Felina stood at attention, wearing her standard duty uniform. Her first day back on the job, and she had been summoned to the one place everyone on the force dreaded going to.
Commander Feral’s office was spacious and sparse, with large windows on three of the four walls that overlooked the recently repaired elevated airstrip and the surrounding city. His desk, which at times seemed to resemble a judge’s bench, was clean and organized. A single gold nameplate glinted in the light as the sun was starting to get low on the horizon. A commander’s trench-coat with full rank markings was hanging from a nearby coatrack.
He sat at that desk, quietly thumbing through a manilla folder, his posture slightly relaxed as he turned a stapled page. He did so at a slow pace, and while Felina stood there, waiting to be acknowledged, her thoughts began to drift.
It was almost surreal how quickly things could return to normal in Megakat City. Two months had passed since Turmoil’s invasion of the city, and there was hardly any evidence that it had ever occurred. Enforcer Headquarters, disabled by the initial attack, was already deploying squadrons in regular intervals from its elevated runways.
Even Deputy Mayor Callie Briggs’s life seemed to have returned to normal. Felina had recently caught a glimpse of her on a public access television program in an impromptu debate with the host discussing how best to apply the city’s new surplus.
Though, there were less fortunate events that had also quietly transpired. Five Enforcers, three of them pilots, had been killed during Turmoil’s invasion. Several dozen more were injured, of which at least half wouldn’t be returning to duty anytime soon. Felina had been unable to attend the funerals, as she spent much of her time then recovering in a hospital bed at Megakat Memorial Hospital.
After weeks of physical therapy, she’d finally been able to regain the use of her left arm. If it weren’t for the large scar that ran across her forearm, it’d be just the same as it was. Felina had even managed to spend some time with the young girl Katy as their stays overlapped by a few weeks. Katy’s mother had recovered from her injuries as well, and the two had checked out with a clean bill of health.
During her time in the hospital, Felina had many visitors. Mostly Enforcer investigators who had a lot of questions to ask. The type of questions that Felina knew she should’ve probably had an attorney present for. But, she was tired of subterfuge, and answered all questions honestly.
Well, all except for one.
When one of them had asked if she knew the identities and whereabouts of the SWAT Kats, specifically T-Bone, Felina had executed a poker face she imagined could rival the best.
“I don’t,” Felina had said.
It was strange thinking of Turmoil as an inspiration for matters concerning honor, but the would-be ruler of Megakat City had preserved the secret identities of the SWAT Kats from outsiders. Even now, as an inmate of Alkatraz Prison, Turmoil had not even hinted at telling the world who they really were. Neither had any of her captured troops, who were kept prisoner far away at Megakat Springs Penitentiary for security reasons.
Razor’s plan had worked for the most part. The entire invasion fleet was disabled by the remaining payload of Scrambler missiles the jets still carried, an ironic detail that was probably not lost on Turmoil. Felina knew that not everyone had been captured. To her knowledge, Lt. Durov was still at large.
Callie Briggs had visited numerous times, both in an official capacity as Deputy Mayor with members of the press, and other times in an unofficial capacity as Felina’s friend. Felina had always held the media with a little bit of contempt, but she was glad they’d been there to act as witnesses to her duel. Every moment had been caught on camera, briefly elevating Felina to the level of folk-hero in the minds of some. The Mayor’s Office had even presented her, in her hospital bed-ridden state, with a medal of commendation. The Mayor himself had even made comments about organizing a parade in her honor.
“I’m sorry,” Felina had said once the two of them had been left alone.
“What for?” Callie had asked.
“Before all of this happened, I accused you of spying on me,” Felina said. “I was uh…”
“Being a real jerk?” Callie had asked, a small smile on her face.
“Yeah,” Felina admitted.
There was more Felina had wanted to say, but expressing her feelings in front of others didn’t come naturally to her. Despite that, Callie seemed to understand, and had even come to her aid once again, putting pressure privately on Commander Feral. To do what, Felina was uncertain, as the results of the investigation were unknown to her. No doubt, they were what her uncle was currently thumbing through.
He had visited her once, briefly, while she was in recovery. At the time, the demotion, court martial and other items that had driven a wedge between them the past year didn’t seem to matter all that much. For a short while he was something he hadn’t really been to her in a long time. Family. But, that had ended, and judging by the current circumstances, things were back to normal.
He turned to the last page of the report in his hands, and then flipped the folder shut, sliding it onto the top of his neatly organized desk. He leaned forward slightly, and emotionlessly spoke.
“At ease,” Feral said.
Felina relaxed her posture, moving her right foot so her stance was shoulder-width, and clasped her arms behind her back.
“I’ve read though the investigator’s report,” Commander Feral said. “All 235 pages of it.”
He closed his eyes and rubbed the ridge of his nose with his index finger and thumb in contemplation.
“There’s a lot to take into consideration,” he continued, and turned to her, meeting her eyes for the first time since she’d entered the room. “But I have to ask you something, first.”
He pushed out from his chair, stood up, walked around to the front of the desk and stood directly in front of Felina. He was one of the few people she knew that stood significantly taller than her, and she looked up, keeping her expression neutral.
“Do you want to die?” Commander Feral asked.
“No, sir,” Felina replied.
“I find that hard to believe,” Commander Feral said, and then turned away, crossing his arms over his chest as he began to pace. “Given that I just read an account of what had to be the most reckless, ill-advised and downright stupid sequence of actions an Enforcer under my command has ever taken.”
Felina remained silent.
“Let’s just ignore for the moment all the procedures, rules and potential laws you broke,” Commander Feral said. “You put yourself unnecessarily in danger. The most likely outcome, which you’ve miraculously avoided, was that you’d be killed.”
“Permission to speak freely, sir?” Felina asked.
“You’ve already acted freely, so you may as well speak freely, too,” Commander Feral said, some exasperation in his voice.
“A year ago, I was standing in this same spot, and you asked me a question,” Felina said. “You asked me if being here is what I truly wanted.”
He continued pacing, turning away from her as she spoke.
“And I have to admit, after being sent to the brig, demoted, getting my wings clipped and sent over to traffic, spending wintertime patrols riding a motorcycle out in the cold weather, I replayed that question over and over in my head, and I wasn’t so sure about the answer anymore,” Felina said. “Then, to top things off, I got my ass kicked. Badly. So badly, I got knocked out and started having dreams that were like reruns of the History channel. The kind of dreams that lead one to ponder their place in the world, about whether or not they’re living up to the legacy of an institution that might just be past its prime.”
Feral paused his pacing at that remark.
“So, I decided to do what hardly anyone else in the city seems to be able to do nowadays,” Felina said, and took a step forward, breaking her stance, and pointing her thumb at herself. “Like Jonas Spangle, I took responsibility, and I rode that wave of chaos. I didn’t know if I’d survive, or if I’d die across my metaphorical helm. We used to be an organization of action, uncle. But now, we just sit around, growing bloated, unable to do anything at all. And like all stagnant things, we became infested with parasites that tried to break us from within.”
Felina knew that Turmoil had spies in the Enforcers. She had said so herself. It was the only way to account for the several internal failures that had coincidentally occurred at the same time Turmoil had returned with her spoils from Cymric Island. The extent of which hadn’t been publicly revealed yet, and Felina knew it was a topic that her uncle was not fond of hearing about. Lt. Commander Steele’s actions in negotiating a cease-fire, while pragmatic, and not necessarily the actions of a traitor, had still earned him the ire of many. Ironically, several of those same people had now reversed their opinions on Felina, going so far as to have visited her in the hospital. Even her former supervisor, the Enforcer CAG Gorman, who was the most vocal prosecutor during her court martial, had sent her flowers.
“So, I made a judgement call,” Felina said. “You might call it suicidal, but I call it necessary. I didn’t know who I could trust, and I wasn’t just going to let Turmoil, who’d approached me personally, walk away.”
Commander Feral sighed.
“Felina, you’re no Jonas Spangle,” he said, and then turned around to look at her. “But you’re no traffic cop, either.”
Felina relaxed her composure slightly at the remark.
“Despite your mission of infiltration being unauthorized and very, very ill-advised,” he said. “It did result in some incredibly valuable intelligence. And, your actions, either directly or in part, resulted in the overthrow of Dark Kat’s war machine, and the downfall of Turmoil’s military. City Hall also doesn’t mind the gold bullion, either.”
The gold, Felina had learned, was of unknown origin. It showed signs of having been melted down from varying stock, making it impossible to determine who a rightful owner would have been, and as such, it legally fell into the possession of the city. Enforcer patrols had also been sent to scout Cyrmic Island, and they had seen the evidence that corroborated Felina’s testimony to the investigators.
“But, even with all of that, in my mind it’s still not enough to outweigh what you did,” Commander Feral said. “Fortunately for you, you’ve made friends in very high places. The kind of friends whose opinions I can’t just ignore, especially since they’ve decided to decorate you in medals.”
He walked back over to his desk and opened a drawer, withdrawing a closed leatherette box, and then walked up to her, holding it out. She took the box and opened the lid, glancing to see the contents. She withheld showing any kind of joy, thinking it a sign of weakness in front of her uncle, though inside she was smiling. The box contained a silver rectangle insignia lapel pin. The symbol of First Lieutenant.
“Your commission’s been reactivated, effective next week,” Commander Feral said.
“Yes, sir,” Felina said, and stood at attention again.
With that done, he seemed to soften somewhat, as if he’d been holding back how he truly felt about things. He placed a hand on her shoulder.
“I don’t want you to ever do something like that ever again because you think you can’t trust me,” he said. “No matter the politics, the rules, or whatever things may come up between you and me.”
“I won’t, uncle,” she said.
“Good,” he said. “Because as you’ve so aptly pointed out, there are traitors in our midst, and I find it comforting to know there’s at least someone on the force I can trust.”
Despite its rundown aesthetics and poor lighting, Precinct 58 felt like a welcome locale as Felina strode through the front entrance. She only had a few days left as a traffic officer, and then her commission would be active again and she’d get back to her old beat. The sky. She hadn’t felt this positive in over a year.
“Feral, the sarge wants to see you,” Corporal John Meyers said from behind the dirtied and scuffed window that covered the check-in booth as he pressed a button. The lobby door buzzed open and Felina walked through it.
“Sure thing,” Felina said, no longer feeling any apprehension at having to meet with her now temporary superior.
She made her way upstairs, taking each creaking step on the floorboards lightly as she made her way down the hall, arriving at a door with a frosted glass window, the words “SGT DANIELS” etched upon it. Felina gave two quick raps on the glass.
“Enter,” a voice called from the other side.
Felina turned the knob and walked inside.
The rundown, wood-patterned aesthetic was still present in abundance, and the exposed pipes near the ceiling creaked as who knew what flowed through them. An old map of Megakat City, yellowed by age with several push pins stuck in it, still hung on the far wall.
His military-surplus desk was still covered in paperwork, though the flesh-colored 15-inch CRT computer monitor was gone, replaced by a more streamlined LCD panel. He leaned back in his chair at Felina’s arrival, an amused expression on his face.
“Well, if it isn’t the swashbuckling hero of our time,” he said sarcastically and clapped his hands in a mocking fashion.
Felina coudn’t help but roll her eyes.
“Is there something I can do for you, sarge?” Felina asked.
“No, nothing at all,” Daniels said as he stood up, the girth of his stomach making that an impressive feat. “Though I did hear a rumor about your impending return to the steps of Olympus.”
“If you’re referring to my re-instatement as a first lieutenant,” Felina said. “Then you heard correctly.”
“It’s no surprise,” Daniels said, and then made his way to the front of his desk.
Felina was surprised as the normally patronizing Daniels did something unexpected. He extended his hand.
“I’ve made it my own personal policy to never be sorry,” Daniels said. “It can quickly lead to a downward spiral of regret.”
Felina quirked an eyebrow as she took his hand and shook it, accepting his non-apology apology.
“I don’t know the full story, but I know what I saw on the TV,” Daniels continued. “If I ever hear anyone accuse you of being the beneficiary of nepotism, I’ll have his badge.”
“Well, sarge,” Felina said. “You’re not such a fat sack of crap after all.”
He laughed at the statement in good humor and let go, turning back to his desk.
“Before you leave us, Lieutenant, I have one final job for you to take care of,” he said.
Felina wondered what that job could be as Daniels turned back around and handed her a torn piece of paper from a legal pad with an address scribbled on it.
“A superintendent at a warehouse called in about some suspicious items left by a tenant that failed to pay their rent,” Daniels said. “One of our guys stopped by to investigate it, and he wound up calling me directly afterward. I stopped by myself to have a look.”
“What is it?” Felina asked curiously.
“On the record, I found absolutely nothing there,” Daniels said. “Off the record, I think you know who it belongs to, and how to contact them.”
Felina nodded, not sure if she completely understood.
“You’ll understand once you see it,” Daniels said. “And if you could, maybe get me an autograph? My kids love them.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Felina said, and was about to leave the room, but paused. “Any chance there’s a car available?”
“Take your pick.”
“I’m sorry we couldn’t visit you in the hospital,” Jake Clawson said as he exited the passenger-side door of the now parked tow truck.
“I understand,” Felina said. “Couldn’t risk exposing your identities amid all that scrutiny. The flowers were nice.”
“Least we could do,” Chance Furlong now said, exiting from the driver’s side.
“You finish fixing that secret base of yours?” Felina asked.
“Sort of,” Jake said, a hint of exhaustion in his voice. “The hole’s patched up, and the runway cleared out.”
“And thankfully no one’s around to ask any questions,” Chance said. “Well, no one with an IQ above 80, anyway.”
“Never thought I’d be thankful to have Burke and Murray as our most frequent visitors,” Jake said with a sigh.
“Though, none of that really matters, seeing as there’s nothing secret to put in that base anymore,” Chance muttered with more than a hint of frustration.
Both of them appeared to have recovered from their injuries. Fortunately for them, the hospital had been so overrun and busy that Jake had never even been formally processed upon his admittance. The staff had likely assumed he was just another bystander caught in the crossfire, so the normal gunshot wound procedures associated with contacting the Enforcers had been postponed. When Felina had wheeled him out it was as if he’d never been there.
Chance’s wounds had already been treated by one of Turmoil’s medical corps-women for reasons she’d guessed at earlier: that she had wanted him alive and well for his execution, much as Dark Kat had been.
Both looked physically well, but something still seemed amiss about the two of them. She knew the SWAT Kats had been dealt a heavy blow that they had yet to recover from, though she had a feeling things were about to get a little better.
Felina was leaning back on the hood of the new squad car that had been issued to her, her arms crossed. She had been waiting for nearly an hour in front of 1021 Corbin Drive where a large, rundown building that looked more like a remnant from the Industrial Revolution than a modern place of business occupied over an acre of land. She hadn’t seen anyone for several blocks when she’d arrived in the neighborhood.
“So, why did you call us here?” Chance asked.
Jake looked toward Felina, his expression suggesting he was about to ask the same thing.
“Well, I didn’t want to say over the phone why,” Felina said as she walked around to the back of the squad car and opened up the trunk. She reached inside and withdrew a large set of bolt cutters.
“Catch,” she said, and tossed them.
Jake caught them easily and quirked an eyebrow.
“Go see what’s behind door number one,” Felina said, feigning the inflection of a gameshow host.
“Okay,” Jake said, and walked over to a large metal sliding door that had several padlocked chains keeping it shut.
“Need any help with that, buddy?” Chance called out.
“I got this,” Jake said, and began to go to work to free the door.
He was just far enough away to be out of earshot, a fact that Chance seemed to have been waiting for.
“You okay?” Chance asked, standing next to Felina now.
“Could be worse,” Felina said. “I’m getting my commission back.”
“You deserve it,” Chance said. “You’re a bonafide hero.”
“Well, I dunno about that,” Felina remarked.
“You saved our lives,” Chance said. “The city, too.”
Jake grunted loudly, and there was a loud snapping click as one of the chains broke.
“Well, couldn’t have done it without you guys,” Felina said. “After all, you saved my life, too.”
“Yeah…” Chance said, and then rubbed the back of his head, looking down at the dirtied pavement.
“I know it mustn’t have been easy,” Felina said.
“Truth be told, it’s not the first time I’ve had to do something like that,” Chance said, and closed his eyes. “And it never gets any easier. No matter how justified it was.”
“If it’s any consolation, the Commander isn’t actively trying to press any kind of charges,” Felina said. “Probably has something to do with the fact that it was me who was about to get a hole put in her head.”
Chance seemed lost in thought as he replied.
“When Jake and I first decided to get involved in this hero thing, we never thought about how much it’d complicate things,” Chance said. “Hindsight’s a real pain.”
“Well, what’s done is done,” Felina said. “And, I thank you for that.”
“Would you have done the same for me?” Chance asked.
“Without hesitation,” Felina said. “In fact, I’d have probably shot twice.”
There was another loud snap-click as Jake broke through another chain.
“It wasn’t easy to do,” Chance said. “I did hesitate when I had that red beret in my sights. I never felt so unsure about something in my life. But, I realized there was no way I wasn’t going to walk away from that situation without some kind of regret. So, I picked the regret I’d have to shoulder the responsibility for. The one with you still alive.”
Felina nodded, trying not to let the warmness of the remark influence her composure. It was the sincerity in his voice. Genuine caring. Not the gung-ho posturing he showed the world as T-Bone. It was surprisingly refreshing.
“We live our lives by doing things the hard way,” Felina said. “If we wanted things easy, we would’ve done so a long time ago.”
Chance looked up at her when she spoke those words, with a look as if she had read his mind.
“Couldn’t have said it better myself,” Chance said.
Another snap-click resounded, followed by the sound of metal scraping against metal as the chains holding the large sliding door closed fell down to the ground. Jake grabbed at the door’s handle with both hands and began to slowly pull it open. Whatever bearings were in the sliding mechanism groaned from a combination of poor maintenance and age.
In moments the interior was illuminated by the outside light, and the contents of the building came into view. Chance glanced up, and his somber expression changed in an instant, replaced by a wry grin.
Jake peered around the open door, and placed his hands on his hips, shaking his head in amazement.
Despite having several access ports, panels and other modular components removed, the signature jet of the SWAT Kats, the Turbokat, rested intact within. On several tables various pieces of gear and technology were also placed about in an organized fashion. Several computers, displays and freestanding whiteboards with various technical imagery could also be seen.
“Turmoil used this place as a staging area to reverse-engineer your stuff,” Felina said, walking forward. “When the rent wasn’t paid, the property owner stopped by. Called the Enforcers when he saw all this. Luckily for you, this is Sergeant Daniel’s area, my supervisor. He also happens to be a fan of the SWAT Kats, or at least his kids are.”
Jake stepped inside and walked up to the Turbokat, looking it over.
“Everything looks intact,” Jake said.
“No kidding,” Chance said, now standing inside as he picked up a jetpack from a table and began to look it over.
“So, I take it the SWAT Kats are no longer out of business?” Felina asked.
Jake and Chance cast each other a glance, wordlessly communicating.
“I think that’s a big yes,” Chance said, turning his attention back to Felina. He walked up to her, and held out his hand.
She took it, clutching it in an extended handshake, both of them feeling the power of each other’s grip.
“We owe you, lieutenant,” Chance said.
“Seriously,” Jake said. “If there’s ever anything we can do, let us know.”
“Oh, I’m sure I will,” Felina said as she let go.
Jake returned back to the assortment of technology behind him. She suspected he was doing all he could to restrain his giddiness at having all of his stolen inventions back in his possession. Chance turned to go help his partner, but not before giving her one last glance over his shoulder.
All of the hostility she had felt toward him, the feelings of mistrust and betrayal, being taken advantage of and made to feel stupid. All of those things were gone. There was something new there in his eyes. Respect. The kind of respect one had towards their equal.
Without the mask, to everyone else, he was just plain old Chance Furlong. And even though she knew who the SWAT Kats really were, and the less-than-dignified background for how they’d become vigilantes, she still felt the hairs on the back of her neck tingle. She’d never admit it out loud, but being regarded as an equal by the SWAT Kats felt good. Vindicating, even.
Her uncle was right, too, she supposed. She wasn’t some legendary figure like Jonas Spangle, fighting against pirates on the high seas. But, she had to admit, there were some similarities. Who knew? In two hundred years would people talk about Turmoil’s invasion of the city, and the lone Enforcer who stood up and fought against all odds?
And, she didn’t really care, either. Her experience was one she’d remember, and try to take to heart. When Chance had told her she was the only constant in her life, he was right. It was time to stop being so adversarial. Time to stop looking for the insult in things. Time to stop fighting herself, as she’d envisioned herself doing.
Sometimes, you have to know when to rely on others.
The SWAT Kats had done so. And with time and a little effort, Felina thought, so could she.
“Three-five niner, what’s your situation?” the StarCom radio chirped on Felina’s shoulder.
She reached over and pressed the transmit button, not breaking Chance’s eye contact.
“Situation is ten twenty-four.”
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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.