Title: My Responsibility - Chapter 22 of 22
Date: October 2012
Genre(s): Drama, Suspense, Horror, Sci-Fi
Rating: Rated T for depictions of violence, blood and "off-camera" nudity.
Words: 44,306 (117 pages)
Beta Reader: Kristen Sharpe
Notes: This is a loose sequel to Last Names and contains spoilers for that story.
Summary: Callie Briggs's support of the SWAT Kats is no secret, even though the masked duo's identities are to her. When the SWAT Kats disappear, trouble arises in Megakat City, and Callie must rely on a reluctant ally to help her discover what happened.
"…and so it is that we lay this man, who was so loved by his family and so adored by this city to rest," Mayor Manx said, speaking into a microphone that rested atop a simple podium. "We should all follow his example, to hold fast against the threats we may encounter. Though the adversities we face may destroy one of us physically, they can never take away what we stand for. What James Anderson stood for."
Callie Briggs sat in the first row of the assembled mourners, wearing a black suit dress that she had not worn in quite some time. This was not her first time attending a funeral at Megakat Cemetery, but with the large crowd of at least two hundred assembled in rows of chairs behind her, and the presence of the media's cameras, it was not like any she had ever been to. The clear blue sky above was in stark contrast to the mood this event set, though it was still preferable to be here than where she had been almost a week prior.
At either side were other City Council members, and Anderson's family. All were stoic, and some brushed away tears. Anderson's widow, Jeanette, dabbed at her face with a handkerchief.
"It is with a mixture of sorrow and pride that we commit you back to the earth, old friend," Mayor Manx said.
On cue, the closed mahogany casket was slowly lowered into the ground. Nearby, a bag pipe player began a rendition of Amazing Grace. Commander Feral, wearing full dress attire, stood at attention. As this was a state funeral, Callie knew that Anderson's death would be given special honors usually reserved for the military.
"Present arms," Commander Feral ordered.
A small detachment of half-a-dozens Enforcers, also in dress uniform, raised rifles that looked to be from a bygone era.
"Fire!" Commander Feral said.
The group took aim at the sky and pulled their triggers in unison, the blanks, while harmless, still rang out loudly. They repeated this process several times as Anderson's casket disappeared from view.
Callie was at first surprised to find on her return that Manx had written his own speech, but knew she shouldn't have been. Despite his growing political aloofness and reliance on delegation in recent years, there was a reason he was an eleven term mayor after all.
The ceremony came to a close, and Callie exchanged condolences with Anderson's family, an act that despite all the sincerity she expressed, she knew at some level would be tinged with an underlying political element.
As time passed, the attendants began to disperse, and the media began to pack things up as well. Ann Gora emerged from them, and came to Callie.
"That was a good speech," Ann said. "Did you write it for him?"
"Not this time," Callie said with a small smile, and winced as she turned to face the reporter. Her hand, leg and shoulder were bandaged underneath her clothes, but at times they still protested in pain. She'd have several scars for the rest of her life, but she didn't mind.
"I don't suppose it was any comfort to his family that the SWAT Kats stopped the Metallikats?" Ann asked.
"No, not really," Callie said with a sigh. "Though I personally am glad they've been taken care of."
"I'm sure you're not the only one," Ann said, and then shifted the topic. "When you get a chance, I wanted to get an exclusive with you about your adventure with Lt. Feral."
"I'm sure you would," Callie said, and noticed that the Enforcer detachment was preparing to leave. Commander Feral was among them, though she caught a glance from him.
"Let's try for that sometime tomorrow, okay?" Callie said as she moved away, heading in the Commander's direction.
"I'll hold you to that, Callie," Ann said.
Callie ignored the still lingering pain in her body as she walked over to meet the Commander. The two of them were out of earshot; most of the attendees were gone or too far away.
"You're looking well," Commander Feral said.
"Thanks," Callie said. "The doctors said I should make a full recovery in a couple of weeks."
"That's good," Feral replied.
The two were quiet for a few moments before Callie broke the awkward silence.
"I…want to apologize," Callie said as she crossed her arms and looked down at her feet.
This caught the Enforcer Commander by surprise, or at least Callie thought it was a look of surprise. It was hard to tell with him sometimes. He remained quiet and allowed the Deputy Mayor to continue.
"I want to apologize for shortchanging you on the budget, but more importantly," Callie began and she looked up to meet his gaze. "I'd like to apologize for undermining you."
Commander Feral sighed in a way one did when they knew more than they were willing to share, where modesty kept them from saying more.
"I accept your apology, Deputy Mayor," he said plainly. "Though next time, I'd encourage you to trust me, so I don't have to send one of my best to the brig."
"Your niece did the right thing," Callie said.
"I know," Commander Feral said, a hint of defeat in his voice as he turned away.
This time the elevator at Enforcer Headquarters moved downwards, as Callie was accompanied by an armed guard on her left. There seemed to be a new policy in place regarding unaccompanied Deputy Mayors wandering the halls of the building.
As the elevator came to a rest, the doors opened, and Callie and her escort approached a simple desk where a lone Enforcer Officer sat. He was reading a dirty magazine, and his eyes glanced up to see Callie standing there. Her pink suit dress and jacket seemed to stand out more-so in this dull and low-lit area.
"Deputy Mayor here to see the prisoner," her escort said. "Also checking in a personal item."
Callie slid the box she was carrying onto the edge of the desk and opened it.
The Enforcer Officer glanced at the contents and sniffed the aroma emanating from it.
"That's really cruel to bring that down here and not share it with us," the officer said.
"I know," Callie said with a smirk and closed the lid. "Now, are you going to let me in or not?"
The officer leaned back and pressed an unseen button. A buzzer blared for a split second, and a large steel door to his left clicked, unlocking.
"You've got 20 minutes," the officer said.
Callie nodded as she took the box back and approached the door. Her escort did not follow. It opened with ease, and she soon found herself walking down several rows of jail cells. All of them were unoccupied except for the one at the end.
A lone figure, on the other side of a barred door, was doing pushups on the floor.
Callie walked towards that cell, her heels clicking loudly in the quiet cellblock.
Hearing the noise, the prisoner paused what she was doing and looked up.
"I don't remember ordering a pizza," Lt. Felina Feral said as she stood up. She was barefoot and wearing a plain pair of grey sweatpants with a black tank-top. Any evidence of rank or status as an Enforcer was nowhere to be seen.
"I do," Callie said as she slid the box through a slot that was just large enough to allow a pizza box through.
Felina opened it and took out a slice, biting into it hungrily.
"They feed you down here?" Callie asked.
"Yeah, but it's all crap," Felina said in-between bites as she took a seat on the bed that was attached to the wall by welds.
"I'm really sorry I got you into all of this trouble," Callie said.
Felina shrugged as she finished off a slice and began to take a bite out of a second.
"Being NJP'd sucks, but I suppose it could've been worse," Felina said. "Though to be honest, the confinement isn't what bothers me, it's the month of artillery duty I've got waiting for me when I get out."
Callie had learned that NJP meant Non Judiciary Punishment, and it was the sort of thing that Enforcers could receive without a court martial. In the lieutenant's case, it was 15 days in the stockade, followed by a temporary month-long reassignment to man the building's defense guns. It was an assignment, Callie was told, that would be very boring and demeaning for someone like Lt. Feral.
"How bad is it?" Callie asked as she took a seat on a folding chair that had been left out.
"It's the worst," Felina said amid bites. "First of all, you're stuck on the ground. Secondly, you're stuck in this building. Thirdly, you have to answer to the Gunny and he's a real stickler for procedure. Fourthly, this place hardly ever gets directly attacked, so you never even get to shoot the things."
"You could be stuck behind a desk writing speeches, appealing to constituents or drafting legislation," Callie said humorously.
The lieutenant paused in consideration.
"Well, I suppose there are worse things after all," Felina said.
"You know, I realized there's really not a whole lot I know about you outside of your career choice, lieutenant," Callie said.
"It's Felina," she replied. "No rank while I'm in here, and besides, after what we've been though, I think first names aren't out of the question, Callie."
"Well, Felina," Callie restated. "Do you have any hobbies? Anything you like to do? Maybe a boyfriend?"
Felina laughed at the last question, nearly choking on a pepperoni.
"Yeah, my relationships don't really work out," Felina said, but paused. "Though there was this one guy I met at a bar. Seemed like my type, was even in the Enforcers. A real grease-monkey type."
"Sounds like a couple of guys I know who I go to for tune-ups," Callie said, and then paused.
"But, he was really secretive, and then he just disappeared on me…" Felina said, and then stopped mid-bite, as if something had come to mind. The dots were connecting in Callie's mind, and she could see by Felina's expression that the same thing was going through her mind as well.
There's no way, is there? That'd just be too big of a coincidence, but then again, what both of them had said…
"'Just like riding a bike?'" Callie asked, making air quotes with her fingers.
"Yeah," Felina said, and gulped the last bit of pizza that was still in her mouth.
Neither of them said it out loud, but Callie knew they had reached the same conclusion. Everything seemed so obvious in hindsight.
We don't even know who they really are.
Commander Feral's words echoed in Callie's mind.
Well, Commander, I do now.