Wisdom of a Veteran

"Watch it!"  Star yelled as a construction beam was lowered down into a
hole.  The beam had nearly wiped out some workers on break.  "Didn't I
tell you break was over?"
 "No,"  a gorilla worker said, taking a bite of his sandwich.
 "Get up and get back to work.  I'm not paying you to slack off,"  Star
shut the gorilla's lunch box.
 "I don't get payed enough to have only an hours break,"  the gorilla
looked up challengingly at Star.
 "Oh jeez, here,"  Star tossed ten credits at the worker.  "Now get up
and get back to work."
 "What's a cutie like you doing on a work site?"  the gorilla asked,
smiling as he pocketed his money.
  "I like to make sure work gets done right,"  Star smiled at him as he
stood up.  She patted him on the back and slid the money out of his back
pocket as he walked away.  "Oh, I can't wait to shove a memory potion
down his throat,"  Star said, pocketing her cash again.
 Fortuna's icy wind was nipping through her fur and freezing the marrow
in her bones.  I'm going to take a long bath when I get home, Star
thought.  If Fox gets into any trouble between now and the time I get
home, it's too bad.
 Sparks flew as Star watched a lion with a torch secure a metal beam to
another.  Hopefully, the construction of this base would be done within
three days.  It had taken more than a week already and with nearly a
thousand workers, it should be closer to done than it was.  One half of
the base had the walls up and was being insulated.  The other half was
still just a skeleton.
 The workers were living in a temporary on-the-spot building with no
communications to their families or friends.  Any communicating to home
would have to go through Star.  She was paying for top security on this
and didn't want any information leaking to anyone.  Cornerian or
Venomian.
 "Excuse me, Ms. McCloud?"  a coyote approached her, shivering despite
his heavy jacket.  "I need to talk to you about the blue-prints."
 "What about them?"  Star asked, walking up to a table where the
blue-prints were tacked, to keep the wind from blowing them away.
 "Well, it seems you've placed the living room directly above the
laboratory, with a trap door leading down.  Wouldn't it be more
practical to have the escape room below the living room?"  the coyote
asked.
 "No, because if someone ever raided the base, they would be looking for
a trap door.  If you place the escape room there, you'd give the team no
way to escape the enemy.  If you place the lab there, you'd give the
enemy an obstacle to cross before they get to the escape room.  It
wouldn't be a problem to the team, because they'd know where to go,"
Star explained, pointing out certain points on the blue-prints.
 "Alright, I see now,"  the coyote looked up at Star.  "You seem to know
exactly what you want in a base.  I like employers who know what they're
talking about."
 "Thanks,"  Star said smiling.  "I try."
 A scream cut through the air as someone's hand saw slipped.  A burly
dog was holding his wrist tightly, trying to keep the blood from
spurting out.  "Where's the doctor?"  someone yelled.
 "He's gotta cold!"  someone else yelled.
 Star raced towards the wounded worker.  He was nearly in hysterics by
the time she got there.  "Calm down,"  Star yelled.  The worker quieted,
surprised.
 Star opened the first-aid kit she had attached to her belt.  She gently
took hold of the dog's wrist and poured a numbing solution on it.  The
dog tried to pull away as the liquid burned, but Star held on,
surprisingly strong for someone of her size.  Star reached into the kit
again and pulled out a sedative potion.  Before the dog new what was
happening, she had pried open his mouth and poured it in.  She pulled a
kerchief from the kit and wiped the blood out of her eyes, then
tightened her grip on the wounded wrist.
 She pulled out a needle, threaded already, and began to stitch the
wound before the dog was completely sedated.  In under five minutes,
Star had stitched the cut and tied it up in a bandage.  She sat back to
relax.  The doctor in training came up behind her and checked the
wrapped wrist.
 "Pretty good,"  he said.  "Did you learn anything about first-aid?"
  "No, I just suddenly knew how to sew it up,"  Star shouted,
sarcastically.  "Now back off and give the guy some room.  Where were
you when this happened?"
 "I-I was with the doctor,"  the young cat said, surprised at Star's
outburst.
 "I hate medical people,"  Star growled.  "Never around when you need
them.  Get him to the room complex."
 Several workers picked up the sleeping dog and carried him to his
room.  "Wow," was all the coyote in charge of the project could say.
"Wow."
 "No biggy,"  Star shrugged.  "Oh shoot!  I just got blood all over my
favorite jacket!  I've gotta get home and clean this.  Keep working for
another hour then call it in.  And no accidents."  Star walked away with
the workers watching her.  Arctic was parked in the workers docking
bay.  It was the only jet not collecting dust, as the workers hadn't
been allowed to fly home on weekends.  "C'mon girl, let's go home."
 Star headed home, speeding so the blood stains wouldn't completely ruin
her jacket.  But, unfortunately, Star picked up a distress call coming
from a transport not far from Macbeth.  "Oh, jeez, does everyone need my
help today?"  Star wondered.  "Now, where's my brother?  He should
handle this, I'm not a mercenary pilot, I don't get payed for this."
Star checked her radar.  "Great!  Fox is on Great Fox orbiting
Corneria.  He's never around when I need him."
 Sighing, Star opened a channel on her com to Great Fox.  "Hey guys,
having fun?"
 Falco jumped up from his nap on the couch.  Peppy and Slippy looked up
from their magazines at Star's image on the screen.
 "Star, where've ya been?"  Falco asked.
 "No time to talk, I've got a distress call coming from somewhere near
Macbeth.  Where's that good for nothing brother of mine?"  Star asked.
 "I'm not good for nothing!"  Fox said, walking out of his bedroom,
still in his pajamas.  "I run Great Fox, you don't."
 "Shut up,"  Star snapped.  "I'm not the one who sleeps til noon."
 "It's not noon, it's ten o'clock!"  Fox protested.  "I'm not on the
same hours as you."
 "Sometimes I wish you were,"  Star growled.  "Fox, get your team out
here, a transport needs help."
 "Why can't you handle it?"  Fox asked.
 "Because I don't feel like it!"  Star yelled.
 "We'll be there,"  Peppy said, interrupting the twins conversation.
Fox whirled around to glare at him, his green eyes flashing anger.
"What is the position of the transport?"
 "Ummm....36 degrees and 54 degrees,"  Star replied.  "How soon can you
be here?"
 "Traveling with the boost on for that distance should take us about an
hour,"  Slippy calculated.
 "Great,"  Star grumbled.  "Hurry up, I don't feel like doing this.  And
big bro, remember to get some real clothes on, O.K.?"  Star clicked off
the screen.  She flew towards the direction of the transport, trying to
find out who she was up against on her computer.

 "Why'd you do that, Peppy?"  Fox asked, pulling on his jacket as he
stepped out of his room again.
 "Star's had a busy day already,"  he said simply, tossing Fox's jacket
to him.
 "How would you know?"  Fox snapped.
 "Just by skimming her top thoughts, I can tell she's tired and cold,
from working on Fortuna and stitching someone's wrist.  She's had a busy
day,"  Peppy said, walking quickly to the docking bay.
 "Who's wrist did she stitch?"  Fox asked.  "And why was she on
Fortuna?"
 "As I said, I only skimmed the top of her thoughts,"  the hare said,
jumping into his jet.
 "Oh c'mon, if you can read minds, why don't you use the talent to find
out better things?"  Falco asked.  "Like where she lives?"
 "I respect others privacy,"  Peppy answered as he systematically
checked his radar and g-diffuser system.
 "You don't respect my privacy,"  Falco grumbled.  "You threw out my new
Playbird magazine.  I didn't even get to see the pull-out!"
 "You act suspicious whenever you get a new one,"  Peppy replied.  "And
you know it's against the rules."
 "Switching to Hyper speed,"  Fox said, interrupting their
conversation.  The four jets blasted off towards the position Star had
told them.

 "O.K., let's see what your made of,"  Star said to herself, as she ran
a scan on the transport in front of her.  "Hmm...a new metal mostly
composed of carbon.  Well, that was a dumb idea.  It's a wonder this
thing didn't burn up in the atmosphere.  Is this a Cornerian
transport?"  She typed on her keyboard and observed the ship from all
sides.
 She had found the ship empty and deserted.  There wasn't even an
identification mark on it.  "Who's stupid transport is this?"  Star
wondered aloud.
 "Oh, wouldn't you like to know," a snarling voice said over Star's com.

 "Well, well, if it isn't that one-eyed wolf.  What do you want now?"
Star asked, pulling a U-turn and facing her opponents.
 Starwolf was in attack formation, and ready to take out anything in
their way, which just happened to be Star.
 "How about revenge?"  Wolf asked.  "For getting me and my friends in
trouble when you escaped our trap?"
 "I don't how you could have thought that was a good trap," Star
replied.  "All rocks on Fortuna are completely frozen and will crack and
explode under the right pressure and heat."
 "We didn't think you'd know that,"  Andrew snapped when the rest of his
team failed respond.
 "Oh, please insult my intelligence, Andrew,"  Star shook her head.  "I
know more than you now, than you'll ever learn in the rest of your
life."
 "Take her out!"  Wolf demanded.  The team flew in, surrounding Star on
all sides.
 "Oh my,"  Star yawned.  "I'm fleeing in terror."
 Leon shot at her first, but she simply barrel-rolled and deflected the
shots back at him.  Pigma tried firing into her engine, while Wolf sneak
attacked from beneath her.  She turned the jet on its side, so she was
flying vertically, at the last second and Wolf nearly collided with
Pigma.  Andrew threw all his fire power at Star's left wing, but a
simple half-loop, twist, and brake, brought Andrew directly within
Star's sights.  He took a lot of damage right there.
 By then, Leon was ready to charge again.  He feinted to Star's right
wing, braked, and shot right at her canopy window.  "Oh, so you're
trying to be as sneaky as your cousin?"  Star asked, looping quickly and
trailing Leon with her lasers.  "Well, Liam sucked as a spy."
 "Liam was one of the best!"  Leon protested, U-turning out of Star's
lasers.
 "No, I now several people who are way better than him, and I happen to
be one of them,"  Star U-turned, trying to follow Leon, only to be met
by Pigma with a barrage of laser fire.
 'Fox, where are you?'  Star thought.
 'I'll be there soon, just hold them off for a while later,'  Fox
thought back.
 'You know, I'm really starting to get ticked that you're never here
when I need you,'  Star thought, looping behind Pigma.
 Peppy chuckled, hearing the twins' conversation.  He thought it was
comical, the way they never quit arguing, yet they loved each other and
would never let anything happen to the other twin.  No matter how
obnoxious and reckless Star was, no matter how proud and cocky Fox
acted, they were brother and sister and really loved one another.
Though you wouldn't know it by the way they fought.
 "We're here!"  Falco announced as soon as his ship was within laser
range of the fight.
 "What do you want, a medal?"  Star asked.  "You're late, as usual, big
bro."
 "Hey, I got here as fast as I could,"  Fox protested.
 "Yeah, he almost left without any pants!"  Falco laughed as he darted
around Leon's laser fire.
 "Falco, I told you not to tell her!"  Fox yelled.
 Star laughed, but she wasn't the only one.  Wolf was also cracking up.
Pigma was laughing so hard tears were in his eyes.  Andrew could barely
see outside his window for his fits of laughter.  Even Leon cracked a
smile.
 "I guess you boys won't need my help now,"  Star said.  "I've got
readings of something bigger on ahead.  I'm going to check it out."
 Embarrassed, Fox only nodded and watched her fly off in a northern
direction.  Starwolf was easy taken out, half because of the damage they
had taken from Star, half because they were laughing so hard.  Starfox
flew on, following Arctic by radar.
 "We should be seeing her soon,"  Slippy said, confused when his radar
said Star was within visual range, but he couldn't see her.
 "Shhh,"  Star hissed.  "I'm in cloaking."
 'Star, what's going on?'  Fox asked, mentally.
 'Shhh, Fox,'  Star answered.
 Wondering why she was being so quiet, both mentally and verbally, Peppy
looked into her thoughts.  He had told Falco earlier that he wouldn't
ever try to find out where Star's base was because he respected her
privacy, but he probably wouldn't be able to find it anyway.  Star had
hidden her thoughts from her brother for nearly ten years and she was
very good at hiding her thoughts from even the most telepathic
Pandorans.
 Right now, Star was thinking about a strange phenomenon taking place in
front of her.  She had shut off her engine so that it was coasting.  She
seemed completely awed by whatever she was staring at.  Peppy had to
look deeper into her thoughts to see what she was seeing.  It was a huge
space ship, a round-saucer like thing with bright lights all around it.
It was maybe as big as Katina and it looked highly advanced for anything
Cornerian made.
 Snapping out of her trance, Star began to run a scan on the ship.
Nothing happened.  Oh c'mon, are you working right?  Star wondered,
trying the scan again.  Again, nothing happened.  Alright, time to break
out the heavy artillery, Star thought, trying a very advanced scan.
Strange figures and symbols appeared on her screen.  "Oh shoot,"  Star
whispered, translating the language before her computer could.
 "Why?"  Slippy asked.  "What is it?"  He was still to far out of range
to see the ship.
 "Ishmael,"  Star whispered.
 "Oh no,"  Peppy groaned.  The Ishmaelians were an unfriendly group of
aliens out for domination.  When he had been on the original Starfox
team with James and Pigma, they had once battled these strange
creatures.  It had not been an easy battle and they had nearly lost.  It
was by pure luck they discovered the Ishmael were extremely sensitive to
dog whistles, but dog whistles weren't made any more, because it was
decided they were wrongful against all canines.
 "What?"  Falco asked, obviously confused.  Slippy and Fox were equally
confused.
 "A race that wants totally destroy every galaxy, system, and universe
in the cosmos,"  Star said, her voice still barely above a whisper.  "If
they want something, they get it."
 Peppy nodded.  Star was wise beyond her years when it came to knowing
about things, how they work, what they do, how they affect other
things.  "The only thing that stopped them was dog whistles,"  Peppy
said.
 "Not any more,"  Star said, watching her computer screen.  "They're
unstoppable now.  They've evolved past hearing dog whistles."
 "I don't understand,"  Slippy said.  "Why do they want to rule every
galaxy?"
 "They don't,"  Star said.  "They just like destroying systems, not
ruling them."
 "Why?"  Fox asked.
 "Who cares?  Let's take this thing out!"  Falco said, speeding ahead.
 Star flew in front of him, making him stop short.  "Falco if you so
much as suggest you're going to fire on that ship, I will put your jet
in such bad condition, you won't make it back to Great Fox,"  Star said,
her voice deadly serious.
 Surprised, Falco backed.  He looked up to see the gigantic ship and
understood why Star didn't want him to fire on it.  The size along could
shatter Fortuna with a sonic boom.  "So what do we do?"  Falco asked.
The rest of Starfox had just come in close enough to view the ship.
 "We go home and pray to whatever gods we believe in and hope this ship
doesn't plan on taking over our system,"  Star said, nearly sounding
scared.
 "All aircraft, break away,"  Fox said, trying to keep his voice low.
Even though she didn't have to listen, Star flew with the team.  She
didn't do her aerial tricks that she normally did when with the team,
but flew sullenly next to her brother.

 "That wasn't fair!"  Wolf yelled, stomping into the lounge used only by
his team.  "We can't fight when we're laughing so hard!"
 Pigma chuckled, still remembering Falco's comment about Fox nearly
leaving without his pants.  "It was a funny thought though."
 "It was such a basic trick we should have been able to ignore it!"
Leon said, shoving Pigma out of his way.  "You three all broke down
laughing, at least I kept my composure."
 "That's because you only laugh when you're torturing people,"  Andrew
grumbled, walking into the room and grabbing his jacket.  "I'm going to
the bar with Guy."
 "He won't be there,"  a cool voice said from the shadows of the room.
It caused the entire team to jump.  Leon whirled around.
 "Liam, get out of there!"  Leon demanded.
 "Whoa, calm down, cuz,"  Liam stepped out of the shadows, grinning
widely.  "That's why they called me the 'Shadow' in spy school."
 "Your names gonna be 'Mud' if you do that again,"  Leon growled,
sitting down on the couch.
 "Oh, don't sit down,"  Liam said.  "Ramsy and Ben hafta show you guys
something."
 "Is Guy there too?"  Andrew asked.
 "Yeah, c'mon, let's go!"  Liam said, trying to pull his cousin to his
feet.  Being two years younger than Leon, Liam got excited easily and
tended to be a bit annoying, but Wolf and Leon both enjoyed his company.

 "Look, kid,"  Leon said.  "Normally, after Starfox has beaten us, we
sit and grumble about it for a while.  Then we get up and do things."
 "Oh, but you'll like this,"  Liam had a mischievous gleam in his
reptilian eyes.  "You'll love this."

 "Annie?"  Peppy asked, watching the a/v screen.
 "Oh, Peppy!"  Annie looked surprised to see him on the screen.  "You
usually don't call til later."
 Annie looked like a very nice rabbit, with white fur and short hair.
She was nice and pleasant to be around.  Star had never met her
personally, but had read about her on the Cornerian personal files.
Annie was very good at predicting pilots deaths before they even left
their home docking bay.  I'll have to watch my thoughts, Star thought.
 "Annie, we've got a problem and I'd really feel better if you were on
Great Fox with me instead of on Corneria,"  Peppy explained.  Then he
mentally, he added:  'We've got Ishmaels.'
 "Oh, well, sure.  I'll stay on Great Fox if you want me to,"  Annie
said, understandingly.  Peppy had told her of his last meeting with the
Ishmealians.  If she was on Great Fox, she'd not only be safe, she'd be
able to keep an eye on her husband.
 Star stood in the doorway, in the shadows, waiting for her brother.
She had to talk to him.  "Watcha waitin' in the shadows for?"  Fox
asked, coming up behind her.
 "Oh, Fox I've gotta talk to you about these Ishmaels,"  Star said,
following her brother into the lounge.
 "What th-?!  What happened to you, Star?"  Falco asked jumping up.
 "What?"  Star asked, surprised.  Falco pointed to the blood on her
jacket.  "Oh, that.  Someone cut there wrist open at a construction site
and they needed help stitching it.  The doctor was sick and the trainee
had no clue what to do."  Star pulled off her jacket and slung it over a
chair.  "Now listen Fox, the only way these creatures could be defeated
before was dog whistles," Star paused to let Fox shiver.
 "Man, I hated those things!  I'm glad they outlawed them,"  Fox said.
 "Your ears are just too sensitive,"  Falco said, grabbing a soda and
tossing one to Fox.  "So how do we get rid of these things now?"
 "Well,"  Star started, grabbing Fox's soda.  "We start by studying them
and finding out possible weak points.  There technology is far more
advanced to anything Cornerian or Venomian.  Jo'hara Prather and I could
probably come up with something, but I don't trust the communications
systems with those bugs here."  Star popped open the soda and took a
sip.
 "How advanced are we talking?"  Fox asked, swiping his soda back and
taking a sip.  "They can't be that advanced."
 "Fox, my normal scanner couldn't even tell what the ship was made of,
let alone who was on it.  I had to use a highly advanced scan that
Jo'hara made and I perfected,"  Star explained, hooking her computer up
to Great Fox's main computer.
 "But why would they attack again?"  Fox asked.  "If they attacked here
already?"  He tipped the soda back for another sip, but Star caught it
before he could pour the liquid into his mouth.
 "Because they know we won because of the dog whistle,"  Star took a sip
of the soda.  "And now that they've evolved past that, they're back,
ready for conquest."  Star started to tip the can back again, but Fox
snatched it and tried to take a drink, but it was empty.  Scowling, he
threw it away.
 "What is the ship made of?"  Slippy asked.
 "A rare metal called Heron.  It's only found in small deposits on
Venom.  It's nearly indestructible, no one can find a way to melt it,
bend it, or destroy it.  Even our strongest acids slide off it like
water on glass,"  Star said, bringing up an example piece of Heron on
the screen.  "I've got an example of it in my lab at home.  It's nearly
useless to us since we can't use it, but it would make a great outer
shield on a jet, because it's light and indestructible."
 "Does it conduct electricity?"  Slippy asked.
 "No, that's the weird part.  It conducts heat, but not electricity,"
Star switched the image on her screen to the giant ship hovering near
Venom.
 "I've got to go pick up Annie,"  Peppy said.  "I'll be back soon."
 "Careful, Pepster,"  Star warned.  "Ishmaels are known for their
unpredictability."
 Peppy nodded and walked out.  He had to use the small transport his
crew only used for rare rescue missions or picking up visitors who
didn't have their own jets.  It was a slow thing, it traveled a few
miles below Lightspeed, making it one of the slowest of it's kind.
 Sighing and hoping he wouldn't run into trouble, Peppy flew off to
Corneria.

 "So you're saying these are aliens coming to destroy our system?"  Wolf
asked, boredly.
 "Yeah,"  Ben said, displaying a picture of the huge ship.
 "Well, they'll hafta get in line,"  Wolf laughed and sat down on the
couch in the Conquest Squadron's lounge.  "So Andross thinks you're a
pretty good team?"
 "Wolf, we could be fatalities in any minute and you're just sitting
there, nonchalant?"  Ben asked.
 "Umm...Could you repeat that in our universal language please?"  Wolf
asked.
 "Our planet may be blown up in a matter of minutes and you're just
being all cool about it?"  Ben yelled.  "What gives?"
 "Hey, Andross isn't gonna let us get blown up,"  Leon said.  "If that
mother ship comes near here it'll have every available squadron out
there blasting it, which means you, and every important squadron, like
us, will be evacuated."
 "This thing is close enough to destroy our planet now,"  Ben said.
"Can you say, without a doubt, that we're safe?"
 "You're the computer specialist," Wolf said.  "You tell us."  Wolf
patted the leopard's shoulder and walked out.  Leon and Liam followed
him.  Pigma left behind them, no doubt heading to the cafeteria.  Andrew
and Guy walked out, talking in hushed tones.  Ben sighed and looked at
the computer in dismay.
 "Don't worry about it, Ben,"  Ramsy said, patting his shoulder.  "I'm
sure you'll know when to evacuate and when it's safe."
 "No,"  Ben replied.  "I won't."

 "Hey, anyone there?"  Star asked, as the call she placed on the a/v
went through.  "Whoa!"  the a/v scared Tera and he almost dropped his
plate of eggs.  "Star!  You scared me."
 "Sorry,"  Star apologized quickly.  "Is Jo around?"
 "Yeah, he's here somewhere,"  Tera said, setting his plate down on the
table.  "Do you want me to get him?"
 "Could you?"  Star asked.  Tera went to go find Jo'hara
 "Hey, Star,"  Dekslan said, stepping in front of the a/v.
 "Hey, Dekslan, what's happening?"  Star asked.
 "Oh, you know the usual,"  Dekslan shrugged.  "We've been looking for a
base, but so far we haven't found place with a big enough newlywed room
for Lizbel and Darwin."
 Star laughed.  "Well don't look too hard, I might be able to scare up a
place for you.  How's the new couple?"
 "Sickening,"  Dekslan made a face.  "They're never apart for sixty
seconds.  It makes me sick to look at them.  It's totally disgusting."
 "Are you talking about Darwin and Lizbel or Natlarn's scrambled eggs?"
Jo'hara asked, smiling.  The dark puma walked in, smiling.
 "Who can tell the difference?"  Dekslan asked, smiling as well.
 "Could you channel this call to my computer room?"  Jo asked.  "I'd
like to show Star a new prototype of mine."
 "Sure,"  Dekslan said, leaning over to turn the knobs on the screen.
"See ya later, Star."
 "Ciao,"  Star said as the image on the screen changed to a dark
screen.  She could just barely make out small, flashing lights and knobs
on numerous control panels and screens.  "Cool playroom, Jo."
 "Thanks, I keep all my favorite toys in here,"  Jo'hara said.  Star
could barely see him against the blackness.
"But I'm assuming you called about the Ishmaels and not electronics."
 "Have you told your team yet?"  Star asked.
 "No, I didn't want to worry them,"  Jo'hara replied,  "I think I'll
have to.  I especially don't want the Firehawks involved, they've been
through a lot recently."
 "Yeah, I can understand that,"  Star said.  "But our system may be in
serious trouble from these aliens."
 "I agree, but what are we going to do against them?"
 "Well, I have a small sample of the material the ship is made of and
since you've got more toys than I do at this point, I'd like you to run
some tests on it,"  Star said.
 "How is it I've got more toys?"  Jo asked.
 "I'm on Great Fox, not my den.  I want to keep my bro's team under
control, you know them,"  Star rolled her eyes.  "But didn't you say
something about a new prototype?"
 "Oh yeah!"  Jo'hara ducked under his desk and pulled out a small
robotic machine.  "This little robot will be the best repairman in Lylat
once I've tested it, but I'd like you to test it first, you're good at
finding things wrong with my inventions."
 "What does it do?"  Star asked, interested.
 "Say you lose a wing during an air battle,"Jo'hara said.  "Losing a
wing hinders your flying, right?  Well this little baby'll fix it, just
like that!" Jo'hara snapped his fingers for emphasis.
 "Really? Cool,"  Star said.  "When can I try it?"
 "When you drop off the sample of Heron,"  Jo'hara grinned.
 "I'll be there in less than an hour,"  Star said, clicking off her
screen and
grabbing her helmet.

 "So I'll finally get to meet the famous Star McCloud?"  Annie asked,
trying to sound cheerful.
 "Yes," Peppy said.  "But don't be surprised if she can block her
thoughts from you."
 "A Vulpinarian blocking their thoughts from a Pandoran?"  Annie
laughed.  "I don't think so, Peppy."
 "It's true,"  Peppy insisted.  "Twins have sometimes been able to
actually communicate with mind-speech, such as Pandorans.  Isn't that
so?"
 "Yes, but there hasn't been one that has been able hide their thoughts
from Pandorans,"  Annie replied.
 "Well, then I think you're in for a surprise,"  Peppy smiled and landed
the transport in Great Fox's docking bay.  He frowned suddenly.  "She's
not here."
 "How can you tell?  We're not even inside yet,"  Annie asked.
 "Her jet's not here,"  Peppy explained, opening the door to the main
hallway.  "I wonder where she went."
 Annie reached out her thoughts.  She could feel Falco sleeping on the
couch, Slippy working on a computer, and Fox worrying about his sister.
 "Where's Star?"  Peppy asked, stepping into the lounge.
 "We don't know,"  Slippy said.  "She left without telling us."
 "She could have been shot down by the Ishmaels,"  Fox said, looking up,
worriedly.
 "I'm sure we'd know if that happened,"  Annie said, smiling as she
patted him on the back.  "She'll be fine."
 "What makes you so worried, Fox?"  Peppy asked.  "You know she can take
care of herself."
 "Yeah, but Slippy just printed out some data on these aliens,"  Fox
said.  His green eyes looked nearly panicked.  "Their practically
indestructible and Star would be dumb enough to try and fight them
herself."
 "Can't you feel it when she's in trouble?"  Annie asked.
 "Yeah, but not when she's too far away,"  Fox replied.
 'I don't think she can be able to hide her thoughts if he can't feel
her at a distance,'  Annie thought to Peppy.
 'Star knows more than her brother and I have reason to believe she is
more advanced and capable of not letting him feel her,'  Peppy thought
back.
 "So what are we going to do, Fox?"  Slippy asked.
 "I don't know,"  Fox said gloomily.  "I just want Star back in one
piece."

 "Hey, Star!"  Darwin greeted Star as she jumped out of her jet.
 "Hey, Dar, what's going on?"  Star asked.
 "Nothing at the moment, do you have a job for us?"  Darwin asked,
hopefully.
 "No, sorry,"  Star laughed.  "Where's Jo'hara?"
 "Right here,"  Jo'hara said, practically melting out of the shadows.
Darwin and Star both jumped.
 "Jeep, how long were you standing there?"  Star asked, laughing.
 "Not long,"  Jo'hara shrugged.  "C'mon, I have something to show you."
 Star followed Jo'hara as he hurried down the hall to his computer
room.  "Nice,"  Star said, looking around the room.  "I like this
place."
 "Come and look at this,"  Jo'hara said, ignoring Star's comments.
 "What am I looking at?"  Star asked, watching a black screen.
 "Hold on,"  Jo'hara said, typing on his keyboard, fingers flying.  The
picture on the screen became more visible, allowing Star to see the
outline of hatches on the bottom of a spaceships hull.  The hatches
opened and a fleet of battleships flew out, armed to the teeth and
prepared to fight.
 They were large enough to hold an entire squadron set apiece.  Lasers
shot out and destroyed large meteors, almost large enough to crush a
Katina base.  "Jeep,"  Star whispered, watching as the battleships made
their way to different parts of Lylat.  "Look at that.  They stay in
formation perfectly, they all fly at the same speed, they move in
perfect symmetry...It's like every army/flight teacher's dream come
true.  They look like they were all cut from the same piece of metal."
 "And they fight in the perfect formation, never allowing a team member
to be shot down.  They don't just get the enemy out of the way, they
annihilate it."  Jo'hara said, watching the screen.
 "Talk about mega-extermination," Star whistled softly.  "These bugs are
gonna crush us."
 "Unless we can get in their base, which won't happen unless we can find
some way to destroy the alloy their mothership uses,"  Jo'hara turned to
Star.  "Did you bring it?"
 "Of course I did,"  Star said, handing the hunk of metal to him.  "I
really don't know what you can do to it I haven't already done."
 "How much weight can this hold?"  Jo'hara asked, placing it on a long,
white, plastic sheet on the table.
 "I stopped testing it at about seven tons,"  Star said, watching as
Jo'hara typed on his computer.  The screen showed the anatomy of the
metal.
 "If we find out how it formed..."  Jo'hara began.
 "Tried that,"  Star said.  "It was formed in a volcanic explosion in
which it was flung at the speed of sound for forty some-odd miles.  It
landed in the river that created the Rudimentary Ravine, one of the
first rock formations on Venom and the only place this stuff can be
mined.  It took form under the water, unaltered by people for millions
of years as the river cut the ravine and drained away.  There's no way
to produce more metal like that, or destroy it."
 Jo'hara was still watching the screen, intently.  "It can't be
impossible to destroy,"  he murmured.
 "Maybe, maybe not,"  Star said, leaning over Jo's shoulder.  "Watcha
doin'?"
 "I'm trying to find out how solid this is,"  Jo'hara said.  "I can't
find one spot where the atoms aren't lapped on top of each other.  The
electrons don't even have room to vibrate."
 "I know, this piece of metal seems to defy all the laws of science,
except gravity,"  Star grumbled.
 After almost an hour of experiments, Jo'hara sighed.  "I can't find
away to crack it."
 "That's alright,"  Star said.  "Thanks anyway."  Star picked up her
sample of heron, and began to leave.
 "Hold on,"  Jo'hara said.  "Don't you want my prototype?"
 "Oh, sure,"  Star said.  "I forgot about it."
 Jo'hara went to the docking bay and helped Star attach the robot to
it.  As Star started the engine, the robot immediately came to life.  It
ran a scan on the ship and stored the data in it's memory chip.
 "So how does it work?"  Star asked, watching as the robot surveyed her
ship.
 "Well, all machines are based on a lot of little machines and
basically, the robot works using the smaller parts of larger machines,"
Jo'hara said.  "I'd tell you more, but I'm guessing you have something
to do."
 "Well..."  Star said,  "I may have one last card up my sleeve."

 "It's so quiet since that mothership came into our system,"  Guy said,
walking into the lounge.  His team, the Conquest Squadron, had proved
their worth to Andross and now they had there own complex like
Starwolf.  Leon, Liam, and Wolf were talking and working in the small
gym area.  Ben was on his computer and Ramsy was reading a magazine.
Pigma had fallen asleep in a recliner with a half-eaten tornab crab in
his lap.  Andrew followed Guy over to the air hockey table where they
started a game.
 "Yeah, even Starfox has stayed quiet,"  Andrew said, deflecting a shot
on his goal.
 "I wonder what those aliens want,"  Guy said, controlling the puck
carefully.  "I hope they just pass us by."
 "I dunno,"  Andrew said, waiting for Guy to take a shot at his goal
again.  "It would be interesting to fight an enemy other than Starfox
and Corneria for a while."
 "No way,"  Guy said, firing at Andrew's goal, only to have the puck
deflected.  Guy shot again.  "We'd get creamed by their technology."
 "Well, just sitting here doing nothing is getting boring,"  Andrew
said, blocking the puck yet again.
 "You can't win by playing defense all the time,"  Guy said, finally
knocking the puck into the goal.
 "Huh?"  Andrew asked, looking up.
 "We can't win against the Ishmaels if all we do is defend ourselves,"
the sparrow shrugged.  "Neither can you win a hockey game just defending
your goal."
 "Yeah,"  Andrew nodded.  "Maybe I can get Uncle Andross to agree with
that."
 "Goal two,"  Guy grinned as he hit the puck in the goal while Andrew
was busy thinking.

 "Alright, let's look like we're getting payed, people!"  a foreman
called out, urging the miners to work harder.  The mine on Macbeth was
working hard to find metallic alloys for Venom to use on their jets.
The mine had been taken over about a year ago, and since it was so close
to Venom, it was the ideal place to manufacture supplies.
 A young cat was working on digging around special piece of rock that
contained a certain kind of mineral.  "I hit a vein!"  she called out as
the chipped away rock revealed a similar mineral stretching down towards
the unmined stretch of tunnel.
 "Alright, let's get some man-power down here!"  the foreman yelled
again.  "Good work, Kismet."
 The cat grinned and scraped a bit of the mineral into a bag for
analyzation.  She began to follow the vein into the tunnel when someone
grabbed her arm.  "Who's there?"  Kismet asked, nearly scared.
 "Cool it," a soft voice said.  "I need to talk to you."  The figure was
dressed in a dark-brown cloak with the hood pulled up, covering their
face.  Slowly, the figure pulled back the hood.
 "Star!"  Kismet whispered excitedly.  "What are you doing here?"
 "Some serious work, that's why I didn't wait for you at your home,"
Star replied, pulling her heron from her pocket.  "You know what this
is?"
 "Heron, a rare mineral found only on Venom, no melting or freezing
point, atomic number 312, anatomy-"
 "I just asked if you knew, not a lecture, Destiny,"  Star said.
 "Sssh!  Don't call me that here,"  the "cat" tucked a strand of hair
behind her ear.  She was a Cornerian spy Star knew at the Academy.  She
was actually Destiny Lachesis, a weasel abandoned on Fortuna, raised by
scientists and sent to the Cornerian Academy where she excelled in
spying.  She was the best spy Corneria had to offer.  Next to Star of
course.
 "Listen, I need help on finding a way to destroy this stuff,"  Star
said.  "It's really important."
 "And how do I fit into this?"  Destiny asked.
 "You can get me safely onto Venom,"  Star said.  "I don't want them to
know I'm there."
 "You'll go under an alias, right?"  Destiny asked.
 "Yeah, I'm not going as myself,"  Star said.
 "Meet me at my bunk, five sharp."
 "I'll be there."

 "Any word from Star?"  Fox asked, nervously.
 "Nope, not yet,"  Slippy said, trying not to sound as worried as he
felt.
 "Relax, she'll be fine,"  Falco said, sounding calm, though his
thoughts were in turmoil.  He, too, was worried.
 Annie meditated, trying to override their thoughts and find Star
through telepathy, not technology.  Peppy sat next to her, trying to be
calm.  He thought of what Fox had been like when Vixy was killed and
then his father.  Fox had fallen apart, thinking his life was over.
What would happen if Star died too?  Annie gasped suddenly, her face
white with pain.
 "What?  What is it?"  Peppy asked, jumping up.
 "The Ishmaels,"  Annie gasped.  "They're using telepathy too.  Much
stronger than I've felt."
 'Star is really on her own now, isn't she?' Peppy thought.
 'I'm afraid so,'  Annie thought back.

 "Thanks Destiny,"  Star said, stepping out of the small transport.  "I
owe you one."
 "You can repay me by getting out alive,"  Destiny grinned.  "Good luck,
Star."
 "Luck?  One doesn't get where I am by luck,"  Star smiled as she pulled
her hood up and slipped into the shadows.
 "No, maybe not, but being foolish doesn't get you far either," Destiny
thought aloud.
 Star slid through the base silently, avoiding cameras, detection
lasers, and sleeping guards.  Some protection this base has, Star
thought as she moved fluidly down the hall.  She found an un-occupied
bedroom and slipped inside to wait out the night.

 "Pigma, we think we caught a spy,"  Wolf said, shaking Pigma out of his
sleep.  "We think it's Star."
 "Huh?"  The pig asked, waking up slowly.
 "We need you to tell us if a new employee is Star in disguise,"  Wolf
said, flipping the mattress over and letting Pigma tumble out.
 "I'm up!"  Pigma yelled.  "Let me grab some breakfast and I'll be
there."
 Wolf walked out of the room while Pigma got on his uniform and
grumbled.  He walked to the kitchen and grabbed a soda and the carton of
ice cream for his breakfast.  Eating quickly, he hurried to look over a
few papers about Star's must used alias's when she was in grade school.
 He put the ice cream carton back in the freezer, empty, and carried his
soda with him.  Wolf met him in the hallway.
 "She's a small gray squirrel,"  Wolf explained.  "Calls herself Trista
Berkson.  She's Star's height, weight, and frame.  Do you think it could
be her?"
 "Possible,"  Pigma shrugged.  "I don't ever remember her being a
squirrel though."
 In the docking bay, a squirrel had been taken aside and was being
questioned.  She looked terrified.  "I'm not who you think I am!"  she
said.  "Why can't you understand that?"
 "How long did you go to the Venomian University?"  a guard asked,
ignoring her plea.
 "Since I was a child,"  the squirrel looked ready to cry.  "Why are you
doing this to me?"
 "Yeah, that's her,"  Pigma said, smiling gleefully at the squirrel.  "I
know Star anywhere."
 The squirrel burst into tears.  "I-I'm not her!  I w-wanted a job t-to
support my brothers a-and I get accused of spying!  Why does this hafta
happen to me?"
 "No, it's not her,"  Pigma shook his head.
 "Are you sure?"  Wolf asked, his patience was being tried.
 "Yeah, Star doesn't cry,"  Pigma said.  "She not a spy."
 "Alright, sorry about the mix up, carry on,"  the guards walked away,
leaving the squirrel to dry her eyes.

 Well, that was close, a dark figure thought, with a brown cloak pulled
tightly over it's head.  Too bad for the squirrel.  The figure flowed
down the hall like water, like a fox on the hunt.  Alright, where's the
throne room in this dump, thought the figure.
 She looked at a small map in her paw.  Do they hafta make these so hard
to read?  I'll bet no one even knows what's in half these hallways.  As
the map was slid back into a pocket in the cloak, a bit of red fur was
exposed.
 Sliding down the hallway silently, the figure stepped into the throne
room.  Immediately, six guns were turned to the cloaked one, who shot
them before they could even see her laser, hidden in her pocket.  She
also blasted two video cameras in the corners of the rooms.  Andross sat
calmly on his throne.
 "I told you to be alone when I got here,"  the hooded figure said.
 "I only take orders from myself,"  Andross replied.  "Now what is it
you want?"
 "As you know, there is an Ishmaelian spacecraft not far from Venom,"
the figure said.
 "Yes, I am aware,"  Andross said.
 "The ships hull is made of heron, a rare, indestructible metal.  If we
can penetrate it, we'll be able to take the visitors out easier."  The
figures voice stayed low, so the voice was unidentifiable.
 "And why did you come to me?"  Andross asked, surprisingly calm.
 "I've been to everyone trying to find away to even dent this metal, but
so far, I have found nothing new.  I heard that you had learned how the
melt Lance, the rare metal on Titania."
 "Yes, I did."
 "Then maybe you could create something to eat through this,"  the
figure held out a sample of heron.
 "What's in it for me?"  Andross asked, smiling evilly.
 "Two million credits now,"  the figure said.  "Five million when you
find the solution that will eat through it.  You have until Midnight,
three days from now."
 "I like your style,"  Andross said.  "Leave the sample on the chair
over there.  Along with the money.  Who do you work for?"
 "Myself,"  the figure said, and walked out quickly.
 "What a sucker,"  Star murmured, turning around slowly and putting her
ear to the door.
 "Go get her,"  Andross said.  Star heard running footsteps.
 "I thought that was a little too easy,"  Star thought, throwing her
cloak off.  Her fur was dyed black and she had on tight fitting
clothes.  A dagger on her belt next to her laser holster, plus the
dagger hidden in her boot.  A laser/bullet proof vest was fastened
tightly around her chest, a bag of Siamese stars at her waist.  High,
thick boots reached up to her knees and her hair was pulled back into a
pony tail.  A black whip was attached to the back of her shirt.  Her
entire outfit was dark, the color of night.  In fact, her alias for this
disguise was Night Brazen.
 As the guards filed out the door, Star tossed her cloak over a few of
their heads, and yanked them down.  She shot another dozen before they
saw her in the shadows.  She flipped backward and missed being hit by
lasers.  She shot the ceiling above their heads and it crashed in,
trapping some of them.  Nearly twenty guards were left.
 Star back-flipped, then quickly forward flipped and did a flying kick.
It knocked one guard into the next, knocking nearly five guards over.
Before they had a chance to react, Star whipped out her whip and lashed
three guards off their feet.  One charged at her from behind, while
another from the front.  Star pulled a Siamese Star from her pocket and
tossed it at one guard, catching his sleeve and pinning him to the
wall.  Star brought her elbow into the guard behind her and flipped him
over her hip.  A laser burn through the heart silenced him forever.  The
guard pinned to the wall broke free and charged at Star again.
 Star started to fire her laser, but a guard had grabbed her wrist- her
right one.  Without taking time to panic, Star pulled out her dagger
with her left hand and ran it through the guard charging at her, while
she slammed the other one into another guard.
 Star sheathed her knife and slipped the laser back into it's holster.
She picked up her Siamese star and put it back in it's bag.  She made
sure her whip was secure across her back, and she grabbed her cloak.
She slipped down the hall, unnoticed.  No one's here?  Star wondered.
Where are they?  Shouldn't alarms be sounding or something?
 She stepped into docking bay and slid into the shadows before the
workers could see her.  She pulled out her laser and shot three before
she was detected.  A security guard shot at her hiding place, but Star
had already slipped into an Invader IV and was taking off.  Lasers
bounced off harmlessly and Star sped away as quickly as the Invader
would allow.

 "Damnit, she was here!"  Wolf yelled, slamming his fist into the
table.  "We didn't even see her!"
 "Technically, no one saw her,"  Liam said, looking over a written
report.  "She was wearing a cloak, that prevented anyone from seeing her
face, or her weapons.  She didn't even look like herself when the cloak
was off.  She looked more like a Siamese black-belt."
 "I don't care about the technicalities!  We shouldn't have let her get
away!"  Wolf yelled.  "How many soldiers did we lose?"
 "Umm....Seven were killed and three are in critical condition.  One is
expected to die at any time now,"  Liam answered.
 Wolf growled.  "Why did Andross even let her in?  He knew who she was!"

 "Calm down, Wolf!"  Leon said.  "He obviously wanted whatever she was
giving to him.  What was it Liam?"
 "A rock sample and two million credits,"  Liam scanned the report.
 "Two million!?"  Wolf asked, his mouth falling open.
 "Where does she get her income?"  Leon asked, gaping at the amount.
 Liam shrugged.  "It doesn't say."
 "Well, I guess we know why Andross didn't kill her as soon as she came
in,"  Leon said.
 A yell from the throne room sent the three friends running to see what
had happened.  Andross was gaping at a chair in the corner of the room.
Just as Liam, Leon, and Wolf burst in, they could see a fire light up
and burn whatever had been sitting there.
 "My money!"  Andross yelped.  "Someone put out that fire!"
 But the fire died down almost as suddenly as it had started.  Leon
walked over to look at it.  "What money?"
 "My two million credits!"  Andross yelled.
 Liam pinched some of the ashes between his fingers and sniffed them
carefully.  "Brittle cash.  A type of counterfeit money that burns
itself after ten minutes of being handled."
 "What?!  That was counterfeit?"  Andross yelled.
 "'Fraid so,"  Liam said.
 Andross yelled again and sank into his chair.  "We'd better get outa
here before he comes too,"  Wolf suggested.  The cousins nodded and
followed Wolf out quietly.

 I wonder if Fox is worried about me?  Star thought as she flew out of
Venom's atmosphere.  She tried to contact him via her telepathic link,
but yelped as pain flooded into her mind.  "What was that?"  she asked,
as the pain subsided.  Then she realized the Ishmaels were blocking
telepathic waves, preventing anyone from speaking in secrecy, or spying
on the aliens.
 "Man, I hate it when life, more intelligent then us shows up,"  Star
growled.  "Uh oh."
 Port side of the Invader was an Ishmaelian battleship.  Star tried to
speed away, but it was too late.  The ship had seen her and was
releasing squadrons to capture her.  "I'm glad I left Arctic on
Macbeth,"  Star said.  She turned her com on quickly.  The Ishmaelians
would catch up to her, because their ships were known to be faster than
any jet known to Lylat and she'd be easy prey then.
 "Fox, I'm in trouble,"  Star shouted as soon as the a/v screen came on.

 "Where are you?"  Fox asked.
 "Near Macbeth.  Hurry!"
 "We're coming,"  Fox replied as he clicked off his screen.
 He'll be here any moment, Star thought as she flipped around and headed
into the fight.  The Invader wasn't the best ship to be fighting in.
She didn't have any of the usual toys she would use in this kind of
fight like her subtle bombs and cloud bombs, or even cloaking.  All she
could do was avoid lasers and try shooting when possible.  Star flipped
quickly, without looking behind her.  She hit an Ishmaelian ship and the
Invader went spinning.  "Damn, I'm losing control!"
 A net caught her jet.  Star looked up to see an Ishmaelian dragging her
toward the mothership.  No chance of pulling the trick I pulled on
Fortuna,  Star thought.  My weapons are knocked out, as well as my
steering, I can't contact Fox; I'm as good as dead, Star thought.  I'll
have to rely on myself for this one.
 Star watched as her ship was dragged closer to the mothership rather
quickly.  Her radar, barely working, showed her four ships coming into
view.  "Star!"  Fox yelled, as he saw the Invader being dragged towards
the Ishmaelian ship.  Small attack ships pushed him and his team back
and away as Star was helplessly dragged away.

 "Hey, they've got Star,"  Guy said, watching Ben's computer screen.
ben had gotten up to get some coffee.
 "What?"  Ben asked, hurrying back to his seat.  "No way."
 "Yeah, that's the Invader she stole, and they're dragging it into the
mothership.  She hasn't aborted, so I'm guessing she's stuck,"  Guy
said.
 "Ramsy, can you get Andross on the a/v screen?"  Ben asked.  "I've got
some really good news for him."

 "Well can't you create an acid that will burn through this stuff?"
Andross yelled.
 "We've tried,"  a hamster in a lab coat said, shivering and cowering
away from Andross.
 "You can't do anything right!"  Andross threw the sample of heron to
the floor.  "Guards, take him to the dungeon!  I don't want to see this
incompetent fool again!"
 "No!  I'll try harder!  I'll do better!  Please!"  the hamster yelled
as he was dragged away.
 "Oh, why is it you can't ever find good help these days?"  Andross
asked, rubbing his temples as if he had a headache.
 "Emperor Andross?"  asked an anxious lion, appearing on the a/v screen.

 "Ah, Sergeant Ramsy.  What do you have to report?"  Andross asked.
Ramsy was someone he could depend on and was one of his most trusted
officials.
 "Sir, we've detected the stolen Invader,"  Ramsy said.  "It's being
taken into the alien mothership."
 "You mean the one Star McCloud stole?"  Andross asked, perking up
suddenly.
 "Yes, sir,"  Ramsy replied.
 "Great!  Wonderful work, Ramsy!"  Andross actually smiled.  "Hopefully
they'll do what I have been unable to do all this time."
 "What would that be, Your Highness?"
 "Killing Star McCloud."

 The Invader was docked in the Ishmaelians docking bay.  Cautiously,
Star pushed open the canopy of the Invader.  Several bug-like
Ishmaelians were holding guns on her, preventing her from getting out.
They were tall and looked like giant beetles.  They were clad in very
tough looking armor that could repel anything that wasn't diamond
tipped.  Star raised her hands over her head, indicating she was
weaponless.
 One handed her a device that was similar to a comlink.  She placed it
over her ear and turned it on.  A series of clicks and chirps from a bug
turned into words.
 "You have been taken prisoner on our ship.  Do you resist?"
 "No,"  Star replied, remembering an old saying, "A fool fights to the
finish; it takes a wise one to know when to fight and when to yield."
 "Step out of the aircraft, please," the Ishmaelian said.
 Slowly, Star left the Invader.  "Can I put my arms down?  They're
getting tired,"  Star asked.
 The aliens looked at each other and one shrugged, indicating it didn't
matter to him.  "Go ahead."
 "So what's gonna happen to me?"  Star asked.
 "You are the prisoner, we will ask the questions,"  one of her captors
responded.
 "Well excuse me, but I am the prisoner and I should have the right to
know what's going to happen to me,"  Star stated tartly.
 "My my, you're a fresh one, aren't you?"  the leader of the group
asked, sounding almost amused.  "What is your name?"
 "Star,"  came the reply.  "What's your's?"
 "You may call me Tkaa.  You need not worry about the others names.  I
am in charge of you because it was I who captured you."
 "Oh well that's nice to know,"  Star muttered.  She was led down the
hallway to a prison cell.  She wasn't pawcuffed or anything.
 "I'm guessing we can trust you, considering the fact you didn't try to
get away,"  Tkaa said.  "Before we decide your fate, we'd like to ask
some questions."
 "O.K., shoot,"  Star said, sitting on a padded bench in the cell.
 "First, what is your age?"  Tkaa asked.
 "Eighteen,"  Star replied, yawning.
 "Job?"  Tkaa was writing all this down.
 "Don't really have one.  Is this as tough as it gets?"  Star asked.
 "Source of income?"  Tkaa asked, ignoring Star's question.
 "Producing samples for Corneria, spying, testing prototypes, that sort
of thing,"  Star answered.
 "How much do you know about us?"  Tkaa asked.
 "Oh...well..." Star hesitated for a moment.  Was this some sort of
trick question?  "I know you like destroying systems for fun, I can
translate your writing into mine, I know you used to be sensitive to dog
whistles but you're not any more, I know your ship is made of heron,
and...I think that's it."
 "How do you know so much?"  Tkaa asked, looking suspicious.
 "I received excess training as a kit.  I learned several different
dialects and how to translate them on paper.  I'm also good with
computers and electronics, I majored in spying along with many other
fields, and at the time you attacked my system years ago, my dad was up
against you and I read up quite a bit on your race.  I probably know
more than anyone in the system."
 "How did you find out about the whistle?"
 "About a year before you attacked, we found a transport drifting in
space, abandoned.  It contained almost a years worth of supplies and
weapons.  Once the captains log was read, we discovered that the
Ishmaelians had invaded their system and destroyed them.  The transport
escaped, but the people aboard had to eject, due to an engine failure.
That was half the log.  The other half was written in another dialect.
I was the one who deciphered it and found out about the dog whistle
thing."
 "You seem to be smarter than others around your age.  Am I correct?"
Tkaa asked, writing as fast as he could.
 "Correct,"  Star said, relaxing against the back wall.
 "Can you tell me,"  Tkaa stopped and picked up a laptop computer near
the door, "what fuels our engines?"
 "Oh, a computer test, huh?"  Star asked.  "Is the dialect mine or
your's?"
 "You'll see,"  Tkaa smiled and watched her boot up the computer.
 The keyboard had strange letters written on it, some more like pictures
than letters.  The language of the Ishmael was a hard one to write and
even harder to speak.  No one in Lylat could speak it, and few could
write and read it.  Star was one of those few.
 SELECT YOUR DESTINATION:
 Appeared on the screen.  "Oh how primitive,"  Star said.  "On computers
from my system, we have a selection of destinations, this is like WP
5.1."
 "Enough with the insults,"  Tkaa said, though he was amused.  "Stay on
task."
 "Alright!  I am!"  Star typed in the word for security.  It took her to
the entire security of the ship.  She probably could have shut down the
shield guarding the ship, but it wouldn't do much, considering that the
ship was made of heron and that no one was around to do anything
anyway.  Star hacked into the security cameras and zipped to the engine
room.  She read the containers that held fuel and figured out the
answer.  Liquid mesonite.  But she wanted to find an entire report on it
and surprise the official holding her captive.  After a brief search,
she found her document.
 "'Liquid mesonite, a fuel rare any where except the Aqua-marine system,
invaded in 2045.  This fuel burns slowly for a low time, allowing
spaceships to travel up to five hundred times over Lightspeed for three
weeks without having to be refueled.'  Nice digs,"  Star commented.
 "Hey-what the-?"  Tkaa grabbed the computer and turned it around.  He
typed in a command and retraced Star's steps through the computer's
system.  "You went through the security system?"
 "Yeah, it was the easiest thing to do,"  Star commented.
 "We may have a place for you on this craft.  We've been looking for a
good technical operator.  Do you accept?"  Tkaa asked.
 "I'll sleep on it,"  Star replied, laying down on the comfortable
bed/bench.  I'll say one thing for the Ishmaelians, Star thought.  They
know how to treat a prisoner.

 "Nothing...nothing...nothing..."  Andross read the report on the tests
taken on the heron sample.  "Can't anything even dent this stuff?"
 "No, Your Highness,"  a very worried looking ferret said, looking at
his feet.
 Surprisingly, Andross only sighed and handed the papers back to the
ferret.  "Keep trying.  How are the workers on Macbeth doing?"
 "As good as we are, sir,"  a guard answered.
 "Which means they haven't found out anything either?"  Andross asked.
 "Yes, sir,"  the lizard replied.
 Andross shook his head and walked out of the room.  He went into the
next room, a tele-communications room.  "Get me the best mining
specialist on Macbeth."
 Five minutes later, the image of a black cat appeared on the screen.
"You wanted to see me, Emperor Andross?"
 "You're the best specialist we have?"  Andross asked, surprised to see
a female.
 "Yes, Emperor,"  the cat looked nervous.
 "What's you name?"
 "Kismet Atropos, sir."
 "What progress have you made on the heron?"
 "None, sir.  We've tried every thing available,"  Kismet struggled not
to fidget.
 "If you're such a good miner and mineral specialist, what do you think
would be the best method of destroying this sample?"
 "I think finding the melting point would be a start,"  Kismet said.
 "Alright.  Thank you...Kismet,"  Andross said, momentarily forgetting
her name.  He clicked off the screen and turned to the guard beside
him.  "Tell the scientist in charge of this to take the heron to Solar.
It should melt somewhere close to there."
 "Yes, sir,"  the soldier saluted and went back to the other room.

 "Your meal has arrived, prisoner,"  a small Ishmaelian said, sliding a
tray of food in into Star's cell, waking her from her nap.  She looked
around the cell, really seeing it for the first time.  It had a high
ceiling and was well lighted.  The doorway had a slot at the bottom for
empty trays and a small window at the top.  A window on the far wall
showed outside into space.  Another, smaller door led to a small
bathroom, complete with shower at sink.  A closet was in the corner
close to the bathroom.  Man, this is like being in a hotel, Star
thought, as she took a bite of her food.  It was the sweetest, tastiest
lobster she had ever bitten into.  The drink was Pepsi, her favorite
drink and the desert was a cinnabun, still warm from the oven.
 After the meal, Star checked out the closet.  It was full of clothes
about her size and very fashionable.  After briefly sifting through the
clothes, Star stretched out on her bed, which had a thick mattress and
comforters.  I could definitely get used to this,  Star thought.

 "Peppy, I can't talk to Star through telepathically at all,"  Fox
said.  "I just get this huge headache then...nothing.  I can't even feel
where she is."
 "It'll be alright, Fox,"  Peppy said, trying to be reassuring, but he
wasn't able to keep the shakiness out of his voice.  People who became
prisoners of the Ishmaelians never returned and it was rumored they
suffered through terrible tortures, day after day for weeks on end.
Peppy shuddered, remembering James's suffering briefly before he died.
 "We've gotta do something, Peppy,"  Annie said, looking up at him
hopefully.  "There's something you can do, right?"
 "Maybe we can try something, but Star will have to make the first
move,"  Peppy said.

 "Good morning, Star,"  Tkaa said, entering Star's room with a laptop
computer with him.  "How was your meal?"
 "Terrific.  You guys really know how to treat prisoners,"  Star
complimented, sitting up.
 "My daughter cooked the meal, I'll tell her you enjoyed it,"  the bug
handed Star the computer.  "What information can you find that would be
helpful for us to know?"
 "You mean in conquering at destroying Lylat?"  Star asked.  Tkaa
nodded.  "Ok, well let's see..."  Star skimmed through files on the
computer, checking out different documents and pretending to focus
completely on the screen, but her thoughts were elsewhere.
 Why does he think I'll just hand over my system without a fight?  Why
didn't he even expect me to oppose?  He's not even wearing a laser and
I've still got all my weapons.  This is just a bit weird.  Suddenly, her
stomach lurched.  Oh man, I'm gonna be sick, Star thought.
 "Just a minute,"  Star said, placing the computer on her bed.  "I need
to use the bathroom."  Luckily, the bathroom was sound proof, hiding the
sounds as Star threw up into the sink.  "Yuck!  What was in that food?"
A strange, yellowish substance was mixed in with her vomit.  "Niffatch,
the poison that makes people forget who they're loyal too,"  Star
murmured as the vile smell rose to her sensitive nose.  "Luckily, I'm
immune to most poisons.  I'll hafta watch my guard around here, these
guys fight dirtier than Andross."
 Stepping back out of the bathroom, Star resumed her work on the
computer.  Tkaa had left the room.  Undetected, Star slipped into the
communications sector and contacted Starfox, leaving the message that
they should be ready for anything in twelve hours.  Then, Star typed up
a quick file on the screen.
 "Have you found anything?"  Tkaa asked, stepping into the room again.
 "Umm...yeah.  See, this says our star, Solar, is going to go super nova
within the next two days.  We were planning to evacuate the system
within twenty-four hours, that's why so many transports have been made
and bought within the past year."
 "What?"  Tkaa looked over the screen.  "Show me how many of these
transports have been sold."
 Having planned for this, Star showed a document (written by herself) on
the transports prices going up, because of supply and demand.  Star also
showed a few documents about Solar, saying it was a much older star than
it really was.
 "Well, we'll just have to start our attack sooner,"  Tkaa shrugged.
 "But wouldn't it be safer to get out of here before Solar gets too
hot?"  Star asked.
 "Ha!  Are you kidding?  It would take more than a little super nova to
melt this ship.  It's made of heron, strongest alloy ever known to any
species."
 "How did you create a ship out of it?"  Star asked, coyly, a plan
forming in her mind.
 "Easy.  The heron can stand temperatures up to over...over..."  Tkaa
scratched his head.  "I don't think we even know how high.  Anyway, the
metal practically crumbles when put in water.  It's much easier to mold
that way."
 Star felt like kicking herself.  Duh!  Water, the only experiment she
hadn't tried on the heron.  Acids didn't work so why should water?
Because the heron is so closely packed, only something as thin as water
could get inside it and loosen the molecules.  Star shook her head and
went back to her computer work.
 "Ok, here's what you should do when you attack: take out that huge
yellowy-green planet first.  It controls over ninety percent of the
people in the system.  The other planets will fall easier after that,"
Star said.
 "We don't want this to be too easy,"  Tkaa said.
 "Yes, but you'll want to get out before the star goes super nova,"
Star reminded him.
 "Yes, you're right,"  Tkaa nodded.  "I'll give the order to attack."

 "Andross, sir," a young scientist said, walking up to Andross's
throne.  "We don't have an aircraft that can withstand the heat of Solar
so close to it.  We can't test the heron."
 "Yes, we can, but I think you're going to be very hot,"  Andross said.
"Guards!"
 "No!  I mean- Emperor-your Highness- I'm sure someone else would prefer
to do this- Please!  I have been nothing but faithful to you!  I worship
the ground you walk on!"  the scientist struggled as the guards dragged
him towards the docking bay.  Seeing his attempts to flatter Andross
into letting him go, the scientist switched tactics.  "You are scum!  I
hope Corneria destroys you and makes you suffer the worst fate over and
other again!  I'll see you in Hell!"
 Andross grinned as his struggling victim was led out of the room.  "I
will enjoy watching that one suffer."

 "When did Star say to be ready?"  Fox asked, nervously pacing the
floor.
 "Don't worry about it,"  Peppy said.  "She said anytime within the next
twelve hours."
 "But how will I know if she's dead or not?"  Fox asked.  "If she got
access to a main computer on that ship, she's gotta be in trouble!  They
could have killed her by now!  How will I know?"
 "We'll get the answers in less than six hours,"  Slippy said.  "That's
as much time as we have left."
 "Peppy, isn't there anything we can do now?"  Annie asked.  She hated
seeing the team so torn up.  Fox was near hysterics.  Slippy had been
sitting in front of his computer screen and hadn't eaten anything for
nearly a day.  That was rare for him.  Falco hadn't even looked at a
magazine and was too worried to sleep or loaf around.  Peppy spent most
of his time in meditation, trying to reach Star with no luck and a big
headache afterward.
 "I think we can,"  Peppy said, standing up suddenly.

 "We are engaging in attack with the planet you indicated earlier,"
Tkaa said, stepping into Star's room.
 "Who's winning?"  Star asked eagerly.
 "We are, of course,"  Tkaa said.  "The pilots fall like rocks.  Is this
the best this system has to offer?"
 "Unfortunately, yes,"  Star shrugged.  She was dressed in her black
dress that went down to her knees and she was sitting on the bed.  "Care
to sit down?"  She looked up, coyly.
 Tkaa grinned and sat down.  "When this system is defeated, would you
like to see us destroy the Iago System?"
 "I'd love to,"  Star smiled and leaned over, practically in Tkaa's
lap.  She looked him in the eye, seductively.  Tkaa was completely lost
in her eyes.  In a motion as smooth as water, Star pulled out her dagger
and sliced the bug's stomach.  In surprise and pain, he jumped back, but
Star was too quick.  She leaped up and slit his throat.  Tkaa died
silently.  "That'll teach you not to mess with a fox,"  Star smiled, as
she pulled off the dress quickly.  Underneath was her tight black
clothes and she attached her belt around her waist with all the
weapons.  She cleaned the blood off the knife, then slid it into her
boot.  Rubbing some black dye through her hair and over her face
quickly, Star looked like a shadow, or a black fox.
 Silently, she slipped into the hallway, her gun out of it's holster and
ready to fire.  She had learned her lesson on Venom; never storm a base
with your gun in its holster, you get hurt that way.  She slid as
silently down the hall as if she was a shadow.  She got to the control
room with no problems.  Carefully, she checked the hallways and then
swiftly kicked the door open and shot the three people inside.
 "Star is in the house,"  Star murmured, sitting in front of a computer
console and typing in commands.  First, she locked the door to the room
and then sent a message to Starfox.  "Yo, bro!  You still awake?"
 "Star!  You're alive!"  Fox yelped happily over his com.
 "Duh!  Ok, I need you guys to take out the air units, Venomian and
Ishmaelian.  I've got control of the mothership."
 "Will do, Star,"  Peppy said, sighing in relief when he heard Star's
voice.  He still couldn't telepathy without hurting his head.  He had
led the team to the Ishmaelians mothership, ready for star to make her
move, and, by luck or by chance, they had been in the right place at the
right time.  "If I remember correctly, you can destroy these things by
not thinking about your moves and just shooting.  They're telepathic and
can read your mind, so don't think about what you're going to do."
 "No problem, I never do,"  Falco said.
 "Figures,"  Peppy grumbled.

 "How is the transport to Solar doing?"  Andross asked, watching several
different monitors carelessly.
 "Umm...it's right on schedule,"  a meerkat said, bringing the image up
on the screen.
 The scientist aboard was knocked unconscious, while the ships
navigation flew him closer and closer to Solar.  The first things to
begin to melt, were the glass containers.  The glass containing the
heron melted, leaving the metal exposed.  As the ship got closer, the
walls began to creak and cave in.  The heron seemed unaffected.  The
walls dripped molten steel and gave in as the transport melted.  It
hadn't even hit Solar's surface yet, but as the entire thing melted into
molten, a single piece of metal fell into the lava surface, without even
a scrape in it.
 "Oh, what a tragic waste,"  Andross said.
 "You mean the scientist on board, sir?"  the meerkat asked.
 "No, we lost our sample of heron.  Send out a crew to mine up all this
metal we have."
 "Andross!"  Wolf yelled, walking hurriedly into he room, flanked by his
team.  "I've gotta bone to pick with you."
 "Oh, do hurry it up,"  Andross rolled his eyes.
 "We've got pilots out there dying and you're watching movies.  We've
gotta get outa here.  They're gonna destroy our planet!"  Wolf yelled.
 "Those pilots are dying for what they believe in,"  Andross said
passively.
 "Hey, my cousin is out there!"  Leon protested.
 "And my best friend!"  Andrew piped up.
 "I realize you are upset, but,"  Andross calmly looked at the team.
"If you don't want to end up like that scientist I just sent into Solar,
you had better shut up."
 That threat proved effective enough to make Starwolf shut up.
 "Now that I have your attention,"  Andross looked at a monitor.  "The
Conquest Squadron is not out there, I didn't want to risk such a good
team.  They're in the docking bay, waiting for us if we need to
evacuate."
 "Whadya mean 'if'?"  Leon asked.  "We're being killed out there!"
 Andross glared at him and the chameleon shut up.  "We will be fine,"
Andross said.  "Starfox just arrived.  They're more interested in
shooting the Ishmaelians than us, and in the process, we are learning
from them how to destroy these things.  After the Ishmaelians are
destroyed, you may go out a finish off Starfox."
 "Alright!"  Wolf said, grinning, his one eye flashing.  "We'll wait."

 "Oh geez, how do I fly this thing?"  Star asked aloud, looking at all
the buttons on the panel in front of her.  Some buttons flashed, some
beeped, others were bright red, some clear.  A pounding came from the
door behind her.
 "Open this door!"  an angry voice demanded.
 "Luckily, I can lock doors,"  Star murmured, ignoring the knocking.
"Damn, I should have kept one of those pilots alive."
 The banging on the door ceased.  Suddenly, laser shots could be heard
hitting the door.  "Oh man, if I don't get out of here soon, I'm dead.
Peppy, how do you work this thing?"
 "I've never been inside an Ishmaelian spacecraft before, I can't help
you," Peppy said.
 "But you're telepathic!  You should know something!"  Star insisted,
the door was beginning to creak.
 "I can't do anything mentally, the Ishmaelians are blocking the
lines,"  Peppy said.
 "Alright, I'm gonna take a chance here,"  Star muttered.  She turned to
a computer and went into the ventilation system.  "Yes!  They keep the
nitrogen supply here, I can cut off the access to it, and they'd all die
of lack of air."
 Five minutes later, the last of the crew aboard the ship died, slowly
and painfully.  "Can you get through now, Pepster?"  Star asked
hopefully.
 "Yes, I can,"  Peppy said, seeing into Star's mind.  "Ishmaelians are
unpredictable, so don't press anything that looks right."
 "Ok, all the flashy-noisy buttons are out,"  Star murmured.  "Now I've
got an assortment of blue, red, and green buttons.  Take your pick."
 "Not red, too predictable,"  Peppy advised.  Try a blue button."
 "Alright, I've got navy, sky, and dark.  Which one will it be?"
 "Anyone, Star.  Just pick one,"  Peppy was beginning to get annoyed.
 "Here goes,"  Star closed her eyes and pressed whichever one her finger
landed on, which happened to be the sky blue one.  The ship lurched
forward towards Venom.  "If I could work the weapon systems, I'd take
out that planet,"  Star growled.  "But I don't have the time."
 She steered the ship away from the planet and headed towards Corneria.

 "Star, where are you going?"  Fox asked, seeing the ship turn and fly
away quickly.  He got no response.  "Star, answer me!"  No answer.
"Where is she, Peppy?"
 "I lost her,"  Peppy said.  "She must still be on the ship."
 The team followed the Ishmaelian ship, which was moving close to
Lightspeed.  In ten minutes, it was at Aquas.  "Oh no,"  Peppy murmured,
realizing what Star was going to do.
 "What?  What!"  Fox asked.
 "That ship is on a collision course with Aquas!"  Slippy shouted.
 "And Star's still on it!"  Falco yelled.  He had been watching the
docking bay the entire time to watch for when Star bailed, but she never
did.
 "No!"  Fox yelled as the ship crashed, disintegrating in the water as
it fell.  Fox tried to feel his sister's mind, but he felt nothing, and
that was even scarier than feeling death itself.

 A shadow slipped down the hallways on the Venom base.  It paused
outside the throne room, then hurried on.  It stopped at the entrance to
a storage room.  Heron filled it to the brim, some small pieces, others
very large.
 "Time to do what should have been done earlier,"  the figure said,
stepping inside.

 "I hate this planet,"  Jason Wolfman grumbled as he sat inside Violet
Vision, waiting for his employer.  A black shadow moved suddenly.  "What
was that?"  Seeing nothing more, he ignored the movement.
 A tapping on his window made him jump.  A black fox was tapping it with
a small rock.  Startled, Jason stepped out.  "Who are you?"
 "Night Brazen,"  she answered quietly.  "You're Jason Wolfman?"
 "Yeah, why?"  Jason asked, suspiciously.  "I don't deal with
Venomians."
 "I'm not a Venomian,"  Night hissed, looking around quickly.  "I've
heard you're a good pilot and have a reliable ship.  That right?"
 "Yeah,"  Jason said.  "Best ship in Lylat."
 "Twenty thousand credits for you to take me and my cargo to Fortuna,"
Night said.
 "Whoa!"  Jason exclaimed, surprised by the amount of money.  "Why so
much?"
 "I have a large cargo, and I called you at the last minute,"  the fox
looked hurriedly over her shoulder.  "Help me load the ship."
 Jason followed her to an outside storage shed, which was piled high
with crates.  They were heavy, but for twenty thousand credits, it was
worth the work.  In less than half an hour, the ship was loaded and
taking off.
 "Why are you so quiet about stealing these?"  Jason asked.
 "Don't ask questions and I'll throw in some barrels of pretzels,"
Night growled.  Jason shut up after that.

 Fox was near sobbing when the team landed on Great Fox.  Annie met them
and patted Fox's shoulder sympathetically and hugged Peppy when walked
up to her.
 'Is Star dead?'  Annie thought to Peppy.
 'I'm not sure,'  Peppy replied.
 "I'll take care of your ship, Fox,"  Slippy offered.  "You can go up to
your room or whatever."
 Fox didn't even hear him.  He walked mechanically to his room.  Falco
and Slippy turned expectantly to Peppy and Annie.
 "Is she dead?"  Falco asked bluntly.
 "We're not sure,"  Peppy said.
 "If she was alive, we'd feel her,"  Annie said.
 "I told you, she's very good at blocking her thoughts.  Besides, we
didn't feel her die, did we?"  Annie shook her head.  "I think she's
alive.  She'll be here soon...hopefully."

 "Thanks,"  Night said, jumping out of the ship.  "Here's you money,"
Night handed the credit bills over to him.  "And I'll send you the
pretzels.  Thanks again."
 "Thank you,"  Jason said, just before taking off.
 The crates had been dropped off at the construction site for the base.
Night left a note, saying that the material was to be used to create the
docking bay.  She then trudged through the snow to the Justice Cadets
home.

 It was nine o'clock on Fortuna.  Jo'hara was at his computer, Tera and
Natlarn were cleaning the kitchen after dinner, Terra and Dekslan were
concentrating over a chess game, and Tigress, Darwin, and Lizbel were in
the gym.
 A loud knock from the door surprised Tera and Natlarn.  Natlarn opened
the door cautiously.  "Hey Nat.  Nice apron,"  the black of the night
hid the figure from view as she pushed her way into the kitchen.
 "Hey, I just heard that Star might be dead,"  Jo'hara said, stepping
into the kitchen.  He paused when he saw the guest.
 "Nope, Star's not dead,"  the figure tossed her hair loose of her pony
tail and took her jacket off.  "I'm right here."
 "Star!  What are you doing here?"  Dekslan asked, jumping up.
 "Warming up,"  Star said.  "You guys mind if I take a shower?  I need
to wash this black dye outa my fur."
 "Sure, go ahead,"  Natlarn said.  "But you've got some explaining to do
later."

 Fox lay on his bed, sobbing.  Star is dead, he thought.  I'll never see
her again.
 Peppy entered the room and sat on the bed, quietly.  He could read
Fox's mind, and knew he didn't want to be bothered right now.  After
about five minutes Peppy broke the silence.
 "Your sister's not dead,"  Peppy said.
 "How do you know?"  Fox asked, his voice muffled in the pillow.
 "Because Annie and I and you would have known it if she died,"  Peppy
said.
 "But she's not alive,"  Fox said.  "I can't feel her."
 "Your sister is good at hiding her thoughts, maybe even better than
some Pandorans.  She may just be out of range.  We're orbiting Aquas,
she could be on Venom, she would be too far for you to feel."
 "I would know if she was out of range,"  Fox snapped.
 "What about when she was in hiding?"  Peppy asked.  "Even you thought
she was dead then.  I'm sure she's fine."

 "....and then I got a ride here,"  Star said, sipping some hot
chocolate.  Star had just told the Justice Cadets and Crimson Firehawks
about her close encounter with the aliens, excluding the base she was
building.
 "But why here?"  Lizbel asked.
 "Because I need a ride to Roveran's house and you live pretty close to
it,"  Star said.
 "Your brother is worried sick about you,"  Jo'hara said.  "He thinks
you're dead."
 "No way!"  Star said, hoping Jo'hara was joking.  He wasn't.
 "He's taking it pretty hard, too."
 "Oh man, I'm gonna catch it from him when I go back there,"  Star
rolled her eyes.  "I've gotta get going, can I borrow your snow rover?"
 "Sure, I'll go with you to drive it back,"  Terra said.
 "Thanks,"  Star said, standing up.  "Oh and I saw Bandit's death.  You
missed a great way to go."
 "Tell us about it!" Darwin said, his eyes wide, eager to hear the
details.
 "Andross sent Starwolf to kill him, because he blew up that base on
Aquas instead of the city on Katina.  Leon and Wolf had a bet, that
raccoons could bounce, so they took him to a cliff on Titania and pushed
him off.  He was still alive, but he was paralyzed.  Then, sand eels ate
him.  It was sweet."
 "I wish I could have seen that,"  Darwin grinned.
 "Stella's still alive though,"  Star pointed out.
 "Sorry, I didn't have time to finish her,"  Tigress apologized.
 "No, I'm glad you didn't,"  Star said.  "I want to be the one to kill
her."
 "Well, let's get going," Terra said.  "I'm sure you want your jet
back."
 "Yeah, let's go,"  Star said, following Terra out the door.

 "What happened?"  Wolf asked.  "Why the mothership run away?"
 "It didn't,"  Ben said walking into the throne room, carrying his open
laptop.  "Star was driving it."
 "What?!"  Andross yelled.
 Ben cringed, as did his team behind him.  "Yeah, um, she took control
of the ship and flew it into Aquas.  Apparently, heron isn't water
resistant.  But we don't think Star bailed.  She was still on it when it
crashed into Aquas."
 "She's not that stupid,"  Leon said.
 "Well, she didn't bail and she was on it.  I don't know any other
logical explanation besides she drowned."  Ben said, showing pictures of
the mothership on Aquas.  The ship was deteriorating quickly.
 "Sir. someone's stolen our supply of heron!"  a guard rushed in
yelling.  Before anyone could blink, Andross had pulled out a laser and
shot him.
 "I hate it when people yell,"  Andross slid his gun back into the folds
of his robes, concealing it from prying eyes.  "I doubt we've seen the
last of Star McCloud."

 "Hey, Roverans, you in there?"  Star yelled, banging on the door.  The
door was opened quickly and the dalmatian greeted her warmly.
 "C'mon in,"  Roverans said.
 "Did my jet get here?"  Star asked.
 "Sure did,"  Roverans answered.  "Your friend, Destiny, flew it."
 "That's what I told her to do,"  Star stamped the snow off her boots
and took off her jacket.  "Thanks a lot."
 "I'm the one who should be grateful,"  Roverans grinned.  "You saved my
life."
 "No, I don't think Leon would have killed you.  I think he was toying
with Bill,"  Star looked around the small house.  "Have you gone back to
work yet?"
 "No, I'll start work again next week,"  Roverans stepped into the
kitchen and stirred something in a pot on the stove.  "Want some soup
and crab?"
 Star hesitated.  Roverans was an excellent cook, and she had thrown up
her last meal...But Fox was worried about her and needed to get home.
"Maybe another time,"  Star said.  "I've gotta get back to Great Fox."
 "Would you like some coffee?"
 "Sure,"  Star said, accepting the cup Roverans held out to her.  She
gulped it down quickly and then headed out to Arctic, who nearly blended
in with the snow.  She warmed up the engines or a minute before blasting
off into space.

 "I can't believe she'd do this to me!"  Fox yelled.  "Isn't it bad
enough I lost Mom and Dad?  Now she does this!"
 "Calm down, Fox," Annie said.
 "No!"  Fox yelled.  "I swear, if she's dead I-I'll kill her!"
 "Geez, he's making less sense than Slippy," Falco commented, trying not
to sound too concerned.
 Slippy shook his head and ignored Falco's comment.  It was tearing up
the team to see Fox like this.  He really did care about his sister, the
question was: Did she care about him?  Fox had come out of his room,
angry at the galaxy, but mainly at his sister.  Tears rolled down his
cheeks as he yelled angrily about Star.  A small noise was heard in the
doorway.
 The team looked up to see Star standing there, looking embarrassed and
guilty.  She looked up into Fox's eyes.  Her blue-green eyes met his
identical ones, asking for forgiveness.  Fox's anger seemed to melt in
that instant.
 "I'm sorry, Fox," Star whispered quietly.  Before she even knew what
was happening, Fox was hugging her tightly.  She hugged him back.
 "Don't you ever do that again," Fox said, pulling away to look into her
eyes.  "Ever."
 "I won't, Fox," Star murmured, looking away.  "I didn't mean to scare
you."
 "Gods, I thought you were dead!"  Fox said, shaking his head.
 "I didn't want you to think that," Star said, still not meeting his
gaze.  Fox hugged her again and turned back to his team, who were
looking embarrassed at seeing the emotional display.
 Slippy, still surprised looked away and tried to look interested in his
computer work.  Falco buried his beak in a magazine.  Peppy hid behind a
glass of carrot juice, while Annie pretended o be interested in the
threads of the couch.
 "Well, now that you've managed to embarrass me before I've been here a
whole minute," Star said, sitting on the couch, "I guess I'll tell you
what happened."
 Annie tried to look into Star's mind, to see what she was feeling, but
only met with a mental wall, blocking her from getting in.  Sorry,
Annie, but my thoughts are my own, Star thought.  Annie smiled and sat
next to Peppy, holding his hand.

 "No!"  Andross yelled, seeing the empty storage room.  "How did she do
this?!"
 "Well, sir, it seems she somehow escaped the alien mothership without
our detection and-" the lizards sentence was cut short by a smoking hole
through his chest.
 "I want her found!"  Andross yelled at the top of his lungs.  "No one
rests until I see Star killed!"
 "Whoa, is he in a bad mood or what?"  Liam asked, following Wolf and
Leon quickly.
 "He gets that way sometimes," Wolf said.  "I hate it when he does.
It's best to stay out of his way for the rest of the night."
 "Hey, Liam," Ben's voice cut through the darkness.  "Ramsy and I need
to show you something."
 "What is it now?"  Liam asked.
 "We know how Star got away," Ben said as Liam, Leon and Wolf faintly
saw him, illuminated by a dim glow from a computer screen.
 Ramsy stood behind Ben, watching the screen.  Liam looked over Ben's
shoulder and saw a computer screen.  "I don't see anything."
 "Watch very closely," Ben said, showing a clip of the mothership,
dipping low down to Venom, then pulling up and shooting off to Aquas.
 "I still don't see anything," Liam said.
 "Watch the left rear portion of the ship," Ben advised, playing back
the clip again.  A shadow seemed to drop from the ship and into a dead
tree.
 "What was that?"  Liam asked.
 "I zoomed in on the shadow.  I can't determine any definite features,
but it looks like a fox."
 "You mean she jumped off the mothership?  That's suicidal!"  Leon said,
watching over Liam's back.
 "Maybe so," Ben said.  "But she got away and stole all our heron too."
 Wolf swore.  "Do you know where she went from there?"
 "No, she blends in like a shadow among shadows," Ben said, playing the
clip again to show how Star seemed to disappear.
 "Well, I guess the only thing to do is to wait til Andross calms down,
and show him this,"  Leon said.  "Save it to a disk or something."
 "I will," Ben said, clicking some buttons, when suddenly the clip
disappeared.
 "What happened?"  Ramsy asked.
 "I lost the clip," Ben looked surprised.  "I can't find it.  It-it's
been deleted!  That means Star's in the system right now!"
 "Can you bomb her?"  Liam asked.  "Or crash her system?"
 "I'm trying!" Ben said. "Her security's too tight."
 Wolf swore again and stomped out of the room.  Leon and Liam followed
him quickly.

 "Ha!"  Star laughed, sitting in her den, relaxing in her lounge chair
and watching her Venomian computer.  "Of course I deleted it, do you
think I'd be so careless not too?"
 Star shook her head and switched the camera's view into a different
view.  She saw a dingo working out in a gym.  She looked as if she had
just barely survived a horrible fight and was slowly recuperating.  Star
glared at the figure then smiled.  "Not yet, I'll wait until you're
completely healed."
 Star turned off her computers and went to sleep.  She was tired after a
long day of work.  Hopefully the Firehawks base would be done soon....
But that would be handled another day.

*Author's Note*
Star, Ben, Ramsy, Guy, and Liam are my characters and can't be used
without my permission.  Jason Wolfman, the Justice Cadets, Crimson
Firehawks, Roverans, Stella, and Bandit are J Wolfman's characters,
don't use them without his permission.  Annie Hare was created by Julia
Glassmen, special thanks to her for letting me use Annie.  Thanks for
reading, e-mail me at k.starr@usa.net.  Ciao!