Two more meetings and a teleconference later Callie sat at the die-cast desk in her office putting the finishing touches on the ordinance modification the City Council had approved earlier that morning.
“4.13.240 – If liquor will be sold in any portion of the city’s rights-of-way or on the sidewalk, the application must be accompanied by evidence of Liquor Liability insurance coverage in the amount of $1,000,000.00 per occurrence stating the specific event and date, and list Megakat City, its officers, employees and agents as additionally insured…” Callie read out loud with a yawn. “This is definitely a contender for this week’s most boring piece of legislation.”
It was now 5:30 PM, and Callie knew that Manx had long departed for the day, which meant her goal of getting his signature today wasn’t going to happen. She sighed, and clicked on the print icon in her word processor.
“First thing in the morning, then,” she said, and leaned back in her chair, stretching her arms above her head. She glanced to her inbox and was not surprised to see it overflowing with papers. At the top she could see one in particular detailing a half-hearted investigation regarding the Enforcers.
Enforcer Captain Ritz, retired, had allegedly worked with the infamous terrorist Dark Kat to stage some kind of coup. The details were a bit fuzzy, especially as there was only one witness. Callie knew that Commander Feral would be conducting his own investigation into the matter, but for the sake of making the Mayor’s Office look like it was doing something, Callie had started her own investigation as well. As she had expected, it wasn’t going anywhere, and it had rapidly decreased in importance as the usual city affairs took priority.
“It’s not like we could afford it anyway,” she said, noting the other large document on her desk. The Mayor’s Office’s Budget for the next fiscal year. Callie was sure the Megakat City Yellowpages was smaller.
The thought of the budget reminded her about what Commander Feral had said earlier.
They can’t be trusted with Megakat City’s safety.
Callie knew from her own personal experience that wasn’t true. On countless occasions she had been able to call the SWAT Kats to action, and they had always come to the aid of the city without hesitation.
And, not only the city, Callie thought, as she stood up and looked out the large window of her office. Seventy-five stories below the hustle and bustle of rush hour traffic was taking place on the sidewalks and streets. It wasn’t so long ago that Molly Mange had dropped her out the window of the Mayor’s Office, and Callie would have plunged to her death if not for the SWAT Kats saving her midair.
She shuddered briefly at that, stepping away from the window. That sensation of hopelessly falling was enough to make her avoid all amusement park rides for the rest of her life.
The analog clock on the wall read 5:47 PM, and she decided that maybe this evening she could get to the 24-hour gym at a reasonable hour. As it was a Thursday evening, she knew she might be able to duck into the women’s self defense class she had been neglecting.
The class would start at 7:30 PM, which gave Callie enough time to drive to the gym, go to the locker room, change into a pair of sweat pants with camisole tank top, and do a mile or so on the treadmill.
As always, upon entering, the unpleasant smell of sweat and body odor assaulted her nostrils, but it became less noticeable as she ran in position, the conveyor below her feet moving along at a decent speed. Her heart-rate was nearing 180 beats per minute , and the sweat was already forming on her brow. She didn’t get to the gym as often as she wanted to, so she wanted to make this visit count.
I need to keep this image up, she thought to herself. The political cartoonists would have a field day with a chunky Deputy Mayor. This thought had also kept her from partaking in the City Council’s nearly ceremonial sharing of donuts that took place before every meeting. It wasn’t fair that Councilman Anderson’s ever increasing waistline didn’t affect his political career, but even a hair out of place on Callie’s head could incur criticism in the media.
“You can get fat when you’re the Mayor,” Callie said to herself with an out-of-breath chuckle as she slowed to a walk, and then stopped completely. It was 7:20 PM, and she didn’t want to add being late in addition to frequent absence.
Several other women were congregating in the multipurpose room of the gym where large wrestling mats had been put on the hardwood floor. The women were exchanging small talk. The last time Callie had attended was one month ago, and Sergeant Welker of the Enforcers had been the guest instructor. The focus of the session had revolved around some kind of hip-throw, the name of which was escaping her at the moment. Callie turned to one of the women.
“So, it’s been a little while since I was last here,” Callie said. “I was just trying to get a feel for how much I’ve missed.”
The other woman laughed in a good natured way as she replied.
“Well, you probably didn’t miss a whole lot. Sergeant Welker just goes over some basic punches and kicks,” she said with a few jabs in the air. “But mostly, he just talks about ways to avoid dangerous situations: how to run away or get help.”
“Well, I suppose that’s important to know, too,” Callie said as she stood on the mat with the others.
The room went quiet as the back door of the multipurpose room was opened with authority, and a lone figure dressed in Enforcer gear strode in. The individual was not Sergeant Welker. It was woman, a tall woman, whom Callie thought she recognized.
“The Sarge is out sick,” the woman said, taking off a visored helmet. “So it looks like I’ll be filling in. I’m Lt. Felina Feral.”
Callie detected more than a hint of frustration in the lieutenant’s voice, and wondered if the substitute was here by choice. Callie had met her only one time she could recall, when Dr. Viper had flooded the city, and the lieutenant’s quick airlift got the Deputy Mayor out of harm’s way. But something else about her was familiar. Callie knew she was the Commander’s niece, and that she was a pilot, but it was something else.
Ah, the investigation, Callie remembered. Lt. Feral was the witness to Dark Kat’s conspiracy, and one of the key components of the unmoving investigation, the report of which was still in Callie’s inbox.
Felina Feral tossed the helmet to the ground, a humorless expression on her face. Several of the gathered students had backed aside, slightly intimidated by her presence. Felina stood in the center of the mats, and took off her gloves, glancing at each student as if inspecting them for flaws. Felina’s glance passed over Callie, causing her to visibly shrink back slightly.
“Where are the men?” Felina asked as she slid the bullet proof best up over her head, unceremoniously dropping it to the mat and kicking it behind her. Several of the students looked at each other in confusion until one of them spoke up.
“Um, this is a women’s self defense class…” one of them said.
“No kidding,” Felina said as she unzipped the front of her jumpsuit, and slid her arms out, tying the sleeves around her waist. Underneath she wore a grey tank top, and the glint of aluminum dog tags could be seen hanging around her neck. She stretched one powerful looking arm over the other, and the sound of joints popping could be heard by all.
Someone audibly gulped, and Callie realized it was herself.
“Well, we’re going to need one of them for a demonstration,” Felina said, unbuckling a leather belt that had a holstered sidearm attached to it, dropping it with the other items. She turned her attention toward the door of the room.
“Hey, you with the dumbbells!” Felina called out.
A large, muscular guy was curling a fifty pound weight just outside of the multipurpose room’s entrance. He looked up at Felina’s shouting, and pointed a finger at himself.
“Yeah you, tough guy over there,” Felina said as she waved him into the room. “I need your help with something.”
The weightlifter set the dumbbell down and walked into the multipurpose room. Callie stood back as did the others to allow him inside. To call him large was an understatement. Callie wondered if the guy’s muscles had muscles.
“What do you want?” he asked Felina, stepping up to her.
“Before us, ladies, is a prime specimen you’re not likely to encounter in the wild,” Felina said, gesturing with an open hand at the guy. “What’s your name?”
“Carl,” the guy said, quirking an eyebrow.
“Well, Carl, thanks for donating your time. Now, if you’d be so kind, I want you to assault me,” Felina said.
Carl looked dubious, but before he could say more, Felina interjected.
“It’s for a good cause. Women’s self-defense class stuff,” she said with a smirk. “Unless of course you’re afraid I’ll hurt you.”
This seemed to reduce Carl’s hesitation significantly, his ego obviously motivating him now in the presence of all the female eyes upon him.
Callie frowned, feeling a little bit uncomfortable.
“All right, I’ll play along,” he said with a smile, and reached forward to grab Felina by the wrist. The smile did not last long, as Carl was abruptly on the ground, face first, with his arm held awkwardly behind his back. Felina was atop him, digging a knee into his back, grasping Carl’s hand with both of hers.
Callie gasped, the quickness of the movement was unexpected.
“Ow, my wrist!” Carl shouted, his voice slightly muffled by the wrestling mat.
“Today’s lesson, students…” Felina said as she adjusted her grip. “…Is that no matter how large your attacker, they always have a weakness.”
Carl was squirming underneath her.
“Lieutenant, I think he’s had enough,” Callie said, stepping forward.
“Is that true?” Felina asked, talking down to Carl.
“It’s not fair!” Carl said. “I wasn’t ready!”
“Exactly,” Felina said, turning her attention back to the students. “There’s no such thing as fairness when it comes to defending yourself. You see an opportunity, you take advantage of it.”
At that, Felina let go of the wrist and stood up, removing her knee from his back. The students mumbled amid each other for a moment as Carl rolled over and stood back up, rubbing his wrist with his other hand.
“The only reason you could do that was because I wasn’t really trying,” Carl said.
“Is that so?” Felina asked.
“Carl, I think maybe you should just walk away,” Callie said, not liking the tone the lieutenant was using.
“Yeah, it is,” Carl said, ignoring Callie. The amusement he’d expressed earlier was long gone.
“Well then, Carl,” Felina said as she brought both fists up in front of her while widening her stance. “Why don’t you try for real this time?”
Carl didn’t hesitate, and charged at Felina, bringing a fist back. He swung with what Callie assumed would’ve been enough force to chop down a tree, but the attack missed as Felina quickly stepped backward. Carl growled and then tried to swing with his other fist, at which point Felina deflected it with her left forearm, and then brought her right fist sharply upward into his exposed jaw. Carl flew back, lost his footing, and then fell down, the stiff uppercut catching him completely off guard.
This time Callie wasn’t the only one who gasped as the crowd of students stood shocked at the sight. She wondered if the gym was going to be on the receiving end of a lawsuit after that.
Felina walked over to Carl, and extended a hand to him.
“I bet next time you’ll think twice before a bunch of girls ask you for help?” Felina said, a smile finally breaking her serious expression.
“Yeah, I think I’ll just stick with the weights,” Carl said, taking her hand as she helped him up. He was obviously dazed.
“How about a round of applause for Carl, everyone,” Felina said.
The other women in the room clapped, amid exchanging glances at one another. This type of instruction was obviously not the type they were accustomed to. Callie only crossed her arms, her expression souring.
Carl forced a smile and exited the room, massaging his jaw as he did so.
“All right, now with that done, I’ll need a volunteer to help demonstrate some introductory defensive moves,” Felina said, and the group got quiet once more. “How about you, Deputy Mayor?”
Callie hobbled her way into the women’s locker room, her hand pressed at the small of her back. Lt. Feral’s use of the word “introductory” was a poor choice, Callie’s aching body told her. She walked over to the locker where she had stowed her belongings, and took at seat on the bench in front of it.
“C’mon, Ms. Briggs,” the lieutenant had said. “You can’t expect the SWAT Kats to be there every time you’re in a jam.”
Callie hadn’t been in a position to respond, having been bent over into a side-headlock and lead around the multipurpose room as Felina lectured to the others about being assertive in life and death situations. Callie missed most of it, her ears pressed too tightly against the much stronger lieutenant’s side and bicep. The pathetic hitting Callie had been attempting with her left hand on Felina’s back didn’t have any effect.
“Maybe I should just buy a larger canister of pepper spray,” Callie said to no one.
“In your situation maybe you should be carrying a gun instead,” the voice of Lt. Feral said.
Callie nearly jumped out of her skin, and turned to look behind her to see Felina Feral standing there, with her earlier discarded equipment tucked under an arm.
“That’s not really something that’s politically feasible,” Callie said. “Besides, I don’t really like them.”
Felina set her gear down on the floor and walked over to the row of sinks that lined the wall, turning on a faucet. She began washing her hands.
“Well, anyway, sorry if I roughed you up a little bit back there,” Felina said. “I’m not used to this kind of thing, and I think I probably got a little bit carried a way.”
“Yeah,” Callie said standing up, the pain in her body still present. “You could say that.”
“I still meant what I said, though,” Felina said as she turned the faucet off and removed some paper towels from the nearby dispenser.
“You’ll probably have to be more specific,” Callie said as she opened up her locker. “My head was buried in your washboard abs for most of your speech.”
Felina laughed and patted herself on the stomach.
“You could have them too. Just need to do about 500 upside down crunches a day,” she said. “And, that ties into my point. You can’t help others if you can’t help yourself, first.”
“I’m sure I’ve heard that kind of self-help advice somewhere before,” Callie said, not appreciating what the lieutenant was insinuating.
“I know it sounds a little bit wishy-washy, but it’s true. It is the basis of Enforcer training,” Felina said. “That, and teamwork.”
“That’s funny,” Callie said. “I thought the basis of Enforcer training was to be disappointing at critical moments.”
As soon as the words left her mouth Callie regretted saying them, as Felina’s softer expression disappeared in an instant.
“You know, not all of us are like my uncle,” Felina said as she picked up her gear and left the locker room.
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