noisy in the room as the reporters and the cameramen started packing up their stuff. Somewhere in the room Ann Gora's well-known finishing line “This is Ann Gora, live from Megakat Tower for Kats Eye News.” could be heard. Matthew Doubt, Mr. Young, Mayor

Manx and Callie Briggs were leaving the room through a door in the back. Callie was happy that there were no incidents during the conference and she truly hoped that it would stay that way.

Back at the salvage yard, Chance grabbed the remote control and turned the TV off. He and Jake stood up from the couch and started moving towards their truck.

“Well, so much for our morning break.” Chance said. “Let's get back to work. I think Matthew Doubt did quite well when Ann confronted him, didn't he?”

“I don't know Chance.” Jake replied. “I'm not sure if he is taken these matters seriously enough.”

Just as they got seated in their truck and Chance was about to start the engine a dump truck entered the yard.

“Oh, no.” Chance started to complain. “I knew this day started to be too good to be true.”

The dump truck stopped near the entrance of the garage and then lifted its rack body such that the junk loaded inside was sliding down to the ground making it impossible for Chance to drive the his truck out of the garage. After the sound of falling scrap metal had faded away an impertinent laughter could be heard from the dump truck. It was Burke and Murray, no doubt. The two garbage men always found it amusing to tease Chance and Jake. Filled with anger Chance jumped out of the car and Jake followed him while trying to keep himself calm. But the anger could also be seen on his face too.

“Dammit, don't you guys have any hobbies?” Chance shouted while Burke and Murray were stepping out of their dump truck.

“Oh, look Burke, it's our two favorite hot shots! What's the matter? Just cleaned the doorway?” Murray asked in his typical calumnious voice and continued laughing.

“Ha, ha, very funny. Ever thought of becoming a comedian, you joker?” Chance countered.

“No. We just can't get enough of looking at your dumb faces when we unload our stuff here.”

“Oh, is that so?” Chance shouted even more angry than before. “If you like dumb faces how about putting my fist into your face? When you look into a mirror afterward you can laugh the whole day long, I guarantee. How about that, you impertinent little garden gnome?”

“Hey! Are you threatening my brother, big guy?” Burke intervened. “That's not nice. Why don't you try someone in your size, looser?”

“Here it goes again...” Jake mumbled to himself and raised his eyelids.

“Sure, why not?!” Chance shouted while loosing his temper completely. “Then your brother can laugh about your dumb face the whole day long when I'm through with you!”

“C'mon and try, you loudmouth!” Burke countered.

“Chance, please,” Jake started to say, trying to calm Chance's temper down.

“No, Jake! I've had enough of this already! I cannot take it anymore! Someone has to teach these two dazzlers a lesson in manners!”

Chance raised his arms and clenched his fists. Burke did the same. Then they started circling around each other like two fighters in an arena. All of a sudden Burke stormed forward and tried to hit Chance in the face. Chance evaded the attack and punched Burke into his stomach. Burke stumbled back, gasping for air. Then Chance stepped towards him and punched him in the face. Burke stumbled back even further.

Murray shouted encouragement to his brother: “Don't let him get away with this Burke! Hit him where it hurts!”

This enraged Chance even more, so that he went on to a second blow ignoring his own cover. Burke used that mistake and quickly threw his fist into Chance's face who was dashed to the ground for a moment. But he was immediately back on his feed in the next second.

“Stop it, you two!” Jake shouted. “This bickering is pointless!”

The fight continued for a short while until Chance finally got the upper hand on Burke. Noticing his brother's desperate situation, Murray decided to join the fight. He jumped onto Chance's back and tried to get his arm around his neck. But he was interrupted as Jake grabbed him and threw him against the dump truck, leaving him gasping for air. Then Jake grabbed the shoulders of Burke and Chance very hard and quickly, raising pressure on them such that the two were thrust into opposite directions falling on their backs. While he did this he shouted:

“I said, it's enough! Stay away from each other!” Then he took a very grim look at Murray and Burke and continued in a very serious tone: “I think you better go. Gimme the receipt so I can sign it and then get out of here.”

Murray looked back at Jake very angrily while he fetched the receipt from his pocket and gave it to him with the words: “This isn't over yet.”

Jake grabbed the receipt rudely and signed it. As he gave it back to Murray he replied: “I warn you, Murray. You have no idea with whom you are messing with.”

Murray turned towards his brother who was slowly coming back on his feet again.

“C'mon Burke, let's hit the road. Let those two losers have their stupid little triumph. We'll see who'll have the last laugh.”

The two beaten up brothers got into their truck and Murray started the engine. Before he accelerated he turned over to Chance and Jake and said: “Better hope that we don't decide to report this little incident to Commander Feral. He sure wouldn't be happy.” Then the dump truck started moving and left the scrapyard.

“Satisfied now?” Jake asked. “The last thing we need is Feral on our tails.”

“Jake, gimme a break!” Chance responded. “We can't let these guys always tease us! This is just humiliating!”

“I know, Chance. But getting Feral involved will only complicate things.”

Chance groaned and tried to calm down. “You're probably right, Jake. Still, I simply can't take this anymore.” He leaned forward, put his hands on his thighs and took a few deep breaths. Then he looked at Jake and said: “C'mon buddy, we've got work to do. Let's get this trash out of our doorway.”

“Sure that you are okay, pal? That bully hit you pretty hard near your left eye, you know.”

“Don't worry, I'll get inside and put something cold on it. I'll be fine then.”

Jake went over to the big pile of trash that Burke and Murray had left them and started moving it out of the way while Chance went inside.