Felina sat in the rear passenger seat of the Humvee, staring out the reinforced, bullet-proof window. She was wearing the clothes she had originally set off in, feeling a little out of place in the hooded sweatshirt and jeans.
To her left, Chance, now T-Bone, was seated. His SWAT Kat’s mask in place. Neither of them had spoken to each other since the previous evening’s conversation. Turmoil sat in the front passenger seat, dressed in the full regalia of her uniform. One of her nameless female soldiers was driving. The Humvee was leading several others straight down Main Street, with the Oshkosh Mk.48 LVS trucks carrying tarp-covered payloads following behind. It was an impressive caravan that attracted confused looks from various pedestrians and motorists.
Turmoil’s small fleet had sailed directly into Megakat Bay undeterred, with the Balikirev anchoring at a private mooring in the docks where the vehicles had offloaded rapidly onto the nearby streets. To Felina’s surprise, there was no Enforcer presence to greet them, which made her wonder if anyone was manning the threat detection system. Or worse, if that someone was on Turmoil’s payroll.
As the density of tents, signs and the colorful array of citizens on the sidewalks increased, Felina noted they were entering downtown, which meant they’d be at City Hall shortly.
Looks like the city’s problems are still ongoing.
The familiar sound of a bullhorn caught Felina’s ears, and she could see the same group of union members from last week gathered together, holding more signs. The same man, who Callie had named as Ross O’Reilly, was no longer talking about a strike. From the looks of things, and the amount of fellow union members gathered, they appeared to be right in the middle of doing one.
And in front of City Hall, no less.
The Humvee pulled up to the curb and came to a stop, the other Humvees doing the same. The LVS Trucks came to a halt one after another right in the middle of the street, causing much irritated honking from the cars behind them.
The unexpected arrival of the military vehicles caused Ross to stop his hardly intelligible chanting, as the strikers looked in their direction. Among them were other Enforcer officers. Some of the faces Felina recognized from her own precinct. Apparently there to keep the peace, their confused expressions were the same as the rest of the crowd’s. Several news vans with their satellite dishes pointed at the sky were also about, and several reporters with cameras turned their attention.
Turmoil exited the Humvee, stepping onto the sidewalk, her black, vampiric cape dropping down elegantly behind her as she walked forward. Several in the crowd gasped at her presence.
T-Bone’s body language indicated reluctance as he too exited the Humvee, and followed after her. Felina did the same. She shivered briefly, as Megakat City was still experiencing the tail-end of winter, starkly in contrast to the tropical region she’d just been in the day before.
“Isn’t that what’s her name?” someone said.
“That’s Turmoil!” a female voice said. “Jonny, get a shot of her!”
“What’s T-Bone doing with her?” another asked. “That is T-Bone, the SWAT Kat, right?”
Turmoil advanced forward, the strikers pushing out of the way, allowing her egress up the steps of City Hall, where Ross O’Reilly was standing.
Turmoil towered above the union boss. He looked uncertain as she leaned forward to speak down to him.
“Mind if I borrow this?” she asked.
“Uh, sure,” Ross said, and held up the bullhorn.
Turmoil took it in her hand, and then held it up to her mouth, paying particular attention to the cameras pointed at her.
T-Bone stopped at about three steps under Turmoil, and faced the crowd, his expression difficult to read. Felina stood next to him, feeling a little strange at the front of the crowd, though their attention seemed to be focused on the woman in the cape.
“You have all gathered here today to voice your grievances,” Turmoil said, speaking into the bullhorn, her amplified voice carrying out clearly into the crowd. “Many of you have been here for days, weeks, and even months.”
Turmoil gestured behind herself to the City Hall building with her empty hand.
“And what have your elected leaders done in that time?” Turmoil asked. “Have they come up with a solution to end your problems? Or have they just been looking out for themselves, leaving all of you to pay for their mistakes?”
The crowd rumbled at the notion, seemingly in tentative agreement, though most still seemed unsure.
“I’ll tell you,” Turmoil said as she reached behind her back and produced a small stack of papers. “I hold in front of you a copy of the budget the Mayor’s Office is going to propose. In it, there is nothing to help with your city’s failing infrastructure. There is nothing to help with the furloughs. There is nothing of substance that will address your economic woes.”
“But, I will tell what is in it,” Turmoil said. “Plans to reduce your healthcare benefits, limit the liability of the city, layoff over half of the city’s workers, pay cuts, and higher taxes.”
Turmoil threw the pages of the document, and they scattered haphazardly as they fell to the ground. The crowd rumbled again, this time more audibly.
“But not everything is getting cut,” Turmoil said. “One organization in particular has remained untouched through all of this. Your Megakat City Enforcers. Tell me, my friends, why is it you, who work so hard, get cast aside, while those who have been unable to do their jobs get held up high?”
Felina frowned, feeling her dread growing.
“When this city is threatened by Dark Kat, what does this city do? It calls upon its Enforcers, who in turn cannot stop him. They are more than happy to take your money, which they pocket or spend irresponsibly. But you already know this,” Turmoil continued. “As have members of your citizenry.”
Turmoil gestured to T-Bone, and he held up his hands in an expression of humility. Or perhaps it was embarrassment.
“When the Enforcers fail, the SWAT Kats show up,” Turmoil said. “And while they do an admirable job, they are just a Band-Aid. Triage on the battlefield. They cannot be expected to provide a lasting, long-term solution. Especially when this city’s leadership is filled with corruption and incompetence.”
The crowd murmured, the tone sounding mostly in agreement.
“You get betrayed by individuals, such as Enforcer Captain Ritz, who sold his soul to Dark Kat, an incident Commander Ulysses Feral’s Enforcers have tried to keep quiet. You have a mayor who’s unwilling to challenge the big businesses of this city who’ve endangered your lives with their careless antics because he golfs with their CEOs and accepts their generous campaign donations. When one of your representatives like Councilman James Anderson stands up for what’s right, he gets killed by the Metallikats.”
Turmoil paused, letting her words sink in.
“My friends, at best Megakat City is run by fools. And at worst, it is run by crooks,” Turmoil said.
“But, there’s hope,” Turmoil said. “Any government that’s grown too large or too inept is no longer legitimate. And like others in history, it’s been up to the people to make the change.”
“I am willing to lead you in that change, today,” Turmoil said. “I will do what those in the building behind me cannot do. I will bring you security. I will bring you prosperity.”
At that, one of the doors of the parked Humvees opened and an ankle-shackled prisoner dressed in an orange jumpsuit was led out by two of Turmoil’s soldiers. It was Dark Kat, and he was prodded forward, looking the worse for wear, his arm in a sling, with his amputation covered in fresh bandages.
The crowd collectively gasped at his presence. The response seemed to make Megakat City’s most wanted criminal stand upright with confidence, apparently inspired by their reaction to his infamy. He was brought forward to the steps of City Hall and positioned for all to see like some kind of carnival attraction.
Step right up and see the captured villain…
“My forces have brought an end to this man’s reign of terror,” Turmoil said. “I present him before you today: Dark Kat.”
This time the crowd’s reaction was more visceral, filled with boos and other shouts of anger. Someone threw their beverage from fifteen feet away, and it collided with Dark Kat’s face. The brown liquid dripped down his features, but all he did was smile defiantly.
Amid the shouts, Felina could hear bits and pieces of threats directed against the villain, including one particularly passionate statement from an older woman who blamed Dark Kat for the death of one of her sons during an attack against the city. It was an ugly scene, and Felina took it in, not disagreeing with the sentiments, knowing full well that Dark Kat deserved every harsh word he got. Though the words weren’t what concerned Felina.
This crowd is going to lynch him.
“What should we do with him?” Turmoil asked the crowd.
“Kill him!” someone indistinctly shouted, which was followed by several cheers of agreement.
T-Bone tensed on the steps, and he gave Felina a look of uncertainty. This was obviously not something he’d been expecting.
“Hold it right there!” an authoritative and familiar voice bellowed. The crowd quieted down in reaction.
Felina looked up to origin of the voice. It was Commander Ulysses Feral just exiting the front doors of City Hall. He descended down the steps at a commanding pace. He was not alone, either, as Deputy Mayor Callie Briggs followed after. The Enforcer officers that were in the crowd mulled forward simultaneously, gathering at the foot of the steps in front of the crowd, acting as a barrier, and effectively surrounding Turmoil’s group with law enforcement.
“Well, the ruling elite have descended from their castle to deign us with their presence,” Turmoil said through the bullhorn and then gave a mock bow.
As she did, her cape rippled as two Enforcer Choppers descended from above, hovering at about 100 feet, their rotors creating a minor spiral of wind at that distance.
“Turmoil, I’m placing you under arrest,” Commander Feral said, pointing a finger. “Tell your soldiers to hand over their weapons and surrender.”
Felina met her uncle’s eyes briefly, but she had a difficult time reading him, his attention focused on Turmoil it seemed.
The two female soldiers at Dark Kat’s side both looked unintimidated, their rifles kept low but at the ready.
“It is not I who should be placed under arrest, Commander Feral,” Turmoil said, her hair blowing in the updraft, and then turned her attention back to the crowd. “I’ve given you Dark Kat. Now, I give you this.”
The soldier’s operating the LVS trucks parked on the street got up on the flat beds and pulled back the tarps to reveal the bullion. The sunlight reflected brightly upon the seemingly endless stacks of gold bars, casting the faces of the crowd in a yellowed hue.
“At current spot value, that’s 110 billion dollars worth of gold bullion,” Turmoil said through the bullhorn, turning her attention back to the crowd. “More than enough to offset this city’s budget crisis.”
Felina glanced up at Callie Briggs, whose attention seemed fixated on the gold. From the deputy mayor’s stunned expression, Felina could tell that Turmoil’s summation was accurate.
“But, what good is that if this city’s leadership doesn’t change?” Turmoil asked rhetorically, and pointed toward Callie Briggs. “They will only squander this opportunity, like an overboard sailor poking a hole in his raft. No, my friends, we can’t let them waste this opportunity. Follow me, and I will lead you in a revolution that will eliminate these illegitimate leaders, give you a restored purpose, provide you safety, prosperity, and give you back a better Megakat City.”
“Now, just a minute,” Callie Briggs began as she tried to walk down the steps to get closer to Turmoil, but was stopped by Commander Feral’s outstretched arm.
“Go back inside, deputy mayor,” Feral said cautiously.
She gave him a look of contempt.
“I’m not just going to sit idly back while this woman makes highly exaggerated and one-sided claims about this administration,” Callie said.
The crowd’s overall tenor had grown mixed, and most seemed uncertain about what they were seeing.
“So, I ask you, my friends,” Turmoil said. “Will you let yourselves continue to be treated as an easily discarded commodity, or will you rise up to take back what’s yours?”
Felina would have been lying to herself if she said Turmoil’s words didn’t strike a chord. Felina had seen the corruption. Seen the inability of those in power to act. Been subject to consequences for doing the right thing. Been part of a system that often times seemed so broken as to contradict itself. Something had to be done, and someone had to do it.
But was this what needed to happen? And was Turmoil that someone?
Felina felt a sensation she rarely ever felt. It was something she thought that after years of training and existence in a military environment she had stamped out. Something she’d been taught to remove from her consciousness, because succumbing to it would mean certain death.
That sensation was indecision, and Felina was experiencing its most dangerous side-effect. She stood, frozen in place.
Commander Feral, Callie Briggs and even T-Bone seemed similarly frozen, though Felina couldn’t be sure if it was for the same reasons as herself. Perhaps they were hesitant to react, and waiting for the crowd to convey its response.
The first to react, surprisingly, was Ross O’Reilly, who had been standing nearby ever since Turmoil had requested his bullhorn. He stepped forward, and held out his hand toward Turmoil, who towered next to him. She smiled, and handed him back his bullhorn.
He held it up, and it crackled briefly with feedback for a moment before he adjusted it and spoke.
“Wow,” he said, giving a forced chuckle. “I think a lot of our frustrations were vocalized just now.”
“This has really been a tough year for all of us,” Ross continued. “And a lot of things have been said, particularly between myself and this administration.”
Ross gestured toward Callie Briggs, and she gave a knowing nod.
“But, maybe it’s the things that have gone unsaid that are just as important,” Ross said. “While we have had our public disagreements as of late, I’ve always considered Callie Briggs a friend. And, the same can be said for a number of the city council members. Not all, of course. I’m pretty sure George Martinez still hates me for getting him out during the charity baseball game we had a few years back.”
A few in crowd laughed at the remark.
“But, my point is, these people are working for us and representing us,” Ross continued. “They’re not evil, and I do believe they have the interests of Megakat City at heart. And they don’t ignore us, though at times we have to be loud to convince them to take a right course of action. That’s why we strike.”
“But, we strike to help better this institution,” Ross said, and turned to face Turmoil. “Not to overthrow it. Are we upset about the way things have gone? Absolutely! Do we want some meaningful changes made to address our concerns? Of course! But we’re not going to resort to violence, and we’re certainly not going to be pawns in whatever game it is you’re playing.”
The words hung in the air for a moment, but several of the gathered began to clap in approval. It was a somber cheer, one not steeped in enthusiasm, but something more understated.
It was at this point that Dark Kat made his presence known in an unexpected way, as thus far the strangeness of the situation had diverted attention away from even him. From his imprisoned position between Turmoil’s two soldiers, he began to laugh.
“Unable to sway them to your side, even with the odds unfairly balanced in your favor,” Dark Kat said, addressing Turmoil.
For the first time, Felina saw Turmoil’s expression sour. That look of confidence laced with an unequaled cavalierness that Felina had begun to synonymize with her was gone. The wry grin had turned to a scowl.
Ross O’Reilly seemed to notice that, too, and he cautiously backed away. T-Bone was now the closest one to her, and he approached, placing a hand on Turmoil’s shoulder.
“It’s over,” T-Bone said, almost soothingly.
Commander Feral motioned to the other Enforcers present to move in, his glance briefly falling on Felina, at which she sighed. She recognized that look. It was an expression of expectation. While she didn’t know what awaited her in the near future, Felina knew what was being expected of her now.
Guess it’s time to make that arrest.
The Enforcers began to circle inward, a few with their sidearms drawn, others with handcuffs at the ready. Turmoil’s soldiers tensed, but did not raise their rifles, instead looking to Turmoil whose attention had become fixated on the ground. Felina moved in with them, and began to reach for the small of her back to grab at the concealed pistol there.
Turmoil’s offer had been tempting, but like many things in life it would’ve been too easy. Too easy to just destroy everything instead of making it better. Too easy to ignore solving the city’s problems by refocusing on something else. Too easy to blame those in charge, when the responsibility was shared by everyone.
Felina realized that Chance Furlong was right, as much as she hated to admit it. She was the only constant in her life. The only one making a difference in how things went. Sure, there were external variables, and more than enough unfairness to go around. But she could still control how she let it effect herself. And admittedly, she’d been taking the easy way out. Instead of taking a hard look in the mirror she’d projected her problems onto others, and turned to heavy drinking and self-pity. Everyone else close to her seemed to recognize it. Even Dark Kat, who now stood there laughing, had recognized it when he tried to make her a patsy in one of his schemes the previous year. Callie Briggs, who also stood there adjacent to Commander Feral, with a look of concern on her face, knew it, and had tried to help. But, Felina had been casting that help aside.
It was, for lack of a better term, a moment of clarity.
The world isn’t really against me. It’s me who’s been against me.
Turmoil had to have known that as well. The attempts at manipulation seemed so clear now, as they followed the same pattern that had now failed on the gathered thousand or so protesters who’d had enough collective sense not to fall for it.
But, now what? There’s nowhere to-
A gunshot erupted, startling Felina. She ducked down and drew the Glock 36. Several in the crowd screamed as people began to jumble, bumping into one another, others falling to the ground. The Enforcers had their own weapons drawn, and were frantically trying to get control of the situation.
Felina was shouldered by one of the protesters who was scrambling away from the scene, and she stumbled momentarily before getting her footing. Higher on the steps, Commander Feral was leading Callie Briggs back toward City Hall’s entrance.
Felina decided that was the direction to go, and as she began to make her way, her foot kicked into something. She glanced down, and saw an unmoving form, wearing an orange jumpsuit. The same individual whose hand she’d witnessed lost in a duel. Dark Kat was lying face-down on the steps of City Hall.
He was dead. The gunshot wound made that obviously clear.
But who did it?
Felina looked up just in time to see Turmoil holstering her Walther, the barrel still smoking. T-Bone had taken a knee next to her, rubbing the back of his head in a dazedly confused manner as if he’d been unexpectedly struck. Turmoil’s two accompanying soldiers took aim with their rifles and let lose a volley of automatic weapons fire over the heads of the crowd.
Now no one lingered, as everyone stampeded, trying to get away as fast as possible. The Enforcers on hand were overcome by the deluge of citizenry. It was probably for the best, Felina quickly realized, as more of Turmoil’s soldiers exited the other Humvees and trucks, weapons at the ready. They took aim at the Enforcers, who upon realizing they were surrounded, reluctantly raised their hands in surrender.
Above, unintelligible orders were echoing from the two Enforcer chopper’s megaphones. This noise was quickly replaced with an abrupt interruption, as the choppers exploded midair in viscous fireballs, causing debris to rain down. A large chunk fell between herself and Turmoil, causing Felina to fall back out of reflex. Had the crowd not already been dispersed, Felina imagined several would’ve been killed by the metallic downpour. This was followed by twin shrieks of jet engines. Two of the Turbokat copies zoomed past at high speed overhead, the apparent cause of the choppers’ demise.
Felina stared through the burning wreckage that separated her from Turmoil. Their eyes met, and Felina could see that whatever good intentions Turmoil may have had upon arrival were nowhere to be found now.
Felina got back to her feet, and ran up the steps of City Hall, chasing after her uncle and the deputy mayor.
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Disclaimer: SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron is copyright to Hanna-Barbera Cartoons Inc. All Rights Reserved. © 1995. All other characters and material within this page are the property of their respective creators.