Sacrifices

By Zoe E.L Stead

The third and penultimate installment of the "As the Raven Flies" series. Once again, all I

can say is 'enjoy'. Beware: it contains some mild violence. Like before nothing icky or

disgusting at all, I don't write like that! Also, all my characters are for my use only (all those

mentioned before including in this fanfic Shayde Du'Pena and Kaylus Almari) and if people

want to use them, please ask me first. Ta muchly and please read on.

Sacrifices

Zenobia Steadfast sat tapping her claws impatiently on the mouse of the computer terminal

she was using. Behind her on the couch was Tregar Folessa, flicking quickly though reels of

printout sheets, looking intent on finding something, but not seeming to be able to locate it.

"Ah ha!" Zen announced triumphantly as the screen flicked onto the page she wanted. It was

a level nine security password screen for the Cornerian Army data records.

Tregar looked up for a moment, sensing she was doing something important, not to mention

illegal.

"You realise you can get sent to prison camp for that?" he murmured, setting his eyes back to

the sheets of paper on his lap, knowing she would no doubt take no notice of his comment.

"Relax," she replied cooly, slumping back in her chair after entering several numbers and

letters into the little password box, "You're acting like I've never done this before."

She hit the 'enter' key and waited.

Suddenly a background flashed up with reams of complicated binary digits tracking down the

screen.

"I gotta bypass the tracking device," Zenobia explained, "I'm sending our signal off a few

satellites and stations down below. That'll give me just enough time to- Treg pass me that

notebook will you!"

Tregar obliged, handing the small leather bound jotter to the vixen. Taking it, she flicked

through the pages till she found the one she was looking for and transferred a code from it

into the computer system.

"This worked the last time I did it. Let's just hope nothing's changed. Hey Treg bet you

didn't know I was a hacker too!"

She swivelled round in her chair to look at him, while the programme kicked in, "How you

going with those records?"

The mink was about to open his mouth and reply when the terminal began bleeping.

Shooting her chair back to the desk, Zen's paws flew over the keyboard, typing in some

complicated strings of digits and binomial series.

"I'm in!"

Tregar came to her side, placing a paw on the back of the chair so that he could get a good

look over her

shoulder.

"Now let's see what we can find. 'Enter name' it says here. I'll try that first."

"Sounds cool to me," Tregar agreed,

"Ray...ven Hee...lix...." Zenobia said out loud, spelling the name as she typed it in, "Got

you........ah ha, lots of info there, bit more than what you found out. Print out of that I think."

She quickly got a print out going while she began rooting around the military database for

anything else that she thought would be useful.

"What about Equinox?" Tregar suggested.

"Good idea."

It seemed information on that was limited, a level 10 was needed and even Zen admitted she

could not bypass the security lock without being found out.

"Budge over, I want to try something," Tregar suddenly said.

"I didn't think you could....."

"Relax," the mink grinned, "Your acting like I've never done this before. You don't know

Venomian security codes do you? Well I do, and if I'm correct, if you can hack into

Andross's database first, you should be able to send the new password signal for level ten

clearance-"

"Right into our own computers! Brilliant!" she finished for him.

"Wait up! What's this?"

They stared at the screen, something strange had appeared, neither Venomian or Cornerian.

"Treg, I think you've just hacked into Equinox itself. Quick! Let me sit there."

The mink immediately got up and knelt back down beside Zen.

"Interesting....." she said absently, eyes fixated on the screen, "They must be doing the same

as us. They're hacking into Venom's security systems too, that's how come we're in their

system!"

"I don't follow."

"It's simple," Zenobia replied as if it were obvious, "We logged in at exactly the same time,

well almost. They must have

done so too, but a second before us, so instead of us getting in, they did, and we got

transferred into

their own system instead. Equinox must use the same pass-code protection system, it's the

only

explanation. So long as they stay connected to Venom, we're connected to them. So, let's get

some data!"

They rooted around what they could, finding they could not read all of what was stored there.

Zen decided that making a copy would be the best option. From what they had seen there was

blueprints for a brand new fighter class jet not to mention personnel records and a whole

section on the biological operations that took place in Equinox's labs.

"I'll save to zip what I can, it'll only take a sec."

"Watch the time Zen, we're almost out of it."

The tracking timer was getting low. As soon as it reached zero anyone would be able to pick

up their signal, and no doubt the army base was already decoding the little trail she had left,

as Tregar spoke.

"You've gotta pull out now, otherwise we'll be tracked! ZEN NOW!"

She disconnected her modem from the socket just as the clock reached 00.19.

"Nineteen seconds, cutting it fine there?" Tregar complained wiping the sweat from his

forehead.

"Not me," Zen replied getting up from the chair and reaching for a glass of water on the

table, "Now then. I want to have a look at these report files on the creatures involved

Equinox. You do the jet, maybe we can use these specifications to find a way of tracking her

down. Oh, and keep an eye on the vidi-monitor, I should be expecting a call any time soon."

"A lead?"

"No."

"Then who?"

"You really want to know?"

"Yes!"

"Rad."

Tregar gave a guttural snort, "Your right I didn't want to know."

Wolf O'Donnel of StarWolf found that he was put back on duty sooner than he had

imagined. Although his arm was still not one hundred percent, it was good enough to allow

him to be back in the seat of his Wolfen jet. It had been a while since his team's nauseating

defeat, though Wolf hardly blamed them for what happened, he felt like the outcome was not

surprising considering that he had not been in charge. He had been keeping out of Andross's

way nevertheless, and had spent most of the week indulging in a little r&r, when a message

came through demanding that he went straight to the medical bay. Here he had been given a

full bill of health and was sent straight to Andross for a mission briefing.

"Another one of his idiotic suicide missions," Wolf complained to Dagno Wellen, who he

had caught up with in one of the bars, earlier that evening, "He wants us to attack a mining

craft

transporting valuable mineral sources from Macbeth to some new base on Fortuna."

"Hyperion," Dagno replied, "Well patrolled by new military aircraft, and no doubt the

mining craft will have an escort. What is it this time? Bombs? Missiles?................Nuclear

warheads?"

"There's no need to be sarcastic."

They looked towards the speaker. She was a tall dark furred feline figure with a hip belt

bristling with knives and a mean looking 20 x 20 laser rifle. She flung her flying gloves down

on the bar and ordered a double on the rocks before taking a stool between the wolf and the

bobcat.

"So you boys think this mission's gonna be a failure?"

They looked at each other with raised eyebrows before replying to the stranger.

"Do we know you?"

"Everyone knows Shayde Du'Pena."

Wolf's blank expression suddenly changed to one knowing as he heard the name.

"The assassin wanted throughout Lylat for murder, arson, grand theft, purgery-"

"I take it you know me then?" she smiled. It was an evil smile, one that even made Wolf

shudder with unease. If the rumours about Shayde were true, she was not a creature to be

messed around with, and certainly not one he wanted to be enemies with either.

"So what do you know about this mission then?"

Shayde tossed the bartender a credit and downed the drink in one go.

"I'm the brains behind it. Andross wants this one to go smoothly, and not be total failure like

the last one."

Wolf gave her a sour look, which, to his annoyance, she found amusing.

"Your boys were useless. You need someone with a bit of gut, a bit of backbone to do the

job, so naturally when Andross found out I was back in Lylat for a while he paid me a visit.

I'm also here for another reason."

"Oh prey tell," Dagno said sarcastically, finding he did not like the assassin one little bit.

"A merc pilot," she sniffed disdainfully, "Shot me down some time ago when I served under

Andross in the Venomian Air Force. I'm determined for a bit of payback."

"Who was that? He must have been good."

"It wasn't a 'he', it was a merc pilot. She stole my plane, and no one steals from me."

"So who was it?"

"Zenobia Steadfast," she said, and the words that left her mouth sounded like pure ice.

"Never head of her," Dagno interrupted, spoiling the effect,

She glared at him, then turned to Wolf, "Maybe you'd like to come take a walk with me?"

she asked smoothly, "I find Venom most beautiful at night."

"Sure," Wolf complied, draining the last from his glass, "Maybe you'd like to see....."

They walked off leaving Dagno Wellen to order another round for himself and wonder how a

cold blooded killer like Shayde could find anything beautiful.

"Look what I found." Tregar pointed out as soon as Zen got off the vidi-phone, a torn off

scrap of paper held in his paw.

"I've got a new ship!" she announced, totally ignoring Tregar, "Rad's gonna help me build a

brand new ship! Can you believe it! I'm so excited, Rad-"

"I don't give a damn what Rad does or Rad is. Look are you gonna help me or not? I can go

elsewhere you know."

She glared at him, "Look. I'm totally devoted to whatever you want. Can't I just be happy for

a few moments. I'm so sorry! I didn't realise you were my master."

Tregar looked at her angry expression and felt suddenly guilty.

"Sorry," he apologised, "It's just I think I might have found something that'll help us find

Raven. It's the frequency that her cloaking device is tuned to. I reckon I could re-programme

the Lamda Bravado's scanner to compensate, and thus reveal our little mystery."

"Excellent," she replied though rather distractedly, rooting around in the draws of the desk

for something, "You seen that zip disk we made earlier?"

Tregar handed it too her, it had been right on top of the piles of print out sheets in plain view.

She blushed, but pretended not to.

"So what are you up to while I'm out?" she asked quickly, slipping the disk into her jacket

pocket

along with the other one for safe keeping, "Are you gonna go out and look for Raven?"

"Can't," he replied, rising to his paws, "Since I joined up with StarFox I've got to do their

lovely and most stimulating training programme. Unfortunately it's all part of the deal. I'll be

back once I've flown through a few holo-rings, blasted a couple of imaginary Wolfen jets

into nano-particles and annoyed Slippy by flying too close to him again. Oh the joys of being

a member of StarFox!"

Zen chuckled, "I'll see you later then, I shouldn't be long."

He bent over and gave her a kiss, "Take care,"

"Sure, whatever."

He nodded and left her in peace, not knowing how easily it could be the last time he ever saw

her......alive.

Fox sighed as he heard Slippy's annoyed whine for the third time that afternoon.

"Gee what's the big idea Tregar?"

The sleek, red panelled Lamda Bravado skimmed past the toad's jet, inches from touching the

wingtips.

"Why do you have to fly so damn close?"

"Shut your whining yap Skip. That's what real flying is," Falco butted in, skimming across

Skippy's other wing and almost giving him a heart attack.

"Cut it out you guys!" he complained, "Fox!....."

"Falco, Tregar, leave Skippy alone. Why don't you show us that you can do slightly more

challenging activities than annoying toads."

"You wanna see something good?" Falco scoffed, rising to Fox's intended bait, "Just you

watch this."

"Oh no you don't!" Tregar cried, "I'll show you something that'll make you-"

And the challenge went on.

"Come on you guys," Fox radioed Peppy and Slippy together, "Let's leave them a while and

go shoot some holo targets. I got Rob to set them up. Follow me."

He turned his jet smoothly in a U turn, the others doing the same, leaving Falco and Tregar to

try and impress each other. Those two are sure a pawful, Fox thought to himself as he

switched his laser to its lowest setting for the target practice, but they certainly do get on

well.

"You alright kid," Peppy radioed Fox, "bit quiet,"

"Nah Pep I'm fine," he confirmed, "Just thinking though. It's been pretty quiet the last few

days. Not even one reported Venomian attack. Think they're gearing up for something big?"

"Whatever it is we'll be ready for them," Peppy said positively,

"I guess so," Fox agreed, turning his mind back to his flying, "Alright you two, let's split up

and take it to 'em."

"Who's cookin' tonight?" Falco asked hungrily, as they walked down the corridor leading

away from the docking bay and back towards level 6. They had just got back from their

training and were all feeling a little peckish.

"You are Falco," Fox grinned, "That's why I'm takin' out."

"Hah, you're so funny, I'm almost dying with laughter."

"If we ate your food we would be dying.... dying of poisoning that is," Peppy commented abruptly.

"Oh don't you start!"

"Who want's anchovies then?" Slippy butted in, "I'm in for double."

They all made a face.

"You can keep em fly-face," Tregar said, "I'm up for triple peperoni and extra cheese."

"Nice one," Falco agreed, "And hold the olives."

"Vegetable Super-Chunky for me," Peppy ordered.

"So I'm ordering pizza am I?" Fox inquired.

"It was your idea to get a take out."

"Fine then," Fox sighed in a world weary tone, "Looks like I'm paying again as well."

"You get the big bucks brush-tail," Falco teased.

"Enough of that blabber-beak," Fox retorted,

"Is that so eh?"

The two began to play fight down the corridor, Peppy watching on disapprovingly, until he

remembered when James used to do that with him and his look softened. Until his tummy

rumbled that was.

"Fox quit screwin' around! I want some dinner. Fox!"

Some time earlier.......

"Pilot identify yourself," came a cracking message over Zen's com as she entered Fortunian

airspace, only to find a mass convoy of ships heading in the same direction as she was.

"Zenobia Elizia Lasari Steadfast. Don't worry friend I ain't here to take you all on by

myself."

Outside Zen could see a giant Cornerian transport cruiser and a dozen or so fighter jets,

flanking each side in a protective V shaped formation. There were also two new fighter

designs among the convoy, a LX57 and a Stormblazer. Highly armed, yet not fully tested in

battle scenarios, if she remembered correctly. It had been the Stormblazer pilot that had

contacted her, and from what the vixen could guess, he was the squadron leader.

"State your rank and business," he barked in his military style voice.

"I hold the rank of mercenary pilot if that means anything to you," she replied crisply, "As

for my business, it looks like we're both heading to the same place. Hyperion right?"

"I'm afraid that I cannot divulge-"

"Lighten up Sarge!" came a more cheerful and friendly voice, "It's pretty obvious where

we're going."

"Kaylus be quiet, I'm handling this."

"Look!" Zen said, becoming faintly amused, "I'm visiting Commander Strouda, of the

Fortuna Hyperion army base. Radio him, he's expecting me. That'll prove who I am."

While the Sergeant did just that, the other pilot who had spoken before opened up a vidi-link

with her.

"Sorry 'bout Sarge, he gets a bit military at times. I'm Captain Kaylus Almari, Protection

Division of the Cornerian Army, Omega Squadron. I thought I recognised the name, you used

to be a reporter right?"

"Yeah how'd you know?"

"You wrote a report on the attack on Tallus One, the small moon not far from Aquas."

"My goodness, you're right! I remember you too! Awarded your captaincy for bravery in

battle, you flew a V19 bomber. Crushed twenty Androsian ships! Yes, I remember. Well it's

nice to see you again. You haven't changed much since I did your interview it seems."

The racoon captain beamed at her, "Don't you believe it! I've got two children now and a

third on the way! My wife says I shouldn't still be flying, reckons it's too dangerous, but I-"

"When you two have quite finished-" the sergeant broke in, "Yes Miss Steadfast,

Commander Strouda is expecting you. Unfortunately no aircraft are allowed into Hyperion's

airspace until we are safely docked. You can, however, accompany us, if that's alright."

"Fine, fine," she replied, "I'm not in a hurry."

"Take up formation then. You're under my orders now."

"Yes sir!" she replied a little too sarcastically, making Kaylus laugh.

"You're the one who hasn't changed," the captain laughed over the private comlink, "You

haven't changed a bit!"

"Sergeant Affisago! This is Captain Dellor. My scanners are picking up something."

The message came from the pilot of the transport ship.

"Five fighting class ships and a.......and a......oh my goodness!"

"For goodness sake what?" the sergeant cried.

"A Venomian destroyer!"

Everyone was quiet for a second, the words sinking in with all the intended effect.

"Radio Hyperion, tell them to send-"

"I've already tried!" exclaimed the frantic pilot, "I think the Venomian's have sent out some

kind of

electromagnetic pulse to block out all our transmissions over a certain area. Looks like

you've got this one on your own. We can't out run them that's for sure."

"Damn it!" Affisago growled, banging his fist down, "How long before you think you can fix

the com?"

"No promises but about ten minutes, if we're lucky and if we can work out what pulse they

are using and reverse the polarity."

"I doubt we can hold out for that long. That's an A-class destroyer out there!"

"You'll have to," the pilot said quietly, "Or we're all gonners."

"Right listen up Omega Section! Formation 249er now. Our priority is the transport ship. I

want no one, I repeat, no one, trying to take that destroyer out on their own. Understand?"

There was a chorus of yes sirs.

"Good luck everyone. Here they come."

The five front jets came at full velocity towards the gathered planes, scattering them in all

directions, their formation shattered from this reckless and dangerous manoeuver on their

enemy's part.

"Stick together!" Kaylus demanded, sounding quite authoritive, now under pressure.

They tried to regroup, but the Venomian pilots were making a good job as team, picking out

separate jets and then firing at them alone. Zenobia realised that only one team of five jets

could go up against fifteen others and pull off a stunt like this. She flexed her claws to get

a better grip on the

control stick and turned right sharply, pulling up behind one of the grey panelled planes, firing at its

rear. The fighter skillfully hung left, at almost right angle, stopped from pursuing a now, almost destroyed,

Cornerian plane. But Zen was quick too and veered off after her target, managing to bounce a lucky

shot off the wing.

"Hey sweet thing! Fancy some more?" she asked patronizingly, knowing exactly how to rile

this particular pilot.

"You shouldn't have done that vixen," Wolf O'Donnel snarled.

"Why what you gonna do about it Wolfie boy?" she taunted.

"He's gonna do nothing, but I am!"

Zenobia felt her shields take an almighty pounding. Quickly pulling a loop, cursing the other

pilot, she got out of the way, fast.

"So who are you Miss Snazzypant's? You ain't a member of ScumWolf?"

"You don't remember me?" the voice said, sounding sarcastically hurt, "I'm devastated. You

should remember me, after all that's my plane you're flying."

Zenobia suddenly froze in fear. There was only one creature she was afraid of and that was

Shayde Du'Pena! The very same creature she had sitting right on her tail at that very moment, laser

cannons fully charged and ready to fire.

"Get away from her!"

Kaylus Almari had seen on his radar what was going on and had come speeding to the rescue,

lasers blazing. He even managed to get in a good hit on Shayde's tail fin, just as she was about

to shoot at Zen. The assassin shouted abuse angrily at the captain, who just laughed

mockingly, as Zen flew away without so much as a scratch.

"Thanks Kaylus!" the vixen signed in relief, "I thought I was a gonna."

"This is far from over," the racoon replied grimly as yet another Cornerian plane exploded in

a ball of fire, "Look, the destroyer is heading straight for our transport ship."

The huge Venomian destroyer, bristling from stern to bow with an impressive array of

weapons, slowly came towards the buzzing group of fighters that were whizzing around the

old transport ship. It looked very much like it intended on docking with it.

"There's no way we can hold them off! This is useless! We must save the transporter!"

Sergeant Affisago gasped, as he was flanked by both Wolf and Leon at once, "Kaylus you

have command! Take care my friend."

"What!" the racoon cried as he saw the sergeant skilfully evade his two pursuers and head

straight towards the destroyer, "No Sergeant. Noooooo!"

The lone Cornerian plane was almost upon the destroyer, hitting the enemy's shields with the full

force of its own twin laser cannons, when Kaylus saw one of the destroyer's gun turrets begin to glow. It

was all over in a second. The gun fired a single pulse, instantly ripping through the jet like

butter, the whole thing exploding in a bright flash of white light. In all, the sergeant's brave

sacrifice not even creating a dent in the huge ship's paintwork.

Kaylus, enraged and numb, yelled instruction to his team to stick together before suddenly turning

all of his firepower on the closest enemy jet he could find, in retaliation.

"Wolf get this maniac off me!" Pigma squealed, when his Wolfen was battered with a heavy

round of laser fire, "My shields are at 30% and are going fast."

"I'm busy Porkchop," Wolf snarled, "Leon, go save that idiot."

"Wolf, it's Shayde," that was their commanding officer our destroyer took down, "They're

like chickens with no heads without him. It's the perfect time to take advantage of our

situation. Order The Rampage to begin docking with the Cornerian transporter. I'll see to the

rest of these annoying little flies."

Wolf quickly relayed the message to the captain of the Venomian destroyer, The Rampage,

while Shayde made a quick job of the remaining few fighters that had become separated

from the others and to her were sitting targets. Soon only four ships remained on the

Cornerian side, a pitiful resistance against the entire StarWolf team and Shayde.

"What the heck shall we do, what shall we do!" came a frantic voice over the com, "I don't

think I can take this any longer!"

"Calm down!" Zen commanded, seeing that Kaylus was occupied, not just with the jets

pursuing him, but with his own feelings, "Follow me, stick close, and you'll be fine."

"No, I can't. I'm getting out of here."

"No you idiot, come back!" Zen screamed at the fighter pilot, "That destroyer has a long-

range weapons array, you'll be-..oh no..."

The ship exploded no more than five hundred metres after it broke away.

"Another one bites the space-dust," Shayde's evil voice sang mockingly, "Who wants to be

next? I'm up for offers"

"Greenway?" Kaylus's rasping voice broke the silence, as he saw his friend's ship become no

more than a chunk of blackened space debris, "He was just a cadet! You'll die for that

assassin!"

"Do I look scared?" she replied, totally unconcerned, "Wolf take care of the captain, I want

the vixen."

Wolf's jet turned sharply and began to pursue Kaylus, but the racoon was a good pilot and

dodged the shots with ease. Zen also found her equal with Shayde, both pilots seeming to be

equally matched in both skill and wit, each one waiting for that single moment when the

other would make a fatal mistake.

As another jet went up in flames, leaving only Zenobia and Kaylus remaining, the whole of

the StarWolf team suddenly turned towards the two remaining ships. Zen knew that there

was only one way out now and that was to go down taking as many as she could with her.

The brave young fox was just about to make her final stand against Shayde, determined she

would be the first to suffer, when she saw Kaylus struggling against Wolf, with his wingman

Leon just behind, readying his lasers to fire. Beyond him was empty space. The rest of the

team coming in from behind.

Then a crazy idea flashed into Zen's mind. She only had half shields left and she knew her idea

was risky, but she had to try. Kicking what was left of her afterburners to full throttle, she

powered her ship right between Leon and Kaylus, and went straight into the side of Wolf's ship.

All around the vixen consoles blew up and dials began to flash and scream. Her mind began

to go hazy, and she was only vaguely aware that there was blood trickling down her face

from a cut on her head, onto the console in front of her.

"Get outa here and warn Rad," she managed to utter before slipping into the void of

unconchousness, her plane spluttering, engines whining with effort,

"You.....you.......must....warn..... Rad."

Down on the planet of Fortuna, Rad Strouda was sitting in his office, contentedly getting on

with some paperwork when his link phone began to buzz. He was expecting the transporter

to contact him soon and request docking permission. It would be a pretty routine operation,

except that the supplies were extremely valuable to Hyperion. He had not heard word from

them, so assumed everything was going according to schedule. He had a team of his best

pilots on standby incase there was an unexpected attack, but as Rad said to them when they

last contacted him, ' "No news is good news." '

Not at all worried, he switched the screen to his vidi-com on, and hailed the sender amiably.

"Hi there. How's it going."

"Sir, we've just got in a request for landing, it's a Cornerian ship, badly damaged. The

captain says he's from the transporter we were expecting from Macbeth and needs to talk to

you."

Rad was on his paws in an instant, "Well let him land then! I'll be on strip four awaiting his

arrival. Strouda out."

Worry written all over his face as he quickly pulled on his thick overcoat, Rad quickly made

his way out onto the landing strip where he saw the bright while lights of a Cornerian plane

on its final approach. The left wing was blown right off and the right engine was spluttering

thick, grey smoke. Rad pulled his lapel com to his mouth and ordered an ambulance. If this

was the state of the plane, he hated to see what condition the pilot was in.

Several creatures rushed to help Kaylus out of his plane once it had landed. The racoon,

dressed in the standard red, Cornerian military uniform, from initial diagnosis, had a broken

arm, and a multitude of bad cuts and bruises all across his face and chest. Amazingly, he was

still quite aware of what was going on and demanded to talk to Rad as soon as the cockpit

was open. However he had to wait, for the medical team knew that getting him checked over

was of the foremost priority, even though Kaylus might not have agreed.

"I'm Commander Strouda," the red wolf said, going over to the racoon, who was now on a

stretcher and being lifted gently into the recovery vehicle, "What on Corneria happened?"

Kaylus related the unfortunate incident quickly and efficiently.

"So you see, the transporter is now in Venomian paws, and the whole felt is destroyed. We

couldn't even get a message through to you. They must have planned this to the letter. No

doubt Andross and that assassin Shade Du'Pena are the masterminds behind it. If it hadn't

been for Zenobia Steadfast, who I explained came to be fighting alongside us, I would never

have got away. She gave me just enough of a chance to break free and head into the

Fortunian atmosphere. They knew I could contact you from there, so got away as soon as

possible I imagine. They wouldn't want a whole fleet of brand new ships on their tails would they?."

"And Zen?" Rad asked, going very pale when he heard about her part in Kaylus's escape,

"What happened to her? Did she get away too?"

"I don't know," Kaylus replied sadly, "It sounded like she lost consciousness, I-"

"Sir?" a voice from Rad's earpiece questioned.

"Yes."

"I'm afraid we have bad news. The monitoring satellite Alpha 2 has just sent us some very

disturbing pictures. I'm afraid to inform you the transport ship heading to Hyperon from

Macbeth had been totally destroyed. There is also debris of thirteen Cornerian jets, one jet

indistinguishable, a modern type by the looks of things......"

There was a pause,

"And the remains of a single modified Venomian fighter with allied registration

codes......shall I-"

But Rad was no longer listening. A great anger had begun to rise inside him.

"They destroy the transporter, they kill thirteen innocent Cornerian creatures and then they

kill.....they kill......." he couldn't bring himself to say her name. Kaylus saw Rad was feeling

the same way as he had done when he saw his superior, Sergeant Affisago, make the ultimate

sacrifice. He placed a bloodied paw on Rad's shoulder to try and comfort him, but the

wolf shrugged it off.

"There will be time for mourning later," he said, his voice rough and chocked.

"Those Venomian scum picked the wrong creature to annoy. Killing my friends! Now that

makes it personal."

He turned to one of the other base members who had been standing by.

"Get my plane," he demanded, "I'm taking this to the only creatures who can help now."

"The Cornerian army?" Kaylus asked as the door was shut on the medical vehicle that would

take him straight to Hyperion's medical bay.

"No," Rad replied, "StarFox."

Aboard Great Fox. Not much later.........

"Ah, good pizza," Falco yawned contentedly, slumping back in his chair, "Anyone want-"

"No, you have it." the rest of the team chorused in unison, "We insist."

Shrugging, Falco took the last piece, not at all concerned that it was cold, and that he had

already had six slices.

"Ugh! How does he do that?" Peppy asked Fox, who sat next to him.

"Obviously quite easily," Fox replied with a grin, "His nickname at academy was Falco the

feathery dustbin."

"Hey I heard that!" the Avonian complained, "Maybe I should tell them what your nickname

was."

"I didn't have a nickname!" Fox said, genuinely surprised.

"That's what you thought-"

"Look guy's the comlink!" Slippy exclaimed, seeing the red light flashing.

"Well don't just tell us about it! Put it on!" Falco exclaimed despairingly, "Now that's what

too many anchovies does to your brain."

"Fox Mc Cloud? Is that you?"

"Uh huh, and who might you be?"

"Rad, Rad Strouda, Commander of the Hyperion army base on Fortuna."

"What's wrong?" Falco interrupted, sensing something wrong in his friends tone, "You seem

a bit shaken up."

"That's to say the least. Look I'll be arriving shortly, I'll explain everything then. That's if

you don't get a message from General Pepper before me. Strouda out."

The com went dead.

"Not much of a conversationalist is he?" Fox mused, "But you're right Falco, something's

wrong, and by the sound of it, something big. I suggest we meet this friend of yours in the

briefing room, but before that I want you all to go check on your planes. I have a feeling we

might be needing them later tonight."

Half and hour later....

"And that's what happened. I came straight to you. Only you can help me now."

"And what is it exactly you want us to do?" Fox asked, "I'm not going on an all out

vengeance attack on Venom!"

Just then the com buzzed again and General Pepper's face flashed onto the large over head

screen.

"StarFox, there has been a-"

"We know General," Fox interrupted, "Commander Strouda is here now."

"Did he tell you that Venom blew up the transport ship?"

"Yes."

"So he told you that Andross also now has the entire crew of that particular ship hostage?"

"No!"

The General looked grave, "This is an extremely dangerous situation StarFox. I was informed

half and hour ago by Wolf O'Donnel that if we do not pay ransom to Andross, he and his

bloodthirsty team will kill the crew one by one. Normally we would deal with this under

normal protocol, but the situation is past that. On that transporter was not just invaluable

supplies for Hyperion base, but documents for a new Cornerian fighter that was to be

developed there. On board, as crew, were two top engineers, secretly travelling from

Macbeth to the base to continue their work in the utmost privacy possible. I don't know if

this is known by Andross, or if he found the documents, but as you can see, these are high

ranking personnel in danger and it is of the utmost importance that we get them back safe

and sound."

Fox found himself asking the General the same question that he had done to Rad,

"So what do you want me to do about it?"

"A rescue mission."

There was an obvious unease between all the other StarFox members, as they looked to each

other expectantly. They had only ever attacked Venom once before and that was bad enough.

With Great Fox they stood a chance, but it was always risky. It was true that after their last

encounter, Venom's forces were greatly depleted, but there was always a chance something

might go wrong, or Andross had something deadly up his sleeve.

"So what you're saying is that you want us to bust these hostages out right?" Tregar asked in

his normal logical way.

"That's about the brunt of it."

"Very brunt," Falco muttered, "Your not the one with your tail on the line."

This time even Peppy said nothing to that.

"I'm willing to pay-"

"I know. You always are-" Fox said dryly, "I've got to consider is it worth putting my team at

risk for the sake of some engineers. Of corse I don't want any harm to come to them, but

their deaths on top of ours....."

"I have 24 hours to pay the ransom Fox, or twenty nine innocent creatures die. I leave it in

your paws."

He ended the transmission.

"Why does he always have to do that!" Fox exclaimed angrily, looking with despair down at

his paws, "Now I've got to do it! If I don't I'll be seen as the one who let innocent creatures

die just for the sake of saving my own hide."

"Don't worry Fox, we'll be right behind you," Peppy said patting the StarFox leader on the

shoulder heartily.

"Yes, and I'm coming too," Rad said forcefully.

"You can borrow the spare Arwing. I doubt that ship you came in would be up to what we're

about to take on," Falco said truthfully.

Rad nodded, knowing that what his friend said was right. He was slightly nervous about

flying with the most famous mercenary team in Lylat, however, Zenobia's death had made it

extremely personal and he was going to make sure those Venomian scum payed dearly for it.

"Attack Venom or have a quiet night in playing pin the engine on the Arwing," Tregar

mused, breaking Rad away from his thoughts of vengeance, "I wonder what one I would

choose?"

"I like pin the-"

"Shut up Slippy."

"I'm shut, I'm shut!"

Zenobia woke with a great pain in her head. It was like she had been put in a washing

machine and the control knob had been turned up to 'fast spin only'. Her eyes gradually

regained the ability to focus properly and she looked around her surroundings with a vague

interest. She was in a cell. That was obvious from the bars on the front, but what was more

worrying was the strange looing devices attached to the walls and the slight pinky stains on

the cold, grey floor tiles. Her stomach turned and she decided in her mind not to even to go

there. The trouble was, that there was not much of her situation that she could look on the

bright side of. Especially when a familiar figure stopped in front of her little holding pen and

leered at her through the bars.

"I don't want to talk to you Wolf," she said bitterly.

"Oh come now," he replied in a smarm tone, "You don't mean that. Don't you want to know

how come your alive and not itty bittie particles floating around in space?"

"Not really. I'm alive and that's all I need to know."

"Yes, but for how much longer?"

Zen turned her back on him, therefore he began to tell her what happened anyway.

"After your somewhat idiotic move it looked like I was in totally the right position to finish

you off. Unfortunately for me, and soon you'll find out unluckily for you, Shayde Du'Pena

ordered The Rampage to get your ship into its docking bay by means of it's tractor beam.

You were unconscious at the time so caused little resistance. That's how you ended up here.

We also relieved you of your laser blaster and several data disks. They will be most

interesting to look through. As for the transport ship, that was destroyed, so was the rest of

those Cornerian scum." He spat on the floor. "Shayde wanted you alive. She said you would

not cheat her of the death you deserve. But don't look so worried, I'm sure you'll be here for

a while. I hear that she can keep her victims alive-"

"I don't want to hear it Wolf," Zen screamed, flinging herself at him, rattling the bars of the

cage in a vain attempt to break free.

He looked blankly at her as he saw small crystal tears rolling down her soft white cheeks.

"I don't want to die,"

Wolf stared at her for a second, an almost confused expression on his face, then thinking of

nothing to say, walked off as if nothing had ever happened.

In the tactical room of Great Fox..........

"A straight attack would be far to risky," Fox said, using his pointer on the holographic

projection of Venom. This route here on the other paw-"

"No, there's no way you could get through there. I helped design the system, tight as Slippy

in shorts it is. Uh huh. No way Fox."

"I'll ignore that," Slippy said stiffly,

"Well that's what we've been doing to you all day, so only fair I suppose."

"Shut up Falco."

"Look, back to the subject......."

"Sorry Fox."

"Right then. So this way's out of the question then? In that case I suggest-"

"This is hopeless," Falco complained for the fifth time, interrupting poor Fox who was

getting pretty peeved by this time, "We're never going to find a way in. We don't even know

where he's holding the prisoners."

"I told you where they're most likely to be," Tregar said, "It just so happens that it's also the

most heavily guarded."

"Hey guys I think you might want to look at this," Peppy said, reaching for the television

remote and upping the volume. They had had the TV on mute, on a news channel, just in

case there were any sudden changes to their situation.

"The hostage situation regarding the Fortunian transport ship, The Argrington's, crew, is

getting decidedly worse," the reported said, " Doctor Andross, maniacal ruler of the

Venomian empire has just sent message to army authorities, stating his terms of agreement

for the release of the twenty nine hostages, held at this very moment on the planet, Venom.

The payment is estimated at around seventy million credits and is to be delivered by the

brand new military craft the Nostromo II, the very first destroyer class ship in the Cornerian

Fleet, which will also be turned over to Doctor Andross as a release sum. General Pepper of

the Cornerian Army's high command, is making no comment at this stage, but with a

deadline of 12.00 tomorrow afternoon, it looks like time is running out. As for other stories

this evening, ten minutes ago one of the leaders of the renegade militia group of Corneria,

known as the Underground, was captured under mysterious circumstances. Witnesses say

they saw a single figure coming out of City Hotel only a few minutes before the police

arriving after a tip off. The Underground leader, also known as 'The Boss', a middle-aged

Lylatian wildcat, was found bound and tied when authorities arrived-"

Peppy turned off the sound and sat down again, "It looks like our situation just got a whole

lot worse. No way is Pepper going to pay that ransom! Andross knows we're gonna try and

bust them out. That's the whole idea. It's a trap! And the trouble is we're going to fly straight

into it."

"Hey! Wwwhat's wrong with hhhim?" Slippy stuttered as usual, pointing to Tregar who had

gone very pale all of a sudden.

"Hey Treg are you all right?"

The mink was just staring at the TV.

"Pressure?" Falco suggested humorously, "Or anchovies."

"No. Neither," he said, then turning to Fox asked, "I need your permission to leave Great

Fox."

"Tregar we're in the middle of a meeting!" Fox replied exasperated, "Not to mention a

matter of life and death for twenty-odd citizens."

"I know, I know!" Tregar said excitedly, "But I've got an idea. I know how we can save

them, but I've got to go, and I've got to go now before it's too late. It's a chance but it might

work."

"Talk sense Tregar. What are you going on about!"

"I can't say. You must trust me."

He got up and reached for his black flying jacket, "I promise I'll be back soon."

Fox looked to Falco and then to Peppy. Falco shrugged, but Peppy nodded.

"You can trust him."

"Alright then," Fox agreed, "But once you come back I want a damn good explanation of

what's going on."

"Thanks!" Tregar grinned, leaving the room in such a hurry that he almost knocked over the

Katonian fern plant given to StarFox as a present from the Cornerian Army, and had been

dumped in Tactical, as anywhere else it was put it wilted and dropped dead leaves all over

the consoles. They only ever got the stupid thing out when anyone in authority came to visit

as a sign of politeness. It would have been near suicide to throw the thing away.

"I'll see you!" Tregar called distantly, leaving at a fast jog.

"I hope so," Fox replied seriously, "For your sake as much as ours. And mind that damn

plant."

>From the second Tregar left the docking bay of Great Fox, he started to work quickly on

resetting every single schematic of his scanner and changing the tracking frequencies

according to the information on the disk he and Zenobia had downloaded from the Equinox.

They had found the blueprints of Firefly, the jet Tregar recognised as Raven's own fighter.

When the mink had seen the report on the television, about the captured Underground leader

he instantly thought of Raven Helix, and if the whole thing had only happened ten minutes

ago, hopefully she was still in the area. If he could find her he knew they stood a chance of

winning against Andross. Firefly had cloaking capabilities, the perfect defence for doing a

trench run on Venomian security and getting into the base. The only problem was finding

Raven. This was difficult for two reasons. One, she could be anywhere and his scanners,

although advanced, had to be reset to match the cloaking frequencies. And two, even if he

did get her trace, her jet was much faster than his, and she could easily out run him.

"I'll just have to cross my claws and hope," the mink muttered to himself as he tapped yet

another string of binary codes.

"Now then. Where would I go if I was Raven?"

He thought for a second, then an idea came into his sharp thinking mind, and he exclaimed

out loud to himself,

"Of corse! Somewhere inhabited by few, out of the way, the one and only Delta 39, the abandoned

science station! It was mentioned many times on that disk and for what seemed like no apparent

reason. They must have set it up for her. Yes I bet that's her base. what with all the

monitoring equipment, it's the ideal place for her to keep in contact with Equinox,

and know what's going on around the system."

Tregar Folessa set the co-ordinates for Delta 39 into the Lamda Bravado's navigation

computer so he could fly on manual while working on the modifications.

He smiled

knowingly.

"Raven, here I come!"

Authors note: Hold on! The next and final part is coming soon! Any questions or comments

are always welcome and I'll try to reply to everyone who mails me. Thanks for reading, from

Zoe Stead.