Zaq'Parri'Dos
Episode #10 of SunHawk
 
 

Prologue

 The short, dwarfish cat pushed the cart which was as tall as him down the hallway.  He kept having to look around the cart as he pushed it down the clean and reflective hallways, the tile floor mirroring his movements.  He only had a few more to go, and then he could call it a night.

 I had been just twenty eight hours since the news came.  The cat chose not to think about it.  He didn't care one way or another.  The possibility of surrender was now hanging over the heads of all Cornerians, everywhere.  Andross had made his secret biological virus and unleashed it.  Now it has General Pepper quaking in his own shoes, enough to make him even consider giving the war up.

 As he kept telling himself, the small cat cared not one way or the other on how it went out there.  He was only a janitor.  Not much to live for.

 Swallowing softly, he stopped at a garbage can taller then he was, walked over to it, and lifted it up.  He may be small, but he was strong.  The cat climbed a small step ladder and dumped the whole sack of trash inside his cart, shaking it empty.

 A loud knocking sound behind him startled the cat, causing him to drop the trash can into the cart trash.  He looked to the door behind him where the knock had came from, and then to the trash can.

 "Oh, fudge," he said angrily, a little goofy sounding in the voice.  Another knock came to the door and he climbed down his latter.

 The cat walked to the door, the entrance to this hospital which he worked at, which he kept clean, or helped to.  He stood up on his toes and looked out the window, trying to see.  It was a cold and misty morning, the fog as thick as chocolate pudding the cat often found himself enjoying.  He sighed that he couldn't find anything, so he opened the door, and at once looked downward.

 "Doctor!" yelled the cat, running with his short legs down the hall.  "Doctor!"

 Within a few seconds, a tall coyote in a medical garb came running to the front door and saw what the janitor saw.

 A female husky lying on the front steps of the hospital.  She looked terrible, even though she was very physically attractive.  Brown and reddish fur, lengthy brown hair.  A gray pair of shorts and white tank top was all that she wore.  At least they used to be, know reddened with her own blood.  Her shoulder was torn up by some sort of animal claws, one of her hands and soles of her feet were burned, many bruises, scratches, and other wounds on her body as well.  The biggest one was a laser shot wound strait through her chest, just above her breasts, and out through the back.

 The coyote doctor knelt down and felt the woman's neck, getting her blood on his finger tips.  "Good lord, this woman's pulse is practically non-existent," he said to a nurse who came up to him.

 "Do you need a trauma teem?" asked the nurse.

 "There's no time," retorted the coyote.  "Have them meet me at the elevator and we'll go from there."  He reached out and opened one of the husky woman's eyes, which was a bright jade green, but a little blood shot.

 Having not enough time for anyone to help him, the coyote decided to risk it.  He reached out and scooped the woman into his arms and started to carry her down the hall.  He looked at her in time to see her partially open an eye and then close it at once.  She was still alive.  Just barely.

 "Hold on miss," said the coyote.  "Hold on and we'll help you."  He met with the trauma team with a medical cart which she was set on gently.  Things went from there as they should have in a hospital.

 The coyote doctor stayed behind for a second.  Just for a second and then went with them.  This was his patient by default.  He only wished he knew who she was, even though he saw her somewhere before.

 They went on to the ER........
 
 
 

Chapter I
A Dark Secret

"For freedom.  For Freedom!  For Peace!  And to guard against those who would see such liberties stolen from my people.  That is my purpose on Babylon 5!"
-G'Kar - Babylon 5-
 

 It was a dark set of days for all of Corneria.  The news of the terrible virus that wiped out all of Proxima Delta Ver colony, a population of over seventy thousand people.  All of them dead, just like that.

 The most frightening thing was the current situation with Andross.  The possibility that they might have to surrender has been sent to the public eye.  It has been two days since that was realized after the PDV incident.  Two days, and no word has came from Andross.  None at all.

 The first day, the first twenty four hours was absolute hell of all of Corneria, particularly in Corneria City itself.  People were panicking, fighting to get off the planet and find a neutral world to hide out.  They were being safe rather then sorry, getting off the planet while they were still ahead but hoping they would come back.

 A lot of ridicule was going to the government itself.  People demanded that this shadow be lifted off of their shoulders at once, that a retaliation be launched at Andross and they be made safe again.  There was nothing the military could do in fear that the virus would be used again if they tried anything.  All they could do was sit.

 The boarding sections for the Corneria City was a giant, chaotic mess.  Thousands and thousands of people all wanting to leave.  That mess with the fire clouds and the freaky weather a while back cut down on the people wanting to vacate, but there were still many.  None of it was helping the planetary economy.

 The lines were an undignified mess.  People were hoarding the ticket booths to get a way off the planet, pushing and shoving and clawing and biting their way in frantically.  The lines, on the average, was about three to four person across.  However, two lines together melded into one larger line, and there were thirty different booths in the area.  Those thirty to fifteen lines were thrown into a giant crowd, all hoping to get to the booths and perhaps to safety.

 This was perhaps the largest planetary abandonment known.  About ninety six percent of all Corneria City was running away.  The sea of people outside in the starport parking lot was atrocious.  People were abandoning their hovercars on the highway and walking there to get out.  On, such a hot day, it was a miserable time for everyone.  People were beginning to catch heat stroke outside, and there was no way the medics could get to them through the crowd.

 A person would think that with this threat from Andross hanging over them, no one would expect anyone to depart a ride onto the planet.  Everyone wanted to leave.  But someone did come onto Corneria.

 There was only one booth open for departing folks outside he terminal.  The hare sitting there was bored out of his mind, not having anything to do.  He didn't even have a book to read, and he knew nodding off to sleep would get him fired.  Still, the snowy white hair kept feeling the lids to his pink eyes droop and grow heavy, more so with every minute.  Soon, he couldn't help himself.

 The rabbit dreamt about family, having one with a women hare he had his eyes on, still knowing it was just a fantasy though.  "Ahem."  He dreamt about the girl herself.  A cute but not totally pretty school girl who had not interest in boys at all.  "Ahem."  He could almost hear her soft but stern voice every time he unknowingly got in her way.

 "Excuse me," said a voice, tapping him on the shoulder.

 The rabbit jumped up quickly, the dream broken, but his alert level on the high.  "Thank you for flying Lylat Star space flights, enjoy your stay on Corneria you can get your bags at..."  He stopped when he realized the person in front of him.

 The newcomer was a six foot eight tall golden eagle.  Qulping at the sight at the huge avian bird, the rabbit knew that he was probably looking like food to him.  "T...tickets please," he stuttered.  The eagle handed the tickets to the attendant who looked them over quickly and unprofessionally.  "Thank you sir, your bags are on level two section F."

 "I already have my belongings with me," said the eagle, a deep and commanding voice in his throat.  "Thank you anyway.  You should go get some sleep boy.  I was the only one getting off so I don't think you're needed here.  Nervously, the hare nodded.  The eagle shouldered a black leather bag and went on his way.  Before he got too far, the hare was able to notice something.  A badge or symbol or something on his garments.  Two dragons around a blood red gemstone.

 He was a Shyer.  His name was Keldon Starfury, and was a member of the Shyer Executor Caste, as stated with the red gem on the dragon badge.  Keldon was an imposing presence.  Standing at over six and a half feet tall, very large muscle build, his mere presence frightened.  Young children ducked behind their mothers as he passed by.  Keldon had a large and sharp looking beak, slit like gray eyes, and golden brown plumage on the head.  He also had a fairly long top knot tail of hair, just as gold and brown as the rest except for a small patch of white on his crown, the tail hanging to his shoulders.  He was wearing a strange looking set of armor.  Special designs on it, as it covered the black clothes.  A red cape hung from his back and flowed neatly as he walked through the aisles.

 As Keldon saw the mass of people fighting to get off this world, he wondered why.  Corneria had a peaceful air to it, and a happy populace.  To see them all flocking to leave made him wonder.

 "You!" he called to a small lion cub.  "You, boy!"  The lion stopped and looked at the eagle, afraid at first, but got over it.  "What is going on here?" asked Keldon.  "Why are all the people leaving."  The lioness who was the boy's mother saw her son looking at a dangerous looking eagle and went to him.

 "I'm sorry if my boy bothered you sir," said the lioness.

 "I was asking him a question.  But I'll ask you instead.  What is happening here?  Why are the people fighting to leave this place?"

 The lioness looked at him like he was crazy or stupid.  "Haven't you heard?" she asked.  Keldon shook his head.  "Andross has unleashed some kind of plague that kills so powerfully that the possibility of Corneria surrendering to him has come up just so he won't use it again.  It is a shame, really.  We were on the verge of winning this war before this happened."  She sighed heavily, and Keldon saw the disturbed feelings in her eyes.

 "Thank you madam," he said, bowing slightly.  He went off towards the exit where there was a clean path all the way outside.

 When Keldon stepped out into a rain cloud filled sky, he grumbled inside.  He wanted it to rain when he got here, but he was early.  The eagle found the path for exits and went down it.  The hunt was on now.

****

 The SunHawk was now at Katina.  It's standard orbit a hundred kilometers over the planet, the brownish and green world was more common world of Lylat.  Dallas remembered it.  She remembered defending it with old friends who were either dead or elsewhere, some even retired.

 Captain Dallas had not been in the best of moods over the past two days.  Ever since the possibility for surrender came up, she's been always sad and angry, one of those two.  Life on board the SunHawk was a dark and dismal place.  The moral was so low now, far lower then when the alien entity took over the SunHawk.  Low enough that the ship's counselor was instructed to take double shifts, and security keep high at all times.  A few people just broke down, the fears or the gloom finally getting to them.  Fights were breaking out all over the ship.  People came into medical with all sorts of problems.  Some of them crew members or soldiers faking sick just to get out of duty, or others had a broken jaw or worse from fighting.

 The only person who seemed not so gloomy was Kesh.  She remained indifferent about this whole matter.  Sure, the thoughts of surrender were not appealing to her, and she would have found a way to change it if she could.  But she was just as helpless as any.  She spent all of her time in her own private computer lab, trying to search what she knew about Andross and find out where he might be keeping the PDV Virus, named for its first victim place.

 Conner sat silently in his quarters, in the dark, only candle light to illuminate the room.  He was meditating now for his seventeenth hour without stop.  He thought that maybe through altered consciousness, a more broad level of vision might be able to help.  He could see nothing which looked like the monster out there, waiting for them, nor the other female monster he was looking for either.

 He didn't see the virus, nor could he find Pandora.  He did see something though.  A hateful being, holding animosity for the blue, while cherishing the red.  The person did have two things which Conner could see.  A keen sense of hunting, able to find anyone, anywhere, no matter where they tried to hide.  The second was a grossly high sense of honor and pride in himself.  He looked up and saw the shadow casting wings of the eagle.

 Conner opened his eyes quickly, the vision knocking him back into reality.  He swallowed, sweating a bit.  The message meant only that someone from a long time ago was here, and he was searching for Conner.  The black wolf got to his feet, grabbed his Shyer badge and thunderblade, leaving behind his coat and sash.  They would not be needed right now.  He had to get to Corneria.

 There was not a shred of sound in Captain Dallas's quarters.  She slept quietly in her bed, not stirring, her breath as silent as death itself.  The young starship commander had undoubtedly been on edge for the past two days.  She was hoping that maybe some rest could ease her mind.

 Dallas sat strait up, breathing hard and sweat all over her.  The nightmare came on so suddenly, like a bomb.  Her parents again, every night for the past three.  Every off duty sleep she had, she would see her parents faces.

 Swallowing uncomfortably, Dallas went into her kitchen and got some water, not bothering to check its temperature.  She drank it quickly, even if it was a little warm.  She didn't care.  The nightmare was too much for her right now.

 Dallas went back to her bed and sat down on it, calming herself down.  "Easy, Ally," she told herself, rubbing her temples.  "Not too fast."  Dallas looked at the picture she had beside her bed.  Her parents, along with her as a little girl, almost twenty years ago.  Alan Dallas, her father, now dead after a month.  Dallas looked at his fake military medallion on the table with the picture.  She promised herself not to touch it until she was ready to let him go.  Not yet.

 The grayish white wolf standing in Alan's arms, Allison's mother, Xenia.  Yes, Allison Dallas did have the blood of a wolf in her, even though she was more on the line of a husky.

 Xenia looked happy in the picture, her cold blue eyes regaining warmth after a long times worth of cold heartedness.  Allison remembered her father's stories on how Xenia was a very cold and unforgiving person when he first met her.  It took a whole years worth of kindness compressed into a few months to warm her up a little.  Alan never inquired about her past out of respect and love for her.

 Xenia died when Allison was six.  It was an unexplained death, the doctor saying that she died from the old wounds of a broken heart, sustained long, long ago.  No one knew exactly how she died, or why.  She just did, and Allison's broken heart was founded.

 She went with her father and was raised on Titania, the rough environment making her a tough girl, learning how to survive when things seemed worst.  They farmsteaded the land as best they could for ten years, barely getting anything out of the ground.  Just enough to keep them strong.  If they weren't as close to the northern Titania Pole as they, it never would have worked.  They probably would have died, eventually.

 When Allison was seventeen, already her grades reaching the ears and eyes of the Cornerian League back home, as well as being the star basketball player in her school, she was asked to attend the Military Academy.  This made Allison Dallas the first person ever who never had to actually apply for admission into it.  They came and got her.

 What was more, Dallas also broke the time she spent there in half, completing all the courses that quickly, without losing a single point in the process.  She graduated salutatorian, going into the rank of Junior Lieutenant.

 Three years after her graduation, she was assigned to the Illuminauti, where she spend the next four years under the tutelage of Commodore Silverman, who was practically a second father to her.  Then the Katina battle happened, and that was lost, forever.  Everything that happened after that speaks for itself.

 Dallas kissed to of her fingers and then put them on the picture.  One on her father and the other her mother.  She hugged the picture into her breast, wishing they were her actual parents instead of just colored paper and glass and wood.  She teared silently, the mourning for what she lost getting to her once again.  Dallas wished to bottle all of them she remember inside her and never let go.  To do that would be to eat her soul from the inside, bit by bit of every day by day.

 Incoming Transmission, said the soft computer voice.  As Dallas heard the computer talk, a light from her view screen lit up.  She looked to see the green words "Incoming Transmission: Private Channel Only."

 Dallas thought it might be General Pepper calling to talk.  If it was, he might be delivering news on the virus whether it be good or bad.  Part of her hoped it was Fox because she really needed someone to talk to right now.  Dallas got up and threw on a purple silk night gown robe, tying the belt.  She went to get some tea and then returned to the screen.

 "Accept incoming transmission.  Gold clearance, Dallas forty-two Delta."

 The screen went to a solid blue for a few seconds, giving Dallas a chance to sip her tea.  The screen changed, showing the person giving her a call.

 "Well, hello there, Captain."  Allison looked up, and damn near dropped her cup, her lower lip quivering.

 On the screen was the one eyed monstrosity, Wolf O'Donnell.  He smiled at her, his only eye looking at her like she was important to him somehow.  Dallas swallowed nervously, not knowing what to say.  She didn't know Wolf, never had the displeasure of directly dealing with him.

 "Well, you can say hello," said Wolf, still smiling.  "I am calling you formally."

 "What do you want?" asked Dallas angrily.  "You have three seconds and I cut this line."  She could be trying to trace this call, hoping it would lead her to Andross and then to the virus somehow.  But with its current security level, the link would be cut the moment she sent it to the bridge.

 "I just want to talk to you," said Wolf innocently.

 "Yeah, yeah, right.  That last time we met was on the battlefield, and you were looking to blow away Fox McCloud and everyone else with him."

 Wolf nodded, giving her an understanding look.  "Yes, yes, you're right Captain, I do wish to kill Fox McCloud.  It is a family obligation I have because of something good ole' James did to me when I was a pup.  You weren't born yet, I don't think.  If you were, you were a mere infant.  I don't know.  The past doesn't matter.  Anyway, yes I was trying to prevent you from destroying that station by killing you.  I didn't really care about it, because all I wanted to do was kill Fox.  I was looking to blow up a few Cornerians for a side dish too, but that was then."

 "And this is goodbye!" yelled Dallas, reaching for the cut-off switch.

 "No!  Wait!" yelled Wolf, throwing up his hands.  Dallas stopped and looked at him coldly, waiting for him, but also ready to cut this link.  "All I want to do is talk.  Really."

 "Talk?  Talk what?  Try and get me to defect like you did Pigma, and others along with them!  Sorry, Wolf O'Donnell, but I'm not game for that kind of game."

 "No, I wasn't going to talk you into joining us.  It would be the more sane thing to do now, but no I'm not going to talk you into that.  Do what you want Captain.  I'll respect whatever you decide.  I'll also ask Andross once Pepper agrees to the surrenders we send him that you'll be protected, along with a select few if we find them acceptable."

 Dallas squinted his eyes, wonder what he was up to.  "Oh, by the way, Captain Dallas, sir.  Just call me Wolf, if you want.  Just don't refer to me as Cyclops."

 Dallas widened her eyes and threw her hands in the air.  "All right, Cyclops."  Wolf smiled at her a little wickedly.  "I don't take orders from Venomian riff raff.  Least of all from murderers like you."

 "Me a murderer!" yelled Wolf, acting all insulted.  "What about you?  You think I don't know about you and what happened on the Illuminauti at Katina?  I know all to well.  That, in all rights, was murder, Captain.  Those poor fouls you scorched had it coming to them though.  Stupid people and fools have no right to live."

 Dallas scowled at him angrily, about ready to cut this link.  "What are you selling, Wolf?" she asked.

 "Selling?  Nothing.  Nothing at all."  He was still trying to make innocent.  "Like I said, I would just like to have a little chat with you.  That is all, I swear on my m...my father's grave."  He crossed his heart and smiled at her, trying to make himself sincere.

 Dallas stood there for a moment, looking at him coolly.  Whatever you do, don't trust him, she thought to herself.  Don't open up to him.  Don't give him an advantage of any kind.  Remain cool.

 "All right," she said calmly, sitting on her bed.  "What do you want to talk about.  You have three minutes starting...now."

 "Let's talk about our families," said Wolf.

 "Our families?"  He's going right for the throat already.  Dallas raged inside.  "I..."

 "Oh, let me," said Wolf.  "You only have two other family members, well at least you did.  Now you have at the most one left.  A month ago your father, Alan Dallas, was murdered by an agent of ours just before you, that is you, yourself, spaced him.  Your mother, Xenia, is someone I can't find.  What happened to her."

 Dallas shrugged.  "Xenia Dallas, I don't remember her maiden name, died when I was a cub."

 Wolf gave a disappointed and a saddened expression.  "Oh.  Well, that was to be expected.  My mother was sick when she left my father.  My father drove her away I guess.  He loved money and power more then her, so she left."

 "What was she like?" asked Dallas, taking the conversation to him for a change.  "Or do you even remember?"

 Wolf smiled evilly, looking at Dallas with an icy glare that only his one eye could ever produce.  The way he did it made Dallas chill some, a shiver running right up through her back, making her back hairs stand on end.  His chuckle was icing on that same cake.

 "You should know that, Allison Dallas.  After all, shouldn't siblings know their parents."

 Allison looked up at him, shocked horror running through her veins.  "Wh...What?" she stuttered.  Dallas could practically feel all of her blood freeze and her heart skip twenty beats as it jumped to her throat.  Her stomach was about to pull in on itself.  "What are you talking about?" she demanded angrily.

 "We're brother and sister, Captain Dallas.  In more truth then that, we're just illegitimate half siblings.  So, there you have it.  Clear as crystal.  Simple as making toast."

 Dallas shook her head frantically, tears of pain and anguish forming in her eyes.  "You're lying!" she wailed.  "You couldn't tell the truth if your other eye depended on it!"  He was lying.  Had to be.  Dallas refused to believe what he was saying.  That she was an O'Donnell.  Preposterous.

 "Weren't you listening?" growled Wolf.  "Clean your ears out why don't you.  I always knew my sister would end up being like that somewhere.  Never listening, always talking, barking and giving out orders and the such.  Snotty around the clock. Thanks for being here now, Sister."  He smiled at her.

 "Shut up!" she screamed, about ready to ram her fist into the screen just for the sake of striking his illusion.  "Don't you ever call me that!  Ever!  Or so help me all mighty I'll find you and take this ship to rip you out of the stars for all time.  You're not my brother!  I am not an O'Donnell."

 Wolf sat back, shaking his head in disappointment.  "Like I said, you don't listen a lot do you."

 "Just not to infernal garbage like this.  You're mother's name was Elexas Trelane O'Donnell and no one knows what happened to her.  Your father died in prison."

 "Yes, my mother was Elexas Trelane until she left my dad.  When she left us, she just disappeared.  We figured she had died, and I thought that until I saw her face on television, now going under a different name.  Xenia Trelane.  There, now you have your mother's maiden name."

 "No," she whispered.  Dallas felt like she just wanted to run away and hide.  This was the final blow.  The wound to end all wounds.  Please, she said internally, looking upward.  Strike me dead now if this is not a dream.  "You're still lying," she said.

 Wolf smiled.  "Am I?  I recognized the name of Xenia when you mentioned her at the Dark Star battle.  After that, I did checking.  Xenia Trelane Dallas was originally Elexas Trelane O'Donnell.  She just changed her name to stay ahead and away from my father.  Now, by looking at you my sister, I know what happened to her.  Did your father treat her nice, Allison?  Was he good to her as my father was not?"

 Dallas swallowed, and slightly nodded her head.  "Yes.  He was good to her.  She was happy with us.  Then she died."

 "Was she buried?"  Dallas nodded.  "Where?"

 "Oak Angels Cemetery, Corneria City.  Her tombstone has her later name on it, just as she asked before she died.  How do I know you are being truthful, Wolf?  You are a monster, there is no denying that."

 "Captain, Allison, for the past fifteen years, I've been trying to find anyone, any member of my family to turn to.   Not searching, but I always looked when I had the chance.  I was also trying to find my mother too.  I suppose that if I went with her instead of staying with father, I would not be like this today.  You and I could have been happy as sister and brother together, instead of you going through such a shock in finding out that you had a sibling.  A apologize for that.  Ten years later after I started searching, I gave up and lost hope.  I can see I was a bit premature.

 "Anyway, I found you.  I would not lie about something I was searching for a very long while, Allison.  Since I did find you, maybe we should do a little catching up together.  Perhaps a meeting in person would be in order."

 Dallas clenched her teeth tightly.  He drew her into a trap, and there was no way out any longer.  She was no longer sure whether he was telling the truth.  She wanted to know.  "How can I find out if you really are who you say you are?"

 "My files are still in the Cornerian hospital medical records from my birth.  They should have a digitized blood sample on hand.  I tested it and compared it to yours, so why don't you do the same?  You might find...interesting results

 "I'll send you encoded coordinates to where we are to meet, if you choose to come.  I'm going to make damn sure that only you read this.  You don't trust me, and I sure as hell don't trust you either.  So, until then, Allison, be well, and think about trying to visit a little toasty vacation spot called the FreeBlaze Zone.  It is a...remarkable place.  Goodbye, Sister."  Wolf pushed a button, and his image fainted, leaving a Transmission Terminated message on the screen.

 Shaking inside like a frightened rabbit, Dallas was so confused.  She shook with rage, fear, wonder, and concern.  All of this coming on so suddenly.  Unable to contain it any longer, Allison broke out into tears and threw her face into her pillow, crying without end.  It felt like torture, all of it, and she hated it.  She was in fact crying.

****

 Conner walked down the halls quickly, almost to a jog.  Things were going into a new direction now.  He was not counting on this, that which turned all events around fully.  The hunter was here for him.  One of the many hunters out there, waiting, searching for rogue or missing Shyer, just like him.  Normally, Conner would have been happy to see him, to finally go back to his people and search for a new home.

 Thus, these were difficult times.  Nothing was normal any longer.  Conner could not leave.  Not yet.  Not until he saw the nightmare with Pandora through.  He was not about to leave these people defenseless against that monster.  Plus, not as important as Pandora in a long shot, but the real reason Conner wanted to stay was right here on the ship.  His feelings for Captain Dallas were there, and they were not going to die.

 The bridge doors opened, and Conner walked in quickly.  Grant sat in the command chair when he walked in, and he turned around to see Conner walk in unexpectedly.  Conner didn't appear the bridge very often.  People at their stations looked up at him as he walked in.

 "Conner," greeted Grant, standing up.  "What can I do for you?"

 "Where is Captain Dallas?" he asked.

 "In her quarters, sleeping.  Why?"

 "I need a shuttle," he replied sternly.  "A small one person only if available.  I have to get to Corneria as quickly as possible."

 Grant looked inquisitive and surprised.  "I see," he said.  He scratched his mane, thinking, trying to find a motive for such a request.  "Can I ask what it's for?"

 "Of course you can ask," said Conner.  "It's just that I cannot answer.  Captain Dallas decreed that I can't take a shuttle or anything else unless I can fly it.  Well I've been practicing.  So, I ask that you lone me a shuttle to get to Corneria."

 Grant nodded after a while.  "OK, Conner.  I'll have a shuttle waiting for you in launch bay nine.  I'll try to get a one man ship for you, if I can."

 "Thank you, Leo.  It may now seem that I owe you a great debt of gratitude."

 "Forget about it," said Grant.  "Just take it.  Good luck on whatever it is you have to do."

 "Thank you, again.  I'm afraid I might need luck on this.  If Ally should wake after I'm gone, tell I've just gone to reaquante with an old friend.  Make sure and tell her and tell her that it's not that strange girl with the funny eyes either."

 Grant raised an eyebrow, not understanding that last part's relevance.  "I'll tell her."

 Conner nodded and headed out the door.  He seemed to be in such a rush for something.  It sounded important to him as Grant saw in the urgency in his voice.  That man was a good person, and Grant hoped that whoever he was going to see on Corneria, he came out of it in one piece.  However, there was a something about this that told Grant that Conner may not be returning to the ship for a long while to come, if at all.

 He frowned.
 
 
 
 

Chapter II
Search for Truths, Preparation for Lies

"When I first saw Allison Dallas, I saw an angel of war.  Now when I look at her, I see a woman I have fallen in love with, and an angel of war."
-Conner Seacore - CSS SunHawk-
 

 
 The morning came.  Captain Dallas awoke with a bad headache and ratty hair.  She slowly rose her head up, all of the weight shifting to a different lobe as she did.  Dallas looked up at the screen, suddenly remembering.  Wolf.  Her brother.  Was it a dream?  No, it couldn't be.  She felt the emotional hurt too well for it to be fantasy.  It was time to find some truths about this calamity.

 A half hour later, Dallas emerged from her quarters, dressed in normal civilian cloths as she preferred over a uniform.  A pair of tight blue jeans, white collared shirt, and a green shirt vest that brought out her eyes.  She walked down the hallway towards medical bay.

 On route, she met with Grant who relayed Conner's message and the information on him leaving the ship.  Dallas was not happy about Conner going to Corneria with all that was happening there.  She asked Conner to leave the SunHawk for his own good, but to Corneria was not what she meant. At least, according to the message, he wasn't going out to find Pandora, which was a relief.  Dallas thanked Grant for delivering the message and went on her way.

 She entered Medical, and almost ran into Q'Ronnie going out.  "Captain!" he said, sounding surprised.  "I was just on my way to see you.  Is there a problem?"

 "Yes.  But it can wait.  What do you need, Doctor?"

 "I just ran more tests on the blood samples taken from the mutated people at the colony."

 "And."

 "And, it appears that the parasite that involves the mutation also does a bit of mental manipulation to go along with it all."  He led her into his office and showed it to her.  "You see.  Enzymes from the parasite go in and neutralizes all neurons that have to do with advance reasoning.  It then downgrades the rest to obey only two commands.  One of them is inconclusive, the other is to kill everything that breathes except one person stored in memory, which is also unknown."

 Dallas smirked.  "I can give three names as good guesses, and the all start with the letter A.  Does the metamorphosis involve any kind of cocoon stage?"

 "I don't know.  All I've found is what I've shown you just now.  But I'll keep looking."  He shut of his computer and looked at Dallas.  "Now, what is your problem?"

 "Turn your PC back on, you're going to need it."  Annoyed, Q'Ronnie rebooted his computer.  As they waited, Dallas started.  "Can you get any access into Cornerian Hospital Service databases?"

 "Yeah, I have a level Red security clearance."

 "Excellent.  Please do it."  Q'Ronnie did what she asked, got into the databases, and then into a search mode.  "Search for one person only."

 "Who?"

 "Wolf O'Donnell."

 Q'Ronnie looked at her like she wasn't serious.  The certain twinkle in her eye said she was deathly serious.  Swallowing, Q'Ronnie started the search, doubting they would find anything.  "What do you want with him?" she asked.

 "Don't ask.  You'll find out soon enough."  The data came up, showing all the information on Wolf O'Donnell when he was born.  "Thank you.  Now, there should be a digitized blood sample in this file.  Get it."  Q'Ronnie did so.  "Now, find my files and get out the same kind of blood sample."  The doctor was getting a little nervous now, wondering what she was up to.

 The two blood samples were found.  "Run a comparison," she ordered.  Q'Ronnie brought up Wolf's sample, and then ran it next to Dallas's, programming the computer to analyze and compare each sample and find any results.  After a small wait.  The results were ready to be read.

 "Before we go on," said Dallas, "I want your word that whatever these results are, they don't go any farther then here.  Swear it, or push clear now and I'll have you neuralized from ever experiencing this conversation."

 Q'Ronnie nodded.  "I'll be quiet."  Dallas nodded to him, letting him proceed.  They both looked over the results together.

 "There," said Q'Ronnie, pointing out the results to her.  "The DNA helix is a little similar, but nothing to get in a big buzz over.  It happens a lot.  Wolf has type O Negative blood and you just have type O.  And...what the..."  Q'Ronnie's expression went to utter awe.

 "What?"

 "Both blood samples have a similar gene in their heredity chromosomes.  Genes that could only have been passed on from the same parent, or spanning different generations of the same family."  He looked up at her.  "Is this what you feared."

 Dallas, feeling her heart sink right down and shatter, nodded slowly.  "Yes, I see that it's true.  Now I do."  She went and sat down in the chair, looking depressed and beaten all over again.  "He called me during the night, Wolf did.  He was...acting all nice, friendly towards me, saying that he just wanted to chat.  In between, he laid this on me.

 "I was so pissed off, so convinced that he was lying to me.  Then he explained to me how he lost his mother, who then became my mine.  To have one of the worst enemies in the entire opposing force call you in the middle of the night and say that we were brother and sister, both born from the same womb.  Different fathers.  I was...so confused, I had no idea what was going on.  Then I came here, and I confirmed it.  Now I know that he wasn't lying."  Dallas shook her head sadly.

 Q'Ronnie could only sit there, not knowing what to do about this.  He had no real way to make someone feel better once the found out they were blood related to a monster.  Dallas thought for a moment.  She wondered if that was where her coldness in combat came from.  Possible.

 "What are you going to do?" asked Q'Ronnie.

 Dallas looked up at him and smiled.  "Nothing.  Nothing at all except remain around Katina, wait for Andross to make his next move."

 Then, a realizing brainstorm forming.  She laughed slightly, which confused Q'Ronnie.  It was a thoughtful but devious giggle, like she had just found the ultimate answer.  "Thank you Doctor.  Please say nothing of this to anyone."

 Q'Ronnie put his hands up innocently.  "I'm restricted to doing so through medical confidentiality.  I'll keep your secret safe, Captain."  Dallas smiled and left, going out of medical in a haste like he had not seen in her before.

 "Sister to Wolf O'Donnell," he repeated to himself, noticing how extraordinary that sounded.  He wondered what Fox, her friend, would think if he heard about this.  He wasn't willing to try and find out though.

****

 Dallas burst into her quarters and sat down at her desk.  She booted up her computer.  While she waited to for it to do so, she gathered up any papers she could on Wolf O'Donnell and the rest of Star Wolf.  She didn't think that she would ever have to face them head on, because they were too smart to attack a warship as powerful as SunHawk.

 Now, that assumption turned around and bit her right in the tail.  She was going to face Star Wolf, only she would do it alone.  She scrounged up all the reports and a files she could get her hands on, anything to tell her how they acted, the moves the made, their expertise.  Everything.

 The computer was done booting up, and Dallas started her search engine.  "Computer, search for any match for the following terms.  Heat.  FreeBlaze Zone.  Begin search."

 The computer ran through the networks swiftly, bringing up search results.  Search Complete.  Five matches found.  Dallas smiled.

 "Read them off, ascending order."

 One: Scientific Research Center for Energy and the Cornerian Institute of
Space Travel Technology.  Coercive research in the use of heat waves to reduce energy consumption in space travel.

 "Next sight," said Dallas.

 Two: Cornerian public tavern known as Free Blaze.  Hot rooms for nominal fee.

 Logical place for someone like Wolf, thought Dallas.  A place where he would feel at home.  But, it was on Corneria, so it was out.  "Next," said Dallas.

 Three:  The FreeBlaze Zone on Solar.

 "Stop," said Dallas suddenly.  "Display sight three."

 Military Security Clearance level gold is required to observe this sight.

 "Fine.  Gold clearance, Dallas, forty-two Delta."

 The computer screen displayed the large fiery red sphere of the planet Solar, once thought to be an extra sun before they looked at it.  Solar was simply a lava planet, and one of the classified red danger zones in Lylat.  Titania was also a class red, so Dallas was not worried about it.  The computer, keeping the picture of Solar in the background, showed a inset video frame of a doctor, a roadrunner, standing like he was ready to lecture.  The demonstration began.

 "The Free Blaze Zone," began the roadrunner scientist, "is a great find that has turned us back to redefine the theories of physics about the planet Solar.  For starters, the atmosphere on Solar is one hundred and twenty eight kilometers thick.  The lower atmosphere is composed of ninety eight percent Sulfur Dioxide, and two percent Carbon Monoxide.  The upper atmosphere includes many different kinds of gasses which include, but is still incapable of supporting life because some of the other gasses are extremely toxic and even at the lower stages, the atmosphere here is too thick.

 "No, the upper atmosphere is composed of thousands of different layers by itself, different pressures and density of the air with each level.  Then the Free Blaze Zone was discovered, at first said to be the lowest level of upper Atmosphere.  However, after extensive study, this area was called the Free Blaze Zone after facts about it were revealed.

 "The Free Blaze Zone is a very thin layer of atmosphere that contains breathable air and is capable of supporting life.  The Zone is only two hundred and thirty meters in thickness, and it lies six point eight kilometers above the planet surface."  As he talked, the screen behind him of Solar zoomed in and showed everything that was talked about is it was being discussed.  The two layers of Solar's atmosphere, the multiple layers of the upper part, and the discovery of the Free Blaze Zone.

 "So what's the catch?" asked Dallas.

 "You're probably wondering what any side effects of being exposed to this environment.  Needful to say, the Zone cannot support life indefinitely.  Their is a two percent level of Carbon Monoxide and a five percent level of Sulfur Dioxide as well as other gases.  About eighty-six percent of the layer is of breathable atmosphere.  The temperature of the environment can go as high as ninety degrees Celsius, with winds up to forty kilometers per hour."

 "Hot winds," said Dallas to herself.  "The best and the worst."

 "An average individual could spend no more then fifteen minutes at a time before the corrosive poisons in the atmosphere become harmful to fatal.  This concludes our briefing.  The interactive program included here will now answer any questions you might have about the Free Blaze Zone.  Please feel free to ask what you wish."

 "Is it possible to have a base inside the Zone?" asked Dallas.

 For a few moments, the computer processed her question, and returned with the answer from the woodpecker.  "It is possible to have a base or platform or even a docking bay or shipyard inside the Free Blaze Zone, although the last two are impractical.  The reason for this is because of the constant turbulence of ships in the area disturbs the layering and may soon break it down, creating a hole where nothing could sustain itself.  If there was a base there, it would have to have an air filtration system and at least have some sort of thermal balancing for residents inside.  But, yes it is very possible to have a base there.

 "What is more, if there was a base there, it would be a perfect hidden sight since the thermal layering of the upper atmosphere could easily mask it from sensor sweeps."

 Dallas smiled to herself.  "That's it," she said proudly.  She tapped the screen hard, leaning forward to look at the fiery profile of the lava world.  "That's where he's hiding it."  Dallas knew that she should be contacting General Pepper about this.  Even if the virus was capable of withstanding an all out air strike, and then letting the bug fall into Solar where it couldn't be recovered safely, Dallas knew it was too risky.  The crazy old ape had ways of preserving his weapons.  Bombing it away was to risky, for he might use the virus again if he saw a bombing fleet coming.

 No, Dallas had a plan already, one she had from the word 'Go'.  "Computer, begin new Program.  Title it as Dallas zero-five-nine and encode it with gold security clearance only.  Password: Foxfire."

 Code accepted.  Begin when ready.

 Dallas went and got herself some coffee before she started anything.  She then called to the bridge and put herself on sick leave, locked her door tightly, and pulled up to her computer.  This was going to take a while.

****

 For a solid, undying eight hours strait, Dallas never once tore her eyes away from the computer screen nor did she even pause typing.  Her program was nearly complete.  She hand traced it enough times, tested it through simulation programs she wrote, taking all the bugs and quarks out of.  This had to be perfect.

 She was just typing in new code now, setting so the program would run its course three minutes after initial execution.  That would give her plenty of time.  Even while she was doing this, Dallas never could believe it.  What she was doing violated some of the largest and most principle codes she stood by.  This situation called for drastic measures, and it was time to act.

 Incoming Transmission, announced the computer.  Dallas looked to her wall screen to see the same words as before, printed brightly on her screen.  She brought up a screen saver on her machine, making sure all connections to it were cut as she did before she started writing her program, and turned it away from the monitor on the wall so Wolf couldn't see it.

 "Computer, accept incoming transmission, gold clearance Dallas forty-two Delta."

 The screen buzzed for a bit, and then Wolf was on there again.  He smiled to see her face.

 "I was wondering when you would call back," she said to him, a little warmer then before.  I looked.  You were telling the truth.  We are brother and sister."

 "Of course," said Wolf.  "As I told you, I prefer not to lie to family if I don't have to.  And I don't have to.  Now that you know the truth, we can talk."

 "Let's just cut to business," said Dallas.  "What do you want from me, Wolf?"

 "Well, Ally.  Do you mind if I call you Ally?"

 "You're my brother, call me whatever you want to.  Call me a bitch if you want.  I don't care, and you would be right anyway in technicality.  Just tell me what it is you want?"

 "Simply put," started Wolf.  "I want to see you, in person, at the coordinates I am going to send you.  I have been going on for ten years in believing that I have had not family left.  That I was the last one, and without the hope of seeing a generation under my wing sprout any time before I die.  Now you are here.  All I want to do is see you, one time, in person, maybe chat and spend some time together.  Then you can go back to your precious space ship and we can go back to this great chess match of ours when we're only one move from a solid mate.  Is that all so much to ask."

 "I don't trust you Wolf," explained Dallas.  "Even if you are my brother.  You know I'm good friends with Fox McCloud."

 "I even know you were in love with him.  A sigh with relief at the word 'were'.  The thought of a family member being with, with that scrawny pup that's just a foreshadow of his dead father is revolting to me.  But, yeah I know you're friends with him."

 "Then how do I know?" asked Dallas sternly.  "How do I know that you won't try to use me to get to Wolf?  That you won't use me as bait to try and trap him?"

 "Well, because it's not your fight, Ally.  It's between myself and Fox.  My group versus his."

 "It wasn't Bill Grey's fight between you either, and you used him to get to Star Fox."

 "Bill Grey isn't family.  You are.  Now, if you come and visit me, I swear you will be safe.  I give you my word."  Wolf stood up on his end of the line, staring at Dallas coldly.  "But rest assured, Ally, that we are still opposing foes on a great war.  I trust you the same you as trust me.  No tricks.  I would just as soon kill you rather then let you deny us victory."

 Dallas only smiled at him.  "You sing an old song, brother," she happily stated.  "Don't threaten me.  I don't respond with very good chemistry to them.  Send the coordinates."

 Wolf nodded, and typed in the data to her.  She soon had the data from Wolf, saved on a CD, ready to work.  Everything she needed to find out the whole truth.

 "Meet me there at that time.  I'll escort you from there.  Until then, keep your chin up.  I am.  I now have something new to live for.  See you then, Allison."  The screen went blank, and Dallas was left there wondering.  She stopped and went back to her computer.
 
 
 

Chapter III
From the Past

"I serve the Shyer Caste Executor, and the honor that follows with it.  I breath for her service, and I kill to cleanse her banner.  My sword and my word are one."
-Keldon Starfury - Shyer Executor Hunter-
 

 The streets were practically deserted, not a sound was being made from anywhere.  Nothing but the wind, blowing through the unlively streets like a howling ghost. Papers and trash blew along with it.  If a person didn't know better, it looked like a phantom city.

 Keldon Starfury walked quickly down the hallowed streets.  All of the hovercars parked on the sides, abandoned from their previous owners or simply not being used at the moment.  All the people were gone.  Most were evacuating the planet, others were staying in their homes, afraid of something high above their heads.

 He got to a small crack of light, shining between the parting of two buildings.  Keldon looked up through the parting into the light of Solar.  The Lylat lava world, and a substitute for another star other then the Lylat sun.  That was where the threat to this world or the next was coming from.  He could feel it in his bones.  Keldon was always adamant to knowing where danger was coming from.  He was a veteran, and an excellent hunter and tracker over the past decades he's been doing this.  At three hundred years old, he was definitive to what a Executor really was.  Cold and heartless in the execution of combat against an enemy, but honorable in the long run.

 Keldon kept watching as Solar's light sank behind one of the buildings and hid there.  After he was put in the shadows again, Keldon went on down the streets.  He had to find a way off this planet.  His target was still in space, serving on some Lylatian war vessel.  What a disgrace, thought Keldon.  These people are prehistoric compared to our power, and he has the audacity to put himself under their command.

 A movement up ahead caught his eye.  Keldon's powerful eagle eyes zoomed in, and he saw a girl.  A young white furred ferret, a blue day dress on.  She had just ran from around a corner and looked very frightened.  He moved forward, keeping an eye on her, watching her run into an alley.

 Then more came.  Three men, running in from behind the same corner.  The leader ahead was a dingo dressed in common clothes, but his two followers, a rat and a salamander, both had gang colors on.  A rape gang.  Keldon's eyes glowed a purple color from his anger, anger surfacing at the existence of the prime epidemy of dishonor.

 The leader used his scent to track the girl, and they all entered the alley.  Keldon broke out into a run, trying to get there before they found the girl.  When he heard a scream, he broke out to a sprint.

 It was a dead end alley, much to the misfortune of the girl.  The lead dingo had her pinned against a brick wall, a knife to her throat.  She was crying fearfully, knowing what was to come.  The two behind him looked on eagerly as their leader started to unbutton her blouse.

 "I must ask, didn't your fathers teach you to respect women?"  The three of the turned to look at the tall eagle, a fluttering red cape behind him.

 The dingo, annoyed at being interrupted, faced the intruder as one of his followers subdued the girl, still crying.  "What are you?" asked dingo sarcastically.  "The high flying avenger or something?"

 "I suppose you can call me an avenger.  I avenge the universe from having infernal pests like you walk through its grace."  Keldon stepped into the light, showing his full form.  The dingo swallowed at the eagle who was nearly twice his size.

 "You think you can scare me," said the dingo.  He drew a longer blade along with the knife, ready for a fight.  Keldon was sure he was not prepared for a fight that was coming to him.  "Why don't you just mind your own business, Jack?  You might go through life with less scratches and bruises on you."

 Keldon's eyes narrowed to him, glowing a bright purple which made the dingo even more nervous.  "You sing an old tale.  I've heard such threats from countless adversaries, and the ones who could carry it out could be counted on one hand."

 "Really.  Well add plus one!"  The dingo lunged at Keldon, trying to slash with his bigger knife.  Keldon batted the blade out of his hand as it came down towards his shoulder.  He reached out and grabbed the dingo by the shoulder and lifted him into the air.  The dingo screamed out as the claw grip began to crack his collar bone.

 "Now you know that it is best not to engage in combat with something you know nothing about.  It just might be more powerful then you are."  The dingo raised his remaining knife to strike.  Keldon's reached out and took the dagger away from him like a parent taking a toy from a child.  He through the knife through the air, the other two watched as the silvery bold struck the wall, the blade slicing through stone all the way to the hilt.  They swallowed, because he didn't even look like he through it that hard.

 Keldon rose the dingo up high and through him face first into the wall.  They all watched as his broken body fell down to the floor, a bloody spot on the wall where his face impacted.

 The rat picked up a sharp ended pipe and ran at Keldon with it, ready to spear him.  Keldon reached behind his back and came out with a sword hilt.  In a flash, a purple light blade shot out, and Keldon swung it twice.  Both swings were so fast, the last one beet the rat's flinch away from the flash of the first.  He looked down to see the pipe fall apart right above his hand, and blood ooze out from his neck.  He fell forward.

 Stepping out of the way of the dead body, Keldon retracted his glowing blade and stepped forward.  The salamander, learning nothing from the death of his two companions, lunged out with a chain.  Keldon raised his arm and let the flying chain wrap around his arm.  He jerked it back hard, and the creature fell forward.

 One of the last things he felt was the eagle grip his face, right on the forehead.  The steel like grip crushing into his temples.  He was then lifted up into the air.  Keldon reached out and snapped his neck cleanly, and the salamander went limp.  He tossed the dead creature away.

 The ferret girl watched as the eagle killed her three attackers with cold and methodical precision.  He stepped forward, not a drop of blood on him from the victims, and held a hand down for the girl.  She reluctantly took it, and he lifted her to her feet.

 "Did you have to kill them?" she asked, buttoning her shirt up.

 Keldon narrowed his eyes.  A respecter of life not matter how evil was what she was.  Good.  "No, I didn't," he answered, being truthful.  "But this way will ensure they don't hurt anyone else like yourself.  Be off now."

 The girl ran down the alley and back out into the streets.  She didn't even look back.  Keldon paid no mind to her, and just left the alley, replacing his own psionic thunderblade in storage.

 High in the sky, far outside the city, he saw a vision of a ship beginning to land.  It wasn't that far from here.  Perfect.  Keldon entered a jog as he followed the way to where he saw.  The target was coming to him.

****

 The old woman dog, known to the poor people who lived in this broken down old logging town as Grandma Cylvia, sat comfortably in a rocking chair, resting her tired old eyes.  She felt herself growing older every day as they went by.  Her long white and frilly hair flowed in the sunny breeze.

 She, being a former member of a Shyer Catholaie sisterhood, had seen him come.  The hunter.  The one known as Keldon Starfury.  A true martyr for his own caste.  She could tell that he didn't know she was here.  He had come from somewhere else.

 She opened her eyes in time to see the black wolf walking down the street.  She smiled at Conner, always welcoming here even though this is only his second visit.  She slowly rose to her feet, her cane giving support.

 "I was wondering when you would give an old woman a visit," she said softly.  Conner smiled as he stood before her porch.  "Reverend Mother," he greeted.  "The honor is all mine."

 "Oh, enough with the honor trash.  Honor just clouds a person's judgment because of his pride.  Come, sit down Conner Seacore."

 "Thank you, m'lady.  I must not stay very long though.  I think you might know why.  You have seen him haven't you?"

 "It is Keldon."

 Conner clenched his jaw.  "Knowing Keldon, he still bears a grudge.  He never leaves things in the past."

 Cylvia nodded silently.  "And you are going to face him.  Correct."  Conner made no motion.  The answer was obvious.  "Yes, you will face him.  You are afraid.  Why?"

 "I never was able to beat Keldon.  Not when we trained together while I was with the Executor.  He was never faster then me, but always stronger.  Always more skilled with the blade then I was.  I always thought that he was one of the reasons I left and joined our own caste.  It's just that I wasn't happy there.  Yes, I am afraid.  I do not fear defeat, I fear what he might learn if I am defeated."

 "You're afraid he might learn of Pandora's presence here." asked the old woman.  "Understandable.  If the Executor learn that she is here, they may risk destroying every world in this system in hopes they might get her in the process.  If you wish to protect, then you must face him."

 "If I am defeated, he will now."

 "He will eventually find out on his own if you do nothing.  Besides, Keldon came here for you.  You still wish to protect this system from Pandora.  But you know you cannot do that while with our own people traveling along the galactic core searching for a place to call home.  You will face him, it's just a matter of when."

 They both fell silent for a moment.  Conner looked troubled about this.  He sat there thinking about many things.  "I've been thinking, Reverend Mother, that..."

 "Conner, I stopped being Reverend Mother over a century ago.  Around here, I'm called Grandma Cylvia, or just Cylvia."

 Conner nodded to her and went on.  "I was thinking.  Do you think Pandora is beyond help or redemption for what she has done."

 Cylvia sat there, thinking for a moment.  "I don't know Conner.  I too have had much time to think.  Your brother and her were so happy together.  They had a beautiful daughter, great passionate love for one another, and a good life to look forward to.  Then that terrible incident happened, and she just fell into darkness."

 "Pandora told me she still loved Derek the last time we faced each other.  She was poised to kill someone I deeply care about, so, at the time, I considered her to be lying to me.  Now, after thought, I don't think that anymore.  Pandora was never a liar before the incident.  I find it unlikely that she would in good faith kill her own daughter and then lie about it."

 "As do I," agreed Cynthia.  "As do I."

 He looked into her eyes.  "What if she was telling the truth.  She said an Executor sent one of their agents to terminate her time projects, they struggled over it, and her daughter was caught in the field.  She just disappeared as Pandora said.  The Executor said that she grew so desperate to convince them that her ideas would work that she tossed her own child into the field in sacrifice.  Everyone believed them, including my brother.  Because of that, she went mad.  Everyone knows what happened after that.  Everyone still alive anyway.

 "What if it was her who was telling the truth?  What if the Executors were the ones responsible for Rebecca's death?"

 "It still doesn't justify what she did.  If she was telling the truth, and we didn't believe her, she was probably trying to get vengeance against all of us and not just the Executor and the Judicorp.  Who knows anything anymore, Conner.  With a person like Pandora, you never can tell if sense is part of the picture."

 Conner sat there quiet for a moment, then a hollow wind came.  His eyes and ears went to the winds.  "He's coming.  It won't be for a while, but he will be here."  Conner looked to a series of forest and snowy mountains in the distance.  "What lies beyond those mountains?"

 "The only thing I know of is the old lumber mill somewhere in that forest.  It is abandoned now, and has been for the past one hundred and fifty years before the Lylatians walked into space.  Back in a time when all of them were Cornerians.  All of them."
 "Civil wars are always the pity ones."

 "Yes."

 Looking towards those mountains, Conner nodded.  He got off the porch and began leaving the premises.  "Thank you again, Reverend Mother, Lady Cylvia.  I hope I can stand up to him better then I could forty years ago."

 "Just remember what you learned while under the wing of the Catholaie, Conner Seacore.  It may all help you.  I give you my luck and my prayers."

 He bowed to her, and took off, bounding over her fence and into the fields towards the mountains yonder.  She sighed with worry as she watched him grow smaller with every second as he ran through those grasses.  "May the spirit of Tarreck be with you," she whispered, stroking the edges of her own dragon badge.  The sapphire core glowed a pale light.
 
 
 

Chapter IV
The Last Great Departure

"When it comes to the safety of my ship, my crew, or the people whom I serve, my life is just a bargaining chip.  Just a trump card, an ace in the hole to insure their safety."
-Captain Allison Dallas - CSS SunHawk-
 

 "Hell with it!" yelled Fox, jumping out of his chair.  Peppy and Fara and Falco looked up from their current duties at his sudden boom.  "We're going!"

 "Fox, Pepper said to hold back until the situation can let us go," argued Peppy.  "If we go now, then Andross could use the weapon again.  We have to stay here."

 Fox pushed the argument down and stormed out of the lounge.  He was so steaming enraged that every neuron in him was firing at once.  As he stepped out of his quarters, Slippy was nearly knocked over as Fox thundered past him.

 "Hey, what do you think you're doing Fox?" he whined.  Fox didn't stop, he just kept going.  They all followed him into the Great Fox launch bay.

 "Get the Landmaster ready for rolling Slippy," ordered Fox with an acid tongue.  "In one hour, that weapons depot is going to be ash.  I guarantee it."  Slippy started to get the large anti-aircraft and ground attack tank ready for work.  Fox climbed up to the top, opened the hatch, and climbed in.

 Behind him, Falco jumped onto the tank and climbed the rest of the way in.  He looked down to see Fox getting ready for combat.  "Fox, do you know what'll happen when Pepper finds out you went behind his back in this.  You can practically kiss your license goodbye.  Try thinking about what you got now, and what you'll end up losing by doing this."

 "Got?" repeated Fox.  His green eyes were digging right into Falco's soul.  "What do we got besides hairs that grow in dark places coming right out of our butts because we've been sitting on them too long?  Besides, if Pepper signs any surrender agreement with Andross then we're dead anyway.  I'm not going to simply lay down and die without a fight."  He slipped the battle helmet on and started to boot up the Landmaster computers.

 "What are you going to tell Pepper?" asked Falco.

 Fox looked thoughtful for a moment.  "We never sent him a confirmation did we?  We'll just tell him we never got a message.  You guys don't have to come if you don't want to.  I can do this alone."

 Falco laughed.  "And let you have all the enemy kills?  I don't think so."  Falco shut the hatch and sealed it, and Fox climbed into the driving chair.

 "OK, ROB, prepare for atmospheric entry," he ordered over the comm-link.

 "Standing by," came ROB's response.

 Four Arwings were ejected from the launch bay, and the Great Fox came in close behind them, descending on the dark gray planet.  Fox ordered ROB to drop him off next to the train tracks near the northern pole, fifty kilometers from the weapons depot.  The Landmaster was dropped off, and Fox started to role forward down along the traintracks.  He kept his eyes open for anything that moved, more then anything was the supply train which was nicely nicknamed as the Forever Train.  Soon, with all four Arwings circling above him, he saw a long line of cars, a caboose and many cars holding large granite boulders, start to merge from another track.  Fox grinned.

 "I've spotted the train!" he called out gleefully.  "I'm takin' it out!"

 High above them in Great Fox, a message was coming through.  General Pepper's personal signature on it to go ahead and strike the weapon's depot, and to have good luck while doing it.

****

 The quarters were darkened.  Captain Dallas laid on her sofa, her eyes closed to the dark, trying to get a little rest before she had to do this.  She had been preparing for over twelve hours for this, and she was now ready.

 The time is seventeen hundred hours.  This is your requested wake up time.  The lights came on, and Dallas began to stir.  Slowly, her green eyes opened and she sat up.  It was time.

 Dallas slipped on her black leather jacket and went to her desk.  A few things on it which she would need.  Two phaser pistols, one a medium grade and the other a small backup.  He tucked the medium phaser in a holster at her belt and the smaller one in a hidden holster around her leg, pulling her pant leg over it.  The second was an emerald which she put in her inside coat pocket.  The final thing, her glasses, which she slipped onto her nose comfortable.

 Her plan was almost ready.  All that was needed was one more thing, and that would be it.  Captain Dallas walked out of her quarters and down the hallway without slowing down, not even looking at the people who were looking at her weird as she passed.

 "Captain!"  She turned around to see Sparky running after her.

 "What can I do for you, Mr. Herrick?" she asked.

 Sparky stopped before her, a worried complexion and concern in his eyes.  "Mr. Herrick?  Ally, what's going on with you?  I heard you called in for sickleave and that's not you.  With all that's going on, you would be on the bridge taking care of business if you're death certificate was already sealed.  Is something else wrong?"

 Dallas just looked at him for a moment and then went around him, continuing on her way without saying a word.  Getting angry, Sparky ran after her and placed himself in her path.

 "What's with you, Sparks?" asked Dallas angrily.

 "What's with me?  What's with you?  You're acting weird all of a sudden.  You call in sick, and yet you're here and not sick.  I find these things a little odd, Ally.  Tell me there's nothing going on with you."

 "I told you not to call me that when we're on duty," she hissed.

 "I'm not on duty.  You haven't been for twelve hours strait when you are usually willing to go on for thirty-six whole hours without so much as a nap.  Something is going on, ain't it?"

 Dallas sighed.  "No, nothing's going on."  She tried to go on her way, but Sparky barred it.

 "No?" he said.  "You look me in the eye right now and say you aren't being strange, and that you ain't involved with nothin'.  Be truthful, be a real woman and say it isn't so."

 Dallas shook her head, bearing her shinny teeth out of anger.  "All right, Sparky, there is something going on here.  It concerns me only and I have to take care of it alone.  I wish I could tell you more because there is nothing I hate more then keeping friends in the dark about these sort of things.  But I can't say anything.  I'm sorry."

 Unable to contain it any longer, she reached out and hugged him tightly.  It was a long lasting hug, like she wasn't expecting to see him again.  He returned the hug, always accepting his old friend's daughter's warmth.  He let go of her after a long while, and she patted his shoulder and went on, again not saying a word.  Sparky didn't follow this time.  Instead, he went the other way towards the bridge.  He had to tell other people about this as well.

****

 Dallas looked at her watch as she entered the launch bay.  She still had ten minutes before her departure deadline.  Plenty of time.  She had everything she needed right now.  Two phaser pistols in case of betrayal on sight, one jewel in her pocket.  Now all she needed was a means to depart.

 Looking around for someone unwanted before she went on, Dallas walked down a row of orange Arwings until she came to the one she wanted.  Kite's Arwing, and he kept a hidden set of keys in the cockpit at all times in case he forgot his by accident.

 For the time, Dallas simply leaned up against the fighter and kept a lookout for the entrances and exits to the bay, making sure she was alone.  A loud clatter sounded behind, and Dallas whirled around.

 A mechanic was deeply involved in working inside a bomber.  Dallas growled with frustration.  This was going to mess her up if she didn't do something.  Hoping she wouldn't have to use it, Dallas pulled a sedative syringe from her coat that she picked up from medical and uncovered the needle.

 The marmoset mechanic never really knew what hit him, not even after he woke up.  Someone came up from behind and he felt a sharp object being shoved into his neck.  A second later, he fell forward unconsciously.  Dallas pulled the animal out and laid him on his back out of the way.  She checked her watch again.

 Five minutes.

 "Computer, execute program Dallas zero-five-nine."  She broke out to a run to get back to the fighter and quickly climbed into it.  She had three minutes to engage the fighter before the launch sequence was activated.

 She climbed up into the cockpit and found the keys under the seat quite easily.  The fighter was started, all the instruments were coming online, and the canopy was shutting down in her.  Dallas sighed, looking at her watch.  The third minute was almost up.

 "Here we go," she said to herself, taking hold of the controls.

 The lights overhead went out, and the Arwing started to move into a launch position.

****

 "I don't quite catch you're meaning Sparky," said Grant.  He handed the report he was reading to a bridge officer and looked at the middle aged wolverine.  "In what way is has the Captain been acting strange?"

 "Get an idea, Leo," barked Sparky.  "All the time she's gone out of her way to be there when things are at their worst and all of a sudden she puts herself on sickleave during the possibility of our surrender and she's not even sick.  Doesn't that strike you as a little bit bizarre?"

 Grant sat there for a moment, looking at him.

 "It sounds strange to me," said Kite standing nearby.

 "That makes two of us," joined in Kesh.  She went to the front of the ship and checked a few star charts on the wall, and then back to her station.  "But the Captain's business is her own, and we have no right to interfere with them."

 "Maybe so," retorted Grant.  "Unless it might effect the crew, then we have to go in and see what she has in mind."

 "I haven't seen anything that might suggest abnormal behavior sever enough for an intrusion," said Grant.

 Sparky shook his head angrily.  "I've known the Captain ever since she was a little tike.  This is abnormal behavior in the extreme for her standards and I'm worried about her.  If you won't do anything about it then I'll go solo."

 "Commander, something's going on in Launch Bay Alpha," said the raccoon bridge worker.

 "Explain."

 "All power to that sector has been cut off.  At least it as far as we're looking at it."

 Grant got up and went to that console, looking for himself on what was happening.  As said to him, all systems in that bay were down and out.  Doors, lights, launch systems, video surveillance, audio recorders, sensors, everything was down.  Grant tried to do what he could to fix it, but nothing was happening.

 "Bridge to Bay Alpha, anyone there, please respond."  Nothing.  Not a word back.  Grant grumbled inside.  He didn't want a equipment malfunction or failure at all right now.  He went back to the command chair to call security and have them check out the bay to see if anything screwy is going on.

 "Sir, Bay Alpha just came back online," said the raccoon.

 Grant went back and looked over the security camera views over the bay, three of them in all.

 "My fighter!" said Kite, also looking.

 "What about it?"

 "It's gone!"

 Grant shook inside with anger.  What the hell just happened? he asked himself.  Someone stole a fighter right out from under their noses and they didn't know about it until it was too late.

 "Scan the area!" roared the lion, sitting in his chair.

 Sure enough, one Arwing fighter was spotted leaving the area at high speeds.  Grant tried to have it brought back by remote override, but whoever was piloting that thing already thought of that.  The fighter was almost gone, and there was nothing they could do about it.

 "Captain Dallas to the bridge," said Grant angrily.  She was not going to be happy about this.  No reply came.  "Captain Dallas, please respond."  Again nothing.  "Computer, locate Captain Dallas."

 Captain Dallas is not on board.

 "What?"

 Sparky almost stumbled on himself.  "It was her.  She took the fighter.  Only she has the access to cut out surveillance to the bay and escape and then override the override and get away so easily.  Now do you think that was strange?" he growled.

 Grant could only stand there, wondering what in the name of God was going on.

****

 She looked back through a rearview camera as the massive warship slowly shrunk in view as she zoomed away.  Dallas shed one tear as it came out of view, knowing what must be going through her own crew's minds right about now.

 Nonetheless, this is something that had to be done, and she had to do it alone.  She swallowed hardly, setting the autopilot for Solar and the coordinates Wolf had given her.

 It was high time for a little family get-together.

****

 The air was calm and clean in these parts.  The forest winds were a little crisp and cold, but ineffective against him.  Keldon trudged through the heavy forest foliage like a giant, not bothering to remain silent.  Every forest animal within miles were running off as the big eagle came through the woods.

 Not that it mattered.  His target was here.  He could feel the presence of a Catholaie, and hurried on further.  The trail was fairly old, the target passing through this area not too long ago.  Whoever it was, he was moving very swiftly and with great expertise.  The trail was barely noticeable to Keldon.

 The purple eyed bird moved slower now, trying to get a better lead on the target by finding out what his next move would be.  But the trail was strait and narrow and was still going strong.  The person was running, and Keldon recognized the patterns in the trail a little bit.  His eyes narrowed, and he continued on, eager to find who he suspected.

 The path led him to a clearing, large grassy meadow and a running river through the center.  Next to the river was an old rundown lumber mill long since abandoned.  The wood was old and rotten, and the foundation was probably worn as well.  Keldon figured that the ancient building could not survive a strong storm.  The trail was leading strait into that mill.

 Seemed logical so, thought Keldon.  A good place to hide if you were evading authorities, at least for a while to rest.  It was not a place to hide from Keldon though.  There was no place to hide from him.  He moved slowly towards the building, hoping he wouldn't alarm his target.  If his prey is who he thought it to be, it was no one to be underestimated.

 It was dark and musty inside the old mill.  The air inside tasted bad like old dank wood which came from all around.  The floor was littered with old lumber pieces, many gutted from the inside by termites.  The mill had two levels to it.  The main level had a large opening out to the river where a water wheel had stopped turning since ages past.  This lead to a saw blade and processing area where all the logs that came in here were cut down to wood.  Keldon looked up to the second level, a balcony platform here, overlooking the work area.  There had to be more deeper into the mill, perhaps where workers lived.

 The floor seemed rotten under his feet as he walked through it.  The loud creeks echoing through the room.  Keldon heard a fluttering sound overhead, a small herd of bats fleeing the noise.  Ignoring the bats, he followed the trail up the stairs into a darkened area.  It looked like the machine room which turned the water wheel.  It looked like it hadn't been used in ages.  He looked around the machine for a while, trying to find movement in the darkened corners.

 Satisfied that nothing was there except small animals finding homes in the darkness, Keldon continued on down the halls, keeping alert.  He was aware of the many creatures in here watching him, but they were unimportant to him.  They should have been though, because he was aware of them, he wasn't aware of one.

 As Keldon passed a darkened room, not bothering to look inside it, a pair of blue glowing eyes emerged in the darkness, remaining frozen in place and with a narrow angry expression in them.

 Down the hall a ways, he stopped, the trail growing cold suddenly.  Keldon's beak rippled with anger as he looked around, trying to figure this one out.

 "Keldon!"

 The eagle turned at the yell of his name, and watched as the darkness moved.  The black wolf stepped out of the shadows and presented himself boldly to the eagle.  Conner's eyes remained bright, his defiance of the hunter very blatant.

 "I had a feeling it might be you," said Keldon, facing Conner just as boldly but with much more confidence.  "Only you could have moved so quickly through forests such as that.  It seems your skills improved more then decayed as I thought they would."

 Conner made no motion to his words.  He just stood there, glaring at the eagle with a defiance he never felt before.  Not even when he confronted Star Wolf.

 "Oh well, let's get this over with.  It's been a long journey, and I wish to go back to the fleet with our own.  So, come along Conner, we're leaving."

 His first response was a smile.  "Sorry, Keldon, but I can't leave.  Not yet.  Fate brought me here for a reason, and I am going to stay for it."

 "Fate never has its eyes on the Shyer, never has and never will.  We make our own destinies, and yours is to return with me.  Do not make this difficult for me, I am not in the best of moods."

 "You're wrong," said Conner, not budging in inch.  "We are guided by fate.  Perhaps it was fate which led me here, and perhaps it was fate led to the death of our homeworld.  Do you think anyone wanted that to happen."

 "Spare me your Catholaie religious prattle young one.  Both of your names are cursed by the Executor.  Your family name is cursed because of the actions of the wench, Pandora, and yours is because of you turning your back on them.  On me."

 "Only the Executors could have such naiveté.  At least the Catholaie is not so blind with pride they are forced to find scapegoats in an entire family for the actions of one.  And only your caste would take one person trying to find a better life for himself so harshly."

 Keldon's eyes flashed purple.  "Let's not get into a comparisons match about our castes.  I have come to take you home with me and that is exactly what I intend to do.  You should come with me.  We have found a new homeworld Conner.  It's out on the rim, but it is very much like the old one.  Let's go home."

 "I can't," returned Conner.  "I have obligations here to complete before I can go anywhere."

 "What obligations?  These puny Lylatians and their petty civil wars?  You disappoint me, Conner.  What are these people to you?  Why would you serve on one of their ships?  Is there some woman you have taken a liking too that lives here?"

 Conner made no movements.  Keldon nodded to himself.  "Yes," he said, "that is it.  I can tell from looking in your eyes that you have taken feelings for a female Lylatian.  Those feelings are your own business.  But your actions end here.  You are coming back with me whether you like it or not."  Keldon started towards Conner.

 "No," said the black wolf.  He went into his coat and came out with his thunderblade in hand.  "I am not."

 In response, Keldon drew his weapon and they both readied themselves to use it.  Slowly, the eagle advanced on Conner.  "So, is this what it has come down to?  That is fine.  It has been a long time since we have crossed swords together, an I still hold an undefeated streak over you."

 "I have practiced since then, and I have a new faith behind me to guide my hand.  What do you have, besides your honor that his been so bruised?"

 Angered at the remark of honor, Keldon let out an ear piercing cry, and eagle's call that shot through the air.  In response, Conner howled into the air with a ghostly tone, echoing out over the landscape.

 Keldon charged, as did Conner.  Three bright lights flashed out within the same second.  Two of them were the blue and purple beams that made up energy blades, and the third was the two of them clashing together.  A ringing tone like a tuning fork sounded out as the two blades struck, and Conner and Keldon were engaged.

 The eagle dwarfed Conner by much, standing almost a half a foot taller and was much more built.  Likewise, he was stronger.  With a surge of power, he threw Conner backwards.  Conner jumped just as he felt his balance lose out, and he landed on his hands and flipped backward, ready for another attack in an instant.

 Keldon ran forward, swinging his blade wildly.  Conner let him come and swung his sword, deflecting the bird's swing expertly.  He then jabbed at Keldon, which was parried.  The two engaged in a hastened storm of swordplay, their blades striking at one another like a blur of lightning and fire wrapped into one.  Every time they went low or high, each time would be expertly countered.  Throwing long combined engagements at each other without stop.

 Conner went in to try a low blow.  Keldon swung low too and stopped the sword before it went through his legs.  He then rose his blade for a downward slash.  Conner placed his own sword above his head and stopped it cold.  He then threw a fist out and punched Keldon in the stomach, which did little effect.  The eagle tried to swing at his head, but Conner ducked more and was on his back, his head directly underneath the glowing purple sword as it slashed only air, missing by only a single inch.  He could feel the heat of the blade as it went by.  Keldon brought his foot up to try and stomp Conner, ending his conscious thoughts for the moment.  Before he could, Conner threw up his own foot and drove it into the eagle's thigh, throwing him off balance.  Conner swung his legs around and spun on his back shoulders, spinning on the floor a full half circle, and struck the eagle in the ankles with his own legs.

 Keldon was sweaped clean into the air, landing on the floor with a hard thud.  Conner got to his feet in a flash and swung his sword down at Keldon's face, which was stopped by the purple sword.  Conner tried to weight himself down, but Keldon benched him off, tossing him back cleanly.  Conner fell backward but was up, as was Keldon.

 "You have been practicing," said Keldon, his sword above his head, ready for another.  "I'm impressed."

 Conner remained in an angry alert posture and state of mind.  "Skills and physical strength are not the only thing that determine the metal of a warrior."

 "So it seems," returned Keldon.

 He charged again, and Conner swung his sword, hitting the enemy blade with a bright spark.  The two grappled again, their purple and blue glowing eyes shining in each others faces.  Conner was growling a deep threatening growl, but Keldon was not intimidated.
 
 
 

Chapter V
Betrayal or Not

"I trust Captain Dallas with everything I have.  She led us over the humps and mounds of our death enough that I should trust her.  Even when her actions seem the most questionable."
-Commander Leo Grant - CSS SunHawk-
 

 All he felt he could do was pace around the room without stop, trying to figure out what was really going on here.  Captain Dallas stole an Arwing, Conner skipped off the boat without an explanation, all during this crisis.  Grant kept putting these facts through his brain without end, trying to put reason to them.  More then anything, he was trying to find out what was Dallas's actions for.

 The door opened, and Maurine walked in.  Grant looked at the jackal coldly, still remembering how he got on Grant's nerves right after the Dark Star battle, when the Captain was still near death.  Grant wasn't sure if he ever forgave Maurine for what he did.

 "What'ya got?" asked Grant, seeing a report in Maurine's hand.

 The jackal swallowed and cleared his throat.  "I'm not sure if you want to here it, but you are the senior officer on board so I have to say something.  First off, we were able to get a possible trajectory on where the Captain was going.  Probably Solar."

 "Solar?  What the hell is at Solar that's so important?  Are you sure on that report, Chief?" asked the lion.

 "Well the data itself is inconclusive.  There was no real way on telling where she was going.  I wish I was there, I might have been able to scan her for something."

 "She was preoccupied about something today," said Grant folding his arms.

 "She wasn't just preoccupied, she was afraid about something.  It was like she just saw that her family was still alive and they all joined up to become the devil.  That's the best definition of the feelings I got from her.  I never was able to get a good link to her mind."

 "She'd probably kill you," said Grant, looking at him in a sarcastic and warning way.

 Maurine smiled.  "Yeah, I heard that," he said.  "There is more though," he said.  Grant looked at him.  "If the Captain is going to Solar, then she might be getting into trouble.  Some of our scouts in that area said that the saw Star Wolf in that area a couple days ago.  It was a definite sighting, so they say."

 Sadly, Grant nodded.  "Anything else?"

 "Yeah.  This."  He handed a CD to Grant, who looked at it then to him confused.  "We found it in her computer.  It looks like she was really working on something in there.  The place was a mess."

 "Thanks, Chief.  That'll be all."  Maurine started to leave.  "Hey," called Grant.  "How goes it with you and Kesh?"

 Maurine nodded to him.  "Fine.  Just fine.  Better then I ever thought.  I've just bought her a ring," he said with a smile.

 Grant smiled too.  "Congratulations.  When?"

 "Sometime soon I hope.  Well, I gotta go now Commander.  It's gotten to be a jungle on this ship lately."

 Grant nodded in agreement and Maurine left.  Grant slipped the CD into his own machine and started to look into it.  Just as Grant suspected, the CD was encrypted.  It was times like these that Grant thanked those computer hacking lessons he got from his old man.  Within minutes of running through his program, the encryption was broken.

 What Grant saw astounded him.  A rough copy of a computer program made by Captain Dallas herself.  Designed to terminate security in the launch bays for a fifteen minute time period and enable her to launch with an Arwing without being stopped or even noticed until it was too late.

 This was heavy.  The Captain was planning this.  It wasn't a deliberate sudden act.  It was planned.  But he couldn't figure out her use of subterfuge to get away when she could have done it just as easily on her own.  What was she up to was something he deeply wondered.  He wondered if it had anything to do with Star Wolf at all.

 "Computer, list all incoming calls and messages to Captain Dallas within the last twenty four hours."

 The computer started to list a few calls and such which came in to the Captain over this time, looking for anything peculiar.  Two messages on gold level clearance only were pretty peculiar to him.  Gold level was something only the Captain had on board.  It was a level directly below the highest confidential level, which was black, which held the most top secret data known.  Grant only had silver.

 It also took a special code to encrypt a message or transmission with gold level clearance, and only a few down on Corneria such as General Pepper, Admiral Starky, or other members of Priority One had.  What was so important that he couldn't see it?  He wondered if there was something military about this at all.  If it was, then the pieces to this jigsaw puzzle were rigged, and Grant could smell it as not so.

 "Computer, can you tell me the source person who sent these transmissions to Captain Dallas."

 That information is restricted to gold level security clearance only and requires voice identification.

 "Damn," said Grant.  "Can you tell me the source location of the transmissions?"

 Affirmative.  Both transmissions were emanated from Solar.

 Grant looked up, shock in his voice.  The Captain was getting from messages from Solar.  From Star Wolf or anyone else tied in with Venom?  "My goodness," he said to himself.  "Oh, Captain, say it isn't so."

 He took the CD out of the tray and rushed out of his quarters.  He smelled a rat in this, and it might be the Captain.  He desperately hoped not though.

 "Commander!" yelled out someone.  Grant turned around and Kesh ran up to him.  "We just got a priority one message from General Pepper.  Star Fox just sacked the Venomian weapons depot on MacBeth and are proceeding to liberate the planet.  We have just been ordered to proceed to MacBeth and assist in the planet's liberation."

 Grant swore to himself angrily.  "Did you inform the General about our situation with Captain Dallas?"

 "I did, he said to forget about Captain Dallas and to go on without her.  He did seem distressed about that sir."

 "All right.  Have the conn take us to MacBeth, flank speed.  And have all the senior officers meet in the conference room for some discussions."

 Kesh nodded.  "What about Captain Dallas?" she asked.

 Grant didn't want to tell her what he knew just yet.  Their own commanding officer may have just defected to Venom, and that word did not need to be spread throughout the ship like wildfire just yet.  Grant swallowed.  "The Captain's on her own now, whatever it is she's doing.  We'll go on without her.  Go on, do it."

 Kesh turned and headed towards the bridge and Grant went to the conference room to set up for his little meeting where he would tell the tale.  There was more here then meets the eye.  Captain wouldn't turn her back on the ship and side with Venom without warning, not after what the other traitor did to her father.  It would not be humane.

 About twenty minutes later, the ship was rocketing towards MacBeth, and the crew were beginning to file into the conference room where Grant was waiting for them.  He just sat at the head table, not making a sound and not moving an inch.  It was like he was oblivious to the people coming in.

 "I can't believe Star Fox went ahead and attack MacBeth with all that's going on," complained Sparky.  "Now, Andross might just launch the virus because he's really pissed off."

 "Hey, I praise his actions.  At least Star Fox has the decency not to get caught sitting down hugging their tails when the big apes threatening to wipe us out.  Hey, you all right Commander?" asked Maurine, sitting down at a seat next to Kesh.

 Grant practically didn't here him, or he chose not to respond.  He waited until everyone was sitting down at the table, and a little while after before he started to talk.  He looked around the room at all who were here.  The only ones absent were Captain Dallas and Conner, one he knew what was happening with.  Sort of.  Everyone here looked inquisitive about what was going on except Dr. Q'Ronnie, who seemed a little distressed.

 "I'm sure you all know now by now.  The Captain has departed the ship without telling us why or where she was going or not saying anything.  She stole an Arwing instead of just taking one as she was entitled to do as such provided she stated a reason to do it.  She left here without saying a word to anybody."

 "Actually," interrupted Sparky.  "She did talk to me before she left."

 Grant looked at him coldly.  "And why didn't you say anything to me before now?" he asked.

 "Because it was personal, and I don't share personal information unless I'm forced to.  Before she left, Captain Dallas and I had a little family talk, just a little one.  She told me that she was involved with something that she had to take care of alone.  Then she left.  The way she talked to me, it was like she wasn't expecting to come back to the ship."

 "Yes, I'm not sure if she's coming back either," said Grant.

 "What do you mean?"

 "I've found out a few things about Captain Dallas and her actions over the past twelve hours, and it all looks very nasty and conspiratorial.  For starters, it has been confirmed hasn't it.  Captain Dallas is going to Solar and should be arriving there within the next thirty minutes.  Most of you know that Star Wolf has been sighted entering Solar airspace and there has been no confirmation of them leaving just yet.  That was two days ago."

 "Then why are we going to MacBeth?" demanded Kite angrily.  "We should be going to Solar to help the Captain if she is in danger."

 Grant could feel the mallard's anger which justified his real motives in this.  "I'm not finished yet," said Grant.  He pulled out a CD-ROM disk and placed it before him on the table.  "That contains a program written by Captain Dallas designed to halt our security measures so she could take an Arwing fighter without us knowing about it.  Fortunately, the security system kicked back in and we were able to pick the Arwing up as it left the area.

 "That's not all.  I've checked the Captain's calls that came into her within the last twenty-four hours.  Two of them were actual transmissions sent to her under a gold level security clearance from Solar."  Everyone started to look around at each other now that he said this.  "These are pretty interesting facts."

 "Wait a minute," said Maurine.  "Are you trying to implicate the Captain with treason here, Commander?"

 Maurine expected Grant to start saying there was no way in hell that was true, but it didn't come.  Grant sat in the chair and shrugged slightly.  "We have to look at all possibilities here, Chief," he said.

 "This ain't a possibility," argued Maurine.  "Captain wouldn't turn against us and side with Venom.  Not after what they did to her father.  No way in hell."

 "I don't want to believe it either," said Grant.  "But I have to keep an open mind."

 "When I spoke with the Captain," said Sparky, " she didn't sound like she was going to betray us.  She sounded more like she was going to take care of some personal problems of her own.  Plus, she was sad when I talked to her.  Like something bad was going to happen."

 "People who are talked into treason can express grief for what they are turning against," said Kesh.  Maurine looked at her in shock, not believing what she just said.  Kesh looked at him in a way that said she was like Grant, and had to keep an open mind.

 "I want answers people," said Grant.  "We have Captain Dallas stealing an Arwing in a spy like fashion, taking it to Solar where she's received two covert messages from.  Plus, Star Wolf was sighted in the area.  If anyone knows anything that might clear this up a little mystery of the hour, say something right now."  He looked around the room, expecting an answer.  He looked at each and everyone of the persons at the table, seeing them all either skeptical, suspicious, or baffled about all of this.  All of them but one.

 "What about you, Doc?" said Grant.  Q'Ronnie looked up, knowing that it was he Grant had his attention on.

 The Dalmatian shook his head.  "I have nothing to say."

 "Are you sure?  You've seemed bothered about something ever since this meeting started.  You sure you don't know anything which may give us one little shred of illumination here?"

 All eyes were on Q'Ronnie, who just sat there looking guilty when he should be looking like everyone else not to draw attention to himself.  Too late for that.  "The Captain asked me not to tell anyone about this, and I was obligated not to under rules of medical confidentiality.  Since the possibility of Captain Dallas's betrayal is at hand, I am not obligated to tell you.

 "Early this morning, Captain Dallas came to me with a little problem.  I didn't understand why at the time, but she asked me to pull up the files on one Mr. Wolf O'Donnell, now of the Venomian army and the infamous Star Wolf.  She had me pull out a digitized sample of his blood, and a sample of her own blood, and then run a comparison."  Everyone leaned forward, especially Sparky, interested in this.  Q'Ronnie was finding it a little difficult to go on.

 "The results put in a hundred percent confirmation.  Captain Dallas is the illegitimate half sister to Wolf O'Donnell."

 "What!?" screamed Sparky, jumping out of his seat.  He slowly sat back down, feeling his own heart being torn away then put back severely weakened.

 Grant swallowed nervously.  "That sounds like a bonifide, honest to God motive for treason right there."

 "Aww, to hell with this!" yelled Maurine, getting to his feet and storming to the door.

 "Robert, no!" called Kesh, going after him.  He didn't even look back.

 "Let him go," said Grant, sitting back down.  "I think it is safe to assume now that the Captain has defected to Venom, and we can't worry about her any longer."

 "Commander, the fact that she and Wolf are related could be a motive for my theory too," said Sparky.  "She was looking like she had some family or emotional problems.  I would call finding out your on the same blood line as one of your worst enemies a pretty big family and emotional problem."

 "I know," said Grant.  "I know.  That's why I must insist that this doesn't leave this room.  We cannot go public with this until we know for certain where Captain Dallas stands.  Either with us or with them.  I have a feeling that we may find out soon enough."

 They all looked at him, all of them worrying about Captain Dallas, all of them wondering what was set to happen within the next day or two.  Everything was looking so well, then within a few days it all turns tables and runs the other way, away from them.  The war has turned sides, but now it was without benefits and only had penalties.

 "That's it," said Grant quietly.  "Dismissed."

 Slowly, people got out of their seats and left the conference room.  Grant stayed in his seat, rolling the CD with Dallas's program in his large paws.  Kite stopped at the door and turned back to Grant.

 "You don't believe that the Captain turned coat, do you sir?" he asked.

 Grant smiled slightly.  "Lieutenant, any person who believes that is either a rookie or just doesn't belong on board.  No, I don't believe it.  I don't think I'll believe it even if I see her standing beside Wolf as a new member of their team.  She has to have something up her sleeve."

 "Probably.  But what if she is a traitor?"

 Grant looked up at him.  "Then may God help us all."
 
 
 

Chapter VI
Siblings Reunited

"I do hate anything and everything that walks under the standards of Corneria.  But family I can make an exception for.  The price tag for that is a simple change of loyalty."
-Wolf O'Donnell - Star Wolf-
 

 The light of Solar shined in her face brightly, and Dallas was already feeling it's heat through the canopy window.  The Arwing had just entered the upper atmospheric layers of Solar and the computer was homing in on the coordinates.  She swallowed nervously, keeping a sharp look out.

 Feeling that safety would be better the sorry and then death, Dallas armed her weapons and G-diffuser system in case this was a trap.  She looked around for anything that might be considered a welcoming committee, but saw nothing except stars above and fiery redness below.

 As she looked downward towards the endless seas of lava, Dallas shuddered slightly.  She hated the thoughts of flying along the surface of Solar.  The constant flying lava bombs, Gores constantly flying in and out of the lava, and the huge arching pillars of fire ready to snap an unwary fighter right down into the seas.  Plus the heat going strait up to almost ten thousand degrees.  Simply put, Solar was defined as the worst environment imaginable.  The thoughts of a layer high above the surface that could support life was so astounding.  She wondered if it was actually man made.

 A proximity and threat warning light lit up, and Dallas reacted at once.  She looked behind her in time to see one Invader III fighter race up from behind and shake her up with a booming jet lag.

 Even if that was Wolf, Dallas was not about to take any crap from this smartallack pilot.  She fired her boosters and headed on in after that fighter, catching up with it quickly.

 Wolf looked backwards to the right, and saw the orange colored Arwing fighter speed in after him.  He grinned playfully and revved his own engines to their maximum.  "Follow the leader," he said quietly.  Wolf descended hard downward and they both were soon over the vast ocean of molten rock, rolling and waving underneath them.  Dallas didn't care about her fears of this place right now.  She was too busy showing this joker what she was made of.

 The Invader shot through the burning airs and expertly around the rising waves of liquid fire.  He blew away the rocks that were barring his way, and took down a Gore bird before it hit him.  One of the inferno birds got in on his tail, looking to take a big bite out of it.  Dallas came in behind and took it down with a series of laser shots, perhaps saving Wolf's tail, even though he would never say thank you to his sister.

 The one eye pulled up hard, going back into the upper stratosphere to safety.  Dallas watched him go up and was about to follow, but was stopped by a large rising fireball right in front of her.  The solar reverence shot up fifty meters and then started to lob down like a snake.  Dallas, knowing she would get burned if she stayed on course, dove down under the arch of flame, skimming the lava waves so close she felt the heat through her boots, and came out clean and started to climb.

 Wolf was patiently awaiting Dallas above, and smiled when she pulled alongside him.  "Not bad," he complimented.

 "Thank you," returned Dallas.

 "Form up on my wing and I'll lead you to the platform."

 "What platform?" asked Dallas.

 "Platform XV2.  A base here on Venom.  Normally, we wouldn't allow an enemy to come near it without snapping them out of space like a knat, but in your case we'll make an exception."  Wolf sped up and Dallas flew in beside him.

 "Who's we?" asked Dallas again.

 "You'll see."

 She was getting a little nervous now.  Wolf might be her brother, but she trusted him as readily as she trusted a convicted thief in her home.  Dallas did power down her lasers though.  Wolf had shown that he wasn't wanting to kill her otherwise he would have tried and probably done it by now.  But she didn't dare take her attention from him, nor anywhere else here.

 The two fighters flew through the reddened sky, keeping inside the upper atmosphere where it was cooler.  Soon enough, a small shape appeared through the haze, still some distance away.  From this distance, Dallas could see that it wasn't a natural phenomenon.  She looked out in awe.

 "We have you on our screen now.  Please identify."

 Dallas heard the voice transmission and licked her lips nervously.  Wolf went on and answered.  "This is Star Wolf One, Lieutenant Commander Wolf O'Donnell, Venomian registry Zeta four-seven.  Requesting self plus one to land on pad C."

 "Will they go for a plus one?" asked Dallas.

 "They will...unless they have a wish to be shot," returned Wolf angrily.  "By me."

 Yes, said Dallas to herself.  He is cold no matter what.  Keep your back away from him at all times.  There was a small wait, enough for them to do a fly by.  Dallas forgot about the potential danger she was in and was only looking at the large platform, slowly rotating inside the Free Blaze Zone.  The platform was a long octagon station, with perpendicular sides longer to more rectangular pattern.  It was no more then three hundred meters in thickness.  The flew more underneath it were a few needle like towers hung downward.  They weren't living areas, but heat energy collectors.  Domes on the top was where people lived.

 On each side, Dallas could see two landing pads, except one side where there was only one.  She looked down on the platform and saw nothing moving down there.  All life must be inside.  She did catch glimpses of catwalks and such outside though.

 Wolf was getting impatient with waiting.  He was about to get on the line and start chewing some heads off and then they answered.  "Star Wolf One, you and wingman are cleared to land on Pad C.  Sorry for the inconvenience."

 Smiling, Wolf set in the landing sequence and sent the same data to Dallas.  "Just follow that and you'll land safely," he said.  The Invader III turned to the station and Dallas followed with the Arwing, watching as the smaller jet moved ahead and slowed down, hovering for a moment over a large pad and then gently putting down.  Dallas moved alongside him, hovering over the other side of the pad, and put down with a nervous thump.

 Her engine died down slowly.  Dallas was unsure about opening her canopy though in a questionable environment.  "Go ahead and come out, Ally," she heard Wolf say.  Dallas looked at the Invader and just barely saw him speaking on the radio to her.  "It'll be fine."  Dallas pushed the button and the canopy slid upward.  At once, she was struck by a hot wind, singing her nostrils.  Dallas growled at the singing winds and quickly climbed out of her seat and down to the pad floor.

 The wind here was terrible.  Dallas's brown hair was fluttering like mad in the wind, into her face and everywhere.  She had to hold onto her glasses, fearing they might be blown off her nose.  Being safe, she took them off and tucked them away for safe keeping.  She turned around and saw Wolf walking towards her, and grew a little nervous.

 She looked into Wolf's gray eye, the only one he had left.  It was a cold thing, but she saw a small spark of warmth in it as he looked at her.  Wolf walked forward and stood strait before her, not smiling, not doing anything.  She didn't know what to do.

 Wolf threw up his fists quickly, making her jump, and then he lunged out and grabbed her by the shoulders.  Wolf grabbed Dallas and embraced her into a tight hug, starting to laugh like a child with new light.

 "Do you have any idea how much I've looked forward to this?" he asked her loudly.  Dallas hugged him back, and he squeezed tighter, almost not willing to let go.  Finally, he did and stepped back, looking at her.  "You have our mother's eyes," he said.  "Green as a Cornerian forest or a Zoness sea."

 Dallas smiled.  "When my father died, I thought I was the last of my family too."

 Wolf put an arm around her shoulders and the two started to walk off the platform and out of the heat.  "Actually, I think that you would belong to my family more then I would belong to yours, considering that mine was around first."

 "I don't know your family though," she said.  "I barely knew mom before she died."

 "I knew her," said Wolf.  "I'll fill you in as best I can.  Come on, let's get out of this furnace.  A person is to spend no more then ten minutes outside."  Dallas looked around the area, the red hazy horizon and the starry skies above, and knew what he meant.  It was so hot out here she could barely breath.  The two of them ran to the door of the pad, but it opened before they got there.

 Three other figures walked out into the heat, and Dallas looked up in worry.  Leon Powolski, Pigma Dengar, and Andrew Oikonny all emerged from the shadowy entrance and looked at Dallas, all three of them smiling wickedly.  Wolf removed his arm from around her and went to face his three followers.

 "Anything new?" he asked.

 "Not since you left," said Leon, not looking away from Dallas.  "So this is Captain Dallas.  Commanding officer of the great SunHawk."  He obviously liked what he was looking at.

 Dallas chose to ignore him and just stood behind Wolf.  Leon was a true evil presence as she assumed from the start.  Cold and vicious on the inside, yet a little aristocratic and gentleman like.  Pigma and Andrew were both pathetic sights.  The short fat little oinker was sweating without end in this heat, and Andrew looked spoilt but also submissive and weak.

 "Come on," said the one eye.  "The heat hours are almost upon us."  The three underlings of Star Wolf all rushed in out of the heat.  Dallas hesitated to go in, but Wolf held out his paw to her friendly like.  She took it and the two went in together.

 The door shut behind them as they entered, and Dallas could feel a slightly cool air.  "What do you mean by the hot hours?" asked Dallas.  "I wasn't hot enough out there or something?"

 Wolf smiled at her.  "I thought you'd be used to the heat, knowing that you were raised on Titania."

 "Titanian never broke seventy.  I heard it goes up to eighty out there."

 Wolf nodded to her.  "For starters, you can take this off."  He was referring to her black leather flight jacket.  "That'll just suck the water right out of you.  In fact, allow me."  Wolf stepped behind her and took a gentle hold of the jacket and lifted it of Dallas's shoulders.

 "Oh," said Dallas, again surprised at how charming Wolf was acting.  "Thank you."  Underneath the jacket, Dallas wore a sleeveless white tanktop shirt, tight around her fine figure.  Away from them, Leon nudged Pigma, both of them taking extra liking to her looks.  Wolf saw this and looked at them, waving his finger to stay away.  They nodded at once.

 Up ahead walked Wolf and Dallas, and behind them came the rest.  Wolf politely carried her jacket for her as they all walked down the hall deeper into the platform.  Leon took Wolf's words for granted because he knew he wasn't kidding.  Pigma couldn't help himself but look at Dallas's tail swish around as she walked.

 "So," said Dallas, looking around.  "Does this place have any particular purpose?  It should since it's so covert."

 Wolf smiled.  Getting right into the soft spots already she was.  Just as he would do.  The more Wolf looked, the more he saw himself inside her.  "Yes, this place does have a special purpose.  But you are with the Cornerian military, and I'm not about to spill out our secrets to anyone of the sort."

 "Excuse me," said Dallas, stopping suddenly.  "I just have to get something."  She reached into her coat pocket and pulled out a pair of glasses.

 "Another commonality between us," said Wolf with a grin.

 "What do you mean?" asked Dallas.

 "We both have eye infringements.  My father had to use glasses to read, I'm missing my right one, and you have to wear glasses too.  Family tradition."  Dallas smiled as she opened her glasses and lifted them to put them on.

 He wasn't looking where he was going.  Andrew was walking backwards to talk to Leon and Pigma, and didn't see Wolf and Dallas stop.  He pumped into Dallas, causing her to drop her glasses.

 Angered, Wolf grabbed Andrew by the shirt collar and shoved him ahead.  "Watch where you're going dumb stick!" yelled Wolf.

 "No!  Watch out!" screamed Dallas.

 Too late.  Andrew's heal came a step back and landed right on her glasses, creating a loud crunch.  Dallas dropped her jaw in shock and ran forward to her glasses.  Andrew got out of the way at once, but again found himself being held by the shirt in wolf's paws.  Behind them, Pigma and Leon grinned at each other, their trick on Andrew to make him look like an idiot in front of Dallas had went better then they anticipated.

 Her sharp white teeth baring angrily, Dallas knelt down to her glasses and picked up two of the many pieces left of them.  A cracked lens and the nose bridge rest.  She dropped both pieces into the pile and shook her head.

 "See what your bumbling caused!" cursed Wolf, pointing Andrew at the broken glasses.

 "You were the one who shoved me!" whined Andrew.  "It's your fault."

 They both watched as Dallas stood up and walked towards them, her green eyes filled with rage.  Dallas drew her arm back into a fist, and punched Andrew square in the jaw.  He whirled back into the wall, not sure what really hit him.  A woman's fist or something else entirely, like a hammer.

 Dallas stepped back, shaking her hand from a little pain.

 Wolf couldn't help but laugh as he lightly punched Leon in the arm.  "I told you she'd be all right!" he yelled.

 "Come on, let's go," said the reptilian.  He and Pigma were a little shocked at what happened, all of it a bit better then they expected.  They wanted to just show Dallas how much of an idiot Andrew was, but now he was looking like a weakling as well.

 They all moved down the hallway, Dallas picking up the remnants of her glasses, not looking at her behind her.  As Pigma passed the black leather flight jacket, he looked down at it.  Something caught his eye.  A slight twinkle of green light.  Slowly, the pig knelt down to the jacket and his hand went into the inside pocket, and came out with a large and beautiful emerald.  Pigma looked at the gem with great lusting greed, the red light making it sparkle into his face.  Quickly, he looked around and saw that no one was watching him, so he quickly stuffed the jewel into his own pocket and left at once, smiling to himself.  What does she need a jewel for anyway? Pigma asked himself.  She's attractive enough to be her own bright gemstone.

 Dallas got to her feet, all of the broken pieces of her glasses in her hand.  She went back and picked up her jacket without looking inside it.  Andrew looked at Dallas, a small trickle of blood out of his nose, with fear more then anger.  He would tell his uncle about this, then he would laugh last.

 Standing in front of Andrew, she waved the pieces of her glasses in his face.  "You officially owe me seventy credits to get this fixed, or one hundred and twenty for a new pair.  You pick, I'll leave you that."

 She stormed off down the hall, passing Pigma and Leon quickly.  Wolf stopped Andrew as he was trying to go on.  "Say anything about this to Andross," the one eye threatened, "and you will not like the way I respond to it."

 He lightly slapped Andrew in the face and went on.  "I do mean that," he said again.  Andrew stood against the wall, seething mad at Wolf and his new sister.  Why should a Cornerian ever have to get away with something like that was a thing that Andrew didn't understand, nor was he going to accept it.

 Tearfully, he wiped the blood out from under his nose and went on down the hall, almost ready to cry.

 "You took an awful risk there, my dear," said Leon.

 He was followed by Pigma.  "Yeah," he said.  "If Andrew tells his uncle about what happened, there is no way in telling how he'll react.  He might just regard it as Andrew being a baby again, or he might order your execution."

 "Does Andross know I'm Wolf's sister?" asked Dallas.

 "Yep.  That'll probably be what saves you from him once he finds out about what happened to Andrew."

 "He's not going to find out," said Wolf, coming into the fray with Andrew behind him a ways.  "Or dear comrade Andrew has decided to take this unfortunate misunderstanding as his own fault and has taken the retribution from Ally here like a man.  Andross will here nothing about this.  So, no need to worry."

 They all went on, Andrew staying far behind to pout on his own.  "I imagine Andross must be pretty embarrassed to have that as a nephew."

 "Not really," said Wolf.  "He doesn't take any responsibility for Andrew, he doesn't look after him like he used to.  He left that task up to us.  Andross thought that being in the saddle of a fighter and going toe to toe with Star Fox would make him grow up a little bit.  Nobody's perfect."

 Dallas looked down the new hallway they entered.  "You know, I haven't seen that many people here," she said.  "How many are living or staying here now."

 Leon answered her.  "Counting us four along with the emperor, twenty.  That's all."

 "Wait a minute," said Dallas, stopping suddenly.  "Emperor?  You mean Andross is here too?"

 "That's right," said Leon.  "And you know what.  He's been dying to meet the captain of the most powerful warship in all of Lylat."

 Dallas swallowed nervously.  She had never seen Andross in person.  Very few people have after he was banished from Corneria.  She went on, nervous about what she would see.  For the first time, she was glad that Wolf was around her.  However, she did smile at this situation.  If Andross was here, that guaranteed that the virus was here as well.  She looked down at her coat, smiling at what she thought was in her coat pocket.

****

 The middle aged ape stood on the balcony, looking over the light of the flames far below him.  Andross stood there without expression, the evil lord moving down the rail to look farther out into the hazy skies of flame and sulfur.  Slowly stroking his white beard, he was pondering about things to come.

 "Emperor?"  Andross turned to see a gray mouse scientist standing there, shivering a bit.  He motioned his hand downward, and the mouse knelt to the elderly ape.

 "What news on the virus?" asked Andross.

 "It's still not ready yet.  We're having some difficulty adjusting the mutation factor."

 Andross made no movements to this reply.  He couldn't post a demand for surrender until the virus was ready to threaten them with it.  They were drastically behind schedule now, and Andross grew more and more impatient with every hour he lost because of this Neolithic incompetence here.

 "Fix the problem and fix it now," grumbled Andross' seething voice.  "I want that weapon ready before night.  Otherwise, all of you will have the pleasure of taking a swim below."

 The mouse gulped on himself.  "I...I bring other news too highness.  It's about Star Fox."

 "What about them?"

 "They destroyed the MacBeth base and the weapons depot.  Cornerian forces are currently on route to take it from us."

 Andross made a large fist, the insides of him working to a boil.  Star Fox and General Pepper are still moving against him despite their knowing that he has something which they really don't want to screw with.  No matter.  Once he exterminates all life on Katina, he'd be the one who is laughing.

 "Star Wolf to see you, my liege," said an aid.  Andross turned to see Pigma and Leon walk in, followed by Wolf and Dallas, and behind them a ways was Andrew.

 "Ah, the illustrious Captain Dallas," said Andross, stepping forward.  Dallas looked up at the large, white bearded ape.  In person as well as on laserdisc archive records, he was imposing.  He reached out his hand to her.

 Dallas looked down at it then to him.  "Forgive if I don't wish to shake hands, your highness," she said with small amount of angry vigor.  Andross frowned, but only for a second, and then stepped back away from her.

 "I imagine that the people of Corneria are not real adamant in the public opinion on me right now," he said, going back to look over the balcony.  "It really matters not.  I swore that this war would be my victory, and that this system would be just plain mine, no matter the cost.  Well if the cost is the downgrade of me in the eyes of the people, it is well worth the prize.  I do not care one way or another what others think of me, Captain.  Damn if they will, or praise me.  I doesn't matter.  They will submit themselves to me, whether they like it or not."

 He turned back to her, looking at her through beady red eyes.  Dallas could only glare at him through her green, narrow and hateful.  "As I told them, only I have the necessary intelligence to rule and lead Lylat into the next era.  If anyone is to take them into the stars, the person to do it is who is standing before you."

 Dallas walked forward.  "Does that justify all the things you have done?  How many more people must die before you have what you want?  A hundred, a thousand, maybe even a million perhaps.  How many of those lives will be innocent will be innocent women and children?"

 "As many as it takes," retorted Andross.  "How many people would be dead right now if Pepper stood down and avoided conflict.  No, let me rephrase.  How many people would be dead if I were kept around to continue my work on Corneria."

 "You were destroying the entire planet with your creations.  You would have eventually turned it into a solid land of waste where no lives could live.  Where nothing could live.  And after Pepper did the right thing, and evicted you from the planet, you have the audacity to come back and slaughter the innocents in unjustified vengeance!"

 "Ally!" said Wolf, trying to stop.  She simply shook his hand off when he tried to grab her.

 Andross only looked at the woman husky with cold eyes, almost an amused sort of way.  She had so much fire, and was clearly not afraid of him.  "You interest me, Captain.  You and you're brother are alike much on the inside.  But he has the cold and you have fire.  You should be together instead of fighting one another."

 She looked at him, puzzled.  "Ally," said Wolf, stepping before her.  "We're prepared to give you a seat with us.  We should be together, brother and sister, on the same team, or at least the same side."

 "I don't know if you've noticed, Wolf," said Dallas angrily.  "But this is a Civil War.  Brothers and sisters fight each other in conflicts like this constantly.  The sad part is that they enjoy it because hatred here is so substantial, and family really doesn't mean a damn thing anymore."

 "Well we're here together and not fighting," said Wolf with a warm smile.  He looked back towards Andross who was not looking very pleased.  Wolf thought it best to end this while they were still ahead.  "Perhaps we can talk later, my liege.  I would like to catch up on things between myself and my sister if you don't mind."

 Andross grumbled inside but nodded.  "Forty minutes," he said.  "No more.  Then we get down to business."

 Wolf led Dallas off the balcony, leaving the other three of Star Wolf with Andross, all of them looking at the two leave.  Wolf was not really himself since he found out about this.  A little bit more happy then usual.

 "What happened to your nose, Andy?" asked Andross.

 Andrew remembered Wolf's threat, and new he wasn't even close to fooling.  "I tripped and hit it on the floor, uncle," he replied.  "I wasn't looking."

 Andross looked at him suspiciously, but also a little more proud.  He knew that the husky woman had punched him, he saw it on a monitor.  Now that Andrew was not whining about it made him think that his nephew was not as weak and whinny as he used to be.  If only he knew Wolf had to threaten him into remaining silent about the truth.

****

 Wolf and Allison walked down the hall together, at first remaining silent, but then Wolf spoke up.

 "I would apologize for that in there if I could.  But I can't say I'm sorry for Andross' actions towards you.  I will have to apologize to him for you for the way you acted."

 "The way I acted?" repeated Allison.  "I acted with as much civil feelings as any Cornerian soldier would have acted should they have met Andross.  Only I chose not to be as afraid."

 "You may have insulted him, and that is not very wise.  You're only hope of coming out of this in one piece is to sign on with us and turn your back on Corneria.  They won't hate you.  They would think you are wise since their only a stone's throw away from having to give it all up permanently."

 Allison shook her head.  "Wolf, stop trying to talk me into betraying Corneria because I'm not going to.  It was a Venomian traitor who murdered my father just over a month ago, and I will not betray his memory by joining what killed him."

 "Ally, just think..."

 "I'll not turn, and that's that!  So drop it!"

 Wolf sighed.  Stubborn to the bitter end, exactly as she should be.  "What about you?" she continued.  "You vowed to destroy everything you could Cornerian along with Star Fox.  Ever since I've gotten here, you've treated me nothing else then like a queen.  Why?"

 "Ever since my dad was arrested by James McCloud twenty-six years ago, I've always thought that I was the last of my family.  My mother was gone, my father was in jail, and I was being raised with foster parents which I escaped from a year later.  Ever since then, I've been wandering.  I went into the academy under a false name and a glass eye, learned how to fly, looking for a chance to return the favor to the McCloud family.  Then I was recruited by Andross after his banishment, and became Star Wolf leader.

 "All that time, I was without real family.  Now that you're here, knowing that you're alive, I guess I'll be a little happier.  Maybe a little more clear headed next time I face Fox, and I'll finally kill him."

 Allison stopped, as did Wolf.  They were stopped right next to a window and a bench looking out it.  She sat down, as did Wolf.  "I was thinking," said Allison softly.  "Have you ever considered that forgiveness can lift a lot of the pain handed down to you?"

 "You mean forgiveness to the McCloud family?  Never.  The pain they caused, that James caused me by taking away my father and leaving me half blind.  Could you forgive someone for that, Ally?  Do you forgive the traitor who murdered your father?"

 Allison looked down in shame.  "No."

 "Then neither can I."

 "I will in time though.  That happened only a month ago, and the loss still eats me up at night.  I will soon find it in my heart to forgive for what happened, even though I'll never forget.  What about you?  This family feud between you and Fox has gone on for almost twenty years because of his father doing his job and yours suffering because of it."

 Wolf smiled at her and patted her paw.  "Like you, if I find it in my heart to forgive the McCloud family name, I'll be betraying the memory of my father.  The only way I'll stop is to see the blood of one of James' descendants spill underneath them, and that will be Fox.  That is where it ends."

 She looked at him, disappointed like, and then down to the floor.  "My father always tough me that vengeance never stops where it was intended to, because it never really heals pain built up inside.  Do you really think that by killing Fox, you'll make the pain go away?  It'll just grow bigger, and deadlier."

 "Stop," said Wolf.  "I want to hear no more of this.  Let's talk about something else."

 "OK.  What?"

 "How about mother?" asked Wolf.

 Nodding to him, Dallas went into her jeans pocket and came out with a folded paper.  "I figured you might want to talk about our mother.  That's why I brought this."  She handed the paper to Wolf, and he unfolded it.  An old picture of Elexas Trelane, a.k.a at the first name, Xenia.  A lovely but said and cold white and gray wolf, just as Wolf remembered her.  Wolf felt a small tear roll out of his eye, all the memories of her returning.

 "How did she die?" he asked.

 Allison shrugged.  "No one knows exactly the way she died.  She just stopped, all of a sudden, not going on.  The doctors said that it was from a broken heart she got long ago."

 Wolf nodded.  "Yes.  The broken heart my father gave her.  That was the only thing I ever hated him for.  I loved my mother, and when she left because of his treatments toward her, I so much hated him.  If James took him away that moment instead of four years after, I might be fighting for Corneria with two eyes.  After a while, I started to hate her because she wasn't strong when I needed her the most.  I always regretted hating her, and I missed her.

 "Your father was a good man to her?"

 Allison smiled.  "Very good man.  She was happy while with him, after almost a year of bitterness, so he says.  When she died, I sustained my first and most terrible broken heart for twenty two years running, up until my dad died not too long ago."

 "I wish I could have met him," said Wolf.  "Pass my thanks for treating my mother well."

 "He was a good man.  He always believed that a parent's greatest priority was always his or her child, no matter how old he or she got.  He died by this rule, because he died saving my life.  The laser blast that killed him was meant for me."  She bowed her head sadly, and Wolf placed a hand on her shoulder.

 The two sat there, not saying anything, for the remainder of the forty minutes.

****

 Wolf and Dallas were no standing outside a door.  She knew what was to come, and it made her nervous.  It was time to face Andross, and tell him to go stick his offerings where it might hurt the most.  Dallas had a figure that she might die if she went in there.  If she did die, she was going to face it on her feet.

 "Before we go in," said Wolf, "your phaser."  He held out his hand, and Dallas removed the whole holster with the gun in it and handed it to Wolf.  She didn't seem very worried about this.

 They two went in, and the three inside, Andross, Leon, and Pigma, looked up to greet them.  Leon was pacing around the room, Pigma sat in a recliner enjoying a cherry soda, and Andross sat on a sofa, patiently waiting for them to arrive.

 "Good, you're here," said the old ape, not getting up.  "Please, sit," he offered to Dallas, a seat on the sofa right across from him.  Dallas swallowed nervously and did so while Wolf went and stood behind Andross.

 "Now, before you say anything, Captain, hear us out," said Andross.  "It is your turn to listen to us, hear our side of the story and our proposition to you.  Then, we'll hear what you have to say."

 Dallas looked at Wolf, who nodded to her to comply.  Slowly, she nodded to Andross.

 "Good.  First off, let's talk about the good things I can bring to Lylat if I am ruler.  I first real step towards the use of organic technology in space vessels, which can be developed if we use these biological weapons to view their natures.  The lava beast who is currently maturing into a full blown monster who lives in the fire seas below us, the clam creature under Aquas ocean, which, sadly, Star Fox has already destroyed.  All of these are things that we can learn from, to evolve through."

 "What about the virus you unleashed on Proxima Delta Ver?" asked Dallas.

 "That was a weapon to make the Cornerian leaders listen to reason.  Now they are prepared to listen, or so I thought until Star Fox attacked MacBeth under Pepper's orders.  Maybe they'll need another demonstration.

 "Anyway, think of what can be achieved through all of this research.  The greatest way to travel through the stars.  The most efficient way known to all of Lylat.  We would have put footprints in the galaxy, giant ones, within the next ten years.  Foot prints on the far side of the galactic core.

 "My ideas would have been more beneficial to our people in the long run.  We would have prospered more if they went under my leadership and my intelligence.  But instead, General Pepper had to be self righteous and cherish the lives of people who would have accepted their fats graciously had they known the benefits their children would receive.  Death is always a price for power Captain.  It is a price well worth the prize."

 "So you think that billions upon billions is something that you can live with to lose so long as you can lead what is left into the next era," said Dallas, accepting a small glass of wine from a servant.

 "I don't wish to kill everyone in this system to get what I want, Captain Dallas.  But I am willing to do it.  People get in the way, they'll either die right there on the spot, or they will be systematically hunted down and removed from my misery sooner or later in the future.  That is Star Fox and many others along with them I can think of."

 "I take it that one of your terms of surrender to Corneria is the immediate incarceration of Star Fox and the surrender of them to your custody," said Dallas.

 Andross smiled.  "You are smart.  Yes, if the Cornerians wish to keep the surrender terms happy, Star Fox will have to hand themselves over to me willingly, or captured by their own people and then given up by them.  Anyway it is done, they must answer for war crimes against the Venom Empire, and answer the will.  Whether they like it or not, and I suppose they will not.

 "But, as it was seen, as you have seen, the war is over, and we have one.  All it took was a small price through death and a little bit of a death threat to the enemy, and that is that.  Yes, I'll admit that you were well on your way to winning the war through conventional combat, that is true.  But this was never a conventional war.  This war was biological from the start because I said it was!  They used regular weapons and methods that is true, maybe a little side of nuclear power to go along with it, but I use the power of nature to fight my war.  And now I have won out.

 "So you see Captain, the wisest thing to do would be to leave behind your Cornerian friends, and join us."

 Dallas shook her head.  "No."

 "I'm not finished!" yelled Andross.  "Before we allow you to join our side of the war, you must at least try and convince your crew to side with us, along with the entire ship which you command.  Secondly, I understand that the black wolf who attacked and injured Star Wolf along with my nephew is on board you ship.  He will be handed over to us, dead or alive.  Alive is preferable so Star Wolf, especially Leon over there, can have the pleasures of picking his life apart from out of him."

 "Yessss," said Leon with a cold grin.

 "Silence!" roared Andross.

 Leon backed away bowing his head in shame.

 "Item three, and this is the last.  One last test of loyalty.  You will be the one, along with Pigma, to deliver insult to injury to General Pepper and the rest of Priority One.  You two will deliver the terms of surrender in person.  You will have armed escorts of course.  There, that is all I have for now.  Now you may talk."

 Dallas sat in the sofa for a moment, considering all of these terms given to her.  She would hate to try and turn her crew over, but thank God they wouldn't sign on.  They would hate her forever though, which was not appealing to her at all.  Knowing Conner, he was stay around for a while, but he would leave the SunHawk and disappear, which she also thanked heavens for.  The last was something she couldn't stomach.  The thoughts of facing the people she betrayed and giving them demands for their surrender, actually asked them to give up Star Fox's lives among other things that disgusted her.  The thought of it shredded her insides, the actual doing it......

 "You know what you can do with your bargaining chip, Lord Andross?" said Dallas, picking up her still full wine glass.  Andross' smile vanished.  "You can go strait to hell with it."  She tossed the wine into the Andross' face.

 Outraged, the ape jumped up as she did and backhanded Dallas hard across the face, throwing her down to the sofa.  Dallas looked up at him, asking through her gaze if that was all he had, even though her cheek was on fire.  He reached down and wrapped his large hand around her neck, ready to snap it with one quick twist.  Wolf stepped forward, but stopped.

 "Go ahead," said Dallas.  "What are you waiting for."

 He squeezed a bit more, not affecting her really, and then shoved her away from him, knocking her to the floor.  "Guards!"

 Two guards, a gila monster and a hyena walked in to the room.  "Take her."  The two of them went over and restrained Dallas as she tried to struggle out of their grip.  A third guard, a rooster, rammed his riffle stock into her stomach.  She stopped at once, choking for air.

 "I was going to let you go freely if you would have just simply neglected my offer, Captain," said Andross.  "But because of this monstrous little insult of yours, the only place you're going is outside.  Take that little witch and throw her over the side!"

 The guards started to take her out, but Wolf came forward quickly.  "Wait my lord," he said.

 "Are you opposing my decision, Wolf?" yelled Andross into his face.

 "No my liege.  I was thinking though that maybe a night in a detention cell might clear her mind to make a better judgment.  Wouldn't you agree?"

 Dallas looked up in shock, and then went to angry and hateful.  Andross pondered this for a moment and then nodded.  "Very well.  Take her to the prison block.  Make sure she has a rough night."

 Not about to buy this, Dallas brought her foot down on one of the guards foot, making him let her go.  Using her free hand, she whirled around and chopped the other guard in the throat, making him fall down for air.  She took out the third guard with a fast wide roundhouse to his beak, knocking him out cold.  Leon rushed forward to try and take her, and was answered by a fast uppercut, the heal of Dallas's hand right into his lower jaw, and then a punch to the side of his head.  Finally, she grabbed his shirt and threw him into the coffee table where he would stay for a long while.

 Tired of this outrage, Andross snapped his fingers and a hidden doorway opened right beside Dallas.  She looked in time to see a tall monster creature, the same type of thing from the depths of PDV colony, loom right before her.  The monstrous thing roared in her face, making her step backwards.

 The beast never got to strike out at her, for Wolf picked up a phaser rifle.  Pigma thought he was going to shoot the creature and defend his sister, but instead he shot Dallas.  The phaser was on stun.  Andross threw his palm to the creature, and it stopped in its tracks and backed up.

 "Their my liege," said Wolf.  "No need to kill a potential ally."

 Andross nodded and then motioned two new guards to pick her up.  Dallas was not unconscious, and she did hear what Wolf said.  She looked at him with shock and hate.

 "Do you like my new pet, Captain?" asked Andross.  "A mutate specimen from the PDV colony.  Isn't she a little beauty.  A female white fox is what this creature was, now she is a slave.  They follow only two priorities.  Kill until the see Andross, and then obey him.  The perfect weapon in every aspects.  Should you try to escape, you will meet her, and that is the time you will have less then a few seconds to make your peace with whatever god it is you worship.  I no more use for her right now.  Take her away."

 Remaining submissive for now, Dallas was led out of the room.  Before they left, Wolf stepped before them, and Dallas looked into his eye with a terrible hatred.

 "I'm sorry Ally.  I..."  He was cut off by her spitting into his eye, blinding him for a second.  He drew away from them, and they continued.

 Wolf wiped the saliva out of his eye, regaining some blurred sight.  "Forgive me, my lord," he said.  "I actually thought that she might be a little more cooperative.  I'm sorry."

 "It's all right Wolf," said Andross.  "No harm was done.  I will give her until night fall to make the decision we want her to make, so I suggest you spend that time to talk to her and make her listen to reason.  If she has not decided otherwise by morning, the last light she will ever see in this life will be coming from eight kilometers below out feet.

 "In all aspects, I doubt she will turn.  A few of them did like Pigma, but they were always Venomian at heart.  You know what they say.  A true Cornerian is a Cornerian is a Cornerian.  They are selfish, self righteous people who think their morals should be put above personal greatness.  That discipline won't get them very far in the universe."

 The two stood there for a long while, looking down at Leon who was just waking up and wondering what it was that hit him.  Wolf sighed.  His sister just beet the living crap out of his best friend.  Who should he ridicule?  Him for losing or her for doing it?  Who should he back up?  This was not what he wanted from this family reunion.  Not at all.
 
 

Chapter VII
A Damned Secret Unveiled

"The only true holy flame are the ones in our hearts.  The ones which define who we are.  Courageous or cowardly, brave or fearful, wise or foolish, kind or cruel, caring or cold, light or dark."
-Conner Seacore - CSS SunHawk-
 

 Another sharp cry through the winds pierced his ear, but did nothing to slow him down.  Conner jumped out of the way as Keldon charged, swing his blade wildly.  He sliced through the air where Conner once stood and cut through the floor.  Conner swung at the eagle, hoping to get a free hit.  Keldon tore the blade from the concrete floor and deflected the swing, and retorted with a high and low combo attack of his own.

 Conner deflected every blow, but found himself stepping backward with every hit.  Keldon was like a whirlwind of blades with his attacks, and Conner could barely keep up.  Likewise, the black wolf was also just as fast and furious with his assault, making it just as difficult for Keldon to continue.

 They stepped back away from each other, both catching their breath for a moment.  Keldon charged and swung, trying to attack Conner's shoulder.  Conner dodged the shot, and thrust the blade forward, being parried by Keldon.  A few more strikes, two high and two low followed, and then the stopped again.

 "What is this?" asked Keldon, looking somewhat surprised.  "You have never gone for this long before.  Not even half this long."

 "Like I said," replied Conner, raising his blade to make Keldon keep his distance.  "Things can change over forty years, even for a Shyer.  Spiritual enlightenment is something that any warrior could use.  You of all people included."

 Angered, Keldon swung his blade at Conner, only slicing air as Conner retreated strategically.  He made a quick swinging thrust out and struck the eagle's blade, almost knocking it from his hand.  "You see," said Conner.  "You're letting anger get the best of you.  Don't."

 His only reply was a quick lunge forward by Keldon.  Conner went to the side, close to the balcony edge over the lower first level.  He thought Keldon would let his momentum flow and keep going, but instead he stopped right beside Conner and swung his fist.  The back of his hand struck Conner in the muzzle, making him whirl around, almost on top of the edge, almost over it.

 Keldon swung his blade at Conner, but was countered by a swift step to the side, Conner placing his foot again on the edge.  He then swung that foot through the air and kicked Keldon in the face, making him stagger back.  He remained perfectly balanced on the edge, ready to defend again.

 Getting really angry now, Keldon slowly went towards Conner and attacked.  The same furious strikes, low and high and to the side all came and were defended cleanly.  The blurring swords created terrible noise throughout the room.  Keldon swung at Conner shoulder again, downward this time, but Conner ducked to the side.  He ducked to the side again as Keldon tried to hit the other shoulder, and kept going back and forth for a small while, until Conner threw a fist and decked him.  Keldon swung his blade one time as he staggered backward.

 The purple sword nicked the coat, the heat of it getting inside the fibers.  Conner growled as his coat caught on fire, wildly batting at it, making it go out quickly.  Seeing that Keldon was about to attack again, he slipped the coat and sash off and threw them at Keldon, right into his face.

 Really steamed at actions like this, Keldon threw the smoking coat into the corner and ran towards Conner, ready to end it.  Conner jumped and did a clean and powerful back flip off the balcony, almost flying, and landed on the bottom, flipping backward a few times.  Keldon just jumped down feet first, his cape fluttering as he came down, landing hard on the floor.

 The two stood there, glaring at one another with a mutual anger, but also a warrior's respect.  Keldon slowly walking forward, now choosing to be more cautious in his attacks.  Every time he blindly attacked Conner, he came out with one more bruise to remember.  Conner choose only to defend now.  The last time he attacked was a near disastrous ending.

 Keldon swung high, and immediately followed with a gut attack, and the spun and tried to attack again.  Conner swung a few times at him too, also being countered by a quick punch to the face and then a high arcing swipe to cleave him down the middle.  Conner barely stopped the swinging purple sword before it made his skull a slit personality, but was knocked to the floor from the impact.  Keldon threw a foot out and kicked Conner in the midsection, making him role backward, coughing.  Conner reached out and grabbed Keldon's ankle and yanked backward, taking him off his feet.

 The two were up in an instant, and already striking at each other.  Keldon attacked with a new fury now, making Conner retreat towards the river side of the building.  Tired of this, Conner ducked under a swinging blade and threw his shoulder into Keldon's stomach and knocked him backward.  Keldon retorted with a knee into his stomach which robbed Conner of his air, and Keldon threw him backward.

 Gasping for air, Conner slowly got to his feet and prepared himself for the next assault.  Which came like the wind.

 Keldon swung hard and fast at Conner's middle, and Conner parried it, but not enough.  The blade grazed his side slightly, creating a burning sensations inside of him which Conner growled at with rage and pain.  Keldon swung high towards the neck, but Conner stopped it too.  Finally, the eagle whirled around and kicked him in the stomach, sending him flying into the waters.

 Conner landed in the river with a loud splash.  Keldon smiled, thinking the fight was over, but sighed with fatigue as he saw the black wolf stand up.  The water was shallow, just under the waist, clearly enough to fight.  He jumped down and rose his blade, ready for a new attack.

 Wet and cold, Conner turned to see Keldon wading through the water towards him.  He readied himself for a new attack, even though he was tired and sore.  This time, Conner swung first, trying for the arm.  Keldon parried and tried to slash wide, and Conner ducked just before he was sliced from shoulder to opposite waste, the blade only slicing water.

 With a wild call, Conner jumped, the water doing nothing to slow down the high kick to Keldon's face, and took the bird off his feet and into the water.  Feeling himself freezing underwater, Keldon stood up quickly and looked at Conner.

 "Now we're more even" said Conner, his sword above his head, ready for a new attack.

 Keldon moved forward slowly, studying Conner's movements carefully, not wanting to get caught in a another blade storm.  Conner was much too fast for that.  The best plan was to wear him down slowly, Keldon using his better strength and endurance to his advantage.

 Their glowing eyes met again, both looking very fatigued, but Keldon still going stronger.  Then he stopped, just froze, and Conner gasped in horror.  "No," he said.

 Too late.  Their eyes met causing a brief telepathic link between them, and Keldon saw it.  Pandora, holding Captain Dallas hostage and trying to kill Conner.  All this before she escaped Conner's wrath using an ethereal time orb.  And the knowledge that she wasn't gone just yet.

 Keldon stepped backward, frozen inside and confused, almost betrayed.  Conner felt himself fall down inside, tired and no longer willing to fight anymore.  In keeping himself here, he had killed their chances of keeping this star system safe.  No, thought Conner inside.  He mustn't get away with knowledge like this.

 "She's here," said Keldon, burning rage in his eyes.  "She's here!"  He pounded the water with his fist.

 Conner attacked, and Keldon defended himself to a new wind, fast and deadly attack from Conner coming at him.  Keldon felt himself beginning to fall, trying to keep up with the blazing strikes, thrusts, and slashes being thrown at him.  He retreated backward, Conner making small weak attacks out, looking for a way in.

 Conner stopped and started to wildly swing his blade side to side, trying to get at an opening, and Keldon swung too trying to keep himself alive.  Conner saw it.  He swung his blade out and struck Keldon's quickly, making Keldon rise his sword.  Conner lunged his blade out and struck the other one in the hilt from below, the impact taking the sword from Keldon's hands, sending it flying into the air.

 Looking shocked and surprised at this, Keldon could just stand there as Conner pointed his sword right at him, inches away from his throat.

 Swallowing, Keldon went to his knees just as his own blade plopped into the water.  "I yield to your mercy, Conner.  For the first time in all that which we have fought, you have defeated me.  You have my respects."

 Conner wanted to thrust his blade forward and end the life, along with any chance of Pandora's presence here getting out.  That wasn't him though.  Murder was something that Conner could never in good conscious live with without it killing him inside.  Slowly, he stepped backward, the sword away from Keldon's throat now.  He let the blade fall into the water.

 Keldon stood up and looked at Conner, not really knowing what to think.  He could not force the wolf to return with him without showing dishonor since Conner defeated him.  He didn't know what to feel or do about this confrontation with Conner, but he did know about what he learned from it.  Keldon snapped his fingers, and his blade rose on its own out of the water, hovered for a second, and then flew into his hand.

 "I must go now," he said, wading out of the river.  "There is much I have to do."

 "Wait!" called Conner.  "You cannot tell the Executor leaders that Pandora is here.  If they find that she is or even was, you know what will happen.  Our people will come in and obliterate every planet, moon, asteroid, even the sun in hopes they will get her.  These people haven't even begun to live out their true potential.  To exterminate them to kill one traitor is a price not worth the shot."

 "I know," said Keldon.  "But the Executor leaders are in too much of a blood lust with for vengeance to listen to that kind of reasoning.  And it is my duty and honor bound task to inform them of her presence here.  So, you may want to come with me and get out of the way while you still can."

 Conner stood their in the water for a moment, looking at Keldon, and then he looked down to the water.  He had failed.  He tried to keep Pandora's presence here a secret to protect these people, but now he has failed in that task.  "I can't go," he said.  "Let me stay here, Keldon Starfury.  Allow me time to try and stop Pandora and bring her to justice or to death, whatever I can do to keep these people safe."

 "They mean that much to you?" asked Keldon.

 He remembered.  Ally.  Conner nodded almost at once.  "More then you may know."

 "Very well.  It will take me twenty eight days to return to the nearest Shyer fleet.  After that, it will take three days for them to get here.  You have thirty one days to take care of your quest, Conner Seacore.  Then, we come in."

 Keldon stepped out of the water and ringed it out of his cape.  "Remember that.  Thirty one days."

 Conner watched as the eagle ran into the brush and disappeared into the dark.  Slowly, the wolf climbed out of the water and into the sun, letting it dry him off.  Dripping wet, he stored his weapon into his belt and retrieved his coat and sash from the upper level of the mill.  As quickly as he could, he moved into the sun.

 After a few steps, Conner rose his head, putting his nose to the wind.  After a few sniffs, he came back with a surprised and worried expression on his face.  "Ally," he said to himself.  He took off, moving like lightning throughout he trees and not even slowing down for anything.

 The words rang inside his head over and over.  Thirty one days.
 
 
 

Chapter VIII
Rock and a Hard Place

"The day I am forced to turn against my people is the day I also commit suicide, because it is the same day that all hope has died in the world.  Not while I'm alive."
-Captain Allison Dallas - CSS SunHawk-
 

 In a darkened room she sat, motionless, her heart sunken down to the pit of her stomach.  Dallas sat against the wall, her face buried in her arms.  All of her conscience thoughts now turning against her.

 You've really got yourself into it now, Ally, she heard herself say mentally.  You were foolish enough to allow Wolf and his cohorts take advantage of you just because you're of the same blood line.  Smooth, real smooth.

 So now what do you do.  Wait around for the whole night and let them execute you in the morning, because there's no way in all of this black universe that you're going to turn against those you love, even if Andross lifted all of those demands.  You can't escape seeing that the doors are all electrified.  The fan above would chop you to pieces.  All you can do is sit here and wait for something to happen.

 Dallas's cell was just a plain metal jail cell.  Round shaped, black cold metal for a floor with nothing to lay on except...the floor.  Hanging from the ceiling were dozens of chains, leading to a ventilation fan above.  What good would those chains do anyway? she asked herself.  As the guard who brought her in said, the fan spun at two thousand rotations per minute, and its edges were sharpened for maximum slice and dice effects.  The doors were pouring through about a thousand volts, able to kill her if she grabbed any part of it.  Dallas had felt the unpleasant sensation of being electrocuted before.  It was not something she wanted again.  All she could do was wait.

 As she sat in the cell, Dallas thought about what she had left behind to pursue this fool's errand.  The key to the future of Lylat, as it was everyone's key as well.  The SunHawk, once it left Lylat, was not scheduled to return for six whole years.  It was to go out, explore the stars, announce their presence into the galaxy, and just keep going to learn.  Even though she lost her position as Captain of the ship, pointless now that she was going to die, Dallas wondered what it would be like out there.

 The thoughts of the intelligent beings out there they would meet, the friends the would make or the wars they would fight.  She remembered that Conner told her that there were civilizations out there less advanced then they were, but already had a significant foot hold in the galaxy.

 That was the main thing she missed.  Her crew.  Her last remaining family, as Star Fox was to Fox.  She missed Grant, his constant strains to be the best, to have the best.  Sparky, her old friend from childhood.  Kesh and Maurine.  The thoughts of never getting to see their wedding, their children if they ever had any saddened Dallas much.  Kite.  But most of all, she would miss Conner.  The alien wolf who was her friend, and had the brightest aura of benevolence she had ever seen in her days.  His wisdom, courage, and overall companionship, the fact that he was always there, was what she would miss.  She so wished she could go with them when they left this system.

 It was this war, thought Dallas sadly.  This war was keeping them grounded.  They had to win this war, otherwise, their hopes would be lost.

 Dallas knew that the virus was here.  Andross was here, so the virus had to be.  She could feel the truth of that fact in her stomach.  She didn't know how long until he posted demands for surrender or until he decided to use it again.  Dallas had brought the weapon to destroy it, but the Venomian creeps took her jacket.

 Feeling tired and worn, Dallas leaned over and lay on the floor.  Maybe she would be able to escape sometime.  They had brought her food when she came in, and maybe they would do it again.  Dallas looked up at the chains.  Could she...?

 The sound of dying electricity sounded, and the door started to be unbolted.  It swung open, causing Dallas to sit up.  A Venomian guard pointed his gun in at her head, and nodded to someone she couldn't see.  Wolf walked in and the door was shut behind him.

 Dallas glared at him with hate, making Wolf grip the phaser he held in his paw tighter.  Dallas's eyes went to it and then to him.

 "Precautionary measure, nothing more," said Wolf.  If you are to die, it won't be until tomorrow morning.  I thought we might talk until then."

 "I have nothing to say to you," raged Dallas.  She got to her feet and stood before Wolf.  The guards didn't put manacles or even cuffs on her.  No need to as they guessed.  "You shot me, you had me put in here, waiting to be executed until the morning.  I hate waiting for death.  I hate all the recollections that you do while you know you're going to die."

 "I shot you to save you from that creature.  If I didn't, it would have killed you.  Through this way, I have extended your life as best I can.  You're the last of my family, Ally.  You're the only person left that I would care if something happened to you.  Everyone else can really just go to hell."

 "What about Leon?" asked Dallas.

 "Him too," said Wolf evilly.  "You really should sign on with us, Captain.  The items we asked for are a small price to pay.  It is the only way Andross will spare your life.  If you don't you will die on the morning."

 Dallas looked into his eye.  "What would you do if I was face to face with death?" she asked.

 Wolf swallowed.  "Normally, I would help you.  But when it is Andross who orders your execution, I probably won't even be sad.  Another Cornerian biting the dust, big deal.  Even if it is my sister.  As you said, it's a civil war."

 Dallas smiled.  "Civil war," she repeated.  "Just under the term holy war as the mother of all oxymorons."

 She and Wolf shared a brief laugh, but then went back to being serious.  "Ally, I really wouldn't care to see you die.  Family wise, I've been alone.  I've got very few friends.  My main wingman and best friend is a cold hearted bastard of a lizard who gets off on torturing his enemies.  My other two wingman are Lylat's largest blithering idiots known.  I would really find it more...heart warming if you joined us.  Brother and sister reunited under the same banner."

 Dallas looked into his eye, one which was showing a promise and a hope that she might consider.  Slowly, she shook her head.  "I will not turn or be turned," she said ice like.  "So, why don't you kill me now, and save the troubles of possible escape.  Come on, Wolf.  You never held back against murder before.  Don't disappoint me now."

 Shaking inside with anger at a challenge like that, Wolf raised his gun.  If it were anyone else, he would have killed them right off the bat, right there.  But his phaser just remained poised in the air, aimed at her heart.  Slowly, he lowered the phaser.

 "You can wait a little while longer.  As you said, Death after a long wait is always the best way to go."  Wolf called for the guard, and the door was opened.  Wolf peered through the door bars.  "I'll see you in the morning Ally.  No more coming around to try and persuade you.  A god couldn't break your will in twelve hours, how could I.  I'll try to look away as they shove you off the edge."

 He left, leaving Dallas to growl under her breath.  Brother or not, she wanted to kill him.  Clenching a fist, she looked up at the chains.  The next time that door was opened, she was out of here.  Dallas started to unlace her boots.

****

 "Any luck, Wolf?" asked Andross as the one eye walked by him.

 Wolf looked up at Andross, suddenly hating him for this outrage.  "No," he said.  "Like you said, Emperor.  Once a Cornerian white hat, always a Cornerian white hat.  She won't turn.  And a brainwash would take too long.  No, she will be dying in the morning."

 Andross nodded.  "I regret things didn't work out to your approval Wolf.  She is a powerful woman, and would have made a tremendous ally.  Who knows?  Maybe she will reconsider by morning."

 "I doubt it," snipped Wolf.

 "Emperor!" called out someone.  A mouse entered the hall and presented himself before Andross.  "The lab reports that the virus is ready for use any time you need it."

 Andross nodded, a slight happy expression on his face.  "Start sending my message of surrender to Corneria.  That is all."

 "Emperor Andross," said a soldier.  He saluted the emperor, bowed, and then began.  "We've just received word in from our forces on MacBeth.  The SunHawk is in orbit and is currently bombing our outposts on the surface.  Their being hit hard."

 Again, Andross nodded, but this time a little angry.  "On second thought," he said, "how long before you can have three copperhead missiles ready for launch with the virus in the warhead?"

 "We can have them ready to go by midnight, your highness," said the soldier.

 "Excellent.  Have them ready whenever you can, and then call me when you do.  If the SunHawk is attacking the MacBeth outpost, that means that Pepper is disregarding the threat pointed at him, and needs to be taught a lesson.  By this time tomorrow, the first people of Katina will be dying from this virus."

 "Are you sure you don't want Leon and I to deliver the bug, sir?" asked Wolf.  "A missile can be shot down quite easily these days."

 "No," said Andross.  "On Katina, especially now, you would be spotted too easily.  There are still five million people on Katina.  Get the missiles ready.  It is time to teach these people a lesson and let them know that I was deathly serious."  He walked off, smiling to himself.  Wolf looked after him, a smile on his face.

 How foolish some people got, he thought to himself.  He too walked off, looking for some shuteye before midnight when the real fireworks would begin.  Six hours after that, Ally would die, and he return to his normal cold self, which he missed.  Maybe having a sister wasn't all it was cracked up to be.
 
 

Chapter IX
The Great Fallen

"Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee.  Thou damned whale!"
-Captain Ahab - Moby Dick-
 

 Four hours later, half before Midnight.

 Pigma Dengar moved down the hallway almost happily, trying to remain object and his grubby fingers off of the food he was carrying.  If it wasn't just bread and water, it would be gone by now.  Andross had charged Pigma with feeding the prisoner, perhaps her last meal.  Pigma didn't mind.  Anything to see her in person again.

 He moved down the hall quickly, and found the guard fast asleep at his post.  If Andross saw this, this guy would be experiencing prison life for a while himself.  Pigma decided not to disturb him and just picked his keys away from him quiet like, turned off the electricity to the door, and then opened it.

 "Chow time!" he yelled out into the cell, setting the food on the floor.  It wasn't until after he shut the door did Pigma notice that there was no movements inside.  Strange he thought.  He looked through the bars into the room, and went whiter then he was with shock.

 The prisoner was gone.

 Hurriedly, almost panicked, and not telling the guard as he should have, Pigma opened the door and ran in.  On the floor, he found a pair of jeans, some boots, and socks neatly piled on the floor.

 Oh, man, he panicked inside.  Andross is going to blow a gasket about this.

 A slight jingling above made Pigma look upward, and he saw it.

 Captain Dallas came down the chains like a spider and surprised him.  Before he knew it, Dallas kicked him in the face and then wrapped her legs around his neck, squeezing hard until he found it impossible to yell.

 Struggling with both their weights, Dallas used the strength in her arms and pulled them both up a foot.  Talk soon, she thought.  I can't hold this for very long.

 "Can you talk?" asked Dallas.  He nodded where he could.  "Good.  The second you don't tell me what I want to know is the same second I make a twist that you won't agree with.  The virus, the PDV virus.  It's here isn't it?"

 "Yesss," wheezed Pigma.

 "All of it?"

 He nodded.

 "Where?"

 Dallas saw his eyes roll back, as if he was suffocating.  "Where!?" she roared.

 "Level C, room thirty-seven," he returned, faking before.

 Having no more strength, Dallas let him go and Pigma fell to the floor with a clump, hitting his head into unconsciousness.  She jumped down and grabbed his phaser pistol and knife, feeling a little lucky that he didn't try and use them on her which he could have.  Dallas also saw something.  A green tint in an insider pocket, which she reached in a grabbed.

 The emerald she brought with her.  "Thanks for being a thief," said Dallas, feeling really lucky now.  She tucked it into her shorts pocket and went to the door, which was clumsily left open.  The guard remained asleep during this, probably because of a sedative Dallas introduced to him from a needle she hid on the inside lining of her jeans.  She didn't have time to change back into them now.  The guards were now seeing that the door was being left open for too long.

 Dallas grabbed the guard and threw him in with Pigma, and then locked them inside.  She ran down the hallway, already hearing voices from the opposite way.

****

 "What?" yelled Wolf, grabbing Pigma by his neck, squeezing it.  "What do you mean she is gone?  How could she have escaped?"

 "Not there!" Pigma wheezed.  "Not there, please.  She jumped me from above.  I wasn't ready.  I'm sorry."

 Wolf shoved him away and turned to Leon and Andrew plus three troopers.  "Find her!" he barked at them.  "Alive if possible, and then bring her to me.  If she won't come quietly, then kill her."  He has had enough of this revolting family sherade.

 They nodded to him and started to take off, but the lights over their heads flickered, and then went back on.

****

 Step one, kill security system, complete.  Dallas looked around at the three people in here, two dead security guards from her hand and an unconscious civilian.  Perhaps a scientist.  Dallas looked around and saw a cabinet, and then smiled.

 She blew the lock off and looked inside.  A heavy phaser rifle, X-C compression version with rapid fire capacity.  Dallas reached up and lifted the gun up, loaded a power cell into it, and swung it over her shoulder.  If she was going to face those mutate creatures again, she was going to be prepared for it.

 She picked up a keycard from the scientist and exited the room, moving swiftly but silently down the hall.  There were things she wished she had now, such as her glasses so she could see a bit better.

 Dallas looked and saw that she was on level D.  One level up, then just follow the rooms.  Couldn't miss it.  She climbed a stair well, choosing the elevators as a suicide area now, and entered level C with slow caution.

 A guard posted at a door there saw her and attacked.  Dallas ducked behind a door just as a few laser shots were fired.  She then jumped back and fired her phaser at him, dropping him before he could call for help.  She ran down the hall and followed the room numbers.  Twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty.

 A small group of soldiers spotted Dallas and yelled at her to halt.  She shot them down, but one of them was able to get a word out.  Everyone knew she was on this level now.  Dallas swore to herself and continued on, hoping to get her job done before she was found.

 Moving swiftly, Dallas found room thirty-seven and looked inside.  It was a glass shielded laboratory, the glass melded with impenetrable anti-body shielding to prevent anything invisible and deadly from getting out.  There was only one man inside the lab, moving a canister filled with a green goo into what looked like a missile warhead.

 Dallas swallowed nervously.  They were going to use the weapon again.  Hopefully, her move would be done before they could.  Dallas waited until the canister was loaded, then she moved in and placed a laser blast hole right between the scientist's eyes, knocking him to the floor like broken read.

 She was alone, for now, and that was enough.  She didn't have much time to do this though.  Dallas set the emerald down on the floor in the middle of the lab's front room.  She looked up, looking for anything or anyone that might be coming.  Dallas, satisfied that she was alone, ran a claw along one of the jewels edges.  At once, it began spinning and rising, glowing up after a foot.  Dallas stepped away and smiled.

 Within a few seconds, the jewel was gone and only the Thralq Moor bomb remaining.  Dallas moved up to it and looked inside at the green and blue skin like surface.  She reached in and touched the skin in the spot Conner showed her, remembering his lessons on how to activate and arm this bomb.

 After she touched it, Dallas saw the skin surface divot down and then slide away, revealing another surface that almost resembled plastic.  Dallas watched as that surface rose up and between the metallic frame for her to use.  She pushed a few buttons, and a red light lit up.  Dallas put a finger to her watch and then moved that hand to the red light.

 At the same time, she pushed both buttons.  An eighteen minute countdown started on her watch, and the bomb arming console sank back into the skin and was covered.  As for the skin itself, it turned to a blood red color.

 It was done.  Dallas stepped away from it, swallowing to herself nervously.  If what Conner told her was true, then the rest would take care of and protect itself.  She exited the lab quickly, right into the face of Andross.

 "What?" he yelled out, seeing her walk out of his lab.  "What are you doing here?"  He lunged out for her, but Dallas dodged and kicked him in the back of the legs, knocking him to the floor and then she ran off.

 Andross got up slowly and practically punched a wall communications panel.  "Get security to the lab on the double!" he screamed into it.  He looked inside the lab and saw the reddish device just sitting on the floor.  "Send a scientist up here too."

****

 Dallas never stopped running down the hall.  She shoulder blocked a guard into the wall as she ran by.  Another one she shot as he stepped within her path.  Her job was done, now it was time to split.

 She found her way through memory to the landing pad where her Arwing was.  She opened the door and was hit by a heated wind that nearly knocked her over.  Dallas forced herself out and looked.

 Her Arwing was gone.  Blacked and smoking pieces of it lay on the pad, just a few fragments of its underframe.  Dallas backed inside, feeling her heart die away.  It looked like she might actually die with this station.  That didn't scare her.  At least she would know that the system was going to be safe.

 She ran down the hall way, thinking that there might be another way off this station.  She saw no guards on her way, but she did here PA calls ordering the general faculty to start evacuating the station.  They had found her bomb, and realized it as a possible threat.

 Dallas made her way to the station's lowest level, and looked around the first room she entered.  A storage room.  Dark except lights here and there on the ceiling, Dallas moved through the maze of the containers and crates stacked to the ceiling.  Most of these crates had food inside them, others medical supplies.  Just general life needy stuff for the station.

 A noise came to her ears which made Dallas stop.  A growling noise, and the sound of quick feet scurrying.  Flexing her muscles, Dallas moved through the crates and found a large spot where there were no crates or anything.  Breathing heavily, Dallas stopped here and took a breath.

 The noise came again.  This time it sounded hungry.  Dallas whirled around and saw a quick movement in the dark.  Another quick scurry.  It looked big, but it was moving fast.  Dallas dropped her phaser pistol and readied the rifle, making sure it was on rapid fire.  She had a feeling what was out there, and it was coming at her with a hungry tooth.

 Dallas slowly backed away from where she last saw the movement.  Another one came.  A patch of white bristly fur under the light, moving fore.  Dallas raised her gun, pressing the stock into shoulder.

 "Come on out you sneaky, vile piece of..."

 It emerged.  The white head of a creature that once resembled a fox came around the corner of boxes and looked around.  It's red blood like eyes narrowed at Dallas, the mandible like jaws opening and closing over and over again.  The beast's claws looked like miniature swords.

 Dallas waited until it came fully out and then raised the laser sighting and shined it right into the creature's eye.  A nervous sweat came off her brow and ran into her eye, probably the knowing that the gun would have little effect on the creature.  Doing nothing was a sure way to die.  She slowly squeezed the trigger.

****

 Andross and the other scientist carefully looked over the device without touching it.  The poor soul who tried to manipulate it was now dead from a bad case of electric shock therapy to his heart.  The device had some sort of self contained security system, killing anyone who touched it.

 "It is a bomb," said Wolf, looking on from a distance.  "Isn't it?"

 Neither of the two examiners answered him.  Andross waved a sensor wand over the device a few times and then looked at it.  A shine of astonishment glistened in his eye as he read over their results.  "This technology," he thought out loud.  "It is astounding.  Completely organic except for the metal frame around it.  Yes, I think it might be a bomb.  Who knows how powerful though."

 He stood up and looked down at the reddish skin surface of the device, the molten lava like patterns to it.  "Ms. Dallas placed it here.  I really would like to know where she got it from."

 "A new Cornerian weapon perhaps," said the other scientist."

 "No.  I have spies and operatives in Cornerian research facilities operating day in and day out.  If they developed something like this, I would have known about it.  Plus, this looks entirely too advanced for Corneria to craft."

 "So where does it come from?"

 "I wish I knew?" said Andross.  "We'll assume it is a bomb.  We'll also assume that Captain Dallas knows how and has the ability to disarm it.  Find her.  I want her alive."

 "As you wish," said Wolf.

 "Lord Andross," said a voice over a PA.  "We're picking up signs of heavy phaser fire down below.  Level F, section five.  Storage areas."

 Andross shot a glance to Wolf who was already on his way.  Leon and two guards were with him.  The old ape watched them go then looked down at the device.  If it was a bomb, then it was in the perfect position to ruin him.  He just hoped that the virus' resistance to any kind of explosive energy was high enough.

****

 Wolf and Leon, along with the two guards, carefully entered and searched the cargo area.  For a while, the found nothing but containers and barrels, nothing really exciting down here.  Not until the got near the wall did they find something useful.

 The dead mutate lying on the floor, her purple colored blood all over the floor underneath her.  The creature had been practically pulverized by continuous heavy phaser fire, her smoking torso was a flag for that conclusion.  It looked like she had been rained down by it for a long while.

 Wolf was not saddened to see the grotesque monstrosity dead.  The female white fox that this came from was a beautiful woman.  Now she was dead and hideous.  As he looked down, he thought.  The child she was set to have would not have to suffer in having a monster for a mother, or to live as one itself.

 There was also red blood along with the purple, and much of it too.

 "She's been wounded," said Wolf.  "But where is she?"

 "Lieutenant," said a guard.  "Here."  He lifted up a broken phaser rifle, covered with red blood.  Wolf sighed, thinking the worst about his sister.  She couldn't have gotten very far.

 "I've got something," said Leon, looking down to the floor.  Wolf joined him to find a fresh trail of blood leaving the area, going towards the wall.  As the trail advanced, the blood grew more quantitative.  She was bleeding heavily, and had to be close by.

 Wolf followed the blood trail to the wall where a greeting was taken off a vent.  He stuck out his hand to the vent and felt heat from it.  The blood was heavy inside the vent, making him ripple his jaw muscles at seeing it.

 "Good lord, she's outside."

****

 The heat was atrocious, coming at her like waves from below.  Dallas, tired and injured terribly, went on despite all this.  The heat from below her was like needles against her fur, into her eyes, and into her nose.  The metal bar she held onto with one hand was seething with heat, burning her paw, as was the bar she stood on, singing the soles of her feet.

 Down below her, almost seven kilometers, was an endless ocean of rolling super heated lava.  If she fell, it was over.  At least she would die from the poisonous air below before she was burned to death by the tremendous heat then vaporized by the lava itself.  She couldn't believe she was doing this.

 It had to be at least ninety Celsius out here.  Dallas could feel the heat sucking energy out of her as she inched her way down the bar railing.  The metal was terribly hot to the touch, burning her, the pain almost making her let go and die.

 She had only one arm to use to move down the rail.  On her other shoulder were terrible claw marks from the monster, deep and bleeding heavily.  Her shirt strap there was severed, hanging loosely, fluttering in the hot winds that pierced through her face and threatened to force her off the railing.  The deep claw mark tears in her shoulder were spouting blood regularly.  One of the cuts had reached bone.  The impact from the creatures paw also dislocated her shoulder, creating even more pain as she moved.  There were numerous other scratches and marks all over her body, mostly on the legs, making it difficult to moved because of the hurt.

 "Don't think about it," Dallas told herself, referring to the pain.  A small trickle of blood ran out the corner of her mouth.  "Think about something else.  Keep moving."  She stepped along the railing, each step after the other, slowly going down the hot metal bars of the rails.  Dallas kept her limp arm tucked in tightly to her blood stained shirt, the pain in her shoulder wound starting to bite at her more effectively.

 As Dallas moved, she felt the pain grow more intense with every step.  The blood loss was weakening her more and more.  She looked down the rail way to see anyway out.  At first there was nothing, but then something did emerge.  It was there all the time, she just wasn't seeing it until now.  A small door going inside, into the wall.  At least it looked like a door from here.  It was still over twenty meters away, and Dallas was unsure she could make it that far.

 Slowly, she kept moving, trying to remain pure in thought, not to think about the pain.  Her damaged shoulder and corresponding arm were starting to go numb.  She didn't know why, but she chose not to think about it.  She thought about her crew.  All of them.  Grant, Sparky, Kesh, Maurine, Kite, Q'Ronnie.  All of them.  Mostly, she thought about Conner.  The only person in her life other then her father which she felt totally safe when he was around her.  She missed the icy but soft blue eyes of his, always friendly.  She missed him, and wondered if she would ever see the black Shyer wolf again.

 If only he was here, she thought, wishing that of all moments that she was forced to be alone, this wasn't one of them.  Keep moving Ally, a voice said inside her.  She slid her hand down the bar, keeping a hold on it as best she could despite the searing burn being placed into her hand.

 She went a few more feet, and then stopped.  The hand bar broke.  Dallas yelled as the bar snapped off and started to bend.  She lost her footing on the lower bar and slipped.  Thinking that this was it, Dallas screamed as she fell off the foot bar, but held on tightly to the upper one as it bent downward from her weight.  It was weakened by the heat, and she was paying for it now.

 Dallas held on to the bending steal bar tightly, every inch it sank she found it more difficult to hold on.  The lower bar was above her knees now, but she continued to kick out to try and grab it.  The bar sunk lower, and she slid down it a ways, close to its jagged point, a foot away from death.  The lower bar was out of her reach now.

 She stopped there, closing her eyes and waiting for the bar to give way, for it all to end.  It was over.

 Don't give up Ally, said a voice inside her.  You can do it.  Keep going and you'll make it.

 "Please," said Dallas tearfully.  "Please stop.  Just let me die."

 It's not your time to die.  Climb back up and keep going.  Wait a minute.  You're not wussing out on me now, are you?  After all the crap you gone through over the past months on SunHawk and everything else before, you're becoming a weakling now?  Inconceivable.  Get going you bitch!  Climb up there and get to safety!

 "I...I can't."

 Yes you can.  Your shoulder's not hurt so bad you can't use it.  Reach and climb up and get to safety.  You already won.  Your bomb's going to send this place back to the second dimension.  You really don't want to go with it do you?  You're just bargaining for your life now, Captain.  Either you keep or lose it.  Fight for it.  You've got nothing else to lose.  You just fought for victory and won it, now fight for your life.

 Dallas started to pull up with her good arm, trying to pull her way up with it only.

 You're not going to climb a bending pole quick enough using only one hand.  Reach up with the other and climb.

 Dallas moved her lame shoulder, and at once screamed.

 It doesn't hurt that bad.  Climb!

 She shot her arm up and grabbed the pole, screaming loudly as she felt the dislocated shoulder pop slightly as she moved it.  She held on though, ignoring the waves of suffering into her shoulder, and pulled herself up with her good arm, supporting with the bad.  Foot by foot, she came up to the bar.

 The bar she was on bent more downward, and gave way.  She swung downward, the pipe snapping and swinging freely, suspended only by a thin piece of worn steal.  One that would snap any second.

 Quickly, Dallas started to pull herself up and try to grab the lower bar just above her head.  Wrapping her bad arm around the bar as well as her legs, she reached out and tried to grab the bar, failed.  She tried again and failed.  On the third time, her claw scratched the pole.  She almost had it.

 Seeing no choice, Dallas swung harder, knowing it would break the bar completely.  She shifted her weight as the bar swung, making it go faster and farther.  She reached out and tried to grab the other one, grabbed it, but lost hold of it.  She swung again, hearing a creaking sound above.  It was going.

 She reached, stretched her hand out, straining to get the bar.  The high bar gave way, and snapped off with a loud ring.  Dallas felt herself starting to fall, and thought she was dead.  Her fingers wrapped around the low bar, and she gripped it tightly.  The piece of the high bar dropped from her, falling down into the inferno.  Dallas swallowed, thinking that that might have been her.

 Dallas pulled herself up with her good arm, threw her legs up and caught the bar, and slowly pulled herself up to safety.  She got above the low bar and stood up, grabbing the high.  She sighed with relief, but then saw the four meters where there was no high bar to hold onto.  Dallas swallowed, wondering if she was balanced enough while pained to make it that far.

 She let go of the high bar here and started to walk carefully, one foot in front of the other, balanced on her way down the bar, her good arm tucked in with her injured one to keep balanced.  Dallas was no gymnast, but she did have good balance as she moved down the bar.  Swallowing heavily as the glow of the lava far below shined into her eye, she slowly moved on.

 She got a few feet from the bar, and then faltered.  Dallas felt herself beginning to lose balance.  She jumped forward and reached out for the high bar and grabbed it just as one of her feet slipped, which would have killed her.  Dallas held on, panting with great weariness, and smiled when she saw the open door just ten little meters away, waiting and beckoning to her.

 Please, she thought.  Don't let that happen again.  Dallas moved more quickly down the rail, a new energy inside of her.  She never took her eye off the door.  Always keeping honed in on that door and her destination.  Five meters.

 She could do it, she knew she could.  But so many questions rang through her brain on whether she would get to live or not.  She had no way off the station since her fighter was destroyed.  All the escape pods and shuttles save a few were gone from evacuation.  She couldn't get to them before the bomb went off anyway.  Two meters.

 Dallas edged her way down and got to the door.  It was a two meter jump from the railing to the door, and every shred of muscle in her legs ached without mercy.  Dallas sighed nervously and prepared herself.

 She squatted down and leapt out, jumping off the bar towards the door.  For a moment, she thought she was flying, that is until she felt herself starting to fall.  Her feet sailed over the edge of the door and landed on firm metal floor, and she rolled inside.  Dallas kept her bad shoulder up above her.

 She was safe, for now, from the outside.  The door closed behind her, and she felt cool air start to fill the room.  Cool, clean air, making her smile.  It was here Dallas realized something.  She was out there maybe eight minutes tops.  Usually, fatal exposure outside took around fifteen minutes.  Because of the amount of air she was using up through pain and fatigue, another minute would have killed her.

 Dallas felt like the luckiest woman in Lylat at that moment.  It had to be luck, which was something she usually didn't believe in, because only ten people in all of Lylat could have survived out there.

 Swallowing heavily, another wave of pain shot out of her shoulder and into her mind.  Dallas tensed up greatly to guard against it.  It was terrible.  She thought for a moment that she was going to go into shock from the pain and blood loss, but she remained focused.

 Fighting her way to her feet, Dallas left this room and headed out into the open.  She checked her watch.  Three minutes before the bomb's collection process began, six minutes before the bomb itself detonated.  She worked her way into a light run down the hallway.  If there was any hope of escape, she would find it.

 Without stop, she moved down the hallways, keeping an eye out for anyone and anything she could use.  All she needed now was a way to leave.

 "Hey!" yelled someone.  Dallas turned and saw a Venomian worker looking at her.  She was in no condition to fight, so she moved away from him quickly.  At least he wasn't a soldier.  "Wait!  Stop!" he cried out to her.

 She ignored him and moved into a door, shut and locked it behind her.  Another wave of hot wind struck her from behind.  Dallas looked and saw a wall missing, and the fiery skies of outside again.  She was back where she just escaped from.

 There was a balcony like surface there, no guard rail at all.  Just one edge between safety and a molten demise.  Dallas growled with a nervous rage, knowing she couldn't stay in here for very long.  Someone outside was banging on the door though.  Probably that worker.  She backed away from the door, but stayed clear of the edge.

 No one in there was going to get inside right now.  Dallas backed away from the door and sat against the wall, taking her first rest every since she escaped the prison cell, and one she desperately needed.  Within a few seconds, she nodded off to sleep.

****

 Three minutes passed.

 Andross paced outside the lab, looking at the bomb on the floor with every pass.  He was worried now.  He didn't know what to expect from the device, nor what it was going to do.  It was just sitting there, a red skin surface.

 "Emperor," said a servant over the comm-link.

 "Yes."

 "They found the escapee.  She's on level E, disposal room nine."

 "Good.  Have guards secure that area and send Wolf and Leon down immediately.  I want her alive at all costs."  She has to know how to terminate this device if it was a bomb.

 New movement caught his eye.  Andross watched as the device floated off the ground and stopped at three or four feet, perfectly suspended in the air.  He stopped, watching it intently.  The device slowly started to spin.

 One he saw a glint of light, a very small streak come into the device as it spun in the air, he headed down the hall himself.  He was going to get that information out of Dallas himself.  Very, very brutally.

****

 A small noise awoke Dallas from her brief slumber.  They were coming in.  She looked at her watch.  Two minutes and thirty seconds left.  She got to her feet and backed away from the door, keeping weary about the edge.

 She looked at the edge with a broken teary gaze.  It was her only way out now.  She was going to die.  Dallas faced the door, awaiting for them to come in.  The door popped and slid open, and Dallas backed away more.

 Wolf stepped in and saw her, and gasped, his jaw dropping.  He saw the very grave wounds on her shoulder, along with all the scratches and bruises, and the burns on her feet.  She looked terrible.  Wolf, holstering his phaser, stepped towards her slowly.  Dallas stepped back, no longer trusting Wolf.  He swallowed when he saw the edge off the station behind her.

 Three more came in.  Leon and two soldiers, one of them a rather young looking Doberman.  They all came in behind Wolf, who motioned them to stay back as Dallas backed away more on their arrival.

 "Come back, Ally!" called Wolf, trying to get over the howl of the wind.  She clenched her jaw muscles tightly as she backed away from them more.  "Please, come back.  We've changed our minds.  You can go home.  I'll take you back to SunHawk myself.  Just disarm the bomb in the lab and you can go home."

 Dallas looked down at her watch.  Two minutes.  "I can't," she said.  The collection process was a minute gone.  "It's too late."

****

 The bomb was spinning wildly.  Rotating at almost a thirty times a second.  A light was emanating at its center as more and larger streaks of light were being pulled into it.  A huge wind was being sucked into it, pulling the air right out and into the bomb.

 People outside looking at this saw the windows start to shudder, the air outside pushing against them.  A second later, they shattered, and those people were struck by a fierce wind, just before the air was vacuumed out of their own lungs.

 The light grew more bright, and the device was spinning more rapidly.

****

 Andross stormed into the room and saw Dallas almost to the ledge.  Wolf, Leon, and two soldiers were there, Wolf ahead and in front of Captain Dallas.  He was trying to negotiate, trying to make her come back out of danger.

 The ape moved just behind Wolf and pointed a phaser pistol at Dallas.  She stepped back more, right to the edge.

 "No, Ally, don't jump," Wolf cried.

 "Disarm the bomb," ordered Andross.

 Defiantly, Dallas stared right at him.  "No.  I couldn't anyway.  It's too late.  If I were you.  I would evac this station while I was still ahead.  Get out while you still can Wolf."  She looked at her watch.  "You have a minute and a half before this whole place goes up.  The bomb has one terraton capitol yield, and it'll go out two dimensionally.  You have a minute and a half to get out of a thirty kilometer radius."

 Andross went to one of the present guards and ordered him to get the evacuation of himself underway.  The guard took off in a hurry.  Wolf took a step closer to Dallas and held out his hand to her.

 "Come with us Ally.  You don't have to die here alone.  Please, come along."

 Dallas turned around and looked down over the edge.  She could barely see the lava surface through the red haze, rolling and pitching like a true stormy sea.  She turned back to Wolf and slumped a little.

 "You look tired, Ally.  You look like you could use some rest."

 Dallas looked at him.  "I am tired.  I'm so...very tired.  I would like to rest."  She stepped back more, her heals just over the edge.

 "Not that way," said Wolf.  "Come with us.  We'll give you rest you need."  Yes, thought Andross to himself, gripping his phaser tightly.  We will.  Dallas saw the vile look in his eye, knowing his intentions.  "Come on...Sister."

 Dallas saw the warm family feelings in his eye, probably the first real love he's felt in a long while.  If it was just him, she would go.  But now.  Dallas looked at the doberman guard, seeing how nervous and paranoid he looked in the eye.  Keeping a suspicious eye on him, she moved her good arm behind her back.  The Doberman saw this.

 "No!" he yelled, raising his phaser rifle.  "Look out!"  He pulled the trigger, and a bright red laser blast shot forth through the singed air.  The blast struck Dallas high on her chest.  Her eyes widened in the split second sensation of heated energy tear through her insides and out the back, breaking her there.  She looked at Wolf, who was stunned.

 Dallas fell backward.

 "NOOOO!!!" screamed Wolf, rushing forward and reaching for her.  Dallas also reached out to him, and their fingers touched just as she fell backward in a deathly silent fashion.  He couldn't catch her.

 The lady husky fell off the edge and strait downward, towards the flames.  Wolf dove downward on the edge and tried to grab her, but he was too late.  He watched her fall, looking into her green eyes as she grew smaller.  Wolf could see that she was not afraid, but more or less happy.

 He watched her for a short while, up until she was a slight speck against the fire.  Then, he growled with a ferocity he never really knew he had.  With a blind rage, Wolf jumped up, pulled his own phaser pistol, and pointed it at the Doberman guard.

 "No, wait!" yelled the youngster.  "I was just..."

 Too late.  Wolf shot the dog in the throat, dropping him like a sack.  Still not satisfied with seeing blood flow from his neck, Wolf walked forward and shot the dying body again, killing him totally.  He shot again, and again, and again.  Wolf didn't stop until Leon went forth and grabbed his arm.

 "Wolf!" he yelled.  "We have to depart right now."  Wolf stared at the lizard with coldness in his eye which Leon knew.  He was back to his old self now that he no longer had family again.  Leon was starting to worry.  "Come on Wolf, let's vacate."

 Wolf nodded and the two started to head out, but not before Wolf put one more shot into the Doberman's body.

****

 A single shuttle was launched from the bay.  The last one to use.  Aboard was Andross and all four of Star Wolf.  Wolf sat alone in the back, his face in his hands, not saying a word.  Andross, himself piloting the shuttle out, didn't even look at his four minions.  Andrew sat beside him, looking out to the light.  Pigma sat in a seat holding his hurt neck from Dallas.  Leon sat just behind Andross looking indifferent about everything.

 The ape checked his own watch.  They had thirty seconds to get out.  A little nervously, he punched the main boosters and the shuttle rocketed forward away from the platform station.

****

 She had fallen into unconsciousness already as she was falling.  Because of this, she had no room for surprise, nor during trip over the nature of it, nor what she would see far below her.  She was still breathing.

 Despite the poisonous and scorching air of the lower atmosphere, Dallas still breathed.  But the laser shot had knocked her out, and she was still dying.

 She kept falling, tumbling downward towards the layer of clouds, and penetrated it.  Dallas opened her eyes just in time to see a quick flash of white.  A shiny bluish and white surface that she was falling into.  She looked also to see a gigantic sail like thing, like the wing of an angelfish, flowing beautifully in the wind.  Then she fell into the light, and everything went dark.

****

 The bomb was like a star on its own now it was shinning so brightly.  The trails of energy being sucked into it, the thousands upon thousands of turbulent light beams, brighter then ever, fly all into the core of the bomb as it spun it incalculable speeds.  A wave of energy was pulled into the bomb, lighting up the room with a quick flash as it went.

 The process was finished.

 A few more waves flew into the core, followed up by one large, bright, final one.  That was it.  The glowing core hovered there without moving for a flash second, and then....

 ......It erupted.

****

 The whole platform was consumed into the light.  The blast exploded out from the place, eradicating every molecule of the station, along with every single biological organism touching it.  All the physics laws of being unable to create or destroy physical matter was set aside for this single moment, because that's what exactly was happening.  Matter was being destroyed.

 The unstoppable wave of energy shot forth, consuming only a few escaping shuttles or fighters, and the gasses of Solar.  The shock wave of the bomb went out in a flat disk, shooting out every direction of a two dimensional plain, parallel to the planet surface.

 The cockpit of Andross' shuttle was lit up to a sun radiant white light.  Leon, Pigma, and Andrew all shielded their eyes from the brightness, all thinking it was the end of them.  Andross didn't even flinch.  He just flew hard, strait out of the Solar atmosphere.  Here, Andross stopped the shuttle's engines and turned it around, letting their inertia carry them farther out as they watched what happened.

 The all saw the tremendous shockwave roll away from where the platform used to exist.  Andross saw it, as did they all, except Wolf who didn't even bother to raise his head.  "Look at that," said Leon, spellbound by the awe of the spectacle.

 "Yes," said Andross, just as mesmerized but not showing it.  "I see it."

 As the shockwave rolled out, a darkness was formed behind it, also rolling outward.  The patch of blackness grew behind the wave like a malignant tumor on the surface.  It followed the blast wave out, and stopped where it stopped.  The patch just sat there for a while.

 Andross used this time to scan that area, looking to see what had happened.  There was absolutely nothing to look it.  The old apes jaw dropped a bit when the sensor data showed that there was complete nothingness in the dark.  Nothing at all existed there, not even a shred of matter of any kind.  Molecule or atom or virus, nothing.  It was all gone.

 The darkness wavered, and the center of it started to brighten up again with reddish orange.  Andross scanned there, but his hopes were shot down to see that it was just heated air.  The platform, and his virus, were gone.

 Grumbling inside, Andross brought the shuttle around and set a course in back for Venom.  "Let's go home," he rumbled.  "I have work to do.  Like finding a quick way to keep us from losing this war."

 As the shuttle sped away, Andross set it into auto pilot and also activated a stealth mode so they couldn't be tracked.  It was a ways until they got to Venom controlled space.  The ape had a feeling that all that Venom controlled now was Venom and its surrounding areas itself, Area 6 and Bolse.

 Shaking his head, Andross turned in his chair and looked at Wolf.  He grimaced at how pathetic Wolf looked.  He also understood it, since Wolf lost family.  But that was no excuse.  For now, Andross would remain silent until the got home.  When they did, not just Wolf, but all four of them would feel his wrath for this.  Victory was within their paws, and because of Wolf's sentimentality, they had lost it.  Yes, they would all be spending a long while in a jail cell before he felt lenient towards them.

 Wolf knew this fact, understood that.  Now ask me if I care, he thought.  He had lost the last of his family, and the hurt he felt inside was freezing his heart once again.  Now more solid then ever.

 You'll pay for this, Fox McCloud, he thought.  His blame going to the first hated soul he thought of, and Wolf pulled out lame justifications of blaming Fox for Ally's death.  If your father had not punished mine, I would have had a life with my sister.  Now, she's dead because of your family.  I will destroy you.

 Wolf embraced this illusion wholly, letting it race through his demented mind.  His one eye glanced out into the stars.  He could almost see the face of his angel like sister, wishing that things could have been different.  He had felt warmth in his cold heart before.  This was higher though.  It was family.

 But this hope died.

****

 The explosion set off every sensor listening around Solar, and everyone was in an uproar about it.  What was it?  What happened?  How did it happen?  What was there that could be worth destroying?  Is it threatening?  All these questions were being thrown into the mix of paranoia and fear on this unknown calamity.  People were racing themselves over it.

 On Katina, Bill Grey, Commander, ran into a control room.  The young canine saw the black spot on Solar over the video screen and swallowed.

 "What the hell is that?" he asked.

 "Unknown sir.  We registered a massive explosion that area, then...that.  We have no idea what it is, but all that we know that it was some sort of an explosion, nature or origin of the blast is unknown.  We also know that it is not nuclear."

 "Meteor?" asked Bill.

 "Possible, but I'm doubting it."

 "Why?"

 "Because the explosion caused this."  The cat handed Bill a parchment of printer paper which the dog scanned down quickly.  She looked on as Bill's eyes went wide after reading the data.

 Bill read on.  The explosion sent out a shockwave of two dimensional patterns along the Solar surface which went on for thirty kilometers suggesting a single terraton of destructive force in use.  Blast was followed up with sudden surge of...

 "...Tachyon particles," said Bill in disbelief.

 "That among other things we can't even begin to describe.  I was thinking of sending out bulldog squadron to investigate, that is if you'll allow it."

 "No," said Bill.  He looked at the screen to see that the blackness was already dissolving, and color was returning to Solar's disrupted air.  "By the time they get there, it'll already be gone.  Keep both Husky and Bulldog on alert though in case things get rough.  What?"

 Bill saw the thoughtful look in the cat's young eyes.  "I was thinking Commander.  What if there was a base there that Andross was keeping secret somehow?  He would be in an awful good position to send that virus bug of his at us if so."

 Bill smiled at her.  "A base on Solar.  Where would you put it?  No, I doubt that.  Keep looking anyway.  We have to see if Andross is bluffing or not, because we did call it."  Bill walked out of the command center and got another report on the way.

 He smiled warmly, thanking God for what he looked at.  MacBeth has been liberated.  It took about seven hours of bombing from SunHawk to make them see a more lighted solution, but they gave in.  Now, there was only Venom.  Bill smiled and went back to his quarters.  He was going to sleep a little easier tonight.
 
 
 

Chapter X
Zaq'Parri'Dos

And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
-Revelation 6:8-
 

 A low, pale breath was the only thing that sounded to Dallas's ears.  Everything else was silence, and the smell of death.  The pain was terrible, the laser shot to her chest slowly killing her.  Her shoulder throbbed as blood seeped out the gashing tears in her flesh.  Swallowing painfully, blood in her mouth, Dallas opened her eyes and looked around.

 She lay on a marble floor, a circular room around her.  Lights were on four opposing sides of the room.  The rest was darkness.

 Dallas tried to sit up, but the pain tossed down to her back at once.  This was it, she thought.  This must be where death begins.  She closed her eyes again, thinking that sleep might bring it all on quicker.

 "She is wounded," said a voice.  Dallas looked to see Wolf standing in the one of the four lights, looking down at her.  "Does she want to live?"

 Dallas tried to speak, but couldn't find the wind.

 Another voice made itself present.  "She doesn't have the will to live," said Grant, standing in another light.  Dallas was surprised to see him standing there, coming out of no where just as Wolf had done.  "She is embracing death."

 Dallas knew it was just an illusion.  She shut her eyes away from them, defying their words since it was just a mockery of them.  "She has grown weak," said someone else.  Fara Phoenix standing in the light now.  "She is too tired to live anymore."

 "Too tired to stand," said Katt Monroe, standing in the last light.  Dallas watched as all four of them turned their backs and walked away.

 "W...wait," breathed Dallas painfully.  They seemed not to hear her, for they just went on.  She looked towards Wolf, hoping him to come back.

 "She does not value her own life," said Andross, standing in a light now.  "She is content with only saving the lives of others."

 "We find this reasoning flawed," said Kesh.  "It is illogical to hold no value for one's own well being and treasure others."

 "N...no," said Dallas, fighting her way to her feet.  The pain was growing less tense with every step up.  "That is not true.  I only wished to save lives."

 "Yet you did not bother to save your own," said Sparky, emerging from the darkness.

 "I tried."

 "Not hard enough."  Dallas looked at him, stunned by his words.

 "Who...what are you?"

 "We are the Crystalix.  The essence of the great key to time's labyrinth, and its regulator," explained Pandora, standing in the light now.  Dallas was more surprised to see her more then anyone.  Pandora walked over and knelt beside her.  "We are the dam with keeps the river in tone."

 Dallas climbed to her feet and started to stumble after Pandora as she walked away.  It was hard, but with every step, the pain was vanishing.  Dallas looked down to see her wounds had stopped bleeding.

 "I want to live.  I would like to live.  But I have a feeling that I'm already dead.  Am I?"

 "Not yet," said Kite.  "You have no real will to live.  You didn't show it that you wanted to live when your life was on the line.  You only fight when other people are at stake."

 "Does it have to do with the pain you suffer from?" asked a prairie dog.  Dallas recognized the face of her old commander and mentor, John Silverman.  "You blame yourself for lives lost through war.  Lives of enemies.  Yet you cannot grasp that death and life are one and the same.  Everything has an end to it, and life ends with death.  Death happens in war all the time, and you are in pain over the lives you took because you took the war to them.  More or less, you feel sorry for yourself.  You pity your own life, so you take no value with it."

 Dallas tried to speak out against this, but a great surge of pain enveloped her, cutting her off.  Her hand went to her chest, letting her feel the wetness of blood.

 "All that pain you are feeling is your will to live rising," said Maurine.  "When the pain dies, it means you're walking away from it, into death's hands.  Go back and face the pain, you may live, but go the other way and you give up.  What'll it be?  Go forth and face the pain, or hide in the dark and die in shame?"

 "Shame?" asked Dallas.  "What shame?"

 "The shame of not trying," said the white fox whom Dallas new as Orion Drekhan, looking down at her.  "The shame of giving up on a fight for your own life."

 "They said she was special," said General Pepper.  The mastiff shrugged.  "What is so special about her?  It can't be her will for her own self.  She's lying there dying and letting it happen.  Maybe she is week."

 "They say she is important for the future.  That is why Zairian wants it so she'll live," said Fox McCloud.  "But he can't help you live unless you try to fight for it yourself."

 "Your story is not yet concluded," said Conner.  "But if you give up, it will be unfinished, and so will many others who have not started yet.  Are you willing to terminate a circle of  life before it has started its new revolution?"

 "I think she is," said someone else.  Dallas looked up and saw herself walking in rapidly.  "She says she cares about other lives.  We all hoped that when she said that the preservation of her life was a determinate on whether others would live or die or not at all, she would at least try to fight.  Yet here she lies, turning her back on the pain, the struggle to live, going out the easy way into the paws of death.  You think you're special?  You think that you love others, and would gladly die so that they might live, even though it is at times unnecessary to die?  You think you can live with these thoughts?  What a bunch of self-deluded, ostentatious crap!

 "You think you're saving anyone by lying here dying when you should be out there?  All you are doing is walking away.  You're stronger then that.  Or are you?"  Dallas looked up at herself, and swallowed.

 "I want...t-to live," she said.

 "Well then get on your feet and face the pain.  Face the struggle of living."  Dallas shut her eyes, and started to get up.  She felt a hard slap to her face.  "Don't shut your eyes to it!" yelled her other.  "Look it hard in the face.  Look death in the face and defy it, saying that I won't go with you.  Face life.

 "This is Zaq'Parri'Dos.  The big fancy word some people call where we face our own lives.  Where they try to face and find their importance in life.  Everyone is important in some way.  They are all part of life's big circle.  You get to use yours as an excuse to live on the edge of death.  So get your ass up and do it.  Do it.  Do it!"

 Dallas fought her way to her feet and started to run.  "I want to live!" she cried out.  "I will survive!  I...  Aaaghhhh!!!"

 The scream of torment and pain echoed through the blackness, making him flinch away.  She was gone, and the being was content, for now.  Slowly, he left through the darkness, smiling.

 She was going to live, but now she needed his help to do so.

 "Papa?" she said.  She could feel his presence, somewhere in the dark.  "Papa, are you there?"

 "Yes," said the old husky.  "Yes, Ally, I'm here.  You did it Ally.  You fought it, and you won.  You have won your toughest battle yet, and I could never be more proud of you."

 "I can't see you papa.  Where are you?"  Dallas remembered some of the last words of her father just before he passed away.  She blinked, trying to see past the darkness.  She couldn't.

 "I'm here Ally.  I don't need to be here.  You saved them, you saved them all.  I'm so proud of you."

 "What do I do know?"

 "You go home, and you live, just as I wanted you to.  Goodbye, Ally.  I will always love you, and as long as you believe, my little archangel, I will always be here with you.  Goodbye, Archangel Dallas."

 "I love you Papa."  Then she saw it.  Her father.  His spirit, lifting.  Dallas felt her last remaining tear for all time fall from her cheek, her last tear of grief long lost spent....or so she thought.

 Again, she fell into darkness, fell into sleep.  Now she went with a smile.  She was home, and she was free.

 Free at last, free at last, or dear lord we are free at last.......
 
 
 

Epilogue

 "How did you find her?" asked Conner as he followed the coyote physician down the hallway.

 "A complete mess," he answered.  "Her shoulder was torn up, a laser gun shot to her chest, when clean through, missing all major organs.  Some burns on her feet and hands.  She's damn lucky to be alive though.  Wherever she was, it was hell.  If we found her a minute later, she would have died."

 "But she is fine now," said Conner.

 "She's in a coma, but I think she'll live.  Here she is."  Conner looked in and saw the only occupied bed.  He couldn't see the person in it though.

 "And you say she's been here for how long?"

 "Sixty two hours.  Just over two and a half days."

 Conner wondered.  "Thank you Doctor," he said.  "If I do have the identity of this Jane Doe, I'll give it to you.  Will you let me see her?"

 The coyote nodded and opened the door for him.  Conner went in and walked down the isles towards the sole occupied bed, and looked around the curtain that blocked his view.  He lowered his jaw in slight grief as he looked at her in this condition.  Padding was placed in layers over her shoulder, as was her chest.  Her feet and hands were bandaged up too.  Conner swallowed at the sight of tubes running down her throat.  Something that he saw her in before.  Now, it was different.  More unnerving.

 He went around to the side of her bed and took her undamaged paw into his own, holding it tightly.  Conner could not help but tear as he stood there, looking at her, wishing he could fight her struggle for her.

 He reached out and cleared some brown hair from her face, out of her eye.  Allison Dallas stirred just slightly after Conner did this.  He bent down towards her ear.  "I love you," he whispered tearfully.  Before he left, Conner kissed her hand and placed it on her chest, and then left.

 The words of Conner Seacore....

 And so marks the end of the beginning, the conclusion of the initial verse.  The dawn of the next part approaches soon.  I have always known that it would be a story that would shape the cosmos.  That is yet to come, but it will.

 The Lylat war was rapidly coming to an end, at least the first part of it was.  Monsters like Andross always have some way of remaining intact, ready to strike again when the time was right.  But the end of this part would be enough to mark the beginning of a new age for these people.

 There are obstacles out there.  There are always obstructions in the way.  Some of them are put there unfairly, impossible to scale unless they had help.  I know of one such wall that bars their way.  If these people are to gain the future entitled to them, then I must do whatever I can to clear away this obstacle.  Time is working against me.

 I will do everything I can to make sure that they remain safe, especially one of them.  The life of someone I love is at stake, so I will no longer remain merciful towards enemies.  I just can't afford to any longer.  I do hope that Lylat will find it in her heart to forgive me for any lives of her children I take.
 

In 30 Days...
 

"Understanding is a three-edged sword.  There is one person's side, the other person's side, and then there's the truth stuck in the middle."
-Captain John Sheridan - Babylon 5-
(Slightly modified)

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, and Orion Drekhan are all my characters and cannot be used without my consent.
Also, this may have been my last Star Fox story for a long while.  Sorry, but I'm moving onto newer and greener pastures.  But I will return.
Before I split, I would like to give special thanks to Jack T. (you know who you are) and K. Twilight (everyone knows who you are) for their support.  Without your support, I never would've made it this far, nor could I continue.
Thanks to the both of you, and God bless.