Assault Fire
Episode #6 of SunHawk
 

 

Chapter I

"And so...it begins."

-Ambassador Kosh Naranek - Babylon 5-
 

 The CSS SunHawk stood out like a sore thumb from all its other comrade ships that were huddled around it.  Even the Great Fox was different, for it was not the sole class of its kind in the task force.  The eye always went to the SunHawk first.  It was so massive, and so colorful in the hull.  It probably would be terrible at camouflage, unless you hid it in the glare of the son, which could hide anything.  The orange stripes running down its hull from stern to bow.  The flat arrow head like shape to it and the beak like conning tower at its aft section.  All of it looked like what it was.  A massive war machine.

 Training for this upcoming fight had gone on for the last two days now.  Five times, Fara Phoenix has taken the powerful KitHawk attack ship out in training, learning how to fly the sleek space faring bird of prey.  They were right.  It did fly more like a fighter then a capitol ship.  The more Fara got at its helm, the more she grew accustomed to it.  It was fast.  So very fast, out running the Arwings of the fleet.  She actually got the chance to kick in their afterburners and leave the rest of Star Fox in the dust one time.  This made the KitHawk's current commander, Leo Grant, laugh with delight.

 The first two times, Allison Dallas herself took an Arwing out and remained on Fara's wing, guiding her actions as they went along.  Now, after two days of training on how to fly this thing, Fara found herself to be ready.  Everyone found themselves to be ready.

 Captain Dallas decreed that everyone was to get sleep before this upcoming assault on Dark Star space station.  It was directly ahead of them, and they were pumped and primed for the Cornerian fleet to reap the whirl wind with them.  It was confirmed as well.  Star Wolf was there and guarding the station.  Dallas knew almost nothing about Star Wolf herself.  They were set to counter the Star Fox team for Andross, which they exceedingly failed at.  Good.  They would definitely need Fox and his comrades for this fight.

 Dallas never forgot that this was Fox's attack from the start.  But they couldn't go in there alone now.  Dark Star was too strong now for just four pilots to lay siege to it.  No matter how good they were.  Fox and his friends would have gone in there and laid the siege anyway even if they didn't help.  The might have died while trying, but they would have done it.

 Dark Star was no core base.  It was a space station that had no vents to fly through.  It had to be hit on the outside.  For this, the SunHawk would be finally tested.  It proved itself many times when confronting enemy ships on the defensive when the odds looked hopeless.  Now it was time to take the fight to them for a change.

 That was what was going to happen.  Dallas knew that this attack was going to be costly in the long run.  But it would be very well worth it if they could sack that station.  She sat in her chair on the bridge and watched Fara Phoenix's final training run.  Allison knew that she was as ready as ever.  It would be interesting to see her operate in that thing during the battle.

 Calmly she sat back in her chair and watched, a golden medallion on her hands.  The one which belonged to her father.  Allison sighed with grief.  Her father died just two days ago, and not once did she stop missing him.  She knew it would be inhumane to do such a thing.  She loved her father, Alan Dallas, and she would always miss him.

 In twenty four hours, they would head out and start busting some heads.  Midnight tomorrow night, the fire would be spawned.

****

 He opened his eyes suddenly, the nightmare crushing his sleep like a cracker under the foot.  Breathing heavily and nervously, Maurine lifted his head off the pillow to get reacquainted with his environment.  It was not his room, which he soon realized.  He didn't have a room.  He had a cubby hole in a wall just as all enlisted personnel did.  Maurine sighed and laid his head back onto the pillow.

 He glanced down.  Snuggled next to him, snoozing in peace while her head rested on his shoulder, was Kesh.  She was tired as he was.  For both of them, it had been a...rough night.  Good, he could sense her dreams, and they were all pleasant.  Nothing to disturb her sleep.

 When Kesh found out that her manipulating captor had been dealt with, she wanted to celebrate with her love by giving the two of them exactly what they wanted.  A night, just the two of them, alone together.

 He so much wanted to stay here with Kesh, but with the attack on Dark Star fast approaching, he would have to get his security teams ready for possible boarding parties.  He checked the clock next to the bed.  Five thirty in the morning.  The time to get up was right now.  He gently lifted Kesh's head and took his arm out from underneath it, and just as gently laid it back down on the pillow.  He went on to get dressed for the day.

****

 It was twenty 'til six when Maurine entered the small mess hall for the on ship security personnel.  Three men sat a table and were just finishing bowls of cereal as he walked in.  The were talking about nothing in particular.  New lines of weapons straight off the market, new hover cars being developed, and a few women they see around the ship now and then.

 Maurine paid them no mind.  He walked to his locker and strapped his phaser belt on and put his heavy phaser in its holster.  He looked into his locker mirror and asked himself, what now?  Marriage?  Or would this be just for a small while?  He hoped that they stayed together, but the thought of marrying her did frighten him a little.  Still, this was not enough to darken his mood.  Nothing was.

 "Hey Chief," said one of the men at the table.  "You look more cheerful then usual this morning.  What happened, d'ya bust a few scrap heads or see a good score on an arrest record or what?"

 "You nimrod," said one of his companions.  "Haven't you heard.  We caught the traitor hiding out on our ship.  They say he died somehow during the search for him.  Probably spaced himself or something.  It doesn't matter anyway.  He's gone, and good riddens to him."

 Maurine shut his locker door and walked over to the table.  "You guys never did have a clue did you?  Eat up quick, we have a lot of work ahead of us today.  I want you rigged, prepped, and ready to rock 'n roll at O six hundred on the mark."

 "You got it boss."  The three of them started to eat more quickly and Maurine headed towards the door, ignoring their thoughts about him.  He got to the door and the overhead PA system sounded.

 Chief Maurine, report to the bridge at once.  It was Grant, and he sounded serious right now.  It might be a Venomian attack but the condition red lights were still dead.  It was something different.

 "Remember, on your patrols at six sharp.  No later."

****

 The speed transport shuttle just came into the fleet's view a few minutes ago.  When it arrived, it sent a message intended for the SunHawk to the ship closest to it, the Instigator, which then relayed the message back to SunHawk and to the eyes of Captain Dallas.  She took the message as an annoyance, knowing that they were going to have company that they should have seen more of, but would not be glad to see him turn around and head out now.

 Dallas sat glumly in her chair as she watched her tac screen.  A wing of Arwings had gone out to meet the approaching shuttle to escort it in.  She wondered when he was ever going to return, hoping that he would over look them and move on to the next item on his obviously precedent agenda.  Dallas also knew that he was going to speak up about some things she didn't want to talk about.  For one thing, the subject about Conner would be raised, but he was too invaluable to the ship to worry about losing.  The other thing Dallas did not want to hear about was her confrontation with the War Ministry back home.  The last time she faced the counsel, she lost her command to get the ship here.  Lost it when the war ended that is.

 The bridge door opened and Maurine walked in.  He approached Dallas and looked to the screen, the escorted shuttle coming in closer.  "Visitors, Captain?"

 Reluctantly, Dallas got to her feet.  "Give the shuttle clearance to land once they get in range."

 "Yes Captain."

 "Come one Maurine.  We have a wart to go greet."  Maurine did not like the way she said that.  Someone was coming for dinner.

****

 Major Drover Amerce.  The once thought to be political officer of the SunHawk, stepped aboard the ship for the second time in his career.  He said he only had to come on board when certain political issues were risen.  This attack was very much important to the Ministry and Priority One back home.  He was sent here to observe and make sure a few interests were kept in mind.

 The scarred mix breed dog limped down the ramp towards the meeting party.  Maurine frowned a bit when he saw Amerce.  The last time he was here, he tried to hit on Kesh just before she went out of control.  If they hadn't already caught him, Maurine would have suspected him as the controller.  Captain Dallas stepped forward and saluted the officer.

 "Welcome back, Major," she said.  "I was wondering when you were going to come back.  I was wondering if too."

 "I've been busy back home," he said back to her.  "You've stirred up quiet a ruckus with this Captain.  Right now the Ministry are not looking at you with very uplifting views.  You're a loved one in the rest of the military though.  What ever it was you did with the Ministry, Admiral Starky spread it throughout he upper cabinet, and they almost had someone erect a statue of you."

 "I'm flattered.  All I did was make hem see things my way, which was the more logical way in the long run.  They decided to be smart for a change.  It would be even smarter if we were able to run this military on our own without their 'guidance'."

 The two of them started to walk out of the docking bay together, Maurine close in behind them.  "You must realize Captain that the Ministry is still debating on whether or not to let this attack actually commence.  They are also debating on what to do with you in the long run."

 "Really," said Dallas, a little surprised.  "The last I checked, I was scheduled to be relieved once the war ended.  They didn't want me going with this ship behind its wheel while the gravity drive was being tested.  And as far as this attack goes, they have-" she checked her watch, just to be smart.  "A little over twenty seven hours to say no if they want us to turn around.  If no word is received by then, then this task force rolls forward on schedule as planned.  I'm not about to catch myself telling our forces that they readied themselves for nothing and we are letting some of our finest warriors face overwhelming numbers against.  No, we go as planned."

 "That's fine by me, Captain.  I just hope you can keep the interests of a few peoples in tow while you are going through with it."

 "I can manage my ship well enough.  And I can take care of this task force while doing that too all in the heat of combat.  The only thing I want from you is to stay out of the way and not make a pest of yourself while we do our jobs.  Is that satisfactory?"

 The mutt nodded his head to her, no emotion in his eyes.  The three of them moved on through the bay and into the corridors.  >From there, Amerce said nothing else all the way back to his quarters.

****

 There was no way around it.  Pandora needed a way to test the authenticity of her new comrades.  Their ship, which they humbly named with a title as catchy as their own, was the Cat Claw Deviator.  It was not much of a mover and its speed was high enough for a quick getaway.  That much was good enough.  It seemed to Pandora that they stripped it down to hold only enough fuel to jump from one planet to the next.  Their amount of armaments was a joke.

 Three standard laser turrets and one very light home made deflector shield generator.  The heat sink for the laser systems was almost run down.  No missile systems of any kind, and a targeting system that barely functioned.  Their only real defense was through fighters, and they all really cooked.  It was a good thing there was only three though, for the Deviator's only docking bay could hold only three plus one light to medium shuttle, which they didn't have.  However, the ship did have a small low powered cloaking device which barely hid the ship.  Any high tech sensor system would pick them up easily.

 After she made these observations, Pandora promised the Blood Stone Raider leader, Ravaan Carnovage that her ideas for modifying their ship was bring great benefits for it and them.  A more powerful drive system, some stronger weapons and a tougher hull and deflector shield.  It might lose in maneuverability in speed, but only until they got a more decent engine on it.  They would be able to adapt to the lower and less consuming fuel on the market now.  But the main thing was the possibility of the newest and deadliest weapon in this star system or the next.

 Ravaan listened to all of this as Pandora ran through it with him.  The two of them met alone to discuss these things often.  They talked about how they would proceed and the funds needed for all of these new nicnacs being given to their ship.  The German Shepherd dog listened with interest as Pandora gave him the entire low down on her most immediate plans for the Raiders.  The first priority was for them to get a shuttle.  What was the best way to do that?  Steal it of course.  Then Pandora would make an errand to Corneria.  >From there, they would go along with the modifications to the Deviator.  Ravaan liked everything he heard.

 "And you already have all of the money to support all of this.  I am impressed.  About this new weapon though.  What exactly is new about it?" he said while taking a drag on a cigarette.

 "That you will see soon enough.  It's too technical to explain right now.  But, I guarantee that it will impress you more then anything I can give you right now.  Of course, we will have to find a place to hide the ship while we work on it.  But don't worry.  I've taken care of that too."

 Ravaan smiled.  "Do you think of everything?  I think it was a good decision to sign on with you Ms. Freelancer."

 "Actually it's Mrs. Freelancer, but my husband and I have been separated for some time now.  I don't know where he is to send divorce papers, and quiet frankly I don't really care either.  Anyway, call me Pandora.  It sounds better then Freelancer anyway, Ravaan."  Ravaan nodded to her.  After a while of looking, she smiled at him.  "You know some- thing," she said.  "You're kinda cute."

 She got up and turned around, leaving Ravaan alone to thinking about what was to come.  Cute was not a word strong enough of what he thought of her.  Even with her strange two colored eyes, he was still strongly attracted to her.  They just made her all the more sexy.

****

 Kesh was smiling deeply as she stepped out of her quarters, her hair combed and brushed beautifully and her uniform as sharp as ever.  She walked down the hall with a bright shining air around her, cheerful to everyone.  She even said hello to those she normally found distasteful.  Everyone on board wondered what could take her out of her rainy day like mood and become so warm to everyone.

 She took her time as she moved through the halls.  The night with Robert probably cured her ailments of having no emotions.  For the first time in a real long while, she was truly happy.  Kesh had plans for herself and her new lover after this infernal strike was complete.  But that would come later.  Even with the stench of war and the fears of battle were stuck in the air like a roosting pestilence, Kesh was able to push out these things and remain cheerful.  A lot of people thought she was nuts, or uncaring.

 The fact was, the truth was the exact opposite of this.  She did care very much, and she was going to put all of her powers into the assured victory of this assault.  However, when she had one moment of happiness which she had not felt since her childhood, she pushed seriousness aside and let those feelings accumulate inside of her.

 Kesh entered the Solar Rave where she ate breakfast every morning.  Not many people here today.  Probably because of what happened two days ago where Captain Dallas's father was murdered.  The place of a catastrophe had nothing to do with its happening.  It could have happened in the halls, or on the bridge, or in the engine room, or even sickbay, a shuttle bay, fighter bay, or somebody's quarters.  Even in the barracks for the ground troops, it could have happened.  But it didn't.

 Speaking of ground troopers, some of them were filing into the Solar Rave.  They had been in training for over thirty hours running to lie siege to the station.  Kesh knew that something like this was unnecessary since there was nothing on the station which could be used by them.  Yet, it might be needed, but Kesh was sure that Captain Dallas would not give them time.

 Kesh watched the ground troopers sit at the table and begin their breakfast.  After a short time, she sat at her normal spot on the bar.

 "The usual Lieutenant?" asked the current grill man.

 "No I am not hungry, thank you.  Just ice water will do nicely."  The cook nodded to her and at once fetched her request.  Within a few seconds, Kesh's glass was set before her.  Her time was short, so she would have to drink it quickly, but all she did was look at it, watching beads of sweat form around its base.

 Behind her, Major Amerce appeared at the door and looked into the establishment with great disappointment.  No real style like the night clubs or taverns back home.  Who thought that a place like this could be thought as someplace fun?  He grimaced in disgust at its plain looks, and started to look around at the people present.  Amerce stopped and grinned happily when he spotted Kesh sitting at the bar, a plain glass of ice water in front of her.  The dog stepped down and went to the bar, sitting fairly close to Kesh.

 She did not notice at first.  Maybe she was just too happy to notice.  Maybe she would in time, and if she did not, then Amerce would talk to her anyway.  The bar keep walked up to him.  "What it'll it be, Major?" he asked.

 "Ale."

 "Sorry, sir.  No can do with alcohol or even synthahol.  Captain's orders."

 "What?" argued Amerce.  "Are you denying me my ordered drink.  What's the difference in having synthahol now or any time."

 "Even synthahol can have some intoxicating effects," replied Kesh.  She took a sip of her ice water.  "Captain Dallas decreed that drinks like that can only be served for two hours after a shift change.  If you want a drink, Major, the new shift begins in seventeen minutes and twenty eight seconds.  Wait around if you like."  Kesh began to stand up to leave the bar.

 "Wait a minute," said Amerce.  Kesh stopped and looked at him with no expression.  "You do remember me, don't you Lieutenant?"

 "Of course.  I remember everyone I meet while on duty, especially if it pertains to it.  Tell me major.  What will be the political effects back home if this mission succeeds?  And will they be any different if the mission fails or if it never goes through at all?"

 Amerce thought for a moment and then shrugged his shoulders.  "Even I can't tell what a man who sits behind a desk thinks.  Their psychological aspects are just as alien to me as they are to you or anyone else who serves here.  I was in battle too you know.  How do you think I got this?" he said, pointing to the burn scar on his cheek.  "Or this."  The battered leg.

 She looked at him for a moment very coolly.  After a minute, she looked at the burn on his cheek.  After a few seconds of careful observation, she spoke up.  "You got the burn from a type of battery acid, some sort of chemical used to power a hover truck.  Judging from the patterns on the wound, it was grade V battery acid which is not used by the military.  You got the burn on your own time Major."

 Amerce was shocked.  "You...you could tell that just by looking at this scar?"  She nodded to him, her self pride was extremely blatant.  Amerce laughed.  "Incredible.  You are a remarkable woman Lieutenant Serene.  I would like to ask you out to dinner."

 Kesh smiled at him again and started for the door.  "Sorry Major, but you are a little behind schedule.  I am already spoken for."  Panicked in losing, Amerce ran forward and stepped in front of her path.  "Excuse me Major but I have duties to attend to," she argued.

 "Who?  Who are you seeing now?" he asked, a little annoyed.  "Not that telepathic bum who Dallas signed on as a security chief."

 "Yes it is that 'bum' is you so put it.  What of it?"  She was getting angry now.

 Amerce shook his head like he had just heard the joke with the lamest punchline of all time.  To him, this was a joke.  "Please, Lieutenant.  I am a rich man.  Half of my fortune has come from inheritance, the other half from hard work.  When I retire, I'll be living off of green and pride.  What does your current boy friend have now besides the ability to read minds?  When he retires, how will you make a living?  Is he going to perform in a circus and read minds for little children.  And what will you do?  Live in a shack of wood and plastic and clay?  If you go with me, you'll live in a house big enough for a family of seven.  You are very beautiful Ms. Serene."  He reached up and placed a hand on her slender shoulder.  She glared back at him.  "You have a body I have not seen in a long time.  I would hate to think that something as rare as you would go to waste by walking down the wrong road."

 She nodded her head.  "You are right.  I do see something wasting away right now.  And it is my time by letting myself listen to, with all due respect, a bag of hot air like your- self."  She stepped around him and got to the door.  "Good day Major.  I would appreciate it if you would stay the hell away from me from now on.  One more thing.  You came one small step from sexual harassment there.  I could very well report you.  If you say anything aside from hello or good day to me, I may very well do so."  She left.

 Amerce was left behind steaming mad, almost growling as he watched her go.  Behind him, the barkeep did everything he could to keep from laughing.  "You'll regret that," hissed the mutt still staring at the door where Kesh was standing.

****

 "Are you sure that you have nothing against this?" asked Fox.  He watched Fara as she packed her bag up.  "You don't have to sleep over there for the night just for a mission that launches tomorrow night.  I was hoping we could do something together."

 Fara dropped her duffel bag and looked at Fox.  She stood their staring at him lovingly for a while, and then shook her head.  "No.  I want to be prepared for this.  I want a clear head for tomorrow night.  I can't do that by putting myself through a night with no sleep.  If I spend the night with you, I'll only end up worrying about you more then I am now when the time comes."

 Fax laughed at her remark, but only moderately.  He calmed down and looked at Fara, who was not taking his humor very well.  "I'm sorry.  But after all the times I went out, and all the times I put myself in danger against Venom, you never got really worried.  And you're concerned about me now?"

 "That's right.  I know that this one is different and it will have a different outcome then usual.  I don't how I know that.  I just do.  I'm not a telepath like Peppy or the SunHawk's chief of security, but I have learned to heed the calls of bad feelings.  Right now, I have nothing but doubts about your part in this."

 "Why?" asked Fox.  "There's nothing out there that we can't handle."

 "Star Wolf is there Fox.  It has been confirmed.  When they see you coming in as a decoy, then they are going to come after you with everything they have.  So are many of the others, including some of those guard dog ships.  As soon as you show your faces, there will be no guarantee that all of you may return home."

 Fox stopped, and looked down to the floor.  She was right.  He and his friends had became hated enough to be the most hunted beings in the Lylat System as far as the actions of the Venomians go.  Only when they took a time out on Corneria for Peppy's arm to heal did they stay out of the fight.  Now they were back in.  When Wolf and his cronies see them coming, it won't be just them to come and pick a fight.  Fox sighed, for the first time he was actually worried about a mission.

 Smiling when she saw this face on him, she reached up and placed her hand on his cheek.  "You'll do fine.  You always have, and you always will too.  There isn't a Venomian alive who can get the best of any of you guys."

 "What about you?" asked Fox.  "Going off in a pint sized ship to take down a mine field where you don't know how it's going to react to that ship.  I don't know who's in more danger.  You or me."

 Fara shook her head.  "We're all in danger when we go through with this Fox.  It's all mortal danger too.  I think that a few of our people will die when we come out of this.  If we come out of this.  And I won't lie when the possibility that the person who dies might be you or me, or Peppy, or Falco, or Slippy."

 "We just don't know," finished Fox.  He reached out and took Fara in his arms.  Please God, he thought.  Don't let it be her.  Take me before you decide to take her.  They kissed and then separated, Fara going to the Great Fox's only shuttle.  "Fara!"  She turned around to his call.  "I still owe you an engagement ring."

 Fara smiled at him, but said nothing.  She just turned around and got in the shuttle.  As she manned and prepped the controls, she looked out the window at Fox.  He waved goodbye to her and she waved back, and then blew him a kiss.  Fox left before the bay force field dropped, and Fara began the launch sequence.  As her shuttle flew out of the bay, she prayed.

 "He still has his whole life ahead of him.  He's a new adult in this world.  Don't let anything happen to him.  I beg you."
 
 
 

Chapter II

"Time?  Time is on my side.  Time is my side."

-Pandora Freelancer-
 

 From the bridge of the Blood Stone Raider attack ship, the Deviator, Pandora looked at the readings of the ship just inside their detection range.  They were traveling under cloak now, and the current target could was unaware of them.

 Pandora smiled as she saw the small white shuttle move along home, out to Sector Y.  They just identified it as a Cornieran tour shuttle, five people on board.  Pandora cared not about lives in the way.  If they stayed there, she would kill them, simple as pie, and toss them out of the way like old potatoes, which was what they were to her.

 The death of people.  It was a small price to pay.  Even if the death was only one person, or if it was measured in the billions.  If the victim was thin or fat, moist or flush, tall or short, old or young, stupid or genius, rich or poor, or of any other animal.  It was all the same.  Pandora knew to herself that the people who were lost in her quest was such a pricetag that said, take me I'm worth it!  The death of innocents in the billions was a small price to pay to control time itself, which she swore to gain.

 "The target is within range," announced Emil.  "Do you want me to give a green light to Ravaan and Boris?"

 With a toothy grin, Pandora nodded.  Emil sent the word to the two pilots.  Within seconds, two fighters were launched from the tiny ship fighter bay, already screaming forward.  The collie watched as the two Shredder class fighters, very expensive fighters for the Venom empire and not that good when compared to others he had that were cheaper.  So, he submitted them to these guys after some move they pulled on the Cornerians a while back.  Pandora remembered Ravaan telling her, but she couldn't place it.  Not that it mattered anyway.

 The fightes resembled wristblades sort of, the same shape.  The cockpit between the two forward arms that looked like knives.  The were like twinkling stars in the distance as they flew off to intercept the shuttle out there.

 "Tell me, my friends, what is it you plan to do with your money?" asked Pandora.

 "I plan to retire from service, live on Corneria after Andross wins the war," answered Ash, turning around in his chair.  "I won't have to work again, which sounds so sweet.  Andross can keep his silly victory.  I'll be sitting on a beach earning twenty percent interest with every hour."

 "That's funny," said Emil, grinning evily.  "I thought you were going to start a game shop or computer store, or any other laim and dorky thing."

 "Better then what you would do," retorted Ash.  "Spend all your money on Borin.  The bomber who needs a shrink.  You need one too, I hope you know.  How you killed that poor realestates broker on Titania a few months back, just because he was getting on our friggen nerves, you wasted him.  I was going to give you twenty-hour psyichiatric service without fear of fee."

 Emil made no retort.  Pandora found out that their constant badgering each other was just teasing between friends.  They were not the closest, but they were buddies though.  "What about Taurence?" she asked.  "What does he plan to do with the money?"

 Emil laughed.  "Taurence?  I wouldn't be surprised if he turns down the money all out.  No one knows what he really wants.  Not even Ravaan does.  He tried to Join both Cornerian Defense and the Venomian Military but was booted out because he was too big.  Make too heafty a target on the ground and couldn't fit into any fighter.  Anywone who's eight feet tall and shoulders four and a half feet wide couldn't fit in a shoulder.  Even if he could, with arms as big as his, he couldn't use the controls.  All he does is level our opponents when they get in the way.

 "No one, not a stinking soul in all of the Lylat System could survive if they were caught on the recieving end of one of his charges.  No one.  He runs the forty yard dash in just under four point five.  Imagine that speed and that amount of mass, and horns that were practical metal, being rolled into one.  Scary thought, it really is.  Really.  I saw it happen.  When we raided the colony on Zonness a few months ago, a tiger got into a fight with him.  Big tiger too.  Seven foot tall. Taurence came out beaten and clawed up pretty bad, but he still won the fight.  One punch to that poor kitten's nose took away the senses.  Taurence got some distance, did that little hoof scrapping thing of his, and charged.  That big metal head of his made so they were cleaning the striped kitty's broken body up for a long while afterwards.  He is an asset."

 "But, I guess Taurence doesn't want anything really," said Ash  "He feals that we're the only family he has, so we do what we can for him.  With that, he feels we owe him with his undying service and loyalty.  That's Taurence.  He's second commander of our team, and a good leader, but he'd follow Ravaan into a pit of spike if want to."

 "You guys sound devoted to each other," noticed Pandora.  "Impressive."  She sat down in Ravaan's command chair, the comfortable plush seating making her feal warm.  Pandora writhed inside with fire as she sat in the chair.  The rest of the Raiders knew that she had taken a small liking to their semi-illustrious leader.

 "What about you?" asked Ash.  "What do hope to gain out of all of this?"

 Pandora looked at him, smiling with a warm and welcoming complexion.  "A long time ago, I lost my only daughter to an unfortunate accident in a science lab.  If we are totally successful, then I hope to bring her back.  That is just one of my many goals with this operation."

 "Well if your daughter is dead, then how're you going to get her back?" asked Emil.  She typed in a command and the ship started to move.  "What are you going to do, avert history and bring her back so you can live a better life from here on?"

 Pandora deepened her smile.  "Precisely."

 Emil and Ash looked at each other, then to Pandora, and then to each other again, shrugging their shoulders.

 "Don't you see.  How mighty do you think a person would be if they gained the ability to control and manipulate time itself at their very whim?"  She walked over to Ash and put her arm around him.  "They'd be a god.  Right?  To have the ability to move the most prominant universal, well beyond universal river to what they wanted it.  To alter time to make it for better or worse.  They could slow it down and speed it up whenever they needed to feel most comfortable with it.  To travel back and visit your earliest ancestors.  To go forward and witness your grand children take their first baby step.  And, what I seek most, to go back in time and save a person at the moment they are supposed to die.

 "All of these things, all these wonders are what it means to be the true master of the clock.  What the clock represents.  They say that time is the predator stalking us all our lives.  Well, I will make it the dog at the end of my leash."  She smiled, looking up to the Deviator's windows to the outside.

 "It's one of those ultimate universal variables.  Sure it has a constant rate for the most part, and the travel through time is said to be impossible because of the mass required for the energies needed would be too overwhelming.  I know.  There is a species out on the other side of the galactic core that call it the Theory of Relativity.  Well, theories can be broken by things not yet understood by your standards.  I will break them, and I will take my rightful place.

 "I am the daughter of Father Time himself.  He just doesn't know it yet.  When he does, after I fulfil my duties here, I'll be on the highway to my greatest achievement."  She hugged Ash more tightly, giggling playfully.  "It'll be fun.  Of course, the fact that we'll have to kill lots and lots...of people, to achieve this goal, is in fact a price that is worth the prize.  It's all business to achieve a personal goal in life.  I mean, why should the lives of the innocents should stand in the way of one woman's ultimate dream, fantasy to become reality?  It's a destiny!  A destiny!  Do you here me?  My destiny!"

 Pandora stopped her loud nutty ranting, looking bewildered and confused all of a sudden, but then smiled again at the two of them.  She got up and circled around the chair a few times, looking delirious and bewildered, talking silently to herself.  Then she stopped, and looked up.

 "You know this place is really dead," Pandora complained.  "Let's get some tunes in this joint and liven it up a little bit!"  Taurence heard the loud and duranged sounding cries and rants from Pandora, and walked in to see her in a phase.  Even he was taken by surprise.

 "Aw, here's your second in command.  Mr. Black, would you be so kind to go look for some musical tunes and put them on the speakers.  Anything like opera, balett, soft classical, even jazz trumpet.  Just make sure it has no words in it except choir music."  Taurence stood there for a moment, taken by surprise by her wierd actions.  He looked at Emil and Ash, he motioned to him to just cooperate.

 In a few minutes, the Deviator was hovering over a small shuttle and pulling it into its fighter bay.  On board, ringing through all the speakers, was an old gothic choir singing opera music.  Emil and Ash were both suffering at such music they hated.  Taurence remained indifferent about it, but he didn't like it either.

 Pandora sat in the command chair, her eyes closed, taking in the soft melodies without making a sound at all.  She was only moving and bowing her head, keeping in touch with the music.  She looked more beautiful here, but it was from this scene she put on, now calm from the sounds of the music.

 In the middle of it, she started to sing her own song right in the middle of the opera music.  Some song about time being on her side, which hearing it sung by her caused Emil and Ash to swallow nervously.  The were afraid.

 It was a little while before Boris and Ravaan docked the Shredders into the bay, where Emil was waiting for them.  Boris walked up and kissed her on the cheek, and was then on his way.  Emil stood before Ravaan as he came forward.

 "We have to talk," she said to him sternly.  She led him into a storage room and shut and locked the door behind them, making sure they couldn't be disturbed.  "Talk in private."

 He looked her, thinking that this might be interesting.  "About what?" he asked, taking off his flight helmet.

 "About our current employer.  Pandora."

 Ravaan smiled warmly at the sound of her name, his heart racening.  "Yeah.  She's something, isn't she?" he asked.

 "Put your hormones on neutral for a moment and listen to me.  I was thinking that we may have to reconsider this deal."

 He looked at her coldly, and saw total seriousness in her brown eyes.  "Ha!" he yelled out.  "You're mad!  I guess those Cornerian Specter training procedures made you blind to the fact that we could use the amounts of money she's giving us.  If you really think I'm going to pull out of this now then you really are mad."

 Emil shook her head.  "No, I'm not mad.  Pandora is mad."

 "What do you mean?"

 She stepped closer to him, afraid that she might be heard.  "Pandora Freelancer is insane."

 Ravaan shook his head and gestured for her to be silent, smiling ammused like.  "Sure, she seems a little wierd now and then.  That's no reason to judge her at having lost her mind."

 "She was in the bridge while you were gone, sitting in your chair, ranting and raving about controling time and such.  She is nuts, Ravaan.  She hasn't only lost her mind.  Her mind is like a boat sent up a river that lost its paddles a long time ago and has started down the lonely river, which she's also been traveling for a long time.  Right now, that boat is starting to spring leaks.

 "At this time, we're all passengers on this boat heading for a place we don't want to go.  It is called 'over the edge.'  When Pandora snaps, and she will sooner or later, then that boat is going to sink with all of us in it, and then we'll go over that edge, marking our death because of her craziness."

 Ravaan walked around the room, his patience quickly dwindling down.  "What do you want me to do?" he asked angrily.  "Put her on some planet nearbye and leave her there, give her a little apology that things didn't work out and a parting hug and kiss.  She might blow her top then even more.  Besides, this is worth the money.  And it's not like we've never done crazy things either.  We've murdered innocent lives to get money, and we left others out in the cold to suffer their way to death.  We have no right to ridicule her.  You of all people don't."

 "Ravaan, we may be sick and demented people in what we do, but we are not insane.  Pandora is insane.  If you want to follow her into that dark place, be my guest.  But when she breaks, the whirlpool she creates to drag you down into her insanity is going to be big and there is no way you'll pull yourself out.  So you go ahead and be all gentleman like and nice with her and maybe she will crawl into bed with you.  Who knows?  But the moment I see that boat start to break, I'm bailing out and heading for shore.  At least I am."

 Emil tried to open the door, but forgot it was locked.  Angrily and without patience, she spun kicked the door and broke the lock, also damaging the door some from her foot.  The lock was a solid metal alloy and resistant to force.  But very little is resistant to Emil's kicks.  "You see this lock.  It doesn't even begin to compare what is going to be left of us once this woman snaps."

 She stormed out, leaving Ravaan alone.  He stood there for a moment, thinking about what she said. He was thinking that it be safer for all of them if Pandora was cut loose of their company.  No one ever got rich without living a little dangerously.  Besides, insanity added a little spice to a romatic pursuit.

 He walked out of the room, smiling to himself.

****

 Seven hours and it would begin.  Seven hours from now, the bloodshed would start and it will not stop until it is over.  This was a known fact.  Once the battle started, once they were all committed to this fight, then it would play through until one side lost everything.  Neither side could retreat for this.  The Venomians had no where to retreat to if they wanted to keep their station.  If the Cornerians retreated, it would be impossible to convince Priority One or the War Ministry to authorize a follow up attack.  Even if they did, the station's defenses would be beefed up so much a comet storm would be pointless.

 Captain Dallas thought about these things, and sighed because of them.  The grief stricken woman husky looked to the light of Solar in the distance.  The observatory was off limits on times of alert such as this.  Since she was the captain, these restrictions meant little as long as they were safe.  She knew that she should be setting an example for the crew, but Dallas needed a spot to think, and to be alone.

 She had stopped weeping for her father.  Dallas had cried all the tears she could because of her father's death three days ago.  For the time being, she had ran dry.  Now, she was weeping over her thoughts, for they were a venomous truth that hung over her.  A blanket doom that was being tied around her head, blinding and suffocating her.  These next seven hours were going to be the longest of their lives.

 "Captain?"  Dallas turned her head to the newcomer.  Kite McCane stepped in out of the shadows and stood next to Captain Dallas.  She smiled at his company, but made no words of conversation.  She only smiled as she looked on towards Solar, a ship starting to block their view of its light.

 "I never knew which was brighter.  Our sun during a clear evening in the fall, or Solar on any day.  Which was is more beautiful is just as big of a mystery."

 "You take what you get, and you make the most of it," responded Allison.  She sighed, rearing her head to remember back.  "Tell me Kite, what is it that you miss the most about home?"

 At first, Kite was surprised.  That was perhaps the first time Captain Dallas called him by his first name.  After a minute of thinking about the question and then answered.  "Perhaps the greatest thrill of my life is to fly.  There is one thing about flying and having wings.  They are not nearly as thrilling unless you can feel the wind in your hair while you glide through it.  I miss the free sky, below the stars but above the ground.  I miss the wind.  Real wind and not the phony stuff in the arboretum.  It's what I grew up around to cherish.  The sky.  What about you?"

 Dallas shook her head.  "I miss nothing.  The reason I miss nothing is because I am already home."

 "You mean the SunHawk?" asked Kite.

 "Well, that too.  I mean my home as in the entire Lylat System.  All of it is my home, and it always will be my home.  All the planets of this system are rooms to the house that live in.  Corneria, Titania, Aquas, Raiden, Papetoon, even Venom and Katina.  My yard, my world is all of space.  The entire cosmos is my playground.  You cherish the skies that lie underneath the stars because you want the four winds.  I cherish the darkness of space because it is the last place left for us to go if we wish to go forward.  That's what I look forward to.  Leaving this star system and exploring new worlds.  Leaving home for the first time to learn."

 Kite smiled at the thought of these things.  They would be going out into the stars after the war was over.  If it ever really ended.  "Well Captain," he said to her.  "We'll finish this upcoming fight and take all our worries out of our sleep, then we both can dream about our missed wishes again."

 "If only it were that easy," whispered Dallas after a pause.

 "What do ya mean?"

 "I've been giving it a lot of thought Kite.  Going in and seeing the formulas and physics of this attack as a whole.  Using them to fish out our chances of success.  If they went by these things totally, then God would be looking down on us with a very grim frown.  It's all a matter of mathematics really.

 "They outnumber us over two to one.  We have seven ships in this task force, and about three of those are old and outdated.  They have thirteen ships right at the top of the line guarding that station like its their own pup den.  They have over six hundred percent as much fighters as we do.  Maybe because they don't spend as much time on their manufacturing for fighters as we do.  They pour them out by the hundreds every year.  We get about thirty a month if we're lucky.  That mine field is packed with both anti-fighter and anti-ship power.  If we can't open a hole big enough, then we may lose before the fight even begins.  Above all is the station itself is what scares me the most.

 "I know Andross is hiding something in that station.  Something downright important to him.  If it is important to him, then it can only mean a tool of destruction that he crafted.  That station has over six thousand torpedoes and missiles stored away in her ordinance bays.  Their warheads may include everything from minor firebombs to nuclear fusion warheads.  You know how we came out of every fight thus far with little or no damage to our ship.  That's going to change tonight.  We are going to get pasted once we go in there.  No matter if we win or lose, this ship is going to go out broken in some places.  And we will lose at least one or two of our own, that is if we win, and that's pushing it.

 "As soon as our ships and fighters go in there, they are going to placed under fire by long range missile turrets with high yield warheads.  Bombs that can damage five kilometers out.  They can probably kill at one.  Once we get to them, the biggest dogfight and ship engagement any of us have ever seen in our time is going to erupt before our eyes.  People are going to die by the tens of thousands in about eight or nine hours.  We may and might lose friends.  I just hope it is quick if they are lost.  So it is mathematical after all.  The whole ugly damned truth of it."

 Kite stood there and listened to his captain.  She was grieved by the death of her father, Kite knew that for sure.  He was when he lost his dad, and when James McCloud died, Fox went ballistic.  But Dallas was right.  Mathematics did bring a dark hood over their eyes.  Thank God that they had Star Fox here, people who take the math and piss on it before every battle where it said that they had no prayer either.  It was not always to be relied upon.

 "Good night Captain," said Kite, saluting

 "Good night Lieutenant," said Dallas, returning the salute.  "Dream about us winning tonight."

 "I will sir."

 He turned around and left Dallas in the dark of the observatory.  She would have to go sleep soon too.  No way in hell she was going to be caught in this trap yawning.  She could not help but think about it though.  The cold and horrible mathematics of such a situation.  Dallas hated them.

 After a minute, she left the room and headed down the hall.  A new tool was going to be used to help their approach vector remain a little covert.  Kesh and Slippy and a few others came up with it a few hours ago.  It wasn't sure whether it would work or not, but it was worth a try.  They could use any help right now.
 
 

Chapter III

"I do not command just a starship.  I command a force of nature crafted into a vessel that can bring its rage down on those who threaten our homes and our very lives.  And I will continue to fight as its captain until Andross' threat is broken or my ashes are cast into the cold voids of space."

-Captain Allison Dallas - CSS SunHawk-
 
 

 The flagship of the Venomian task force guarding Dark Star station was the Judicator.  It was a Citadel class heavy carrier, one of the most advanced ships in the Venomian star fleet.  In its hull was over seven hundred fighters and bombers of different assorted classes.  It's sleek jet black hull furnished the face of Andross on its hull like all Venomian ships did, a beacon for their loyalty to the Venomian cause.

 The Judicator in combat itself was no slouch either.  It had a wide assortment of gun batteries.  About twenty laser turrets of different varieties, interceptor guns, and heavy plasma sphere cannons.  It also had a few particle beam cannons, which were Venom's only solid beam assortment.  Not as powerful as the Cornerian Talon, but it was effective.  The Judicator did have the honor of having the most broad number of fighters in the entire Lylat system.  It had a class three energy shield, end some sort of stealth ability for moderate silent running.  Not strong enough to beet Cornerian perimeter bugs on the frontier, but it couldn't be tracked either.  It left warheads to the fighters.

 On the bridge of the Judicator, the ships commanding officer, Grand Praetor Anton Brimstone, was a medium sized billy goat who dressed in the most exuberant dress uniform possible.  A neatly cut reddish uniform, metal brass buttons shining, a pearl handled cutlass at his belt which he had no clue how to use, and an assortment of medals and decorations.  He had been a member of the military for almost thirty five years, and was not at all considering retirement.  He felt he could not afford to do that just yet.

 Brimstone glanced around the bridge calmly from his command chair that almost was a throne.  A place for a powerful person to be while on a ship, and no one could sit in it besides him.  Not even if they had the conn.  If anyone was caught sitting in that chair, they would be spaced at once.

 For the time being, all was quiet.  But Brimstone knew that that would change and soon.  The Cornerian fleet was out there.  And the SunHawk was with them.  That one ship had the entire Venom Empire in an uproar, especially Andross.  Brimstone figured it was just jealousy that the Cornerians were able to construct a better conventional war machine then they were.  Not a single ship in the Venom fleet could even touch the level of power that the SunHawk operated at.  But even a mega warship was susceptible to devestator mines.  If they came through, they were going to lose enough in that mine belt to screw themselves before the real deal began.  Brimstone just hoped that there was enough left of the SunHawk or any other ship for him to get a piece of it.  Still he was nervous.  Star Fox might be out there too.  But Star Wolf was guarding the area too, which lifted some of Brimstone's worries about that aspect.

 If anything, Brimstone was probably the most relaxed person in the fleet.  Sure, he knew the repercussions of losing this station and what it meant to them as far as the war goes.  The spy gear on Dark Star kept a watchful eye over this entire sector.  All the way to MacBeth was monitored by this area.  Nothing got through this area without being seen.  It's how they saw the Cornerians coming four days ago.  Plus, many of Andross' best and most powerful biological data was being stored here.  If they lost it, Brimstone knew that the emperor would not waste time by imprisoning the ones responsible.

 Yet, the middle aged goat remained focused.  Panicking and worrying your stomach into a knot accomplished nothing.  They had to remain clear headed if they decided to come.  And they might be coming now.  All telemetry on the enemy position ended about an hour ago, which means they could not track their movements.  The surveillance gear on Dark Star was useless since they couldn't track this close to them.  They would just have to wait until the readings returned to see what was going on.

 "Still nothing?" asked Brimstone.  He looked down at the radar screen himself and saw that nothing was on it save the readings of their own ships.  "Not even an echo?"

 "No Grand Praetor, there is nothing.  Still no readings on enemy actions.  And all ships have run diagnostics on their sensor systems.  All of them check out.  Perhaps they found a way to block our sensor sweeps."

 "No," said Brimstone.  "They don't have the technology to hide seven capitol warships, one of them a kilometer and a half long from our sensors.  Or could they.  What the hell is happening here?  Where are they and what are they doing?"  Brimstone knew that the leader of the task force was the SunHawk's CO.  Some woman commander who was a practical rookie at commanding ships, but still knew her stuff.  What was she thinking?

 Angrily, the goat shook his head.  "Send someone out to patrol the perimeter of the mine fields.  Look for anything that might not belong and then report back to us on it.  Anything."

 "Star Wolf?"

 "I don't care.  Just send someone."

 The bridge officer sent the word to Wolf O'Donnell who was engaged in free flight training with the rest of his crew.  Now it was time for real work.  Maybe they would find something.

 "Wait a minute," said the officer.

 "What?" asked Brimstone.

 The officer did not answer at first.  He turned a knob or two to try and clear up what was happening.  Something faint, but readable.  Not natural and definitely not friendly.  Possible enemy.  "Echoing transmission is being picked up sir.  Approximate bearing on source matrix is three-five-seven mark three-five-eight.  Rather peculiar that it's right at the opposite end of the line that Star Wolf is.  Just a minute..."  He waited for a time again, and then stood up.  "We have open firing on AAA mines at that exact bearing.  We have visitors Grand Praetor."

 "Is one of our eyespyes operating in that area?" asked Brimstone.

 "Aye my lord."

 "Let's see what is happening out there then."  The officer flicked a few switches.  Soon, the visual telemetry from a camera probe out there caught sight of the enemy.  Four fighters leaving a Dreadnought class carrier out of range of the mines.  He ordered them to zoom in on the carrier.  It had the clear as crystal image of a winged fox painted on its hull.

 Star Fox.

****

 "Damn!" yelled Falco.  The laser mines were all tougher to navigate through then he had anticipated.  His fighter's shields were almost half out and they weren't even at the half way marker yet.  "We're going to get grounded if we don't get out of this soon."  Another hit shook his fighter and him with it.

 "Keep your speed up," ordered Fox.  "And keep that G diffuser running.  The more lasers we can deflect, then more energy we can keep for our shields."  Eat your own words Fox, he thought to himself.  He was running low on shield strength too.  At this rate, they might not have had enough to counter Star Wolf.  At least these were not proximity
explosive mines.  They would have been dust long before now if they were.

 "There's a large mass of them directly ahead," announced Slippy.  He started to arm a nova bomb to take out that mass.  "If I can get a pinpoint shot, I should be able to clear a path wide enough for a smoother ride on through."

 "Whatever you're going to do Slip, you'd better hurry.  ETA on that bunch of mines is forty seconds."

 Slippy figured the best place to detonate his warhead would be about five to ten meters beyond that group of mines.  He input the target data and began hit his boosters.  Before Fox could protest, Slippy was smoking on ahead of them towards that group.  He kept a constant eye on the range readout, watching the numbers fall quickly.  He went along with the falling range, counting down out loud by the hundreds.  When he reached five hundred meters, he let the bomb fly.

 The nova bomb was too small to be picked up by the mine detectors.  It rocketed past the group, cutting close to colliding with a few of them on its pass.  It cleared the group and exploded on the other side.  The flower like blast obliterated the entire group of mines.  Many more behind it were destroyed, pushed out of the way and damaged, or were disabled from the bomb's electromag pulse.  It did exactly what Slippy wanted by clearing a path.  Satisfied, he decelerated and fell back into formation with his team mates.

 "Nice going Slipshot," praised Falco.

 "Well done Slip.  That should take care of our mine problems.  ETA to perimeter is three minutes.  Everyone hold tight.  We're not out of the woods yet."

 A few remaining rogue mines were scattered here and there.  But the threat to them from the mines was pretty much eliminated.  Those that remained were taken down easily or they were avoided completely.  Fox could see the edge of the field, and soon they were through it.  All that was between them and Dark Star was seven or eight heavy cruisers, destroyers, and carriers along with maybe over three thousand enemy fighters of assorted types.  Not to mention their arch rivals, Star Wolf.  Fox was wondering when the fiends would show up, whether they would or not was obvious.

 "All right team, target the nearest enemy cruiser and take it to them.  Remember, the farthest one out and hit hard but hit fast.  Hit and run tactics for right now."

 They were about to comply, but a new voice cut them off.  A remembered being saying a remembered phrase.  "Can't let you do that, Star Fox."  Fox looked up to see the four members of Star Wolf bearing down on them with a swarm of enemy fighters.  And one of the cruisers were already on the way.  Excellent.

 "Come and get it if you want it Wolf," egged Fox.  Please do.  You are way too predictable Star Wolf.  This time, you are your own worst enemy.  "I'm laughing at the memory of how you lost your eye Wolf man.  Guess what.  You can't do anything about it either."

 Wolf growled hatefully at Fox's taunt.  The little bastard was growing bolder by the day.  "Remember," he said to the rest of the fighters.  "Fox is mine.  No one kills him but me if they wish to keep their hearts in their chests.  The other three are yours."  Wolf kicked in his afterburner and brought his targeter on the lead Arwing.

 "Let it begin," whispered Fox to himself as he went to engage Wolf.

****

 On the SunHawk, Dallas watched the entire first contact unfold.  Star Fox had just engaged with Star Wolf and a butt load of enemy fighters.  Along with that, two enemy frigates were now going to help their team mates against Star Fox.  Dallas knew that Fox and the rest were going to have a hell of a time over there, but it was nothing they could not handle.  She hoped.

 Even with this true, part of her wished to go help them or at least send someone to do so.  However, that was not part of the plan.  She had to make her next move, and that was to shatter a certain line for their fleet.

 "SunHawk to KitHawk.  Grant, they've done it.  Fox has engaged enemy forces and drawing them away from their attention.  You may proceed any time you're ready."

****

 "Copy, SunHawk.  We'll have that mine field down in no time.  We'll send you the signal once the last mine is inoperative.  KitHawk out."  The lion sighed heavily.  It was time.  No word had come from Corneria to abandon this attack, so it was moving forward.

 "Are you ready?" he asked.

 Fara assumed that he was referring to her, which she was correct on, so she nodded slightly.  As Grant looked at her, he realized that maybe he shouldn't have any respect for her.  She was, after all, the lover of Fox McCloud.  Grant had no more love or respect for Fox then he did for someone like Andross or Pigma Dangar.  The reasons for this were his, and would not be given up any time soon.  However, he found himself liking and respecting Fara Phoenix as a trusted comrade.

 "All of us are," said Conner who sat at ops.  "You realize of course that if we had our cloaking veil this might have been a lot simpler."

 "You're probably right," said Grant.  There was no point in keeping the reality cloaking veil technology a secret any longer, which it was.  "But there is no point on worrying about it.  We got the speed and the fire power to do this.  So let's get it over with.  Our job will not be limited to only taking down these mines."

 "What is this 'cloaking veil'?" asked Fara.

 "I little device we use for stealth approach.  More efficient and less costly on energy as far as energy goes.  It got damaged when we surveyed the position on Dark Star though.  It won't be ready for use for another few months at the least.  I can't tell you how it works because of confidentiality, plus we have no time for that.  We have to go now.  Ms. Phoenix, will you please take us to Nav Epsilon, we can get started."

 "Roger," said Fara.  She brought up the navigation charts for the area and got the position on their current check point.  "Course bearing on Nav Epsilon is zero-zero-five mark three-five-five.  Distance is seven point two five kilometers."

 "Maximum burn.  Take us to it."

 The KitHawk's thrusters kicked into full and at once it started to rocket forward.  Fara used Auto pilot to get them to the Nav point.  The ship made tracks all the way there, covering that seven and a quarter kilometers in only fifteen minutes.  Fara wondered in this time how the fight with Fox was going, and was hoping that he was all right.  A light on the pilot console lit up green, putting them at their destination Nav point.

 The next point, dubbed Nav Zeta, was down the length of the mine field from here and ten kilometers away.  They would have to swoop down and run along that length in order to complete their objective.  Over a hundred EMP bombs were stored in the ship's bomb bays and were all ready to be dropped.  This would disable the bombs, but not destroy them which would draw more attention to themselves.  This way, the bombs would regenerate their power and prevent anyone from bringing in help while the fight went on.  Venomian reinforcements were only a stone's throw away, and would kill any chances of a Cornerian victory.  There was one thing about Captain Dallas which Fara admired, she was smart as any poor strategy specialist back home at these things.

 "Ready to make a run?" asked Grant.  They all nodded to him.  It should take only a single pass to disable the mines.  If any were missed, then they would be taken out by interceptor batteries on the ships.

 "I'm ready," said Fara.

 "As am I," said the current tactical officer.

 "Do it."

 Fara hit the thrusters to their full burn.  The KitHawk engines flared with life and the small ship was pushed forward with all of its speed.  After a hundred meters, the ship began a descent slope towards the mines, still gaining speed as it went downward.  Fara had seen this thing go when she trained in it.  Now they were going to push it to the limits.

 The mines were in sight, and the bomb bay doors were opened.  The bombs were death's head dispersal pattern bombs.  They should be able to blanket the entire width of the field with the magnetic energy and create a hole big enough for the flotilla to move through.  However, should was an awfully big word for an operation this important.  If this did not work, then the good guys would lose a lot of recourses trying to break on through to the other side.

 They were almost to their leveling point, but Fara did nothing to slow the ship down.  However, she did begin to level their descent.  The laser mines saw the ship coming and moved around to lock on to them.  The devestator seeker mines remained inactive.  The KitHawk was too small for those mines to read and lock onto them.  So much easier with that as truth.  Because of its speed, the laser mines were having much difficulty locking on to the KitHawk.  They fired, trying to hit anyway if they could not get a lock.  But the ship was just to fast to even fire after they got a lock on anyway.

 "That's it," said Grant.  "Bombs away."

 "Bombs away, aye," repeated the tac-officer.  He pushed a single red button and let the computer system do the rest.

 The silvery objects were dropped out of the underside of the ship as it went by.  One right after the other, coming in two every second as the gently floated towards the mines below them.  The lasers were not going after them, too small to get a reading.  It was working, so far.

 The first mine gently floated downward from where it had been until its programmed level of descent was reached.  After this, the thing split up and was rocketed out to the closest edge of the field.  About twelve little devices were dispersed into the field, and soon exploded.  The wave of energy from one warhead expanded out and engulfed the mines close to them.  Those mines were not harmed, but they powered down and terminated, not to see action for another hour or two.

 This happened all the way down the length of the field.  The warhead from each death head bomb went out and blanketed the entire field with electromagnetic energy.  The light from each blast was right after the other, creating shimmering effects inside the fields.  Much like the look of ripples on water during a rainstorm, only with more controlled order.  Everywhere the light touched, one more mine was shut down, laser and devestator alike.

 The KitHawk had taken very few hits from laser mines on its bombing run.  The shields were holding strong as ever.  It's supply of mines was running down, and they were coming to the end of their seven kilometer running length.  Soon, the last mine was dropped, and the KitHawk began to ascend.

 A fighter, Borzoi class, was waiting for them above and out of range of the mine field.  The fighter pilot saw the ship, recognizing it as the same one they faced over a week ago.  Wanting to avenge the deaths of the pilots lost in the Oberon Underworld because of that ship, the Borzoi pilot kicked in his afterburners and moved quietly in front of the oncoming attack ship.  He was going to give them a big nuclear present.

 "We got company," said the tac officer.  "Borzoi fighter pilot directly ahead.  I have our Talon beam online for our pest extermination needs at your order.  Already targeted."

 "You know what to do," said Grant with a slight smile.  With a sheepish grin, the tac-officer pushed a single red button, and Fara looked out the view screen to see what happened.

 The nose of the KitHawk flared into a bright orange light, and a solid beam of disruptive energy tore through space.  The Borzoi did not even have time to scream much less arm his gift package.  The Talon beam struck his ship right in the nose, and the entire ship was vaporized on impact.  The fusion bomb inside it was reduced to plasma.

 "Wow," whispered Fara, somewhat shocked at such power in one little ship.  "Whoever designed those Talon weapons should be either tossed in a rubber room or put back onto the drawing board under tight security."

 Grant nodded in agreement, but he said nothing.  He merely turned to Conner and nodded to him.  The black wolf carried out the final phase of this operation.  A signal was sent back to the fleet.  They had an open door to use.  After this, Grant ordered them to head straight in and take the first initial blood of this fight.

****

 "Captain, the signal is coming in from the KitHawk.  The mine field hole is up and we can move through at any time."

 Dallas nodded in reply to this, and then she turned to Amerce who stood next to her.  "Well Major.  We are over the line as of now.  Even if orders do come in from central to abort this attack, we are going in there."  Reluctantly, the dog nodded to her, and Dallas turned to helm control.

 "All ahead flank!" she barked out.  At once she sat in her chair and started to input commands into her computer terminal there.  "Send word to the fleet and tell them to move forward.  We are going in."

 The SunHawk's massive thrust engines flared with a bright orange fire, and the massive behemoth moved forward.  All the other ships around it, all of them direct Cornerian Military, started to advance as well.  The Cornerian Flotilla was officially on the move to their first offensive.

****

 This fight was going Fox's way for the time being.  Over half of the enemy fighters not counting Star Wolf had been torn asunder.  One of the enemy frigates that had came into the fight was badly damaged from a specially delivered Nova bomb right into one of its thruster engines, a special gift from Falco.  That ship was adrift and not currently fighting.  However, a second and larger frigate had come and was being sort of a pain in the rear.

 "I'm slice to pull your big dopey ears off and use them as stew flavoring you little puke," raged Wolf into his head set.  Fox ignored the threat and concentrated on getting the one eyed monster off his tail.  He kicked in his afterburner and yanked hard on the stick, going into a tight loop.

 "Oh, no!  Not this time Fox.  That little stunt of yours isn't going to save you this time."  Wolf slowed down to an almost dead stop and waited.  The Arwing completed the loop and engaged its jets again, rocketing forward.  Wolf screamed with hate when he realized that he would not be able to keep up after he stopped.  Growling with a foam in the corner of his mouth, the output of hatred and frustration, Wolf reengaged his jets and started to look for the overgrown upstart kit again.

 "What's wrong Fox?" he asked into his headset.  "Are you afraid to dance with the devil on his own turf for a change.  Come out and fight like a man you little son of a bitch!"

 Wolf's receiver crackled a bit and then he heard speech.  "Thanks Wolf."  It was Fox.

 "Thanks?  What for?"

 "For being so predictable to us.  You just left the station you were guarding wide open to our fleet.  The SunHawk should be pushing through your mine field within a few minutes, and then it along with the rest of our ships are going to take that station right off the map."

 Wolf spat onto his own console.  "I don't care.  The station can take care of itself.  I'm not leaving here until I see you bleed from a mortal wound Fox."

 "And I'm not either."  Fox looked up in time to see Pigma come down from above in his Wolfen like a hawk, firing bright red bolts of laser energy.  Most of the shots missed Fox completely, but a few ricocheted off his hull. The impact tossed the Arwing away, from the fight.  Fox felt like a sock in a sonic washing machine, but he felt like the world had lost gravity when his head made a connection with the canopy window.  The hit caused pain, but it also caused him to lose his senses for a small moment.  More then enough time for Pigma to move in for the kill.

 "How do like those apples Fox.  Take some of that why don't ya.  There's a lot more where that came from, so I think I'll just give it to ya, punk."

 Before Pigma could fire, his Wolfen was tossed away by a bright and strong explosion, his ship suffering slight damage.  "Damn it!" he yelled out.  "Who...?"

 "Leave him alone bacon fat!" screamed Peppy.  He let loose another volley of laser fire which made Pigma start running.  The old hare pulled up beside Fox and tried to look into it.  "Fox?" he said with concern.  "You OK?"

 Fox reached up and touched the biting pain on his temple.  He withdrew his paws on touch to see blood on them.  "I'm fine," he reassured.  "I'll have a headache in the morning but I'm fine.  C'mon old friend.  Let's finish this."

 "I'm with you."

 The two ace pilots kicked in their boosters and reengaged into the fight.  The frigate that was still going strong had Slippy in a knot.  The toad was dashing everywhere he could to keep fighters off his back and out of any crossfire that he could.  He had a feeling that something bad would happen unless he pulled himself out of this and soon.

 A trio of Invader fighters pulled up behind him.  They did cause some trouble for Slippy for a while, but they were quickly dispatched by Falco.  Slippy gave his thanks and the two went on to knock out another group of fleas.

 Fox and Peppy were bearing down on the Frigate that was harassing Slippy.  They had nova bombs and ready to fly at the ship once they were close enough.  A group of fighters saw them coming and tried to place themselves in a blockade to protect their ship.  Fox and Peppy ripped through them with laser fire, leaving no survivors in the so called blockade.  They let their missiles fly and then broke away to deal with other scum.

 The Nova bombs impacted into the enemy hull and drilled a few decks into it.  A total of four of the five missiles fired made their mark.  They all detonated simultaneously, and the frigate broke apart in a ball of fire from the inside.  A huge flash of multiple flower blasts consumed the ship, and when they died, only a few scorched fragments of metal and flesh remained.  Chalk one up for the good guys, thought Fox.

****

 One single mine not touched by the EMP warheads detected the point ship for the Cornerian task force approach.  It pointed itself at that ship and ignited its thrust engines, homing itself in on that ship where it would collide and cause considerable damage to it.  However, the probe was detected at once as the only power reading in the field.  A single shot from an interceptor cannon struck its stabilizer wing, tossing it out of control.  Another shot hit it dead on and destroyed it.

 That ship, the Katina continued to press on at flank speed through the dead mine field.  Behind it were the five other ships of the flotilla.  The ships had to come through no more then two at a time at the most.  Since it was too big, the SunHawk had to come through on its own.  All of the ships were inside the perimeter within twelve minutes.  They reconvened their original formation and proceeded towards the station ahead.  The jamming system they came up with only worked while they were outside the mine field.  The Venomians knew they were coming now.

 "Launch fighters," ordered Dallas.  "All other ships are to do the same.  I want Shadow Squadron to take point for our boys if not all of them.  What is the position on the KitHawk at this time?"

 The tac-officer took a reading and then answered.  "About four thousand kilometers ahead of us Captain.  A rather large group of enemy fighters are moving to intercept her.  Should I order them to rendezvous with us?"

 Dallas shook her head.  "No they can handle it.  Have them hit the enemy fighters and then break away as fast as possible.  Hit and run tactics for now just to get them shaking a little.  I want the enemy a little nervous before the bigger guns come in."

****

 "There they are," said Conner.

 Seventeen enemy fighters were headed straight towards them.  If the KitHawk wanted to turn and run it could have easily gotten away, but it didn't.  Instead, it only screamed forward to the enemy fighters.  All of its weapons were armed.  They were as ready as ever for a head on fight.  However, they got the orders from SunHawk.  Only hit and run for the time being, which was fine to Grant.  This would confuse the hell out of his opponents, even if it did bend his orders a little.

 "Well Ms. Phoenix, now's the time for you to take this thing to a new level.  Dog fighting, one against many.  All you have to do is keep this thing moving and tactical will use what you give him.  Everyone ready?"  The all responded positive to his question, and Grant went over his plan with the other three.

 In one tight motion, the KitHawk started into a steep dive and then pulled up again as if it were executing a loop.  When it got vertical, the enemy fighter group was already in position and moving to counter.  You can't really make an effective counter maneuver when you don't know what your opponent is doing himself.  The Venomians were caught completely off guard as they presented themselves as a nice clean level plane to the KitHawk's point of view.  A perfect position for them to experience pain while the KitHawk had a little fun at their expense.

 The attack ship opened fire.  It's nose Talon and stabilizer turbo lasers all being aimed at the ships directly or more so in its flight path.  The Talon struck one fighter, obliterated it, and proceeded on through to hit a second fighter and killing it just as efficiently.  The beam also proceeded to slice one fighters wing off like scissors through paper.  The turbo hyper lasers mowed down any fighters missed by the beam, themselves scoring more number of kills.

 It broke through the group to the other side, Fara performing a victory roll to help vent her excitement.  The ship scored a total of nine fighters were destroyed on that run, and their group was split in half up through the center.  The remaining fighters began to scatter as the KitHawk screamed away from them.

 After a good distance, the ship did a ninety degree roll to the right and started to arch its way down, keeping itself lateral to where the group formation was last seen.  The ship pulled up again and started to move towards the enemy fighters for a second run.  Two of them were coming to try and make an attack.  They were torn down by laser fire and the KitHawk went on to catch more prey.

 The second attack run was a little less successful then the first.  The only got five, but that was because they enemy group was a little more scattered now.  However, this effectively reduced the number to three.  The ship didn't bother to form up again.  It simply turned quickly and went to finish off the last three bugs.

 As the last fighter was being destroyed by a bright orange beam, another squad of enemy fighters plus one light carrier were coming into view.  Grant new that they would have to take Dallas's orders a little more seriously now.  No more plowing straight through them.  This would still get their nerves and neurons frying themselves with fear.  Fara moved the ship into position and again they started for a new attack pattern.

 They only took out a few fighters with each attack.  After they did this, they would break off and speed away to a random reforming point for a new attack.  Before the started again, they would check to see if the enemy was not taking the fight to them, and then they would start another attack.  This took longer seeing that there were almost forty fighters to deal with.  After time, the squad was torn down, and the amount of successful hits they scored on SunHawk could be counted on one paw.  The carrier turned around and head back to the cover of its bigger sisters.  No other fighters were sent to try and take out the KitHawk, which got them in a slight disappointment.  However, Grant was still happy.  Fara was doing remarkably well for a first timer.  If she were a pilot on SunHawk, Dallas would have been crazy not to put her in that seat in the first place.

 The KitHawk stopped and held position, keeping a watchful eye on enemy activity.  Behind it, the task force was coming up with a vengeful wrath they were dying to let loose upon the Venom forces who were now nervous enough to be quaking in their shoes.  The level of intimidation was now an important factor.

****

 Fox could see on his sensors that the task force was almost to the enemy fleet.  The really big feat would be starting any minute.  Their job here was done, now it was time to get into the bigger scope of things.  There was no way that Fox was going to miss this fight.

 "All right team," he called out.  "I think we've been playing with these jokers for long enough."  Fox took another look around him.  It was true that Star Wolf was flying exceptionally well tonight, for they were matching every move against Star Fox and were still as strong as when they started.  However, their buddies in arms were suffering a great deal.  Both of the frigates sent to counter them were crippled and over eighty five percent of the fighters here were ash and scorched metal.

 "Form up on my wing and let's go to a bigger party."

 "All right!" cheered Falco as he pulled in behind Fox.  "I hope that Dark Star is ready to crash.  Or more or less be crashed."  The other two formed up into diamond formation and the began to speed away towards where the very huge brawl was a few minutes from starting.

 Behind them, Wolf was calling out to Fox.  "Where are you going you coward?  Are you afraid to face us?  Are you afraid to face death?  At least your father was man enough to accept the fate of his useless life Fox!"

 "You want more pieces of us Star Wolf?" asked Fox.  "Come and get it then.  You always have before, what is stopping you now?  By the way Wolf, think about what coming out her to fulfill your hate might cost you.  Our fleet's about to tango with yours, which means your station is in a lot of trouble.  See ya, and I don't want to be ya."

 Star Fox was out of sight, leaving a pissed off Star Wolf in the dust.  The four of them abandoned the rest and started to speed off towards the sight of the impending battle.  "If Dark Star falls we can kiss our chances for a victory this year or the next goodbye," said Leon.  "Andross is going to be down right pissed if this happens."

 Wolf ignored him.  He knew the effects that would be felt if the station fell.  Quite frankly, he just didn't give a damn.  Even if he had to commit suicide to do it, the McCloud family name was going to die tonight.  He swore it.

****

 "How many?" asked Grand Praetor Brimstone.

 "Six ships in all.  One of them is.....huge.  I've never seen a Cornerian ship like that before.  Its power levels are enormous."

 Brimstone smiled.  "That's the Cornerian's new class of warship.  It's the SunHawk.  And they really out did themselves by building that thing.  If we can destroy it, then the enemy forces might as well hand in their surrender term agreements.  That ship is five times more powerful then anything we have on either side here."

 Brimstone sounded like he was in control, but he was just as nervous as anyone else.  His ship, the Judicator, was starting to roll forward to confront the oncoming Cornerians.  They kept their speed low as to not get ahead of their protectors.  Brimstone knew also that one of their ships towards the front was the one his nephew was serving on.  A brave soul his nephew was, not a whiny sniveling brat like Andross had with Andrew.  He was proud of his nephew and loved him, so it did make him nervous to find out where he was.  His ship, the Xzana Wing, was the point ship for their forces.
 
 
 

Chapter IV

"What do I think of SunHawk?  I think of it as a sign.  A sign that says that we, the non direct units of militia that are not connected to the main Cornerian military, all of us, may soon be out of a job.  They no longer rely solely on us, but I doubt they'll ever just get rid of our employment.  They still need our help in the long run."

-Fox McCloud - Star Fox-
 

 The two forces were fast closing in on each other.  The Cornerians, six ships strong, were looking hard at the Venomian defense force, the bright red light of Oberon shining behind them.  The line they had to cross was a thin icy one, the accumulated hatred both sides had for one another being drawn into one single battle line.  Not a single hook or bend was disturbing that line.  Thus far, no ships crossed yet either from any side.

 Within a few minutes, both forces were within firing distance from one another.  After this, they all just stopped and went on to be silent.  No ship made any more movement or sound.  They got into a waiting game.

 "Captain, a signal is coming in from the Venomian flag ship."

 "Let's see it," said Dallas.  She stood up to meet the Venomian commander face to face.  The screen flickered with a snow and then presented the somewhat distorted image of a goat looking at them with an acid gaze to dissolve their souls.  Dallas stood fast and regarded them just the same.  "We are reading you," she said.  "To whom to I owe the honor."

 "I am Grand Praetor Brimstone of the Venomian Imperial Strike Cruiser Judicator.  You and your fleet are trespassing into Venomian controlled space with an intent for extreme blood shed.  We will allow you to turn around now and leave before you suffer a humiliating and crushing defeat.  If you persist on going then we will open fire and reduce your pathetic offensive to nothing but an attack of flying debris."

 Dallas almost laughed at hearing this.  Some of the things the Venomian goat said sounded minus much intelligence.  Star Fox pulled in and Star Wolf right behind them.  Both stopped and listened to the exchange between the two commanders.  Dallas ignored them and merely smiled as she spoke.

 "You are right Grand Praetor Brimstone.  We have come in here with an intent for extreme blood shed.  We are coming in here with the same extreme blood shed that every Venomian slime ball had when they stormed our homes and or cities."  Her voice was getting angry now.  "We're coming in here with the same blood lust which your insane master used to turn our brothers against us.  We are using the same blood lust which compelled your forces to advance on civilian targets like cowards, bomb innocent children out of their homes, rape and murder our mothers and sisters and daughters, and butcher our people and rob them of everything they ever had.  Only this time, we are not going to plunder or violate or weed out and kill those who do not fight.  We are going for your best military sights like this one, and all we are going to do is destroy.  You all started this war, and we are going to finish it with extreme prejudice."

 Steaming mad, the goat gritted his teeth.  "Very well," he spat.  "You want a war.  We always have it ready and waiting.  Just give me your name so I can remember it when I visit your grave young and brash and foolish young woman."

 "Who am I?" repeated Dallas angrily.  "Who am I!  I'll tell you who I am.  I am the same dark cloud you see when you look out your window on the eve of the darkest and stormiest day come to make your life miserable.  I am the shadow that hides in your subconscious mind to strike out into your nightmares.  I am the wind storm ready to crack your boat in half and send it to the deep six.  I'm the imaginary monster that hides in your closet or under your bed.

 "I am Captain Allison Dallas.  Daughter to Alan and Xenia Dallas, and the commander of the Cornerian War Cruiser SunHawk, the most powerful god damned battle ship in this star system on either side of this war, and I have the best damn crew to come along with it.  I am going to take this ship and all the others against you and turn this entire force into a hurricane.  All of yours will be scrap once I am done.  The firestorm is coming for you Venomian vermin spawn, we are at its control, and it has the golden crest of Corneria forged and branded into it.  We have the wrath of God and the full rage of hell backing us up, and I am going to take a little piece of each and forge it into the hammer which I will use to spike you into your precious space station.  When I am done all the other Venomian ships and troopers will see this ship in their thoughts and their dreams only to dread the day when we come for them too.  They will see us and start to rumble in their own boots.

 "I will tear this station of yours apart at every rivet and every panel of unholy steal as an example that no insane ape can wage war against the Children of Lylat because he has a problem with this who brought justice to him.

 "To put all that into simpler terms, I am the one who's going to kick your ass!"

 She stopped, out of breath and obviously ready for war.  All of the rest of Cornerian forces, even Fox, were rather stunned.  A lot of them started to think she was tripping right now.  But they regarded not as a bad thing.

 Brimstone terminated his link and held his fists tightly.  He almost shocked when he went on to give the next order.  "All ships move forward.  Engage the Cornerian upstarts at will.

 "No mercy."

****

 The Venomian point ship, the Xzana Wing, rolled forward at flank speed towards the Cornerians.  Directly before them was the Cornerian point ship, the Katina, who was moving forward in retribution but not at flank speed.  The Venomian was moving ahead of his back up.  Over extending his lines.

 The first shot of this battle left the Katina's weapon tube.  A torpedo, armed with a quad warhead merf, rocketed forward at high speeds towards the Xzana Wing.  Their interceptor cannons moved and aimed themselves at the torpedo and opened fire.  The small tracer fire from the guns whizzed by the speedy projectile, but none could make a connection.

 The torpedo merf split and the four warheads went their own way.  All four made a solid impact on the Xzana Wing and created a tremendous light which consumed the ship.  It died out but the ship was still there, only it was now burning in a few places.  The Xzana Wing was badly damaged from the attack, and was not going to move for a short time.

 The two fleets started to move in on each other.

****

 Brimstone watched what happened to the Xzana Wing and almost broke down when he saw the light of the nova bombs take it.  He breath with relief when the ship came into view again, still in one piece but badly crippled.  He picked up the communications mike himself.

 "All ships, move forward and attack the enemy.  I don't want to see a single gun silent."  He slammed the mike down and ordered his own ship forward, targeting the nearest ship they could find.

****

 Thousands of small specs were being ejected from the launch bays of every ship in the fleet.  Thousands of fighters on both sides.  The swarm on the side of Venom however looked like a cloud of locusts around their brooding grounds which were their motherships.  The Cornerian fighters looked more like a silvery shimmering field, a celestial group of fighters against a common foe.

 At the front for all the SunHawk fighters was the famous Shadow Squadron.  The seventeen orange Arwings flew carefully and with surgical precision in their operations.  They were aces, all of them.  Perhaps the most elite and deadly force of fighters in the military itself.  Kite looked out at his comrades with pride.  It felt good to be on the offensive for one.

 "All right Shadows," called out the squad leader.  A polar bear with a warm and friendly air around him who was named Ninook.  "We have cloud of fleas right before our eyes.  My screen registers about three thousand seven hundred and forty fighters, give or take one to five.  Let's go on to show them that class can toss numbers out the window any day."

 "Yes," hissed Kite.  Their boosters kicked in and moved forward towards their enemy.  The true point of no return had just been broken.

 The Venomian fighters opened up on the Arwings, drawing first blood.  A storm of laser fire consumed one of the green fighters and turned it into a meteor.  That meteor crashed into an Invader III and destroyed seven other fighters around it too.  The two waves fighters met head on, everyone firing on who they thought to be an enemy.

 Kite blew by enemy fighters, flooring it all the way through the cloud.  He never let off the trigger as he mowed down all who was before him.  A small group of enemy fighters got in behind him.  Kite was never concerned about this.  He hit his boosters and banked hard to the right, doing barrel rolls to deflect their laser fire.  He did a complete U turn and played chicken with the ones attacking him.  A couple of well placed laser shots destroyed the Venomian middle fighter and the others were forced to break off.  Kite flew through the harmless debris and went on to find a new target.

****

 A group of seventeen Venomian gunship bombers were able to push their way through and out of the dog fight zone and started to scream towards the Cornerian task force.  Interceptors and laser batteries were aimed fully at the rushing Invaders, but the pilots stayed far enough out not to get hit by them.  That would soon change, for the one Cornerian destroyer was growing bigger and bigger in their view.

 The bluish tinted warship opened fire at the fighters with everything they had.  All interceptors and laser batteries were laying it out, trying to cut down the attacking fighters before they got in torpedo range.  That was seriously ineffective.  The lasers had extreme difficulty trying to stop something that small and that far out.  However, they never stopped, because they were there which was enough to tell the computer to open fire.

 The lead Venomian pilot put his targeting cursor onto the destroyer and armed his torpedoes.  One nova bomb for each of the seven torpedoes he was carrying.  Couple that with the sixteen other fighters operating here, it would be more then enough to lay the upstart Cornerian fleet to waste if they remained relentless and vigilant in their attacks.  The torpedoes were armed, and the targeting cursor changed to yellow.  A lock was coming up for them.  In a few seconds it would be red which meant that their torpedoes would track their target.  It turned red, but the pilot refrained from firing just yet.

 He got on the line to the other fighters.  "Don't fire until you are at least five thousand kilometers from the target.  That will give them less time to use their interceptors effectively.  After that distance, launch everything you have."  The pilot grinned wickedly at the ship growing larger by the millisecond.  He took a few shots at the destroyer, knowing that it wouldn't be very effective at this range.  But it was something to do while they got closer.

 A blue laser shot by, almost missing his ship.  These fighters have strong shields.  It takes many laser blasts to damage and destroy them, even from an Arwing hyper laser.  The pilot was not worried until an orange flaming and electric sphere whizzed by, a projectile a third the size of his gunship.  A plasma sphere.  Very deadly.  One could destroy his ship and probably half of the others.  The pilot checked the range to see it at six thousand.

 "Close enough," he said.  "Fire all torpedoes now!"

 Each gunship launched two torpedoes at the enemy destroyer.  Two would be enough to destroy it, but there was no telling how many might be taken down by interceptors.  The lead pilot watched as the thirty four smoking projectiles moved forward at hypersonic speeds towards their target.  All interceptor cannons opened up with tracer fire towards the oncoming torpedoes.

 It was no mystery that Corneria had the most advanced tactical systems.  Their interceptor system was pinpoint accurate at under five thousand yards.  The small green lasers from those guns shot out and skewered one of the torpedoes almost as soon as it was launched.  The weapon was destroyed immediately.  Seconds later, a second and third and fourth were taken out.

 The people on board the ship knew that they would not be able to get all of the torpedoes before they got their.  Plus, they were tracking very effectively.  The only way to beat them was to take that strength away.  The ship antennae array pointed towards the torpedoes and started to emit a high energy carrier wave.  A simple counter measure from an everyday object.  The torpedoes' flight paths started to distort, and soon they were flying in different directions.  Most were going harmlessly into space.  Those that were not were taken down easily by interceptors.

 The Venomian pilot saw this and growled with anger.  He had enough and pointed his nose towards the destroyer.  Three other pilots joined him in formation.  The rest might have, but a large cruiser was bearing down on them making a threat of itself.  All but those four broke off and started to back to their own fleet.

 These last four ships ignited their rocket boosters and flew right at the destroyer.  No one saw them coming before it was too late.  At just over five hundred kilometers, there was really not much to do.  The Venomians kept their engines on full as the sped towards the destroyer.  Soon, they were looking at the rivets on the plating.

 Two of those fighters, including the leader, rammed into the side of the destroyer.  They were like hallow point bullets, blowing out the other side of the destroyer.  The third put himself into a thruster, vaporizing himself before seriously damaging the thrust engine.  The last rammed right into the bridge, killing everyone there in an instant.

 Many little explosions flowered out from the hull of the destroyer as it began to swing out of control.  It started to break apart from the inside, a hellish fire was starting to weed out like a virus.  A bright light came out from the ship and blinded everyone from near by.  If sound could travel through space, then a lot of the surrounding ships would have been damaged from a sonic shockwave.  The light died and the destroyer was gone.

 The Venomians, through an act of kamakazi, took the first kill on enemy capitol ships.

 A large Venomian cruiser entered the swarm of brawling fighter jocks about the same time the Cornerians lost their destroyer.  The ship took little damage as it pushed its way through the cloud of metal and energy.  Using its forward shields as a battering ram, it pushed its way through the field like an ice breaker, and came out clean on the other side.

 At once, the crew on the SunHawk saw the black steel cruiser and moved to intercept it.  The enemy began to open fire on the fleet, trying to get damage to any ship it could.  Like the fighters, this was a suicide run against the enemy.  Do as much damage as you can and you'll make the dismantling job later all the more simpler.  If they lost anymore ships before they got to the station, chances of victory would be slim.

 At once, the bow Talon was brought online and aimed at the oncoming cruiser.  All other weapon batteries were brought to it as well, ready to fire.  The cruiser was already being slammed by two older Cornerian frigates who would not be a match for it on their own, even two on one.  Just a softening up before a larger strike.

 The SunHawk opened fire on the Venomian.  At first, only a tempest of laser and plasma shots, all of them pelted the enemy shields and hull like a rock storm.  The nose flared a bright orange and a thick orange beam shot forth and impacted in the Venomian bow.  The entire forward section was obliterated, and the ship started to fall down.  The SunHawk fired again which caught the enemy in the back, and it started to fall apart.  The fleet went right past it, paying the dead steal ship no mind.

 At last, with the fighters swarming and fighting all around them, the ships of both sides were now at each others throats.  A Cornerian frigate, the Instigator, found itself right before the most powerful of the Venomian warships.  The Judicator.

 A ferocious melee erupted between the two ships.  Praetor Brimstone was yelling loudly as his ship fought with the Cornerian.  The Instigator was throwing everything it had at the Venomian commander ship, using lasers and plasma spheres and missiles.  But the enemy was twice its size, and was pummeling it with the red beams of the particle cannons.  Those beams tore into the hull of the frigate quite easily.

 However, the Instigator was not dead yet.  The ship fired one single torpedo at the Judicator, which failed to be stopped by countermeasures of any kind.  The warhead was just standard explosive, but it did rock the Judicator a bit.  The relentless attack continued, and Brimstone found himself grinning horribly as the enemy ship began to exploded into oblivion.  The score was now two to zero, Venom.  And Venom had a eight ship curve advantage over Corneria.

 Captain Dallas watched the death of the Instigator.  She sighed heavily, knowing that they only had four ships to work with now.  She was very much worried, but it was too late to turn back now.  Behind her, Amerce was shaking his head in both disappointment and sadness.  He was considering this a waste of good people, which is precisely what he thought about the whole war in the first place.

 "Continue forward," ordered Dallas.

 "With pleasure sir," returned the helmsman.  Their manpower was slowly dying, but their spirits were those of gods in battle.  They would not quit.

****

 They were gone, somewhere in that huge mass of rookies and glory seekers.  Wolf had lost track of Fox for almost an hour, and searching for him now would be a needle in a hay stack.  Wolf decided to let it go for now and do what he could to defend this station.  Leon, Pigma, and Andrew all stayed close to him as the entered the blood fest and took the fight to the Cornerians.

 Already, Wolf had counted twenty kills on enemy fighters.  This was much too similar to a turkey shoot for him.  Pilots who confronted them directly were shot down just as quickly by him or a wingman.  Wolf was having fun against these first time fliers.  Terminating the weak.  Executing the ones who would never become strong even though he was striking down every Cornerian fighter he saw.  Still, the one eyed monster was enjoying himself in killing the enemy.  But he never stopped looking for Fox.

 A distance before them was a group of Arwing fighters.  Wolf looked to see them in case it was Star Fox, but it wasn't.  There were about twelve fighters there and they were all painted orange instead of blue like Star Fox.  Still, these orange pilots were good.  Wolf engaged his engines and moved in closer for a better look.

 When he got closer, he saw that these were fighters from the SunHawk.  A dark shape of a ghost or something painted on the side showed them to be Shadow Squadron, the aces from the SunHawk.  This, to all of Star Wolf, was as good of practice as they were going to find.  Wolf started to move towards them, recharging his lasers, and the other three formed up behind him.  Time for more fun, thought Wolf to himself.

 "Watch it Bob you got some from above," yelled Ninook the Shadow Squadron leader.

 "I got them Shadow leader.  Five Invaders III jets."  The pilot hit his brakes and pulled up, opening fire on the swooping jets.  He caught three with his blasters, one of which crashed into another Invader, killing them both.  "Threat neutralized," he announced.

 "Great job."  Ninook caught a warning light on his radar and looked out his window to the relative sight where the threat was.  Four Wolfen heavy fighters coming at them.  "Heads up Shadows.  Star Wolf at three o'clock high and coming in.  Engage at will."

 At the sound that Star Wolf had entered the area, Kite McCane dropped his current chase and went to where they were coming from.  There was someone there he was dying to get reacquainted with.  Kite found the four Arwings and almost flamed out his engines because he hit his booster ignition so high.

 Kite covered the distance to Star Wolf in a second, and at once tried to pick the Wolfen he thought was the one he wanted.  It was a random flip of the coin choice between the two wings, but he made it and opened fire.

 "Hey!" yelled Andrew as he got knocked around by Hyper lasers.  An orange Arwing skimmed space right over his canopy.  "Whoever you are, no one hurts the nephew of Andross and lives!"

 At once, Pigma turned around and head after the naive fighter pilot.  "You think Andross'll give me a bonus for bringing this guy in?"

 "Probably," said Andrew.  "But I get a piece of him too.  Don't kill him Pigma, I want that pleasure for me."

 "All right," said Pigma.  "I'll cripple him and you can kill him."

 "You'll have to catch me first Porky," said a voice.  Pigma's jaw dropped in surprise and shock when he heard that voice.  Someone from the old days before he turned traitor.  Pigma thought he had just heard the voice of a ghost, and one that he hated too.  Someone from the original Star Fox.

 "Kite?" he asked in disbelief.  "Kite McCane?  You...you're still alive?"

 "And kicking," continued Kite.  He pulled his Arwing up hard and pointed his ship straight at Pigma's.  "I've been waiting for five years to do this you fat pork chop.  James McCloud and Peppy were like fathers to me.  To see how you stabbed them in the back on Venom was a stab in my back too.  For that, I am going to smoke you."

 "You abandoned us duck man!" squealed Pigma.  "You left the group so you could go off and pursue your own little dip stick career.  What's more, you were ten times the little wise ass creep that I ever was.  I think you left because I was on the verge of going better then you.  So you left, like the snot nosed feather head you were."

 Behind Pigma, Wolf and the others were shocked to find out that there was once a fourth member of the original Star Fox team.  Wolf was wanting to kill him because as long as there were parts of Star Fox out there, then the McCloud family name would live on.  Leon was thinking how typical it was.  It would not be Star Fox if they didn't have a scum sucking avian bastard to fly with them just like Falco.

 "Well guess what Mr. Piggy," taunted Kite.  "You want to prove that you are a better pilot then I am?  You want a piece of me.  Fine.  You and me Pigma, solo one on one dogfight.  I've been waiting for this for a long time, and now it's time for a cash in."  Kite flew off out of the fight to a quiet area where he stopped.  "Come and get some of this you fat piece of stinky bio waste."

 Pigma cracked his knuckles, always ready to settle old scores.  "Hey Andrew.  Sorry, but I lied when I said I would let you kill him.  This ducky is all mine."  Pigma flew after Kite, his weapons on full and his blood running high with adrenaline.  In front of him, Kite nailed his boosters and flew straight towards Pigma, locking them both into a nasty game of chicken.  "All right!" Pigma yelled.  "Bring it on!"

 At once they were in range, the two started to shoot at each other.  Both ships were hammered hard by laser fire, but the Arwing used the G diffuser to deflect many of the shots.  The Wolfens had not such thing yet, so Pigma took a lot of pain.  He yanked up hard and let Kite win this game.  He did a wide loop and came down hard looking for Kite, who was no where to be seen.

 Pigma looked around frantically for his enemy, trying to remain calm.  They didn't call them Shadow Squad just because it sounded cool.. They had a terrible tendency to sort of disappear and attack out of no where.  Kite did that, coming up at Pigma from below.

 "Allow me to introduce you to the philosophy of Shadow Pigma.  It's best described as the technique where you don't know what ever hit you before you wake up in a hospital bed.  Only for you there will be no hospital involved when you wake up.  Only fire and brimstone and little red men jabbing you with red hot stickers."

 Pigma gritted his teeth with a nervous feeling when Kite disappeared again.  You think it would be easy to spot a bright orange colored Arwing in the light of Solar and the glow of Oberon right next to them.  But Pigma could only see space.  That was when he thought about Oberon itself and realized it.  He turned his ship around towards the planet and opened fire towards it.

 A glinting movement was seen in an orange hue of the planet and the Arwing revealed itself.  "I was wondering when you would figure it out," said Kite.

 "I never considered you as the type to hide out and attack when you're not looking Kite.  You were always a stand up fighter back under James and Peppy.  You have became a little afraid of little ol'e me over the years to do something like that, haven't you?"

 "Not really," said Kite in a playful like tone.  "I was just enjoying myself to see you sweat a little.  You want a standup dog fight now?  Good enough for me.  I'm at your nine, moving alongside you."

 Pigma followed his gaze to see the Arwing with Kite inside it moving side by side from each other.  Kite sat in his cockpit with a wolfish expression as he looked at Pigma.  He still had the same face as before, thought Pigma.  The same gray plumage, reddish feathers and long yellow bill you could land these fighters on.  Pigma snorted loudly as he pulled out away from the duck.

 Kite knew that Pigma made a mistake in that.  Pull away from him like that to leave your tail open for a chase.  Kite moved in behind Pigma and started to fire, giving everything he had into shooting the hog down out of space.  Pigma felt his ship being rocked by the relentless laser onslaught.  Soon, he saw that his engines were shot and not working.  Kite had won.

 "You can't do this to me!" screamed Pigma.  "I'm a better pilot then you are Kite!  How can I be down and you not."

 Kite nodded something to himself, making a decision about the other person's fate he held in his palm.  "Maybe you are and maybe you aren't," said Kite.  "The obvious thing is that you are a lot stupider pilot then me.  It isn't just skills to make up a good warrior for the skies Pigma.  I'll let you hang around here thinking about that.  One more thing Pigma.  You lose."

 Kite turned around and rocketed off back into the fight.  At this distance, it looked like a thousands of fighters making a particle cloud around its adults.  Kit did not look back towards Pigma as he moved away.  He got more satisfaction just by leaving him out there dead in space.  Sure someone would come around and pick him up.  But that wasn't Kite's problem anymore.

 Behind him, Pigma was screaming and yelling at anyone to come and get him.  It was nothing serious, the situation he was in.  The Wolfen life support system could last for over seventeen days.  Yet, he was annoyed and pissed enough to scream and yell at his comrades to help him out.  No one came, they were all busy on their own.  After time, Pigma stopped yelling and throwing a tantrum and just started to grumble.  He really hated just sitting here on the sidelines with an injury while blood of Cornerians was being shed.  What was worse, he had eaten his last rations packet over thirty minutes ago.  Pigma started to throw another tantrum.

 Kite found himself in somewhat of a nasty predicament when he reentered the melee.  He got himself sandwiched between two heavy cruisers, both of which were shooting at him and many fighters were coming in from all sides, boxing him into a trap.  Kite remained cool and targeted the fighter in front of him.  He didn't aim at a vital system though.  When he fired, the wings to the enemy fighter were clipped off, and it went into a super speed tailspin.  Kite fired again which tossed the rotating corkscrew into one of the cruisers.  Kite reappeared from the box and flew on, looking for the rest of Shadow Squadron to regroup with them.

 Kite looked around and soon found his wingman.  While he searched, he saw that this fight was growing bloodier with every move on each side.  The battle area had spread out greatly instead of one cloud.  Now it was a gigantic field filled with, typically, fire, blood, and pain.  There was one good thing though.  The battle area was flowing more and more towards Dark Star.

****

 It was so bloody and violent, it was incredible.  Brimstone watched the battle unfold before his eyes.  Every action had a consequence to it, and every move was met with an equally effective counter move.  Brimstone was starting to wonder if this battle would end up a stalemate, which would be a victory for them. The Cornerians had to get past this fleet to get to the station.  The only way they were getting past it was to destroy all of them.

 The best way to eliminate the chances of an enemy victory was to cripple their moral spirit.  The most effective way to do that was destroy their command ship.  In this case, it was the SunHawk.  The war cruiser was directly in front of them, using all of her weapons against the fighters and ships poised around it.  Brimstone watched as the large plasma spheres launched from her impacted on one of his corvettes and melted it through.  The ship then exploded.

 There was no doubt that Brimstone was impressed with the ship.  If he could take it, then he knew that he would get a lord title from Andross, or at least something higher then Grand Praetor.  He ordered them to head for SunHawk and to save all weapons except defense grid guns.  The crew thought he was crazy to take them in a direct confrontation with the SunHawk.  They were all intimidated by the brooding warship.  But they all knew better then to question their superior commander and lord of these parts.  The helmsman did as he was told.

 The red fiery engines of the Judicator lit up brightly and the ship began to move forward.  All but their interceptors and a few laser batteries were silenced to conserve power.  They would need all of it to confront the enemy ship.

 The Judicator started in a flanking position against SunHawk at first.  The Cornerian saw them coming but did nothing to move out of the way or turn to face them.  At this angle, they wouldn't be able to use the Talons against them, but they had plenty more then those to play with.

 The Judicator quickly got into range and launched a series of missiles at the bigger ship.  These were followed by the firing of over thirty dual hyper laser turrets at turbo velocity and the energy build up of two large particle cannons.  This amount of fire power being launched would have turned a normal ship into a flying block of white cheese.

 The missiles were all cut down short by interceptors and other counter measures.  Their shields absorbed the laser fire to a great extent.  The particle cannons fired and struck the side of the SunHawk.  The people inside it were shaken by the hit, but nothing serious.  The beam only left a scratch like burn along the hull.  There was no penetration to the inside.

 Brimstone gritted his teeth when he saw this.  That had to be at least a Grade Four shield, strong enough to withstand a nuclear fusion blast at medium range.  He ordered them to keep firing until he saw them start to burn, but their second volley never got to leave the ship.

 The SunHawk fired a series of its own missiles followed by more hyper turrets and ion cannons then what the Judicator had, and more powerful and with a faster firing rate too.  Their missiles were smaller and faster and more numerous, with just as much fire power.  What Corneria lacked and suffered in loss and lack of manpower and inability to train quickly they barely made up for in a technology curve.  Almost all of their systems were more advanced then what Venom had.  The SunHawk also used their triple A Talons to add to the damage, but they didn't deviate from the fighters around it.

 The interceptors on Judicator could not keep up with the many missiles.  They got about half, but the rest got inside the optimum killing fields to the defense grid.  The missiles struck the shields of the vessel and exploded greatly, severely weakening the ship with each hit.  After about seven of the twenty that survived, the shields failed.  The missiles the burrowed into the hull and detonated on the inside.  Massive chunks of ship were tossed into space consumed by the liquid likeness of fire in zero gravity.  These with the hits of the laser shots and the ion blasts put some mean scars on the Judicator.  The ship was tossed violently upward and began to roll to the side.

 Brimstone was knocked off his feet by the explosions of the missiles into his ship.  When he landed, his head hit the floor, causing him to daze for a few moments.  He tried to get up but couldn't.  With the ship beginning to roll, gravity was increasing exponentially, and he felt himself getting heavier.

 At once he ordered a cut to main gravity, which was done.  All of the people started to grow lighter, now safe from being crushed by themselves from their own gravity.  They rotation was enough to create gravity on its own, but it was still pretty light.  The ship was slowly picking up velocity, and soon they would be at full G and beyond.  Brimstone and his crew went on to fight to get the ship back into stable position.

 Brimstone's plan backfired severely on him.  He wanted to destroy the Cornerian flag ship to cripple their moral.  When the other Venomians saw the Judicator fall to its knees, they all slowed down.  In one second, the tide of the battle turned drastically.

 A wave of Cornerian fighters which regrouped behind their motherships flew  forward and launched a giant volley of missiles and torpedoes at the enemy fleet.  Hundreds, almost thousands of projectiles flying, leaving a cloud of smoke behind them.  Missiles armed with plain explosives struck fighters, blowing them and their friends to hell.  Fighters and bombers plenty fell downward out of the battle field, flaming and smoking.  It was like a gas bomb had been set off in a room full of flies, all of them falling down after dying.

 The torpedoes with full powered nova bombs exploded in mid space and destroyed multiple fighters around them, adding to the falling flies.  Those that did not detonate just yet locked onto a ship or more fighters.  The first torpedo found a light Venom frigate and changed course to it.  The frigate never saw the weapon coming, no counter measures were used.  It split up tossed the three nova bomb warheads towards the ship.

 All of the bombs made their mark.  The frigate was lit up like a star, its forward section being vaporized by the bright flares of the bombs.  The remnants of the derelict ship slowly sank out of the scene and into deeper oblivion.  Three more enemy ships were destroyed and two were seriously crippled.  Well over half of the Venomian fighter swarm was wiped out.  Things were looking more even in standards of numbers.

 The crippled Venomian space ships would not have been threatened.  However, one well placed orange beam from SunHawk, one for each, destroyed the two dead ships.  Everyone but a few on Corneria's side saw this as a cold blooded move.  A few wondered what Captain Dallas was thinking when she did that.

 "Was that necessary?" asked Amerce.  "Those ships were dead, no longer a threat.  We didn't need to blow them up when they were already down and bleeding to death.  Why did you do that?"

 Dallas turned to him in anger.  "Don't question my motives," she growled.  "I cannot allow anyone of these Venomian pigs to survive.  No one won a war by being merciful, and I am not about to start now."

 The middle aged dog looked at the female husky with a tint of fear.  He backed away from her, not willing to get into a bigger fight with someone who was possessed by war.  Which, at least in his views, she was.  He made a mental note to put this action of hers and her state of behavior after it down in his report to Priority One back home.  Amerce looked to Kesh who paid no attention to Captain Dallas's behavior.  Yet, she too was wondering a little.

 The SunHawk bridge jumped a little bit, throwing the people off balance.  Dallas stumbled and fell into Amerce, who helped her back to her feet.  Another rocking and Kesh fell to the floor.  Dallas started to growl after a third tremor as she got up from her second fall.

 "There's a Venomian destroyer coming up right behind us," announced the tactical officer.  "There starting to fire more missiles."

 "That's the Xzana Wing Captain," explained Kesh.  "Sensors show that she's been damaged.  We can outrun her and get out of range."

 Dallas shook her head and sat in the command chair.  "Negative," she said.  "Bring us about and bring the forward Talon to full power."  Kesh swallowed, a little nervous at this.  Was Captain Dallas letting this battle get to her?  Was it her father or was it something else, like her overzealous strive to win?  Kesh did not speak and only went about her duties.  The Captain's motives were her own to keep.

 The SunHawk turn thrusters on the side of the forward hull fired and the ship began to turn.  Another thruster on the wing ignited and the ship turned faster.  She spun on an axis and brought its nose to bear on the enemy ship firing at its back.  The Xzana Wing launched more missiles, but they were all taken down by the SunHawk counter measures.

 From the Judicator, still slowing its out of control rotation, Praetor Brimstone watched as the behemoth cruiser pointed itself at his nephew's ship, and the old goat swallowed in nervous knot at his stomach.  He knew what was going to happen if he didn't do something.

 "Get to the Xzana Wing!" he yelled out.  "Tell them to back off now!  Tell them to disengage from that ship and fall back out of the fight right now!"  He was starting to tear as he ran forward and grabbed the communications officer by the shirt collar and hoisted him up.  "Damn it!  Do it!"

 "I can't" bawled the communicator.  "The communications system has been shot to hell.  We can only receive and only transmit."

 "Then fix it right now!" screamed Brimstone.  "Right now or you're going to swim out of the nearest air lock.  I swear to the all mighty I'll..."

 "Captain," said another crew member.

 Brimstone turned to the view screen and watched.

 A bright light from the nose ignited and then shot out into a thin beam of bright light.  The surface of fire into a beam of light.  The Talon laser struck the Venom destroyer between its only two thrusters.  The beam was brought down right along the running length of the ship, burning into its surface and clean out the other side as it cooked its way through the entire body.  Those ones who caught the beam on the inside were the lucky ones, incinerated at once by the energy that the bone was missing.  Everyone else were caught by the vacuums of space.

 The Talon continued on through the long ship until it reached the bridge module and sliced through it too.  After a few tens of meters outside the ship, the beam stopped.  The Xzana Wing, flame coming out of the reddish flaming torch like cut running down its length.  Flames poured out of this line as the ship halves separated, and soon it died.  The two halves slowly drifted away, the heat of the beam still made the new edges glow with red.  Many bodies after being spaced were floating around.  The only debris was the loose stuff inside and the two perfect halves of a Venomian destroyer.

 Brimstone half choked on his own tongue when he saw that ship be destroyed so brutally.  The SunHawk was already turning back around and joining the rest of the task force.  The old goat dropped his head to the deck and slowly started to weep over his lost family member.  The rest of the crew started to ferry themselves out of the bridge to let the Praetor let his grief be shed.  More then anything, they wanted to get a head start.  Once he stopped crying, Brimstone would go on a rampage through the ship to take out his anger on his crew.  People would die...

****

 Everything changed when the Judicator was disabled and fell out of the fight.  All of the Venomian forces just lost heart and stopped fighting with their souls.  Seeing their leader fall so easily to a massive opponent just made them think whether it was worth it or not.  However, when the witnessed the unprecedented power of the SunHawk at its best, on how it sliced the Xzana Wing straight down the middle into two pieces, they were driven to the acid pool of panic.  They were now testing it with their toes, and another push would make them go in.

 This was pretty much all of those Venomian pilots, soldiers, and crew members.  The SunHawk along with the other ships and the deadly Arwing and Green fighters coming at them.  The Venomian fleet was falling back to the station.  There, they would use its powerful defense grid to help them in battle.  True, this would mean that their initial task to keep the Cornerians from the station at all costs would fail, but as long as the station survived, they were all right.

 Wolf O'Donnell and the rest of Star Wolf were probably the only ones who were not letting what happened to the Xzana Wing get to the them.  True the power of the new Cornerian ship was extremely intimidating and impressive, but they didn't care about it.  All they cared about was Star Fox and killing them.

 In truth there was something which bothered Wolf himself about SunHawk.  More specifically, her commander.  When Captain Dallas made her little speech to the Venom forces, she said something which caught Wolf's attention.  He was not sure, but he did have a slight feeling.  Right now was not the time to find out though, for they were still heavy at work.

 Star Wolf's situation looked no more grim then the start of the fight.  They were still making a nightmare out of themselves towards the Cornerian fighters.  All except Star Fox, who they have not faced since the battle started, and to a few squadrons from the SunHawk.  Especially Shadow Squadron.  Pigma was still hanging out to dry back away from them, the Cornerian fleet was between them and him.  As much as he thought against it, Wolf knew that he would have to go get the porker before they left here.

 Wolf and Leon broke away from the group when a trio of Cornerian Green fighters opened up on them.  Andrew took a few hits because he wasn't quick enough, but he soon got in position himself and launched a lethal counter attack.  Wolf had to admit that even the bratty spoiled twit could bust some skulls at times.  It was a shame he had to get angry before he did though.  Wolf himself and Leon toyed with the last fighter as the slowly picked it apart.  They both grinned when the heard the panicky screams of a female pilot just before it blew up.

 "That was yours," said Wolf to his friend.

 "Damn right it was mine," said the icy chameleon.

 The two of them laughed and joked about it as they took out other fighters that had come.  After this was done, Wolf went on to watch the fight go on in silence.  The more the fighting went on, the more it looked like their side was going to lose.  The fleet was losing to the Cornerians very much now.

 Wolf and Leon watched as two small Cornerian vessels double teamed on of their cruisers and took it down.  The way that ship died was so violent.  Exploding at the extremities and then the body.  It didn't really blow up.  It just fell apart into a few large chunks that looked like they never belonged to a space warship before.  Just more debris to the already vast and bloody ocean of the remnants of war.  Wolf always got off at looking at the aftermath of a big fight.  This was going to be especially fun.

 The one eye growled when a large ship zoomed over their heads at incalculable speeds.  Wolf's jaw dropped when he saw it.  The same ship he saw a month ago when he tried to get data on the SunHawk from a traitor.  That ship killed that person and took away their chance to destroy the SunHawk.  That was the same day that they were...confronted by the black rogue Wolf.

 That ship was too fast for him to pursue it.  He could only watch as it made an attack run on one of their ships.  A large cruiser, a non modified class that was the same as Judicator.  The smaller attack ship sped at the ship and fired an orange beam at it, which sliced into the hull of the ship.  Laser blasts also took their toll on that ship.

 Their view of this was interrupted when more enemy fighters tried to pick something with them.  The three of them took them down fast and continued to watch the attack ship in action.  Wolf knew that they should be in there helping that ship, but he decided that he wanted to observe this new Cornerian weapon fight to see closer how it moved and operated.

 The ship was just finishing its second attack run on the cruiser.  A lot of it was on fire now, but it was still going strong, sort of.  No fire was coming from that ship as a return.  It was trying to get away from its pint sized attacker.  No distress call was being made either.  Whoever was piloting that ship was smart.  They took out their weapons and communications with those two passes.  Very smooth.

 The third attack run was starting now.  The cruiser was able to get a few of their laser batteries up and running.  Red energy bolts were being tossed at the littler ship, which struck an energy shield, not slowing the ship down at all.  Wolf watched the orange beam shoot out again, this time it hit the enemy ship hard in the bridge, creating a mushroom explosion.  That ship fell out of control, it was out of the picture and the attacker moved off to find a new target.

 Wolf was impressed.  That ship was like the SunHawk cut down to size.  He put it on himself to try and find out more on that ship later.  He did have a bone to pick with it, but he still wanted to learn about them.  He never gave that privilege to Star Fox save to figure their moves.

 A distress call came to Wolf and Leon.  One of the Invader III/Borzoi squadrons had come under attack from a group of orange Arwings who were attack them from out of no where.

 This reminded Wolf about Shadow Squadron.  He and the other moved off to that area at top speed to try and engage those boys again.  They were good, damn good, whoever they are.

 But the way they fought.  They way that Kite person fought Pigma back there.  They way he disappeared by using the Oberon planet surface as a camouflage or whatever.  That's how those boys fought.  They could not be tracked through thermals, and at times they seamed to vanish off of radar.  It was so weird because they were unseen from visual perceptions sometimes as well.  They then seemed to come out of nowhere and hit their enemy hard and fast, most likely destroying them with one strike.

 This tactic was enough to make even Leon shiver.  Ninjitsu in dogfighting?  He had seen so many things in his life.  Some of them mysterious and strange and puzzling.  Yet, even he never saw tactics like these being used by fighter pilots.  He had no idea how they did it, he just knew that it meant they would have to be a little more careful.  These Shadow boys, perfectly named in every aspect, were a force to be respected and reckoned with.

 The three of them engaged their engines to the maximum limit, pouring it in to get to the Shadows more quickly.  They were at the source sight of the distress signal in a minute, but what they saw shocked them.

 There was nothing but debris from over thirty fighters, strewn out and smoldering.  Andrew swallowed nervously, a little afraid about what he was looking at.  The call was only two minutes old, and this was here and this only.  Destruction of thirty fighters in two minutes was something that Wolf only saw in Star Fox.  Corneria had new players in dog fighting around.

 A little bored now, Wolf started to vector in on the Cornerian flotilla.  He and the other two were moving at top speed to that area.  Maybe they would get a few licks into the SunHawk or anything.  Wolf was still not above keeping an eye out for Star Fox though.  They would cross his path sooner or later.
 
 
 

Chapter V

"Not even the light of the sun can banish the evils which plague our existence.  Nevertheless, we huddle in the darkness and pray for the new dawn..."

-Unknown Quote-
 

 "There it is," said Fara.

 Grant and Conner looked to the screen.  Sure enough, there it was.  Dark Star space station.  It was as huge as it was black, which was enough to make it invisible if space was behind it instead of Oberon.  It rotated rather hastily, but since it was so big it looked slow.  The station was made of three platforms around a main body that was like a giant top.  Around that top were spires or objects that were better described as spines.  Five projections around the top and five more around the bottom, all ten remaining symmetrical with its opposite.

 The three platforms were cut diamond shaped flat surfaces which were connected onto the main body.  There was a large fighter bay in each of these three platforms, and three more smaller ones in the main body.  Those were probably cargo bays.  At the bottom of the main body was a spherical dome, a smooth and glossy black surface on it.  This dome rotated the opposite direction the rest of the station did.

 If put in a circle to surround it completely, and if the platforms were touching that circle, then it would be over two kilometers in diameter and the appropriate length in circumference with its formula.  Even from this distance, Fara could see the large gun decks rotating every vigilant on to skewer enemy intruders.

 She swallowed softly as she figured the best attack run on that station.  Fara was no stranger to this.  She helped Fox plan attacks.  The few she planned for him herself came out brilliant and perfect accomplishments.  Fara was a great mind for planning war, even though she was the last person in the universe to admit it.  It was not a title she was justly proud of.

 "I'm ready when everyone else is," she announced.

 "Mind if we tag along?" asked a new voice.  Two squadrons of friendly fighters, one of Arwings from the SunHawk, not Shadow Squadron, and the other Green fighters.  "Even you guys will need help."

 Grant was contemplating whether to wait for the fleet to get here.  No, that might be a while.  This was a perfect chance for them to soften the station up before the bigger mothers arrived.  Grant wanted first blood on that station anyway.  He opened a channel to the fellow fighters.

 "This is KitHawk," he said.  "Come along if you want.  Remember, hit hard and hit fast and get out just as quick.  We will lose more lives in this fight before the night's over, but let's keep the numbers down a little bit as much we can."

 "Ten four KitHawk," said the fighter leader.  "By all means, after you."

 Grant nodded to Fara.  The KitHawk fired her engines and started to roll towards the station.  Soon, the ship was at full speed and it was opening distance from the fighters behind it.  The station was growing bigger with every second.  At once it moved, the three guarding carriers saw the KitHawk and launched fighters.  The station launched fighters as well, what was left of them.

 Much of the Dark Star fighter defense was lost already.  Some of it was taken when they sent some of their fighters to decoy the fleet into their own one sided ambush.  That failed and not a single fighter was killed.  Now, two more squadrons were lost in the fight now.  All they had left was half of the first one.  The commander on Dark Star knew that a little number of fighter defense is better then nothing at all, so he launched them.  All of them.

 All of the stations guns and rocket launchers were pointed towards the oncoming ships.  Interceptor batteries were at their full as well.  The station was going to defend itself, even when it didn't count on it happening.  However, they took time to prepare for little setbacks like these.

 The small wave of Venomian fighters reached the KitHawk.  But the attack ship let it out first.  A large firing of its turbo lasers, the KitHawk took down many fighters like grass under a mower.  The rest brook off to try and turn around to pursue it, which were nailed hard by the following fighters.  The KitHawk pressed on and brought its target light to the station.

 The station opened fire with all of its guns against the ship.  Their laser batteries were stronger then usual.  A little more disruptive to their targets.  Plus, their targeting was more accurate then most others, for much of those shots were connecting onto KitHawk.  The ship was shaken a little by those hits, but nothing serious.  Around them, the fighters were having a more difficult time.  One of them took a dead on hit from those lasers and was crushed by its own forward velocity and demolished itself.  The effect was terrible but extraordinary at the same time.

 The KitHawk opened fire onto the station.  The turbo lasers shot out and made small marks onto the surface of the platform before it.  The Talon beam sliced through and struck the same spot, creating a burn on the surface but nothing more.  Grant knew that it would take a lot before they started to do real damage to that ship.  It had a level seven shield, which was greater the SunHawk's.

 A large gun docked onto the main battery started to swivel towards the KitHawk.  The gun was pretty big, but it moved slow for a gun battery.  It did get into a firing position onto the KitHawk.  There, a green glob of energy was slowly being built up as the KitHawk continued forward, shooting its Talon at the second platform before it.  When it was big enough, the energy ball was let loose.

 The warning light sounded for KitHawk, warning them that a target lock was being put on them.  Then a high pitch sound told them that a lock had been acquired.  Grant ordered for evasive action, and Fara took the ship  up away from the station and started to weave and zig at high speeds.

 It was too late for that.  That lock had already been established, and the plasma sphere flew.  This was no ordinary plasma sphere though.  It was a lot bigger and much faster, and its guidance system was pinpoint.  The sphere flew up hard and hunted for the KitHawk, and found it.  Fara did her best to try and evade the shot, but the sphere came and impacted on them hard.

 The KitHawk was thrown from the hit, spiraling out of control into space.  Fara was tossed from her seat like a rag doll and would have fallen into the bulk head if Conner was not there to catch her.  He pushed the vixen back to the pilot seat where she got back to at once and fought to regain helm control.  Soon, the ship stopped spinning and Conner was checking for damage.

 "That weapon took seventy percent out of our shields.  I am reading some damage into our life support.  Nothing serious but we will have to get back to SunHawk within the next seven hours or we might as well space ourselves."  Fara swallowed nervously, now realizing the power of that plasma cannon.

 "Uh, guys," said the tac-officer.  "Our fighters."  They all looked to see the forty plus fighters start their strafing and attack runs on the station.  Missiles were fired, numbering in the near hundreds.  The station's interceptors took the missiles as best it could, which was well good enough.  The tracer fire from the cannons were like hail onto the missiles, hail that destroyed.  Every missile caught in the storm was shredded down to nothing.

 Only a handful of the missiles fired made it through.  They impacted onto the station and created bright explosions.  One of the missiles was armed with a nova bomb, and the resulting flash shook the inhabitants of the station.  The KitHawk tac-officer checked to see that the station's shields were almost drained.  It seemed they were not very effective against Nova bombs.

 However, that attack was very costly.  One of the fighters, an Arwing, was strafing one of the platforms, moving in patterns not to get hit.  However, one of the laser turrets caught it in the stabilizer and created a disastrous explosion.  The ship was thrown into a large group of green fighters, where it collided with one towards the front.  The collision created a large bright fire ball, where fighters at the back of the flew into it in dire panic where they were incinerated in seconds.  With one move, the station defenses killed fifteen separate fighters.

 It didn't stop there either.  Many of the other fighters, most of them Arwings, were caught and mowed down by station laser cannons and missile turrets.  When the attack run ended, barely a third of the total fighters involved made it out, and the KitHawk was still suffering damage.

 The remaining ships flew away from the station and began to rethink for a second run.  They did soften them up, that was for sure.  Their shields were taken down by a single nova bomb, but they still had little damage to it.  If they started another run, they would be able to take out a few of those batteries and turrets mounted there, which would make it easier for others to attack it.

 "See what happens when you don't wait for friends before starting a party.  You fall down hard because you are not prepared."  Fara smiled at the sound of Fox's voice.  Grant made no expression, but he did stand up.

 "We could sure use your help attacking that station Star Fox," he said.

 "You got it.  We're ready whenever you are."

 "Don't tell us that you're going to crash a party without us are you?" said Kite McCane.  They all looked to see Shadow Squadron enter the area.  Grant smiled at this, feeling that he had a new light with Star Fox and Shadow squadron at their disposal.

 "By the way Fox," said Kite.  "I took care of a problem that involved one little piggy."

 Fox grinned, happy that Kite and Pigma were able to settle a score after so many years.

 "All ships, vector in on that station and try to take out as many gun and missile ports as possible," briefed Grant.  "The main targets are the plasma cannons on the main station body.  They pack one hell of a wallop so be careful."

 The smaller fleet started to move in on the station.  At once, the batteries on Dark Star moved and began to fire on their attackers.  A huge plasma sphere was launched and began to roll forward towards the fighters.  Fox saw the energy ball hurling towards them and opened fire with his lasers on it.  The lasers struck the sphere and it slowly broke up into nothing.  Grant smiled at this, wishing he would have known that before their ship was hit by one.

 Shadow Squad were the first to arrive.  At once they launched numerous missiles towards the station, all targeted for any gun batteries they could find.  This would be difficult and tedious since there were over two hundred different ports to choose from.  The missiles were again mowed down with interceptors, but these newer missiles were harder to track.  About half of them got past the kill zone and struck hard on different turrets.  The plasma guns were taken down, only one of the total five of them survived.  Twenty of the laser turrets were destroyed, and many interceptor batteries were put out of commission.

 Nest came Star Fox who stayed with normal lasers as the strafed the hull.  Slippy found a whole line of missile turrets on one platform and started to shoot as he sped along their line.  One turret exploded after the other from the toad's attack.  He pulled away mighty proud of himself.

 Peppy and Falco dodged a series of missiles and took down more batteries and turrets with their strafing run.  Fox himself targeted the last remaining plasma cannon and let a single energy sphere fly.  The ball homed in on the gun and struck hard on it, creating a plasma explosion.  The stations defenses were slowly being routed out by these fighters.  Fox, satisfied that their heavy hitting weapons were dead, pulled away from the station and moved far underneath it where the KitHawk was waiting for their turn.

 "Fara?  Are you all right?" checked Fox.

 "I'm fine.  We took a hit and got a little shaken but I am relatively fine.  How are you?" she asked back.  Fox did not answer, but looked back to see Kite's Arwing descend and join them.

 "Are we all ready here?" asked Grant.

 No answer was needed.  The three ships joined into formation, the two fighters were forward as they all kicked their engines as high as they would go.  The station could do nothing about the two ace pilots and one death giving attack ship speeding at them.  Fox and Kite opened up onto the platform directly before them, Kite launching missiles and shooting lasers while Fox only used his laser cannons.  The missiles and lasers tore into the platform and created great damage, and Kite and Fox pulled away, the KitHawk close behind it.

 The small ship started to shoot larger missiles at the platform.  It fired its Talon with all the energy it had, and let the hyper lasers speak for themselves.  The Talon struck the already damaged area of the platform and started to disintegrate its frame workings.  The missiles impacted and the explosion tore through the platform and came out through the other side.  Everyone watched as the Talon sliced and came through as well.  The KitHawk launched more missiles as it sped closer to the station, not slowing down.  Those created an even bigger hole in the platform.

 The KitHawk never once slowed down.  Grant and Conner almost broke themselves when they saw where Fara was taking them.  The ship sped right into the burning hole in the platform and flew on through to the other side.  It was rather spectacular as the ship also let loose some nova bombs from behind which floated down and created more fireworks.  When the flash ended, the flaming ring which the KitHawk used was gone, as was the platform that housed it.

 The Dark Star station tilted to one side, the stabile field it needed was crippled by the loss of a platform.  They Cornerians would have went on to finish the job on the helpless station, who's destruction seemed too easy.  However, three heavy carriers came into view and started to launch more fighters to counter and protect the station, what was left of it.

 All in all, the Venomians had pretty much failed in their duties.  This was reassured when the ball dome on the bottom of the station, the telescoping sensor array, exploded on its own.

 The Venomians did have one ace up their sleeve though.  By that stunt which the KitHawk pulled off, it put itself close enough to the station for a secret project to be tested.

 Grant turned around to a wall of light emerge at the back of the bridge and another near the helm station.  Fara shrank away from this wall of light when she saw people there.  The Venom forces had used a teleportation device to transport to the KitHawk.  Five troopers now stood in the bridge.

 One of the two soldiers next to the helm station made a lunge for Fara and grabbed her forearm.  Using some martial arts tactics she knew, Fara decked the soldier in the face with an open palm and broke his nose.  The soldier fell backward and Fara brought her foot up and kicked him in the groin, hard.  In dealing with this one, Fara did not see the second trooper come up behind her.  This trooper would have grabbed and detained her from behind, but instead, he felt himself get hoisted into the air by his back collar.

 This soldier tried to get his machine laser gun to fire at his captor.  A black furred paw shot out and grabbed the barrel of the gun and bent it cleanly backward, making it useless.  The gun was tore from his hands and to the floor.  When the soldier saw the face of his attacker, a black wolf with glowing blue eyes, growling menacingly at him, he started to shake with fear.  Even Fara stepped away when she saw the flaring eyes of the tall wolf.  Conner tossed the soldier hard into the wall and he fell at once.

 Behind them, Grant had taken on three of the soldiers himself.  One tried to punch him, which he easily blocked and then through a punch of his own.  The blow knocked the soldier clean off his feet and to the bulk head, guaranteed not to see light for another few hours if he did at all.  The other raised his rifle to shoot the big lion, but he was stopped cold when the tac officer pulled a phaser out and shot him.

 The third soldier did the same, but he was stopped by a darkened blur.  Conner ran forth and stopped at the soldier.  That person saw him coming and tried to get his rifle around so he could shoot the attacker.  Conner, in retaliation, pulled out his thunder sword and activated it.  They all watched in awe as Conner used the bright blue glowing sword and sliced through the soldier's gun up its length.  He swung again with a fluid motion and cut the rifle at the chamber.  Two equal smoking pieces of the rifle fell to the floor with a clatter.

 Conner held his sword up to the soldier's throat, who submitted to him at once.  Grant went over and put some cuffs on that soldier, getting him out of the way.  Conner retracted his sword and returned to his station.

 "That was cool," said Fara.

 Conner made no motion that he even heard her.  Fara remembered about his habit not to be proud of violence.  She wished that the people of Lylat could take a few lessons from him.  For the time at present however, they had some bad guys to dispatch.  Grant ordered the ship to full forward and the KitHawk headed towards the newly arrived carriers.

****

 The SunHawk never saw them coming until it was too late.  A flight of about twenty Invader II fighters coming at them from the flank.  The fighters had nothing but lasers to shoot, which was about as effective against the SunHawk as a hornet stinging a ten mile tall tin man.

 The pilots knew that if they went about this direct attack against that ship, they would most definitely die.  However, they also knew that if they let the Cornerian fleet win then they would also feel the edge of Andross' wrath.  Either way, they were screwed as far as staying alive, so these pilots decided to take the more glorified path.

 All of these ships rocketed towards SunHawk, a few of them putting themselves into positions where they would be able to strafe along the ships main frame.  Others head directly at it, putting more power into their engines, as much power as they could muster.  Some of them even cut out firing their lasers at them for more energy.

 Because they were not using weapons, the SunHawk's defense grid never locked onto them as a priority threat.  The laser systems focused elsewhere on enemy ships and bombers, while these fighters went on to pick up speed.  Some sort of design flaw in the sensor systems when they put kamakazi fighter pilots as less threatening as slow as snail bombers and space roaming milk cows.  The ship grew larger in the pilot's views.  They all started to point their ships along different points all over the hull.

 If one of the SunHawk fighter squadrons had not taken down enough bombers, the defense system would never have turned its attention towards the screaming fleas until they were crushing themselves into their flanks.  Now, they saw the Invaders coming and finally evaluated their threat as mortally serious.  That many fighters ramming them would cause crippling amounts of damage.

 At once, a Triple A Talon flared and fired.  The beam took down two fighters with one shot.  It fired again, and other gun turrets and batteries started to unload against the fighters.  Ship after ship started to dwindle downward or just blow up where they stood, dying like the bugs that they were.

 There was a problem even though things seemed safe.  The Venomians were coming in way too fast, and the defense grid started on them too late.  About fourteen of the twenty rushing fighters were killed.  The other six were able to penetrate the kill area.  They wouldn't be stopped now.

 The first fighter saw the gun port for the Talon that was shooting at them.  It was pretty much right in front of him and only a stone's throw away.  Although this pilot knew nothing about these weapons other then they were lethal in the extreme, he did figure that it was as good of place as any to wreak some havoc on this Cornerian prize.  The fighter rolled a bit to get his nose on that gun.  When his nose targeting laser was painting it, the fighter started to spin a barrel roll at G breaking velocities.  He corkscrewed into the ship, ramming the gun and the ship like an explosive rifle bullet.

 Now the energy crystal which was used to power the Talons were a highly radioactive mineral, and required extreme care while handling.  It took a specific type of energy combination for to get the energy in the mineral to spike, which was then focused into the Talon beam.  But if the mineral was disrupted, if it was so much as chipped while being handled, it could start a chemical chain reaction which would lead into extremely unwanted effects.  One minor default to a great weapon.  A tailspinning suicide fighter driving the emitter deep into the ship with a big explosion, along with the crystal with it, did not excel at helping the situation.

 A engineering crew member, a large giraffe, was caught by the compressing junk of the gun and trapped deeper into the ship.  His long legs were crushed by the heavy steal and alloys which the fighter pushed into the ship.  The creature shook his head, the pain in his destroyed legs practically torturing him.  All the pain disappeared when he saw the rough uncut crystal, glowing a bright orange, fall from a compartment of the scrap.  The giraffe could feel its fatally radioactive energy effect him already, and he started to call out for help.  The screams for him were loud, desperate, and blood raged panicky.  But he had nine fight of scrunched metal all around him, and not a peep was getting out.  It didn't matter if anyone could hear him anyway.  They would not be able to save him, or even themselves.

 The last thing the giraffe saw was the crystal flaring into a blinding radiance, thousands of times brighter then any sun.  The last thing he felt was a split second heat.  The crystal exploded, and the ten hundred tons of hull around him was torn apart and vaporized in the blast.  The flames from the explosion tore outward and a pillar of flame was seen expanding outward from the ship.  It happened right on the edge of its flat like length.  Before it started to die, the fire was at least a third of a kilometer in total height, and that was just above the ship.  The same thing happened below the blast point.  When done, a massive gash was left in the ships hull, flames and sparks of energy were seen pouring out of it, as well as crew being spaced through the hull breach.

 The SunHawk started to move out of control as it rolled to one side.  Star Fox witnessed the incident and their jaws dropped in terror at what just happened.  When Fox saw the giant warship started to spin out of control, he actually thought they would lose their flagship, and the tide would turn again for the worse.

 Away from here, all members of Shadow squadron felt terrible pains in their sides.  As if their kidneys were being scorched from the inside out.  All of them, especially Kite and their leader Ninook, knew what had happened.  They all broke off from their current engagements and started to speed off to their mother ship.

 The destruction by the crippled Talon beam did not stop there.  Five more fighters made their marks on the ship that was brought to its knees.  None of them had the time or the position to find a talon beam to ram into.  They just found random spots to hurt.

 Each fighter created a large explosion as they struck hard onto the SunHawk's hull.  None of them were as crippling as the first one, but they all made themselves known by killing fifteen other people along with the forty eight caught in the Talon mineral blast.  Along with the tear in her side, the ship also had five burn holes from the fighters left into her side.  The ship still started to move in out of control.

 Pandemonium had erupted on the bridge.  Dallas looked forward to see an explosion erupt out of the helm console and kill the man there.  She rushed forward and pulled his mangled body out of the seat to take over.  Amerce was knocked off his feet, but he went on unharmed.  Kesh was thrown into a nearby console like a bean sack.  She hit her head and fell onto her arm, hard, causing her to scream in pain when a terribly loud crack sounded out.  She pulled the bloody arm out of the damaged equipment, but soon found herself falling from serious amounts of dizziness.  Amerce saw this happen to the girl and remembered how he treated her earlier yesterday.  Feeling the chance to make it up to her, he moved forward he let the vixen support herself on him.

 "Get her to sickbay at once!" screamed Dallas, looking back to her wounded science officer.

 "No!" yelled Kesh.  "Have to...finish here!"

 "That's an order Lieutenant.  Major, get her to sickbay at once.  Carry her if you have to."

 "I don't need carried," insisted Kesh.  Her speech was slurred, erratic.  Dallas knew that maybe the CPU in her head or something else might have sustained damage.  She nodded to Amerce who started to walk the vixen out of the bridge.

 Before she left, Kesh turned and faced the bridge.  "Captain.  Don't try to fight our velocity.  Do not try to regain control of the ship battling with physics.  You...you will lose.  Use our momentum as your tool.  It is the only way."  She fell down to her knees, only to be caught by Amerce before she fell all the way down.

 Maurine walked in before the two of them left.  "Give her to me," he demanded.  "I'll take her to sick bay."

 "Chief!  A boarding pod is coming and we won't be able to stop it before it gets here," yelled Dallas.  "You don't have time to take Kesh.  The major will take care of it and you go get your squads ready.  Right now."

 Maurine glared hatefully at the dog, who was unaffected by it.  Kesh had gone unconscious and Amerce was holding her in his arms, which almost sickened the jackal.  Amerce shook his head.  "Trust me," he reassured.  "I will take her to sick bay and she will be fine.  I give my honor to you as a contract that she will be fine."

 Maurine shook his head.  "I love her enough so that I would die for her.  I will die for her if it means she would live.  I hold more then your honor in her safety, I hold your life.  Not even a hair out of place."  The dog said and gestured nothing.  He just left and Maurine was left standing there.

 "Chief!" screamed Dallas with anger.  The jackal ran out of the bridge quickly to prepare for unwanted but imminent visitors.  Dallas looked around to see that only three others besides herself remained.  It should be enough for now, she thought to herself.  But priorities are priorities.  She had to get the ship under control.

 Dallas went to the view screen and put it for directly ahead of them.  A Venomian heavy carrier was sitting there, stationed as a road block.  Dallas knew that these guys would start growing desperate to protect this station.  It must be important to Andross to have his followers induce suicide tactics.  If the ship did not get out of this heading, then they would kill themselves as they cracked that carrier like an egg.

 "Time to impact on that ship?" she asked.

 The tactical officer behind her started to do figuring.  Kesh would have given the answer at once, but she wasn't here any more.  It would take normal brained beings a little longer to do the math.

 Nine minutes and twenty eight seconds was the answer Dallas received.  "Shit," she whispered to herself.  She knew what Kesh meant.  If they tried to fight the out of control velocity, they would only put themselves in an even bigger mess and they would never get the control back, which would leave them a helpless cow in space.  However, what Kesh had in mind didn't leave them with much time.  It was simple enough.  Speed up to break the current rate of momentum and then maneuver back into control.  But could they regain it before the collided with the carrier?  Well, if they did nothing they would die, so Dallas went on with it.

 All of the people on the bridge looked at her like she was crazy when she did it.  Dallas grabbed the throttle and shoved it all the way to flank.  "Bridge to main engine room," she said into her comm-link.

 "Main engine room here."

 "I need more speed Harvey," she said into it.  "A lot more.  We are at flank now but I need another twenty percent and I needed it about two minutes ago."

 "Roger that Skipper.  You'll have it in a second.  Main engine room out."

 Dallas grabbed the main control wheel and watched the small navigation screen on her console.  A 3-D rendering of the ship and everything that was before them.  For one thing, a large enemy carrier that had the flashing word "Danger" right next to it.

 "Captain!  Three enemy fighters coming in fast.  They're on a collision course for the bridge."

 Two Invader II ships were already beginning strafing runs down the hull of the SunHawk.  The ship's shields were gone and their armor was weakened by the explosions.  Plus, the forward momentum would greatly take away much needed time.  The fighters shot their lasers at the hull, trying to find anything that might cause some damage.  They were almost to the bridge when it happened.  A Talon beam shot up from underneath them and destroyed one fighter and snapped the other's wing off with one stroke.  This fighter spun out of control but still moved towards the bridge.  Another Talon mounted in front of the conning tower shot out and destroyed the fighter just before it collided, which would have killed everyone on the bridge, and ultimately the whole ship.  Some of the debris from the fighter fell into the tower, but only left some carbon scouring on the surface.

 Dallas was satisfied on how that threat was handled expertly, but the time for compliments and congratulations was not now.  She looked at the number for their forward velocity, speed from amount of thrust which was approaching the first in a hurry, and distance to the carrier.  Dallas was unsure if they would make it.  Their velocity was almost a million kilometers per hour.  The thrust vector was almost over that, which they would be able to move on their own.  But they had less then three minutes to do it all.

 The number to their thrust slowed in its ascent.  Just a little.  It was still enough to tell them that they were starting to push it.  Dallas saw the carrier was almost in the whole screen.  They were close.  If they made it then the distance they would skewer that carrier would be lucky to break fifty meters.  The SunHawk was big and fast but her ability to move was not the best.  That figured for a ship of its size.

 The numbers were only a few apart, and Dallas could feel sweat on her brow from the anticipation.  "Close enough," she said.  The hit a button and the thrusters underneath the bow fired with a powerful kick.  Slowly, the nose began to rise up.  Dallas saw the range to the carrier dwindle down to double digits.  There time was up.

 The people on the Venomian carrier were surprised to see the mammoth warship start to climb.  They had put their ship as a token of sacrifice to Andross, and now that shot was going to hell.  However, they were all ducking when they ship came.  The SunHawk burst over the top of the carrier barely half its size, missing some of its radio masts by what it seemed centimeters.  The terrible roar of the engines going over their heads cracked the ear drums of a few of the people on the bridge.  They watched the ship go by, its thrusters glowing with bright fire as it moved away.  As it went, the carrier bridge was drawn into the SunHawk engine wash and was slowly torn apart.  The people on board died a slow and bad death.  Cooked by the turbulent wake of giant temporal jet engines operating at flank plus speeds.

 Dallas breathed a sigh of relief when she saw the carrier come into the rear view.  One disaster averted, and the crew remained safe.  However, Dallas did not stop worrying.  A new threat was on they way, and they could not stop it out there.

 A new Venomian boarding pod using stealth technology was fast approaching the side of their ship.  Dallas knew that if they were operating a top capacity, they could lock on to that shuttle and take it down.  However, the defense grid's weapons tracking unit was damaged severely.  They could detect the pod's presence, and get a rough estimate on their ETA, they just couldn't get a lock on.  This was just like the Illuminauti, but this time they were more prepared, but last time they also got lucky.

 "Chief, you have seven minutes our ship is invaded with walking refuse.  Get your men prepped as soon as possible."

 "We already are Captain," reported Maurine.  "All of my team are armed and ready for the reaper to come knocking.  Our ground troopers are gearing up for a fight too but I don't think we'll need them."

 Dallas punched her fist into her palm, a little angry at hearing this.  She would rather have the marines confront the Venomian troopers and use security as back up.  Not that Dallas had no faith in Maurine and his forces, she just was not sure about putting a great asset in harms way as if he were a pawn on a chess board.  "You move here, by the way, you might die before they night is over.  Sorry, life sucks something fierce doesn't it?"  Dallas hated to think about this, but better to throw away one man then the entire ship.  One of the common grounds that tested what a commander was really made of, and the worst night terror material for every stinking one of them.  The ones that cared anyway.

 Dallas left the helm station and someone went to take it over.  She relieved at tactical station and sent the former person there to security detail which was his job anyway.  Dallas knew that if she could take down that pod before it gets there, she would not have to worry about it.  But it was too late for that.  The pod was already at the walls.

 She pinpointed the position where the pod was going for and almost bit her own tongue when she saw it.  Deck thirteen.  Munitions bay.  If a fight broke out in there then the battle for an out of control ship would start all over again if any of them survived.  Dallas shook her head in rage as she beeped to Maurine again.

 "Chief?  They're coming in to deck thirteen at munitions bay nine.  Proceed but keep your fire cautious and limited."  She thought for a second that she heard him say "oh hell" under his breath, which he probably did.  She felt the same way.

 "Copy that, Bridge.  We're on our way."

 The pod was constructed like any other high speed/heavy haul boarding pod.  Around forty eight troopers, all armed and armored like high tech knights, were ready for rock 'n roll on a space cruiser.  All of these troopers were Andross' best, many with genetic upgrades to increase their overall deadliness.  All of them had stimpacks which they would use before going into fight.  These things would drive them into a blood lust to make them all the more deadlier.

 The pod was curved around the edges instead of just sharp corners and it was sheathed with a composite absorbing material to get in under a few out of date sensing systems.  Its thrusters were a graviton booster instead of a standard fuel powered jet engine.  It its front was a nine foot latching door with a built in cutting torch which vaporized through chemically enhanced diamond composites.  Very powerful.  The pod got to the hull and latched onto it, its cutter slicking into the steal composites of the armored hull like they were hard leather, tough but not impossible.

 The troopers inside, all with heavy weapons, started to inject their stimpack needles for an added boost.  Within minutes, they started to look at other breathing creatures as weird things.  Food to kill and consume, monsters or creatures to exterminate, or just the extreme hated enemy who absolutely must die and die a painful death.  They all started to crowd to the hatch, ready to be unleashed and fed.  A bat armed with a heavy blaster towards the front was starting to foam at the mouth he was so affected by the stimpack.  Within a few seconds, the creature started to spasm and he fell over into a violent seizure, never to get back up again.  No one paid any attention save a few who laughed at him.

 After a minute, all of them started to rush forward at the sound of a latch giving way and a loud metallic bong outside their door.  Time to have fun.

 Inside the bay, Maurine's forces started to fill into the room just as a bright white hexagon was almost completed.  They all took up trying to move the boxes of ammo and weapons out so they would not get hit.  However, Maurine knew that they wouldn't come out of this room without having some damage.  The way he figured, maybe a hundred laser shots would come from that door once it opened before the first enemy soldier set foot inside their ship.  He raised his phaser machine gun and pointed to the door, ready to fire as soon as it opened.  Everyone would open up when he fired.

 There was a problem.  All of his men were without the cover that would make this a little simpler.  He sighed with relief, and the psychic emissions of anxiety from his men nothing to help.  What was getting him though were the feelings of blood lust, madness, and rage on the other side of that burning slab of steal.  The devil was coming to visit them.  Maurine swallowed nervously, and the think plate of hull dropped like a giant weight, creating a sonic wave to them as it hit the floor.

 The door cracked open...

 It was pitch black inside the pod for only a half a second.  Maurine saw nothing of the enemy when the door opened, but he didn't have to.  They were there.  The Venomian soldiers started to shoot into the bay.  The hail storm of laser fire came in and took the security forces by surprise.  They hesitated for a brief second when the laser fire came onto them, very stunned by their ferocity.  This was all the time needed to put them into a painful receiving end.

 The shots from a laser machine weapon raged in and pierced the torso of a tiger, doubling him over.  One shot struck him square in the forehead, splattering blood to the wall behind him as he was knocked off his feet.  The guard right next to him was then shredded by the same laser fire.  The Cornerians returned heavy fire into the door way, trying to get the first few soldiers that were there.  Maurine squeezed the trigger on his gun and never let go, one shot right after the next trying to hit whatever was there.  Thirty shots went off before the enemy returned fire again, and the first soldier stepped into the bay.

 His armor was highly resistant to laser fire, but not invincible against it.  The blasts tore into the armor, slowing down his advance.  The soldier got about five feet and then felt the singing heat of the laser on his fur just before one sliced it.  He fell and died, but not before he killed three more security members.

 Three more soldiers came in and started to fire, more of them coming in at regular patterns.  Two at a time after each other.  Once they set foot on the floor, the started to unload onto the Cornerians standing there waiting for them.

 They were over their heads and Maurine knew it.  He ordered for them to fall back and regroup for another attack outside.  He opened fire on the soldiers himself to give cover for a group of soldiers getting wounded out of harms way.  Only one gun against six living tanks was not enough.  It was terrible to Maurine as he could feel it in his mind.

 Soldier after soldier of his squad tried to make a dash for the door, but they were not fast enough.  A female mink tried to run for the door, but she caught a laser blast into her back.  The way she reacted to the crippling injury was enough to bring tears to Maurine.  The poor creature was snapped like a read in a powerful wind, and she fell forward on to her knees and then down to her side, never to get back up again.  She didn't deserve that.  Maurine knew that girl and that she had a family back home.

 It was like that for all that tried to run for the door.  They were shot in the back or in the back of the head to keep them pinned down.  One soldier fell, and another fell in the same place only a second later.  Ten of the guards tried to get to the door, and only one made it out alive.

 Maurine looked to see that there were five others left inside the bay including himself.  All of them were trapped by the watchful eye of the enemy troopers.  The enemy troopers could have shot through canisters they were hiding behind, but that would risk killing them all with one stroke and destroying the entire ship.  Maurine was confused, knowing that would do the trick if they wanted to destroy the ship.  Maurine realized that their mission was not to destroy, but to take for themselves a powerful weapon.  That would be bad.  The soldiers were waiting for them to move and try again, just to die.

 He shook his head angrily and unsheathed his heavy phaser pistol.  He set the weapon to its highest level of power, which should melt through their armor like it were ice.  Maurine also brought out a regular light phaser pistol which he fired into the ceiling.  The Venomian soldiers ducked down, startled by the loud cracks of the gun.  At once they tried to move around and get an angle towards the person behind that canister.

 One of the soldiers was caught off guard when Maurine appeared from behind it and fired the dual barreled weapon at him.  The heavy laser shot penetrated his armor and him all the way through, burning part of the wall behind him.  The soldier fell down at once and died.  Maurine stood up and started to fire at the soldiers as he yelled to the others trapped inside to move.  They all got up and made a run for the door.

 One of the Venomians saw them going and shot at them.  He was able to clip one of the runners in the leg before he was shot down by Maurine.  The jackal never let up on his onslaught, not even after the last of his men were safely outside the bay.  He kept behind the munitions canister and kept up his fire.  The enemies started to run forward to get a shot at him, but Maurine practically took their heads off by his powerful gun.  Still, with the ease on how the gun killed them through there armor, Maurine could not kill as many as were coming in.  If he moved now, he would be turned into mulch by their weapons.  If he would die here, then at least he would take some of them with him.

 A thin string like laser shot ringed through the bay and struck the first soldier it found in the chest.  The victim of this blast was more shocked then anything from the beam.  He knew he was dead since it pierced his heart clean through.  Out of breath, the soldier died on his feat and fell over a stiff.

 Maurine looked behind him to see their own marine forces storming into the bay.  They were armed with special armor piercing rounds which brought down the enemy soldiers quiet easily.  He too started to open fire on the enemy soldiers whose number was cleanly up.  All of the ones already inside the ship were skewered down, and the rest at the door were killed or wounded severely before they set foot in the ship.

 Maurine found that if they couldn't take the ship, then they were destroy it by any means possible.  He spotted one surviving soldier taking careful aim towards the canisters.  Acting with immediate instinct, Maurine raised his gun and fired.  The beam struck the opponent's gun and blew the barrel clean off.  The soldier, out of options, brought a grenade out of his belt and yanked the pin.

 Before he threw it, Maurine ran forward and shoulder tackled him to the floor.  He found the grenade and tossed it into the boarding pod.  The explosion shattered the floor of the pod, nearly blowing a hole to the outside vacuum.  But it held, for now.

 The soldier got to his feet and stared with ice at Maurine.

 "Sorry, but you just lost out in this one Jack," snickered Maurine.

 The soldier was still feeling some effects of the stimpack.  He still saw Maurine as a weird thing as a reason to kill him.  Screaming a bloody war cry, the soldier ran forward to try and get his toothy maw around the jackal's throat.  Maurine responded by balling up his fist and punching the attacker hard in the nose.  The soldier staggered backward, holding his broken and bleeding nose for a second, then he ran forth to attack again.  Maurine ran too and tackled the soldier right in the gut and knocked him to the ground.  The soldier, all of the wind knocked clean from him, tried to get up.

 Maurine stepped away from the soldier and watched as he pulled another grenade.  Maurine shook he head, knowing what must be done.  He kicked the explosive out of the soldiers hand and roundhouse kicked him on the muzzle.  The soldier neck was broken from the impact which sent him flying to the floor.  Maurine heard the crack clearly and sighed as he watched the opponent's slow death.

 He walked out of the bay, looking down at the dead bodies of his lost team.  It was a victory, but Maurine would forever feel the scars of it by remembering the faces of all he was responsible for.  At least the ship survived.

****

 The SunHawk most likely would have died if their protectorates had not shown up at the right time.  A second boarding pod, a larger one with no stealth was making its way to the hull of the ship right at its engineering section.  No one would have stopped them before they did terrible damage.

 Kite spotted the pod and rocketed his way to intercept it.  The pod was meters away from latching onto the hull, where he would not be able to get it before they got inside.  He moved and got a target lock on the pod.

 "I don't think so you sorry piece of space trash," he cursed.  Kite opened fire onto the pod and tore it in half with laser fire.  One half went and harmlessly crashed into the SunHawk's underneath, the other half flew off into space.  "Tell your maker I said 'hi'," smirked Kite as he pulled up around SunHawk.

 The rest of Shadow squadron were like men possessed when it came to protecting the SunHawk.  Even Fox was taken by surprise when he saw their tenacious ferocity to safeguard their mother ship.  The fighters would kill one fighter harassing the SunHawk so quickly and fiercely and then go on for a new target, and they made not a single hint that they were slowing down until all of the enemy ships threatening their mother were as dead as war could ever deliver.

 Even when Venom forces pulled away from the SunHawk to give up their attacks, Shadows would emerge in front of them from out of no where and obliterate them.  Thus eliminating any chance of their return.  When it was done, all the members of Shadow Squadron moved into a defensive position around their ship.  The all looked with sadness at the gash left by the exploding Talon that was in her side, plus the five other marks of kamakazi pilots ramming their hull.  Ninook decided that they would stay around the ship and protect it for the time being.  Until the fight was over.
 
 
 

Chapter VI

"Yes, maybe we are monsters.  So what.  We are monsters because we have to be to commit to our goals.  But one who fights a monster is prone to become a monster themselves."

-Wolf O'Donnell - Star Wolf-

 Andrew grinned as his missiles finally came on line.  The Cornerian assault carrier in front of him, identified as the Broad Sword, was on fire in several different places as it struggled to escape them.  Star Wolf had chosen this ship as its own first victim for the battle.  Their attack had gone on for ten minutes now, and not a scratch was put on any of the three monsters with wings.

 The missile locked onto the only surviving thruster engine of the Broad Sword, which losing it would make them a sitting duck.  Andrew laughed a cheesy villain laugh as he let the missile fly, trying to act bad in the heat of glory.  He watched with glee as the missile started to home in on the thruster, where it would blow it up.

 The missile was cut off by a smoking volley of smaller and much faster missiles.  One of the small ones detoured from its original course and struck Andrew's, destroying both of them.  The others, about seven in all, all nailed the thruster hard and tore it apart like aluminum foil.  The Broad Sword started to fall out of power.

 Angered that he got a score stolen from him, Andrew looked back to see Wolf come up from behind and start a strafing run on the broken carrier.  Andrew could hear the mocking laughter of his one eyed leader.  Andrew growled angrily into his headset which Wolf clearly hear.

 "What's wrong Andrew?" taunted Wolf.  "Your little toys breaking on you, or is your Uncle's custom made weapons more second rate then you are?"

 "Kiss off Cyclops," raged Andrew.  "At least I get my obsessions in order.  Why is Fox still alive?"

 Wolf growled at him.  "Andrew, you had better count on me waiting for you in the halls once we get back to Venom.  I'm going to slice both of your eyes out you spoiled piece of..."

 "Enough you two," snapped Leon.  He smirked at the dying carrier.  "We have a crippled prey to put out of its misery."

 "Leon, you make the first run.  I will go second, and Andrew will wait until both of us have had seconds before he gets to eat."

 "What?" whined Andrew.  "Now wait a..."

 He was cut off by Leon's booster firing and his jet starting a run on the carrier.  Andrew frowned when he watched the lizard begin to fire his lasers at the ship, breaking its hull like an egg.  Each little hit from the lasers along the hull was enough to start a small crack along its length.  When Leon reached the end of the ship, Wolf hit his engines and started towards to finish what his comrade started.

 Wolf's laser fire impacted on the crack and began to pull it apart.  The break in the hull started to vent out green or blue gasses.  A plasma vent was cracked open.  Wolf saw the gasses pouring out so he did a U-turn over the ship.  A large explosive bomb was readied under his Wolfen to be dropped on target.  Wolf snapped hungrily as he flew over the gas leak and let the bomb fly.

 The explosive hit the crack and went off, and the fissure was ripped open all the way.  Tons of plasma was forced out of the opening, and into the ship where it scorched a few crew members.  The heat from the bomb was enough to ignite the gasses, and the ship started to explode.  A cloud of metal was created by the explosion, and tore on down close to the bow where it stopped.  What was left looked like a snow cone with the ship's bow and the debris taking their parts in the pattern.

 "Give my regards to James McCloud when you meet him in hell," spat Wolf.  "Tell him his son will be coming to greet him within time."

 "I don't think so Wolf!" roared Fox.  Wolf looked up to see the four Arwings come down on them from above.  "I've had enough of your crap Star Wolf," Fox continued.  "Your petty vengeance has caused you to commit crimes that only the eviction of your life can cash in for.  Guess what.  It's time to pay the piper."

 Fox opened fire onto Wolf's ship, getting in a few licks before Wolf boosted forward.  He pulled up to try and get behind Fox.  "So, the little Kit has finally gotten a real back bone.  Fine Fox, if you want to dance with the demons, they are waiting for you.  Bring...it...on you little puke.  Weaklings like you will die so the strong survive."

 Fox banked hard to the right and did a horizontal loop to keep Wolf off of his back.  Wolf responded by going hard underneath Wolf where Fox came down and performed a half loop and got in behind Fox.

 "As I said," growled Wolf as he shot at Fox.  "You'll see your dad again Fox after I send you straight to hell with to meet him."  He laughed when he saw a few of his lasers chafe Fox's wing.

 Fox went into a hard dive and used all of the kick he had to get speed.  Wolf followed him, getting a small advantage of faster acceleration to get closer to Fox.  Then he did something which Wolf never expected.  Fox let loose some gasses from a vent out of his fighter's tail, which spewed into Wolf to blind him with a screen.

 "What the hell!" screamed Wolf.  He fought to find his way up.  When he flew out of the cloud, Wolf looked around to find where he was, and to find Fox as well.  "Where are you Fox you sorry little bastard?  You are afraid of me!  I know it because I can taste fear even where there is no wind!  Yours is like a bad chocolate malt!"

 Fox looked back to Star Wolf who was heading in the opposite direction they were.  Falco and the others pulled the same trick on Andrew and Leon to get away, and now they were heading for Dark Star itself.  Fox shook his head in amusement at Wolf's hateful rage, always getting a kick out of the effects of beating him.

 Behind them, Wolf finally spotted Star Fox heading towards the station.  The little whelp had duped him again and left them behind in the dust.  Wolf made a decision.  He didn't care about the station any longer.  Screw the damn thing, he thought to himself.  One way or another, he swore that Fox would feel pain before this masquerade ended.

****

 The Venomian fleet was almost half strength now.  All of the ships that had been destroyed or crippled were left behind.  Dallas decided that she would come back and finish off those who were spared until the station fell.  Dark Star itself was only a stone's throw away.  The Venom fleet had six ships left, and the Cornerians had only three.  However, it was Venom side who was falling back to get around the station.

 One of the ships, a frigate, did not withdraw.  Their commander went bold and put his ship in way of the SunHawk to bar its way.  The frigate was not even a third the size of its opposition, and the crew on her were trembling greatly.  Their gunner hesitated a small bit after he got the order to open fire.

 A few rockets were thrown at the SunHawk, which were stopped cold by Shadow Squadron guarding it.  The few laser fire shots were like bug bites on the warship, and nothing more.

 Captain Dallas targeted the frigate and put up the wing sided Talons to fire on it.  The nose gun would have been more efficient, but it was running low on power and needed to be regenerated.  The wing guns were armed, and Dallas pushed the red firing key.

 The two wing guns again flared up brightly and impacted on the frigate at roughly the same spot near the bridge.  The beams sliced into the ship, drilling deep into it for a while and then broke through its rear.  The effects disrupted the frigates engine core which cut out its power.  The frigate lost all power including life support.  The darkened hulk just stood there for a bit, forcing the Cornerian fleet to go around it.  All inside the frigate could only wait until they died of asphyxiation.

 There it was.  Dallas and the SunHawk bridge crew laid eyes on Dark Star station for the first time.  Amerce walked in then and too was caught by it.  The station was already badly damaged from attacks on it, which was fine.  It would just make their job easier.  With not a single shred of emotion in her green eyes, Dallas started to work again on the station, readying the one weapon which they never got to use, but sent chills up even Dallas's back.  The Conjoined Talon Beam.

 All three of the main Talon guns would converge into one powerful beam of energy which, if left going for a few hours, could disrupt a planet's core enough to demolish the whole thing.  The beam would only be able to last for three or four minutes before the guns were drained.  That would be enough.  Dallas started the command sequence and armed the weapon.  For security reasons, two things were needed to bypass the lockout.  Dallas input the necessary codes and used the key around her neck, and the weapon came on line.

 She ordered the ship to point the nose at the station and for it to come to an all stop at then thousand kilometers.  That was the nominal firing range.  As the ship moved in, Dallas input the target data for the station and noticed that all of the three guns were a little low on power.  The gun would not fire until they were all fully charged, so they had some time to wait.

 Dallas sat back to let the guns regain their energy as she watched for outside action.  She saw the group of enemy escape shuttles start to pull away from the station.  Why would they leave?  To think that they would guard and defend the station to the last if it meant so much to Andross.  What confused Dallas even more was why three of the five ships guarding it were pulling away and trying to make an escape run from the battle.  Two of the ships moved forward and attack the remaining three.  They were taken down by Shadow Squadron.

 The station was on its own now.  Dallas was starting to think.  Two minutes until the weapon was ready to fire.  Dallas ordered for some of Shadow to go and disable at least one of the escaping shuttles.  Three of the pilots left and headed towards where the escapees were going.

 Around the station, were all of the Cornerians that were left.  Star Fox were circling around the station keeping an ever vigilant eye out for Wolf and his cronies.  The KitHawk was poised with all the remaining missiles on it ready to fire, and all of the surviving fighters were now docking into their motherships if they survived.  A lot of the fighters found themselves without homes now since their motherships were dead.  They just fell back behind the fleet and waited for the fireworks.  Only Shadow Squadron stayed out to attack with missiles.  The other two ships, the Kitina and the Iron Bear all poised themselves for attack.  The Kitina opened their torpedo bay and set a few of them to fire.

 A light told Dallas that the weapon was ready.  The station was targeted, and once the beam fired, everyone else would lay into the station.  There was something she knew that she doubted if anyone else realized, so she believed that her actions to come were justified.  The beautiful but sad eyed husky reached into her pocket and pulled at the golden medallion of her late father, Alan Dallas.  She held it in her fingers, a tear falling from the jade of her eyes.  Allison kissed the medallion lightly.

 "This one is for you my father," she whispered.  The button was depressed.

 An orange bolt of lightning was emitted from both of the wings and arched over to the nose.  There, a ball of energy was being built on slowly.  One could see the ionized electrons glowing into little shards of energy that were gathering at the bright sphere's core.  The sphere grew larger, and brighter at the ships nose and was soon enveloping the point of the bow, singing it.  In a bright flash, the ball constricted down in an instant and a large orange sunlight beam shot forth.  The energy beam tore through the space vacuum and impacted right into the side of the station's main body.  The strike was so powerful that it tossed the mammoth station a small distance when it hit.

 Dallas pushed a lever at her console up slowly.  The beam outside grew brighter and thicker.  The vibrating hum of its firing could be felt under her feet.  Again, Dallas pushed the lever up and all the way to the top.  The great Talon beam was starting to break into the station's inner workings, vaporizing every shred of matter it found.  Other ships started to launch too, but they were all caught by the splendor of the beam.  About seven nova bombs blow up cleanly into the station, and two of its platforms fell away and down to Oberon below.

 The entire station would have been pulled into the planet's gravity, but it was held fast by the beam.  Inside the KitHawk, Grant saw the joined Talon and got on a line to the SunHawk.  He told Dallas that the station could be taken now alive, and the beam was no longer necessary.  There was no answer, and the beam continued on.

 Grant had missed something.  He knew that Dallas would have been thrilled if they could have taken the station.  He looked to Conner, who sat in his chair looking at the beam tearing the station down piece by piece.  There was no one left on board since they all evacuated already, so he was uncaring.  Grant saw the understanding look in the eyes of the Shyer warrior, and realized that he knew what was going on as well.

 "You know something," he insisted.  "What is it?"

 Conner looked at the lion and smiled.  "Patience and time are of two things that are spawned from one another.  If you utilize one, you can always gain understanding of its parent.  I learned that over the course of my life, and it does very much work."  He saw the look of confusion in both Grant and Fara.  Not just confusion, but utter dumbfoundedness.  He smiled warmly to the both of them.  "I'll leave you to figure out the understanding of that on your own."

 Even Fox was wondering why the beam never stopped.  He watched as the weapon finally cut off, and smoke came heavily from the wings and nose of the KitHawk.  Apparently, the weapon ceased somewhat too late.  Dark Star was starting to fall towards Oberon.  The station's survival was doomed.  They all watched as it started to break apart from the inside, fireballs erupting from random surface points.  Finally, the station exploded into a great ball of flame which blinded almost everyone who looked at it.  Debris from the wreck was pulled into the gravity of the planet which would create small explosions on its surface like meteorites.

 A lot of people were having separate thoughts about Captain Dallas.  Confusion was seen all around on why this happened.  Everyone knew that it should not matter.  Dark Star station was dead, and they had completed their task.  Shadow Squadron, all of which except Kite were starting to doubt their commanding officer, were moving to dock their mother ship.  Kite had seen it too, and he fully understood what had happened.  He looked at Allison Dallas with a new respect from today.

 On the bridge, Dallas went on to disarm the weapon.  She powered all the Talons down save for a few aircraft ones.  It would be a while before they could be used again.  It was known that the Conjoined Beam would drain all energy from the main gun's crystals.  Dallas removed the key from its arming lock and placed it back down her shirt.  The fight was pretty much over.  She sat back and sighed heavily, glad that no more killing was going on.  Dallas would leave the ships behind her alone.  She had enough blood on her hands then she knew what to do with.

 Amerce was waiting for her when she got to her feet.  There, he confronted her with seething anger.

 "What the hell was that?" he demanded.  "That station could have been ours and you know it.  We could have seen what Andross was up to.  But you destroyed it!  You!  I'll see to it that the Ministry knows fully about this outrage and you will lose your command tomorrow morning instead of when the war ends!  Who knows what kind of important things we might have found!"

 Dallas smiled as she sat in her own chair.  Another came in and took over at tactical.  "I already do know what Andross was hiding," she said calmly.  She stood up and looked at the mutt.  "Before you go off half cocked again, take the time to ask yourself why the defenders of a seemingly important space station to enemy forces would abandon it all of a sudden while an enemy fleet was bearing down on it.  Now you think about that for a change.  If not then at least shut the hell up."  Dallas sat back into her chair and gave the order to turn around and head back home.  There job here was done.
 
 
 
 

Chapter VII

"In the course of one Generation, a person will see at least one war in his or her lifetime.  It could be an economic war between business corporations, a turf war between gangs, a verbal war between spouses, or even a military shooting war where people die regularly.  The point is that war is war no matter what kind.  And no war ends without leaving at least one major scar of some sort or another.  I...We have."

-Captain Allison Dallas - CSS SunHawk-

 Fox looked at the massive SunHawk as he and the rest started to move out towards Great Fox, still holding outside the mine field.  The ship was damaged heavily, but nothing a month in the shop couldn't cure.  Fox still didn't know what Dallas's motives were in destroying that station when they could have taken it.  She must have had a reason for it.

 For a moment, Fox considered going onto SunHawk to talk to her and meet Fara, but he really wanted to get back to Great Fox.  Shower was definitely in order, plus his head was rather aching.  A lot of blood was on the side of his face from the cut in his temple.  He checked in with the other three.  Falco and Peppy were unharmed, but Slippy had a sprained foot from being knocked around a bit earlier on.  Fox smiled that they were all fine for now and they all prepared to move on back to Great Fox.

 "Just where do you think you are going small fry?" asked a seething pissed off Wolf O'Donnell.  Fox half choked on himself when he saw the three Wolfen star fighters coming on them fast.  He had totally forgotten about Wolf while observing the spectacle with Dark Star.  "Just because the station is dead doesn't mean I'm about to give up on you now.  Come on Fox.  Revenge is a dish best devoured while cold, and I'm taking mine chilled."

 Wolf fired his lasers at Fox, which impacted hard on his wing.  Falco and Peppy both went down to engage Andrew and Leon, and Fox ordered Slippy back to the Great Fox.  The last dogfight of the battle took place between the six fighters.  Peppy was slightly disappointed that Pigma was not around since he still had a bone to pick with the piglet, but he went head to head with Andrew just as gleefully.  Falco and Leon renewed their common swarray in trying to kill each other.

 Leon was taken branded by Falco's rage, and soon found a burning engine.  He cursed the avian ace and headed out away from the fight.  Falco himself was taken surprise by Wolf who came at him with everything he had.  Falco's wing was torn off by Wolf's laser fire, and he was forced to retreat.

 Andrew could not stand up to Peppy's attack.  The old rabbit was attacking from two directions at once it seemed like.  Soon, Andrew could feel his fighter begin to loose power.  Before Andrew left the fight, he was able to get one lucky shot on Peppy, and cleanly took damage to his engine.  Both left the area.

 Peppy and Falco both head for SunHawk which is what Slippy had done.  They didn't think that they would be able to make it to Great Fox.  Plus, they wanted to watch the one on one competition between two mortal foes.

 Fox was able to get in behind Wolf where he started to pelt him with laser fire.  "Wolf, I will make certain..."  He shot one of his four wings which bent down broken.  "...that you never..."  Wolf felt laser shots break the engine system.  "...hurt another soul.  My promise to God."

 Wolf stopped in his tracks and turned around, pointing his ship towards Fox.  Fox stopped too, wondering what the demon hearted creature was up to.  With a toothy grin, Wolf punched a key and the engines fired with a fierce pop.  The Wolfen was thrown forward, and Fox was taken by surprise.  "Don't quit your day job," quipped Wolf.

 The black fighter struck the Arwing almost head on.  Fox was able to move somewhat, but he was far too late.  The wing on his fighter was ripped off cleanly along with its stabilizer.  A fuel line to the engine was torn.  Fox's fighter was tossed out of control.  A fire broke out in the cockpit, and Fox started to feel the heat get to him.  The last thing he heard before he fell unconscious was his own screams and the roar of fire that began to crawl onto him.

 The Wolfen was thrown clear of the fray, two of its wings were gone as well.  However, Wolf was protected from internal damage on his Wolfen.  He smiled with great glee when he heard Fox's painful screams.  When they stopped, he started to cheer loudly, happy that the job was finally done.

 The SunHawk reached the broken Arwing within a half minute.  The fires inside it had died, and the entire cock pit was flooded with smoke.  No one could see inside the fighter.  A tractor beam from KitHawk was put on the fighter and it was quickly drug into the warship.  Along side it, Peppy and Falco were both in shock at what just happened.  A tear started to form in Falco's in fear of the worst.  He so much wanted to go back and finish off Wolf, but a small squad of Invaders was already coming in around him.  They would be long gone before they got there.

 The two pilots docked into the SunHawk to go meet their injured leader.

 The KitHawk docked at its port underneath the great vessel.  Everyone on board was relatively happy that the fight was over.  However, the KitHawk docked the same time Wolf pulled his little stunt on Fox.  Fara heard about it and nearly broke down in panicked tears.  Her and Grant both headed for the medical bay to meet him.

****

 On the bridge, everyone was shocked to see what had happened.  Their hero, Fox McCloud, may have just died.  Wolf O'Donnell may have got the last laugh and succeeded in his mad quest for blood.

 Dallas felt a rage start to burn inside of her when she saw the person she was in love with fall like that.  She heard Fox's painful screams on the PA system and ordered them to pick the ship up at once.  The SunHawk went in at flank and picked the busted fighter right of space like a cherry.

 She did not want to leave the bridge just yet.  She couldn't until they were safe out of the battle zone.  Dallas kept the ship on alert and probably would until they were safe inside Corneria controlled space.  She would go visit Fox soon, even knowing that he might be dead or dying by then.  It was all a sham sometimes, to be a commander.

 Dallas got to her feet and walked towards the science station where Kesh stood.  It was slightly damaged from the explosions, but still functioning.  There was just something she wanted to verify on her own.  She started to scan the area for nuclear radiation to find any sign that her suspicions on why she destroyed the station were true.

 It was thought at first that the fighter that almost rammed the bridge did not do any damage.  It did get away with some small amounts of carbon damage to the surface and nothing more.  However, a few fragments were able to penetrate deep enough and find its way into the wiring just below the bridge.  Perhaps it was just a coincidence that Dallas stood where she stood, or it might have been fate.

 Information being passed on through the fiber optics in those wires which were disrupted triggered a massive energy feedback.  A wave of electricity was tossed upward towards the console which Dallas stood.  Some electricity shot from her key board and shot up her nerves, catching Dallas in a trap.  Everyone saw her convulse at the large shock.  A small but somewhat lethal explosion went off on the console near her and tossed Dallas out of the electric shock.  She was thrown hard into the wall, burns on her hands from the electricity, a battered and bleeding face from the explosion, and a heart that was fluttering.  Dallas saw a bridge worker call for medics before she went unconscious.

****

 The Venomian fleet was crushed.  Six ships out of the total thirteen survived, and they were all walking home with their heads low.  Some of these ships would be tossing themselves into Solar or the Lylat sun, rather willing to die then to face Andross' rage when he found out about the destruction of Dark Star.  Heads were going to roll.

 On the broken Venom battle cruiser Judicator, Grand Praetor Brimstone gave less then a damn about what happened to him once they reached Venom.  He had lost his family, all that was left of it, which was the only thing that kept him on this measly existence at all.  He didn't care if Andross spared him or not, but he wanted to take the chance of having his life spared.

 Brimstone hoped that Andross would allow him to live on.  Not because he feared for his life, but because he had a new reason to remain in this sick little universe.  From this day forth, Brimstone would devote all of his life time and resources to the murder of Allison Dallas at his own hand.  He would have revenge, or he would die trying.  The old goat shook with hate at the mention of her name over and over again in his blackened mind.

****

 It was over.  The battle, the first Cornerian military offensive was a success.  The Dark Star station was nothing, and a large graveyard of dead ships and fighters was left in the area.  Seven Venom and three Cornerian warships, pieces or whole or halves, lie dead.  The broken flesh of the thousands who died was scattered everywhere.

 The battle was a Cornerian victory.  But at what price...?

****

 Two teams of medical personnel, both at different positions of the ship, raced down the corridors while holding dwindling lives in their paws.  Dr. Q'Ronnie looked at the scorched face of the loved Fox McCloud.  Fox had been wounded terribly by the fire in his cockpit.  He should have been killed by the smoke inside it.  However, an emergency air breathing system put an air mask on Fox which saved him from the smoke as an ejection of oxygen from the cabinet put out the fire.  However, the flames did take a toll.

 Fox was convulsing heavily from the burns which covered his legs, upper torso, and half his face.  The Dalmatian medic reached up and opened both of his eyes manually to shine a light in them.  They did dilate.  His brain was relatively undamaged.  Fox started to cry out in the pain of the burns, which was responded by a nurse shoving a needle in his arm and injecting him with a yellow liquid.  At once, Fox started to calm.

 Beside him were Falco and Peppy, both running along with the cart to keep up with their leader and friend.  Falco kept a watchful eye out for Fara, who emerged from a corner that blocked was along the med teams path.  Falco ran forth to stop her from seeing Fox, but they were going too quickly.  Fara was able to catch a quick glimpse of her lover's scared face and body.

 "No!" she screamed out.  Falco caught her and pushed her away from it, blocking her path to go with them.  The vixen could not get the wind or tongue to demand he step aside.  She was crying hysterically as Falco wrapped his arms around her.  Fara beet her small fists on his chest, somehow blaming him for what had happened or taking her anger out on him.  Falco just held her tightly, trying to give comfort as she let her tears flow.

 Conner and Grant had both heard about what happened to Captain Dallas and went to meet her.  Almost all of the crew were there.  Maurine, Kite, and Sparky were all either huddled around her cart or trying to keep up.  Grant looked down to see the battered face of his commanding officer and stepped back in shock.  Allison's face had lacerations in many places, more or less on the right side of her face.  There, her eye and cheek was a little puffed, and the dark of many bruises were seen.  Her hands were burnt and bleeding from heavy electrical surges and they saw that her heart was barely beating on its own.

 Allison was still twitching in many places from heavy electrocution.  She had a hemorrhage from the head injury that could damage her brain if care was not taken, plus three broken ribs which could pierce her lungs.  Some restraining belts kept her firmly tied to the cart so she would not convulse heavily and end up killing herself.

 Conner came up beside her, easily keeping speed with them, and took her hand into his.  Dallas stopped shaking for a minute and very briefly opened her eye to look at the black wolf.  Her green eye was totally blood shot, some of which dribbled out and rolled down her cheek mixed with the water of a tear.  Conner smiled when she squeezed his hand, but he lost it when that hand of hers went limp.

 "She's going into arrest!" someone shouted.  "Come on let's move."  But they could go no faster, and Conner started to tear when he felt her life start to fail.

****

 The medical bay was filled with wounded, some serious and others not.  Not quite like a triage system but there was blood and dying here.  Slippy Toad stood up on his crutches with an ace bandage wrapped around his ankle.  The nurse tending to him, a lovely black furred puma, gave him a bottle of regeneration pills and told him to take it easy for a few days.  Slippy nodded, but he didn't move yet from the bench he sat on.  Instead, he started to try and talk with the young cat.

 The sound of rushing people cut off Slippy's attempt to woe the nurse.  He turned around on his good foot in anger, and was shocked to see Fox on the table they were wheeling in.  That shock was expanded much when he saw the burns on Fox's face and body.

 "Hey!" he yelled out.  "What the hell happened?"  No one answered him at first.  Slippy rushed forward to try and see Fox, but Doctors and others around the table swarmed the table and blocked his way.  "Fox!  What happened?" he asked angrily towards Peppy.

 The old hare looked at Slippy and sighed.  "A departing present from Star Wolf.  Wolf rammed Fox with his fighter and got away."  Slippy looked at Fox, and then to the doctors tending him.  To think that Fox might be scarred for life if he survived was a little heart breaking to Slippy.

 "Go get me the epidermal regenerator," ordered Q'Ronnie.  "They should be able to heal these burns back to normal skin.  I just hope it works the way it was designed to."  A nurse went to a back storage room to retrieve what he asked for.  Peppy and Slippy got a new light in their eyes when they heard the words "epidermal regenerator."  It meant hope for Fox.

 Another team of medics rushed in the room pulling another cart.  Q'Ronnie looked up to see Captain Dallas on it.  "Myocardial infarction!" yelled out the doctor with her.  The other crew members withdrew from them, they too were shocked by Fox's appearance but they were still more worried about their own.

 Kesh walked in and her jaw dropped to see Dallas on the table having a heart attack.  A bandage around her head and her arm strapped cleanly to her body, Kesh walked forward to Maurine who embraced her, relieved to see her well.  They all stayed back and let the medics do their jobs.

 Q'Ronnie went to Dallas to see that she was only in the first stages of the heart attack.  Heavy electric shock had terminated the ability for the heart to pump on its own.  Q'Ronnie felt for a pulse and saw that there was none.  She was still breathing, but barely.  "Cardio stimulators," he ordered.  He tore open her uniform jacket and shirt for them to use the stimulators.  Two small metal triangles which he attached to her sternum and the other on her left breast above the heart.

 "Be careful.  She has broken ribs.  If she convulses too much she could puncture a lung," informed the other doctor.

 "Piss on the broken ribs!" spat Q'Ronnie as he charged up the stimulators.  "We have to get the heart going first and then we can heal a punctured lung easily."  He watched the chargers rise to their levels.  A high pitched whine sounded.  "All clear," he yelled.  He pushed a button, and Dallas's body arched her back from an electric stimulation.  She slumped down again, and still flat lined.

 "Charging again.  Keep CPR on her and monitor her respiration.  Keep O2 in her.  Go on!  Do it!"  A rebreather bag was placed over her mouth and pumped while a nurse started compression on her chest.

 Q'Ronnie looked back towards Fox and the medics around him.  "Get that epidermal regenerator warmed up!  I'll be there shortly."  Another high whine.  "Clear!"  Dallas arched again and then fell, still her heart was flatlined.  Q'Ronnie shook his head in frustration but refused to give up.  He would never give up.

****

 The darkness kept over him for a long period of time.  It was like sleep, but it was different.  Fox opened his eyes from it and looked into a cloud.  White and gray, all of its thickness closing in on him.  Fox tried to stand up, but he found a great stiffness in his back as he got up to his knees.  Here he knew that he wasn't dreaming.  Was he dead?

 Finally, Fox was able to stand up.  All of his joints were like stone hinges that haven't been smoothed.  His muscles hurt, and his brain was like a wash.  All Fox could remember was being rammed by Wolf, then a fire, and then great pain.  After that, just darkness, and then he came here.  Fox wondered very much if he was dead.  He felt alive as he did before, and the aches and pains he felt suggested that he was still feeling.

 He walked forward deeper into the cloudy fog to try and find a way out of...of wherever it was he stood.  He could see nothing at any direction.  Just the swirling vapors of the cloud.  However, a new sound soon came to his large ears.

 Footsteps.  Soft but formidable feet on the stone floor.  Fox pinpointed the direction of the approaching being, and readied himself for a possible confrontation.  The person was close, and Fox stood there, waiting for him to come into view.

 The first sign of the newcomer were two lights of bright blue.  As he drew closer, those lights revealed themselves as the eyes of him.  The person was a white furred fox, just under half a foot taller then Fox.  He was dressed in a ceremonial mail armor and robe, with his hands clasped in front of him as if in prayer.  The fox had long snow white hair tied into a pony tail.  On the chest of his armor was the double dragon jewel crest that Fox recognized from seeing Conner.  The standard of the Shyer.  He looked up into the soft glowing blue eyes of the radiant creature.

 "Orion?" he asked.  "You are Orion DraKhan?  Aren't you?"

 "Yes, Fox, I am."  Fox had no idea how he knew the name of this person.  He had never seen him before in his life, but he just knew somehow.

 "Is this a dream?  Am I dead or am I still alive?"

 "You are very much alive my friend.  And you will go on, I assure you.  Your destiny is by far the most important one known throughout this universe.  I do not mean your feuds with Andross either.  As far as where you are.  This is whatever first sees your heart."

 "My destiny?" said Fox.  "I never used to believe in that.  Destiny took my father to the grave.  What does it hold for me?"

 "You will see, in time.  We must all wait for our futures to write themselves.  That is what mortal living is all about."

 Fox looked away from Orion, confused much by what was happening.  The white fox stood there, looking at the Lylatian pilot with his soft glowing eyes.

 "Is this a dream?" he asked.

 Orion smiled at the child like question.  Always willing to learn.  Just like the human race on Terra.  The clouds around Fox and Orion started to move.  A wind caught Fox in the eyes, making him flinch for a second.  The cloud started to blow harder.

 "A dream to some," Orion answered softly.  He through up his arms which caused the clouds and wind to blow harder.  His robe and hair was fluttering neatly in the winds.  "But a nightmare to others!" he yelled out.  In an instant, the clouds were gone.  Orion vanished in a puff of twinkling blue smoke.

 Fox found himself on a reflective ballroom floor.  He could see no walls or ceilings, just voids of black darkness.  Only the floor was there to hold him up.  Fox looked around for the Shyer, trying to find him.

 "Wait!" he yelled out.  "Aren't you going to help me get out of here?  Isn't that what you are here for?"

 "No, Fox.  That I will leave to yourself," said the unseen voice.

 "Then why did you come to me?"

 "To warn you?"

 "About what?"

 "A great dark storm cloud is coming over the mountains, and an even blacker evil is at its heart.  This vile evil has your name...your name and not your family name, in its vile little grip.  You must be prepared to confront the darkness or else it will consume you Fox.  It will consume everything.  I will be there to help you face it."  Orion's voice became more distant with every word.

 "How do you know that?" asked Fox quickly.

 "Because I have already been there!"

 That voice echoed off, and Fox knew he was alone.  Alone in this dance floor.  Of all the places the Shyer wizard could bring him, it had to be here.  A galactic sized ballroom dance floor and no woman to share it with.  Fox knew that somewhere had to be the exit to this place.  He choose a random direction and started to walk in that direction.  The only sound was the beating of his own heart and the echoless steps of his feet on the floor.  Wherever he walked though, a light stayed right over his head the whole time.  He, at times, wondered if he was even moving at all.

****

 She knew that they shuttle would come in handy.  The Cornerian orbital patrols didn't even bother stopping her.  That might have changed if she hadn't gotten the shuttles tags sprayed off and replaced by normal paint.  Pandora looked down at the thriving planet and smiled.  Down there, somewhere, was her mission priority.

 The collie brought the ship into a descent into the atmosphere.  Its reflective coating cleanly shielding against the burn of the atmosphere entry.  Soon, Pandora saw the trees and plains of the Cornerian forests.  The city of Archaic was directly ahead.

 The rain fell down hard, which was an even greater pain for the small man.

 "Get out!" screamed the rough voice of a large wolverine.  "Read the signs next time.  No bullcrap technology in this club.  Take it to the asylum and get the proper treatment."  The meercat fell face first into the muddy water from the great big wolverine shoving him out.  The light behind him died when the creature who booted him out shut it.

 He was a pretty pathetic sight.  The meercat wore a muddy and tattered tan business suit.  His fedora hat which gave him a geeky secret agent look was crumbled up and soaked, and his glasses were below him somewhere.  The meercat's name was Dr. Cecil Pendrex, Ph.D.  A brilliant scientist in any field of physics and math.  He was a classic inventor with original ideas.  Only they were all tuned to things seen in science fiction.  He focused almost all of his attention in the field of quantum physics and the theories of time.  Particularly on how to travel through it.

 Pendrex knelt down into the street rain water to try and find his glasses.  Everything was blurry to him if he did not have them.  Even his own hand a foot from his face was blurry.  Without his glasses, he might as well be blind.  Pendrex went on to paw for his glasses, looking everywhere he thought they might be.  His hands only found rain water taking mud off the streets.

 He heard footsteps approaching him from down the streets.  "Oh, what now?" he asked himself, thinking it might be hoodlums.  He saw a blurry form approach him, stop and bend down right in front of him.

 "The poor bastards won't know the future they are throwing away.  Don't you agree Dr. Pendrex?" asked a woman's voice.  "Oh by the way.  I think these are yours."  Pendrex felt his hand be taken by a tough but delicate other hand and a pair of spectacles be placed into his palm.

 "Thank you," he said.  He put the glasses over his eyes and looked up to his helper.  He was surprised to see the most beautiful collie female he had ever seen kneeling down before him.  Her eyes, one of two different color, were a little freaky.  Nevertheless, her face was warm and friendly.  Pendrex could not help but feel himself to the lavish creature.  "Thank you," he said again.

 "Once is enough," said the collie.  She got to her feet and held her hand down to him.  He took it and she lifted him to his feet.  Pendrex did not care that the collie was a full foot taller then he was.  "As I said," continued the collie.  "The poor bastards inside will never know what they missed."  She took his hat and tried to brush some of the dirt off of it.

 "Could I ask you not to swear?" said the meercat.  "I find it offensive."

 "Surely," she said back.  "I am Dr. Pandora Freelancer.  I study the same thing you do.  Quantum physics and the natures and sciences of time.  I was wondering if we could, that is if you could come to my little hideaway off of this planet and we could share notes."

 "You study my field too?" said the meercat.  His ears perked up with surprise.  This gorgeous and sexy creature was asking him, a scarecrow for girls his whole life, to come with him.  "You want me to come with...you?"

 "That's right," said Pandora.  "It is a lot of business, I will say that.  I have a project going on back home that needs some of your...expertise.  I will pay money."  Pandora was teasing him, making him think that her body was not a reason enough for him to except.

 "No, no.  No money is needed.  I'll be happy to assist you."

 "Great!" shouted Pandora.  She placed her arm around him and pulled him into her side tightly.  Pendrex felt the warmth of her body, and smiled at it.  "I tell you something doctor, you will not regret this.  Not only will our work go on to help all of the Lylat system, particularly Corneria for the war effort, but you and I and my other associates will all get very, very rich."

 Pendrex did not take science as something to make money off of.  However, when the word very was repeated before rich was said, he smiled with opportunity.  Plus, Pendrex always wanted to help Corneria help fight this war.  Maybe now he could.  All of a sudden, the small doctor felt his life grow a little brighter and luckier.

 The two stepped around a corner.  As they did, Pandora looked back to the door at a set of eyes peering at them from a window.  When the vanished, the back door opened again.  A German Shepherd walked out and threw up his collar against the winds.  Behind him was the wolverine who just threw the little doctor out.

 "I hope you're right about that mister," he said.  "That little guy had some nifty ideas.  We never were able to create any Arwing fighters by not listening to the weird."

 "Trust me," assured Ravaan Carnovage.  He went into his pocket and pulled out a credit card reader.  The wolverine handed his card to the dog, and Ravaan added half a thousand credits to it.  "You won't regret it.  This is science, and I think that he will most benefit from our company."

 "Yes.  But why throw him out like a dog?  What's the point in that."

 "Never you mind," said Ravaan.  He handed back the card and stepped away.  "It's not your problem any more."  The dog tipped his hat to the wolverine and took off down the street after Pandora and the small doctor.  Their business on Corneria was officially concluded.

****

 Her head hurt so much when she opened her eyes, the light caught them and she was forced to shot them immediately.  It felt like ten thousand bulldozers were rolling through her mind.  Dallas slowly sat up and rubbed her aching forehead, trying to find where she was.

 A room made of stone, dark and musty.  An odor of rotten flesh was in the air, but Dallas ignored it.  She was primarily trying to find out where she was.  The room was small, cubic chamber with a barred window towards was in front of her.  Sunlight or something in that light was shining through it into her eyes.  Dallas tried to shield the light away from her to give some comfort to her pain.  She scooted backward out of the sun to get a better look of her surroundings.

 It looked like a small prison cell.  But the only opening to the outside was the window.  Dallas looked around and found a skeleton lying on the floor.  It looked like the full skeleton of a bear, tall and large built in the frame.  Dallas looked at the bones, seeing that a few shreds of rotten flesh were hanging off of the bones.

 "So, how long have you been here?" she asked, actually expecting an answer.  The skeleton just sat there, dead as before.  Dallas shook her head and laughed, appreciating the irony to brighten her situation.  Slowly, she got to her feet.

 She went to the window and looked out.  She was on the ground level of whatever building she was in, and outside was just an endless grain field.  The winds made the grains dance over the landscape.  If this was a prison, it was a poor one.  Who would put the cells next to the direct outside and at ground level.  Dallas grabbed hold of the bars and pushed hard on them, not even getting a wiggle.  She pulled to get the same result.

 "OK," she breathed, stepping back from the window.  "That's not a good way out."  She looked around to find anything that even resembled a door, but there was nothing there.  "There has to be a way in here," she said to herself.  She looked towards the ceiling which was as stony and thick as the walls.  "How did they get you in here?" she asked the skeleton.

 Shaking her head, Dallas backed up and leaned against the wall to think.  When she did, she fell backward as if there was no wall at all.  Dallas fell hard into the grain and rolled down a hill towards and ended up at the bottom of it with her face in the dirt.  After lying there for a few minutes, Dallas got back to her feet and looked back up the hill.

 There was a small building there, black as midnight, made of all stone.  She saw the side lit up by the sun which had the same barred window as before, only she viewed it from the outside.

 "What the hell?" said Dallas.  She remembered leaning up against the wall to try and think, and then she was on the outside falling down.  You can't just fall through a stone wall.  "What trickery is this?" she yelled out.  "Where am I?"

 "The same trickery that you see in your own imagination, Ally."  Dallas turned suddenly at the new voice, trying to find its source.  No one was around.  She was still alone in these fields.  "That was just something to tell you that you can accomplish the complicated when you don't try so hard.  Once at peace, the solution will come to you."

 "Where are you?" yelled Dallas.

 "I'm right behind you, Ally."  Dallas turned around and looked at the person who had been talking to her.  It was a female gray wolf, long black hair, and a white set of marks that looked like claw marks but were only fur.  The wolf lady was dressed in strange battle armor, totally silver and shining off the sun.  She held a helmet/mask under her arm that was perfectly molded for her head.  Behind her, hanging from her back, was a massive steal sword in its sheath.

 Dallas stepped backward from the woman.  "Who are you?" she asked.  "How do you know my name?"

 "I'm your niece.  Could you not tell?"

 Dallas looked at her in disbelief.  "What?  That's impossible.  How can I have a niece or a nephew when I don't even have siblings?  Tell me that.  Just who is your father or mother?"

 "You will see, in time.  So, you want to get home?" asked the warrior woman.

 "Well I'm not going to get there by walking in any direction.  I don't even know where I am.  Just how do I get back to my ship."  Dallas stepped back, now remembering.  Her final memories before coming into that little prison shack were returning.  She was working at a science station.  An electric field caught her hands and electrocuted her just before an explosion tossed her into he wall.  After that, she remembered seeing Conner's face, and then nothing until now.

 The wolf, clearly reading her thoughts with a hyper powerful telepathic mind, nodded to her.  "Don't worry," she said.  "You are not dead, nor will you today.  At least I don't think you will.  And don't worry about getting home.  Time on its own will take care of that.  I come here, Allison Dallas, to give you a warning.  In time, you will witness a ship of light sometime when your life seems to be damned.  You will not expect it when it comes, but it will have serious repercussions on the future."

 "What is this 'ship of light'?"

 "The Crystalix Starship."

 "Does it have anything to do with the Shyer?"

 "Not the way you think.  You will know the Crystalix when you first see it.  Until then, keep doing what you would do in any crisis situation, and keep your heart open to those who you probably would not do so normally."  The wolf turned around and started to head away through the thicker grass.  Dallas, disturbed by the sunshine, bowed her head and began to rub her eyes.

 When she looked back up, she saw nothing but darkness.  The sun and the sky and all of the grain field had disappeared.  Dallas looked down and saw a polished dance floor, her reflection staring back up at her.

 "Wait!" she called out.  "What is your name?  If you are my relation then I would like to know who you are!"

 "My name is Surveya," said a voice from the darkness.  "We will meet again, Ms. Dallas."  The voice trailed off, and then nothing.

 Dallas stood alone in the center of a light shining down onto her.  Everywhere else was just a massive darkened void, except the large dance floor underneath her.  Not knowing what to do now, Dallas started to walk forward in hopes she would find a way out.

****

 It went on for almost ten minutes before any results.  Dr. Q'Ronnie kept the stimulators going for that entire period of time before a pulse finally surface.  For eight minutes, Captain Dallas was without life.  Now that she was revived, all of her crew were breathing a little easier.

 She was not out of the woods yet.  Q'Ronnie was certain that the stimulators must have pierced her lung.  His suspicions were confirmed when her breath started to become more shallow then it already was.  The blood in her mouth that siphoned while breathing was also a big clue.

 "Take her into surgery preparation right now.  We have to move quickly otherwise we'll lose her and have to start all over again."

 "Doctor!" called Falco, who had entered the medical room with Fara a little earlier.  "What about Fox."

 The Dalmatian looked at the team working around the burned fox.  Nurses were covering the burns on his face with rags soaked in sterilized water while another was setting up to use the epidermal regenerator.  Q'Ronnie shook his head.  "Fox's life signs are holding themselves for right now.  He won't be going anywhere.  However I have got less then another ten minutes before Captain Dallas drowns in her own blood.  The other doctors will take care of Fox, I promise you that.  That epidermal regenerator will make him as good as new."

 "Are you certain about that?" asked Fara.

 The Dalmatian smiled at her.  "Quite sure.  It worked on me."  Q'Ronnie left to attend to Dallas.  Some of the crew tried to follow but were blocked off by a nurse.  All they could do was wait around and worry.

 "The regenerator is ready," announced the person at it.

 "Switch it on then," said the current lead doctor.  The nurse at the device pushed a button.  A wavy green beam of light shot forth and lit up on Fox's head.  The light was like a scanner beam, which shrunk and expanded as it moved up and down the burn his face.  The light kept perfect alignment with the edge of the burn.  Now it was Star Fox's turn to wait.

****

 She had been walking for what it seemed hours.  Captain Dallas's feet were starting to sore from the hardness of the floor.  And nothing of the scenery changed either.  Always the same dance floor and surrounding darkness.  She was growing tired.

 "Hello!" she cried out.  "Hello!  Is anybody in here?"  Dallas did not expect to be answered back.  She kept on moving in the same direction, trying to find any sign at all much less then just the way out.  Anything to end the boredom of being alone in eternity.

 Fox was just too tired to go on any further.  His muscles hurt like hell, and after what it seemed to be at least five whole hours of wandering aimlessly, he could go no further.  Fox lay on the cold floor, his cheek resting against arm.  He used his flight jacket to guard against the light in his eyes.  Even here, when we was most tired, he could not find anyway to sleep.  He just lay there, thinking about Fara, the times he had with his father, and life in general.  The possibility that he might be stuck here for good, wherever it was, did not escape Fox's mind.  If that was true, then Fox would take his first sleep right here.  Slowly, he shut his eyes to find sleep, hoping that Fara's face would appear in his dreams.  He sighed with depression at the thought of never seeing her again.

 A sound in the distance came to him.  It sounded like a voice, but it was far too faint to be recognized.  Fox lay there, regarding it as a simple figment of his imagination.  Maybe sleep would clear his head a little bit.  Again, a voice came to his large radar ears, which twitched upward at the sound.

 Fox sat up, straining to hear from the darkness.  For a second, there was nothing, and again he thought he was just hearing things.

 "Hello!"  Fox shot up, wonder and hope in his eyes at the sound of the common word.  He got up on his feet quickly and strained to listen to the voice.  It came again to him, and Fox started to walk towards where he thought it was coming from.  Someone was out there, and he or she was calling out to anyone.  They must be alone like him.

 Fox didn't care who or what it might be.  Company of any kind in this middle of no where nightmare was fine with him.  Fox let out a loud whistle, which found its way through the darkness quiet easily.  He then started to run in the direction where the voice was coming from.

 It didn't take long for his ears to start hearing the voice quiet clearly.  A woman's voice that he knew, but couldn't place just yet.  It was calling out hello to the darkness, asking for someone to answer her after the whistle.  Fox stopped.

 "Over here!" he called out.

 Sure enough, the rapid sounds of sprinting feet came to his ears, and Fox saw a figure emerge from the darkness.  Allison Dallas never stopped and ran right into him.  He didn't know why he did it, probably relieved to see a familiar face, but Fox wrapped his arms around Dallas and hugged her tightly.  Allison herself caused Fox to feel like he was being crushed by her arms.

 "It's good to see you too, Captain," he said after she let off a bit.  Allison, blushing in her cheeks, stepped away from him.

 "Sorry," she said, embarrassed.  "I'm...I'm just a little relieved that I'm not alone in this boring whatever or wherever."

 "You're relieved.  I hate being alone like this.  A place this big and no one to share it with.  That would have been a pain."

 The two of them started to walk again into the darkness, the light staying directly over their heads for the entire time.  At first, they said nothing.  Just walked side by side, looking for a way out.  After a long period of silence, Fox asked a strange question, and a conversation was sparked between the two.  They talked for a long time about different things of their lives.  Dallas talked about her life on Titania, being raised there as a child.  This sort of surprised Fox.  Living on Titania was nothing that surprised him, but it was not the most popular spot to bring up children.  The outcome would be a tough individual, and that's what Dallas was.  Fox told her about the times he had with his father before he died.  Dallas remembered meeting James McCloud, but only once about seven years ago when she was only applying for the academy.  Dallas even told Fox about what she had done at the battle of Katina, and the elimination of all those Venomian shock troopers.  Fox didn't mind about the troopers, for he too understood the reflections of war on some people.  He was more interested in the fact that it was Dallas who sent them down to Katina base where Fox met up with his old friend, Bill Grey.  He finally got to thank her for that act of kindness.  The talk went on until finally, Dallas asked the last question.

 "Peppy heard the enemy troopers coming in the transport," said Fox, about in the middle of his answer to Dallas.  The question was how he and Fara first met.  "We took the Venomian infantry by surprise and cleaned things up fast.  Twelve against three since Slippy wasn't there at the time.  But they still couldn't stand up to us.  When the fighting was over a Venomian lizard took Fara hostage.  We knew they were just trying to take a ransom token from a rich family, and it looked like he was going to bail.  That was when Slippy popped out of a cryo-mud tube and nailed him."

 "So what happened after that?" asked Dallas.  "Did you and Fara hit it off right then and there?  Gratitude towards her hero or what?"

 "Nope.  Fara was far more independent and cocky then I've seen in a long time.  She was right up there with Falco.  We never officially met for another few days on Corneria where we were running test runs for new revisions of Arwing fighters.  The war hasn't started yet, but we knew that Andross would be coming some how or another.  So, we took off and tried to find as much as we could on his forces before he made his move.  But he was already making it at the time we were approaching Venom."

 Dallas nodded in understanding.  "That was when Andross' forces lade siege to Corneria, and started the war.  He moved the whole fleet in through a back door around the whole system and came in from behind, taking over the entire Lylat system from the inside.  I have to hand it to the crazy bastard.  He is smart.  Too bad he had to go nuts on us."

 "Yeah."  Fox sighed.  Dallas noticed the sudden sadness in him, but she didn't understand it.  She decided not to try.  Dallas slipped her hand into his arm, which made Fox a little nervous, but he gave in.  "You know, even from what Orion told me, the thought that we actually might be dead..."

 "I know," said Dallas.  "I know.  Who's Orion?"

 "This guy I met when I first came in here.  He was a Shyer, I'm pretty sure."

 "I Shyer!" said Dallas, somewhat surprised.

 Fox nodded.  "He had the same dragon symbol that your friend Conner had.  He tried to warn me about this evil darkness coming and that I should be ready to face it when it gets here.  I don't know what he was talking about.  What really bugged me is him saying that I still had an all important destiny.  It was weird."  Fox shook his head, looking at Dallas.  "Sorry if I'm freaking out on you."

 "Oh, no, you're not.  The same thing happened to me."

 "What?"

 Dallas smiled.  "I met this girl in a big wheat field before I came here.  She was a wolf who claimed she was my niece.  I knew that was impossible because I don't have any brothers or sisters to have children at all.  Not unless my father adopted or had another wife and child behind my back."

 "You never know," Fox said.

 Fox looked over at Dallas.  For the first time in a while, he was feeling a little attracted to her.  Her eyes were as bright and colorful green as his were, plus she had the same motivations as he did now.  Her father was killed because of the actions of a traitor as was his.  This was a pretty lame commonality.  Fox went on to think of other things they had in common between them.  Other then them both being cunning and powerful warriors, fighting for their homes, Fox could think of nothing.  As if it mattered.  Soul mates, if this was his, did not have to have things in common with each other.

 "Would you..."  Fox failed to get the words out.  Nervousness.

 "Would I what?" asked Dallas.

 "Would you...like to dance."

 Allison was shocked by the request.  She stopped and looked up at Fox, almost on the verge of heavy laughter.  "You want me...to dance with you?"  The husky giggled quietly to herself, getting much humor out of hearing this.

 Fox only shrugged and went to start walking again.  "I just figured that since we are standing on perhaps the biggest ball room in the entire universe.  An infinite one or just one that is several thousand light years apart, I figured that you might like to dance with me on it.  If you don't want to, I understand."  Fox started to walk off.

 Wake up you fool, yelled a voice in Dallas's head.  This was the person who she had fallen in love with.  If they did go back to their original lives, then she would not have this chance again for the rest of hers.  Quickly, Allison reached her arm out and took Fox by the shoulder.

 "I'm sorry," she said to him softly.  "I'd love to dance with you."  She cast her eyes skyward into the light.  "I doubt there'll be any music though," she commented.  "Kind of a sick joke.  Give us a galactic sized ball room dance floor and won't put on the appropriate tunes."  She laughed at the irony of their situation.

 "Doesn't matter," returned Fox.  He reached a hand out and took Dallas's, and placed the other on her side.  The two started to dance a waltz together, using music in their heads to keep in step.  They must have had the correct tastes in music, because every one of their steps was perfect.

 The light above them dimmed to a rich romantic glow and rose higher above their heads.  Allison would remember this moment until her dying days, for it was what she wanted for a long while.  Before this time was done, Fox would have this moment etched in his mind as well.  The two of them danced on together to the non existent melody.

****

 The last time Sparky found himself pacing back and forth was waiting for word on Alan Dallas.  He died, and now he was waiting for word on Ally.  The surgery had gone on for a half hour now, which was a short time for an operation.  But it felt like a lot longer then that to Sparky.

 Kesh and Maurine sat together as usual.  Her head rested up against him as she slept.  Maurine too waited patiently in there with all of them.  He could feel the sorrowful and worried thoughts in his shipmates around him.  Across from the room, looking into where Fox was, stood Grant.  He just stood there with no emotions and no thoughts that Maurine could read just now.  There was no way in telling if Grant wanted the Cornerian hero to live or to die.  And if he did live, to remain forever a singed cripple.

 Maurine gently lifted Kesh off of him, got up, and laid her down on the couch where they sat, being careful to keep her broken arm out from underneath her.  After he put Kesh into a position of comfort, he went over and stood next to the SunHawk XO.  Maurine has had enough of the big lions secrecy as far as Star Fox goes.

 "You know, I couldn't help but wonder how Fox would react if he ever saw his face in the mirror if he looked like that for the rest of his life."  Grant made no reply to an answer.  He just stood there and looked in.  Maurine's eyes narrowed.  "Of course, I don't see why you should care, right?  You would give less then a damn if he died in there right now and we never got him back.  Tell me I'm wrong and I'll stand corrected.  Come on Leo.  What is it exactly that Fox did to you that made you have so much animosity towards him?"

 That was it.  Leo turned to Maurine in a flashing anger, about ready to blow up into his face.  But Maurine pulled him into the trap.  At once, the thoughts and memories of Grant were put to his surface consciousness, and Maurine plucked them right out easily.  Grant felt his thoughts be pulled out like apples from a tree, and he stared at the jackal in horror.

 Maurine nodded his head.  "I see," he whispered.  "He was late to it, wasn't he.  The Vulture got away because he failed to keep his agenda for one time.  And you were the victim of it.  So sorry about that."

 Grant exploded.  "You son of a bitch!" he screamed.  Maurine could not move or read his thoughts fast enough to avoid.  Grant cocked his arm back and punched the jackal square on the jaw.  Maurine was knocked backward into the wall by the strike of the large powerful being.  He was dazed, but only for a second, which was more then enough time for Grant to grab him by the collar and lift him up.

 Kesh woke up at the ruckus and was shocked to see her lover being attacked by Grant.  "How would you like to join Fox and the Captain you sorry piece of..."

 "Grant!  Stop this!" yelled Sparky, going to break them up.  "We just scored a major victory for the good guys.  We shouldn't be trying to kill each other to celebrate it."

 "Stay out of this Herrick," burned Grant, still holding Maurine in the air.  "No one reads my mind without asking and gets away without a really big hurt.  That includes you Maurine."  The lion held him with one hand, and the other was brought back for a head on and devastating punch.

 Maurine only smiled at him.  "Go ahead," he spat.  "Do it Leo.  What are you waiting for.  Take out your anger on a jackal half your size just because he got something that's been biting your ass ever since we started working on this ship.  And when your done, why don't you go in there and spill your guts about what you feel to Fara and Falco and Peppy and Slippy.  Those are the only family that Fox has left that we know of.  I'm sure that they would love to hear about your loathing him and that you wish he would die."

 Seething with rage in every once of him, Grant roared out and tossed Maurine away from him.  Maurine got back to his feet and wiped some of the blood off his nose from Grant's punch.  He looked up at the lion and frowned.  "I didn't think so."

 "Shut up," cursed Grant.  He almost came to attack Maurine again, but stopped.  "You don't know.  How could you?  You've never had enough time in this service to take risks and be in calamities like I have.  They do happen, and I got screwed because someone wasn't there when they said they would be."

 "They are not always are there Grant," said Kesh, walking to him.  She placed a hand on his shoulder, understanding his anger.  "Fox may be the heroes of Lylat, and we do depend on him and the others to be there when we need them.  It does not always work out like that.  They are all, we are all Lylatian.  We are not Shyer like Conner is, and we can only do so many things at one time.  I depended on people who were not there for me when I needed them, but I learned to get over it.  So you will never become an admiral.  So what.  No one in here will probably become an admiral either.  I have an inorganic brain, do you think the Ministry will let me be part of Priority One?  You are worried about the things you lost because of Fox's failure to be there.  Try being grateful about the things you have retained."

 Grant looked at Kesh, and nodded to her.  For someone who came on board an ice cycle, she spoke with a great wisdom.  Grant went back and sat in the chair, his head bowed away from the others.  They all sat or stood silent, not saying a word and not even breathing with a sound until the door to the lab swung open.  They all looked to see Dr. Q'Ronnie walk through the door.

 "She'll live, I believe," he reported with a slight smile.  "We were able to repair the damaged lung and reset the broken ribs.  She did receive some minor brain damage from the hemorrhage resulting from her head injury, but it is nothing that we cannot repair.  As far as I am concerned, her prognosis is excellent."

 "She'll be all right?" inquired Sparky.

 "She's going to be fine.  She's still going to be out for another hour or two recovering, but, yes, she will be fine."  Q'Ronnie looked into the window to see the regenerator beam to Fox's face stop.  "If you'll excuse me, I have matters to attend to."  The doctor went out the door to tend to Fox himself, leaving the rest of the crew to rejoice with relief.  Grant remained where he sat.

 Q'Ronnie got in there to see the other doctors begin to remove the cloth from Fox's face.  Fara and Peppy were both at either side of his bed, anxiously waiting to see what happened.  The cloth was removed, and they all looked.  The burn scars were completely gone, but his whole face where they were was totally bruised.  It looked like his head fell victim to a kangaroo boxer on steroids and adrenaline pushers.  Fara looked at Fox's battered profile and started to cry again.

 "Why are you crying?" asked Q'Ronnie.  He walked over to Fara.  "The device worked perfectly.  You should be happy."

 "To see someone you love like that would bring anyone to tears," informed Peppy.

 "I imagine so.  The bruises will heal, and Fox will live.  Now, Ms. Phoenix, if you please.  I must administer this device to the rest of his burns."  Fara hesitated for a moment and then nodded.  She bent over and kissed Fox on his forehead before she moved out of the way.

 A new set of padding was being administered to Fox when the bed with Captain Dallas was being rolled in.  The person wheeling it pushed the cart right beside Fox and then walked out quickly.  All in all, Dallas looked just as bad as Fox if not worse.  Half of her face was battered and bruised, tubes were being run down her throat from a machine to breath for her, and more tubes running into her stomach.  Above all, both she and Fox were going to be wrecks for a long while to come.

****

 The Cat Claw Deviator moved through the area of space between Katina and Sector Y as fast as her small engines could carry her.  This area was a heavy artery for military space craft, so the Blood Stone Raiders wanted to move through as quickly as possible.  Ravaan knew that as soon as they found out about the civilian shuttle they stole and what happened to its current passenger and crew lineup, they would be hunted criminals.  If it were not for their cloaking device, they would have been captured long before now.

 At first, Ravaan considered Pandora's this doctor insane and that she didn't know what she was doing.  To bring a Cornerian on board a ship aligned with Andross.  Of course he was correct about the insane part, but he was wrong about the other.  Pandora knew exactly what she was doing, which was the truly frightening part of it.

 The tall dog walked through the ship, trying to find Pandora.  He saw their guest, the scientist meerkat sitting in his quarters, sleeping soundly.  Boris was sitting at the door, guarding it.  There was nothing to guard it from, but Pandora insisted that he be guarded in case he goes into doing something stupid.  Protecting him from himself.  Boris was a sick little creature.  He got pleasure out of seeing his bombs he made explode in high populated areas.

 Finally, Ravaan found the dual color eyed collie sitting alone in the small mess room of the ship.  On the table before her was a fizzing soft drink she hasn't touched yet.  Ravaan saw a woman in deep thought before him.

 "So?" he said, sitting across from her.  "What's the next move?"

 Pandora looked at him and then back to her drink.  "We'll take this ship to the coordinates I give to you later, and we'll hide out there until we are ready for our next moves.  At that time, all the modifications I promised for this ship will be installed, and we will be a power to reckon with from then on."  She smiled at him and took a sip from her glass.  "Is our good little doctor locked away nice and tight?" she asked him.

 "Yes, I have Boris guarding him right now.  Emil will fill in for him within the next few hours."  Ravaan sighed, not understanding quite yet.  Pandora saw this and answered for him.

 "That goofy little stooge in there, his ideas will be a prime necessity for our new weapon.  He will get the same pay checks that all of you get, minus about a hundred grand or more for lack of dangerous battles and other commando stuff like that.  Don't get me wrong, he's in a rotten boat in the middle of the ocean plagued with sharks, but let's face it.  You are mercenaries.

 "One more thing.  We need to stop at some town on any of the planets on rout to our new home for  a while.  I need to pick up some live people.  In truth, I'll need to kidnap a few."

 "What for?"

 "Well, I have to have a test subject in order to utilize the formulas for variants of the weapon's prime class of energy.  Organic beings will provide much more efficient and reliable test results, and living sentient beings are as organic as they come."  Pandora went into her jacket and pulled out an object.  Ravaan saw it as a glowing crystal orb set inside a strangely carved talisman.

 "This," continued Pandora with a terrible smile.  "This will be our key to our goals.  The key to my goals.  I believe that in order to be able to control a thing, you must first gain the ability to destroy that thing.  After you do that, you can go on to gain its control or at least pound it into oblivion so no one else can.  I will control what I want most in life.  The ultimate universal river will...be...mine."

****

 There was no containing it.  Fox and Allison held each other tightly, lovingly.  The two of the greenest eyes in the entire Lylat system stared at each other with adoring love.  The two of them had danced without end for a long while, and now they just stood on the endless ball room floor holding one another, an aura of romantic air around them.

 Fox knew that this was wrong.  To be with another woman when he already had one was all confusing to him.  The thought that they might never walk out of this place at all had crossed his mind, so had the thoughts of what would happen since he and Allison would be alone together for the rest of their lives.  It was unavoidable, so Fox accepted it.  He knew that if Fara saw this now, she would neither understand it nor would she forgive him.  But he could no longer help himself.  He stood there and pulled Allison tighter into him.

 For Allison Dallas, this was everything she had ever wanted.  For the past year, she had feelings for Fox McCloud.  Ever since she saw him in action for the first time against Andross' forces.  When she heard that he and Fara were seeing each other, Allison thought that her heart would be broken forever.  Now she was here, in his arms perhaps for the rest of their lives.  She forgot about everything back home that made her responsible.  The SunHawk, her crew, her oath to serve Corneria under its banner.  None of it mattered to her now.  Allison placed her ear on Fox's chest, letting his heart beat bring comfort.

 There they stayed for a long while.  Allison almost let the heart under her cheek soothe her to sleep, but she woke up and broke free from Fox's hold.  They only stood there now, her hands in his.  Allison shook her head angrily.  "I don't understand it.  I've...I've had a crush on you for an entire year, so I should be happy about this.  But everything about this says that it's wrong."

 Fox, understanding, nodded.  "Then maybe you should walk away now so it doesn't take you.  I love Fara.  I don't want to hurt her."

 "And I don't want to hurt what you have together.  As long as you are content, I will not interfere.  Come.  Let's find a way out of this together."

 Fox shook his head.  "No.  I don't want to risk putting something between us that doesn't belong.  If we do, then both of us will do something that we will regret and that will hurt others as well.  We should walk away from each other and only come back if there is no way out."

 Allison nodded to him and stepped away.  However, she never took her eyes away from Fox's until she was a good distance away from him.  There, she turned around and slowly began to walk away.  Fox watched her as she slowly, step by step, moved away from him and out of his light.

 She didn't get two fight until Fox was out of her light, and Allison stopped.  She tried not to look back, about ready to break her own neck to keep her attention forward.  That battle lost out, and she slowly turned around and looked at him.  Fox just stood there, looking at her, no emotions save one in his eyes.  He blinked, and that was it.

 Allison shuddered for a moment and then ran straight at him.  The husky tossed herself into Fox, who at one placed his arms around her again.  Their lips touched, locking into a deep and passionate kiss.  A fire was put inside Fox that, even with Fara, he had never felt before.  The kiss was so strong that, even if it was for a moment, Fox forgot about Fara Phoenix.

 The vision came to her again.  Allison saw Fox, standing before a strange object made of the brightest and most brilliant crystal substance she had ever seen.  Only this Fox was old.  He had lengthy gray hair, long bony and clawed hands.  His orange fur was partially faded and gray in some parts.  One of his ears was torn up and scarred.  The old Fox was dressed in rich white clothes and a long cloak with hood.  Allison judged the Fox that she was seeing now somewhere in mid to late sixties or early seventies.

 She watched as the elderly being pulled out a crystal shard from the object before him and held it in his hand.  The shard glowed in his old hand, letting out a musical tone as it did.  Allison was confused.  Was this what Fox looked like in fifty years?  She closed her eyes from this, refusing to look any more.  Allison believed the future was too precious and delicate, even if it was a lie which she believed this to be.

 While they kissed, Fox saw a great planet, far outside the Lylat system, close to the rim.   Large and beautiful forest world of cold winds and massive seas.  There, close to its northern pole, was a magnificent city.  Massive, alien technology spanning everywhere.  Spheres of light zooming and zigging in between the buildings crafted of semi-organic technology.  The tallest and most impressive structure was a pyramid/tower that had a spitting top into four magnificent spires.  In between these spires was huge cleanly cut chunk of crystal, spinning and glowing like a watchful eye over its denizens.  The alien city where an ancient civilization would make their new home.

 Outside the city, through the lush and beautiful darkened forests, walking down a path, he saw Allison Dallas.  People walking down paths or solid marble like granite, but a solid organic material, some dressed in robes of religious types, others plain cloths of civilization.  As they passed Allison, they nodded to her.  She nodded back and greeted with the words, "Wran Tarreck Karr."  So, thought Fox, it was not that far until they met an alien species.  Too bad they looked so much like us.  And Captain Dallas was going to be the ambassador to them.  Great choice, he thought anyway.  But was this a certain future?  Or was it just one of the massive possibilities?

 Fox's vision changed to space.  Behind in the far background was a dying sun.  Black terrible darkness was consuming the star down to its very core.  It was not natural, someone had set this catastrophe in motion.  Before the sun a huge star battle was raging.  Both sides were of alien origin he had never seen before.  One side of the ships were light green colored hulls, blue crystal composites in some of them.  The others were ships that looked like pincer like claws colored dark blood red, to brown, to even midnight black.  The two sides fought against each other with the most terrible weapons he had ever seen, much death happening between them.  Fox wanted to see no more death.

 The two broke away from the kiss and looked at each other with fear and wonder.  Allison's lower lip was quivering, she seemed so afraid.  "I saw you," she said.

 "I don't want to know," he said quickly.  "I don't want to see any more of this.  I want to go home now."

 "So do I," she said to him.  She stepped away from him and touched her lips where they kissed.  There, Allison almost started to laugh out loud.  Fox saw her holding it back.

 "What's so funny?" he asked with a smile.

 She quickly shook her head.  "Nothing, really.  I was...I was just thinking.  What would happen if you and I got together.  A lot of people back home would be angry.  We don't have that much in common.  I'm seven whole years older then you are.  I think you were right.  It's time to go home."

 Fox nodded, smiling.  "Come on," he said to her.  "Friends walk friends home in the dark."

 "Yes," said Allison quietly.  "Friends do."  She Kept looking at her fingers which touched her own lips, and smiled with amusement.  It was not cut out to what she thought it would be like, being in love with Fox.  It was not worth the pain that would be spawned because of it all.  Dallas turned her back on it for all time at that moment.

 The two of them started to walk together.  As they walked, the light that stayed over their heads at all times remained still as they moved.  When they two moved out of them, they terminated, and Allison and Fox both went into the same darkness they started at.  Time to go home.

 Behind them, standing in the darkness, two people stood alone in the dark.  The female wolf stood with her shining silver armor, staring at them joyfully.  Behind her, the white furred fox only looked after the two hero warriors and sighed.

 "Too bad," said the lady.  "They would have maid an excellent couple together."

 "And so it begins," whispered Orion.  "Their first chapter is not yet concluded, but time draws near.  Their love was never meant to be.  Yes, they would have been happy together as the next man and woman, but it was not the right path for either of them.  Fox and Fara were set when they first met.  As for Dallas, who knows."

 "I know," said the woman.  "I know because my father's best friend went into a rage when he found out about it.  He hated the man so very much.  My father himself remained indifferent about it all.  It is not my liberty to say who it is, but I will say this.  They do belong together.  As you said, it begins."

 "Yes."

****

 Everyone was huddled in the waiting room waiting for something to happen.  All kept taking peaks into the lab to see if any change had come.  Fara sat in a chair, looking for reaction from any of the other three.  She watched the SunHawk crew wait for word on Dallas.  Both would live, that was for sure according to the doctor.  But when they would wake up was another question.

 The answer was, right now.  Fox's eyes began to twitch.  The sound of a low hum and electronic wine came to his ears, pulse a bright light was hurting his eyes.  That didn't hurt nearly as much as the terrible pain in his face, a great and nerve racking ache.  Fox felt as if he had been caught in a maelstrom of fighting.  Slowly, his eyes opened up to a bright medical lamp above his head, shining right into his face.  Fox grumbled because of his terrible feelings.

 Beside him, Allison was beginning to squirm out of sleep.  The woman winced in pain at her first inch of movement and relaxed at once.  In her stomach to pump out unwanted things were tubes.  The air breathing system was removed and Allison was going on her own, with the help of nose tubes.  The lacerations on her face were stitched and bandaged up, her bruises still leaving a terrible mark.  And a lot of tape was placed around her midsection to guard the broken ribs.  Allison opened one eye, which was totally blood shot, caught a few rays of light, and shut it immediately.  It took a few minutes, but she slowly opened her eyes and viewed her surroundings.  The SunHawk's medical lab, and she was a patient.

 This was not right.  Allison remembered a dark place, a great dark hall with a dance floor.  She remembered the dance and the romance she had with Fox, even though it was so very brief.  It didn't matter.  Allison smiled as she felt her crush on him lift.  It was over.  Slowly, Captain Dallas turned her head despite an aching pain in her neck.  She looked over and saw Fox on the medical bed beside her, his face like he had been in a one sided kickboxing fight.  Fox also turned his head and looked at Allison, seeing her battered form as well as his.

 "You...you look like hell," said Allison, hardly any wind going into her words.

 Fox cracked a slight grin.  "You don't look too good yourself."

 Dallas smiled too, a little humored in this nasty get up.  She looked around some more and saw that they were the only two in there.  That should change soon, and nurse or doctor would be coming shortly.  Allison looked back to Fox.

 "Do you remember?" she asked.  Fox looked up, startled at what she meant.

 "Yes," he whispered.  "You had the same dream?  Remarkable.  My mother always said that people will meet when they experience the same dream.  I guess this proves it."

 Dallas thought for a moment, trying to recollect what all had happened.  "Yes," she said.  "But...was it a dream.  I felt everything.  Everything."

 He heard this and swallowed.  "So did I."  After a bit of silence, Fox let out a smile, and gently started to laugh.  "I guess Wolf got a check on his side now.  He got a win against me, for all he wanted to do was inflict pain, or even better to him., death.  My death."

 "He must be mighty proud of himself right now.  Go figure the mind of a one eyed monster," remarked Dallas.

 Fox looked at her.  "You saved my life again.  If had not gotten out of that ship when I did, I never would have survived.  The Arwing's emergency life systems don't last for very long.  Plus, with your help, we never would have won this fight.  I thank you."

 "It is I who owe it to you.  You and your friends were the ones who set the motions to give us a good kick in the pants by letting us get on our feet.  I...we'll never be able to repay you for that.  As far as saving your hide, I guess that's what friends are for."  Fox looked at her and smiled warmly, even though it hurt to smile.  Slowly, he lifted and stretched his hand to her.  Allison lifted hers too, and the two held each others paws tightly.  A bond of a great and eternal friendship.

 "Hey!" yelled out Slippy.  He was pointing into the lab, which got Fara's attention at once.  "They're awake."  Fara got to the window and smiled with deep glee and relief when he saw Fox with his eyes opened.  She never regarded that he was holding hands with Allison Dallas.  Fara just shoved everyone aside violently just to get in the med lab.  The rest of them filed in separately.

 The only one to stay inside the waiting room was Conner.  He watched with a teary face, relieved and overjoyed more then anyone that both Captain Dallas and Fox were alive and...well.  Each set of followers both flocked to their own leader.  Fara almost jumped on top of Fox, happy to see his green eyes once more.  After such a near miss, it was never the same as every day inquiries.  He watched as the crew of the SunHawk were all huddled around Allison, glad and proud to see her as the real great survivor here.  Conner watched all of this with joy and happiness, but refrained from going in.  Instead, he stood there and looked at the two paws of Fox McCloud and Allison Dallas, still holding each other tightly.  He recognized friendship wherever it went, which relieved him greatly.

 Conner stepped away from the mirror and walked out of med-lab.  They had survived, and he was no longer needed at this time.  Perhaps, another day, when he was ready for them, he would step into the portrait of things.  But not today.

****

 The large ape sat at a long and demonic looking dining table of majesty, looking over reports from the war front.  Andross had received the word not a half hour ago.  Dark Star station had been destroyed.  To the utmost surprise and relief to his aids, the Venomian emperor remained casual all the way through dinner.

 Fed up with reading this stupid reports, Andross crumpled the papers and tossed them to the corner.  The wad was immediately picked up and the whole area cleaned by some of the slaves he had.  Andross spent the rest of the time sitting at the table, looking at the door and waiting for certain people to walk through the door, stroking his snowy white beard in the process of doing it.  Andross was patient with waiting.  He would not be where he was today if not.  No doctor or scientist ever got anywhere without patience.

 After a timely wait, the elderly ape heard the clomping and stomping of four.  Four who were beaten once again.  Andross smiled when the door opened, Wolf and the other three with him walking in.  He looked at them coolly as they all walked in, bowed and the knelt to Andross, and then sat at the table with him.  A long silence filled the room before anyone said anything.  All but Wolf had their heads lowered, fearing what was to come from there master.  Wolf just sat in his chair, thinking about something.

 "So," grumbled Andross.  "Dark Star has been destroyed."

 Andrew lowered his head more.  "Yes, Uncle, the station is gone.  The enemy was outnumbered, but they still were able to finish their job.  I'm sorry"  Andross grinned.  What a pathetic sight, he thought to himself.

 "Tell me, Nephew, what it is that you are sorry about?"  Andross went on to pour himself a cup of tea while he waited for an answer.

 "Well, the station did fall, and it was an important sight.  No Cornerian ship was able to get through that whole sector without being spotted by the stations super telescope.  Now that it's gone, who knows how long it will be before Star Fox or someone else makes an advance.  We failed to defend it."

 Andross said nothing.  He only looked at all four of them some more.  After a while, he shook his head.  "What makes you think that I never intended for the station to fall in the first place?"

 They all looked up at him in wonder what the ape was pondering.  Andross got to his feet and started to circle the table.  "You are not angry about the loss of it?" asked Leon.

 "I'm not thrilled about it," admitted Andross.  "Andrew was correct, it was a great asset to my forces.  But the death of Dark Star is not the end of the galaxy either.  What makes you think that the entire station was just set there to tempt in enemy forces like Star Fox or that infernal SunHawk for something bigger to happen."

 "The station was a decoy," said Wolf.

 "No, it was a trap."

 "A trap?"

 "That's right.  It was a failed trap, but it was intended to bring a great hurt to anyone around it if they took the bate I wanted them to take.  It was so ingenious only I could have thought of it."  Andross went back to his seat and sat down.  It was here he saw Pigma looking at his dinner plate which was not even touched yet.  "You all look tired.  Pigma, finish this will you."  Andross slid the plate to the pig, who began to scarf on it without question.  Andross leaned back in his seat and went on to explain his plans.

 "You see, I set a little trip wire on the station in case the Cornerians tried to board it.  In their cargo holds were over three hundred thermo nuclear fusion bombs with over eight hundred megaton capitol yield each.  A blast that big would have singed the Oberon underworld.  Now think about what it would have done to the Cornerians.  But, alas, because of the SunHawk, who destroyed the station before it was boarded, the trap failed, so the entire plan was a big decoy, as Wolf so kindly put it.

 "The real new power I am throwing at the Cornerian infidels will be coming within the next month or two.  Since the station is dead, they will think that we will be going out of our way to find some place new to keep our eyes on their action.  But we don't, and we won't have to.  By the time General Pepper and his insignificant followers are finished cleaning up the mess I send them, Dark Star 2 will already be going on line.  The plans for it are already made, and it will mean business to our neighboring adversaries.  But what is to come later will be what convinces General Pepper that surrender to me is the only option he has left if he wants to save the lives of everyone on his side of the line."

 Leon smiled and chuckled at this.  "It sounds fun," he hissed.  "When do we begin?"

 "Soon.  There are preparations to be made before we can begin though.  But those can come later."  Andross finished his tea and gave the cup to a palace worker.  After this, his eyes went to Wolf, who seemed very much preoccupied.

 "Wolf, you look like you have won a lottery that has both signed your death warrant and gave you all the money in Lylat.  What is troubling you?"

 "Many things are troubling me right now, Emperor.  For one thing, I would like to take some time off."

 "Can I ask why?"

 "I would like the opportunity to look into who Captain Allison Dallas really is.  She is the commanding officer aboard SunHawk.  I don't mean the regular military records from our spies on Corneria either.  I want an in depth look at this female warship captain.  Who she is, where she is from, and who were family members are.  I even want to know her favorite hobbies and enjoyments and whater her worst fears are as well.  I want everything."

 Andross nodded to the one eye, scratching his beard in thought about it.  "She must be a decent commander to be at the helm of a monster like SunHawk and gut the forces I send at it so easily.  It will take time to gather all that information though Wolf.  Many resources as well."

 "I have the time, and I'll do it all myself if I have to.  I do have the time because I have placed a victory point on my own scorecard in our quarrel against Star Fox in case you have not heard."

 Again, Andross nodded.  "I heard about James's son being almost killed or crippled some time ago on the Cornerian news feed.  He was gravely injured, but he is alive and well again or at least will be.  I think we have another three weeks before that impudent little kit is back in, what you pilots call the 'saddle'."

 "I know Fox survived it.  Even though it is disappointing that he did, I still do not glum."

 "How do you know?" asked Andross.

 Wolf leaned forward on the table and smiled.  "I guess I'm one of those special fiendish protégées of villainy that have the ability to know whether or not there worst enemy is dead.  Call it a gut feeling if you will, I regard more as sort of a sixth sense.  Yes, I knew Fox had survived my little move I put on him before we got here.

 "The important thing is that I hurt him, which, to say the least, is very pleasurable to know.  The fact that I did hurt him will stick with the scrawny little runt long after now.  If I am right, next time Fox and I cross sky swords, he will remember that I brought him pain, and he will become nervous while fighting."  Wolf reached over and picked an egg off of Pigma's plate, getting a dirty look from the glutton.  "Perhaps, even a little tense," continued Wolf.

 "Every decent war veteran knows that fear in battle is what keeps you on your toes and alive until the fight is over.  But to be tense in fighting instead of loose is to begin dropping your guard, making foolish mistakes, and letting yourself be taken surprise by the enemy in an obvious situation.  To put it mildly, a tense person in combat will eventually..."

 He tossed the egg into the air, getting everyone to follow its hang time.  The egg descended and splattered right onto Andrew's forehead, making a big mess all over his face.

 "...crack."

 Wolf looked out of the force field shielded window to the Venom horizon.  The sun was beginning to descend past the mountains.  The evil one eyed beast squinted his eyes towards the twilight, many things surrounding Allison Dallas swirling in his demented brain.  Was she who he thought she was?  Wolf knew that he had to find out.
 
 
 
 

Chapter VIII

"I am the security chief of the Cornerian warship SunHawk.  I will treat it as I would safe guard the life of my own sun.  If the day chaos erupts uncontrolled on this ship is to come, it will be the day after I retire."

-Chief Robert Maurine - CSS SunHawk-
 

Two weeks later...

 Captain Dallas stood alone in the middle of the shadowed arboretum, looking out through the glass window into space.  Her hair, loose and shining, was flowing neatly from the winds created here.  Before her was Sector X far in the distance, Solar's light reflected the blue colored dust and gas beautifully.

 Not much happened within the last two weeks.  The SunHawk was on its way back to Corneria.  The ship had some very major damage to her systems and structure.  Because of these, they could only make a tenth normal cruising speed.

 The ship was safe inside the space of Cornerian control.  The last two surviving ships, the Katina and the Iron Bear, had already left for new tasks.  Yet, even now after all this time, the Great Fox remained ever vigilant at the side of SunHawk, offering protection and escort for the battered war cruiser.

 Dallas was very grateful for this gesture.  Fox was now one great friend to her.  She no longer had the feelings of love she did before for him.  Now, just deep friendship.  Dallas did not think about Fox at this moment.  Instead, she thought about the memory of her lost father.  In her palm was the medallion of his, shining brightly.  This was Dallas's last belonging which kept her connected to his memory.  She would have to let go, and soon she realized, but not now.  The husky woman clutched the object to her heart, wanting to get closer to the old memories.

 "Ally?"  Allison turned around to see Fox and Fara walk up to her, both smiling.  She smiled back and welcomed them up to observe the view with her.  All of Fox's wounds had healed for the most part.  He was still a little weak and would be for another week or more to come, but he was fine.  Dallas was also healed, but her ribs were still taped for support.  A light scar was seen on her face which would disappear on its own soon enough.

 "You all right?" asked Fox.

 "Yeah, I am.  I was just reminiscing about things past, good and evil both and how they might bring consequences to bear and regard for the future.  Like what the death of that station will bring for our side in time.  Andross' forces may suffer enough to turn the tide more in our favor, or he may retaliate with even more disastrous effects.  That among other things are what worry me any more."

 Fox nodded, understanding all too well.  He looked at Fara, who returned his gaze back to him, both of them smiling at what they had.  Fox knew he would never say anything about what happened between himself and Allison Dallas while they were in comas.  It was something that was past, and brought out the right feelings in the two of them.  She did not need to have a broken heart on something like that.

 Fox turned back to Allison.  "We have to get back to Great Fox.  We will stay here and give escort until we are both safe in a home port.  After that, we'll let things go from there.  Agreed?"

 Allison looked at him with a smile on her face.  "Agreed.  One thing I want from you Fox McCloud."

 "What?"

 "An invitation.  To your wedding that is.  You are having it after the war is over aren't you."

 The two of them looked at each other in surprise and smiled.  "Yes," said Fara.  "We'll send you one.  Thank you Captain.  Until next time."

 "Yes," said Allison, turning back to the stars.  Fox and Fara both frowned, Fox seeing this same sudden coldness in her.  He sighed, and then started to lead Fara out of the area.  "From here on," said Allison before they got too far, "both of you will be in my prayers."

 The two smiled at her, not saying anything.  They didn't have to for Dallas to know what they were feeling, they just left.

 Dallas stayed in this spot for a long while to come, looking out into the stars.  She was thinking that it would not be long now until they were walking them.  A ship of space was not a starship until it gained the ability to leave its home star system, and visit new ones.  Only then, this ship would get the title deserved for it.  Dallas was just saddened that it would not be her to lead the ship to it.  She wondered who.

 Here, she stood for a long while, wondering, waiting, and dreaming for the things to come.  But she was not alone either.

 High above the arboretum on a catwalk stood Conner, looking down at the husky who he found just as wise as any Shyer, wise beyond her age.  If Conner did not already know the woman below him, he would have mistaken her for one of his people.  She was so much like them.  The same states of mind and the same motivations and the same idealistic nature.  The only thing that lacked was the understanding.  The massive physical edge the Shyer held over these people was nothing to Conner.  He still considered them equals.

 The black Shyer wolf lost his smiles.  There, he started to say the words.  "Come what may.  Another day of joy, and friendship forged anew.  And so the continuation, the great circle of time and life, half way through its new cycle.  A new verse is just over the horizon."

 Conner draped his long coat around him, wrapping himself against the drafts.  In the darkness, the only thing that was seen of him were those soft and loving eyes that glowed with a pale radiance as they watched the lovely creature below.

 There was something different.

The End
 

Star Fox is the property of Nintendo Inc. and has been used without permission.  The ship and crew of the CSS SunHawk, Pandora Freelancer, Orion DraKhan, Shadow Squadron, the Judicator and Praetor Brimstone, Surveya the wolf, the Blood Stone Raiders, and Cecil Pendrex are all my characters and cannot be used without my consent.  Thanks.