The Harvest of Lamentations
Episode #9 of SunHawk
 

*Special Note*
Before you read, there are scenes in this story which may offend some readers.  It is hence rated PG - 13.  Please consider before you read on.  Thanks.
 
 

Chapter I
Pain Bringers

"I bring death to my enemies for the sake of making them suffer.  Maybe I do enjoy it, so what.  I'll admit that Avians are something that I really get off on to see them in agony.  If only Falco would grace me with such a gift."
-Leon Powalski - Star Wolf-
 

 The colony of Proxima Delta Ver, a Cornerian outpost, both military and civilian, which lay on Carmina, one of the three moons of planet Fortuna.  Carmina was nothing more then a rock, and the colony was ninety percent underground.  The only other parts were three domes above the surface.  An observation dome, a massive arboretum forest that spanned seven kilometers in diameter, and an ocean dome with a thousand cubic acres of watery surface.

 PDV colony was a great place for vacation.  The people were friendly, the air in the system was clean, and the military stations there made the place safe.  It had very little strategic value in war, so no one considered themselves a viable target to Venom.

 No, perhaps not a target for a strategic move against the enemy.  But what about a test sight?

 The transport shuttle, a total of seventy people on board, was slowly lowered on the landing pad.  It took a while, but the pad was lowered and the unloading and boarding umbilical tube was connected with the hatch.  The door opened and people started to walk out.

 All of these people seemed cheerful.  Husbands and wives, some with children, or newlyweds on a honeymoon walked out.  Large families with elderly people and young children, all of them innocents.  Soldiers coming home from their time out from war to be with their sweethearts.  Basically, just people, old and young, fat and thin, man and woman, creatures of different kinds from dogs to cats to deer and avian birds.  Many.

 Two of the passengers stuck out a little from the rest.  One of them was a tall and fairly burley gray furred wolf who had an unnatural coldness around him.  Over his right eye were bandages to cover a wound, or something else entirely.  He came on with little personal belongings, not really planning to spend much time here.

 Wolf O'Donnell, hiding his marks to show who he was, the missing eye and small white stripes on his cheeks, looked out over the large underground chamber.  This was where people came in and went away to PDV colony.  This was the Cornerian "happy place" in the Lylat system.  What better way to obliterate their spirits, thought Wolf.

 Far behind him, more towards the back, came the infamous Leon Powalski.  He too was in disguise, dressed in the casual wear of a common day simpleton.  Leon was hating this disguise, not being used to dressing in clothes that were not clean, rumpled, and without shine.  Just too common for an aristocrat like him.  At least he didn't have that scar on his face anymore.  He still remembered the iron fists of the black wolf from the Tooth and Claw.

 Leon knew that Wolf was in the crowd, waiting for him.  They had decided not to get off the flight together to avoid attention to themselves.  They were taking an awful risk by even coming here in the first place.  But it was worth it because of the message they would be sending.

 Their plan was to meet in the colony corridors just outside the starport, and then carry out their plans from there.  Leon navigated through the crowd, remaining expertise at looking inconspicuous.  He got to customs, and breathed nervously, remembering the plan.

 "Place your bag on the field please," whistled the customs worker, a canary.  Leon placed his larger bag on the field where they scanned it at once.  Leon knew they would pick up the unusual system readings of the devices, but they wouldn't register as dangerous, so they would have no choice but to let him pass.

 Indeed, they opened his bag and peered in, and the worker brought out four green spheres which seemed to house some sort of gel inside them.  "And these are?" asked the worker.

 "Oh, those are holiday ornaments for my son," lied Leon.  "I've been doing research on Titania for the past seven months and I got these for him.  Here watch."  He took one of the spheres, knowing which one to take precisely, and squeezed it.  The ball glowed green and let out a musical tone.  "Just a toy, I assure you," said Leon, a friendly voice to him.

 Sure enough, after searching through the bag, it looked like he was coming home from a long trip elsewhere.  The bird looked at him, thinking that he saw this lizard somewhere before, but he couldn't place him.  There was no time to try and match mental profiles, the line was being held up.  He nodded to Leon and replaced the spheres back into the bag and handed it to Leon.

 "Continue on, enjoy your stay at Proxima Delta Ver....Mr. Chevron."

 Leon smiled at him.  The fake ID worked as well.  "Thank you," he said, smiling warmly.  He continued on, thanking the almighty that Avians were such foolish creatures, which was the second reason he hated them so much.  Falco Lombardi being the first since he belonged to them.

 Leon moved through the crowd quickly and made it to the corridors.  There, he found Wolf after a few minutes search.

 "Any problems at customs?" asked the one eye monster, meeting his only good friend.

 Leon shook his head.  "Thanks to the fact that the attendant there was a bird, not one.  This is going to be so simple Wolf.  After this little...demonstration as a lack for better words, I wouldn't doubt if Pepper signed the surrender to us himself."

 "Shh!" said Wolf angrily.  "No talking like that in here.  Come.  Let's make our deliveries and get back home.  I do have a daughter to go see."  He passed a orange fox and nodded to him, almost unable to contain the urge to throttle a Fox McCloud lookalike.  But he held it in.

 The two found their way to a directory map console.  Wolf came up and pushed the screen to start it up.  Welcome to Proxima Delta Ver Colony, said a friendly female voice.  Please state your request.

 "Locations any water fountains closest to all drinking ports of any kind," said Wolf gleefully.  This was going to be a cakewalk in a velcro mat.

 I am sorry, that information is restricted to blue level clearance only.  Any further attempts to access this information will result in immediate notification of local authorities.  Please have a nice day.

 "Kiss my fur barren butt," spat Wolf, as he slid a blue security card into the slot.  The computer read it and started to compute.

 Blue level clearance card approved.  Accessing requested information.

 The computer started its search.  Wolf turned to Leon and smiled gleefully, and noticed a female kitten looking up at the two man who were badmouthing the computer.  Leon glared at the small pink furred cat which reminded him of Katt Monroe, Falco's girlfriend.  Because of this, he hated her as well.  Facially, this child looked a lot like Katt, but she had white long hair while the child here had jet black and short.  The kitten slowly backed away from the chameleon's icy hateful stare, suddenly afraid of the monstrous fiend.

 Leon, with a smile, ran at the child yelling a frightful roar.  The kitten screamed and ran off, dropping her small doll as she went.  Leon stood there, smiling hellishly as she ran away, calling for her mother.

 "She might tell someone," said Wolf.

 His response was a shaking head.  "By the time she is believed, it will be too late," said the pleasure filled Leon.  "Then, then it won't matter anymore, will it?"  Wolf smiled, and then heard a chirp in the screen.

 The seven levels of the colony, going down into the surface deeply, were sprawled out into a 3-D map view for Wolf.  There were numerous blue dots all over.  "Show me the top level," he ordered.  The bottom six disappeared, and the level they were on, sub level A, was shown to them.  Five blue dots marked the locations Wolf asked for.

 "All right," he said, pulling Leon to watch.  "I'll got to this one," he said, pointing to the top corner of the octagon shaped level.  "And then, I'll drop the second here, next to the rover bay.  You will go here," he said, pointing to a dot  towards the top left corner, "and deploy yours there.  We'll meet at the rover bay in thirty minutes, steel one of them, and make the rendezvous point in time to be home for lunch."

 "Perfect," he said, smiling.

 Wolf shut down the computer screen and erased the terminal's data banks so no one could follow their footsteps.  He stepped back, smiling to himself.  "Come on," he said.  "I do so much want to watch the aftermath of this on the news tonight."

 Leon gave Wolf two of the green spheres.  He made sure it wasn't the special one from customs, the simple toy.  That one he almost shoved down a garbage chute, where it would eventually be incinerated.  However, Leon looked at it for a small moment, and then stashed it back into his pocket.  The two of them parted, going to carry out their plans and then leave.

 This was it.  Andross had researched for three long weeks for this event.  And now, it was time to cash in.  There was that time he wasted when he was called to Zoness for something.  Andross never discussed the nature of that trip to Wolf or any others, nor did they press the issue.  The old ape very much valued his privacy, and everyone knew better then too try and push their way into it.

 Wolf spotted something that might be useful.  Custodian, a boar.  He smiled as he walked up the tusked pig and started to chat peacefully.  The boar was a bore to talk to, but that didn't matter.  Wolf followed him into the custodian storage room, and wrapped him in the back of the head with a nearby hammer.  The pig fell to the floor, never to get up again, his eyes lifeless.  Wolf looked at the hammer he used, the claw end with blood on it.  It wasn't what he had in mind, but no matter anyway.

 A few minutes latter, Wolf walked of the room dressed in custodian clothing.  They were a little big for him, but he would manage for now.  He placed the bag with the spheres in the pig's cart and slowly pushed it down the corridor.  Being a custodian, everyone would ignore him.  That's what they do.  Clean, maintain, and be ignored by the public.  Wolf took the fake bandage off, exposing his black eyepatch, and through it in the mobile trash can.

 He came to a light, and a small room with a fountain trickling in the center.  A plain fountain with no special attributes.  There were tons of these fountains all over the colony, and they were connected to the drinking water in one circulating system.  Nifty idea to save on water bills, but still dangerous.  Wolf and Leon were about to prove it.

 Wolf sat on the fountains edge and looked into the water, seeing his own reflection cleanly in the crystal clear liquid.  For a moment, he thought he saw something else.  Two green eyes, not Fox's, otherwise he would have went nuts just to blow his own cover.  These were feminine eyes, and he knew exactly who's they were.  Wolf reached into the water and distorted them, and his own reflection as well, destroying the image so he could think.

 From the bag he pulled out one of the green balls.  The green gel inside was bright in the light.  He held it over the water, preparing to drop it in.

 "What are you doing there?" asked someone.  Wolf looked and saw a large twelve point buck in a fancy business suit walk up and stare at him coldly.  "Answer me, or are you feeling lucky in searching in the job market?"

 Wolf smiled at him friendly like.  "I was...um...just putting this disinfectant into the water.  Someone called me a few minutes ago and said some minor bacteria strains have found their way into the waters on level A, so I came down here.  There should be enough disinfectant here to take care of it."  Wolf dropped the ball in, creating a small splash.  He got up and started to leave, but not before he nodded to the deer.

 The buck looked skeptical, watching Wolf leave in a peculiar hurry.  He walked up to the fountain and looked in.  The sphere was already beginning to break up and dissolve in the water.  "Strange that no one informed me about this," he said to himself.  He walked away, and Wolf never saw the words "Maintenance Manager" on the deer's armband.

****

 Leon found the large garden quite easily.  He slowly trotted into the green areas, trying to look like he was enjoying himself in the green area as best he could.  He saw no one else in the garden save for a single lady half bread mutt, unidentifiable at first glance.  She was half way attractive, but not all that much.  Definitely not sexy.  However, she did wink at Leon as she passed him, and he bowed to her.

 Thank God, though Leon, seeing her leave the garden.  He ran towards the large statue built fountain, a large stone eagle perched on it, pouring water out of an open beak.  What an ugly thing, though Leon.  Even if it wasn't a bird, it was still ugly.  Leon only shrugged and brought out the sphere, ready to cast it in.

 "What are you doing?" yelled someone.  Leon turned around and saw the same kitten who he had yelled at earlier.  She was back, and now with a backbone.

 "Oh, nothing child.  I am just putting this little ball into the water to make a wish."  The cat looked puzzled, thinking it would be best to put money into it.  Leon saw this and smiled more friendly like.  "I have no money to give, so I thought I'd give this instead."  Slowly, still not trusting Leon entirely, she walked a little closer and looked at the ball.

 "Can I touch it?"

 "No," said Leon.  The cat got a sad look on her face.  "But you can have this one," said Leon, pulling the toy ball out of his pocket.  She saw it was identical to the one he held.  Leon squeezed it, making it glow and wine.  The cat smiled, the green light shinning into her blue eyes.  Slowly, she walked over to take it, but then drew away.

 "But you scared me, on purpose too.  And mama told never to take gifts from strangers."  A stubborn child to the end.  That's good, thought Leon.  It means she'll grow up strong in spirit, just like the real Katt Monroe.

 He smiled at the child warmly.  "I was only playing," he assured.  "And do I look like someone to fear?"  The cat looked into Leon's eyes, and saw a soft aura in them.  He looked like someone who could be a friend.  Slowly, she walked forth and touched the green ball.

 "There," he said, she now squeezing the sphere herself, laughing playfully as it played its tone.  "You see.  I can be a nice person.  But still..."  He lashed out and grabbed the girl by her shirt collar, pulling her up to his face.  She tried to scream but was muffled by his hand.  "You should listen to your mother, and never talk to strangers."  The kitten shrank away from his stifling breath.

 Leon shoved her hard into the water, pushing her down to the bottom.  The cat tried to claw his arm to let her go, put they were only getting his sleeve.  She kicked a flailed out panicked like, seeing nothing but a blurry light as the water stung her eyes.  When the cat tried to scream out loud, that was it.

 After a while of kicking and trying to struggle out of his hold, the girl started to shake, and then she stopped.  Leon watched her hand hover for a moment above the water, her tiny claws trying to force him to let go.  Leon smiled as he watched the arm fall back into the water, back to the lifeless creature.

 He kept the body down under the water, letting the lungs fill up with water so she would stay down.  That way, no one would find her or smell her until they looked down into it.  After a while, Leon pulled his wet hand out and shook it off, as if it were stricken by something...impure.

 "Sorry about that," he mumbled.  He wiped the water off his hand, and grabbed the real sphere.  To him, it wasn't true cold blooded murder, which in all facts it was.  To Leon, it was the systematic elimination of someone who would grow up to be his enemy.  Plus it felt good killing the young lookalike of his worst enemy's girlfriend.  "Just business, I hope you understand that.  Besides, you would have thanked me had you known otherwise."

 Leon got up and lobbed the sphere into the water, and walked away.  The sphere drifted down the water and landed softly on the dead cat's nose, letting loose a few small bubbles of air.  Then it slowly drifted down the side of her head, and rested beside it.

****

 He was waiting for a few minutes when he got to the entrance of the rover bay, where the third and final fountain was.  Wolf tapped his foot impatiently, looking down both of the only two corridors.  Another minute later, Leon walked swiftly in.  Wolf saw the dark of water on his sleeve.

 "Where have you been and what happened."

 "Sorry," said Leon, trying to wring some of the water out of his sleeve.  "I had to silence a little pest, that's all."  Wolf nodded to him and walked to the fountain.  He tossed the last sphere in and walked away, no longer caring about it.

 "Come on," he said.  "Someone must have drank this by now."  He and Leon quickly ran into the bay and found someone prepping his four wheeled four man rover for a solo trip over the lunar surface.

 "Hey, pal!" called Wolf.  He and Leon ran up the vehicle owner, a silver fox.  "Does this thing cost you very much as far as insurance and maintenance goes?"

 "What's it to you?" asked the fox sternly.

 Wolf smiled as he pulled out a dagger and grabbed the fox by the collar.  To Wolf, it was just a silver version of the McCloud son, just like every fox was.  "Because it's officially out of your worry, just as your life insurance is."  Wolf ran the blade into the fox's stomach and slashed upward.  The silver one doubled over, gasping for air.  Wolf tossed him aside coldly and climbed up into the drivers seat.

 "He must still have the keys," said Wolf, not seeing them on the dash or in the ignition.  "Leon, if you will please."  The chameleon went on to search the dying fox for the rover's keys, and found them in his pocket.  Leon got up and kicked the fox in the head, laughing as he went.  The pressure shield went over their heads, sealing them inside to protect in the environment outside.

 The rover drove off into the lunar surface, and the silver fox slowly died as blood seeped out of his stomach and onto the floor.

 "Nice work, Wolf, my dear friend," complimented Leon as he slipped a breathing helmet over his head.  "Mission accomplished."

 "That's right," said Wolf.  The two high fived each other, smiling greatly at a job well done.  "Now, all some poor idiot has to do is drink some of the polluted water, and the entire colony is infested from then on."

 Leon smiled as he sealed his air unit, attaching the small tanks to it.  "All it takes is some biological prowess from Andross, and we can bring the gene pool keepers to work for us.  In this case, I wonder how Pepper will react to this."

 "He'll probably break down and cry like a baby when he sees the report," said Wolf.  "We have another fifty minutes until we reach the rendezvous point, making us fifteen minutes ahead of schedule.  Damn, we are good."

 "I heard that," said Leon coldly.  He still had not a single regret about murdering a child, and Wolf was practically still all warm inside about taking the life away from that fox.  But it was just business, just like always.  It would never be personal until Star Fox was bleeding and broken under their boots.

 Never.
 
 
 

Chapter II
Shadow Dancers

"Katt Monroe is far too arrogant for her britches.  Everyone in Lylat knows that, and Falco can't deny it.  Sadly, she will remain so vain until her mouth writes a check that her body and flying skills won't be able to cash and keep her from being blown out of the sky."
-Kite McCane - Shadow Squadron - CSS SunHawk-
 

 She ducked quickly before the orange fighter screamed over her head, shaking the small modified invader from a powerful jet wash.  "Hey!" yelled Katt, looking after the orange winged Arwing.  "You trying to damage goods like me?"

 "Don't get in my way and I won't be forced to," retorted Kite McCane.  The two had been flying together for an hour now, looking for a the best point.  "A'right," said Kite, gripping his flight stick tightly.  "We're almost to the exercise Nav point.  Ready?"

 "I was ready my whole life, duck boy," taunted Katt.  "Just to be candid, I will be taking my time to powder my nose while I fly circles around you."

 The pink fighter named the Cat's Paw was just behind him, already in the best point to strike.  Kite knew she was going to try and take advantage of it when the engagement began, but he had other plans in mind.  It was time to show this self absorbed prissy queen that they were not called Shadow just because it sounded cool.

 Katt had challenged Kite to a space dual to see who was a better fighter, and he gladly took up her offer.  He respected Katt as a fighter pilot, but not as a person.  As far as humility went, she drastically.  But only when Falco was not involved.  Katt had been friendly towards him ever since she temporarily joined the SunHawk crew for reasons no one knew.  Kite noticed how that friendliness was one little hairline close to flirting, so he ignored it as best he could.  Now, that friendliness was turning to competitive feeling.

 "We're at the engagement point," announced Katt.  "After you tiger."  Katt looked out to acquire her target, but Kite's Arwing was not where it was.  She looked around, trying to spot the duck and his metal bird, but they were gone.  "Don't tell me you went into migration already," she teased.  "You're not hiding from little ole me, are you?"

 She heard a slight laughter through her transceiver.  "I can hide from you so easily," boasted Kite, "it's probably harder to remain in view.  Before we're done here, Lady Monroe, I pretty much guarantee that you'll be chillin' every time you here any synonym to the word Shadow."

 Katt smiled at his boast.  "I'm not getting any younger little boy, so come on out and play.  But don't hold your breath."  Her sensors bleeped loudly, and she looked behind.  Kite was right on her tail, in the most perfect firing position known.

 "Bang, your dead."

 "Not fair," said Katt.

 "It's not supposed to be fair.  And I haven't even started."

 Kite fired his booster and screeched right over Katt's jet for the second time today.  She hissed angrily and kicked in her own jets in pursuit.  No one put her in a jet wash twice in the same ten minutes and got away with it.  Katt sped up and got closer to the Arwing, fighting to get into position for a good shot.  Kite weaved and darted around, never staying in the same place twice.

 "C'mon, Katt," said Kite, sounding encouraging but really just mocking Katt.  "You can do it.  I'll give you a whole minute to acquire me, that is try.  Come on, give me your best shot."

 Katt knew she wouldn't need a minute.  She moved her fighter every way she could, trying to get in a lock.  She kept trying to understand the patterns to his movement, but she couldn't find it.  Katt tried something different, trusting to use her cat reflexes.  She pulled her nose away from Kite and the under him, coming in from the bottom.  The mallard saw this and gasped, not expecting it.  He pulled up on the stick for a tight loop, but it was too late.

 "Gotcha!" cheered Katt, seeing the red targeting cursor over his fighter.

 "Well done," complimented Kite, smiling wickedly.  "You had your shot, now take mine."  Kite pushed forward on his stick into a steep dive.  Again, he rushed straight past her, shaking the Cat's Paw for the third time.  At once, Katt did a U-turn to start a new chase, but found Kite was gone again.  "How 'bout a game of Hide'n Go Seek? " said Kite.  "Your it."

 Katt had no idea where to start looking.  He could be anywhere in the dark of space.  She looked to her sensors to see they have nothing to detect except simple space dust.  Katt shook her head angrily and looked around, trying to find him visually.  She turned her fighter, trying to get a point where she could both detect and see him.  He was no where around.

 "Seven o'clock low," said Kite to her.  Katt turned her fighter and sure enough spotted the Arwing where he said.

 "Wait a minute," said Kite angrily.  "How, how did you do that?  I was just pointed in that direction and...and I didn't see you."

 "As I said," commented Kite, igniting his jets.  "They don't call us Shadows for nothing.  Some other time?" he asked.

 "Sure," said Katt.  "You're pretty good tiger.  Can you dance too?"

 Kite almost laughed, not believing what he just heard.  "I thought you and Falco were dating."

 "We were until a few days ago," Katt said sadly.

 They must have separated.  That is a surprise considering how happy they looked on the bridge after the incident with the alien entity that caused major problems a few weeks ago.  Kite wondered if she was just planning to use him in making Falco jealous.  But, it was a tempting offer.  "Sorry, Ms. Monroe, but I have too many things to worry about before I can make room for a girl friend." he said.  "Maybe some other time."

 "Sure," said Katt, sounding a little disappointed.  "Why not."

 No matter if he rejects me, thought Katt.  I'll just move on to someone else.  The black wolf who fought and pounded Star Wolf a few months ago is on SunHawk, and he looks dreamy enough.  Katt smiled, determined to make someone green enough to get back for herself.

****

 Shadow Two and the Cat's Paw docked into the SunHawk launch bay soon after, and what it seemed minutes after they docked, Katt was free roaming the ship.  At first, she found her way into an on-ship bar which everyone called the Solar Rave.

 It looked small, puny in fact when compared to night clubs she has been to all around Lylat.  And it looked about as snazzy as a forest of dead trees.  Still, it was a little presentable.  Katt guessed that warriors, pilots, soldiers, and star ship crew members had too much time to have fun.

 Katt looked around the bar, trying to find someone in particular.  He wasn't here, so she left at once.

 She kept touring the ship, trying to find someone that she had no idea about, at all.  All Katt knew about him was a rough image and nothing more.  He was cute and strong, strong enough to make mince meat out of Star Wolf on his own, coming out without a single scratch.

 A lot of her wished that she wasn't even in this situation.  Falco dumped her a couple weeks ago.  Just when they seem to be the most serious, they break apart and go their separate ways.  Katt knew it was her fault more then anyone else's, even though she would never admit it.  She did get drunk despite Falco's requests not to, terribly drunk, and then made a public nightmare of the whole formerly good night.  Falco came out of it never feeling so humiliated, and all over this, something without meaning.

 The next morning, Falco broke off his relationship with Katt, told her he was sorry, and then went off with Star Fox, leaving Katt behind with a broken heart.  Having nowhere else to go, Katt joined the SunHawk crew for a short time, maybe hoping to find a new man, or make Falco jealous enough to come back to her.  However, the SunHawk crew saved her butt from that alien thing, so she felt she owed them something.  What better way then to just be there, thought Katt.

 She tried to get friendly with Kite, feeling closer to the Avian more then any, or just trying to be more effective in making Falco envious.  However, Kite was not interested in a relationship at the time, so she was stuck there.  Now, she was going for the black wolf, whoever he was.

 And suddenly, she found him.  Katt got into a turbolift elevator and almost ran straight into him, their noses almost touching.

 "Oh," she said, leaning backward under someone who dwarfed her.  Conner was just under an entire foot taller then Katt.  The pink and the black stuck out together instantly.  In truth, the only spot they looked alike was in the eyes, both a crystal clear blue. "Hello," she said, smiling.

 "Good day," said Conner.  He stepped around her and continued on down the hall.  Katt felt the soft fabrics of his overcoat and sash rub against her leg, and she shuddered joyfully.

 She fell back into the elevator wall, smiling at the dark wolf as he moved down the hall, looking almost like a god in her eyes.  Quickly, Katt moved through the door just before it closed and started to chase after him.  "Hey!  You!" she called out.

 Conner stopped and turned, looking at Katt without emotion.  "Yes, can I do something for you?" he asked.

 Katt was at a loss for words, not knowing what to say to him.  "I was just wondering, I've seen you on board here and there, and I never got a chance to talk."

 "Very well," said Conner with a smile.  "Talk then.  Talk about what though?"

 "I don't know.  The weather?"

 "The weather," repeated Conner, raising one eyebrow.  He shook his head, slightly amused by her.  Conner could already tell she was in the preliminary stages of flirting.  He decided to move away the first chance that he got, but to do so now would be...rude.  He had a plan though.  The use of fear to keep away pests was always an effective gimmick.  His eyes glowed a bright blue, which made Katt jump back.

 "All right," he said, sounding stern.  "The forecast last week was a cloud of burning embers, ready to rain fire down onto the fair Corneria City and cause substantial havoc.  There is your weather report.  I do not pay much more attention to it since we are in space.  Now, if you'll excuse me, madam, I have things to do."  Conner started to move off.

 She was almost without air, Katt was so taken by what just happened.  Conner's plan had worked in the exact opposite.  That presentation didn't scare her off, it simply attracted her more to him.  Katt chased after him again.

 "OK, maybe introductions would be better," she insisted.

 Conner sighed in annoyance and then looked at her.  She was pretty, no denying that.  But he could taste her vanity, and he would have rather sucked the inside out of a grub warm then feel feelings like that.  "Conner," he said.  "That's my name.  And you are Katt Monroe.  There, we have been properly introduced.  Now if you'll excuse me."

 He started to walk off again, but Katt jumped in front of him suddenly.  "You know, I did see that video with your confrontation with Star Wolf, and I..."

 "Oh, in the name of Tarreck, not another one," said Conner in frustration.  He shook his head, disgusted beyond words, and went on his way.

 Katt was left standing there, confused.  "What?  Was it something I said?" she asked, following him more.

 "Everyone I met so far who has seen me in that video has done nothing but try and congratulate me on doing what I did to those three poor blokes.  I did what I had to do to survive and that's all, and I hold no pride for it!"  Katt stepped away from his angry voice.  "Now, if you please, I insist that you leave me alone."

 "Who said anything about congratulating," said Katt.  Conner stopped and slowly turned around to her, surprised by her words.  "I wanted to compliment you on your moves and such.  You really know how to fight."

 Conner was a little stunned, not knowing how to take this.  There was no shame in knowing how to fight.  Most all of his people knew that sort of thing in many different forms.  However, no one in his society has ever complimented one another on their level of fighting skills.  It was not looked on as important part of the ego.  So, he really didn't know how to take this.

 He shrugged his shoulders and said, "thank you."  Katt smiled at him which he didn't return.  He turned and continued on his way down the hall.  He was moving slowly, which pleased Katt.  She waited there until he was around a corner and then followed, remaining silent as she moved.  Something which, being a cat, she excelled at.

 Katt moved up to the corner and peaked around, looking to see where he was going.  She was surprised when he was no where to be seen.  Katt didn't understand.  The hallway here was very long and there were not that many doors, almost none at this end.  The only door here was locked as Katt saw.  She sighed greatly, disappointed that prey so grand had escaped.  Nonetheless, she would find him, and she knew how.

 As Katt left this area, she couldn't help but wonder how he was able to disappear like that.  Not even former members of Corneria's old Specter Program could pull off a vanishing act like that, and they were trained to be practical ghosts.  She got in the elevator and asked for deck two, which was where the main security office was located.

****

 Captain Dallas was already throwing on a bath robe when a chime sounded from her doorway.  She tied the robe's belt, tossed a wet towel into a clothes basket, went out to the front of her quarters, and welcomed the person outside in.  She was somewhat surprised when General Pepper walked in.

 "General?" said Dallas.  "I'm sorry, I wasn't told that you had come aboard."

 "No, no, that's quiet all right," said Pepper as Dallas was backing into her bedroom to dress.  "It was I who asked that you do not know about me coming aboard.  I'm here on business, and I don't think it can wait.  I think something very large and drastic is happening."

 Dallas made no movements at what he said.  "OK," she finally said.  "Have a seat while I get some coffee and then we'll talk.  Good enough?  Or would you prefer tea or something else?"

 "Coffee?  No, no thank you, Captain, I don't think that coffee or anything would be adequate at this moment."

 "Suit yourself," said Dallas, going into the small kitchen area.

 "First off," continued Pepper, "I understand that Katherine Monroe is currently on board, and is staying here for a short time.  Am I correct on this?"

 Dallas came back with herself some tea.  "That's right.  I have no idea the reason why she decided to remain on board after that...incident last weak.  But she has been well behaved over the past weak.  All our repairs are done and we are ready to be off.  All we need is a mission package to act on."

 "And now you have it, being delivered in person by me," said Pepper.  "As far as Katt's presence here, it will complicate matters some but I think that can be remedied by keeping her in the dark on this situation until we see fit to let her know."

 Dallas replied in no way towards the compliment.  "So, what's the new mission, and how does it involve Ms. Monroe?"

 "I'm not at liberty to discuss Katt's involvement in this.  Have you ever been to the Proxima Delta Ver colony?"

 Dallas's ears perked up when she heard this.  "No, but I heard it a diamond in the rough, so to speak.  A paradise area to live in the middle of a dead moon.  Their crime rate is currently zero, no poverty there, everyone who is eligible has a job, everyone there is kind to everyone, and it is said to be one of the cleanest spots in all of Lylat.  Their military setup is an elite group of green fighter pilots to protect the station along with one company of marines in case of invasion.  Did I miss anything.  Oh yes, it is currently in the top ten of the most safest places in all of Lylat since it also has very small strategically value in the system."

 "That about covers it," said Pepper.  "There are currently seventy thousand people living in that colony, of which about ninety-seven percent is civilian population.  A lot of it is innocent women and children.  Almost all of those colony people is in family orientation.  There is no poverty there, as you so stated earlier.  All of this is going make it difficult to go on."   He sighed heavily, obviously a little disturbed about something.

 "What's going on, General?" asked Dallas sternly.  "Is something happening on PDV?"

 Pepper nodded to her slightly.  He rubbed his eyes a little before he started to talk.  "Approximately seventeen hours ago, we received a communiqué from Proxima Delta Ver, saying that a slight epidemic has broken out on the station.  There were only a few cases and they were raced into isolation within a few minutes of their discovery.  The colony administrators reported that the epidemic was a light case and they could handle it on their own.

 "Five hours later, we sent a message to PDV, asking for an update on the cases of the epidemic.  As of yet, we have received no reply.  At first, we thought it might be a faulty transmission, or that something was broken at the colony.  But we sent a second one another five hours after, and still have seen no word from the colony."

 Dallas looked puzzled, as Pepper anticipated.  "I was thinking that a transmitter could be repaired in five hours, much less then seven.  Are you suspecting a major outbreak here, General?"

 "I am," he said, with a little reluctance.

 Dallas gritted her teeth.  An epidemical outbreak on Proxima Delta Ver, such a shocking notion.  And just as it was shocking, it was also a horrible thought.  How sever was it?  If it is a fatal exposure, then...  Dallas refused to think about that.

 "We do have a medical team on board who are qualified for this sort of thing, I'm sure you know that.  You want us to go and check the colony out, don't you sir?"

 Pepper nodded.  "Even if they were here and not poised to attack the Venomian weapons depot on MacBeth, I know that this is something that Star Fox is seriously unqualified for.  You are the best bet for this situation.  You're the closest to Carmina, and you have the necessary expertise for something like this.  I just hope that I'm wrong about our fears.  I am thinking that they may be correct though.  The colony also reported that someone murdered a moon rover driver and stole his vehicle, leaving in a big hurry.  This may suggest they knew about the outbreak and got out while they still could, not bothering to tell any body.  This suggests that there is, or might be an infection there, but I still hope we're wrong."

 "Yes, General" said Dallas quietly.  "So do I."

****

 "May I inquire as to why you want to know?" asked Maurine, looking over three different computer screens at once.  He turned around and looked at Katt seriously, seeing her innocent smile, like a child playing innocent and sweet while asking for a piece of candy.

 Katt shrugged her shoulders.  "No particular reason.  I mean, maybe I would just like to meet him."

 "You already met him," snapped Maurine.  "Now you just wanna hit on him."

 "How do you know that?" she demanded.

 "I wouldn't be a proper telepath if I didn't know.  You're projecting feelings for him so large its like looking at an already opened book with big, bold, and brightly lit up letters.  It's kinda hard to not look and see.  That puzzles me though.  I thought you and Falco Lombardi were together."

 "We were," said Katt.  "But we split up.  I was thinking that maybe, since we were separated now, that it's time to move on and find new people."  Katt couldn't believe what she was saying.  She was still head over heals in love with Falco, and was determined to win him back someday.  Yet, she was here, inquiring about another man.  A handsome and dashing other man.  Maybe he could be considered a fill in for Falco until they were back together again.

 Katt looked at him again like an innocent child, batting her eyebrows at him.  "Please."

 Maurine sighed, a worried look on his face.  "I'm sorry, but I can't disclose that information to you without Captain Dallas's permission.  Now if you'll excuse me, the natives are starting to get restless."  Maurine left, and Katt stood in his office, watching the security screens.

 She sat at the chair and started to fiddle with the keyboards.  If he wouldn't give the information to her, then she would just find it herself.  Keeping her tracks covered and her fingers crossed, Katt started to search the ship by computer herself.

****

 Captain Dallas, fully dressed in uniform, entered the bridge with General Pepper behind her.

 "Send message to the repair platform," ordered Dallas.  "Tell them thanks for the repairs, excellent job, we'll be on our way now.  When that's done, send the signal to begin separation sequence."

 "Aye, aye, skipper."

 Within minutes, the docking ring connected to SunHawk's boarding hatch disconnected, and the massive ship floated away from the station for a small distance.  A glass like dome covered the hatch.

 "Maneuvering thrusters only, take us five hundred meters away from the platform and then engage normal engines."

 Small thrusters on the SunHawk pushed it away from the platform slowly.  The whole ship dropped out from underneath it, going into a lower orbit then the station.  On the bridge, the navigator watched a graphical readout on distance, a model image of the platform grow smaller on screen.  He waited until the range read five hundred meters and then reported it.

 "This is where I get off," said Pepper, smiling at Dallas.

 "Thanks, General.  I hope that what we find there is not what we fear it to be."  Even though I know it is, thought Dallas to herself.

 "Good luck, Captain.  Signing off."  Pepper disappeared before their eyes, showing to be nothing more then a holographic presentation of himself back on Corneria.

 Dallas smiled as she sat at her chair.  That smile vanished and went to a concerned looking frown.  "Set your course for Carmina, maximum velocity."

 The course was set, and the main engines ignited brightly, pushing the ship towards its destination.

 "We currently have a mission on our hands, ladies and gentleman.  But I cannot disclose the nature of this mission until we are within orbit of the Fortuna moon, and not before.  Until then, just remained focused.  I also want everyone fully rested before we arrive there.  ETA to current destination."

 "Estimated Time of Arrival to Carmina is thirty nine hours, present speed."

 Dallas leaned back in her chair and waited here.  She was hoping not, but was going to be prepared if they were in fact headed for the center of the devil's footprint, which, sadly, she knew was where they were headed.
 
 
 

Chapter III
Basic Fears

"My heart still belongs to Falco, but I am not an obsessive woman.  I can put old memories behind me if I want to.  . . .I can move on...  This is not self denial!"
-Katherine "Katt" Monroe-
 

"An outbreak?" said Q'Ronnie, narrowing his eyes.  "What kind?"

 "We have no idea," said Dallas.  "We know that some of the residents at Proxima Delta Ver were infected, only a few, and then no word after that.  I am hoping that something else did go wrong at the colony, such as a prolonged power failure.  However, I am going to be prepared for the worst."

 "That is wise, Captain.  I'll have my medical team prepare for a possible infectious environment.  I only wished we had more information.  If it is an outbreak, I would have like to have know its nature.  Viral, bacterial, germs, parasitic, or something else."

 "Doctor, I think you just better prepare for all of the above.  We have seventeen hours until we get to Carmina.  I want your people rested and ready for work in the danger zone two hours in advance.  Got it?"

 "Yes sir," said Q'Ronnie.  "Anything else."

 "Yes, there is.  You will have military escorts, just in case there is something down there entirely different then what we fear.  I don't suppose you have isolation suits built for combat training in stock."

 "I don't, but the ship itself does.  I had them checked over and inspected when I first came on board."

 "Thank you doctor.  You're dismissed."  Q'Ronnie got to his feet and turned to leave.  "One more thing, doc," she said quickly.  "Say nothing of the infection on the colony, not even to your own people.  No one knows about this until we get to the moon.  Just have them ready for a bio-hazardous situation."

 Q'Ronnie nodded to her and left, Dallas herself sat in the chair, contemplating all of this.  If this was a biological outbreak, and it was a fatal level.  Then it had to work lightning fast to effect the colony so much that they couldn't respond to communication from Corneria after five hours.  She was worried, now more then ever.

****

 Fourteen hours later.

 The room was lit only by a single candle, sitting in the center of a table.  Conner's own
little technique to clear one's mind.  Look at a candle and think of things that bring you joy.  There were a lot of things that were racing through his mind at the time, and he felt that most of them were beginning to cloud his better judgment.  This did work a little, but maybe later he would try meditation.

 Tired of this, he reached out put the candle out, and dark seized the room.  Conner sat there, on his bed, and entered a state of meditation while in the dark.  He was starting to dream while in the altered state, many different visions, a lot of which were making no sense, and he did see Captain Dallas's face in them more times then one.  Conner broke out of the meditation and had the lights turned on.  There he sat for here on, trying to think and get all in his mind over with.

 Conner's thoughts were interrupted when a chime sounded in his door.  He narrowed his glowing eyes, wondering who it was.  Not many people knew where his new quarters were, ever since his old ones were ransacked a few months ago.  Captain Dallas had them moved to hide the truth of Pandora Freelancer's presence.  Now, they were at a more secret location.  The door chimed again, and a third time soon after.  Whoever was out there, they were impatient.

 He got to his feet and moved to the door and unlocked it.  At once, the door swung open.  "You know, it's not polite to keep a lady waiting," said Katt, rushing into the room.  Conner was taken off guard by such quick, and more or less rude actions.  He watched as Katt place a bag she was carrying on his table.  The aroma of food came to his powerful sense of smell.

 "I was thinking," said Katt, taking his dragon statue off the nightstand and replacing it with a potted plant, "that maybe we should try and get to know each other a little better."  Conner noticed that she was dressed in a light silk evening dress, and she looked stunningly sexy in it.

 Oh no, thought Conner, not this.  "Listen, Ms. Monroe, I..."

 "Katt," she corrected.  "Call me Katt.  I hope you like synthetic fish, it was all that I could find on board.  This ship really is set for war.  At least Great Fox has storage of semi-fresh foods on board."

 Conner sighed.  It was obvious that he was not going to make her leave.  Yes, she was attractive and lovely, but how do you tell someone that you're not interested in them because they're too self absorbed when they also have feelings for you, and not hurt their feelings.  Sadly, Conner knew there was no way to do that, even if he did leave the true reasons out.  He decided to have dinner with her, just this once.

 "Well...Katt.  I think that synthetic fish will be fine enough."  She smiled as the black wolf started to help set the table.

****

 Dallas was in the halls when Kesh walked up to her.  In better judgment, she also briefed Kesh earlier on the current situation with PDV colony.

 "Captain?" she called out, getting Dallas's attention.  "Let us talk in private."

 The two of them entered a turbo lift and shut it down halfway through.  Dallas ordered all the computers to terminate listening devices in the lift for a short time.

 "I am sure you have thought about the time involved in this.  If this is a virus or bacterial infestation or something like that, then imagine how fast it must move."

 Dallas nodded.  "Yes I thought about that."

 "I have also thought about something.  According to General Pepper, who got this information from a report submitted by the colony administrators, one man, a silver fox, was found murdered in the lunar rover bay and his vehicle stolen.  This was a simple half hour before the initial infection occurred.  I was thinking, what if this infection was a deliberate setup."

 Dallas opened her mouth, now seeing this.  "A biological weapon?"

 "Perhaps.  Whoever killed that rover driver was in a hurry to get out of the colony before something happened, otherwise they would not have left behind tracks like killing an unarmed man.  Before they left, they did not bother to inform any one else in the colony of their possible suspicions.  I find it too suspicious that two men were able to get out of an outpost just before a possibly dangerous organism was released or contracted into the colony, and then not warn anyone.

 "One more thing.  I just found out that a listening post on Fortuna picked up transmissions who's origin was located in the area around Carmina.  The transmissions were of Venomian patterns, possible fighter squadron of unknown type."

 "Those are interesting facts," said Dallas.  "No fighters themselves were detected though."

 "No sir."

 "All right.  Still, keep a lid on this.  We'll let all the facts loose once we reach Carmina.  All of them except what we have discussed here."  She had the turbo lift continue, and all the listening devices were reengaged as well.  The elevator stopped and the two went on their own.

****

 Katt took the last sip of her synthahol wine and set the glass down.  She looked across at Conner, who sat there running his claw around the ring of his own glass.  "So, you live on Zoness," he said.

 "Yeah," said Katt.

 "I saw video on what Andross did to that planet, and what it looked like before.  Terrible shame, and a more terrible waste."

 Katt nodded.  "Yep.  It'll take probably seven whole generations at the very least for nature itself to start cleaning up that mess after Andross trashed it all.  Yes, it is a pity.  I used to love walking down the beaches of Zoness, during the sunsets.  Now, you can't walk down it and not get sick and vomit from the stench in the seas.  You can't find a dead sea dragon beached after its prolonged poisoning.  Cornerian scientists project that if the animals don't adapt to that environment, all of them will be extinct within the next fifteen years or so."

 Conner could see that Katt was a little distressed about talking about this.  To bring death to a person's home would leave scars on the heart, especially if that home is an entire world.  "Well, I live on Zoness for the most part, resisting all of the Venom forces that come in there.  I came to Corneria for a job, which lead me to the alien which took me, and to check up on my mom.  She gets lonely sometimes, so I pay her a visit every now and then."

 Katt Monroe, you are an awesome liar, she thought to herself.  You're living with your mother now, and have to tell her when you are going out to fly solo.  Don't tell him that, you won't survive the embarrassment.

 "I'm glad to here that," said Conner.

 Katt smiled.  "What about your family?" she asked.

 "Well, I never had a large family.  Both of my parents are dead and have been ever since I was a cub.  Their parents died before I was born.  I have no aunts or uncles of any kind.  I do have a brother, who is somewhere, I don't where.  We don't talk much anymore.  Ever since his wife went insane after their daughter was killed, he hasn't talked much.  That is a shame since we always talked when we grew up with foster parents so long ago."

 "Do you think he's even still alive?" asked Katt.

 "Oh, I know he's alive.  Strong family ties you know.  I just lost track of him.  His wife is...around, somewhere."  Yes, thought Conner.  Pandora, you are around.  And I will have to leave this ship sometime sooner or later to find you before you bring any more grief to these people.  Conner could just see those two colored eyes in that beautiful but monstrous creature.  Still, he had an obligation to keep her presence here a secret.

 "What is this?" asked Katt.  She reached out and took something off a nearby table.  Conner saw her pick up his sword.  Before he could move, she touched the trigger.

 Katt jumped in her seat as the blue energy blade shot out before her and sliced right through her dinner plate.  She lifted the sword up and looked at the melted line through the plate.  "It sliced through it then fused it back together?" she said with surprise.  "This thing must be hot."  She reached up and touched the blade, and felt a solid surface.  She saw the blade ripple like water as she touched it.

 "Wow."

 Conner breath with relief when she touched it.  "It's called a psionic thunderblade," he explained.  "It's what I use in battle.  Much more effective and elegant then phasers and missiles and such."

 "You said psionic," repeated Katt, the light of the sword glowing into her eyes brightly.  She heard the slight musical tone it created.  "I'm not telepathic though.  Why is it working for me?"

 "You don't have to be a telepath to be able to activate it.  It provides its own psi energy.  But you do need special training to be able to use it."  Carefully, Katt handed the blade to him, and he retracted it into the hilt at once.  "The best thing about it, is that I can set it so it doesn't harm organic flesh, and only inorganic material, such as a phaser pistol of sort.  That way, I disarm the attacker without harming him or her.  Very effective way of fighting."

 Conner got up and took the blade towards his night table.  "What is that?" asked Katt.

 "What?"

 "That," she said, pointing to the obelisk on the wall.

 "Decoration, nothing more," he lied.

 "That's beautiful," he heard her say.  He also heard her get up, the dress she was wearing drag slightly along the carpet.  "You don't have the same values as normal people, do you?"  You have no idea, thought Conner as he set the blade into a drawer.  "I mean, all of these belongings you have are alien to what other people are accustomed to.  And that sword of yours.  I never seen technology like that.  I don't suppose I ever will...either."

 Conner turned in time to see Katt's even dress drop to the floor, which made him gulp nervously, her standing their, the pink fur of her back to him.  He had a feeling this was going to happen, and that's what scared him the most.  The small but beautiful feline turned around and started to walk towards him.

 "But then again, who needs technology, when you have love."

 The wolf could not help but look over her sharp figure, but was finding himself backing away from her.  Conner backed up until he struck the wall, and Katt saw how nervous he was.  "You've never been with a woman, have you?  I can tell."

 She reached him, and Conner tried to back through the wall, but found himself not going anywhere.  He then closed his eyes out of decency to not look at an unclothed woman.

 Katt smiled.  Perfect.  No, purrfect, she thought, giggling.  "Don't worry.  When we're done, you'll smile."  She reached up and took his shoulders, and wrapped her slender arms around his neck.  Katt pulled herself up and kissed him on the mouth, which surprised Conner greatly.  His first urge was to push her away at once, but the soothing and pleasurable feeling of her lips kept him from doing so.  She purred as the kiss went on.  He was too dumbfounded by this that he could only just stand there and let her kiss him, plusÖit felt great.

 He was just about to submit and wrap his own arms around her, but the door opened beside them, and Captain Dallas walked in.  Both Conner and Katt nearly jumped out of their skins when this happened, but she still kept her arms around him.

 "Conner I...Oh," she said, looking on as Katt, no clothes, had her arms around him.  Conner felt his heart rip in two and fall down to each foot at that moment.  "Sorry," said Dallas, backing back out the door.  "Bad timing.  Excuse me."  The last look she gave was to Conner, almost congratulating him since he told her that he had never been with a woman before.

 Katt, still shocked at what happened, let go of him and stepped away.  "Sorry," she said.  "I...I made advances I shouldn't have.  I'm sorry."  Conner could see how embarrassed she was.  It was something else entirely he was feeling though.  One of them was pity for the poor Katt.

 "No, I'm sorry.  She probably had something to say.  I..."

 A loud alarm sounded from the hall, and Conner recognized it as a red alert alarm.  "Attention all hands, we are minutes away from entering orbit around the moon Carmina," announced Commander Grant over a PA.  "All senior officers are to report to ward room for meeting.  Katherine Monroe is ordered to attend."

 "Carmina?" said Katt, surprised.  "What are we doing here?"  She went over and grabbed her dress and slipped it over her head.  She knew that the only thing on this moon was the colony of Proxima Delta Ver, which frightened her that they were here.  Before she left, Katt stopped beside Conner, kissed two of her fingers, and then touched his lips with them.  "Some other time, perhaps," she said lovingly.

 Conner nodded slightly, holding his breath.  She walked out, and he exhaled.  "Thank you," he said.  He knew he wasn't ready for a sex encounter like that.  "Saved by the bell," he breathed with relief.  He sat down on the bed, getting a breath before he went to this meeting, if he went at all.  After a few minutes, he grabbed his coat and went out, hoping that she got interested in someone else before something like that happened again.
 
 
 

Chapter IV
Into the Mouth of Hell

"Big Ape, small ape, two by two!  We're going to knock the living $%&# out of you!"
-Marching song verse of the Death's Head Rover Company -  CSS SunHawk-
 

 The bright orange fire from the thrusters pushed the SunHawk into the orbit of Carmina.  The warship flew into the orbital patterns over the small, chunky looking gray space rock, plagued with craters all over its surface.

 Carmina was an asteroid moon, about fifteen hundred kilometers in total diameter.  It did rotate, creating some gravity, a larger fraction of a normal planet.  The SunHawk started its orbit around the deadened space pebble, casting itself into a shadow every time it entered the moon's darkside.

 The huge engines cut out, creating a screeching whine as they did.  The ship let it's own velocity carry it around the small moon's orbit.  They would remain in the moon's darkness until the Fortuna, the sun or Solar's light reflecting off its white snowing surface, lit them up in a few hours.

****

 Katt walked into action on the bridge, all of their normal lights were cut out, and the whole bridge was in the dark.  Katt saw the light line stretching through the view screen, the sun lit horizon of an asteroid, or a moon in this case.  The only light from the entire bridge was just the many computer screens.

 "Proxima Delta Ver, this is the Cornerian war cruiser SunHawk broadcasting on emergency channel.  Respond please," said the communications officer.  Captain Dallas and Commander Grant were standing by him, looking on for results.  Dallas looked up at Katt, who looked down in embarrassment in response.  Dallas smiled and shook her head, going back to listening.  The communicator tried the transmission again, this time again with no luck.

 After she regained some courage, Katt walked up to them.  "What's going on?" she asked.

 "Well, for starters, we picked up the signs of a Venomian assault carrier in the area, but it's gone now.  That's why we're at silent running now.  Secondly, something may have happened on the colony.  We're trying to get a line to them but no one's answering."  This worried Dallas about the situation even more.  Short range transmitters were plentiful on a colony like this, so they should be responding.  "Come with me," said Dallas, nudging Katt as she went.

 The two of them, Grant close behind, exited the room and entered the nearby conference room together.  Everyone was present there, all of the senior staff.  Dallas wasn't surprised, well maybe a little, to see that Conner was not there.  He usually was here during red alert missions since he was a member of this crew.  Her wonders were over when he entered the room quickly and sat at a chair, not even looking at Katt.

 "Everyone take a seat and get comfortable, this might take a while.  Or we might be out in two minutes, I don't know."

 "What's going on at PDR?" asked Katt coolly from her seat.  Dallas saw that she was a little emotional right.

 "We'll get to that when we get to it."

 "What is going on?" she demanded, now harshly.

 Dallas stared at her like an ice shot gun, and Katt shrank back in her chair, silencing at once.  Dallas nodded, understanding somewhat why Katt was so jumpy about this.  "There has been a possible outbreak of a biological epidemic on Proxima Delta Ver," said Dallas.

 "What?"  exploded Katt, jumping to her feet.  "Why wasn't I told this?  Why?"

 "Sit down, Katt.  Calm down, there may be nothing wrong with the colony.  That's why we are here, to find out.  If it is an outbreak, then we'll investigate it.  Dr. Q'Ronnie and his medical team, along with three members of the DHR company as escorts will be going down, protective gear all around, and find out what happened down there.  If nothing did happen, then we'll be on our way."

 "Is there any word on the nature of this infectious organism, if it is an outbreak?" asked one of the three soldiers who was present, a large burly rot weiler.

 Dallas smiled at the soldier, who was a sergeant named Jeremiah Hakon, and the master sergeant of the Death's Head Rover company.  "If we knew what kind it was," said Dallas coldly, not liking the interruption very much.  "Then I think we would know whether it is a fatal epidemic or not.  We don't know spit."

 "So what your saying," continued Hakon, biting one of his claws, "is that we're going in blind to a biologically hazardous situation.  I have to be candid with you Cap'n, I don't like situations like that.  I prefer an enemy I can see, and that I can fight with a gun or a blade in m'hands."

 "This enemy won't be able to touch you," said Q'Ronnie.  "Not as long as you keep inside your suit.  Just be careful and don't tear it while down there."

 "Oh, no, no," said Hakon nervously.  People around the tables exchanged grins at the hardened soldier's concern about this.

 "Just keep your heads up sergeant." said Dallas.  "This may not be an outbreak of the plague, or maybe not even the cholera, measles, mumps, flu bug, or even the common cold.  It might actually be something that you can shoot."  Hakon nodded as he bit off the end of his claw and spat it towards the corner.  "Don't do that please," said Dallas.  He replied by putting his hands out in front of him, and Dallas knew he would start again in less then minute.

 "Your mission is to scan the first level, secure it, and determine if it is safe for one or both of two things.  One, if there is an invading life form in the colony at all, and two, if any bug in the area is no longer airborne and we can enter the colony without suits.  If both of these things are accounted for, then we'll enter the colony and figure out what happened.  This is only if the colonists are still going strong and there is nothing to do, in which case we'll just leave and report it as a false alarm.

 "I do hope that is what we find.  However, part of me doubts it."  She saw Katt stir with discomfort as she said this.  Dallas wondered what she was so worried about.  Pepper said she would be, but she had no idea why.  "Let's just be prepared in case my doubts are in fact justified.  Be careful down there.  Dismissed."

 "Captain, if you don't mind, I would like to join the team and go down to the planet with them," said Katt.  "That is a formal request."

 "Thank you, Ms. Monroe, but your formal request is denied."  One of the other soldiers laughed to himself about this.  "You find something funny about this, soldier?" asked Dallas with ice.

 The ground pounder, a corporal cheetah with a born to be wild tattoo on his arm, a true colored jarhead head to toe, looked up at her.  It was obvious he was surprised that he was discovered since she wasn't looking at him.  "No ma'am," he insured.

 "Thank you.  Anything else?"  No one made a motion.  "Then let's get started."  People got to their feet and started to leave.  Dallas sat at the end table, rubbed her eyes, and then looked up after the room fell silent.  She saw Katt, sitting in a chair, looking like she was losing something.  "Are you all right, Ms. Monroe?" she asked.

 "Why won't you let me go down there?" she asked coolly.

 "There are a lot of reasons," said Dallas.  "Reason number one, you aren't qualified to be down there.  The med team is seeing if there is a bug and if there is, to determine its nature and kind.  The soldiers are there to back them up in case of other nasty creepy crawlies and what not.  Reason number two, the ride's already filled up.  And finally, reason number three, I, as long as you remain on this ship, I am responsible for your safety.  I can't make sure you're alive while you stand in the way down there.  You getting all of this?" she asked.

 Katt nodded, but with only small movements.  It was very self proclaiming that there was something about this that had her name written all over it.  "You have family in the colony?" asked Dallas.

 "I have a cousin, and that's all."

 Know I know why, thought Dallas.  She leaned back in her chair and sat up, going to administer this mission from the bridge.  Before she left, she turned back to Katt.  "So, how was it?" she asked.

 "What?"

 "The kiss you had with Conner.  Between us two women, how was it.  On a scale from one to ten, ten being the highest and one being the lowest, how would you rate his ability to please a woman?"

 Katt smiled, letting the humor cheer the moment up for this one little moment.  "If he wasn't so damned nervous, it would have made twelve point five easy.  Right now, I would have to give it a nine and three quarters.  The minus on the two point five for lack of experience.  He is a definite lady killer though."

 Yes, thought Dallas.  You have proven that point.  I think you have anyway, since you could take men out of a tree and make him your boyfriend easily.  That's probably why she sounded so expertise in the field when Dallas inquired about this.  Dallas walked over and patted Katt on the shoulders.  "C'mon," she said.  "Let's go try to find your cousin."

 Katt smiled and the two left together for the bridge.

****

 A clamp ringed out loudly as it was released, and a Serious X-V model dropship shuttle was thrown out of the launch bay.  At once, it turned down towards the moon and started to vector into the colonies beacon.

 At it's cockpit was Vigdis the cat, keeping a constant and expert control over the shuttle.  She banked hard and came to the heading of the beacon.  "We're in the pipe, one eight seven.  ETA to colony perimeter is seven minutes."

 "Good," said Hakon, sitting in the co-pilot's seat with all bio-protective combat suit on, only the helmet was still off for easy communication.  "We'll drop just next to the emergency bunker, that's where we'll enter.  After that, get out and set down just outside the perimeter.  Don't come back until we are visually back out of the colony.  No need to put you in the water little lady."

 Vigdis smiled.  She was a fighter pilot, a fly boy, girl.  But after that incident before the fight at Dark Star, she got out of it and entered the dropship and shuttle division.  Maybe she would enter the fighter business again some other time.  If she did, she wouldn't be going into Flare squadron again.  After Flare leader was released to the military authorities for his actions concerning Vigdis herself, he was court marshaled and dishonorably discharged soon after.  Flare Squad was disbanded, the pilots sent to different companies.  Before they were disbanded, the pilots made Vigdis's life a living hell for getting the commander into hot water.  She got out after the first case of sexual harassment, never to look back, and she never told.  Her life after that up to this moment remained uneventful.

 "There's the drop point.  Setting the landing procedure."

 "Good girl," said Hakon.  He slipped his helmet on and sealed it, getting oxygen from a back tank.  "Don't go anywhere, we'll be back in about twenty minutes."

 "Copy that, good luck in there."  The soldier gave her a thumbs up and went to the back.  "I should have been a ground pounder," she said, keeping the cabin as warm as she could, even though she was freezing.

 "A'right you weanie warts," barked Hakon, lifting a large phaser cannon out of a holding rack.  "We have a half twenty minutes to waste in that colony, so let's get moving.  We're going to be back in this ship in twenty three minutes maximum no matter what we find.  Come on, you lazy wanker!"  Hakon slapped one of the two green clad marines in the back of the head, compelling them to hurry up.  "My old grandma can move faster then you."

 He let the med team, four members, all clad in white protection suits, go first.  Dr. Q'Ronnie was the last of those four to disembark, and then finally Hakon.  They all joined outside the ship, not one shred of atmosphere here on the moon's outside.  To think it would since it did have a rotation, but not so.  Like it looked, it was just a giant rock.

 "OK, ladies," said Hakon.  "Let's make tracks."

 The bunker was less then a meter in height off the lunar sands.  The door into it was partially buried by it, so they had to waste a minute or two in uncovering it.  Using a flashlight and the flood lamps from the drop ship to move in the blackness, Hakon stepped down to the door and input the keypad combination into the lock.  There was no response to it.

 "Door's power's gone," he said, backing away from it.  "Take it down."

 A soldier pulled a small hand held welding torch from a belt pouch and went to the door.  He applied the flame to the locking mechanism and watched on as it slowly melted away.  Hakon and Q'Ronnie looked to a lightly illuminated horizon.  Fortuna would be lighting them up in a few minutes.

 "Get a move on.  I want in before the planet puts a spotlight on our heads."

 "Got it."  The welder backed away and the other soldier came in with a crowbar.  He jammed it into the door seam and yanked hard, the door creaking open with resistance.  They forced all the way open, and the soldier backed away.  His teammate rose his weapon, a high energy compression phaser cannon, firing short controlled bursts.  The laser sighting found its way into the darkness of the seemingly abandoned bunker.

 The soldier moved in slowly, the cannon level with every step, and the laser sighting sweeping the darkness to secure the whole room.  The soldier had a night vision lens in use to navigate through the dark.  Behind him came Hakon, with the same class of phaser cannon, only his had an extra barrel to play with.

 "You'd thing they'd have this bunker manned and ready when there was a Venomian carrier in orbit.  There's not even a sign that someone was in ever here."  Q'Ronnie walked in behind Hakon, followed by the other three medical workers.  All the doctor could hear was his own breathing through the air helmet, and the breath sounds of everyone else.  He looked around the room, seeing the place as clean as a whistle and no one to be found.  Q'Ronnie gritted his teeth, not liking the absence of a welcoming committee.

 A soldier found a tube door and opened it.  The tube slid open, opening up a ladder shaft going down only, to the first level of the colony.  He pointed the weapon downward in case anything was there, but there was just faint light coming.

 "This shaft leads into a small escape room, and then goes into one of the two barrack units in the colony.  One for pilots, the other's for grunts.  This one goes into the ground unit living area."

 "I'll go down first and secure the room, then we all go into the barracks together," ordered Hakon.  He went to the ladder and started to climb down, all of his gear just barely fitting down the tube.  Behind him came the other soldier.

 All seven of them were down now, and looking into the lights coming through the pressure door to the barracks area.  The final man through, the cheetah soldier named Pester, sealed the hatch back up and pressurized the room.

 "Helmet and air units stay on," declared Q'Ronnie.  "Anyone who takes of is going to get left here."

 "He knows what he's talking about," said Hakon.  "And he's right.  Keep your hats on.  Can you see anything?"

 One of the soldiers, a falcon called Rave, was trying to look through the pressure glass into the barracks.  "Nothing," he said.  "Zip.  I guess they didn't want to make it completely transparent."

 "Any power to the door?"

 "Affirmative.  But barely."

 Hakon nodded to Rave, who started with his computer pad to the door lock to break its security code.

 "Excuse me," said Dallas through communication.  "But we are failing to pick up video feed from your spying eye."  Hakon looked at the small camera on Pester's helmet and walked to him.  He delivered a hard slap to the helmet.  A light on the camera started to blink red.  "There it is," replied Dallas.  Pester looked at Hakon and nodded, taking the slap like a general head rush to get him warmed up.

 "Sergeant, did anyone ever tell you how ugly you looked," joked Dallas over the link.

 "Yeah," returned Hakon with a slight grin.  "My mum, every time I came home when I was a small one.  I guess it came from my old man's side of the family."

 Rave poked a few buttons on the keypad and finally, the code was broken.  "Door's unlocked.  We can go in."  Hakon and Pester moved into position, their phaser weapons ready and locked, ready to shoot the second something popped out of that door.

 "Open it."

 The door slid open, and they all rose their weapons.  Their only response was a dead wolf, leaning on the door, fell backward.

 "Holy God," breathed Hakon.

 The entire barracks area was filled with bodies, all of them dead.  All of the soldiers, just as they were.  They all backed off from the body which was now at their feet.  The body was ravaged, destroyed completely on the inside, which was easily told just by looking at him.  He was sweat covered and clammy, the eyes were lifeless, cold, crystalline marbles, looking off into the nothing.  His mouth was slightly parted, as if he died while chatting with someone, death coming so quickly and so suddenly.  Dried blood came from his nose, mouth, and one of his ears.

 Q'Ronnie knelt down to the dead wolf and waved a placed a medium sized disk object on his abdomen.  At once, data started to come in, and the doctor sighed at reading it.  He touched the arm with the suit's glove, and he felt the bone break after slightly squeezing it.  The skin was also bruising from the imprints.

 "Are you seeing this?" he asked, looking to the camera on Pester's helmet.  "Ever major organ in his body his been virtually obliterated.  The heart, lungs, stomach, liver, spleen, kidneys.  All liquefied.  The bones are like ash, they're so fragile.  And the skin is very, very soft.  A child could punch a hole in it with a light jab."

 Rave knelt down and opened the wolf's mouth, being careful with the teeth, and peered inside.  "Holy crap," he said.  "He swallowed his own tongue.  I can't even see it.  I can't see the tonsils either."

 "Don't touch it," said Hakon, pulling his soldier away.  A few of the body's teeth, one of the major fangs included, broke off as he pulled away.  "All the angels in heaven," he whispered, breathing nervously.  Their eyes went into the barracks, were there were maybe a hundred, more or less, dead bodies just like this one.

 They all walked in, the bodies over the floor and everywhere else was the only place their eyes went.  A monkey soldier must have died in the rafters, for his body was hanging from above limply, blood slowly dripping from an upside down head.  A lioness soldier was on a bed, covers over her.  She must have died in her sleep, never knowing what really hit her.  They all saw a large hound dog on the floor, his arms and neck out of place like they were broken.  He must have died while walking.

 Thinking he heard a sound, Pester whirled around, the laser sighting of his weapon raking the room.  It came to a pan filled with a green stuff with a solid thing floating in it.  A throw up pan, for it was next to a bed of someone, a goat, one of his horns broken off.  That's what floated in his own vomit.  Pester started to breath really hard, now growing frightened as he could just stair at this sick scene.

 "Pester, turn your head.  Don't look at it," said Dallas.  He did so, looking back towards his comrades.  "Calm down.  Whatever killed these people can't touch you now, so keep cool."

 He nodded, his breathing slowing down.  He continued on with the others, but he still couldn't help but look around at all of the death around him.  He didn't know any of the people here who still had a recognizable face.  A few of the bodies had a death frozen expression of fear and panic, screaming out loud as they died.

 "Whatever killed these people, it freezes their muscles as they die," said one of the med workers.

 "Yeah," returned Q'Ronnie.  "I think this had to have been a biological outbreak that killed these people.  ButÖ"  He shook his head, also disturbed by what he saw.  He had seen nothing like this.

 They all reached the door leading to more of the complex.  A woman lynx was propped up on it.  There were claw marks all over the door where her hands were, claws extended fully.  Hakon knelt down next to her and looked at her face.

 "Poor girl must have died trying to get out," he said sadly.  Shouldering the weapon, he kicked the body out of the way, and it fell and bent out unnaturally as it landed, the neck twisting strangely.  Hakon shuddered as he watched this, but calmed down at once, not letting it get to him.

 "Come on," he said, motioning towards the door.  "Open it up so we can go home.  We have seventeen minutes left, then we bail."  Rave moved forward and started the sequence to open the door.

 Pester walked towards the body of the broken lynx and looked at it, shuddering also.

 Upon looking at the sight of the Lynx's body, Katt shook suddenly and backed away, not wishing to look at the horrible form of her body.  Dallas looked at her.

 "Is that her?" she asked.  "Your cousin?"

 Katt swallowed forcefully and shook her head no.  She looked like she was going to throw up.  Dallas knew that Katt may not be used to this sort of thing, so the thought of having her removed until they found a possibility for her cousin had crossed her mind.  No, that would not be right.  Katt had the same rights to be here as everyone else who might have had family at this colony.

 The door out of the barracks slid open, and the first sight was a pig, short and pudgy and dead, lying on the floor.  One of the colonial managers from the high rank looking business suit he wore.  With his lack of general fur and pink skin, lesions and bruises were cleanly visible on his skin.

 "Keep moving," said Hakon, stepping around the pig and down the hallway here.

 Behind him came Q'Ronnie and others, all ending with Pester.  He felt himself growing more nervous with every step, and he almost ended up dropping his weapon.  Keep cool, he told himself mentally.  I am a marine, and I can handle anything.  Pester kept repeating those words in his head.  Funny how they helped him very little.

 The team walked into a market area, which was littered with  hundreds of dead.  Women and children were among them.  One of the medics started to shake when he saw a dead sea lion holding her dead infant son in her arms, doing this while she knew it was time for her as well.  The medic backed away and looked away from it, and found himself face to face with a baboon who died on his knees.

 Out of pure fear and nervous feelings, the medic thought he saw the ape's deathly cold eyes move to stair him in the face accordingly.

 The medic screamed out loud and ran away backwards, tripping over another body and landing on his bottom.

 Rave and Hakon whirled around, ready to fire at whatever, but saw nothing.  "What's wrong?" asked Hakon.

 "That man," he said frantically, pointing to the baboon on his knees.  "He's alive!"

 Q'Ronnie squinted his eyes, skeptical about this.  He walked over and waved a metal wand over the apes heart and looked at the handle, showing the results.  "No life signs," he said.  "He's just as dead as anyone else."  Q'Ronnie stood and looked at the other doctor, who was still shaking nervously.  What did he see? thought Q'Ronnie to himself.

 "No," breathed the medic.  "No.  I meanÖ IÖI saw something.  I thought I saw something."  One of the soldiers, Pester, walked over and helped the medic back to his feet.  He was still shaking from being spooked as such.

 "Don't worry friend," quipped Pester.  "You think you're the only here who's scared."

 The medic nodded to him, still afraid of what he saw.  He had seen death before, but never like this, and never in this mass.  A few of the others have seen mass killings before, the bombing raids on friendly targets by Venom forces.  However, not even Q'Ronnie, who had seen so many kinds of pain and suffering, was prepared for something of this magnitude.

 After seeing the medic's display, Hakon, made a decision.  "A'right boys, I've decided.  We have seven minutes to find whatever we can then we head out."

 "That may not be enough time," argued Q'Ronnie.  "If we only have seven minutes, then we should go to the medical facility.  It's on sub level two.  After that, we split."

 "Fair enough.  C'mon, to the med lab, then out."

 They all exited the market into another maze of hall ways.  It looked the same every way, all the halls with doors leading to people's quarters or other rooms in this area.  They came to a stairway leading downward, a sign on the wall marking it as stairway number seventeen, going only down.  Hakon ordered Rave to stand guard here while others went down, as did Q'Ronnie had one of his team to stay with him.  Those two stood by at the stairway while the others went downward to sub level B.

 The second level was little different from the first, just the same furnishings and bland high tech looks.  However, the medical facility was not far away, and they soon found a double sliding door.  This was more then just a med lab, it was an actual mini hospital.  Every single room in here had at least two dead people, almost all of them killed by this plague.  They found doctors who had died while standing, and then fallen forward onto their own clipboards.  Nurses who had fallen into their medical carts, custodians who were found to be mopping, and patients out in the floor.  A few of them older folks.

 "It seems that they were never really prepared for this outbreak," said Q'Ronnie, looking at the semi casual patterns of the doctors' positions.  They all looked frantic, desperate about something, but their level of preparedness was nil.  "It must have hit faster then we thought."

 "What is it you're doing there?" asked Dallas over the link.

 "Someone must have taken an early blood sample from an infected person before they died.  Would someone take an atmospheric sample here please.  I'll get that blood sample and study it here if I can.  I want to make sure that whatever wiped out these people isn't airborne anymore.  I don't want to bring this to SunHawk and risk wiping out the entire ship."

 "Good thinking," complimented Dallas.

 "We'll do all that later," said Hakon.  "Right now, we have to get back.  We have seven minutes left."  Q'Ronnie nodded to him and they all started their exit, and left the medical bay as quickly as they wanted.

 "Sarge, this is Rave."

 Hakon squinted his eyes at the voice over the com link.  "Yeah, what?" he replied.

 "We're picking up some kind of a signal, and it ain't at your location.  It's not even on your level.  It's on ours."

 "Does it look like life signs?" asked Q'Ronnie.

 "Negative Doc.  It looks likeÖ   It looks like an SOS of some kind."

 Hakon looked at Q'Ronnie, looking for an answer, but all he got was a shrug.  Perhaps someone trying to call for help died in the process.  If it was that then they would have detected it before they even entered the colony.  This was a mystery, thought Q'Ronnie.  One worth investigating.  Luckily, Hakon was also thinking the same way.

 They met up with the two and they led them through the hall ways and came to a large green garden.  The hedges were lush and green, as were the small tree and bushes.  Using his instruments, Rave led them through the garden and to a large fountain with a stone eagle.  Rave pointed out the fountain as the source of the signal, which confused them all out.  Q'Ronnie observed the water, seeing a slight discoloration in its reflections.  He walked over and looked into the water.

 "What the hell," he said.  Hakon walked over and looked, and he too gasped in surprise and shock.

 The large soldier stuck his hand into the water.  When he brought it out, a child cat was on it, hanging limply and without life.

 "Oh no," said Katt from the bridge, Pester's helmet cam broadcasting the image of the dead kitten clearly.  She tore her eyes away from this picture and slowly started to tear.  "That's her," she said sadly.  "That's my cousin."  Conner sat next too her, trying to offer comfort, but it wasn't working very well.

 Dallas looked.  The kitten looked so much like Katt, she thought it might be a child version.  Facially, every bit identical.  Only the girl on screen had short black hair while Katt had long white hair.  Nonetheless, no matter how high spirited in beauty she looked as Katt did, she was still deceased.

 Hakon gently lifted the body out of the pool of water.  "Let's leave her in the medical facility here," suggested Hakon.  "Just in case she's carrying this virus or whatever it might be."  Hakon nodded.  He and Pester went back down to medical and left the girl there on a bed.

 As they were gone, Q'Ronnie noticed something.  The girl's body, other then being soaked to the bone, was not damaged.  There were no losses of color, brittleness of bone, or any other after life symptoms of this epidemic.  He was wondering on what killed her.  Well, she obviously died by drowning, he could tell that just by looking.  Whatever did kill her, it wasn't this virus.  This may be another break, just like the dead man in the rover bay.  They would check that when they returned, but Q'Ronnie had a feeling that he was going to be free of symptoms as well.

 Sighing greatly at this nightmare come true, he looked down at the CD which held all the data he could muster from the medical computers here.  He would take a look at it on SunHawk and find whatever he could to help them.  He knew he would not really like what he found.
 
 
 

Chapter V
The Bad Discovery

"Andross is the real incarnation of evil, everyone knows that.  Who else could be so maniacal to use nature to fight his enemies in an unholy war?"
-General Pepper - Cornerian Army-
 

 Seven hours went by.  Q'Ronnie, after a second and more time filled trip into the colony, determined that the virus, whatever it was, was no longer airborne.  The atmosphere was safe to breath in.  However, anyone who took a smell in the colony without an airmask threw up on contact.  The dead and decaying bodies, hastened by whatever killed them, surely contaminated the whole colony.

 The medical lab and a few other places on the colony were removed of dead bodies and the decaying dead to allow them to work effectively.  The body of Katt's cousin, identified as Enna Monroe, lay without movement on a medical table with a sheet draped over her body.  She was the only dead kept in save for two of the dead by virus and one more.  That one more was the body of a silver fox who was killed by a knife wound to the stomach.  As Q'Ronnie predicted, he was untouched by the virus for being dead already.

 As for the good doctor himself, he got almost no time to analyze all the data he had they kept him so busy.  After three initial autopsies on bodies of those killed by the outbreak, they were still baffled beyond words.  Whatever it was, it was catastrophically fatal, and just as fast.  All of the internal organs were practically liquefied and then evaporated.  Even the epidermal layering, the skin and fur, was going through such a transformation.  The skeleton systems were made as fragile as rotten clay.

 Yet, with all this, they still had nothing that might give some light on this terrible strain.  However, Q'Ronnie might have something now.  He did, in fact, get a sample of deoxygenated blood, taken from a vein of one of the initial victims during the "earlier" stages of the infection.  Early?  How do you justify what's early when the time of death after contraction is possibly under five hours.

 This bug, whatever it was, was a genetic night terror.  It destroys, and then vanishes.  The Dalmatian put a sample of the blood under a microscope and studied what he could.  It was going to be a long night.

****

 Captain Dallas, an gas mask over her face to protect from the smell, slowly made her way around the dead and through the colony.  She was not totally effected by the sights of eradication around her.  She had seen people actually die horribly before, so the aftermath was not something to get all big on.

 She made her way through the halls until she came to a large but empty public cafeteria.  Only a few dead bodies were inside, all of them more towards the wall.  One towards the center.

 "Over here!" yelled out Katt to Captain Dallas, seeing her walk in.  Her mask was off and laying on the table.  "It's not so bad over here."

 Dallas went over to Katt, but kept her mask on until she got there.  When she did, she slipped the mask up slightly and took a sniff.  Sure enough, the smell here was not that strong.  Dallas calmly sat across from Katt.  It was noticeable that the feline had been crying.

 "You know I was just thinking," started Katt, sniffing and wiping a tear out of her eye.  "Before this whole Andross razzmatazz started, after he was exiled of course, I remember how me and Falco would chase each other's tails before we finally got together.  Actually, it was me chasing him, and he barely noticed me.  Then, finally, three years ago, he noticed me, and we started to date.  I guess I just had to show him that I could be more arrogant then he.

 "During that entire three years, the only family I ever kept in contact with was my mother, and that's all.  I had very little family besides her.  Now, Falco and me are separated, I'm alone.  But the worst thing is, while I was on your ship, acting like a super tramp with Conner, one of the last members of my family was dying."

 Katt broke out into tears, and Dallas went around and put her arm around Katt.  The young girl continued to bawl, the tears flowing like a river.  Dallas could feel all of Katt's egotism be flooded by her tears, even if it was just for this moment.  But there was nothing Dallas could find to say other then she was sorry, which was a stupid thing to say right now.

 "You know, I felt the same way just under a month ago, when my father was murdered by a traitor on board.  I was right there and watched him do it.  The thing that hurt was that my father died by a laser blast that was meant to kill me.  He always believed that children were the most important thing in the universe, so he died in my place.  All the time, I felt guilty because he died instead of I did, despite his beliefs.  However, there is nothing we can do to cheat what fate has in store for us.  We can only go along as best we can, and hope that it smiles on us.  I'm sorry about your loss.  I hope there was something I could do to ease the pain of it, but I can't.  That's something that you have to do."

 Katt made no motion or response, but she did slow down in her crying.  Dallas held her tighter, doing what she could to give comfort.  She knew the pain, and what she said was true.  You didn't have to face it alone, but you do have to do it yourself.

 Dallas stayed there until Katt was feeling better, and then patted her shoulder and stepped away.  "Thanks," said Katt, wiping her gentle blue eyes.  "Can we go see her so I can payÖrespects?"

 "Sure.  Dr. Q'Ronnie's in there trying to figure out what it is we're dealing with here."

 Katt nodded to her and bowed forward, laying her face into her arms, slumped over the table.  Dallas pitied her, knowing full well how she could end this pain of hers, but she couldn't.  Or else she would.

 "Q'Ronnie to Captain Dallas."

 "Dallas here, go ahead Doctor."

 "Captain, I think you had better report to medical at once.  Bring Ms. Katt with you if you can.  I think there are things here that both of you should know."

 Katt looked up at Dallas after he said all that.  She did have a pained look in her eyes, but Dallas also saw a look of hope there too.  She wondered why.  "Roger Doctor, we're on our way."

****

 Q'Ronnie was holding Enna Monroe's hand under a magnifying light, more or less her claws.  He was digging under the claws with a pair of tweezers, trying to get to something barely visible, even under the light.  After a few minutes of digging, he pulled out the tweezers and looked at a small amount of reddish gunk on them.  He put them under a microscope, and identified as a deluded blood sample.  Who's blood it was, was yet a mystery.

 It was this, plus the next finding, which compelled Q'Ronnie to call for Dallas at once.  The whole situation had just been upgraded from bad to real hellish.

 As Q'Ronnie put the newly found blood sample under a computer system to ID it, he heard something.  It sounded like and animal growling mixed with a hiss and a series of strange sounds, nothing he heard before.  It sounded strange and real, but Q'Ronnie considered it just figments of his imagination.

 Dallas and Katt walked in, and Q'Ronnie looked to them.

 "Doctor, what's up?"

 "Did you hear anything strange before you walked in?  Like some animal or something like that?"

 Dallas squinted her eyes funny like.  "No.  Why?"

 "Nothing.  I thought I heard something, that's all."

 His reply was a smile.  "Don't worry Doc," assured Dallas.  "This place does have the ability to get on your nerves.  At least now it does.  What do you got?"

 Q'Ronnie looked at her like he was looking at a mother to give bad news about her child.  "For this, I really do think that Ms. Monroe should wait outside.  Confidentiality really is the pits."

 "But, my niece," protested Katt.

 "Don't worry.  We won't talk about her without you in here," he lied.  Katt nodded and stepped outside.

 "OK, Doctor.  You got me down here, so what is it?" asked Dallas.

 "The worst.  For one thing, I just found out that what we are dealing with is a viral infection.  And, as you guessed, it is a nasty one in workings.  However, the bad thing is, it's man made."

 Dallas growled out loud, all the hate and anger and disgust pouring into her pores.  "I knew it," she said.

 "You did?"

 "I got it from Kesh.  She figured out the possibility on this.  It is a synthetic virus.  A biological weapon.  My God."

 "Yes," said Q'Ronnie.  "This could very well be the doom's day weapon.  The key to apocalypse.  The end of all life on a planet as we know it, and that's just the beginning.  Come on, I'll show you."

 He led them around to a computer terminal which was displaying a constant slow animation.  At first glance, you couldn't tell if it was sped up or slowed down.  Q'Ronnie sat at the table and pushed a few keys, and the animation sequence went to the beginning where it stopped.

 "It seems our medical friends here were kind enough to keep the first victims' anatomy on constant analysis while they were dying.  It's how I got this information.

 "This is how it works.  The victim comes in contact with the strain.  Numerous viral organisms enter the body, perhaps thousands of them through random pores or other microscopic entryways all over the body.  One Virus goes in, and takes itself inside the first organic cell it can find.  Most commonly the skin cells.  The epidermal shows numerous bruises and lesions all over the body, which is where viral clusters break into the body.

 "That's how they travel through the air.  In clusters.  That way they can sustain each other better and travel through the air longer.  I register somewhere between a hundred to a hundred thousand viruses in a single cluster.  That is an approximation of course."

 "Of course," repeated Dallas.

 Q'Ronnie continued.  "The virus continues, reproduces in the cell within a few minutes, and then destroys it.  Fifty times the number of the virus are now present, all leaving the ravaged cell behind to go infect new ones.  They go out and grab what they can, one virus to one cell.  If the cell is already occupied, the bug moves on and finds a vacant one.  This way, the virus reproduces at a phenomenal rate.

 "Now, here's the ingenious part.  The small number of dead cells can create a sickness that resembles a common cold or even the flu, so the victim knows nothing of the seriousness of their infection.  He just knows that he has something common, and goes about his business, excuse me, his or her business.  I'm sorry."

 Dallas could not grin now, even though she found him amusing.  Q'Ronnie, a true gentleman.  "Forget about the political correctness, just keep going.

 "The virus, after it takes over a cell, remains dormant inside, leaving the cell completely alone.  Only a select few reproduce to keep the operation going.  It goes on like this, the majority staying quite, remaining that way until all of the cells in the body are infected.  The remaining bugs go into the lungs and wait.  Here, the victim is like a ticking bomb, just waiting to go off.

 "When the time is right, every virus in the body starts their work, and destroys the cells in the body.  Billions upon billions of cells in the body, destroyed, obliterated, all of them, all at once.  In a minute after this the person dies.  He just drops dead where he or she was standing.  Boom."

 "My God," said Dallas, looking on in total fear.  "ThatÖthat'sÖ"  She couldn't find the word she wanted, she was so disgusted and bewildered by this, a little bit of her was also impressed by its sheer strength.

 "Horrific," Q'Ronnie filled in for her.  "I would say."  He pushed a few buttons, and a close up image of the virus itself.  A circular white organism, a black center as the nucleus or something else.  Dallas didn't know about this stuff, but the virus did not look that harmful.  "I took the liberty of giving it a name," said Q'Ronnie.  "How does the Proxima Delta Ver Angel of Death sound to you?"

 The tone in his voice said it all that he was not trying to be funny.  He was being serious.  "It sounds disgusting, but it does have a ring of truth.  Have you determined the level of contagion yet?"

 "That is one of the reasons I gave it the name I did, and probably the most terrifying thing about this bug.  You know how contagious the plague was back in the old days, a hand shake was enough to spread.  Imagine something well over fifteen times more contagious, and a billion times more potent.  The viral clusters can be sustained for over five hours in the air on its own, but in that time, it can travel up to seven thousand kilometers.  That's why all the leftover bugs gather in the lungs before the initial death takes place.  Record shows that they all remain dormant for another hour after the body's been infected, giving time for him to spread the virus wherever he wanders.  Time of death after initial infection was registered as thirty five minutes."

 "It's that fast," said Dallas.

 "It is that fast.  The big just remains in the body and proceeds to lay waste to the dead tissue until there is absolutely nothing left.  The bones are degraded seriously, almost none of the muscle tissue is left, and complete eradication of the internal organs takes place.  The ultimate biological killing machine.

 "This colony was wiped out of all life within five hours.  Now, imagine what happens of a planet is infected.  Infect a major city, and it would be a judgment call with a same sided coin against for all live on the planet.  Give it maybe a half a month, maybe more.

 "The virus is also super resistant to means of destroying it.  Antibodies were like a fly versus a mastodon.  Not even the eradicators in the entrance chamber stopped it, which is how the virus escaped the isolation.  You can't exactly stop this thing, Captain.  My data suggests that it could survive a nuclear blast and take it as an excuse to rest.  You could slow it down a bunch, but stopping it is pretty iffy."

 "The biblical plague.  Wipe out life as we know it in a heartbeat.  Are you sure this is a man made virus?  I have to know."

 "It is.  I ran test after test after test after test on this thing and then I tested it three more times before I was convinced.  This is a mortal crafted biological weapon.  It has to be so.  This is what I find most revolting Captain.  Anyone who builds biological weapons is bad enough, but those who put medical sciences, designed specifically to heal, into the process of destruction, has no place in my medical care!"

 Dallas patted him on the arm now that he was getting angry.  "I know," said Dallas.  "I know how you feel."

 "No, I don't think you do.  Anyone who uses something that is made to heal and sets it to destroy is the devil as far as I'm concerned!"

 "You just said that," returned Dallas.  "Calm down, Doctor.  You can't kill a bug like this by screaming at it.  What are the chances of finding a cure?"

 Q'Ronnie laughed.  "Captain, please.  Even if a cure was found, this virus moves so quickly, it would be pointless to try.  Anything ever sent at it is flicked away like nothing ever happened.  No, there is no hope to find a cure for it.  If you want to stop this, you have to find out where Andross is going to launch it from or whatever and stop the infection before it starts.  That's it, nothing else."

 Dallas turned away from him and leaned on the table, flexing her strong womanly muscles in anger.  In a short sleeve shirt, Q'Ronnie saw the iron like ripples in her forearms, which made him swallow.  Dallas's eyes went to the child cat on the bed.

 "What about her?" she asked.

 "She was killed probably before the infection started.  I don't want to tell Ms. Monroe this, but she was a possible carrier for the virus.  I don't know how, but the water samples I found on her contained dead viral bugs in them.  I can't look inside her because Ms. Monroe in there has insisted that the body it to be left alone.  I can't look inside the lungs."

 "She's not a viral delivery service," insisted Dallas.

 "How do you knot that?"

 "If she was, wouldn't we be dead now?"

 "No, the virus is spread through respiration.  She's not breathing anymore, she drowned."

 "Granted.  But they also found two other fountains that were with the same green tinted water as the one she was found in.  They checked a pattern to this, and found all three of these fountains next to drinking and washing water distributing."

 Q'Ronnie nodded, now standing corrected.  "In that case, I have something to say which may interest you.  Katt!" he called out, calling her in.  "This concerns her too."  Katt walked in and looked at them as they stood around her cousin's body.  Her lower lip quivered slightly as she looked on at Enna Monroe's lifeless body.

 "We've determined," started the doctor again.  "Your niece was in fact murdered, Ms. Monroe."  Katt looked hard at Q'Ronnie, her eyes pleading for an answer.  She hissed in anger and through herself on the body, crying loudly.

 "How do you know?" asked Dallas.

 "Her claws had small traces of blood underneath them.  My guess is, my new guess is that she was in the wrong place at the wrong time and whoever was delivering the strain killed her.  He drowned her in the spring and made sure she wasn't found so easily.  The blood must be from her trying to escape."

 "Shut up!" screamed Katt in an explosion on Q'Ronnie.  "You cold hearted son of aÖ"  Katt stopped her verbal fire to Q'Ronnie and looked at something.  She reached down and opened Enna's right eye manually.  "Oh," she said quietly, looking into the eye.  "It's a miracle.  Thank you Uncle John.  Thank you Uncle John!  Thank you Uncle John!"

 Katt went on to yell this as she ran to an operating tray and picked up a large scalpel and a small one and took them back to Enna's body.  She also grabbed a small light as she went.  Katt looked up with a happy grin at Dallas and Q'Ronnie, who were staring at her as if she had gone nuts.

 "You're right," she said, grinning.  "Maybe I am.  In the meantime, you think you could give me a hand here?"  Q'Ronnie shrugged his shoulders and went over to her.  "Hold this," said Katt, holding the flashlight.  "You'll know where to shine it if you're smart."

 Katt snapped on some rubber gloves and took the large scalpel and stuck into the bodies chest, right at the throat.

 "What are you doing?" asked Dallas, walking forward.  She watched as Katt went on to slice open the girl's chest, looking like she was cutting through tough leather.

 "You'll see."

 After a foot of cutting, a bluish liquid came out of the incisions and rolled down the flank.  Katt ignored it and continued to cut until she went down to almost the groin, and then stopped.  She then made shorter incisions below the neck from line to each shoulder.  Q'Ronnie and Dallas looked on in surprise as Katt reached into the cut and tore open her skin, exposing a completely synthetic looking inside.

 "She's an android?" said Q'Ronnie in disbelief.

 "That's right.  When my aunt and uncle found they couldn't have children of their own, nor could they get through adoption, they built Enna.  I found out six years ago, just before they started to build her.  They wanted to give her a face that looked just like mine, so I agreed, thinking it would be cool.

 "My Uncle John created her and gave her everything that a child would want or already had.  Emotions, the need to play and be free, the exact greed of a child.  He made sure and kept the strength and speed down to make her a real child with experiences as such, which was why she wasn't able to escape her killer.  The water must have seriously damaged her main power systems and she couldn't revert to backup.  That's what I'm doing now, only through manual means.  Uncle John showed me how to do this just in case it came in handy, just like now."

 A dark blue sphere like object lay in the relative spot where the normal heart was, only this was more centered.  Katt took the blade and sliced into it, and a dark blue goo flowed out, looking like blood but thicker.  Katt poked two of her fingers into the sphere and fumbled around a little until she found it.

 "Hand me that power cable," she said, pointing to a wire connected to an electrical generator.  Dallas picked it up and handed it to Katt.  She in turn took the wire and stuck it into the sphere and guided it as best she could.  It took some time and effort, making Katt lose her patience, but a click told her of success.  A very faint hum came from within her body.

 "Can we talk to her now?" asked Q'Ronnie.

 "Not yet."  Katt took the smaller scalpel into her hand and went up by the head, pushing Q'Ronnie out of the way as well.  Katt opened the mouth and reached in, getting a loud click by whatever it was she did there.  She then took the small blade and stuck it into the right eye.

 She proceeded to cut the soft organ out, almost making Katt throw up at sight of such a disgusting looking thing.  She looked away for a second, stopping her cutting so she wouldn't get herself by accident.  Katt did throw up before she was done, when she was prying the eyeball out of the socket.  She had to cut the optic nerve, which was made out of a thin fiber optic cable.  Katt looked inside and saw a blinking light inside.

 "Almost there," she insured.  "Just one more thing."  Katt stuck her hand inside the large chest opening and opened an organ looking flap, exposing a solid flat black box with a small wire coming out of it.  Katt took that wire and stuck it into the eye socket, and connected it to the blinking light interface.

 "C'mon, Enna," said Katt, setting a few knobs on the box.  "We really need to talk to you know."  Katt pushed a button, and a loud mechanical whir sounded out and stopped, a split second action.  That was coupled with a spastic jerk to the small android cat's body.

 "Hey," said Katt gently.  "How are you?"

 Enna moved her remaining eye and looked at her cousin.  She smiled warmly.  "Katt," she greeted.  Her voice was mechanically distorted.  "I'm sad, but I don't hurt.  I guess Papa must have programmed me to download all of the information of what I really am when this happened.  I'm sad that I'm not really real."

 "You're real enough," said Katt.

 "Who are these people?" asked Enna.  "I think the person standing to my lower left is Captain Allison Dallas, but I'm not sure.  I can't see very well.  Oh, by the way Katt, how goes it with you and Falco?" she asked with a smile.  A small trickle of light blue liquid went out of her mouth.

 Katt smiled at her.  "Enna, we need your help.  I'm sorry but, everyone in the colony isÖ"

 "Is dead," finished Enna.  "I know, I was aware of everything dying while I slept.  I don't know how, but I was.  I'm sad because mama and papa are all dead too, along with all the people."

 "Enna, we need to know who did this to you, and who infected the colony.  Do you remember?"

 "I remember perfectly.  There were two of them.  I couldn't recognize them at first, but I do now.  Fist identification was Wolf O'Donnell, Venomian rank of Lieutenant Commander, Serial number is 094876B45GS2.  Current leader of Mercenary fight force named Star Wolf, paid by Andross to counter Star Fox."  They all looked at each other as Enna mentioned Wolf, and Dallas swallowed.

 "Second person was Leon Powalski, Venomian rank of Lieutenant, Serial number unknown.  Second in command of Star Wolf.  Oh, by the way Katt, I love you're hair.  Leon was the one who pushed me into the waters."

 "He'll pay for it," hissed Katt.

 "I hold no grudges," returned Enna.  "A cold heart is a cold heart is a cold heart.  I learned that in school.  Now I know why I got such good grades."

 "Guess what Enna, you'll be repaired and then you can go back to school and do everything you like."

 "That sounds nice, Katt, but I detect that this body's systems have been damaged beyond all repair by water damage.  I detect that I have twenty eight seconds before I self terminate, and then it's over."

 "No," said Katt, grabbing the young android's paw.  "No, we can still save you.  Please hang on."

 "I wish I could.  I would like to live with you Katt.  I love you.  Goodbye, sister."  Enna's body jerked hard, and then she fell silent.  Katt watched the good eye's pupil contract until it was gone.

 Katt felt a tear build up, and then fall down her cheek.  That mistake on their relations really touched her inside.  Katt squeezed the android paw hard, not wanting to let go.  "Goodbye," she whispered back.

 Dallas and Q'Ronnie stepped back, giving the last two a moment alone.  Dallas knew how she felt, glad to get in last words like she did with her father.  It was something everyone wanted to do when their loved one were about to depart.

 WellÖalmost everyone.
 
 
 

Chapter VI
Monsters

"To use medical science to create ways to cause death is to forfeit your rights to be healed on my medical bed.  This is not just a threat, I assure you."
-Dr. Wynfield Q'Ronnie - CSS SunHawk-
 
 

 The monitoring screens, being the only light in the room, lit his face quite cleanly.  Kite McCane, having nothing better to do, was in one of the colony's security monitor rooms, looking over everything on this floor, Sublevel C.  The bright screens illuminated his large dark yellow bill, gray eyes, and grayish plumage on his face.  He looked on at the operations on the screens with an indifferent expression, just seeing what was going on outside.  He remained indifferent until he switched on a camera observing Katt Monroe, doing something emotional.

 The Android girl named Enna Monroe had suffered complete neural failure in her systems, and was unrepairable.  Like she was a true living being, Katt was burying Enna in the level C garden, which was always Enna's favorite spot as she told Katt one time.  She had already been buried when Kite looked onto the screen showing Katt as she placed covering stones over the grave.

 He watched as she placed the last stone and then put a small necklace on the head side of the stone, after she kissed it lightly.  Having seen enough, Kite reached up to switch to a different camera view.

 "They say that a death in the family is the best cure for arrogance and vanity."  Kite was stopped from turning the screen to somewhere else when Conner spoke, leaning against the door sill.  Kite turned around quickly, startled by his voice and astonished that he was even there.  He didn't hear a sound.

 "How did you get in here so quietly?" asked Kite a little angry like.

 Conner smiled at him, his glowing eyes bring an extra light into the room.  "Well, it was you who locked the door from the inside, why I will not inquire about.  I had to have somewhere of getting in, so..."  He looked up and pointed to an open ventilation duct.

 Kite shook his head.  He often wondered about Conner.  He was a good man, and a pleasant person to be around.  But the things he was capable of doing could make a person wonder.  The way his eyes glowed, and his sheer strength higher then that of any real wolf, more like a grizzly bear, his ability to remain supremely shadow like on his own just as Kite's squadron did while flying.  A lot of people wondered about him.  Still, he was a good choice for a friend, and a bad choice for an enemy.

 "What was that you said?" asked Kite.

 "Before or After?"

 "Before."

 "I said that the death of a love or a family member can be a very effective cure for personal vanity.  Pity it has a price to make it not worth wile."  Kite nodded and Conner sat in the chair beside him.

 "What do you think about her?" asked the mallard.

 "Ms. Monroe?"

 "Yeah."

 "In all truths, I try not to," Conner answered.  He remembered what happened in his quarters yesterday.  If he wasn't so preoccupied with other things, Conner might have fallen for her after that one enduring moment with her.  But he didn't, and he had a funny feeling on why.  "However, she is a good woman, when she wants to be.  Her arrogance and attitude towards life in general will be her eventual downfall I'm afraid.  There are people out there who don't care about charms and innocence, and are completely dangerous.  If she offends any of them, she'll be in deep trouble."

 "She's a great pilot," said Kite.  "She was able to get a lock on me when we mock engaged."

 "I'm sure she is," said Conner.  She's also good at other things as well, he thought, smiling.  "Nonetheless, that won't save her from some of the people I'm thinking of."

 Kite looked down.  He had no real love for Katt Monroe.  He always considered her kinda snotty and self absorbed which was a just impression as everyone knew.  However, she was nice to him while she was on board, and still was even though he turned down her date request.

 "And what about the Captain?" asked Kite, squinting his eyes inquisitively.  "I know you two are friends and all, but what do you really think about her?  What's your impression?"

 "What is yours?"

 "I asked first."

 Conner grinned.  Very stubborn these Lylatians were.  "Very well.  I find her somewhat exotic."

 "The Captain?" said Kite, disbelieving.  "No."

 "As far as my standards go, yes.  She is special among your people.  She has an enduring quality about her that says I'm a more shinny pebble in a sea of shinny pebbles.  Yet, she doesn't know it yet, and if she does then she's unaware of what it is.  Whether it's a greater wisdom or a more brighter spirit, I don't know."  Kite looked up into his eyes, now back to normal, and saw what the dark wolf was thinking and feeling.

 "I think it goes beyond admiration, and even beyond simple friendship," he said.  "You have feelings for her?  Don't you?"

 Conner remained unmoving.  It was as if that question had gone in one ear and out the other, and never stopped to announce itself in his head.  However, he did hear it, there was just no reaction, except a small frown, and a bit of sorrow in the eyes.

 Kite was about to dig deeper when Conner's head reared suddenly, and his ears shot into the air like radar antennas.  He looked like he had just heard danger coming, and was preparing to act if found to be true.  Kite squinted his eyes at this action, at first thinking he was doing it to try and change the subject.

 "What's the matter?"

 Conner didn't answer for a moment.  He waited, and Kite watched his ear twitch, and then he answered.  "Did you hear that?" he asked, getting to his feet.

 "Here what?"

 "I'm not sure, it's very faint...hold on...there.  Did you hear it?" he asked frantically.

 Kite shook his head, looking at Conner like he was crazy or something.  "No, I didn't here anything."  Kite knew that since Conner was a wolf, he could probably hear a lot better then he ever could.

 "There it is...and again."  That time, Kite did hear a slight sound.  It was so faint that he couldn't even tell what it was.  After a second time, he did think it sounded like something.

 "Metal scraping?" he asked.

 "Yes, that's it."  Conner's eyes went to something which Conner couldn't follow.  He heard the sound of metal being scraped onto something hard, and it was louder now.  "What level is that speaker set to transmit from?" asked Conner, pointing to the highest one.

 Kite looked at it and grinned.  "That is from level E.  None of the cameras are working on that level nor any of them below either, I've already tried.  So I just have audio readings on.  Conner, we do have people down there, so that's probably what you're hearing."

 Conner waited, trying to hear the sound again, but there was nothing.  "perhaps you're right."  He stepped back, wrapping his coat tighter around him glumly.  A false alarm, nothing more.  "What about motion sensors?" he asked.

 "Sure, they're working."  Kite typed in a command and one of the larger screens turned to a map reading of levels E and F.  One single blue dot was reading on level E, moving down the hallway.  "See," said Kite, pointing to the moving dot.  "That's one of our guys.  Other then that, it's as quite as a calm night sky out there."

 "Of course," said Conner.  He still looked skeptical.  "I guess it is nothing to worry about then."  Kite nodded and sat back in the chair comfortably.  That was when a red light appeared for level F.

****

 It was Pester, moving down the hall on Sub-level E, just to secure.  He had been informed by Captain Dallas to go no lower then this while he kept watch over the bottom.  She was a level above him supervising some electrical work being done.

 The young soldier found it a little cold down here.  The smell of rotting death was not present, and not many bodies were down here anyway.  This was all maintenance equipment and rooms in power and utilities for the colony, nothing more.  Dallas wanted this area guarded and secured while they worked above, so Pester was down here to do so.

 The bodies down here were a little chilled.  From the looks here, the heating system was damaged or destroyed, anyway no longer functioning.  The cold air was helping to preserve the dead, eliminating much of the smell.  Pester was not as afraid here as he was above.  Still, this was a little chilling besides the cold.  The silence most of all.

 He entered an extra medical area.  Just a first aid depot or something like that until real paramedics arrived.  The large plexiglass door slid open, and Pester raised the phaser cannon.  The aiming laser sliced through the room, ready to knock down the first sign of danger.  Yeah right, thought Pester to himself.  Everyone was dead, so their couldn't be any danger left here.  He entered the large room to look around, see if there was anything of value in here.  The door closed behind him.

 It was much colder in this room.  Every time he exhaled, the condensed breath was like a patch of fog.  The cheetah rubbed his paws together, trying to get warm.  Pester wished he was on a Cornerian beach right now instead of this dead, frozen scrap heap.  Sadly, he knew that Proxima Delta Ver was no longer a place you want to vacation to or live at.

 He laid his cannon on a small medical bed and opened a cabinet.  Inside was nothing but large blankets and a few extra bed sheets.  He shut it and opened the next cabinet, having some towels.  He was looking for food, if there was any here.  Pester had not ate a thing since he first stepped foot on this ugly place.  Determined to be a real soldier, he put the hunger out of his mind and closed the cabinets.  It was a time to serve, not to have the munchies.

 Pester picked his cannon and breathed out, bored and a little tired.  He started towards the door when he heard words over his com-link.  "Pester, this is Sergeant Hakon, come in, over."

 The cheetah heard the sarge's speech come to his earpiece, causing him to sigh.  He pushed the transmit key on his communicator.  "Pester here, over" he replied.

 "Submit your location," ordered Hakon.

 Pester looked onto a map to see where he was.  "Sub level E, section eight.  I'm in a medical room of some sort."

 "Listen, I want you to turn on your perimeter alarm unit and keep it on."

 Raising an eyebrow, Pester replied.  "Why?  There's nothing down here except frozen dead guys."

 "Don't argue with me, son," scorned Hakon angrily.  "Just do it, damn it."

 Growling to himself with a little annoyance, Pester looked to a device on his arm.  A small carry with computer.  He pushed a button on it, and a blue star shaped digit appeared on it.  "Sarge, the perimeter zone around me is clean.  Nobody's home."

 Above him, Hakon, Captain Dallas beside him, shook his head.  "A'right, but report back the second it changes."

 "Roger that."

 Dallas got on her link.  "Kite, there's nothing down here.  Are you sure that machine you're looking at isn't broken?"

 "I don't know sir.  It's still registering unauthorized movement on level F.  I can't get an exact location on it, but every sensor on that level says that there is something moving down there."

 "Damn fly boy," growled Hakon.  "Just tell him to beat the godamn machine with a hammer and make it behave."  Dallas motioned him to be silent, and he lit up a cigarette in response.

 "Copy that, Kite, Sergeant Hakon here sends his regards and informs you that the machine is just uncooperative.  Advises to ignore, over and out and have a nice day."  She cut her link and reached out, pulling Hakon's cigarette and throwing it to the floor.  "Put that damn thing out Ben, you know I hate those things."

 "Well, this is my last one," he retorted, bending down to pick it up.  Slowly, he reached his hand down to lift the burning tube of weed off the steel floor, and heard a sound as he touched it.  It was a pulse sound, slow at the time, but high pitched and whinny like.  Dallas's ears also stood up as the sound came to her.

 Below them, Pester heard the sound as well, because it was coming from his arm unit.  He looked down at it, and saw that the blue light had disappeared, and a yellow one took up.  "Wait a minute," he said.

 "Pest?  Pest, talk to me," ordered Hakon frantically.  "That sounds like a perimeter warning signal.  What's going on?"  No reply came for a few seconds.  "Come on, answer me!"

 Pester slapped the arm unit, getting no results out of abuse.  "I don't know, Sarge.  The screwy thing's probably malfunctioning again.  I..."  Another sound came to him.  It was a deep monster like growl, sounding guttural and hissing, like a...a...he had no idea.  "Um...guys and gals."  He was frozen in the voice.

 "I'm not alone down here."

 "Get back here on the double quick!" barked Hakon.  "Now!"

 It was as if the order wasn't even heard by Pester.  He turned around, trying to get a direction lock on whatever was down here.  He kept turning, but there was no sign of what direction it was for him.  "I'm getting one signal," he reported, turning all the time.  "I can't lock in on its bearing from me.  Whatever it is, it's there.  But...where?"  He turned around more frantically.

 "Pest, listen to me!" raged Hakon.  "Pull out and get yer tail back up here.  You're a cheetah, you can move fast.  So move!  Or do I have to come down and get you myself?"

 Dallas motioned to him to be silent.  "Soldier, this is Captain Dallas.  You will vacate level E at once and report to our position immediately.  That is an order, and you will follow it!"

 Still, Pester was either not hearing or not wanting to hear, or just not listening.  He lifted his phaser cannon up higher and armed a shot for it.  He kept gazing at his unit, seeing the yellow star shining on it.  Warning level now, but it turned to threat level.  It turned to a red star.

 "Captain!" yelled Kite.  "Unregistered movement is now detected on level E."  Conner ran out of the room quickly and down the hall, hoping he could get there in time.

 "Pest!  Get the hell out of there!  It's on your level, you still have time to get out!  Get out of there damn it!"

 Pester shook his head angrily.  The pulse sounds giving a relative proximity reading was going faster now, and the cheetah's heart was beating just as fast.  He looked around the room, holding his gun tightly.  This didn't make sense, he thought.  Did someone survive this plight?  The lights over his head started to flicker, and then died out.  Only the lights shining through frost outside was working.

 "Oh, God," he whispered to himself.  He whirled around, keeping the targeting laser wherever he was looking.  Pester's breathing was fast, nervous, almost to the point of hyperventilation.  Sweat pouring off his brow and into his eyes, making them sting.  "Come on out," he hissed and spat at the unseen enemy.  He could feel it out there.

 "Sir, whatever it is, it's big and it's coming straight at your man on E," reported Kite.

 Pester heard that transmission, and he squeezed the handle grip to his cannon tightly, ready to let loose its wrath.  The laser pointer was shut off to not flare out his presence, and he aimed at the door, through the glass, ready to terminate whatever came out of there.

 Slowly, he backed against the wall and pulled the gun stock into his shoulder.  "I'm here," he whispered.

 A shape came out from behind the wall and presented itself in the door, stopping after a run.  Pester almost snapped on the trigger, but stopped.  He saw who it was.  Corporal Betty Riles, one of the DH Rover company, and a hard core female dingo.  She looked inside the medical facility and was startled to see Pester with a compressed phaser cannon pointed at her through the glass.  She stepped inside and looked at him, smiling.

 Breathing with relief at a fellow grunt, Pester lowered his weapon and chuckled lightly.  "You little spit wad," he lashed out at her.  "You scared the living spit out of me!"

 Betty grinned at him, a warm smile for a tough little girl.  Only a few years in the service and one mean little thing too.  She wiped sweat from under her black bangs.  "Yeah, I can tell I did," she said.  "You look like crap and hell rolled into one."

 "Thanks.  Thanks a lot.  Where did you come from?"

 "I dropped my tag and my communicator while coming down.  They sent me to give you a hand down here or relieve you.  Which would you prefer?" she asked, smiling even more.

 "No, I'll be fine.  We only got another thirty minutes and then we can...Wait a minute," he said, realizing.  "You said you came from above.  Then what was I picked from...:"  He looked down to the floor, and she followed him.  It moved.

 A panel from the ceiling was ripped out, and a moving blur shot down out of the rafters.  Betty looked up just in time to see a red thing come down out of the ceiling and grab Pester by his head, and the lift back into the rafters.  She screamed and fell backward, watching the cheetah kick and scream while most of his upper half was in the rafters.  Something was ripping him apart up there.  The girl dingo could hear the flesh being torn, and she saw blood trickle from above and land below him.  Finally, he stopped kicking.

 It came down out of the rafters slowly, holding the cheetah head in a massive talon like hand, thin and bony but like a vice.  Pester's throat was torn out, and he had claw marks on his face, chest, neck and head, some on the shoulders and upper arms too.  But Betty could only stare at the nightmare that held him.

 The monster had reddish bristle like hairs, not fur anymore, on his body.  It was clearly not a Lylatian.  The thing had long arms, almost the total height of its body which was almost seven foot.  The hands themselves reached at almost two feet, the fingers long and bony.  It looked like an extra limb was starting to grow out of one of those arms.  It had legs that looked longer, but somewhat normal.  The feet were large and talon like too.  However, his face and head were hideous.  The creature had eyes, blood red colored, like his whole eye was blood shot, both of them.  The snout was long and the fangs in them that dripped with blood and saliva.  In the corner of his mouth were mandibles with hook like ends.  On the creature's back and flank and shoulders were long iron bone spines, shining like steel and looking just as sharp.  It had a tail with silvery hair in it, like metal.

 Seeing her laser machine gun was away from her, beyond her reach, Betty scooted away from the vile thing as it lowered itself from the rafters and landed with two loud thuds to the ground, one for each massive foot.  The bloody eyes stared at her, saliva dripping like acid out of its mouth and fangs.  He dropped Pester's mutilated corpse and started to walk towards Betty.

 Frantically, she got to her feet and started to run.  The monster roared out a loud screech like whale and ran after her, the long legs moving insect like.  Betty was small and fast, but the monster was big and just as fast, covering distance to her like a pass of a second.  The poor dingo never made it to the door before it shut on her.  The monster caught her, and blood was splattered against the door's glass.

****

 Captain Dallas and Sergeant Hakon had heard the death cry of Pester.  In response, Dallas grabbed a phaser machine gun and the two came running down, hoping to see what had gone on down here.  There were three of them here, the third being Rave.  Hakon wanted to take point, but Dallas insisted that she have that honor herself.

 They heard the scream of a girl when the reached a corner, echoing down the hall.  Dallas heard it quite clearly and pinpointed its origin, and broke out into a run to find where it came from.  Hakon was close behind.

 They came to the bloodied door to the medical room, and it opened when they approached.  Dallas swallowed in nervousness when the sounds of a grunting thing and flesh being torn came to her ears.  She gently crept to the door and looked inside, and gasped.

 The huge monstrous thing was in the middle of consuming a female dingo.  The powerful jaws and mandibles were pealing off her pelt to get to the flesh.  It stopped when Dallas gasped, and turned around to look at her with blood ridden eyes, bloody mouth opening, eager for another kill.  Hakon came into view and looked angrily at the bodies of two of his grunts.

 "Good God!" he yelled.  He saw the large beast thing walking towards them, so he acted.  He raised his cannon, armed a round, and shot.  A large ball of laser energy shot forth and struck the monster hard in the sternum.  It was thrown back from the hit, sending it to its back.  Hakon grinned, and then frowned when he saw the thing's chest still moving.  "Gemini cripes," he whispered.  "Nothing in all of Lylat could survive a hit like that."  He armed another round and raised it to finish the creature off.  He fired and hit it again in the torso.  It died instantly after the second hit.

 "There," he said proudly.  "That's how you make a kill.  Blow it strait to hell and ask questions later."

 "You asked a question first," whispered Dallas, still exasperated by this.

 Hakon nodded, powering down his weapon.  "Yeah, and I want it answered too," he said.

 They were both startled by a loud roaring sound, catching their eardrums and almost cracking them in two.  Hakon went outside and saw another monster, a massive gaping maw, rows of shining and jagged teeth, open wide into a loud and terrible roar.  It was just coming from behind a corner, sensing the presence of new blood.

 The new monster resembled something like a tiger with orange and black coloring.  The creature walked on all fours, and was still almost as tall as Dallas at the shoulders.  Like the other monster, this one's back and front shoulders were covered with large spines.  Its eyes were the same bloodshot red, its fur was more bristly, it its fangs and teeth were longer and sharper looking.  The claws on this thing were more on the side of being hook knives growing out of the paws.

 With long, muscular movements, the devil tiger walked towards the prey before it, ready to pounce if they tried to run.

 "Hakon?" said Dallas, both of them slowly backing away from the monster.

 "Yeah."

 "How many more shots in that gun are there?"

 "One more, and then we need time for it to recharge."

 "How long is that?"

 "Three hours."

 Dallas tightened her lips nervously.  She looked at the readout on her gun to see it only had half a cell left before it was out.  She knew just from looking at the tiger monster before her that it was a lot tougher than that other thing.  One photon blast would not kill it and maybe would slow it down, she was unsure.  Still...

 "OK, we use that last shot and then make a run for it.  We'll seal off this level, and then we evacuate this base and level it from orbit."

 "You got it, Cap'n," said Hakon, always knowing a good plan.

 The floor panels behind them started to bend upward.  Dallas and Hakon turned to see another monster come up out of the floor.  Long ears and huge feet, big mouth and slicing front teeth.  It came out of its hole and stood there, looking at the two.  The tiger monster saw the newcomer and roared at it loudly, trying to warn it away from what was his.  The newcomer ignored the war and slowly advanced on Dallas and Hakon.

 "Get any other bright ideas." said Hakon.  The two backed into each other, remained back to back, always watching the creatures.

 Dallas was looking at the newer arrival, watching it as it hopped towards her like a rabbit would.  "Yeah, we shoot stripes back there and then I'll blow this thing down as much as I can so we can get around it.  I'm not about to become lunch for a bunch of ugly whatchamacallits."

 Hakon pointed the gun at the tiger thing, the laser sighting going right into its eye, blinding it.  The beast growled more angrily at it, fangs dripping.

 "Uh oh," he said.  "I think I made it mad."  Stripes was approaching more swiftly, eager for food and to kill those who brought discomfort.

 "Shoot it!" yelled Dallas.

 Hakon raised the gun, and the monster leapt through the air, ready to rake the both of his prey with his claws.  The gun was fired, and the energy ball launched from it nailed the beast on its back, in the spines.  Many were blown off or in half, and the monster was thrown down from the impact.  Its back smoking, the creature slowly started to get up, but was a little weakened by that blast.

 The rabbit monster saw the opportunity and rushed Dallas.  She pulled the trigger and let the creature get pumped with laser shots.  Dallas stopped when she saw the creature get pushed back by the laser storm, and felt her stomach grow a pit in it when it looked at her like she had just threw a small pebble at it.  Dallas saw that its skin under the fur wasn't really skin at all, but a tough carapace which could grow fur.  The laser blasts were having puny effects on it.

 "It seems we're still in for the main course anyway," stated Hakon, lowing the phaser pistol he was getting ready to shoot the tiger with.

 Having nothing else to loose, he raised the pistol and shot, aiming at the creatures eyes.  The creature moved its head every time he shot, dodging each one expertly.  They had intelligence too, which made it worse.

 "So it would see," said Dallas, sighing.  "I'm still not going down without a fight."  She raised the gun up like a club, ready for the distorted bunny to come where she could break its skull, separate its ears even more.

 Another panel from the ceiling dropped down behind the monster, and Dallas almost gave up in thinking that a third was coming down.  She beamed a great smile when Conner jumped down and landed square on the monsters tail, making it scream.

 Angrily, it whirled around and slashed the air with its claws, and caught the black wolf in the middle.  He kicked the creature hard in retort, but it did little.  Dallas now realized that Conner might be strong, but maybe not strong enough.  Conner growled, his eyes burning bright as he jumped back.  The enraged monster saw him and started to come after him.  Conner unveiled his sword and readied himself to use it, but the monster got the drop on him.  He lashed out with his paw and batted the sword out of his hands, knocking it into the wall.  Dallas frowned as she saw the darkened metal sword hilt fall to the floor, realizing that he was without defense.

 His eyes glowing brighter then ever, Conner retreated slowly from his enemy, the monster closing.  It walked overtop the sword, coming a hairline from stepping on it.  Conner swallowed hard when he saw the rabbit like creatures heavy hind foot almost crush his weapon.  He knew that it would have had nasty results for all of them.  But it missed it, and went on by.  Conner looked up at Dallas and saw she was already moving towards the blade.

 She picked the sword up and dropped the phaser gun, holding it tightly.  Conner thanked himself for showing Dallas how to activate a while back, knowing it was just a sheer luck accident that Katt was able to.  Dallas found the hidden switch and the fiery blade brightened up.

 The monster saw the light and looked back towards Dallas, its eyes shrinking away from the brightness.  Angrily, it lunged at her to kill the light.  Dallas swung the sword, creating a trail of bright flame like energy as she cut the air.  The blade slashed through the face of the monster, slicing through the skull and everything else easily.  She jumped out of the way before its hulk landed on her, dying before it hit the floor.

 Amused at seeing this, the striped beast was watching this to see what happened.  Now, he could continue with the kill of now three victims for himself.  The monster walked towards Hakon quickly, ready to swipe out and kill with its claws.

 "Move!" yelled Conner, taking the sword away from Dallas.  Hakon jumped out of the way and Conner threw the sword.  It flew like a spinning bolt of lightning, slicing the air with fire and lightning as it traveled.  The blood eyes of the creature widened as it saw a bright light fall into it.

 A loud and agonizing scream came from the creature when the sword sliced through its carapace and spines, going strait to its organs.  The heat from the sword went on to cook its insides too.

 Dallas, Conner, and Hakon stood by to watch the tiger creature die from the sword in him, kicking and screaming wildly out as his whole insides were being destroyed.  Soon, he fell to his side and jerked around, spazming from death coming to him.  He stopped kicking and just died, going to sleep and not to wake up again.

 Conner walked forth and pulled the sword out of the monster and retracted it.  The monster's blood was colored purple instead of red, as were the other two.  However, Dallas saw red blood drip down from Conner, and he looking a little weak.

 She rushed forward and supported him as he was about to fall.  The claw scratches in his stomach were deep, bleeding heavily.  "Those look bad," she said.

 Conner shook his head.  "They'll heal on their own," he said.  "I'll be fine."

 "Like hell," retorted Dallas.  Dr. Q'Ronnie and other medical people along with more soldiers entered this area.  They were all taken by total surprise at the sight of the unnatural creatures all dead now.

 "What the hell are these?" asked Q'Ronnie, seeing the two mutilated victims inside the small medical area.  He bent down the long armed monster inside and prepared to take a sample of the purple blood.  He instructed there be samples take of the other two monsters as well.  "This has to be connected with the virus," he thought out loud.  "I fail to see the coincidence in this."

 "Get what you can Doc," ordered Dallas.  "Because we're getting out of here.  I want all people to pull out of this colony.  Every soul of our people had better be walking in the SunHawk in forty minutes or less."

 "Yes ma'am," said Hakon.  He relayed the order to his men, and the evacuation started.

 Q'Ronnie looked at Dallas, unsure if this was a wise decision.  "We have all the data we need her, Doctor," she said, supporting Conner.  "Get what you can on these...these... things, and then we're booking.  When we're in orbit we're going to nuke this sight until it glows."  He stood there for a bit, looking skeptical about this.  "Go on, do your stuff and get your people out of here."

 He nodded and they went on to get blood samples from the creatures.  Conner slumped over a bit more on her, groaning a bit.  "I feel..."

 "Like you're getting weaker?" she finished.  He nodded.  "That monster was probably poisonous in some way.  Come on.  Let's get you home."  The two of them slowly walked out of this place, back to the surface, and back home.  There time here was over.

****

 It took no more then a full twenty minutes to have everyone pull out of the colony and get back to SunHawk.  Dallas had ordered the ship to remain above the colony at all times, making sure they could get back on board quickly if needed.  Now, she was overseeing the final people from below stepping inside.  The door closed, marking it was over for this place.

 From here, over communication, she ordered the ship to be put into bombing position over the moon, primarily at PDV.

 The ship fired turning thrusters, and the pointed nose was pushed towards the moon in its high orbit above, ready to open fire on the colony.

 Dallas walked into the bridge, which was housing everyone except Conner, who was in sick-bay.  Katt was there, knowing what was to happen.  She was a little tearful about it.

 Dallas went to the primary weapons console and stuck in it, a key.  It turned, and that console lit up, showing the data for all nuclear weapons on board the ship.  "Arm one missile with medium warhead and have it ready to fire on my command."

 "Yes, Captain," said the firing operator.

 She went to the front of the ship and stood before her crew, looking over them all.  This was going to be difficult, as it always was.  "We are here now to pay a final respect to the dead who were lost here.  Although pain this strong cannot vanish without leaving some sort of scar or mark, it still cannot and should not infringe on our ability...to continue.  We will go on, and we will remember these people.  Not as martyrs, and not as statistics, but as our brothers and sisters, and hero's of war."

 A tear fell from her eye as she turned around and looked at the screen, the gray moon down below her, looking as dead as the people inside the colony which rested there, now a graveyard.  For a moment, she thought she could feel souls lifting from that place, into a new light.

 "The weapon is ready.  Captain, we are ready to fire."

 "Set the missile to detonate after a hundred meters under the surface."

 "Set."

 "Fire."

 Katt watched in teary grief as the last action was carried out.  She silently said goodbye to Emma one last time, praying to that she would always love her.  Even if she was an android, Emma did have a soul of her own.  God made sure of that.  Katt told herself this, even though she had no real faith in any God.  It did give comfort to know.

 The missile flew out from one of their many torpedo bays and rocketed to the surface.  It disappeared to their view after a bit, and they waited.  It was a short wait.

 A bright flashing light blasted off of the surface, the nuclear fire giving the dead a final key to rest.  Dallas dared not take her eyes away from the sun brightness, even though others were doing that.  She felt she owed it to those people to see this through its final moments.  The light died, and the soft molten glow of the colony's final destruction slowly died away.

 It was over...here.

 Dallas turned around and headed out of the bridge.  "Where are you going sir?" asked Grant, following her with his eyes before she left.

 Dallas stopped and sighed, almost defeated looking.  "I have a report to make," she said very, very quietly.  She went on and left the bridge, leaving everyone exasperated and a little broken.
 
 They all knew what was going to happen when General Pepper found out what has happened here.

 "Q'Ronnie to Captain Dallas, please report to Medical.  It is urgent."

 Dallas sighed.  A delay.  Had to be.  She hoped it was.  Just a delay.  It wasn't though.  And she knew it.

 "I'm on my way."
 
 
 
 

Chapter VII
A Nightmare to a Sad, Sad Truth

"There are times when Death and Honor are thought to be one and the same thing.  However, certain events set that into two separate pieces, and changes the rules completely."
-Captain Allison Dallas - CSS SunHawk-

 "Are you sure about this, Doctor?" demanded Dallas.

 "Deathly sure," he replied.  "The virus mutates if it enters the blood stream of a person with OV Negative blood type, which is one of the rarest types known.  It then triggers the virus to metamorph into something else.  It's not a virus anymore, it's a parasite.  No longer infection, but infestation."

 "And that's what made those things we fought down there.  Those monsters that almost killed us.  A virus that can change into a invader bug?"  Each sentence was more loud and more angry the last.

 Q'Ronnie nodded slowly.  "This, this is the ultimate weapon, Captain.  Not only does it obliterate life on a place, it turns it into a piece of hell.  I..."  Dallas backed away, ready to leave, not wanting to hear any more.  "I just thought you wanted to know," he finished.

 Dallas nodded slightly.  "How is Conner?" she asked.

 "He'll live.  I had to sedate him for the antitoxins though, so he'll be out for a few hours to let it run its course.  His advanced immune system helped a great deal.  If it was you or me or anyone else, we would be dead right now.  He's lucky."

 Again, Dallas nodded, agreeing with him.  She then left, not saying a word, not saying anything.  She just went out.  Inside too.
 

 Star Wolf sat in their private quarters on the Venomian orbital platform, waiting around for nothing at all.  Wolf and Leon still had no word on their possible job well done, they were just glad to be back and in one piece.

 Pigma, across from them, was scarfing down a plate of roast beef like he was starved for seven days, even though it was seven hours since he had a meal just as huge.  Leon was reading a novel by himself on a sofa, remaining silent.  Andrew was on the computer, playing a video game silently since Wolf made him keep the sound off, much to his dismay.  As for the one eyed fiend himself, he was sitting at a desk hard at work with something.

 "So," said Pigma, not bothering to swallow before he spoke.  He took a swig of soda before he opened his mouth again.  "Do you think General Salt will surrender if the weapon works as good as Andross said it does?"

 Wolf sat back, a large and toothy grin on his face, chuckling silently to himself.  He looked a little more cheerful then his usual dark and icy aura, a small glint of hope in his eye.  "I don't know," he said.  "If he's foolish, probably.  However, I think his precious morals are going to flood out his common sense."

 "What do you mean if he's foolish?" demanded Andrew, pausing his game to face Wolf.

 "Look around you," spat Wolf.  "I may be missing an I but I'm not half as blind as any of you when it comes to knowing what is going on.  Haven't you noticed?  We're not winning this war any longer.  Dark Star is destroyed, over half our fleet is dead, and we can't stop Fox and his scrawny flukes from destroying the weapon's depot on MacBeth because we have to wait for those blasted Wolfens to finished being repaired.  The Cornerian forces are massing behind their lines, and there is no way to know if they cross until it is too late."

 "So how does that make Pepper foolish?" asked Pigma.

 Wolf shook his head, annoyed at the mental oblivion of Andrew and Pigma.  The second Andross kicks, he thought to himself, those two are being spaced.  "Because, you walking pork rein, if Pepper was smart he'd call Andross' bluff and invade us.  Of course, if the virus works, it won't be a bluff, and victory would cost Pepper over a billion of his own people's lives.  That is a worthy price for a victory in war and you know it.  But the stupid mutt will undoubtedly surrender to save all the lives of his people.  He'll be throwing away victory when it's tight in his hands, which is a down right moronic and dip stick thing to do.  So, now you know."

 He turned back to his desk and continued working on something, trying to search out more on what he was looking for.  "What are you so involved with lately, Wolf?" asked Pigma, finishing off the last bight of his meal.  "Ever since Dark Star you've been into something.  What is it?"

 "None of your business," snapped Wolf.

 "Don't you know," said Andrew, getting a growl from Wolf.  Andrew ignored it.  "It's about the SunHawk commander.  You now that Dallas chick.  He's got something for her."

 Wolf picked a paperweight off his desk, a small one, and chucked it hard at Andrew.  The paperweight nailed him between the eyes, knocking his head back.  Wolf, hiding his pride in a shot like that, brushed off his paws and went back to work.

 "I'm telling Uncle!" whined Andrew, holding a swollen nose, no blood coming from it.  It would turn red though, as it was doing now.

 Leon smiled.  "Go fig," he said to himself, turning a page.

 The video screen activated on its own.  This got an action out of all of them, Wolf running to the front to stand at attention, as did the other three.  The screen was snow for a moment, and then Andross' face appeared on it.  "Good evening gentlemen," he greeted happily.

 "Good day, my liege," said Wolf.  "You seem cheerful.  Did the weapon pass your little test?"

 Andross' smiled widened.  "It did, and with far better precision then I anticipated as well.  Proxima Delta Ver fatality rate is one hundred percent after five hours of initial infection.  Oh, yes, it did pass."  He remained there, smiling deeply and evilly.  Then he saw Andrew.  "What happened to your nose Andy?" he asked.

 Andrew was about to speak and Nark on Wolf, but he was stopped by an invisible reptilian foot slamming into his, cutting him off.  "He slipped on a wet floor and hit his nose on the wall," lied Wolf.

 Andross nodded, not going to press the issue this time.

 "So what happens now, Lord Andross?" asked Pigma.  "Do we make our demands to Corneria, or use it again."

 "I won't use the weapon again if I don't have to," said Andross.  "I don't have to make demands either.  The SunHawk just made a report to General Pepper about what happened at PDV.  All we have to do is wait and see his reaction.  As for you, pack your bags up for a little trip."

 "Trip?" said Wolf, squinting his eye.  "Our fighters are still in the shop."

 "You'll take Invaders."  Wolf squinted his eye, protesting without speaking.  Andross only smiled in response.  "Don't worry, O'Donnell, there will be no combat involved, I assure you.  Just get your bags packed, limit one per person please."

 "Where're we going, Uncle?" asked Andross.

 "I'm not going to discuss that over a communications grid.  Just get into space and outside the outer marker, and I'll send the coordinates to you there.  After that...well, you decide."

 "One question, excellency," said Leon.  "What happens if we get no word from Pepper since he knows about the weapon?"

 "I'll take care of that when it comes, it's no longer your concern.  Just be where I told you to be.  You have twelve hours starting now.  Andross, out."  The screen blanked out, leaving the four to go on their own.

 "All right, you heard the ape!" barked Wolf.  "Get your things!"  The other three went left the lounge and went off to their quarters and gather what they could  From how it sounded from Andross, this was a very important thing they were getting into.  Even so, Wolf was not thinking about it.

 He went over to the desk he was working at and sifted through the files and documents he was searching.  All of them pointing to something that brought him a little more joy.  He smiled slightly and said one word.

 "Soon."

****

 Captain Dallas opened the door to her office and slowly stepped out of it.  A few of the officers were standing nearby, and stepped back when she walked out.  Dallas was a mess.  Her shirt was ruffled up and untidy, her hair was a little ratty.  They had all heard a terrible ruckus erupt inside with only her.  Someone got the view to look into her office, and saw many things trashed and broken.

 She saw this person, and her green eyes narrowed.  "Get back to your freakin' posts!" she screamed out, almost on the verge of threatening violence.  The all left, hurrying before something did happen.  Dallas calmed down slowly and backed against the wall.

 All for nothing, she said inside.  It was all for nothing.  Angrily, Dallas beat her fists on the wall, wanting anyone or anything Venomian to stand in front of her so she could kill it with her bare hands.  Anything at all to vent her overheating emotions.

 The bridge door slid open, and Dallas walked in.  Everyone was shocked to see her totally unprofessional look.  An unkept uniform and messed hair.  But, after they looked into her face, they knew she cared less then nothing about her appearance.  Total defeat was plaguing her expression.  Those who were in here the last time she left knew what had happened already, so they all were gasping and losing faith, everything saying that it was bad.  The worst.  Kesh and Maurine held each other, Grant could only bow his head, and Sparky made no motion at all.

 Dallas went back to the front of the bridge, and presented herself as best she could.  How does one deliver a message like this?  She never thought that this moment would come.  She cleared her throat before she spoke up.

 "I've just gotten out of a communication with General Pepper," she said, her voice just above a whisper.  She swallowed, obviously finding this difficult.  "He now knows as much as I know.  Some of that is something that everyone in here besides myself are unaware of yet.  The monsters we fought down on the colony were, in fact, mutated Lylatians.  A dog, a tiger, and a female hare.  All of them mutated into nightmares by this virus because of a certain blood type they had.

 "General Pepper, and I assume the rest of Priority One, and sooner or later the War Ministry, all know about this virus.  It was General Pepper who gave me this warning though.  In response to this threat, we will do nothing now except the following.  Halt all advancing forces at this time.  Star Fox will be ordered to fall back on their attack on MacBeth, and any mercenary group currently involved in the offensive will be asked to reconsider.

 "For right now, we do nothing at all.  If at any time, Venom threatens to use this weapon on largely populated targets, our orders are to...to prepare for the possibility of total and unconditional surrender to the Venomian Empire."

 A small commotion erupted on board the bridge, many of the people started to argue.  The word surrender hung over their heads like a bad plague.  Some of them sat down in their chairs, sulking, wishing they were dead or somewhere else far away from here.  This hurt too much.

 "Please," called Dallas, seeing that the commotion was getting too high.  "Please! Please, be silent.  For right now, just listen.  I know what you are all thinking.  It was all for nothing.  Everything that we accomplished in the last three months, was all for nothing.  The first official entrance of our own forces into the war, the destruction and victory over Dark Star and the Venomian Fleet, the countless enemy kills we had, even the construction of this...this...this God damned ship!"  She was on the verge of tears now.  "It was all for nothing.

 "Well, I am not going to allow if to be for nothing if I don't have to.  If we surrender to Venom, and if the circumstances of the surrender agreements allow it, we will take this ship, use the gravity drive, and jump wherever.  Just get as far away from Lylat as we can.  We'll build a force of our own, we'll find allies, and we'll come back and take back what is ours.  I wish we could stop this now.  I wish we could find a way to prevent Andross from using that devil weapons of his.  But, we can't find where he's keeping it.  So, there is really nothing we can do.  Even if we take Venom now, he could still use the virus, and kill billions, turn thousands into monsters.

 "All we can do is wait, right here, in this spot, to see what happens next, and hope that God smiles down on this once.  Because, right now, he's the one who we need the most right now."

 She stopped, unable to go on.  Feeling herself in tears, Dallas stormed out of the bridge quickly, all of the people on the bridge wanting to make something to help her.  But there was nothing, nothing at all.

 All was lost.  All was lost.

****

 The news came to Star Fox like a poisoned dart being inserted through the eyeball.  Fox practically felt his heart crack when he read the message.  Everyone else was just shocked beyond belief.

 The possibility of surrender.  The words had an effect like a bad brain tumor, hurting all of them inside, especially Fox.  In one move, Andross has turned losing the war into a total victory.  He hated the ape now more then ever.  Hated him for who he was, what he was capable of doing, and knowing he was willing to do all of it.

 Fara saw Fox broken hearted and followed him out of the Great Fox bridge to his quarters.  He lay on his bed, totally silent and not moving an inch.  She went in a sat on the bed, placing a hand on his shoulder.  Fox closed his eyes.

 "I'm sorry," he said softly.  "I'm so sorry."

 "Sorry?" repeated Fara, wondering about his reasons.  "For what?"

 "For not marrying you when I had the chance.  I had to wait until the war was over before I could marry you, just because I needed a clear head to fight Andross and all the rest.  Now it's too late.  You know what will happen to us if Pepper surrenders to Andross."

 Sadly, Fara nodded to him, knowing all to well what was in store for Star Fox if they lost this war.  Andross' first term of surrender would be to have Star Fox handed over to their custody alive for war crimes against the Venomian people or some other asinine thing to make it sound justifiable.  They would then be hog tied and given to Star Wolf as a present, and that would be it.  If this was not done, if Fox and his friends tried to escape and get away from this nightmare, Andross would no doubt unleash his new weapon, and billions would die.

 Slowly, now realizing all of these facts, Fox started to tear.  It was all for nothing, he thought, just as Captain Dallas thought.  The countless successful missions they pulled off against Venom, the hundreds of thousands of lives they saved, the commemoration they received, the freedom they won for every world except a few from Venom control.  All of it was crap, now meaningless.  Fox closed his eyes to these facts, wishing that his heart would stop this very moment.

 "No," he said suddenly.  "I'm not going to just sit here.  There is a weapon's supply depot down there that needs to be blown up.  We'll just pretend that Pepper's message never came through."

 "Fox, if we attack MacBeth, then Andross might retaliate by using the virus."

 "We'll go in quietly, wait on the surface for a while, and attack when the time is right.  We'll blow up the supply train and the depot all at once."  He got up and ran out of his room, going to prepare for what is to come.  Now threat of biological apocalypse was going to keep him down.

****

 Being silent and moody while she sat alone, Katt could do nothing but wonder.  She wondered about what life would be like under Andross' rule.  Katt knew there was no point in caring because she would be captured by them anyway and no doubt executed with extreme prejudice.  There was a large bounty on her head on Venom from the troubles she caused.  If she surrendered, she was finished.  If she ran, others might be finished.  Billions of others.

 Katt was so confused on what to do.  She knew that she could do no good on winning back her people if she was dead.  But was her life and her help to any resistance worth half a billion lives?  This question rang through her mind as potently as a dynamite into her ears.  She clenched a very tight fist, never noticing the pains of her claws digging into her paws.

 "Are you all right?"

 Katt looked up and saw Conner standing there before her, looking worriedly at her.  Katt wiped a tear out of her eyes.  "No, I'm not all right," she snapped back at him.  "No one is all right.  We're going to surrender to Andross, and that'll be it.  It's over.  We lost.  Oh, how are you, by the way?"

 Conner rubbed his stomach where the bandaged up scratches were.  "Oh, I'll be fine.  The poison didn't infect my system enough to be a worry.  The last I heard, surrender was large might happen," said Conner.  "It would be foolish to give up hope now.  We don't know if your enemy has any more of this virus left."

 Katt shook her head quickly.  "No, he's got more, somewhere.  I've taken the liberty of contacting every person I know who has some means of hacking into Venom's computer files.  None of them, not a God damned one of them, have any clue where it is.  If Andross had no more of this virus, then why would he use it on a place that was not a threat to him and had no strategical value?"

 "Probably just to cause a scare, which he is doing right now, in a very big way.  I heard Dr. Q'Ronnie say that this virus was extremely difficult to synthesize."

 "I think they have more.  But I can't worry about it.  I'm leaving in about an hour.  With luck, I can get to MacBeth and help Star Fox blow up the base there, show them that we can't be threatened or bullied by little bugs."

 Conner sighed.  She was brash, impatient.  The death of her cousin would make the arrogance dormant for a while, but not kill it off.  It would soon be back.  But Katt was also one more thing and that was brave.  She would not slow down.  Conner went to the table and sat across from her.

 "I have to apologize for what I did to you the other day.  I moved on you too quickly, and I'm sorry if I offended you."  She looked downward, shamed and embarrassed.

 "You didn't offend me, Katt.  No one wants to be alone, that is understandable.  Even if we must all stand alone once in our lives, we never want it.  You are a lovely and charming woman, and there is someone out there for you, waiting."

 Katt smiled tearfully and nodded.  She wanted that person to be Falco, and no one else.  She still felt she belonged to him before anyone else.  "What about you?" she asked.

 "I must be truthful," he said.  "I have feelings for someone else on this ship.  She's already very close to me as a friend.  For the time, if not forever, I would like it to remain that way."

 "It's Captain Dallas, isn't it?" asked Katt.  "You should go for it.  You two would look good together.  She's very pretty, smart, tough, and a great leader.  Besides, there are women out there I know who would die to be with you."  She smiled at him one last time and then got up, leaving the SunHawk to go catch Star Fox before they moved without her.

 "See ya around, Conner Seacore," said Katt on her way out.  "Don't be a stranger now."

 Conner watched her leave, waiting until he no longer felt the presence of her life around him.  He then laid his face on the table.  Conner stayed here for a while, just to rest.  The poison in him was gone, and he was fine, but was still a little weak from it.

 After a short rest, he got up and quickly went towards his quarters.  He had an idea.

 Conner opened his quarter's door and saw Captain Dallas, sitting at his table.  She looked up at him with her green eyes, making him swallow.

 "Hello, Ally," he greeted warmly but nervously.  "Is there something I can do for you?"

 "Please sit," she said after a while, gesturing towards the opposite chair.  "Feeling better?"

 "Yes.  Just a little groggy, but I'll be fine.  You?"  Dallas shook her head no, and Conner saw the hurt inside of her.  "Yes, I heard about what happened.  My condolences.  I might..."

 "I want you to leave," interrupted Dallas.

 "What?"

 "I want you to leave this system and go back to your people.  I'm sorry Conner, there was so much I wanted to learn from you.  Your ways, your people.  But my world has turned upside down.  I want you to leave while you still can and get away.  Cut loose while you're still ahead.  Please."

 Conner sat in the chair, looking shocked.  He shook his head.  "No, I'm sorry Ally.  Friends do not abandon friends in their hour of need.  I'm staying to the end of this.  This ship is the only place I have right now to call a home.  For the time being, you and all the rest are my family."  And there is something else.  The biggest reason I'm staying here, he thought to himself.  But he had no idea how to tell her that he was in love with her.  Conner swallowed.

 "Please, Conner, leave this system before it turns black.  I'm asking you as a friend to leave.  I care about you as a friend and if you stay here, then Andross and his scummy creepy jack asses are going to find you, and they will remember you from what you did to Star Wolf.  You'll be a hunted man.  Please leave this place."

 "I can't," said Conner.  He almost said because he loved her, but remained silent.  "I have an obligation here.  Pandora is still out there for one thing.  You think that Andross and his little toy virus is going to stop her from releasing tons and tons of havoc?  You, I, and Maurine are among the few who knows she is around.  I can't leave this place in good feeling while knowing that she is out there, free as a bird.  I'm sorry Ally.  I care about you too."

 Dallas nodded finally, not going to argue further.  She swallowed hard, feeling the effects of what happened today hurt her heart almost mortally.

 "First of all, Ms. Katt has departed from the ship.  She told me she was going to help Fox and his friends with their next mission if she could."

 Dallas looked at him.  "You sound pleased that she's leaving.  The last time I saw you two together, she was..."

 "Shh," Conner cut her off.  "Please don't remind me.  You have no idea how nervous I was during that...impulsive situation."

 Dallas smiled, almost to a laugh.  "You?  Afraid?"

 He nodded slightly, himself smiling as well.  "I guess I wasn't ready for physical love like that.  I can't imagine I ever will be until I find someone to start gradually with."

 Dallas nodded, understanding him.  As Katt said, he was a "lady killer" with his good looks, but he was not a ladies man at all.  A very ironic situation he was in, thought Dallas, smiling.

 "I was going to say that I might have something which could help you," he said, going into the back room.  Dallas looked at him strangely, following his movements to the back.  He came back with a small cloth bag in his paws.

 Dallas smiled.  "Unless it's a way to eradicate this virus from afar, then I don't think it will help."

 "Actually, I was going to wait until after dinner for a walk in the arboretum, but I guess this should make you just as happy.  It won't do it from afar, but it will destroy the virus."

 "The virus is resistant to even the toughest nuclear blast, letting up to fifty percent of it to survive and infect elsewhere.  Even the toughest fusion bomb is too unpredictable with the results to destroy this virus.  It can even survive in a zero atmosphere environment for a short time."

 "It's not a fusion or any kind of nuclear bomb," Conner said, rummaged through a bag of jewels which he brought with him.  "Those leave the blast area a death zone for an entire eon.  This is a bomb though, and it will help."  He pulled out a large green emerald, shinning like a light on a tree leaf, and set it on the table center.

 "A jewel is the bomb," said Dallas, looking skeptical.

 "Somewhat," answered Conner.  "Watch."  He ran the point of his claw along the finely cut edge of the emerald to its length, and then sat back.  Dallas looked on, waiting for something to happen.

 The jewel flared with a brilliant light, a small green star right on their desk.  Dallas shrank back from the emerald as it grew brighter and brighter, and soon as bright as the sun.  Only it didn't hurt to look at it.  She watched as the emerald rose off the table a few inches on its own and levitated in the air.  In a bright flash, the emerald disappeared and a shoe box sized object was there instead.  It was glowing white at first but then faded to a shinny box on the table.

 "Incredible," said Dallas.  "You turn objects to jewels to make it easy for them to travel.  That's incredible."

 The object looked like a giant opal like thing, perfectly cut into an oval shape.  Surrounding it was a metal frame, which held the opal in some sort of field that kept it suspended in the air.  Dallas saw how the opal surface changed colors with every pass of a second.  It had lava like patterns on the surface that went from blue to green to dark blue and aqua, all different shades of blue and green.

 Conner made no response to Dallas's comment.  He simply started an explanation.  "This is a quantum implosion warhead.  To my people, it's called a Thralq Moor.  The bomb uses  chroniton energy instead of nuclear by creating tears in the fabric of space and time.  Nothing, not even a virus can survive in an area where time doesn't exist.  It'll only be like that for a split second and then time reverts back to normal.  But all material in that area, no matter how small or unbeatable it seems, ceases to exist in all folds."

 Dallas poked her finger through the frame and gently touched the inside surface.  It felt rubbery to the touch, and indented slightly under the pressure of her finger.  She took the hand away and it retracted under the loss of pressure.  Dallas saw a slight discoloration of her finger where she touched it.

 "It feels like skin," she said.

 "Yes, it uses organic material technology.  The only way to house such great energy."

 "How does it work?" asked Dallas, poking it again.

 "It works by a collection process.  The bomb collects all atoms of it's current atmosphere, not the environment, the atmosphere, and charges the atoms stored with a small level of quantum energy.  This collection procedure begins three minutes before detonation, and continues until the bomb explodes.  The war head is all the atoms it collects."

 "What's the blast radius?"

 "One terraton capitol yield."  Dallas looked up at him, her eyes wide.  "Thirty kilometers of nothing would be the aftermath.  The bomb blast only goes out horizontal, not spherical."

 "Disk shaped."

 He nodded.

 She astonished at that much power through this little device here.  It looked so insignificant.  "Once the collection procedure begins, the bomb cannot be stopped.  Under no circumstances.  When the countdown reaches three minutes, be somewhere else."

 "I thought you said it only takes atmosphere," she said.

 "True.  But even if you had an air tank, it could rip it out through the hose and suffocate you where you stand.  Plus, the object has a self defense system which will destroy any solid matter that comes near other then the person who armed it.  If you choose to use this, the decision is final one the collection phase begins."

 "I understand," said Dallas.  "Now all we have to is find where Andross is keeping this virus.  No one knows anything.  The bug operates on a heightened level of heat, so we should track it that way, but there is nothing.  Unless we find where it's being kept, this weapon is useless to me."

 Conner smirked.  "When they first gave me that thing when I left homeworld before it was destroyed, I thought they were being foolish.  I didn't think I would need it since I didn't plan to obliterate anything.  I guess now I know that fate works in mysterious ways."  Dallas smiled at him, always amused when he tried to cheer her up.  "Here, I'll show you how to arm it and start the countdown, which is fifteen minutes."

 "Show me later," said Dallas, smiling.  "I haven't heard you play that thing of yours since you first got here."  She was referring to his flute on the desk.  "Go ahead."

 Conner, smiling, went and got the musical instrument.  "This is a melody I heard when I was a cub, from our people thousands of years ago."  Dallas sat back, anxiously awaiting.  Conner started to play.

 The flute melody could almost be heard in space, outside the ship itself.  A sad sounding and teary song, which did so to Dallas as Conner played on.

 The SunHawk flew through space, deeper into the dark.

The End
 
 

Star Fox is the property of Nintendo Inc. and has been used without permission.  The ship and crew of the CSS SunHawk, Pandora Freelancer, Shadow Squadron, Death's Head Rover Company, and Enna Monroe are all my characters and cannot be used without my consent.  Thanks.