WINNING OVER A CITY'S HEART
A/N: A simple piece that has finally broke the logjam over my creativity. I haven't written anything for months until this little gem jumped at me when I was listening to a singer I hadn't heard in a very long time. The songs mentioned are sung by Roger Whitaker. I know this isn't a very exciting piece and is similar to one I'd written before but I don't care. I needed this little exercise to get back into writing. And, for the first time in two years, I wrote without stopping much, in one sitting something I used to do regularly until I began editing too much.
"You're unpopular," newly elected Mayor Briggs stated bluntly.
The tom she launched this against stared at her nonplussed.
"I protect the city. I'm not supposed to be popular, only respected," he stated, equally blunt.
Briggs shook her head. She knew this wouldn't be easy. Feral simply wasn't aware he was on thin ice retaining his position as Chief Enforcer. Of course, he could be forgiven for thinking he'd been rehired by her when she'd taken office but that hadn't been the case hence his confusion.
Crossing her arms across her chest, she explained how things were to the stubborn male. "I'm sorry to inform you that you've not been re-selected for Chief Enforcer. Though I have no problem doing that, I'm afraid the city council and the people of this city are not of the same mind. I'm meeting stiff resistance about keeping you." She raised a paw to forestall the heated response she saw coming.
"No, just listen for once, Ulysses."
Startled she had used his first name and had given him such shocking news, he stilled himself and did as she asked.
"Yes you are respected and praised for having done a fantastic job of protecting this city. And, with the help of the SWAT Kats, ..." Feral snorted at that but Callie ignored it as she continued evenly "... finally managed to rid the city of its omega problems. However, the city population simply do not want you any longer now that the city is at peace. They've made it plain to me and the council that they feel a more civic minded leader is needed rather than a very militaristic one ... which, unfortunately, is how they perceive you."
It was Feral's turn to blink in surprise. It took him several moments to gather his wits and realize that the career that defined his life was about to be terminated. Shock warred with anger and a liberal amount of fear. He'd never thought about what he'd do if he was no longer Chief Enforcer, thinking that was far into the future. But here he was and without any idea what to do with himself. He was too young to retire and a job in some other government, security, or even a consultant position held no appeal. His whole life was focused on defending this city and now that was no longer required. He had to keep this job but how?
Wait, Callie had said she wasn't letting him go which meant she didn't want a replacement. So all he had to do was convince the city he could be the leader they wanted but how did he do that?
He realized he'd been silent far too long. The mayor's look held concern for him and that cinched his feeling she wasn't one of those who wanted him gone. That warmed him inside and gave him some hope.
Though they had never truly been friends, he and Callie hadn't been at each others throat for a couple of years now. And that was because of him finally working with the SWAT Kats to get rid of the omegas. However, he and the vigilantes had done it in a way that wouldn't have stood up in court. That's because the warriors were simply too tired of capturing the bastards only to have them escape time after time. So when the opportunity presented itself, he allowed more lethal methods to be utilized and if it was the SWAT Kats who had done the deed, he turned a blind eye while they did the same for him.
That cooperation had won him Briggs' respect at last. Which was why he thought he didn't have to worry about his position when she finally stepped out of Manx's shadow and took over the city she had run from behind the scenes for so many years.
"Are you alright, Ulysses? I'm sorry I had to drop this on you like a ton of bricks but ..."
"What do I have to do to prove I can be the kind of leader they want?" He cut her off, tension and worry making him a tad rude.
Callie blinked. She had a slim hope that he truly wanted to stay and might try something rather radical to win the public but she hadn't expected him to be this desperate. Of course he would be, she chided herself. Being an Enforcer was his whole life. Her heart went out to him. Here's hoping he's open to what I'm going to suggest.
"What you have to do is make a grand and unmistakable gesture that shows you have a heart and can be the more compassionate leader they want. And it can't be something like visiting kittens in a hospital or helping out at a charity event."
Feral frowned harder. "Then what's left?"
She smiled inwardly. She wasn't surprised that what she'd nixed was what he'd been thinking he could get away with.
"Well, it so happens there is a major event planned that will dwarf anything Manx ever put on for his self-aggrandizement. With peace finally our, the city council has planned a huge event to celebrate our freedom from the tyranny of fear, to inspire everyone to begin families and business, and to promote international commerce with our neighbors. The event should restore our economy drained by all the fighting. It's being held in Megakat Park since that is the only space big enough ..."
Feral gaped at her. "You mean the one that I had to set up a security ring for?"
"You got it."
"But ... but ... it's a combined amateur talent and professional entertainer show hence the need for security to protect all those celebrities you've invited. They don't want a speech from me so what are you expecting me to do?"
"As to that, it seems you've been keeping some of your more ... uhm ... personal talents secret, known only to your family and something I only learned of recently. But it's something that could very well save your career," Callie said, eyes twinkling with amusement.
Feral blanched. Oh she couldn't mean ... His heart stuttered. "I haven't done any of that for years ..." He objected aloud.
She shook her head and gave him a look of admonition. "Oh now that isn't exactly true, Ulysses. According to your family you've indulged as recently as last year. Admittedly, they had to blackmail you to come home and participate but you definitely didn't humiliate or embarrass yourself. I'm told you are very talented."
Ulysses Feral groaned aloud and wished not for the first time that he wasn't as talented as she alluded. He'd left that particular ability behind with his career choice and only gave in when, like she'd said, his family insisted.
"I feel if you make this the best display ever you'll have everyone falling all over themselves to have you remain Chief Enforcer ... a leader with a heart." Callie was certain this would work ... for the shock value and awe if nothing else. The video she'd seen insured it would be the talk of the city for years.
Making one last effort to get out of this, Feral objected, "but the event is in only four weeks ..."
"Yes, and that's exactly how long you have to keep your job as well," Callie informed him.
Feral felt his heart sink to his boots. "So it's this or nothing, eh?" She nodded.
He ran a nervous paw over his face. Shaking himself, he straightened his shoulders. "Then that's what I'll have to do. If you'll excuse me, I have a lot of things to accomplish before then."
"Of course." Relief made her shoulders relax as she gave him a smile of encouragement.
Feral turned about and made for the door, her voice following him out.
"Good luck, Ulysses."
"Oh sure, I'm going to need lots of it," he muttered as he nearly ran for the elevator while pulling his cell phone from his pocket.
As the elevator dropped to the main floor, he reached his brother. "It seems loose lips in the family has put me in a position to do something you know I didn't want anyone to know about. So you are going to help me pull off something truly spectacular in barely four weeks or I'll no longer be the Chief Enforcer ... you heard me ... now listen ..." He explained his plan as he made for his hummer and climbed in.
Closing his conversation with "... see you and the others when I get off work. I won't take any excuses from anyone not being there..." he closed his phone and hurried back to his office. Gritting his teeth, he ran over all the things he needed to do before the meeting. I hope this crazy idea works or I'm out of a job!
For the next four weeks, Feral, his family, and a huge crew of outsiders met every evening to practice their show. By the time of the event, Feral felt they were as ready as they could be but butterflies still swarmed his stomach and refused to leave him alone as he stood in the wings of the stage as he and his group waited their turn.
The show was well attended. People sat on blankets or stood all around the park with only the stars and park lights as their backdrop. The night was only a little cool but clear with no sign of foul weather. A good omen.
The amateur acts were interspersed with professional entertainers to keep the show moving smoothly. The amateur talent show was filled with truly talented people doing magic acts, singing, death defying feats, martial arts, musical instruments, and pet talents.
The professional entertainers were a mixed bag of bands and solo singers. Which was nice as they didn't outshine the amateurs.
At the beginning of the event, Callie welcomed everyone and explained the reasoning for the show receiving loud cheers from the crowd about the freedom from their enemies at last. It hadn't set in that the omegas were truly gone so they were thrilled to learn what they'd seen and heard over the past few months wasn't a false peace.
And to make things even more enjoyable, Callie had ensured videos and cds on the music were being made as the show proceeded so that the public could buy them at the end of the evening to remind them of the event and which would also help the depleted city coffers. Food vendors dotted the sidewalks that surrounded the park to supply hungry event goers with fun finger foods to enjoy and fill empty bellies since dinner time was when the event had been set. And to ensure it stayed nice and peaceful, no alcohol was allowed.
As she watched from her own personal platform set high enough so she could see and be seen, Callie sighed inwardly with relief and pleasure. The event was going very well. The only thing better would be if Feral's performance won him his job back.
She watched as the rather large group of kittens walked onto the stage then onto the risers. They moved like perfect little soldiers which made sense considering who their teacher was. Thanks to an insider, she already knew what Feral had planned and was excited to see the results of his hard work. She had deliberately placed him as the last to go so that the people would be left with that as their parting memory of this event.
It was moving close to ten in the evening when Feral's group was at last introduced. She waited with anticipation as the announcer took the stage.
"Thank you all for coming tonight. We hope you're enjoying the show enough to be generous with your donations and accolades to all those that have performed for you. I now present the last group of the evening. Please give a warm welcome to the Feral Choir. They will be singing I'm But a Small Voice, followed by A New World in the Morning.
There was a shocked hush at the name of the choir so silence greeted the small army of kittens ranging from very young to early teens as they trouped onto the stage and sorted themselves onto a set of three tiers that allowed the choir to be seen by the crowd. All wore their own clothing which made a hodge-podge of color for the eye.
The crowd was impressed by the quiet and efficient way the kittens got into position then went silent as they waited for their choirmaster which turned out to be none other than Commander Feral who walked calmly onto the stage, a mike in his paw. He halted front and center of the choir. What further surprised the crowd was the fact he wore no uniform. Nor was he dressed in some form of business or formal clothing. Instead, black jeans clothed his legs and was paired with a bright yellow polo shirt that showed off his powerful arms to good effect. Not many had seen him dressed so casually before.
He nodded at the crowd, a small smile on his lips at their reaction to seeing him like this. It helped to ease a lot of the nerves he was feeling. Though he was used to standing and speaking before crowds, this time was very different as he was here for a very personal reason without the armor of his job to hide behind.
Without waiting for his nerves to kick up again, he signaled to someone off stage. Immediately, music began to play from the speakers on either side of the stage.
From the front tiers a very young kitten stepped proudly forward, a small mike of his own in his tiny paw. He stopped a few feet from Feral and began to sing very sweetly, the opening intro, a single line that set the tone of what followed which was Feral's beautiful baritone voice singing the verse to the absolutely stunned amazement of the audience. Soon the entire choir was singing adding a sweet balance to his voice. The words of the song were uplifting and by the time Feral reached the end he was gesturing at the crowd to join in which they did with enthusiasm. When the song ended there was much clapping and cheering. It was obvious the piece was a hit.
The roar of applause nearly prevented Feral from going on to his second song but once the crowd realized they were going to hear more it went completely silent, faces shining with excitement and pleasure.
Feral felt a warmth he'd not expected at the reception he was getting as he launched into his second selection. He knew he'd get a lot of surprised looks when he began to whistle rather than sing the opening intro and he was right.
Mouths gaped open and there were sounds of oohs and aahs as he whistled with astounding skill before singing a jaunty tone about new beginnings, the right kind of song to get people thinking about the future of their city. It wasn't long before people were tapping out the rhythm with paws or feet.
When he finished, the crowd went wild. He made the choir bow, he bowed then gestured for the choir to exit with the same precision they'd taken the stage.
Ms. Briggs was waiting for him as he walked, with relief, off the stage. He was rather shocked when she impulsively gave him a quick hug before stepping back, a huge smile on her face.
"If that doesn't convince people you're more than they've seen on their newcasts, I don't know what will, Ulysses. You were incredible."
Feral blushed. He didn't know what to say. Fortunately, he was spared from responding by the rush of small bodies and a few older ones converging on him, all talking at once in high excitement.
"Cousin Ulysses, cousin Ulysses! Did you hear the crowd?" One teen shouted, face flushed and shining with happiness.
"I did indeed, Rony. You all did so well and I'm proud of you," Feral said, smiling warmly at his small relatives. They had been a very small part of the choir that had been made up of all the most talented kittens throughout the city schools. It had been a chore getting word out, holding auditions then practicing all those long hours but the results had been miraculous.
"Now you better be off. Your parents should be waiting at the gathering place," he told them all after giving each a hug a piece.
They cheered then rushed off. He could only shake his head then turned to see Ms Briggs eyeing him with a look of bemusement.
"You have a lot of talented relatives, Ulysses and they adore you."
He blushed a bit and shrugged the comment off by changing the subject a little. "By the way, Ms. Briggs, I promised the choir that I'd do up some certificates of performance and have you sign them so they have something to show they were part of this special event. Also, I need to attain copies of the official pics done to give them as well."
"Of course. I'd be delighted to do that for you and them. They were the hit of the show, I think. We'll know when we hear how the public responded on the news later," Callie said, chuckling. She sobered a bit when she added, "I also hope by Monday we'll hear positive news about you too."
Feral sighed. "I hope so too. I'm not ashamed to admit I'll be on edge all weekend waiting to find out if I still have a job."
All Callie could do was smile and nod then waved farewell as she still had her own duties to do at the end of this event. To loud cheers, she took the stage one more time and gave a short speech about moving forward into the future and thanking all the entertainers both amateur and expert for making this the most memorable night ever. And that ended the evening on a high note.
"Come young citizens of the world ..." And that's what we heard our own Chief Enforcer sing last night at the very successful event Mayor Briggs' set up to celebrate our freedom from the omega threat. The surprising and very talented Commander with his volunteer choir wowed the crowds and ended the night on a very upbeat note. It is was a very surprising and warm side of the normally gruff and remote Enforcer that was very welcome to see. One hopes he continues to be more approachable if he is allowed to remain Chief Enforcer of our city. It is rumored that might not be a surety as polls before the event hadn't been all that favorable toward him. However, that seems to be changing if the facebook and tweets are any indication. The Commander has a new following of fans and those citizenry that would like to see him remain as their current military leader made their wishes known. The final say will have to come from the city council meeting today. We at Katseye News will keep you apprised of any new developments. This is Ann Gora at city hall handing off to Sam in the studio."
Thank you Ann. I'm sure Commander Feral will be wearing a hole in his floor waiting to hear what the verdict of the meeting today will bring as well. We wish him well. And now for other news..." The voice of the male news kat cut off in midword.
A click signaled the end of the voice and the TV in general. The controller was tossed onto a beaten up coffee table.
"I don't want to have to deal with a new Chief Enforcer," Chance growled. "We've finally gotten Feral to stop riding us and things are better now a days."
"Yeah, I'm with you. Hope they vote to keep him," Jake agreed. "You know, I still can't get over how incredible he sounded last night and how about all those wonderfully talented kittens?" He added, smiling in admiration. He was curled up on the old couch, resting after working all morning in the garage. He and Chance were taking a well deserved break for lunch when they caught the afternoon news broadcast on Feral.
"Oh yeah! They were fantastic but so was Feral, I'm surprised to admit." Chance's smile broadened on his handsome face as he remembered the great evenings entertainment. They had a great spot on a nearby roof where they watched as the SWAT Kats. "And I was truly amazed to hear how great he could whistle. I've never heard anything like that before. It was soo cool. Who knew he was that talented? After all we've only heard him yell not sing before."
Jake laughed. "I know and Feral certainly did a great job hiding that talent very well."
"I wonder why the heck he did that? He's good and could have been a professional singer if he'd wanted to." Chance wondered aloud.
"Obviously he had a vocation for protecting his fellow citizens over being a singer, buddy," Jake said reasonably, shrugging. "But, I have to admit, if he'd just let that talent out occasionally he might not be faced with losing his job right now. Callie told me Feral was respected but not loved. And now that we'd attained peace, no one wanted a cold, military type running the Enforcers."
Chance rolled his eyes. "What a bunch of idiots. Just because we're at peace doesn't mean we don't still need to be vigilant and Feral is the right person to do that much as it pains me to admit that. I hope they don't make a mistake they and us will regret."
Jake sighed. "You're right about that. Well, nothing we can do about it but hope they wise up and keep him, meanwhile it's time to get back to work."
Chance grumbled but helped clean up their lunch trash and went back to work without further comment.
For Feral it had been a long and worrisome weekend. Though his brother and relatives made him come and be with them, it had helped to take his mind off it for a little while but it roared back when he returned home. Now it was Monday and he found himself pacing around his office like a caged tiger when he wasn't working to clear his backlog of paperwork. It wasn't until nearly quitting time when he finally heard from Callie. But he was very surprised that she had come in person to tell him the results of the meeting earlier today. He didn't think that was a good thing.
"Ms Briggs? Why didn't you just call me?"
"Because I wanted to deliver this in person." Her face was grim but she couldn't hold the expression long before breaking into a broad smile. "Congratulations! You've been reinstated."
Feral let all the air out of his lungs in a great sigh of relief, his tense shoulders relaxing. "Thank you." His words heartfelt.
"Oh don't thank me. It was your performance and the way you worked with those young kittens that won your position back."
He frowned at her. "But no one saw me practicing with the kittens."
Callie smirked. "I had a spy inside. You needed more than just the performance, Ulysses. People needed to see that you truly did have a heart of gold and the videos of you working so patiently with all the kittens, especially the littlest made believers of them."
Feral looked like he'd been poleaxed. He suspected he knew exactly who the spy had been. Callie confirmed it in her next words.
"Don't be angry with Felina," Callie hurried to say. "The work she did is truly what won over the city council."
He snorted and shook his head. "I'm not mad at Felina or even surprised she did it. She cares ... a lot. So, I'm thinking she deserves a new toy and I know exactly what she's been hankering for."
"A new toy?" Callie asked, eyebrows raised in confusion.
Feral smirked. "Oh not what you're thinking. She's a nut for the latest weaponry."
Callie laughed. "Yep, that's Felina alright. Well I'll leave you now. Enjoy the rest of your day and again, congratulations. I'm glad we'll be working together again." With that, Callie took her leave.
Feral went to his desk and stared at the work still there. Ignoring it, he did something he'd never done before. Sitting back in his seat, he put his feet on the desk. With arms behind his head, he stared at the ceiling and smiled hugely. Finally! Life was going his way.