STARFOX: WORLDS APART           &n bsp;           &nb sp;           &nbs p;       CHAPTER
2

Cloud and company arrived at Junon Harbor. After the recent attacks by
WEAPON, the place looked like a ghost town.

"Cait Sith, " Cloud asked, "where, exactly, is this prototype you were
talking about?"

"Hangar 32-A, at the back. There's three security checkpoints, each
guarded by an automated defense system. The last door is locked by a
password. After all, Shinra WAS pretty tight about their security,
y'know."

"OK, then. Let's go."

"Awright, finally some action!", Barret Wallace exclaimed. Barret lived
for the fight, especially if it involved the Shinra. The Shinra, after
all, had killed his wife and family.

Cloud pulled a small green stone from his pouch and inserted into a slot
in his sword."If the security is automated, then we'll need Lightning
Materia.", he said, then started towards the hangar.

They arrived at the first security checkpoint. As Cait Sith had warned,
a giant robot turned to face them. Cloud shrugged his shoulders and
said."This is all they could manage? Piece of cake." He grasped his
sword and closed his eyes, then shouted, "Bolt three!"

The stone in his sword glowed, surrounding Cloud with a green aura.
Then, a tremendous flash of lightning speared the robot, destroying it.

Such was the power of magic.

The team repeated this battle twice more,  then arrived at the last
door. "What's the password, Cait Sith?", Cloud asked.

"I dunno."

"Lemme try mine. Stand back." Of course, Barret didn't need a password
to open the door--he had the ultimate key attached to what was left of
his right arm. The panel exploded in a hail of lead, and the door
opened.

"Gee, thanks Barret.", Cloud said, annoyed.

And there it was: Shinra Prototype XL-D5. Cid took a look at it and
said,"Hell, do you still think that this bucket will fly? It was here
even when that rustbucket No. 26 was still new."

"Well, acutally, it's been kept better preserved than No. 26 was. You
see, this was THE pride and joy of the space program. It was supposed to
launch right after No. 26, in fact. Palmer kept this ship in mint
condition in the hopes that Rufus would restart the space program."

"Well then, what are we waiting for? Where in hell is the door to this
crate?", Cid grumbled.

"I think it's over there."

"OK. Let's go."

Cait Sith stopped at the door. "Sorry, guys, but I can't go with you on
this trip. My remote won't work over that kind of distance.  But, I've
loaded all of the info you'll need into the computer. Just point it in
the right direction, hit the button, and it'll do the rest."

"OK. Good luck."

The team boarded the ship and looked around for the bridge. By sheer
luck, it was dead ahead.

"Ok, let's start 'er up!", Cid yelled, seated at the controls. I can't
wait to fly THIS." Cid was the team's pilot-they hadn't invented the
machine yet that he couldn't drive or fly. He flipped three switches and
heard the engines come to life around him. "Here we go!" He pulled up on
the controls and the ship began to clmb rapidly towards space.

Soon, the ship was outside the atmosphere--and the money test was about
to start.  "Cloud, which way do we go?", Cid asked.

"Come around to bearing one-three-five. It's about 15 or so light-years
away."

"Good.", Cid said as he brought the craft around, "Now, about this big
red button that's just been sittin' here buggin' me. I think it's time
to see what the Highwind-II can REALLY do. Don't you agree, Cloud?"

"Now THAT'S an original name. Go ahead, punch it, Cid."

Cid hit the button and the ship immediately accelerated to
faster-than-light speeds. The rest of the crew stood at the viewports,
transfixed by the sight. All Cloud could think, though, was whether or
not they would make it in time.

---------------------------------------------------------------

Fox was surrounded by his friends. Any other time, he would have been
happy to see them, but now, only one mattered to him: Fara Phoenix.

The doctor walked into the lobby, no expression visible on his face.

Fox asked, pleadingly,"Doc...is she...?"

"No. She's alive...but...", the doctor replied, grimly.

"Can I see her?", Fox asked.

"Yes, but...". The doctor never finished what he was trying to say as
Fox simply ran right by him and into the room.

Fox walked in and felt his heart sink. True, she was still alive, but
now her breathing was being assisted by a ventilator, and her eyes were
still closed. It pained Fox to see his love like this. He looked up at
the monitors and froze in despair when he saw one in particular: the
brain wave monitor, barely moving. Tears were welling up in his eyes.
"Doctor, she's...", he finally gasped.

"I tried to tell you. She suffered brain damage in that crash and she's
in a coma.  She might pull out of it in a couple of days...or
years...or..."

"Or...maybe never.", Fox said, refusing to think.

"Maybe. But, above all else, it's important not to lose hope. For her
sake, Fox, you must still believe."

"I'll...try.", Fox said, totally unconvinced that he really could.

Then he grasped hew paw gently and let the tears flow freely. "Fara,
I've many times wondered if I'd ever be able to see you again, to hear
your voice again. I could never bear to live without you. If I ever lost
you...I'd...", He then fell silent, unable to speak any further.

"Fox...brother...I never knew.", a voice behind him spoke. It was
Darius. Though it wasn't official yet, he still called Fox his brother,
out of respect.

"Darius, why did I ever let her fly that mission?", Fox pleaded.

"Because," he replied, "you know that she would rather fly on your wing
rather than run the family business."

"I know, but, if I had just refused, she'd be..."

"Fox, you know that you couldn't hold her back. Besides, you wouldn't
have wanted to."

"But...," Fox asked, an edge to his voice, "why me, damn it all? Why
must I always watch as I've lost all the people in this world that I
care about?  First, my parents...and now...I don't know if she'll make
it, Darius. And if she doesn't, I'll never forgive myself."

"Fox, ", Darius said, laying a paw on Fox's shoulder, "I understand, but
you're not in this alone. True, she's your fiancee, but she's also my
sister and a dear comrade to the rest of Star Fox. Now is the time to
band together for her sake and hope that she pulls through. OK?"

"OK,I guess.", Fox looked up at him and said , "Thanks....brother."

"Isn't that what family is for?", Darius said.
---------------------------------------------------------------

Cloud and the Highwind-II arrived half an hour after they had left Earth
in Cornerian airspace.

"Unidentified vessel, this is Corneria Traffic Control. Please
identify."

"This is Cloud Strife of the vessel Highwind-II. We bring news of an
urgent nature. Your world is in great danger. We need to speak with your
leader."

"OK, one second please,", then. "You are clear to land at Cornerian
Command, emergency priority clearance."

"Thank you. Cloud out."

---------------------------------------------------------------
Cloud and his friends were soon speaking with a large...well, it could
only be described as a...hound dog. In fact, Cloud had noticed, all of
the Cornerians were animals-literally. "I guess that you'd have no
problem blending in, huh, Red XIII?"

Red XIII stifled a chuckle as the large dog spoke," Greetings,
travelers. I am General Pepper of the Cornerian Defense Force. Who are
you, and what news do you bring?"

"I am Cloud Strife from the planet Earth, and we have come to warn you
of a great danger to your planet. A huge fireball called Meteor is
headed to your world."

Pepper listened as he explained further, then said, "I know someone who
may be of help. Peppy, Falco, see what you can do for our guests. "

A hare and an avian walked over to them. The hare was the one to greet
them."Hi. I'm Peppy Hare and this is Falco Lombardi. We're with the
CDF's elite team Star Fox. What seems to be the problem?"

"Who's the pup?", Falco asked, sarcastically.

Red XIII took no offense by the remark--he had been called a pup before,
and knew why. "I am Nanaki, but you, my feathered friend, may call me
Red XIII."

"OK, fine."

Cloud explained their situation to Peppy and Falco in greater detail:
about Sephiroth, and Meteor, and the threat they now posed to Corneria.

"Sounds like a job for Star Fox, all right.".Peppy said, then added,
"We'll take you to our leader and see what we can do. Be careful,
though, he's..."

"Cranky?",Tifa asked.

"No,....he's depressed. You see, he's....", Peppy stopped, unable to
speak further.

"Well, let's go.", Cloud ordered, "We can talk on the way."
---------------------------------------------------------------

Cloud, Peppy, Falco, and the rest of the team arrived at room 1257 at
Corneria General Hospital.

"Who are you?", a male red fox asked, holding the paw of the female
fennec fox lying in the bed beside him.

"I'm Cloud Strife of the planet Earth.", Cloud said as he introduced the
rest of his team, then added." We've come to warn you of a threat..."

"Listen, I'd like to help...but...oh, sorry, I forgot to tell you my
name. Fox McCloud. Anyway, I'm tired of fighting. I've lost too many
loved ones...and now I'm...."

"But, your world...", Cloud started to say.

Fox's cold gaze stopped him in midsentence. "Let others fight and die
for it, then! I lost the will to fight the day they brought Fara here.
Right now, she's all that matters to me. So, leave me alone!"

The three other members of Star Fox in the room could say nothing that
would change their leader's mind.  Then, Tifa walked over to him.

"Mr. McCloud..."

"Please, Tifa. Call me Fox."

"OK, Fox, I understand how you feel. A long time ago, Cloud got a severe
case of Mako poisoning. I'll explain what that is later, but Cloud was
in a coma for a long time. I chose to abandon the fight to stay by his
side. And, like yourself, I didn't know if he would ever recover."

Red XIII added, "But, his doctor told us that the light of hope can be
found anywhere. In the end, as you can see, both Cloud and Tifa came
back to us."

Fox stared for a long time at the newcomers, a blank expression on his
face, his eyes still wet from the tears he'd cried nonstop since the
crash. Then, he shook his head. "How can I still hope when hope is
gone?" He looked back over at Fara. "I've lost everyone I've ever loved
in my life, and now...I may lose the one who's been keeping me going all
these years. How...can I?"

Tifa looked sadly at Fox. She could still remember her feelings of
hopelessness when Cloud was in his coma.  Then, realization dawned on
her.

"Fox, we may be able to help her..."

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           &nbs p;           -END OF CHAPTER 2-