AFTERMATH

by Anubis

 

 

 

"Hyperdrive will be de-activated in 5...4...3...2...1" Wolf O'Donnel and his Wolfen emerged from hyperspace just when the last Cornerian sensor satellite disappeared behind Venom. Venom... a brown ball covered in green clouds and probably the most inhospittable planet of the Lylat System, well exept maybe the heavilly polluted planet Zoness. Wolf stared at the planet he had began to call home. About one year ago Andross started his invasion of the system from Venom. The goal -Corneria- was in sight, the Cornerian army almost defeated when the StarFox team started their counterattack againts the Venomian forces. Within days the Venomian fleet lay in ruins, Emperor Andross was killed and just a handfull survivors were forced to flee the system, the StarWolf team included. The small fleet headed into the Forgotten Regions and found a planet that was habitable enough for Venomians to survive. Since then Wolf headed back to the outskirts of the Lylat System just out of the reach of the countless sensor satellites that were hastily erected after the war with Venom. Wolf sat there in his enhanced Wolfen.

"One day StarFox... one day me and my men will return and crush you utterly. Whole generations will tremble when they hear the fate of Fox McCloud, Peppy Hare, Slippy Toad and Falco Lombardi. Your end will be painfull and will probably take several months each." A red warning light began to flash and an alarm sounded. The satellite would appear again in 15 seconds. Wolf turned his ship around and kicked in the hyperdrive.

 

"OK, here are your new power packs ROB" Slippy said when he entered the Great Fox control room.

"Thank you, my power levels were getting low." answered the intelligent machine. Slippy opened a small panel on ROB's back. He placed the fresh pack in ROB and removed the old one in less than 20 seconds.

"There, that should be better. So... is everything going allright?" Slippy asked.

"Great Fox is working at optimum efficiency."

"OK..great...well..uhm...I probably should get going. See you later." Slippy was about to leave the room when ROB called him.

"There is an incoming message from the Corneria Flight Academy."

"Well, let me see it." On the screen appeared the the face of General Pepper, a man who served the Cornerian military for so long that most people thought that General was his first name.

"Hello Slippy," the dog on the screen said. "Where are Fox and the others?"

"There out training...again. I'll go get them" And with that Slippy left the room, leaving Pepper behind.

"So ROB how was your day today?" Pepper asked the immobile robot.

"Well, sir there was a 0,0000000001% difference in the hyperdrive which was caused by..." Whatever it was caused by will remain unknown, because at that moment Fox entered the room.

"Ah Fox, there you are. Your presence is required at the Corneria Flight Academy."

"What's up?" Falco said when he entered the room.

"Pepper wants us to head for Corneria."

"Oh yeah, why?"

"I don't know"

"Well ask him."

"OK, OK. General why do we..." started Fox only to see that the screen was already blank. "Well, that's weird." Falco said. "You think Pepper is in trouble?"

"I don't know guess we're gonna have to find out. ROB plot a course towards Corneria." Outside in the vast blackness that is space the Great Fox powered up its engines and burst away heading for the blue planet that was the capital of the system.

 

 

 

"Where have you been?" colonel Ardra asked, annoyed.

"I was off to see Venom."

"Again, do you have some religion that demands that you have to go to Venom every single day?" Wolf didn't respond to that. With an angry look on his face he pushed the fox aside. "You StarWolf guys think you own the place. Commander Benno will not be pleased about the way you treat your superiors." cried the fox.

"Listen up you. You are not superior above me in any way. Besides Starwolf was Andross' elite team of pilots. I do not have to listen to a fox." Ardra suddenly looked a bit uncertain, but soon got a grip on himself again.

"I will report this to Commander Benno, you will be punished for this."

"Report all you want. It doesn't matter. You idiotic little fox" Wolf said in disgust. And with that the one-eyed wolf turned around and headed towards his quarters. How he hated foxes. Not one single fox he met wasn't a real pain in the ass. He had half a mind to just turn around and slit the fox' throat. As a matter of fact he was. Wolf turned around again with a devillish look on his face. But alas the fox was already gone. You got lucky this time, fox. Next time I see you you will be dead. Wolf turned around again and headed to see the only one who he called a friend.

 

The Great Fox emerged from hyperspace just a few hundred kilometers from the big blue planet Corneria. Fox and his teammates were playing poker when the speakers rang.

"We are at the coördinates." ROB said.

"Aw man, just when I was about to win."

"Ha, better luck next time Falco" Peppy replied.

"Let's head for the Arwings."

"It's not fair. How can you possibly win from a guy with two lucky rabbits feet." Falco complained.

As the Arwing cockpit closed above Falco's head he vowed he would one day beat the rabbit at poker.

"I am going to win all your money, Peppy." Falco said to himself.

"Fat chance Falco!" sounded Peppy's voice through the intercom.

"Dammit, these things on already!" cried Falco. "This just isn't my lucky day."

"Are you guys ready back there?" Fox asked.

"Yeah, yeah. Let's just go."

"Did you check your systems yet?"

Falco sighed. This really wasn't his lucky day. After all the systems the Arwing were checked Falco powered up his engines. This better be serious.

"OK assume formation." Fox said.

"Why? We're not going to attack anyone." Slippy's voice sounded. "Are we?"

"Hopefully not, but let's just be on the safe side, allright?" And with that the four Arwings formed a small circle and raced towards Corneria.

 

"Hey Leon, how are you doing?" Wolf said when he entered the rec-room.

"Could be better." the chameleon replied. "Andrew tricked me into reading that favourite book of his. You know: 'The Apes of Wrath.'" Leon pointed at a book on the table in disgust. "That piece of crap is a waste of paper and time."

"That bad?" Wolf asked.

"Worse, the brain-dead person who wrote this should have been shot." At that moment Andrew, the nephew of Andross, entered the room.

"Speaking of brain-dead, how was your day Andrew?" Wolf asked the annoying monkey. Andrew didn't quite get the meaning of Wolf's words and answered:

"This has probably been the worst day of my life. The food was cold, the drinks were too hot, the radiotors are broken again..." At that point Wolf and Leon stopped listening to the whining monkey and headed for the door. Andrew didn't notice and kept complaining.

"Some leopard knocked me over, my Wolfen malfunctioned and... Hey were are you?" Andrew said surprised.

Leon and Wolf walked through the corridors.

"I don't get it." Leon said "Why is that spoiled brat still a part of our team? I mean Andross is dead so Andrew is just some really bad, annoying, arrogant pilot."

"Because by some insanity that has struck our forces."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, because of some weird twist of fate, most soldiers consider Andrew their new Emporer."

"You got to be kidding!" Leon said. "That twit couldn't even lead a group of ducks."

"I know," Wolf said "But because Andrew was the only relative of Andross the troops respect him. And that is the only use Andrew has."

"Pity, so I can't kill him?"

"Afraid not. But I did meet a really annoying fox on the way down here. He really insulted me. Let's go find him."

"And then what?"

"Then we kill him, slowly."

"Good idea." Leon smiled. This might not be such a bad day after all.

 

"Corneria City is in sight." Peppy said through the intercom.

"All right. Do you see anything?"

"Nothing, not even a car."

"Not even a car? Something is wrong here. Our capital is the busiest city on the planet." Fox said.

"Well, the streets sure are empty." Peppy responded.

"I really do not like the looks of this." Falco said. He sounded very worried.

"Me neither, but the General asked us to go to the Flight Academy, so we're going to the Flight Academy." The four Arwings landed near the building that was the center of the Cornerian army. The team entered the building and looked around.

"It sure is empty." Falco said.

"This is really giving me the creeps." Slippy said.

"Let's be carefull. Get your blasters."

"Expecting trouble, Fox?" Falco asked.

"Well, yeah I do. Let's go" The four Lylatians stalked through the hallways. pointing their blasters in all directions.

"This is ridiculous." Falco suddenly cried. "We're pilots, not anti-terrorist forces. I bet nothing is going on. Pepper is probably laughing real loud somewhere in the building."

"I bet he isn't." Peppy said.

"Oh, yeah. Care to make a little wager on that one?"

"Allright, how much?" Peppy responded.

"20 bucks."

"You're on" Falco and Peppy shook hands. Fox sighed.

"Are you two addicted to gambling or something?"

Slippy suddenly pointed.

"Wait a minute, I can hear something. It's coming from behind those doors." Slippy pointed at two very large doors near the end of the hallway.

"OK, let's check it out. But be carefull." Fox said. Fox, Slippy, Falco and Peppy headed for the doors. Peppy put his ears to good use and listened.

"Yep, I can defenitly hear something too." he said. Fox slowly opened the door... He jumped into the room and then just stood there, his eyes full with disbelief.

 

Commander Benno, leader of the glorious Venomian army, stared at the screen of his computer. If his men were ever to take over the Lylat system again they would need a solid base of operations on one of the planets. Corneria and Katina were too heavilly defended. MacBeth and Titania were extremely valuable because of their vast mines. Benno sighed. They were probably well defended as well. Venom also wasn't an option because it was too closely observed by satellites. Aquas was only water and Solar was much too hot. Only Fortuna and Zoness were options. But Fortuna was extremely cold and Zoness was extremely polluted. Benno sighed again. This was not going to be easy. Then the door rang.

"Come in." The doors opened and a very arrogant looking fox entered the room.

"Colonel Ardra, what is it this time?" Benno asked. He probably already knew the answer. One of the troops had offended him and the fox would demand that the person should be punished. Benno was right.

"I'd like to talk to you about the behavior of our troops." Benno groaned.

"Who is it?"

"It's that wretched StarWolf team. They have absolutely no respect for authority. They are undisciplined and always out of uniform."

"Listen Ardra. Technically the StarWolf team is not a part of the Venomian army. They are mercenaries for us." Benno pushed a dial on his desk.

"Please send major Corda in." Benno looked at Ardra.

"Please contain any further complaints until she is here."

"Of course, sir." A few moments later a mouse entered the room.

"Ah, major Corda. Good news. You are receiving a promotion. You will take colonel Ardra's place."

"Thank you, sir. May I inquire why I need to replace the colonel?" Benno grabbed his blaster and shot the fox in front of him.

"Because he is dead."

"I see. Well, thanks again, sir."

"Don't mention it. Now then, I heard you had a plan to retake Lylat?"

"Indeed I do, sir." The mouse walked over to Benno's desk. "Here is my plan..."

 

"SURPRISE!!!!!"

Fox frooze dead in his tracks when the lights suddenly went on. The room was crowded with people and big banner saying 'Thank you StarFox' hang over the floor. General Pepper headed for the amazed team looking very happy with himself.

"General, what is the meaning of al this?" Fox asked, still not really recovered.

"Don't you remember? Today it is exactly one year ago that you defeated Andross and his minions. We thought that it was cause for a celebration." Pepper led the team to the other side of the room were the microphones stood.

"Well then, do you have anything to say to all these people?" Pepper asked. A big silence fell. "Uhm....thanks?" Fox said a bit uncertain.

"Well said. Now then, LET'S PARTY!" Rumor soon filled the room again. Fox looked around and noticed a grey dog talking to a squirrel.

"Hey, Bill!" he shouted across the room. The dog looked up and smiled.

"Hi, Fox. What do you think of our little surprise party?"

"It's...uh...it's unexpected for one thing. So how are things on Katina?" Bill looked a bit surprised.

"Didn't you hear?"

"Hear what?"

"That Katina became completely independant a few months ago."

"No, I didn't. So Katina doesn't listen to Corneria any more?"

"Well, I wouldn't put it like that. I mean, the two goverments are closely working together to make this thing work. By the way, do you know who the new leader of the Katina Armed Forces is?"

Fox gasped with disbelief. "You? But why?"

"Well, because I helped you out when you were fighting Andross's forces back on Katina."

"Wait a minute. WE helped YOU out. Not the other way around."

"Well, the important thing is what the military believes. I am now a real general. Isn't it great?"

"Congratulations Bill. Maybe you will learn some discipline while you have a million lives to look after."

"Aw, Fox. You really know how to spoil my fun." Bill cheered up again.

"So how are things going at the Great Fox?"

Falco looked really smug when he collected his money from Peppy.

"I told you nothing serious would happen. Now then, pay up" Peppy sighed and grabbed his wallet.

"Here are your 20 bucks. Don't worry. I'll win them back tonight at poker." Falco laughed "Don't count on it Pep. Your winning streak is over." Falco's grin suddenly disappeared and his blue feathers seemed to turn red.

"Excuse me, will you Pep. I really gotta go." And with that Falco suddenly exited the room. "Where are you going?" Peppy asked. Peppy didn't understand Falco. One moment he is some big hot-shot who always has a sarcastic remark ready and the next he was... Well, Peppy didn't really knew what he was the next moment, but it was different. He scratched behind his ears. He really didn't understand it.

 

Katt Monroe was in a hurry. She heard that StarFox was at the Flight Academy at this moment and she wasn't. Her small fighter raced through the air towards Corneria City. This was probably her last chance to execute her plans and she intended to seize it. Corneria City came in sight. That looks deserted. She tought. Hope there's nothing wrong. That sudden thought made her a bit angry. Of course there's nothing wrong. The center of the army is there ànd the StarFox team. What could possibly be wrong? She did speed her ship up a bit though. Just to be at the safe side. When she reached the Academy she noticed the four Arwings completely unharmed. Well, at least there's nothing the matter. What was I worrying about? She entered the building and while she walked through the hallways she thought about the last time she had been here. She had just completed her training and was one of the best of her class. Only Fox and Falco were a bit better at flying than she was, but not much. She started to walk a bit faster. She really didn't want to miss them.

The doors flung over and the pink cat scanned the room, looking for a member of StarFox.

BINGO! There was the target. She headed straight for him. Nothing could stop her now.

"Hi Fox."

"Hello...ehm..."

"Katt."

"Katt, right. Wait a minute, don't I know you?"

"You'd better. I helped you out at Zoness, Sector Z ànd Macbeth."

"Oh, yeah. I remember. You're the one who really annoyed Falco."

"That's me. Where is the big blue bird-brain anyway?"

Fox looked around. "I don't know. He must have seen someone."

"Well anyway," Katt said "I got an offer you can't refuse."

The cry Fox let out would probably have been heard throughout the planet.

"You're kidding, right?" Fox said, a bit worried and uncertain.

"Of course not. I'm just as good as any of you guys, so why couldn't I join StarFox?"

"I gotta think about this." Fox looked like a trapped animal desperatly trying to escape.

General Pepper joined Fox and Katt.

"What seems to be the matter?" he asked.

"She wants to join our team." Fox said, still not recovered from the shock.

"Well, why not? She a good pilot with a vast knowlegde of combat. And she shot you down when you were still in training."

"Only a couple of times." Fox defended himself.

"I was more than a couple of times, Foxy. So can I join you guys or not?" Fox sighed. She had him cornered. The worst part was that she was right.

"OK, OK. Come to Great Fox tomorrow and then we'll talk about it, allright?"

"Deal!"

YES! I got you now, guys. Katt left the room again feeling very happy. No more escape for you Falco. She laughed. Poor Falco. He really doesn't stand a chance any more.

 

"Enter." Benno said irritated. Didn't people know he had an invasion to plan? Wolf and Leon entered the room.

"What is it? Make it fast."

"Do you happen to know were colonel Ardra is? Leon and me wanted to continue a conversation I couldn't finish earlier." Wolf smiled in an evil way.

"Feeling murderous again, Wolf? I'm sorry to inform you that he is already dead."

Wolf's smile disappeared. "May I ask how he died?"

"I killed him. The idiot always complained and never did anything. I let him live for so long because he had a family of great warriors. But today was the last straw, so I shot him."

Leon whispered. "Doesn't that sound familliar, Wolf?"

"Well then. I won't take any more of your time, sir. Come on Leon." Wolf started to turn to the door.

"Wait a minute. Colonel Corda had a plan I wish to discuss with you. Go get Pigma and Andrew and we'll work out the details."

"Yes, sir. I'll be back as fast as I can."

Benno looked at his computerscreen again and smiled. Corda's idea was not bad at all.

In her plan having a small base on a nearly deserted planet was an advantage. The only problem was how to establish that base unnoticed.

A few moments later the entire StarWolf team entered the control room.

"OK, what is it you want to discuss with us?" Wolf said.

"I'm glad you asked. As you may well know the Lylat System is filled with sensor satellites."

"Yes, so what's your point?"

"I want you to look for flaws in the sensory net."

"What kind of flaws will we be looking for?" Leon asked.

"I want to land a small force near the North Pole of Fortuna. I want them to be able to land unnoticed and construct a small base. That is all you need to know for now."

"You're the boss." Wolf said. "It sounds a bit silly to me, but as long as we get paid..." Wolf didn't finish his sentence.

"Let's go get our Wolfens ready." And with that the team headed for the launching pads.

 

The CatsPaw, the ship Katt captured from the enemy, flew through the depths of space. There was the Great Fox. Her plan was nearing completion and she was really happy about the way she did it. She expected Fox to be more stubborn, but her deadly directness overwhelmed him so much that he didn't got enough to think about it. And now it was to late for him to reconsider.

"Katt to Great Fox. Here I am guys. How about opening the landing bay doors?"

There was no answer, but the bay doors did open. She landed her Venomian Invader next to the five Arwings. Five Arwings? I thought StarFox had just four members. Katt suddenly smiled. Or perhaps that fifth one is MY Arwing. Well, anyway, let's get moving. She entered the elevator. "Where to?" asked the elevator. Kat thought about that. She had no idea how Great Fox looked like on the inside. "Do you happen to know where Fox is?" she asked. "Fox McCloud is currently in the control room." answered the elevator. "OK, great. Take me there, the control room I mean." The elevator doors closed. Katt heard nothing. Is this thing working? About five seconds later the doors opened again and Katt was in the control room. Or at least she thought she was in the control room. On the left wall there were several maps and some control panels. On the right wall was the communications screen and more control panels. At the other side of the room there was a large window looking out into space. Fox was in the middle of the room talking to some metal cilinder.

"Hey Fox, who are you talking too?" The fox looked up.

"Hello Katt, I'd like you to meet ROB 64."

"Hello ROB."

"Good afternoon."

"ROB is basicly is the ship's pilot, controller and computer. So Katt, you still wanna join us?"

"You got that right." she answered.

"Alright. But before I greet you as a member of our crew I'd like to test your abilities."

Katt sighed. She anticipated something like that. Fox and Katt went back into the elevator. "Simulation chamber, please." Fox said.

"What kind of test ar we talking about exactly?"

"We're going to test your flying skills, your gunnery skills and your overall skills in combat." The elevator doors opened again.

"ROB, Training Simulation one please."

Fox walked to towards a big window. On the other side of the window was a room filled with colored rings.

"See that?" he asked. "You got one minute to fly through all the rings."

"Piece of cake."

Katt entered the Simulation Room. She powered up her simulated Arwing.

"OK, one minute starting now." Fox said through the intercom. The Arwing burst away. She counted about 50 rings. This may be though, but I can do it. she thought, while she flew through the first ten rings. Suddenly the rings began moving. A challenge. she thought. I like a challenge. As she flew through more rings, the other rings started to move faster. 49 rings done, one more to go and about 10 seconds left. The last ring posed to be a problem. It moved faster than her Arwing and was barely visible. Then Katt figured out the pattern. She flew to one the corners and halted her Arwing there. After not more than a few seconds the last ring passed her and she passed the ring.

"Nice going, Katt." Fox said. "Slippy never managed to figure that one out."

"I hope the next test is going to be a bit more difficult."

"Not really." Fox admitted. "You have 2 minutes to shoot 100 targets."

"Let me guess, the more I shoot, the faster they'll move?"

"Exactly. OK 2 minutes starting now. Good luck."

Katt flew around her lasers firing away. The targets all crumbled before her extremely accurate shots. Then Katt accidentally pressed the laser button down a few seconds. Her lasers stopped firing and a big green ball appeared at the front of her Arwing. What the.. She released the laser button and the green ball raced towards the nearest target destroying the target and several targets close by. A laser that can lock on targets. This may be fun. Soon Katt destroyed all the targets. "How did I do?"

"You still have one minute and seventeen seconds left. That was fast."

"Yeah, well. It was really easy."

"OK, pass the last test and you are an official StarFox member."

Finally. she thought. "What do I have to do?"

"In this last test you are engaged in a simulated dogfight. You will fight against one of the StarWolf team. Andrew to be precise and to make it even more easier he will be flying a Wolfen 1, which are inferior to the Arwing. Then you'll have to face Pigma, then Leon and last but not least Wolf. Your Arwing will have a shield gauge. Finish them of before you take too many hits. Remember though, this is just a simulation. In real life StarWolf will not be so easy. There is no time limit. Are you ready?"

"Ready."

"GO!"

Katt suddenly flew over a mechanical surface in deep space. She recognised it as Bolse, the defence satellite StarFox had destroyed, but which was soon rebuilt by the Cornerian Army.

Suddenly a really idiotic voice yelled "You'll be sorry you crossed us!" A Wolfen descended upon Katt firing his lasers at her. That must be Andrew. What a lousy shooter. Andrew turned out to be not just a lousy shooter, but also a lousy pilot. Soon Andrew's Wolfen crashed upon the surface without hitting Katt even once.

"That reward is as good as mine!" Pigma yelled as headed for Katt's Arwing. Pigma was better than Andrew. He was not good enough however and soon his Wolfen collided with the surface.

"I think I'll torture you for a while." Leon manouvered his Wolfen behind Katt and started shooting, following Katt's every move. Dang, this guy is good. However, Katt did have one more trick up her sleeve. After a gracefull somersault she was directly behind Leon. It turned out to be that Leon was good at flying and shooting, but not at out-manouvering and soon kissed the surface.

"Playtime is over." Wolf swooped down and shot. Katt's Arwing shook a bit while she took the hits. Katt somersaulted again and managed to shoot Wolf a couple a of times before he turned away. Shoot! Where did he go!? Katt soon found out after she took another couple of hits. Again she somersaulted and again Wolf turned away. Oh no. Not this time. Katt followed the Wolfen who was desperatly trying to get away, but Katt was an able pilot and soon Wolf crashed as well. The simulation ended. Bolse and the four Wolfens vanished. Katt's Arwing vanished as well and she fell to the floor.

The doors opened. Fox, Falco, Peppy and Slippy walked into the room looking very serious.

"Katt Monroe." Fox said. "You are now a member of our team." His face took a less formal expression. "Congratulations." Fox and Peppy shook her hands. Slippy hugged her. "Welcome to the team." he said excited.

"Thanks Slippy." Katt answered when she carefully removed Slippy's arms from around her neck. "Aren't you going to congratulate me Falco?" Katt asked, looking very innocent. Falco coughed and looked a bit uneasy.

"Congratulations Katt." he said.

Poor Falco. Katt thought. Then she laughed. "Slippy, would you like to show me the ship?" Slippy got a cheerful look on his face. "Of course, follow me." And with that they left the room.

 

"All systems checked?" Wolf asked. There was a moment of silence.

"Yes."

"Of course."

"Why did you even bother to ask?"

Wolf sighed. "Let's go then." The bay doors opend. Wolf powered up his engines. When the four Wolfen burst into the heavens Wolf shouted "Halt! Stop and listen!"

"What is it now, Wolf?" Pigma asked irritated.

"Just a few warnings. As soon as we exit hyperspace, the only satellite that can detect us at that range will disappear behind Venom for about 42 seconds."

"So?"

"Well, during one of my visits I noticed that one of the satellites is within my sensor range."

"So you had been noticed, then?" Leon said.

"No, I wasn't. That sensor may be powerfull, it has an extremely limited range."

"Well, that's nice. Can we go now?" Andrew asked.

"Shut up. If we leave now we'll be detected. I'm going to try to tap into that satellite's computer and download the information about the senory net."

"Why do you need us then. I mean what's the point. You can download that information on your own."

"I am going to need you if there's trouble." Wolf responded. "And besides, I really enjoy your company." he added sarcastically.

A green light started blinking in Wolf's cockpit. "OK, this is it. Let's go." And with that the ships disappeared into hyperspace.

 

Katt wandered through the corridors of the Great Fox. She was now a member of StarFox. Stage one of her plan was succesfully completed. Unfortunately she didn't really have a stage two. Suddenly Peppy's voice sounded over the intercom.

"Katt, you gotta go to the control room."

"Why?"

"General Pepper has an mission for us, hurry!"

"Alright, alright. I'm on my way."

Katt headed for an elevator.

"Control room."

The doors closed. After a few seconds they opened again. Slippy entered the elevator.

"Hi, Katt. Going to the control room as well?" he asked.

"Where else?" she answered.

"Good point. You know this is going to be your first mission, so stick with me and you'll be OK." Katt smiled. She knew she was a far better pilot than the young toad next to her. But all she said was: "Thanks, Slip. I could really use your help." Suddenly Slippy said. "We're here."

"What do you mean?" Then the elevator doors opened.

"The control room, where else?"

"How did you know that?"

"I know Great Fox better than I know my own closet."

Fox, Falco and Peppy were all looking at the communications screen. Fox looked up.

"Where HAVE you been?" he asked rather annoyed.

"Well, that's not very nice." Katt responded. Fox looked a little sheepish.

"Sorry, I'm a bit irritated lately."

Peppy coughed. Fox suddenly remembered.

"Oh, yeah. Come here. Pepper wants to see us."

"I know. That's why I'm here."

The main viewscreen went on and the face of Pepper appeared.

"Ah, Katt. I see you made it to the StarFox team. Congratulations!"

"Thank you, sir."

"You'll do fine. I just know it. Now then the mission. As you may well know the Corneria Council..."

"...And the Katina Council!" shouted a voice behind him. Pepper looked back with a devestating look on his face.

"...And the Katina Council." he added.

"Say, is Bill there?" Fox asked.

"Yes, he is here as well. I suppose you want to talk to him as well?" Pepper asked a bit angry.

"Uhm...well...not really. Carry on." Fox answered a bit careful.

"Thank you. Now where was I? Ah, yes. The Corneria ànd Katina Council have decided to clean up Zoness."

"Bravo!" Falco shouted with just a small trace of sarcasm. Pepper gazed at him coldly. Falco coughed. "Please, continue."

"Are briefings always this chaotic?" Katt asked Slippy.

"Unless it's a real emergency. Yes."

"Are you two finished back there?"

"Uhm...Yes, sir."

"Good. Now may I please continue without any further interupptions?"

"I see no reason why not." Katt said.

"Can we get to the point?" Fox asked.

"I thought you'd never ask. Well then. To clean up the mess Andross left behind we're going to need some pretty expensive equipment. However, pirate bands have been operating lately. There mainly hiding in Sectror Z, but we can't pinpoint them. They somehow always manage to stay out of range of our satellites and they have even took some of them out."

"You're saying we have to guard a convoy!" Falco said. "Can't the Cornerian or Katina military take care of it."

"Yes, we could. However, this shipment is far to important to be even damaged. We need those ships through unharmed! And only you can really make sure their safety. Now then. The ships will be leaving from Corneria City tomorrow. There are two ships. Each is guarded by a squadron of fighters and if there is an emergency the ships also carry 25 short-range fighters each. We expect no trouble until the ships are close to Aquas but we still want you to be carefull. Alright, that's it. Good luck." And with that the comm. screen turned blank.

"Great, guard duty. Two cargo ships heading for Zoness and we've got to protect them."

"Well, Falco an order is an order." Peppy said.

"Yeah, right. Can't the army take care of a few pirates? That's pathetic."

"Hey, I thought Zoness mattered to you?" Fox said.

"What's that got to do with it?"

"You should be happy they're finally doing something."

"I am happy! I just don't like this mission OK!" Falco stormed out of the room. The rest of the team looked at him. Then Peppy broke the silence.

"Let's get to work. We've got a mission to fly."

 

Four Wolfish class fighters left hyperspace. The satellite disappeared behind Venom.

"Beautiful sight, isn't it?" Wolf asked.

"Yeah, whatever. Get to work will ya. I'm hungry." Wolf growled. Pigma only thought with his stomach. And his greed.

"OK, OK. Accesing the satellite...now." Silence...

"Are we in?" Leon asked. There came no response.

"Wolf, are you alright?" Leon sounded worried.

"BINGO! I'm in." Wolf said. Leon let go a sigh of relief.

"Don't you do that again." he said.

"Now what happens?" Andrew asked.

"Now we wait until the download is completed."

"That's all? I'm bored."

"Oh...go play with your sensor, crybaby." Andrew didn't respond. For a while the four Wolfen hang in space, completely silent. Someone who wouldn't know better could think the four fighters were just pieces of debris.

"Hey, they rebuilt Bolse!" Andrew suddenly shouted.

"Andrew you idiot! Turn your sensors off NOW!" Wolf yelled.

"But you said..."

"I know what I said. Turn them off, or do you want to get noticed?"

"OK, OK. Stop yelling."

Fool... Wolf thought. Maybe Leon was right. Maybe I should kill you.

Suddenly a red light started blinking.

"Dammit! The satellite will reappear soon. Get out of here now!"

"Is the download complete?" Leon asked.

"Just go, will ya? Do I have to keep repeating myself?"

Three Wolfen turned around and went into hyperspace.

Come on...come on... A blue light started blinking. Download complete. Wolf turned around as quick as he could and turned on the hyperdrive.

 

"Hey, what's that?" The screen that gave a loud noise and was silent again. The meerkat scratched behind his ear. Was that a sensor reading or not? He walked to the room next door.

"Did you notice something just then?" he asked the raccoon.

"No, why?"

"Nothing. I thought I had a sensor reading."

"Maybe it was a piece of debris."

"Perhaps." He wasn't sure.

"Is it gone now?"

"Yes it is."

"Could be a malfunction." the raccoon said.

"That's probably it." He knew it wasn't a piece of debris and it wasn't a malfunction either. The satillite did detect something. But what? The meerkat sighed.

"I'm going back."

"OK, have fun."

"Yeah, you too."

 

"OK guys, there's the convoy. Falco, Katt and Slippy, you protect the second ship. Peppy and I will take care of the first. ROB stand-by to back us up."

"Affermative, Fox."

"Fox we've been over this a hundred times. We know what to do."

The five Arwings assumed their formation. The two cargo vessels moved slowly through space.

"Can't these things go any faster? If the equipment is that important than why are they transferred in these crummy ships?" Falco said.

"The ways of the military can by understood by no man." Katt said "...or woman." she added.

"Yeah, whatever. Fox! Is Great Fox still following us?"

"Of course, why?"

"Can't the Great Fox deliver the cargo?"

"You know that as well as I do, Falco. Great Fox has no real cargo bay. It has been designed for combat, not commerce."

"Yeah, yeah. When are we going to see some action?"

"You seem really eager to fight Falco. Why is that?" Slippy asked.

"Peppy won with poker again last night, remember? I REALLY need to blow of some steam."

"Look's like you got your wish Falco." Peppy said.

"About 50 fighters are approaching fast."

"YES! Let's go get them."

Falco rushed forward, breaking formation. "FALCO! You're supposed to guard the ships!" But it was already too late. Falco was flying and shooting everything in sight. And out of sight. Soon all the enemy fighters were destroyed.

"Was that all?" Falco sounded disappointed.

"There's Zoness. Let's escort the vessels until they are in orbit and then let's get out of here. And this time we'll stay in formation!"

The two slow vessels entered orbit and from the surface came a few transfer untis to pick up the cargo.

"They're safe. Let's go." The five Arwings headed for Great Fox.

"I'll have a word with you later Falco." Fox said.

The Arwings were about to enter hyperspace when from behind the planet suddenly appeared enemy ships.

"What the... Slippy! Can you give me a count?"

"About 200 fighters."

"Now this is more like it. Let's get them."

The Arwings raced back towards Zoness. The enemy fighters engaged the two squadrons guarding the ships. The pirates were fast and in greater numbers. They did not expect five Arwings and a Great Fox, though. The Arwings flew through their ranks. The five ships were swift and deadly. On top of that the Great Fox kept firing its lasers at the pirate ships. Soon only a handfull were left. The remaining ships turned around and tried to flee the battle. In vain. The Arwings soon caught up with them and destroyed them.

"That was easy." Falco sounded disappointed.

"It was 200 against 5!"

"No it wasn't. Those ships protecting the cargo vessels fought as well."

"We'll ask them not to do their jobs next time, OK?" Fox said.

"Don't try sarcasm on me Fox. I'm better at it than you are."

The Arwings left the scene of the battle.

"He's right you know." Peppy said. "He is better at sarcasm than you."

 

Wolf and his men walked through the corridors towards commander Benno's office. He had the complete information about the sensor satellites. Benno would pay a fortune. Wolf knocked on the door.

"Enter." The doors opened and the StarWolf team entered the room. Benno sat behind his desk, an attractive woman stood next to him. Well, for a mouse she was pretty attractive.

"Wolf, I'd like you to meet colonel Corda, she worked out a plan to conquer the Lylat System."

"Hello." Wolf said.

"She'll be a great new addition to the team." Benno said.

"Which team, sir?" Wolf asked a bit confused.

"Yours, of course."

"You are saying that a MOUSE will be joining the StarWolf team?" Wolf's eyes were wide open with disbelief.

"Why not? She is a good pilot, you know."

"Yes, but...a MOUSE?"

"You're not going to be over that part any time soon, are you?"

Wolf got a grip on himself again.

"I'm sorry. What is it you wanted to talk to us about."

"The sensor readings. You do have them?"

"Oh...yes...here they are."

"Thank you." Benno took the data-unit and slipped it in his computer.

"That will be all Wolf."

"Yes, sir. OK, let's go." Wolf looked at his new teammember. "You too, sweetheart." The mouse walked towards him and punched him in the face. "Don't call me sweetheart, or honey or babe or something like that, understand?" Wolf crawled up from the floor.

"Why, you..."

"There will be no fighting in my office. Or in my base for that matter." Benno said without looking up. "We can't beat those Cornerians if we're still fighting amongst ourselves."

Wolf stormed out the door, the rest of his team following him.

"Hello, I'm Leon."

"So?"

"The wolf you just punched too the floor is our leader. Your leader too, see."

"So what?"

"He won't forgive your punch very easily. He's gonna make things difficult for you, mark my words."

"He'll regret it."

"I wouldn't be so sure if I were you."

"But, you're not. I can handle that cyclops easily."

"You really shouldn't call him that. Well, at least not to his face."

"Why not?"

"If you call him a cyclops he won't just kill you. He'll torture you to death, slowly. I'm not sure if I like you yet, but if I do I'd hate to lose you just because you acted like an idiot."

"I can take care of myself." Corda speeded up and left the chameleon standing.

I'm not sure you do. No, I think you can't take care of yourself.

 

Falco sat alone in his quarters thinking. He didn't think a lot he suddenly realized. Well, at least not much about the 'things that really mattered' anyway. The subject of his thoughts was Katt. She was bit of an enigma. He knew her vagualy from the Flight Academy. Yes, she was a good pilot and yes, she was pretty, for a feline. But now. Now it seemed he couldn't stand in one room with her without changing into some idiot, who could only stutter a few words. What was wrong with him? Was this...? He really didn't want to finish that sentence, but he had to face the facts. Am I in love? With Katt? He immediatly rejected the thought. Of course he wasn't in love with her. He was a bird, she was a cat. See, he couldn't be in love with her. Falco laughed a bit. It sounded rather sad. He had been in love before, so he should recognize it. But in those situations he was always in control of himself. So that's another reason he couldn't be in love with her. This was a totally different feeling. He sighed. Falco looked up again. OK, OK. Fine. I admit it. I have certain feelings for that annoying cat. I'm not sure if it's love but it is defenitely something. Falco felt a bit better. But now that he accepted the fact he might be in love with that cat he had to face another problem. The way he saw it he had two choices. Tell Katt how he felt and possibly make a giant fool out of himself, or he could remain silent. He didn't like the choices. He usually would have said what was on his mind. But he couldn't do that now. Not with Katt. Falco sighed again. I hate love.

 

Captain Hira looked out the window of his ship. There was Fortuna. He had been told that he had exactly 21 seconds to land on the surface. The ship in front of him was more lucky. That had 23 seconds. Suddenly a Wolfen flew before the screen.

"Andrew! What do you think you are doing! Get back here!" sounded a voice.

"I'm bored. When are we going to see some action?" was the response.

"You idiot! We're not supposed to see any action. The whole point is to land completely undetected, remember?"

The comms. unit was silent again. Fortuna drew closer ans closer. Landing on that iceball will be the easy part. Hira thought uncomfortably. He hated the cold. Why did Benno pick him to be the supervisor of the base construction site? He was a captain. He was able to command battlecruisers, not working crews. On top of that his ship was completely unarmed. He felt helpless. A feeling he always hated. His only protection were those five fighters. That knowledge made him even more upset. One of them was blinded by revenge. The other was a cruel being who loved to see his enemies suffer. Number three was also blinded, but this one by greed and was probably the least reliable, since his loyalty could be bought. The fourth one was a complete idiot. OK, he was a relative of the great Andross, but he was a bumbling moron. The last one, the new one. Well, he didn't really know what to think of her. It looked like she was made of ice. She didn't care about anything. He decided he had to keep a close eye on that one. Suddenly someone disturbed his thoughts.

"We're in orbit, sir."

"Well, what are you waiting for? Take us down."

"Yes, sir."

The young man left his room again. Braindead idiot. Hira looked at the screen. They had landed.

"This is Wolf O'Donnel to the Arctures. We have landed undetected."

I know that you moron. "Roger that, Hira out."

Hira stood up. Well, so much for the easy part. Let's get this over with.

 

Katt walked through the corridors of Great Fox completely lost in her thoughts. Slippy talked excitedly about something, but she didn't hear him. She had more important things to think about than to listen to that toad.

"Well, Katt. Here are my quarters. See you later."

"Hmmm...what? Oh, yeah, see you." Katt sank into her thoughts again. Falco. What to do with him. By some unexplainable twist of fate she had fallen in love with him the minute she saw him back then at the Academy. Her feelings for him had never faded. Not even once. She sighed. Falco never noticed her at the Academy. In the Venomian War she saved his butt a few times and still he didn't really see her. So then she decided to join StarFox. That would certainly make him notice her. But the situation went from bad to worse. Falco avoided her. As soon as she entered a room he looked for an excuse to leave it. Wait a minute. she thought Maybe he loves me too, but doesn't now how to act around me and is therefor trying to avoid me. She was hopefull, for a second. Then she sank back into her depressing thoughts. Of course not. What am I thinking? He probably doesn't even like me. She sighed and looked up. Her heart skipped a beat. There was Falco, alone. This time she would get his attention. This time she would declare her feelings and face the consequenses. This time it was going to be different. This time...

"Hi." she said.

"Hi." he said.

Katt and Falco kept on walking. Katt could knock herself on the head. What happened? Nothing happened. Katt felt some tears trying to push their way out of her eyes.

What an idiot I am.

Falco walked away from Katt. What was he doing? Where was he going? This was his chance. Falco looked back, but Katt walked away from him. Futher and further. This was his chance. And he missed it.

What an idiot I am.

 

"Sir, there is someone here to meet you."

"Send him in."

Wotan, self-appointed leader of the Lylat-pirates looked up. The meerkat who entered the room was dressed in a Venomian uniform. He was puzzled by it. The Venomian army was dead. The Venomians were crushed by four simple fighters in the last war. The Venomian Army didn't exist any more. Why would someone still be wearing their uniforms. It didn't really matter.

"You have a proposition for me?" he asked the man at the other end of the table.

"Yes. I am representing a very powerfull and very rich, how shall I say this, institution."

"The Venomian Army?" The man looked shocked.

"How do you know that?"

"Look, you're wearing a Venomian uniform, remember? If you want to stay incognito you really shouldn't wear something like that. I don't know why you dress up like that and I don't care. You're taking a big chance coming to me. Your proposal better be good or I slit your throat." The man looked scared.

"Well...uhm... We want to buy anything you can raid. We're willing to pay a lot for it."

"What kind of merchandise are we talking about here?"

"Well, weapons, information about the Corneria army, you know locations of their bases and stuff like that."

"That's all?"

"Medical supplies, fighters, anything usefull."

"Usefull for what." The man looked uncomfertable.

"An invasion." he whispered.

"It's gonna cost you, bigtime. Payment on delivery. Let's make one thing clear. Your saying we gotta steal from the military and that's dangerous. We will be asking a lot."

"Money is not an issue."

"Very well. Let's make a deal. As soon as you can knock out those sensor satellites, we'll start selling stuff to you, OK?"

"Very well. If you will please excuse me? I have to go."

The meekat turned around and left the room. Wotan thought about his proposal. His pirate band wasn't the largest, so why did that meerkat come to him? The meerkat obviously was not a bussinesman. He tried to buy weapons for a war. Wotan didn't really like the Cornerians, but they were good for bussines. They kept things peaceful. And in times of peace it was far easier to raid small colonies than in times of war. This would be a decision of morale. Who did he like better? The Cornerians or the Venomians? He pushed a button on his desk.

"Is our guest still here?"

"He has just left, sir."

"Good. Destroy his ship."

"Yes, sir."

The blackness outside his window lit up a bit and then got black again.

 

Benno looked at the men who stood in his office. The Fortuna base had just been completed and as much personell and supplies was being transferred to this new base. It still wasn't much but at least they were able to defend theirselves.

"Say, where is the guy who went to talk to the Lylat-pirates?" Benno asked them.

"He never returned, sir."

"The Lylat-pirates won't coöperate then. How about the rest?"

"The Shadow-pirates agree, if you can destroy the sensors."

"Hmmm...that's unfortunate. How about the others?"

"They all say the same thing, sir. 'We'll help you IF you disable those sensors.'"

"Very well, dismissed." Benno didn't expect this. He thought the pirates would be willing to help them out. But now he had to take out those cursed satellites. How could he do that without drawing attention? He sighed.

"Send in the StarWolf team."

"Yes, sir."

After a few minutes the four, no, five members of StarWolf entered the room.

"What is it now?" Wolf asked.

"I've got a challenge for you."

"Oh, yeah? What kind of challenge?"

"We need to destroy those satellites without drawing attention."

"Destroying those things will be easy, but unnoticed? That is gonna cost you."

"I know. Now, here is the REAL challenge. You will not be allowed to destroy them with your Wolfen. We've managed to get our hands on a few pirate ships. You'll need to take out the targets in those ships."

"By pirate ships, do you mean those rustbuckets outside?"

"Yes."

"Oh, man. This isn't just going to cost you. This'll make a serious hole in your wallet."

Benno sighed again. Whatever happened to ideals?

"Will you do it?"

"Yeah, sure. But, why do we have to fly those barrels?"

"Because, if you DO get noticed the Cornerian army will think pirates destroyed the satellites. Got it?"

"Yes, sir."

And with that the team left the room. Benno was worried. Sooner or later the money would run out. Then what? Then he couldn't pay the pirates and he would lose the StarWolf team unless he could really convince them to support his cause. Corda would talk to them. She was loyal to him. She would convince them to work for Venom for free. He hoped.

 

General Pepper sat in his office reading his reports. Zoness was getting cleaner, pirate activity rose, the usual. Suddenly the door opened and Bill entered the room.

"Hey, Pep. How's it going?"

"Can't you knock or something? And don't call me 'Pep', General Bill."

"OK, fine. But only if you don't call me 'General'. Deal?"

"Yeah, yeah. Deal. So, why are you disturbing me?"

"No specific reason. Boredom I guess."

"Then why don't you just go away and fight those pirates?"

"I am. I have sent three detachments to Sector X to take out a pirate base."

"I thought the pirates were located in Sector Z."

"Then you're misinformed. The pirates are in Sector X, Y and Z. Didn't you know that?"

"No, I didn't." Pepper admitted. "What are your chances of succes?"

"Pretty large. We were able to pinpoint one of the pirate bases. They're heavily underarmed and my forces are in greater numbers."

"Easy victory then."

"I sure hope so."

The comms. screen lightend up.

"Incoming transmission from Bolse." said the computer voice.

"Let's see it." Pepper said. On the screen appeared the face of a raccoon. He looked troubled.

"Sir, we have a problem."

"Is Bolse under attack?" Pepper asked.

"No, no sir. Far from it."

"What is it then?"

"The sensor satellites, sir. They're going out one by one."

"Do you know who did this?"

"Not really. We have a few images of the attackers. It seems to be five pirate ships."

"Could you send me those images?"

"Of course, sir."

"Thank you. Was that all?"

"Yes sir. Bolse out."

The screen turned black again.

"Pirates attacking our satellites? I find that hard to believe." Pepper said.

"Why?"

"Because they have become very good at hiding themselves from the sensors."

"They are, aren't they."

"Well, here are the images let's find out."

Pepper and Bill examined the images closely.

"Wait a minute, aren't we supposed to stop those pirates?" Bill suddenly said.

"We already are."

"What do you mean?"

"Bolse is under strict orders to launch its squadrons the instant the satellites are under attack."

"I didn't know that."

"Of course you didn't. Bolse belongs to the Cornerian army. Let's get back to those images shall we?"

Bill and Pepper continued studying the many images that were sent by Bolse.

'They sure look like pirate ships." Pepper said.

"Yeah, but they don't fly like pirate ships." Bill responded.

"What do you mean?"

"Those guys, wel except for this one..."Bill pointed at one of the fighters who seemed to be executing a very dumb move. 'They all act like pro's. They have more skill than any untrained pirate could have."

"You know, you're right. I'll send these images to the Great Fox. Maybe they can find out more about them."

"Good idea."

 

There they were. A few hundred Katina fighters flooded over his base. Flashes of light indicated that a lot of ships were destroyed out there. Most of them were probably his. The floor under his feet shook. The base was now under attack as well. He sighed. He knew he had no choice but to surrender. Hopefully that would save his life. Or at least the lives of his men. He pushed a button on his desk.

"Wotan here. We are heavily outnumbered by the enemy. I command everybody to lay down their weapons. We surrender."

The blackness outside stopped lighting up. His men had surrendered. Wotan felt the sting of defeat in his chest. He knew pirating was a dangerous job from the start. But he never expected an assault from any army. The doors to his office opened. Three dogs and a bird entered. The bird seemed to be the leader.

"You are Wotan. Leader of the so-called Lylat-pirates?"

"I am."

"We are hereby placing you under arrest."

"I expected that. Very well."

One of the dogs moved forward and cuffed him.

"May I ask what will happen to me and my men?"

"I don't know. You'll probably face military trial. After that, who knows?"

Wotan sighed again.

"Very well. Let's go."

 

Falco had made up his mind. He would go to Katt and tell her that he loved her. She would probably laugh in his face, but he didn't care any more. He couldn't stand the thought of carrying his secret any longer. He would walk to her room and say it.

Falco left his room. His heart pounded in his chest. This was it. Now would be the time that he told her. Falco took a deep breath and walked down the corridor. He turned the corner and bumped into something.

"Can't you look where you're going?" he said.

"Well sorry, Falco. If you had been looking you would have noticed me." Katt said.

Falco suddenly felt really stupid. That was Katt! And he was argueing with her. This was not a good start. Falco dropped the I'm-mad-because-you-did-something-stupid attitude.

"Katt." he said.

"Falco." she said.

"I...uhm...I'm sorry."

Idiot!

"No, no. It was my fault."

Falco took a deep breath. Might as well say it now.

"Katt, I..."

"Fox to everybody. Get to the control room now."

"We gotta go. Duty calls." Katt said.

Falco felt really miserable. "Duty, yeah."

Falco and Katt went into the elevator. They were still alone. It could still happen. The doors closed. No-one else in sight. Now is your chance, Falco! Go for it or be sorry for the rest of your life.

The elevator doors opened and Peppy entered the control room. Fox and Slippy were already there.

"Hey Fox. What seems to be the problem?"

"Those sensor satellites are being knocked out."

"By who?"

"Pepper asked us that. He sent us some images of the attacking ships. He asked if we could identify them."

"Can we?"

"I'm not sure. They don't fly like regular pilots. Their patterns have something vagualy familiar."

Peppy looked at the images.

"I'll say. That's StarWolf." he said.

Slippy and Fox looked confused.

"What do you mean Peppy?" Slippy asked. "We got rid of the StarWolf team in the war, remember. Besides those are five ships, not four."

"So? When we shot them down at Fortuna, they looked pretty dead. You know, because their ships exploded. But later we had to face them again at Venom. Who says we killed them that time."

"You know, he does have a point." Fox said.

"OK, OK. StarWolf could have survived the war. But StarWolf is a team of four members. Not five." Slippy said.

"Perhaps. But we were also a team of four members. Now we are also five members."

"Two points for Peppy, Slip. Let's ask Falco what he thinks."

"Fox he isn't here yet."

"I know, but when he is here we could..." Fox didn't finish his sentence. Peppy, Slippy and he were staring at the elevator that just opened. Falco and Katt stood there. Locked together in a deep embrace. They didn't seem to notice anything else but each other.

It was Peppy who first broke the silence.

"Hello, nice that you could join us. I suppose you two have a lot to tell us."

Falco and Katt looked up. Their faces turned red. They let each other go as fast as possible.

"That's none of your business, Pep." Falco said. His voice still sounded a bit unsteady.

"Why did you call us here, Fox?" Katt said.

Fox smiled. "It can wait. Tell me. Why were you hugging in the elevator."

Falco pointed at Fox with an angry look on his face. "Watch it pal. Our relationship is of no concern to you."

"Relationship!?" Both Fox and Peppy started laughing.

"Way to go, honey." Katt whisperd.

In all this time Slippy hadn't said a word. And he still didn't. His mind tried to work out what just happened. And why Fox and Peppy seemed to think it was so funny. His childish mind couldn't accept the fact that Falco and Katt who seemed to be always fighting over everything and who never seemed to really like each other could suddenly be embracing each other in an elevator. Slippy gave up. Living beings made absolutely no sense to him.

 

Five pirate ships landed on the cold surface of Fortuna. Wolf and his team headed out and started walking to the base.

"If I were a suspicious person I'd say that it all went a bit too easy." Leon said.

"What do you mean?" Andrew responded.

"The military just let us knock out their satellites and they didn't do anything to stop us."

"What are you talking about? We had to face an entire squadron of fighters!"

"We had to face just one squadron of fighters. I think Corneria still has something up his sleeve."

"No they don't." Wolf said. "They just weren't prepared for the best pilots in the galaxy."

"You mean StarFox?" Corda said. It was the first time she really talked to them.

Wolf growled. "I mean the StarWOLF team. We're the best pilots in the galaxy."

"Then why did you let the StarFox team beat you several times?"

"I didn't LET them do anything. They just had better ships, that's all."

"Hmm..."

Wolf looked angry at Corda. He seemed ready to attack her. Leon saw the threat on his face and decided that now would be a good time to change the subject.

"I think Benno would like to hear the results of our little attack."

"Yeah, let's go. I wanna get paid." Pigma said.

"Oh, very well. Come on guys."

Leon walked towards Corda.

"Do you have a death wish or something?" he said.

"What are you talking about?"

"Saying the StarFox team is better than StarWolf is even more dangerous than calling our leader a cyclops."

"Hah, some leader. He can't even properly control his team."

Leon sighed. Corda seemed to try to get herself killed. Why? I didn't really matter. If the mouse wanted to be dead she shouldn't have to try very hard.

"Let's report to Benno, OK?" Leon said.

"Fine, there's nothing much to report, but hey. That never stopped anyone before, right?"

"Yeah, right."

 

After a few moments -or hours- Fox got back to bussiness.

"OK, Falco. Do you think you can identify these pirates?"

"What do you mean? You can't see their faces or anything."

"What I mean is: can you identify the flying patterns of those guys."

"Flying patterns? I didn't know there was a thing like that."

"Have they thought ANYTHING at the Academy, Falco?" Peppy said.

"Of course. 'When you fly in a pattern the you become predictable and will be shot down.' "

Fox sighed. "Just take a look at the images! You too, Katt."

Falco and Katt bent over the display. Fox noticed that his wing and her paw had found each other. He wondered if they really realised that they were holding hands. It didn't really matter. Falco and Katt let go of each other again.

"I don't know them." Katt said.

"I think I do." Falco said. "Looks like I owe you an apology, Pep. That's StarWolf."

"Are you sure?"

"Of course I'm sure. Who do think I am?"

"OK, fine. We'll talk to Pepper about. See how thinks about it."

Fox headed for the communications panel. After a few moments the face of Pepper appeared on the screen.

"Ah, Fox. Do you have anything?"

"I'm not sure. Falco and Pep think those guys are StarWolf."

"StarWolf! That's impossible."

"They don't seem to think so."

"Hmm, I got to think about this. If StarWolf is really back than we might be in trouble. Anything else?"

"No sir. That was it."

"Very well. Pepper out."

Fox turned around.

"Well guys, shall we..."

Fox noticed the control was empty. Only he and ROB were present.

"Where is everybody?"

"Peppy is in his quarters. Slippy is heading for the Arwing Bay. Falco and Katt are heading for the Simulation Chamber." ROB answered.

"Great. Now what am I going to do?" ROB had no answer to that.

Pepper turned of the communications screen. This was most distressing.

"What did they say?" Bill asked.

"They think StarWolf knocked out those satellites."

"Get real. Why would they be flying pirate ships and more importantly if it is StarWolf how could they have gotten those ships?"

"I don't know. Maybe they didn't want anyone to recognise them."

"OK, fair enough. But stil. How did they get those ships?"

"Perhaps they bought them?" Pepper didn't sound very confident. Bill suddenly got an idea.

"I know. We have our very own pirate leader. Let's ask him."

"Good idea." Pepper pressed a button on his desk.

"Send in Captain Wotan."

After a few seconds four guards and a wolf in chains entered the room.

"Here's your prisoner, sir."

"Very well. You can wait in the hallway."

The guards looked surprised. "Sir?"

"You heard the man. Get out!" Bill said.

"Yes, sir."

The four guards left the room.

"Sit down, please." Pepper said too the prisoner.

The wolf looked a bit suspicious, but he sat down.

"What do you want?" he asked.

"Information." Bill said.

"What do I get?"

"We won't lock you away for life. Well, maybe."

" 'Maybe' isn't good enough."

"What do you want?"

"I want my men released."

"So that they can go back to pirating? I don't think so."

"Well then. Let them fight in your wonderfull army."

"Why should we do that?"

"Look. The only reason that those Katina fighters found my base is because a pirate of one of the others bands talked."

"How did you know?" Bill asked surprised.

"Everybody knows that. No military spy could find any of the bases, so it had to be a traitor. Anyway, I think my men would like to pay them back. And what better way to do that then when they're in some military force."

'Very well, we'll consider it. IF you give us the information we need."

"What do want to know?"

"A few days ago five pirate vessels knocked out the satellites."

The wolf looked surprised. "I can't believe they really did that!"

"Who did that?" Bill asked.

The wolf, realising he just said to much kept quiet.

"Talk, or it is life imprisonment for you and your men."

The wolf sighed. "The Venomian army." he finally said.

"Looks like you didn't do your job back in the war." he added.

Pepper didn't move a muscle when he heard the news. Bill on the other hand was amazed.

"Do you know where we can find this army?" Pepper asked.

"No."

"How do you know about the Venomians, anyway?"

"One of their guys came up to my base the other day. He had an offer I had to refuse."

"What kind of offer?" Bill asked.

"Weapons, ships, you know the basics."

"The basics of what?"

"A war."

 

Captain Hira overlooked the new construction site. The base he had built turned out to be only part of his assignment. He didn't really mind however. Oh, sure. The first few weeks of the construction he really hated being in command of a work crew instead of a military force. But he found out that building things was much more enjoyable than destroying them. After the base building itself he even volunteered to help construct the secondary power generators, the shield generators and now the orbital guns. They had just started consructing the massive artilery pieces last month, but already four of them were constructed and fully equiped. He was really proud of his job. As he walked towards the site he could see his workforce building the foundation for the fifth gun. He was in a very good mood, but he didn't show it to his men. A leftover from his military carreer. The head engineer, a baboon with a pleasant attitude walked towards him.

"How are things going?" Hira asked him.

"Very well, sir. We are actually ahead of schedule." the baboon answered.

"Tell me you're lying."

"No really. If this keeps up we could have not ten but eleven or twelve orbital guns standing before our time runs out."

"If those pesky Cornerians are going to find this base we'll blast them out of the sky."

"That is the idea, isn't."

"Tell me. How strong is one of those guns anyway." Hira asked.

"Very powerfull, sir. One direct hit of one of those babies is enough to blow away any defensive shield. Two hits is enough to destroy a Nova-class battle-cruiser."

Hira whistled through his teeth. "Now that is what I call a good gun."

Hira and the engineer looked at the construction of the fifth gun.

"No! No! Not like that you moron!" Hira suddenly cried. "If you do it like that the entire gun will collapse before it is even finished!"

One of the workers looked frightened and waited for the baboon to come over to him and give him new instructions.

"I wish a had a better workforce to work with than these amateurs!" Hira said.

"If I remember correctly you wanted to have a military taskforce when we first arrived here."

Hira smiled, for a short moment. "You're right. When I first landed on Fortuna all I could think about was to give this job to someone else, jump in one of our battleships and fly to Corneria to destroy everything I could see. I sure have changed, haven't I."

"Yes you have, sir. May I ask you? If you we're offered to lead the assault on Corneria or any other Cornerian planet would you accept it?"

Hira thought about that for a moment. Then he shook his head. "No, destroying things and, well, stuf like that. It just doesn't appeal to me any more."

"Well, don't worry. As soon as we have won the war you'll have plenty of things to rebuild. Won't that be fun?"

The baboon walked towards the worker who still stood motionless. Hira thought about what his head engineer had said and somehow it really upset him.

War. What a terrible waste. That sudden thought scared him. He was this close to be a traitor of the Venomian army. But still, he couldn't shake the feeling that something wasn't right.

Why did I join the Venomian army? he asked himself. To destroy Corneria. was his answer. Why did I want to destroy Corneria? I don't know. Because of the fun of it, I guess. And because of the prestige a military victory could give me. But, I don't want those things any more. Even the thought of a planet in flames offends me. Why do I stay with the Venomian army? He had absolutely no answer to that. He looked around. The military base suddenly looked hostile. In earlier years he would had loved it here. Now it scared the hell out of him. Is it possible that an ambitious, arrogant, bloodthirsty man can change in a pacifist in a matter of months? Apparantly. Hira began to feel really uncomfortable. Everything he had built were to destroy things. Oh, God. Am I developing a sense of guilt? Yes, I am. These horrible things here may never be used against anyone! Hira forced himself to stop thinking about that. I am loyal to Venom and the Venomian army. (Then why am I here on Fortuna?) Andross, my leader, is invincible and will guide his forces to victory. (Then why is he dead now?) The destruction of Corneria is our ultimate goal. (Why do I want to destroy my homeplanet?) Suddenly Hira let out a cry of frustration. His men stopped working for a moment to look at him.

"Are you alright, sir?" the baboon asked him.

"Yes, I am." Hira said. Liar. You're not alright.

"I...I have to go now. Carry on."

The baboon looked at him with an uncertain look on his face.

"Very well, sir."

Hira headed for the main base, which now looked intimidating and frightening. He didn't notice the mouse that followed him. He could only think of one thing.

I have to stop Benno and his army. I have to.

Corda walked through the base terribly frustrated. She hated Venom. She hated StarWolf. She hated Benno. She hated this place! Why did Pepper have to chose me to infiltrate Andross' army? Now I am stuck here! After Andross died I had to flee. I had no choice. Somebody pulled me with him or her into an escape pod. Before I could say two words I was on my way to the Forgotten Regions never to see Lylat again. Well, at least she was in the Lylat system again. The only reason she handed Benno that workable invasion plan was because of the chance they would return to Lylat. And they did. But that idiot just had to place me with those monsters! With angry paces she walked forward until suddenly she heard a beastlike cry. Another frustrated soul. Probably because we're not invading fast enough. She walked towards the place the cry had come from. She saw captain Hira had been the source of that desperate sound. Hira? Isn't he one of the elite of Benno? Why would he do that? She decided to follow the meerkat. Maybe she wasn't the only one here who didn't like the situation.

 

Wotan walked around his new ship. And what a ship it was. He couldn't believe Pepper had given him and his men a real battleship. He was now a servant of the Corenerian army. And he didn't even mind! The Firewing, as his ship was called, wasn't really powerful, but still. He looked around. It really was a beautiful ship. He still couldn't believe that a pirate leader like himself could be made captain of such a magnificent vessel. I should have been captured much earlier! One of his men enters the command centre.

"Pepper wishes to speak to you, sir."

"I suppose I have to answer that. Put him through to my office." Wotan laughed. "Listen to me. 'My office'. A few days ago I was a prisoner and now I am the commander of a starship."

"I must say it is an improvement." The bear smiled.

Wotan was happy to see that. His men liked their new positions as much as he did.

"Put him through, will you."

"Already on my way."

Wotan entered his office. It wasn't very large, of course, but it had potential. On the screen on the wall appeared the face of Pepper.

"Wotan, are you there?"

Wotan stepped in front of the viewscreen.

"Here I am, sir."

"I've got a mission for you."

"I already expected that sir. Let's hear it."

General Pepper disappeared and one of Lylat's planets appeared.

"Do you know which planet this is?"

"That's MacBeth, isn't it?"

"Very good. We have just recieved word that one of our factories is under attack by pirates. We've already sent StarFox, but we don't know if they'll arrive in time. Since you're the closest to MacBeth you will have to go there and hold out long enough until reinforcements arrive. Got that?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well, what are you waiting for!? Go!"

The screen went blank. Wotan wasn't sure if this mission was real or just a test. It didn't matter. He pushed a button on his desk.

"This is Wotan. We have been given the opportunity to prove ourselves. I want everybody in place, we're going too MacBeth."

Let's see what this baby can do.

The Firewing powered up its engines and burst into hyperspace.

 

Fox, Falco, Peppy, Slippy and Katt raced through hyperspace towards MacBeth.

"Pepper sure sounded serious." Slippy said.

"MacBeth is an important planet for the Corneria military. Most weapons of war are constructed there. And with StarWolf flying about he has reason to be serious."

"I thought you didn't believe StarWolf was back." Peppy said.

"I like to keep an open mind, OK" Fox answered.

"Do you think things can get dangerous?" Katt asked.

"No, not really. If what Pepper said is true the only opponents we'll face are some pirates."

"And a battleship is already on their way to help us." Falco added.

"He's probably already fighting."

"Let's hope he doesn't destroy them all. I haven't any action since Zoness."

"Always looking for fight, eh Falco? I thought you would mellow now that you have a relationship with Katt."

"Shut up Pep!" Falco cried.

"He's in denial." Katt said. "But I'll get him out that soon enough." she added.

"Let's just focus on the task at hand, shall we." Falco said, sounding uncomfertable.

Suddenly hyperspace disappeared and MacBeth appeared.

"Where on MacBeth are we supposed to be anyway?" Slippy asked.

"That's easy. At the spot that keeps lighting up."

The Arwings entered the atmosphere. When they arrived at the battle they saw a few hundred fighters and a battleship engaged in combat with each other.

"Could somebody tell which are the good guys and which are the bad guys." Slippy asked.

"WE are the good guys." a wolf said over comms. channel.

"Who the hell are you?" Fox asked.

"I'm Wotan, captain of the Firewing. It's nice of you to join us, but if you were looking for a fight you're a bit late."

A fighter exploded and suddenly no more lasers were fired and the remaining fighters headed for the battleship.

"You mean we finally have a chance to fight and now that we're her the fight is already over?" Falco said disappointed.

"Sorry guys. If we had known you would be here so soon we might have left you some. But what's done is done."

"Easy for you to say. You had all the fun."

"We might as well turn around and leave." Peppy said.

"Where are you going?" Wotan asked.

"Back to Corneria. We were planning to do shopping down there when we were called away for this mission." Fox said.

"Shopping?"

"You know. Power packs, energy cells, stuff like that."

"Can I come?" Wotan asked.

"Why?"

"I need to talk to Pepper."

"Well, it's a free galaxy. You can come if you want to." Fox said.

"Really? Oh thankyouthankyouthankyou!"

"Jeez, that is one annoying wolf." Fox said.

"I don't know. I kinda like him." Falco said.

"Figures."

Hira entered his room and looked around. Weapons hung on the walls. He had a small bookcase filled with war-stories. This weren't his quarters. This were the quarters of some guy who happened to have the same name. He sat down, confused, puzzled. What was he to do? Betray Benno? How? He wanted to get away from this place. Where to? He didn't know. Suddenly the doors opened and someone entered. Hira identified her as the new StarWolf member. He decided to be careful. Maybe somebody was getting suspicious of his loyalties and sent her 'investigate' him.

"What do you want?" he asked.

"Why did you howl down at the construction site?"

"I didn't." he lied.

"Please. I saw you. You were defenetly howling about something."

Hira thought about what to do next. Trust her? Of course not! She was StarWolf for crying out loud!

"You don't like it here very much, do you?" Corda said.

"What do you mean?"

"Come on! You hate it here as much as I do."

"How did you..." Hira quickly closed his mouth. He had just betrayed himself! She knew! He would be dead before tomorrow!

"How did I know? Simple. I hate this place probably even more than you do."

"What are you talking about? You're StarWolf!"

"Well, technically, yes. But I really, really, really hate this godforsaken place. If it weren't for Pepper I wouldn't even be here."

"What do you mean?"

Corda realized that this time it was she who just said a bit too much. Well if Hira turned him in she would be executed. Then she wouldn't be here any more. As a matter of fact that might not be such a bad idea. She'd rather be dead then spend any more time at this base!

"I might as well confess." she said. "I'm an infiltrator sent by Pepper to spy the Venomian Army during Andross."

"Then why are you still here?"

"Long story."

"Well, it seems you and I have the same goal."

Corda looked confused. The same goal? He was a Venomian. What was he talking about?

"Are you saying you're a spy as well?"

"No, but I would have volunteered if I got the chance."

Hira couldn't believe what he was saying. He actually said, out loud, that he wanted to betray his own army. Was he insane or something?

"Well, it seems you and I do have the same objectives."

"So...what do we do now?"

"Now? I don't know."

"Attempt sabotage?"

"No, you'd just have to rebuild it. Besides as long nobody knows we're here we can't expect any form of attack. Sabotaging the defenses would be pretty pointless and dangerous."

Corda suddenly rembered something. How could she have forgotten it! Here they were talking about sabotage in broad daylight! Anyone who happend to pass could overhear their conversation. She started to panic.

"What are you doing?"

"Panicing." she said with a small smile.

"Why?"

"Anybody could hear us and betray us!"

"No they can't. This chamber is sound-proof. Somebody could be standing on the other side of the doorway and still wouldn't be able to hear a thing."

"Well, it's still dangerous. We should be more careful."

"No, we should get a message to your general Pappar."

"Pepper."

"Whatever."

 

Pepper was reading up on some reports when the doors to his chamber opened. Wotan stood there in the accesway.

"Come in, my good friend."

Wotan sat down.

"'My good friend'? Since when?"

"Since you handled that little pirate issue at MacBeth."

"That was nothing."

"So, why are you here?"

"About that attack. Those ships weren't pirate ships."

"What are you talking about?"

"Those were not pirate ships. They looked like pirate ships, they flew like pirate ships, but they were not pirate ships."

Pepper wanted to ask Wotan how he knew that, but he was interupted by the computer.

"Incoming transmission."

"From who?"

"Unknown."

"Where does it come from?"

"Unknown."

Pepper sighed.

"Very well. On screen."

"Text only."

Pepper sighed again.

"Display the transmission will you?"

The transmission wasn't much. It were a set of numbers and, a white circle and two initials:

'C & H'.

Pepper looked confused.

"What do you make of this?" he asked Wotan.

"North Pole, Fortuna, sent by two persons."

"Are you sure?"

"Positive."

"Why would anybody send such a short messsage?"

"Maybe they didn't have much time. Maybe they wanted to avoid that if somebody intercepted it he or she couldn't understand it."

"What shall I do?"

"Don't ask me. You're the general."

"Don't remind me."

 

Fox hung around in the control room. He was really bored. He wasn't so eager to fight as Falco was, but absolutely action for months was a bit much. He secretly hoped Andross had returned so he could once again see some action. He thought about what happened the last few months. Katt joining them. The ambush at Zoness. The relationship (?) between Falco and Katt. The raid at MacBeth. He was the leader of the best fighter team in the known galaxy and he didn't have any part the things that had happened after the fall of Andross. It really bugged him.

"Fox."

"What is it ROB?"

"General Pepper wants to talk to you."

"Put him through."

"Hello Fox."

"Hi Pepper. Do you have something to do for me?"

"As a matter of fact I have."

Fox cheered up. Finally, some action.

"What's the matter?"

"We don't know. I recieved a transmission last night that was mysterious at best."

"So, wher do I come in?"

"Wotan, you know, the guy who spoiled your fun at MacBeth, thinks that this message contained some coördinates at Fortuna. I want you and your team to check it out and report to me if you notice anything unusual."

Great. A scout mission. On a deserted snowball. Well it was better than nothing.

"Roger, sir. Fox out."

He sighed. Another no-action mission. He decided not to bother his crew with it and headed for the Arwings.

 

Wolf walked through the Fortuna-base with Leon.

"When are we going to attack! All this is completely pointless and irrelevant." Wolf said

"What is relevant?"

"Destroying Corneria of course."

"And how do you think you are going to do that?"

"I don't know. I'll think of something."

"Right, well, until you do we should better continue with doing nothing."

Wolf growled. He wanted to see some action. The only major event to do around here was watching some incompetent workers build yet another orbital gun. He couldn't take it much longer! Suddenly red lights started to flash and an alarm sounded.

"Well," Leon said. "looks like you got what you wished for."

Benno's voice sounded over the intercom.

"We have one fighter approaching fast. StarWolf get to your Wolfen."

"Only one?" Wolf sounded disappointed.

"Come on. Cheer up. We'll capture that pilot and then we're going to have some fun with him. What do you say?"

"Not a bad idea Leon."

 

Fox flew in his Arwing over the white, frozen surface of Fortuna. Only ROB and Pepper knew why he was really here. His teammates just thought Fox wanted to fly a bit. Fox got a bit nervous. What if something was here. What if he had to face StarWolf all of the sudden. He really didn't like the thought. The individual StarWolf members weren't as good as Fox, but together they might pose a serious problem. The display showed that Fox was reaching the spot where he was supposed to be. He began to get really nervous. Should he call for backup? He decided he wouldn't unless it was really necesary. Fox checked his scanners. They were clear. Fox sighed. Nothing. That was good. Suddenly his scanners started to bleep and lit up. Five fighters coming his way! Probably with hostile intentions by the looks of it. Fox changed his flight pattern. Instead of a straight line he flew from left to right hoping he wouldn't get targeted. The five ships came within sight. Wolfen! Fox started to panic.

"Hello, what have we here?" Fox identified the voice as Leon's.

"It's StarFox, isn't it? All alone." Wolf responded.

"Enough talk. Let's get him!" Pigma yelled.

Fox started to sweat. He was in serious trouble. Fox tried to contact Great Fox.

"ROB, are you there? Anybody?" No response.

The five Wolfen closed in. Fox turned around and fired up his boosters.

"Oh no, you don't." Wolf cried.

The enemy fighters started to fly faster as well. Fox checked his scanners. They weren't gaining on him, but he wasn't losing them either. Fox tried to contact Great Fox again.

"ROB! MAYDAY! RESPOND!"

"What is it Fox?" Fox let go a sigh of relief.

"I've got a real problem here. Send the rest of the team. NOW!"

"StarFox team has been notified. Estimated arival: three minutes."

"Thanks ROB. Fox out."

Fox took a deep breath and turned around. The Wolfen, surprised by this unexpected action, didn't react fast enough and Fox was able to fire his lasers on one of them before he passed them.

"Dang, I'm hit! You'll pay for this McCloud!"

Fox smiled. He hit Wolf. The five Wolfen turned around as well and started pursuing Fox. Fox made an U-turn.

"He's coming straight for us!" Andrew yelled.

"Don't be a sissy!" shouted a voice Fox couldn't identify.

Fox looked on his scanners. The Wolfen were all turning in different directions and didn't form a pattern any more.

Let's see if I can get in some hits beforre the cavalry arrives. Fox started flying behind one the fighters he had chosen at random. The Wolfen in front of him tried to steer away. Fox waited patiently until he had a clear shot and fired his lasers. Hit!

"Can someone give me a hand here!?" Pigma cried desperatly.

"I'll be with you in a sec." Leon said.

Fox took a chance and looked behind. One of the Wolfen was right behind him. He assumed it was Leon. Fox decided to let Pigma go, for now, and somersaulted.

"Where did he go?" Leon said.

"I'm right behind you lizard breath." Fox fired. Leon's Wolfen shook a bit under the impacts and tried to steer away.

"For God's sake Leon. Can't you handle one little fox?"

"Well then why don't you try it, Wolf?"

Fox steered away from behind Leon. He didn't want to get Wolf on his tail.

Come on guys. I need you.

"You're in my sight. You're going down."

Where have I heard that before? Fox didn't have time to think about that very long. Wolf opened fire and Fox took a few hits. He somersaulted.

"Two can play that game, Fox." Wolf somersaulted as well. Fox started a series of barrel rolls to repel Wolf's fire. Suddenly he noticed a small hill nearby. He lured Wolf into that direction. Just before Fox hit hill he made an U-turn.

"Crud!"

Wolf hadn't seen the hill and just barely avoided it.

"Smart trick Fox, I'll give you that. But it won't save your hide for very long."

"Forget it Wolf!"

Wolf suddenly noticed that Fox was right behind him. Fox fired and hit.

"Fox leave a few for me, will ya?" shouted Falco.

"The odds are evened Wolf. Wanna give up?"

Wolf growled. "Retreat to the base!" he shouted.

"But..."

"No buts, Andrew! Get out of here!"

The Wolfen turned around and flew away as fast as they could.

"Come on! Don't let them get away!"

The Arwings followed the Wolfen.

"Fox we might be flying into a trap!" Peppy said.

"Don't you think I know that?"

The Wolfen disappeared behind a hill.

"Hurry up or we'll lose them!"

When Fox flew over the hill he couldn't believe his eyes.

"Are you seeing what I'm seeing?"

"If you mean a fully equiped Venomian base with several orbital guns and probably an entire army of small fighters, then I'd say yes, I do see what you see." Falco said.

"Who's going to retreat now, Fox?"

The Wolfen turned around and headed for the Arwings. Several hundred fighters flew out of the main building and headed for the Arwings as well.

"Time for a tactical withdrawal." Fox said.

"What are you talking about Fox?"

"Get back to Great Fox, now!"

The Arwings turned around and flew away as fast as they could.

"They're not following us." Slippy said.

"Good." Fox said.

"Fox, tell me, why were you fighting StarWolf all by yourself?"

"Later, Falco."

 

Benno walked up and down his office. The news StarWolf had brought him was most distressing. The ship that had come his way turned out to be more than some lost free-lance pilot. It was Fox McCloud, the man responsible for the defeat of Andross! To make matters worse he had found the base! Pepper would already know by now and was probably planning an attack against the base. What should he do? Retreat? Benno stopped walking. No. Retreat would be the weak man's way out. He hadn't come this far to be defeated. He decided to stand and fight. The defence of the base was top priority. Benno pushed a button on his desk.

"Send in captain Hira."

"We don't know where he is, sir."

"What do you mean 'You don't know where he is'?"

"Well, he is not in his quarters and he also isn't near the construction site."

"Find him, NOW!"

"Yes, sir."

The comms. unit was silent again. Where could Hira be? A red light on his desk started blinking. What was going on?

"Sir, two of our fighters have just entered orbit!"

"What! Follow them!"

"We can't. They're already to far away!"

"We've got orbital guns! Blast them out of the skies!"

"We can't, sir. They're too small to target."

Benno howled. StarFox had shown up just one time and already his people were defecting. He was in big problems.

"Let them go. Find Hira! And send in StarWolf!"

"Yes, sir."

Benno took a deep breath and sat behind his office again. A few moments later the doors to his office opened and StarWolf came in.

"Where's Corda?"

"I don't know, sir." Wolf said.

"You haven't killed her, have you?"

Wolf seemed to look a bit disappointed. "No, sir. We just couldn't find her."

"Don't tell me she was in one of those fighters!"

"What do you mean?" Pigma asked.

"Never mind. About your fight with StarFox."

"What about it?" Leon asked.

"Have you noticed anything? Anything we can use?"

"Well, their Arwings are still inferior to our Wolfen 2. But..."

"But what? Tell me Wolf."

"There're five of them now."

"Dang!"

"That's putting it mildly." Leon said.

"Wolf, I want you and your men to guard the base. At least one of you has to be in the air at all times."

"Why, are you suspecting an attack?" Wolf said.

"To be honest, yes I do. StarFox has seen our base. I suspect we will be flooded with Cornerians within weeks. Dismissed."

StarWolf left his office again. Benno pressed the comms. button on his desk again.

"Have you found Hira?"

"Not yet, sir."

Where could he be?

 

The blue atmospehre of Fortune made way for the vast blackness that was space. Hira couldn't believe it. They made it! They have succesfully left the base and were now actually heading for... For where exactly?

"Corda, where are we going?"

"Home."

"I see. And where might home be?"

"Corneria, of course."

"Corneria is too far away for these small fighters."

"Well. I suppose we could go find some larger transport and surrender."

"They would probably blast us to bits if we came too close."

"Don't worry. I'll think of something."

"Uhuh."

"I got us out of the base, didn't I?"

"OK, OK. You'll think of something. By the way, why didn't take your Wolfen?"

"A Wolfen be shot much sooner than a simple fighter."

"I suppose that's true."

"Of course it's true. Let's just find a ship so we can defect, OK?"

"Go ahead. I'll follow."

The two ships turned towards the direction of Corneria and started to speed up.

 

ROB ran a standard systems check. He didn't expect to find very much. In fact he didn't find even the slightest malfunction. He was very pleased with this fact, as far as ROB could be pleased of course. Then he noticed something.

"Fox, I am registering two contacts heading this way."

Fox got up from his seat.

"Really, can you identify them?"

"Two Venomian small fighters. Weapons and shielding are off-line."

"Off-line? Why would any fighter aproach Great Fox with no defence whatsoever?"

"Unknown."

"Hold your fire, will ya ROB? Let's see if they wanna talk."

ROB didn't approve of this, but as any wel-built robot he didn't show it.

"Very well."

Fox stared at the screen that looked out into space. Two small fighters with no weaponry approaching Great Fox? That was suïcide.

"Incoming message from one of the fighters."

"Put it on screen."

The image of a mouse appeared. Fox decided to take a formal posture.

"I am Fox McCloud, captain of the Great Fox and leader of StarFox. You arfe flying in ships of our enemies, but your weapon and shield systems are down. Please state your identities and your business."

"I am Corda, the pilot of the other vessel is Hira. We are from the Venomian army."

Wait a minute. That voice. StarWolf!

"ROB, prepare to fire!"

The mouse screamed.

"NO! Hear us out, please!"

"You're one of StarWolf! Why should I trust you?"

"If I were StarWolf than why am I not flying a Wolfen?"

"It could be a trick. For all I know Wolf O'Donnel himself is flying next to you."

"Look, just contact General Pepper. He'll back me up."

Fox thought about that for a moment.

"Very well, but if he doesn't know you, you're dead. Got that?"

Corda made a quick prayer when Fox contacted Pepper. Of course, Fox had no idea about this.

"What is it Fox?"

"Sir, we have two fighters here of the Venomian army who wish to talk. The one doing the talking calls herself Corda."

"Is she a mouse?"

Fox was surprised to hear that question.

"Yes, why?"

"Put her throught to me will you."

Fox was even more surprised, but he did what the general wanted. For a moment the comms. screen was blank. After a while Pepper appeared again.

"These people should be taken on Great Fox."

"WHAT!"

"Do it, Fox. The mouse is one of my infiltrators, the others claims to be a defector. Get them on board."

"Yes, sir. Fox out."

The two fighters were notified to land. Fox gathered his team and they all headed to the Arwing bay. As the doors opened a mouse and meerkat were already waiting.

"Well," Fox said. "Welcome to Great Fox."

 

Corda looked around when she followed StarFox. So this is the Great Fox? Nice. Bit smaller than I suspected, but nice.

"Ladies first." Fox said as the elevator doors opened.

"See Falco? That's how you treat a lady." Katt said.

"You're no lady."

Katt's eyes breathed fire.

"What was that?" her voice was as cold as ice.

"Er...sorry?" Falco sounded scared.

Katt turned away and stepped into the elevator.

Those guys are just as disorganised as StarWolf.

"Come on, no fighting. We've got guests."

"I thought we were prisoners." Hira said.

"If it were up to Fox you would be. But Pepper insisted otherwise." Peppy said.

"Remember me to thank Pepper in my prayers."

"You pray?"

"Well, no. But for this I'm willing to make an exception."

The elevator doors opened again and the seven Lylatians entered the control room.

"Don't touch anything." Fox said.

"What's that?" Corda asked.

"ROB 64." Fox said.

"And he's a 'who' not a 'what'" Slippy added.

The comms. screen turned on and Pepper apeared.

"Ah, Corda good to see you again."

"Thank you sir."

"Fox, I want these people delivered to Corneria at once."

"Yes, sir."

The comms. screen went blank again.

"Come on," Fox said. "I'll show you to your quarters."

When Fox entered the elevators again he could just hear Falco complain.

"What are we anyway? A delivery service? Delivered within 24 hours or you'll get a refund?"

Fox smiled when the elevator doors closed again.

"We must take action immediatly!" Pepper said after hearing the stories of Corda and Hira.

"Agreed, but what should we do? Those orbital guns can blast us out of the skies before we can even fire at the main base itself." Bill said.

"If I may." Hira said. "I think I've got a plan that will succeed."

"Let's hear it."

Hira sat down behind a computer panel and something appeared on the large screen on the wall.

"This is a schematic of the Fortuna base." Hira said.

"The orbital are located...here." Afew red squares appeared on the screen indicating the location of the guns.

"And here are the power generators and the shield generator."

"What kind of shield generator?" Fox asked.

"Type 2. The shield won't withstand an orbital bombardment for very long."

"But with those guns in place an orbital bombardment is impossible." Bill added.

'Those guns must be destroyed." Pepper said.

"Do they have any weaknesses?" Bill asked.

"Well, they can't target small fighters. They can shoot at them, but those shots would be highly inaccurate."

"I think I know where this is going." Falco whispered.

"Fox, you and your team will have to penetrate that base and wipe out those guns." Pepper said.

"I knew he was going to say that!"

"I'm not sure if Fox is going to make that." Corda said.

"Why not?"

"StarWolf is at that base."

"And a few regiments of fighters." Hira added.

"Don't worry." Bill said. "I'll cover them, with a little help from huskey unit of course."

"If we take out those guns. What then?"

The Lylat system appeared on the screen.

"Let's see. The Firewing, the Corneria Star, the Omega and the Blue Shield are close by. As soon as those guns are down you'll retreat back into space and those ships can start bombarding the base. What do you think?" Pepper asked.

"It's possible, but it will be difficult."

"Please, don't remind me."

 

Benno walked up and down his office. He had been doing that a lot lately. The Corneria Military had shown no signs since StarFox found the base and that worried him. They were up to something. To make matters worse his StarWolf team was down to four again while StarFox still had five. He had to find a capable pilot to fill the gap. Then it hit him. He would fly with Wolf! He used to be the best, or at least one of the best befor he became a general. Why hadn't he thought of that earlier? Suddenly alarms sounded and warning lights flashed.

"Everybody to your fighters!" Benno shouted over the intercom.

It had begun.

 

"We're approaching the base, people. Get ready." Bill said.

"Roger that."

"OK, Bill here's the plan. YOU're going to destroy the guns and WE'll cover you." Fox said.

"Fine."

The group of fighters flew over the hills. The base was in sight.

"There you again Fox. I was starting to get worried." Wolf said.

"Let's skip the idle threats shall we?"

The group split up. Lasers fired every way. Bill's unit was taking losses.

"Fox! You were supposed to cover me!"

The Arwings split up.

"Falco, you and I distract Wolf. The rest covers huskey unit."

"Thank you."

Katt flew towards the Venomian small fighters and fired.

"Those guys are falling like flies!"

"Isn't life grand?" Slippy said.

Falco and Fox raced towards the Wolfen.

"Haven't you improved you Arwings yet, Fox?"

"They'll do Wolf."

Fox mad a sharp turn and fired. Wolf took quite a hit.

"Fox, a little help here."

Fox turned around only to see that Falco was being chased by two of the Wolfen.

"Hang on!"

"What do you think I'm doing here?"

Fox sighed. The day Falco stopped being sarcastic was the day he would die. And that day might have come soon if it weren't for Falco's flying skills and Fox's gunnery skills. Soon the one of the Wolfen was racing towards the cold surface of Fortuna, its engines burning like mad. The other had been forced to take evasive actions.

"It's about time!"

Wolf desecended from his position and steered his Wolfen behind Fox's fighter.

Adios Fox.

Lasers flew through the air. Suddenly Fox made a quick turn. Wolf soon found out why. One of his men had been racing towards Fox and now took the hits of Wolf's lasers. This was not going well for the team.

Meanwhile Bill flew through the cloud of enemy fighters. The backup provided by Katt, Peppy and Slippy proved to be extremely valuable. Basicly all the fighters diverted their attention to StarFox and ignored the Katina group that was threatening their defences. A rather foolish mistake. Too late did the fighters realise that Bill's unit was in actuallity the largets threat to the base. Even the four remaining Wolfen left the dogfight with Fox and Falco and came racing towards the orbital guns.

But the damage was already done. Not only did the guns lay in ruins, several power generators had been destroyed as well by the commando's of huskey unit.

"Fox, this might be a good time to retreat."

Suddenly all the fighters changed course towards space. The remaining Venomian fighters (and StarWolf, of course) were too surprised to react quickly and the team fled the scene of the battle without any further troubles.

 

The Arwings flew through the vast blackness of space closely followed by Bill and his unit.

"Is everybody OK?" Fox asked.

"I'm OK." Katt answered.

"Do you really think those guys could have possibly damaged my ship?" Falco said in his usual tone.

"I took a little beating, but it's nothing I can't handle." Slippy responded.

"I'm fine and my ship's OK." was Peppy's answer.

"We've lost a quite a few fighters, but we'll live." Bill said.

"Is it just me or did that go way too easy?" Falco asked.

"I dunno." Fox said.

At that moment the four Cornerian battleships appeared.

"And how are you?" one of the captains asked.

"If you would have arrived here a bit sooner you would've known."

The captain sounded a bit confused. "I...see...well, let's get this over with shall we?"

The four cruisers started bombarding the surface of the planet with space-to-ground missiles. Quite a devestating piece of artillery, by the way.

Nothing happened.

Another salvo of the missiles hit the surface of Fortuna.

Still, nothing happened.

"That's weird. I can see the explosions and all, but..." Slippy started.

"But what?" Bill said.

"There's no response. No-one is trying to stop us or something."

A huge explosion lit up the void.

"I guess that's it." one of the captains said. "Let's go."

Bill's unit entered the fighters hangars of the cruisers. The ships turned around and disappeared leaving Fox and his team alone.

"That was way too easy." Katt said.

"That might just be the understatement of the year." Slippy said.

"I didn't know you even knew the meaning of the word 'understatement'." Falco said.

"Hah, hah...vey funny, Falco."

"There's just no pleasing some peolpe." Falco said with a dramatic sigh.

 

Pepper, Bill, Fox, Falco, Peppy, Slippy, Katt, Wotan, Corda, Hira and just about every other key figure in the 'Battle of Fortuna' were all celebrating the fortunate outcome of events of the past war. Although some refused to refer to it as a 'war', but that's besides the point. Everybody was cheerful and everybody made it sound like their role in the battle was the desicive one.

Then suddenly the sounds faded away.

The face of a wolf with an eyepatch appeared on the screen on the wall. His one eye gleaming with hatred and anger.

"Well, I'm not as dead as some of you migh think." Wolf O'Donnel said.

"Enjoy your victory while you can Cornerians. This was merely a test to show your strenghts and, more importantly, your weaknesses. Next time the victory will be ours."

The screen went blank again. Silence filled the room. After a long time Falco was the first to speak, in his own style, of course.

"He's bluffing."

"Maybe, maybe not." Peppy said.

"Either way," Fox said "It's not over yet."

"Fox, Master of the obvious." Falco said.

"You just had to say that, didn't you?" Fox responded.

"But you know Fox is right, don't you Falco?" Peppy said.

"What do you mean Pep?"

"I mean that the Venomian Wars are far from over."

"Why do you think that?" Katt asked.

Peppy smiled.

"I don't think that. I know that."

"Whatever. The point is we're going to beat again and again and again until it is finally over. That's a promise." Fox said.

"Fox, that's overacting." Falco said.

"So what?"

 

Wolf and his team flew through space. Several ships had already made the jump to hyperspace. The evacuation had started even before the attack on the Fortuna base. The ships were again retreating into the Forgotten Regions and again StarWolf flew alongside them. Wolf growled.

Next I'll get you Fox. Count on it.

"Take a good look at Lylat, guys. We're not going to see it again very soon."

"But when we do see it again it'll be ours." Leon said.

"That's being optimistic." Benno responded.

"That's being realistic." Leon said.

The Wolfen powered up their engines and disappeared again.

 

 

THE END?