As the Raven Flies - Part 4

By Zoe E.L Stead.

The lonely path to oblivion.

The final part to my fanfic. If you liked the rest, I'm really pleased. This is my very first

complete fanfic ever and I hope that everyone out there enjoyed reading it as much as I liked

writing it.

Dedicated to StarFox fans everywhere.

The lonely path to oblivion

Raven Helix was feeling pretty pleased with herself and just to prove the fact, turned Firefly

into a barrel roll with all gusto. She had uncovered one of the Underground's most notorious

gangland leaders and was sure she had struck them where it hurt. ëThe Boss' had been one of

the most wealthiest of all the Underground villains, funding most of their operations. Now,

however, there would be a serious decrease in their funding, not to mention less of a threat to

the innocent creatures of Corneria. Caprin Lyar had sent a message to Raven earlier that

morning, telling the vixen about her new mission, which she had taken up with pleasure. It

was boring living all day and all night on the deserted space station of Delta 39, waiting for

her com to flash with a new message. True, she had begun to turn the deserted station into a

place all of her own, with its own living quarters, repair bay for her ship, exercise room, etc,

but it was nice to have something useful to do. It kept her mind off the fact of how much she

missed everyone back at the Equinox base, not to mention her father.

Raven's ship was currently cloaked, so she was more than a little surprised when she saw

another ship heading her way on what looked like an intercept course. She tried to scan the

oncoming vessel, but found it was not quite in range.

ëObviously doesn't know I'm here. Most likely a surveillance craft from Aquas,' she told

herself, ëYes, look, it's going in the other direction,'

Little did Raven know that the pilot of the Lamda Bravado knew exactly where she was, and

that he was keeping out of her scanner range for a purpose. Tregar wanted to make it look

like he was not at all aware of her presence, that was, until the right opportunity showed up.

The mink had been working on making a ëthud' missile for the past few minutes and was

almost ready to see if his little creation would actually work. A ëthud' missile was something

they used back on Tregar's home-planet all the time during their space fights. It would not

destroy an enemy ship, only cripple it in some way. The way Tregar planned to use the

missile on Raven was to take down her hi-tec laser shields by reversing the frequency with an

electrostatic pulse. If that worked, he could get a shot at her g-diffuser. From the blueprints

of Firefly he and Zen found in the Equinox database, he knew that if he could disable that, he

might just stand a chance of keeping up with her. If he tried to make contact with her like he

was now, it was more than likely that she would take off in a ball of afterburner flame and

disappear for good.

"Right. It's now or never," Tregar muttered to himself, arming the missile and setting a

direct intercept course with Firefly. As soon as he was close enough he let the smart missile

loose from his bomb bay.

Raven noticed the other ship's sudden course change immediately.

"He knows I'm here!" she gasped, the concept of someone getting through her cloaking

device almost unbelievable, "It looks like I better get outa here- ugh, I've been hit!"

The missile had done its work, the impact having exactly the desired effect. Inside Firefly the

ëlow shield' warning lights were blazing all over the front and overhead consoles. Panic

stopped Raven from seeing Tregar's ship powering up its lasers and taking a deadly aimed

shot at the back of her plane. It was right on target and the g-diffuser went up in flames,

luckily the onboard distinguisher putting the danger out immediately.

"Stop there! I don't want to fire on you anymore, stay where you are!" Tregar radioed

desperately, hoping he had the right frequency for her com.

Raven wondered whether she should make a run for it with her broken diffuser and risk it, or

stay and find out what this stranger wanted. She was about to set her engines to full throttle,

when she looked down at her scanner screen. The other ship's stats looked decidedly

familiar. That was when Raven realised this was the pilot she had used to talk through to

Fox, when he and the team had been in danger.

"Tregar Folessa, the Lamda Bravado?!" she said out loud.

"Hey you remember me!" Tregar's voice replied cheerily over the com, "Look, I'm real sorry

about doing that, but I didn't think you'd want to stick around for a chat."

"How did you know I was here? And how did you scrap my shields in one blow. You'd have

to know my plane's specs if you.....Do you work for the Underground?"

"Me? Get real," Tregar grimaced, "You know I don't do uniforms."

Raven smiled. He might have shot at her, but his jovial explanation seemed plausible.

Besides, if he wanted her dead he could have killed her quite easily back then, while she was

struggling to decide what to do.

"So what did you want to talk to me about. And don't think I've forgotten about my last

question, I want to know. This ship's a top secret design."

"Firefly, built by Equinox IV as a prototype for a new class of deep space fighter jets."

Tregar rattled off like an itinerary list, "Four Casari engines, treble laser cannon ports, can

hold up to six long range Delta missiles and twenty nova bombs. Temperature degradation at

15'000 degrees, top speed-"

"How? What?" Raven sputtered, amazed that he knew so much,

"I know all about you Raven," the mink replied, cutting short Firefly's history to change the

subject to herself, "I know about how your plane crashed on Corneria when you flew against

StarWolf, and how you were taken to Equinox, where you were saved by the once famous

bioscientist Caprin Lyar. I know that it was you who saved us from that last attack of

Andross's by telling me how to disarm the missiles. Look, I know everything."

Raven was too shocked to speak. She felt numb, like her whole life had just been put on

display for all to see, but there was only one thing going round in her mind.

"So you know I'm half....." she trailed off.

"Yes," Tregar said gently, "I do. But that's not what I came to you about. I need your help."

"And what gives you the idea I'm going to help you? Or will you blackmail me with all this

information you have?" Raven answered stiffly.

Offended, the mink replied, "No, I'm not like that. You can either help me or not. It's your

choice but I'd strongly hope you'll agree. Otherwise Fox will be in serious trouble."

"Fox?"

Tregar smiled inwardly. He knew how to get her interested.

"Yes. Earlier today a transport ship was destroyed and all of it's crew taken to Venom as

hostages. The StarFox team has been ordered to deal with the situation. If Fox disagrees to

help, then all those lives will forever be on his paws and, I'd imagine, that wouldn't make

him very popular, would it? However, if he agrees, he risks the lives of not only the hostages,

but his own team, including my lovely self. Venom is not he easiest of places to get into

nowadays, despite the fall of Area 6 when Fox last paid a call...."

"I see," Raven mused, "So how can I help?"

"Can you modify your cloaking device to be used by two planes, say, fling twenty metres

apart."

She though for a second.

"Probably. But I'd need stuff that I certainly don't have with me, nor back at my station."

"That's no problem. The engineering bay in Great Fox is extemely well equipt."

"Oh no, if you think I'm going there!"

There was a pause.

"You know what I look like! No, no there's no way I can go with you. I'm sorry," she

blustered trying to think of some way out of the situation.

"Damn it girl!" Tregar exclaimed, "Does it really matter? Do you think the whole of StarFox

will stand there and laugh at you? Is that what friends would do? I doubt that! If anything,

Fox will be more happy to see you alive than anyone in his life! Not to mention your father."

"My father still works there?"

"Yes."

"But then I.....I can't .... I really can't."

"Raven," Tregar said, more softly this time, "We need you. Those hostages need you, and

most of all I need you. I think I have a plan, but it can only be pulled off with the use of your

ship. If it makes it any clearer for you, a friend of mine was killed today by StarWolf,

defending that transporter. I want them to pay, and they will, but only with your help."

"StarWolf? Why didn't you say?" Raven cried, "I'd do anything to see them get what they

deserve! Alright Folessa, I'll go with you."

"You couldn't have spent you whole life alone," the mink told her, as both ships powered

their engines, and turned back to head towards Great Fox.

"I know," Raven replied quietly, "Thank you."

"Don't thank me yet," Tregar joked as usual, "Thank me when we've kicked some lupine tail

and we're flying in the opposite direction to Venom!"

Back on Great Fox.....

"Mr McCloud!? Two ships approaching Great Fox, one unidentified by all known records.

Shall I allow them docking?"

Fox looked up from the map of Venom he was studying.

"What's the other ship?" he asked docking control.

"The Lamda-"

"Yes let them in."

"Gees," Falco commented, "I wish Tregar would tell us when he wants to bring his friends

round."

"I give up with him sometimes," Peppy uttered tiredly, "He's got far too much energy, just

looking at him wears me out."

"Just proves the point I've been making for years!" Falco laughed, but when he saw the look

on the hare's face, he shut up, even though he was only joking.

Fox turned the holo-projector off with a click, and motioned for the others to follow him,

"Let's go and meet them shall we? I have a feeling that soon all will be revealed."

"Let's hope it's of some help too," Peppy replied, "At the moment we're getting nowhere

fast."

"Knowing Tregar," Fox said with a shake of his head, "It probably will be."

In the docking bay Tregar was the first to get out of his ship. Once he had waved away the

mechanics that began to surround his ship, he walked over to the bay next to him, where the

brightly painted Firefly had docked.

"Come on you gotta come out. Good job you ain't claustrophobic or anything!" he called,

trying to make light of the situation,

"I'm doing my hair!" came the equally smarm reply, that made the mink laugh, "Alright, I'm

coming."

The cockpit opened and out got a young female fox wearing a set of plain grey flight overalls

and a light blue cover jacket. The uniform covered most of her body, only revealing her left

robotic paw and a pale metal plate that ran around behind her neck, but that was mostly

covered by her long light orange fur. Her face was slight and pretty with amber coloured eyes

and Tregar could see no way in which this young pilot could be ashamed of what she looked

like. Unless you saw her paw there was no way anyone could guess what lay beneath the

overalls, and even then, most of that was covered in fake fur. Her ears were slightly stubby

and a white steak ran down the back of her head, she was half arctic fox, and the

resemblance to her father was clear. She held an air of a creature who knew what they were

doing, yet in her eyes shone an apprehension that Tregar could only pity.

The mink took the metallic paw in his own gloved one, and led her forward, the look on

Raven's face still being tentative and slightly in awe of the grandness of Great Fox.

"I've only ever been here once, and that was a long time ago." she explained, "Oh look.!

There's someone coming."

Fox and the other StarFox members, including Rad Strouda, stood at the other end of the

gantry, but as soon as Fox saw the unmistakable figure of Raven he ran down to meet them,

his face a mask of utter disbelievement.

"Raven? What the? Is it really you?" he gasped and spluttered, looking as if he was standing

in the presence of a ghost. For all he knew, could well have been.

He then held her at arms length, looking straight into her slightly blushing face, "I can't

believe it! You're not dead!"

"And that's why they call him the bullet!" Tregar grinned, as the others joined him and the

two foxes embraced heartily.

"Alright Tregar I think we're owed an explanation," Fox said, wiping a tear of joy from his

eye, still holding Raven tightly, as if he was afraid that she might suddenly disappear again.

"I'm willing to give one, Fox. I've also got an idea as to how we can go up against Venom."

"You have?" Peppy said in surprise, "And I thought you only acted like you had a brain."

"Hah, you're a laugh a minute Pep," Tregar commented dryly, "But seriously, I do have a

plan. Let's all go somewhere comfortable. The tactics room's a bit cold and empty fro my

liking."

"Agreed."

"We can get the data sent to the lounge quite easily," Slippy butted in.

"Alright then, you do that Slip. Something tells me we're going to be in for quite a story,"

Fox said beaming at Raven, who blushed again.

Tregar winked at her, then turned to his friend, "That you are Fox." he said, "That you are."

A few hours later in the briefing room......

"Well if you think you can pull it off Tregar, that's good news. I don't see many other

options at our disposal."

"Yes. Well, if me and Raven can manage to get into Venom undetected, using her ship's

cloaking device, I might be able to bust the hostages out. There's only two places they could

be, either the East Androsian Base or the West. I'm taking a chance it's the West as it's the

larger of the two and the best place for a destroyer of that size to land. It's also near to where

StarWolf have their own quarters, and if we were to attack by air it would be the hardest to

break in to. That's why my plan's so good."

"A ground assault is risky though Tregar," Fox said, "You'd be on your own."

"I know Venom like the back of my paw," the mink said, waving a dismissive paw at the

fox's apprehensions, "I can get them out alright. Just as long as you do what I said in form of

a diversion, and don't go asking questions about my methods of getting in there...."

"I know how you work Tregar," Fox said, "I wouldn't ask."

"So I'm taking the Nostromo II am I?" Rad asked, "You do realise the Nostromo wasn't a

warrior class vessel like this new one I'm to be flying. You know, I'm still a bit confused as

to my part in all of this. Will someone enlighten me please?"

All eyes turned to the brains of the operation.

"You'll just have to improvise with the ship. I believe the controls are similar, it's only the

weapons that make the difference," Tregar said, "We need it as a diversion. Androssëll think

we're delivering it like he wanted, but really we're going to use it to rescue those hostages.

Fox and the rest of the team will be inside it, and when I give the signal, they'll attack, and

keep the bad guys busy while we load the hostages into the Nostromo II."

Rad nodded, thinking he understood what was being asked of him. He and Tregar were still

far from being friends, but they had been forced to put their differences behind them for the

time being, seeing as there was a much greater problem at paw.

"I'll contact Pepper and let him know we need the Nostromo II," Fox said, getting up from

his chair, "The rest of you go check your ships, then get some rest, we'll be leaving at 20:00.

Be ready, this ain't no picnic we're going on."

They all nodded seriously and left to go their separate ways and to get kitted up. Raven

stayed behind with Fox.

"Fox. Before we go, can I go see my father. I really would like to.....well before I go...."

"Of corse," Fox said, "In fact he's probably in engineering with your plane now. I sent a team

to work on that cloaking device as soon as I found out Tregar's idea. You'll give him quite a

surprise."

"Did I surprise you?"

He smiled lightly at her, "You certainly did that! But it was definitely a nice one. I'll see you

later. Alright?"

He kissed her on the cheek and she blushed deep crimson.

"Alright Fox, later."

Some time later......

"Stupid, stupid uniform," Tregar snarled as he wrestled with his old Venomian uniform most

unsuccessfully, "Has the stupid thing shrunk or have I got bigger? I know what it is! It's all

this easy living, boy I don't want to admit this, but I really must cut down on the pizza! Ah

here we go. Boy does this bring back some memories."

He looked at himself in the mirror. Despite it being Venomian, it certainly made him look

impressively smart, especially with the three gold epaulets studded across his shoulder,

denoting him as holding a captains rank. The day he had been promoted from second

lieutenant to captain had been the day he turned traitor on Andross, it was his way of saying

thank you, Tregar style.

"Never thought I'd need this again," he muttered, "But if I want to blend in I suppose it's

worth it. How long I can keep the act up is a different matter though. Let's just hope I don't

bump into any ëold friends'."

Tregar found his laser pistols and strapped them to his belt, hiding a throwing knife under his

jacket and a flash grenade in his side pocket.

"Right I'm ready now. Let's hope Raven's been able to make those mods, or this is not going

to be easy."

Down in the docking bay, the final touches were being made to Firefly. Jiles Helix had been

working extremely hard with his small, but dedicated, team and had come up with a device

that should sufficiently cover both planes long enough to get into the Venom base.

When Raven had suddenly appeared, Jiles had almost fainted in shock, and after, there had

been a lot of hugs and tears all round. Nevertheless, the old mechanic found the funny side of

things. Seeing as he also had a mechanical limb, he joked that his daughter always had to go

one better than everyone else, including himself. The aging arctic fox had never been happier

in all his life, and this was blatantly obvious from the way in which he no longer had that

reserved look about him like he used to. His daughter had returned! He was a new animal and

will all vigour set about working on her plane. It was the best day of his life.

Tregar was the only one left when he got to the docking bay. The rest of the StarFox team

along with Rad Strouda had gone to get the Nostromo II from the base on Corneria and to

have a final meeting with General Pepper. Raven had also gone. She was out on a test flight,

checking the new equipment with her father, not far from Great Fox. Here, the systems on

Firefly could be checked, double checked, monitored and modified if the need arose. They

were leaving as little as possible to the slippery paws of chance.

The bounty hunter, although his current job description could not be described as glamorous

as that, slipped into the smooth leather seat of his ship, the Lamda Bravado, feeling instantly

at home, everything appearing so familiar. There was only one thing that he had added to his

jet, and that was a picture he had found and printed, of Zenobia. She would stay there, stuck

next to the navi-computer, until he had revenge for her death. It was a bounty-hunter thing,

and Tregar had never been one to go against tradition.

The two jets met up with the giant warrior class Nostromo II, just outside Solarian airspace,

their chosen route taking them past Macbeth, Sector Z and the now half deserted Area Six.

"Lamda Bravado calling Nostromo II. Do you receive me? Over."

"Loud and clear Lamda Bravado," came Rad's crisp military voice, "Ready to go?"

"Roger that Nostromo. Over."

"Roger. Over and out."

The three ships began to move faster until they were cruising at a steady speed. The new

Nostromo's maximum speed was untested, and Rad had been told not to take it past mack 4,

just incase any problems arose. The Arwings were capable of mach 2.5 and the Lamda

Bravado roughly the same. It was only the fully repaired Firefly with a maximum speed of

mach 2.9 that could out run anything Cornerian or Venomian.

It did not take long for them to reach Area Six, and when they did, they found it was quite

eery; a giant space graveyard full of destroyed ships and floating debris.

"This is where we head our separate ways," Tregar radioed, "I'll see you in a while. Make

sure you come on my signal otherwise we're deader than Slippy's taste in music."

Rad allowed himself a slight snort of laughter, "Alright mink, you can count on me. And if

you get a chance at Shayde Du'Pena don't hold the shots on my account. She deserves all she

gets for....for..."

"At least that's something we agree on," Tregar said soberly, knowing full well what the red

wolf meant, "Don't worry Rad. If I meet up with her she'll understand what it means to kill

one of my friends."

The tone in his voice gave Rad the impression he was not joking either.

"Alright. Good luck."

"You too."

Tregar and Raven pulled off from the group to approach Venom from the opposite direction.

Rad took the Nostromo deeper into Area 6, to the decided location, where they would wait

until receiving Tregar's signal. They did not want to get too close to Venom but wanted to be

close enough to get there when the mink needed them. Hopefully General Pepper had

directed all of the formalities back on Corneria, informing Andross that everything that he

wanted would soon be on the way, and he would get what was coming to him.

The bars of Zenobia's cell appeared to be made of a very thick metal and she had tried

everything she could think off to break free, all attempts ending with no success. She was, in

fact, getting pretty peeved with the whole predicament by this time, and when Shayde

happened along, the vixen was not in one of her best moods. This, the assassin soon found

out; the hard way.

"Alright fox, I want some information," Shayde demanded, entering the cell by using her

swipe-card, drawing the bars automatically behind her, "I got these disks off you but they're

password protected. I want that password."

"I can tell you now where you can go stick your stupid password."

"You don't know how much I wanted you to say that!" Shayde grinned evilly, "That means I

get to torture you!"

"Just looking at you's torture enough," Zen said with a snarl, but the wildcat simply laughed

and reached down to drag Zen to her paws.

"Touch me and you'll regret it."

The warning went unheeded, and Shayde found that as she grasped the collar of Zen's jacket,

the vixen's clenched fist hit her squarely in the face. She stumbled back, dazed for a second,

but that second was all Zen needed, and before Shayde knew what was happening, the vixen

was on top of her, beating her soundly.

"Guards!" Shayde called in a gurgled yell, Zen's claws wrapped around her throat.

It took two guards to pull the enraged Zenobia off the wildcat, and another two just to

restrain her. Out of the cell stumbled a bleeding and bruised Shayde, clutching her jaw

painfully, as the bars were drawn back and the vixen safely secured again.

"You ëre going to regret that!" the assassin yelled, her voice consumed with utter hatred.

"I'm going to die here anyway so I might as well get one good go at you!" Zen leered, just as

Wolf walked into the cell block. He looked at Shayde and then to Zenobia and smirked to

himself. The assassin fumed. She had taken a liking to Wolf and seeing him look at her in

that manner, made her furious. If there as one thing Shade could not bear, it was humiliation.

"You're correct vixen, you'll die here. I will show no mercy either! Your death will be long

and painful!"

"Blow it out your tubes!" Zen retorted arrogantly.

Shayde could not think of an appropriate insult to throw back in return, and just turned

sharply on her heals and snapped her claws in total distaste. She ignored Wolf, brushing past

him on her way out, the guards following close behind, obediently, like a procession of

children following the school Head Mistress. When they had gone, Wolf leant up against the

cell door and turned to Zen, shaking his head all the while.

"That wasn't very smart was it?"

"What's done is done," she shrugged, "Like I said, she wouldn't have shown me any mercy

anyway."

"You know her well."

"I know what you're all like. You're all the same."

"Maybe not all of us," Wolf smiled absently, as if recalling some distant memory.

Zen looked at him with a frown, noticing there had been no hint of sarcasm in his voice when

he had said it.

"What do you mean?"

"Nothing you'd understand," he replied before turning and walking down the corridor, "Not

yet anyway."

"Approaching Venom! Right! Let's put our plan into action."

The Lamda Bravado neatly pulled up underneath Firefly, almost touching the undercarriage

hatch. This took a lot of skill and precision flying, but the pilots were two of the best, and it

took little effort to get their ships into position, and for Raven to turn on the cloaking

generator, the beam instantly surrounded both craft.

"This hasn't been tested fully, so I don't know how long it will hold out for," Raven said to

Tregar as they got closer to Androsian territory, "It worked alright on my test flight."

They would soon find out if it worked, as the boundary into Venomian Airspace was fast

approaching.

"I suggest we drop altitude just incase. There's less chance of the radar picking us up at

lower altitude."

"Agreed," Tregar conformed, "Looks like we've done all we can. Claws crossed thisëll

work."

The outpost on their navigator screen got closer and closer. Both animals held their breath,

pulse beating fast in their veins, until finally the dot started to fade away into the distance,

behind them. No enemy planes were suddenly shooting at them, no hidden gunnery turrets

were appearing. It looked like they had pulled it off.

"Congrats!" Tregar said, "Your father and his team are certainly the best,"

"Thanks!" Raven replied, "But we're far from being out of the frying-pan yet. It's up to you

now. You're the terrain expert on Venom. Relay the co-ordinates to me from your ship and

we'll find a place to land."

"I know just the spot," Tregar answered, switching his navigation computer to a map of the

area, downloaded from Great Fox, "Here! It was a disused fuel dump with an airstrip, not far

from the barracks where I think the hostages are being held. If not, it's not much further to

get to the other holding. Yes, this place is perfect."

"Good. That's one thing sorted," Raven mused, "But do you think you'll be able to fool the

guards?"

Tregar snickered confidently, "Just you watch! I'll have them out of there in no time."

"I hope you're right."

"When am I ever wrong?" the mink said indignantly.

"Er...I dunno."

"Exactly! I'm never wrong!"

They continued this petty bickering until the giant planet of Venom loomed up before them

and they entered its hazy, green clouded, atmosphere. It didn't take long to reach the surface,

and being dark made it a lot easier for them to land undetected. The disused fuel dump was a

perfect spot and the two planes easily made it to the outside hanger, old and partly

dilapidated, where they docked, and Tregar got out.

"Good luck!" Raven called to him as he jumped down from his plane, paws landing softly on

the tarmac. She would be staying behind, just in case something went wrong. It would do

them no good both getting caught. Besides, she didn't have a uniform and if she got lost,

would have no idea where to go. Venom she was not familiar with, and by looking at it, she

was glad she never was.

Tregar looked around suspiciously, making sure he was not being watched. There were few

creatures around, and it didn't take long to cross the runway and begin the walk towards the

main buildings, whose faint lights created pools of yellow and white, shimmering in the

darkness. The air was chill, it always was, and there was an eery silence as the wind blew

through the tall unchecked grass that grew through the cracks of the disused landing strip.

The building Tregar was heading for was still some way off, as he looked around recalling

the days when he had once served here. He shivered, though not from cold, hoping that he

was not too late and that he would be fortunate enough to make it through this mission with

his life. Yes, that was all he hoped for.

Shayde Du'Pena, sporting a bandage around her and a painful looking black eye, stormed up

to Zenobia's holding cell and angrily opened the door using her swipe card. With her, close

behind, was Wolf and Leon, both carrying heavy duty laser rifles.

"All this just to talk to little old me?" the vixen said in an annoying whine, aimed on goading

Shayde, "Why you really shouldn't have! I thought you could handle a poor helpless,

unarmed, vixen by now Shayde."

The assassin said nothing. Instead, she roughly grabbed Zen by the collar and sat her down in

one of the chairs that folded down from the wall, strapping the leather restrainers tightly

across the fox's arms and legs. One also went over her lap, the rest across her chest. They

were metal buckled and cut into the her flesh painfully, but the stubborn Zenobia hid any

sign of this well.

"I want answers and I WANT THEM NOW!" Shayde said in a dangerous tone, "And this

time you will tell me."

"I'll tell you nothing!" Zen answered bravely, before she was slapped across the face by

Shayde.

Holding back even a murmur of pain, Zen just fixed the assassin with an icy stare and

remained silent.

"I said talk!"

Silence

Shayde reached, unthinkingly, for her laser rifle in total anger, raising it to shoulder height,

exactly in line with Zen's head. Luckily, Wolf stopped her from doing anything rash, by

brushing the rifle away with a flick of his paw, and signalling for Leon to restrain the enraged

assasin.

"She won't talk to you if she's dead now will she?" he berated her.

"I don't care! I don't care!" She cried wildly, trying to struggle free.

"Geta grip!" Wolf growled, shaking Shayde until the wild look disappeared from her eyes.

The feline roughly pushed off Wolf and Leon's grip about her, and glared at Zenobia,

through remained at a distance from the seated vixen.

"Leon, your the expert here," she said calmly now, "Show me how this works."

The chameleon nodded as Zen watched in wide eyed terror as he picked up a small, evil

looking device and held it up to her, as if wanting her to examine it. He placed it around her

neck and slotted one end into the other, so that it would slide into itself and become tighter.

Zenobia struggled in vain, to the amusement of Shayde and Leon, Wolf just watching

blankly, an emotionless expression across his face.

"Now then Zenobia, do you want to tell me the password for those disks? They're obviously

important as you would have blurted it all out by now if they weren't. But please say you

won't tell me, otherwise I will have got all this set up for nothing."

The young fox knew exactly what was on those disks, and if Andross should ever find out,

more than just her life would be in jeopardy. Why of why had she ever got caught up in

Tregar's stupid plot in the first place? She could see the small remote for the collar in

Shayde's paws, in fact, the view from this chair would probably be the last one she would

ever see. The assassin would kill her whether she told her what she wanted to know or not, so

why give in to her, Zen thought. Then the vixen did the bravest thing she had ever done in

her life. She turned to the small group, and with a steady voice said "You may kill me,

Shayde, but I'll never give you the satisfaction of seeing me give in to you. Do what you will,

but I'll never tell you."

Shayde appeared very unimpressed and yawned, "When you've quite finished...." she said,

then nodding to Leon, "Right let's see how long it takes before she changes her mind."

Zen might have been scared, petrified in fact, but she didn't show it. She felt the metal band

cut tighter into her neck, and she raised her eyes to look straight at Wolf, who had said

nothing since he shook Shayde, and maybe unwittingly saved her life, as if to ask ëHow can

you watch this?' But she didn't meet his gaze. He was staring at the floor.

Meanwhile, Tregar had been busy. He had managed to get into the outbuilding of the

Venomian base and was currently trying to locate the hostages. It was hardly difficult to keep

out of the way, as most of the creatures that worked there were asleep, or in one of the many

bars around the base, getting drunk and carousing until the early hours. At the moment

Tregar was tapping into a wall terminal to try and locate the actual cells in which the animals

he was searching for were being held. The code to use the computer terminal was only level

two and he was soon in. To his luck, he found the location within seconds. It was the only

place large enough to hold that many and the map showed the exact number he was looking

for, divided into two holding cells.

"Ah, hah!" he muttered under his breath, "They're right here. I better get in touch with Fox."

Finding the communicator hidden under his lapel, the mink turned on the small transmitter

and spoke softly into the microphone, making sure all the while he was not being watched.

"Fox? Fox come in, it's Tregar."

To his relief, he heard the familiar sound of Fox's voice in reply.

"Fox here. How's it going?"

"I've found them, I was right, they are here! It wont be long now. The co-ordinates that I

want Rad to land at are 019835 364352. It's a live landing strip not far from the entrance. I'll

send the hostages out to you while I get my ship. The rest of you should keep them busy

while I bust these guys out."

"Roger that Tregar. I'm awaiting you signal."

"Be ready Fox, it won't be long."

"Good luck."

"Thanks, you too. Over and out."

He tucked the device back out of view, and taking one final look at the map, set off down the

corridor towards prisoner holding block X. He only met one creature on the way there, and

he seemed too wrapped up in his own thoughts to notice. Tregar nodded at him as they past

and the other returned the gesture. It was as if it were all too easy. That was, until he reached

the large, metal barred door that led to the cells themselves. The swipe card around his neck

would get him in, but seeing as there were four, large, burly looking Venomian guards on the

other side, he wondered if he stood a chance of getting out! Tregar was not naive. He knew

from the start that he would most likely be up against a few guards, it was just that

hypothetically it all seemed so much more simple than in reality. Pausing for a second,

Tregar took a deep breath. Timing would be everything. Slipping his card into the slot and

drawing it back smoothly, the door opened effortlessly to reveal four sets of eyes all looking

expectantly at him from down the hall.

"Oh boy!"

 

"Halt! What authorisation do you have to come in here?" one guard said, stepping forward,

though somewhat tentatively, after seeing that Tregar was wearing a captains uniform, and

therefore has some superiority of rank over him.

"I'm here to see the prisoners," the mink replied cooly.

"Which ones?" another laughed, "We've got quite a selection."

That seemed to calm the mood down a little.

"The hostages. The Cornerian ones that we took in earlier today. I got orders to check up on

them. If they get hurt there's no deal with Pepper, besides, the army authorities want proof

they're still alive."

"Funny. We got told that NO ONE was to see them."

"New orders," Tregar replied quickly, "I'd let me pass if I were you, unless of course you

want me to take the matter up to Andross?"

They looked uneasy.

"I dunno, you got any form of-"

"Do I look like I've got time to waste talking to idiots like you?" Tregar growled, "Now let

me pass!"

"I can't let you do that," the largest of the four guards, a huge bulky bulldog snarled back,

"We got orders from Wolf O'Donnel himself. We let anyone through and we're dead meat. I

ain't taking the risk."

Tregar looked furious for a second then shrugged as if he couldn't care less.

"Well it looks like I'll be on my way then," he said with a sigh, turning to leave, "Andross

will no doubt have a few words to say to you when he finds out about this, and I imagine he

will make Mr O'Donnel seem like a pussy cat."

"Now wait a minute," the bulldog said, approaching the mink with open paws, realising that

if Tregar was telling the truth, he, along with his three companions, really would be in for it,

"Maybe if we could-"

He was off guard as Tregar whirled around with his fist clutched tightly into a ball and

caught the creature heavily across the jaw. That single blow felled the bulldog in one go,

despite his vicious appearance.

"Alright then!" Tregar said turning menacingly on the others, who still had a look of utter

shock written across their faces, "Who's want's what he got?"

Fox and his team had been waiting patiently in their Arwings since the message from Tregar.

Falco was getting itchy and wanted some action. He kept complaining to Fox that something

must have happened by now.

ë"Be patient," Fox had told him, "I'm sure Tregar's fine. We can't go until his signal."'

So they waited, and sure enough a cracking voice suddenly came through onto Fox's com.

"Tregar here. Everything's cool. I'm almost there now. As soon as I break this lock, however,

the sirens will start going. I can't do anything about that. Get out there now and cause a

disturbance. They'll think it's you and not me that the alarm if for. Tell Rad I should be ten

mins max. Claws crossed, this is the hard part."

"Sure. Okay, we're on our way."

Fox quickly opened a link to the rest of the team.

"Right guys you heard the mink, lets go kick some Venomian tail!"

"At last!" Falco grinned, powering up his engine, "Some action."

"Rad, you got those co-ordinates?" Fox said, addressing the Nostromo's flight deck on a

different channel.

"Positive Fox."

"Head there now. Treg said no more than ten mins."

"Got you Fox. You can count on me."

Fox turned back to his Arwing's control panel and set the auto takeoff. His engine gradually

hummed louder until the hydraulic catapult released, and his plane shot out into Venomian

airspace, followed by the other three members of the StarFox team. The Nostromo II

boosted its jets to maximum and took a direct course towards the co-ordinates of the small

base on the surface, relayed to him via Fox. Now closer, Venom's security satellites had

picked up their presence and sirens began to wail in warning.

As this happened, Tregar set the detonator for the lock to the door which would lead down

the final passage to where the hostages were being held. Within seconds the whole thing

exploded, and Tregar gave a whoop of joy. Also at this very second, Wolf, Leon and Shayde

all looked up at each other and cursed. If there was an alarm it most likely meant that they

were under attack, and had to get into their planes as quickly as possible.

"You're very lucky," Shayde glared at Zen who was almost fainting in pain, as her neck was

being constricted by Leon's contraption, making her rasp and cough for breath.

"I still want the password fro these," she tapped the two disks on the small table, "Let's hope

you last out for a bit longer......or maybe I should just-"

"She ain't going anywhere, we can finish this off later," Wolf snapped, mainly for Shayde's

sake, though he knew how much his other team member enjoyed things like this too, "We

gotta get to the planes. Damn it, I bet it's StarFox! Andross said if they tried anything it

would be tomorrow! The fool! I bet it's them."

"I'll get the others," Leon said, meaning Pigma and Andrew, from half way down the

corridor.

Wolf nodded, yanking the obstinate Shayde out with him, only pushing Zen's cell door

closed so the lock clicked, not initiating the laser security across the bars. He looked back at

her distorted features, her eyes creased in agony, a faint trickle of blood coming down her

cheek where Shayde had hit her.

"Don't worry we'll be back soon."

She tried to reply but only managed a hacking cough. Wolf laughed at her, creating only

more hatred to rise in the vixen's eyes that still, amazingly, sparkled with a defiant light.

"Shayde go!" Wolf demanded, seeing she was still there, "I'm gonna find out what's going

on."

"Don't order me around," she retorted, but then seeing his expression, gave in, "Alright! I'm

off."

She turned to Zen, "Like he said, we'll be back soon. Don't go dying on me."

She took off down the corridor at a run, towards her plane.

Wolf looked at the fox and appeared as if he were about to say something; but, he never got

the chance. To her surprise, Zen suddenly saw a Venomian come up behind Wolf and deal

him a heavy chop, with the side of his paw, across the back. The wolf crumpled to the floor

unconscious from the expert blow, just as the other turned to see who he had been looking at.

"Tregar?" she managed to cough.

"Zen?" the mink almost cried out in joy.

Quickly he opened the cell by blowing off the lock with a well aimed shot from his laser

rifle. He immediately pushed the door in and ran to her side, unbuckling her from the chair

and removing the device from around her neck. She fell out of the seat gagging, her paws

holding her neck, as she spluttered for air. All the while the mink held her strongly in his

arms, until she could stand up on her own. They embraced and he held her long and hard,

"I thought you were dead."

"I was dead!" she mumbled, pressing her face into the soft fur of his chest, "Until then!"

"Oh Zen," he muttered, stroking her fur lovingly, wondering how anyone could hurt the

creature he now knew he loved, for the feeling he possessed inside him at that moment could

only be described as that, "I'll never forgive them."

He held her to face him, wiping the blood from her cheek with his paw, "Why did it take me

until now to see this?"

"See what?" she replied, still slightly woozy from lack of oxygen,

"That I....I ....."

"Hush," she said and kissed him to silence.

Nice as it was, Tregar was suddenly struck by the realisation that he still had a task in paw.

"Zen, surreal as this may seem for you, I'm right in the middle of rescuing....."

"Then tell me on the way!" she said, "Let's just get out of here."

Zenobia and Tregar ran down the corridor in the same direction as Shayde had gone

moments before. Zenobia had picked up the two disks and with a smile smashed them on the

floor, borrowing Tregar's gun to leave them as little more than a pile of smouldering plastic.

No one would ever know the secrets of Equinox now, well certainly not from her.

They went along the passage and to the right where they came across the hostages, all

looking dismally hunched together in one corner of both the cells. When they laid eyes on

Tregar in his Venomian uniform, they immediately thought he was the enemy, and began to

snarl abuse at the mink.

"Can it guys, I'm busting you out!" Tregar told them as he quickly set to disarming the lock,

"Zen, watch out for anyone coming."

He tossed her his laser rifle, which she caught deftly.

"Ah hah!"

"Got it?" she asked.

"Yeah, now stand back, I gotta blow the lock, pass me the..."

BAM! Zen aimed and fired skilfully at the lock on the door, hitting it dead centre on her first

attempt, the force from the blast swinging the door open. Tregar raised his eyebrows at her,

"I'm impressed! Now would you care to do the other one?"

Soon, the little party, led by Zen and Tregar were making their way out and hopefully to

safety within the awaiting Nostromo II, piloted by Commander Strouda.

"Go through the large double doors and down to the glass fronted room on the left. The

runway is straight in front of you. There'll be a ship waiting. It'll take you back to Corneria."

One of the hostages, a young hare, took Tregar's paw and shook it heartily.

"Thank you, thank you from all of us."

The mink coughed, pretending that there was nothing to thank him about. He hated being

thought a true hero, and in reality he became embarrassed at any sort of praise. Despite his

show off personality, deep down, he was really quite modest.

"It was nothing. Honestly. Now hurry up, you too Zen, go with them," he ordered, "I've got

to get my ship, it's over the other side of the runway."

"But there are planes everywhere. You'll be like a siting target!"

Tregar waved the others to follow the hare, who was already following his instructions to get

out, leaving him alone with Zen for a moment.

"Look, I can't leave the Lamda Bravado here. Ravenëll cover me. Now, quickly! Join the

others, and no more arguments okay?"

He smiled confidently a her, "I'll be fine I-"

"There he is! Tregar Folessa!"

Two guards came skidding round the corridor, aiming their rifles at the two creatures.

"Duck!" the mink cried, as red bolts of laser fire went flashing over their heads.

Tregar managed to get a shot in as he rolled behind a bank of computer terminals, stunning

one guard. Zen also, despite her previous traumatic experience, caught the other one in the

leg and he fell, hitting his head, finishing the job for them.

"Where there's one there's always more!" Tregar said breathlessly, pointing towards the

overhead walkway, where a dozen or so guards where currently running down, "Look they'll

be here in a second. If they manage to catch up with the hostages......"

"We won't let them!" Zen said, running out towards the guard she had brought down,

stripping him of his gun, twirling it expertly in her paw, "Treg, was that a flash grenade I saw

strapped to your belt?"

"Yeah what of it!" the mink questioned, arriving by Zen's side, just as the door burst open

and they were surrounded by guards.

"We need to lure them into the open, then we can take them all down in one go. It'll be just

like when I used to go bowling."

"A full strike. Easier said than done!" Tregar muttered as he looked over the terminal and

took a blind shot at the group of guards and was stunned to be rewarded with the sound of a

surprised yell.

"I'll draw their fire. You stay here and wait till I give a signal!"

Tregar raised his eyebrow, "Zen it's suicide!"

She looked around at him, planting a small kiss on his snout, "Do we have a choice? Just be

ready alright!"

She sprang up from her hiding spot and leapt over to the row of computers on her right paw

side. Wild laser fire hit one of the screens, making it explode and crackle, electric sparks

flying through the air.

"Hit me if you can!" she jeered at them, getting up again, poking her tongue out.

"Get her!" the Venomian group leader ordered, "Look she can't escape! She's blocked

herself in, the little fool! She'll pay for her incompetence."

"Good. Very good. Now come closer, closer," Zen muttered under her breath, waiting for the

right moment, "NOW TREGAR!"

Tregar instantly threw the grenade in front of the group just between where Zen was

standing. It exploded in a blinding flash that left their enemies senseless.

Zen quickly swerved around the stunned animals and over to Tregar who held out his paw for

her. She took it and he pulled her along behind him.

"This way!"

They sped out through the same exit the hostages had taken, barging past a lone guard who

never knew what had hit him.

"Wait a sec!" Tregar said, tapping in some commands on the door lock, before taking a step

back and firing at the key pad, rendering it useless. "They won't be getting out of there in a

hurry."

The fox turned to Tregar and smiled. He smiled back, tucking his rifle back into his belt.

"Come on, we better get out of here," Tregar flicked out the communicator and spoke

quickly to Rad.

"This is Tregar. Are they on yet?"

"Yeah, they're almost all on. I'm picking up on radar a whole fleet of Venomian ships

coming this way fast though! You better get back to your ship and quick!"

"Alright, but there's one more for you. Don't go until she's onboard."

"Sure, I'll let them know down on docking. Get her to hurry!"

Zen nodded, hearing the message, "I'm gone. Good luck Tregar!"

The mink nodded, splitting up from her and taking a corridor leading in the opposite

direction, which would be quicker for him to get back to the Lamda Bravado.

"Raven?" he called through the com, "I'm coming now. Can you cover me?"

"Sure thing darlin'," she replied, "You'll be cutting it fine, but I think you'll make it."

"Nice that you have faith in me," Tregar joked, "I'll treat it as a way to burn off some pizza.

See you in five!"

Good to his word, Rad had been waiting with the Nostromo II when the hostages came out

into the night and saw the huge destroyer's main lights blaring away in the distance. He had

known that he had little time before the creatures in the defence outposts realised that the

real action was going on here and what StarFox was doing, was simply a diversion. That was

why he was extremely relieved to see a group of creatures running across the tarmac towards

the ship, waving frantically. A few Cornerian privates helped them onto the ship, giving Rad

the signal when the last one was on board, the one that was slightly behind the others. It was

good timing, as the second the Commander took off, the sky became almost grey with a mass

of Venomian fighters, their lights piercing through the sky, lighting up the night to a degree

of almost artificial daylight.

"Come on!" Rad urged the ship urgently, knowing that once he was fully airborne he could

leave the atmosphere and jump straight to mach speed. The other fighters would not stand a

chance of following due to the two huge plasma engines that provided the Nostromo with its

awesome power output. The Venomian craft shot past Nostromo's bow, taking several shots

at the large battle cruiser, but with no effect. The shields were holding steady. It would take

at least two nova bombs headed directly at the shield generators to do any sort of damage.

Luckily, behind the fleet came StarFox shooting at their rear, splitting up the triangular attack

pattern and chasing off any planes that got too close. Even three Wolfen ships could do

nothing against the destroyer and Fox's team mates. Then, suddenly, from the left, came two

more ships. One the strikingly obvious red panelled Lamda Bravado and a small grey and

yellow craft, Raven's ship, Firefly. Rad whooped in joy as he saw the Venomian craft

dropping out of the sky like dead flies, the sky now alight with multicoloured laser fire and

the smouldering remains of enemy planes. He could only use Nostromo's outboard guns as

the weapons array was still partially untested, which was a shame, as he would have been the

first to try them out had be been given the chance.

Rad glanced down at the navigation console to find that he was almost out of the atmosphere

and into deep space. He estimated only 30 seconds longer before he could take the ship to

mack 4 and well out of the way. Typing in the co-ordinates, he waited until the right moment

to press the button,

"Think you can handle it? I'm taking this baby outa here?" he radioed Fox.

"No problem!" the StarFox leader replied confidently, "We'll see you back on Great Fox,

after you've dropped everyone back at the Cornerian Base."

"Will do. Right I'm outa here," he said, and with that, the ship's large plasma engines

reached a low pitched thrum and bolted the ship forward. Within milliseconds it was further

away than anyone could catch up with, and more importantly, it, along with its passengers,

were safe.

Two days later......

Evening was descending over one of the more lively districts in Corneria City, on an

extremely hot summers day. Up in one of the function rooms of a large hotel, a jovial crowd

of smartly dressed creatures were enjoying an evening of celebrations. This was the party

after the official ceremony in which the bravery and devoted service of all those involved in

the rescue mission to Venom was honoured. Many had been at the ceremony that had taken

place earlier that day, mainly high ranking army officials and some state dignitaries, but this

party was simply a gathering of friends, raising their glasses to a job well done.

Funnily enough, there had been a lot more to this ceremony than any of those attending it had

at first thought, especially for one creature in particular. Tregar Folessa had, there and then,

been offered a post of command aboard the Nostromo II, (once it was completed of course)

after proving his loyalty to Corneria and to his teammates. Astounded, the mink, admittedly

for the first time in his life, could not think of any form of intelligible reply, until Fox nudged

him, and he accepted the offer with all sincerity. The now Captain Folessa, joked afterwards

that it was more likely that they wanted to keep him under their watchful eye, seeing as he

was now a member of the Cornerian military, rather than wanting to honour him for doing

anything impressive. The uniform also, he decided, was probably the worst part of the whole

business, but he shrugged when asked about it and said you can't have everything, and red

had always rather suited him.

Raven had the problem of suddenly appearing after everyone thinking she was dead, not to

mention her complex reconstruction by Caprin Lyar. No one apart from StarFox knew about

her existence and she could have so easily gone back to her life of solitude, but something

inside her refused to do that. She decided to stay with her father and to forget everything

about Equinox. In one last communication with Caprin, she told the scientist what she had

decided. At first he had been a little apprehensive, but when she said she would destroy all

her links and files about the secret base, as well as disarming Firefly's cloaking device, he

appeared happy for her to do as she pleased, so long as she kept a low profile. She discussed

the matter with Fox, who confided in General Pepper. He had been extemely sympathetic and

issued a statement, for military personnel only, saying that Raven been working undercover

for him and her death had all been a hoax, as a cover up. She was to be re-instated as a cadet

with a first class pass and allowed to continue any career she chose within the air-force. It

appeared that everything had worked out for the best, and no one was going to tell about the

secret that lay under her uniform, especially not StarFox.

As for Rad Strouda, he was honoured like the others with the Cornerian Cross, but found out

soon after that his position in command of Hyperion was still in jeopardy, after General

Tufurrow had issued a report to General Pepper on their little meeting. It was investigated

and unfortunately Fox had denied knowing anything about his supposed offer, meaning that

Rad's position still, unfortunately, looked decidedly dodgy. When Falco explained to Fox

what had really happened, Fox apologised, but knew there was no way he could pay even half

the debt. It looked like Rad was going to be out of a job until.....

"So what are you two planning on doing now?" Fox asked Raven and her father, taking

another drink for himself.

"Well, seeing as we've missed so much of each other, we've decided to take a break.

Nowhere fancy, it's just so that we can spend a little time together," Jiles told him, putting an

affectionate paw around his daughter's shoulders.

"Sounds nice, and after that?"

"Er.....well, they need an engineer on the Nostromo II, and I've, er, I've kinda been offered

the position. The only trouble is-"

Fox saw what Jiles was trying to say and placed a paw on his arm reassuringly.

"Jiles, if you want to go for this opportunity then go! I can always find a new Head Engineer

although I don't know if I'll ever find anyone as good as- hang on a sec! What about that

friend of Falco's, Rad Strouda?"

Fox turned to where he saw the Commander and his own teammate, Falco, conversing over a

drink. He called them over and stated his proposal.

"I would be honoured," Rad said delightedly, amazed at his luck, "I won't let you down. I'll

join up as soon as I can get transferred, and seeing as I'm almost out already, that shouldn't

be a problem!"

"I'm sure you'll be a great replacement, and besides, you can continue you research aboard

Great Fox. Wow! It looks like everything's sorted its self out really well for once."

Falco agreed with a sigh.

"Y'know, it's at times like this I can't help feeling really sorry for StarWolf. I mean, we

always beat them, and Andross can't be the happiest of animals to work for."

"You really feel like that Falco?" Fox said, astounded at his friend's sudden show of

compassion.

"NAH! Course not! They deserve all they get!" the Avonian replied, as if Fox was totally out

of his mind, "Now come on! As in the words of a certain ëfriend' of ours, ëThe party's just

begun!'"

They all groaned at Falco's joke.

"I should have seen that one coming!" Fox complained, "I really should have!"

"So what have you got planned Zen?" Tregar questioned, "I looks like my days as a bounty

hunter are over. Kinda a shame, but I think maybe it's for the best. Gees I can't believe I'm

saying this! So, what about you? I noticed you disappeared yesterday for a bit. Was that

message from anyone important?"

She looked awkward.

"You really must learn to mind your own business Tregar!" she said, only half jokingly,

"Like you, I think my day's as a merc are over."

"Want to go back into reporting?"

"No, that's not what I've got planned," she said mysteriously, then seeing her ideal

opportunity to get out of the conversation said, "Oh! It's my favourite song! Want to dance?"

"I'd love to," the mink replied, seeing she was not in the mood for his questions, "Shall we?"

He took her lightly in his arms onto the wooden panelled dance-floor and began to twirl her

to the music. For a rough and ready type, Zenobia was surprised that Tregar knew how to

dance so well. Admittedly, he looked quite handsome in the dim ballroom light, his perfect

black tuxedo extremely becoming, although, Zen noted mentally, he looked more

comfortable in a black leather flying jacket. Her worries became trivial and meaningless as

he looked down at her, brushing the fur from her cheek and planting a kiss in the same spot

as a small scar, still healing, a memory from Venom.

"Has anyone said how beautiful you are tonight?"

"No one except you," she smiled back, and allowed him to lead, resting her head on his

shoulder as the music slowed to a more gentle rhythm.

"Zen...."

"Hmmmm."

"Do you, er, like me?"

"Yes, of course," she mumbled.

"No I mean...really like me, I mean-"

She stopped for a second, realising he was being serious, to look at him searchingly with her

dark brown eyes, "Yes I do. Why ask when you know?"

"Tomorrow then, do you want to-"

"I can't-" she said abruptly, almost turning her head away, so as to avoid his look.

"Well the day after then?"

"No, I can't. I can't explain either."

Tregar looked confused. "You're talking like we'll never see each other again."

She turned her head away totally this time, unable to look him in the face.

"Zen tell me," he murmured, "I don't think I could-"

"Can I trust you?"

He looked so mournful that she had to hold his face in her paws and smooth back the foppish

fringe that hung across his eyes lovingly, "Alright, alright," she whispered, "But I need to

know if you.... if you really...."

"Yes I do," Tregar found himself saying and knowing he meant every word he said, and

would do for as long as he lived, "I do. I love you."

"You two still haven't patched things up then?"

Rad jumped when he heard Falco's voice appear from behind him.

"What do you mean?"

"Oh come on!" Falco exclaimed, exasperatedly, "You've been watching those two dance all

evening! Look do you want me to go ask-"

"No," Rad said abruptly, draining the last from his glass, "It's not my place."

"Stop being such a gentleman. She might like it if you-"

"Shut up Falco."

Falco raised his wings in a helpless gesture, "Sorry for interrupting, I was only trying to

help."

"Well go help elsewhere then."

He gave Rad one of his looks, "Fine, I know when I'm not wanted!"

He turned on his heels and marched off, finding more cheerful companionship.

Sometime later that evening......

"Miss Steadfast!"

Zenobia turned around from getting her drink at the bar, only to see the racoon captain

Kaylus Almari, bandaged, yet as chipper as ever, beaming across at her.

"Well, well! We all thought we'd seen the last of you!"

Zen accepted her drink and took Kaylus over to where Tregar, Fox and Peppy were standing.

She introduced them to Kaylus before replying, "Well it takes a lot more to get rid of a

Steadfast than one might think!"

"You can say that again!" Kaylus replied, "If it wasn't for you I'd have one angry missus

after me!" They all laughed. "When she found out, she almost threw a fit," the comical

racoon explained, "Stormed right into the hospital and began berating me as I was having my

cast put on! She was the one that had to be sedated, not me!"

"Maybe Zen didn't do you a favour after all!" Peppy joked.

Kaylus smiled thinly, "Shame about the others though. I hear they'll be getting a proper

military send off."

They all became sombre for a second, before Fox raised his glass, "To friends past and

present, and may they be remembered for their bravery."

"Here! here!" they all replied, and chinked their glasses in a toast.

"Hey Raven!" Fox called, seeing her on her own, "Fancy a dance?"

She eagerly accepted and the two went off onto the already crowded dance-floor. Kaylus saw

Zen's look towards Tregar and chuckled, "Go on, you can go too. I'm sure me and Peppy

here can amuse ourselves."

Happily, the pair went off to join Fox and his partner, leaving Kaylus remarking to the old

hare, "How I wish I was their age again!"

Peppy nodded sagely in agreement. "You can say that again, friend."

Just before midnight......

Outside, the hot summer evening began to grow into a muggy, stormy night, filled with banks

of heavy grey clouds, undoubtably full of rain. Zenobia Steadfast looked at her watch and bit

her lip. It was five minutes until midnight. She had to be gone, and no one could see her

leave. It was just like some stupid fairytale. All these friends she had made she would be

leaving behind if she accepted the offer printed onto the small slip of paper she had in her

pocket, delivered somehow into her possession the day before. If she ignored it, she would

pass up on an opportunity of a lifetime, and maybe the opportunity of one day leading an

ordinary life. No, she had made up her mind. She had to go.

Quickly she gathered her things and slipped quietly out of the room, down the lift, and out of

the hotel's great glass doors, only to find herself standing in the porch with fresh summer

rain pouring down like a sheet in front of her. She pulled out the slip of paper, the crumpled

edges soft against her palm. 219 Lesatadre Avenue. That address was just round the corner.

Looking up at the sky, and then down at her flimsy dress she realised how wet she would get,

but there was no time to do anything about that now. She would simply have to brave the

elements. So, with a bowed head she started into the rain, following the rippling lights of the

street lamps above her.

>From the window of the function room, the lone figure of Tregar Folessa was silhouetted

black against the bright disco lights from behind him, watching Zen as she left. She had told

him little about where she was going, except it was a secret and that she promised she would

keep in touch whenever she could. Not wanting to press her further, he had dropped the

matter, at which Zen's appreciation and admiration for him had soared in regards to his

loyalty. However, he couldn't help wondering why she was so reluctant tell him and why it

mattered so much that nobody knew. Before she left, he had given her a parting gift; a small,

silver locket with both their pictures in. She promised she would never take it off, and

slipped it over her head immediately. After, they had stood on the veranda, holding each

other whitest staring out into the night, the music a far away melody as time became still and

they were lost in each other, lost in an oblivion of silence. They needed to words to tell each

other how they felt and right then it seemed so right just for them to be together.

As Tregar continued to watch from his vantage point, he saw her turn and look upwards

towards the hotel, her saturated figure a mear dot far below, and he knew that she would

keep her word. She would not forget him. If you asked him how he knew, the mink would

not have been able to explain. He just knew, and for him, that was enough.

In the street......

"Stop wait! Don't go!"

Zenobia halted, recognising the voice immediately, wondering for a moment what to do. She

stood, waiting, as the rain steadily beat down on her, the light from the street lamps bathing

her in gentle orange light, raindrops clinging like sparking diamonds to her fur.

"I don't know why you're going like this but....I...I've got something for you," Rad said

breathlessly, catching up with her. From behind his back, he produced a yellow rose,

perfectly formed, taken from one of the vases in the bar, as a last minute thought, when he

saw her departing secretly. He had ran after her, following her silent shadow that flitted

quickly across the now deserted roads, only seeing her as she passed under a street lamp.

"Thank you!" she said a little taken aback, accepting the gift, "A yellow rose. Did you know

that yellow is for-"

She stopped, realising he knew full well what it signified and with a gentle smile, took his

paw in hers, to show she valued his friendship. He looked slightly awkward at this and she

released it and its comforting warmth with a small sigh, and began to walk away.

"But will I ever see you again?!" he suddenly called after her, finding his voice, the rain now

harder, soaking him through to the bone.

She flicked her wet fur over her shoulders as she half turned to look at him, soft brown eyes

twinkling in the moonlight, her dress clinging to her body raggedly.

"I'll be around,"

"I know we're friends but can we.....er tomorrow....er..."

"No, I can't, I'm sorry....I've tried to explain once.....I....."

She disappeared around the street corner without a further glance back, clutching the single

yellow rose to her heart, not realising as a single teardrop ran unchecked down her cheek. It

splashed onto the cold stone pavement, as she followed the path that led towards....the sign

said Lesatadre Avenue, but deep in her heart she didn't know.

Zenobia suddenly realised with a pang of fear, as the rain beat down relentlessly, that she

didn't know.

THE END.....For now.

So who wants to know where Zen's off to? What secret is she hiding? What happened to

Shayde Du'Pena and Wolf? Too many questions? Never fear! The new series "Shadows of

the Past" is coming soon, where all will be revealed (hopefully). You like? Don't like? Think

it could be better? Suggest a character? Let me know! I'm open to suggestions. Also, on a

more serious note, no copying or using ANY of MY characters without permission (as

mentioned in previous fanfics) or I will be forced to set Tregar Folessa onto you.....You have

been warned.