Agendas of War
Episode #4 of SunHawk

W. Jones

Chapter 1 Lost Promises

Personal Log of Kesh Serene

I believe that only one thing comes from war, and that is fire. I hold it as true because I watch it, all the time. It is a problem for me, having to watch death unfold all from the bench. It hurt, all the time I saw those whom I considered my friends, and one who I love, fight for their lives while I recover. I was tired of sitting back and watching while hell is erupting at our back door.

It has been four weeks since the computer virus was found inside my head which allowed Andross keep a level of control over me. He used me. He created who I was, and he used me. He used me to betray my friends, try and kill those who I love, and help him destroy that which is my home. The sad thing is, I was never given the feelings of a need for vengeance. So I will never want to strike back at Andross for what he has done to me. No matter how much I hated him, I could never have a craving to kill or strike back. So I did what I could to put it behind me, and waited patiently for Doctor Q'Ronnie or Sparky to find a way to eliminate the computer Virus. They did find a way two weeks and six days ago. Since then, I have been going through treatments to eliminate the virus at a very gradual rate. With every treatment, the virus would grow weaker and weaker. I could feel its loss in power every time it activated, signaling that Andross was trying to gain control of my mind. Thanks to Sparky's neuralizer, I was stunned every time the virus was activated, keeping me from causing any more damage. More attempts for the Venom army from sabotaging a mortal enemy from the inside. If they had any hope of eliminating the SunHawk, they had to do it the old fashioned way.

There were five different attempts to attack and destroy the SunHawk, and every one of them failed. It was a marvel in all senses. The SunHawk fought with every ounce of power in its hull. Every Venom warship who went in and engaged us came out of it in pieces. In the third attempt against us, the attack came in Sector Z. Four Venom assault cruisers were waiting in the nebula, just looking for the first sign of an easy ambush. The SunHawk was ambushed, big time, when she entered the sector. All four of the cruisers came out of the nebula and opened fire on us, more then two hundred fighters rushing like a wave. It was best described as both hell and retribution at the same time. I watched the whole fight erupt out my window. There was not a second that went by that I could not see the orange beams of our talon weapons. Both anti-aircraft and main guns fired everywhere. The two hundred enemy fighters were decimated by our fighters and our guns in under a short amount of minutes. The enemy cruisers were torn apart by our weapons. The main talon emitters sliced one of the cruisers cleanly in half. The other three were torn apart, piece by piece. Whether it was the Arwings from the ship, plasma spheres, hyper laser turrets, and nova bombs were all used in destroying the enemy. The Venomians were persistent, that can be given to them. They never quit, they never walked away. In the end, Sector Z was turned a debris field graveyard. It was a dinosaur moving through a snow storm where the snow didn't fall. I watched as the SunHawk pushed away the fragments of metal, radioactive material, and broken pieces of flesh that all hung in space. We had survived yet again, and again we walked away with minimal damage.

Now, I'm waiting for Sparky to call me about the results of my test, which should come tomorrow morning. With hope, the virus has been destroyed. And I'll be able to return to the science station on the SunHawk bridge, where I belong. And as time goes by, I can not help but realize the truth of how I feel. I do love Robert Maurine, and there is no doubt that he loves me as well. Maybe, when this is all over, I will be able to express my feelings accordingly. Love. I never felt such a feeling so strongly in my life. And now I'm being foolish enough to push it away.

As for the rest of the crew, there has been no big changes. Captain Dallas and Conner Seacore have become close friends over the first four weeks he has been here. They look good when they are together, as true friends. Everyone else has been themselves. This is all I have to say now. >From here after, all I have is to wait.

Lieutenant Kesh Serene Science Officer Cornerian Warship SunHawk

****

When a person spends long hours under a bright light during sessions of healing, they may find it more comforting to reside in the dark. In Kesh's case, the stars were the only light she saw for much of her time alone in her quarters. She was confined there while not in the medical lab, and her door was guarded at all times. She was escorted to and from the med lab, and then locked in her room until the next. Kesh had her food brought to her, three times a day, sometimes two times a day.

Kesh had regular visitations from Captain Dallas. When Kesh asked why Dallas was the only one to make frequent visitations, her answer was that most everyone stayed busy through-out the day. Some people, such as Sparky or Commander Grant would stop by and see how she was doing, telling her that she was missed on the bridge. Even Conner made a few stops at her quarters, giving apology for injuring her hand in disarming her, and to show her a few tips to pass the time and relax herself before each session. Only a few of the things which Conner showed her worked very much. Those that did she used much of the time.

Most surprising of all was Maurine. He hardly ever came to see her, and no one could stay with him long enough or work a reason for why out of if they could. Kesh felt lonely while on in her room much of the time. She no longer had any self-denial that she had feelings for Maurine. Seeing that he was not coming to see her did little to give her a real feeling of company. Kesh figured he was too busy trying to find Kesh's contact on board since she remembered nothing of him, or her. Or, Maurine was just trying to keep the ship safe on the inside, doing his job. Kesh did not rule out that he might be trying to avoid her.

One night, on the week where Kesh was promised that she was on her final week of being afraid of herself, someone came to her door. As always, it was pitch black inside, save for a single light.

The hand which was wrapped in gauze bandages stretched out, a lit match between its fingers. The flame touched a wick, creating a new flame on the candle. Kesh touched the other two wicks with her match, getting three total lights in her room, which was the most seen in over three weeks. Kesh extinguished her matched and stepped away from the three candles a little ways. She then, in her mind, began to recite words from stories and poems which she had read over time. She did this while watching the candles flicker, and peace began to return to her heart. It was interrupted, but only briefly, when the door chime sounded.

"Come in," she said very softly while looking at the door.

Her room was flooded with light when the door to the outside slid open. A single form stepped into the room and was lost in the darkness when the door closed. Kesh turned away before she saw who hand entered her quarters, but she did not have to look to know. Maurine could not see himself, but he could see Kesh's face which was cleanly reflecting off of it. Maurine's jackal eyes quickly adjusted to the dark, and Kesh's whole form was outlined in his vision. He frowned when she did not even turn to look at him.

"Hi," he said, feeling foolish all of a sudden. She made no response at all, save for a slow blink, and folding her arms. "Look, I um…" He was choking on himself, not able to find the correct thing to say, which were the exact things opposite he wanted to say. "I heard you were scheduled to come back on duty some time this week. I'm…I'm…glad, for you."

She looked at him, and stared at him for a while, holding his eyes on hers. "Is that all?" Her voice was icy. "You did not even come here. For four whole weeks you stay out there and pretend to hunt someone who is probably not even there anymore. I am pretty sure that Andross had his minion bale out once they discovered my little secret. So you are searching for a ghost now, a mere shadow of who used to be here. I think you knew that. So, is that what you meant by 'I love you' with that little mind message of yours, or did I just see a glimmer of what you used to think?"

Maurine nodded at her. "A' right, I confess. I have been staying away, I…" He looked at her staring at the candles, and squinted. "What are you doing, anyway?"

"With the candles?"

"Yeah."

Kesh sighed, and smiled slightly. "It is a little trick Conner showed me. Light a few candles and look at them while reciting a few of your favorite literature pieces in your mind. It is supposed to ease your feelings and reduce anxiety. Thus far, it has produced results."

"Just another one of Conner's religious things." Maurine shook his head and stepped a little closer to Kesh. "After spending four weeks around him, you realize that there is not a single, solitary soul in the whole Lylat System who is as religious and spiritual as Conner. You know what, that's a good thing too. He's never rude or harsh to anyone. He's just a swell guy to be around."

"Yes, I know Conner is a good person to talk to when you want to gain some sort of understanding, or if you want to calm down." She stopped and raised an eyebrow, now more agitated. "And why are we talking about Conner? He's not the issue here. You went on and changed the subject again on something which I wanted to talk about!" She stopped, more afraid of something. Maurine hurried forward when he watched her wipe a tear away. The wrapped each other in arms. "I'm…I'm afraid, Robert. I am really afraid. Web and the doctor are not sure on what will happen once the virus is removed. They know I'll be able to come back, they are just not sure about the side affects. I am just…frightened." Maurine pulled her tighter.

"I know, darlin'," he said to her. "I'm afraid too. But you're going to be fine. I know it, and so do you. All we have to do is believe."

Kesh pulled away from Maurine and looked him in the eye. There, for the first time in their lives, Kesh and Maurine kissed.

****

Captain Dallas had gone beyond the boundaries of frustration. All of this foolish and idiotic planning and developing. These foolish missions which Corneria high command was sending them. Simple surveillance missions on barely functioning mining platforms, recon on task forces not big enough to threaten an asteroid, and wiring the results back to base. It was a measly excuse for offensive action. Maybe Corneria thought that the ship would do more good just lulling around doing nothing, letting the enemy come to it. The SunHawk now had eighteen kills on enemy warships since she was launched. The number of fighters killed were left to the Arwing pilots. Total ship kills on fighters would have went off the scale. All of the ship's real action was developed with a serious defensive engagement. Dallas was growing weary of this cumbersome lack of offensive action. The offensive she wanted was barely even scratched.

After five hours of thinking and planning, Dallas shut off her computer and began to draw on her note pad, just to waste time. She didn't even bother wearing her glasses to do it, which meant she could barely see what she was drawing. Not that it mattered. Dallas was a terrible visual artist beyond the realm of strait lines and angles. The best thing she ever drew in school art class was a carefully transplant of a another picture she had. On her own, not a prayer.

After about fifteen minutes of drawing almost nothing, Dallas heard the door chime ring, and she welcomed the waiter inside. It was Grant who stood at attention at once inside. She offered him to sit which he did.

"Trying to improve your artists forte?" he asked.

Dallas gave a strong and fast exhale out of her nostrils and snapped the pencil in half. "Forte my ass," she hissed. Grant raised an eyebrow at the same time Dallas scratched hers. He could see that she was a woman with an obvious dilemma. After a long pause, Dallas spoke. "You know, it's been six whole weeks since we were on our feet after Papetoon. Six whole weeks since Star Fox helped us out and keeping us alive long enough to get on our feet. And how do I repay him? By skulking around and worrying about us not getting enough offensive action!" A pause, a sigh. She remembered what happened with Pandora, but refused to talk since Grant's memories about her were gone. "I promised Fox that I would do what I can to make sure this ship was there to help him and his men launch an attack on Dark Star station, and I haven't even made a call in to Corneria high command about it. What the hell is wrong with me?" Dallas stopped and stood up. She walked around her office for a minute and then stopped at the window, staring out at the distant red light that was Solar. She sighed.

"In one week, Peppy Hare will be back on his feet. In one week and two days, Star Fox will leave Corneria and continue their campaign against Andross. When that time comes, what will Fox say when he finds out we haven't even put in a request to help him when he needs it. He helped us when we were still being incubated in our dry dock's on Papetoon, now we can't help him attack and destroy a space station which is direly vital to Venom forces? Not on my watch."

"So what are you going to do about it?" asked Grant.

"It's not just me, Leo. It's us. What are we going to do about it? And the answer is everything we can possibly come up with. Tomorrow morning, you are going to take the KitHawk and observe this new Dark Star station for a half an hour or so and report back here. Oberon is no more then a few hours from here on KitHawk, so I don't think travel time will be a problem. Take Maurine and Conner with you too just in case."

Grant took a small and shallow breath of air. "Granted. But I can't really see how Conner would be useful for unless we were discovered and boarded, then he would come in very handy. Aside from that, what's he going to do?"

"You'll find something," returned Dallas. "Or, more or less, something'll find him. In any case, he's going. And you are all leaving first thing tomorrow morning. I want as much data on the defenses they have their, an estimate on total number of fighter squadrons docked, and the number of any warships guarding her. I want all of this data collected and updated regularly in a time span of no more then fifteen minutes. You stay any longer and you run the risk of the RWF probes being seen. When you're done, get out, and get back to me."

"You got it. But I have one question? Are you planning on doing anything while we're doing this?"

"With any luck, I'll be gaining clearance for this ship to be spared on such an attack. I'm going to send the request some time this evening. With hope It'll be on Corneria High Command front desk by nightfall, and I'll have a reply by tomorrow morning."

"What happens if they say no?"

Dallas thought for a moment, contemplating what would happen if they did refuse her request. "To be honest, Leo, I don't think they will say no. I have taken the time to read up on it. Dark Star has been a thorn in the side of our forces ever since this war began. They are keeping a constant strangle hold on our ability to remain covert in our operations around Oberon. Which means they…"

"Which means they can watch almost every move we make on worlds such as Titania, MacBeth, even Solar. If we eliminate it, it could open a door for a direct assault on Venom. That would make Fox and his friends very happy. Go figure." Dallas again sensed the knife edge in his voice when he talked about Star Fox. She raised an eye brow and sat down in the chair beside him.

"You've never told me why you dislike Star Fox," she said. "Do you want to talk about it?"

Grant raised his voice a bit. "With all do respect, ma'am, I do not want to talk about it at all. My feelings towards Fox McCloud and those who work with him are my business, and mine alone. No one, not even you, has the right to order me to just let it all out on what I think about Star Fox. The day those rights are broken is the day I hand in my badge and walk away. That's what I believe."

"I just wanted to see if I could help in any way. But, you're right. You have every right to not tell anyone. So I won't press any further on the subject." Dallas checked her watch. "It's getting late," she said. "I suggest you go get some rest before you depart tomorrow. I'll get a hold of Maurine and Conner and tell them to do the same. I'll have the KitHawk ready for when you are all up and ready."

"Is there any special time you want me in the hanger by?"

"No later the 0630. That'll put us all in great position to start planning an assault once you return. So, please, go get some sleep." Grant left, and Dallas was left alone to think. She was thinking the same thing she did when Grant brought it up. She had told him that she did not believe Corneria would turn down her request to attack Dark Star because Dallas didn't believe they could afford to let it live. But the certainty which Dallas knew that as a fact was running steady at zero. What if they actually did say no? Thinking of this, Dallas stood alone in her office, and just waited for an answer to come out of no where.

****

As she had said, Dallas posted a request to Corneria high command for the SunHawk to participate in an assault on Dark Star space station alongside Star Fox when the time for it came. Immediately following the message, Dallas turned in and went to sleep on the first impact on her pillow. Tomorrow would be a long day no matter how things turned out. Hopefully, it would turn out to be the way she wanted and the days and weeks to come would not seem so long. Dallas was giving herself the same thing she gave to Grant, Maurine, and Conner. The chance not to be sleeping on themselves when the most important things arrived to be done. No one has been getting much sleep over the past few weeks. When a ship that gets attacked regularly goes to sleep, she runs the risk of getting caught with her shorts down. Because of this, SunHawk was almost never asleep. Now was the time to rest up for a prelude to a hard time of events, which would clearly dictate what would happen here tomorrow and for who knew how long after.

Dallas grumbled angrily when she was awoken by the computer. She slowly raised her head off the pillow and looked at the terminal screen. The words "incoming communication" were clearly printed on the screen, she hurried a bit more to get to it, but not much. Dallas faced the screen and asked for identification of who it was trying to reach her. The identification was General Pepper, which caused Dallas to awaken instantly. She quickly threw on a night robe and her glasses and accepted the communication.

"General?" she asked, seeing the old mastiff's face on the screen.

"Good evening Captain," said General Pepper. "I must say I'm sorry for awaking you at such an hour. I hope there is no problem."

"No, of course not. What can I do for you, General?" Dallas stepped away from the screen to get some water.

"Captain Dallas, it has come to my attention that a few certain and questionable events have been happening on board your ship over the past number of weeks. We are talking internal matters here, so I'm saying nothing about your request you sent us this afternoon, the counsel ministry is still looking it over."

"Then what is this about, sir?"

"I heard that one of your crew members has been confirmed as a traitor. And you are still keeping this person on board yet under tight quarantine. Captain you very much know our strict policy towards acts of treason."

"General, I would not call this treason, if it is Lieutenant Kesh you are talking about."

"It is."

"Then it's not treason. Lieutenant Kesh was confirmed as being manipulated through a neurological level. Her mind is compromised of a CPU rather then an actual organic cerebral cortex, which was developed by Andross. Kesh was found with a computer virus in her brain, General, which allowed direct control to her judgment and actions. To call her a traitor instead of an unwilling pawn would be pointless. I will say that the problem is almost eliminated and Lieutenant Kesh will be able to return to active duty in less then a week."

Pepper leaned back in his chair and grumbled. She was right, of course, to judge someone when none of it was their fault. "Granted, Captain. But I still want you to keep an extra-special watch on this person. If she even pretends to turn against you, you are to arrest and confine her and keep her there until the proper authorities can come and deal with her. Is that understood?"

"Clear as a bell sir. Is there anything else?"

"As a matter of fact there is. I have also found out that you inducted a non-military individual as a member of your crew. I have received word that this being is…not native to the Lylat System."

Dallas dropped her jaw a bit and turned away from the screen. "So, he was telling the truth," she said very quietly, almost a whisper.

"What was that?" asked Pepper.

"Oh, nothing…general, I was just talking to myself. And you are correct in your data. The being in question goes by the name of Conner Seacore. He saved our lives when we found Kesh was being controlled, and he was involved in clearing another incident which I cannot speak about now. I gave him a home and a position on this ship as a symbol of gratitude. You should see this man fight, General. He's like an titan fighting in a man's body, or something. I believe that his service to this ship will be invaluable in the future."

General smiled at her like he already knew something that she didn't. She squinted at him, wondering what that something could be. "Actually, captain," said Pepper, "I have already seen this marvel of yours in hand to hand combat. And he has already done this army a great deal of help in making the other side, shall we say, less convinced that they are not as invincible as they think they are." Pepper was still smiling.

"How do you mean, General?" asked Dallas.

Pepper pushed a few buttons on his side of the transmission link up. At once, a file was being uploaded to Dallas's terminal. "What you are receiving is a visual data file on what I am talking about. You have heard about the destruction of the Tooth and Claw, haven't you?"

"All I know is that it crashed into Sub-Raiden and annihilated every form of life on the moon. Aside from that, I don't know anything. Why, what is the relevance between Conner and the Tooth and Claw?"

"You'll see. But the visual file I'm sending you was taken by an infiltration specialist we had on board the T and C just minutes prior before the ship's engine blew up, which caused her to get caught in the moon's gravitational pull and then crash. I will say this, Captain. I have already sent this video to a select few in the military as a morale booster. Star Fox has already seen it fifteen times already, and they came within a hairline length of laughing their bellies out each time. You judge for yourself. I will also say that this new friend of yours has become…a celebrity." He sat there and smiled at her for a brief period, waiting for the file to finish uploading to Dallas. After time, Dallas removed the CD, showing it to Pepper. "Thank you for letting me speak to you on such short notice Captain. And I will put in a kind word for your request to the counsel."

"Thank you, General." She saluted him and pushed her own button, ending the trans-mission.

Dallas held the CD in her hands for a small amount of time, just looking at it. When she placed it into the player unit, the picture came up at once. There, on one side of the screen was Conner, and the other side was the ever hated Star Wolf. Like everyone else who has seen this video, Dallas was astonished.

****

Since he did not require sleep at the time, Conner was meditating when Maurine came to his door. It did take a small amount of time for Conner to awaken from his trance to answer the door for Maurine. To the surprise of Maurine, Conner had already been expecting him, and was understanding to why Dallas wanted to see the black wolf. Conner solemnly followed the jackal down the hallway towards Dallas's office, looking at the floor the entire time they went. He did have an idea why he had been summoned, and he was not proud of it.

Everyone in the senior staff was present in the office when Conner and Maurine arrived. Because Dallas believed that she had a right to be there, even Kesh was present. Upon entering, Maurine went and stood beside her. Dallas stood up and looked Conner directly into his eye. He made no motion.

"Mr. Seacore. Are you aware of the reason why you were brought here?"

"I did have a feeling as to why, Captain."

Dallas reached down and pushed a key on her computer console. The screen on the wall flickered for a moment, and then went to the video. It picked up right where Wolf O'Donnell was swinging a laser rifle at the person who was undoubtedly Conner like a club. After five strait misses, Wolf tries a crushing overhead swing at Conner's head, which he easily catches in the palm of his hand. They all watch as Conner lifts Wolf up with a single arm and tosses him across the room. Andrew and Leon attack him at once, where Andrew is tossed into a machine behind Conner and Leon's punch is easily blocked. Leon is then laid to waste by a series of hammer punches.

Dallas looked over at Conner while his likeness on screen went on to beet the hell out of the diabolical lizard. She frowned to see his hands clasped in front of him as if in prayer, and his eyes to the floor, refusing to look up at the screen at what he had already done. Since there was really nothing more to watch, Dallas stopped the video. Conner looked up, sorrow in his eyes, after the screen went blank.

"Why such a glum look?" asked Sparky, sitting on a chair in front of Dallas's desk. "That deserves a first rate congratulations there. What you just did is…"

"What I have done," snapped Conner loudly, cutting Sparky off cold, "I had to do. For survival's sake. And I can except no congratulations for inflicting pain upon living beings." Conner looked down, away from everyone in the room.

"Can't except?" said Grant, not believing what he just heard. "Conner, that was Star Wolf. The worst case of pond spawn and scum this galaxy has ever seen. Believe it or not, they deserved whatever they got from you."

"Perhaps," said Conner. "But that really changes nothing. The people of my caste back home consider it a shame to inflict any kind of pain on a living, breathing individual and especially to take a life. They do accept it if it was defense of one's self or an innocent being. It is a sin if a person were to look back at that event where they caused the pain, and recollected on it. That is why I do not look on it now. Knowing that I have done this, and inflicted the wound on Ms. Kesh, it all has left a pain inside me as it should. No matter how evil the life is." Conner shook his head, refusing to look up.

"Conner, I understand how you feel," said Dallas, walking forward and facing him. "But you must also realize that those three you did this to caused more pain to our people then we'd ever thought possible to be found in any kind of soul. And they cause that pain simply for the sake of finding and killing just four people in this entire star system. You must know that there are now people out there who would give anything to meet you now, and shake your hand for this if they were to see it, or have seen it." He looked into her eyes, caught by the jade green gaze. Dallas smiled at him, and placed a hand on his shoulder, patting it lightly. "You don't have to like it. But I think you will find yourself in less of a self hurt if you accept it." He said nothing, and made no movement towards her words.

Dallas did very much know what he was feeling. She disliked to hurt people as well. Looking back on all of the people she hurt and/or killed in her life caused enough inner pain to make a torture lord feel inferior. However, Dallas shielded those memories out when she could and went on with her life. If Dallas could not do so, she would have walked out of Corneria Star Force a long time ago.

Dallas went on to clear the crew out of her office. They all left, Maurine escorting Kesh back to her quarters and then going back to sleep. Grant went off to sleep as Dallas instructed him to do. When everyone was gone, only Dallas and Conner were left in the room.

"Whatever you want to do, Conner, we do need your help. There are things that need to be done to make sure that our people remain safe, such as winning a war and doing it quickly to prevent further loss of life. You know that I asked you to accompany Grant and Maurine while they take a look at this Venom Space station. You told me one time that you are very good at remembering that which you see. Please don't tell me that I have shown you the things I have shown you over the last four weeks for nothing."

"No," said Conner quickly, being reassuring to her. "Of course not. I will still go with them and I will do what I can to help. Is that all, Alison?" Dallas smiled at him using her first name as she insisted between friends.

"Yes." Conner bowed to her and turned around to leave. He stopped before he exited the office and turned to her. "You were correct about one thing though."

Dallas looked up at him. "And that was?"

"We, my people, do choose to accept what we do no matter the consequences. But if it is of ill, we must spend five moons in prayer before we are permitted to forgive ourselves. However, no matter how dark our deeds are when we commit them, they are always for a purpose. In my case, survival. With this, we have no regrets. No regrets at all." Conner looked down at the floor, and shook his head. "That is what I dislike about my people, one of the few things. I was hoping that by coming here I might be able to find a way to gain such a thing. Maybe today, after remembering myself fighting those four poor wretches on that ship, I have tasted my first sense of regret." He turned around and left, not looking back. Dallas watched him leave, not knowing whether to feel pity or envy for him.

To have no regrets, a dream.

Chapter 2 Request Denied

"You sure you've gotten enough rest?" asked Maurine.

"I am fine," said Kesh.

She stood in front of the lit candles for hopefully the last time. After this, Kesh hoped that she would be able to return to active duty. Happily, she looked at the candle, watching them burn, thankful for the peace they have brought her during these hard trials. Now, their job was done. Kesh licked her fingers and put out the flames on all but one candle. The last one she picked up at the base and held it before her face.

"And yet, I am so nervous. I do not know what I am going to hear once I step into that room. I do not know if this virus can be totally removed, or if something unwanted will happen if it is. I am having doubt that this will not come without a price. It may be a mere small one to pay, but my instincts tell me otherwise." She paused, feeling a tear form in her eye. "Every time I have ever felt something in terms of pure instinct, something terrible has happened. The loss of my own true mind, the death of my parents. All of those and more were as a result of me following my instincts. After that, I vowed to myself never to trust them, and use simple judgment of what I see to act. And now, I am using instincts, because they tell me the only things that seem logical."

She turned to Maurine, whose face looked so enthralled with worry, wishing to give comfort, and love. She began to cry when she looked at him.

"I'm afraid I might die."

"No," whispered Maurine. He too was beginning to tear after hearing this. "If you die I'll kill you myself. I won't let you go anywhere except a recovery room. That is what I am going to do for you, because… I think you know the reason why. You are not going to die, Kesh. Not until you are old and gray. This, I swear to you."

For a moment, Kesh just looked at him. Looked into him. Maurine wanted to go and hold her. But he stayed away for now, and just watched her. Maurine had to leave on KitHawk in thirty minutes. He wanted to see Kesh before she went to receive the results of her last test. Slowly, he advanced toward her.

Kesh took her eyes from him and looked hard into the candles light. She stared at it for long time, not saying anything until she felt Maurine's ands rest on her shoulders. After this, she sighed, and then spoke. "I will not hold you to your promise. I do this because the feelings we hold for each other are one. I will never expect you to keep a promise which may prove futile to try. If these are to be the last moments of my life then let them die with this candle. Each person to his fate, whatever that may be." She blew the candle out, and the dark consumed both of them instantly. Maurine and Kesh stood in her room holding one another for the entire period before Maurine left for KitHawk, and Kesh left for her test results.

****

It had grown more or less into a routine operation now. The KitHawk had been used so much over the past four weeks that no one ever got nervous when they needed to dock or launch it.

The small attack ship usually acted as a specialized scout, using its reality warp field to hide itself as it surveyed the area ahead, looking for any kind of traps. It was also an excellent spy bird, used a lot to gain intelligence and conduct reconnaissance missions. Perhaps its greatest asset was the remarkable one ship defense screen it created for SunHawk. With its great speed and heightened fire power, the KitHawk was able to intercept almost any large ship or fighter before it got much of a shot at SunHawk. Because of this, the small attack ship was invaluable in the numerous attempted assaults in its mother ship.

It was no wonder why no one was worried about going out on it again. Especially since they were going into a wolf den where most of the family was rabid. Many of the crew had become very faithful towards the KitHawk's ability to keep its crew safe. Besides that, they almost always thought that the KitHawk was the most fun ship to be on in the system.

Conner was the first one to the docking bay on that morning. He arrived a whole hour before anyone else did. Seeing that he was alone, Conner sat down and began to meditate, thinking back to the old days on his home world of Shyer, and his times in the religious caste of Catholaie. His days there of learning things he never would have dreamed of if he choose to stay with the fighting and warrior groups he once chose to follow. Plus, Conner felt more whole as a monk rather then a warrior. Now, he was both.

Maurine was surprised to find Conner in a state of altered consciousness when he walked into the launch bay. Conner just sat beside the umbilical tube to the KitHawk, not responding to any kind of stimuli. Maurine silently sneaked up to Conner, almost on the verge of tip-toeing to remain in stealth. When he got to him, Maurine leaned forward and waved his hand in front of Conner's face. No response. He did it again, this time real close to Conner's nose, about ready to strike it with a wrong move. Like lightning, Conner's hand shot away from his lap and grabbed hold of Maurine's wrist, causing the jackal to half jump out of his boots. Conner opened one eye and looked at Maurine, smiling.

Maurine breath a sigh of relief, at first thinking that he was going to get nailed. "You bastard!" he yelled, taking his arm away after Conner let it go. "D' you have any idea how many hours of my life you just took away from me?"

"How many elements of the soul does it take to create a single life?" asked Conner as he stood up. Maurine looked at him, stupefied by his question. "In truth, none are really needed. But it requires all of both to make a person. I think you will be fine." His vision went to Grant who just walked in. "All ready then?"

"Yeah," said Grant. "Tell me something Conner. Captain Dallas said that you would be able to help out in other ways then guarding against intruders. In what way will you help us, exactly?"

"Well, the captain did give me a rundown on how to man the ops station, in a matter of speaking. I do think I will be able to assist you there any way that I can."

Grant smiled at him, and he led them into the KitHawk. Once inside the small ship, Grant took up command in the small center chair, Maurine manned tactical, while Conner took operations station. Dallas had given him a "crash course" on how to man this station for a beginner. Normally, she would have never permitted a first starter at any kind of station where critical operations were going on. However, there has been no greater ability to learn which Dallas has seen then what she saw in Conner. She knew that the KitHawk would be in good hands while he sat at operations.

At the ship's helm sat a middle sized Mallard, eager for a new morning of flying. Grant smiled as he watched the young pilot playfully work at the helm station, getting the attack craft ready for flight. "How are you doing Kite?" asked Grant.

"Like I'm ready to blaze through the Canyons of Triskeleon on Oberon. Basically, that's how I feel every morning. You can understand that, can't you sir?" Grant merely nodded at the duck and leaned back in the command chair. There he waited until they were ready for launch.

The duck sitting at the helm was named Kite McCane. He held the rank of junior lieutenant in Corneria services and was well on his way to promotion to full lieutenant within the next few months. Like Falco Lambardi, Kite was a member of the avian race of flyers, and hence a pure bred pilot. Although there was no connection between Falco and Kite, they were said to have identical abilities and skills when it came to flying. Kite was originally posted on the SunHawk as an Arwing pilot for the SunHawk's fighter wings, which he still was. But after he heard about the opening for the pilot seat on KitHawk, Kite put his name into it at once. Although it was a slight disappointment that he only got the alternate choice, having to wait until something went wrong with the starting pilot to fly it. Now, that first choice pilot was in sickbay with a fever, so they called Kite for this mission. He was never so much excited to be sitting here now.

"We are now ready to launch this bird, sir. All thrusters and maneuvering flaps are go for usage. Fuel supply is…full."

Grant nodded at Kite and then pushed a button on the command terminal. "KitHawk to SunHawk command central. We are now ready for launch sequence. Request permission to disembark."

Dallas was the one to answer them. "Bridge to KitHawk. Permission to disembark is granted. You are now cleared for launch. Good luck, Commander. Bring back something good for us to use." A buzz sound signaled that Dallas had severed her side of the link. Grant nodded one last time to Kite. The duck went on to begin the launch sequence.

A huge mechanical arm resembling insect pincers was holding the KitHawk in place while it was docked. Upon receiving the correct launch sequence coding, the computer controlling this arm began to lower it. The umbilical corridor connecting the KitHawk to its mother ship was disconnected and tugged back into the ship, readying for future use. The huge arm kept lowering as it was also extending downward. The wrists of the pincers holding the ship began to unfold down, and the nose of the KitHawk was pointing downward at an angle away from the ship. Here, the arm stopped moving. Inside, Kite pressed a single red button. At the same time, the pincers snapped open and the KitHawk engines kicked into fire. The ship dropped clear of the SunHawk for a small time, and then began to rocket away from its mother ship.

Grant turned in his chair and watched his computer monitor as they moved away from the SunHawk. After a good distance, "set course for Oberon. Best speed."

"Best speed to Oberon, aye." Kite set the helm control and entered the data into auto-pilot to take the ship to the hollow planet of Oberon, where Dark Star was orbiting. "Now moving to destination, ETA: three hours twenty-eight minutes."

"Mr. Conner? Did Captain Dallas show you enough about Ops for you to work the reality cloaking veil?"

Conner gave no verbal answer to Grant. He just hit a few keys on the operations console and a button to accept his last command. Outside the ship, three small metal spheres were dispensed from a small bay between the two upper stabilizer wings. The three spherical probes began to rocket forward and catch up with the KitHawk. They took up a triangular position around the ship where they cut off their own power and placed themselves in control gravity fields emanated from the KitHawk to keep the probes in formation with the ship. The probes lit up brightly, and the KitHawk began to distort visually. It then vanished, and the three lit up probes were the only things left visible. The real deal in UFO's. And the near ultimate in stealth technology, or at least a real fine tool in confusing the hell out of an enemy.

****

Within a few minutes, the KitHawk's cloaking veil was raised, and it disappeared from Dallas's view. She sat in the chair, smiled that she had just taken the second step in repaying Fox. She watched the lit probes, barely visible to them even at full magnification. Soon, they were gone.

"Captain." Dallas turned her eyes to a bridge officer.

"Yes?"

"Sir, we've just received a priority message from Cornerian High Command. Level Alpha, for your eyes only." The bridge officer handed her the data-pad which held the encoded message. She thanked him and took the pad, waiting until he left until she decoded it and read it. A few of the bridge workers took their minds off of their work to watch her read it. They saw her growl with anger and clench her fist upon seeing the short message. A reply to her request earlier.

Dallas read the message one last time, trying to see if her eyes were deceiving her, or this was a acute truth. A simple little message which read as follows.

To: Cpt. Alison Dallas CSS SunHawk

We regret to inform you that the request you posted to the Cornerian War Ministry has officially denied you permission to assist Star Fox or anyone else in any kind of assault on Dark Star station, or any other sort of enemy military equipment. Your orders to report to Katina for your next mission package still stand. Sorry.

Adm. Starky Cornerian Army

Fed up, Dallas slammed the pad down onto her chair's armrest, which caused everyone on the bridge to look her way. Sorry? Sorry! What a crock, sorry, thought Dallas. She stood up, holding the pad in her hand tightly. Tight enough to make her knuckles turn white. All of what she thought true within the last few weeks was stuffed back into her face. Why was this true? That station going down would be a major blow to the Venom forces. It may even make them consider peace for a change. There were no civilians there to worry about, no commuter traffic, and not a single thing good about it. All Dark Star was, was a weapons depot and a holding facility for a spy telescope. To leaving it standing made no sense.

Last night, Dallas would have accepted no as an answer and sent an apology message to Fox, explaining that she did try. Now, having thought these matters through, no and sorry were no longer options.

A bleep from her chair sounded, and Dallas accepted the incoming communication. "What?" she asked harshly.

"Captain, we have Kesh's test results if you want to see them."

"Thank you doctor," replied Dallas, calming down a bit. "I'll be there right directly."

****

"You mean it is over? I can go back to work?"

"Any time you want to. Only be careful," warned Wyn. "That last test might have taken a little out of you, so you may want to limit the time you spend on duty. Try to stay away from any heavy physical labor."

"Is she well enough to travel?" asked Dallas, stepping inside.

"I don't see why not. Just as long as she doesn't get behind any flight controls for now, she can stand a flight from here strait through Area 6 and back through again. I mean…yes she is ready for travel."

"Good," said Dallas, tossing Kesh a duty uniform. "Because she's coming with me."

"Where are we going?" asked Kesh.

Dallas angrily stared strait ahead at the wall. "Corneria."

Chapter 3 Flight Path

Just what the doctor ordered. Kesh slept the entire trip to Corneria perhaps her first good nights sleep in over a week. Dallas kept the engines silent as she flew the shuttle, keeping the speed low and without turbulence. She took the time to read the test results before they left. The virus had been eradicated, and all of the knowledge and data which was uploaded into Kesh's brain died with it. She could not remember the names of any contacts, nor even faces or sounds of their voice. In fact, the only thing she remembered were the orders she received to carry out, and her means in doing it all.

Nevertheless, it was over, and Kesh was back with them. Maurine would be very happy, Dallas knew. No side effects to make them worry, and no last ditch programs to screw up her neural systems. She was taking her first step back into light after a long journey through the jungle. Some way to wake up though, when they were all headed back into an even bigger danger zone then before.

Directly ahead of them was Corneria, its paradise climate acting as an interstellar beacon. Dallas woke Kesh and then began her landing towards Corneria City.

****

They didn't have much of a welcoming when they touched Down. In all truths, not a soul was at the starport to greet them, which Dallas preferred. She purposely neglected to inform anyone here that they were coming, not want to attract any attention. The fact that the Ministry of War refused to give her the assignment to attack Dark Star made her a little suspicious. She felt someone playing a game here, and she was going to get to the bottom of its object.

Her and Kesh quickly left the starport and headed towards downtown Corneria City, where Dallas would speak to an old friend of hers. This friend had no idea who was about to drop in, but that didn't matter now. They might need his help to get the attention of the Ministry when Dallas required it. Hopefully, plan A would be successful enough so she would need it, but it was safer to drop in prematurely.

The two of them took a cab into Corneria City, some of which was still being rebuilt when Andross laid siege to it. It was a lot better looking now then when Dallas saw it nearly seven weeks ago when she first got command of the SunHawk. Now more like the shimmering utopia is represented then a victim of attempted siege.

After a while of flying through the city, Dallas could look out the window and see their destination. The Tower of CMN, or Cornerian Military News, was the headquarters of the best and most reliable media source in the system. Dealing in both newspaper and visual broadcasting, this was the place to watch to keep updated on any war, or any kind of military stature. Here was where her friend worked.

The taxi landed directly in front of the media tower. Upon getting out, both Dallas and Kesh were given away by their officer uniforms, and at once were intercepted by a few reporters trying to get word. Dallas shunned them for now, not having the time to talk. She and Kesh entered the building, and made their way up to the floor where her friend worked.

"Are you sure that there is someone here who can help us?" asked Kesh, skeptical about the usefulness of these media people.

Dallas smiled. "Trust me," she said. "I've known this guy since high school. He'll want to hear this since it directly concerns with what he does. If I give him this information, the press is going to have a field day tearing the foundation out from underneath the Ministry. And I will submit it if they stop being so damned foolish. This is it."

The door in the hall had the silver lettered words, Benton Durango - CMN News President. Kesh looked at her, astonished that Dallas knew someone this rich. Benton Durango was one of the wealthiest men in Corneria, getting his money from being a top notch reporter, and working his way up to the ranks until he sat at the head of the entire corporation. Dallas opened the door, letting Kesh in first then herself following.

The secretary sitting at the front desk reared her head at the sight of the two women dressed in military garments entering the office. One of them, interestingly, held a rank of Captain, who looked gravely serious.

"May I…help you?" asked the secretary.

"Yes," answered Dallas. "You may. We would like to see Benton Durango as soon as possible. It is important."

The secretary listened to this, and looked at the husky and the blond vixen with her suspiciously. She didn't trust the military, which was why she worked for the organization that kept the public informed about what they were doing. She pressed her lips with frustration and grabbed a pencil.

"Names?"

"Alison Dallas, Captain and Kesh Serene, Lieutenant. Please don't ask for an appointment, we have to see him very soon."

"Well, he's in a meeting right now. It may a few hours before…"

"We'll wait," snapped Dallas, starting to lose patience.

The secretary looked at her harder, and then wrote down their names on the appointment list for the day. She informed Dallas that Durango would not arrive until nightfall, still another five hours from now. Dallas nodded to her in understanding, and she offered the waiting room nearby for them to wait, sleep if they wished. Dallas thanked her, and she and Kesh went into the waiting lobby, sitting in the barely comfortable chairs for long wait.

"So," said Kesh, sitting across from her captain. "In what way do you know Durango? You said you knew him at high school. Did you graduate together?"

Dallas nodded slowly at her. Blinked once, and waited for a while before talking again. "We were once close friends. Close friends. In fact, we almost became lovers, but stopped and turned away from each other out of respect. We both valued our futures above all else, not willing to let anything part us with that potential. By letting myself get pregnant by him, all hopes of a future success would have been cast to wind, shot to hell, for both of us. I was fighting like mad to gain admission into the academy, not even willing to let fate get in my way. He fought to go to business school, his dream was to become rich."

"And you went on to the academy, and he to school. After that, did you see him again?"

"A few times," answered Dallas. "One during when I was in the academy, another soon after. The last time I saw him was a few weeks after…a few weeks after the battle of Katina." Dallas remembered again, causing her to shiver.

Kesh saw it, and moved towards her in worry only stopped by Dallas's gesture that she didn't need help. The young husky removed her glasses and rubbed her eyes, pulling an unseen tear out of them before it fell. She sighed and stood up and walked around the room, trying to vent some tension.

"I take it that I would be correct in my assumption that you do not want to talk about it," said Kesh, keeping her voice above a whisper.

"What?"

"What happened at Katina and aboard the Illuminauti."

"No!" snapped Dallas at once, almost on the verge of exploding. She immediately calmed down. "No. I'm…I'm not willing to discuss that. Not with anyone. Not even with myself. I will say this though, that I have looked at myself a lot more negatively over the past ever since that happened. Who I have become, and what I have done is something I will never discuss." Her voice turned more to acid and hate. "Never."

Dallas sat down with a sulk, much pain and anger in her green eyes. Kesh often found herself shivering whenever she looked into the bare unshielded eyes of Captain Dallas. No one Kesh knew held so much fire and ice in her soul as did Alison Dallas. It seemed so illogical that someone could contain so much hate, rage, and self doubt not about her decisions in command, but about her own moral character. All this and still able to remain perceptive and objective when it counted the most. She truly was a psychological marvel.

Without regarding consequence, Kesh humbly walked over to Dallas and sat down beside her, clearing her throat to speak. "I always found it best to confront something that I did wrong, and let myself go on it. I always felt better when I opened myself to someone, namely my foster parents on Corneria when I had done an immoral deed, and then tried to repent for it if necessary. It worked, occasionally."

"Since when have you ever done wrong…that was of your own free will?" asked Dallas.

Kesh smiled at her captains strive to remain correct. She went on. "When I was about twelve, I took my first step into a class room at the Brimstar Science Academy. I was the youngest one in there by, oh about seven years at the least. Everyone else had gone strait through high school normally. But because of Andross, I was ripping by all of the academic barricades with ease, surpassing my fellow students in all subjects, especially science fields of physics and biology. I went through normal starting school in thirteen weeks while for the rest it would take twelve years. I had to wait for a while to grow a little older before I could be admitted into Brimstar.

"I remember it so vividly, go figure. Seeing all of those older kids, more like young adults and I was still in mid-childhood. I was so nervous I could actually feel my own nerve endings buzzing. I went in and sat down, and I participated in class the whole way through." Kesh started to tear up a little. "When I left that day, I had already gotten five negative nicknames from the other students. I suppose it was because of jealousy, because I have showed up many of them during class. When I was walking back to my room, I was thinking to myself how and why people could be so cruel from jealousy. A twelve year old with a brain comprised of silicon data chips instead of neurons and chemicals was beating them at their own game, and because of it, I was forever considered an outcast.

"It went on like that for the first five weeks. My only gratification for getting back at them was to make them look like idiots and fools while in class. They would give an answer that was correct, then I would go into their solution, study it, find the quarks and then come up with my own solution that was ten times more efficient then theirs was. And I did all of this in a microsecond. Knowing that I was making them look stupid was how I got revenge, but instead it only made things worse.

"I went home one day to find all of my ransacked. My bed mattress was torn open, its innards blanketed onto the floor. All of my books were painted in, destroyed in the parts that were most critical. Pages were torn out and then stuck to the walls with little threatening notes on them, warning me to be careful in class or else. All of them were senseless threats, foolish words from foolish people. They may have had high IQ ratings, but what the lacked was common sense. When of the notes had a name on it."

Dallas shook her head, not surprised that someone was that stupid, for she had seen it all to often in her life. "So what did you do?" asked Dallas.

"The only thing I could do right then. Reported it to the local authorities. I never touched anything before they arrived, letting them examine the mess. They found the note, and the tracked the name to the person responsible for it. It was one of the same kids who I surpassed during class times. He was arrested, and later spent seven weeks in jail for destruction of private property. He also had to pay for all of the damaged and destroyed things which belonged to me. With all of that, I still did not have enough. I wanted revenge.

"It was a perfect plan. Me and the few of my only friends stole a bottle of low concentrated helium from the science lab. We then broke into his room, and switched his air bottles with the helium tank, and then broke out. He had to use the air breathing system during the night, because for some reason he couldn't regulate his lungs in a night rest period. We were going to wait and see if he tried to talk during class." She stopped for a moment, a tear rolling down her cheek and falling down the floor.

"What happened?" asked Dallas.

Kesh found it a little difficult to go on, but she forced it. "It was helium, but it was also mixed with a low concentrated form of carbon monoxide. He died." Kesh stopped for a moment and wiped her eyes. "They said it wasn't our fault that he died. They understood that it was just a childish prank to get even, plus the bottle was not marked with any kind of warning. They said that there was no way of knowing what was in that bottle. That was true, but we never should have done it in the first place. And all because of my petting need for revenge.

"I left Brimstone Academy for the last time that weekend. I would always have the worst reputation there for what I did, I never would have made it. So, I went to home, and there I waited for seven years so I could enter the Cornerian Military. After that incident, I tapped into my own mind, and I erased all traits which dealt with revenge and a need to get even. That is why I do not feel the need to kill or destroy Andross for what he did to me. I just live, and go on living. I also disabled all feelings of emotion and locked it out with a special code which would only resurface when the time was right. They came back to me after that incident with Conner, where he looked right into my soul to find something that was influencing it and traced that back to the virus. After that, I began to feel emotions again. I remember the first thing that I felt…was that I did love Robert Maurine, and I do, and I will.

"When I was in that coma, I kept having dreams of he and myself getting married, and creating a vast family underneath us. We remained together until we both died of old age, sixty years later. I know that I love him now, but I wonder if that is anything of what our future will be. Almost all of me hopes that it is."

Dallas listened to the story, and knew exactly how Kesh felt about that incident with the helium bottle. She patted Kesh on the arm. "Our futures are what we make of them," she whispered. "If you want that future with Maurine, then I think you know the best way to guarantee that it happens." Dallas walked away and sat at another chair, away from a lit lamp. There, she closed her eyes and slowly nodded off to sleep. There was one thing though. What Dallas did at Katina was no practical joke gone wrong.

****

Up until this very point, the mission went smoothly enough. Now, hell was unfolding right in their throats. The KitHawk was flying hard through the airless space along the upper Oberon atmosphere. One of its engines was faltering, all of its weapons were off line, and the cloaking veil was virtually destroyed. All lost with one hit from a nearby EMP warhead. Grant was really pissed that he let that enemy fighter get in behind them without him knowing. At least he did see it in order for the ship to split soon enough to put outside the brunt of the electro-magnetic pulse blast. However, they were still caught in the blast enough to give the a huge wake up call.

"Are they still back there?" yelled Grant, holding on to the arm of the chair as if it were a ledge to his last seconds of life.

"Closer then you'd like!" answered Maurine. He looked at the tac-view more closer, trying to find something to use, anywhere. He growled out in rage seeing the bright red shapes of three enemy fighters on their tails, lit up bright red to signify their attack. "Those three Borzoi fighters are still on our ass!" he yelled. "You think you can lose them?"

Kite was obviously struggling with the controls, but it was he who kept them alive during this engagement, out flying the Venomians at every turn. Yet, he felt they should have left them in cosmic dust the first minute after this merry-go-round started. "Just might as well consider them gone right now." He started to input coordinates into the computer, all while keeping a constant control over the ship. Maurine read the new course data at his station, and half choked.

"No," yelled Maurine, glaring at Kite profoundly concerned. "You can't be serious."

The young pilot just smirked. "Before we left SunHawk I told you that I was willing to take this ship through the Canyons of Triskeleon. Guess what Chief, I wasn't fooling."

"Yeah, but this is no freaking Arwing," said Grant, looking stern while in deep alarm realizing where Kite was planning to take them. It's about five times bigger, somewhat faster, and a little less maneuverable. Taking this thing under the surface at high speeds isn't going to be a cake walk. In fact, it's a near tenement to suicide."

Kite shook his head quickly. "Either we take a risk and brave the rapids or we take on those two assault carriers directly ahead of us. Quiet literally, I think we'll have a better chance braving those canyons right now. Plus, I don't think any Venom fighter pilot is brave enough to get under that surface."

"No, they'll probably just obliterate the whole damn thing just to get us," snapped Maurine. Kite looked at all of them coldly, showing them that his plan was the only livable one they had right now. A huge rocking jolt to the ship sent the four of them reeling a bit. Conner checked his screen.

"What ever you are going to do, please make it quick," he called. "Our second engine is beginning to terminate. Another hit like that, and we won't have to worry about it any more."

Slowly, Grant nodded to Kite to proceed.

With the pressing of a few buttons to bypass safeguard protocol, Kite pushed forward on the controls, and the KitHawk started to hurtle towards the planet. The three Borzoi fighters turned hard down to follow them, firing their lasers at ever tenth of a second hoping to get a good solid hit on the enemy. If anything, it was the KitHawk's speed, even with one working engine, was what was keeping it alive. If that speed could prove useful where they were going, that they might have a chance of getting out of this.

Pulling up soon enough not to strike, but close enough to toss a cloud of sulfur into the air, the KitHawk broke off its screaming descent and went on skimming the surface. Below them was a rocky sea of sulfur dust, which was tossed up into the thin, superheated atmosphere of Oberon with its exhaust wake. One of the Venom fighters made his final mistake, and found himself in the sulfur cloud. He could see nothing at all save for his own instruments. When they started to warn him that his fighters engines were dying, he yanked hard on the stick to try and escape the cloud. He was far too late though. The thrusters died, and the fighter began to dwindle down to the surface, crashing hard into the sulfur ridden crust. The pilot died from the poisonous air after his cockpit was smashed open.

The last two Borzoi ignited their boosters and crept in closer behind the KitHawk. They locked onto her with lasers yet again and let loose all of her weapon power possible. Only a few of the many laser blasts even connected with the ship. Others just whizzed by harmlessly and impacted into the sulfur rocks. Those that did hit were absorbed into the ship's tough shielding. Even with this lack of damage they were inflicting, the Venom pilots remained reluctant to break off the attack. A target like this, with its strange stealth technology, would earn them a medal if they destroyed it. The remained consistent, and kept their afterburners on full to keep up with KitHawk. One of the pilots, a falcon, grinned as a missile lock was starting to form up, which would seal the enemy's fate.

"There it is," said Kite, spotting the vents of steam and gases on the horizon. He tried to put more speed in, an attempt to get away from the Borzoi fighters before they had to go in. Not possible right now, with only one engine. Kite did his best to keep moving to prevent a weapon's lock on the ship. "No comes the hard part," he said quietly to himself.

The large cave hole in the surface, well over eighteen kilometers in total diameter, was the window into the famous Oberon underworld. The hallow parts of the burning planet were said to house huge stashes of weapons which Andross has put there for future use. Now they were going to find out. Kite moved the KitHawk strait over the gaping pit, and then pulled up hard and did a loop, moving back and then strait into the cave. They never slowed down their velocity, Kite keeping perfect control where entering the planets insides. Grant, Conner, and Maurine were all very nervous when they saw them entering the cave.

"Is this planned?" asked Conner, looking confused at what they were doing. "Or is it a wild move of desperation which seems to have no real sense?"

Grant just looked at him, telling him that that was a very good question that even he couldn't answer. No one could predict the flight patterns of Kite. Perhaps that one trait was what kept him from the all time pilot position on KitHawk, for he was safer while in the Arwing cockpit. Kite's eccentric style of flying may not pay off while controlling KitHawk because it was not an Arwing. It was time to see.

A light shake through the panels. Maurine looked at the tac-view. "Guess what, those fighters are still on our tailpipes. I guess they are getting a little bolder."

"It's not going to pay off," raged Kite. Maurine saw Kite was really tense behind the helm. He was holding the control stick with a death grip, no blood in his knuckles. Strait below and before them was the entrance to the underworld. A surface of high mountains barring their path from this point. Kite rotated the craft a bit, and the yanked hard on the stick before they impacted on the mountains.

Conner was the one who was most surprised by this sight. This vast, hallow world, a planet surrounding a planet. He half jumped out of his chair when he saw the volcano hanging off the planetary ceiling, fire being spewed out of it just as effectively as its right side up brothers. The mountains on the ceiling were just as rugged as any well know range. There were a few points where the mountains of the two parallel surfaces were coming awfully close to touching, and others where they clearly did touch creating monumental granite columns miles in total thickness. Conner was beginning to wonder how long they could go before running out of room. It could happen at any time.

"I'm setting a course for the Canyons of Triskeleon," announced Kite. "They're only a few clicks from here. Once we're there, we should be home free from those fighters." Another violent rocking caused him to be momentarily pushed out of his seat. He constricted his beak muscles in anger, regaining the lost control. "Damn venom pilots. They always knew when to quit. Why do they have to get stupider now?"

A large rock spire split the way forward like a gigantic ban saw, ready to split the first one to join with its mass. Kite saw it, and banked hard to the left to avoid. They passed it, but came close to losing one of their stabilizer wings in the process. Behind them, the two Borzoi fighters and the single Invader III that recently joined in were getting closer. One of the Borzoi pilots saw the spire a little too late for his own good. By the time he could even react, the stone saw was already being tickled by his nose. The Borzoi rammed into the spire, shattering both it and the ship. Pieces of both objects were flung forward into the gaseous sulfur cloud before it. The KitHawk sped out just before the fragments of rock and steel debris raked them. The other two fighters cleared around the one time spire without harm, firing at the enemy ship as they went.

The large canyons would be a perfect for a run to escape the Venomian fighter pilots. Kite remembered running these canyons before the war started. It was true though that he took them while in a green fighter instead of a strike ship that was five times its size as this thing was. No big deal, he would just have to be more cautious.

The Triskeleon Canyons were over forty kilometers deep, and about a hundred wide on the average. Kite took the ship in a full bore, expertly coming around the top edges into the trench. At once the ship made line up with the canyon, speeding down its walls with all of its remaining strength. The Venom fighters moved in behind it just as easily, and crept in closer behind the KitHawk to try and finish the job. Kite moved inside the canyons as best he could with such limited space to avoid laser fire. Even though it was not as maneuverable as any Arwing or Green fighter, it did perform to what he needed. Good enough for the speed being put into it now.

"Whoa! Low bridge!"

Grant looked up at Kite's yell to see the bridge like rock spanning across the narrow part of the canyon. He opened his maw up wide, all of the wind being stolen from him. Kite took the ship low, nearly shredding the ground. Kite set the speed up a little higher, putting more heat into the one working. Everyone else leaned back in nervous. The KitHawk ripped underneath the bridge, the thruster burn tossing dust off of it. Some of that dust went into the canopy of the Invader III, blinding the pilot. The fighter's wing impacted on the bridge, throwing it out of control. It crashed into the canyon wall, and exploded. The last Borzoi flew high of the dust cloud, and continued its pursuit.

Conner stared hardly into the ops readout, watching the condition of the repair systems. The one they needed was almost finished. He watched the readouts of the self repair abilities as they went on, the countdown on the numerous separate systems which were lost by the EMP blast. Soon, one was complete.

"We have weapons back online," he announced. "Another minute and our engines will be functioning again."

"Thank you," responded Grant. "Kite!"

"That last ship'll be dead as soon as we are out of the canyon sir. Another kilometer and we will be." Kite changed the front view of the ship to one directly underneath them. A river of super flowing lava. The flow to something much bigger directly ahead. There, Kite would turn the ship hard so Maurine could take the last Borzoi out.

The heat was growing more intense from the increase in intensity of lava. The current of the molten liquid was going almost as fast as they were, making look as it was standing still right underneath them. Behind them, the Borzoi was closing, trying to get a weapons lock on KitHawk. The pilot was growing impatient. Whoever was flying that large attack vessel, he was good. Damn good. Every time the Venomian thought he had a certain lock coming, the KitHawk would turn down and out of it just as quickly, and the Venomian would have to start all over again. After a while, the pilot just started to take random laser shots towards the target, trying to be lucky. Not a scratch was put on it. This pilot was really pissing him off.

The powerful flow of lava under them gave way that something big was coming. The people in KitHawk was unaffected by it, but the Borzoi pilot slowly began to feel the increase in heat. He swallowed nervously.

The canyon ended, and the KitHawk screamed over the top of a huge molten lake. The bright, bubbling reddish orange liquid spat at them with globs of lava, trying to claim what it could above it. Kite easily moved to avoid them, keeping the ship from any more unnecessary damage. Their working thruster was creating a distortion stream in its wake behind them, tossing the lava outward. The Borzoi followed, but very reluctantly, and for good reason. When he appeared over the lava sea, his ship started to broil. The cockpit slowly began to rise in temperature, becoming more and more like an oven. Blood started to siphon out of the pilots nose because of it. Angrily, he pulled up on the stick to try and escape, but the ailerons were fused from the heat. He was doing no where.

Kit looked glumly back at Grant, whose eyes were rather cold and unforgiving. He looked back to Maurine from the screen. "Do it."

The last thing the pilot saw was the inverted flip of the ship he was chasing. Now it was on the offensive, and the heat melted down his missiles and laser cannons. Defeated, he humbly looked at the ship as it pointed its nose at him. In a instant, bright flash of orange, the KitHawk fired its Talon beam. The weapon created a terrible screech sound is it traveled, creating its own level of heat that even the lava sea could not reach. The beam slammed into the Borzoi fighter, and all but its wings were instantly disintegrated from the energy blast. Everything left fell into the lava and were burned and melted down to nothing.

"We're clear of the enemy," said Maurine, powering down the Talon just to use the turbo cannons if needed. "Sensors are not picking up any more fighters, Commander. I think its safe to leave."

"Is it?" retorted Grant. He shook his head, knowing better. "The Venom fleet there had all data of where we went, which means they're dog guarding that entrance hole like its their bone pile. If we go out that way, we'll be putting ourselves in the perfect ambush position for them. If we come out the way we came, I doubt if we'll get a hundred meters before we're a debris cloud. We have to find another way out."

"What way?" asked Maurine. The next escape vent as over a thousand kilometers travel from here."

"We won't last that long," said Conner. "According to this data, our shields will only last for another fifteen minutes in this heat. After that, we start losing our hull, and then we lose all. Our best bet is to take the chance of going out and facing the music, take our chances with the Venomians."

"I have a better plan," said Grant. "It may seem a little wild, but I'd rather take it then needlessly toss our lives into enemy hands. If we face them, we run the risk of getting this ship captured along with its technology. No way in hell am I going to risk that. How many warhead weapons do we have?"

Maurine checked. "We have thirty-seven missiles, high speed, medium yield, all with a single conventional warhead. We also have five cluster bombs with nova warheads."

"Bring them all online. All of them. I want a ripple firing spread to launch all of them in sequence when we have to. Then I want you to start scanning the roof and find the thinnest part there is. There have to be venting cracks in the surface. Its how all the gasses in here get outside other then the entrance pits. If we can find one big enough to fit in, we can use our weapons to blow a hole out. Understood?" They all nodded. "Conner, who long until we have our engines in working order?"

"Another nine minutes."

"If we can't find a spot to run by then, we'll take our chances with the ships waiting for us outside. Get going."

Maurine, as ordered, brought all the missile and bomb weapons they had in for use, loading launch tubes and bomb bays with all they had. When the word came, the missiles would launch two at a time in half second intervals. If their target rock face was close enough to the surface, then the missiles would punch through the surface, providing a clean escape route. Soon…

"There's one," announced Maurine. Grant looked to the view screen and saw the crack in the ceiling, gasses that were running along the surface where being drawn into it. "Sensors show that it's about forty meters wide."

"That's going to be tight. Good," uttered Kite, looking at the crack with an ambitious twinkle in him.

"You want a place to punch through, this is as best we may ever find Commander. I suggest we go for it." Grant looked at Conner, who only shrugged his shoulders. He wasn't a physicist or a pilot.

"Very well," said Grant. "Take us to its mouth, point us in. We'll let the wind pull us in a little bit, give us some momentum. When I give the word, Kite, floor it."

"Yes sir," said the duck. He was already moving the ship to the entrance, also setting the controls to an explosive burn once he got the word. "I'd put some seat belts on if I were y'all," suggested Kite. "Unless you would rather run the risk of a bad case of whiplash." All four of them fastened their harnesses, tightened them, and prepared for the burn. The KitHawk was already positioned at the crack's mouth, the wind was slowly sucking it in.

"Wait until all of the ship is inside," said Grant.

Maurine watched the tactical readout intently, watching the visual model of the ship slowly be sucked into the crack. The rate of their entrance slowly increased with the winds growing ease of carrying the ship. "Stand by," said Maurine. The ship was only a few inches from the all the way inside. "Stand by." Now just the stabilizers were there. Awe, hell, close enough, thought Maurine. "Now."

Kite hit a key, and a loud banging explosion sounded. All four of them were slammed into the back of their chairs as the thrusters ignited with a deep and powerful explosion. The ship, a ballistic missile flying through the crack, moved like an arrow through wind strait up the shaft. Grant could see nothing ahead of them with the dense gasses, but this was as good of time as any. "Fire missiles!" he yelled over the roar.

The first two missiles flew, the boosters screaming as they pushed up ahead of the KitHawk towards the ground target above them. A half second later, the next two followed.

****

Grant was a wise being when he knew about the Venomian warships playing watch cat on the entrance tunnel. They were considering sending in more fighters, but the fleet commander thought it best to let them sweat it out under there, forcing them to show themselves sooner or later.

Since all eyes were intently focused in this giant hole, they all failed to notice the serious of eruption like explosions away from them. A bunch of expanding clouds flew out of a venting crack, a total of fourteen blasts ripped through the sulfur and rock. Immediately following was a stream of a orange laser slicing away all of the access rock and sulfur stone. This the Venomians did detect, and they looked just in time to see the KitHawk burst out of their hole and fly into space. Since this was a surprise, no one could maneuver in time to give pursuit. They were gone.

"The Venomians are not giving pursuit, and I am detecting nothing before us but clean empty space. We are clear!" exclaimed Maurine. He laid back in his chair after bringing all of the unused weapons of line.

"Take us back to SunHawk," ordered Grant. "We have some data to deliver."

Chapter 4 Friends in High Places

It had been her first pleasant dream in a long while. To be interrupted from it so quickly was a vast disappointment. Dallas awoke at the tap on her knee. Slowly, her eyes opened and began to flutter, trying to see what just happened. She yawned, stretched, and fixed her glasses back on her nose. After this, she looked upward to see an old friend. She smiled.

"Hello, Ally," said Benton Durango. The young faced coyote sat down beside his old friend and school sweet heart, and offered her a mug of coffee. She pushed it away at once. "You like a mess."

Dallas looked hard into his eyes. "Thanks," she said with sarcasm. "You look like you. All dressed up all the time like life is just one giant reception. It was your only real ambition in life. To get rich, and make rich friends." She stood up and faced him. "Tell me, what is it that you do with all of that money?"

"Things," answered Durango. His eyes went to Kesh, who was still sleeping soundly in the chair. "Who is that?" asked Durango, an interested eye on the gold hared vixen.

"One of my officers," replied Dallas. "Lieutenant Kesh." She began to move towards his office. When he failed to follow, she turned around and looked at him. Durango's attention never veered from Kesh. Sighing with disgust and frustration, she walked over and grabbed his arm. "I don't think so," she said quietly. "I think she's already spoken for. Let her sleep. We've got business to talk about."

"Business? Hmm. You never were the type to become an entrepreneur."

"That's because its a field for yuppies and people who are never satisfied with their lives. Yes, Benton, you are that. A common farm boy to the president of one of the largest… No, let me correct myself. THE only military media on Corneria. You keep the people updated all the time on what's happening in the war, or what the military is building which they want you to know about, and what they are planning and thinking. You give the civilian populace all of these things, and what do you get in return? Money, and a ton of it. I wouldn't doubt it if your friends had fears of about drowning when they think of your private fault."

The coyote laughed at her, admiring her sarcasm. He went to pour them each a glass of wine. "You always knew how to make a person laugh, Ally. Tell me then, what sort of business have you come for. I know you are commanding that new Cornerian battleship out in the stars. Come to give a statement on what it's like on that ship, and how you feel about it?"

"Not particularly," she replied. She nodded in thanks when he handed her the blood red wine. She looked at it for a minute, almost thinking that it really was blood. When she took a sip, her mouth was half twisted out from its extreme bitterness. She swallowed it quickly to keep it from going the other way out of her mouth, which it almost did. "Oh, God!" she said, her mouth in a detesting curl. "What the hell is this?" She watched him drink it easily. "And who on Corneria can you handle it?"

"I can't even pronounce its name," said Durango. "But it does come highly recommended on the market. They say you have to be used to eating bonzay fruits before you can get used to this." He took the last sip of his and set the glass next to her full one.

"I believe it. Now, we have to talk. There are a few things which I want from you."

"Shoot," he said, pouring another drink.

"One: I want to see any kind of information you have on any operations that Priority One, The Cornerian military, or the Ministry of War might have planned for the next few weeks. Two, I want you to keep a spot open for me tomorrow on the evening news, because I may have something important to show you. And three, please watch over Kesh while I am away. And what ever you do, please don't hit on her, Benton. She already has someone back on my ship, and they do love one another. That girl has seen a lot of pain over the past few weeks, and the last thing she needs is an extra body trying to woo her."

"All right, all right," said Durango, holding up his paws innocently. "Actually, I was hoping that you and I could get together again, just like old times." He smiled at her, lovingly, infatuated with her. Dallas gave him a small smile, just a friendly one.

"No, not this time Benton. I really must be going now." She took a large light gray overcoat from the rack nearby, Durango's coat, and slipped it on. "I should be back by tomorrow morning if not sooner. If I'm not back by then, tell the Lieutenant over there to return to the ship and have them go on as they've been ordered. Tell her that those were my orders."

"Good Christ, Ally. You sound like you may not be coming back."

Dallas stopped and looked back towards him. There was some worry in her, lit up like a torch. "I know," she answered. "I'm going to see my own people, my superiors, and I'm pretty damn nervous. I don't know why. Maybe… Oh, hell, forget it. I'm probably just afraid of being swamped by press. I'll be back…later." Before Durango could say something to her, Dallas opened the door and left, the door slamming behind her. Durango flinched at the loud bang of the door, and then looked at Kesh. She still slept soundly, almost seeming dead.

****

Dallas walked the entire way to the great hall of the Cornerian War Ministry. A great old style building, just like the military headquarters, before Corneria developed space travel technology. Built in an old fashion. The stone granite steps which went up to the front door was guarded by two voracious looking gargoyles, wings spread out so the looked like they were about to swoop down and take some prey which they spotted. Too bad they were so close to the ground, but still, the artwork was masterful. Dallas ignored the statues and went on to ascend the stairs. As she climbed, she recalled the telephone conversation she just went through. Every word:

"Cornerian Military Headquarters, Admiral Starky Speaking."

"Good evening Admiral. You always did have a knack for working late, didn't you?"

"Captain Dallas? It's almost twelve at night. Why are you calling me now? And why are you calling me over a phone? We can't get a phone communication through space."

"Really Admiral? I didn't know that until now. I guess I'll have to have my telephone service to my office on SunHawk canceled once I get back to it. I'm glad I'm calling you from a pay phone here, instead of trying to dial you up aimlessly back there in the middle of the Freaking Night!"

"Now, now, calm down Captain. Please don't tell me that you are angry about that little note I sent you. It's not my fault that the Ministry is going to be stubborn in their business. They run the military Captain. Them along with Priority One. The only thing is, the Ministry also run relations between the military and the public. To get them mad would be to jeopardize our budget. You should have some respect for them since it was their work which put funding into the development of the Sky Omega project."

"Oh, I'll start respecting them soon enough. All they have to do is take their thumbs out of their noses and start putting more attention out there. My request to them was a perfectly logical one to accept, and a foolish one to decline. So, here's what we, you and I, are going to do. We are going to go in to the Ministry and try to talk a little bit of sense into 'em. Sound like a plan?"

"Just what makes you think I will go through with this, Captain?"

"Let's just say that I have a little thing which has your name on it that might be a little unnerving to know that the public might look at it. What do you think the people will do, how they'll react to knowing that the name of a high ranking Joint Chief was on the document which ordered the new super warship to stay in from eliminating a vital station to the Venom Empire. Tell me, Admiral, how will they react?"

"…I'll be there in ten minutes."

"I'll be waiting."

As she had said, Admiral Starky found Dallas waiting outside the Ministry Hall. When he stepped out of his limo, he was almost unnerved when Dallas looked at him, into his own soul. She narrowed her eyes at him, angry and hateful. Starky swallowed when he moved forward to meet her.

"Good evening, Captain," he said, smiling.

Dallas said nothing at first. But after a minute, "Hello yourself." She turned around and headed up the stair way towards the front doors. Once they got inside, because of the presence of the admiral, no guard or any other person tried to bar their way to the Ministry hall.

Chapter 5 Confrontation

The Great Cornerian Ministry of War was a group of civilians posted to make decisions on the actions of the military. Approvals for certain campaigns or missions which would have political consequences always came through them first. Then a decision was made on it, and that decision was always final. No matter what its moral state was. Arguments against the Ministry on their decisions was rare because most of the people respected their choices as the right thing to do. When they knew it was the wrong thing, they at times did try to fight it, but usually let it slide. This time, Dallas refused to be so lenient.

The five elderly beings all dressed on high furnished business wear were assembled to discuss everything they could about the war and the budget to the military. When the door to the meeting chambers was thrown open without warning, and two people in high ranking military uniforms stormed in, they got a little angry.

"What? What is the meaning of this?" demanded the oldest looking member of the Ministry. This was the head minister. He glared at Starky with dire anger. "Admiral, would you mind explaining this rude intrusion please?" he asked coldly.

Starky started to speak, but was cut off by Dallas. "Leave everything to me," she said, walking around the table. "The admiral is just here to witness what I have to say. And believe you me I have to say a lot."

She stopped circling the table at a place where she could face all five members. A few of them shuddered a bit when her eyes, like supernatural green flames, narrowed at them. "A bunch of old doddering fools trying to regulate what is correct and what is not in a military they never served under," began Dallas. Starky tried to move and stop her from insulting the Ministry, but he was far too late. He shrank back against the wall to avoid the upcoming fire. Dallas went on.

"That's what I am starting to think of you. All of you. Not a single person in here has ever set foot into a recruiting office, nor have you tried to put an application into Corneria Academy, I even doubt if any of you have even attended an Air show. And yet, you expect us to sit idly by while you run this military when you don't really know what the hell is going on out there. I'm sure you know that Dark Star space station, now orbiting Oberon and working at a hundred percent capacity along with some extra efficiency is one of Andross' most prized stations. That station has been a threat to us ever since it went online. It has been strip mining the planet below it for billions of tons of natural resources, plus it has served as a spy unit to watch what passes through the area. What ever tries to go through Bolse satellite is not going to get through without being seen by Dark Star. It has to fall, and the best chance to do that comes within our reach. A joint mission between Star Fox, the new Cornerian war cruiser, and anyone else who might want to join. And you blatantly deny us to do our job. Why?"

The head minister leaned forward and smiled at Dallas. "Captain, we OK'ed the construction of the SunHawk not only as a weapon to fight Andross, but also as a gesture that we, the prime Cornerian military, no longer need to rely on the support from mercenary units and teams to help us fight this war. Teams such as Star Fox are exactly what we mean. To let the SunHawk and its crew join forces with them would be a direct conflict with one of your ships main purposes. Star Fox and every other merc unit in Lylat have paid us great dues with their assistance, but there time is done. Now, it is our turn." He got up and began to circle the table to join where Dallas was standing.

"Our second Sky Omega class cruiser is already being constructed. And designs for a new class of ship which is a step above it has already been conceived. We coming to the top my girl. When that second Sky Omega is finished, which will have the gravity core in it, by the way, Andross' fate in this system will be sealed. That is, if he is not finished already. You can see what we are getting at, can't you?"

Dallas gave a crooked smart alacky smile to the head minister. "Of course I do. It's all about politics isn't it. Star Fox robbed Andross' hopes of winning this war, and now we are going to rob Fox and his friends the chance to finish it. I see perfectly. You just want the Cornerian Military itself to go up against Andross and the rest of Venom, and defeat him ourselves so the lot of you can go on and be reelected into the Ministry. As for those beings who you regard as old worn boots, who were mercenary teams who helped us survive the first few weeks of this war. Now that we are on our feet, you want to toss those boots into an incinerator, going on forever to be unrecognized in what they did for us."

Dallas shook her head. "Everyone knows what the most important part of a boot is. The part which you put the soles of your feet on. The very bottom sole of any shoe. That is the part which protects your feet from whatever lies underneath it. Now, that boot has served its purpose, and you just want to throw it away instead of reinforcing or rebuilding it.

"If the SunHawk and its crew were to join up with the greatly loved Star Fox team, then it would greatly help increase relations between those teams who are fighting for us, but not under us. It would also be a great influence on the people to see that we are willing to work cooperatively with our non military allies. If you put your names on the document which gives us liberty to lay siege to this space station, and if that mission is a success, then I think that there will be enough chaos thrown into the Venomian mix that they may even destroy themselves. That is one of their most important stations. If it goes down then I think your chances for reelection will be in a tied bag. The choose…of course…is yours."

Dallas stepped away from the table and looked coolly at the entire Ministry. A few of them were contemplating what they just heard, others looked as if they were already willing to put their names down for this. There was only one who still looked skeptical about this, and that was the head minister. The old dog walked slowly around the table and back to his chair. There he sat for a moment, thinking, before he spoke.

"If you don't mind, Captain, Admiral, but we would like to talk alone about this. If you wait outside, we'll get an answer to as quickly as we can." Both Dallas and Starky gave them a salute before the left. They left slowly, closing the big wooden doors behind them. The ministry began to talk amongst themselves.

****

It was not even midnight by the time Dallas returned to the office of Benton Durango. Kesh pleasantly stood by the window next to his desk, looking down at the lit up Corneria City, being bombarded by rain and thunder. She stood alone in the office right now. A girl had come here not long ago and she and Durango were alone in the next room. Kesh was not pleased about being left here by Dallas, but it probably was for the best. The Ministry would not have taken it well to see a forced traitor in their midst.

Kesh waited patiently in the office for Dallas's return. She did get the orders through Durango to return to SunHawk if she was not back by midnight. It was pushing eleven now. For the time being, Kesh thought of Maurine, and what it would be like to be lovers with him. The thought of being with a telepath, no privacy. She did, and was going love him.

The door opened with a loud clatter, startling Kesh. She turned around to see Dallas walk into the office, soaked by rain. She hung the dripping coat back on the hanger where she originally got it, tried to shake water out of her hair, and then joined Kesh near the desk.

"Well, how did it go?"

Dallas looked at her. "It's done," she replied. "We have approval to launch an attack at that station. Plus, they sent orders to other ships in that area to rendezvous with us to also participate in the attack. A total of four other ships, not counting us or the Great Fox. Mission accomplished." She looked down towards the carpet for a little bit, looking rather sad. Kesh narrowed her eyes at her, confused why she was so glum. "Where is Durango?" asked Dallas.

"One of his girlfriends came over earlier. They have been alone in the next room for over an hour."

Dallas half giggled under her breath, amused that he tried to woo her again before she left. And now this. "Let's go then. We'll leave him to his woman. Right now, there is much work to be done back home." The two of them left quietly out the door, and made their way down stairs.

The door to the next room opened, and one person peered out. Two different colored eyes, one colored light blue, the other brown, narrowed at the now empty room. She retreated back into the bedroom. The TV from her room lit it up brightly. Durango sat on the bed with a glass of his blood wine in his hands. The collie looked at him with glee, and then drew a dagger from her jacket.

"Sorry about this," she whispered to him.

The last thing he saw were two glowing eyes, one orange and the other light blue, rushing him. No one heard the terrible screams of someone being mutilated. Neither the insane laughter of the aftermath.

****

"You lied to the Ministry?" inquired Kesh. The edge of disbelief in her voice was extremely noticeable.

"Not really," returned Dallas, carefully piloting the shuttle. "I told them that there would be great political advantages for them if we were allowed to join Star Fox in their attack, and they'd get even more if it succeeded. I believe I am right in this too. But there isn't any certainty in that. The high polls for them may run for a little while, but Venom may just increase their fighting intensity to see their best station fall down. Or…I don't know. We'll just have to wait and see."

Kesh didn't take her eyes away from her captain. "There is something else? Isn't there?"

Dallas slowly nodded, a tear falling down her cheek. "I may have lost my command," she said.

"What? Why?"

"I…I made the mistake of addressing the Ministry as a bunch of doddering fools. They don't take insults very well, Kesh. And they took this one like dirt in the eye. I'll keep my command until the war is over. Before the SunHawk gets to test the gravity core, I'll be taken off and replaced by someone else. God only knows who?"

Nothing more was said on route back to the SunHawk. The ship was just where they left it twenty hours earlier. The KitHawk had already returned to it, hopefully with something good. The next few weeks were going to be difficult, no doubt about it. A lot of hard work in planning this attack. At least it was still going on. This attack was Star Fox's baby from the beginning, and they would have gone into it now. They probably would have been destroyed, most definitely would have lost one of their own, but they would have done it. Dallas wished she could be that brave. Maybe then she could face that which ate at her every day and night.

Overall, the day has been a success. The Ministry was finally seeing things they way a soldier did, even if it was for a while. The SunHawk along with other Cornerian warships were along side Star Fox for this attack. That was because of Dallas's confrontation with the Ministry, where she got them to see how she saw it, how it was right. But…

…at what price?

The End

Next: Past Poison

Author's Note* Star Fox is a trademark of Nintendo inc. and has been used without consent. The crew of the SunHawk (which now includes Kite McCane), Durango, and Pandora Freelancer are my characters and are not to be used without my consent. Thanks.