Felina rode the Kawasaki farther down Essex, meandering through the evening’s light traffic. It was just after 7pm, and the rush-hour traffic had dissipated. The cool evening seemed to keep most pedestrians off the sidewalks and inside businesses and homes, the greenish-blue tint of the streetlights illuminating how empty the current neighborhood seemed to be.
Not entirely vacant. A “suspicious” vehicle is around here somewhere.
Her hair whipped behind her head, unsecured by the lack of a helmet. Felina could feel her ears getting cold. She would have to stop by Precinct 58 and pick up another helmet after completing this assignment.
The large blue street signs with text written in white sans-serif counted down at each street corner, until she arrived at her destination. 50th Street.
She slowed and leaned into her turn at the intersection. This particular street led into a business park, with several featureless office buildings on either side of the road. The black expanses of empty parking lots were in abundance.
I guess everyone is nine-to-five around here.
A median filled with leafless trees ran along the center of the street, with areas of dead grass near the sidewalk. Felina imagined that in any other season it would all look vibrantly green and welcoming, but in the midst of winter the scenery was foreboding.
“Three-Five-Niner, arrived at scene,” Felina said into her mic, holding the handlebars effortlessly with one hand as she slowed to about 15 mph.
“Copy that, Three-Five-Niner,” the dispatcher replied.
If it weren’t for the large numbers on the outside of the buildings, Felina would not be able to tell them apart. The notion of working in a place like this was a foreign concept to her.
As she came to the end of the business park, where 50th Street transitioned into empty lots, she saw something out of the ordinary. The last office building, address 2405, had a loading dock that was just visible from the street. At one of the bays, was a large, white moving truck. On the side of its 24-foot long covered bed was a large stylized logo with the letters MM boldly showing.
Felina frowned and turned the bike to enter the parking lot. As she got closer, she could see the passenger-side fender was damaged. A section of redundant branding was missing from what looked to be a fresh collision. The diesel engine was idling loudly, but there was no one to be seen.
Felina stopped the motorcycle and kicked out the stand, leaning it to a rest. She dismounted and pressed the transmit button on her mic, speaking into it.
“Three-Five-Niner, reporting possible 10-31, requesting assistance,” Felina said, stating the code for a burglary in-progress.
“Copy that,” the dispatcher chirped back. “Units unavailable at this time, standby.”
Felina rolled her eyes and did little to withhold the impatience in her voice.
“Ten-four,” Felina said into the mic, and then began to approach the truck.
I don’t care what they’re doing in there. This guy is gonna answer for that hit and run.
Felina had been in more tight spots than she could remember. Whether it was coming face-to-face with horrible mutated monsters or being engaged in air-to-air battles. She knew herself to be a battle-hardened soldier. This situation did not concern her in the least, and she felt herself overqualified for the task that lay ahead.
Felina took light footsteps, which seemed overly cautions amid the noise of the idling diesel engine. The area was well lit thanks to the building’s night running lights, casting a gold hue on the immediate surroundings. She reached down with her right hand. With her gloved thumb she unclasped the brass snap-lock of the leather band that rested over the grip of her holstered Glock 17.
She walked around the front of the truck, unable to see the occupant, and reached the driver-side door. Felina positioned her left side toward the door, and rested her right hand on the the grip of her sidearm. With her free hand, she knocked on the door.
“Turn off the engine and step out of the vehicle,” Felina commanded, keeping her voice calm but authoritative. “And keep your hands where I can see them.
Felina could see movement through the window, and the rumbling engine of the truck stopped shortly thereafter. The door clicked and opened slowly, the occupant seemingly following Felina’s orders. Felina took a step back, putting a safe distance between herself and whoever was about to disembark.
“Nice and slow,” Felina said, and then paused, caught off guard as the driver stepped into the lot’s light.
The driver was a woman. She stood as tall as Felina, wearing dark colored jackboots with olive-drab cargo pants tucked into them.
A tight white and black striped shirt that Felina recognized as a Telnyashka, accentuated her feminine features. It was tucked into her pants, where at her waist she wore a simple duty belt, no items attached to it.
The woman’s face was pretty, but without makeup, her expression a deadpan gaze. Her light grey eyes seemed empty and cold. Atop her head was a red beret, with markings Felina guessed were in Cyrillic. Underneath was shortly cut blonde hair, reminiscent of a pageboy style. Her hands were held up at her midsection, palms facing forward.
The shirt concerned Felina.
That Telnyashka. The Spetzkatz wore those.
Their eyes met, and in that instant, Felina realized that whoever this was had no intention of cooperating with an arrest.
“Paratrooper?” Felina asked, taking a guess at the woman’s occupation, right hand still resting on the holstered Glock’s grip .
“Yes,” she replied, without an ounce of concern, maintaining her position. There was an accent in her voice that confirmed Felina’s suspicions.
No doubt about it. She’s Spetzkatz. But, the Sokoke Union fell over a decade ago, their special forces disbanded.
“QRF?” the woman asked, and Felina blinked.
QRF stood for Quick Reaction Force, the elite SWAT division of the Enforcers where Felina had served during her first assignment out of BCT. The competition to become a fighter pilot was fierce, and to root out those who were not dedicated, applicants would have to serve up to one year in another division in the Enforcers as a prerequisite for admission into OCS. Felina had opted for QRF, a division that not many pilots chose due to its high dropout rate, which if failed would make it next to impossible to get into the OCS pilot school. Felina felt she had something to prove, wanting to get out of the shadow of her last name.
The training for QRF was intense, most of it occurring at Camp Wirehair, located just outside of Megakat Springs in the middle of the desert. Felina recalled one particular 12-mile ruck hike up the tedious Mt. Maynor Faller that gave her blisters so bad her feet bled for days. Because of its infamous reputation, the peak was informally known by trainees under a more profane nickname involving the letters “M” and “F.”
It was there Felina learned how to fight smarter and shoot better, so much so that she could do reloading drills in her sleep. Felina had excelled there, and as she remembered the experience, she couldn’t help but wonder if her life in the Enforcers would have been better if she had stayed in the QRF instead of pushing ahead to get into the pilot program.
No point in worrying about what-ifs. There’s a more important what-now going on.
“Yeah,” Felina said, answering the paratrooper’s guess, feeling more uncomfortable with every passing second.
“That’s good,” she said, and just the smallest smile appeared on her lips. “I’ve been eager to find out who’s better.”
Felina drew her sidearm, the metal slide of the gun dragging across the leather of the holster. The gun only made it up halfway as the paratrooper sprang forward, grabbing the top of the Glock with both hands, shoving it down and to the side while rotating her body and driving her back into Felina’s front.
Felina let out an exhale that was a mixture of surprise and anger, as the paratrooper’s superior leverage tore the weapon from her grasp. It clattered loudly on the concrete driveway of the loading bay, spinning for three full rotations until it came to a stop seven feet away.
Felina quickly used her free hand to drive her forearm into the paratrooper’s back, successfully shoving her forward and away.
The woman stumbled but quickly regained her composure, turning around, fists brought up in front of her.
“I gotta give you credit,” Felina said as she took a step back, bringing up her own fists and spreading her feet at shoulder-width, taking an on-guard boxer’s stance. “You’re pretty fast.”
“I know,” the woman replied, making use of diagonal footwork, edging in close to Felina, keeping her head low to her shoulders.
Felina found herself on the defensive, trying to match, the two orbiting each other. The paratrooper let out a few jabs with her left fist. Felina ducked just before each attempted strike, feeling her ears grazed.
“Nice technique,” Felina said, feeling her pulse racing, keeping her fists up defensively.
The paratrooper smirked and prepared what appeared to be another jab with her left fist, but instead struck Felina’s left arm near the shoulder with a right hook.
Felina’s deltoid region exploded in a maelstrom of agony, the freshly bandaged injuries from earlier in the evening giving more than their fair share of protest. She swore it hadn’t hurt nearly as bad when the glass had initially pierced her skin. Unwillingly Felina let out an audible grunt of pain, stumbling back, grasping the injured spot with her other hand.
“My apologies,” the paratrooper said, moving to close the distance. “You’re not at your best.”
Felina felt herself growing irritated, and gritted her teeth, blocking a second right hook with her forearms. Seeing the opportunity, she sent a jab of her own back, catching the paratrooper in the side of the face. The opponent’s head snapped to the side, and Felina felt the skin of her knuckles underneath the thin leather gloves break.
The paratrooper quickly regained her stance, and was no longer smirking.
Look for an opening. Look for an opening…
Felina could feel the sweat building on her brow, the cold of winter seemingly absent now. She was starting to lose track of who was doing what. Several punches, hooks and jabs had been exchanged. The adrenaline was adding to the fog of the fight, with what felt like a long encounter probably being no more than seconds, minutes at most.
Felina was breathing heavily now, nearly out-of-breath, her nose running, face and torso aching, the vision out of her left eye slightly blurred. Her opponent was faring about the same, some blood at the corner of her mouth. Felina didn’t dare think about how her own face probably looked at the moment.
Felina no longer cared about making an arrest, or figuring out what this person was doing sitting in a stolen vehicle. Whether a burglary was being committed or not was not a concern. Felina was in a battle.
I am not going to lose.
“Tell me,” the paratrooper said, out of breath, the red beret miraculously still atop her head. “What’s a QRF soldier doing writing tickets?”
“None of your business,” Felina spat out the words, tasting her own blood in her mouth.
“I think,” the opponent said, as they both circled each other, fists up. “I think it’s made you soft.”
Felina growled, not caring if she was being baited, lunging forward, ready to drive a fist into the paratrooper’s face with all the strength she had left. Felina instantly regretted the action, as she had left her midsection open. The opponent had deftly moved to the side and brought her right first up and into Felina’s exposed stomach.
The hundreds of crunches Felina had done on a daily basis made her midsection tight and toned, but in that moment her abs felt like jelly. Her mouth hung open in shock, the muscles all over her body failing in tandem. Felina doubled over, falling to her knees, feeling the urge to vomit.
“You put up a good fight,” the paratrooper said, standing over Felina as she reached down and grabbed a chunk of the former-lieutenant’s hair, pulling on it.
Felina felt herself being forced to look upward.
She’s right. I have gotten soft…
A fireworks display of stars filed Felina’s vision. She felt something dislodge and shoot out of her mouth, and realized it was one of her molars. The ground came rushing up at her, the side of her face hitting the concrete, and coming to a rest. Her heart pounded in her temples, and from her perspective she could see her tooth rolling to a stop a short distance away.
The edges of her vision started to fill with blackness, a ringing in her ears making everything sound echoey and distant. She swore she could see several more pairs of legs, wearing the same shoes and pants.
There had been others?
“An impressive display,” a voice was saying, different from the paratrooper’s. “She has potential.”
One pair of legs was different, the shoes a shiny black, the color of the pants a reddish hue, almost pink. The voice was attached to those legs. Felina’s eyes drifted up, but she could not see the face, the darkness creeping to completeness.
The voice, I know that voice…
Felina passed out, her last thought before losing consciousness was a self-admonishing one.
This is the second time tonight I’ve been knocked out…
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