Felina walked down the stairs of the elevated L-train station amid other exiting commuters, now wearing a black, police-style leather jacket, her hands in the pockets and her head kept low. The January wind blew mildly, with just a hint of frost. It had not snowed yet this week, but all signs pointed to its inevitability.
As a member of the traffic division, Felina no longer took the exit at Central which was near the multi-story Enforcer Headquarters. Instead, she now remained on the train longer until it reached Avenue S, closer to the outskirts of the city where the large and bustling freeways connected to suburbs like Felis Heights and Tigerlands. It was there that Enforcer Precinct 58 was located, and where Felina was now walking up to.
The precinct building was located on a one-way street off the westbound lane of Avenue S. It was just after 3 p.m., plenty of time before rush-hour, so the amount of cars on the typically busy street were few. Felina jaywalked with ease and arrived at the precinct’s concrete steps that led up to a revolving door.
Unlike Enforcer Headquarters, which was a relatively new and ultramodern building by the city’s standards, Precinct 58 was a time capsule. The musty interior may as well have been a set in a 1920s gangster movie, complete with worn woodworked facades, checkered black and white hex-tile floors and dim, yellow lights. Citizens sat at benches, waiting for their turn to approach the lone police officer who sat behind a reception desk, who was currently engaged in a discussion with someone. A smudged and cracked pane of thick glass kept the two separated. The discussion was becoming more heated.
“My truck was stolen, and you’re not going to do anything about it?” said this someone, a man in his early 40s by the looks of it, to the officer. He was wearing a jacket that had a simple black logo in a blocky typeface on the back. The letter’s MM accompanied by text underneath that spelled out Mel’s Movers.
“Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to calm down,” the police officer, Felina recognized as Corporal John Meyers, was distractedly saying while holding a phone’s handset to his ear. Several lines were ringing.
Felina walked forward to stand next to the upset man and knocked her fist on the glass loudly.
“Hey Meyers,” Felina said. “Hope you’re not too busy to buzz me in.”
Meyers didn’t say anything as he pressed an unseen button. A nearby door, featuring a red sign with white lettering stating POLICE ONLY, made a buzzing sound followed by a click.
“Hey, while you’re back there, maybe you can tell your co-workers to do their jobs, huh?” the upset man said, getting a side-eyed look from Meyers.
“It shall be handled post-haste,” Felina said dryly as she walked through the door, thankful to leave the lobby. It closed loudly behind her, the lock audibly clicking back into place.
Felina walked down the hallway, the floorboards creaking with each step she took, making her wonder how much longer it’d be until the floor collapsed.
Hopefully when it does it’ll take the rest of this place with it.
There were other Enforcer police officers meandering through the hallway, several of which made not-so-subtle movements to avoid her.
Felina had discovered upon her transfer that there were generally two ways that people in Precinct 58 had received her. She knew that many considered her an elitist, as Felina’s background was well-known to many in the Enforcers. She had what was colloquially known as a “grand slam,” being a combat pilot and SWAT-qualified commando, and many in the Precinct were intimidated by her.
The other way she had been received was as a disgraced outsider. It was no secret that there were divisions between the general enlisted and the Officers with a capital “O.” A first lieutenant, like Felina had been, would likely never have stepped foot in a place like this.
Sergeant Joseph Daniels, the watch commander and essentially Felina’s new boss, fell into the latter camp. Joe, as he was routinely referred as, did little to hide his delight at being in charge of a former first lieutenant. Especially a Feral.
Felina reached the end of the hallway where the entrance to the briefing room awaited. It was a sparsely decorated classroom, complete with a large green chalkboard at the back of the room that was in need of a rinse. A makeshift podium that sat atop a folding table was at the head of the room. Several Enforcer police officers sat in orange, plastic chairs with metal feet that screeched on the floor when moved.
As professional as it gets…
The other police were engaged in various smalltalk with each other, filling the room with the mild noise of conversation. Felina took a seat in the back corner of the room, crossing her arms and leaning back, putting one leg over the other, eager for the daily briefing and roll call to get started and over with.
“Is that how you’d sit in one of your fancy airplane meetings?” Joe asked, his question directed at Felina as he entered.
Felina frowned, hearing the voice she had come to despise. It was a light voice, almost raspy, with a slight North-Eastern accent, that was occasionally interrupted by the sounds of heavy breathing. It was no surprise to Felina, as Joe, in his 5’8″ frame, had to weigh close to 350 pounds.
The uniform he wore clung tightly around his arms and midsection. His gut threatened to burst the buttons of his shirt and spill over his 50-plus inch waist trousers. Until Felina had seen him, she didn’t know that duty belts were made in that size. She honestly wondered if one of the sausages he called fingers could actually fit through the trigger guard of his sidearm.
His lack of facial hair and chubby red cheeks made him look baby-faced, despite his short-wavy haircut showing signs of going bald.
“Why don’t you try showing a little more enthusiasm,” Joe said as he waddled past, taking his place at the head of the room.
Felina rolled her eyes, simply switching which leg she had crossed over the other. She could hear others snickering as the room quieted down, everyone’s attention forward.
“Alright, who’s here today?” Joe asked as he rustled a short stack of papers on the podium, and began to take roll. In sequence everyone including Felina called out “here” as their names were read off. The third watch were all present.
“Okay, normal patrols for today,” Joe said. “Second watch had nothing out of the ordinary to report. There’s still a lot of protesters around downtown near City Hall. Nothing violent, but if that changes some of you might get called in to provide assistance.”
Due to the city’s inability to pass a budget, several thousand city workers ranging from sanitation to education had organized protests with threats to strike. It was a matter that Callie had gone into great depth to explain to Felina the last time they’d had lunch together.
Felina had tried to listen, but public policy was a topic she had little interest in, so the details mostly escaped her. She did, however, know that it was an issue that had Callie worried, as it could hurt the Manx administration’s chances for re-election. Something about the poor economy, high taxes and a City Council that may or may not be corrupt.
The protests had started out small a month prior, but everyday it seemed like more and more people were gathering, flooding portions of downtown. Felina had been assigned to help keep the peace last Wednesday. Due to last-minute emergency funding provisions, the Enforcers were mostly unaffected by the budget’s failure to pass, causing resentment to build up for many.
I’d be upset too if I were in their shoes.
“Also, there have been a few reports of vehicle thefts in our area,” Joe continued. “So if you see anything out of the ordinary make sure to call in a plate check.”
With that brief set of instructions completed, Joe concluded the briefing, and the police officers of the room partnered off and went their respective ways.
Felina was the last to stand, and met Joe’s eyes.
“Is there something on your mind, Officer Feral?” he asked, drawing out the title.
“Yeah,” Felina said. “Is there anyway I can get a car?”
“Well, let me take a look,” Joe said, pretending to look over a piece of paper he was holding. “Nope, looks like they’ve all been assigned.”
“What a surprise,” Felina said as she turned away and left the room.
The motor pool occupied the rear end of the building with a driveway leading to an alleyway that connected to Avenue S. It was a concrete garage, with two levels of Enforcer vehicles crammed within. Several of the officers from the briefing were walking in pairs to their cars, carrying black Remington 870 shotguns with them. Enforcer regulations didn’t allow for storage of weapons in unattended vehicles, so they would have to be carried in and out during shift changes.
Felina was one of the few not assigned a partner, which was another reason it made getting a squad car all the more difficult. She approached the motor pool’s attendant, another corporal whose name she didn’t know. He sat in an office with a sliding window on a counter that faced the garage. Behind him was a wall with a hundred hooks that various keys hung from.
“Hey, is there any chance I can get a car?” Felina asked, walking up to the window.
“Name?” the corporal asked, not looking up from a crossword puzzle.
“Feral,” Felina said with a sigh.
“Let me check…” he said distractedly.
He reached to his left without looking and grabbed a specific key and slid it across the countertop. “Nope.”
“But there’s two of them right over there,” Felina said, pointing to a corner of the garage where a set of pristine looking squad cars were parked side-by-side.
“Those ones have been set aside for maintenance,” the corporal said. “Flat tires or something.”
“Yeah, I can see that,” Felina said as she grabbed the key she was given. It was attached to a fob with the Enforcer logo on it. On the back was a stamped number, KXY1017. The license plate number of the same motorcycle she had been riding going on five months now.
Felina walked away without another word, making her way to what had become a familiar section of the garage where a dozen parked motorcycles were lined, propped up by kickstands. Each was painted a dull-white, the coloring worn by years of use. A scuffed windshield was elevated above the handlebars. Red and blue lights were on either side of the main headlight. A helmet rested on each seat.
Zipping up her jacket, Felina took out two leather gloves from the pockets and put them on. She retrieved the helmet, tucked her neck-length hair back, and adjusted the chinstrap as she put it on. With that done, she saddled the bike, and inserted the key into the ignition.
The four-cylinder engine roared to life, causing the bike to rumble with an understated power between her legs. Despite what she knew to be overcast skies outside, she put on a pair of aviator sunglasses, the large silver lenses looking like mirrors.
Felina pulled the spiraled cord of her StarCom radio over the back of her shoulder and attached it to a velcro strip just above her right breast pocket. She pressed the transmit button and leaned her mouth toward it.
“Dispatch, this is Three-Five-Niner, starting patrol, over,” Felina said.
The radio crackled and the slightly distorted voice of a female dispatcher came back.
“Copy that, Three-Five-Niner,” the dispatcher said.
Felina rotated the throttle on the right handlebar, revving the engine. She leaned the bike up and shoved the kickstand backward with her foot, clicking the clutch into gear, and sped forward. Felina exited the motor pool, once again entering the twilit streets of Megakat City.
The gridlocked, slow chaos of the rush-hour traffic along the 101 Freeway made Felina wonder why anyone would choose to drive to work with so many public transportation options available. Not owning a car herself, she supposed that judgement was a little biased.
To each their own, I guess.
Felina was sitting idle on the motorcycle just before the Essex offramp on the shoulder. The five lanes of southbound traffic crawled forward every few seconds, with brake-lights shining brightly. She had left the radar gun untouched in the square saddlebag hanging behind her seat. There wouldn’t be opportunities for anyone to speed in the current traffic.
Not really caring if she looked bored, Felina propped up her chin with her hand, and rested her elbow on the handlebars. She sighed, her breath visible in the chill air.
The shadows were growing longer, the sun hanging low on the horizon, breaking through the overcast, making her glad she’d remembered her sunglasses. With it being fifteen after five, there was only about another hour of daylight left.
Every so often, her radio came to life, the brief exchanges between other officers and dispatch shared across the StarCom system. Nothing of interest caught her attention as her thoughts drifted.
Far above, Felina heard the sound of jet engines, and she glanced up to see a pair of Sabres flying side-by-side. They streaked across the sky, their silhouettes showing dramatically with the low sun behind them. Just as soon they disappeared from view.
At this hour, it was likely Jones and Stevenson on intercept patrol. Felina sighed, feeling a longing in her gut to be back in the air.
What am I doing here…
A horn honked loudly, and Felina startled to attention, her chin nearly falling off her hand. Sitting up straight, she scanned the lanes, her eyes hidden by the silver lenses.
Someone in a small, two-door economy car had abruptly pulled to the outside lane without signaling, cutting off another motorist.
Well, first catch of the day, I guess.
Felina flipped a switch, and the bike’s red and blue lights flashed. She let several bursts of the siren blare as she revved the throttle and zoomed forward, pulling behind the offending vehicle. She could see the exaggerated body language from the driver through their rear window. It was surprising how similar everyone acted when they knew they had been caught.
The car slowly pulled to the shoulder and came to a stop, with Felina stopping the motorcycle several feet behind it. She clicked the clutch to neutral and put out the kickstand, leaning to the left and letting the bike hold its own weight. Reaching across her chest she hit the transmit button on her radio mic.
“Three-Five-Niner at Essex off-ramp, moving violation. Need plate check…” she paused, looking at the license plate of the car. “Delta-bravo-x-ray-two-two-seven. Copy.”
“Ten-four, Three-Five-Niner,” the crackled transmission of the dispatcher’s voice came back after a moment.
Felina dismounted the motorcycle, its engine still running, and withdrew a medium-sized metal clipboard from the left saddlebag. It was thick with bound triplicate forms, a single pen chained in the corner. Megakat City municipal traffic infraction citations.
Felina was no stranger to paperwork. She had filled out her fair share of flight plans, mission data, and aircraft status checklists. But there was something about the act of actually writing a ticket that made her skin crawl.
Please don’t come back with any hits on the plate check so I can let you go with a warning…
She approached the car, each booted step firmly planted in the shoulder’s gravely pavement, the ticket board tucked under her left arm. Out of habit, her right hand was kept free, though she did not anticipate any trouble. So far she had not had to draw her sidearm even once during her time in the traffic division.
The car was older, and numerous patches of paint were chipped off in places. Aside from a backpack and several textbooks in the backseat, it was surprisingly uncluttered.
The driver’s side window was already rolled down. The lone occupant, a younger guy in his early twenties, had both of his hands in clear view at ten and two on the steering wheel. What appeared to be a driver’s license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance were sitting in clear view on the dashboard. He was also wearing his seatbelt.
I like you already.
“I’m sorry, officer,” the guy said with an upbeat nervousness. It was a tone she had grown used to hearing. “It’s just I’m running late for a class.”
“Hand me that, please,” Felina said, relaxing her stance as she held out her right hand, already knowing there’d be no trouble.
The driver slid the items off the dashboard and held them out the window to Felina, who took them and looked them over. Ryan McConnell, resident of apartment D on East 54th street, an address about 20 minutes away from the current location.
“Stay here,” Felina said, almost dismissively, as she walked back toward the motorcycle.
At first glance Ryan’s documents appeared to be in order. Nothing was expired.
“Three-Five-Niner, vehicle checks out,” her radio crackled.
“Copy that,” Felina said into the mic, and started the process of entering Ryan’s driver’s license number into a small digital readout that occupied a space between the handlebars. It was standard procedure to run the license number against a database to make sure there weren’t any outstanding warrants. Felina tapped her foot, waiting for the slow cellular connection to transmit and receive. After a moment, it came back clear.
54th Street is pretty rough. And, living in an apartment with a letter instead of a number. That’s almost always bad times.
She walked back to the car. Ryan looked up at her, the nervousness replaced with a look of cautious optimism. Felina handed the items back to him.
“Where do you go to school, Ryan?” Felina asked.
“Megakat Junior College, Ma’am,” Ryan said as he fumbled the items back into his glovebox.
Felina leaned forward, hands on her hips.
“Try leaving fifteen minutes earlier next time, okay?” she said.
“Y-yes, I’ll do that,” Ryan said.
Felina smiled, knowing the warning had been conveyed, and she took a step back and waved her hand to direct him away.
“You’re free to go,” she said.
Ryan started the car, and this time more cautiously, merged back into traffic.
“Dispatch this is Three-Five-Niner,” Felina said, talking into the mic as she walked back to the idled motorcycle, tossing the ticket board back into the saddle bag. “Situation is ten twenty-four, over.”
“Copy that, Three-Five-Niner,” the radio squawked back.
The constant communication between dispatch and herself had taken some getting used to. For the purposes of everyone’s safety, Enforcer police officers were kept in constant radio contact, regularly reporting their activity and location. The 10-24 code was given when an officer completed whatever it was they were doing.
It was a system that didn’t offer nearly as much freedom as Felina had been used to in her previous assignment.
As she prepared to mount the motorcycle, she heard the sound of screeching tires, followed by the crash of metal-on-metal. But, it wasn’t coming from the gridlocked lanes. She glanced past the railing that ran along the shoulder. From her position, the elevation of the freeway gave her the perfect view of the surface streets below. At an intersection, there was a minivan spun out, the driver’s-side crumpled like aluminum foil. Black smoke was rising from the wreck. A bright orange fire glinted.
“Dispatch, Three-Five-Niner requesting fire support near Essex, Exit 25,” Felina called into her radio as she hastily got back on the motorcycle.
The needle of the speedometer between the handlebars teetered around the 70mph mark as Felina raced down Essex Street, her lights flashing and siren blaring. Ahead she could see the smoke rising and she gritted her teeth. This particular area was filled with boarded up storefronts and empty lots. The sidewalks were cracked and overrun with dead plants, the roots of leafless trees occasionally displacing sections. She narrowly avoided several potholes that threatened to send her into a crash.
Felina rounded a corner, decelerated, and skidded the bike to a stop in the middle of the intersection. Before her, the front of the minivan was engulfed in flames, pieces of glass and debris littering the immediate area. There had been a collision, and with the absence of the second car, that made it a hit-and-run.
“Dispatch, where’s my firetruck?” Felina demanded, nearly shouting into her radio’s mic as she put out the kickstand and dismounted the bike. She swung open the lid of one of the saddle bags and dug around until she found the small red canister within. A one-time-use fire extinguisher.
“Three-Five-Niner, fire support is on the way,” the radio crackled.
Felina ran up to the crashed vehicle, having to pause as she felt the heat from the fire all the way through her jacket. The smell of gasoline was heavy in the air.
“Not soon enough,” she said to herself as she brought the extinguisher up and pressed down on the actuator, getting as close to the fire as she could.
The extinguisher shot out a white foam, and she did her best to aim it at the source of the fire. But, it did little, and within seconds it was empty. Felina swore and threw the canister aside, wondering what else she could do when out of the corner of her eye she saw an unmoving figure on the street, some distance away from the burning vehicle.
“My daughter,” came a barely audible sound.
Felina didn’t know if the woman had managed to escape the wreck or if she had been thrown from the vehicle. Felina didn’t get the chance to figure that out, as she heard a sound that made the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end.
There’s a kid in there…
Without another second’s hesitation she ran forward, ignoring the heat she felt as she made it to the large sliding door of the minivan. She grabbed it with both hands and pulled with all her strength, but it wouldn’t budge. The screaming grew louder, and Felina could just barely make out the word “help” being shouted.
“Close your eyes!” Felina shouted and undid the strap under her chin, taking off her helmet. She held it with both hands and swung it sideways. The large window of the sliding door, already damaged by the crash, shattered into pieces, the helmet disappearing within as smoke billowed out in its wake.
“Help me!” a child’s voice cried in-between coughs. It was a girl, no more than six or seven years old. She was in the rearmost seat, restrained by her seatbelt.
“I got you!” Felina said as she dove through the hole, feeling shards of glass pierce through her jacket and into her arms as she did so. Her brow furled in pain, but she tried to ignore it as she fumbled around in the low visibility. Her hands met the seatbelt’s buckle, and she jammed her thumb into the button.
She pressed it again, and again. It refused to unlatch, keeping the girl stuck in place.
The girl screamed anew. Felina could feel the flames of the fire intensify, and she realized she too was coughing now.
Awkwardly she reached down and into her right boot, and gripped her fingers around a familiar ridged handle. In a quick motion she drew the knife, her M4 Bayonet, and slashed it deeply across the top of the seat. The upholstery split apart and seeped its stuffing like the guts of a slashed opponent, the seatbelt getting severed along the way.
The child was free. Felina let go of the blade and grabbed her close, covering the back of the child’s head with her hand as she thrust her shoulder forward. In an instant she tumbled through the broken window and spilled over onto the street, landing hard on her back, her unprotected head hitting the pavement, causing her sunglasses to break. The child was on top of her, crying. This view afforded her a crucial observance: the gas tank was leaking. The fuel was pooling underneath the minivan.
Felina didn’t remain there long, and sat up, desperately scooting backward with the use of one arm, the other holding the kid close. She could see the pool begin to ignite, and she rolled over, putting her body over the child.
The minivan exploded.
Navigate This Author's Stories
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.