Once again, I’m back. This time I have some actual action for you, okay. Things start to get pretty extreme starting here.

Disclaimer (I’m really sick of this): Starfox, Starwolf, and all related characters, places, and things are copyrighted to Nintendo. Don’t sue me ‘cause I’m not making any money off this. All of the characters that don’t belong to Nintendo belong to me. Don’t use them without asking, and . . . you get the drift.

Okay, here we go…

A Sign of Courage: Part 1

“I'm sorry 'bout the attitude
I need to give when I'm with you
but no one else would take
this sh** from me"

--Matchbox 20 "Long Day"

“You’re going to what?” Fox nearly screamed.

“I can take care of myself,” Jesika growled, looking over her shoulder at Fox and Peppy. “If you didn’t want me to take the job, then why did you hire me?”

“I don’t want you to go to Venom alone, Jesika,” Peppy said softly, trying to calm her down. “It’s too dangerous.”

“Dad, I’ve been going on missions like this for Pepper for almost a year now. I haven’t gotten caught yet,” She tied a bandanna around her head, brushed a wisp of her black-tipped hair out of her eyes, and walked out of the room. Fox chased after her.

“Fine!” he said. “But you aren’t getting paid to get yourself killed.” She stopped and turned around.

“Alright Junior. This mission’s on the house!” With that she turned back around and stomped into the docking bay. Fox grabbed her arm and spun her around.

“If you get into trouble, Starwatcher, don’t even think of asking us for help. I have more important…” He stopped short and instantly regretted his words when he noticed her darkening countenance.

Without saying another word, Jesika climbed into her ship and sped out of the docking bay. Fox looked back at the door to see Peppy. By the look on his face, it was apparent he hadn’t heard anything. It didn’t make the young leader feel much better. Fox leaned back in his chair and groaned.

* * * * * * * * * * *

On Venom, Andross glowered at the two unfortunate subordinates cowering in front of his desk. He tossed their reports back onto it.

"Tell me, private," he said coolly, locking eyes with the young lizard, "if your reports are true and the spy seems to be both inexperienced and working alone, then how come you haven't even gotten close to catching her?" The lizard cringed as his emperor stood up. The ape clamped a hand on his shoulder roughly.

"Get out of my sight!" Andross growled, tightening his grip. "I'll decide your punishment later."

With that he lifted the lizard up with one hand and threw him out into the hall. His friend ran out to help just as Andross closed the door behind them.

'I'm surrounded by idiots!' he simpered. 'There is absolutely no way that I can catch that little rogue with these morons. And Starwolf is too valuable to use for catching a common spy.'

Just then, he noticed the radio device on the wall. He walked up to it and dialed a frequency on Zoness. "Perhaps it's time to get some outside assistance."

* * * * * * * * * *

Meanwhile in her ship, Jesika was simmering. 'Those morons treat me like a little kid!' she thought angrliy.

It was still a little over an hour until the ship would enter Venom airspace. Her ship was among the fastest in all of Lylat, though it did compromise it's shields quite a bit.

She tapped her fingers lightly against the control panel and tried to hum a tune. After shifting around in her seat uncomfortably, she turned a couple of knobs on the control panel. After a while, some odd-sounding music filtered through her speakers from a planet she could only guess.

"Maybe I should go a bit easier on them," she thought sullenly. "They put a lot of work into this old thing..." Jesika angrily turned the radio off and leaned back in her seat. 'I can still take care of myself, though...'

After a few minutes of thinking, she opened up a link with the Great Fox. No answer. She frowned and pressed a few buttons so she could leave a message.

"Hey fellas," she said. "I'm going to go back to Fortuna when I get done at Venom if I don't find anything. It'll probably be pretty late." She paused a second.

"Love you, Dad. See you soon, Junior."

She shut the signal off and leaned back again until a beeping noise came from one of the ships sensors. The flashing "Warning: Venom Airspace" sign came on. She switched the auto-pilot off and started to manuever her ship out of sight of the radar.

"Time to kick some Venomian butt," she thought with a smirk on her face.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"Where's that magazine, Wart-Face?"

"None of your business, Bird-Brain!"

Peppy listened to his two teammates argue half-heartedly. Right after Jesika had stormed out, General Pepper had called. He had asked that they re-take the Fortuna base and free any Cornerians that were being held there. It had to be done, so Fox took the mission.

Besides, they desperately needed the money...

"Would you two cut it out!" Fox growled over his com to the arguing teammates. They shut up immediately.

"Well, sorry!" Falco answered back.

Peppy looked over at Fox, concern etching his face. The boy had looked exceedingly troubled the last couple of weeks. He had been snapping at his teammates quite a bit. The fight with Jesika seemed to have been the climax of it.

'Poor Fox,' the hare thought. 'This job may be too much for him. He's still barely more than a kit...'

"Hey, the base is just ahead, guys," Slippy broke through his thoughts.

Sure enough, it was less than a mile ahead. Peppy shivered a bit, but not from the cold. It just occured to him that he was approaching the same rebuilt base where his friend, Justin, had been killed. The same place he had found Justin's half-frozen little daughter...

"Okay everyone. Let's split up and take it to'em," Fox ordered over his intercom.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Jesika slipped out of her ship silently. She had landed about a mile from the main base on Venom, her ship hidden in the cover of a jagged boulder. She started climbing nervously down the cliff to the base below.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Fox rolled left and right, trying to take down as many enemy fighters as possible as they poured out of the base. The bogey's were easy to shoot down, but there were tons of them.

'Okay, you've had harder stuff than this at the Academy, Fox,' he coached himself. 'You can do this.' He focused his attention on one ship and tried to lock on...

"I could use some help here, Fox," he heard Falco yell over the intercom. "I have three bogeys on my tail and I can't shake them."

"Peppy, can you take care of it? I've kinda got my hands full," the young leader asked over the com.

"Sorry, Fox. I'm trying to help Slippy," Peppy answered. Fox looked over towards Slippy's ship. Sure enough, there was 5 bogeys after him.

The vulpine sighed and left his target. "Hold on Falco!"

* * * * * * * * * *

Jesika crept up slowly towards the base. It was quite large, much bigger than Corneria's Academy. There was the main building where all of the computer's and briefing rooms were. There was also a many smaller buildings which were used as housing, hangers, and stores of various kinds. She finally saw the one she wanted.

Jinx's Bar, Pool, & Darts.

After all, drunk people give a lot of good information freely.

Just like clockwork, two Venomians-a lizard and a wolf-stumbled out of the bar.

"Man, I can't believe Andross did that to you, man!" the wolf said. "You shoulda seen the way you flew across that hall. It was just, like, whoosh!"

The lizard, who was a little less drunk, replied, "Yeah, well, it's your fault you know. You should've stopped him or somethin'."

"Yeah right," the wolf growled back.

Jesika smirked at the two creatures and started sneaking up behind them. When she was close enough she pulled out her gun.

"Hey fellas," she whispered. Recognizing the voice of the spy they were supposed to catch, they started to spin around. She gave them both a quick crack on the neck, knocking them senseless.

'Too easy,' she thought.

She dragged them both behind a cliff face hurredly to keep anyone from seeing. She took the wolf's uniform, put it on, and stashed her clothes in a small hole in the rock face.

* * * * * * * * * *

Fox deftly flipped behind the bogeys that were tailing him and shot them down. This was much too easy. Even Slippy was staying out of trouble for the most part.

Fox frowned as he heard his com beep just another small group of ships shot out of the base. He pressed the button on the com's side to answer.

"A bomb has been planted at the base," ROB-64, the Great Fox's technician robot droned. "Detonation in ten minutes."

"Damn!" Fox growled. He sent a signal to his teammates, "Can anyone take care of it?"

* * * * * * * * * * * Jesika walked cautiosly into the bar. It was filled with Venomian soldiers-almost all of them males. There were pool tables and darts up on the walls. The whole room smelled of cigarrete smoke and loud rock music blared in the background.

She made her way quickly to the bar. Men hooted and whistled as she walked past. She snarled back at them lowly, but that seemed to only egg them on.

She sat down at a seat at the bar. One of her harrasers, a black wolf, sat down beside her and put his arm around her shoulders.

"What's a nice looking girl like you doing in a place like this?" he asked in a sickeningly sweet voice.

"I'm not allowed in any of the other bars in Lylat," she replied in an equally sweet voice. He pulled her closer.

"Oh really. Why is that?"

"It was because of something I did to a certain male cat."

"What was that?" he asked.

"He wouldn't leave me alone, so I made sure he wouldn't be making any more little kittens. It taught him his lesson," she snarled back, taking his arm off her shoulder and pushing it away. He snorted.

The bartender approached Jesika and shoved the wolf back away from the bar. "You really need to how ya act around the girls, Chance!" she growled in a deep, but obviously female, voice. "Or you ain't never gonna get a date. Lord knows ya can't rely on yoah looks."

Chance stood up and growled viciously at the bartender before several angry males surrounded him and ushered him out of the building. It was obvious that they cared a great deal for their server. Either that, or they didn't want their beer supply to be cut off...

Jesika looked up at her savior to thank her. She was a wolf, quite large for an older female and obviously quite strong too. Her long, black hair was in a braid and she has large loop earings in each year. She was wearing a tank top and a pair of jean shorts. She smiled at Jesika warmly.

"Don't you be payin' him any mind, hon. He acts like that whenever he sees a girl. It's like he never grew out of puberty, or whatever you call it."

Jesika nodded greatfully. "Thanks for helping me out."

"Don't think nothin' of it, Sug. Anything old Jasmine can do for ya's, let me know," the wolf said, gesturing towards herself. "Old Chance did have a point, though. What is a kid like you doing in a place like this?"

"Ahhh, I got back from a hard day on the job."

Jasmine raised a furry eyebrow, "Really? And what kinda job would they give to a pup like you?"

"I am not a pup! I'm a respected spy for the Cor-umm-Venomian Military," she said, biting her tongue and cursing herself for almost blowing her cover.

This was going to be a long mission...

* * * * * * * * * * *

"Can't let you do that, Starfox," a voice filtered through the com-unit. Fox blinked several times in shock. He had heard that voice before.

Could it be? Yes, it had to be Wolf O'Donnell. The wolf that led the team known as Star Wolf, Andross's answer to Starfox. The wolf seemed to have a grudge against the young leader. Fox wasn't sure why. After all, the loss of Wolf's eye was an accident...

"Andross has ordered us to take you down," a lizard continued. Fox recognized him as well. It was the lizard that had attacked Falco several months back. Leon.

"That reward is as good as mine!" Another voice blurted out. This one the vulpine knew all to well. He narrowed his eyes as he felt his face turn red with hatred.

Pigma Dengar.

He didn't even here the last transmission. He was too focused on taking the traitor out. Too focused on revenge.

"Let's take care of these guys first!" He ordered with a growl.

* * * * * * * * * * *

"So, are you capable of this?" Andross asked the figure in front of him.

"Depends on how much you are willing to pay me," the creature replied.

"Whatever you require to get it done. Credits, power, whatever you desire."

A wicked smile spread across the face of the creature, "Go on, I'm listening..."

* * * * * * * * * * *

Jesika downed another soda as she sat at the bar. (The bartender wouldn't let her have a beer. Not that she wanted one.) She had certainly gotten some information from some of the men trying to talk her into a date, but nothing that she would repeat in front of her parents, much less something that had some use.

She glanced up as the door opened and slammed suddenly. A large, muscular wolf with an eyepatch stormed in. Jesika raised an eyebrow. Wasn't he that wolf that was leading that team, Star Wolf?

Another furry came in. This one was a chameleon. He followed the angry wolf closely. The vixen recognized him as Leon Polowski, another member of Star Wolf.

'Dang,' she thought. 'The whole team must be here. Wolf, Leon, Andrew, and...oh crap.'

As if on cue, the remaining two team members, Andrew and Pigma, walked into the bar. Jesika felt a chill run down her spine as she turned away from them, hiding her face with her jacket, praying Pigma wouldn't look at her.

Of all the creatures in Venom's army, she both hated and feared Pigma the most. He was the only one that knew who she was.

Besides, if he could betray his friends so easily, how much easier would it be to betray someone who had a mutual dislike for him?

Jasmine, who was washing some beer mugs at the time, looked at her worriedly, noting the girl's obvious uneasiness.

"Somethin' wrong, hon?"

Jesika shook her head, pulling the jacket collar tighter around her, "Nah. I'm just a bit chilly, that's all."

The team sat down at a table across the room, the leader cursing and complaining at them the whole time.

Not much could be made out from such a distance. The only definate thing that she could make out was 'Damn Starfox!'. She smiled.

Poor Wolf...

* * * * * * * * * *

Fox McCloud climbed out of his Arwing, thoroughly exhausted. Yes, they did beat the Star Wolf team. However, the battle had crippled Peppy and Slippy's ships and it would take time to repair them. Time they just didn't have...

They had to keep moving towards Venom. If they didn't, then they would lose there momentum and have to start over again. It was so exhausting, having to fight several times a week, though. Way too much for such a young leader.

'Dad, how did you do it?' the vulpine asked silently. 'How did you keep this team going without losing your mind?'

He didn't get an answer. He didn't expect one.

"Sir?" Rob64 droned from the doorway.

"Yes, what is it ROB?"

"You have a message from young Starwatcher. It is a recording."

Fox sighed. He was still a bit mad at the young vixen for disobeying him, and a bit mad at himself for snapping at her like that. He could only imagine what she wanted.

He nodded, motioning for ROB to patch it through.

"Hey fellas," her voice said through the com. "I'm going to go back to Fortuna when I get done at Venom if I don't find anything. It'll probably be pretty late." It paused for a second. "Love you, Dad. See you soon, Junior."

'If only I was that relaxed,' he thought sullenly.

* * * * * * * * * *

The creature looked around the side of the boxes in the huge warehouse. He knew the spy would be here soon. It was the only way out of the base. Now all he had to do was wait.

After all, how hard could capturing a rookie be?

* * * * * * * * *

Jesika crawled on her belly through the ventilation ducts. She had learned, over time, that you can't get into the main computer room unless you were a general or above. So she had to do it the hard way.

The air was getting thick and hot, so Jesika was quite greatful when she finally came across a grate. She pressed her muzzle up against it, breathing in the cooler air thankfully. She looked down.

It was a large room with several computers arranged in a circle. No one was there and there were wires strung throughout the room and across the ceiling. She was pretty sure that they were connected to the main computer.

Pretty sure because she had never gotten this far before.

Jesika opened up the grate and, after she was sure that there was no way that she could get tangled in the various wires, she jumped down, ran over to the nearest computer, and started typing in all the Venomian passwords she knew. Pretty soon, the main page opened up.

Three choices were available for the page to go to next:

Top Secret

Battle Plans

Log

Jesika tried to get into the top secret file, the thing she was sent there for. No luck--it required another password. She then tried the battle plans. Nothing much there, just some self-explanatory stuff that Starfox already knew.

Then she tried the one that said "Log". A plain black and white screen popped up with a single entry:

Dear Log:

The time of victory is fast approaching. We have infiltrated every base from here to Corneria and there seems there is no one that has stopped us yet. Of course, McCloud and his team are being a bit of a problem, but soon they will no longer matter.

Project Override is nearing completion. Soon, I will unleash it on the Lylat System and everyone will be under my control. They'll never know what hit them. As soon as it starts...

All of a sudden, an alarm started blaring in the distance. 'Damn,' Jesika thought. 'Must've had an alarm on the file.'

She searched through her pocket, looking for the disk she brought to download the file to. It wasn't there. She growled in anger as she realized that she had left it in her clothes.

The vixen dashed towards the nearest door and burst through it. Venomians were dashing back and forth, most likely looking for her. However, with her Venomian uniform on, she blended in perfectly with them. Most were a bit bigger than her, so she was shoved and pushed until she fell through a doorway.

It was a huge warehouse. Boxes were stacked all the way up to the ceiling. It looked like a hangar, but there seemed no end to it. It seemed so dark and empty.

Jesika started running, running as fast as she could down the corridor, thankful that her sneakers weren't making too much noise. She breathed deeply to conserve her energy.

Through all of her life, Jesika had been taught to never underestimate her enemies, to never figure things were going to be easy. She usually kept this advice. With this important information, though, she decided to make an exception.

Bad timing for an exception.

The girl let out a strangled gulp as she was grabbed by her shirt collar and thrown onto her back, skidding a considerable distance. With a quick kick of her feet, she got back up and faced her attacker.

His back was turned to her, but his identity was unmistakable. The wolf slowly turned around and his green eyes locked with her brown eyes.

"Terrance!" Jesika growled lowly, almost in shock.

"Why hello, little Jesika," he chuckled. "I must say, I'm surprised. Whatever would Daddy think of his little girl in a Venomian uniform?"

Jesika narrowed her eyes. "How should I know? My father abandoned me after I was born, remember?"

Terrance laughed again. "Yes, yes, of course."

"And what about you? Your father is a general for Corneria. Why in Lylat would you ever join Venom?"

"Oh please! I don't work for that sorry excuse for an ape. But for now, Venom pays better."

Jesika nodded, "Same here." They laughed uneasily and Jesika started to walk off.

"You know what, Kid? You aren't as stupid as you look," Terrance called after her. She simply chuckled and continued walking.

"And you know what else?" He said.

"What?" She asked, turning around slowly.

"Neither am I."

Jesika's eyes widened in horror as he aimed his gun at her head and slowly pulled the trigger.

To Be Continued...

* * * * * * * * *

Author's Notes: I know I said I'd get this done earlier. Gomen nasai. :(

I'm going to be working on the next part of this, a request, and a Sonic the Hedgehog story over the summer.

As always, comments, flames, death threats, and praise are welcome. Especially the death threats. I've never had any of those before.

By the way, don't you hate "To Be Continued..."? *laughs evilly*