“Gregory is the perfect soldier.  He does whatever he is ordered to do, but he has feelings, which puts him above the status of zombie.”

         --General Rovama, Venom

 A myrmidon soldier.  That was often the term that described Sergeant Gregory Nothrana of the Venomian Air Force, Golden Hammer Unit.  Clean, stern-faced, often narrow-minded, he was the prodigy soldier in the Teranap boot camp somewhere in Titania.  He was first in almost every category in boot camp, and though there were jealousy against him by his fellow soldiers, he was respected and honored by all.  Called a “perfect soldier” by some generals in the Titania Defense Military (against space pirates during Gregory’s training, and later was pitted against Andross, and lost), Gregory rose through the ranks quickly after boot camp, though he was born to be a follower, not a leader.  When offered a promotion to Major, he promptly refused.  If he did accept every promotion given, then he would be General instead of Sergeant, even at age 25.  Though he graduated with pilot honors, he was more used to holding an automatic laser rifle than the control stick of the fighter jet.  Still, his piloting skills were something not to be ignored.  Despite his reputation, he was never popular among his Venomian pilots.  They viewed him as a starch-uniform wearing zombie, one that doesn’t believe in fun.  He calls everyone Sir and Ma’am, and other times by rank, even to his parents.
 There was one day which literally made him a legend, among his recruiters and superior officers.  When a fellow soldier heard it, the story often was called an attempt to make Gregory a show-off.  It was the day of graduation from boot camp, and the ninety lucky soldiers, including Gregory, were mingling with the locals and military personnel.  The jaguar Sergeant was standing in attention in front of a meerkat Major, and standing beside him was his recruiter, General Yarseea.
 “So, you are Gregory Nothrana, the top soldier around here?”  The meerkat asked him as they shook paws.
 “Yes sir!”
 The Major nodded and stuffed a cigarette into his mouth and lighted it.  “You have a real good reputation around here.  Is it true that you actually shot down forty targets in five minutes?”
 “Forty five is the exact number, Sir!  The new record, if you don’t mind me saying so.”
 The meerkat chuckled and looked at Yarseea.  “You got a real soldier here.  Where did you get this guy?”
 The hare’s eyes gleamed with pride.  “He came to me, actually.  His family was very militaristic, so he was raised to follow orders and stuff like that.  He’s most definitely a myrmidon soldier.”
 “A what, General?”
 “Sergeant, if you ever so kindly...” Yarseea mentioning to the jaguar beside him.  Gregory knew what the command was.
 Like he was trained to do, he spoke in a firm voice.  “A myrmidon soldier is one that follows orders without question, Sir!”
 “Good for you, Sergeant!”  Yarseea responded with a smile.  “You see, my dear friend, he’s not only the perfect soldier, but he also has a good vocabulary.”
 The Major held out his cigarette and quickly puffed some smoke at the jaguar’s face.  Gregory’s eyes remained still.  “He didn’t even flinch.....well, you mind if I test him?”
 “Sure!  Go ahead, be my guest!”
 The meerkat came up close to Gregory.  He pulled out his lighter from his pocket and held it to the jaguar’s chest level.  With a flick of a finger, a small flame shot up.  “Sergeant, put your paw over this flame.”
 “Which paw, Sir?”  Was the jaguar’s immediately response.
 The Major laughed.  “You know, Yarseea, I think I’m going to like this fellow.  Uh, right please, and make sure the flame touches your paw for two minutes.”
 Without question, Gregory laid his right paw on the flame.  Even to Yarseea’s amazement, he never flinched or blinked an eye.  It was like his paw was made out of stone.  After the two minutes were gone, the Major turned off his lighter, amazed.
 “Sergeant, didn’t you feel any pain at all?”
 “No Sir!  I’ve been trained to tolerate pain, Sir!”
 Yarseea laughed again.  “You see?  He’s perfect!  Just perfect!”

 And so, the tale ends.  Gregory was later sent to a base in Titania, and fought against the invading Venomians bravely, only to lose in the end.  Because the invaders felt Gregory was too important to be sacrificed, he was sent over to Venom and became a member of the Venomian Air Force.  His recruiter General Yarseea was sent to Katina, and became one of the four people that caused the Katina Scandal.  He was later killed by the Justice Cadets.

Chapter One

 “The Golden Hammer is not an important Unit of the Air Force of Venom.  The reason why Gregory was a member under it was because it is the only unit that focuses more in base storming than aerial battle.  He’s still a great pilot though.  Stiff in terms of feelings, but a great pilot nonetheless.”

        --Major Amy Johnson, Venom

 “Will you get over here, Andrew?!  You’re straying too far from the dogfight!!”  Wolf yelled over his com-link.  He shot down a Protector jet that foolishly came up in front of his Wolfen-II, but was struck on the right wing by three lasers.  With a yell of frustration, he swerved left, but the two jets continued to tail him.
 Pigma grunted as a laser hit rocked his jet, and as the control panel flew off sparks at his face, he could see the Katina ground becoming bigger and bigger.  “I’m down!  I’m crashing...AAHH!!”  His jet splattered onto the soft ground, and slid a few yards before coming to a halt.
 It was becoming too much for Starwolf.  The Protector jets outnumbered them six to one, and it seemed that Starwolf was just having a bad day.  Leon was already down, his jet resting peacefully in front of a long trail of dug up dirt, and with Pigma down, it was up to Wolf and Andrew to save them.  After all, if they escape now, then their co-pilots would be captured or even killed.
 The Emperor’s nephew however, was in deep trouble.  His jet was smoking heavily, and some parts of his engine was under fire.  He screeched through the Katina air uncontrollably, sometimes nudging against the Protector-class jets that swarmed everywhere.  He made an unintentional barrel roll, then dived to the ground.
 Wolf flinched away from the sound of Andrew’s pitiful scream as he crashed and joined the others.  The ape was still alive, but his jet was so damaged that it might be scrap metal later on, if Wolf managed to get out of this victorious.
 Victorious, ha!  Against these jets with a right wing almost dead?  Wolf muttered in thought.  He shot down one more enemy jet before his engine exploded from the relentless hits.  A ball of fire erupted from the back of his jet, and even Wolf screamed as his jet dived toward the ground.  He crash-landed hard, the sparks from the control panel hurting his single eye.  He was rocked back and forth, his body colliding with the frame of his cockpit.  The nose of his jet flinched left suddenly, and the jet went sideways as it slid on the ground, flipping it over.  He was rolled several times, completely destroying the wings.  He finally stopped upright, his cockpit smoking.
 Despite the landing, Wolf was still alive.  He was startled to find the canopy door still working the way it should, and he got out of the smoking jet with frustration.  Among fifty other Protector jets that had suffered the wrath and skill of the Venomian mercenary team, Wolf kicked his jet angrily, mad in defeat.
 He spotted three Katina troop transporters heading toward the area.  Against these fellas alone, he knew that he won’t have a fighting chance.  Admitting defeat, he allowed the transporters to land unopposed, and he was captured the instant the troops came out and aimed their machine guns at him.
 Wolf was joined the other Starwolf members in pawcuffs.  Amid cheering Katina soldiers, the defeated Starwolf team was escorted to a transporter, to be hauled off to a base or space station.  Life imprisonment or death await them.....

 “Full House!”  The greyhound said as she laid her cards down on the table.  The snow leopard on the other side groaned in defeat.
 She shook her head as the greyhound best friend greedily shoved her winnings to her side of the poker table.  “You know Nedra, I think you’re cheating.”
 Major Nedra Benson made a face of mock surprise.  “Who me?  Would I ever cheat you?  C’mon Amy, I was just having a lucky streak.  It’ll end,...someday.”
 Major Amy “Sky” Johnson chuckled, and simply sighed.  Her stunning blue eyes shone under the ceiling lights, and her birthmark scar, bluish as well in color, adorned her right eyebrow.  “Nedra, someday I’m going to win at poker against you.  Someday.”
 “When Titania gets some snow probably.  Wanna try again?”
 Amy shook her head and stood up, stretching her 5'6 frame and exposing her feline fangs with a yawn.  “No thanks.  I’ll play it again later.  I got to get to bed.  My migraine is coming back.”
 “Well, you know what to do.  I wonder what you’ll be like when the Lylat System had run out of migraine pills.”
 “I’ll be as cranky as Hell.  Everyone will fear me!”  Amy replied, with a mock threatening voice.  Nedra laughed in response.
 “See ya tomorrow, Amy.  Is that chameleon of yours coming back tomorrow?”
 “In two days.  I hope Leon finishes the mission in Katina without hurting himself.”
 “Knowing him, he’ll probably stop in the middle of a dogfight, land next to a doomed Cornerian pilot, torture him, then jump back into his jet and shoot down some more jets.”
 “You’re still critical of Leon?  Nedra, when will it ever occur to you that he’s not the torture happy person you think he is?  Sure he does that, but his only victims were our enemies, and they deserved to be tortured for going against us!”
 “Amy, how can you say that?  Not every Cornerian is evil!  They may be the enemy, but they are animals just like us.”
 Amy scoffed.  “Well, that’s your opinion.  I’m leaving.  Good night, Nedra,” she said as she left the rec-room.  Nedra remained sitting, her canine eyes at the door.  Despite their different viewpoints on some things, they were best friends since Amy had joined in the Venomian Air Force shortly after she was captured when Andross’ forces had raided the Vereana Mountains in Zoness.  Amy became the first female ace pilot of the Venomian AF, but she was wise enough not to let it go to her head.
 Nedra stood up from her metal chair and cleaned up the poker table.  The brown and white dog stretched out her long legs and somewhat muscular arms, and prepared to leave for bed herself.  Standing four inches taller than her snow leopard friend, she had almond brown eyes, and her tan ears hung loosely aside her pointy-shaped head like short flaps.  She had a tough-love attitude, though she often tried to hone that down.  She was a good pilot, not as good as her friend Amy, but good enough to get the respect from high ranking officials, including the Emperor himself.

 “Is it confirmed, General?”  Emperor Andross asked in the Venom HQ Command Central.  The massive ape was standing on the upper platform of the room, console officers passing behind him in a frenzy.  Computers were bustling with light, and the huge screen at the front wall showed the entire Lylat System, and the reported locations of both Venom and Cornerian forces.
 The bandicoot next to him studied a report on a computer screen, and sighed in frustration.  “Yes, Emperor.  It is confirmed.  The entire Starwolf team has been captured.”
 The beady eyes of Andross glared.  “They have failed me again.  Any idea where they’re at now?”
 “I’m not very sure.  A base in Katina maybe.  We’re working on it.”
 “How can we rescue those idiots?  Massive strike with a large squadron?”
 The bandicoot shook his head.  “I disagree, Emperor.  Too much attention and noise.  I think we should undergo the rescue quietly if we can.  Besides, why sacrifice more pilots than needed?  No, I think a special elite team could go and rescue Starwolf.”
 “That sounds good, but who will be assigned to the team?”
 The general faced Andross and shrugged.  “I don’t know.  I will have to look further into it.”
 “Do it.  I want a team of eight people to be assigned to this within one hour.  At the deadline, report them to me in the throne room.”
 “Yes, your Imperial Highness.  I will start right away,” he replied and saluted before leaving.  Andross watched the huge screen with eyes of frustration.  If the Starwolf team were killed, then his soldiers and pilots will be demoralized.  Not even the word of their capture must be out.
 “If that dog Grey hears about this,” he muttered humorously,  “Then he will have a field day with this.”

 The alarm rang next to the bed of Amy Johnson, startling the snow leopard as the automated lights went on, filling the once dark room with light.  Amy snarled with frustration and banged her small fist on the alarm clock, silencing it for now.  “Ooooh, when I find the inventor of the alarm clock, I will punch a furry fist right up his snotty little nose!”
 Muttering as she got up from the bed, she went up to the cause of the sudden alarm: a monitor phone that was flashing a red light, meaning that there was someone on the other side of the line.  She rubbed her eyes to get a clearer vision (after all, the lights filled the darkness in an instant), and cleared her throat.  When she turned the phone on, the small screen lighted up to show a bandicoot.
 “I’m sorry to wake you up in the middle of the night, but it is very urgent.”
 It’ll better be, General Forbeak, Amy thought.  My migraine is coming back, and I’m running out of pills again.  “What is it, General?”
 “I have just received a report from Katina.  Starwolf is captured.”
 A sharp pain shot up into her brain.  Oh hello, Mr.  Migraine, welcome back.  Please let me know when you’re going to leave.  “What?  No!  Is Leon safe?”
 “I don’t know, but I believe he is still alive.  A rescue mission is under preparation as we speak, and I would like to ask if you would lead one half of the rescue team.”
 “How many people?”
 “Eight overall, but you will lead only four.  The other four is the Conquest Squadron.”
 “Only eight?  Why not send a bunch of pilots and blast those Katina creeps out of the sky and then rescue Starwolf?”
 “That’s too many, and we don’t want reinforcements coming and beat us out.”
 “But eight jets is not enough!  We will be outnumbered!  Besides, even with that small of a number, reinforcements might come.”
 “Not as much or quicker than if fifty of us coming.  Besides, one of the members of the Conquest Squadron had informed me that he has viruses that could halt communications coming from the targeted base.  Will you accept the command?”
 “Of course!  I will lead my half of the rescue team.”
 “I haven’t chosen your three pilots, but you must report to the Throne Room in 0300 hours.”
 “Yes sir.”
 The screen went blank, and her living quarters was quiet once again.  Amy sighed mournfully as she laid back on her bed, staring at the ceiling.  “Oh Leon, I hope you’re safe and sound...”

Chapter Two

 “The only thing bad about the incident with Leon’s capture was that because I was busy in Sector Z, I never got the chance to even see him rotting in some jail cell.  God, I would love to teach him a lesson or two.  I would love to make him regret even touching me in a harmful way.”

        --Commander Bill Grey, Katina

 “I have a joke for ya Tom,” the doberman pilot said as he slouched on his easy chair.  His living quarters was a disarray spectacle of clothes on the floor, socks exposed out of open drawers, and three soda cans on the coffee table, all of them flattened.  Tom, the cougar slouched like his friend on a hard chair, shrugged.
 “Well, what is it then?”
 “Okay, okay, here it goes.  There are two people; one a monkey and the other a weasel.  Once a year, they would have a special meeting.  The monkey would say ‘Ugha’, and the weasel would say ‘Ung’.  That’s all they say.  They have been doing this same thing for five years straight.  Finally, on the sixth year, the monkey says ‘Ugha Ugha’, and the weasel says, ‘Don’t change the subject!’  Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!!”
 The cougar could only shake his feline head.  “That is a bad joke, Westly.  It’s insulting.”
 Westly Meenat, a private in the Venomian AF, continued to laugh.  “Yeah, but funny!  Ha, ha, ha, ha!!”
 Tom rolled up his eyes and sighed.  “Only you would think up something that bad,” he said, standing up.  “Sheez, why are we doing this in the middle of the night?  Shouldn’t we be sleeping?”
 “I’m not sleepy.  Besides, I like all-nighters.”
 “Yeah but, it’s way past Lights Out time.  We could be in trouble for this.”
 Westly grunted.  “Aw, I sleep when I want to, not some pompous idiot who orders me to sleep just because they have more medals and ribbons than I do.  If I do get in trouble for it, fine.  I’ll do this again.”
 A beeping sound interrupted their thinking.  Westly spotted the red light flashing on the monitor phone and sighed deeply.  “I don’t know if this is a good or bad thing.”
 “Excuse me?”
 “Well, if someone wants to call me in the middle of the night, it can be two things.  One is that I have to go on some boring mission.  The other is that someone is attracted to my handsome looks and wants to do more than just look at me, if you know what-”
 Tom laughed and threw him a pillow.  The cushion landed on the doberman’s face without harm, and landed on his feet.  “Just get the stupid phone, Westly.  Sheez, I don’t know why I’m here with you,” he said jokingly.
 “Maybe it’s because you’re stupid,” Westly replied with a smile.  He walked to the other side of the room, and turned on the phone.  “What is it?  Why do I need to wake up during my beauty sleep?”
 A bandicoot on the other side of the line muttered angrily.  “I have a special mission for you.  The Starwolf team is captured, and you are ordered to join into a new squadron under the command of Major Johnson to rescue them.”
 “If we return with them safely, do I get a girl in the end?”
 General Forbeak grumbled loudly.  “No, Private!  Don’t you ever speak to your commanding officer that way!”
 “Yeah, yeah, whatever.  When do I report?”
 “At 0300 hours.  In the Throne Room.”
 “Alright.  I’ll see you at 4:00 in the morning then.”
 “0300, Private, or you’ll be in huge trouble!  Be there!”  The angry general muttered and the screen went blank.  The doberman shook his head.
 “Well Tom, my speculations about my excellent skills have been proven right.  I have a date with Andross!”
 Tom’s eyes widened.  “What?  Are you serious?  You’re seeing Emperor Andross?”
 “I think so.  I’m supposed to be in the Throne Room like forty minutes from now.  Starwolf have been captured, and I’m supposed to go over and save their butts.  I think this is the chance for me to become a legend.  Today, I’m a hero, tomorrow, a legend.  Man, that will be neat.”
 “Hero?  You have been engaged in only one small dogfight against a couple of stupid Greenie pilots!”
 “And I showed them, those idiots!  However, I pity them.  They were killed by a future-legendary pilot.”
 “In your dreams, Westly.  Want another cola-coca?”
 “Nah.  Give me a 7-Down instead,” the doberman replied, slouching back on his chair.  “If I’m going to meet Andross, then I guess I’ll get some rest first, after I drink the soda.  Man, I might get a promotion for this!  Imagine, ‘Major Meenat’.  That sounds cool!”
 He grunted in surprise as Tom threw him the green 7-Down can, and it landed on his stomach.  It was cold to the touch.  The canine grasped it quickly, calming himself.
 “Nah, I don’t think you’ll like that,” Tom remarked.  “Otherwise, they’ll call you M&M.  You know, the M in Major and M in Meenat.”
 Westly laughed, unfazed.  “Well, I don’t mind a girl calling me that.  After all, I can melt on her paws, not-”
 He was once again interrupted by a pillow thrown at his face.

 Amy had met Andross before face to face, once.  It was about half a year ago, when she had received her medal that gave her the title of “Ace Pilot”.  Andross himself was the one who pinned it on her uniform.  It was a public ceremony, and ten other pilots were honored as well, so she never got the chance to talk with him.
 And now here I am, facing Emperor Andross himself in the Throne Room, thought Amy as she shook paws with the over towering figure of Andross.  Though it was in the middle of the night, the tension and excitement was more than enough to keep her awake.  General Forbeak stood by Andross like a trusted advisor, carrying a clip board showing the profiles of every pilot that have been appointed to be in this elite rescue team.
 “It’s an honor to meet you, Emperor,” Amy greeted, trying her best to hide her excitement.  Though many would be feared at the mere presence of this ape, Amy was one not to show fear in front of her own superior officers, to save face.
 “It’s an honor to have you here, Major.  I’ve heard rumors that you are Leon’s girlfriend.”
 “That is true, Emperor.  I hope he’s okay now.”
 Andross nodded.  “There is someone from the Conquest Squadron coming over with vital information about the base Starwolf is being kept in.  He might tell you about Leon’s status.”
 Just then, the door opened behind Amy, and a lion, a leopard, a sparrow, and a chameleon came inside.  The quartet stood beside Amy, their eyes intent on Andross, not on her.  The lion was stern-faced, with a muscular build and a good-sized mane.  The leopard behind him was shorter, but still powerful-looking.  The sparrow was the youngest one, probably in his late teens.  His brown and white feathers with some black quivered with fright.  He must have heard some sick rumors about Andross, Amy thought.  The chameleon surprised Amy the most.  He looked almost like her boyfriend, like he was some relative.
 The lion stepped forward, and saluted.  “Ramsy Marshall, leader of the Conquest Squadron, reporting to duty, Emperor!”
 The leopard did the same.  “Ben Rogers, computer specialist and mechanic of the Conquest Squadron, reporting to duty!”
 The sparrow was next.  His voice tried to be firm, but there was a hint of nervousness in it.  “Guy Mion, pilot of the Conquest Squadron, reporting to duty!”
 Last came the chameleon.  “You know me, Andross.”
 General Harbeak muttered angrily.  “Pilot, address the Emperor in the respectful way!”
 The chameleon silently shook his head.  “Alright already.  Liam Powalski.”
 Amy looked at him with surprise.  “So, you’re Leon’s cousin?  Leon told me about you sometime ago.  You had joined in this Squadron recently?”
 Liam nodded.  “Yep.  You’re Amy Johnson, right?  Leon said a word or two about you.”
 General Harbeak, always the serious one, cleared his throat to get their attention.  “There is no time for small talk.  Mr. Rogers, I presume you have some information to share with us involving the mission?”
 “Yes, sir.  I had done some research on my computer and I have found that Starwolf is presently being held in Yorkstena Base in the southwest hemisphere of Katina.  That place only has ninety Green-class jets and two hundred soldiers, so it is a temporary holding place.  Eight hours from now, they will be escorted to a higher-security base in Corneria, where they will be in trial for their crimes.  By the time we get to Yorkstena, we will have one hour to rescue them.  To help us, I have a device that could send several viruses into their mainframe computer.  The viruses will halt communications coming from the base, so that the neighboring bases will have no idea that Yorkstena was being attacked.”
 “But what if another base tries to contact Yorkstena?” Andross asked.
 Ben smiled.  “They won’t if we’re lucky enough, Emperor.  The Command Central in each base can tell whether or not another base has a problem by looking at the huge map of all the bases in the planet.  A green light on a base means it’s okay and all that.  A red one means the base is being attacked or has some other emergency.”
 “So the viruses would force the mainframe computer to tell the other bases that it’s doing okay, even under attack?”
 “Yes, Emperor, that is correct.  The viruses would also fool the people in Yorkstena that the jets we’re flying were Cornerian jets, so they won’t fight us in space.  Not only till they see us visually once into the atmosphere would they be alarmed, but by then it would already be too late.  While I can give those fools the viruses right here right now, in order to give them the viruses that halt their communications, I have to physically be inside the vicinity of the base, due to the tougher security.  Therefore, I should fly a stolen Cornerian transport, while the others fly their own jets.  Once Starwolf is rescued, they escape with me in the transporter, so that they don’t have to steal any Katina jets.”
 Just then, the doors opened, and Nedra came inside the room, astonishing Amy.  “Major Nedra Benson, reporting to duty, Emperor!”
 “Nedra!  You’re in my team?”  Amy asked, her eyes widened.
 “Yeah.  Surprise, surprise, eh?”  The greyhound replied, then spotted the Conquest Squadron watching her.  They met her several times before, so a nod greeting was enough.
 “What is the time, General?”
 Harbeak looked at his watch.  “It is now 2:59, your Imperial Highness.”
 Andross stroked his white beard.  “One minute to the deadline, and still two of my pilots still haven’t reported here yet.”
 “Hmm, I expected that.  One of the pilots is always late, and other is always on time, not a minute later, not a minute early.  You’re going to like this soldier, Emperor.  He’s a Sergeant, but he could have been a General right now.  He’s young, so his future is bright.  He’s a myrmidon soldier, Emperor, one that follows orders no matter what.  The ultimate example of loyalty.  Order him to jump over a cliff, he’ll do it.  Order him to kill his sister, he’ll do it in an instant,” he said, smiling.  He looked at his watch again.  “0300 hours.  He should be here any second now....”
 The doors behind them opened again, and a jaguar marched in, his face firm with eyes forward and still.  He wore a stiff and clean blue uniform, not a wrinkle on the shirt nor on the pants.  His right chest was adorned with honorary medals, including two stars that identified his rank, and on top of his feline head was a blue beret, with a gold plated pin in shape of a hammer fastened in the front of it.  A dagger was fastened to his black leather belt.  He walked straight on an invisible line, and snapped to attention in front of Andross, saluting to him.
 “Sergeant Gregory Nothrana of the Venomian Air Force, Golden Hammer Division, reporting to duty, Sir!”  He said in a firm voice that spoke volumes.  He was taller than Nedra, and his muscles were shown due to the tight-fitting uniform.  Nedra eyed those biceps with a certain lust, but because it was inappropriate behavior in front of her own Emperor, she set her mind straight.
 Andross smiled.  “You’re right, General.  I’m glad you picked this one.  So, you follow any order by a superior officer?”
 Gregory remained stern, no emotion on his face.  “Affirmative, Sir!  It is my duty to follow any order, Sir!”
 “Alright then.  Pull out your dagger, Sergeant.”
 Gregory did so cleanly and smoothly, like some machine with fur and a pulse.
 “Put that dagger on your neck and make it slide across.”
 Without even a flinch, Gregory laid the dagger on his neck, and was just about to kill himself when Andross grabbed a hold of his arm, stopping him.  “No, don’t!  I was just testing you, see?”
 Confused, Gregory laid his dagger back into the scabbard.  Behind him, Guy shook his head uneasily.  Sheez, is this jaguar for real?  This is a real living animal, and not some android?  Great, I have to go on this mission with some zombie.....
 Andross chuckled nervously.  “You really are a myrmidon soldier, Sergeant.  Now then, where is this last pilot?”
 Harbeak sighed and shook his head.  “He’s late as usual.  He’s a doberman pilot from one of the most prestigious piloting schools in Macbeth.  He graduated there with top honors, and that had gotten to his head.  He’s cocky, immature, and has an ego the size of Macbeth, but even I cannot deny his piloting skills.  He’s a pilot that needs a lesson, but he can take any punishment and do the same immature things afterwards.”
 Just then, a doberman came inside, walking with a sense of cockiness that even the others had felt.  He was about the same height as Nedra, wearing the clothes of a private.  His boots were stained with dust, and there were some stains on his shirt.  When he came up to Andross, he showed no fear, though he too had heard the same rumors about him.
 “Private Westly Meenat, reporting,” he simply said, making an almost insulting salute.  Harbeak groaned and laid a paw on his head.  “Ah, Harbeak, how are you faring?”
 Behind him, Liam couldn’t help but snicker.  Amy simply shook her head.
 “Fine,” Harbeak muttered under his breath.
 Westly clasped his paws anxiously.  “So, when are we going to go over and kick some Cornerian tail?”
 Andross laughed.  The doberman may be rather cocky, but he shows willingness.  “In due time, Private.  Now then, Marshall will lead his team, and Johnson will lead hers, as General Harbeak told you before.  I want three of you to fly around the base, shooting down the defenders while the five others storm inside the base.  If one Starwolf member is killed, then all of you will have some explaining to do.  Do I make myself clear?”
 The eight pilots nodded as a response.  They knew very well that when Andross says something, he meant it.
 “Now then, complete this mission as quick as possible.  I don’t care if you try to destroy the entire base.  I just want Starwolf to be rescued.  Dismissed.”
 The eight pilots saluted then rushed out of the Throne Room.  When everything was quiet, General Harbeak went up to Andross’ side.  “You sure they can complete this mission successfully?”
 “I have my confidence in them.  If they do fail, then make sure they end up in the dungeons.”
 “Yes, your Imperial Highness.”

Chapter Three

 “I don’t think about the future.  It comes soon enough.”

         --Albert Einstein, Earth

 From the start, Leon knew that having Wolf and Andrew in the same jail cell was a bad move in fault of the guards.  He sat sullenly on the hard bench, his co-pilot Pigma snoring on the top of the bunk bed.  He was upset that he was first of the Starwolf pilots to go down, but that was the least of his worries.  What if I die tomorrow?  Will that stupid dog commander come here and try to gain revenge on what I have done to him and that idiot of a dalmatian?  Will I stay here forever?
 “How long have we been here, Leon?”  Wolf asked from across the hallway.  The one- eyed wolf was sitting on his bench, muttering angrily at times to let out the frustration.  His jail cell mate, Andrew, tried to sleep sitting up on the bench.  He hated the bunk bed.
 “Nine hours I think, Wolf.  Without my watch, I’m not sure.”
 Wolf grunted in response, then went back into his thoughts.  Without his dagger and pistol to adorn his belt, he felt somewhat naked, and helpless.  Close by him, Andrew whimpered a little whine.  Though it was low in volume, Wolf was too irritated to tolerate it.  “Andrew, shut up.”
 Andrew shook his head in disbelief, covering his face with sweaty paws.  “We’re going to die, you know that?  We’re going to die!”
 Wolf growled.  “Andy....shut your whiny little lips!”
 “I hate it when you call me Andy, Wolf.  Don’t you get it?  Those Cornerians will have us taken to court, but I know that they will give us the death sentence.  I just know!”
 Wolf burst out a short yell of sheer anger.  He stood up, his paws balled into fists.  “Andy!  I told you to shut your-”
 To his surprise, Andrew stood up and faced him, eyes filling with anger.  “Wolf, why don’t you shut up?”
 Leon stammered in frustration.  This was exactly what he was worried about.  “Hey you two!  Calm down!”  He knew that was fruitless, but he had to do something.
 Wolf’s single eye glared down at Andrew.  “Oh, you’re getting tough, are you Andy?  You wanna piece of me, you hallow-skulled, soft-hearted moron nephew of a maniacal emperor?”
 Andrew growled back at him.  He was standing up to his leader, now that Wolf had his weapons taken from him.  “Yeah, I want a piece of you, cyclops.  I’ve had it with you!  You are one bossy little wimp that can’t do a barrel roll and,...and...”
 “And what?!!!”  Wolf taunted, fury rising inside him.
 Andrew dropped the bombshell.  “You still love a wolf that was stupid enough to be killed by a bomb!”
 Helplessly watching them from the other cell, Leon groaned loudly.  Wolf never liked to have Sheila Lupine insulted like that.  When he heard Wolf yell like the Devil, he knew what would happen next.
 A grunt confirmed the chameleon’s predictions.  Andrew stumbled back from the blow to his stomach, almost colliding against the back wall.  With a battle cry, he charged head-first onto the wolf, and smashed against him.  Wolf was carried along with him, and stumbled to the floor back-first.  Andrew was toppled over him, and rolled on the floor, stopping near the laser beams that kept them inside the cell.  If anyone touches those red lasers, then Pigma would wake up thinking there was a barbeque going on.
 Wolf and Andrew stood up simultaneously, and circled around the cell, two eyes meeting  one.  Andrew threw a right hook, but missed and was struck to the ribs.  He retaliated quickly and shoved a right boot into Wolf’s knee, forcing him to yowl in pain.  They grappled each other by the shoulders, spitting at their faces, their backs pounded against the walls.  Wolf kneed the ape on the stomach, throwing the lighter fighter off.  Wolf then threw a well-aimed punch to Andrew’s face, then another one seconds later.  Wolf was about to do it again when Andrew suddenly ducked and grabbed hold of his right leg.  With an effort, he lifted him off the floor, and Wolf fell flat on his back.  Andrew dived on top of him, grabbing his triangle ears, trying to pull them off the skin literally.  Wolf opened his jaws and sank his fangs on Andrew’s right arm.
 The Emperor’s nephew yelled as Wolf tasted blood, then the lasers that made up the door turned off, allowing a guard to come in, armed with a shock pole, a weapon two feet long with a pair of dull needles on the top end, capable of shocking prisoners to submission.
 Wolf let go of his “meal”, then whispered into his ear, “Now’s our chance to escape....”
 “Alright you two, lay off each other!”  The leopard guard ordered.  To humor himself, he prodded the shock pole into Andrew’s lower back, sending electricity up his brain.  Andrew yelped in shock, then rolled away.  Laughing, Wolf stood up beside the unsuspecting guard, eyes on his fallen opponent.
 “What a wimp of an ape, eh?”  Wolf remarked, a plan forming in his mind.
 The guard was in no mood for small talk.  “Shut up!  Now if I have to break up you two again, your execution will be here sooner.  Much sooner!  You got that?”
 Wolf appeared to be appeasing.  “Alright, whatever you say.”
 The leopard nodded then turned his back on him; a fatal move.  From behind, Wolf grasped his head in a certain position, and with one quick movement, twisted the guard’s neck.  A snap echoed around the jail under the base, and the leopard stumbled forward knees first, lifeless.  Wolf laughed as the smell of death ran up his nostrils, then was pushed from behind.
 Andrew, still mad at Wolf for numerous reasons, had shoved him on the back.  Taken by surprise, Wolf whirled around, and the back of his paw touched the lasers that kept Leon and Pigma inside.  The burning hot lasers did their work instantly, burning his paw with ease.  Wolf jumped up as the pain darted up to his mind, growling.  When he calmed down enough to stand still, he looked at Andrew with a blood-yearning eye.
 “You idiot....look what you have done!  Aaaarrgh!!!”  Wolf yelled as charged at Andrew.  He suddenly grabbed him on a choke hold, both of them rushing through the hallway.  Three more guards came into view, armed with shock poles.  More experienced with the weapons, they managed to distract them off their fight, and forced them back to their cell.  The leopard’s body was dragged by the grumbling guards.
 Leon yelled in frustration.  As the laser door turned on, Wolf and Andrew gasped for breath, too tired and shocked to resume.  Leon however, was too mad to let this episode finish.  “You fools!  We could have escaped!  We could have gotten out of this pit hole, but your stupid rivalry had blown our chance!”  He then stamped around his cell, muttering to himself.  “Idiots!  Morons!  Stupid, lousy....!”
 Andrew sputtered out a spat of blood.  “Hey!  He started it!”
 The fight resumed when Andrew was hit to the side of his face by a gray-furred fist.

Chapter Four

 “Teamwork is almost a necessity formula for a successful team.  The rivalry between Andrew and Wolf may be stupid, but it kept us from becoming a better team than Starfox.  If we are to succeed, then they must settle their differences and focus on one thing: destroy Starfox.”

         --Leon Powalski, Starwolf

 “How long till Yorkstena base will spot us in radar?”  Guy said through his comlink as he cruised in his Marshall-I class jet through space.  The planet Katina lies twenty minutes ahead of them, and the rescue team was flying in two parallel columns.  Ramsey, then Liam, and Guy flew in one column, Amy, Nedra, Gregory, and Westly, all in Invader-II jets, flew in the column to the left of the Conquest Squadron.  Ben in his transporter followed them.
 “Ten more minutes, Guy,” Ben answered.  “Just before we get into radar range, halt your jets and I’ll go along and land in Yorkstena.  Once I have been confirmed that the packages had been delivered, I will give you the go signal to come and attack the base.”
 “How long till the viruses be able to halt the communication lines?”  Amy asked.
 “Instantly.  The moment I put those beauties into the mainframe computer, they will do and complete their work.  However, they have the life spans of a fruit fly.  One hour is all it’s going to live, but that will be enough for us.  I will also hack into their map files and see if I could pinpoint the location of the Starwolf team.”
 “So, who will fly and who will storm inside the base?”  Westly asked.
 “Guy and I will fly around the base, shooting down as many defenders as we can.  Liam and Ben will be inside,” Ramsey said.
 “Westly will join you both,” Amy added.  “The rest of us will storm the base.”
 Westly, a pilot that loves a challenge, cried out a short whoop.  “Alright!  I’m more than ready to kick some Greenie tail!  There’s ninety of those guys, are there?”
 “Ninety Greenies and two hundred soldiers.  Stay there long enough and we will face about twice that number or even more once the reinforcements come, if they do.”
 “I wonder why the Cornerian military would have Starwolf being kept in a small base, wait like eight hours, and then have them sent to Corneria,” Nedra said.  “They could have just sent them to a higher-security fortress and have the trial there.”
 Amy scoffed.  “Maybe it’s because they’re not smart.  They think shooting captives in a split second is not justice.  Only having them in court for like months, wasting taxpayer’s money, and then be sent to death would be considered to be justice to them.  Don’t they realize that just because someone was convicted doesn’t mean they actually did it?  Or if someone is declared innocent, does that mean they didn’t do it?  Ha!  Emperor Andross would just kill his captives without a thought.  That would prevent jail overcrowding, wasting money, and wasting food that came into their pitiful mouths when it should be feeding our soldiers, pilots, sailors, and civilians.  Besides, who really cares, Nedra?”
 “Where did you get your hatred toward Cornerians, Amy?”  Liam asked.
 “I have my sources, Liam, as well as my reasons.  Besides, they are the enemy.  What else should I feel toward them other than hatred?”
 Liam simply shrugged.  “Hey Gregory, do you hate Cornerians?”
 “No sir,” Gregory replied in a solid voice.  “While I do fight them, I will ally with them only if the superior officers orders me to.  I don’t consider them enemies, just obstacles that attempts to block us from achieving our goals, sir.”
 “So you will hesitate before killing a Cornerian, then?”  Guy asked.
 “No, sir.  Frankly, if the superior officer orders me to treat them like bastards, then that is exactly what I will do.  If I was ordered to greet them warmly and treat them like family, then that is exactly what I will do.”
 Westly shook his head.  “You’re one weird jaguar, Gregory.  You let people walk all over you, and you seem to be proud of it.  Your superior officers are not gods, Gregory.  They can make wrong decisions.  Even though I’m just a private, I think I have the responsibility to question a ‘superior’ officer if I feel the command was wrong and against my beliefs.”
 “If you wish to do what you think is right in your beliefs, then why did you join in the military?”  Nedra asked.
 “Well, other than piloting, my father calls me worthless in everything.  Piloting is the only thing that I could do well, and I want to prove to my father that I’m not the worthless bum that he thinks I am.”
 “Alright fellas, it’s time to slow down your jets,” Ben warned.  “I’ll let you know when it’s time to attack.”
 “Of course, Ben,” Ramsey replied.  “Good luck.”

 Yorkstena Base was located at the bottom of a valley, surrounded by hills.  It seemed like an unlikely location, for the enemy could place large guns on the hills and shell the place, but it has huge walls that seemed to be four feet thick, and five anti-aircraft gunners were located here and there on the hills.  The only building of the base was square-shaped, with a tower on each corner.  Next to it was a large airstrip, with the ninety Greenie jets parked along the sidelines.
 Ben sighed with relief when he had permission to land.  The viruses had worked.  The people in the base could tell if a ship or jet was stolen by scanning the pilot.  The viruses prevented that.  He knew he could have informed the others about this, but it’s not necessary.  Anxiousness and excitement rising inside him, Ben landed the transporter close by the main door of the base.  He got out, and breathed the fresh air of Katina, only to cough when oil fumes reached his nostrils.  He was a wearing a Katina military uniform as a disguise, so the other soldiers paid no heed to him as he walked over to the main door, carrying a laptop computer.  A holster with a pistol added a more militaristic touch on his belt.
 A hyena guard was at the door, firm like a statue, only to move when Ben was about to enter in the base.  “Identify yourself, pilot.”
 “Benhur Goma, transporter pilot.  Why you need to know?”
 “I’ve never seen you here before.”
 “Well you get like dozens of new people coming here every day, don’t you?  Why me?”
 “We have, uh, special guests in this base.  I have been ordered to ask every newcomer to show their identification.”
 “Oh.  Will you let me in now?”
 “Your ID card, if you please.  It is required to be scanned.”
 Oh you want my card?  I’ll give you my card.  It’s unique!  Ben thought as he reached behind his back.  He pulled out a small knife that was hidden between his belt and his shirt, but he wasn’t ready to strike yet.  “Excuse me for a moment.”
 He looked right and left, searching for possible eyewitnesses.  None it seemed like.  Good.  He then looked at the guard again, grinning.  “Here’s my card.”
 With a swift, sudden movement, Ben stabbed his knife into the guard’s stomach.  The hyena grunted, and his eyes bulged, life draining from him.  Ben shook his head.  “Oh sorry, sir.  Wrong card.  You can’t scan this one,” he said, twisting the knife, gaping the wound wide.  “This card is one of my more painful ones.  Once again, sorry.”
 The hyena made one more gurgling sound before leaning against the wall next to the door, lifeless.  Ben pulled out the knife from him, and the guard slid down into a sitting position, eyes focused ahead with no emotion.  The victorious leopard cleaned out the knife with a cloth he had inside his pocket, then shook his head again.  “Sleeping on the job.  You’re pitiful as a guard, you know that?”
 He laid the knife back behind his back, then entered inside.  Meanwhile, a mechanic that working on one of the jets spotted the hyena sitting lifelessly.  “That stupid hyena, sleeping again.  Fine, if he wants to get in trouble, then I’m not waking him up,” he said, returning back to his engine.
 An unsuspecting officer directed Ben to a computer in some remote room, and Ben went to work.  He opened the laptop that was laid on a nearby table, and connected a wire to the computer that was fastened to the wall.  Feeling a little giddy after the event with the hyena, he decided to stretch his fingers before going at it on the laptop.
 “Okay, my little beauties.  It’s time to punch in your time clock,” he muttered as his feline fingers typed on the keyboard in a blurring motion.  His eyes sparkled due to the reflection of the words, numbers, and pictures on the screen, and his lips curled up into a crafty grin.  After all, the viruses were his creation, and it would rise havoc on this base in no time.  “Alright then,” he said finally.  “Infect the mainframe ruthlessly, just like I made you to.  Don’t fail me.”
 He pressed the final key, and the viruses were darted into the mainframe computer, attacking the communication lines.  The screen then showed a box that confirmed him that the viruses had succeeded.  Smiling, Ben turned on his comlink.  “Alright, fellas.  Now’s the time to attack.  Those of you coming with me, I’ll be at the main door,” he said to the waiting pilots in space.
 “About time!” Westly barked.  “Let’s go play some music with our lasers!  Ha, ha, ha!!”

Chapter Five

 “Evolution doesn’t always have to be connected with living beings.  Technology does the same as well.”

          --Dr. Uropa, Katina

 “Oh what is it now?”  General Harbanks muttered a question to one of the console officers in the Command Central of Yorkstena.  The ailing aardvark clasped a paw on the shoulder of a panther console officer, looking at the computer screen.
 The panther shook his head.  “I don’t know what happened sir.  One second everything was okay, then suddenly I’m getting a signal that the communication lines is going bad.  To test it, I gave a message to Kormaan Base, but it’s working perfectly.  I don’t understand this.  I expected a reply from Kormaan, but they haven’t replied back yet.  It’s like we’re giving our neighbors messages, but they’re not receiving them.  Or maybe it’s just the mainframe circuits going berserk again.  Could be hackers and their viruses.”
 “If that is the case, then why are the viruses not killed yet by our anti-virus programs?  You know they are updated daily to keep up the level with those infecting buggers.”
 “This is confusing, just confusing.  I’m sorry that I can’t give you much of a report, sir.”
 The aardvark hacked a cough, reminding him to retire.  He still have a pistol on his belt, but he was getting too old to use it.  “Anything else?”
 The panther looked at a radar screen next to the computer.  “Uh, one more thing.  There’s seven jets heading toward this base, all Cornerian.  They’re in attack formation though.  I wonder why.”
 Harbanks sighed.  “Christ, if there’s one thing confusing, there’s another one.  Hail them.”
 “Already tried sir.  Nothing.  They will reach orbit in four minutes.”
 “Well keep hailing them.  At the meantime, handle that communications problem.”
 “Yes sir, though we don’t know what is causing the mess.”

 Just as Ben expected, there were cries of alarm coming from outside.  They had spotted the jets coming toward them, and they didn’t look friendly.  Ben waited patiently in the hallway, the main door within close distance.  “Good luck fellas,” he muttered under his breath.  To have a lighter carry, he had destroyed the laptop (there are many others), so he had only his pistol to hold.  He continued to wait, shuffling his feet nervously.
 Westly barrel-rolled, deflecting a laser shot from one of the five anti-aircraft gunners.  With him, Guy, and Ramsey in one formation, and the others in another formation behind them, the teams swooped in, firing their deadly lasers.
 “Guy, Westly!  Take care of the anti-aircraft gunners!  I will try to destroy some of the Greenie jets before they could take off!”  Ramsey ordered, targeting a line of helpless green-colored jets on the landing strip.
 “Alrighty-O,” Westly replied. “But save some for me!!”
 Guy and Westly broke off formation, firing their lasers at the gunners while avoiding the more powerful lasers shooting back.  Guy made a direct hit on a weak point of a gunner, and the explosion that followed reached his ears like music.  Score one for the sparrow.
 Ramsey swooped in just four hundred feet off the ground, and fired his lasers relentlessly on the grounded jets.  Explosion after explosion followed as the jets were being mowed over, killing some unlucky pilots on the way.  Soldiers were running in all directions in sheer panic, some of them even fired their pistols at the Venomian jets, with little effect of course.  The lion managed to destroy ten Greenies before hovering himself back up as the first of the Greenies hovered up with him.
 “C’mon, c’mon!  You think you can defeat me, you sitting duck?!” Westly taunted as he let loose a barrage of lasers at the fifth and last remaining gunner.  Being splattered with lasers was more than the gunner could take, and it exploded soon after.  Westly whooped in triumph, then concentrated on the Greenies.
 The four other jets landed safely on the landing strip, and Amy, Nedra, Liam and Gregory burst out of their jets firing their pistols.  Some of the panicked soldiers fell, but none fired back.  They were too overwhelmed by the surprise from above to even notice the four charging toward the main doors.
 A coyote guard caught Ben waiting near the doors, surprised at his calmness.  “Hey!  What are you doing here standing around like this?  We are being attacked!”
 “I know.  I’m waiting for them.”
 The coyote smiled.  “Oh, an ambush!”
 “Yes, that.  Come in front of me,” Ben said.
 He could have questioned that, but at the spur of the moment, he decided to follow that order.  With a machine gun raised and ready to fire, he waited four feet in front of the leopard, not noticing Ben aiming his pistol at the back of his head.  Peering over the guard’s shoulder, he spotted some soldiers falling with laser shot wounds.  His teammates had come.
 When Amy first got to the door, the coyote aimed his machine gun at her, only to topple forward as a laser burned a hole through his head from behind.  The machine gun slid across the marble-tiled floor, hitting a wall with a sharp clack.  Ben was lucky.  There was no other soldier in the hallway at that moment that could fire at his back.
 Amy got inside, followed quickly by Nedra and Gregory.  Liam lagged behind, firing a few last lasers before he came in as well.
 “That hyena outside the door.  Was that your handiwork?”  Amy asked.
 “Yep.  So is this coyote.  One of you take that machine gun over there.”
 Nedra came up to Ben’s side.  “Gregory, you take it.  I don’t like laser machine guns.”
 Gregory laid his pistol back into his holster and grasped the machine gun up.  “Where to now, Sir?”  He said, mentioning to Ben.
 “I found a map to the jail cells and memorized it.  However I found a huge problem about this.  In order to open the door to the jail cells without ID cards, one of you must activate a switch in one room while one activate a switch by the door.”
 “Didn’t you do something about that?” Liam said.  “I mean, what about password decoders or-”
 “This is ID required, not password.  I never encountered this kind of security system before.  Must be experimental.  Now I know why Starwolf was sent here rather than any other base.  We must hurry, Amy.”
 Amy formed a quick plan.  “Alright, you, Liam, and Gregory go to the switch by the door to the cells.  Nedra and I will go to the other one.  Where is it?”
 “On the other side of this base.  It’s in some circular room with a fountain in the center.  Don’t ask me why it’s there.  Keep your comlink helmets on.  The switches must be turned on both at the same time.”
 Liam was literally hopping.  “Alright, alright, let’s go!”

  The hallway however was one of the most busiest, as Amy and Nedra quickly found out.  The three others had already gotten into a connecting hallway, so it was up to the two best friends to fight off the ten guards that had planted themselves among chairs in a lobby that they had to cross.  Amy cowered behind a sofa, Nedra beside her.  Lasers splattered at the sofa, raining bits of fabric on their heads.
 Amy poked her head above the sofa, fired a shot that missed, then went back down before a laser shot above her.  “You got any grenades?  I think I saw three of them on one spot, by the corner.”
 Nedra searched through her uniform, then pulled out a sphere grenade from a belt around her right mid-thigh, and gave it to her.  “I only got five.  Use them wisely.”
 Even in the heat of battle, Amy had a humorous thought.  “You’re beginning to sound like Peppy Hare.  I’ll advise you to stop that immediately.”
 Nedra could only stick out her tongue.  A laser shot a burning hole through the sofa, barely missing Nedra.  “We can’t stay here long.”
 “Oh you think?”  Amy barked out sarcastically, and pulled out the grenade’s safety pin.  Risking being shot, she poked out again and with one good aim, threw the grenade at the targeted spot.  She backed down and covered her ears, Nedra copying her moves.
 The blast that followed killed the three soldiers instantly, and the shrapnel that flew in all directions killed five others unlucky to be on their paths.  The two remaining got the clue and escaped to the door behind them.  When all was silent, Amy and Nedra burst out from behind the sofa, pistols aimed to shoot any more guards.  Cautiously, they crossed the lobby that was full of smoke from the blast marks and the eight bodies decorated the new floor red.
 They soon found themselves in a T-intersection.  Since there were no guards at the moment, Amy adjusted her comlink and spoke to Ben.  “We just crossed a lobby, and we’re now in a T-intersection.  Now where will we go?”
 A series of laser shots were background noise as Ben answered, rather irritated.  “Let me think!  Um, uh....”
 “Um, uh, what?  Hurry up, Ben!!”
 “We’re a little busy at the moment!”  Ben yelled back, more lasers in the background.  Amy thought she heard a guard scream in pain.
 “Oh well, I send you my sympathy!  Now tell us!  We only got forty more stinking minutes to go!”
 Ben muttered some curses under his breath, but Amy allowed that to pass.  “Go left.  Uh, it should be close by.”
 “What does the switch look like?”
 “A yellow panel with a red button.  Now will you leave me alone?  I got more important things to worry about!  Like giving these guards a chance to meet their makers!”
 “Whooo-hoo!!!”  Westly yelled cheerfully as he downed yet another Greenie.  “Eighteen down, forty to go!”
 Guy swooped behind one of the Greenies, shooting it down.  “How much time left before reinforcements get here?”
 “They should be here in thirty minutes.  How many kills you counted?”  Ramsey asked.
 “Thirteen!  Oh, my mistake!  Fourteen!  Ha, ha, ha!”
 Westly shot down one more.  “Hey you green jet flying idiots!  How do you like losing against the best?”
 “You actually call yourself the best, Westly?”  Ramsey remarked.
 “Yes sirree!  Third best is Fox McCloud, second is Wolf O’Donnell, and the best pilot the Lylat System has to offer is ME!!”
 Ramsey shook his head.  “You have a large ego, doberman.”
 “Thank you!  I take good care swelling it and keeping it the way it is!”  Westly responded, shooting down his twentieth jet.

Chapter Six

 “When I am dead and buried, on my tombstone I would like to have it written, ‘I have arrived.’  Because when you feel that you have arrived, then you are dead.”

         --Yul Brynner, Earth

 The room that Amy and Nedra finally found a few minutes later was a large one, capable of holding a hundred people or more.  Sleek white walls was glimmering from the reflection of the fountain in the center of the room, and the marble floor was light blue.  The fountain had a small statue of a female fox in waving robes carrying a torch.  Crystal clear water was shooting off from the torch, and the water ran down the statue onto the small circular pool surrounding the statue.  On each corner was a large fern plant on a cement pot.  It seemed out of place for a military base, so Nedra was suspicious about it.
 “Why in the world would the Katianians would have this place in a military base?”
 “A place for soldiers to party maybe?”  Amy suggested carelessly.  She walked by the small fountain, and spotted the switch underwater at the bottom of the fountain.  “I found the switch.  Wonder why it’s there instead of on a wall.”
 “Ben, come in please,” Nedra spoke through her comlink.
 “What is it now?  You found the switch?”
 “Yeah, in an unlikely place.  Are you at the door to the jail yet?”
 “We just got here.  Man, it was tough getting there.  The guards were stacked like dominoes.  Took us a while to get through the gauntlet.  Okay, in order for this to work, one of you and I must push the red button within less of a second of each other.  On three, okay?”
 Nedra and Amy were so wrapped up in listening to Ben that they failed to notice a lizard creeping up at them at the doorway.  He aimed his pistol at Nedra and fired.  The laser struck her on the shoulder, stumbling her to the floor, screaming in pain.  Amy whirled her head around to find the lizard aiming the gun at her friend.
 “Put the gun down, or your doggy pal dies!”  The lizard growled at her.  He was of same height as the snow leopard, but more heavier-framed and had a menacing look to his scarred, scaled face.  Nedra helplessly held her paw over the gashing wound with fearful eyes, her pistol unreachable in a place across the room, being flown off when she was hit.
 Hoping that Liam, Gregory, or Ben had heard the laser shot or Nedra’s scream through their comlinks, Amy slowly laid her pistol down, and held her paws up in the air.
 The lizard laughed.  “Kick it to me, runt.”
 Who are you calling a runt?  You’re the same height as me, Amy thought as she kicked the laser gun, the weapon sliding and stopped at the lizard’s boots.  The guard laughed again.  Either he was cocky or just plain stupid, he laid the pistol back into his holster, and raised his claws up in a fighting stance.
 “C’mon, runt.  I just love to pound little girlies like you!”  He declared, and charged at the snow leopard with reckless abandon.
 Amy however was ready to give this idiot a lesson on the advantages of being the only one with a weapon.  She grasped his shoulders and threw herself back.  She rolled on her back, her boots planted on the stomach.  As the lizard arched above her, she lifted her feet up.  The guard was thrown several feet up-side-down, and landed back-first hard on the floor.  He grunted with surprise, the wind almost knocked out of him.  Amy stood up first, watching her dumb opponent staggering to get up.  “And I just love to pound cocky upstarts like you!”  She remarked as she laid a boot up to his face.
 Nedra managed to drag herself up against a wall in a sitting position, the pain unbearable.  As soon as she did so, she spotted something yellow behind a fern on one of the corners.  “What in the world.....”
 As Amy and the lizard exchanged blows a safe distance away, Nedra spoke onto the comlink.  “Ben, come in!”
 “Nedra!  I heard you scream!  You alright?”
 “No, of course not!  I just saw a second switch behind a fern.”
 “A second one?  It must be another trap.”
 “Which one works?  The one on the wall or at the bottom of the fountain?”
 “Uh, let me think.”
 Nedra rolled up her eyes and snarled.  “Well think quickly!”
 “Well, if it’s hidden behind a fern then, that might be the right one, although, the fountain switch is ‘hidden’ as well, um uh....”
 Amy struck a side kick to the lizard’s stomach, and he stumbled back toward the fountain.  He stopped just touching the outside of the fountain, groaning in pain.
 You need a bath, lizard, Amy thought and charged at him with a battle cry.  With expertly swiftness, she lifted her right boot and struck the hapless lizard on the chin.  He was thrown back onto the fountain.  A huge splash followed, and the lizard’s right paw pushed the switch button below him.  A display of lightning flashed around him.  The lizard screamed as deadly volts protruding from the false switch screeched through the circulation inside his tortured body, frying his brain.  The sickening yet pleasuring buzzing and crackling sound reached the Venomians’ ears, and then the scream died down along with the electricity that fried him.
 Gasping with relief, Amy picked up her pistol and helped Nedra stand up.  “That was a shocking experience for him, wasn’t it, Nedra?”
 The greyhound shook her head.  “You’ve been around Leon one day too many, Amy.”
 Amy chuckled and watched the floating body on the fountain with a sense of satisfaction.  Nedra spoke on her comlink again.  “Well Ben, looks like the lizard had solved the problem for us.  It’s the one on the wall we should press.”
 “What lizard?”  Ben replied back.
 “To make a long story short, he shocked us and wounded my shoulder, then got shock treatment from Amy here.  If he didn’t come, then Amy would be the one with the bad fur day.”
 Ben simply grunted in response.  “We now have twenty minutes.  Is Amy in position?”
 Nedra looked at the corner with the switch.  Amy had pushed the fern away and was standing by the switch, her finger itching to press the button.
 “Alright then.  On three.  One,...two...three!”
 Amy pressed the button, hoping the timing was right.  Ben cheered soon after.  “Yes!  The door had opened!  Meet us where we separated.”
 Nedra nodded.  “Right.  C’mon Amy.  It’s about time we get our butts out of here with Starwolf on our tow.”

 The sound of the laser shot and the death throes of the jail warden woke up Wolf.  He rose from the bottom bunk bed quickly, ignoring his sores.  Andrew was better in fighting than he had thought, though he believe he had won.  The ape sleeping on the cold bench was worse off, actually bleeding in some areas.
 “Hey!  What’s going on here?”
 Liam yelled out from the distance.  “It’s me, cyclops!  We’re here to save your tails!”
 Leon came as close to the lasers as he dared, eyes searching for his cousin.  “Hey Liam, we’re over here!”
 Andrew, who had already woken up, jumped excitedly.  “We’re rescued!!  Yeah!!”
 Liam appeared in front of Wolf and Andrew’s jail cell.  “Howdy.  How was your stay here?”
 Wolf grumbled, very impatient.  “Oh will you just shut down those lasers and get us out of here?”
 “Sheez, you’re very impatient, aren’t you?”  Liam asked, sliding the dead warden’s ID card on a security box next to the cell door.  The lasers keeping in Wolf and Andrew died down, and Wolf got out quickly.
 “Thanks.  You could have got here sooner.  Where’s my pistol and dagger?”
 Ben near the entrance held up the weapons.  “Got them here Wolf.  We have to hurry if we are to escape before reinforcements come.”
 Leon looked up at Pigma.  The pig was still snoring.  Groaning, the chameleon tapped his shoulder hard.  “C’mon, you big, fat oaf!  Wake up!”
 Pigma woke up with a start.  “I’m sorry I ate your breakfast, Momma!  Huh?  What the-”
 Leon shook his head.  “What are you deaf to sleep all the way through this noise?  Get down here!  We’re leaving!”
 Liam shut down the lasers of his relative’s cell, and stepped in.  Smiling, he grasped Leon’s shoulder like a friend.  “We meet again.”
 “Thanks for rescuing us.  Wolf and Andrew got into a fight.  That’s why they look so wounded.”
 Liam shook his head.  “Why am I not surprised?  Let’s get the hell out of here, shall we?”
 “You stole the words right from my mouth,” Leon replied, then spotted Gregory.  “You had help?”
 “Yep.  This is Gregory, a sergeant of the Golden Hammer division,” Liam introduced.  “He’s a bit dull, but he follows every order that a superior officer gives him.”
 Wolf overheard that and smiled.  “Hey you,” he said to the jaguar, pointing at Andrew.  “Can you kill this guy here?  He’s a pain in my neck.”
 “As you wish, sir,” Gregory said and unsheathed his dagger.  Without any emotion, he charged at Andrew with his dagger raised to help complete what he was ordered to do.  Andrew screamed in sheer terror, cowering back.  Ben however grabbed the feline’s arm, stopping him.
 “No, Gregory!  Wolf was just kidding!”  Ben glowered at Wolf, whom was laughing heartily.  “Are you Wolf?”
 Wolf rolled his eyes and threw up his paws.  “Yeah, yeah, yeah.  Let’s go.”
 Gregory sheathed his dagger, utterly confused.  “It is unwise to give orders and not mean it, Sir.”
 Leon gave a puzzled look to his cousin.  “Is this guy for real?”
 Liam nodded.  “Yep.  Hard to believe it, but he is for real.”

Chapter Seven

 “One of the consequences of being honest to someone is that there will be an honest reaction.”

          --Jerry Springer, Earth

 Leon gasped with surprise when he spotted Amy waiting for him by the main door of the base.  They hugged each other, relieved that they lived long enough to see each other again.
 Wolf barked impatiently, “Save this reunion for later.  C’mon!”
 The rescue team and Starwolf burst outside, some the guards behind them firing at the escapees.  Running for their lives, they crossed the airstrip that was nearly devoid of soldiers and pilots now, replaced by corpses and burning jets.  Ben and the Starwolf team rushed inside the transporter as the others went back to their jets.
 “How you doing up there?”  Amy said to the three pilots in the sky.
 “Great!  There’s two left, but they’re retreating!”  Guy reported, watching the two remaining Greenies flying off.
 Westly laughed.  “Those fools are escaping with their tails between their legs, but then again, since they are sitting down, their tails are always between their legs!  Ha, ha, ha!!”
 “How’s your shoulder, Major?”  Gregory asked as he lifted off.
 “Hurting, but I can take it,” Nedra answered back.
 Westly made a mock gasp.  “Gregory?  Did I sense emotion from you?”
 The jaguar refused to answer, and Westly shook his head.  He spotted some guards firing at his teams jets from the main door, desperate to shoot them down.  “Here’s a nice farewell gift, straight from me fellas!”  He said as he swooped down.  He let loose a barrage of lasers at the guards, then swerved back up.  The guards were too small targets though, and while the lasers missed them, they dived for cover.
 “It’s check out time!”  Ramsey said as the seven jets and transporter screamed through the atmosphere and into space.  Surrounding the base was a disarray of burning jets, the soulless pilots inside them.

 Two short days had passed.  Nedra was recuperating from her injury and had bandages wrapped around her wound.  Because the news of their capture was not widespread, the Starwolf team did not receive a hero’s welcome, and that suited them fine.  The Conquest Squadron went back to their normal chores, with a higher sense of pride.  Westly never got the promotion that he wanted, and though he was disappointed, he felt that he didn’t want to become a stuffy Major anyway.  Gregory was unfazed by accomplishing such an important mission.  He took the rescue of Starwolf as just another mission, and there was no need to boast highly of it.  Amy had her wounds from fighting the lizard treated, and had her migraine pills refilled, to her great relief.
 Around noon, the four members of the unnamed squadron had decided to take brunch together in a private rec-room.  They were forced to join together for just one mission, but they felt a special bond to each other, one of friendship.  They had already gotten used to Gregory’s militaristic emotions, and to Westly’s cocky attitude, and also to Amy’s complaints about her migraines and Nedra’s criticism of her best friend’s lover.
 “So uh, what are we going to name ourselves?”  Westly asked as he stabbed some of the scrambled eggs with his fork.
 “We only had one mission,” Amy replied, sipping some red milk.
 “Yeah, but do you want our team to go down in history as unnamed?”
 Amy paused.  “Go down in history?  This mission was pretty much done in secret.  I don’t think anyone would bother writing this down on some school text book.”
 “You’re too narrow-minded, Amy,” Nedra said.  “What about being written in some diary by a witness, either by us, Conquest, Starwolf, or any of the people in Yorkstena?  That’s going down in history, in my opinion.”
 Westly stuffed another piece of the eggs into his mouth.  “Yeah.  Imagine some Cornerian writing down on the diary, ‘I hate that unnamed squadron of idiots’.  I mean, that sounds stupid.”
 Amy shrugged.  “Yeah, I guess we better name our team, but what should we call ourselves?”
 Just then, a serval messenger opened the door and came in, carrying an electronic clipboard.  “Due to your successful mission two days ago, Emperor Andross the Great has decided to make this squadron to be permanent.  Occasionally, you will be issued a mission that will directly involve your squadron, and be paid extra compensation and still keep your current salary.”
 “So, basically, we’ll be like Starwolf, only that we’re not mercenaries?”  Nedra asked.
 “That is affirmative, Major Benson.  Major Johnson will still lead this team, and Benson will be appointed second-in-command.  If you any objections, then the Emperor will hear you out.”
 Amy shrugged and looked at her co-pilots.  “I’m okay with it.  Are you?”
 The three others nodded in agreement.  Amy smiled.  “We have no objections, messenger.  Will Andross allow us to name our own team?”
 “Negative, Major.  He has already named your squadron.  The Sapphire Paladins.”
 Westly widened his eyes.  “Whoa, what a name.  That sounds cool.  But, what is a sapphire and what is a paladin?”
 “A sapphire is some sort of gem, bluish in color,” Amy explained.  “A paladin is like a knight, back in the days of chivalry.  It sounds strange to compare us with knights, but I like it.”
 “An excellent choice in the behalf of the Emperor,” Gregory added.  “I will accept it.”
 Westly shook his head.  “Gregory, knowing you, the name ‘Scumbag Squadron’ would be acceptable to you, since Andross made it up.”
 Gregory ignored that remark and went back to eating some of the biscuits.  The messenger continued on.  “Two hours from now, your new jets will be finished and ready to go in Hangar Twelve.  Major Johnson, you are to proceed to Air Strip and meet Lt. Commander O’Donnell.  He has something to show you.”
 “Hmm, wonder what it is.  Is that all, messenger?”
 The serval nodded.  “Yes, Major,” he said, and then left.
 Westly clasped his paws cheerfully and stood up.  “Alright!  We’re now a team officially!  Well, I’m going to the library.  Gregory, you’re coming with me?”
 Wordlessly, the jaguar laid his napkin by the plate and stood up.  The two complete opposites walked out of the room together, leaving Nedra and Amy in the room.
 “Oh great,” Nedra complained playfully.  “Now we have to clean these plates ourselves.  Males!  Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.”
 Amy chuckled and picked up her plate as she walked over to a kitchen nearby.  “You know, in the past few days, I have been wondering.  You seem to watch at Gregory with a certain, um, look to it.”
 Nedra came right to the point.  “Yes, I have the hots for him.  So what?”
 Amy almost dropped her plate.  “What?  You actually falling for that jaguar?  What do you see in him?”
 “Oh, he’s actually handsome, and squeaky-clean.  He’s quiet, but I like that in a male.  No need to listen to him complaining and moaning and boasting about something.  I think I can mold him into someone that I can love and be loved back.  He also got the most shiniest fur and stunning eyes, and those biceps of his....”
 “Whoa, stop right there, Nedra!  The air is starting to get hot here.  You think he will love you back?”
 “I don’t know.  We’ll have to wait and see.”

 Westly and Gregory shuffled their way through the moving hordes of soldiers and pilots in the hallway, the excitement of being in a new squadron fresh on their minds.  Suddenly, someone called Gregory’s name and the two pilots turned to face her.  When Westly saw her, he was dumbstruck.
 A female jaguar was running toward them, waving as she swerved around the passing soldiers.  Her flaming red hair flowed like the wind, shining under the ceiling lights.  Her arms were delicate and her long legs were groomed carefully.  She wore a reddish suit of a civilian, tight enough to show her slim frame, complete with high heels and a gold bracelet adorning her right wrist.
 “Howdy, Gregory.  How’s life here?  Boring as usual?”  She said, smiling.  She looked at the doberman staring at her.  “Hello.  Who are you?”
 Westly could only flinch.  The perfume she wore rushed up his nostrils, smelling like honey and rose.  When she smiled, her teeth were pearly white, and those eyes, like a pair of suns with a black hole in the center.  “Um, uh, I-uh, um.....”
 “You some sort of alien?  You look like a Lylatian, but you seem to speak in a different dialect than ours,” she said, jokingly.  She held up her paw.  “Lucille Nothrana.”
 Westly finally got the sense to shake paws with her.  “Westly Meenat.  You’re a soldier here?”
 Lucille shook her head.  “If you see me wearing a military uniform, then send me to an insane asylum.  I’m an assistant librarian here.  I have to live with a bunch of horny pilots, but the pay is good.  So Gregory, I’ve heard you in some new squadron, bro.”
 Gregory growled suddenly.  “Affirmative, and I ask you again, don’t address me as bro, you understand, Ma’am?”
 Westly was startled by Gregory’s growl, and that they both shared the same bloodlines.  “You both are siblings?”
 “Yes, he’s my zombie of a brother.  He and I may have the same parents, but I’m smart enough to resist their dominance and control-freak ways.  Of course, they didn’t like me, so they kicked me out when I was 14.  Gregory and I are like hot and cold.  Well, I gotta to get to work.  I’ll see you both later, alrighty?”
 Westly grinned.  “Fine.”
 “Been nice meeting you, Westly.  See ya, Greg.”
 Gregory grumbled again as Lucille ran off.  Westly looked at him puzzlingly.  “I take you don’t like her?”
 “She is a shame to my family.  My father disapproved her childish and wild ways, so he purged her from the household.  She went on to live with a friend, lavishing herself with beauty that would only make her worse morally, and her behavior is unapproving and against the rules of the society which I support and give my life for.”
 Westly smiled.  “Sounds like my kind of woman.”
 “Don’t even touch her.  She is not to be trusted.”
 Westly grumbled and gave up.  Lucille seemed to be a very nice person, but she seemed to be an outcast from her own family.  “C’mon, Gregory.  Let’s continue on.”
 “What is it you want to show me, Wolf?”  Amy asked the taller leader of Starwolf as jets soared in the sky above them.  Wolf had wordlessly escorted her to a hangar that was more remote than the others, his face somewhat grieving.
 “I have a gift, for rescuing me and my co-pilots safely.  Open the hangar doors.”
 Amy typed in the command on the security box next to the garage-type doors, and with a rumble, the doors rolled up.  When Amy looked inside, she uttered a gasp.  Resting peacefully and alone inside the hangar was a jet that had once been owned by a white wolf.  It was royal blue in color, and the canopy was coal black shaded.  It has a bi-plane look to it, one wing on top of another.  The steel was streamlined and sleek, and the gunners at the edges of the wings looked menacing.  Painted gold on the tail was its name.
 “The Sunlaser,.......but why are you giving me this?”
 Wolf sighed.  Ever since the previous owner of this custom-made jet, Sheila Lupine, had died, Wolf had the jet kept in this hangar, never to come out.  “I have decided that it is time for me to face my grief, my memories of Sheila.  I have to be brave, and since you will be leading a squadron, I have decided to give this to you.  Besides, this jet have been sitting cooped up in this hangar for too long.  It’s time to make this useful.”
 Amy laid her paw on the smooth steel of the jet.  It was cold to the touch, but it was vibrating a sense of willingness to soar the skies and space.  “I don’t know how to thank you....how to pay you back this...”
 “Just don’t let it get destroyed.  If this thing crashes, then you’ll be feeling my dagger.”
 Amy chuckled.  “Don’t worry, Wolf.  This jet will not crash or be shot down with me in the cockpit.  Thank you.”
 “Much obliged.  Being generous is out of character, but this Sheila had changed me.  For better or worse, I don’t know.  Just don’t expect any more gifts from me.”
 “What about my co-pilots?”
 “They will get Invader-4 jets, which is top of the line.  It seems that the Sapphire Paladins had been giving the red carpet treatment here.”
 Amy nodded.  “Yep.  Hopefully we will be able to do well together.  Can I take it for a spin?”
 “Sure.  It’s yours anyway.  You will be issued another mission tomorrow, so you better get used to it and soon.”
 Amy grinned and opened the canopy.  It was somewhat dusty inside the cockpit, mainly because the canopy had not been opened during all those months, but she barely bothered to fiddle with it as she sat on the leather seat, getting the feeling for the jet.  “Well, Sunlaser,” she murmured to herself.  “Looks like you’re back in business.”

 Late that night, in the same rec-room, Nedra and Westly were busy playing poker, while Gregory was taking a nap on a red couch.  Amy was off doing some errand, anxious for tomorrow’s mission.
 Nedra laughed as she laid down the cards for the doberman to see.  “Ha!  Royal Flush!  In your face!  Ha, ha, ha!!”
 Westly groaned and clasped a paw on his face.  “I cannot believe this.  What are the odds of that happening?”
 Nedra greedily hoarded her winnings to her side of the table.  “When Gregory becomes nice to his own sister, probably.  What was her name again?”
 “Lucille.  I seem to like her.”
 “Knowing you, that won’t be much of a surprise.  You like anyone that wears makeup and has the body of a model.”
 Westly made a pained look on his face.  “Oooohh, that hurts,” he said mockingly.  He turned and spotted the jaguar peacefully on the couch.  “Well, at least he doesn’t sleep with his eyes open.  I’ve heard that some soldiers do that.”
 “He may seemed to be militaristic, but he doesn’t breathe, sleep, and eat Air Force.  At least not all the time.”
 Westly nodded, then thought up a rather sneaky way to get his winnings back.  After all, Nedra’s lucky streak had robbed him all except for a few poker chips.  “Hey Nedra, I have a bet for you.  For 200 credit dollars.”
 Nedra gave a surprised look.  “200?  But you don’t have that kind of money.”
 “I’m confident that I will win.  Will you accept it?”
 Nedra grinned and laid her elbows on the table.  “Okay.  What is it that I have to do?”
 Westly chuckled and stood up.  He whispered the bet close to her ear, not wanting Gregory to hear.  When he was finished, Nedra simply laughed.  “Oh come on, that’s it?  Be prepared to be in debt, Westly,” she said, standing up.
 “I don’t think Gregory will do it,” Westly said.  “I think it’s against the rules.”
 “Just sit down and watch a clever gambler at work,” the greyhound replied, and came close to the sleeping feline.  “Gregory!  Wake up!”
 As if he was already alert, Gregory woke up with a start and stood up before he could utter a breath.  “Yes, Major?”
 Nedra made one last look at Westly before winning the bet.  “Sergeant, I order you to kiss me.”
 To Westly’s greatest shock, the jaguar didn’t even flinch from surprise upon hearing the strange order issued on him.  Gregory stepped up right in front of her, laid a paw on the back of her canine head, and kissed her.  Their lips locked for several seconds, then Gregory parted, and looked at her with appeasing eyes.
 “Is that all, Major?”  He said, not in the firm voice that he always seem to be speak, but softer, with all the emotion he could gather.
 Nedra smiled and nodded.  “Yes, Gregory.  Dismissed.”
 Gregory stepped back to give space, and saluted.  With a snap of heels, he turned and marched out of the room.  Not even Nedra knew that he kissed her because he loved her or that because he was ordered to do so.  Hopefully it would be the former.
 Westly groaned again.  “Nedra.....you are one sick little dog.  You didn’t even flinch to hoard money off some poor doberman’s wallet.”
 Nedra’s smile was wider.  “Thank you, Westly.  I try my best to let anyone know that to gamble with me is not a good idea.  In a way, I was hoping that you would bet something like that.”
 The two dogs laughed together, knowing that the Sapphire Paladins, despite stark personalities among it’s team members, will thrive to become legends in the Venomian Air Force.

 Author’s Note
 I had the permission from Kay Twilight for the Conquest Squadron to be used here.  Amy Johnson is a real life person, and I had her permission as well.  Nedra Benson, Westly Meenat, Gregory Nothrana and Lucille Nothrana are my characters and not to be used without my consent.