Felina Feral had a very unusual kittenhood, and this was more than likely due to her relationship with her uncle Ulysses. He adored his niece with a vehemence exclusive to the Feral clan, and took her development on as his responsibility. He told himself that this was out of loyalty to his brother, and that there was no other motive for it, but in truth, he loved Felina to excess, and that was the very root of the nepotism in Enforcerdom.
Felina grew up under her uncle’s silver wings, happily and proudly, but to the dismay of her mother, chose to adopt his lifestyle. This was also to Ulysses’s dismay – everykat knew that she was rash, and that fact made her conduct all the more difficult to justify. “If she wasn’t such a good Enforcer,” indeed! Feral was, only a year into her tenure, fed up with making excuses. He could not imagine how to tame her, nor could he aspire to do so. He could only hope that she would grow up, someday.
Even a stodgy old kat like himself knew that there was a problem with a young she-kat renouncing love. She hated fairy tales, the color pink – anything “girly.” The commander wished whole-heartedly that she would come out of it, but she never did. So when Felina Feral, supreme tomboy, began making moony-eyes at a certain young pilot, he took immediate notice – and a rash course of action.
Felina knew he would, of course. She hadn’t put up with Uncle Ulysses’s crud for nothing, and she made those uncharacteristic glances not to attract Jason’s attention, but her uncle’s. That deputy-mayorial candidate would not swipe this one out from under her paw, not when she, Felina Feral, had a say in things.
And so at the very end of the ceremony, Jason, who would have gone after Derek, and perhaps have saved him, was swept up by the kat already convinced of kinsmanship, and dragged into the luxurious Commander’s Sedan to sit alongside the trim Officer Feral and accompany her to lunch.
Jason wasn’t quite sure what was happening, only that he had gone very quickly from one place to the next, and from lowly cadet status to graduate summa cum laude to personal friend of the Commander. He must have done something right.
Felina’s eyes were set upon him and he sat stiffly, trying not to blush. She surprised him – normally things were the other way around.
Perhaps he ought to try to make conversation. The Commander was driving them somewhere; he couldn’t remember. He shouldn’t think. She was staring. Her eyes penetrated his defenses. She wasn’t beautiful, but she was a goddess nonetheless, perhaps Artemis.
“What is your name?” he asked, realizing he didn’t know.
“It’s on the tag,” she said, pointing to the pin on her chest.
“I meant your first name,” he said. “I can’t be friends with someone whose name I don’t know.”
“Who said anything about friends?” she asked, and for the first time, looked away from him, and towards the front of the vehicle.
“Felina…” Feral muttered.
“That’s a beautiful name,” said Jason. Felina gave him an incredulous smile.
“Good try,” she said.
She was certainly confusing, thought Jason, but he liked her.
* * *
The head waiter would have preferred that all patrons come dressed appropriately for the sake of unity, and have showered beforehand for the sake of everyone’s noses, but it was outside of his nature to refuse the Commander of the Enforcers, and so he led the party of three to the no-longer-reserved best table in the house. They sat down, Jason – to Feral’s approval – getting Felina’s chair for her. She raised an eyebrow at him in return, and to that he replied, “you’re welcome.”
It fascinated him to hear their banter at the table, as he had still not yet come to the point of awareness of his situation, and he listened so intently it was as one trying to memorize a dream.
And then, he woke up.
“Stop playing mind games with me, Felina!”
“You just don’t like it when I win!”
“So help me, Felina, I’ll…”
Jason shuddered, and looked around the table at the two kats seated with him. They were locked in a vicious silence.
“It was a lovely ceremony, don’t you think?” he asked.
The two were startled, but before they could reply, their food had arrived and they set upon it, famished. Jason heartily appreciated the Feral family approach to etiquette, and ate heartily with them. Then the commander paused, leaned back, and looked at his niece and Jason, seeing them for the first time in the same field of vision. He liked what he saw, to a degree. They were watching each other silently as they ate, studying each other. Their expressions indicated a deep nonverbal communication. Ulysses Feral knew the meaning of that.
“It was a lovely ceremony,” he began, and saw Felina harrumph. Accordingly, she ceased eating and sat upright. After one additional bite Jason followed suit.
Feral continued. “It brought together a class of cadets of the finest caliber. To think that there were two silver wings and even a gold wing – I, the Commander, was even moved.”
“The speeches put me to sleep,” said Felina.
Feral frowned. “What aspect of them had that effect?”
“I don’t know. I wasn’t exactly awake. I think I might have nodded off… let’s see, right about when that old guy was going on about ‘courage and valor, the motto of Enforcerdom, the mark that sets apart the weak and the strong…’” she adopted a mock heroic tone and almost stood as she mimicked the decrepit admiral with the unexpected lung capacity.
Feral whitened. “That was the first speech! Felina!”
She smiled. “Wouldn’t know,” she said. “It was nap time.”
“Sure it was,” said Jason. “You were awake – you were looking at me the whole time.”
The Ferals never expected him to join their argument, but weren’t about to turn him away, either. They relished every opportunity to tear a new adversary to pieces.
“I sleep with my eyes open,” she said. “All I need is something *boring* to look at. But I appreciate that you were staring at me.”
“I don’t remember that,” he said. “I fell asleep from the drabness of the objects in my line of vision.”
Felina bristled. “You were looking at me! I saw you wave.”
“If you saw that, you must have been awake.”
Ulysses Feral’s jowl twitched into a smile for but a nanosecond. Jason was intoxicated with the food, the fight, the day, the she-kat, and the illusion he entertained of victory. He went on.
“Although I agree with you, the speeches were terribly boring.”
“They weren’t boring,” Felina responded.
Jason balked, but quickly caught on.
“The monotony was worse than torture,” he asserted.
“Was not,” said Felina.
“And you have experienced torture,” said Feral contemptuously.
“There, in that barren field, yes.”
“No, what you experienced there was ‘worse than torture,’” said Felina.
“Good to see you’re in agreement,” said Feral. “But I’m afraid that I am not.”
And so Jason launched into a speech he made up on the spot. He thought he did a good job of it, using the words “supplicate,” “party of the first part,” “noumena,” and “a priori” to the point where their syllables became like skull trauma. The amused expressions on the two Ferals deepened as he progressed and digressed, until finally “…and so, you see, torture being a superlative, to identify such as, then it becomes as such, and so is.”
Felina burst out laughing.
“That was the best impression of Uncle Ulysses I have ever heard!”
“It was not!” Feral retorted.
“Yes it was! It was exactly like the time you came to my room, when I was little, thinking you’d explain ‘the facts of li-‘”
“FELINA!” Feral was raging. She quieted.
The Commander glared at her for a moment, then whirled about to Jason.
“Officer, you are dismissed. Go home.”
Argument for its own sake was no longer apropos. Jason stood, saluted almost comically, and walked off. As he did he felt a little pressure in his palm, but waited until he was outside to investigate.
It was a note from Felina.
“I will see you tomorrow,” it read.
He wondered when she’d had time to write it, but couldn’t find an answer.
* * *
“My own niece – degrading me in front of a subordinate,” Feral growled, indirectly addressing the dark haired rebel beside him as he drove his car to HQ.
“I like him,” she said.
“You do?” Feral’s expression softened, then hardened again. “No excuse. I can’t afford to have my image altered by a cocky little she- kitten.”
Felina bit her lip. She’d get him back. This was just another routine fight.
Feral drove on, and after an hour stuck in a traffic jam, decided to talk to his niece, who was nagging him to “get out there and pull rank. You’d think being an Enforcer would mean something – the Commander, no less.”
“Felina,” he began. “Felina, I -”
“You thinking about J- Officer Whiskers?” she snapped. “Stop it. Grow up, Uncle, I’m not your little princess anymore – and there’s no knight in shining armor coming for me, okay? Especially not ones fresh out of the Academy who act as stupid as Ferals!”
She opened her door out to the traffic jam, and climbed out of the car with an air of defiance.
“Eat it,” she growled under her breath, and immediately began screaming instructions at the helpless drivers that surrounded the sedan. Horns threatened to drown her out, but she persisted, and soon worked herself into such a frenzy that she forgot about everything but the present. Officer Feral was free of that burdensome kitten they called “Felina,” and it felt like nothing else – mainly because she felt nothing.
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