WPD FORMAT FOR DOWNFALL
 
 
Chapter One

 "I like to kill because I just do.  Why do I like to kill?  Why would you want to know?  My life is nothing but one tragic memory after another."

         --Bandit Forhawk, Venom

 Two weeks after the supposed death of Bandit Forhawk, Lizbel Crusasa and Darwin Dracka were married.  It was a short ceremony, with only the Crimson Firehawks and the Justice Cadets as the guests.  A hired priest was there as well, and the "church" was the gym in the home of the Justice Cadets.  Among the smell of old sweat and stuffy air, the chinook and the cougar were joined in holy matrimony.
 An hour after Darwin kissed the bride, the priest went home and the party was dwindling down.  The two large tables in the gym were filled with leftovers of tornab crab, fresh camana eel, bracak beans, and two pies: banana creme for most people, and sardine and rutabaga pie for Darwin himself.  The cougar wanted to share his pie, but everyone refused instantly.  All of the Justice Cadets had gone off to sleep, and so have Lizbel and Terra.  It was up to the groom and his co-pilot and best friend Dekslan Meneslan to clean up the tables.
 The borzoi Dekslan picked up a plate of half-finished bracak beans, trying to inhale it's delicious aroma.  "Well stupid, you have done it.  You have really done it."
 "What?  Getting married?"
 "No.  You managed not only say your vows correctly, but you also didn't faint throughout the ceremony."
 "Was that a joke or a compliment?"
 "Can't it be both?  So, now that raccoon is fried, what will you and Liz do now?"
   Darwin shook his head.  "I dunno.  I might look for a house in Corneria soon, and might get a job in some fancy department store.  I like fancy stuff."
 "Where do you get the materialistic taste for items too expensive to afford?"
 "There was a rich family that lived close by my home when I was a cub.  The boy there was my friend, and I loved to go over to his mansion.  I loved the stuff they have there, though I had to tolerate my friend's snobbiness.  It might sound like I was using him, but I like him."
 They walked into the kitchen across the hallway, and Dekslan dumped the beans onto a plastic container for later use.  Darwin put the four dirty dishes he was carrying into the sink.  He sighed and made a deep breath.  "Boy, am I tired!"
 Dekslan shrugged.  "Just wait till you have ten minutes in bed with your wife.  Then tell me if you're tired."
 Darwin gave her a pained look in a jokingly matter.  "You really are a sick borzoi."
 Dekslan laughed as they both went back into the gym.  "Well thank you, moron."
 There was one pie left on the table.  It was creamy white and has gray lumps, and some other coloring that gave the pie it's mushy look.  Darwin picked up the plate and offered it to Dekslan.  "You sure you don't want this last slice of sardine and-"
 "No thank you,....please...."  Dekslan replied, her head retreating away from it.

 Terra Hartford was the only one who felt disappointment when the news of marriage reached her bobcat ears.  Time and time again, she wanted to tell Darwin of her love to him, but each time she was stopped by fear.  She used to have a hope that Darwin would accept this crush, but now that he is a husband, that hope seemed lost.  Still, her feelings for him remained.  She still wanted Darwin to be hers, and if Lizbel was against it, then she would have to do something about it.  Unfortunately for the married couple, Terra's secret love to Darwin had only intensified.
 Two more days went by, and it was breakfast time in the living room in the home of the Cadets.  As always, the Justice Cadets sat on one side of the table, while the Firehawks sat on the other side.  The air of joy was still at large, and everyone was in a good mood, especially the newlyweds.  Even Terra seemed happy, on the surface.  They smelled the delicious aroma of buttered pancakes, malala beans, and candied fruit.
 Natlarn Berola heaped a large spoonful of the black, sweet beans on his plate.  "So, did you sleep well?"
 "I sure did," remarked Darwin.  "I slept like a cub!"
 "You snore like one," Lizbel added jokingly.
 Darwin playfully nudged her on the shoulder, and poked a piece of pancake into his mouth.  "Hey, Dekslan, what you going to do now in the future?  Strange I didn't ask you that question before."
 "Well, I'm going to pick up this spoon and plop those beans on my plate...."
 "Dek, you moron!  I meant in the long run!"
 The borzoi laughed.  "Well, I might go over to Katina and find a job there.  I always like that planet, despite it's chilling air and a warped minded dog commander calls it his home."
 "That's not funny, Dekslan," Natlarn said, almost serious.  The cheetah used to be a pilot in the Bulldog Squadron.  "Bill is not warped minded.  He's just well, emotionally hurt."
 Darwin shook his cougar head.  "What about you, Terra?"
 The bobcat didn't answer at first.  Her eyes were almost dull, and she was eating her beans with a sullen expression.
 "Terra?  You awake?"
 Terra snapped out of her trance.  "Huh?  Yeah I am.  Bad night."
 "You have been distracted by something, Terra.  Has been for weeks.  What's wrong?"
 "Oh nothing, nothing," she answered in a tone of voice that made everyone realize that she was lying.  "I'm okay."
 Darwin let it go at that, though he felt that she was hiding something.
 They were continuing eating their meal when a beep sounded.  Jo'hara Prather scanned around, his black, coal eyes blinking in a confused state.  "Now who can that be?"
 Lizbel looked at the puma with a puzzled face.  "What is that sound?"
 "Monitor phone.  Brad Stripestar rarely uses it, though...."
 He stood up and walked over to the monitor phone in the living room close by.  He clicked it on, and a message was on the screen.  "Now this is weird.  Says here this is a private message for Lizbel.  No one we don't know knows that the Firehawks live here.  Go ahead, Lizbel."
 "What about that priest?"  Terra asked.
 The badger Tera Crista shook his head.  "He drank a memory potion before he left here.  There's no way he could have known."
 Lizbel stood and walked over to the phone, very confused.  "How can I respond?  I actually never answered a private call over a monitor phone before."
 "There's a red button on the top right of the dashboard," Jo'hara explained.  "That ought to do it.  Well, since this is a private one, I think it's best we all stop eating for now and go over to the gym, and wait till Lizbel finishes the call."
 The six pilots agreed and they all walked off together, respecting Lizbel's privacy.  When everything was quiet, the chinook dog pushed the red button.  The screen flickered at first, then a familiar face showed up on the screen.  She was a young white-furred maltese, with a red bow on top of her head like she always wears.
 "Lisa!  How did you know I lived here?"
 Lisa, her friend since puphood, was shaking nervously.  She seemed to be sitting in a dark room, her brown eyes panicky.  "Um, uh, I just found the number by accident.  Uh I need your help, Liz."
 "What's wrong?  Why are you frantic?"
 Lisa faced left, shook her small head, then faced her friend.  "Uh, no time to explain.  Please come.  Do so alone."
 "Alone?"
 "And don't tell anyone about this.  Come to my place.  Please hurry," she said and then the screen was flicked off.  Lizbel stepped back, utterly in chaos.  What is going on here?  Does she really know where I live by accident?  And when she looked to the left, she seems to be watching someone, like she wasn't alone.  Why she refused to tell me the problem?  Why do I have to go alone?  Well, I might as well go ASAP.
 "Okay guys, I'm finished!"  Lizbel yelled to the others in the gym.
 One by one, the seven pilots marched back to their chairs.  "Who was it?"  Dekslan asked.
 "A friend of mine.  I have to go to Corneria soon, like now."
 Darwin looked at her with surprise.  "Now?  Can I go with you?"
 "No, no.  I have to go alone.  I'm sorry Darwin.  I'll be back shortly," she answered, and kissed her husband on the cheek before rushing out of the room.
 Tigress Mondale's perplexed look was shared by everyone.  "What's up with her, I wonder?"
 Natlarn shook his head.  "I dunno.  I don't think it's our business to know, anyway."
 Slowly, the others agreed, but Darwin stood up, and searched around to find his wife.  However, she had already left without saying goodbye.  He could only wonder what was going on inside Lizbel's mind.

Chapter Two

 "If life is so short in a cosmic sense, then why does it seem so....long?"

         --Frederick Gorma, Corneria

 "Hello?  Lisa?"  Lizbel called at the door of her puphood friend's house.  The abode of Lisa Mand was located ten miles from the closest town, and was basically a manor.  All alone amid an open field, the house was the result of Lisa's lucky streak of lottery wins.  It has four windows on the front, each one shaded (the maltese liked the dark) and draped.  It has a large front yard, almost littered with apple trees, and a cobblestone pathway leads from the dirt street to her front door.
 No one answered, and Lizbel rang the doorbell again.  This time, the door slid open with a silent whisper, and she got inside.  Because all the lights were turned off, it was quite dark inside, but Lizbel was used to her friend's distaste for light.  However, it was the silence, that damned deja-vu silence, that spooked her.  Because she was only visiting her friend, she carried no weapon, and now that was becoming a regret.
 "Hello?  Lisa, is this one of your outdated jokes?"  Lizbel called out, cautiously strolling through the rooms and carpeted hallways.  "C'mon now.  This is a bad time for a prank."
 Or is it a prank?  Is Lisa really in danger?  Is the intruder still around here?  Probably.  Oh great, where's my pistol when I needed one?  Well at least I still have my feet and fists to fight with.
 She spotted light originating from the garage, which was in itself low-lit.  Lizbel peered inside, and found a figure sitting on a chair in the middle of the almost empty garage.  The only light from a lightbulb hanging above gave her enough visibility to see that the figure had a bag over it's head.  The figure was white-furred, and it seemed to be female.
 Lisa?  She thought in horror.  She came into the room.  It may be a trap, but what choice does she have?  With a closer look, Lizbel found blood-red rope tied around her friend's arms and legs, bolting her to the wooden chair.  The bag was wet, and a trickle of blood flowed down on her chest from the neck.
 Lizbel gasped and retreated a few steps.  Her best friend was dead, possibly by having her throat slitted.  She didn't want to know the cause of death.
 "Howdy," a female voice from behind startled her.  Lizbel turned around, already having her fists raised.  The garage's main lights were turned on, flooding the garage with light.  Standing by the door was a dingo with red hair tied in braids.  The intruder was none other than Stella Dornam, a martial-arts expert and lover of Bandit Forhawk.
 "Well, well, well, if it ain't the chinook Lizbel," the dingo said, flashing an evil grin.
 "Stella,..." she replied back, not believing her eyes.  "You're supposed to be dead!!"
 Stella shook her head.  "If I'm supposed to be dead, then why am I alive?  You actually thought that a simple self-destruct explosion would kill us?"
 Lizbel's eyes narrowed.  "Us?  You mean Bandit is alive as well?"
 The dingo laughed, and circled around her enemy, keeping a safe distance away.  She ended up standing close to the dead maltese.  "Sorry about your friend here.  Her luck must have run out.  Best friends since puphood, as said on your profile."
 "Why her?"  The chinook asked, almost to a growl.  "She had done nothing to you."
 "Bait, my dear stupid dog.  Bait.  Guess who's the fish?"  Stella answered.  She looked at the maltese and shook her head.  "Tsk, tsk, tsk.  I'm actually disappointed on her.  She didn't even scream when I slitted her throat from ear to ear.  She did make a gurgling sound though."
 Unable to resist her rage, Lizbel screamed a battle cry and charged at the dingo, eyes burning with hatred.  She threw out a fist, but Stella blocked it and threw a counter-punch.  The blow struck Lizbel with little effect, and soon they were hurling blows at each other, not noticing their pain, their determined eyes never straying from their enemy.  They circled around, their legs stooped, their paws reaching forward, fingers twitching.
 Lizbel made a spinning kick, and it connected to Stella's face, staggering her off balance.  As the dingo retreated, almost dazed, Lizbel struck two punches to her face before she fell.  As a counter-move, Stella thrust a boot at Lizbel's knee, toppling the chinook to the floor.  Stella then dived on top of her, grabbing her ears and growling out spit.  They rolled on the floor, their grunts and growls filling the room.  Finally, Lizbel threw her off, and both got up simultaneously.  They faced-off again, circling.
 Stella spat out some blood from her bleeding tongue.  "You know, Bandit and I didn't ask for you stupid Firehawks to be our arch-rivals.  It was you who came to us looking for a fight."
 "It was Bandit who caused this whole mess, all the way back when he betrayed Clark.  The way I think about it, you two deserved to die."
 Stella chuckled, never leaving her eyes off her.  "Everyone deserves to die.  It's how they die is deserved or not.  You know, I have better things to do than talking while I fight, like taking a nap."
 The dingo made a high kick, but Lizbel ducked just as the boot swiped air above her, and the chinook's leg sweep stumbled her to the floor again.  She then grabbed her foot, intending to snap her ankle, but Stella used her other foot and kicked her back.  She got up quickly and hurled a fist at Lizbel's ribs, and the dog grunted as a response.  They grappled each other, punching, kicking, all throughout the garage.  Stella finally grabbed hold her shoulders, and threw herself back, throwing Lizbel over her.  She then planted a boot on her stomach, and lifted her up.  Lizbel was thrown several feet into the air, and landed on the floor hard.
 The dingo thought that would finish her, but to her surprise, the chinook stood up almost as soon as she landed.  "You have been taught well to retaliate like that.  Let's see if you can die well!"
 Screaming and spitting out blood, Stella jumped high in the air, and struck a kick right at Lizbel's head.  The dog retreated back a few steps, and though her recovery was quick, she was too dazed to see another kick coming.  She was struck on the stomach so hard that she was literally thrown back.  Lizbel ended up close by the door.
 Only Stella could spot the figure behind her enemy, wielding a laser rifle like a bat.  Lizbel was struck on the back of the head, and she fell face first, knocked out cold.  Stella whooped in triumph, and the figure looked down at Lizbel, shaking his raccoon head.
 "That was a great swing you made, Bandit," the dingo praised.
 "Thank you.  I hope I didn't kill her."
 "Why not kill her?"
 "I have a plan, my dear dingo.  A plan that would finish the Crimson Firehawks once and for all.  Help me pick up this lousy excuse for a dog.  We're going to the transporter."
 Stella helped him carry the chinook outside and over to a stolen Cornerian transporter nearby.  Lizbel was fastened to a seat by metal clamps, and with Bandit at the helm, the transporter lifted off into space.

 Lizbel awoke with a strong pain at the nape of her head.  She instinctually tried to rub it, but her paws and legs were tied to a chair with the same metal clamps.  A bandage covered the wound she suffered from the blow to the head, but her other bruises and scratches were not treated at all.  She tried to move around, but the hard, metal chair was bolted to the floor.  She gave up, and took stock of where she was at.
 She was in an empty room with gray, gloomy walls, and the air was somewhat chilly.  The chair was cold to the touch, and her sores made things worse.  She sat on the center of the room, facing the door.  On her left was a large window that covered most of the wall.  Across from the window was the top cone part of some large missile.  It was painted red, and it looked powerful enough to obliterate a major city.
    Great.  I'm in some goddamn Missile Launch Silo Base, she thought, irritated to be caught.  The dome above must be open, for sunlight was gleaming on the missile, sparkling like a rose with poisonous thorns.  She realized why she was put in this room: to watch the launch of a missile that was capable of killing thousands.  She sighed with disgust, then felt a rather lightness feeling around the front of her neck.  Her necklace was gone!  The heart-shaped ruby necklace that Darwin gave her as he proposed for marriage was stolen!  Those bastards!!!
 The silence was interrupted by the whispering sound of the door sliding open.  Bandit Forhawk, the raccoon arch-rival of the Crimson Firehawks, stepped in, a smirk on his face.  The door closed behind him, and Lizbel whispered a growl.  Bandit wore the red uniform of a Venom officer, and his eyes were gleaming as if he was having a great day.
 "Ah, we thank you for becoming a guest here," Bandit greeted.  "Welcome to the Polana Missile Silo in Macbeth.  Have you received a horrible treatment, courtesy of our hospitality?"
 Lizbel spat, and it landed close to his right boot.  "You're the scum of the galaxy, you know that?"
 Bandit grinned.  "Thanks for the compliment, lady.  I think you hate your stay here.  Well, that's good."
 "What do you want?"
 "What do I want?  Oh several things.  I want to kill you and those stupid Crimson Firehawks, listen to a screaming orchestra of victims, to name a few."
 "If you want to kill me, then why don't you do it?"
 "I have a plan, stupid dog.  See that marvelous missile there?"
 "Oh I get it.  You want me to be alive to watch this thing launch and kill a bunch of people, right?  Well, it's not going to happen!"
 "Really?  You want to be dead when the missile launches?"
 Lizbel decided not to talk back.  In the happy mood that he was in, he would just use her words to his advantage.  Bandit laughed, and stepped close to his hostage.  "You know Lizbel, when that maltese got her throat cut, her eyes seemed to-"
 "Shut up!  You didn't have to kill her!"
 "That was the work of Stella, dog."
 "Oh, typical.  You let other people do the dirty work, like some gutless coward."
 "Of course.  If other people do it, then I won't have the guilty conscience.  Besides, I had power,...why not use it?  Well, it's such a sunny day out, so I'm going to take a short walk.  You just sit here and be comfy.  I'll be back tomorrow.  Have a horrible day!"
 Laughing, Bandit left the room, and all was quiet again.  "He's crazier than I thought he was, which seemed impossible."
 She tried once again to get herself off the clamps that tightly tied her, but no effect.  She yelled with frustration and grief.  "Boy, this is a rocky start to my marriage," she mused.

Chapter Three
 "It is impossible to live with those creeps.  I hope that when we kick their butts in Venom, every single one of those fiends will be lined up and slaughtered like the pigs they are."
         --Toplama Graham, Katina

 Because she had not eaten since she left Fortuna yesterday, Lizbel was starving when Bandit came back around noon.  The raccoon was still wearing the same uniform, but he now had a dagger on his belt.
 Lizbel stared at him coldly.  Bandit made a grin.  "How did you sleep?"
 "Fine," she answered in a bitter tone.  "What the hell do you want?"
 "Oh, I'm just checking to see how you are feeling."
 Lizbel growled louder.  "How nice of you, dirtbag."
 "Now why are you so disgusted with me?  Was it because I killed Clark?  Well he deserved to die.  Was it because I massacred those children?  Well that's because they were destined to die that way.  The guards just merely fulfilled their destinies."
 "Why you betrayed Clark?"
 "Oh money, for one thing.  When I was captured in Zoness as a spy, Andross was surprised to find that I knew his stupid son's hideout.  So, instead of killing me, he decided to let me live, but for a price.  I must join to serve Venom.  When the attack to the militia was successful and Clark died on his knees, I was promoted to Second Admiral.  You see, when I was in the militia, I had no rank.  I had no power.  I also have to fulfill the wishes of an insane ape that actually thought he could destroy Venom."
 "So now you serve another insane ape that actually thought he could control the galaxy."
 Bandit slapped her in the face, his eyes burning.  "Keep quiet, dog!  Now there's another thing.  Clark had no chance of winning.  Venom is just too powerful, too numerous.  Did you really think we could defeat them with Greenies?  Come on!"
 "So why did you join in?"
 "Because I wanted the money and then run away.  Andross had a much better offer, so that's the reason of the betrayal.  Venom is bound to win, and I prefer to be in the winning side."
 "In your dreams.  Look, if you're going to stay around here any longer, then make yourself useful by bringing some food here.  I tend to get thirsty for raccoon blood when I need food and drink."
 "If you're hungry, eat a shred off your shirt.  If you're thirsty, swallow your own spit."
 "I'll reserve my saliva for special occasions.  Just watch your boots.  They may get a little wet a times."
 Bandit shrugged.  "Suit yourself, mutt.  Now you be a nice little doggy, and keep your mouth shut.  Otherwise, you'll regret it.  C'ya, don't wanna be ya!  Ha, ha, ha, ha!!"

 "How is she?"  Stella asked her flame as he came in his living quarters.  The dingo does have a room of her own, but she had a liking of going over to Bandit's place.  She had on a rather tight-fitting red uniform that showed her slim figure, and her bushy tan tail shone with newly applied lotion.
 Bandit grinned and laid his dagger on top of a drawer.  "She's hungry and thirsty.  I actually had a thought of feeding her, but that was quickly trampled down.  I want her to starve to death."
 "Why not just kill her?"
 "I told you earlier.  I want the Crimson Firehawks to come and try to rescue her, but we'll be waiting for them."
 "Well, they don't know where she is now."
 "I will give them a message.  A rather tragic one at that."
 "Well what are you waiting for?  Call them now!"
 "Patience, my dear dingo.  Patience.  The missile is not even completed yet.  It won't be launched till five days from now."
 "What does that missile got to do with having the Firehawks come here into our trap?"
 "I want those fools to come when the missile is ready.  That way, they will witness me pushing the launch button that will make the missile target a major city in Katina.  If they do survive and escape, then they will have the guilty conscience when they see the crater that remained of a heavily-populated city."
 Stella shook her head.  "Bandit, there's too many risks in this plan.  You underestimated them the last time we fought them, and we almost got killed.  Besides, what if those Cadets come here uninvited with them, or that stupid fox, whoever she is?"
 "I have my ways of dealing with them.  Don't worry."
 The dingo sighed, and rubbed her red hair, feeling the braids.  "Oh I don't know about this plan of yours, Bandit.  It's sounds idiotic, if not stupid.  I really think we should just kill Lizbel now and attack the Cadets' home, like what you did with Clark and that stupid militia of his."
 Bandit came up close to her, and laid a paw around her back, the other one on her shoulder.  "Here in this base, we have the advantage.  My plan will work.  I know it will."
 Stella sighed again, and looked at Bandit's chilling eyes.  "Fine.  I'll accept your plan."
 Bandit smiled, exposing his fangs.  "That's a good dingo," he said, and their lips locked.  The kiss was soothing, and when they parted, Bandit smiled again.  "You getting hungry?"
 "Yeah, but for what, I dunno."
 "How about some beefline stew?  I heard that's the chef's specialty here."
 "Fine.  Haven't tried that in weeks.  Let's go."

Chapter Four

 "War is inevitable.  The prospect of a galaxy-wide peace is in the mind of an arrogant appeaser and coward.  Wether you like it or not, war was in our past, in our present, and will be forever scarring the lives of our descendants."

         --General Iradan, Venom

 "Nothing.  Absolutely nothing," Jo'hara reported, disappointed.  For five hours now, he had been trying to find the file of Lizbel's private message on the monitor phone logs, but it was deleted.  "I'm sorry Darwin.  That file is gone forever."
 The mournful cougar laid a soft paw on the puma's shoulder.  "That's alright.  You did the best you can.  What can we do now?"
 Jo'hara sighed and shook his black head.  "I don't know.  We can only pray for her safety at this moment."
 Darwin nodded and left Jo'hara's computer room with his head bowed.  It has been a day since he had last heard of his wife, and the grief and tension was getting to him.  Natlarn, Dekslan, Tigress, and Tera had gone over to the Fortuna Base many miles away to find possible witnesses, and Terra along with Jo'hara had stayed with Darwin, trying to get the only possible lead: the private message that Lizbel had just before she left.  Not knowing wether she was dead or alive, Darwin became quiet and alone.  He went over to his room and sat on the bed, fighting back tears.
 

 Bandit's past was a dark one, a roller coaster ride of sad emotions and memories, and few moments of joy.  He was abandoned by his parents at birth, and was found at the doorsteps of his aunt Gloria.  At the time, he was named Daniel, and he always had a distaste for that name.  Why, he couldn't explain.  He just hated it.
 "Aunt Gloria was a mean, sorry little soul," Bandit once told Stella during his first month serving Venom.  "That raccoon was drunk all the time, morning to night.  She once told me right in my face that I was the reason why she drinks.  There were beer cans on the kitchen, living room, you name it.  It's everywhere, but I was forbidden to drink them.  She was indeed a hypocrite.  She drinks, yet when she caught me taking a sip, she pulled out a whip and gave me a beating that still gives me nightmares.  'Daniel, you Satan's son!  Don't you ever, ever drink this!!' she said as she stung my back with that whip of hers.  She also humiliates me in front of the few friends that she allows me to have, and keeps me locked up in my small room for hours.  I have reason to believe that she existed just to make my life a living hell, and she did just that.  Fourteen years I have to put up with her."
 "Fourteen?  Why fourteen?"  Stella asked curiously.
 Bandit grinned.  "Well, there was a little accident that killed her.  Neighbors said that I was the one who pushed her down the stairs to the basement, but of course I pleaded innocent, and won.  You know Stella, when she fell down those stairs, I can still remember that sound of her neck snapping like a twig.  It was so loud and clear.  When I heard that, I laughed so hard that I almost tripped down the stairs myself, but I held on the rails."
 "What happened then?"
 "I was sent over to my uncle, Drake.  Now he was something else.  He actually cared about me, but he had a wife that gripes, moan, and yell all the time.  I was actually afraid to be alone with her, because she was always angry about something, 24 hours a day.  She can be hot-tempered over the littlest of problems.  Once, she slapped me in the face because the leftover tornab crab was burnt, and I didn't even cook that day!  To her, I was a punching bag, and the only reason why I didn't fight back was because of Drake.  He warned me that if I ever touch her in a malicious way, then he will kill me, and he meant it.  Still, I idolized him.  If he wants something done, he does it quickly.  He beats his wife, which is revenge for me, because he wanted to.  He showed me that force and power are very important if I want to be somebody in this galaxy.  He said to me, 'Daniel, you can't step up the ladder of success by being a pencil-pusher or a cowardly low-life.  You must be ruthless, be feared upon, and aggressive.  Morals are just phony obstacles made by idiotic people that doesn't see the true meaning of doing something by any means necessary.'  I took those words to stride.  At school, I was the bully, the top student in the lunch and recess periods.  I became rich by taking lunch money out of wimps.  I turned to becoming a thief, and I was good at it.  I was so good that I named myself Bandit when I left to fend for myself."
 "Your Uncle still alive?"
 "Nope.  Arrested when he stabbed his wife twenty times.  I gave him a thank-you note.  He soon sat on the electric chair."
 "You ever seen your parents before?"
 "My Aunt had pictures of them, but I never met them since they abandoned me.  I don't know where they are now, or wether they're alive or not.  I don't give a hoot about them.  My Aunt called them drug addicts, so they must be dead now.  Stella, my life is void of happiness, but I live on.  I have so many holes in my heart that it is impossible to fill each one of them.  However, I create hell for others because I don't want to be only one who had my life miserable.  I want the others to die or be grieving so that they would get a taste of what I had to go through.  I kill so much that I began to like it.  I'm addicted to it, Stella.  However, I can control my urges so that I won't turn against you or anything like that.  I kill only enemies, and out of doing that shall I get my greatest pleasure."
 Stella made a mock face of horror.  "What, your greatest pleasure?  What about me?"
 Bandit chuckled.  "Sorry Stella, my mistake."
 
 Three day after her capture, Lizbel was close to starvation.  She was never used to being at this state of hunger, and her health had deteriorated dramatically.  Her stomach growls provided the only sounds in the lonely room, and she was often cold and dreary.  Finally, she had another visitor, but it was Bandit again, this time with a special item in his pocket.
 Lizbel growled when the raccoon came in.  Bandit simply laughed and shook his head.  "The missile is expected to be completed soon, and when the Crimson Firehawks come here, they will witness this marvelous weapon launching, and it will be the last thing they will see."
 The chinook couldn't speak.  She was just too hungry and tired to do so.  She could only stare daggers at him.
 Bandit reached in his pocket and pulled out a very familiar item.  "Recognize this, Liz?"
 Lizbel uttered a quiet gasp.  The raccoon was holding the ruby-heart engagement necklace that Darwin gave her.  The jewel shone from the sunlight, and it was swinging like a hypnotizing pendulum.
 "You know this is a nice gift from your boyfriend.  I wonder how much money Darwin had to steal in order to afford this."
 "He's no thief, and we're married."
 "Married?  Aw, how sweet.  Too bad I have to give out the divorce papers to him once I kill you," he said as he pulled out his dagger with his free paw.  "I'm going to give this back to your husband, with a little something extra as well."
 Bandit hovered his dagger close to her.  Lizbel cringed back from the weapon, nervous on what he was planning to do with it.  "Consider it a gift from his greatest nightmare."  He chuckled with maddening eyes.

 Five hours later, the doorbell rang at the Justice Cadet's home, surprising everyone.  After all, their place was not widely known.  When Natlarn answered the trapdoor, he found a small rectangular box, big enough only to hold a large necklace, by the door.  He stepped outside to find who came, but he only saw the lights of the engine of a transporter, speeding away.  Puzzled, he looked at the box.  It was a red box with a blue ribbon tied around it, and a tag was on it as well.  The tag had Darwin's name on it.
 "Darwin!  C'mere!  There's a package for you!"
 Darwin went up to him at the door, and accepted the gift.  "Who came to give this to you?"
 "I don't know.  He or she left quickly.  Look, I have some cooking to do, so I'll leave you here."
 Darwin made a mocking disgusted face.  "You're cooking today?  Can't we go over to Fortuna Base and order something in a restaurant?"
 "Enough with the jokes of my cooking.  And this from a cougar who loves sardine and rutabaga pie."
 Darwin chuckled as Natlarn went off to the kitchen.  Alone, the anxious cougar opened the package, not at all expecting what was inside.  Almost instantly, he dropped the package, screaming in terror.
 Natlarn rushed over to find Darwin kneeling by the package, weeping like something had just struck his very heart.  Curious, he picked up the package, and realized what it was that made Darwin so stricken with grief.
 It was the ruby-heart necklace, drenched red with blood.

Chapter Five

 "Emperor Andross' very existence is a danger to Cornerian society."

         --General Pepper, Corneria

 The air was thick with grief in the living room.  Darwin held the cleaned up necklace delicately on his paw, and he inspected it with teary eyes.  Terra, Natlarn and Tigress were off to Fortuna Base for supplies, Jo'hara was busy in his computer room, and Dekslan and Tera were trying to kill time by putting their frustrations on a punching bag.  It was quiet, still, and serene in the living room.  Under the ceiling lights, the ruby heart sparkled, while it was an hour ago when it was stained with blood.  He still had the hope of the possibility of his wife still being alive, but the question of who did it was yet to be solved.  Since he believed that Bandit had died, he was at a loss on who could do such a thing like this.
 He heard footsteps coming to him from behind, but he was too depressed to respond.
 "Darwin!  I found something when I was going through the Corneria reports!"
 The cougar perked up, and watched as the puma excitedly sat on the couch next to him.  "What is it, Jo'hara?"
 "There was an eyewitness in a small town called Nomerana that told the police that she saw a strange red jet shaped like a T roaring through the sky and landing about ten miles from town.  However, the police dismissed her, and the police report was forgotten.  Darwin, that sounds a lot like a Braun-class jet the eyewitness saw!"
 "Nomerana, Nomerana...that place does ring a bell.  Who lived there,...Lisa?"
 "Who's Lisa?"
 "Lisa Mand, I believe.  Liz's puphood friend.  She lives in a manor ten miles from town.  Could that Lizbel's jet that the witness saw?"
 Jo'hara stood up.  "Only one way to find out," he said and walked over to the hallway.  "Dekslan!  Tera!  We're going to Corneria!"
 "What for?"  Tera asked from the gym.
 "I believe Lizbel is last seen there.  It's time to do a little detective work!"
 Darwin was already preparing to leave.  "What about the others?"
 "Leave a note.  I think we have to do this in a hurry."

 The manor of Lisa Mand appeared still and abandoned as the four jets landed close by.  Darwin spotted Lizbel's jet resting peacefully on a concrete platform near the road.  It seemed untouched over the days.  Such the advantages of living in such a far out-of-the-way place.
 "Well Liz did come here, alright," Darwin said.  "Who's going to take this jet back home?"
 "I have a friend that will take care of it," Jo'hara answered.
 "Really?  Who?"
 "Uh, he's a secret friend.  One that hates to be known by even a pawful of people."
 Darwin nodded and shrugged, taking his word for it.  When they came inside, there was a stuffy smell and flies were flying here and there.
 Tera sniffed and made a disgusted face.  "Ugh, it smells like someone had died here.  I think it's coming from over there."
 Dekslan, sharing Tera's disgust for the smell of death, went ahead, but soon became lost in the darkness.  "Uh, where is it?"
 "Up ahead, I guess.  Where's the switch?"  Jo'hara said.
 Darwin searched around the dark hallway.  "Where are you Jo?"
 A black furred paw patted his shoulder, almost startling him.  "Right here."
 "Oh, didn't see you."
 "Why am I not surprised?"
 Dekslan found a light switch and turned on the lights on the ceiling.  They found themselves in a hallway near the kitchen.  "Can anyone pinpoint where that awful smell is coming from?"
 Tera stepped into the kitchen, and found a door left ajar.  When he opened the door to the garage, he retreated a few steps in surprise.  "I'm right.  Someone did die here.  Looks like a white dog or something," he said coming inside.
 Darwin spotted the dead body of Lisa Mand sitting on a chair, a bloody bag covering her head.  "Ugh....that's Lisa.  My God, this is sickening!"
 "Tell me about it," Dekslan replied as she searched the hard floor of the garage.  Even under the single light of the overhead lightbulb, she could spot a few drops of blood and strands of fur.  "Looks like some scuffle had happened here."
 "Lizbel doesn't surrender without a fight.  I hope she kicked the killer's butt all over the place before it was all over," Darwin said with a small grin.  "Jo'hara, do you need any of these fur strands?"
 "Yeah, I have a identification computer than can use fur strands to find it's owner.  Pick up as many as you can find."
 Tera found a long strand of red hair, and was seemed perplexed by it.  "Looks like this intruder had long red hair.  Where can I put this?"
 "Try your pockets," Jo'hara explained.  "Just don't lose it."
 After several minutes, they picked up all the hair strands they could, resisting to vomit from smelling death that sickened them.  When they decided they have done enough, Darwin calmly cut the ropes that tied Lisa, then wrapped a blanket over her body.  Dekslan opened the garage door that led to the front yard.
 With a shovel, Jo'hara dug a quick grave somewhere in the surrounding fields, and Darwin laid the body of Lizbel's puphood friend in the grave, and it was filled up.  When a mound had resulted, Tera laid four rocks in a ceremonial manner at the head of the grave.  They were heading back to their jets when Jo'hara knelt by the grave and uttered a silent prayer.
 "He always does that, doesn't he?"  Whispered Darwin a few feet away.
 "Yeah," Tera answered,  "but he isn't pious.  Leave him be.  He can catch up with us."
 

 Back in Jo'hara's Wired Room, the puma delicately laid a slab of glass with a red hair strand under a device that was firing yellow beams of light that could scan even an atom and gives the information it finds to a computer, and shows the results.  With it's 98% accuracy, Jo'hara often used the machine when investigating crimes, if they were paid to do so.  Because they would rather try to hunt down criminals than clues, they get paid more to do stuff like this.
 "The results should be up within a few seconds," Jo'hara said as Darwin watched the computer screen over the puma's shoulder.  The screen was bustling with numbers and words too quick for anyone's eyes to identify.  There was a blank picture that took up most of the top half of the screen, and below it were the dazzling two columns of fast-processing information.  "The first row is the first name, and the second is the last name of the strand's owner," Jo'hara explained.  "Only a decade ago this wouldn't be possible...."
 The first row suddenly stopped, and the second quickly followed.  Soon after, a picture, first fuzzy, then cleared up to show a dingo with red hair tied in braids.  Darwin recognized her, and did not like what he was seeing.
 "Stella Dornam," he said in a bitter tone.  "Crap, I thought she was dead!"
 "Wait, if she's alive then won't..."
 "Bandit.  Damn it, of all the people in that base, Stella and Bandit had to be the ones that survived!"
 "Wait, Bandit may still be dead after all.  Maybe Stella kidnaped Lizbel for revenge."
 The cougar sighed.  "Maybe, maybe not.  But this doesn't tell us where Liz is now."
 Jo'hara rubbed his chin thoughtfully.  "Well, Star could help us, but the last time I met her, she said that she was busy about something important, so I don't think she could help us the way she did the last time we fought Bandit.  She could pinpoint his location, but it would be up to us to do the dirty work."
 "Well then, call her."
 Jo'hara nodded.  "You read my mind.  She won't tell us her home phone number, since I could easily use it as a tracker, but I believe I do have her cellular phone number," he said, looking through his phone files.  "Look Darwin, why don't you get some rest?  If Star could pinpoint their location quickly, then we might leave as soon as tomorrow."
 Darwin nodded, and patted his friend's shoulder.  "Fine.  I'm getting sleepy anyway.  Good night."
 "Night, Darwin," the puma answered and scoured through the many phone numbers as Darwin left the room.  He looked at the picture of Stella again.  It was a rather recent shot, and her face was stern and determined.  Jo'hara shook his head.  "How can you love someone like Bandit Forhawk, Stella?"

 There was someone already inside Darwin's room when he came in to turn in for the night.  Terra sat on his bed, her eyes showing a hint of nervousness.  She stood up when Darwin came in.
 "Who's the intruder?"
 Darwin shook his head.  "Stella.  She survived the blast."
 "What?  Does that mean Bandit is alive as well?"
 "I hope not.  I surely hope not.  Why are you here?"
 The bobcat looked away from his eyes, somewhat reluctant to speak.  "Well, um, I have something important that I want to speak with you.  It's something that I have been meaning to tell you for a long time."
 "Well what is it?"
 Terra sighed, and shuffled her feet.  "This is hard for me.  Just promise me that you won't be mad or something like that."
 "Terra,....what is it?"
 Terra looked up to his eyes.  "I have uh, a crush on you.  Been having one for months."
 Darwin was too shocked to speak at first.  However, it was that look on his eyes that made Terra realize that he wasn't all that happy with it.  "You still do,...even when I'm married?"
 "Yes.  I just can't help but to love you Darwin.  I want-"
 Darwin retreated a few steps, shaking his head.  "Terra, just be silent for a moment here.  I need to gather my senses here."  He turned his back on her and walked close to one of the walls, crossing his arms.  Why now?  Was it fear that kept her from speaking about this earlier?  Even so, why now, when my wife is probably either dead or close to it in some enemy base?  Is she doing this just to let it out, or is there more to it?
 "This is bad timing, isn't it?  I'm sorry Darwin, but-"
 "Were you jealous of Liz?  For being my girlfriend then and my wife now?"
 "Honestly, uh,...yes, I was."
 The cougar bowed his head, and turned to face her.  "What's your point on telling me this?  Why now?"
 Terra's eyes showed more nervousness.  This wasn't working for her, despite the fact that she knew that he won't just smile and accept it with open arms.  "I wanted you to know about it.  I want to be with you, Darwin.  I want to love you openly."
 Darwin's voice was more serious.  "Well, I'm not available at the moment, Terra.  You know that."  A sudden thought went to his head.  "Wait, you think Liz is dead?"
  Terra wanted to say yes, but she could only mutter a few sounds.  Darwin didn't let her finish.  He stepped closer to her.
 "You think that I would actually accept your love to me if I'm a widower?"
 "No, no!"  Terra explained.  "I'm not thinking that!"
 Darwin let out a silent mutter of curses, and held a paw over his face.  "Terra, I'm going to explode if we continue this further at this moment.  I'm tired, and I'm sure you're tired, so why don't we just talk about this later?"
 Terra could only shrug.  She needed to get out anyway.  Wordlessly, she got out of the room, leaving a still-shocked cougar in room.
 

Chapter Six

 "Bad timing.  I told him at a very bad time."

        --Terra Hartford, Crimson Firehawks

 "Polana Missile Silo Base, that's where she's at," Jo'hara exclaimed as the two squadrons gathered for a quick breakfast.  "I contacted Star and she went through the files and logs of every registered Venom base there is.  Bandit lives."
 A sudden groan filled the air.  Jo'hara continued.  "You could've heard her when she found out about Stella.  She must have said every curse there is, and invented some new ones, I think.  Liz has been captured for four days now, and from what Star had found, she hasn't been fed in all that time."
 Darwin's eyes narrowed, and tightened his fist.
 Jo'hara continued.  "Therefore, she might be too weak to fly herself.  I have already contacted Fortuna Base and they will have a transporter waiting for us to borrow.  One of you will have to fly it."
 Tera raised his paw.  "I will go over there.  They can keep my arwing while I'm gone."
 Jo'hara nodded.  "Then go now.  We will leave quickly."
 Tera must have already read his mind, for he had already gotten his keys to his jet and was on his way out.
 "Did Star find out why Bandit kidnapped Liz, and why Polana, of all bases?"  Terra asked, keeping a respectable distance from Darwin.
 "That required some deeper digging, and Star didn't have the time to get all the details.  However, Polana is a missile launch base, and right now, there is a mass-destructive missile waiting to lift off.  It is expected to be launched tomorrow.  Star suggested that Bandit must be planning to use Liz as bait for us to come over and try to rescue her.  If we have still be in a loss in where they are, then I would expect Bandit to give us a message tomorrow, taunting us to come over.  However, since we have beaten him to the punch, we will have time to our advantage.  Bandit might want to us to be in the base to watch the missile launch and destroy some city."
 Tigress shook her head.  "Why would he wanna do that?"
 "To make us feel that he had won in the end, I guess.  Who knows what tempest whirls inside that head of his?  Our focus should be to rescue Lizbel, find out some way to destroy the missile so that it won't be launched, and to finish off Bandit and Stella if we can.  I have a device that could stall the missile and make the missile's internal computer so berserk that it would render the whole missile useless.  However, I need to be in the base itself, thanks to the top-notch security."
 "Got any information about Polana?"  Natlarn asked.
 "That base is one of the more smaller bases in Macbeth, so we don't have to go around as much.  It has fifty Invader-I jets and about a hundred soldiers.  It won't be much of a problem to overtake them.  However, the real danger is Liz's safety.  If Bandit gets desperate enough, he might kill her, so we have to find her fast.  That's all the info I have.  I'll show you the location on the way."
 Natlarn nodded and clapped his paws once to get their attention.  "Okay!  Let's head out!"
 With cries of agreement, the two squadrons rushed upstairs to the surface, and ran through the bitter Fortuna cold to the nearby hanger.  The Justice Cadets climbed in their cockpits, anxious to go.  Darwin was just about to close his canopy window when Terra came up to him at his jet's side.
 "Wait, Darwin.  I want to say that I'm sorry about last night.  I'm-"
 Darwin rested his paw on her shoulder, stopping her.  "Look, I'm still mad about this, but I'm willing to get this behind us only if you agree not to speak to Liz about this, and that your crush to me is over."
 Easier said than done, Terra quickly thought.  "Alright," she lied.  "I'll do it."
 Darwin nodded and his canopy window closed in from above.  With a sigh, Terra went inside her jet, thanking Darwin for keeping a cool head about this.
 
  As the six jets and one transporter approached Macbeth, Natlarn issued his plan.  "When we reach the base, we will handle the Invader fleas first.  Tera's transporter is slower than the fleas, so wiping them out will give him a clean escape.  However, we still have to do this quick, before reinforcements arrive.  When about ten Invaders are left, Dekslan and I will continue to fight them off as the rest of you land and storm the base.  Tera, you land the transporter two hundred yards from the base.  If you are being fired upon, let me or Dekslan know and we'll try to take care of it.  Darwin, you will take command of the base storming group.  Everyone understand my orders?"
 The others agreed, and they were on their way.  Darwin almost sweated in nervousness as well as anxiousness.  "We're coming for you, Lizbel.  Just don't lose your faith."

 "You remember the time we first met, Bandit?"  Stella asked the raccoon as they sat together on a couch in Stella's room.  They were sipping some orange-colored drinks, and a plate of cookies was on the coffee table in front of them.
 "Of course.  I was a spy serving Clark and you was the one in charge of the group that captured me in Zoness."
 "When you told me that you was willing to switch sides and join Venom, I didn't believe you at first."
 "Really?  You didn't?"
 "I have been lied to before.  Besides, you was my enemy at the time."
 "What made you change your mind?"
 "Well, there was something about you that I was attracted to.  I don't know what.  Maybe it was your charm, or even your looks.  I'm just attracted to you."
 Bandit came up close to her, her breath feeling hot against his tan and black cheeks.  "Well, I'm glad you feel that way.  After all, if you felt differently, you would have killed me."
 Stella made a short chuckle.  "If I killed you, then I wouldn't be this happy now."
 They locked lips, almost spilling their ice-cold drinks.  Just as they parted slowly, the alarms went off.
 Bandit jumped up from the couch, his drink splattering on the cookies.  He ran up to a monitor phone, and called the base's Command Central.  "What's going on?!!"
 A husky with yellow eyes appeared on the screen.  "Six jets and a Cornerian transporter approaching this base from the northwest!"
 "Cornerians?"
 "I'm not sure, sir!  The transporter is, but three of the jets are not registered, and the rest are arwings, but they don't seem to be Starfox!"
 Bandit pounded on the dashboard.  "Justice Cadets, and the Crimson Firehawks, no doubt!!  Damn it!  Damn it all!  How did they know my location?"
 "Don't ask me sir!  What can we do?"
 "What do you think?  Hurl all of our jets at them!  Now!"
 "Yes sir!"  The husky said and the screen went blank.  Bandit turned to Stella.  "Those pilots are really a pain on the tail!  When I get my paws on them, they will regret being born!!"
 

Chapter Seven
 "There is no knowledge that is not power."
          --Popular Quote

 "Wooo, got one!"  Terra barked as an Invader exploded under the deadly shots of her lasers.  With lasers flying, she swerved left and swooped up behind another Invader, and soon added another kill to her record.
 "C'mon, butt-heads!"  Dekslan taunted, shooting down a flea.  "You can't shoot an elephant if he drew a target on his stomach and stand two feet away!!"  The borzoi laughed somewhat maniacally and shot down yet another one.  "Hey you flea-riding idiots, your recruiting officer must be a total dummy, am I right?  Am I?"
 One by one, the defending Invader fleas were shot down by the much more experienced squadrons, and the air was filled with blasts and smoke, and the ground was littered with downed Invaders.  In a matter of ten minutes, most of the Invaders were down.  Natlarn added another kill, then decided to go to phase two of the plan.  "Alright, Darwin, take the reins and storm the base!"
 "Righto!"  The cougar answered, and he along with his team landed on the concrete ground of the Base's landing strip.  Tera descended to a spot some distance away, and Natlarn as well as Dekslan stayed up in the air, shooting down the remaining Invaders with ease.
 As the dogfight continued above their heads, Darwin, Terra, Jo'hara, and Tigress ran across the strip and reached a side door into the Missile Silo.  Jo'hara had a small backpack with him (a black one, unsurprisingly), and he laid it down as they waited by the closed door.
 "What are the plans, Darwin?"  Tigress demanded, donning her brass knuckles that had been refurbished for this occasion.
 "Terra, you cover Jo'hara, since he might be sitting duck playing around with his computer.  Tigress and I will try to find Lizbel, but we will do so in our separate ways.  Once Liz is found, notify the others and we will leave immediately.  If you're not finished yet, Jo'hara, when that happens, then give yourself one minute to finish it up.  Will that be enough?"
 Jo'hara pulled out a password decoder from the backpack.  "Should be, Darwin.  If I could find just any computer, then I would be able to stop the missile." he said, fastening the decoder on the door's security box.  The small decoder blinked a few lights, then the door opened with a whisper.
 Darwin pulled out his pistol from his holster.  "Alright, this is it.  Good luck, and keep your com-links on."
 The four rushed inside the now silent hallway, ignoring the sleek metal walls and marble floor.  Darwin and Tigress took the lead, while Jo'hara and Terra fell behind.  Despite this being a hit-and-run type of mission, they knew that if they discovered Bandit or Stella, they were more than willing to sacrifice a few minutes going after them.

 "We have four intruders entering the base!"  The husky Irisa Remant exclaimed as he watched the electronic map of the base in Command Central.  He rubbed his head in disbelief.  He had never encountered a problem like this before.  "Guards!  Intercept them at once!"
 Just then, Bandit came in, fuming.  "Corporal, what's going on now?"
 "Four intruders had just entered this base through the East Door, sir!  The guards are coming to stop them at once!"
 "Is the coordinates set for the missile's target city?"
 "No sir!  The missile is not even ready to go yet!  Not till tomorrow!"
 "We might not have tomorrow, you fool!!  Get that missile ready in ten minutes!"
 Irisa blinked his yellow eyes frantically.  "That's impossible sir!  That's imp-"
 Bandit angrily grabbed him by the cuffs of his collar, and growled, but was speechless.  He soon let go of him, and muttered a frustrated curse.  "Damn it!  Where are the intruders now?"
 "Two of them are in Room #456, one is heading towards the fourth floor, and the fourth is near the Soldier's Mess Hall!!"
 "The fourth floor....that's where Lizbel is!  Send as many guards as you can to stop that intruder!  Liz must never be rescued!"

 "Are you done yet, Jo??!!"  Terra asked loudly over the sounds of laser fire.  She laid a crate barrier between her and five shooting guards forty feet away, crouching behind it and coming out only to fire back.  She was at a hallway's end, so she didn't have to worry about guards coming at her from the other side, and she was the doorway of Room #456.
 "Just keep shooting and shut up!"  Jo'hara yelled back in one of his rare angry outbursts.  His shadow-colored fingers were a blur over his laptop computer, connected to a Venom computer by an outlet.  The special device was whirring with lights nearby, connecting to the laptop by cords.  The security was tougher than he had thought, and the pressure was getting to him.  The numbers and letters were faster than he could catch, but he knew what he was getting into.  Such the advantages of many years of computer hacking experience.  "Just give me a couple more damn minutes!"
 Terra didn't respond, for she was too busy with the growing number of guards firing back.  She gave another guard a burning present before a laser shot almost grazed her right ear.  She yelped in surprise, but wasn't hurt.  After a moment of being stunned, she went back into the onslaught.

 The Mess Hall was silent when Tigress marched inside.  The five long tables were littered with unfinished plates, cuing her that her team must have interrupted lunch.  She turned to head out when she spotted a dingo with red braids blocking the way out.  She was unarmed, but from the look of the dingo's eyes, it seemed that she didn't care.
 "So, are you Stella?"
 "Yes.  Who the hell are you?  Big Mama?"
 Tigress' eyes narrowed and she uttered a deep growl.  She hated being called that.  "I remember the last time someone called me that.  His head was given a spin but the rest of him wasn't, if you get my drift, redhead."
 Stella laughed and raised her fists.  "You must be the one called Tigress.  I've heard stories about you.  You seem to have a great reputation as a fighter.  However, let's see if you could defeat the same dingo that kicked Lizbel's furry tail all over the garage!"
 Stella ran toward her, yelling a battle cry.  She jumped up and landed a foot at Tigress' stomach.  The tiger stumbled back, but wasn't stunned.  She rammed a metal-spiked fist into the dingo's ribs, sending a ton of hurt into her brain.  Stella screamed, then grabbed her arm, hoping to throw her over her back and shoulders.  However, Tigress was too heavy, and Stella herself was grabbed and was thrown into mid-air, crashing on one of the tables.  The clatter of broken dishes filled the air, and Stella dropped to the floor on the other side of the table.
 With a fierce growl that could make a wimp quiver with fear, Tigress grabbed the underside of the table and flipped it over, splattered a huge mess of dishes on the floor.  Stella managed to move away quick enough, and the table landed inches from her.  Tigress stepped over the flipped table to reach her opponent, but Stella pulled a leg sweep that finally felled the heavier tiger down to the floor to her level.  Stella then dived on top of her, smacking a few hits to the tiger's face before she was thrown off, and they stood up instantly.
 "You're strong, but slower than a snail!"  Stella taunted.  She delivered a spinning high kick aimed at the side of the tiger's face, but Tigress caught her foot just in time.  Stella landed on her other foot, hopping.  As a trick move, she lifted up the other foot and smacked a boot to the nape of her neck, hoping to force the tiger to release her hold.
 To her greatest shock, she found herself up-side-down, her foot still being held tightly.  While the trick may work with Star, it didn't with Tigress.  In fact, the tiger barely flinched.  She almost screamed in sheer panic when Tigress whirled around, spinning Stella like a discus.  She was thrown across the large Mess Hall, and collided back-first against the wall.  With a groan of pain, she staggered herself up, and watched Tigress casually walking toward her, ready to resume the fight.  She was breathing hard already, her mouth bleeding.  She had picked the wrong person to fight.

 Lizbel was a sad sight when Darwin finally opened the door to her room.  The bodies of dead guards littered the connecting hallway, and Darwin himself was shot on the side of the stomach.  It was only a flesh wound, but it was more than enough to remind him that being shot hurts.  He cried out her name, but Lizbel could only slowly raise her head to see him.  Her eyes were teary from depression, and parts of her collar was torn off as food.  Darwin grabbed her arms and gotten little response.  She was too weak to speak or smile.
 "It's going to be okay, Liz.  We're going to get you out," he said, snapping the metal clamps that bonded her with two accurate laser shots.  When she was freed, Darwin had her by the right arm, and wrapped it over the back of his shoulder, and lifted her up.  He spoke into the com-link on his head.
 "I got Lizbel.  We're heading out!"
 Only Jo'hara answered.  "I'm finished!  Where are you?"
 "Fourth floor!"
 "Terra and I are coming to help you out!  Jo'hara out!"
 Lizbel stirred a little.  "Darwin?..."
 "I'm here, sweetheart.  We'll get you out soon.  Don't worry!"
 The chinook could only mutter out a groan as she was being escorted out of the room.  They navigated through the bodies of the guards, and into the elevator.
 
 Stella knew she was losing, and badly.  Tigress' spiked knuckles were too much for her body to take, as she was bleeding from wounds all over her, and she limped, her face was picture of near defeat and pain.  However, she wasn't one to give up.  She struck another kick to Tigress' face, only to miss and be struck on the ribs again by a blood-stained brass knuckle.  She stumbled back, stepping on shattered plates.
 Tigress came up to her, and hurled a punch to her muzzle.  A whispering crack could be heard as a dingo fang snapped in two.  Stella was smashed against the wall, gasping hard.  She lost her footing and slid down on the wall to the floor, and was too exhausted to stand up.
 Tigress laughed in triumph, and bent down to her, smiling.  "One last thought before I leave you sprawled up on the floor.  Don't insult someone who is twice the size as you are."  She then gave her a powerful uppercut, almost snapping her neck.  Stella was knocked out cold as the back of her head pounded the wall, and went limp, her back leaning against the wall, her nose touching her torn shirt.  As a finishing touch, Tigress cradled her head, hoping to end her life here and now, only to be interrupted by the com-link in her pocket, telling her to leave the place now.  Grumbling, Tigress was forced to leave Stella alive, and ran out the ruined Mess Hall.  It would take another nine hours before Stella would awake from her concussion.
 There was little opposition as the rescuers rushed out of the base, with Tigress carrying Lizbel with ease to Tera's transporter.  The others got to their jets and lifted off.  Natlarn and Dekslan had taken care of the Invader problem minutes ago, so the air was free of danger.  With Lizbel safe inside the transporter, she and the six jets safely escaped Macbeth.

 "So, Jo'hara," Natlarn said as they cruised along in space.  "The missile won't be launched?"
 "Uh, yes, it would still be launched."
 Darwin sputtered out in surprised.  "What?  Jo'hara!"
 "Wait, don't jump to conclusions.  I had a better idea.  I knew that I wouldn't be able to render the missile useless when I found out the security was much harder, so I quickly changed plans and did something else.  We will still end up winners."
 "What did you do?"
 "You'll see," Jo'hara said with a snicker.  "You'll see."

 Bandit couldn't sleep that night.  He had failed once again, and he partly blamed himself for the result.  Stella was right!  My plan was too risky!  If only I kidnap Lizbel when the stupid missile was ready!  Damn my impatience!!!
 However, all was not lost.  The missile could still be launched.  With Stella recuperating in the medical quarters, Bandit almost gloated as he watched the missile from inside the Command Central.  "Corporal, start the countdown."
 Irisa beamed with glee.  "Yes sir!  Missile Areo One, coordinates set to Gornda City, planet Katina!  Launch in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1....blast off!!!"
 A huge roar followed, and Bandit was almost blinded by the blasts of the powerful engines of the missile.  He laughed as he saw the missile being lifted off into the air.
 A beeping sound interrupted his laughter.  "What the hell?"
 Curious, Irisa went to a computer.  "Aw, shhh..., Sir!  The coordinates are false!"
 "WHAT?!!!"  Bandit yelled back, eyes ablaze.
 "It's not heading to Gornda City, sir!"
 "Well change the coordinates, you idiot!!"
 The husky typed a few commands, but access was denied.  "No!  I cannot!!  Someone had hacked into the computer and changed the coordinates!!"
 Bandit closed his eyes in silent defeat.  "Jo'hara.....I should have known.  Where is the missile heading?"
 "Um, uh, oh dear, oh dear."
 "What?  What?  What?"
 "Ursanat Naval Base......in Aquas.  My God, that's one of the most important floating bases in Aquas.  Andross is going to be pissed."
 "Can't you stop it?"
 "No," Irisa answered, soundly defeated.  "That missile won't be stopped.  That base doesn't have any anti-missile weapons.  No anti-missile weapon can stop it anyway."
 Bandit sighed deeply, and closed his eyes again.  "Crap."

 Bandit had a special visitor the next day.  Four actually.  They found him sitting peacefully in the Base's lounge, his paws covering his raccoon face.
 "Andross has sent us to get you to Venom," Wolf O'Donnell said.
 "Uncle has given us permission to kill you," Andrew Olkonny added.  "I suggested to shoot you, but Leon had a better idea."
 Bandit sighed and stood up.  He faced Wolf with sorrowful eyes.  "Go ahead.  Take me.  I have nothing more to lose other than my pitiful life."
 The one eyed fiend grinned.  "You know Bandit, I honored you when you killed those brats in the space station Heartbreak, but now you have ended up to be a wimp.  A total wimp.  Go to a transporter and follow us to Titania."
 "Why Titania?"
 "Leon got a better idea for an execution.  Let's go."

Chapter Eight

 "While I don't like to have people killed, Bandit Forhawk was one that the Lylat System would be much better off without him."

        --Jo'hara Prather, The Justice Cadets

 Despite his objections, Bandit was blindfolded as he was landing somewhere in a remote area of Titania.  When the door transporter door open, he was struck with a wave of dry heat.  A hyena transporter pilot escorted him out, then Wolf roughly grabbed his arm.
 "I don't see the point in this.  Why do I have to be blindfolded?"
 "Because I said so," Wolf replied, breathing at the raccoon's face.  "You're dismissed, pilot."
 The hyena saluted then went inside his transporter.  As the small ship roared it's engines, throwing dust and sand at Bandit and the others, the about-to-be-victim was dragged by the arm, still blindfolded.  From feeling sand and not hearing the noises of urban civilization, Bandit realized that he must be in some desert.  Being in Titania, that didn't surprise him.
 "A couple more feet and you're there," Wolf said.
 "To what, Mr. O'Donnell?  Look, if you want to shoot me, shoot me!  Stab me, I don't care!  What's with the blindfold?"
 "Shut up," was Wolf's only reply.  Bandit walked clumsily over the seemly rocky sand, and finally, he was stopped.  With Wolf's instructions, Bandit turned around, and stood still.
 Wolf backed away a few steps, joining the rest of the Starwolf team.  "Take off your blindfold."
 Bandit did so, and found the four members of the Starwolf team with their weapons still in their holsters and scabbards.  "Hey, if this is an execution, then how are you going to kill me?"
 Wolf laughed.  "Look down, you idiot."
 When Bandit did so, he almost screamed in surprise.  The heels of his boots were right at the edge of a cliff, and it seemed to be ninety feet straight down.  Bandit snatched a look at Wolf.  He was going to be pushed down a cliff!!
 Wolf stepped up to him, and roughly grabbed his shirt.  Bandit knew he was going to be killed, but he showed fear in his eyes, and uttered a pitiful whimper.  "This is going to be an experiment," the wolf spoke in a triumphant growl.  "I want to know if raccoons bounce!!"
 With a mighty heave, Wolf shoved Bandit off the cliff, laughing evilly as he did so.  Screaming, the raccoon pummeled straight down, the figure of Wolf looking down becoming smaller and smaller rapidly.  He crashed against the wall of rocks, snapping several of his bones, and splattering a few rocks off their foundations.  He continued his descent, knowing that Death is just at the bottom of the cliff....
 At the top, Wolf listened intently, Leon at his side.  A sudden and distant thud reached their ears, and then nothing else.  Wolf barked out a curse, and reached in his wallet.  "Damn it.  I really thought that raccoons could bounce.  Guess not."
 "Pay up, Wolf."  Leon said, holding out his claw with a grin.  "Forty credit dollars."
 Wolf paid him the money.  "Yeah, yeah, yeah.  Remind me not to bet with you anymore."

 His heart still beats...........
 Bandit's eyes flickered open.  He was staring up the sky, with the face of the cliff behind him.  His head was bleeding, staining the sand around him red, and though he felt great pain, he couldn't move at all.  He was paralyzed, but at least he was still alive.  Maybe if Stella could find me and rescue me, I would still live.  I don't know what I would do for the rest of my life, but at least I'll live.
 A small shifting of sand interrupted his thoughts.  "Wh...what...was.."  Because he couldn't move his head, he didn't see the movement occurring to the sides of his head.  He then heard a soft rumbling sound, and he turned panicky.  Off the corner of his eye, he suddenly saw a figure pop out of the sand, throwing the dust over his face.  He spurted out a short scream in surprise.  The object looked very much like an eel, with green-tan hued leathery skin, and darker green scars rippling throughout it's long, sleek body.  The Sand Eel had black-coal eyes on the front of it's snarling face, and when it opened it's mouth, it exposed it's black needles that were it's teeth.
 Bandit remained silent.  Maybe it'll go away, he thought.  The eel didn't.  It sniffed around loudly, touching Bandit's arm.  The frightened raccoon heard three more rushing sounds and more sand were thrown at his face.  Another eel was touching his other arm, and two more were squirming against his legs.
 "Get....off....shoo!!"  Bandit yelled, though low in volume.  He was too weak to scream loudly.  The eels paid no heed, and then the first one opened it's ugly teeth and grabbed his arm.  Bandit grimaced as fresh shoots of pain entered his brain, and he moved as the eel pulled him, his arm bleeding from the bite.  Then, the others grappled him.  Bandit screamed for all that was worth, but the eels have no sense of hearing.  Seconds later, he felt sand being pushed away as his feet disappeared underground.  He was being dragged in!!
 "No!....no!  Get...off..of me!!"
 He continued to scream as the eels holding his limbs pulled him under slowly, and inch by inch his body disappeared by sand pouring over it.  Almost a quick minute later, his arms disappeared and his muzzle was touching the stained red hot sand.  Because the pain was so overwhelming, and he was too panicky to think, Bandit had no last thoughts.  He screamed till his muzzle disappeared, then his eyes, and finally the tip of his ears were over swept by sand as the eels ruthlessly dragged him underground to their den.  They were expecting a feast.
 When it was all over, the remains of Bandit Forhawk, "Slaughter of Children", the one who killed Clark McHara, son of Andross, was nothing much except for the blood that had stained the sand above him.

The End

 *Author's Note*
 I would like to thank Kay Twilight for allowing her character Star McCloud to be mentioned in this story.  The Justice Cadets, Crimson Firehawks, Bandit Forhawk, Stella Dornam, Clark McHara, and Lisa Mand are my characters, and not to be used without my consent.