This is so stupid…
The trio walked across the bombed-out surroundings of the base, passing by the charred remains of vehicles, anti-aircraft weapons platforms, jeeps and other unidentifiable items. To her surprise, there were no bodies to be found, which made Felina wonder if Dark Kat’s mercenary forces had cut and run once the forcefield went down. It seemed likely, especially when Turmoil’s month-long interdiction was taken into account. Who knew what being under siege that long did to one’s morale.
Felina kept the rifle’s stock tucked into her shoulder as she took point. She looked at the world through the weapon’s iron sights, sweeping the barrel left and right, looking to spot trouble before it spotted her. Thus far, there was none to be found, as she took one cautious step forward after another.
Out of the corner of her eye, she could see T-Bone doing similar with his Glovatrix. Behind, Turmoil followed along at a more relaxed pace. It was a walk filled with poise and confidence that Felina found to be bordering on reckless.
“You know, there could be a marksman hiding in the bushes along the perimeter, or behind that debris over there,” Feina said out of the corner of her mouth.
“There could,” Turmoil said. “But there isn’t.”
“Mind sharing how it is you know that?” T-Bone asked as he transitioned to walk backwards, checking for enemies from behind, Glovatrix at the ready.
“Because that’s not the way it works,” Turmoil said.
“No offense, but Dark Kat doesn’t strike me as the type to adhere to war conventions,” Felina said.
Turmoil did not reply, offering only a small smile in return.
They had reached the airstrip, and Felina rushed up to a burnt jeep, and took a knee near what would have been the fender, leaned around the edge, taking aim.
“Clear,” she said, after taking in the unpopulated surroundings. Up ahead was an aircraft hangar. The ceiling looked partially collapsed, and large girders and I-beams stuck out from the large entrance.
Turmoil walked past Felina, not bothering to take cover, her boots clacking on the pavement of the runway as she did not hesitate to walk toward the looming structure.
Felina sighed, and stood up, following along on her right side. T-Bone caught up and walked on her left side. In tandem they approached the hangar, and soon arrived at its mouth.
From this new vantage, Felina could see the destruction wrought to the building. Several parked F16s were crushed by parts of the ceiling, and other sections of the floor were cratered by what looked to be secondary explosions. None of the lights appeared to be functioning, and the rays that came down through what was left of the ceiling cast everything in an eery glow as darkness and light competed with no clear winner.
Sitting in that border of transitional light, atop a makeshift throne of ammunition boxes, his familiar black robes torn in places, a bandage wrapped around his head that partially covered his left eye, was the most wanted individual in Megakat City. Like a judge sitting at his podium, he glanced down at the approaching trio, his demon-like face and purple features filled with an expression of indifference. A black cane rested at his side, tipped with an ornate rhinestone that glimmered a rainbow of colors.
Felina’s fist tightened around the pistol-grip of the AK-74, and she brought the weapon up, taking aim. Beside her, T-Bone did the same with his Glovatrix.
“What interesting friends you’ve made, Turmoil,” Dark Kat said, his baritone voice filled with gravitas. In the half-moon of the weapon’s irons sights, Dark Kat did not appear the least bit concerned, and Felina frowned.
The last time she had been face-to-face with the criminal mastermind, it had been when he’d kidnapped her, imprisoned her, threatened to kill her superiors, including her uncle and the deputy mayor, and also threatened to kill her as well. They were not fond memories, and it was taking Felina every ounce of restraint she had not to pull the trigger.
“Your endearing personality has a way of pulling your enemies together,” Turmoil said as she placed a hand gently on the barrel of Felina’s rifle.
With much reluctance, Felina lowered the rifle.
“Dark Kat, you’re under arrest,” Felina said.
He smiled, and remained seated.
“Cymric Island is well outside the jurisdiction of Megakat City’s Enforcers, Lieutenant Feral,” Dark Kat said.
Felina’s irritation at hearing her former rank mentioned was likely easy to see.
“Well you’re not outside of mine,” T-Bone said as he walked forward, keeping the Glovatrix aimed. “On your feet, hands in the air!”
Dark Kat sighed, and stood, stepping down from his perch, keeping both hands in the air. He was a menacing presence, standing at least a foot taller than Felina and T-Bone.
“Search him,” Turmoil said.
Felina slung the rifle over her shoulder and approached Dark Kat.
“It’s a good look for you, SWAT Kat,” Dark Kat said, talking at T-Bone as Felina began the process of frisking him for weapons. “Being at the beck and call of her. I even like the uniform.”
“I’m not at anyone’s beck and call,” T-Bone said through gritted teeth. “Just here to make sure you wind up behind bars.”
Now there’s a sentiment I can agree with.
Felina continued her search and stopped as she reached a hidden pocket on his left sleeve. There was an object inside of it. Dark Kat’s attention remained forward as Felina carefully withdrew it, her eyes narrowing as she saw what it was.
In her hand she held a rectangular remote control that had a numbered keypad and a small digital display. On the display, numbers were counting down. They had just reached 15 minutes, and now read 14:59.
It’s a countdown.
“It would seem you’ve discovered my secret,” Dark Kat said as Felina held up the remote control for Turmoil to see. “I’ve prepared for this outcome in advance. Within Mt. Dragon Li I’ve placed a series of detonators outside the primary magma chamber. When they explode in sequence it will trigger an artificial eruption that will destroy this island and all who are unfortunate enough to still be on it.”
“Then in fifteen minutes you’ll be wiped out, too,” T-Bone said as he walked forward and grabbed Dark Kat by the collar with both hands, looking up at him. “So why don’t you do yourself a favor and shut it off?”
Dark Kat laughed.
“I’ve already told you once, SWAT Kat, that if I lose, everyone loses,” he said with a hint of glee. “Though this attack has been bold and well-executed, I will have the last laugh.”
T-Bone tightened his grip, appearing on the verge of using violence. Felina was considering dong something similar, but her thoughts were interrupted by an unexpected sound. Clapping.
It was coming from Turmoil.
“Very good,” Turmoil said amid her one-woman applause. “You do not disappoint.”
T-Bone released his grasp harshly and stepped aside as Turmoil approached.
“Relax, Dark Kat,” Turmoil said. “If I had intentions of killing you outright I would have done so by now.”
Dark Kat lowered his hands, and clasped them in front of himself.
“You may be overestimating your reach,” Dark Kat replied. “Your arrogance will be your downfall, as Mt. Dragon Li will soon show you. By my estimates you have little over ten minutes remaining.”
Felina glanced at the remote in her hands. It read 10:15.
“Perhaps, but individuals like you and me,” Turmoil said, standing in front of Dark Kat now, looking up at him with her arms crossed behind her back. “What are we without our bold actions?”
Dark Kat did not reply, apparently considering the words.
“You and I, we don’t ask for permission,” Turmoil said as she turned her back to him, and then spoke over her shoulder. “We ask for forgiveness.”
“What is it you’re proposing?” Dark Kat asked with just a hint of curiosity.
“Like yourself, I have an appreciation for the nobler traditions,” Turmoil said over her shoulder as her hand came to rest on the hilt of the sheathed sword at her side.
“So, this is a formal challenge,” Dark Kat said, and reached over to his cane.
T-Bone tensed at the movement, but didn’t interfere. His foot was tapping, his mind no doubt on the timer that was clicking down on the remote control in Felina’s hands.
“It is,” Turmoil replied, and turned to face him again.
“The stakes?” Dark Kat asked.
“You surrender what’s left in this facility, and if you live, you fall into my custody,” Turmoil said. “Name yours.”
“I take your fleet and the technology you’ve obviously acquired from the SWAT Kats, and if you live, you fall into my custody,” Dark Kat returned.
“Agreed,” Turmoil said.
“Wait a second, what are you talking about-” T-Bone began, but Felina interrupted him.
“It’s a duel,” Felina said. “That’s what all this has been about.”
Felina crossed her arms, not sure whether to feel disappointed or impressed.
“A duel?” T-Bone asked as Turmoil drew her sword. “Are you crazy? This island’s on the verge of destroying itself in less than ten minutes and you’re going to-”
“T-Bone,” Turmoil said, interrupting, holding the blade in an en garde position. “Do not interfere.”
T-Bone’s arms were at his side, his body language more than adequately conveying his confusion.
“Don’t worry, SWAT Kat,” Dark Kat said as he grabbed the top of the cane and pulled on it. It slid out to reveal a concealed sword, the blade looking menacingly sharp. He mimicked Turmoil’s stance, holding the weapon at the ready. “When I’m through with her, you’ll get your chance.”
“That’s not going to happen,” Turmoil said. “Now, whenever you’re ready.”
Felina and T-Bone both took steps back as the two combatants engaged each other. Felina felt that she had been transported into some other world where brash, over-dramatic pretenses somehow took center-stage. It’d been like that ever since she had left with Turmoil at the airport. It was actions like these that seemed to define how Turmoil viewed life, Felina assumed.
Everything from her theft of the Turbokat, trying to recruit me, the attack on this island, cavorting with an enemy that had betrayed her, and that full-course exotic dinner complete with champagne and laughs? It’s like she’s got no grasp on reality.
This mission should have been a failure, and it still looks like it could be. Everything hanging on the outcome of this impromptu duel. Or was it really impromptu? She’s had that sword on her person ever since we left the carrier. And now here we’ve arrived, effectively alone with just the three of us, walking into this, when there’s perfectly good support available. It’s more than reckless. It’s downright crazy. And yet, here I am, watching it unfold…
Dark Kat was the first to advance. Felina had never assumed him to be a swordsman, but he demonstrated a knowledge of fencing in his movements, keeping his legs properly positioned, his leading foot matching his right hand as he led with several feints.
Turmoil, her unused hand kept on her hip, parried each attack without breaking her stance. Dark Kat appeared amused at the display, and began to shift in a circular course, orbiting around Turmoil.
What’s she doing? She’s just standing there…
Dark Kat lunged again, attacking Turmoil’s exposed side. His blade found nothing, however, as Turmoil turned at the last moment and effortlessly deflected it.
“Staying on the defensive, I see?” Dark Kat asked rhetorically, and attacked again.
Turmoil did not respond, though a small grin appeared in the corner of her mouth, as she deflected again. Then again, and again.
Turmoil was now walking backwards, her stance upright, as the attacking Dark Kat kept moving forward. A wide slash was met with thin air as Turmoil casually moved her head out of the way. A powerful thrust was met with a parry, diverting the blade just to the side of Turmoil’s torso. This repeated itself for several minutes, and the amusement Dark Kat seemed to have earlier began to slip away, his movements becoming more frustrated.
It was an impressive sight, and Felina found it almost humbling. Dark Kat was no slouch; she could tell from the way he carried himself in the duel. He was obviously a professional, but somehow Turmoil was outclassing him. The larger opponent had been entirely on the offensive, and Turmoil had yet to make an attack of her own.
Felina wasn’t so entranced by the proceedings that she’d forgotten about the timer, and she looked down at the remote control. 2:59.
Beside her, T-Bone watched silently, and though he was no doubt trying to hide it, Felina could feel his anxiety.
“How much time is left?” Turmoil asked, keeping her eyes on the attacking Dark Kat, deflecting another strike as she spoke.
“Just under two minutes,” Felina said, her own concern growing.
“That’s enough time,” Turmoil said, and as Dark Kat made one last lunge she flicked her blade to divert his upwards. Using the opening, she spun on her heels, almost like a ballerina, and got in close, using the elbow of her free hand and driving it into Dark Kat’s left temple.
The blow disoriented the larger combatant. Before he could recover, Turmoil continued the rotation, and grabbed the hilt of her sword with both hands as she brought the blade downwards in a powerful chopping motion.
Felina’s eyes went wide as she saw Dark Kat’s sword clatter on the rubbled floor of the hangar. It landed at her feet, allowing her to see it in full detail. Still gripping its hilt was a purple hand. Each claw-like finger was adorned with expensive looking gold rings encrusted with jewels. It was severed cleanly at the wrist.
Beside her, T-Bone grimaced at the sight.
Dark Kat was on his knees, gripping at the stump with his other hand, a purple substance oozing from the amputation, presumably blood. He was breathing heavily, likely in a tremendous amount of pain. Turmoil sheathed her sword, and stood over him.
“The shutdown code, please,” Turmoil said, looking down at her disarmed opponent.
Felina looked at the remote control in her hands. It was now at 47 seconds.
Dark Kat wheezed a very ill-sounding laugh, and he looked up.
“25-67-89,” he said.
Without hesitation Felina entered the code on the keypad. The countdown stopped at 26 seconds. She sighed with relief, and gave a nod of success.
“Good,” Turmoil said, and then spoke something inaudible into her radio.
The sound of diesel engines could now be heard just outside, and within moments three Oshkosh Mk.48 LVS trucks towing large, empty flatbeds pulled into the hangar, quickly followed by Turmoil’s ground forces. The platoon sergeant from earlier was among them.
Those trucks must’ve been what the LCAC delivered. Were they waiting outside this entire time?
“Sergeant, take the prisoner into custody, and see to it that his wounds are attended to,” Turmoil commanded as she started to briskly walk across the hangar.
“Aye aye,” the sergeant said, and then took several soldiers with her to carry out the task.
Dark Kat was on his feet, surrounded by soldiers pointing weapons at him. The sergeant led him away, out of the hangar. Felina didn’t hear him speak another word.
“Was that really necessary?” T-Bone asked as he stepped forward, making sure to walk over the severed hand still clutching the sword near his feet. Felina had to admit the same question was on her mind, too, as she followed after him.
“It was important that we reached an understanding,” Turmoil said as T-Bone and Felina caught up to her.
“Understanding?” T-Bone said, and then moved in front of her, blocking her path. “You cut off his hand!”
The soldiers nearby tensed, stopping whatever they were doing, some reaching for weapons, ready to react to the disrespect being shown to their leader. Felina froze, ready to unsling the rifle on her shoulder. T-Bone didn’t seem to care, his full attention on Turmoil
Turmoil laughed, and raised up her hand, signaling her troops to stand down. The room relaxed, and they began to go about whatever business it was they were there to do. Felina frowned.
“I could’ve taken much more than that,” Turmoil said, and she brushed past the SWAT Kat.
“What are the trucks for?” Felina asked, looking to change the subject as she followed along. T-Bone sighed loudly, closing his eyes as he massaged his temples with his index finger and thumb.
“When I approached you I told you I would end the era of the super criminal,” Turmoil said. “You have witnessed me do just that.”
The back portion of the hangar which had previously been obscured was now in full view. Several hundred rows of pallets covered with green tarps were stacked up to shoulder-height. Stacked with what, Felina did not know, the tarps concealing the contents.
“I also said I’d bring an economic stability that will last a generation,” Turmoil continued, and in one brisk motion she drew her sword and slashed it wildly across the nearest pallet, the tarp falling open.
In an instant, even in the low light of the bombed-out hangar, the glow of the objects contained within was still stunning. Stacked neatly in a pyramidal order were 1,000 ounce bars of gold. At least 100 hundred of them on the one pallet alone.
Where did all of this come from?
Felina didn’t wonder long, realizing that Dark Kat’s criminal activities had spanned the globe for an untold amount of years. Long before he’d made his official appearance in Megakat City there’d been rumors of his schemes in other countries. Those rumors had been treated as tall tales of the underworld, but here today Felina could see that maybe the hyperbole was warranted.
“Now, you have witnessed me do just that as well,” Turmoil said as she re-sheathed her sword.
“If you happen to have an extra $100 billion lying around maybe you could help,” Callie Briggs had said a few days prior.
If Felina’s math was correct, judging by the number of pallets in view, there was enough gold here to more than adequately meet that dollar amount.
T-Bone looked up at the stack of precious metal. His expression was filled with disgust.
“Of course, Megakat City’s debts are not the only ones that can be met,” Turmoil said as she walked over to T-Bone, and caressed his cheek with her hand. The SWAT Kat stiffened at the remark, and Felina wondered what it was she was referring to.
“I…need to get some air,” T-Bone said as he turned away and walked off.
“What’s wrong with him?” Felina couldn’t help but ask out loud.
“He’s a prisoner who’s had the key to his cell dropped in his lap,” Turmoil replied. “But like those who have been shackled for so long, freedom is a scary prospect.”
Felina wasn’t sure what she meant by that, and Jake’s cautious words came to mind.
“Make sure he doesn’t do something stupid,” Jake had said.
“But, that is another matter,” Turmoil said as her troops began to fill the area, uncovering each of the gold filled pallets in preparation for moving. “Today, we are victorious.”
“Yeah, I guess we are,” Felina said.
This was just a big heist, wasn’t it? One crook stealing from another. And I helped.
Turmoil placed a hand on Felina’s shoulder.
“This is how you make a difference,” Turmoil said. “Megakat City will be made a better place by what we do here and in the following days.”
Felina watched the soldiers begin the process of stacking the gold onto the flatbeds of the LVS trucks, feeling a growing apprehension with each bar placed there, the sight of Dark Kat’s severed hand still fresh in her memory.
I hope so…
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