Chapter 5: "I do what I am paid to do, thereís no going around itóI take great pride in my field of expertise." -Albert Louis, Black Phantom

"The Rush"

"Wolf? Wolf?" asked his wife; she was standing over him. He hesitated to open his eye at first, the blaring fluorescent lights burning his only eye. He could sense her presence, her spicy scent. His ears tried to decipher the voice that he had been accustomed to for so long. He felt bitterly cold, a fear crept over him, he believed that he was in the center between death and life. Pain surged up his spine every once in a while from his injuries. He couldnít move; his arms were tied down to the sides of the bed due to his case history of being violent. The taste of dampness fluttered inside his mouth as he plucked his tongue out, trying to gain consciousness.

Laura frowned as her husbandís condition; he was an awful sight. She started to believe that he wasnít going to make it, since he suffered the loss of blood on his way back to home base. She pitied his unwise action, going at it alone, underestimating the young fox. And still, she placed her tender paws over his moist forehead, face in a mournful frown.

"Wolf? Wake up, please?" She continued, stroking his foreheadótrying to ease his suffering. Standing beside her was Leon, the well-known chameleon to have ever obtained the wolfís best interest. Even he didnít want to see his comrade fall victim to an international hero. His yellow eyes focused onto the female voice, almost scorning. He walked up beside her, eyes narrowed when she turned to him.

"This is all your fault! If he never took you in, he wouldnít have did something so reckless!" he exclaimed, pointing rudely at her face with threatening claws.

Her ears rested back against her head as her eyes started to close, heeding his words of truth. She didnít want to accept the blame, though she knew it wasnít fair to have been forced into such a predicament. Again and again, the chameleonís voice trailed into one ear and out the other. Her mind was elsewhere, one half was caring and the other pitying herself.

"You hear me? You will be his fate if you donít leave now. Surely, heíll agree to terms when he awakes. Youíre just manipulating him to do anything, thatís it isnít it?"

She opened her eyes; one tear glided off her cheek, spilling upon her belovedís face. She shook from within herself, emotions coming out into the open. Grasping her loverís paw tight, she turned to Leon.

"Leon, I donít want to hear this right now, okay?" her eyes glazing convincingly into his.

He lowered his finger, one hand tucked into his side, "Humph, canít take the blame huh? So be it, Iíll make sure Andross puts you away!" he finished, walking out as if he had just won against her.

She turned her head, somewhat in a startle and dreadful fright. She watched the wooden door close behind him, it hissed at heróalmost like a serpent. The room was silent again as she turned her attention back onto Wolf. He eye was still closed, but it moved behind its lid as if dreaming. Slowly, Wolfís chest would rise and collapse into layers, he grimaced even in his dormant condition. It was a very painful sight.

Laura bent to his face and applied as sweet kiss, one that would heal most peopleís stress. She hoped that he could feel it as she repeated. Her head brushed up against his, snuggling against his warmth. And still, he only took in painful breaths of air, panting whenever a large tremor of pain surged through him.

Suddenly, the doctor came into the room. A male leopard dressed in white, his long jacket draped over his body, the back end almost touching the floor. In his arms, he carefully held a clipboard of the wolfís status; he scanned over the papers and then looked up at her.

"Mrs. OíDonnell maíam, Iíll have to ask you to leave now. Your husband needs a lot of rest to recuperate, especially in this condition."

She nodded without retaliating, though staying by his side is what she preferred to do. Things were getting very serious she thought, stepping outside the room with folded arms. She studied the world around her; everyone seemed to be gloomy or even distraught. Venomian after another, all of them exchanged a glare at her, now she finally understood that she wasnít welcomed there, nor belonged among them. In everyoneís eyes, she was still the Cornerian, just one that roamed freely and consumed their materials. They even illustrated with mocks of her being spoon-fed by the Lieutenant Commander.

Laura felt very lonely, even if she had a husband. It didnít make a difference if she had her spy title or not, sheíd always be looked down on both sides of the story. She walked down the endless corridors, meeting the multiple of glares and frowns.

She entered inside her own chamber; it was just as same as her husbandís. She could feel the roomís chill, knowing many bad people once living within. Walking over to the bed, she sat down and leaned back. Staring up at the ceiling of sharp pointed creases, she pretended to hear the dying voices of fallen soldiers, theyíre presence floating about. Everything around the room had life to it, a history.

Hours passed, it seemed like days. Her attention aroused with suspicion when three figures before her stood, black sheets with eye openings over their headsódressed completely in black attire. She startled when the images materialized into figures. Raising up, one of them tried to pounce on her. She rolled off the edge of the bed and immediately got to her feet, ready for self-defense.

One of the three motioned an arm, "Take care now!" a maleís voice ordered behind the mask, very indistinct to recognize. As told, the second member came forward with a dash, diving for her legs. Laura leaped up into the air and back kicked him as he passed. The culprit rushed into the wall; his head broke into the plaster. Seeing this, the final culprit raised his chest up to set an example of his might. She rolled her eyes as the culprit dashed toward her.

Turning, she performed a mid-air cartwheel, his boot connected into the foeís face. He went down with a hard thump as another came forward. She ducked down, raised up when the masked animal rubbed against her backóflipping him over. Turning around, she analyzed the party memberís tails. She came to an assumption of a leopard, puma, and tiger. She didnít have a clue why the small group attacked her.

Recovering, the biggest one came at her again. She ran over to a wall, ran up it, and then executed a round kick, sending the tiger swirling over the bed. When she came down, the two others attempted to apprehend her by her arms. She struggled to free herself, kicking and punching. When that proved unsuccessful, she retaliated with a dangerous bite. She sunk her teeth into the leopardís arm, the furry behind the mask screaming in agony. He let her go as she tried to repeat the process with the other.

She felt a fierce punch ruining her face from the puma. She staggered back against the wall, muzzle bleeding. She grunted and then ducked as another fist came flying toward her face. She ducked in time as the fist entered the wall. Balling her fist up, she struck hard as she could to his groin, then the pumaís world turned upside down as he kneeled down in pain, falling on his side.

The tiger tackled her from the side, almost pinning her to the carpet. His weight was enormous; she could barely lift him, let alone move the huge cat. Seeing this, the leopard ran up with a swift boot, heeling her face. A gash formed above Lauraís left brow, its stinging sensation was very unpleasant. Not deteriorated just yet, she kneed the tiger at his groin over and over until he let go.

She used her powerful grip and yanked the leopardís feet from underneath him, he came crashing down like glass. Scrambling to her feet, she molded her boot into the tigerís face. He flew into the wall, landing on top of the injured puma. Going for the nightstand, the leopard took note and grabbed her ankle. She continued to force herself toward the drawer, where her dagger nestled peacefully.

Grunts and groans formed the roomís music of struggle. Reaching for the drawer, she slightly slid it open. Trying to reach inside, she felt another hopping on her back. With the added weight, she collapsed in a wasteful effort. Pinned, she tried to turn over and fight, but she felt another grabbed her legs and a strong paw restraining her head down.

"Arg, let me go!" she growled, being slap afterwards. She could taste her own salty blood as it lingered at the side of her muzzle. Some blood drooled onto the carpet as another powerful fist silenced her. Her face went in the direction of the opposing force. With her hips nailed tight to the floor, she felt some claws scraping at her back, ripping her shirt into shreds. She wailed as the large claws pierced her back, making various tears into her flesh.

From behind, she could feel someone puncturing with a small blade into her thigh. A series of screams erupt from her. The next thing she knew besides pain was being gagged with a rolled sock, scotch tape wrapping around her head. Deeply hurt emotionally and physically, she was brought to her feet as she was dragged toward the bathroom. She shivered at the sensation of icy marbled tiles touching her fur.

One feline turned on the shower, running blazing hot water. The strongest among the pack held her into a tight headlock from behind, her arms dangling freely. Motioning her head toward the tub, it slowly filled up with steaming water. While the two others contained her, the third member walked outside the bathroom, searching around the room. He ran up toward a window seal, motioned to unshackle the curtains. He slid out the metal rod, which held the drapes. Slapping the short, extended pole against his paw, he dashed back into the bath, shutting the door behind him. Soon, senseless cries echoed beyond the doors!

* * * *

Commander Mason motioned his feline head over to a nearby door down the basement level of the military complex. He had never seen a door left open so freely, so he walked over to investigate the situation. Creeping up quietly, he could hear a series of chatter and then laughter. Peeking inside, he could see two panthers, one doing something near the mainframes while the other stood behind him, her paws placed over her hips.

He studied the device that the male panther was placing inside a mainframe, since its rectangular latch was screwed offóonly technicians were allowed to do such a thing. Gathering enough information to know something was going on, he carefully stepped back. When he did, he accidentally bumped into the wall, knocking over some construction pipes.

The panthers startled to the large crashing sound, Tiffany calmly approached the door. When she opened it, she could see nothing, besides the fact two large piles rolling toward her feet. She studied them for a moment and then back at her lover. Albert gave a nod to signal her to go check it out. Doing so, she walked into the hall, unsheathing her throwing knives. Her stainless stain blades shined when lights overhead glared over them. She held one back beside her ear, ready to throw.

Moving over to a dead end section within the basement, she analyzed the brick wall. Nothing appeared to be wrong, but she firmly believed that another was hiding somewhere. She paced over to another section, away from the cubical wall of red bricks. Sighing quietly, the panther commander was holding himself up over the ceiling of the dead end. He had successfully managed to climb to such a great height and be strong enough to hold against the walls hard as he could, not uttering a sound. He may be a rookie, but he was smart!

When the coast was clear, he softly crawled down and peeked around the loose corners. The female panther was nowhere in sight. Seeing this, he quickly walked to the nearest stairway, cause taking the elevated would make too much noise. When he thought that he was completely free, a knife pierced behind his right knee. In response, he stumbled to the floor, holding the blade, which was in fairly deep.

He clenched the blade tight and then pulled it out fast, blood started to drain out slowly. He examined the knife, his red paint smeared on it, it was so lushóso red. Suddenly, another pierced his right arm. He yelped temporarily, pulling that one out. He turned to see where they were coming from, but no one stood behind him or opposite of doorway.

He felt terrified as he heard another crisp sound chirping within the stale air. He ducked quick as the knife ricocheted against the wall. The blade fell to the ground with a sharp cling, still shining its marvelous silver. The panther continued to get inside the door that led into the stairway case. Going inside, he attempted to stand, double-timing his limps up the steps.

He looked over his shoulder to see the female panther as she teased him with another blade within her paw. She arched it back and unleashed it upon his back. When it struck him, his body bounced forward as if someone punched straight into his spinal cord, then another shriek escaped from his lips. Wounded again, she continued to torture him slowly. Pulling out another blade from his back too fast, blood squirted over his uniform. He continued to limp upstairs, just moments away from the level one door.

Tiffany followed behind him, acting as some dreadful bedtime monster that seemed to come at him faster, he being the slow motion victim. Panting in pure fright, he refused to turn around. Barely at the door, just an arm reach away, he felt another blade, this time it was a take down stab. It entered into his left shoulder, he cried out again, tears forming within his eyes. Still, he continued to crawl as the female panther added more weight on his back, applying the blade deeper.

"ArgÖ" he sobbed, reaching for the doorís handle. Behind the door, officers and soldiers passed by, unaware of their troubled commander. Turning the knob, it slipped from his fingers. A nearby desk clerk examined the doorknob, watching it turn and then immediately retreating back to its original state. The lioness stood up and slowly approached the door. She placed her ear against it, trying to make out the noises that formed behind, grunts.

Tiffany noticed the casting shadow from beneath the doorís slit. Trying to cover up in time, she rolled the commander over on his back, hiding his trial of blood streaks. With her knife held up high, she stabbed him straight in the heart. He let out a gurgling sound as he choked on his own blood, he laid motionless. When the door opened, the lioness studied the scene of the female panther hugging the commander, her lips kissing him passionatelyóhis reaction appeared to be astonished.

"Oh commander, excuse me sir," the lioness said, turning her head away, leaving. With that cue, Tiffany released her lips from his, gathering some of his blood from his mouth. She licked around the base of his muzzle, cleansing the blood off. She looked into his eyes, watching the final light, his soul flickering out like a dying fluorescent light.

Smiling at his corpse, she kissed him on the lips again, "My, youíre really cute! I love your eyes!" she added, edging a knife around his opened eyes, "I might have to cut them out to keep them as a souvenir, what do you think?"

She moved his lips for him, "Oh, I think thatíll be grand," she answered for him, moving his bottom lip as she spoke.

She then gathered him to his feet, threw him over her back and went back down to the level where her lover workedócleaning the small mess as she went back down. By the time she entered in with her prize, Albert was just placing the latch back onto the mainframe, about to seal it up. He slowly turned around to greet her, seeing what she found as prey.

"Whoa, what a prize baby, I think you got a big one. Check to see who he is, he may have something very important on him," Albert ordered, sealing the latch with a blowtorch.

Tiffany bent down and slid the dead feline against a wall, allowing his body to slump down like a dead log. She reached inside his jacket, looking through his pockets and the like. She checked his pants next to find his wallet. As she turned the body over, the front portion of his jacket revealed his medals. She paused with her jaws dropped down.

"Oh my god!"

Albert lifted the lid up on his safety goggles, "What is it now?" he asked, minimizing the flame on the torch.

She looked to him, "I just killed the commander!" she checked his wallet, even the assumption was right. The information within his wallet was of the militaryís highest ranking.

"You what!? Theyíll be looking for him soon!" He growled back, slamming his lid back down, finishing up the frame.

"Iím sorry, I thought he was just some soldier!" she darted back, taking the commanderís wallet.

After an hour, they found themselves back onto the rooftop across the military building. Within the base, a custodian came across the lower level of the mainframes. The raccoon whistled as he went down along the hall, pushing his little cart of supplies. He turned a corner and glanced at the closet door that was slightly open, though he usually closed it all the way. When he stopped in front of it, he inserted the key, though the door came open a bit more.

"What in the hell?" he cursed, opening it with his other paw. Inside, he stumbled over the commanderís body. His eyes widened in fear as he stumbled back against a wall, holding his heart, gasping for air. The raccoon suffered asthma; it started to act up, so he breathed in his inhaler from his shirt pocketÖ

Dialing in the number to the military building, Albert placed the cellular phone to his ear, smiling down below at the Cornerians that walked on the sidewalks.

"Corneria Military, how can I direct you?" asked a voice from the front desk of the building.

Laughing, "Yes, well, thereís a bomb inside the building! You can tell the mutt not to run out or it will detonate. You can tell that dirty dog not to allow anyone else to interfere! YOU CAN TELL THAT HOUNDÖ to have a pleasant day," he mocked, closing the lid to end the conversation.

He glanced over to his right to see his lover setting up a rifle, basic issue sniper with a scope. She opened the suitcase, took out the parts, and carefully assembled them. She made the frame, connecting the base with the top portion, and then adding the arm guard. Motioning over to its cartridge, she placed it into its specially designed slot. With a click, it was ready to fire once she gently slid the scope across its view finger.

"All set baby, now the fun begins!"

* * * *

Later that day, StarFox members gathered together around the operating table. A room full of bright lights, walls painted white, operating materials scattered about the room and that hospital odor sickened the foxes. Fox lay beside his lover, examining her wonderful eyesóhow they seem to light up when around him. Katt was stationed beside Fara, placing a thin needle into her flesh, stitching up her wounds. Every little puncture made the vixen grimace in pain--she felt colder every time the felineís paws rubbed against her back.

In Foxís condition, he was awake, but barely. He could see Falco and Peppy working on him. Stitching up his stab wounds, growling and groaning whenever he was given chance to. Slippy watched from a distance, he was squeamish at the sight of blood.

Since the attack, Bill advised that heíd stop by once he get a few things straightened out back base. As he stated, the husky commander arrived just in time with more tragic news. He came inside, startling everyone as he did. He rushed over to Fox in a hurry, fax paper in paw.

"Fox! Are you okay?" Bill asked, coming into Foxís view.

Fox looked up, eyes still having that impression of exhaustion, "Iíll be okay. Whatís wrong?"

Bill held the fax paper up, "This just came from Corneria! It states that General Pepper has been rigged with a bomb. His entire facility can not exit, cause the culprits probably have snipers looking around. Iím still trying to figure this out, but Iíll have to be at the scene to fully understand."

Fox groaned, "I see. Well, Iíll be there soon. Iím actually kinda getting use to being on Katina," he said with a smile.

Falco rolled his eyes, "Anyway, you MUST stay here! I canít risk you getting hurt like this again. Youíre lucky that insane wolf missed your heart!"

Peppy came in, "Yeah, itís better to stay in bed Fox, youíre in no condition to go out for weeks! That goes the same for Fara, both of you can stay here while we go to Corneria."

Everyone stared at Fox, "What about Wolf?"

Bill frowned, "Thereís one more thing guys," he started, "Iíve just learned after the fax that Andross has sent a hundreds of soldiersÖ"

"Where are they going to attack this time?" Peppy asked, stopping his stitching.

"Here!" Falco finished, taking off his rubber gloves.

Katt sighed, "So, theyíre coming to attack Katinaís main military base? Thatís justÖ" she growled in frustration.

"So, we have two big problems?" Slippy asked, still posted at a corner.

"Yep, this is some really bull!" the avian commented.

Fox looked over to Fara, "Weíll be fine, you guys go on without us," he ordered, pushing Falco and Peppy aside, trying to sit up but falls back.

"No way, we canít leave you two here alone!" Bill persisted, trying to keep his best friend safe from harm.

"Look! Bill, you must stay and fight on this planet!" Fox growled, "If that maniac ape takes this base, General Pepper wonít have half of his fleet! Besides, Katt and Jennifer can assist the problem on Corneria."

Bill sighed, "Fine! Iíll stay here and fight off Androssí minions, you just stay put, and I mean it!" pointing his canine finger at the fox.

"Well, letís get going! Venom wonít wait!" Falco yelled, motioning for the door.

Katt tied the last stitch to Faraís back and then sliced the string. She placed patches over Faraís wounds and then did the same for Fox afterwards. Slippy and Peppy followed suit as Falco exited. Bill gave a pat to Foxís shoulder, winking at him and then leaving. Katt smiled at Bill as he left.

"Well, theyíre gone, I guess I better get your sister Fox. Besides, Iím sure her hacking skills can solve this problem with ease," the feline grinned, throwing her flight jacket over her skinny shoulders.

"Donít worry Katt, weíll be fine," Fara added as her friend left without a trace. Together, the two foxes lay side by side, cuddled against each other.

"Fara?"

"Yes?"

"Tell me what happened back at Venom. Where did you go and what happened?" Fox asked, kissing her forehead as he held her tighter.

She had a hard time remembering, but the images all came back to her, though vague, "I remember being captured by Wolf. I went to the cell level, and tried to rescue Laura. I saw her there, mounted on the wall, as if been beaten. When I released her, Wolf locked me within cell with her. It was a trap for you, but I fell into it first," she started to shiver by reminiscing the cold chills within the dungeon.

"Uh huh, what next?"

"Well, next thing I know, Laura attacks me, she slapped me to the cell bars. Wolf was waiting right there for me; he started to harass me in a way that sickens me. I wanted to scream, I did, and still you didnít show. Soon, I remember Leon torturing me. I cried and cried; no one came to help me! I was really alone down there, she spoke softly, sobbing."

"Sheís a traitor? What didnít you tell the others that? We couldíve stopped her if she ever set foot back into Cornerian territory."

"Yes, she betrayed her own. I didnít want to tell the others because I wasnít sure on what to believe in yet until I see how things played out. The game hasnít ended, until Wolf is dead."

Fox snarled, "I hate him! He almost killed me here. ThoughÖ" he started, remembering about the picture that the wolf had given him, "he gave me a photo."

"A photo? What did it reveal?"

Fox motioned over to his pocket to pull it out, when he did, their eyes scanned three standing figures. When Fox held it up to her face, her eyes narrowed in a sorrowful stare.

* * * *

Jennifer finally arrived at the scene, running up beside Katt, both standing before the building. The complex was a big one, ranging twenty-three stories high, wide oval shape and it connected to another building behind it. They studied the doorways, people inside staring right back at them, they eyes displaying great fear.

"I donít understand this, why donít they come out?" asked the vixen, slowly walking up a few steps. Katt folded her arms, "They canít. The bomber clearly stated that he or she would blow them all to smithereens. They have no choice, but to remain in lockdown. SoÖ this is a very bad situation."

"But canít we go inside?"

Katt shook her head, "No one in or out. The rules are strict, though can we tap into the system from the outside?"

Jennifer gave a nod, "Sure, my trusty laptop can do the job, hopefully I can break into the system and find the location of the bomb. If I can, then the general can find it, and disarm it. Though, Iím the one that needs to be in there to do it."

"You sound so sure Jennifer, I just hope you know what youíre doing girl."

Jennifer slid her backpack off her shoulder and then unzipped it to bring out her laptop. Together, they walked up toward the entrance, "All I need is a line to connect, perhaps thereís an outside tap around the entrance?" Jennifer said, looking for some cord support around the bushes against the building. In luck, she found an outside wire, a small box with a protective lid. She ran up to it, feeling around the lid to see if she could get it off. It was sealed tight, though nothing a good screwdriver wonít cure.

Reaching into her backpack, she pulled out her screwdriver and immediately began unscrewing the screws. Katt watched from behind her, standing off to the side, admiring the beautiful day that has gone wrong lately. The screwdriver slipped and barely sliced the vixenís index finger, "Shit! I hafta be more careful or Iím going to hurt myself," she laughed, trying to get the last screw off.

When she finally got lid off, she inserted her laptopís phone plug within the outside plugin. Tapping a key on her computer, it flickered on, its bright screen glowing terribly against the sunlight. Katt watched in curiosity as she watched the vixen go hard at work within the militaryís system.

From inside her scope, the panther focused down in on the two comrades that were interfering with their plans. She turned to her lover, "Albert, come here a second?" He walked over, glancing into the scope.

"Tell me what you see?"

"Oh, I see two animals down there trying to tamper with our goal. Well, take care of it baby. Iíll get on my laptop and station a number one blockage within the system. If theyíre persistent, get rid of them," he said, walking over to a crate, taking a seat before his computer. He quickly accessed the buildingís system and worked his magic.

Aiming at the two friends, Tiffany squinted her eyes to get a precise and accurate reading. Keeping her finger by the trigger, she aimed at the vixen first.

"Ah, I see you dear. Just keep it steady and you wonít know what hit ya," she grinned, finding a perfect place on the vixenís body.

"Come on, tell me what youíre doing?" Katt begged from behind, folding her arms impatiently.

"Just a minute, Iím picking up something. Itís a message! Letís see what it says shall we?" the vixen smiled, clicking on an e-mail icon. Moments after opening it, the subject line read: You Were Dreaming and then the body of text told her to turn around.

When Jennifer turned around, Katt studied her expression, "What?" and then a loud blast erupted from a distance.

To be continuedÖ