A brief word about the following novella; 'Hello, Good-bye'' is actually my seventh novella centering around the characters stemming from the game 'Star Fox', by Nintendo. It is by far the easiest of the seven to start with, because the others are either prequels, or set after 'Hello, Good-bye'. Divided into two parts, it is based on the loose original plot put out by Nintendo in a series of comics in 1993 (yes, I've been obsessed for nine years at the present date!).
Part one, being nearly a prequel in and of itself to the plot of the comics, is nearly all mine - though inspiration was obviously found in the bit in the comics where General Pepper relays to Fara Phoenix the troubled past of our young hero, Fox McCloud Jr.
Correct me very much if I am wrong, but the junior bit indicated that his father's name was the same, and the booklet included with the game supported this theory; however, his name was given as James McCloud in the release of Star Fox 64. Thankfully, I had actually started with the later books when I decided that I would have to adapt to fill in the plot holes and (ahem) changes by Nintendo. Thus, James' full name appears as 'James Fox McCloud', though his friends called him 'Fox'. Vixxy, his wife did not, though felt gooey enough over him to name her son 'Fox' as well. 'Junior' actually appears on his birth certificate, though he was never referred to by this name until his father had disappeared into the black hole, and his prowess as an up and coming pilot reminded many of his father's own skill.
A word about Katt Monroe; for the sake of adaptation, I have, as well....had to adapt. Later novellas lack any mention of her, as they were written far in advance of her debut in Star Fox 64. She is not, I am sorry to say, part of them, so a fair bit of plot shifting was necessary in Part Two of 'Hello, Good-bye'. I figured since I was having to fix the plot hole about Wolf O'Donnel and his crew (who, as we know, are mysteriously absent from the comic series...), and Fara Phoenix (who, as we know, is mysteriously absent from the games themselves....) - well, gee I figure I have the literary licensee sufficient of weight to fix that hole, too.
My goal for this text
is for it to be a stand-alone novella; free of too much reference to the
others I have written. It fits precisely where I mean it to among
them, but it is not necessary to have read the others (which are much more
lengthy, I assure you), in order to enjoy it. Questions and comments
about the text are welcomed eagerly to my e-mail address 'email@example.com'.
Last but not least, 'Hello, Good-Bye' is dedicated to a few important people;
Stacy M.B.W.; my best friend, who mentioned to me that her mother had bought some game about a fox and a jet....
Benimaru Itoh; the genius who gave us those comics.
And oddly enough, to Andross; who with out him, as Stacy pointed
out, Fox would have been out of a day job!
You know you've played too much Star Fox when...
....you call a several thousand page
Chronicle, a series of 'Novellas'.
Straightening his gold-tassled crimson uniform, Pepper dug into his right coat pocket for a watermellon-flavored lollipop. What he really wanted was a cigar, but Nancy was strict in her orders to her husband-General; if she caught him once more after he had aspired to stop, he thought she might well kill him. The bloodhound mulled over his lollipop for a momment before turning to the exotic young fennec vixen to his right. Fara Phoenix returned his frustrated gaze with one of her own, her green eyes flashing as she crossed her arms.
"No, I haven't, Sir..." Fara glanced back in the direction that Fox had been taken - unconscious - to be put in solitary confinement by the three members of his own fighter-squadren. They had practically drug him. She would most defiantly have to speak to them about that, but for now, she schooled herself to appear calm before the General.
With a tired laugh, Pepper motioned for her to walk with him back to Tactics and Recon. Following at a leisurely paise, Fara switched the comm-link she wore off for the moment. She hadn't been able to hear her Captain for the last hour; Fox had switched his off once he had decided to be overly heroic (or stupid...she still couldn't tell which), and make a break for his Arwing fighter. Though she desperately wanted to go see if he was all right, she also wanted to know why the hell he had been so insistent on hunting down the Professor Andross. His obsession for the hunt had long since taken hold of his rouge fighter-squadren, StarFox, and his latest idea had been to use the small black hole to make a four-dimensional warp from Corneria to Andross's hideout on the planet Venom. Glancing back to the General, Fara listened as he began with an oddly nostalgic look to his eye.
"James Fox McCloud Senior was the finest pilot on Corneria. A few years after Fox Jr. was born, his mother, Vixxy, tragically died. Fox Sr. hoped that his kit would follow in his paw-prints, and he was not disappointed. Junior was at the top of his class in the Academy; he could fly circles around a flea, endure days of gravity training, and recite the Cornerian Constitution backwards. Fox Sr. was justly proud." Pepper nodded to Fara, a slight smile forming as he spoke. Fara had the feeling that the General was proud, too. Shaking his head briefly, Pepper continued after digging out another lolly.
"Then one day Fox met a rowdy kid with enough street savvy to fill an encyclopedia. Falco Lombardi wanted to fly, and Fox showed him the way. He cleaned up his act, entered the Academy, and earned his wings!
"In those days, Andross was a scientist; head of the Academy. He was brilliant but unstable; building hyperlight drives and polo-pigs, antigrav machines, and androids. When Andross developed the gravity bomb, Fox Sr. volunteered to deliver it to the asteroid belt for testing. He went out alone, not knowing the risks in it's makeup which Andross had taken when creating the bomb. At critical velocity, the bomb detonated according to Andross's design. Fox Sr., his ship the XP-Gazer, and half the asteroid belt were sucked into a newly-collapsed black hole!
"Andross was a mad ape!" Pepper growled, "He was exiled to the ends of the universe, but he managed to return to the Lylat Star System and build a power base on Venom with a fearsome army of lizard troops. As Andross's power grew on Venom, Junior protested. But the leaders of Corneria were terrified of Andross, and Junior and his friends were considered dangerous radicals. They were forced to flee and live as outlaws on the desert planet, Papetoon."
Fara crossed her arms again, frowning at this. She knew very well that Fox's mercenary skills on her home planet were legendary; she had no idea that he had been forced there by the Cornerian government.
"Why didn't you help Fox?" she muttered before she remembered to whom she was speaking, but Pepper let the slight insubordination in the tone of her voice go as he removed his sunglasses to polish them.
"I was just a Sergeant then," he said kindly, and with much remorse. "Fox is a dear friend, as was his father...but you'll often find that politics can get in the way. My best advise to you, Lieutenant, is to not get involved in politics," the General chuckled at Fara once they came to the entrance of the Tactics and Recon building.
"Oh, I don't plan on it, General." she smiled as she politely requested to be excused from his company. When he nodded, Fara flattered him with a brief bow as she backed away. He continued on to Recon, while the Lieutenant planed not to get involved with politics - she planed to ignore them. Once she rounded the back side of the mess hall, she switched her comm-link back on, searching through the 52 separate channels it supported. After 34 channels of hissing static, her hopes were confirmed. "Fox? Fox, are you there? Come in!" she leaned back up against the stucco wall near one of the back entrances to the main kitchens.
"Fara?" Came the groggy voice of a man who had just been clobbered by his best friends. "What the hell is going on out there?"
"Shh!" Fara whispered, shifting her position to a nook in the back of the building. "I think that Slippy is trying to modify the G-Induction coils in the Defuser on your Arwing...there's no guarantee, but I heard him tell Falco it might withstand the black hole and prove your theory about the Time Slip - "
"Fara, I've got to get out of here!" She heard him mutter, and she nodded as she took out the security card she had picked up off the ground during the scuffle earlier.
"I have a plan," she whispered back, thumbing over the Level 6 card. Oh, yeah...I'm dead... she thought to herself. The General's defiantly gonna miss this once he gets the checkpoint in Recon...
Admiral Gordon stood at the head of the large Plexiglas domed room, his ears and long feathered tail alert as around thirty members of the news media shouted questions and thrust microphones in his direction.
'' Ladies and Gentlemen, please; one at a time!'' He urged, as the mob had risen out of their seats.
''Admiral, what do you expect this new change in space travel will bring Corneria?'' a trim little fox vixen pushed her way to the front of the crowd, aggressively pursuing the career she so loved.
''Well, miss... McCloud...'' the Admiral squinted to read her press pass as it hung around her neck. ''It will mean shorter trips; larger vessels - both military and commercial, traveling between our planets. It will bring better communication with our sister planet, Papetoon.'' the gordon setter, in his mid fifties, announced to everyone. ''This discovery of cold emission is very exciting, and our Planetary Defense Council urges the public to let us realize the full power of our new method of propulsion - '' he read off an inconspicuous TelePrompTer.
''In other words, you're asking for government funding for this project?'' the able minded reporter punched home, watching the Admiral squirm. He swallowed forcefully, and his eyes swept the audience of news reporters. ''You mean funded by the tax payers?'' she poked once more, and he snapped his gaze back to her.
''Well, it will directly affect and profit the general public...'' he defended his project loyally. ''The people often complain about the insufficient mail service, and transportation between the planets - we've given them the solution. All we ask is patients and understanding while we continue to refine this engine.'' he explained. ''And yes, some public funding will be required to complete the final testing.''
A murmur of excitement spread through out the crowd, and the Admiral began to grow uneasy. He hated speaking in public, and he found being plagued by such un-nerving questions such as these, was not something he wanted to continue. He glanced to the tele-prompter. 'On to the next topic', he decided. Clearing his throat, he avoided the vixen's eye.
''Are there any other questions you might have, Ladies and Gentlemen? Perhaps on how our cold emission works? And for that answer, I'd like to introduce the man who discovered this valuable method of propulsion - '' Gordon stepped aside from the podium, and motioned for the chimpanzee that his behind the stage curtain to come out to the Admiral. Timidly at first, the ape went foreword, adjusting his tie, and taking the stand.
''H-hello...'' he began, and he cowered as a feed back pulse rang through the speakers. He tapped the microphone to stop it, and began once more in his smooth, proper voice.
''Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen; my name is Andross Pigskowski...and I'm here to talk about cold emission.'' the stately ape began. ''In the past few years, we have been working toward the goal of expanding our horizons, as far as travel in space goes. We've dreamed of the day that we can share resources with our neighboring planets. Right now, in the time it takes to ship many foods between even our closest planetary neighbor, most of these foods have long since become rotten. Just think of all the raw materials we could ship from Papetoon - and all the processed goods we could export to Mac Beth. Their planet's core is still collapsing, and the land infertile. Many, many thousands of billions of people call that planet home, but have to do with out many luxuries, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Only the non-perishable items such as canned or frozen vegetables can be imported. Meat is out of the question. The grains that would feed many livestock on Mac Beth go bad and mold during the trip from Titania.
''During these harsh times, those who can afford it move to another planet - upsetting populations grossly. Those who can not afford it simply give up hope and work day and night in an economy that is failing system wide. At present, it takes two and a half months to travel from Corneria to Papetoon, just under four months to reach Fortuna, and because its orbit is so much more erratic than our own, at certain times of the year, it may take a year to a year and a half to reach our inner-most planet, Venom.
''This is at incredible high warp; and yet, even the fasted military designed vessel, the XP-Gazer, can't reach Papetoon in one and a half months.
''Ladies and Gentlemen, the reason for this is that the warp core has limitations. Even if it could exceed those limitations (and we could easily build it to do that), it could not, however, survive the heat and radioactive waste that it puts out. The ship it drives would melt. Hull structures can always be made stronger - we have the technology for that - but what I have made will allow these ships to go much faster, much longer, with less resistance, fewer core alignments, and costs just a little more than our present cores. A small price to pay for bringing an entire star system closer together.''
Andross explained this, much to the relief of Admiral Gordon, who stood off by the edge of the stage.
''And may I ask, Mr. Pigskowski, exactly what that price is?'' Andross stared down in front of the podium to see the lovely reporter that spoke, and, with a shy smile, he nodded.
''To complete the final test, it will be around 1.4 million, and depending on the size of the vessel, about 48,000 to be refitted, each.'' Andross watched the vixen with a suddenly forlorn eye. The whole room about him seemed to disappear, and he stuck his hands in his jacket pockets; extremely shy.
Another reporter's question snapped him out of his little dream world, nearly making the young chimp jump.
''How much time will it take off space travel between planets, Mr. Pigskowski?'' a five-point deer buck raised his antlered head in question - thrusting his microphone forward.
''Sir, we're talking about cutting a trip to Papetoon from two and a half months to 4 to 5 days.'' Andross announced, smiling proudly as the audience gasped wildly. Questions flew at him from every angle, but he catered to the little vixen's questions best.
After the press conference was over, he helped the Admiral shake hands at the door - pure publicity. When the room had cleared, Andross smiled triumphantly.
''Did you see? They loved me!'' he exclaimed, his fur bristling. The Admiral gave him a coy glance.
''Just remember who you work for, son,'' he reminded the 19 year old ape - a genius who's years of invention began when he was 3 or 4. An orphan at one and a half, the ape was place in the foster care of a family of pigs, and they had encouraged his savvyness to grow. By age 9, he was touring the planet with a group of other prodigy children, who gave seminars about their inventions and achievements.
''What's that supposed to mean?'' Andross frowned; weaving through the aisles of chairs as he headed to the door. The Admiral watched the ape with a careful eye.
''Andy, you've signed contracts, and I'm calmly, gently reminding you that your discovered are now the property of Corneria's Defense Council. Don't go getting a swelled head, son.''
''Don't call me that. And I am not your 'son'.'' Andross sneered, a hand pushing the door open.
''No...'' Gordon eyed him down with a frown. ''...you're not.''
If there was anything to be said about Corneria's Air Force, it would have to be that all of it's pilots were damned good. Its new line of premium fighter jets were supped-up dog fighters; but they were mostly built for speed. Time was critical in a star system that had only discovered low-grade warp just a little under 60 years before. The Laylat star system's scientists were constantly pressured for faster planes, cars, computers, and the like.
The whole planet was still peaceful since its last civil war 100 years earlier, but its economy was slowly falling to pieces, along with the others in the system. Its people were on edge, and the branches of the military counciled with each other frequently, convinced there would be another civil outbreak. Anarchy would rise, they feared, and they wanted to be able to control the citizens if necessary. Which, of course, meant that conspiracies abounded, and political figure-heads slowly introduced a variation of military rule. Soon, the notion came that being an officer was everything in life. The number of enlisted grew, and soon normal citizens couldn't overthrow the government even if they really wanted to .
Every year the system's Air Force branches competed in a sort of game that tested each base's pilots. Individuals were tested, along with teams. It kept the pilots on their toes, and was great fun. The pilot that had won for the past three years was Captain James Fox McCloud of Reyes Base, Tucluna Province, Corneria. 'Fox' to his friends, Captain McCloud was a young captain - only 22; with a pretty little wife named Vixxy.
Overly sappy and sweet together, the two had been child-hood sweet hearts, and had wed just a little over a year ago. Vixxy was a rising young reporter, who struggled to make the 6:00 news. Her dream was to be the station's anchor news castor - but at present that spot was filled by Odette Duma, and Boris Yevgeny. There was no way she could ever take Boris' seat - the wolfhound had been the station's Lead Anchor for over 15 years. Her only hope was to bump his much younger counterpart, Odette. She was less experienced, far less eloquent, but much prettier. Though she frequently mispronounced words, read straight off the paper in front of her instead of memorizing, and gave the impression that she had no clue where Papetoon was, the station's ratings had never been higher since they made her co-anchor.
The sleek little panther's purry voice glued male viewers to the screen - regardless of whether she was speaking of an earthquake on Mac Beth that killed hundreds, or of a nice sunny day here in Reyes. But Vixxy prayed that her coverage of the military's 'cold emission' conference would help her gain some ground.
''....And although this new project seems to cost the people greatly, it also seems to be something that could greatly benefit the people...'' Andross sat in his apartment, watching as Vixxy McCloud reported live from outside Reyes base.
''All in all, I would defiantly say that in might just behoove the Cornerian people, as well as the entire Laylat system, to heed the advice of Mr. Pigskowski, and invest in this project.'' Vixxy smiled, '' Back to you, Boris,'' she added, and Andross sat enthralled that she had mentioned his name, and recognized his genius. Unfortunately, he had also seen the flash of her golden wedding-band.
He held his head in his hands, and decided that he should have known that such a beautiful vulpine would have been married.
''But to who, I wonder?'' he pondered out loud over her last name. ''...McCloud...?'' he hissed this blasphemous word, having the feeling that he had heard the name before. ''....McCloud.....'' Andross seethed in anger, sitting alone and lonely in his dark apartment.
''Vix? Vix, you home?'' James entered his simple, yet flattering home, with his ears pricked forward as he listened for any signs of his wife. He found her in the kitchen, baking a pie.
''Jimmy! You're home early?!'' she giggled as he hugged her from behind.
''Mmm....what kind of pie?'' James nibbled on her soft, reddish neck-fur, and she bade him to stop.
''It's apple,'' she squirmed out from his arms, turning to face him. ''Did you see my report today?'' she asked, and he nodded.
''Yeah, they aired it all over the mess-hall, break rooms and the barracks,'' he stuck a finger into the apple filling, and she smacked at it, shooing him away from it.
''Did everyone like it?'' she tried to push him away as he attacked the pie filling further.
''Oh, yeah - you won't believe how many complements on your tail I got - everyone says you beat Odette easy.'' he told her.
''But my coverage; was my coverage good?'' she sighed, and he smiled, tilting her chin up with his left hand, kissing her gently.
''Your coverage was great, Vix...even the Admiral thought that.'' he let her know, and she smiled shyly.
''When's the pie gonna be ready?'' he asked, reaching around her to pick at the filling again.
''There won't be a pie if you don't stop!'' Vixxy fended him off, squealing in terror as he swept her up over his shoulder, carrying her flamboyantly upstairs.
Andross was, by nature, a clumsy-looking young man; and even now as he wandered past the court yard of Reyes Air Force Base, he caught several cadets snickering at him.
He huffed in embarrassment, clutching at a large stack of documents on his different theories. He held no military rank, so he was open season to even the lowliest cadet's remarks. He received many of them at the moment - one popular one being 'Super-Dweeb'. Baring his teeth, he hissed angrily at the class of pleebs.
''I'll show you all!'' he declared dramatically, quickening his pace, when the group broke into hysterical laughter at this crazed remark. The door opened to the building they waited by and the booming voice of James Fox McCloud startled them to attention.
''Take your seats!'' he ordered gruffly, putting a stop to the haunting laughter. ''I guess you all forgot that your finals are today?'' Fox barked. ''I'm up for promotion in three days, and I'll be damned if the test scores of a bunch of cadets holds me back!'' he took his command at the head of the room. ''Now...'' he continued in a much more pleasant voice. ''You'd better pray that you all brought pencils.'' he smiled, beginning to pass out the 50 page test that he was to give them. He had been in control of this class of cadets for their entirety of their training, and he hated it. He wanted back up in the sky - 'where he belonged'. However, the Admiral had wanted to see how well he could teach his skills to others before he was promoted. If he was to lead a team if pilots in the air, he must first show leadership on the ground, the Admiral insisted, so James 'Fox' complied.
After class, Fox gathered his things and went to the mess hall, standing in the officer's line to receive his slightly higher quality food (but not much higher.)
''Fox, wait up,'' called a brown and cream prick-eared rabbit named Peppy Hare. He and Fox had gone through the academy together and Fox loved him like a brother. The only thing that Fox found odd about him was that Peppy was convinced that he was psychic. Apparently, Peppy's fore-rabbits had all been part of some sort of cult that Fox deemed disturbing. They meditated most of their free time, and shared visions with other cult members. They practiced strange rituals that were often decorated by the show of colorful robes, and the mask of incense.
''Hey Fox - I 'knew' I'd find you here,'' Peppy smiled, grabbing a tray and joining Fox in the lunch line.
''Stop it Pep - you know the Admiral isn't too keen on all the incense in your barrack. He said that if you accidentally set off the smoke detector one more time...'' Fox warned, and Peppy rolled his eyes.
''Just because he doesn't understand that I strive for self actualization, doesn't mean that what or how I practice my religion is wrong.'' Peppy began in his often rather long speech about freedom of religion.
''I know, I know Pep - but Gordon doesn't understand that...'' he shook his head, holding out his plate to receive his ration of intreging-looking mystery meat.
''Uh...just...just a salad, please,'' Peppy cringed at the sight of Fox's meal, and accepted a far less threatening plate of lettuce and veggies.
They sat with a group of other pilots that had known each other since the academy, and they conversed loosely about the cold emission cores that the base was rumored to have begun to outfit a few fighters with. Each pilot was dying to be the one to test it first, and Fox was no exception.
He needed his promotion to allow him back in the air, and the fact that he was stuck in that classroom drove him half crazy as he listened to his friends and fellow pilots talk about the new training course that was being built over the course of the nearby Brandel's Canyon.
''Hey look; it's that 'panzee,'' commented a crane; quite coy and sure of himself as he placed everyone's attention on Andross as he sat in the far corner of the mess hall.
McCloud looked up to see Andross begin to go through the cafeteria line. The poor ape knew everyone stared at him, and clumsily, he got a fresh lunch tray. Holding it out to the first cadet in the lunch duty line, Andross raised an eyebrow at the ice-cream scoop-shaped serving of mashed potatoes bestowed upon him. The next cadet told him to pick from a variety of vegetables in large, 5 quart sized containers.
Sighing, he mindlessly pointed to the container on the left. Green and bubbly, the helping of what appeared to be green beans oozed about his tray, and the cafeteria full of officers and cadets snickered at Andross. After receiving his lunch, he sat on the far end of the room at an empty table.
''What's with the ape?'' Fox pricked an ear forward, and Peppy answered as he shifted his fork through the salad he ate.
''...Andross Pigskowski. He's the scientist who invented the new warp core,'' Peppy watched as Fox began to get up from the table when the border collie who sat with them shook his head at Fox.
''He's crazy or somethin', Fox; nobody goes near him.'' the collie explained gruffly as Fox sat back down.
''Crazy?'' he asked the collie who bore the name tag 'Cole'.
''Yeah, he's always saying how he's going to 'show us all', and crap like that. Absolutely nuts!'' Cole chuckled, and Peppy replied curtly.
''Maybe that's because you and your friends poke fun at him? What was the newest nick-name he has acquired as of late? 'Super-dweeb, I believe.'' the poignant rabbit stared Cole down, and Fox sighed in agreement with Peppy.
''We should be thankful - he invented cold emission!'' Fox jumped in , but Cole rolled his eyes.
''So the guy can do math. Great! I can't wait until he invents a bomb the size of your ego, with which he will, no doubt, use to blow us all to hell!'' the collie growled at Fox, who stood at this comment. ''What'll you do Fox? Your promotion is in a few days,'' Cole reminded him calmly, and slowly Fox sat back down.
''You're absolutely right - you're not worth my promotion, Cole. But next time, you won't have that excuse to hide behind!'' Fox narrowed his eyes, and pricked his ears forward smartly as Cole laid his floppy tipped ears back.
''Would you two cut it out?'' came a sweet voice, and the two looked up from their argument to see Vixxy standing behind Fox and Peppy.
''Vix? What are you doing here?'' Fox stood to offer his seat, but she declined. Holding up her press pass, she smiled widely.
''The Admiral agreed to let me have a one-on -one interview with Mr. Pigskowski,'' she informed him proudly, and Fox grinned in response.
''You gonna make the 6:00 with it?'' he asked, and she gave him a twittering laugh as she nodded.
''I'm slated right after Odette's Fashion Talk.'' she informed the group, who watched her with interest. ''You all be sure to watch the 6:00 - this could be my biggest story yet!'' she clasped her hands together with enthusiasm, and Cole snickered.
''We always watch. Always.'' he got a stern look from Fox and Peppy - though Vixxy was off dreaming about her big break.
Nervously, Andross peered into the conference room in which he had been told to meet Vixxy for his interview. He held his breath as he stared at her - his gaze following the brick-red trimmings of her fur. She shuffled papers, and then reset the video camera for the 12th time (she wanted it 'just so'!).
Overly self-conscious, he fiddled with his tie and coat as he lingered in the doorway. He jumped in fright when she bade him to come in.
''Mr. Pigskowski, have a seat,'' she smiled, motioning to the plush chair in front of her own chair. A coffee table lay in between them, and a pitcher of water and two glasses were set on the table.
''Good .....g-good a-afternoon, Miss McCloud,'' Andross stuttered profoundly, and Vixxy motioned for him to sit once more. He did just that, and she smiled kindly to him.
''Please, call me Vixxy,'' she insisted, and Andross dug his fingernails into the arms of the chair nervously.
''Thank you, Miss Vixxy,'' he cooed her name gently, watching as she looked through her note cards. ''You may call me what ever you wish, Miss Vixxy,'' Andross told her, and she paused thoughtfully.
''Actually, I would like to call you Mr. Pigskowski for the interview, if that's all right?'' she unknowingly broke his heart, but just as he had done all his young life, Andross smiled and nodded to her.
''Of course,'' he acknowledged, and they went on with the interview. After they had finished, and Vixxy had turned off the recorder, she let him know how utterly fascinating his theories were.
His heart leapt at this, and he leaned forward as if he believed he must be going deaf.
''Pardon, Miss Vixxy, but what did you just say?'' he blinked in disbelief, and the vixen gave a gentle laugh at his poise.
''I said I find your intelligence astounding - I don't think I've ever met anyone half as brilliant as you, Sir.'' she put her notes in her briefcase as he could not help but stare at her. Slowly, he drew in a breath.
''Not even your husband?'' he asked, tactfully bringing up the subject, but Vixxy frowned slightly.
''Jimmy is....more brawn than brain, dear. That's not to say he's not wonderfully smart, but he's more of a brute force kinda guy.'' she paused when he smiled at this, then frowned slightly.
''You're more of a football captain's girl, then, I presume?'' Andross sighed slowly, but quietly, and Vixxy shrugged her shoulders as she packed her camera up.
''Jimmy's everything to me. He supports me in what ever I do. That's what I like - not brawn or brain. Just loyalty, I guess,'' she stood, causing Andross to stand with her in a gentlemanly fashion.
''Loyalty, hm?'' he mused, and she nodded, holding her hand out to him to shake his.
''Thank you for the interview, Mr. Pigskowski,'' she began, when he kissed her hand gently rather than shaking it.
''You are most welcome. If you ever find a need for a brilliant scientist, look me up.'' he tried to be suave, but she shyly withdrew her hand from his.
''Be sure to watch the 6:00 news, Andy - we're slated as one of the lead stories,'' Vixxy backed away, gathering her camera case up. Andross paused at the nick-name she bestowed upon him. and after hearing the word flow from her lips, he decided to let her call him this. In years after, it would come to be a name only she could refer to him as.
He moved forward to help her with the heavy camera - to her delight. ''May I help you to your car, Miss Vixxy?'' Andross requested politely, holding the door for her, and Vixxy nodded.
''What do you mean, I'm 'cut'?!'' Vixxy cried, staring in disbelief at Boris as he walked out of his office at a dignified gate.
''I mean exactly that Mrs. McCloud.'' Boris checked his watch, sighing as the little red fox followed him at his heels.
''Why, Boris?! They told me I was right after Odette tonight!'' Vixxy fretted, and the two watched from the back of the news set as Odette stood in the spotlight with several models.
''Her 'Fashion Talk' will be running over-time - you've been bumped, dear.'' Boris explained. ''Rick thought it best for ratings.'' Boris motioned to the dark eyed raccoon who stood by the cameraman.
''You mean Rick thinks Odette brings in ratings, rather than the content of the story?'' Vixxy scoffed, and Boris sighed.
''He owns the station, Mrs. McCloud - '' he began when Vixxy frowned.
''Oh, come on Boris! You and I both know Odette's Fashion Talks are the stupidest waste of air-time in the history of this station! While you and I could be delivering the important stories to the city of Reyes, Odette points out what scarf matches with which dress, and everyone bows to her! While you and I work hard to cover the stories and memorize lines, all Odette has to do is wag her tail in front of the camera!
''She's as dumb as a rock, Boris! And my coverage of an interview with a man who has just invented a warp core that will alter Laylat's course of aviation & space history, is bumped off the air because Mr. Wessel thinks she's cute!!'' Vixxy hissed, and Boris paused tactfully, considering the statement she had just made. ''This was going to be my big break!'' she muttered. Boris lowered his voice to her, gaining her attention.
''In time, Vixxy, Odette will out live her beauty. But you, as well as I, will always maintain our intelligence.'' the elderly wolfhound stated confidently as Vixxy sighed. ''I will speak to Mr. Wessel on your behalf; perhaps he will see how important your story is if it is only brought to his attention.'' Boris offered, ''We might get it on tomorrow - I know how you hate the 11:00 show.'' he smiled slightly, and Vixxy calmed herself.
''Thanks Boris - you're the best,'' she smiled. ''He'll listen to you; I know he will.'' Vixxy watched as Odette continued her Fashion Talk with and interview with a famous fashion critic, Diane Fiztler.
''Oh, like, your sash is so totally posh!'' Odette complemented Diane, who grinned.
''A posh sash! Wow!'' they both giggled in unison, and Diane showed off the sash to the camera.
''You're so clever, Odette - it really is an honor to be here tonight!'' Diane declared, and Vixxy looked up at Boris with a nauseous look plastered to her face.
''I'll...um...go speak with Rick now....'' Boris excused himself.
Andross cringed as he watched the end of Odette's segment. The end of the show credits started to role, and he cocked and eyebrow.
''They cut Miss Vixxy...'' he realized, knowing how upset she must be. Glaring at the image of Odette on-screen, he bared his teeth menacingly.
In the days that followed, James McCloud did get his promotion, and was now Sgt. First Class McCloud. No one was happier for him than Vixxy - for she knew that now he would be able to test one of the first jets outfitted with the new warp core; and this he had been dying to do.
The Laylatian star system stood in awe as he broke time and space records. Andross used McCloud's calculations in order to refine the engine - but it was not his genius that was celebrated. Rather, it was McCloud's debonair form in which he broke those records.
Andross came to despise McCloud - for James' charm, for the way no one realized it was he who made it possible for James to break those records. But most of all, he hated James for being Vixxy's husband. James was not nearly worthy of his precious little Vixxy - and what was worse, James knew nothing of Andross' envy. The pilot treated the inventor kindly, and never poked fun at him - thus enraging Andross further that McCloud was so unaware of his feelings.
Vixxy visited Andross each time a record was broken, or a refinement was made to the cold emission, hoping to make her big break eventually, and to introduce the shy ape as the mind behind it all.
Instead, it was Odette's purring interview with Admiral Gordon and James McCloud that was aired with much pomp and circumstance.
''So, were you scaired?'' Odette leaned
forward in her seat as she faced James and the Admiral.
James half-smiled, nodding.
''I'd be lying if I said 'no','' he chuckled. ''I mean, there you are, in deep, cold space, far away from any sort of help; with the most powerful warp core ever invented strapped to your back. One minute you're in one sector, the next you're in another. It's an intense feeling, let me tell you.'' James answered, and Odette fawned over him.
''Wow! That is so fascinating! You know, the Laylatian people look up to you as a national hero. What are your thoughts on that?'' Odette asked James, and he grinned proudly.
''Well, it's good to have someone to look up to. I remember I looked up to a man named Kip Tern. He was a real top-notch pilot, and was one of the things that inspired me to be a pilot. I think everyone needs inspiration, and if I'm that hero, that's a really great feeling.'' James gave another long-winded answer, and the Admiral capitalized on this.
''This project, Miss Odette, is about bringing people together. Bringing the planets together. We should look up to the man who made that possible,'' the Admiral motioned to James, who smiled bashfully.
''This is stupid. I look stupid.'' Andross fretted as Vixxy set up her camera.
''No you don't. Here...'' she straightened his tie momentarily, smiling at him. ''This is going to work - trust me. And you're far from stupid,'' she watched the ape nearly hyperventilate as he glanced at the camera.
''This is going to work....'' he told himself. ''.....and Miss Vixxy, you will be co-anchor.....I swear it.'' he said most confidently, watching Vixxy with forlorn eyes. She smiled nervously, glancing away for a moment.
''Let's do this,'' she smiled to him with enthusiasm, plugging in a cable.
''So, how fast do you go with the new warp
core?'' Odette purred out, and James opened his mouth to speak.
Suddenly, Rick Wessel jumped up from where he was sitting near the camera.
''Why the hell have we gone off the air?!!'' he pointed to a red flashing light on the side of the camera, and the cast looked about in confusion. They watched the static on the test screen, and soon a signal was patched through. It was Vixxy's signal.
''What the hell?!!'' Rick chattered, and Odette gasped in jealousy. James turned in his seat to watch his wife on camera, a puzzled look upon his face.
With a spirited air, Vixxy spoke.
''Good evening, Ladies and Gentleman, I'm Vixxy McCloud, reporting to you live with a special interview with the man whom we should all thank for cold emission, Mr. Andross Pigskowski,'' she motioned to Andross, who smiled confidently. ''Mr. Pigskowski has been an inventor for quite some time now, and has toured with the organization P.C.A. - Prodigy Children in Action - when he was only nine years old.'' Vixxy began. ''Mr. Pigskowski, you've changed the course of history - how do you feel?'' she turned to Andross, who beamed proudly.
''Like the million dollars that I haven't been paid,'' he chuckled kindly.
''Sir, I can't lock on to the signal,'' a crewman looked over to Rick as the raccoon paised about furiously, ''It's been re-routed so many times.......she could be anywhere. She could be in the studio next door, and we wouldn't know it.''
Rick grumbled in aggravation, shaking his head.
''She couldn't possibly have done this on her own...'' he muttered, looking up as Boris moised out of his office, a cup of coffee cradled in his hands.
''Done what?'' he asked, and Rick pointed to
the screen with an overly dramatic flair.
Sipping his coffee, Boris mearly chuckled, watching the interview proceed as Vixxy asked Andross numerous questions on the theorized surrounding the warp core. Tilting his head to the right, Boris looked to Rick.
''Isn't this that interview that Odette bumped?'' he asked slyly, and Rick rolled his eyes.
''Yes, yes - so sue me!'' he threw his hands up.
''So, what - we're not continuing with my segment?'' Odette sniveled, and Rick glanced over to her.
''As if you haven't noticed, she's got control of the station, Odette!'' he turned on his heel, moving to exit the studio. ''If she's doing this from inside the station, I'll find her,'' he declared, and Boris smiled, turning to go back into his office.
''Good luck,'' he offered. Once in his office, he closed the door, going to his adjoining conference room. Opening the door part way, he poked his snout in.
Vixxy winked at him as he motioned with a hand to keep rolling.
''Everything is perfect,'' he mouthed silently before slipping out of the room to do a write up on tomorrow's news.
''Are you insane?!!!'' Vixxy stood stiffly as Rick hissed furiously at her about an hour later, after she had finally wrapped up the interview and strode from Boris' back office with a bubbling Andross at her heels. Odette rose from her seat on the stage to glare at her, her fur bristling at the fact that her own interview had been cut short for such a clumsy-looking ape. James sat quietly, his finger tips pressed together as he watched Rick throw up his hands in aggravation. Glancing to the side, he cocked a furry eye brow at Admiral Gordon, who paised about the darkened stage; massaging his temples as he muttered to himself incoherently.
''The people, Rick, are now educated about what leaps we can make.'' Vixxy began, and this brought James' attention back to her as she squared off with the ring-tailed raccoon - his eyes bright as he chittered angrily.
''The people, Mrs. McCloud, craved the interview you just cut off! The people just watched my station being hijacked by a girl fresh out of media 101, who just killed any chance at all of making the 6:00 ever again! You'll be lucky to make the 11:00 on the other pathetic stations that broadcast over Reyes!!!'' the raccoon spat, and Andross clenched his jaw in fury.
''Oh, bloody - ''
''-Andy! I think you have done enough for one night!'' Gordon boomed, stepping down from the stage, and striding to where the shy ape stood behind Vixxy, glaring at the raccoon. Andross tore his tie off after an un-successful attempt to loosen it properly, and shook his head at both Gordon and Rick.
''We should be going, Andy,'' Gordon announced in a tone that brooked no nonsense, but Andross bared his teeth briefly before he remembered he was in the presence of such a lady. Vixxy frowned in question to Gordon for a moment, blinking in confusion as she wondered if Andross had been telling her the truth about how guarded the military had become of his discoveries and inventions. He often spoke of projects he claimed the military would not reveal to the public, but she had figured that if this was so, then James would have told her long since.
At present, her husband sat in silence, when he did when he was ever angry with her out in public. He would defend her little coup d'etat so long as anyone was watching, but she suspected he would be rather upset later when they were alone. He had let her defend herself for the moment, for he knew she was strong enough to do so, but when the Admiral glanced in her direction to lay into her as well, he stood, coming down from the stage with a gaze level with the setter's.
''You did want air time, Admiral - and you wanted promotion for funding. You've gotten both in a most spectacular way. Everyone was watching. And everyone who wasn't will know about it in a few minutes - and they will all watch tomorrow to see what she will do next. Isn't that what you both wanted, Gentlemen? Ratings?'' he spoke calmly, glancing with a narrowed eye between the Admiral and Rick.
Pausing, Rick straightened, looking back to Vixxy as he frowned deeply.
''I should can you for this!'' he declared, when Boris chuckled deeply as he leaned on the door-frame of his office, nursing his 3rd cup of coffee that night.
''Da, but when you do, I am sure that another station would be happy to snatch her up as a field reporter - or even co-anchor. When they do, perhaps they will have open the position of Anchor?'' he smiled slyly, and as Vixxy breathed sharply at this, Rick looked as if his eyes would bug out of his head. Snapping his gaze back to Vixxy, he waved a hand as if it didn't matter if she stayed or went.
''Don't expect a raise or anything,'' he huffed, going back to his chair by the camera with the order to clean up the stage and lighting. Odette stalked off the back of the stage, and Vixxy bowed her head.
''Come on, Andy -'' Gordon began, when Andross glared, turning to leave as he shook the fist clutching his tie.
''I'll bloody well go where I please! And I told you not to call me that!!'' he hissed as he pounded through the doorway. Gordon nodded to James and Vixxy briefly before he wandered after Andross still rubbing his temples.
With her head still bowed, Vixxy slowly raised an eye to meet James' gaze. Putting his hands in his pockets, he slowly started past her for the door.
''Come on, Vix; I'm not mad.'' he assured her, and as she followed him out of the building and down to their car, she doubted this very much.
"What the hell was that you just pulled?!" James muttered once he followed Vixxy in through the garage to the living room of their dimly lit home. With a sigh, she turned to face her husband, her ears cocking down and to the side when she saw the hurt expression on his face.
"Jimmy, that story was very important! The people deserve to know who has made their lives easier, and who has touched history. Jimmy, they don't even let him own the rights to the discoveries he's made! They've got him under lock and key! You saw the Admiral! Jimmy, my story has been cut 7 different times, either because Rick thinks Odette's pathetic excuse for air-time brings in viewers...or..or because..." she trailed off, and James cocked a furry eyebrow when she bushed her beautiful white tipped tail as she muttered to herself. He hated it when she did that during an argument - she nearly always won because he couldn't keep his wits about him while he stared at her.
With an amused huff, he rubbed his paw pads together slightly in almost determination.
"...because Odette and Boris keep bumping your interview with coverage of my latest test flight in the Gazer3700?" he assessed correctly, and Vixxy planted her hands on her hips, pricking her ears forward smartly.
"I said no such thing, Mr. McCloud. Don't put words in my mouth." she tilted her nose upward a bit, and James rolled his eyes, chuckling.
"Oh, you didn't have to. You forget - we're soul mates - I can read your thoughts right now...." he indicated with a raised forefinger, and a grudgingly amused smile, when Vixxy narrowed her violet eyes at him, crossing her arms daringly.
"Prove it." she flashed a proud smile at him, and as always, he chuckled at his head-strong wife.
"Ok," said he, moving to get a soda from the kitchen, and she followed him slowly - as if she had not intended to follow him at all, but decided to enter of her own accord. He offered her a soda, yet she declined. Raising an eye brow at her, James shook his head, sipping at his own drink.
"...right now, you're wondering if I'm mad because you interrupted my interview, because it was with Odette - " he began, when Vixxy sniffed indignantly.
"I most certainly am not. Do you mean to say you think I am jealous?" she asked crisply, and he laughed weakly.
"Only in the greenest sorta' way, Vix. You do realize I think she's flakier than a box of cereal, don't you?" he assured her, and she gave him a pouty gaze.
"Really?" she asked softly, when he chuckled again, holding his head in one hand. He ruffled his ears in amusement, and she blinked innocently. "What is it?" she asked quietly, and James grinned finally.
"You do this every time. I can't stay mad at you; you actually hold the entire news station hostage, cutting off, by the way, what was to be my very first interview on national television - all to interview some ape who, by the way, is several run-ways short of an airport, and I can't stay mad at you. You do that...that pout. Stop it." he ordered, but she frowned.
"Oh, Jim, I didn't mean to cut off your interview. Honest - " she assured him, but he raised an eyebrow, and she shrunk about 3 inches. "Ok...so maybe a little jealous..." she agreed, sighing finally. He nodded, poking a finger at her forehead.
"Soul-mates, remember?" he mentioned, and she smiled, nodding. "Did you, by the way, happen to see the look on Odette's face? I thought she was going to kill someone!" he mentioned, to Vixxy's satisfaction, and his own amusement.
"No, I must have missed it while I was basking in the glory of taking over the entire news station," she said mildly, and he rolled his eyes.
"Let me guess - today the station, tomorrow the world?" he asked, and his wife reached forward to smooth his collar.
"No...just you." she said slyly, making eyes at him, and James caught her hand; with a wry smile, he watched her. "By the way," she paused thoughtfully, "Andy's always going on about the Planetary Defense Council and some sort of conspiracy?" she inquired, when he drew his head back.
"'Andy'?" he asked, and she frowned once more.
"Andross - you know, the ape, who by the way, does not deserve your criticism." she watched as James really raised an eyebrow this time.
"I don't know what you know about this guy, Vix, but I thought he was ok too, until I worked with the guy a couple times. He's...really out there. He's always muttering to himself - at least I think he's muttering to himself, and not some manifestation of his inner psyche..." James shook his head. "He's smarter than hell, I'll give ya' that, but Vix, he keeps muttering about 'one day when he'll show us all'. Vixxy, I think he's farther out to space than I have ever gone in a Gazer." he said pointedly, and Vixxy cuddled in his arms. "Vixxy, the guy might be dangerous if he's cornered and pissed off."
"Wouldn't you be?" she asked, "He doesn't have any friends, he's made discoveries that changed the course of history, and all Cole and his friends can do is give him crap. The Admiral treats him like a baby." she shook her head, but James caught her eye seriously.
"Vixxy, I'm asking you to be careful. I think it's great you want the people to know all about the inventions, and I think it takes a really kind person to deal with Andross - and you are that kind; that's one of your greatest qualities. But Vix, if this guy gets mental on you, I want to know." he said firmly, and Vixxy had no choice but to nod in agreement. "As to a conspiracy, I know I'm just a test pilot, but I haven't heard of a damned thing." he assured her, and with an adoring gaze that met her husband's clear blue eyes, Vixxy smiled.
"Not just a test pilot - the best test pilot. Because of your bravery, millions of people on Mac Beth are sitting down to a real meal with their families for the first time in generations. Economy is starting to flow, and little kits can know their grandparents on a planet half a light-year away." she praised as he kissed her gently.
"Kits, you say?" came his sly grin, and then instantly, she found herself off her feet once more, and in his arms in that grand style of his she so loved...
With a grim silence Andross sat facing a small council who were in a half-moon before him. Or rather, he before they. Admiral Gordon was not foremost on the council, but he fixed the adolescent ape before him with a warning eye fit to pin him to the wall of his cramped office. The four others were Ranndolf Baker, the Prime Minister of Titania; Egret Connor, Chancellor of Papetoon; Garret Simton, 2nd advisor of MacBeth; and Ottura Ven, President of Fortuna. As they all shifted in their seats, Andross waited for their explosion.
Ranndolf was the first to speak. He tamped a pipe full of a sweet-smelling tabacco leaf, then gazed to Andross as he lit it. The reindeer's antlers, thick with velvet, made for a menacing crown.
"Pigskowski," he drawled, a thin tendril of blue smoke rising, "I suppose Gordon has informed you as to the nature of this meeting?" he paused only for Andross' nod. "Good. You will find, Mr. Pigskowski, that when it comes to matters of such importance, the Council sends us to damp the fires, so to speak. I put this lightly when I say that the Council is very displeased with your actions as of late." He sat back, motioning to the Admiral. "Gordon has told me that you fancy this girl - "
"I do no such thing, Prime Minister - “ Andross began, when Egret bleated a sharp note through his long, thin beak.
"It does not matter! You have very nearly buried us all with your comments during that 'interview'! The public needs not know how we advance our technologies - all they need know is that we do so - "
"And where to stand in line to pay for it?!" Andross fumed, and Ranndolf very nearly snapped his pipe in two when he snorted violently.
"How noble you've become, Pigskowski! Last we spoke, you were talking of fission bombs, and radium decay!" The reindeer shook his mighty antlers, and Andross fell silent, swallowing hard underneath his stare. "The girl is bad news; reporters always are, unless they work for you. The trick is getting them to do so. This one seems to think the world of you, for whatever reason; and she is young and fresh in her field - eager to do her duty to society. Reporters like that are either buried in a year, or promoted to a position in which we may filter stories of our liking. I hope it is not the former; for if she is fired for reporting not what we wish, but what you inspire her to, I don't think she will relish your name after that." Ranndolf laughed, deep and booming, and Andross' stomach turned cold and his mouth dry. The day his Vixxy cursed his name would be the day he died.
"What is it you wish her to report?" the trembling ape murmured, fearing very much the glint in Ranndolf's eye.
As he walked softly down the tiled corridor of the lesser halls of WRMV's news station, Andross clutched both hands together; a look of near dread on his face. Although he wished very much to catch a glimpse of his precious Vixxy, he hoped that she would not be at her tiny office. He did not like the thought of deceiving her with what Ranndolf and the others had concocted, but what else could he do? If she did not make co-anchor soon, he thought he might just...kill someone...? With a shake of his head, he dismissed the thought in horror.
Vixxy's tiny office had in fact been bestowed upon her by Rick after her escapade; and although it was very small, it was a huge up-grade from the three-foot by four-foot cubicle she had endured before.
As he rounded the corner, Andross saw that the door was open, and that she had her back to it - running over that night's breaking news. With a sharp breath, his heart shot to somewhere in his throat, and his finger-tips suddenly felt ice-cold. He turned on his heel to flee that which he had sought, when Vixxy's clear golden voice called to him. An angelic voice, at the very least!
"Andy?" Vixxy set her papers down on her immaculate desk, and Andross stopped dead in his tracks, turning slowly.
"Miss Vixxy?" he chuckled. "Fancy meeting you here? I was just going to find...um...Rick? He's with the Admiral? I've got to go?" the ape fumbled to find his words, and was greatly embarrassed with the result. Vixxy smiled pure radiance, however, and came out to him.
"Mind if I walk with ya'?" she bubbled, and
Andross nearly choked. He nodded briskly, and she closed her office
"So you and the Admiral are getting along ok?" she asked, and he shrugged.
"Well, you know..." he shoved his hands deep in his coat pockets, starring down to the tiles. They were a really beautiful tessellation, actually - and the angles quite soothing.
"Oh..." Vixxy frowned, "because I had gotten the impression that he was quite pissed about the interview." she accessed, and Andross beamed.
"Smart girl." he chuckled weakly. "He was not pleased, if you catch my meaning,"
"I do," Vixxy nodded. "Jimmy and I were worried, actually - if I've gotten you in trouble, maybe I could talk to the Admiral...you know - let him know I egged you on?" she flashed him a sweet smile as they turned a corner, and Andross shook his head quickly.
"No... no; but what about you? I see Rick has up-graded you, but Odette still has the spot-light." he observed, when Vixxy frowned.
"Didn't you hear? Matching purses to shoes is far more important than a modern-day renaissance." she scoffed, raising a furry eyebrow when Andross turned yet another corner. "Andy...do you have a clue where you're going?" she asked with a sigh, and the ape paused.
"Miss Vixxy, I must confess I do not." with-drawing his right hand, he rubbed a knuckle over his forehead deeply.
"You're not here to see the Admiral." she faced him surely, and the shy bumbling ape dropped his gaze to the floor, ashamed of himself.
"No, Miss Vixxy..." he replied weakly, "...I only thought..." he nearly trembled, thinking fast on his feet. "I thought I might find you here, so that I might thank you for the interview...and...and perhaps you would be interested to hear of the Planetary Council's latest agenda?" He smiled to see the grin that split her face.
"Oh, boy, would I?!" she laughed. "Rick'll faint when he hears that we've got an inside lead!" she bubbled, and Andross bowed his head, almost too ashamed to go on. His pretty Vixxy was happy, though, and let her continue to be, he thought.
"I really must apologize, though, Miss Vixxy..." he mumbled, when she cocked an eyebrow.
"What ever for, Andy?" Vixxy frowned, and Andross raked a hand across his forehead shyly.
"The other night, my language in front of you - " he began, when she gave an adoring laugh that wrapped itself about his heart.
"Oh, Andy, I've heard worse, trust me." she assured him, and he just about jumped out of his skin when she very briefly touched her fingertips to his arm in order to motion that he follow her back to her new office.
"Y-yes, I am sure, M-miss Vixxy..." he shoved his hands in his pockets as he followed her like a puppy on a string. "But not from myself...not in front of a lady..." he murmured as he walked, and Vixxy gave him a half-amused smile as she opened her office door for him.
"My, but you are a noble one, aren't you? How'd you get mixed up with Admiral Gordon and the like?" she chuckled lightly, motioning for him to sit, but he stiffly remained standing until she sat behind her desk. The coffee she offered him was old, but he clung to a mug like a life-line; though he did not drink - caffeine gave him terrible headaches....
"When I was 15 a representative from the Cornerian Council came to see one of the seminars the PCA was holding in Reyes at the time. My display was about clonning - " he began with a gaze off to the right, and Vixxy drew her head back.
"Clonning? But they've done that already - and it's against all 4 statutes of section 9 of the Laylatian Bill of Freedoms!" She muttered, and Andross held his hands up with a wince.
"Miss Vixxy, the clones they had made were either just singular appendages, or were lower life-forms, and extremely unstable. The right combination of amino acids and enzymes integrated into the cloning process would establish a stable clone...Or so my theory goes. But. my dear, it was only the seminar display of a 15 year old boy. I had lost my parents shortly before that...." he sunk his gaze back into the coffee cup, when Vixxy leaned forward with a look of pure sympathy on her face.
"You never told me..." She shook her head. "Andy, do you mean to tell me that you've been without any adult guidance since then - except for Gordan?" she nearly spat the name (she was becoming increasingly biased toward the man since hearing him speak to Andross in such a manor that night of the interview.). Vixxy watched as Andross frowned, setting his coffee down sharply.
"I am not a child!" he pouted, and suddenly with a wide-eyed innocent look, he reigned himself in before her. She did not mind, and mearly nodded in agreement. "I have foster parents...they, ah...they are androids, my dear." he explained, and she cocked an eye.
"Androids? They place a kind boy like you with androids?" she shook her head at the thought, but Andross frowned.
"They are state-of-the-art, Miss Vixxy! If you ever met them, you'd know. They are certainly kinder than many people I have met; and so what if it's in their programing? All I would have to do is convert a few modules, and their neuro-net would be nearly life-like." he defended his foster parents loyally, and Vixxy smiled slowly.
"I am sure they're kind...but you need interaction with others, too. And I don't mean with Gordon. I mean with friends." she said matter-of-factly, and the young ape tried to swallow, and found his mouth dry. Reaching for the coffee, he took a large gulp at her next words. "You should go out, you know? Have fun like a normal person your age?" she smiled, and Andross trembled slightly.
"I must confess, I am not adept at making of friends...y-y-"
"Nonsense. I'm sure if you tried - " she motioned for him to stand up, and he remained sitting - cocking an eyebrow at her.
"I'm sure that if I tried, I would fail just as every time before it. The beauty of being a scientist is being able to make use of such failing statistics and not put myself in such a situation again." He shook his head, when she chuckled, reaching her hands out to him to help him up out of the chair.
"Com'on," she urged, waiving her hands about slightly until he set the coffee down, and reached to grasp her hands in his with much fervor. When he stood, he bowed his gaze to the floor as he shuffled his feet shyly, but Vixxy was determined. "Ok, when you meet someone new, what do you do?" she asked, and he bowed formally, extending a hand to shake hers. She giggled softly when he tried to gently turn her hand over in order to kiss it, but when he saw how uncomfortable this made her, he released her soft, slender hand with a physical shudder. Looking away and then back, Vixxy drew a breath. "Ok, now when you meet a new person, what do you say?" she asked, and he frowned deeply, righting himself stiffly.
"Good evening, madam; I don't believe we've been introduced..." he extended a hand, when Vixxy nearly collapsed in a fit of giggles.
"I don't believe we've been introduced..." she mocked his proper english accent, "Andy, you sound like you're at a suare! Loosen up a bit!" she exclaimed, shaking him by the shoulders until he laughed at her. With a suave grin, he bowed, taking her hand up once more; this time he looked into her eyes with a steady, confident gaze.
"Good evening, I don't believe we've met; I would have remembered seeing such infinitely perfect eyes..." he drawled, and her grin slowly dropped as he went on. "They are eyes a man could loose his soul in...out of a hundred-thousand combinations of DNA I have uncoiled, not one had such a perfect sense of balance and beauty..." he sighed out, still bowed, still holding her hand; and Vixxy still stunned as ever. Slowly she blinked, shrugging her shoulders mildly. Clearing her throat, she forced a laugh.
"Yeah, that was good..." she agreed, and he chuckled as he released her hand, righting himself calmly. It would not hit him until some seconds later what he had just said to her. Sweeping her hand over her ears, she fluffed her tail briefly before she smiled shyly. "Uncoiled DNA?" she chuckled, and forcibly, Andross laughed with her - as it had hit him fully that he had said such a thing. She saw his frightened eyes, and waived the matter off. "It's all right - no, really; it was good. Keep greeting women like that, and you'll be married in no time," she laughed, and finally he did as well - with much less tension.
"Anyway," said she, "if you just behave in a confident manor, you'll make friends in no time. It's all it takes." she said simply, but he frowned, glancing away for a moment.
"Your husband...he is a confident man; I have seen him with the cadets - " Andross shook his head slowly, " - they never question his orders." he nearly muttered, flopping down into the seat. He rose very nearly in the same instant, and apologized for sitting before her. She smiled, waved a hand at him, and poured herself another cup of coffee before she sat back down.
"When Jimmy walks into a room, he owns it. It's a spark inside him that everyone sees." she acknowledged, and Andross nodded slowly, sipping at the rest of his coffee. "Andy, if you walk into a room thinking you are invisible to everyone there, then you will be. If you walk in expecting them to jump when you say jump, then they will before they realize it. If they don't give the respect you deserve, then you take it - " she motioned about her to the radius of her new office with a grin, and Andross cocked an eyebrow at her in curiosity.
"...Perhaps....perhaps you are correct, Miss Vixxy...but I admit I would more than likely end up doing the taking than the earning..." he said softly, with much thought. "I will be Head Professor... and you my dear, if I have my way, will be co-anchor of this studio." he nodded to her, and it was her turn to cock an eyebrow. Ticking an ear-tip toward him, she folded her hands to rest her chin on.
"Sounds like you have a plan; Do tell," she implored with a grin, and Andross chuckled, leaning back in his seat.
"Did I ever tell you, my dear, what area of research the Planetary Council currently has me on? Or the agenda for the next 5 years?" he asked with a calm sip of his coffee, and she reached to pour him another cup.
"My dear Mr. Pigskowski; Do you mean to tell me that they have designated you as their official 'source leak'?" she chuckled in disbelief, when Andross held a hand up, giving her a sly smile.
"I do believe that you reporter-types thrive on such a thing?" he mentioned, and she rolled her eyes heaven-ward.
"I'd give my right arm! I'm gonna be co-anchor!" she thrilled, raising her coffee cup to him. "Let me guess - false info leak, right?" she asked, and he choked on his coffee, looking up innocently. "Oh, please, Andy - do they think I'm stupid? They want me to report what they want, and they think you've gained my trust, bla bla bla. I'll make a deal with you - you let me know what it is they want me to report...but you also tell me what's really going on. If I feel that what they want me to report it too far off the truth, or would be seriously mis-leading to the public, I just won't report it. In the mean time, it looks like I've got the scoop - and that's a beautiful thing." she proposed, watching as Andross blinked for a moment in thought.
"...Alright...they want you to report that their research is farther along than what it really is. They'll explain it away when it really doesn't add up; but for the moment, they need the support of the people." he bowed his head back to his coffee when Vixxy gave him a mocking smile, shaking her head as she laughed.
"They've pulled you from the project - the others are taking over, but they've moved you to something else," she accessed, tapping her pen on the table when he sunk lower into the chair - confirming her suspicions. "They've started their clonning project back up, haven't they? Against all 4 frigging statutes..." she shook her head to scold him, and he sighed. "Could you at least maybe slow the research down, hmm? Throw a [monkey] wrench into the project?" she chuckled at him when he frowned.
"The clones could be stable...I just know they can..." he said in a hushed voice, and Vixxy nodded, leaning back in her chair.
"Yep. Then we can clone what ever body part we need. No matter that we've harvested it off a living creature. But we'll save that debate for later - I've got a report to write for tonight's 6:00. Andy, just promise me you'll throw a wrench in the project until I've had a chance to change your mind?" she pleaded, and slowly he nodded.
"A wrench...I think I can manage that." he agreed, and smiling she stood. He hopped up, setting his cup down. "Let me guess - my clue to leave the brilliant writer to her work, eh?" he chuckled, and she nodded with a shy smile at this comment.
"Next Thursday - come see me next Thursday, and I'll have time to change your mind about the clonning." she insisted, and Andross bowed ever so slightly.
"Yes, Miss Vixxy - a time?" he inquired, and she opened the door for him.
"Lunch time," she smiled, and he nearly stumbled out the door in shock before she closed it. He stood out in the hallway, staring at the door to her office for a moment before a camera man came by, lugging the latest model of wireless equipment with him. There was no need for a news truck any more - except to get around in. This camera did it all; even uploading the picture straight to the network.
The camera man nearly ran Andross over as he loitered about; Slowly the stunned ape shuffled away, trying to figure out if Vixxy had meant anything to come of their lunch meeting. Surely not, he shook his head...but that way she smiled...perhaps...? Already in his mind he had picked out what suit to wear; the grey with the teal pin-striped tie...
"Honey, do you know where my cuff-links went to? You know - the ones Peppy's dad gave me?" Vixxy looked up from the book she was reading on the back porch as James poked his head out the back door. She smiled in amusement at the rugged state of his unkempt fur as he worked his patterned tie into a knot, nearly cringing at it. Far be it of anyone to force James McCloud, test-pilot extrordinair, into a suit against his will.
"They should be in the top left drawer in your dresser, Jimmy," Vixxy pointed out, setting the book down as her husband came over to her with a sly smile.
"How do I look?" he asked with a grin, and Vixxy laughed, throwing her head back as he leaned in for a quick nuzzle of her neck.
"Like you need to brush your fur! Like a devilish rogue, that's what!" she fended him away, and frowning, James tickled her chin.
"You'd better get ready; our reservations are for 6:00 sharp." he mentioned, and she flashed him a sweet smile as she reached to fix his tie.
"All right...I'll be inside in a moment..." she assured him softly. Kissing her gently, he withdrew; his heart beating just as it had when he had first met her, 6 years before.
"You always keep me waiting..." he chuckled to himself, going to brush his fur into place as she went to go get dressed after finishing the chapter she was on.
Once she was ready (inevitably, it was quite some time later...), she showed off to him the soft pink silk dress she had bought for the occasion. Swaths of a sheer material hung about the floor length skirt, and pearls were embroidered into the bodice and long sleeves.
As always, her entrance jolted him to his feet from where he lounged on the couch, and the pretty Vixxy smiled bashfully at the dashing young man she had met on this very day some time ago. He was still brash, and overly critical of himself...but he was still so very romantic, and in love with the very sound of her name. He suddenly appeared shy when he presented her with a single red rose; along the course of the night she would be presented with six such flowers at different intervals - one for each year, as was their tradition.
"Do you ever tire of the color?" he asked, and she shook her head, taking the flower delicately in between her fore-fingers and thumb. "...Because I could get any color you want - " he babbled as she approached, and with a smile, she grasped his tie firmly to pull him down into a kiss.
"The color's fine; besides - you shouldn't worry about the color; you should be wondering how the hell you're gonna pull off fifty of these in one night in about 44 years..." she grinned as she went to put the flower in water. "Which reminds me - I should start stocking up on vases, hmm?"
Down-town Reyes was alive with various night-clubs and theaters - but tucked away in a corner from all the commotion was a lovely park that the city was famous for. Nearly the size of the inner city itself, the park was a national reserve for several different rare types of plants. The largest, though not quite the most endangered, was a copse of huge Garneo trees that over-shadowed the field that the annual Reyes Carnival was held; and also the place James, who had been with a troop of friends, first spotted Vixxy.
She had been taking photos of the carnival for her 4th period journalism class, specifically the ferris-wheel; when James had run straight into one of the support struts for it. After his friends had laughed until they could laugh no more, James righted himself, and introduced himself to the shocked kit. When she asked where he found the guts to come up to her after he had nailed the ferris-wheel's steel gerter, James had bashfully replied that he figured he had already made a complete fool of himself - and that he might as well go all the way, regardless of the circumstances. After all, he softly sighed, she was worth running into the ferris-wheel a thousand times.
As one could imagine, this comment had captured her attention - and to James's delight, he had kept it ever since. After ditching Peppy and the others, the two enjoyed the normal carnival-based date; from cotton candy, to popcorn, to the tilt-a-wurl. But the one thing above all other activities they enjoyed was getting stuck at the top of the ferris-wheel.
Tonight, after a stunning dinner at Meircie's, James
and Vixxy strolled around the park until they came to the carnival to complete
their yearly ritual of riding the ferris-wheel. Holding tight to
his arm, Vixxy grinned as she joined him in a brilliant blue steel cage
- thrilling as it rocked gently. With a devilish smile, James leaned
forward to swivel their cage greatly as the ferris-wheel began to rotate.
Up and backwards they went, Vixxy squealing in mock terror as her mangy
husband dared to see how high he could get their car to rock.
"I---am----gonna-----PUKE!" she batted at him furiously, and with a cackle, he tickled her as the car slowed to normal. The ferris-wheel shivered slightly, and with a sigh, it came to a halt with their car on the exact top.
"You pay that guy to do this each year, don't you?" Vixxy raised an eyebrow with a sly grin, but James frowned innocently.
"I have no idea what you mean - I was under the impression that it's been fate for the past 6 years..." the corners of his mouth twitched to reveal a toothy smile at bay, and Vixxy giggled, reaching to punch him on the bicep.
"Good answer..." she nodded in approval, and he captured her in his arms to bestow a kiss upon her that melted her to her toes.
Four days Andross tried to concentrate on his work at the labs. Four days he tried to stall the research he was doing while he appeared to be doing something. There were only so many times he could retest certain properties of the cloning process, though, before a few of his assistants started to question the workings of the ape they thought to be eccentric.
"If you skip through this process too quickly, our data will not be worth a damn," he insisted, but all his excuses fell on the ears of assistants that had also been paid to keep watch of the boy whose semi rebellious nature had aggravated the Upper Councils.
After four days he himself was tired of making excuses, and so he sat in the back parking lot of WRMV's News Building on his moped, with his untidy briefcase. It was Thursday, and he was extremely early for his luncheon with Vixxy, but his tie was perfectly pressed, and his lapels straight and proper.
He had hoped to arrive with enough courage to ask her to a nice restaurant down the block, but so far, the idea of whisking her away on his moped was less than appealing.
At present his attention was caught by the sharp clicking of heels on sidewalk; their rhythm rushed. Andross nearly cringed as Odette Duma came barreling around the corner of the building, car keys in hand. Quickly he hopped off his moped, clutching his briefcase, but it was too late; the snobby panther had spied him, and her eyes rolled heaven-ward.
"Why hello, Professor - one guess why you're lurking about hmm? By the way - you're like way too late; Vixxy's already at lunch." she sniveled, nearly bumping him out of the way as she made for her car a few spaces away. With a stunned expression, Andross turned with her, his heart dropping to somewhere in his stomach.
"W...w-w...what?" he began to stammer, when Odette sniffed at him, unlocking her two door, lemon-yellow convertible.
"She's at lunch with Pete Kimshaw - you know, the director of - oh, I don't know why I'm bothering to even tell you," she flung her purse into the back seat, snapping on a pair of yellow leopard-print sunglasses as she jumped into the car. Andross jumped nervously as she pealed out of the parking lot - radio blaring suddenly. He blinked at her license plate: SUPRSTR
"H-how s-shallow can you get?" he muttered, when the latch to his briefcase exploded. The entire contents fluttered to the pavement. "Oh, Bloody hell!" he cried in self defeat, snatching a few of the papers in mid-flight.
"Andy? Oh my!" came the appalled, musical voice of Vixxy as she came out the employee entrance. "Here, let me help - " Andross hurriedly grabbed all the papers he could before she came running out to help.
"Thank you, thank you...no - I'm all right...thank you..." he muttered bitterly, and Vixxy paused as she knelt by the papers in her business skirt. He caught the hurt look on her face as he began to stuff the papers back into his briefcase, but try as he might, he could not find the voice to speak. The silence was deafening, until she reached for a few papers, neatly arranging them in piles. He nearly balked when she slid the briefcase over to her to arrange those he had stuffed into it as well. Kindly, and softly, she spoke as she shifted his work about.
"Andy, what ever's wrong?" she kept her gaze focused on the papers, until he began to help gather the other loose ones into neat piles.
"Nothing...nothing at all, Miss Vixxy - I only had a little run-in with Odette; it is nothing you should worry your pretty head about...oh...oh, thank you kindly, my dear..." he sighed as Vixxy latched his briefcase, a faint smile on her lips as she handed it back to him.
"First of all, Andy - there is no such thing as a 'little' run-in with Odette. Second of all, you really should buy a briefcase with a lock of some sort if you're going to be carrying around maps of DNA." she chuckled, leaning to whisper in his ear, "It's a might suspicious, you realize?"
Andross exhaled sharply as he chuckled, nodding in agreement. As he rose, he held out a hand to help her, and she accepted. Brushing the dirt from her knees and skirt, she fixed him with a worried gaze.
"You seem...tense, Andy; anything you'd like to talk about?" she asked, but he shook his head 'no' before she even finished her sentence. Pausing, Vixxy reached to straighten his tie from behind the briefcase as he returned to clutching it to him. He clung tighter as she tugged gently at the pin-stripe tie, a frown on her angelic face. "You are still up for lunch, aren't you?" she hoped, quite surprised when he visibly trembled.
"Oh...of course, Miss Vixxy - but Odette...she mentioned you had previously had lunch with a Mr. Kimshaw?" he dared to look over at her, when she broke a sweet smile.
"We never really ate anything - he was too busy offering me prime time for the next...oh...several weeks!" she laughed, and Andross grinned suddenly, watching the way the light brushed her muzzle, and the sparkle in her violet eyes as she spoke.
"My dear, that is wonderful! Rick is finally seeing what talent you have!" he slowly lowered the case to his side, when Vixxy gave a twinkling laugh.
"Indeed! Thanks to you, Andy." she pointed out, when he dropped his gaze once more. "I was thinking what a nice day it would be to walk over to that new bistro down on the corner, what do you say?" Vixxy smiled, and for that moment, Andross watched her, convinced that she knew what he felt for her. How kind of her to suggest they walk, he noted; how adoring her voice sounded when she praised his name and his help. For that moment he felt stronger, and his shyness all but melted as he nodded with the confidence that he could tell her anything and she would understand.
"You're not angry with me about the cloning?"
he mentioned as they headed for the front sidewalk, and Vixxy shook her
"Andy I know there's only so far you can resist against what they assign you to; I just want to know if you think it's the wrong thing to do?" she replied, walking with her hands at her back, and a solemn gaze in Andross's direction. With a frown, the ape ambled beside her.
"Do you think it's the wrong thing?" he asked softly, but Vixxy chuckled.
"What I think doesn't matter - I don't have the power to stop you. What I want to know is if you have the power to stop you?" she fluffed her tail briefly, glancing both ways down LaGerrit Avenue before they both crossed at the light. Once back up on the curb, Andross smiled as he opened the front door to the bistro for her. Nodding a 'thank you' to him, Vixxy entered, requesting a table for two - preferably a booth. The hostess complied, and after a moment they were seated. While they waited for someone to take their drink order, Andross peaked over his menu.
"I understand you don't want the clones to be treated uncivilly; please understand, harvesting their body parts is not what I'm after." he continued, "It's a little more complex than that," he assured her, and she folded her menu.
"Try me," she tilted her head to the side as he glanced about before answering.
"It's top secret - If I told you, I'd have to tickle you to death." he said with an absolutely straight face, while Vixxy tried to contain her laughter. "No, honestly, darling - it's top secret." he insisted, but she rolled her eyes.
"Oh, come on, now; you promised to let me in on the real workings of the Council - or did you conveniently forget when I told you clones were bad?" she teased, but he raised a finger in warning as their waiter came over to take their order.
(Last updated 12-10-02 ~ more still to follow)
Ever since Fox was a young kit his father had always
told him how special he was - but the boy, shy as he was, would never believe
it. His memories of his mother - now she was special! - were vivid
and bright; clear as anything, he could remember her perfume and her smile.
But above all, her eyes he could recall - for when ever he looked into
the mirror, he saw them staring back as him.
Her death, early on in his kit hood, marked him as clearly as if he wore a sign around his neck. He was shy around his aunts and around his grandmother Rosa - who spent most of her energy trying to find his father a new wife. Respectfully, his father declined each time Rosa McCloud tried to present a young lady to him - despite all the cries from his family that his boy needed a mother.
Vixxy's death had shaken his world and life to its very foundations, and he was not about to go through it again, or betray her memory. He and Fox were fine, he would announce each time Rosa would interfere. "we do just fine," he would grasp Fox by the hand, whisking him away to go home.
Cookies, Fox remembered. Cookies, and little peppermint candies that his mother kept in the folds of her dress. This pocket carried many sweets for her first kit, and she handed them out to Fox when ever he was feeling down.
His father couldn't stand the sight of peppermints, and Fox could never understand why. He had asked James for a tin of them once in the grocery store, and his father had clenched his jaw, silently shaking his head. After going through the entire store, James had finally apologized and let his boy have the tin - with the understanding they never be opened in front of him.
James refused to take the pictures of his wife down
off the wall and the mantle of their three-bedroom home. He lived
each day with the impression of her likeness on the wall...but the scent
of those peppermints he could not bare.
He had never broken down in front of anyone; Fox always remembered his father standing tall - especially in front of outsiders or Rosa. He was the bravest man Fox had ever met, and the kindest. To say Fox was spoiled would have been and understatement. To say that James was over-proud of his son, well, everyone knew why.
Early on the kit had begun to follow in his father's pawprints; he was 8 when he began going through the simulators and gravity-tollerance tests. He was too young for the academy yet, but his father always took him to work, and General Gordon looked the other way. He wanted Fox in the air, and fast.
James had actually taken to teaching at the academy by the time Fox was 12 - and everyone was surprised by it. He had never liked teaching the older cadets when there had been a promotion hanging over his head, but James claimed this was different.
He wasn't completely out of the sky, though, and on weekends they spent most of their time with Peppy Hare, Cole O'Donnel, and Pigma _________. Peppy was almost a second father to Fox, complete with the cliché phrases such as "don't run with scissors," and "don't aim that blaster at anyone - you'll put an eye out!".
Pigma was the youngest of the group, but fairly good - he had been top of his graduating class, and one of the cadets James had taught. He was eager, but whiney; though James praised him often.
Cole, his father's left wingman, had a son he brought to practice as well, and often, Peppy would bring his nephew. The boys, all about the same age, would sit on the grassy hills of Reyes AFB to watch the jets practice above the back training field.
The summers were especially fun, with bottles of pop and moon-pies for all. The boys would rough-house, and talk of what they would do when they got older. For Fox, there was never any doubt about the academy; he had put as much focus into getting into it as his father had put into him graduating from it.
For Wolf, Cole's son, there was the academy as well; but once or twice he had let it slip that he just wanted to go live on the beach and surf all day long. Fox suspected that the cub had only signed up for the academy to please Mr. and Mrs. O'Donnel; both of which were high-ranking officers. Wolf had a quite side, such as Fox's own - but his knowledge of covert operations and weaponry was disturbing to young Patrick Hare.
Peppy's favorite nephew just wanted to run his own new-age book shop, and Wolf teased him about it constantly. The fights that Fox had to breakup were seldom too heated, though; and after a while Wolf would appologize...before pinning Fox in a noogie-head-lock.
Cole seemed to think the commotion was all in fun, but James kept an eye on the boys as best he could. Even Cole, at times, would try to father Fox. It seemed as if everyone tried to make up for the lack of a second parent - goodness knows the poor kit walked a fairly straight line because of it! For all his grumbling over having to please his father in all he did, Wolf seemed almost jealous when Cole paid any attention at all to Fox.
Such was the life of a son with a famous father. Everyone expected more, and so they got it. Fox's entry scores into the academy were beyond superior, and James's team celebrated the fact with a special night-run of the training course for him. With Fox in the back seat of his father's fighterjet, they gave him his first taste of the Brandel's Canyon Run.
Never in his entire young life had Fox ever been happier then when his father took him flying - but tonight of all nights was especially memorable.