And There Was One

By Gray Lancer

Authors notes: Andross is long gone. But the Lylat system is on the brink of a very large
and very violent civil war. At first the war appears to be the result of old tensions and
resentment building up... but upon closer inspection, a deeper and far more sinister cause
is found. Something is awakening in Lylat, and it must be stopped... or esle the end may
really be coming.
 

-The Broadsword, in low orbit around Venom

        Sergeant Mark Selster, a ferret with combat-weary eyes, ran down the line of MG 5 Devastation
battle suits and checked to make sure that all the pilots were secure in their crash restraints. He saw a lot
of unfamiliar faces... he never knew anyone in the unit these days.
        It had been about a half a year ago when he realized he didnt care anymore. He used to know all
of the squadron members personally. Now he didnt give a damn who they were. He just did his job.
        Mark stopped at the end of the launch area and hit a button on a small console. The drop alert
sounded. He had used to shout out to signal the drop... and that had impressed the recruits... but that too
had gone with time.
        Why did it matter anyway? The war with Andross was over. The worst these kids were likely to
encounter would be a bunch of pirates. An MG 5 could defeat most of the pirates today without the pilot
doing anything.
        The MG 5 cockpits closed and sealed. The lighting in the drop room went red and the drop tubes
closed.
        Mark heard the sounds of a dozen MG 5 battle suits being launched out down to the surface of
Venom. The lights returned to their normal color.
        He sighed and leaned against the wall heavily. Captain Meris was taking them out herself today.
That meant he could do something he actually enjoyed.
        But the truth was, he didnt really enjoy much of anything anymore.
        Mark turned around and walked out the door, leaving the large drop room for the relatively
cramped main hallway.
        What had gone wrong? It seemed as if the war against Andross hadnt been won at all, but had
been lost. Everyone seemed to have less energy, less motivation.
        Mark had remembered his old drill sergeant saying something about victory not being victory if
your heart wasnt in it... he had never known what that had meant before now.
        He turned a corner and walked up to the main elevator. He pressed the call button and waited.
The doors opened and Mark stepped inside. He pressed the button for the crew level. Sleep sounded pretty
good right about now.

-Venom surface

        By the book, people. Keep in formation and dont go wandering off on your own.
        Captain Alison Meris did not sound enthusiastic. She sounded like this was the absolute last
thing she wanted to be doing.
        It was true. She hated these stupid training session. She muttered quietly to herself,
        They stopped getting good recruits after the war with Andross was over.
        She didnt like thinking that way, it depressed her. But it was the only thing that seemed true.
The new recruits didnt have the energy of commitment they used to. They just did what they were told
because they were told to. They wanted the valuable job experience that the recruiters promised without
having to make a real commitment.
        It was times like these that Alison felt really stupid for not taking the offer from the Mercenaries
Guild to go and help them with training. But even they seemed to be on hard times. The Guild hadnt
gained any new members recently. Their list of inactive members was growing steadily.
        Alison checked her threat display and looked for the target drone signals. Today they would be
simulating an ambush. At least that would be slightly interesting.
        She toggled the thermal sensors on and scanned the terrain. No visible heat spikes... the ground
was too warm to get a good reading off of it. Alison turned the thermals off and opened a com channel to
her squad,
        Follow my lead into the pass. Dont fall too far behind.
        She switched the com channel off again and pushed the throttle forward. Her MG 5 accelerated.
She turned it to face the pass and engaged autopilot. The suit continued walking towards the pass under
the guidance of the navigation computer.
        Alison shook her head slowly inside the cockpit and lowered her muzzle. She was a pretty fox
who had been in the Cornerian Army ever since she had graduated from high school. She had made her
way into the armored corps out of fascination with the MG line of battle suits. She had started with the
MG 4 and switched to the MG 5 when it had come out. She had always been with the 89th Attack Squad,
the Knifes Edge. It was only recently that the unit had been transferred to the Broadsword for training
operations.
        Alison opened a channel to her squadron,
        Were entering the pass soon. Keep your eyes on your threat display and watch for enemy
units.
        She almost laughed out loud at her own instructions. This was ridiculous. Of course she knew
exactly what was going to happen, half the rookies probably did too. Little details like what was going to
happen on the mission tended to be passed around the squadron. By the time they actually went on the
training assignment, half the new kids knew exactly where and when the enemy would attack and what
tactics they would be using.
        Alison would try to stop that sort of thing if she cared. But the truth was that she didnt care.
This kind of practice was valuable back when there was a real war on. Now it didnt matter if they
understood tactics and strategy. It just mattered if they could point a gun and pull the trigger.
        She looked down at the threat display and checked on her own troops. They were moving in
formation as the book described it. No initiative and no real dedication. They were in this for the short
term boost. They wanted something impressive on their resumes.
        Alison shook her head and muttered to herself again,
        God... and this is some of the best... Im glad Im not an infantry instructor.
        The threat display showed an unknown blip. One of the rookies called Alison on the com,
        Captain Meris, Im picking up enemy units.
        She sighed to herself and switch the com unit to squadron frequency. She spoke without any real
enthusiasm behind her voice,
        Break and attack.
        She wouldnt be part of the mock engagement... they were going to simulate failure of command
and see how the new kids reacted. Here it came.
        Alison shut her suits power down and a blanket of silence rested on her. She breathed deeply
and sat back. She wouldnt be doing anything for the rest of the exercise. She could think a little.
        Her thoughts lingered on the past. The war... it had been long and it had been hard...
        But it had brought everyone together and made them unite against a common foe. Everyone knew
what side they were on and knew exactly what they were fighting for.
        Now it was all over. There wasnt any evil they had to unite against. The military was left with a
bloated force that it didnt need. That meant lots of pointless missions on far-off worlds that consisted
primarily of dust. That meant recruits who didnt give a damn about the old Cornerian ideals...
        And where had all the heroes gone? Star Fox... that was a name you didnt hear anymore.
Children had looked up to Star Fox during the war. Fox McCloud and Falco Lombardi had been idols for
countless boys... Katt Monroe and Fara Phoenix for at least as many girls. The odd kid had looked up to
Peppy Hare, Slippy Toad, Bill Grey, or some other famous or not-so-famous person they had heard about
in one way or another.
        That had given them a set of ideals to follow. That meant that the kids who grew up in the war
werent so bad...
        But then that had disappeared. It was an illusion. Star Fox had officially disbanded. The great
military commanders had all retired... those who hadnt been killed, anyway.
        Alison leaned back in her seat and groaned,
        I need a friggin drink.

-Mercenaries Guild HQ, Corneria

        Brett MacDonald, the cat in charge of the Mercenaries Guild, sat back in his chair and held up a
throwing knife. He took careful aim with the knife and flung it at the opposite wall. It stuck in point-first.
        Bretts wife and exec, Kelly MacDonald, looked up and smiled,
        Nice toss.
        Yeah, just making sure Ive still got it. We havent seen action in months!
        Mmm?
        Yah! Look at this... we havent even pulled an intervention op recently. Not even a lousy escort
run. Not a bloody thing!
        Kelly shrugged and shook her head,
        Guess youve got a point there. It had been a little slow.
        Dammit, lets get out the list again.
        Kelly frowned. The list was a piece of paper on which they listed the Guild core staff. They only
took it out when there were changes in membership or in the status of members.
        She reached into her jacket and produced the piece of paper. She set it down on the desk in front
of Brett and took a seat on her husbands lap. He smiled and held her in his arms. She looked at him and
frowned again,
        Why?
        Because theres some changes to be made...
        Brett pulled out a pen and looked at the piece of paper. He shook his head and crossed out some
writing,
        Gray and Mira Lancer are both inactive. Technically theyre Guild members... but they havent
even come to a meeting in months.
        Kelly punched Brett lightly on the shoulder and smiled,
        Thats cause theyve got a daughter, stupid. Remember, Fenica Lancer? The little kit? You saw
her a few days after she was born.
        Brett grinned and spoke in a joking tone,
        Oh, Id completely forgotten about that.
        He reached down again and crossed a name out completely,
        Our procurement head Allais has said that she will not continue on with the Guild for personal
reasons. She came to me yesterday in tears.
        What?
        Andross killed her entire family. I think that now that hes gone... she doesnt have anything
left to hate... nothing to keep her going... no prospects of revenge. Shes only got grief and a life torn to
shreds by the war. Shes leaving and I wont try to stop her.
        He crossed another name out. Kelly looked down,
        Neefa Sarahis? Why her?
        Remember that her fiancee Lark Seervis was killed a few months ago in a fire fight with those
pirates?
        Yeah... she was pretty broken up about that... they were always so close...
        Brett nodded and looked down. He did not look happy,
        More broken up than youd think. She shot herself last night. One shot, modified Cornerian
Military laser pistol. Mustve been instant.
        Oh god... why?
        I dont know. Maybe it shouldnt have ever ended.
        What?
        The war, you know that. Here we are, over a half a decade after the war against Andross and the
whole system is going straight down the hole. Dammit, look at the statistics... look at our guild!
        He pointed at the list and continued,
        We lost one member to suicide, two left to raise their family, one broke down and quit outright...
Id give her another month before she wastes herself... heres some more interesting reading.
        He reached into a desk drawer and pulled out a thick file folder. He placed in front of Kelly. She
squinted at the folder,
        What is it?
        These are the bios of every Guild member and Cornerian Military staff member lost to suicide.
Neefas name is right on top.
        Kelly stared at the folder. Brett shook his head sadly,
        Its no good. The overall suicide rate for Lylat has skyrocketed. Morale of the everyday citizen
has dropped through the floor. Nobody wants to live in Lylat, so theyre giving death a try.
        Tears began to well up in Kellys eyes,
        I... knew... Neefa... since junior high... we were really... good friends...
        Kelly began crying,
        H...h...how c...could th...this h...h...happen?
        Brett didnt answer. Instead, he just held on to his wife.

-The Broadsword, in orbit around Venom

        Mark Selster sat by himself at one of the tables in the Broadswords small observation deck and
bar. He had a drink that he had barely touched sitting in front of him
        He heard the voice of Alison Meris above him,
        Mind if I join you?
        Mark looked up and managed a small smile,
        No. Sit down.
        Alison pulled up a chair and sat across from Mark. She shook her head,
        Youre losing your edge.
        He almost laughed,
        Yeah right, I lost my edge a long time ago. I hate taking these new kids out. Theyre all so...
so...
        Spiritless?
        The ferret nodded,
        Thats exactly what I mean. They dont seem to give a damn about what theyre supposed to be
fighting for.
        Fighting? None of them are fighting for anything. As much as we hate to admit it... the war is
over... it has been for a long time.
        I know... I know...
        He raised his glass to his lips and took a slow sip. Alison lowered her head and sighed wearily,
        Just taking the little freaks out is so much work now.
        Mark raised an eyebrow,
        Freaks? Since when did they become freaks?
        Since the last one with any enthusiasm got killed or went on to a new position.
        Good point... its getting so damn bad recently.
        You know what, I heard the whole system is like this.
        Mark put his glass down. He crossed his arms and sat back,
        Yeah right.
        No kidding. They say the suicide rate is over triple that of one year ago.
        Holy crap. Is it that bad out there?
        Thats the whole thing! Its not bad at all... in fact, the standard of living has never been
higher... but... I dont know what it is... everyone seems drained. Its like we won over Andross but we
really lost.
        Mark nodded slowly. He felt the same way every single morning when he woke up.
        A recruit walked up to their table and smiled. Neither of the two returned the smile. The recruit
looked at Mark and spoke,
        Sir, I heard that you were in the battle of Yahnas Peak, can you tell me about it.
        A fire burned in Sergeant Mark Selsters eyes. He slid his glass away and slowly pushed his chair
out. The smile vanished from the recruits face. Mark walked up to him and looked straight in his eyes.
the kid was quivering with terror by now. Make spoke in a low growl,
        How many really good friends do you have, son?
        S...sir?
        Answer the question.
        Uh...uh... maybe... uh... ten really good ones, sir?
        Can you imagine losing all of them in under an hour?
        S...s...sir?
        Son. You are going to come with me and see something. Captain Meris, I would like you to
accompany us.
        Alison nodded,
        Sure thing. Where we going?
        To visit Darus.
        Alisons eyes opened wide and she stared at Mark,
        Th...the broken one?
        Mark nodded and glared at the recruit,
        Son, youre going to see what war can do.
        Alison nodded slowly,
        Ill arrange it.

-Crew Section 12B, the Broadsword

        Hardly anyone ever ventured into Crew Section 12B, deep inside the Broadsword. Certainly no
one stayed for any longer than they absolutely had to.
        Because inside Crew Section 12B was the darkest secret of the 89th Attack Squad.
        The door to the section slid open and the three visitors stepped inside. Mark led the way,
followed by Alison and the recruit. The inside of the crew section was almost completely dark. The recruit
looked around nervously. Mark called into the darkness,
        Darus, its Mark. Remember me?
        A strange-sounding voice came out of the darkness. It was harsh and had a mechanical ring to it,
        Why do you disturb me... who is with you?
        A friend and someone who needs to be shown the truth about war.
        Why... must you?
        Mark nodded his head, thought the gesture was almost invisible,
        Yes, I must.
        Of course.
        The lights in the room gradually went up. They stopped at a level that was dim but bright enough
to see around. The recruit looked around the room frantically.
        His eyes settled on the most disturbing sight in the whole room.
        In the center, on a metal chair, sat what used to be a handsome male fox. The left side of his head
was covered in metal, as was much of his body. His right eye remained but showed little of the fire it had
obviously once held. His left ear was missing. His arms and legs, which remained motionless, were made
of metal. Wires and cables connected the fox to various consoles and jacks around the room. The fox
raised his head and groaned.
        The recruit stared at the fox in horror. Mark smiled grimly,
        This is Darus... the broken one. He is one of the survivors of the old 43rd Guard. He is the only
survivor. The only reason he lives now is because the military needs his knowledge of certain systems. As
a favor they are keeping him alive indefinitely.
        Darus groaned,
        ...and they call this living hell a life...
        He went silent and dropped his head. He looked like he was in constant pain. Mark walked over
to the recruit and grabbed his collar,
        Look at that! Look very closely and remember everything you see there! That is what war was!
THAT! There are some things that should not be talked about. Do you understand?
        The recruit nodded. He looked utterly terrified. He looked at Darus and the fox raised his head.
The recruit saw the expression of the fox and saw why he had earned the nickname the broken one.
        Mark grabbed the recruit and pushed him towards the door. The recruit stumbled out. Mark went
after him, followed by Alison. He shut the lights back down and closed the door. He looked directly at the
recruit,
        Go back upstairs and never ask me about any of that stuff again.
        The recruit nodded frantically and ran to the ladder leading back up. Alison shuddered,
        I hate it every time I see Darus. But this time, didnt he strike you as seeming a little... different
than normal.
        Mark nodded,
        Yes. You could see something different in his eyes.
        He knows something.
        What?
        He knows something. Ive always heard about premonitions and telepathy and all that stuff.
Well... I think that Darus knows something that he doesnt want us to know... and I think it scares him a
whole lot.
        Scares Darus? Nothing scares Darus... he doesnt really feel emotions.
        Alison frowned and shook her head,
        No... thats what it was that was odd in his eyes... hes afraid of something. Very afraid. Deathly
afraid. And did you see his eye right before we shut off the light?
        Not really.
        He looked downright terrified. As if he was afraid of being left in the dark...
        Darus? Afraid of the dark? You wouldnt think hed care.
        I dont think hes afraid of the dark... I think hes afraid of whats hidden by the dark.

-Tyrens Isle, Aquas

        Gray Lancer leaned back in the lounge chair he was sitting in and groaned. It had been a long
day. A very long day. Now it was finally all over. A chance to sit back and relax... or so he thought.
        He could hear his daughter Fenica... who was only two, wandering around inside the hotel suite
that they were staying in. Grays wife, Mira, was inside trying to keep the kit out of harms way.
        It was no easy task. Fenica seemed to have acquired her parents ability to get into the oddest of
situations and places. Gray heard something fall to the floor inside and heard Fenica giggle. Mira groaned
loudly and shouted out to Gray,
        Dear... get inside and help me control our daughter before she destroys this place!
        Gray smiled to himself and got up slowly. Having a room on the top of the hotel was nice because
of the view... but it also meant that Gray and Mira had to stop Fenica from falling over the edge.
        Gray walked slid the screen door dividing the porch of the hotel room from the room itself. He
stepped inside and closed the door behind him. Fenica looked up and spoke ,
        Daddy! You back!
        She ran up to her father and grabbed on to his leg. Mira smirked at Gray as he tried to pry his
daughter off of his leg,
        Shes been looking around the hotel room.
        Gray nodded understandingly,
        What fell over?
        Oh, that was one of the books the hotel is kind enough to supply. No harm done.
        Fenica looked up at Gray and grinned broadly. He smiled and patted her head as he continued to
pull her off his leg. Mira walked over to chair and sat down heavily. She sighed,
        Taking a two-year-old to see the age-appropriate sights is a little more difficult than it first
sounds.
        Gray finally finished getting Fenica off his leg. He nodded and sat down as well. Fenica dashed
off. Gray looked at Mira,
        You think we should go catch her?
        Nah, shell be fine. As long as she doesnt go onto the porch theres not much chance she can
kill herself.
        Gray laughed,
        Yeah. So, do you think it was a good idea to come here?
        Yes. We need the vacation. Corneria City is getting downright depressing.
        Whys that?
        I dont really know. It all seems so hostile now. Nobody cares about what we fought for in the
war against Andross. Its just that the kill or be killed attitude isnt great for a kit.
        No kidding. Speaking of which... where has Fenica got to?
        They heard the sound of a toilet flushing. Both looked at each other and said the same thing,
        The bathroom.
        They got up and walked down to the small bathroom. Inside Fenica was looking down into the
toilet with her paw on the handle. Mira walked up to her and picked her up. Fenica giggled and pointed at
the toilet,
        I made it go down!
        Mira glanced at Gray,
        Whats she talking about?
        Gray looked around the bathroom and finally spoke,
        I cant find the soap.
        They both looked at the toilet. Fenica grinned. Gray shook his head and looked down at his
watch,
        Its bedtime. Fenica, you should know better than to flush the soap down the toilet.
        Fenica answered earnestly,
        I was jus seeing wha would happen.
        Mira smiled and held Fenica in her arms,
        Yes, well now its time for you to see what happens when you fall asleep.
        Fenica shook her head,
        No, m not sleepy.
        Gray smiled. The little vixen had been all over the city today thanks to the miracle of inter-city
transit systems. There were two bedrooms in the suite... one which doubled as the main room. That was
the one that Gray and Mira slept in. Fenica slept in the other room, within easy shouting distance if she
needed her parents for any reason.
        By the time they had entered the room, Fenica was already asleep in Miras arms. Gray pulled
back the covers on the bed and Mira set Fenica down on it. They pulled the covers back and tucked their
daughter in. She twitched slightly but didnt wake up. Gray and Mira kissed their daughter good-night
and went out of the room, turning off the lights and closing the door softly.
        The went back into the main room and sat down. Mira reached out and held Grays paw,
        We didnt know what we were getting into when we had a kit.
        Gray nodded, smiled, and leaned back.
        They heard a knock at the door to their room. Gray quickly stood up and walked to the door. He
opened it and saw no one on the other side. He was about to turn around and head back inside when he
saw something on the ground in front of the door.
        It was a thick file folder filled with papers. On it was a hand-written note:

        Gray and Mira... what do you think we should do about this?
           &nb sp;    -Brett MacDonald

        Gray picked up the folder and closed the door. He walked back to his chair and sat down. Mira
saw the file folder,
        Whats that?
        Gray had been flipping through the folder,
        Something very depressing...
        What?
        Its a list of everyone in the Cornerian Military or the Mercenaries Guild who has killed
themselves... in the past couple years...
        Who sent it?
        Brett MacDonald. I think its time we had a little chat with him.

-Southview cafe, Tyrens Isle, Aquas

        Gray and Mira Lancer sat together at the table they had agreed to meet Brett at. Fenica was
sitting still for once and looking at the people passing outside. She seemed occupied but both her parents
kept an eye on her just in case.
        Mira looked towards the entrance of the cafe. She saw Brett MacDonald and his wife Kelly
entering. She leaned over and tapped Grays shoulder,
        Here they are.
        Gray nodded. Brett came up to their table and nodded to the two foxes and their daughter,
        Hi. Havent seen you guys in a while. Man, your daughter was only just born the last time I saw
her...
        He knelt down next to Fenica and smiled,
        How you doing?
        Fenica giggled and poked Brett in the nose,
        Poke.
        She giggled again. Brett put on a look of injured dignity and stood up again. He smiled and sat
down. Kelly pulled up another chair and sat next to him. Gray looked at Brett and spoke,
        Why did you send me that?
        Bretts smile vanished and he instantly turned serious,
        Gray, the Lylat system is in the crapper.
        What?
        Come on, even you two... with your daughter to keep you busy... know it. The Lylat system is in
its worse shape ever. Civilian and military morale is gone. Nobody seems to know why they keep on
living. I dont know what it is... a loss of purpose, maybe?
        But why? People have gone thousands upon thousands of years in mundane and peaceful
existence. Why does it matter now?
        Brett threw up his arms,
        Thats exactly why its so unusual! Theyve got no particular reason to feel this way... well, the
military kind of does... but thats about it.
        So why am I here talking to you?
        Well... I want you and Mira to help me out.
        Gray pointed at Fenica, who was playing with a straw. Brett winced,
        Yeah, I know, I know. The thing is... I really need your help on this one. Is it possible for me
and Kelly to take care of your daughter?
        Gray smiled,
        Yes. She likes you well enough. But I warn you, she can be a pawful.
        I figured as much. Well do our best.
        Gray nodded and remained silent. Mira spoke,
        What are we actually going to be doing?
        You are going to blend in. You are going to go everywhere and find out why the hell the system
is in such bad shape. I dont expect you to do anything to fix it... I just want to know why.
        Mira stared at Brett,
        You just asked us to do one of the more impossible things in existence.
        I know that. Its just... well... Ive got some weird feelings about this whole thing.
        Gray shook his head,
        Weird feelings now? Well, alright. Well do it. Just give us one day to pack and get Fenica ready
to stay... where the hell is she going to be staying?
        Kelly and I have a place in the Cornerian countryside. Itll be good for her to get away from the
city for a while.
        Ok. Did you hear that, Fenica? Your gonna be staying with uncle Brett and aunt Kelly for a
while.
        Fenica smiled,
        Yer funny, ncle Brett.
        Brett cocked his head,
        Uh... thanks, I guess.
        They all got to their footpaws. Mira took Fenicas hand and they began walking out. Brett hung
back and motioned to Gray to come. Gray walked over. Brett spoke very softly to Gray,
        Im warning you that this whole thing feels very wrong.
        What do you mean?
        Gray, remember your damn special forces gut instinct. Stop ignoring your hunches! You can
feel it too... something is wrong when the morale of an entire system collectively drops through the floor.
When youre looking into this, I want you to check for any possible patterns or trends... ANY. I dont care
how obscure they may seem... something is going on and I want to know what.
        Gray nodded and turned around and walked up to his wife. Together they left the cafe and
walked onto the sunny streets of Tyrens Isle. Brett shook his head and muttered to himself,
        I dont like this any more than you do, Gray. Believe me... I dont like it one bit more.

-Corneria City

        Fenica had been left with Brett and Kelly and had already begun to find the most effective way to
destroy their house.
        That left Gray and Mira to carry out their rather unusual assignment. They would begin on
Corneria and do a little poking around. That meant they could stay the night at their apartment and begin
the next morning.
        The apartment was located far above the streets of Corneria City, in one of the new buildings. It
was a big apartment, but all on one level.
        Mira stood on the porch outside with her nightgown on. Gray walked outside and hugged his
wife,
        What are thinking about.
        Actually... I was just wondering where all the survivors of the war got to.
        Whazzat?
        Well... the last time we saw Fox McCloud and Fara Phoenix-McCloud... or even heard about
them... was back when we fought Sevantra. We havent heard any news about any of the others... which
means that they havent died either.
        Good point. Very good point. Maybe Brett was right.
        Mira looked up at Gray,
        About what?
        Oh... I forgot that he hasnt told you. Well I will... he talked to me when we were leaving
yesterday. He said that it feels like something really big is happening. He told me to check for any patterns
of anything like that.
        Well worry about it tomorrow. Lets go to bed.
        Good idea.
        They kissed and stepped back inside the apartment.

-The Far-Runner, in transit from Katina to Papetoon

        Fox McCloud twitched in his sleep. He was dreaming. He had been through a strange day.
Earlier someone had come up to him and tapped him on the shoulder and said something. It had just been
four words... you dont even know. But Fox couldnt get them out of his head. They seemed terribly
important for some reason.
        His dreams werent completely formed. Brief flashes of images from his past... from his present...
and those that seemed to have no connection to any of his memories but did seem connected to him. The
future?
        He saw Fara, his wife. No... not Fara... but it did look like her... almost. The vixen he saw in his
dreams was a little different. She had silver hair and brown fur... and she was wearing a dark tan robe.
She had a large sword strapped to her back.
        She looked impressive... but sad.
        The image resolved itself into a remarkable clarity. The vixen was standing on a broad green
field. She was crying and hanging her head. The view shifted to show a different angle. Fox saw that the
vixen was standing above a field that was covered with the dead and dying. The remains of some horrible
battle?
        Someone else approached the scene. It was a fox dressed in similar robe to the vixen and also had
a sword on. He put his arms around the vixens shoulders and spoke softly,
        Will it happen again?
        She sniffled and nodded,
        It will. Someday.
        The dream faded and Fox woke with a start. He looked next to him in the small bed and saw
Fara, peacefully sleeping. Fox breathed deeply.
        It was just a dream. Nothing more than that.
        Or was it? So vivid... so real.
        He and Fara were going to Papetoon for a short visit. Fox had lived on Papetoon at the very
beginning of the war with Andross. He felt like returning for a short visit.
        After the war, Fox had been a Cornerian hero. They had turned his old den into a blasted
museum! Then, a couple years ago, the museum had gone completely under and Foxs den was
abandoned. He hadnt been back yet and intended to see it again.
        The Far-Runner, a fairly large passenger ship, had its own day and night cycle, which was
sometimes adhered to be its passengers. Fox and Fara had decided theyd rather get a little sleep than
socialize with some of the most depressing and boring people theyd ever met.
        Fox stared up at the ceiling and kept thinking. This was no way to get back to sleep. Oh well.
        He got the unshakable feeling that the dream meant something. Something undeniably important.
Fox looked at the ceiling and spoke as if expecting an answer,
        Why does it always have to be me?
        No answer came, which actually surprised Fox. Hed been through some pretty weird stuff in the
past five years... a ceiling talking to him would seem downright normal.
        Fara rolled over in her sleep and bumped into Fox. He put his arms around her and she smiled,
still asleep. Fox spoke to her softly, trying not to wake her,
        At least youre having good dreams.

-The Broadsword, in orbit around Venom

        Sergeant, do you know whats wrong with Darus?
        Commander Akaris question surprised Mark Selster a little. Akaris was a no-nonsense fisher
with a black mechanical right arm. He had lost his original arm in the war against Andross, in a power
suit fight. He was a veteran who had trained in the old MG 3 and had won more medals than most
thought possible.
        Sergeant? Are you listening? I asked you a question.
        Sorry, sir.
        So what is wrong with Darus?
        Sir?
        He refuses to give his usual technical and tactical advice. More than that, he wont shut up.
Look at this, its a transcript of some of what hes been saying.
        Commander Akaris handed Mark several sheets of paper. Mark glanced at one of the sheets:

        Do you see them?
        No? You dont? Cant you see them?
        Theyre here, you see. Here inside... and outside...
        Theyre not quite through yet, but they will be soon.
        Cant you see them?
        Theyre not like us... theyre different... better...

        Mark looked up,
        This is pretty much all the same. What the hell is Darus talking about?
        Thats what Id like you to answer.
        Well... I dont really know.
        Come on, I know you went down to visit him yesterday. Did anything about him seem a little
unusual?
        Darus always seems unusual. But if you mean not like Darus is normally, the no. He seemed
about the same as he always was.
        Right. Well, thanks anyway. Youre dismissed.
        Mark saluted and walked away from the commander. Something was seriously wrong with Darus
and he needed to know what. Did this have something to do with the look on Darus face the other day...
that look of sheer terror at being left alone in the dark.
        He knew that hed better have a talk with Captain Meris. He knew exactly where she would be.

        Alison Meris was standing on the observation deck and staring out at the stars. She heard
someone coming up behind her and looked at the reflection in the window,
        Hi Mark. I love how you can see the planet below and the stars above. It gives you such a nice
feeling of detachment.
        Mark stood next to her. He also looked out at the stars and spoke to Alison without turning his
head,
        We need to talk about Darus.
        Why? We showed the recruit and thats the end of it, right?
        No. Darus is acting really weird.
        Darus isnt exactly a model of normality and sanity.
        Weird for him. Hes ranting on about how they are coming through. He keeps going on about
that without giving any of his normal advice. He hasnt even asked the command staff to kill him. Not
even once, and he usually does that once or twice when theyre consulting him just to check.
        What the hell is he talking about?
        I dont know. But remember his face. He was really afraid of something. Maybe that something
is the mysterious they.
        Alison nodded,
        I wouldnt rule it out. So hes taken to illogical and irrational fears now?
        Maybe... but Darus always seemed pretty realistic. Hes completely shattered, fear included.
What does someone who wants us to kill him have to be afraid of?
        Alison seemed about to reply but stopped to think. Her expression changed. She looked genuinely
worried now,
        Thats a pretty good question. Maybe we should talk to Darus again.
        Not a bad idea. But I think that theyll have people guarding him now that hes starting those
damn messages.
        Theyll take the guards out for dead time and we can slip in.
        Dead time was when non-critical systems were shut down for system checks. In a status of peace,
which they were at, dead time lasted twenty minutes. During dead time, all crew who werent running
checks were supposed to be in quarters. The only exception was when there were actual prisoners. If
someone was in the brig, guards would remain and the brig would remain under full power.
        But Darus wasnt considered a prisoner. The guards would be pulled for dead time. Mark smiled,
        Clever. Lets give it a shot. We can probably slip away without anyone noticing. The recruits
dont like to associate with us and we dont have a shift until tomorrow afternoon.

-Office of Public Relations, Corneria City

        Tim Banaway looked down at a series of charts and graphs that one of his field agents had placed
in front of him. This was not good. The Office of Public Relations was a busy place, they needed to make
sure that the people of Lylat stayed happy. Their job was keeping everyone loyal to the government of
Lylat.
        Tim looked up at the agent and grimaced.
        This is perfectly accurate info, isnt it.
        The agent only nodded. Tim winced,
        Good lord. This is the worst public approval and general morale rating Ive ever seen. People
were happier with Andross up their butts.
        Should I file this?
        No, good lord, keep the thing out here. Hey, you...
        He motioned to a member of the staff who was floating around nearby. The staff member walked
up and nodded. Tim pointed at the charts,
        Get copies of these made, get them on every computer in this damn building.
        The staff member nodded and walked off. The agent gaped,
        Sir, what the hell are you doing? Its just a PAGMR report!
        Listen, son, do you know what our job is?
        Uh... to observe the views and status of the Cornerian people and... um... protect their rights?
        AND we have another duty to the Cornerian government... to PREVENT CIVIL WAR! Look at
your own damn charts, the Cornerian people are NOT happy! If this continues, were looking at people
versus the government. That would be a very messy fight.
        Well, what do we do about it?
        Im giving you a team. I want you to run another survey... find out WHY the morale of our
people is so low, and find out how to bring it back up before they turn on their government.
        Yes, sir.
        The agent was gone, leaving the charts and graphs. Tim leaned over and flicked his tail. It was
going to be a very very long week.

-Crew Section 12B, the Broadsword

        The lights flicked on inside the room that held Darus. His one remaining eye went wide with
fear.
        Mark narrowed his eyes and looked straight at Darus,
        Why are you giving command all that crap over the com channels?
        Because it is true.
        You lie.
        Mark walked up to Darus. The fox ripped his arm away from the cables attached to it and
grabbed Marks shirt with his metallic arm,
        I cant lie, remember.
        You cant lie knowingly. I think that youre mistaken.
        Darus made a strange sound. Alison and Mark realized it was laugher. Darus let go of Marks
shirt and grabbed his arm. The grip was uncomfortably strong. Darus glared at Mark,
        I know I am not mistaken. I speak the truth, you would be unwise to ignore it.
        Mark shook his head,
        And how do you know that this they is coming through. Through what, anyway?
        Darus looked around nervously and spoke in a quiet voice to Mark,
        Not so loud. They may hear us. They are coming through to this world.
        From where.
        Quiet! From their own world. Ive said enough. We shouldnt risk them hearing us.
        Alison walked up and tapped Mark on the shoulder,
        We should get going, weve got to get back to our quarters before dead time is over.
        Mark nodded. Darus released his grip. The ferret and vixen turned around and left the room,
turning off the lights and closing the door behind them. Mark turned to Alison,
        This is getting way too weird.
        No kidding. Lets get back to quarters before someone catches us out during dead time.

-The Far-Runner, in orbit around Papetoon

        Fox McCloud and Fara Phoenix-McCloud stood waiting for the shuttle which would take them to
the planet below. The Far-Runner wasnt landing on Papetoon so they had shuttles running down.
        Fox and Fara held their small amount of luggage. They tried to travel light. Fara smiled at Fox,
        It we had taken our Arwings, we wouldnt have to wait.
        If we had taken our Arwings, we would have to sit inside tiny little cockpits and do all the work
ourselves.
        Good point. Maybe we should invest in a larger ship. An H-Class Repulsor or something.
        Nah, I like the Arwings.
        Its kind of funny.
        What?
        The Arwing isnt really top technology anymore. Ours are modified, which puts them above the
rest, but the ship itself is getting pretty old. The new F-103s and AR-39s are the top level fighters now.
        Fox nodded. A loudspeaker announced that the shuttle down to the Papetoon spaceport was here.
Fox and Fara walked towards the airlock which lead to the shuttle. Fox looked over at Fara and spoke as if
suddenly remembering something,
        I had our Arwings transferred to the spaceport.
        Fara giggled,
        I had a feeling youd do something like that. Thanks!
        She hugged Fox and kissed him on the cheek. He smiled and returned the hug. They boarded the
shuttle and found seats.
        The captain went through the standard safety precautions, which Fox and Fara did not listen to.
They had both been through a lot of combat and certainly knew the safety precautions for a small local
shuttle. They fastened their crash restraints and sat back as the shuttle pulled out of the dock on the Far-
Runner and into space. Fara looked out the window to the planet below,
        Havent been here in a long time.
        Fox nodded,
        Yeah. I dont think Ive been inside my old den since the beginning of the war.
        Same here.
        Fara giggled. That den was probably the first place where the realized how much they really
meant to each other. Fox smiled at her,
        Well, I hope its not caved in or anything. I wonder if those museum people left anything.
        Fara shrugged and continued looking out the window. The planet was growing closer.
        Something caught her eye coming up to the ship. She looked closer and saw a small ship flying
into formation with the shuttle. She poked Fox and he turned. She pointed at the ship,
        What do you think that thing is?
        I dont know... but I dont think this is a good thing.
        The captains voice came over the intercom to the shuttles cabin,
        Please remain seated, there is a small problem with local spaceways authorities that needs to be
worked out. Please remain calm, this wont take long.
        Fox looked over at Fara and nodded. They undid their crash restraints and got up. They made
their way to the pilots area. They entered and the co-pilot looked up at them,
        Hey, you cant come in here.
        Fox snarled,
        Shut up. Weve both got lots of combat hours and are veterans of the war.
        Which war?
        Fox growled,
        I can tell you werent in it.
        The war against Andross was the only war to anyone who had ever been a part of it. Referring to
the war to a veteran inevitably told them what you were talking about. The co-pilot spoke again,
        Just go back to your seats.
        The pilot, who had been talking on the com unit, turned away briefly and spoke,
        Lieutenant Robertson, go back into the cabin and find a seat. These two are staying, youre not.
        The co-pilot frowned but finally nodded. He stood up and left the cabin. The pilot motioned for
the two foxes to take seats. Fox sat in the co-pilots seat, Fara took the empty seat used by the systems
officer. The pilot looked at the two foxes and smiled,
        Captain Paul Karnov, 92nd Interception, based on Katina. Who are you two... wait a minute...
youre Fox McCloud arent you?
        Fox nodded. The captain smiled,
        Then this must be Fara Phoenix.
        Fara corrected him,
        Phoenix-McCloud.
        The captain smiled again,
        Go figure. Pleased to meet you both in person. Sorry about my co-pilot. He didnt even go
through the military academy.
        Fox nodded,
        Whats the problem?
        Oh, sorry. Well... the Papetoon Independent Defense Force is hovering around this ship.
        Fara stared at the captain,
        The PIDF? They havent existed since Andross held Papetoon!
        Yeah, well theyre apparently back. There are six PIDF I-31s flying around us.
        Fox groaned,
        Ugh... does this thing have a threat display?
        The captain laughed,
        Sorry, youve got it confused with a good ship. The best I can do is a pretty bad tracking radar.
        Itll have to do. Lets see.
        The captain pushed a few buttons and the radar appeared in the corner of the main screen.
Several blips were moving around the shuttle. Fara nodded,
        Those must be the PIDF ships. Do you have communication with them.
        Yeah, Ill put the leader on.
        He hit a button and the com unit crackled. Fox spoke into the com,
        Hello, is this the PIDF forces.
        Yes. This is Archangel lead. Who the hell is speaking?
        This is Fox McCloud.
        The PIDF pilot was silent for a moment. Then he spoke,
        Are you going to Papetoon?
        Yes. My wife, Fara, and I are headed there. Weve got our ships planetside.
        Ill let this ship go if you agree to meet with us at a location of our choosing.
        Fine. Where?
        The castle of the hero.
        What? Oh... I see. Right, when?
        Heros light begins to shine.
        Huh... oh yeah... gotcha.
        That is all.
        The com shut down. The blips on the radar moved quickly away from the shuttle. The pilot
sighed with relief,
        Thank god thats over with. Do you actually know what this guys talking about?
        Yes.
        The pilot nodded and turned to shuttle back on to its course. Fox and Fara made their way back
into the cabin and sat down again. Fox leaned over and whispered to Fara,
        I think that the PIDF pilot knows me pretty well. Whoever he is, were meeting him at my old
den tomorrow afternoon.
        Fara giggled. Fox glared at her,
        Whats so funny?
        You keep calling the pilot a he.
        So?
        Didnt you listen to the voice?
        Kind of... I was more interested in what they were saying than how the voice sounded.
        Fara giggled again,
        I was listening to the voice. I think its a she. She sounded female anyhow.
        Fox nodded,
        Youre probably right about that. Ok, were meeting HER at my den tomorrow afternoon. I
wonder what she wants.
        Fara shrugged,
        Well find out tomorrow afternoon.

-The Point of Impact, Corneria City

        Gray and Mira Lancer entered the Point of Impact, a veterans bar deep in the bad parts of
Corneria City, and it brought memories rushing back to them. They had both been in their share of these
places, together, on business. They knew how to handle themselves.
        But this was going to be a little bit trickier than usual. They needed to get information.
Information that was of a very different kind than the usual.
        Gray leaned over to Mira and spoke in a whisper,
        What are you carrying?
        She whispered back,
        A heavy Cornerian Special Forces plasma pistol and a CSF combat knife, you?
        A .45 semi-auto kinetic loaded with hollow points, a modified CSF laser pistol, and two CSF
combat knives.
        Crap! What are you expecting, a war?
        Thats not far from wrong.
        They walked up to a table of veterans sitting around and talking and sat down. One of the
veterans, a large tiger with a an eyepatch, growled at them,
        Hey, you freakin civies, get the hell out.
        Gray narrowed his eyes,
        Who said we were civies, idiot.
        He pulled back his sleeve to reveal a tattoo showing a combat knife with barbed wire coiled
around it,
        17th Cornerian Army special ops!
        Gray smiled,
        12th Commandos, Cornerian Special Forces. Worked the rest of the war as a merc. You army
wusses have nothing on us.
        The tiger snarled and leapt at Gray. Gray pushed back in his chair and fell back. The tiger went
over his head and Gray jumped to his footpaws. He jumped over to the tiger and planet his footpaw
squarely on the tigers windpipe. He pressed down hard,
        Listen, crap hole. Ive got more training and probably more field experience than you... I know
you think youre all tough cause you lost an eye, but there are more painful, less disabling things that can
happen. Like me half-crushing your windpipe. Youll live and be fine... but itll hurt to breath, swallow,
talk, or move for about two months. Want any?
        The tiger choked out his response,
        N...n...no.
        Good.
        Gray took his footpaw off the tigers windpipe. The tiger got up and scrambled out the door. Gray
took his seat again. A pitbull wearing a Cornerian Air Force drop trooper beret smiled and spoke,
        Sorry about me friend, chap. es a little bit on the rough side, wot, eh?
        No kidding. Hmmm... youre with the drop troops?
        Ah, tis the literal and correct truth. Was with the 33rd Light Attack. The Storm Riders, ever
heard of em?
        Yeah. Were you on The Plateau of Blood?
        The pitbull nodded,
        Aye, so I was. Bloody battle, eh?
        Literally.
        Were you there? I dont remember the 12th bein at it.
        I was, but I was out of the 12th by then. I was one of the mercs on air cover.
        Aye, thats right. Those bloody three year terms of CSF service, eh?
        Uh-huh. Exactly.
        The pitbull motioned at Mira,
        Missy, what unit were ya in, eh?
        Mira smiled,
        None. Im a merc vet.
        Eh? The whole war?
        Mira nodded. The pitbull looked back at Gray,
        You, how long into the war before ya became a merc, anyhow?
        I left service in the first few months of the war. Became a merc near the beginning. How about
you?
        Ah, never been much o a merc. Stayed in the drop troops til me ol injury put me out.
        What injury?
        The pitbull pointed down at his right leg,
        Me ol leg twas blasted out from under me, so twas! Got meself a new mechanical job, but
tisnt much to keep a drop trooper goin. They stuck me in a desk job until the end o the war, aye so they
did.
        Gray nodded. The pitbull squinted at him,
        Eh, do you have any missing limbs or such? The CSF got a lot of that.
        Gray grinned,
        Not exactly. Ive almost been blown away several times... got shot up a whole bunch. Never
actually lost anything, but I got something almost as bad...
        Gray stood up and pushed his jacket aside. He lifted his shirt slightly. Underneath, on the right
side of his body, was a large scar that tore down the right side of his body. It ran from about halfway up
his chest down to the bottom of his stomach. The pitbull stared at the scar,
        Aye, tis a grand ol wound! What manner of weapon caused such an injury?
        Gray let his shirt back and pushed his jacket back into place.
        A ceremonial knife. Its a long story. Actually, the wound isnt really related to war. But it sure
hurt a lot.
        The pitbull grinned,
        Ahll say. Man, makes ol Gerads eye look tiny, eh. Oh, Gerads that ol tiger ya beat up. es
all talk and brag but no real fight. Thinks the Cornerian Army spec ops was the best unit in the whole
damn war, eh.
        Yeah.
        Right-ho. Ahll say that ya should both be included in our conversation. Allow me to present my
friends. There names arent important, ya kin jus call em hey you or such.
        The other two people at the table nodded. One was a big snowy owl with a deadpan expression,
the other was a female skunk wearing a Cornerian Space Navy uniform. Gray and Mira nodded at them.
The pitbull continued,
        Anyhow, we were talkin bout how all the Cornerian gov aint doin ta keep us all happy. I
think that our owl friend, is names Jarkin, was about ta say some-what.
        The owl blinked and nodded,
        Yes... er, ahem... well, I was just about to say that the Cornerian government owes us! We
served them and won their damn war for them. Now they just kick us aside. They should offer a better
pension plan and some government-funded housing instead of just kicking us out on the street.
        The skunk spoke up,
        Yeah! Weve given a lot to them! Hell, half the joints in my damn body are mechanical cause of
their blasted war! We deserve better than were getting. I mean, they just frikkin forgot about us combat
vets after the war.
        The owl nodded,
        Exactly! Man... someday theyre gonna regret turning us aside. Someday were gonna rise up!
Then theyll be sorry that they did this to us.
        Gray spoke,
        Im sorry, but my wife and I have to be going. Got some stuff to do. Nice talking to you guys.
        The pitbull smiled,
        Aye, seeya mateys later, eh?
        Sure.
        Gray and Mira walked out of the bar and onto the street. They began walking out of the slum
section and back to the normal part of Corneria City. Mira looked at Gray,
        Is the treatment really that bad?
        Theres only one way to find out.
        Whats that?
        Visit the most detached combat vet I know... Tagaio Misada. Hes a panda who lives way out in
the Telderon hills. Its a really nice place. He runs a dojo out there. Specializes in hand-to-hand combat.
Nice guy... havent seen him for a while.
        So were going there?
        Of course.

-The Broadsword, in orbit around Venom

        Sir, we need your help on something.
        Mark Selster turned his head when he heard the security officer, a corporal, calling,
        What is it?
        Youd better see for yourself.
        Where?
        Down in the brig.
        Mark nodded and got up from where he was sitting. They walked into the corridor and to the
main elevator. The guard pressed the call button and they waited for the elevator to arrive. The guard
shook his head,
        You just have to see it for yourself. Its freakin nuts... uh... sir.
        Yes, and if youre not going to give me details, kindly shut up about it.
        Sorry sir.
        The elevator arrived and they stepped inside. The guard pressed the button for the brig level. The
elevator slid down and quickly arrived at the brig level. The doors opened again and the two stepped out.
The guard led the way.
        They finally arrived at one of the interrogation rooms. Mark entered the control booth and the
guard went off to do other things.
        Inside the control booth, they had a clear view into the interrogation room itself through a one-
way mirror. The people inside couldnt see anyone in the booth, but the people in the booth could see the
interrogation room.
        Mark looked inside and saw a hedgehog wearing a ragged uniform devoid of any insignia or
identifying marks. Mark shot a questioning glance at the interrogation officer. The officer looked at the
hedgehog inside and shrugged,
        We picked him up planetside. An infantry exercise. He actually had the guts to attack them.
Tough guy, and no doubt about it!
        Mark nodded,
        Ill see what I can do.
        He left the control booth and entered the interrogation room itself. The hedgehog looked up,
defiance in his eyes,
        Ah, nother traitor military soldier ta see me an ask me some questions.
        Mark narrowed his eyes and looked straight at the hedgehog,
        Name, rank, and unit.
        The hedgehog returned the gaze evenly,
        Gareth Verdent, sergeant, 5th Attack Squad. With the armored boys meself. You?
        Mark Selster, squadron sergeant, 89th Attack Squad. The resident armored unit.
        Gareth saluted,
        Ya just outranks me by a little bit, doncha? Well, ya dont seem like such a butthole as alf of
these jerks! I mean, come on. Why ya still with the military after the war?
        Nothing better to do, I suppose. Kind of got attached to it.
        Puh-lease! I mean, look around you. Theres nothing but these damn new recruits and a few
cynical command staff members. You got any real friends here?
        Yes, one. A captain named Alison Meris.
        Ah, yer only real friend on this damn rust bucket. Why dont ye join the movement?
        Mark squinted at the hedgehog,
        What the hell are you talking about?
        The hedgehog smiled,
        The movement. Were gonna move against the Cornerian oppressors soon! Cant tell ya how or
where... but I can tell ya why... cause theyve been pushin the people around for too long! Not just us war
vets either, weve got civies with us... local militia and such. The kind that can fight!
        The hedgehog shut up and sat back. He crossed his arms over his chest and did not speak
anymore. Mark sighed and walked back into the control booth. The interrogation officer looked up at him,
        Hes not gonna talk, is he?
        No. Just hold him in the brig for another day or two and then dump him back where you found
him. What he said is all hes gonna say.
        Mark walked out of the interrogation booth and back into the main corridor. He needed to talk to
Alison.

-Fox McClouds old den, Papetoon

        Fox and Fara walked from where they had landed their Arwings to Foxs old den. They looked
around for the people they were supposed to be meeting. Fox called out,
        Hello? Is anyone home?
        The heard a voice near their footpaws,
        Hey, not so loud. Come in, shes expecting you both.
        They looked down and saw a muskrat hidden in the bushes. He was perfectly camouflaged. He
grinned and waddled inside. Fox and Fara followed after him. The muskrat casually chatted as they
walked,
        Sorry about the surprise, helps to be disguised. Never know what kind of vagabonds and rogues
will be hovering around, you know.
        Fox and Fara only nodded. They were led into the area that had formerly been Foxs makeshift
livingroom.
        A female red wolf sat on a crate. She got up and smiled. Fox and Fara both noticed that she had
both arms covered in long gloves which reached all the way up to her elbows. She wore a black suit that
was half combat armor and half jumpsuit. She extended a paw to Fox. He grabbed it and shook. Her grip
seemed unnaturally strong and very hard. She then shook paws with Fara and both foxes sat down on
crates. The red wolf spoke,
        My name is Minita DelVariot. Im the leader of the Papetoon Independent Defense Force... or
PIDF as most call it.
        Fara couldnt help herself,
        Why are you wearing those gloves?
        Minita smiled,
        Most would just assume I wear them because I like the look... but thats not entirely true. There
is another reason. I have something I sometimes have good reason to hide.
        She quickly removed both gloves. Both the lower parts of her arms were colored black. Fox and
Fara looked closer and saw that both lower arms were mechanical. Minita grinned,
        My little secret.
        Fox managed to get out a word,
        How?
        The right one I lost in a fight with Wolf ODonnell. Hes one strong fargin fighter. Stomped
down on my right arm with a combat boot, shattered all the bones. Injury was so messy they couldnt fix
it. Had to amputate. I decided a mechanical arm with ten times my normal strength might be useful.
        What about the left arm?
        Ah, thats a little different. Got the wrist and paw blown clean off by a 10mm railgun.
        Fox nodded and stared. Minita replaced the gloves,
        Thats not all.
        Fox looked at her. She shook her head,
        No. My right knee is prosthetic, got skimmed in the kneecap by a 9mm handgun. It was a .45
and took off a good portion of the knee. They decided itd be easier just to replace it that have me crippled
for life.
        Fox nodded,
        That all?
        Yeah, pretty much. But thats not what were here to talk about.
        Fox nodded again,
        Then what is?
        A revolution.
        Fox and Fara both stared incredulously at the red wolf. She nodded,
        A revolution. The PIDF is going to strike back at the Cornerian government for all that its
done.
        Fara spoke,
        Youre not kidding, are you?
        Minita shook her head and her expression turned grave,
        Not by any means. We are fully prepared and ready to launch the revolution. You can help if
you really want to, but its a little late for that. We mostly want you to witness what you see here and tell
others like you... the downcast heroes. We need you for the new order.
        Fara spoke again,
        What kind of forces do you have?
        Lots of combat veterans. Many are missing parts of themselves, like myself. The Cornerian
government did this to us... made us lose part of who we are, and then kicked us aside like trash. Were
going to hit them back and theyll regret not having treated us better. Youll stay with us for a few days
and observe. Then you can tell others about it.
        Fox and Fara both nodded. Minita smiled at last,
        Good. Tefin, show them to their room.
        The muskrat who had shown them in nodded and motioned,
        This way please. Youll be staying in the room which you, Mr. McCloud, used to inhabit
yourself. I trust you know your way around well enough to get there?
        Fox nodded. The muskrat smiled,
        Excellent. If you need anything, dont hesitate to give me a shout, Ill be out where I was when
you came.
        The muskrat, still in his camouflage, ran off to take his post again. Fox and Fara walked to their
room.
        They entered the room and Fara closed the door. She and Fox looked around. Fox finally spoke,
        Amazing, theyve left it exactly the same as it always was.
        Fara nodded and flopped out on the bed. Fox sat down next to her. She looked up at him,
        Theyre starting a civil war.
        No kidding. I wonder why.
        Because the Cornerian government treats them like crap.
        Thats what they say... but I have a feeling that its not entirely true.
        Foxs vision went white. He gasped. The vision of the vixen looking out over the field of death
came into his mind. He heard her voice, louder and more insistent than before,
        It will. Someday.
        Fox gasped again and fell back on the bed. His vision returned to see Fara leaning over him. She
frowned,
        Fox?! Are you Ok?
        He nodded weakly. She lay down next to him,
        Ok Fox, out with it. What happened? Dont lie to me.
        Fox groaned,
        I had a flashback... of a dream.
        This is new.
        Kind of. Back on the Far-Runner, I had a dream about a vixen who looked a lot like you only
with silver hair...
        That sounds like my ancestor Mariel.
        Who?
        Mariel Phoenix is an ancient ancestor of mine. Ive heard lots of legends about her.
        Well then, I had a dream about her standing and looking over a field. The field was filled with
the dead and dying. It looked like the remains of some huge battle. Mariel was crying... someone asked if
it... I think they meant the battle... would happen again. She said it would someday.
        What about just a minute ago?
        I saw her standing over the field again. This time I just heard her say that it would happen
again. Both times the dream was as clear as reality... and my memory of them is perfect.
        Fara frowned and put her arms around Fox,
        Thats not normal, Fox. You ever had any dreams like that before?
        No! I almost never dream! When I do, its never that clear and vivid.
        Fox, at the beginning of the war, I would have said it was just a funny dream... but Ive been
through a lot of really weird stuff in the past six or seven years. I think that theres more to it than that.
        Hows that?
        Well, theres the civil war starting, the morale of the citizens of Lylat going down the tubes, and
that weird dream about some battle that will happen again.
        Fox frowned,
        A connection?
        I think so. Do you?
        Youve never been wrong before.
        Thats sweet.
        She hugged Fox and they kissed. They both lay back on the bed and closed their eyes.
        The image of the vixen standing over the field of death was all that fox saw. The words rang in
his ears... sounding more and more urgent.
        But it seemed that they referred to something far more sinister than a mere civil war.

-Telderon Hills, Corneria

        Gray and Mira Lancer walked up the steep hill that lead to Tagaio Misadas dojo. The dojo itself
was a large building made of stone and wood. Around it stood many trees and plants. The whole area was
one of supreme natural beauty.
        The two foxes crested the hill and approached the building. Someone jumped out of the bushes
and leveled a staff at them. It was a short and fat looking panda. He snarled,
        Who goes there?
        He suddenly recognized who it was and grinned,
        Oh, its you, Gray. Whos this?
        My wife, Mira.
        Oh, glad to meet you, Mira.
        The bear bowed quickly and then resumed grinning,
        Good to see you both. Gray, its been a long time since youve been up here. You must be
getting rusty.
        Gray nodded,
        I probably am. Unfortunately, I dont have time for any practice. I need to talk to you.
        Oh, sure. Come inside. Please. Ive got some tea ready.
        They walked up to the dojo and Tagaio slid the door open. He motioned at their footpaws,
        Shoes off, please.
        Gray and Mira took off their shoes and laid them next to the pandas by the door. They all
entered the dojo and Tagaio closed the door again. He dashed off to get the tea. Mira looked at Gray
skeptically,
        This guy is a combat vet? Get out.
        Im not kidding. Hes the best paw-to-paw fighter I know, myself included. Dont let his silly
appearance or attitude fool you. Hes deadly and completely loyal to his friends. Hes the kind of guy you
really want on you side.
        Mira nodded. The panda came back with three cups of steaming liquid. He handed two of them
to Gray and Mira and kept one himself. He motioned to several rush mats on the floor,
        Sit down, sit down. I dont have any students right now so Im not very busy. We can talk a
while.
        Gray nodded,
        Good. This is actually pretty urgent. I need to know how you feel about the Cornerian
government.
        Tagaio shrugged and looked a little puzzled,
        Thats the oddest question youve ever asked me. I guess Im Ok with them. I mean, theyre a
little uptight and pretty annoying... but its not like I hate them or anything. The pensions good and the
health plan covered my stay in the hospital.
        Mira looked confused. Gray explained,
        Tagaio was caught by the shockwave of a rather large explosion. He didnt lose anything,
thankfully, but he did take quite a hit. Stayed in the hospital for months.
        Tagaio grinned widely,
        Hurt a whole bunch. But the government paid for my medical bill, so I cant complain much.
        Gray nodded,
        But you dont resent them or anything?
        Tagaio shook his head vigorously,
        Oh no. Why should I?
        You shouldnt. Thats why I came here.
        Sorry Gray, but I dont quite follow you? Why exactly DID you come to see me?
        Well. Firstly I actually have been meaning to visit you for a while, but thats not the main
reason. The main reason is because a lot of combat vets are getting really pissed at the government. We
talked to a bunch of them who were starting a civil war!
        You know, Gray... Ive actually heard a little about that from people who pass through here. On
pilgrimages and all that stuff. Theyve been talking about how hostile the combat veterans are getting, and
how bad the morale of the general public is.
        What do you think?
        I think that something really fishy is going on. This sort of thing isnt natural at all. I mean,
look at it. My medical bill probably cost more than getting all of my limbs replaced would have, but the
government still paid it. They also give me a decent pension, which I dont depend on but I could
theoretically live off it. Theyre not stiffing me and theyre certainly not stiffing anyone else.
        So why is everyone at each others throats?
        Tagaio frowned,
        Gray, Mira... can you two handle a little weirdness?
        Both nodded. Mira laughed,
        Are you kidding? Do you have any idea what weve been through?
        Tagaio grinned,
        Ill take a simple yes. Come with me.
        The panda finished his tea in a single gulp and led Gray and Mira to a small door inside the dojo.
He slid it open to reveal stairs leading down into a cave. The cave was lit by numerous torches on the
walls. The panda descended the stairs, followed closely by Gray and Mira. Tagaio explained as the walked
down,
        You may find this all very hard to believe, but Im quite fond of the occult. See, this is my little
place for experimentation. None of that wizard stuff, mostly about the balance of things and the spirits and
stuff. You dont buy any of this, do you?
        Gray responded,
        Tagaio, a few years ago I was captured by a powerful sorceress who had sold her soul to a
demon. Mira and I were there when she was killed in a spiritual duel and when her master was banished.
Im ready to believe anything, sos my wife.
        Mira nodded emphatically. Tagaio shrugged,
        Fair enough. Here we are.
        The entered a large cavern. There were various charts and diagrams around. There were lots of
pots and cauldrons, along with numerous herbs. There were also shelves along the edges of the cavern
filled with books. In the center of the cavern was what looked like a well. It was filled with a swirling
liquid of many colors.
        Tagaio motioned for them to sit around the well. They did so. Tagaio spoke,
        One of the things I can do... rather poorly, I admit, but I can do it... is to sense the balance of the
universe and see if anything is wrong. Things like dimensional travel and spirits crossing into other
planes of existence will upset the balance. So I began to notice something a couple years ago.
        About the same time the whole slump began?
        Exactly. Anyway, I noticed something is really messing up the balance. Its bigger than
anything thats recorded in any of those books... except for one event.
        Gray squinted at Tagaio,
        What one event.
        Tagaio got up and wandered over to a table. He picked up a book and brought it back. He opened
the book and began flipping through it,
        This is the record of some pretty ancient times. Let me see... ah, here it is. The First War of the
Destroyer.
        Gray and Mira both stared at Tagaio. The panda continued,
        See, apparently something came through from another dimension and began to turn everyone
against everyone else. The Protectors of Lylat fought it to a bitter standstill. The whole thing ended with a
massive battle on what was later known as the Field of Blood. The thing, whatever it was, returned to its
own dimension to lick its wounds. But everyone knew it would be back... it was just a matter of how
long.
        Gray spoke,
        Theres no Second War of the Destroyer? Is there?
        Tagaio shook his head.
        Thats what I was afraid of. You think its whats happening?
        Tagaio shrugged,
        I dont really know.
        Guess.
        If I had to guess... Id say yes. Its happening and the ancient prediction is coming true.
        Gray nodded and stroked his chin. Mira spoke up,
        Does the book give any details about the order of what happened? Did the thing appear right
away?
        Tagaio consulted the book,
        Apparently not...
        He flipped through it some more,
        Apparently he didnt come through until the people were fighting brutally amongst themselves.
        Gray muttered softly to himself, but the other could hear him,
        So it started a civil war and then came through... its happening again all right.
        He looked up and spoke in a louder voice,
        We need to know everything we possibly can about this Destroyer thing. I dont care how
obscure the reference is. We need to know what the hell is going on here... and we need to know now...
because, from the looks of it, this only gets worse.

-Office of Public Relations, Corneria City

        The sound was unmistakable, the firing of automatic weapons. Tim Banaway jumped up from his
chair. He saw the rest of the staff in the large room getting up and looking around in confusion. One of
them spoke,
        What the hell is going on here?
        The sounds were growing louder. Now they could pick out shouting as well. One of the staff
members had been talking over a com unit. She put the unit down and turned to the rest,
        Someones attacking a whole bunch of government buildings! Theyre inside!
        Tim shook his head to clear it,
        Wait a minute... theres still a bunch of pistols from the war against Andross in the closet. Get
them out and make sure everyone gets one.
        The staff member nodded and ran off. She returned with a box containing pistols and
ammunition. These were distributed amongst the staff members. One of them sneered at the pistol,
        This thing wont do crap against automatics! Its only a freakin .22!
        Tim growled,
        Would you rather use paw-to-paw?
        That shut the staff member up. The automatic weapon fire was getting really close. Tim
overturned his desk and ducked behind it. The rest of the staff followed his example. He glanced over the
top and watched the door to the large office.
        Suddenly, bullets punched through the area around the lock and someone kicked it down. It was
someone wearing combat armor. It was impossible to see their face under the heavy helmet. They held a
large 11mm gatling gun. The screamed into the room,
        You fargin govies are gonna get it for what youve done to us.
        Several more armored troopers walked into the room. They were armed with everything from
shotguns to a large gun that Tim remembered from an article in the paper as being a 10mm railgun.
        One of the staff members poked out from cover and fired their handgun. The trooper with the
railgun fired and hit the staff member directly in the head. Tim heard a wet splatter and saw red on the
carpet. The body hit the rug with a dull thud.
        The troopers moved into the room. Tim resolved to take at least one of them down with him
before he went.
        He heard the fire of another handgun, and the roar of a shotgun. Someone screamed in pain,
definitely not one of the troops. Another shotgun blast and the screaming went silent.
        More gunfire, a few yells. The light partitions that were set up around the officer prevented Tim
from getting a good view of what was going on.
        He heard footpawsteps and looked up. One of the troopers was standing over him holding the
10mm railgun. The trooper grunted,
        When you get to hell, tell em to clear some room... cause every govie in the system is gonna be
down there soon.
        The troopers squeezed the trigger. Tims lifeless body hit the floor and his blood oozed out onto
the carpet.

-Crew Section 12B, the Broadsword

        Darus sat in the dark and shivered. He was not cold, and wouldnt have shivered if he had been...
but he was terrified.
        He knew that they were coming... but no one would listen to him. They didnt believe that such a
thing could possibly exist.
        Their own unwillingness to except the unusual would be their own downfall.
        Darus suddenly felt that he wasnt alone in the room. He looked around in terror,
        Wh...whos there?
        No one answered. The dark merely remained silent. Taunting him without saying a thing.
        Darus moved his arms around. The technicians had disconnected him from the cables earlier that
day. They felt that he was getting unstable and that they wouldnt need him until he could give coherent
advice again.
        He was still confined to this damn chair, though. He was a more machine than he was fox.
        Again, he felt that he was not alone. He tried again,
        Whos there? Who i...is i...i...it?
        Again, no one answered. The dark still mocked him silently. The feeling of someone... or
something... being with him in the room did not go away. Darus looked around again but could see
nothing.
        M...mark? This isnt f...f...funny.
        To his surprise and terror, someone answered,
        No. Not Mark.
        The voice was deep and rich. But it sounded perfectly horrible. The voice was flawless yet it held
an undertone of complete evil. Darus stared into the darkness,
        Who are you?
        Me? Im just here to pay you a little visit, friend.
        Darus felt his body begin to shake violently. He tried to control it but found that he couldnt. The
voice continued,
        The broken one? Is that what they call you here?
        Darus tried again,
        Wh...wh...what a...a...are y...you?
        Oh, youre getting good at this Darus... but say it with some conviction.
        Something brushed Darus cheek. It felt cold and scaly. He quaked with terror. The voice went
on,
        But that IS a very good question. What am I? How to put this in a way youll understand.
        The voice paused. Darus felt a feeling of something very evil near him. He saw two points of red
in the dark in front of him. He realized that they were the eyes of whatever was speaking to him. The
voice spoke again, but this time it seemed even more evil,
        I am your worst nightmare and then some... come to very real life.
        There was a green glow around the eyes. Darus could vaguely make out a strange face. It looked
like something across between some sort of reptile and a skull. Darus managed to choke out some more
words,
        Wh...what do y...y...you want?
        The face grinned. Darus quivered with fear. The voice spoke,
        What I want... what I want... I want you, Darus... I want you...
        Darus was nearly paralyzed with fear. The face continued to grin. More of the body began to
appear. It was across between skeletal and reptilian. Darus wanted to look away but found that he couldnt
move his head.
        Its time, Darus... it is time...

-Brett and Kelly MacDonalds country home, Corneria

        Brett sat back on the couch and tried to watch the newscast without letting Fenica Lancer out of
his site. He muttered to himself,
        Gray and Mira, I do not envy you one bit.
        Fenica was playing with a whole bunch of blocks on the floor. Fortunately, she hadnt tried to use
any of them as missiles... yet.
        Brett listened to the newscast as he watched Fenica. Something caught his ear in the broadcast,
        ...fatality rate is thought to be nearly one-hundred percent. This the worst attack in the history of
the Cornerian Government of Lylat. A terrorist group is claiming responsibility for this... calling
themselves the Brethren of the Fallen they have released the following tape to all media distributors...
        Brett looked up quickly at the TV. The picture changed to show someone sitting behind a desk.
The lighting was such that they were obscured by shadow. The video was obviously home-made and done
rather hastily. The person spoke,
        By the time you see this, you will have witnessed the incredible power of my forces. We have
attacked the Office of Public Relations, the Office of Colonization, and the Embassy of Katina. You will
notice that there are few survivors at best. We are sending a very straightforward message with this... you
have shoved veterans of the war against Andross aside like spent shells for far too long... this is going to
stop NOW. Our demand is simple... there is no demand. The time for reconciliation is long past... now is
the time for revenge. We will continue these attacks and there is nothing you can do about it. The
Brethren have spoken.
        The tape ended and the newscast went back to the studio view. The newscaster spoke again,
        For those of you who are just tuning in, there was a brutal attack on the Office of Public
Relations, the Embassy of Katina, and the Office of Colonization, all in Corneria City. The attacks were
made by large teams of armored soldiers who killed everyone they encountered. It is believed that they
have achieved nearly a one-hundred percent fatality rate.
        Brett shut off the newscast. He turned back to look at Fenica. She was building towers out of her
blocks. Oblivious to the disaster that had happened earlier that same day. Kelly walked into the room and
smiled at Fenica. Brett looked up at her,
        Have you seen the evening newscast?
        Kelly shook her head,
        No, did something happen.
        Yes. A bunch of war vets calling themselves the Brethren of the Fallen attacked a bunch of
Cornerian government buildings. They killed everyone inside. The newscast is saying that they got almost
everyone.
        Do Gray and Mira know about this? That sounds like it would connect to their assignment.
        I have no clue where Gray and Mira are. I called Gray on his personal com unit and he only said
that he couldnt talk and that hed call when he could.
        Kelly sighed. She sat down on the couch next to Brett. She looked down at Fenica, who had
stopped playing with her blocks. Fenica walked over and jumped onto Bretts lap. Kelly smiled,
        By the way, dear, its your turn to try to get her to eat something.
        Brett groaned,
        No, its my turn to give her food and try not to run out. She eats like theres no tomorrow and
doesnt gain a pound! Takes after her father.
        Fenica giggled,
        Food! I hungry.
        Brett corrected her,
        No, its I am hungry.
        Kelly laughed,
        Youre giving grammar lessons to a two-year-old.
        Fenica frowned,
        Two an a HALF.
        Brett nodded,
        Yes. Well, its time for a certain two and a half year old to eat something. What would you
like?
        Fenica smiled, she liked the idea of dinner time,
        Evryfing!
        Brett groaned again,
        Well find something nice.

-Fox McClouds old den, Papetoon

        Fox heard a loud knock on the door and sat up straight. He looked over at Fara and saw that she
was also awake. Fox got up and put his shirt on. He walked over to the door and opened it a crack,
        Whos there?
        Its me, Tefin.
        Fox squinted into the light of the hall and saw the muskrat who had led them in, with his
camouflage gone, outside. Fox sighed,
        What do you want?
        Uh... Ms. DelVariot requests that you both be present for her... ahem... little speech. Feel free to
bring any recording devices for... er ahem... posterity.
        Well be there in a few minutes.
        The muskrat nodded and waddled off. Fox closed the door and turned on the lights. Fara buried
her head under the covers of the bed,
        Please tell me were not going to that stupid speech.
        Unfortunately we are. I want to get a tape of this. Might be useful. Get dressed and lets go.
        Fara nodded and stepped out of bed. They both quickly dressed.
        Fully dressed, they stepped out into the corridor and walked outside. Sure enough, Minita was
standing at a makeshift podium with a number of her followers already there. Fox looked around at the
gathering crowd,
        They must be camped nearby. Theres no way this many could fit in my den... and theres more
coming!
        Fara nodded. Minita was drumming her paws impatiently on the podium. She called out Tefins
name and he scurried out of the shadows to her. She whispered something in his ear. He nodded quickly
and scurried off again.
        Fox and Fara found somewhere where they could see Minita and hear her well. More and more
people filed in and the field began to get fairly crowded. Finally Tefin came up to the podium and spoke,
        Attention everyone, please be silent. Our glorious leader, General Minita DelVariot!
        There was a massive cheer. Fox started the small recorder he had. Minita smiled down on her
followers and began speaking,
        For a long time the Cornerian government has oppressed those who fought for them in the war.
For a long time they have tossed us away!
        There was a hiss of derision from the crowd. Minita continued,
        They have cast us down, but now we will rise up! We have gathered force and gathered power!
We are ready... now it is time! The PIDF will join the Brethren of the Fallen and make it stronger! We
will overcome the Cornerian government and make them bow before us!
        A massive cheer went up. Fox and Fara looked at each other with worried expressions. Minita
spoke on,
        Our first mission is one of great importance... there is a huge convoy coming very near this
planet. Every one of you with a ship must be prepared to leave in exactly half an hour. We will strike this
convoy and destroy all of it! This will show the Cornerian government that is no longer safe in space or on
the ground... that it is not safe anywhere! Now go! Prepare yourselves for the first battle in our new war!
        The cheer went to a roar. Pilots and crew scrambled to go to their ships and prepare them. Fox
and Fara looked out over the field and saw what looked like hundreds of various small ships. There was
even a couple larger ships.
        They got down from their vantage point and walked over to Minita. She smiled at them,
        Now Corneria gets what it deserves.
        Fox only nodded, Fara did nothing. Minita waved her right paw around,
        This isnt even the best of it... in orbit on the other side of the planet is a medium carrier! It is
my new flag ship. Both of you will accompany me on it. Your Arwings will be in the hangars and at your
disposal. You will witness firsthand the revenge of the fallen ones. Corneria will regret its decision to
throw us aside.
        Fox and Fara both nodded.
        We will leave in half an hour. You should probably get your things.
        Minita walked away and left Fox and Fara alone on the field. Fara looked over at Fox,
        Are we going to do it?
        I dont think we have a choice.
        This is nuts. Theyre going to start a civil war!
        No kidding. The Brethren of the Fallen? Whats that?
        Fara shrugged,
        No idea. Well, lets get our stuff.
        They walked back inside Foxs den and went to their room to retrieve their things.

-Telderon Hills, Corneria

        Deep inside the Telderon Hills, under Tagaio Misadas dojo, Gray, Mira, and Tagaio looked
desperately for any information on the First War of the Destroyer.
        Actually, at the moment they had all fallen asleep.
        Gray picked his head up. He looked around and saw that the other two were still asleep. He saw
something in front of him. It looked like a vixen wearing a dark tan robe. She had silver hair and carried a
large sword. Gray muttered to himself,
        Oh man... I have to be dreaming.
        To his surprise, the vixen spoke,
        Find Fox McCloud and Fara Phoenix-McCloud. Combine your knowledge and you will know
what is to happen. Continue the search in the fortress in the clouds of a dead world.
        The image disappeared. Gray shook his head but things remained the same. That didnt seem
very much like a dream, more like a vision. Fox McCloud? Fara Phoenix-McCloud? Hadnt seen them in
a long time. Gray lay down again on the mat he had been sleeping on and thought.
        Combine our knowledge? That meant that Fox and Fara knew something he needed to know, and
he knew something they needed to know. It also probably meant that the search for more information
could stop at least for a little while.
        Gray walked over to Mira and shook her awake. She turned over and groaned,
        Let me sleep.
        No. We have to find Fox McCloud and his wife. Now.
        Do you have any idea where they are?
        Nope. Well have to wing it. You with me?
        Mira nodded her head,
        Gray, Im ALWAYS with you. No matter how stupid your idea sounds. Lets get moving... wait
a minute... what about Tagaio?
        Gray found a sheet of paper and took out a pen,
        Ill leave him a note.
        He quickly wrote a note and stuck it next to the sleeping panda. He and Mira made their way
back up the stairs and into the dojo. They put their shoes back on and walked out into the early morning
air. Gray explained everything as they walked,
        I saw someone in a vision that told me to find Fox and Fara and combine our knowledge. I
assume that means we tell them about the war with the Destroyer and all that and they give us something
that makes sense of that. Then the person... it was a vixen with a huge sword... told me to continue the
search in a fortress in the clouds of a dead world. Those are her exact words... dont mean a thing to me,
how about you?
        Mira shook her head,
        Not a clue. How do you suggest we find Fox and Fara?
        No idea. Im completely open to suggestions.
        Mira sighed,
        Good old impulsive Gray Lancer... youve never actually thought your actions through in your
life, have you?
        Gray shook his head earnestly. Mira laughed,
        Go figure. Well... Im not really sure how to find Fox or Fara... the only sure bet is that theyll
be together.
        I think I know how we can do this.
        Mira shot him a questioning glance. Gray nodded,
        Every spaceport has a departure and arrival log. You know, we have to sign in with control
before landing... well, we can just check the log and that would at least give us a spaceport name.
        Mira nodded,
        Sounds like as good an idea as any. Except that the log is protected by a bunch of security
features to prevent people from doing exactly that.
        Gray smiled,
        Not for long. Ive still got my wild card.

-Cornerian Underworld, Corneria City

        Man, they werent kidding around when they named this place, were they?
        Gray nodded at his wifes comment. The Cornerian Underworld was the generic name for the
lowest levels of Corneria City. It was below the busy and sunlit streets, below even the modern power lines
and sewage system. This was the remains of an earlier era.
        The place was far from uninhabited. There were still many who lived down here... or who did
business from the underground chambers.
        They were here to find someone in the latter category. Gray and Mira jumped down from the
large pipe they had been walking on and onto a rusty catwalk.
        They went to the end of the catwalk and to a ladder leading further down. Gray got on first and
began climbing, followed shortly by Mira. They climbed down about fifty feet and the ladder ended. There
was no floor, but a deep pit which went down even further. There was also a huge pipe behind the ladder.
Gray swung on the bottom rung of the ladder and into the pipe. Mira followed. They walked down the
pipe to a small door. A slit in the door opened and someone looked out. Gray heard a raspy voice,
        Who are you two?
        Tell Auerulis that Gray Lancer is here to see her.
        Why?
        Just do it and youll see.
        The slit snapped shut. Gray heard footpawsteps and some talking inside, though he couldnt
make out the words. Finally, the door opened. A lanky weasel was beyond. He motioned for the two foxes
to come in,
        Come on. Shes expecting you.
        Gray smiled and entered, followed by Mira. The weasel pointed to a rusty door at the other end of
the small room. Gray opened the door and he and Mira stepped inside. They closed the door behind them.
Inside was a small wooden desk with a vixen sitting behind it. She had dark brown fur and was wearing
jeans, a tank top, and a combat vest. She smiled at Gray and Mira,
        Hey, good to see you both. Havent since...
        Gray finished her sentence,
        The fight against Sevantra. Yeah, I know. Good to see you again, Auerulis.
        Auerulis Varius stood up and extended a paw. She shook paws with Gray and then Mira.
Auerulis sat back down and motioned for Gray and Mira to do likewise. They took seats on two crates.
Auerulis smiled again,
        I really am glad to see you both. Been a while, hasnt it. Both of you still in one piece? Gray, no
mechanical limbs yet? Theyre all the rage with war vets, you know.
        Gray shook his head,
        Sorry, Auerulis. Im still mostly in one piece. You?
        Im fine. With all Ive been through, Ive never taken a scratch. Its pretty amazing, actually.
        Mira was looking around the room. She turned to Auerulis,
        Auerulis, youve really relaxed your standard since we last saw you.
        Auerulis chuckled,
        No kidding. Well, in case you havent been following the news...
        Gray came in,
        We havent been. Weve been out of touch for quite a while. Please start at the top.
        Auerulis took a breath,
        Ok. Well... a day or so ago, a bunch of very pissed off war veterans attacked three government
buildings. They killed everyone inside. Theyre calling themselves the Brethren of the Fallen and arent
demanding anything. They just want war. And so far theyre getting their wish. And only about an hour
ago, they sent another message out. Look at this.
        She motioned for them to watch a small screen on the wall. Auerulis pressed a button and the
image of someone behind a desk appeared. The lighting on the video hid their face in shadow. They spoke
in a defiant voice,
        Our glorious war has been joined by fresh forces. The Papetoon Independent Defense Force has
come over to our side and destroyed one of the oppressor convoys in the process. Their leader, General
DelVariot, will be our new air force commander! You are no longer safe in your space ships, Corneria. Do
you hear that, Cornerian people? You too may join us against the horrible oppressor. We are only
concerned with the death of the government and wish no harm upon innocent people.
        Auerulis shut the recording off,
        Get the idea? I dont think the media will be allowed to air that little one. Did you get that last
part? I think its total crap. Soon theyll been turning on the innocent people they claim to be supporting.
        Gray stared at Auerulis,
        Then its even more important than ever that we find Fox McCloud and Fara Phoenix-
McCloud!
        Auerulis raised one eyebrow in a skeptical gesture,
        How, might I ask, do you plan to do that.
        Gray smiled,
        Thats why I came to you. I want you to hack into the takeoff and landing logs for every major
spaceport in Lylat and find out if theyre mentioned.
        Auerulis nodded,
        Give me half an hour.
        Gray smiled again,
        Youve got ten minutes.
        Auerulis laughed and took out a small computer,
        Easy enough. Ten minutes then.
 
        After ten minutes of sitting around and doing absolutely nothing. Auerulis finally looked up from
her computer,
        Right. Fox McCloud registered a transport for two Arwings off of Corneria City Central
Spaceport. Destination: Papetoon. Then he got tickets for himself and his wife on the Far-Runner to go to
the same place.
        Gray nodded,
        Trace the fighters and find out what happened with them.
        Auerulis shrugged,
        Ok. Lets see... apparently they got picked up Fox and Fara after they got to Papetoon. Flew em
right out.
        Gray tapped his nose and flicked one ear down,
        Well, that probably means that he and Fara stayed on Papetoon. Maybe we should start our
search there.
        Mira nodded,
        Yeah... but where would Fox want to go on Papetoon.
        Grays eyes lit up,
        His old den. We should definitely check that out. Hey, Auerulis, thanks a lot.
        He got up and hugged Auerulis. She smiled and nudged him,
        Get going. Id love to help you two out... truth is, I got nothing to do... but both the government
and the veterans will probably want me dead. Theyve both got good reason to hate me. Maybe Ill be able
to offer some help in the future.
        Gray smiled,
        Ill keep that in mind. Have fun hiding in your stink old sewer.
        Hey, watch it there, mister. Its not a sewer... anymore.
        Gray laughed as he and Mira left the room. Auerulis grinned and leaned back in her chair.

-The Broadsword, in orbit around Venom

        There were guards all around Crew Section 12B when Mark Selster got down there. He had been
called down by Commander Akaris himself.
        Mark saw Commander Akaris and saluted,
        Sir. You called.
        Akaris looked sick. He nodded and motioned around,
        Yeah yeah yeah. Do you have any idea what happened down here?
        No clue.
        Well... this morning we tried to consult Darus and he wasnt responding... we thought
something was wrong so we went down to check it out...
        And...
        See for yourself.
        Commander Akaris pointed to the door to Crew Section 12B. Mark walked up to the area and
slowly opened the door.
        He shut it quickly and turned away. He swore loudly,
        Oh god... what the hell happened in there?!
        Commander Akaris shot him a wry smile,
        Go on in and see.
        Mark took a deep breath and collected himself. He had to face this. He opened the door and
stepped inside.
        At first, what he saw was just a tangle of images with no connection. But suddenly things
resolved to horrible clarity. Mark felt the bile rising in his throat and he turned away to collect himself
again. He took another look around.
        The walls were heavily splattered with what appeared to be blood. As if that werent enough, he
saw the remains of Darus.
        The chair was still there, along with the legs... still on the floor. The ended in bits of flesh that
suggested that they had been torn off. Mark looked around for the rest of the body.
        He heard someone come in from the door. It was Commander Akaris. The commander spoke
softly,
        Nasty crap, isnt it? Almost made me puke myself. His arms are over there and there.
        The fisher pointed. Mark looked and saw Darus arms to the left and right of the chair. Akaris
spoke again,
        Now come around and look behind, its the best part.
        They rounded the table and again Mark had to turn away. He had to fight hard to keep the bile
down. He looked back at what he had just seen.
        What was obviously Darus limbless, headless torso lay on the ground. It was ripped wide open.
Mark forced himself to look closer,
        Good lord... theres no organs! And wheres the head?
        Commander Akaris pointed, the head was at the far end of the room. The face was fixed with a
permanent of utter horror. Mark closed his eyes,
        Good god... good lord... oh god... where are his organs?
        Commander Akaris groaned,
        You wont like this part... we cant find them but we think we know what happened to them.
        Mark glanced up at him. Commander Akaris continued,
        We examined the torso closely, which was real fun. It appears as if something ripped him open
and ATE his organs.
        Mark stared,
        Youre not kidding, are you?
        No. There are goddamn tooth marks on that corpse. Someone decided to take a nice bite out of
our friend Darus. Someone with with damn big and damn sharp teeth.
        Sir, I need to talk with you, preferably elsewhere.
        Understood. Lets get the hell out.
        They walked out the door and out of Crew Section 12B. Commander Akaris and Mark moved
away from the guards. Commander Akaris looked at Mark,
        What is it, soldier?
        Sir, I saw Darus before he died... it looked a whole lot like he was really afraid of something. It
looked as if he was afraid of something coming to kill him.
        Interesting.
        And another thing... does this killing seem a little... ritualistic?
        What?
        Come on, commander. Look at it... both his arms in symmetry... his head placed at the end of
the room on line with the torso which is ripped open and has no vital organs... THAT IS NOT
COINCIDENCE!
        Commander Akaris grabbed his shoulder and looked straight in his eyes,
        Are you suggesting that someone on this ship has killed one of my men and may do it again?
        Not someone... something. Do you remember Darus messages... they seemed like nonsense...
maybe it was more than that.
        Youre telling me that some creature has come through from god-only-knows where and is
killing people?
        After seeing that damn room, Im ready to believe anything... especially things which would
explain a ritual killing involving huge tooth marks.
        Commander Akaris stared directly at Mark,
        You are not to breath a single word about your private theories to anyone.
        You dont believe me?
        No... the thing is... I believe you are one-hundred percent right. And as of now you are going to
work with anyone else who would possibly be of assistance and find out what the hell we can do.
        Captain Meris, sir.
        What?
        Shes the one who first noticed that Darus looked like he was afraid of something. Shed be
useful.
        Then get her! You can have the entire squadron if you can find out what the hell this thing is.
        Sir...
        Yes?
        Can you stop saying hell?
        Why?
        Because I think it might be an accurate description of what were dealing with here... and thats
beginning to scare me.

-Fox McClouds old den, Papetoon

        Fara was sitting on the bed in Foxs old room curled up in a ball. Fox walked in and sat
down next to her. She moved closer and Fox held her close in his arms. She shook her head and
closed her eyes,
        Is this what its all about? Has it come this far?
        Fox just held her. She groaned,
        Its as bad as the war... worse even... theyre intent on destroying the entire government and
everyone who works for it. The convoy never had a chance... they hit it too quickly and with too many...
        Fox nodded and stroked his wifes hair,
        They want a civil war... and it looks a lot like theyre going to get one...
        He heard someone speak very urgently,
        Go outside! Now! Theres someone coming you need to see!
        Fox looked at his wife,
        Did you say something?
        She shook her head. Fox looked puzzled,
        Someone just told me to get outside.
        Fara stared at Fox,
        You mean you didnt say that?
        They both got up quickly and opened the door, they made their way outside the den quickly.
Outside Minita was sitting on a stump with Tefin hovering nearby. Minita was playing around with a
mean looking combat knife. She looked up and saw Fox and Fara,
        Ah, glad to see you two again. Did you enjoy our little show today?
        Fox shrugged. Fara remained still and silent. Minita grinned,
        After today, the Cornerian government cant ignore the Brethren any longer. Well crush them
like they tried to crush us.
        Off around the corner they heard the sounds of a commotion at the perimeter checkpoint. They
heard someone shouting,
        Dammit! Let me see Fox McCloud!
        Then the sound of someone cocking a rifle. The voice spoke again,
        You really know how to use that? I dont think so.
        A loud crack and a yelp of pain. The voice again,
        At least let me talk to whoever is in charge.
        Minita got up and walked around the corner, followed closely by Tefin. Fox and Fara decided it
was worth looking in to and they too followed the red wolf.
        Around the corner an interesting sight greeted them. The checkpoint guard was sitting on the
ground holding his jaw and cursing, his rifle lying next to him. Above him stood two foxes. A fox and a
vixen. The fox had gray fur and looked very angry. The vixen was grinning broadly. Fox looked closer at
them... they looked familiar. Fara spoke out,
        Its Gray and Mira Lancer!
        Fox looked again and confirmed this. From the looks of things, Grays temper had got the better
of him. Gray hauled the guard up and spoke again to him,
        Let me talk to someone or Ill find some other bones to break!
        Minita ran up and placed her paw on Grays arm,
        Im sorry, would you please drop my guard.
        Gray did this and squinted at the red wolf,
        Who the hell are you?
        My name is Minita DelVariot... I command these forces...
        Grays eyes widened and a look of intense hatred crossed them,
        Minita DELVARIOT?! General DelVariot?!
        She nodded. Gray punched her across the face. There was a loud smack of his fist connecting and
Minita fell back hard. Gray hauled her up by her collar,
        How the hell could you attack that convoy?! How could you join the Brethren of the Fallen?!
Dont you have any bloody honor?!
        Minita snarled and lashed out at Gray. He didnt realize that both her arms were cybernetic
and wasnt prepared for her swiftness. The blow caught him dead on and knocked him back. Minita
backed off and Gray stood slowly. Minita glared at him,
        The question is not my honor but your intelligence.
        She ran at him and slashed down with her right arm. It connected with Grays nose and blood
erupted from a small wound. Gray flailed backwards and Minita caught him with another punch to the
gut.    There was the sound of a blade being drawn and a combat knife was in Minitas paw. She
stabbed at Gray and barely grazed his shoulder. Gray kicked at her paw holding the knife. It hit square on
but had no effect. Minita laughed,
        Having arms made of metal is a great help sometimes.
        She reached out with the paw not holding the knife and grabbed Gray around the throat. She
lifted him up and held the knife to his throat,
        I dont know who you are or what youre doing here... but you are going to die...
        There was a loud thud and Minita let out a surprised yelp. She dropped both Gray and the knife
and fell to the ground, stunned. Mira was standing over her holding a large rock. Gray collapsed and lay
on the ground. Mira walked over and picked him up, holding his head in her lap. He groaned,
        Why is it always me getting hurt?
        Its not. Remember Venom?
        Oh yeah. Forget I said anything. Just get me some bandages.
        Mira nodded and ran off to get the equipment. Fox and Fara walked over to Gray stood over him.
Fara looked down at the injured fox,
        You wanted to talk to us?
        Oh yeah... almost forgot about that. Tell me anything youve experienced lately that has any
vague connection to this whole civil war... no matter how obscure.
        Fox thought for a second and then answered,
        Well... we were on the cap ship that attacked the convoy. The PIDF has joined the Brethren of
the Fallen... and theres this weird dream Ive been having where a vixen, I think its Mariel Phoenix,
standing over a field with the remains of a huge battle. Someone asks if it will happen again and
she says it will someday.
        A look of fear crossed Grays face. He sat up,
        You two need to come with me and Mira.
        Fox almost laughed,
        What? Where?
        Gray glared at him,
        This is deadly serious. This is no ordinary civil war... its only the beginning of an invasion
from another dimension... thats a bad way to describe it but Ill explain later.
        Foxs expression became serious,
        Where are we going?
        To recruit a little bit of help.
        Mira came running back with bandages and began to dress Grays wounds. She looked at
Minita nervously,
        The whole camp is too confused to do anything, but only until Minita wakes up. Wed better get
out of here.

-The Broadsword, in mid orbit around Venom
 
        Captain Alison Meris and Sergeant Mark Selster sat together in Marks cabin and looked over all
the data disks they had been able to find in the ships library on ancient ritual sacrfices. It had seemed like
a good place to start, considering the nature of the killing.
        Alison ejected another disk and tossed it down,
        Ugh! This is useless! I havent been able to find a single thing that matches the violence and
brutality of that killing! Nowhere is there a ritual that involves tearing the victim open and eating their
vital organs!
        Mark groaned,
        Dont remind me. Ok, I think that we can stop this search now. Its pretty obvious that we arent
dealing with anything even remotely normal here.
        Alison was fishing around in the vast stacks of data disks and came up with something. It wasnt
a disk but a small leather-bound book. She opened it,   This is odd. Must have been in the back of the
library or something. Hmmm... The Accounts of Tisirus... volume 5, Major and Minor Demons, Demonic
Acolytes, Fallen Angels, and Other Denzins of the Realms of Demons. Weird. Maybe worth a look.
        She opened the book on the floor and Mark looked on as they read it. Alison read one part of the
contents aloud,
        Chapter 18, Visitors of the night.
        She opened to the chapter and they saw the sub-contents. Alison looked through them and found
a likely heading,
        Ok, here we go. Part 5, Night killers.
        She flipped to the chapter and they read it. Alison shook her head after they had finished,
        No. Thats nothing like it.
        Mark picked up the book,
        Maybe were looking at this wrong. Remember how Darus kept going on about something
coming through. Lets try this, Chapter 14, Heralds of the demon world.
        They opened it to the chapter. Mark look at the sub-contents,
        This is just a list of names. Well have to read the entire chapter.
        Alison sighed. They began to read.

-Arris City, Fortuna
 
        Gray caught the closing door with his paw and held it open. He winced as the door was pressed
harder against his paw,
        Will you please at least hear me out?
        The person on the other side answered quickly,
        No. No I wont.
        The door was given another shove and Gray grunted in pain. He tried again,
        How about if we told you this civil war is just a front for an invasion from another dimension?
        Id say you were lying.
        How about if we showed you a book several thousand years old that says its happened before
and will happen again?
        Gray felt the pressure of the door being released. The voice spoke,
        Show it.
        Gray pulled out the book which he had taken from Tagaios study and held the edge up to the
crack in the door.      The door opened completely and revealed Katt Monroe standing in the doorway. She
nodded at the two visitors, Gray and Mira Lancer,
        Come in.
        She glared at Gray,
        Youre really testing me here... trying to pull me back into a war.
        Listen, if were right... and we probably are... then youll get involved now or by default when
thousands of creatures from another dimension storm your house and kill you.
        Katt narrowed her eyes,
        Like I said, youre really testing me. Lets see the book.
        Gray passed it to her along with a small slip of paper,
        That paper is the date test slip. It proves that the book is about a thousand years old.
        Katt glanced at the slip and nodded,
        Alright. But what if the info inside was just made up?
        Read it and then compare it to whats happening now. Ive written a summary, its in the front
of the book.
        Katt pulled the printouts out and glanced over them. Her eyes widened. Gray nodded,
        See. By the way, there are archeological findings from modern times that say those battles did
occur... lots of strange skeletons. Most of them have been passed off as some throwback species that
was hunted to extinction. Im not so sure that theyre a throwback species.
        Katt nodded,
        Ok, Im willing to hear what youve got to say. Something weird is happening. You probably
know a whole lot more about the civil war than I do.
        Gray sighed,
        From the top. The organization known as the Brethren of the Fallen has declared total war on
the Cornerian government. They dont want anything except to wipe the government out of existence.
They have recently been joined by the Papetoon Independant Defense Force. We think that this is all
the start of a repeat of what happened over a thousand years ago. The book has all that.
        Lancer, this is still a stretch. Why should I, of all people, believe that the civil war is the start of
some horrible dimensional war just because a book says it happened before and MIGHT happen
again.
        The morale of Lylat.
        Katt looked closely at Gray,
        Are you drunk?
        Not even close. Havent you read any of the reports on how no one wants to live in Lylat
anymore, how the suicide rate is however many times what it was two years ago?
        Katt nodded,
        So?
        The system is in its best shape ever. Think of one reason besides an influence from some
powerful being that would account for the lowering morale.
        Katt thought for a minute,
        I cant. There isnt a reason... but it could just be a fluke.
        A system-wide fluke that reaches every level and every class? I dont think so. Katt, its time to
face up to things...
        Why me?
        Because youre one of veterans of the war against Andross who isnt trying
to start a civil war.
        Well, why not find some old war vets who dont want the civil war and convince them to help
you?
        Gray sighed,
        Because, in all honesty, I dont trust them for crap.
        Katt nodded and smiled,
        I knew you were going to say that. Ok, if you trust me... Ill help you. Where do we start?
        Gray smiled and took the book from Katt,
        We wait for Fox to call me back about his little mission. See, we have to solve a little riddle to
go on in our quest and Fox decided he knew who could help us out. He and Fara should be calling
back within the next few hours.
        Katt groaned,
        Oh goodie, that sounds like loads of fun.
        Gray laughed,
        Dont worry, we can go get something to eat while we wait.
        Katt nodded,
        Only one condition, you two are paying.

-Corneria City

        Did I ever tell you about how your father and I got away from those pirates in Jareks Run on
Katina?
        Fox groaned. Peppy was going into one of his numerous stories. Fox quickly countered,
        Yes, several times.
        Peppy totally ignored Fox,
        Anyway, it was back... whenever... we were being chased by pirate ships on Katina, in the area
which is near Jareks Run. Now, some say that Jareks Run gets its name from Sir Edmund Jarek, who
discovered the place back in the olden days of such. Now thats a completely different story which I think
Ill tell you right now. See, sir Edmund Jarek was a great explorer known for taking incredible risks
and...
        Fox growled,
        Will you stop going off on those irrelevant stories! Ive come here to ask your help, not for
bloody story time!
        Fara began laughing. Peppy squinted at Fox,
        Youre just like your dad. Did I ever tell you...
        Shut up and listen.
        Ok, Junior.
        Fox sat down on Peppys couch and the old rabbit sat in his favorite armchair. Fara sat next to
Fox. Fox looked up at Peppy,
        We have a little riddle for you.
        Now, that reminds me of...
        Not now. This is serious. Solve this riddle: The fortress in the clouds of a dead world. Where
is it?
        Now, Junior, thats a tricky one.
        Fox nodded,
        Yep, can you solve it?
        Give me a second to think.
        Fox drummed his finger impatiently as the rabbit thought. Finally, Peppy spoke again,
        Ive got it, Junior. The dead world must be Venom. The only fortress in the clouds I can think of
there is Orbital Hangar V1. It was an old attempt by the Cornerian Air Force during the war to put ships
right next to Venom. The whole place was abandoned suddenly for an unknown reason.
        Fox nodded. Fara leaned forward and spoke,
        Can you take us there?
        Sorry, Fara. I cant do that.
        Peppy saw their crestfallen expressions and smiled,
        Dont worry, I know someone who can.
        Fox nodded. Peppy got out a piece of paper and began writing,
        Hes a coyote named Arrek Largen. Was in the special forces during the war...
        Fox frowned,
        I know him. Do you know how to get in touch with him?
        Peppy nodded,
        Sure. Heres his business card.
        Peppy handed Fox a small card with writing on it. Fox read the card:

        Arrek Largen
        Supernatural bounty hunter/investigator
        Com: 11294-20192
        Jharnik City, Corneria

        Fox put the card in his pocket and got up,
        Thanks, Peppy.
        No problem, did I ever tell you how much youre like your dad?
        Oh yeah. We have to go now.
        He and Fara thanked Peppy for his help and walked out. Outside Fara turned to Fox,
        Hes getting old, isnt he?
        Yep. Now we need to call Gray.
        Fara pulled out her personal com and punched in Grays number. She spoke into the com,
        Gray, the riddle is talking about a place over Venom called Orbital Hangar V1. Peppy says that
Arrek Largen can get us there.
        They heard Gray swear on the other end of the com,
        I havent seen him since Sevantra. Well, Katt agreed to help us. I called Falco and his stream of
vulgar expressions assured me he doesnt want any part of this! Good going, both of you.
        The com shut off. Fara put it back in her jacket pocket. She and Fox continued walking down the
street towards the transit system station. Arrek Largen had helped them a couple years ago in their fight
against Sevantra and her dark master. In fact, he had been the one to kill her and banish her master.
        But would he want any part in another invasion of dark forces?

-Jharnik City, Corneria

        Arrek Largen leaned back in his chair and groaned loudly. It had been too long a day. He hadnt
had anything interesting to do... just lots of professors consulting him on matters of the occult. All Arrek
could think about was going home.
        His com unit chimed.
        Arrek picked up the com unit, set it to private mode.
        He listened to what the person had to say...
        And his eyes widened. He took a short breath,
        Ill be there inside the hour.
        He shut the com off. That was Gray Lancer, an old acquaintance of his. Together they had fought
the evil Sevantra and her master. Together they had defeated both.
        But now something far worse was happening. Gray had managed to sum it up rather quickly.
Arrek shook his head and muttered,
        Good god, have mercy on my soul. This is worse than I feared.
        He rumaged around his crowded office and found a number of books he knew he would need. He
packed them in a bag along with several other artifacts and extra clips for his handgun. He kept several of
these clips separate from the rest... they were divided into several pouches. These clips held special bullets
for use outside of the norm.
        It had been a long time since hed been hunting anything really big. Now it looked like hed
really have a chance at something challenging. This made Sevantras master look like a ghost that jumped
out of dark corners to scare little children.

-The Broadsword, in mid orbit around Venom

        Alison was the first to see the sub-chapter that looked likely. She read out loud,
        Herald Vermontalis... herald to him known as the Destroyer and his army. The Herald
Vermontalis is often sent to silence those who are too talkative about his masters coming. Although
Vermontalis is indeed powerful, he can only appear in complete darkness...
        She skipped down the page a little,
        ...to be also noted are Herald Vermontalis methods of dispatching with victims. He seems to
prefer a ritual approach, tearing his victims limb-from-limb and arranging them in a symmetrical pattern.
He is also known to tear open a victims body and devour their internal organs...
        Alison and Mark looked at each other. Alison nodded,
        Yeah... thats it. Utter darkness? No light at all... the only place on the ship like that is Crew
Section 12B. Well, at least no one else has to worry about being torn apart as they sleep.
        Mark grimaced,
        I dont know... it didnt look like Darus was asleep when he was attacked. It looked like he was
conscious of every part of it.
        Alison shuddered,
        Thats not a good thought. Think we should tell Commander Akaris about this?
        No.
        Alison looked very surprised. She looked closely at Mark,
        Are you feelin Ok?
        Alison. Akaris has a vague feeling that something weird is happening. He may even be prepared
to accept the supernatural explanation... but in no way is he prepared for this kind of stuff. You and I both
know Akaris very well... if we tell him hell overreacte, misjudge, and screw everything up.
        Alison nodded she was looking through the book,
        Ok then. Mark... there are seven full chapters with information relating only to the Destroy.
This is probably worth a look!

-Arris City, Fortuna

        Arrek Largen sat down and sighed,
        Not a good thing, is it?
        Fox McCloud shook his head. Arrek nodded,
        Yeah, well... was Peppy absolutely sure that the riddle meant Orbital Hangar V1?
        He got it right off. I think hes pretty sure that its the only place that fits the description.
        Damn. Too damn bad. Well, listen, I know a little bit more about that place than most. Judging
from other info youve given me... it seems likely that it IS the place.
        Hows that?
        Well... let me give you a little background on this whole thing.
        Arrek sat down and got comfortable. He was frowning,
        See... the Cornerian Air Force decided a while ago it wanted a base really close to Venom where
they could just reach out and smash whatever Andross was doing and then scurry back before he could do
a thing about it.
        Arrek paused. Fox nodded and Arrek continued speaking,
        Well, the managed to run the supplies to build a small base in via small cargo ships. Got the
thing assembled piece-by-piece hidden in the clouds of Venom. But then stuff started to go wrong. Little
things at first, a few minor accidents on site and stuff like that. They all figured that the base was gonna
go up right on schedule. Nothing special.
        Fox nodded again,
        So what?
        Arrek smiled grimly,
        Well, the little accidents began to escalate. I dont know many details but I do know this... the
Cornerian Military abandoned suddenly, they disavowed all knowledge of its existence... and I went there
and got some weird feelings off that place.
        Fox looked skeptical,
        Weird feelings?
        Arrek glared,
        Fox... I know you dont understand the supernatural to save your life, but when dealing with it,
feelings and instinct mean a lot more than hard facts.
        Arrek looked closely at Fox and frowned deeply,
        Fox, listen to me and listen very carefully. It is very important that you understand exactly what
is happening here...
        Foxs look vanished. He was beginning to get a little bit nervous. Arrek looked deep into his eyes
and spoke in a slow and deep voice,
        Fox... we are about to go to a place that has been condemned... you cannot even begin to
imagine the kinds of things which I have heard about happening in places like this. Id tell you some
stories, but you would refuse outright to set a paw near it if I did. Do you understand?
        Fox nodded nervously. Arrek sat back and frowned again,
        We leave tomorrow.
        Fox only nodded again. Arrek got up and left the room. Fox shook his head slowly and muttered
to himself. What was he getting into?
        He hadnt the faintest idea whatsoever.

-Foxs old den, Papetoon

        Tefin was smarter than he looked. He wasnt going to talk to Minita when she was in a mood like
this.
        The red wolf sat on a stump outside with a combat knife in her right paw. She looked
dangerously close to the edge. Tefin watched her nervously with two of her other aides.
        Minita took the combat knife and placed the point on her thigh. Tefin swallowed nervously.
Minita pressed the knife down until blood flowed up through her pants leg. She slid the knife down about
three inches and lifted it again. There was a red streak of blood oozing from the rip in her pants.
        Tefin cringed. Minita looked down at her own blood as if it were the most fascinating thing in
the whole world. She slowly turned her head and spoke in a low growl to Tefin,
        Bring the prisoner... whats his name?
        Uh... uh...Renit Buroughs, sir.
        Minita narrowed her eyes,
        Bring him now.
        Tefin saluted and dashed off. The two other aides glanced around nervously. Minita glared at
them,
        What the hell do you think youre doing around me? Get the hell away.
        They quickly obliged the viscious red wolf and ran off themselves. Minita looked around and
growled. She took the knife and set it to the left of the first wound on her thigh. Again she pressed it down
and made a small gash down her thigh. She did the same to the right of the first wound. Finally, she made
a cut running across all three of the wounds.
        She couldnt take this much longer. She needed to fight... she needed to kill. She needed to smell
the perculiar odor of death and have the tang of blood on her tongue again.
        The prisoner was now being brought out. Two guards escorted him into the field. The prisoner
was also a red wolf. He had been one of her pilots who had refused to fight for her. The guards brought
the prisoner up to Minita. She glared at him,
        So... Renit Buroughs...
        He sneered defiantly,
        Nice try, DelVariot... hiding behind your damn goons.
        Minita motioned at the guards and snarled,
        Leave now.
        The guards nodded and ran off. Minita kept her head down. Renit spoke in a defiant tone and
sarcastic,
        What are you going to do to me, oh glorious leader?
        That was what Minita had been waiting for. She brought her head up. Renit stared directly into
her eyes and saw every ounce of the blood lust and hatred. Minita flashed an evil grin,
        Use your imagination.
        Renits expression of defiance and confidence completely vanished. He stared in fear at Minita.
She grinned widely and brought up her right arm.
        She pulled the glove slowly off to reveal the cold metal underneath. She flexed the fingers slowly
and shook her head slowly,
        Its been too long...
        With a flick of her wrist, her combat knife was in her paw. It still had a touch of her own blood
on it. Renit looked down and saw the cuts on Minitas right thigh. He swallowed hard. Minita rasied the
combat knife high.
        She plunged it down into her own right thigh, right in the middle of the cuts. She pulled the
blade out, covered in blood. Blood oozed from the wound but Minita showed no sign that she had felt any
pain. She smiled again,
        Impressive, isnt it? No you try.
        Renit began to slowly back away. Minita was on him like a lightning bolt. She grabbed his throat
and hauled him up,
        You betrayed me, Captain Buroughs. Isnt that right?
        Renit could only let out a choked sob. Minita narrowed her eyes,
        Whats that?
        She tightened her grip. Renit gasped for air. Suddenly, Minita threw him back to the ground.
Renit lay on the ground and held his throat. Minita sneered at him,
        Seeing as you have no particular need to use your mouth...
        She kicked out with her left footpaw and caught Renit directly under the jaw. The male red
wolfs jaw cracked and he yelped in pain. He spat blood and backed up, whimpering. Minita jumped over
to him and held up the knife. Renit put up a paw as if to tell her to stop...
        Minita thrust the combat knife into the dead center of Renits paw. He screamed in pain and
blood quickly flowed around the knife and down his arm. Minita removed the knife, leaving a gaping
wound through Renits right paw.
        She kicked down at his left leg and hit the kneecap. A loud popping sound and another cry of
pain. Minita felt alive now. Her victim was bleeding profusely now... his bones broken... his flesh torn.
        Minita skillfully lashed out with the knife and grazed Renits chest. It sent a large gash running
open down his chest. Renit screamed again.
        Minita breathed deeply and stood back. She watched as Renit writhed in agony. It was over now.
Time to finish the job.
        She drew another blade from the belt across her chest. A long throwing blade. She took careful
aim and let fly with her enhanced strength...
        The blade stuck deep into Renit Buroughs head. He gave a final choked cry and fell back, finally
dead. His eyes rolled back in his head and the blood seeped out around the blade embedded deep within
his skull.
        Minitia called out. One of her aides came running up. She motioned at the corpse of Renit
Buroughs,
        Get that out of my sight.
        The aide nodded. He looked down at the body and winced visibly. He ran off to get some guards
to take it away.
        Minita sat down again on the stump. A temporary fix at best. She lapped the blade of her combat
knife with her tongue. The Brethren were taking too long to make up their minds about what to attack and
when.
        Besides, they never put her on ground assaults. She was always in the air... away from the smells
and sights of true war. She couldnt take much more of it.
        Tefin had nervously poked his way back to Minita. He glanced away from Buroughs corpse in
disgust. Minita spoke to Tefin without looking at the muskrat,
        Tefin. You are to prepare the best two squads of ground troops we have and prepare them for an
attack.
        On what, sir?
        Minita smiled wickedly,
        I want the oppressors to know how much we mean business. We will move on the Corneria
Central High School.
        Tefin seemed to falter, but only a for a second,
        Yes sir.
        And Tefin...
        Yes?
        Make sure that none of them would hesitate to kill a child.
        Tefin grimaced,
        Yes sir.
        He walked off to find the troops.

-The Broadsword, in orbit around Venom
 
        Commander, look at this.
        Commander Akaris walked over to his situational officers console and looked over her shoulder
at the display. He frowned,
        What am I supposed to be seing?
        The officer pointed her finger at part of the display,
        This here... theres something on the energy scope... very faint but its too strong to just be a
natural disturbance.
        A lightning storm?
        No sir, too regular. This isnt a natural occurrence.
        Can you get a better look at it?
        Yes sir, I just need to have the ship brought in a little closer.
        Commander Akaris walked to the center of the bridge and called to the pilot,
        Dannik, take us to 500 meters off that thing. Be careful.
        500 meters was incredibly close to just be taking a look. A ship as large as the Broadsword was
usually kept far out from potentiol obstacles. However, the dense atmosphere of Venoms middle layer
made it necessary to get that close to really find out what they were dealing with.
        The pilot nodded and gently nudged the ship forward, steering it to the left to get alongside the
source of the energy readings. The situational officer was staring at her console and suddenly cried out,
        Sir! Ive got a bead on the readings... I know what theyre coming from.
        Akaris walked down to her console. He looked down,
        What is it?
        Sir, the energy readings are coming from an orbital platform!
        What?
        The pilot shouted from his controls,
        Sir. Take a look at main visual.
        Commander Akaris turned to look at the large main visual screen. The whole bridge began to
stare at the screen... on it showed a huge orbital platform. Lightning flashed through the clouds around it.
Akaris jaw dropped,
        Take us in, Dannik.
        Sir?
        You heard me, dammit, I want you to take us in to look at... whatever the hell that is.
        Dannik silently nodded and turned back to his controls. Akaris continued staring at the strange
structure on the screen. He shook his head slowly. He didnt know what it was, but he got a strange
feeling just looking at the thing. A feeling like he shouldnt be anywhere near it. But, at the same time, he
had to investigate. He had to know what the thing was.

-The Remorseless, a Mercenaries Guild heavy carrier in orbit around Corneria

        Flight 1, over there! Flight 4, youve got point duty. Flights 2 and 3, come with me. Flight 5,
youre on back. Flights 6 and 7 are reserve. 8 is fallback. Lets go.
        Edmund Harris was the weasel who was in undisputed command of the Mercenaries Guild
fighter squadrons on the Remorseless. He ran down the corridor to the main flight bays for the 67th
Interdiction and turned left. He was followed by the pilots of flights 2 and 3. He stopped and shouted over
the general noise of alarms and fighter preparation,
        Ok, flights 2 and 3, you guys are all under me and weve got heavy duty. You know the drill, hit
all cap ships and let flight 1 handle the fighters. If it get too hairy, well call in 6 and 7 for a little help.
Everyone, seal your suits and prepare for combat launch!
        The pilots quickly did up the seals to their suits. The carrier pilot flight suit, when fully sealed,
was air tight and pressurized. It had its own oxygen and life support systems. Combat launch meant the
air would be sucked out of the hangar after they had climbed in the cockpit. The Remorseless would drop
the force field which kept the air in the hangar and kept it pressurized. Without those fields to maintain,
the Remorseless could cycle the fighters faster.
        The pilots of flights 2 and 3 scrambled into their fighters, a mix of various medium and heavy
fighters ranging from ArSpace AR-46Ds to Repulsor S-7s. The cockpit canopies closed and sealed. A
siren sounded to alert all personnel that the hangar force field was being dropped.
        There was a rush of air as the field dropped and the hangar rapidly became a vacuum.
        Edmund throttled his fighter, an ArSpace AR-70C Strike Arwing, forward expertly. The large
fighter shot out of the hangar and into the blackness of space. He watched as the other members ot the two
flights did the same. Experts all of them. And restless experts. Now they had something really important
to do.
        He turned on the com and heard the voice of the Remorseless captain, Andrea Yarnovich,
        All units precede to interdiction point alpha and look for enemy units. Fighters are expected to
be mostly light and medium, maybe a few heavy... cap ships are a few cruisers and several transports. We
dont know their exact target, but its probably in the Corneria City area. Just to be safe, terminate with
extreme prejudice. Kick their tails. Captain Yarnovich out.
        The com shut down. Edmund contacted his squadron on the private channel,
        You heard the lady. Ok, we follow flight 1 in and go cap ship hunting. Flight 3, I want you guys
to hit the cruisers. Flight 2, well take the transports. Flight 3, be ready to assist if they really are trying to
land troops. Lets go.
        The fighters fell into formation with Edmunds ship. He waited for flight 1 to pass by and then
throttled up to speed and fell in line behind them. At last, something to do.

-Invader 1, on approach to Corneria

        Minita sat in her full combat gear and growled low,
        What the hell is our ETA?
        The pilot at the head of the transport responded quickly,
        About five minutes, sir.
        The co-pilot had been watching the threat display. He looked up and spoke nervously,
        Sirs, enemy ships incoming. Estimated intercept in one minute.
        Minita snarled,
        Dammit! Of course theres fargin enemy fighter incoming! Theres a bloody Mercs Guild
carrier on interdiction duty around Corneria. Theyve got their entire fight compliment out by now. Well
have to pull an EHALO drop.
        The co-pilots eyes widened,
        Ive never seen that done before, not even in exercises.
        Minita growled,
        Theres always a first time.
        EHALO stood for Extra High Altitude Low Opening and was the most dangerous para-drop
known to anyone. It involved dropping from the very edge of the planets atmosphere down to about 3000
feet before opening the chute.
        The pilot looked back at Minita,
        Is your gear qualified for EHALO?
        Yes. Its designed for HALO and EHALO.
        Right. Have it your way. Entering EHALO approach.
        Minita turned back to the commandos sitting in the back of the transport with her,
        Listen, were going to pull an EHALO drop. Well pull slow at 4000, pull half at 3000, and pull
final at 2000, last resort is 1000. Got me?
        Nobody said anything. Minita nodded,
        Good. Lets get ready to drop. Ill go in first.
        Minita moved to the back of the transport where the drop door was. She sealed her suit and
motioned for the others to do the same. The transports flew into the straight EHALO approach pattern.
The pilot looked back at Minita,
        Its drop time.
        The door slid open and Minita looked down at the planet far below. Without further hesitation,
she threw herself from the transport. She turned to look back and mentally counted to four. Another
commando dropped out. She counted to four again and another commado leapt out. Good, perfectly on
schedule.
        Minita turned herself downwards to gain speed and prevent the enemy from tracking her. Below
awaited their unsuspecting target.

-Brett and Kelly MacDonalds country home, Corneria

        Brett and Kelly sat in their livingroom with Fenica sleeping on Bretts lap. The little vixen had
finally given up her wanderings in favor of going to sleep for an undetermined period of time.
        It made a heart-warming sight... but Brett wasnt feeling happy at all. He was worried. Gray had
made his report to him... it looked bad, really bad. Gray had been plenty vague but it was relatively clear
that the civil war was more than it seemed. Right now, Arrek Largen had been called in to help. If Arrek
Largen was helping, that meant that something supernatural was almost certainly involved.
        Brett groaned and stroked Fenicas head gently. Kelly smiled sympathetically and held her
husbands paw. She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek,
        Cute, isnt she?
        Brett nodded and smiled.
        They heard a sudden, very loud sound. Bretts eyes widened,
        Gunshots!
        Another shot, followed by the sound of the bullet striking wood. A number of shots. Kelly
listened closely,
        Those are coming from the door, I think someones trying to get in here.
        They looked across the room to the door. Another series of shots finally blew the lock out. The
door was kicked wide open and someone wearing full combat gear stormed in. Fenica was now fully
awake and wide-eyed in terror. Brett threw himself in front of her. He heard three shots and felt three
points of intense pain in his back. He dived behind the couch and placed Fenica on the floor. Brett drew
his own .38 pistol that he carried and flicked off the safety. His back was aching now. Felt like small
caliber bullets, probably .22 caliber or less. Good thing they werent shooting with something bigger.
        Kelly quickly poked her head over the couch and fired two rounds out of her own pistol. She
dived back behind the couch and spoke quickly to Brett,
        Its a female red wolf, as far as I can tell. Shes got an automatic rifle on her back and shes
firing at us with what looks like a .20 cal special. Tiny gun.
        The sounds of the small pistol firing were replaced with the loud chattering of an automatic
weapon. Fenica whimpered and covered her ears. Kelly groaned,
        Now shes firing with the automatic.
        Brett nodded and jumped out from the couch. He fired his pistol four times and scored a direct hit
on the red wolfs left arm. She didnt even flinch. Brett dived back under cover right as a trail of
automatic weapons fire was about to reach him. He shook his head,
        It sounded like that bullet struck something hard. Either shes wearing some strong arm guards
or she has prosthetics.
        Kelly whispered to Brett,
        Let me try something. Wait a minute... Brett... youre bleeding!
        Brett reached behind his back and felt the warm liquid on his paw. He nodded,
        She hit me three times.
        Kelly nodded. She stood up quickly and yelled across the room,
        Coward!
        The automatic weapons fire stopped. They heard the red wolfs voice, filled with anger,
        Who the hell are you to call me a coward?
        They heard the rifle fall to the ground. There was the sound of rustling cloth. The red wolfs
combat suit dropped to the floor, revealing her true figure. She was trim and attractive, but extremely
menacing at the same time. She snarled loudly at Kelly,
        You foolish feline, drop you weapon and face me in unarmed combat.
        Kelly dropped her pistol,
        You asked for it.
        The red wolf was across the room and practically on top of Kelly in a moment. She had Kelly in
a grip of steel. The red wolf put her face close and growled,
        Now you die!
        Kelly felt herself being crushed in the grip. She struggled to breath. She heard Brett call out,
        NO! Leave her alone!
        The red wolf turned and saw Brett,
        Whats this? Boyfriend? Lover?
        Brett glared at her,
        Husband.
        He pulled out his pistol and fired point blank at the red wolf. It caught her dead in the shoulder.
Blood spurted from the wound and the red wolf dropped Kelly. She launched herself at Brett and grabbed
his gun. She bent the barrel with her paws and tossed the now useless weapon aside. She drew a combat
knife and held it up,
        You cheated.
        She kicked Bretts right leg hard and he felt it give way. A spear of pain shot its way up his
spine. He fell to the ground, his teeth gritted against the incredible pain. The red wolf raised the knife and
poised it to stab it down at Brett, killing him in a single stroke.
        The sound of an automatic rifle firing echoed around the room. The red wolfs expression twisted
in pain. She turned around to face Kelly, who was standing behind her holding the rifle. Brett saw a
number of bullet wounds in the red wolfs back. She must be wearing a thin combat vest. The red wolf
seemed about to attack Kelly when she turned and ran to the door. Kelly leveled the rifle and fired another
burst, catching the red wolf in the right leg. Her leg apparently wasnt armored and a bullet tore a chunk
of flesh off. The red wolf limped out of the house and ran as quickly as she could away and Kelly dropped
the rifle. She ran over to Brett and held his paw. He yelped sharply in pain. Kelly looked down at his leg,
        Looks broken.
        Brett nodded. Kelly looked around the room,
        Ill go get the first aid kit. Weve got to get you to hospital.
        Brett nodded again and pointed at Fenica, who had her eyes closed and her paws over her ears,
        Yeah... make sure shes Ok first, then that would probably be a good idea.
        Kelly nodded and walked over to comfort Fenica.

-The Remorseless, in orbit around Corneria

        Commander Jennifer Kiren, the mink in command of the Remorseless, listened to the report of
the fighter operations commander,
        Its over. Theyve gone EHALO, cant track em for crap.
        Jennifer buried her head in her paws and muttered softly. They had already lost the battle. The
enemy had dropped. She raised her head and spoke agrily,
        Take them out!
        The operations commander raised his eyebrows,
        Sir?
        She growled,
        You heard me. I want you to order all units to destroy those ships. Every single one of them.
        The commander saluted,
        Yes sir.
        Jennifer glared at him,
        Make sure none of them escape.
        Sir.
        The commander saluted again and walked off to pass the word on to the squadron commanders,
who were still in space. They may not have prevented the troops from dropping... but they could prevent
the pilots from ever getting home again.
        Jennifer turned back to look at the 3d tactical display in front of her. An aide walked up and
saluted. Jennifer nodded,
        What is it?
        Sir, reports of ground combat near the Cornerian Central District. Centering around the
Cornerian Central High School.
        Jennifer frowned deeply,
        That must have been their target. Good lord... all those kids...
        Yessir. Also, were getting reports of an attack on a private residence in the countryside near
Corneria City. The attacker got away and is assumed to still be in the area. From the description, it sounds
like the attacker was one of the drop troops who missed their mark.
        Jennifer closed her eyes and nodded unhappily,
        Whos home?
        She heard a slightly familiar voice,
        Mine.
        An aide looked up and shouted over the background noise on the bridge,
        Officer on deck!
        Jennifer turned around and saw the Guild second-in-command Kelly Halden. Jennifer saluted.
Kelly did not return the salute but only glared at Jennifer,
        Call off the attack.
        What?!
        This isnt our fight, call it off.
        But... they... dropped...
        Theres no more good we can do. What do you want to do? Lose half our pilots in combat? It
wont reverse whats already happened. Call it off.
        Jennifer nodded. She felt tears welling up in the corners of her eyes but held them back. She
called out to the fighter operations commander,
        Call it off.
        The fighter operations commander nodded. Jennifer shook her head sadly,
        What can we do?
        Kelly frowned. She didnt look any happier than Jennifer felt. She sighed,
        Nothing. What could we do? Attack and bring the Brethren of the Fallen down on our heads?
This is a delicate situation.
        Jennifers face flushed with anger,
        So we do nothing?! Like the damned Cornerian Military?! Just sit around and let the people take
the fall for us... is that what weve become now?
        Listen, COMMANDER, my house was attacked by one of those troops. My husband is in the
hospital because of them and Im not feeling so hot myself. The Brethren have lots of support and ships...
the Guild is in no shape to fight them. Look at it... the Remorseless is our only fully operational carrier...
if we lose this ship, the Guild goes under hard. Do you want to avenge the attack by throwing our own
people at the enemy only to get them killed?
        Kellys eyes narrowed,
        Commander... those pilots are people too. Many of them have families... kids. This Guild does
not have expendable resources... do you understand that?
        Jennifer nodded,
        Im sorry. The pilots are being recalled.
        Good. Once everyones back, were taking this ship to Zoness.
        What?
        You heard me. All Guild ships are moving to Zoness. Were going to have a little meeting.
        Jennifer nodded again,
        As you wish.

-The Broadsword, in orbit around Venom

        Commander Akaris looked around the room directly before the airlock. The room was commonly
called the suit room and was where anyone planning to go out the air lock put on their space suits. The
Broadsword had actually docked with the mysterious orbiting station, but Akaris wasnt taking chances.
They didnt know if the station had an atmosphere or not.
        He was taking a small team in. Captain Alison Meris and Sergeant Mark Selster, his two
investigators, were both coming. Also coming was a short beaver named Jake Garrit, who was an expert
engineer. Lastly was Devan Porter, a squirrel who served as the ship munitions expert.
        Mark walked up to him and spoke,
        Sir, before we go, Id like to say one thing.
        Go ahead.
        This is a really really stupid idea.
        Thank you for your input.
        Mark sighed and walked away again. Commander Akaris motioned for everyone to move to the
airlock,
        Time to move out, people. Remember, Merik and Selster are group one. Garrit and Porter,
youre with me and were group two. Always stay with your group at all times. Lets go.
        He opened the airlock and they all stepped inside. The door back into the Broadsword closed
behind them and sealed automatically. The far door opened and revealed the interior of the inner airlock
on the space station. They all stepped inside and the outer door on the Broadsword closed. Akaris
motioned for Devan to cut the inner airlock door on the station open.
        The door opened. Akaris looked over at Mark, who was holding the control handle. He released
the handle and shrugged,
        Figured Id just see if it worked. Guess this place has power.
        They moved inside the station itself and used the manual control to close the inner door again.
Jake Garrit looked at a small device he was carrying,
        Sir, this place has an atmosphere... and its not toxic. We can take our helmets off.
        Akaris nodded for them to do it. They all removed their helmets and set them by the airlock door.
Akaris glanced quickly around the room. He spoke to the rest,
        This place looks like a standard Cornerian Military station... more or less. Lets split up. Group
one, you two try and find the bridge. Ill take group two and well find the engineering. Call the other
group when you get to the destination.
        Mark had been looking at a small plaque on the wall. He looked back at the group,
        This thing says this place is called Orbital Hangar V1. Funny. Its a Cornerian Military station
all right. Looks like no ones home. Wonder why.
        Commander Akaris shrugged,
        Who cares. Maybe well find out when we look around a bit. If either group runs into trouble,
call the other group and get some help right away.
        Mark spoke up again,
        Sir, I have a suggestion.
        What is it?
        We should take our helmets with us.
        Why?
        Well... theres no guarantee that all of this place has an atmosphere. And if it was abandoned, it
might not exactly be completely safe.
        Akaris nodded,
        Good idea. Ok, everyone take their helmets with them. You dont have to wear them all the
time, but be ready to slap them on if... for some reason... the atmosphere is compromised.
        Mark grabbed his own helmet. Compromised? Interesting way to put it. He wondered how much
of this place was still in decent condition. Funny that things still worked at all. Some of the lights worked
but most were gone. At least there was generally enough light to see by.
        Mark and Alison walked to one of the exits of the room. They pulled the door open. The corridor
beyond was long but very narrow. Flickering lights ran along the ceiling, about half of them no longer
working. They stepped into the corridor and Alison closed the door behind them. Mark heard Alisons
voice in his ear,
        Why would anyone just get up and abandon a place like this?
        He felt a cold chill run up his spine and he shuttered involuntarily,
        I dont know... but I have a nasty feeling were about to find out.

-Cornerian SWAT headquarters, Corneria City

        LIEUTENANT! You are overstepping your authority!
        Lieutenant Julie Morio snarled and grabbed the captains shirt,
        Up yours! Those people need my units help! Im moving them into the combat zone.
        The captain pushed Julie back and growled at her,
        Lieutenant, you could be court martialed for this.
        Her voice dripped with loathing,
        Oh... so you can court martial me for trying to help?
        If you try to send your unit into the combat zone, yes.
        Lieutenant Morio wrinkled her nose and glared. She raised a paw,
        Well, if you insist.
        She let fly with a hard right jab and caught the captain in the face. He grunted and fell over. Julie
leaned over him and slapped his face lightly,
        Sorry, but youre an idiot and trying to argue would only waste valuable time. Seeya later.
        She turned and ran out of the room. The captain slowly lifted himself up and rubbed his snout.
He shouted at a passing SWAT officer,
        You! Stop her!
        The SWAT officer shook his head,
        Sorry sir. Im going with Lieutenant Morio.
        The officer kept on walking. The captain lifted himself to his footpaws and muttered,
        Ill have them all court martialed... theyll all be sorry they did this.

-Corneria Central High School

        ...more units moving into position. Weve got snipers moving in on the north side. Got to be
careful with this one.
        SWAT commander Jason Barlow nodded as he listened to the tactical advisor. He butted in with
a question,
        Whats the hostage situation like?
        The advisor groaned loudly,
        Bad. Theyve killed a whole bunch of students already and have several hostage. Teachers too.
The whole school is being held.
        Jason growled. He hated hostage situations. Usually a SWAT raid was about as subtle as a punch
in the face... but when hostages were invovled, it got a whole lot touchier. The advisor continued,
        Were looking at almost two standard squads of enemy commandos.
        Jason interrupted again,
        Can we get a rapid response team in?
        The advisor looked up as if trying to see the answer in his head. He thought for a second and
answered,
        I think that Captain Tyres is trying to put one in through the ventilation ducts without being
seen.
        Jason nodded. He looked over and saw a vixen wearing SWAT combat gear walking up. Jason
called to her,
        You, what do you want?
        The vixen saluted and answered,
        Sir. Lieutenant Julie Morio.
        So?
        Sir, Ive got a fresh unit, thought you might like some help.
        Stop calling me sir. My name is Jason Barlow. Whats your units specialty?
        Stealth infiltration.
        Jason gaped,
        Why the hell didnt you get here sooner? Weve been looking for an SI unit since we knew the
hostage situation. Listen, were trying an insertion through the ventilation system... do you think itll
work?
        Julie closed her eyes and thought for a bit. She opened her eyes again and answered,
        No. These guys will expect that. Get those people out of there.
        Jason nodded to the tactical officer. The officer saluted and ran off. Jason turned back to Julie,
        Ok, Lieutenant Morio, well get them out. What do you suggest yourself?
        She smiled slowly,
        Get me and my people to the top of that building undetected and well take it from there.
        Jason stroked his muzzle with a paw. He finally nodded,
        You got it. Welcome to the battlefield, Lieutenant Morio.
        Oh... Commander Barlow?
        Yeah.
        I punched my captain in the face and stormed out with my unit to be here.
        Jason laughed,
        Theres only one captain who wouldnt send his SI unit into a situation like this... Captain
Gerhart. Am I right?
        Julie nodded vigorously. Jason laughed again,
        Right. As of now, hes no longer your captain. Your whole unit is being transferred to my
command. Welcome to the 2nd Tactical Response Team.
        He extended a paw. Julie grabbed it and shook. Jason pointed across the street to a hawk who was
arguing with someone,
        Thats the guy who can get your people to that roof. Just tell him I sent you. Good luck.
        Thanks, Commander Barlow.
        She saluted and walked across the street to speak to the hawk. Jason smiled and sat down on the
ground. Captain Gerhart was the biggest idiot in the SWAT with the worst judgement to boot. Not a good
person to give an SI team to. Well, he didnt have that SI team anymore.

-Orbital Hangar V1, in orbit around Venom

        Two Arwings were sitting in the lower hangar of Orbital Hangar V1. The cockpits opened and
out climbed Fara Phoenix-McCloud, Fox McCloud, and Arrek Largen. Arrek had been cramped into the
Arwing with Fox, which was possible if a little uncomfortable.
        Gray and Mira Lancer had heard about the attack on Brett and Kelly and had returned to
Corneria to be with their daughter. That left them out of the mission to Orbital Hangar V1.
        Fox looked around the hangar and whistled,
        Big place. Kind of creepy.
        Arrek shuddered,
        Kind of? This place scares the hell out of me.
        Fox nodded. Arrek walked ahead and led the way towards the exit of the hangar. All around were
ships from the time of the war against Andross. Fara shook her head and looked at the ships,
        It looks as if most of the people here didnt actually evacuate.
        Arrek spoke,
        A lot of them probably didnt.
        Fara shuddered, it was clear from the coyotes tone of voice that he wasnt implying they were
still alive.
        They arrived at one of the doors leading out of the hangar. It was locked and had a small keypad
to one side. Arrek glanced at the keypad and pulled out a small knife. He opened the panel and worked
inside it for a minute with the knife.
        The door slid noiselessly open and revealed the dark corridor beyond. A couple of lights still
flickered in the darkness but, overall, the corridor had none. Arrek pulled out a flashlight and shined it
into the darkness.
        Everything was completely silent, like a tomb. Nothing waited to jump out at them from the
shadows, just a small data disk that someone had dropped. Arrek walked forward into the corridor,
folowed by Fox and Fara. He stooped down and picked up the disk. He slipped it in his jacket pocket and
continued on. Fara spoke in a whisper,
        Its so quiet. Why arent there any noises? There should be at least the ventilation system.
        Arrek shrugged,
        I dont know. Youre right... there should be at least some noise... but this whole place is
completely silent.
        They reached a fork in the corridor, with a door leading left and the passage continuing to the
right. Arrek stopped walking,
        Do you want to go to the bridge?
        Both nodded. Arrek pressed a button on the door and it opened. He motioned for the two foxes to
follow,
        This way. Well take the service shaft up to the second lateral and go right to the bridge. Theres
an exit from the second lateral to the bridge. Its a little bit of climbing around, but itll be fast.
        Fox and Fara both nodded to signal their agreement. They all walked into another corridor with a
few more working lights than the last one. Most of the lights were flickering erratically but they did cast
enough light to see by. Arrek switched the flashlight off.
        The corridor went down a long ways and ended in a small door. To either side there were a few
doors of about the same size. Fox shot a questioning glance at Arrek and motioned at the doors. Arrek
explained,
        Supply rooms. Probably empty. Want to check one anyway?
        Fox shrugged,
        Why not?
        Arrek walked over to the nearest door and opened it. Darkness waited beyond to greet them.
Arrek switch on his light and shined it into the room. He motioned for Fox and Fara to join him,
        Come here. Theres something I think you should see.
        Fox and Fara walked over and looked inside the room. Fara gave a surprised yelp. Inside the
room was a skeleton still dressed in combat fatigues. The skeleton was bent over in a kneeling position
with both paws clenched together. Fara calmed down and walked over to inspect the skeleton. She shook
her head,
        How did he die?
        Neither Fox nor Arrek made any move to respond. Fara tried again,
        It looks like he was praying...
        Fox nodded,
        Or pleading...
        Arrek frowned and spoke in a low voice,
        I think it was a little of both.
        He turned around and left the room. Fox and Fara quickly scrambled after him. They closed the
door to the supply room. Fox smiled,
        Well, at least thats probably the worst well see in here.
        Arrek frowned and grabbed Foxs shoulder lightly,
        No. Thats probably not even close.
        He released Foxs shoulder and turned off his flashlight. They set off down the corridor again.
This time, they did not stop to enter any more of the supply rooms.

-The Broadsword, in orbit around Venom

        The cat lifted her head off the ground and struggled to comprehend what her eyes were showing
her. It wasnt easy... a jumble of random images... a lot of red... a whole lot of red.
        Suddenly, feeling came jolting back into her body. She screamed with agony as the spears of pain
shot through her back and sides. Then her arms... finally her legs... her whole body felt like it was on fire.
        She struggled hard to move her arms... even one paw. Nothing. Her arms refused to obey her
brains commands. Legs next... they didnt respond either. Just pain. She looked down...
        Red on the floor. Coming out from under her... blood! Her blood! She screamed again and
gagged on something. She realized that blood was beginning to fill her mouth as well. She spat and the
red liquid slopped onto the floor in front of her.
        What she saw around her still made no sense. There were people... or at least it seemed that way.
A lot of fire... explosions? Blood... on the walls?
        The last thing she remembered was being on the bridge of the Broadsword. She guessed that she
was still there... but it was somehow different.
        Another spear of pain... this time from her left arm. She felt and especially bad pain down near
the end...
        She looked at the end of her left arm and immediately saw something not right. There was too
much blood... and it was shaped all wrong...
        She screamed, a choked scream this time, again when she saw what had happened. Her paw was
gone. Only the wrist remained.
        The whole world went quiet all of a sudden. She wasnt deaf... no... she could still hear
something. A low noise, very persistent. Like chanting.
        The noise grew louder. It was chanting. She couldnt hold her head up anymore and slumped
forward into the pool of blood. Someone was standing over her. She looked up to see who.
        Her blood turned to ice. She heard one last thing before losing conciousness,
        The time is here... the vessel is complete...

-The Remorseless, in orbit around Zoness

        Brett sat at the head of the table in the main conference hall and looked over everyone assembled.
They were coming up to saw hello as they came in. Oddly enough, Gray and Mira Lancer had both
showed up with their daughter.
        Brett looked down for a second. Looked up again and saw someone he had seen several days ago.
He spoke in astonishment,
        Allais? I though you quit.
        Allais narrowed her eyes and spoke in a low and angry voice,
        Ive got nothing else left.
        Her tone lightened,
        Its good to be back, Brett.
        He smiled and shook her paw. She grinned half-heartedly,
        Just give me a little bit to get back in the swing of things.
        Brett nodded. Allais took her usual seat and promptly buried her head in her paws. Brett saw
another familiar face... one he hadnt seen in a while. He looked closer to be sure... yes... it was. Brett
walked up to the fox and tapped him on the shoulder,
        Derik? I thought you got killed on that counter-assassination mission.
        The fox turned around and smiled,
        Not by a bloody long shot. Killed the shooter before he could even take a shot at the president of
ArSpace. They had help and my team had to run.
        But I heard you were shot.
        I was! Took a bloody heavy cal smooth-bore in the flak vest for my fiancee. Thank god for flak
vests! Was in the bloody hospital for bloody three months. Actually... I got married right after getting out.
Sorry you couldnt come, but it was a low-key thing.
        Brett grinned,
        Saw hi to Jane for me.
        I will. Im glad I could be here.
        Brett walked back to his seat. Gray Lancer was standing next to it. Brett looked at the fox,
        Yes.
        Gray frowned,
        Brett, you have to call the meeting to order NOW and let me speak. Ive been talking to the
monitoring station near Venom... theyre picking up something serious...
        Fine. Ill call it now. Sit down.
        Sure.
        Gray dashed off to his seat next to his wife Mira. Brett sighed and stood. He spoke loudly,
        Attention! This meeting will come to order!
        The room was blanketed in silence almost instantly. Brett nodded and motioned to Gray,
        Mr. Lancer has something to say.
        Gray stood. He looked urgent. He spoke in a strained tone,
        The civil war is not going to happen... something much worse is...
        A murmur grew up. Brett motioned for silence and Gray continued,
        I dont know if you believe me or not, but the war is being provoked by someone or something
not of this universe. They are using it as a front for their own invasion.
        Again, muttering began among the assembly. Gray snarled and there was silence,
        Shut up! About ten minutes ago, a monitoring station near Venom began picking up energy
spikes from a certain Orbital Hangar V1.
        One Guild member stood up and threw out her paws,
        NO! That place is dead! IT IS DEAD!
        Gray glared,
        I see someones heard of it. Why dont you tell the rest of them. Tell them about the project...
tell them how the place was plagued with mysterious accidents that progressively got worse and worse...
how the military had to suddenly abandon it. Its not dead... it was just sleeping.
        Brett looked shocked,
        What do you want us to do?
        Pull any ships near the thing out, NOW! And send in this squadron.
        Gray threw a packet across the table and it landed next to Brett. He opened it up and stared,
        You want me to give nuclear weapons to HER?!
        A voice spoke up from the back of the table,
        Cool, aint it?
        Everyone looked and saw Katt Monroe, sitting and grinning. Gray looked over and nodded,
        Shes qualified to do it.
        Brett sighed,
        Fine. You know more about the situation than anyone else at the moment. She gets the squadron
and the nuclear warheads. What are you and Mira going to do? What is this Guild going to do?
        Were going to prepare for war.
        Brett groaned,
        Oh god... when does Katt leave?
        She left about twenty seconds ago.
        Brett looked at Katts now-empty seat. He frowned,
        Why do we have to get ready for war if shes gonna go in a nuke the enemy?
        Gray sighed,
        I have no doubt that Katt will do some serious damage... but the enemy in this is way bigger
than you think. The rebels are the enemy too. Theyre mostly fanatics and I think their commanders know
full well who or what theyre actually serving. Brett... I need to talk to you personally.
        Brett nodded. He stood and spoke,
        Everyone but Gray and Mira Lancer, get the hell out. Now. The rest of this meeting does not
concern you.
        There was a loud shuffling noise as everyone in the room quickly got up and filed out. When the
room was empty, Gray and Mira walked up to Brett and Kelly MacDonald and sat down. Gray stared
directly at Brett,
        Can we fight a war in our current situation?
        Brett shook his head,
        No. We cant.
        Gray nodded,
        Then well need help.
        What kind of help?
        Gray smiled,
        The Brethren of the Fallen claim to have been kicked aside by the Cornerian Military... well...
there are some who have been kicked aside by everyone.
        Brett cocked his head,
        Who?
        Gray held up a thick file folder and nodded his head at it,
        The Outlanders.
        Bretts eyes went wide,
        Youre seriously using the Outlander listing to get help?!
        Yes.
        Youre nuts. Theyll never agree.
        Oh yes they will.
        Why?
        Because they, of all people, know that this civil war is just a crap front for something much
bigger.

-Orbital Hangar V1, in orbit around Venom

        Alison almost screamed when the lights suddenly snapped to full intensity. Mark backed into her
and they both yelped. Alison almost laughed. Mark was laughed and pointing at her. They both stopped as
further sounds echoed around. Alison glanced around nervously,
        Why did the lights just go on?
        Mark shrugged,
        No idea. And listen... sounds like things are being powered up!
        What kind of station can just power itself up?
        I dont know. We should get to the bridge, and fast.

        Jake Garrit pounded his com unit and swore,
        Cant get this frikkin thing to work!
        Commander Akaris sighed and looked at the com,
        Did you check everything?
        Hell yeah! Its fine but it wont work.
        Devan Porter looked up from trying his own com,
        Sir, mine aint working either.
        Akaris growled. Why did he have to bring these two idiots along? His own com wasnt working
either. Nothing was working. They had reached engineering without a hitch. But now they couldnt get in
touch with the other group.
        Plus, the whole place had come alive. The lights were on in full strength. The air purification
system seemed to be fully operational. The whole place had just suddenly started working again. Maybe
Alison Meris and Mark Selster had reached the bridge and turned things on.
        Akaris heard a soft shuffling. He turned around and looked angrily at Jake,
        Will you stop shuffling and walk normally!
        Jake shook his head angrily,
        Not me! m not doing anything!
        Akaris growled and turned back around. The shuffling continued. He growled again... damn Jake
Garrit... could be so annoying when he wanted to...

-Venom surface

        Mira Lancer looked over at her husband Gray. He looked so... different... now... his special forces
experience returning to him.
        They were hidden in the sand dunes of Venoms surface. Gray was wearing full camouflage and
carried a 10mm railgun. Mira was also dressed in camo and carrying a CSF laser rifle.
        All around them were their newest allies... the Outlanders. They had gotten the point pretty
quickly. The air seethed with a certain energy. Everyone knew that they were the last line of defense
before an all-out war. A war which, once started, would end in the complete and total destruction of the
Lylat system.
        Nobody knew about this mission. Not even Brett knew about this mission. Gray and Mira had
retaken their place in their old Guild unit... the 13th deep rear-area... The Doomed. The Doomed had
always done the most suicidal, most dangerous, most completely insane jobs in the Guild. It was an odd
job for someone with a family... but Gray and Mira knew they had to do it.
        One of the advance scouts, a grizzled old Outlander wolf, came crawling back and snapped a
quick salute at Gray, grinning. They liked Gray... they liked him a lot. The scout made his report,
        Sir, I dont know what the hell is going on up ahead... theres a lot of activity.
        What kind?
        Well, looks like theyve got goddamn MG 4s out there. Maybe even some 5s.
        Gray swore under his breath. He nodded at the scout,
        Tell someone else to get their tail out there and you can take a break. Any word from our gal in
space?
        The wolf nodded,
        Yes. She says that something weird is happening with the station. Why dont you talk to her?
        The wolf opened a com unit and handed it to Gray. He looked down and saw Katts face on the
display. She laughed,
        You look a little different with the cammo paint on.
        No crap. Whats the word.
        Well... Im not exactly sure. I know this sounds crazy... but were getting bio readings off that
thing!
        Grays eyes widened,
        Bio readings?! Life readings?!
        Yeah. Dont know what it is... but this is serious stuff.
        No kidding. Keep watching it... oh, and I wouldnt recommend an attack.
        Katt sounded sarcastic,
        Really? I wouldnt have thought of that.
        Gray shut off the com and put it down. The wolf was gone by now. Mira walked up to Gray and
put her arms around his neck,
        Long day?
        It only gets longer.

-Corneria Central High School

        Lieutenant Julie Morio moved silently down the hallway near the top of the Corneria Central
High School. She and her team had encountered minimal resistence at the top. They had got rid of the few
guards without wasting a bullet or alerting anyone else in the building.
        Julies point man tapped her shoulder. She turned and nodded. The point man made the paw
signals for ten hostages and three terrorists in the next room. All hostages at medium gunpoint. Julie
nodded and signaled to half of her team. They slipped up to the room and looked inside.
        Three terrorists held the hostages. All three had their backs to the door. Easy.
        Julie motioned to two other SWAT troopers and made a paw signal. The two troopers slid up
next to Julie. She made another signal.
        Three throwing knives from three SWAT troopers buried deep in the backs of the terrorists. The
SWAT team ran into the room. Julie motioned to the hostages to be quiet. She spoke in a low whisper,
        Do not make a sound. Were with the CSWAT.
        The hostages only nodded, looking deathly afraid. Julie drew her knife from the back of one of
the terrorists and wiped it off on the dead ferrets shirt. She put it back in its holster and motioned for one
of her officers. The officer came up and Julie whispered in his ear,
        Get these people back to the roof safely and silently. Then sneak back inside and rejoin the
team.
        The officer nodded and went to rally the hostages. The rest of the team moved on down the hall.
The point man came back and signaled that there were five terrorists and no hostages. Julie screwed a
silencer onto the barrel of her automatic rifle and nodded for the others to do the same. They approached
the next room.
        Julie and three other officers jumped into the room. Julie squeezed the trigger on her rifle lightly
and there was a muffled sound as the bullets left the gun. There were a series of thumps as the bullets
entered the bodies of the terrorists. One of the terrorists began to scream and was quickly silenced by a
bullet directly in the windpipe. They were all dead.
        Julie nodded. Her team knew what they were doing. They searched the bodies for usable clips.
They managed to get some .45 pistol clips. Not much, but it would help.
        The team crept forward, the point man moving ahead of the rest. This was a delicate operation...
if they screwed up... lots of people would die.

        The eagle shifted his gun uneasily and looked around nervously. He looked over at his
commander and spoke nervously,
        Boss, when are we gonna get the hell outta here?
        Shut up. Keep an eye on those hostages.
        The eagle nodded and returned to holding the hostages at gunpoint. His commander, a tall and
heavyset rat with one eye permanently closed. The rat held a heavy personal autocannon to the several
hostages under his charge. They had taken most of the school... had to waste a few of them already. But
they had some serious bargaining power now.
        The eagle looked up quickly,
        Hey, I think I just heard something.
        The rat laughed,
        My tail you did. Just getting a little nervous, thats what.
        The eagle nodded quickly,
        Yeah, I guess thats it.
        They both returned to watching the hostages. The rat shuffled around and moved his autocannon
to a more comfortable position. The eagle took one wing off his rifle to scratch his head and resumed
holding the gun.
        They heard a series of muffled bursts. The rat looked up quickly and saw someone firing in his
direction with a silenced rifle. He gave one short yelp before the bullets got to him. The eagle paniced and
began firing at the assailants.
        It didnt work. A moment later the eagles lifeless corpse slammed into the floor with a wet
splatter.
        Julie Morio jumped down from the stairway she had been on. Her team followed and fanned out,
making sure that the building was secured. Julie walked up to the hostages and spoke to all of them,
        Hey, were getting you all out of here.
        One of them spoke up,
        N...no, theres more! One of the terrorists took some of them downstairs.
        A SWAT officer walked up dragging something. He dropped it. Julie looked down. It was the
dead body of a massive squirrel. Julie pointed at the body,
        Is that him?
        The hostage who had spoken nodded,
        Y...you saved us!
        Julie shrugged,
        Our job. Now we get the hell out.

-Orbital Hangar V1, in orbit around Venom

        The shuffling had grown louder and more persistent. Commander Akaris was beginning to get
annoyed he spun around and glared at Jake Garrit,
        Stop!
        Jake looked angry,
        Listen Commander... I know you dont like me much... but Im not doing that! Youll have to
take my word for it.
        Akaris growled,
        Well, whos doing it then? Porter sure isnt.
        Jake shrugged,
        No clue. No clue at all. Frankly, Im not sure I want to know. I mean... this place just sort of
turned itself on and now that damn shuffling starts.
        Well, I think we can thank the other group for this place just turning itself on.
        Jake shook his head vigorously,
        I doubt that. I dont think theyre at the bridge yet.
        Maybe theyre having the same trouble with their coms as were having with ours.
        Maybe. Maybe. Why are we ALL having com trouble, anyhow?
        Akaris started to shrug and then stopped. He looked closely at Jake,
        Have you called the ship recently yet?
        Jake shook his head and pulled out his com. He punched in the frequency for the ship...
        It worked. But something was wrong. Someone answered... in a way.
        They heard a deep gutteral growling on the other end of the com. That was followed by a heavy
breathing. It didnt sound like anyone who could conceivably be on the crew. Jake gulped nervously and
shut off the com,
        Maybe we should get back.
        Akaris shook his head,
        No. I think thats pretty solid proof that we shouldnt. By the way... have you seen Devan
around?
        Jake glanced around nervously. The squirrel was nowhere to be found. Jake shrugged. Akaris
frowned,
        I could have sworn he was here just a...
        The heard a splatter and saw felt something warm. They looked over in the direction they had
heard the splatter.
        Jake screamed. Akaris felt his stomach turn. What appeared to be the remains of Devan Porter
were spread across the opposite wall. It looked as if he had hit the wall going at an incredible speed. Jake
had his head turned down and away and was quickly muttering to himself. Akaris realizes he was praying.
Akaris pulled out a service pistol and cocked it. He shouted a challenge,
        Show yourself!
        The shuffling sound returned. This time it was accompanied by a heavy breathing and low
murmuring. Almost a chanting sound. Akaris shouted again,
        Damn you! Show yourself now!
        He fired the service pistol into the air. The sound of the gun echoed around the room and all
other sound stopped.
        Jake stopped praying and looked around nervously. He didnt even seem to notice the horrible
remains of Devan Porter. Jake glanced at Commander Akaris,
        Sir... y...you shouldnt have d...done that!
        The chanting began again. Slowly and quietly. But the sound was gradually rising in volume.
Jake squeeled,
        S...s...sir! Were gonna d...die!
        Akaris smacked the beaver across the back of his head. He growled low,
        Shut up. Were not going to d...
        Akaris never got a chance to finish his sentence. He stood transfixed with a huge spike
protruding from the center of his chest. Jake Garret screamed and backed away. The spike had just grown
out of the wall...
        The chanting was almost deafening now. Jake backed away as fast as he could.
        He saw a shadow cross over him. Someone was standing behind him. Jake looked up to see who
it was...
        And he instantly regretted his decision.

-Cornerian countryside

        Minita DelVariot woke up in a state of confusion. It was dark. What had happened the day
before?
        It came back in rush. She had attacked the home... gotten shot. She felt her leg... at least it wasnt
bleeding anymore. She might be able to move at a normal speed by now.
        She looked up out of the bushes she was hidden in at the sky above. No clouds and no moon.
Maybe she should try to contact the rest of her unit... or to arrange pickup. She was tough... but she also
wasnt stupid. Trying to fight with an injured leg would be stupid. Besides, her team had undoubtedly
completed the mission by now.
        Minita leaned back in the bushes and groaned. This would be a huge embarrasment. The great
Minita DelVariot driven off by two damn cats taking care of a little fox kit. It would have been funny had
it happened to anyone else.
        Minita reached into her bag and retrieved the long-range com unit. She quickly assembled the
unit and turned to the pickup frequency. Whoever was on the other end of the line sounded overjoyed,
        This is pickup, who is this? We thought you were all gone!
        This is General DelVariot. Get me the hell out of here.
        Sir... are there any other survivors?
        Run that by me again...
        Sir, we heard that all your team got killed.
        What the hell? I missed target and landed in the country... I have no clue what happened. Fill
me in.
        Sir. The team took the high school as planned... then the CSWAT rushed the place and killed
them all. Youre the only one left.
        Minita swore loudly. She hissed,
        DAMN! How the hell did that happen?! Pick me the hell up.
        Sir. Within the next ten minutes.
        Minita snarled and slammed to button to shut off the com. Terrorist tactics were beginning to
lose their effectiveness... it was time to escalate things a little.

-Vemom surface

        ITS COMING AROUND AGAIN! GET DOWN!
        Gray heard the shouted warning and looked up. His wife Mira came running and also looked.
They saw a small fighter circling around their location. It was dark green and strangely angular. Mira
squinted at the fighter,
        What the hell is that?
        Gray shook his head,
        Havent got the slightest idea. Im surprised you dont know.
        Hey, its not Cornerian and I dont think its free-lance.
        Whatever it is, its hitting pretty damn hard.
        The fighter resumed its attack, firing down at the small com tower that had been set up. The com
tower was lost in a storm of smoke, sand, and fire. Gray threw himself and Mira to the ground and closed
his eyes. They felt heat above them, but both looked up again and were still alive. Gray raised himself to a
sitting position and helped Mira up. She looked at the fighter which was rushing around for another pass,
        What is it shooting with?
        Maybe some kind of thermal ray.
        One of the Outlanders ran up. He shouted at Gray and Mira,
        We need the 75mm AA railgun!
        Gray nodded without saying a word. He and Mira got up and ran across the blasted patch of
desert to something under a large covering. Gray motioned for Mira and the Outlander to help him get the
cover off. The threw it aside to reveal a large weapon mounted on a tripod. Gray nodded,
        Lets nail that sucker.
        The Outlander ran around to the back of the gun and checked the systems. He grinned and
switched on the weapon. Gray turned and saw the fighter approaching quickly,
        On our 6!
        The Outlander swivled the gun around as Mira and Gray dived to the ground. The Outlander
aimed directly at the fighter and squeezed the trigger on the railgun. There was a hiss as the gun slung its
projectile to critical velocity. A milisecond later there was a flash and explosion as the large railgun slug
slammed into the enemy fighter.
        The fighter went flying over the gun position and went down behind some dunes. There was
another explosion as the fighter hit. Mira got up and turned towards the dunes,
        Nice shot. Wanna check out the wreckage?
        Gray nodded,
        Yeah. That would probably be a pretty good idea.
        They left the Outlander sitting at the railgun and grinning and walked towards the area where the
enemy fighter had crashed. They crested the dunes and Mira pointed down,
        Look, theres the fighter.
        The enemy fighter was at the end of a large swath in the desert. Bits and pieces of the fighter
were strewn all over. Interestingly enough, the main body seemed mostly intact. Gray and Mira ran down
the dunes and walked to the swath. Gray looked down into it and whistled,
        Wow. Hit the ground pretty hard, didnt it?
        Mira nodded. They walked back from the ditch in the ground and towards the remains of the
fighter itself.
        Nearing the fighter, they could make out a small hatch on the side. Gray and Mira ran forward
and looked at the hatch. Gray pulled out a small package from his combat vest and set it next to the hatch
lock. He took out another small device and motioned to Mira,
        Stay back at least ten feet.
        They dashed back and Gray pressed a button on the device. There was an explosion and the hatch
lock blew open. Gray and Mira walked back to the ship. Gray took out a flashlight and shined it into the
darkness beyond. He stepped back,
        The pilots dead, anyway. Lets get the body out.
        Mira nodded. They both entered the ships small cockpit and unstrapped the dead pilot, still in
their flight suit. The suit was bulky and had a large helmet with dark tinted glass over the front. They
dragged the body out the hatch and lay it on the ground. Gray looked down at it and frowned,
        Wonder what this guy was. Kinda big.
        Gray fiddled with the helmet and loosened the clamps. He looked down again,
        Funny suit. Almost like armor.
        Gray finished with the clamps and slowly removed the helmet. He dropped it and jumped back.
Mira gasped and finally managed the speak,
        Wh...what the h...hell?
        Gray shook his head. The face underneath the helmet was vaguely reptilian... but it had
something else about it that made it seem completely alien. The face was thin and hard... almost skeletal.
The fangs were large and colored yellow. But the worst part was the eyes... they were completely black.
They looked as if they were made of oil.
        Mira swallowed hard and turned away. Gray also looked away from the strange body. Mira
walked over and leaned against Gray. He put his arms around her. She shuddered,
        Thats not from this dimension... I know that much.
        Gray was about to respond when they heard a loud explosion. The sky lit up. Gray reached for his
com. He contacted the camp frequency. Someone picked up and was about to speak when the com went
dead. Miras eyes were wide,
        That was a nuke!
        How do you know?
        The EMP from the blast is what knocked your com out. Itll be back in another few seconds.
        Gray waited and then tried the com again. This time, the person on the base end picked up and
spoke,
        Sir, are you two alright?
        Yep. Why?
        Well... a nuke just went off in the vicinity of V1.
        Oh god... uh... thanks.
        He shut off the com and turned to Mira. She was nodding,
        Yeah...
        She stopped nodding and a look of worry crossed her face,
        I hope shes alright...
        Who?
        Katt. She was probably the one who fired the nuke.
        Gray nodded,
        Hers wasnt the only ship with one.
        No, but she had primary firing clearance. If anyone fired one, it was her.
        Damn. Im sure shes fine...
        Mira nodded. Gray held her closer. They looked up at the clouds of Venom. Mira shook her head
sadly. Gray saw tears running down her cheeks. She spoke very softly,
        Gray... this is it... the wars already begun.

-Orbital Hangar V1, in orbit around Venom

        Arrek Largen typed in a code on the keypad next to the door and it slid open. He motioned for
Fox McCloud and Fara Phoenix-McCloud to go on through. Arrek followed and closed the door again.
Fox spoke to him almost in a whisper,
        Doesnt it seem a little odd to you that everything in this place is suddenly working?
        Arrek groaned,
        You idiot... of course it seems odd.
        They had found no more bodies in the ship. The place was now humming with the operation of
the ventilation and electrical systems. The lights were all working. The whole place had come alive rather
suddenly.
        Arrek turned a corner and stepped back quickly. He motioned for Fox and Fara to stay where they
were. He whispered quickly to both foxes,
        Do not move, do not talk, do not make any noise. Theres a Guardian around the corner.
        Fox gave Arrek a confused glance. Arrek shook his head and whispered again,
        Poke your head around the corner and dont freak out.
        Fox nodded and looked around the corner. He quickly jumped back. His face had a look of terror
on it. He swallowed hard,
        What the hell is it?
        Arrek motioned for him to be quiet. He moved closer to Fox and Fara and whispered quietly,
        We have to leave this ship now. And I mean NOW.
        Both nodded. Arrek turned around and began to walk back the way they had come. They heard a
soft but very clear female voice behind them,
        A...arrek? Why are you leaving me?
        Arreks eye went wide. His expression was a mixture of terror and hope. He slowly turned
around, looking for the speaker. He spoke in a low voice... almost a whisper,
        This isnt real.
        The voice spoke again,
        It is... please help me...
        As Fox and Fara looked on in confusion, Arrek turned his head down and his eye saw who had
been speaking. It was a female coyote lying on the ground in a doorway several feet away. She was
bleeding badly from wounds on her legs and shoulder. Arrek caustiously stepped slightly close. The
female coyote spoke again,
        Arrek... dont you recognize me?
        Diana?
        Yeah... please help me...
        Arreks eye narrowed,
        This isnt right. It isnt real... you dont even sound like she did.
        Arrek... please...
        Arrek snarled,
        What the hell are you bastards trying to pull on me?! What kind of idiot do you think I am? This
isnt real...
        He turned his attention to the female coyote,
        I saw her body... lying there... cold and lifeless. Damn it all! DAMN IT ALL! IT HURT! It hurt
to see it... it HURTS to admit it now... BUT THIS IS NOT REAL!
        The voice was more sinister now while at the same time more pleading,
        Please Arrek... you dont know what Ive been through.
        I know exactly what youve been through. So who are you? Which acolyte? Or are you merely a
two-bit succubus who was lacking on work?
        The coyote bared her fangs and stood up. The wounds which should have hampered her
movement didnt seem to have much effect. She snarled loudly at Arrek,
        Youll die for that.
        Suddenly, the air shimmered with energy. Someone shouted loudly,
        NO!
        There was a beam of light that came out of the air and connected with the female coyote and
knocked her back. The form of a coyote began to disappear to reveal a hideous monster underneath. Arrek
growled,
        Damn... youre ugly!
        He pulled out a pistol and aimed it. He squeezed the trigger once and the hollow-point bullet
slammed into the creatures head and exploded. The remains of the creature fell to the ground in a bloody
head. The voice spoke again, much more softly,
        We always did make a good team, didnt we?
        The air wavered and a faint image appeared. It resolved itself into a female coyote that looked
remarkably similar to the shape-shifters appearance as a coyote. The difference was that this form was
surrounded by a bright aura and had wings. She was also wearing a brilliant white robe.
        Arrek fell on his knees and raised his paws to the figure,
        Its really you, isnt it?
        The coyote nodded her head and reached out and grasped one of Arreks paws. She smile at him
and knelt down next to him. Fox looked closer at Arrek... there were tears filling his eyes. The figure
spoke again,
        I never... really got to say... goodbye...
        Arrek didnt answer... couldnt. He was crying now. Tears streaming down his face. He embraced
the female coyote and she held on to him. She spoke again,
        Arrek... you shouldnt be here. They know about us... they tried to use it against you. Thank you
for not getting fooled.
        Arrek managed to finally get a few words out,
        Y...youre d...dead?
        The figure lowered her head and nodded sadly,
        Yes. Im sorry. Im sorry I cant stay with you...
        Its been so long... so much has happened...
        Well be together sooner or later. Arrek... I love you... Ill be waiting...
        The figure began to fade from sight. Arrek reached out and kissed her once on the cheek. He then
turned away. The figure vanished completely. Fox walked up to Arrek and helped the coyote to his
footpaws. Fox glanced at Arrek,
        Were leaving, right?
        Arrek nodded grimly,
        Yes. This war is so strange... almost like a play...
        Whatever. What do we do now?
        I know something I didnt know before... its time for a new actor to take center stage.
        They turned and continued down the hall.

-The Conviction, Cornerian Space Navy carrier in orbit around Corneria

        The tactical officer stared down hard at her threat display. She wiped a paw across her eyes and
looked again. No difference... this was for real. She shouted up at the ship captain,
        Sir, we got a little problem.
        How little?
        Over thirty-four enemy cap ships incoming. At least six carriers, possibly more.
        The captain swore. He stood up and shouted across the bridge,
        Battle stations! Scramble all fighters! Full battle alert now.
        The bridge lights went red and the general alarm sounded. The tactical officer looked down at
her screen. She wiped her forehead with a paw and looked back at the captain,
        Sir, were going to fight?
        Yes. Were going to fight.
        Against those odds sir? They outnumber us over thirty-four to one... and thats without counting
all the smaller ships and fighters.
        As the old saying goes, the odds are no good in dice and dying.
        The tactical officer saluted smartly,
        It was a pleasure serving with you, sir.
        The captain returned the salute and nodded grimly,
        Likewise. Lets go to it.
        The main display shifted to show a view of the battle beginning. They could make out the
fighters from the Conviction approaching the enemy ships and the enemy fighters coming to greet them.
        Then the radio chatter began. Reports coming in from the fighter squadrons. Orders being sent in
and out and being relayed all over the place. The bridge was suddenly a bustle of vocal activity as the
attack was quickly organized.
        Silence came as quickly as it had left. All radio communications ceased. The attack was ready.
Now it was all up to the individual squadrons. This was a period many pilots called hells moment of
silence... the time right before an attack. All check-ins and planning was done... but there were no calls
for help or battle reports yet. Nothing to talk about... just silence.
        This is the intervention cruiser Jharik KTarin to Cornerian ship Conviction. Please state your
current situation.
        The captains eyes went wide. Jharik KTarin? That wasnt a Cornerian ship name... or a free-
lance one either... hell, even Andross hadnt named his ships things like that. The captain picked up the
com and spoke slowly,
        Jharik KTarin, would you mind telling us where youre from. Youre not in our registers. And
how did you get our frequency?
        There was a laugh on the other end of the com,
        It was easy. As to where we come from... were from out of system. Way out. Now state your
current situation.
        Weve just launched fighters against the enemy fleet. Awaiting engagement.
        Pull them back now.
        Why?
        PULL THEM BACK or we will open fire and destroy your carrier.
        What?
        Look at your display.
        The captain looked up at the main display. He stared. There was a huge new ship moving around
at the edge of the close sensors. He nodded slowly and spoke into the com,
        Right. Were pulling them back now.
        At a nod from the captain, the fighter operations commanders began to tell the fighters to return
to the Conviction. The captain spoke again into the com,
        Do you guys have some sort of plan... by the way, who are you?
        There was another laugh,
        Of course we have a plan. Were going to eradicate the enemy fleet.
        A short pause, then they continued speaking,
        And my name... my name is Sir Janith Tarius... you may call me Admiral Tarius.
        The com channel was shut off at the other end. The captain slumped down in his seat and sighed.
This whole war thing just wasnt making any sense.

-Sirus Peak, Aquas

        Sirus peak was a mass of rock, dirt, and vegatation that jutted far above the seas of Aquas. It was
a large place, and pleasent. There were lots of trees and green grass.
        Gray and Mira stood there looking rather confused. They had received an anonymous tip from
someone claiming to know more about the civil war that wanted to give them information. Gray shook his
head and kicked a pebble away,
        I dont get it. Why would someone possibly want to set us...
        He yelped sharply and suddenly. He pulled out his pistol automatically. Mira looked down at his
leg and saw a bloody gash where a bullet had torn through. The pistol itself was hit and Gray dropped it.
They heard someone laughing behind them. Gray and Mira turned and saw Minita DelVariot laughing.
The red wolf raised her pistol and waved it at the two foxes. She laughed,
        I know lots about the civil war... but Im not interested in talking to you about it. Im more
interested in killing you two.
        Mira glared at Minita,
        Coward.
        Minitas face fell and she dropped the pistol,
        What... did... you... call... me?
        Mira sneered at the red wolf,
        I called you a coward. A dirty lying cheating cowardly whore, thats all you are and all youll
ever be.
        Gray looked in shock at his wife. She was always the calm one and Gray always the hot-tempered
one. Minita looked furious. She pulled off her loose jacket. Underneath she was wearing a tight-fitting
tank-top. She still wore the long gloves over her prosthetic arms... but even the parts of her body that
werent cybernetically enhanced looked extremely strong. Her expression was one of complete comtempt
and loathing,
        You just signed your own death warrant.
        Mira laughed,
        Yeah right. Youd never have the courage to kill me. You wont even fight me, worthless slut!
        Minita let out a snarl of pure rage. She ran fast at Mira. Mira stepped aside. Gray pushed himself
back and rolled on the ground. He pulled two combat knives out of their holsters on his ankles. Minita
stared at him,
        This is between me and your wife.
        Gray shook his head,
        No. Youre not going to get us with that crap. You just picked a fight youre not going to win.
        Minita pulled out her own combat blade. The knife was long and looked extremely dangerous.
She charged Gray with the blade lowered. He put his own two knife blades together and trapped Minitas
weapon. He gritted his teeth and squeezed even harder. Minita used her incredible enhanced strength to
try and press through Gray grip.
        He suddenly rolled back and put a footpaw up. Minita went flying forward over him and landed
hard on the ground. She rolled and was up again, holding a long pistol. She sneered,
        If you wont play fair, I wont either.
        Gray stared in surprise right before she pulled the trigger. He was hit by a blast of energy and
thrown back onto the ground. He lay there groaning and holding his chest.
        Mira ran in form the side and struck Minitas pistol. The gun was knocked away and Minita
turned and snarled. She faced off against Mira... the two circling and looking for an opening. Minita ran
and kicked at Mira. The fox was hit and sent backwards into the dirt. Before she could get to her
footpaws, Minita was over her with a knife in paw. She held it up to Miras throat and grinned,
        I want your husband to see my work before I kill him...
        Minita raised the blade high. Mira looked up at the knife in horror...
        And the blade went flying out of her paw into the air. Minita looked up at her own paw in
surprise. She heard a voice behind her,
        See what now?
        She turned around frantically and saw Gray Lancer standing over her. He was holding a pistol.
Minita quickly lifted a paw to rip it form his paws. He fired at the arm she had moved. Sparks flew and
the arm went limp. Minita swore. Gray glared,
        This is a .9 rated pistol. Dont fargin try anything.
        Minita nodded. Behind her back, she was slowly working a combat knife out of its sheath. Mira
grabbed her neck and held a knife up to it,
        Please dont try and hurt him with that or Ill have to kill you.
        Minita put her arm out and stopped reaching for the knife. Gray held the pistol up to her head
and growled,
        Tell us what the hell is going on, now!
        Minita frowned,
        You cant kill me.
        Wanna frikkin bet?
        Minita swallowed hard,
        Youll never defeat him. Hes almost through already.
        Gray growled low. He pulled back and motioned for Mira to get up. Mira did so and stepped back
from the red wolf. Gray handed the pistol to Mira. He motioned at Minita,
        I think youve earned this. You saved my life...
        Mira nodded. She pointed the pistol directly at Minitas head. She spoke in a quiet voice,
        For all youve done.
        She squeezed the trigger. The pistol barked once and Minita slumped over, instantly dead. Mira
dropped the pistol and walked to the edge of the island they were on. It ended in a cliff looking out over
the ocean. Mira lowered her head. Gray walked up next to her and put his arms around her shoulders. She
was crying. She whispered softly to Gray,
        What are we going to do?
        Gray couldnt think of an answer. He just stood and held Mira.

-Bloodlust, Brethren ship in orbit around Corneria

        Weve lost all our point ships. Not even the carrier is left!
        Sir, our gunnery strength is only at two percent.
        Sir, fighters have been wiped out!
        We HAVE to pull back!
        The captain snarled loudly and spun to face the speakers,
        SHUT UP! We will NOT retreat!
        They saluted and walked off. All except one of them. That one was a tall ferret who looked angry.
The captain squinted at him,
        What is it, soldier?
        The ferret glared,
        Sir... I am officially relieving you of command.
        The ferret pulled out a small pistol. The captain stared in surprise. He felt several kintetic rounds
enter his body, ripping through vital organs and spilling blood on the deck. He collapsed to the floor with
the surprised expression locked on his face.
        The ferret stepped over the captains body and shouted over the noise of the bridge,
        I am now in command! We are going to retreat, NOW!
        He heard a low voice near him,
        That is not recommended.
        The ferret turned and saw someone wearing a black cloak. Their face was obscured by the hood.
The ferret pointed his pistol at the figure and sneered,
        Right. Recommend this...
        The ferrets smug expression turned to one of shock and horror when his pistol literally melted in
his paws. The figures right paw was glowing brightly. The figure pulled back their hood. Underneath was
a fisher with glowing red eyes. They cocked their head at the ferret,
        What was that? Our master knows who the captain of this mysterious ship is... he is concerned
but not worried. Now step in line or be trampled.
        The ferret shook his head,
        No way... youre not for real.
        The fishers expression was one of pity. He put a paw up and it glowed very brightly. The ferret
gave one choked cry and his eyes rolled back into his head. Blood oozed out his mouth and he fell over
dead. The fisher replaced his hood,
        I am now the captain of this ship and I order it back into combat for the glory of our leader.
        The bridge staff, now frightened beyond belief, hurriedly returned to their appointed tasks.

-Orbital Hangar V1, leaving Venom orbit

        Alison Meris whispered urgently into the darkness,
        Mark? Are you there?
        Mark Selster responded,
        Yeah. Whyd the lights go out again?
        No idea. Did we actually see that on the bridge?
        fraid so.
        The bridge hadnt been a pretty sight. They had found the severely disfigured bodies of several
crew members, still in remarkable condition. That wasnt really saying all that much, considering that
most of the bodies were missing critical parts, organs, and large amounts of flesh.
        Some had obviously killed themselves, some had killed each other, and some had been killed by
something entirely different.
        Mark... is it me or is this place moving?
        Mark nodded slowly. A futile gesture in the pitch dark. He spoke,
        Yeah... yeah it is moving.
        I didnt know it could do that.
        Jeez... I didnt either. This is all so weird. Any luck contacting the Broadsword?
        Nope. Not a bit.
        Mark sighed heavily. He leaned back on wall. He whispered very quietly,
        Is that breathing?
        Alison listened carefully,
        It is... and chanting... far off...
        Neither of them made a move. Neither was particularly interested in finding out what was off in
the darkness of this mysterious station.

-The Conviction, in orbit around Corneria

        Sir Janith Tarius, a very tall fox, sat across the table from the captain of the Conviction. Janith
was laughing,
        You Lylatians... funny people you have. You have no sense of proportion. Let me explain this to
you...
        He pulled out a piece of paper and a pencil and lay them on the table. He drew a small circle in
the center and pointed at it,
        This is you, your UNIVERSE, not just your system. A tiny little place. Now look at this.
        He drew a slightly large circle which just barely touched the first. Janith pointed at the circle,
        Thats MY universe. The story of why we have the same races as you is long. Bascially, we
came from this universe. Thats not my point. Look at this...
        Janith drew a third circle which touched both of the others,
        Thats another dimension that doesnt really behave normally. See, its not always connected
with the other two. It moves in cycles. Its touched yours before, but that was thousands of years ago. The
inhabitants of that dimension look very different... the best way to describe the place and its inhabitants in
one word is... hell.
        The captains eyes widened. Janith laughed,
        Dont look so frightened. I would tell you the truth but it would only make you really nervous
and kind of paranoid. Lets just say that these guys are an enemy. A very powerful enemy but an enemy all
the same.
        The captain nodded. Janith continued speaking,
        Ok. Well, I can do plenty against the little servants the enemy has here... well, the normal ones
in space ships anyhow. There are another set of servants that are a little trickier and then theres the
enemy themselves. Basically, the enemy is trying to get their leader through to here. If that happens, were
screwed. Objective: kill em all. Get me?
        The captain nodded again dumbly. Janith sighed,
        No you dont. The thing is... the final enemy can only be faced by one person. One and one
alone. See, they have some power after all! Anyway, I need you to help me find all these people. One of
them is the chosen one... so to speak. Now get your butts moving.
        Janith tossed the captain a packet of papers. The captain looked through them and read off a few
names,
        Fara Phoenix-McCloud... Fox McCloud... Fana McCloud... Bill Grey... Katt Monroe. Those are
all from the war against Andross!
        Janith shrugged. The captain read a few more names,
        Mira Lancer... Gray Lancer... Auerulis Varius... James Robertson... and a lot more. Who the
hell are these people?
        Janith shrugged again,
        I dont know any of them. Except one.
        Who?
        Arrek Largen. Hes somewhere in there.
        How do you know him?
        Janith laughed,
        Oh that. Well... I know his official records say he was born somewhere in this system... but
thats crap. He was born in my universe and his parents fled here and took him with them when he was
only a couple months old. Again, its a long story.
        Janith started to leave the room. He stopped and turned,
        What did I just say?
        Uh... that Arrek Largen is from your universe.
        Janith nodded,
        Yeah... he is... isnt he? Oh god... that damn riddle! Damn those stupid little freaks and their
damn riddles! Forget that list, just find Arrek Largen! Now!
        Janith turned and marched out of the room. The captain tossed the list aside and turned to his
aide,
        You get to help me on this. Arrek Largen? Isnt he a bounty hunter or something?

-Green Valley Cemetary, Corneria

        Fox McCloud sat on a small stone bench with his wife Fara. He was looking at the twin graves of
his parents. No bodies to fill either. Both completely gone. Almost nice... after all, there was something
unsettling about the thought of ones relatives being slowly eaten by worms.
        Fox looked up at the sky above and sighed. They were out there, somewhere... the next life
probably. Together, no doubt.
        Fox sighed again, wished his mother had been with him longer. Sighed yet again, wished that
both parents were still alive. Wished they could have seen Fara... seen what Fox had turned in to.
        Fox almost laughed... he had turned into his father, hadnt he? Kind of ironic... after all the years
of Peppy telling him how much like his father he was... it was true.
        Foxs thoughts turned back to their original course... that is... not much of a course at all. He had
come to his parents graves for no real reason. To remember them... as he once knew them.
        Fara had her arms around him. He leaned against her and sighed. Neither fox said a word.
Finally, they stood up. They walked to another part of the cemetary. They were looking for Arrek and
knew exactly where to find him.
        As expected, he was beside a solitary grave. A stone with the name written small and an
inscription. About the only remnant or Arreks past. The coyote was praying softly. Fox and Fara waited
paitently for him to finish.
        Arrek did finish and looked up. He nodded at Fox and Fara, silently thanking them for not
interrupting him. They all turned and walked towards the exit to the cemetary.
        They heard Arreks com unit beep. Arrek reached into his jacket and brought the small device
out. He pressed the receive button and put the device to his ear. He listened for a second and then
responded quickly,
        What are you doing here? How did you get through to my number?
        Arrek listened some more. Responded again,
        What was that? Can you give me some details...
        He listened to the answer. His eyes went wide and he swallowed,
        Really? Youre serious?!
        Again, he waited for the answer. His expression returned to normal,
        I understand... I accept the offer. I have my reasons which, as usual, will be kept private.
Understand?
        The response was quick. Arrek nodded,
        Good. Ill be there as soon as I can.
        Arrek shut off the com. He turned to Fox and Fara,
        Either of you know a Sir Janith Tarius?
        Both shook their heads.
        Well, were going to meet him on the Conviction in about half an hour. You two need to go
because I dont have a ship. Lets just say that this is very important.
        Fox shrugged,
        Whatever. After all the crap thats happened today, Im ready to believe anything. Lets go.

-Spearhead Squadron, in pursuit of Orbital Station V1

        Hey, Ive got a deep question for ya... how does something survive a direct hit with a nuke?
        Katt finally heard her second-in-commands comment after the com came back online. The
second she heard the comment, she checked the threat display. Then she swore loudly and punched the
console, which hurt her paw. She switched to all-squadron mode and spoke into the com,
        Ok, is everyone there?
        She heard the five positive responses and sighed in relief. At least no one had bought it. Yet. She
looked again at the threat display to confirm that the target was still there. It was. To top it off, the target
was moving away at a high speed.
        Guys, we have to try and stop that thing.
        She heard the response of Spearhead 4,
        What? The nuke didnt touch it! How do we stop something like that?
        By feeding accurate info to people with bigger guns.
        The pilot yelped,
        Bigger than a NUKE?!
        Yep. Ill bet a 600mm planetary railgun could punch a hole in it.
        The pilot sounded incredulous,
        Theyve got a 600mm railgun?
        Katt sighed,
        Well... no. But it made a good example.
        Without waiting for an answer, Katt pushed her fighter forward and accelerated towards the
fleeing station. Her squadron followed close. They might question her vocally, but they would always
follow if she led.
        They had to make sure they didnt lose the station. If they could keep track of it... who knew?
Maybe the Mercenaries Guild or the Cornerian Space Navy had something that could stop it.
        But it was seeming less and less likely that any force, no matter how powerful, could stop this
thing in any normal fashion.
        It was beginning to seem a little hopeless. Katt swore again and growled,
        Does anyone have any good ideas?
        No answer. Katt groaned. So far, so bad.

-The Conviction, leaving Corneria orbit

        Janith Tarius looked across at Arrek Largen and gave him a half-smile. Arrek nodded. Janith
took a seat in a chair nearby and motioned for Arrek to do the same. The fox and coyote sat across from
each other. Janith spoke quietly to Arrek,
        No more hiding.
        Arrek only nodded.
        Arrek... you know full well whats been happening. Your parents surely told you why they fled
our universe.
        Arrek nodded again and sat back. Janith sighed,
        Give it to me.
        What?
        You know what.
        Arrek pulled a strange object from his jacket. It was half of a knife, split straight down the center
of the blade. Janith nodded and produced another half. Janith took the two halves and put them together.
The blade clicked, glowed blue briefly, and finally sealed into one. Janith handed the knife back to Arrek,
        Do you know the old legend?
        Of what?
        Of the second war of the Destroyer.
        Yeah. Ive heard it before. The battle that destroys Lylat and then moves over and cripples our
dimension.
        Janiths eyes narrowed. He frowned and leaned forward,
        Arrek. The legend is true. It is beginning now! We must draw the front lines and we must stand!
I dont want to tell you this... but youre our only real hope. Pull up your right sleeve.
        Arrek obeyed. Janith turned Arreks and pushed aside the fur on the underside. He pointed at a
small mark in the shape of a knife. He released Arreks arm and the coyote pulled his sleeve back. Janith
nodded,
        First time youve seen that?
        Arrek nodded. Janith bit his lip,
        Yeah... figured... you remember that part of the legend, dont you?
        Arrek nodded again. Janith bowed his head,
        You understand that you must do it alone.
        No... I must do nothing alone.
        Huh?
        I see no reason why I should explain. Ill do it.
        Good. Weve arranged a merc transport to get you in. The Quicklight.
        Arrek looked at Janith in surprise,
        I know the two foxes who own that ship.
        Good for you. Youve got ten minutes to get ready and get to the hangar.

-The Quicklight, leaving the Conviction

        Mira Lancer was in the cockpit flying the ship while Gray Lancer and Arrek stayed in the back
and Arrek got ready for his upcoming mission. Arrek sighed loudly,
        Im as ready as Im ever going to be.
        Gray frowned,
        Ill say goodbye now. I know you arent going to live and you know it.
        Isnt that a bit cynical, Gray?
        Shut up Arrek. I can tell when someone knows theyre going to die.
        Arrek nodded,
        Youre right. If I come back alive, something has gone seriously wrong.
        I wont even ask.
        Good... listen, Gray... Im going to entrust you with something.
        Why?
        Because Ive learned I can trust you. Take this and keep it. Please dont read it just yet... but you
and your wife will know when its time. There wont be any way of missing it. Dont worry, youll know
in good time.
        Arrek handed Gray a letter sealed in an envelope. Gray nodded and put it in his jacket. Gray then
lowered his eyes and pulled out a piece of folded paper. He handed to Arrek,
        Now Im going to entrust YOU with something. Take this. I never want to see it again.
        Arrek put the folded paper away. He nodded,
        It was good to see you again Gray. I wish we could meet sometime outside of such
circumstances, but that seems destined not to be. I have only one more request...
        What?
        Burn my records, burn it all. Make sure only that letter I gave you survives.
        But thats the only really accurate info there is on the supernatural!
        Exactly. Gray... Ive realized a lot of things in my life... some of them hurt a whole lot. But one
thing that stands above all else is that we cant handle some knowledge. My records are all in my office
and home. I want them to burn when Im gone, do you understand?
        Gray nodded solemly,
        You dont mind that youre going to your death?
        Arrek leaned close to Gray and frowned,
        Imagine losing Mira and being assigned to a suicide mission. Would you care either?
        Gray nodded,
        I understand. Say hello to her for me and Mira.
        Arrek reached out and offered his paw. Gray shook. Arrek nodded,
        Consider it done.

-Sirus Peak, Aquas

        Tefin, Minita DelVariots muskrat aide looked down at the body of his former leader. He looked
around nervously and then looked back at the body. He muttered to himself,
        Ooh... look what they done to er... ooh, makes me sooooo mad!
        He reached down with a small syringe. He took a small amount of blood from the shoulder of the
corpse. He stowed the vial of blood away in a small container.
        But theyre gonna pay. Ooh... theyre gonna pay good. Bye maam. Dont you worry now.
        Tefin scrambled away to his own small ship.

-Orbital Hangar V1

        Arrek Largen walked solemly down the corridor. His way was lit but there was darkness on both
sides. The darkness was not empty... there were people in there watching him. Cloaked figures who were
neither moving nor making a single sound.
        But Arrek showed no fear. He strode confidently down the path. And as he walked chanting
began. The chant rose in volume until it was almost overpowering. Still Arrek walked straight on.
        He stopped before a strange looking pulpit. Around the pulpit were small candles, burning
brightly.
        A loud voice boomed out of the darkness,
        Who are you and how did you enter my sanctuary?
        Answer yourself...
        Arrek lifted his sleeve and pushed aside the fur around the strange mark. There was a silence, as
if the invisble presence was pausing to look closer. Then the voice spoke again,
        You are he who the legend spoke?
        Arrek did not answer. The voice spoke again,
        That legend will NEVER be fufilled! I will make you bow and swear your very soul to my
service.
        Arreks voice dripped in contempt,
        Go ahead and bloody try.
        The chanting stopped. A cloaked figure walked out of the darkness and faced Arrek. The figure
slowly raised their arms...
        Arrek quickly reached into his jacket and drew the strange knife. It flashed as he cleaved into the
cloaked figure. They screamed and reeled back. Warm blood spattered onto Arrek. He grimaced and spoke
low,
        Youll have to do a lot better than that.
        Two more cloaked figures rushed, bow holding large swords. Arrek dodged around and stabbed
one. The other was taken down by a quick slash from Arrek. The voice spoke from the darkness,
        STAND DOWN! Gradin, come forth and serve your master!
        There was a loud shuffling in the darkness and something came out. It was a huge lizard creature
dressed in full armor. The lizard hissed and glowered at Arrek. He drew a huge sword and swung at the
coyote. Arrek ducked and the blade sliced overhead.
        Arrek ran back. He looked closely at the lizards head. He pulled back the knife and threw with
all his strength.
        Gradin let forth a horrible scream. The lizard, contrary to all logic, did not fall over dead.
Instead, it faded slowly from sight into a red mist. The mist disappeared. Arrek heard the voice roar,
        YOU WILL BOW!
        He felt a hard blow to his back and fell down. He couldnt see his attacker. He felt a sharp pain in
his leg and pulled away. He looked down and saw a line of blood running down his left leg. He hauled
himself to his footpaws. He ran to the knife and picked it up. He heard a strange laughing,
        You cannot defeat me with such a silly little weapon.
        Arrek sighed and gritted his teeth. He knew the time had come. He raised the knife high,
        I know. I know. But I never even said once that I intended to do that.
        The voice let out a startled cry,
        NO! You will BOW!
        Never. It will be seen fit that all shall never happen once the covenant is sealed self-shed
blood.
        There was a hideous scream. Arrek thrust the knife. It went into his stomach. He screamed as he
felt the intense pain. He collapsed to his knees.
        Why the stomach? Of all places... the pain was rushing throughout his body. He dropped the
knife.
        Suddenly, he knew he felt alone. There were no cloaked figures and no evil presence. He was
going to die alone. Nothing so bad as dying completely alone.
        But there was a strange light around the room. The gloom was lit up by a glow. Not harsh or evil
like the light that had illuminated the path, but warm. Warm and inviting. The pain in Arreks stomach
was actually bearable now. He groaned as he felt his life essence oozing out of him. He was weakening.
Someone spoke softly,
        Did I ever tell you where I was born?
        Arrek groaned and tried to look up. He had a lot of trouble. The voice spoke again,
        Yeah... I guess I didnt. Well, I was born on Altius Proxima.
        Arrek tried to push all his remaining strength into looking up. He couldnt. The incredible loss of
blood had completely weakened him. He would soon be dead.
        But someone held him up. He looked straight forward into familiar eyes. His own eyes were now
wide with amazement,
        Diana... youre here...
        Of course. Arrek, were together again. This time for good.
        You were born on Altius Proxima... so was I... thats not in Lylat.
        No. I was brought here when I was very little, just like you. Theres so much... that and a
million other things...
        Will there be time?
        All the time you could ask for.
        Arrek felt a warmth. No pain now. The world was all light... and he felt himself slipping away,
in the arms of one he hadnt seen in a long while... together with her forever.

           &nbs p;            *                *                *

           &nbs p;            Prologue 1: Rilahs final note to Gray

-The following is an exact transcript of the note which was given to Arrek Largen by Gray
Lancer:

        Gray, Ive heard that you and Mira are now engaged! I cant even begin to tell you how happy I
am for you. I wish you can both have a great life together. I hope to see you again soon. Its been awhile
and we need to catch up.
           &nb sp;           &nbs p;        -Always your best friend, Rilah

           &nbs p;            *                *                *

           &nbs p;            Prologue 2: The aftermath
 
        Exactly one day after the death of Arrek Largen, Gray and Mira Lancer gathered all of his
records. They set fire to them and made sure all of the records were burned to cinders. Three days after
that, Orbital Hangar V1 was authorized for demolition. After a week of work, Orbital Hangar V1 was
destroyed.
        All the participants in the battle went their own ways. But none would ever forget what they had
all been through.
 
 

           &nbs p;            *                *                *

           &nbs p;            Prologue 3: The characters

-Gray and Mira Lancer

        Gray and Mira returned to their small apartment in Corneria City to raise their daughter again.
They still run small missions on the side, even with a daughter. Both are considered semi-active members
of the Mercenaries Guild. The letter given to Gray by Arrek remains unopened and in a safe location.

-Fox McCloud and Fara Phoenix-McCloud

        After their disturbing experiences on board Orbital Hangar V1, they were glad to assist the
Cornerian Military in its destruction. They have returned to their lives as roaming free-lance mercenaries
and maintain only the loosest ties with any organization, mercenary or otherwise.

-Katt Monroe

        Assisted heavily in the demolition of Orbital Hangar V1. Commended for bravery by the
Mercenaries Guild, the Cornerian Military, and several other organizations for her actions in the fight.

-Janith Tarius

        Quietly left Lylat and returned to his old dimension. He spent two months in isolation to mourn
the passing of his two good friends, Arrek Largen and Diana Mycelles. He relinquished command of his
ship and returned to a job as the speaker for Altius Proxima.

-Brett and Kelly MacDonald

        Just glad to get Fenica Lancer back to her loving parents. They resumed full-time control of the
Mercenaries Guild shortly thereafter.

-Alison Meris

        She witnessed the events with Arrek Largen on Orbital Hangar V1 from a dark corner with her
friend Mark Selster. Both reported back. Alison decided shed had enough of the military and left to train
with Tagaio Misada.

-Mark Selster

        Recovered quickly from the events on the Broadsword. Retired from carrier operations and was
promoted to Captain. Went on to train troops on Katina. Cited again for bravery after saving a cadet from
a rockslide in mountain training. Promoted again to Commander.

-The Brethren of the Fallen

        After the defeat of the Destroyer, most of the Brethren realized what they had been doing and
disbanded. Few were even charged with anything because of the unusual nature of the whole thing. The
few die hards who stayed loyal to their defeated master were soon killed.

-Julie Morio

        Received the Cornerian Medal of Valor for her actions in the hostage rescue. Promoted above her
old captain and given command of a district. She promptly demoted Captain Gerhart to corporal and stuck
him on a desk job, where he couldnt do any more damage.

-Tagaio Misada

        Currently training Alison Merris. Still accepting students in his isolated dojo.

-Tefin

        His current whereabouts are unknown. However, rumors suggest a secret project on Zoness.
 

           &nbs p;             ;        The end!
 

           &nbs p;            *                *                *

The final word: Well, thats the end of it. You may notice a couple loose ends floating
around. Do you honestly think that Id leave that much uncertainty? I dont think so!
Youll be seeing more of those soon enough.