The clear blue skies turned a fiery orange as the sun hung low on the horizon, casting the surroundings in a beautiful sunset hue. The aircraft resting on the runway of the Balikirev produced long shadows across the deck as operations appeared to be winding down. The smoke rising from Mt. Dragon Li rose into the heavens and looked equally magnificent as crepuscular rays broke around the plume. Cymric Island was truly a sight to behold, which seemed in stark contrast to the events planned to take place.
Felina was leaning on the guardrail of a walkway, looking down at the calm, clear waters of the bay. Several schools of colorful, exotic looking fish meandered below. Chance Furlong was adjacent to her, also leaning on the railing, taking in the sight.
Felina had told him everything she had seen since arriving at the airport. From flying Turbokat One to engaging two of Dark Kat’s F-16s. The tour of the ship and the forces Turmoil had at her disposal. She’d done so almost begrudgingly, feeling unhappy with his presence, particularly after Turmoil’s unexpected “welcoming.”
He’d taken the information distractedly, occasionally acknowledging with a nod every now and then, which did little to alleviate Felina’s annoyance.
“So, what was your plan?” Felina asked, turning to face him.
Chance didn’t reply, his attention focused on the view.
“Hey!” Felina nearly shouted and lightly punched him in the shoulder.
“Ouch!” Chance exclaimed, jerking back at the impact.
“I asked you a question,” Felina said, crossing her arms.
“Yeah, I heard you,” Chance said as he rubbed his shoulder.
“And?” Felina pressed.
“I don’t know, okay?” Chance replied.
“That was really stupid,” Felina said and uncrossed her arms, leveling an index finger at him. “Her troops could’ve shot you dead before you’d gotten your tail in that crate, or dropped you into the ocean, or better yet, Turmoil could’ve put a 9mm slug in your head!”
Chance frowned, and before Felina knew it, her extended hand was grabbed at the wrist and she was pulled forward, then her torso spun around, her arm twisted behind her back. It was a textbook back arm-lock that Chance had put her in, with enough force to make her back arch.
“And this isn’t stupid?” Chance asked, using his free hand to reach under her shirt and take out the Glock 36.
“I’m warning you, let me go,” Felina said through gritted teeth, her free arm tense at her side.
“What were you planning on doing with this anyway?” Chance asked, still keeping his grip.
Felina made a noise that was almost a snarl, and lifted her left foot off the ground and brought it back in a sharp kick that connected firmly with Chance’s shin.
He yelped in pain, instantly losing his grip on her arm. Now free, she spun around and reached at his left hand, which still held the gun. In a well-practiced motion she grabbed his wrist with both hands and twisted it around, placing him in the same back arm-lock he’d just had her in. The force of the grip made him drop the black, polymer firearm, and it clanked to the floor of the walkway with a dull thud.
“Trying to make a point?” Chance asked, pain audible in his voice.
“Not trying,” Felina said as she let go of his arm and shoved him away. “Did.”
Chance stumbled forward but didn’t fall as he turned around, massaging his wrist with his other hand.
Felina reached down and picked up the dropped weapon, taking a moment to re-holster it in the small of her back. For several minutes the two stood there, not making eye contact.
“You know,” Chance said, breaking the awkward silence. “Jake says you and I aren’t getting along because we’re too much alike.”
Felina didn’t say anything.
“But, I’m not so sure I agree with him,” Chance said. “Sure, I have my moments, but you’re just like that volcano over there.”
Chance pointed at Mt. Dragon Li, several of its ridges now glowing as the light from the sun diminished. Whatever pools of lava it contained at its mouth likely provided the light for the glowing.
“Always huffing and puffing, ready to erupt,” Chance said. “I’m sure that’s really useful in some circumstances, but it’s a really terrible way to go through life.”
“Maybe I’m just honest with myself,” Felina replied, looking at him. “Instead of just pretending things are okay by hiding behind a mask.”
“That’s not the same,” Chance said.
“Tell me, ‘T-Bone,'” Felina said. “Just why did you stowaway in that box?”
“Well, it wasn’t to carry out an impromptu make-out session if that’s what you’re wondering,” Chance said, sounding annoyed.
“I don’t know if I believe that,” Felina said. “Jake told me you and Turmoil had a relationship. I’m starting to wonder if using the past tense is appropriate.”
“You think I wanted all of this to happen?” Chance asked. “You think I wanted her to destroy everything Jake and I worked for?”
“Yeah,” Felina said. “I do.”
He bit his lip, and grabbed at the guardrail, making a fist around it. In an abrupt display of strength he yanked a section of it clean off, the brackets popping loudly. He angrily threw it overboard, the pipe-like section twirling in the air until it splashed below, startling a school of fish just barely visible in the twilight.
Felina raised an eyebrow at the act.
“Maybe you have a point,” Chance finally admitted after a few minutes.
Felina sighed, and for reasons she didn’t really care to understand, she felt something very uncharacteristic. Sympathy.
“Look, I get it, okay?” Felina said. “I know what it’s like have success at your fingertips, only to be met with disappointment, then to be stuck, with the world against you, with no future.”
“And once you’re at that point, you’d give anything for another opportunity to straighten things out,” Chance said, continuing the sentiment.
“Like accepting an invitation from Turmoil,” Felina said, citing her own failing.
“Or tailing someone I should’ve trusted more,” Chance said.
“‘Sometimes, you have to know when to rely on others’ is what you told me when we were locked up together,” Felina recalled. “Where did that sentiment come from?”
“Well, believe it or not, it’s from your uncle,” Chance said.
“Oh?” Felina asked. “I never figured he’d be a source of inspiration in your life.”
“Well, he isn’t really,” Chance said. “It all goes back to when Jake and me were in our Sabre and had Dark Kat in our sights. Ready to deliver the finishing blow. But Commander Feral intervened, and ordered us to break-off.”
“Why?” Felina asked.
“I don’t know, and I’ll probably never know,” Chance said. “But, that’s not the point. I refused to follow the order because I didn’t trust him to do the job. I felt that I couldn’t rely on him. And while we argued, I lost my bearings. I’m pretty sure he hit us, but I can’t prove it, and we careened out of control. Dark Kat escaped. Enforcer Headquarters nearly burned to the ground, and the rest is history.”
“It seems to me that you still haven’t learned your lesson,” Felina said. “Being a vigilante seems to go in stark contrast with your words of wisdom.”
“I know,” Chance said with a sigh. “It’s an ongoing process. But, I’m trying. And, to be fair, it’s easier to make note of these things when I see them happening in someone else.”
Now it was Felina’s turn to sigh, as she knew Chance was referring to herself.
Before she could adequately ponder the comparison, the two were interrupted by footsteps, and both looked to see Lt. Durov approaching them.
“Please make your presence at the Commander’s quarters for dinner,” Lt. Durov said.
“The chef has really outdone herself this time,” Turmoil said after taking a sip from the decorative bowl in front of her.
Chance and Felina sat at a simple four-sided table, opposite each other, with Turmoil sitting perpendicular to them. A white cloth covered the table, which was covered in the accoutrements one would associate with any of Megakat City’s fanciest restaurants.
Turmoil’s cabin was a relatively large room, though it was sparsely decorated. The grey, metal bulkheads of the ship were still present. One item had caught Felina’s attention. Hanging on an ornate display, a lone dueling sabre rested, its shiny hilt decorated in patterns of silver and gold, and the long, slightly curved blade a pristine mirror that seemed to stab even while motionless.
Nice sword. Probably custom.
In a bowl in front of Felina was the same meal Chance was presently devouring, a bowl filled with some kind of soup-like substance, a liquid concoction of reds and yellows with several unknown leaves in it. Chucks of meat could be seen floating intermittently.
Felina, having discarded her flight suit, was feeling a little under dressed in her black T-shirt and jeans, particularly as Turmoil was still decked out in the full regalia of her uniform, though the hat and cape had been removed. Felina wondered if Chance in his A-shirt and cargo pants felt the same, though if he did, he didn’t seem to show it.
“Not bad,” Chance said, taking a sip from a shiny, silver spoon. “What is it?”
“It’s called Sura Kolambu,” Turmoil said as she reached for an ancient looking champagne bottle on the table, a white towel in hand, and uncorked it. The contents bubbled out of the mouth of the bottle as Turmoil poured three glasses. The powerful scent of the liquor was, for lack of a better word, intoxicating.
“It’s a shark curry, bathed in spices and ground seeds,” Turmoil said. “The shark was caught fresh this morning, just outside.”
“Huh,” Chance replied, and took another spoonful of it.
Felina dipped her spoon into the bowl and leaned forward as she brought it to her lips. Her taste buds were instantly assaulted by the mix of flavor and spiciness as she swallowed. Her forehead was growing warm and her voice cracked slightly.
“I’ll have some of that,” Felina said, grabbing at one of the glasses with the sparking champagne in it, quickly downing all of it.
Turmoil raised an eyebrow in amusement.
“I suppose not everyone is able to appreciate the more exotic tastes,” Turmoil said.
“It’s not that spicy,” Chance said as he finished off his portion. “I’ve eaten way spicier things.”
The champagne worked to cool Felina’s mouth, though she wished she hadn’t downed so much so quickly, as whatever vintage it was seemed to have a high proof. It was starting to make her head feel like it was spinning.
Good thing I was already sitting down.
Chance seemed to take note of Felina’s condition, and he chuckled.
“Well, if whatever’s in that bottle can make her do a double-take, I suppose I should have some too,” Chance said as he took a more conservative sip from his glass. “Though, isn’t champagne usually served to celebrate something?”
“It is,” Turmoil said as she raised her glass up. “To the end of Dark Kat.”
Chance’s eyes met Felina’s with an expression of uncertainty. Felina shrugged and held up her empty glass.
“Sure, why not?” Felina said.
“I can’t really disagree with that,” Chance said, and held up his glass as well.
Perhaps it was the alcohol, or just the setting, but Felina found this whole event incredibly surreal. Here she was, dining with Chance Furlong, the SWAT Kat, and Turmoil, the air terrorist. It was a strange arrangement, and Felina felt like some kind of non sequitur in the midst of it, a third-wheel whose presence wasn’t making a whole lot of sense.
“And, you two are going to make it possible,” Turmoil said as she took a sip.
“Now, wait a minute,” Chance said, setting his glass back down. “You expect me to help you?”
“Isn’t that something you’ve always wanted?” Turmoil asked.
“Yeah, Dark Kat’s number one on a lot of lists,” Chance said. “But whatever beef you have with him, I don’t want any part of.”
“My ‘beef’ as you put it, is the same as yours,” Turmoil said. “He’s a threat to Megakat City that must be taken care of.”
“Since when do you care about Megakat City?” Chance asked. “As I recall, the last time you made a major appearance there, you tried to hold the airspace for ransom.”
“A lot’s changed since then,” Turmoil replied as she leaned back slightly in her seat.
“Care to elaborate on that?” Chance pressed.
Turmoil closed her eyes, as if she were in the process of organizing many thoughts in her head. After a moment, she opened them, and her normally confident expression softened.
“When I was in prison I had a lot of time to reflect on things,” Turmoil said. “Most of my thoughts were concerning how you betrayed me, and just what it was I’d do to get my revenge.”
Chance remained silent, giving her his full attention. Felina leaned forward in her seat, also taking interest.
“I’d imagined an elaborate escape, complete with an all out assault against you and your partner, and how after I’d defeated you, I’d burn your city to the ground,” Turmoil said.
“I’m hoping there’s a ‘but’ coming soon,” Chance said.
“But,” Turmoil said, doing her best to hide a smirk. “I didn’t, because I realized that you did what you did because you had no choice.”
Felina saw a look of surprise on Chance’s face.
“My ancestors, as Miss Feral here is aware, have always been pirates for as long as history has been recorded,” Turmoil said. “We Balikirevs have always been on the opposite side of things. It’s afforded us much wealth and power, but it has also isolated us from the rest of the world.”
“That’s a real nice way of saying looting and plundering,” Felina remarked.
“You don’t hold anything back,” Turmoil said. “I admire that. Yes, looting and plundering. I take from those who have more than enough to give. Those who have already been spurned by the world find it an inviting cause.”
Chance looked like he was starting to get uncomfortable in his seat, and Felina wondered if whatever Turmoil had offered in the past was something that had appealed to the junkyard mechanic who may have felt spurned by the world.
Felina had to admit it was a calling that felt very tempting, too, considering her current circumstances.
“You asked me about my followers all being women,” Turmoil said. “Before the Sokoke Union fell, I was a low level NCO in the Spetzkatz. I had worked for years, and proven my abilities to exceed my peers. But, I was denied advancement, due to my family’s history, and also because of my gender.”
Felina sympathized with the notion, though in her own experience it had been more about family. She also found Turmoil’s disclosure of her membership in the elite Spetzkatz very revealing.
Maybe that’s why I followed her here…
“After the government fell, I chose to embrace the legacy of the Chartreaux Pirates, and be true to my heritage, taking the name Turmoil,” Turmoil said. “I decided to give those who had been spurned by the world another opportunity to sail under my colors.”
Wonder what your real name is…
“The first one I recruited also happened to be my protege,” Turmoil said. “Who, I believe, both of you have already met.”
Chance frowned as he rubbed the back of his head.
“Yeah, the one with the red beret,” Chance said. “I can still feel where she clubbed me with that rifle stock.”
“Captain Elizaveta was the first of many women to join my cause,” Turmoil said. “As time passed, I found others around the world like her, and as I once told a certain masked hero many years ago, I have yet to find a man to outmatch them.”
“Until you met me,” Chance said with a small grin.
Felina rolled her eyes at the remark, as she looked to change the subject.
“Yeah, about this Elizaveta,” Felina said as she made a fist and punched into her other hand. “I haven’t seen her at all around here. We have some unfinished matters to take care of.”
“I’m sure you do,” Turmoil said with a chuckle. “And, knowing Captain Elizaveta, she will be more than happy to do so.”
“So where is she?” Chance asked.
“Unfortunately, she is running a few errands for me,” Turmoil said, changing her tone to a more businesslike one. “And she will not be joining us tomorrow.”
“Like I was saying earlier, what makes you think I’m gonna help?” Chance asked.
“Miss Feral has already pledged her support,” Turmoil said. “Considering the mercy I’ve shown both you and Mr. Clawson, and the hospitality I’ve given, I’d assumed you’d be more than willing to help.”
“Yeah, effectively destroying the SWAT Kats in a midnight sneak attack isn’t what I’d call merciful,” Chance said. “Not to mention shooting at us and being really mean about it.”
“Oh, did I hurt your feelings?” Turmoil asked. “I’d say that makes us even.”
Now it was Chance’s turn to roll his eyes.
“Chance,” Felina said as she reached forward and grabbed the bottle of champagne and poured herself another glass. “If you’re scared about going up against Dark Kat, why don’t you just say so?”
He shot her an annoyed look.
“I mean, I’d be scared, too, if I’d always failed to finish the job,” Felina said as she took a sip.
He slammed his fist down on the table loudly, and then pointed a finger at her, fuming. He was about to say something, but he stopped short, interrupted.
Turmoil was laughing.
Maybe it was the champagne or the ridiculousness of the situation, or both, but Felina couldn’t help but be amused, too, and also began to laugh. Chance’s expression also changed, and he started laughing.
“You two would make a great couple,” Turmoil said in a mocking tone.
Felina and Chance glanced at one another again, and both laughed harder.
Yeah, when pigs fly…
“Oh, well, that’s enough amusement for one evening,” Turmoil said as she stood up. “Lt. Durov has already given you the details, but allow me to provide an update. I will be personally leading the ground assault, and you two will be accompanying me.”
“I thought I’d be flying,” Chance said, feigning disappointment. “Now I’m really losing interest.”
At first Felina had assumed the same thing about herself, but Turmoil had other things in mind. Her Quick Reaction Force training was going to be put to use instead, it seemed.
Though Turmoil leading in-person was news to her.
“Maybe next time,” Turmoil said, which made Felina briefly wonder what a “next time” could be.
“In the meantime, get your rest,” Turmoil said. “We depart at 06:00 hours.”
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