The time was nearing midnight as Felina entered the lobby of the Happy Grove Apartment building. She had narrowly caught the last L train for the day, thankfully preventing her from either wasting money on a cab or walking the several dozen blocks in the cold weather.
She ignored her mailbox, and began the arduous climb up five flights of stairs. Happy Grove was advertised as a residence where tenants could enjoy the vintage city life experience. Felina had determined that was code for obsolete and barely maintained. But, at just under four figures a month, it was affordable, especially for being located within the city.
That matters even more now than it used to.
With the reassignment and the reduction in rank, Felina was only making about half as much money, and her dwindling bank account was starting to reflect an impending financial crisis. Normally she didn’t dwell on such thoughts, but it was better than thinking about how much her body was aching with each step she took up the wooden, creaky stairs.
I wonder if this suspension is without pay…
Felina arrived at the fifth floor, and traveled the short distance to a door marked 508. The five was still upside-down due to the top nail having fallen out. She dug into a pouch that was attached to her duty belt and withdrew a set of keys, jangling them as she found the correct one and inserted it into the deadbolt.
She opened the door and strode inside, closing it behind herself. The interior of her apartment was the same as she had left it. Seeing the empty pizza box on her living room coffee table made her stomach rumble, and she regretted not stopping by a takeout restaurant before making her way up the stairs.
“I guess it’s pizza again,” she said to herself as she slid her torn and burnt jacket off, dropping it unceremoniously to the ground. She pulled her cell phone out of a pocket and speed dialed Rosetti’s Pizzeria. The food was always mediocre at best, and Felina imagined that whoever Rosetti was, making pizzas was really not his thing. But, it was the only place nearby open this late that delivered.
“Rosetti’s, what can I do for you?” said a young male voice on the other end.
“I’ll have what I had last night,” Felina said.
“Oh, 212-555-3862 again?” the person said, likely reading the caller ID. “Medium-sized feta, linguiça, artichoke and olives?”
“Yeah, that’s it,” Felina said, talking into her phone as she clumsily kicked off one of her boots with the use of her free hand.
“That’ll be $25.45,” the person returned. “Still at 508 in Happy Grove?”
“Unfortunately,” Felina said as she managed to get the second boot off, and started to take off her duty belt, dropping it on the sofa.
“Should be there in about 30 minutes,” he said.
“Thanks,” Felina confirmed and hung up with a sigh.
Just enough time to take to take a hot shower.
Felina avoided the various cardboard boxes, piles of laundry and unsorted equipment that covered her floor, making her way to the bathroom and unbuttoning the light blue shirt she wore. She shrugged it off, the attached shiny yellow badge clattering on the abused hardwood floor.
She reached down and spun the simple faucet mechanism in the bathtub. Within moments hot water was jetting out the shower-head nozzle, and filled the small bathroom with a misty steam. She finished disrobing and stepped into the hot spray of water, feeling it soak through her hair and run down her shoulders. She didn’t bother to remove the bandages on her arms.
She closed her eyes, placing both hands on the shower wall, leaning her head down under the nozzle. Whatever remnants of the fire and the fight from earlier felt like they were washing away.
Despite the anger she felt at the time it was said, Felina knew her opponent was right.
All the drinking, the depression, being treated like an outsider, isolated, removed from what I love to do. It has made me soft.
But, what do do about it, Felina wondered.
It felt like a long shower, but not long enough as she heard a quick succession of raps on her door. She turned the dial and shut off the water, stepping out and wrapping a towel around herself. She took wet footsteps out of her bathroom and across the hardwood floor, her hair still dripping down the sides of her face. She glanced at the analog clock that hung from the farthest wall. 20 minutes had passed.
There was more knocking on the door.
“Hang on,” Felina called out as she fished her wallet out of the duty belt on the sofa. “You’re early.”
She managed to find an assortment of bills totaling 30 dollars, and she stepped up to the door and opened it up, not particularly caring about her immodest appearance. Despite eating pizza and drinking on a regular basis, along with being reassigned to a less physically taxing position, she had kept herself in shape. One of the few points of pride that remained with her.
“Wish you guys were always this fast-” Felina began, her attention shifting from the money she had in her hand to the person at her doorstep.
Only it wasn’t the delivery boy.
“Catch you at a bad time?” Turmoil asked.
Felina’s eyes went wide as she dropped the money and took a step back. Her bare foot slipped on the small puddle of water that had formed underneath her, and she tumbled back, landing on her behind.
“I’ll just let myself in,” Turmoil continued as she strode in, her heeled black boots clacking on the floor as the large operatic cape she wore flowed behind her.
Felina was now wordlessly scooting back, her expression panicked, the palms of her hands and the heels of her bare feet squeaking on the hardwood. She looked over her shoulder, seeing her duty belt still resting on the sofa. The grip of her Glock 17 was visible.
“Now now,” Turmoil said as she began to walk along the perimeter of the room, seemingly interested in the various items littered about. “There’s no need for that.”
“What are you doing here?” Felina asked, still awkwardly sitting on the floor, the towel she was wearing somehow still in place. She could see a holster resting on Turmoil’s hip, the grip of a firearm sticking out from just under a leather flap.
No way I could get to my Glock before she can draw on me…
“I felt the need to come here in-person,” Turmoil said as a particular cardboard box caught her attention. Much like the deputy mayor had done earlier, Turmoil reached down and picked up the framed photo of Felina’s OCS graduation.
“To do what?” Felina asked, and decided to risk standing up.
“To apologize,” Turmoil said, appearing unconcerned as she took a close look at the photo.
“Apologize?” Felina repeated, now on her feet.
“For Captain Elizaveta’s oversight regarding the collision at the intersection,” Turmoil said. “She is very good at what she does, but delicacy sometimes eludes her.”
“I’m not the one you should be saying sorry to,” Felina said.
“When the time is right I’ll make sure the mother and daughter are given more than adequate compensation,” Turmoil said, and then pointed at one of the individuals in the photo. “There you are.”
Felina glanced and saw the image of herself from nearly a decade prior. Eyes wide with a look of accomplishment. A face not yet dampened by the disappointments that awaited her. Felina frowned.
“You’re very unique, Miss Feral,” Turmoil said as she gently set the frame back in the box.
“I’ve been called a lot of things,” Felina said as she crossed her arms.
“No doubt,” Turmoil said as she continued forward, running the finger of her gloved hand along a shelf filled with books, photos and assorted junk until it came to a stop on a particular item.
With great interest, Turmoil grasped the hilt of the Mameluke sword that had been left leaning there.
Felina felt herself tense, but said nothing as the unwelcome guest drew the sword from its sheath and held it up to examine it.
“Not many know this,” Turmoil said as she held the sword, moving it about in her hand, checking its weight and balance. “The famous Chartreaux pirate Sergey Balikirev was an ancestor of mine.”
Felina felt her mood soften for a brief instant. Though she wasn’t going to admit it, she felt impressed that Turmoil was able to infer the history of the weapon she held.
She knows a little history. Well, so what?
Felina felt the need to go on the offensive, and drew on her own knowledge to cherry-pick a less flattering fact.
“Well, if the stories about him are true, then that includes you and half that region of the world,” Felina said snidely.
In an instant, the tip of the sword was planted against Felina’s cheek, the coldness of the blade feeling like the fingertips of death. It had happened so fast, with such precision, that Felina was frozen in place, unable to react. She could see Turmoil gripping the weapon with her index finger and thumb placed forward on the hilt, arm extended but not fully. Her feet were in a dueling stance, the dominant foot forward to match the arm that held the weapon. Turmoil’s head was titled slightly, her eyes a mixture of amusement and confidence.
She’s no stranger to swordplay…
“There’s no need to be impolite,” Turmoil said as she slowly brought the blade back.
Felina could feel it slide across her cheek. Once it cleared, she reached up with a hand to check for a wound. Surprised, she found none, and realized that only the flat end of the sword had made contact.
“I suppose there isn’t,” Felina said as Turmoil re-sheathed the sword and set it back down.
Felina was irritated, but she also felt something else she didn’t expect. A sense of…admiration?
She’s tough and knows how to fight. And, she’s made that loud and clear without having to draw blood.
It was an understated communication that Felina hadn’t encountered often, and when she did, always admired.
“Good,” Turmoil said. “Because I think you have been involved in enough impoliteness already.”
“What do you mean?” Felina asked, once again taking note of her sidearm on the sofa out of the corner of her eye.
“The Enforcers,” Turmoil said, now facing Felina. “They’re not putting you to good use.”
Felina frowned and didn’t respond.
“That sword you have represents honor and duty, two things sorely lacking amongst your peers,” Turmoil continued. “Your comrades on the force despise you, Miss. Feral, because you have the qualities they lack.”
Felina rolled her eyes.
“And just what would you know about that?” Felina challenged.
“I know that you’ve witnessed corruption and been demonized for revealing it. I know that you’ve saved the lives of the leadership of this city, who in turn do not return the favor. I know that you are punished for doing your job,” Turmoil said. “And most importantly, I know you live in the shadow of another whose last name has blinded others.”
Felina was unprepared for those remarks, and her mind filled with case-by-case memories corresponding to each point.
I was the sole witness to Ritz’s betrayal and half of my peers still think I made it up, despite the evidence, because everyone loved Ritz. Even though I saved the Enforcer administration’s collective lives, including my uncle’s, from Dark Kat’s conspiracy, they still didn’t acknowledge me. I risked my life and my career to help the deputy mayor save this city, and I get thrown in the stockade and demoted. I save a young girl from burning alive in an auto accident and I get reprimanded. I pay my dues, rise to the top, and still get sidelined because everyone thought I’m only where I was because of who I’m related to.
Felina shook her head, knowing that her emotions were being manipulated, and tried to force herself to think rationally.
Remember just who it was that endangered that little girl.
“How do you know all of this?” Felina asked.
“The Enforcers are broken, Miss. Feral,” Turmoil said. “Like others, I have been able to navigate its secrets as easily as you used to navigate the skies.”
Felina remembered the pair of Sabres she had seen flying by earlier in the day, and felt her throat tighten as a realization she had tried to ignore became all too apparent, her gaze turning to the floor.
I’m never going to fly again.
Turmoil walked up to Felina and placed a gloved hand on her naked shoulder. The former-lieutenant contemplated scenarios.
She’s in arm’s reach. I could grab her by the wrist and hip-toss her to the ground. Or I could pull her close, break her nose, and commandeer her sidearm.
Felina, however, did none of those things, as Turmoil spoke again.
“You may not believe it now, but you and I are kindred spirits,” Turmoil said. “I have a plan that I honestly believe someone like you would appreciate. A plan that needs someone with your finesse, to make sure accidents don’t happen.”
Felina looked up and met Turmoil’s eyes, and saw something that surprised her. Sincerity.
“I’m going to change things for the better,” Turmoil continued. “Bring Megakat City the answers to the many problems it’s facing. I will end the era of the super-criminal, and bring an economic stability that will last a generation. Eliminate the need for masked vigilantes who can’t even finish the job.”
Turmoil let go of Felina’s shoulder and turned away, walking toward the still open door to the apartment. In an instant Felina could have dove over her coffee table and retrieved her gun. But, she didn’t. Turmoil had filled those simple words with such an alluring confidence and compassion. Felina had rarely felt moved by a statement, her cynicism almost always in place. But, for some inexplicable reason, Felina felt something she hadn’t felt in half-a-year. A spark of purpose.
“I don’t expect to convince you of my intentions in one ten-minute encounter,” Turmoil said as she paused at the door, speaking over her shoulder. “So, if you want to know more, I invite you to meet me in two days.”
Turmoil produced an envelope and set it down on a small entryway table.
Felina said nothing, wordlessly watching Turmoil leave.
She stood there for several minutes, still wearing nothing but a bath towel, her mind contemplating what had just happened.
She can’t be right. She’s one of the bad guys.
Felina shook her head and walked over to the sofa, drawing her Glock 17 from its holster, feeling slightly more comfortable with it in hand. It was at that moment she saw movement, and still feeling on edge she brought the pistol up in both hands and aimed it at the door.
A pizza box fell to the floor, hitting its corner, causing the lid to open, spilling a circular mess of molten cheese, feta, linguiça, artichoke and olives onto her hardwood floor. The Rosetti’s delivery guy was standing in her doorway, hands up, a look of panic on his face.
Felina sighed and lowered the weapon, wondering just how much of a tip she would have to give now.
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