Felina shouldered through the revolving door of City Hall’s lobby to find the interior deserted save for two individuals at the back of the room who were waiting for an elevator. It was Commander Feral and Deputy Mayor Briggs.
“Felina!” Callie shouted, seeing her enter.
Felina, her sidearm still in hand, dashed quickly across the scuffed, tile floor that was in need of buffing. She ran through the unmanned metal detector, and it beeped loudly in response to her weapon. Felina arrived next to them just in time as the elevator dinged and its doors slid open.
“I can’t raise HQ,” Commander Feral said, having drawn his own sidearm, a full-size Glock 17. He ushered both of them into the elevator, being the last to enter as the doors closed.
Whatever animosity or curiosity he had surrounding Felina’s circumstances was on hold, as the urgency of the situation made things all business. Any of the Commander’s chewing out, inquiries or punishments resulting thereof would have to wait, Felina assumed, as he pressed the top floor button. The car briefly lurched as it ascended, headed for the mayor’s office.
“She probably took out the StarCom antennae,” Felina said, and leaned against the wall of the elevator car, catching her breath.
“What did she think she was trying to accomplish?” Callie asked, her voice filled with concern. “And what were you and T-Bone doing with Turmoil?”
“I dunno,” Felina replied honestly. “But last I saw of him, I don’t think he’s okay.”
She mentally cursed herself for leaving the SWAT Kat behind, but given the circumstances there wasn’t much she could do. She would’ve been outnumbered and outgunned if she’d tried to do anything else.
I can regroup. Rethink this. Figure out what’s going on.
“Never mind him,” Commander Feral said. “We need to get you and the mayor to safety, Miss Briggs.”
“And just how are you going to do that?” Callie asked.
“We’ll get the mayor, place a call via the office landline, and have a chopper pick us up on the roof,” Commander Feral said.
The elevator dinged, and the doors slid open. The muted carpet, aging wallpaper and artificial plants of the top floor’s corridor welcomed them. Commander Feral exited first, his sidearm at the low and ready position as he hastily walked down the hall.
Callie Briggs followed after, with Felina taking up the rear.
“Is there anyone else up here?” Feral asked over his shoulder as he arrived at a set of large, wooden double-doors. A bronze-plated sign adjacent read THE OFFICE OF THE MAYOR OF MEGAKAT CITY.
“No one else, well, except for my assistant, Erin,” Callie said.
Felina recalled Callie Briggs words from days earlier.
“What we can’t offer in cash we can offer in college credits for an internship.”
Feral nodded and then turned the knob of one of the doors. It opened with a mild creak.
While Callie Briggs’s office had been more utilitarian and functional, Manx’s was a testament to excess. The high ceiling was adorned with an ornate pattern of moldings, with turn of the century-style light fixtures chosen for their aesthetics rather than necessity. A large six-foot tall window dominated the main wall of the room, giving what was probably the best view of the city. Paintings of obscure historical figures hung on the walls, and an impressive mahogany desk, lacquered a deep brown, occupied the far end. On the floor, a putting green track ran along the length of the room, with several white golf balls scattered about.
But, all of those details were quickly lost, as one item in the room was out of place. Or rather, one person.
Mayor Manx was sitting in a chair, his arms and legs bound by rope, his mouth stuffed with a cloth gag. His eyes were filled with panic.
Commander Feral began to approach the tied-up mayor, but stopped as an unfamiliar voice called out.
“Callie!” a woman shouted, which made Felina jump.
She was in her late 20s, with a thin-build, a brunette with shoulder-length hair, thin-rimmed glasses, and wearing a white blouse and pencil skirt. She had popped up from behind the mayor’s desk.
“Erin!” Callie returned.
“Who did this?” Feral asked, ushering her with his free hand to come forward.
The woman cautiously came forward, looking hesitant. But, there was something familiar about her. She stood at the same height as Felina, and she was wearing flats, not heels.
“Well, I did,” Erin said.
Commander Feral blinked in surprise at the statement, and before he could react further, he was on the ground, his forehead colliding loudly with a decorative wood stand, which caused several leather-bound books to fall down.
He had been sent to the floor with a textbook wrist lock takedown by Erin, who had quickly transitioned the movement to take his sidearm, which was she was now pointing at Felina.
Felina felt her pulse quicken at the unexpected display, tightening her grip on the Glock 36 which she raised in return. The commander wasn’t moving. The blow to his head had knocked him unconscious, or maybe worse. Felina couldn’t tell.
The shoulder-length hair was gone. It was lying on the floor, revealed to be a wig, along with the glasses. In its place was the familiar short blonde haircut combined with a menacingly icy expression.
It’s her. So, that’s the “errand” she’s been doing for Turmoil.
“Captain Elizaveta,” Felina said through gritted teeth, involuntarily tonguing the area in the back of her mouth where her missing molar would’ve been. “So, that’s how Turmoil’s been getting her information, huh? A spy in the Mayor’s Office?”
In the background Callie gasped.
“Among others, yes,” Elizaveta replied, her voice no longer filled with the faked innocent terror. She held the commandeered Glock 17 in a perfect combat stance, the barrel pointed directly at Felina’s face.
“So, now what?” Felina asked.
“Now, Commander Turmoil takes over this city,” Elizaveta explained. “She’d wanted to do it with kindness, but as you saw, they weren’t interested. So now, she’ll do it with force.”
As if to exacerbate the point, the sound of jet engines and explosions could be heard in the distance. Out of the corner of her eye, through the massive window of the mayor’s office, Felina could see the makings of an aerial war going on above the city.
“What’s going to become of them?” Felina asked, glancing toward the tied-up Mayor.
“The mayor, the Enforcer commander, and the deputy mayor are to be captured and tried for their failure to help the city,” Elizaveta said. “In all likelihood, they’ll be hanged in the public square for all to see.”
“Tried for our failure to help the city?” Callie scoffed. “You make it sound like you guys are some kind of invading force for good.”
“But aren’t we?” Elizaveta asked. “Your people are in the streets out of work. Your public assistance programs are overtaxed and on the verge of collapse. Bridges and roads are falling apart. Crime is at record highs. Your former political allies are in the streets protesting against you. Your first-responders are slow to respond to anything important. The budget is nowhere close to being balanced. I’ve worked under you for months now, Ms. Briggs. Don’t pretend you can tell me I’m wrong.”
Callie frowned, and pointed toward the window.
“And this is how you propose to solve it?” Callie asked.
An Enforcer Chopper fell into view, on fire as it plummeted helplessly downward.
Felina grimaced, knowing full well that someone she knew had just died.
“There is no painless solution to all of this,” Captain Elizaveta said. “At least this way it will be over soon, instead of several more years of suffering.”
“You know I can’t let you do that,” Felina said, her grip on the gun making her palms perspire.
“I know,” Elizaveta said, sincere disappointment in her voice. “I told Commander Turmoil that you’d never join us. But, she wanted to be sure. It’s a shame, because I think you’d have thrived with us.”
Felina’s eyes narrowed, and in the same motion she pulled the trigger of her Glock 36 while diving to the right.
Elizaveta apparently had the same idea, pulling her trigger as well, diving in the opposite direction.
Callie shrieked at the gunfire and fell to her knees, scrambling to get a safe distance away.
Felina rolled to her stomach when she hit the ground, taking aim awkwardly from the prone position, and fired several more times at the area she suspected Elizaveta to be in. Several shelved books exploded into papery splinters as the Spetzkatz soldier dove behind the Mayor’s antique desk, firing several rounds from her firearm as she did so. The massive glass window above and behind Felina was punctured by several of the rounds, causing a few panes to shatter and rain down on the lush carpet. Felina covered her head out of instinct.
The exchange had lasted only seconds, and as Felina collected herself on the floor, she realized she was unharmed. From her position, she could see Mayor Manx had fallen over. Whether it was deliberate or not, she didn’t know, but he was doing his best to try to scoot away toward a beckoning Callie Briggs who’d managed to make it farther down the room.
“You and I think alike,” Elizaveta called out. “Though, I think that today, you didn’t bring the right weapon.”
Felina frowned, and then glanced at the black, polymer pistol in her hand. The slide was locked back. She had fired all seven rounds.
Felina knew the captured weapon Elizaveta had taken from the unconscious Commander Feral had a 17 round magazine, and Felina was certain that her foe hadn’t fired 17 times.
Elizaveta stood up from behind the desk, the handgun held up professionally.
Felina sighed, having no choice being in clear line-of-fire. She left her gun on the floor and slowly got to her feet, hands raised in surrender.
It was at that moment that the doors to the mayor’s office burst open, and several female soldiers came inside, their rifles held at the ready. Turmoil entered with them, casting a look of disdain toward Callie Briggs who was trying to untie Mayor Manx. The soldiers quickly moved over to them, forcibly standing them up, others keeping their weapons trained on them. Another pair hefted up the still unmoving Commander Feral and began to drag him out of the room.
T-Bone was not among them.
Seeing the reinforcements, Elizaveta lowered the Glock 17.
“I see you’ve kept the enemy in-check,” Turmoil said.
“Yes,” Elizaveta replied. “Though this one tried to interfere.”
Turmoil looked at Felina.
“Well, Ms. Feral,” Turmoil said, a look of curiosity on her face. “We’ve learned a lot about each other these past few days, no doubt. You’ve seen what I’m capable of, and what I can offer you, and vice versa.”
Turmoil stepped up to Felina, and once again placed a hand on her shoulder. Felina lowered her raised hands, letting them drop to her sides.
“I’ll make this clear,” Turmoil said. “I want you to join me. The new order in Megakat City will need someone like you.”
Felina was surprised that despite her actions of just a few minutes ago that this offer was being made. She recalled her earlier realizations that had been interrupted by the chaos of the crowd, as another matter came to mind.
Dark Kat’s dead.
She hadn’t had time to process that amid the confusion. Turmoil had drawn her sidearm and executed him in front of everyone.
Did he deserve that and more? Probably. But was that the right thing to do? Was that any sort of justice?
Felina frowned, knowing that if that was a sign of what things were to come in this “new order,” she wasn’t sure she wanted to be a part of it. Especially if Elizaveta’s earlier claims about what was to happen to her uncle, Callie Briggs and Mayor Manx were true.
Felina had to admit, the more she had learned about Turmoil, the more she had grown to like her. That steadfast confidence was alluring, and her methods, while extreme, did seem to get results. But, were those means to ends ones that Felina could live with?
Felina recalled her final altercation with Captain Ritz the previous year. He was a man she’d grown to despise even more than Dark Kat, because despite her dislike of the former CAG, she’d at least trusted him as a fellow Enforcer. If there was ever anyone who deserved to have a bullet put in him, it was Ritz, Felina knew. But, could she have killed Ritz just as casually as Turmoil had killed Dark Kat?
She already knew the answer to that question, as she remembered the nickel-plated M1911A1 she had gripped in her hands back at Megakat Caverns State Park.
I had Ritz dead-to-rights. Had the gun in my hand, aimed right at his unconscious body. I could’ve killed him. No witnesses. Made up any story I wanted to. No one would’ve known…
But Felina knew that wasn’t true. She’d know.
And here and now, Turmoil was leading a full-out assault against the city. Her fellow Enforcers were caught in the cross-fire at this very moment.
Someone like Ritz would throw his fellow Enforcers to the wolves. Felina had her problems with the institution, the failings of the Mayor’s office, and her treatment in the force. But ultimately, they were her problems. No one else had to suffer the consequences for them.
Felina reached up with her left hand and slowly placed it over Turmoil’s that was on her shoulder. The room had gotten very quiet, the only noise the whistle of wind through the partially shattered window. Felina gently lifted Turmoil’s hand away from her shoulder.
Turmoil frowned at the action.
“I can’t,” Felina said, and her eyes briefly met with Callie Briggs’s.
Felina knew the deputy mayor was tougher than she looked, which at the moment suggested she was pretty tough indeed. Callie’s composure remained indignant, even while surrounded by soldiers pointing rifles at her. Though, some of that toughness slipped away when Felina answered Turmoil’s proposition. It was a softened expression.
Is that a look of pride? Maybe approval? Probably concern. Or all of the above?
“I am disappointed, Ms. Feral,” Turmoil said, and turned away. Over her shoulder she shouted something in another language at Elizaveta though Felina had no trouble understanding.
Well, Callie, looks like this is the end.
Elizaveta walked forward, once again bringing the Glock 17 to bear, pointing it at Felina’s forehead. Unsettlingly, she realized she could see the rifling of the barrel in great detail at that distance.
“No!” Callie shouted, as she unexpectedly shoved forward. The other soldiers’ attention had waned, their eyes on Felina, and the deputy mayor had taken advantage. The soldier she collided with had demonstrated poor trigger discipline, and several rounds of automatic gunfire ripped through the walls, narrowly missing Mayor Manx and the other female soldiers. It was just enough of a distraction to cause Elizaveta to glance back.
Felina didn’t hesitate as she rushed forward and grabbed at the Glock 17 with both hands, shoving it down and to the side while rotating her body and driving her back into Elizaveta’s front. It was the same move the Spetzkatz paratrooper had used on her days earlier, and Felina briefly wondered if she appreciated the irony. The sidearm was torn from Elizaveta’s grasp and it went flying across the room, landing harmlessly out of reach.
Out of the corner of her eye, Felina noticed that Callie Briggs was being converged on by the soldiers, and they quickly subdued her. She didn’t get to see exactly how, as Elizaveta now had her full attention. The paratrooper had broken away, and was now again in a fighting stance, with both fists brought up.
Felina was tempted to do the same, but the odds were not in her favor, as the temporary chaos in the room began to end. The soldiers behind Elizaveta were raising their rifles, and beginning to take aim at Felina.
There’s nowhere to run…
And then she heard a noise from behind. The wind in the window. Without thinking, she turned and threw her shoulder into it. Already weakened by the earlier gunfire, it easily gave way.
As she fell through it, she instantly regretted having done so, as 80 stories below Main Street was rushing up at her. She couldn’t help but recall Technical Sergeant Thurman’s safety speech warning about falling off the flight deck.
The rapid descent abruptly stopped, and Felina felt a sharp pain in her shoulder, her right deltoid burning. Out of reflex, she’d reached out to grab at something, anything, and her hand had caught the edge of a ledge. She looked up and saw the window she had crashed out of, and realized she had only fallen about one-and-a-half stories. Her fingertips gripped onto the ledge, shaking with stress.
It was a one-in-a-million feat.
With great effort, she reached up with her other hand and grasped the ledge, steadying herself. Hanging there, dangling 79 floors above a variety of hard concrete surfaces that seemed ready to greet her, she took a moment to breathe.
During QRF training at Camp Wirehair, when there was downtime, there wasn’t much to do. This caused several of the trainees to develop ways to entertain themselves. A lot of times these methods of entertainment had a competitive element to them.
Who could do the most push-ups, or who could handstand-walk the farthest, or who could eat the most hardboiled eggs. One particular activity included seeing how long someone could hang from a pull-up bar while others threw objects, usually footballs, at them. Felina had lasted 45 seconds under those conditions.
And now, hanging by her fingertips, knowing that it would be certain death if she lost her grasp, she tried to force herself to calm down.
I can hang here for a minute or two. Now, think. How am I going to-
There was a loud cracking noise, and the ledge buckled. The sections Felina had been grasping crumbled. Her eyes went wide as she lost her grip, briefly suspecting that the City Hall building’s decaying state due to budgetary problems was likely behind this.
Felina had taken great effort to train her body to ignore the panic often induced by the feeling of falling, as rapid aerial descents had become a daily occurrence in her work environment as a fighter pilot. But, all of that seemed to dissolve, as she couldn’t help but let out a scream. The rows of City Hall’s windows were passing by at increasing speed, floor after floor, the street below growing larger, and larger.
Felina closed her eyes, knowing that she’d be dead in seconds.
There was a collision, and it knocked the wind out of her. But, it didn’t come from below, but from the side. Felina forced herself to open her eyes and found herself in the arms of T-Bone. He was gritting his teeth in concentration.
The SWAT Kat had swung down from above using that grappling device on his Glovatrix. He’d done so in a wide arc that helped to negate Felina’s fall and turn the momentum to the side. They were now swinging together laterally. He detached the line at just the right moment as they swung over the rooftop of a smaller building.
Felina felt herself fall again, landing hard in a mixture of sliding and rolling, her body dragging a trail along the aged rooftop asphalt particles. Both of them came to an abrupt stop as they collided loudly with a metal air conditioning unit.
Felina sat up slowly, feeling pain throughout her body, but was amazed to find that nothing appeared to be broken.
Nearby, T-Bone groaned as he rubbed his head. He was still wearing the military-style fatigues that Turmoil had provided, the only sign he was a SWAT Kat being the mask and Glovatrix.
Felina forced herself to her feet, and reached down, offering her hand.
“Thanks,” she said.
“Anytime,” T-Bone replied, and he took her hand, standing up.
They stood there, for a moment, sizing each other up. Felina was still coming to grips with the fact she was still alive, thanks to the guy in front of her.
“I got separated when things went crazy back there,” T-Bone explained. “Figured they’d go after Callie, but they got in the building first. Tried to make my way up there from the outside, but then I saw you go flying out the window of the mayor’s office.”
“Yeah,” Felina said, her pulse still throbbing in her temples. “They got her, Manx and my uncle.”
“Dead?” T-Bone asked, his voice filled with dread.
“No, not yet,” Felina said. “But they’re gonna. We have to-”
T-Bone’s shoulder exploded in a crimson mist as his body spun around and he fell down, landing face-first on the rooftop’s asphalt. A split-second later, a gunshot could be heard, its loud distinctive boom echoing among the nearby skyscrapers.
Felina’s training took over as she dove for cover, baseball sliding on her stomach to get behind the air-conditioning unit. Several impacts scored the area of the rooftop she’d just been standing on, the noise of the gunshots following shortly thereafter. Felina had seen the muzzle flash as she’d dove for cover. It came from high above, out the broken window of the mayor’s office 80 stories up. Even at that distance, Felina could tell it was Captain Elizaveta taking the shots.
Felina peered around the unit, and could see T-Bone roll over onto his back and grasp at his shoulder. He was coughing direly.
“Well, that’s what I get for not keeping my head down,” T-Bone said with morbid amusement.
“You okay?” Felina called out despite knowing the answer.
“Nope,” T-Bone said with a cough.
“Just stay down and I’ll see if I can-,” Felina began.
“No!” T-Bone shouted. “That’s just what they want you to do. You need to get out of here!”
“I can’t leave you behind!” Felina said.
“Well, you’re gonna have to,” T-Bone said. “I’m outta the game.”
Felina’s eyes narrowed as she took in T-Bone’s injuries, and then she looked away. As much as she hated to admit it, he was right. There was nothing she could do for him now. Not without winding up just like him, or worse.
“I’m sorry,” Felina said.
“Well, you can make it up to me by stopping her,” T-Bone said, his voice sounding weaker. “Find Jake. He’ll know what to do.”
“I will,” Felina promised as she got to her feet, staying crouched down low.
Behind her there was a fire escape ladder with rails that curved up and over the edge of the rooftop. She carefully made her way over to it, risking one last look toward T-Bone. The SWAT Kat was not moving, the area around him now colored red. Felina couldn’t tell if he’d stopped breathing.
In a brisk motion, she brought herself up and over, grasping the ladder’s rails, as she disappeared over the side.
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