The Battle of Trevadooran

By Jason Wolfman

*Author's Note*
All right, all right, I have finally gotten my brain working on this story. This story was actually on my mind for months. The plot of this story is quite common (several things here I have borrowed from Star Wars, with no malice intentions to George Lucas and countless fans of the Sci-Fi genre, which includes me), but for some reason, I couldn't find a way on how the story begins. So the story sits....and sits....and sits....without any more words or even letters added to it. I had plenty of thoughts to scrap this story and upset perhaps thousands of fans. Yet, here I am, trying again. I hope writer's block won't do its dreaded job here, but with my luck and experiences, I'm sure it would do so.
StarFox, StarWolf, Emperor Andross, General Pepper, Commander Bill Grey, Katt Monroe, Caiman, and Fara Phoenix are Nintendo.
Shivan Tresley [my goodness....I'm beginning to like her....(shudders)], Crimson Firehawks, Justice Cadets, Sapphire Paladins (minus Gregory Nothrana this time), Black Flood Squadron, Sherry Trevor, John Tana, Carl Thurman, Venus Avalona, Daniel Xaven, Jack Stané, Greg Olson, Jameson DiVillana, Travis Neal (or Xavier Lean, depending on what side you're on), Shoshont Lizbea, Tim Salek, Lisa Crusta, Edward Poland, Pat Woshive, Don and Allen Bernestien, and Dr. P are all created by me and not to be used without my permission. Comprendé?
The Conquest Squadron and Star McCloud are created by Kay Twilight, so you now know who to ask if you want to use them. Amy Johnson is a real life person, so ask her if you want the snow leopard leader of the Paladins in your story. General Deson Motambo is created by Nakar Gabab, who needs feedback for his stories. Many thanks once again to my Vitrian translator, Zerofox.

Chapter One

"The Battle of Trevadooran . . . hmm, some people call it a needless tragedy. I call it a must battle in the Androssian War."
--Professor McDale, Corneria City Museum historian, nine years after the War

"There's four Greenies coming--!!!!"
The Invader pilot failed to finish what he was warning as an explosion engulfed him, adding another casualty to this battle at Outpost 459. Blinding lights sparkled onto the eyes of the several hundred Cornerian and Venomian fighters swarming and firing their hyper lasers as the space station Outpost 459 stood by like an engulfed bystander. Two hundred Invader-II jets, with frantic pilots flying them, shot across space like dragonflies shooting lasers, desperate to defend their station. Outpost 459, the only Venomian station stubbornly staying put in Katina space, were blasting out ion lasers from its cannons, the only means of defense they have. The cigar-shaped station was partly destroyed in some areas, but as long as the ion cannons were firing, it remained a threat to the three hundred Green-class and Bulldog-class jets hoping to see the station obliterated once and for all.
Commander Bill Grey felt a spilt-second of satisfaction as his lasers burst through the hull of an unlucky Invader, only to be replaced by determination as he tried one more pass toward Outpost 459. Because the outdated Greenies does not have nova-bomb carrying capacity, it was up to Grey and his famed Bulldog Squadron (the Husky Squadron was left behind to defend Katina HQ) to throw their heavy artillery at the Outpost. Bill had tried to shoot a bomb at the Outpost once before, but an ion laser, sometimes used as a countermeasure, blasted the projectile before the bomb would collide the station. Since he has only three bombs left, Bill knew he would have to get lucky and fast.
"Green nine to eleven, cover for me!" Bill ordered the three Greenie pilots as booming sounds buzzed into his ears. "I'm going to try again at that station!"
Wordlessly, the three Greenie jets flew in formation close behind the GreyOne, firing their lasers at any Invader that dared to go at it against the best friend of Fox McCloud. The four jets swerved and dodged through the crossfire of countless lasers and explosions. One of the Greenies exploded, leaving two left to defend Bill.
Bill grunted as a laser made a dent on his jet's starboard hull. A spark or two flew out and stung his canine fur on his arm, but he ignored it and geared up his nova bomb waiting impatiently in his jet to fire. Another flash burst onto his eyes as the second Greenie escort was added to the casualty list, but Bill was close enough to Outpost to do what he was risking his life to do.
A small grin curled up on his lips. "Here's a gift for you, Captain Haras!" Bill yelled, talking indirectly to the one in charge of Outpost 459, and squeezed the trigger. A ball of blue flame spilled out from his turret, and it screeched in a straight line directly toward the center of the station.
The explosion that followed was a marvel to see, even though Bill had only a few seconds to admire it. Outpost 459, a dreaded station serving Emperor Andross, was rocked as Bill's lucky nova bomb struck head on the center. Chunks of metal panels and thick beams splattered out of the station, and smaller explosions dotted the ruined area. Then, a second explosion blasted from the same part of the station, surprising Bill. Must be some core that had been destroyed due to my special "gift" to Haras, Bill thought quickly, setting his sights on the Invaders and their demoralized pilots. Lucky.
"Holy crap-a-loosa!" A Cornerian pilot exclaimed in wonder. "Look at that!"
Outpost 459 had resigned as the only Venomian station in Katina space. The explosions in the direct center of the station became too much for it to tolerate, and slowly yet noticeably, the station began to......drift apart in half. Due to the cigar shape of the station and that the double explosions had shattered the supporting construction at the center of it, the top half of the station was drifting upward, while the bottom half was drifting the other direction. Smaller explosions burst out from the other areas of the station, but most of the pilots noticed the spreading gap of cluttered debris that used to be where Captain Haras was standing in. To Bill, Outpost 459 was beginning to look like two pills instead of a cigar.
"YEEE-AAAHH!!!!" Bill exclaimed his victory cry. "Let's take care of the rest of them, pilots!"
His co-pilots agreed with their cheers as the Invaders continued to be blasted one by one. A signal of retreat was given to them, and one hundred remaining Invaders turned toward Venom and accelerated to their top speed. Some of the persistent Bulldog pilots chased them, but most of them let the Venomians go, satisfied with Outpost 459 torn in two. All two hundred people inside the military station were killed, along with the hyena captain. The famed station had gone through over thirty attempted raids by Cornerian fighters during the war, but now, it's only defeat had led to it's doom.
Bill let out a sigh of relief as the explosions and laser firing of battle had ceased. "Sergeant Bullvan, casualty report."
"I'm getting it, Sir," the female bobwhite chirped a response. "Nice shot, Commander!"
"Thanks, Lucy. That really was a one-in-a-thousand shot."
"Isn't it supposed to be one-in-a-million?"
"Outpost 459 is not that hard to miss, Lucy!"
Laughter burst into their comlinks. Then the bird received the casualty list. "Okay Sir, I got it. Forty Bulldog pilots and ninety Greenie pilots killed. That accounts to 20% of the Bulldog Squadron, and 45% of the Greenies, Sir."
Bill grumbled. "Damn. I wish there were less killed."
"We all wish for that, Commander. In war, this happens, wether we like it or not."
"Yeah, you're right. Let's head home, fellas. I don't know about you, but I'm glad we got the stink of Andross out of Katina space."
As the surviving jets head toward Katina, Outpost 459 lies silent in a debris-filled space, surrounded by burnt and torn metal. With it's ion cannons still and all the indoor lights gone, the station resembled a drifter, all alone and existing only in memories.

When the news reached the ape that sat upon the throne of Venom, he muttered a low curse. With Outpost 459 gone, Andross's influence in Katina space, what's left of it, had gone kaboom along with the station. Losing one of his front line stations was not what he wanted to have in a good day, or even in a bad day. Emperor Andross held a thick paw over his face, and shook his head.
The messenger standing before him, a weasel in a red uniform, looked at his leader concernedly. "Your Imperial Majesty?"
Andross took his hand away and stared his beady eyes at the now trembling weasel. "What is it?"
"Um, uh, General Harbeak demands to know when will we strike Katina space again to take back what we had lost."
"I don't know at this moment, messenger. Tell him that I will give him what he needs to know tomorrow. Dismissed."
The weasel saluted. "Yes, your Imperial Majesty," he spoke firmly and turned around. As the messenger walked out of the throne room, Andross stood from his throne and walked to his living quarters close by. His room was decorated in lavish splendor, as his natives and soldiers were living on poverty and wretched conditions. The war had depleted over five-eighths of his treasury, and with the war dragging onward to the start of year three, the soldiers were demoralized even to the point of rebellion. The natives of Venom had already disturbed his peace with riots in factories, damaging precious equipment, and although those riots were crushed by the Venom soldiers easily, there was enough tension to make even Andross worry about another one happening. Crime in his Headquarter base had risen, and the dungeons where Bill Grey had spent in were becoming more noisier with the sounds of angry prisoners. His empire was falling apart from within, and Corneria was beginning to show signs that they were winning after months of stalemate.
Andross sat down on a hard chair, the plastic and cotton-cushioned seat creaking whenever he shuffled his body to make himself more comfortable. He pressed a button on the monitor phone on the desk in front of him, and a penguin wearing a uniform that bears the stripes of Commander showed up on the screen.
The penguin saluted and blinked his small brown eyes. "Yes, Emperor?"
"I want a report on the Kismet, Commander Tana."
John Tana, one of the more popular commanders in the Venomian Defense, nodded and looked at a clipboard he was carrying. "Uh yes, Sir. It is 89% complete, and though we are doing the best we can, we might be delayed another two months. We are experiencing difficulties with the construction workers due to low pay, and there were even talk of rebellion in the space station that they live in when they're not working."
Andross sighed. "Great, yet another rebellion. Well, you know what to do when that happens, but try to prevent it. Increase their pay, but make them work harder. I want the Kismet completed before the start of the new year."
John jumped back a little in surprise. "But that's only a month and a half away! We can't-"
"Before the new year starts, or your flippers will be torn off, and that will be the least of your worries. Do I make myself clear?"
John gulped and nodded. "Uh, yes, Sir. Before the new year starts. Is that all, your Imperial Majesty?"
"No, one more thing. I think it's overdue time for a tax raise to increase my treasury, or at least ease down the depletion of it."
"Permission to speak frankly, Sir?"
John cleared his throat. Being a commander was an advantage in a way that he could speak his opinion and Andross would actually listen. "It is not wise to have a tax hike at this moment, Emperor. The soldiers are already downtrodden with an almost unbearable tax rate, and with low pay, I seriously doubt they will accept a tax raise. Even if you threaten them at gun point, how can they pay it? With a tax raise, they will have less money for food, and if they are not eating right, then they will be weaker than normal, and that's not good, Emperor."
Andross stroked his white beard. "Hmmm.....alright, Commander. What's your suggestion for an alternative?"
"Well, why not try selling personal belongings to people that needs them, like pirates?"
Andross looked at his lavish surroundings. He had a thought of selling some of the gold and silver items, but the thought vanished after several seconds. "Alright, Commander. I want every soldier and civilian, including officers, to sell 40% of their personal treasures. If anyone resists, they will be punished appropriately."
"Uh yes Sir," John replied, and hoped that he didn't have to sell his wife's most expensive pearls.
"Good. Dismissed, Commander. I'm in a bad mood, and I don't want to be disturbed."
"Understood, your imperial majesty. Commander Tana out," the penguin said before the screen went blank. Andross stood up and let out a frustrated sigh. He plopped onto the bed, wondering just how he could return his status as a great threat to Cornerian society. The Kismet may be his only chance yet to destroy his enemies that were gaining upon him.

Chapter Two

"May the Gods have mercy on us."
--Captain Haras' last words in Outpost 459

"TWEEEEEETT!!!!!!!!! "
Fox McCloud woke up screaming as the high-pitched sound rang into his ears. His body jumped, sending his blanket flying, and when he stopped screaming to catch his breath, he heard laugher.
It was Fara Phoenix standing on the doorway of his room, laughing and carrying a whistle on her paw. The fox's boyfriend shook his head angrily, his chest heaving in and out large breaths in shock, his heart pumping blood in a rate faster than a machine gun firing.
"Fara...Fara...Fara..." Fox gasped, failing to get enough sense to say the next word.
Miss Phoenix laughed even harder. "I know you like to say my name, but this is ridiculous," she said amid laughs. She wore a black and white jumpsuit and a golden necklace adorned her neck, shining brightly under the flourescent lights of Fox's room in the Great Fox. Her unique-looking ears flapped as her head shook in almost uncontrollable laugher, and even her eyes were getting watery.
The legendary pilot sat still on his rumpled up bed, and let out a frustrated sigh to calm himself. "Fara....don't do that again. It will give me a heart attack some day. You will be imprisoned for that," he said in a jokingly manner.
"And my father will just bail me out. You know how rich he is. Don't worry about the whistle. I won't do it until the end of this year."
"New Year's Eve is not until next week," Fox responded. He clasped a gentle paw on the side of his face, feeling the sweat matting his fur. He looked up at Fara with tired eyes. "Don't you ever pay attention to a calender, Flat Ears?"
Fara made a false look of shock on her face. "Inventing new names to call me again? Well! Fine then, I won't blow this whistle for New Year's. I might do it for Memorial Day, Cornerian Independence Day, umm...what other holidays...."
Fox stood up and before Fara could react, stepped close to her and snatched the whistle from her. "No holiday surprises with this whistle. Believe me, it will kill me some day."
"Well consider this a lesson to sleep with ear plugs," Fara answered back, not giving up.
Fox sighed and uttered a chuckle. He looked at Fara's whistle, and with a slick movement of the paw, threw it into the wastebasket, ending with a loud clank. He then wrapped an arm around her back, nearing her close to his face. Gently, they kissed softly, unaware to their surroundings. When their lips departed, Fara closed her eyes, savoring the aroma of a sweating fox.
"Hmmm.....what was that for? I thought you're angry at me."
Fox grinned. "Even though you woke me up in a way that could mean the end of me, I knew this would be a good morning, for you was the first person I saw today."
Fara made a smirk and grunted. "It'll take more than that to charm me," she said, withdrawing from him. "There's breakfast on the table if you want it. Peppy's cooking omelets."
Fox gave her a disgusted look. "I'm gonna have to eat Peppy's omelets again?"
Fara punched him softly on the shoulder. "Hey, he makes good omelets."
"What about the time when even he said that his omelets tasted like Falco's bean stew?"
"Oh that's when the salt shaker lid fell off on top of the eggs. The bean stew was more salter actually. I don't know why Falco likes it that way. All that salt is dangerous for his health you know."
"I often wonder why he would give the stew to us to eat. Like he's punishing us for some unknown sin that we did. Let's go eat."
The dinner table in the Great Fox was graced with Peppy's delicious-on-good-days-and-disgusting-on-bad omelets, a pitcher of orange juice with extra sweetener, two baskets of once frozen biscuits that has some sort of reddish powder sprinkled on them, and a plate of hash browns. Peppy Hare, the oldest and most experienced pilot of StarFox, was folding the last of the omelets in the kitchen. The hare had on an apron and the sizzling of the skillet was buzzing into Fox's ears, still ringing from Fara's cruel wake-up call.
Slippy Toad, the most intelligent yet the most annoying and youngest pilot, sat on his reserved chair, anxiously awaiting the omelets he loved. He was quite jumpy indeed, almost seemly to burst out with the question of when breakfast would start.
Falco Lombardi, the falcon who believed he was cursed to sit right next to Slippy, was of course annoyed by Slippy's movements. The avian second-commander of the team was often not a morning person, so as Fox and Fara sat down on their seats, he was grumbling.
"Got a dream that Cindy Crowford had left you for another bird?" Fox asked his sarcastic best friend with a grin.
Falco sneered at him. "Ha, ha, very funny, Fox. Your ears still ringing from the whistle?"
Fox snatched a look at Fara, whom was futilely looked back at him innocently. "Yes, still is.
Falco smiled, if birds could smile. "That's good. A near-death experience gives you character."
Fox sighed and spotted Peppy plopping the last of the cooked omelets on the serving plate. "Good. Breakfast has started."
"Just let me sit down first!" Peppy snapped half-angrily. "Sheesh, your Dad was this impatient for breakfast. Like his stomach couldn't stand another second being empty."
"I know. I got this from him."
"Among other things too," Falco mumbled. Fox caught that, but ignored him. He took one omelet and a biscuit for himself and was just about to dig in when the phone monitor nearby beeped the all-to-common sound. Fox threw back his head in frustration and disbelief. "Don't tell me that's Pepper again! Will someone get that for me?"
Fara scoffed and stood up. "Your stomach is more important than fighting to save the Lylat System from tyranny, you know that?"
Fox nodded in quick agreement and stabbed a fork on the omelet. Fara sighed and walked over to the monitor phone.
"Who is it?"
"Hey Fara! It's me!"
Falco bulged out his eyes and spurted out a small chunk of Peppy's eggs. "Katt???"
The monitor showed a pink-furred cat wearing her usual white trench coat, and a black shirt with purple denim jeans. She wasn't dressed for flying, and there were several barely noticeable scars on her chin and face. "Yeah, that's me, flyboy," she said in her Southern Cornerian accent. "You fellas eating breakfast?"
"Yeah, we're just starting, Miss Monroe," Fara replied. She has not really become used to her all that often, and during the times they were in the same room together, they tolerate each other quietly. Although Fara knew Katt has no intentions to make a pass on Fox, she was still nervous around her, especially since she outranked her in beauty marks.
"Please, call me Katt. Ms. Monroe is my Mom's name."
Fara replied with only a nod of acknowledgment. "So, what's up?"
"There's a New Years party coming up in Fortuna Base, and I was wondering if you fellas would come. I'm sure you all would need a break. Just how many missions did you do in the past three months?"
"Twenty," Peppy answered after sipping his juice.
Slippy nodded. "We haven't gotten two days off in a row from missions. Once we had to do two missions at once, and one of them was as far as Zoness. Hey, if we can go to the party, I think we'll be there."
Katt smiled, exposing her pearl white teeth. Just several months ago, she witnessed her mother's best friend Opal be killed by a bomb in the top floor of a tall apartment. She survived the blast, but a caracal confronted her and beaten her into almost unconsciousness. To add salt to her wounds, the caracal member of the Anti-Cat League threw her out the window, and the glass sliced her face, and she also suffered a broken arm when she landed hard on garbage bags in the back of a garbage truck several floors down. Katt was forced to undergo surgery, and as a result, some of the scars were still there. She wished them to go away, but she needed more money for another surgery. For now, she had to live with the physical reminder of that disaster with the caracal. At least she still got her tail. "Hey that's good. The Justice Cadets will be there also. Heard of them?"
Fox had just finished his omelet, and so he had enough will power to stand up and walked over to the phone for a closer look at the feline. He had noticed that her white hair was tied back, and there was also a small chip off her left ear. "Yes, I have. Never met them before, but I seen them on television. They're the best bounty hunters I have heard, but whenever I see that panther, I get a little chill up my spine."
"Jo'hara may seem spooky, but he's a very nice guy. Natlarn's cuter, but he's too much in mourning for some lost love for me to get a chance with him. He actually turned me down! Can you believe it?"
Falco chuckled a bit, but even though he was sitting a short distance away from the monitor phone, Katt heard that. "Hey Falco! How are you doing? Dreaming about Crowford again?"
If birds could blush, Falco was sight to see. "Um, uh,"
"Oh c'mon, Falco! I know you're not telling the truth!"
Falco muttered a curse, but gave in. "Alright, alright, I was, okay? So what?"
Katt decided to let that question unanswered. "Well, hopefully I'll see you all at the party. I gotta go."
"See you later Katt," Fox said. Fara looked at him almost angrily, because his tone of voice was somewhat soothing and soft. She trusted him to respect the relationship they had, so she decided not to scold him this time.

At the same day around noon in Katina HQ, Bill Grey was preparing to leave the paperwork sitting on his office desk for lunch in a cafe. Ever since the destruction of Outpost 459, things had gotten quieter, now that the Venomian influence was kicked out. He still had to contend with Venomians wanting to regain their "stolen" territory back twice in a month, but all in all, Bill was relieved about the more serene times he's enjoying right now. He has last fought two weeks ago, and although piloting drills were boring, at least he won't be risking his life. The paperwork was less also.
As he was donning his pilot jacket as he often does before he goes out of his office, his personal secretary and assistant Sherry Trevor came inside, holding several folders of papers. The husky had been working with her boss since the beginning of the war, and consoled him during his physical recovery period after the week of hell in the Venom HQ Base. The dog still had nightmares of that time with Leon, but he was less scared of it than a year ago.
"Hey Commander. Going out for lunch?" Sherry asked him in a voice that complimented her youth.
"Yes, I am," Bill answered, and noticed the folders she was carrying. "Those for me?"
Sherry looked at the folders and gasped in surprise. "Oh no, these are for one of my co-workers. I'm delivering these to him. Can I join you for lunch? I'm not busy and if you don't mind....."
Bill smiled and donned his sunglasses. "Sure, Miss Trevor. I'm going to that cafe on the second floor."
"Good. Let me take care of these folders, and I'll catch up with you."
"Alright. See you there."

Sherry Trevor was not as attractive as some that work with her, but she often tries her best to look decent. She was a rust and cream colored husky, with dull-lighted blue eyes that seemed to be some window to ever-lasting darkness. She wasn't as tall as her boss, and wasn't as stocky framed as Bill's boss. The red and white sections of fur she has wrapped all around her slim yet well-fed body were never in conflict that would have given her fur a blending look to it. She was no hussy either, but rather the opposite. Being fiercely independent, she wasn't in a relationship, and doesn't care about living for the rest of her life alone. Her black straight hair flowed down to her slim shoulders, but despite her best efforts, some parts of her hair were tangled.
She spotted her boss sitting on one of the booths as she strolled into the half-full cafe several floors down from her office. His face was covered by the menu, but his unique Commander's jacket gave him away. He peeked over the menu as Sherry sat down beside the opposite side of the table.
"How hungry are you? I have just realized that I only brought enough money for myself."
Sherry just shrugged. "Don't worry, I got money of my own. I'm just as used to being alone as you are."
Bill chuckled, exposing his pearl-white fangs. Sherry remembered that some of those teeth were actually artificial, for Leon broke some of his fangs beyond repair during that horrible week of torture in those damp dungeons. Surgery can be a wonderful thing, she mused. "I'll pay you back later. So, how are things going with you?"
"Well, I just heard news about my brother in Corneria City. He's getting married, and I'm invited to the wedding a few weeks from now. Oh, speaking of Corneria City, there's that appointment with General Pepper in Corneria HQ Base three days from now."
Bill laid down his menu with a barely noticeable look of disgust on his face. "Why can't those generals come here and have the meeting in my office? I'm sure they have the time and money to transport themselves to me. Why do I have to come to them?"
"They outrank you, Bill. Therefore, you have to force yourself to come to them. That's a fact of life, Commander. Maybe someday you'll become a general, and you'll have yourself several commanders to boss around and make them suffer by being forced to come to you. To make matters worse for them, you could live in a very remote area and you forget to give them the address," she said jokingly.
Bill grinned, but failed to utter any laughter. One of the many persistent products from that week of hell with Leon. He rarely laughed. "Well, I don't know about me being general. According to military rules, they are too important to pit themselves right into battle, or even to fly a fighter jet. I can't handle office work for a very long period of time. I need to fly."
Just then, a waiter came by their table, and Bill ordered a hamburger deluxe with a milkshake while Sherry ordered a slice of gourmet meat pie and red wine.
"What's with the fancy food, Sherry?" Bill asked after the waiter left.
"Oh, it's that wedding. My brother is one of the most snobbish people I ever had to live with, so I might as well start getting used to that bland stuff people like him eat. Now here's something I don't understand. Those fancy chefs decorate the meals very lavishly, but what's the big deal with that? The meal will end up in the person's stomach anyway, and stomachs don't have eyes to admire the beauty of the food it had just digested. Even if they do have eyes, the food will look like a massed collection of-"
Bill felt a little queasy. "Please,.....I'm trying to work up an appetite."
"Oh sorry. Well, at least my sister-in-law-to-be is not as snobbish as her future husband. She's a bit like me. I don't know what she sees in him."
"Opposites attract. I wonder if I'm going to be married someday."
"I think you will. Maybe to some beautiful golden retriever who writes books."
To her surprise, Bill actually laughed. "What possessed you to think that up?"
"I don't know. It just popped up in my insane mind. Still, I think a golden retriever would be right for you. Don't ask me why, though. I just know it."
Bill simply shrugged and left it at that. "So, any other stuff that I need to know for the rest of today?"
"Well there's that new shipment of new engines coming in from Crusan, and Sergeant Powell wants to see you about some new discipline rule that he wanted on the pilots here. He thinks they're getting rowdy again."
"They deserve to have fun at this time. They fought hard, and they were rewarded with Outpost 459 being a floating junk heap. I wish Powell would just leave those fellas alone. He's been hard of them ever since the beginning of this war."
"Well, that's Powell to you. He's too militaristic to be my type."
"No one is your type, Sherry. Anything else?"
"Not really. There's the usual paperwork and meetings."
"Oh. Someday, once this war is over, I will take a break from all that stress and go on some vacation. Sometimes, I think I work too hard."
"You could do that, but only if the war is over. How long has it been since we first heard of Andross declaring war on us?"
"About three years. It's been way too long."
"Yeah.....too long, alright," she repeated with a saddened tone. She often wished the war would be over before long, and that she would survive to see the end of it. To her, it haven't been three years. It's been three lifetimes.

Chapter Three

"I never met Fox McCloud, but I consider him a great friend of mine mainly because of how he helped my boss during the recovery period from that torture. I'm grateful that Bill has such great friends."
--Sherry Trevor, Katina

Carl Thurman, Fleet Admiral of the newly-formed Kismet Fleet, had seen pictures of the Kismet many times, and visited the dreadnought during it's construction, but as he looked out the transporter window, he stared at the goliath of a ship orbiting Venom in great awe. The transporter sauntering across space was a mere germ in comparison to the Kismet, and even the huge Venomian destroyers and cruisers were small as they almost surrounded Andross' newest weapon. The white German shepherd couldn't resist chuckling in glee. He had served Emperor Andross well, being the main credited victor in the Bloody Hills battle in Titania, which was a complete disaster for the ill-equipped Titania defenders in the beginning of the war. He literally gave his Emperor that desert planet, and was promoted to the prestigious rank of Admiral soon afterwards. He stubbornly defended Titania from the Cornerian squadrons and units hoping to grasp the planet away from him, and won many victories (mainly infantry) under his black leather belt. Despite his military success, he was too loyal to Andross, obeying his every whim despite Andross's somewhat lack of a military mind. Also, he was confident and never considered retreat as an option. Several battles that he was engaged in had ended up as pyrrhic victories, but the loss of hundreds of soldiers meant little to him. Victory was the only thing that mattered to him, and he would sacrifice all of his forces but himself to achieve it for the glory of the Emperor. He was an officer Andross wanted, and Carl relished that fact.
"So," he spoke to himself with a tone that showed his age of forty-five. "Andross have outdone himself. The Kismet will crush any resistance, and I will be the one in charge of it."
His newest ship was a vast architecture marvel of dazzling window lights, deadly ion cannons, laser turrets, and dull gray steel. It was more than three miles long, and a third fraction that many in height, and it mostly resembled a Harlock-class destroyer. At the top rear was a large rectangular tower, smooth on the front, rough like a ceiling of connecting icicles on the back. Near the front top of the tower was a thick red line painted on the thick hull, the entire floor consisting of huge panel windows. That was the Command Bridge, the biggest one of it's kind in the history of starships, both Venomian and Cornerian.
The ship had a very large number of crew, due to it's size; almost a hundred thousand people, consisting of maintenance workers, engineers, officers, medical personnel, fighter and transporter pilots, security, inspectors, and other assorted personnel required to run such a fortress. It's many bay doors served the way in and out for a thousand Invader-III jets, and half that many Invader-IV jets, and three hundred transporters. There was even an escape pod reserved for the Fleet Admiral, but many people, sure of victory, thought that was an over-cautious engineering mistake. The Kismet, mortal? That was considered folly among the soldiers of the Venomian Empire.
Carl however had his attention on the very front of the Kismet, the most distinct portion of the ship. A horizontal tower in the shape of a massive stake of steel jutted out of the bow of the ship, shaded maroon and red like blood, appropriate for a supposedly destructive weapon. Surrounding the pyramid weapon were four thin isosceles triangles, all of them connected at the base of the stake. Like a spoon, they curved outwards, half a mile away from the stake at the farthest point, then curved inwards, their sharp-edged points nearly touching the pinnacle of the dark blood-colored stake. The weapon was dubbed as "Andross' Wrath", and according to the engineers, it packed a punch unheard of, perhaps taking out an entire Cornerian destroyer with just one shot. That was still yet to be proven, but Andross was almost confident that his engineers were right on this.
As the ship reflected on the sharp yellow eyes of the German shepherd, Carl bellowed out a sigh. "What a magnificent S.O.B. Those stinking Cornerians had better surrender soon, or they will face impossible odds. Thank the Gods that I have decided to swear my oath to the Great Emperor Andross!!"

At the same time, in Venom Headquarters, a saluki threw down her cap in disgust. The red cap, bearing the stars of a high ranking officer, landed with a soft thud on the saluki's personal bed in her living quarters, disrupting the flat red sheets. Thankfully for the cap, the slim dog refused to do any more punishment to it, and instead grumbled as she paced across her large room and back. The brown eyes of Commander General Venus Avalona turned watery with anger and sheer disappointment, and her long haired ears flowed behind her in waves. Her black hair was tied in a single thick braid, stretching down to the bottom of her narrow back.
"How can he be so stupid?" Venus muttered, referring to the one person she wouldn't dare insult in his presence. She was glad her quarters wasn't bugged, or at least she hoped that it wasn't. Her starch-cleaned red uniform rustled in its attempt to bend with her quick pacing movements, and on her chest were medals that reminded her of the victorious deeds in capturing Macbeth for the Venom Empire. The tan and black fur were glossed with cosmetic oils and sweat, her black boots thumping on the carpeted floor.
"Why in Venom would he think up such an absurd plan in a time like this?" She went on, knowing that the questions might never be answered. The saluki had just left Andross's War Room in disgust, angry with what Andross had decided to do with the Kismet. Venus wanted the Kismet to take advantage of it's superior power and just simply bulldoze through the Lylat System, and face an unprepared Cornerian fleet orbiting Corneria. Once the Kismet single-handedly rout the fleet, Corneria would be the next capital planet of the newly-formed Lylat Empire, and Andross would not be just an emperor of several planets anymore. Not even StarFox would have a chance against a flying fortress like the Kismet. The weapon itself was shielded, and nova bombs could only make a tiny bent on the thick hulls of the ship. Her plan seemed convincing enough. Since the Kismet didn't need any help from other destroyers, the death toll for Venomians would be held at some minium, and it won't be slowed down by the delays of organizing a large formation of starships. Also, since the Cornerians might not have even heard of the Kismet, the ship would take them by surprise. Just that one battle in the orbit of Corneria would be expected, and that would make a quick end to a war that vanquished one-third the size of Venom's original Invasion Force.
Venus stopped her pacing and sat down on the bed, growling. "But nooooo..... ," she rasped in anger. "Andross wanted to invoke fear into the hearts of every goddamn Cornerian in the Lylat System! He wanted to have the Kismet be escorted by two-thirds of the entire Venomian Space Armada. Two-thirds!!! Why in the bloody hell the Kismet would even need them?"
A door chirped, breaking her trance of anger. "Who is it?"
"It's me, Venus," a familiar voice answered through the intercom. In response to that, Venus stood up promptly and made a quick grin.
"Please, come in. I do need your company," she said. Her boyfriend could come in at no better a time then now.
The door opened to allow in a mastiff wearing a Sergeant uniform. The hulking figure stood at the doorway, almost blocking the door completely. His blue uniform was worn out after several days of use, and planted on his massive head was a blue beret with a golden hammer pin on it. His dark brown fur was stained with sprinkles of dirt after being outside in a drill, a recently used gas mask fastened on his belt.
"Hello, Daniel. You heard my screaming in the hallway?"
Sergeant Daniel Xaven chuckled and marched toward her. "Yeah, I did. I was reluctant to come in, but I figured you need someone to vent your anger at."
He stopped close to her, a giant in comparison to his girlfriend, although he was only five inches taller than her. Because he was in the prestigious Golden Hammer Unit, many of the pilots and soldiers respected him, and were somewhat intimidated by his size. He didn't care about dating someone who slaughtered Macbeth residents in the beginning of the war, nor didn't he care about her much higher rank. Venus, in return, cared little about him being Sergeant, and that she had to crank her neck up to kiss him.
"Well, Andross really blew it this time, and I'm really angry right now."
"What did the Emperor do?"
"He devised a stupid plan on what to do with the Kismet. He wanted to gather up two-thirds of all destroyers and cruisers of his Space Armada to accompany the Kismet into battle. No wait, let me quote him, 'glorious battle to invoke fear into my enemies' . Bah! That stupid ape has a stupid brain that only his stupid nephew could match!!"
The mastiff gulped and turned his head to face the door, and sighed with relief when he faced her again.
"What was that for, Daniel?"
"I just wanted to see if the door was closed. If a soldier heard that, you will be in deep trouble. Sheesh, Andross must of really strung a nerve in you."
"That he did. In the War Room, I gave him my plan that was sure-fire. All the Kismet have to do is just get it's butt straight to Corneria, and that ship is so big that the people in Corneria City would be able to see it looking out their office or apartment windows. It's too powerful to need help, and I keep insisting that to Andross. Did he listen? No! He said nothing! He just stood there!"
"If Andross wants a big battle, then how will he alert the Cornerians?"
"There are two Patriot-class ships patrolling around Zoness. According to the ape's plan, the Dominion will travel alone to pit a small battle against them. 'Two shots will be enough to finish both off', he said. The Kismet will do this to test to see if the weapon was working properly and to frighten those Cornerians into submission, if possible. If they refused to surrender, then the so-called Kismet Fleet will march toward Corneria like they should, but it will take much time to organize. The Cornerians will take advantage of that of course, and gather up their own fleet of destroyers and battleships. Somewhere along the line, Andross hoped, the two fleets will collide into a pitched battle in space. Once our fleet prevails, that would be a harsh message to Cornerians, and from that point, they might consider a peaceful surrender.
"I protested of course. If things go my way, just an abandoned Venomian cruiser would serve as a target for testing, and the Cornerians will never be frightened into surrender. Three years of war had hardened those fools, and a mere act of intimation will not be enough. The Cornerians will fight no matter what. So, we will have that battle Andross wanted. Thousands of Venomians will be slaughtered! Thousands! Andross's dumb plan will send many of his people to their deaths when they shouldn't be. Also, despite it's reputation, the Kismet is not exactly perfect. What if the Cornerians find a weak point? What if they found out the way to disarm the shield protecting the weapon? If the Kismet is destroyed, then that will pretty much be the end of us. We will never recover from the loss."
Daniel rubbed his chin, feeling the coarse, unshaven hairs protruding from under his muzzle. "Did Andross respond at all?"
"Oh he does have his reasons to back up his plan," she answered with a roll of her eyes. "Ever heard of Forest Echo?"
"Uh, no, can't say I haven't."
"Of course. It's one of those secret Venomian bases in Macbeth. That base was built with the Kismet's in mind, and it gives power to the Kismet's shields. I visited that base once. It lies up on a hill surrounded by trees, and it has a bunch of traps for unsuspecting Cornerians. Even if the security codes in Kismet were cracked and the enemy had found a way to disarm the shield, then they will have to sacrifice too many of their soldiers just to disarm it. Forest Echo is not the only place they have to conquer over, but it will be their biggest challenge. I wanted to protest again, saying that more bloodshed will happen, but I kept quiet. It was hopeless to convince Andross to veto his plan and accept mine."
Venus breathed out a frustrated sigh and stood beside a desk. With some of the anger still inside her, she banged a fist on the desk, muttering a curse and rattling a small vase unlucky to be stationed on the desk. "Shit, I don't know why he even needs me! A good leader should always be open to suggestions, and not shrug them off like Andross did to me! It's like he wants to tell us his plan to show us just how smart he is in military techniques. Ha! If that's the case, then he's not convincing me. I'll accept his plan, but only in his presence. No use getting thrown to jail for objecting to him once too many times."
"What are you going to do?"
"For now, I'm staying here. It's up to Fleet Admiral Thurman to follow Andross's plan. A good soldier, but he's an ass-kisser. He grovels so much that it won't be surprising to me if I see that dog licking Andross's boots in some loyalty ritual. Maybe that's why he outranks me. Maybe if I share a bed with Andross, I would be the next heir to the throne," she said, the last sentence reeking with sarcasm.
Daniel only smiled, unfazed by that sentence. He knew it was her anger talking. "Boy, that would be a sight."
Venus chuckled in surprise and punched him softly on his broad chest. "You're a ghoul, Daniel. Thank you for listening to me. I just need to get all this anger out of my system. So, what do you want for dinner? A TV dinner? Fast food?"
In slow motion, Daniel bundled his huge arms around the fragile yet strong saluki, and they were so close together that they could feel each other's breathing. "How about we leave dinner for later?"
She knew that Daniel could crush her being hugged like this, but she felt very comfortable. She was safe within his arms, like he was the best bodyguard she could ever want to have. "What, you're not hungry?"
"Well, I am hungry for love."
Venus snickered, wrapping her narrow arms around his neck. "Well, I can take care of that," she said softly, most of the anger inside her relieved.

Chapter Four

"Of course I open myself to suggestions. It's just that my plans are always better. All they can do is to add to my plans."
--Emperor Andross of the Venom Empire

"Isn't this ship lovely, sir?" A cheery lynx greeted Carl as the Fleet Admiral came into the Command Bridge via elevator.
Carl grinned and scanned the massive Bridge. "Indeed it is, soldier. Indeed it is."
The lynx shook his paw. "First Officer Jameson DiVillana, sir. It's a pleasure to be serving you."
"And from what I have been reading on your profile, it's an honor to have you as my Number One. You served under three Captains in three battleships, am I right?"
Jameson nodded. "Yes, sir. I'm said to be one of the best officers in the Venom Navy, sir," he said with pride. "Welcome to the Command Bridge of the Kismet, Fleet Admiral Thurman."
It really was the biggest Command Bridge in any space battleship in the history of the Lylat System. The entire outer wall consisted of thick window panels, from the right side to the left, and from the ceiling to the floor. In comparison to the average size of the rooms in the dreadnought, the Bridge was the size of two floors in height and fifteen rooms in length. On the lower level was an arch of computers, radar screens, and a vast collection of lights, switches, and buttons. Thirty console officers, wearing distinctive green uniforms, all sat on green-cushioned chairs, working on their computers, and their backs on Carl and Jameson. On the side walls were several doors and panels of steel, and walking here and there were officers and soldiers doing their assigned chores.
The top level, overlooking the arch of console officers, was not much of a floor at all. It consisted only an eight-foot wide stretch of carpeted steel, like a walkway, with a rail fence. It starts on the back wall that consisted only the elevator and several computer consoles, and it stretches through the middle of the lower level, and ends with a rounded arch of carpet in the very center of the Bridge. On that location was a large, black leather throne, fit for an emperor.
But Andross won't be flying this Big Mama, Carl thought, and promptly sat down on the chair. It felt cold to the touch, but that didn't bother the white-furred dog. " know, Number One, I think I'm going to get used to this cold leather," he said smugly.
Jameson laughed. "I hope you do so. It will take a little more than eleven hours to get from here to those ships near Zoness. Then, it will take about several days to gather up all the needed ships of the Armada, since they're now all spread out and some of the needed ships are still under repair, and then we'll head on to Corneria itself."
"That sounds slow, but I have enough time. Is the Kismet ready?"
The lynx's thin lips curled up in a smile, showing his well-maintained molars. "Yes, sir! We're all ready, Admiral!"
The German shepherd nodded. "Good. My first order as the commander of this proud ship will be, 'Engage'!!"
Jameson smartly saluted. "Yes, sir!"
Soon, the huge and powerful engines roared it's might, and the newest Flagship of the Venomian Space Armada accelerated in the presence of the planet Venom. The ship, being watched by the smaller battleships of the Armada, steered right toward Zoness, anxious to meet it's first two victims.

Like two silent giants, the C.A.F.D. Crimson Blue and the C.A.F.D. Belinda floated in outer space, still and alert for any movement worth paying attention to. The Patriot-class battleships were similar to the Venomian Zeram-class ships, though unlike the dull, swamp-colored hulls of those ships, the hulls of the Patriot ships were much brighter gray in color, and they were also the smallest class-ships of the Corneria Space Fleet. Orbiting Zoness, the ships were in hostile enemy space, but they could handle themselves, and since they were only on a patrolling mission, they would often avoid a big battle anyway.
Captain Jack Stané of the Belinda shook his frazzled leopard head, rubbing back his sleek blonde hair with a sweat-moistened palm. His Captain's Quarters was not lavish at all, which suited Jack's taste. The only furniture there was the usual desk, easy revolving chair, and a two-seater white leather sofa. Looking out the lone window, Jack was sickened at the sight of the polluted Venomian-controlled planet, wondering if Zoness would ever be cleaned up right again.
Waiting patiently behind him was a sweating red fox in an Ensign uniform; one of the engineering people. He was uncomfortable in the hot room, being accustomed to air conditioning. Jack loved the heat, and his quarters was in the "Places To Avoid" list memorized among the one hundred crew in the battleship. No one knew why Jack could stand such heat.
"You have the latest report on the crystalized retro-engines?" Jack asked him, still watching Zoness. Although Patriot-class ships were not common, they were the only ships in both war factions that could actually move backwards, shaving a great deal of time while retreating; they don't have to turn around. However, those engines were expensive and often break down, since it was new technology, and therefore quite primitive.
"Uh, yes sir. We have been working on retro-engines two through eleven since 1050 hours yesterday, and only engines three and six were repaired to be back online. The others are still being repaired at this moment, and all engines are still expected to be ready within two days."
Jack turned to face the fox and nodded. "Take your time. We haven't seen any movement in the past several days except for the usual Invader jets, and I don't expect our radar to see any Venomian ships anytime soon. Strange, isn't it? I haven't seen any ships of the Venomian Armada around since we got here."
The fox shook his head in agreement furiously, feeling like a broiler inside the volcano heat of the Captain's Quarters. Jack, knowing the heated reputation, grinned. "Dismissed, Ensign."
The fox smiled and saluted. "Thank you, sir," he said and rushed out into the cool air of the Command Bridge. Jack sighed and went back to his planet gazing.
A few minutes later, an alarm shattered the silence. Instantly, the Captain stepped into the Bridge, shivering from the sudden coolness in the air. On the front screen was an unidentified ship, much bigger than anything Jack had ever seen. The stake-shaped thing in front of the ship looked especially menacing. "Alarms off," he said quickly, and the annoying blares of the alarm were shut down. He stood behind a rabbit console officer, a tension feeling of panic rising inside him.
"Any idea what in the world is that, Ensign Maddel?"
The rabbit shook her head. "I don't know, Captain. I've never seen it before."
"I haven't seen it before either Scan that ship.......damn, that sucker is huge," Jack said, half in panic, half in awe. The impossibly massive ship crept closer to the pair of Patriot ships, still fifteen thousand miles away.
A lizard officer behind him pressed several buttons on his console. "Sir, Captain Adams of the Crimson Blue is just as confused as you are. His ship is also scanning that thing, but he's also gearing his weapons. Should I gear up our weapons, Captain?"
"No. Using the retro-engines, how fast can we retreat?"
"Only three-eights the normal speed, Captain."
"Damn, not enough. Prepare to evacuate if that thing becomes hostile. I have a very bad feeling about this," Jack said in his gruff voice. "Open a line to Adams."
The lizard pressed a button. "Channel open, sir."
"Captain Adams, why are you gearing up your weapons? It might show as a sign of aggression to that ship in front of us."
A younger voice answered through the overheard com. "Captain, I'm doing this as a precaution. Of course I will not fire until it is necessary, but I believe that ship is Venomian. It could be a ship from another galaxy, but I seriously doubt it. You know about Andross and his creative ways on attempting to destroy his enemies."
"But how can Andross build something this big without Corneria knowing it?"
"Well, Captain Stané, for the past several years, our scouts have failed to penetrate into deep Venom space to even catch sight of Venom, and that ship could be constructed on Venom's orbit. After all, we were caught unprepared against a fleet of battleships that we didn't know existed at the beginning of this war. It does seem amazing, but I do believe that ship has Andross written all over it."
"Hmmm....wait till the ship gets into ion artillery range, and fire only when the scanners confirm it's identity." It's not wise to open fire against something unknown like this. If this ship does come from an unknown alien civilization, then firing against it will pit Corneria into a two-front war against Venom and a civilization who build ships ten or fifteen times the size of General Olson's fat ego.
"Uh, right, Captain. Adams out."
The ship continued it's pace to the two ships, then halted a thousand miles away, just within ion artillery range. That move puzzled the leopard. Ion fire was the longest reaching projectile in all five different weapons that a Patriot ship has, so either it was luck or that the people inside that ship knows the range of the weapons in his ship that made them stop at that distance away.
A beeping sound alarmed one of the console officers. "Captain! That was the scanners! That ship is Venomian!"
Jack flashed his head toward the officer, his eyes wide in shock. "WHAT?"
The same officer was too busy on the controls to face him. "Confirmed, sir! It's Venomian!"
A combination of a snarl and a whimper uttered out of Jack's mouth. "Bloody hell! Gear up the ion bombs now! Continue scanning that ship!"
The Crimson Blue , already ready for a fight, fired their ion torpedoes from it's starboard, port, and fore gunners. A continuous stream of deadly spheres of green ion fire screeched across space, and Jack hoped that would teach that ship, whatever it's name was, a lesson on not to mess with Adams and Stané.
"C' your stuff," he mumbled at the ion torpedoes. The shots were just about to collide with the huge ship's hull when a previously-invisible canopy of energy burst into sight. It was in a shape of a large oval bubble with a flat base, covering only the weird structure on the ship's bow, which Jack concluded that to be the main Venomian weapon. The bubble acted like some impregnable shield, absorbing the torpedoes one by one with ease. However, one of the ion torpedoes was too far off to be destroyed by the shield. Instead, the sphere bolted beside the shield and struck the thick hull of the ship. A dull spark of green flame erupted from the explosion, and a short and premature yell of victory was cried out from one of the nervous crewmen.
"Damn it, that structure is shielded!" The lizard officer spurted out needlessly.
Jack almost sighed with relief as he spotted the damage.. "Well, at least the entire ship is not so damn shielded. Continue scanning the ship. See if you can find any weak point on those shields."
"I'm already on it, sir! I'm attempting to break through their computer's security codes!"
Jack shuffled a few steps unconsciously, his mind warping with quick planning and panic. "Are the weapons ready?"
"Yes sir!"
"Fire at will, but not at the weapon!"
At his command, the Belinda' s ion gunners let loose a heavy barrage of ion torpedoes, darting toward the large ship with reckless determination. Small explosions on the hull were the result of the attack, but Jack soon realized that the bombs weren't doing much effect to it. He muttered a curse, knowing he wouldn't stand a chance against this colossal battleship. Andross have outdone himself, he thought. He glanced away from the screen, frustrated with little choice but to make a retreat, or even an evacuation.
"Sir! Something's happening with the weapon!"
The words from the rabbit officer alerted his attention on the screen. The isosceles pyramid weapon suddenly glowed a white gaseous light, which was not something that Jack wanted to see. Like swirling winds of angelic light, the weapon grew brighter along with it's menacing aura around it. The Crimson Blue responded to the threat by increasing the intensity of their firing, but the shield refused to let any bombs penetrate through. Captain Adams was desperate enough to keep doing something that was fruitless.
Despite the worthlessness of such an action, Jack retreated back a few steps away from the screen. The lights mystified him, and his feet were locked onto the carpet, eyes still with fear. He knew what was going to happen, and was powerless to stop it. Seconds dragged on. Then minutes. Just when Jack thought this spectacular light show was just a Venomian bluff, he heard a whirling sound coming out of nowhere. He knew then that this was no bluff.
With little warning, the weapon fired out a single shot toward the Crimson Blue . It was like a speedy blue comet, and the ion bombs that got in it's way exploded in contact, not even slowing the death missile down. Jack followed it with his eyes, speechless. The comet shot crashed right into the bow of the doomed Crimson Blue , and the first explosion flashed into the eyes of the shocked leopard captain. A dazzling array of blue sparks erupted from the explosion, dying quickly in space, and debris spilled out. Still not dead yet, the deadly comet continued to violently punch a large hole through the center of the battleship, causing more explosions. The Crimson Blue was ripped apart from the inside out, and in a matter of seconds, every room, every engine, and every compartment were engulfed in tempestuous flames. The ship crumbled into a loosely collection of debris, dispersing in all directions. Everyone inside the doomed ship had died, including the comet of energy that the Venom ship had shot, but only after drilling a hole through most of the battleship.
Instinctively, Jack grabbed hold of a console desk, his eyes fixed on the screen and the oncoming debris. The Belinda rocked and shook like an earthquake as the countless debris splattered on the ship's hull in a rain of burnt steel, glass, and lost souls. Several sparks blew out of the console computers, unable to handle the pounding. The rabbit console officer stumbled from her chair, a monitor exploding on her face. She collapsed on the floor, her face a burnt heap of flesh.
Soon, the ship was still, the debris punching many small holes on the Belinda 's port side, killing dozens of crew members unlucky enough to be on the outer rooms of that damaged body. Jack released his embrace on the console desk, eyes still wide and breathing hard. "Mother of the Gods!" Okay, I have just seen Captain Adam's ship be obliterated into debris with just one stinking shot, and I might be next. Gee, what to do now? Stand here and meet good old Death? "Abandon ship! Abandon ship!"
The yellow evacuation alarms filled the entire interior of the battleship, and an uproar of massed chaos swept rampantly among the crew. As the console officers already running out of the Bridge, Jack halted the lizard officer.
"You managed to steal any of the protected information inside that bastard of a ship?"
The lizard was too panicked to grin. "Yes, sir, but very little. Most of it are just numbers, but one word came on the screen: 'Keerman'. You have any idea what that means?"
"Could be a code or a base. We'll have to investigate further," Jack said as they rushed into the hallway, which was already crowded with people clamoring for the transporter bays. "How long was the recharging?"
"I estimate it to be three minutes, sir."
"Hmmm....I hope that's long enough time for all of us to get the hell out of this ship."
The lizard nodded, almost tripping over the heels of the person in front of him. "My God, the Crimson Blue never got a chance! It's horrible!"
"Their deaths will be avenged," Jack said grimly in a hurry. "If we manage to survive through this, then I might expect a bloody battle ahead, and that huge ship will be directly in the center of it all."
The mass of panicked bodies stumbled through the hallways and finally into one of the transporter bays, where five transporter stood waiting. Jack filed into one of the thirty-passenger ships, his breathing fast-paced. Sweat dripped across his face, knowing that at this very moment, the huge Venomian ship was recharging that dastardly weapon. Soon, with the bay doors open, the transporter engines roared softly and lifted itself off the floor. It spilled out of the doomed ship, and accelerated to it's top speed.
Minutes later, Jack heard the expected loud explosion, but it still made his heart jump fifteen miles up. His battleship, the C.A.F.D. Belinda, was now no more, and the Doom Star had completed the testing phase, and claimed it's first two victims.

Chapter Five

"For the love of God, brace for impact!!!!"
--The last words of Captain Adams, Crimson Blue of the Cornerian Air Force Defense

"Damn you, Andross," General Pepper muttered angrily in his War Room. The lights were dimmed to enable the two generals and commander to see the wall screen better, but Commander Bill Grey could see the hound's eyes like it was broad daylight. The eyes showed hatred, anger, frustration, and depression. General Greg Olson, who heads the spying and patrolling divisions of the military, cleared his throat, nervous by Pepper's fuming.
The aging brown-furred domestic cat, bearing a scar on his right leg due to a terrorist act, laid a small disk on the empty meeting table. "This is the disk that has the information stolen from the Venomian craft's computer, courtesy of someone in the C.A.F.D. Belinda . Unfortunately, the security codes were so tough that we couldn't even get the name of that ship, or maybe we did. There's only one word from that computer that we caught: Keermen."
Bill nodded, recognizing the name. "That's a base with little importance. It's just one of those boot camp facilities with medium security. But why Keermen would be in the ship's central computer?"
The cat hummed in response, a habit of his whenever he ponders an answer. "I have already given a mission to one of my trusted spies to check that out. Hopefully he can pull off the job. I believe Keermen has a computer that has vital information about this new weapon of Andross that we'll be forced to face."
"Still.....why Keermen?"
"I think that was either an Andross mistake or the Venomians were playing the 'overlooked' game with us. An important object inside an unimportant place was generally overlooked. Still, my spy will have to be careful in that base. Maybe Andross had increased the security there, or that the place might have plenty of booby traps. It's up to my spy to know."
With that matter concluded for now, General Pepper turned their attention to the wall screen. The screen showed a much-detailed map of the entire Lylat System, showing the locations of the Cornerian starships, and the latest reported locations of the Venomian ones. The blue dots of the Cornerian ships were all spread out, but most of them were moving in a top speed. The red dots of Venomians were moving as well, and there was a noticeable cluster of red dots around the Sector Z area. There was one other dot, a white one for reason of unknown identity, moving slowly within Zoness space.
General Pepper pointed to the cluster of red dots. "There are about fifty starships in that one small region of space alone, positioning themselves in attack formation. I believe the huge ship that destroyed the two Patriot ships will rendevous with that formation, and there are still more starships heading toward that rendevous spot. Once they are finished, then they might stroll down straight to Corneria in one huge fleet, and attempt to blast this planet to bits. To stop them, our own ships are currently heading toward Sector X to join up into one large fleet of our own, and intercept the Venomians. However, we must find a way to disarm the shields of that massive battleship, or we'll be routed, I'm sure. I hope the key to do so would be in Keermen. If not, then we're in deep trouble."
General Olson, a confident one who constantly boasts, stated, "Have no worries, General. My spy will do the job as he was ordered to do."
General Pepper nodded. "I hope so. I surely do hope so."

Never assume that if a person wears a Venomian uniform, that person would automatically be a Venomian soldier. That was the case with a red squirrel sitting near the back of a troop transporter, heading toward an unimportant military base amid the hot sands of Titania. The squirrel's name was Private Xavier Lean, a new recruit to the Venomian Defense Army stationed in the dusty world, with a generally mysterious history and has a reputation for speed and sharp shooting. He wore a murky tan uniform with a black belt complete with a scabbard and holster, and a new-recruit pin on his chest. His brown eyes were motionless with a dull boredom light within, just like the other soldiers sitting with him, his thin lips barely moving. The ruddy-black mixed fur was well-groomed, and his brown hair, brushed back, cropped out of his head. Extended out like a pillow behind him was a fluffy tail, red like blood. Indeed he was a soldier, but only to those surrounding him.
To his Cornerian allies, trusted friends, and General Olson of the Cornerian Army, the squirrel was Travis Neal, a spy serving the Corneria military, and on an important mission. General Olson did not give much information to him except for the objective, which was to extract highly confidential information about some massive ship from the base's computer, and to relay that back to Corneria. Travis was okay with that; he was used to risking his life to accomplish goals he didn't fully understand. However, from the tone of General Olson's voice, he knew that this mission would be deadly and extremely vital. Since he heard the news about the fates of the Patriot-class ships near Zoness just about the same time as he was ordered into this mission, he figured there must be some connection. He also has a time limit as well: within six hours after reaching the base, he must transfer the information to Corneria safely, or he must abort the mission.
Aborting any mission is not an option, Travis thought as he sat patiently. The small aircraft shook somewhat as it steered through the atmosphere of Titania, and after another series of turbulence, the transporter made a sharp jolt as it landed on the sand-swept concrete of the base near a cliff-bordering town, surrounded by desert for miles on end.
The commanding sergeant in the transporter stood up and faced the soldiers. "Alright, soldiers. Welcome to Keermen Base. You are to go to your quarters immediately and by 1230 and 1700 hours, the meal bells will start. There is only one mess hall, but you rookies are only allowed on your side of the area. To cross the white line on the floor will be considered trespassing, and you will be punished appropriately. At 2100 hours, the lights will go off, and if you are at fault at any complaint of noise, then you will be punished. Wake-Up will be at 0600 hours," he said as he opened the door. A blast of dry heat burst inside, and some of the recruits flinched.
The sergeant merely laughed. "Oh yeah, this is one of the hottest spots in this planet. You'll die out there without water for four hours. There is a town nearby here, but you won't find much in there. Everything you need will be in the base, so there's no need to go there. Now then, as you already know, you will stay here for two weeks, and the drills and training will give you a taste of Hell. If you're thinking of quitting and need some inspiration to survive through the two weeks, then go to the nearby grave pit and you'll find the losers that quit under the sweltering sun. Everyone got that? Now then, up to your feet."
His bones creaking after hours in a tight sitting position, Travis groaned lightly as he stood up, and filed out of the transporter with the other recruits. Some wore faces of anxiousness, wanting to get into the action and shed some Cornerian blood. Others were uncertain as they felt the stinging heat on their faces, wondering if they would finish the training alive. Travis sympathized those soldiers. He would only have to be here six hours.
Despite his light-colored uniform and boots, his fur felt hot under the clothes, and the cloth was stinging to the touch. His feet burned as he marched across the sandy pavement, and the wind swept sand at his hair and eyes. The blistering sun flared it's might on him, and even though he was outside for only a minute, he wished for an air conditioner or an Ice Age. Keermen consisted of a collection of small buildings surrounding a huge building in the center, with a perimeter barb wire fence, and the only transportation were simple transporters and Sand Mobiles that resembled armored trucks. Travis actually hated missions in Titania. His fur were often matted with millions of grains of sand, and he was touchy about having his tail ruined. His eyes often water more faster than the average person in the heat, and being born in a cold area of Katina and raised there until he was ten, he never became accustomed to stinging heat.
But the biggest problem of being in Titania was his habit of going bare-footed. He became a spy mainly because he was hard to catch. He was a natural acrobat, swinging through the trees in his old Katina home at a young age. He has a renowned ability to cling on to industrial-type catwalks on the bottom, and crawl upside-down with ease, as long as no one steps on his delicate claws. He rarely does that though, since that would put him in a somewhat uncomfortable position, and the person on the catwalk could see the nails of his paws poking through the small holes on the floor. He could scale rocky cliffs faster than most he had met, and his quick bounds and leaps made him almost impossible for a guard or soldier to get a good shot at him. However, to make the most of his agility, he does it bare-pawed. Boots and gloves add the extra weight that would bear him down, and it's tough to cling on to something with them. Being bare-footed in a place with the heat of Titania was a torturous experience. He hated boots so much that only the rules as a soldier told him to wear them. In the privacy of a dorm room however, the boots were immediately discarded and thrown to some corner.
That was exactly what Travis did as he stepped into his vacant living quarters, and even before his backpack crashed on top of his bed, the boots were carelessly laid side-down on a corner, a small puddle of sand next to them. The squirrel with nimble feet plopped himself on his bed, taking stock of his room. It was good-sized, with a capacity of thirty people at the most. There was no desk, but a monitor telephone was hung on the east wall. A flat-screen television (only one channel, with bad distortion) was hung on the west wall, and two plastic chairs, one for each occupant in the room, were stacked up on the corner opposite of the boots. The roommate's bed, the green sheets flat as a table, was on the right of Travis' bed. It wasn't all that homey, but Travis expected that. A boot camp was never meant to be a hotel.
He uttered a groan as he placed his feet on the bed, and used his paws to massage them. Travis was often careful on what he was stepping on, but when escaping guards, he often makes bad choices of terrain to cross. Once in Zoness, he trampled himself across a sea of thorns in some forest, and that move took him to a sickbay in a Cornerian space station. His feet showed blisters and scars, but they were often healed. Wearing boots was much more of a pain for him, since he hated cramps. Once he felt comfortable enough, he brushed off as much sand off his fur as he can, and then got to unpacking his duffel bag.
To fool the nosy inspectors, Travis' tools of his trade were disguised as anything from weapons to personal belongings. His sub-automatic machine gun could fire lasers, but inside the butt of that gun was a canister of sleeping gas. His first three laser pistols could fool anyone, but in shooting, they were worthless. Inside their barrels were two vials of potions each, ranging from memory to truth potions. The fourth pistol was just as real as any other pistol, but it was marked so that it won't fool Travis himself. A framed picture of himself along with his "mother" had a thin retina and pawprint copier device. A prescription bottle for headaches actually held regurgitation pills. Finally, a decoder and a small, dime-shaped disk were embedded on the bottom of a working shaving cream cylinder. The only things not disguised was a laptop computer, and a tool box with the normal tools, thanks to him having mechanic experience in his fake profile. All of these were just a few of the many devises that Travis had experience with, but these are mainly non-lethal. He was here to gather information, not to kill every Venomian in the base. Travis doesn't mind killing, but he only does it if he has to. Generally, an alarm would sound if someone finds a dead body within any facility.
An hour later, the door opened and a youthful veteran came inside, complete with his own duffel bag. His face was a little less than welcoming, knowing his new roommate was a rookie, and a scar on his spotted head was a medal for his time in battle. His uniform told the others his rank of corporal, so that explains his distaste for Travis and his lowly rank. Like a high school junior treating a freshman, although he's actually a sophomore. Laying down on his bed, Travis watched as the ocelot wordlessly threw the bag onto his bed, and grumbled as he sat next to it.
"Having a hard day, corporal?" Travis said in a well-hello-to-you-too tone of voice.
The ocelot growled at him. "Shut up, rookie."
Travis was taken aback by his greeting, yet unfazed. "That's not the right way to greet someone. Private Xavier Lean," he said, extending his paw.
Grudgingly, the ocelot shook his paw. "Corporal Larry Quill,....although I used to be Colonel."
"Really? Why was you demoted?"
Larry grumbled again. "None of your business. Now listen here. If you touch my stuff, and that includes this bed and my chair, then there will be hell to pay. If you interrupt me, or annoy me, or talk when I don't want you, then there will be hell to pay. I outrank you, rookie. Make sure you remember that, or I'll remind you with my fist. Do you understand me?"
Sheesh, what a grouch. "Yeah, yeah, fine. Whatever. You always like this?"
Larry muttered an expletive that Travis luckily didn't catch, and stood up from the bed. "You're already breaking my rules! Consider this your first warning," he mumbled, and walked out of the living quarters with clinched fists.
Travis shook his head and sighed. "Great. I have an ocelot who's on a bit of a spot as a roommate. Next thing I know, my next roommate would be an elephant with a horrible memory, or a mouse from some ancient period that carries a shield with the letter 'M' on it!"
The lunch bell rang several minutes later, and though Travis was a little famished, he had other things in mind than just to eat. He pulled out the barrel section from one of his fake pistols, and two vials slid out onto his delicate paws. He laid the red liquid vial inside his pocket, and put the other one back into place, and then reached for the regurgitation bottle and that one went into his pocket. He faced the door, and took a deep breath. "Okay Travis. Let the games begin."

The Keermen Mess Hall was a bustling room of soldiers of all ranks, from the lowly privates to the medal-studded generals. The reek of food reached into Travis' nose as he strolled inside, making his whiskers twitch. Since the soldier's uniforms were determined by rank, and that the mess hall were separated by rank also, the mess hall looked very much like a colorful checkerboard. A long line of hungry soldiers stood impatiently for their meal on the right side of the large room, and on the opposite side were doors to restrooms. Travis stepped into the back of the line, his eyes watching the officers and soldiers eating. Since he has absolutely no knowledge of where he could get the necessary information from, he must extort out the directions from someone that has the knowledge. A general or commander may know where the base's main computer was and how to get to it as secretly as he can, but the main question was how to get to those officers without getting disciplined for violating some stupid rule, like crossing those taped lines on the tiled floor? It was impossible for him, wearing a Private uniform, to get close to someone of much higher rank while they were sitting and eating. That would mean trespassing. So, he must get to an officer on the lunch line, which was a territory for every soldier obviously.
He spotted his target a few people in front of him in the line. A skunk general, wearing a cologne so strong that the people in front and behind him in the line gave him more space than needed. Knowing that skunks smell like any other person unless they were irritated, the cologne must be used for some other obvious reason. Travis chuckled lightly at the uncomfortable people unfortunate enough to receive the brunt of the scent attacks, then pulled out the regurgitation bottle, making his move.
He stepped out of the line and caught up with the skunk, despite the protest of the people behind him, accusing him of cutting in line. Travis dismissed them and purposely bumped himself on the skunk's shoulder.
"Hey! Watch where you're going, rook!" The skunk blurted out in anger, toppling his tray and spilled out some of the hot coffee standing on it.
With a reddish regurgitation pill already in paw, Travis hopped away from the distracted skunk, throwing the pill into the coffee in one fluid motion. The general was too angry to see that, and the pill dissolved quickly in the heat of the coffee.
Travis made a face of pure innocence. "Oh, sorry, sir. My mistake," he said, placing his bottle back into his pocket. Thankfully, no one saw him throwing the pill into the skunk's drink.
The general grunted in displeasure. "Damn rookies never have sense!"
Travis made a scowl. "Are all officers around here are as crappy toward rookies as you are?" He muttered under his breath. The skunk glanced at him in anger, but luckily didn't catch what he was saying. The squirrel simply shook his head, hiding his joy of success.
With that portion of the job done, Travis patiently waited by the door to the men's room, his eyes intently on the skunk. He checked inside the restroom to see if anyone was there, and seeing it was totally vacant, he stood in front of the door, blocking the entrance. If someone needed to go, then he would apologize, saying that the restroom was out of order.
He prepared himself to see a humorous sight when he saw the skunk lift the coffee to his lips. The pill works immediately, and the effects would wear off after a short time. Just as Travis expected, as soon as the general sipped his coffee, his eyes bulged out in surprise, and stood up eruptively. Covering his mouth, he ran across the hall straight for the men's restroom, bumping onto almost everyone in his way. Travis side-stepped away from the door to avoid a collision, chuckling at the sight. The skunk burst past him, the door swinging faster than the eye could follow. Travis immediately followed him inside, and locked the door behind him.
A vomiting sound greeted him as he locked the door. Travis chuckled again, wishing to congratulate the one who invented those marvelous red pills. Maybe some professional clown that used to be a spy, or vice-versa. Travis spotted the boots of the general shuffling inside the closed stall, then the toilet flushed. That cued the still chuckling squirrel to pull out his vial of red liquid.
A groan echoed in the small room, and the lone stall's door opened to expose a miserable skunk wearing strong cologne to the eyes of Travis. His head swayed uneasily, the eyes strained in pain. He didn't notice Travis opening the red vial at first.
"Something wrong, General....what's your name?"
Instead of answering, the skunk went back to his cranky side. "You again! What are you doing.....doing..." He covered his mouth again, and back to the toilet stall he went.
The disgusting yet humorous (to Travis) sounds of vomiting and the flushing of the toilet went into Travis' ears, and when the general came out, Travis wordlessly offered him the vial.
"What the hell is this, rookie?"
"It will help you on your vomiting. Drink it all."
Not wanting to experience kneeling in front of the toilet again, the skunk eagerly grabbed the vial and gulped the liquid whole into his mouth. Instantly, he dropped the vial, and the plastic casing landed harmlessly on the white tiles. His eyes went wide, as if in shock, and with yet another groan, he staggered to the sink. His problem with the vomiting had been solved alright, but the red liquid had side-effects, mainly centering on his brain.
"What is your name?" Travis asked him calmly, cautious on wether or not that liquid had worked.
The skunk looked into the mirror, and blinked his watery eyes. "General Rod Asala, Venomian Army of Titania."
Hmmm....seems to be working. Let's test that, Travis thought. The liquid was suppose to warp the victim's brain into telling the truth and only the truth, and to believe everything the teller was saying. "I may look like a Private, but I'm actually an inspector straight from Andross himself."
Rod grinned drunkenly. Alcohol was a main ingredient in the liquid. "Oh, so you are. Well then, what brings you here?"
Travis smiled. Rod didn't even question why any Venomian inspector would be disguised inside a Venomian base. His brain was too fried to have much judgement and sense. "Well, I'm supposed to go to a room where I could check on the mainframe computer on this base. You know that since the computer here is not connected to any other network, I cannot just simply check on it while I'm in Venom or Aquas or whatever. I must be on the spot. However, on my way here, I forgot the directions, and I'm in a hurry. Can you tell me where the main computer here is?"
Rod nodded, the thought that this "inspector" could have just simply ask someone in the Information Booth not occurring to him. "Yes, yes....but you can't just come in. It's guarded."
Travis rolled up his eyes. Of course.
Rod continued on. "The room is on the first floor; read a map of this base. There is a hallway to that room, but to get into the private hallway, there is a small box next to the door that requires a password to get in."
"What is that password?" Travis demanded, thanking himself for having a great memory. He would need it.
"Um, uh, it's called 'Sweet Rose 890', but it might change about an hour from now. It changs everyday. Now, once you get through that, there are two soldiers standing guard on the other side of the hallway. Wearing a Private uniform won't get you anywhere past them. You need a senior officer uniform like the one I have."
Travis muttered an angry curse. While wearing a Private uniform won't gather attention on him, wearing a high-ranking one would do so, and someone might realize that there are no senior officers that are squirrels. Blood would shed today, whether Travis liked it or not. "And once I get their permission to get through them?"
"The door on the other side leads only to the outer room. There's a security guard there, but he might not bother you unless he hears noises in the hallway that would have alarmed him. On the door to the computer room, there is another security panel that will require the approved pawprint, and that will finally get you in the room."
"Anyone in the computer room?"
"No,'s just a small room with a circular tower in the center that is the computer."
"Now, I only want to check information about some massive ship that Andross has,,"
The delirious skunk held up a finger, like a student knowing the answer. "Kismet? What about it?"
"Yeah,...Kismet," Travis said. Good name for it, he thought. That means destiny, right? "Is there anyway I could just get to that portion of the database, to save me time?"
"Once you get to the computer, enter the password 'Super Nova', and that is the shortcut to the information concerning the Kismet."
"Any cameras?"
"Only in that outer room. Four of them, located on each upper corner."
Gosh darn it! Downloading the necessary information to my disk will take time. I don't want to fight my way out, but if I have to... "Are there any vents in the computer room?"
"No, there is no need for them. I believe there's one in the outer room. A ceiling one."
A moment of silence passed. "What are the walls made out of? Steel?"
Unexpectedly, Rod shook his head, as if coming out of a trance. Travis checked his watch. The effects of the liquid was wearing off of him, and in another minute, Rod would be utterly confused, since he would have a blank time-span of five minutes in his memory. "Why you need to know?"
"Just answer the question!" Travis demanded impatiently.
"Um, uh, not steel. There are more important stuff that need that. Uh, I think it's stucco. I repeat, why you need to know?"
"None of your business. Well, thanks for your time. I have to bail," Travis said with a smile and unlocked the door. Leaving the general inside, still a little delirious but dramatically coming back to reality, Travis hurriedly marched back to his room. Now was the time to strike.

In the first floor, Travis spotted the security-locked door in a quiet hallway, close to a residential section. Luckily, there weren't any people around to catch him in the act, but that didn't quiet down his heart beat. He may be a spy for over a decade, spying on pirates, cutthroat criminals, Venomian generals, and other scum of the Lylat System that would love to see a spy hung and burned at the stake, but since every situation was different, he was always nervous of being caught. He made one final scan before typing in the password on the door's security panel. His real pistol was on his right paw, ready to fire, and his backpack with all his belongings, including the sub-automatic machine gun, was over his shoulder. Once in a while, he shuffled his feet in discomfort, hating the tight leather boots.
"Sweet...Rose...890," Travis mumbled as he punched in the keys. "A pretty password. Hope it's still valid."
He was answered by a beep, and the door slid open. He marched inside, his eyes expecting to see the first blood of the mission. It was a fifteen-foot long hallway, bright with white tiles and smooth white walls. Travis' attention however, was on the bulldog and lynx machine gun carrying guards on the other side.
The lynx guard raised his gun to aim. "Hey, you can't-"
The whispering shot of silenced pistol fire interrupted the feline, and the lynx gasped in horror, a hole through his right chest. Blood trickled down his light orange uniform as he collided his back against the wall in numb pain, and with dead eyes, slumped to the floor.
The bulldog was quicker on his aim, and Travis knew it. Like a dashing acrobat, he rolled forward, a laser shot just above him. Before the guard could react, Travis halted into a kneeling position, his pistol stretched forward. The bulldog yelled as the laser shot punched through his heart, and he too joined in eternal slumber with his lynx partner.
Travis shook his head in disbelief as he continued on. "Too slow. Just too slow. How did you end up as guards, anyway?"
He ignored them as he walked up to the door, his boots stained by a small puddle of blood. The door opened and the observant squirrel immediately spotted the farthest two cameras on the corners. He rushed inside, firing at the cameras as he did so. The northwest camera burst as a laser smashed against it, and the southwest one followed suit. With his pistol still aiming at the ceiling, he whirled his body around, and fired at the last two remaining cameras. He was quick at demolishing those two, but he knew that he was already caught on camera. Now, he was against time. As soon as the last camera exploded, Travis spotted a flash of deadly steel off the corner of his eye.
Travis always thanked himself for having a very quick reaction, and this was just one of those times. He ducked just as the double-edged dagger swept through air where his head had been a split second before. In one fluid motion, Travis jumped out of harm's way, and stared at his opponent. A tiger guard, hiding beside the door when Travis burst inside, stood in a fighting stance, his dagger shining under the lights.
"You wanna fight me, rookie? C'mon!!!" The tiger snarled.
Travis was in no mood for a fight, especially with the clock ticking down. "Sorry. Maybe in the afterlife," he answered, and aimed his pistol at him. One shot took the tiger down, and the dagger landed on the tiles with a clink.
Travis pulled out his pawprint copier. "And don't call me rookie," he said as he knelt down beside him. He planted the flat devise on the tiger's massive paw, and after several precious seconds, the pawprint was successfully printed on the device. He hurriedly went over to the last security obstacle, and laid the devise next to the door panel requesting pawprint ID. The door opened quickly after, and Travis ran inside the stuffy room.
The computer was a small circular tower, full of blinking lights and beeping noises. On eye level was a keyboard and monitor, the screen showing the Venomian insignia. Travis entered the "Super Nova" password, and the screen flashed into another image that made the squirrel flinch in surprise.
"That's the Kismet? Man, the rumors of the size of this thing are understatements!" He muttered as he saw the picture of the Venomian technological marvel. He reached in his pack and pulled out a green disk, and slid it into the CD Rom. After typing a few commands, a small screen window appeared, cuing the spy that it was now downloading information concerning the Kismet into his disk.
His ears caught muffled yelling coming from the outside of the hallway. It would only be a matter of seconds before the first of the soldiers would burst into the connecting hallway, their eyes searching for a spy to kill. He came out into the outer room, and spotted the vent near the northwest corner.
Mentally thanking the engineers for having the walls made out of stucco, Travis fired several shots onto the wall, punching large holes in a parallel, vertical pattern. He also noticed that the vent lid had no screws, so all Travis would have to do was to punch it out. Sure beats wasting time using a screwdriver.
The downloading was complete when Travis got back to the computer. He hurriedly placed his now too-valuable-to-lose disk back into his pocket, and snapped off the gas canister section of his machine gun. Using the holes as steps, he climbed up the wall and punched open the vent lid. The yelling from the soldiers were growing threateningly loud now; they entered the connecting hallway.
Travis spotted the first of the soldiers just before he got inside of the vent. "Sleep tight, fellas!" He said, and punctuated by throwing down the gas canister onto the heads of the surprised soldiers. An explosion of green gas engulfed the helpless Venomians, and one by one, they slumped to the ground, instantly asleep. Before reinforcements would come, Travis was gone.

Chapter Six

"I may not be one who uses my fists and feet to fight my way out, but to me, that's the dumb way. Why bother being in close contact with your enemy when you could just shoot 'em?"
--Travis Neal, Cornerian spy

When Major Leonard Rosen heard the alarm while on outside duty, he was in the middle of drinking a glass of ice tea. He spurted out the drink in surprise, dropping the glass in the process. The glass shattered on the sandy concrete, spilling the precious (at least in a place like Titania) cold drink into a puddle.
"Now what?" The chihuahua muttered in anger. Being outside in the heat for over an hour now, he was in a miserable mood, still getting accustomed to the heat. As the irritating screeching alarm buzzed into his sand-covered ears, he strolled over to a monitor phone, trying to find out what the alarm was for.
A frantic rhino answered his hail. "Major sir, there is an intruder inside the base! A male red squirrel!"
The runty dog wiped the sweat off his brow. "Close the gates! We don't want him out!"
Off the corner of his eye, he spotted a bundle of fur in a Private uniform burst outside the main building's door. A red squirrel....
"Hey!" Leonard yelled out, reaching for his gun. "Stop right there!"
The intruder ran on as expected, toward a line of parked Sand Mobiles. Leonard fired a shot at him, but the squirrel was too quick, and was already upon the armed automobiles. Leonard ran after him, and was quickly joined by several other guards. "Shit, he's getting away! Take all the Sand Mobiles and follow him! We must not let the bastard escape!"
A rumble of engines filled the air as the spy's Mobile darted off, kicking sand off the tank-like treads, making his way toward the gate that was already closed. The eight other Mobiles trailed him, like foxhounds chasing after a wily fox in a heated hunt. The prey Mobile sped itself toward the closed gate recklessly, knowing it's armored hull could easily smash straight through the thin-wired fence.
A clash of metal against metal rang into their ears as the guards chasing him saw their enemy burst through the gate, sending pieces of metal out flying high in the air. The escaping spy dragged on in a hurry, blazing through the sand dunes toward the small town miles away.

Travis uttered a short grunt as his Sand Mobile hopped after running over a large sand dune, almost hitting his head on the gauges and levers in front of him. Sand Mobiles were lighter armored than tanks, and have less firepower, but they are much more quicker, and while there was only one way out of a tank, a Sand Mobile has a hatch on the top as well as one on the right side that slides open, and one on the back that falls out like a ramp. On the back were several rocket launchers and bazookas, and several gas canisters, enough for a pawful of soldiers armed to the fangs. For now, Travis ignored the weapons and the option to blow all eight of the other Mobiles chasing him. The town directly in front of him was his objective, since it was good ground to hide in. He wouldn't count out using the artillery though, especially if the hunters were gaining up on him.
His Mobile shook violently again, but the squirrel knew that wasn't the bumpy ground doing that. He checked the rearview mirrors on the left to find another Mobile just close to his side, it's side door open. A turtle Venomian stood at the doorway, a small bazooka on his shoulder.
"Damn it!" Travis cursed, and steered quickly to the left to get directly in front of the Mobile. The turtle's second shot darted pass him on his right, and a geyser of sand erupted up as the shot missed it's target. Travis scanned his controls, and found what he was looking for. "Thank goodness for cruise control," he muttered.
With the Mobile's internal computer being the driver, Travis picked up a bazooka and opened the back door. Being exposed to all of his hunters would have him killed before long, so Travis wanted to make a quick kill.
Seeing Travis aiming his powerful weapon straight at him, the driver of the Mobile directly behind him screamed in panic, and made a desperate swerve to the right. He did it too fast, and the truck was turned over. Like a log, it rolled on the sand, killing the two soldiers inside, and stopped amid a cloud of sand.
Travis chuckled, and aimed his weapon at the second-closest hunter. The shot screamed toward it's target with a banshee shriek, and the hapless Mobile exploded in flames, being struck on the weakest side. Quickly, the victorious squirrel closed the back door and dropped the weapon carelessly. "That's two down."
Minutes passed in a blink of an eye. Leonard watched Travis' Mobile from the windshield, growling in frustration. The town was only a half a mile away. He grabbed the driver's shoulder harshly. "Faster! Faster!" He urged on. "Go beside him, and ram him on the side! Hopefully we could tip him over."
The engines shuttered more violently, and the roar of engines grew louder, but Leonard's Sand Mobile was gaining up on their prey. Slow but steady, the lead hunter gained up on Travis' right side, just a few feet away. As ordered, the driver pushed his steering wheel the left, and the Mobile smacked hard on the prey's side.
Travis flinched as his vehicle jostled from the collision, almost losing control. "Well, two can play that game!" He yelled, and swerved left to counter-ram the aggressive Mobile. It soon became a contest of force, as the two Mobiles rammed their sides continuously, but Travis knew he must abort this contest soon. If he was tipped over, then the mission would be aborted along with his life. He set the Mobile on cruise control again, and stumbled back to find another weapon.
"Keep it coming! Keep it coming! The town is only a few hundred yards away!" Leonard demanded to the driver, the damaged side easily noticeable from the inside. He looked out the driver's side cracked window to inspect the damage of the intruder's automobile. Travis' Mobile resembled a rocky cliff on the damaged side, and smoke was fuming out from the engines. It would not take much more damage, and Leonard could taste victory.
Then, the prey's side door facing Leonard slid open. To his horror, he spotted the red squirrel standing behind the doorway, grinning. His eyes caught the rocket launcher he was carrying first. His mouth went agape then closed again before gathering enough sense. "Slow down! Stop, driver, stop! For the love of Andross-"
The doomed chihuahua was helpless as the rocket launched itself right into his Mobile, sending it aflame immediately. The fire engulfed him, and he screamed a blood-curling yell, begging for death. His Mobile flipped over to the side, splattering sand all over the smoking automobile. The hunter had been hunted.
Travis sighed with relief. "Sorry about that, but it's either me killed or you," he said, not bothering to close to side door. He navigated into the dusty streets of town, and in the short distance, he spotted the cliff. Launching the plan he had been forming ever since the chase began, he steered the near-dead Mobile close to the stucco-walled huts of the unnamed town, and waited behind the side door opening, his backpack with him. He wanted to jump out, and in the process, throw himself through one of the open doorways of the huts. A broken leg, arm, or head was better than death, or so he thought.
"Here goes nothing. One....two....three!"
With a Hail-Mary yell, he recklessly jumped out the Sand Mobile, swept right through a drape door, and landed hard on the dirt floor of the hut. The Mobile went on, the cruise control computer knowing nothing about stopping or steering. The hunting Mobiles chased after it, passing by the hut that held Travis. Finally, the vacant Mobile went off the cliff, dropped down with the wheels spinning like frantic tops, and exploded as it landed on the rocks.
Travis groaned as he stood up, a sore on his right leg. His aim for the jump was good enough for him not to smack against a wall, but it wasn't perfect. Limping, he stood by an open window, watching the soldiers stop and inspect the bottom of the cliff. He wasn't safe yet, but he was close enough to be confident.
The sound froze Travis. That sound could only belong to a gun, and it was right behind him. A female voice followed it. "Put down your backpack, and turn around."
Slowly, Travis dropped his backpack, careful so that the computer won't break (if it hadn't already in the wild ride to this town), and with paws raised, he turned around to see the gun carrier. He had escaped countless guards only to be possibly killed by some town resident. Ah, irony can be ironic sometimes, the saying goes.
The town resident was a papillon dog, ungroomed and rather looked like the signs of the times in the poverty-stricken town. Her white line marking went symmetrically down her small rounded head, speckled with sand and filth. The erect, long haired ears that gave her species the name were matted and torn, abused constantly through lack of grooming. Her legs and arms were fat enough not to show her bones, but it was still not well fed. Travis wondered just how she could have the strength to aim a heavy and outdated CK-10, one of the last bullet shooting machine guns in production that were still in use, with ease. For outer clothing, she wore only a thick sheet with holes for the head and arms, and a crude belt was tied around her slim waist.
"Hey....I'm on your side..." Travis whispered, knowing the soldiers were still around the town.
The dog chuckled. "You got to be a loon. You're in Venomian uniform, and you burst inside my hut without my permission, as well as causing a ruckus with those goddamn Sand Mobiles, and you expect me to believe you? I'm not stupid."
"I didn't say that you was. Look, if I'm one of those soldiers, then why am I hiding from them? I'm undercover. Please believe me."
The papillon was still skeptical. "I need more proof. You could just be some lousy trouble-maker."
"Alright, alright. I'm going to reach in my backpack, and-"
"No. Slide it to me, and tell me what to do."
Well, gotta hand it to her. She got smarts, I can tell you that. Stubborn, though. "Alright," he submitted, and with one kick of a boot, the backpack slid across the floor onto the feet of the dog. "Now, in my backpack, there are three pistols that may seem to be pistols. There is a fourth one, the real one, but that one is marked. Take out one of the fake pistols."
The dog did so, and held it with a confused look on her face. "Sure looks real to me. Now what?"
"You see that line next to the trigger? That is the breaking point that would snap off the barrel of the pistol from the rest of it. Break it off."
With a loud snap, the dog broke the fake pistol in two. Instantly, a green-hued vial popped out onto her dirty paws. "What is this?"
"That's a truth vial. On the bottom, you'll see a little engraving. That's my proof."
The dog inspected the rounded bottom of the vial. "Copper, Orange, Rover, Nothing, Eat, Rest, Illiberal, Apple. What in the world are these?"
"Take out the first letter of each word, and combine them in the same order."
"C-O-R-N-E-R-I-A......Oh Lordy..."
Travis made a grin, but his face betrayed his true feelings of desperation. "Please, you got to believe me. Those soldiers are still out there, and I need your help to hide me. Only for a half hour or so after the soldiers leave. Please!"
The dog uttered a short gasp, trying to decide wether to shoot him, bring him to the authorities that made her live in poverty, or risk death by hiding him. Her decision was made when she lowered her aim of her gun to the floor. "Alright,...whoever you are. There's a small room out back with no windows. Stay in there and I'll watch for the soldiers. And take your backpack along with this fake pistol with you. I'm not allowed to be seen with such advanced technology."
"Thank you," Travis complimented quickly and rushed past her into the back room. Now, his life as well as the success of his mission depended on someone he had just met seconds ago, someone who may be a loyalist to Andross. That was doubtful however. Andross' grip on this planet was not as strong as it was in Venom, and the dog may have plenty of resentment toward him.
Ten minutes crawled by till the dog went to the back room, without the machine gun. "Okay, the soldiers are all gone. You can come out now."
"Good. Thank you very much. What's your name, anyway?"
"Shoshont Lizbea."
"Shoshont.....that's sounds like a typical Titanian tribe name."
"Well, this town you see here used to be a thriving town for a tribe here. When Andross and his soldiers invaded, they killed and drafted most of the residents here, and allowed us dive into poverty. We weren't allowed to use technology higher than the soldiers based in Keermen," she said, with a disgust tone on the word 'Keermen'. "In fact, that computer next to the fake laser pistol was the first one I have seen in quite some time."
"I reckon you hate Andross," he said, coming back into the main room.
Shoshont scowled. "Gee, is now the first time you figured that out? Of course I hate him. I wish he and his soldiers will just get the hell off this planet. Or better yet, off this galaxy!"
Travis nodded in agreement. The main room was the most furnished of the three rooms in the hut, but even that room was almost empty. There was no television or telephone of course, and the lone chair had decayed noticeably in age. The rug in the center was brittled and caked with hard sand. "Nice house," Travis mumbled.
"Sorry I don't have any TV to entertain you, but it isn't my fault," Shoshont answered sarcastically. "I got a bathtub, but little water. No kitchen either."
"Then how do you eat?"
Travis would quickly learn that Shoshont was very sarcastic when given the chance. "Oh, I just put food in my mouth, that's all, using my paws. Well, once every day, a small transporter would come to deliver us the food. It's mostly leftovers from the Keermen Mess Hall. Even the lowliest private in that base has a telephone, television, bed, and good food, and I have to sleep on the floor, read old books, and eat scraps. Yep, I do hate Andross, alright. How will you get out of here? You can't stay here forever."
"I'm not planning to," Travis said, laying the computer laptop on the floor. "I'm going to call my associate and she'll come here and pick me up. She's a spy like me, but she's also a registered Venomian fighter pilot. That means that she's more of a double-crosser to Andross than a spy. She shoots down Cornerian jets, but she also smuggles spies away from Venomian territory back to their homes. I kept worrying about her getting caught, but she's still alive and doing it."
"Oh. Listen, um, I know too much for you to allow me to get away with it, right? I mean, you do have memory potions?"
"Yes....I do. Well, before I leave, I must give you the memory potion that will black out this entire scenario in your memory. Policy, you know?"
"Yes, of course, but there's something I want you to do for me. Just call this spy or traitor or whatever, and then I'll tell you my request."
"Okay then. You have a drink of water? I'm parched."
"You're not alone," Shoshont said with a shrug. "But, I'll see what I can find. Be back shortly."
Travis nodded, and when he was all alone, he opened the heavily-protected telephone line to his associate. "Hello, Page? This is Red Knight."
A crackling yet familiar voice answered. "Red Knight, this is Page. You have the Lance?"
"Confirmed, Page. I have escaped the Dragons, and now seeking guidance."
The female associate answered back, "Where art thou?"
Travis chuckled. He loved speaking in code. "Town near K."
"Location confirmed. Be in 0020 hours."
Travis nodded. She'll be picking him up in 20 minutes, not at 12:20 at night. "Roger. Red Knight out."
And with that, he shut down the connection, and bellowed a sigh. He was already having a long day. Soon afterwards, Shoshont came back with the water, a tin can as a cup. "Here. What's your name, anyway?"
"Xavier Lean," the spy answered. No need for her to know his real name. "Thanks for the water."
"It's not very filtered though, but in this weather, all that stuff in it is of lesser consequence if we drink it than if we don't."
Travis accepted the cup and drank his fill. "Now, what do you want me to do? After all, I owe you one for saving my life."
"Does your computer have the profile of almost every soldier, Venomian and Cornerian?"
"Hmmm....not every soldier. What are you thinking?"
"I want to know what happened to my husband, Frederick Lizea. He was forcefully drafted into the Venomian military as soon as the Venomians invaded this town. I haven't seen him since."
"Well, I don't know. I can bring up the profiles of every Cornerian soldier, but for Venomians, that will be tough. Their computers have a different system that makes even Jo'hara Prather frustrated."
"Jo'hara Prather?"
"A computer specialist. I never met him. I'll try my best, though."
For the next several minutes, Travis went through the lesser-secured Venomian data, trying to find the name Frederick Lizbea. "Could you give me more information about him? That would narrow things out a little."
"Well, he's a papillon like me, aged 23 when he was drafted about 2 and a half years ago. He should be 26 now. His birthday was three weeks ago," Shoshont said, her voice cracking. "He was based in Keermen first, but he soon left afterwards. To where, I don't know. He has the most startling blue eyes that I have ever seen, and with a kindness to match...."
A beep interrupted her. "What was that?"
Travis read what was on the computer screen. "Private Frederick Lizea, husband of Shoshont Lizbea. In the first eight months of duty for the Venomian Army, he fought in five different engagements." The next series of words made Travis swallow. "Died in Westerdom, Katina. Head and shoulder wounds."
Shoshont covered her face, whimpering. "When....did he die?"
"Five months ago. I'm sorry."
To his surprise, Shoshont was almost in control of her sudden grief. It was almost if she expected the news. "I had dreams of my husband dying in a bloody battlefield. It's not your fault, Xavier. A widow for five months without knowing it.....damn that Andross...."
"There is a landing bay here, right? That's what the records say."
"Yes. Will your associate fly a Venomian transporter?" Shoshont asked, tears on her face.
"Yeah. Knowing her, she'll already have permission to land here, so the soldiers won't come and investigate. She'll be here in 20 minutes."
"I'll take you to the landing bay.....follow me."

"Is that yours, Xavier?" The papillon asked the spy as a small Venomian transporter prepared to land on the almost broken down landing bay. Sand swirled around, splattering on the pair's faces, but it bothered Travis much more than the dog.
"Uh, yes, that's my ride. Well, I need you to drink this," he said, giving her a potion. "That's a memory potion. Drink all of it as soon as I leave."
"Does that mean I will forget about the fact that my husband died?"
"Well, yes....unfortunately."
"Well, at least for a short time, I know the truth. You have been a wonderful guest. Just make sure you knock on the doorway before entering, okay?" She said with a smile, the first one Travis had seen in her.
They clasped paws warmly. "I hope to see you again after the war. Maybe I'll come by here when the war is over."
"You're always welcome in my hut."
The transporter landed, and the side door opened. A vixen wearing a Venomian pilot uniform was inside. Shoshont chuckled. "That's your associate?"
"Yes, that's her. Well, I have to go now. Farewell, Shoshont Lizbea."
"Farewell, Xavier Lean."
Travis opened his mouth to tell her his real name, but refrained. He waved goodbye, and stepped into the transporter. The door closed, and the small ship lifted off the ground, heading back out into the sky.
Shoshont saw them fly into space, hoping that they would come back home safe. "Well, Frederick," she said to herself, opening the lid of the memory potion. "Bottoms up."

Chapter Seven

"I miss my wife. I hope this stinking war would be over tomorrow so I can go home and have her arms around me in a loving embrace."
--Frederick Lizbea, just before the skirmish at Westerdom, Katina
Tension filled the air in the Corneria HQ Base War Room. Most of the military senior officers were in attendance, knowing what would happen in the next few days. The generals and commanders assembled together on the very day after Travis had relayed the precious information to the Cornerian military, and General Pepper did not like what he discovered about this Kismet. The seven generals and commanders, all sat on their seats, facing General Pepper as the hound gathered their attention on the wall screen.
"There are still gaps in the information that I have received, but I believe that it's enough. We are running against time, and this will most definitely be our greatest challenge. We sent our best scouts into Venomian space, and from they told me, two-thirds of the entire Venomian Space Armada, equivalent to about our entire strength, will all gather in Sector Z, where the Kismet is already there. Once their entire formation has been set, they will move onward into our space, and the scouts believe they will reach Sector X in three days, estimated. As we speak, we are almost completed with the formation of our own fleet to intercept them in Sector X, and I will be in charge of that fleet myself, onboard the flagship Cornerian Hope .
"As I expected, the weapon of the Kismet is one that is higher advanced than ours, capable of destroying an entire Patriot-class ship with just one shot."
A murmur swept across the officers, but Pepper quickly quieted them down. He showed them the image of the Kismet, and one of the officers, Commander Tim Salak, gasped in horror.
"My God...that's too big to be real...."
"Believe me, the Kismet is as real as the next ship. But we must not let it's impossible size to intimidate us. We must never be intimidated! Now, the odd object on the bow of the ship is the main weapon, and the time it recharges to make the shot is three and a half minutes, at the most. At maximum effort, it would be two minutes and fifty seconds."
General Deson Motambo, a marten that was popular with the Cornerian troops, raised his paw. "General, this Kismet, from what I'm hearing from those survivors near Zoness, has a shield that no weapon can break. If we send out all of our battleships, destroyers, and cruisers, then we will be slaughtered. Why must we bring our entire strength against that ship if it's hopeless?"
General Pepper closed his eyes, sighing. Motambo was a great general, and his tactics of war have resulted in a near minimum of Cornerian lives, but he was too stubborn. "Please, let me continue. There is a weakness in that shield, according to the information from General Olson's spy that was given to me. If we don't bring our entire fleet against them, then we won't have much of a chance to take advantage of the ship's weakness. We must hold them long enough so that the Venomian fleet will still have opposition when the Kismet's shield is broken."
General Motambo shook his head, fuming with rising anger. "Thousands of Cornerian lives will die! Why can't we stay back until the shield is broken, and then attack?"
"The Venomians will know when the ship's shield is broken, and when they realize that, they will become desperate. The scouts told me that the Kismet was positioned almost in the center, surrounded in all directions by the Venom Space Armada. The Zeram-class battleships, the biggest class ships they have, are mostly in the front, blanketing the weapon. The Harlock-class ships are on their flanks, and Dorisby Cruisers are mostly trailing the rear. Once they know the shield have been broken, then they will do whatever they can to intercept any real threat and destroy it. They might surround the Kismet tighter, making it even more difficult for us to destroy the weapon. Nova bombs will do no good. Ion bombs could have a chance, but it might not be enough."
"Then what will destroy that weapon?" Commander Bill Grey asked.
"At least a Patriot-class ship will do," General Pepper said uneasily. "They're the quickest ones, and despite them being the smallest battleships, they do have the size to destroy the weapon."
A quiet uproar arose from the others. "What? A Patriot-class ship may be fast on battleship terms, but not fast enough!" General Olsen spoke up. "They could easily be scrap metal if they have to pass through Zeram-class ships! Even then, the Kismet could just simply fire a shot at the closest enemy ship, and that will be end of that ship!"
"Look, everyone....does it look like we have much choice? This is no time to argue! No time!" General Pepper answered in his most serious tone. "I know that thousands of people will be killed, but that's war, whether you like it or not. Now, can we continue on, or can we argue till the Kismet is in our orbit and within a cat's whisker of making Corneria City into a crater?!"
That silenced the group. General Pepper let out another sigh, and went back to the wall screen. "Now, just the mere act of disarming the weapon will be the greatest challenge. Hackers will have no chance to do it, for disarming it must be done physically and not through tapping into a Venomian mainframe. We must do it by force. There are five places that hold the 'keys' to disarming the weapon. They are the ones responsible for giving the shield life, so we should do everything we can do destroy them."
"Wait a minute," Commander Lisa Crusta interrupted. "All five bases?"
General Pepper nodded. "Yes. Looking through the data we have, our engineers had found the only way to completely disarm it. If we all destroy the bases, the computer will be shocked enough to disrupt the shield, and we will have our ice's chance in fire. The Venomians will most indeed will not let us take the bases, and already I have reports of reinforcements from Venom coming to the key bases."
General Motambo sighed and placed a paw on his head. "Even more will be killed, and there's nothing we can do to stop it. Alright, Pepper. Just what and where are those bases, anyway?"
"Well, three of them are stationed on land, one's a space station near Sector Z, and the fifth one is an underwater station in Aquas. General Olsen will take command of a force to attack a base in Titania called Salem Rock, and you will have two thousand troops at your disposal, General."
"Yes, sir," the cat answered.
"The teams StarFox and Justice Cadets will attack Devin Station near Sector Z, and because I need the men and jets elsewhere, they must attack it themselves."
"They can do it," Bill said confidently. "Fox and his team can wipe out any measly jet Andross can bring, and even Natlarn Berola will give them hell."
"Let's hope they do. General Motambo will attack Asama Base, in the south west hemisphere of Macbeth. That one should be of little trouble to you, General."
"I hope so," the marten answered. "What force will I have at my disposal?"
"Five hundred soldiers, and thirty fighter jets. That base has a small air force defense, and it can be taken care of easily. As for Underwater Station 909 in Aquas, Commander Crusta will lead the invasion, and due to the large number of ships on the water, you will have five large squadrons on your command, and four troop transporters to attack the station itself."
The female goshawk nodded. "I'll take care of it, General."
"Commanders Salek, Grey, and Adams will come with me with the Cornerian fleet, and we must hold against the Dominion Fleet at all costs."
The commanders gestured unanimously. "Yes, sir!"
General Poland, the cousin of the collie whom was arrested for terrorism crimes as the Anti-Cat League second-commander, shook his head, chuckling. "Is this all Andross has got? From what I hear, those bases are not exactly powerful. How come Andross won't put much muscle on those bases?"
General Pepper's voice was grim. "Because, the Venomians have put much of their power on a base called Forest Echo. Just holding one base will be enough for them to achieve victory against us, and they rely on holding this base in Macbeth the most," he said, and a picture of the fortress showed up on the screen. "I wish to speak with General Poland privately about this. The rest of you are dismissed."
The generals and commanders stood up simultaneously, their minds already forming future plans of more bloodshed and terror. General Pepper gave them a respectful salute, and the others replied back with a salute of their own. "Ladies and Gentlemen,....the Gods go with you."
As the officers filtered out of the room, General Edward Poland stood beside General Pepper, a somber look on his collie face. "So, I'm in charge of attacking this base, then?"
"Affirmative. Of all the bases, this will be the toughest one to conquer. Now, as you can see here on the screen, Forest Echo is stationed on a tall hill, overlooking pine trees that stretch a half a mile to open land. Because of this, you must land your troops on the edge of the forest. Now, I still don't have much information on the defenses, but I can tell you this: the Venomians might have several entrenches within that forest, and even land mines. Your troops will face several thousand determined soldiers with machine guns, and they have the high ground. I have no idea what else Andross would put in there to eliminate all opposition, but I do know that it won't be of any benefit to us."
"Why not bomb the forests, keep them bottled up inside the base?"
"The base has an indestructible metal that cannot be simply bombed to be destroyed. The fires will be a big problem to the troops that must cross the forest, and by the time they get pass all the smoke and fire, they might get shot at by Venomians with face masks, and the progress will be so slow that when you finally control the base, the Kismet will be on Corneria's orbit. Bombing the forest itself will take time. Infantry, to me, is the only choice that I have for a force to attack."
"How many men, then?"
"I have five thousand already assembled and ready to go with you."
The collie blinked several times, and took off his hat. "Isn't that too much, General?"
"The best way to attack will be to thin out their defenses, and to do that, you must attack the base on all sides. That means you must form a line, a thick line with reserves, that completely surrounds the forest, and then converge on the base. If you object, then do so on the way to Macbeth. For now, you're on your own. Dismissed, General."
The collie saluted. "Yes, sir! Good luck, sir."
General Pepper saluted back. "You're the one that will need most of the luck. Plan wisely, General Poland. I do pray,....plan wisely."
"I will, General. That Kismet will regret fighting against us!"

The loud sound of large doors opening alerted Emperor Andross from his slumber as he sat on his throne. A saluki, wearing the stripes and medals of Commander General, burst inside, her tan and black face fuming with anger. Like drum beats, her boots stomped on the carpet hard, and Andross noticed she was carrying an portable electronic view screen, the modern equivalent to a clipboard.
"General Avalona, what is it?" Andross addressed drily. He was having a boring day, and despite the great service that Venus Avalona had done to him in the beginning of the war, relations had greatly strained afterwards.
Rather rudely, Venus slapped the thick, plastic view screen onto Andross' lap, shaking her head almost uncontrollably. "Guess what, Emperor? An intruder had escaped Keermen an hour ago. The investigators had found out that this intruder might be a Cornerian spy, and he got information about Kismet! Emperor, do you know what that means?"
Andross groaned and laid a hand over his face, his head bowing slightly. He didn't bother looking on the view screen. "How much information did this intruder steal?"
"Oh, all the information that Keermen has about the ship. The five key bases, how many jets it has, blah, blah, blah," Venus muttered in anger, her long-haired ears waving like flags. She didn't care about having such inappropriate behavior in front of her own emperor. "Oh yeah, there's also the information about the weakness that the Kismet has. Now those Cornerians know the weakness! They can destroy the battleship!"
"How....did that spy know that Keermen has the information of all places?"
Venus chuckled smugly. One of the purposes of her telling him the news instead of some messenger was to secretly attack him for making his foolish plan into action. The Commander General have no love toward Andross, and she was even considering plans that could have her executed. "Oh, remember that so-called incident near Zoness, with the two Patriot-class patrol ships? Apparently someone in one those ships had managed to break enough security codes when scanning the Kismet, and they got lucky enough to catch the word 'Keermen' on it. So, the Cornerians now have a chance against us. Damn it, Andross, if only you would just simply accept my-"
Emperor Andross stood up, his eyes full of fire. He was bigger than Venus's boyfriend, but she was too accustomed to his size to be intimidated by it. "Now don't you start that again! Look, I know that you accept my plan in protest, but I assure you, we will still prevail in the end. Those key bases are powerful enough for my liking, especially Forest Echo. The Cornerians will have to overstep their very limits of their resources to raid those bases one by one, and later hold them against further attacks. Even if they managed to disarm the shield, which I doubt they will, they will still have to contend with Admiral Thurman and two-thirds of my entire Armada. The Cornerians will be swamped, not being able to bear the weight of being outnumbered. The Kismet is the most fearsome starship in the galaxy, and the Kismet Fleet is the largest ever assembled. How can they stop us?"
Venus pulled her cap off her, and slapped it against her leg. "Oh, if they found a way to defeat us, then they will stop us."
A moment of silence passed between them until Venus spoke again. "Why must there be a weak point in that ship in the first place? Why do those five bases exist?"
"Those five bases represent the heart that pump the life into the Kismet's shield."
You going poetic in front of me, ape? That's so unlike you. "Still, why give the Cornerians a chance to defeat it? Why have an off switch?"
Andross couldn't answer that question, so he ignored it. "I will tell you in due time. I want Tana, Mikhail, Woshive, and you in my War Room in ten minutes."
Venus sighed. Everyone would now have to pay for Andross' mistake on planning, and she could not stop it. "Yes, Emperor."
She was about to leave when Andross halted her. "General,.....if you ever address yourself in such a foolish manner again, then not only will you be demoted, but you will also have a permanent residency in the hottest pit-hole in Titania."
Hey, that's not a bad idea, Andross. At least I'll stay away from you. "Yes, Emperor."

"Well, Daniel, the next couple of days will be a huge mess, whether I don't like it or I don't like it," Venus said to her boyfriend in her living quarters. It was an hour after the meeting in the Meeting Room, and Venus was at least less angry about that meeting than the one before it. Sergeant Xaven rested his mastiff body on her bed, his feet extended away from the end. Venus laid down next to him, a paw on his chest.
"So, what will happen, Venus?" Daniel asked in his deep voice. "Will you leave this planet for a mission?"
"Yes, but the good news is that I'm in charge of a portion of the Golden Hammer Unit, so I'm ordering you to come with me to Titania."
Daniel smiled with a chuckle. "Oh, Titania. That will be a blast. Hot sand, hot air, hot everything. But, I won't mind, as long as I'm with you. How many soldiers in your forces?"
"Three hundred. Andross says that's enough. We're going to Salem Rock. You been there once, have you?"
"Yeah, to invade that place. I don't know why the Titanian defenders built that base on top of a velman rock outcropping."
"Who knows, really? Commander Tana will help the defenders in Asama Base in Macbeth. General Mikhail will help the key base in Aquas, and Commander Woshive and his 'Black Flood' squadron will reinforce the Kismet Fleet, along with the Conquest Squadron."
"What about StarWolf and Forest Echo?"
"We won't help Forest Echo. They can take care of themselves. There were reports about StarFox and some other squadron heading toward Devin near Sector Z, so StarWolf and the Sapphire Paladins will intercept them there. Knowing them, Star Fox might win. They always seem to win. It's like they're immortal, you know? They just can't die. Sometimes, however, I wanted them to defeat Andross."
Daniel had to blink twice to digest what she had just told him. "Venus, what are you saying?"
Venus sat up on the bed, and glanced down on his face. "Daniel, I trust that what I will tell you now must not leave the room. Do you understand me?"
"I hate Andross. I have been for a little over a year now. I do my duty, but only out of fear. I could have relentlessly attack his plan for the Kismet, to enable him to accept mine, but I feared for going to jail or worse. I could've objected to his plans all morning, all evening, all afternoon, and all night. I could've argued with him until my mouth turns dry. Hell, I could've told him just how I feel about him, complete with a punch to his face, but I did none of those things. I may be a Commander General, but that rank is nothing to him. Emperor Andross wields his power to make us fear him, to obey his every whim like zombies. I deserve better. It is not right for me to be treated like this. I may have the stripes, the medals, the respect from fellow soldiers, but in the big picture, in the eyes of Andross, I am nothing. Just a mere pawn in a chessboard called war, the saying goes,.....I think."
She stood and walked over to a drawer, and took out some of the clothes she would use for the multi-day mission. "Daniel,.....I think my life in this war is split by two personalities. I was ruthless in the beginning of the war. I obeyed Andross, believing his every word of freedom, prosperity, and all that bull. During the Invasion of Macbeth, I wallowed my way to conquest in a sea of blood, and I'm still trying to wash it off my very soul. It might stick on me forever, like the most powerful glue in the galaxy. I struck fear into the hearts of almost every resident in Macbeth, and I smiled whenever I see one of the helpless victims cry out for mercy, blood stains on their clothes, paws, fur,...everywhere. I cheered along with my soldiers whenever we burn down a village, converting more people into the militaristic and conquest minded religion of Andross, and leaving my mark on my passing. Burning houses, red fields, plains of fire and smoke, the air thick with the screams of victory, blood lust, suffering, and grief."
The saluki glanced at her boyfriend again, and chuckled. "I'm sorry, Daniel. I told you this thousands of times lately, and-"
"I don't mind, Venus," Daniel said calmly, still lying down on the bed. "If talking about it makes you feel better, then please, do so."
Venus smiled. Daniel was the best possible person to talk to, and his patience and calm was of legendary status, at least to her. Leaving the packing to another time, she hauled a plastic chair next to the bed, and sat down, her knees almost touching her boyfriend's body. "Thank you. Sometimes, recently, I wondered what I would do if I looked at myself through the eyes of the people of Macbeth. I might be scared to death of me," she said amid chuckling. "I was engaged in over fourteen different battles against the Macbeth defenders, and that's not counting the numerous village raids. Forman's Hill. Blue Tavern. Red Oak Ridge. All those battles, all that blood, all of them,....will be in my memory forever. I became so accustomed to dead bodies that, as I remember, in Blue Tavern, I just simply marched across the dead, ignoring them like they were just blades of grass. Like blades of grass , Daniel!"
A tear ran down her face. She was recalling a very horrible time in her life. "God, it's almost like I loved the sight of blood. I would have nightmares of seeing myself sprinkled with blood, and I was licking my chops and lips, savoring it. The air would be a misty red, and thousands of people, with fire and laser wounds, would be lying on the ground, their eyes dead to the world. I don't know why I did all those things. Maybe it's because I foolishly followed my loyalty to Andross, or maybe I was just a bastard. A blood-loving bastard with the same moral value toward life as Bandit Forhawk! The old me scares me right to the bone marrow, Daniel. I often find it hard to believe that it was me who ordered the deaths of five hundred villagers in the Nothrans Massacre."
Daniel closed his eyes in light of that. He met Venus during the Invasion of Macbeth, and he was there when he saw the soldiers aiming their guns at the countless villagers in Nothrans.
"And then came....came....."
"Almira's Sorrow," Daniel finished her sentence. "You made that one up yourself, didn't ya?"
"Yeah, that I did. During the last days before finally conquering Macbeth, my army reached a village.....uh..."
"Greensboron Village," Daniel reminded.
"Oh right, right, Greensboron. That name always escapes me, yet very much else about it sticks with me. Isn't that odd?"
"I've heard and seen stranger things."
"Well, anyway, once we reached Greensboron, I demanded provisions for my troops, but the stubborn villagers refused. They may fear me, but they value their freedom more. I called them morons, too stupid, and would rather throw their lives away. I should've admired them, the way they defied Andross in spite of all the odds and consequences. I should've left them alone, but I didn't. I cared about victory more than life, so I did the usual routine of rounding the villagers up and ordered my soldiers to aim at them. I threatened to kill them, and when they still refused to budge, I ordered to mow them down. Seconds later, when I was going through their bodies, there was one survivor."
"Almira. She was only five years old at the time, right?"
"She looked like a five year old. She never told me. She was wailing over the carcasses of her parents, her foxy mouth wide as she yelled. When I came upon her, she stopped and looked at me. There was something about those eyes of hers that made me hesitate. There was sorrow in it, of course, but there were plenty of other feelings in them as well. Hatred. Anger. Malice. She might be only five years old, but already she's internally swearing a blood oath to hunt me down and kill me out of revenge. Five years old! She stood up, boldly, and spat on my boot. She was wounded on the stomach, but I doubt that bothered her. 'I hate you' were her words. Only three words, but they spoke louder than a jet engine at full blast next to me. And what did I do in response? I asked for her name, then once she told me, I raised my pistol at her and shot her down."
"But it wasn't her that changed your life, it was those dreams," Daniel needlessly reminded.
"Yes, those nightmares. I still have them occasionally. I remember them like I was having them a second ago. My shelves had a collection of still bloody skulls. A flood of blood rushed through the door and I drowned in it. My chair was a pile of skulls, and as I sat on it, I was laughing till my sides hurt, ignoring my right paw which was bleeding heavily. But my most horrible nightmare was when I was walking through some dark corridor, and a huge crowd of people, thousands of them, surrounded me like a mob," she said with a choked up voice. "They looked like zombies, and they still bare the wounds that killed them. They were all victims under my terror in Macbeth, and they keep hounding me by calmly telling me their own names, and their families. Oh God, that was one dream that I always wished not to come back to."
Venus clasped Daniel's massive paw tightly. "Daniel, I would have gone insane if I kept all those memories bottled up inside me. I'm forever in your debt."
"Hey, you're not in my debt. Your love to me has paid for it in full, and even more," the mastiff responded, and sat up. Venus stood and sat down beside him, and leaned on his shoulder.
"From those days onward, I changed," Venus continued on. "It took me a long time, but I learned to value life. I know life is precious, but as long as I wear these medals of Commander General, I will always think myself as a hypocrite. I try to keep Venomian lives at a minimum, but their lives are just as valuable as the Cornerians. How can I value life and still become a murderer of my enemies? My plan for the Kismet could have ended the war at least tomorrow or even yesterday. The Cornerians are not stupid. They would've reached a peaceful agreement, and no lives will be gone, no cities destroyed. But, I don't have the power of Andross, and I have to watch what I don't want to watch. I have to do what I don't want to do. Now you know why I hate Emperor Andross. He have ordered the deaths of millions, while I have ordered thousands to their deaths. Have he changed? No. He have gone only worse. Personally, I think Andross wanted that battle between the two large fleets to happen just to quench his thirst for death. Now, even more people will die taking and defending the five key bases. Andross will have what he wanted, and once again, I have to live with it."
She withdrew from him, and faced him. "Daniel, I believe that once we leave Venom for Salem Rock, I won't be back here again."
The mastiff could only nod. He was a listener, not a speaker. Venus could mean to commit suicide, or even defect to the Cornerian side.
Venus bellowed out a sigh, and went back to the drawer. "Well, might as well get ready for Salem Rock. You got your own packing to do as well, Daniel."
The mastiff stood up, stretching his long limbs. "Yep. You sure you're alright now?"
"I'm a little better, thank you. It pleases me to share my feelings with you."
Daniel grinned. "And it pleases me to know that you trust me enough to share your innermost feelings in my presence. That is one trust that I will never try to break."

Chapter Eight

"Of course I will never ask for forgiveness. I have scarred those Macbeth residents too deep. What I do ask from them was to understand that I have changed. I will never come back to being the old me. Never."
--Commander General Venus Avalona, Venom

"Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear...." Terra Hartford mumbled to herself, pacing in the living room. The bobcat member of the Crimson Firehawks clinched her paws nervously, the eyes jittery with nervousness. Her boss, Darwin Dracka, had ordered her to wait in the living room for a private meeting, and for some reason, Terra thought she was in trouble. Her delicate paws were lined with sweat, and she would rub against her uniform shirt in a futile effort to dry them off, leaving wet spots on her black clothing.
The cougar leader of the Firehawks came into the room, breathing a little harder than normal. Instead of in uniform, he wore a light, red sweatshirt, and a somewhat-faded khaki jeans. However, instead of the firm face that Terra expected, Darwin seemed smug, his eyes studying her. A towel hung around his neck, damp with moisture. His dark tan and black fur were matted, like it always was after some workout in a gym.
Terra tried her best to remain calm. "You wanted to see me, Darwin?"
Darwin nodded. "Yes, I want to talk to you," he said, then flapped his shirt, trying to cool off. "Um, do you mind?"
When Darwin grabbed the bottom of his shirt, Terra knew what he would do. "Um, uh, no, I-...."
Before she could finish her sentence, Darwin had already pulled up his damp shirt over his head, and threw it on the floor. Terra gulped at the sight of him without his shirt. What in the world is he doing? Her eyes caught the glints of light on his chest; it was sweat, reflected from the lights on the ceiling. She gasped in short breaths, terrified. If Lizbel sees her looking at her husband like this, then there would be the devil to pay. She closed her eyes shut.
"What are you doing?" Darwin's voice demanded.
"Put your shirt back on. You know you're married and I still have a crush on you," Terra said, then bit on her lip. She had just made a horrible mistake of confessing.
Two wet paws touched her small shoulders. "Yes,....I know. I don't mind that."
Huh? What did he just say? Terra opened her eyes to find Darwin directly in front of her, holding her delicately. A volcano heat erupted inside her, and sweat poured out like a flood bursting through a levee. "Um, uh, Darwin...."
His breath was hotter than Titania as he talked. "I knew you had a crush on me even after you promised not to do so. I married someone else, but there is only one that I love more. And that one is between my paws now."
Terra was still in shock, but she managed to look up, and met his gaze. "You mean, after all those months, you actually loved me?"
Darwin nodded, and bowed his head down. They made a loving embrace, and the kiss was too dreamy to be true. When the embrace departed, Terra grinned. "Why now?"
Darwin shared her grin. "Why not?"
They kissed again, even more dreamier than the first. "Terra...."
"Yes, my love?" The bobcat answered with her eyes closed.
"Hey butt-head,...wake up," Darwin said, in Dekslan's voice.
A knock on wood smacked Terra back to reality. She woke up on top of her bed, the sheets pulled from the bottom and now a messed up ball of damp cloth. The bare mattress scratched her fur as she sat up, and she rubbed her eyes.
Standing on the doorway to her bedroom was the borzoi Dekslan Meneslan, shaking her narrow, greyhound-like head. "What happened to you? The bed sheets are all messed up, and you're sweating like Wolf O'Donnell in a sauna."
Terra was about to spurt out what she had dreamed, but refrained. Darwin and especially Lizbel must not know about it. "Just a bad night, I guess," she lied. It was entirely the opposite.
Dekslan merely nodded. "Well, get up and get some quick breakfast. We got a mission to go to."
"Where to?"
"Salem Rock, in Titania. We are to leave as soon as possible," she said before leaving.
When all was quiet again, Terra continued to sit on her bed, still dazed from the dream. She wanted to go back to sleep, to live through that dream again, even if it was a figment of her crush-love imagination. In reality, Darwin loved Lizbel more than anyone else, and would never even hold Terra in a loving embrace. Even taking off his shirt in front of her seemed "way out there". Even if he was sweating after a workout, the sweat glistening on those biceps.....
Terra slapped herself on the face. "Stop! Sheesh, it's getting worse. I don't know how I can take it anymore!" But she must.
She sighed. "Well. Might as well get this mission done. No sense delaying."

Due to a short delay, the pilots of the Sapphire Paladins decided to play a small game of cards to kill time. As the rest of the Venom HQ was bustling with activity for preparations to reinforce the five key bases, the rec room was almost serene, shut off from the rest of the base.
And silence was what Major Amy Johnson wanted. Her trademark migraines had decided to cool off in recent days, but the snow leopard knew that they would come back eventually. The Paladins leader was in uniform, her medals shining brightly under the ceiling lights, and for a change, she had blue gloves on. Her eyes were intent on her playing cards, but they were distracted by her anxiousness on the mission she would embark soon. For the third time in her life, she would face StarFox, and this time, the stakes were high.
She still remembered the time she was a StarWolf member temporarily, and fought a doomed fight against StarFox near Titania. Amy gained from that loss, though. She made her first bonding with Leon Powalski after that dogfight, and they eventually became lovers.
The second time occurred months ago, in Katina. That was the first battle against them as a Sapphire Paladin, but inexperience doomed her team, and one of her co-pilots, Gregory Nothrana, crashed near a cave. His body was buried ceremonially in Macbeth a few days after Nedra found him, stabbed and beaten several times by an unknown murderer. She was upset at that loss, for she wanted Fox McCloud crash and burn, and she seemed helpless to stop him. Her unique jet, the Sunlaser , was better than the arwing in defense, but she still held firm on the belief that success depends on the pilot rather than the machine, and she blamed her inexperience for the loss.
But she had improved. After the tragedy with Gregory, the Sapphire Paladins underwent nine different engagements, from Sector Z to Katina, battling whole squadrons and helped the bombers destroy one city in Katina. Their popularity grew, but their ranks remained the same, and so have their attitudes and habits.
Nedra Benson, the greyhound second-commander of the team, was just as anxious for the mission as her best friend, but she was much more intent on the card game. Still the persistent gambler, Nedra was often the one who suggested playing cards to kill time, and whenever credit dollars were involved, she would do anything to gain it. The wackiest bet she ever made was with Pigma Dengar, betting she could beat him in a blueberry pie eating contest. Pigma of course, accepted the challenge. Everyone thought Nedra would lose, and she really was losing until on the second pie, when Pigma stopped suddenly, covered his bluish mouth, and ran for the bathroom, and so Nedra won by default. However, Nedra was notorious for cheating; before the contest, she plopped in a regurgitation pill in one of the pies on Pigma's stock. Of course, she never told anyone about that, so Nedra remained as the only person who managed to beat Pigma on a pie-eating contest, as well a couple hundred credit dollars richer. There was one drawback to her gambling: she won so many times that people have seconds thoughts before betting against her.
Westly Meenat was even more intent on the card game than Nedra, but that was only because he was less interested on the mission than them. Even the loss against StarFox failed to deplete his ego, saying that they were just lucky. The doberman's cockiness may be annoying to the other pilots, but he had a sense of humor and willingness to party that they just couldn't stay being mad at. He had a hatred toward Gregory just before the jaguar's death, upset on how he reacted to the death of his own sister, Lucille. During the battle against StarFox, he actually shot down Gregory in purpose, blowing Nedra's top to the extreme. He was jailed in Outpost 459, but Andross later released him, knowing that despite his cockiness, he was a great pilot that was needed. Nedra refused to talk to him in the first couple weeks, and even now, the relationship between them were nearing the point of broken, but they tolerate each other, and that suited Amy fine. Due to a recent scare in a space dogfight near Sector X, Westly suffered a small scar on his face, barely noticeable.
"I'll see your ten, Amy, and raise five," murmured Westly, dropping several chips on the center chip pile.
Amy shook her head. "Too rich for my blood. I fold," she said, laying down her cards.
Nedra and Westly had faced each other in cards countless times, with Nedra winning each time. The doberman often had to borrow money from his father to pay the debts, and only his stubborn cockiness made him to continue gambling against her.
Nedra eyed him with a sinister look. "I'll see your five, and raise twenty."
Amy chuckled lightly, a grin on her face.
Westly ignored her. "Let's see what you got, greyhound."
With a smile, Nedra laid down the cards. "Straight Flush. What about you?"
The doberman didn't even bother laying down his cards. With a frustrated yell, he threw up his cards in anger, admitting defeat once again. "Someday, Nedra. Someday."
Nedra greedily raked in the winnings. "You always say that, Westly. How long have we been playing?"
"Five minutes now," Amy answered. "We should be getting a call for us to get in our jets anytime soon."
In cue, Pigma Dengar came inside the rec room, breathing hard. "Alright fellas. You guys and StarWolf are now cleared to leave."
Nedra grinned. "Hello, piggy. Still aching from your loss?"
Pigma snarled at her. "Shut up. In five minutes, you follow us to Devin, since we know the way, and we need to stall StarFox and that other squadron long enough-"
Nedra rudely waved her paw at him. "Yeah, yeah, we know. I believe that other squadron are the Justice Cadets. I never fought them, but I heard they're good."
Westly laughed. "They're bounty hunters, not fighter pilots like us! I can beat them!"
Pigma turned to leave. "C'mon, slow-pokes! It's time for action!"

Commander Pat Woshive, the leader of the newly formed Black Flood Squadron, stood on a catwalk inside a large hanger, looking down on the jets assembled before him. Row after row of sleek, black jets lie parked on the floor, anxious to leave the confines of Venom and soar in outer space. While most of the departing military hurried off to reinforce the key bases, the Black Flood would only have to add the strength of the Kismet Fleet, and thus Andross could afford to deploy the brand new jets after all the others. Woshive was disappointed of having to wait and see the others go, but it was Andross' will, and he must obey.
Pat was a tall feline, at 6'7", with a slim body and small biceps, and his spotted fur were groomed with a weak cologne that his wife gave him as a birthday present. A coal-black helmet covered most of his head, with open slits for the ears, of course. His jump suit was just as black as Jo'hara's eyes, and the stripes of Commander adorned his shoulders. On his face was a scar unique to Black Flood members: a raven-colored crescent with the small letters "BFDAE" engraved above it on the chin. The letters mean "Black Flood Drowns All Enemies". Every pilot goes through the scarring ritual before they would even touch the Flood-class jets, and all one hundred and fifty pilots wear them with pride. Because of the scar, they were "Flooders" for life, to the sweet or bitter death.
The cheetah became a Commander before he was the leader of the rarely used squadron. He was an Academy graduate, 11th in his class with Bill Grey and Fox McCloud, and became a somewhat good friend with the both of them. Soon after the war started, Pat shocked his family and friends by joining in the newly formed Venom Empire, and became branded as a traitor. His skills quickly made him a Commander, and fought against the Cornerians several times, but still have yet to fight against Bill or Fox. He hoped that he would, though. He respected them, but they are his enemies now, and respect would have to stand in line.
Black Flood were created as a last resort, a reserve for the last of the Venomian Defense, if the Cornerians ever push them to that point. However, Andross, in light of the Kismet, had decided to make use of them now, and thus the purpose of the squadron had changed. However, Pat was uncertain if his pilots were ready yet. All of his pilots were not rookies at all, but experienced pilots, and some of them even pitted against StarFox and lived to tell the story. But the main problem were the jets themselves. Flood-class were unique only to the squadron, and they were said to be better than Invader-IV's, but those were just rumors, for they have never even been flown past Venom space before. Not one jet had crashed, been shot at, or fired a shot at the enemy. Meaning, they were never used against Cornerians before. Just targets on the ground and old Invader-I jets, flown by androids. Pat and his pilots have never used these jets under the pressure of being fired upon, and that seriously worried him. How much damage can these jets take? Three shots? Two? What if they fail in the middle of a dogfight? Pat had no time to answer those questions now. He must play it by ear.
A cat came up to his side, bearing the same Flood scar. "Commander? It's time for us to go."
"About time. When will we reach the Fleet?"
"In a couple of hours, at normal speed," the cat answered as they stepped into a nearby elevator. "Yeah, it sure is about time. After being in Venom, wasting my life away for the past five months, I'm more than ready to rip some Cornerian jets!"
"I'm sure you are, Captain. We're all ready for it. It's been a while since I flown. Three months now. I hope my skills won't get rusty."
"Even if your skills are, we'll back you up. Just remember to back us up as well."
The elevator stopped at floor level, and the two pilots, about to be joined by the others, walked over to their reserved jets, jumpy and nervous for action. Beside Pat's jet, the cheetah clasped his Captain's paws.
"Well, I guess this is it. Good luck, my friend."
Captain Asa smiled. "Good luck to you too, Commander."
Pat climbed up the rectangle hole steps to his cockpit, and the black leather seats were cold to the touch. The smell of a new jet (or rarely used) shot up his nostrils as he put on his safety harness, and checked his helmet com.
"This is Flood One, testing."
"Flood Two here," answered Captain Asa. "Oh, there's something I heard earlier that you might be interested to know. According to a recent report, Bill Grey will be with the Cornerian Fleet."
Pat's lips curled up in a smile. "So I see. Well then, I hope to pit against him. I haven't seen him since I graduated. Back then, I've never thought I would be going against him, but now, it's inevitable. This will be fun," he said as the shaded canopy closed in from above. "Fun, indeed!"

Chapter Nine

"Oh Pat Woshive? I remember him. He's good natured, although quiet."
--Fox McCloud, StarFox

"We will reach Devin in less than an hour," Peppy reported. "Should we take off in our arwings from here, or should the Great Fox come all the way within view of the station?"
Fox rubbed his chin. "I think we should wait. The Great Fox may be in greater risk, but this big boy have gone through riskier situations. Besides, if one of us needed repair, then the Great Fox, as always, will serve as a haven. The Great Fox may be slow and have only several lasers, but it can take care of itself."
Peppy nodded. "Fine. Slippy, are all arwings ready for a fight?"
Slippy grinned, and rubbed his hands on his greased mechanic shirt. "All of them except for Tigress' jet. I still need more work on it."
"Well, hurry it up, Slippy," Tigress Mondale impatiently uttered as the massive tiger finished her meal of fish and chips. The biggest pilot of the Justice Cadets stood up and stretched, resembling a giant to the runty frog. "I got an appointment with a doomed Venomian."
"Don't worry about it, Tigress," he retorted, and walked back to the garage.
Fox and Peppy sat on a sofa in the living room beside the kitchen, both agitated with excitement. They both knew the gravity of the mission, and they have already drawn up a plan. StarFox, along with the help of Fara Phoenix and Katt Monroe, will be fighting in space, keeping the defending jets there at bay. Meanwhile, the Justice Cadets would storm in the space station Devin, eradicate the Venomians inside, and secure the base. Once the station had been destroyed by a large, planted bomb in the Command Room, then all would go over to Sector X and help the Cornerian Fleet."
Minutes passed before the monitor phone signaled an incoming call, and Fox promptly received it.
It was General Pepper. "Fox. How long to Devin?"
"At current Great Fox speed, we will reach the station in twenty minutes."
"I would like to have everyone onboard your ship with you now."
Fox nodded. "StarFox, Cadets, Monroe, and Phoenix, over here! Pepper wants to talk to you!"
A sarcastic yell from a bird retorted back. "Why? He wants us to sneeze?"
General Pepper grumbled again. "Falco's still using my name as a joke?"
Fox sighed. "Apparently, he is."
Soon, all the others joined Fox and watched the screen. The hound General cleared his throat. "Everyone, I just got the news that Asama Base is now being attacked, and already Motambo is saying that his soldiers are fighting within the base."
Natlarn Berola grinned. "Sheesh, that was fast."
"It was a night attack. The Venomians were unprepared for it, and were taken by surprise. Commander Tana is leading the Venomians there. He's not the best, but he's good, and that's all that really mattered these days. The soldiers that will attack Forest Echo have not landed yet, and Forest Echo might be the last base to be conquered. I have no reports of any Venomian force coming to reinforce the defenders there."
"What about the Crimson Firehawks? Will they help in any way?" Tera Crista asked.
"Yes, they will storm Salem Rock along with General Olsen and two thousand soldiers."
"What about my sister?"
"Star? I haven't heard anything from her."
Fox sighed and laid a paw over his face. "Knowing her, she must be following me, wanting to pitch in and help me, as if I really needed her."
Falco laughed. "Oh, you needed her more often than you think!"
Fox glared at him, but said nothing. Behind him, Fara grinned, shaking her head.
"Oh, you might need all the help you can get," General Pepper continued on. "StarWolf is coming, along with a team called the Sapphire Paladins."
"Paladins, eh? Fought against them before," Fox remembered. "As I recalled, one of their own pilots shot down a co-pilot. Must be some grudge between them, but it doesn't matter to me. That blue bi-plane gave me some trouble that time. I could've sworn my lasers struck that jet a million times, and still, the jet managed to escape."
"StarWolf,...." Peppy asserted. "They just won't give up."
"Just like we won't, Peppy," Jo'hara Prather said, clasping his new friend's shoulder. "What else is going on?"
"Commander Crusta and her team had still yet to reach Aquas, and I don't know who's coming from Venom to attack them. They're late-comers, but I believe Crusta can take care of matters easily."
"Wait, Lisa Crusta?" Katt asked. "Met her before. That goshawk is friendly, but she's not all that good in flying. More like a leader that deserves to be behind some desk than under a jet canopy."
"Is my best friend Bill joining in?"
"Yes, Fox. He's joining me to attack the Kismet Fleet. To reinforce the Venomians will be the Conquest Squadron and the Black Flood Squadron. You never heard of them, because they're new. They're led by someone named Woshive."
Fox's eyes grew wide with shock recognition. "Pat Woshive? A Venomian? He's one of my classmates in the Academy. I used to have some laughs with him. You sure it's him?"
"Yes, it is confirmed."
"Huh......I wanted to see him again, but not like this. Hope he doesn't give Bill any trouble. Is that all, General?"
"I don't know which Venomian force will come to Salem Rock, but that is all. Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish you the best of luck."
Fox made a respectful salute. "Good luck to you too, General."

Devin was not the largest space station, but close enough to fool anyone but those who knew the station. Located on the fringes of Sector Z, the station was guarded by a hundred Invader-III jets, the pilots nervous to fighting against such legendary pilots like StarFox. The station itself was three times as big as Outpost 459, but it was cigar-shaped, without the ring on the middle. The docking bays, however, were not on the center like most stations, but only at the bottom of the vertical station. The command center was in a room at the center, so the Cornerian invaders must fight a long way through the station in order to get to it.
That made Fox nervous as his team and allies cruised their way to the station on their jets. It would take the Cadets time to crush their way through, and time was what they were running against. Unless, there could be some shortcut.
"Jo'hara, you still have your laptop?"
The dark-furred feline laughed. "Fox, that's a stupid question. I always carry it around!"
"Well, good. Once you get inside, I want you to get into their computer and find the shortest path to the command room. Slippy, scan the station and tell me just how many people inside there, and how they are generally positioned."
After several quick moments, Slippy's voice piped up again. "There are five hundred soldiers in there, Fox. One hundred of them are mostly near the docking bays, but the rest are generally dispersed."
"Hmmm....there is a way to take advantage of that. We could send some nova bombs toward that station, make the odds lower."
"That will give us trouble, Fox." Tera objected. "It would slow us down if we have to crawl through debris."
"Then let's hope any of the debris won't be blocking the best path. Okay team, when the dogfight begins, I want the Cadets to go straight for the station, and Fara and Katt, I want you to stay ahead of them to bombard the station with three nova bombs each. Don't center all of them in one place. Make the damage widespread. StarFox, you know what to do."
Falco made a pre-battle whoop. "You got that right! Let's kick some Venomian butt!"
At Fox's signal, the arwings and Catspaw accelerated into the scrambled formations of the Invader-III's, and Devin's own turrets began firing out deadly ion torpedoes.
Picking their own targets, StarFox let loose their hyperlasers, mindlessly killing faceless pilots. The Invaders returned fire, and the lasers shot between them in massive crossfire. Burst of small, short-living fire burst into their eyes as a doomed jet exploded, not able to withstand the pounding of the death bullets.
"Got one!" Falco burst out in victory as his arwing screeched through the debris that used to be an Invader. He glanced to his right and spotted the Justice Cadets, with the two female pilots at their bow, bolted through the dogfight and ion torpedoes toward Devin. A lucky laser clipped a small chunk off his tail, shocking the avian back into attention. Being distracted while a Invader was on your back would not be a sign of a good day. In response, Falco banked as he accelerated to top speed, almost smashing against the hull of another Invader. The Invader on his tail wasn't as lucky. Instead of barely missing that other Invader, he smacked right into it.
Falco chuckled, not knowing he was very close to death moments before. Meanwhile, the first two nova bombs, owned by Fara and Katt, burned through space toward the station. The people inside Devin stumbled as the two powerful shots shook the station, shedding off bent debris, and adding more people to the casualty list. The pair quickly fired off another round of nova bombs, damaging the top area of the station, before splitting off in separate directions.
The Justice Cadets raked the thick hull of the station with a relentless barrage of lasers, shattering windows and rooms. Fara and Katt circled around to make their last pass on Devin, dodging and absorbing laser fire the best they could. As the Justice Cadets cleared the way for them, the two jets darted toward each other, their eyes intent on their target spot on Devin. With their last shots, the nova bombs screeched forward, and the two explosions were their reward.
"Alright, Cadets!" Fara barked. "Now's your chance! Good luck!"
On cue, the bounty hunters fired their way to the docking bays, and hurriedly docked in. Fox gave them one last glance before shooting down an unlucky Invader. "Alright, team, keep alert for the Paladins and you-know-who!"
"Oh, mean us?" An evil gruff voice snarled into Fox's helmet com.
Out from the northwest of the station came the familiar quartet of Wolfen-II jets in attack formation, and trailing them were the trio led by the unique bluish bi-plane. StarWolf and the Sapphire Paladins had come to crash the party, and now things would really start to get interesting.
Fox eyed them with a hatred glare. "Wolf....coming back for more?"
The one-eyed wolf leader of StarWolf uttered a low laugh. "Fox! Surprised to see you here!" Wolf said in a mocking voice of fake shock. "And you got some friends along to back up your disgusting tail!"
"You got some friends as well!" Falco shot back. "I guess only losers will try to have more losers as help!"
"You got some nerve, Hook Beak!" Nedra yelled. "Let me follow you so I can take that egg out of your ass!"
The blood enemies of space and sky honed in targets that have showed up in their target screens before, and poured out a relentless barrage of revenge-carrying lasers. Johnson's Sunlaser assaulted Fox with her bright yellow streaks of deadly light, distracting him completely from honing in Wolf's jet. The son of James was besieged by Amy and Wolf, whom were teaming together bring their arch rival down.
Westly had never fought against Fara before, and underestimated her in a pitched dogfight. He showered her with lasers, but only a few found their marks. Frustrated, he accelerated speed to get a closer shot. That technique backfired as Fara swiftly made a flip, and the tables had turned. The doberman yelped in surprise, and swerved right in a deep angle to catch her off guard. Fara was too experienced to let go of him, and followed his exact trail, punishing him with well-aimed lasers.
Although Katt was lucky enough to pit against a more inexperienced greyhound, Nedra had help, in the form of the momentarily forgotten Invader-III defenders. The pink-furred cat soon found herself with five jets on her tail, including a determined Paladin who seemed to be quite good with her shots. She dodged and swerved the best she could, but her shields were dropping dramatically.
"Will someone get their furry tails over to here and help me?!" She pleaded, and a portion of her controls exploded on her face. The sparks forced her to flinch, more than enough for her five hunters to take advantage of it. A large portion of the Catspaw 's right wing blew off with a bang, and the jet was reeling toward possible doom. Finally, Peppy came to the rescue, came behind the five stalking jets, and scattered them with a well aimed nova bomb. The Invader defenders exploded instantly, but Nedra's jet only jostled and flew out of Peppy's target screen.
"You alright, Katt?" Peppy asked, already targeting another hapless Invader.
"Not well. Only got 45% power on my power!"
"Stay together, Katt. We can't afford to lose you."
Katt merely nodded a response and went back to the business of laser dodging and Invader hunting.
Wolf snickered as his single eye focused on the heavily damaged arwing, with Fox himself inside. His own jet was raked by other StarFox pilots, almost breaking off his right wing, but he didn't care. He glanced on his green-hued target screen, and maneuvered to place Fox right smack in the middle of it. A beep rewarded him, and Wolf smiled, showing rather menacing fangs.
He gripped on his trigger buttons tighter, laughing. "See you in the afterlife, foxy boy!"
The wolf was just about send his fatal homing laser to Fox as a present when a laser out of nowhere pounded on the canopy, and Wolf bumped his head on the controls hard. As Wolf yelled in surprise, Fox quickly swerved out of harm's way, and that deserved a loud curse from the one-eyed beast.
"Sorry about that, Wolfie, but you're not taking down my brother that easy!"
The arwing Midnight surged into the dogfight, piloted by Star McCloud. "That's another one you owe me, Fox!"
"Well, put it in my tab!" Fox shot back, obviously irritated. "What in Corneria are you doing here?"
"I'm just helping you here!" Star retorted.
"I don't need your help! Go help the Justice Cadets in the station, or whatever!"
Star growled, irritated herself. "God, you can be so crabby sometimes. Fine!" And with that, she swerved toward Devin, but not only till after she fired another burst of lasers on three Invaders, destroying them quickly.

Meanwhile, Jo'hara was in the hallway near the docking bay, all alone except for his trusty laptop and fifteen soldiers lying down, all victims of the experienced gun fighting of the Justice Cadets. Tera however, suffered a flesh wound, but he remained healthy enough to continue on. Typing on his computer that was connected to the Devin mainframe, he watched the three dots that represented his teammates, grinning to himself.
A loud thud ruined that grin. Jo'hara pulled his phaser from his holster, his eyes toward the direction of the noise source. That confused him however, for he was looking straight at the docking bay, and all the soldiers were eliminated in that area. Have someone just docked?
Another minute passed by. Finally, a vixen came into the hallway, and Jo'hara laid down his gun in relief. "Star.....long time, no see."
Star McCloud was dressed in a black jumpsuit with a green belt, an assortment of weapons fastened to the belt. She wasn't as groomed as Jo'hara was accustomed to seeing, but those eyes of hers still persisted. Her wrist guard was gone, perhaps in her pocket. She was fuming about something, and Jo'hara could only guess why she would be like that.
"Hey Jo'hara. What you are doing here alone?"
"I'm busy trapping soldiers and giving my teammates the way to the Command room," the panther said as he went back to his computer. Star followed and watched the comp screen over his shoulder. "I found a shortcut to the Command room on the other side of the base. It's a series of small corridors within the walls, and I was surprised to find that Tigress can fit inside those things."
"What about opposition?"
Jo'hara smiled as he explained. "Well, I managed to trap most of the soldiers. I put a cold spell on the elevators, stopping them immediately. Then, I activated the transparent blast doors on all the hallways, and the soldiers will not be able to override them. They are stuck, and except for those in the Command room, they won't even touch my team."
Star laughed, but it ended with a deep sigh of frustration. "So even in here, you guys don't need me. Swell. This just isn't my day. Well, I might as well get back to the dogfight. My brother will be pissed off, but that gives him character."
"What's the situation out there, anyway?"
"Well, that Andrew fella is really falling apart,....again. He really does need more lessons in aviation. Fox is really going through a bad situation, but hey, if he doesn't need help, then I won't give him any."
Suddenly, Star flinched for no reason, and her eyes closed tightly.
Jo'hara laid a concerned paw on her shoulder. "What's wrong?"
Star opened her eyes, and Jo'hara saw a little bit of worry in them. "Now Fox needs me! Why must he change his dag burned mind all the time?! I gotta go. Good luck, Jo."
"Good luck to you too," Jo'hara said and went back to his job. Star meanwhile hurriedly rushed back to her jet, mumbling in half-anger, half-frustration.

Andrew Oikonny just couldn't take it any more. Slippy was too relentless on his tail, and his Wolfen-II was punished hard and heavily as a result. Another shot struck his left engine, and a warning beep in his cockpit warned him of low power.
"I have to get out of here!"
Wolf growled at his teammate. "No! Stay here! We must fight them off the area, and I need every help I can get, even a stupid dummy like you!"
Andrew knew that Devin was a key base for the shield of the Kismet (he was annoyed by the constant gloating by his uncle), and that Andross won't stand having the enemy take control of it, but his life was more important to him. As Slippy continued to punish him, Andrew steered toward Venom, and began to pull away, with much protest from Wolf.
Leon Powalski and Pigma Dengar were more better off, but not by much. The curse that they had against StarFox had stuck with them, and now they were in danger of disaster. Leon was especially frantic, now that Slippy had come to reinforce Falco and punish the chameleon with a double barrage of lasers.
Amy was the only one not seriously in trouble. Her jet was more armored than the others, and she wasn't fired upon as much. However, if StarWolf decides to leave to lick their wounds, then the Paladins would be forced to follow suit. Two Invader-IV jets and a unique bi-plane have little chance against StarFox, Fara, Katt, and Star. The Invader-III jets were mostly obliterated. However, if she was to leave, then she won't with Fox still alive.
"C'mon, Fox! Give up!" Amy taunted as she laid another yellow laser onto Fox's left engine. Beside her, Wolf collaborated with the snow leopard, firing off lasers more relentless than ever, sensing victory was within reach.
They would never get to that point in this battle. Off the corner of her eye, Amy spotted lasers flying past her, coming from behind. It was Star, choosing Wolf as her target. Two lasers slapped the pounded jet of the evil mercenary leader, shedding off more metal than Wolf wanted.
"Hey Wolf! Guess you're wishing that you knew how to make a somersault, right?" Star taunted.
Wolf yelled back in hatred. "Enough with the somersault jokes!! Aaarrrghhh!!!" Three more lasers found their marks on his jet, and his main engine sputtered.
Amy glanced back on her enemy that she never pitted against before. Wolf may not know how to do it, but I can. Effortlessly, she executed a flip that surprised Fox's sister, and came up behind her. Several yellow lasers scraped onto the Midnight , distracting Star enough to fumble on her controls. She had never fought the Sunlaser before, and had no idea how Amy would behave in a dogfight. Star had a habit of recuperating quickly though, and once she gained control of herself, she made a sudden swerve to the right, and Amy followed, leaving Wolf alone to fight Fox, but his jet was worse than even fair shape. To make matters worse, Pigma had just left the scene, with 91% damage on the power, and Peppy had ganged up on Leon. With three StarFox pilots all firing at him, Leon knew that he must escape as well.
As for Westly and Nedra, they continued to fire lasers at Katt and Fara, and vice-versa. However, while Westly may be more stubborn to leave, Nedra realized that with two StarWolf pilots out of the game with a third close to it, then even Westly would be forced to give up. When the greyhound spotted Leon pulling away from the fight, she knew it was time to bail as well. Cursing to herself, she left Katt alone and headed back for home. Westly continued to dodge lasers, not wanting to leave, but three well-aimed lasers told him to, as well as a warning beep that told his shield status. His ego damaged once again, he swerved to follow his teammate out of the dogfight, muttering in anger.
It was not common at all for Star being in trouble, but it was also not common to have an ace pilot with a jet built like a tank firing yellow lasers at her as well. Even with Fara and three StarFox pilots firing at her, the thick hull of the blue bi-plane was still mainly intact, and Slippy was getting a feeling of marvel for the tough defensive ability of the Sunlaser. Amy was in trouble herself, however, mainly because her allies were getting thinner and thinner in numbers. Seeing Nedra and even Westly moving out told her that discretion was the better part of valor.
"We have to get out of here, Wolf! We can't stay here much longer!"
Wolf was beginning to yearn for escape as well, with Katt bruising him into almost submission. He muttered a curse as his right engine failed, and left Fox alone for the first time in the battle. The two failed jets accelerated to their top speeds, with the victorious Cornerians firing their "goodbye" lasers at them. The battle in space was soon over at Devin.
"See you later, Wolf," Fox muttered, his arwing almost destroyed. "Justice Cadets, how are you doing inside?"
"We have secured the Command room, Fox!" Tera exclaimed. "We only had a fight against less than twenty soldiers, thanks to Jo'hara and his computer!"
"Huh....I would like to know how he did that, but we don't have much time. I need to get back to the Great Fox. My arwing is really busted."
"You can say that again, Fox." Star said. "Boy, that blue jet is tough to even make a good sized dent on it!"
"I remembered throwing a nova bomb at it, and the jet did shake, but it was still very much alive. I would love to have a jet with that kind of defensive power!"
"With the way you're flying, you sure need one," Falco stated amid laughing.
Fox ignored that remark. "Fara, report to General Pepper with the good news."
"Sure thing, Fox." Fara answered with a nod, and headed toward the Great Fox.
Fox continued on. "Alright, fellas, good job on fighting off Wolf and his cronies. Star?"
"Yes?" His sister asked, hoping it would be a thank you for saving his life.
"If you want to come with me, you can."
Star was a little disappointed, but she didn't show it. "Fine then. I haven't talked with you for some time."
"Alright!" Slippy piped up.
Falco groaned. "Just leave my magazines alone, Star!"
After the Justice Cadets had planted the huge bomb inside the center of the station, they and the others retreated off to Sector X, and were a safe distance away from the huge explosion that engulfed Devin, the first key base to be destroyed.

Chapter Ten

"La paz es para los cobardes."
--Shivan Tresley, assassin for hire

Before the battle in Devin took place, a feline with a murder-filled past stepped into her apartment room, exhausted from the Macbeth heat. She had on a tan yellow shirt that was speckled with small dots on blood on some areas, and though she had a bloody bandage on her right arm (to throw off suspicion), the blood on her shirt didn't belong to her. Her black loose jeans were dusty and caked with dry dirt, and on her green belt was a long-bladed knife, but with the way the handle was angled with the blade, it resembled a small scythe.
Shivan Tresley plopped her slim, muscular frame onto the small bed, making the springs squeak. Her slick, black, short hair shone under the sunlight peering through the window, although her heart remained as dark as ever. She pulled off her knife from the scabbard, and using a bed sheet, did a crude cleaning job with it, rubbing the last of the overlooked blood that once belonged to her latest victim, which was a colonel in a local military. Her yellow eyes were tinted with victorious glee, remembering that moment when she stabbed the knife into the colonel's heart. She liked seeing people die under her knife. They react much differently than if they were shot.
The caracal was an assassin, one that kills for money and not for power, or just "giving the galaxy a voice" like some others do. For the almighty hundred credit dollar, she would kill even her mother. She has been killing ever since she escaped the hideout caves of the Anti-Cat League, and secretly became available to people wanting their enemies dead. She has killed people with a gun before, but it was her scythe-knife that was her primary weapon. It horrifies people just by looking at it, and having it scrape a rib or thigh bone would be painful enough to make them feel it tomorrow, although not one of them lived to see tomorrow. Except for Katt Monroe, Shivan was always successful in her missions, as a member of the A.C.L., and being assassin for hire.
She had numerous people paying her, but just one week ago, a mysterious man by the name of Dr. P came by, offering a thousand credits for every successful mission. Not one to pass this up lightly, Shivan struck a deal with him, and their business relationship became permanent. However, she never met him up front; only through a highly protected monitor com line. He never gave her his full name, but Shivan never asked. To her, she would stay with him as long as a thousand credits show up in her bank account after giving someone (Dr. P often target the military, both Venomian and Cornerian) the knife through some portion of the body.
To make sure that he keeps his part of the deal, Shivan went to her computer and went online to a secret bank that had Dr. P's recommendation. When she saw her account, she smiled. "4,820 credit dollars. Once again, I thank you, Doctor. Let's see if there's someone else he wants me to kill."
She then closed her account for now, and hailed a call to the mysterious gray fox that called himself Dr. P. She didn't even know if he really was a doctor, but she didn't care. A small window appeared on the comp screen, and the gray fox appeared. He was youthful, in his early-twenties like Shivan, and was wearing sunglasses. Strands of blonde hair swept across his face like beads, and every so often, he would lift a paw to wisp one of them back.
"Ah.....I heard the news, dear Shivan. Congratulations."
The Vitrian-speaking caracal chuckled. "Nothing to it. The colonel was already drunk, and I got him as he was coming out of a tavern. I don't know why there was a door to an alleyway from that tavern, but I'm glad there was one. Who's next?"
The fox smiled a crooked smile. "There is one that I especially want you to kill. He has been on my death list for quite some time, and I am confident that you will do the job. It'll take you to Titania though."
"No problem. I can take the heat."
"I'm sure you would," Dr. P said and another window opened, showing the picture of the victim. Shivan gasped with pleasure. It was a domestic cat, a species that she hated with all vengeance.
She chuckled evilly. "Of course I will kill him. Just show me where he is, and I'll go even without knowing this victim's name."
"Fine. Saves my breath. Two thousand credit dollars this time."
Shivan nodded. "Doctor.....I could do this for free."
"You really do hate cats. No, I'll pay you the money. I don't want to disappoint my favorite assassin, am I right?"

When Fleet Admiral Thurman heard the news about Devin's destruction, he groaned unhappily, and slouched down on his leather throne. The Kismet Fleet spotted the Cornerian Fleet a half hour ago, and the white German shepherd prepared himself for the inevitable battle ahead. The seven Zeram-class starships in front of the Kismet blared their dull red light of engines onto the large windows of the Command Bridge, and in a further distance, just ten minutes away, were the first ships of the Cornerian Fleet; Vermont-class, which were the biggest Cornerian starships around.
He pounded a gloved fist on the throne's arm, his eyes narrowed in exasperation. "Damn it! Someday, Andross will have StarWolf in chains!"
The First Officer DiVilliana stood rigid, taking the blows of indirect fury. "Sir, we still have the four other bases intact, although Commander Tana is having trouble in Asama."
"Worthless bum! Why can't he hold on to a simple base?"
"Well, sir, uh, the Cornerians had someone named Motambo leading them. They made a night charge while the defenders were mostly sleeping, and caught them by surprise. Tana tried the best he could, but he was unprepared. I doubt he could hold Asama much longer."
Carl groaned. "What about Salem Rock?"
"The defenders there are better off, but the Cornerians have the Crimson Firehawks on their side, and they are expert base stormers. Commander General Avalona is heading there, but it could be too late."
"What do you mean, too late?"
"Well, sir....she and her Golden Hammer force are just not going the fast they can. It will take them a few hours to get to Titania, although at max speed, they could reach the place in only one hour."
"Now why in bloody damnation would she do something like that?"
"Um....if you didn't know,......the General doesn't seem to be in good terms with the Emperor."
Carl spat out in distaste, and despite being refrained since he was sitting down, his tail flickered wildly. "I know that! What does that have to....." he paused, realization sinking in. "Wait a second here...could do it be that Venus is actually thinking of double crossing Andross? No one does that and lives!" He then stood up, and stuck his nose up to yell at someone behind him. "Communications Officer!"
A lynx promptly came up to the Admiral's side. "Uh, yes sir?"
"Send a call to General Avalona. Warn her that if she doesn't move faster, then she will be facing court martial!"
The lynx saluted and rushed off to do her duty. Carl sat back down on the throne, shaking his head. "What about Underwater Station 909?"
"I have not heard much, but Commander Mikhail is holding good. His defense had suffered 50% casualties, but Commander Crusta is not faring well with her team also. It's still evenly matched or so. As for Forest Echo, General Poland of Corneria had just landed his troops, and now are surrounding the forest. They have still yet to engage."
"Sir!" The same lynx ran back. "I cannot send a call to them! It is blocked!"
"Damn! I know those Golden Hammer troops, and they will follow their leader no matter what! Have Andross known about this?"
"He might've, Admiral. I haven't heard anything from him lately," the First Officer answered. "I think it will be best if we set aside all these matters, and pay attention to those on front of us."
Carl rubbed his chin. "Hmmm......of course. Launch all the squadrons here from the starships. Have Black Flood showed up yet?"
"They'll be here soon. I'll give the command to all squadron leaders, sir."
The Admiral nodded, and as the First Officer left, his eyes gazed on the ships of the Cornerian Fleet, and chuckled. His confidence remained. The shield remains intact, and it would be too late for the Cornerians to put a stop to it. By the time the very last key base would be destroyed, General Pepper would be among the thousands of corpses floating lifelessly in space. Or so, Carl hoped.

Aboard the flagship Cornerian Hope , General Pepper spotted the countless Venomian jets spilling out of the battleships looming in front of his fleet. He leaned over a console, a microphone close to him. "Commander Grey!"
"Yes, General?" Bill answered in his GreyOne.
"The enemy jets are heading your way. It's time for action, Bill."
The dog commander yelped a war cry. "Yes sir! Commander Salek! Commander Adams! Form your squadrons and move forward in attack positions!"
The two commanders, both in brand new Bulldog class jets, barked a response in agreement. Bill alone led a series of squadrons, identified by color, that consisted of five thousand Protector-class jets, while the two other commanders led a single squadron of a thousand Green-class jets. Every single one of the pilots knew that this oncoming battle would be the biggest of the big battles that had occurred in this war, and perhaps in history overall. With their adrenaline pumping inside them, they impatiently awaited Death to come to their doorsteps. Whether or not Death would come inside, would be up to them and the could-be killer.

Chapter Eleven

"Long Patrol, give 'em blood'n'vinegar! Eeulaliaaaa!"
--War cry of The Long Patrol, created by Brian Jacques

Yet another scream burst into her ears as Dekslan fired a shot at the soldier above her on the catwalk. The soldier stumbled limply, and leaned over the rail fence, arms dangling lifelessly. She grinned at seeing that award, and her eyes checked around the narrow and long hallway inside the base Salem Rock.
"This room is clear. I don't smell any more Venomians here," the borzoi spoke onto her attached comlink next to her face. Like always, her black uniform was studded with weapons and tools needed for a good old fashioned base storming and Venomian butt-kicking. A high-tech nine-level AM-Phaser, which has more bang than the common phaser, was being gripped tightly between curly-furred paws, the cold steel gone from Dekslan's warmth. Attached to the inside nape of her boots were a pair of small throwing daggers, the ones with the jagged edges. On her leather belt was a holster for the phaser, several more throwing knives (double edged), and two smoke grenades.
"Knowing your sense of smell, I think you'll better investigate some more," Darwin answered back on the comlink. He was almost on the other side of the base in Titania. "How far to the Command Room now?"
"Just a couple more rooms now. How are the others doing?"
"Terra is doing just fine. I haven't talked with Lizbel yet, but she'll be joining you soon. General Olson and the other soldiers are still picking out the Venomians outside. It was lucky that we all managed to smash through the defense out there and got in here."
"What about you?"
"I'm fine. I still have my bomb with me. Let me know when you get to the target."
"Of course, stupid. Dekslan out."
She reached a door on the other end of the hallway, and found out the connecting room was a large room, partly dark. She walked through the almost empty storage area in an almost snail pace, her sharp eyes cautious for any sudden movement. However, she never saw the soldier coming up behind her until it was too late.
The borzoi grunted as a pipe smacked her on the head, and she fell, still conscious but with a bleeding wound. She rolled herself face up, and retreated back in a crawling position. The burly red wolf in front her held the bent pipe like a baseball bat, his lips curled in a snarled grin.
"Aw...did that hurt?" The wolf asked in a mock tone of concern. He was a big one, about 6'9", with a belly that told Dekslan that he might be pushing 260 pounds.
"No, it just itches."
The wolf chuckled a bass-toned laugh, and walked closer to her, his pipe above his head to make the fatal blow.
He walked too close, however. A well-aimed boot kick to the leg sent him stumbling back, grunting in pain. Dekslan's kicks were not as powerful as Lizbel's, but her metal plates on the toes of the boot was punishing enough. The wolf grabbed hold of his injured leg, giving Dekslan time to stand up, and reached out a knife.
Upon seeing that, the soldier laughed. "You think that small knife can hurt me?"
Before he could react, Dekslan threw the knife, and the blade sliced the fur through into the heart. "I don't know. Does it?"
The wolf's eyes bulged out in shock, the knife handle poking out his chest. He fell to his knees, and with one last guttural groan, fell muzzle first on the floor. Dekslan stood still for a moment, her eyes glanced downward on the dead wolf. "Yep. I guess it does. Thanks for telling me."

The soldiers in the Command Room was too busy on the console controls to even see Dekslan and Lizbel burst into the room at first. Two soldiers managed to stand from their revolving chairs before being shot down, and another felt Lizbel Crusasa's ever painful boot to the face. That unlucky soldier stumbled away from the blow, crashing against the computer screens and buttons. The chinook thrust a hard right punch to his stomach, then grabbed hold of his belt and back collar.
"Get out of the way!" Lizbel warned her teammate as she held the reeling soldier. Dekslan side-stepped just in time as Lizbel carried the soldier across the room, and smashed his head onto a monitor screen. Sparks flew out as the soldier was electrocuted, and the body went limp, seemly growing from the broken monitor.
"Sheesh, are you in some bad mood to do something like that?" Dekslan asked the wife of Darwin.
Lizbel nodded, and exposed a laser shot wound on the side of her stomach. "It's not all that serious, but still, it hurts. Guess I expected something like this when I wasn't being careful."
"There's two things I know of that would make pain beneficial. One is that it teaches you a lesson, and the other is that it lets you know that you're still alive."
Lizbel chuckled, but it converted into a restrained grimace. "Where's Darwin?"
"Oh yeah, I forgot," she answered, and turned on her comlink. "Hey furball!"
An irritated voice answered, with gunfire in the background. "What?"
"We secured the Command Central."
"Good! Check the radar for Venom reinforcements!"
"Right," she answered. Dekslan and Lizbel studied the radar screen, and their heads shook in disbelief. There was a force coming, but it wasn't moving as fast as they expected. "Several troop transporters about more than a half an hour away. Bombers are trailing them. Wonder why they are going slow."
"Engine trouble, perhaps, but I doubt it," Lizbel suggested. "Anyway, it will be of benefit to us. General Olson, do you read me?"
"General Olson here," the cat answered through the comlink. "What is it?"
"We have secured the Command Central. How are you guys going out there?"
"We're routing them, Crusasa. They're retreating back to the base."
"We'll be ready for them. Venomian reinforcements are coming, but not for quite some time. According to the radar screen, it seems small enough for you guys to take care of it yourselves."
"Good. I lost a quarter of my army already. When will the bomb be planted?"
"As soon as Darwin comes in. Give or take five to ten minutes."
"Alright. We'll stay inside to clear the way for you Firehawks, and we'll try not to mistake you for a Venomian on your way out."
"Thanks," Lizbel said dryly.

"Is that what we will try to take over, Don?" A jackal said as the soldier peeked through a transporter window as they drifted down nearby a base in Macbeth. Private Don Barnestien, a black striped jackal, looked over his brother's shoulder to see what he was looking at.
"Yep. That's Forest Echo, Allen," Don answered.
The base itself looked over a large hill of trees and large boulders like a supervisor, and it looked the part. Four spires were stationed on the corners, meant as radar towers, and the building was shaped like a stadium, complete with a dome that dips downward, like the dome was upside down. The forest that surrounds the base were thick with trees that blanketed the ground, and Allen could spot boulders jutting out, along with trenches that the Venomians had dug in for protection. The base had four large doors on each side, and due to it's size, it might be only big enough to be a outpost and not a normal military base. There were no landing bays nearby the base, of course, so the Cornerians, in order to reach the base, must cross a half a mile of laser fire, thorny bushes, possible land mines, and an estimated two thousand Venomian soldiers, as what rumor said.
The troop transporter, one of many, landed on the open ground just beside the trees, and a sergeant stood up to address the soldiers inside. "Okay fellas, this is it. Devin is destroyed, Asama had just been destroyed, and Salem Rock is close to it. Underwater Station 909 is still alive, but the latest news claim that Commander Crusta is gaining an advantage over the defenders. Forest Echo might be the last key base to be alive, and it's up to us to disarm the shield of the Kismet forever."
The sergeant paused, waiting for the words to sink in. The fifty soldiers facing him remained silent. "We are now on the south side of Forest Echo. The first defending line is reported to be just five hundred yards into the forest, so by the time you get out of the safety of this transporter, you will be under long-range laser fire. We have no idea what other defense the Venomians will have once past that line, but there could be land mines. There are also boulders there, some as high as nine feet tall. Climb on top of those, and you will be exposed in the open. Go around them, and you would risk being shot by someone hiding on the other side. Either way is fine with me. Just getting over the obstacles is the main thing. The four doors on the base will be closed by the time we get there, so we will plant several bombs on them, and that will break them open. We will storm inside cautiously, but we must remind ourselves, that at this moment, our pilots near Sector X are fighting the Kismet Fleet, and with that shield still intact, they are doomed. They are very dependant on us right now, soldiers. That is why we and those people in Station 909 and Salem Rock must destroy these bases. We must! The future of Corneria and the outcome of the war depends on it!" He stated, shaking his fists to dramatize his speech. He calmed down, and made a deep sigh before continuing on. "Once General Poland gives the order, we will all burst out at the same time, all five thousand of us, and one half will stay behind as reserves. The General had put a two hour time limit on this. If we couldn't make it within that time, then we just got to hope that the Corneria Fleet would hold on against the Kismet and her ships longer."
Allen bowed his head a little, and gripped on his M5-Laser rifle tighter. All these pilots and Cornerian residents were depending on soldiers like he, and he was only 16 years old, just on the minimal age limit for drafting. He was just a soldier for three months, after seven months training, and had been through two battles on land. Just one battle was enough for him, and after seeing all the horror in that first one, he was not looking forward to this one amid trees. He preferred open ground, which he could actually see the enemy from afar, not in some place like a forest where there could be an enemy soldier just fifty feet away and don't know it till it was too late.
The sergeant continued on. "I don't really have to tell you what you all will be facing. Some of you may still be considered dependants that was drafted, and others are on their prime, but all of you have gone through battle. You have seen death right in the face, and you have done your praying and killing. The cowards are long gone. We know our duty, and there are times when the lives of officers don't even count. You can make this base invasion without me telling you what to do, or General Poland doing the same thing. I have my confidence that we can achieve victory in this vital day. The question is, do you have the confidence?"
The sergeant, his speech finished, grabbed hold of the door handle, and waited for the signal. Less than a minute had passed when a bell tone rang out throughout the transporter, and with a yell, the sergeant burst open the door, and the fight had begun.
In pairs, the soldiers ran out the transporters, yelling and firing their laser rifles. Allen found a tree and buried himself behind it, peering off the side of it to see the Venomians uphill. As he expected, he spotted a crude wall hundreds of yards up, and dozens of heads were popping above it from behind, firing their lasers and retreating back behind it. His brother knelt beside him, a grin of excitement on his face.
"Are you ready for this, Allen?"
"I sure am, Don Bomb!" The jackal exclaimed, using a nickname from his brother's elementary days. As the soldiers behind them filtered out of the transporters and finding a tree or bush for protection, Allen charged upwards, a laser passing just a whisker from him. He found another tree and hid behind it, firing more shots at the Venomians. Wanting to eliminate the first defenses as quickly as they can, the Cornerians dodged between the countless trees, risking their lives and saving others at the same time. Several of the Venomians fell in pain, being exposed too long, and victims of good aim. Allen fired off some more shots, then flinched as a piece of bark splattered onto his eyes. He kept his cool enough to remain hidden from the enemy, but one of the splinters struck his right eye, forcing him to squint.
Screams of war cries, pain, and death rang into his ears, and he looked back to scan for his brother. He spotted him a few trees over to his left in front of him, safe and sound. Allen remained standing, too cautious to move forward right now, due to his sudden vision impairment. The more braver soldiers kept climbing, too impatient to stay this far away from the base.
"Forward! Forward!" An officer barked the orders before he was shot on the chest. Allen ran to the right, his rifle oozing hot lasers, and had just came up behind another tree when another soldier screamed in pain just beside him. The soldier fell back, landing on the ground with a laser wound on the face. All it took for Allen to feel queasy was a glance to the poor soldier's mask of death.
"Ugh....God!" Allen muttered as he looked away, and tried to shake that imagine off his mind. Minutes quickly swept by, and Allen was so close to the wall that he could see the white of the Venomian eyes. Another soldier screamed beside the jackal, a hole close to his neck. The lasers were more relentless, blasting branches, tree stems, the wall of branches and rocks, and lives of soldiers. Blood trickled down like a small stream, and the death toll rose dramatically.
Fifty feet away from the wall, Allen decided to go for broke, now that there were virtually no more Venomians directly in front of him. He rushed out and ran up the hill, firing at the defenders to his sides, and came upon the wall safely. He ducked behind it, but he spotted no Venomians beyond the wall in the area in front. The last defenders of the Venomian wall were killed off, and for now, the crossfire had receded.
Moments later, Don came by, panting hard. "Hey man, you okay?"
Allen grinned. "Good enough, Don. What about you?"
"Almost got one on my right leg, but other than that, I'm okay."
"That's good. My eye is a little sore, but I can still see from it. How long as it been since we came out of the transporter?"
Don looked on his watch. "Sheesh....ten minutes."
"Huh.....I thought only seconds had passed. Strange, isn't it?"
"It sure is," Don answered, peering over the vacant wall. "I see a few Venomians up there, but they are too far away to be of any threat to us now. Shall we continue on?"
"Of course, brother. Of course," Allen said and jumped over the wall, continuing his climb.

Chapter Twelve

"No comment."
--General Edward Poland, after the capture of Maxwell Poland of the A.C.L.

"Andrew....." Wolf muttered, too angry to speak much. The entire StarWolf team were in a small rec room in a Venomian space station an hour from the now destroyed Devin Station. The Sapphire Paladins were recuperating in another room, lucky enough to stay away from Wolf's wrath. Sadly however, Andrew was often on the receiving end of that pent up fury.
Andrew cringed away, knowing what will happen. Pigma was in the background, eating a small granola bar (chocolate chip with almonds, sprinkled with cinnamon), and Leon stood rigid by the door, simply obeying the order from Wolf to not let Andrew out.
" guys escaped as well!" Andrew burst out in defense. "So technically, it wasn't my fault! Why are you blaming me? You always blame me! In fact, you might be blaming me for causing that cut on your eye!"
Wolf only snarled and stepped closer to him. "Grrr.....shut....up. I've had it with you, Andrew! You are the worst and most pathetic excuse for a pilot that I have ever met! What do you got to say about that?"
Andrew wasn't all that good in the brains department. "Um, uh...there might be worse pilots than me because you haven't met all of- AAAAAHHH!!!"
Wolf grabbed the hapless Emperor's nephew on the collar roughly, and placed his muzzle so close to his face that Andrew could see himself on the reflection on Wolf's fangs and drool. "Oh I have met enough pilots to know that you are not worthy to even lick the ground they step on! I don't know how you managed to stay alive after all these engagements, but someday, you won't be that lucky!"
"Oh, I'm smarter than you think, Wolf! I'm still alive because I know when to bail out of a fight. After all, those to run away, comes to fight another day!"
"Actually,...the more precise quote is those who fight another day, still dies sooner or later!"
Pigma was one of the more self-absorbed members of the team. "Of course, Wolf. We're not immortals."
Wolf turned to face him in his most cruel look on his face, but that didn't even stop Pigma's appetite. Leon cringed though. Wordlessly, Wolf went back to his business of insulting-the-monkey. "You want to know how many times you failed me now? Ten! Ten times you was the first StarWolf member to leave a dogfight, and there won't be an eleventh time!"
With that, Wolf pulled out his prized dagger, and placed it in front of Andrew's eyes for an up close look. "You want to know why I haven't used this beauty for some time? Because I was saving it for Fox! But, if there is no way I could cut his goddamn throat, then what's wrong with quenching this knife's thirst with the blood of royalty?"
The sharp edge of the knife pressed against the short red fur of Andrew's neck, cutting the skin. Two trickles of blood flowed onto the shining blade's surface, and they dripped over the edge like slow raindrops. Andrew winced from the pain, and now tried to struggle. He held Wolf's arms to shove him away, but Wolf was too strong.
"I'm...I'm going to tell Uncle for this!"
Wolf's single eye glared evilly at him. "You always say that, yet I'm never punished. You know why? Because even a dump ape like Andross know that you are too stupid to be of any use except to irritate me, so when you report to him about my behavior, that tells him that you are doing your stinking job!"
Andrew shook his head wildly, sheer panic in his eyes. "That's not true! Maybe he's too busy to throw you in the dungeons, like he should!"
"Or maybe....he's too dumb, period!"
Leon decided to speak up at this moment. "Wolf....this room could be bugged."
Wolf continued to face Andrew. "I don't care! Andy, hear me this! Once our replacement Wolfen-II jets come here in a few minutes, we will be on our way to meet the two battling Fleets, and hopefully StarFox. Now, I want you to shoot down one StarFox pilot down, just one, dumb and stupid pilot, and I'll shut up after the battle, even if you escape again like always. You understand me?"
Andrew made a guttural whimper, but nodded. "Uh...uh....yes..."
Wolf's blade dug into his throat deeper. "I didn't hear you!"
"Yes! Yes!" Andrew yelled, mostly in pain.
"Good. If you don't shoot one down, and still you escape...., you know what will happen?"
The knife dug into the skin even deeper, and the red droplets dripped at a faster pace. He then pulled away from him, and Andrew grabbed hold of his own throat, groaning in pain.
"That's just a preview on what will happen!" Wolf growled, and marched to the door. "Stupid idiot."
Pigma and Leon followed him out, and Andrew remained alone, a terrible wound on his neck, and a new sense of panic rising in him. He slowly sat down on a blood-stained chair beside him, deeply worried for his life. He wondered if he would survive to see Venom and his Uncle again.

By the time Commander Pat Woshive and his Black Flood Squadron reached the battle between the two Fleets, the widespread explosions and lasers flying cued him that he was too late to see the start of it. From the distance, he could see the entire battle, and the explosions, lasers, and ion shots made so much of a spectacular show that Pat wished he could halt his jet and watch the entire battle unfold as a spectator.
Of course, the ship that caught his attention was the Kismet, a mighty Goliath among even the Zeram ships. It's huge engines spewed red fire, dazzling to Pat's eyes, and the ship's many turrets spewed out the sphere ion torpedoes and large lasers shots. The shield surrounding "Andross' Wrath" was a flickering hue of green, appearing whenever a jet or torpedo collides against it, and the weapon itself was glowing white, and that was so angelic that it almost hypnotized the cheetah leader. Only a weapon like that would look so beautiful and so deadly at the same time.
The Zeram-class battleships in front of it, out of the weapon's path of fire, were firing their heavy artillery at the Vermont ships of Corneria, which were not as big as the Zeram ones, but the biggest they had. However, Pat noticed one of the Zeram ships in deep trouble, with a huge chunk of steel blasted out into debris. He watched the ship limply fall away from battle, never to go back to duty again. It would soon just be another junk heap, a memoir of war.
Although most of the action was in the front of the Kismet, there were battleships attacking the sides as well. Three Patriot-class ships were flanking against the Harlock ships, pounding the Venomian medium-sized ships with a vengeance, despite being smaller than them. In response, several Dorisby cruisers on the rear of the Kismet Fleet broke off formation to flank the Patriot ones. On the other side, the medium-sized Partisan-class Cornerian ships were attacking mostly the rear on their side, and Pat was curious on what their strategy would be. Wasn't the main objection was to get rid of the Kismet, and not all fiddle around with the "little guys"?
Scattering all over the place were the countless Bulldog, Green, Protector, Invader (all four classes), and Borzoi jets, dashing here and there, firing their small lasers at each other while dodging enemy fire. Pat grinned as he neared the battle scene. He was anxious to get into the fray.
"Black Flood Drowns All Enemies! Remember that as you barge yourself into Hell, pilots! Attack Formation Delta-Velcon, now!"
The coal black Flood-class jets positioned themselves for battle, and the explosions burst closer, even amid them. Pat spotted a large collection of Greenies in front of him, and chuckled, thirsty to kill. "Black Flood!" He screamed. "Deluge them now!"
An ordered barrage of lasers fired off their jets, hurling toward the hapless Greenies, and the reflections of the following explosions danced on Pat's eyes. The exuberant cheetah whooped a war cry and gave the order to scramble and find their own targets. A tantrum of doomed jets scattered all around him, and the pleasant sounds of lasers firing off his wing guns buzzed into his ears. He imagined the screams of Cornerian pilots as he shot them down one by one, enjoying himself.
His grin turned determined as he spotted a familiar jet, being flown by a very familiar pilot. He turned on his all-frequency comline, hoping his former friend would hear him through all the clutter of noise.
"Bill! Remember me?"
The voice that Pat heard so many times in the Academy answered. "Wha...who are you?"
"Ah, don't you remember old Patty Boy?" He said as he tried to tail him.
"Woshive?" Bill answered, half spooked. "Is that you?"
Pat answered with a barrage of lasers directly at the GreyOne. Two shots found their marks, shaking Bill considerably. "Yep, that's me, pal! I covered your back in the Academy, and I'm covering your back now! Ha, ha, ha, ha!"
Bill grunted as another laser from behind struck him. After nearly an hour of fighting, he was growing tired, and now with his own best friend in his classroom tailing him like some damn parasite, he knew there would be a very long day ahead of him. However, having someone he knew as an enemy could be of small benefit.
As the lasers whizzed by him, Bill accelerated and swerved to the right, a plan forming in his mind. Pat followed relentlessly, feverishly hoping to bring him down.
Alright, Pat....let's see if you solved that problem in the Academy that made you 11th in your class! He swerved downward, like he was diving, and Pat followed his move, but Bill suddenly banked, and Pat couldn't keep up, and lost him for several moments. By the time he tailed him again, Bill zigzagged through the dogfight, and Pat, hurt by lack of good experience, couldn't stay on his tail, and all of his shots missed the GreyOne.
The cheetah mentally cursed to himself. In the Academy, he didn't have good reaction, which puts him on a failing grade in the rings test. That kept his grades to average, rather than great. Bill obviously remembered that. Knowing that he couldn't do much damage to Bill anymore, he quit chasing him, and went off to find another target.
Bill chuckled. "Still have that problem, Pat?"
The cheetah didn't answer, for the communication between them was shut down.

"We will be reaching Salem Rock in ten minutes, sir."
"Okay....and don't call me sir."
The messenger on the screen nodded and turned off the transmission. Commander General Avalona sighed and laid back on her seat. Beside her, Sergeant Xaven was soundly asleep, and most of the Golden Hammer soldiers behind them were either sleeping or close to it. Venus didn't bother to discipline them. They have been awake for over a day now, since they left Venom close to Lights Out time. The transporter pilots protested at not going at top speed, but the orders of a Commander General was to be made very clear and strict. She knew that Andross won't be happy about this, but going slow was Venus' way of punishing him. The Kismet would be destroyed anyway, and the saluki wanted the ship to be destroyed because of Andross' folly.
Venus glanced at her boyfriend, and grinned. "Loud snorer," she said as she made a hard pat on the mastiff's chest. With a startled yelp, Daniel shook himself awake, and sat upright.
"Huh? Wha-?"
"We're getting close to Salem Rock. The Crimson Firehawks have just left, probably heading for Aquas or Sector X, and they have succeeded to make the base worthless in terms with the Kismet. That's what I expected."
"Then why are we coming here?"
"I want to give the Venomians one last good from me. I may hate Andross, but I have served Venom too long for me to just simply leave. Besides, I have a plan that would have very little casualties to our side. In fact, to win, I don't think we have to even storm inside the base."
"And how, should I ask, can you do that?"
"Why is it called Salem Rock?"
"Because the base is on top of a large velman rock outcropping. It's almost like Forest Echo, but only in that we have to scale uphill to get to the base."
"The velman rocks under their foundation will be of great benefit to us. On the way here, I contacted the commander in a Titania base closest to Salem Rock, and I requested twelve ion cannons, a transporter, and four Sand Mobiles if needed. They should be here just after we come."
"Why you need those?"
"To topple the base from under. Velman breaks under the pounding pressure of ion shots, even though it would take a while. That's why the Cornerians had to storm in the base, due to lack of time. However, we do. I estimate it would take several hours of shelling and bombing to cripple the base."
"Several hours? You're already in deep trouble with Andross. What if you get caught?"
"If I get arrested, then I'll order a soldier to shoot the security. These fellas are Golden Hammer troops. They are the best base stormers that Venom has to offer, and all of them are myrmidon soldiers."
"And if Cornerian reinforcements come?"
"We retreat as soon as possible. We don't have to be there anyway, so why have unnecessary deaths?"
"Don't be a hypocrite, Venus. You will have Cornerians killed."
"Well, I can't always get what I wanted. Besides, if I order the transporter pilots to head back home now, then the troops won't complain, but I know that they will be terribly upset. I know you will, Daniel."
The mastiff sighed. "Fine, Venus. We'll make the siege. Then what?"
"Well.....if you wish to join me, we'll take a transporter that I requested from the nearby base, and head on to Corneria. I'm going to double-cross Andross," she said in a whisper.
"I think you already did, Venus," Daniel grumbled. "I'll be on your side."
Venus leaned her head on his shoulder. "Thank you, Daniel. I know you will."

An hour and a half after charging into the forest, Allen and Don had spotted the base uphill, a distant object almost covered with the vegetation and wood of trees. Allen breathed out a heavy sigh of relief when he spotted it. Ever since he passed the first wall of defense, he was under constant fire from the enemy, and he spent most of the minutes lying flat and behind trees for protection, and his fingers were sore from pulling his trigger button constantly. He faced several entrenches that had machine-gun firing soldiers, and one of them kept the Cornerians at bay for five minutes before he was killed by a well-thrown grenade. Don was shot on the stomach, but amid great pain, he managed to continue on with his brother.
Now, there was a short lull in the fighting. The Venomians were retreating back to the base to strengthen themselves there. That would mean giving the Cornerians breathing room. Allen had his brother's arm wrapped around his shoulder, and Don was almost dragging, his stomach area a horrible mess. They were too far to the military hospital back outside the forest, and too close to the base to give up now.
Even amid the wound, Don tried to shrug his helpful brother off. "I'm okay....I can walk by myself."
"You sure?"
"Please....I had a worse wound than this one, remember?"
Allen remembered. Back in Titania, Don suffered a shot near to the heart, and he would've been killed if he wasn't attended to quick enough. That one almost gave Allen a heart attack. He loved his brother dearly, and felt alone without him. He may have a girlfriend back home, but she lived too far away, and Don was the only one he really knew in the military.
Allen didn't want to leave him alone, but he respected his request. "Alright then," he said, letting him go. Don stumbled a bit, but regained his balance, and began walking by himself. "Just be careful."
"I'm the soul of caution, Allen. I'll see ya at the top."
Allen watched him walk uphill in a hurried pace, wanting this battle to be over,...wanting this war to be over. Allen had another brother, too young to be drafted, living with his foster-dad in Katina. A year ago, a Venomian bombing force attacked the city, and two-thirds of the city was in fire before Bill Grey and his Bulldog and Husky Squadrons came to the rescue. Allen's brother was killed with the foster dad, along with a thousand other people. Then his mother was killed too, due to a heart attack a month later. Allen knew that his brother's death actually killed her in grief. After all, he was only two years old at his death.
Through his months of service, Allen saw soldiers killed beside him, grenades exploding nearby him, screams of pain ringing into his ears. He himself was shot on the leg, but that was healed later on. He hated war mainly because he kept thinking that whenever he wakes up in the morning, it could be his last. He would never again see his girlfriend back home, or visit his father's grave, or even see home. He was worried that he would never again try the things that many do for granted at peacetime: eating popcorn at a movie, dance at a party, read a long novel, take a swim, or laugh with friends. He feared Death, and felt that his life would never be complete. Being a soldier in wartime did that to him.
A few minutes later, Allen spotted something odd in a distance. Almost covered by the trees were fans. Large fans hooked on the branches above and fans on the ground. The jackal was puzzled by that. What trick had Andross come up with this time? The fans were still, like slumbering witnesses to the oncoming Cornerians.
Allen was about two hundred yards away from them when the fans turned on, all at the same time. A gush of wind blew into his face, tickling his eyes. Panic rose inside him. He had never seen this booby trap (if it was a booby trap) before, yet he knew that something bad would happen. He raised his rifle up to aim, and fired. A fan exploded as the laser found it's target, and he was about to aim at another one when a cloud of yellow gas erupted from some tank in front of the fans.
Allen halted, frozen on his feet. Tentrail gas!
The poisonous gas, aided by the wind from the fans, blew through doomed soldiers in a horrifying quick pace, sweeping downhill like an avalanche. Using quick common sense, Allen grabbed his small gas mask from his belt and donned it roughly just as the gas rushed pass him. The gas stung on his fur, but he was still alive. Tentrail gas was lethal almost immediately, with some exceptions. Screaming through his gas mask, he fired a barrage of shots at the fans, exploding them one by one. The other lucky soldiers followed suit.
After moments of being in the mist of yellow clouds, Allen saw the clouds degenerate into nothing. All the fans in the area were destroyed, along with the threat. Tentrail gas may be deadly, but it doesn't last long in the Macbeth air. Allen took off his mask, and almost fell down in despair at the sight in front of him. Just minutes ago, dozens of soldiers were alive and well, walking bravely against any danger in front of them. Now, all were lying on the ground, dead to the world, with a few groaning loudly in pain and their arms flailed aimlessly in the air.
Allen shook his head in disbelief. This was Andross' trick, this combination of fans and tentrail gas. He was lucky to survive through this one, but there was something missing.
Where was his brother?
"Don? Don!!!!" He screamed in horror, spotting the jackal up ahead. He frantically scaled the hill, kicking up rocks and dirt. He knelt by his brother, and was sickened at the sight. Don was shaking wildly, coughing up blood. Tentrail gas attacks the brain and lungs respectively, and can also do devastating damage on other organs as well. It acts like a parasite, eating whatever it can.
"Don? Don?" Allen pleaded. His brother glanced his head at the mention of his name, but his eyes didn't follow. He was blinded.
"Al...." Was all he managed to speak.
"Oh God.....why you?" Allen asked in delusion, half to his brother and to himself. He cradled Don's head delicately, and felt the lightness of it, like soul have weight and was leaving him. Don shook his body some more, stuttering in an unintelligible dialect. Then, his head turned away from Allen, and went limp.
The jackal kneeling beside him was in tears. He laid his brother's head on the death-felt ground, and his tears splattered on Don's filth-caked uniform. The soldiers that were behind him trudged on, with grim looks on their faces. Allen wanted out of this place. Out of this realm of pain, death, and grief. Allen scanned around the forest, seeing the dead all about.
"Why am I in this place? I want to go home...." Allen mumbled delirious in grief.
"C'mon soldier....let's continue on," another Cornerian sadly mumbled to him. Allen wanted to stay with his brother, but what good would that do? With a sigh, he stood up, and walked uphill. Left alone in peace, Don was among many, like blades of grass as General Avalona once said.
Just around that time, Underwater Station 909 exploded, destroying the next to last artery to the Kismet heart.

Chapter Thirteen

"That was an amazing sight. I have never seen a large explosion underwater before. I could see it clearly when I was flying."
--Commander Lisa Crusta, after the destruction of Underwater Station 909

Aboard the flagship Cornerian Hope, General Pepper stood on the Bridge, watching the battle through the large windows on the front of the large room. Over half of the Zeram-class ships, being the victims of a series of hard pounding from Vermont and Partisan ships, had been reduced to scrap metal, and the Kismet's weapon had been exposed for the most part. Pepper wanted to eliminate all Zeram ships to make a clear road for a Patriot ship to ram into the Kismet weapon, but he feared that would take too much time.
When he first saw the Kismet up front in battle, he was awe-struck by it's size, and was especially horrified when the white glow suddenly threw itself as a comet and rammed into the C.A.F.D. Sapphire Star, a Vermont-class ship that became the first one destroyed in the battle. In the back of his mind, he wanted to make an ordered retreat, but he knew that was his fear talking, and repressed it. He must hold on against great odds, or Corneria would be lost.
The Kismet had claimed nine more victims using that weapon. Pepper reasoned that the recharging process was an energy drainer, and so it couldn't just recharge immediately after it fired the shot. Overheating could be a possibility. Whatever the reason, there were stalls between after the shot was fired and the beginning of the recharging process, sometimes as long as ten minutes. Andross was too impatient. This was a flaw that was untested, and it could be agitated by faster and more careless construction. The Cornerians were blessed with this luck, but their ships continued to fall victim under the awesome power of the Kismet's weapon. As long that shield exists, nothing could stop it.
Another loud explosion, becoming commonplace now, shook the flagship, and Pepper stumbled to the floor. One of his assistants rushed over and helped him up. "That was close sir! The C.A.F.D. Harrison had just been destroyed."
"Yes, I saw that. How are the Partisan ships doing on the flanks?"
"Not bad sir. Half of the Harlock ships are dead on the besieged side of the Kismet, and the Partisan ships, all six of them, are positioned their weapons to the Kismet engines."
"Good. We must destroy those engines to stall the Kismet completely. That way, it won't move that bastard weapon that it has to aim at another ship. Once it can't move, then all we have to do is get out of the weapon's shot path, and that will really foil Admiral Thurman's plans for success."
The assistant nodded, and widened his eyes as he watched the Kismet. "Uh...sir...I think we better hope for those Partisan ships to disable the engines very soon..."
"Why is that?"
"Well sir...the Kismet is moving to aim it's weapon directly to our ship..."

Commander Woshive could only guess why the Partisan-class ships were fighting on the rear flanks of the Kismet Fleet. That was, until he spotted the ships facing the engines of Kismet. "Damn.....calling all Squadron commanders! On the right flank of the Fleet, there are six Partisan ships trying to face the Kismet engines to enable themselves to fire all of their shots to disable the engines! I want all possible jets to disarm those ships, now!"
His jet engines burning at top speed, he darted pass the clutter of debris and crossfire, and checked his nova bomb storage. Only five left. One nova bomb could take care of a turret firing ion torpedoes, but Partisan ships are big enough to hold fifty of them. And with six ships to take care of, it would be a very big job, but he was confident he and his pilots could handle it.
An alarmed pilot broke his concentration. "Commander! StarFox is coming from your nine-o-clock! The Justice Cadets are following them as well, along with three more jets!"
Pat looked left and spotted the familiar arwings hurling themselves into the massive dogfight. He wanted to go against them, especially Fox, but he still felt a small sense of panic. "Crap....Black Flood! New objective! Fight down StarFox and Company!!!"
The ninety remaining Flood-class jets changed direction and prepared to meet the newcomers head on, while Pat continued toward the six threatening Partisan ships. The Kismet was more important than proving to his former classmate that he's better. "I'll see you later, Fox!"

"Ah...we have losers coming directly at us!" Falco said as the team of eleven pilots prepared to face off against several squadrons of forty plus jets.
"Don't call them losers until the game is over, Falco!" Peppy shot back.
Falco fired his lasers and an Invader-II exploded. "Game's over for that loser! Ha, ha, ha, ha!!!"
StarFox, Justice Cadets, Katt, Star, and Fara all scrambled in different directions, firing for all that was worth. An abundant number of Venomian jets fell victim from their relentless attacks, adding more kills to their lists. Fox, his arwing still not all fully repaired but good enough, plowed through three unlucky Invaders, and sent a Flood jet into junk heap. The legendary pilot glanced left and spotted the GreyOne flying nearby.
"Hey Bill! Doing okay?" Fox said as he tailed a Borzoi jet.
Bill responded with a dampened tone. "Not really, Fox! I only have 37% shield power, and I'm nearly exhausted. There seems to be no end to these guys!"
"Hey!" Falco interrupted. "That's my line!"
Fox was confused on why his co-pilot would say that, but didn't respond. "We'll take care of things around here. Is Woshive around?"
"He gave me some trouble when he first came, but he still had that maneuvering weakness. I haven't seen him around lately. He must have gotten over to that fighting on the Kismet Fleet's flank. Good luck, Fox! We sure need your help!"
"When do you guys don't need his help?" Star replied, sarcastic. Bill ignored that remark, and continued on fighting.
"Rob, do you read me?"
"Yes, Fox."
"Where is StarWolf?"
"My radar reports four Wolfen-II jets heading this way from the northwest of the Great Fox. They will reach here in five minutes."
"Five minutes? They must really be in a hurry. Let me know when they come, okay?"
"Yes sir," the robotic voice answered, and shut down the comlink line.

Pat didn't want to think of such a possibility, but he might be too late to stop the Partisan ships. His very last nova bomb discharged from his jet, and managed to decimate a turret from the leading Partisan ship, but it wasn't enough. He watched in disbelief as he saw the six Cornerian ships fire torpedoes from all of their working guns into the several powerful engines of the Kismet. Sparkling flashes erupted from the engines, the ion shots doing their damaging jobs. Like a meteor shower, the ion torpedoes rained onto the Kismet's rear, and the massive Venomian flagship suffered heavily from the onslaught. More explosions blew out, then one huge flash almost blinded Pat, and for a dashing moment, he thought he was dead.
When the flash dimmed, Pat saw what used to be the engines, and shook his head in disbelief. The massive reddish glow had diminished into a series of small glares, and the Kismet had gone on a standstill. Almost all the engines were destroyed, and that was the first huge blow to the Kismet.
Fleet Admiral Thurman was so shaken by the huge tremors caused by the onslaught on the rear, that he hung on to the rails on the second floor for dear life, not wanting to fall nineteen feet down. When the tremors ceded, he staggered himself up, furious. "What the hell had happened here?"
Jameson rushed up to him, horrified. "Admiral! Our engines had decreased to 9% power! We can barely move!"
Carl grabbed his hat from the floor, only to throw it down again in anger. "Damn! Is the weapon still charging?"
"Yes sir, but the Cornerian ship that we were aiming at is trying to move out of the weapon's shot path! If they do that-"
"I know, I know! I would do that if I was the captain of that ship."
"Oh, you mean General Pepper?"
Carl glanced at the lynx slowly, his eyes burning into him. "General....Pepper? Is that what you said? Is that what your filthy mouth just spewed out?!!"
Jameson gulped. "Uh....yes, sir...."
The white German shepherd felt a pain of frustration in his mind. Crap....if only if I have known that ship just happened to be the flagship along with General Pepper, of all people, inside, I would have blown away that hound a LONG time ago!!! "Why....didn't you tell me that before?"
"Um, huh, I just heard about it. I have considered scanning those ships for the names of the captains, but why bother?"
On that moment, Carl Thurman's top had exploded. In a fit of extreme rage, he grabbed hold of his First Officer's collar, and forced him to lean against the rail fence. "You stupid idiot! Whoever recruited you into this position is a complete fool and moron!" Carl spat. "You don't deserve to live!"
With that, he lifted the helpless and screaming lynx over the fence, and screaming his last screams, Jameson fell nineteen feet down, and collided back first onto the first level floor. His spine splintered into several places, and looking down, Carl noticed that the lynx's right leg was bent in an impossible way....if he was still alive.
The Admiral noticed the console officers on the first level looking at the dead feline, and then stared up to him. Carl was too intent on the flagship on front of him though. "Don't just stand there! Fire the weapon now! Fire!"
One of the officers pleaded, "Not now, sir! It needs to be recharged fully-"
"Now, damn it!"
However, a machine like the weapon couldn't fulfill the Admiral's request. Carl could only watch as the flagship, with Pepper inside, drifted away in the fastest speed it could go, and his hopes for victory was dimming.
A minute later, the weapon fired. Carl's heart jumped as he saw the deadly comet hurl itself into the ship. For a moment, it looked as if the shot would indeed clinch a victory for the great Venom Empire. Carl grinned at that sight.
It missed, just a mile above the flagship. As Carl watch it go pass the ship into the far distance where it would disintegrate itself, his head shook in grief. Since the flagship would never dare to come back in front of the weapon, that possibility was lost forever. Carl slouched back onto his large chair, and laid a sweaty palm over his eyes.
A few moments later, he heard a loud beeping noise from the first level. Curious, he walked over to the rail and called the attention of one of the console officers. "What is that beeping for?"
The kit fox officer gulped before speaking. "Um.....the shield is gone...."
Carl refused to believe him at first. "It's got to be an error."
A flash darted Carl's attention to the front windows. An ion shot had splattered itself onto one of the wedges surrounding the stake of the weapon. There was no green hue. There was no shield. "Oh....God,"

StarWolf and the Sapphire Paladins came into a losing battle, but they almost didn't care this time. As hunters, they were intent more on hunting down their intended prey; the ones they fought against in Devin.
Wolf found the arwings cluttered among the countless other jets, and grinned. "Alright! This time, there will no turning back!"
"You always say that you will fight to the death," Pigma retorted. "When are you going to be serious about-"
"Shut up!" Wolf barked back and accelerated into the fray. Westly, wanting to shoot down Fox also, followed suit. The other Paladins and StarWolf pilots attacked the Cornerian jets, hoping to bring down the odds before having their chance with the main pilots. Not scared by their reputations, the Cornerian jets fought back against heavy odds, and though they paid a heavy price for it, they managed to weaken the Wolfen jets.
"Hey fellas! They're back!" Slippy piped up, spotting Andrew closing in for a possible kill.
"Not....again," Fara groaned. "They're so relentless at trying to kill us!"
Fox shook his head. "You have no idea. Alright, you know what to do."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, force them into retreat," Falco said blandly. "I know, I know. Sheesh!"
The arch-rivals fought in one of their main battles again, this time amid starships and plenty of allies for both sides. Not even thinking about being left off, the Cornerian and Venomian jets lent a paw, while the starships threw their one-shot-and-you-go-bye ion lasers. A tantrum of explosions glittered debris-filled space. Fox screeched past an all-firing Harlock cruiser, disabling several of the turrets, and dodging lasers from Wolf tailing him. He was just about to make a somersault when a laser struck his canopy.
Fox flinched, and spotted Andrew himself charging right at him.
"Ha, ha, ha!!! I'm going to make a roast out of you, Fox!"
Fox, of course, was unfazed. "Aw, I won't lose against a monkey."
Andrew in response turned up the power of his engines, going faster. To Fox, it seems that his strategy was to ram at him. Bad mistake against someone with a high maneuvering ability. Dodging lasers from both sides, he barrel rolled and swerved lightly, but kept heading in the same direction. Just a few yards away from death, Fox suddenly made a dive, and Wolf followed suit.
Andrew however, had poorer experience in maneuverability. He did dip his jet down, but Wolf's jet was in the way. He tried to bank up, but it was too late. The nose of his jet crashed against the rear of Wolf's jet, and both went spiraling off, screaming.
Wolf smacked his head on the side of the canopy, and cursed as he tried to gain control. He gripped hold of his control stick, and tried to wiggle himself out of this deadly jam. The battle was a blur to him as he circled in a quick, but slowing, pace. His engines were almost cut down due to the crash, and already his shield power was drained to 29%. After several slow moments, his spiraling slowed till he regained complete control.
In a massive, short-tempered fit, Wolf glanced his single eye in all directions, trying to find the jet with Andrew in it. He snarled in anger when he couldn't find him, and went on searching for his foe, whom was long gone.
Andrew was in worse shape when he gained control of his jet. He suffered a bruise on the head from the turbulence of the wild ride, and his nose was in real bent shape. Regaining his senses, he glanced at his status window.
"Damn....19% power on the shields. The left wing gunner is dead,.....and the right one is faulty but still alive. Man, Wolf, why must you be so slow! I would've missed you if you were just faster-aaugh!"
A laser startled him. The Catspaw was behind him, a little beat up but that caused her no concern. "Hey Andrew, I thought that since you hate Wolf so much, you should've avoided him, not crash together like lovers!"
"Shut up, you catnip-eating freak of nature!"
Andrew had just insulted her feline species and her fur color, and Katt just won't stand for it. With a fresh sense of intensity, she rained lasers onto the Emperor's nephew, splattering Wolfen-class debris off the jet, and blue fire burst out from the buffeted engines. A loud crack of his jet falling apart dawned realization onto the hapless ape.
Still alive, Andrew continued to scream through space, attacked again and again from the cat behind him. The StarWolf member tried to swerve left, but realized that he couldn't do it. His steering was gone, and he was heading in a straight line. There was nothing in front of him that would make a quick death out of him.
Well,.....not exactly. After all, the Kismet itself was about several miles away, right in front of the burning jet. Andrew chuckled deliriously, knowing his fate was about to be sealed.
With Katt still bursting lasers at him, Andrew whimpered, the sight of the Kismet growing and growing as he came closer to the hull of the ship's starboard. Moments flashed by, and soon he was so close to the ship that it covered his entire frontal vision. Katt, knowing he was done living in this war-torn galaxy, gave up and made a U-turn back onto the fray.
Andrew pressed himself back onto his seat tighter, although that was fruitless. He was so close that he could see the people across the countless windows, watching this doomed pilot with horrified eyes. "UNCLE ANNNNDRRROSSSSS!!!!!!!!"
Wolf may have failed to see the explosion that killed his co-pilot, but he heard his last scream, and chortled. "Stupid moron."

Chapter Fourteen

"He was okay,......I guess."
--Pigma Dengar, about his co-pilot Andrew Olkonny

"Well, here we are. Salem Rock," Daniel said as he stepped out of the transporter. Hot, arid wind blasted onto his massive body, and his boots shuffled in the sand. The soldiers behind him filed out, and Venus came out last.
The saluki was built for hot weather, but she was still not used to it. " nice to see you again," she said sarcastically. The five transporters landed just a quarter mile from the edge of the rock cropping that served as a foundation for the base. The boulders looked like granite, but they were much more tougher and their luster were just a tad darker. The ion cannons she requested from the nearby Venomian base were already in place, with three facing each side of Salem Rock. The large transporter, used for prisoners, was parked behind the troop transporters, the pilot sleeping inside. The four Sand Mobiles were parked in a row next to it.
Salem Rock itself was a mess. The base was charred from the inside out, cuing the Commander General that the Cornerians may still be inside, but in the end, they have won, even if they ended up as prisoners. Two hundred were reported cooped up inside that crumbling base, and Venus couldn't see them at all. The only evidence of them being there were the eight Cornerian troop transporters in the short distance.
"Well, Venus....what now?"
"Haven't I told you already, Daniel? I want two soldiers handling each ion cannon, and I want them to open fire all at the same time. The bombers will join them, and together, we will keep them cooped up inside. This won't be much of a battle, but I got nothing else to do. Might as well waste a bunch of ion shots that Andross won't replace. He might whine, but that's his problem, not mine. We might as well start this now. I don't see any Cornerians outside, but I know they're around somewhere."
"General Avalona, sir!" A soldier barked out nearby, looking at another direction with a telescope.
"Don't call me sir. What is it?" Venus walked over to him and looked at his direction. In the far distance was a Sand Mobile, coming toward Salem Rock.
"Well, ma'am, there's no markings on it. I can't tell if it's Venomian or Cornerian. stopped!"
"Is there someone coming out?"
The soldier waited for a short while, but then shook his head. "Doesn't look like it. What can we do about it?"
"Nothing for now. In that distance, it's no threat to us. Leave it alone."
"Yes, ma'am...." he said, putting away his telescope.
Venus then addressed to her soldiers. "To your places, soldiers! Fire on my command only!"
The chosen soldiers quickly marched through the sand to the placed ion cannons, and Venus watched the base. She spotted one soldier standing just barely outside of the base, but he quickly went back in, and that was all. All two hundred in that ruined base. How long can they resist against her?
A few minutes later, Venus looked up and spotted nine bombers on the sky. "Okay...this is it," she said, and raised a bullhorn above her head. With a resounding blast, the signal was given, and all of the ion cannons went off firing.
Salem Rock shook under the tremors of a dozen ion shots colliding against the rocks under it. Blast after blast, the ion shots did their rock, chipping off the rock outcropping piece by piece. A cloud of dust arose when a loose boulder fell and tumbled downward onto the sand, splattering the grains like a geyser. Meanwhile, the soldiers inside the base hung on, not ready to give up.
Shot after shot fired, and the boulders crumbled under the pounding. Minutes passed. The rain of ion spheres persisted on, not caring about the safety of the cooped up Cornerians. The bombs dropped onto the base, shattering already shattered walls, their debris adding to piles of crumbled materials. Several Cornerians burst out of hiding, screaming with fire on their uniforms, begging for Death to over sweep them. Venus felt a little queasy at that sight, but she would be feeling worse if that was a Venomian in trouble.
One half hour of firing went by, and Venus was getting a little bored. She quit watching the siege and went back inside her transporter for some privacy. However, she was alone briefly when a huge blast made her heart leap. She burst out of the transporter, wanting to find out what had just happened. There was a noticeable change on the outcropping when she got to the observation point. A hole, or tunnel, had showed up on the eastern side of the cropping, like it was the entrance to some mine.
"Venus! Look at what we just discovered!" Daniel spurted out, almost in excitement. "That's a mine entrance! You know what that means?"
"Humor me, Daniel."
"We could send some soldiers with bombs and plant them inside that mine. That would really cripple the rock foundation!"
"Too risky."
"But Venus! The Cornerians are all cooped up inside! If we could just continue our cannon bombardment, and stop when the soldiers are ten yards away from the mine, then they won't be fired upon. The same pattern goes when they are finished and on their way back! This is a big chance, here!"
Venus grinned. "God's Will......alright. Five soldiers. Two bombs each. I want them in and out in ten minutes."
Daniel saluted and rushed off to relay the command.
Minutes later, Venus spotted the five soldiers running in single file, kicking up sand, toward the mine entrance. When the time was right, the ion cannons stopped, and an eerie silence filled the air as the soldiers dashed inside the mine.
Venus checked her watch, and kept a close watch on the base. A few minutes went by, and one of the soldiers, obviously curious of the sudden cease-fire, came out. Venus was worried that someone might fire an ion shot at the soldier, and endanger the troops in the mine, but no one did that. That deserved a grin from the saluki. Her troops may be serving the so-called "Evil Empire", but they could actually help out Cornerians, if they were ordered to do so. Luckily, the Cornerian soldier crept back inside after a few more minutes.
The five soldiers rushed out of the mine, and soon the pounding of ion shots resumed. Venus noticed a sense of pride in their faces. They knew that the siege would be over soon, and there would be another victory for the Golden Hammer Unit.
"Are the bombs timed?"
Daniel shook his head. "No, they explode by pressing these buttons," he said, mentioning to a small, palm-size device.
"Alright. Fire the first two, and so on in ten second intervals."
The pair of explosions came as a rumbling muffle, and a cloud of dust rushed out of the mine entrance. Boulders fell and crumbled, and several walls of the base crashed down. The next explosions rocked the base, the support beams crashing down on helpless Cornerians. More and more bombs exploded within the mine, and finally the rock cropping crumbled entirely. The base snapped into several places, sending explosions and debris out to add the mess.
When the dust cleared, the base was a worthless heap of rubble, and several of the Cornerians were hollering out in surrender. The walls that remained standing were half gone, and riddled with cracks and ion shot holes. Venus whooped out in victory, her last one for Venom. She gave Venom the victory, not Andross. She would have nothing more to do with him.
"General!" One of the soldiers yelled. "They have all surrendered!"
"Good. Take all the prisoners you can, even the wounded, and leave the dead behind."
The soldier saluted and the rounding up of prisoners began shortly after. Salem Rock was no more.
As the last of the prisoners filed into the Sand Mobiles, Venus stepped into her private transporter that she requested from the nearby base. Daniel followed her inside. "I want a casualty list."
"Fifty Cornerians are killed, and a hundred are wounded."
"And for our side, Daniel?"
The mastiff smiled. "None killed or wounded, Venus. None at all."
"You know, I don't think any general had gotten a casualty list like that before. I might be the first one."
Daniel extended his arm. "Congratulations, Commander General Venus Avalona."
"A pawshake? With you, that won't be enough," she replied, and neared to his face to kiss him. The kiss was brief however, for the transporter pilot interrupted them through the monitor.
The two lovers sat back in place, both watching the monitor screen.
The pilot sighed. "Okay, the prisoners are now on their way to the base, and the troop transporters are already lifting off. Shall we go?"
"Alright. We'll follow them, but only until we get out of orbit. Your destination will be Corneria."
The pilot was not a myrmidon, so of course, he objected. "Uh, excuse me? Did I hear that right? Corneria?"
"When was the last time you had a hearing test?"
"Several years ago."
"Good. You don't need one for now. You heard me right. Corneria or bust."
The pilot gulped. "Uh.....yes, sir..."
"Good, and don't call me sir."
The monitor blinked off, and the transporter lifted off the sand. Daniel rested a paw on top of hers delicately. "You know you might be in prison once Pepper gets a hold of you."
"If that is the case, then I am okay with it. However, if there is a chance for me to take charge of a Cornerian military unit, then I will take it."
Soon, the transporter reached space, and instead of the others, it headed off to a different direction, toward Corneria.

The battle in space between the Fleets continued to rage on. Pat was horrified to find the Kismet's weapon shield disabled, but right now, his mind was set on the arwing in front of him. "Hey Fox! Happy Reunion!"
Not giving his former classmate a chance to respond, he depleted several lasers from his jet, and some of them found their marks on the arwing. Fox shook a little, then swerved left. Wolf was surprised to see this upstart coming right beside him, and since he wanted Fox down as well, he was jealous of him.
"Hey! He's mine!"
Pat knew Wolf's reputation, but he was intent on the fighting to fear him. "He's ours, is the right thing to say!"
To infuriate Wolf further, Pat steered in front of him, still pouring out lasers onto Fox. Wolf didn't bother to fool around with this cheetah. He changed his lock onto another jet, and with that jet locked, he fired a homing laser. The laser followed to it's target, and blasted itself onto the engines of Pat's Flood-class jet. Commander Woshive screamed in terror as flames engulfed him, and his jet exploded entirely.
Wolf grumbled. "When I say that he's mine, I meant it."
Meanwhile, Westly was having better luck against Fara than back in Devin. He managed to stay on her tail for too long, and Fara's jet suffered the consequences. With her shield power down to 39%, she decided to call for help.
"Hey fellas! Don't you think it's due time for someone to come over here and get this stupid Paladin off my tail?!"
"Sorry Fara," Star answered as she tried to get behind Westly. "I got caught up back there."
"Yeah, right-ugh!" Fara groaned as a spark flew onto her face.
Westly whooped as he scored another hit on the arwing. "C'mon! Give up! No one can-aaah!"
Star struck a laser onto his Invader-IV, shattering the left wing. Fox's sister rattled him with lasers, and Westly was too distracted to keep tailing Fara. As Star kept him busy, Fara made a quick getaway, and was finally safe. Frustrated by this new threat, Westly barrel-rolled as he swerved right, a technique that would enable him to turn faster. Star's Midnight , however, was a more advanced jet, and managed to keep up with him. Since barrel-rolling continuously was extremely unhealthy for the pilot, Westly was forced to give up on it, and his jet was struck by another series of lasers as a result.
"Alright Westly...," Star mumbled quietly. "It's time to finish you off."
Moments later, Westly looked back at his pursuer, and widened his eyes in shock. Bursting out of her jet was a nova bomb, and it was darting right at him. A sudden thought went through his mind. Even the best would have to die sometime.
A split second later, Amy's squadron had lost another pilot.

Fleet Admiral Thurman didn't bother to sit on his leather throne anymore, or even stay on the second floor. Just as soon as he realized the shield's nonexistence, he went down to the first level of the Command Bridge, and frantically paced behind the console officers near the front panel windows. His eyes glanced at the Cornerian ships in front of the Kismet, and noticed two Patriot-class ships facing the weapon, with another one alongside the weapon, trying to get itself in front of it. Carl knew they were trying to ram the weapon in order to destroy it, and he won't let them.
"C'mon! Can't you recharge it faster?" He demanded, although he had already asked that question before.
The white dazzling glow from the weapon grew brighter, and finally it shot out the comet in the direction of the nearest Cornerian ship. A cloud of bursting blue flame spewed out rapidly, and soon there was nothing left of the ship. Carl usually grinned at that sight, but not now.
"C'mon! Start recharging! Start recharging! There's another ship coming to ram us!"

Captain Josh Brooklyn of the C.A.F.D. Trevadooran hoped this plan of finishing off "Andross' Wrath" would work. He had just saw Captain Resmana's ship explode in front of the weapon, and he gulped in anxiety. The C.A.F.D. Fredericksburg , commanded by Captain Powella, would be the next ship in line to either save Corneria or be blasted into scrap, and then after that, it would be Brooklyn's turn to face Death.
However, although Resmana would go first, he wasn't really meant to be the savior. He was just a deploy, to fool Admiral Thurman to fire on him rather than on Brooklyn's ship. If that happens, Brooklyn would pull out his secret weapon, and strike the weapon while it was still recharging or in a stall mode. The four wedges surrounding the stake eliminated the possibility of striking the weapon from the side, so he must attack the pinnacle of the stake. It would still be a close call, however.
His ship was already attacked brutally from the ion gunners of the Kismet, but his engines were still in prime condition, and Josh hoped it would continue to be that way. As they passed the glowing white weapon and almost alongside the Fredericksburg heading the other way, the serval captain rested a comforting paw on one of the console officers. "How much longer?"
It wasn't a complete sentence, but the officer understood him. "It will fire in two minutes minimum."
"Okay. I think we are far enough in the front of the weapon. All stop."
The officer pressed several buttons. "All stop, sir."
"Shut down the engines."
The command was set into action. "Engines shut down, sir."
The serval nodded. "Okay.....pray."

Carl could hardly believe it. The Patriot ship that had it's back turned on him had just turned off it's engines. Why in the world would they do something that ridiculous? There was still the other ship to contend with though. He sweated feverishly, extremely nervous. He grabbed the shoulder of a working console officer.
"When it will fire?"
"One minute, sir."
Carl didn't respond, but released her. He paced some more, mumbling crazily. The stress was breaking him down.
"Forty seconds, sir."
Carl halted and watched the Patriot ship hurling itself closer to the weapon. It was a race, and Thurman, as a matter of course, wished his weapon charging would go faster.
"Weapon fired, sir!"
The Patriot ship was close to the weapon when it exploded under the violent power of the deadly comet shot. Carl whooped and threw his arms high in the air. "We made it! We made it! Ha, ha, ha, ha!!!"
One of the other officers, whom were paying attention to the last remaining Patriot ship in front of them, did not share Carl's bliss. "Huh, sir....."
"Yes, what now?" Carl asked, calming himself.
"That ship in front of's turning the engines back on...."
Carl glanced at the third Patriot-class ship, and his lower jaw dropped in horror. The Cornerian ship's engines were turning back on, but not the normal engines. Below the ship was another set of engines, and when those glowed back on, Carl recognized them.
", shit."
At their max speed, the unique retro-engines of the Patriot ship propelled the small starship in reverse, toward the pinnacle of the weapon's stake. Carl grabbed his hat slowly and took it off. He knew that his time to meet Death and go along with him had come. As the other officers bustled about in panic, the white dog remained standing, feeling hopeless and in despair. Even before the weapon could begin to glow again, the C.A.F.D. Trevadooran was already just about to collide with the weapon.
"Venom will never recover from this disaster...." Carl mumbled, his last words.
The Cornerian starship, with all the hopes of Corneria with it, crashed against the front of the weapon, and the Kismet began it's quick death. A rumble of explosions and shattered Venom dreams was heard by everyone in the battle site. The Cornerian ship exploded into a huge sphere of engulfing fire, taking the weapon along with it. Yard after yard of the Kismet's outer hull were ripped apart from within, and the entire ship glowed blue. Without warning, the core demolished itself, unable to handle the countless power of Cornerian punishment. An oval-shaped cloud of sapphire mist of death enveloped the Kismet, and it was so bright that it blinded even the pilot farthest from the doomed ship. Debris splintered out in chunks as big as meteorites, crashing into unlucky jets, Cornerian and Venomian. All one hundred thousand people in the Kismet were burnt into nothingness, and the battle was very much over.
In the Vermont-class ship, Cornerian Hope, General Pepper raised a fist to face level, celebrating victory. The rest of the crew erupted in cheer, some of them jumping and hollering, and all had smiling faces. One of his assistants shook the hound's paw wildly.
"We did it, sir! We did it!"
"Finally! Are the other Venom ships retreating?"
"Yes, sir! I'm proud to say that all of the enemy starships are leaving this area, including StarWolf and all remaining Venomian squadrons! We won, sir! We won!"
General Pepper could only smile in agreement, and shed off a tear of joy streaking down his face.

Emperor Andross the Great, ruler of the Venomian Empire, laughed in the banquet room.
Beside him, Caiman was busy with a fillet of catmeal, chuckling with him. "That was a wonderful joke, your Imperial Majesty! That was sure funny!"
The large maple doors opened, and a fox messenger hurried inside, holding a portable view screen.
Andross stopped laughing for now. "What is it?"
"I bring news from the battle between the two Fleets,...Mas-Master Andross...."
Andross was spooked by the fox's nervousness. "Well? Tell me about it."
"The battle is over, Master Andross."
Andross' face had grown a grin. "Ah....we won. The Kismet had just finished off the entire Cornerian Fleet, and I will be crowned as-"
The fox didn't want to interrupted his own master, but he did. "Um, uh, eh,...not exactly, um, um, eh,...sir..."
That wiped the grin off Andross' face. "What?"
"The Kismet is destroyed.....sir...."
On that moment, Hell had a voice.

Chapter Fifteen

"When I first joined in the Venom military, I had high hopes in living in a peaceful universe under Andross. After the Battle of Trevadooran, I hoped that even as a Venomian officer, I would be able to live in a society that might try to outcast me and those like me."
--Major Amy Johnson, Sapphire Paladins

Salem Rock was silent except for one place. That place was in a corner of a demolished room, when under a small pile of rubble, General Olsen stuck his paw out to drag himself out. Since he was the most important person in the base, the Cornerians hid him while the siege was underway, and when they surrender, they lied to the Venomians that Olsen had died. So, the cat was all alone when he tried to force his way out.
Well, not exactly alone, as the general would find out.
As he stood up and brushed off chips of rubble off his ruined uniform, he heard rustling behind him. He turned to find a female caracal nearby, her yellow eyes burning into his soul, and that spooked him.
"Who...who are you?"
The caracal only said one word. "Muerte."
Greg could only look at her puzzlingly. "What did you say? Is that your name?"
"No. Shivan."
Well, at least she understands me. "Oh. Could you help me here? I need to get out here."
Shivan's lips curled up in an evil grin. "It depends. Where do you need to get out of? Here or life?"
The general gasped in horror when he spotted the scythe-knife that she had just pulled out. "Please! Don't...don't kill me!" He pleaded, stumbling back in retreat over the rubble.
Shivan seemed calm, and her knife shone under the sun. "Sabes que pienso? Odio a los gatos. Realmente."
The cat didn't understand her, but he didn't want to know. He stumbled down, and in a frantic moment, glanced away from her and shuffled through the debris, trying to find a weapon. Bad mistake.
He was suddenly grabbed by the back of his collar, and was pulled up. He faced Shivan up close, and saw the real evil in her eyes.
General Olsen gasped in pain as the knife stabbed into his stomach, and blood oozed out in generous streams. His mouth opened to utter a scream, and as Shivan released him, he stumbled back again, his paws bloody from pressing against the wound.
Shivan held her knife close to her face and calmly licked a small dash of blood from the knife, which was her way of invoking more fear into the victim. She then laughed, her tongue a lighter red from the drink. "El dolor es benéfico para una cosa. Te dice que aún sigues vivo."
General Olsen tried to stagger up, but gave up and crawled on all fours, mumbling in pain and leaving a trail of crimson liquid. Shivan serenely walked to follow him, enjoying the show. "No vales nada. Tu y el resto de las especies iguales a ti."
Finally, the fatally wounded cat plopped himself onto the dusty rubble, and turned face up. He glanced at the assassin in front of him. " the...Devil?"
Shivan smiled, and only she could make a smile that evil. "Si....."
The General went limp, still breathing. Shivan knelt beside him, and pulled her arm back, the dripping knife aiming downward. One stab to the heart finished him, and with one last breath, General Olsen died. Shivan stabbed him again several times, and then stood up.
She spat him on the face, another trademark move. "Adios."

As the last remaining ships and jets of the defunct Kismet Fleet limped back to Venom, Major Nedra Benson found her last surviving co-Paladin nursing a small glass of scotch in one of the bars in Venom HQ. The snow leopard was dispirited, and her bluish eyes shone darker than normal. Sitting beside her was an equally somber Leon Powalski, holding a tall glass of red wine, but never drinking it.
Nedra pulled up a chair and sat with them. "I have the casualty reports, if you want to hear it."
Amy Johnson didn't reply, still staring at her scotch. Nedra shrugged unhappily. "Commander Tana is dead, and so have Commander Woshive and General Mikhail. Commander General Avalona is captured, but there are rumors around that she actually turned herself in. All pilots of the Conquest Squadron managed to survive, thankfully. Only thirty pilots from the Black Flood remains. All of the Zeram ships in the Kismet Fleet were destroyed, and from the twenty Harlock ships, only nine remain. Eight Dorisby cruisers destroyed. There are also-"
Leon held up a claw to halt her, but his eyes didn't look up to see her. " more."
Nedra paused, and gave them a moment of silence. "What are we going to do now? Venom's future lies on the Kismet. With that gone..."
"What can we do?" Amy mumbled. "We could resist, but that would take more lives. We could surrender, but if we do so, then we would have fought for over three years in this war, only to find out that we were destined to lose. Well, I'm sure Andross won't give up now. We will fight until Corneria had gained possession of every inch of ground here, even if it wasn't worth it anymore. Andrew is killed,....Westly is killed....I don't know how we can get out of this hole that we dug ourselves."
She then let go of her drink and covered her face with both her paws. "I'm so tired...just so tired...."

"Is that the last of them?" A doctor said as his medical team finished up gathering the dead in Forest Echo.
General Poland nodded. "Yes. That's all. Thank you, Doctor. You can go now."
The doctor nodded and stepped into the medical transporter. The collie general looked at the portable view screen, shaking his head. "Three thousand of my soldiers.....slaughtered."
"Uh, excuse me, sir?"
General Poland turned around, and faced a battle-tired jackal. He was young, probably at the minimum age for drafting. "Yes?"
"Private Allen Barnestien. I'm here to report that we are ready to go home, sir."
General Poland smiled. He wanted to hear that all day. "Good...good. Thank you, Private."
He was about to leave when Allen spoke again. "Sir?"
"When is this war going to be over?"
Edward was the wrong person to ask that question to, but Allen was too tired to think about that. "Soon, Private. Soon."
The jackal nodded, and breathed out a heavy sigh. "I hope so, sir. I hope so."

The End

*Author's Note*
And so ends the Battle of Trevadooran, named after the Patriot-class ship that sacrificed itself to shatter Andross' dream of total conquest forever. Never again will the Venomians attack Cornerian-held space. The war would continue to drag on, but they would always be on the defensive.
Over half a million people died in this battle. 340,000 people estimated had their lives cut short serving their emperor, and 250,000 estimated had died resisting Andross' will to conquer. A vast number of them were the crew members of the huge starships that were battling it out in space near Sector X.
Allen Barnestien finally managed to survive through the war, and came home. He married his girlfriend several years later, and his brother was buried in their local cemetery. Every so often, Allen would drop by and visit Don's grave, and spend his silent moments with his brother.
Travis Neal continued his spying ways throughout the remainder of the war. During peacetime, he dropped by Shoshont's hut in Titania, and even though she couldn't remember him, they eventually became friends. Travis sent her packing from her poverty-stricken house, and she moved into his Corneria City home.
The reason why I have decided to tell you about the future of these two is because they will not be mentioned in any of my future stories again. Unless they were back through popular demand.