Noon on Sunday at Megakat International Airport was a bustling hub of controlled chaos. Felina disembarked from a Yellow Cab and paid off the fare in cash, quickly exiting to stand on the walkway of the drop-off area.
For once she had fallen into a deep, dreamless sleep, and awoken to find that the bruises on her body and face had considerably subsided. The wounds on her arms no longer required the bandages she had received from the paramedic. While not at 100%, she felt good enough to go through her morning routine, which consisted of several push-ups, crunches and pull-ups. A light breakfast consisting of a granola bar and orange juice had sent her on her way.
She had no doubt it was the sense of purpose that was motivating her. She was on a mission. No clear objectives, but a mission nevertheless.
Felina walked among the groups of passengers and staff that were flowing in and out of the terminal, fitting in as she wore a clean pair of jeans, a black T-shirt, white sneakers and the unzipped hooded sweater.
She had an additional item on her person as well. Tucked into the small of her back in an inside-the-waistband holster was a Glock 36, a sub-compact version of the pistol she carried on-duty. It only had a six-round magazine, but those six rounds were of the .45 ACP caliber. More powerful than her regular 9mm. She carried no spare magazines.
Not going to win a firefight armed like this, but it’s still better than nothing. Just in case.
Felina arrived at a help desk and took out her wallet, showing the attendant her badge.
“Oh, the garrison is on the opposite side of the airport, officer,” the attendant said.
Prior to the construction of the current Enforcer Headquarters building, most air operations were conducted out of Megakat International Airport on a reserved airstrip that occupied much of the rearmost portion of the complex. Today it was still active, though in a much smaller capacity as a base for reserve forces.
“Thanks, but I’m not looking for that,” Felina said as she put her badge away. “I need to know where I can find Hangar 87.”
“Oh, that’s one of the private hangars that get rented out,” the attendant said. “Let me just run a guest badge request with my supervisor.”
“Thanks,” Felina said as the attendant picked up the headset of her phone to call it in.
After a few moments she hung up the phone and smiled cheerily at Felina.
“Looks like they’re expecting you,” she said and pulled out a laminated card attached to a lanyard. “If you go through that door using this card, you should be able to find it.”
“I appreciate it,” Felina said and took the card.
The door in question was an indistinct looking one, off to the side away from any signage or heavily trafficked areas. A square sensor was embedded into the wall right next to the handle. Heaving dealt with similar security systems before, she knowingly placed the card against the square. The locking mechanism clicked and Felina pulled the door open.
Inside was a long hallway, illuminated by a row of rectangular florescent lights that cast everything in a sterile glow. A freestanding sign, with adjustable letters was just within. Felina approached the sign as the door closed behind her.
She put the lanyard around her neck, letting the card hang on display over her chest as she examined the sign. It was a directory, listing out various locations. After a moment she found the listing for Hangar 87, and began to walk down the hallway, her sneakers making the occasional squeak on the plain, tile floor.
The words on the note were still fresh in her mind.
Sunday. Hangar 87. 1 p.m.
She walked forward, passing by closed doors on either side of her, the hairs on the back of her neck standing on end in anticipation.
She had, of course, considered alternatives to the course of action she was following. She could have reported the incident to Sergeant Joe Daniels, which in truth is what she should have done. But, Turmoil’s words had given her pause.
“The Enforcers are broken, Miss. Feral,” Turmoil had said. “Like others, I have been able to navigate its secrets as easily as you used to navigate the skies.”
If Felina had followed procedure, Turmoil would no doubt have discovered it, and changed whatever plans were in motion.
Felina knew it was a very risky thing to do. Her record had already made her the target of those looking for a patsy in the past. And her current standing with the Enforcers was not great to say the least. Felina knew that Turmoil knew this as well.
I have to be careful, because if I’m not, it’s not just the loss of a career. There could be some serious prison time.
After several minutes, Felina arrived at a door with an engraved plate spelling out in all-caps HANGAR 87.
She stood in front of it, staring at the handle.
“She really thinks I’d join her?” Felina had asked.
“Would you?” Chance returned.
Felina pondered the question, giving it even more consideration now, as she quite literally stood on the precipice, the proverbial point of no return.
What am I doing here? There’s more ways for this to end bad then there are ways for it to end good. I should just turn around…
Felina glanced over her shoulder, and saw the hallway continue distantly behind her, the exit far in the distance.
But, there’s nothing for me there, either. Just writing more traffic citations until they finally do kick me off the force for good.
Another thought came to mind, and Felina sighed.
And then there’s that girl and her mother. I didn’t even bother to learn their names, or even check up on them in the hospital.
Felina’s hands turned to fists as she felt guilty, even though she knew she shouldn’t.
“…someone with your finesse, to make sure accidents don’t happen,” Turmoil had said, addressing Felina’s concerns.
Felina relaxed slightly, though doubt still weighed heavily in her mind.
Even if she’s sincere, and has all the good intentions in the world, do those ends justify hurting innocent bystanders, even if it was an accident?
Felina knew that the Enforcers always tried to minimize what was known as collateral damage, the unintended harm or destruction of non-objectives. It was a polite way of referring to killing innocent people. How many combat operations had Felina herself been in while countering a giant monster, super criminal, or other extreme threat within the confines on Megakat City, where extreme uses of force were justified? How many bystanders had been hurt then?
That’s different, though. The Enforcers are an extension of the government, and only the government can legitimately use force.
This political science distinction was day-one knowledge taught to every recruit.
But, what if the government can’t get the job done?
Felina knew what conclusion the SWAT Kats had reached in regards to this dilemma. But, despite her clashes with Enforcer procedures and culture, becoming a vigilante was not something that Felina had ever considered.
That’s what I’ll be if I open this door.
Another thought crossed her mind, one she was surprised she hadn’t thought of sooner.
Years ago Turmoil had employed scare-tactics during her attempt to ransom the skies of Megakat City, using the so-called Vertigo Cannon to send pilots into a physical delirium that caused them to lose control of their aircraft. Felina had felt the effects of the weapon herself back then.
Scare tactic. That’s a nice euphemism for attempted murder.
Felina shook her head, and wondered if maybe that Vertigo Cannon had messed with her memories somehow, as she was just beginning to realize the scope of what Turmoil was capable of.
It made her feel more guilty for even entertaining impossible notions. But, the guilt didn’t make them go away, and it didn’t change where she was standing now.
Felina could feel the hard, parkerized steel of the Glock 36 against her lower back, its lethal presence providing limited options. Adjacent to it in a pocket in her jeans was the communicator Jake Clawson had given to her, though it too was starting to feel more like a burden than an asset.
This is it. No turning back.
She reached forward and grabbed the handle of the door, pausing one last time.
“Well, screw it,” she said out loud and opened the door.
The first thing Felina noticed was the bright sunlight shining in through a large opening. The doors to the hangar were open, and apparently the overcast sky had dissipated while she had been walking through the airport’s interior. Above, criss-crossing in intervals was a support structure keeping the thirty-foot ceiling upheld.
Felina quickly realized the hangar wasn’t empty, as several women dressed in combat fatigues were mulling about, moving equipment, boxes and other assorted items from pallets and into three parked, double-bladed helicopters. They were CH-47s, better known as Chinooks.
A few of the female soldiers glanced in Felina’s direction upon her entrance, but they generally ignored her, seemingly having more important things to take care of.
The scene wasn’t unlike many she had participated in at the Enforcer Headquarters hangar. It felt surprisingly familiar. And welcoming.
Noting no obvious hostility, Felina continued walking forward, stepping between crates marked 7.62×39mm and 5.45×39mm. She recognized them as large quantities of ammunition for variants of the AK-47 rifle.
Wonder what you’re going to need all of that for…
“Miss Feral,” a familiar voice said from up ahead. “You’re right on time.”
Felina looked forward to see Turmoil ahead, though she was lacking the formal cape and blouse at the moment, instead wearing a grey shirt tucked into camouflage patterned pants, the bottoms of which in turn were tucked into black combat boots. She would have blended in with all of the others present, with the exception of the stylized peaked cap atop her head. A small, but important, symbol of command.
“Yeah, but in time for what?” Felina asked as she approached.
Turmoil was standing in front of a small, half-circle of empty folding chairs, with a free standing whiteboard behind her. It looked like the remnants of a mission briefing, as several rough drawings remaining on the whiteboard with notations written in a language Felina didn’t understand.
“Please, have a seat,” Turmoil said and gestured to one of the seats in the front row.
Felina quirked an eyebrow, but did as she was asked.
“You’re probably wondering what you’re doing here,” Turmoil said as she walked over to the whiteboard.
“The thought did cross my mind,” Felina replied as she crossed one leg over the other, and leaned back in her seat.
“Well, I’ll tell you why you’re here,” Turmoil said, and she flipped the whiteboard on its hinges, revealing an opposite side that had more notations written on it, including an illustration of what looked to be some kind of island. Felina recognized the coordinates displayed.
“That somewhere in the Balinese Sea?” Felina asked.
“Very impressive,” Turmoil said. “Yes, and this is Cymric.”
“Never heard of it,” Felina said.
“That’s what the occupant would like to hear,” Turmoil said with a smile. “It’s a mostly deserted island in a tropical environment, with sections of rainforest and open, plain-like expanses. It’s most distinguishable feature is its semi-active volcano, Mt. Dragon Li.”
“Sounds like a nice vacation destination,” Felina said. “I’m sure whoever lives there loves it.”
“Oh, I have no doubt that he does,” Turmoil said, and turned to face Felina.
“So, are you going to wait for me to ask the question, or are you just going to tell me?” Felina asked.
“I told you that I would change things in Megakat City,” Turmoil said, ignoring the question.
“Yeah, you said something about that,” Felina said. “But I don’t see what some remote island in the middle of nowhere has to do with that. And for that matter, I don’t know what raiding an office for parts does, either.”
Felina was tempted to mention her knowledge of the theft of the SWAT Kats belongings, particularly the Turbokat, but didn’t want to play that card just yet.
“Often times it’s the little things no one expects that can make all the difference,” Turmoil continued. “But, I prefer showing to telling.”
With that, Turmoil reached down and picked up a flight helmet off the floor with one hand and tossed it underhanded at Felina.
It landed in her lap, catching her slightly off-guard.
“What’s this for?” Felina asked, holding it up.
“We’re going on a day-trip,” Turmoil said. “And, you’re flying.”
The idea of being behind the controls of an aircraft again filled Felina with an excitement she hadn’t felt in over half-a-year. It had taken her all the discipline she could muster to not allow her emotions to appear on her face, though inside she was smiling from ear-to-ear.
Felina was given a dark-green g-suit to put on over her clothes. It was a familiar process, and as soon as she had completed it, she turned to find Turmoil already wearing hers.
“This way,” Turmoil said and began to walk around to the other side of the hangar which had been obscured from view by the group of Chinooks and stacks of supplies. Felina followed along, the flight helmet tucked under her arm.
Wonder what it’s going to be. Probably a Talon, or maybe a MiG…
The two rounded a stack of pallets marked as MREs, and this time Felina couldn’t help but gasp.
Despite sporting a brownish-tan paint scheme with a MARPAT-style digital camouflage pattern, Felina recognized the unmistakable fuselage shape of the Turbokat. But, that’s not what made her gasp. Parked beside it, in a row, were others exactly like it. She counted six total, going back to the farthest wall of the hangar. They would have been indistinguishable from each other, excerpt for the large white numbers painted on the outer-facing side of the stabilizers. One through six.
Felina looked at Turmoil, at a loss for words.
“Yes, the legendary Turbokat,” Turmoil said, approaching Turbokat One. “A unique air-superiority and ground-attack fighter jet.”
Turmoil walked along the underside, running a finger across it.
“Well, not so unique anymore,” Turmoil said.
“How did you…” Felina began.
“It’s been a long running project of mine,” Turmoil said. “When I first encountered the SWAT Kats, I had their jet in my possession for some time. Long enough to begin the process of reverse-engineering it.”
“But,” Turmoil continued. “There were still several components that I needed from it to finalize the project. So, last month, I paid the SWAT Kats a visit and borrowed their aircraft.”
“Borrowed?” Felina asked.
“Well, perhaps that’s too generous a term,” Turmoil said with a snicker. “But, with it in hand, I disassembled it, copied the components, and used the information to build these. I assure you, they are just as potent as the original, if not more so.”
“And what do you plan on doing with these?” Felina asked, feeling a lump in her throat as she walked up to Turbokat One.
When the techno-crook Hard Drive had commandeered the SWAT Kat’s jet, he’d used it to effortlessly take apart much of the Enforcer’s air force. This had occurred while Felina was in her final weeks of training at OCS, and was an incident that was frequently cited by her uncle in both deriding the SWAT Kats and asking the city for more research and development funding. There had been several advancements made since then, but in her gut Felina knew that the SWAT Kat’s jet was still an unparalleled force to be reckoned with.
And Turmoil has a half-dozen of them.
Turmoil did not answer, nor did she attempt to hide her grin as she took off the peaked cap and put on her own flight helmet and ascended a boarding ladder. She climbed into the cockpit, the canopy already open, and took the rear seat.
Yeah, I get it. You prefer showing to telling.
Felina frowned and put on her own flight helmet as she climbed the ladder and took the forward seat, and strapped herself in. The concealed firearm she was carrying made things uncomfortable, but not so much that it was unbearable.
“Tower, this is cargo transport 362 announcing departure,” Turmoil said into her helmet’s mic, which Felina could hear in her own helmet’s speakers.
“Roger that, 362,” a female voice returned over the radio. “You are clear for departure on runway 25.”
“The tower’s gonna notice we’re not a transport,” Felina said.
“Do not concern yourself,” Turmoil said confidently. “Now, taxi us out.”
The canopy slid shut, sealing the two occupants inside the cockpit. Felina noticed one of the soldiers below retracted the ladder and moved it aside, allowing for a clear path to the entrance of the hangar where the sun shown brightly on the awaiting airfield. She flipped the helmet’s visor down over her eyes.
Felina glanced over the control system to find it highly similar to the configuration used in the Enforcers. In hindsight, it now seemed obvious why that was. She flipped a row of switches and then grasped the throttle in her left hand.
The triple power plants of Turbokat One rumbled to life, and Felina could feel the vibration in her bones.
This thing has power, alright.
With great familiarity, she pressed the floor paddles with her feet, steering the landing gear. In moments the jet moved forward and emerged from the hangar. The world outside was filled with large numbers of aircraft, mostly passenger jets that were in the process of taking off and landing, while others sat lined up, waiting for their turns to taxi or dock with the airport’s terminals.
To Felina’s relief, runway 25 was directly in front of the hangar, likely reserved for smaller, private craft. She swung the nose of the jet around to line up appropriately, and pulled a lever next to the throttle to extend the flaps.
Seeing no obstructions in the path, Felina throttled up. The worry and concerns of her current situation seemed to melt away, and she allowed a grin to cross her lips.
Let’s see just how potent this thing is.
Though it wasn’t necessary on a runway this size, Felina throttled up to full-afterburner. She could feel, more than hear, the roar of the engines as she was pressed back into her seat, the world outside the canopy rushing forward in a blur of motion.
Though not as abrupt as the catapult-driven, short runway takeoffs of Enforcer Headquarters, it was still exhilarating. She pulled back on the joystick and just as soon they were in the air, the expanse of Megakat City moving by underneath, growing smaller with every passing second.
Felina realized she had been holding her breath, and took a moment to exhale. Turmoil must have noticed as her voice came through Felina’s helmet.
“This is where you belong,” Turmoil said.
Yeah, maybe it is…
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